Thursday, June 29, 2017

Another MoCo DLC employee busted for stealing $20K+ of liquor from DLC trucks

Kelvin Snowden, Jr., a
Montgomery County DLC employee
police say stole liquor from DLC trucks
Montgomery County's government liquor monopoly is embroiled in yet another scandal. One of their employees was arrested by Montgomery County police yesterday, and charged with stealing $21,769 worth of liquor from the Department of Liquor Control's own trucks.

Police say Jean Auguste, 27, of Lanham, and Montgomery County Department of Liquor Control (DLC) employee Kelvin Eugene Snowden Junior, 31, of Gaithersburg, took the alcohol from box trucks parked at the Department of Liquor Control warehouse, which is located on Edison Park Drive in Gaithersburg. The alleged thefts occurred between Valentine's Day and May 28 of this year.

Montgomery County police responded to the last of what detectives say were 8 total thefts from the DLC warehouse site on May 28, and caught Auguste parked nearby in a Chevrolet Suburban, with cases of DLC liquor in the vehicle. The ensuing investigation led them to Snowden, who they say was the main thief who actually broke into the DLC to steal from the trucks. Snowden also allegedly sold stolen DLC liquor to Auguste on at least one occasion.

This is not the first time a DLC employee has been arrested for stealing liquor from the DLC. In 2014 and 2015, employees were caught stealing alcohol and were fired. Many have called for an end to the outdated Montgomery County government liquor monopoly, which has proved inept, internally corrupt, and expensive and tedious for bars and restaurants to purchase alcohol through.
Councilmember Hans Riemer
was at the center of a previous DLC scandal
County Councilman Hans Riemer was also ensnared in a 2014 DLC scandal that came to be known as "Beerghazi." Riemer appeared to be aware of criminal activity within the DLC - but instead of reporting it immediately to authorities, he kept quiet until after he was safely reelected in November 2014.

Less than 48 hours after the polls had closed, Riemer then appeared in a formal, sit-down interview with NBC 4 in which he attempted to then use the information he had withheld to promote himself as a crusader against DLC corruption. It was clear that the NBC 4 investigation had occurred long before Election Day, and that Riemer had been in on the reporter's investigation all along. But with Riemer having direct oversight of the DLC, revealing the criminal activity in the department before Election Day could have damaged his chances of reelection.

Riemer had previously claimed it was time for the government to get out of the liquor business. But in 2015, he flip-flopped and suddenly endorsed maintaining - and strengthening - the government liquor monopoly. And here we are today, with the same Jurassic World government monopoly liquor system, and another DLC employee behind bars. "Helpless" Hans Riemer strikes again!

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Duball ready to move forward on Phase 2 of its Rockville Town Center development

Duball, LLC has submitted a Site Plan amendment for its 196 & 198 E. Montgomery Avenue project in Rockville Town Center. The developer is requesting to add 178 additional housing units to the building, bringing the total number of units to 400. 150 of those will be age-restricted to senior citizens, in the new building on the remaining half of the parking lot in front of "Regal Row."

A 15% reduction in parking is also being sought. The Rockville Planning Commission previously rejected Duball's request for 400 units, and a 25% reduction in parking, in October 2014.

Duball will host a public meeting on the amendment on Tuesday, July 11, 2017, at Rockville City Hall at 6:30 PM.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

New signage at Congressional Plaza in Rockville (Photos)

After extensive remodeling of the shopping center, Federal Realty has installed new signage for Congressional Plaza in Rockville. It includes new entrance signage, and wayfinding maps.


Monday, June 26, 2017

Persiano Furniture Outlet opens on Rockville Pike (Photos)

Persiano Furniture Outlet has just opened at 1598-A Rockville Pike. It is in the former Watercrafters Pools & Spas building, near the new Salvation Army Store and AT&T. I like how they've converted the showroom to look very much like a living room. Persiano is a Montgomery County-based retailer, and has been in business since 2000.



