Potomac Confidential: Marc Fisher on Illegal Sign Removal, Screech vs. Clint, and Home Rule for D.C.

Marc Fisher
Post Metro Columnist
Thursday, March 5, 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, March 5, at Noon ET. This week, he looks at the battle over gun rights and D.C. voting rights, Maryland's struggle of conscience over the death penalty, and the Washington Nationals' scrawny remake of their mascot.

The 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. Was this a week of dashed hopes or returns to reality? Was Maryland really ever going to repeal the death penalty, as Gov. Martin O'Malley so fervently wished, or was the whole debate just a way of humoring the governor and letting him cultivate his image as a man of principle? Was Congress ever really going to give the District a vote in the House, or was the movement in that direction a purely symbolic act, steps taken with the full knowledge that the gun lobby would eventually step in to put the kibosh on the whole topic?

This week's columns included a look at how budget cuts are devastating news coverage of state capitals across the country, including in Richmond and Annapolis; my take on Mayor Adrian Fenty's dubious decision to take a free trip to Dubai and his subsequent failure to join the rest of the world in slamming Dubai for its exclusion of an Israeli tennis player from a pro tournament there; and today's piece, on Sign Wars in Arlington, where a confrontation between a guy who puts up street ads and a guy whose passion is removing those ads is now heading toward its second decade.

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

Yay to Willard Jenkins, the most knowledgeable and wise of jazz deejays, who has returned to WPFW, Thursday mornings from 5 a.m. to 8 a.m., with his "Ancient Future" program. If you know jazz, you'll emerge fulfilled. If you don't know the music, you'll learn it from a master.

Nay to the Obama administration for selecting as its new chief information officer the District's Vivek Kundra, the same guy who had the gall to take 46 of his agency's employees and transport them by van to the Skyline Resort in Virginia's beautiful Shenandoah National Park. There, on the city taxpayer's dime, Kundra conducted a "leadership summit" at a cost of $23,000. Let's just hope he doesn't bring that same cavalier attitude about the public's dollars to the federal level.

Your turn starts right now....


Burke, Va.: Marc: I did not like the heading of your story on removing the signs: "Judge steps on the sign avenger's cloak". Robert Lauderdale clearly was exonerated since he always wanted to remove signs from the public right of way. He had an emphatic victory but the heading did not imply that. Va. Judge Was Right to Step On The Sign Avenger's Cape (The Washington Post, March 5, 2009)

Marc Fisher: It was a split decision as they say in the boxing biz. The judge did tell Lauderdale to stay off private property, apparently even when he has agreements from those property owners to police their land. But the judge seemed to like Lauderdale's efforts on behalf of the public along state highways, and so he's been encouraged to continue that activity. I took the headline to mean not that the judge was shutting Lauderdale down, but rather that he was just putting some limits on where he does his sign vigilante thing.


Arlington: So, I'm confused. What signs is he not allowed to pull down that he was pulling down? It sounded like all he did was take signs off public roadways, but the judge said he couldn't take them off "private property"? Is this property that Smalls owned?

I for one, am glad that he pulls them down. When I lived further out in the burbs, the amount of trashy, often old signs was just disgusting. I just might rip down a sign or two if I ever see one -- which is definitely rare in southern Arlington County near where I walk.

Marc Fisher: Lauderdale had been taking down signs not only along the medians and sides of state roads, but also on private property -- in front of a gas station, for example, and alongside other retail businesses that actually wanted him to police their property for them.


Alexandria, Va.: Marc, I found one important detail missing from your column this morning about the "sign avenger." It's not only a beautification issue, but a safety issue as well. The reason the law bars advertising in the right of way is because it causes accidents. Breaking the law and compromising public safety in the name of profits for real estate companies is a poor way to feed your family. Small is not the good guy here.

Marc Fisher: Lauderdale makes the safety argument as well. It doesn't strike me as a very good argument. The signs are small and low; it's hard to see how they could cause an accident, or at least any more so than, say, a billboard might. (Those newfangled video billboards are another story -- pretty distracting, no?)


Signs littering landscape in Arlington: Marc, I applaud the guy taking these signs down. I don't understand how they can be permitted to occupy public median strips. They are an eye sore.

One has started appearing in the median strip near my subway station, and I was delighted to see it disappearing after a few days. Good riddance. Someone saved me the trouble.

