Friday, January 31, 2020

Rockville native receives posthumous honor from CT governor

Television news anchor Denise D’Ascenzo grew up in Rockville, but is most prominently known as a news anchor in Cleveland and in the Hartford-New Haven market in Connecticut for the last several decades. D’Ascenzo passed away suddenly last month, from what her station WFSB 3 called "a massive heart attack." She was 61.

Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont (D) declared Thursday to be Denise D'Ascenzo Day in Connecticut, in honor of her longtime work and service there. A public memorial service was held the previous day in Hartford. “For more than thirty years, Denise D’Ascenzo entered millions of homes through her news broadcasts, becoming an extended member of each of our families,” Governor Lamont said in a statement yesterday. “On behalf of the entire state, our hearts remain with Denise’s family, friends, and colleagues at WFSB.”
MSNBC anchor Hallie Jackson
tweets about D'Ascenzo's passing
In Rockville, D'Ascenzo attended Rockville High School (Class of 1976), and was editor-in-chief of her high school newspaper. She also worked for The Sentinel, which ceases publication this week, in a sad coincidence.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Rockville Mayor & Council to consider amending city travel policy

The City of Rockville's government travel policy could be amended soon. A discussion of possible amendments will be held by the Mayor and Council at their meeting Monday night, February 3, 2020 at 7:00 PM. Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton and City Council members, along with members of the City's Compensation Commission, will take part in Travel Policy Training tomorrow, January 31, ahead of Monday's discussion.

In a report, the Compensation Commission revived a recommendation by a prior commission that the Mayor and Council be able to receive reimbursement for travel expenses the same as City staff. They said this would eliminate any murkiness on what travel can be reimbursed for elected officials by providing a precise framework. The commission also recommended giving each Councilmember and the Mayor a separate $5000 travel budget apiece. By FY2024, the allowance would increase to $6000 annually. The travel issue is part of a larger discussion of boosting compensation for the Mayor and Council. 

Travel policy abuse is not rare in our area; Montgomery County Councilmember Hans Riemer was found to have received compensation for travel to private meetings with his campaign donors, and requested - and received - compensation from taxpayers for a campaign-style website, despite already having a County Council website for official business. No one, including the Council, ethics oversight bodies, nor the local media (those aware included The Washington Post) besides this website, has investigated nor addressed that inappropriate use of taxpayer funds by Riemer to date.

Photo courtesy City of Rockville

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Rockville law firm partner to headline MCGOP Lunar New Year celebration

Christina E. Shin (Sohn) will be the headlining speaker at the Montgomery County Republican Party's 2020 Lunar New Year Celebration on February 7, 2020 at 7:00 PM at New Fortune Chinese Restaurant, located at 16515 S. Frederick Avenue in Gaithersburg. Shin is a founding partner of Rowe, Weinstein & Sohn, PLLC and Quantum Title Corporation in Rockville. She is also the President of the Korean American Republican Party of Virginia.

Guests will enjoy a 7-course meal of Fried Shrimp Balls, Seafood Tofu Soup, Roasted Chicken Cantonese, Walnut Shrimp, Mushrooms with Vegetables, Chow Foon with Vegetables, Sweet 'n Sour Pork Chop, Young Chow Fried Rice, Oranges/Fortune Cookie, Soft Drinks, and Tea (vegetarian options available). Adult beverages will be available at a cash bar.

Tickets are $40.00 if purchased by Feb. 2, 2020, or you can pay $45 at the door. Payment can be made online, by credit card, or by check; cash will not be accepted for this event. Sponsors can buy a table for 10 for $400, and will be recognized at the event - but must buy tables by January 31.

Make Checks Payable to MCGOP: 15833 Crabbs Branch Way Rockville, Maryland 20855.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Rockville cancels Lunar New Year celebration due to coronavirus fears

Fears of an escalating coronavirus pandemic are growing in China and abroad. Student trips at local universities have been canceled in some cases, and Chinese celebrations of the Year of the Rat have been severely curtailed by quarantines. In this climate, the City of Rockville has decided to cancel its planned Lunar New Year celebration that had been scheduled for this Saturday, February 1, 2020 at Rockville High School.

A statement released by the City Monday stated that "[t]he decision to cancel the event was made out of an abundance of caution in response to concerns about the coronavirus that have arisen from community members, event participants and the city’s Asian Pacific American Task Force, which partners with the city to organize the annual celebration."
The event will not be rescheduled, the statement added. A growing number of suspected coronavirus cases in the Washington D.C. region, including Maryland and Virginia, have increased concerns in recent days. The City noted that it is far from the only jurisdiction to cancel planned Chinese New Year festivities this week.

