May 8, 2010

Leggett to Hold Online Chat on May 12

Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett will hold another “virtual” Town Hall Meeting on Wednesday, May 12 at noon. County residents will be able to talk with the County Executive and ask questions via the Internet through the County website at . Click on “Live Discussion with County Executive Ike Leggett: May 12.” Residents interested in participating in the online chat can enter questions through the County website before or during the chat. Questions and answers will be available for viewing both during and after the chat. For more information, call the Office of Public Information at 240-777-6507. SOURCE: MPW and MC

BioMed Drops $53M on Life Science Bldgs. in Rockville

San Diego, CA-based BioMed Realty Trust Inc. recently purchased five buildings on Medical Center Drive in Rockville, MD, for $53 million, or approximately $243 per square foot. The 217,983-square-foot life sciences portfolio is fully occupied by the seller, J. Craig Venter Institute, which will lease back the space. The properties are in the "DNA Alley" along the Interstate 270 corridor in Montgomery County. BioMed acquired the campus as part of its growth strategy, which currently includes owning a fully leased portfolio in Maryland comprised of 15 buildings totaling 1.4 million rentable square feet. JCVI was searching for a real estate partner with the "financial strength, stability and flexibility to support our multidisciplinary genomic-focused research needs," said J. Craig Venter, Ph.D., founder, chairman and president of the genomic research firm. James Meisel, James Barter and Stephen Potts of HFF represented BioMed. For more information, please see CoStar COMPS #1912466. SOURCE: Costar Group

Wall Street dives 1000 points, watch live reaction

The Dow had fallen nearly 400 points by around 2:40 p.m. EDT. Yet the damage got worse. The Dow fell 600 points in 7 minutes, giving it a record intraday loss of 998.50, or 9.2 percent. Minutes later, the index turned up again, erasing most losses.

Hospitals duel in Montgomery County

Business groups are divided in the contentious battle between two nonprofits vying to build a hospital in the rapidly growing northern part of Montgomery County. One group of 19 business and community leaders signed a joint letter to state officials supporting Adventist HealthCare's proposal to build the Clarksburg Community Hospital and Medical Campus in Clarksburg.

"We believe this is the superior proposal for a new hospital in Montgomery County," the group wrote.

But the former president of the Gaithersburg-Germantown Chamber of Commerce, James A. Hyatt, says his organization should be supporting Holy Cross Hospital's plan for a new hospital in Germantown, but isn't because the chamber's chairman is Robert Jepson, Adventist's associate vice president for government relations.

"Residents of Clarksburg have the advantage right now — Adventist has rallied their chamber of commerce and other civic groups to voice their support for the Clarksburg hospital," said Hyatt, who supports the Holy Cross proposal, about five miles away from the planned Adventist hospital. "For those of us in Germantown, we cannot expect to get support from our own chamber of commerce."

The dueling business support reflects how the two organizations are trying to rally community backing as they seek state approval for their multimillion-dollar proposals — only one of which will win that approval. Both church-affiliated applicants took their campaigns public in August in an effort to win backing, from setting up Facebook pages to passing out fliers at local events. A reviewer for the Maryland Health Care Commission, which will award the certificate needed to open the county's first new, full-service hospital in 30 years, is scheduled to meet with the applicants — Holy Cross Hospital of Silver Spring and Adventist HealthCare of Rockville — on May 20 to set a hearing date on the proposals.

A decision, which earlier had been expected this summer, may not be made until the fall, said Pamela Barclay, director of the commission's Center for Hospital Services. SOURCE: Gazette

Since oil spill, feds have given 27 waivers to oil companies in gulf

WASHINGTON — Since the Deepwater Horizon oil drilling rig exploded on April 20, the Obama administration has granted oil and gas companies at least 27 exemptions from doing in-depth environmental studies of oil exploration and production in the Gulf of Mexico. The waivers were granted despite President Barack Obama’s vow that his administration would launch a “relentless response effort” to stop the leak and prevent more damage to the gulf. One of them was dated Friday — the day after Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said he was temporarily halting offshore drilling. The exemptions, known as “categorical exclusions,” were granted by the Interior Department’s Minerals Management Service (MMS) and included waiving detailed environmental studies for a BP exploration plan to be conducted at a depth of more than 4,000 feet and an Anadarko Petroleum Corp. exploration plan at more 9,000 feet.

“Is there a moratorium on off shore drilling or not?” asked Peter Galvin, conservation director with the Center for Biological Diversity, the environmental group that discovered the administration’s continued approval of the exemptions. “Possibly the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history has occurred and nothing appears to have changed.”

MMS officials said the exemptions are continuing to be issued because they do not represent final drilling approval. To drill, a company has to file a separate application under a process that is now suspended because of Salazar’s order Thursday. However, officials could not say whether the exemptions would stand once the moratorium is lifted. MMS’ approvals are expected to spark new criticism of the troubled agency and the administration’s response to the spill.

Salazar announced Thursday that there’d be no new offshore drilling until the Interior Department completes the safety review process requested by Obama. The department is required to deliver the report to the president by May 28. Given the MMS approvals, however, Galvin said the administration’s pledge appears disingenuous.

“It looks to me like they’re misleading the public,” he said.

MMS spokesman David Smith said his agency conducts a thorough review before it determines whether to grant such exemptions. SOURCE: McClatchy

May 7, 2010

Beth El Men's Club breakfast hosts Council Member

Councilmember Duchy Trachtenberg, Chair of the Management and Fiscal Policy Committee and Member of the Health and Human Services Committee, spent Sunday morning at Beth El Congregation in Bethesda, MD. Councilmember Trachtenberg was the featured speaker for Beth El’s weekly men’s club breakfast. Over bagels, cream cheese and lox, Councilmember Trachtenberg discussed “Budget Challenges: 2010 and Beyond.” Over forty congregants attended the men’s club breakfast to learn about the deteriorating fiscal situation in Montgomery County. Councilmember Trachtenberg gave a strong and honest overview of the budget situation and then entertained questions. Many of the questions focused on the school system, direct social services and taxes. Moreover, there was a discussion of the different responsibilities between county elected officials and state elected officials. After the breakfast concluded, the president of the men’s club presented Councilmember Trachtenberg with a kosher, Israeli wine and thanked her for her time. For more information on Beth El Congregation, please go to their website or call 301-652-2606. SOURCE: Duchy blog

7 Students, Bus Driver Injured In Maryland Crash

GLENMONT, Md. (AP) -- Authorities say a car and a Montgomery County school bus have collided, injuring seven students and the bus driver. County fire department spokesman Capt. Oscar Garcia says the crash occurred just before 3 p.m. Friday at Georgia Avenue and Hathaway Drive in Glenmont. Garcia says there were 13 high school students aboard the bus. The students are from Northwood High School. He says seven students have been taken to a hospital with minor injuries. The bus driver also is hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries. Fire and school officials are contacting parents and helping students get home. Police are investigating the crash. SOURCE: WUSA 9

Jerry Weast says children are on his side, not a dollar argument

Fire burns apartments owned by Rep. Bartlett

A fire burned more than a dozen apartments and a barn on a Frederick farm owned by Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.) Thursday, reportedly causing significant damage but no injuries. The blaze broke out Thursday afternoon at Bartlett's property, located at 4317 Buckeystown Pike, and took several hours for firefighters to extinguish, according to a report in the Frederick News-Post.

"The fire was put out," Bartlett said in a statement issued Friday by his office. "Thankfully, no one was hurt and everyone is taken care of. That is the most important thing. I knew many of the fire and rescue personnel already, but seeing them in action was awe-inspiring. I am grateful to the Frederick Chapter of the Red Cross and so many other members of the community who have responded with help."

The cause of the fire is unknown and is being probed by the Frederick County Bureau of Investigation, according to the News-Post. Bartlett's personal financial disclosure form for 2008 -- the most recent one available -- showed he owns a "house and other buildings" at the Buckeystown Pike address worth between $1 million and $5 million, from which he earned $50,001-$100,000 in rental income for the year. He also reported owning rental properties in Knoxville, Md., and Pleasantville, Tenn. Bartlett has represented the Frederick-based 6th district since 1993. SOURCE: Washington Post

Response to PTA Support for Ambulance Fee

Dear Parents of Montgomery County students:

Yesterday, I was advised that the Whitman PTA had circulated a request that all parents send the Montgomery County Council a letter urging the Council to adopt "revenue enhancements," including the proposed ambulance fee. As a result of many inaccurate facts being disseminated by proponents of the proposed fees, I am writing this letter to provide you, the parents, with the other side of the issue. First and foremost, each of you should know that the language of the bill specifically provides that the money gained through the ambulance fee will be used to supplement (and not supplant) existing fire and rescue budgets, which means that the Montgomery County school system will receive absolutely no additional monies through imposition of the proposed fees. Indeed, the fees will ultimately detrimentally affect the finances of the County, which may mean additional future cuts.

