Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Update on Solaire Social food hall in Silver Spring

UPDATED - 2:00 PM:

Construction of the Solaire Social food hall, located in the ground floor of the Solaire 8200 Dixon apartment building in downtown Silver Spring, has been ongoing for over a year now. It's finally looking close to opening, with light fixtures in place, and tables and chairs being moved in. Solaire Social will have 11 vendor stalls, including Manna Sushi, ShugaxIce, Fire Pit Brazilian Barbecue, Just Chicken, Pau & Sophia's Thai Kitchen, Kati Roll Wala, Soko Butcher & Deli, Soko Oyster, and Kabab-2-Go. A spokesperson for the food hall advises me that plans for an indoor golf simulator were scrapped long ago. Solaire Social is expected to open in May 2024.

Saturday, April 27, 2024

Montgomery County firefighter among 226 to be honored at National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Weekend

A former Montgomery County firefighter will be among 226 fallen firefighters to be honored at the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Weekend in Emmitsburg, Maryland on May 4 and 5, 2024. Master Firefighter Mark R. Fisher Jr. passed away on July 24, 2014 from illness related to his response to the attack on the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. Fisher was also a member of the Maryland Task Force One Urban Search and Rescue Team, with whom he responded to other disasters, including Hurricane Katrina. He was with the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service for 22 years, and also served as an instructor for the department. 

Fisher was a member of the Johnny Swamper Club, Frederick Elks Lodge No. 684, and the Loyal Order of the Moose No. 948 in Charles Town, West Virginia, and a life member of the United Steam Fire Engine Company, No. 3 Frederick. He left behind a wife, three children and five grandchildren. Fisher briefly played pro football with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He was 59 years old at the time of his passing.

Two main events will be held on the memorial weekend at the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Park in Emmitsburg. The National Fallen Firefighters Candlelight Service will be held on May 4 at 7:30 pm ET, hosted by Fire Captain Garon Mosby of the St. Louis Fire Department. The National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Service is on May 5 at 10:00 am ET, and will be hosted by actor Jeremy Holm. Both events are open to the public, but will also be streamed online live for those who cannot attend in person.

Friday, April 26, 2024

Royal Farms to open Silver Spring location

Royal Farms
was the first mega-gas-station-convenience store to open in Montgomery County, beating competitors Wawa and Sheetz to the punch when it opened its Gaithersburg location in 2022. Ironically, it is now the last of the three to announce its second MoCo location. That will be at 9475 Georgia Avenue, in the Montgomery Hills area of Silver Spring, a prime "last gas" location just before the ramps onto the Capital Beltway. 

A Montgomery County construction permit for the new Royal Farms has been posted, but the location does not yet appear on the "Coming Soon!" section of the Maryland chain's website. There's a gas station on the property already, which will be demolished to make way for the Royal Farms. Expect an increase in the number of gas pumps, and wonderful fried chicken aromas.

Thursday, April 25, 2024

Honduran restaurant for sale in Wheaton

Baleadas Grill
at 2304 Price Avenue in Wheaton is available for sale. The asking price for the business is $100,000. Monthly rent for the space is $5600 a month, according to the online listing. The Honduran restaurant has been open for about a year, and has a 4.4 out of 5-star rating on Yelp. It remains open for business.

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Chido's Tex-Mex Grill applies for liquor license in Silver Spring

Chido's Tex-Mex Grill
is taking another step toward opening at 931 Ellsworth Drive at Downtown Silver Spring. The chain has applied for a liquor license from Montgomery County for this location. It now has a hearing on the license approval scheduled for May 2, 2024 at 10:30 AM. Chido's, which is filling the high turnover spot recently vacated by The Eleanor, is anticipated to open this summer.

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

New street art on Ellsworth Drive in Silver Spring (Photos)

The pedestrian-only block of Ellsworth Drive between Georgia Avenue and Fenton Street is abuzz with new street art for (Silver) spring. Paint was still drying when these photos were taken. A honeycomb pattern of various colors is populated with insectoid and plant life. Not for the melissophobic!

Monday, April 22, 2024

Prodigal Comics now open in Silver Spring

Wonderful news for comic book fans and collectors: Prodigal Comics has opened in the former Alliance Comics space at 8317 Fenton Street in downtown Silver Spring. They're gradually getting up to speed in meeting the bar set by Alliance/Geppi's Comic World over the years, and are buying as well as selling comics. Here's a chance to restore that trifecta of incredible downcounty comic book stores - Barbarian Books (a.k.a. Barbarian Comics) in Wheaton, Big Planet in Bethesda, and now...Prodigal Comics? Stay tuned, true believers. Excelsior!

