Saturday, October 31, 2020

Ooh La La Bakery sets opening date in Wheaton

Ooh La La Bakery
, a new French bakery located at 2600 University Boulevard West in Wheaton, now has a grand opening date. The business will debut tomorrow, Sunday, November 1, 2020 at 9:00 AM.

Friday, October 30, 2020

Armed robbery at Silver Spring convenience store

Montgomery County police responded to the report of an armed robbery at a downtown Silver Spring convenience store last Sunday. The robbery was reported in 900 block of Thayer Avenue around 4:18 PM. Crime data indicates a gun was the weapon employed, but does not specify which store is being referred to.

Meineke temporarily moves in downtown Silver Spring

Meineke Car Care
has temporarily relocated in downtown Silver Spring. They have moved from their 8220 Georgia Avenue location to 8129 Georgia Avenue.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Copper Canyon Grill in Silver Spring gets interior upgrade

An interior update project is underway at Copper Canyon Grill at 928 Ellsworth Drive at Downtown Silver Spring. The renovation is limited to a 750 SF portion of the restaurant's interior only. Copper Canyon remains open for business during the renovation.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Montgomery County Council passes massive developer tax cut, now wants to cut pay for cops, firefighters

The Montgomery County Council voted 7-2 yesterday to approve a massive property tax cut for developers, estimated to cost taxpayers from $400 million to upwards of a billion dollars over the next 15 years.After overturning County Executive Marc Elrich's veto of the developer tax cut, the Council is now seeking to cut hazard pay for police officers, firefighters, Ride On bus drivers and other frontline essential employees who are at high-risk of contracting Covid-19 daily during the coronavirus pandemic.

Yesterday's vote continues two disturbing trends by the Montgomery County Council: a continued shift of the tax burden from developers (who contribute to all nine councilmembers' campaigns) to workers and homeowners, and the ongoing practice by the Council of breaking labor agreements. 

While property taxes on homeowners have risen each year except 2014 (in which the average homeowner got a $12 tax cut - gee, thanks!), large developers have enjoyed tax cut after tax cut on property and impact taxes over the last decade. It started with a $72 million developer tax cut in 2010. Remember how your energy taxes were hiked, and an ambulance fee levied, around the same time to make up for that developer giveaway? Yep.

Combined with the County's failure to attract high-wage jobs or a single major corporate headquarters in over 20 years, outsize spending by Council, and the flight of the rich due to record-high tax burdens, the developer pay-days have blown an atomic bomb-size hole in the County budget. The result is a structural budget deficit as far out as the forecasts go.

So we've known by the last decade that massive residential development results in a deficit, as the costs this new housing creates for services like schools, infrastructure and social spending far outstrips the revenue it generates. 

We also know there's little demand for luxury apartments, as a large percentage of the new units delivered since 2010 are filled with airbnb hotel guests, college students and corporate contract residents, none of whom pay full-freight rent. In fact, the Council admitted there's no demand for high-rise housing atop Metro stations when introducing the new tax cut - and they're going to bust the budget and hike your taxes to build something nobody wants, just so they and their developer sugar daddies can still make a profit on it.

And we've learned that the affordable housing "crisis" isn't actually a crisis, because the Housing Opportunities Commission was able to move hundreds of people out of The Ambassador apartments into vacant units elsewhere and demolish the building, while the owners of affordable Halpine View said they have no takers for their vacant units in Rockville. Whoops! 

The shift in revenue burden has also moved from the large, international development firms that contribute to the Councilmembers' campaigns to the mom-and-pop developers who live in the community and build or expand single-family homes. Not only did the Council hit them with new regulations and tax hikes like the recordation tax, but they've recently sought to levy an all-new "teardown tax" on these small building firms. When you know that the Council's long-term goal is to change zoning to allow urban development in existing single-family-home neighborhoods, you can understand why they're trying to clear the construction field for the big guys.

But the Council isn't done spreading the unfairness around!

