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Archive: February 2008

WMAL Fires Chris Core, D.C.'s Longest Running Talk Host

Three years ago, I started a profile of Chris Core, the longtime talk show host on WMAL, like this: "In three decades on the radio in Washington, Chris Core has survived five station owners, four general managers, six program directors and a revolution in talk radio." But Core didn't survive his sixth station owner. After 33 years on the air here, Core was let go this afternoon in a massive nationwide bloodletting by Citadel Broadcasting, which last year bought ABC Radio, including three Washington stations. Citadel, which reported big losses last quarter and blamed the deteriorating audience for radio,...

By Marc Fisher | February 29, 2008; 2:16 PM ET | Comments (354)

Nyuk-Nyuk: A Museum Soitenly Worth A Visit

On their first date, back in 1978, Gary Lassin's future wife told him she was related to someone famous. But she wouldn't say whom. "She was a little embarrassed," Lassin recalls. No guy would let such a challenge lie. He coaxed and cajoled and finally got it out of her: Robin was the niece of Larry Fine, one of the Three Stooges. (He's the one with the Bozo-like Brillo hair and what Lassin calls "the stupefied, google-eyed stare.") "I knew I had to get this girl to marry me," Lassin says. Soitenly. Lassin managed to get the girl --...

By Marc Fisher | February 29, 2008; 12:20 PM ET | Comments (1)

Shakespeare Theatre: Getting The Kinks Out

For $90 million, Washington's Shakespeare Theatre Company has built the Harman Center for the Arts, a splendid new home that's winning acclaim around the world as "testimony to Washington's cultural vitality" (The Economist), "perfect Harman-y" (Live Design, a theatrical design trade zine), and "the opportunity to make Washington a destination for classical theater, where people can come for the weekend and see three worthy productions" (New York Times.) But despite generally strong reviews for the theater since it opened in October, there have been complaints and more empty seats than the Shakespeare Theatre or the District's boosters had counted...

By Marc Fisher | February 29, 2008; 8:10 AM ET | Comments (11)

I Drove To Nats Park And Lived To Tell The Tale

"Metro, Metro, Metro," Debra Lerner Cohen told me, and did I listen? The member of the Lerner family charged with getting the word out about how -- and how not-- to get to Nationals Park warned me against driving to the new stadium without a reserved parking space. But we're car people, and we like a parking challenge. So even before the team plays its first game at its new home, I ventured down to the Southeast Washington waterfront at rush hour to simulate the experience fans will have getting to weekday games after the season starts March 30. In...

By Marc Fisher | February 28, 2008; 6:29 AM ET | Comments (17)

Mint to D.C.: Leave It On Your License Plates

Wow, that was fast. The U.S. Mint pretty much set a government speed record in rejecting the District government's proposal to put the words "Taxation Without Representation" on the D.C. quarter that will be issued as part of the 50 States coin program. Mayor Adrian Fenty's in-your-face proposal "does not comply with the law that authorizes the D.C. commemorative quarter-dollar coin," the Mint says in a statement just issued. "Changing how the District of Columbia (the Seat of Government of the United States ) is represented in Congress is a contemporary political issue on which there presently is no...

By Marc Fisher | February 27, 2008; 12:41 PM ET | Comments (204)

What Won't Be On The D.C. Quarter (Nice Try, Mr. Mayor)

Mayor Adrian Fenty's three proposals for the design of the D.C. quarter have about as much chance to be accepted by the U.S. Mint's state coins program as I have of winning simultaneous admission to the Soccer and Pet-Lovers Halls of Fame. There's nothing objectionable about Fenty's suggestions that the District flag or the images of Benjamin Banneker or Duke Ellington grace the obverse of the coin when it's finally Washington's turn to get our own coin. But in all three of the mayor's recommendations, those images would be accompanied by the slogan "Taxation Without Representation." And the federal...

By Marc Fisher | February 27, 2008; 8:11 AM ET | Comments (36)

I'll Have The Chicken--And By The Way, I'm Packing

With all the talk about Virginia being in play in this fall's presidential race, and with Virginia's embrace of Barack Obama being cited by pundits across the land as evidence of some leftward drift in what has been since 1964 a rock-solid Republican state, it may be useful to take a reality check. And where better to look than in Richmond, home of the General Assembly, the legislature that loves to stand tall for good old Virginia values. The House of Delegates last week decided to join the Senate in embracing this great new idea: Guns and alcohol are...

