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Archive: June 2008

The Next D.C. Gun Battle

Now that the Supreme Court has ruled that the District must allow residents to keep handguns at home, the biggest questions in the social and political rift over the Second Amendment are resolved, right? Not so fast... The D.C. government is busy writing regulations that will govern how to register guns and who may qualify for registration, and Mayor Adrian Fenty says those new rules will be ready within three weeks. But some very big questions remain, and the odds are it will take another journey through the courts to determine the answers. I asked Fenty whether the court's...

By Marc Fisher | June 30, 2008; 7:14 AM ET | Comments (61)

$4 Gas Means Few Smiles On Car Lots

Inside the trailer on North Garfield Street, three guys sit at three desks and listen to the groan of the air conditioner. Lately, it's gotten so bad that when one salesman gets a call, others mosey over to see if a real, live customer might be on the line. In the time of $4 gas, at Auto Bank, a used-car lot in Clarendon, hardly anybody comes through the door or wanders over to check out the merchandise. All along the strip of car lots on North 10th Street, the story is the same: $4 gas means the prices for big...

By Marc Fisher | June 29, 2008; 1:47 PM ET | Comments (1)

Help D.C.'s Attorney General Find A Home

The clock is ticking: Now that D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty has nominated interim Attorney General Peter Nickles to get the city's top legal job permanently, Nickles, who famously loves his home in Virginia, has 180 days in which to move into the city he serves. During a sun-drenched news conference on the steps of the Wilson Building today, Nickles, who maxed out on the legally permitted time he could spend in interim status, promised that "I intend to become a resident of the District of Columbia and pay taxes" in the city. The District's residency requirement gives Cabinet-level appointees...

By Marc Fisher | June 27, 2008; 12:01 PM ET | Comments (19)

D.C. Gun Ban Crystal Ball Contest Winners

A week before today's Supreme Court decision tossing out Washington's gun ban, some of you still harbored the belief (hope?) that the 32-year-old law would be upheld, some predicted a very narrowly argued opinion getting rid of the ban but otherwise providing little in the way of a path forward on gun issues, and a few got it just right. Our contest here on the big blog brought just about every possible kind of prediction, but the winners--who should contact me by email with your name and street address so that I can ship you your prizes from the...

By Marc Fisher | June 26, 2008; 4:38 PM ET | Comments (10)

D.C.'s Gun Ban Is History (Updated)

The District of Columbia's ban on handguns is history because the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to possess firearms and because throughout much of our history, "the American people have considered the handgun to be the quintessential self-defense weapon...," Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia writes today in an exhaustive and scathing defense of gun rights. "A complete prohibition of their use is invalid." But Scalia says in today's 5-4 opinion tossing out Washington's gun ban that the idea of licensing handgun possession is fine and that the District is free to have such a regulatory scheme. "The Constitution...

By Marc Fisher | June 26, 2008; 10:51 AM ET | Comments (120)

D.C. Gun Ban: Decision Day And What Comes Next

Coming up later this morning here on the blog: A first look at the Supreme Court's ruling on the D.C gun ban. Then please join me at noon today to discuss the ruling on "Potomac Confidential" at http://www.washingtonpost.com/liveonline. Allan Lucas discovered his passion nearly four decades ago, in the Marine Corps. Assigned to target practice at the range, he suddenly realized that everyone else had stopped shooting their M-14s. "It gets real quiet and I'm the only one shooting, and the general and the corporal are watching me," Lucas remembers. "I'm building a little circle of holes around the...

By Marc Fisher | June 26, 2008; 7:56 AM ET | Comments (0)

Name The Most Famous Americans

The Supreme Court is milking the D.C. gun case for all possible drama, saving the release of its opinion till the last day, so since there's no gun ban action to report on here today, let's play a game about who we are and what this country means to us.... Here's an exercise that tells you something about yourself, your concept of this country, and the state of American education. Professors from the University of Maryland and Stanford surveyed thousands of high school students across the nation, asking them to name the 10 most famous Americans in history--excluding presidents...

