Monday, September 30, 2019

Your Whole Body to become a coffee shop in Silver Spring

Your Whole Body, an organic wellness and nutrition store at 8646 Colesville Road, is closing. A source tells me the new tenant will be a coffee shop. This is just a few doors down from The Fillmore. Expect the interior conversion to take some time here, as it converts to a new use.

Euro Style boutique opens in downtown Silver Spring

Euro Style, a fashion boutique for men and women, has opened at 8429 Georgia Avenue in downtown Silver Spring. They are holding a Grand Opening sale, with savings up to 40% off storewide.

Friday, September 27, 2019

No MCPS schools make 2019 Blue Ribbon Schools list

Montgomery County Public Schools were shut out again in the U.S. Department of Education's 2019 Blue Ribbon Schools list. Not a single MCPS school was named a Blue Ribbon School this year, and it's not the first time this decade this has happened. MCPS performance has steadily declined across the board since 2010. Its failure to close the achievement gap certainly did not help earn an award that partly considers schools' success in doing so among its criteria. Overall academic excellence is the other major consideration for recognition as a Blue Ribbon School.

The failure to show in this annual federal measure of academic excellence is just the latest embarrassment for MCPS. Surging drop-out rates, questions about student safety, failure to fully-vet staff, repeated sexual abuse scandals, a persistent achievement gap, poor test scores, and a chronic class attendance problem have already tarnished what was once considered the premiere school district in the Mid-Atlantic. MCPS has also begun to earn a national reputation as lightweight in academic rigor; a new, easy grading system has really taken the shine off top marks, and when students continued to fail final exams, MCPS simply got rid of the exams. Neither move will impress college admission officials as word spreads.

Unlike Montgomery County, public schools from Calvert, Howard, Prince George's and Worcester counties were recognized on this year's Blue Ribbon Schools list. Only one Montgomery County school made the list this year, and it was a Catholic school - St. Raphael School in Rockville. Students there celebrated with Chick-fil-A, according to the Catholic Standard. 

Montgomery County officials have continued to throw greater amounts of money at MCPS, with no positive result, clearly indicating that the problem is not funding alone. With Montgomery County floundering on every front from education and economic development to crime and traffic congestion, it's clear we need new leaders who actually know what they are doing, and will put the best interests of children ahead of their own political calculations. We must overcome a political cartel that suffers from a severe case of Lake Wobegon Syndrome, and accept that this County is in real trouble, folks.

Fidel's Restaurant opening in Silver Spring

Fidel's Restaurant is coming to 13439 New Hampshire Avenue, in the Colesville area of Silver Spring. The specialty of Fidel's is charcoal chicken. Sounds like a nice addition to this commercial strip.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Demolition underway inside The Ambassador in Wheaton

Interior demolition has commenced at The Ambassador, located at the intersection of University Boulevard and Veirs Mill Road in Wheaton. The former Howard Johnson hotel is being torn down as part of the Wheaton Gateway redevelopment of this site, and the adjoining properties currently home to Lindsay Ford and Mattress Firm.

The development partnership behind the Wheaton Gateway project - The Duffie Companies, Willco and the Housing Opportunities Commission of Montgomery County - says demolition of the exterior should begin by late October. It would be great if one of the buildings, or new interior streets, at the new development could be named to remind people of the history of this site as a Howard Johnson, hotels and restaurants that were once landmarks across America.

All that is known about the new development at this stage is that it will be mixed-use, with retail and restaurant space on the ground floor. Units will be 1, 2 and 3-bedrooms, with 70% being market-rate and 30% being MPDUs. Parking will be underground. The approval process is still ahead, and the developers' latest estimate for breaking ground is 2023. They add that Wheaton Gateway will be built in phases over time.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Roll by Goodyear opens at Downtown Silver Spring

Goodyear's new retail-service concept, Roll by Goodyear, has been popping up in urban settings across Montgomery County this year. The tire store just rolled into Downtown Silver Spring at 815 Ellsworth Drive. Roll sells tires, but also provides off-site service by taking your car to a service location elsewhere.

