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Potomac Confidential

Slicing and Dicing of the Issues People Are Talking About

Marc Fisher
Post Metro Columnist
Thursday, March 17, 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 show looks at Peter Angelos' effort to control the TV broadcasts of the Washington Nationals, the fate of the Intercounty Connector, and the divisions created by expensive school trips. This Week's Columns

Marc Fisher (The Washington Post)

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A Class Trip Into a Land Of Questions (Post, March 13)

A Swing And a Miss For Angelos (Post, March 15)

Something's Awfully Fishy About the ICC (Post, March 17)

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.


Marc Fisher: Welcome aboard, as the Internet's only chat show on steroids gets underway. Get yer fresh 'roids injected right here. You watching that congressional hearing on steroids in baseball? This is the sort of thing Congress should do every week -- it would keep them from mucking around on things too complex for them, stem cells and world peace and that sort of item. Pure fun, on a topic that really affects how people live.
Onward. This week's columns started out on the thorny question of how expensive school trips, such as the Takoma Park Middle School trip to Florida each February (interesting that they don't go in, say, May), separate communities and cement racial and economic divisions. Then Tuesday's offering responded to Peter Angelos' antagonistic ad in the Post, in which he said the only way he'd let Washington Nationals games be broadcast on TV is if his Orioles network gets to control the games and the money. Yeah, right. Today's column tries to get a handle on the flabbergasting cost of the Intercountry Connector, the highway that would take 3 billion of your dollars and provide little or no relief from Beltway congestion.
Your turn starts right after the Yay and Nay of the Day:
Yay to residents of western Loudoun County who are organizing a movement to secede from the county rather than accede to plans to smother the rural area with a hundred thousand new houses. Disenfranchised by a board of supervisors who stripped western Loudoun representatives of their authority on the board, citizens are taking matters into their own hands. More in a column next week.
Nay to the military and federal officials who botched this week's anthrax scare, failing to connect with Virginia or District officials about what happened and whether evacuations were warranted. Have we reached the point when our fancy detection equipment outstrips our staffing and human systems' ability to synthesize information and figure out how best to act on it?
Pick Story of the Morning: Check out Post reporter Cameron Barr's piece in Metro solving the mystery of who wrote those curious postcards that were found in bottles in Clopper Lake in Montgomery County last year.

Your turn starts kinda like now...


Pentagon City, Va.: Thanks for your column on the duplicitous Peter Angelo$ -- the more the merrier. It seems to me that his childish tactics will probably ensure that Baltimore fans in the D.C. area will jump ship and favor the Natexclusivelyly whereas before I could see them liking both. I also find it hard to believe that his whining is not really turning the people of Baltimore off, it has always struck me as a proud city, rugged city that was too tough for this sort of thing. Hopefully, Bud Selig will finally stand up to him and get this resolved soon.

Marc Fisher: Good point -- it's hard to come up with any reason why Angelos would be so willing to antagonize Washington area fans except that he intends to sue and try to get an injunction against the Nationals playing any games. Either the Orioles need DC fans, in which case you'd think Angelos would make peace and get on with the job of competing for fans' hearts and wallets, or they don't need DC fans, in which case this is pure venom motivating his negotiations.


Gaithersburg, Md.: Marc,
What fallout has there been since your column (and the equally hard-hitting Tom Boswell column) on Tuesday about Czar Peter and his attempts to undermine and manipulate the Nationals? I think I saw a mushroom cloud over Baltimore yesterday. Surely his ego would not let the chance go by to rebut those columns with more specious arguments and distortions of history and facts. The man is a greedy and insane SoB. I hope MLB musters the courage to slap him down. Has Mr. Angelos contacted the Post about firing you and Boswell yet?

Marc Fisher: If he's good to his track record, we will hear Angelos' response in one of three venues: In the friendly Baltimore papers, on Baltimore radio, or in the courthouse.
But I do hope he buys more full-page ads in the Post. And loyal readers should hope so too. So nice of him to pay us for the right to bash us.


Alexandria, Va.: There steroidiod use in baseball? And the U.S. Congress is just now getting upset about it? Now they are concerned about how steroid use affects our country's youth? What about 10 years ago? What about three years ago? Do the youth of ten years ago mean less than today? It's not like steroid use hasn't been baseball's most widely known dirty little secret for sometime now. Tom Davis can call baseball on the carpet for this but yet do nothing about Metro's mismanagement? For 10 years, Metro knew and allowed parking lot attendants to steal money. The Metro board continues to make stupid decisions with no ramifications. What is it going to take for Tom Davis to actually do something about Metro -- another 10 years of mismanagement?

