Potomac Confidential
Thursday, May 8, Noon ET

Potomac Confidential

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Marc Fisher
Post Metro Columnist
Thursday, May 8, 2008; 12:00 PM

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

Fisher was online Thursday, May 8, at Noon ET to look at the wave of foreclosures in the D.C. suburbs, efforts to curb noise on city streets, and a dispute over a sidewalk ping pong table.

Check out Marc's blog, Raw Fisher.

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

Archives: Discussion Transcripts

A transcript follows.

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Marc Fisher: Welcome aboard, folks. It's not often that a ping-pong table becomes fodder for a debate over what urban life should look like, but this is Washington, and all manner of weird stuff happens here. Today's column looks at a dispute over whether a ping-pong table placed on a sidewalk outside a Connecticut Avenue restaurant is a lovely amenity that improves our sense of community, or a disaster waiting to happen, a scourge that must be wiped off the streets before someone gets killed.
In other neighborly set-tos, we have the D.C. Council passing a bill that would limit how loud protesters and others can be on city streets. If they're going to go after noisemakers, I'd greatly prefer that they do something about Metro buses than about folks shouting their heads off on the sidewalks. What's your take--shout it out.
Sunday's column visited a sale of houses in foreclosure in Prince George's County--a scene that is all too familiar in many parts of the region these days. Have we hit bottom yet? Are you seeing signs of renewed sales in your neighborhood?
On to your many comments and questions, but first, let's call the Yay and Nay of the Day:
Yay to the Smithsonian's Anacostia Museum for putting together a new exhibit that opens next week on the history of blacks in baseball in the District. The show, "Separate and Unequaled: Black Baseball in the District of Columbia," accompanied by a traveling exhibit "Discover Greatness: An Illustrated History of the Negro Baseball Leagues," will both be on view from May 18 through Oct. 5 at the Historical Society of Washington, D.C., 801 K Street NW. The shows are open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Nay to Metro for scheduling track work to coincide with the mass movement of fans heading to and from Nationals Park over several forthcoming weekends. With tens of thousands of fans relying on Metro to get to the game, you'd think the track work could be scheduled during the many weeks of the summer when the home team is on the road.
Your turn starts right now....

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Arlington, Va.: Marc: I've been offered a great job down south in a city that is nice but certainly not at the same level of D.C. I'm really confused as to whether I should accept the position. I'm in my early 30's and have lived in NW and Arlington my entire life and have a child. I've been living in a condo for the past 10 years and it's just too tight for the three of us. I was raised in a condo on Conn. Ave. and it was awful -- I don't want the same for my child. However, I can't afford a house in the immediate D.C. / Arlington area and living in Manassas / Leesburg holds zero interest. The city down south would lack the museums, sports and restaurants that I love up here BUT I would be able to afford a house and the school system is excellent.

What would you do if you were me? Staying in the condo for a year or two more is an option but long term I really don't see any ability to purchase a home in the area.

Marc Fisher: That's the classic Washington dilemma, one that a great many people face these days. I'd be curious to hear readers' advice for this family. My own take is that I would generally do whatever is possible to be where I think my family and career would flourish best. Over the years, I've found that it pays to sacrifice quality of housing to be in an environment where I'll feel challenged and rewarded by being around people I value and amenities that make life richer. But we've had debates around the edges of this issue from time to time here on the big show, and I know lots of folks put quality of housing first. Let's hear the arguments...

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Washington, D.C.: I am so glad you wrote about the ping-pong debacle. Having met both Frank Winstead and Karen Perry I can totally understand why they act the way they do...they have been on the ANC for YEARS and YEARS. But I blame my neighbors who cannot seem to vote them off so the community has no one to blame but themselves. This just illustrates, yet again, how useless most ANCs are, why we need term limits also on them. You know most of them win their seats with like 12 votes. Frank and Karen both need to get lives...I urge anyone to attend a 3F meeting (or any ANC for that matter) to see who is messing up the community!

washingtonpost.com: Saving Sidewalks From the Evils of Ping-Pong (Post, May 8)

Marc Fisher: I wouldn't blame all ANCs for the excesses or passions of a few commissioners. Yes, there are some commissioners around the city who take their jobs way too seriously, or who have personal agendas that grate against the views of many of their constituents. But by and large, the District's advisory neighborhood commissions do good work. There are many places around the city where there just isn't enough participation to make for good, contested elections for those positions, and too many of them become fiefdoms that rival congressional seats as semi-permanent jobs. But low-level democracy can be a great thing--when people participate.

