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Archive: April 2007

Eastern Market: Two Families Lose A Home

While Eastern Market burned this morning, Jose Canales was asleep in his bed in Silver Spring. But as his wife says, that house is not his home; only his stall at the Market on Capitol Hill fits that definition. Monday is the only morning of the week when the merchants who own the food stalls at the Capitol Hill market get to sleep past 4 a.m. Canales, who has owned the Canales Deli inside the market for 24 years, is usually at his shop from 5:30 a.m. until 9 in the evening. "He lives here," says his wife, Consuelo...

By Marc Fisher | April 30, 2007; 3:21 PM ET | Comments (5)

Eastern Market: What We've Lost

As it happens, I spent an afternoon this weekend at Eastern Market, and now that it is gone--surely to be rebuilt, but nonetheless a charred, tangled scar in the city's center--it's painful to realize just how important a spot like this really is. If you've never been, you've missed out on what is all too often presumed to be lacking about Washington, because Eastern Market, which burned early this morning, was not just a collection of produce and meat stands in a 130-year-old brick building on Capitol Hill. The Market was more than the assemblage of craftsmen, artists and...

By Marc Fisher | April 30, 2007; 8:13 AM ET | Comments (0)

Time for a D.C. Congestion Tax?

London has it, and traffic in the city is down by nearly half. New York is considering it, wowed by the possibility of thinning out the city's choking congestion. Now, Washington is talking about imposing a congestion tax, a daily fee for bringing a car into the District's downtown. Mayor Adrian Fenty raised the issue in an interview on WTOP radio Friday, and immediately the debate began. London is the primo example of congestion charging. To drive into central London, you must pay 8 pounds a day, or about $16. This has proven to be enough of a disincentive...

By Marc Fisher | April 30, 2007; 7:42 AM ET | Comments (63)

Turning Their Back on City Kids

Just six years ago, when Michael Jordan was the guest of honor at the Boys & Girls Clubs' Eastern Branch on Capitol Hill, the brass of the organization couldn't be more proud of the spiffed-up building, spanking-new computer lab, freshly renovated gym and the hundreds of kids who were getting a second chance because of the club. That was before the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington decided that the grass -- and donations from fat cats -- might be decidedly greener in the suburbs than in tired old city neighborhoods. Last week, the Boys & Girls Clubs announced...

By Marc Fisher | April 29, 2007; 9:24 AM ET | Comments (0)

Listener: At Tender Age, Picking the Hits By Pro Rules

The monthly music meeting -- the crucible where decisions are made about which songs will be heard on the radio -- opens with discussion about the recent duet featuring Beyoncé and Shakira, and the reaction is underwhelming. "That's a really weird combination," says Maria Ralph after a chorus of "ughs" from others sprawled on a long couch. "A lot of people will like it, but we don't," says Molly Horrocks. Reluctant nods around the room. So consensus is reached: We think the song is lousy, but because our audience is likely to go for such trash, we'll play it....

By Marc Fisher | April 28, 2007; 7:56 AM ET | Comments (2)

Dupont Straightens While Shaw Springs a Rainbow

As happens with most great city neighborhoods, the decline of Dupont Circle has been a source of lamentations pretty much since the dawn of time. I last wrote about the shift in Dupont away from its funky 1970s roots a few years ago (see column on the jump), when retail changes and real estate realities were combining to turn the neighborhood into a blander, more suburban mix of shops, surrounded by high-priced townhouses whose residents had little connection to the bongo players, pot dealers, chess hustlers and sex cruisers still clinging to their spot on the Circle itself. Now...

By Marc Fisher | April 27, 2007; 7:31 AM ET | Comments (27)

Going the Speed Limit: Public Service or Public Menace?

Two organizations call on drivers to do something radical: Drive the speed limit. In one case, the effort is designed to make streets safer for bicyclists and pedestrians. In the other case, the idea is to make rile drivers, alerting them to a political issue. So in one case, driving at the legal speed limit is presented as an act of kindness and in the other as a protest campaign. The Washington Area Bicyclist Association announced yesterday its Neighborhood Pace Car program, in which D.C. residents are asked to sign up to get a sticker placed on their car...

