Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Public meeting tonight on new Rockville assisted living development

A public meeting will be held tonight, Wednesday, January 17, 2018 at 6:30 PM at the King Farm Community Center, located at 300 Saddle Ridge Circle. It will be an informational meeting regarding a proposed 155-unit assisted living facility at the northwest corner of West Gude Drive and Frederick Road (MD 355).

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Rockville officials consider allowing voting by mail

Rockville's Mayor and Council are considering a recommendation by the city's Board of Supervisors of Elections to allow residents to vote in city elections by mail. A public hearing on the proposal will be held on Monday, February 5, 2018 at 7:00 PM. Anyone wishing to testify at the hearing should call 240-314-8280 before 4:00 PM on February 5.

Only 15.87% of voters participated in the last city election in 2015, and that number has steadily declined over several consecutive elections. Some believe that mailing ballots to voters will increase participation.

Voters would sign an affidavit on the outside of the mailing envelope, which would have a trackable bar code on it, and then mail it back. Ballots could also be dropped off in-person. Switching to voting-by-mail could eliminate the costs of personnel and voting machines during elections.

Considering how many pieces of mail get lost, I would hesitate to vote by mail myself, out of concern that my vote would wind up in somebody else's house, or in the gutter (both have actually happened to me). I would probably return it in-person to make sure my vote counted.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Chelsea Manning to take on Ben Cardin in Maryland U.S. Senate Democratic primary

North Bethesda resident
would be first
transgender member of

What should have been a sleepy stagger over the finish line for Senator Ben Cardin (D - Maryland) has turned into a battle royale with national implications overnight. The Maryland Democratic political machine and Republicans alike melted down upon hearing Red Maryland report that Chelsea Manning has entered the race. Manning, a North Bethesda resident, is best known for her role in providing damaging information about U.S. actions and operations during the Iraq War to Wikileaks in 2010. She was serving as an Army intelligence analyst deployed to Iraq at the time.
Incumbent U.S. Senator
Ben Cardin (D-Maryland)
Cardin has essentially ignored Manning's announcement so far. He will have plenty of money, and remains very popular among Democrats, despite having no notable legislative achievements. Manning is making a clear appeal to progressives, in a state where the Democratic party's progressive wing is growing restless with the throwback leadership of their establishment. At the same time, many in both parties consider her a traitor whose actions disqualify her from office.

Manning can capitalize on national attention and money. The victory of Danica Roem in Virginia last November showed just how much national money was out there for a minor state legislative race. Manning would be the first transgender U.S. Senator, if elected. That's a strong selling point, when 2018 is expected to be another Year of the Woman in politics.

A campaign video and fundraising page have been posted by Manning's campaign in the last 24 hours.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Historic District Commission to decide if barn in Rockville's West End Park can be demolished

A barn believed to date from at least the early 20th century is holding up approval of demolition of all structures at 537 Anderson Avenue in Rockville. Examining the request in November, the Historic District Commission determined the home and an additional rental home on the site have no historic significance. However, the barn was a sticking point for commissioners, as little information is available on its history, and it is a unique structure in the city of Rockville these days.

City staff has consulted with Peerless Rockville and others with historical expertise, but has so far been unable to obtain much more information about the history and significance of the barn. They hope to have found more information by the time commissioners take the matter up again at their January 18, 2018 meeting, which will be held at 7:30 PM at City Hall (and will be televised on Channel 11 for cable tv viewers).

Photo via City of Rockville

Thursday, January 11, 2018

European Wax Center coming to Rockville (Photos)

European Wax Center, a major hair removal salon chain founded in 1975, will open a new location in Rockville early this year. It will be located in Congressional Plaza on Rockville Pike. The company already has a Bethesda location. At Congressional, European Wax Center will be next to Smoothie King, and is scheduled to open by spring.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Discovery move is all about why Knoxville beats MoCo in business climate

Discovery Communications is moving from Silver Spring to New York City because it is a content company? Not quite. Unless you believe they film their Shark Week programs in giant water tanks on the seventh floor of their Silver Spring headquarters - as many embarrassed Montgomery County elected officials apparently do. Put aside the spin in Discovery's press release, and carefully study their public statements to media yesterday, and you'll find the real story here is A) why Knoxville has a better business climate than Montgomery County, and B) the big Discovery "move" may actually be a big layoff of extraneous workers, as the company merges with Scripps.

The County's spin, of course, is that there "was nothing Montgomery County could do to retain Discovery." Discovery is a content company! They need to be near other content and advertising companies in New York! Aren't taxes terrible in New York City? Isn't the cost of living even higher in New York City?

Ah - but there's the key point. Discovery's move isn't about New York in the end. Analyze Discovery's public statements, and you find there's no certainty as to how many jobs are going to New York City. Some key high-level positions had already been moved to Discovery's current New York base of operations. Some positions at Scripps in Knoxville will also be moved to New York in 2019.

