Potomac Confidential
Washington's Hour of Talk Power

Marc Fisher
Post Metro Columnist
Thursday, January 15, 2009 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.

Today's Column: Make Yourselves at Home, Obama Family (Post, Jan. 15)

It's an all-Inauguration edition today, as we look at the majesty and the scare stories, the logistics and the security issues, travel strategies and the essential question: Go or stay home? Marc was online Thursday, Jan. 15, at Noon ET to take your questions and comments.

A transcript follows.

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


Marc Fisher: Welcome aboard, folks. You can tell a big event is coming because of the escalating number of street closings, as some bigwigs are already arriving in town and making their rounds, always eager to announce their importance with motorcades that shut down streets. I've just been perusing the list of inaugural balls, parties and other events, and if they're all as popular as they claim to be, then the entire population of the city is going to a big bash--I don't think so. Watch for a whole lot of these parties to be duds--canceled at the last minute or fairly empty on the big night. But there will be plenty of big crowds at the main events, including the Mall concert over the weekend.

So let's hear your impressions--are all the hype and all the security warnings making you more or less likely to venture downtown for any of the events? Are people really going to camp out at offices and businesses overnight to avoid the congestion on the roads and on Metro?

Is the experience better on TV or live?

And are the authorities engaged in overzealous, overly cautious planning, or are they right to shoot up warning flares so as to make the crowd numbers more manageable?

Plus: Whatever else is on your minds.

But first, let's call the Yay and Nay of the Day on this final show before the swearing in of the new president...

Yay to some of the more creative events planned for the Inauguration weekend. My top recommendations: Friday, stop by the Smithsonian American Art Museum to see a small but delightfully revealing exhibit on President Lincoln's Second Inaugural Ball, which was held in the very same building where the museum is now housed. In the same building, the National Portrait Gallery has a small show of photographs of Lincoln during the presidential campaign and throughout the presidency--there's an array of images I've never seen before, and collectively they tell a story of a man who was keenly aware of his public image and yet also someone who unwittingly wore on his face the strains and pains of a nation's trauma.

Saturday's a good day to check out a gallery of Washington Post front pages through history, on display here at the paper, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day over the weekend, at 1150 15th Street NW.

On Sunday, documentary film maker Ken Burns leads a discussion of race and movies at 4 p.m. at the Sixth & Eye Synagogue, 600 I Street NW.

And on Monday, Aretha Franklin performs at a free concert at the Kennedy Center at 6 p.m., but you will need tickets, which will be handed out starting at 4 p.m. in front of the Concert Hall.

Nay to the 58 security agencies involved in shutting down vast stretches of the city over the coming days. It seems we get new announcements of closings every few hours, the latest being a raft of new shutdowns of Metro stations on Inauguration Day. How does it make sense to advise people to use Metro and then close down many of the stations in the downtown area?

Your turn starts right now....


Washington, D.C.: Loved your column this morning. You nailed exactly what I've been hoping -- that the D.C. I know and love gets noticed.

Which brings me to a beef I have about the inauguration planning (one that I've posted in other forums on washingtonpost.colm). We've heard all about the things we can't do, places we can't go, things we can't bring and the traffic, crowds, metro and weather hassles we're doomed for. I think we got the message.

Now, could somebody (Fenty?) please just say something, anything, welcoming and festive? Show the world that we can hang with the big dogs (New York) when it comes to celebrating? Can we all just chill out on the alarm bells for a minute and just say, "Welcome to D.C., America. Let's Party"?

Marc Fisher: Good point, and actually, at their briefing earlier this week, Fenty and the governors did try to mix in some welcoming tones with the warnings and the security alerts. Fenty was especially enthusiastic about predicting that everything would go reasonably smoothly and about reminding folks that this is a big moment in history that people should indeed want to come see.

Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley was a bit more cautious in tone, and Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine tried to be both welcoming and realistic about the crunch, especially in getting across the Potomac, but at least Fenty tried to show his excitement before he dove into the litany of ways in which the day will be frustrating.


Washington, D.C.: I've heard a lot about bridge closures for inbound traffic -- what about for outbound traffic? Will at least one lane be open on each bridge to get out of the city if need be?

washingtonpost.com: Inauguration Watch

Marc Fisher: Some bridges are being held entirely for security authorities and buses, but others will have outbound lanes remaining open. City administrator Dan Tangherlini told me that he hopes to maintain open outbound lanes throughout the day and may be able to open some lanes to inbound traffic during the day, depending on how thick the backup is into Arlington.