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NW, D.C.: Sarcasm aside, I agree with your piece 100 percent. Can we please have a civil separation in this country? Politically and virtually every other way this nation is split 50-50 on most issues. The people that need to get a life (but want to impose theirs on others) versus those that have a life (or are simply content with who they are). Can we please have a civil separation in this country? Please let the puritan lineage or those of espoused virtue live in their corner while the rest of us enjoy our corner. If you think I am joking, wait until November elections and the positions exposed of the 50-50 population are going to be scary. If the Soviets/Rusians can do it without bloodshed, so can we.

Marc Fisher: Get a life vs. have a life? Well, yes, a lot of disputes do break down that way, but I don't quite think the political polarization of the country cleaves that neatly. So where would you send the get-a-life crowd? Would you offer them Alaska and Texas and be done with it? Or just take over Canada and let them live there? Let's talk practicalities.

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Chevy Chase: Thank you for your great article today on Comet and Frank Winstead. How do these people get elected to the neighborhood ANCs? This guy is typical of ANC members that have way too much time on there hands and per article, and lack of a better word, just seem to be a 'buzzkill'. I mean, what is the harm in a ping-pong table that gives joy to kids and adults alike?

Marc Fisher: I cannot fathom what harm a reasonable person could see in a sidewalk ping pong table. The fact that a year went by without a single complaint from the many parents who frequent Comet should be proof enough that there's no serious risk involved in letting people have fun in front of a restaurant. But it's sad to see that a tiny handful of opponents can spoil it for an entire community.

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Arlington, Va.: Hi Marc -- Since you've written extensively on the zones v. meters debate (or mandate), what's your take on this week's decision to forbid non-metered taxi drivers from picking up passengers at National Airport?

Speaking of airports and taxis, why is it that only the Washington Flyer can pick up passengers at Dulles? With gas prices at $4 per gallon and likely to go much higher in the next 6-12 months, it seems such a waste (not to mention bad for the environment, traffic congestion, etc.) to have cabbies dropping people off at Dulles, only to have to leave without a passenger. Plus it's annoying when the cab lines are long.

Marc Fisher: It doesn't make a whole lot of sense for National Airport to enforce the meters law before the District does on the city's streets, but in three weeks, this won't matter at all, because come June 1, all D.C. cabs must operate with meters, so that's that.
The Dulles taxi situation is a nagging question that's been around for many years, and never seems to get better. There's no good reason for one company to have a monopoly on cab service from Dulles, but that's the way it's been run for decades, and the result is the worst service I've seen at any major metropolitan airport outside the Sunbelt. The experience of coming off a plane late at night and having to wait 40 minutes for a cabbie to deign to show up at the airport is common, yet goes unaddressed. Frustrating.

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Cheverly, Md.: Re-licensing a service station that has issued "hundreds, if not thousands" of inspection certificates for vehicles it did not in fact inspect leaves me cold. If this sort of thing is possible, how can we know if any certificate is valid?

Marc Fisher: The decision by Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley to help out the Prince George's station that apparently distributed many hundreds of phony car inspection approvals is disturbing to say the least. Not only can't you know which inspections are real and valid, but you can't trust which stations are actually checking your car out, rather than just waving it through and collecting the fee. But it's always good to see stories that show that backroom politics is alive and well and right there for all to view.

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Arlington, Va.,: I was utterly stunned to read your blog about Roy Pearson suing the city for his lost job and "whistleblower" case. Does this man have any dignity left? Or will it be another episode parodied on Law and Order?

Marc Fisher: It's always more fodder for the pop culture, but yes, the reemergence of Roy Pearson--and I'm sure he's not done suing people--is also a sad commentary on how easy it is to manipulate the court system to make life miserable for others. In this case, he's suing a bunch of judges and city officials who can handle the situation just fine, but in the original case, he destroyed the lives of a hard-working immigrant family who had, by the worst possible reading of the facts, done nothing more than lost a pair of pants and offered a lot of money to make the customer whole.

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Anonymous: What the heck is wrong with Roy Pearson? Now he's suing for the loss of his job. He's clearly made a mockery of the very justice system he supposedly has sworn to uphold. Is he delusional?

