Sherwood's Notebook: Pick Your ‘Meltdown'

Let’s start with Election Day next week.

First, let’s make it clear: If it is the only exercise you do, please exercise your right to vote.

Now, how will the recurring Hillary Clinton email nightmare play out in the final days?

As this week was beginning, all sides seemed to have something negative to say about the FBI and director James Comey’s role in this off-again, on-again probe.

It would really be something if sex-texting Anthony Wiener winds up being a crucial player in deciding just who will be our next president.

Republican Donald Trump in closing day speeches has been smugly “thanking” Wiener for his help. Of course, there is still time for Trump to make another campaign gaffe or other misstep.

What a topsy-turvy election year.

At least one cable TV station even had a reporter asking whether those who had voted early could rescind their ballots and vote again. We have enough trouble getting regular elections done, never mind do-overs.

■ Getting that new FBI HQ. In Maryland, Tuesday’s election will signal the beginning of the end for five-term Democratic Sen. Barbara Mikulski, who did not seek re-election to a sixth term. Maryland Rep. Chris Van Hollen, the Democratic nominee, is favored heavily to win her seat.

But now Mikulski is leaving office in January with a major project for her state undone. The goal? She wanted to land the new FBI headquarters and its 11,000 jobs for Prince George’s County. But the federal General Services Administration has just announced it will delay its site decision from this December until next March.

“I’m deeply disappointed in more delay,” Mikulski said in a released statement. She said she would “continue to work my earrings off” to keep Prince George’s in the game. “This is a headquarters that belongs in Prince George’s County, keeping our country and the American people safe while creating new jobs in Maryland.”

But the political fact is the tables are turned as of January.

If Clinton wins the presidency, then Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine will become vice president. And no one is closer to Clinton than Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe.

Even if Trump wins the presidency, the Republican may not feel any warm feelings toward Democratic Maryland. Yes, Republican Larry Hogan is the sitting governor, but Hogan publicly spurned Trump.

You could argue that either Clinton or Trump would be better served putting the new FBI headquarters in competitive, purple state Virginia.

Your Notebook understands that some may suggest that we are effectively saying politics will outweigh the professional site evaluation undertaken by the General Services Administration. We don’t impugn the agency at all. But once the practical assessments are made, reasonable people could agree that the FBI headquarters would fit in either Virginia or Maryland. And that is where politics could tilt the scale.

In its own statement on its delay, the GSA said it had received an “overwhelming positive response” from developers interested in the construction bid. It said if Congress provides the needed money, the GSA would build a “world-class” headquarters. It just won’t yet say where.

(Your Notebook personally thought the FBI should have remained in the District, building at the underused Homeland Security site at St. Elizabeths, or nearby. But we didn’t have a vote.)

Oh, and what about Prince George’s County? David Iannucci, the chief development officer, said the county still believes it is the best site for the headquarters, either in Greenbelt or Landover.

Left unsaid? It would be a major political blow to Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker if the FBI goes elsewhere. Baker is preparing to run for governor. He wants to be able to point to the FBI decision as a major achievement, not explain why it went elsewhere.

■ Metro meltdown? We wanted to discuss Metro first, but two weeks of columns bashing transportation meant a third one was too much.

Still, Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld’s proposed 2017 budget outlined a worst-case scenario for the declining transit system.

In preparing the $1.8 billion operating budget — this is in addition to the millions spent on system repairs — Wiedefeld savaged every part of the system.

He would cut 1,000 staff positions.

Some employee health care would be scaled back.

Fares for bus and rail would increase.

Peak-period trains would run less frequently.

During off-peak hours, some trains would run only every 15 minutes. (Talk about “allow extra time.”)

“Tough choices are required to balance the operating budget,” the general manager said in his statement.

Unions representing Metro employees pushed back on Monday.

Amalgamated Transit Union 689, which represents about 82 percent of Metro’s workers, said the budget was scarier than Halloween and vowed to fight it.

Metro and the unions have battled for several years over cuts and increases. The system is paying for its negotiated and arbitrated union agreements. Metro management has threatened serious cuts before; perhaps this time they are coming.

Tom Sherwood, a Southwest resident, is a political reporter for News 4.

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