Showing posts with label Maryland. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Maryland. Show all posts

Thursday, September 28, 2023

Hans Riemer endorses Will Jawando in Maryland U.S. Senate race

Former Montgomery County Councilmember Hans Riemer has endorsed current Councilmember Will Jawando in the Maryland U.S. Senate race for the seat of retiring Senator Ben Cardin (D). Jawando and Riemer served together on the Council from 2018 to 2022; Jawando is now in his second Council term. "In my many years of knowing Will Jawando, going back to our work together supporting President Obama, and my four years serving side-by-side with him on the Montgomery County Council, I have always been impressed by his devotion to public service and dedication to meeting the needs of his most vulnerable constituents," Riemer said in a statement this afternoon.

"I am honored to receive the endorsement of my friend and former colleague @HansRiemer," Jawando tweeted in announcing Riemer's support. "Hans has spent his career fighting for so many of the same priorities my campaign is centered upon. I look forward to working with him on delivering for the state of Maryland."

Photo courtesy Will Jawando for U.S. Senate

Maryland AG rules Montgomery County cannot ban police from making traffic stops

Maryland Attorney General Anthony Brown has ruled that the Montgomery County Council does not have the legal authority to pass a law that would prevent police from making traffic stops for minor offenses. Council President Evan Glass sought an opinion from Brown in regards to legality of the proposed STEP Act (Council Bill 12-23). Introduced by Councilmember Will Jawando, and co-sponsored by Councilmember Kristin Mink, the bill would ban police from making traffic stops for offenses such as a defective headlight or tinted windows. 

Brown's finding, issued in a September 15, 2023 memo to Glass, is that Maryland vehicle law preempts any County law regarding traffic stops. However, Brown advised Glass that another STEP Act provision, which would ban police from seeking consent to search a vehicle unless there is "reasonable suspicion" that a crime has been committed, would be permissible because Maryland vehicle law "does not address the subject of searches during traffic stops."

The STEP Act is one of several criminal justice reforms introduced or steered to passage by Jawando in his two terms on the Council. Those initiatives have been highlighted during his current campaign for the Maryland U.S. Senate seat of Ben Cardin (D), who is retiring after his term ends. In advocating for the STEP Act, Jawando argued that change was necessary to reduce the outsize impact of traffic stops on drivers of color. 

One group that advocated for both of the STEP Act provisions in question, the Decriminalize Montgomery County Coalition, said in a statement that its members are "disappointed" in Brown's ruling on the traffic stop question. It urges the Council to move forward on passage of the provision on consent searches of vehicles, and the Maryland General Assembly to update the state's vehicle law to allow localities to ban traffic stops for minor offenses.

"The Decriminalize Montgomery County coalition is deeply concerned that [Brown's] opinion poses an obstruction to racial justice," the organization said. "The STEP Act was introduced to reduce racial disparities in traffic stops. In fact, the opinion correctly acknowledges that police disproportionately stop Black and brown drivers compared to other drivers. Drivers of color are frequently stopped for minor offenses, such as a broken taillight or an expired registration, even though these violations do not threaten public safety. These stops often end up turning into consent searches so that police can search vehicles for drugs, and can escalate into emotional and physical harm. They are fundamental problems that still need to be addressed. Stopping consent searches is a step towards that end, but the best way to reduce police harm is to ensure that the stop does not happen at all." 

Organizations that are part of the DMC coalition supporting the STEP Act include Young People for Progress (YPP), the Silver Spring Justice Coalition (SSJC), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Maryland, and Jews United for Justice (JUFJ).

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Adam Van Grack endorsed by District 17 Senator Kagan, Delegates Spiegel & Vogel in Rockville City Council race

Delegate Ryan Spiegel

Adam Van Grack
, a candidate for Rockville City Council, has added to his lengthy list of endorsements from area elected officials. Newly-appointed Maryland State Delegate Ryan Spiegel (D) has joined his District 17 delegation colleagues Senator Cheryl Kagan (D) and Delegate Joe Vogel (D) in backing Van Grack in the race. "Adam Van Grack has been an active member in the Rockville legal community for many years," Spiegel said in a statement. “He has the expertise and experience to excel on the Rockville City Council, and he is the type of leader who I know can get big things done. I am proud to endorse Adam Van Grack for Rockville City Council and urge you to join me in supporting him."

State Senator Cheryl Kagan

"Delegate Spiegel has set the standard for effective local leadership and I’m proud to have his support in this race," Van Grack said. "During his time on the Gaithersburg City Council, Delegate Spiegel was an effective voice who listened and delivered results not just for Gaithersburg but for all Marylanders. As a member of the Maryland legislature, I have no doubts that he will continue to benefit from his leadership and I look forward to working with him and our District 17 delegation to deliver results for Rockville, District 17, and our state."

