The Washington Times - August 23, 2011, 08:38AM

DEVELOPING: The first major Atlantic hurricane this season could hit the region by the late weekend, threatening the long-awaited dedication of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the National Mall. The latest projections are for the outermost rain bands of Hurricane Irene to graze the Florida beaches from Thursday into Friday morning, then move into the region by Sunday, the day an estimated 245,000 people are expected to attend the official dedication.

“If the fast-forward motion of the storm continues, it could spread damage, including that of downed trees, power lines and coastal flooding issues into the mid-Atlantic late this weekend and into southern and eastern New England by early next week,” according to


Most computer models show at least heavy rain in the region from Irene, now a Category 2 hurricane.

“As Irene gets closer, we will probably see some contingency plans being made to either move up or postpone the dedication a day,” said Ann Loikow of the D.C. Host Committee, which has most of its events scheduled for Saturday. The Martin Luther King Jr. Foundation has not responded to questions about contingency plans.

Police thwarted a Florida man’s plot Monday to take his Jeep onto the National Mall and launch fireworks from the vehicle, according to the Maryland-National Capital Park Police. A patrol officer spotted the Jeep Cherokee on Monday night after closing in an isolated section of Cabin John Regional Park in Bethesda. He then discovered that there was a cache of fireworks inside the vehicle and that it was “fitted with a turret and multiple tubes from which fireworks were to be deployed,” according to the agency.

The driver has been identified as Glenn Neff, 27, of Stewart, Fla. He was taken into custody, and charges are pending. Mr. Neff said he wanted to ignite the fireworks on the Mall to draw attention to himself and issues he had with the banking industry but did not want to hurt anyone, according to police. Alcohol and drug paraphernalia also were found in the vehicle.

The Montgomery County Fire and Explosive Investigations Division and the Joint Terrorism Task Force also responded to the incident, The Washington Times reports.

The District of Columbia collected $80.4 million from parking tickets in fiscal 2010 and is on pace to break that mark this year, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic. The group reports the District had collected $50.1 million as of May, according to information gathered through a Freedom of Information Act request in April. The agency said the $80.4 million equals roughly $1.5 million a week, $450 a minute or $8 a second.

“More cities, including the District, have increased or plan to increase parking fees and meter rates to balance their budgets, and it has created a backlash from residents, motorists, and business owners, who see such hikes as another onerous tax,” said John B. Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s manager of public and government affairs. The group reports that San Francisco collected $88 million for fiscal 2010 and that New York City reportedly collected $624 million in fiscal 2008, The Washington Times reports.

U.S. Senate candidate Tim Kaine is spending time in the next couple months campaigning for Democrats in November’s election as his party tries to hold onto the state Senate, which Mr. Kaine helped put in Democratic control during his term as governor, according to The Washington Post.

After millions of dollars in infrastructure investment and years of sharply scrutinized teacher performance, D.C. officials say it’s time for students to step up their game this school year. “We are expecting great things from you,” schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson told an assembly of ninth-graders Monday at Eastern High School, reports Tom Howell Jr. of The Washington Times.

Politics is far from the minds of many D.C.-area residents in sleepy late August. But Virginia voters nonetheless will head to the polls Tuesday for primary elections to select candidates in November’s General Assembly races. Three House of Delegates and six state Senate primaries are slated for districts encompassing parts of Northern Virginia — but Fairfax County Registrar Edgardo Cortes said a double-digit turnout would be fortunate, according to The Washington Times.

Sen. Mark R. Warner, Virginia Democrat, is the fifth-wealthiest member of Congress, according to Capitol Hill publication Roll Call, reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch. The newspaper lists Mr. Warner’s minimum worth at an estimated $76.3 million, calculated by adding the minimum value of total assets on financial disclosures and subtracting the minimum liabilities.