Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Hungry burglar raids snack bar at AMC Wheaton Mall 9 cineplex


Montgomery County police report that a burglar somehow got access to the AMC Wheaton Mall 9 cineplex at Westfield's Wheaton Plaza mall in the early morning hours of May 8, 2024. But it turns out the alleged suspect was just hungry. All that was taken during the burglary was food from the theater concessions area. Officers responding to the scene could find no evidence of forced entry to the cineplex. Police describe the suspect only as a White male of unknown age.

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Red Lobster closes in Silver Spring as chain files for bankruptcy


Red Lobster
has closed at 8533 Georgia Avenue at Downtown Silver Spring. The seafood restaurant chain announced late Sunday night that it is filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. "This restructuring is the best path forward for Red Lobster," CEO Jonathan Tibus said in a statement. "It allows us to address several financial and operational challenges and emerge stronger and re-focused on our growth. The support we've received from our lenders and vendors will help ensure that we can complete the sale process quickly and efficiently while remaining focused on our employees and guests." As part of its bankruptcy filings, Red Lobster will close some locations, sell some - or potentially all - of its assets, and sell its business to a new entity "formed and controlled by its existing term lenders."




Monday, May 20, 2024

Montgomery County has 2nd-biggest increase in homeless in Washington, D.C. region


Montgomery County is finally near the top of a list again - but it's not one you want to be high on. The County experienced the second-biggest increase in homeless population in the entire Washington, D.C. region since 2023, according to the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. Washington, D.C. itself was number one on the list. COG reported that Montgomery County's arch rival, Fairfax County, was the only jurisdiction in the area to enjoy a decrease in unhoused residents.


Of course, Fairfax County has many more high-wage jobs than Montgomery County, which helps one to afford housing. Politicians often tout MoCo's low unemployment numbers, without mentioning that most of the jobs our residents are employed at are not located within Montgomery County. Fairfax also has a lower total tax burden and cost-of-living than Montgomery County. Property taxes are set to rise again in the FY-2025 budget nearing approval by the Montgomery County Council, in a jurisdiction where property taxes are becoming a second mortgage for many residents as it is. And that's just one part of the total tax and fee burden for MoCo residents.


Rents and home prices, despite relentless construction and delivery of new housing units, only continue to skyrocket in Montgomery County. And thousands of existing affordable housing units are being demolished to clear the way for more overpriced "luxury" housing. A ridiculously-high cost-of-living combined with some of the lowest job creation and job growth numbers in the region are a recipe for increasing poverty and homelessness. Montgomery County has failed to attract a single major corporate headquarters in a quarter century, as company after company has chosen to locate or flee to Northern Virginia over that long, dry period of moribundity. As a result, more jobs, and more high-wage jobs, are created every year in Fairfax County than in Montgomery County - in fact, the numbers aren't even close.


Montgomery County has dropped off of so many top ten lists - Forbes' Top Ten Richest Counties in America, Top School Systems in America, etc. - that it's almost a positive feeling to be on any top ten list. Almost. Perhaps the Montgomery County cartel can create some new slogans: "Montgomery County: We're Number Two in Unhoused Population - We Try Harder (To Make It More Expensive to Live Here)." Or, "The Number of Montgomery County's Unhoused - Rising Almost as Fast as County Councilmembers' Salaries!"

Wheaton nightclub becomes marijuana dispensary


The planned conversion of a former Wheaton nightclub into a higher use as a marijuana dispensary is now complete. Verilife is now open at 11300 Georgia Avenue. The dispensary offers marijuana for adult recreational and medicinal uses, and has opaque windows for patient privacy. Operating hours are 9:00 AM to 9:00 PM Sunday through Friday, and 11:30 AM to 9:00 PM on Saturdays.




Friday, May 17, 2024

City of Takoma Park to host tenant forum on May 21


The City of Takoma Park will host its first-ever Tenant Forum on May 21, 2024 from 6:30 - 8:00 PM at the Takoma Park Community Center at 7500 Maple Avenue. Hosted by the City Housing Department, it will be held in the auditorium of the center. Topics that will be discussed are tenant laws, eviction protection, potential new policies covering rental housing, and tenant resources. On a related note, beginning July 1, 2024, through June 30, 2025, the City of Takoma Park Rent Stabilization Allowance is 3.4%. Landlords are required to comply with Takoma Park’s Rent Stabilization law and cannot increase the rent on occupied units any higher than this allowance.

