Friday, November 29, 2019
Wednesday, November 27, 2019
Tuesday, November 26, 2019
|This entire counter display at the|
Baskin Robbins at Congressional Plaza
is up for bid when the store closes
Photo courtesy Capitol Online Auctions
Monday, November 25, 2019
|Robin Ficker (center) is mobbed by|
supporters after a 2017 speech in Rockville
Among other intriguing names on the ballot was Baltimore Orioles baseball legend Cal Ripken, Jr., who received only 0.3% as a write-in candidate. Other prominent potential candidates included State Senator Michael Hough, a highly-respected conservative who has raised his statewide profile with bipartisan efforts on sentencing and prison conditions; Brian Murphy, who excited many in the base with conservative bonafides on social issues when he challenged Gov. Bob Ehrlich in the 2010 primary - picking up a Sarah Palin endorsement in the process; and Maryland Commerce Secretary Kelly Schulz, a former state delegate who has been seen as a promising statewide candidate by many in the party for over a decade. Schulz managed a strong showing at 5.6% among a list of dozens.
Prominent names missing from the poll included Wheel of Fortune host - and Annapolis resident - Pat Sajak, former Maryland First Lady Kendel Ehrlich, and 2014 gubernatorial candidate Charles Lollar. Lollar, of Charles County, has a resume from central casting as a successful businessman and Marine veteran. One of the relatively few Maryland Republicans who can deliver a stemwinder of a speech, Lollar is one of several African-American GOP stars in the state who haven't received the support they should have from the party during election season.
Obviously, if Ripken or Sajak were to enter the race, they would instantly be frontrunners. Ripken in particular would have tremendous bipartisan appeal, but there's no indication he's even considering a run.
Ficker remains a force in Montgomery County politics, as the only figure to repeatedly defeat the MoCo political cartel in recent times, with ballot measures that have capped property tax increases and established term limits for County Executive and County Council. The Washington Post damaged Ficker's fortunes by entirely ignoring those triumphs. Instead of giving Ficker his fair paragraphs as a seasoned politician who would bring that same skill to addressing the County's many crises, and who had more impact on the County than his opponents, the Post bizarrely described him as a "heckler" through the entire campaign year.
A new shooting range has opened at Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda. Located on Level 2 at the Dining Terrace, Aim Point allows players to shoot at knock-down targets with guns that resemble assault weapons. This looks like a fun addition to the entertainment options at the mall, just in time for holiday shopping. It's also much more affordable than the flight simulator that just opened upstairs. As the range's motto exhorts, "Never give up!"
Friday, November 22, 2019
Elrich is the most popular elected official in Montgomery County, in both die-hard following and in actual votes cast. One of the key reasons is his willingness to put citizens over the interests of developers in situations exactly like this. As I reported earlier this month, the developer-controlled Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments has put forward an "affordable housing" scheme designed to profit - surprise! - developers. It has asked local jurisdictions to build a specific number of new, low-income housing units by 2030. Of Montgomery, it has asked for us to allow 23,100 additional low-income housing units to be constructed by 2030, in addition to those already approved or proposed.
Needless to say, agreeing to such a target would bankrupt the County for multiple reasons. MoCo has a structural budget deficit as far out as the future projections go. Our economy is so moribund, Montgomery ranks rock bottom in the region by every relevant federal economic development statistic from job creation to new business starts to new business growth this decade. We haven't attracted a single major new corporate headquarters to the county in over two decades.
The County's debt is so large, if it were a department, it would be the 3rd-largest department in the County government. Despite record-high taxes, County revenue is actually declining. Many of the ultra-rich have fled to lower-tax jurisdictions in our region, taking their money with them. And most significantly, because the in-the-red-every-year budget has proven definitively that residential housing growth costs more in new services than it generates in revenue (even as places like Clarksburg have grown 800% in population in recent years). Imagine adding 60573 more taxpayers who will not make any significant contribution to revenue, while requiring education, medical care, food, police and fire service, social services, and more.
