Monday, September 7, 2020

Loudoun County leader blasts Montgomery County for failure of understaffed 911 call center in teen's death

Montgomery County Council has
failed to fully-fund 911 call center staffing,
leaving 54 positions vacant

The Montgomery County Council has failed to adequately staff the county's 911 call center for years, leading to call takers working overtime, and being stressed and exhausted. In recent weeks, the call center has been criticized for its response to a 911 call from the Loudoun side of the Potomac River. By the time the first rescue unit arrived at the correct location, 36 minutes had passed.

"I am baffled by how poorly Montgomery County handled this," Loudoun County Board of Supervisors Chair Phyllis Randall said, according to the Washington Post. "How do you wait 17 minutes and then keep waiving Loudoun off, and saying, 'We're taking this call?' They need to work on their 911 center."

But the Post reports that the Montgomery County Council has not only failed to fully staff the 911 center, but is now dragging its feet in investigating the 911 center's failures in the drowning incident in which a 16-year-old family friend of Randall's died. Loudoun has already completed an investigation, and developed a 77-page report. Montgomery County? A Council "briefing is expected later this month," the Post's Dan Morse reported.

It's mind-boggling to consider the tens-of-billions of dollars in wasteful spending and kickbacks to its campaign donors the Council has approved over the last decade. They also managed to have $6.7 million in taxpayer funds vanish, in an embezzlement scheme that has yet to be investigated by the FBI. 

Let's not forget Council expenditures like the $900,000 over-budget Glen Echo Heights sewer pipe, or paying $22,000 for a security camera system that costs less than $1000 retail. And countless extraneous new executive-level positions with six-figure salaries, often filled by political allies of the Council. 

Yet they've failed to spend the necessary funds to staff the 911 call center - where the 911 system itself has experienced two outages in recent years. 

It's a County Council that cannot execute the most basic functions of government. Now, competing jurisdictions aren't only whipping Montgomery County's posterior in economic development, infrastructure and schools, they're also starting to call out its incompetent and feckless elected officials. Considering the local press won't, it's about time someone did.

Saturday, September 5, 2020

Fact check: Is Montgomery County Ride On bus service being cut by Larry Hogan?

A remarkable column about Montgomery County transit appeared in Friday's Washington Post. It was remarkable for two reasons. First, Post columnists have been silent on transit cuts made by the Montgomery County Council over the last decade, including their elimination of the Park and Ride route for Frederick commuters entering Montgomery, and their slashing of weekend bus service in Damascus. And remarkable because it was...false.

Columnist Petula Dvorak was apparently attempting to write a critical piece about service cuts proposed by the Maryland Transit Administration to MTA bus routes and MARC rail service. But a lengthy introduction, and let's-give-the-Council-free-press quotes from councilmembers, suggest that Montgomery County and its Ride On bus service will be the victims of the MTA cuts.

Ride On Route 55 is specifically cited by Dvorak, and later she says the MTA cuts will make the Route 55 buses even more crowded like "sardine cans." She adds that low-income residents in Montgomery County will be "among those devastated by reductions in bus routes." The article paints Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) as the villain who is behind the cuts.

Just one problem - Ride On is not run by the MTA. Ride On is funded by Montgomery County taxpayers, and is run by the Montgomery County Department of Transportation. There are no Hogan cuts to Ride On because Hogan has no authority over or involvement with Ride On. There are no MTA cuts to Ride On routes proposed. If any Ride On cuts are made, they will be made by the Montgomery County Council deciding not to fund those routes.

The column wound up literally being fake news. At best, Capitol Hill resident Dvorak did not realize the MTA doesn't run all bus service in the state of Maryland.

Depicting Montgomery County Council members as heroes fighting to save Ride On bus service in the County doesn't even pass the laugh test, much less a fact check. If they are working so hard to save transit, why have they still not restored weekend service on Route 90 in Damascus, a 2010 Ride On cut that left car-free residents stranded in town on weekends?

Is Montgomery County Ride On bus service being cut by Larry Hogan? Nope. It has been cut in the past by the Montgomery County Council, though.

Fact check score: FOUR PINOCCHIOS 

Friday, September 4, 2020

Rock Grove shopping center begins to take shape in Rockville (Photos)

The conversion of the strip mall at the corner of MD 355 and Shady Grove Road into a new shopping center called Rock Grove is well underway. Construction began back in April. You can now see the facade and roofline that was shown in the renderings beginning to take final shape.

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Ritchie Center pad site available for lease on Rockville Pike

Here's an interesting development at the Ritchie Center. The retro-design brick building at 795 Rockville Pike could be torn down to make way for a new retail use, based on a new for-lease listing. Rather than touting the building for lease, it is offering the pad site land itself, a 6970 SF parcel.

