washingtonpost.com
Potomac Confidential
Washington's Hour of Talk Power

Marc Fisher
Post Metro Columnist
Thursday, January 22, 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.

Fisher was online Thursday, Jan. 22, at Noon ET to invite readers to conduct their own inauguration post-mortems, and looks ahead to severe budget cuts coming throughout the Washington region.

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

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Marc Fisher: Welcome aboard, folks--hey, you've got your city back. Is that a good thing, or are you missing all those nice smiling Americans already? Missing the celebs too? (No, I didn't think so. But it was kind of cool to see the likes of Stevie Wonder and Denzel Washington making the rounds and dropping in at local eateries.)

I'm getting a lot of heat from readers who were among the thousands who didn't manage to get past the security clogs along the Mall, and especially at the ticketed entry points near the Capitol. And I'm also hearing fairly angry comments from Metro passengers who weren't happy with the delays in getting out of the downtown area on Tuesday afternoon. But my inclination, as I spelled out in today's column, is to credit Metro with a job well done (today's Yay of the Day)--no huge delays, no major incidents, and the system managed to move a record number of people in reasonably short order.

I'm not quite as sanguine about the performance of the security net that was cast over the Inauguration (the Nay of the Day). Although the D.C. police are winning high marks from locals and visitors alike, the overall plan was way too heavy on the fear factor. The bridges didn't really need to be shut down, the National Guard presence seemed like overkill, and the authorities along the parade route (and at the concert on Sunday) were too quick to shut off access, leaving wide open, empty spaces where far more people could have fit for both the parade and the concert.

Will this administration rejigger the balance between security measures and the sense that this is a free country that accepts a certain level of risk in exchange for open movement and access?

What's your assessment of how the Inauguration events came off?

And if you dare, are you ready to talk politics 2009--the Virginia governor's race? Or the gloomy budget situations in Maryland and Virginia? Or the real prospect that the new administration won't be much more aggressive about D.C. voting rights than the last one?

On to your many comments and questions, after one little plug: I launched a new feature on the Raw Fisher blog earlier this week. Binary Man, a weekly visit from the guy who will take on the either/or questions of our time, will appear, generally on Fridays. The first venture looked at whether you ought to go to the Mall or stay home and watch the Inauguration on TV. Coming up tomorrow: Virginia's consideration of efforts to ban plastic bags in supermarkets and large retail outlets. Your suggestions for topics that Binary Man can research and make decisions about are welcome at binaryman@washpost.com

Now, on with the show....

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METRO -- Flat Fees on Special Events: I won't complain about METRO, I expected the chaos due to the size of the crowd. I would make one suggestion since they were intent on being a for-profit company Tuesday, the 20th. They should have a flat fee for that day. The fact people had to go through turnstiles for entry and exit at the busiest stations was the cause of the bottleneck.

Marc Fisher: I've heard several folks make that argument, and I have seen Metro do that in some very crowded situations in the past. But I don't think it would have sped things up in the least. To have Metro personnel at each entrance taking cash would not have made passage through the turnstiles much faster (might even have been slower, depending on staffing.) And more important, the real bottlenecks were not at the turnstiles but down on the platforms, where it was a matter of getting as many people onto each arriving train as possible and then keeping the platform safe until the next train came along.

What we may have needed was some of those great car-stuffing officers from the Tokyo system--those guys would know how to rid us of our tendency to clot around the doors in each Metro car.

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Washington, D.C.: I would like to point out to the all the naysayers who thought D.C. would fall in the Potomac because of extended bar hours...you were wrong! The hospitals weren't overwhelmed, people weren't brawling in the streets (and I know cause I was on U street at 4:15 a.m.). Cops were overwhelmed with check points, not the restaurants. Do you think maybe, D.C. will finally grow up and embrace being a densely populated, public transportation riding 24-hour city? I am so proud of D.C. and feel like we just went from being kids to actual grownups on the world stage. Now if we could just clean up the provincial ANCs...

Marc Fisher: Excellent point. Of course this was only a very limited experiment because so many bars were prohibited from taking part in the later hours by the involuntary voluntary agreements that neighborhood groups have imposed on so many nightspots to limit their hours.

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Capitol Hill, D.C. (the neighborhood, not the institution): Mr. Fisher:

Love your column. For the last month or so, my street has become the choice route for lots of helicopters. I've assumed that they were carrying transition officials, people who were learning their jobs going to meetings with people who would orient them to their new responsibilities.

