Tuesday, December 31, 2013


The biggest night out of the year doesn't require a trip downtown on Metro. There are some great spots to celebrate right here in Rockville:

Bar Louie

Bar Louie is the best for younger folks. For $45, enjoy cocktails from 9 PM to midnight, a Champagne toast, a DJ from 10 PM to 1:30 AM, party favors, and a breakfast buffet from midnight to 2 AM.

La Tasca

La Tasca's New Year's Eve gala includes unlimited tapas from their special New Year's Eve menu, a bottle of wine for every 2 guests, party favors, midnight Champagne toast, music, and their Fin de Año celebration. To see the menu and make reservations, visit their special website.

Paladar Latin Kitchen and Rum Bar

Salsa dancers, dinner, a DJ and dancing are on the menu at the new Paladar in White Flint. Book your table here.

Monday, December 30, 2013


The former location of Chicken Out at 1560 Rockville Pike is getting a new tenant. Zhang restaurant and bar will serve Chinese and Thai cuisine, as well as sushi. This is the latest addition to Rockville's varied and sizable Asian restaurant list. Mr. Bánh Mì just opened last Thursday up the Pike in the Ritchie Center.

Saturday, December 28, 2013


Can't get enough of Vietnamese bánh mì sandwiches? You're in luck: Mr. Banh Mi is now open in the Ritchie Center on Rockville Pike, near Wooton Parkway and behind the IHOP. A great new addition to the Rockville dining scene!

Here is the menu (click photos to enlarge):
Bánh Mì

Dessert drinks

Specialty drinks


Fresh fruit or veggie juicers

Friday, December 27, 2013


A real turkey dinner like Thanksgiving or Christmas from Lean Cuisine? Can it be done? It's time to test out Lean Cuisine's Roasted Turkey Breast frozen dinner, featuring turkey and all the trimmings.

Thursday, December 26, 2013


Chips Ahoy, America's best-selling chocolate chip cookie, has a very inclusive Holiday cookie. The packaging gives a shout-out to Chanukah and Kwanzaa, as well as to Christmas.

Of course, the most important cookie issue is, how does it taste? Watch my video review to find out!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013


Demolition of the historic Rockville building known as "The Pink Bank" has begun. The building was cleared for condemnation by the previous Mayor and Council on October 14. In its place will be a mixed-use development by Kettler. Most historic preservationists are dismayed by the demolition, and a sitting member of the city's Historic District Commission, Jessica Reynolds, took city leaders to task in a recent letter.

The New Formalist structure was built at 255 North Washington Street in 1965, when it was known as the Suburban Trust Building. This demolition is an unflattering reflection of our disposable society, and echoes the mass demolition of the city's original, historic town center decades ago.

Monday, December 23, 2013


Taco Bell has an early Christmas present: the Grilled Stuft Nacho. The Grilled Stuft Nacho has seasoned beef, nacho cheese sauce, cheesy jalapeño sauce, red strips (a.k.a. Fritos), and reduced fat sour cream. How does it taste? Watch my video review to find out!

Friday, December 20, 2013


The Montgomery County Planning Board voted unanimously Thursday afternoon to abandon the Aspen Hill Road Extended right-of-way between Veirs Mill Road and Twinbrook Parkway. "I don't see any reason not to abandon it," board chair Francoise Carrier said. This vote clears the way for redevelopment of the Halpine View garden apartments, which currently comprise one of the few existing affordable housing complexes in Montgomery County. Such redevelopment will surely allow luxury apartment buildings to loom over the adjoining Twinbrook neighborhood within the City of Rockville.

I do not know who might have submitted written testimony on the matter besides me. But the questions raised in my testimony were never addressed by the board. In fact, my written testimony was entirely ignored. The only significant issue of any sort, which was not in my testimony, was raised by Commissioner Casey Anderson. Anderson expressed concern that some notation be made in the record to preserve the county's right to provide trail access from Twinbrook Parkway for pedestrians and cyclists.

It is simply beyond belief that a body responsible for planning and transportation can simply decide not to consider the future uses of such a right-of-way. And why the county continues to aid and abet the demolition of what existing affordable housing we have, is a serious question that needs to be answered.

During the discussion, it was revealed that conditions 3, 4, and 5 were revised - 4 substantively - since the staff report was made public. Not even the applicant had the language. Is this what passes for open data and citizen involvement in planning in Montgomery County?

