Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Silver Spring construction update: PJ's Coffee of New Orleans (Photos)

Wow, it has taken forever for PJ's Coffee of New Orleans to open in the ground floor of the Core apartment building at 8621 Georgia Avenue. The sign is now installed, and there has finally been some construction progress on the interior. When completed, this will be one of the more unique coffee shops in Montgomery County.




Monday, November 19, 2018

Pan Lourdes Bakery opens in Wheaton (Photos)

Pan Lourdes Bakery has opened at 11210 Triangle Lane. Is this the best tres leches cake in Montgomery County? Let the debate begin. This is Pan Lourdes' first MoCo location.

Montgomery County embezzlement covered up until after Election Day

Officials were told
$6.7 million stolen in
April 2017 by IRS;
plea deal was in works
long before Election Day

Montgomery County elected officials withheld the fact that a County employee had embezzled nearly $7 million in taxpayer funds until after Election Day on November 6. The case and the cover-up again prove that the local media, including the Washington Post, are not actively investigating corruption in County government. And that there's no low our elected officials won't stoop to in protecting themselves and their allies in the Montgomery County political cartel.

Media reports show little questioning of officials in all three branches of Montgomery County government, two of which - the Executive and County Council - had direct oversight of Byung Ill "Peter" Bang, who allegedly embezzled over $6.7 million while serving as chief operating officer of the Department of Economic Development.

The press apparently believes it is credible to assert that neither the Executive branch nor the Council noticed $7 million unaccounted for, over a seven year period. To show how obsequious the press is toward Montgomery County officials, the same Washington Post that sent three reporters to Tallahassee to investigate Andrew Gillum's developer scandal and Judge Roy Moore's prowling of local malls in Alabama, supposedly never caught one sniff of the Bang case brought to County Executive Ike Leggett's attention by the IRS in April of 2017?

Unreal.

According to Leggett himself, entire new divisions and units were created in the Executive branch, a new contractor was procured and funded (by the Council, which must make all such disbursements), and every single manager in County government was specially retrained - all since April 2017. Yet none of these transactions were noticed, and not a single employee leaked the story to the Post or any other media outlet?

Please.

Consider how bad the story makes reporter and Democrat County Council uber-fan Jennifer Barrios of the Post and others look. Journalism 101 would suggest a quick review of campaign finance and judicial records for the suspect. Yet no story I could find about the Bang scandal mentions two cases easily found in Maryland court records - a foreclosure of a Gaithersburg property owned by a Byung Ill Bang in 2007, and a tax lien judgement entered against a Byung Ill Bang less than three months ago in Montgomery County Circuit Court, for failure to pay state taxes. Both closed cases should be highly relevant to a financial fraud news story, wouldn't you agree?

Montgomery County elected officials failed to notice incredible sums of missing money, clearly indicating that - unless they were in on the action - they never audited Mr. Bang's department over the entire last decade. Remember when a nonprofit politically-connected to the Council "lost" hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayer funds it couldn't account for a decade ago? The press not only didn't "follow the money," but stopped asking about the missing money altogether. Voters who just wanted 9 Democrats on the County Council - literally no matter what - went ahead and reelected the same old crooks again - hey, what's a few hundred thousand dollars, right?

There's a price to be paid for such ignorance - $6.7 million, in this latest instance alone. That's how much taxpayers are out thanks to corrupt and inept elected officials, "journalists" who are in the tank for the local political cartel, and the low-information lemmings who make up a sizable chunk of the Montgomery County electorate.

It's beyond credibility to suggest that the timing of Mr. Bang's dual court appearances Friday - not only a week after Election Day, but the traditional day when anyone who has bad news releases it to get lost on the weekend - was not politically-coordinated at all levels to protect Montgomery County elected officials. The same officials who facilitated and enabled Bang to allegedly pull off a $7 million heist in the first place.

It's outrageous.

