News & Politics

10 Washington Stories to Look Forward to in 2015

It's been a strange, sad year. Here's what to get excited for next year.

Image via Shutterstock.

What a year 2014 was for outrage, unfulfilled promises, and lofty civic goals. After promises of an exciting campaign, DC elected a new mayor in a fairly ordinary—i.e., boring—election; Maryland rejected its blue-state autopilot for a Republican governor who’s already playing chicken with the state’s transit future; and Congress went all red. Former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell is riding that borrowed Ferrari right to jail. The DC government failed an old man who suffered a heart attack outside a fire station and an 8-year-old girl who went missing from a decrepit homeless shelter. We decriminalized marijuana, but were robbed of our votes to legalize it. Marion Barry and Ben Bradlee, dinosaurs of very different sides of Washington, died. So did another dinosaur, if you’re counting the New Republic. But enough dour reminiscing about 2014. New years are supposed to be optimistic, so here are 12 stories we’re looking forward to in 2015:

Will the feds ever get Vince Gray? It’s been more than eight months since “Machen Monday,” when US Attorney Ron Machen finally scored a guilty plea from Jeff Thompson, the businessman and ur-donor who admitted to providing secret funds to numerous local and federal candidates, including $668,800 on Gray’s behalf in the 2010 mayoral primary. Machen called Thompson “the tip of the iceberg,” but since that day, the only other chunk to break off has been Gray’s former driver. There’s an argument to be made that Machen didn’t want to interfere with DC’s electoral cycle, but with Gray about to become a private citizen again, that barrier is gone. Perhaps Virginia circa 2014 is a model: McDonnell was indicted less than three weeks after leaving office.

The Scream Team: The United States Olympic Committee says it will submit a city to compete for the 2024 Summer Olympics, and that lucky burg just might be ours. Washington’s business and sports community, with Wizards and Capitals owner Ted Leonsis playing ringleader, have been trying to gin up public enthusiasm. But with even some of the most pro-development locals gawking at the cost and urban displacement associated with hosting the Games, the Olympic hopefuls might need to work harder at home than they will on the International Olympic Committee if we get the bid.

Purple Drain: As an Annapolis Republican, Maryland Governor-elect Larry Hogan has many his future constituents along the Capital Beltway panicking over how they’ll commute in the future. The planned Purple Line between Prince George’s and Montgomery County is envisioned as an efficient, congestion-free people-mover, but it also comes with a $2.45 billion price tag, a most unpalatable figure for a new governor intent on slashing the state budget. And when it comes to transportation, Hogan prefers internal combustion and asphalt. “My priority is building roads,” he told the Washington Post this month. The Purple Line’s believers are clenched up awaiting the project’s fate.

Bowser’s hassles: Sure, Mayor-elect Muriel Bowser is no Adrian Fenty, but she’s still hiring a lot of his old hands to join her administration. Bowser’s inheriting a city on an economic upswing, but she’s got plenty of challenges ahead. Affordable housing for lower-income residents has been collapsing for years, and with more than one-third of apartments costing more than $1,500 per month, middle-income earners are feeling pinched, too. Bowser will also execute the first revision in 40 years of the map that determines which public schools DC’s kids attend, and while the new map is largely settled, there’s sure to be some political fighting by neighborhoods determined to stay in the boundary of high-performing Woodrow Wilson High School. Then again, the real power is likely to be in the DC Council, not the mayor’s office.

Cameras on cops: Like many cities, DC saw protests after grand-juries in in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York decided not to charge police officers who killed unarmed black men. But Washington’s protests turned out to be a model for those elsewhere, both in keeping the demonstrations peaceful and how the Metropolitan Police Department responded to them. Police behavior remains a high priority, and in October, MPD Chief Cathy Lanier announced a pilot program to outfit officers with body cameras that will record nearly every police move. That’s potentially great for accountability, but the cameras are sure to bring a flood of new privacy concerns.

Washington NFL psychodrama: This year’s team sucked as much as ever, its name is still a racial slur, there is no consistency at the quarterback position, and Dan Snyder is still the owner. Who’s excited for the 2015 season? No, really. Anyone?

Baseball town?: Whether or not you wimped out on that 18-inning game, the 2014 Washington Nationals gave us so much hope, only to see it evaporate again in the first round of the playoffs. Not again, please. Key players like Jordan Zimmermman, Ian Desmond, and Denard Span are entering the final years of their contracts and are no guarantees to return. If the Nationals are going to go all the way, it’s gotta be this year, right?

Nobody beats the Wiz: Actually, if you want to see a Washington team make a deep run, tune into Wizards games. The John Wall-led squad is one of the most enjoyable NBA teams to watch, and not just because every win brings discounted pizza.

Andy Harris vs. high society: Seventy percent of District voters chose to legalize marijuana in December, but that wasn’t enough to stave off the will of Representative Andy Harris, the Maryland Republican who declared himself High Inquisitor of DC drug laws this year and inserted language blocking the referendum into a federal spending bill. Even though Initiative 71 did not establish a Colorado-style retail weed market, its backers still claim that because simply legalizing the possession of up to two ounces of pot for adults 21 and over is not an explicit budget act, the reform might be beyond Congress’s reach. But the initiative still has to get Congress’s nod of approval, and as long as Harris is there, it’s unlikely to succeed.

Will the DC streetcar finally open?: Now we’re there and we’ve only just begun. This will be our year, took a long time to come. (Maybe.)

Find Benjamin Freed on Twitter at @brfreed.

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Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.