Sherwood's Notebook: A Fourth of July Moment

Let's put away the scandal sheet and focus on our country's birthday.

Happy birthday, America!

OK, the moment's over. Now, back to work.

Washington Post columnist Colbert King wrote a scathing column this past Saturday, foretelling lots more scandal to come. The only reaction a reasonable person could have is a simple one: "Wrongdoers, beware. The prosecutors are onto you."

If you think the fireworks on the Fourth are dramatic, you should stay tuned for the fireworks still to be set off by U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen.

Most recently, there were indictments of veteran city restaurateur Anthony "Tony" Cheng and his son, Anthony Jr., in connection with payments associated with efforts to get taxi licenses. The owner of the popular restaurant denies wrongdoing, his lawyer said, while blaming prosecutors for trying to use Cheng to implicate elected officials.

The case has nothing to do with the campaign scandal swirling around the mayor and council. But it fits in generally to Machen's attack on what he calls "pay-to-play" politics in the city.

Light another fuse, guys -- we're getting ready for the big finale.

■ 1963 March on Washington. Former D.C. Council member Frank Smith has been tapped to lead the city's observance of one of the biggest civil rights events in American history.

Smith, as head of the official Washington Commemorative Committee, will help highlight local people, events and landmarks that played a role in the march that is now most famous for Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech. The group also will try to find ways to promote voting rights and statehood for the District.

Events for the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington will take place Aug. 24 at the Lincoln and King memorials, with organizers also planning commemorative and protest activities over a five-day period. A march downtown is slated for the actual anniversary, Aug. 28.

Smith, the committee chair, was a founding member of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, better known as SNCC. It was considered the upstart group that challenged some of the more conservative actions of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

He led marches in Mississippi during the "Freedom Summer of 1964."

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Since his days on the D.C. Council, Smith has helped support and to promote the African American Civil War Memorial at 11th and U streets NW.

Incidentally, your Notebook notes again -- we suggested this before the King Memorial dedication -- that the city should get permits to take over the D.C. World War I Memorial on the Mall to make that the headquarters for District citizens that day. Just sayin'.

■ Douglass but no L'Enfant. While we're mentioning memorials, we thought we'd say it's nice that the city's $98,000 sculpture of Frederick Douglass finally made it to Capitol Hill.

The statue was installed during a very nice ceremony in Emancipation Hall. The statue is a gift from the people of the District of Columbia.

Each state has two statues in the Capitol, but Congress only allowed the city to have one -- and only after a long and sometimes bitter fight by D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton and rabble-rousing (the good kind) by commentator Mark Plotkin.

In hopes of getting two statues in the Capitol, the city also commissioned a statue of Pierre L'Enfant. It remains standing in the lobby of One Judiciary Square, partially obscured by the security checkpoint leading into the city government building.

Maybe one day it will be given a place of honor. The activist buried inside this reporter suggests that the city simply put the statue on a mule wagon and take it up to Capitol Hill. Let the Capitol Hill police reject the man credited with laying out the nation's capital. That might make a little international news.

As Norton herself said in her speech about Douglass during the Capitol Hill ceremony:

"Mr. Douglass did not mince his words, but spoke with fearless militancy in the voice of a local D.C. citizen at the height of his international celebrity. Today, perhaps his most famous words, 'agitate, agitate, agitate,' inspire the District's determination to become a state."

Or maybe to get the other statue respected.

Tom Sherwood, a Southwest resident, is a political reporter for News 4.

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