Friday, June 23, 2017

Honeygrow, Pieology to open in Rockville

Pieology, which just opened at Bethesda Row, is already planning another nearby location at Montrose Crossing on Rockville Pike. The pizzeria will be neighbors with the already-announced Five Guys and Allure in a new retail building at the shopping center, now under construction where Timpano Italian Chophouse once stood in the parking lot.

Just since my report on Five Guys yesterday morning, Pieology and two other tenants were made official by property owner Federal Realty: Cava Grill, and Honeygrow.

Cava Grill is the increasingly-ubiquitous, locally-owned Mediterranean alternative to Chipotle. Honeygrow is a Philadelphia-based fast casual chain serving stir-fry, salads, "honeybars," and cold-pressed juice.

In total, the new retail structure sounds like it will join parking lot neighbor Chick-fil-A as a lunch hub for nearby residents and office workers.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Has Rockville reached peak Five Guys? Burger giant to be first tenant at new Montrose Crossing addition

Federal Realty has its first tenant for the new, 18000 SF retail structure it is building in the front parking lot of the Montrose Crossing shopping center at 12055 Rockville Pike. And it's a familiar one.

Five Guys has leased one of the units; the burgeoning burgers-and-fries chain already has a location across the street from Montrose Crossing, suggesting that could change in the future. Federal Realty has Five Guys in their Rockville Town Square and Bethesda Row developments, as well.
Rendering of the new retail building
under construction on the former site
of Timpano Italian Chophouse

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Rockville Mayor & Council back Paris climate accord

Rockville's Mayor and Council unanimously approved a resolution Monday night supporting the Paris climate accord. President Trump recently announced his intention to withdraw the United States from the accord, citing its economic impact on American businesses and jobs.

The Montgomery County Council recently adopted a similar resolution, as did Washington, D.C.

It's unclear what impact such votes have beyond the political. They do not put us back into the Paris deal, and Gov. Larry Hogan's environmental policies are already far more stringent on Maryland than the Paris accord would have been.

At least Rockville has not made the absurd claim the Montgomery County Council recently did - that they could negate the environmental impact of the Paris withdrawal in the air over Montgomery County. You can't make this stuff up, folks.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Rockville becomes a sanctuary city

Rockville did last night what the Montgomery County Council and Maryland legislature didn't have the guts to do earlier this year - declare itself a sanctuary city for illegal immigrants. Thumbing their noses at the U.S. Justice Department, and potentially losing millions of dollars in future federal funds, three City Council members voted to pass the Orwellian-sounding "Fostering Community Trust" ordinance. Dissenting were Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton and Councilmember Beryl Feinberg.

The ordinance will codify the informal sanctuary policy the City Police department currently operates under. It passes after the toxic Rockville High School rape case, the theft of a Rockville police officer's assault rifle by an illegal immigrant, and the alleged murderer of a Muslim teenager in Sterling was just revealed to be an illegal immigrant from El Salvador.

During discussion of the ordinance after two hours of public testimony, Feinberg made an alternative motion to direct the City Manager and Police Chief to devise a written policy on how they would deal with immigration status, within 30 days. Councilmember Virginia Onley opposed the motion, but seconded it for the sake of discussion. Councilmember Mark Pierzchala declared Feinberg's proposal as being too late.

Feinberg countered that "we never had a robust discussion," requiring her to make a last-minute proposal to "force the discussion." She said a written policy would be more "nimble" than a formal ordinance, which could not be suspended during an emergency by the City Manager. Feinberg also termed the ordinance, which would forbid any City employee from inquiring about a person's citizenship status, "unenforceable."

Speakers backing sanctuary status for Rockville hurled invective at opponents throughout the Community Forum segment of the meeting: "racist, xenophobia, hate, anti-immigrant (as opposed to anti-illegal immigrant), genocide, hate-filled time." But Feinberg and Newton questioned that holier-than-thou attitude. "Both sides have been fearmongering," Feinberg said. Newton decried the "venom spread by both sides" in the months-long debate.