Now it wants to take hazard pay away from first responders and frontline employees that is in already-negotiated labor agreements. While the Council hides at home on Zoom meetings, these police officers and firefighters are responding to calls and speaking with often-unmasked citizens on a daily basis. Ride On drivers are helping similarly-essential personnel get to work, and low-income residents get to medical appointments, while exposing themselves to the virus on every shift. 

The same Council didn't even give our police officers a sufficient supply of PPE and hand sanitizer. How interesting that the same councilmembers - Hans Riemer (D - At-Large) and Andrew Friedson (D - District 1) spearheading the $1 billion tax cut for developers yesterday are also leading the charge to cut hazard pay for cops and firefighters. 

Now, even as the councilmembers' own $140,000 paychecks increase year after year, they want to again renege on labor agreements. County employees are counting on these agreements when planning the financial future of their families. The Council wants to take food off their tables during a pandemic, and turn it into cash for their campaign donors - and into future campaign checks for themselves.

It's outrageous.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Purse-snatching in downtown Silver Spring (Video)

Montgomery County police responded to the report of a purse-snatching in downtown Silver Spring on September 30, and detectives have now released surveillance camera footage they say shows the alleged snatchers. The 31-year-old female victim was walking her dog around 4:42 PM that day in the 1200 block of Fidler Lane. Two suspects approached and grabbed her, snatched her purse, and fled on foot. 

Anyone with information about these suspects or robbery is asked to call the 3rd District Investigative Section at 240-773-6870.  Those who wish to remain anonymous may contact Crime Solvers by phone: 1-866-411-TIPS (8477), online, or via the Crime Solvers app.  Crime Solvers will pay a cash reward of up to $10,000 for information provided to them that leads to an arrest in this case.

Monday, October 26, 2020

Early voting underway today in Montgomery County

Montgomery County voters who want to vote in person, but cast their ballots before Election Day, are heading to early voting centers like this one in Rockville starting today. Early voting here in Maryland runs through Monday, November 2, 2020, from 7:00 AM to 8:00 PM daily.
Executive Office Building early voting
site in Rockville

You can see the early voting locations and the current wait time at each on the Board of Elections website. Around noon today, the current wait time at the Executive Office Building voting site in Rockville was the longest at a whopping 90 minutes. Jane Lawton Community Center in Chevy Chase and Sandy Spring Volunteer Fire Department were shown with 45 minute waits. The wait time at the Silver Spring Civic Center and Wheaton Recreation Center, conversely, was zero minutes at noon.

Early voting sites with the longest
wait times on the first day of
early voting

One other tricky hurdle for voters besides the lines is matter of the ballot questions. Voters wishing to support the citizen questions on the ballot that would prevent the Montgomery County Council from voting to exceed the annual cap on property taxes, and change the structure of that County Council to nine smaller districts (and eliminate the four At-Large seats) will want to vote "Yes" on Questions B and D. 

Questions A and C are questions with similar wording the Council itself placed on the ballot. But if A and C are approved, they will cancel out Questions B and D, and neither change sought by the citizens who signed petitions would take place in that event. 

Fatal accident on Norbeck Road near Llewellyn Fields neighborhood in Silver Spring

A Rockville man has died after a collision on Norbeck Road Friday night. Detectives with the Collision Reconstruction Unit of the Montgomery County police say Christian Richardson, 24, of Dumbarton Drive in Rockville, was riding a 2014 Yamaha FZ-09 motorcycle heading west on Norbeck Road approaching Llewellyn Manor Way around 8:20 PM. A 2007 Toyota Prius on Llewellyn Manor Way attempted to cross Norbeck Road to enter Northwest Branch Recreational Park, and the two vehicles collided.

Richardson was transported to an unidentified local hospital, where he later died from his injuries. The driver of the Prius, identified as Tatiana Ogundeko, 22, of Waldorf, and an adult female passenger were not injured in the collision. They remained on the scene and are cooperating with police. Anyone with information regarding this collision is asked to contact the Collision Reconstruction Unit at 240-773-6620.

