April 10, 2010

Truck crashes into bridge at Rockville Metro

A freight truck hit the underside of the pedestrian bridge that connects Rockville Metro station with downtown. Bridge currently closed and police and fire are on the scene. Injuries unknown. SOURCE: Max for Rockville

April 9, 2010

Gail Ewing: Costco on the mind in Montgomery County

Costcos are all over Maryland. There are warehouse stores at Arundel Mills, and in Beltsville, Brandywine, Columbia, Frederick, Gaithersburg, Glen Burnie and White Marsh, and all but Gaithersburg have gas pumps on site. We are about to acquire even more. According to Glenarden Councilwoman Margaret Dade, construction is expected to begin in May for a Costco at the Woodmore Towne Center. A majority of the Montgomery County Council has agreed to support County Executive Isiah Leggett's plan to provide $4 million to Westfield to help bring another Costco to Wheaton Plaza in 2011.

There's much anticipation. Councilwoman Dade says, "Costco brings a new shopping experience in this area," adding, "and we are excited about this major addition to the Towne Center mixed-use site."

Montgomery County Council President Nancy Floreen says, "Costco brings jobs and a desired activity to the lower part of the county and is a strong statement of our commitment to the Wheaton community."

SOURCE: Gazette

Minorities decry cuts to Montgomery health programs

Minority groups in Montgomery County are protesting proposed cuts to health care programs, saying the cuts unfairly target those who have been historically shut out of receiving quality care. County Executive Ike Leggett is looking to cut a hotline referral and translation program for Hispanic and Asian residents, and funding for black HIV prevention efforts, as well as other minority-based health programs, by about 11 percent. SOURCE: Washington Examiner

Montgomery County police identify officer killed in crash

Montgomery County police have identified an officer who was killed when his patrol car struck a tree while responding to a call. Police say Officer Hector Ayala, a seven-year veteran of the department, died Sunday. They say Ayala was on his way to the scene of a fight after another officer called for backup. Ayala's police cruiser ran off the road and hit a tree in Wheaton. He was taken to a hospital, where he died. Detectives investigating the crash are asking for tips from anyone who was at the scene. Gov. Martin O'Malley has ordered the Maryland state flag be flown at half-staff in honor of Ayala. The flag will remain at half-staff until sunset on the day of his burial, which has not been set. Ayala is survived by his wife, who is pregnant with triplets, and a son. SOURCEBaltimore Sun

April 8, 2010

Md. Senate panel OKs county equity investment bill

A Maryland Senate panel has endorsed letting Montgomery County use tax dollars to make private equity investments in companies. The Senate Finance Committee approved legislation Tuesday to allow county leaders to make the investments in local firms or companies that would relocate to the county. It says local government could not own more than 25 percent of any firm. It also prohibits county leaders from engaging in any oversight of the firm. Representatives of the Montgomery County Civic Federation and activist group Citizens Above Party have urged legislators to oppose the bill because they don't want officials making risky business decisions with tax dollars. The county has a budget deficit of more than $700 million. The measure now moves to the Senate floor. SOURCEBusiness Week

Montgomery County wrestling

By Bernard Wolley
Seneca Valley, Jr.
Wolley dethroned the state champion to top a 33-2 season and capture Seneca Valley's first individual title since 1998.
Coach of the Year
Josh Munsey, Clarksburg

First team
103: Jason Murphy, Landon, Fr.
112: Daniel Sanchez, Georgetown Prep, Fr.
119: Parke Overmiller, Magruder, Jr.
125: Jenkins Monzey, Georgetown Prep, Sr.
130: Jordan Tolbert, Magruder, Jr.
135: Eric Fessel, Georgetown Prep, Sr.
140: Ryan Garey, Bullis, Jr.
145: James Roach, Bethesda-Chevy Chase, Sr.
152: Josh Lowy, Sherwood, Sr.
160: Zeke Gammill, Damascus, Sr.
171: Collins Nitcheu, Bethesda-Chevy Chase, Jr.
189: Taylor Leighton, Whitman, Sr.
215: Danny Lee, Whitman, Sr.
285: Pat Teixeira, Walter Johnson, Sr.
SOURCE:Washington Post

April 7, 2010

First Date: Silver Spring vs Bethesda

Orange Baron
First Date: Silver Spring Let’s get straight to brass tacks. I don’t want to sound over-confident, or arrogant, but this match-up is incredibly stacked in my favor. As much as I love and feel loyal to Bethesda, Silver Spring is simply a far superior venue for a first date. What is the comfortable first date agenda? One doesn’t normally ask someone to the club or the aquarium for a first date. The proper protocol for the first date is, of course, dinner and a movie. However, mastery of this type of date is a precise science. You don’t take a first date to Mon Ami Gabi, for example, but you don’t take her to Five Guys, either.