Newton said she was "disappointed" that the same councilmembers who only recently released the text of the ordinance would now block another member from proposing a last-minute alternative. She called the ordinance "a solution in search of a problem," noting that Rockville has had no issues with its current police policy. Newton suggested such policy is better written by police, than by politicians with political motives.

"That was just a staggering speech," Pierzchala said. "Thank you," replied Newton sarcastically. "And not in the good sense," Pierzchala clarified.

"This is how this body has been functioning for more than a year now," Feinberg said. "Things will be just shoved in front of us." She bemoaned the "collegiality" among her colleagues. Onley expressed agreement with Feinberg's assessment, even though she did not support Feinberg's proposal. Onley said, "we need work sessions, not surprise attacks and last-minute motions."

When the Mayor called the vote, the Team Rockville slate of Pierzchala, Onley and the sponsor of the ordinance, Julie Palakovich Carr, voted in favor, and Newton and Feinberg voted against it.

There were some intriguing aspects to the discussion prior to the vote.

Proponents of sanctuary status, caught off-guard by the strong opposition by legal Asian immigrants at a March public hearing on the proposal, had claimed many of those speakers were not Rockville residents. But last night, they bused in sanctuary advocates from Bethesda, Silver Spring, Takoma Park, Gaithersburg and Washington, D.C. to testify in favor of the ordinance, doing exactly what they had accused opponents of three months ago.

Second, during the Mayor and Council discussion, Palakovich Carr stated that cities that don't enforce federal immigration law have lower crime rates. That is simply not true. In Frederick, which does enforce federal immigration law, you have a 1 in 196 chance of being the victim of a violent crime such as murder, rape, armed robbery, or assault. In Baltimore, a sanctuary city, your chance of being a victim shoots up to 1 in 65. In Chicago, where Mayor Rahm Emanuel has presided over a sanctuary city and record numbers of homicides, it is 1 in 110. In sanctuary San Francisco, it is 1 in 127.

Frederick is clearly safer. In Manassas, after Prince William County Chairman Corey Stewart's policy to enforce federal immigration law passed ten years ago, today your chance of being a victim of a violent crime is a staggeringly low 1 in 454. Aggravated assaults in Prince William County have dropped by 27% since then, and not a single racial profiling complaint has been filed with the County police. Police there can only inquire about citizenship status after arresting a suspect and taking him or her to the County jail.

As speaker Liz Matory noted in her testimony during the Community Forum, the research done for the Mayor and Council by staff regarding the proposed ordinance did not take into consideration the policy of Frederick County.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Honeyfish Poke opens in Rockville (Photos)

Honeyfish Poke has opened at Congressional Plaza at 1615 Rockville Pike. The fast casual restaurant serves fresh, raw fish and tofu in a build-your-own-bowl format. This is their first location that isn't in California.




Doña Cecy's Pupuseria opening in Rockville (Photo)

There's a new entry in the pupusa wars in Montgomery County. Doña Cecy's is coming to the Twinbrook Shopping Center at 2002 Veirs Mill Road in Rockville. This, to my knowledge, is the first location for this brand, but they've already got a nifty logo on the sign featuring Doña Cecy herself.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Mayor and Council to discuss adoption of Rockville sanctuary city proposal Monday night

A highly-controversial ordinance that would formalize Rockville's status as a "sanctuary city" returns to the Mayor and Council's agenda this coming Monday night, June 19, at 7:00 PM. The legislation, introduced by Councilmember Julie Palakovich Carr, will be discussed and potentially adopted that night, if a majority support the measure. It would prevent any City employee, including police officers, from inquiring about a person's citizenship status.

At a previous public hearing, the sanctuary ordinance drew emotional testimony on both sides. Since that evening, several high-profile Rockville and Montgomery County crime stories involving illegal immigrants have made national headlines. The alleged gang rape of a 14-year-old student at Rockville High School by two illegal immigrants scuttled a sanctuary state proposal in Annapolis, and threatened to table further discussion of Rockville's proposed law. 

