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Potomac Confidential

Slicing and Dicing of the Issues People Are Talking About

Marc Fisher
Post Metro Columnist
Thursday, March 10, 2005; 12:00 PM

Potomac Confidential fills the midday lull with discussion by Metro columnist Marc Fisher of the latest news and a rigorous slicing and dicing of the issues that define who we are and where we live.

This Week's Columns:

Marc Fisher (The Washington Post)

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Talk: Metro Message Boards

Grand Plan For Ballpark Raises Stakes (Post, March 10)

D.C. Baseball's Benefactors Soak Up the Love (Post, March 8)

Ah, Viera in the Springtime (Post, March 9)

In his weekly show, Fisher veers wildly from serious probing to silly prattle, and is open to topics local, national, personal and more.

A transcript follows.

Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.

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Marc Fisher: Count your blessings, folks. Did you see those flurries outside earlier this morning? It's a miracle the schools didn't bolt their doors and send everyone home.
Welcome aboard. This week's columns were baseball-heavy, but the call of spring was just too overpowering. So now we have the prospect of being the center of the baseball world for a few weeks--the Nationals' debut here in early April, and before that, the House hearings on steroids in baseball, starring the subpoenaed boys of summer. Should be a blast.
On to your many comments and questions, but first, the Yay and Nay of the Day:
Yay to Frederick and Anne Arundel county residents for rising up against the Maryland House's sly attempt to saddle those counties with slots after Prince George's County and Baltimore City successfully said No way, not here. Next up in Annapolis: Deadlock, and an ugly end to yet a third year of Gov. Bobby Haircut pinning all his hopes on his cynical slots scheme.
Nay to Dan Rather's bathetic farewell, in which he started out fine, almost inspiring for a bit, before he fell into listing every forlorn and aggrieved group he could think of greeting with his bizarre "Courage" salutation. By the time Gunga Dan got to the tsunami victims, my kids, big fans of his Ratherisms, were making gagging noises.
And before we leap forward, a quick thanks to my colleague Colby King for his Saturday column of support. King wrote a powerful retort to the lawyer for the American Society of Newspaper Editors, who had ripped me on the Free for All page for daring to voice my opposition to the Baltimore Sun's lawsuit against Gov. Bob Ehrlich. The Sun wanted the court to lift Ehrlich's ban on two Sun reporters. I argued that newspapers should fight these battles by doing strong, aggressive reporting, not by whining to a judge. When a representative of a newspaper trade group counsels self-censorship, as this lawyer did, we have reached a truly pathetic state.
Your turn starts right now....

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washingtonpost.com: An Affront to the First Amendment (Post, March 5)

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Annapolis, Md.: Hi --

Any thoughts regarding Dan Rather's departure last night?

And is there any chance that the future anchor of the CBS Evening News will be either Armstrong Williams or Jeff Gannon?

Given the fact that the current administration has paid three journalists to tout administration policy and has allowed a male prostitute to ask a question at a presidential news conference, I sometimes think that journalism in America is under assault. Is it just my imagination?

Marc Fisher: My take on the Rather retreat is above--journalists love to see themselves as under assault. We're a self-obsessed bunch, in case you hadn't noticed. But any look at history would have to tell you that news hacks have had far wilder periods of tangling with the citizenry and with officialdom. Best solution to all of these problems: Quit whining and report the story.

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Washington, D.C.: I have a question about the plan you described in today's column. Does Herb Miller's plan include just the land from the ballpark (boundary is N Street) to M Street or north of M? It seems that the one block between the ballpark and M Street isn't enough space for what he says he is going to do. And most of the land north of M Street (and south of the freeway) is already owned by developers and there are already buildings going up in that area. He can't be suggesting that the city take that land away from those developers and give it to him, can he?

Marc Fisher: The Miller plan goes from the stadium site north to M Street, which is the major east-west throughfare there. North of M, there's lots of plots that are either already developed or already in the works. South of M, there are lots of very enticing spaces that could be used to create a new urban neighborhood attracting tourists and locals alike.

