April 17, 2010

UPDATE: D.C. principal found dead in his Silver Spring home

Montgomery County police have determined that D.C. public schools Principal Brian Keith Betts was shot and killed inside his Silver Spring home, schools spokesman Sgt. C. Tom Jordan said. Police have ruled the death a homicide, saying it was not a random killing, but they do not yet have a suspect, Jordan said. They are also looking for his blue Nissan Xterra vehicle, which was missing from his home Thursday night when co-workers found his body. The sudden death has shocked the D.C. and Montgomery County school community. On Friday morning, the 300-plus students and staff at Shaw Garnet-Patterson Middle School in Washington, D.C., were reeling from the sudden death of their leader.

"I still can't even begin to realize that he's gone," said teary-eyed ninth-grader Dominique Watson as she clutched a copy of a photo of a smiling Betts in front of a library.

When 42-year-old Betts wasn't standing on his usual corner greeting students at V and 10th St N.W. in Washington, D.C., early Thursday morning, his staff at Shaw Garnet-Patterson Middle School began to worry. When the principal did not show up to the afternoon staff meeting or answer phone calls, the atmosphere in the school became tense.

"That kind of flew up the red flag," said Shaw's baseball and football coach, Jeffrey McCauley.

Betts' Silver Spring home has a bloody past. On Aug. 6, 2002, 47-year-old George Russell and of 9-year-old Erika Smith were found shot and killed in the same home. County police convicted Anthony Quintin Kelly in the murders in 2008. He is now serving life in prison. Detectives are asking anyone with information regarding the whereabouts of the Nissan Xterra to call 301-279-8000 (the police non-emergency number). Anyone with other information pertaining to this death is asked to call Homicide detectives at 240-773-5070. Callers may remain anonymous. SOURCE: Gazette

What recession? Leggett approves pay increase for helicopter staff

Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett has approved a raise for police officers who serve on a proposed helicopter unit, a move that signals Leggett's continued interest in a program the County Council says is too expensive. Leggett approved paying pilots an additional $3,500 a year, and observers $1,500 per year as part of a labor agreement with the Fraternal Order of Police union. The extra pay, which would total about $10,000 a year, would be paid only if the proposed helicopter unit gets off the ground, county staff said. Leggett's spokesman, Patrick Lacefield, said a lack of support for the program from the County Council and current budget problems -- the county is facing a budget gap of nearly $1 billion -- have stalled the program, but only temporarily. SOURCE: Washington Examiner

Paving begins on ICC

SOURCE: Sentinel

Alleged drunk driver hits judge he faced in 1998

ROCKVILLE, Md. — A man has been charged with driving drunk and hitting the car of a retired Maryland judge who once spared him jail time in previous drunk driving case. The suspect, 45, was scheduled to be in court Wednesday to face trial on eight charges related to the August crash where he hit a car being driven by retired Montgomery County District Judge Edwin Collier. Collier, 86, and his wife Ellen Collier, 82, were both injured in the crash. Collier presided over a case in 1998 in which police charged the man with drunk driving after an officer saw his car idling in a parking lot and gave him a sobriety test. He pleaded guilty in that case, and Collier spared him jail time, even though the man had been arrested on drunk driving charges twice in three months. SOURCE: Associated Press

Qiagen gets Montgomery County, Maryland help in expansion plans

Qiagen NV is getting at least $1 million in Maryland and Montgomery County incentives to aid in its latest $52 million Germantown campus expansion, which includes plans to add 90 new jobs in the state. The molecular diagnostics company, which is based in the Netherlands, plans to add 117,000 square feet of new manufacturing and office space to its decade-old U.S. headquarters at the corner of Dawson Farms and Germantown roads.

It hopes to break ground this fall and complete the new buildings in 2012, increasing its local footprint to 347,000 square feet. The expansion plans are a scaled-up version from December, when the company had been considering additions ranging from 90,000 to 118,000 square feet. The move, which is the second time Qiagen has expanded in recent years, follows the foreign company’s acquisitions of Gaithersburg-based Digene Corp. in 2007 for $1.6 billion and Frederick-based SABiosciences Corp. last year for $90 million.

Company officials had said in December that they would be looking for incentives to help with construction bills. Indeed, to assist with project costs, the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development is ponying up a $700,000 conditional loan through its Maryland Economic Development Assistance Authority and Fund — as long as Qiagen adds 90 new jobs in the state in the next five years. SOURCE: Washington Business Journal

After diving into almost $1 billion of debt, Leggett makes some cuts

Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett today announced his recommended $4.3 billion operating budget that closes a $779 million gap for fiscal year (FY) 2011 that begins July 1. Leggett’s budget focuses on protecting essential services and his priorities of education, public safety and the safety net for the most vulnerable, but includes significant reductions in services and staffing levels. Leggett’s hard choices resulted from the continued severity of the economic recession; doubling in the local rate of unemployment; declining residential and commercial development; ongoing, sharp declines in tax revenues and state aid; and emergencies such as the H1N1 flu outbreak and snow removal from this winter’s historic blizzards.

“Our region is not immune from the tough economic times in which we live,” said Leggett. “Neither are our families. And, neither is County government. Leadership means making the hard choices now that address our current problems, without resorting to quick fixes. Leadership also means fighting to meet the challenge of putting the County on a future path that is fiscally responsible and sustainable. We need to make the right decisions now if we are to lay the groundwork for our County to come out of this downturn in the best possible position. But let there be no mistake, there is pain in this budget – for our community and for County employees.”

Leggett’s budget brings the County government’s tax-supported growth rate down from a 14.1 percent increase in FY07, the year before he took office, to an historic minus 6.1 percent in the FY11 Recommended Budget compared with the current year. The overall 3.8 percent decrease for all County agencies from all sources represents the only reduction in the annual County budget in modern County history -- since the adoption of the current charter in 1968. In the four budgets Leggett has prepared, he has closed budget gaps of nearly $2 billion to address shortfalls every year – which is unprecedented. The magnitude of the problem is reflected in the County’s income tax revenue annual rate of growth. In FY07, income tax revenue increased by 21 percent. In FY10, it decreased by more than 15 percent.

Leggett’s previous cost reduction efforts preserved direct services as much as possible, but even these services will now be affected with this year’s looming deficit. This budget proposes cutting costs by eliminating 452 government positions, providing no pay increases of any kind for County government workers, furloughing non-public safety County employees for 10-days, realizing cost savings from all County departments, and reducing current revenue funded expenditures in the capital budget. All told, between position abolishments, leaving positions vacant, and reductions in overtime, Leggett’s budget would reduce the County government budget by 750 work-years.

“When I first took office, Montgomery County’s spending was out of control and unsustainable,” said Leggett. “And that was before the economic downturn. It was clear that we had been living beyond our means. Over the last four years, I have worked aggressively to restore fiscal prudence to our County government by dramatically slowing the rate of growth of both the operating and capital budgets. As the economic news has worsened, I have continued to press ahead on long-term cost savings that minimize the future burden on taxpayers.”

The recommended budget keeps faith with Leggett’s commitment to continue to hold the line on property taxes at the Charter limit, including a credit of $693 to lower the burden on homeowners and maintain a more progressive property tax. Under the recommended budget, the property tax rate remains unchanged.

“Past cost reduction efforts have focused on preserving my priorities of public safety, education and the safety net for the most vulnerable,” said Leggett. “Although I reduced the budget by $1.2 billion over the last three years, the size of this year’s budget deficit leaves no alternative now but to include more reductions in County services across all programs. To address our long-term budget challenges, I have reached out to our partners in Montgomery County Public Schools, the Park and Planning Commission, Montgomery College and the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission. Through 20 focus groups, a cross-agency committee collaboratively created resource-sharing and cost-cutting ideas to structurally improve the County’s budget.”

Among County government departments, the largest reductions from FY10 levels are in the Regional Service Centers and the Office of Human Resources (both 33 percent reductions), the Commission for Women (27 percent), the County Executive’s Office (26 percent), Housing and Community Affairs (24 percent), Transportation (23 percent), and Libraries (22 percent). Among the lowest reductions were Fire and Rescue (2.6 percent less than in FY10), Police (4 percent), Correction and Rehabilitation (4.5 percent), Department of Transportation/Transit Services (6.8 percent), and Health and Human Services (10.6 percent). Under the Recommended Budget, funding for affordable housing through the Housing Initiative Fund, a priority of the County Executive, would be reduced by $10 million as compared to FY10 levels. Noyes Library would be closed, library materials reduced, and overall library hours cut by 8.7 percent.

County recreational facilities, except for pools, would be closed one day each week. Senior mini-trips and outdoor adventure programs would be eliminated. After-school Sports Academies and Recreation Extra programs would be reduced. Eighteen Ride On routes (three weekday, 10 Saturday and five Sunday) would be eliminated and another 16 restructured, saving $2.7 million, and the Call-N-Ride program would be reduced to one coupon book a month. The County Volunteer Center would be reduced and restructured.

