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Potomac Confidential

Marc Fisher
Post Metro Columnist
Thursday, July 29, 2004; 12:00 PM

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

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

Marc Fisher (The Washington Post)

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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: Welcome aboard, folks. Forgive the late start--there's a newfangled chat system in play today and it's on the cumbersome side. That's technology for you--one step forward, two steps back.

Lots of chatter today about Lyndsey Layton's eye-opening front page story on the woman who was manhandled (can you be manhandled by a woman?) by a Metro cop for shoving a Payday bar into her mouth when she was caught eating on the escalator heading into a subway station. Or was she roughed up because she mouthed off to the cop? I was going to give Metro the Yay of the Day for enforcing its no-eating rules, but then I thought I should give them the Nay of the Day for being so rough and unmeasured about that enforcement. And then I decided to leave them out of the Yay/Nay business and just hash it out with you all here today.

So the Yay of the Day goes to XM Satellite Radio for grabbing Bob Edwards from NPR and giving him his own morning show, giving the new technology of satellite radio a big boost while giving it to National Public Radio for its mishandling of the dumping of the longtime Morning Edition host.
And the Nay of the Day goes to the Democrats for sabotaging their own chances by letting Teresa Heinz (oh, yes, there's a Kerry on the end of that) rattle on in French and present such a wildly arrogant speech the other night, then adding insult to injury by putting Al "Remember Tawana" Sharpton on the podium. Has there been a party in our history with this thick a self-destructive streak?

Today's column looks at the predicament of a Montgomery County family that was chosen for one of those TV makeover shows, one that redoes your garage, but they ran into the buzzsaw of the homeowners association, which nixed the idea mid-course. Tuesday's offering was a grab bag that reported the return of the Ice Man to the streets of Bethesda and a sign of hope and improvement in the troubled D.C. housing project called Sursum Corda.

Your turn starts now....

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Washington, D.C.: It was nice to read on today's Post front page Mouthful Gets Metro Passenger Handcuffs and Jail (Post, July 29) that Metro is really addressing the most pressing of concerns -- getting those pesky bureaucrats locked up for the heinous crime of snacking. I assume that they are concentrating on this scourge because they have solved all the other problems, right? I mean, I am always impressed by how there is never a delay, the escalators always work, and the fares keep going down even as the trains become newer, more frequent, and faster.

Or did I miss something?

Marc Fisher: Yep, Metro's got everything else down pat. Neither rain nor snow nor government closings give them any grief. Escalators--check. SmartCards--check.
But let's give Metro credit for one thing in this incident: The system has been getting noticeably dirtier and if there's a new effort afoot to enforce the no-eating and drinking rules, that's worth applauding.
But we all know immediately what was at work here -- attitude and lip, on both parties' parts.

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D.C. Metro rider: A comment regarding today's story about the woman arrested for eating a candy bar on Metro: Good. How dare she knowingly break the rules and then respond rudely to the Metro police officer who catches her? She acts like she shouldn't have to respect the rules or the officer who enforces them. Incivility is rampant on Metro and I wish there were more consequences for rude riders who make the trip less pleasant for the rest of us. I support Metro in this case.

Marc Fisher: Not only was she rude--talking back to someone who has a license to carry a gun and use it in the public's interest is not high on my list of bright ideas--but she also refused a direct order to cough up her identification. Now, I hate being told what to do by cops as much as anyone, but didn't her mother teach her to meekly cooperate when ordered to do something by a uniformed person with a gun?

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Greenbelt, Md.: I know it is illegal to spit on the Metro. I'm concerned that it may also be illegal to swallow one's saliva. What to do?

Marc Fisher: You may swallow your saliva if it has been approved by Metro's design committee. In the interest of maintaining a uniform appearance throughout the system, it's important that all passengers conform to personal behavior rules in the same fashion. Please understand that your saliva may be disturbing to others.

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Candy bar incident: Jeez, would it have killed the woman to stop for a second and finish her candy bar BEFORE getting on the escalator? Avoid the whole mess in the first place.