Marc Fisher: That's a strong word. Pearson is a very smart guy and, from what I've heard from colleagues, was once an effective advocate for his clients. The Pants Man does seem to have decided to devote his life to fighting quixotic battles to the death, and his latest suit, an attempt to force the District to give him his job back, seems destined to fail. It's a sad example of how the legal system can be tied up for years by one person with a modicum of legal knowledge.

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washingtonpost.com: Pants Update: Pants Man Sues City (Raw Fisher, May 6)

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Leaving me cold, only not: from an earlier post: Re-licensing a service station that has issued "hundreds, if not thousands" of inspection certificates for vehicles it did not in fact inspect leaves me cold.

Marc, help me out here. I've seen this misuse of "leave me cold" several times recently -- at least, I assume this person is trying to say "makes me angry" rather than the actual meaning "is unimportant/uninteresting." What the heck? Where did this come from? Do the rest of us have to take this lying down?

Marc Fisher: I flew right past that usage, but looking at it now, I share your puzzlement. "Leave me cold" means "leaves me unimpressed," not "makes me angry."

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Richmond, Va.: Choosing a city DOES depend on job opportunity. Yes, a journalist can really expand his career more in a city with a top tier paper. A different career, however, may be able to grow just as well elsewhere. You may earn less money, but since your cost of living is lower, you actually have more discretionary money left over. Quality of life expectations vary and change as you age. I go into Washington pretty often, it's an easy drive from Richmond. When I was young and wanted to go out a lot, I liked living in D.C. Now, I like being about to afford a big brick house and have a commute under 1/2 hour.

Marc Fisher: Ah, the age-old question--how much value do you put in length of commute? Many moons ago, I had a job in which I lived 50 miles from my office and spent unimaginable hours commuting. I told myself that I loathed every minute of it, but in fact, I got into a strange zone during the drive and often arrived at my destination with no specific memory of having made the commute. There was something pleasing about being on automatic like that. But at some level, I did despise it and never again lived more than 15 minutes from where I worked. So we each have our tolerance levels and priorities. But shouldn't the original poster at least decide to make his family's first priority be living where they are likely to enjoy life and each other the most? Do we at least have a consensus on that?

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Fairfax County, Va.: About quality of life vs. quality of housing. First of all, this truly is the ideal time (and will be for a while) to pick up a cheaper house in the suburbs. Even in Fairfax County, believe it or not, there are some less expensive neighborhoods, especially in the Lee and Mount Vernon districts. I don't mean scary, crime-ridden places, but places with older, smaller, dumpy homes (I call them Levittown houses, because some are that old) and elderly owners that just never upgraded them or couldn't afford to. Don't give up too soon on this. You may be surprised. We have been successful twice in getting less expensive house during periods when the market was weak and are perfectly happy here. It is amazing to me how high condo prices have gotten and you may not find much difference if you try to buy a house built in late 1960s that's been kept up, but not aesthetically upgraded.

Marc Fisher: Good advice--if our original poster has the resources to pick up and move to another part of the country, he might want to check into your advice first.

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Washington, D.C.: Have to say, one of the reasons I love reading you is that I never know what position you'll take on a subject. For most of the Post columnists, the editors could save space by just printing the columnist's name and the topic, without having to print an actual column, because everyone knows exactly what they're going to think. You always surprise me.

Anyway, can you reconcile your position of "safety is overrated" with your support of the D.C. gun ban? I'm sure you do have some reasoning behind it, I'm just curious.

Marc Fisher: Thanks very much--and thanks for the good question, too.
My support of the D.C. gun ban has nothing to do with safety per se. Obviously, I oppose murders as much as the next guy. I have three reasons for supporting the D.C. gun ban: 1) Home rule. This is what the citizens of the District chose, and they should be allowed to make their own policy decision. 2) Constitutional. I find persuasive the legal arguments supporting the idea that the 2nd amendment was intended to support militias and that, as the Supreme Court has said, all interpretations of the amendment ought to stem from that basic fact. 3) Practicality: Gun violence, because it's more quickly and inherently mortal than most other forms of violence, deserves closer attention from the authorities, and we have a common social goal to prevent fellow citizens from being felled by strangers. Making sure that guns are in the right hands is tough business; it's a whole lot easier to say that no one but the police should have them.