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Frederick, Md.: Marc, if the Metro board does decide to remove some of the seats from the trains, maybe they can place those seats in the director's offices so they can see what a Metro train seat actually looks like!

Marc Fisher: Nice.
As long as Metro's shortage of new rail cars continues, it does make sense to give up on the old commuter rail design, in which the seats extend out into the center of the cars, and adopt a more urban subway design, in which seating is along benches, as on the NYC subways, leaving the center for more standing room.

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Washington, D.C. -- by way of MELBOURNE!: Your description of Viera is spot on -- I grew up in Melbourne -- Viera is just an overgrown housing development!

BUT -- how in the world did you find Bonefish Willys? WE LOVE THAT PLACE! (yes, the whole family is still down in Melbourne, so I get back quite often!)

Marc Fisher: Thanks--I was led to Bonefish Willy's, a fab place overlooking the Indian River (aka the Intracoastal Waterway), both by the wise and connected readers of chowhound.com--a great foodie site--and by the
Post's own master of things baseball, Barry Svrluga, who, after three weeks in Viera, has found pretty much all there is to be found in that odd place.

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Space Coast, Fls.: Yes, Viera is a wasteland but it really is just an over-grown housing development. As far as food goes you really need to try Charlie and Jakes on Wickham Rd. Great food and they brew their own beer. How in the world did you ever find Bonefish Willy's? And why did you have to tell everyone about it?!

Marc Fisher: The desperate search for decent food within an hour of the Nationals' spring training home has indeed brought our folks to Charlie and Jake's and I hear good things.
It's always a tough decision about revealing little treasures like Bonefish Willy's to the wider world--I once closed down a lovely Indian place in Miami by writing a rave review; the owner was overwhelmed by the reader response and never recovered. So it's important to warn small businesses of what may come after publication in a big daily.

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Melbourne, Fla.: "Toward the Atlantic to a place of arresting sunsets" Did the sun start setting in the east?

Marc Fisher: The copy desk and I batted that one around and I went with my original idea, which is that the sunsets as viewed from the barrier islands in Florida are indeed to the west, as in the rest of the world, and in Florida that gives you a glorious view of the sun dropping into the Intracoastal Waterway, so yes, the Atlantic beaches are indeed a place of fabulous sunsets, strange as that may seem.

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Woodbridge, Va. Marc,

Do you think that we are in for a complete collapse in the housing market? One of our Board of County Supervisors, Mr. Stewart, was quoted in our local newspaper on Wednesday of this week as having said that Prince William County is in for a shock with housing prices falling dramatically. He is quoted as saying, "When the good times end, we will have prepared ourselves well by restraining spending now, and limiting the growth of government now".

I remember when the last one hit in the lat 80's (I have lived through four market downturns in my life). Townhouses sold by the Artery organization in Manassas for $170,000 went down to $60,000. A friend who purchased a home at the top of the market in 1989 in Clifton for $800,000 and then turned it over to the lending institution (Riggs bank got it back in lieu of foreclosure and liquidated it for $350,000).

What is your take on all of this talk by the local politicians?

Marc Fisher: Well, on one hand, what goes up does eventually tend to go down, and surely the market will make adjustments after all these years of hot, hot real estate prices. But that said, it seems quite unlikely that we'll see a collapse anytime soon, at least in the District and the inner suburbs, where inventory remains low and demand very high. People want to live closer in to avoid long commutes and that is not likely to change. In Prince William, where there's still a lot of new home construction, prices may be more susceptible to a drop, but again, demand remains quite strong.

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Ratherim, Miss.: Here is a site that has a long list of Ratherisms for you and your family to enjoy. That is, assuming you have courage.

CBS2 Chicago

Marc Fisher: Thanks--there's a bunch of these floating around the web, including the list that was in Style yesterday. But I haven't seen anyone answer the question about whether Gunga Dan writes these himself, has some archive of them that he consults, or makes them up on the spot (which seems hardly likely.)

