Robin Ficker on how his engineering degree from Case-Western Reserve prepared him for his recent meeting with Amazon HQ1 in his capacity as 2018 Candidate for County Executive in Montgomery County, Maryland ~
Andy Ockershausen: This is Andy Ockershausen and this is Our Town. And this is our 4th Season of this podcast, which has been a great, great thing for the marketplace, I’ll tell you that ’cause a lot of people have appeared with us talked about things people did not know about before. We’re so delighted today to give, to have a meeting and a discussion with a man who’s got the most famous name, I think, in Northwest Washington and Montgomery County and he’s a legend and he’s everything you’ve heard about and plus more. And it’s Robin Ficker. Welcome to Our Town, Robin.
Robin Ficker: Thank you very much Andy. I’m almost as well known as you are.
Andy Ockershausen: Yeah, well don’t forget I had Harden and Weaver. And you got stuck with me. But they were our powerhouse guys, as you know.
So Robin, tell me, I didn’t know about Robin Ficker background. Were you born in Maryland?
Robin Ficker on Growing Up in Our Town
Robin Ficker: I was born in Maryland. My dad was a Rhodes Scholar. He worked in the Library of Congress for 40 years in the Congressional Research Service. It was very interesting because he would bring me home the Congressional Record in addition to the six books a week that I had to read. But in the Congressional Record, he would show me a speech given by a Senator and then say he’d written the speech. Then he would show me in the same Congressional Record another speech on the opposite side of the same subject given by another Senator and he had written that speech too.
Andy Ockershausen: Is that unusual today?
Robin Ficker: I think so.
Andy Ockershausen: I think you’re probably right.
Robin Ficker: Yes.
Andy Ockershausen: Statesmen were statesmen then, but the world has changed.
Robin Ficker: Yes.
Andy Ockershausen: But Robin Ficker, you went to school in suburban, where were you, Frederick?
Robin Ficker: No, I graduated from Montgomery Blair High School.
Andy Ockershausen: Oh did you?
Robin Ficker: Yes, which and … We won the State Championship in everything but chess and that’s, we didn’t win in chess because we didn’t have a chess team.
Andy Ockershausen: Let me tell you, when I grew up it was just Blair High School. Montgomery was added later. I can tell you that.
Robin Ficker: Yes.
Andy Ockershausen: So that let you know it was in Montgomery county of course.
Robin Ficker: They built that new gym right there on Wayne Avenue and they’d leave the very top window open and we’d climb up and get in there and play basketball.
Andy Ockershausen: Many times I did that at Eastern High School in Washington, going in the top, getting into school and getting down the steps. But Robin, you grew up in suburban Maryland. You’re really close to our city, our town. But you left our town to go to college for a while, did you not?
U.S. Military Academy, Vietnam and Tragic Loss
Robin Ficker: Yes, I went to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. I was the second youngest in my class there and I remember thinking, wow, we’re gonna get a lot to eat when we’re there in the Army. And for our first meal we had to sit up attention and cut our peas, each one into four pieces. And I left that lunch quite hungry because I hadn’t eaten breakfast in anticipation of having a big lunch.
Andy Ockershausen: Robin, they do things differently at the Academy, both of them. But did your dad get you into the Academy? Why did you, did you have the Senator, or did you do the competitive exam?
Robin Ficker: It was the Congressman from Western Maryland got me in as a qualified alternate because I applied at the last minute when my best friend in high school, Akos Szekely, he was admitted and then he told me about it. I went up with him. And I really was saddened tremendously because he was killed in Vietnam and his parents, he was an only child. His parents had a flame in their basement for 40 years.
Andy Ockershausen: Well he finished school, correct?
Robin Ficker: He finished school.
Andy Ockershausen: He graduated.
Robin Ficker: He finished first in our class in military tactics. And he was in the Olympic Trials as a walker. He served a tour in Korea, hardship tour, because he was very ambitious. His Dad had been a general in the Hungarian Army. Then he got at Masters at MIT ’cause he was very bright. He was gonna teach at the Academy. Later on he served a tour in Vietnam. Then he was so ambitious he voluntarily extended his tour and switched from the engineers into the Infantry and a shell fell on him. I went to his funeral at Fort Myer.
Andy Ockershausen: He was a real soldier.
Robin Ficker: He was a hero.
Andy Ockershausen: Oh I can tell ya-
Robin Ficker: Our class lost about 35 guys in Vietnam.
Andy Ockershausen: Well we don’t have as many losses now, but we still got a lot of them. But I love West Point. I love the fact that you went there, but you only went for five semesters, but you found out what you found out. It wasn’t for you.
Robin Ficker: Well, no it was for me because I loved it … We had a test in every subject every day and I was ranked second in physical fitness there in the test that we had. And then I served in the Active Reserves for three years after that and got an honorable discharge from the U.S. Army. And later on I got married to Annette Huyser, whose dad was a Lieutenant General and he was in charge of logistics for, Three Star General in charge of logistics for the Vietnam War.
Andy Ockershausen: Was there a Hiser Theater too? Was he related to that-
Robin Ficker: No. No it wasn’t, it’s true that they’re both pronounced “Hiser”, but it was spelled differently.
Andy Ockershausen: But one was in Bethesda. Where did you go to, you left Bethesda, moved to Boyds. Correct?
Robin Ficker: Yeah.
Andy Ockershausen: But you were an adult.
Robin Ficker: Well actually I’ve lived in … I was born in Takoma Park. Lived in Silver Spring, then Bethesda, then Potomac, then Montgomery Village, then Silver Spring and now Boyds. So I’ve always lived in Montgomery County. I’m like a Montgomery County guy.
Andy Ockershausen: But you moved around Robin.
Robin Ficker: Moved around. Get different vantage points from the county, but I’ve never met a Montgomery Countian I didn’t like.