We'll likely see more of this trend as gas stations and industrial parks are allowed to be redeveloped in lower Montgomery County, along with fuel deliveries that come to you. It's kind of surprising that Roll closes at 7:00 PM in an urban storefront, though. Usually, landlords of "town centers" require businesses to remain open until 9:00 PM to avoid dead zones.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Wheaton Carnival runs through September 29 (Video+Photos)

A carnival has set up in the parking lot of Wheaton Plaza, and will be here through September 29, 2019. If you're right in the center of it, you can hardly believe you're in Wheaton. The carnival features rides similar to what you would find at a county fair. Every standard carnival-fair food you can name is available to eat. A midway features games of skill and chance. Here is a video and photo sample of what awaits you at the carnival:

Monday, September 23, 2019

The Daily Dish owner's next venture: downtown Silver Spring

It looks like Jerry Hollinger, co-owner of The Daily Dish and The Dish & Dram, may be headed downtown for his next dining venture. The restaurateur is now renovating the vacant space previously occupied by The Classics, at 8606 Colesville Road in downtown Silver Spring. With both of his ventures with co-owner Zena Polin having earned rave reviews, this is one to watch.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Climate activists may shut down commuter routes into D.C. Monday morning with #ShutDownDC protests

Climate activists are threatening to block major roadways commuters use to reach downtown Washington, D.C. Monday morning, September 23, 2019, as part of an ongoing series of protests to coincide with the United Nations Climate Action Summit. Participating organizations are not revealing which roads or intersections they plan to blockade during an action they are calling #ShutDownDC.

Montgomery County, the County Council, and the County Department of Transportation are apparently asleep at the switch, and have not released any statements on the expected protests or possible delays. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has released a statement warning commuters to plan several alternative routes to your destination, or to take public transportation. "The groups have planned first-amendment protected events on Monday to potentially include the intentional disruption of traffic on high-volume roadways around the District," the statement says.

With no way to know what these folks have planned, it would be wise to plan ahead and check traffic reports before leaving for work Monday morning - and give yourself extra time to get there, if your route is affected.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Montgomery County Council vape shop bill poised to set economic destruction record

Would be third County economic sector
totally wiped out this decade after
food trucks, nightlife

The Montgomery County Council is poised to set a world record this fall - and it's not one to be proud of. Known for a record of economic failure, high taxes, jammed roads, failing schools and banning stuff, the Council is turning to that last font once again with a new vape shop bill and zoning text amendment package. To call it heavy-handed would be an understatement - it would literally require almost every single vape shop in Montgomery County "to close within 24 months." In doing so, the Council would destroy an entire sector of the County's economy - vaping and smoke shops - for the third time in a single decade, following their destruction of the food truck and nightlife sectors over the last eight years.

As usual, the Council is not on firm legal or logical ground. No resident should feel comfortable with the County in the hands of elected officials who would destroy a whole sector of the economy without even having a knowledge of the topic and industry they are "cracking down" on. If one did have a grasp of the basic facts, he would not be introducing a bill based entirely on hyperbole and panic generated by misleading media reports.

Vaping hysteria is suddenly and mysteriously sweeping the nation. If you believe many media reports, Juul users are keeling over by the dozens. Actually, that's fake news. The majority of "vaping deaths" appear to have resulted from people trying to use unauthorized THC vaping cartridges. THC is the primary active ingredient in marijuana.

Not a single person in Montgomery County or Maryland has died from immediate use of legal, nicotine vaping products. The Council laughably cites three students being hospitalized after "vaping on school grounds." Many, many more students have been hospitalized after using various other drugs on school grounds than that. It is currently illegal for minors to purchase e-cigarettes and vaping products. Why wouldn't the Council crack down on illegal sales, if the real concern was use by minors?

Predictably, no local media outlet is pressing the Council on its latest Draconian solution in search of a problem. Taxpayers will foot the bill for the lawsuits that are sure to follow passage of a bill designed to put specific enterprises out of business.

Once again, the County Council's hypocrisy and doublespeak has been exposed. They said we needed more millennials to move here. They've claimed for years that we needed to allow unlimited development of luxury apartments to attract those millennials. But the development they approve isn't within the price range of most millennials.

They claimed they would make us "hip," and launched the disastrous "Nighttime Economy Initiative" that ended up cratering the nightlife sector countywide, with eighteen nightspots closing in downtown Bethesda alone.

Finally, the Council deep-sixed what was a booming food truck industry by banning the trucks from public streets. Food trucks are a major draw for young professionals in urban areas - you know, the very people the Council said we needed to attract. What does the Council then do? Implode the food truck industry, with 96% of trucks either going out of business or fleeing back into the District, where many of them can be found at lunchtime just over the border in Friendship Heights, D.C.