Thursday, May 16, 2024

Hogan launches Democrats for Hogan in Maryland Senate race; Alsobrooks responds with video, Clinton endorsement


Former Maryland Governor Larry Hogan (R) formalized his outreach to Democratic voters in the blue state, a day after winning the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate seat of the retiring Ben Cardin (D). He turned to former Democratic State Senator Bobby Zirkin (MD-11) to lead "Democrats for Hogan," a coalition voters can join that will spearhead the popular former governor's effort to win with bipartisan support in November. 

Hogan enjoyed such support during his two terms as governor, and with his attacks on Donald Trump, reporters and pundits pointed out that polling showed him more popular with Democrats than in his own party at times. Some Republicans took to calling Hogan "Lockdown Larry" for his response to the pandemic, but he received high marks for his handling of the Covid-19 crisis from a majority of voters.

"I’ve been a lifelong Democrat, and as a Democrat, I’m excited to vote and support and work for Larry Hogan for the United States Senate. He is exactly the leader we need," Zirkin said in a video released by the Hogan for Maryland campaign. "I encourage all of my fellow Democrats to really review the record of Governor Hogan, to look at things like fracking and criminal justice reform and cyberbullying, and the way that he was able to hold the line on taxes and still invest in things that are important like education and the Chesapeake Bay. Maybe most importantly, for those of you who believe like me from both parties - but I’m talking to the Democrats right now - that the hyper-partisanship in Washington is not what we should expect from our leaders. That we should expect them to work together. And if you believe that like I do, then I would encourage you to come out and support Larry Hogan for the United States Senate."


Not so fast, Hogan's Democratic opponent, Angela Alsobrooks said with her postings on social media today. Alsobrooks tweeted a video in which she emphasizes Hogan's identity as Republican rather than bipartisan. She retweeted an endorsement from Hillary Clinton, in which the former U.S. Senator wrote of the current Prince George's County Executive, "Maryland, help this extraordinary public servant become your next Senator!" Not surprisingly, the overarching theme of Alsobrooks' output today was abortion. So far, the campaign and all of its surrogates are laser-focused on the pro-choice message, which Democrats have found to be a winning one since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

The topic was also on Hogan's agenda today. Referring to his record at the state level, he tweeted, "As governor, I protected the rights of Maryland women to make their own reproductive health decisions. I will do the same in the Senate by restoring Roe v. Wade as the law of the land. No one should come between a woman and her doctor."

He followed up his Democrats for Hogan announcement with a new video of prominent Democrats praising him compiled from TV and radio reports broadcast in recent years, featuring current Governor Wes Moore, former president Bill Clinton, President Joe Biden, Senator Chris Van Hollen and...Angela Alsobrooks.

"To my Democratic and Independent friends, you know me and you know my proven track record of reaching across the aisle to find common ground for the common good," Hogan said in a statement. "I will continue to be the same strong independent leader for Maryland that I always have been. You know that I have the courage to put people over politics and to put country over party. If you are completely fed up with the divisiveness and dysfunction and want a strong, independent leader who will stand-up and fight to clean up the mess in Washington—then join our cause."

Photos courtesy Hogan for Maryland (top), Alsobrooks for Senate (bottom)

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Alsobrooks to take on Hogan this fall, Parrott surprises to face Delaney in Maryland primary election results


Democrat David Trone's wallet is a lot lighter this morning, as Angela Alsobrooks brought an expensive end to the multimillionaire's political career by securing the Democratic nomination for the Maryland U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Ben Cardin (D). Alsobrooks, who currently serves as Prince George's County Executive, would be the first Black person to represent her state in the U.S. Senate if she wins in November. Standing between her and victory is popular former governor Larry Hogan (R), who also won his primary last night. 