By Marc Fisher | April 26, 2007; 7:25 AM ET | Comments (0)

A Candidate & Her Supporter--One and the Same?

Now that the D.C. Council has approved Mayor Adrian Fenty's takeover of the school system, the D.C. school board is about to be transformed into a toothless relic, a body so utterly powerless that one of its members has already resigned. But next Tuesday, many Washington voters--well, maybe not so many--will go to the polls to select a new school board member in a special election to replace Victor Reinoso, who has left the board to become Fenty's deputy mayor for education. One of the candidates for that school board seat representing Wards 3 and 4 now stands accused...

By Marc Fisher | April 25, 2007; 7:55 AM ET | Comments (23)

The Hains Point Hand: Stealing Away A Public Treasure

The wealthy developer who bought the hugely popular sculpture that lures thousands of visitors to Hains Point at the southern tip of the District says he is trying to be provocative by moving "The Awakening" to his new shopping mall and hotel complex in Maryland. He's succeeding. Milt Peterson wants his decision to dig up and remove the 70 feet of aluminum body parts that now poke up from the ground where the Potomac and Anacostia rivers converge to cause a ruckus and win him some publicity for his National Harbor project. Ok, I'll bite. "The Awakening," by J....

By Marc Fisher | April 24, 2007; 7:17 AM ET | Comments (63)

Cho: How'd He Get Into Virginia Tech?

Readers keep asking: If it's so hard to get into good colleges such as Virginia Tech, how did Seung-Hui Cho win admission? Surely, his teacher recommendations could not have been stellar, even if they didn't spell out the extent of his personality defects. Surely his own essay must have revealed at least some of the disturbing thinking that permeates his creative writing assignments in college. No matter how good his test scores may have been--and how could he have earned top-notch grades if he never once spoke in class?--how could admissions officers have overlooked what must have been a...

By Marc Fisher | April 23, 2007; 7:17 AM ET | Comments (279)

Fenty's First 100 Days: Can He Top This?

And on the 101st day, the mayor celebrated a historic voting rights victory in Congress and won the right to take over the city's school system. Well, actually, it was the 107th day, but who's counting? Yesterday was just one more in a whirlwind of action-packed days for Mayor Blackberry, who makes more public appearances per day than his predecessor made in an average week, enjoys a ridiculously good rep among wide swaths of the city's voters, and still manages to run in marathons and seem as if he has all the time in the world. Adrian Fenty wasn't...

By Marc Fisher | April 20, 2007; 7:22 AM ET | Comments (12)

The New Downtown: Spies, Cops and Fugitives

When the MCI Center and the International Spy Museum opened, in 1997 and 2002 respectively, hard as it may be to imagine today, the East End of downtown was pretty much a dead zone. Now, since nothing succeeds like success and nothing exceeds like excess, the neighborhood may soon be home to museums telling the stories not only of spies, but also cops and crooks. The National Law Enforcement Officers Association, which already has an outdoor memorial a couple of blocks from the Abe Pollin sports arena, is now planning an $80 million museum about police work scheduled to...

By Marc Fisher | April 19, 2007; 7:23 AM ET | Comments (11)

Va. Tech: Report from the Killer's Block

The police arrived a little before 11 on the night of the shootings. They piled into the Cho family's townhouse on Truitt Farm Drive in Centreville, gathered up several boxes of materials and left. The house has been sealed off ever since, the family, immigrants from South Korea who run a dry cleaning business, secreted away from the mob of fact-hunters. There were more than 50 of us at one point yesterday, sniffing around on the block where Cho Seung Hui lived with his parents and sister. Camera crews, reporters, curious neighbors, police, all milling about, as if someone might...