Mr. Leggett has argued that insurance companies will be paying the bills. This is misleading. First, the bill specifically notes that except in the case of hardship, which must be submitted in the form of a waiver, that “each individual who receives an emergency medical services transport is responsible for paying the . . .. transport fee.” Second, if insurance companies do ultimately assume the cost of the fees, they will be forced to re-coup their costs through raised premiums. While proponents have argued that the increases will be minimal, I, as a business owner, will beg to differ. Even a 1% increase in premiums will result in thousands of dollars in increased costs to companies currently paying health insurance premiums, resulting in those companies’ being forced to decrease the benefits provided to employees.

In 2009, press releases by the County stated that the fees were intended “to recover costs generated by providing . . . transports via County ambulances.” Where once the intent was to seemingly limit the fee to “County ambulances,” which would necessarily remove those transports provided by NON-County purchased units, the County Executive has now broadened the imposition of the fee to all Fire and Rescue service vehicles, regardless of how those vehicles were purchased, how the equipment onboard the units was purchased, how the fuel was purchased, and whether the personnel staffing the vehicles are volunteers or career members of the fire and rescue services. It should be noted that several stations in the County (including the BCC Rescue Squad) are either entirely (as in the case of BCCRS) or substantially funded by community donations, meaning that the equipment, gas, vehicles, buildings, etc. are not owned or operated by the County. And yet, the County Executive still intends to charge for transports made in those units.

The County Executive’s current plan is perhaps most short-sighted in its potential effect on fire service volunteers. Notwithstanding that no money will actually make its way back to fund non-County owned stations, volunteers, non-County purchased vehicles, or non-County purchased equipment, some County residents will believe that donating to these organizations will be unnecessary (since they will believe that the fees being imposed are going to all fire and rescue departments in the County). If donations decrease substantially to these organizations (like BCC Rescue Squad and Wheaton Rescue Squad), how will the County Executive avoid incurring millions and millions of dollars in costs to hire career fire personnel to do jobs currently performed by volunteers and provide or replace community-purchased fuel, vehicles, or equipment? The County Executive will lose every cent he proposes to raise and more – putting the County (and its education system) in more fiscal jeopardy in three or ten years (long after his departure) than it is in now.

Finally, as some of you may be aware, fire and rescue departments throughout Montgomery County (including BCC Rescue Squad) provide opportunities for high school children to volunteer in the communitiies where they live. The experiences these kids have are invaluable to personal development. Young volunteers are taught what it means to give back to the community, be compassionate, be responsible, undertake difficult and demanding training, and respond, day and night, to help others and guide them through tragedies. If ambulance fees are imposed, these programs, and the entire volunteer system in Montgomery County, are at risk. Therefore, and for the reasons noted above, we urge you to oppose these ambulance fees.

Brooke Davies,
Vice President, Bethesda Chevy Chase Rescue Squad
Chief Operating Officer, Davies Consulting, Inc.
SOURCE: Parents' Coalition of MC

Big Train Summer Baseball in Bethesda’s Backyard!

In just a decade, Bethesda Big Train baseball at Shirley Povich Field has become a community treasure beloved by young and old. The Washington Post calls Big Train baseball at Povich Field “the ultimate small town fantasy.” Washingtonian Magazine rates it one of “Washington’s best” and Bethesda Magazine named it “One of the 67 Things We Love About Bethesda.” In addition to the more than 200,000 fans who have come to Big Train games, more than one thousand businesses and families have contributed funds to help make Big Train baseball at Povich Field such a special community experience.

The Big Train rolled to the 2009 CRSL regular season title with a record 31 wins then cruised through the playoffs to capture the CRSL League Championship. More than 18,000 fans came to Povich Field in 2009 and set an all-time attendance record. It was the second season averaging sell-out attendance!

The Bethesda Community Base Ball Club:
John Ourisman and Bruce Adams founded the Bethesda Community Base Ball Club (BCBBC) in 1998 with a mission to improve the quality of youth baseball and softball fields in our area. In our first project, we built a $2 million jewel of a ballpark at Cabin John Regional Park and named it after the legendary Washington Post sportswriter Shirley Povich. Povich Field is now the home of our own Bethesda Big Train summer college team and Georgetown University’s baseball team. In addition, hundreds of youth and adult ballgames are played at Povich Field each year. Since completing Povich Field, BCBBC has helped make more than $500,000 worth of improvements to youth baseball and softball fields, including Cabin John #2, the youth version of Povich Field, and Jackie Robinson Field in Anacostia, home of the Fields of Dreams after-school program. The Bethesda Community Base Ball Club is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. SOURCE: bethesda Big Train Baseball

Ghostwriter Bovard sues Barr campaign

Since the end of former US Representative Bob Barr’s 2008 presidential run on the Libertarian Party ballot line, his campaign committee has listed various outstanding debts on its reports to the Federal Election Commission (see schedule D of the campaign’s Q1 2010 report for details). Among those debts: $47,000 to libertarian writer James Bovard, described as an “authoring fee.” This morning Bovard announced, via his blog, that he’s taking the Barr campaign to court for the money.

Bovard contracted with the campaign to ghost write Barr’s campaign book, Lessons in Liberty. The book was completed, published and put on the market, but appears to be out of print. As of today Amazon.Com lists only one used copy for sale. Bovard alleges that his agreement with the campaign called for payment in full prior to the book’s publication, but that he has thus far received only $30,000 of $77,000 owed. Bovard’s announcement includes the text of a complaint to the Circuit Court for Montgomery County, Maryland. The court clerk’s office verified by phone that the complaint has, in fact, been filed. SOURCE: Independent Political report

Missing Teens Found Living in the Woods, with BB guns

Imagine never having to pay rent, or a mortgage, or utilities. It may sound pretty enticing. But before you move out, just know that you can’t live in the woods in Montgomery County. On Thursday, Maryland-National Capital Park Police arrested a group of people who appeared to be living in the woods in Silver Spring. Police originally received a call for an abandoned motorcycle on Sligo Creek Stream Trail next to Interstate 495. When an officer arrived to check it out, he noticed the engine was still warm. That’s when he walked back into the woods and stumbled upon a makeshift camp.

Five people were apparently living there. One of them was marching around with what appeared to be a military rifle, according to police. Officers said they also discovered BB guns, combat training manuals, wilderness survival handbooks and heroin. All five face drug charges, including James Randall, 22, of Poolesville, two 15-year-old boys and a 16-year-old girl. Roman Lycyuk, 18, of the District, is also charged with carrying a concealed weapon. Police said two teens in the group had been reported missing from the District. Police spokeswoman Sgt. Lauryn McNeill said it doesn’t appear the group had any plans to cause harm. They reportedly told police that they wanted to live in the woods. SOURCE: NBC Washington

May 6, 2010

Montgomery council lawyers: Schools lawsuit based on 'a house of cards'

According to the Washington Post, That lawsuit threatened by the Montgomery County school system now has a detailed rebuttal. The public schools essentially argued that the county council is toothless under current circumstances and can't trim the school budget proposed by County Executive Isiah Leggett (D). This line of reasoning was not popular among the county's Appropriators in Chief. And, according to the council's lawyers, it was based on an erroneous reading of the law. The draft school suit, they write, is based on a mistaken interpretation of a provision in state law requiring a minimum level of funding. The suit conflates what state law says about mandatory spending and a separate provision concerning year-to-year funding known as maintenance of effort, the council attorneys argue.

"Once this fundamental flaw in the [Montgomery County Public Schools'] attorney's argument is exposed, the entire argument falls like a house of cards," write legislative attorneys Michael Faden and Robert Drummer. "If the Legislature had intended to further qualify the Council's broad authority to reduce the school budget in [Maryland Education Article] 5-103, they would have expressly said so."

The schools' lawyer said she's not surprised by the arguments.

"I understand they're going to take that kind of position," said attorney Judith S. Bresler. "I guess the judge will determine who's right."

Here's the council memo: Montgomery Council Legal Response

Strasburg makes Triple-A debut on Friday; Maxwell raised in MC

Stephen Strasburg, the Nationals’ phenom pitching prospect, is scheduled to make his Triple-A debut on Friday for Syracuse, when the Chiefs play at home against Gwinnett in an International League game. It was Gwinnett, the top farm club of the Atlanta Braves, that was the no-hit victim of Oriole minor leaguer Chris Tillman of Norfolk on April 28. Strasburg was promoted to Triple-A on Tuesday after dominating the Eastern League. His teammates in Syracuse will include outfielder Kevin Mench, a former University of Delaware star with major league experience. Mench hit .306 with 14 RBIs in his first 85 at-bats this season for Syracuse. Justin Maxwell, who grew up in Montgomery County, hit .333 in 15 at-bats for Syracuse last month before being called up to the big leagues with Washington. Pitcher Josh Wilkie, a former standout at George Washington University, is 2-2 with an ERA of 2.51 in his first nine games for Syracuse.