If they want to advertise their business, let them pay for an ad.

Marc Fisher: There are state guidelines for when and how such signs can be posted. Real estate open house signs, for example, may be posted only from Friday sundown to Sunday sundown along Arlington roads. One of Lauderdale's chief complaints is that many of those signs are not taken down in compliance with the law.


Chicago: I saw an article in the Post a couple days ago about Fairfax County considering starting school later and some students complaining about that. As a former Fairfax County student who developed depression in part from all the stress and pressure of AP classes, extra-curricular activities, the expectations of parents and teachers, and just not getting a chance to enjoy growing up all on three hours of sleep a night, I would have appreciated a little more shut-eye.

Marc Fisher: I've been amazed to see a late backlash from some students against the proposed later start times. What was remarkable and cheering about the grassroots push for later starts to the school day was the fact that parents and students were working together with teachers and social scientists to get the bureaucrats to do right by the kids. Now to see some of those kids getting cold feet because their after-school activities might have to adjust is just bizarre.


Mount Rainier, Md.: Marc, did anyone actually get searched on Metro yet? I'm asking because, in spite of all the signs and hullaballou (sic), I have yet to actually see any searching of bags. If they aren't going to actually do it, can we get them to take the signs down? Otherwise, we've fallen into comedy again. Thanks!

Marc Fisher: After that whole constitutional debate, Metro still contended that it needed the ability to search bags, but to this day, they say they haven't felt the need to actually use that authority. Every time I've checked in, they say they just haven't done any searches yet.


fate of newspapers: You often speak to the newspaper industry. I read online, yet still subscribe for home delivery. Why aren't the print ads available on the web and web ads available in print? A part of my subscription is simply for the Sunday ads and circulars. I sometimes find exceptional deals in A-section ads. I often see some of the banner ads on the web that I would like to look into, then go to another page only to have no idea how to find the prior ad. Why is the industry looking at this as two different mediums? I even read the Express on the train each morning. I see it as one entity, and I think the world knows it all as the Washington Post.

Marc Fisher: Interesting point -- the two media are indeed quite different and although we are now merging the two newsrooms (print and online), you're right that the ads are different. As I understand it, some advertisers make deals to put their messages in both media, but many do not. Different businesses want to reach different audiences and have different ideas about the most effective ways to do that. I've read that online coupons are a growing phenomenon, but they're still primarily a print idea. If it makes any difference to you -- and it should -- your print subscription is very much contributing to the Post's ability to gather news around the world and in your community, whereas while we love to have you as an online reader, we get relatively little revenue from that, so it contributes very little to the newsgathering function.

_______________________ Bloggers Can't Fill the Gap Left by Shrinking Press Corps (The Washington Post, March 1, 2009)

Marc Fisher: Here's the Sunday column on one impact of shrinking newsroom budgets around the country.


20005: I drive down K Street every day to and from work, by Gonzaga and Sursum Corda. Construction crews have torn down many housing units, the old grocery store, and are now tearing down the high rise. What is planned for this location?

Marc Fisher: That's going to be Northwest One, the biggest and probably most important of the mixed-income developments that former D.C. Mayor Tony Williams had as the centerpiece of his housing plan. The old Sursum Corda, one of the District's most violent and persistent drug marketplaces, is going away, to be replaced by a new community that is one-third market rate housing, one-third slightly subsidized for workforce housing (teachers, police, civil servants and the like) and one-third reserved for the low-income families who live on the site today.


Arlington, Va.: Hi Marc, have they made any progress on building up the infrastructure on Half Street and/or anywhere near the ballpark? I'll be at the home opener and just wanted to know if any bars/restaurants are open for pre-game festivities? Thanks.

Marc Fisher: None, zippo, zilch. Development in the ballpark area has been frozen by the recession. You will see the same pits in the ground and empty surface lots, with the sole exception of the building above the Metro station a block from the stadium. That office building, under construction during the last season, is supposed to be nearing completion. But developers say the ballpark district is the victim of the credit crisis. Even the big Forest City housing and retail development along the waterfront has been halted, at least for now.


Washington, D.C.: The new Screech looks horrible. It's a human-bird mutant. Mascots should have an all animal body, not just the head.

Also, I did not realize anyone disliked Clint. My friends and I actually like seeing him since he's pretty good looking. I imagine we are not the only ones who like that quality of his.