By Marc Fisher | February 26, 2008; 7:49 AM ET | Comments (100)

Nats' New Eats: Ben's, Boardwalk, Gifford's, Hard Times

Ok, the new Nationals Park may be tough to drive to and even harder to park near, but once you get there, you should be happier with the food options. The Washington Nationals just announced the lineup of local eats that will be available at the new ballpark starting next month, and it's a huge step up from the grim Aramark fare that fans complained about incessantly during the three years at RFK. Leading off, the half-smoke and the chili dog from Ben's Chili Bowl. Hallelujah. Batting second, Boardwalk Fries, an Ocean City native now making its home in...

By Marc Fisher | February 25, 2008; 1:52 PM ET | Comments (65)

Schools Monday: A Body Check To The Charters

Washington's still-burgeoning charter schools movement is both an embarrassment and a role model for the city's regular public schools. As Chancellor Michelle Rhee moves from the first, flashy chapter in her whirlwind reform drive--fixing decrepit buildings and shutting down excess schools--to the even tougher assault on chronic low achievement and low expectations, the city's charter system stands as a constant reminder that parents are voting with their feet. There are now 22,000 kids in D.C. charter schools and 50,000 in the regular public schools. At the rate of growth the charters have seen in recent years, the majority of...

By Marc Fisher | February 25, 2008; 7:10 AM ET | Comments (14)

A Bump, A Panic, Two Babies Torn From Home

On the Thursday before Labor Day, while Julianna Caplan was changing the diaper on one of her twins, she heard a dull thud. She turned around to see her other 8-month-old trying to push herself up from the floor, where she'd been playing, and knock her head. There were no bumps or bruises, but over the next few hours, the little girl acted fussy, then altogether out of sorts. After she began throwing up and drifting off to sleep, her parents grew concerned, called the doctor and ended up at Children's Hospital. The baby recovered fully within 24 hours, but...

By Marc Fisher | February 24, 2008; 2:51 AM ET | Comments (0)

Don Geronimo's Sayonara Song

Don Geronimo now sees that he came back too soon. To go on the radio every day and make people laugh is hard enough; to do it three weeks after your wife dies in a car crash "was a big mistake," he says. "I was resentful and angry. A lot of days, I was raw and irritable. I was mad at God. I was mad at a lot of things." Come May 30, Geronimo will leave the Washington airwaves after 23 years of high jinks and hot talk. His co-host, Mike O'Meara, and the rest of the afternoon drive team...

By Marc Fisher | February 23, 2008; 5:30 PM ET | Comments (16)

Blogger of the Month: D.C.'s Mad Cabbie

He is profane, angry and a man of the streets, a poet and a provocateur. In his Diary of a Mad D.C. Cabbie, February's blogger of the month rails against the drunks who demand that he get them home even when they're too looped to know where they live. But he's also the guy who signs every post on his blog with a reminder that we "please don't forget the homeless." Mad Cabbie can be tough, as when he squeezed $300 out of a passenger who tossed her cookies all over his backseat. He had to show up at...

By Marc Fisher | February 22, 2008; 7:51 AM ET | Comments (14)

Crime Cams, Speed Cams, Red Light Cams--Life, Observed

When gunshots blast through the evening quiet outside Aaron Albright's apartment, as happens far too often, the police and politicians point to those cool anticrime cameras the District has mounted on the streets of Columbia Heights. See, we're doing something, the authorities say. But the cameras weren't quite doing it for Albright, so he filed a Freedom of Information Act request and got some answers about the District's 73 surveillance cameras. Since they were installed in mid-2006, at a cost of $4 million, the cameras have been checked 551 times to see whether they might reveal details of a crime....

By Marc Fisher | February 21, 2008; 7:16 AM ET | Comments (12)

Giving Up On Smart Growth--Adventures in Tenleytown

There's good news for Northwest Washington library users who have been without a full-service branch since the Tenleytown library was shut down in 2004. The long-debated replacement library will now finally be built, scheduled to open in 2010. But alas, there's bad news in that same decision, because by moving ahead on building a small branch library on the busy corner of Wisconsin Avenue and Albemarle St. NW, the District government is deciding against taking advantage of a choice location across the street from a Metro station. Despite years of talk about the wisdom of smart growth and the...