Friday, April 19, 2024

Isaac's Poultry Market to open Burtonsville location

Isaac's Poultry Market
is expanding to Burtonsville. The original location has been named the best restaurant in Gaithersburg by Bethesda Magazine, and its popular signature sandwich - The Isaac - the best sandwich in the state by the Maryland Restaurant Association. Founder Rob Gresham has leased a space for his second Isaac's location at 15785 Old Columbia Pike, at the Burtonsville Crossing shopping center. The 1710-square-foot restaurant will open later this year.

The Isaac sandwich

The Burtonsville location will be slightly smaller than the original, as Gresham says takeout orders have been 90% of the Gaithersburg store's sales. There will be 25 seats inside, and 20 seats outside. Gresham says this is just the start of a planned expansion of the brand throughout the Washington, D.C. region.

Photos courtesy Isaac's Poultry Market

Thursday, April 18, 2024

Massage parlor bust in Kensington

Chang Liu

A six-month investigation of alleged illegal massage parlors in Maryland has ended with the arrest of two women at Elegant Spa at 10555 Metropolitan Avenue in Kensington. Montgomery County vice squad detectives, working with Anne Arundel County and Laurel City police, determined that a woman who owned spas in all three jurisdictions was operating illegal massage parlors out of all three locations. Vice detectives obtained confessions from multiple male clients at Elegant Spa admitting they had traded cash for "illicit sexual activity" inside the business. 

Police also allege that an Elegant Spa employee tried to bribe a Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services inspector to not shut down the spa. Presenting the evidence collected throughout the investigation, detectives obtained a search and seizure warrant for Elegant Spa, which was executed on Wednesday, March 6, 2024.

Yinlian Wu

Chang Liu, 34, of Columbia, was located inside the spa, arrested and charged with multiple counts of sex trafficking and prostitution. Yinlian Wu, 50, of Philadelphia, was also arrested. She was charged with attempted bribery of an HHS inspector, and multiple counts of prostitution. Detectives learned that Chang Liu, Yinlian Wu, and two other females were living inside the spa at various times throughout the investigation. Vice detectives seized numerous items of evidentiary value, a "large amount" of U.S. currency, and a vehicle.

Liu and Wu were transported to the Montgomery County Central Processing Unit. They have been released after posting bond. Detectives are concerned there may be additional victims whom Chang Liu employed. If you believe you were a victim of Chang Liu, you are asked to contact the Vice and Intelligence Unit at 240-773-5958.

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

McDonald's Bacon Cajun Ranch McCrispy chicken sandwich arrives in Montgomery County

It's not the legendary Cajun McChicken, but a Louisiana-inspired chicken sandwich is once again on the McDonald's menu for a limited time. The Bacon Cajun Ranch McCrispy has a Southern-style fried chicken "fillet" topped with applewood smoked bacon strips, crinkle-cut pickle slices, and a Cajun ranch sauce, on a toasted potato roll. A deluxe version adds lettuce and tomato. According to the official McDonald's nutrition facts, the Bacon Cajun Ranch McCrispy has 630 calories, 33 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 85 milligrams of cholesterol, 11 grams of sugar, and 1650 milligrams of sodium. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Marc Elrich is right again on COG's developer-funded housing targets flimflam

Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich has weighed in again on the latest revival of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Government's zombie housing targets plan, and once again, he is correct in seeing through COG's developer-funded flimflam job. Elrich told The Washington Post that COG's math is "faulty," and that's probably being generous. He criticized COG for trying to gin up "a sense of panic" about housing.

COG's housing targets plan is a bald-faced attempt to juice developer profits by using that false "panic" to loosen zoning restrictions, severely reduce public input on zoning and development proposals, override responsible growth policies, and generate more taxpayer subsidies for development companies that are already profitable private concerns. The people behind the COG curtain count on two things to achieve success with their housing targets scheme: the local media functioning in their role as stenographers more than journalists, in repeating COG's message verbatim with no scrutiny or criticism, and readers and viewers accepting these parroted talking points at face value.

