City Desk

The Needle: Frozen Edition

The Ice of the Inner Loop: Take one part rush hour, one part severe cold snap, one part aging infrastructure, mix gently, and what do you get? Chaos. A water main burst near Central Avenue early this morning, leaving several lanes of the Beltway under water—which, in the delightful Arctic cold that descended on the region this weekend, quickly turned icy. By mid-afternoon, the highway had only partially reopened, and 400,000 people in Prince George's County were under orders to boil tap water before drinking it. 55 more days until spring! -3

Hawking Books: The Library of Congress has more than 33 million books in its collection. But apparently, not a single one of them deals with ornithology. Officials at the library have been unable to convince a hawk to leave its new perch there since last week, resorting instead to putting up nets to keep the bird from swooping down and attacking researchers as they work in the Main Reading Room. (If new Republican members of Congress have their way, of course, the library will probably just declare the bird a national security threat and shoot it.) +1

Heighters Gonna Height: The view of Union Station from the north of the iconic train station is a tough one to capture—in no small part because looking at it from the north involves standing on train tracks. That hasn't stopped preservationists from arguing against a new mixed-use development that would sit above the rails, on the grounds that it violates the spirit (if maybe not the letter) of the Height Act, the 100-year-old law that's mostly now used as a weapon against interesting blueprints. The obvious punch line for this item would be, "Don't ever change, D.C.," but thanks to laws like the Height Act, it already can't. -2

At Eastern Motors, Your Government Job's Your Credit: Getting around D.C. isn't always easy: There's traffic, parking's expensive, gas costs a lot, the Metro rarely works right. Fortunately, next time you're dealing with inconvenient transportation logistics, you can take solace in the knowledge that a share of your tax dollars are paying for nearly $2,000-a-month SUV leases for both Mayor Vince Gray and D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brown. After all, the city's budget deficit is only $600 million; why shouldn't our top two elected officials ride in style? -4

Friday's Needle rating: 50 Today's score: -8 Today's Needle rating: 42

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