In public safety, one Fire and Rescue truck and one ambulance would be taken out of service and the new recruit class will be delayed. Forty Police positions, including 24 sworn officers, would be eliminated, and 16 of the 33 officers stationed in Montgomery County public schools will be cut. Nine of the 40 police positions, all non-sworn, would transfer to the MC311 Call Center. Four satellite police sub-stations would be closed. Thirty-three Corrections positions would be eliminated. The budget includes reductions in the Montgomery Cares program that provides health care to the uninsured, as well as reductions in home care, school health aide hours and payment to disability development providers. Funding for the County’s tuition assistance program would be eliminated. Non-emergency tree maintenance would be curtailed and, except for buses, the County would purchase almost no new vehicles or computers during the coming years. Maintenance in County facilities will be reduced. Pedestrian safety education monies would be drastically curtailed.

“To those who object to these reductions, I have a simple message: I do not like these any more than you do,” said Leggett. “Hard choices must be made, and not just talked about, in this difficult economic and fiscal environment.”

Closing the Gap

“In my first budget as County Executive in FY08, we faced a $200 million budget shortfall, so I reduced the tax-supported rate of increase in spending by the County government from 14.1 percent to 6.9 percent,” said Leggett. “In FY09, the projected shortfall increased to $401 million, so we imposed a hiring freeze, produced mid-year savings of more than $30 million, abolished over 225 positions, implemented a retirement incentive program, and slowed the rate of growth to 1.6 percent. Last year, we faced a daunting gap of $590 million that was closed without a tax increase by reducing costs, abolishing nearly 400 positions and eliminating general wage adjustments for most employees. This year, we face an even more staggering deficit of $779 million that my recommended FY11 budget successfully closes.”

Overall, the recommended budget includes:
• Decreases for Montgomery County government of $76.5 million, a 6.1 percent decrease;
• Reductions of $79.5 million, a 3.9 percent decrease, for Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS), funding 96 percent of the Board of Education’s request;
• Funding decreases for Montgomery College of $8.3 million, a 3.8 percent decrease; and
• Funding reductions for the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission of $15.1 million, a 13.5 percent decrease.

As a last resort to avoid further reductions in County services or additional layoffs, Leggett also recommended an increase in the County’s energy tax to raise an additional $50 million. The energy tax is paid by all utility users, including federal facilities in the County that pay no other major County taxes. For the average homeowner, this means an increase of about $3 a month. However, as the tax is based on consumption, the amount of the tax can be lessened through reduced energy use. To minimize the impact of this increase on low-income households, Leggett included additional funding in the County’s Energy Assistance Program

As part of closing the shortfall, Leggett recommended once again reducing tax-supported reserves from six percent of resources to five percent, freeing up approximately $37 million to help balance the FY11 budget and sustain critical services.

“I have found it necessary to recommend budgetary strategies that I have strongly resisted in the past, including temporarily reducing reserves,” said Leggett. “I take this action with the expectation that we will replace the reserves as quickly as possible and return them to the six percent policy level. The choices I have had to make aren’t easy – and some of them aren’t popular. But, we also have an opportunity to strengthen our financial position and take advantage of future opportunities for renewed economic growth and recovery.

“We have to keep in mind that the economy has not yet bottomed out. More state budget cuts may be on the horizon. And, even if the Council approves my recommended budget just as it is, we are already projecting a fifth straight year of budget shortfalls next year of over $200 million.”

Wages and Benefits

“Wages and benefits for County employees represent 80 percent of our budget,” said Leggett. “I am very proud of our workforce – its professionalism, dedication, and work ethic. However, fiscal prudence dictates hard choices in reducing compensation costs. That’s why this budget includes no cost-of-living or service increment increases for any County government employee. I regret that I have to take this action because I know how hard county employees work, how seriously they take their service to the public, and the difficult conditions under which they must provide public services.

“I am also recommending abolishing 452 positions, bringing the total of positions I have abolished to nearly 1,000 over the past three years. Of the 452 positions, 232 of them are currently filled. We will continue the hiring freeze instituted over two years ago. We will implement a 10-day furlough for non-public safety government employees and recommend that the other County funded agencies also adopt this cost reduction strategy. We will introduce a new retirement incentive program targeted at those positions abolished to lessen the impact on affected employees.”

Leggett’s budget also saves $64 million by deferring the scheduled increase in contributions by the County to a multi-year plan to fully fund retiree health benefits.

Setting Priorities

Faced with tough choices for public safety, this budget averts more serious reductions in first response Fire and Rescue Emergency Medical Services (EMS), because it includes instituting an Emergency Medical Services Transport Fee that will provide an estimated $62.2 million over the next four years.

“Without the EMS Fee, there is simply not enough money to meet the demands for fire equipment, additional staff for new stations, volunteer enhancement, recruitment and retention, additional staff for four-person staffing of equipment and compensation, and benefits for firefighters and emergency medical technicians. The EMS Fee will be billed directly to an individual’s health insurance, Medicaid, or Medicare. Because County residents already pay taxes to support EMS service, no County resident will pay a dime, or even receive a bill. No County resident who is unable to pay will have any out-of-pocket expense for transport to the hospital. The program also will be structured to have no impact on the development and growth capabilities of local volunteer fire and rescue departments.

“Nearly all our surrounding jurisdictions have a similar fee and are using those resources to improve service and save lives – with no adverse effects. Montgomery County should do the same instead of leaving tens of millions of dollars in insurance reimbursements uncollected.”

The facts about the EMS Transport Fee are available at: www.montgomerycountymd.gov/emstransportfee. On education, Leggett’s budget meets 96 percent of the Board of Education’s request. The County will again this year apply for a waiver from the State “maintenance of effort” requirement that will lower the County’s contribution by $58.2 million and still qualify for increased state K-12 education aid.

“Superintendent Dr. Jerry Weast, the Board of Education, and the MCPS employee organizations have contributed significantly in helping to close the shortfall we all face,” said Leggett. “I appreciate their close collaboration.”

Leggett continues to invest in programs that are building more effective government, saving millions of dollars, boosting customer service, and restructuring government through reorganizations and modernization of core business systems.

“Our approach to balancing the budget should not strictly be a matter of cost reduction, but we should make every effort to make our operations more efficient, productive, and cost effective. To accomplish these objectives, I have instituted several measures to make Montgomery County government even better and more efficient in how we operate and provide services to the community.”

For example, the CountyStat initiative has successfully cut overtime hours by 19 percent, saving the County $7.8 million. A paper reduction initiative saved more than $1 million over the last year. Implementation of the 311 Call Center later this year will significantly enhance community services and provide the County with important information that will guide future decisions about the use of scarce resources.

“Despite the extraordinary challenges we are currently facing, I remain very optimistic about the future of our County. We will continue to take advantage of every opportunity to produce savings and preserve and enhance services for the residents of this County.”

To view the budget highlights and the full budget, go to the Office of Management and Budget homepage on the County’s website at www.montgomerycountymd.gov/omb. SOURCE: Leggett's Office

April 16, 2010

Montgomery County crime fell 7 percent in 2009, police say

Crime in Montgomery County fell nearly 7 percent last year, driven by a sharp drop in burglaries and car thefts, according to police statistics released Thursday. The county recorded 13 homicides and 124 rapes -- both of which are near 25-year lows and follow similar trends throughout the region.

"We're doing a better job putting cops where they need to be," Police Chief J. Thomas Manger said.

He said technology -- inside and outside the department -- continues to help police solve crimes and get criminals off the street. Inside the department, police are using computerized crime data analysis to better target hot spots and more DNA testing to solve crimes. Outside the department, detectives are able use an increasing number of surveillance cameras to solve crimes -- even images captured by businesses across the street from those targeted by criminals.

"There are cameras everywhere," Manger said. SOURCE: Washington Post

Montgomery County loses $4.6B in taxable revenue, leaving budget gap at almost $1B

Millionaires fleeing state tax cause 82 percent of income drop

Montgomery County, Maryland's richest county, is facing a budget shortfall of nearly $1 billion as high-income residents flee the state's millionaires tax. Budget officials told the County Council on Tuesday that Montgomery must once again write down its projected income tax revenues, this time by $44 million for this fiscal year and $100 million for next fiscal year, which starts in July. Those write-downs come up on top of a $24 million income tax reduction disclosed last week for the current fiscal year, and are in addition to a nearly $800 million budget gap projected for next fiscal year.

The budget holes have threatened the county's AAA bond rating and prompted County Executive Ike Leggett to propose raising energy taxes by 63.7 percent, eliminating 18 bus routes and closing a public library in Noyes. A weak economy that ate away at capital gains and slowed the growth of small businesses can account for much of the county's fiscal woes, but county officials said the state compounded the problem by raising taxes for millionaires to 6.25 percent from 5.5 percent in 2008.

"Their timing couldn't have been worse," said Councilman Mike Knapp, D-Germantown, who said the millionaires tax has had a "devastating" effect on the county's budget. "Talk about cutting yourself off at the knees."

A "major factor" for the county's budget woes is the loss of its millionaire taxpayers, according to county economist David Platt.