Alas, when one studies the details, the COG scheme immediately falls apart. In a highly-educated area like this, it's not surprising that COG's plan still hasn't caught on, despite five years of relentless propaganda about it.

First of all, COG's math is wildly off-target. In order to meet the COG targets, "87 units per day" would have to be constructed in the region. To put that in real terms, that would mean a garden apartment complex being delivered each day in the DC Metro area. That doesn't even happen in a city like New York. China at the height of its real estate boom might be the only place on earth to approach such construction numbers, and it wound up demolishing many of those buildings, which ultimately stood vacant. In short, the target is not even achievable without overriding most regulations, approval processes and public engagement at a level that would severely compromise local budgets and quality of life, and by ignoring the fact that there is little demand for overpriced luxury apartments. Many of the new apartments in Bethesda, for example, are vacant and are being operated as illegal Airbnb hotel rooms. Whoops!

Second, COG describes "affordable" housing as costing the renter or homeowner $2300 a month. That is preposterous, and not affordable by any real-world measure. The $2300-$5000 apartment rents in the area are the problem, not the solution. And despite building thousands of new housing units every year, rents in Montgomery County only continue to skyrocket, proving that the real estate sector is no longer governed by market forces of supply and demand.

Third, COG itself, and the other entities trying to force its plan onto local jurisdictions, are funded by developers and developer lobbying organizations. Among those funding COG are entities connected to the Cafritz Interest real estate development firm, and Connected DMV, a development lobbying and advocacy firm. The Urban Institute is funded by development interests, big banks who profit from mortgage loans on real estate, and even BlackRock(!!), the massive international investment firm that has actually made housing more costly by snapping up homes. 

Nothing makes Wall Street-lapdog fact-checkers' heads explode faster than pointing out the BlackRock connection to inflated home prices. Those "reporters" will claim that it's Blackstone, Inc. that is buying up homes, while trying to downplay the fact that BlackRock is a part owner of Blackstone, holding an astronomical 45.99 million shares in the firm as of December 31, 2023. Blackstone snapped up 38,000 homes across America in one January 2024 transaction alone.

I've monitored home prices in the D.C. region, and across the country, for many years. Home prices have not only surged in our expensive area in recent times, but also in some of the most undesirable Podunk Junction towns in the middle of nowhere. Being funded by BlackRock, and then trying to be a credible voice on affordable housing, is quite an acrobatic feat to say the least.

Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University? Its advisory board is stacked with leaders from the real estate development industry. Housing Association of Nonprofit Developers (HAND)? As a very smart person once said, "They call it a non-profit, but somebody profits." Not only do non-profit or public housing entities often partner with private developers on projects that generate windfall profits for the latter, but - as we've seen in Montgomery County - non-profit leaders often draw and increase large salaries from taxpayer funds, and then write political campaign checks to the same elected officials who voted for those grants of taxpayer funds.

And let's not be surprised that the Post gives favorable coverage to COG's plan and all other pro-development and upzoning initiatives. The paper not only derives significant revenue from real estate advertising, but has been a major real estate player in the region itself, selling its former D.C. headquarters for $159 million and its Alexandria warehouses to developers for an estimated $30 million. The latter became the kind of dense development being advocated for by the COG housing targets.

The Post story on COG's housing targets also aligned with many of the attempts to leverage the race card into developer private profits we've seen in recent years. It's a shameful tactic by the development industry, which has historically leveraged race in this way from blockbusting, to the reversal of blockbusting by driving people of color out of those same neighborhoods decades later via gentrification. "Equity" is not a $2300-a-month rent.

This latest effort by COG and the Post to revive the zombie housing target scheme makes clear they intend to let no obstacle stand in the way of developer profits at taxpayer expense. The article explicitly calls for removing public input from zoning and development decisions, resident stakeholder communications the article complains "account for 40% of a housing development's budget." We're familiar with this effort in Montgomery County, whether hearing developer lobbyists urge the County Council to ignore public input because it is coming from "old people who have nothing better to do than testify at public hearings," or the Council's full-court press to continue to block restoration of the Office of the People's Counsel, an attorney who can provide free advice to residents and represent their interests in administrative hearings."

Elrich supports restoring the Office of the People's Counsel. He should continue to correctly oppose COG's housing target scheme.

