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Potomac Confidential
Washington's Hour of Talk Power

Marc Fisher
Post Metro Columnist
Thursday, April 9, 2009 12:00 PM

Metro columnist Marc Fisher was online Thursday, April 9, at Noon ET to look at stalled development around Nationals Park, the District's move to recognize same-sex marriage and the dispute over porn at the University of Maryland.

Today's Column: Future of Nats and Their Neighborhood Is Up to Us

Archives: Discussion Transcripts

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Marc Fisher: Welcome aboard, folks--lots of reaction already on the board about today's column on the scene around Nationals Park on the eve of the second season in that not-yet-neighborhood. And you're eager to talk about the porn controversy at the University of Maryland, as well as the prospect of the District forging ahead with the legalization of same-sex marriage, even in the face of certain congressional backlash.

And whatever else is on your mind is also welcome fodder for this hour's conversation.

So let's get right to your views and questions, after we call the Yay and Nay of the Day:

Yay to D.C. Public Libraries director Ginnie Cooper for pulling the plug on the x-ray machines at the main Martin Luther King branch library downtown. Cooper has taken an excellent and big symbolic step to fight back against the security hysteria that has infected this city in recent years. Her move is also a practical admission that no one--least of all the guards stationed at the front doors--really paid much attention to the metal-detecting devices. And Cooper's not done: For her encore, she's planning to disband the D.C. Library Police--yes, they have their own police department--an absurdly grandiose and unnecessary municipal concoction.

Nay to Maryland legislators for following up their embarrassing anxiety attack over a showing of a porn flick at the University of Maryland-College Park with a requirement that all public colleges in the state now file regular reports on whether porno films are being shown on campus. Don't these guys have a budget crisis to deal with or something?

Your turn starts right now....

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Laurel, Md.: Marc, in the Comments on Sunday's column about Fairfax County school's zero-tolerance drug rules, a lot of people picked up on this sentence:

"The Andersons were told that Josh would be barred from any regular Fairfax high school and might be tossed out of the system entirely."

What does "regular" mean? Is it something along the lines of he'd have to go to a special school for discipline-problem kids?

Considering the importance the penology system places on getting a high school education even for prison inmates, it's hard to believe any school system thinks complete denial of an education is an appropriate punishment for marijuana possession. But if it's just a matter of he can't be around the regular students in a normal high school social setting, then I think the punishment fits.

washingtonpost.com: Unbending Rules on Drugs in Schools Drive One Teen to the Breaking Point (Post, April 5)

Marc Fisher: Like most big school systems, Fairfax has a variety of options for separating troublemakers from their schools. Of course, we can debate what systems such as Fairfax consider "troublemaking" and I'd argue that a kid like Josh Anderson ought to be kept where the people who know him best are--at his regular school, albeit with the right mix of punishment, education and counseling.

But for those who need to be separated from their schools, and there are unfortunately quite a few of them, the county has an alternative school. Still, some kids, either because of the severity of their violations or because of repeat offenses, do get expelled entirely from the system and are not given any schooling in Fairfax. In theory, those kids could go to school in another county, but in recent years, Virginia has allowed other counties to bar kids who've been tossed out of schools elsewhere in the state. That leaves those families with only two options: Find a private school willing to accept the kid, or move to another state. Not exactly a policy designed to save the kid or save the taxpayers who will have to shell out big-time when that kid heads into other criminal activity.

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Alexandria, Va.: Zero tolerance policies are just an abdication of responsibility. Nothing that I've seen in the news lately has made me as angry as what you reported in your column on Sunday.

Marc Fisher: I agree entirely--zero tolerance policies are designed for the comfort and happiness of the school bureaucrats and staffers who just don't want to do their jobs, don't want to deal with troubled adolescents who act out in various ways. The sad truth is that we hold these wayward teens to considerably higher standards than we do similarly wayward adults. Go watch misdemeanor court one day--you'll see the turnstiles of justice spinning in far more cynical and forgiving fashion than anything your average public high school student might experience.

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Washington, D.C.: Marc: Your column today really gave me a lift. I woke up depressed. I had dinner this week with a friend whose business has been devastated by the recession, my sister called last night distressed over not being able to afford college for my niece in the fall, and this morning I looked at my retirement account balance (or, rather, lack thereof) and realized the only place I could afford to retire to would probably be North Dakota. Still...please count me in the camp of those with hope for the future. Good luck to the Nats this year.

washingtonpost.com: Future of Nats and Their Neighborhood Is Up to Us (Post, April 8)

Marc Fisher: Thanks so much--as a registered member of Rationalists United, I really resist this sort of notion, but the more I've read and thought about it, the more I've come to see just how deeply economic forces are driven by emotion, mood and outlook.