Washington, D.C.: Have there been any estimations of how large a financial windfall the inauguration will be for the District? Hotels have tripled their rates with four night minimums at a 14 percent hotel tax. And, millions of people eating out three times a day for a week at a 10 percent restaurant tax. How will the Distinct spend its new found wealth?

Marc Fisher: Actually, while it may seem that the inauguration would be a windfall for the District, it's not at all clear that it's even a profitable venture. To be sure, caterers, hotels and restaurants ought to do quite well, but remember that the vast majority of visitors are on buses that zip in for the event and, in many cases, leave right after, often not even allowing for an overnight stay or a restaurant meal.

Now that the president has declared a state of emergency, there is more of an expectation that the feds will reimburse the District for the $70 million-plus in security and traffic management expenses that the city faces to stage this celebration, but still, it's not clear that the District government will come out ahead.


Cleveland Park, Washington, D.C.: Marc --

On my way into work this morning, I was surprised to see that there are still newspaper boxes at 10th and Pennsylvania. Not that I'm encouraging this sort of thing, but usually these things are removed before an inaugural parade and should have been long gone by now. Any idea why they're still there?

Marc Fisher: They'll all be removed in plenty of time for the parade. I believe it's more than 1,000 news boxes that the Post and other publications have to remove in the next few days.


Washington, D.C.: Will bikers be allowed to have access to areas that are closed for vehicular traffic on Inauguration Day?

Marc Fisher: Only minimally--there are bike valet stations being set up outside the hard security perimeter, but inside the area from which most cars are prohibited. That's reflected on the city's official maps.


Herndon, Va.: Mr. F: I actually considered going in person to the inauguration, but after seeing the massive security measures -- no chance. I think any form of Metro will be jam-packed, and going back out possibly even worse. Of course, I could paint my car an "official black," put some kind of document on the dash and try to drive in over the TR Bridge . . .

Marc Fisher: Ooh, I like that--if you do that, please send me the video.

Yes, Metro will be crowded. Here's a tip from our Metro reporter, Lena Sun: If you are really intent on getting a seat or at least getting on a train that morning, head out to the terminus of whatever Metro line is closest to you, and get on at that first station, because as the trains fill up, they are likely to skip stations on their way into town.


West Hartford, Conn.: I fly in to Reagan National on Jan 20 at 7:30 a.m. If the Metro is jammed, will I be allowed to walk to the Mall? Can pedestrians cross from Virginia to D.C. via the bridges?

Marc Fisher: Yes, after howls of protest from northern Virginia congressmen Jim Moran and Gerry Connolly, the security powers that be caved and announced that there will be pedestrian access via the bridges and especially over the Memorial Bridge, which will be devoted mainly to walkers.


washingtonpost.com: Welcome To D.C., Mr. Obama--Here's Where To Visit (Raw Fisher, Jan. 15)


Presidential Play date?: Hi Marc

Nice article today. I know being the president is lonely. I agree that Washington, D.C. can provide many benefits if one chooses to take advantage of them. I live out in the country, an area that has it's charms too.

I'd like to take this opportunity to invite the president and his wife on a play date. I have two kids around his kids' age, and I live in a nice small town within driving distance that's easily secured (I'm sure that's a consideration...one road in and one road out). I'll get the moon bounce and buy the crabs. 360 degree water view. You can come too.

We welcome you President Obama to our home, Washington, D.C.

LM. Broomes Island

Marc Fisher: Be careful, he might just take you up on that offer. Obama has already been to a dinner party in Chevy Chase, Ben's Chili Bowl, the Lincoln Memorial, and a hoops court in Adams Morgan. Not bad for his first week in town. And Mrs. Obama and the girls took in a movie at Gallery Place (someone needs to give her better advice about the movie theaters in town.)


Fairfax, Va.: Do you seriously think the authorities can handle this, after that press conference you just covered with Fenty, Lanier, et al.? SERIOUSLY? Sorry, but from what I've seen just this week with nonexistent police to direct the traffic overflows on K street, color me unconvinced. And no, Cathy Lanier and Terry Gainer don't reassure me in the least.

Marc Fisher: To the extent that a crowd of more than a million people can be "handled," yes, it's really not rocket science. The District manages massive crowds on a fairly regular basis, whether it's the various marches for and against abortion, the so-called Million Man March, the 4th of July fireworks crowds--all in the several hundred thousands range, and all managed without much fuss or trouble, year after year.


McLean, Va.: Will Chain Bridge be open? I understand them wanting to cut off the route to Georgetown but why cut off access to upper NW D.C.?

