Tom Sherwood's Notebook: 8/5/09

Budget woes and more

We had to laugh when we learned the D.C. Republican Party had sent a ShamWow cleaning cloth to Mayor Adrian Fenty. If you don’t watch cable TV, the ShamWow is a miracle cloth for cleaning and soaking up water on even the hardest jobs.

D.C. GOP chair Robert Kabel said Fenty should use the ShamWow on the 2010 budget.

“The mayor’s ShamWow has a warranty, and it can be used for the house, the car, the boat, the RV, and we hope it will work on the D.C. Council’s … budget,” Kabel said.

• But That’s Not All

Paul Craney, the executive director of the D.C. Republican Party, also has compiled a chart of mayoral salaries.

“The mayor likes to compare himself to big city mayors,” Craney said in an e-mail. So, the GOP did.

Fenty’s salary is $200,000 in a city with just under 600,000 people.

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New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg technically earns $225,000, although as a wealthy man he doesn’t accept it. New York has more than 19 million residents.

Chicago is just shy of 3 million people. Mayor Richard Daley earns $216,210.

And Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa earns $205,561. The city has nearly 4 million residents.

Say what you will, the GOP knows how to throw a few good political darts.

Craney got a call into the WAMU “Politics Hour” on Friday, asking if the mayor would support a salary cut. No, was the answer. Mayor Fenty says he and the council earn their pay.

• Summer Thunderstorms

The biggest boom this summer hasn’t been the thunderstorms. It’s the budget bust.

Fenty and the D.C. Council cobbled together a new budget last week, slashing spending and modestly raising taxes and fees to cover a $666 million shortfall.

We’re sure smokers will argue with our word “modestly.” The new cigarette tax will be $2.50 per pack. So right out of the box, you spend $22.50 for a carton of cigarettes even before you pay for them.

Wow. If anyone needed an excuse to quit cold turkey, that’s it.

But the nicotine-addicted can always drive over to Virginia, where the tobacco-friendly state charges a tax of only 30 cents per pack, or $3 a carton. Driving to and around Northern Virginia is easier than quitting smoking -- but not by much.

• More Parking Tickets?

Yikes. Everyone has a parking ticket story in this city.

Now, you may have more. In addition to the usual army of ticket writers, the city has trained traffic-control aides in the art of zinging motorists.

The aides are those folks you see in the orange and yellow vests blowing whistles and trying to keep the traffic moving.

Now, they’ll be able to ticket anyone who parks illegally near them, and they’re authorized to hand out $100 tickets for driving infractions like illegal cellphone use.

Even before training these traffic-control aides, the city had said it intended to step up ticket writing.

Again, on WAMU, Mayor Fenty brushed aside concerns -- and on this one we tend to agree with him. You won’t get a $100 ticket for talking on your cellphone without a hands-free device unless you're guilty of the transgression.

And Lord knows we need aggressive ticket writing during rush-hour restrictions.

• The Fire Next Time

Maybe by the time you’re reading this, we’ll have some answers about the fire that destroyed the home of Peggy Cooper Cafritz.

Whether we live in a small row house in far Southeast or a mansion on Chain Bridge Road, all of us have a right to expect in our small city that fires can and will be fought.

Water, of course, is a key ingredient.

The fire was still smoldering when the sniping began between the fire department, complaining about water pressure in fire hydrants, and the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority, saying water was there. We don’t know who is right.

But we know the current situation is wrong.

• Teddy as a Mascot?

We were watching poor Teddy Roosevelt lose yet another race at Nationals Park the other day. There’s always hope, and there’s always something that goes wrong.

We were thinking that maybe Teddy would be the perfect mascot for the campaign to bring voting rights to District citizens in Congress.

Everyone basically understands the lack of representation and there are sporadic efforts to get something done. But in the end, through the advocates' fault or some other reason, we never get there.

• Our Own Beer Summit?

President Obama got a lot of attention with his beer summit that took some of the fizz out of the ugly racial flap in Cambridge, Mass.

WTOP reporter Mark Segraves was wondering out loud whether Mayor Fenty should have a “beer summit” with Marion Barry and the U.S. Park Police officer who charged him a few weeks back with “stalking.”

Barry could explain why he was driving on the wrong side of the road, and the officer could explain why Barry wasn’t charged with that offense. It would have held up a lot better than the stalking charge. For one thing, nowhere in the police report does it indicate that the officer ever asked Barry his side of the story after the woman involved complained that Barry was bothering her.

The Notebook will buy the beers if this summit happens.

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