Prior to the hasty vote, Carrier said, "I'm helping the developer here." No one can dispute that.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013


I came across a curious invitation for speakers who would like to expound on a "makeover" of suburban Montgomery County. What makes it interesting, is that it is not an open forum to discuss the future direction of the county. Rather, it only invites speakers who subscribe to a particular view, with a preset list of acceptable topics. The language of the announcement is exclusive, rather than inclusive. And it starts what is ostensibly an academic exploration with rigid, ideological conclusions prepositioned firmly in place.

First and foremost among these "consensus" views, is that the suburbs were a 20th Century Mistake. In fact, the suburbs were part of a revolution that created the greatest period of economic mobility and convenience in American history.

But consider the prejudicial language employed by the announcement.

The event itself is called, "Makeover Montgomery." In reality, does a wealthy county, which nearly a million residents have proclaimed a great place to live, need a planning "makeover?"

"Transformation." This noun is defined by Google's dictionary as "a thorough or dramatic change in form or appearance." We're not talking about spiffing up the place, then. What's advocated is an upheaval of the current dynamic. Montgomery County currently has two successful edge cities, Bethesda and Silver Spring. They always were downtowns, and have evolved into more densely-developed downtowns. This progress will and should continue. And the bedroom communities around them and north of them have desirable, single-family home neighborhoods, with commercial corridors and shopping centers that provide needed services. In regards to planning, other than the need to address our failure to complete our master plan highway system, and our affordable housing crisis, where is the demand or need to force a "thorough or dramatic change" in Montgomery County's "form or appearance?" From the legion of residents who testified against the radical county zoning rewrite, it's clearly not coming from a majority of the citizenry.

The announcement seeks ideas that will "continue to transform suburbs into exciting, attractive and sustainable communities." Again, this is biased language, suggesting that suburbs are currently not attractive. The population count and diversity of Montgomery County suggest otherwise.

"Taming suburban street design." It's a jungle out there, apparently.

Now, a lot of what's up for discussion at this event is actually worthy of discussion. Improving bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, the relationship of land use and transportation, and affordable housing are important issues.

But referring to "commuting culture" and suburbs in a negative light is counterproductive. Criticizing people who can't afford to live in Bethesda - but want a nice neighborhood and a backyard for kids to play in - for buying homes further out, and driving in to work because it is convenient, is not academic. It's elitist. And the encroachment of urbanization into suburban neighborhoods - now codified in the pending zoning changes - suggests where that "dramatic change in form" is going. That's one extreme makeover Montgomery County doesn't need.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013


The Montgomery County Planning Board will take up a landowner's request to have the county abandon its right-of-way through the Halpine View apartment complex, originally planned as an extension of Aspen Hill Road from Veirs Mill Road to Twinbrook Parkway, this Thursday afternoon.

A perfunctory planning staff report is recommending the board vote to abandon the right-of-way, citing the North Bethesda-Garrett Park master plan recommendation to do so.

The ramifications of the abandonment are far more complicated than the staff report would suggest, however.

First, and foremost, the main driver of the abandonment is neither sound transportation policy, nor concern for the environment (an Aspen Hill Road extension would cross Rock Creek). Rather, it is to promote and facilitate urban redevelopment of the Halpine View garden apartment complex. Halpine View is one of a dwindling number of affordable and spacious housing developments in the county. Its design, much like Privacy World in Glenmont, emphasizes a suburban scale setting, and well-maintained trees and green space. Certainly, the buildings are aging. But to preserve existing affordable units, renovation would be far better than turning the site into another "town center" for rich people. Current rents at Halpine View range from $1000-$1600 a month, and only about two blocks from the Twinbrook Metro station. This makes the complex a valuable one for working families in Montgomery County.

But much like Privacy World and other models for suburban, multi-family housing development, Halpine View is now sought after by developers for dense, urban-style development. Such "town center" density is entirely inappropriate at this location, literally across the street from single family homes in Twinbrook and Aspen Hill. Furthermore, the lure of redevelopment - dangled by developer-beholden council members for decades in front of landowners in Wheaton, Glenmont, Aspen Hill, Rockville, Bethesda, Long Branch, etc., has discouraged routine renovations and maintenance at some properties. After all, why spend money to upgrade your building(s) if you think you're going to be tearing them down in a few years? Remember that when supporters of redevelopment try to convince you that this or that shopping center or apartment complex is "shabby," or obsolete for "the modern amenities young professionals demand today." Any such amenities can be added to any building.