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Silver Spring, Md.: With the various market downturns and subsequent loss of tax dollars, does this mean we get to keep the fake grass downtown in Silver Spring for a few more years?

Marc Fisher: It's starting to look that way, isn't it? Save the Turf!

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To Arlington: The question Arlington poses about whether to move or stay brings up recollections of my own experience. I grew up in NY, very close to NYC. Everyone knows NYC is the center of the universe. A job opportunity came up which would mean moving to Connecticut. I thought long and hard. Conn. is not the greatest place for a single person, not much night life. But the job was better than I had and I moved. As it turned out, I had a very active life there and made lots of friends (that are still friends). Then I moved to Maine -- long hard winters but the most beautiful summers. Now I'm here in D.C. The point of this long story is to take the chance. It will expand your universe, provide great experiences, new friends, save some money and maybe move back. Impressions of other areas are often lacking. Go!

Marc Fisher: Good argument. Picking up and starting a new adventure is almost always the right move.

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Make his family's first priority be living where they are likely to enjoy life and each other the most? : Yes. What blows my mind is there are folks here in Richmond who commute to D.C. daily. They get No time with their families...

Marc Fisher: That is a long drive. Actually, most of the way it's a pleasant and fast drive, but that last piece once you hit Prince William and continue on into Fairfax and Alexandria can suck the life out of your bones.

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To Arlington Relocator: From a native: GET OUT NOW! You can always come back, and depending on where you live, you can make day trips to museums and such. We traveled with the military from the time I was a kindergartner until 8th grade. Though I love D.C./Md., I wish I had raised my kids in America instead of Federalsville. And I am still trying to find a way to sue D.C. for my lack of a true HS education. GET OUT!

Marc Fisher: America vs. Federalsville?
Depends on where and how you lived, I guess--I see far more similarity between life in the Washington area and life in much of the heartland than I do between Washington and, say, a Sunbelt city.

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Quality of Job: The other aspect to think about is the Quality of Life inherent in the two job options. Is the culture in the new place more laid-back and supportive of family life than the city job?

It's not necessarily that way, but a lot of smaller places seem to put more priority on family life outside of work than seems to be the case in the D.C. area. It's just another aspect to consider.

Marc Fisher: Ok, then why is there an exodus from such bucolic settings to the big cities that Richard Florida tags as the homes of the Creative Class? Why do we read story after story about the emptying out of small towns and rural areas and even small cities? Something powerful is drawing young people and young families to places that everyone would agree are more expensive and more logistically difficult.

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Leaves me cold - redux: The previous poster is absolutely right: "leaves me cold" means the same as "doesn't interest me at all," not "makes me angry." And while we're on the subject of nitpicking, consider the following: "Where many other places would let a ping-pong table be, we have legions of folks just waiting to pounce because they know the letter of the public space regulations and are just chomping at the chance to show off their knowledge."

Umm, I think you meant something like "chomping at the bit for a chance ..." or maybe "itching for a chance...." I personally have never chomped at a chance -- they're too insubstantial.

Marc Fisher: Excellent--the "bit" has to be in there. I took too short a short cut.

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washingtonpost.com: We apologize for the italics, a technical error. After the chat is over, we will fix up the transcript so it will all be in normal font type. Thank you.

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The too much safety issue: I agree with you that there can be too much safety when the regs are protecting one from oneself. However, we do need to protect people from other people. And that's what the clear sidewalk does. It protects me from other people who clog it up. If I want to block access ON MY PROPERTY to my house so the firemen can't get to me, that's my stupid business. But if a restaurateur blocks the PUBLIC sidewalk, that's hurting ME. HE can't tread on MY sidewalk.

Marc Fisher: But he's hardly blocking the whole sidewalk, or even half of it. If there's a nice extra-wide sidewalk, as there is on that stretch of Connecticut (so wide, in fact, that there's room for a big bus stop shelter, benches in front of the neighboring bakery, and occasional sidewalk book sales at Politics and Prose down the block), then why not let each shop add its own outdoor amenities?

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Washington, D.C.: To those who have commented on the long-lived tenure of ANC commissioners -- don't blame the voters, who often have little or no choice on the ballot! Consider running to replace the Frank Winsteads of your neighborhood, or recruit neighbors who might be willing to run against them -- as Marc said, these are thankless, unpaid jobs, which may be why only those with so much time on thier hands are drawn to them.

Marc Fisher: Good point.

