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Taking note . . .

Observations about public affairs in the nation's capital

by the editor of The Common Denominator

CLOSER TO HOME: Northern Virginia politicians expressed surprise and dismay at the sudden decision on Jan. 22 to squelch what many thought was a $250 million "done deal" to house the Department of Homeland Security in the Tysons Corner area. But the reasons behind Secretary Tom Ridge's announcement that the new federal department would be headquartered at the U.S. Naval Security Station on Nebraska Avenue NW were hardly mysterious to some knowledgeable insiders – or, for that matter, to anyone who navigates suburban rush-hour traffic on a regular basis.

Officially, proximity to the White House was cited among reasons for the decision, announced on the day Ridge’s Cabinet appointment was confirmed by the Senate. But sources say Ridge’s distaste for a long, congested daily commute from his home in Annapolis to the Tysons area also weighed heavily in the decision-making process.

D.C. officials expressed delight at the decision to – at least temporarily – keep thousands of federal employees in the nation's capital. Perhaps now Mayor Tony Williams, using his access as co-chairman of President Bush's Homeland Security Advisory Council, could suggest another way for the former Pennsylvania governor and congressman to decrease his commute time: Ridge could relocate his own home to the District.

THE RACE IS ON: City officials and environmentalists, while on polar ends of the debate about whether the Cadillac Grand Prix should be held for another nine years on the grounds of Robert F. Kennedy Stadium, seem to agree on at least one thing about the event. Neither side expects this year's races, scheduled for June 27-29, to be affected by the Environmental Protection Agency's recent downgrading of air quality in the Washington region. The EPA's reclassification on Jan. 24 of the metro area's ozone pollution as "severe," prompted by a federal court order last summer in a lawsuit brought by Earthjustice and the Sierra Club, will trigger stronger pollution controls for industrial and motor vehicle emissions.

Seems there are no EPA emission standards or controls for racing vehicles, which Earthjustice attorney David Baron cites as part of the reason environmentalists believe that last year's D.C. Department of Health air-quality analysis for the Grand Prix was flawed. D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission Executive Director Bobby Goldwater says the EPA reclassification for the region "doesn't change" the health department's finding that racing about 250 Formula One cars doesn't have a significant negative impact on the city's air quality.

Baron notes that raising the smog pollution barometer "makes the event more politically unpopular for the mayor." But he added, "If the mayor wants to insist on having the Grand Prix, I don't think the air quality is going to stop it."

Copyright 2002, The Common Denominator