In New York, the voice of neatnik Felix Unger, aka actor Tony Randall, pipes out of sweeper machines politely admonishing gawking tourists and harried locals in the Times Square Business Improvement District (BID) to clear out so the machines can do their thing. But in D.C.’s newly christened BID near the convention center and MCI arena, there are no celebrity voice-overs. “It’s my voice,” admits Bryan Clark, vice president of Applied Sweepers Inc., the manufacturer of the cleaning machines. The Tennessee-born Clark’s accent is fine and all that, but he ain’t Tony Randall. According to Clark, the downtown BID plans to rectify the situation soon. “They’re going to try to get some famous local person to do it,” he says. BID marketing chief Seamus Houston confirms that a local contest is in the works to nominate celebrity voices for the recording. Maybe ex-mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly could dub a tape that promises to clean up the streets, “not with a broom, but with a shovel.”

Tapped Out Officials last week praised the year-old Water and Sewer Authority (WASA) for keeping drinking water safe for consumption in the District, which had its last H2O health scare nearly 14 months ago. The regulatory vigilance has carried a hefty price tag for D.C. residents, who have been slapped with a 42-percent increase in water rates since the authority took over. But WASA officials insist the costs are all good for you. “Every penny that comes into WASA goes back to the customer,” assures WASA spokesperson Libby Lawson, though it looks as though at least of few of those dollars have trickled out of the District. As first noted in dc.story, the online D.C. chat group, WASA employees have been spotted driving around town with rental cars sporting Virginia license plates even though WASA resides in southeast. As long as we are paying rivers of money to safely drink out of the taps, you’d think at least they could tap the reservoir of District businesses.

Ready to Wear “Go home and put some Prada gear on, and then we’ll let you in for free.”—an 18th Street Lounge doorman one recent weekend to clubgoers who objected to the arbitrary $10 cover charge.

Nothing Up Their Sleeves Last month, the New York Times Magazine published a sparkly, sophisticated package profiling an eclectic sample of Big Apple lifestyles that all intersected in a subway car on the magazine cover. This past Sunday, the Washington Post Magazine followed suit with its own synecdochic package—this one exploring the white shirt as reigning Beltway icon. Even while conceding that by its very nature (“Its stiffness. Its lack of humor…”) the white shirt is endlessly boring, the magazine still managed to bang out 15 pages of homage, reminding readers of another D.C. fixture, the press release. And the text of the story gets no help from the accompanying pie charts and photos, the first of which features the tried-and-true oxford, hauntingly suspended from a tree branch over the Potomac. Luckier readers may have reached into the Sunday edition and missed the Magazine altogether; after all, the Ames coupon insert was the same size, and, at 72 pages, TV Week was nearly twice as hefty and worlds more engaging.

Amateur Night A retractable wall separated two seemingly distinct activities taking place at the Blackburn Center auditorium at Howard University Monday night. As candidates vying for the at-large seat on the D.C. Council introduced themselves at the start of the evening’s debate on one side of the wall, they were drowned out by a student step show rehearsal vibrating from the other. Even though debate organizers eventually ended the practice session next door, the tap dance continued throughout the night. In an effort to be more inclusive, the debate included the Socialist Workers Party candidate and two write-ins as well as the three established candidates. And although write-in candidate Don Folden told the audience at one point, “Y’all need to tell these people to get real,” more than one of his fellow council hopefuls promised to seek the quick abolition of the control board if elected. Never mind that the control board is federally appointed and the last time we looked, the council is barely in charge of itself.

Reporting by Laura Lang, Amanda Ripley, and Michael Schaffer.

Please send your City Desk tips to Elissa Silverman at esilverman@washcp.com or call 332-2100 and ask for my voice mail.