Marc Fisher: Wow -- a Clint fan. I didn't know that existed. I can see the good-looking part, but the treacly persona doesn't bother you? The contemptuous false cheer doesn't sicken you? The evident total lack of baseball knowledge doesn't make you roll your eyes?

But we agree on Screech -- he looks like the discount store version of the plump, feathery old guy.


D.C.: Your last discussion included a lot of commentary about voting rights for the District. Everyone seems to sneer at the idea of making D.C. part of Maryland, but as a long-time D.C. resident, I say, why not?

D.C. statehood just isn't going to happen, nor should it. Merging with Maryland is better. Income taxes, sales taxes and real estate taxes all are lower in Maryland, public services are generally better, aspiring politicians and public servants have numerous career paths -- city government, county government, state legislature, state executive -- that attract a broader range of more talented people, and the voters get to elect (and reject) many hundreds of public officials. (How many people actually run the District? Maybe a dozen?)

Making D.C. part of Maryland would shrink the D.C. government by transferring state functions to the existing Maryland state offices, and it would also reduce the federal role in day-to-day city life. (As one example, it astonishes me that routine crimes here are prosecuted by U.S. attorneys and convicts are shipped to federal prisons across the country.)

The main constitutional justification for creating the national capital was to prevent any one state from holding sway over the new, relatively weak federal government. Those days are long past. It would make a lot of sense to carve out a federal enclave, basically running along the Mall from the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial, and make everything else part of an independent city, like Baltimore, within Maryland. The only D.C. residents would be the President and his family, and for legal purposes they could be considered residents of the state they came from (as they probably are now). Everybody else would have the same rights and privileges that every citizen of every state enjoys now. I don't see the downside.

Marc Fisher: I agree that statehood is a pipe dream. Retrocession makes a lot of sense, except that Maryland would never go for it. The political power base in Maryland is still in Baltimore, and that status is already endangered by the growth in the Washington suburbs -- to add the District to the mix would only cement Baltimore's decline as the state's power center, and the pols are not going to let that happen.

From Washington's perspective, aside from the loss of pride in having a separate entity, the retrocession into Maryland would be a win-win. But here too, pride and power considerations make that solution highly unlikely.


Sounds about right: What went on at Kundra's leadership summit? Divided among 46 employees, $23,000 is $500 each. I'm a technology worker; the classes my employer encourages me to take run about $500 per day. And when I tell them I'd be better served by a $40 book, I get puzzled silence, then "We'll arrange a class."

Marc Fisher: The fact that you get puzzled silence is sad, but conforms totally with the reaction I got from defenders of Kundra when he ran his junket. Folks were outraged that I would even suggest that public officials should stay in their office and do their jobs, when they could be out in the countryside "bonding" or "forming a team" or some other such nonsense. Never underestimate the extent to which managers, whether in private sector or government, love to hand out goodies such as trips and classes -- and always watch for the financial connections between those managers and the companies that make their living selling such trips.


Dubai Update: Has His Entitlement, the mayor, further elaborated on his trip to Dubai since your columns?

Marc Fisher: I haven't seen or heard a peep out of him on this issue. He seems to want it to just go away. At least one rabbi and a couple of other religious leaders have written to the mayor seeking an explanation of his actions. No responses yet, as far as I've been informed.

_______________________ Fenty's Take on Bigotry At Dubai Tennis Tourney Is Dubious at Best (The Washington Post, March 3, 2009)

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


Wow -- a Clint fan.: Or maybe it was just Clint.

Marc Fisher: Could well be. But let's be generous -- maybe there is a Clint fan out there somewhere. She could have her own fan club.


Fairfax, Va.: In your article on roadside signs this morning you mentioned Fairfax County has a program to allow citizen involvement in removing illegal signs. Do you have contact information for the program?

Also I think it is worth pointing out that political campaigns and candidates are among the worst if not the worst offenders for posting signs illegally. For example, it's illegal to post signs on Virginia highway rights-of-way but political signs abound.

Marc Fisher: It's the Adopt-A-Highway program, a statewide program run by the government. You sign up as a volunteer, get assigned to a particular stretch of roadway, and take on the responsibility for keeping it clear of litter and signs.

Info here.