Friday, October 23, 2020

Interior makeover planned for Olney CVS Pharmacy

CVS Pharmacy
is planning a significant interior renovation of its store at 3110 Olney-Sandy Spring Road in the Shoppes at Olney. The changes will be to both the customer sales floor area, and to areas generally off-limits to customers like the employee restrooms. New signage will be installed in the store, and there will be new surface finishes. Recent changes at a CVS in Bethesda reconfigured the layout of departments within the store, and made the MinuteClinic a more prominent interior focus.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Car stolen in Burtonsville

Montgomery County police responded to a report of a stolen vehicle in Burtonsville yesterday morning. The vehicle was taken from a residential parking lot in the 3900 block of Blackburn Lane. It was stolen sometime between 7:00 PM Tuesday night and 6:00 AM Wednesday morning. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Minor solicited for sex in Silver Spring park

Montgomery County police responded to a report of a minor being solicited for sex at a park in Silver Spring Monday night. The incident occurred at a park in the 3700 block of Bel Pre Road in the Aspen Hill area around 9:00 PM, according to crime data.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Signs installed at Ooh La La Bakery, America's Best Wings in Wheaton

The permanent awning is now in place at the future Ooh La La Bakery at 2600 University Boulevard West. A crew was working hard on the interior of the French bakery when I stopped by. The space now looks quite different from when it was a Cricket Wireless store, and the business will be quite a step up.

A (sort-of) permanent sign is also up at America's Best Wings, coming soon to the Wheaton Triangle strip mall at 11242 Georgia Avenue. It's not a fancy lighted or neon affair, but who needs that when you literally have America's best wings? This should be a popular takeout spot on Super Bowl Sunday 2021. They're not just wings, they're America's Best!

Maryland releases draft Covid-19 vaccination plan

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) released a draft of the state's Covid-19 vaccination plan this morning. Like all states, Maryland must submit a plan like this to the federal government for how it will store, distribute and administer any future approved vaccines for the coronavirus.

The Maryland vaccination plan is split into three phases: the initial period when vaccine supply may be minimal and who should have priority to receive it must be determined, a second phase when large amounts become available and there is a more general rush to administer it to a large number of people, and a third, ongoing phase when one or more Covid-19 vaccines continue to be distributed like a flu shot in the future.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R)

The Maryland Department of Health Center for Immunization (CFI) will orchestrate the operational side of implementing the plan. MDH's Office of Preparedness and Response (OP&R) will focus on planning, coordination and logistical matters. And other MDH programs and agencies such as the Maryland Emergency Management Agency and Maryland State Police will take on other roles "as the operational needs evolve," the plan draft states.

Will you, the average Montgomery County citizen, be one of the first to receive a Covid-19 vaccine? No, according to the plan. In phase one, only high-risk members of the population and workers at hospitals, long term care (LTC) and skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) are anticipated to be vaccinated. 

The plan states that two doses of the potential vaccine(s) will likely be required, with a period of three or more weeks between shots. Maryland plans to use its PrepMod and Maryland MyIR online portals to send recipients a reminder that it is time to come in for the second dose. PrepMod will also initially be the main vaccine management system, 

PrepMod is an online clinic management and appointment scheduling system. It is used by Maryland local health departments to conduct mass vaccination drives and vaccinations at school-located clinics. Maryland's ImmuNet will play a central role as the one-stop shop for health care providers to register as an official Covid-19 vaccine provider, order their vaccine supplies, track vaccine deliveries, report doses administered, and to determine scheduling of second doses.

Maryland's first priority in public messaging when a vaccine becomes available will be assuring the public that it is a safe and effective vaccine. Public communication will then emphasize vaccination of the most-vulnerable first, and then the general population.

One of the other key points covered in the report is the necessary training of providers in the handling, storage and administration of this new vaccine or vaccines. This training will have to be rapid. Among the required training efforts, Maryland plans to utilize state, federal and CDC materials and webinars to get providers up to speed quickly.

