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Archive: The District

Raw Fisher: Toast

If today's weren't the last installment of Raw Fisher, I might be writing about a small victory -- the District's decision yesterday to save the Eastern Branch and two other Boys & Girls Clubs, a cause I've tried to champion here for years -- or about Half A Tank, a new blog chronicling a journey across the Washington region and beyond by a Post photographer and writer searching for the stories of this recession. But today is the end of this particular road, and so I thought I'd use this last moment to offer readers one final chance to explain...

By Marc Fisher | June 4, 2009; 07:21 AM ET | Comments (12)

D.C. Library At The Cutting Edge?

Normally, that's a headline you'd expect to find on a piece about budget cuts or service reductions at the ever-beleaguered D.C. Public Library. But as Raw Fisher moves through its final week here on the big web site, there's good news to report about one of my biggest hobbyhorses over the nine years I've been writing the column in The Post: The sorry state of the District's public libraries. For the better part of the last decade, I've been hammering at the city government over its failure to invest in turning decrepit, pathetically underused libraries into the kind of...

By Marc Fisher | June 3, 2009; 08:06 AM ET | Comments (2)

Is Fenty Vulnerable?

Well more than a year before Adrian Fenty asks D.C. voters to grant him a second term, the mayor who won every single precinct in the District in 2006 suddenly seems just slightly vulnerable. You'd be less than wise to bet even a halfway decent lunch on anyone coming close to Fenty in the 2010 election, but it now appears that at least two of the mayor's rivals on the D.C. Council are seriously considering a challenge. Both of the potential rivals are named Brown. Yesterday, several politically connected folks around the city received emails from Marshall Brown, the...

By Marc Fisher | June 2, 2009; 08:08 AM ET | Comments (10)

After 1,250 Columns, The End

The first of 1,250 columns, nine years ago, spoke of a time that seems impossible now, of heady young tech moguls flush with money and drunk with possibility, instructing the chef at The Palm in Tysons Corner to spell out "Netscape" for them -- in crabmeat. Today's is my last column, and as I scan the archives, I see stories of public arrogance and private foibles, but mostly, I see stories of people poking their way through life -- a quest I've tried to capture here a few times each week. Those first columns covered topics that seem all too...

By Marc Fisher | May 30, 2009; 11:55 AM ET | Comments (6)

The Iron Fist Of Cleveland Park's Politburo

A classic Only-In-Washington story is shaping up in Cleveland Park, where Not In My Backyard zealots have managed for years to stymie plans to upgrade a pathetic 1950s supermarket for fear that people might actually drive to it and use it. A relative handful of residents have been able to turn their opposition to Giant's expansion plans for its shop on Wisconsin Avenue NW into a virtual roadblock--and that has so frustrated supporters of the plan that some of those supporters decided if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Recently, they signed up as members of the Cleveland Park...

By Marc Fisher | May 27, 2009; 08:24 AM ET | Comments (28)

Political Tiff Blocks D.C. School Reforms

The biggest difference between many D.C. public schools and their suburban counterparts is the enormous and too-often-ineffectual infrastructure the city system has built to deal with a few kids in each classroom who throw tantrums, assault teachers or otherwise disrupt the proceedings. Over the years, the D.C. schools have tried everything: suspensions, alternative schools, uniformed police, security guards, walkie-talkie-wielding deans of discipline, counselors and a hugely expensive expansion of the number of kids declared to be in need of special education. Now, just as Mayor Adrian Fenty and Chancellor Michelle Rhee have hit on a strategy that gets at the...

By Marc Fisher | May 21, 2009; 08:20 AM ET | Comments (1)

Look Who's Partners On Gay Marriage

Lying on his cot in the Longworth House Office Building in the small of the night, Jason Chaffetz had a scary dream: The conservative Republican from Utah had beaten the odds, defeated an incumbent and made it to Washington, only to end up by some bizarre twist of events arm-in-arm with Marion Barry, the crack-smoking laughingstock former mayor of the District of Columbia. "Oh man, if I had run a campaign saying I'd be working closely with Marion Barry, I don't know that I would have been elected," Chaffetz says. The nightmare turns out to be reality: Chaffetz, once the...