Marc Fisher: No, both Key and Chain bridges will be closed to cars on Tuesday, which is really quite unfortunate and demonstrates that these decisions are based more on different political and managerial styles than on any hard science. Nobody's closing the Anacostia River crossings, yet all of the Potomac River bridges are to be shut down. The official reason for the distinction is that Marylanders have other ways to get into the city and therefore the press of traffic on those Anacostia bridges isn't likely to be as bad as on the west side of the city. Maybe, but the fact is that the Key and Chain bridges don't empty into the city's center and really could have been left open rather than funneling everyone up to the Beltway and the American Legion bridge--a prospect that Gov. O'Malley seemed rather unhappy about.


Totally confused: I am completely confused re: what you can and can't bring down to the mall for 1. the inaugural concert at the Lincoln; 2. the swearing in on the Mall (non-ticketed). The concert says "no structures" does that mean we can't bring chairs?

Marc Fisher: No chairs is what I've heard rather consistently.


Washington, D.C.: My question is far fetched, but if everything goes smoothly, or as smoothly as it can, could this pave the way for D.C. or the area in general, in hosting the Olympics? Again, my question is far-fetched, but it's something I've been asking myself.

Marc Fisher: Seems a bit like apples and oranges to me in that the plan for a Washington-Baltimore Olympics was a very decentralized one, using the stadiums of both cities, the various facilities at colleges in Fairfax, D.C., College Park, Annapolis and Towson, as well as indoor arenas in both cities. So while some of the same traffic challenges would occur, it would be very different from one massive crowd coming to one spot in the District at one particular time.


Alexandria, Va.: What a great column today! Of course, we Alexandrians might want the president to come visit our Torpedo Factory or Christ Church too! I'm sure the first lady and the girls would love to go to the top of the Masonic Temple as well -- a fascinating, yet little visited, site.

Marc Fisher: Thanks--Torpedo Factory is a good idea, and I'm hearing that the new prez is a jazz buff, which could bode well for clubs such as Blues Alley, Twins, and HR-57, as well as for musicians who might hope for a White House invitation.


McLean, Va.: What counts as a limo? If I rent a Lincoln from Enterprise and start a gypsy cap service for out-of-towners, will I get stopped for not having taxi or limo tags? How does that work?

Marc Fisher: Limos are licensed as such, but in the crush of the crowds on Tuesday, I'd imagine you'd have a chance of getting through. But if you got nabbed, I wouldn't want to be your customer that day....


Reston, Va.: Are these restrictions the beginning of a trend where Virginians can only get to D.C. using Metro while only the party members ride down 66 in their Zil limousines?

Marc Fisher: There's certainly a lot of grumbling along those lines from Virginians, especially from Democrats who worked hard for the Obama campaign and now see themselves as somehow being singled out for exclusion from the city during the big celebration. But of course that was never the intent of the authorities. Kaine argues that there's just no choice but to shut down the bridges and highways because otherwise you'd run a high risk of creating total gridlock, which would in turn create considerable unhappiness.

Still, you'd think that their instinct would have been to put their efforts into the opposite direction--turning the bridges all into one-way inbound roads for some time period, perhaps in the pre-dawn hours, to allow folks who really want to to drive in and get themselves in position for the events well in advance.


Maryland: This morning on WTOP they had an official saying you CAN bring camp chairs to the Mall. You CANNOT bring tents.

Marc Fisher: Lots of confusion on this--you may well be right that chairs are ok for the concert this weekend, but as frequent visitors to major Mall events can tell you, whatever the official rules are, what counts is what the officers at the magnetometers tell you, and that can often be a more conservative decision. So if you're asking for advice, I say to arrive with as little as possible.


New York, N.Y.: Is it safe to assume if you haven't heard back from your congressperson (or senator) regarding tickets, that you didn't receive any? Or will some really wait until the very last minute as a way to dissuade scalping? Thanks.

Marc Fisher: If you don't have them by now, you are very likely out of luck. The demand each member of Congress faced was mind-boggling.


Bethesda, Md.: Does it seem right that so many travel industry folks are trying to make so much money off of these inauguration events? The hotels $$ are ridiculous and car service companies are even worse. Some friends are coming in to town and for the trips to and from Dulles to Bethesda plus rides into D.C. for dinners on Sunday and Monday evenings = $1,500! It's up there with the gas price thieves of last summer.

Marc Fisher: From hotels to individuals, lots of folks got way too many $$$ signs in their minds, and as a result, the hospitality industry tells us there are still hundreds of hotel rooms available, even in the District itself. But for those who priced their wares at a semi-reasonable level, the sales have been quite strong and real money will be made. Just not the wildly fantastical levels of cash that some had dreamed of.


