Friday, June 28, 2019

After banning circus animals, MoCo gets one-man circus

The Montgomery County Council is infamously known for debating at length, and then approving, a ban on circus animals - at the same time as once-major County employer Discovery Communications was being wooed to relocate by other jurisdictions. Sadness ensued for all, as Montgomery County wound up losing both circuses and the Discovery Channel headquarters. But, now through Sunday, July 7 at Strathmore, it's David Dimitri to the rescue! The son of legendary clown Jakob Dimitri is bringing a one-man circus to Montgomery County, L'homme Cirque.

Dimitri will fire himself out of a cannon as a human cannonball. He will walk the high wire. Strathmore promises he will balance these and other daring feats with "humor, poetry and an accordion serenade." At the climax of the performance, Dimitri will open the top of the tent, and the audience will witness him disappear "into the sky" on the high wire.

The one-man circus is one contingency the anti-circus County Council apparently did not anticipate, and thereby is legal. Teeth are assuredly gnashing at 100 Maryland Avenue, but the show must! go! on! True to the Montgomery Way, though, Dimitri was required to get a permit from the County to erect his tent on the Strathmore property. Big Government for the Big Tent!

You can buy tickets online, and watch a trailer for Dimitri's L'homme Cirque:

Thursday, June 27, 2019

First residents move into Solaire 8250 Georgia Avenue in Silver Spring

Washington Property Company's Solaire 8250 Georgia Avenue apartment tower has opened in downtown Silver Spring. The first residents have begun moving in, although only a portion of the units are completed inside. Interior construction will continue over the coming months.

On a side note, I noticed my May 31 report breaking the news of the signing of their first retail tenant is now being hidden by Google, depending upon the search terms used. Just as it's possible to buy Google AdWords to raise your website in search results, I'm convinced it's equally possible to under-the-table pay Google to suppress commercial or political rivals. We caught the cartel red-handed again, folks! #Oops

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Woke Doug Duncan calls out Montgomery County cartel

Former Montgomery County Executive and Rockville mayor Douglas M. Duncan is the first prominent political figure to acknowledge, and call out, the political cartel that has seized control of the County over the last two decades. Over that same period since they first won a majority of the seats on the County Council in 2002 - and now control every single seat in 2019, the County has plunged to rock bottom in all relevant regional economic development categories. As a result of their high-tax and anti-business policies, the County economy has become moribund, the ultra-wealthy have fled in great numbers to lower-tax jurisdictions, and the County has failed to attract a major corporate headquarters in over twenty years. While high profile voices like The Washington Post, Washington Business Journal and Sage Policy Group have finally joined me in declaring Montgomery County moribund, no prominent figure has previously identified that a political cabal has seized control of the local Democratic party and County government. Until now.

A day after the County's elected officials held another clueless meeting on the stagnant County economy, repeating the same mantras and problems without endorsing actual solutions we know will solve them, it's worth examining what Doug Duncan recently said regarding the cartel. One of the key reasons we are struggling to attract jobs and economic growth is that cartel-controlled officials are anti-highway and anti-car. That is because the most dominant players in the cartel are developers who specialize in developments that require traffic congestion to remain high, in order to justify their density. So it's not surprising that the County Council's predictable opposition to Gov. Larry Hogan's Express Lanes plan for the Beltway and I-270 frustrated a common-sense leader like Duncan.

"You don't often see a governor saying, 'I want to put billions of dollars into your infrastructure,'" Duncan told the Post. "For Montgomery County to say no right off the bat without saying let's look at this is the result of who's controlling the Democratic Party now."

Those elected officials have not only blocked and canceled critical highway projects, but have also pursued the anti-business course that their developer sugar daddies in the cartel have demanded behind closed doors. Developers want the valuable land in Rock Spring and along I-270 where existing office parks could be used to lure defense, aerospace and tech firms that need large, secure campuses. They want those office zones to remain vacant and struggling, so that they can acquire the land and redevelop it as residential. This is why you see the Council continuing to refuse to take the steps needed to turn the economy around, and to block economic growth.