By Marc Fisher | February 20, 2008; 7:30 AM ET | Comments (41)

Preservation Victory in Loudoun: Mrs. Paxton Prevails

Rachel Paxton was a wealthy woman who died in 1921, adamant about leaving one legacy--a place where the poor children of Leesburg and Loudoun County would get the care and love that might, in some cosmic fashion, ease some of the pain visited upon her family when her grandson Charles died when he was just five years old. Paxton's handwritten will left her estate and magnificent 1872 home in the center of Leesburg to a foundation that was to run the Margaret Paxton Memorial for Convalescent Children, a facility that would take in orphans and afflicted children without charge....

By Marc Fisher | February 19, 2008; 7:45 AM ET | Comments (5)

William and Mary: Getting What They Paid For

Gene Nichol is not exactly hard to read. When a man spends his career teaching constitutional law, writing for left-leaning publications and running for public office as a liberal Democrat, it should come as no surprise when he takes a stand for the separation of church and state. And when that man has been a leader of the American Civil Liberties Union and a fierce advocate of free speech, it shouldn't be a shocker when he acts to protect artistic expression that some consider outrageous or pornographic. When the College of William and Mary's board last week decided to dump...

By Marc Fisher | February 17, 2008; 10:39 AM ET | Comments (19)

Primaries Over--Need More Contests?

In case you're already going through withdrawal now that the presidential carnival has moved on to other parts of the country, I've got a couple of contests you can leap into: --What's the best Washington movie ever made? We've discussed this from time to time over on Potomac Confidential, but here's your chance to vote on the question, choosing from this list (or adding your own entry): 1. An American President (1995) 2. All the President's Men (1976) 3. Advise & Consent (1962) 4. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) 5. Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop...

By Marc Fisher | February 15, 2008; 7:08 AM ET | Comments (25)

Another $54 Million Lawsuit: No Pants This Time

What has Roy Pearson wrought? Who knew that a year after the $54 million pants suit (yes, it was originally $65 million, but who's counting?), the cool thing to do would be to sue folks for $54 million? Heck, a dispute is hardly worth talking about unless you've got a $54 million lawsuit ready to roll behind it. Now comes Raelyn Campbell, a District resident who has slapped Best Buy, the big appliance and electronics retailer, with a $54 million suit because the store supposedly lost the customer's laptop computer, which she had put in for repairs. (Meanwhile, our...

By Marc Fisher | February 14, 2008; 11:53 AM ET | Comments (28)

After The Potomac Vote: A Shifting National Self-Image

Win or lose, Barack Obama has changed America. It's one thing to believe in a picture we'd like to be true -- a society moving toward a colorblind ideal -- and something entirely different to live each day with a personification of that ideal. "I've actually changed my view of Americans," said Marvin Lawson, a retired black man from Columbia who came with his wife, Victoria, to see Obama speak at the University of Maryland this week. "I've been pleasantly surprised. This country still has a racial divide; we cannot ignore that. But this campaign will take us to the...

By Marc Fisher | February 14, 2008; 7:04 AM ET | Comments (13)

Homeless Vets: From Decrepit Shelter Back To The Streets?

Sharon Claudio, a homeless veteran who served in the Army from 1978 to 1982, came in off the streets more than a year ago, finding shelter at Ignatia House, a rundown building on the grounds of the Armed Forces Retirement Home near N. Capitol Street. But conditions at the shelter, which is run by a charity called U.S. Vets, quickly became hard to tolerate. Claudio is one of only two women in the facility, she must share a bathroom with a hallway full of men, and she lives in a room with spotty or no heat. The elevator is...

By Marc Fisher | February 12, 2008; 7:09 AM ET | Comments (15)

Potomac Primary: The Showdown in Virginia

Just about the only thing the pundits agree on is that should Hillary Clinton pull out a victory--or even just come close--in Virginia Tuesday, she will have achieved another New Hampshire-like surprise, another demonstration that she's far from finished. But a review of the nearly unmanageable torrent of online, print, and broadcast logorrhea devoted to this particular stanza of the presidential race finds only a couple of lonely voices arguing that Clinton has much of a chance in Virginia--the only place in the Potomac Primary where her odds are even that generous. Writing in The New Republic, Josh Patashnik...