Graphics via

Monday, January 27, 2020

Bar Louie closes Rockville, Wheaton Plaza locations

Just as nightlife in booming Washington, D.C. expands into new corners of the District, it continues to tank spectacularly in moribund Montgomery County. Bar Louie has closed in Rockville Town Square. As if that wasn't enough, Bar Louie also closed its newer location at Wheaton Plaza, which was in a very modern and new structure with prime proximity to the AMC Wheaton 9 cineplex. "Thanks for all the memories," read signs in the windows.
Having been at Rockville Town Square for many years, the closure reflects the drastic downturn the county has taken over the past decade, as the Montgomery County political cartel has seized all nine seats on the County Council. The fact that the Wheaton location exited the same weekend indicates that this was more than just the ongoing struggles at Federal Realty's Rockville Town Square, which has seen a mass exodus of many of its key tenants in recent years.
Montgomery County is in real trouble, folks. County revenue, not surprisingly, is severely declining with the failing economy and flight of the rich to lower-tax jurisdictions in the region. Nightlife took a catastrophic blow from the Council's disastrous "nighttime economy task force" debacle, which resulted in the closure of 18 nightspots in Bethesda alone, and was capped by several new Council policies that hit the bottom line of hospitality businesses hard. Not to mention the Council preserving and beefing up the County government liquor monopoly, instead of ending it as bar and restaurant owners have begged them to do for years.

More liquor money for Virginia and D.C. We're being led by very stupid people, folks.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

THRōW Social DC and Kick Axe Throwing opening in DC's Ivy City

The District continues to clean Montgomery County's clock in nightlife. THRōW Social DC and Kick Axe Throwing will be the newest addition to DC's nighttime economy when they soft-open January 31, 2020 at 1403 Okie St. NE. Their official grand opening will be on February 6. The 22000 SF facility will include five curling rinks and six FootBowl (a game that combines football and bowling) "ranges" on the former's upper floor, and twelve axe-hurling ranges on the lower floor.
The Aspen lodge-themed
Kick Axe Throwing
The founder of D.C.'s Escape Room Live, Ginger Flesher-Sonnier, is opening the D.C. THRōW and Kick-Axe location. Come with enough players for a team (eight), or the venue will help by pairing you with other smaller groups and individuals.
Axe ranges - Gilius Thunderhead
would be proud!
Kick Axe is far from the first axe-throwing enterprise in the District, but the upscale ski lodge aesthetic promises to set it apart. THRōW takes a decidedly different tack, themed around a Palm Beach tropical concept. It features a standard Las Vegas nightclub/dayclub feature you won't find in Montgomery County - cabanas.
A nightlife venue with cabanas?
You're definitely not in MoCo!
Kick Axe Throwing and THRōW Social DC will be open Wednesdays and Thursdays, 3:00-11:00 PM; Fridays and Saturdays, noon-2:00 AM; and Sundays, 11:00 AM-9:00 PM. THRōW is open to all ages; Kick Axe is open to everyone age 8 and older (children are offered foam axes to throw). Kick Axe patrons must wear closed toe shoes, and high heels are prohibited there. Expect to pay $29 per person for an hour of each gaming experience.

If you haven't been to Ivy City recently, you won't recognize the revitalized neighborhood near Route 50 and an Amtrak maintenance facility. Top-rated restaurants include La Puerta Verde and Ivy City Smokehouse. The latter has a rooftop deck. Other highlights include City Winery, Target and Nike Community Store. The nearby Echostage is a nighttime destination for many a young Montgomery County resident, after 18 nightspots closed in Bethesda alone following the County Council's disastrous Nighttime Economy Task Force debacle earlier this decade.

Photos courtesy Kick Axe Throwing and THRōW Social DC

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Celebrate Lunar New Year at Montgomery Mall today, Sunday and Feb. 8, 2020

Today is the day of the Chinese New Year, the Lunar New Year. Check out these decorations and messages at Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda, celebrating the Year of the Rat.