Marc Fisher: Well, as one of the congressfolk said this morning -- Mark Souder of Minnesota--the committee held a couple of dozen hearings on drug abuse but only the baseball hearing has drawn huge media attention. Same would go for Metro -- hearings would help only if there was a juicy scandal to lay out for everyone.
What Metro needs is not so much investigations as a dedicated funding mechanism.


College Park, Md.: Here are two ways to make escalators more efficient at Metro stations (when they are actually working, of course ...)

1. Come up with a catchy saying (i.e., lefty walky righty standy) that people can shout whenever one of those standers blocks the walkers on the left side of an escalator. If ever a single individual has exceedingly great power, it would be that one person who stands on the left.

2. Whenever there are three escalators in a row at a boarding platform, since two are going in one direction and one in the other, why not have the two going in the same direction be the ones on the ends? This way, in case during rush hour, people are trying to get to the train, they can simply walk from the escalator to the train on the appropriate side. And alternatively, if people are getting off the trains, the escalator will be there on their side. This will prevent (as much as possible) the dreaded crossover of people rushing to catch a train from the escalator having to wade through a sea of people.

Marc Fisher: 1) You don't like, "Hey, hey, get outta my way" or the boring but effective, "Excuse me please?" There should be a song.
2) Quite logical, but that would deprive us of the beauty of watching folks sidle past one another at full speed as they rush to make their connection. I like my public transit crowds a bit messy.


Derwood, MD: Marc,

Didn't you know that ICC stands for Incredible Cash for Contractors?

Marc Fisher: Incredible indeed. But isn't it amazing that a Republican governor who came to office carping about wild Democratic spending doesn't even flinch at a $3 billion price tag for a little highway that merely connects two others?


Germantown, Md.: How come it takes 1 and a half hours to go from I270 (Exit 15), around the beltway onto I95 North, to the first exit (Calverton/ Beltsville) during rush hour? How come the ICC Hasn't been built yet? Hoenvironmentaliststalists are blocking the ICC, when every person I've talked to wants it built? What's the hold up? How news outlets in the D.C.-area only report on WHY NOT to build the thing?

Thanks for your time,
An angry citizen

Marc Fisher: Oh come on -- it doesn't take nearly an hour and a half. I've made that drive many a time and even on a bad day, it's barely half that time. But you're right -- it's a very bad crunch on that stretch of Beltway.
The fact remains, however, and I am using only the state's own study as evidence here, that building the ICC will do almost nothing to reduce the congestion on the Beltway. I thought it would, but the studies say no. Given that, what possible justification remains for spending $3 billion on a road that will provide only limited relief to local streets and virtually none to the Beltway?


Laurel, Md.: Way To Go! Please, give us some ideas of what else we can do to show our local representatives and authority figures how they can improve our communities along the potential route of the ICC by NOT building it. Maybe we could do something like a virtual auction. We could have a virtual ICC, pretend that it's there, and still spend the money on all of those worthwhile, cost-effective projects that will improve all of those conditions everyone has complained about for years.
Also, along the same line, consider the comment submitted yesterday to Dr. Gridlock's chat concerning the stretch of Rt. 198 between Laurel and Burtonsville (potential ICC route). There are probably more accidents involving serious injuries there than anywhere else in the entire metro region. Cars exit I-95 at 70 mph and don't slow down at all. They immediately cross multiple intersections (at speed) causing multiple accidents and all too often fatalities. This is a situation that needs to be addressed, not how to get from one interstate to another five minutes faster.

Marc Fisher: There are long lists of such local improvements that could be made if all the state roads money wasn't headed to the ICC vault.
It looks like the ICC is an unstoppable juggernaut, but the opponents still hold out some hope. The legislature in Annapolis will make the big decision in the remaining weeks of this session.


Montgomery Village, Md.: Where do YOU live Mr. Fisher? Your column today about the Intercounty Connector reeks of the same attitude that people in the downcounty area of Montgomery County use to argue against the ICC. Purple line wouldn't benefit mid and upper county residents trying to get to I-95 and Baltimore. Norbeck and Muncaster Mill Roads can't be widened enough to make a difference. I live in Maryland, yet the airport FURTHEST from my home is BWI. What does that tell you?