It's as if the County Council wants to make sure Montgomery County's national reputation as a terrible place for young people and businesses is solidified for all time. Vaping is very popular among young adults. For better or worse, it is "hip," to use the Council's outdated dad-jeans lingo. So no housing, no nightlife, no lunchtime food trucks and no vaping for you, millennials. Enjoy your life in Northern Virginia - heck, that's where your jobs are anyway. Might as well live there, too! Wait, you already do?

And that's the real capstone of the Kill Vaping Bill. Despite record-high taxes, County revenue is down, and we are in a structural budget deficit. The Council has driven our economy into the ground over the last two decades, and has failed to attract a single major corporate headquarters in over twenty years. Ultra-rich residents have fled in droves, slashing tax revenues that were being provided by some of our wealthiest denizens, and shuttering storefronts up and down "Montgomery County's Rodeo Drive" in Chevy Chase. And the County's debt, if it were a government department, would be the third-largest department in the County government.

After passing a corruption-bloated, reckless and irresponsible budget in May - and raising taxes in the process - one of the major bond rating agencies sent out an urgent alert warning investors. That means our AAA bond rating is in danger of being downgraded. And just as a recession may be around the corner.

This is the time that the Council would destroy yet another entire sector of our economy, and forgo all of that revenue from a popular consumer product? This is the time that they would, yet again, deter young adults from choosing to live in Montgomery County?

What are these folks smoking?

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Police investigate serious accident in Fairland

Montgomery County police are investigating a serious accident that occurred in the Fairland area of Silver Spring last night at 6:47 PM. A 1998 Toyota Corolla was traveling west on Sheffield Manor Drive when the driver lost control and crashed into a parked Freightliner truck on the side of the road.

The driver of the Corolla, Jaime Rodrigo Herrera, 22, of Renfrew Road in Silver Spring, was transported to a local hospital with life-threatening injuries. The Collision Reconstruction Unit continues to investigate this collision. Detectives are attempting to determine what caused the driver to lose control. Anyone with information regarding this collision is asked to contact the Collision Reconstruction Unit at 240-773-6620.

Map by Google Maps

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Bel Pre-area bank robbery suspect charged

Montgomery County police have arrested and charged a suspect in the August 7 robbery of the Sandy Spring Bank at 14241 Layhill Road. Jhasir Marquis Devaux, 22, of "an unconfirmed address" was located in Berks County, Pennsylvania, detectives say. He was taken into custody there, and is awaiting extradition to Montgomery County, Maryland.

Detectives believe Devaux robbed the same bank once before, in April 2016. He has been charged with one count of robbery in the August 7 incident. No mug shot has been publicly released as of this morning.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Silver Spring coin shop burglarized

Montgomery County police are investigating the burglary of a downtown Silver Spring coin shop. Officers responded to a burglar alarm at Bonanza Coins at 940 Wayne Avenue at 3:34 AM on August 30, 2019. They found the front door smashed, and about $6500 worth of coins removed from a display case that had also been smashed open.

A witness told detectives that the suspect fled the scene in an older model Toyota or Mazda sedan. Detectives have now released video of the suspect, and ask residents to take note of the "unique tattoo" on the back of his neck. (VIEWER WARNING: The video contains flashing that could trigger reactions or seizures in viewers with epilepsy or other conditions).

Anyone with information about this suspect or burglary is asked to call the 3rd District Investigative Section at 240-773-6870.  To be eligible for a reward, tipsters may call Crime Solvers of Montgomery County toll-free at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477).  Crime Solvers will pay a cash reward of up to $10,000 for information provided to them that leads to the arrest and/or indictment of this suspect.  Tipsters may remain anonymous.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Piney Branch Center soil/groundwater contaminated, MD Dept. of Environment says

Property entering 
Voluntary Cleanup Program

The Maryland Department of the Environment reports that soil and groundwater studies at the Piney Branch Center, located at 8501 Piney Branch Road in the Long Branch area of Silver Spring, have found a chemical contaminant in both. Tetrachloroethene was discovered in soil vapor and groundwater near the former dry cleaning tenant's space at the shopping center, MDE says.

Property owner JBG Smith is entering the Maryland Voluntary Cleanup Program to address the contamination. MDE says the landlord will install a soil vapor extraction system to "protect occupants of the building." A prohibition on use of groundwater from the property is being issued, and a restriction on future uses of the land will be placed on the property until the contamination is eliminated. Until then, the land can only continue to be used for "Tier 2B Restricted Commercial Purposes," according to MDE. For example, residential housing could not be built on the site as it is now.

