Friday, October 19, 2018

Astro Lab Brewing to open today in Silver Spring

The long-awaited grand opening of Astro Lab Brewing is finally here. Montgomery County's newest brewery will open today at 4:00 PM, and stay open until midnight. Astro Lab's first run of beers will be on tap, including an IPA. The brewery is located at 8216 Georgia Avenue in downtown Silver Spring.
CLICK HERE to learn more about the
only candidate who will get government
out of the liquor business in
Montgomery County

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Police officer justified in Fairland shooting, investigators say

A Montgomery County police officer was justified in shooting a man in Fairland on July 23, Howard County investigators have concluded. Officer Edward Cochran fatally shot Jean Carlos Natera-Perez in his Mozart Drive townhome, after police on the scene concluded Perez and his actions were endangering his 3-year-old son, who was also in the home.

Lethal force was authorized when officers entered the home after a long standoff, which concluded when Perez allegedly was in the process of starting fires inside the home.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Glenmont woman missing

A Glenmont woman is missing, and Montgomery County police are seeking the public's help in locating her. Lynette John, 38, of Glenallan Avenue was last seen in the Olney area on Sunday, October 14.  Since then, her family has been unable to locate her or reach her by phone.

Lynette John is described by police as an African-American female, 5′ 2″ tall and weighing 168 pounds. She has brown eyes and short black hair.

Anyone with information regarding the whereabouts of Lynette John is asked to call the Montgomery County Police non-emergency number at 301-279-8000 (available 24 hours). Callers may remain anonymous.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Chuck Levin's to get facade refresh in Wheaton

Wheaton landmark Chuck Levin's Washington Music Center is set to get a fresh face. The music retailer has hired the local architecture firm of Steven J. Karr, AIA Inc. to update the building's facade. A two-story renovation will update and modernize the 1960's-era curtain wall and canopy projection. The project is expected to be completed by August 2019.

Rendering courtesy Steven J. Karr, AIA Inc.
All rights reserved.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Ashton man killed in crash

An Ashton resident was killed Saturday night when his motorcycle collided with a Toyota RAV 4 on Ashton Road (Route 108) between Ashland Drive and Tucker Road, around 7:00 PM. Gregory Viccharelli, 56, of Astoria Lane died after being transported to Suburban Hospital. He was riding a 1995 Harley Davidson.

The driver and passenger of the Toyota suffered non-life-threatening injuries, and were transported to a local hospital. This collision remains under investigation.  Anyone with information regarding this crash is asked to contact the Collision Reconstruction Unit at 240.773.6620.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Wheaton redevelopment update (Photos)

Workers will complete the final three concrete pours on the top level of the underground garage at the new Montgomery County government building in the Wheaton Triangle next week. Construction of the building's walls will commence after that. Verizon's underground utility work has been slowed by weather conditions. However, Pepco was able to complete removal of its overhead power lines along the east side of Grandview Avenue. County officials say the project remains on-schedule.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

New poll shows Wolf only 6 points behind Frosh in Maryland Attorney General race

A new Gonzales poll out yesterday showed Republican Craig Wolf surging in the Maryland Attorney General race, only 6 percentage points behind incumbent Democrat Brian Frosh. The narrowing gap brought new attention to the race Wednesday, with Wolf using the poll in a new fundraising pitch.

Frosh was in position to win handily just a few weeks ago, although Larry Hogan has proven it is still possible for a Republican to win statewide in Democratic-controlled Maryland. Some attributed Frosh's 23-point collapse to the public perception that he has been entirely focused on Donald Trump and Washington since 2017, instead of Maryland issues. At the same time, Frosh's Trump obsession was thought to be a winning move with Democratic voters statewide.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Indecent exposure in White Oak

Montgomery County police are looking for a man accused of exposing himself to a young woman in White Oak. They have released surveillance video of the man they say exposed himself, and then "inappropriately touched himself," in an apartment building laundry room in the 11200 block of Oak Leaf Drive at 7:27 PM on August 27.

The 24-year-old victim says the suspect blocked the laundry room door so she could not leave, and then fled following the attack.

Anyone who recognizes the suspect, or who has information about this incident, is asked to contact the 3rd District Investigative Section at 240-773-6870.  For those who wish to remain anonymous, Crime Solvers of Montgomery County is offering a reward of up to $10,000 for any information that leads to the arrest of the suspect. Tipsters can call Crime Solvers of Montgomery County toll-free at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477).

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Burtonsville man missing

Montgomery County police are searching for a Burtonsville man who hasn't been seen since Saturday, but sent a text to a family member yesterday afternoon. His family has since been unable to reach him again by text, and his whereabouts remain unknown.

