Friday, July 19, 2019

Montgomery County 911 system fails again

Officials don't know how
many emergency calls went
unanswered during outage

Montgomery County's 911 system failed twice Thursday, according to the Montgomery County Police Department, which does not operate the system. An MCPD spokesperson said that County officials cannot, as of now, tell them how many urgent 911 calls went unanswered during the service interruptions, but that the department is aware of one caller in need of basic life support medical services who was affected.

Callers who dialed 911 around 8:30 AM yesterday morning - and again between 9:35 and 9:43 AM - could not get through to the 911 call center, and instead heard a message saying they number they'd reached was out of service. According to MCPD, the failure was traced to a network outage between system components.

There is no indication that the Alert Montgomery system informed citizens of either outage. Montgomery County Government has yet to post any statement regarding the outages as of this writing.
It was exactly three years ago that I broke the story of a similar 911 system failure. Later, the County tried to cover up the fact that Alert Montgomery had failed to issue alerts to subscribers until long after the outage had ended. Two people were confirmed to have died has a result of that 2016 911 system failure, 

Yet despite their failure having fatal results for two of their constituents in 2016, the County Council has clearly failed to change its ways. Here we are again, with another 911 outage three years later. Similarly, the Council failed to upgrade the public safety radio communications system for County first responders for more than a decade, deliberately kicking the can down the road to have more play money to spend on their cartel sugar daddies.

In fact, since taking the oath of office last December, the latest Council has failed to take action on a single major crisis. Not a single thing has been done to exercise oversight and update the 911 system, complete our master plan highway system, turn around our moribund economy that now ranks last in the region by every economic development benchmark, nor to address rising rates of violent crime.
Most of the current Council term has been spent on a grotesque attack on the men and women of the Montgomery County police department. The Council's continual slander, defamation and disparagement of Montgomery's finest only put our first responders and the public in greater danger. Which fits perfectly with the County Council's record of making public safety a low priority, to the point that there are actual people who have died as a result of their failure to address basic government issues like providing a functioning 911 system. It's outrageous.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Takoma Park goes forward with plan to screen film highly-critical of Israel July 23

JCRC protests decision;
CAIR calls effort to cancel
movie night "cowardly"

Takoma Park's Mayor and Council is pressing forward with the rescheduled screening of "Occupation of the American Mind" on Tuesday, July 23, 2019 from 7:00-9:30 PM in the auditorium of the Takoma Park Community Center, located at 7500 Maple Avenue. They are again being heavily criticized by some residents and local Jewish organizations for proceeding with the rescheduled screening of the Roger Waters-narrated film, which is highly critical of Israel's treatment of Palestinians and territorial occupation.

The Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington has again written to Takoma Park officials asking them to call off the screening. A prior screening this summer was postponed after the controversy reached national and international news outlets. The city arts organization hosting the screening abruptly changed its name after it was identified in those news reports.

This second time around, Takoma Park extended an invitation to the JCRC to have a representative participate in a discussion panel about the film. In a response to city leaders, JCRC Executive Director Ronald Halber and Maryland Community Relations Director Meredith Mirman Weisel declined the invite, saying they could not join a roundtable that included representatives of "organizations explicitly opposed to the very existence of the State of Israel and the right of the Jewish people to self-determination,"

JCRC is now calling on the community to petition City leaders to cancel the new screening, and have set up an action page on their website to assist in those communications. Takoma Park Mayor Kate Stewart said she is "disappointed" that the JCRC declined the city's invitation to participate in the screening panel. She said she and the City Council "do not endorse" the content of the film, but are trying to "create a space for people to listen, critique, discuss, and learn from each other."

Stewart said the city is bringing in a "professional facilitator" named Theo Brown to moderate the screening program. Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld and Maharat Ruth Friedman of Ohev Shalom Synagogue, Matthew Mayers of J Street, and Taher Herzallah of American Muslims for Palestine will participate in the post-screening discussion. Others have been invited, and the list may be updated, city officials said.

Some residents strongly support the screening, and have said canceling it would be censorship. The JCRC says they are opposing the screening on the grounds that it is taxpayer-funded.

Muslim advocacy organization CAIR praised Stewart for standing her ground on the movie plans. "In their handling of this situation, Takoma Park Mayor Kate Stewart and the city council demonstrated a level of moral leadership, courage and professionalism that is often missing in political spaces today," CAIR Director of Maryland Outreach Zainab Chaudry said in a statement. "We applaud them for not capitulating to cowardly attempts to erase narratives that are often missing in our national discourse."

Photo via "Occupation of the American Mind" official website

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Riemer admits Montgomery County is in "crisis"

Montgomery County Councilmember Hans Riemer (D -At-Large) admitted at a gathering of developers and real estate industry insiders Tuesday that the County he's helped to run for the last nine years is in "crisis." Just last year, in a bizarre and rambling press conference, Riemer had denied Montgomery had grown moribund - despite reporters citing official federal statistics proving it was at rock bottom in the region by every economic development benchmark. But at Bisnow's Future of Bethesda and Beyond event yesterday, Riemer changed his tune and acknowledged MoCo is getting whipped by Northern Virginia. But despite being surrounded by local business experts on panels at the event, Riemer brushed aside their advice and doubled down on stupid, falsely claiming the problem is a lack of skilled workers.