Any chance now that the transition has taken place that we'll see (and hear) fewer of these noisy machines overhead?

Marc Fisher: Thanks for the kind words.

I don't think I'm buying that explanation--I've spoken to a good number of folks in pretty high positions in the transition and not a one has ever said anything about getting a lift even in a limo, let alone in a chopper. My totally off the cuff instinct is to attribute the additional chopper traffic to the planning over the past few months for the Inauguration. There were 58 agencies involved in that process, and several of them are chopper-equipped. Be interesting to see if it drops off now...

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The "swells": Marc, you're absolutely right that the inauguration, for the most part, went fantastically, and for that we should celebrate. But your mockery of what you called the "swells" on Tuesday -- many of whom were campaign employees and volunteers -- has no place in this kind of celebration. Maybe a lot of young campaign volunteers lead privileged lives, but instead of coasting on that privilege, they put long hard hours into this campaign because they believed in it, and understandably became emotionally involved. Rejoicing in their exclusion as a "reversal of privilege," as though they needed to be kept out to let others in, is plain mean. You're better than that.

Marc Fisher: In the thousands of folks who weren't able to get into the ticketed areas near the Capitol, we had several kinds of fat cat donors who thought it was their god-given right to be up there near the president, regular folks who got their tickets from their congressman, and the campaign volunteers and workers you describe. My anecdotal sense from talking to people who got boxed out by the security snafus is that a disproportionate number of them were the people who somehow had the sense that they had a special privilege that allowed them to be upfront.

I was pleased to see that many of those who held tickets and were unable to get in took it upon themselves to reverse course and join the rest of us in the unticketed space along the Mall. And I'm sure there were people of every description in that group.

Just because someone put in long and hard hours on a campaign doesn't mean that they should get to sit or stand up at the front.

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Security. . . : I find the security measures for too strong but I will give credit in that the "hard zone" was not too big. I was able to get to my wife's office on the 1400 block of New York Ave without going through any security which started in the middle of the block. I tried going to the concert, but it gave up on the checkpoints and went to the Washington Monument grounds. I rode the bus downtown and the WMATA people would come over to the stop I was waiting at and let everyone know where the actual stop was for that day. All and all, I thought it was much better than I feared when I ventured forth downtown.

Marc Fisher: Yes, I too was pleased to see that the supposedly impenetrable security zone along the parade route was actually reasonably permeable. Several folks have told me about just walking right onto the parade route and into restaurants or office buildings on Pennsylvania Avenue even as the parade was already moving down the avenue--good for them!

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Anonymous: Metro could have purchased extra trains to greatly reduce the delays on Tuesday, but then the cost would be borne by riders (and local governments) for the rest of the year.

Marc Fisher: Alas, buying and commissioning the construction of new train cars is a many-year process. That's why Metro is going through a period of severe crowding--lots more cars are on order, but the lag time is loooooong.

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McLean, Va.: Yesterday's Post cost $2 and most sections didn't have color (e.g. sports). Do you know if those of us who get home delivery got charged $2 also?

I can't figure out why it would cost $2 either way.

Marc Fisher: The color positions were moved to the hugely expanded news sections that we created to cover the Inauguration; that's why you didn't have color photos in Sports and Business for a couple of days.

I'm not privy to the discussions about pricing the special editions of the paper, but given the long queue of readers both here at the Post and at supermarkets and drug stores all around town, it seems to have been fairly priced. What I don't like is hearing from readers, as I have been, about retailers that are jacking up the price to $10--not fair.

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Cleveland Park, Washington, D.C.: Hi, Marc!

Not to beat a dead horse, but a couple comments on Tuesday: 1.) Terry Gainer is simply lying -- there were scores of thousands of ticketed people stuck outside the gates at noon, with ample space inside. 2.) Absolutely ridiculous for Constitution to be closed (and 14th, and 7th, and 4th, and 3rd, and portions of Independence) after the swearing-in. And the closure of Union Station, with half a million freezing people stuck outside, while cops yelled at everyone to get onto the full sidewalks? A lot of people out there felt awfully mistreated, and it felt as if the only thing preventing a stampede was the good cheer of those in the crowd.

Gainer and the Secret Service should be held accountable; they really don't give a damn about the well-being of these citizens.

