Potomac Confidential: The Caps, Va. Gov Race, Downtown Church and More
Thursday, May 14, 2009; 12:00 PM
Metro columnist Marc Fisher will be online Thursday, May 14, at Noon ET to look at the Washington Capitals' success in creating a hockey fan base, the Virginia governor's race and the District's decision to let a downtown church tear down its Brutalist building.
Marc Fisher: Welcome aboard, folks. So what does it mean when Bill Clinton draws small crowds even in solidly Democratic bastions such as Fairfax County, as he barnstorms for his pal who is running for governor of Virginia ? Are voters just tired of campaigns, or have they grown cynical about celebrity politics?
How tiny will the turnout be when Virginia holds its Democratic primary on June 9? Let us know if you're planning to vote or not, and why...
The Caps' wild ride ended with a thud last night, but it was grand while it lasted. What lessons can Washington's other sports teams learn from the Capitals' success in putting their sport high on local buzz meters?
Today's column travels along with Clinton and Terry McAuliffe in search of actual voters who might take a side in the governor's race. Sunday's column looked at the strange role that the competition to control the taxi business at Dulles Airport is playing in shaping views of another gubernatorial candidate, Brian Moran. And Tuesday's piece was about the politics of same-sex marriage and the decisions by Barack Obama and Marion Barry to reverse course and move from strong advocacy for gay rights to a more measured approach that's opposed to gay marriage.
On to your many comments and questions, but first, let's call the Yay and Nay of the Day:
Yay to D.C. planning director Harriet Tregoning for a strong and clear message she sent this week in rejecting historic preservationists' demands that the Third Church of Christ, Scientist be declared a landmark and protected against demolition. The concrete, Brutalist slab two blocks from the White House is expensive to maintain, impossible to build a congregation in, and totally at odds with the church's sense of its own spirituality. Tregoning refused to get into the issue of whether religious freedom guarantees trump historic preservation concerns, but she did say that the building poses an undue economic hardship on the congregation and therefore its members should have the right to tear the sucker down.
Nay to the relentless -- and relentlessly dishonest -- efforts by supporters of school vouchers in the District to save a program that has sought from the start to bamboozle taxpayers. The rhetoric surrounding the pro-vouchers campaign has always centered around giving poor kids the same options as rich Washington families have--to send their kids to elite institutions of the sort that the president and corporate leaders choose for the education of their kids. But of course the vouchers currently used in the District don't put kids in schools such as Sidwell Friends or St. Alban's--literally not even a handful of kids get vouchers at such schools. The overwhelming majority of voucher recipients use them at Catholic schools, and this is what vouchers are really all about--a stealth way to use taxpayer dollars to cross the church-state divide and prop up financially struggling religious schools. Until and unless the pro-voucher side gets honest about what it's really fighting for, the only real answer is the one President Obama is giving: End the program.
Your turn starts right now....
Bethesda, Md.: The Caps have indeed created a fan base and it only took them what? Thirty years? And still without a single Stanley Cup!
Just think, in a short twenty-five or so years maybe even the Nats will be a hard ticket item! Of course, in Vegas, it doesn't take much talent to become a hard ticket item...
Marc Fisher: Sure, if you look back to the start of the franchise, it's been a long haul. But look instead just back the few years to when Ted Leonsis took over the Caps--that's when you see a vast change in strategy and marketing and leadership, leading to a steady spike in attendance and interest. That's where the other sports team owners in town, and especially the Nats, need to draw some lessons. Leonsis invested heavily in talent to improve the team, even as he dramatically improved the fan experience and the buzz around the team and the game.