Montgomery lost $4.6 billion in taxable income from tax years 2007 to 2008. More than 82 percent of that drop comes from taxpayers with incomes of $1 million or more, county records show. County data show that 216 millionaires who filed taxes for 2007 did not file with the state for 2008, compared with an average of 119 in previous years. While some of those not filing may have died or decided not to file a tax return, county officials said there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that Maryland's millionaires moved to more tax-friendly states.

"It's pretty clear that people did take their income someplace else," said Tim Firestine, chief administrative officer, noting that the loss of just a handful of millionaires has a disproportionate effect on the county's revenues.

Worse yet, Knapp said, was the likelihood that many millionaires who left won't come back when the tax expires at the end of the year, leaving the county's tax base smaller.

"Even if the economy gets better, we're going to have less money," Knapp said.

The millionaires tax may become a campaign talking point. Former Republican Gov. Bob Ehrlich already has criticized Gov. Martin O'Malley, a Democrat, for his strong support of the tax.

Also in Montgomery » The County Council gave preliminary approval to a revised "Science City" plan that supporters hope will make west Gaithersburg an epicenter of the life-sciences industry. Council members voted 8-1 on a straw vote, with Councilman Marc Elrich opposed, for a plan that scales back the county planning commission's proposal to 17.5 million square feet of development from 20 million. The plan also includes new safeguards against traffic congestion.

» A former County Council aide who sued the county for $5 million for allegedly violating an anti-discrimination law she helped write has dropped her lawsuit. Dr. Dana Beyer had charged in court records that the county discriminated against her because she is a transgender individual.

SOURCE: Washington Examiner

Maryland lawmakers kick transportation spending, tax plans down the road

They didn’t win their perennial fight to increase the gas tax, but many transportation advocates across Maryland say they were left with something just as good with the close of the General Assembly’s 2010 legislative session April 12: Hope. Both chambers of the assembly voted to support the formation of a special commission looking into alternative funding for transportation improvements in Maryland. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Rob Garagiola, D-Montgomery County, is an acknowledgement the state has failed to set aside enough money to spend on road, rail and port improvements, said Donald C. Fry, CEO of the Greater Baltimore Committee.

The commission is scheduled to release an interim report sometime next year and to complete its study by 2012. Its findings could give more support to proposed bills that have failed in prior sessions such as increasing the state gas tax or tying future increases to the consumer price index. “We think that that’s another good step forward in recognizing that something has to be done,” Fry said. SOURCE: Baltimore Business Journal

Next Taxpayers League on 4/22

Next meeting: April 22, 2010 - 7:30 - 9:30 p.m
5th floor conference room (TENTATIVE), Stella Werner Council Office Building,
100 Maryland Ave., Rockville MD 20850 Montgomery County Taxpayers League

Date Night: 8407 (plus Pacci’s news)

Finally got the chance to get out for a relaxing dinner at 8407 kitchen bar. One word: Awesome. Possibly the best restaurant right now in Silver Spring. The wife and I started with a Pimms cocktail (her) and a ginger lime martini (me, pictured) at the downstairs bar before heading up to the dining room. Both are great warm-weather drinks. The evening sun blares through windows, but that sort of helps obscure the view of the metro demolition outside. That view will certainly get better over time. Started with the fried oysters and fries (I will now be frying whatever I can in duck fat, by the way), followed by the honey-lavender roasted chicken (me) and gnocchi (her).

The gnocchi was the same pillowy goodness we had back at the old Nicaro, and other than the small bit of butcher’s twine I found in the chicken, it was the winning dish as far as I’m concerned. Just spectacular flavor. I mean, plate-licking good. And got a recommendation from Nancy on a fantastic bottle of wine. Throw in a cheese course to finish up, and it was a really, really great meal.

The service was also excellent, checking in just often enough and not being obtrusive. A bit on the pricey side, but we knew that going in. Drinks, appetizers, main course, dessert, and a good bottle of wine came out to about $130. Certainly worth the price of admission. I’m sure we’ll go again for a nice night out, but I could see frequenting the bar(s) for drinks and those duck-fat-cooked fries on a regular basis. Go treat yourself. SOURCE: Thayer Avenue

D.C. principal found dead in Silver Spring home

A middle school principal who was wooed from Montgomery County as part of Chancellor Michelle Rhee's effort to improve the struggling D.C. system was found dead in his Silver Spring home Thursday night, police said. Montgomery County police called the death "suspicious" and said they are searching for the victim's dark blue 2007 Nissan Xterra SUV.

Brian Betts, 42, who became principal of Shaw Middle School at Garnett Patterson in fall of 2008, did not report for work on Thursday, police said. A co-worker who went to his home in the 9300 block of Columbia Boulevard in Silver Spring found him dead inside. Police, who were called to the scene about 7:30 p.m., did not say whether investigators have determined the cause of death.

When Rhee hired Betts, she gave him unusual latitude to select the teachers he wanted and change rules he felt were not helping students learn. Betts visited scores of students and parents before the 2008-2009 school year started, introducing himself and asking, among other things, how they felt about a white man running a school where all of the students were black or Hispanic. He eliminated eliminated homeroom periods and recess, which he considered wastes of time, and boosted teacher training significantly.

For middle school students, Betts told The Washington Post in 2008, "nothing that I have ever seen trumps personal relationships . . . The kids in this building who can be absolutely horrible in one person's class can be angelic in another because they have formed a relationship with that teacher." SOURCE: Washington Post

Dead Orioles?

The Orioles are off to the worst start in recent memory. There is nothing else to say. The Orioles are the definition of "snakebit", nothing seems to be going right. Sitting in the park last night I thought for sure that the Orioles would win that game. Luke Scott hit that absolutely clutch homerun and I KNEW we would win.

But then - well - yeah. All of those looking for heads to roll, thankfully Andy MacPhail has a much cooler head. When asked about Dave Trembley's job security in the Sun today he replied: “I don’t even know how to begin to answer that. We are nine games into [the season],” he said.

But he did answer it because he knows that if he didn’t, speculation would be rampant:

“That’s just not the way I operate. We are going to do everything we can to try and make personnel decisions to try and help the team, and that is what we are going to focus on, making things better and not looking for scapegoats.”

At least someone has a cool head. It has been rough O's fans - really rough. Thankfully, it can only go up from here. Go Birds? Seriously, I'm going to bed - ugh. SOURCE: ORIOLE POST

Yet Another List

Now this is new. Late last week I came across a listserv announcement that such and such middle school is a “‘Top 10 School’ for the state of Maryland in the 2009 Johns Hopkins University Center for Talented Youth Talent Search.” The message went on to say: It means your academic program is producing a high number of high-achieving students. It also indicates that you look out for your students’ best interests by recommending other resources (like CTY) for them and their families to investigate.

Curious, I clicked on the CTY link, where I found several other MCPS schools on the Top Ten list, as well as many others on the generic “Top Maryland Schools” list. (Have they done it for any other states? How many test takers does it take to make the list?)

I have to say, those CTY folks are damn clever, tapping into the collective status consciousness/ranking nuttiness of MoCo. (“Participating at high levels in the annual CTY Talent Search reflects upon the school’s academic quality, student abilities, and teacher talent. It also reflects upon the school leadership that encourages students to seek out educational challenges beyond traditional school walls. It’s a mark of quality for which your school can be justly proud.”) We eat this stuff up. No doubt it will help draw attention to the Talent Search–while at the same time highlighting which schools have the most clued-in and academically engaged families. Whether the kudos should accrue to the school is open to question.

What would be even more helpful if CTY released some statistics about the score distributions in the county. For example how many MoCo kids made SET each year? Could we figure out how many CTY honorees are in county GT programs? Does it inform placement and instruction? Now that would be interesting. SOURCE: The More Child

Silver Spring's Svec Conway Printing announces installation of Ricoh C-900-S

Svec Conway Printing is proud to announce the recent installation of it’s new Ricoh C-900-S Digital Color Press. Photographed with their new acquisition are business owners Bobby & Sheila Firestein. Svec Conway Printing located in Silver Spring MD was established in 1982, rejuvenated in 2003 with it’s new ownership specializes in printing a variety of booklets, brochures, pamphlets and magazines for corporations, universities and associations.

The recent purchase and installation of the Ricoh C-900-S will allow Svec Conway Printing the opportunity to offer existing and new clients the ability to produce a larger array of components at shorter run lengths and a more economical value, stated Bobby Firestein. In addition to the companies digital press installation Svec Conway also acquired several finishing components to compliment their new digital printing services. These finishing services include, wiro binding, plastic coil binding, perfect binding and gate-folding.

Svec Conway Printing continues to be active with it’s numerous Green initiatives. Participating with local organizations like Clean Currents the company utilizes 100% Wind Power and through it’s affiliation with The Carbon Fund the company is offsetting it’s CO-2 emissions. Combined with these associations Svec Conway also utilizes both the FSC and SFI paper chain of custody standards.

For additional information about Svec Conway please contact Bobby (ext. 10) or Sheila (ext. 22) Firestein at 301-589-6666.