Marc Fisher: Quite true, but on the other hand, if you've got your candy bar going, and you hit the escalator, you're not about to just stand there at the top and chew while hundreds of pushy passengers pass you by. You're going to want to stuff that sucker into your mouth. So she was right to that point. It's the telling off of the cop where she loses me.

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Boston, Mass.: Maybe the system is getting dirtier as people wait longer on platforms for fewer more overcrowded trains? I take the bus every day here. While I may see a Dunkin Donuts bag every now and again, the fair is only 90 cents and it runs like clock work. In the subway stations they actually sell food, I don't find it noticeably more dirty then the D.C. Metro. I do notice that it is literally one quarter of the cost and runs on time with plenty of capacity. Metro should focus on the real priority of providing a service.

Marc Fisher: Well, yes, but one thing Metro has always done better than other systems is maintain the civility of the system--that includes the no-food rule, the no blaring radios rule and the zero tolerance of graffiti. It'd be a shame to lose that edge, but yes, you're right, getting the trains moving and providing enough capacity has to come first.

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ID please: Come on, Marc. Should we live in a world where we have to pull out ID anytime a cop asks? Sure, most of the time, do what they say, but this borders on the arrogant. Just because they have a gun doesn't mean you have to produce ID for eating. Besides, to say the woman broke the rules is beyond the pale. She put it in her mouth before getting into the station. She was chewing. It's not like she was on the train eating spaghetti.

Marc Fisher: Lots of folks are trying to make a distinction between eating and chewing, but sorry, folks, I'm not buying. I've seen Metro cops bust people for chewing gum and that's reasonable--yes, it's in their mouth, but sooner or later, it's going to come out and odds are it will end up on someone's shoe. So I'm with the cop for enforcing no chew just the same as no put food in mouth. It's how the cop acted after that that fails the common sense test.

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Washington, D.C.: Every so often, when riding the Metro and reading about the latest Metro screw-up, I throw up in my mouth a little. What should I do?

Marc Fisher: I'm glad you asked. As neither chewing nor swallowing are permitted activities in the Metro system, you are required to place your precious bodily fluid (or solids) in a Metro-approved plastic container and submit the vomitus to Metro HazMat Control for analysis. A bill will be sent to your home.

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I Moved Away Just In Time: Marc ... Metro charges more money for less service. You have the whole parking debacle with the Smartcards (and it sounds like the name is hardly befitting) and now people getting slapped with handcuffs for simply chewing the last bite of a candy bar down the escalator. If Kerry wins, do they have an offer in the works to make the current VP their new spokesperson? Or at least use him in a new commercial ad campaign targetting riders? I think you know where I'm going with this. Have a good one!

Marc Fisher: Sorry you moved away just when (we say this part in unison) "hope is on the way."
Metro is alienating riders at quite a clip these days. Will they head back into their cars, as some readers say they are doing? I doubt it: Metro remains far more convenient than driving for many folks. But Metro's constant price hikes can and will drive people to other means of transportation, which will only exacerbate the situation on the roads. That's why it's in the interests of all local residents to support a dedicated funding source for Metro.

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Alexandria, Va.: Good for Metro for stopping that woman. If she had half a brain, she would have finished her candy bar OUTSIDE the station like she's supposed to, not smart-mouthed the cop, not said "for what?" and kept on walking when asked for ID. I've noticed half-drunk bottles of soda on the benches within stations, messy bits of candy and wrappers stuck to the seats, so I'm glad they're attempting to enforce the no-eating rules. As a fellow federal employee, I'm embarrassed that this woman represents federal workers.

Marc Fisher: I, for one, would like to see the candy bar lady and the cop on one stage, for one night only, hashing it out, weapons of their choice--nothing lethal, mind you. But Metro could sponsor the event and use the proceeds to, say, run longer trains.
We'll come back to the Payday Problem later on in the hour, but first, something completely different.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Marc -- I liked your article today about the house/garage and the family. I'm sure that the homeowners association folks would say they are not racist and have some other random reason for denying the request. But truly, it's either racism or classism or both -- even if it's only subconscious on their part. Hopefully, your story will put some pressure on them and help change their minds.