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Arlington, Va.: Marc,

That was quite a good (albeit somewhat idealistic) article you wrote this morning on the Nats!

I'd like to make one comment, if I may. You say tight financial times may convince some to stay home and watch the Nats on TV. I'd just like to remind everyone that some of us are still bitter that Peter Angelos owns the majority of the Nationals' TV revenues, and wonder what act of God must take place before that's set right, if ever.

Marc Fisher: That's gonna be a very long wait, I'm afraid. I believe it's a 20-year contract, so the Nats will remain the only major league team that has no control over its TV rights for many, many years. Despite MASN's constant promises to the contrary, the Nats remain very much the second banana on MASN, which is heavily Baltimore-centric in its programming, advertising, and in the weight given to the Orioles over the Nats. On Opening Day, of course, the O's were on MASN and the Nats were on MASN2 (good luck finding that on your cable system.)

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Nick Adenhart: TMZ reported that Maryland native Nick Adenhart, a major league pitcher, was killed in a hit-and-run accident this morning. The night before he had thrown 6 innings of shut-out ball against the A's. Adenhart was one of the top prospects in all of baseball the last few years and was expected to anchor the Angels rotation for years to come. May he rest in peace.

Marc Fisher: The LA Times is reporting that Adenhart, an Angels pitcher from Silver Spring, was among three people killed when their car was hit by a driver who ran a red light. The accident occurred around midnight after Adenhart appeared in Wednesday's Angels game.

Adenhart went to Williamsport High School. He was 22.

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washingtonpost.com: Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart killed in accident (L.A. Times, April 9)

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Sec 114, Row E: The one thing that the Nats don't have in that neighborhood -- is a tradition. Sure, there was a team in D.C. 30 plus years ago. But a whole generation has passed by without the opportunity of having an MLB team in their hometown.

It's going to take a good 10-20 years to develop that tradition and to move to forefront of people's consciousness about having a team in town.

Marc Fisher: Yes, it will take years, and most likely, given the fickle nature of sports fan-dom in this region (except for the Redskins, of course), it will also take a winning team. But we live in very impatient times. And the economics of baseball, while seemingly very healthy (record attendance re-topped in most of the years of the past decade), are actually fairly precarious--the player salaries are way out of line, the pricey TV contracts are not likely to be renewed at anything close to current levels, and the sport continues to shoot itself in the foot with games that go on way too late (especially the marquee post-season games) and prices that make it difficult for a young new generation to bond with the dailiness of the game.

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13th St. S.E.: So you still think the Nat's park was such a good deal and Popular Point is a majestic open space? I imagine you do because ohhh baseball is so great.

Marc Fisher: Well, no, it's actually because the Nats Park area was an industrial wasteland pocked with empty lots, environmental disaster areas, sleazy clubs and the occasional lovely rowhouse, whereas Poplar Point is a gorgeous national park, a nature preserve on the shores of the river, a rare jewel of an untamed bit of nature smack in the middle of a big city. That seems to me something worth protecting. They're not making new parkland, you know.

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Annapolis, Md.: What bothers me about the porn-at-College-Park story is that it is getting squeezed into the usual ideological tropes. For the left, this is only a story about censorship and government interference; for the right, this is only a story about how our society, those crazy radical professors, and/or these kids today are encouraging hurtful behavior and calling it freedom.

This could be the occasion for a thoughtful discussion about the nature of academic inquiry and how it relates to public oversight and funding. This case illustrates the tension between two opposing realities: a world-class university needs to offer students and faculty the freedom to roam wherever they want, even if it's unsavory; a state has the right to enforce limits on speech and action to protect members of the community. I hope you, Marc, or someone like you can lead such a thoughtful discussion about the real issues and avoiding the kneejerk responses of left and right (and, not incidentally, staying above the prurient responses of those who just want to talk about porn).

Marc Fisher: Great post--I was totally with you until I got to the part about the state having the right to limit speech to protect members of the community. Um, no. The state has no such right. The Constitution says that straight out. The whole theory behind our system is that, as we say it here in the 21st century, information wants to be free (the Founders had a more soaring idea of free: not something that doesn't cost any money, but something that's available to all.) Our system depends on the belief that ideas have the strength to fight it out in the open, for all to see. When the state starts deciding which ideas we can stand to consider, we all lose. Does that mean there will be excesses? Absolutely. But our system trusts us to deal with those with the strongest tool in the box: counterargument.