Andy Ockershausen: But Robin, you’re a politician. You’re the man! I want to talk to you about your politics. And then you went to Case’s, a great school for technology.
Robin Ficker: Well it is.
Andy Ockershausen: You gave that up to be a lawyer.
Case-Western Reserve Engineering Degree
Robin Ficker: Well, it’s true. I was really good at math so I got a degree in engineering and I know that now it’s Case Western Reserve. Every year they’d ask the Homecoming Queen at Western Reserve, “What do you think of the men at Case?” And every year she’d give the same answer. “I’ve never dated a boy from Case,” ’cause they were looked upon as nerds.
Andy Ockershausen: I believe you.
Robin Ficker: Out of the whole school there were like six women.
Andy Ockershausen: They were smart. The faculty was smart too.
Robin Ficker: They were-
Andy Ockershausen: You couldn’t get into Case unless you had a brain, correct?
Robin Ficker: You had to be an engineer, a scientist, but I learned a lot there. And that’s why I was really happy to take some of that knowledge with me when I went out to Seattle a couple weeks ago to talk to the guys that work for Amazon HQ1, to learn about that because we want to bring Amazon here, to Montgomery County.
The people at Amazon want one thing. That’s all they want. The want freedom. They want freedom to think. They want freedom from excessive regulation. Freedom from the tax burden that Seattle wanted to impose on them. They want freedom to better mankind. And that’s the kind of neighbor we want in Montgomery County, people who want freedom and who are going to better everyone’s lot in life.
Andy Ockershausen: Good for the people then, absolutely.
Robin Ficker: It’s a great … It’s why it’s the number one company.
Andy Ockershausen: And you went to the law school at Pennsylvania.
University of Pennsylvania Law School
Robin Ficker: Yeah, went to Penn.
Andy Ockershausen: Where’s the law school? In Philadelphia?
Robin Ficker: Yeah, it’s in Philadelphia there. And people who go to law school there, many of them become judges. The problem with being a judge is that you’re often chained to a desk and I’m high energy. I like to move around and be in court every day. I have a 2009 Ford Escape Hybrid. It’s got 427,000 miles on it. All of those going to court.
Janice Iacona Ockershausen: Wow.
Andy Ockershausen: And winning. Robin, but your court career has been very helpful to your political career, correct?
35,000 Court Cases and Three State Laws OverTurned in Federal Court Under Ficker’s Belt
Robin Ficker: Well, you know, I enjoy being in court very much because you’re debating issues. You learn how to disagree without being disagreeable. You’ve got to be careful because the judge could always hold in contempt if you say something wrong. I’ve completed maybe 35,000 cases and overturned three state laws in Federal Court. I had the-
Andy Ockershausen: You’re a windmill tilter.
Robin Ficker: Yeah.
Andy Ockershausen: Which I love. You know that? He tilts windmills.
Deborah Drudge v. Richard S. McKERNON, County Attorney for Montgomery County, Maryland, et al.
Robin Ficker: I tilt … Well I look at things that have never been and say why not? For instance, I represented Deborah Drudge, who’s the mother of Matt Drudge. She had applied for a job in the Montgomery County Attorney’s Office to be the first female lawyer in about 40 years. And of course the Montgomery County Attorney’s Office is the office that tries the sex discrimination cases. They didn’t have their own female attorney. She was offended because when she was interviewed there they asked her questions about marital status and child care arrangements. I said, “I’ll take your case.” We sued in Federal Court in Baltimore. During the discovery process we found out they were rating all female job applicants, not only in the County Attorney’s Office, but in the Montgomery County government from upper to lower quarter as the physique and facial features. She was rated in the third quarter in both. She was in the first quarter in intelligence and they settled the case hurriedly, offered her a job and then she didn’t want to take it.
Andy Ockershausen: Did she get any cash out of the county?
Robin Ficker: She didn’t get any cash out of the county, but she got a lot of satisfaction and she got a Federal Consent Decree. They’re no longer asking about child care arrangements, marital status and they’re no longer doing those ratings.
Andy Ockershausen: So she did, and you did tilt the windmill. You got the County to pay attention.
Robin Ficker: We tilted it and believe me, her son got his start listening to her, that’s for sure.
Andy Ockershausen: Matt. Do you know Matt?
Robin Ficker: I don’t know him, I knew him when he was a kid.
Andy Ockershausen: You’d really like his program.
Robin Ficker: Yeah. He has had quite an impact.
Andy Ockershausen: Oh my God.
Robin Ficker: The Drudge Report. I know if you get mentioned on you get a lot of reaction.
Andy Ockershausen: Absolutely. It’s radio.
Robin Ficker: Yes.
Andy Ockershausen: And he’s a fine broadcaster.
Robin Ficker: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Andy Ockershausen: We ran into him years and years ago ’cause he did some work for ABC. So Matt Drudge. I didn’t know … What else have you done in, why did you try that in Baltimore because it’s in Maryland?
Robin Ficker: That’s where the Federal Court was.
Andy Ockershausen: Oh, I got it.
Robin Ficker: And this was the Montgomery County Attorney so you had to try it in a Maryland court. Now they have another Federal Court in Greenbelt.
Andy Ockershausen: I knew that. It’s the same system but another judge that’s there right?
Robin Ficker: Yes. Yeah, they have different judges.
Andy Ockershausen: Now have you gone to court in the city against, the City of Washington against Uncle Sam?
Ficker v NFL, et al in Pro Football TV Blackout Case
Robin Ficker: No, but I went to, I did, I went to court a couple times. I filed a case against the Redskins and CBS, the NFL to try to end the pro football television black outs. That case went to the Supreme Court. And as a matter of fact, they weren’t going to have the Green Bay/Redskin game on television even though this was a playoff game because it wasn’t completely sold out. And then Justice Burger, the morning of the game actually, he was taking the, he was taking the briefs because we had lost in the D.C. Court, U.S. Court of Appeals. Then I said, “Well we’ve got to go all the way here.” And the Clerk of the Court wasn’t at the Supreme Court because he was at a Christmas party in Baltimore. The TV stations put out the word “where are you”? He called me up. He said, “Take the papers down there. I’ll meet you there.” And Burger had him for breakfast and issued a one word opinion, “Denied”. And the game was not shown on TV.