Marc Fisher: Those street closings were justified to protect the parade route, which had to be a secure zone because of the inevitable presidential walk. The trick of the whole exodus from the Mall was finding a way to get a million pedestrians across the parade route without breaking security. The use of the 3rd Street Tunnel was ingenious, but poorly communicated to the crowd. I ran into many people who literally walked halfway across town and then back again searching for a way out and north.

The mess at Union Station sounds like a real foul-up. Surely the security forces should have known that closing the station for a security sweep even as many thousands of people were trying to get into and through the station made no sense--planners should have prohibited any high-security use of the station until later that evening.

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No inauguration complaints for me!: Marc: I know you will get a lot of complaints about the traffic and the lack of crowd control, Metro, etc. For the most part I have no idea what the people really expected. I knew it was going to be an ordeal and mentally prepared myself for it. I cannot blame Metro for that, our system is not made to handle crowds of this size. There is one thing I would suggest, I would like to remind the new school folks of an old school method of communication, the bull horn! Just the occasional update of street closures or station closures would have helped.

I know they have to do it, but emergency evacuation plans for D.C. should be labeled as impossible.

Marc Fisher: Bullhorns! I didn't see or hear a single one all day. I like bullhorns--a lot more than the sirens and rumblers that cops seem to prefer now.

Biggest waste of effort and energy by the police all day: The hours-long campaign by D.C. cops to keep the masses to the sidewalks along 17th, H and Eye streets as they walked toward the Mall. Huge numbers of officers were deployed in a vain effort to maintain an open road for a few cabs and security cars--it was never going to work, and it didn't.

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Washington, D.C.: Marc --

As a citizen of D.C. I was outraged in 2001 and 2005 that our police force was used to violate the constitutional rights of protesters, and as a taxpayer I was disappointed by the eventual multi-million-dollar settlements that resulted.

So I was pleased and surprised to see chief Lanier describe the day succinctly: "It was a success. No arrests." So much more grown-up than old bustin'-heads Charles Ramsey. (Who, incidentally, never faced any consequences for his actions).

Marc Fisher: I'm still a bit stunned by that number--zero.

Yes, it was a very happy crowd, so there was no likelihood of major unrest. But to have a million-plus people gather anywhere about anything and not have any arrests is beyond unusual. Also interesting: The 4,000 or so out of town police officers were nearly invisible. The D.C. force was everywhere, and generally having a whale of a time chatting with the out of town guests.

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Fairfax, Va.: Marc,

Enjoyed your column about the spirit of the Inauguration.

Do you feel the access, crowd and communication problems reflect a continued out of balance security apparatus and leadership, with too many inefficiencies in efforts to protect government at the expense of the health and safety of all?

washingtonpost.com: From a Landscape of Faces, A Singular Feeling (Post, Jan. 21)

Marc Fisher: Pretty much. Security is a mind game, a PR show more than anything else. And the message we have been sent for the past seven years is that an attack may occur at any moment and we must change our way of life and curtail our freedoms to protect against that possibility. Yet the fact is that the most effective safeguards against terrorism are far removed from street-level restrictions--our foreign policy, our efforts to support moderates in troubled lands, and above all, our example of supporting dissent and liberty in our own country are what protect us far more than any Jersey barriers or sharpshooters ever will.

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re: buying and commissioning the construction of new train cars is a many-year process.: What? You can't just go down to the train store and pick up a few new ones?

Marc Fisher: Shhh, let's keep that place a secret just among us. I love that store.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Silver Ticket holder here -- and although I made it in on the early side after getting there at 6 a.m. some quick points:

1) All ticket areas should have opened at 4 am, 5 am or 6 am, not 8 am.

2) The lack of people with bullhorns was astounding (and dangerous). Why no bullhorns to help direct?

3) The people in the unticketed sections had much more fun than the ticketed sections

4) D.C.'s obsession with security clashed mightily with the reality that the people there for the ceremony were in good spirits and wanted to celebrate not be treated like cows.

Ceremony was amazing, but next Obama inauguration (Yes We Can!) I'd much rather be back with the flag waving masses on the rest of the Mall. The ticketed areas were the worst part of the whole day for most people.

And Metro was great -- no problems. The people complaining about Metro are really at a loss to comprehend how many people needed to use it that day...patience was key..

Marc Fisher: Some good points there. But do you really think a second Obama inauguration would draw anything like this crowd? I think what we saw Tuesday was a once in a lifetime crowd. I can't imagine any other presidential election that would generate that sense of change and history shifting beneath us--I don't think the election of the first woman, for example, would bring anything like those numbers, do you?