Marc Fisher: Well, I'm glad you're confident that there is racism or classism involved here. As for me, I couldn't quite figure that out--I am persuaded that the de la Barras felt dissed, and that they felt singled out for rejection by the homeowners association. But I don't have enough evidence to conclude that this was aimed at them because they're in an affordable unit and he's Hispanic. It could just as well be that this is one more of those homeowners associations that are just plain ornery and arbitrary. Those folks often get a kick out of making folks' lives miserable.

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Reston, Va.: I can't believe that homeowners association threatened legal action unless the TV crew left! Now the family has holes in their house?

Those people get a little power and think they are God. It's pathetic how they treated that family. The father's comment about being treated poorly in front of his kids was very moving.

Marc Fisher: Yes, Mr. de la Barra is a very sympathetic person and he's genuinely trying to do the right thing. Will the homeowners association see that? Let's not hold our collective breath.

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Springfield, Va.: On your article today about the garage conversion into living space:

Please, let's stop this horrific practice. Garages are badly needed around here given the lack of parking, cluttered roads, etc. Converted garages are eyesores that make neighborhoods look cheap. Who "needs" a plasma TV, a bar and an aquarium in their "family room"?

Marc Fisher: Horrific? What exactly is the harm in someone deciding that they don't need to give their car a bedroom, but would rather use it for some human purpose? As de la Barra noted, he was not proposing to make any change in the external appearance of his house.

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Washington: And I assume the guy in today's column had checked to make sure that all his county building permits were in line? How about his zoning variances? Not sure about Montco, but many places do require permits for conversion of garage to living space, and for good reason --garages are meant for parking, not living.

Obviously he knew that he needed permission from the architectural committee, because he asked for it. He just didn't wait to get the answer. Tell me again why we're supposed to feel he was oppressed.

Marc Fisher: You're right--he should have checked to make sure that he'd gotten the association's permission. But both he and the producers of the TV show assumed that no news was good news. You and I might not have made that assumption, but that doesn't negate the essential unfairness of being denied permission to do something that others in the same development had done, and something that would make no change in the exterior of the house.

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Arlington, Va.: Homeowners associations are really incredible, aren't they? I never would live in a neighborhood that has one. In your column today, it certainly sounds like this is a typical HOA attitude, and they don't respond to requests, nor 'enforce' things uniformly. If they are going to have 'rules' they ought to make very sure everyone is treated the same way. Otherwise it certainly gives credence to the perception that this family is being picked on because they are in the affordable housing house. I am appalled at the arrogance.

Marc Fisher: Bingo. It's the arrogance that gets HOAs in trouble every time. And that's the central flaw in that form of governance. We're all for democracy, but sometimes you can get too much of a good thing. I'd far rather live someplace where I elect people who hire professional managers rather than in a development where my neighbors might double as the code enforcement warden.

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Anonymous: Are you 100 percent certain that the family did not receive mail from the homeowner's association saying not to proceed with the renovation? And that they were unaware of the association's regs and/or assumed that no reply meant go ahead? Not all associations are out to get the little guy. Most are run by volunteers and have to deal with people doing what is against regs (voted on earlier by the residents) and saying, "Go ahead and stop me." When I move into a new place, I am given a copy of any regs covering it. The association may be wrong in this particular case, but the residents may not be quite the completely innocent, abused victims you portray them to be. Just maybe.

Marc Fisher: I am 100 percent sure that the family has not, to this day, received the certified letter that was indeed sent to them denying permission to renovate the garage. That's because they have now chosen not to go get that letter from the post office--petulant, perhaps, but understandable given what the homeowners association did to them.

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Adams Morgan, Washington, D.C.: Homeowners Associations, like Citizens Associations can, undoubtedly do some good.