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D.C.: I don't understand all the brouhaha about the porn at U-Md. I heard a student on the news say that the center where they were going to show the movie is run by student fees, not government funds. If that's true, then the government needed to butt out. I don't 'get' the desire to show a porn movie to a large crowd, but if that's what they want to do, then so be it.

Now, were there any 'students' protesting the use of their fees for this purpose...that would've been a valid argument.

Marc Fisher: Exactly--the kids who pay the student activity fees would seem to be the folks with standing to protest the showing of the film, yet we've not seen any such protest. The legislators are certainly within their rights to decry what they see as rampant immorality on campus, but their oversight of the state university ought not extend to policing student life in that micro-detail. They hire an administration to run the school for a reason.

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Alexandria, Va.: Porn on Campus -- well they certainly got lots of free publicity! If U-Md. wants to have a discussion on pornography, that's fine by me. But do they really need to show a film to have the discussion -- how may people there for the discussion would need a viewing of a XXX film for the first "exposure" to the film genre?

Marc Fisher: Oh come on, you know as well as the student organizers did that if you want to get a crowd for a discussion of pornography, you can spike your attendance by showing some of the stuff. It's a come-on, and in this case, a perfectly legit one--hey, they only showed half an hour of the movie (would anyone really want to watch more than half an hour of such a thing?)

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Disbanding the Library Police: Congratulations to her! I saw their car for the first time a month or so ago and could not believe our taxes were going to such a ridiculous force. Removing the metal detectors, bravo, finally someone willing to take a stand against security hysteria!

Marc Fisher: It's a breath of fresh air--now, I can't say I know of any other agencies likely to follow this example, but we can hope. Maybe some of the more heavily guarded museums will take the hint from the National Gallery, which has bucked the trend toward x-ray machines and treats its customers with grace and humanity.

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Alexandria, Va.: Marc, I'm a straight guy, married, 2 kids -- but I cannot figure out why anyone who is straight cares enough about gay marriage to be against it.

I know that the Old Testament says it's a no-no, but have you seen what else is in Leviticus that is forbidden? If 2 people are going be "judged" for being gay, then let them be judged when it is their time -- it's not for me any one of us down here to be judging anyone else.

Can anyone make an intelligent argument against gay marriage?

Marc Fisher: I won't argue against granting all legal rights and recognition to same-sex relationships, but I will at least offer you a push back on one aspect of the marriage question: My own view is that government ought to get out of the marriage business entirely. Outsource it to religions and, for those who don't truck with religion, secular organizations willing to take on the task for the purpose of encouraging the social stability that marriage helps to create. There's no reason for government to set itself up as the arbiter of who may love whom. The only state interest is in protecting minors and protecting the public health against incest--so fine, have your laws against those relationships. Otherwise, leave this highly personal and individual decision to the folks who are doing the loving, whatever its flavor.

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Pondtown, Md.: Do you think the University of Maryland students learned something from viewing the pornographic movie?

Marc Fisher: Absolutely--they learned just how cynical politicians can be, just how craven college administrators are in the face of losing a chunk of their budgets, just how the media salivate over controversy and especially controversy to do with sex, and just how prudish the adult society can be except when their own doors are closed and they're doing exactly what the kids are doing.

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Columbia, Md.: The best thing about the porn at UM story? It reminds me of the old days there, like when the student government was focused on trying to surround the campus with a moat of beer. In many ways it's become a sterile, type A personality place. I miss the funk.

Sometimes.

Marc Fisher: Well, almost--if the UM kids were really going to be creative and collegiate about this, they'd announce an outdoor porn film fest and dare the authorities to shut them down.

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Alexandria, Va.: I would think that many of the hot-blooded young males with a PC in their room and Internet access are spending part of their college years watching far more randy stuff than XXX pirates...if the members of the Maryland legislature are going to be obsessed with this, they'd better start spying in dorm room windows.

Marc Fisher: Right--maybe they'll want to check Netflix and iTunes records to see what movies are streaming through state-supported broadband lines into state-supported dormitories. Or maybe they just wanted to gin up some votes by throwing a hissy fit over a bunch of college kids checking out a porn flick.

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Campus Movies?: I went to Penn State. The various student organizations sponsor movies every weekend. Every September (when I went there -- and for many years previous), it was a tradition for one of the student organizations to rent and show Deep Throat. It was the freshmen's opportunity to state the they weren' thome anymore. Do they still do it? I don't know, but I do know that the movie showing was a non-event on campus.

Marc Fisher: The sad truth is that campus film societies--one of the finest parts of any college education for most of the past 40 years--are in deep trouble at many schools, the result of Netflix, downloading, cable TV and all those other easy ways to get your own video in your own room. It's very sad, because it means a generation of casual movie watchers are losing out on the terrific education that film societies provided about flicks that never made it to the suburban multiplex. And it removes a great social tool from the campus mix.

