Tom Sherwood's Notebook: 4/30/09

Zipcars and presidential searches

It's hard to focus when you're looking out on a blooming mini-forest of pink and white dogwoods, your sliding glass door open to feel the suddenly summer heat on this Monday morning.

However, as you are reading this, the temperature was to have throttled back into the 70s. True summer is weeks away.

Radio reports of a traffic-snarling wreck on I-295 near Blue Plains seem distant when you're not going anywhere. Ever-efficient Transportation Department staffer Karyn LeBlanc lets us know at 8:31 a.m. that all lanes have been cleared. But for us, it's just time to refill the morning coffee cup.

From the kitchen, the sound from the television in the other room also feels distant. A terrible swine flu outbreak has people donning masks, maybe even wearing rubber gloves. An e-mail health alert from NBC cautions employees and their families to stay six feet from obviously ill people. There are many people you want to stay at least six feet away from, flu or no flu. But anyway, the memo says the flu shot you got in winter won't protect you from the swine variety. And of course, it says to wash your hands thoroughly and frequently.

"It is important for everyone to remember that the best way to prevent the spread of any flu virus is to make sure that you cover your cough and wash your hands with soap and water frequently," Dr. Pierre Vigilance, director of the city's Department of Health, said in a D.C. news release on the subject.

We wonder, when exactly did the act of repeatedly washing your hands move from being a germ-a-phobe fixation to ordinary daily advice?

The NBC e-mail offers some FAQs. One question asks, "Is there a reason to panic?"


Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia local news, events and information

Minor, man shot in Seat Pleasant: Police

Victims' families oppose release of quadruple murder accomplice

"No," is the ready answer. Just be aware and remember, wash your hands.

On this morning, that's good enough for us.

• Oh, No

Talk about too early! We get a lengthy e-mail that begins, "Lakeland, FL, April 27, 2009 -- announces it is looking for the next American president. A social networking website for Americans with a taste for politics, is a non-partisan grassroots effort to allow all eligible potential American presidential nominees a means to state their platforms and generate votes from other website viewers."

That's enough for us. We read no further.

• But This Sounds Good

Even in our vacation haze, some workday things seem worthwhile. is hosting its third "New Washington" forum Thursday; this one is titled "Where Will the Business Opportunities be in '09?" Well, other than the fact that '09 already is one-fourth over, we like it.

Former Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., will make one of his first public appearances as a congressman-turned-well-to-do-consultant for Deloitte's Federal Government Services. The in-fighting-obsessed Republican Party of Virginia may not have known what an asset Davis can be, but business leaders do.

Davis will kick off the forum on federal stimulus spending and other business opportunities at 8 a.m. at the National Press Club. Other luminaries include local economic expert Steve Fuller of George Mason University and John Castellani, president of the influential Business Roundtable. Former D.C. Office of Planning director Ellen McCarthy will moderate a panel of developers discussing, what else, regional development.

• Get Up And Go

The old vaudeville joke has one man saying, "Call me a taxi." The second man says, "You're a taxi."

Some District workers can repeat the lame joke as they get used to "zipping" around town in a new $100,000 car- sharing program announced this week by Mayor Adrian Fenty.

The city has contracted with Zipcar to provide, keep track of and service 58 cars that will be available to a group of city workers. The mayor hopes the program will provide mobility while still cutting costs of maintaining cars in government motor pools.

Each car is expected to serve a dozen workers or so, who will make reservations and have electronic access to unlock and operate the cars.

Questions were immediately asked about Transportation Department director Gabe Klein's involvement. He was a founder of Zipcar and retains an interest in the company. He left Zipcar to operate On the Fly, an upscale sidewalk vending company. Klein left Zipcar before the start of last year's city pilot project that led to the current contract.

Reporters see lots of potential conflicts lurking here. Let's hope everyone involved has so far and will in the future steer clear of trouble. A lot of good ideas go bad in their execution.

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