Rather than giving massive tax giveaways to developers, the county would be better off using those funds to assist property owners - as necessary - to finance such renovations and improvements. That would be a far better use of $72 million than just giving it away to White Flint developers, as the county council did a few years ago.

Beyond the crisis of affordable housing we continue to experience in Montgomery County, Aspen Hill Road extended is a potentially vital transportation facility. Current county leaders have no intention of completing the Rockville Freeway/Rockville Facility (a.k.a. Montrose Parkway, in part) all the way from Falls Road to the Intercounty Connector. Therefore, lateral traffic movement remains severely constrained in the county.

Should the Rockville Facility never be extended to Connecticut Avenue, Randolph Road and other local roads remain the only routes between White Flint and Aspen Hill. In that case, Aspen Hill Road Extended would be an important transportation facility.

There is also great potential for inappropriate use of "rapid transit" to upzone retail centers in Aspen Hill to high-density urbanization. Again, Aspen Hill Road Extended would certainly be a necessity under those circumstances.

Finally, a potentially high-traffic redevelopment is going to occur at the intersection of Aspen Hill Road and Connecticut Avenue - as a Walmart, or otherwise. Yet again, Aspen Hill Road would be a major route for patrons of that site.

In conclusion, there is no immediate need to abandon Aspen Hill Road Extended, other than private profit by a developer. The Planning Board should table this request indefinitely.

Retaining the Aspen Hill Road Extended right-of-way is in the best interests of the public, public safety, transportation needs, and vital to maintaining existing affordable housing units.

Monday, December 16, 2013


It's that time of year when you are searching for gifts for hard-to-buy-for family members, friends, etc. Hooters of Rockville wants you to know how easy it is to buy Hooters gift cards. You can even get them online, and send them directly via email to save shipping. Now, for every $25 you spend, you can earn $5 for yourself.

Friday, December 13, 2013


Anyone who walks home from the Twinbrook Metro station should be extra aware of his or her surroundings. Three women have been robbed of their purses in the Twinbrook neighborhood recently, after walking home from the Twinbrook Metro station around 8-10 PM.

All three women were walking alone; one received a head injury, and was dragged along the sidewalk until the suspect was able to get her purse. She was hospitalized for treatment. The locations of the attacks were Lemay Road and Ridgeway Avenue (December 5), Stanley Avenue and Matthews Drive (December 7), and Lemay Road and Holland Road (December 8).

The best description available of the suspect(s) currently is a 6 foot tall man wearing a dark-blue hoodie, black pants, light brown boots, and gray baseball cap with a red stripe. In each case, the suspect has assaulted the victim by striking or shoving her to the ground.

If it is necessary to walk home from the Metro station, take extra precautions and have your cellphone ready to dial 911 if necessary. Anyone who has a tip for Rockville Police in these cases, can call investigators at 240-214-8938. 

Thursday, December 12, 2013


Rockville Planning Commission Chair Don Hadley was reelected last night to continue in that position for a full term in 2014. Hadley was nominated by Commissioner John Tyner, and his nomination was seconded by Commissioner Jack Leiderman. The nomination was approved by the commission 4-0, with Hadley himself abstaining.

This will be Hadley's first full term as chair of the city's planning body. He was nominated as chair this year, after former Mayor Phyllis Marcuccio declined to reappoint former chair Jerry Callistein to the commission when his term expired. Hadley has been critical of pressures from development interests to urbanize the city as a commissioner, and as a 2013 candidate for the city council.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013


The Metropolitan Washington Council of the AFL-CIO is warning that action by the Maryland state legislature could negate the recently-passed Montgomery County Council bill to increase the minimum wage to $11.50. A statement in the "Union City" newsletter cites Prince George's County NAACP President Bob Ross, who said legislators are mulling a lower wage increase. A provision in that potential bill would revoke the minimum wage hikes passed in Montgomery and Prince George's counties, replacing them with a $10.10 rate.

Photo: Chris Garlock

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


The second annual Christmas Countdown is officially underway on the Robert Dyer Channel. We're starting off with an eggnog product to get everyone into the Christmas spirit: Egg Nog Nips.