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Food on the mall: Yes, overall it was handled fine for the amount of people involved. But that is a lame excuse when it came to the amount of vendors available to serve the masses a warm cup of anything. The refreshment tents were severely under-staffed and opened late. The typical street vendors, who of course were banned from the inside of of the cordon, would have helped. But noooooo, three vendors for one million heads. Suweet. And Metro could have sold flat-fare cards for the day, no cash....and yes it would have been a bit smoother...but again, overall not bad, but then again I was not stuck in a tunnel.

Marc Fisher: That's a Park Service issue, and if there's any bureaucracy in town that wins the prize for inflexibility on some very odd rules, it would be them. Advocates for improvements to the Mall tell harrowing tales of the Park Service's refusal to allow basic services for visitors.

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It was crowded: What did the complainers expect?

Marc Fisher: Right--but to be fair, the overwhelming majority of folks who were out there are not complaining, did get in, loved being in the crowd and went home reasonably happy.

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Flat Fee Argument -- revisited: It would not require people to collect money, it would simply account for people paying a set fee upon entry/exit to the system from a non target/suburban station (because the key stations were either closed or exit only). This way Federal Center/L'Enfant/and other station would have been free flowing.

Marc Fisher: So your backups would be at your final destination rather than downtown? Well, sure, that sounds fine, but it would still require extensive staffing--how else would you assure that those who boarded the train downtown (presumably bypassing the usual gates) would arrive at their destination with a farecard?

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Alexandria, VA: Marc, my wife and I took the bus from Shirlington into town early Tuesday morning (thanks, Virginia, for providing free buses all day). It was a quick ride -- really nice. Getting home was a different matter. Metro had no one around to tell people what buses were headed where after the inauguration (at least not on C St., SW between 14th and 12th). My wife and I, along with a number of others, ended up walking south on the 14th St. bridge to 395. We stopped in Crystal City for lunch, called a cab after we ate and had a great time. The walk on the bridge was cool -- a really interesting view of the river, D.C. and Roslyn -- got some great pix!

Marc Fisher: Sounds fab--the Flickr pages are full of all sorts of wonderful shots of masses of pedestrians wandering across the bridges and up the 395 ramps, all sorts of vistas and angles that are never otherwise possible.

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Arlington, Va.: I agree with having a Tokyo-style system for getting people to board the cars, but isn't that the responsibility of the folks wearing the green-and-orange jackets? Thankfully, I watched the ceremony, speech and some of the parade on the tube at home, having no desire to deal with the crowds at Metro stations. I saw those crowds on the tube, with lots of upset riders. I wonder how many of them were new to the system or had a hard time dealing with the farecard machines.

Marc Fisher: That piece seems to have gone reasonably smoothly. Which is pretty amazing given that Metro's farecard machines seem to be designed expressly to confound.

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Logan Circle, Washington, D.C.: Overall I was impressed and had a great time. The walk from my place on 13th and Mass to the Mall was uneventful. All you had to do was accept your place and follow the heard of "sheeple" (sheep plus people, as one person in the crowd accurately termed us) and go with the flow.

The one planning mistake I couldn't understand was the decision to send lines of buses carrying parade performers down Constitution to the Ellipse at the exact moment the inauguration ended. There were a few hundred thousand people trying to get up 17th Street and cops unsuccessfully trying to push a line of buses that extended down Constitution to 23rd St through the mass. Made no sense.

Marc Fisher: Good point--there should have been more north-south streets dedicated entirely to foot traffic. But it's worth noting that the bus parking plan seems to have worked. Buses were lined along many, if not most, downtown streets and somehow people found their way back to their buses.

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I don't think the election of the first woman, for example, would bring anything like those numbers, do you? : Maybe not. But what about when Arnold Schwarzenegger is inaugurated as president? That's going to be a big one.

Marc Fisher: Sorry, but he's ineligible. You have to be native-born. Just like you have to put the word "faithfully" in the right place in the oath. (Glad they did the do-over on that one; otherwise, my email would fill with yet another lawsuit filed by Alan Keyes.)

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Sad news Re Fathead Newman: So sad to hear the news about Fathead Newman passing. Another jazz legand leaving. And one who came to the D.C. area quite frequently!

washingtonpost.com: Jazz musician David 'Fathead' Newman dies at 75 (AP, Jan. 22)

Marc Fisher: Hadn't seen that--sad indeed. The last generation of bop greats is drifting away now.

