LIFE IN the nation’s capital has its perks. National treasures such as the Smithsonian Institution, Library of Congress and Lincoln Memorial are close at hand. Area residents become part of the national moment when Washington hosts the inauguration of a president or a historic march. Most residents accept that these benefits come with trade-offs. The city has to put up with some inconvenience to accommodate the security needs of the country’s leaders and the foreign dignitaries who visit them.
But there should be limits, and the recent decision to close down one of the city’s busiest thoroughfares for days was clearly beyond the pale.
An unusually blunt letter from D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) to the head of the Secret Service expressed “outrage” that significant portions of downtown were paralyzed in recent days. The closure of the southbound lanes of 14th Street NW near the White House, to increase protection for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, made for a traffic nightmare Tuesday. It followed, as The Post’s Peter Hermann reported, a busy weekend for other touring dignitaries and key stretches of K and L streets NW being shut to accommodate President Obama at a fundraiser. “To treat the District with such disrespect is simply unacceptable,” Mr. Gray wrote.
Good for Mr. Gray for calling attention to the problem, even if it might have been more helpful to complain when the city was first notified of the closures. There is no questioning the importance — or difficulty — of the job entrusted to the Secret Service, but too often its agents display a tunnel vision that overlooks the onerous consequences for the city’s residents, commuters and businesses. Why couldn’t Mr. Netanyahu have stayed at a hotel that didn’t require closure of a main street? Couldn’t the president’s handlers be more mindful of the impact of his travel during rush hour?
Mr. Gray’s letter brought a prompt reply from Secret Service Director Julia A. Pierson, promising to “redouble our efforts” to work with local authorities to mitigate traffic inconveniences. Let’s hope that happens.