Friday, April 28, 2017

Montgomery County microlending could put taxpayer money in County Councilmembers' accounts

Last week, the Montgomery County Council got into the banking business. Despite there being a bank on almost every corner, and of every size, the Council thought it was time start their own bank - using your money, of course. $572,000 of your money in FY-2018 alone, to be exact. The result is the newest patronage scheme by our corrupt County Council, with real potential to put taxpayer dollars into the campaign accounts of councilmembers.

Here's how the scheme works. Small businesses based in Montgomery County can apply for microloans of $500-$15,000 from the Council's new "bank." The individuals who decide who gets the money are all either appointed directly by the Council, or are closely within their political orbit. So corrupt councilmembers could absolutely influence who gets the loans.

Once the businessperson obtains the loan, there is nothing to stop him or her from donating some of that money to the councilmembers' campaign accounts. This has happened in the past with another Council patronage scheme - the funding of non-profits. Councilmembers vote on which non-profits get money. They decide the exact dollar amounts given to the non-profits. Officers of those non-profits, who often earn salaries from their non-profit, have then made campaign contributions to the councilmembers who fought to obtain the funding for them. In some cases, they've made the maximum contribution allowed by law.

Both schemes may now become even more essential in the new age of public financing. We now know what I predicted in 2014 was correct - the specific public financing program passed by the Council was designed primarily to help Council incumbents, not challengers. Longtime councilmembers have vast numbers of patrons from which to extract the many, many small donations needed to unlock the taxpayer-funded public matching funds.

With the new bank "microloans," and the same non-profit scheme, an even larger portfolio of political patrons can now be developed. Meanwhile, challengers have no such Rolodex to draw upon. True public financing would give every candidate a reasonable amount of funds from which to get their message out. Montgomery County's does not. So many incumbents have signed up for the public financing option, there's a real possibility the funds will be depleted. What then? They'll simply make an appropriation of more of your taxpayer dollars.

Three ways to use your taxpayer dollars to fund their campaigns. It's outrageous. And it's amazing how the Council can find $572,000 in the sofa cushions for microloans, and millions in public funds for their campaigns, but not for a host of other more urgent needs. Things that make you go, "Hmmm..."

How do we get this ripe-for-corruption system under control? By passing a law to prevent those receiving these microloans, or who receive income from non-profits awarded funds by the Council, from donating money to political candidates who have influence over the awarding of those loans and funds. A reasonable approach to keeping the corrupt hand of the Montgomery County cartel from getting yet another chance to pick your pocket, to profit themselves. Demand all candidates support such a rule change in 2018.


Thursday, April 27, 2017

Rockville Farmers Market to return May 13

The Rockville Farmers Market will return for summer on Saturday, May 13, from 9:00 AM - 1:00 PM to the jury parking lot at E. Jefferson and Monroe Streets. Vendors this year will offer fruits and vegetables, plants and flowers, herbs, baked goods, local beer and wine, knife sharpening, meat and coffee.

Welcome the following new additions to the market, which will run on Saturdays through November 18:

Good Hope Farmstead of Woodsboro, McClintock Distilling Company of Frederick, Mock's Greenhouse of Berkeley in West Virginia, Oak Spring Farm of Freeland, Shenandoah Seasonal of Boyce in Virginia, and Twin Valley Distillers, who are based right here in Rockville.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Nails by Timothy appears to have closed in Rockville

Wintergreen Plaza nail salon Nails by Timothy appears to have closed. A sign is offering a number to call for a similarly-named business, Timothy's Salon and Spa.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Corner Bubble, Fusion Academy coming to Rockville Town Center

Rockville Town Square has found a tenant for the briefly-vacant Ev and Maddy's space at 101-C Gibbs Street. Corner Bubble appears to be a bubble tea shop.

Meanwhile, up the road at 275 N. Washington Street, The JBG Companies have found a different type of tenant - a school. Fusion Academy will be a private school offering one-to-one teacher-student learning for middle school and high school students.

With one teacher and one student per classroom, Fusion Academy is designed for children who are not being served well by traditional class sizes. These include gifted students, and those interested in pursuing acting or athletics.

Fusion will hire 15-20 teachers at first, and could have as many as 35 staff members once the school is at full capacity. They will also offer customized schedules tailored to each student's needs. Homework is done at the Homework Cafe at school.

Allison Mapes, who will be the Head of School, is originally from Virginia. “I’m eager to return to the area and to connect with students and parents in a way that fosters true educational, emotional and social growth,” Mapes said in a statement Monday. “Having taught in many private and public school settings, I’m impressed by Fusion’s ability to connect directly with each student, making them feel valued and treasured, which is what we strive to remind them of every day.”

Fusion has schools in Alexandria, Washington, D.C. and Tysons. Fully accredited, the first location was founded 27 years ago in San Diego. The school will share JBG's recently-constructed mixed-use building with Kung Fu Tea and Lavande Patisserie.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Rocklands Barbeque & Grilling Company closes in Rockville (Photos)

Rocklands Barbeque & Grilling Company has closed at Wintergreen Plaza in Rockville. The owner says they lost their lease. Barbecue fans won't have to go far in search of food, however. Mission BBQ recently opened in the same shopping center. The closest Rocklands location to Rockville is probably the one at 2418 Wisconsin Avenue, N.W., in the District.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Another office project to go residential in Rockville (Photos)

Project site at the northeast corner
of W. Montgomery Avenue and
West Gude Drive
More potential high-wage jobs are about to disappear in Rockville. A site at the corner of W. Montgomery Avenue and West Gude Drive once planned to hold office space and research facilities will trade conference rooms for bedrooms, should a revised mixed-use project receive approval. Applicant J2 Holdings, LLC is asking to replace the already-approved 3 office/R&D buildings with 2 buildings, holding 459 residential units and 10,053 SF of retail space.

J2 Holdings is also requesting a 75' building height, 10' more than is allowed under the current zoning. 620 parking spaces are planned. The property and currently-approved office use were part of the Fallsgrove Concept Plan.
The site is currently a
wooded area along Route 28
Montgomery County's moribund private-sector economy, and hostile-to-business reputation, have led to a high number of office vacancies. With residential development more profitable than office, many developers have seized on the opportunity to shoehorn more residential into office zones. Critics note that the resulting loss of jobs increases driving and auto emissions, as residents of bedroom community Montgomery County are forced to commute to job centers elsewhere in the region.

After a Development Review Committee meeting on May 11, the project will go to the Planning Commission for review.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Proposed senior housing project at old Rockville IBM site morphs into mixed-use project

Last year, a 175-unit senior housing apartment building was proposed for 50 Monroe Place, the former IBM site in Rockville Town Center. Now a new, mixed-use project is being proposed for the same address.

The new project will consist of an unspecified number of "mixed-income" rental apartments, including some for those with special needs, and retail and office space. Structured parking and landscaping will also be part of the project.

A public meeting to introduce the project will be held on Tuesday, April 25, at 7:00 PM, at the Rockville Memorial Library, in the 1st Floor meeting room.