Marc Fisher: I plead guilty to a related form of that reeking. I live in the District, a few blocks from the dreaded downcounty of Montgomery. Sure, the Purple Line, if built along the downcounty route now contemplated, wouldn't be of much use to someone who lives where you do. But it would provide tremendous relief for drivers making any east-west trip across the county, whether on the Beltway, East-West Highway, or the Norbeck/Muncaster Mill combo. By taking tens of thousands of cars off the road, Metro prevents congestion from growing at what would be a truly stunning rate.


Vienna, Va.: If Maryland officials had just built the ICC when it was first planned, it wouldn't be the racket you claimed in your column. In fact, it would have only cost a fraction of what it would today. Putting it off longer and longer is the best plan the trout-loving, tree-hugging, road-hating people could ask for. Ditto for the self-absorbed Arlingtonians, who front the Coleman decision in efforts to hide behind their NIMBYism, as if any of them even lived around here back then.

Marc Fisher: And if I'd been born 40 years earlier, I could have seen Babe Ruth play ball. But we have what we have, and this is not a matter of land acquisition -- the government already owns much of the ICC's path.
The folks in Arlington have every right to balk at widening I-66. They made a deal with the state decades ago to keep the road down to two lanes in each direction inside the Beltway. That respects the nature of Arlington as a dense urban space. Big wide highways slice apart communities and even if the proposal now is to add lanes without widening the footprint of the highway, the fact is that this would encourage more driving in an area that needs to encourage less driving.


Rockville, Md.: Re: "Something Fishy About the ICC":
You are absolutely right, of course, but perhaps you miss the point. The ICC is not about transportation issues (which, as you say, are irrational); rather, it is about getting to the Governor's mansion. Doug Duncan is enriching the construction industry (with "free" federal funds), enabling them to reward Duncan with a huge war chest in his gubernatorial campaign.

Marc Fisher: If that's the case, then why is Bob Ehrlich so hugely in favor of the ICC? Surely he wouldn't want to do anything to help his potential opponent, right?


Md.: I beg to differ. It most certainly can take an hour-and-a-half to get down 270 and halfway around the outer loop towards beltsville. I just don't get WHY things slow in certain areas for no apparant reason. The curves on that stretch of the beltway are silly - but I'm told they are there because of accommodations to environmental groups when the beltway was first built. I guess we saved some salamender, or something. Good thinking. Argh.

I spent two hours and 45 minutes coming from route 32, onto 95S, heading down to Herndon just this week. The traffic is insane.

Marc Fisher: My bet is the traffic would be just as bad if the road were as straight as Rick Santorum.
But what do you make of the fascinating result of the Post's recent poll on commuting that showed that most folks really don't mind their commute, that they relish their time alone in their cars?


Arlington, Va.: My suggestion is to keep doing more studies on the ICC!

Marc Fisher: And after the studies end in 2077, the lawsuits will begin.


Arlington, Va.: To second Laurel's comments, the incredible speed of traffic on I-95 (and 270 is no better) would seem to mitigate against the idea that the Interstates are so terribly congested.

P.S. - I like the speed.

Marc Fisher: We like the speed and we like the traffic. Just like we like the open country and we like the development. This is the great thing about American politics -- the politicians are all clustered on one or the other end of each issue, while the people are happily on both ends and in the middle.


Glover Park, Washington, D.C.: Marc, please tell me you picked GW -- the Washington area's only men's basketball team in the NCAA tournament -- to upset Georgia Tech in your tourney pool. How 'bout some love for the Colonials?

Go GW. Hail to the Buff and Blue.

Marc Fisher: I have to admit I wussed out and picked GT, not GW. But I will nonetheless be rooting for GW. Any team with a player named Pops gets my heart.


University Park, Md.: Sorry to rant on a pet peeve, but I never thought you would be one to confound "mayhem" and "bedlam." I see and hear it frequently in the media, though, so you are in good company. There is, however, a difference between mayhem (needless or willful damage or violence) and bedlam (place, scene or state of uproar and confusion). In last week's chat, you used "mayhem" to describe an open classroom; while that may, unfortunately, be accurate, I think you were actually thinking of "bedlam" in the context of the post. Now, go, and sin no more.

Marc Fisher: Guilty as charged. I sentence myself to the bedlam of watching the NCAAs on CBS. How is it that the only network that cannot figure out how to put multiple games on multiple channels repeatedly wins the rights to a tournament that includes many simultaneous games?


