January 11, 2013

D.C. Council members should quit embarrassing the city.

The legislators’ latest public act of puerile petulance came over security and ticket arrangements for President Obama’s inauguration.

There was a time when the nation’s capital was wide open on Inauguration Day. I recall marching as a Boy Scout in President Dwight Eisenhower’s first inaugural parade and the ease everyone had in getting downtown and finding a place on the parade route [“The Parade of ’53,” op-ed, Jan. 20, 2001].

Now, for security reasons, the Secret Service locks down the city on Inauguration Day. Vehicular traffic in and around the parade route, including public parking, is curtailed except for official business.

The Secret Service, however, has allotted parking spaces where members of the D.C. Council and senior Gray administration officials may leave their vehicles if the city leaders clear the checkpoints and park early in the morning. The initial deadline was 6 a.m.

Enter Jack Evans.

This week the city’s homeland security chief, Christopher T. Geldart, and public safety director, Paul Quander, briefed the council on preparations for the upcoming inauguration, including parking restrictions.

It’s totally unacceptable,” Evans declared, according to The Post’s Tim Craig.

“What, I’m going to wake my whole family up to get them here at 6 o’ clock for a 2 o’clock parade?” the Ward 2 Democrat asked. “That is ridiculous. Sit around for 8 hours?”

“We are the council for the District of Columbia,” he huffed. The restrictions, Evans complained, infringe upon home rule.

The security restrictions, of course, do no such thing. Yes, they are inconvenient and, perhaps, burdensome. Tight and time-consuming rules can discourage the well-intended from attending the ceremonies. But the days of open access are over.

And beyond the all-important need to protect the president, the Secret Service’s inaugural restrictions level the field for the thousands of ordinary Americans and D.C. muckity-mucks expected to descend on Washington on Jan. 21.

The one security exception is that some occupants of the John A. Wilson Building will be allowed to park inside the security perimeter.

What the rules won’t allow is council members and their families to sleep in on Inauguration Day and, when the hour suits them, to cruise downtown, breeze through security checkpoints and pass their fellow citizens who have stood in line, been subjected to screening and are walking toward the parade route.

Oh, but what am I thinking?

Taking Metro or a taxi or getting a lift to a security checkpoint? Behaving like ordinary pedestrians?

Why, that is too much to ask of the exalted family and guests of the high and mighty city officials who will watch the parade from their offices or the private viewing stand erected at the Wilson Building.

The Secret Service should stick to its guns.

Of course, council members and top city officials should have round-the-clock access to their offices. And on Inauguration Day, if they are too good to walk like the rest of us, let them have their cars. But they should get those privately owned vehicles off the street so inaugural and public safety officials can do their jobs.

As for relatives and guests of city officials, treat them like everybody else. They are, in fact, like everybody else — no better, no worse.

There’s more.

D.C. Council members have the gall to act put out because, according to Craig’s reporting, they haven’t been given more tickets for Obama’s swearing-in ceremony at the Capitol.

One ticket was made available for each D.C. Council member by Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, Evans told me on Friday. But earlier this week, Craig reported that members sought more tickets.

“Obama got 91 percent of the vote here,” Evans said, according to Craig.

And what does that victory margin have to do with the D.C. Council? The council didn’t deliver diddly squat for the president.

Yet, in the name of District residents, some politicians would claim benefits for themselves.

Advised that this column would criticize his position on the inaugural security restrictions and ticket arrangements, Evans told me by e-mail that he is not planning to attend the inauguration and that he wanted the 6 a.m. parking restriction moved to 10 a.m., which he said was the deadline in years past. The Secret Service has agreed to a 9 a.m. deadline, he noted.

Evans also said that it was his fellow council member Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) who raised the issue of additional tickets to the swearing-in ceremony and that a journalist urged him to use the “91 percent” figure.

The sense of entitlement embodied in council members’ complaints about the inaugural plans reflects city leaders’ outsize sense of self-importance.

How do we get through to them that they don’t deserve special treatment and that the only thing that comes free is the ability to make jackasses of themselves?

At least a couple of council members do that very well.

kingc@washpost.com