The signs are small and low; it's hard to see how they could cause an accident, or at least any more so than, say, a billboard might.: they can cause more accidents because people slow down to try to read the small letters. We can read big 2-foot billboard letters, but if I want to see what the splash of color is in my peripheral vision, I slow down to try to read it ... bammo!

Marc Fisher: No danger if you just ignore them.


Defense of the Sign Guy: "One of Lauderdale's chief complaints is that many of those signs are not taken down in compliance with the law."

I was under the impression that Lauderdale was taking down all signs, whenever he wants, wherever he wants. That's the problem, if he's taking down signs that are up in accordance with the law he's a thief and a vandal.

Since it's not a Binary Man question, I feel it's unfair to characterize this guy as purely a "hero." He's lost most/all of his legal battles for a reason.

Marc Fisher: Yes, it does seem that he was a bit zealous, and that's why he's been taken down a couple of notches here and there by the court. But it was interesting to see in the transcript of the latest court appearance that the judge was actually quite sympathetic to Lauderdale's work, as many readers seem to be...


Arlington, Va.: Please let's take some of the stimulus money and take down all the ugly crap that people "just trying to feed their family" think belongs on public land. I am so sick of the trashy look, all so some jerk came make egregious money doing nothing.

I love the lack of billboards in Arlington. It is so much more calm than the crap along Route 1 for instance.

Marc Fisher: Imagine if Lauderdale tried to practice his hobby in, say, Prince William rather than Arlington -- somehow, I don't think either the public or the courts would be nearly as sympathetic.


Anonymous: You say, "The judge did tell Lauderdale to stay off private property, apparently even when he has agreements from those property owners to police their land."

Why the use of the word apparently? I would be shocked if the judge had intended his ruling to mean that private land owners can not authorize someone to remove signs posted on their property.

I think that must be a misread of the decision.

Marc Fisher: The judge told him straight out that for the next five years, he is barred from removing signs from private property -- even if he has permission.


Arlington, Va.: My god. A Clint fan? There is no hope for our civilization! He is a complete abomination!

And don't get me started on Screech.

Baseball was so much better without mascots. Boswell had it right in 99 reasons baseball is better than football. Unfortunately, many of those things have been ruined.

Marc Fisher: In a perfect world, there would be no mascots. But we don't live in that world, and baseball, more than sports with far fewer games per season, depends on the casual fan, folks who are there not exclusively or even primarily for the game itself. So fine, let's have some mascots. But let's have mascots with some humor and character. I'll take Mr. Met -- a bald, goofy simpleton who clearly rarely gets up off the couch -- over any of the feathered creatures that seem to be the rule these days.


Gilbert's Corner, Va.: $23K for a leadership retreat? By van at Skyline? C'mon Marc -- didn't the Democratic leadership just hold a retreat in Williamsburg? I'm guessing they spent a bit more than $23K -- and I don't think they went there by van. Where's the outrage?

Marc Fisher: I bet they spent a whole lot more than $23,000, which is even more revolting. Why would the outrage be any different?


Washington, D.C.: Hi Marc--

It's time again for my contracting business, located in D.C., to renew our D.C. home improvement license, which means in addition to umpteen other forms, another criminal background check. Which means -- as a Maryland resident -- another schlep out past Baltimore for fingerprinting, another half day shot, in contrast to renewing our MD contracting license, which requires only a signature and a check.

So the question is: how come DCRA is so worried that a busy business has become a criminal in the past two years, when a convicted felon sits on the D.C. City Council?

Marc Fisher: Good question. Answer: Too many lawyers.

Why should the government care if a contractor has an ex-felon on its management staff? Shouldn't that be a good thing? Obviously, you don't want a wanted man getting a government license, but assuming the person has served his time, why should D.C. care?


Kensington: Marc, Regarding the print/online discussion for the Post: I subscribe for Sunday only, but will not subscribe daily. I don't want the papers in the house to deal with (yes, we recycle in MontCo), nor do I want to create any more dead trees. I read the Post every day online, and I would be willing to pay for it. The Post and other papers need to get over the notion that they are two entities. Younger people (and I am not one) do everything online. I'm pretty sure that most young people do not subscribe to, or buy the print version. The Post needs to get this. There has to be a way to transition the online version into being predominent and self-supporting. It sounds to me like the Post and other large papers are being old-fashioned and stubborn.