That’s the first foot up that Silver Spring has over Bethesda. The selection in Silver Spring for casual first date dinners is fantastic. Think of all of the nice but not formal places in Bethesda. Potbelly, Mamma Lucia and Austin Grill all spring to mind. The thing is, all of these places also have franchises in Silver Spring. Indeed, the selection in Silver Spring is far more expansive. The choices are endless: Noodles & Company, Galaxy Billiards, Addis Ababa, The Greek Place, Panera Bread and Mi Rancho are all tremendous venues for casual eating with no true equivalent in Bethesda.

And, of course, after dinner, there is the movie. On sight, it is apparent that the Majestic is far more expansive and impressive than Regal’s Bethesda franchise. The Majestic offers twice as many auditoriums as the Regal in Bethesda, as well as a far more luxurious lobby and standing area. True, Bethesda offers the Bethesda Row Cinema, but these more serious, artsy movies are usually to be relegated for a later date. I know that on a first date, I’d rather break the ice with my lady friend at How to Train Your Dragon than, say, The Last Station, a cinematic masterpiece but lacking on the cuteness factor. Of course, what does one do after dinner? Three words: Cold Stone Creamery. You don’t get that in Bethesda.

Hot Pink Baron
First Date: Bethesda

If you ask anybody from the D.C. area which neighborhood, Bethesda or Silver Spring, has better dining, a better social scene, and better theaters, and is therefore the better place for a first date, their answer would almost always be that Bethesda is superior in all of those categories. After all, anybody who is at all familiar with the area knows that the variety and quantity of restaurants, which is an extremely important factor in choosing a location for a first date, is far superior in Bethesda. Downtown Silver Spring’s website lists 137 restaurants, while Downtown Bethesda’s lists 183, divided into 30 categories, which include everything from Greek to Cajun to Korean BBQ. Downtown Silver Spring’s website lists only 18 of those categories. Clearly, Bethesda is the better place for a first date when it comes to food.

But food is not the only factor that is important to consider when weighing first date options. Bethesda also has superior movie theaters, with two theaters that play a wide selection of current titles. Bethesda also has two live theaters. Silver Spring has one movie theater that plays current titles, and another that has only one screen and occasionally plays older movies, documentaries, and short films. But possibly the best thing about Bethesda is its wildly popular central strip, Bethesda Row, which is considered by many area residents as one of the best urban areas in the county. Bethesda Row owes its terrific reputation to its vibrant, lively, social scene, both during the day and at night. Silver Spring’s recently-developed Ellsworth Drive has attempted to imitate Bethesda Row, but so far has not been nearly as popular. In short, better restaurants, better movie theaters, and a better social scene make Bethesda a better place than Silver Spring for a first date.

SOURCE: Tattler Extra

Pearson Congratulates Montgomery County Public Schools as Finalist for Prestigious Broad Prize

New York, NY (PRWEB) April 6, 2010 -- Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland earned a spot as one of five finalists for the 2010 Broad Prize for Urban Education, an annual $2 million award honoring districts that demonstrate the best student performance while reducing achievement gaps. The announcement drew praise from officials at Pearson, the global leader in education and education technology.

"The Montgomery County school system is producing spectacular academic results, raising the bar for the rest of the nation," said Pearson's Maryland District Manager David Graham. "The people of Montgomery County should be proud of their teachers and students, and we congratulate them on this impressive accomplishment."

The winner of The Broad Prize, to be announced Oct. 19, will receive $1 million in college scholarships for high school seniors graduating in 2011. The four other districts will each receive $250,000 in college scholarships. Having been named as a finalist, Montgomery County is guaranteed a minimum of $250,000 in college scholarships for its students. SOURCE: Pearson School

As Ehrlich enters, Gazette confirms Ripken out for governor

Bob Ehrlich might be trying to be No. 1 in November, but he doesn't have to worry about No. 8 in the meantime, at least according to his brother. Cal Ripken Jr. is not interested in running for governor, Billy Ripken said Monday.

"That's no," the former Orioles second basemen said emphatically about a gubernatorial bid for his brother.

Daniel Vovak, a candidate for Montgomery County executive, said in his blog two weeks ago that Cal Ripken should be the GOP standard bearer in the governor's race. The notice got some play on other blogs, but apparently not much among the Ripkens.

Well, if Cal doesn't want to lead the state, how about heading the Orioles? Three weeks ago, Bloomberg.com reported that the Hall of Famer is pondering a switch into management. Again, Billy Ripken acted as if he hadn't heard it.

"Junior has ideas and philosophies that he would like to apply. Whether that presents itself, I can't speak to, because I don't know the fact that he wants to do that as of right now," Billy Ripken said. "He's always been the type of guy that if opportunity presents itself, he would not shut the door on opportunity. "I don't think it's something he's actively pursuing," he continued. "But I know he has philosophies and things like that he would like to apply."

