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Potomac Confidential
Thursday, June 5 at Noon ET

Potomac Confidential

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Marc Fisher
Post Metro Columnist
Thursday, June 5, 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.

This Story

Today, Potomac Confidential will look at the constitutional arguments in the District's crime crackdown, next week's Congressional primary in northern Virginia, and a historic preservation battle in Silver Spring.

A transcript follows.

Today's Column: Nostalgia May Trump New Housing in Montgomery ( Post, June 5)

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

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Marc Fisher: Welcome aboard, folks. The District's latest effort to push the boundaries of the Constitution comes under the guise of crime-fighting. Mayor Adrian Fenty wants to turn some high-crime areas into virtual ghettos, cordoning them off with police checking the identities and purpose of all who might enter those neighborhoods. Is this kind of interference in the freedom of people to move around their city really necessary? Is it remotely legal? Of course the city claims it is, but the guy doing the claiming is an interim attorney general who continues in office despite not even living in the city--a status that the law would not allow if Peter Nickles were to have the "interim" removed from his title.

As if you hadn't had enough of primary elections, there's more coming up Tuesday in northern Virginia, where Leslie Byrne, Gerry Connolly and two other Democrats are vying to succeed Rep. Tom Davis in the 11th District in Fairfax and Prince William counties, and both Democrats and Republicans are on the ballot in the race against Rep. Frank Wolf in the 10th District, which extends from Fairfax out to Winchester and beyond. Thoughts, predictions? How vulnerable is Wolf? Will Democrats be more impressed by Byrne's congressional experience or Connolly's leadership in Fairfax?

Today's column looks at a battle between historic preservation and smart growth in downtown Silver Spring.

Plus, plenty more to chew over, including Barack Obama's visit to Virginia today (is the story Virginia's possible shift over to the Democratic side in November, or the traffic getting out to Nissan Pavilion tonight?)

On to your many comments and questions, but first, let's call the Yay and Nay of the Day:

Yay to the Washington Nationals for violating the unfortunate agreement that the District asked them to follow for this first year at their new ballpark: Yes, thanks to last night's storms and the resulting rainout of the contest against the Cardinals, there will be a weekday day game at Nats Park this afternoon, the first and perhaps last of this season. So take that long lunch, lie about having a doctor's appointment, and get on over there, even if you have to be late. It's a 1:10 start--hang out here on the big show and then hop the Green Line....

Nay to Redskins owner Dan Snyder for making his big move yesterday and completing his takeover of the sports radio business in the Washington region. By buying Clear Channel's three AM radio stations, including Sports Talk 980 WTEM, Snyder now has six Washington stations in his stable and a total lock on sports talk. That bodes very poorly indeed for two groups: Sports fans who might enjoy the kind of no holds barred banter that enliven the sports conversation in many other cities--places where the radio sports talkers are very much not in the employ of the owner of the big sports franchise in town. Anyone who believes Snyder will grant his radio talkers the independence they need to criticize the team should read today's Post story by Paul Farhi, in which Bruce Gilbert, chief executive of Snyder's radio operations, said his company would encourage, "within reason," a freewheeling exchange of opinions. "Within reason." Yikes.

The other group that will fare poorly in this deal: Washington's other sports teams. If you can manage to tune in to Redskins Radio's current low-powered stations, you'll know that the other sports in town get short shrift, to put it mildly. This is a big football town, but it is far more than that -- a reality that is hardly reflected on Redskins Radio.

Your turn starts right now....

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washingtonpost.com: Nostalgia May Trump New Housing in Montgomery ( Post, June 5)

Marc Fisher: Here's today's column...

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washingtonpost.com: D.C. Police to Check Drivers In Violence-Plagued Trinidad (Post, June 5)

Marc Fisher: And here's today's news story on the Fenty administration's move to cordon off high-crime areas...

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washingtonpost.com: Dan Snyder Expands Radio Empire (Post, June 5)

Marc Fisher: This is today's news story on the sale of Sports Talk 980 and other AM radio stations to Redskins owner Dan Snyder.

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Rockville, Md.: So today's column frankly is the final nail in the coffin for "smart growth." Obviously despite the talk, no one really cares about improving density or affordable housing. Expect the northern part of the county to be opened to development in 10 years as they try to figure out a way to relieve the insane traffic coming from "regular folks" commuting from Frederick.