In other baseball news, Mike O’Connor, who grew up in Ellicott City and also played college ball at George Washington, is pitching for the top farm club of the New York Mets. O’Connor, who appeared in the big leagues for the Nationals, pitched at the Triple-A level last season with Washington, San Diego and Kansas City. The left-hander is 0-1 with an ERA of 4.09 in his first 10 games out of the bullpen for Buffalo in the International League. The hitting coach for Buffalo is Jack Voigt, a former player in the Orioles’ minor league system.

Former Maryland Terp pitcher Brett Cecil (Dundalk, DeMatha Catholic High) retired the first 19 batter while pitching for Toronto against Cleveland earlier this week. He allowed just one hit in eight innings as the Jays won, 5-1. Cecil is 2-1 with an ERA of 2.61 in three starts for Toronto after starting the season at the Triple-A level. Cecil is scheduled to pitch Saturday in Chicago against the White Sox. SOURCE: Explore Howard

Landon School alumnus charged with murder

George Huguely and Yeardley Love might have looked at each other once and seen something like their own reflections staring back. Both took turns as star athletes at their Maryland private schools, Huguely, of Chevy Chase, at Bethesda's Landon School and Love at Baltimore's Notre Dame Preparatory School. Both were 22-year-old, fourth-year students at the University of Virginia. Huguely was midfielder on the men's lacrosse team, while Love played defense for the women's team. They lived down the street from each other in Charlottesville, Va. At one time, they were romantically involved.

But when Love, from Cockeysville north of Baltimore, was found by police in her apartment at 2:15 a.m. Monday, her image had been shattered. A pool of blood surrounded her head on her pillow, her right face was badly bruised, and her right eye was swollen shut, according to a police affidavit. Someone had forced her bedroom door open and put a hole in it. A few hours later, Huguely, a Chevy Chase native who was once captain of Landon's lacrosse team, was arrested and charged with first-degree murder.

In a prepared statement, his attorney, Francis Lawrence, called Love's death an accident with "a tragic outcome," not murder.

Charlottesville police were called by Love's roommate at her apartment in the 200 block of 14th Street N.W. in Charlottesville, and initially were told in the 911 call that Love might have been suffering from an alcohol overdose, police spokesman Ric Barrick said. But when police arrived, they declared her dead on the scene.

"The body was lying in a way that someone from a certain vantage point wouldn't have been able to see the trauma," Barrick said.

Police continue investigation. Between 8 and 9 a.m. Monday, Huguely voluntarily appeared at a Charlottesville police station. He told police that an argument with Love on Sunday became physical, according to a police affidavit for a search warrant of Huguely's apartment, a few buildings down the street from Love's residence. He told police that he shook Love repeatedly and that her head repeatedly hit the wall of her apartment. He also admitted that he had kicked a hole in the door leading to Love's room. Huguely said the two previously had been in a romantic relationship, according to the affidavit. SOURCE: Gazette

Paid parking at Rockville Library criticized

Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett's newest cost-cutting proposal is the latest chapter in the battle between county officials and Rockville Library patrons about whether visitors should have to pay for parking at the county-owned library. Two weeks ago, Leggett (D) proposed charging for parking at the library as part of a budget adjustment for the current fiscal year, which ends in June, as well as fiscal 2011. The reductions are needed to compensate for an additional $196 million deficit in the coming fiscal year, which is largely the result of a $168 million decrease in income tax revenue. The proposal is subject to the County Council's approval.

The county executive was faced with a $779 million deficit when he proposed his fiscal 2011 budget several weeks ago. In Rockville, library patrons are allowed free parking for two hours at the three, city-owned Town Square garages on North Washington Street, Route 355 and Maryland Avenue, for which the county reimburses the city. Ending the free parking could recoup the county $143,540 annually, officials said. On weekdays, Rockville charges $1 per hour to park at its Town Square garages until 6 p.m.

Leggett also recommended reinstating paid parking for the Bethesda Library, at 7400 Arlington Road, near the Bethesda Metro station. In Bethesda, library users park free at a county-owned lot near the library. Charging patrons for parking there could net the county $120,000 annually, officials said. Officials said they did not know how much they would charge patrons to park in the lot.

"We've had to make further budget adjustments," county spokesman Patrick K. Lacefield said of the April round of proposals. "Even though the county executive supports [free patron parking], we had to make some hard choices. We are in difficult fiscal times."

The County Council is scheduled to approve the budget May 27. If approved, the free parking would end when fiscal 2011 begins July 1. Art Brodsky, chairman of the board that advises Leggett on issues related to Montgomery County Public Libraries, said Leggett's latest proposal does not bode well for an already-slashed libraries budget. He thinks that having to pay for parking could deter library visitors.

"That's just the tip of the iceberg," Brodsky said. "It's death by a thousand cuts."

Other library-related cuts proposed April 22 include the elimination of several positions and reductions in materials and other expenses, such as interpreting services for the deaf and hard of hearing.

"These are things you never get back," Brodsky said. "Once they get cut, it's hard to reinstate them."

Rockville Mayor Phyllis Marcuccio and City Council member Mark Pierzchala said the elimination of free parking for the library would have an adverse effect on the city. SOURCE: Washington Post

Merle Cuttitta of SEIU on Proposed MCPS Furloughs

May 5, 2010

County News

Leggett, Top Biotech Company Leaders, State and Local Officials Announce First-in-Nation Biotech Investment Tax Credit and Equity Investment Legislation; Strategies Designed to Support and Grow Biotech Sector - Bio International Convention, McCormick Place, Chicago -Representatives from Montgomery County‚s industry-leading biotech firms and state and local officials, including Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett, today briefed industry media on County efforts to further expand its dynamic biotech sector. For more information go to:

UPDATED: New event added ** - Montgomery County Public Libraries Celebrates Children‚s Book-Week with Award-winning Children‚s Illustrator, Author Chris Soentpiet - In celebration of Children‚s Book Week, May 10 -15, several Montgomery County Public Libraries will feature entertaining programs for elementary school children and their families by award-winning children‚s book illustrator and author Chris Soentpiet. For more information go to:

Corrected - United for Jobs ˆ A Regional Forum on Careers in Health ˆ June 3, 2010 - United for Jobs, part of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments' Workforce Competitiveness Initiative, is focusing on careers in health because we recognize that many of the occupations projected to grow the fastest in our economy are concentrated in the healthcare industry. The event will build on existing health-related workforce initiatives across the region and offer an avenue to identify opportunities for enhanced collaboration and capacity building. For more information go to:

Managing Stress Related to Hearing Loss - This program will help in identifying the stressors related to hearing loss, their negative effects on a person's mind and body, the impact on relationships, and what can be done to minimize both the stressors and their negative effects. Will be held at the Rockville Memorial Library on May 15th from 10am-3pm, registration is required. For more information go to:

Eighteen Additional National Merit Scholarship Awards Announced - Eighteen Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) students have won $2,500 National Merit Scholarships after meeting rigorous academic standards and other criteria. They join nine previous winners this year of corporate-sponsored National Merit Scholarships. For more information go to:

Strut Your Mutt -The 5th Annual Strut Your Mutt Dog Parade and Festival will take place on Saturday, May 15, 2010 in downtown Bethesda, MD. Organized and sponsored by the Bethesda Chevy Chase Rotary Club, past years have brought together over 5,000 participants and hundreds of dogs for a day of fun. For more information go to:

Montgomery College Students Take Second in Robotics Competition - Montgomery College engineering students and their miniature robot, McBot, earned second place honors in the Micromouse robotics competition at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Region 2 Student Activities Conference held recently at Temple University in Philadelphia, PA. For more information go to:

Benefit Choral Concert for Bethesda Cares, May 22 - The voices of Westmoreland Congregational UCC, Christ Congregational, Woodside UMC and Millan Memorial UMC come together to benefit Bethesda Cares. The concert begins at 7:00 pm, free will offering. Concert will be held at Westmoreland Congregational UCC, One Westmoreland Circle. For more information go to:

Riderwood Community Gives Scholarships to Students -The residents of Riderwood Village Retirement Community in Silver Spring have donated $258,000 in scholarships to 43 graduating seniors in the Washington region, including $150,000 to 25 MCPS students. The scholarships are awarded to some of the 400 students who work at the facility after school and during the summer. Each winner receives $6,000 for postsecondary education. The community‚s residents have awarded more than $1.35 million in scholarships to 325 students since 2002.