Marc Fisher: We are increasingly one news operation; indeed, the sports editor of our web site has just moved from our Virginia online newsroom into the main Post newsroom, into the office immediately next to where I am typing right now.

And we're all in agreement that there ought to be a way to "transition the online version into being predominant and self-supporting," as you put it. It's just that no one anywhere has figured out a way to do that. Online ad rates are dramatically lower than print rates, in part because the ad business remains wedded to print in some areas, and in part because a lot of readers don't really look at online advertising, and in part because the whole ad industry is in a state of flux as everyone tries to figure out what's next.

I don't see the Post being stubborn -- rather, the paper is embracing change in every which way. The problem is that the revenue doesn't happen to be where change lies. At least not yet.


Rock: First they talked me into putting my paper bill on my credit card and it changed from once every three months to every month. And I never saw an itemized bill. So I stopped paying. But I am considering a new subscription. I just wish the billing was easy to understand.

Also, Giant will not take any coupons from the Internet.

Marc Fisher: Interesting that the store doesn't like coupons from the web. On the other hand, online coupons are growing fast, so a lot of stores must be finding ways to take them....


Arlington, Va.: Marc: I moved here a few years ago and every winter I've wondered why the police don't enforce the law against driving with 2-inches of ice on your car. Wednesday, I had a first hand experience with the problem. I was driving on a surface street, 35 mph, when a slab of ice shot off of the car in front of me. It must have been at least 3 x 3 feet and an inch thick. The ice slammed into my windshield, I slammed my breaks and did a 360, coming very close to hitting a telephone pole and a pedestrian. The guy whose car the ice fell from stopped for a second, then took off. I'm stuck with a $500 deductible for a new windshield, not to mention almost ending up in a serious accident with a pedestrian. Someone else in my office had their windshield broken during the earlier ice storm in January. Why, oh why, don't the police ticket for this?

Marc Fisher: I've seen folks getting ticketed for exactly that. On the other hand, I've seen plenty of cop cars driving around with giant cakes of snow and ice on the roof, so at least those officers aren't likely to be out there ticketing on that offense.

That said, I don't really see anything wrong with leaving snow on the car. Ice is a problem and can be a safety issue, I suppose. But a couple of inches of snow aren't going to hurt anyone.


Silver Spring, Md.: Marc, are there any rumors on the horizon regarding the fate of the RFK Stadium site now that the bell has started to toll for old RFK? Does "the Danny" have eyes to build a new stadium for the 'Skins there so he can "keep up with the Joneses?" It would make sense since Metro is already right there and rid the area of the traffic nightmares that FedEx Field events create. Not to mention the place sucks as a stadium and there's no parking unless you give up an arm and a leg!

Marc Fisher: There are persistent rumors of interest on the part of the Skins to move back into the city and use the RFK site (well, the parking lots, actually) to build a state of the art, 100,000-seat football stadium. Given the city's exhaustion with stadium financing, it would have to be a deal in which the team footed the bill, so it's not likely, at least not anytime soon. But there are also plans, assuming we get out of this economic trough, to redevelop that whole area into a new neighborhood, essentially an extension of the city's street grid with new housing, retail, and office buildings. That would be far more profitable for the District -- the big hold-up there, aside from the economy, will be getting control of the land from the feds.


DC voting: Here's an idea I haven't seen that might work: semi-retrocession to Maryland, in which D.C. becomes a Maryland Congressional District and can vote for federal senators with Maryland, but the state has no governing role and D.C. has no role in state politics (beyond whatever machinations would go into the senate race). Oh, and the law should ensure that it can't be gerrymandered away.

Marc Fisher: That's been discussed -- it would be difficult, in that you'd have citizens who belong to one state for purposes of representation in Congress and belong to another entity for other purposes. How would federal grants and programs be allocated and administered -- lots of other logistical problems there too.


Sign flap: The excuse that placing signs allows Mr. Small to "feed his family" is as hollow as the telemarketing industry telling us that same line before the Do Not Call list became law. Just because someone is in a certain line of work does not mean that line of work has merit.

Marc Fisher: Right, but signs are legal in many places. The state regulates where and when they can be posted; within those rules, the guy should be allowed to do his work. But when signs are illegally posted, I'd rather have Lauderdale out there volunteering to clean them up than pay a county crew to police those streets.