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Washington, D.C.: The poster who spoke about turning the whole U-Md. thing into a discussion about academic inquiry reminded me of the thought that popped into my head when I saw a news report about this the other day: How many of these same students who said they had the right to show the film would have been upset if another group of students or the university itself had brought in a speaker along the lines of an Ann Coulter or a Rush Limbaugh or a Sean Hannity? I would think that a few of them would have demanded that such speakers not be allowed on campus.

Marc Fisher: And they should be roundly criticized and pummeled with pillows. Left-wing anti-free speech intolerance is every bit as sickening as the same nonsense from the right, perhaps more so because of the self-righteous moralizing we get from the left about how open and accepting they are. Which they aren't.

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Hypersecurity: It's funny you mention museum security, because last weekend I stopped in to the Smithsonian American Art Museum/Portrait Gallery, and kind of did a double take. I thought maybe I had bypassed security. But no, there were no metal detectors and no bag checks. In fact, there was a security guard who approached me, but not to check my bag -- she just asked me to take my backpack off so it wouldn't knock into any artwork. Way to go, Smithsonian!

Marc Fisher: Yes, there's now a certain inconsistency among the Smithsonian museums in how they handle front-door screening. But it's great to see any relaxing of the post-9/11 police state mentality, so come ahead with any other such examples you've seen of a return to rational behavior.

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Ballston, Va.: If gays want to get married. I am a right-leaning straight independent and I don't see it destroying the American family, etc. Sorry, seeing a gay married couple will not turn your children away from heterosexuality. Gay marriage really benefits lawyers since gays typically have higher incomes and more assets than straights and rarely have messy child custody fights.

Marc Fisher: It benefits far more than lawyers. D.C. Council member David Catania, who is pushing the full legalization bill that is expected to come before the council in the coming weeks, says he commissioned a study of the economic impact of making same-sex marriage ok in Washington and the California economists who considered the question came up with a $150 million a year figure counting all the marriage tourism money that might flow into the city from folks wanting to exchange vows legally here.

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Columbia, Md.: Don't forget there's a lot of legislation based on marriage. Taxes, surivor benefits, etc. Not that it wouldn't be hard to amend, but there's a lot of it out there.

Marc Fisher: Most of it wouldn't have to be changed--governments could simply change the marriage laws to recognize any bonds sanctioned by any faith or secular group that takes it upon itself to perform weddings.

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Crystal City, Va.: I know, I don't live there, so I have no say. Far be it from me, a resident of the "Unreal" part of Virginia, to dictate policy to the D.C. City Council.

That said, they should do the right thing and pass a same-sex civil marriage law, ASAP. This Congress is not going to interfere. It's the right thing to do, at the right time.

Marc Fisher: Well, no--this Congress would intercede. Probably in a big way. Remember that just because the Dems now run the joint doesn't mean that individual members of Congress can't throw wrenches into the works at every turn, and there are literally hundreds of them who would leap at the chance to do that in the case of a D.C. gay marriage law. Slamming the District is a painless game for the folks on the Hill--they can only win. If folks back home like what they're doing, they get big credit. If folks back home don't like it, the members can say Hey, we'd never do this to you, our constituents, only to the heathen city of Washington.

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Washington, D.C.: Eh, must disagree with you somewhat on gay marriage. Why should we not kick the church out of the marriage business? Marriage remains, beyond it's connotations of love and loyalty, a financial contract, enforceable by civil authorities, not churches. In my view the current system should be expanded to ensure 'civil unions' between two people wishing to marry, despite their orientation. If the couple wants it officiated 'ceremoniously' in a church, so be it -- for others, particularly the atheists among on, it can be officiated by a judge or clerk from across a desk.

Marc Fisher: That's a reasonable alternative--I could easily go for the government converting the entire marriage biz into a civil unions license, and leaving the rest, the weddings and the marriage stuff, to the various religions and other beliefs out there.

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Clarifiacation: Is the DC City Council looking into legalizing gay marriage or just recognizing it? I didn't think they were going to all marriages to be performed here, just recognize marriages that were legally performed elsewhere (Vermont, Iowa, etc.)

Marc Fisher: The Council voted this week to recognize same-sex marriages from states that have legalized them. A second vote is required before that bill goes to the mayor for his signature; that's likely to come next month. Then Congress gets 30 days to do its routine on a D.C. law--so it could be a busy spring up on the Hill for D.C. bashers.