Not only will you find out if Egg Nog Nips are worth buying (at CVS),but you'll also find out what ensues when our know-it-all expert, Tarnation Bob, travels to the North Pole to give us an update on Santa's workshop.

Unlike the sparse Christmas programming on TV and cable, the Christmas Countdown will broadcast to your computer and smartphone daily through January 6. Push the subscribe button while you're there, and you won't miss a single episode.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Friday, December 6, 2013


In the best traditions of political cartooning, William Charles is putting pen - and Rockville politics - to paper. And via Rockville Nights, to the internet:

(Click cartoon to enlarge for more detail)


Stouffer's Meatloaf is a true American classic. A descendant of the restaurant recipes of Mother Stouffer herself, this frozen meatloaf came to be after Stouffer's patrons demanded frozen versions of dishes served at the Shaker Square Stouffer's, outside of Cleveland, Ohio. Now let's test a 2013 serving of Stouffer's Meatloaf and mashed potatoes. A couple Stouffer's Meatloaf dinners in the freezer could come in handy during a blizzard.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013


Is there anyone with nostalgia for the Rockville Mall? I have some for two reasons: A) To the best of my recollection, I never entered the mall, and my parents never took me there, either. Which pretty much sums up why it was a failure, I guess.  And, B) Where are all the photos and videos of the mall? The attempt to sweep the memory of the Rockville Mall under the rug is understandable, but there are as many photos of the mall on the internet as there are of the Ancient Aliens. Less, actually.

I've heard there was a Friendly's restaurant and video arcade in there. Which probably suggests they didn't market the mall very well, as those would have been draws for me!

I was too young to know the blow-by-blow management decisions made by the mall operator(s) over its short history. Could it have been turned around? Was it as hopeless as we hear it was today? The most fundamental flaw in the mall's design (in my opinion) was its distance from the interstate, relative to well-situated I-270 cousins Montgomery Mall, Washingtonian Center, Lakeforest Mall, and Milestone Shopping Center. It also lacked the surface parking all of its competitors had (although that never stopped Mazza Gallerie).

But the demolished mall isn't going quietly into the good night. Instead, it's reaching back from beyond the grave to take a small measure of revenge on the developer greed that fueled its destruction (the same greed that fueled its construction, and the demolition of Rockville's historic town center). At the last meeting of the Rockville Planning Commission, representatives of the Duball I and II projects on the former mall site said their construction was slowed after excavators ran into the caissons of the Rockville Mall deep underground. (These are watertight support structures that are typically anchored in solid bedrock). They said they anticipate they will encounter similar structures when they dig for the second tower.

In an ironic moment, commissioner Charles Littlefield lamented the lack of men's apparel options in the city, options an indoor mall typically provides.

Yet, the most puzzling point of the meeting for me was after commissioner Jack Leiderman asked Duball's attorney the $64000 question: How many more residents will be added to the Duball site if the developer gets the reduction in unit size it's asking for?

The Duball attorney could not answer that question. It just seems inconceivable that a developer would not know the answer to that question at this late stage. In fact, the answer is part of the financial calculation that spurred the request in the first place. This is a change that will require full disclosure, and consideration of the impacts on roads, schools and nearby neighborhoods.

[By the way, if anybody out there has photos of the Rockville Mall, email them and I will post them here on Rockville Nights.]

Tuesday, December 3, 2013


The Washington Post PR campaign on behalf of the Montgomery County Bus Rapid Transit boondoggle continued in Sunday's Metro section.

To his credit, columnist Robert McCartney was critical of many aspects of the proposed 98-mile BRT system. He sums up his current position on the initiative as "abundant skepticism."

Still, there were some inaccurate statements presented, and the repetition of these falsehoods is obviously designed to make an impression on readers. So let's provide the facts once again.

McCartney quoted some of his own laudatory, pro-BRT language from 18 months ago, when he cheered the Emperor's New Bus as an "original, bold, visionary plan to solve gridlock in Montgomery County."

Okay. Even the 160-mile version of BRT that he was referring to was never going to solve gridlock. In fact, it was going to make it worse. Roads like Rockville Pike are already operating over capacity. The county itself is telling us roads will be an additional 70% over capacity in the future. But taking away car lanes for BRT would reduce the capacity of Rockville Pike by 33%, making gridlock 103% worse than it is today. So much for "solving gridlock."