NW, D.C.: I'm so glad the historic preservationist lost. Honestly, the church was ugly and offered not an iota of architectural significance. I think we need to get a better grasp of these folks. I once saw a development project at a airport be stalled, shelved and revived/redesigned at significantly greater expense due to the presence of civil war bunkers. The runway could not be expanded and public safety was the issue. To the naked eye, the land/bunkers simply looked unlevel, with grass/weeds overgrowing untended dirt. When told they were the civil war bunkers that prohibited development and caused a potential $2-3 million cost increase, I nearly fell over. I'm an urban planner. I have seen Preservationist come in and fight against the demolition of vacant dilapidated buildings with no architectural or historic significance all over this country. Most folks are generally not capable of going against them and winning. DCPS is incurring incredible cost rehabbing its old school buildings versus razing and rebuilding. i bet they never thought of challenging the historic preservationist. Did the NW family ever get their wheelchair ramp?
washingtonpost.com: D.C. Lets Church Tear Down Brutalist Atrocity (Raw Fisher, May 13)
Marc Fisher: Sadly, the preservation movement, which has done so much good for American cities and which is grounded in the best of ideals, has been hijacked by extremists who seem bent on preserving anything and everything that's even just a few decades old or can be in any way ascribed to a semi-important architect or architectural movement.
In the District, the hard-core preservationists have a stranglehold on the process of determining what gets saved and what gets declared historic. The creep of declarations of historic landmark status or historic districts has become a torrent, leaving vast swaths of the city with little say over how they can alter their own properties.
But the beginnings of a popular revolt against this approach are clear, and the politicians are starting to side with the people against the academics and hobbyists who devote great time and care to the preservation imperative.
Arlington, Va.: So, here's how the Virginia governor's race looks from my house: McAuliffe's people have called me twice, which is two times too many. I'm getting mail from McAuliffe and Moran. Haven't heard anything from Deeds yet, but apparently he's busy getting the brakes on his car fixed so maybe he just hasn't had time to try to win my vote. Some dude named McDonnell is running ads on TV, but he's not saying if he's a Republican or a Democrat, so I guess he's trying to keep it a secret.
I presume it will all get worse over the next couple of weeks.
Marc Fisher: Deeds is focusing his campaign outside of northern Virginia, leaving the two better-funded candidates to battle over the vote-rich, but incredibly expensive Washington suburbs. If you're inside the Beltway, you're likely to hear more from Moran; outside the Beltway is where McAuliffe is focusing.
And yes, you will hear and see vastly more of these guys in the next couple of weeks.
Washington, D.C.: Why is it the traffic digital signs rarely work? There were backups left and right last night on 66 West and nothing was shown on the digital signs. That is ridiculous.
Marc Fisher: It never dawned on me that those signs are supposed to be updated with any frequency. The messages always seem to be about something that happened several days before (or sometimes several days hence.) They're a distraction and I've yet to see one that offered actionable information. Scrap em.
Cheverly, Md.: Hi, Marc. In virtually every embezzlement case I've read of, the embezzler is ordered to pay restitution for the money he or she has stolen. Has anyone ever tracked how much of this money is ever repaid? For example, the couple who defrauded hundreds of homeowners in my area, and had a zillion dollar wedding at which Patti LaBelle sang, is now said to be nearly destitute. The same is true of many of those involved in the D.C. Tax Office scam. Plus they are going to be spending time, sometimes a substantial amount of time, in jail. Unless they have assets such as expensive cars and jewelery that can be forfeited and sold, is there any realistic way to get back this money? If sounds good to hear that they nave been ordered to repay it, but unless they actually do so, that's a pretty hollow order.
Marc Fisher: Yes, those orders often are merely symbolic. But prosecutors and detectives often, especially in high profile cases, make a big effort to recover assets, and in the case of the D.C. schools union scam, lots of the booty was indeed found and auctioned off, with the resulting dollars going back to those who were ripped off.
Grossest thing I've seen on Metro: Yesterday on the Metro a woman was flossing her teeth. She was looking out the window and avoiding eye contact. I don't know what she did with the used floss, but I suspect she left in folded inside an Express sitting on the seat.
Marc Fisher: Meaning a nice surprise for the next reader!
I'm all for leaving a paper for the next rider--that's common courtesy (ignore the entreaties from the transit agency to have you throw out that paper). But don't leave a stink bomb in that pass-along gift.
NW D.C.: Tell the preservationist, old does not necessarily mean historical. Sometimes it means old.
Marc Fisher: Exactly.
Arlington Gay: I'll be voting next month, but not for McAuliffe, because I've never missed an election of primary in nearly 30 years. I know better than the folks calling him a carpetbagger. He's lived in Virginia for at least 20 years. But to me, it seems he's trying to buy the election. I'm voting for Moran both because of his record and that I want Deeds to stay in the Senate and not risk the Dems losing control.