Hot Jazz & Cool Blues Gala in the Park - „Hot Jazz & Cool Blues,‰ the 2010 Gala in the Park, takes place on Saturday, May 15. We‚ve got a fabulous evening planned. Cokie and Steve Roberts are our Honorary Chairs and Rob Bamberger of WAMU is the Master of Ceremonies. County Executive Leggett and the Washington Folk Festival are our honorees. This special evening includes a reception, dinner, dancing and performances. Don‚t miss it! For more information go to:

Marriott Spirit to Serve Awards Honor Schools, Individuals, Group for Community Service - Eight Montgomery County individuals, groups and community-minded schools will be honored for their contributions to the Montgomery County community as recipients of the 2010 Marriott Spirit to Serve Community Service awards to be presented on May 6 at the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel and Conference Center. For more information go to:

Arson Awareness Week May 2-8, 2010 -This Year's Theme ˆ Community Arson Prevention - Arson is a crime! Did you know that an estimated average of 316,600 intentional fires are reported to fire departments in the US each year causing injuries to 7,825 firefighters and civilians? MCFRS would ask you to take a moment to go to the United States Fire Administration (USFA) web site to learn how you can help to prevent arson in your community. For more information go to:

Input Sought on How Schools are Assessed for Modernization - A committee charged with updating the methodology used to assess schools for future modernization has released its report and is seeking public comment on its recommendations. For more information go to:

The Dotted Line Keeps Moving

The debris from the big budget bust continues to shower down. The city government is bracing for another bust - or two. Meanwhile the city budget lies trembling on the chopping block as the city manager measures, remeasures, and measures again just where on the neck to drop the ax. She won't know for certain until the county budget is passed at the end of May. The May 10th county council meeting will settle the biggest threatened cut. The city could lose $600,000, and would then have to cut that amount from next year's city budget. The county's Management and Fiscal Policy Committee made two recommendations to the council NOT to make the cuts. But each recommendation calls on the council to repeal half the cut. So, if one passes, the city will lose $300,000 in revenue. If both pass, the the swinging blade will miss the city entirely.

Taking Exception
That's not the only cut threatened, however. The county also wants to cut 22% of the city library's budget. Suzanne Ludlow, Deputy City Manager, reported to the city council April 26 on the county Health and Human Services Committee meeting she attended. This meeting was to discuss the proposed 22% cut to libraries, including Takoma Park's. Though the Takoma Park library is not in the county system, the county rebates city resident tax money in proportion to what other county residents pay for county libraries. In fact, the amount given to the city is a percentage based on a formula written into county code. The code must be changed by county council vote to make the proposed cuts. However, without the formula, Ludlow pointed out to the committee, it would be impossible to predict how much the city would get year to year - making the city manager's annual task of writing a city budget proposal difficult.

Ludlow had a brief dialog about this with the committee chairman, county councilmember George Leventhal (a Takoma Park resident). Ludlow suggested not discarding the formula permanently, but making it a one-year exception. Leventhal said "how about two years?" she reported to the city council. After their exchange Leventhal made some changes to the proposal that would reduce the cut from up to $20,000 to $6000 - 11,000. That's after factoring in the city manager's foresighted lowball estimate of what the county would be paying in this year.

Library Not Fine
Speaking of the library, it was that department's turn to submit to the city budget work session review. The library director Ellen Arnold-Robbins listed off the cuts made to positions and programs. Next year's proposed library budget (pending more cuts) is $985,448, a 2.7% decrease. A part time employee (the book shelver mentioned at previous meetings), and a full time position have been eliminated. And that's just the cuts made to conform to the current budget. She and the council were mindful that deeper cuts will have to be made, and perhaps much deeper cuts as well. The council came up with various schemes, such as charging fees to non residents, and pointing out to the county how much time library time is given over to local schools.

Councilmember Dan Robinson thought a different retirement fund might be in order. He noted that every line item in the library budget has decreased - except for fringe benefits. Why was that, he asked. The city manager stepped in to explain that the cost of participating in the state employee pension fund has gone up this year. Some years it goes sown, she said. Unfortunately, it has gone up in one of the most cash-strapped years. The library director also outlined some positive things, including that the Friends of the LIbrary has instituted foreign language programs in French and Spanish, and that book circulation has increased.

Brighter Lights
A senior citizen from Victory Towers, a residence for seniors, was upset about proposed cuts in Computer Center hours, as well as cuts in the library staff. She offered her services and those of other seniors who wished to volunteer. The mayor thanked her and said the city might take them up on that. Could volunteerism be the solution, Dear Readers? Groups like Friends of the Library could be the means of sustaining services through the city budget cuts. This could be a test of just how crunchy-granola Takoma Park really is. SOURCE: Granola Park

Going to bat for a teammate

During basketball practice several months ago, James FitzGerald got the biggest scare of his life. The then-11-year-old Potomac resident and student at Olney's Washington Christian Academy collapsed on the gym floor during sprints, frothing at the mouth and enduring extreme muscle contractions. His face turned blue. He was in the middle of a grand mal seizure caused by epilepsy, which disrupts electrical functions in the brain. James, now 12, did not know he had the condition. During a follow-up test three days later, he suffered another one. His parents were horrified. But these days, thanks to a different sport, he and several friends are helping others with epilepsy.

James and members of the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Bombers, a baseball team of 12-year-old players, are augmenting their fundraising efforts for a trip to a tournament, by asking for donations to the Epilepsy Foundation, which provides information for those living with the condition and support for epilepsy research. Half the money raised goes to the team, half to the foundation. The team has raised about $6,000 and has an initial goal of $10,000, with about 25 games left in the fundraising drive.

"His teammates with baseball couldn't have been more supportive," said James' mother, Charlotte FitzGerald.

The team is composed of 11 friends from the county and Washington, D.C. When they heard about James' condition, they knew little about epilepsy.

"I didn't know if he could come back and play for us," said Ryan Murray, of Potomac, a middle-infielder and pitcher for the Bombers.

Paris Inman, the father of another teammate, Asher Inman of Washington, D.C., had sold accounting software to the Epilepsy Foundation and helped them with previous fundraisers. When he heard about James' situation, he suggested to the team that they should start their own fundraiser to help their friend.

"That kind of motivated us to win and get better for a different cause," James FitzGerald said.

Ryan and teammates learned that other friends and family members are among the more than 3 million people in the U.S. have epilepsy, according to the foundation. Donors can contribute for each Bombers win and a rival team has agreed to tie their success to helping the Bombers. Evan Pettyjohn, a player on the Maryland Predators in Frederick, who played on the Bombers last year, has agreed to donate $5 for every Predators win, and $6 (James' uniform number) for every time Evan hits a home run. Evan is asking family and friends to match his donations. James takes medication, although he hasn't had a seizure since December. The lights of night games haven't bothered him, but James said he has to watch out for dehydration and exhaustion. SOURCE: Gazette
PICTURE: Brian Lewis/The Gazette
Players on the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Bombers, Ethan Kohn, 12, of Washington, D.C.; Matt Mervis, 12, of Potomac; James FitzGerald,12, of Potomac; and Asher Inman, 12, of Washington, D.C. The team is raising money to donate to the Epilepsy Foundation in honor of James, who was recently diagnosed with the condition.

Montgomery County Faces School Budget Controversy and massive lawsuit

WASHINGTON - A showdown is looming over Montgomery County schools, with some education officials saying they'll sue to keep the schools budgets from being cut. There’s disagreement over who has the ultimate authority – and who should be deciding money issues for the schools. Nancy Floreen, president of the Montgomery County Council, joined WTTG Fox 5 News to discuss more on the matter. SOURCE: My FOX

Schoolyard fight brewing over furloughs in Montgomery County

ROCKVILLE, Md. - Will there be an education armageddon in Montgomery County if schools have to accept furloughs? Maybe not, but there could be a lawsuit. School Superintendent Dr. Jerry Weast says he's balking over furloughs because of the impact it would have on the education process.

"My major concern is the children."

But Councilmember Phil Andrews doesn't buy it. "It's not about the kids -- it's about protecting staff."

Weast says it's about a number of things. He insists that furlough days would hit teacher preparation and school operations. "We only have seven non-instructional days," Weast says. "You take five {days} away from our teachers -- you're going to have a lot of big glitches."

And Weast says the county's spending plan is below a state funding formula. If that's the case, it would be the second year in a row the school system risked a multi-million dollar fine. This time the fine could be as much as $51 million.

"If the school system did something to cause the county to have to pay a $51 million fine, I suspect there would be a lot of hullabaloo over that."

Weast says the schools are already losing roughly 400 positions, taking on 2,800 more students and have agreed to a budget cut of $137 million from the school system's request. Any more cuts this late would do what he calls "irreparable harm."

County Council President Nancy Floreen says taking furloughs is about fundamental fairness. "I'm taking a furlough, my staff is taking a furlough, bus drivers are being furloughed, the people who give shots to the children in the schools are going to be furloughed. We are in this together." Floreen also takes issue with the school system's take on state law regarding school funding. "They're wrong on their law. I don't think this is the time to talk about law, I think it's time to talk about service."

Weast says he's talking about the same thing.

"We're all trying to do the best we can. I just don't want to show up in the fall and not be able to deliver to the children what we promised them we'd deliver." SOURCE: WTOP

Trachtenberg Office Annual Retreat

The Trachtenberg Office held its annual Retreat on May 1, 2010. From left to right, Alan Bowser, Pat Salomon, Naomi Bloch, Saschane Stephenson, Duchy Trachtenberg, Wil Gutierrez, Laurie Edberg, and Emily Hoopes.

