Monday, May 29, 2017

Sign installed at City Taste in downtown Silver Spring (Photos)

The sign is up over the future storefront of City Taste restaurant, located at 930 Wayne Avenue in downtown Silver Spring. There's still work to be done on the interior of the restaurant, however.

This space used to belong to Pho Hoa Binh 2. City Taste will offer a fusion of Chinese, Thai and Japanese cuisine, including sushi.

Friday, May 26, 2017

MoCo Council passes tax hike budget, bloated with payoffs to donors and allies - and themselves

The Montgomery County Council yesterday unanimously passed another budget that will raise your tax bill for FY-2018, in order to cover their highest-in-the-region salaries, and taxpayer-funded giveaways to political allies in the non-profit and contracting fields. Buried in the Council press release is a legally-required admission that your tax bill will increase, not decrease. That's because, while the Council can technically claim they "held the line on taxes," the corrupt tax system they've put in place automatically hikes taxes based on increased real estate assessments.

Allies of the Council in the local media went even further than the Council's own press release Thursday, falsely declaring that taxes had decreased - even as the release stated otherwise. Fake news. In fact, the Council posted a required ad in local newspapers several weeks ago announcing a budget with an increase in taxes. This follows last year's all-time-high property tax increase of 9% (which many County homeowners found actually translated into tax hikes of 10% or more, based on - yep - those automatic tax hikes that happen whether the Council increases the rate or not), and a major hike in the recordation tax.

So "holding the line" in this case means we're still at the highest level of taxation in Montgomery County history. The Council didn't have to move a muscle to get all that, and a little bit more, from your wallet for this budget.

As I reported a few weeks back, the budget massively overpays for procurement purchases, and funnels money to key donors and political allies in often-duplicative non-profit social services. Some who receive salaries from those non-profits turn portions of their tax hikes into campaign donations for the very councilmembers who voted to approve the funding for their organizations. Funding for a new microlending "Bank of the County Council" can also be "paid forward" by recipients to the campaigns of councilmembers. Those involved in determining who receives the microloans are either directly appointed by the Council, or are within their direct orbits of political influence.

Whether you pay taxes in Montgomery County can also depend on who you are. As I reported this week, developer Regency Centers was found to be in arrears to the County, having not paid their tax bills on two Westbard properties. Yet their development proposals are being pushed through the approval process, at taxpayer expense. As you know, ordinary citizens like you and me can be denied various government benefits and services if we are delinquent on our taxes.

There's a lot in this budget for the beleaguered County taxpayer to review, and perhaps even more for the FBI to examine. Such an examination could turn the Council's unwarranted budget victory lap into a perp walk outside of 100 Maryland Avenue.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

MoCo HOC audited by feds: 75% of units didn't meet HUD standards, 405 code violations found (Photos)

Montgomery County's Housing Opportunities Commission is in an aggressive expansion mode, but an audit of their existing housing by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development found 56 out of the 75 HOC units inspected did not meet HUD standards. 405 code violations were found, 89 of which were deemed so serious that HUD required them to be corrected in 24 hours. The audit findings were first reported by the Parents' Coalition of Montgomery County.
Would you use this moldy
shower at an HOC unit
in Montgomery County?
Auditors also learned that HOC was using its own contracted inspectors to inspect its units, a violation of Section 10.8 of HUD's Housing Choice Voucher Handbook. Violations found by HUD inspectors included missing smoke detectors, moldy and mildewed showers and ceilings, exposed sewer pipes, and an improperly-vented hot water heater that could have prevented gas from being exhausted out of the building properly. Combined with a second gas-related violation that "could result in an explosion," the findings are particularly disturbing after the 2016 Flower Branch apartments explosion, which killed 7 people.
One of two gas-venting
violations found in HOC housing
auditors said "could result in an
In all, auditors determined that $44,887 in federal taxpayer money given to HOC could have been "put to better use" on housing that would comply with HUD standards, a waste of tax dollars during an affordable housing crisis. Auditors have advised HUD that it should require HOC to reimburse HUD for the wasted funds.
Exposed sewer pipe
where a toilet was removed
but never replaced
HOC is a partner with Regency Centers in the proposed redevelopment on Westbard Avenue in Bethesda. The audit report follows the revelation earlier this week that Regency Centers was in arrears to Montgomery County, having not paid taxes on two Westbard properties.

Once again, the Montgomery County Council has failed to perform its oversight role over the HOC.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Two new commercial tenants for Alexander House in Silver Spring

Two new commercial tenants are coming soon to the Alexander House apartments, at 8560 2nd Avenue in downtown Silver Spring. Montgomery Community Media has leased a 2475 SF space, and the U.S. Chess Center is taking over a 396 SF suite. Alexander House is part of the redeveloping Elizabeth Square project.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Two new restaurants coming to Wheaton Plaza

Two more dining choices are heading to Wheaton Plaza. Westfield is bringing in KPS Kustom Pizza & Subs, and Famous Rotisserie and Grill. The former appears to be the first restaurant of a new pizza and sub franchise, while there is a Famous Rotisserie and Grill in Green Acres Mall in Valley Stream, New York.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Large clock installed at Core apartment building in Silver Spring (Photos)

A large analog clock has been added as a finishing design touch to the Core apartments, under construction at 8621 Georgia Avenue in downtown Silver Spring. You might notice that the neighboring Lee Building also sports a nifty analog clock, among its art deco flourishes.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Lina's Diner and Bar opens in downtown Silver Spring

Lina's Diner and Bar is now open at 8402 Georgia Avenue in downtown Silver Spring. The French bistro concept is in the old Piratz Tavern space. Alas, I can still find no social media accounts for the restaurant, and their website is still dormant as of press time. Maybe this is just a soft opening?