Delegate Joe Vogel

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Congresswoman Lauren Underwood endorses Will Jawando for Maryland U.S. Senate seat

Montgomery County Councilmember Will Jawando's latest endorsement for the Maryland U.S. Senate seat of Ben Cardin (D) comes from a federal lawmaker already on Capitol Hill. Illinois Congresswoman Lauren Underwood announced this morning that she is backing Jawando over his leading opponents in the Democratic primary, Congressman David Trone and Prince George's County Executive Angela Alsobrooks. "I am excited to announce my support of Will Jawando for the United States Senate," Underwood said in a statement. "For nearly two decades, Will has been a mentor and friend. He's a tremendous leader who cares deeply about the lives and well-being of all Maryland residents. Will is an effective, disciplined, and inspiring legislator who is prepared for the challenges ahead. I am proud to endorse him."

A registered nurse, Underwood gained national attention by winning a Republican seat once held by Congressman Randy Hultgren and the disgraced former House speaker, convicted child molester Dennis Hastert. Underwood has the 16th-most-liberal voting record in the U.S. House according to VoteView, likely a winning data point with Jawando, who is positioning himself as the true progressive in the Senate race.

"I am honored to receive the endorsement of Congresswoman Lauren Underwood," Jawando said in a statement. "She is in the top echelon of our nation’s public servants and tirelessly fights for her constituents. I have had the honor of knowing the Congresswoman for many years and know her to be a tireless leader for Illinois."

Monday, September 25, 2023

Black cemetery advocates to "pour 250+ symbolic bones" at protest of Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich

The Bethesda African Cemetery Coalition plans to protest Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich's appearance at a County budget forum this Wednesday, September 27, 2023 from 7:00 to 8:30 PM at the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center, in the East-West Room, at 4805 Edgemoor Lane in downtown Bethesda. In a statement, BACC says it intends to "pour 200+ symbolic bones at Marc Elrich's feet," representing bones and other artifacts removed from a construction site directly adjacent to the desecrated Moses African Cemetery in Bethesda that were trucked to a Gainesville, Virginia warehouse. BACC asserts that Elrich and the self-storage company developing the construction site have both blocked access to the remains for independent testing, and that the remains have not been adequately tested to determine if they are human or not.

The site in question, directly behind the McDonald's at 5214 River Road in Bethesda, was not part of Moses African Cemetery. But given the reality that property lines of older, unfenced cemeteries - and of segregated Black cemeteries like Moses - in then-rural areas were not always clear or precisely followed in burials, there was a strong concern that there could be human remains on the site. The Montgomery County Planning Board ignored those concerns when it approved construction of a self-storage building on the property in 2017. 

Demolition of an auto repair building on the site soon followed, and excavation began on the project in 2020, but it has been beset by delays and interruptions ever since. The developer has not commented publicly on why the project has repeatedly stalled out, and the BACC has maintained a steady campaign of protests and rallies at the site, which have garned local, national and international media coverage. Elrich, the County Council and Congressman Jamie Raskin have all declined to intervene in the dispute, leading BACC to protest at their offices and public appearances. 

"Moses Cemetery is located in Mr. Raskin’s district," BACC said in a statement this week, "and we demand that he fight white supremacy in his own backyard as he purports to do on a national level." In the same statement, BACC calls Elrich's inaction on the issue "a clear allegiance to white supremacy." Raskin has said he is deferring to local officials on the matter, and Elrich - who walked in Dr. Martin Luther King's March on Washington and was active in the civil rights movement -  has maintained that he has no legal authority to intervene in the case.

Saturday, September 23, 2023

Tropical Storm Ophelia makes landfall, already impacting Maryland/Washington, D.C. area

Tropical Storm Ophelia has made landfall near Emerald Isle, North Carolina, but the outer rain bands of the storm had already entered the Washington, D.C. area overnight. What will the impacts of Ophelia on the Rockville area be? The National Weather Service predicts rainfall amounts from 2-4" in the Montgomery County/Washington, D.C. area. High winds with gusts up to 45-55 MPH are also anticipated.

Montgomery County and Washington D.C. are under a National Weather Service-issued Wind Advisory from 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM today. The NWS forecasts northeast winds of 20 to 30 MPH, with gusts up to 55 MPH expected. Gusts up to 50 mph are possible along the immediate shore of the Chesapeake Bay and Tidal Potomac. Ocean City, Maryland is experiencing street flooding and wind gusts up to 50 MPH.Secure any outdoor furniture or objects light enough to blow away, or bring them indoors.

