Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham wants to name a small park at 14th and Girard Streets NW after President Barack Obama. “Barack Hussein Obama,” to be precise.

Now comes Bob Kabel, chair of the D.C. Republican Committee, who has a suggestion for Graham: “If you feel the need to name a park in your Ward after a famous African American elected official, the DC Republican Committee suggests you consider DC’s native Edward Brooke who served in the US Senate from Massachusetts. Senator Brooke was the first African American elected to the US Senate since reconstruction, is a DC native and retired in the District.”

Brooke’s name, it should be noted, already graces the DCRC’s downtown storefront offices on 13th Street NW.

Graham told Washington Post reporter Tim Craig today that he has no intention of backing off his plan in light of a D.C. law banning the naming of public places after living persons. He noted that Chuck Brown got an honorary street designation last year.

“What I propose will create an exception,” he told Craig. “Every legislature passes laws that change earlier laws.”

LL thinks the better point was made by civic activist Gary Imhoff, who pointed out that having Obama’s name on this particular property “would be something of an insult to any president, since the park is just a basketball court with a seating area, and its most prominent feature is a pair of restrooms.”

Kabel’s full letter follows:

July 20, 2009

Councilmember Jim Graham John A. Wilson Building 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, Suite 105, NW Washington, DC 20004

Dear Councilmember Graham:

Recent reports suggest that you are seeking to change the name of Girard Park in Columbia Heights to “Barack Hussein Obama” park. This would violate the city’s code that states “no public space in the District shall be named in honor of any living person.” If you feel the need to name a park in your Ward after a famous African American elected official, the DC Republican Committee suggests you consider DC’s native Edward Brooke who served in the US Senate from Massachusetts. Senator Brooke was the first African American elected to the US Senate since reconstruction, is a DC native and retired in the District.

More importantly then renaming parks, everyone on the Council except you[1] voted for Resolution 18-209 which shortens the Council recess in order to focus on the District’s serious budget shortfall. Your Council colleagues voted for a shorter recess because the District faces a large budget deficit which will require you and the Mayor and the Council to work together and identify ways to reduce the budget deficit. As unemployment steadily increases in the District (over 20% in some areas), District residents and the District of Columbia Republican Committee encourages you to find ways to attract jobs for the District.

Now more than ever, District residents need their Councilmembers to stay focused on the financial problems that face our city. As Chairman of the Metro Board, we strongly encourage to ensure the safety of the Metro system and hope that you will join the millions of commuters and residents who use the Metro Rail on a daily basis to commute to work.[2]

Sincerely, Robert J. Kabel Chairman, District of Columbia Republican Committee

[1] Graham was absent on a July 14th voice vote for R.18-209.

[2] As reported in a June 26th interview with WTOP’s Mark Plotkin, Graham has not ridden on a Metro Rail since the Fall of 2008.