Tom Sherwood's Notebook: 06/30/10

A firecracker of a week

We’re not talking about the heat.  The annual Fourth of July celebrations are upon us.

Crowds will dutifully line up and file through “security stations” down on the National Mall to celebrate the freedom they’re temporarily giving up to be there.

Around town, police and ambulance crews are gearing up for a busy week of calls late into the night, as citizens complain about illegal fireworks going off or request help for injuries. The chance for stupid injuries knows no bounds.

You can skip all that foolishness and still enjoy the basic meaning of Independence Day by attending the 44th annual Palisades Fourth of July parade and picnic on MacArthur Boulevard in northwest Washington. The parade and picnic will be held on Sunday, starting at noon at Whitehaven Parkway and MacArthur.

It’s an election year, so expect to see more political entries than usual. But the good thing about this hometown parade is that anyone who shows up can take part in it. And the crowds watching the parade give it a hometown feel that’s hard to find anywhere else.

• Your fireworks game plan.

If you’re going to attend the National Mall fireworks, you’d better plan well this year.

The National Park Service ( is warning that parking options anywhere near the National Mall will be “extremely limited.”

And that goes for the George Washington Parkway, too. It’s been a favorite place in the past for folks to pull over, watch the fireworks and then drive to their next destination.

But this year, parking will be prohibited along the parkway because “unsafe access points could easily lead to injuries or death," said the Park Service. Expect to be shooed away.

And many roads, including the Memorial Bridge and much of Rock Creek Parkway near the Lincoln Memorial, will be closed to vehicular traffic beginning as early as 6 a.m. Sunday.

• Bike to see the bursts?

The weather is supposed to be a lot more bearable on Sunday. The Park Service and the Washington Area Bicyclist Association are going to provide a bike valet service downtown. It could be the best way to get in and get out of the area.

The bike locker will be set up on Independence Avenue SW between 14th and 15th streets, an easy walk to viewing spots. Your Notebook likely will be taking advantage of this service.

• Campaign fireworks?

Washington Post reporter Tim Craig had an interesting story this week about how neither Mayor Adrian Fenty nor his chief opponent, Vincent Gray, is talking much about the future.

As the incumbent, Fenty is busy repeating a mantra about how much better things are with the schools, crime and the overall feel of the city. Gray, who last March promised position papers on what he would do differently, hasn’t issued any yet.

The Washington Post on Sunday offered its latest explanatory editorial on the campaign. The piece basically recounted Gray’s history dating back to the Sharon Pratt era of the early 1990s.

While the long editorial recounted Gray's claim to success as a human services official, it ended negatively for Gray with this sentence: “It’s hard to take issue with an assessment of his record as one of heartfelt labor, minimal progress and major setbacks.”

Ouch. That may be the toughest sentence uttered or written in the campaign so far. And this is from the same editorial page that late last year urged Gray to get into the mayor’s race so the issues could be explored.

As much as some people like to say (or hope) that The Post editorial page has lost some of its influence, the truth is the newspaper speaks to a hefty segment of voters. Gray can only hope that future editorials will bend back in his direction.

• All wet.

One of the coolest tourists spots downtown is the upgraded National Aquarium -- 18,000 square feet of fish and wonderment for all ages -- on 14th Street between Pennsylvania and Constitution avenues NW.

But the entrance on 14th is a bland, bureaucratic doorway that looks like an entry for federal workers.

The National Capital Planning Commission is reviewing plans this week to move the entrance to Constitution Avenue, closer to the throngs of tourists. It's a terrific idea. If approved, it would coincide with expansion of the aquarium to 30,000 feet.

• Final word.

U.S. Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., the longest serving senator in American history, died this week at age 92.

It’s unfortunate that during his long term in Washington, Byrd never got to know the local people who live here. He voted against home rule (something he later regretted) and never supported voting rights for local citizens. He also spent much of the 1960s railing against welfare, unemployment and other social issues in the city, but never did much about any of it.

His was a remarkable career to be admired in many respects, but not in terms of the hometown concerns of citizens of the District.

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