April 15, 2010

'Sexting' scandal at 2 Montgomery County schools

WASHINGTON - WTOP has learned Montgomery County Police are conducting an investigation into sexually explicit photos and videos of female students that have been distributed and sold among the student body at two Montgomery County Public Schools. In a letter obtained by WTOP, an iPod Touch with photos and videos of female students was confiscated by school staff from a student at Thomas Pyle Middle School.

"As soon as it was discovered, we took action," says Montgomery County Schools spokesperson Dana Tofig

During the school's investigation, students reported that the female students - who attend Pyle and Walt Whitman High School - willingly posed for the pictures outside of school and sent them to other students. In some cases, students sold and purchased access to the inappropriate photos. School administrators have contacted parents of the females in the images and those students who purchased or sold access to the images. Tofig says administrators reached out to police after the images were discovered. There is no indication that school computers were used to view, send or receive the photos. SOURCE: WTOP

"You picked a fine time to lead us Barack," by Jonathan McWhite

Community news blurbs

Bike to Work Day is May 21st ˆ Register today! Join the Bethesda Transportation Solutions staff and Maryland State Delegate Bill Bronrott at 6:30am on Friday, May 21st at the Bethesda pit stop (Reed Street, at the corner of Bethesda Ave & Woodmont Ave). Attendees will enjoy breakfast, prizes, DJ entertainment, bike tune-ups on site by REI and City Bikes, and more, all for FREE! Register in advance online at: http://www.waba.org/events/btwd/md_bethesda.php

Bicycle Commuter Spirit Awards ˆ Call for Nominations! ˆ In conjunction with Bike to Work Day, Bethesda Transportation Solutions (BTS) will be presenting the Bicycle Commuter Spirit Awards. The awards recognize downtown Bethesda employees who are dedicated to biking to work. Each year BTS asks for help in identifying two commuters devoted to two-wheeled bicycled transportation. To nominate yourself or someone else please visit: https://app.e2ma.net/app2/survey/30718/20046/74e79ca362/8179852195/2730825/93609404/

Biking & Public Transportation Education for Kids ˆ Bethesda Transportation Solutions and special guests will teach kids about biking and public transportation at the Bethesda Literary Festival this weekend. Join Surae Chinn, Channel 9 News Anchor, and Franklin the Turtle at Bethesda Elementary School on Saturday, April 17 from 10am until 11:30am. For more information about the Bethesda Literary Festival, please visit: http://www.bethesda.org/bethesda/bethesda-literary-festival

Survey Conducted on Attitudes and Concerns about Biking ˆ The Association of Pedestrian & Bicycle Professionals (AFBP) has invited women from across the country to participate in a survey to explore attitudes women have about cycling. As of March 28, they received over 7,000 responses. Add your voice today: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspx?sm=261ae%2f5vYW6CL0QNgnk24U4cIFo3C4tYdzYFs8hepq4%3d&

Washington Freedom and the Fire Department are Teaming Up! ˆ Join the Washington Freedom, the region‚s elite professional women‚s soccer team and the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service at the Bethesda Fire Station 6 TODAY at 4pm. Everyone is invited to help them kick off the Spring into Summer Safely campaign! The Bethesda Fire Department is located at 6600 Wisconsin Avenue in Bethesda, Maryland. Parking is available behind the station.

Please Use Caution in Work Zones ˆ MCDOT would like to remind the community to please drive gently and safely through any County, State or utility work site. Please keep all children under close supervision at all times. Follow the direction of flaggers, temporary signs, and traffic control devices. For a listing of selected construction or maintenance activities affecting traffic, bike, and pedestrian travel, please visit: http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/content/dot/tmc/getconstruction.asp

Spring Events on the Canal ˆ April 17th is C&O Canal Pride Day, the largest volunteer event in the C&O Canal National Historic Park. Come out and enjoy the outdoors, meet new people and participate in the national spirit of unity and service. Show your pride by taking part in one of the projects at Great Falls. For more information, please visit: www.canaltrust.org

Earth Day House Party ˆ Bethesda Green will host an Earth Day House Party on Sunday, April 18th from 2-4pm in downtown Bethesda at 4519 Cheltenham Drive. Listen to an array of speakers discuss key environmental issues pertaining to our local, national, and international community. For more information, please visit: www.bethesdagreen.org

Montgomery County tentatively OKs Gaithersburg West plan

The Montgomery County Council approved an initial version of the Gaithersburg West Master Plan in a straw vote Tuesday with a new name, The Great Seneca Science Corridor Plan, and an eight-member majority that included Councilmember Phil Andrews, who has long opposed the density proposed in the plan. The council will take a final vote on the Great Seneca Science plan in the next two weeks. Still, the tentative approval is significant, as it addressed the hotly debated issues of density and traffic congestion. The planning board initially recommended up to 20 million square feet of development, a number the county executive and Andrews said was too much. They instead recommended up to 18 million square feet. The plan now calls for up to 17.5 million square feet. The council also discussed “critical lane volume,” which deals with road congestion. The original master plan proposal set the limit at 1,600 vehicles per lane per hour, a limit the revised plan reduces to 1,450 vehicles per lane per hour. SOURCE: Washington Business Journal

Foreclosures up in county; tax credit nears deadline

The number of foreclosures rose in Frederick County in March, up 56 percent from February and up 82 percent from a year ago. The latest figures, 344 foreclosures in the county, come from RealtyTrac, a California-based firm that monitors foreclosures nationwide. The company said there were 445 foreclosures in Montgomery County in March, up 34 percent from February, and 212 foreclosures in Washington County, up 95 percent from February.

The reason for the increase is because of a combination of adjustable rate mortgages, signed in 2004, 2005 and 2006, now resetting to higher permanent interest rates, said Patrick F. McLister, a Frederick lawyer. Added to that is the loss of employment income or one or both spouses and tapped personal savings accounts, he said. McLister and his law office partner, Todd Salisbury, are legal counsel to the Frederick County Association of Realtors.

Carlton Boujai, treasurer of the Maryland Association of Realtors, said the continuing number of foreclosures is the major obstacle of a full recovery for the real estate industry. The lower price for most foreclosures has brought out buyers, though, Boujai said, especially in the $250,000 or less range. Boujai, an agent with Exit Realty Prosperity Group in Frederick and a former president of the local Realtors organization, said it has brought many "on-the-fence" buyers into the purchase of a home. The federal tax credit program, offering $8,000 for first-time buyers and $6,500 for other eligible buyers, has not been as large a factor in the market as expected, Boujai said. SOURCE: Frederick News-Post

Former Teacher and Coach Sentenced to Five Years for Receipt of Child Pornography

(Media-Newswire.com) - BALTIMORE—U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake sentenced John Joseph Kovach, Jr., age 53, of Reisterstown, Maryland, today to five years in prison, followed by supervised release for life, for receipt of child pornography. The sentence was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein, Special Agent in Charge William Winter of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Chief James W. Johnson of the Baltimore County Police Department, Special Agent in Charge Richard McFeely of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Baltimore County State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger.

According to Kovach’s plea agreement and court documents, Kovach was an assistant field hockey coach at Towson University and was a teacher and coach at a private elementary school in Montgomery County, Maryland. On February 27, 2009, a California investigator contacted the Baltimore County Police Department concerning an individual, later determined to be Kovach, who was soliciting online an individual portraying a 13-year-old female. In his conversations with what he thought was a 13-year-old girl, Kovach stated that he was a youth soccer and swim coach in California and that he sneaks “pics” of girls in bikinis and “stuff” at pools, beaches, and water parks. Kovach also asked the individual, whom he thought was a 13-year-old girl, sexually explicit questions about her body and sexual activities.

As part of their investigation, Baltimore County Police executed search warrants at Kovach’s home and at both of the schools where he worked, seizing computers and other materials related to their investigation. A federal search warrant was issued for the seized computers and forensic analysis of the computers revealed 252 images and nine videos depicting child pornography. A number of the images of child pornography depicted children under the age of 12 years old engaging in sexually explicit conduct and some of the images also portrayed sadistic or masochistic conduct. Forensic analysis was also able to determine that the child pornography was received by Kovach through the Internet.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Led by United States Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section ( CEOS ), Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to better locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov. Details about Maryland’s program are available at http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/md/Safe-Childhood/index.html.

United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Bonnie S. Greenberg, who prosecuted the case. SOURCE: Media Newswire

Robert Dyer announces candidacy for Montgomery County Council (at-large)

Robert Dyer is a sincere man with an excellent blog about Montgomery County. Good luck, Robert! In his campaign launch video, Dyer said, "Government was never meant to do everything; it needs to do the right things."

Montgomery county is America's second most liberal county!

5. New York County, N.Y.
Co-terminus with the Borough of Manhattan
Manhattan is the most famous, most written about, most exclusive 23 square miles in the United States. Manhattan Island contains many divergent experiences, from Harlem to Wall Street. But in the past two decades, the trend has been towards gentrification. Now, most of the island south of Harlem is a playground for the affluent, what Mayor Michael Bloomberg aptly described as a “luxury city.” Manhattan has the highest percentage of those employed in management/professional jobs outside of the Washington, D.C., area on this list. Obama won 85 percent here.