Stop by Godiva on Level 2. They have a special Chinese New Year edition box of chocolates, in varying sizes, with Lunar New Year red ribbons on the packaging. There is also a Godiva limited-edition box that features the Godiva chocolates most popular in Asia. Macy's is selling a Lunar New Year t-shirt. And purchasers of more than $200 in Crystal Living merchandise at Swarovski will receive a free Year of the Rat ornament.
The Young Artist Music Society will perform traditional and contemporary Chinese pieces on Level 1 of the Nordstrom wing today, Saturday, January 25, 2020 from 12:00-2:00 PM.

Continue the celebration tomorrow, January 26, from 11:00 AM to 12:00 PM with traditional Chinese performances by the Cathay School, and a red envelope decorating activity. Check inside your envelope to see if you got any special surprises. RSVP online.
Kids can then join representatives of the KID Museum between 1:00 and 3:00 PM to create their own dragon puppets (while supplies last).

But this weekend won't be the end of the celebration - head back to the mall on Saturday, February 8, from 6:00-8:00 PM for a 2-hour performance by the Chinese Culture and Community Service Center. Here's the full schedule:

6:00 PM Dragon Dance CCACC Youth Dragon Dance Team  龍隊遊行  中心青少年龍隊
6:10 PM Chinese Folk Dance CLAPS Chinese Dance  民族舞蹈  歡樂中文學校民族舞蹈班
6:20 PM Kung-Fu Fan Sweet Dew Refreshing the Earth Martial Arts Health Dance Society 功夫扇  甘露普潤  大華府養生武舞學社
6:30 PM Dancing, Singing, Rumba CCACC Evergreen Rockville 民族舞、唱歌、倫巴  洛城常青社
6:40 PM Yuan Chi Dance Yuan Chi Research Society 元極舞  華府元極學研究社
6:50 PM Folk Dance "Splendid China" Madison Chinese Dance Academy 錦繡中華  陌地生舞蹈學院
7:20 PM The Melodies of Guzheng & Calligraphy CCACC Guzheng Club  書法古箏賀元宵  美京華人活動中心古箏社
7:40 PM Martial Arts United States Wushu Academy  武術表演  美國武術學院
8:00 PM Lion Dance CYC Lion Troupe  舞獅  青年社舞獅隊

Friday, January 24, 2020

Temporary closure on ICC this weekend

Traffic alert: There will be a temporary closure along the ICC this weekend, as the Maryland Transportation Authority begins replacing the electronic tolling gantries with newer, updated ones. Closures are expected between January 24 and 27, 2020 and again next weekend. Follow the detours below this weekend and next.

Beginning at 9:00 PM tonight, Friday, January 24, and continuing until 5:00 AM on Monday, January 27, westbound traffic on the ICC/MD 200 will be detoured at New Hampshire Avenue (MD 650). The detour route will direct motorists north on New Hampshire Avenue to Norbeck Road, west to Layhill Road (MD 182) ,and south on Layhill Road back to westbound ICC/MD 200.

The following weekend, from 9:00 PM Friday, January 31, until 5:00 AM on Monday, February 3, eastbound ICC/MD 200 traffic will be detoured at Layhill Road (MD 182). The detour route will direct motorists north on Layhill Road to Norbeck Road, east on Norbeck Road to New Hampshire Avenue (MD 650) and south on New Hampshire Avenue back to eastbound ICC/MD 200.

Photo via MDTA

Rockville Deputy City Clerk search begins

Rockville needs a new Deputy City Clerk. Deputy City Clerk Niles Anderegg "is no longer an employee with the City of Rockville," according to city spokesperson Marylou Berg. Anderegg's exit cannot be further commented upon by the City, as it is a personnel matter.

Berg said the city will soon begin a competitive recruitment process to fill the vacancy. Anderegg had served since March 11, 2019.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Ding Tea soft opening today in Rockville

Ding Tea will be holding a soft opening today, Thursday, January 23, 2020 at the Ritchie Center in Rockville. The store will be open from 2:00-9:00 PM, according to their Facebook page. Ding Tea is located at 785-C Rockville Pike.

Rockville Mayor & Council to discuss City Manager in closed session

Rockville City Manager
Rob DiSpirito
Rockville's Mayor and Council will go into closed session at their Monday, January 27, 2020 meeting to discuss the City Manager. The session will be closed to the public. According to the meeting agenda, the subjects of the discussion may include one or more of the following:  the appointment, employment, assignment, promotion, discipline, demotion, compensation, removal, resignation, or performance evaluation of the City Manager."