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Northwest D.C.: Hi Marc,

As a graduate of the D.C. public schools and a parent with children in the D.C. school system, I've always been under the impression that the main problem with D.C. shools is underfunding and we are talking underfunding for the last 30 or 40 years, probably since desegregation of the schools in the late '50's. It seems obvious to me given the resources, quality and condition of many suburban schools in the area.

But somehow the impression on the street is that D.C. spends more per student than any other municipality and that it is all about corruption and mismanagement. But isn't it true that if you take out special ed funding which D.C. contracts out at around $50,000 per child, the per student amount isn't so high?

The fact is to get a music, science or art teacher, adequate gym supplies, parents often have to pay for it through their Home and School Association. My kids just lost their wonderful vice principal and several other teachers to budget cuts last year. Wilson High, which I graduated from in the mid '80's, and which I plan to send my kids, looks in worse condition today than it did 25 years ago.

What is going on here? Is Mayor Williams doing everything he can to improve the schools?

Marc Fisher: D.C. schools have a long litany of problems. Underfunding is not one of them. Sure, there are great capital needs and many of the buildings could stand replacement or renovation. And yes, there's not enough money for so-called extras, such as art, music, PE and other such academic areas that really should be mandatory.
But by any fair measure, the system has more money than almost any other school system in the nation. It just misuses so much of that money that it never reaches the kid level. The system pours untold millions into consulting contracts, sweetheart deals for suppliers and contractors, special ed boondoggles, excess bureaucracy, corruption and waste.
The mayor seems to have given up on education, focusing on those parts of city government where he's decided he can have a real impact. He regularly claims to be reengaging on schools, but if you've seen any real evidence of it, please shoot me a line.

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Mineral, Va.: What's up with the mercury "problem" in the D.C. schools? When I was a youngster (oh, so many years ago) we used to play with small blobs of the stuff. A great trick was to coat a penny with the stuff and try to pass it off as a dime.

In the amounts involved in these incidents (the report I heard this morning said a quarter of a teaspoon), the kids would have to suck the mercury up in a soda straw for it to harm them.

Clean it up, and send the kids back to class, already. And stop the Chicken Little reporting on it -- to hear most reports, Cardozo High School will soon be a Superfund site.

Marc Fisher: I'm hoping to get myself a nice package of mercury to take home and play with the kids. Our science teachers used to let us play with mercury, and no one from my high school class is dead yet. But adults love to play hysteria when it comes to schools, and so we have this ludicrous overreaction, which in turn compels more kids to try their hand at dropping some merc on the stairs and singlehandedly shutting down their schools.

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Gaithersburg, Md.: Marc,
So you made it home alive after being imbedded with the Nationals for several grueling days in the wilds of Florida, without so much as a cabana to protect you.
Good show, my man! I'm jealous that you got to go on that boondoggle ... er, hard-hitting investigative sojourn.
I have been trying to envision how the city will shoot themselves in the foot, but I am sure they will continue the drama and jeopardize baseball in D.C. yet. Miller is as good a choice as they will get. I say let him run with it, but rein in his hype.

Marc Fisher: No cabana, no sunscreen either. So it's peel-o-rama time for me. This was serious reporting going on here, and while no one would volunteer for that duty, someone had to go.
Oh, there are plenty of remaining opportunities for the city to botch the baseball project, including three big chances in the next few days alone--the selection of an architect for the new ballpark, the ranking of the private finance proposals for the stadium, and the rapidly dwindling number of days remaining before a Nats TV contract has to be signed.

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Washington, D.C.: I haven't seen the stadium proposal, so I don't know which applies, but I think we need to distinguish between big box stores and mass market retailers. Big Box stores are literally that: formless landscrapers surrounded by asphalt automobile storage. Shoppers have no choice but to drive there. Although most mass market retail happens in big boxes, it doesn't have to be this way. Case in point: the Best Buy at Tenleytown in D.C. It's a large store but it still fits in to the urban landscape. Shoppers can drive there, or take Metro, or walk. If this is what's in store for the stadium area, I think even those of us who hate the big boxes could support the plan.