Marc Fisher: You and voters like you are the reason the McAuliffe campaign is focusing on the outer suburbs--they assume the bulk of the politically aware folks inside the Beltway are the people who know who Moran is and are favorably inclined toward him. McAuliffe's strategy is based on getting people who don't ordinarily bother to vote in primaries to come out to the polls--that's why his celebrity appeals are so important to his campaign. They're a way to get people who are only vaguely politically aware to pay attention.
Vouchers: Two questions for you: if the voucher program were restructure to restrict usage of voucher ONLY to non-sectarian schools, would you be in favor of it then? Do you think that President Obama would be? (For me, if the president would support this kind of restructuring, then I would truly believe that he's not in the tank with the teachers' unions.) Thanks.
Marc Fisher: Great question. I would still be skeptical of vouchers because they don't give the taxpayers any way to check on how their money is being spent--the great advantage of charter schools is that even though they are privately-run, there is a check on them in the form of the charter school board, which examines all charter schools for financial health, academic standards and basic management. I don't see any justification for giving away tax dollars carte blanche--the same people who shout out for vouchers would never accept such a system in any other field.
Fairfax, Va.: Marc -- I am a registered Republican in NoVa. Can I cross over to vote in next month's primary? Thanks
Marc Fisher: No, you're not a registered Republican. There is no party registration in Virginia. You are therefore free to vote in any party's primary.
Springfield, Va.: I'd have to say I lean on the side of being sick and tired of elections and campaigning. Between the ridiculous election last year (my answering machine had no less than 7 messages PER DAY for the month running up to election day, even though I had already voted absentee), and the two additional Fairfax County elections that have been held to replace the supervisor and councilperson who won the supervisor job, I'm just finished. The only thing that may get me to vote in the upcoming primary is to ensure Mr. Moneybags McAuliff doesn't buy his way into the governor's mansion.
Marc Fisher: You picked the wrong state to live in--Virginia may think it's for lovers, but it's really for politics junkies. It's the only state around that has elections every year. And now this year, a bonus--a rare primary election for governor and other statewide offices.
Lots of backlash out there against McAuliffe's fundraising career....
Washington, D.C.: Note to Ted Lerner: winning turns Washington into a hockey town. Games are sellouts. Season tickets are selling for next season.
Marc Fisher: Yes, winning teams sell well. There's no question about that. But the Caps' success in attendance began even before the team became a legitimate powerhouse on the ice. All fans need to start coming out is a sense that movement is happening and in the right direction--kind of the opposite of the Nationals, who seem to get worse every year. To their credit, the Nats did make a significant drive to improve their hitting this off-season, and it's paying off with one of the top offenses in the league. But they did so while paying almost zero attention to pitching, and now they're the laughingstock of the sport in that crucial department.
Alexandria, Va.: So what did he do exactly to improve the fan experience at Caps games? I am not being sarcastic, more curious what it is that could be replicated at Nationals games, etc.
Marc Fisher: Using all sorts of tricks--music, lighting, announcements, new uniforms and colors--the fan experience became much more energetic, and fans were lured into becoming the X factor in the arena, just as happens at the best college arenas. The revival of the area around Abe Pollin Center has added dramatically to the fun atmosphere.
The Nats, by contrast, stick with a comically awful cheerleader (the insufferable Clint), an unremarkable announcer, appallingly inappropriate music selections (country music in the District of Columbia? What planet are these people from?), and a neighborhood consisting of empty lots and construction pits.
Kensington, Md.: Pollin gave financial support to youth hockey leagues in the area, especially the one in D.C. Leonsis stopped that. For that reason alone I have never thought much of Ted.
Marc Fisher: I don't know what Leonsis has done on that front, but his practice rink in Arlington has become a big draw that has helped promote the team and the sport as well.
Silver Spring, Md.: I worked for the National Trust for Historic Preservation as a secretary/office assistant in 1973-74. The local preservation group Don't Tear it Down was just getting started.
Back then they had a sense of humor -- they tried to preserve a really nice example of an old concrete parking structure with art deco decorations, and they laughed their heads off about it. The thing was torn down in the end, but the HP folks were not weird about it.