However, both groups are rarely, if ever elected in a true democratic process and therefore fail to reflect an entire community (living in Adams Morgan, home to one of the more annoying civic assoc. I know of what I speak). They often end up being the mouthpieces and rule makers of a selected elite few ...

I hope when the homeowners assoc. in today's column finally come to their senses and the show comes back, that the show addresses this issue and tries to get them on camera.

Marc Fisher: That would be great. The producers of the show tell me that they are eager to get back there and fix up the de la Barras' garage, and the association has a couple of months to correct its ways and give the green light. I'll let you know what happens when I hear more.

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Washington, D.C.: Do people outside of this area have any concept of the fact that we have no voting congressional representation?

Marc Fisher: Very few. I was on the phone this morning with an insurance industry executive in Missouri--someday I will tell you the saga of my auto insurance company (Amica Mutual) tossing me out on the street after 22 years of business because we dared to actually use the insurance and file claims to get reimbursed for towing and that infamous deer hit I wrote about last fall--and the executive said, "Well, it's Congress that governs D.C., right?" And I had to explain that we have our own city government, but no voting rights in Congress, and he was appalled. So there is merit to the idea that we need to get our story out for Americans to see the root injustice at work here.

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Clifton, Va.: Marc,

You chose to live in D.C. without any representation in Congress! If you don't like the fact, move. It isn't going to change in our lifetime. And there isn't any reason to change it. A poster last week suggested D.C. become part of Va. That would be great with our common sense gun laws the murder rate would drop dramatically. My guess is most of liberal residents of D.C. would prefer Md. to Va.

Marc Fisher: Well, you're right that there's more of a cultural affinity between Washington and Maryland than between Washington and Virginia, but I don't agree that things won't change. I think we are on the cusp of a dramatic development, and I have the sense that Tom Davis and the Republicans will push hard for the District to get a voting member of the House. Sadly, it looks like the Democrats will fight against that solely because the deal would also give Utah another seat, adding a GOP member to balance the presumably Democratic member that DC would have.

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Washington, D.C.: Must you media types continue logrolling for Bob Edwards? His latest contribution is to write a book about Edward R. Murrow that adds nothing to the eight books already written on the topic, but we must rush to buy it, presumably since it is the 'Bob Edwards' book. Edwards is the Starbucks of the airwaves.

Marc Fisher: I haven't read Edwards' book, so I can't comment on its merits. And Morning Edition rolls along fine without him, but he did have a large and loyal following, so it stands to reason that XM will get a boost out of hiring a big name. If satellite radio is to become to radio what cable became to TV, then it must offer quality programming that caters to special interests. That means it needs a high quality news offering along the lines of NPR. So XM needs someone like Edwards, but they also need to invest in a real news gathering operation, which costs more than they're likely going to want to spend.

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Tysons Corner, Va.: Can you elaborate on XM's decision to get into the "public radio" business, and follow that paradigm? I'm not sure what that means. A "Morning Edition"-style show, without the underwriting announcements? A big appeal of XM is that many of the channels are commercial-free, right? Well, isn't that much of the same appeal for over-the-air public broadcasting? I'm not sure what I gain with XM's version of public radio, other than Edwards' voice.

Marc Fisher: I can't tell from the news reports what that new Edwards show will be. It sounds like it's mainly going to be a talk show, which will hardly satisfy the average public radio listener's desire for a comprehensive look at the world around them. But it's going to have some news element, and I just don't know where that's going to come from.
But yes, it would be very likely to be commercial free, which is a big advantage over the ads and begathons of public radio.

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Washington, D.C. and a baseball fan.: Marc,

Thanks for taking on Peter Angelos' stupid statement that "there are no baseball fans in D.C." It strikes me that not only does this contradict his argument against D.C. baseball, but it is a subtle invocation of a historical prejudice that blacks don't go to baseball games. It feeds off of the same racist thoughts that drove Calvin Griffith's statements to the Lions club in 1978, the thoughts that drove the original Senators to Minnesota, and he needs to be called to task for it. This false attitude is why we do not have baseball in D.C.