Annapolis, Md.: Hi--

Since the White House has decided not to comply with GAO and will continue manufacturing news reports, why do we need you?

I don't want to be insulting, but if the government continues to develop news reports for newspapers and television stations, isn't the Washington Post just an anachronism? A relic of a bygone era of an independent press?

After all, the government wouldn't lie to us, would they?

Marc Fisher: You're right. Thanks for coming along, everybody. Bye-bye. Please join me in my new venue, on the U.S. Department of Information Security's Online Show--Always Heavily Edited for Your Safety and Pleasure.


Baltimore, Md.: The reason Ehrlich would help support Duncan is because it underminds the other potential governor candidate, Martin O'Malley, who's undoubtly experiencing a surge based on the latest St. Pat's day tour of his band.

Marc Fisher: But O'Malley quit the band! No more singing mayor! How sad. Now he'll have to concentrate on his city's sky-high murder rate.


Silver Spring, Md.: Marc,
Thanks for writing the column about the Takoma Park Middle School's annual trip to Florida.
To clarify the use of substitute teachers during trip week, substitutes are used for all grades at the school, including for 6th and 7th graders whose teachers may be among the trip chaperones, as well as for some 8th grade classes for students who are not on the trip. Some classes that do have their teacher at school don't get much learning in at all, because the majority of the class is on the trip, so no new material can be introduced. The ripple effect from this trip is felt by virtually every student at the school. Some after-school clubs do not happen -- the teacher who runs the club is on the trip, or even if the activity's sponsor is at school, too many students in the activity are in Florida so the club is cancelled that week.
Shouldn't it be a school's job to educate every child at the school, and not to plan and execute elaborate trips that only half of one grade can attend?

washingtonpost.com: A Class Trip Into a Land Of Questions (Post, March 13)

Marc Fisher: Sounds right to me, but I've heard from a great many teachers and kids at that school this week, most of whom vigorously defend the Florida trip and argue that kids who attend magnet programs deserve special benefits such as fancy trips because they work so hard. I actually had several kids write in to say that the "lower" kids shouldn't come on the trip with them because they don't work as hard.


Great Falls, Va.: Enough already. There will always be rich and poor, no matter how much effort is made to pretend there are not. Even the poorest here are better off than their counterparts in other countries. Get over it.

I attended Walt Whitman High School in the 1960's. The school was almost entirely white and high income. I was one of the few blue collar kids. Every year there were class trips to Europe, South America, Cancun. I remember the one to Cancun cost $800, more than my father made in a month. The typing teacher put out a spoof tour to Appalachia, which included a visit to Donora, Pa., the home of Stan Musial, and other exotic locales.

It honestly did not bother me that some of my richer friends could go on these trips. The funny thing is, now that I am upper middle class, I resent those who have more for less work, as I see it, e.g., inherited wealth. But that's just the way it is. There's no way to completely level the playing field and we just have to accept that.

Marc Fisher: Well, I don't buy it. I'm sure you're a fine and upstanding person, but I bet you resented the heck out of it when the rich kids went off on their school-sponsored trip and you had to stay behind. I know I did when I was in school. Maybe you are better than the rest of us and have always been free of jealousies and resentments, but I think most folks would not see the need to add gratuitous moments of resentment to the lives of children who have less than others may have.


Arlington, Va.: The Takoma Park trip is the tip of the iceberg. Colleges can keep ostensibly "need-blind" admissions and still make sure they kids who don't need financial aid, thus boosting their revenue stream. All they need to do is weigh favorably Disney World "enrichment experiences" and disparage kids who work too many hours and "don't take their studies seriously." So long as the enrichment activity correlates with wealth, the college is golden. Ask your neighbors at Ward Circle about that practice.

Marc Fisher: Well, sure, some of that happens, but far more often, I've seen admissions committees bend over backwards for kids who have to work, choosing those kids over kids who've gone off on expensive camping adventures. Most admissions officers I've met have a strong streak of resentment toward those kids who pad their applications with expensive summer programs, and a strong desire to boost the admissions chances of kids who have to support their families or earn their keep.


Frederick, Md.: Marc, do you think that Kweisi Mfume will change his name back to his given name now that he is out of the NAACP? Why do people feel that need to change their names?