What's happened to it in the decades since?
Marc Fisher: Any humor has long since seeped out of the preservation movement, which has oddly and grimly set itself up against the very residents whose urban experience it is supposedly trying to protect. It's been sad to see preservation become an insult word in places such as Mt. Pleasant, Chevy Chase and Capitol Hill--areas where the demographics suggest a natural partnership between preservationists and residents.
Ballston, Va.: You're not looking at historical preservation correctly; it's a tool to ensure that the RIGHT kind of development happens.
My parents almost had a major mixed-income development happen two blocks from them, with about 80 units of affordable housing. But my dad and a couple of other lawyers in the neighborhood focused on one building in the middle and claimed historical preservation because some poet lived there 70 years ago. The litigation drained the nonprofit developer, they went under and had to sell whole piece of land, and the new developer built a beautiful "town center" luxury office/retail/condo development. In fact, my folks invested in a couple of units in there and have a nice income stream for their retirement. That couldn't have happened if my parents and their neighbors had just gone along with the nonprofit trying to trample over their property values.
Marc Fisher: I'm sure your parents are grateful they had the preservation tool to use, but that's really not the idea behind historic preservation. It shouldn't be possible or easy to wield preservation as a weapon against policies designed to increase density or change a neighborhood. Those battles should be fought on their own terms--if residents think new development is not appropriate or poses a danger, they should make their case on the merits, not by hiding behind the phony historical value of some building that no one ever really noticed.
We have a large and important physical history in this country, and preservation battles should be reserved for those fights--to save places like the Lincoln cottage at the Old Soldiers' Home, or the Gettysburg battlefield, or some of the grandest mansions in the city.
Tenleytown (D.C.): Mark, how much of the historical preservation issue in DC is due to people who really think these buildings have some architectural or historical significance, and how much is just people trying to put roadblocks in the way of new development. For example, how is the Giant on Wisconsin Ave historical?
Marc Fisher: Great example. It's your basic brick box, a 1950s supermarket no different from any other of that period. Not a soul on the planet considered anything about that supermarket to be historic until the moment some clever neighbors realized that simply by shouting out that word, they could paralyze plans to provide their neighbors with a modern market. The NIMBY crowd got their way--for nearly a decade, plans to provide a decent shop for the many folks who live near there and do not drive have been stalled. That's how preservation is wielded these days.
Washington, D.C.: Comments like those of the urban planner about preservationists, and indeed many from you, so broadly and shallowly consider the preservation community it's almost laughable if you weren't actually serious. I am an architectural and public historian--must all buildings be saved? No. Are there buildings of the recent past that deserve to be preserved, but cannot yet be appreciated by many people outside the field. Yes. D.C. is losing an important building with this decision and what is going to go up on the site? Very likely an underwhelming speculative office venture that contributes nothing to downtown, and happens to contain an alcove off the lobby that can be called a "church."
Marc Fisher: We agree that whatever replaces the church is likely to be uninspired and a blight on the city. But I don't see how that justifies the government telling a church that it doesn't have the right to determine the face it shows to its congregation and to the people it wants to attract and help.
Arlington, Va.: A question and a comment for you, Mr. Fisher. First the question: What is Brutalism as a way to describe a building's architecture? I never heard of that description before. Now, the comment: I would think that after enduring a two-year long run for presidency, we Virginians deserve a break from all the campaigning. Moreover, is gaining State residency so easy for folks like former President Clinton and other politicians that they think they are suited to run in Virginia's gubernatorial campaign?
Marc Fisher: Brutalism is a school of thought in architecture, a form of design using concrete in hulking, massive stretches. There's more, with photos, here:
Ha! Clinton, interestingly enough, is pretty much a virgin when it comes to campaigning in Virginia. Because the Commonwealth was still considered rock-solid Republican territory back in the 90s, Clinton never campaigned much in the state, which he lost quite impressively to both George Bush (the first) and to Bob Dole.
Dupont Circle, D.C.: The points about the preservation police raise a question I've had: How can I, the average district resident, help the side for smart development? Are there organizations that stand for the opposite of the preservation police? I don't live in the neighborhoods where this is a problem but since what happens in the next street over affects me indirectly I'm interested in becoming more involved.
