There's nothing handier for maneuvering through Washington's traffic than one of those flashing red lights, complete with siren--the kind that television's Kojak used to whip out and clap on top of his unmarked car.
D.C. City Council member H. R. Crawford (D-Ward 7), who has watched Mayor Marion Barry and Council Chairman David A. Clarke use the $37.50 devices to zip past nettlesome bottlenecks and traffic signals, carted a boxload of them to the District Building last week for some of his colleagues.
But the lights went out on the idea when Clarke pointed out that the council chairman and the mayor were the only elected officials authorized to flash their way through the streets.
Clarke, who maintained that he uses his light infrequently--"I used it once to pick up a dog in the street and take it to the vet"--said he wasn't trying to keep the privilege for himself, but was just citing city law.
Another council member said he had seen Clarke use the light several times: "At the District Building I once saw his arm come out of the window and put one of those Kojak lights and he went zooming down Pennsylvania Avenue."
Crawford declined to discuss the incident yesterday, chuckling, "Lights? I don't know nothing about lights." Asked if his colleagues should have the extra perk, Crawford replied, "I'm just a humble council member."
"There are some problems down here," Crawford said, "but lights aren't one of them.