Under extreme political pressure, and with no detailed factual explanation, Montgomery County State's Attorney John McCarthy suddenly declared he would not pursue the rape case any further. McCarthy stated there was not enough evidence to warrant prosecution, despite police officials' earlier statements that they had slam-dunk physical evidence from the scene of the alleged rape in a school bathroom. He did not explain what happened to that physical evidence, characterize the findings of any medical examination, or state whether the victim agreed with his decision, or was still seeking justice. With no media outlet holding McCarthy accountable, the firestorm ended in an instant, clearing the way for revival of the Rockville ordinance.

That didn't stop another illegal immigrant from breaking into a City of Rockville police cruiser, and stealing an assault weapon and several rounds of ammunition. We've never learned what Mario Alvarado intended to do with that assault weapon, or if he had a gang affiliation. We do know that this AR-15-wielding car thief was then improperly released back into the community by Montgomery County, despite U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement having put a detainer on him.

McCarthy's magic wand couldn't help County officials this time. ICE blasted Montgomery County for putting its agents, and county residents, at risk by forcing them to then find and apprehend Alvarado in an uncontrolled public setting. The County ultimately admitted they were in the wrong in releasing Alvarado, humiliating Montgomery County on the national stage once again.

Finally, we learned just how bad the gang situation is today in Montgomery County. A funeral was held for a 15-year-old girl who was executed by MS-13 gang members she became involved with at Watkins Mill High School. Sitting in the pews, and attending the burial service that followed, were armed undercover police officers, in case the gang attacked the funeral. Is that something you thought you would ever hear in Montgomery County, or in El Salvador?

Speaking of El Salvador, it gets worse. MS-13, with their charming motto of "Kill. Rape. Control," has a new rival gang. In response, the Washington Post reported, MS-13 kingpins are ordering their members to travel specifically to Montgomery County en masse. MS-13 leaders say that Montgomery County is the place they hope to establish a strong base of operations, and cited the large number of juvenile and/or unemployed illegal immigrants - living off of free County services - as ripe for recruiting by these soon-to-arrive MS-13 agents.

Guess who will be in the crossfire between these two gangs when they start to fight for territory in Montgomery County? The citizens of Montgomery County. Nice. Can you imagine what that's going to be like?

Despite all of this, the Montgomery County Council continues to insist there is no gang problem in the County. You know, the County where funerals now have to have armed guards, in case gang members attack the funeral!

There will be no public hearing Monday night, but residents can express their opinions on the proposed sanctuary legislation during the Community Forum segment of the meeting. Priority will be given to speakers who have signed up in advance by calling the city Clerk's Office at 240-314-8280 by 4:00 p.m. on the day of the meeting.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

PM Pediatrics urgent care clinic opens in Rockville (Photo)

A new PM Pediatrics after-hours urgent care clinic has opened at 12254 Rockville Pike, in the Towne Plaza space that was formerly home to Chef Geoff's and Houston's. The company's founders established the network of clinics based on their own experiences in the healthcare industry. They realized most children's visits to emergency rooms weren't for life-threatening medical issues, and that the hospital environment was too complicated and intimidating to provide those children with the best care.

PM Pediatrics has clinics in New York state, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Maryland. The clinics are open until midnight seven days a week. You don't need to make an appointment, but you can "save your spot" and see the current wait time on their website.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Small business event to discuss:"Is your business or family safe in a sanctuary county?"

How do sanctuary immigration policies affect small businesses? That topic will be discussed at the next networking social event of the Small Business Action Network of Montgomery County, on Wednesday, June 28, from 6:30 to 9:00 PM at Hunter's Bar and Grill, located at 10123 River Road in Potomac.

The speaker will be Jonathan Hanen, who the event announcement says will discuss the question, "Is your business or family safe in a sanctuary county?" Montgomery County has been designated by the federal government as a sanctuary jurisdiction.

Recent crime headlines in the County make this a timely discussion, and the County has been blasted by the U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for not honoring ICE detainers on criminal illegal aliens. ICE said the County put its agents and the community at risk when it recently allowed a man with an ICE detainer who had stolen an assault weapon from a police cruiser to go free, forcing ICE agents to locate and take him into custody in an uncontrolled setting.