McCartney continued by repeating the familiar falsehood we've heard so often in the last few weeks:

"BRT...has one big argument in its favor: It's the only way in the foreseeable future to add ways for people to get around much of Montgomery."

Survey says...! BRRRRRRNNNNTTTT!!!

Readers of this blog already have a greater foreseeableness than Mr. McCartney, because you know that we can also choose to build the Rockville Freeway, a new Potomac River crossing, M-83 Midcounty Highway Extended, and Northern Parkway. Those long-planned but never-built roads would reduce congestion on Rockville Pike, Georgia Avenue, Connecticut Avenue, Randolph Road, I-270, I-495, and Route 29, just to name a few. And every single one of those projects would cost less than BRT individually. The Rockville Freeway, for example, would carry more commuters per day than the entire BRT system - for far less money!

When you read Ike Leggett say "I don't think commuters are going to have much of an option other than to consider some form of BRT to obtain traffic relief," you now know that is simply not true.

In fact, when I brought up the Rockville Freeway at a town hall meeting, the county executive agreed that it was a needed road, and would provide "connectivity" required by existing and planned development in Montgomery and Howard counties. His concern was that there would be no money to pay for it. Fortunately, the funding options for the highways I mentioned are vastly greater than those for BRT, a bus system that can ultimately be funded only by you, the taxpayer. That's because an inefficient system of riderless buses qualifies for zero federal funds. The federal government has a stringent emphasis on how many people your project is going to move. Bang for the buck, you might say. And these unbuilt freeways each beat BRT's people-moving capability hands-down.

Now that's a "bold plan."

Monday, December 2, 2013


Wicked Waffle opened on Black Friday at Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda. The restaurant serves waffle sandwiches ranging from breakfast eggs to peanut butter and jelly. Wicked Waffle is located in the food court.

Friday, November 29, 2013


Are you hitting all the stores at Westfield Montgomery Mall today, the biggest shopping day of the year? You could find your phone powering down, whether it's an outdated battery, or simply from using your browser to look up the deals online. Now what?

Head to the CouCou kiosk on the Upper Level near Macy's.

Let them hook you up to their portable chargers, and they'll juice you back up. While waiting, you might want to check out their selection of portable power banks.

Thursday, November 28, 2013


Happy Thanksgiving to all readers of Rockville Nights! I am thankful for all of you who read this blog, and hope to continue improving the quality of the site each day.

Here are a couple of Thanksgiving links I hope are useful:

Rockville restaurants open Thanksgiving Day (Updated)

Black Friday deals at Westfield Montgomery Mall

Wednesday, November 27, 2013


Now that we know what time the stores open at Westfield Montgomery Mall on Thanksgiving and Black Friday, the question is, what are the deals?!

Here is the complete list of Black Friday deals at the mall as of this morning, and here are highlights of some of the best to help you plan:


• RCA 32” Class 720p 60Hz LED TV for only $179.99 (Save $60)
• Craftsman 220pc Mechanics Tool Set with Case $99.99 (regular $129.99)
• All DieHard work boots only $44.99 (regular $65-$105)
• Women’s sweaters from $9.99
• Juniors Bongo sweaters and skinny jeans from $12.99
• 50% off bras and panties
• Sleepwear sets from $9.99
• 50% off cosmetic kits
• 60% off jewelry boxes and more!


50% off 1st full priced item, 40% off remainder of purchase


$9.99 –your choice: coffee maker, griddle, waffle maker, rocket blender, toaster, slow cooker, deep fyer, Panini maker, pressure cooker, or blender; sharper image action camera $49.99; Tag Fairfield III 5-piece luggage set $49.99; 30% off Impulse apparel from Kensie, Lucky Brand, Miss Me, Rachel Rachel Roy, Bar III & more


30%-50% off select full price and sale items through closing


40% off Entire Store until closing


Open from 8pm, November 28; Entire store 50% off until 12noon 40% off after 12noon


50% off toys; 36 pack of AAA or AA batteries; **Samsung Galaxy S4 $49.00** (all carriers)


50% OFF EVERYTHING Including markdowns! Not combinable with any other offers or promotions. DOORBUSTERS 6AM Until 10AM Black Friday! Catch them while you can! While quantities last. Not combinable with other offers


50% off entire store 8pm-6am Thanksgiving/Black Friday; 40% off from 6am-10pm Black Friday


50% off the entire store. $10 Fleece doorbusters. Free holiday bear with a purchase of $75 or more


50% off entire store!


