Tom Sherwood's Notebook: 04/27/11

This might sound like ancient history to you.

But think back to the spring of 2009 -- two years ago -- when then-Mayor Adrian Fenty’s administration was ensnared in a flap over the disposition of a used fire truck and ambulance to the little town of Sosua in the Dominican Republic.

That ring a bell?

It’s relevant now only because the District’s Office of the Inspector General this week, two years later, has issued a report saying Fenty’s officials and the office of then-Attorney General Peter Nickles acted improperly.

The report confirms that the transfer was not transparent and did not follow city law. It suggests that the Fenty administration tried to obscure and cover up the deal.

Well, pardon us, but doesn’t this report come a little late?

A triumphant news release this week from Ward 3 Council member Mary Cheh praised the report. She had asked for the investigation along with at-large Council member Phil Mendelson. Mendelson is quoted in the release also praising the report for showing wrongdoing.

But two years later? There’s nothing from Cheh or Mendelson about what’s next, whether any legal action is in the works. So we have to ask, so what?

Does the Office of the Inspector General need tougher tools to compel more information more quickly? Does that office need more resources? Does it simply need someone who can write faster? Two years seems like a long time to investigate potential wrongdoing.

The alarm bells were ringing about this shady equipment deal two years ago. It all sounds a little hollow now.

• Easter.

This past weekend seemed to have it all. There were torrential rains and bright sunshine. It all had us in a good mood, except for one thing.

President Barack Obama and his family spent Easter Sunday at the historic Shiloh Baptist Church on 9th Street NW. And like any good American, we’re proud to welcome the president to our hometown places.

But once again, the president basked in the warmth of the Shiloh’s welcome without offering even a muttered word about how sorry he is that he threw the city under the bus in recent budget negotiations with the Republican House.

The parishioners of Shiloh are way too polite to let that insult interfere with Easter, and we understand. We simply want to point out that maybe those who are worthy enough to worship with the president also are worthy of the fundamental rights of citizenship.

• That special election.

Our deadline came before the votes could be counted. Aside from learning who won, we’re interested in what appears to us to be bloated registration rolls.

Do we really have 459,540 registered voters in a city with 600,000 citizens total? We know that the Motor Voter Act -- which allows people to register to vote when they apply for driver’s licenses -- made the numbers jump. But it still seems like a lot to us.

Before Tuesday, there was a lot of speculation on voter turnout. The highest estimated number we saw was 50,000. That would be more than 10 percent of the registered voters. A 30 percent turnout would be about 150,000 votes.

The last special election for an at-large council seat was in 1997. In that race, there were 341,407 registered voters. Of that number, only 25,701 people cast ballots, significantly less than 10 percent. Then-newcomer David Catania got 10,818 votes to defeat veteran politician Arrington Dixon, who received 9,621 votes.

Now the rolls show we have 118,133 more voters.

Regardless of who the winners are this week, maybe there are ought to be a closer look at the voter rolls. The elections office (in a Tweet) said “criteria for removal very limited.” Certainly no name should be removed even remotely casually, but the integrity of the system should require as accurate a count as possible.

• That siren-blaring escort.

As we write this, the Metropolitan Police Department is still investigating the high-speed police escort given Hollywood personality Charlie Sheen last week. (We avoid saying “actor” because we like to reserve that word for real actors.)

Why in the world anyone in the police department would approve this extracurricular activity escapes us. But it does remind us that we see a lot of police vehicles of all types, local and federal, dashing about town with sirens blaring and lights flashing. Unfortunately, we’ve seen sirens briefly turned on for an officer to make a U-turn or other non-emergency maneuver.

We wonder and worry that all this siren stuff will become even more routine, risking a possibility that perhaps ordinary drivers and vehicles will stop rushing to get out of the way. Then there could be real trouble.

• For this, no sirens, please.

On a nicer note, May 12 has been set for the annual lunch to honor the officers of the Metropolitan Police Department’s 2nd District.

The 2nd District Citizens Advisory Council is sponsoring the lunch. More than 300 officers were fed last year. The council could use some help with donations of soda, juice and water (dropped off at the station on Idaho Avenue). The group is also looking for desserts to serve that day. But think healthy: We all need to back away from the dessert table these days.

• Now, this final word.

Former Maryland Gov. William Donald Schaefer was to be laid to rest today. A great deal has been said and written about his fine public service, and it’s good to know that people haven’t been saying all those nice things simply because he died. Schaefer was an original. He had impact. And, for news reporters, he was the best reason ever to visit Annapolis. Rest in peace, Gov. Schaefer. Rest in peace.

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