Monday, April 15, 2024

Wheaton H&M store undergoing renovations

A major renovation project has begun at the H&M store at Westfield's Wheaton Plaza mall, according to the apparel retail chain. "The Wheaton H&M store is being renovated, but we'll be back!" the chain wrote in its announcement. A $765,000 remodeling will include a new "store within a store" for accessories. Customers are being directed to shop on the chain's website at hm.com. Members will receive 15%-off on the website.

Friday, April 12, 2024

Larry Hogan sets fundraising record for a Maryland U.S. Senate candidate

The unexpected chance to flip a U.S. Senate seat was expected to boost the inflow of campaign cash into the Maryland this year, but former Gov. Larry Hogan (R) has exceeded expectations, by setting a fundraising record for a U.S. Senate race in the heavily-Democratic state. Hogan has raised more than $3.1 million since his surprise last-minute entry into the contest on February 9, his campaign announced yesterday. That total marks the most raised by a Senate candidate in any quarter in state history, and outpaced the campaign of Democrat Angela Alsobrooks by $1 million in half the time. Alsobrooks is locked in a contentious Democratic primary race with billionaire David Trone, who is self-funding his campaign, and spending big on advertising.

Hogan greets a voter in
Leonardtown, Maryland yesterday

“Our team is incredibly humbled and grateful for the overwhelming amount of support and positive reception we have received across the state since announcing mid-February, and we are just getting started,” Hogan said in a statement Thursday. “In a race where we are likely to face either the billionaire trying to buy the election or the candidate of the Democratic machine, there is no doubt we are the financial underdog too. Every day, our focus is on getting our message out to Marylanders who are fed up and frustrated with politics as usual. It’s time to get back to work, fix the broken politics, and send a message to Washington!”

Hogan delivers fresh Dunkin' Donuts
to volunteer firefighters in
Prince Frederick, Maryland yesterday

Hogan is in the middle of a ten-day bus tour of the state. The tour coincides with the start of mail-in balloting in Maryland, as voters begin to receive their primary ballots in the mail this week.

Photos courtesy Hogan for Maryland, Inc.

Thursday, April 11, 2024

Capezio Footlights space marketed "For Lease" in Silver Spring

The Capezio Footlights Dance & Theatre Boutique's space at 938 Wayne Avenue in downtown Silver Spring is being marketed as available for lease. It is still open for business, and the family-owned enterprise is seeking donations and business referrals to help it stay open on its website. Nonetheless, a sign has been posted in the storefront's window by the landlord announcing it is for lease. 

An online listing states that the studio will continue to occupy the space until a new tenant is found. The space would then become available around 30 days after the execution of the new lease. It also lists a number of improvements that have been made to the building recently, and indicates the space will lease in as-is condition.

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Outback Steakhouse opens in downtown Silver Spring (Photos)

Outback Steakhouse
has opened at 8661 Colesville Road in the Ellsworth Place mall in downtown Silver Spring. "G'Day! The downtown Silver Spring, MD location opens today! We hope to see you there, mate," a spokesperson for the chain said in a message Tuesday. The restaurant opened at 4:00 PM yesterday. Source of the Spring and the Maryland Daily Record reported the April 9 opening date last week.

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

From Crown Wigs to Crown Beer & Wine in Silver Spring

Here's a bankshot of a change in business concept. Crown Wigs closed last year at 8233 Georgia Avenue in downtown Silver Spring. Now a beer & wine sales license has been approved for Crown Beer & Wine at the same address. Their off-sale license only permits the sale of sealed containers of alcoholic beverages, which cannot be consumed on-site. The shop will also serve as a convenience store, as noted on the blue awning.

Monday, April 8, 2024

Village Corner Deli opens in Wheaton

Village Corner Deli
is now open at 11419 Grandview Avenue at the Georgia Crossing at the Anchor Inn shopping center in Wheaton. It features some standard deli items like bagels and sandwiches, but the menu is also heavy on Latin American favorites, including pupusas, flautas, and burritos. Village Corner Deli serves breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. Operating hours are 4:30 AM to 8:00 PM Monday through Friday, 5:00 AM to 7:00 PM on Saturdays, and 6:00 AM to 7:00 PM on Sundays.

Poll finds Maryland voters nostalgic for the Larry Hogan era

A new poll conducted by the University of Maryland and The Washington Post had good news for U.S. Senate candidate Larry Hogan (R). The results indicated that registered Maryland voters were much more pleased with the direction of the state under former Gov. Hogan than they are during the current term of his successor, Gov. Wes Moore (D). At the end of Hogan's first four-year term in 2018, 63% of Maryland voters thought the state was moving in the right direction. Only 46% believe Maryland is moving in the right direction as of March 2024. 

