D.C. councilmembers are no match for Congress and the control board, but it’s good to know they still hold sway where it really counts: on the streets. Last Friday, Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans and his chief of staff, John Ralls, found themselves in a frantic search for a parking space on Capitol Hill. Running perilously late for congressional Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton’s briefing on the president’s D.C. plan, they finally found a space on the corner of New Jersey Avenue and D Street SE. But their dash to the Capitol was intercepted by a meter man contesting the legality of Evans’ space. The blue meanie backed off, however, after noticing the car’s commanding tags, which read “Council Member Ward 2.” But Charles Chaplin, a nearby resident strolling the block, says he got in Evans’ face, demanding, “Why do you think you’re above the law?” Ralls says that conversation never happened, but he acknowledges that the meter man did in fact retreat upon noticing the plates. “It was a questionable space,” Ralls says, but “sometimes vehicles with official tags are allowed [more leeway].” As a personal vehicle, Evans’ car is in fact not exempt from the long arm of the law. But Chaplin says the parking officer told him afterward that he’d lose his job and be “locked up” for ticketing a D.C. councilmember.
Although the struggling District hardly ever appears in the upper echelons of national rankings, the city has managed to snare a spot on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s list of the 11 most endangered historic places in the country. Last week, the Trust placed Congressional Cemetery in Anacostia, home to the remains of John Philip Sousa and J. Edgar Hoover, on its red-alert list. The designation puts the cemetery alongside precious landmarks like “historic buildings in the Gulf Coast states infested with Formosan termites” and the last remaining original McDonald’s restaurant. According to Trust spokesperson Carol Cunningham, the cemetery beat out close to 100 other nominees after a rigorous selection process. Jim Oliver, director of the cemetery’s preservation group, says it’s about time the place received some publicity. For the past year, he’s spent every Saturday there, guiding tours and maintaining the grounds. Not a single employee is paid to watch over the cemeterywhich is more cherished among locals as a place to walk dogs than as a historic sanctuary.
The mysterious posse of residents, businesspeople, and city officials snaking their way through Georgetown these days are not vigilantes come to repeal the voting privileges of innocent
students. And they’re not a clean-up crew aiming to rid the area of group-house filth. They’re doing just what you’re probably doing on the side streets of Georgetown: looking for parking. As part of a new push
to address the neighborhood’s perennial gridlock, the parking task force is scouring Georgetown this week in a block-by-block hunt for pointless “no parking” signs, excessive bus zones, and other potential spaces. Art Lawson, the Department of Public Works official who chairs the task force,
says similar efforts in Adams Morgan and Capitol Hill have opened up several hundred new slots in the past few years. Of course, like any task force, its work has only just begun. Says task force member Grace
Bateman, “It’ll be a while before we get to making recommendations. For now, we’re just surveying.”