Adding 60753 low-income residents beyond those already on their way by 2030, while simultaneously subsidizing developers to generate those units, would be a financial disaster. And it must be noted that MWCOG is not counting or restricting the number of existing affordable units that may be demolished - a phenomenon that has led to a net-loss of affordable housing in Montgomery County over this decade. Just this week, I reviewed plans for a major redevelopment on Battery Lane that will result in a net-loss of affordable units. Will the same County Council that attacks Elrich, and supports the housing targets scheme, block the net-loss Battery development? Of course not.
But take a look at this article.
Reporter Rebecca Tan tells us that the "unprecedented push to address the region's affordable housing crisis has hit its first major snag." That is biased language in favor of the scheme in the very first sentence. She then describes Elrich as "stubborn." This is wild - I've never seen another Democratic executive in the region referred to in pejorative language like that by a Post reporter. He is "a serious roadblock to addressing the housing shortage," and his "position is particularly concerning given that Montgomery, a wealthy suburb of 1 million, has been asked to create more affordable units over the next decade than any other locality."
I recognize Tan is new to covering the County, but her report appears to lack the context of the County's disastrous budget picture and moribund economy. It doesn't matter how "wealthy" a jurisdiction or any enterprise is, if it annually spends more than it takes in.
Tan notes that the County Council, as I reported, voted unanimously to adopt the MWCOG housing targets. What she doesn't note, is that each of them accepted thousands or more in dollars of developer campaign contributions. And that Elrich, by contrast, does not accept developer money.
This is a key point of context - why is it missing from the article?
Tan allows delusional 2022 Elrich challenger Councilmember Hans Riemer to say, "Marc Elrich stands alone," the theme she bashes readers over the head with throughout the piece. She goes on to quote five people critical of Elrich's position - all of whom are funded by development interests - without acknowledging their conflict of interest.
There are many activists, neighborhood leaders, and residents who agree with Marc Elrich whom Tan could have quoted. Contrary to journalistic standards, she did not. She even allowed Riemer to lie about the infamous fake-news claim that Elrich would prefer jobs go to Frederick County, which was pushed by the developer-funded Greater Greater Washington blog last year.
Elrich inherited a moribund county economy, and neither he nor the Council have made any significant moves to change our business climate and regional competitiveness since taking office last December. But Elrich has an impeccable record of standing up for the vulnerable, looking out for the interests of residential neighborhoods, and providing better protections for renters. As Tan's article notes, Elrich is pushing for a "no net loss" housing rule. That is exactly the type of policy that will actually ensure affordable units are available for decades to come. To paint a longtime advocate for the less-fortunate as a "NIMBY," as Tan does, is absurd. She states "some critics" call him that, but failed to produce any for her report.
The fact is, as Elrich has noted in years past, Montgomery already has in the planning pipeline sufficient units to meet the expected population demand by 2030. And the reality is, Montgomery County decides how much our population grows - if we don't build, they can't come. So our fate really is in the hands of our elected officials, not those of fate itself.
Council President Nancy Navarro and others chastise Elrich for "denying" and "pretending" that there isn't a "housing shortage" or "need for affordable housing."
But there is growing evidence that we don't have a housing "crisis." Recently, the County Housing Opportunities Commission moved hundreds of residents out of the Ambassador apartments in Wheaton, and is demolishing the building. They moved them into vacant units in their other buildings across the County. Not far away, the owners of affordable and spacious apartments at Halpine View told attendees at a public meeting that they have many vacant units, with little public demand for them.
Wait a minute...we have a "crisis," but we could give up an entire apartment building, have enough vacant units idling elsewhere in the County to take all of those folks in, and have vacancies at Halpine View? This doesn't sound like a crisis to anyone with common sense.
What is this all really about?
As Tan expertly manages to note in yet another Montgomery County cartel talking point, people like Elrich may be "seek[ing] to shield single-family neighborhoods from bigger or denser development." That is exactly what voters in those neighborhoods elected him to do - protect them from the plans of the Council and their developer sugar daddies to impose urban mixed-use zoning on all established SFH-zoned neighborhoods across the County.
