Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Proposed route change for Ride On 33 would benefit Connecticut Avenue Estates (Photos)

A bus route connecting three of my favorite places in Montgomery County (Glenmont and Connecticut Avenue Estates, and Bethesda) could be in for some changes. Montgomery County's Department of Transportation is proposing to make service changes to Ride On Route 33 (Bethesda Medical Center Metro station to Glenmont Metro station).

The change would divert the bus into the Connecticut Avenue Estates neighborhood near the Glenmont end of the route, to provide better service to that community. Here is a rare case where a bus route change would actually provide more service, rather than less.
Existing route near
Connecticut Avenue Estates
Proposed diversion into
Connecticut Avenue Estates
To comment on the proposed change, you can speak at one of 3 public forums:

Thursday, March 2, 2017 at 7 p.m. (Connecticut Avenue Estates Community)
Highland Elementary School in the All-Purpose Room (Cafeteria)
3100 Medway Street, Silver Spring

Tuesday, March 7, 2017 at 6:30 p.m. (Cabin Branch/Clarksburg Communities)
Clarksburg at Rocky Hill Middle School
22401 Brick Haven Way, Clarksburg

Thursday, March 9, 2017 at 6:30 pm (Poplar Run Community)
Poplar Run Community Center/Clubhouse
13500 Stargazer Lane (off Poplar Run Drive), Silver Spring

Register a minimum of three days in advance of the forum to speak for three minutes, either by email or in writing to the Division of Transit Services, Ride On Public Forum, 101 Monroe Street, 5th Floor, Rockville, MD 20850 and provide the following information:
Date of forum the speaker plans to attend
Name
Home address
Telephone number
E-mail address
Organization

Speakers must bring two printed copies of their testimony to the forum. These forums will end after the last registered speaker. If the forum is cancelled due to inclement weather, it will be rescheduled for March 14, 2017.

Sweetgreen going cashless in downtown Silver Spring

Sweetgreen announced their downtown Silver Spring location will be going "cashless" on March 8, 2017. You'll now be able to make purchases with their app, available for iPhone. Purchases can still be made with credit cards, and presumably, cash. Sweetgreen is located at 8517 Georgia Avenue.

Monday, February 20, 2017

City Taste restaurant coming to downtown Silver Spring (Photos)

City Taste restaurant will open in downtown Silver Spring at 930 Wayne Avenue. The space was previously occupied by Pho Hoa Binh 2.



Friday, February 17, 2017

How many armed guards does MoCo planning chair need to speak to a representative of a black church? (Photos)

You will be able to judge your local elected officials by the degree to which they condemn the Montgomery County Planning Department's over-the-top reaction to peaceful protesters at their headquarters yesterday in Silver Spring. The protesters were asking the board to delay consideration of developer Equity One's sketch plan, until an African-American cemetery buried under part of the property can be fully investigated. Not only does the plan propose to construct a new building and garage atop the cemetery, but witnesses have reported the graveyard was desecrated by construction crews in the late 1960s, who reportedly illegally moved remains they encountered while excavating for Westwood Tower.

The optics of board chair Casey Anderson calling in armed police officers to surround him Secret Service-style, while speaking to a representative of a historic black church, created a public relations disaster that had even the County's Deputy Planning Director grimacing. But the more you analyze yesterday's debacle, the worse it looks. Forget about "How many County Council members does it take to screw in a light bulb?" It's time to consider, "How many armed guards does Casey Anderson need to speak to a representative of a black church?"

Isn't something fundamentally wrong with the direction our county is currently headed, that - for the first time I can recall - Planning Board meetings in 2015 and 2016 would end with residents shouting at the commissioners? Residents increasingly find their so-called public servants are actually at war with them, trying to force major changes developers are seeking, that are opposed by the vast majority of the community. In the past, mass uprising against a government proposal would cause it to be tabled. Now our officials ignore the boos, lower their shoulders, and power into the end zone - sometimes even sharing a touchdown dance with the developers who have scored the win.

A Council and Board at war with their own constituents probably explains why a grand total of 7 police vehicles (each one presumably representing at least one officer to drive it) were ultimately deployed against protesters by the Planning Department yesterday. I counted 6 Park Police vehicles, and 1 County police cruiser. I personally have never seen more than one armed police officer at the board, and only when a contentious public hearing is scheduled. Part of ignoring constituent anger, is hiding behind armed guards so you can continue to thumb your nose at residents, and advance your agenda.

When you consider this is Black History Month, you'd think the planning department and board in a liberal county like this would be bending over backwards to be sensitive to the concerns of the Macedonia Baptist Church, rather than appeasing the fiscal timeline of an out-of-state developer. Yet black, white, and Asian protesters were denied their First Amendment rights to carry signs into the public board meeting yesterday right off the bat. Even our corrupt County Council has never enforced such a rule.

Protesters silently waited at the back of the room until the meeting recessed, and then a representative of the church, Marcia Coleman-Adebayo, approached Anderson to deliver a community petition. Anderson refused to accept it. He was technically correct that he should not speak to any side in a matter pending before the board, but he has been quick to ignore that rule when a developer wants to speak with him, as detailed in my report yesterday. But did Anderson need three armed police officers surrounding him to have a civil conversation? And could he simply have accepted the petition and handed it to a staff member?