Friday, November 16, 2018

New public meeting scheduled for controversial Takoma Junction project

A new required public meeting has been scheduled by Neighborhood Development Company for its proposed Takoma Junction project for Tuesday, November 27, 2018 at 7:00 PM in the cafeteria of Takoma Park Middle School, located at 7611 Piney Branch Road. The plans include a large retail structure at 7221 Carroll Avenue. Takoma Junction has been heavily criticized by residents for both the City's handling of the public process, as well as the project itself, which many feel is out-of-character with Takoma Park.
Renderings courtesy City of Takoma Park

Thursday, November 15, 2018

No, losing Amazon HQ2 is not a win for Montgomery County or Maryland

We've all been hearing and reading delusional comments by our inept elected officials regarding Montgomery County's defeat in the national sweepstakes to win the Amazon HQ2. A largely-obsequious press corps in indulging them in their delusion. But at some point, they must remove their rose-colored distortion lenses, and accept the truth: This was a loss, and a damning indictment of our business climate, poor transportation infrastructure, and bumbling economic development "leadership."

And now, as the great Paul Harvey used to say, "the rest of the story."

Reality check: All Amazon benefits accrue to Virginia, and specifically, Arlington County. Aside from Montgomery County residents who end up employed by Amazon, we will be getting only the negative impacts of the HQ2.

Here are the real winners and losers in the Crystal City Amazon victory:

WINNERS

Northern Virginia

Our biggest rival in the regional economic development arena never seems to leave the Winner's Circle. They got Hilton Hotels, Intelsat, Volkswagen, Northrop, Nestle and Gerber in the headquarters relocation wars. Amazon's supposed 25,000 jobs will only be the jewel in the Old Dominion's crown. Virginia gets all the revenue, and all the halo effect. Only a delusional person believes that other tech companies will say, "Amazon is in Crystal City, and we want to be near Amazon, so we're going to locate in...Montgomery County?"

Remember, pre-Amazon, literally no major corporation wanted to be in Montgomery County. We haven't attracted a single major corporate headquarters in two decades. Nothing has changed at all in the post-Amazon era. We have the same high local and state taxes, the same hostile business climate, and a large number of low-information lemming voters just elected another 9 anti-business Democrats to the County Council who will vote exactly the same way as their predecessors. Heckuva job, Brownie!

Virginia's last two governors were frequently caught by reporters laughing and mocking Montgomery County and Maryland's high-tax and anti-business climate, which has been so fruitful for their state. Rest assured that there are many chuckles ahead from Ralph Northam at our expense.

Amazon

Amazon brilliantly collected reams of confidential data from desperate localities across America in its "reality-show-style" search. It has gleaned tremendous intelligence it can use for years to come. Expect more corporations to conduct similar beauty pageants, now that they've seen how profitable it can be. While New York and Virginia will receive the benefits of victory, Amazon has also extracted highly favorable incentives and cost-savings from each.

JBG Smith

Imagine you bought a junkyard, only to one day learn there was oil and a gold mine under it. That's the delightful position developer JBG Smith finds itself in with its Crystal City properties. An afterthought of vacant office suites amidst a traffic maze no one wants to walk or drive through just became a regional and national destination and landmark.

Robert Dyer

Once again, I was proven correct. I've been saying for years that we need to build a new Potomac River crossing to Dulles Airport. That project is opposed by all of the Councilmembers and Executive just elected last week. Turns out, Amazon wanted - get this - easy airport access, and specifically balked at the idea of a 30-35 minute airport trip from Montgomery County. They're even building a pedestrian bridge to National Airport, for God's sake. They're a logistics company, folks. Had people listened to me in 2010, we could have completed construction of the new crossing to Dulles by the time Amazon was HQ-shopping.

I've also said we need to improve our business climate, and have taxation and regulation schemes that are actually competitive with our rivals in the region. Instead, a majority of voters (who actually knew on Election Day that we had lost the HQ2 contest) elected nine anti-business Councilmembers, who this week are already preparing for yet another tax hike to deal with our...yep, structural budget deficit.

Who knew?

I did.

Montgomery County Cartel

The Montgomery County Cartel, in the smoke-filled back rooms, are quietly toasting to the Amazon defeat. Now all that land that would have gone to high-wage jobs is once again left open for more luxury apartments. With the now full-throated, open retirement of the county from any serious regional economic development competition, the developers, certain unions, and community organizations can continue to get all the money from taxpayers through their puppets on the County Council. Hans Riemer can finally be open about his belief that the future of economic development is farmers markets 15 and 20 MPH speed limits, and a two-lane Georgia Avenue with maximum room for his developer sugar daddies to build in Montgomery Hills, Aspen Hill and Forest Glen.

