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Archive: July 2007

Golf Courses: DC's Next Big Sports Project?

For far too long, the National Park Service has managed Washington's three public golf courses with a mixture of neglect and disdain. The historic Langston course in Northeast near RFK Stadium has been allowed to deteriorate to such an extent that it was shut down for at least two periods that stretched on for years. And the courses in Rock Creek and East Potomac parks aren't anybody's idea of a world-class golf venues. Now, with the District having rediscovered sports as an engine of economic development, the city and the feds are talking about a deal in which control...

By Marc Fisher | July 31, 2007; 9:55 AM ET | Comments (0)

Photo Freedom Update: MoCo Tells Silver Spring Developer to Let People Shoot

In the continuing saga of the fight for First Amendment rights in the publicly-owned but privately-managed downtown Silver Spring, Montgomery County's chief lawyer today released a strongly worded opinion making it clear that the new downtown development is public space and must be open to public expression, whether political, religious or the simple act of taking photographs. The opinion is clear from its first words: "Ellsworth Drive constitutes a public forum." In an elegantly reasoned and clear opinion, Assistnt County Attorney Nowelle Ghahhari reminds the Peterson Companies, the developers of the highly successful downtown project, that the land upon...

By Marc Fisher | July 30, 2007; 5:40 PM ET | Comments (0)

Schools Monday: The Sounds of Getting Serious About Reform

One of the great questions surrounding any effort to reform the D.C. schools is how will we know when things are getting better? What will that look like: Better test scores? Less crime? More local employers hiring products of the D.C. system? More kids going on to college? Better attendance? There are nearly as many ways to assess a school system as there are ways for a school to go wrong, and Chancellor Michelle Rhee is going to have to establish some markers by which she wants to be judged. One consistent theme in her work before coming to...

By Marc Fisher | July 30, 2007; 7:41 AM ET | Comments (16)

Blinded By Acid, Now He Gives Sight To Others

In Charles Kearney's new line of homemade greeting cards, he writes of building a "fortress of love" for an unnamed woman: "I would build my world around you." And he asks, "If I gave you flowers, could I have your smile forever?" Kearney, a gentle giant of a man, is brimming with love poems, entrepreneurial ideas and technical know-how. He walks slowly along the city's streets, guided by a blind man's cane, disfigured by a vicious crime, and although you cannot see it, his mind is racing, singing his songs of passion and romance and, always, hope. "Why wasn't...

By Marc Fisher | July 29, 2007; 9:07 AM ET | Comments (0)

God, Reason, Classical Music and The News

Sunday's Listener column (note postscript at bottom with information obtained since press time) God, reason, education, classical music and the news are all mixed up in a clash of values and priorities at a little radio station in Takoma Park. A new public station featuring local and global news appears to be the most likely outcome in a battle involving two big media players, a struggling college, a proud religious faith and a flock of listeners who believe they are hearing God's will. At stake is the future of WGTS (91.9 FM), a station owned by Columbia Union College, which...

By Marc Fisher | July 28, 2007; 8:15 AM ET | Comments (0)

Random Friday Question: What is the Region's Best Chinese Restaurant?

Where can you find the best Chinese food in the Washington area? Visitors from cities with thriving and densely populated Chinatowns tend to scoff at the District's "Chinablock," especially since the Abe Pollin Arena came along and transformed the East End into a far more varied neighborhood of restaurants, bars and shops. What those visitors fail to note is that the overwhelming majority of the region's Asian and immigrant populations are in the suburbs, making the food scene here quite different from those in cities with traditional Chinatowns, such as San Francisco, New York, Seattle or Vancouver. Today's Random...

By Marc Fisher | July 27, 2007; 7:49 AM ET | Comments (0)

Simpsons Movie: The News Behind the News

In olden days, before transparency and interactivity and the wisdom of the crowd and all that stuff, press releases flowed in and we passed them around the office for yuks and we went about our business of warping your minds and twisting reality into our convenient little constructs. But now the fashion is to let you in on the process, let you see how the proverbial omelette is made, for which purpose I present you with the full text of a splendid little offering by our friends in the wide world of public relations. Just in time for the...

By Marc Fisher | July 26, 2007; 4:47 PM ET | Comments (8)

Butch is Back: A Jazz Legend Resurfaces

Thanks to Butch Warren, the barkeep at Columbia Station in Adams-Morgan can make her car payment this month. Thanks to Butch Warren, the sounds of surprise are wafting out of an 18th Street saloon once again, offering an alternative to the thump-thump pulse of disco nights along the strip. Butch Warren, one of the lost giants of jazz's great mid-century burst of creativity, has been through rough times for all too many years. When I last visited him, it was at Springfield Hospital Center, the Maryland state mental institution in Carroll County, last summer. Warren was, by his own...