On the brighter side, Jazz Night, the terrific Friday night series at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Southwest, is celebrating a big anniversary and has a splendid lineup of musicians coming up this week and every week. Well worth your time and you cannot beat the price: $5.

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Cleveland Park, Washington, D.C.: Marc wrote: "But do you really think a second Obama inauguration would draw anything like this crowd? I think what we saw Tuesday was a once in a lifetime crowd. I can't imagine any other presidential election that would generate that sense of change and history shifting beneath us."

Exactly right. That's why, while I was very happy with the Red Sox World Series Championship in 2007, it couldn't compare to my elation in 2004.

Marc Fisher: Hard analogy for this Bronx boy to swallow, but I get your drift.

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Washington, D.C.: For me, the one downer on Inauguration Day was Rev. Lowery's benediction. As an African American, I just shook my head in bemused wonder as he ticked off his little poem about the races at the end. We had just witnessed a day that went a long way toward racial healing and we had to be subjected to his glib observations, with back-handed put-downs to Asians and whites. He is the old school; I am so ready for the new one.

Marc Fisher: He was such a puzzling choice. There are so many far more eloquent voices from the civil rights era who could have given a more powerful and relevant benediction. Lowery merely repeated the same tired old lines he has used for decades, and while those who claim to have been offended by his words weren't really offended, it's nonetheless true that he sounded dated and silly.

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Washington, D.C.: After some 20 years riding Metro on a daily basis, I was skeptical that it could manage Inauguration Day without melting down. Contrary to my expectations, there seems to be only one major incident, when the woman fell onto the tracks at Gallery Place, and miraculously wasn't injured.

So, please, tell me, why can't Metro run like this every day? Hey, I'd even take 8 out of 10 days!

Marc Fisher: Well, they rehearsed for this night and day for weeks, they put every body they had on duty, and they planned it forever. So sure, if you want to pay much higher fares, I bet they could jack up the staffing to provide service with far fewer breaks in the action. But maybe not--in any job, you can only maintain special peak performance for a limited period before the mind and body need to return to their regularly scheduled programming.

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Eye Street: I just saw the Christmas story written by your old substitute blogger Steve Hendrix. Very funny and slightly regressive story about Christmas gender wars (But man, a freaky picture of the dude). Will he be gracing Raw Fisher again?

Marc Fisher: The great Steve Hendrix was one of the unsung heroes of the Post's inauguration coverage--he, like many other of our reporters, was out there all night and all day, reporting on the scene on the streets. You'll find his elegant features in our Metro section on a regular basis and I'll be happy to have him back here as guest blogger from time to time as well. Stay tuned.

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I'm still a bit stunned by that number -- zero. : I'm sure it was a combination of a lot of restraint by the various police forces and the, for the most part, good nature of the crowd. I'm sure the cops turned a blind eye on a lot of infractions that would normally have gotten somebody arrested. Dare I say it, they may have used judgment? Plus, if there were any mass arrests, there could have been some ugly scenes. A little disorder tolerated for the better public good.

Marc Fisher: Right, but precious little disorder. For example, that was probably the largest outdoor rock concert in American history at which there was no odor of illegal weed.

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Fairfax County, Val.: Huge praise to the Virginia Railway Express. It was a small part of the transit solution but if you got a ticket ($25 round trip, sold out only last Wednesday) you had a guaranteed seat on a specific train in and out of D.C.

The VRE was very clear in advising passengers days ahead of time not to use Union Station if they could possibly avoid it, but to get out at the VRE-only station at L'Enfant, where there were no lines at all.

As they pointed out, Union Station is shared by Amtrak, MARC, VRE, and Metro, so it's very busy, plus they could see from the plans that everyone would have to pass through a very limited space. This advice to avoid Union Station was reiterated to every passenger boarding on Tuesday in Virginia, at least at my station.

Plus, plenty of parking at the Virginia stations! It was like an alternate universe. Go VRE!

Marc Fisher: Thanks--nice tribute. Now you need to check on your reps in Richmond to make sure they don't hack away at the VRE budget as they wield their knives this month....