SBAN-MOCO is inviting small business owners from across Montgomery County to attend.

The cost to attend the event is $15. The cost to join SBAN-MOCO is $25. There will be a cash bar. Space is limited - to reserve a spot, email your RSVP.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Mayor and Council vote to acquire two other Chestnut Lodge properties

Chestnut Lodge in 2003; the
building burnt down in 2009
Rockville's City Manager is now authorized to acquire two parcels at the former Chestnut Lodge site, after a unanimous vote by the Mayor and Council last night. The City moved to acquire the main Chestnut Lodge property from owner JNP Chestnut Lodge, LLC earlier this year. These two additional parcels are owned by the Chestnut Lodge Homeowners Association.

All three pieces of land are expected to be converted into a passive public park, on the site where the famed Chestnut Lodge psychiatric hospital once stood. A 40-year covenant will be placed on all three for that purpose.

Photo courtesy City of Rockville

Monday, June 12, 2017

MoCo drags feet on correcting illegal traffic signals, refunds for drivers wrongly ticketed by red light cameras

Montgomery County still has illegally-timed traffic signals, which could be issuing unwarranted red light camera tickets to drivers, a recent report by the County's Office of the Inspector General found. On Friday, Delegate Marc Korman (D - District 16) asked County Executive Ike Leggett to consider an outside audit of its signal timing (the OIG had to rely on the word and data of the County Department of Transportation), turn off any cameras ticketing at an illegally-timed signal, and to begin reimbursing drivers who were wrongly ticketed at those intersections.

After being caught ticketing drivers with illegal signal timing in 2015, the County initially resisted adopting the Maryland-required yellow light time of 3.5 seconds. It then promised to correct the problem. However, the OIG report - based on MCDOT data not confirmed by an independent audit - found that 13% of signals countywide are still illegally timed.

When asked by the OIG for a schedule for correction of those 105 remaining signals, MCDOT refused to produce one. And while MCDOT insists that there are no red light cameras at the out-of-compliance intersections, the OIG noted that "We did not test or verify the accuracy of the information provided by MCDOT."

"Improper timing of traffic signals at locations with red light cameras goes to the heart of the confidence people can have in their government," Korman wrote in his letter to Leggett. 

Montgomery County responded to the OIG report with a one-sentence promise to create a schedule for signal correction, but did not say when such a schedule would be released. Once again, Montgomery County seems unable to deliver the basic functions of government - collecting the trash, clearing snow from sidewalks along its properties (sometimes as long as a month(!) after the snowstorm ended), plowing roads, providing 911 service or completing construction projects on-schedule (with the Wheaton Library being the latest, now a year-and-a-half behind-schedule).

Friday, June 9, 2017

New house proposed on Martins Lane in historic district

A property owner has proposed building a new home in the Hebron House Historic District of Rockville, on a newly-subdivided lot at 19 Martins Lane. The single-story home will have an attached garage. Hebron House itself is located at 17 Martins Lane.

The Historic District Commission will take up the proposal at their June 15 meeting. Staff is recommending approval of the home, once advice from the Commission is incorporated into the design.

Rendering courtesy City of Rockville

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Dunkin' Donuts Community Celebration this Saturday in Rockville

The local Dunkin' Donuts franchisee is hosting a community celebration this Saturday, June 10, from 9:00 AM to 2:00 PM, at the Dunkin' Donuts at 15180 Frederick Road, in the College Plaza shopping center. There will be games, a raffle, facepainting and a moonbounce.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Another Brightview senior housing project proposed in Rockville

Shelter Development, LLC has filed a pre-application submittal for a new Brightview senior housing development, this time at 1201 Seven Locks Road. Currently home to the Montrose West building, that office building would stay. A separate lot would be created on the southern area of the site for a new 198-unit senior housing development.

120 of the units would be for independent senior living, and the remaining 78 units divided between assisted living and memory care patients. Amenities will include a cafe and other dining facilities, a library, a media room, fitness center, art studio, spa/salon, and a movie theater. There will be 242 parking spaces in a three-level underground garage, and there will continue to be 278 surface and garage spaces for the existing office building.