City Manager Rob DiSpirito has served in that role since November 2016. Note that Monday's meeting will begin at 5:45 PM instead of the usual 7:00 PM start. It will begin in open, public session at 5:45 with a vote to adjourn to the closed session. The meeting is scheduled to reconvene back into open session around 6:30, pending completion of the closed session.

Photo via City of Rockville

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Montgomery County fumbles Eli Lilly factory to North Carolina

Indianapolis residents now know what it feels like to live in Montgomery County. Just as moribund MoCo can't get one of its few remaining major companies - Lockheed - to locate its manufacturing facilities here, neither could Indy get hometown pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly to build its new manufacturing facility in the Hoosier capital. Lilly is looking south instead, choosing Durham County, North Carolina's booming Research Triangle Park.

"We continue to grow North Carolina into a worldwide hub for the biotechnology industry," a jubilant North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) said in a statement Tuesday.

Biotech and hospitality are the only two economic sectors in Montgomery County that even have a pulse these days, thanks to decisions made by wiser County leaders prior to the Montgomery County political cartel's seizure of the County Council in 2002 (today, the cartel controls all nine Council seats). But just days after the Washington Post reported once again that Montgomery County has fallen behind Prince George's County in job creation (while failing to report MoCo was also behind every other county in the region over the last decade in that department), Montgomery County's elected officials weren't able to score the biggest biotech get of the year so far - the Eli Lilly factory.

Not only did the County Council and economic development officials make no public campaign to attract Lilly, but their fumble also emphasizes how our inept leaders are squandering the biotech advantages their smarter, less corrupt predecessors left them at the turn of the century. North Carolina is catching up, as is Virginia. As MoCo officials continue to drop balls left and right, those and other states will soon surpass us.

North Carolina Commerce Secretary Tony Copeland correctly noted Tuesday that, "North Carolina is one of the nation’s leading centers for innovation in the life sciences." They also have two other things we don't: A friendly business climate, and superior infrastructure.

The Tar Heel state has the Research Triangle Park. Montgomery County was supposed to have a "Science City" in the I-270 corridor. Remember that?

Montgomery County elected officials couldn't even get that done. Of course, they never intended to. "Science City" was a total ruse perpetrated by the Council, and their developer sugar daddies, a decade ago. Sold to you as something like North Carolina's biotech park, that fakeout was merely a Trojan horse for more residential development.

Remember how Clarksburg, Germantown and Shady Grove were going to be booming job centers, with a Corridor Cities Transitway and expanded MARC service? None of that ever happened.

But - the housing all got built.

Jobs continued to divert to Northern Virginia, and I-270 just got more congested with all of the new housing approved by the Council without any new transportation infrastructure to support it. Heckuva job, Brownie!

Now, standing amidst the ashes of a "Science City" ghost town surrounded by stack-and-pack Soviet-style apartment blocs, the Council is saying the whole problem is...there wasn't enough housing built. LOL. [Insert cuckoo clock sound here].

You can't make this stuff up, folks.

What did we lose this week as a result?

462 new pharmaceutical manufacturing jobs, with an average salary above $72,000. 462 jobs are just a drop in the bucket given how stagnant and shrinking Montgomery County's economy is, but we're not in a position to pass any up in such a crisis. We should be, but are not, actively pursuing aerospace, biotech, and defense corporate headquarters, and their related research and manufacturing facilities.

North Carolina's Research Triangle Park's motto is, "Inspiring Bold Ideas."

The Montgomery County Council's is, "Lining our pockets with developer cash."

Our County's should be, "The Bedroom Community for the Booming Job Centers Elsewhere in Our Region."

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Rockville firm to employ AI in partnership with major German cosmetics firm

Insilico Medicine, a Rockville biotech firm specializing in artificial intelligence, is going to put AI to work in the skincare field. German cosmetics firm Beiersdorf announced this morning it has entered a partnership with Insilico to apply AI to the search for new active ingredients for skincare products. Beiersdorf owns major brands like Nivea and La Prairie.

In a statement released by Beiersdorf, Insilico CEO Alex Zhavoronkov said the company is "delighted at the chance to prove AI’s potential in the skincare industry moving forward." Beiersdorf’s Senior Corporate VP for Research and Development May Shana called Insilico "the undisputed expert in the field of artificial intelligence." Insilico is located at 9601 Medical Center Drive in Rockville.