So people in Montgomery County and Maryland and D.C., they had to go to Baltimore, excuse me, they had to go to Pennsylvania or Richmond or someplace to watch the game. And people, they said at time, “Well if football is shown on TV when it’s not sold out, it’ll become overexposed and people won’t go to the games.” And since then of course, things have boomed. But Pete Rozelle said himself if it hadn’t had been for our lawsuit that he wouldn’t have lifted the blackouts.
Andy Ockershausen: Well I remember those years. That was the early ’70s was it not?
Robin Ficker: It was. Nixon was President. Nixon even issued a statement saying the game should be shown on TV and the NFL said no. But then we, after that, we went, we had introduced legislation. Senator Pastore introduced a bill. I appeared on behalf of the Redskins Fan Club and gave him a football at the hearing, actually, which said, “Senator Pastore One, NFL Nothing.” And they ended up whizzing a bill through to have the blackouts lifted.
Andy Ockershausen: Well you know that name, John Pastore was a big man in the Commerce Committee, which oversaw broadcasting. I had met him over the years. But for a little state, Rhode Island had a lot of power. I do remember that.
Robin Ficker: Well he was a powerhouse himself, yeah.
Andy Ockershausen: Oh goodness. Claiborne, Pele, they had some people. Now Robin, tell me about, did you ever get an opportunity to work for Uncle Sam? Did they ever approach you to come to work with them?
Robin Ficker: Well my dad did and-
Andy Ockershausen: Yeah, he was a government employee, right?
Robin Ficker: Yeah. He worked in the Congressional Research, but the feeling-
Andy Ockershausen: 40 years.
On Being His Own Boss
Robin Ficker: For 40 years. The feeling I had was that I wanted freedom myself and I wanted to be my own boss. In the Federal Government there are many bright people there, but inevitably you have a boss there who’s telling you what to do.
Andy Ockershausen: And he’s not too bright.
Robin Ficker: And you may have other ideas. That’s why I’ve always worked for myself as an attorney because I like to be the boss.
Andy Ockershausen: Do you have partners? Did you?
Robin Ficker: Oh, yeah. I’ve had many attorneys that have worked for me.
Andy Ockershausen: Because I know your office on Wisconsin Avenue. That was showplace because all the merchants there knew you too.
Robin Ficker: Right.
Andy Ockershausen: You were a neighbor guy, right?
Robin Ficker: Right. We had a lot of friends there and I had many attorneys work for me. But then they raised the on street parking fees just to … In 2009, they were 75 cents, now they’re $2.25 an hour. So people got sick and tired of loading it up with quarters so we’re no longer on Wisconsin, although we were there from ’82 to 2016 we’re at another location.
Janice Iacona Ockershausen: Is the clock still there? Your clock. Didn’t you have a clock outside your office?
Robin Ficker: Yes we did. No it’s not there.
Janice Iacona Ockershausen: Yeah, yeah.
Andy Ockershausen: It’s a different office too.
Janice Iacona Ockershausen: That was my way to the office from Rockville every day.
Robin Ficker: Oh, did I represent you when you were arrested?
Janice Iacona Ockershausen: No. [laughter] But that clock was always there so I knew . . .
Andy Ockershausen: Anybody who got arrested went to see Robin. The people’s lawyer.
Robin Ficker: If you had come to see me, by the end of the conversation you would have been happy that you were arrested. And you would have gotten out of court so fast that you would have felt like that young lady in the Exorcist whose head was spinning around.
Andy Ockershausen: You would say young girl.
Janice Iacona Ockershausen: That’s right.
Andy Ockershausen: Robin Ficker, you’re such a legend. And we’re gonna talk some more about beginning, you to make an impact in the broadcast world. This is Andy Ockershausen and this Our Town.
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Andy Ockershausen: This is Andy Ockershausen and this is Our Town. I’m having a conversation with an icon. Now he’s too young to be an old icon, so he’s a young one. Robin Ficker is such an important part of our town, even though he’s a Maryland guy, remember Montgomery County is our town too, Robin.
Ficker Gets Season Tickets After Judge Throws Out His “Season Ticket Lawsuit”
Robin Ficker: Well it is. And as a matter of fact, one lawsuit I had was against the Redskins to try to get my season tickets because for years they’d held a season ticket waiting list. And I was on the waiting list and every year I would ask them what is my position on the waiting list. After I didn’t move up for several years I heard about a judge friend of mine getting tickets who wasn’t on the waiting list. So I sued in D.C. Superior Court. My theory being that if you’re gonna publicize the fact that you have a waiting list and you’re not gonna stick to it then why publicize the fact it’s a waiting list? So the judge threw my case out, but the next year I got my season tickets.
Andy Ockershausen: They listened to you, didn’t they?
Robin Ficker: Yeah.
Janice Iacona Ockershausen: I love Robin Ficker because he seems to be the champion of all the-
Andy Ockershausen: Of the people.
Janice Iacona Ockershausen: -injustices that are, you know, the citizen injustices that we all get mad about. There’s nobody to represent us and here comes Robin Ficker and he comes along.
How to Write an Essay for Law School Admittance
Robin Ficker: Well that’s why it’s fun to go to law school. I remember when I was thinking about going to law school we had to write an essay as to why we wanted to go to law school. And I went down to the Library of Congress and looked at some of the essays-
Andy Ockershausen: With your father.