Gaithersburg book festival Offers Pulitzer Prize Winner, Featured Oprah Guest, ESPN analyst and Renowned children’s authors

The first annual Gaithersburg Book Festival has something for everyone: a 2010 Pulitzer Prize winner, a rising literary star who appeared this week on The Oprah Winfrey Show, a National Book Award winner, a Newbery Medal winner, an ESPN analyst, a popular political blogger, several bestsellers, the beloved author of many books in the American Girl series, performances from some of the area’s best musicians and poets, and the chance for children and adults to participate in hands-on workshops. Highlights of the Gaithersburg Book Festival – which is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, May 15 – include:

* More than 50 authors, including bestsellers, award winners and up-and-comers – From fiction and non-fiction to children, teens and tweens, there is an author sure to suit every taste. Categories covered include – but are not limited to – current events, literary fiction, history, politics, chick lit, parenting, mystery, sports, biography, and memoirs. Attendees will have a chance to purchase presenting authors’ books and have them signed by the authors. Details:

* Writing Workshops – From drawing comics to establishing a freelance writing career, the festival’s eight workshops will appeal to aspiring (and established) writers of all ages. Details:

* Children’s Village – Children will enjoy a full day of free activities in the Children’s Village, including “meet and greets” with popular authors, workshops, a musical performance and more. Details:

* Ogden Nash Coffee House – Hear some of the region’s most inspiring musicians and poets while sipping on coffee and snacking on pastries. Details:

* Exhibitors and Vendors — When not listening to author presentations or taking advantage of other festival activities, you can visit more than 70 exhibiting authors and other book-related exhibitors, as well as food vendors serving both snacks and meals. Details:

The Gaithersburg Book Festival will take place on the grounds of City Hall in historic Olde Towne Gaithersburg. Admission is free. Festival attendees should park at Lakeforest Mall and take a free shuttle bus to the City Hall grounds. The shuttle leaves from the Transit Center Parking Lot near Sears (at the corner of Odendhal and Lost Knife roads) beginning at 9:30 a.m. The last shuttle will leave the Festival area at 6:30 p.m. Parking at Lakeforest Mall is free. No alcohol, skateboards, rollerblades, bicycles or pets will be permitted on the grounds of the Gaithersburg Book Festival. Here are more details.

About the Gaithersburg Book Festival: The Gaithersburg Book Festival is an annual, all-day celebration of the written word, designed to become the region’s premier literary event. It debuts on May 15, 2010, on the grounds of Gaithersburg City Hall, with shuttle buses running from Lakeforest Mall. Activities include author appearances, discussions and book signings; writing workshops; a full Children’s Village; a Coffee House with poets and singers/songwriters; onsite book sales, both new and used; exhibitors and, of course, food, drink, ice cream and more from local restaurants, with perhaps a taste-test or two from some of our food-related authors. Admission is free. For more information please visit

The Gaithersburg Book Festival is presented in partnership with Barnes and Noble-Gaithersburg, Friends of the Library, the Gaithersburg-Germantown Chamber of Commerce, and Chloe's Coffee and Gallery, and is sponsored in part by Asbury Methodist Village; Aris and Marianne Mardirossian Charitable Foundation; Bethesda Magazine; Crown Farm; Clear Channel Radio Stations: BIG 100, 97.1 WASH FM, 98.7 WMZQ; Comcast; Verizon; Washingtonian Center and Washington Parent Magazine.

May 4, 2010

Montgomery County Council will furlough all agencies, also freezing pay

In actions reflecting the County’s severe fiscal situation, the Montgomery County Council today unanimously indicated its intent to freeze all employee pay in the coming fiscal year, FY11. The Council also unanimously adopted resolutions indicating its intent to reject all provisions in the collective bargaining agreements with County unions that have a fiscal impact on the County. These actions signal the Council’s determination to maintain the County’s AAA bond rating while preserving essential services during the worst fiscal crisis in the County’s history. The Council also unanimously indicated its intent to enact Expedited Bill 16-10, which would eliminate the continuation of the imputed pension adjustment beyond the current fiscal year, saving taxpayers an estimated $7 million a year. With respect to employee furloughs, the Council unanimously supported the principle of equitable treatment of all employees of all agencies serving County residents and directed its staff to provide a range of furlough options for review.

In indicating its intent to freeze employee pay, the Council concluded that in view of pending employee layoffs and furloughs, pay increases cannot be justified. In addition, the Council indicated its intent to support the Executive’s removal of funding for tuition assistance in FY11.

The Council also indicated its intent to enact Expedited Bill 16-10, which eliminates the continuation of an imputed pension adjustment beyond the current fiscal year, FY10. The imputed pension adjustment refers to basing the calculation of an employee’s future pension benefit, for the rest of the employee’s career, on a bargained FY10 general wage adjustment that was not funded. Enactment of the bill would save $7 million per year starting in FY11. The Council staff has begun work on a hard look at the structural deficit that the County faces, and the harder decisions the County must face to balance the budget in the future. (See

Nancy Floreen: "This Council is facing very difficult decisions affecting thousands of lives," said. "The unforeseen 20 percent drop in income tax revenue and other revenue shortfalls are causing us to face curtailing or eliminating key services, laying off more than 400 employees, furloughing thousands more, and doubling the County energy tax. This is very painful for us all. These unprecedented fiscal facts mirror the pain that the County residents have felt in this recession. We would like to support bargained pay increases, but we agree with the Executive that under these severe conditions, that is simply not possible. We will come through this as a team, with everyone sharing the burden. . . . Furloughs and tax increases cannot be an annual event," Council President Floreen said. “We are prepared to face the future – now. I have spent my entire adult life advocating for working families and for access to quality public education,” said Council Vice President Valerie Ervin. “However, during this extremely challenging fiscal climate the Council has had to make some tough choices on behalf of the county taxpayers for the long term fiscal health of the county. The Council has come together in our commitment to serve our most vulnerable residents, to preserve our long-standing credit rating, and to seek long-term fiscal viability.”

Phil Andrews: “The Council’s support for Bill 16-10, which would eliminate the use of canceled cost-of-living-adjustments in calculating pensions, will save taxpayers $7 million next year, more than $200 million overall, and signal to the rating agencies that the Council is committed to addressing unsustainable pension costs."

Roger Berliner: “My colleagues and I are staunch supporters of our Montgomery County Public Schools. We have demonstrated that support year after year by approving 99 percent or more of the Board of Education’s budget and exceeding State Maintenance of Effort (MOE) requirements. We are now faced with unprecedented fiscal challenges. We cannot meet these challenges equitably and without imposing a devastating tax burden on homeowners, renters, and businesses unless the school system accepts further cuts to its FY11 operating budget. By willingly instituting furlough days for its employees, like all other County agencies have agreed to do, the school system can avoid further impacts to the classroom which would directly affect our students. The weeks ahead will be filled with many difficult decisions and I hope that we will be able to work collaboratively with our colleagues at MCPS to reach a mutually agreeable solution to the current fiscal crisis."

Marc Elrich: “Any solution has to fall on employees equitably. Every worker is valued and every worker does a valuable job. Every employee deserves to be treated fairly. I hope the Council will adapt a progressive solution that will impact those who make the least the least and those who make the most the most. I recognize the impact of lost days of work to a $40,000 per year employee is significantly different than a $100,000 employee. I regret that the New York bonding agencies seem to indicate that we need to replenish our reserves to a full 6 percent all in one year at a time when we have had an unprecedented decline in revenue. We are laying off almost 240 employees and abolishing another 500 positions. We are cutting programs far beyond what we believe we should, not because we have found waste but because we do not have the money. We must balance the budget. Years of spending without regard for sustainability coupled with a global economic meltdown got us into this situation. Since 2006, a new County Executive working with this Council has steadily decreased the growth in the spending. This year we will actually spend less than we did last year. Going forward, we must insure that spending is sustainable over the short and long term."

George Leventhal: "None of us is happy about the choices we are forced to make as a result of the precipitous drop in county revenues. We all look forward to the day our economy recovers. Making wise decisions now will enable Montgomery County to emerge from these budgetary challenges stronger and more prosperous in the future. The County Council appreciates the excellent service provided to our residents by the county's superb employees and we regret the necessity of sharing these sacrifices. Elected officials will reduce our own pay by whatever amount is finally arrived at for all county employees."

Nancy Navarro: “My colleagues and I value our employees’ dedication and hard work, especially while they are being asked to do more with less during these difficult times. Unfortunately, this unprecedented fiscal crisis forces us to look for new revenue sources and make extremely painful cuts. While these are not easy or popular decisions, it is our responsibility to preserve the current and future stability of Montgomery County.”