The seven-story building will have an "F" configuration, and a setback from the sixth-floor up. Shelter has another Brightview building currently under construction in Rockville Town Center.

Rendering courtesy hord coplan macht
All rights reserved

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Rockville construction update: 1900 Chapman Avenue Phase 1 (Photos)

Construction is now at ground level and rising at the site of the future apartment building at 1900 Chapman Avenue in Rockville. There is still no website for the development that I can find online.
This is phase 1 of the project, which will eventually have a 61-townhome development on the other half of the site. The property is bordered by Chapman to the west, Twinbrook Parkway to the south, and the CSX railroad to the east. This used to be the location of Syms.



Monday, June 5, 2017

Two new restaurants coming to Galvan at Twinbrook in Rockville

The new Galvan at Twinbrook development is recovering from the shocking loss of the Pie 360 pizzeria by upgrading with two new Asian dining additions. Akira Ramen and Urban Hot Pot are coming soon to the JBG-developed property, with names leaving little to the imagination as to what cuisine they will be serving.

Urban Hot Pot will be the second hot pot restaurant in Rockville, following the opening of Little Dipper Hot Pot at Rockville Town Square this past February. It also continues the growth of Rockville as a major destination for Asian cuisine in the D.C. region.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Finnegan's Wake adds outdoor patio seating at Rockville Town Square

Finnegan's Wake now has a patio dining area on the sidewalk outside the Irish pub, located at 100 Gibbs Street at Rockville Town Square. The weather is turning good after a rough start to the week, and Rockville recently banned smoking in outdoor dining areas, so this is certainly excellent timing.

Photo courtesy Finnegan's Wake

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Are your clothes locked inside this shuttered Rockville dry cleaners?

Courtesy Custom Cleaners has been evicted from their space at 180 Rollins Avenue in Rockville. Just one problem - they left customers' clothes in the store, which the landlord has now locked. Enter the Montgomery County Office of Consumer Protection.

OCP has made arrangements with the landlord to get access to the shop. If your dry cleaning was in the custody of Courtesy Custom Cleaners when they were evicted, fill out this form online (also have your receipt [if possible] and a description of your clothes ready).

Beginning Friday, June 2, OCP staff will retrieve items once per week, and bring them to the OCP office in Rockville, 100 Maryland Avenue, Room 330, Rockville, MD 20850. Consumers will be able to pick up their items Monday to Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Customers are asked to bring identification for all pick-ups. Unclaimed items will be donated to charity.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Taxpayers left holding the bag for $45 million in Silver Spring Transit Center fiasco settlement

Is this a thing of beauty, or what?
Montgomery County taxpayers are left holding the bag in the Silver Spring Transit Center debacle settlement agreed to yesterday. County officials attempting to cover-up their failure to conduct their oversight role on the project filed a weak lawsuit in a case where they themselves were mostly to blame.

The result? Realizing they could not win, the County's ultra-expensive legal team reached a chump change settlement worth a paltry $25 million. That leaves you, the taxpayer, holding the bag and paying $42 million for the remainder of the $47 million in cost overruns, $20 million in damages, and $10 million in legal fees. The settlement also requires the County (a.k.a. you, the taxpayer) to pay $3 million to Foulger-Pratt to settle their countersuit, which was directly caused by the incompetence of the County and County Council. You are now on the hook for a total of $45 million.

The surrender settlement, while inevitable given the County's woefully-weak case, was a total betrayal of the promises made by County Executive Ike Leggett and the County Council. Leggett stated he would not leave taxpayers on the hook for even a penny of the cost overruns. Councilmember George Leventhal promised the Brickyard Coalition in 2014 that he would "ensure taxpayers will not be on the hook for the remediation of the transit center." Councilmember Hans Riemer said in April 2013 he would "protect the taxpayers."

Once safely reelected, Leventhal and his colleagues abruptly turned around and made multiple new appropriations of tens of millions of dollars for the transit center. The taxpayers be damned!, was the clear message from the Council.