By Marc Fisher | June 25, 2008; 10:20 AM ET | Comments (0)

Will Greens' Lawsuit Kill Poplar Point Soccer Stadium?

Score one for the environmentalists: The battle over whether to build a soccer stadium for D.C. United at Poplar Point will today move beyond the rhetorical and into the realm of legal quicksand, as a coalition of green groups serve legal notice on five governmental entities that they are about to be sued big time. The Earth Conservation Corps, the Anacostia and Potomac Riverkeepers, the Sierra Club, D.C. ACORN and the Friends of the Earth have teamed with an arm of Georgetown University's law school to take the first step in a federal lawsuit against the National Park Service,...

By Marc Fisher | June 24, 2008; 8:15 AM ET | Comments (25)

Post Editor Downie: Politics And Wisconsin Avenue Rock 'N' Roll

"Hey, baby... "You're my rag doll. "Yeah, yeah. Rag doll." The words sung by three of the four members of the rock-'n'-roll band could be barely heard above the twanging, pounding and groaning of their own guitars, drum and saxophone. Competing with the music was the noise of shouted conversation among more than 200 teen-agers crowded into The Keg, in Georgetown, one of two Wisconsin ave. beer-and-dance spots frequented by teen-agers from nearby Maryland and Virginia. That's the lede on Leonard Downie Jr.'s story in The Washington Post on August 24, 1964. It ran under the headline "Wisconsin Avenue...

By Marc Fisher | June 23, 2008; 5:40 PM ET | Comments (5)

Ballou Band: What A Movie Can Show

You won't catch "Ballou" at the multiplex. The documentary isn't slick--its characters are never fully developed and the images are sometimes fuzzy. But the movie about the Marching Knights of Ballou High School that just spent a week showing at the E Street Cinema is delivering its message with all the power of a Hollywood blockbuster. Director Michael Patrei and his colleagues spent the better part of a year glued to Ballou band director Darrell Watson and the members of his unlikely community, a marching band that is a singular success at a Southeast Washington school better known for...

By Marc Fisher | June 23, 2008; 8:16 AM ET | Comments (5)

In Prince George's, Neglect Brings Disharmony

The setting high above the Potomac River is nothing short of spectacular: a long, elegant drive, a grand Colonial manor house and then a wide, rolling lawn descending to the water. Here, just half an hour's drive from the White House, George Washington and his friends fished and dined together. But we are not at Mount Vernon, not even in Virginia. No, this majestic manse, now sagging and empty, sits in Prince George's County, across the Potomac from the exquisitely rehabilitated historic houses of Virginia. No one lives here, and it's closed to the public. Once the site of magnificent...

By Marc Fisher | June 22, 2008; 9:22 AM ET | Comments (12)

XM/Sirius: Keep Them Lean, Hungry And Separate

The Listener is no more, but I have this piece on the satellite radio merger on today's Post op-ed page... Why has it taken federal regulators 17 months to decide whether XM and Sirius should be allowed to merge? Because both of these statements are true: Even with a merger of the two pay radio companies, satellite radio is a dead man walking; and with or without a merger, satellite radio is poised to be among the most important content providers in a confusing new media landscape. Even before getting to basic questions about the fast-changing nature of media,...

By Marc Fisher | June 21, 2008; 8:59 AM ET | Comments (13)

The King Memorial And A Shadow Of A Smile

Take one controversial design for a sculpture of an American icon, mix in a depressing dose of outsourcing, add a slap in the face to American quarrymen and stoneworkers, and the result is a lot of unhappiness about what should be an occasion for unity and pride--the plans for the Martin Luther King Memorial on the National Mall. Now, in a quick and superficial effort to quell the uproar and get the $100 million project back on track, the foundation building the memorial has gone to Washington's oracle of taste, the virtually omnipotent Commission of Fine Arts with design...