Marc Fisher: Right--the really good reason for politicians and residents to get upset about big boxes/mass marketers is the devastating impact they have on old downtown and small town retailers. But that's not an issue in the District because the city has such a paucity of retailers of any size or shape. So the welcome mat is out, and the question is whether the city will let the developers make this happen, and if the proper design rules are set so that the result is more like Best Buy in Tenleytown than it is like that ghastly Home Depot in Northeast.

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McLean, Va.: Hey Marc, I've been getting a "Virginia Edition" Metro section for a couple years now and recently I've been receiving a "Northern Virginia Home Edition" front-page section. When is the Post going to give us our own sports section so that us Virginians don't have to read about the Terps every day as if it's our hometown team. For those of us who grew up south of the Potomac, UMD might just as well be UNC, with a little more sense of rivalry of course.

Marc Fisher: MIDSHOW UPDATE:
Arrest warrant issued for Michael Jackson, who was a no-show at court today, and Maryland game underway at MCI.
The sports section is indeed zoned according to where you live, but the zoning is primarily done to get you your local high school sports coverage. Readers in our area have lots of links to colleges across state lines, so plenty of Virginians do care about the Terps and lots of Marylanders want those VT and UVa stories.

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Bethesda, Md.: Marc--you've mentioned two foodie links in your chats (e.gullet and now chowhound). Are you planning to take over Sietsema's job?

Marc Fisher: Yeesh--no way I could do that nor would I want to. He's the boss of things edible. But there are more food stories around here than Tom or the entire Food section can ever get to, and I'm happy to jump in and play with my food.

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Fairfax, Va.: Marc, Tom Seitsema won't take my chat question, but I've run out of time and am hoping you, or your readers, might be able to help.

Ever been to Belissimo, the pricey Italian restaurant in Fairfax City? I'm going Friday night and want to make the most of my dining experience. Tom S. reviewed the place, but that was a couple of years ago, and places change with time.

Have you ever been? Can you recommend a particular dish -- particularly a low-carb, meat dish, rather than a pasta? Thanks!

Marc Fisher: But this sort of thing is beyond me--I haven't been to Belissimo, sorry. Anyone?

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Arlington, Va.: Hey, look! Jim Moran is doing something useful! I think it'd be worth attending just to see if he gets into any fights or somehow blames Israel for our Metro woes.

What: Congressman Moran will hold a Town Hall Meeting to discuss constituents' concerns about the future of Metro. With ridership levels at an all time high, how do we ensure that Metro gets commuters to and from work safely and efficiently?

Who: Featured Guest Speaker, Richard White, General Manager and CEO of Metro. Fairfax County Supervisor and Chairman of Metro's Board of Directors Dana Kauffman and Arlington County Board member and Metro Board member Chris Zimmerman will also be in attendance.

When: Monday, March 14, 2005

7:30-9:00PM

Where: Arlington County Board, Room 307

2100 Clarendon Blvd.

Arlington, Va.

Marc Fisher: Moran has been much more visible around the district lately--last year's election was enough of a scare to get him back to doing what he does quite well, which is connecting with people. He runs a good town hall--I recommend a visit. And sure, you never know what he's going to say.

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Laurel, Md.: Concerning the growing number of homicides in Prince Georges County, I believe what the county needs to do now is reverse the mistakes that were made during the '50s and '60s and rid itself of what has now become low-income housing. Much of the crime in Prince Georges County starts in such housing. Also there must be tougher gun laws and tougher sentencing to ensure idiots who commit senseless crime are put away for a long time.

The county must also spend more on job training to ensure young men and women who fail to go to college can earn a decent living and become decent citizens.

