Friday, January 9, 2009

SECRET SERVICE BAN VIRGINIA FROM INAUGURATION

Eric M. Weiss and Brigid Schulte Washington Post - When Virginians learned that the U.S. Secret Service and other top officials had decided to bar personal vehicles from every bridge from the commonwealth into the District on Inauguration Day, many felt the underlying message to them was this: Drop dead. Or: Stay home.

Or: If you're going to try to come and see the first African American sworn in as president of the United States, well, good luck.

"First was the hysteria of announcing over 4 million people might be flooding the Mall. Later, they amend that number by half. Then they announce there will be no parking, few toilets and that everyone will be standing and waiting for hours. Then they tell people not to bring children and, finally, they close all the bridges," fumed Virginian Holly Kenney. "Do they think we're dense? Clearly, the public is no longer welcome."

But to some business and political leaders in the region, the plan represents more than a snub. They are concerned that the unprecedented closings and restrictions will turn away visitors, hurt businesses and employees, and tip the balance too far toward security over access. . .

"The Secret Service, they're insane," said U.S. Rep. James P. Moran (D-Alexandria). "This is security on steroids. They are imposing major obstacles on people who have a right to be there for the inauguration."

But even Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) signed off on the plan. "I think it's a good idea," Kaine said yesterday in a meeting with Washington Post editors and reporters. "Closing 66 and 395 . . . was the right thing to do for the logistics to make the inauguration work.". . .

In coffee shops, phone conversations and Internet discussions, many Virginians spent yesterday wondering whether they could ride Segways (yes, over the bridges, not in the secure zone around the Mall), where to park their bikes (the bike valet at the Jefferson Memorial on the Tidal Basin), contemplating the money they could earn with a pedicab service or lamenting the lack of ferry service. But mostly they vented at the perceived slight.

"Don Aplin is wondering if they'll mine the harbor for Obama Day now that they've decided to close the bridges to Virginia," the Alexandria resident wrote on his Facebook page, referring to the bridge closure decision as some kind of spooky mystery out of "The X-Files."

"I knew you Virginians weren't to be trusted!" a friend shot back.

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