This would be a great location for a new fast food restaurant with drive-thru - excellent visibility and vehicular access. We need a Hardee's, Steak 'N Shake, or Jack in the Box quite badly.
Map courtesy NAI Michael

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Hogan: Let's go to the movies! Elrich: Not so fast

Montgomery County won't immediately 
accept move to Stage 3 of reopening Friday

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) declared Tuesday afternoon that the state's coronavirus numbers now permit moving to Stage 3 of reopening. He said that would include movie theaters and all businesses, and would go into effect this Friday at 5:00 PM. But don't call the Moviefone guy for Tenet showtimes just yet, Kramer.
Regal Cinemas Majestic 20 in
downtown Silver Spring is still closed,
like all Maryland movie theaters
Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich said Hogan's announcement had "taken us by surprise." Because Hogan did not share his executive order with County officials in advance, Elrich said, it would take time to review it. "Although I want to see our community open as quickly as possible, we also must proceed with care," Elrich tweeted, adding that he would continue to rely on "data and science" in making decisions.
New movie posters outside the Regal, but
not always with the right release dates in
the tumultuous coronavirus era
Elrich said it will take at least a few days to review the order and data. He said he was troubled by Covid-19 case numbers being higher this week than last week in the county. Stay tuned for further updates between this morning and Friday.

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Amazon Fresh grocery store to open on Shady Grove Road

Amazon will open one of its new Amazon Fresh grocery store concepts in Gaithersburg. The store will take over the Office Depot building at the 270 Center on Shady Grove Road.

First opening in California, the stores will offer the Amazon Dash Cart, which identifies the items you place in it. Customers can then push the cart through the Dash Cart checkout lane for instant checkout when leaving the store.

Fresh foods are prepared daily in-store. Amazon Fresh stores will emphasize low prices, compared to the company's higher-end Whole Foods Market chain. Expect a 2021 opening for the store.

Monday, August 31, 2020

Nine Districts for MoCo is on the ballot - and so is a poison pill from the Montgomery County Council

“The government closest to 
the people serves 
the people best” 
- Thomas Jefferson

The citizen group Nine Districts for MoCo's petitions have been approved by the Montgomery County Board of Elections, meaning that voters will have the chance in the November election to vote to change the structure of the Council from 5 district and 4 at-large seats to 9 district seats. Two key reasons the proposed question received strong support from residents were the oversized, gerrymandered districts that sprawl across the County, and that a majority of the Council all live in the same vicinity of Takoma Park, leaving upcounty voters in particular with less representation on the Council. Fearing the ballot question would be approved, the Montgomery County Council ginned up its own ballot question on the Council structure in the dark of night, to serve as a poison pill if voters approve the Nine Districts Question D.

The Council's Question C proposes to keep the Council as it is, but add an additional two district seats, at great additional annual cost for staff and operations. On its face, it would appear to be merely a selfish attempt by the current members to preserve their seats. And it certainly is that. But the Council above all seeks to sabotage the voters' will through Question C, just as it infamously did with the ambulance fee.

Even the order of the questions has been rigged by the corrupt Council. Note that its undemocratic ballot question, which was rammed through at the end of a session with no public process, input or comment, was placed before the citizen-endorsed Nine Districts Question D on the November ballot.

The farther down the ballot an office, question or referendum is, the less likely it is to be voted upon by less diligent voters. But the Council isn't merely hoping you'll tire out before you to get to Question D.

In fact, they're not worried if you vote for both - because if their poison pill Question C and the Nine Districts Question D both get approved by a majority of voters, likely out of confusion, the matter of changing the Council structure would then go to the courts. And we all know the Montgomery County cartel almost never loses in any court within the borders of Maryland.

This is why it's essential, if you are dissatisfied with the current Council, to vote FOR Question D and AGAINST Question C.

We all know that even if the Nine Districts Question D passes, that the Council will try its darnedest to once again gerrymander the districts to ensure that only one party can possibly win. They may be shaped even more absurdly than the wacky ones splattered across the map today.

But even these gerrymandered nine new districts would, by the rules of mathematics, have to be geographically smaller. Thomas Jefferson, one of the greatest thinkers in human history, said, “The government closest to the people serves the people best.” No longer would one tiny area within the downcounty have the power to control up to six out of the nine seats on the Council. And it would be far less likely for seven of the nine councilmembers to live downcounty, as they do now.

It's virtually unprecedented in County history to have a poison pill ballot question designed to sabotage another, where a victory by both sends the entire matter into legal oblivion. But then this Council increasingly has fought an unprecedented ideological war against the very constituents it represents.

So unpopular are its policies that residents approved term limits. And when energetic protesting of Council actions (and inaction) became too embarrassing in 2016-17, the Council literally locked its constituents out of the Council building permanently, turning 100 Maryland Avenue into a secure fortress. A Council of the People, a Council not suffering from paranoia and megalomania, doesn't have to lock out the public.

If locking the People out wasn't enough, the Council took another unprecedented step - it refused to engage in the all-American, democratic process of debating its political opponents in the last election. Civic associations were successfully pressured by the Montgomery County cartel to cancel all of their general election debates in 2018. Washington Post reporters Jennifer Barrios and Robert McCartney were fully aware of this, but chose not to cover it. In fact, they mysteriously never wrote a single sentence about the general election Council races in 2018.

Democracy dies in darkness, indeed.

It is once again time for the citizens to shine a light into that corrupt darkness, by voting FOR Question D to create nine compact districts, and AGAINST Question C.

The Council is again attempting to sabotage an election, this time by confusion. Just remember this handy guide to defeat them: "D" stands for democracy. "C" stands for corruption. Vote FOR Democracy and AGAINST Corruption, by voting FOR D and AGAINST C.

Photo via National Archives