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D.C. city leaders not flocking to inauguration

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Local,DC,Eric P. Newcomer,Inauguration

Many people might have a mental image of a presidential inauguration that includes the District's political leaders hobnobbing at fantastical and exorbitant galas.

They would be wrong.

Although the D.C. Council is planning to watch the inaugural parade from the John A. Wilson Building, several members said they are reluctant to make the trek to see President Obama's swearing-in or to attend an inaugural ball.

"Originally, I was just going to enjoy it quietly," said Ward 3 Councilwoman Mary Cheh. Now, she's reluctantly agreed to watch the parade from city hall after her constituents asked her to host a viewing. But she won't be attending an inaugural ball.

Council Chairman Phil Mendelson has no plans to attend a ball, either. He said he had gone in the past and realized he had seen a lot of people who were not the president.

Ward 2 Councilman Jack Evans -- who ran with Bill Clinton after the 1992 presidential swearing-in ("back in the days when the president could take a jog on the Mall") ??-- isn't headed to rub elbows with the influx of celebrities.

"It's too much," he said. "You don't see a lot of local people going to the balls."

Even at-large Councilwoman Anita Bonds, a prominent Democratic insider, is on the fence about going to the swearing-in. "You've got to have good, strong legs if you're going to stand."

But, she said with a smile, she plans on attending the inaugural ball at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, one of the president's two official balls.

For their part, members of the public are desperate to get tickets to inaugural events -- and the place to go seems to be online. A recent search for the word "inauguration" on Craigslist revealed 96 matches, including one posting "[o]nly asking $2000 for two tickets" to President Obama's swearing-in.

D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton has already received 3,500 requests for tickets to that ceremony. She received 200 tickets for the seating area at the west steps of the U.S. Capitol, as do all members of Congress. She plans to hold a ticket lottery Monday for D.C. residents.

Of course, there is plenty of standing room on the National Mall for the swearing-in -- if you don't mind sharing your space with a crowd estimated to be 800,000.

enewcomer@washingtonexaminer.com

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