By Marc Fisher | June 20, 2008; 8:21 AM ET | Comments (21)

D.C. Gun Ban: Your Crystal Ball

The Supreme Court did not rule today on the D.C. gun ban case, so next week is the week. In anticipation of the ruling on the constitutionality of the District's ban on handgun ownership, here's your chance to win a prize from the Vast Vat of Values. Come ahead with your one-sentence prediction of how the court will rule, along with your guess as to the vote on the ruling, and, if you'd like, the author of the majority opinion. Include a handle or other identifying detail that will enable me to name you if you are the winner...

By Marc Fisher | June 19, 2008; 1:25 PM ET | Comments (30)

D.C. Ill-Served When Service Academy Slots Go Begging

Aside from the VIP license plates and the ability to breeze through security checkpoints, one of the great perks of being in Congress is the ability to hand out nominations to elite, tuition-free colleges to some of the highest-achieving high school students in the land. In the Washington suburbs, hundreds of impressive teens compete each year to win their representative's nomination to West Point or the Naval, Air Force or Merchant Marine academies. But in the District of Columbia, spots at the service academies often go unused. At the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, there is not a single...

By Marc Fisher | June 19, 2008; 8:34 AM ET | Comments (7)

D.C. Official: Outdoor Seats At Pizza Place Will Mean Rapes And Murders

When a Washington neighborhood commissioner staged a nighttime surveillance of a Northwest pizza place and put the resulting video up on YouTube to prove what a threat to public safety an outdoor ping-pong table posed, the image of a ping-pong ball rolling out onto Connecticut Avenue was chilling enough. But this week, that same commissioner, Frank Winstead, ratcheted up the scare rhetoric in a big way: At a meeting of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 3F Monday night, in front of the largest crowd in the ANC's history, Winstead accused the owner of Comet Ping Pong of seeking to turn this...

By Marc Fisher | June 18, 2008; 7:25 AM ET | Comments (0)

Will Fairfax Voters Split Ticket?

For years, northern Virginia congressman Tom Davis used good, old-fashioned politics to cheat the shifting demographics of his Fairfax-centered district. As the population grew more ethnically diverse and politically liberal, Davis, one of the last of the commonwealth's moderate Republican officeholders, held on, maintaining the loyalty of a core of otherwise Democratic-leaning federal workers by fighting for their interests. Davis was the suburban version of a classic city ward-heeler. But this year, following the defeat of his wife, Jeannemarie Devolites Davis, in her state Senate reelection bid, Davis decided that seven terms in the House was enough. Now, with...

By Marc Fisher | June 17, 2008; 7:49 AM ET | Comments (2)

When Scratch-Off Lottery Cards Offer Zero Payoff

The lottery, of course, is the moron's bet, a surefire way for anyone who knows his way around statistics to feel vastly superior to the mere mortals who line up at convenience stores to discard their hard-earned dollars. The odds against winning big are so terrifically high that you'd be better off eating your dollars and hoping that your body magically transforms them into gold. The statistical folly of state lotteries obviously isn't enough to dissuade millions from hoping for a miracle. Now comes a business professor at Washington and Lee University in Virginia with a design on a...

By Marc Fisher | June 16, 2008; 8:13 AM ET | Comments (0)

What Makes A Catholic School Catholic?

As the curtain fell on another school year and the children, beaming in neat white-and-blue uniforms, waited to receive their awards, the pastor led everyone in calling upon the Lord. "I want you to keep praying for the charter board to make the right decision on Monday," Monsignor Charles Pope said in the cafeteria of Holy Comforter-Saint Cyprian School. "Change can be difficult, but we'll see that God can do wonderful things in ways that we don't expect." The pastor was praying, improbably, for the D.C. charter school board to turn this Catholic school near RFK Stadium into a secular,...

By Marc Fisher | June 15, 2008; 8:23 AM ET | Comments (0)

Hillmead Postscript: Weren't We Sly?

In the big battle over whether to house a homeless family in a five-bedroom home that Montgomery County bought to enlarge a park in the Hillmead section of Bethesda, some residents, relaxed in the afterglow of victory, are revealing a different set of motives than they admitted to in the heat of the debate. In message traffic on the neighborhood listserve (subscription only), residents of the affluent area are talking about whether their successful fight to stop the county from using the old Piotrow residence to house a large homeless family was really about "saving the park," as signs...