Riemer also lied about just how bad the crisis is. He falsely told the Bisnow audience that Northern Virginia had only dominated job growth in the region for the last two years. In fact, it has dominated throughout this century. The numbers just get worse and worse for Montgomery. Northern Virginia accounted for 91% of all job growth in the region over the last year, according to a Stephen S. Fuller Institute report cited at the Bisnow event.

For the second time in as many weeks, Foulger Pratt CEO Cameron Pratt hit the nail on the head, calling for a long-delayed new Potomac River crossing to Dulles to be built. "Look at the number of jobs being created just a few miles away on the other side of the river," Pratt told the Bisnow audience. "We've got this Great Wall of China, which is the Potomac River, that nobody can cross because there's one access point down at the American Legion Bridge. If we could connect to all of the economic activity in Northern Virginia and the Dulles Toll Road by building a bridge, all of a sudden Gaithersburg and Germantown become connected instantly."

Riemer also admitted that, despite loud declarations since 2014 that the Council would tackle the missing school capacity infrastructure crisis, "some of our most attractive real estate markets are in moratorium right now." Humiliating! He promised the Council would get around to ending the moratorium sometime late next year, a La-Z-Boy agenda pace that business leaders in attendance found less than reassuring.

Duball, LLC President Marc Dubick said the moratorium "scares the living heck out of our institutional partners. Clarity with schools should be a top priority." But despite claims that it was, the Council never actually provided that clarity, much less the classroom space needed.

Think about it. Riemer has taken in tens of thousands of dollars from his developer sugar daddies over the last decade. Yet, even with nine whole years to solve the problem, he still couldn't even deliver the basic infrastructure needed to prevent a moratorium. Along with cratering the County's economy, destroying the food truck industry in the County, and tanking the nighttime economy, it shows incompetence of the highest order.

Surrounded by expert advice from business leaders, who correctly identified the problems as missing highway infrastructure and a hostile business climate with high taxes and over-regulation, Riemer was again lost without backup from cue cards and staff. According to Riemer, highly-educated Montgomery County lacks skilled workers, and needs to train its workforce. He also delivered a rambling and incoherent speech promising that the Purple Line would attract biotech jobs to the already-densely-developed Silver Spring area, when in fact, such companies need larger campuses that are only viable along I-270 and in White Oak, neither of which is on the Purple Line.

Riemer isn't the sharpest tool in the drawer, that's for sure. Only at the end of his political career in Montgomery County has he finally summoned the courage or the shame to admit the jurisdiction he's run for nine years is in a full blown economic crisis. But as they say, the first step is admitting you have a problem.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Forever 21 relocates at Wheaton Plaza

Forever 21 has moved to a new location inside Wheaton Plaza. The fashion retailer is now located near JC Penney.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Fat Fingers soft opening today in Silver Spring

Silver Spring will get its first taste of Fat Fingers when the fast-casual comfort food eatery holds its soft opening today, July 15, 2019. The menu does not disappoint, with pizza, burgers, Fat'wiches and half smokes taking top billing. You can even get fried seafood and crab cakes, along with salads, wings and classic, All-American appetizers and side dishes. Fat Fingers is located at 8213 Georgia Avenue.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Silver Spring man missing

Montgomery County police are searching for a missing Silver Spring man. Andrew Ankrom, 27, hasn't been seen since leaving his home in the 8600 block of 16th Street on Wednesday, July 10, around 7:30 PM. Detectives say Ankrom needs medication that he did not bring with him.

Ankrom is described by police as an African-American male, about 5’05” tall, and weighing approximately 185 pounds.  He has brown eyes, short black hair and wears glasses. Ankrom was wearing a red baseball hat, a red baseball jersey style shirt over a white shirt, red pants, and red shoes with rhinestone straps when he disappeared.  Police say he was also carrying a backpack that had Tails from Sonic the Hedgehog on it (see below).
Anyone with information regarding the whereabouts of Andrew Ankrom is asked to call the Montgomery County Department of Police non-emergency number at 301-279-8000 (available 24/7).

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Two downtown Silver Spring hotels sold

Two hotels in downtown Silver Spring have been sold. The 149-room Hampton Inn at 8728-A Colesville Road, and the 90-room Homewood Suites by Hilton at 8728 Colesville Road, were purchased by a shell company controlled by Civitas Capital. Both hotels were owned by the same company, which renovated both this decade, and are located in one co-branded property. Civitas paid $36,100,000 for the hotels, according to Maryland real estate records.

According to a source familiar with the situation, both hotels have suffered a loss of business over the last two years, due to the nearby construction on the United Therapeutics campus. With that project now completed, the deal looked like a winner for Civitas, as business is expected to return to normal levels - and possibly increase, due to its proximity to the biotech campus.