Marc Fisher: Good question--for the most part, the opposition to overzealous preservationists is piecemeal. It springs up in each area where the preservationists overreach. That probably gives the preservation side a whole lot more power and influence than it would otherwise have, but it's hard to see how a more concerted movement for more rational use of the preservation tool would emerge--everyone likes the basic idea of preserving our historic heritage. The folks who end up opposing landmark designations tend to have only very local interests in mind.
washingtonpost.com: Beyond Brutalism (WebUrbanist)
Washington, D.C.: I agree with you completely on the digital signs. They're just the latest in a long series of uglification steps (e.g., Jersey barriers, overhead wires) that make our environment less attractive and in this case serve no purpose. Is anyone's behavior changed by reminders that traffic can be tied up downtown by (unnamed) weekend events and that we should take public transit? I get the sense that DCDOT bought a bunch of them and decided to spread them around, so they wouldn't be accused of having them go to waste.
Marc Fisher: Maybe it makes the government folks feel like they're being responsive to motorists' needs, and on the few highways where they really do use message boards to warn of, say, an accident four exits up the road, that's a terrific service--information you can really act upon. But the vast majority of such signs, and especially the street-side message boards the District has, are useless clutter, most often used to announce that the Cherry Blossom Parade will be staged three weeks ago.
Arlington, Va.: Where can I find a listing of candidates' platforms for the primary, so that I can distinguish between the jillions of candidates for delegates?
Marc Fisher: As we get closer to the election, The Post will provide, both in print and online, extensive voters guides on the candidates. Many civic groups also distribute questionnaires to candidates and post their responses on their web sites--the League of Women Voters, conservation groups, and some ethnic affinity groups do this. I haven't yet found the site that aggregates all this--that would be a great service.
Centerville, Va. : Those traffic signs on I66 were the first of their kind in the nation and historical preservationist have fought to keep these artifacts in place. McAuliffe with his ties to Kaine the current chair of DCC and gov Virginia has offered these signs to McAuliffe and Clinton for political messages only. The age of these signs prevents them from providing real time info and they are also infected with various software viruses from Ted Leonsis companies who did the software. Go Caps!
Marc Fisher: Pre-emptive ThreadWeaver of the Day Award winner--even if it doesn't actually make any sense.
Arlington, Va.: Marc, I have to disagree with this statement of yours "But the Caps' success in attendance began even before the team became a legitimate powerhouse on the ice." As one who has been attending games since the mid-70s, I can tell you that even after Boudreau became coach and the team started winning, you didn't see a jump in attendance until just about the last month or so of last season. Before that, I could have conversations with people sitting across the rink during the game. Seriously.
Marc Fisher: The higher numbers may indeed have been weighted toward the latter parts of the season--I haven't looked at that--but I did check the attendance numbers over the past five years, and it's been a steady and impressive climb that says this is a change that's not strictly about a playoff run.
Bowie, Md.: How does a team create "buzz"? There's no secret. The answer is to win, especially with interesting players, but if you had your choice you should choose winning. (Case in point: the Wizards had more buzz when they won without Michael Jordan than they did when they lost with him.) The Caps don't need to win the Cup in order to maintain this interest, but they do need to keep going deep in the playoffs. A couple of Cups would sustain them longer through the inevitable hard times. But if you win on the field, you win at the box office and in buzz land (wherever that is).
Marc Fisher: No question, winning is the key. But it's not necessary to win the whole shebang to win over fans. The Wizards' numbers rise and fall mainly with whether the team is decent enough to be a .500 performer--very few people like to go to spend big money if it's virtually certain the home team will lose every time you go. Plenty of well-run franchises do just fine as long as they reasonably good--even if they almost never get anywhere at the end of the season.
Washington, D.C.: Marc,
Have you seen any additional information on the 14th St. Bridge construction that is starting soon? With the long timeline, it seems the state would have outlined what lanes will be closed, etc. Thanks.