Library Police?: My wife and I were going to MLK on Sunday and a car came out of the garage which looked just like a police car except it said "Library Police" on the side. Now I understand they may want a security guard at a desk at the door but to have a decked out car and a police force to back it up? I wonder if the uniformed officer get to pack heat?

Marc Fisher: I forget the exact count, but this city has more police forces than any other in the country, and perhaps in the world. It's a status thing--your institution barely ranks unless it has its own police department.

But this weekend, a rather cool version of that phenomenon will appear in Washington, as thousands of officers arrive from departments all across the country to help out with security and traffic control during the Inaugural festivities. The officers all gather over the weekend for a training session, and their departments make and trade Inauguration badges.


SE, D.C.: I have to go to work on Inauguration Day, and I usually walk through the Capitol grounds to get from home to work. Obviously it's going to be fenced off, but no map shows exactly where. So I have no idea how far around I'm going to have to walk to get to work. Does anyone know how far the fence has gone out in other years? Like, will I have to walk all the way up to Union Station?

Marc Fisher: Check out the maps on our site and at dc.gov and you'll see that pretty much the entire Capitol campus will be off limits. It looks like you will have to walk most of the way up to Union Station, maybe a block or so short of there.


Washington, D.C.: When are they really going to get roads re-opened? Will people be able to get to work Wednesday morning?

Marc Fisher: Most roads and bridges will reopen Tuesday evening. The only question for Wednesday morning is Pennsylvania Avenue, because the entire streetscape has to be reconstructed. They literally take out the street lamps for the parade, so all of that has to be reinstalled before the Wednesday morning rush hour, and the city administrator told me he thinks they can get it done, but they won't know for sure until the actual event.


Arlington, Va.: Will Metro be up to the task? I picture tens of thousands of people crowding the stations while being bypassed by jammed trains.

Does it make more sense to try to board at the end of the line (ie Vienna) instead of Arlington?

Marc Fisher: Yes, but of course if everyone goes out to board at the end of the line, that advantage is lost...


Allentown, Pa.: I know plenty of local folks heading down there without tickets? What Metro stations do you think will be the best places for attendees without tickets, who are planning to stand on the Mall, to disembark?

Marc Fisher: Good question--especially since they keep adding to the list of closed stations. Even leaving that point aside, I recommend getting off the train at least two stations prior to any downtown stop, mainly to avoid the crush of people waiting to get through the gates to leave the station. So, for example, if you're coming in on the Red Line from Montgomery County, I'd aim to get off not downtown, but out at Dupont Circle or even Woodley Park and then hoof it the rest of the way.


Silver Spring, Md.: What does the president's appearance at the official inaugural balls consist of? A quick walk through? Some remarks? I assume they will spend the majority of time at their home state balls...but what about the other "regional balls" Will all of the guests at the ball even be able to see him?

Marc Fisher: Very quick walk through. There are 10 official balls and they are scattered all around the city, so you do the math--the president and First Lady, even with their motorcade, can't possibly spend more than 10 minutes or so at each of the balls they get to. It cannot be a fun evening for them--they're spending most of it in the limo, going from one ball to the next.


Vienna, Va.: I look out my window and see that the parking lots of a public park are already being filled with buses from shuttle services. Has Fairfax County agree to use these lots as staging areas?

Marc Fisher: You name the lots and they're being commandeered for buses, and this is true at college campuses, parks, some malls, wherever there are large open spaces, particularly near Metro stations.


Washington, D.C.: This inauguration will clearly be the most expensive of all time for the American taxpayer. Why hasn't Obama considered toning down the festivities in light of the dire situation we have with the economy.

The fewer events you hold, the less security needed.

Marc Fisher: The official events are no more numerous than in past years--a couple of concerts, the swearing-in, the parade and the balls. It's all the ancillary stuff, all of it put on by private organizations, that is making this bigger than past inaugurations, and that's not something the presidential inaugural committee has any control over.


Total insanity: I voted for Obama, but the preparations announced so far are totally insane -- and there are still several more days for them to come up with yet more rules.

Now they are warning that Wed. -- the day after -- will be cleanup day and ending stuff, so we need to plan accordingly in getting to work Wed. Yeh, I'm sure my supervisor will understand - not. She'll tell me to fill out a leave slip for annual leave or leave without pay if I'm late.

Marc Fisher: Maybe I'm administratively impaired--ok, I am administratively impaired--but I just don't get this whole concept of giving people permission to use one of their vacation days. If a business or agency closes because of some huge national event that's beyond their control, why should workers be required to give up one of their vacation days? Shouldn't the onus be on the business or government agency that's making the decision to close or limit operations?