Robin Ficker: He was there. Some of the Supreme Court Justices had written about why they wanted to go to law school. I read the one written by Oliver Wendell Holmes who said that he wanted to go to law school because he didn’t know what he wanted to do and law school was a good place to figure it out. So I said, “That’s me.” And I wrote that essay and was accepted.
Andy Ockershausen: That’s a wonderful story isn’t it?
Robin Ficker: Yes.
Andy Ockershausen: Oliver Wendell Holmes. My God, the Lion of the Court. Now you have been tuned in, I’m sure, whether you’re too busy to watch, but they were going through another long period of agony about the Supreme Court and how it’s made up and the hearing and so forth. Have you been tuned into that at all?
Robin Ficker: Well sure I’ve been tuned in to that because Judge Kavanaughs’ mother was a court in Montgomery County and I appeared before her many times. And she was a very-
Andy Ockershausen: Was a Clerk of the Court?
Robin Ficker: No, she was a judge-
Andy Ockershausen: Oh!
Robin Ficker: -in Montgomery County, yes. I know in District Court and I believe Circuit Court as well, Martha Kavanaugh and she was a very friendly lady, always impeccably dressed, very polite to the nth degree. And was a very well respected judge. And I didn’t realize there was a connection, actually, til I heard about his nomination. And what’s wrong with having a Marylander on the Supreme Court?
Andy Ockershausen: Wouldn’t that be great?
Robin Ficker: Yeah.
Andy Ockershausen: It would be great for the state.
Robin Ficker: I think so.
Andy Ockershausen: And the County, you know he went, we go to the same church. He goes to Blessed Sacrament. And he’s a well known figure in the community. He does more than just judge work.
Robin Ficker: Well he went to Georgetown Prep. It seems like we’re getting a whole line of judges from Georgetown Prep now.
Andy Ockershausen: Preppies.
Robin Ficker: Yeah, I guess if you want to be on the Supreme Court that’s where you go to high school.
Andy Ockershausen: They used to be a very small school, but now it’s big. But Robin, before we go about your career in athletics, we always knew about Robin Ficker because you’ve had a conversation over the years with Ken Beatrice that worked for us. And it was always interesting between you and Ken because he had more sources that were probably wrong, but you never challenged him on that.
Sports Call with Ken Beatrice
Robin Ficker: Well, Ken and I would go round and round because he would, he’d be doing the Redskin games and he would take calls, I think, during half time. And I would know the various numbers and we’d call in and he, I think he got tired of me calling in every week and getting on the air and asking questions. And then so one time he actually called me up ahead of time and said, “Robin you know, I know you’re gonna call in. What question do you have?” And I told him my question. Then he said, “Well I don’t want you to call in.” So then I had a lady who worked for me call in, okay? And she, she called in and asked a question and she says, “Well I was just sitting here talking to Robin Ficker about this.” And Ken said, “Oh no!”
Andy Ockershausen: You had him baby!
Robin Ficker: Yeah.
Andy Ockershausen: He’s quite a character. A big part of Our Town. He was very popular. I think one of the reasons was he had a New England accent. It was unheard of in Montgomery County.
Robin Ficker: He had the accent, but he had a computer in his head too.
Andy Ockershausen: He was amazing.
Robin Ficker: He knew all these statistics. I mean he reminded me of my roommate in law school. My roommate in law school, you could name a country and a year and he could tell you who the leader of that country was in that particular year. Any country, any year. Ken had a mind like a trap and he had an IBM computer in his head.
Andy Ockershausen: He sure did. And guess what? He didn’t have any computer. He didn’t have any electronics at all. He did it, we watched him work. I mean he just worked alone.
But I’m going to start talking to you now, I’d like to shift gears and start politics and talk to Robin Ficker, Mr. Politician.
One of the things he’s known for, but he proved to me that, that’s an injustice and that is he ran for every office and never won. Then I do the research that Janny did for me, she does everything, proved that you did win. You have won. Robin Ficker is not a loser.
Robin Ficker: No. Well I’m not a quitter.
Andy Ockershausen: That’s very true!
Robin Ficker on Term Limits
Robin Ficker: For instance, let’s talk about term limits. I put term limits on the ballot in Montgomery County in the year 2000 limiting the Council and Executive to two consecutive four year terms. And that got about 46%. Then in 2004, I put it on the ballot to allow them to serve three consecutive four year terms. That got about 48 1/2% of the vote. Then in 2010, I collected the signatures, but the court, Maryland Court of Appeals had issued an opinion at that time, which they later overturned, saying that peoples’ signatures had to be legible. And of course no one writes it. They realized, the court realized that too so they didn’t accept my signatures. I put it on the ballot for the fourth time, or tried to get it on the ballot for the fourth time in 2016. And we got our 18,000 signatures. It was on the ballot. Every elected official opposed it. The Washington Post editorialized it against it several times, wouldn’t even let me put in an op ed, but it got 70% of the vote. It got 300,000 votes. It won in 253 of 257 precincts.
Now sometimes when you see a fly go by, try to catch it with your hand. If you can catch one that’s pretty good. Then see if you can catch five at once. We caught five. Five of these folks, these tax increase specialists couldn’t run for office again after we got that passed. Then people, so they had these open seats. In 2014 when they had four at large council seats there were only six Democratic candidates. Then term limits passed. Seats were open. Instead of six candidates they had 34 candidates for four at large seats. The Washington Post wrote an article saying, “It was if a dam had burst.”
Andy Ockershausen: It’s Robin Ficker! There’s a story about knocking over an old dam, which you did.
Passage of Term Limits Puts a Stop to Unnecessary Tax Increases
Robin Ficker: Right. We poked a hole in the dam and of course before that, in 2008, I put a question on the ballot to require all nine council votes for the council to exceed the inflation rate on property tax increases. And every elected official opposed that. The Post opposed that. However, just before that question was on the ballot, the council had increased the county budget 14% in one year. And that was too much so they passed the question that one in five of eight legislative districts got 200,000 votes. And it stopped property tax increases from 2009 to 2015 because in the past the council had let people who weren’t liably, we’re liable to get re-elected, they let them vote against the tax increases knowing they would have the vote to pass them.