Angelos continues that tradition using his coded language, there are "no baseball fans in -majority black] D.C.", but to him the majority white Maryland suburbs are teaming with baseball fans that you can't take away from the Orioles. He is playing on old stereotypes in a desperate attempt to get his way. He should be called to account for it publicly.

Why aren't journalists doing more on this?

Marc Fisher: I've received lots of mail from readers who read Angelos' comment exactly as you did--as a slap against Washington and against blacks. It's a preposterous statement no matter exactly how he meant it. And it shows his desperation to stop what now seems more likely than ever--the awarding of the Expos to either Washington or northern Virginia.
So in that sense, I'm glad he said it. If Angelos were confident that Bud Selig was going to protect him from a Washington team, Angelos wouldn't be making wild statements like that.

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Wheaton, Md.: Marc, Has your widely-shared desire to see the Expos move to D.C. (vs. the Loudon hinterlands) led you to drop or no longer talk about your opposition to the D.C. effort being headed by Fred Malek?

Marc Fisher: Goodness, no! Fred Malek, who was in charge of Dick Nixon's effort to find out who the Jews were in the federal agencies so he could root them out, has that despicable act to answer for and he has no place being at the helm of a Washington baseball club or in any other position of responsibility. We deserve a team and we deserve a team that has a respectable owner. I have not made a point of this lately because it seems likely that if baseball does give us a team, the commissioner and the other owners will choose some owner who's been waiting for a team for some years, regardless of that owner's location. There's no reason to believe that either of the local ownership groups would be given priority over others who are in the queue.

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Washington, D.C.: There have been many cases of dead teens in this area over the past year. If it's not Schuyler Jones hanging out at 1 a.m., it's the kid dying while driving home at 3 a.m. right before a big lacrosse match the next day, and now, it's Myesha Jones (a 15-year-old) hanging out in the streets at 12:30 a.m. in the morning also. When are these parents going to stop blaming government officals and start acting like responsible parents and enforcing curfews on their kids?

Marc Fisher: Well, that's right, of course, but it's a chicken/egg problem, isn't it? Those kids wouldn't be out on the streets in the first place if those parents were acting responsibly. So who is responsible in the end if the parents won't parent? The mayor and police chief keep saying it's a social problem, and they're right, but that doesn't get the kids off the streets at 2 a.m. Why don't the police enforce the curfew that's on the books?

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Washington, D.C.: To Clifton, Va. I live in the United States of America. I am a U.S. citizen. Why should I deserve any less representation in Congress than you just because I like to live in walking distance of work and not clog up the highways?

Marc Fisher: So there.

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Washington, D.C.: I think Mayor Williams deserves a Yay of the Day for his comments on D.C. statehood last night during the roll call of states. He spoke for several minutes about the injustice of having no representation and the irony of being in Boston, the site of the Boston Tea Party, where colonists protested taxation without representation. I know most broadcasts didn't show this, but I was thrilled he took the time before casting D.C.'s delegates to John Kerry to bring attention to the problem.

Marc Fisher: I wish I'd seen it. Best factoid of the week: Al Jazeera is showing more of the Democratic convention than ABC, CBS and NBC COMBINED. Shame on them.

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To hell with Angelos!: Out of my very small group of friends, eight of us are already to buy full season tickets. How big a percentage of the stadium do you think would sell out with season tickets? I would say they could easily sell 100 percent of whatever they allot for season tickets. My company gets free tickets to the Orioles but no one will go up anymore, lest we support the parking or food concessions. I hope more fans will do the same.

Marc Fisher: Good for you. I keep hearing about groups that are setting up already to buy season or partial season tickets. I wish the Washington and Virginia bidders for a team would try to organize that fan excitement and collect pledges for ticket purchases. That's the sort of thing that would help our cause, but both groups seem strangely silent.