Samuel Geatchew Liben, 30, left his home on Halton Hall Lane on foot Saturday evening. He is described by police as an African-American male, 6′ 1″ tall and weighing 150 pounds.  He has brown eyes and black hair.

Anyone with information regarding the whereabouts of Samuel Geatchew Liben is asked to call the Montgomery County Police non-emergency number at 301-279-8000 (available 24 hours). Callers may remain anonymous.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Silver Spring construction update: Solaire 8250 Georgia Avenue (Photos)

Here's the progress at the site of the Solaire 8250 Georgia Avenue apartment tower in downtown Silver Spring. With a height of 20 stories, the Solaire 8250 will hold 338 apartments and 15000 SF of retail space, including outdoor seating for dining.

Parking will be located in a three-level underground garage. Amenities will include a resort-style rooftop swimming pool and deck, cyber cafe, private courtyard, fitness center, and a club room complete with kitchen, library, flatscreen TV, fireplace and game room. Apartments will be a mix of studios and 1-and-2 bedroom units, with quartz countertops and high-end finishes.

Washington Property Company is the developer, and Lendlease is the contractor for the project, Design Collective of Baltimore is the architecture firm, and leasing of the street-level retail and restaurant space will be handled by Streetsense. Delivery is expected in Spring 2019, and the project appears to be on-schedule.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Purple Line construction updates

Purple Line Transit Partners has issued some additional announcements regarding construction activities. There will again be blasting of rock in Long Branch for the Plymouth Street tunnel today, and again on Monday, October 8. Blasting will occur during daylight hours.

Heavy construction will occur this Saturday at the Lyttonsville Place Bridge between 9:00 AM and 5:00 PM. Crews will arrive at 7:00 AM.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Purple Line blasting today in Long Branch

Purple Line Transit Partners says blasting of rock for the Plymouth Street tunnel is scheduled to occur today in the Long Branch area of Silver Spring. The blasting is necessary due to rock conditions encountered during recent work on the tunnel. Blasting will only occur during daylight hours.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Downtown Silver Spring Exxon could be replaced by retail or a fast food restaurant

Is the market for residential housing slowing in downtown Silver Spring? Real estate firm Streetsense is marketing the property of a current Exxon gas station at 8301 Fenton Street. But instead of the usual high-rise apartment building, they are envisioning a single-story inline retail strip mall or drive-thru fast food restaurant. I'm hoping for Taco Bell, or something we don't have here already like Hardee's or Jack-in-the-Box.
Top: Google Street View
Bottom: Streetsense

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Bill to ban smoking in all outdoor dining areas to be introduced today by Montgomery County Council

Smoking and vaping on outdoor patios at Montgomery County restaurants could soon be a thing of the past, if Montgomery County Council Bill 35-18 passes. Scheduled to be introduced by Councilmember Sidney Katz (D - District 3) today, the bill would ban smoking and vaping in all outdoor dining areas, including partially-enclosed spaces.

A public hearing on the bill is currently scheduled for October 23, 2018 at 1:30 PM. The Council will also have to sit as the Board of Health, and pass an accompanying regulation as that board, to legally enact the smoking ban.

The legislation is very similar to that passed by the Rockville Mayor & Council last year. Adam Zimmerman, an activist who spearheaded the Rockville effort, is also advocating for the County to pass Bill 35-18. He says the ban will improve health, while increasing business at venues non-smokers currently avoid.

Rockville's ban was opposed by some restaurant owners, such as Danny Trahan of Mellow Mushroom. Trahan closed his restaurant permanently last month - though the smoking ban wasn't the primary reason. He viewed the ban as the last straw in Montgomery County's costly and unwelcoming business climate. It will be interesting to see what restaurateurs have to say about the proposed County ban.

Residents who testified before the Mayor & Council last shared Zimmerman's view that business would improve, citing their reluctance to dine at two Rockville Town Square restaurants that allowed outdoor smoking before the ban. Because many restaurants now open their doors and windows, patrons have also complained that smoke now drifts inside from patios.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Double fatal shooting in Spencerville

Two people are dead in Spencerville, as the Montgomery County homicide total remains on course to match or exceed the 2017 total, which was already a 31% increase over the 2016 murder numbers. Montgomery County police are investigating the deaths as a suspected murder-suicide.

On Saturday around 8:00 PM, police and fire personnel responded to a home in the 15100 block of Peach Orchard Road. They discovered a 56-year-old male and a 53-year-old female, both deceased, inside the home.  The victims had apparent gunshot wounds to their bodies, and a gun was recovered at the scene.