Fairfax, Va.: Hi Marc, I read your column today and have an odd question. Scott Small is allowed to plant those ugly signs, but isn't HE trespassing on private property to post his signs? Seems he should be stopped because he doesn't own the land he's populating with the ugly signs he makes a living installing.

Marc Fisher: That's Lauderdale's argument -- he says he has had to jump in because the government has failed to enforce its own rules. And even the prosecutor in the case agreed that Lauderdale's grassroots efforts have forced the county to take enforcement more seriously.


Jelly First, Md.: When making a PBJ sandwich, I spread the jelly first. After scraping the knife across the mouth of the jelly jar to remove the remaining jelly, I dip the knife into the PB jar. After spreading the PB, I get to (carefully) lick the PB off the knife!

Marc Fisher: Thank you for sharing.

The flaw in your approach is that no matter how careful you are in your scraping, bits of jelly get into the PB jar. This is unacceptable. There are those who subscribe to the two-knife approach, and while that does solve the immediate problem, I think we can agree that it violates the spirit of the situation and is essentially wussy.


No danger if you just ignore them.: Problem is, I don't know it's ignorable (selling junk) until I read it. Out of the corner of my eye, I just see SIGN. It might say "ROAD CLOSED AHEAD," so I HAVE to read it. That's defensive driving. It is a danger and an eyesore.

Marc Fisher: Sorry, not buying. You do not need to scour advertising signs to see if there's a hidden emergency message from the Commonwealth of Virginia. The state messages in question come in different sizes, styles and locations.


Washington, D.C.: Marc, I just read your article about the sign avenger. Do you agree that this type of nanny vigilantism is something that is unique to the D.C. area? In other words, would you ever see this type of thing going on in New York or Boston? It seems to me that D.C. has a weird confluence of bureaucracy, righteousness and affluence that causes ordinary citizens to become enraged with the most minute instances of someone, who in their eyes, breaks the a rule. (But in this story, it was the avenger who breaking the rules.)

Marc Fisher: I'm happy to grant the argument that nanny vigilantism is likely more concentrated in these parts than in most of the rest of the country. But we're not unique. You'll find similar battles in any region where there's a high concentration of the kind of people who tend to get hyper-involved in civic affairs -- especially places with lots of well-educated, more affluent than usual folks.


Taste Police: Do you think the general public cares about what preservationists fight for? One moment I think I understand protecting classic architecture, then they oppose tearing down the ugly building like the church near 16th Street downtown or the elderly couple needing a wheelchair ramp for their home.

I think D.C. is 100% behind renovating and modernizing its schools and other public facilities. If the public only knew the costs of some of these major school rehabs could be cut by a third or more if the contractors could simply raze the old school and build a new one. Renovation and rehab work is very expensive compared to new build.

Marc Fisher: As in any field, there are folks who are in it for the right reasons, and there are zealots. My sense is that most people buy the idea that there are certain buildings and pieces of public art that make up the essential character of our environment and have historic value and therefore ought to be protected. No one would want the White House or the Library of Congress to be torn down. From there, you get into all sorts of questions that are less clear cut. And at the opposite end of the spectrum, you get folks who either glom onto preservationism to fight a particular Not In My Backyard battle, or who are just extremists who believe that everything old or out of the ordinary has to be saved.

Old school buildings in general should be torn down when they become far too expensive to maintain or modernize. Saving one or two as representative of a particular era might make sense if there's a good new use for the building, but as the Franklin School in downtown Washington has demonstrated, even when it appears that there are alternative uses (it has at various times been set aside for use as a boutique hotel, a homeless shelter and a school office building), it doesn't always make sense to save it.


Not the Clint fan club, but: Clint is doing what the team front office pays him to do. I would be happier to just watch the game without all the dopey trvia games and giveaways, but I can't work up the steaming hatred for the guy that some people have. I actually feel bad for him; the vitriol he inspires should be saved for criminals...and maybe newspaper columnists.

Marc Fisher: Yes! Have at us.

But feeling bad for Clint -- I mean, get a dog or something.

Sure, he has to execute the company's plan for dumb games, but that's fine. The games are not a problem. It's his personality and approach that appall so many people. You don't want your customers feeling like the company they've forking over so much money to thinks of them as complete idiots, yet that's the message Clint sends with his every insipid syllable.


Section 128: Let's make Clint wear the new Screech costume. Then we can kill two birds with one to speak.

