Waiting in an endless downtown traffic jam while rollerbladers and Secret Service agents live it up on the blockaded Pennsylvania Avenue is enough to make a militia member out of anyone. Now help is on the way: The National Capital Planning Commission OK’d plans to open two nearby blocks of E Street to two-way traffic—something they hope will ease the congestion before locals start trading in their gridlocked Subarus for Ryder trucks.
On the other hand, those drones you saw trying to drive past the cross-town barricades this morning probably weren’t Oklahoma City bomber wannabes at all—they were frantic D.C. bureaucrats. A day after a Washington Post expose chronicling the city’s shameful treatment of the mentally retarded, our municipal leaders were in full post-expose mode, scurrying around town with promises of investigations, inquiries, and improvements. And nearly everyone agreed that that those were about as likely as Timothy McVeigh moving into the White House.
If developers Herbert Miller and John “Chip” Akridge get their way, the reconfigured E Street—and plenty of other streets, too—will be full of people heading to the new Gallery Place. The D.C. Council today approved a financing package for their $195 million retail, entertainment, and residential complex near the MCI Center. Why build such a project? To liven up downtown, say the pair, who, we have a hunch, know something about how the area got turned into an office-park dead zone in the first place.
No spy movie in Gallery Place’s proposed 21-seat theater could match the story of Stanislav Gusev. The Russian was arrested today after FBI agents caught him with sophisticated eavesdropping equipment outside the State Department. For months, Gusev had been driving to Foggy Bottom to monitor a device hidden inside the building. Credit D.C.’s hyperactive meter maids with a counterespionage assist: Agents apparently caught on to Gusev’s villainy only after noticing the same diplomatic tags searching for a legal parking space day after day.
* And also: Maybe the feds can repay the favor by making Gusev conduct an observation-skills seminar for the Metropolitan Police Department before deporting him: When he went to reclaim his cab from the 3rd District station after an assailant stabbed him, hack Christopher Johnson today found something interesting in the back seat: the knife used by his attacker. The cops on the case had missed it.
Tony Williams found a knife, too—in his back. In a Post interview today, the mayor said his D.C. Council colleagues “haven’t done a damn thing for me.” This after those backstabbing legislators rebuffed his half-baked scheme to fund union bonuses with tobacco settlement money. The bastards!
It’s bad enough that those new short Metrobuses make riders feel as if they’re riding one of those buses schools use to convey problem kids to summer school. Now it turns out they’re even noisier than the old-fashioned big buses. The transit authority today announced plans to spend $32,000 refitting the 26-foot busses to reduce their firing-range-style 130-decibel noise levels.
Remember those 3,000 guns the cops bought for $100 a pop during last summer’s gun buyback? Most of them probably couldn’t bang out those 130 decibels. According to a federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms report out today, it turns out that the average gun was 15 years old and worth around $30. And none tested so far had been used in murders. Not exactly Osama Bin Laden’s armory. Cops say that’s not the point: Those guns still could have killed.
And speaking of threats we can’t get rid of, a V Street NE warehouse used to store public-school cafeteria food was closed down today after inspectors found that it was infested with pests. Could this mean all that school-cafeteria rumor-mongering is true? So far, no elementary students have asked MPD to investigate whether the mystery meat is indeed last year’s third grade.
Let’s just hope President Clinton had his food-tasters with him when he visited Maury Elementary School today. The big guy used the event to announce tighter emissions standards for cars and SUVs, and to praise a school nurse for her work on asthma. He also hugged some kids.
* And also: The season just wouldn’t be complete without a Yuletide racial brouhaha, would it? The D.C. Council today delayed action on the nomination of the Rev. Willie Wilson to the University of the District of Columbia board of trustees after several councilmembers balked at the preacher’s pesky record of anti-Asian comments. The balkers, of course, are white; Wilson’s supporters, of course, are black; and we can all curl up in front of the cozy fires of resentment as we await Santa.
Saint Nick apparently came early to Columbia Heights. Or at least to preservationists there. A deal announced today will relocate the Giant Food store that had been slated to occupy the Tivoli Theater. The deal cleared the way for a renovation of the historic structure—though there’s no word on how it could compete with that glistening 21-screener just a few Green Line stops away.
Presents! Lots of ’em!
More good news: We’re getting better! OK, actually: We’re getting less bad! The Census Bureau reported today that D.C.’s perpetually hemorrhaging population was stabilizing, and that 1999 saw the loss of fewer people than any year in over a decade. A net of just 2,400 people left the District all year—less than one for every block of street that the cable companies have ripped up!
* And also: Maybe those 2,400 people were all fans of overpriced alt-rock dreck. Promoters of the Capital Countdown 2000 Gala at the MCI Center today canceled their event—a $249 to $399 extravaganza featuring such mediocre sensations as Everclear and Third Eye Blind—in the face of anemic ticket sales.
A naked man roamed the Reflecting Pool. Polite Washingtonians averted their gazes.—Michael Schaffer