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Washington, D.C.: Why, oh why, oh why does the Red Line break down EVERY DAY? There is a delay EVERY DAY. You'd think by this point, Metro would just realize that there are problems with the Red Line and that it breaks down EVERY DAY.

Help!

Marc Fisher: Deferred maintenance. Insufficient funds. Lack of dedicated funding source. Aging infrastructure. Need more?

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A Patriot: Marc ... I suppose the colonists who moved here about 230 some years ago chose to live here too, and if they didn't like living without representation in British Parliament, well they could always move back to the little island, huh? I don't even live in the District, doubt I ever would with all the crap that goes on there, but come on. It's a basic but enormous violation of the Constitution.

Marc Fisher: Thank you.

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Chowhound!: Hey Marc,

I love your writing. Now I see there's something else I can admire about you: I just noticed that you've posted a few queries on chowhound.com asking about good eats in the Shenandoah valley before trekking out there to report on the baseball leagues.

So, dish: what're your favorite dining spots 'round town?

Marc Fisher: Thanks--for those who aren't clued in, you'll find a terrific subculture of local foodies who trade restaurant recommendations and reports of experiences at local eateries at both chowhound.com and egullet.com
I've got a long list of favorites, but in recent days, I've been most excited by visits to Joe's Noodle house in Rockville, the new Five Guys burger joint at Howard University on Georgia Avenue, and my old fave ice cream place, York Castle in Silver Spring.

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Washington, D.C.: Big organizations have lots of employees, and someone's going to mess up. The question is how the higher-ups deal with the issue. Metro could have said, "The officer was somewhat overaggressive in enforcing the letter of the law. But when the customer refused to cooperate, the officer acted appropriately." But no, we get, "Chewing is the same as eating," and immediately the system is (again, and appropriately) mocked by national media.

Marc Fisher: Right, but I'd rather have heard Metro say that the cop was right to go after her for eating (chewing, whatever) but way out of line to accost her. The cop's task is to rise above the citizen's baiting and insulting and do her job.

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Arlington, Va.: The Red Line has been fouled up for two days because it rained really hard. I'm a bit disgusted that a hard rain should cause major problems at all, but to have them drag into a second day and beyond seems absurd.

At least we're safe from candy-bar litter.

Marc Fisher: Metro, like the Montgomery County schools, is under the impression that we live in San Diego and the weather is perfect every day. Any deviation from that brings about crisis conditions.

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Former Metro rider, Washington, D.C.: Well, I am one of the few people who could no longer afford the $14/day Metro commute, so I now happily drive the 20 minutes than ride 45. Anyway, I was appalled to read this quote in the Post this morning

""We've been doing our best to crack down on people who are consuming food and beverages in our stations because we get so many complaints about it," said Lisa Farbstein, a Metro spokeswoman."

If anything, this problem has been getting no attention. This is highlighted by the fact that while riding from Springfield a couple weeks back, the Blue Line stopped in the train yard to pick up some Metro employees. Well here comes Benny, walking from the front to back of the train, eating a candy bar and drinking from a bottle of Coke! Real good example you are setting for yourselves Metro!

Marc Fisher: Ha!

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Washington, D.C.: Marc:

Did you see that plan for K Street by that so-called panel of experts? Are they crazy?

Their plan for solving K Street and the disaster of the two service lanes in each direction is to eliminate them all together and reduce K Street from eight lanes to four!

I agree, the service lanes are a problem, but mostly because of the volume of delivery trucks and traffic backed up waiting to get in and out of parking garages and make right turns across crowded crosswalks. Transferring the problem to the main lanes does not solve anything.

Looking at the diagrams, these "experts" are proposing that of K Street's 144 foot width, 80 feet shall now be taken up by sidewalk!

These folks are obviously doing a bit of projection based on their own cities deficiencies (Seattle, Boston), where a broad leafy avenue lined with cafes would be a great addition. But, this is D.C. We've got lots trees, parks, wide streets and sidewalks. What we need is a crosstown street that works.