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Brisk Walking: I walk home briskly every night from work. That brisk walker should just try walking with their eyes open to avoid running into ping-pong tables, fire hydrants, trees, parking meters, or diners sitting at tables.

Marc Fisher: It's so much more fun to take an evening walk with your eyes closed. That way you get your exercise and get to complain about whatever it is you've walked into.

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Re: Metro track repairs this weekend: Metro got the nerve to do this because their people watched the games on TV and 2/3 of the seats behind home plate were ALWAYS empty, so why not inconveniencing a sport very little people go to? They would not dare to do this on Redskins game days.

Marc Fisher: Bam--another smack at the Nats over those empty seats behind home plate. Keep em coming--at some point, even a stubborn management will have to change something. Either lower the prices or fill in those seats as an enticement to other paying customers to keep coming to the stadium. The sad thing is that even on the many nights when the ballpark is mostly full, it looks empty on TV because of those super-expensive home plate seats sitting there with no one in them.

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Pants man: While I understand the drycleaners' desire to simply end the litigation, it's too bad that there was no effort made to get attorneys' fees out of Roy Pearson. They had a good shot at getting them, and that's the only way to shut people like him up.

Marc Fisher: There was indeed an effort but it's a pointless one--he has few if any assets and lives extremely modestly. There's nothing to get.

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Washington, D.C.: If anyone thinks NIMBYs are bad in D.C. Metro, try visiting some of the planned communities in places like Florida or SoCal. These places legislate mailbox decorations and the length of grass on your front lawn.

Look at the converse of NIMBYs -- places which reflect transient communities, residents disengaged from civic life, and quality of life potentially impacted without reasonable community input.

I first heard the term NIMBY in relation to nuclear waste storage facilites. Now it applies to wooden mallards in yards and ping-pong tables.

Marc Fisher: Yes, that's what I was trying to get at earlier--loathe them as we might, NIMBYs are a sign of a community that people feel invested in. That's what makes these issues so tricky.

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Baltimore, Md.: For the person who doesn't want to live in a condo: Ahem...there is this city up the parkway called Baltimore that is positively teeming with solid, older homes 300,000 and under. The Lauraville neighborhood, where O'Malley lived when mayor, is full of single family homes like that. I know, because I live there and ride the MARC train to D.C. each day and have for seven plus years. Now, the school issue is another thing...

And I am with the poster about people who move to Adams Morgan and complain about the noise, but as a former resident of D.C., I can remember Tenleytown before the Metro and it really was a nearly bucolic area. I think a lot of people remember it that way and are averse to seeing it turn into another Bethesda. Thanks.

Marc Fisher: I really don't get this, and I say this as someone who for many years has worked side by side with a whole lot of folks who live in Bawlmer and work here in downtown Washington. The friends I've had who lived in one city and worked in another one eventually grew so physically and psychically exhausted by the disconnect between home and work that they went to great lengths to consolidate their lives in one place.
Yes, Baltimore is much cheaper, and yes, it has some good neighborhoods and good eats and all that. But culturally it doesn't hold a candle to Washington, and it's got a far more severe crime problem and far less in the way of education alternatives. You could certainly make good arguments for the merits of each city, but chopping your life in half seems like a prescription for getting less than you deserve from each place.

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Ok, then why is there an exodus from such bucolic settings to the big cities that Richard Florida tags as the homes of the Creative Class? : They aren't to BIG cities, but to medium cities like Austin. Places that DO support creative venues, funky galleries, river rafting, etc. The big cities often are NOT the magnets his Gen Xers flock to.

Marc Fisher: Yes, there is migration to some of those small cities, but primarily, Florida talks about the creative class settling in very big places--Boston, Washington, San Francisco.

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Silver Spring, Md.: The Turf has to stay.

I went to see "Iron Man" with my sons on Tuesday at 5 p.m. (matinee prices, empty theater) hopped across the street to get them some food and ate it out on the turf while watching some dancers who had set up shop on the "Grass."

People out playing frisbee, soccer and football...they can't take it away!

Marc Fisher: They can and eventually they will, but every delay is a good one for the quality of life in Silver Spring and for the burgeoning sense of ownership that people from all over the region have in the downtown that a developer thinks is his own private place.

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Out of the frying pan: It's CHAMPING at the bit, not chomping.

Marc Fisher: Right you are.