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Near the Ballpark: Marc, I thought things were pulled off rather well -- except for all the illegal parking on neighborhood streets! I live very close to the ballpark, which meant not only was I in an area with easy access from the bridges (both S. Capitol Street and the 14th Street) for people, but my street has a VERY prominent "LOCAL TRAFFIC ONLY! PARKING BY PERMIT ONLY!" sign. But apparently, that didn't matter. Like me, most of my neighbors moved our cars to avoid the possibility of anything happening to them. On Monday night, the street was nearly deserted. on Tuesday morning? Cars with plates from NY, PA, NC, all over. When the walking crowds thinned out around 3, I want to move my car from its hidey-hole back to in front of my house, but the street was still clogged with cars illegally parked. Where were our imfamous ticket-writing cops on Tuesday?! Imagine the revenue shortfall that could have been bridged!

Marc Fisher: I think it's probably fair to assume that not a single ticket was written out across the city neighborhoods on Tuesday. Nearly every uniform in town was deployed where the masses were. But your story actually speaks of a different success--there had been fears that buses would displace residents' curbside parking spaces throughout the ballpark district, and that apparently did not happen--another success for the District's plan.

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that was probably the largest outdoor rock concert in American history at which there was no odor of illegal weed: We were all high on hope, not dope.

Marc Fisher: Thank you.

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Alexandria, Va.: Just a quick comment: Transit police at L'Enfant plaza were using a bullhorn to slow the crowd trying to descend down the escalators. It was quite effective.

Marc Fisher: I want them to use those great old 1920s bullhorns with no amplification. The ones the college cheerleaders still use, though I think those are just for show. What's with those things?

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Rev. Lowery a puzzling choice?: Really? He co-founded the SCLC with Reverend King, and you can't figure out why he was asked to give the benediction?

Marc Fisher: You choose someone for that kind of symbolic purpose if you're filling a seat up in the balcony for the State of the Union address, or some other such non-speaking role. For this, it was all about the words, and his, like Rick Warren's, failed to create the sense of commonality that Obama sought to communicate in the campaign and in the inaugural address.

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Concert Weed? Yes: Oh, honey, we smelled weed at the concert -- in the standing ticketed section. Jaw-droppingly bold move, if you ask me!

Marc Fisher: There's an item in today's Reliable Source column that also indicates our visitors from Hollywood brought their own special ways with them.

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Bethesda, Md.: Mark,

I'd just like to thank you for your column on Monday. Given that I resemble very much the "binary man" who you spoke of, it resonated with me. And I did decide that I needed to go downtown on Tuesday and I am so glad that I did. Just a word of gratitude.

Marc Fisher: Thank you so much--I've heard from quite a few readers who decided to head downtown after reading that piece, and luckily, so far they've all been glad they made the trip. In the end, as the general happiness of the crowd demonstrated, the inconvenience and the slowness end up contributing to the experience, the stories, the memories that you'll now be able to pass on for years to come.

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Washington, D.C.: I walked from my West End home down 23d Street to the Lincoln to watch the inauguration -- it was a great choice! Crowds were not big getting there OR leaving, there was no security to go through, and we got nice seats on the steps in front of Abe where we could see the Jumbotron and hear everything over the extremely efficient PA system. The crowd was happy and friendly and the photo ops were amazing. Plus there were greeters along 23d street below the State Dep't welcoming us and cheering us on. I feel like I went to a different party than the crowded people at the Capitol.

Marc Fisher: Interesting point--there do seem to have been differences in the vibe and crowd in different places. Reports from the Washington Monument speak of a chattier and maybe a bit less attentive crowd than those who were intent on making their way closer to the Capitol. If someone had sent 100 anthropology students out there, it would have made for a splendid study in subcultures.

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No odor of illegal weed...: Except in some of the port-a-potties on the north side of the monument.

People aren't 'that' well behaved.

Marc Fisher: My favorite moment during the concert: After one brave (insane?) soul climbed atop a port-o-pottie for a better view, dozens more did the same. And they kept coming, that is, until one young woman became the straw that broke the port-o-san's roof. In she went. Nobody else climbed on board after that.

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Bethesda, Md.: One thing that angered me about the ticket issue, possibly more than not getting in, was how dangerous the situation became and how little was done to control the crowd. I have bruises from my time in the Blue Line. One of my co-workers and his 5-month pregnant wife only went because they thought having tickets would be a little more sedate than trying to get onto the Mall.

It is a miracle no one was seriously injured or killed.