Marc Fisher: Well, it is a tough situation, and the rhetoric in favor of smart growth is much stronger than the real support for making land available for denser development near Metro stations. But it's not impossible, and there are places in our region that have done this very well, including Ballston, Rosslyn (sort of), downtown Bethesda and yes, downtown Silver Spring, the Falklands situation notwithstanding. There are lots more such opportunities, especially in the District and Prince George's County, but also in Fairfax and Montgomery. But battles such as the one I write about today indeed make it harder--politicians don't show a lot of spine on these matters.

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Bethesda, Md.: There was an absolutely gorgeous block near my parents house in Bethesda. It was 1950s-style angular bungalows with little carports attached on stilt-like legs. I remember taking countless photos on that block for photography class in the 1980s.

I visited it with my wife last year and it was completely destroyed by ugly McMansions. All of the charm was killed. I talked to one little old lady who kept the last of the houses intact and painted aqua, like it was originally.

I miss the 1950s even as I was born after them.

Saving everyday architecture is important Marc, more important than yet another set of crappy high rises turning Maryland into Rosslyn.

Marc Fisher: Sure, saving examples of distinctive work and strong communities is a valid and important task. But even the most avid preservationists concede that communities must find ways to grow and new kinds of architecture need to be given a chance too. Why isn't the fact that your little old lady managed to save her bungalow a good outcome? I don't know the specific case, but if a representative of that lovely 1950s look survives amid the evolution of the rest of the neighborhood, why is that bad?

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Silver Spring, Md.: Marc,

I live in the apartment complex across 16th street from Falkland Chase, and I've been walking past the sign that notifies the start of the permitting process for this proposed project for about a year and a half. To tell you the truth, I thought it had already been shot down and they simply hadn't bothered to take down the sign.

The thing that attracted me to Silver Spring is that even though it is a quick trip downtown, there are , southeast of the Metro tracks at least, still affordable apartments to rent. Even in the complexes surrounding the intersection of 16th Street and East-West Highway, however, rents are going up. For what I'll be paying next year, I might as well just move down into the city.

It seems to make sense to me that the best way to maintain affordable housing in Silver Spring is to, well, build more affordable housing. I know developers play a lot of games with the tag "affordable" in new apartment buildings, but this company doesn't seem to be intending to build a luxury building.

I'm a young federal professional -- exactly whom Silver Spring wants living near their downtown -- but the area is going to lose me and a lot of people like me if is doesn't stay ahead of DC in the one area it can truly compete: price.

Marc Fisher: Good point -- obviously this developer is not in the business of losing money, so the market rate apartments in the proposed buildings are likely to be quite pricey. But this is a rare project that would include a substantial portion of units set aside to be rented at affordable levels. And the fact is that lots of people would love to live right near a Metro station.

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Falkland: Thanks for writing about this. Reardon's arguments are pretty weak. She once told you can't redevelop the northern half of the complex because it's all part of a historic whole. But the two lots are already disected by East-West highway! What "whole" is she talking about?

Marc Fisher: Yes, if you wander by there, you will see that the three pieces of the Falkland community feel almost entirely separate, as they are divided by very wide, very busy roads (East-West Highway and 16th Street.)

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DC Fireworks: I am glad the fireworks proposal failed. However, I think the city should and could do a better job on policing the illegal fireworks. I don't want to hear that people need to report it because you can see displays in parts of the city that rival the fireworks on the Mall. All the police need to do is look up in the sky and see rockets that shoot up 50-60 feet if not 100 feet or more and explode. I don't want to be a sour sport but when I visit my mom's house, the explosions go from dusk until way after midnight.

Marc Fisher: I agree entirely -- the issue here was not one of the District having a weak law, but rather a failure of police to crack down on the sale and use of more powerful fireworks than the current law permits. I've heard from a lot of residents who wanted the council to pass the fireworks ban because the noise outside their houses is fierce from mid-June to mid-July every year. But that strikes me as a neighborhood issue -- to be taken up by residents themselves and by the police -- rather than a question of adding a total ban to the law.