LOSERS

Montgomery County

This was Montgomery County's biggest economic development defeat in history. No firms are coming here because Amazon is in Crystal City. Schools and urban centers in Northern Virginia are as good or better than what Amazon employees would find in Montgomery County. Beyond employees who already live here, few will have the desire to deal with the daily torture of commuting to Virginia from Montgomery County.

To top it off, as the rich exit Montgomery while the poor flood in, the victims of Amazon gentrification will cross the river to seek the generous services and public education in Montgomery County, further overcrowding classrooms and busting our already-busted budget.

White Flint/Pike District

Remember when the County Council loudly canceled the Montrose Parkway East with the irresponsible belief that Larry Hogan would pay for it when we got HQ2? Well, we didn't get HQ2, and now we are that much further behind in providing the infrastructure needed for White Flint.

White Flint was touted as the "new Tysons," but has been an utter failure in attracting major employers, much less corporate headquarters. Meanwhile, Tysons already had the jobs; now Tysons is adding residential and even more jobs, and Crystal City is about to become a boomtown.

Montgomery County Council + Taxpayers

The Council just make a shocking confession this week: While foolishly trying to tout their record 2016 tax hikes as a smart decision, they ended up exposing again that they had lied to taxpayers about it. At the time, they described it as an unnecessary tax hike that was employed to make an investment in schools. They called the record tax hike budget an "education budget."

But this week, Council staff said the money was used to balance the budget (because of that pesky - yep - structural deficit I kept warning you about all of this decade). So now we know the money went to the Silver Spring Transit Center debacle, and to balance the budget (rather than cut the Council's outrageous spending). Not education. Wow. It's a good thing the majority of voters like paying taxes - they're going to be paying plenty more, especially with the loss of 25000-50000 Amazon jobs from the bottom line.

Gov. Larry Hogan

Let's face it - Larry Hogan's top priority is Larry Hogan. A one-man party who threw his fellow Republicans under the bus, he'll have a devil of a time attracting any major corporate headquarters to Maryland by cutting tolls on the Bay Bridge. Hogan came up with a winning incentive package for Amazon, but ultimately was powerless to overcome his state's horrifically-high personal and corporate taxes, and hostile business climate. Like the Montgomery County Council, Hogan - who also bizarrely opposes a new Potomac River crossing - needed Amazon desperately. The loss is that much more devastating.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Takoma Park man missing

Montgomery County police are searching for a missing Takoma Park man. Carlos Alfredo Molina-Pineda, 18, hasn't been seen since he left his Garland Avenue home on foot at approximately 5:40 AM on Friday, November 9. His family has been unable to contact him.

Molina-Pineda is described by police as a Latino, 5’ 9” tall and weighing 160 pounds. He has black hair and brown eyes.

Anyone who has information regarding the whereabouts of Carlos Alfredo Molina-Pineda is asked to call the police non-emergency number at 301-279-8000 (24 hours).

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Ride On Route 52 proposed change would extend service to Good Counsel

Existing Route 52 map
The Montgomery County Department of Transportation is proposing changes to Route 52, which operates between Olney and the Rockville Metro station. A key change would be extension of the route to serve Our Lady of Good Counsel High School in Olney on selected trips.
Proposed new Route 52 map
A public hearing on the proposed changes will be held this Thursday, November 15, 2018 at William H. Farquhar Middle School, located at 16915 Batchellors Forest Road in Olney at 6:30 PM. There is inclement, possibly winter, weather forecast for Thursday; should the event be canceled, it will be rescheduled for November 19. If you cannot attend the hearing, you can also submit comments to MCDOT's Division of Transit Services by 5:00 PM on November 19 by fax, email or mail to:
Close-up of proposed service
extension to Good Counsel
Division of Transit Services
Ride On Public Forum
101 Monroe Street, 5th Floor
Rockville, Maryland 20850

(240) 777-5800 (phone)
(240) 777-5801 (fax)

mcdot.rideonpublicforums@montgomerycountymd.gov