Marc Fisher: I recall seeing something about a baby being born out there on the Mall somewhere, but I haven't seen a follow-up on that.

I found the crowd to be remarkably well-behaved; the only exceptions came when those backups occurred at security checkpoints.

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Vienna, Va.: I really think the numbers would have been quite a bit higher if the locals (specifically we suburbanites) weren't scared away for the last three months. I know so many people that felt they were letting themselves miss a historical moment but felt that it wouldn't be worth the trouble.

My biggest problems with the bridge closures were not with most of the bridges near downtown, but that they felt the need to close CHAIN BRIDGE because it leads to Virginia, while leaving some of the Anacostia bridges open because they are in D.C. Also, 66 AND 395, but not 295? Or am I wrong about that...

Marc Fisher: Gov. Tim Kaine's explanation for the closing of the Key and Chain Bridges is twofold: If you close a few of the Potomac crossings, you have to close them all because otherwise the backup at the open ones would be fierce. And the Arlington County government didn't want massive backups from those bridges taking over their streets. But in the end, I think the bridge closings were overkill. Sure, if you wanted to close the Memorial and/or TR bridges to reserve them for emergency vehicles or buses, fine. But the empty streets on the D.C. side throughout Tuesday showed that leaving some vehicle access across the river would have been just fine. Ultimate proof of that: There was no significant vehicle traffic coming into downtown from either Maryland or the District, so there's no reason to believe that Virginians would have acted any differently.

People in this region know to depend on Metro for huge events like this. This time, at least, their trust was justified.

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I liked Lowery: After all the high solemnity of the day, and the unintentional absurdity of Roberts muffing the oath, it was nice to hear a little gentle humor. I'm probably 10-15 years younger than you, and I don't have a thorough idea of all the civil rights players. A more eloquent choice wouldn't have made a big difference to me -- just one more high-sounding speech, instantly forgotten.

Marc Fisher: Can you imagine how Roberts felt muffing that up? The partisan pundits are all abuzz about whether he had some psychological desire to botch Obama's moment, but that's bunk--the guy is a perfectionist and there's no way he's anything but mortified. Still, you'd think that no matter how much you rehearse it, for something that much under the spotlight, you'd think you'd bring a little cheat sheet to read rather than relying on memory.

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Washington, D.C.: Marc, would you consider an event which discouraged locals from attending (based on experience with Metro and tourists) a success?

Marc Fisher: No, I would not. But many hundreds of thousands of locals took in all the info about the closings and security barriers and decided that they were not going to be deterred, which is a heartwarming decision on their part.

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Re: $2 papers: I don't have a problem with the Post selling commemorative editions, but as a subscriber whose daily paper is left outside an apartment building, it seems like every time something important happens, my paper gets stolen. Yesterday was no exception. I assume someone was out selling my paper on the street for $2 (or more).

Marc Fisher: Ouch--I hate that. I may have told this story before, but many years ago, I once kept a daily pre-dawn patrol at my doorstep to catch the maniac who was stealing my paper. I even arranged for absolute proof that he was the culprit--I slipped a slice of Kraft American cheese inside the paper each morning, and when I finally caught the guy, and he inevitably denied that he was the culprit, I had that spectacular moment when I said, "Look at page 12 of the A Section and you will find a Kraft American slice."

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Hill East, D.C.: About the turnstiles... on a radio show, I think it was Kojo Nnamdi but might have been another NPR outlet, there was an interview with someone from Metro who I believe said that having the turnstiles in operation also serves a safety function. It slows the crowds. I think it came up after someone asked about just making the day free and opening the gate.

Thank goodness for fast thinking that the lady that fell on the station was not killed. After one trip on Metro on the 4th of July 10 years ago and a very full Capitol South station, I'm loathe to get on the Metro on a special crowded day.

Marc Fisher: Ah, good point. Yes, the gates are a way to control the flow, which is essential because the most dangerous part of these big events for Metro is the crowd that overflows the space on the platforms below.

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Washington, D.C.: I agree that Warren's prayer was uninspiring, and I didn't pay too much attention to Lowery's until he got to the end. But the way I took it, unintentional as it may have been, was as a little bit of humor to lighten things up, and as a way to pay tribute to that particular generation and subculture. I didn't think it was inappropriate or offensive.

Marc Fisher: Agreed--not inappropriate or offensive, just uninspired and irrelevant.