Marc Fisher: I've always mistrusted any politician -- or any person, for that matter--who changes his name. There was that period when some black Americans tossed out their birth names on the theory that, as Malcolm X argued, they were slave names, given by masters. I suppose there is some merit to that, but such a strike against history is also an act of aggression against one's own parents, and I find that more immediate action to be reprehensible.


Washington, D.C.: I am shocked and saddened to hear of the death of Wanda Alston. Is there any evidence so far that this was a hate crime? Does this event impact the mayor's plans for the first gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender summit next month?

Marc Fisher: Chief Ramsey and Mayor Williams were just on the tube doing a presser on that murder of the mayor's chief advisor for gay matters, and they did not indicate that this was a hate crime. But they really weren't forthcoming about any details, other than that there is a car out there that they are hunting for. Detailed description of the car is on our site.


Bethesda, Md.: Why is the Friendship Heights Metro station always so dark inside?

Marc Fisher: It is very dark, and certainly darker than, say, Metro Center. I don't know why. Anyone?


Washington, D.C.: What's really fun is the etymology of "bedlam" -- the main insane asylum in London was The Hospital of St. Mary of Bethehem, pronounced locally as, whaddya know, "bedlam" --

It's true!

Marc Fisher: Very very cool. Thank you.


Bethesda, Md.: You know Angelos is a bad guy when the thought occurs to you that George Steinbrenner could give him some pointers on public relations ...

Marc Fisher: King George has softened in some ways in his later years, and he differs from Angelos in one crucial way: For all his many faults, Steinbrenner was always about putting a winning team on the field. Whereas Angelos seems resigned to selling a mediocre product. And that's something fans will not ever come to admire.


McLean, Va.: Given Tom Davis' stellar -- ahem -- stellar record of taking coucontroversialds on controverial issues, might one say that the issue of performance enhancing drug use in baseball (an issue that intimately affects his consituents?) is one of the few issues that Davis has the balls to investigate?

Marc Fisher: One might. I thought he gave a very good opening statement this morning, much more concise and compelling than that of the minority leader of the committee, Waxman.


Angelos: I knew nothing about this guy before, but he's really starting to get on my nerves. Is it possible he's antagonizing D.C. baseball fans in order to create a self-fulfilling prophecy? Maybe he can demand more from MLB if in six months the Orioles' attendance has gone down significantly (which it will, because I for one won't be going up to Baltimore for another game after the way he's acted).

Marc Fisher: If all the folks who have called in to sports radio shows in recent weeks to announce that they were O's season ticket holders and now won't set foot in Baltimore are really telling the truth, then Angelos is going to be looking at some empty ballparks. But I wouldn't bet on it -- I think he will lose a good number of luxury box rentals but overall attendance won't be hurt much at all.


The Estates of Riverdale Park, Md.: Bonjour Marc,

Given the colossal cost of the ICC, what are the chances of it actually being built?

I'm not trying to pin you down to a number. I'd just like a sense of the road's future.

Marc Fisher: It says here it's gonna be built, and soon.


Hey exurban schmucks: Lay off the whining and insults about those who don't want the ICC.

You want it? Great! Pay for it. I suggest that the Md. legislature immediately do the following ...

1. Reject any Federal Highway Funds on the project.
2. Create a special tax district which is made up of the exurbs that want it. They pay the full freight.

You see, us evil city dwellers who "have no right to complain" are sick of paying for you exurban welfare queens and your lifestyle. People in the city and inner burbs of DC and Ballmer gain nothing from this. Zero. We can get between our cities easily. So why in the world should we have to subsidize your SUV commutes?

Not our problem, not our wallets. If you agree to not steal our money to pay for your road, then we'll shut up. Until then, you have less standing than folks on welfare. At least those people are poor and need the help. You just want to steal from everyone else to fund your lifestyle.

Marc Fisher: And this is why they won't ever agree to pay a commuter tax. Even though we are wholly dependent on each other, city and suburban dwellers have decided that there's some sort of war going on here and that we're better off if we just snipe at each other. Doesn't make a whole lot of sense given that this region is utterly interdependent.


Re: Kweisi Mfume: Considering what his real name is (Frizzell Gray), would you go back to that or keep Kweisi Mfume? Frankly, I think the latter sounds much cooler.

Marc Fisher: No question it's cooler. Maybe I need to change my name. I always thought Slams Stewart, the great jazz bassist, had cornered the market on cool names.


Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C.: Mr. Smart-Guy columnist:

Rep. Souder is from Indiana.