On Election Day 2018, voters will deliver the overdue "rough, seat of the pants estimate" Leventhal and his colleagues asked for in January 2015 - with a steel-toed boot.

#LockThemUp

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Rockville redevelopment project seeking waiver on fire response

The Rockville Board of Appeals will hear a waiver request this Saturday from the Village at Rockville redevelopment project, located at 9701 Veirs Drive. That project does not comply with the rules requiring projects of this type to be within 10 minutes' response time from two fire stations. The Mayor and Council created a waiver provision on April 17 of this year, which the applicant is now seeking from the Board of Appeals.

A 3-member affirmative vote will be needed to obtain the waiver. The meeting will be held at City Hall this Saturday, June 3, at 9:00 AM.

Friday, May 26, 2017

MoCo Council passes tax hike budget, bloated with payoffs to donors and allies - and themselves

The Montgomery County Council yesterday unanimously passed another budget that will raise your tax bill for FY-2018, in order to cover their highest-in-the-region salaries, and taxpayer-funded giveaways to political allies in the non-profit and contracting fields. Buried in the Council press release is a legally-required admission that your tax bill will increase, not decrease. That's because, while the Council can technically claim they "held the line on taxes," the corrupt tax system they've put in place automatically hikes taxes based on increased real estate assessments.

Allies of the Council in the local media went even further than the Council's own press release Thursday, falsely declaring that taxes had decreased - even as the release stated otherwise. Fake news. In fact, the Council posted a required ad in local newspapers several weeks ago announcing a budget with an increase in taxes. This follows last year's all-time-high property tax increase of 9% (which many County homeowners found actually translated into tax hikes of 10% or more, based on - yep - those automatic tax hikes that happen whether the Council increases the rate or not), and a major hike in the recordation tax.

So "holding the line" in this case means we're still at the highest level of taxation in Montgomery County history. The Council didn't have to move a muscle to get all that, and a little bit more, from your wallet for this budget.

As I reported a few weeks back, the budget massively overpays for procurement purchases, and funnels money to key donors and political allies in often-duplicative non-profit social services. Some who receive salaries from those non-profits turn portions of their tax hikes into campaign donations for the very councilmembers who voted to approve the funding for their organizations. Funding for a new microlending "Bank of the County Council" can also be "paid forward" by recipients to the campaigns of councilmembers. Those involved in determining who receives the microloans are either directly appointed by the Council, or are within their direct orbits of political influence.

Whether you pay taxes in Montgomery County can also depend on who you are. As I reported this week, developer Regency Centers was found to be in arrears to the County, having not paid their tax bills on two Westbard properties. Yet their development proposals are being pushed through the approval process, at taxpayer expense. As you know, ordinary citizens like you and me can be denied various government benefits and services if we are delinquent on our taxes.

There's a lot in this budget for the beleaguered County taxpayer to review, and perhaps even more for the FBI to examine. Such an examination could turn the Council's unwarranted budget victory lap into a perp walk outside of 100 Maryland Avenue.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Shuttered Rockville pizzeria's equipment being auctioned off

Know an aspiring chef who needs a revolving pizza oven? Point him or her in the direction of the Pie 360 auction. The pizzeria in the Galvan at Twinbrook recently ended one of the shortest runs in Rockville restaurant history. Now their natural gas pizza oven can be yours, as can 3 soft-serve ice cream machines.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Mayor and Council to hold walking town meeting at Americana Centre Thursday

A walking town meeting will be held by the Mayor and Council at the Americana Centre tomorrow, Thursday, May 25, at 6:30 PM. Meet in front of the Hamilton House at 4 Monroe Street at 6:30. In case of rain, the meeting will move inside the Hamilton House multipurpose room.

Residents of Americana Centre have already put forward the following items for the agenda, but attendees will be able to expand beyond these: Future development plans in the area, and pedestrian safety on Monroe Place and the intersection of Monroe Place and Monroe Street.

If weather conditions allow, here is the route the tour will take:
Click map to enlarge