Monday, October 19, 2020

Car stolen in Calverton area of Silver Spring

A car was reported stolen to Montgomery County police in the Calverton area of Silver Spring on Sunday. The vehicle was taken from a residential parking lot in the 12300 block of Herrington Manor Drive. It was determined the car was stolen some time between 8:00 PM Saturday night, and 8:00 AM on Sunday morning.

Friday, October 16, 2020

Downtown Silver Spring water main break forced some businesses to close Thursday night (VIdeo)

The WSSC responded to a water main break in downtown Silver Spring last evening. It was right by the Regal Cinemas Majestic 20 and Downtown Silver Spring. Some nearby businesses lost water service and had to close for the evening. All businesses are expected to reopen for normal hours today.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Armed robbery in Aspen Hill

Montgomery County police responded to the report of an armed robbery in Aspen Hill last night. The robbery was reported in the 14100 block of Grand Pre Road around 8:30 PM. A firearm was the weapon used in the robbery, according to crime data.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Montgomery County Council using taxpayer funds to campaign against citizen ballot questions

October 13 email sent from Montgomery County Council
government email system urging recipients to vote against
citizen-proposed ballot questions

Montgomery County residents have been receiving frequent emails from County Council members in recent weeks urging them to vote against ballot questions proposed by County residents. Just one problem: these spam political campaign emails are paid for by you, the taxpayer. If a politician wishes to campaign against a ballot question, they can form a new campaign entity or use their own campaign funds, but they cannot use taxpayer funds. This use of taxpayer-funded government email systems for political campaigning should be reviewed by the Maryland Board of Elections, and the Inspector General's office.

I personally have received two of these emails in just the last two days from Councilmembers Andrew Friedson (D - District 1) and Hans Riemer (D - At-Large). I've previously received several emails from their same government accounts, which also urged me to vote against Questions B and D. The shady and illegal tactic is simply one more reason voters should vote FOR Questions B and D, and AGAINST Questions A and C.
The October 13 County government-sent email illegally urges
recipients to vote a certain way on ballot questions

The taxpayer-funded spam email blitz is only the newest unethical tactic the Council has deployed against citizen efforts to chip away at its authoritarian power. While the citizen-petitioned ballot questions each received the support of nearly 20,000 Montgomery County residents who signed the petitions, the Montgomery County Council placed its own deceptive ballot questions with no public, democratic process. 

Content in years past to wage expensive campaigns against citizen ballot questions, the Council upped the ante and the corruption this year. With no advance warning or public process, the Council simply gaveled two identically-worded poison pill questions onto the ballot at a virtual online meeting. The scheme is intended to fool voters into voting "Yes" on all four. Legal experts have advised that if all four ballot questions are approved, they will cancel each other out, and none of the changes citizens sought will take place.
Fine print at bottom of email confirms it
was sent "on behalf of Montgomery County, Maryland Government"

Question B would eliminate the Council's ability to override the existing property tax cap, as they did in 2016 to slam homeowners with a 9% property tax increase, to cover for their mismanagement of the County budget. Question D would eliminate the At-Large seats on the Council, and reorder the Council into 9 smaller districts. Questions A and C are the Council's poison pill questions that mimic the language of B and D. 
Fine print also declares the email "is part of
the Council's newsletter software," a taxpayer-funded
government communications platform

Making taxpayers fund their corrupt schemes is nothing new for the Montgomery County Council. My investigation in 2018 found that Councilmember Hans Riemer was charging taxpayers to fund both a political website (even though each councilmember already gets a free, taxpayer-funded website on the Council's website), and to pay for his gas when he traveled to private meetings with his campaign donors.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Attempted carjacking in downtown Silver Spring

Montgomery County police are searching for three male suspects in an assault and attempted carjacking in downtown Silver Spring on October 7, 2020. Detectives say a 28-year-old man parked his car in the 8700 block of Cameron Street around 8:49 PM. When he exited the vehicle, he was approached by three males.