Maryland Governor Wes Moore has
declared a State of Emergency

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore has declared a State of Emergency. "If you can avoid driving or being out during the storm, please do so," Moore said. "We are expecting an extended period of strong winds, heavy rainfall, and elevated tides." Flooding, falling limbs, downed trees and power outages are expected.

Ophelia is currently located 25 miles WNW of Cape Lookout, North Carolina. Its sustained winds measured at Cape Lookout are currently 61 MPH, with gusts up to 73 MPH. The storm is moving NNW at 9 MPH, and will affect the D.C. region through Sunday.

Heavy rainfall and sustained wind gusts will combine for conditions that favor trees falling, causing damage and power outages. Charge cellphones and make sure you have batteries for flashlights and radios.

WMATA reports Metrobus routes D33 Westbound and E4 Westbound are temporarily detouring at Military Road and 14th Street NW, and resuming their routes at Military Road and 16th Street NW, due to weather conditions. Pepco is reporting a few, small power outages in Gaithersburg at this hour.

Tracking map courtesy National Hurricane Center

Thursday, September 21, 2023

Will Jawando endorsed by Baltimore, Prince George's officials in Maryland U.S. Senate race

Montgomery County Councilmember Will Jawando picked up the endorsements of four more Maryland elected officials in his campaign for the U.S. Senate seat of Ben Cardin (D), who will retire in January 2025. Baltimore City Councilmember Kristerfer Burnett, Prince George’s County Councilmembers Krystal Oriadha and Wala Blegay, and Riverdale Park Town Councilmember Karen Mejia all put their support behind Jawando, who is positioning himself as the true progressive in the highly-competitive Democratic primary. Jawando's leading primary opponents are Total Wine founder and Congressman David Trone (D - MD 6th District), and Prince George's County Executive Angela Alsobrooks.

Convincing three more Prince George's officials to support him over their own county executive is a coup for Jawando, as Alsobrooks is facing questions about her newfound support for criminal justice reform, relative to her own prosecutorial record and statements during her service as Prince George's County State's Attorney. Jawando is seeking to follow the insurgent path of new Maryland Gov. Wes Moore, who stunned many by blowing past moderate establishment figures like Comptroller Peter Franchot to capture Government House in November 2022. 

“I am honored to receive the endorsement of these four fantastic public servants," Jawando said in a statement Wednesday. "This campaign is based upon the belief that we can build a shared prosperity for all Marylanders, and with their support, achieving this dream is increasingly possible. They represent the next generation of leaders in our state who are stepping up and doing their part to build a better future where no one has to be worse off for their neighbor to do better."

"Over the coming weeks and months, my campaign will continue to expand into both Prince George’s and Baltimore city and county. The race is early, and anyone who tells you they know how things will shake out is mistaken. I have gained a sense from speaking with residents across our state that there is a deep frustration with the status quo, and they are looking for a U.S. Senator who can deliver for their communities. This is what I have done in Montgomery County, and it’s why I am running for the Senate."

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Bethesda African Cemetery Coalition to converge on Congressman Jamie Raskin's Washington, D.C. office today

Raskin touring the Moses African Cemetery site
with BACC President Marsha Coleman-Adebayo
earlier this year

Leaders and members of the Bethesda African Cemetery Coalition will converge on the Rayburn Office Building office of U.S. Congressman Jamie Raskin (D - MD 8th District) this afternoon, Wednesday, September 20, 2023 at 3:00 PM. The organization, which advocates for the desecrated Moses African Cemetery now hidden primarily on the Westwood Tower property in Bethesda, says Raskin has ignored the cemetery issue despite being briefed on its history and visiting the site. BACC says it hopes to meet with Raskin during the office visit, and will demand he stop the ongoing desecration of the site, and call for a federal criminal investigation into all crimes committed at the cemetery since it was first disturbed in the 1960s.

Despite his awareness of the cemetery issues, Raskin has said he will continue to defer to Montgomery County officials rather than take action himself, BACC says. "The local officials he is referring to are the same who are responsible for the crimes," BACC argues in a press release. BACC says anyone wishing to participate in this afternoon's visit should meet outside the Independence Avenue entrance of the Rayburn Office Building at 2:30 PM. "BACC will continue to visit Jamie Raskin until it is clear that he will take action," organizers said in a statement.