4. Boulder County, Colo.
Largest city: Boulder
It’s quite an honor to be the best university-based setting for liberals, and the City of Boulder and the University of Colorado take the prize. Boulder gets the award for being on the cutting edge of liberal innovations (it was the first place to pass an anti-discrimination statute based on homosexuality and one of the first places to ban smoking in bars). Boulder also ranks highest because unlike many college towns on this list, the state government isn’t based here, so the liberalism only comes from one, concentrated source. The county is the basis for Jared Polis’s congressional district, one of the few openly gay members of Congress. The county has one of the most comfortable standards of living.

3. Marin County, Calif.
Largest city: San Rafael
Another classic domain for rich liberals is Marin County. The county is to the north of San Francisco, on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge. It has the highest concentration of BMWs per capita in America. Environmentalism could be viewed as the county’s religion, as anti-development pressure has kept the county somewhat undeveloped considering its proximity to San Francisco. The elder George Bush once referred to American Taliban member John Walker Lindh (a native of the county) as “some misguided Marin County hot-tubber.”

2. Montgomery County, M.d.
Largest city: Rockville
Most likely, the bureaucrats conservatives despise live in Montgomery County, to the northwest of Washington. This is one of the richest and best-educated corners of America. Most of the development runs along the Wisconsin Avenue/Rockville Pike spine stretching from leafy Chevy Chase to ritzy Bethesda to edge city Rockville. This is a one-party county: Every single elected official in Montgomery County is a Democrat. There are places in the eastern part of the county that aren’t uniformly affluent, but the liberal tilt emanates from all corners.

1. City and County of San Francisco
Co-terminus with the City of San Francisco
Surprise, surprise. Maybe what’s more interesting is how San Francisco came to be what it is today. San Francisco has always been a center of progressive politics. It has a long-standing labor tradition due to its longshoreman heritage and was a wild town from the start. It was the Las Vegas of its day around the turn of the century (until a campaign by William Randolph Hearst shut down its brothels). Its easygoing tolerance made it ripe to become the center of the counterculture in the 1960s, based around the Haight-Ashbury district. Its status as the world’s most famous homosexual center got its impetus from the practice of the Navy during World War II to disembark those dishonorably discharged in San Francisco. What was once a city with large numbers of middle-class Irish and Italian families flipped in the 1960s and ’70s. The common assertion that there are more dogs than children in San Francisco is apocryphal, but it comes close to the truth.

SOURCE: Daily Caller

Considering economy, county fared well in 2010 session, legislators say

Montgomery County emerged from the 2010 General Assembly largely unscathed, lawmakers said Tuesday morning, moments after the midnight end of the session.

"This is not a year where you're going to have big slam-bang victories," House Majority Leader Kumar P. Barve said. "This is a year where you're going to protect your position and build for the future, and I think we did that."

Lawmakers started the 90-day session wrestling with a dire fiscal situation as the lingering recession depleted sources of state revenue.

"It's been a tough year to have happy things happen," said Melanie Wenger, director of the county's Office of Intergovernmental Relations.

And while there was pain enough to go around, Montgomery was able to relieve some of it through increases in state aid. The state's fiscal 2011 budget will send the county a 10.4 percent increase in aid, or about $72 million. That jump is the result of a fall in taxable income and a drop in real estate values, said Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr., a member of the Budget and Taxation Committee.

"People in Montgomery County haven't suddenly become poor, but if you were making $1.5 million two years ago and $800,000 this year, you're not standing in a bread line but you're paying a lot less in income tax," said Madaleno (D-Dist. 18) of Kensington.

One of the biggest issues for Montgomery lawmakers was the maintenance-of-effort penalty that the state Board of Education imposed on the county. State law requires that county school spending, on a per-pupil basis, at least equal the previous year's spending. The recession forced the county to fall below that level this year, prompting the penalty. The legislature overturned that penalty, in legislation Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) signed Tuesday.

"We got the abatement for the fine on maintenance of effort, and that was a big victory. The maintenance-of-effort law that we wrote for the future is one that will protect Montgomery County and other jurisdictions," said Barve (D-Dist. 17) of Gaithersburg. SOURCE: Gazette

April 14, 2010

OPINION: Budget needs more cuts, including schools

Commentary | Joan Fidler

County Executive Ike Leggett has proposed his budget for fiscal 2011; the unions have responded ["Unions knock Leggett budget," March 17] and soon it will be time for the County Council to act. As taxpayers of the county who have ceded generously to the actions of the council in the past, we believe Leggett has demonstrated much courage for which he will, undoubtedly, be excoriated in the next several weeks by various and sundry factions.

Leggett has valiantly done his part; it is time for the council members to do theirs. The elimination of pay raises and step increases was a brave and judicious decision, as were the furloughs. However, the mere 3.4 percent reduction to the budget of the public schools will cause unfair and unjust hardship to all the other services available to county taxpayers. The pain is not fairly spread. The public schools consume over 50 percent of our tax-supported budget while only 25 percent of the county's households have children in our public schools. This is not to denigrate the good work done by our public schools. We have an excellent public school system; we have dedicated teachers as we have an excellent county government with superior services and dedicated civil servants.

Many of the other budget cuts for fiscal 2011 have been quite draconian. Public libraries have been cut 22 percent — library cardholders represent 77 percent of the population. Transportation has been cut 23 percent — our roads are used by close to our entire population. The vulnerable and poor have not been excluded from budget cuts. The Department of Housing and Community Affairs has been cut 24 percent, much of which provides affordable housing to the less affluent in the county. The Department of Health and Human Services has been cut 11 percent, thus reducing services to seniors, the disabled, the uninsured and the ill.

The decision about our future now lies with the County Council. We ask for fairness toward all the citizens and taxpayers of the county. We ask, as they look toward the elections in November, they realize that there are more than just apples on our ballots. Let us not cut deeply into services to the vulnerable, let us not shortchange libraries and roads and transportation. And yes, there are options that can be exercised this year. Here is one: in the spirit of fairness, bring the health benefits of public school employees in alignment with those of their colleagues in the county government. The resultant savings of $30 million could bring our county reserves back to the 6 percent required for the county to maintain its bond ratings. There are many other options available to the council.

Let us not defer decisions by borrowing $100 million from the rainy day fund, and by dipping $37 million into county reserves. And let us not forget the Sword of Damocles of $5 million to $8.5 million in annual costs of "phantom COLAs," guaranteed lifetime pension benefits for county employees linked to pay increases they never received. We are mortgaging the county's future. Economic resurgence is not around the corner. Fiscal 2012 will inevitably be here. If we don't cut now what will we do then?

The writer is president of the Montgomery County Taxpayers League. SOURCE: Gazette

County Executive's Office: MCGEO Salary Study "Wholly Riddled with Factual Errors"

County Executive spokesman Patrick Lacefield has responded to MCGEO's comparative study of management salaries, saying that it is "wholly riddled with factual errors." We carry his response below.


The purported MCGEO study comparing directors pay in the region is wholly riddled with factual errors. Over the years Montgomery County government has always sought to recruit and retain the best individuals to manage the needs of a large, complex, and growing County. The current management salaries are consistent with a trend established by the County at least a dozen years ago. The most telling comparison with Montgomery is Fairfax. The salary numbers for Fairfax County, easily the closest comparison with Montgomery County, are almost totally wrong in the MCGEO study.

MCGEO says that the Fairfax Police Chief and Fire Chief are paid $105,800; they are actually paid $176,366. The Fairfax Finance Director is paid $152,356, not MCGEO’s $100,800. The Fairfax Human Resources Director is paid $152,296, not MCGEO’s $100,800. The Fairfax Budget Director is paid $166,116, not MCGEO’s $100,800. The Fairfax Information Systems Director is paid $174,389, not MCGEO’s $105,800. The Fairfax Library Director is paid $165,403, not MCGEO’s $100,800. This info comes straight from Fairfax County. And on it goes…

In fact, the study is full of errors – top to bottom. Prince George’s Police Chief makes $180,000, not MCGEO’s $98,000. Arlington’s Police Chief makes $163,000, not MCGEO’s $62,000. Arlington’s Information Services director makes $147,000, not MCGEO’s $62,000. Montgomery County’s Fire Chief makes $190,000, not MCGEO’s $211,000. These mistakes –and many more – are available to view in the annual 2010 Local Government Personnel Association Benchmark Salary Survey, which carefully compares salaries in the region. Take a look at the difference between what the Fairfax and Montgomery Chief Administrative Officers are actually paid and the difference is only 14 percent. Chief of Police difference: 22 percent. Fire Chief: 14 percent. County Attorney: 2 percent. Library Director: 7 percent.

These are differences, but nothing approaching the differences alleged by the flawed study. Other things to keep in mind:

• Many department directors in other jurisdictions enjoy tenure or merit protection. Montgomery County directors do not enjoy job security – they serve at the will of the County Executive;

• Recently appointed directors in Montgomery County are in the defined contribution pension plan. Nearly all other directors in the region are in defined benefit plans – which are 50 percent or more more generous;

• Differences in job titles and responsibilities can make exact comparisons shaky;

• Pay may vary depending on years on the job. Someone with many years of experience as a director may be paid significantly more than someone starting as a director;

• Nearly all of the jurisdictions used for comparison are less populated than Montgomery County, most significantly smaller; and

• All Montgomery County department directors and the County Executive will be furloughed the same amount of days as other employees.

