- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 17, 2012

D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray used his bi-weekly news briefing Wednesday to unveil a website that allows city residents to evaluate the local government’s services and agencies.

The city partnered with D.C.-based newBrandAnalytics Inc. to launch the site, Grade.DC.gov, which will cover five agencies before expanding to all sectors of the city government, Mr. Gray said.

The mayor took some time to explain the partnership and how the website will work. He acknowledged that “grades” for the city’s agencies likely will be “all over the park.”

But he also provided some tips on how to use it, based on a recent conversation with Lucinda Babers, director of the Department of Motor Vehicles.

“It’s not very insightful, or very helpful, to send in a comment that says, ‘DMV sucks,’ ” Mr. Gray said.

Ms. Babers expounded on the conundrum presented by such a base form of criticism: “What is the response to that? You kind of need to know more specifics.”

Raiders of the lost funds

In one of this year’s more improbable developments, a politician has been rebranded as an action hero.

No, we aren’t talking about the upcoming release of the film “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.”

Honest Abe has nothing on Maryland Comptroller Peter V.R. Franchot, whose alter ego “Indiana” Franchot has helped return unclaimed property to more than 5,000 people this year, according to a statement his office released last week.

The comptroller’s office serves as guardian of forgotten bank accounts, safe-deposit boxes, wages and other personal property left unclaimed for more than three years.

Each year, the office runs an insert in dozens of newspapers advertising the property in hopes of finding its rightful owner.

This year’s insert ran in April and listed nearly $51 million in property. More than 12,000 people contacted the comptroller’s office and 5,695 of them ended up finding their holy grail.

The “Indiana” moniker may have been created by George Lucas but Mr. Franchot’s office has run with it, advertising how he has helped residents on their “adventure” to find “unclaimed treasures.”

Mr. Franchot’s campaign website even features a photo of himself wearing Indy’s familiar leather jacket and brown fedora while, of course, holding a bullwhip.

It’s a photo so good it belongs in a museum.

Embargoed flowers?

When Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican,made the trek north to Virginia to endorse U.S. Senate candidate George Allenon Thursday, the thought of hiding something from his wife was probably the last thing on his mind.

But the venture quickly spawned a heady dilemma once Mr. Rubio entered Company Flowers in Arlington.

Deciding to contribute a little bit to local commerce, Mr. Rubio perused some of the merchandise to be delivered to his wife in Florida - something he apparently let slip a little too soon.

“I’m hoping the flowers get there before these stories run,” he quipped before a crowd of reporters as he checked out the store’s inventory.

Mr. Allen made it clear that he, too, was making a purchase.

“Both Sen. Rubio and I are improving commerce - he’s going to send it down to Florida,” Mr. Allen said before formally introducing Mr. Rubio. “The sales taxes are less here than they are in Florida. The income taxes are higher, but the sales taxes are less.”

Despite the floral quandary, Mr. Rubio got in on the yukfest when he took the mike.

“First of all, I’m glad I don’t have any allergies,” he said, again stressing that he hoped his wife - “a real trooper” - was going to get her gift before any mention was made of it in print.

When Mr. Rubio was assured they would be delivered that afternoon, he relented.

“OK, good. Then we’re safe,” he said. “So no embargo on the flowers.”

Crisis? Averted. And they say politicians on Capitol Hill can’t solve anything.

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

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