In 2018 under Hogan, 29% of voters said Maryland was "on the wrong track." In 2024, 44% now believe the state is moving in the wrong direction. The poll was conducted between March 5 and 12, 2024, and surveyed 1004 registered Maryland voters. Legislators returning to their pre-Hogan ways of raising taxes, along with ongoing inflation pressures and suddenly-shaky state finances, may explain some of the nostalgia for the former Republican governor's era. A FY-2025 budget proposal from the Maryland General Assembly has proposed $350-$450 million in new taxes and fees, which Hogan contrasted on Twitter with his record of cutting taxes in each of his eight years in office, totaling $4.7 billion in tax relief.

The poll results shed more light on why Hogan is currently leading Democratic frontrunners David Trone and Angela Alsobrooks in polling for the U.S. Senate race. Hogan's late entry into the contest, and his lead in the polls, have moved Maryland from the irrelevant column nationally into one of the most-watched states as the November election approaches. Maryland could well determine whether Democrats or the GOP control the U.S. Senate in 2025. 

Sunday, April 7, 2024

Montgomery County's moribund economy just needs...more cowbell, Planning Dept. says

Montgomery County's moribund economy isn't a new problem. I've been writing about it for over a decade. In more recent years, The Washington Post editorial board has finally acknowledged that MoCo, once the economic engine of the Washington, D.C. region, has become stagnant - - though only in the service of their Ahab-like crusade against their chief nemesis, Marc Elrich. Even a handful of politicians have begun admitting it, from Elrich himself, to his twice-vanquished opponent David Blair, and even Maryland Gov. Wes Moore. But despite the arrival of more-powerful voices at the table, Montgomery County and Maryland's policies have yet to change. In fact, the Montgomery County Planning Department is now arguing that the solution is to double down on the failed path we've been on: "More cowbell!"

In a recent series on the department's relentlessly pro-developer blog, The Third Place, we find the latest example of the Montgomery County cartel phenomenon we might call, "Now more than ever..." Whatever the latest crisis to befall a sector, demographic or geographic area of the County, their solution is always the same: Build more luxury housing. Whether it's the moribund economy, failing schools, increasing poverty, or the decline of an area like Friendship Heights, our elected officials tell us the answer - "now more than ever" - is to build more luxury apartments.

The Third Place series is just the latest example of this "More cowbell!" argument. 

It is ostensibly a deep dive into the stagnation of the Montgomery County economy. But as the series advances beyond a deceptive twisting of statistics that aren't actually the root cause of the stagnation, it eventually arrives at a familiar conclusion - we need to build more luxury housing.

More cowbell!

Most residents will never read this blog series, but you the taxpayer are not the target audience, anyway. Like most reports generated by the Planning Department, the purpose is to provide Astroturf data and analysis our developer-funded elected officials can point to as justification for upzoning greater and greater areas of the County. But if a resident of one of the most highly-educated jurisdictions in America were to read this blog series, they would quickly sense that something is amiss.

For example, Part I classifies Montgomery County residents who make $138,750 and above as "high-income" residents. In the real world, that's called "barely-keeping-your-head-above-water" in Montgomery County. Many County residents skating by on maxed-out credit, the bank-of-Mom-and-Dad, and assorted other survival tactics would be shocked to learn that they are "rich." 

The reason for this low wealth bar becomes clear as you continue reading. It is a way to make it seem that the "rich" portion of the population has merely remained constant. In reality, the flight of the rich from Montgomery County has been well-documented, down to the amount of tax revenue in millions that those wealthy expats have taken with them to lower-tax jurisdictions in the area. 

Were we to classify "high-income" more accurately, we would see that those numbers have declined significantly. The exodus has been most clearly seen in Montgomery County plummeting entirely off of the Forbes Top Ten Richest Counties list last decade, and in the collapse of "Montgomery County's Rodeo Drive" in Friendship Heights, which in recent years has become a stretch of aging apartment buildings and vacant storefronts.