Duncan addressed that, too, in his remarks to the Post. He told the newspaper "the County's Democratic leadership of 'no-growthers' is out of step with residents."

This is a breakthrough in the public debate. Duncan is as liberal a Democrat as they come, but he's also remembered for being pro-business while in office until he ran for governor in 2006. Duncan lost his bid to return as County Executive in 2014, when the cartel threw its weight behind incumbent Ike Leggett. He may now wish he had run in 2018, when pro-business candidate David Blair lost to Marc Elrich by a literal whisker in the Democratic primary. If the County remains on this road to bankruptcy, we likely haven't heard the last of Duncan and Blair in the political arena.

To be first to acknowledge the local Democratic Party and our elected offices have indeed been hijacked by a cartel, cabal or whatever you want to call it, is indeed a shot across the bow by Duncan. These words need to be heard and taken seriously, if we are to resolve this fiscal crisis, and become the major economic development player we once were in the region.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Interim Wheaton Library closes ahead of move to new facility opening late summer

The interim Wheaton Library at 2400 Arcola Avenue has closed, Montgomery County's Department of Public Libraries has announced. It has closed to prepare for moving the materials across the street into the new Wheaton Library and Recreation Center, which the County states is on-schedule for a late summer opening (which technically could still be September, of course).

Library patrons are being directed to the Aspen Hill (most logical), Silver Spring, Kensington Park, Twinbrook and White Oak library branches until the new facility opens in Wheaton.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Lost White Oak toddler reunited with parents

Montgomery County police successfully reunited a lost toddler with his parents this past weekend in White Oak. The boy, who police estimated to be two or three years old, was found wandering by himself on the 18th floor of the landmark Enclave apartment tower in White Oak on Sunday morning.

Officers responded to the scene after Enclave security personnel alerted them to the lost child. Police took the boy to the 3rd District Montgomery County police station, and alerted the public to the search for his parents, as the child could not verbally tell officers who his parents were. Four-and-a-half hours later, police were successfully able to reunite the family.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Arrest in Takoma Park carjacking & armed robbery

Montgomery County police have arrested and charged a suspect in connection with the February 16 armed robbery and carjacking in Takoma Park. Detectives from the Montgomery County Department of Police – Major Crimes Division took Ever R. Torres-Enriquez, 23, of the 900 block of Northampton Drive in Silver Spring into custody, and charged him with armed robbery and armed carjacking related to the armed robbery of a jewelry store in Takoma Park.

Two suspects carried out the alleged robbery that day at the Silver Spring Jewelry store, located at 1137 University Boulevard East. After taking jewelry and cash from the store, they threatened two adult males who were sitting in a Toyota Camry outside the store at gunpoint. Forcing the men out of the car, the suspects drove off in the Camry.

Torres-Enriquez was caught after a car in which he was a passenger was pulled over on New Hampshire Avenue near the Capital Beltway interchange on June 14. Detectives say they continue to investigate the case, and to search for the second suspect, who remains at large.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Extended hours at 4 East MoCo recreation centers starting July 5

Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich announced yesterday that the hours at four County recreation centers in eastern Montgomery County will have extended hours on Fridays and Saturdays beginning on July 5. When the Wheaton Recreation Center is completed, it, too, will have extended hours on Fridays and Saturdays, Elrich said.

The following centers will have the extended hours:

  • East County (Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. - 11 p.m.) 
    3310 Gateshead Manor Way, Silver Spring
  • Good Hope (Friday and Saturday, noon - 11 p.m.) 
    14715 Good Hope Road, Silver Spring        
  • Long Branch (Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. - 11 p.m.)               
    8700 Piney Branch Road, Silver Spring       
  • White Oak (Friday and Saturday: 9 a.m. - 11 p.m.)                    
    1700 April Lane, Silver Spring

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Takoma Park changes name of arts series after anti-Israel movie controversy

A week after abruptly postponing the screening of the documentary Occupation of the American Mind, a film highly-critical of Israel, the City of Takoma Park announced Tuesday that it would be changing the name of the arts and culture series the movie was being shown under the auspices of. After "We Are Takoma" made national and international news following criticism of the taxpayer-funded movie screening by residents and Jewish organizations and publications, the name is being scrapped.

