Sign up for our free newsletter
When a young man passed through a crowded Metro car asking for change last Monday evening, the throng of tourists and rush-hour commuters barely glanced his way. Just another panhandler, they thought. But the crowd turned on the philanthropy when it learned of his particular need for cash. “Can anyone spare 75 cents? I need to get back to Lorton. They have a cell waiting for me there,” he announced, flashing what looked like a prison ID card with the word “INMATE” prominently displayed in block lettering. The car buzzed as riders nudged each other in a scramble for quarters. He had his changeand a bit morein a matter of seconds.
Door Policy D.C. Mayor Marion Barry has a unique way of making private decisions very public, as he did at last Saturday’s supposedly private soiree with friends and supporters. As the crowd drifted into Judiciary Square, only the press, it seems, was kept drooling outside. Even naysayers like Ward 8 activist and Barry-recall leader Sandra Seegars managed to crash the party. But once the meeting got going, Seegars and an ally were shown considerably less hospitality when they offered up unsolicited suggestions for the mayor’s future. “He said, ‘I’m democratic, but I’m not that democratic,’” explained Seegars after being shown the door. For his part, Hizzoner said the eviction was perfectly logical. “I obviously didn’t want people who weren’t going to be honest and direct.”
Southern Discomfort After a 12-year courtroom battle, John Edward Hurley has finally handed over the keys to the Confederate Memorial Hall. The Logan Circle museum and library was engaged in its own civil war until last month, when sparring members of the museum’s board finally wrestled control from Hurley. But when the winning board members arrived to claim their prize, the hall was completely empty, and the building had been sold. “All our records, flags, pictures, and artifacts were gone,” says Vicki Heilig, a board member representing the Southern Daughters of the Confederacy. “As a matter of fact, the only thing left were the drapes, and those were ruined by the dust from all the sanding going on.” Hurley’s attorney, Edwin H. Harvey, claims that all the Dixie relics are stored with the property’s new owner, Chris Strickter.
Defining Deviancy Down Following a May 6 hearing on the alleged forgeries of Columbia Heights advisory neighborhood commissioner Catherine Hammonds (“Signed and Concealed,” 4/3), a fight erupted among fellow neighborhood leaders. According to commissioner Tom Coumaris, Howard University student and fellow commissioner Nik Eames followed him outside and threatened to “bash his fucking head in right here on the sidewalk.” Eames insists nothing of the sort happened. “We talked back and forth. And of course anybody who saw it would probably think it was a heated discussion. But threats? Please.” Coumaris says things got so dicey he eventually called over a police officer, at which point Eames fled while Coumaris filed criminal charges for deadly threats and assault. The police issued an arrest warrant for Eames. Says Coumaris: “Nik must be a student at the Roach Brown School of Political Science.”
Reinventing Government Last week, the D.C. Council approved legislation creating a Department of Motor Vehicles, removing the operation from subordinate division status within the city’s Department of Public Works (DPW). “[The division] has long since been dysfunctional,” says Ward 3 Councilmember Kathy Patterson, who notes that her office receives an average of 10 complaints per week about the division. Though it probably won’t make the photo on your license any prettier, councilmembers hope the change will streamline operations. Currently, for example, DPW is in charge of both parking enforcement and parking adjudication, and thus has an inherent conflict of interest. “It’s rather unusual for an agency that writes tickets to also adjudicate them,” says Rudi Schreiber, the acting clerk for the council’s committee on public works. “There’s really no incentive to rule any way other than in favor of the District.” If the legislation gets final approval from the council and the green light from the mayor and the control board, DPW will still issue the pink slips, but the new department will decide appeals.
Reporting by Chaka Freeman, Laura Lang, Michael Schaffer, and Jake Tapper.
Please send your City Desk tips to Elissa Silverman at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 332-2100 and ask for my voice mail.