Marc Fisher: Then you must like the County Executive's plan to rip down a slew of those crime-infested apartment complexes. But my question is where are those folks supposed to go? Tearing down the offending buildings is all the rage in the urban development/crime reduction biz these days, but no one likes to think much about where the undesirable residents are supposed to go.

By the way, Maryland's up by one in the early going, 16-15.
And MSNBC TV has a countdown clock counting the seconds until The Gloved One is subject to arrest for not showing up. MSNBC must have a Countdown Desk managing all those counts they do. Do they have one on the pope yet?

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Sunsets on the East Coast: Anyone who's spent time on the Outer Banks knows that you can see beautiful sunsets on the sound side.
I had no problem with it.

Marc Fisher: You're most kind. And for those of us who do not ever see sunrises, except from the wrong side of midnight, this is news you can use.

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Crystal City, Va.: I know you agree that the mercury hype is overblown, but why are they now banning it in all schools? It's a tool for teaching chemistry, and you can teach how to handle it safely. You might as well ban all toxic cleaning supplies in the janitors office. If kids start banging their heads into walls, do we take down all the walls?

Marc Fisher: They tried that already--the open classroom, which still exists in some of the District's worst schools. It's utter mayhem as teachers try to shout over the din from other classes sharing the same space.
Sadly, schools tend to react to controversy by banning something, whether it's mercury or discussion of religion. God forbid they actually engage students on the issue and let them discover for themselves.
Jacko countdown ends. Whatever will MSNBC count next? Minutes til CBS debuts its CBS Evening Newsorama Extravaganza?

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Arlington, Va.: Re: Bellisimo The easiest way to find a low-carb meat dish is to read the menu. They have everything listed there.

Marc Fisher: Thanks.

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Colesville, Md.: I'm anti the ICC so where do I turn in the governor's race? Certainly not for Gov. Haircut and not for Duncan ... do you think O'Malley will come out against this $3 billion travesty?

Marc Fisher: You can bet good money that O'Malley will come out for and against the ICC, just like he's for and against slots.

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Clifton, Va.: Bellismo is okay but Pannino's in Manassas is better. Have been a loyal customer since 1989 going twice a month. One of the best Italian restaurant's in NOVA. Second only to Maestro. Better than all but a couple of Italian restaurants in D.C. Bellisimo can't compare to Pannino's. Don't order off the menu. Wait for your wait person to give the specials. Their dessert cart is incredible.

Marc Fisher: Hmm, I was going along with you til you got to the dessert cart. Seems to me any place that puts its food in a cart is not exactly paying much attention to each preparation.

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College Park, Md.: Marc:

Is Governor Ehrlich okay? I haven't read much about him lately. Okay, so the Port chief quit, and there was that thing with the aide spreading rumors about Martin O'Malley.

But, aren't we in the heart of the short legislative session? Isn't this the time when politicians are in the news? Tell me he's had the flu and will be bouncing back soon, please.

Marc Fisher: Oh, the governor's well and active. He was throwing snowballs out on the lawn when the House passed the slots bill, and he's working the slots issue and the ICC and the Steffen scandal. There's still more than a month left in the session, so you'll be seeing a lot of him.

Jacko Update: He's arriving at court, apparently clad in pajamas. But who could tell?

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McLean, Va.: Marc,

The best parody of Dan Rather I ever saw was The CBS Evening News Anthrax Update on SNL, in which Darrell Hammond let loose a few Ratherisms that had me rolling on the floor laughing. Here's the link:

Saturday Night Live Archives

Marc Fisher: Excellent. Hammond is the great mimic of our time, every bit as good as Rich Little was three decades ago. Thanks.

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Tin Fo, Ill.: But what's the frequency, Kenneth?

Marc Fisher: In the end, it was kind of disappointing that Rather was vindicated on that. I'd always hoped the mystery would go with him to the great newsroom in the Texas sky.

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Germantown, MD: I'm with the person on the mercury overreaction. I remember that back when I was a teenager, I broke a thermometer in the bathroom. I swept up the glass and mercury as best I could, and threw it all out in the trash. Am I to look forward to a horrible, early death because of this incident? OK, it's been over 10 years, but maybe I should get myself decontaminated.