The racial and gender subtexts of the encounter made it all the more troubling - and surprising - in a county many have assumed was progressive and politically-correct to a fault. Concerns of the church have always taken a back seat to the concerns of Equity One at the board, as the agenda for February 23 shows. Perhaps the Montgomery County political cartel, under pressure from its developer overlords, "doesn't have time to be politically correct anymore." Let's take a look:
Coleman-Adebayo (R) attempts
to hand Anderson (L) the petition;
he refuses to accept it

Now, let's zoom out and
examine the "threat matrix"
here - two women speaking
to Anderson (center),
two children and
Rev. Nancy McDonald-Ladd
(second from right) of the River Road
Unitarian Universalist Congregation.
Does this conversation appear in
need of police intervention to you?
Here comes Officer 1 to
Anderson's side

A second officer hurries over, and
they form a phalanx around
Anderson. A third officer
is standing to my left. 

Zoom out again -
all I see here are
women and children
having a civil discussion,
or listening quietly
Seemingly sensing how bad
the optics of this are,
Deputy Planning Director Rose Krasnow
appears to intervene. She
places her hand on the shoulder of one
of the officers, saying something to him
and to Anderson. Anderson shortly
thereafter exited the room
On video of the episode, Krasnow
can be seen grimacing twice at the
events transpiring. As an experienced
mayor and official from a time of
kindler, gentler Montgomery County
politics, my hunch is Krasnow would
not have wasted 7 officers' time pulling
them off the street for a non-event

like this, if she were
in charge


Thursday, February 16, 2017

MoCo Council got an average of $2469 in free gas last year - - from you

How would you like $2469 in free fill-ups at your local gas station (assuming it isn't being torn down by the Montgomery County Council and Planning Board)? You'll have to run for the County Council to get it.

According to Arelis Hernandez of the Washington Post, Montgomery County Councilmembers averaged $2469 each in free gas in 2016, paid for by you, the taxpayer. Nice.

This is the same Council whose members, thanks to a 17.5% raise they gave themselves at your expense a few years ago, will each be paid an astonishing $136,258 this year. By you.

Free gas is just par for the course, for our corrupt County Council, who - by the way - are running a structural deficit every year, and raised your taxes to historic heights last May. It seems they're only good at numbers when they're figuring out how much money they can get out of you.

The Bell, California City Council did this, too. They're in the slammer right now. Montgomery County's Council? Still on the street, and still on the take.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

ALDO temporarily closes at Wheaton Plaza (Photos)

ALDO is temporarily closed at Wheaton Plaza for renovations. It sounds like it will be pretty extensive, as the Montreal-based shoe and accessory retailer says the Wheaton location won't reopen until Spring 2017. In the meantime, they are hiring additional staff. Email haylor [at] aldogroup [dot] com to apply.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Are some MoCo Councilmembers seeking an end-run around term limits? MD House bill could do it

Four Montgomery County Councilmembers will be unable to run for reelection in 2018, thanks to voters overwhelmingly approving term limits in last November's election. Councilmembers Hans Riemer, Nancy Navarro and Craig Rice can only run once more in 2018, and if they win a third term, will have to step down in 2022.

Or will they?

Montgomery County's House delegation in Annapolis has quietly introduced a bill that would stagger terms of the County Council. Some seats would be elected in gubernatorial years, and others in presidential years. Presidential year elections strongly favor incumbents and establishment candidates, which is why municipal incumbents financially-backed by developers and other special interests often press for their towns and cities to move their elections to presidential years.

Voters in presidential years are greater in number, but studies and voting results have shown they are less attuned to local politics than those who turn out in off-year elections. Those pressing for local offices to be elected in presidential years will often turn that fact on its head, and claim that invisible force fields are somehow preventing large numbers of voters from reaching the polls in off-year elections, a farcical claim. 

The fact is, people who don't care about what's going on at the county level, don't vote in off-year elections. Having more low-information voters who literally don't care about the local outcomes deciding our County elections is a terrible idea.

But put that debate aside for a moment.

This bill could be abused by a County Council and political machine still smarting from being totally repudiated by their constituents in the last election in three ways:

First, and most appallingly, the way this bill is written would leave the door open for the County Council itself to extend an American Idol-esque "save" to colleagues of their choice in 2022. Riemer, Navarro and Rice could actually vote themselves a two-year extension in office until 2024. Or would they still get the boot, and whoever runs for the seats that will be voted on in 2024 will only get a two-year term? The problem is, the bill doesn't say.

Second, the bill's language allows the Council to determine which seats would move to presidential year elections. You can be sure, for example, that the all-Democratic County Council would want upcounty District 2 to move to presidential years, as that district has a much higher percentage of Republicans than the others.

Third, County Councilmembers ousted by term limits in 2022 wouldn't have to cool off for four years before running again, as voters clearly said they should. Instead, they could try to get back on in two years.

All three of these abuses would be clear moves to subvert the will of the voters in 2016. Of course, those among the majority who voted against the ambulance fee probably wouldn't be shocked.

There is no mass support or demand from the people for a switch to staggered elections. No meaningful effort has been made by either the Council or the delegation to alert or educate the public that a major change like this is being proposed. It's a change clearly designed to favor incumbents and candidates of the political machine.

This bill should either be edited to give the Council less leeway to abuse the process, or be tabled. In the meantime, watch this effort carefully. A public hearing is scheduled in Annapolis before the Ways and Means Committee on the bill this Thursday, February 16, 2017 at 1:00 PM.

If, like most people, you will be unable to travel to Annapolis midday on a weekday, please use this contact information to tell our delegates and senators (and the members of the Ways and Means Committee) to table House Bill 348.