By Marc Fisher | July 26, 2007; 8:56 AM ET | Comments (8)

Are Today's Immigrants Less American Than Previous Newcomers?

Last week's columns on the illegal immigration debate in Prince William County and other Washington suburbs brought a pile of mail from readers. The debates are tense and tough: Are today's immigrants elementally different from previous waves of newcomers to this country? Is there any merit to my suggestion that the new social and political tensions over immigration stem in good part from changes in where immigrants tend to live--that is, spread out in suburban communities with longtime residents, rather than clustered in urban ghettos, as immigrants were through much of the previous century? Reader Robert Hume passed along...

By Marc Fisher | July 25, 2007; 7:34 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Last Calamari: A.V. Ristorante's Sad and Joyful End

If you feel a deep need to be there for the final dinners at the grand old A.V. Ristorante, you will wait, and wait, and wait. Last night, the wait for a table grew steadily throughout the evening, but despite the hours-long queue of folks hanging out in the back room bar, this was a happy crowd, because even though the A.V. is closing on Saturday to make way for another big office development, it's impossible to eat at the A.V. and not feel in a celebratory mood. (Read more about A.V. Ristorante's history here.) The shrimp fra diavlo...

By Marc Fisher | July 24, 2007; 2:00 PM ET | Comments (22)

Will D.C. Give People's Parks To Dogs?

While Virginia is busy creating whole new bureaucracies in the effort to document the dangers of biting dogs, the District is also eager to apply the machinery of government to canine questions, in this case the notion of carving off pieces of public parks and handing them over to dog owners. The District, unlike some cities around the country, does not provide public space for dog runs. In 2005, the D.C. Council endorsed the idea of creating dog parks. But dog owners now argue that the rules the city came up with for creating dog runs are too restrictive....

By Marc Fisher | July 24, 2007; 7:28 AM ET | Comments (52)

Schools Monday: The Most--And Least--Bang for the Buck

Everybody knows--or thinks they know--that the D.C. public schools waste more money than most school systems have ever seen. The common mythology is that the city's schools spend more for less than any other system in the land. That's not quite the case, but close enough--the District's overall spending per student is third-highest in the country, according to the Post's investigative series on the system. And the D.C. schools rank first in the land in the portion of spending that's devoted to administration and last on the portion that goes to instruction. But you sort of knew that. What...

By Marc Fisher | July 23, 2007; 7:45 AM ET | Comments (15)

Midtown Group: AA Group Leads Members Away from Traditions

From Sunday's Post, Page A1 When Kristen was 17 and drinking out of control, her psychologist referred her to an Alcoholics Anonymous group that specialized in helping the youngest drinkers. In the Midtown Group, members and outsiders agree, young people could find new friends, constant fellowship, daily meetings, summer-long beach parties, and a charismatic leader who would steer them through sobriety. But according to more than a dozen young people who structured their lives around the group, the unusual adaptation of AA that Michael Quinones created from his home in Bethesda became a confusing blend of comfort and crisis. They...

By Marc Fisher | July 22, 2007; 12:14 AM ET | Comments (0)

Black Radio Today: Where Are the New Petey Greenes?

Sunday's Listener column The new movie "Talk to Me," about 1970s Washington radio DJ and talk show host Petey Greene, celebrates a man who uses his fleeting moments between spins of hit records to give voice to the anger, humor and hope of this city's black majority. But where are the Petey Greenes of today? Has Hollywood's discovery of Ralph Waldo "Petey" Greene come only after black radio has ceased to be a force for organizing and uniting local black communities? Have satellite technology, the Internet and the rise of black ownership of radio stations so altered the media landscape...

By Marc Fisher | July 21, 2007; 10:39 AM ET | Comments (11)

No Photo Finish Here: Big Victory for Speech Rights in Silver Spring

In the continuing saga of a private developer's attempt to restrict freedom of speech in downtown Silver Spring, Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett today delivered a powerful blow to those who would ban photography, political campaigning and other forms of speech on publicly-owned but privately-managed streets. Leggett wrote to executives at The Peterson Companies and Foulger Pratt, the companies that built and control the $400 million downtown Silver Spring development, to make it clear that the county cannot stomach the developer's position in the controversy that exploded this summer after nearby resident Chip Py was prevented from taking pictures...

By Marc Fisher | July 20, 2007; 4:10 PM ET | Comments (0)

Random Friday Question: How Should Lobsters Die?

