- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Metropolitan Police Department is waging war — not against criminals or illegal drugs, but rather AAA Mid-Atlantic.

John B. Townsend II, a spokesman for the group, apparently ruffled some feathers when he told WTOP radio in a Nov. 16 report that the District led the nation in fatal hit-and-run accidents over the last decade. A table that accompanies the story on WTOP.com illustrates the conclusions. Nevertheless, MPD promptly issued a press release purporting to counter the report.

“Mr. Townsend obviously did not check his facts,” a Nov. 17 press release states. “Just this year the MPD received an award from the National Highway Traffic Safety Association for huge decreases in our overall traffic fatality rates to include the second-largest drop nationally in impaired driving fatalities with a decrease of almost 40 percent.”

Ummm, OK. It might have been more helpful, though, if the MPD had included statistics responsive to Mr. Townsend’s comments on the AAA analysis of hit and runs.

But the police department wasn’t finished.

AAA last week pointed out that MPD was (yet again) expanding its network of traffic cameras, which AAA has long decried as a revenue-generating scheme. Chief Cathy L. Lanier issued a statement, saying she found the criticism “astounding” because the District “is a leader in the nation in reducing traffic deaths.”

“In fact, earlier this year MPD received an award from the National Highway Traffic Safety Association for decreases in our overall traffic fatality rates,” she said.
Here we go again.

Vetting process

Mayor Vincent C. Gray announced two new staff members without a hitch last Monday, a welcome relief for his administration after a series of personnel missteps this year.

Maybe they were extra careful this time. Or, if you take Mr. Gray at his word even when he’s kidding around, they got a little bit of help.

Mr. Gray introduced Capitol Hill veteran Pedro Ribeiro as his new chief spokesman and Sheila Bunn, a longtime staffer for House Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, as his deputy chief of staff. His last pick for the deputy position didn’t last too long, after D.C. watchdog Dorothy Brizill revealed the mayor’s pick had voted in D.C. election while living in Maryland.

So when a Washington Examiner reporter asked the mayor last week if he asked Mr. Ribeiro and Ms. Bunn about their voting and driving records, he didn’t miss a beat.

“No, I asked Ms. Brizill,” Mr. Gray quipped.

The jocularity didn’t end there. When the mayor asked the media to focus on his achievements instead of dwelling on his team’s mistakes, veteran NBC Washington reporter Tom Sherwood had a quick retort from the back of the briefing room: “When has the media ever done that?”

Jelly-of-the-month club?

In the spirit of giving thanks, representatives from the progressive advocacy group ProgressVA last week delivered a turkey to the office of Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell.

Well, it wasn’t exactly “thanks”: the group delivered a frozen turkey to “honor” Mr. McDonnell as the recipient of the 2011 Turkey-of-the-Year award “in recognition of his use of gimmicks to mislead and confuse Virginians about the commonwealth’s fiscal condition, his cuts to education, public safety and social services programs, and his refusal to take a balanced approach to Virginia’s budget deficit.”

The turkey found a home, however, at the Central Virginia Food Bank where Mr. McDonnell and first lady Maureen McDonnell volunteered Thanksgiving eve, said spokesman J. Tucker Martin.

“I’m pretty confident that over the long course of Virginia’s history plenty of turkeys have visited the governor’s office,” Mr. Martin said. “This is just the first one that’s come frozen. And, while it’s a nice gift, we can’t help but be a little disappointed.”

“We were secretly hoping for an enrollment in the jelly of the month club. Now that’s the gift that keeps on giving the whole year round.”

Bag tax

Montgomery County Executive Isiah “Ike” Leggett has a message for shoppers this holiday season — when you leave home to brave the mall crowds for that gaudy new TV or must-have toy, make sure to bring a reusable bag.

The county will enact a bag tax starting Jan. 1, charging customers 5 cents for each store-provided paper or plastic bag they use. County officials tried to get the word out Thanksgiving night, when they distributed reusable bags to shoppers in Gaithersburg and Rockville who were waiting in line for Black Friday sales.

“It was a good chance to talk to the public and hear their reactions,” said county spokeswoman Bonnie Ayers.

Montgomery officials say the tax is meant to reduce waste and protect the environment, and that they hope many residents will get in the reusable-bag habit.

But not too many residents. That could hurt tax revenues.

• Andrea Noble, Tom Howell Jr., David Sherfinski and David Hill contributed to this report

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