Detectives have not said what drew them to the home Saturday night.

Friday, September 28, 2018

MoCo school board approves new redistricting criteria that dodges fixing East County schools

Move to disconnect
home address from 
coveted school districts 
would reduce home values

Your vote in November's election will now literally determine the future value of your home. The Montgomery County Board of Education this week approved new criteria for redistricting of public schools that would force the busing of students from affluent school clusters in Bethesda, Potomac and Rockville. In their comments prior to the 5-3 vote, some board members specifically cited students in the "W school" clusters in the southwest part of the county as having to be bused to other schools around the county. Because the new criteria puts the heaviest weight on diversity, the policy as written could only be achieved by busing students out of their currently-assigned Walt Whitman, Walter Johnson, Winston Churchill and Thomas S. Wootton clusters (the districts to which the term "W school" are most commonly applied).
Montgomery County Council President Hans Riemer
has made no secret of his desire to change who gets
to attend the most coveted schools in areas like
Bethesda and Potomac
Montgomery County Councilmembers Hans Riemer and Craig Rice have openly endorsed the idea of detaching homeownership or residency from school cluster assignment in the affluent southwest of the County for several years. But the BOE move this week is the first formal codification of this desire in County regulations. Rice mocked Whitman parents from the Council dais in 2016, declaring in an entitled-sounding voice, "I moved to the Whitman cluster, and therefore I must go to Whitman High School! People lose sight that somehow you attending Whitman is better than attending Gaithersburg or Northwest. That should not be the case," Rice said. "It should not be about what your zip code is."

On Monday night, BOE members took aim at those same parents. Jill Ortman-Fouse, who ran unsuccessfully for the Council and doesn't face reelection for the Board, also criticized the idea that "when you buy a house, you buy a school. And [parents] even said that in their emails. They said 'I bought my house for that school.'" Chiding those parents, she said, "all of those schools are owned by all of the taxpayers. They aren't owned by certain neighborhoods." She denounced the belief that "only certain kids get to go to those schools." Jeannette Dixon added that "an easy commute to school" should not be a criteria for school assignment.

Board member Judith Docca explicitly called out the "W school" clusters, and said that busing of students must include those students from more affluent families. Of those who spoke during the public comment period prior to the vote, Docca noted, "only one speaker mentioned a W school. And that's where some of the students are that need to interact with some of our other students. That is not happening. When we talk about all students, we mean those students as well. I know that it's not going to be easy to do."

That could be the understatement of the decade. If there's any doubt this move is coordinated between the BOE and councilmembers like Riemer and Rice, note their similar talking points. In 2016, Rice declared that "boundary changes used to be a third rail." Monday night, Ortman-Fouse called redistricting "the third rail."

BOE members acknowledged the new criteria, which would certainly reduce home values in the "W schools" communities, will be a hard sell. Ortman-Fouse referred to parents hitting the "panic button." "There will be unintended outcomes," MCPS Superintendent Jack Smith - who declined to take a position for or against the new criteria - warned, "and we will all live with them."

Smith is usually dead wrong on most topics, having failed to keep students safe or reduce the achievement gap during his term, but he made one of the best points during the discussion. In regards to what most determines student achievement, "the secret is what happens in that classroom," he said.

The superintendent is correct. Busing did not lead to equal education. Instead, we have an achievement gap that persists to this day in America. You can bus a child to another school, but they still come from the same income-level family as they would have in their neighborhood school. If diversity of race or socioeconomic background were the top factor in academic success for a school, Whitman or any number of elite private schools in the area would be among the worst-performing. They are not.

Some proponents of the new criteria are predictably quick to call opponents "racist." In reality, the new criteria is what is racist. This is a dodge by MCPS to avoid the actual challenging work of improving the worst-performing schools in the County. The Council has wasted yet another term, failing to reduce the achievement gap and geographic educational inequities in areas like East County and the Upcounty. 

Dropping final exams has already led to MCPS gaining an "Easy A" reputation across the country, according to the Washington Post. This will hurt Montgomery County public school students in the college admissions process over time, if not reversed. Now MCPS is dropping the PARCC tests, for the same harebrained reason that the kids can't pass the tests. Can't pass the test? Get rid of the tests, our County "leaders" say. Can't improve failing schools? Bus kids around to try to artificially-but-slightly boost test scores, even if it causes scores at the top schools to drop.

This is the definition of "the soft bigotry of low-expectations."

As Jaime Escalante proved three decades ago, student groups of any racial or economic background can perform at the highest levels. It's the teacher and the curriculum that make the difference. Contrary to Riemer's claim that there must be rich, white students in a classroom for black and Latino students to excel, Escalante's students achieved high scores without "Richie Rich" sitting at the next desk.