Buy 1 Get 1 50% off (of equal or lesser value) through the entire store Midnight-10pm 11/29

Tuesday, November 26, 2013


The City of Rockville is formally expressing interest in acquiring a 5-acre property at 175 Watts Branch Parkway, which is currently owned by Montgomery County.

In response to concerns expressed by nearby residents of Rockshire and Fallsmead, the Mayor and Council voted on November 18 to declare its interest in the county disposition process.

According to Assistant City Manager Jenny Kimball, the county recently had the property appraised at $760,500. Other entities will likely seek to purchase the potentially-valuable property.

The two affected neighborhoods would like the site to be annexed into adjacent parkland. But councilmember Tom Moore expressed concern about that use. "We don't need a park there," Moore said last Monday. He argued that the neighborhood has sufficient parkland already, and that there is great need for affordable housing for the elderly and disabled.

Councilmember Beryl Feinberg disagreed. In her on-site inspection, she said, she saw residents making recreational use of the site. Feinberg also cited traffic concerns on the relatively narrow roadway.

What residents may correctly fear is either a dense, infill redevelopment of the site, or a public facility that could affect quality of life in the neighborhood. While there is Ride On bus service to Town Center in Rockshire, the site in question is not suitable for transit-oriented development.

Mayor Bridget Newton proposed an addendum to the declaration of interest that she said would give the city flexibility, should the county not prefer the site be used as parkland. Newton also suggested the possibility of a land swap to address needs elsewhere in the city.

The motion to proceed, including the addendum, passed unanimously.

Monday, November 25, 2013


Here is a short list of restaurants in or near Rockville that will be serving dinner on Thanksgiving Day this year:

CHEF GEOFF'S (Rockville Pike)

HOOTERS (Open 4 PM to 10 PM Thanksgiving, 1584 Rockville Pike)

IHOP (Rockville Pike)

MERITAGE (White Flint at Marriott conference center hotel)

SEASONS 52 (White Flint)


BUCA Di BEPPO (Gaithersburg/Kentlands)

Friday, November 22, 2013


In the best traditions of political cartooning, William Charles is putting pen - and Rockville politics - to paper. And via Rockville Nights, to the internet:

(Click cartoon to enlarge for more detail)


A site plan amendment for the Pike & Rose development, on the former Mid-Pike Plaza property along Rockville Pike in White Flint, will be taken up by the Montgomery County Planning Board on December 5.

The amendment would allow changes to be made to, and around, an existing retail building currently leased by Bank of America and Starbucks. That building is located at the southeast corner of the Pike and Rose development, where Old Georgetown Road meets Rockville Pike, and is referred to as "Building 13."

Changes described in the amendment include new building facades, a 1000 square foot expansion of retail space, a new pedestrian connection to Rockville Pike, and screening of existing trash receptacles and an electric transformer.

On the Pike side of the structure, the amendment would allow for outdoor cafe seating with overhead catenary lights, landscaping and a fountain.

Planning department staff have recommended approval of the site plan amendment.

Map via Montgomery County Planning Department:

Thursday, November 21, 2013


Black Friday will begin on Thanksgiving at Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda. Many stores will open "after dinner" on Thursday, November 28.

Old Navy will actually open Thursday morning, but then close at 4:00 PM. Then it will re-open at 7:00 PM.

Other stores will follow throughout Thanksgiving night:

American Eagle
Forever 21
Dippin Dots
Tea Neck
Abercrombie & Fitch
Hollister Co.
Arden B
Pac Sun
Piercing Pagoda
Walking Company



Caribou Coffee

Jamba Juice

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


An electric car charging station is coming soon at the Woodley Gardens shopping center in Rockville. In addition to serving any nearby residents with electric cars (I saw a Chevrolet Volt parked in the area), it could also be a charging point for drivers between Bethesda and Frederick, as the shopping center is off of exit 6A on I-270.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013


Jim Marrinan, a former Rockville city councilmember, expressed concerns about recent and future city elections at last night's Mayor and Council meeting. Speaking during Citizens Forum, Marrinan submitted a written outline of issues he believed the city's election board should review.

Marrinan said the under-17% turnout in the 2013 city elections was unacceptable. He suggested early voting be adopted. The election night delay in the counting of votes was also troubling, and should never happen again, he said.

