Thinking Spring, Thanks to Potomac Phil

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The seventh annual Groundhog Day in Washington, D.C., was one of the coldest in recent memory, but the festive event went on, complete with hot chocolate, coffee and groundhog-shaped cookies. Residents with top hats stood at the base of the Dupont Circle fountain holding signs celebrating Potomac Phil and chanting: “In Phil We Trust.”

A crowd formed early and (after consultation with the White House) this year’s event was certified as the largest Groundhog Day gathering in the history of the District.

As the program got underway, Aaron DeNu, chair of Dupont Festival, greeted the crowd and Henrique Ozur Bass — cantor of Congregation Har Shalom in Potomac, Maryland — read a blessing. Potomac Phil, the District’s most famous weatherman, was perched front and center with a corncob in his paw. He had just woken up from hibernation and he seemed very cold.

The top hat-clad crowd leaned toward Potomac Phil to hear his weather proclamation, hoping that spring was near. Rising from the huddle, I took the scroll and announced to the masses that there will be six more weeks of winter — and six more months of political gridlock in Congress.

This event has quickly turned into a city tradition. I want to thank all the organizers and marmot meteorologist enthusiasts who come out early in the morning to watch. Thankfully, we know that spring and summer are around the corner, whether or not Potomac Phil saw his shadow. We can all agree that winter needs to end and warmer weather arrive.

In the Council, I’m working with my colleagues to pass the “Pools without Penalties Act.” I introduced this bill along with Ward 7 representative Vincent Gray to keep residential building owners and residents from being burdened by recently passed Department of Health regulations.

There are many condominium buildings and apartment buildings in Ward 2 (as well as in other wards) with swimming pools. These semiprivate pools are used by building residents and their guests. Recent DOH regulations would require all of these pools to have lifeguards, separate bathrooms and eye-washing stations, among other requirements.

These are not pools open to the public. Some pools had to close early last summer after DOH began enforcing the new regulations. We want to make sure that all are able to open as soon as it’s warm.

Working on this legislation only reminds me how close we are to warmer days and swimming pool season. I want to end by thanking Potomac Phil. Because of him, we can see light at the end of the cold, cold tunnel.

Jack Evans is the District Council member for Ward 2, representing Georgetown and other neighborhoods since 1991.

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