Logo courtesy Insilico Medicine

Monday, January 20, 2020

Rockville Swim Center upgrades to debut January 22

The first of several upcoming improvements at the Rockville Swim and Fitness Center will be open to the public on Wednesday, January 22, 2020. Visitors Wednesday will be the first to have access to the all-new lobby area, and the larger, modernized locker rooms. Additional exterior and interior work will continue in the months ahead, requiring the section of the parking lot furthest from Martins Lane to remain closed at this time. The swim center is located at 355 Martins Lane.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Madison Reed Color Bar coming to Rockville

Color is the new blowout. Madison Reed Color Bar, a coloring-only salon concept, recently opened its first DC-area location at Bethesda Row. Rockville residents won't be missing out much longer, though. The chain has just signed a lease at Congressional Plaza.

Madison Reed Color Bar will be located between Noodles & Company and the future Barnes & Noble bookstore. A spring opening is expected. The chain's concept is "stunning color, free of harsh chemicals."

More headlines
from Suburban News Network:

Chevy Chase strip of vacant storefronts once touted as "Montgomery County's Rodeo Drive" suffers biggest blow yet as anchor tenant Friendship Heights Giant has closed, as moribund MoCo economy continues to tank

Wheaton Plaza to celebrate Chinese New Year in grand style

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Pier 1 stores in Rockville, Gaithersburg to close

Montgomery County's moribund economy is hitting the home furnishings sector. Pier 1 Imports is closing in Rockville and Gaithersburg; both stores have disappeared from the Pier 1 website Store Locator. No official announcement or closing date for either store has been issued by Pier 1's corporate office.

It's interesting that Pier 1 stores in areas with booming economies like Fairfax, Fredericksburg, Waldorf, Bowie, Pasadena, Laurel and Columbia - to name just a few - are remaining open in our region. Pier 1 has been a fixture in Rockville as long as I can remember. 

The pending closures would have come as a shock if it were not for the widespread consensus that Montgomery County's economy has stagnated, according to every relevant benchmark of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics over the last decade. Montgomery County has suffered a net loss of retail jobs since the turn of the century, according to the Maryland Retailers Association.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Derwood armed robbery video released by police

Montgomery County police detectives have released surveillance video from a brazen, daytime armed robbery of a beer and wine store in Derwood. A man with a covered face brandishing a handgun entered Midway Beer and Wine at 16057 Frederick Road around 2:29 PM on January 2, 2020. He allegedly threatened two employees, and demanded cash.
The alleged getaway car
Receiving an undisclosed amount of cash, the suspect fled the store and sped off in a metallic brown Nissan Altima, model year 2016 or later. Detectives say they believe there was a getaway driver waiting in the Altima on Frederick Road.

Anyone with information regarding the suspects or this armed robbery is asked to call the Major Crimes Division at 240-773-5100. 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 in this case.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Derwood McDonald's reopening in six days

The McDonald's at 15801 Frederick Road in Derwood looks just about ready to open after its remodeling. That's because it is! The restaurant will reopen in six days. Celebrate with a Big Mac!

Mayor & Council approve grant to keep Aronson, LLC in Rockville Town Center

Rockville Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton and City Council members voted unanimously last night to approve a $50,000 grant to accounting firm Aronson, LLC. The investment is designed to keep Aronson from moving their headquarters elsewhere, and to keep their employees in Town Center to support the restaurants in that area.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Mayor & Council to consider $50K grant to retain Rockville accounting firm

Rockville's Mayor and Council will consider approving a $50,000 financial grant to an accounting firm, in order to keep their headquarters in Rockville Town Center. Aronson, LLC is currently headquartered at 111 Rockville Pike. The firm currently employs 206 people with an average salary of $87502.

If the firm can stay put, it is promising to add around 40 new full-time positions over the next five years. Aronson is also in the process of obtaining grants from the state of Maryland and Montgomery County.

City staff argue that retaining Aronson is important due to the expected relocation of several County government departments to a new County office building in Wheaton this summer. To that end, one of the conditions of the City grant will be that Aronson agree not to add an in-house cafeteria for at least five years, so that employees will continue to patronize Town Center-area restaurants at lunchtime.

The Mayor & Council already set aside $50,000 in incentives for Aronson in its FY-2020 budget. Tonight, at their 7:00 PM meeting at City Hall, they will consider giving final approval to city staff to execute the incentive agreement.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Atlanta's Gypsy Kitchen to expand to D.C.