He also criticized the involvement of partisan elected officials in this month's non-partisan city election. Marrinan did not name any specific individuals, but has been critical of partisan politics entering municipal elections in the past. When former councilmember Bob Dorsey challenged Montgomery County Councilmember Phil Andrews in a Democratic primary for the District 3 county council seat - while still holding a city council seat- Marrinan warned of fallout at the city level. A city official could become less effective, with constituents saying, "I didn't like what that councilman said when he ran in that partisan race," Marrinan argued at the time.

He also suggested that the use of Ritchie Park Elementary School as a polling place while school is in session is a danger to students there, presumably referring to cars coming and going during arrival and dismissal times.

Marrinan endorsed the Team Rockville slate in the 2013 city elections.

Monday, November 18, 2013


The Halloween Adventure pop-up store is now reverting back to Smart Toys at Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda.

Smart Toys emphasizes toys with a science or learning element, such as a build-it-yourself robot.

Friday, November 15, 2013


The farce that was the last 48 hours of Red Line service on Metro is not the last straw. Whatever the last straw was (I think most riders and employees have lost count at this point), it happened a long time ago. Yet Metro continues to slouch forward, its leadership locking arms with apologists in local government and media. The result is that, in the customer's experience, there has been no positive change whatsoever.

Metro has been a good subway system in the past. Sure, there have always been issues, but nothing like that of recent years. Metro can be at least that good again with the right leadership, and adequate funding.

We've heard a lot about the "aggressive" changes in maintenance, safety and service. Riders have suffered through endless weekend station closures, closures that - along with punitive fare increases - have sent some riders back to their automobiles.

But those inconvenient closures have produced no tangible results. There continue to be delays, derailings, and even another fatal accident that killed an employee. Does anyone call this an improvement?

Yet Metro truly has a Teflon leadership. No matter what happens, it's never held accountable. But riders have leverage beyond their farecards: asking their local and state government officials to tell Metro's leadership enough is enough.

If our elected officials don't take action, we should take action at the voting machines in DC, Maryland and Virginia.

Furthermore, the state of Maryland should consider doing what Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell did three years ago: decide what substantive leadership, operation and safety changes they believe should be implemented, and withhold Maryland's Metro funding until those are enacted. Should that be the first and only means of bringing about real change? No. But if all else fails, is allowing one of the best subway systems in the world to continue to decline an option?

I'm certainly open to other suggestions of how Montgomery County and Maryland specifically can apply pressure on Metro on behalf of their beleaguered residents; feel free to leave a comment below.

But we can't continue to be told that change is just around the corner. When's the last time your train was automatically run, rather than manually operated? How many years have gone by without fixing that problem? I don't even hear Metro, the media or politicians talk about that issue anymore.

I'd like to see politicians show the same animation and fury they generate about plastic bags and trans fat on behalf of an unacceptable level of subway service for their constituents. And, if they don't, they should be replaced with people who will.

We can't go on like this.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


The AT&T Store in Mid-Pike Plaza is moving up Rockville Pike. Its new location will open on Friday, November 22, at 12147 Rockville Pike, next door to T.G.I. Friday's.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013


This morning's Washington Post contains an article on the proposed bus rapid transit (BRT) system that will be taken up by the Montgomery County Council today. Some information stated as fact in the article is actually untrue, unproven, or just subjective opinion. Let's correct the public record.

POST: (Headline) "Network of enhanced service envisioned on 10 roads to alleviate congestion"

FACT: There is no factual evidence whatsoever that BRT would "alleviate congestion." Journalism 101 tells us the media should never give authority to one view on an issue, particularly when there is no evidence to back up the assertion. The statement is false, and the headline should have been prefaced with "Advocates say..."

POST: The complete BRT system "would cost as much as $3 billion."

FACT: The Montgomery County Planning Department estimated a countywide BRT system would cost $10 billion. Concluding that was too expensive, planners reduced the size of the network by 50%. 50% of $10 billion is $5 billion.

POST: "It could be at least 2020 before construction begins on the first segment."

FACT: Not true. County master planner Larry Cole stated on County Cable Channel 6 this year that implementation in some areas could begin in early 2014, where major road alterations were not needed.

POST: "BRT is now regarded by many county leaders as the only rational way to address some of the worst commuter traffic in the country."