Baltimore, Md.: Marc,

I was planning on coming down Tuesday and doing a bit of busking for a few million people. Easy money. Will the authorities look askance at a guitar case?

Marc Fisher: My bet is you'd be just fine, especially outside the hard security boundary. You might have trouble getting the guitar case through security, so stick to the area outside the screening zone and you should make some moola--if you're any good.


Pentagon City, Va.: I have no problem with shutting the bridges down. Thinking that you can just drive into the city that day is ridiculous. But shutting down the inbound Virginia highways inside the Beltway? For seven hours AFTER the swearing-in? I still haven't heard a defensible rationale for this.

Marc Fisher: It's a back-up thing. As the governor explained it, if you shut down the bridges but leave 395 and 66 open, you create enormous backups as folks who wanted to use the bridges but didn't know they were closed drive all the way up to the blockade and then massive gridlock ensues. Of course, that's likely to happen wherever you put the cutoff, which will now be out at the Springfield Mixing Bowl.


Washington, D.C.: Logistics question for you Marc: I just, for the first time, looked at the calendar of the events over the next week and -- HOLY CATS! How in the heck can the Post cover all this? Do you guys have a strategy for attacking this beast?

Marc Fisher: More than 100 reporters, fanning out all over the dang place. We cannot cover everything, but we want to be where the main events are, and in enough other places to get a sense of how the events are going, how security, congestion, and the mood of the crowds are developing, and so on. I'll be roaming around all weekend and into next week and will report in columns every day as well as on the Raw Fisher blog.


Obama has already been to a dinner party in Chevy Chase: Wasn't that with George Will though? Not some random chat poster.

Marc Fisher: Will and a room full of conservative columnists--there's a report on the dinner by Howie Kurtz in today's Style section. Sounds like the proverbial good time was had by all. The session was off the record, so you won't be seeing quotations from it, but it will be fun to scour those columnists' pieces in the coming weeks to see if Obama managed to take some of the air out of their criticisms.


Glenwood, Md.: Speaking of inviting local jazz musicians to the White House, what about some of the many local community bands throughout the Washington metropolitan area? I saw the article in the Style section yesterday about advocating for a Cabinet level post for the arts. I say it's about time and as a current and former member of several area bands, including the Columbia Jazz Band, I think more needs to be done to promote and encourage these types of organizations. Our group went over to Europe last year and I heard from the members who went that the folks just loved us. We need way more of this type of cultural interaction both at home and abroad.

washingtonpost.com: Quincy Jones Leads Chorus Urging a Cabinet-Level Arts Czar (Post, Jan. 14)

Marc Fisher: It sounds like Obama wants to go back to the Kennedy and Nixon tradition of holding recitals and other performances at the White House. He specifically mentioned bringing in jazz and classical artists--an especially good idea in this period of retrenchment in the arts.


Washington, D.C.: "...this city has more police forces than any other in the country, and perhaps in the world."

You obviously have never been to Moscow.

Marc Fisher: I have indeed, and Moscow obviously has a much greater police presence, as I imagine Beijing does, but my point was that what's distinctive about Washington's security apparatus is the number of different police agencies, not the total number of uniformed personnel on the street.


I LIVE here and I'M lost: What about bags, packs with extra socks, thermoses, sustenance?

Marc Fisher: There is a size limit on bags, and you can find it on the various D.C. and Secret Service web sites, but in general, what they told us is that you can bring plenty of gloves, hats, sandwiches, that sort of stuff, as long as it's not in big bags--and no strollers or other wheeled devices. I don't know the answer on thermoses. Anyone?


Entitled to be Excited: Marc, I moved here the weekend before the election of 2000 and have endured the entirety of the Bush Fiasco here in the District. Come on, everybody! The Inauguration is going to be messy for just ONE DAY -- we've had worse than that for 2,917 days so far. Get excited!

Marc Fisher: Inaugurations are great fun whatever the party, whatever the president. This one will be bigger, which should make it more interesting and potentially more frustrating as well. But if the mood on the streets is anything like it was on Election Night, it will be a very happy and tolerant crowd.


History: Sometimes in the reading about the details of the transitions, the fights on the Hill, learning about all the new officials I forget that this inauguration is different. Last week when the pictures were released from the "Living Presidents Lunch" it really struck me just how significant this moment is. For the first time ever the picture is just not a group of white men. For large swaths of the population this has to be the most incredible feeling.