As the rich have fled, they have been replaced - and then some - by low-income residents. The Third Place acknowledges this. "Specifically, our analysis shows that between 2005 and 2022, Montgomery County’s low-income population grew faster than the other groups. Montgomery County’s middle-income population shrank." Charles, Frederick, Howard, Loudoun, and Prince William counties can surely attest to the latter, as they've welcomed those cash-strapped, taxed-to-death MoCo refugees, along with the Virginia exurbs.

While that tax revenue has flowed outward, our business growth has dropped to the lowest in the region. Our job creation numbers have collapsed, and even fallen behind Prince George's County in recent years. And Montgomery County hasn't attracted a single major corporate headquarters in over a quarter century, a time frame that neatly dovetails with the MoCo cartel's seizure of the County Council in 2002 with the "End Gridlock" slate. As does the shift of population growth to the bottom of the income scale.

What urgent strategic and policy changes does The Third Place recommend to turn the tide, and attract the business and commercial revenue we need?

"The main, actionable takeaway from this research is to encourage the production of market-rate infill housing."

We know, of course, that "market-rate" housing in Montgomery County is expensive. There's no shortage of expensive housing in the County. We also know, from hard experience since 2002, that massive construction of new luxury housing does not reduce rents or home prices. Period. And because new residential housing generates more costs in County services than it does in tax revenue, building more won't solve our structural budget deficit. Much less restore our moribund economy.

Did the rich flee Montgomery County because home prices were too cheap? Not quite. Would middle class residents return en masse from the exurbs if we produced more $1 million townhomes and $2 million duplexes? Nope.

What would actually make Montgomery County a booming jurisdiction, make it possible for more residents to afford living here, and fill the County's revenue coffers? High-wage jobs from major corporate employers. 

The Third Place worries that currently, "there will be nowhere for affordable-housing residents to go once they are ready to upgrade." But it doesn't explain how janitors, cooks and grocery store bakers will suddenly be flush with the cash needed to buy that luxury housing that The Third Place wants to overdevelop even more than today. 

Here's a hint: Jobs. Good jobs. The kind we haven't been attracting to Montgomery County for a couple of decades now.

Gov. Wes Moore seems to understand this, noting that Maryland's economy today simply can't provide the revenue to fund his ambitious agenda. This year's legislative session in Annapolis seems to indicate that his message fell on deaf ears among his General Assembly colleagues. Likewise, Elrich has come around to the idea that the County should be attracting high-wage jobs. But his legislative colleagues on the County Council haven't joined him yet. 

The cumulative impact of elected officials who write the laws remaining stubborn in their ways - and loyal to the real estate developers who elected them - will only hasten the exit of wealth and revenue from Montgomery County. In addition to the massive property and recordation tax hikes passed last year, low and middle-income workers will soon be paying several hundred dollars to register their work trucks and soccer mom minivans. A 75-cent tax on every Uber ride. Even a $1.25 more on each pack of smokes. All of these are extremely regressive taxes.

A quick look at the press release pages of Gov. Moore and Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin gives just a small sense of the problem. Both men have Rolodexes stuffed with Wall Street and corporate connections. Surprisingly, Moore has so far failed to convince any of his friends in the Hamptons or Martha's Vineyard to relocate their Fortune 500 companies to Maryland. And that's even amid a downward trend for Virginia under Youngkin. The GOP 2028 aspirant's announcements of new, major corporate headquarters relocating to the Old Dominion have come at a much more sporadic pace than under his two Democratic predecessors.

But even as Virginia begins to flounder a bit, and budget woes creep up on legislators in Arlington and Fairfax counties who have begun to follow the big-spending ways of MoCo, we have not been able to seize any momentary advantage.

Not only has Youngkin failed to tee up many big wins, but when he does, he now has a legislature that is more like the one in Annapolis to block him. That's partly his own fault, for bizarrely making the last state election about abortion, a sure losing crusade even in red states - much less a blue one like Virginia. And he even turned away a Ford electric vehicle battery plant. Tired of winning, perhaps?

Yet, even as Virginia slips into a lower economic gear, 2024 has brought another major corporate HQ to Virginia. CoStar - which once was headquartered in Bethesda(!!), before fleeing to the District in 2010 - purchased the 1201 Wilson Boulevard office tower in Rosslyn for its new global HQ. It will bring its existing 500 jobs, and add 150 additional jobs in its new Virginia home. 

