Tom Sherwood's Notebook: 12/08/09 - NBC4 Washington

Tom Sherwood's Notebook: 12/08/09



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    The city’s chief librarian is anything but quiet these days.

    "Whoop! Whoop! Whoop!" she suddenly shouted Monday as she and D.C.Mayor Adrian Fenty cut a ribbon to open the new Northwest One Neighborhood Library.

    "You really ought to give people a warning before you do that," said a surprised and bemused Fenty.

    They were standing outside the $50 million complex that includes a new elementary school, a recreation center and the library.

    Cooper said it’s part of a $250 million effort to repair, remodel or replace 17 library branches around the city.

    (We know some folks in Tenleytown aren’t too happy with the trajectory of the new Tenley branch, but we’re going to steer clear of that for this column. Well, except to say if there had been more fortitude early on, a new complex with tax-creating commercial space already would have been open.)

    Cooper is particularly proud of the effort to put public-access computers in the libraries. She said about 500 are now in place, allowing users to do traditional library research or to search for jobs or lost family members.

    The mayor and citizens toured the new Northwest One facility, at 1st Street and New Jersey Avenue NW, and touted the open, airy and comfortable space. The mayor even remarked that the extensive DVD section looked like a retail store.

    Fenty told reporters later that his breakneck speed to redo libraries, schools and recreation centers is part of his effort to reverse “decades of decline.”

    There is demonstrable progress on that score, and we’re certain we’ll hear a lot more about it as the 2010 mayoral campaign begins to wind up.

    Just give us a warning if the “Whoop! Whoop! Whoop” refrain starts up again.

    You’re not invited.

    You’re missing out on city politics if you’re not looking at the Washington City Paper’s Loose Lips column each week or the daily Loose Lips e-mail on what’s going on.

    Loose Lips -- aka Mike DeBonis -- even worked the weekend for you to attend Mayor Fenty’s birthday bash on Saturday.

    But despite the cold weather, he wasn’t allowed inside. No media, he was told. He said he stood in the cold outside a party tent to hear the mayor’s brief remarks.

    "I was so cold, I couldn’t write," he told us.

    The Fenty party was a campaign-style event. But Loose Lips noted that only two of 13 council members even did a drop-by: Ward 4's Muriel Bowser and at-large member David Catania.

    "It was definitely fewer people than last year," DeBonis said.

    Fenty's campaign co-chairs, Bill Lightfoot and Jim Hudson, attended.

    The location seemed odd to the Notebook and to others. It was held in a $3 million home that is finished but for sale in the 1801 Foxhall development, the site of an ill-fated plan to build a mayor’s mansion.

    Foxhall is nice, but hardly a place the Notebook would pick for a citywide party. There’s no Metro stop nearby, a bus takes too long, and there’s not much on-site parking. Those are also all the reasons we thought it wasn’t a good place for a mayor’s mansion.

    More security overkill.

    We’ve always liked the Reeves Center at 14th and U streets NW. You walk into the airy lobby, show an identification card and you’re in. If you have a bulky package or bag, you might be asked to show it up close.

    Now, however, the securicrats (that’s security + bureaucrat) have taken over. There are now metal-detection machines, an extra layer or two of armed guards, and general delay as people trudge through the machines. We even saw District Department of Transportation director Gabe Klein get stopped. If he had been arrested, it would have been a great story.

    So what big security breach occurred that prompted the imposing new security machines? Apparently nothing. Someone must have noticed that the place was too open, too friendly to citizens trying to visit their government, and said, “We can’t have that.”

    It’s not security, it’s bureaucracy.

    D.C. vote in 2009?

    The Aspen Institute held a conference on the future of Washington, D.C., this week. It was fairly predictable Monday, except for one detail: The moderator was WTOP’s Mark Plotkin, and the guest was D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton. Putting the two of them together really requires one of those fighting rings that you see in Ultimate Fighting contests (more like a cage).

    Plotkin publicly complains frequently that Norton doesn’t do enough to really promote voting rights for District citizens. Norton is exasperated by Plotkin’s haranguing.

    But the bottom line, despite the personalities involved, is that no voting rights bill has passed. Norton still sees a fighting chance this calendar year, although days are quickly running out. Plotkin scoffs at that and says there’s no indication from the congressional leadership that anything is happening. And he says he doesn’t believe in "secret plans."