Marc Fisher: That does seem to get a little lost in all the pre-festivities angst and hoopla, but I think it will come to the fore again by Monday or so.


Atlanta, Ga.: Why should a business that doesn't have any say about the closings pay for the time an employee isn't there? Do you think businesses have money lying around (especially these days) to do that? Should they bill the feds because their employees can't get to work?

Marc Fisher: Fair point, but then why should individual workers carry that burden? It's equally unreasonable to expect the government to reimburse every business that has to shut down on Tuesday, so who should bear the cost of all this? Shouldn't that cost be shared by all involved? It doesn't seem right to put the burden entirely on workers by stripping them of vacation days merely because the business hasn't figured out a way to get its work done remotely on that day.


Falls Church, Va.: What is getting into the city via Metro going to be like this weekend? I anticipate it to be crowded, but will it be super-packed and tough to get on trains? How about driving into the city this weekend? Bad idea all around?

Marc Fisher: Unless I'm completely misjudging this, I don't think the weekend will be much of a problem at all. The only huge event is the concert on the Mall and that crowd is likely to arrive primarily by Metro. The only really dicey situation may come late nights over the weekend, with Metro insisting on sticking to its normal closing hours and the parties ending late, that will be terrific for cabbies, but is likely to produce big crowds of folks waiting for taxis.


Washington, D.C.: I have tickets to the Newseum for Inauguration Day. I plan to arrive before the 10 a.m. opening. But, if the Secret Service reaches their 250-300K person parade route cutoff before I get to the closest checkpoint, can I still get thru with my Inauguration Day Newseum Ticket (since I will be in the Newseum and not on the sidewalk)? Thanks

Marc Fisher: The cops say ticketed folks will be able to get in.


Cheverly, Md.: Prior to driving downtown today, I thought I refused to live under this post 9/11 state of fear. Then I noticed all of these port-a-potties and wondered who's guarding them now or are they secured. Seems an easy spot to leave something threatening or dangerous against Obama or the event in general.

Marc Fisher: You've been watching too many movies. If you're a bomber and you want to do lots of damage, there are far more promising targets around than portapotties.


Washington, D.C.: I live close to Judiciary Square, so I will be heading up to stay with some friends near AU for the Inaugurapocalypse. I need to get back home by Tuesday evening though. I know that I can't use the Judiciary Square Metro that evening, so any idea how bad it will be getting back from Tenley to either Chinatown or Union Station? Thanks!

Marc Fisher: Inbound on Tuesday evening shouldn't be too bad--mostly ball-goers will be out and about, and their numbers, while large, won't come close to the crowd that assembled for the daytime events.


Dupont Circle, Washington, D.C.: Marc, I'm lucky to get tickets to see the parade from the bleachers. Do you know where I can find a map to tell me where my seats are located? Thanks for a great chat!

washingtonpost.com: Inauguration Watch

Marc Fisher: Lots of maps there on that link, and more at dc.gov and secretservice.gov


Response to I LIVE here and I'M lost:: I believe thermoses are not allowed because they contain glass (or most of them do). I don't think other glass bottles are allowed, either. Better stick with the generic plastic bottle, even if it is environmentally unfriendly.

Marc Fisher: Thanks.


washingtonpost.com: Inauguration Survival Guide


Burke, Va.: Marc:

At this point, I'm just disgusted with the whole way this is being handled -- it's as if the district government and the feds and the states have joined together to send the message that this is REALLY going to be a disaster on every level. I'm working that day, but my wife and kids are going into the District (on VRE, thank God), and I'm just hoping they get back and forth OK. My wife is Pollyanna -- "Oh, we'll just go uptown to eat." Yeah. You and a few hundred thousand others. Just keep me out of it.

Marc Fisher: I wouldn't expect to be able to find food very easily that day unless you have a restaurant reservation. There will be lots of vendors out there, but the lines will be quite long. On the other hand, folks along the parade route and the Mall will have plenty of waiting time on their hands.


Washington, D.C.: Similar question to the Newseum-goer. I am planning on going to a parade watching party at my office, which is inside the security perimeter. Will we be able to get in even if we are not going to the parade route? And, can we get out before the parade is over.

Despite all the inconvenience, I am very excited about the inauguration and so happy that I live here and have the opportunity to participate in any way.

Marc Fisher: If it's not a ticketed event, you will want to get there early because otherwise, once the avenue is full up, you're going to face some trouble talking your way past the Secret Service guys manning the mags.


Arlington, Va.: I'm planning on walking to the Mall to watch the swearing in on the Jumbotron near the Lincoln then heading straight back. Will I be subject to a security check since I'm not in the restricted area or parade route?