By Marc Fisher | May 17, 2009; 09:11 AM ET | Comments (4)

D.C. Lets Church Tear Down Brutalist Atrocity

In the eternal battle between the people who live in the city and an arrogant elite who think they know better, score one for the people: Mayor Adrian Fenty's representative yesterday sided decisively with members of the Third Church of Christ, Scientist, ruling that they must be allowed to worship in the church building of their own choice, despite efforts by historic preservationists to landmark the much-loathed structure. D.C. planning director Harriet Tregoning has ruled that historic preservation zealots trying to force the church to keep its concrete bunker of a building on 16th Street NW near the White...

By Marc Fisher | May 13, 2009; 07:30 AM ET | Comments (38)

Your State's Rock Song: Orioles, Dave Matthews, U2?

A reader writes that he was visiting the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland last week on the day news broke that Oklahoma has adopted an official state rock song. At the rock museum, there's an exhibit noting that Ohio was the first state to declare an official state rock song, "Hang On Sloopy," by The McCoys. Apparently, the song was adopted not because Mr. Sloopy lives "in a very bad part of town," but because the song's authors are from Ohio. State legislators generally having a passionate desire to pass some law, any law, other states...

By Marc Fisher | May 12, 2009; 08:37 AM ET | Comments (13)

Barry, Obama & The Winding Road To Gay Marriage

When the history of this country's journey toward acceptance of same-sex marriage is written, much will be made of the startling swiftness with which one state after another embraced gay marriage in a matter of a few months in 2008 and 2009. A huge shift in popular attitudes toward homosexuality has happened in what history will eventually see as a blink of an eye. But those same historians will find a dissonant note in this social revolution: What will they make of prominent leaders who rose to power as early advocates for gay rights, but then tempered their views...

By Marc Fisher | May 11, 2009; 08:25 AM ET | Comments (34)

Moran And Dulles Taxi Politics

J erry Schaeffer wasn't born yesterday. Play around in a tough business like the D.C. taxi industry for half a century and you get to see just how power really works. Sometimes, when you're trying to land a contract, merit isn't enough. There's a reason God invented lawyers, Schaeffer knows. But when Schaeffer lost the contract to provide taxi service at Dulles International Airport in 2007, he says he was the victim of a power play that trumped any measure of merit. Schaeffer says he lost that deal as a result of a political alliance that Virginia voters should consider...

By Marc Fisher | May 10, 2009; 09:30 AM ET | Comments (3)

Study: Md., Va. Prep Kids For Success. D.C. Doesn't.

Maryland is among the best places in the country in preparing children for success in school and beyond, according to a new study by Save the Children, the Washington-based non-profit. Maryland ranks eighth among all states and the District in measures such as parental encouragement, preschool participation and quality of home environment. Virginia landed 13th on the list and the District was way down at the bottom, at 42nd in the nation. Overall, the report paints a dismal picture of parenting and schooling in America. It finds that 68 percent of American fourth-graders are not reading at grade level--64...

By Marc Fisher | May 5, 2009; 07:48 AM ET | Comments (9)

Flu Not As Contagious As Fear

Swine flu is in the air, but the bug to watch out for is the germ of fear. The school year was coming to a close, and federal health officials, having convinced the president that swine flu was likely to infect huge numbers of people in just a few months, were racing to make a good vaccine for children. So in May of 1976, doctors at Children's National Medical Center turned to kids they knew best. The president of the hospital's board had his kids at Beauvoir, the private elementary school on the grounds of the National Cathedral. The principal,...

By Marc Fisher | May 3, 2009; 12:52 PM ET | Comments (0)

Kemp: A Rare Advocate For The District

Jack Kemp's mind was naturally focused on football as he led the Buffalo Bills to the American Football League championship in 1964, but he was paying enough attention to politics to realize that his fellow Republicans were making a mistake that would haunt them for decades to come: By opposing the Civil Rights Act that year, Republicans sent a message that rang loud and clear among black Americans. That, Kemp would argue for decades to follow, was the moment when his party lost the bulk of its black support, and the legacy of that choice remains the party's most...

