For many prominent Washingtonians — especially those in the District government — 2011 was a year to forget. Next week, we start anew. Herewith, a list of potential New Year’s resolutions for a handful of D.C. figures and institutions:
Allen L. Sessoms, UDC president: Fly coach. Sessoms, in his third year of an ambitious rebuild of the University of the District of Columbia, got noticed for all the wrong reasons in March when WTTG-TV reported on his extensive travel on the university’s dime — including a first-class ticket to Egypt that cost nearly $8,000. (First-class travel was a necessity, Sessoms explained, because of a medical condition that makes cramped conditions dangerous.) The UDC board has seen an overhaul in recent months, and you can bet the new trustees will be less trusting of Sessoms’s travel itinerary.
The National Park Service: Get a Capital Bikeshare membership. The federal overseer of the District’s “monumental core” and much of its parkland has been famously obstreperous in meeting the needs of the people who live in this city. Consider Tourmobile, the blue-and-white trams that were great for tourists who wanted to pay $20 or more for guided tours of the Mall and useless to everyone else. But Tourmobile’s monopoly contract kept everything else out. After Tourmobile suddenly folded this fall, the Park Service has responded by proposing Bikeshare stations and other, more universally useful forms of transportation around the Mall — although Park Police don’t seem to be much pleased by the new fleet of pedicabs.
Albrecht G. Muth, defendant: Buy a suit. Muth — charged in the August slaying of his 91-year-old wife, Viola Drath — has his share of, um, quirks. Among them: He has fought for the right to wear an Iraqi army uniform in D.C. Superior Court Judge Russell F. Canan’s courtroom, claiming the rank of brigadier general and the attendant protections of the Geneva Conventions. However, the Iraqi government has disclaimed any connection to Muth. Unless he’s gotten accustomed to his jail uniform, it’s time for Muth to get a more conventional set of duds.
City taxi drivers: Hire an accountant. A new taxicab industry reform proposal backed by Mayor Vincent C. Gray offers lots for cab riders but also an innovation cabdrivers would rather do without: Real-time tracking of trips and fares sent directly from cabs to the D.C. Taxicab Commission, which would replace the current system of paper-based, easily doctored manifests. D.C. Council member Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3) argues that the new system will make it more convenient for drivers, who would no longer have to maintain paper records, and for riders, who would see service patterns improve based on the data collected. But if the data make their way to government revenue collectors, drivers can expect a whole lot more attention from the tax man in the years to come.
Ronald C. Machen Jr., U.S. attorney: Finish what I started. District residents who have endured headline after headline about misbehaving politicians have to be wondering when all these federal investigations we’ve been hearing about are going to show some results. That’s up to Machen. Early this month, federal agents raided the home of D.C. Council member Harry Thomas Jr. (D-Ward 5), accused of redirecting more than $300,000 in youth sports funding for his own uses, and carted off his SUV and a motorcycle. But there has been no public indication of any progress since on the Thomas probe or those into the campaigns of Gray or Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown (D).
Kevin B. Chavous, D.C. Council candidate: Explain myself. Chavous — who is running for the Ward 7 seat held by Yvette M. Alexander (D) and previously held by his father, Kevin P. Chavous — was arrested on a charge of soliciting prostitution this month after campaigning at a holiday party. The Democrat, through his campaign manager, swiftly denied the charges and then proceeded to campaign as though nothing had happened. Meanwhile, reporters and his potential constituents are left to wonder what exactly he was doing on an otherwise deserted block of K Street NE shortly after midnight.
Vincent C. Gray, mayor: Look alive. A year into his mayoralty, Gray (D) has pretty well figured out it’s tough to be top dog. Try as he does to tout new economic development projects, reduced unemployment, improved city services and a growing population, he has yet been unable to animate his administration with anything more inspiring than his threadbare “One City” mantra. Filling the vacuum instead have been blown vettings, dismal approval ratings and a strange, scorned employee in sunglasses. A new cadre of top staffers have been brought on to help, but will their boss ever get the “vision thing”?