- The Washington Times - Friday, October 31, 2003

Nobles: Former Mayor Walter E. Washington, for a career of capital service.

Mr. Washington rose to power in a segregated era that few can now comprehend. He became the first mayor of a city that was as racially divided as the country, and he began the process of making it whole. With civility and honesty, he found a way to bridge the racial barriers that dictated much of the politics of the day.

Mr. Washington preferred negotiation over bombast, and his wins were rarely the stuff of press releases. His highest service came at the District’s lowest point, the 1968 riots. During those 10 days of mayhem, Mr. Washington could not avert the looting, but he managed to discourage the shooting. His extraordinary exertions helped check the catastrophe and laid the foundation for the healing that followed. He was appointed District mayor by President Lyndon Johnson in 1968, and he became the city’s first elected mayor in 1974 after the Home Rule Act passed.

Mr. Washington was constantly called upon to find compromises between the desires of his constituents and the requirements of members of Congress, and he did so in an exemplary fashion. As Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton observed, “Mr. Washington was appreciated in this town not only because he could talk to power, but because he talked equally well to the powerless.”

Mr. Washington was 88 years old when he passed away this week. He will be missed by the many who knew him personally; he should be mourned by all. His funeral service will be held today at the Washington National Cathedral. While it will be a family funeral, the public is welcome to attend.

Knaves: The arsonists of Southern California.

Wildfires sometimes start by accident, whether an ill-placed campfire or an errant bolt of lightning. However, a number of Southern California’s catastrophic blazes began deliberately. To date they have consumed almost 750,000 acres, destroyed more than 2,800 homes and caused over 20 deaths. Earlier this week, Chip Patterson, a spokesman for the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department said, “All of these fires may be arsons.”

For instance, one fire, which consumed 350 homes near Lake Arrowhead and has burned through over 95,000 acres in the San Bernardino National Forest, is believed to have been started a week ago by two still-unknown knaves in their early 20s, who were seen throwing burning objects into the brush from a light gray van.

Another knave, Dikran Armouchian, was charged with arson after authorities found him standing next to a fire in a brush-filled canyon. His was one of the few fires which was quickly brought under control.

San Diego County’s Cedar fire, which scorched over 270,000 acres, was almost certainly started by Sergio Martinez, a lost hunter who launched a rescue flare. Of all Southern California’s fire starters, he alone deserves to be cited for nothing more than terrible judgement.

The rest of the arsonists deserve a trial, a prison term, and if the evidence supports it, a death sentence. California’s tinderbox conditions were apparent to all. There’s no excuse for such actions. When Southern California’s fire starters are caught, the judges should show them no mercy.a

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