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Washington, D.C.: I am very, very concerned about the "Neighborhood Safety Zone" initiative. I am a native Washingtonian (yes, we do exist), and am frankly frightened about crime, but this response is a bad move practically and constitutionally. What kind of precedent is being set up in DC where I have to get permission from random police officers to travel down a public street? On what grounds are they going to search people's vehicles? The biggest joke is that pedestrians aren't affected. It's likely some of the recent perpetrators may live in the neighborhood. They can park at home or around the corner and walk up on someone to shoot them. I'm also concerned that people will accept anything in the guise of being kept safe.

Marc Fisher: So will folks now park just outside the police checkpoints and walk in? Will police just look the other way when shady characters saunter past them, then stop and inspect any vehicle that happens to be passing through? I hope residents plan to test the police on this, and right away.

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wiredog: Snake Plissken gives the Neighborhood Safety Zone idea two thumbs up!

How is that remotely Constitutional? Is D.C. really as bad as Baghdad?

Marc Fisher: The police chief and mayor argue that these new zones pass constitutional muster because everyone will be treated the same -- no profiling. Every car will be stopped and its occupants questioned. Courts have upheld the idea of checkpoints used to test drivers for drunkenness, for example, so this is not entirely a new concept. But to my mind, the notion of cordoning off a neighborhood in a general effort to control who comes and goes is a big step up from a drunk check.

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Clifton, Va.: What kind of moron schedules a political event at Nissan Pavilion at 6 p.m.? And he thinks he can win Virginia? He may have lost several thousand votes in NOVA by 8 p.m. tonight depending on how bad traffic is! He should have scheduled the event for 8 p.m. Where was Tim Kaine another moron and knucklehead? Obviously Obama is too stupid to be president and makes W look like a Mensa member!

Marc Fisher: Well, the candidate, no matter who he is, doesn't get involved at the level of deciding on when and where rallies are located, but yes, it would have been a lot smarter for the event to start a couple of hours later, or in the middle of the day. It's not as if Obama would have any trouble packing the place no matter what hour the event took place. On the other hand, Nissan is a nightmare to get to at almost any hour.

After watching Obama at other rallies, my hunch is that those who are determined to go out and see him live will withstand any inconvenience, no matter how great. But you're right about those other commuters -- they may well be mighty ticked.

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Vienna, Va.: Hi Marc -

I just moved from far eastern Fairfax county along the Rt. 50 corridor to Vienna/Tysons along the Rt. 7 and Toll Rd. corridor. My commute into DC using the GW parkway and admittedly departing at 8 a.m. primetime is an hour! And once again ROVA and NOVA are ending the legislative session with nothing on road funding. Who can I vote for next Tues. to help?

Marc Fisher: Tuesday's primary includes congressional races only, so your chance to put some pressure on your state legislators won't come until next year (Virginia votes in odd-numbered years for state offices).

Congress folk from this area do play a role in pushing for funding for major transportation projects and Frank Wolf is campaigning for reelection as the guy who saved Metro to Dulles (and Tysons), but of course his Democratic challengers argue that Wolf has not brought that project over the finish line and that they, especially if they were part of a governing majority in Congress, would be in a better position to do so.

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Trinidad: I cannot believe that the city is wasting resources on stupidly cordoning off one street in my neighborhood. I can't say if it's legal or not, but it seems suspicious to me. More importantly, blocking off one street just will make people with obviously illegal items in their cars use another street.

Marc Fisher: All enforcement blitzes of this sort have the same impact -- they displace the drug markets. That can create a bit of a disturbance (it can even exacerbate or spark new turf wars among dealers and their crews) but it's hardly any kind of long term solution.

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Is this kind of interference in the freedom of people to move around their city really necessary?: Yes, it is. Some areas of this city are treated like battlefields, so lets treat them as such. Until the community living there takes action and stops the no snitching nonspoken rule to help the police, treat it like you would Belfast back during the Troubles or another dangerous area during wartime. Seven deaths in a single weekend is astonishing for a city of roughly 600,000; it's time to take action.

Marc Fisher: And we have the ultimate in Action Mayors, so this makes sense from a PR perspective. But are there examples where this kind of governing by frustration has had a real, lasting impact? If you live on the blocks inside the cordoned off area, maybe you'll get some days of relative peace out of this, but what if you live four blocks over, where the dealers decide to go hawk their wares?