By Marc Fisher | May 3, 2009; 08:31 AM ET | Comments (7)

How Many Don'ts Does It Take To Ruin A Friday Night?

Restaurants and bars pour big money into their images--the logo on the sign outside, the look inside, the acoustics. Then along comes the government to order nightspots to clutter up their showcase entryways with signs announcing that the establishment doesn't serve anyone under 21, that pregnant women shouldn't drink, that the business doesn't discriminate and that people shouldn't smoke. Now, the District's Alcoholic Beverage Control board wants to add one more sign to the flurry of announcements greeting folks headed out for a good time: Board member Mital Gandhi has proposed that all eateries and bars licensed in the...

By Marc Fisher | May 1, 2009; 07:22 AM ET | Comments (13)

Armageddon And A Wedding, Too

Proponents of the District's move to recognize the validity of same-sex marriages in four states that now sanction it were thrilled last week when a planned anti-gay marriage demonstration in front of the D.C. Council's offices didn't come off. But organizers of that rally say that was just a scheduling glitch and the real thing is happening Tuesday at 10 a.m. on Freedom Plaza. The rally, according to lead organizer Bishop Harry Jackson of Hope Christian Church in Bowie, "will launch the Armageddon of the marriage battle in this country." Jackson predicts that about 1,000 church members and 100...

By Marc Fisher | April 27, 2009; 08:24 AM ET | Comments (10)

Couple's Nuptials a Hiatus From Life on the Streets

She had heard all the lines, knew all the games. So when Dante White's first words to Nhiahni Chestnut were "I want you to be my wife," his chances did not seem strong. "I said, 'You are really putting it out there,' " Nhiahni recalls. But her retort came with a smile. Something about Dante made his preposterous opening line seem not just plausible, but a downright heart-melter. Such are the mysteries of love: Come Saturday, Dante and Nhiahni will marry. People will journey from every corner of Washington to see them exchange vows -- wealthy Georgetowners and people who...

By Marc Fisher | April 26, 2009; 10:18 AM ET | Comments (3)

After Mom's Troubling Words, A Maternity Ward Inquisition

Woozy from pain medication after a Caesarean section, swinging from joy over her newborn boy to exhaustion from the strain of delivering him, Karen Piper mentioned to her doctor that she'd been hoping for a girl. She would come to regret those words. There she was at Washington Hospital Center on an early spring afternoon, three days after giving birth. She'd be taking Luke home to the room she had lovingly prepared, to a time she'd dreamed about for years, just the two of them getting to know each other, reveling in the miracle of new life. When nurses finally...

By Marc Fisher | April 23, 2009; 08:36 AM ET | Comments (9)

Bustin' Loose, Janitorial Division (Say It Ain't So, Chuck)

It has come to this. In the sensitive system of cultural metrics developed by the legendary Henry Allen, spiritual god of The Washington Post's Style section, there is an exquisite beauty that the greatest artists and entrepreneurs deliver when they "go too far enough"--that is, they stretch the pop culture balloon just enough to give us a burst of meaning, but not so far as to be utterly banal or impossibly opaque. Now, from, of all places, the Atlanta airport, comes this: The city's aviation department, eager to get passengers to clean up after themselves and take advantage of...

By Marc Fisher | April 21, 2009; 08:25 AM ET | Comments (3)

Libraries May Survive Internet, But Not Mental Illness

What's the greatest threat to public libraries? People not reading? The allure of the Interwebs? Hypervigilant parents who don't let their kids go to the library on their own? Or is it the persistent presence of unstable, smelly and potentially dangerous mentally ill people who use libraries as day centers? A new survey--but beware: it was commissioned by an interested party--says the disturbing behavior of mentally ill patrons makes others less likely to use public libraries. In the District, libraries director Ginnie Cooper moved earlier this year to set new rules that make it harder for homeless or mentally...

By Marc Fisher | April 17, 2009; 08:55 AM ET | Comments (15)

The 'Whitey From Virginia' Who Believed In Black Kids

George Kettle died today. To thousands who made their living in the Virginia real estate world, that means the man in the Century 21 sportjacket, the magnate who controlled the realty franchise for the Washington region, has passed on. But in Southeast Washington, Kettle represented something else--a way out, a chance to get what people in the suburbs get--an education, summer vacations, job training, internships, new clothes, all the little things that spell the difference between growing up poor and growing up with the expectation of success. I first met Kettle in 1987, when he stood before an assembly...