"In my pot" would be my quick answer to today's RFQ: How should lobsters die? I ask only because there now appears to be yet another example of late empire rot, that curious social phenomenon in which Americans choose to ignore the more pressing matters on this globe and focus instead of the sort of trivial concerns that only the rich and idle could possibly care about--in this case, how lobsters might feel about being immersed in boiling water. I kid you not: The Wall Street Journal recently devoted a lengthy piece to exploring the relative merits of various...

By Marc Fisher | July 20, 2007; 7:43 AM ET | Comments (67)

Illegal Immigration: What Virginians Really Think

The more I talk to people who live in Prince William County, the more I find that while residents like the idea that their supervisors are trying to do something about the unsettling changes in the county's population, hardly anyone thinks that either of the most vocal sides in the immigration debate are right. Rather, there is on this issue, as on so many in American life, a vast middle that feels left out of the political and media discussions on volatile questions. Now comes a study by sociologists at George Mason University probing attitudes of Virginians about immigration...

By Marc Fisher | July 19, 2007; 7:33 AM ET | Comments (188)

Driving While Trumpeting: Car as Living Room

On a 200-mile drive on I-95 recently, I saw three of my fellow motorists bombing along at 60-plus mph while doing things I had never quite seen before: --A man in a small, oldish Toyota had a paperback book perched against the top of his steering wheel and was engrossed in a novel--it appeared to be science fiction from the art on the cover, but I couldn't get close enough to get a title or author--for an extended period as I drove near him. I did see him turn the page twice over the course of about six minutes....

By Marc Fisher | July 18, 2007; 10:33 AM ET | Comments (47)

Don't Light Up In Here: Marion Barry in Wax

Should the Mayor for Life ever depart this world, he will now live on in wax. The Madame Tussaud wax museum scheduled to open this fall in the old Woodie's department store building on F Street NW will feature Marion Barry along with Thomas Jefferson, Bill Clinton and George Bush (both of 'em). Barry won a survey the wax museum's organizers conducted of passersby at Union Station, beating out a slew of other local names such as Cal Ripken (in Washington?), Al Gore (wasn't he waxed a very long time ago?) and Oprah Winfrey (platinum plating doesn't stick well...

By Marc Fisher | July 17, 2007; 11:05 PM ET | Comments (0)

Secret Buildings You May Not Photograph, Part 643

If you happen by 3701 N. Fairfax Drive in Arlington and decide you have a sudden craving for a photograph of a generic suburban office building, and you point your camera at said structure, you will rather quickly be greeted by uniformed security folks who will demand that you delete the image and require that you give up various personal information. When Keith McCammon unwittingly took a picture of that building, he was launched on an odyssey that has so far involved an Arlington police officer, the chief of police and the defense of the United States of America....

By Marc Fisher | July 17, 2007; 7:25 AM ET | Comments (175)

Pants Update: Cuffed Again!

D.C. Superior Court Judge Judith Bartnoff is not wasting any time letting the pants man, Roy Pearson, know what she thinks of his persistent efforts to have his $54 million lawsuit against the neighborhood dry cleaners turned around in his favor. Bartnoff decided in an order released late today that Pearson, the D.C. administrative law judge who sued Custom Cleaners because the cleaners allegedly lost a pair of his pants, "has not presented any new argument or authority that warrants reconsideration of the Court's prior rulings." So Pearson is back where he was before last week's 35-page demand for...

By Marc Fisher | July 16, 2007; 5:16 PM ET | Comments (0)

Schools Monday: Celebrating Mediocrity

This Thursday evening, the enablers of the D.C. school system's decades of mediocrity will gather for what is being billed as "a celebration of the work and contributions of former Superintendent Clifford Janey." Sponsored by DC Voice, one of the many non-profits that have worked around the edges of the system for years without making much of a difference in the schools themselves, this "Night of Appreciation" is being advertised as an act of "Respecting the Past." More like celebrating failure, really. There's no question that Janey was treated shabbily by Mayor Adrian Fenty, who sent the schools chief...

By Marc Fisher | July 16, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (21)

The Immigration Situation: Clowns to the Left, Jokers to the Right

The Sunday column In Cardinal Glen, a young development in Woodbridge where the builder is busy carving the next set of cul-de-sacs out of the rich clay of Prince William County, kids leave their bicycles lying on the driveway all day long and some folks don't bother to lock their doors. But there's also a house with way too many cars parked outside and way too many people living inside. And then there's a moment like one Craig Vitter suffered in December: Vitter returned from Christmas shopping about 7 in the evening, pulled into his driveway, watched his wife take...