By Marc Fisher | February 11, 2008; 7:47 AM ET | Comments (76)

Potomac Primary: Don't Answer That Question

The candidate was more than an hour late, and the crowd, stuck in a stuffy high school gym in Arlington, was getting antsy. A campaign staffer took the stage with a big pile of T-shirts to give to those who answered trivia questions about Hillary Clinton. Her birthplace? Got it. Her law school? Piece of cake. How much of the country would Clinton's health plan cover? "All," came the answer. Okay, final question: "This person is the next president of the United States . . ." Suddenly, all around me, the bleachers in the Washington-Lee High School gym shook with...

By Marc Fisher | February 10, 2008; 6:54 AM ET | Comments (5)

HD Radio: If A Tree Falls & No One Hears It....

Chasing an audience that has migrated to iPods, Internet radio, pay satellite services and the burgeoning world of cellphone music, the AM and FM radio industry has spent the past couple of years beckoning listeners to discover the "secret stations" of HD radio. But what is the secret? If you were to shell out somewhere between $80 and $300 for a new radio capable of receiving the digital signals that have added about 1,600 stations across the country, what would you hear? I spent the better part of a week listening to the HD offerings on Washington stations, and came...

By Marc Fisher | February 9, 2008; 9:36 AM ET | Comments (18)

Potomac Primary: Survey Says Obama

For the past few days, readers here on the big blog have been weighing in on a number of possible scenarios for Tuesday's Potomac Primary, and the results show that seven in ten of you believe Barack Obama will sweep the Virginia, Maryland and D.C. Democratic primaries. But you are almost evenly split over just how strong his showing will be and whether it will be perceived as powerful enough to propel him toward the nomination or slim enough that he and Hillary Clinton will fight on for many weeks to come. Only 12 percent of the 500 or...

By Marc Fisher | February 8, 2008; 3:04 PM ET | Comments (64)

Obama and The Power of Pride

In the run-up to Tuesday's Potomac Primary, Hillary Clinton's press operation is working in overdrive to draw attention to their candidate's prominent black supporters. In a region in which blacks will be a large and possibly determining portion of the Democratic primary vote, the Clinton campaign hopes to dull the impact of Barack Obama's popularity among black voters, which has propelled him to victory in states that demographically look more like Maryland and Virginia than like states where Clinton has done well. So here's former Prince George's county executive Wayne Curry talking about Clinton's "commitment to ensure that young...

By Marc Fisher | February 8, 2008; 9:07 AM ET | Comments (85)

Payday Loans: Va GOP Leads The Way

If Virginia succeeds in pushing the payday loan industry out of the state, or at least rolling back its excesses to protect those who get sucked into a never-ending cycle of interest payments at usurious rates, credit the Republican leaders of the House--the very same folks who started out this legislative session in Richmond intent on highly partisan obstructionism. House Speaker Bill Howell of Stafford County and others in the House leadership reached a compromise earlier this week--supported by key Democrats and the Black Caucus in the House, though not yet by Senate Democratic leaders more friendly to the...

By Marc Fisher | February 7, 2008; 3:04 PM ET | Comments (11)

Potomac Primary: The Wynn-Edwards Showdown in Maryland

Ask Donna Edwards a question, and the candidate for Congress tells a personal story about how she struggled without health insurance, helped her son get help overcoming learning disabilities or nearly lost her house to foreclosure. "Whenever there's a complex issue, Miss Edwards has two tactics," complains her target in Tuesday's Democratic primary, Al Wynn, the eight-term congressman who represents Prince George's and Montgomery counties. "She shows her pain -- 'I've been foreclosed on, too' -- and then she says, 'Let's find a way to attack Al Wynn.' " To which Edwards replies, "I don't think it's so bad to...