What this is really about is adopting Wild West zoning, and the MWCOG-County Council plan to have you the taxpayer fund developers, who will profit from overbuilding while bankrupting the County and destroying the successful suburban and rural neighborhoods those taxpayers live in. All under the guise of "helping the poor." It's quite obvious who's really being helped by this scheme, and it's not the poor.
We don't even have adequate infrastructure to handle our current population. Until we do, or until developers agree to provide more roads, schools, etc., pulling up the ladders to the extent we can - while protecting the existing housing of current residents of all income levels - is the only responsible way forward in housing policy.
Marc Elrich is right - and he is anything but "alone" on this issue.
Thursday, November 21, 2019
Wednesday, November 20, 2019
"I feel privileged to be a part of a practice that is committed to supporting the needs of our patients, and most importantly, helping them to achieve their dream of parenthood," SGF co-founder Arthur Sagoskin, M.D. said Tuesday. "We thank our patients, peers, and Washingtonian for their recognition and continued support." SGF has delivered 85000 babies since it opened in 1991.
Tuesday, November 19, 2019
“This acquisition positions us to capitalize on a fast-evolving energy market and continue to meet the growing needs of our clients," TRC CEO Chris Vincze said this morning. "The move reinforces our strategic growth strategy and advances our ability to deliver innovative, fully integrated solutions for any Advanced Energy project.”
LM-DES' Roger Flanagan will become Senior Vice-President for Advanced Energy at TRC as part of the deal. The former Lockheed division has 400 employees spread across nearly a dozen states.
Monday, November 18, 2019
biggest historic preservation battles in the 1990s, is up for sale again. Saved and restored by local historic preservation organization Peerless Rockville, the building was originally constructed for resident William Wallace Welsh in 1895. The asking price is not being publicly listed online, but can be requested. 22 Baltimore Road has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1978.
Friday, November 15, 2019
Thursday, November 14, 2019
ICE officials blasted Montgomery County for not honoring its detainer on Hernandez-Morales, saying the County had put children in Montgomery County and Northern Virginia at risk while he remained at-large. In a statement, ICE called Hernandez-Morales' release "the latest in a continuing list of public safety threats Montgomery County, MD has released into the community rather than allow a lawful transfer into ICE custody."
"This case shows how the noncooperation policies of one jurisdiction can have serious public safety impacts on its neighbors,” ICE Washington Field Office Director Russell Hott said yesterday. Hernandez-Morales is involved with the youth ministry program at Iglesia de Dios en Cristo, located on W. Diamond Avenue in Gaithersburg, Montgomery County police have said. They have expressed concern that there may be additional child victims in this case.
WATCH: Video of Gulf suspect
Investigators are asking anyone with information regarding this suspect to call the 1st District Investigative Section at 240-773-6084. Those who wish to remain anonymous may call Crime Solvers of Montgomery County toll-free at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477). Crime Solvers will pay a cash reward of up to $10,000 for information provided to them that leads to an arrest and/or indictment for this crime.
Wednesday, November 13, 2019
The accord also puts the backburnered Hogan plan for Express Lanes on the Beltway between the Legion Bridge and I-95 back on the table. No details on the staging of the that project in relation to the bridge widening were put forward Tuesday. The bridge changes would almost certainly fail to solve congestion if the new Express Lanes end at River Road instead of I-95, as they would only create another choke point there.
Adding Express Lanes to the Beltway and I-270 won't take the place of a new Potomac River crossing, which would take about 25% of rush hour traffic off of the Legion Bridge, according to a Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments study earlier this decade. They won't provide the direct access to Dulles International Airport from Montgomery County that international businesspeople have made clear they require to consider locating their headquarters here.
In fact, without a new Potomac River bridge north of the Legion Bridge - and major changes to County and Maryland tax and regulation schemes, Tuesday's accord would simply be another victory for Virginia and the crafty Northam from an economic development standpoint. Improved travel times for non-Dulles-related traffic on the Beltway would certainly help all of us, and are absolutely worthy of public support. But without direct Dulles access and a competitive business climate, the Beltway accord will simply reinforce our position as the bedroom community for the booming job centers in Northern Virginia.