Duchy Trachtenberg: “I believe that we must be fair and measured in the difficult budget decisions that we will make. We would do well to remember that our County budget is a moral document - one that reflects our inter-connections as a community. It is important to note that the budget provides all of our neighbors benefit in some way, from the full range of public sources and resources we strive to maintain.” SOURCE: Montgomery County press release

County news

Public Comment Period for Fiscal Year 2011 Budget Open Through May 21 - The City of Rockville invites residents to comment on the Fiscal Year 2011 budget. The Mayor and Council are scheduled to hold a work session and a public hearing at 7 pm tonight, May 4, at City Hall. Residents can comment on the budget during citizens forum at any regularly scheduled meeting. The public comment period on the budget is open until 5 pm, Friday, May 21. Residents may also e-mail comments to or use the eComment tool featured at to comment on specific Mayor and Council budget agenda items.

County Hosts Asian American Community Resource Fair - Learn about the richness and diversity of Montgomery County‚s Asian American community at the Asian American Community Resource Fair on Saturday, May 8. The Fair will be held from 1 to 5 pm in the Executive Office Building Cafeteria, located at 101 Monroe Street, Rockville.

United for Jobs ˆ A Regional Forum on Careers in Health ˆ June 3, 2010 - United for Jobs, part of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments' Workforce Competitiveness Initiative, is focusing on careers in health because we recognize that many of the occupations projected to grow the fastest in our economy are concentrated in the healthcare industry. The event will build on existing health-related workforce initiatives across the region and offer an avenue to identify opportunities for enhanced collaboration and capacity building.

Metro Sets May Weeknight Track Maintenance Schedule - On most weeknights in May, Metro employees will replace track fasteners, upgrade track circuits, weld new rail on the tracks, make repairs to concrete slabs underneath the rails and repair surfaces underneath the rails. For more information go to:

Bethesda Green First Thursday Happy Hour - First Thursday Happy Hour at Caddies on Cordell on Thursday, May 6 from 5 - 8 pm, 4922 Cordell Avenue, Bethesda. Join us for casual conversation and social networking in the upstairs party space.

Coffee & Conversation - Stop by and chat with Ken Hartman, Director of the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center. Find out about programs and services in Montgomery County, learn more about the Western Montgomery County Citizens Advisory Board and their role in the community, or just bring your concerns for your community to discuss. Any time between 9:00 am and 12:00 noon ˆ Friday, May 7, 2010.

Rockville to Host Golden Years Event for Seniors May 20 - The City of Rockville Human Rights Commission, in partnership with the Rockville Senior Center and Neighborhood Resources Division will celebrate Older Americans Month on Thursday, May 20, 3-5 pm. The Golden Years event will take place at the Rockville Senior Center, 1150 Carnation Drive. "We want to promote quality of life for our seniors, as well as awareness and appreciation of their contributions to our community," said Janet Kelly, human rights and community mediation administrator with the City of Rockville.The event is free and will feature live entertainment, reflections from seniors, historic photographs and light refreshments. For more information about the event or to RSVP, contact the Senior Center at 240-314-8800.

Gaithersburg Library to Close for Major Renovation Beginning May 16 - Montgomery County Public Libraries (MCPL) has announced that the Gaithersburg Library will close for major renovations beginning Sunday, May 16. The exterior book drop will be open through June 7. After that date, customers may take their returns to any MCPL branch. The two branches closest to Gaithersburg are Quince Orchard and Germantown. For more information go to:

Montgomery County Council Approves Gaithersburg Master Plan - The Montgomery County Council today voted unanimously to approve the „Great Seneca Science Corridor‰ Master Plan. The long-term plan˜formerly known as the Gaithersburg West Master Plan˜will allow the area near Shady Grove Road and Darnestown Road to develop into one of the nation‚s premier areas for scientific research and development. For more information go to:

Montgomery's Got Talent - On Saturday May 22nd from 12-3 pm at the great Bethesda Theatre on Wisconsin Avenue, Montgomery County will sponsor its premier senior event Montgomery's Got Talent. Over 650 Seniors with their families are expected. There are exhibitor opportunities and program advertisement opportunities for local businesses and organizations. It‚s a great event right in the heart of Bethesda. Visitors, guests, advertisers, exhibitors should contact

Dedication of College Gardens and Fallsgrove Parks, May 8 -The City of Rockville's College Gardens and Fallsgrove Parks will welcome residents with dedication ceremonies on Saturday, May 8. The Rockville Mayor and Council will be at the events, as well as other representatives from state and county government. For more information go to:

Invitation to Attend the Wisconsin Place Recreation Center Focus Group - The Wisconsin Place Community Recreation Center invites community members to attend a focus group on May 12th from 6;30-8:30 pm to discuss what classes and program interests for the Wisconsin Place Community Center. Space is limited; please call Judy Stiles at 240-777-6875 to reserve your space today.

Metro Sets May Weekend Track Maintenance Schedule - In May, there will be no train service between the East Falls Church and West Falls Church-VT/UVA Metrorail stations during the Memorial Day holiday weekend as the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project will undertake the first in a series of major construction activities that will eventually connect the new rail line to the existing Metrorail system. Additionally, Metro will replace fasteners and conduct bridge repair work on the Red Line, and replace ties and weld rail on the Orange and Green lines. For more information go to:

Amy Polk dies at 42, advocate for Takoma Park birth center

Mairi Breen Rothman had to compose herself when asked what she would remember most about her friend, Amy Polk, who was killed in a car accident last week, and the two years Polk spent trying to open a birth center in Takoma Park.

"I never heard her say anything negative," said Breen Rothman, a certified nurse-midwife. "If there was a difficult task in front of us, she would just say, 'What is the next thing we could do?' "

Polk, 42, was struck and killed while crossing First and M streets SE on Thursday, D.C. police said. She was married and the mother of two sons, ages 4 and 7. Friends, including Breen Rothman, are asking themselves how best to advance Polk's vision. Some of Polk's friends involved in the Birth Options Alliance, a nonprofit group that provides prenatal and postnatal support to mothers, met at Breen Rothman's home in Takoma Park on Saturday to discuss ways to ensure that Seasons of Life Women's Health and Birth Center, Polk's brainchild, becomes a reality.

"She was just quite a powerhouse," Breen Rothman said. "It is so inconceivable that she's gone. It is quite a loss to the whole community and the birth-center movement."

Breen Rothman said she did not know when Polk became involved in Birth Options Alliance, which started as Takoma Park Birthing Circle, a mothers' group, and grew into a listserve of 600 people. It has become a nonprofit that does birth-advocacy work. In the last two years, Breen Rothman said, Polk had formed a board of directors for the birth center and met with the president of Washington Adventist Hospital about making a part of its facility a free-standing birth center run by certified midwives.

Alba Aleman, the owner of Citizant and Polk's employer, said in addition to the birth-center project, Polk also worked to increase the number of young women who entered the transportation engineering field.

"She really did a lot to further and advance the [advancement] of women," Aleman said.

Jean Borgella, Polk's co-worker, said he was still absorbing the news of Polk's death.

"It was like a punch in the gut," Borgella said about when his team was told of Polk's death. "All I could think about was these two beautiful boys. . . . And how their anchor is gone."

Borgella said Polk successfully juggled the demands of motherhood, career and determination to bring the birth center to Takoma Park.

"She was just an extraordinary human being," Borgella said. "She loved what she did. And I think there are few people who you can say that about. But that's what she exuded."

SOURCE: Washington Post
PHOTO: Amy Polk of Takoma Park advocated for expanding women's access to midwifery care across Maryland. (John Robinette)

Montgomery County Public Schools begin lawsuit to sue Montgomery County government

Montgomery County Public Schools begin lawsuit process to sue Montgomery County government. Montgomery Schools Draft Suit

Brian Betts killed by men responding to call to dating chat line, police say

Four people have been arrested and two have been charged with murder in connection with the April 14 slaying of Washington, D.C., school principal Brian Betts, who Montgomery County Police believe called a dating chat line the night of his death and was killed by the men who responded. The arrests, made throughout the District and Prince George's County Monday, are major developments in the otherwise quiet three-week investigation that began after Betts was found dead April 15 in his home on Columbia Boulevard in Silver Spring, the victim of at least one gunshot wound.

Alante Saunders, 18, with no fixed address, and Sharif Tau Lancaster, 18, of the 5300 block of Fifth Street NW in Washington, D.C., were both arrested in the 1300 block of Southview Drive in Oxon Hill Monday. Both have been charged with first-degree murder and will have a bond hearing Tuesday in Montgomery County District Court in Rockville. Lancaster's fingerprints were found inside Betts' bedroom and Saunders' fingerprints were found inside and outside Betts' 2007 Nissan Xterra, which was stolen from his residence the night of his murder and found on April 17 in the 3900 block of Fourth Street SE in the District, alleged Montgomery County Police Chief J. Thomas Manger in a press conference Monday evening.