Marc Fisher: As I understand it, you're good to go.


Woodbridge, Va.: Will there be any satellite parking options available at the farthest Metro stations? I'm especially curious about Springfield, and whether we will be able to park at the Springfield Mall, or elsewhere, if the Metro lot is full by the time we arrive.


Marc Fisher: I haven't heard of any additional parking being made available for individual cars, only for buses.


D.C. Neighborhood resident: Any word on which organizations got tickets to the neighborhood ball? I was hoping that ordinary people who actually lived in, you know, local neighborhoods would be able to get them. The Obama press release doesn't even say who they released them to.

Marc Fisher: Haven't seen a list, but the intent all along has been to give out those tix to people who would otherwise never attend a ball.


washingtonpost.com: Secret Service/Inauguration


What you can bring to the Mall...: Mark, I think the media and all of the Web sites (especially the Senate site) need to be vigilant about distinguishing between the ticketed inauguration area, the open Mall area and the parade route. All of the restrictions on backpacks, chairs, umbrellas, etc., only apply to the ticketed inauguration area and the parade route. The open Mall area (West of 4th street) is open season except for tents per the Secret Service Web site.

Marc Fisher: Right--but the Park Service rules that apply on the Fourth of July will still apply for these events, so no cute little picnic tables, no umbrellas--basically, no furniture.


Arlington, Va.: Marc: There's been so much information out there about the inauguration but a lot of it appears to be contradictory or corrected later. I'm still not clear on what time you need to be at security and what you need to be through security if you are ticketed guest for the swearing-in. What have you heard? Will they turn people away who have tickets? I'm really starting to wonder if it is going to be worth the hassle in getting down there.

Marc Fisher: No one seems willing to state an official time when you should get there. The secured areas will open at 7 a.m., and Chief Lanier said that if large crowds assemble before that hour, she's inclined to let them hang around outside the security perimeter and watch the preparations. But she's definitely not recommending that people show up at 4 in the morning. My sense: If you have tickets, you should be able to arrive at a reasonable hour. If you don't, you better get down there before morning light.


Falls Church, Va.: As soon as the SS announced they were closing parts of I-395, I-66, and the GW Pkwy inside the beltway, I bought my plane ticket to Florida. Not coming back until Wednesday morning in time to get to work by 10 a.m. It'll be the first inauguration I've missed since Reagan's first.

Do you think Obama will allow the SS to close the city (and NoVa) for the duration of his term? So much for an open inauguration.

Marc Fisher: Aside from the Virginia bridge and highway closings, which are admittedly quite a big deal, the closings around town aren't that much more than in previous years, or, for example, than for big demos like the anti-World Bank stuff from a few years back. And I would expect Obama will face considerable pressure to remove some of the restrictions that the Bush administration placed on movement around the city and the White House.


Grammer Police: Can we just ban the word Inaugurapocalypse now, before it makes the list of 2009's most hated cliches?

Marc Fisher: The Grammar Police need to get after your spelling, but yes, I agree--bad word.


Providence, R.I.: We have tickets to the swearing-in ceremony. My husband has to get home Tuesday night, and is catching an Amtrak train from Union Station to BWI to get his flight. My question: How hard will it be to walk from the ceremony to Union Station, given the parade, street closings, et al? His train is at 3 p.m.

Marc Fisher: Not to worry: It's just four blocks from the ceremony to Union Station. He could crawl on all fours and easily make his train.


Marietta, Ga.: I am staying in Fairfax, Va., on Sunday night and then moving to a D.C. hotel on Monday morning. But now I hear that the bridges are going to be closed on Monday morning. What is the safest bet to get me to D.C. on Monday? Thanks!

Marc Fisher: The bridges don't close til Tuesday, so if you're transferring to a D.C. hotel on Monday morning, you're golden.


Bethesda, Md.: Decided to stay home on Tuesday. My daily commute is all in Maryland -- on the Beltway and Route 95 -- but I figure that the cars and buses that can't cross the Virginia bridges are all going to be 'smart' and go north, to my neck of the woods. So, I'll sleep in and watch everything on TV.

Marc Fisher: I would expect both the Beltway and 95 to be a total mess.


"Brainy" District: "The District is ... brainy (even the cabbies are public radio listeners)"

This made me laugh.

Are you seriously saying that listening to public radio is a marker on how "brainy" someone is?