How do we know "the secret is what happens in that classroom," as Smith said? After Escalante left Garfield High School in East Los Angeles, student math performance tanked. Kind of like Algebra test scores in Montgomery County in recent years.

Redistricting and busing could be a post-election surprise for many parents, especially with no accurate media coverage of Monday night's change. Several schools are already due for new or changed assignments before the end of this year, such as those impacted by a new high school opening for Downtown Crown in Gaithersburg. The clusters affected in that redistricting will be Wootton, Richard Montgomery, Quince Orchard, Northwest and Gaithersburg. Clarksburg Village #2, another new school, will also be districted this fall. Development pressures in Bethesda and Silver Spring make boundary changes inevitable in those areas, especially with elected officials showing a new boldness to touch that "third rail."

According to board veteran Patricia O'Neill, who voted for the new criteria, boundary changes will be "happening pretty darn soon." Docca referred to the implementation of the new criteria as "the operation."

Impacts of the changes are clear: reduced home values when a particular address no longer guarantees entry to coveted schools, perpetuation of failure at failing schools countywide, longer bus commutes for already-tired students, and a continuing achievement gap. 

Can "the operation" be stopped? Yes. By electing Council candidates who oppose this dodge of the County's fundamental responsibility to provide good schools in every neighborhood. If elected, I would use the ultimate power to force the BOE to drop the new criteria. It is the County Council that funds MCPS. The BOE would have a hard time operating with no funding.

If you currently live in an area with coveted schools, your vote on Tuesday, November 6 will literally determine the future value of your home, and the futures of children countywide. We need leaders who won't sidestep the major challenges we face for another four years, including failing schools and an unacceptable achievement gap. The failed solutions of the past won't move us forward into the future.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Mr. Tire coming to Burtonsville

Mr. Tire Auto Service Centers is opening a new location in Burtonsville at Burtonsville Town Square, located at 15650 Old Columbia Pike. The shop is currently hiring for all positions. Tire service centers are experiencing a boom in Montgomery County right now, with Goodyear opening new concept stores in high-rent parts of Rockville and downtown Bethesda. Perhaps the market is responding to the many third-world roads the County Council has given us around the county.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Montgomery County 5G opponents turn out in force to urge County Council to delay small cell tower implementation

Montgomery County Council
President Hans Riemer
Opponents of deployment of 5G wireless small cell towers in Montgomery County made an impressive showing at a public hearing on a Zoning Text Amendment on the matter last night before the County Council. Speakers opposing both the towers and the ZTA received repeated applause from the large crowd. Council President Hans Riemer has tried to play both sides with Election Day fast approaching, but if the Council acts next month, he and others will be forced to take a position that could hurt them in November with motivated anti-5G voters.

Concerns went beyond not just the dangers opponents cited 5G would pose to residents, but also the rushed process for the ZTA, that moved forward before all issues raised by citizens had been fully addressed by the Council. While the County is limited in what it can do to stop implementation of the towers, which the industry claims must be deployed to facilitate everything from better cell service to autonomous vehicles and smart appliances, some speakers urged the Council to use the leverage it does have in creative ways.

Resident Edward Myers suggested requiring follow-up inspections for issues like radiation on towers constructed in residential areas. He noted that the current health-impact findings the industry and federal government are using as the standard are based on "1992 science." Resident Anita Prince cited more recent findings that, for example, show radiation impact on the human brain within three minutes of exposure.

Supporters of the ZTA urged the Council to act quickly in approving implementation, so that County residents and businesses can be among the first to enjoy the benefits of the new technology. Some cited the potential boost to telecommuting, as more complex tasks could be completed by more workers from home with the more powerful system. Supporters at the hearing included residents and telecommunication companies.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Silver Spring man missing

A downtown Silver Spring resident is missing, and Montgomery County police are seeking the public's help in locating him. He has been in touch with a roommate by text, but detectives say he would not reveal his current location.

Michael Cruz, 49, was last seen on Monday, September 19 at his apartment building in the 8700 block of Georgia Avenue.  Police describe Cruz as a white male, 5’9″ tall, and weighing 165 pounds. He has brown eyes, and black hair worn in a crew cut.

Anyone who has information regarding the whereabouts of Michael Cruz is asked to call the police non-emergency number at 301-279-8000 (available 24-7).