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Gaithersburg, Md.: Marc,

Two points. I too lived at 16th and E-W and am a young federal professional, but was priced out when our unit in "Slummit Hills" as it is affectionately known, raised the rent for the third time in three years for a one bedroom to over $1200. Affordable housing is way overdue downtown and tearing down Falklans is a must. Even Summit Hills could go and be replaced with better units.

Second, the Trinidad issue. Blatantly unconstitutional. I applaud the efforts, but when you say you don't mind being sued, you're simply inviting litigation. D.C. can't afford a loser of a civil rights case like this one.

Thanks!

Marc Fisher: Good comments--But will the city get the civil liberties lawsuit it so richly deserves? Look at the D.C. Council, where you would expect to hear howls of protest about this new policy? Aside from Phil Mendelson, I don't know of any council member who is up in arms about the constitutionality of the new strategy.

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Richmond has checkpoints : Some of the public housing complexes are now prohibited to nonresidents. Some have been prosecuted for trespassing. It passes muster because they deeded interior roads to the Housing Authority.

Marc Fisher: It is easier legally to defend that sort of tactic in a housing project or a gated community -- courts have granted a higher level of privacy to communities that have found ways to separate themselves legally from the rest of us. But I wonder how the city would defend the idea of cordoning off neighborhoods that are very much part of the urban grid.

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Rockville, Md.: Apparently the same people who stock up on milk and toilet paper also hoard lights when the power goes out. A couple hours after we lost power yesterday afternoon my husband went to get us a small lantern/flashlight. As he was looking at lanterns, a woman got in front of him and told him he couldn't have them -- she was taking them all. She also bought a $200 portable gas grill. Makes me feel bad for those people who might have liked to have one of the 8 lanterns she bought as they wait for their power to come back on.

Marc Fisher: Excellent -- we'll have to add lanterns to our bread, milk, TP list of Weather Panic Buying Items.

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Washington, D.C.: I will be in a meeting, so I'm posting early. Why did you end the Listener column?

Marc Fisher: Thanks for asking. (Last Sunday, I ended my run as The Listener, the radio column I had written on and off since 1995.)

Two reasons:

1) I had said pretty much what I set out to say when I restarted the column a few years ago. Over time, I hit the major themes and ideas about how radio is declining, how new media are filling some of the gap as radio loses both its creative energy and its business model. I still expect to write about radio from time to time, especially on the blog, but I don't think the medium really deserves a regular column right now.

2) With my Metro column, the Raw Fisher blog, this here big show, and Raw Fisher Radio, as well as occasional pieces for the Post Magazine, something had to give, and The Listener was the one to go.

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McLean, Va.: Now that The Listener column has bee put to rest, is it time to start a new column that deal with how people talk past each other? I have a suggestion for the name of this column: "LAH-LAH-LAH-LAH! I Can't Hear You!"

Marc Fisher: The column would have to be ALL CAPS, all the time. Wait, I think that already exists -- on about 800,000 blogs....

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Arlington, Va.: Many on sports talk 980 have been extremely critical of Synder. I am very concerned that their voices will be quieted if Synder buys 980. Has he announced what he will do to avoid censoring the station?

Marc Fisher: No specifics yet -- just a general assurance that the station will be permitted to criticize the team. But even if such a guarantee could be made and taken seriously, the record of Redskins Radio so far is hardly encouraging: The station covers every little PR appearance and event the team lays on. Redskins Radio is very overtly a promotional device, and there's certainly no law against that. But for a market this size not to have an independent sports talk station would indeed be a shame.

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Another bad thing about the radio takeover: is that we'll now have to hear that creepy whispering of "Triple X Radio" (or whatever it is she's saying) occasionally through the broadcast, while the sportscasters are talking - no matter what station we're listening to.

Marc Fisher: On the stations' second, HD channel, subliminal broadcasts of "Hail to the Redskins" will air 24/7.

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Obama at 6 p.m.: It's probably because the national news broadcasts start at 6 pm and can carry part of the speech live...

Marc Fisher: Could be, but given the ever diminishing audience for the early evening newscasts, I doubt it. The Obama campaign has been a leading force in moving away from those big media-oriented practices of past election cycles and toward the 24-hour model made essential by cable news, political blogs, and the web generally.