The County Executive is open to analyzing possible savings from whatever source. Any such savings, however, should be applied to closing the increasing revenue gap – not to substitute for other recommended reductions or add new spending into the budget. We need the recommended reductions already on the table and increased savings from other sources to close the $168 million in tax revenue shortfalls for FY10 and FY11 that have developed since March 15.

Patrick Lacefield, Director
Montgomery County Office of Public Information

P.S. In answering Adam’s entry, of 21 directors appointed by County Executive Leggett in 2006 and 2007, 12 were hired at the same salary paid by County Executive Duncan, three were paid more, and six were paid less. SOURCE: MPW

Girls' lacrosse makes history

The girls' lacrosse team (3 - 0) kept the momentum of their winning streak alive in a neck-and-neck battle with the B - CC Barons on Saturday. The Blazers executed a new offensive formation to tackle the Barons' defense, and ended up on top with a final score of 13 - 12.

The Blazers knew B - CC would be very competitive, senior captain Molly Branson explained. "We all went in really intense," she said. Senior co-captain Nellie Garlow added that the Barons have always posed as tough competition for the Blazers. "They had a lot of really strong players," she said. "We knew what to expect."

In the first five minutes of the game, the Blazers scored four goals and began to believe they could win the game, Branson explained. But Blair became worried when the Barons made a comeback and trailed by only two points. "We got a little bit too confident," Branson said. The second half of the game went back and forth as Blair and B - CC took turns scoring. "We were just neck-and-neck throughout the entire game," Garlow said. Despite the stress of the second half, the Blazers were able to clinch a satisfying victory. "We were able to pull through and make it a 'W,'" Branson said.

PICTURE: Lorena Kowalewski and Senior Nellie Garlow races to pass the ball. SOURCE: Silver Chips

Maryland proposes education reforms for schools, teachers

April 13, 2010|By Liz Bowie, The Baltimore Sun.
Maryland education officials laid out a broad vision Tuesday for improving the state's schools and teaching corps, pledging to put the best educators in struggling classrooms while making them more accountable for performance and boosting emphasis on science, math and technoglogy courses. The promises came in a 257-page application that Maryland plans to submit to the U.S. Department of Education this year in a bid for a $250 million slice of $4 billion in federal school reform money known as Race to the Top funding. The long-awaited document — which comes shortly after more than 40 states were rejected during the first round of reform grants — spells out how Maryland would spend its money if selected for the competitive program.

Maryland is "now committed to going from national leader to world-class — not only for some students but for all students," the application says. Education advocates said Tuesday that they liked the ideas in the proposal, but criticized the state for suggesting certain shifts in education policy that could be unpopular with teachers unions and some school boards, rather than requiring them outright.

"The plan is both lacking in substance overall and the ideas in it are not bold. They do not go nearly far enough to address achievement gaps," said Matthew Joseph, executive director of Advocates for Children and Youth.

"I would say it is a good plan, but not a winning plan," said Andy Smarick, a visiting fellow at theThomas B. Fordham Institute who has analyzed a number of Race to the Top applications.

Local school districts — which now must digest the huge document — will be asked to sign the application by April 23 and pledge to carry out proposed reforms. Baltimore County Superintendent Joe A. Hairston said his district was ready to sign on and that he believed the county was well-positioned to implement the changes.

"This is more an attitude than anything else," he said. "It is a matter of whether individuals are willing to respond to the goals."

Officials in Montgomery County, the state's largest school district, said they are reviewing the document and will give feedback, but no decision has been made as to whether the county will support it. Despite its high national schools rankings, Maryland was one of only a handful of states not submitting an application in the first round of Race to the Top funding. Part of the delay came because some officials wanted changes in teacher tenure, evaluations and charter school laws to make its bid more competitive. SOURCE: Baltimore Sun

Tea party to hold Rockville rally on Tax Day, tomorrow

Thursday is the filing deadline for federal income tax returns. It is also the day of a "Tax Day Tea Party Rally" in the Rockville Town Square Plaza. The event, sponsored by Americans for Prosperity/Montgomery County, the Campaign for Liberty, and Accuracy in the Media, will feature radio host Jeffrey Kuhner of WTNT 570, Don Irvine of Accuracy in Media and Christopher Summers, founder and president of the Maryland Public Policy Institute.

Ed Amatetti, chairman of the activism and elections committee for the Montgomery County chapter of Americans for Prosperity, a group that supports smaller government, said the rally is a way for people to protest against the growth of government on a day when people are thinking of their tax bills. Although Americans for Prosperity is one of the groups hosting the tax day rally and calling it a tea party event, it does not organize tea party activists, he said. SOURCE: Gazette

Montgomery furlough proposal spurs equity debate among county employees

Montgomery County's dimming fiscal picture is sharpening a debate over equity among its employees, and some officials are pushing what they call a more progressive approach to managing cutbacks. As part of his $4.3 billion budget proposal last month, County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) proposed 10 forced days off for thousands of county employees, amounting to a 3.8 percent salary cut. Such furloughs have become a common tactic from California to Prince George's County as the recession has battered budgets. But until this year, Leggett had resisted.

Now, among the questions bubbling up in the county are these: Is it fair that Jocelyn Smith-Joseph, a coordinator for the disabled who made $47,028 last year, would be forced to take the same number of furlough days as Carla Reid, who received $194,537 as Montgomery's head of permitting services? And is it right -- not to mention affordable, given grim new figures released Tuesday -- that teachers, uniformed public safety workers and many other county employees are exempt from furloughs?

Officials said Tuesday that income-tax revenue is down sharply again, opening a new $44 million hole in the budget and adding $100 million to the budget gap for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1. That comes on top of what seems like a modest $24 million drop in revenue announced last week that had spooked officials. Leggett said he recommended furloughs for next year's budget because the savings would help make up for revenue reductions that forced him to propose the county's first overall cut in spending in more than 40 years. His plan, which officials said furloughs about 6,000 employees, would save $15 million.

But members of the County Council are considering shaking up that model. An idea advanced by member George L. Leventhal (D-At Large) and others would be to make the furloughs more "progressive." SOURCE: Washington Post

UMd.'s Student's Grandfather Speaks Out

BETHESDA, Md. - Former Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge and the grandfather of the 21-year-old University of Maryland student who was captured on video being taken down and hit unconscious by police in riot gear is speaking out. Jim McKenna believes the officers involved should be prosecuted. He said his grandson, Jack, has at least eight staples in his head, a wrist injury and possibly long-term psychological damage. Jim McKenna believes the video leaves little to the imagination.

"If the three of us, you and I and the cameraman, were to go out with batons and march out onto the street and bludgeon the first person we run into, which is essentially what they did, you can rest assure we would be tried, convicted and sent to jail," McKenna told FOX 5. SOURCE: FOX DC

Rules on foreclosure in Md. toughened

ANNAPOLIS — Lawmakers toughened foreclosure rules in the waning hours of the 2010 legislative session, mandating new steps in the foreclosure process designed to keep Marylanders in their homes and paying off their loans. Homeowners will be able to request mediation sessions with the holders of their loans to give them the opportunity to work on modifications. The foreclosure mediation legislation was a high priority for Gov. Martin O’Malley in a year in which his agenda focused heavily on plugging holes left by the recession.

The mediation law will “protect homeownership by giving every family the ability to bring these faceless mortgage servicing giants to the table before a family can be thrown out of their home in a foreclosure action,” O’Malley said Tuesday morning before signing some 170 bills. Among the new laws signed by O’Malley, House Speaker Michael E. Busch and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., was the Maryland False Health Claims Act of 2010. It will allow the state or citizens to file suit to recover fraudulent claims made to Medicaid or other state health programs. The law allows for a civil penalty up to $10,000 and triple damages. SOURCE: Maryland Daily Record

April 13, 2010

Don Rogers, lawyer, assists business start-ups and early stage businesses

Potomac based Shulman, Rogers, Gandal, Pordy & Ecker, PA is one of the largest and most respected law firms in the Washington Metropolitan area. Founded in 1972, the firm practices law across a variety of areas from corporate law, to real estate, to litigation to estate planning and family law. Mr. Don Rogers is one of the managing partners, and over the past 30 years, Mr. Rogers has worked with many business entities, including start-up and early-stage business enterprises to assist them in achieving their business objectives. Mr. Rogers has assisted his clients in obtaining required resources such as seed capital, venture capital, and strategic alliances, developed various stock option plans for key employees and assisted clients in implementing succession plans for transition to the next generation of owners.

Mr. Rogers is also the Chairman of the EagleBank Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization, providing funds to fight cancer and other worthwhile charities. His accounting degree (B.S. in accounting from Hunter College of the University of New York) and his J.D. from Georgetown University, and his LLM in taxation from Georgetown University allows him to provide businesses in the Maryland area and beyond with accounting and legal advice. Additional information on Shulman, Rogers, Gandal, Pordy & Ecker is available at ShulmanRogers.com.