By Marc Fisher | July 14, 2007; 10:41 PM ET | Comments (22)

Random Friday Question: Is Beer Food, and Why Does Virginia Care?

Frank Morales, accomplished chef, beer lover, fun guy, invented a dish. He's a chef, it's a food. His creations are called beersicles, as in popsicles, as in frozen beer desserts. The state of Virginia says no, they're garbage--illegal in the Old Dominion. Morales, executive chef at Rustico restaurant in Alexandria, came up with frozen pops made from beers whose natural flavors lend themselves in iced form to names such as fudgesicle, raspbeery and plum. (A local foodie's review, here.) Rustico's customers love the innovation. The state of Virginia does not. State alcholic beverage regulators say Morales may not serve...

By Marc Fisher | July 13, 2007; 7:36 AM ET | Comments (55)

Metro & the Douglass Bridge Mess: Way to Alienate Your Riders!

From the start, everyone in the D.C. government was upfront about the fact that the demolition of the approach to the Frederick Douglass Bridge would result in a traffic mess of the first order. The District's warnings were accompanied by a recommendation--the sort of rote suggestion that accompanies most any road closing--that commuters should consider using Metro instead of driving. That's of course good advice, because who wants to sit in double extra traffic waiting your turn to get on another bridge? But what the District didn't tell commuters was that Metro would respond to the crush of new...

By Marc Fisher | July 12, 2007; 7:45 AM ET | Comments (56)

Pants News: America Held Hostage, Day Too Many

You really don't want the full report on Roy Pearson's latest waste of the court's time. For once, I ask you to trust me on this: I have just read the pants man's new 35-page motion asking D.C. Superior Court Judge Judith Bartnoff to rule that she was incredibly wrong in her verdict on the $54 million pants suit, and I am here to tell you that there is only one bit of news in the document. Now that the lawyer for the Chung family is asking the court to rule that Roy Pearson should pay the legal fees...

By Marc Fisher | July 11, 2007; 4:18 PM ET | Comments (95)

Comment #20,000

In the 18-month history of this here blog, we today reached the 20,000th comment, from someone using the moniker VandalParking. The discussion was about the evils of valet parking and Washington's attempt to ease life for those who partake of that curious and generally unnecessary contemporary convention. Here's that comment, apparently directed at another reader in a debate over just how risky it is to hand over your vehicle to those friendly gents wearing the valet vests: So you'll just toss your keys to anyone. Let's see...your address is on the registration card, your housekey (to be duplicated for...

By Marc Fisher | July 11, 2007; 4:11 PM ET | Comments (6)

D.C. to Valet Parkers: The Streets Are Yours

I don't see much point in valet parking; I'd far rather conduct my own search for a space than hand over the task to a hired hand. But I recognize that lots of folks appreciate the chance to leave the parking to others, and as the practice becomes more prevalent in Washington, we're seeing more and more conflict between those who want curbside spots available to park their own vehicles and those restaurant owners and customers who want to be able to zip into an empty space and hand the keys over to a uniformed attendant. Enter the D.C....

By Marc Fisher | July 11, 2007; 7:30 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Waffle Shop: It's Not Toast Yet

My favorite Waffle Shop, the one with the glorious neon sign on Park Road NW, is gone, a victim of the big-boxing of Columbia Heights. But Washington's last remaining Waffle Shop, on 10th Street downtown, across from Ford's Theater, is on life support, and it remains entirely unclear whether master developer Doug Jemal will eliminate this wonderful vestige of mid-century Americana, have the shop moved to another location, or fold it into his plans for a big office building. (Cool washingtonpost.com video of the shop's exterior and interior here.) D.C. preservationists want the shop, which features a classic 1950s...

By Marc Fisher | July 10, 2007; 7:30 AM ET | Comments (0)

Rockville, 1, Montgomery County, 0

For those who are keeping score in the battle to see which governments can figure out that a downtown is a public space and must be open to all, the city of Rockville has taken a narrow but firm lead over Montgomery County, which, you'll recall, gave away the store in downtown Silver Spring. The issue here is whether publicly owned but privately developed downtown retail developments--essentially outdoor shopping malls created to give the public a downtown feeling in a shopping district managed by a for-profit corporation--must allow people to express themselves as they would in any public space--that...

By Marc Fisher | July 9, 2007; 1:15 PM ET | Comments (26)

Schools Monday: The Mountain Rhee Must Climb

Everyone knows D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee has a steep mountain to climb. The problems, as documented in the Post's ongoing series on the District school system, are every bit as tough as in any other city in the land. And the tools for coping with those problems are of questionable quality, at best. But the political moment seems right for sharp and deep change--a popular new mayor whose chief talent is enormous energy, a new chancellor with all manner of new powers, a changing electorate with less tolerance for the same old stagnation. Why, then, are many of...