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Alexandria, Va.: "There's no reason for government to set itself up as the arbiter of who may love whom."

Oh really? So if a guy wants to marry three women, because he really loves them all, or a woman wants to marry three or four husbands, that would be just fine too? Do you think no lines should be drawn at all about what a marriage should be in our culture?

We have rules not about who may love whom, but who may marry whom, because we have an idea about the kind of society we want to have. We are not a polygamous, polyandrous society. Do you want the U.S. to head in that direction?

Marc Fisher: Like the restrictions I mentioned on underage marriage and incest, a clear popular consensus against polygamy would argue for a state position banning such arrangements. I don't see how that would conflict with a general move by government to get out of the marriage business.

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Re: marriage: Ah, Marc! You've never been divorced. If you were, you would know marriage is all about property. It's what the state concerns itself with in every divorce, who gets the kids, who gets the dog, house, ect. I don't think religion could handle this.

Marc Fisher: You don't want to know where I would go with that argument; we'd need several hours to hash it out. Suffice to say that I'd like to see the civil courts largely dismantled and resolution of civil disputes privatized.

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Washington, D.C.: You wrote in your column: "when the city's soccer franchise asked for the same deal the Nationals got, Mayor Adrian Fenty gave D.C. United the back of his hand."

You really believe that D.C. United asked for the same economic deal as MLB?

Marc Fisher: Well, it's actually worse in a way. Sure, MLB held up the city in a huge and brutal way--but that was the price Washington had to pay to overcome a deep and abiding mistrust and hatred of the city that had grown in baseball's uppermost circles. In United's case, it was a bait and switch: The team's owners went on and on about how they were going to pay for their own stadium, a promise that baseball had never made. And then as time went on, the demands that Maryland and Prince George's pay for the stadium grew and grew--that's why the PG Council was so quick and eager to dump the deal.

The question now is where will United go? There's some talk now of Montgomery County, which makes a lot of sense--it's the red-hot core of the fan base, it's a community that can and will support the team, and it's a place with a crying need for big-time institutions like a pro sports team. The big question will be where to put it and how to overcome inevitable and massive NIMBYism in one of the citizen activist capitals of the East Coast.

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Gaithersburg Commuter: It's the cost Marc. I would love to move to that neighborhood, in fact I just looked at Capitol Towers, but even as a government attorney I can't afford to either rent or live in the District. A $300K condo (for a one bedroom) is out of my GS-11 salary range. 30 percent of income for housing would be a mortgage or rental payment of $950 a month. I cannot afford $1400 plus $400 in condo "fees."

D.C. needs afforable housing for federal employees. We're not low income but we're not highly paid either.

Remove the height limits outisde of the CBD and in Anacostia and create another Rosslyn along the street car line. But bring the rents and the condo prices down to where career employees can afford to live here. As a former Hill staffer I love the area, I just can't afford to live in it.

Marc Fisher: Good point, but those costs are coming down rather quickly, as you might imagine. It's still going to be more expensive to live in a neighborhood right on top of a center-city Metro station, within easy walking distance of the Capitol than it will ever be to live in Gaithersburg--but that's as it should be. There's always going to be a premium on living in a center city location with easy access to transit, cultural amenities, restaurants and the like.

But I totally agree--the height restriction should be narrowed to protecting just the federal core of the city, while outlying neighborhoods, both on the east side of the Anacostia and in the far reaches of Northeast and Northwest, should be liberated from the restriction and given their chance to build sorely-needed density.

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East End, D.C.: You know what would solve all of our problems this week? Adult-movie screenings at Nationals Park with all proceeds going to fund the new D.C. United Stadium.

Marc Fisher: Likely ThreadWeaver of the Week Award winner. Top that.

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San Jose, Costa Rica: Hi Mr. Fisher,

In today's column, you state: "When the city's soccer franchise asked for the same deal the Nationals got, Mayor Adrian Fenty gave D.C. United the back of his hand."

Could you please elaborate on that?

My understanding was that D.C. United offered to pay for the cost of building a stadium at Poplar Point in exchange for development rights for the area surrounding the stadium. Is that understanding incorrect?

Marc Fisher: You're right--that was an early offer by United owner Victor MacFarlane, but the city saw no reason to hand over development rights to that huge tract of land, the great majority of which would be developed as a retail, residential and office neighborhood with no connection to the soccer stadium. When the city selected a different developer, the soccer team threw a fit and said it would go elsewhere. From that point on, United wanted from the city exactly what it now wants from Prince George's--a government-paid stadium.