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Alexandria, Va.: The Nats should digitally fill in the empty seats behind home plate. Who wouldn't want to see Jar-Jar Binks at a game?

Marc Fisher: Now there's an idea. And they could sell the ad space on each virtual fan's virtual chest.

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Tricky Nimbyism?: "That's what makes these issues so tricky." One does not pick up on that shade of gray from reading your articles/blogs/chats.

Marc Fisher: Depends on the issue--sometimes, to my surprise, I find myself siding with the protectors of what is. This might be hard for a hard-core NIMBY to comprehend, but it's the merits of the individual case that matter far more than what the law says or allows.

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Washington, D.C. : Man, people are killin' me. "HE can't tread on MY sidewalk." It's a good point, I think the 25th amendment states that every citizen has a right to "an unimpeded sidewalk."

People, pretend it was just tables for people to sit and eat -- would we be discussing "saftey concerns"? (see Adams Morgan).

I watched that video and the still shots at the end clearly show there is MORE than enough room for everyone to get by, unimpeded.

Marc Fisher: You could fit a small condo into the sidewalk space between the ping pong table and the curb.

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I walk home briskly every night from work. That brisk walker should just try walking with their eyes open to avoid running into ping-pong tables, fire hydrants, trees, parking meters, or diners sitting at tables.: I came around a corner smarty pants. And I wasn't the only one to almost hit the thing.

Marc Fisher: The other side, heard from.

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University Park, Md.: "However, I can't afford a house in the immediate D.C. / Arlington area and living in Manassas / Leesburg holds zero interest."

Try looking around a little bit. Because you are a native, you may have some long-standing (mis)perceptions. For example, there are lots of great, semi-affordable neighborhoods in Prince George's County.

Marc Fisher: Good suggestion. In general in this region, the farther east you go, the more likely you are to find bargains.

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He has few if any assets : But wouldn't a judement against him include garnishment of future wages?

Marc Fisher: You are making a big assumption about his future. He was without a job for quite a while before he got the post as an administrative law judge.

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Washington, D.C.: I attended a sold-out Nats game, and was amazed at how empty the best seats were. Is there ANY chance that the owners of those seats could be persuaded to donate unused tickets to youth organizations, even just one day before the game?

Marc Fisher: Not bloody likely, because the only access to those seats is through the highly exclusive club that is the real lure for high rollers. And the rich folk wouldn't cotton to the idea of sharing their private club with riffraff. But the Nats could get around that problem by granting upgrades to season ticket holders in the more expensive seats. Just moving up a couple of hundred people would dramatically change the TV picture.

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Baltimore, Md.: Well, our baseball stadium is still better than your baseball stadium! So there!

Marc Fisher: Yes and no. Yes, it has more character and more spunk--it's a more alluring place to visit. No, it's not a better place in which to watch a game. For example, the seats at Nats Park actually face the field of play, unlike quite a few of those at the Yard.

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The reason I left D.C.: Was the tone, the go go, power, money standard that ruled everything. I just got tired of power and money being the way everyone is judeged. Moved to Richmond and it's not like that here. Sure, anywhere in the world, folks are material and power and money have influence. But there IS a difference. There's just so many other cultures and every thing isn't looked through power-colored glasses. Maybe I can't explain it right, but there's so much more to value.

Marc Fisher: Interesting--Richmond is a power-oriented town, too, at least during the legislative session. But there is indeed a distinctive tone about certain parts of Washington. It has a lot more to do with power and clubbiness than with money, though. This is one of the least money-conscious regions of the country I've seen, in part because of the federal impact and the tradition of power residing in many people who are not especially well paid, but also because this is a knowledge economy and status is won more by nature of job and access to power than by dollars.

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Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C.: Did you see the story in yesterday's Grounds Crew blog? An usher at the Nationals' stadium refused to let a man move to a cheaper seat to escape the sun in the 6th inning. Gotta say, I'm not particularly enjoying the Lerner ownership.

washingtonpost.com: Switching Seats? Ushers Say No Way (Grounds Crew blog, May 7)

Marc Fisher: Sorry to hear that--that's a bad policy. I've generally found the ushers to be quite helpful and to give fans all manner of access to better seats if there's a decent reason. But you're right--there is a new toughness to the seating policies, and the one that's most infuriating fans is the zealous effort by some ushers to refuse access to the aisles during each at-bat. A lot of folks are left standing with a tray of food at the top of the aisle, seething.