Gypsy Kitchen, a Mediterranean restaurant and bar chain based in Atlanta, is expanding to Washington, D.C. They will open this spring in the former Masa 14 space at 1825 14th Street N.W. Gypsy Kitchen's pan-Mediterranean cuisine will draw on Greek, Moroccan, Indian,
Middle Eastern and other regional flavors.
Summer Pitim Stew
Southern Proper Hospitality is the restaurant group behind the chain. Its COO Alex Curley is not a stranger to 14th Street, having played a role there before in the opening of Barcelona Wine Bar.
Small plates assortment
Service at Gypsy Kitchen's launch will include dinner, weekend brunch and happy hour. Its 6400 SF dining area and 1100 SF rooftop deck will hold 217 guests.

Photos by Erik Meadows Photography

Friday, January 10, 2020

Hogan express lanes compromise may be a bust for Beltway drivers

Gov. Larry Hogan's compromise agreement on his Express Lanes proposal, which earned a needed second vote from Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot to move the project forward, may still provide traffic relief along I-270. But it could wind up being a bust for drivers on the Capital Beltway.

The compromise essentially puts the Express Lanes plan back to where it was hung up a few months ago. Hogan had agreed to postpone the Express Lanes on the Beltway, and focus on I-270 first. There would be no improvement for Beltway drivers under that scenario.

Then Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam stepped forward with a proposal to assist in expansion of the over-capacity American Legion Bridge in exchange for allowing Virginia's Express Lanes to cross the bridge and run into Maryland. Recognizing that this would only work if the Beltway Express Lanes continued around the interstate, and the reality that the project was more feasible if companies could bid on Beltway Express Lanes that went at least to I-95, Hogan then revived the Beltway portion of the project.

Franchot, under pressure from his constituents and preparing to launch a gubernatorial campaign, immediately withdrew his support again. Hogan then capitulated on the Beltway portion beyond the I-270 spur to regain Franchot's vote. But that compromise is a Beltway backfire, and Hogan appeared to realize he will be long out of office by the time that is apparent.

The reality is, unless voters "get dangerous" as former Gov. Bob Ehrlich exhorted them to years ago, there may not be a single vote for Express Lanes on the Beltway on the Board of Public Works. There very well could be a Democratic governor, a Democratic comptroller, and there certainly will be a Democratic treasurer.

So, Beltway Express Lanes past the I-270 interchange are almost certainly dead.

But the compromise plan will likely make traffic on the Beltway even worse, not better.

First, Northam ingeniously made his problem our problem. Extending Express Lanes over the bridge means that he moves the current choke point where drivers enter and exit those lanes onto the Maryland side of the river. His problem is now solved, and we got played like a violin.

Second, Beltway Express Lanes will now terminate in the vicinity of the existing logjam between River Road and I-270 on the Beltway. This jam is caused not only by lack of capacity, but also by the drivers trying to change lanes to either access I-270 or to continue east on the Beltway. There's also a third factor, which is drivers entering from River Road who then need to merge into the far left lanes to access I-270.

So now you will have cars that want to stay on the Beltway pouring out of the Express Lanes exit in that area - and with the lanes in the center, they will have to merge across several lanes to do so.

Apparently no one bothered to study the reality of the situation on the ground there before making this decision. And the local media was too busy filing some of the most embarrassingly-biased praise reports about the Maryland General Assembly ever published to notice what a just-plain-dumb Express Lanes package was put through by the Board of Public Works.

Northam won. Upcounty drivers may benefit if the lanes really go to Frederick - and especially if they are continuing to Virginia southbound - and that's a very good thing. But Beltway drivers are likely to find this Express Lanes compromise a bust. And we still need a new Potomac River crossing.

There will be no real traffic relief until voters start playing hardball at the ballot box, and elect new leaders who will play hardball in Rockville and Annapolis.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Yvonne Fx closes at Montgomery Mall

Yet another business closure to report this morning. Women's apparel boutique Yvonne Fx has closed at Westfield Montgomery Mall. The store opened only five months ago, and is the latest victim of Montgomery County's moribund economy and notoriously anti-business climate. Montgomery County has suffered a net loss of retail jobs since the turn of the century, according to the Maryland Retailers Association.

Java Nation opens Rockville Pike location

Java Nation's new location in White Flint will serve its first dinners tonight, Thursday, January 9, 2020 at 11120 Rockville Pike. Their initial hours of operation will be 8:00 AM to 9:00 PM Thursday-Saturday, and 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM Sunday-Wednesday, so a breakfast and lunch spot early in the week with dinner hours late in the week. The owners "warn" that you may find "a warm and cozy atmosphere inside."