Marc Fisher: Quite right. That'll teach me to take ESPN's word on things political.


Re: Non-resentment of trips: Regarding the person who wrote in saying he didn't resent it when the rich classmates went to exotic locations -- that's easy for him/her to say now. Look where he/she wrote in from.

Marc Fisher: I'll save you the scroll back up the page: Potomac.


Marc Fisher: Oops -- make that Great Falls.


Baltimore, Md.: "Whereas Angelos seems resigned to selling a mediocre product"

Until this year, the same could be said about Abe Pollin.

Marc Fisher: Pollin has had a different problem -- for a long time, he wasn't willing to spend the big money, and then, when he finally was, he spent it poorly. But I think it's fair to say that at least in the past eight years or so, he's been trying hard to step it up.


On "lower students": I am of a mixed mind about the trip, but it is awful that these magnet school students are being socialized to think that the "lower" students are not working as hard as their magnet peers and are thus less deserving. When I was in school, I would likely have been classed with the magnet students -- top of the class, and all that--but I always knew that my sister, who had lower grades and was in "lower" classes, worked 20 times as hard as I did. If we were measured by hard work, she would have gone on such a trip, not me! So many factors influence where people hierarchye educational hierarachy. It is a shame that these students may think it is only due to laziness. That is not a recipe for progress.

Marc Fisher: Yes, I found it pretty disheartening to hear such stuff from kids who are getting what is, by all accounts, a first-rate bit of schooling.


Alexandria, Va.: Why can't the kids take the trip during Spring Break so that at least the kids left behind aren't sitting at schools with subs. That's what we did in middle school (and it was a trip to D.C. ...). Also, I was a sub once, teachers pretty much don't trust subs to teach, so the kids at home are pretty much doing busy work -- which is hardly going to help them educationally.

Marc Fisher: That would help, but only part way. School trips are school trips, and the fact that they are official business yet many kids can't go for economic reasons is disturbing and divisive. There are plenty of other ways to motivate kids and separating them by economic ability shouldn't be part of any curriculum.


re: Wanda Alston: What difference does it make if Wanda Alston's death was a hate crime? If she was, in fact, murdered, then whomever committed the crime, should be severely punished regardless of why the crime was committed. A murder victim, regardless of sexual orientation or race or gender, is a victim of a hate crime, period.

Marc Fisher: That whole category is worse than a distinction without a difference -- it's a punishment of speech, beliefs and attitude. You're right -- the only thing that should matter is that someone took another's life, which is plain and simple unforgivable. The rest is merely an effort to legislate thought, which may be desirable, but is both impossible and utterly contrary to our system's basic philosophy.


Rosslyn, Va.: Okay, let me get this correct -- there are right-wing conservatives calling to hang liberals for trying to impose their 'gay' agenda on them. Liberals are screaming back at conservatives for not being accepting of all people. Conservatives say -- don't impose your views on us. Well, quite frankly both sides are being hypocrites for trying to impose their own views on each other. There will always be gays and there will always be homophobes, deal with it. But, hate crimes are not the answer.

Marc Fisher: There's as yet no evidence that this was a hate crime.


Penn Quarter: Hi Marc,
Just moved into D.C., and am lamenting the lack of a fresh flower market or anything similar. Any place to get a decent selection, and not the wilted/overpriced stuff at Whole Foods?

Marc Fisher: There is an extensive flower market at the city's wholesale food market on Morse St. NE near Gallaudet University. There's also a decent sized flower market on Columbia Road NW on Sunday mornings in front of the bank at Columbia and 18th.


Foggy Bottom, Washington, DC: Everyone has basically written off the Colonials despite the fact that both GT and GW play the same style of game. Get this -- GW Beat MaryGeorgiao beat Duke who beat Gerogia Tech ... therefore ... it's not impossible to believe GW will beat Georgia Tech. Besides, GW beat another number five seed in Michigan State. I think the game will be a lot closer than most people think.

Marc Fisher: Quite possible, but GW is not a very large team and at this level, the top-seeded teams are composed of very big, strong guys. Still, go Colonials.


RE: catchy saying (i.e., lefty walky righty standy): It's more about a mob mentality. Can you imagine if you have a crowd yelling at you to get out of their way? This way, the perpetrators would hopefully learn from their foolish ways. Also, about education. Some people may just not know.