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Bristow, Va.: One subtlety associated with Obama's rally at the Nissan Pavilion today that will be interesting to see is whether the location will be cited as "Prince William County" or "Bristow." The former has a certain negative connotation these days among Latino groups, for reasons that have been discussed at length here, and I don't know if the campaign would want to emphasize that connection (or if they are even aware of it, quite frankly). Bristow, on the other hand, is just a place that nobody knows about, or gets confused with Bristol (where Obama is speaking this morning, coincidentally) -- I usually just tell people I live in Gainesville.

Also, while I understand why they would want to stage their rally at Nissan, since it's the largest venue in Northern Virginia, why did they have to do it at 6 p.m., rather than earlier in the afternoon? You'd think that, being in the D.C. area, there would be someone in the campaign who is aware of its much-deserved reputation for traffic nightmares.

Marc Fisher: Good point -- I was surprised to see Bristow used in all of the Obama camp's news releases about this event, with nary a reference to Prince William. Bristow is hardly a well known place name around here -- that's why the Obama campaign had to switch gears and start using Nissan Pavilion as the location name for the event.

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don't get mad at Obama: The local Democratic chapter set it up.

Marc Fisher: Not a good enough excuse -- the national campaign ultimately has to take responsibility for all decisions of this sort. Logistics are supposed to be the heart of a campaign.

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Alexandria, Va.: Marc:

Regardless of what you think of the constitutionality of the Trinidad roadblocks (I think it is begging for a lawsuit), what about the stupidity of telling everyone exactly where the roadblock is? Complete with a map in the Post? Um, criminals are not rocket scientists, but they're not THAT dumb.

If you're going to do it, doesn't it make sense to just do it, instead of announcing exactly how people can get around it?

Marc Fisher: Well, I have to disagree for two reasons:

1) There's a long trail of evidence that bad guys don't read the paper. You'd be amazed at how many times local and federal law enforcement agencies put out the word about checkpoints, dragnets, raids, you name it, and the impact on alerting bad guys is pretty much nil. Which leads to point 2...

2) A big part of the advantage in staging tactics of this sort is PR. Even if there were a big enough outcry from the public to stop the checkpoints before they started, the mayor and his team would likely consider this a victory. Think back to the flaps that followed announcement of Fenty's plans to create a network of surveillance cameras, or his notion to have the cops go door to door searching for guns. In both cases, the outrage over the idea led to the abandonment of the tactic, at least temporarily. But Fenty had nonetheless succeeded in sending the message that he was serious about tackling crime. Mission accomplished, as someone said in a (somewhat) different context.

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Neighborhood Safety Initiative: They should look at Baltimore's SafeZone program. For a month to six weeks, an entire neighborhood is flooded with services -- not just police. And people are helped immensely. Reviews have shown that the crime rate stays low for a good amount of time following the program.

Marc Fisher: Sounds like it might have a much more long-lasting impact than a couple of checkpoints.

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Washington, aka La La Land: The problem with the safety zone is not stoping and searching, its letting the police decide what is a "legitimate purpose." The article states that without a legitimate reason to be in the Trinidad area, such as going to a doctor or church or visiting friends or relatives the drivers will be turned away. Just because is a legitimate reason. Unless some one is stupid enough to tell the police that they are going to shot some one, rob a bank, or sell drugs it seems that the mere fact that I exist is all the legitimate reason that I need as an American citizen to be on public property.

Marc Fisher: Absolutely. What about someone who drives up to the checkpoint and tells the cops that they're just out for a leisurely drive? What possible reason would there be to prevent that driver from moving on through?

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So will folks now park just outside the police checkpoints and walk in? : Try to think logically here. The thugs doing the shootings DRIVE into the area, shoot people like cowards, then DRIVE out. Most of these are drive by shootings or at least a hit and then jumping into a getaway car that is nearby. Won't make sense for them to shoot someone then sprint past the police check points to a car outside of the area.

Marc Fisher: But this effort is meant not only to deter drive-by shootings, but also to tamp down on drug sales. And someone buying drugs might well choose to walk on in rather than drive.

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Mclean, Va.: Tell us what you think of the decision by Mary Bradford of the MD National Capital Park & Planning Commission to set speed limits on the Capital Crescent Trail and have cops with radar guns enforce the speed limit. All done without public hearings or comment, I might add.

Why is it that the W&OD and Mount Vernon Trails, which carry just as much traffic as the Capital Crescent, do not need a speed limit and radar guns?