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Camden Yard: But I don't care how much I have to twist in my seat, I still get to watch the Yankees spank the Os around. That pleasure doesn't exist at Nationals Stadium.

Marc Fisher: Quite true. The really odd thing about Camden Yard is how utterly dominated it is by fans of the visiting teams when Boston or New York come to visit. There's a little bit of that at Nats Park when the Cubs come in, but it's far, far less of a problem than in Baltimore.

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Well, our baseball stadium is still better than your baseball stadium! So there!: Our team is better too! Go O's.

Marc Fisher: Now we're really cutting it thin. They're both about as mediocre as it gets right now. So the question is which has the greater potential going forward. And there I have but two words for you: Peter Angelos.

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I came around a corner smarty pants. And I wasn't the only one to almost hit the thing.: Love being called "smarty-pants" -- that is classic. But since we are on the topics of "almosts" then since someone "almost" hit me with their car, they should not be allowed to drive. Since that candle "almost" started a fire in an apartment building no candles should be allowed. Since I "almost" fell down the stairs in my building, they should convert them into ramps. Get my point?

Marc Fisher: You two are going to have to take it outside shortly.

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A lot closer than Baltimore: It's called PG County. Moved there 3 years ago during the height of the housing boom and bought a townhouse for $70K less than our (rented) one-bedroom condo sold for in Alexandria.

Marc Fisher: Right...but here's another point East that may be pricier....

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Bargains farther east: Umm, have you been to Annapolis/Anne Arundel County? Bargains are few and far between here, unless you buy right next to a project, in which case you better buy bulletproof glass for your house. You might have to go way past Kent Island to find an inexpensive home.

Marc Fisher: Yes, well, we're talking generally. And east is generally a lot more affordable than west (of the District.)

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Baltimore, Md.: For the housing q, I grew up near D.C. and after living all over I discovered that quantity of cultural stuff is almost meaningless since one never has the time to do it all anyway. Look at the quality of what interests you -- no symphony orchestra only matters if you care enough to actually go. The Smithsonian is amazing but if you've been there but once in the last year, well, some cheaper cities (Baltimore! also Richmond, etc.) are close enough to drive for a weekend or even a day. Sometimes, too, with fewer opportunities it's less overwhelming and you end up doing more. And I second the wish not to live in the exurbs -- by living in a city you've already halfway insured a cultural education for your child.

Marc Fisher: Quite true...

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Re: Another perspective: Wow. A ping pong table would stop a fire department. I live in the District but have way more faith in the DCFD than that. Oh my, what would they do? I dunno, maybe...MOVE...the table? Or, more likely, by the time the FD arrived the table would have been long gone because people would be evacuating.

I'm not saying we should actively make the world 'less' safe -- I am all for seatbelts, for example. But really people, get a grip and remove the bubble wrap -- the air is much fresher outside your safety zone.

Marc Fisher: Yep.

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Friendship Heights: Thanks for the great piece today shining some light on the shenanigans of one of my neighborhood ANC reps.

Did you know that there is a proposal circulating to give ANC's dramatically more power?

Some ANC reps from different corners of the city are promoting a proposal to dramatically increase the power and ability of the ANC.

Basically they are proposing every ANC receive city paid for office space and supplies and a full time administrative person for every single ANC! They have a variety of proposals that would also effectively give ANC's veto power over both Legislative and Executive Branch decisions.

And the scariest notion is they are requesting that the city hire a full time zoning lawyer who will work for the ANC's.

Considering that my local ANC averages about 15 citizens in attendance at its meetings this is really scary stuff -- I assume it has no chance of passing but the chutzpah of these people really astounds me.

Marc Fisher: It's hard to imagine giving ANCs more power, nor can I see why the council would be inclined to create a counterbalance to its own authority. Yes, in a perfect world, we'd have more democratic institutions in a jurisdiction that has but 14 elected officials, but until and unless the ANCs prove themselves to be a more responsible bunch and attract more interest from candidates representing all viewpoints, I can't imagine that proposal going anywhere.

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Alexandria, Va.: Ooh, I foresee a problem with the outdoor seating at Comet. What if a waiter trips and falls in the street, or ice cubes from a spilled drink cause a car to crash? Think of the potential lawsuits!

