Tom Sherwood's Notebook: 01/12/11

At the Lincoln Memorial this week as flags flew at half-staff, an Australian couple commented on the terrible shootings in Arizona.

“There’s a lot of people in the world who are just a little bit crazy,” the wife told NBC4. “This man was just crazy by the sound of it.”

Her husband agreed. “Look … we’ve been in America for two weeks and it’s not at all violent. We’ve met friendly, peaceful people.”

The perspective from these folks from down under was reassuring. Political violence always has been a part of American culture, but we shouldn’t let it define America. As victims are buried and the injured try to recover, it’s important that the American people also treat the psychic wounds of this violent outburst.

Some will call for more “security” to insulate members of Congress from their constituents. With 535 members, the logistics of that would be mind-boggling, never mind the image of cowering public officials afraid to move about.

To his credit, Senate Sergeant at Arms Terrance Gainer told reporters he encourages any member of Congress to bring security concerns to his office but he doesn’t envision a U.S. Secret Service-style presence for each of them. Gainer is a former assistant chief of D.C.’s Metropolitan Police Department. He must worry about and deal with the unexpected every minute of every day.

The phrase “freedom is not free” often is used to signal support for a strong military. In the case of domestic political violence, we also should remember that our free domestic society comes at a cost, too.

• The fence is back.

A security concern has overturned an irritating issue involving Mayor Vincent Gray.

You may remember last year that while Adrian Fenty was mayor, the city’s Public Space Committee ruled that Gray had improperly constructed an iron fence at his home on Branch Avenue in Southeast.

After some dispute about whether this was a dirty trick of the Fenty administration, a portion of the offending fence was removed. And Gray paid a $300 civil fine.

But now, the fence is back.

D.C. police asked for permission to have the fence reinstalled as part of their security review of Gray’s home now that he’s mayor. The fence is back, and there are now a series of security cameras around the property.

• Barry, Pratt and Williams.

You might think it’s a law firm. You’d be wrong.

Former mayors Marion Barry, Sharon Pratt and Tony Williams got together for a rare joint appearance last week on WTOP’s “Politics Program With Mark Plotkin.”

Plotkin asked them to cite their biggest disappointments. “Ask Sharon some more questions while I think about that,” Barry said as he deflected the question.

When it came to what the mayors thought was their best accomplishment, Plotkin could hardly get Barry to stop talking.

All three mayors had some hard and sure advice for Mayor Vincent Gray. Each said Gray should fully address the city’s tough budget problems right away, in his first budget due this spring.

Williams, Pratt and Barry each said it gets harder and harder to take tough positions after the first year. “Spend your political capital,” Pratt said. She urged Gray also to follow through on his promise to focus on job creation.

Gray, who was appearing separately on WAMU’s "Politics Hour with Kojo Nnamdi," said he has a good relationship with all three former mayors and intends to call on them frequently for advice.

On WTOP, Williams stumbled when Plotkin asked him for whom he had voted in the Fenty-Gray contest. After a moment of clearing his throat, Williams confirmed that he had voted for Fenty. He said it was his duty to support the sitting mayor.

Plotkin noted that Williams’s mother, Virginia, had worked hard supporting Gray.

“So you differed with your mother?” Plotkin asked. “I differed with my mother,” Williams said, sighing, “and I heard a lot about it, too.”

• Who votes where?

It got only a little attention, but it’s going to be a big deal soon. New D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brown has selected Ward 2 member Jack Evans and at-large members Michael Brown and Phil Mendelson to tackle redistricting.

Evans is the veteran. He was involved in redistricting in 1991 and 2001. Mendelson chaired the 2001 effort. It’s all new to Brown.

When the U.S. Census Bureau’s figures come out in April, the council will have 90 days to redraw ward boundaries to reflect population shifts. Essentially, each ward must have about 75,000 citizens.

It could be a political minefield if there’s too much redrawing. And it’s too complicated to get into here. In addition to the council, the city’s vast network of advisory neighborhood commissioners must reflect any new census data. Each single-member district of the advisory neighborhood commissions is supposed to have about 2,000 citizens. We have more people than we did in 2001, so there will be more commission members.

Everyone, keep a calculator and a map at the ready.

• The last word.

Former Mayor Adrian Fenty has signed up with a professional speakers bureau. WTOP’s Mark Segraves reported that Fenty’s fee is set at $20,000 per speech, plus expenses. No word yet on whether Fenty has anything lined up.

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