Marc Fisher: I recommend the mercury on rye toast.

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Washington, D.C.: Marc,

What is your take on the John A. Giannetti Jr. story? Can any goods news ever come from P.G. county?

Marc Fisher: This is the state senator who is helping to lead the charge for tougher drunken driving laws in Maryland, but who advised his own wife to refuse to take the breathalyzer test when she was stopped on the road after having had five drinks. Hypocrisy is no bar to holding public office, but this one does make for a lovely story.

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Washington, D.C.: I'm getting a little tired of the "back when I was a kid, we ATE mercury, dabnabbit" stories. While the current cleanup procedures may be considered overreaction, I'll also say, back when I was a kid:
My school was constructed of materials consisting largely of asbestos, there were no warnings printed on cigarette packages and I could easily purchase them at the age of 12, seat belts were optional, and any kid who showed up wearing a bike helmet would have been laughed off the playground -- and probably beat up.
Just because you did something as a kid, doesn't make it safe.

Marc Fisher: Right, but what exactly is the benefit of putting such a huge emphasis on safety? Is safety more important than experimentation, than learning how to operate independently and confidently in the world? Somehow we let safety push out most other concerns in childrearing and education, and I'd argue that we did that very much to the detriment of molding strong, creative kids.

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McLean, Va.: Here's a better link on the CBS Evening News Anthrax Update parody. It's a transcript, so you can read the would-be Ratherisms.

Hilarious!

Saturday Night Live

Marc Fisher: Lovely.

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Bethesda, Md.: So Mark, what do you think about XM increasing its rates? Are they already on the track of the money-grubbing cable companies? I like the idea of having XM on my computer for "free" but what about those people whose work computers block access?

Marc Fisher: It's unfortunate that XM would scrap one of its great advantages over the satellite radio competition, Sirius. But that said, if you sign up soon, you can lock in the old rate--and get an even bigger discount--for any number of years.

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Washington, D.C.: I take it you disagree with Courtland Milloy's theory that the mercury found at Cardozo was a student protest against the poor education they receive?

Marc Fisher: I like the theory but I haven't seen anything to back it up. It is fair to say that these kids are acting out against their school and that kids who respect and value their schools don't do that. I mean, consider all the dangerous chemical available in any chem lab.

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Shaw, Washington, D.C.: Marc,

Your baseball column today reminds me of development around the Convention Center. Here we are a couple of years after it opened and there's not much going on right next to it. Sure, a few blocks to the south Gallery Place is booming, and residential real estate in Shaw is through the roof, but where are the stores on 7th and 9th Sts.? Other than one new coffee shop and an old liquor store that now stocks wine and beer more to new residents' tastes, there hasn't exactly been a wave of development.

Maybe the city should have torn down or re-habbed those abandoned or under-utilized commercial properties at the same time, instead of waiting for developers to take a chance.

Marc Fisher: I don't byu the analogy. I never heard anyone argue that the convention center would spark a new wave of development. In fact, it was virtually impossible from the start that that would happen because they put the thing smack next to low-income housing projects that aren't going away. There is some development slowly happening along New York Avenue there, but even that has been held back by the city's failure to pick a site and developer for the convention center hotel.

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Rosslyn, Va.: Marc, maybe you are the one who can actually answer this question for me because Metro seems to have not a clue. WHY does Metro continue to run 4-CAR trains DURING the peak of rush hour in the morning and evening?! WHY OH WHY?! This really is annoying as we have to be squished like sardines. Perhaps they wouldn't have to waste money by installing cameras to see if the seats are a problem if they actually used 6-car trains.

Marc Fisher: Actually, they're thinking of running even more four-car trains at rush hour, on the theory that more frequent 4-car trains will produce less crowding than less frequent 6-car trains. I don't know enough about the math to know how that will work. Anyone?