FACT: We've actually been rated as the worst commuting area in recent years. BRT is far from the only "rational" solution. For example, we know that about 25% of traffic on the American Legion Bridge is traveling to or from the Dulles area. If you built the long-delayed second bridge across the Potomac as an extension of either the ICC or the unbuilt Rockville Freeway, you would remove about a quarter of vehicles from that stretch of the Beltway. BRT can't remove anywhere near that amount of vehicles from roads. Would you spend money on a problem you know you can solve (Legion Bridge), or one that is purely speculative, like BRT?

POST: "[T]here is little room for new roads, [BRT] advocates contend."

FACT: Absolutely false. Rights-of-way exist for the Rockville Freeway, M-83 (Midcounty Highway Extended), new Potomac River crossing, and Northern Parkway. There are virtually no homes or businesses, if any, that would be demolished to build those roads.

POST: "'Nobody's going to widen any more roads or build another Wisconsin Avenue or Georgia Avenue...,' said council member Marc Elrich."

FACT: Interstates 270 and 495 both have room to be widened, as do Rockville Pike, Georgia Avenue and many other state highways. During the 1970s, county leaders deliberately chose not to build critical roads that were designed to allow through traffic to bypass Wisconsin and Georgia Avenues: the Northwest and North-Central Freeways.

POST: BRT "is rooted in the notion that if you take away a lane for cars on a congested road and set it aside for [BRT], some motorists will abandon their cars."

FACT: At least they used the word "notion!" In fact, Cole, the county master planner, said during public hearings this year that planners think and believe that if drivers see a fast bus, they will switch to the bus. They have no data or MoCo-esque area that has implemented a BRT system, much less a successful one. You can't justify reducing the vehicle capacity of MD 355 by 33% when you just "think" or "have a hunch" about a wacky plan.

POST: "County planners...estimate that an exclusive bus lane on MD 355 from the Capital Beltway to Western Avenue, for example, could move about 600 more people an hour than car traffic."

FACT: There is no data that shows any such thing. And the speculation assumes that those 600 people will switch from cars to bus. In fact, the corridor in question already has rapid transit, the Metro Red Line. Subways move far faster than BRT. Yet, those 600 drivers they refer to have already declined to use rapid transit. Why would they suddenly choose to use an even slower "rapid" bus (which moves 12 miles in 48 minutes, according to the county's own data) that doesn't even travel to their destination, downtown DC (BRT will end in Bethesda or Friendship Heights)?

The real fact is, taxpayer money would be better spent on adding more capacity to the Red Line, extending the Red Line to Germantown, expanding MARC commuter rail capacity, and completing our unfinished highway system. There simply is no money to waste on BRT, which is being pushed to expand sprawl urbanization out to areas like Wildwood, Montgomery Mall, Aspen Hill, and Olney.

Friday, November 8, 2013


Tonight is the grand opening of the ice rink at Rockville Town Square, and you're invited to the celebration.

The evening gets underway at 6:00 PM, with the Lloyd Dobler Effect performing live. After 7:00, you'll be able to meet a Washington Capitals player fondly remembered from the regrettably-now-demolished Capital Centre years, Alan May. Of course, May is today known for his hockey TV appearances, even if viewers weren't old enough to have seen him play.

Also after 7:00, meet the Capitals Red Rockers (the hockey version of cheerleaders), and Tommy McFly of 94.7 Fresh FM.

There will also be prizes, professional skating performances, and, finally, your own opportunity to lace up the skates and take to the home ice yourself.

To get you ready for the big night, here are some behind-the-scenes photos of the rink being assembled:

Thursday, November 7, 2013


Here is the latest construction progress on the first Duball tower at Rockville Town Center. As you can see, building has well passed street level at this point.

This tower will contain luxury apartments, and a 140-room Cambria Suites hotel.

Meanwhile, developer Duball, LLC has submitted an application to the Rockville planning department asking permission to increase the number of apartments in the future second tower from 222 to 400. This will be achieved by simply making the apartments smaller, which Duball claims is better suited to today's market.

Aside from changing the potential number of residents and vehicles at the site, it would also bring the total number of residential units to 663. Add in at least 140 hotel guests, many with rental cars, to the equation as well.

The matter is scheduled to come before the Rockville Planning Commission at its November 13 meeting, at 7:00 PM at City Hall (and broadcast live on Channel 11).