By Marc Fisher | June 13, 2008; 7:48 AM ET | Comments (56)

Liberty Takes A Holiday In Occupied Trinidad

Another brutally hot night on Montello Avenue NE, and the front porches are full of people hoping for a breeze that never comes -- and then it does, in the form of fleets of D.C. police, whizzing by on bicycles, in patrol cars, aboard vans and trucks, a virtual army of officers. All here to fight crime by encircling the residents of Trinidad in something called a Neighborhood Safety Zone, better known through history as a ghetto. Night falls, and the checkpoint is set up. Metal barricades block the streets leading into the neighborhood just east of Gallaudet University. Yellow...

By Marc Fisher | June 12, 2008; 8:48 AM ET | Comments (24)

Bulldozer, Please: MoCo Kills Hillmead House

By a 5-4 vote, the Montgomery Council Council Tuesday decided to demolish a five-bedroom house in the Hillmead neighborhood of Bethesda rather than let a homeless family live there. The county spent $2.5 million to buy the house and its 1.3 acres of property to extend an adjacent public park. The vote appears to end a lengthy and bitter dispute that pitted neighbor against neighbor and split the county's politicians on the thorny issue of whether to use county-owned houses in parks to provide relief to some of the thousands of families sitting on Montgomery's waiting list for housing...

By Marc Fisher | June 11, 2008; 6:18 PM ET | Comments (0)

Citizen Catches Pol Phone-Handed

Kathleen Gregory was driving home from work when she saw a guy yammering on a phone held to his ear--one of the countless violations of the District's law restricting cell conversations to those using hands-free devices. But as she got closer, she recognized the man behind the wheel--it was D.C. Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2.) When she got home, Gregory dashed off a note to the man who should know better: Mr Evans - Of all people, I would expect the legislators in this city to follow the law. I was driving behind you yesterday on my way...

By Marc Fisher | June 10, 2008; 1:06 PM ET | Comments (0)

New Raw Fisher Radio Today: Police Checkpoints

Some in the District have called the Metropolitan Police Department's use of checkpoints int he troubled Trinidad neighborhood a violation of their rights. The Metropolitan Police Department has called them a success. Marc Fisher and guests will discuss the checkpoints during today's webcast of Raw Fisher Radio, which will be uploaded at noon ET. (You can listen to last week's discussion of development at Poplar Point now.)...

By Washington Post Editors | June 10, 2008; 9:23 AM ET | Comments (0)

Virginia's GOP, Crumbling Before Our Eyes

As attention focuses today on Virginia Democrats voting to choose congressional candidates, the commonwealth's Republican Party appears to be fraying--or worse--at both edges. The razor-thin margin by which former Gov. Jim Gilmore 10 days ago won the GOP nomination to face fellow ex-governor Mark Warner in this fall's U.S. Senate race demonstrated that many in Virginia's Republican party are more focused on proving the purity of their conservative positions than in finding a message that might appeal to independent voters. Now, what passes for the party's left wing--though its members have decades-long records of clear conservatism in a traditional...

By Marc Fisher | June 10, 2008; 8:08 AM ET | Comments (0)

Handicapping Virginia's Veep Sweeps

Barack Obama faces three possible paths toward choosing his running mate. He could cave to the pressure from Hillary Clinton loyalists and choose his bitter-verging-on-paranoid rival, the one Democrat who would most undermine Obama's message of change. But as Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan wrote of Clinton, "She doesn't turn the page, she is the page." Obama can't afford to go there. Obama could seek to counter doubts about his experience by choosing an older establishment figure with decades of involvement on foreign and military issues, such as Sam Nunn or Chuck Hagel. Or he could look for...

By Marc Fisher | June 9, 2008; 8:10 AM ET | Comments (13)

Is This House Too Nice For The Homeless?

Phyllis Piotrow's motives were as gentle and elegant as the stately brick home she had lived in for so many years. The renowned Johns Hopkins professor merely sought to move from Bethesda to New Hampshire to be with family and set up the retirement phase of life. So she finally listened to the developers who had been salivating for years over her 1.3 acres on a dramatic bluff just off Bradley Boulevard in the Hillmead neighborhood. But nothing's simple in Montgomery County. After many months of wrangling over whether her land could be subdivided, Piotrow won county permission, but by...