Another 18-year-old male with no fixed address is expected to be charged with first-degree murder as well, Manger said, but he will not be identified until those charges are filed. Police also arrested Artura Otey Williams, 46, at her home in the 5300 block of Fifth Street NW in Washington, D.C., Monday morning, after executing a search warrant. Williams, who is Lancaster's mother, has been charged with two counts of knowingly receiving a stolen credit card with the intent to use it, attempted theft less than $1,000 in value, and attempted fraudulent credit card use, Manger said. Williams is in police custody in D.C. awaiting extradition to Montgomery County, said Montgomery County State's Attorney John McCarthy.

There is surveillance footage of Williams using Betts' credit cards on April 16 at the Giant Foods grocery store at 1280 East West Highway in Silver Spring, according to a police news release. It is not known why she was in Silver Spring a day after Betts' body was found, said Capt. Paul Starks, a police spokesman. Betts' wallet was found in the Southview Drive residence, as was a receipt for a pair of Nike shoes dated after police believe Betts was killed, which is around 11:30 p.m. April 14, Manger said.

Manger said the suspects were connected to Betts through a national chat line "described as a sex chat line and social networking line." Police do not know how many people responded to Betts' home or how the suspects were connected to the chat line, but they said that the motive for Betts' death is believed to be robbery. Both Lancaster and Saunders have no known ties to Betts prior to the alleged phone call, the news release said. Additional suspects and charges may follow, Manger said. SOURCE: Gazette

Northrop loss raises questions of business environment in Maryland

In the end, the money wasn't enough. Maryland and Montgomery County economic development officials offered Northrop Grumman $22.5 million in incentives to win the headquarters of the defense contractor — one of the most lucrative financial packages ever for a state not known for ponying up big dollars to win business. But last week, Maryland still lost out to neighboring Virginia, where state officials offered $12 million to $14 million in addition to undisclosed local incentives.

Northrop Grumman Corp. said it made its choice based on the selection of buildings in Virginia, not the states' business climates. But that was no consolation for politicians and business leaders in Maryland who wooed the company. The decision brought out old frustrations from the business community and renewed long-held criticism that the state isn't friendly to business. It led some to question whether Maryland has deep-seated policy and regulatory issues that even millions of dollars in incentives can't overcome.

Northrop's choice was another in a string of corporate headquarters losses Maryland has suffered over the years, most recently Black and Decker's sale to Connecticut-based Stanley Works, which removes a Fortune 500 corporate headquarters. Sweetheart Cup Co, U.S. Foodservice and Noxell Corp — the former owner of Cover Girl cosmetics — are other corporate HQs that have left the state or been swallowed up by mergers.

"There is no question that if states are going to attract [business] venues, they are going to be aggressive and create a friendly environment," said Norman R. Augustine, retired chairman and chief executive of Lockheed Martin Corp. "Maryland gets a big plus for its corporate governance laws. There are other areas where we don't have any advantage, and we will have to address those."

Augustine led a committee of high-profile business leaders, educators and politicians in going after Northrop. He said the state put together the most aggressive effort that he's ever seen it produce to lure a business. He believes Maryland's package was competitive with Virginia's, but the state simply didn't have as many buildings available. Maryland has made strides. There was a time when the state wouldn't have aggressively sought businesses — the state's political climate didn't allow it. And the state has amenities that businesses find attractive, corporate location experts said. There is a major airport, good schools, a highly educated population and the nearby federal government and its tens of billions of dollars in annual spending in Maryland.

Business leaders also give Maryland credit for its incorporation laws, which give companies flexibility in appointing directors and allow strong defenses against hostile takeovers. Yet fundamental issues, such as tax rates, labor costs, cost of living and construction costs still cause some businesses to think twice about calling the state home. After all the incentives, companies want to know what it's going to cost to do business in the long term.

"Companies want it all, they want everything," said John Boyd, a principal with the Boyd Co., a site-selection firm based in New Jersey. "But the reality is, we counsel our clients to focus on the fundamentals — the fundamental cost structure they have to live with for the next 50 years."

Political controversy can also color a state's business climate. Maryland attracted national attention in 2006 when the General Assembly approved a measure that required Wal-Mart Stores Inc. to pay more for its employee health care. Gov. Martin O'Malley's criticism of the pay package of Constellation Energy Group CEO Mayo Shattuck was a deterrent to executives thinking of moving to Maryland, business leaders say.

"Many business people that I have talked to have indicated that even discussions of public policy here in Maryland — even if these bills aren't passed and aren't signed into law — does give the impression that Maryland is not as business-friendly as Virginia or other states," said Kathleen Snyder, CEO of the Maryland Chamber of Commerce. "We have a great location, one of the most highly educated work forces in the country, a great transportation network. But we also have some tax issues and regulatory proposals that stand in our way of being 1, 2 and 3."

Virginia passed a $50 million economic development package this year that included programs to lure businesses to the state and provided incentives to encourage energy research and economic development at universities. Maryland's budget, meanwhile, included $1.1 million in cuts at the Department of Business and Economic Development. SOURCE: Baltimore Sun

May 3, 2010

Status of Noyes Children's Library

On April 14th, the Noyes Children’s Library Foundation hosted a community meeting about the County’s proposal to close Noyes. The following is a recap of that meeting and a short list of actions people can take to support Noyes. Thanks!Thank you all once again for coming out to support Noyes last Wednesday evening! Here is an update on the status of the Foundation’s proposal to the county and the actions we can all take. We are still in the midst of a series of meetings to get a budget resolved so that the Council can fully consider the Foundation’s proposal.

The Noyes Children’s Library Foundation – established in 1991 in a public-private partnership with Montgomery County to help fund the Noyes’ operating expenses when the County proposed to close Noyes for budget reasons – called the meeting to give the community information about the County’s proposed closure and changes to Noyes, as well as the Foundation’s “counter-proposal,” and how the community can help keep Noyes open.

#1 – In March 2010 the County announced plans to close Noyes in July ’10 for two years to save Operating Budget funds in this very difficult economic environment.

#2 – Meanwhile, the Friends of the Library received an $85,000 bequest designated for the enhancement of Noyes. With this bequest as the beginning of funding . . .

#3 The Library Department, with verbal support from the County Executive, announced that it would use the two-year closure to renovate Noyes for ADA accessibility and to re-purpose the Library as an “early literacy destination” modeled along the County’s existing Learning Discovery Centers and Baltimore County’s Storyville locations. The Director of Libraries met with members of the Foundation to discuss these plans and ask for the Foundation’s support.

#4 – In response, the Foundation proposed that it re-establish its public-private partnership with the County in order to help fund Noyes’ Operating Budget beginning with FY ’11 (as of July , 2010); raise funds to assist in proposed renovations; AND insure that Noyes will remain a circulating library by expanding that renovation to include accessible use of Noyes’ second floor for literacy activities and programming space.

#5 – The Foundation seeks community support for this proposal; community involvement in raising funds and awareness; AND the support of the County Council for the renewed public-private partnership. It is hoped that all parties understand that a community effort to enhance Noyes will help guarantee that it is not threatened with closure at every budget crisis!

#1 – County representatives with whom we have discussed the proposal feel that the Council will be in favor of it as long as it is revenue-neutral – in other words, as long as the Foundation agrees to contribute the complete amount that MCPL designates as being saved if Noyes closes. This figure has not been determined yet, but will probably be around $100,000.

#2 – If we are able to keep the Library doors open as of July 1st, we will next join with the MCPL in researching and, if feasible, planning the proposed renovations and enhancements to the Library. These could include ADA changes, providing stairs and a lift to the second floor, and preparing the second floor for use by families, caregivers, and groups as an early literacy destination with features that complement the services already provided at Noyes, without compromising its character. SOURCE: Kensington History

Isiah Leggett and Nancy Floreen push furloughs for all County employees

FLASH: Montgomery County Considers Furloughs, with Nancy Floreen saying "everything is on the table." Energy tax is likely, along with mandatory time off, cutting services, and much more! County Council expects to furlough all employees, like police, park and planning, fire fighters, and the board of education.

SOURCE: News Channel 8

Crime report: 3rd District: 4/19/2010 to 4/27/2010

Report Classification H2 I1 I2
Rape - - -
Robbery - 1 1
Aggravated Assault - - 1
Burglary-Comm./School - - -
Burglary-Residential 4 4 9
Larceny-Fr Veh/Veh Part* 5 9 3
Stolen Vehicle 2 - -
2947-Recovered Vehicle 1 - -
Sex Offense - 1 -
*excludes stolen tags

District Overview:
• A adult male was shot in an apparent home invasion robbery in the I1 beat
• 18 of the 24 burglaries were of apartment units.
• A suspect was arrested in one of the two indecent exposures in the district.
H2 Beat:
• Residential Burglaries: Three of the five apartment burglaries were of apartments in the same building; two of the incidents occurred on the same day.
Tuesday 4/20 5:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m. 1700 block of Mt Pisgah Lane. Suspect(s) used unknown means to enter the apartment and removed cash.
Sunday 4/25 5:00 p.m. -8:00 p.m. 400 block of St Lawrence Drive. Suspect(s) entered an unlocked attached shed and removed tools.
Tuesday 4/27 8:15 a.m. -5:30 p.m. 1700 block of Mt Pisgah Lane. Suspect(s) used unknown means to force entry into rear windows of 2 apartment units and ransacked bedrooms. Jewelry, electronic games and videos were taken from the units.