Could it be that Ms. Bradford is responding to a problem that doesn't exist? Or is she simply pointing to bicyclists as a convenient scapegoat for whatever traffic issues there are on the Capital Crescent?

Bradford's move is all the more ironic in that it discourages bicycling on the Capital Crescent just when commuting by bicycle is becoming more popular.

I nominate Bradford's decision as Boneheaded Move of the Week.

Marc Fisher: I'm tempted to agree with you, except that I think you would likely concede that there is a problem on the trail. It is quite crowded on weekends and some bicyclists do ride as if it were a Tuesday at 2 p.m.--going way too fast given how many people are out strolling.

The obvious and proper solution is for the riders to slow down to an appropriate speed. But if people don't police themselves, it does become an issue for the authorities. A temporary show of force to make clear what the safe speed might be could help, no?

What's your alternative?

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"Slummit Hills": I live in the aforementioned apartments near Falkland Chase. I can confirm the sharp rent increases here recently. I think the new apartments lining the metro tracks on the other side of 16th have had that impact.

But back to Falkland Chase. This was one of the few apartments that was metro accesible AND allowed renters to have dogs. It is hard to find an apartment complex that allows dogs (I have cats, and we have it a bit easier.) I see a number of dog walkers in the area every day on the way to and from the metro. Will the new development allow pets?

As for the buildings themselves, I've also commonly seen their residents carry their laundry across the street... these buildings are very antiquated! You can't save everything.

Marc Fisher: I have no idea what the dog policy would be at the new buildings, but I do agree that having a mix of buildings in that area is good for all involved. Obviously in a perfect world the developer would have loved to tear down the whole complex and build several thousand units. But they're trying to win this political battle, so they agreed to be okay with preservation of two thirds of the existing complex. That certainly sounds like compromise to me.

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Anonymous: I don't know the specific case, but if a representative of that lovely 1950s look survives amid the evolution of the rest of the neighborhood, why is that bad?

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I think I meant it was bad because once there was an entire block of these "little boxes standing on a hillside" that, like an Andy Warhol painting, reflected the same image repeated 12 times down one side of one block.

Now there is one house and one house is like Warhol painting one soup can. Or having one plate instead of a set of china.

The McMansions look like they were designed at Home Depot Expo, by Jed Clampett.

Marc Fisher: But isn't that a different issue? Yes, oftentimes charming old buildings are replaced by cynically cheap and ugly new ones. That's where the energies that preservationists put into saving every scrap of the past should go instead -- into pressing developers to invest in creative architecture rather than slapping up whatever's cheapest and easiest.

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Bethesda, Md.: In thinking about the density issues isn't the same concern cropping up in DC proper too? Of all places I would expect higher density development in the city but I recall reading that Brookland and Takoma Park, DC have been trying to nix dense development. Maybe even higher gas prices will realign peoples interest toward DEMANDING dense development instead of curtailing it

Marc Fisher: Yes, several D.C. neighborhoods are involved in similarly tense battles, and Takoma, the West End, Tenleytown and the Georgia Avenue corridor are just a few examples. In general, Montgomery has been better at standing firm about its smart growth, transit-oriented development goals than has the District.

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Arlington, Va.: Why does Rosslyn get a "sort of" compliment in how they've handled smart growth. Obviously the skywalks were a massive mistake but as the development continues in that part of Arlington, there are more and more people out on the streets. I don't think we'll ever be a Clarendon due to the number of office buildings but we're miles away from what we were in the late 90's.

Marc Fisher: Yes, Rosslyn is getting better, but the legacy of the Skywalks has not been completely eliminated. The streets are still generally way too wide to make it comfortable for pedestrians (that's the key fix that Arlington used to turn Clarendon into such a pleasant place), and there's still a ways to go on providing street level retail life.

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Silver Spring: Always interesting to read comments from your reasonable, employed, white readers who always claim to be "exactly whom (enter local city or establishment they got kicked out of) wants living near their downtown or shopping at their store." I own a home in Silver Spring and will personally help pack out the young federal professionals crying in your chat today on their way back to DC. Things are tough all over

Marc Fisher: Ah, but contrary to your stereotype, most of the movement into places such as downtown Silver Spring is not from the city, but from farther-removed suburbs, from places where there is less access to transit and to urban amenities. This is people who've grown up in the suburbs voting with their feet for a different model. But don't worry -- you can keep your house if Silver Spring does it right. Ask the residents of Clarendon in Arlington, and you'll hear about a model that works, in which single family house neighborhoods continue to thrive immediately behind densely developed retail, residential and office corridors.