Marc Fisher: I've seen folks in the left lane of the escalators very effectively ignore a whole bunch of cranky walkers yelling for them to get out of the way. Often, it's just oblivious tourists. But sometimes, it's just ornery folks.


Shaw, Washington, D.C.: Shaw Main Streets is reporting that the first retail lease on the convention center exterior has been signed by a jewelry company. In addition a brew pub and Mongolian BBQ/Sushi place have provisional leases and are expected to sign.

Marc Fisher: That would be nice to see. There is precious little street traffic there. I was walking on 9th Street on Tuesday and there wasn't another person for blocks.


Flowers: And don't forget the flowers at Eastern Market!

Marc Fisher: Right!


Rockville, Md.: I just read your column on the ICC. In it you say that the biggest reason not to build the ICC is its enormous cost. I disagree. The biggest reason is that oil is finite and every car and truck congesting our highways today runs on the stuff. America imports over 55 percent of our oil. We have 2 percent of world oil resources and use 25 percent of world oil production. The Association for the Study of Peak Oil predicts that world oil production will peak around 2008. Our production peaked in 1970 and has been falling since.

It's bad that the ICC would cost well over $2.4 billion. It is worse that every cent of it would be wasted building the wrong infrastructure.

Marc Fisher: Ok, but that works only if you're going to invest heavily in light rail, trolleys, hybrids, and so on. And we hardly see any movement in that direction.


Tyson's Corner, Va.: Arlingtonians who oppose widening I-66 might be mindful of the fact that many people like me use I-66 to get INTO Arlington to do business. There have been instances where I decided to take my business elsewhere because I didn't want to deal with the 24x7 traffic jam at the Arlington border.

This rant comes from someone who grew up in Arlington, specifically, South of Columbia Pike, the section that the I-66 NIMBYs have traditionally ignored. They stuck South Arlington with I-395. They deserve to get stuck with a wider I-66.

Marc Fisher: And the other side....


Arlington, Va.: Thanks for pointing out that Arlington made a deal back when I-66 was built and we'd like to keep that deal. (Not that the rest of Virginia gives a hoot what Arlington wants!) I use the bike lanes along I-66 for my commute to work. I suspect those bike lanes would disappear under this new plan.

Marc Fisher: A couple more on 66....


Arlington Westover, Va.: I can see 66 from my front door -- If a third lane heading west takes cars off Lee Highway, Washington Blvd, Route 50 and reduces congestion on 66 (which it will do), bring it on.

Marc Fisher: and...


Clifton, Va.: The deal with Arlingtmorons decades ago regarding RT 66 is mute. Things have changed.
We need to expand Rt66 to three lanes in box directions to allow for the orderely dispersal of workers in case of a terrorist attack. National Security will thump any NIMBY or what about the deal. Sorry morons you lose. It is a big issue for OSD and DHS.
It will happen.

Marc Fisher: Just like the Interstates got built because of Cold War fears of a Soviet invasion, we may now see a wave of infrastructure improvements because of Homeland Security anxieties.


Flowers: And Dupont Farmers' Market!!

Marc Fisher: Oh yes!


Arlington, Va.: Although I tend to identify myself as a partisan of the political left, it seems to me that the campaign that is apparently being successfully mounted against Harvard President Lawrence Summers is doing nothing by confirming the stereotype of the academy as a crowd of hyper-sensitive, humorless, PC-obsessed blue noses. And for the record, I completed a Ph.D. several years ago, and the idea that female candidates are somehow discriminated against in searches for academic positions is laughable.

Marc Fisher: Quite true -- the lengths to which search committees go to find female candidates for every post is really quite remarkable.


Gaithersburg, Md.: So, between rampant steroid use and Angelos' bizarre behavior, do you think Congress might decide that baseball has gone so out of control that it's time to yank it's anti-trust exemption?

Marc Fisher: Not in this lifetime. Wouldn't want to jeopardize getting those great box seats, especially now that a team is finally in Washington.


Ballston, Va.: Marc, did you see that article in Tuesday's Post about the No.Va. "transportation summit"? It tried to present its data as evidence of a traffic crisis, but frankly I was shocked at how good the numbers were.

Fairfax commuters take an average of 31 minutes to get to work. How is that bad? That's about what it takes me on the Metro from Ballston to the Penn Quarter, and nobody calls that "gridlock."

The article says that "just 28 percent of Fairfax workers get to work in less than 20 minutes." "Just" 28 percent!? I'm floored that nearly 1/3 of commuters living out that far can get to work that fast.