By Marc Fisher | April 18, 2007; 7:01 AM ET | Comments (15)

Va Tech: How Pols and Lobbies Play the Tragedy

Immediately when tragedy strikes, the nation's most finely-tuned industry--the great American publicity machine--springs into action. Here's a look inside a reporter's in-box in the first hours after the Virginia Tech shootings: A pro-gun group called opencarry.org blasted Virginia Tech administrators for opposing bills in the Richmond legislature that would have erased rules banning students from carrying guns on college campuses: "It's not illegal in Virginia for 21 year old+ college students and staff holding concealed handgun permits to carry concealed handguns to class; but college "rules" have long threatened students and staff with expulsion or firing if they legally...

By Marc Fisher | April 17, 2007; 11:44 AM ET | Comments (18)

Va. Tech: The Desperate, Futile Quest for Meaning

Students, children really, captured the sounds of gunfire on their cellphones, and in minutes, the blasts were on radio and television. Professors, substitute parents of a sort, listened to the gunshots, some grabbing students off the sidewalks, others trapped inside their offices, unable to help. The firing continued for half an hour. As their friends died, college students, some of them not long removed from being tucked into bed each night, leaped from windows, and took off their sweat shirts to press them against bleeding wounds, and carried the injured out into the open, searching for safety. But there was...

By Marc Fisher | April 17, 2007; 8:41 AM ET | Comments (47)

Eddie Stubbs Leaves the Building

Yesterday marked Eddie Stubbs' final delivery of country and honky-tonk sounds to Washington. The longtime voice of C&W music in the D.C. area, a Gaithersburg native who now lives in Nashville, made his final appearance on his WAMU show yesterday as public radio took another step toward nationalizing its sound. Stubbs lost his show and Dick Spottswood, who has been on WAMU (88.5 FM) since 1967, had his air time cut in half as the station seeks to find room for more of the national news and talk programming produced by National Public Radio. This is a new chapter...

By Marc Fisher | April 16, 2007; 7:41 AM ET | Comments (0)

When A Hospital Is In Critical Condition

One of Hema Yadla's patients needed a pacemaker, right away. But when the staff at Prince George's Hospital Center called to order the device for immediate delivery, the vendor refused to process the purchase. "They were afraid they wouldn't get paid," Yadla, an internist, told me. Luckily, another vendor was unwilling to put worries about the hospital's precarious position ahead of a patient's life. The pacemaker arrived, and the patient is doing well. But the game of chicken that politicians are playing with the future of the county's largest hospital is endangering lives and risking a breakdown in health services...

By Marc Fisher | April 15, 2007; 10:43 AM ET | Comments (2)

Gospel Replaces Rock and Goes Big Time in DC

(Sunday's Listener column) For many years, executives at Radio One's headquarters in Prince George's County hungered for a way to launch a full-time FM gospel station in the city where it might attract the largest audience: their home town. Last week -- in a move curiously made possible by the demise of the nation's oldest commercial classical radio station -- the country's largest black-owned broadcasting company finally put Praise 104.1 on the air in Washington, on Easter Sunday. Contemporary gospel -- an upbeat, jazz-and-R&B-tinged music that, if you don't listen to the lyrics, could pass for the hit black...

By Marc Fisher | April 14, 2007; 7:20 PM ET | Comments (0)

Imus Not in the Morning: Why and What Next?

For the first time in four decades, Don Imus is not on the radio this morning. Radio entertainers come and go, and the notion that there is some First Amendment issue here, or that Imus is somehow a journalist because his show featured lots of prominent politicians, is just silly. But the sacking of Imus by CBS Radio yesterday is nonetheless an indicator that we have allowed ourselves to become brittle and kneejerk on matters of speech. On the former Imus program this morning, there has been much sadness and anger about the fact that the corporate suits pulled...

By Marc Fisher | April 13, 2007; 8:10 AM ET | Comments (0)

You Be The Editor: Does Neiman Get His Marcus?

The story in yesterday's Post detailed the arrest of a man in the shooting death last fall of a man before the eyes of his wife. The article introduced the accused man like this: Police charged Neiman M. Edmonds, 19, with second-degree murder yesterday in connection with the fatal shooting of [Raymond] Brown, a well-known music engineer who was killed last year after his car was stolen by men in a tow truck. Every other news organization I could find that reported on the same arrest described the arrested man a bit differently: "Washington police arrested Neiman Marcus Edmonds,...

