The pressure to change the law has not come from D.C. residents; it has come because well-connected nonresidents were arrested and didn’t like it. Just like last year, those few arrests have sparked tirades from AAA and a heavy media cycle on the issue. The only new element this time is a letter from Virginia Sen. James Webb (which, if it had been sent to scandal-free politicians, probably would have been characterized as an affront to D.C. independence).
Lost in all of this is the fact that the law in question is long-standing and effective. Hundreds of arrests have occurred over the years (most of them involving D.C. residents) without hue and cry. Such arrests are a valuable tool for tracking down criminals and ensuring compliance with the District’s motor vehicle requirements. If this law is such a travesty, where were Gray’s and Brown’s concerns as ordinary District residents were being arrested?
Agreed. As connected, affluent white people move into the city, it’s not surprising that they’ll buck longstanding laws that they don’t like. And, moreover, Baumann’s point about Webb jibes with something journalist and author of 1994’s Dream City, Tom Sherwood, said last night at a panel about the city and the book. In a lively discussion about congressional interference in the District, Sherwood also noted that Mayor Vince Gray only reconsidered the law after hearing from Webb. (He added, “If Congress wants to put a Ferris wheel on the Mall, they will.”)
The D.C. Council votes today whether to suspend the arrest law for 90 days while new legislation is floated.
Photo courtesy Jay Goodman Tamboli