Marc Fisher: We've got a ton of info about that huge project right here on the big web site. Start here:
Voucher Use: Your argument about the church-state separation falls flat when you cite Sidwell (Quaker) and St. Albans (Episcopalian) as alternatives to Catholic schools. The fact is that (due to discrimination against Catholic students in days past), the church built a robust alternative, accredited school system which, for private schools, gives the biggest bang for the buck for those who choose not to use public schools. In inner cities, most of the students are NOT Catholic, and provide the best alternative available to them.
Marc Fisher: Those private schools you cite are religious mainly in heritage, not so much in the content of their curriculum. Whereas many parents choose Catholic schools because of their strong emphasis on faith, values and a clear ethical position. Yes, many non-Catholics are served in Catholic schools, but the solution to those schools' economic troubles lies in the innovative move by the Washington Archdiocese this school year to convert a bunch of its schools to charter schools--retaining many of their teachers and core values, but going secular and accepting the supervision of the charter school board.
Alexandria, Va.: Marc, I'm a Democrat and I have no one to pull for in the upcoming primary. I cannot stomach McAuliffe -- I think his hubris stinks from 10 miles away. I also think that he is out of touch with the actual policy solutions that might be necessary to help Virginia emerge from this recession.
Moran? Doesn't seem to be able to make tough choices -- wants to spend his way out of the recession while also balancing budgets. Not to mention that Virginia doesn't need any extra positive name recognition for his moron brother.
Deeds? Seems smart enough, but doesn't have the money to compete.
What's your take? Should I express my dissatisfaction by voting in the GOP primary instead? UGH, Virginia. You should be able to do better than this.
Marc Fisher: Sorry, but there is no Republican primary so you don't get that option. The GOP chooses to select its candidates at a convention for party insiders, to be held at the end of this month.
There is some unhappiness out there about the Democratic candidates, and many Dems say they expect their candidate--no matter which of the three it ends up being--to be real underdogs against GOP candidate Bob McDonnell. But Tim Kaine was not remotely a household name at this stage of his campaign and nor was Jim Gilmore.
Washington, D.C.: Tuesday, early afternoon, L Street between 15th and 16th... all police-taped off and tons of flashing lights. What happened?
Marc Fisher: As I heard it, it was an investigation of a suspicious package in the Post's mail room. Came to naught.
Chantilly, Va.: Stupid question of the day: what's a "charter school"?
Marc Fisher: It's a publicly-funded, privately-managed school. The District has dozens of them. Anybody or his brother can start one--all you need is a plan that passes muster with the fairly minimal standards of the charter board. You get a per-student fee from the government to run your school and you have to comply with the minimum requirements for educating kids.
Fairfax County, Va.: Fairfax county is solidly Democratic? Really? Last time I looked, it seemed strongly purple, with an almost even division, county-wide, between Republicans and Democrats.
I'm Republican by inclination, but voted in last year's Democratic primary for Obama, and again in the general election, because he seemed the better candidate. I have no such strong feeling this year for the Democratic race for governor, feel like both of them have ethical issues, so will likely sit out the primary.
Marc Fisher: Solidly may be slightly strong, but the numbers certainly make that argument pretty powerfully. Trending Democratic, in a big way. The numbers show a strong march from R to D over the past two decades in Fairfax, and the results have been clear at every level, from president and senator to statewide offices and on down to the local seats.
Arlington, Va.: Can you explain why McAuliffe tends to make people's skin crawl? I'm being 100 percent serious. My whole family lives in different parts of Virginia, some of different political persuasions, but the one thing we all have in common -- McAuliffe gives us the heebie-jeebies. Thoughts?
Marc Fisher: Most folks who say this quickly cite two things: The Clinton Lincoln bedroom rentals and other such seemingly excessive antics from that era, and McAuliffe's carnival showman personality on the cable TV shout fests. He's trying to turn that into an advantage, with lots of campaign slogans about "New Energy," but even some of his supporters cringe at his salesman persona. On the other hand, he's much more accessible to many voters than his Democratic opponents, who tend more toward legislator-speak.
Washington, D.C.: Can you comment on the City Paper's report that you will be moving away from your columnist position at the Post?
washingtonpost.com: New Role for WaPo's Marc Fisher: Enterprise Editor (Washington City Paper, May 12)
Marc Fisher: Thanks for asking. No announcement yet, but there was some truth to the City Paper report and I hope to have more for you on that in the coming days.