I always considered people that listen to public radio to be mindless sheep waiting for someone else to tell them how to think. So there.

washingtonpost.com: Welcome To D.C., Mr. Obama--Here's Where To Visit (Raw Fisher, Jan. 15)

Marc Fisher: Whatever you may think of the political leanings of those who listen to public radio, their audience demographics are wildly higher in income and education than anything else on radio or TV, and that's the basis of that statement.


Arlington, Va.: I am going to be trying to get from Northern Virginia to an office at 1st and Constitution NW. I originally thought I'd get off at Metro Center and walk, but if streets are open to pedestrians on the east side of the Capitol, I might go to Capitol South or even Eastern Market and walk from there. Will that be possible or make sense? Will I have to go through parade security?

Marc Fisher: Sounds like your best bet would be to get off at Eastern Market and walk from there. Any attempt to use closer-in stations is likely to end with those stations being shut down or with massive crowds.


Washington, D.C.: Marc,

I live on Bates St., NW, which is between P, Q, 3rd, and North Capitol Streets.

I noticed a couple of days ago that signs had suddenly appeared on every street light on the street banning parking from 9 p.m. Monday to 6 p.m. Tuesday, but I haven't been able to find this restriction listed on any official Web site or on at the Post.

Luckily, there is a spot behind our house for my wife to park her car at, but there are plenty of on-street parkers in the neighborhood who are going to be up a creek on Inauguration Day.

I've accepted that I can't do anything ABOUT the parking restriction, but can you tell me WHY it is occurring? I've been looking around since Tuesday and haven't found anything. We're at least 4 or 5 blocks from both of the northern bus parking zones. A friend said she thought that it was some sort of back-up escape route, but if the Secret Service is driving President Obama down Bates Street, they're in real trouble.

Luckily, I have Monday and Tuesday off. My poor wife is going to have to break into the secure zone on Monday night after work. Wish her luck.

Marc Fisher: I asked the city administrator about this and he said that some No Parking signs have been put up outside the zone in error, so you should report those signs to the District at 727 1000 and see if they are indeed supposed to be there. If they are, you might be in a bus parking zone, but those are supposed to be only in retail and non-residential areas, not in RPP zones.


Maryland: I have to work on the 20th, I live in Annapolis so I come down 50 around 8:00 a.m. then hit the Beltway to College Park. Do you think there will be problems? Should I call in sick?

Marc Fisher: The Beltway's likely to be congested, but otherwise, I doubt you'd find things much more difficult than on any other weekday.


Washington, D.C.: You wrote a position piece a few weeks ago against the push to have Fairfax County High School GPA calculation method changed. You argued that there was no evidence that the current calculation method adversely affected student admission to college.

Whether your position is right or wrong, it will continue to be debated, but, you failed to acknowledge that the current method does affect students and their eligibility for scholarships compared to other counties with more generous grading procedures. Why?

Marc Fisher: Because I don't think that's a legitimate issue--school systems should construct their grading policies according to their best sense of how teachers can be supported in drawing kids into the material and getting the best work out of kids, without regard to college admissions, scholarships or parental attitudes about student achievement or status. If a school system decides to take a stand against grade inflation, that's something to be applauded, not picked apart.


Washington, D.C.: Marc, What are your thoughts on the Montgomery County police force bilking the county with excessive disability demands? This is one of those issues that rarely gets talked about, but has huge implications. I don't remember the exact stat, but something like 60 percent of officers who retired over the past 8 years got some form of increased disability pay? Compared to none in Fairfax County? How can this be?

Is this another case of city government officials rolling over for unions who, in large, part are responsible for much of the city/state financial mess we see today? Not just this union in this area, but also Metro, D.C. school teachers, D.C. police, etc.

Marc Fisher: We had some excellent reporting about this a few weeks back, and it's an issue that I hope we can help keep at the forefront. It's a national problem, and one that doesn't get enough attention because no one likes to be perceived as getting picky with those who risk their lives on our behalf.


Woodbridge, Va.: Let's hear it for the Capitals - someone's winning around here.

Marc Fisher: Seems like every night it's Caps win, Wizards lose. The Nats need to get started up again just so we can change the rhythm of those news headlines.


Washington, D.C.: Alright already. We got the message. We know all the stuff we can't do, the things we can't bring, the places we can't go, the traffic, crowd, transportation and weather hassles we're going to face.

Could everyone just chill for a minute, smile and say, "Welcome to D.C., America. Let's party!"?

Marc Fisher: Nice way to go out. I'll have lots more on the situation around town throughout the weekend and into next week, both in the column and on the blog, and I'll be back with you here on Potomac Confidential at some point along the way. Thanks for stopping by and have fun out there over the next few days.


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