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Alexandria, Va.: Hey, I live in a 1920s bungalow and would kill for the opportunity to convert it into a McMansion! What's charming on the outside is a loud two-kid warren on the inside.

Marc Fisher: I'm sure your neighbors will be thrilled to hear your announcement. Be sure to let us know how your conversion project progresses.

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Washington, D.C.: Great column today Marc, I live in Silver Spring and it's ridiculous what the planning board might do. I grew up in Oyster Bay on Long Island, should no development take place at all there because Teddy Roosevelt may have spit on the sidewalk? NOTHING is historical about the Falkland area. Just because something was built in the '30s doesn't make it historical, it just makes it old. Bring on the bulldozers.

Marc Fisher: I hear them revving up in the background.

No, actually, I think the odds are against the developer in this case.

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Kensington, Md.: Marc, you might want to clarify something for the benefit of readers who aren't directly affected by the Falkland Chase controversy.

You write that the developer has proposed adding 282 "moderately priced" units to the proposed project. You also refer to the "479-unit complex." This begs two questions:

First, does that "479-unit" complex describe only the northern part that is scheduled for demolition, or does it refer to the entire Falklands apartments complex? IOW just how many current tenants are going to be displaced by this proposal?

This isn't entirely clear from your column.

One scenario describes a net loss of 197 moderately priced housing units, while the other hints of an unspecified net gain.

The second question is harder to answer, but nevertheless crucial: What does the developer mean by "moderately priced?" We know what the current rental prices are. How would these compare to the deleloper's proposed "moderately priced" units? Again, your column doesn't address this rather important issue. Or is this just a "detail" that will be "worked out later," after it's too late to do anything about it?

Marc Fisher: Here's a quick synopsis of the math:

The three parcels that make up the Falkland complex have among them 479 units. The developer proposes to tear down about a third of the complex. In exchange, the developer would support historic designation for the rest of the complex and would guarantee 282 subsidized units--about two-thirds of those would be mixed in among the 1,059 new units in the proposed high-rises, and the rest would be located at other properties that the same developer owns in Montgomery County.

Tenants who live in the buildings slated to be demolished would be given the option of coming back to the new buildings.

Moderately priced has two different meanings in this context: Some of the units would be made available through the county's program for working class families and the rest would be held at a lower-than-market rate by the developer.

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Former Falkland Chase Resident, Silver Spring, Md.: As a former resident (two years, 1996-1998) of those exact units in Falkland Chase that would be razed to make way for new development, I would vote for moving forward rather than holding on to something granted the "historic" label for no real purpose. Those units are throwbacks -- and offered none of the modern amenities that young professionals are accustomed to, and are willing to spend to acquire. We constantly battled humidity issues -- old, solid brick-and-mortar buildings are notoriously challenged by incorporating modern HVAC equipment, as the buildings hardly "breathe" trapping air and condensation inside.

Their proximity to the Metro and the new development was ideal for us, a newly-wed couple living in Silver Spring for the first time.

But today, driving past there almost daily to and from work, they seem like an anachronism. There are plenty of properties in Silver Spring worth fighting to preserve, or worthy fights yet to ensue on the development of projects such as Silver Place and the new civic center, but wasting energy on preserving these few "garden-variety" units as you so aptly put it, seems like a waste.

And, frankly, with the advent of construction starting on the new transit center at the Red Line station there in downtown Silver Spring, living and commuting through there is about to become just a little more intolerable than it already is for some. I don't envy residents in the area having to deal with the noise they will be hearing over the coming few years.

Marc Fisher: Anachronism is right, and you're good to note the immediate proximity of those Metro tracks. I spent some time hanging around that parcel of the Falklands complex and it's hard to imagine that the residents of the buildings closest to the Metro tracks can feel terribly nostalgic about those apartments. They are literally on top of the tracks and the buildings shake as the trains zoom by.

