Monday, January 12, 2009

INAUGURAL PANIC MODE

Dorothy Brizill, DC Watch - The Obama Presidential Inauguration Committee held a dress rehearsal for the swearing-in ceremony and parade that will take place on January 20. District residents and visitors first learned of the dress rehearsal and the closure of Pennsylvania Avenue from broadcast news reports, not from the DC Department of Transportation or the DC government web page devoted to inauguration news. By midmorning, however, District residents and visitors who tried to navigate around downtown by avoiding Pennsylvania Avenue found that the Committee and federal law enforcement officials had also closed down large sections of Constitution and Independence Avenues. When several media outlets contacted DDOT about the additional closures and the lack of public notice, they were referred to the mayor's office, the Metropolitan Police Department, and the Secret Service. Late this afternoon, Mayor Fenty told WTOP that he wasn't aware of the issue, but that he would look into what happened today. . .

This inauguration day is shaping up as a government-created disaster that should have been completely avoidable. What has happened this year is that federal and local authorities have panicked at the predictions - really guesses - of extraordinarily high numbers of attendees. At the same time, security officials, who always recommend a complete lock down, have not been met with any resistance from an inexperienced DC administration that is already inclined to use extreme measures to control citizens . . . Either the extreme measures that federal and local officials are taking to make it hard to get to inaugural events will discourage a large number of people from coming to DC, keeping down attendance and ruining inauguration-related business, or they will create an unnecessary and counterproductive gridlock that this town has never seen before. Or, most likely, they will result in both.

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