No more bombs bursting in air

When bad things happen, Ward 1 D.C. Council member Jim Graham legislates. After a stabbing at a Northwest nightclub called Club U in 2005, the council passed a Graham bill to make it easier for police to shut down a nightclub after violence occurs. When 17-year-old Taleshia Ford died from gunfire at another club in Northwest this year, Graham introduced legislation to impose stricter rules for minors in clubs. And after July 4, when an exploding firecracker harmed a little boy, Graham introduced legislation to ban fireworks.

Whatever type of firecracker hurt the little boy was already illegal. Any kind of exploding firework is outlawed in the District. The proposed law would ban them … even more! You couldn’t even light a sparkler.

Ward 6 council member Tommy Wells immediately joined Graham on the fireworks ban. There are a significant number of fireworks haters in Ward 6, particularly around the less gentrified parts of Capitol Hill. In those areas, as in much of the rest of the city, Independence Day is heaven for the amateur fireworks enthusiast. From the right rooftop on the Fourth this year, you could look in any direction and take in an outstanding pyro-panorama. The explosions looked pretty in the sky, and down on street level entire neighborhoods were celebrating together.

Wells invited his constituents to comment on his website on the proposed ban. Of the two dozen-plus to opine, most favored a new ban:

“I am no longer interested in hearing how ‘pretty they looked in the sky’ or how they brought our neighborhood together,” wrote one commenter. Many residents dislike the noise and also the danger of fireworks, since rockets and mortars often land on rooftops, even though there were no serious fires this year. And many complain that the bottle rockets fly not just on Independence Day, but for several weeks before and after.

One opponent of the bill offered an interesting argument, apparently borrowed from the gun-rights movement:

“What will happen is that law-abiding citizens such as myself, who have been using fountains and sparklers safely and responsibly, will no longer have the pleasure of doing so. Thugs will still be shooting off their bottle rockets but I won’t be able to enjoy so much as a sparkler.”

In a press release accompanying the bill, Jim Graham noted that, according to the National Fire Protection Association and the Centers for Disease Control, “the safest way to enjoy fireworks is to leave fireworks displays to professionals.”

This is true. But we’re talking about America’s Independence Day here, a day when we celebrate our forefathers’ armed rebellion against their colonial masters. Surely George Washington would object to leaving fireworks to the professionals, just like he objected to being pushed around by the king of England.

If it really becomes impossible to light fireworks around here, maybe local “thugs” will take to burning miniature American flags instead.


Where to park police headquarters?

An official with the D.C. Office of Property Management announced last week that the District had decided against moving police headquarters to an old printing plant at 225 Virginia Ave. SE, citing cost concerns as well as consideration for the neighborhood.  The next day, the mayor’s office said this was not so — the move might happen after all.

The building would house many different divisions of the department, including the 1st District headquarters. Neighbors worry about the plans since the increased police presence will probably create a parking nightmare.

“We’re glad the city and the police department realized what they were trying to do was not consistent with what the neighborhood is and is trying to be,” said Bill Phillips, a member of the group Friends of Garfield Park, before the mayor’s office announced the city’s change of heart. The building is right next to the park.

The city signed a 20-year lease in December and started paying a monthly half-million-dollar rent in July. It will continue to pay that rent whether they put police in the building or not.


Single Marines barred from Hawk & Dove

The Hawk & Dove on Pennsylvania Avenue SE has a novel door policy for averting brawls inside: no hawks without doves. After 9 p.m., the bar does not allow single Marines inside unless they’re wearing dress blues.

Local blog dcist.com posted a letter last week from a woman who showed up to the bar with a large group of enlisted men and only one other female. Because there were only two women, only two men were allowed to enter. The rest were turned away because of the policy.

“If the Marines are in a co-ed situation, it seems to temper their wildness,” explains manager Paul Meagher. Given the proximity of the barracks at 8th and I streets SE, Marines are a common sight at most Hill bars, and the Hawk & Dove has long been a popular choice. The bar welcomes Marines so long as they don’t trash the place.

“They’re pumped up and ready to go fight a war,” says floor manager and retired Air Force veteran Pat Malone. “We’d rather see them with a date.”

Meagher clarifies that they don’t need to be on a date per se, as long as the group is co-ed. “No one’s asking, no one’s telling,” he says.

Meagher recalls big brawls around the time of the first Gulf War, but says the current policy was enacted in 2002 due to the bar’s upstairs dance floor, called “Club Hawk,” which has only one bartender, one DJ, and no sit-down eating. That makes it all the easier for an unruly atmosphere to develop. But trouble is much less likely when women accompany Marines, Meagher says. He also notes that the bar also employs Marines as doormen.

Hillscape used to work at Finn MacCool’s, a bar directly across from the barracks on 8th Street SE. Marines were some of the bar’s most loyal customers. There was the occasional small dust-up, but only once did Hillscape see a stool raised in anger, and the furious leatherneck put it down after just a little bit of coaxing.