Logan Circle, DC: Re: Ballston - Oh so we can use historic preservation as a way to keep out those undesirable poor non-white folks? Sweet.
Marc Fisher: There are certainly those who abuse preservation for that sort of NIMBY purpose, but to the credit of preservationists, at least in Washington, they have been rigorously honest about keeping race and class out of their decisions about what gets declared historic and what doesn't. Still, affordability is a big issue in decisions about historic districts, as many homeowners fear, with good reason, that living in a historic district can make it much more expensive to maintain your house.
Herndon, Va.: I'm not really surprised that no one at Frying Pan yesterday knew who or what the governor's race was all about. My husband and I used to work on the Hill and moved out to Herndon -- from D.C. and Arlington respectively -- about 5 years ago. People out there just are not up on politics like people closer in are. We were used to working with people who were pol junkies like us and instead, we live around techies and the like. They're not "dumb" per se, but you just cannot get into a nice, satisfying political conversation with the most of them. Me no likee this about Herndon, although I do like other parts of it. The saddest day for me came when got to be friends with a girl my age who grew up in Herndon (I grew up in Arlington) and excitedly asked me if I grew up going to the Herndon Festival, and I said, "No, I never heard of it until we moved out here," and she was shocked, SHOCKED, but when I said we used to go to the Natl Christmas Tree every year as kids, she said she had never heard of it.
Marc Fisher: Different strokes and all that. The politically inclined never cease to be amazed by the fact that most Americans don't give a darn about politics--that's one of the great luxuries of this society, even if it is bothersome to those of us who believe that it's important to have an informed, involved electorate.
Arlington, Va.: Put me down as one who will vote in the primary on 6/9. I even voted in one primary a few years back when the only position on the ballot was county treasurer. It only takes a few minutes, and it's worth it to have a say in who'll be making the decisions that affect my life.
Marc Fisher: It's always fascinating to me to hear folks at an event like yesterdays alternately making the argument that the only offices that matter are the local ones, or arguing that they're right to pay attention only to the main, national issues and offices. A lot depends on where you live and the kind of work you do.
Washington, D.C.: So you apparently have no problems condemning poor children to the incompetence of DCPS, where the cost per child to "educate" them is about $12-$13K, when this voucher program costs about half of that and actually produces results.
Marc Fisher: That's a silly argument. Nearly half the kids in the city go to charter schools and never set foot in the D.C. public system--while the vouchers serve a relative handful of kids and exist only in service to a religious agenda.
Arlington, Va.: Hey Marc, how's about a column since you are a dog lover about Rush Limbaugh's conversion to a far left wing ideology as evidenced by his PSAs in support of the Humane Society of the United States States. Hunters, fisherman, farmers and 95 percent of the dog-owning population is ready to lynch Rush over his PSAs and support of HSUS and PETA! He lost a lot of his core support.
Marc Fisher: Rush is a PETA guy? I don't think so--I've heard him rail against them too many times to buy that.
Deeds Question: I'm a Republican and won't be voting on primary day, but looking at the Dem race, I don't quite get how Deeds is out of the picture. Or is he? This guy came within a hair defeating Bill Bolling in a statewide election! And now he's supposed to take a back seat to McAuliffe and, more shockingly, Brian Moran? We in NoVa know the Moran name, but the rest of the state? I doubt it. I figure they'd lean Deeds, having voted for him earlier and maybe distrusting McAuliffe. But from the tone of the coverage, I get the sense that Deeds' campaign is lagging. That's hard to believe.
Marc Fisher: Deeds is an attractive candidate, but his campaign is lagging in fundraising, he's not going to be able to get his message out on TV in northern Virginia, and he's had to let some of his staffers go. The other guys are betting that the turnout in northern Virginia and Hampton Roads will determine this race, so they're focused in those more expensive places.
Vienna, Va.: On digital signs: I was driving on Atlanta highways recently, and their use of digital signs was EXACTLY what you would want from such signs. They would say whether there was any incident or high volume ahead, where it was, and (best of all) the approximate length of travel time expected. For example, "Three-car crash at Exit 80. Two left lanes blocked. Travel time to exit: 25-30 minutes." And they'd update it frequently.