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Atlantic Sunsets ...: Race Point, Cape Cod has some beautiful Atlantic sunsets. Just outside colorful Provincetown ...

Marc Fisher: Yes--and don't forget Marconi Beach where the Cape hooks around, giving some spectacular views of both east and west.

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Sunsets: The bay side of Cape Cod anyone? I used to love watching the sun go down over the water in Truro when I was a kid. Better than fireworks any day.

Marc Fisher: My wife once drove a car onto a sandbar right there, and some crusty old New England gent strolled over, took in the situation and opined, "You're not in Times Square anymore. This is the Cape." We thanked him for his wisdom.

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Washington, D.C.: I'm sympathetic to the idea that D.C. schools may not need that much more money, but instead need to spend what they have more effectively.

Can we agree, however, that music, art, P.E. and foreign languages are not "extras?" I wanted to send my daughter to our neighborhood elementary school for kindergarten this fall. That is, until I found out that they have no gym, no music, no foreign language exposure, and are bused to attend a once-a-week art class off-site. If kids don't get exposure to these "extras" in school, many parents will decide to drive their kids around town after school so they can take classes they might actually enjoy. What are the public schools doing all day, anyway, that they don't have time for and can't afford music, art, P.E., and foreign languages? Or is the problem that the skills learned in these classes are not easily quantifiable, and thus hard to test for? Give me a break. Given the extra outlay of cash and time that these so-called extras might require, private schools, which routinely mix these activities into the school day, start to look more affordable.

Marc Fisher: Absolutely. Far from being extras, those are the essential subjects that provide the connection many kids crave, the door through which they engage with the so-called basis subjects in school. In a decade or two, we will all decide that this testing mania and the heavy focus on math and reading lost us a generation of learners.

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Washington, D.C.: On the stadium area construction plan -- if this guy can bury the parking underground and pay some attention to architecture and design, this could be a win-win. The problem with Costcos and Targets traditionally aren't the stores -- it's the massive parking lots.

I'm all for incorporating these IF we can get the guy to give us something architecturally stimulating instead of just boring stuff put up to squeeze dollars out of the available space.

Marc Fisher: Exactly right, and the beautiful piece of it is that he's designed the plan so that the buildings between the ballpark and the Capitol Dome are lower, giving fans at the game a clear view of the dome beyond the outfield fence.

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Atlantic Sunsets: There may be places where you can see the sunset on the Atlantic, but I KNOW you can't stand on the beach on the Space Coast and see the sun set over anything but condos.

Marc Fisher: Ah, this is the Space Coast, not South Florida. There are long stretches where the condos are only two or three stories and yes, you can see the sunsets. They're breathtaking.

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Marconi Beach!: Thank you, Marc. I lost my virginity at Marconi Beach. Ah, memories ...

Marc Fisher: Too much info!

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Alexandria, Va.:
Regarding the role of journalists, reporters, etc., the key phrase is "Tell Truth To Power".
Anything less just proves the extent to which the scribe has been bought by those in power.
Just thought you would like to know.
Many Thanks,
Powerless in Alexandria

Marc Fisher: I'm with you there. Afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted, as the old saying goes.

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4-car trains: No, no, you have it backwards. The idea is to run longer trains less frequently: more 6-car, some 8-car, fewer 4- car. With longer intervals between the trains, they have more time to take care of any small problem that would otherwise back up all the trains.

Metro, of course, would like to run 8-car trains on each train during rush hour but it simply doesn't have enough cars. Train cars are expensive and take a few years to get built. So we have to support their efforts to make the most efficient use of their current resources, by reconfiguring the poles and seats, and fight for dedicated funding, so they can buy the cars they need.

Marc Fisher: Ach! My bad. Thanks. You're right, though the other way around intuitively makes more sense to me.
Terps in 33-all tie as first comes to a close.