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McLean, Va.: I'm surprised that some Chicagoans like Oprah were talking about how cold it was on Tuesday. I thought Chicagoans thought 20 degree weather was warm by their standards?

In fact, four years ago I was walking into an inaugural ball in 20-degree weather and apologized to a Chicago policeman because he had to work out in the cold. His response... "You're kidding! I was about to change into my shorts!" Is Oprah really from Chicago?

Another thing, I thought the note from Jenna and Barbara to the Obama daughters was cool. What line would you add? ("Don't order margaritas for a while."?)

Marc Fisher: It was fairly cold for these parts, but objectively just a winter's day for most places.

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Jumbotron: Hi Marc -- My husband and I had a great time on Tuesday. One complaint, though, is that I thought the Jumbotron's should have been higher. That way people would have been able to see above taller people. Do you know why they weren't placed higher?

Marc Fisher: Higher? I guess it depends on where you were standing. Some folks closer to the Trons wanted them lower. So they went with the medium--just right, as the bear would say.

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SE, D.C. and Helicopters: Marc: my mom lives in the Hillcrest section of D.C. We have noticed increased helicopter traffic along the Anacaostia and that general area for about the past 10 years. We assumed it's people shuttling between downtown D.C. and Andrews Air Force Base. It's just funny how people on Capitol Hill will get up in arms over a 30-day thing. It's an occasional inconvenience at most and it's far from being on the approach to a runway at an airport.

Marc Fisher: I've been agitating for commuter choppers for years. Express from Metro Center to New Carrollton in five minutes.

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Washingon, D.C.: Am I the only one who doesn't feel sorry for the people who are complaining about being stuck in crowds or having to wait for Metro or whatever? We'd been told for weeks that it's going to be awful and crowded and that Metro could be a nightmare and -- surprise -- it WAS.

It's like masses of people forgot about that and deluded themselves into thinking "Well, it's not going to be bad FOR ME."

Marc Fisher: No, the surprise is that it was not a nightmare, but for the most part, was a lot of fun and even downright inspiring.

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Finally got my D.C. tax refund!: I just got my 2007 D.C. tax refund by direct deposit. I'd forgotten about it, and it just showed up in bank account. I feel like they should have paid me interest.

Marc Fisher: Will wonders never cease?

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the Virginia governor's race? : how is the Democratic candidate being chosen? That'll have an impact. Primary could favor McA, caucus could favor Deeds.

Marc Fisher: It's a primary, in June. More on that coming soon in the column and here on the big show.

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Atlanta, Ga.: I was watching on TV. On one of the morning programs, they interviewed two 20-something women who were absolutely giddy that they had gotten into the 'secure' area without going through security. I'm no fuddy duddy, and great, I'm so proud of them, but I found it horribly ridiculous that they should be on national television and be exalted by the media. It seemed to me to be horribly wrong.

Marc Fisher: What's wrong about that? More power to them for circumventing the barriers and getting to the scene.

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Woodbridge, Va.: Good Morning Marc,

My daughter dates a Prince William Co. police officer, and she mentioned his disappointment that the department was not asked to provide personnel for the inauguration. The boyfriend further said that Prince William County was the only one in No. Va that was not asked to participate. Have you heard that this is the case, and if so, any thoughts as to the reason why? My thoughts on this issue, assuming it is true, is that the Obama administration takes issue with the highly publicized Board of Supervisor policies regarding the illegal immigrant communities in the county. What a shame for those officers that were willing and able to participate in this historic event, but were denied the opportunity to do so.

Marc Fisher: I haven't heard a thing about that--but we'll check it out.

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Chesapeake Bay, Md.: The one good thing to come out of this recession is that government programs not stipulated by the Constitution are being pared back in Maryland and Virginia. I've rarely felt more glee than seeing Governors O'Malley and Kaine squirm in this sea of fiscal reality. Agree?

Marc Fisher: Not really. Yes, this is a great opportunity to cut unnecessary or outdated or dysfunctional programs. But take a look at Gov. O'Malley's list of staff reductions and you'll see a whole bunch of very basic services being trimmed and even cut in big numbers. Too often in these bloodlettings, it's not the efficacy or function of the program that decides what gets cut, but rather the politics of the situation, and that often leads to pennywise and pound foolish decisions.

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Marc Fisher: That has to kick things in the head for today, folks. Thanks so much for coming along. Back to a more varied menu of topics when we gather again next week. Til then, write if you get work....

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