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Reston, Va.: Hi, thanks for the opportunity to chat. On Monday I had to go to Dulles airport to pick up a relative. I must say the relatively new Pay and Go system at the airport for paying for parking seems to be causing more problems then it solves. Most of the Pay and Go kiosks near the exits were out of service "due to maintenance" and it was clear the lines to get out were confusing to most drivers, despite the many airport workers trying to guide people to where they needed to go. Plus they had people at each exit to handle the swiping of the cards and credit cards. Why did they institute this system when the pay-the-cashier-on-the-way-out worked just fine for years? I know it was meant to speed things up but it does anything but speed things up.

Marc Fisher: Someone got a nice contract, and managers always love the idea of machines that might replace workers. But then of course the machines never quite work as well as predicted, and they need to hire people to stand around and help customers navigate the machines.

The parking system at Dulles is problematic, but it's a whole lot better than the alternative--the worst taxi system I've seen at any major airport in an American city that relies on taxis. And that's the ultimate example of a sweetheart, sole-source contract.

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Bethesda, Md.: Marc, guess what? I bought a bottled soda at the Tues. Nats' game and guess what -- they left the cap on!

This week's challenge: forks! I got a crab cake sandwich (not a very good one) and asked for a fork as I did not want to eat the bun. Sorry -- no forks to be had. I was eventually directed to the Edy's Ice Cream stand, where I was given a spoon. Iv'e since heard that Ben's Chili Bowl has forks, but that would have been a mob scene.

Thanks.

Marc Fisher: You've helped me toward an answer on a question that has been bothering me -- I too couldn't find forks at the stadium the other night (and we had plenty of time to search for them, sitting through two long rain delays.) Is this a security issue? Are forks now someone classified as a weapon? Curious fans want to know...

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Tailgater: I like to cook out and drink beer before a sporting event, so that's why I like RFK and FedEx and loathe the phone booth and the new Nats stadium. Would the Poplar Point plan have any room for me?

Marc Fisher: I imagine it would, seeing as how the soccer stadium, should it ever be built, would likely have a fair amount of surface parking around it. The loss of tailgating in the transition from RFK to Nats Park is indeed tragic, especially since the area around the new stadium is likely to remain fairly barren for a few years. There are lots of little lots around the new stadium, but I haven't seen anyone tailgating as yet. Maybe once summer really hits (hey, look outside, it's really hit.)

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RE: Redskins domination of radio outlets: A quote from Gilbert in the article "We want to be a radio company with different stations and different formats." So, is that why they're going to broadcast every Redskins game on all 6 channels simultaneously?

Marc Fisher: Well, they'll run the games on all of the stations because even with six signals, there will still be some areas where none of them come in terribly strongly. But the question will be what they do with those stations the rest of the time. Two f them are very low-rated political talk stations--WTNT on the right and WWRC on the left. It's hard to see why Snyder would keep those formats.

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"But for a market this size not to have an independent sports talk station would indeed be a shame.": Mr. Listener,

We don't have a jazz station, the classical station is muzak, the oldies station is canned from the satellite.... Heck, we don't even have a radio column in the local paper anymore. No local indy sports talker should not be a shame, it should be expected.

Signed,

Mr. Talker

Marc Fisher: Yes, it would certainly fit the pattern. But actually, talk is the one format (well, news, too, but that's way too expensive for most owners to even contemplate) that is doing relatively well and is even expanding audience in some places. So you'd think that in a good sports town like this, one could make money with a vibrant and personality-driven sports talk station. WTEM does that decently well, though it shockingly doesn't have local morning or late night shows.

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Arlington, Va.: Marc,

Take heart! Dan Snyder has not made a wise investment decision since his father passed away and he lost the advice of his dad's friends. Check out the price of Six Flags stock before Snyder bought the company and now. How is movie production company doing? Hopefully this business deal will cause Snyder to go into bankruptcy and result in the sale of the 'Skins which will result in hopefully competent ownership.

Marc Fisher: Wishful thinking will not get you very far, but we can all dream.

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Occoquan, VA: George's T-shirt says, "Who's Your Founding Father?"

Tom's says, "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of the Finish Line."

What is Teddy's going to say?

Marc Fisher: Hope is eternal?

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Marc Fisher: That has to do it for today, folks. Enjoy your 99-degree weekend (ouch!) The A/C is finally cranking, but a June 5 startup for the machines at home is I think a record late date for our house.

Another development battle coming your way in the column next week, plus more on the mayor's crime fighting methods coming up on the big blog. Thanks for coming along and write if you get work....

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