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Arlington, Va.: Off-topic, but I just don't get the continuing fascination with Hunter Thompson. Certainly, I'm sorry he's gone, and the manner of his death is especially sad. His writing, though, was self-consciously arch to the point of almost being impenetrable, and I don't understand why so many people always remained so devoted to him. Is it that Thompson was perceived as living out youthful fantasies of anarchy and drug use that other writers had to give up as they got older and settled down?

Marc Fisher: Don't judge Thompson by his later stuff, which was appallingly bad. Go to those glorious three years or so in the early 70s when he was something new and inspiring. Even those of us who didn't share his drug fantasies saw in his writing a willingness to shake up the system and see truths beyond the ability of traditional forms of journalism to reflect.

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Downtown, D.C.: Did The Post's newsstand sales decrease after the release of The Express and has The Examiner now cut into circulation of The Express?

Marc Fisher: The Express has had some impact on Post circulation, though it's hard to say exactly how much. It's probably too soon to say whether the arrival of the Examiner has eaten into either Express or Post circulation. We shall see.

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Arlington, Va.: Marc, can you please agitate to get rid of the Tina Brown column? What a pointless waste of newsprint. Rambling stream-of-consciousness screeds, full of non-sequiturs, that fail to actually make a point.

Marc Fisher: That's beyond my pay grade. I'm not a fan, but I know she has her following. I'd rather read the work of any number of folks in our excellent New York bureau, such as Michael Powell, Bart Gellman, Robin Givhan or David Segal.

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Baseball City: So what is the status of the Nationals' TV? Will we have a TV deal in place by Opening Day or should we all buy Extra Innings?

Marc Fisher: It's getting tight and it doesn't look all that promising. You'd think that by now the commish would have put it straight to Angelos--come to a deal or we'll go ahead and make our Nats TV arrangements without regard to the O's. I have to think that Angelos' plan is to prevent the Nationals from having local TV coverage, and MLB cannot allow that to happen.

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Washington, D.C.: I loved hearing about the mercury spill on the news and when they questioned the original contractor as to why there still would be traces of mercury in the school they said -- we were only told to check the science rooms and clean them out. Just fabulous!

Marc Fisher: Wasn't it just perfect to see DC schools blaming the EPA and getting all huffy about it, only to find that, oops, the mercury really was in the school building all along.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Excuse me, but John A. Giannetti Jr. is no hypocrite. He was citing as his wife's lawyer and acting well within the law as it is now written. Should he have done otherwise? No way. We all act according to the laws as enacted, not as we wish they were written.

Marc Fisher: Sorry, I don't buy the idea that just because he's a lawyer, he gets to act against his principles and doesn't have to answer to his constituents for that.

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Viera, Fla., by way of D.C.: It is not THAT odd of a place -- if you like cookie-cutter houses, Wal-Mart, lack of culture, too many old people and horrible road planning. At least the weather is better today and should be 75 this weekend! I'll take that over snow any day.

Marc Fisher: I like the snow myself, but Florida in March is delicious. February too. It's the other 10 months of the year that are so painful.

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Helena, Mont.: The idea of building a new stadium, regardless of funding source, is wrongheaded. Increase the funds they're proposing to spend to temporarily upgrade RFK, increase them by enough to make it a permanent place to play and save hundreds of millions. To the argument that there's nothing close to RFK to entice private business, baloney. Coors Stadium in Denver was in exactly the same position and businesses are thriving around it. Build it and they will come.

Marc Fisher: Except that any public investment at RFK is completely unjustifiable because there will be no expansion of the tax base from ancillary development. The justification for public spending comes from that broadening of the tax base, which will happen at the Southeast site, but not at RFK.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Marc, have you seen the gargantuan paper/cardboard recycling bins MoCo is passing out? It's twice as big as my trash can! It would take me a month to fill it up, and then it would be too heavy to roll to the street.

Marc Fisher: Haven't seen it--I'll take a look.

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Marc Fisher: That kicks things in the head for today, folks. Thanks for coming along. Back in the paper on Sunday and with you again here next week.

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