One of the suspects assaulted the man and robbed him of property, including his car keys. The three men then got into the victim's vehicle and attempted to steal it. Unable to operate the car's manual transmission, the men got out and fled on foot. 

Anyone with information regarding the suspects or this attempted armed carjacking is asked to call the Major Crimes Division at 240-773-5100. Those who wish to remain anonymous may call Crime Solvers of Montgomery County toll-free at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477) or submit a Crime Solvers tip online or via the app.  Crime Solvers may pay a cash reward of up to $10,000 for information that leads to an arrest in this case.

Monday, October 12, 2020

Car stolen in Aspen Hill, kidnapping/assault reported at Silver Spring gas station

A vehicle was reported stolen to the Montgomery County police in Aspen Hill Sunday. The vehicle was taken from a residential parking lot in the 14100 block of Whispering Pines Court sometime between Saturday night at 9:00 PM and Sunday afternoon at 3:00 PM.

In addition, a kidnapping and assault were reported at a gas station in the 700 block of University Boulevard East in Silver Spring. The report was made around 9:45 PM on Saturday night, October 10, 2020, according to crime data.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Carmen's Italian Ice temporarily closes Olney and Rockville locations after employee tests positive for coronavirus

Two Montgomery County businesses announced they were temporarily closing yesterday due to employees testing positive for Covid-19. Patisserie Manuel announced it would close its Westfield Montgomery Mall location until further notice, after one of its employees tested positive for the coronavirus. Its Silver Spring location remains open at this time.

Carmen's Italian Ice also said it would temporarily close both of its locations after one of its employees tested positive. Because some employees work at both locations, Carmen's is closing both the Rockville and Olney locations.

Both businesses have received positive feedback on their decisions from customers, a number of whom said they appreciated the honesty and openness about the situation.

Friday, October 9, 2020

Some Montgomery County voters haven't received their mail-in ballots

Some Montgomery County voters are hitting the panic button as the mail-in ballots they requested weeks or months ago have not yet arrived. The panic is not only due to the high anxiety about election fraud this year, but more so because these voters have seen friends' and family members' ballots arrive, while theirs haven't - even though in many cases the requests were mailed the same day, or even together.

The Montgomery County Board of Elections told one voter who requested his ballot over a month ago that, if he doesn't receive it by the end of this week, to request a "second-issue ballot." This can be done by visiting the Board of Elections in person (Monday-Friday, 8:30am-5pm) at 18753 N. Frederick Avenue., Suite 210, in Gaithersburg; emailing your name, date-of-birth, address, mailing address (if needed), and second ballot issue request to; or by reapplying online by texting VBM to 77788 or using this form.

Another big question for some voters is why their ballot isn't shown as received days after mailing it back, or placing it into a dropbox. BOE says that it can take up to two weeks for a ballot to be collected and processed.

Voters are correct to be concerned. I lost my voting rights in the primary earlier this year when my completed ballot was "lost in the mail" on its way back to the BOE, making it the first election I ever missed participating in since I was old enough to register. I personally have received my mail-in ballot. But I will be using a dropbox to return it this time.

New York & Company closes in Silver Spring

New York & Company
has permanently closed at 937 Ellsworth Drive in downtown Silver Spring. The merchandise has all been cleared out, leaving bare racks and mannequins behind. Despite high profile clothing lines featuring partnerships with celebrities like Eva Mendes and Gabrielle Union, New York & Company filed for bankruptcy this summer.

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Rainbow crosswalk painted in downtown Silver Spring

A new crosswalk was painted on Fenton Street in downtown Silver Spring yesterday. It's not your typical crosswalk. Instead of the standard white paint, it is in a variety of pastel colors. The paint was still wet and blocked off from pedestrians last night.

Sweeteria opening today in downtown Silver Spring

will host a soft opening today, Thursday, October 8, 2020 at 8646 Colesville Road in downtown Silver Spring. The dessert cafe's hours today will be 7:00 AM - 5:00 PM.