By Marc Fisher | July 9, 2007; 7:28 AM ET | Comments (0)

Area Consumer Succumbs

Not a week after she had cemented her place in history by chastising a neighbor on a matter of style, correcting a retail clerk's grammar and delighting much of the block once again with the story of how she had come to terms with moving all the way out to the "East Jesus" section of Washington, Rusty Ruskin surprised everyone but herself and left us. Rusty lived a couple of doors down the block, and when we moved in, she was described to us as the grande dame of Harrison Street. "No," she corrected me when I first met her,...

By Marc Fisher | July 8, 2007; 2:07 PM ET | Comments (12)

Spurned by Radio, Boomers Find Music in New Places

(The Listener column from Sunday Arts--with an online-only postscript below....) First the standards vanished from radio, as stations that played lots of Frank Sinatra, Peggy Lee and Ella Fitzgerald went dark. Then over the past couple of years, the oldies format collapsed, and suddenly the sounds of Motown, Elvis and the Beach Boys were hard to find on the radio. Now, even classic rock stations are starting to feel the pressure, as commercial radio strains to find ways to connect with younger listeners who find most of their music online. But while big radio and TV companies join with the...

By Marc Fisher | July 7, 2007; 8:47 PM ET | Comments (6)

The Photo Flap Moves to Rockville

The battle over the right to treat downtown Silver Spring as if it were a real downtown--that is, a public space where people have the right to express themselves as the Constitution guarantees--continues. In the latest chapter, the developer has announced--get this--a photo contest in which winners will get $100 in coupons for doing what the developer still insists it has a right to prohibit: Take photos in an open public space. But now, the battleground shifts a few miles to the north, to downtown Rockville, where the new town center--also a private development spurred by considerable public investment--is...

By Marc Fisher | July 6, 2007; 7:42 AM ET | Comments (0)

The $54 Million Pants Suit That Wouldn't Die

He's baaaa-ack: Roy Pearson, the D.C. administrative law judge who filed, fought and lost a $54 million lawsuit against the Korean immigrants who own his neighborhood dry cleaners, chose the Fourth of July holiday to make it clear that he will not be going away. Despite a clear finding by D.C. Superior Court Judge Judith Bartnoff that Pearson's case against Custom Cleaners had no merit and that the cleaners' possible misplacing of a pair of Pearson's pants was not worth a penny to the plaintiff, Pearson is back. He wrote to defense lawyer Christopher Manning this week to let...

By Marc Fisher | July 5, 2007; 9:18 AM ET | Comments (0)

Snapping the Silver Spring Photo Ban

Dozens of photographers and people who believe in the right to take photos in public spaces spent the midsection of the Fourth not sitting at home watching America reclaim the Mustard Belt--the world title in competitive hot dog eating--but out in downtown Silver Spring, where until recently it was forbidden to take pictures on what looks like a public street. Yesterday's protest action--a simple stroll through the retail strip built by the Peterson Companies while taking pictures--is just one step in the grassroots effort to reclaim Silver Spring's center as a public space. The land is still owned by...

By Marc Fisher | July 5, 2007; 5:56 AM ET | Comments (0)

What's in a School's Name? Presidents Out, Plants In

Poor George Washington. Honestly, Abe is out. The straight truth is that TR has been shelved. A new study of how American school systems name their new schools concludes that presidents are passe and the school boards that have all too many culture wars to fight have collectively decided that this is one area in which they can easily avoid controversy by naming new buildings after plants, places and other natural features. In Fayetteville, Arkansas, according to the new study by Jay Greene of the Manhattan Institute and two researchers from the University of Arkansas, when the school board...

By Marc Fisher | July 3, 2007; 7:17 AM ET | Comments (0)

Schools Monday: 20 Questions for the New Chancellor

When Michelle Rhee, Mayor Adrian Fenty's choice to take over the D.C. school system, appears before the D.C. Council for her confirmation hearing today, the temptation will be to focus on her lack of experience in Washington, as a schools chief or even as a principal or teacher. But the bottom line is that she will be confirmed, so there's little point in centering on Rhee's credentials or the gaps in her preparation. I'd far rather see the council members try to push Rhee off the festival of vague responses that she has thus far provided--check out this chat...

By Marc Fisher | July 2, 2007; 7:27 AM ET | Comments (0)

 

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