So it stopped tax increases, but in 2016 the council unanimously passed an unnecessary 9% property tax increase if they, otherwise if it had been limited by inflation it could have been 1.8%. They passed the tax increase five times the rate of inflation and passed it unanimously, but we were ready for them. We had term limits on the ballot. That gave term limits even more momentum and we got 70% with that.
But some of these folks, they always like to spend other peoples money and they’re never running out of other peoples money. They want to have a unlimited budget and the ability to exceed it.
Andy Ockershausen: Which they do.
Robin Ficker: Yeah, but … I was speaking to George Allen the other day, a former Governor and Senator from Virginia. He said, “How in the world did you get that requirement that the council be unanimous to pass property tax increases greater of inflation? How’d you ever get that passed?” He says, “I don’t know of anywhere else where they have that.”
Andy Ockershausen: Robin, well because you’re peculiar. You scared that council into doing something, Robin. And you got the term limits through. And it’s working. Now how did you end up in this election that’s up now? You’re up for office. You decided to run for this office. Was it open or are you just filling it?
On Deciding to Run for County Executive Seat
Robin Ficker: Well as a matter of fact, Ike Leggett, my friend whose been in the County Executive seat for 12 years, he was term limited by my ballot question. He could not run again. Now he had said about a year before the election that he wasn’t gonna run again. However, he had seen the same poll I saw, which showed widespread dissatisfaction with the council and executive. And at that time that poll showed term limits getting 60% after they passed the unnecessary tax increase, 9% tax increase, it got 70%. So he couldn’t run again. I think he would have run again if it hadn’t passed because he loves his job. Now, he’s done a good job, but I’m gonna do a better one when I replace him.
Andy Ockershausen: No question about that Robin. And you got two opponents or three?
Robin Ficker: No, I’ve got two, but they’re really look alike folks. They’ve been-
Andy Ockershausen: The same words, but the same music too, huh?
Robin Ficker: They’ve been on the council, one for 12 years the other for 16 years. They voted for every tax increase to come before the council. And I think they were a major contributor to the huge vote in favor of term limits, in favor of change. And now they’re saying that people voted for term limits because they wanted to promote them. That’s not why people voted for term limits. The people wanted to go in a different direction.
Andy Ockershausen: Get rid of them.
Robin Ficker: Right.
Andy Ockershausen: So Robin, you know, that is so … It scared a lot of Democrats because I hear it and read it, that you’ll be an Independent even though you’re a Republican, that you don’t have to vote for a Democrat. They can vote for you in the general election.
A Vote for Robin Ficker – Improve I-270
Robin Ficker: Well sure they will. And I expect that they will because I have an open mind and anybody that has something new I’m gonna explore it. Like for instance Governor Hogan’s plans to improve I-270. We’ve had 16 years, 20 years of inaction. There are people who are worried about getting parking tickets when they’re driving on the road. We need to do something. We’ve got to get Montgomery County moving because we have been “Takoma Parked” too long. And Governor Hogan has presented like 16 alternatives. We need some alternative, any alternative. And the day after the election, I’m gonna go down to the Office of the State Secretary of Transportation and sit in his office at 8:00 am so he had better not stay up too late celebrating. And I’m gonna say, “What are we going to do about I-270?”
The problem now with the plan on I-270, they’ve got a study going but the section from Montgomery Village up to Clarksburg, the northern part which is jammed every day, that’s part of a future study. Do it now. Study improving that road now. They’re putting in tens of thousands of townhouses, new shopping centers, but they’re not improving the infrastructure.
Andy Ockershausen: That has happened so often in Montgomery County.
Robin Ficker: Well can you help me do something about it Andy?
Andy Ockershausen: Well you’re doing something right now.
Janice Iacona Ockershausen: Remember the ICC, how long that took?
Robin Ficker: Yeah, that took-
Andy Ockershausen: 20, 30 years. It was unbelievable.
Robin Ficker: The ICC took 40 years and then they whopped us with a big toll. I think what, maybe what they could do is make the ICC free during rush hour and then some of these folks that are backed up 10 hours a day on the Beltway, maybe they’ll take the ICC-
Andy Ockershausen: Maybe figure a way to get around it.
Janice Iacona Ockershausen: That’s a great idea.
Robin Ficker: -and get around it. That’s what we want to do.
Andy Ockershausen: That’s a brilliant idea.
Robin Ficker: Sure.
Andy Ockershausen: ‘Cause they don’t make much money with the ICC. They wouldn’t be losing anything.
Robin Ficker: No. And you know, ICC here is like Route 97 between Annapolis and Baltimore. There are no tolls there. Why do we have these tolls here?
Andy Ockershausen: They did that so they could build it.
Robin Ficker: Yeah.
Andy Ockershausen: But, Robin Ficker, you are such an important part of Our Town. And we’re gonna come back and talk about one of your sidelines, your claim to fame, your international fame and talk about the Washington Bullets Wizards. This is Andy Ockershausen with Our Town.
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Andy Ockershausen:This is Andy Ockershausen and Robin Ficker’s career, when he became a worldwide phenomenon because he was a fan, a basketball fan and he did it standing behind the bench of the Washington Bullets Wizards and I don’t know which side he was on! But the players knew. And he was an attraction. But then you got crosswise with the management.