PHOTO: Don Rogers, managing partner

Management Salaries in MoCo Government

MCGEO, Montgomery County’s employee union, held a rally last week to protest what they believe are unfair budget cuts targeting their members. One of their complaints is that county managers are overpaid and are largely protected from the layoffs that will be imposed on rank-and-file workers. But MCGEO is not merely complaining – they hired McCarthy Consulting of Edgewater, Maryland to obtain salaries of county manager classifications and compare them to comparable classifications in other counties. And now we present that data to our readers. Brace yourselves, folks.

Following are salaries for all managers in the Montgomery County government who make more than $150,000 per year and comparative statistics for their peers across the region.

Chief Administrative Officer Salaries
Montgomery: $266,300
Fairfax: $240,200
Alexandria: $233,100
District of Columbia: $225,000
Baltimore County: $190,000
Howard: $125,000
Prince George’s: $120,200
Anne Arundel: $106,500
Mean Salary: $188,288
MoCo % Above Mean: 41%

Chief of Police Salaries
Montgomery: $216,600
District of Columbia: $201,100
Baltimore County: $195,000
Howard: $112,800
Baltimore City: $112,200
Fairfax: $105,800
Anne Arundel: $99,600
Prince George’s: $98,900
M-NCPPC: $90,800
Alexandria: $87,800
Arlington: $62,000
Mean Salary: $125,691
MoCo % Above Mean: 72%

Fire Chief Salaries
Montgomery: $211,800
District of Columbia: $181,800
Baltimore County: $172,500
Howard: $108,800
Fairfax: $105,800
Baltimore City: $104,000
Anne Arundel: $99,600
Prince George’s: $98,900
Alexandria: $87,800
Arlington: $62,000
Mean Salary: $122,600
MoCo % Above Mean: 73%

Chief Counsel/County Attorney Salaries
Montgomery: $206,500
Fairfax: $201,600
Alexandria: $195,000
Arlington: $187,500
Baltimore City: $160,000
Baltimore County: $158,700
WSSC: $138,900
District of Columbia: $118,700
Prince George’s: $109,000
Howard: $101,800
Anne Arundel: $99,600
Mean Salary: $152,482
MoCo % Above Mean: 35%

Finance Director Salaries
Montgomery: $195,600
M-NCPCC: $172,000
District of Columbia: $157,900
Baltimore City: $112,200
Fairfax: $100,800
Prince George’s: $98,900
WSSC: $92,300
Howard: $91,900
Anne Arundel: $88,100
Alexandria: $83,600
Baltimore County: $76,300
Arlington: $62,000
Mean Salary: $110,967
MoCo % Above Mean: 76%

Personnel/Human Resources Director Salaries
Montgomery: $195,200
Baltimore County: $130,400
District of Columbia: $128,300
Baltimore City: $112,200
Fairfax: $100,800
Prince George’s: $98,900
Anne Arundel: $88,100
WSSC: $83,800
Alexandria: $83,600
Howard: $82,900
M-NCPPC: $75,000
Arlington: $62,000
Mean Salary: $103,433
MoCo % Above Mean: 89%

Planning/Economic Development Director Salaries
Montgomery: $194,500
Baltimore County: $126,500
District of Columbia: $118,500
Baltimore City: $112,200
Fairfax: $100,800
Howard: $91,900
Anne Arundel: $88,100
Alexandria: $87,800
M-NCPPC: $75,000
Arlington: $62,000
Mean Salary: $105,730
MoCo % Above Mean: 84%

Budget Director Salaries
Montgomery: $194,500
Baltimore County: $158,700
District of Columbia: $157,900
Prince George’s: $109,000
Fairfax: $100,800
Anne Arundel: $99,600
Howard: $91,900
Baltimore City: $77,200
M-NCPPC: $75,000
WSSC: $74,000
Arlington: $59,100
Mean Salary: $108,882
MoCo % Above Mean: 79%

Information Systems Director Salaries
Baltimore County: $195,000
Montgomery: $194,500
District of Columbia: $128,300
Fairfax: $105,800
Prince George’s: $98,900
M-NCPPC: $91,000
Anne Arundel: $88,100
Alexandria: $87,800
Howard: $82,900
Baltimore City: $77,500
Arlington: $62,000
Mean Salary: $110,164
MoCo % Above Mean: 77%

Library Director Salaries
Baltimore County: $177,000
Montgomery: $169,500
District of Columbia: $133,900
Fairfax: $100,800
Alexandria: $83,600
Baltimore City: $77,200
Arlington: $62,000
Mean Salary: $114,857
MoCo % Above Mean: 48%

Public Information Director Salaries
Montgomery: $165,000
Baltimore County: $137,800
District of Columbia: $107,100
Fairfax: $87,700
WSSC: $83,800
Howard: $82,900
Alexandria: $79,700
M-NCPPC: $75,000
Anne Arundel: $72,300
Prince George’s: $70,300
Arlington: $62,000
Baltimore City: $39,700
Mean Salary: $88,608
MoCo % Above Mean: 86%

Director of Parks/Recreation Salaries
Montgomery: $162,000
Baltimore County: $155,600
District of Columbia: $118,500
Howard: $91,900
Anne Arundel: $88,100
Alexandria: $83,600
Baltimore City: $77,200
Arlington: $62,000
Mean Salary: $104,863
MoCo % Above Mean: 54%

Aging Director Salaries
Montgomery: $151,400
Baltimore County: $141,100
District of Columbia: $103,000
Prince George’s: $98,900
Anne Arundel: $88,100
Baltimore City: $77,200
Howard: $74,900
Fairfax: $69,100
Arlington: $53,000
Mean Salary: $95,189
MoCo % Above Mean: 59%

McCarthy Consulting also collected data on 59 rank-and-file occupations and found that MoCo workers made 10.7% more than area averages.


ProMark delivers super efficient homes in amenity-rich, transit-ready environments

ProMark Real Estate Services has served the greater Washington, DC metro region for over a decade. Managing Member Robert O. Eisinger founded the company in 2000 with longtime business partner Thomas D. W. Fauquier. The company continues in the tradition of Eisinger, Kilbane & Associates, historically one of the area’s most innovative commercial developers and among the first real estate firms in the country to capitalize on the purchase of air rights. The Eisinger family has deep roots in the local real estate industry and maintains a long history of groundbreaking design, environmentally responsible development and civic engagement. Today, the company is engaged in both the White Flint and Gaithersburg West planning processes and is developing a new workforce housing prototype to overcome the barriers to the development of market-rate, moderately priced housing in Montgomery County, MD. Recognizing that the region’s vitality is tied to its ability to house an economically diverse resident population, ProMark delivers super efficient homes in amenity-rich, transit-ready environments.

> Hilary Allard Goldfarb. Planning Director, ProMark. 16220 Frederick Rd. Suite 325. Gaithersburg, MD 20877. 301-208-6700 (office). 240-481-4282 (cell)

PICTURE: an aPAD concept living space

Be cautious around landscaping

The Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service reminds residents to use caution and common sense when it comes to fire safety as warm weather arrives. One of the most common causes of fires this time of year is improperly discarded smoking materials. Montgomery County Fire Chief Richard Bowers is urging residents to be aware of the dangers of improperly discarded cigarettes, particularly around landscaping. “The risk of a mulch fire is more common than one might expect. We have seen a steep increase in mulch fires as commercial and public facilities ban smoking inside buildings and smoking materials are discarded into landscaped areas as people enter and/or exit a building presenting a significant safety hazard,” said Chief Bowers.

• If you smoke, PLEASE properly dispose of all smoking materials and matches. • If you see anything smoking in a landscaped bed, put it out safely if possible and immediately report it to someone inside the building. If the burning material is not thoroughly doused with water or removed, it may re-ignite.


Did Congress revoke its own health insurance??

WASHINGTON — It is often said that the new health care law will affect almost every American in some way. And, perhaps fittingly if unintentionally, no one may be more affected than members of Congress themselves. In a new report, the Congressional Research Service says the law may have significant unintended consequences for the “personal health insurance coverage” of senators, representatives and their staff members. For example, it says, the law may “remove members of Congress and Congressional staff” from their current coverage, in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, before any alternatives are available.

The confusion raises the inevitable question: If they did not know exactly what they were doing to themselves, did lawmakers who wrote and passed the bill fully grasp the details of how it would influence the lives of other Americans? The law promises that people can keep coverage they like, largely unchanged. For members of Congress and their aides, the federal employees health program offers much to like. But, the report says, the men and women who wrote the law may find that the guarantee of stability does not apply to them.

“It is unclear whether members of Congress and Congressional staff who are currently participating in F.E.H.B.P. may be able to retain this coverage,” the research service said in an 8,100-word memorandum.