Scripps already has over 1000 employees in Knoxville doing a lot of the business and administrative jobs that many Discovery employees are doing now in Silver Spring. Again, read Discovery's statements carefully - they don't mention x-number of jobs moving from Silver Spring to Knoxville (or to New York). It could be that Montgomery County not only suffers the shame of losing one of its few Fortune 500 companies, but almost certainly also winds up with hundreds of unemployed Discovery workers as a result. Knoxville will gain all of the jobs Discovery needs from Silver Spring, but not likely all 1300.

Knoxville has everything Montgomery County's elected officials keep telling us we don't need - lower taxes, suburban living, and highway infrastructure. Discovery's press release noted "infrastructure" as a key reason they chose Knoxville. It's very easy to see why:
Discovery's new HQ in
Knoxville is right at an
interchange with I-40
The new Discovery campus in Knoxville is right on Interstate 40, a major cross-country route from California to North Carolina. In fact, they've got an on-ramp right next to them.
Discovery's new Knoxville HQ
is only 18 minutes by car from
the airport
Discovery's future Knoxville campus is also only 18 minutes by car from McGhee-Tyson Airport. Try getting to an airport in 18 minutes from Montgomery County (Hint: You can't).

Tennessee has no income tax. Property taxes are about half of what they are in Montgomery County, even on a million-dollar home. The Volunteer State's sales tax rate is 7%. There is no estate tax, and after a recent change in Tennessee's tax law, the "Hall Tax" on interest and dividend income is being phased out by 2021. The latter change is simply the capstone on why Tennessee's tax structure is so business (and worker) friendly. Robin Ficker was absolutely correct yesterday when he cited taxes as a factor in the Discovery move.

When you consider that neither Discovery, nor New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, cited any specific number of jobs moving to New York yesterday, the picture becomes more clear. Some key positions may well move to New York, and Cuomo and Mayor Bill Blasio can celebrate winning the "global headquarters."

But Discovery is the real winner here. By moving the real nuts-and-bolts of their company to Knoxville, they and their employees (however many actually get moved) will both save bigly on their annual tax bills. Significant layoffs that would have been bad publicity for the company in Silver Spring now get hidden and deodorized by a "big move" and merger.

Montgomery County, as usual, is the real loser. Not only has no major corporation relocated its headquarters here in twenty years, but now we've lost one of the few Fortune 500 companies we had.  We've lost the taxes Discovery and many of their employees paid.

This is a major financial blow to Silver Spring, as well. Residential buildings continue to replace workplaces in downtown Silver Spring at a rapid pace. There are now fewer workers eating lunch at restaurants as a result. Residents of new apartment buildings in Silver Spring are dining out for lunch in downtown Washington, Tysons, and other growing job centers in Northern Virginia. Turning the Discovery HQ into an apartment building won't help matters.
Discovery's new low-rise,
suburban office park campus
in Knoxville (Google Maps)
If you look at the new Discovery national headquarters campus in Knoxville, it's just that - a suburban office park campus. Nearby are roads and commercial strips that look like Rockville or Gaithersburg. Much like Apple, Google and other successful corporations, Discovery has traded urban for suburban.
It looks more like Rock Spring
than downtown Bethesda -
adjacent water bodies included
Just beyond either side of the suburban commercial area where Discovery will be are single-family home neighborhoods along tree-lined streets. Sure, certain companies are willing to take a financial hit to be "downtown" on a transit station. Discovery obviously isn't one of them, and neither is Apple or Google. Montgomery County's office parks aren't the problem - it's our anti-business County Council, taxes and gridlocked transportation system that are the problems.
Single-family homes on
tree-lined streets near the
new Discovery HQ in
Knoxville (Google Maps)

Montgomery County can lower its taxes. After throwing record amounts of money at Montgomery County Public Schools in recent years, and the results only getting worse by the year, we know spending money is not the solution to the decline in our public schools. Wasteful spending was epitomized last year by the Council spending over $20000 on a security camera system I was able to find for less than $1000 online - including installation. Imagine how many other un-itemized expenditures like this one there are in the operating and capital budgets, and the potential for cuts becomes crystal clear.

Attempts to blame Gov. Larry Hogan for the Discovery debacle only open the door to blaming our County Council for the loss. "The first County Council to lose a Fortune 500" certainly has a nice ring to it. When apologists say, "We were going to lose Discovery no matter what the incentive package was," they are actually correct. Without a business-friendly tax system, without a new Potomac River crossing to provide an 18-minute trip to the airport, without a functioning and complete master plan highway system, and without elected officials who understand international business in the 21st century, Montgomery County is always going to be the loser.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

AT&T Mobility to open at Montrose Crossing

AT&T Mobility will open in the
storefront at far right at
Montrose Crossing
AT&T Mobility is the latest tenant to sign on at the new addition to Montrose Crossing. The store will join CAVA Grill, Pieology, Five Guys, Honeygrow, and Allure in the building that replaced Timpano Italian Chophouse. Montrose Crossing is at the interchange of Montrose Parkway and Rockville Pike.