Monday, September 24, 2018

City Taste appears to be available for sale in Silver Spring

An Asian restaurant is available for sale in downtown Silver Spring, and the description appears to match City Taste at 930 Wayne Avenue. The asking price is $280,000. An offer of sale doesn't mean a restaurant is closing; they could simply be exploring the potential value and testing the market. City Taste remains fully open for business at this time.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Taylor Gourmet to close all locations after Sunday

Taylor Gourmet, the D.C.-area hoagie chain whose locations include Bethesda Row, downtown Silver Spring, and Pike & Rose, will close all of its restaurants at the close of business on Sunday, according to Washingtonian magazine. Among the reasons cited for the closure were financial troubles with landlords at some of their locations, expanding too rapidly, and a brief downturn in sales after owner Casey Patten participated in a 2017 business roundtable with President Donald Trump, who is unpopular in all of the cities where Taylor Gourmet operates.

The chain has not publicly commented on the closure report on its social media accounts as of press time. Taylor Gourmet had recently experimented with new menu items such as burgers, tacos and fried chicken sandwiches.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Nighttime noise ahead in Wheaton

Nighttime noise is ahead in the Wheaton Triangle. The WSSC plans to replace a water main along Ennalls Avenue between Grandview Avenue and Veirs Mill Road. Work will be performed at night to avoid impacts on pedestrians, traffic and local businesses.

The project is scheduled to commence in October, and the work will be done between the hours of 9:00 PM and 7:00 AM. WSSC's contractor will have to receive a noise waiver from Montgomery County to work at night.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Silver Spring construction update: Astro Lab Brewing (Photos)

Progress continues at Astro Lab Brewing at 8216 Georgia Avenue in downtown Silver Spring. The brewery is currently hiring a Taproom & Retail Manager, and a Kitchen Manager. They've already successfully brewed some test batches.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Another MCPS employee arrested for sexual abuse of minor

Montgomery County police have arrested a Montgomery County Public Schools paraeducator after he allegedly propositioned and inappropriately touched a 16-year-old student at Horizon Child Care, Inc. in Silver Spring, where he was simultaneously employed. Police say Thomas Henry Ridges, 38, of Chase Terrace in Beltsville offered the girl a ride home and propositioned her on July 20.

Ridges had previously inappropriately touched the same victim two years ago at Horizon's summer camp, detectives say. In the latest incident, Ridges allegedly encouraged the girl to send him nude photographs of herself. He also allegedly drove her to a liquor store, and encouraged her to drink alcoholic beverages.
Police have charged Ridges with two counts of sexual abuse of a minor and a fourth-degree sexual offense, but he is now free on bond. Detectives are concerned that there may be other victims in the case. This is just the latest sex abuse scandal involving an MCPS employee, who in this case was also a coach at Springbrook High School, as well as an MCPS paraeducator.

Detectives are requesting that parents of juveniles who attend Horizon Child Care, Inc. or who have had contact with Ridges to talk to their children about possible interactions with Ridges and contact SVID detectives at 240-773-5400 if they believe their child was victimized.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Silver Spring construction update: Jerry's Subs and Pizza (Photos)

Jerry's Subs and Pizza looks somewhat closer to opening at 8517 Colesville Road in downtown Silver Spring. There's even a Pepsi beverage dispenser in place inside. But other parts remain to be finished. Then there's that weird sign on the door about "urgent notice." Jerry's has shrunk in size around the county in recent years, so it's good to see a new one opening.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Silver Spring man missing

A man who lives in the Montgomery Knolls area of Silver Spring off of University Boulevard near Long Branch is missing. Police say Randall Herbert Renjilian, 51, was last seen by a family member at Renjilian’s home on Daleview Drive the evening of September 12.

Detectives revealed that Renjilian has been in communication with a family member by text message, but will not reveal his whereabouts. They have received a tip that Renjilian may have traveled to Connecticut.

Renjilian is described by police as a white male, 5’ 09” tall, and weighing 180 pounds. He has balding white hair, and is driving a 2007 white, Mazda3 with Maryland tag: 6DHY56.

Anyone who has information regarding the whereabouts of Randall Herbert Renjilian or his vehicle is asked to call the police non-emergency number at 301-279-8000 (24-7).

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Maryland Hispanic Gala to award post-graduate scholarships tonight in Silver Spring

Denise Venero
Two past Maryland Hispanic Gala scholarship recipients will be awarded again at the 2018 gala, to be held tonight at The Fillmore in Silver Spring from 7:00-11:00 PM. Fabian Leon and Denise Venero will be the inaugural recipients of the postgraduate scholarships.
Fabian Leon
Myriam Torrico, Maryland Hispanic Gala Scholarship Committee Chair, said MHG has added the scholarships for postgraduate work, because even successful past winners "continue to face financial challenges to pay for their higher education."