Marc Fisher: There was an interesting letter along these lines in the paper today, and yes, the K Street plan appears to have been written by people who have no clue what purpose K Street really serves in our transportation system. I'm all for putting light rail down the center of K, and if that means reducing the number of lanes for traffic, fine, but if you do that, you need to increase the number of lanes somewhere else, presumably on L and Eye streets, and the idea that you'd rehab K and not provide some answer for the trucks that make deliveries there and gum up the street is simply irresponsible.

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Milwaukee, Wisc.: Sorry to hear your displeasure at Rev. Sharpton's speech last night. I thought it was brilliant. He has been the only Democrat I have heard at the convention talk about the disenfranchisement of D.C. voters!

Marc Fisher: Oh, he's a terrific speaker and preacher and I couldn't help but be moved by him, but he's also a thoroughly awful person who intentionally ruined a man's life while peddling his Tawana Brawley rape fiction. And as several papers documented well during this campaign, he abused the campaign finance system to stay at the most expensive hotels in the nation during his presidential run. He's a demagogue of the worst sort, as well as a very talented speaker.

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Washington, D.C.: Back to the food on Metro issue -- so are we not allowed to bring food on the train at all? Or can we bring whatever we want, even a full meal, but we just can't consume it in the system?

Marc Fisher: I don't know the answer to that. You certainly can't have open food, but I've not heard that there's a ban on carrying closed food containers. After all, people ride the train carrying groceries or picnic matter.

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Clifton, Va.: Because Washington, D.C. you are the seat of govt. There is no reason for you to have representation. Congress as messed up as it is still does a better job of running D.C. then D.C. mayor and council does. As I told Marc if you don't like it move! You knew about and chose to live there! Not my fault.

Marc Fisher: Oh jeez! I always thought it was your fault. That guy in Clifton, right? Isn't that who set it up this way?

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Northwest Washington, D.C.:
That was incredibly brave of Commander Kerry to cross the Mekong -- I mean Boston Harbor -- in that water taxi. Did he encounter enemy fire? All I know is when I saw the French-looking democratic candidate gallantly posed on that water taxi I knew al Queda was trembling in their sandals. HA!

Marc Fisher: I cringe every time I see that clip of Kerry talking so arrogantly about "my men." The guy can use a lesson or two about not talking down to folks.

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Re: Al Jazeera: Its audience is more interested in U.S. politics than are our citizens. We take it for granted and/or gripe about it. Imagine how interested we'd be in their politics.

Marc Fisher: So the next reality shows we're likely to see will be the Iraqi precinct caucuses live?

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Washington, D.C.: This will be a fascinating fight to watch: the Democrats OPPOSING a vote in Congress for D.C. residents. I can't wait.

Really, though, retrocession is the best idea going.

Marc Fisher: You can bet on it.

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Bethesda, Md.: Marc, Today's latest Metro news reminds me of the time I was arrested on the Metro for talking with my buddies. I mean, we were just chewing the fat, but hey "chewing is eating"!

Marc Fisher: You get the last word on that topic.

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Arlington, Va.: This whole situation strikes me as absurd. They family owns the house, and was applying to make a change that had already been done to others in the neighborhood, and the association shows up THE DAY OF THE CONSTRUCTION to tell them to stop or face legal action (I wonder if the paper was still warm from the printer). We need to bring back dueling. That ought to make people think twice before making such capricious decisions. As far as the argument that garages are for cars not people, good Lord. Grow up, folks. Houses are meant to adapt to the changing needs of their inhabitants. Has everyone in this area lost their collective minds?!

Marc Fisher: Dueling! Yes! And you get to wrap up the garage story for the day.

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Marc Fisher: Thanks for coming along, folks. We're fresh out of minutes here. The column's back in the paper Sunday--subject: wine. (Hey, it's summer time.) More on Tuesday and Thursday, and back with you here next week at the same time. Stay cool, and write if you get work.

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