It’s the weekday-evening rush at the Union Station Metro station. A seeing-eye dog noses through the crowd and plants his companion on the perilous side of the flashing platform lights. As the train tracks tremble, station manager Dwight Bailey bolts down the escalator, swinging his legs outside the handrail as he nears the bottom to jump the last 10 feet, reaching the blind man just before the train would have brushed within inches of his head. A reporter who witnessed the events presses for details but is met with a smile and a stiff no comment. A bad case of modesty? Nope, just Metro policy, Bailey explains. He calls his higher-ups to get permission to talk, which is promptly denied. A week later, though, Metro representatives sense that they’ve missed the train. They call the reporter to set up a 40-minute interviewwith Bailey on the clock and his supervisor present. And one more thing: “Will you be bringing a photographer?” asks Metro public relations officer Cheryl Johnson.
Market Economics To some progressive types, it’s a given that chain supermarkets are the enemy and their coupons are but the opiate of the masses. But picketers from the United Food and Commercial Workers union have made locally owned, small-time outfits such as the Best Way markets on Mount Pleasant Street and on Piney Branch Road their latest target. According to Local 400 official Tom McNutt, the pickets are part of a mounting “assault on non-union employers”like your friendly independent neighborhood grocer. McNutt reports that although 93 percent of area retail food business is under contract with his union, union-free independent stores like Best Way threaten what have been some of the best grocery wages in the country. “We can either raise the floor, or let the floor drag the ceiling down,” says McNutt.
Parking the Agenda Last Monday, most of the D.C. Council got together for a strategy session in preparation for its one-hour huddle with President Clinton the following day. At-Large Councilmember Carol Schwartz reportedly suggested that the council should get Clinton’s take on parking problems in the District. She was quickly reminded that there might be a few more pressing issues to share with a guy who travels the District in siren-blaring motorcades.
Peeping Transmitters Strollers walking down U Street NW have expressed some paranoia after spotting black cameralike objects perched above the street’s traffic lights. A new tack in D.C. oversight? Not too far-fetched, given the presence of the Reeves municipal building at the corner of 14th and U. But a spokesperson for the D.C. Department of Public Works says not to worry, the menacing twin cylinders are just data transmitters serving a joint project by the city, Metrocom, and Pepco to facilitate online cellular service. In fact, 600 of these black boxes have been installed on lights throughout the city. Turns out Big Brother is nothing more than a capitalist electronics firm that wants a city where people with laptops eat lunch alone in the park, Powerbooks strapped to their knees, online and virtually interacting with the world.
Lighten Yerself, Rudy New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani is all in a tizzy over a clever New York magazine ad that asserts the magazine is “possibly the only good thing in New York Rudy hasn’t taken credit for.” Giuliani claimed the ad violated his rights, but a U.S. District judge disagreed. An angry Giuliani then told the Washington Post, “Unfortunately, a public official, no matter how someone misrepresents what you have said or done, is left with very little recourse.” Then again, two weeks ago, Giuliani happily participated in a satire flaying a certain prominent D.C. official while hosting Saturday Night Live. In the skit, an actor dressed in African garb is introduced as “the mayor on drugs.” The Barry character then offers to sell Giuliani (who plays himself) some cut-rate garbage trucks before scurrying off to answer his beeping pager. When Barry returns, another character beats him over the head with a bat, declaring the crime rate down by one. When Barry reportedly expressed dismay at the routine, a Giuliani spokesperson recommended that he just “lighten up,” according to a story in the Washington Times.
Reporting by David Carr, Chaka Freeman, Chris Peterson, Amanda Ripley, and Michael Schaffer.
Please send your City Desk tips to Elissa Silverman at email@example.com or call 332-2100 and ask for my voice mail.