By Marc Fisher | June 8, 2008; 8:25 AM ET | Comments (0)

Sports Talk Radio Gets Disintermediated (Ouch!)

(The Listener, not yet dead even one week, couldn't stay silent. He's back, if only in blog form....) Years from now, when the book about the decline of America's most successful professional sports leagues gets written, the chapter about how team owners finally went too far will focus on the decision by the likes of Redskins boss Dan Snyder to assure themselves of friendly news coverage by buying up the news media. This has been going on for some time now, and in both directions. The Chicago Tribune in better times bought the Cubs and Wrigley Field. The New...

By Marc Fisher | June 6, 2008; 7:20 AM ET | Comments (41)

Nostalgia Vs. New Housing In Silver Spring

In an era of $4, $5 or even $8 gas, the imperative to live closer to work, use transit and walk to shops will grow with each spike in the price at the pump. So when the owner of a 1930s garden-apartment complex that is next door to the Metro tracks and one block from downtown Silver Spring proposes to replace some cramped, outdated housing with a denser development, including nearly 300 moderately priced units, you might expect to hear hurrahs. You'd be wrong. Rather than embrace the addition of much-needed housing to the new downtown that Montgomery County taxpayers...

By Marc Fisher | June 5, 2008; 7:25 AM ET | Comments (12)

The D.C. Libraries Mess: Four Years And Counting

Four years after the D.C. library system demolished four of its neighborhood branches, promising prompt construction of state-of-the-art replacements, residents finally have some pretty architectural drawings to look at, but little hope of seeing actual functioning libraries anytime soon. The pictures the library system is now distributing ahead of community meetings in the Benning Road, Tenleytown, Anacostia and Shaw neighborhoods depict variations on glass boxes--a far more transparent and modern feel than the dark, brick facilities that were torn down. But the architects' work, ambitious though it may be, masks the fact that potential users of those libraries have...

By Marc Fisher | June 4, 2008; 8:06 AM ET | Comments (7)

Bang, Zoom Go The Fireworks--But Not In D.C.?

For generations of parents, the simple words "Watch it, you'll lose a finger," have sufficed to help kids playing with fireworks make it all the way to the Fifth of July without sacrificing any digits. But that's not good enough for D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty and some members of the D.C. Council, which will vote today on emergency legislation to ban all fireworks, even sparklers and other such so-called "safe and sane" pyrotechnics. What's the emergency? Apparently someone in the mayor's office took a look at the calendar and realized that if a ban were to shut down the...

By Marc Fisher | June 3, 2008; 7:45 AM ET | Comments (0)

Irony Of The Week: Carl Levin--Crusader For Democracy

D.C. residents watching the Democrats wrangling over delegates at this weekend's anguished Rules Committee hearing over how to handle the Michigan and Florida primary results could be excused if they felt a bit faint. The spectacle of Michigan Sen. Carl Levin lecturing the Democratic National Committee members on the imperative to seat his state's delegates because it's the democratic thing to do was breathtaking. Here was a plea to honor the will of the people, coming from the great usurper himself, the lord of the Hill who imposed a taxi meter system on the District of Columbia simply because...

By Marc Fisher | June 2, 2008; 7:53 AM ET | Comments (0)

War, Economy & A Bitter Showdown In NoVa

Hard to believe, but Gerry Connolly and Leslie Byrne do agree on one thing: No matter how bitterly they snipe at each other, no matter how much money they spend on their campaigns for Congress, no matter how much they talk about this being a watershed election, the turnout June 10 in Northern Virginia will be miserably low. In their face-off for the Democratic nomination for Congress in the 11th District, Fairfax County's highest elected official and Virginia's first female member of Congress are so busy beating each other up you'd hardly know they were running under the same party...

By Marc Fisher | June 1, 2008; 9:01 AM ET | Comments (0)

 

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