Marc Fisher: The horrors are unimaginable.

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Silver Spring, Md.: The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority awarded an exclusive contract to Washington Flyer at Dulles. The reason I have heard for this was to assure that cabs would always be available at the airport, even during slack periods.

This system is working very well and it has absolutely nothing to do with secret payoffs or political paybacks. Nope, no siree. They are just looking out for the little guy.

Marc Fisher: But of course the only way to assure that there'd be cabs there even in slack hours would be to open the airport to all cabbies. That way, you'd get the real strivers, the entrepreneurs who are willing to work all hours. With the sole-source contract, in contrast, the cab company can claim that it has assigned a certain number of its employees to work the midnight shift, but in fact, those drivers have no particular reason to do so, and very few of them do.

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Pro-Pong: The issue of blocking the sidewalk is a red herring: Pedestrians can still walk on the sidewalk unimpeded. So is the issue of the table somehow preventing firefighters from simply moving it to the side in case of a fire. But the original poster of the red herrings makes for a perfect example of a security fetish: We can never be fully protected from everything at all times and at all places. In the grand scope of security issues, a ping-pong table is hardly worthy of mention.

Marc Fisher: We've managed to mention it quite a bit here today, but you're right--it shouldn't even be a matter of discussion, except that the Winsteads of the world force the issue.

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You're wrong: about building safety laws. We've always had laws about buidling and construction safety. We now have an International Fire code most municipalities are obligated to follow in their city code. It's not an overreation, but knowledge about materials, fire rates, safety tolerance. REad about the history of tenements in New York, fire traps that killed many people to see the history of building codes.

Marc Fisher: Isn't there a bit of a gulf between fire traps and a ping pong table?

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I'd greatly prefer that they do something about Metro buses than about folks shouting their heads off on the sidewalks: Sorry Marc, that is the price you pay for living in a city, there will be buses and buses make noise when they drive. I rather they target the noise pollution by lunatics on the street. In Chinatown, right next to the Portrait Gallery there is a guy with a megafon who just screams nonsense. Those are the people DC should target as well.

Marc Fisher: I kind of like that guy. Why is he more of a nuisance than the guy who stands on Mass Ave waving his anti-pope signs?

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Annapolis, Md.: Marc, if Nats employees are lurking, could you get them to explain why vendors are required to remove and keep caps from bottled sodas? Several have told me they have to do this, and I have complained to customer service to no avail.

I walk with a cane, keep score, and often attend games by myself. When you are carrying a purse and a tote bag and using a cane, you have no hands left over to carry an open soda.

I have now solved this problem by bringing my own cap from home, which I use to reseal the soda after leaving the stand. But the policy makes no sense to me. Any chance you can get an explanation, or better yet, get it reversed? Thanks.

Marc Fisher: It's one of the dumbest policies on the planet. And it is totally inconsistently enforced. You can bring in drinks from outside the stadium that have the very same caps that the stadium vendors remove from the very same bottles. Makes no sense whatsoever.

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Chatham, Va.: Marc:

An article on the front page of the post earlier in the week made me smile. It explained how that Virginia's Department of Transportation has to scuttle about 1/2 of the Northern Virginia road improvement projects. Making sure Northern Virginians (and many other Americans) are stranded and frustrated in traffic is the only surefire way we'll even begin to combat global warming. Only when people realize that they need to live closer to their workplace, will we begin to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. If altruistic notions of combating global warming aren't enough of an incentive, maybe sky-high fuel prices and frustratingly long traffic delays will do the trick. I know you're a big advocate of building more roads, but you're dead wrong on this. Also, that money that was going to go to N. Va. roads will now have a chance to find it's way to my county.

Marc Fisher: Sorry, you have the wrong guy. There are some roads that ought to be expanded, but in general, I oppose building additional roads to handle the traffic, and I think the research on how traffic expands to fill new capacity is pretty compelling.

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Prince William, Va,: I know the liberals love to harp on the loss in revenue due to less property tax, but people are not looking at all the hidden costs the county will save. With less families living in PW County the cost of providing goods and services will also dramatically drop. In the long term we will be better off.

Marc Fisher: In the long term, you're getting more people whether you like it or not. The military expansion into the Quantico area alone will take care of that.

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Marc Fisher: That has to kick things in the head for today. Thanks very much for coming along, folks. More in the paper on Sunday and on the blog every day.

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