City Desk

The Needle: Mighty Mo Edition

Hot Shoppes Is Back: The sprawling Marriott empire—with hotels everywhere from Rosslyn to Romania—started out as a root beer stand at 14th Street and Park Road NW. What came between that business and today's behemoth? Hot Shoppes. The restaurant chain closed in 1999, but in its prime, outposts were all over the District, the area, and up and down the East Coast. Now comes word it's coming back, complete with Mighty Mo sandwiches, in the Marriott Marquis downtown. Streetcars, Hot Shoppes—everything old is new again in D.C. +3

Work For All: For the most part this year, job statistics have helped underscore why economics is nicknamed "the dismal science." But new numbers out from the Labor Department today showed unemployment dropping in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia, thanks to private-sector job growth that offset continued cuts in the federal payroll. The District remains the area jurisdiction with the highest unemployment rate, but it fell from 11 percent to 10.6 percent. Better news: Unlike a recent drop in the national unemployment rate, this one wasn't caused by people giving up on finding jobs and, therefore, dropping out of the labor force. +3

Highways And Byways: Most plans to build new highways these days bring out waves of protests and years of planning. The District, though, managed to bring I-695 into existence merely by putting up signs. Turns out the stretch of road between I-295 and I-395 known as the Southeast Freeway is actually an interstate highway; eventually, new roads will be built to connect the better-known interstates. Confusingly, the Baltimore Beltway shares the same numerical designation. But if you don't know whether you're in D.C. or Baltimore, you've got problems your GPS can't solve. +1

Let's Get Ethical, Ethical: Congratulations, Washingtonians—you now live in a more ethical city. The D.C. Council passed, on a second reading, a sweeping package of ethics reform, which depending on who you ask, is either exactly what the District needs (per the politicians voting for it) or a whitewash of serious flaws in the municipal government (per most people who looked at it closely). In a potentially ominous sign for embattled Ward 5 Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr., whose house was raided by FBI and IRS agents this month, the council now has the power to expel one of its own. But since that takes 11 votes out of the 13 members, it's not likely to happen any time soon. +1

Yesterday's Needle rating: 50 Today's score: +8 Hanukkah bonus: +2 (nu, you think it deserves +8? Easy on the slivovitz) Today's Needle rating: 60

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