Tom Sherwood's Notebook: 2/4/09

A lot's going on in the District these days

A lot's going on these days.

On a national level, it’s interesting that local luminaries are now heading both the Republican National Committee and the Democratic National Committee.

President Barack Obama picked Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine to head the Democrats.

And National Republican Committee members, meeting in Washington, tapped former Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele. It took a half-dozen ballots, but Paul Craney of the D.C. Republican Committee says Steele will be an energetic spokesperson for the party as it decides on its comeback strategies.

Kaine is no slouch when it comes to advocacy either. We’re looking forward to a head-to-head appearance by the two men. Is anyone setting one up?

The D.C. GOP

It may be small, but it was involved in Steele’s election. The local party also has elected Robert Kabel to his third term as its chair.

A former Reagan adviser, Kabel also served as national chairman of the Log Cabin Republicans and formerly worked for Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind. He lives in Kalorama and is counsel at Baker & Daniels in the District.

Patrick Mara also was elected to the Republican board. Mara defeated at-large D.C. Council incumbent Carol Schwartz in the GOP primary last year but lost badly in the general election to Michael Brown.

Metro On The Move?

Ward 1 Council member Jim Graham is once again chair of the Metro board. He’s been a District representative for 10 years and served as chair in 2003.

There are two big public issues for Graham.

One, as everyone knows, is the struggling operating budget.

Two, Graham is anxious for the District, Maryland and Virginia to each commit to providing $50 million a year for 10 years in capital spending. If the partnership does that, then the federal government will kick in a matching $1.5 billion.

But Graham also intends to push his idea of selling the downtown Metro headquarters building and moving the operation to Anacostia. He says it would be a big boost for that area of town, but Metro executives and workers aren’t anxious to leave their digs near the Verizon Center.

Back to that $3 billion repair effort.

Former Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., pushed the plan on Capitol Hill before he left office. Now it’s time for the local jurisdictions to step up. Maryland and the District pretty much can be counted on to provide their share. The question is whether Virginia's legislative session will do the same.

Just for the record, Metrorail was begun in 1967 and is now the second-largest rail transit system in the country, with 106 miles of track and 86 stations.

It just got a huge publicity boost by handling the big crowds for the Obama inauguration. But we’re not sure that will impress downstate Virginia legislators, who view Northern Virginia with disdain despite its economic power (or maybe because of it).

Batter up?

We’re still waiting for the Nats to churn out those off-season trades that will make the team worth watching this year and prevent a repeat of the 102-loss season.

The team has just completed its 12-stop winter caravan to promote the 2009 season. Spring training will soon be in full bloom.

Fans will be disappointed that the national economy has hurt one thing related to the Nats: The Half Street entertainment district that was scheduled to be open in 2009 is now on hold.

The short walk between the Metro stop on M Street SE and the ballpark is a great place for pre- and post-game entertainment. But it’ll be awhile before it’s built out. Maybe the Akridge Co. can do something temporarily in its former Metro garage on the corner. It was a bust as a $50-per-car valet spot.

We suggest they open it up and have beer garden parties before and after every game. It would bring more street life to the stadium area.

Obama, The Local

There are still some people rumbling about the president’s gratuitous dig at “Washington, D.C.,” for being a wimp about snow cancellations. The president was talking about the Washington area, of course, but he singled out the city, despite its being the only jurisdiction that opened schools (albeit two hours late).

More than one e-mail suggested that Obama enroll his children in D.C. public schools if he wants a tougher closure standard.

We’re still hoping Obama takes a little time to learn the local area better, not just appear here or there. Mayor Adrian Fenty could be a good guide. But, as we were quoted in a WTOP blog for saying, going to Ben’s Chili Bowl and playing a little basketball in Adams Morgan doesn’t make you a District resident.

A Final Word

We were saddened to learn that Heidi Berry died of cancer this past week. The always elegant and caring Heidi was married to D.C. businessman Max Berry, a longtime good citizen who has been the brains or the money behind many political candidates -- while asking little if anything besides “do a good job.”

Heidi Lehrman Berry was a strong partner to Max Berry and a devoted supporter of the Washington Opera, among other pursuits.

Their daughter, Elizabeth, served as the D.C. director of environmental affairs during the Williams administration.

The family and the city grieve this loss.

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