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Anonymous: I cannot speak to legal issues, but some things just don't pass the smell test. I happened to watch Fenty on a few of his rounds answering softball questions on local TV. His answers on the fire truck donation did not seem open and honest. The only thing he was unequivocally clear on was that nothing was illegal per the district attorney. Yet, he could not speak to the specifics of the surplus process, nor how this exchange or donation came about. I just don't get how if the mayor did not initiate this, the fire chief did not know, how could a mid-manager in DCFD initiate this process and carry it so far using a political ally of the mayor in the Peaceaholics as an intermediary? Then given the age/mileage of the vehicle no one appears to be upset.

At first I dismissed some of this corruption and scandal in D.C. government as historic issues being exposed, but this points at the Fenty administration. His response bordered on being callous and makes me wonder who's watching the hen house.

Marc Fisher: It's a real puzzle to me why a mayor with such deep and strong popularity, someone who was elected as a fresh young dynamo dedicated to open and transparent government, would now let himself become a miser when it comes to releasing information, communicating with the public about his own movements, and hashing through the city's business with its elected council members. Fenty seems to be going through a period of pulling back from some of the basic promises and architecture of his campaign victory, and it's not clear why, other than that he can.

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Anonymous: Really, it's the Nats' fault that the neighborhood is dead? So, the empty lots and apartments don't have anything to do with the bad credit markets, the bad housing market, and shylock developers who continue to believe that their studio condos ought to fetch prices only a doctor could afford. I guess if the team was doing better, we'd all go out and spend three quarters of a million dollars for a 2-story row house or $400,000 for a 1,000 sq ft condo with a $900 a month maintenance fee in a still semi-shady neighborhood. When real estate prices embrace economic reality then that neighborhood will take off as promised.

Marc Fisher: No, it's not the Nats' fault at all--it's just the nature of the economy right now. The Forrest City project that has stopped in its tracks likely would have gone ahead with or without a stadium nearby, but the stadium changed the nature of the project, which, if fully built, will include festival retail and public spaces that would work very nicely with a big pre- or post-game crowd.

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Falls Church, Va.: Suicide doesn't come out of nowhere. Josh Anderson had to have been a troubled kid with a lot of issues of mental distress for some time now. If not the expulsion, some other trauma would have come along to drive him to an attempt on his own life. Blaming the expulsion for driving him to suicide seems shortsighted and ignorant of whatever else was eating at him.

Marc Fisher: Unquestionably, this suicide, like any, is much more complex than simply a reaction to the school system's discipline policy. Josh had his troubles--that much is clear. But his parents' point, which rings true to me, is that their son was doing well when the system was most engaged in working with him and with the family--he was in counseling, had regular drug tests, passed them all--but that the system failed Josh by moving him away from those who knew and could support him best, and by subjecting him to a one-size fits all discipline system that is designed to go after drug dealers, but which catches up the casual user and subjects him to the same sanctions.

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Zero Tolerance Policy: But, you gloss over that this was NOT Josh's first offense. He was first expelled from Langley for the same offense -- having drugs on campus. The county did give him another chance and he chose to do the wrong thing. He and his parents knew that if he got caught a second time that there wouldn't be a third FFX County school for him to go to.

So, instead of it being a zero tolerance policy, in Josh's case it was a two strikes your out policy.

I wish Josh hadn't made the decision he did. And, I know that the parents must be beyond devasted.

But, I think the county did what it could to help Josh -- it gave him a second chance, it gave him counseling, there were coaches and teachers who tried hard. But, in the end, this was a series of choices that Josh made.

I hope you will print a descending view!

Marc Fisher: Yes, as the column said, this was the second time in two years that Josh was caught with pot on campus. That clearly calls out for punishment, but also for counseling and education. Isn't that what a school is for?

The county's policy is indeed clear. But my objection is that the county did not do all it could to help him--rather, its regulations are designed primarily to separate kids from their schools when they commit such violations. If that same disciplinary process took place in the school community rather than through the central office, if Josh's own teachers and fellow students were the ones making the decisions about how he'd be punished and counseled, I bet he'd have had a far more intensive and effective rehab process. That doesn't mean he'd be alive today--suicide is too complex a phenomenon for such easy equations--but he'd have had a better chance. His parents believe that, and so do some of his coaches and teachers. I do too.

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Silver Spring, Md.: I wonder where all of the state legislators were hiding when the U- Md. frat boys were rioting after the NCAA Championship 7 years ago. Where was the withholding of funding talk when violence entered the campus?

Marc Fisher: They were too drunk to notice.

Ooh--bad columnist. Slap, slap that wrist.