While the victory of Alsobrooks followed the trends of her party in the state's recent elections, the favoring of younger and more-progressive candidates did not extend to the 6th Congressional District race, as April McClain Delaney defeated fellow Democrat Joe Vogel. The McClain Delaney-David Trone-John Delaney arc begs the question: has this seat simply become the plaything of the rich? One has to be wistful for the days of farmer Roscoe Bartlett (R), who - God bless him - is still living his best life at the age of 97 after being gerrymandered out of the seat in 2012. A congressperson who thought it was wrong for the government to spy on its own citizens - imagine that!

The surprise of the night in the 6th was the decisive victory of Neil Parrott on the Republican side of that contest. Former gubernatorial candidate Dan Cox was expected to win, or at least come close, after his high-profile endorsement by Donald Trump two years ago. Now spending most of his days in a Manhattan courtroom, and without his nemesis Hogan facing Cox this time, Trump did not weigh in on the 6th District race.

Cox has a strong and loyal following among his supporters, establishing a real movement among Christian conservatives and America First Republicans, even if downsized from 2022. While Tuesday's loss may add to doubts about his future statewide potential, it's unlikely you've heard the last of the attorney and former delegate on the political stage. Parrott will now need to maintain his momentum - and money, money and more money - to stay competitive with McClain Delaney this fall. The 6th District remains severely gerrymandered in strong favor of Democrats. A majority on the U.S. Supreme Court seem to be fine with that, as long as they don't have to undo the red state gerrymandering that has helped Republicans win more seats in Congress than they otherwise would have in recent years.

In the 8th Congressional District, Cheryl Riley defeated Michael Yadeta in a blowout victory. She will face incumbent Jamie Raskin (D) in November.

Can Alsobrooks beat Hogan? Absolutely, if all of the Democrats, independents and Republican women fired up about Roe v. Wade turn out like they did nationally in 2022 and 2023. Out-of-state groups supporting abortion rights were already engaged on her behalf in the primary, and those cash spigots will almost surely be fully-opened after Labor Day. You will hear the word "abortion" coming out of your TV speakers non-stop starting around that time, and lasting through Election Day in November. 

With Black voters holding real power in Maryland, Alsobrooks' potential history-making win is another point in her favor. And she clearly has keen political senses and organizational skills, having just run one of the biggest upset campaigns in recent Maryland history.

At the same time, Hogan has to like the result last night. Alsobrooks doesn't have the Trone fortune at her disposal, while Hogan will have a bounty of GOP dark money flowing in from out of state. Trone had much more appeal to older, moderate and independent voters than Alsobrooks will; those demographics are now in Hogan's corner again. 

Hogan enjoyed strong bipartisan support during his time as governor; Alsobrooks has not in her time as executive or state's attorney. She also doesn't have the statewide name recognition Hogan has. And because she has served in an executive role, Alsobrooks has a record with some weak spots that Hogan or his surrogates can target to a greater extent than Trone's would have provided.

Hogan was limited in what he could do while governor, as his power was greatly restricted by the Democratic legislature. But the things he did do, such as stopping tax hikes or reducing tolls, helped everyone, and voters across a diverse spectrum are likely to remember that at a time when wallets are being crushed by inflation. Barring a Roy McGrath October Surprise, Hogan is going to run a competitive race, and it will be the most-watched contest in the nation outside of Trump vs. Biden.

The most closely-watched races in Montgomery County were for the Board of Education. With the school system, student safety, and student performance continuing to trend downward, and a contentious debate over parents' ability to have their kids opt-out of some curriculum content, a number of insurgent candidates entered the contests to take on the establishment. Election results are so far showing none of the "opt-out" candidates prevailing, and two out of the three teacher's union Apple Ballot candidates are currently winning. 

Apple Ballot choice Rita Montoya is in a tight At-Large race with incumbent Lynne Harris, as ballots continue to arrive and be counted. Election results show Montoya seemed to perform best with voters who cast their ballots in person, while Harris excelled among those voting by mail. Mailed-in votes will continue to be delivered to the Board of Elections in the days ahead.

But David Trone spending $60 million of his own fortune and losing is probably the biggest headline this morning. The private jets, the Ferraris, the lavish mansions that the rest of us could have bought if we had that money... Or the sick who could have been cured, the homeless that could have housed, and the children who could have been educated... Our political system is totally corrupt, and our bank vault-busting election spending is only one of the notable symptoms.