By Marc Fisher | April 12, 2007; 7:40 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Phrase That Pays?

Every scandal creates overreaction and strange backlash, and the Don Imus flap is no exception. Now comes a rock radio station in the Poconos that today sacked its morning show host because he went on the air and declared Imus's offending words ("nappy-headed hos") to be "the phrase that pays." The news stories don't say whether morning deejay Gary Smith was trying to add some commentary along the lines that Don Imus will eventually profit from this whole sordid episode, which would have been an interesting and quite possibly correct analysis. Or perhaps Smith was just latching onto Imus's...

By Marc Fisher | April 11, 2007; 5:04 PM ET | Comments (0)

Shattering Myths About Prince George's

Relatively affordable housing costs and a strong regional economy are luring a steady stream of new residents to Prince George's County--even if the county's busiest hospital is on the verge of shutting down. But many of the county's new residents are low earners, dragging down the county's average family income. A new study portrays Prince George's as a suburb in flux, with consistently large movements of moderate-income people, both black and white, out of the county, while people with lower incomes are moving in. Using Census and IRS data, Brookings scholars Brooke DeRenzis and Alice Rivlin tried to see...

By Marc Fisher | April 11, 2007; 7:35 AM ET | Comments (46)

Slap! Bad Imus! Ok, Now Everybody Back to Your Raunchy Radio.

In 1982, when a New York Top 40 radio station sought to lure listeners for its two top deejays, the station launched an ad campaign under the slogan, "If we weren't so bad, we wouldn't be so good." The bad boys on WNBC were Don Imus and Howard Stern. They played the same music that could be heard on any other Top 40 station--what made them different and alluring was how they pushed the envelope, saying things that ran right up against the edges of what the FCC would tolerate on the airwaves and what listeners would find titillating...

By Marc Fisher | April 9, 2007; 4:20 PM ET | Comments (0)

Following Orders: John McCain's New Money Man

In the endless marathon that presidential politics has become, John McCain, like any other candidate, needs big money, and he needs it fast and soon. So McCain has signed up a new national finance co-chair who has been, as McCain's press release says, "a pioneer in four professions including corporate management, government, politics, and finance." This Renaissance man is none other than Fred Malek, the D.C. financier and longtime Republican fundraiser who did stints running Marriott Hotels and Northwest Airlines. But Fred Malek is not just a business success or a GOP go-to guy. He's also the man who...

By Marc Fisher | April 9, 2007; 7:29 AM ET | Comments (18)

Highway Injustice?--A Brother's Story

On a Saturday evening last June, Alan Kobren was out for a jog along University Boulevard in College Park and Puja Patel was driving her Honda Civic to see some friends. Suddenly, Patel heard a thud. Kobren, hit and thrown by the car, was killed. Patel called police. Nearly 10 months later, after a police investigation concluded that Patel was not at fault and that Kobren had strayed into the traffic lane, the accident has spawned a personal crusade, a media phenomenon and a trail of outraged officials. Kobren's grieving brother, Spencer Kobren, spends an hour every Sunday night on...

By Marc Fisher | April 7, 2007; 11:52 PM ET | Comments (14)

Who's Got the Beatles? WEAM's Got the Beatles!

D.C.'s 1960s Top 40 machine, WEAM, is long gone from 1390 on the AM dial--it's now called Continental Radio and features broadcasts in Spanish, Amharic and other languages of the Washington immigrant world. But for those who grew up here in the 60s, WEAM was the sound of the city, the beat of a generation. This afternoon on XM satellite radio, WEAM will be back, in a five-hour re-creation masterminded by Terry Motormouth Young, the deejay who puts together XM's "Sonic Sound Salutes," faithful reconstructions of the radio stations of a couple of generations ago. The broadcast will be...