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Not about gay marriage per se...: Marc Fisher: It benefits far more than lawyers. D.C. Council member David Catania, who is pushing the full legalization bill that is expected to come before the council in the coming weeks, says he commissioned a study of the economic impact of making same-sex marriage okay in Washington and the California economists who considered the question came up with a $150 million a year figure counting all the marriage tourism money that might flow into the city from folks wanting to exchange vows legally here.

If the costs (or income) by every one of these types of assertions (i.e., "Obesity costs American 46 trillion dollars a year...") were true, we'd very rich or very poor as a nation.

Marc Fisher: Right--just like the phony studies that purport to show how sports stadiums will add $XXX million a year to a city's economy. The numbers in those studies are always wildly bogus. I mention the Catania-sponsored study only to point out that there might be some economic benefit to legalization--how much is anyone's guess (and likely only a temporary benefit, given the speed with which legalization of same-sex marriage is starting to spread across the country.)

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What if D.C. ignores Congress: SO D.C. says OK to gay marrage; Congress says no. So what, why does D.C. have to listen. Seriously, I'm not being snarky, but in terms of taxes and benefits etc., what's to stop D.C. from stopping to issue marrage licenses all together and just issue civil union forms for everyone. Anyone can file the legal paperwork at a courthouse and obtain all City rights (local tax benefits, eligibility for joint health coverage, next of kin etc.) and if some church wants to do some other ceremony, well then so be it.

Marc Fisher: Right, but remember, Congress has ultimate control over the city's purse strings--the lords of the Hill could, if they so chose, say no more money for police or schools until the city creates regs limiting marriages to Christians who have been personally approved by Regent University.

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Threadweaver: No, Marc, you've got show adult GAY MARRIAGE movies in Nationals Park with only reasonable security measures and proceeds going to the United.

Marc Fisher: I think you get the edge. And with time running out, I'm going to make the award final: We have a winner.

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Fenty on Gay Marriage: Mayor Fenty was on Channel 4 this morning for his typical Qand A. I don't ordinarily see this spot but he handled a gay marriage for the district question.

His flat affect in talking made me think something is wrong with him. His seeming disinterest was amazing, not necessarily in answering but in even presenting himself.

With his response to his travel issues, I wonder "Is something up with him?"

Marc Fisher: He does go totally flat when challenged with questions about his travel, the scandals in the technology office, or other such embarrassing topics. And this is not something you can trace back to earlier in his career--it's really quite new. This needs more reporting.

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Polygamy: This attorney disagrees. Polygamy/amory was banned in clear contrast to the First Amendment (from a historical perspective) and clearly discriminates against Muslims today. And as a secualar athiest, if the adults are consenting, society really has no place to ban any associations or contracts.

Marc Fisher: Those who write and support laws protecting women against rapacious behavior by men would obviously disagree, arguing that polygamy, which almost never occurs the other way around, discriminates against women in a way that the state has an interest in correcting and preventing.

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North Dakota: It's really not that bad of a place to retire to.

-Former College Park resident.

Marc Fisher: It's one of the last gaps in my states-visited map. But it's also probably the last gap I'll be anxious to fill. Gotta get to Hawaii, Alaska, Idaho and Wyoming first.

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Montgomery Village, Md.: MArc

Amidst all the discussion about the gradual demise of the dead tree versions of newspapers, I wonder from whence the kind of reporting about issues like the funeral home scandal will come. I am not sure that online stories about the same issue would have the same resonance and I doubt that television would go to the same depths -- no pun intended. Your thoughts?

washingtonpost.com: 'I Never Could Have Imagined' (Post, April 5)

Marc Fisher: It's awkward for those of us in the biz to make this defense, but it's worth stating anyway: Nearly all of the original reporting you see online, on TV, and in other media started out in newspapers. That's not to say that most papers aren't mediocre and quickly becoming downright lousy. It's just to say that no other institution is equipped, staffed and charged with the mission of doing basic accountability reporting, investigative work, foreign coverage and day to day local coverage. The dismantling of that infrastructure, which is well apace, is probably unstoppable, but it will have and is having a clear impact.

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Porno on Campus: Do people understand the difference between pornography and obscenity? There was a quote in the Post where it was clear that the speaker did not.

Pornography is legal. Obscenity is not.

Marc Fisher: You'll know it when you see it.

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D.C. Controls the Purse Strings: Would that play well with a congressman/senator's base, though?

"When push came to shove, Sen. Whatshisface chose to protect the Sanctity of Marriage by making sure D.C. had no money to educate its children or protect its citizens!"

Marc Fisher: Wild cheers would follow in most districts across the land.