Stories from a Sports Heckler
Robin Ficker: Well you know, I used to love to sit there because I could have an effect on the game. And I would, I know that the coaches in the NBA were highly stressed. They had short half lives and they wanted the rapt attention of their players. So I would bring my blackboard. I would draw up my plays and explain to the players why I thought my plays were better than the coaches. And they’d be looking at me instead of looking at him. So then they started moving their seats out to mid-court for time outs. And it was really funny. Barkley for instance, he said he wouldn’t eat vegetables. Okay? So I brought a big bag of various veggies to the game and I said, “Well Charles, you know you got a little spring onion step. You’re making a broccoli of the game.” We’d hand out the vegetables to the players.
Andy Ockershausen: Did you grow these vegetables yourself?
Robin Ficker: Yes. I’d hand out the veggies to the guys. They’d be on the bench there with veggies under their shirt and sometimes the coach would call them to go in and they’d say, “Here’s your eggplant.”
Andy Ockershausen: Well you, the players enjoyed it. At least most of them did.
Robin Ficker: We had, no, we had a lot of fun. We had a lot of fun.
Andy Ockershausen: The management was a problem.
Robin Ficker: Shaq came in the league and he’d make these rap records and I would, I would listen to the rap records and change some of the words. He’d say, “I’ve got skills, da, da, da.” and I’d say, “No, you’ve got bills da, da, da.”. I knew who these guys were dating. I knew who was behind on child support. Lewis Lloyd came in. He was $75,000 behind on child support and I was, I brought that up and he was distracted the rest of the game. Jeff Mullins, he came here. He had scored double figures for 499 straight games. So I had a big sign with a 500. A red circle around it and a line through the 500. And I was talking to him throughout the whole game. He did not score. He did not score in double figures in that game. And he came over and signed my sign and said, “Nice call Robin. Jeff Mullins.”
Andy Ockershausen: So you had the players with you?
Robin Ficker: Well sure. It was always fun because-
Andy Ockershausen: You had a good time.
Robin Ficker: Yeah, I was having … And I never swore, never drank alcohol at the games. Never made any sexual or racial comments. So you have to think, it’s like being in court. You don’t want to say something that’s offensive.
Andy Ockershausen: That’d be against what you’re trying to do is relax these guys.
Robin Ficker: Yeah, I want to relax them. I want to give them therapy. I want to try to help them think of something else.
Andy Ockershausen: You only did this with the visiting team. Did you do it-
Robin Ficker: I was behind the visiting team, yeah.
Andy Ockershausen: Always.
Robin Ficker: I was trying to keep their mind off their game.
Andy Ockershausen: And you did.
Robin Ficker: I did. Well I used to read Steve (sic) [Sam] Smith’s book called “The Jordan Rules”. And Jordan said he hadn’t read it. I’d be there reading the book and of course every now and than I would make up a few things. Okay? And Jordan would turn … He claimed he never read the book. He’d turn around, shake his head no, that’s not right.
Andy Ockershausen: So you had a relationship with him too? Michael?
Robin Ficker: He was a little different then Barkley. After the games, Barkley would go out into the clubs. You had these nice looking people come up and rub themselves up against him and he’d be there being with all the fans. But Mike would always go to a private dining room with some close friends.
Andy Ockershausen: Yeah, he was not a public figure at all.
Robin Ficker: No.
Andy Ockershausen: But Shaq was a man of the people too, but not as fun guy as Barkley, right? Barkley was your-
Robin Ficker: Barkley was the best. He was the most fun guy, but they asked Shaq on TV, “What do you remember most about your rookie season?” He says, “I remember that guy behind the bench that was giving me a hard time the whole game even after I scored 20 points in the first half.”
Andy Ockershausen: He didn’t forget you did he?
Robin Ficker: No.
Andy Ockershausen: Oh gosh.
Robin Ficker: He’s huge too.
Andy Ockershausen: Oh tell me about it. But he’s a gentle giant, but he was a great player.
Robin Ficker: Yeah, and he’s done very well with advertisements and sponsorships after his playing days. I mean he’s a success story and maybe he’ll be the sheriff one day, I don’t know.
Andy Ockershausen: Now what happened to the management? They removed you from your seats.
Robin Ficker: I don’t think it was the management. I think it was David Stern. They knew that the team was relocating to D.C. and they had promised, they had sent out notices saying we’re going to give you all comparable seats. And I had seniority over everyone behind the bench in that section. As a matter of fact, there was a waiting list of people who wanted to sit with me behind there. And then they relocated my seats to behind the basket. So I just said, “Well now wait a minute. I’ve got to re-evaluate this.” And my daughter was a professional triathlete going all over the world.
Andy Ockershausen: I read about her.
Robin Ficker: I’m going with her. I’ll give up the NBA. There’s other things you can do besides go to NBA games. So I started going to these national, international triathlons and I started-
Andy Ockershausen: Traveling.
Robin Ficker: Yeah. And I had two sons wrestling so I’d go to their wrestling matches. And lately I’ve been going to the University of Maryland wrestling matches there in the Big Ten. And University of Maryland, I have to mention this, they have a guy on their team now who won the under 23 national heavyweight championship this past summer. He’s coming in for his senior year and I think Maryland’s – his name is Youssif – and I think he’s gonna be the first NCAA wrestling champ from Maryland since 1969. He’s on the team this year.
Andy Ockershausen: Wow! Do you know that the guy name Sully Krouse used to be the wrestling coach?
Robin Ficker: I’d go over there and wrestle with Sully-
Andy Ockershausen: You remember Sully.
Robin Ficker: -when I was in high school. He was a legend in everyone’s mind because he won the ACC Championship many years in a row. He was a huge-
Andy Ockershausen: Yeah. He worked.
Robin Ficker: -he was a huge guy. And his teams were very, very successful.
Andy Ockershausen: And Jim Kehoe was the AD.
Robin Ficker: Yeah.
Andy Ockershausen: But Sully Krouse’s brother was named Raymond, played for the New York Giants.
Robin Ficker: Yeah.
Andy Ockershausen: And I knew him. He went to Western. I went to Eastern. And that was natural. But we did things as a unit from each school.