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Montgomery County Councilmember Will Jawando introduces bill to eliminate tipped minimum wage

Montgomery County Councilmember Will Jawando (D - At-Large) introduced a bill today that would eliminate tipped minimum wages in the county by 2028. Restaurant servers, bartenders and other tipped service workers currently can be paid less than the County's minimum wage, because they theoretically will achieve the minimum wage amount through customer tips. Jawando's bill, which is also supported by Councilmember Kristin Mink (D), would phase out the tipped minimum wage over the next five years, and require restaurant owners to pay all staff the current County minimum wage. His U.S. Senate campaign is touting the bill as the latest example of Jawando's progressive leadership on the Council, at a time when his leading progressive opponent, Prince George's County Executive Angela Alsobrooks, is under fire from a new Intercept article that raises doubts about her past positions on crime and civil liberties issues.

“Even while running a high-stakes and fast-paced campaign for the U.S. Senate, Will is continuing to fight each and every day for his constituents in Montgomery County and embodying the core message of this campaign: to build a shared prosperity that lifts everybody up, no matter who you are or where you come from," Jawando's campaign communications director Benny Stanislawski said in a statement today. "Today’s bill is a perfect example of this, and his tried and true approach to public service. From successfully passing historic rent stabilization, to a pilot guaranteed income program, and community-informed policing in Montgomery County, Will is without a doubt the most effective legislator in the race. Today’s bill will likely become law and completely reshape the lived experience of countless working-class residents of the county."

Similar bills and laws in other jurisdictions have been highly-controversial and divisive. Restaurant owners fear their already-slim profit margins getting thinner, having to boost the wages they pay employees directly by more than $10 an hour each. Some servers and bartenders, who say they now regularly earn more than minimum wage via tips, have even opposed similar laws elsewhere. Their concern has been that word of the law - and the new service charges that restaurants add to customer tabs in the wake of their passage - will encourage customers to cut back or eliminate tipping altogether. Jawando does not believe this will be the case, but says he is proposing a second bill that would ensure service charges go to restaurant workers, rather than to the restaurant owners.

Friday, September 15, 2023

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore joins President Biden in announcing adult education funding

Maryland Governor Wes Moore (D) joined President Joe Biden (D) at an event at Prince George's Community College in Largo Thursday, where Moore announced he is directing $17.4 million in funding toward adult education. More than half of the money will come from the federal government, and the remaining $7.9 million will be redirected from the Maryland Department of Labor budget. The recipients of the funds will be all 16 Maryland community colleges, two local K-12 school systems (Somerset and Worcester counties), three community-based organizations, one public library system and the state correctional education system. One of the three community-based organizations is Classroom to Community in Montgomery County.

“Together, we will grow an economy that works for everyone, from the bottom up and the middle out,” Gov. Moore said. “President Biden has been very clear about his vision to empower and educate workers to grow the middle class. It’s a vision I stand by because it’s good for Maryland, good for our people, and good for our economy. Together, we are going to work in partnership to follow the president’s lead, build out our workforce, grow the economy, and win this decade.” 

Moore recently expressed his concern about the state's moribund economy, and the resulting lack of revenue that will limit his ability to fund initiatives he has proposed. That concern was heightened by the announcement this week that Maryland's Transportation Trust Fund is running out of money.

Biden and Moore were also joined by Maryland Congressman Steny Hoyer (D) and Maryland's U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D) and Chris Van Hollen (D). The president was introduced by Prince George's County Community College student Sadé Davis.

Friday, September 8, 2023

Montgomery County's first Wawa store begins hiring as construction continues (Photos)

Montgomery County's first Wawa convenience store has begun hiring at 405 S. Frederick Avenue in Gaithersburg. Applications are now being accepted in three job categories at Customer service associate, customer service supervisor and overnight team supervisor. Meanwhile, at the store site, the first glass panels have been installed in the storefront. Stone has also been installed on two pillars in front of the entrance, and along the lower facade of the store building.

Thursday, August 31, 2023

Fairchild Apartments in Germantown recall the golden age of Montgomery County (Photos)

Montgomery County was once the economic engine of the Washington, D.C. suburbs. Today, it's recognized as economically-moribund by everyone from The Washington Post to Maryland Governor Wes Moore, and has ceded the spotlight to Fairfax County and other booming job centers in Northern Virginia. To see how far Montgomery County has fallen, one only has to look back at its golden age, which lasted roughly from 1960 to 2000. Lockheed Martin and Marriott International are among the few remaining vestiges of that boomtime, a time when a big player like IBM had not just one, but three sites in the county. A new apartment building in Germantown pays elaborate tribute to one of the brightest jewels in Montgomery County's golden age crown, Fairchild Aircraft.