It's true that 10 percent of Fairfax commuters commute more than an hour, but chances are that those people are driving to a job in some other outlying suburb and wouldn't be helped by more Metro or a wider I-66, etc.

I'm all for spending money on the upkeep of existing infrastructure, but it seems to me that traffic numbers this good seriously undercut the notion that lots of money is needed for new roads and expensive new transit projects. What am I missing?

Transit Funding Shortage Foreseen (Post, March 15)

Marc Fisher: Commuter hell is in the eye of the beholder.


Wheaton, Md.: Recent cost estimates for the Inter-County Connector (ICC) range from $2.4 - 3 Billion. That's a lot of money. What does that buy? It buys $2.4 - 3 Billion of pollution, land destruction and environmental degradation. The actual cost goes to buy cement which must be manufactured from extraction to processing to distribution to mixing and installation. All of that effort makes pollution at each step. The money goes for asphalt, which also follows the same track from production to installation, with its attendant pollution. Add up all the earth-moving (pollution), tree destruction and removal (more pollution), metal for guard rails and rebars (even more pollution) and it becomes clear that Montgomery County is spending a huge amount of money for pollution. Worse, what is being made is a pollution-generating machine, if you will. The highway will continue to add pollution to our already-deteriorated air quality for far into the future. Highway maintenance and repairs will perpetuate pollution for the "lifetime" (sic) of the roadway.

An advocate for the roadway tried to convince me that the net pollution from cars would be reduced by the shift in traffic from other roads. I have a better idea, take the $2.4 - 3 Billion and give the money to residents who agree to move out of the area. Montgomery County's population is about one million people. That would be $2400-3000 per person. OK, so most people who are here wouldn't move for $3000. So, then you have more money to offer. If only one person out of 100 agreed to move away, that would be $240,000-$300,000 per person. Many people would find that offer convincing and leave the rest of us with fewer cars on the roads, the open land preserved and no added pollution. In short, can we really afford to build this pollution-making machine called the ICC?

Cordially yours ...

Marc Fisher: We're over our alloted time, so I'm just going to toss in a couple of ICC comments here, and then get to a nice closing spot.


Takoma park, Md.: The real war is car people vs public transportation people. As a bus and train rider I'm really tired of paying for roads (forget that the roads are used by trucks that bring me stuff).

What REALLY frosts me is hearing car people recommend that bus riding be made less convenient. In this chat and elsewhere I've seen them recommend cutting down on the number of stops (so I can walk farther -- nice thing for someone who won't walk further than his own driveway to say), and eliminate stops near train stations. So I can ride past my job and have to walk four minutes back.


Marc Fisher: couple more


Maryland: Thanks for your column today highlighting the costs of the ICC--$3 billion, over $130 million a mile. Looking at the state highway administration's own study of the ICC shows that it would do nothing to reduce the congestion experienced by travelers on I-270, I-95 or the Beltway. The state's travel analysis also shows that only one percent of travelers would make the trip from one end of the ICC to the other. Why are we paying so much for so little?

To look at real alternatives to congestion in the region, visit www.SaveCommunities.org and look at a study that invests in road improvements, traffic management on the beltway, transit and land use changes that together cost less than the ICC and provide more congestion relief for more people.

Marc Fisher: and one more


Clarksburg, Md.: Mr. Fisher, note the town ... upper Montgomery County, Md. Where do you live, that you cannot see the benefit of the ICC? Please, take it upon yourself to open a map of MD ... and tell me where you see East West connectors other than I70? Do you really not see a need? And while I'm all for protecting the cute little trout fish, isn't there a need for balance? Why do we need to sit in 90 minutes of traffic because some tree hugger thinks amphibians are people too?

Marc Fisher: That kicks it in the head for ICC debate today. Luckily, there'll be plenty of opportunity to get back into this.


50 miles of elbow room: yo! born and raised here ... nigh 50 year. Wish you hadn't let on about the trout. Connectors, inner and outer beltways and metro grids ... who wants to see this place turn into Jersey York? If every one of the local jurisdictions voted, they'd opt for less growth, but still it sludges on. How is that democratic? (Also, while I agree, please don't call him Gov. haircut.) You boldly confront the issues. Thank you and Happy Patty's!

Marc Fisher: And a happy St. Patrick's Day to all of you, too. Thanks for coming along. Go Colonials.


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