Robin Ficker: They say, you know, they used to talk about how big these guys were, but now-
Andy Ockershausen: Oh my gosh!
College Recruiting for Seattle Seahawks
Robin Ficker: -the players are much bigger. My son-in-law is Head of College Recruiting for the Seattle Seahawks, my daughter’s husband. And if you’re not well over 300 they barely look at you. But he was smart, I might add. He hired this guy who has only on hand, out there in the Seahawks.
Andy Ockershausen: That’s right.
Robin Ficker: My son-in-law is the one that hired him. And he’s starting for the team now.
Andy Ockershausen: It’s tons of publicity.
Robin Ficker: Well he, look, you see what you can do with one hand behind your back or one hand non-functioning. I mean he’s-
Andy Ockershausen: Amazing.
Robin Ficker: -overcompensated in other ways. Speed. He had like the fastest 40 of anyone in his position. And just guts and desire.
Andy Ockershausen: He’s a guard, correct?
Robin Ficker: Yeah.
Andy Ockershausen: An interior lineman.
Robin Ficker: He’s, I think he actually, I think he plays linebacker. He has tremendous guts and enthusiasm and it helps-
Andy Ockershausen: Very smart.
Robin Ficker: -helps that his brother, I think, is on the same team.
Janice Iacona Ockershausen: Twin.
Robin Ficker: Twins, yeah.
Andy Ockershausen: See Janice knows. She follows that. But what else have you done in basketball besides … You travel with the team, but your relationship was not with the team. It was with the visiting team, right?
Robin Ficker: Right. Well I got to know all the players in the league. And I would-
Andy Ockershausen: You knew them as players too, correct?
Robin Ficker: Oh yeah, sure I did.
Andy Ockershausen: Stats?
Robin Ficker: Yeah. I was very friendly with them. Barkley said I was the number one fan in the league. And it really, he gave me the game ball several times. I remember when he was talking about running for Governor of-
Andy Ockershausen: Governor of Alabama. Whatever happened to that?
Robin Ficker: Governor of Alabama. I said, “Charles, I’m going to vote for you, but first I’ve got to know your views on the economy, NAFTA and healthcare.” And he turned around and he said, “Well, I do have a view on the death penalty. They should use it on you!”
Andy Ockershausen: Very clever!
Robin Ficker: He was a very friendly guy. And he’d even put notes on my chair before the game saying, “Robin, I know you’re gonna give me a hard time tonight. I hope you don’t.”
Andy Ockershausen: You know there was a great story about Charles that I read. In the ’92 Olympics, they were in Barcelona, and all, and the team was so good. That was the Dream Team.
Robin Ficker: I was there in Barcelona.
Andy Ockershausen: That was the Dream Team, right?
Robin Ficker: Right.
Andy Ockershausen: At the end of the tournament they’d won everything. And when all the players went to parties and everything, Charles went out with the people.
Robin Ficker: Yeah.
Andy Ockershausen: He was hanging out with everybody. They loved it.
Robin Ficker: Oh yeah.
Andy Ockershausen: He was a man of the people.
Robin Ficker: Yeah. He’s a man of the people.
Andy Ockershausen: He gave up politics.
Robin Ficker: He has the common touch. He’s not in the ivory tower. Yeah, I think he’d make a good politician.
Andy Ockershausen: I thought he would.
Robin Ficker: He’s talked about it, but he’s very successful now doing sponsorships and I loved it when he said that when he was going to the NCAA Basketball Championships in Indianapolis and they showed him in the car looking around Maryland and he said, “I thought the game was in Annapolis.”
Andy Ockershausen: That was a commercial?
Robin Ficker: That was a commercial, yeah.
Andy Ockershausen: That’s funny. Robin, you are so, so entertaining and I hope you, that works for your campaign. If people could get to you they would have an opinion of you. Forget what they write and what TV and radio said. But to listen to you, you’re a different than the public image. And I’m public and I had an image of you and you’ve changed it dramatically. But I’d vote for you anyway, not because you’re Republican, but I think you’re a very, very smart man. And that was way back … I used to hear from the guys in the cleaners all the time. The people on the street were friends of mine and friends of yours.
Robin Ficker: Yeah.
Andy Ockershausen: To me that shows that somebody’s really involved.
Robin Ficker: Well the good thing about this County Executive race is that we have 12, not one. We have 12 debates set up. The first one this Saturday at the Calvary Baptist Church, which is an African-American church in Rockville. So we’re gonna have a whole array of debates. And I think that the person who wins this race, it won’t be because they have the most money or the best backing of Unions, whatever. It’ll be because they do better in the debates. And I’m debating every day.
Andy Ockershausen: That’s your life!
Robin Ficker: The council has a go along, get along attitude. They pay us this huge tax increase without debate. But I’m debating every day against people who are very smart and have the odds in their favor, the prosecutors. For instance, Angela Alsobrooks, who’s going to be the next County Executive in Prince George’s County. I’ve dealt with her many times.
Andy Ockershausen: She was judge?
Robin Ficker: No, she’s not a judge. She was the, she was the State’s Attorney there and she is … I love her. She is like one of the nicest people I’ve ever met, but she’s also a tough prosecutor and she has a lot of advantages. And I enjoy going to court-
Andy Ockershausen: She seems to be a real person.
Robin Ficker: She’s a wonderful person. I think that people in Prince George’s have made a fabulous choice with her. You should have her-
Andy Ockershausen: I’m glad to hear you say that.
Robin Ficker: Yeah. She is, really she is just, I can’t think of a way to improve her, if you want to know.
Andy Ockershausen: Well don’t get her elected for something else. Leave her there. She’d be good for the county.
Robin Ficker: Yes.
Andy Ockershausen: Now how about … Well you’ve got a race in your county, but you were saying something about PG County that I have watched for years because Janice went to school there and local. And that county has really come a long way. Still got a long way to go, but it’s a lot different.
