Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Ranked voting for Montgomery County elections advances in Annapolis

A bill that would drastically change Montgomery County's election process could be voted on in Annapolis as early as this week. MC 19-18/HB 173 would allow the Montgomery County Council to implement Ranked Choice Voting for County elected offices. It leaves all of the decisionmaking on how to implement instant runoff voting in the hands of the Council, ranging from how the ballots would be designed, to where they would be counted (in each precinct, or at a central location).

Ranked Choice Voting allows voters to rank a first choice, second choice, for each elected office on the ballot. Proponents say it allows the majority to prevail. A winning candidate who doesn't have an actual majority of votes can be bumped in favor of a second-place finisher, who has received more second and third place votes than the winner.

Is this good or bad? There seems to be no definitive study or consensus opinion. Some say it gives a boost to third party candidates. The Cato Institute says it "actually neuters third parties." Republicans have fought it in Maine; College Republicans in Virginia just endorsed it this month. The lack of cohesive response might suggest that ranked voting is indeed fair to all, and being focused on dozens of major local issues, I'm not prepared to condemn something I haven't had time to study in great detail.

But, the skeptic - which any good journalist should be - would naturally have to ask, "Why is the Council pushing for this?" What problem is it addressing? There have been no disputed elections in Montgomery County. There have been no spoiler victories, no GOP victories, and no third-party victories.

Ranked voting might have stopped Donald Trump from gaining primary and general election victories, but Trump was crushed by Hillary Clinton in Montgomery County, and this bill only applies to County offices. We know that Montgomery County Democratic turnout was low in June 2014, but the low turnout was mainly the result of incumbents' desire to hold the Democratic primary while many voters were at the beach.

At this point, I would just like to hear ranked voting proponents answer what specific problem in Montgomery County elections this bill is solving. For example, how the outcome of County races in 2014 would have changed with ranked voting, and what benefit that change would have had. If these types of Montgomery County-specific questions cannot be answered, it would not speak well for the bill, or garner public support for Council action if it passes.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Public meeting on proposed rooftop deck at 8407 Ramsey Ave. in Silver Spring

East MoCo readers were the first to know about the proposed rooftop deck and outdoor patio for the new TTT: Tacos, Tortas & Tequila restaurant at 8407 Ramsey Avenue in Silver Spring. Now you'll have a chance to weigh in on the proposal, at a public meeting scheduled for Monday, February 26, 2018, at 7:00 PM at the Silver Spring Civic Building in the Fenton Room, located at 1 Veterans Place in downtown Silver Spring.

I doubt many residents will be opposed to these amenities, at what sounds like a great restaurant from notable chef Ivan Iricanin. 

Friday, February 16, 2018

Major traffic shift at Georgia-Randolph intersection in Glenmont this weekend

The Maryland State Highway Administration says it plans to route traffic on Randolph Road onto the new lanes that pass underneath Georgia Avenue this weekend for the first time. Drivers on Randolph who wish to turn onto Georgia, or reach the Glenmont Shopping Center, will use the left and right turning lanes on either side of the new Randolph Road through-lanes. The switchover will begin around 6:00 AM Saturday, February 17, 2018, and is expected to be complete by 7:00 PM.

Because traffic signal changes and new paint are among the many tasks that are to be completed, police will be guiding traffic throughout the day Saturday. Best advice for drivers - if you can - is to take an alternative route like Connecticut Avenue (north-to-south) or a creative workaround going west-east (the unbuilt Rockville Freeway would have come in handy Saturday...).

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Shooting in Long Branch

A man was shot in the Long Branch area of Silver Spring yesterday morning. Montgomery County police say they found a 40-year-old man with a gunshot wound to his lower body outside the W Express gas station at 8550 Piney Branch Road, around 6:17 AM on Wednesday.

The victim told detectives that he was standing outside of his vehicle when the shooter approached him from behind, and pressed the muzzle of a handgun against his side. He said the gun then discharged, wounding him. The alleged shooter then fled the scene on foot. Police did not indicate what direction the suspect was headed from the gas station.

Detectives are attempting to develop a description of the suspect. Anyone with information regarding this shooting is urged to call the 3rd District Investigative Section at 240-773-6870.  For those who wish to remain anonymous, tipsters may call Crime Solvers of Montgomery County toll-free at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477).  Crime Solvers will pay a cash reward of up to $10,000 for information provided to them that leads to the arrest and/or indictment of this suspect.  Tipsters will remain anonymous.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Patricia Fenati launches campaign for District 14 delegate

Patricia Fenati, a resident of Damascus, launched her campaign for the Maryland House of Delegates from District 14 last night at Argyle Country Club. District 14 covers the northeastern area of Montgomery County from Damascus to Burtonsville, and includes Calverton, Colesville, Cloverly, Fairland, Olney, Ashton, Sandy Spring, Brookeville and Laytonsville.

Fenati pledged to focus on ending gerrymandering of voting districts in the state and county, job creation, education, and the environment. She noted that the current district boundaries give some communities in District 14 very little say in the outcome of elections for County Council and the General Assembly. Fenati also supports the transportation plan proposed by Gov. Larry Hogan, which would greatly rely on private, rather than taxpayer, funds to accomplish.

No other Republicans have filed for the District 14 delegate race as of this morning. On the Democratic side, only three candidates have filed - Anne Kaiser, Eric Luedtke, and Pamela Queen.

Photo courtesy Patricia Fenati

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Sneak peek: MetroPCS at Ellsworth Place mall in Silver Spring (Photos)

MetroPCS, the pre-paid wireless retail store owned by parent company T-Mobile, will be opening soon at Ellsworth Place mall in downtown Silver Spring. Here's a sneak peek inside the new store.



Monday, February 12, 2018

Gulf gas station closes in downtown Silver Spring (Video+Photos)

The Gulf gas station at 8600 Georgia Avenue has closed. It will be replaced by a 173-room, extended stay Residence Inn by Marriott hotel. It would have been nicer to see housing placed here closer to Metro, but a hotel does put less strain on County taxpayers, schools and services than housing.