Marc Fisher: But we're not condoning violence of any kind. Except perhaps in our deepest, darkest fantasies. (Stop that!)


MD's Eastern Shore: Perhaps a deal can be made that would give statehood to D.C. in return for statehood for Maryland's Eastern Shore. We on the Eastern Shore are definitely on a different page than the rest of the state and are tired of being teathered to P.G. County, Montgomery County and Baltimore City. What do you think? We could be the Crab State and have a flag with a giant Jimmy spread across it.

Marc Fisher: Oh sure, and then let's give western Maryland to Pennsylvania, and well, MoCo would fit nicely with Fairfax and that would solve the whole NoVa/RoVa cultural crisis, and the District and Prince George's could merge, and then Maryland would essentially be Baltimore.


Fairfax, Va.: Marc, could you please comment on the fact that political campaigns violate sign posting laws consistently. And why isn't the law against illegal postings which in Virginia carries heavy fines enforced? Seems to me, before raising taxes, raise revenue using the tools we already have in place.

Marc Fisher: Political sign abuse happens where and when local governments look the other way. (Signs are legal in some places at some times, but the huge forests of signs that tick off so many people are what you're talking about, I'm sure.) When local authorities enforce the rules about taking signs down immediately after the election, they tend to get taken down.


PB&J: Regardless of which one you spread first, you then wipe the knife ON THE OTHER SLICE OF BREAD. Problem solved.

Marc Fisher: Unless you are of the school that spreads both ingredients on BOTH slices of bread, in which case you will very quickly run out of clean slices on which to clean your knife. Unless of course you go to the third slice of bread -- the excess PB/J slice. But who gets to eat that slice? Who would want to?


So a vote but still no self governance?: I'm puzzled. If D.C. got representation in the House, what would that really accomplish? Aside from having 1/537th say in the matter, Congress still has supreme authority over the District. You still need a sympathetic ear at 1600 Penn with a majority in both houses, and even then aside from symbolism, that seat is pretty useless. I really don't understand the Republican resistance -- pass the damn bill without amendments and go right back to doing things the way they've always been, except with less reason for all the whining (which will no doubt continue unabated).

Marc Fisher: Quite right -- Congress will still be in charge. Which is why the current debate over the gun laws is really the perfect way for this chapter of the eternal D.C. Vote saga to end. Congress is showing who is and will remain boss, even if we get the vote.

But that doesn't mean that having a vote isn't important -- essential, even. The symbolic value is huge. Just imagine the hundreds of thousands of D.C. natives who grow up cynical about democracy because they have been forced to see it through the eyes of a colony. Our standing in the world is very much connected to the fact that we blithely deny basic rights to half a million of our own citizens.

Dealing with expanding home rule is another chapter in the same battle, but getting the vote is, at this point, more important.


Dangerous road signs: When my 6-year-old drives my car, the signs always distract him. I say take them down.

Marc Fisher: Ah, well, in that case, I change my position. Hey, can he pick up my kid from school today?


Silver Spring, Md.: Totally Off topic: I was sitting on N.Y. Ave. this AM, waiting to turn onto 395 South toward Arlington when I saw something HUGE in a tree.

It was a hawk with a extra large rat in it claws, casually eating...watching the traffic.

It was too surreal. To my left is a homeless guy on the median, to my right is a hawk pulling apart a kill in a tree like out of a "Nature" episode.

Marc Fisher: And as I was walking back to the office this morning from a breakfast meeting, I watched as a homeless man ate cold, condensed Campbell's New England clam chowder from a can.


Ballpark district: While the credit crisis has halted new construction in the area, that doesn't account for the available retail and restaurant spaces that remain empty. The lack of it has been both a surprise and disappointment for those of us that work in the area.

Marc Fisher: It does indeed account for it because the buildings in which those retail and restaurant spaces are going to exist someday have not yet been built. Walk a couple of blocks north, where there are buildings, and you'll see Five Guys and other tenants. But there's nothing remotely like the density of development yet that would attract people to that area to frequent such businesses.


McLean, Va.: Maybe Arlington can hire Robert Lauderdale to remove snow and ice from the roofs of vehicles in his Adopt-a-highway territory. But would Scott Small take him to court for doing so?

Marc Fisher: ThreadWeaver of the Day Award Winner!


Marc Fisher: Gotta run -- thanks for coming along! More next week...


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