SOURCE: New York Times

Md. House kills Saqib's Sunshine Act

"Bad News. The House referred my Legislative Voting Sunshine Act to 'summer study,' effectively killing it for a year." -- Del. Saqib Ali (D-Montgomery), in a Facebook posting Monday night. SOURCE: Washington Post quoting Facebook post

David Graling leads Gelman, Rosenberg & Freedman, CPAs

Gelman, Rosenberg & Freedman has been part of the Washington, DC metropolitan region since 1981. The firm provides accounting, auditing and consulting services to an extensive client base, which consists of nonprofit organizations and for-profit corporations, including government contractors, research and development firms, retail businesses, professional service firms, partnerships and trusts, as well as individual clients. In addition to the Washington, DC metropolitan area, we also serve businesses in other locations in the United States, and we are involved in on-site field office auditing in Europe, Africa, Latin America, and central and southern Asia.

David F. Graling, CPA, MBA. President of Gelman, Rosenberg & Freedman, CPAs. 4550 Montgomery Avenue, Suite 650 N Bethesda, MD 20814. Phone: (301) 951-9090. dgraling@grfcpa.com. www.grfcpa.com

MC can now own biotech company with public tax dollars

ANNAPOLIS - The Maryland General Assembly approved a bill that would allow Montgomery County to invest taxpayers dollars in biotech startups. The measure would empower Montgomery to make stock investments in Maryland companies. State law prohibits local governments from making equity investments, which are regarded as high-risk, according to a legislative analysis of the bill. The state government is allowed to make such investments, however, and Montgomery officials wanted in on the return.

"We want to allow the county to do what the state does," said Montgomery's legislative analyst, Sheila Sprague. Sprague said the bill, sponsored by the Montgomery delegation, was drafted at the urging of County Executive Ike Leggett. The Senate unanimously approved the bill, while the measure won approval by a 135-3 vote in the House. Gov. Martin O'Malley is expected to sign the measure. But a Montgomery County senator stopped the ball rolling when the measure went before the Senate Finance committee during the approval process.

"I read this [bill], and I see it as saying county government can own 25 percent of a private business ... and I actually have a problem with that," said Sen. Rob Garagiola, D-Poolesville. "It seems like there could be a lot of conflicts." Finance Committee Chairman Thomas M. Middleton asked Garagiola to return the bill to the Montgomery delegation and add a clawback provision to give taxpayers some financial security. When Garagiola aired his grievances before the delegation, Sens. Brian Frosh, D-Bethesda, and Mike Lenett, D-Aspen Hill, chimed in.

Frosh said the bill seemed "risky," and Lenett suggested, "Why don't we just save the money [instead of investing]." But Sens. Rich Madaleno, D-Wheaton, and Rona Kramer, D-Olney, said the bill was fine as written. Kramer said the money the county would be investing would be spent on grants and loans, and the county should be able to profit off its investments. Montgomery's Department of Economic Development would be in charge of making the county's investment decisions. The department has about $850,000 in county appropriations for business loans, said Director Steve Silverman. But the department can petition the County Council for more money. The bill would unleash the department's funds for investments, and there is no cap limiting the amount of money the county can use for investments versus loans.

SOURCE: Washington Examiner

Ruth Melson at Maryland Federation of Republican Women Conference in Gaithersburg

Last Friday through Saturday, the Maryland Federation of Republican Women held their semi-annual conference at a Holiday Inn in Gaithersburg, Maryland. Ruth Melson is the president of one of the Montgomery County clubs. Maybe 75 candidates attended the event.

PLUG: Lt. Gov Brown shows off copier from Capitol Office Solutions

Capitol Office Solutions is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Xerox and an HP partner. It provide small to mid-size firms with local service and works with firms to improve efficiency and productivity by helping them manage there printing. They have a focus on sustainability and helping companies achieve their green missions. Their equipment is on display at Bethesda Green. Capitol Office Solutions has the ability to provide your company with superior technology from the entire family of XEROX products with local technical and administrative support. Their technologies cover scanning solutions, document management, enhancing workflows, reducing waste & increasing office efficiencies. Currently, some of our partners are EFI, Nuance, Equitrac, CREO, eCopy and Xerox Docushare.

Michael Sullivan. Account Executive. Capitol Office Solutions. 9065 Guilford Road. Columbia, Maryland 21046

PICTURE: Congressman George Leventhal and Lt. Governor Anthony Brown in front of the Xerox ColorQube and looking at some literature.

April 12, 2010

Silver Spring homeless center in danger of closing

Mary Mulholland puts it lightly. "Ebony didn't walk in here wearing a suit," said Mulholland, the director of Community Vision, a homeless services center in Silver Spring.

In reality, Ebony was homeless, unemployed, 23 years old and in need of help — and she arrived at Community Vision in 2007 with the attitude that no one could help her. On Friday, Ebony sat in Mulholland's office in a suit. Poised and answering a visitor's questions as if it was a job interview, Ebony responded in complete sentences and maintained eye contact throughout. She then left Mulholland's office to prepare for a job interview later that day.

"If I didn't have Community Vision, I truly believe I would've been strung out on drugs or living in the streets," said Ebony, who asked that her last name not be used so as not to jeopardize her chances at employment. She hopes to work as a receptionist in the short-term and a stylist after she completes cosmetology school.

Ebony's not on drugs nor is she living on the streets. She's working toward employment and living in the Sophia House, a shelter in Rockville. But because of a cut in county funds, Community Vision — the only homeless services center south of the Beltway that provides job readiness training like Ebony received — likely will close if County Executive Isiah Leggett's proposed budget is approved.
SOURCE: Gazette

Ben Stein asks Steele to resign

Every single day, including Saturdays and Sundays, the phone rings at the Ben Stein household. On the line is a man or woman raising money for the Republicans: Republicans running for the Senate. Republicans running for the House of Representatives. The California Republican Party. And, above all, the Republican National Committee. Every single day.

We very often write checks, and we do it because we have a long history with the party. But we also give because we have a lingering belief (and a hope) that the GOP is the party of small town, all-American virtues and verities. I suspect millions of others get these fundraising calls from the GOP and write those checks for the same reason. I'd like to keep sending in that money, but I really can't with the current Chairman of the RNC in office.
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Allegany County defeats MC in Special Olympics

— CUMBERLAND — The Allegany County Special Olympics basketball teams were escorted into town recently by the Cumberland Police Department in celebration of three Maryland State championships. The State Tournament was held at the Capitol Sports Complex in District Heights and teams from across the state competed in the two-day event. Teams were grouped into brackets according to their physical abilities. The Allegany Energizers, coached by Linda Lewis, won the gold medal in Division 6 by defeating Baltimore County. Cody Butler had a team-high 18 points, with Ben Ratke scoring nine. Other members of the team are Johnnie Carroll, Flo Jessie, Jimmy Jones, Stephanie Pyles, Megan Sneathen, J.T. Thomas and Jessica Resh.

The Energizers beat Upper Shore 30-14 in a preliminary game with Butler scoring 16 points. The Allegany Extreme, coached by Keith Roach, beat Anne Arundel 36-20 in the Division 3 gold medal game. Dillon Yates had 10 points to lead the way, while Cody Twigg had seven and Jennie Myers six. Other members of the team are Marci Horner, Adam Lazarus, Wally Harper, Brittney Resh and Crystal Knapp. The Extreme beat Carroll County 25-18 in the preliminary game, 25-18. Yates had eight points and Horner six. The Allegany Express, coached by Julian Thomas, won the Division 1 gold medal.

The Express beat Montgomery County 38-19 in the championship game, and also beat Baltimore County 38-36 in the preliminary game. Chris Butler led all scorers, averaging over 10 points per game. Other members of the Express are Mike Wines, Johnny Hott, Joey Paige, Scott Noel, David Sines and Andy Salmon. The local teams participated in several qualifying tournaments to prepare for the competition. The teams played in the St. James Invitational Tournament in Washington County and the Adams County Invitational at Gettysburg (Pa.) College, and hosted the Allegany County Invitational.

Greenbaum announces opening of Title Town Settlements in Rockville

Todd Greenbaum is pleased to announce the opening of Title Town Settlements.  Title Town Settlements is "Your Hometown Settlement Team" located in Rockville, MD.  The company's mission is to consistently achieve superior customer service by providing constant personal attention, expert workmanship, and unwavering dependability throughout the settlement process. At Title Town Settlements we know you expect us to provide superior work quality, but also covet the personal attention that you deserve.  We have the experience and knowledge to ensure the quick and easy settlement you desire and make each transaction a priority so you feel right at home.

Todd has conducted hundreds of closings, handles all aspects of the real estate transaction from start to finish, prepares deeds, mortgages and other documents necessary to the settlement process and teaches Continuing Education to real estate agents.  He specializes in residential and commercial purchase and refinance transactions, including short sales and foreclosures.  His goal in founding Title Town Settlements was to create a company that focuses on the balance between the high level of customer service that clients expect while being able to establish long-lasting personal relationships.  Many title companies focus only on the amount of business they are doing and lose sight of the personal attention clients deserve.   

Todd is an Attorney admitted to practice in the State of Maryland and the District of Columbia and is an active member of the Maryland, D.C. and Montgomery County Bar Associations. “ 

Todd I. Greenbaum. Attorney-At-Law/President
Title Town Settlements, LLC. 721 Fallsgrove Drive #2121. Rockville, MD 20850. T. (301) 580-2850