Robin Ficker: Well the average income there in Prince George’s has increased remarkably over the past generation-
Andy Ockershausen: Oh I know that.
Robin Ficker: -and there are people there that, I mean, what’s the Harbor doing there? What’s the … A lot of money is being brought into Montgomery County.
Andy Ockershausen: Oh, is it?
Robin Ficker: I mean it’s, what an attraction that is and the shows that they have there.
Andy Ockershausen: MGM is a huge asset.
Robin Ficker: It’s brought me a lot of cases too because I’ve had people who have been breaking some of the machines there. And they have stings. They have young ladies there who go up to these guys who have been drinking and gambling and they make overtures and the guys accept them and then they’re arrested. And there are various, there are card sharks.
Andy Ockershausen: Well you can defend a sting. It’s not easy is it?
Robin Ficker: Well it’s not, but I win a lot of cases.
Andy Ockershausen: It’s unethical.
What Ficker Learned from Muhammad Ali About Playing Cards
Robin Ficker: Yeah, it is unethical, but I learned from Muhammad Ali who I used to workout from, workout with, that you don’t want to play cards for money because people, and I used to look at his … He was really good with the cards. I could look at his hands and look at the cards and he would palm a card and I’d be looking at it and I couldn’t tell that he done it. I mean-
Andy Ockershausen: Right in front of you.
Robin Ficker: Really, yeah. If you think, if you think you’re gonna make money playing cards with someone who really knows the tricks, forget it. You’re gonna lose your shirt.
Andy Ockershausen: Absolutely.
Robin Ficker: And there’s a reason that these buildings in Las Vegas and Singapore and the National Harbor are big and glitzy. It’s because they’re playing with your money.
Andy Ockershausen: Always, right?
Robin Ficker: Yes.
Andy Ockershausen: When you go in there you’re playing with … That’s so true. But that has been a great addition to the community though, the whole thing with the Ferris wheel. I know Milt Peterson very well. And Milt, I’m sure you know Will, he’s the one started that thing at the Harbor. And Milton is so well established he doesn’t care if they never make any money because they never will. He’s got so much in that place. His son’s running it now. But that’s a great part of our town though.
Robin Ficker: Oh it is. And I think it’s gonna be growing like topsy for years to come.
Andy Ockershausen: What do you think boss? Do you like …You’re a Prince George’s County person. Last year Janice was part of a group that put on a huge show. Who was the charity for?
Janice Iacona Ockershausen: International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.
Andy Ockershausen: Oh.
Robin Ficker: Good.
Andy Ockershausen: Had a great show and they were such a wonderful venue for these guys. And they contribute a lot of money. It was a stunning achievement, I think. I said, “Here we are at Oxon Hill Road.” This is us. Oxon Hill Road. What a great thing though.
Robin Ficker: Yeah, well when your electricity goes out you try to fix it. It’s not easy to do.
Andy Ockershausen: IBEW.
Robin Ficker: Yeah. You better call an expert.
Andy Ockershausen: Now if you win this race do you have to give up your law practice?
Law Practice Will Give Way to Elected County Executive Position
Robin Ficker: I will give it up because it’d just be too busy and I’m going to be starting … We’re gonna be starting at earlier hours than they are starting now. They’re in the county government. I’m a hustler. I’m not a couch potato. I’m high energy.
Andy Ockershausen: You love it.
Robin Ficker: I’m high energy. So we’re gonna think of a lot of new things and ways to improve things for everyone, bring in some businesses. You know, we just learned that Apple was looking for a new headquarters. And how did we learn that? Because the news got out that they were looking to locate in Virginia. What about Montgomery County? When they were looking for a new location for the FBI headquarters, they were looking at Prince George’s and Northern Virginia. Why not Montgomery County? I mean what better way to hold down the crime than to have those premier investigators from the FBI located in your county. If you were a career criminal, would you want to locate where the FBI is? I wouldn’t.
Andy Ockershausen: Move to West Virginia.
Robin Ficker: Yeah.
Andy Ockershausen: Robin, but see you’re on top of the news. You’re way out in front. That’s gonna help you. I always find that the problem is you’re gonna be dealing with people that you need their vote, that are not gonna know enough about you to make an informed decision. They’ll either go with a Democrat, Republican, young man, old woman, old woman, young woman. They’re gonna make it on, they’re not gonna make it on what you can provide for the county. And that’s unfortunate.
Robin Ficker: Well, you know it’s still the greatest system we have here in America when you look at some of the alternatives, you know? Look what’s going on in China and North Korea, Russia.
Andy Ockershausen: Oh my.
Janice Iacona Ockershausen: We wish you so well in your endeavors and good luck on those 12 debates.
Robin Ficker: Okay. Thank you very much.
Andy Ockershausen: WMAL will carry them, I’m sure. And carry part of them.
Robin Ficker: I hope so, yeah.
Andy Ockershausen: Even though I’m not there anymore. Ken Beatrice either. Robin Ficker, you are a delight.
Janice Iacona Ockershausen: Thank you so much for being a part of Our Town. Thank you.
Robin Ficker: Thank you very much.
Andy Ockershausen: You’re a big part of Our Town.
Robin Ficker: Thank you.
Andy Ockershausen: This is Andy Ockershausen. And this has been Our Town. This is our 4th Season and we are rollin’.
Announcer: You’ve been listening to Our Town, Season Four, presented by GEICO, our home town favorite, with your host Andy Ockershausen. New Our Town episodes are released each Tuesday and Thursday. Drop us a line with your comments or suggestions. See us on Facebook or visit our website at outtowndc.com. Our special thanks to Ken Hunter our technical director and WMAL Radio in Washington D.C. for hosting our podcast. Thanks to GEICO. 15 minutes can save you 15% or more on car insurance.