Fairchild was a major aerospace design and manufacturing firm. Its presence in Maryland included a corporate and R&D campus at 20301 Century Boulevard in Germantown, and an aircraft manufacturing plant in Hagerstown. A short runway outside the Germantown site was used by corporate executives to travel between the company's two Maryland campuses aboard a Short Takeoff and Landing (STOL) turboprop airplane. Curiously, the STOL runway bore a large Iron Cross insignia - - even more curious given the background of the firm's most famous executive, one who is excluded from the tribute.

It's almost hard to believe today, but during the 1970s, the father of spaceflight had an office overlooking I-270. Wernher von Braun served as Fairchild's Vice-President of Engineering and Development from 1972 until his retirement in 1976. A brilliant and complicated man with an equally-complicated history, von Braun was a German pioneer in rocketry. He was also was a member of the Nazi Party and the SS, and fully aware of the use of slave labor that was utilized at the underground Mittelwerk V-2 rocket assembly plant, labor that was drawn from the adjacent Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp.

The U.S. government looked the other way at the questionable parts of von Braun's resume following World War II, as it did with so many former Nazis it brought to America through the controversial Operation Paperclip, ostensibly to ensure these scientific and engineering wizards didn't end up working for the Soviets. Only through dogged investigation by journalists did the wartime actions of many of these men sooner or later come to public light. Von Braun, through his work for the Department of Defense and NASA, was largely responsible for the United States winning the race to the moon in 1969. He died from cancer shortly after his retirement from Fairchild.

Fairchild Aircraft logo "easter egg"
on the Fairchild Apartments facade

The 1980s brought great changes to Fairchild. Its Hagerstown plant closed in 1984. The end of the Cold War hit the company hard. Orbital Sciences Corporation acquired the Germantown division of the firm, now known as Fairchild Space and Defense Corp., in 1994. Orbital sold FS&D Corp. to the Smiths Group in 2000. Five years later, Smiths announced it would be closing the Germantown campus, which once employed over 1000 people.

Since then, the old Fairchild campus area has slowly begun to redevelop. The latest addition is the Fairchild Apartments development at 20013 Century Boulevard. While many new apartment buildings offer little more than a gimmicky brand name and cookie-cutter design, the Fairchild Apartments development displays great thought and effort in memorializing its namesake company.

A Fairchild Aircraft logo is sculpted right into the facade of the building, for starters. One museum-quality display provides information about the history of the Germantown Fairchild campus, noting that the A-10 Thunderbolt and the landing gear for the space shuttle were both designed there. The Iron Cross runway and campus layout are depicted. It even features a photograph of the Fairchild Porter turboprop lifting off from the Germantown runway!

Another display pays tribute to the founder of Fairchild Industries, Sherman Mills Fairchild. It notes his memorial foundation in Chevy Chase, Maryland "distributes more than $35 million annually to support higher education, fine arts and cultural institutions." There's no display for von Braun.

Fairchild campus layout, including the 
runway with Iron Cross at right

Other displays feature the A-10 Thunderbolt "Warthog," also known as the "Tank Killer," and the Germantown facility's last major project, the Topex/Poseidon satellite. Designed with a NATO-Soviet European ground war in mind, the A-10 instead ended up as the most-feared nemesis of tank crews in the third-world nations America invaded in the post-Soviet era. The Topex/Poseidon mapped the topography and circulation of Earth's oceans as they had never been seen before, from its launch in August 1992 until its mission-ending malfunction in 2008. It's still up there somewhere, circling the Earth.

Down on Earth, part of the Fairchild campus is still here, as well - - albeit reclaimed by nature. Street names at a townhome development further up Century Boulevard recall Fairchild, and some of its famous products, like the C-119 "Flying Boxcar." One street there, Stol Run, is a nod to Fairchild's iconic STOL runway. More developments, especially those built on or near historic sites, should incorporate those past landmarks and associated individuals to the same degree that the Fairchild Apartments have here in Germantown.

Monday, August 28, 2023

Montgomery County's first Sheetz opens in Gaithersburg (Photos)

Montgomery County was years overdue to have a Sheetz convenience store, and it has finally happened at 751 Progress Way, off of MD 355 in Gaithersburg. Now that Montgomery County's first Sheetz is open, the first thing I noticed is that this store is about half the size of the ones I stop at on road trips. However, the outdoor dining area is spacious.

Not surprisingly, given Montgomery County's archaic liquor sales monopoly and rules, there is no Beer Cave at this Sheetz. There isn't even any beer! Again, Montgomery County Prohibition-era liquor rules still in effect. The store does have a drive-thru, and self-checkout.

Given the smaller size, the store doesn't have the amount of merchandise I'm used to seeing at Sheetz. But, no complaints! The made-to-order food and beverages are among the major reasons people stop at Sheetz, and they are finally available in Montgomery County!