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Reporter's equipment seized: Hey, Marc

Have you heard anything about the VA officials who took away WAMU's recording equipment at a meeting of minority vets? I thought we were in a new era, but I guess not. The Post should look into this. All due respect to WAMU (which I adore), the Post has more clout around here.

"VA Hospital Use Police To Block Vet From Talking To Media

April 08, 2009 - Minority veterans showed up at the VA Hospital in D.C. last night to talk about how they're treated.

But when WAMU 88.5 reporter David Schultz tried to speak with them, his recording equipment was confiscated and he was detained ...."

Marc Fisher: First I've heard of it--definitely sounds like it's worth a follow-up. Thanks for letting us know....

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Ann Coulter Plus Pornography: I think there is a world of differecne between porn (which can vary based on the eye of the beholder) and the Ann Coulters, Rush Limbaughs and Sean Hannitys of the world who spew hate and racism.

Marc Fisher: Hate and racism in your view--not to others. The failure to see that what's clear and outrageous to you might not be to others is the dark blot on the far left.

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Marc Fisher: Unquestionably, this suicide, like any, is much more complex : That statement you just made is about the most reasonable thing I've heard anyone make in a long time. Thanks Marc.

Marc Fisher: Many thanks.

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Gay Marriage and the Commerce Clause: "...$150 million a year figure counting all the marriage tourism money that might flow into the city from folks wanting to exchange vows legally here."

Once large states legalize gay marriage, this could open the door to an interesting legal challenge to bans of gay marriage in smaller states, i.e., the regulation of interstate commerce falls within the domain of Congress, and these bans on gay marriage have an economic impact that percolates back into the stream of interstate commerce. Thus, the state bans represent illegal regulation of interstate commerce (for full disclosure, I am researching a law school paper on this). The argument is a bit of a strecth, but much of the civil rights legislation of the 1960s was upheld under similar circumstances.

Marc Fisher: Very interesting--though I would think that the existence of legal marriage in some states would essentially negate any allegation of acts that inhibit interstate commerce. We've long had various forms of medical tourism based in part on varying state laws and regulations.

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I heard a student on the news say that the center where they were going to show the movie is run by student fees, not government funds. If that's true, then the government needed to butt out: True, but not if the students plan to show the film on a STATE owned building, which any building on the campus of the University of Maryland is. Show your porn at your off campus house kiddies.

Marc Fisher: But even that off-campus frat or other facility likely has some state connection--it's hard to find a purely private setting having anything to do with a public college. And why shouldn't ideals of academic freedom and free speech apply equally on a public college campus as on a private one?

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Or maybe they just wanted to gin up some votes by throwing a hissy fit over a bunch of college kids checking out a porn flick. : Or maybe they want to watch porn, but are embarrassed. They want to have a session where they show the movie to come up with a definition of "porn" so they know what to put in the legislation.

Marc Fisher: Oh, that would be rich. Bring it on.

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Sec 114, Row E: I have even money that those "Night of the Living Dead" Statues are gone by opening day next year.

Marc Fisher: I'll take that bet. The city put big money into those sculptures, and as much as an art critic may loathe them, the fans will want to have their pics taken next to them.

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Somewhere, Md.: "If you build it, they will come" was only true in the movies. The home I grew up in where my parents still live is a stone's throw from Naylor Road Metro in PG County, but the advent of the Green Line did very little to enhance the neighborhood. It's still surrounded by the same liquor stores, check cashing places, homicide chalk lines, and probably the lowest property values in the entire area. As for the neighborhood around the ballpark, let's face it --the people who go to baseball games are not the same demographic who would choose to live around there. Plus it's not cheap. Everything that was built favored a high-earning yuppie-type, probably without kids, which I suppose worked well in some parts of the city (for a while). Some areas are apparently gentrification-proof, and it goes to show how little developers understand Washington.

Marc Fisher: The development of areas around Green Line stations has been much slower than along other Metro routes, but it's coming. It's a reflection of the economic power of the people who live near those stations, of course, but development in the region is inexorably moving eastward, and that will resume after the recession thing goes away.

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Former season ticket holder: The statues are bad. Really, really bad. Given that taxpayers footed the bill, what do we know about the selection process? Was it transparent and did it have public input? How much input did the Lerners have into how the $600,000 was spent? How did we end up with so little bang for the buck?

Marc Fisher: What, you don't like multiple-limbed ballplayers? Could be a big trend once we get deeper into the genetic engineering era.

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Marc Fisher: That has to kick things in the head for today. Thanks so much for coming along. Back in the paper on Sunday, and coming up tomorrow on Raw Fisher, a review of the new trimmings at Nats Park.

Have a superb weekend.....

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