I1 Beat:
• Robbery/Aggravated Assault: A resident of 11500 block of Stewart Lane was shot in an apparent drug related residential armed robbery on Saturday 4/24 at 12:04 a.m. Patrol originally responded for a reported domestic violence, but were informed by one of the victims that the suspects forced entry into the apartment, demanded cash and shot one of the victims before fleeing. The victim was transported to an area hospital by a friend.
Suspects: (3) BM’s wearing mask, dark clothing, gloves one armed with a shot gun

• Residential Burglaries: There were four residential burglaries including three incidents at apartments.
There was an attempt burglary at 11500 block of February Circle on Thursday 4/22 between 7:13 a.m. and 11:22 p.m. The suspects pried the door molding in an attempt to enter.

There were three burglaries reported on Friday 4/23 at:
900 block of Venice Drive
1500 block of December Drive
1525 Heather Hollow Circle.
(Preliminary information was taken from the CAD on the above incidents.)

• Thefts from Vehicles: Between Tuesday 4/20 and Saturday 4/24 there were nine thefts from vehicles including eight incidents in the same reporting area that appear to be related. Seven of these incidents occurred during late evening to early morning hours on multiple nights with suspects entering unlocked vehicles in six of the incidents. GPS systems, jewelry, and cash were the items of choice in most of the incidents. Streets targeted included Michaels Court (4 incidents), Quaint Acres Drive (3 incidents), Apple Grove Road and Carriage House Terrace.

• Indecent Exposure: An adult male was arrested for an indecent exposure that occurred on Friday 4/23 at 1:50 p.m., in a community center bathroom at 11200 block of Oak Leaf Drive. The victim saw the suspect’s shadow as she sat in a stall. He pulled his pants down and massaged his exposed penis. The victim screamed and the suspect fled and boarded a Metro Bus. He was arrested a short time later at the Silver Spring Metro. Arrested: B/M; 21 years old; Address: Prince Georges County, Md

I2 Beat:
• Robbery: A 13 year old male was the victim of a strong-arm robbery while walking in the area of Cotton Tree Lane and Blackburn Road on Monday 4/19 at 3:30 p.m. The suspects approached the victim and demanded his property. The victim complied and the suspects took his iPod and searched his pockets before fleeing. Suspects: (3) B/M’s 17-20 years, 6’3” wearing dark clothing

• Residential Burglaries: Eight of the nine burglaries were apartment incidents that are a part of a recent rash of incidents in the Briggs Chaney area. Monday 4/19 7:30 a.m. -5:42 p.m. 3300 block of Sir Thomas Drive. The suspect(s) attempted to pry open a front door but were unsuccessful.

Thursday 4/22 7:00 a.m. -10:59 p.m. 3700 block of Lamberton Square Road. Suspect(s) broke a rear window to enter and removed a computer, camera, jewelry, clothing and a Luis Vuiton purse.

Friday 4/23 7:30 a.m. -5:00 p.m. 3700 block of Lamberton Square Road. Suspect(s) broke a rear window to enter, ransacked a bedroom and removed an iPod, computer and shoes.

Between Wednesday 4/21 8:30 a.m. – Sunday 4/25 12:00 p.m. 13800 block of Big Horn Drive. Suspect(s) kicked in a rear door and ransacked a bedroom. Unknown property was taken.

Monday 4/26 8:00 a.m. - 8:17 p.m. 3300 block of Tea Garden Circle. Suspect(s) pried a front door and removed a computer.

There were four burglaries reported on Monday 4/26 at the:
14100 block of Castle Boulevard
13500 block of Aston Manor Drive
3300 block of Hampton Point Drive
13900 block of Castle Boulevard
(Preliminary information was taken from the CAD on the above incidents.)

Silver Spring school leaving, could become 75 homes

With most of their students coming from outside Montgomery, the Chelsea School will leave Downtown Silver Spring in 2012 and has sold their property on Pershing Drive to a local developer hoping to build up to 75 new townhomes there. The Chelsea School's five-acre campus in Downtown Silver Spring at Ellsworth Drive and Cedar Street. Image from Bing Maps. Representatives from the private, special-needs school met with neighbors at a meeting of the adjacent Seven Oaks-Evanswood Civic Association last week, according to minutes provided to us by the organization's secretary. The Chelsea School explained that all but one of their ninety students commutes from Prince George's County or the District of Columbia, whose school districts pay for their education there.

Just two years ago, the school launched a massive capital campaign to build a library designed by starchitect Daniel Libeskind, but the economic downturn has forced them to close entirely. Instead, they'll teach from within public schools closer to where their students live. As a result, the Chelsea School sold their five-acre campus near Pershing Drive and Cedar Street to Bethesda-based EYA. The developer's reputation for quality urban redevelopment projects in Silver Spring and throughout greater Washington was a factor in the school's decision to sell to them. SOURCE: Greater Greater Washington

UPDATE: Police arrest 3 in Brian Betts murder

Maryland police announced today that they have arrested two men and one woman in connection with the killing of Brian Betts, a popular Washington, D.C., public school principal. Artura Otey Williams, 46, was taken into custody this morning and charged with two counts of credit card misuse described by police as being "in relation to the Betts homicide," The Washington Post reported. Surveillance video captured Williams using one of Betts' credit cards at a supermarket in Silver Spring, Md., less than two miles from his home, police said. Maryland police said Monday that three people have been arrested in connection with the murder of Washington, D.C., principal Brian Betts.

"This credit card was taken from the scene of the murder, and somebody was using it the day after a man was found dead," Montgomery County police spokesman Capt. Paul R. Starks told The Washington Post.

By afternoon, police said they had arrested and charged two men directly in connection with the murder. The names of the suspects have not been released, but they are said to be in their late teens to early 20s. One of the men is Williams' son, police said. Betts was found shot dead in his home in Silver Spring on April 15. There were no signs of forced entry, and Montgomery County Police Chief J. Thomas Manger has said he suspected from the start of the investigation that the crime was premeditated.

So far, police said, there is no indication that Betts knew any of the three people arrested. Betts was handpicked by D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee to run Shaw Middle School, where he was given free rein to shape the curriculum and to hire and fire teachers in order to improve the struggling school's performance.

"With him, potentially more than any other principal in this city, these children are going to be devastated because they have such an intense relationship with him," Rhee told The Washington Post shortly after Betts' death. "I never talked to Brian at any point where he didn't have kids with him." SOURCE: AOL News

Purple Line prompts look at Chevy Chase development

Spurred by a possible Purple Line Metro station at Connecticut Avenue, the county is updating a development plan for Chevy Chase. County planners are gathering business and resident input to help create the Chevy Chase Lake Sector Plan, which will create new growth, land-use and zoning guidelines around Chevy Chase Lake Drive and Connecticut Avenue, where a shopping center is located. Major changes could take place at the Chevy Chase Lake property, which is near a proposed elevated station for the Purple Line, a 16-mile light rail system that would connect Bethesda to New Carrollton.

"The construction there is going to be more intensive than it is in other areas," planner Melissa Williams said of Chevy Chase Lake.

Such intense development could also increase concerns about worsening traffic congestion along Connecticut Avenue. The Chevy Chase Lake Sector Plan will revise a portion of the 1990 Bethesda-Chevy Chase Master Plan to address the anticipated Purple Line, a 16-mile light rail system connecting downtown Bethesda to New Carrollton and approved by Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) in August. Funding for the $1.67 billion project is being studied by the Federal Transit Administration.

The development principles will initially consider a two-mile radius of Chevy Chase Lake Drive and Connecticut Avenue, although the final scope will be smaller, said Williams, who said she expects the plan will go to the County Council for approval within 18 months to two years. A similar Sector Plan process is underway along the Purple Line's proposed route in the Long Branch area of Silver Spring, and a Sector Plan for the Takoma Langley Crossroads area, another possible location for a Purple Line stop, should be approved by the Planning Board in June for submission to the County Council.

Growth plans may be created for areas around the larger proposed Purple Line stations, such as downtown Bethesda and the Silver Spring Transit Center, Williams said. Thirteen municipalities and nine homeowner and civic groups and commercial stakeholders are scheduled to be included in the process. The first community meeting with planners was after The Gazette's deadline Tuesday. Although she does not think the guidelines would include her community, Town of Chevy Chase Mayor Kathy Strom said she is concerned about traffic impacts.

The Purple Line would not alleviate traffic on Connecticut Avenue, she said, and would amplify the problem if businesses are added around Chevy Chase Lake. SOURCE: Gazette