CoStar joins Northrup Grumman, Capital One, Hilton Hotels, Volkswagen, Lidl, Intelsat, Gannett, General Dynamics, Blackboard, Corporate Executive Board, Nestle, Gerber, Lego, and the rest of a truly-headspinning list of household-name companies to select Northern Virginia over Montgomery County in recent times.

During the same Q1 period in Maryland, Gov. Moore was only able to announce the relocation of Blink Charging Co. from Florida to Bowie. That's certainly a positive and welcome development, but it's not a major or Fortune 500 company. The number of existing corporate expansions in Maryland so far this year has also been dwarfed by the number in Virginia. 

Over the first three months of 2024, Gov. Youngkin issued press releases announcing 9 other new or expanding businesses adding jobs to the state. During the same period, Maryland only had 2, another resounding defeat in regional competition.

It was encouraging news that when Moore received the phone call about the Key Bridge collapse, he was on an unannounced business trip to Boston. This at least shows he may currently be working on something big behind the scenes.

Montgomery County was once the place where such big economic development news was made in the DC region. What I've argued for over a decade has been further vindicated by the collapse of the office market after the pandemic rise of working-from-home. 

We need to be attracting major corporate headquarters, and research and manufacturing facilities, from the aerospace, defense and tech sectors. These are the sectors that need large, secure campuses in suburban office parks, the kind we - thankfully, for now - still have plenty of. And room to build plenty more. The anonymous apologists for the County Council said I was a fool, and that companies wanted to be in traditional office buildings by Metro stations in urban areas. 

It turns out I was right. "Now more than ever," you might say.

Currently, the ever-increasing and regressive tax burden caused by our elected officials' profligate spending is falling almost entirely on residents. We are leaving all of the commercial, business tax revenue - and income revenue from high-wage jobs, on the table for our rivals in Virginia, for whom we've become a bedroom community. 

By adopting more-competitive business policies, adding missing infrastructure like a new Potomac River crossing to provide direct access to Dulles International Airport, and being aggressive in attracting the evergreen industries that provide high-income employment in good times and bad, we can ease the tax and fee burden on residents. 

Friday, April 5, 2024

Palestinian rotisserie chicken to be available at 2 Silver Spring restaurants later this month

The owner of All Set Restaurant & Bar, Money Muscle BBQ, and Fryer’s Roadside in Silver Spring is teaming up with Shababi Palestinian Rotisserie Chicken to make Shababi Chef Marcelle Afram's spatchcocked smoked chickens available at two of his restaurants later this month. Afram will use chef and restaurateur Ed Reavis' 1000-gallon smokers to duplicate the smoked chicken recipe popular in Palestine in the 1940s.

“When my grandfather was a tour bus operator in Palestine during the 1940s, Zarb, a smoked chicken dish, was a very popular offering at roadside stands,” Afram said in a statement. “This collaboration will be the first time I’ve been able to smoke Shababi chicken, thanks to Ed’s smokers. To be able to offer Shababi in one of the original styles of the Palestinian chicken which inspired the concept is very fulfilling.” 

Chefs Marcelle Afram & Ed Reavis

The Shababi pick-up and delivery menu will first be available April 17th through April 19th at Fryer’s Roadside, located at 12830 New Hampshire Avenue in White Oak. All Set at 8630 Fenton Street in downtown Silver Spring will be the pick-up location the following week, on April 24th and 25th. The April team-up will culminate in a Chef’s Dinner hosted at All Set on April 27th, featuring a family-style menu that will combine Palestinian spices and flavors with the restaurant’s seafood-focused menu.

The pick-up and delivery menu will offer the following selections: Whole Smoked Chicken ($175, serves four to six) or Half Smoked Chicken ($90, serves two to three) meals, both of which include five sides and a trio of sauces. Side items to choose from include the Smoked Pulled Lamb Leg (a Shababi favorite available for the first time as a side), Za’atar Potato Wedges, Aleppo Crisp Cukes served with chili crisp, and Taboon, a homemade flatbread topped with sumac caramelized onion and garlic spread. A la carte and other add-on options will include the “French Onion” Labneh ($11), last season’s homemade Pickles and Olives ($9), and the M’halabia ($9), a sweet milk custard topped with strawberry rhubarb jam and pistachio.

Tickets for the April 27 Chef's Dinner (menu TBD), available for $115, may be purchased through All Set’s Tock page. Pick-up and delivery orders can be made online, as well. The full pick-up and delivery menu can be seen above.

Photos by Farrah Skeiky