The arts and culture series will now be called, "Takoma Park Arts." In a statement released by the city, Takoma Park officials said the new name was chosen to "reflect our focus." City officials have not yet announced plans to reschedule the controversial film screening.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Wheaton Lot 13 project to top out by end of June

Night work ahead
for Verizon

The Montgomery County Government office building under construction at Lot 13 in the Wheaton Triangle is currently on-target to top-out around June 26, County officials report. A final concrete pour for the penthouse of the building is set for today, June 18, and construction of the penthouse will commence by the end of this week.

Verizon is scheduled to begin some overnight work at the site starting Thursday night, June 20. They will be installing underground conduits for Verizon communication lines between Lot 13 and Reedie Drive. County officials say Verizon has promised the Triangle will be fully open to traffic by 5:00 AM each morning during the project.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Silver Spring construction update: 900 Thayer Avenue (Photos)

Has construction stalled out here? 900 Thayer Avenue has turned blue since my last update in April, but that's about it. Some more of the missing window panes have been installed, and a significant amount of progress has been made on the ground floor. But it doesn't appear to be moving as fast as other projects in town.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Hakuna Matata Grill construction update in Wheaton (Photos)

Hakuna Matata Grill's interior buildout continues at 2405 Price Avenue in Wheaton. The restaurant describes its cuisine as East African, featuring dishes from Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Sudan and Congo. It sounds like it will definitely fill a dining vacuum in Montgomery County. Their liquor license hearing is scheduled for June 20.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Takoma Park postpones screening of "Occupation of the American Mind" after criticism

The City of Takoma Park was to have screened the Roger Waters-narrated documentary, Occupation of the American Mind, tonight at the Takoma Park Community Center. But the event has been postponed after some residents and Jewish organizations expressed outrage over the publicly-funded screening. Note that it has been postponed, not canceled, ensuring that the controversy over the city's plans will likely continue.

An announcement from the City of Takoma Park clearly states the film will still be shown "at a later date." The Mayor and Council will try to create a "conversation" about the film, which is critical of Israel's treatment of Palestinians. "How that conversation takes place is still to be determined," the city's statement concludes.

Last week, the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington called on Takoma Park officials to cancel the screening. "For a government to use taxpayer funds to present a one-sided, highly contentious, and highly biased film as part of a ‘cultural series’ of presentations is short-sighted, highly problematic, and frankly discriminatory against the mainstream Jewish community,” their letter to officials read. The screening, which fell under the "We Are Takoma" event umbrella, would have been underwritten by city and Montgomery County taxpayer money.

Waters has been outspoken on the topic of Israel and the Palestinians, and has called on other musicians to join him in boycotting Israel. That has made him a lightning rod for criticism, in the context of the larger, international Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. Individual residents commenting on social media said the film's emphasis on the lobbying of American politicians by pro-Israel groups played on classic anti-Semitic tropes. Those favoring the film's screening described the postponement as censorship.

The plans by the city to screen the film gained national and international attention. Many outlets zeroed in on a Montgomery County-funded website that described the film as "a captivating documentary that reveals how the Israeli government, U.S. government, and pro-Israel lobbying groups have engaged in a decades-long propaganda campaign to shape American media coverage of Israel and its occupation of Palestinian lands." That praise, and any mention of the film, now appears to have been scrubbed from the "Culture Spot MC" website. There is no mention of the film or the controversy on the Montgomery County Government and County Council websites.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Silver Spring construction update: LebTav (Photos)

Here's a look at the progress inside of LebTav at 8535 Fenton Street in downtown Silver Spring. The chain is recalibrating to survive the moribund Montgomery County economy, and what the Restaurant Association of Maryland has described as "flat growth" of the County's dining sector compared to surrounding jurisdictions. So this will be a downsized experience from the old Lebanese Taverna menu and room size.

LebTav will have its liquor license transfer hearing on July 18, giving us some sense of just how soon they may open here. You may remember this space was previously Taylor Gourmet.