The accord is a win for Hogan, however, as he considers a surprisingly-strong bid for the U.S. Senate. If he stands his ground on the Potomac-to-I-95 Beltway Express Lanes this time, Hogan will have delivered a start on major traffic relief on both failing interstates in Montgomery County in time for the 2022 election. Hogan was also the governor to finally get the new Nice Bridge project moving after decades of delay; that structure is scheduled to be well under-construction by the time he would take on Van Hollen.
Hogan hasn't even been grandstanding to the extent he could on transportation. He has quietly delivered new improvements on I-270 - such as new feeder lanes that allow entering vehicles from some ramps to proceed on the freeway without having to merge - over the last year. Surprisingly, he hasn't called a press conference to crow about these small but significant traffic flow upgrades.
Considering Van Hollen's weak legislative record, scandalous history of conspiring to reduce African-American turnout in his 2016 primary run against Congresswoman Donna Edwards (earning a rebuke from Hillary Clinton herself in the process), and Hogan's bipartisan support, this could be a top-tier contest. Neither man excites the core base of his party. But if these transportation projects move forward, Hogan will have done something Van Hollen hasn't in over a decade - deliver actual change for his constituents.
Tuesday, November 12, 2019
Monday, November 11, 2019
|How the storefront looked last week|
before the windows were covered
Friday, November 8, 2019
states an online auction listing. The photographs appear to match Golden Samovar at Rockville Town Square. According to the listing, the auction will take place online on November 13, and items will be removed the next day.
Among the 183 items listed are bar equipment, four microwaves, the cash register, the "Open" sign, chandeliers, the chairs, the tables, the booths, sinks, stoves, refrigerators, and even a butane torch and the swinging door to the kitchen.
Thursday, November 7, 2019
Only the Council itself appeared eager to brag about its vote in a press release yesterday. But braggadocio doesn't substitute for mathematics aptitude nor budgeting skill, as the Council's annual structural budget deficit proves. The Council just put you, the taxpayer, on the hook for a massive spending increase - in education, social services, police and fire, health care, and developer tax giveaways - even as they (presumably?) know there's no way in hell future councils will be able to pay for it.
What does approving the developer-backed Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments' "regional housing targets" actually mean? It obligates Montgomery County to build 23000+ new housing units for low and middle-income residents by 2030, in addition to those already planned. The County Council couldn't even be honest about that in the press release, which falsely claimed the number as 10,000 additional low-income units.
MWCOG itself predicts that 75% of the new residents coming to Montgomery County by 2030 will be low or mid-income residents. That not only means they will contribute little in tax revenue to the county, but that spending will have to skyrocket to provide the services and infrastructure such a population surge would require.
This would be difficult enough of a fiscal equation to square - massive new spending, with only 25% of the new residents able to shoulder the huge costs. But then you look at the bigger picture, and the alarm bells really start going off.
Montgomery County's moribund economy, job creation, business starts, and business growth are all rock-bottom in the regional rankings this decade. Despite record-high tax rates and tax hikes, revenue is actually declining, even as the County Council continues to spend more. Many of the ultra-wealthy have fled Montgomery County to lower-tax jurisdictions in our region, taking huge chunks of revenue that used to balance the County budget with them. Greater spending, fewer revenue-generating residents...it simply doesn't add up, no matter what brand of calculator you use.
Debt is skyrocketing. If the County's current debt was a department, it would be the third-largest department in the County budget. The last thing a sane elected official would do in that situation is agree to a massive spending increase.
Kirwan is proposing astronomical amounts of new education spending, with no appreciable change in the actual curriculum or methods. Spending on education has already been jacked up year after year by the Council, to no avail. Test scores and graduation rates continue to decline, while the achievement gap remains the same or worsens.
Taken together, the housing targets adoption and the Council's rabid desire to adopt the Kirwan recommendations on the backs of the taxpayers, have placed Montgomery County on an accelerated course to fiscal oblivion. We can't go on like this.