Billy Ripken would not be more specific about what philosophies his brother would like to apply. "Ask him that question," he said. Judging by a Thursday Associated Press report, Cal Ripken has decided how he wants to apply those philosophies. The face of the franchise will become an adviser to the Orioles front office.

SOURCE: Gazette

Leggett's Bodyguard Budget Is Source of Controversy

Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett is keeping four bodyguards on staff, and that's stirring up controversy over county cuts and officials' safety. SOURCE: ABC 7

OPINION: MARC with strings attached

A new Washington Post article discusses the controversy of having overhead wires installed across downtown Washington to power the city's new streetcars. Here in Montgomery County, it is widely assumed that we will have such overhead catenararies along the planned routes of the Purple Line and Corridor Cities Transitway. However, the growing budget difficulties and dysfunctional Metro system - along with the poor to nonexistant performance of Metro and light rail during the 3 blizzards - continue to make an expansion of MARC commuter rail an affordable and efficient alternative.

The controversial Science City and other developments previously built along I-270 have all been touted as "smart growth" based upon the far-off construction of the CCT. Not only is the ridership of the non-existing CCT far overstated, but the current size of the Gaithersburg West plan far exceeds the capacity of current and future transportation infrastructure in that area. Meanwhile, Watkins Mill Town Center is emerging as the only real smart growth development in that corridor. Why? In addition to a planned interchange with 270 (of course, it's not yet built in our cart-before-the-horse county council's mode of planning), Watkins Mill already has a MARC rail station on site. North of the county, MARC trains take a spur into downtown Frederick. There are a variety of possible MARC configurations that could provide the rail service needed in the 270 corridor, at a greatly reduced price. READ MORE: Robert Dyer's Blog

April 6, 2010

State Senate Threatens to Derail Red Line, Purple Line, and Corridor Cities Transitway

That's not the stated reasoning—that would be testing, again, the viability of a heavy-rail option for the much-needed east-west transit line—but that would be the probable outcome if the Senate gets its wish: a full restudy of the Red Line, Purple Line, and Corridor Cities Transitway, three public-transportation projects proposed in Maryland. The House of Delegates rejected the Senate's proposal, but that doesn't mean it's dead.

Understand, a restudy will take years, re-evaluating alternatives will take years, and whatever new fight occurs after will probably take years as well—and it will take money, lots of money the Maryland Transit Administration doesn't have and needs to spend on keeping a strapped transit system's head above water.

Would it be worth it if the MTA restudied a heavy rail alternative and it magically dropped in cost by a billion dollars and fell within federal funding guidelines? Sure. The difference between heavy rail (read: subway) and light rail is significant enough that, yeah, we can hold out for a few years. But it won't be cheaper or, even if it was, it won't be cheap enough. As Maryland Politics Watch points out, both the current Red and Purple Line plans are at the cost-effectiveness wire. If the cost for a new subway line were actually lowered, one could only imagine how busted that subway system would likely be. Look at Baltimore's light rail line, for instance, done on the mega-cheap to avoid dealing with federal financing altogether. The reason the line seems to go nowhere is that—just as Baltimore subway advocates are proposing for the Red Line—it runs on freight-rail tracks that don't have much ridership around them, instead of building new tracks and lines in places such as Greenspring, Hampden, Towson, Charles Village, and other locales that could really use a well-placed light rail line. In other words, building a financially feasible subway line in Baltimore in the year 2010 means building a crappy one that runs through the woods.

SOURCE: Baltimore City Paper

Moody's Threatens Downgrade to MoCo Bonds

Moody's Global Credit Research, an agency that evaluates bond risk, has maintained its top rating on Montgomery County's general obligation bonds for now but has placed the county "on review" for a possible downgrade. Standard & Poor's is sticking with its top rating and has a "stable outlook," indicating that it will not be downgrading soon. This means that two of the three leading credit ratings agencies (including Fitch) are now warning their investors about MoCo's debt. SOURCE: Maryland Politics Watch

Bob Ehrlich says he'll make another run for Maryland governor

Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. said Tuesday that he will try to win his old job back in November, confirming plans for a much-anticipated rematch with Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, who defeated him in a bitter contest four years ago. A formal announcement, planned for next Wednesday in Montgomery County, will set up a rematch between two of the state's dominant political personalities. Both are fierce competitors. Their 2006 race was highly negative and at times intensely personal, with Ehrlich (R) repeatedly calling O'Malley "a whiner" and running ads that highlighted the homicide rate and struggling schools in Baltimore, where O'Malley was mayor. O'Malley (D) accused Ehrlich of dirty tricks and portrayed him as cozy with energy lobbyists and an unpopular President George W. Bush. Ehrlich said Tuesday that he plans to run a forward-looking campaign, disputing characterizations of the race as a grudge match.

"The last thing that people want to see is a schoolyard, middle-school, who-struck-John, bully stuff right now," he said. "They want to hear your ideas about how you're going to fix it. They want to hear about your ideas about what you want to do."

SOURCE: Washington Post