Marc Fisher: Nice.
Chantilly, Va.: So the preservationists thought the church was a treasure to the community? Fine. The preservationists should take it over and be responsible for its upkeep, pay the utility bills, etc. Want to bet they'd have soon decided it was structurally unsound and razed it?
Marc Fisher: Sadly, the alternatives they came up with for the church building were unrealistic, and the city's planning director called them on that in her decision.
Lots of backlash out there against McAuliffe's fundraising career: I don't care so much about that as about his lack of qualification for the office of governor. He's a fundraiser and cheerleader, that doesn't mean he knows the first thing about governing.
Marc Fisher: True, but it doesn't mean he doesn't know that stuff. That's what he's trying to prove out there on the campaign trail. Hard to say if people are buying it. Most folks I've been interviewing really just don't know who any of these candidates are.
Falls Church, Va.: Leonsis has vacillated wildly in his time as owner, overpaying Jaromir Jagr one year and then blowing up the team the next. It's taken him ten years to calm down, stumble into a good coach, and start making the playoffs.
Ironically, this tracks Dan Snyder's tenure in a lot of ways. And yet, Snyder remains a villain to the press while Leonsis is a hero. I'm guessing that Ted is a much better schmoozer.
Marc Fisher: No, it's much more than that. Snyder treats fans like dirt, sucking more cash from them at every turn, even as they complain that the game day experience is simply not fun. Leonsis seems willing to try anything and everything to make the sport more accessible and the game experience convenient and exciting.
Washington, D.C.: Not much discussion of the Wizards here, since they were just atrocious this year... but it's interesting to think about what happens when Leonsis gets control of them (and the rest of Abe's empire) too.
Marc Fisher: Yes, that could be quite interesting--should be a big change.
Alexandria, Va.: If Learner and Kasten (Learsten) had any eye for marketing, they would embrace the success the Caps have had this season, and invite those fans to come to the yard. Learsten's regime, even with attendance ranked 29 out of 30, has the fewest number of promotions or special offers. How about having some of the Caps throw out first pitches and offer fans who wear Caps gear (conveniently within the Nats color scheme) discounted day-of tickets? That's what Ted had to do to get fans in his building, but Learsten is all about those empty $300 seats behind home plate and trying to charge full price for a ticket that is no longer worth face value.
Marc Fisher: There's some merit to that, but in fact, the Nats have been lowering ticket prices like crazy. Their problem is that they don't have a product that people want to see, and casual fans don't get the sense that this is a franchise that's eager to win or willing to spend what it takes.
Re: Ted and Youth Hockey: Ted was instrumental in getting the practice facility in Ballston, which allows people to practice without traveling to far out suburbs of D.C. The rink is packed with kids almost every time I go over there, so for that (and other reasons) I would have to disagree with the comment about not helping youth hockey.
Marc Fisher: Thanks--good to hear.
Fairfax, Va.: Terry's been wonderful for the Republican Party. We had some great years with him helming the Democrats -- he was like our very own Trojan Horse. I never thought I'd be able to pay him back, but helping him through so he can lose to Bob McDonnell (while ruining Moran and Deeds) works great for me.
Marc Fisher: A few more on the gov's race and then we're outta here....
Carpetbagging: He moved here to work in Washington and has not, that I'm aware of, done much of anything in Virginia politics over the last twenty years. How long have the Kennedys had a residence in Virgnia? Does that make them Virginians somehow? I think the proximity to D.C. brings a unique sort of carpetbagger situation where someone can live here for decades and have no real association with the state other than mailing address. He's running for governor to run for U.S. Senate or president later. He doesn't (in my mind) give a darn about Goochland or Chesapeake, etc. Can one of y'all show me where I'm mistaken?
Marc Fisher: Voters in most states don't seem to mind carpetbaggers--cf. Hillary Clinton. But is Virginia different?
Manassas, Va: Politically aware, donor -- tired. I haven't made up my mind yet (Moran or Deeds...don't get me started on the other guy). But I am going to vote.
Marc Fisher: Lots of anti-McAuliffe stuff on the board today.
Marc Fisher: That has to kick things in the head for today. Thanks for coming along. Back in the paper on Sunday, and over on the blog every day.
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