By Marc Fisher | April 15, 2009; 02:55 PM ET | Comments (7)

Endless Summer: Inside A Baseball Losing Streak

The only team in baseball that has not yet won a game this season looked exciting, pathetic and hopeless in their home opener yesterday. The Washington Nationals had fans groaning, laughing (at, not with), cheering and jeering, all on a day that was supposed to be about hope and possibility. It was all too reminiscent of another spring, 21 years ago, back when the Baltimore Orioles were what passed for a local team around here. I spent a chunk of that summer traveling with the Orioles to write about their historic losing streak--21 straight miserable games--that started the season,...

By Marc Fisher | April 14, 2009; 01:33 PM ET | Comments (0)

Brutalist Church: The City Loses A Round

The years-long battle over whether the District's historic preservation police can force a Christian Science church to keep a ugly, cold, expensive home that it doesn't want took a turn toward the church's side the other day, as a federal judge made clear his sympathy for the church's plight. The Third Church of Christ, Scientist has taken the city to court in an effort to overturn the unanimous ruling by the D.C. Historic Preservation Board landmarking the 1971 concrete bunker that serves as a church on 16th Street NW, just north of the White House. At a hearing last...

By Marc Fisher | April 13, 2009; 07:48 AM ET | Comments (6)

Can D.C. Slip Gay Marriage Past Congress?

The secret memo on same-sex marriage is perhaps the best-protected document in a historically leaky government; it's so secret that even now, five years after then-Attorney General Robert Spagnoletti wrote it, members of the D.C. Council say they've never been allowed to see it. But among those who served under former Mayor Tony Williams, the word has long been that the secret memo dared to reach a legally defensible but politically unacceptable conclusion: that the District should grant recognition to same-sex marriages performed in states that have declared such bonds legal. When the Williams administration shoved the Spagnoletti opinion into...

By Marc Fisher | April 12, 2009; 07:25 PM ET | Comments (2)

Nats '09: Great Crab, New Flags, But Will They Come?

The new Crab Louie sandwiches are genuinely good--not ok for a ballpark, but genuinely high-quality. The big hit among stadium food offerings last year was the half-smokes from Ben's Chili Bowl, so there'll be more of them at Nationals Park this year--a new Ben's outlet on the upper deck, and four additional Ben's carts sprinkled around the stadium. The racing presidents, the ballpark's most successful gimmick, are now works of art--life-sized bobblehead sculptures right at the stadium's main entrance, standing ready for your snapshots. The Washington Nationals--facing the triple whammy of the sophomore slump at a new stadium, a...

By Marc Fisher | April 10, 2009; 08:21 AM ET | Comments (10)

Nats Town: Empty Lots, With Sprouts Of Hope

There was supposed to be a neighborhood here -- teeming streets, happy people sharing nights of cheer and cheers . . . even, perhaps, an occasional win. Instead, the blocks around Washington's new baseball stadium remain largely empty, an eerie expanse of flattened lots so bereft of activity that they can be used for but one thing -- parking. The promise that the return of baseball brought to this forlorn part of Washington seems distant now. One hundred and fifty-four buildings have been demolished in what used to be the city's industrial zone, a back lot dotted with seedy nightspots...

By Marc Fisher | April 9, 2009; 08:55 AM ET | Comments (4)

Hard Times: The Boys & Girls Clubs' Sell-Off

For nearly two years, the old Eastern Branch Boys & Girls Club on Capitol Hill has sat empty, a sad symbol of the decision by the club's parent organization to turn its back on city kids who relied on the clubhouses for recreation and education for nearly a century. Today, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington is announcing the closing of four more of its clubs, including the Hopkins club in Southeast Washington, the Jelleff club in Georgetown--which uniquely draws kids from all over the city, and clubs in Alexandria and Adelphi. The Boys & Girls Clubs,...

By Marc Fisher | April 8, 2009; 05:00 PM ET | Comments (3)

 

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