By Marc Fisher | April 6, 2007; 7:31 AM ET | Comments (18)

Endangered Species at Smithsonian Natural History

In the new world of the Smithsonian, a universe in which the quest for profits too often outweighs the missions of science, history and education, it's all about the bottom line. So when word came down that the very popular Smithsonian Jazz Cafe, a Friday-night staple since 2000 at the National Museum of Natural History, was losing money, everyone knew that the death watch had begun. The cafe faces a June 29 closing and is no longer booking artists for dates beyond then. The Jazz Cafe regularly draws 250 to 350 people to hear top-flight local jazz artists and...

By Marc Fisher | April 5, 2007; 7:01 AM ET | Comments (19)

Betting the Ranch on the D.C. Schools

Adrian Fenty played it smart throughout the long, long campaign for mayor. He was the young dynamo, the man who would work tirelessly to make the city work again. Like all 463 other candidates, Fenty assured audiences that he was fed up with the failures of the city's public schools and he promised dramatic change. But it wasn't until late in the campaign that Fenty put any meat on that promise. What he finally came up with was a plan modeled on the change in school governance that has taken place in several other big cities, most notably New...

By Marc Fisher | April 4, 2007; 7:36 AM ET | Comments (21)

It's All About the Grants (Ulysses, That Is)

Maybe one day it really will be all about the Benjamins, but Mr. Franklin's face appears on the $100 bill, and today, we're talking $50s. Because after a couple of decades in which the U.S. banking industry appeared dead set on making the $20 bill pretty much the only form of currency widely available to Americans, the tide appears to be shifted toward General Ulysses S. Grant, he of the fifty. More and more, I'm finding that however much I suck out of the ATM, the money comes out in as many fifties as can be included in my...

By Marc Fisher | April 3, 2007; 7:42 AM ET | Comments (0)

Play Ball! First View of Opening Day

On a sparkling and suddenly warm April afternoon, the Nationals opened their third campaign a few minutes ago amid signs both encouraging and ominous. A strangely sparse crowd welcomed the team to the last season at RFK Stadium--the centerfield stands looked almost entirely empty on the homescreen, and while the announcers on Orioles-owned MASN touted the 37,000-plus advance sales for the home opener, it looked as if many of those folks had decided not to play hooky after all. But it's still early and D.C. crowds are notoriously late arriving. Those who were there on time got to see...

By Marc Fisher | April 2, 2007; 1:21 PM ET | Comments (32)

Post Cards--Another Old Medium Vanishes?

I can't recall the last time I sent or received a postcard. I haven't the foggiest notion how much postage one would put on a postcard. Local historian Jerry McCoy has put together a guide to the D.C. Public Library's collection of more than 2,000 postcards depicting bits of Washington history from 1898 to the present, with a heavy emphasis on the 1920s through the 40s. These are the funky postcards you still see for sale at flea markets and on eBay, quick, creatively designed glimpses of life in those times. Drugstores, photo studios, sports teams, schools, museums, and...

By Marc Fisher | April 2, 2007; 8:10 AM ET | Comments (10)

A Format Switch for Eternity

Listeners to WPFW, the Washington radio station that specializes in jazz and left-wing political content, or other stations around the country that are part of the Pacifica network of listener-supported radio outlets will especially love a dramatic moment that took place Sunday out in Berkeley, California. There, Pacifica station KPFA unexpectedly changed its format from news and doctrinaire identity politics to something completely different. Across the country, the sale of erstwhile public radio stations to religious organizations has been a growing phenomenon. For this to spread to Berkeley is a huge step for the evangelical movement. April 1 will...

By Marc Fisher | April 1, 2007; 6:40 PM ET | Comments (1)

The Best (and Worst) April Fool's Hoaxes Ever--Radio Division

With thanks to the Museum of Hoaxes, here are the best April Fool's hoaxes of all time involving radio stations, followed by the two radio-instigated hoaxes that made the museum's 10 Worst list: (Today's Listener column--on the jump below--looks at some of the great April Fool's tricks played on the radio.) All text here taken from the Museum of Hoaxes' master list. For their complete directory of great hoaxes, go here. #6: In 1992 National Public Radio's Talk of the Nation program announced that Richard Nixon, in a surprise move, was running for President again. His new campaign slogan was,...

By Marc Fisher | April 1, 2007; 5:51 AM ET | Comments (0)

 

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