By Marc Fisher | February 7, 2008; 11:11 AM ET | Comments (5)

Potomac Primary: Barry to Endorse Obama

D.C. Council member Marion Barry will endorse Barack Obama for president later this week. The former Washington mayor told me he has selected Obama because "he's a fresh start, a new direction. I listened to him Sunday morning on C-SPAN and it was like a breath of fresh air." Barry, who remains popular in his Southeast Washington ward and in neighborhoods where longtime residents feel as if the city they grew up in is changing without them, said he was an early supporter of Bill Clinton back in 1992 and that he was "close to endorsing Hillary this time."...

By Marc Fisher | February 7, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (152)

Potomac Primary: You Pick The Scenarios

Now, to most everyone's surprise, the big show comes here. The political leaders of Virginia, Maryland and the District suddenly look smart, as next Tuesday's Potomac Primary takes center stage in the hunts for the presidential nominations in both parties. Here's your chance to weigh in on how Tuesday's vote will change the dynamic in the two races. Feel free to vote in both the Democratic and Republican scenario selections below, and please add your comments if you've got alternative scenarios that I should have included in the survey. First, the Democratic possibilities: more at twiigs.com... And now, the...

By Marc Fisher | February 6, 2008; 8:50 AM ET | Comments (0)

Nats Stadium: Getting There Is Half The Game

Let's all chant it together--it's the new theme song of the Washington Nationals and their landlord, the District of Columbia: "Take Metro, take Metro, take Metro!" I'm afraid it's not the most poetic or varied of songs. In fact, the only break in the lyrics comes deep in the third stanza: "Take Metro, take Metro, take Metro, or walk or ride a bus." Ok, so nobody ever accused sports franchises of mastering the art of the song. But as D.C. Deputy Mayor Neil Albert made crystal clear on today's edition of Raw Fisher Radio here on the big web...

By Marc Fisher | February 5, 2008; 2:36 PM ET | Comments (28)

Back To The Real Agenda in Richmond

Just a few months back, while still on the campaign trail, Sen. Ken Cuccinelli (R-Fairfax) was eager to talk about transportation, taxes, schools and development--meaty issues that nicely turned voters' attention away from his reputation as the Virginia Senate's leading voice for conservative social policy. Cuccinelli's campaign strategy of emphasizing his hard stance against expansive state spending worked, even in a district that's trending Democratic. He won reelection, swimming against a Democratic tide in northern Virginia. But now he's back in Richmond, back among friends who appreciate and relish the real Ken Cuccinelli. "I come to you as the...

By Marc Fisher | February 5, 2008; 7:46 AM ET | Comments (0)

Schools Monday: After The Closings

At the end of this school year, more than a dozen D.C. public schools will shut down forever--or at least for a very long time--and a bunch more will close in the next few years. What happens to those buildings next is at the heart of both the worries of the schools' neighbors and the dreams of the city's leaders. Mayor Adrian Fenty told me Friday that he has decided that none of the schools--not even downtown's Stevens Elementary, which sits in the heart of the K Street office strip--will be sold. That should allay the fears of anti-closings...

By Marc Fisher | February 4, 2008; 7:37 AM ET | Comments (3)

Break Up To Make Up: The Politics of School Closings

The big protest rally was supposed to draw thousands of people, but only dozens showed up. The boycott was going to paralyze the school system, but hardly anyone noticed. The city sent top administrators to every neighborhood to conduct 23 simultaneous public hearings, and at some places, not a single person showed up -- not one. When D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty and schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee proposed shutting down 23 of Washington's most egregiously underenrolled schools, knee-jerk politicians predictably behaved like those unscrupulous drivers who shout about whiplash after somebody glances their fender. Ward 8 Council member Marion Barry,...

By Marc Fisher | February 3, 2008; 7:41 AM ET | Comments (9)

Dulles Rail and the Realities of Suburban Hubs

When Gov. Tim Kaine makes his last-ditch plea for federal funding to extend Metro to Dulles airport, he will of course talk about the need for mass transit both to get air travelers out to the airport and to ease the painful congestion commuters face every day. And he'll talk about the reimagining of Tysons Corner and other suburban Edge Cities that grew up in an entirely car-driven era. But the emerging research on how we live now and how we're likely to organize our lives in the coming decades adds an even more powerful argument to the case...

By Marc Fisher | February 1, 2008; 7:39 AM ET | Comments (31)

 

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