A public meeting on the contamination and cleanup plan will be held September 26, 2019 at 6:15 PM at the Long Branch Community Recreation Center at 8700 Piney Branch Road.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Nighttime noise ahead near Silver Spring Ave./Georgia Ave. intersection

Noisy nights are ahead at the intersection of Silver Spring Avenue and Georgia Avenue in downtown Silver Spring. An underground utility conduit is being installed there, and the Maryland State Highway Administration has required the work to be done at night, to avoid having to close two lanes on Georgia during busier daytime hours.

The conduit will be installed on nights between September 23 and September 27, 2019. Work hours are expected to be 9:00 PM to 5:00 AM nightly.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Michelle Malkin, sanctuary opponents to rally Friday in Rockville; counterprotest planned in Montgomery County immigration stand-off

Opponents and advocates of Montgomery County's policy of not detaining prisoners with ICE detainers being released from the Montgomery County jail until federal agents can take them into custody will face off outside the Montgomery County Council building at 100 Maryland Avenue in Rockville tomorrow, Friday, September 13, 2019 from 11:00 AM to noon. A rally headlined by political commentator and author Michelle Malkin and WMAL conservative radio host Larry O'Connor will take place on the steps of the Council building.

Rally organizers say they will call on Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich to withdraw his executive order,"Promoting Community Trust," that put further restrictions on ICE cooperation this year. Elrich has said he will review aspects of the policy, and determine whether to make changes.

Activists and organizations who support the County policy, which has come under national political fire from the Trump administration after eight immigrants in the country illegally were accused of separate sexual assaults of women and children in the County over the last few weeks, are pledging to turn out in force to counter the rally. "Let's drown out the hate with NOISE," Showing Up for Racial Justice - Montgomery County said in a Facebook announcement of their counter-rally, "MoCo Stands with Immigrants," that will take place at the same time and location.

Malkin is touring the country to promote a new book, Open Borders, Inc.: Who's Funding America's Destruction?, the release of which has coincided with the Montgomery County controversy. Others slated to appear at the original rally include Shari Rendall of FAIR, Brad Botwin of Help Save Maryland, author Ying Ma and Montgomery County Republican Party chair Alexander Bush.

The counterprotest will include members of SURJ, host Takoma Park Mobilization, Jews United for Justice, CASA de Maryland, UFCW Local 1994, Montgomery County Civil Rights Coalition, Action in Montgomery, JCRC of Greater Washington, Poor People's Campaign, United We Dream, Sanctuary DMV, and other local unions and organizations.

Photo via @michellemalkin Twitter account

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Purple Line trainset reveal backfires

Promotional video appears
to show cramped,
claustrophobic railcar interiors

A video released by the state of Maryland to increase excitement about the future Purple Line light rail Tuesday appears to have had the opposite effect. It shows for the first time the interiors of the actual trainsets that will travel the route between Bethesda and New Carrollton. In the video, the interior of the cars appears narrow and cramped.

Massive bulkheads between seating sections create individual cells within each car, increasing the claustrophobic effect. The cars are clearly narrower than subway or commuter rail cars, and even appear more cramped than other light rail and streetcar vehicles in use across the country and the world. Perhaps it was the type of camera lens used, but the PR impact was not a positive one.

Was shrinking the size of the cars one of the cost-cutting measures employed by the state and its partners? These cars do not resemble the ones shown in previous promotional materials.

Tuesday's backfire was reminiscent of another bait-and-switch PR stunt pulled by Montgomery County elected officials. After showing futuristic Bus Rapid Transit vehicles that looked more like subways for years, the County displayed an actual BRT vehicle at the County Fair that instead looked like existing diesel Metrobuses.

The County continues to use the deceptive BRT images in promotional materials to this day - and no wonder, after fairgoers were shocked to find the $10 billion BRT would look nothing like what County officials had promised.

Maybe they can wrap the Purple Line trains in Chicken of the Sea advertisements to bring in some extra revenue, to justify the tuna-can-cramped ride on what they've promised will be crowded trains.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Silver Strings opens in Silver Spring (Photos+Menu)

Silver Strings has opened at 8630 Colesville Road in downtown Silver Spring. The restaurant and lounge serving American cuisine has been in the works for a couple of years. They have a very small but nicely-decorated front patio, and an impressive interior. See the full menu below.