May 15, 2010

PREAKNESS: Great Preakness photos (of the fans)

The 2010 Preakness Stakes takes place Saturday just after 6:00 PM Eastern. Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver is looking to capture the second leg of horse racing's Triple Crown. But not everyone in attendance will be paying that much attention to the race itself. The Preakness infield is known for its rowdy antics and, after banning alcohol coolers last year, inebriating beverages are making a triumphant return for the 2010 race. Scroll down to see some of the more bizarre Preakness antics from years past. Which is the strangest? For the photos, click here.

A murder case, an unpaid bill

You would think that someone known as the father of blood spatter analysis wouldn't have much trouble getting paid for his services — who, after all, would want to find out how someone like that goes about collecting bad debts? But the so-called father of this frightful field of forensics says he's been stiffed by a Montgomery County prosecutor who hired him to review the evidence in a murder case, but who refused to pay him after an analysis showed that the defendant was innocent.

"I went over to the right side," Herbert MacDonell says. "I testified for the defense."

But Deputy State's Attorney John Maloney, the prosecutor, said MacDonell hasn't been paid because of a discrepancy in his invoice (which, for his part, the scientist said he wasn't told about). "He sends e-mails. He called the governor," Maloney said. "Just give us a normal bill like everone else does." Their dispute is a small sideshow in a case that is otherwise downright wrenching: An Army Ranger was found dead of a gunshot wound to his head in a Gaithersburg apartment in September 2006, and his roommate, a Ranger with whom he served two tours in Afghanistan, was charged with the murder.

The case, which came to trial two years ago, highlighted what some say is inadequate support of returning vets — the trial judge even called from the bench for more assistance to prevent more "lost souls" surviving the war but not their homecoming. Gary Smith claimed he found Michael McQueen dead of a self-inflicted wound and, in an attempt to protect his buddy's reputation, took the gun and tossed it into a lake in Rockville. But despite MacDonell's testimony on his behalf, Smith was convicted by a jury of second-degree murder and sentenced to 35 years in prison. The case is under appeal.

Even by phone, it's clear why MacDonell, who is 81 and lives in Corning, N.Y., is frequently invited to the witness stand by both prosecutors and defense attorneys. The author of one of the classic manuals in his field, "Flight Characteristics and Stain Patterns of Human Blood," he brings a ranconteur's skill to such gruesome matters as discharge distances and intracranial trajectories. Baltimore Sun

School administrators add $100,000 in travel to FY11 budget

Travel freeze? Apparently not. In fact, the Board of Education agreement with the MCPS administrators and principals organization, MCAAP, had $100,000 of travel and conference fees added to the FY11 MCPS Operating Budget. Here are the sections from the budget that list the details on this increase. See the link to the full text of the budget below.

Elementary School Budget
As required by the current Montgomery County Association of Administrators and Principals (MCAAP) contract, there is an increase in travel funds of $50,104 for members to attend conferences and other professional growth opportunities. Additional funds are budgeted in the middle and high schools budget

Middle School Budget
As required by the current Montgomery County Association of Administrators and Principals (MCAAP) contract, there is an increase in travel funds of $26,294 for members to attend conferences and other professional growth opportunities. Additional funds are added in the elementary and high schools budget.

High School Budget
As required by the current Montgomery County Association of Administrators and Principals (MCAAP) contract, there is an increase in travel funds of $23,602 for members to attend conferences and other professional growth opportunities. Additional funds are added in the elementary and middle schools budget. SOURCE: Superintendent's Recommended FY11 Operating Budget and Parents Coalition

May 14, 2010

County News

Ag Farm Open House Sunday, May 23 Get Hitched on the Farm! - The beautiful Agricultural History Farm Park is now available to rent for your special event. Join us at the FREE Open House on Sunday, May 23, from 1-4pm. We'll have it all gussied up to show you what your special day could look like on the Ag Farm, with its lovely rolling hills, good country air and breathtaking views. The Ag Farm is located at 18400 Muncaster Road in Derwood, MD 20855. Call 301-299-5026 for more information.

Get Summer School Information - Elementary registration underway, high school registration starts May 18; check with your middle school for programs. For more information go to:

Investigation Reveals No Hazardous Conditions -The preliminary findings of an extensive investigation into an incident that took place on May 5, during which a Metrorail operator applied his emergency brake have determined that „at no time was a hazardous condition present,‰ according to Metro Chief Safety Officer James Dougherty. For more information go to:

Go Ape Now Open in Rock Creek Regional Park - See Rock Creek Regional Park like you‚ve never seen it before...from 40 feet up in the trees hanging by a wire! Book your visit today and unleash your inner ape as you monkey around on zip lines, Tarzan swings, rope ladders, bridges, swings, and trapezes! For more information, visit

Montgomery College Summer Dinner Theatre Serves Up Lively Musicals - This summer, Montgomery College will bring two acclaimed musicals to the stage--"Brigadoon" and "Crazy for You"--for its Summer Dinner Theatre performances, starting June 18. For more information go to:

Clothes Dryer Fire Safety Tips - Over the past couple of weeks, MCFRS has run several fires related to clothes dryers. A vast majority of these fires are not due to an electrical malfunction of some sort but by actions we take or FAIL to take. A lack of maintenance, buildup of lint, placing inappropriate items in the dryer and inadequate venting are frequently cited as contributing factors. For more information go to:

2010 MHP Golf Tournament - Proceeds from the tournament will support MHP's Community Life Programs, which offer a wide range of workshops and classes to help residents of all ages develop the skills they need to expand their opportunities and become active participants in building vibrant neighborhoods within Montgomery County.

Monday, May 24, 2010
22nd Annual Norman Christeller Classic
Hampshire Greens Golf Course
616 Firestone Drive, Silver Spring, MD 20906
For more information go to:

Department of Correction and Rehabilitation Chosen to Pilot Federal Grant Program - The Montgomery County Department of Correction and Rehabilitation (DOCR) was chosen as one of two sites in the country to pilot a federal grant program that seeks to enhance jail reentry services for returning offenders by building on family and social supports. For more information go to:

Metro Board of Directors Launches International Search for General Manager - The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority's Board of Directors awarded a contract to the executive search firm of Heidrick & Struggles today, May 13, to begin a national and international search within and beyond the transit industry for a permanent general manager for Metro. For more information go to:

Discover What the Science Café Offers -The Rockville Science Café will take place at 7 pm, Wednesday, May 19, at Branded 72 Pit Barbecue, 387 E. Gude Drive. The group will discuss "Smoking, UV and Cancer." For more information go to:

WASHINGTON POST EDITORIAL: Montgomery leadership fails with battle over schools budget

MONTGOMERY COUNTY is on the brink of a misguided civil war. The antagonists are the County Council and the county school system, and the fight is about money. Unless the two sides step back, their squabble will develop into costly, contentious and counterproductive litigation whose chief effect will be to enshrine all involved -- elected lawmakers, school superintendent and county executive -- as among the most dysfunctional leaders in county history.

The school board and the school superintendent, Jerry D. Weast, are mainly to blame for things reaching this point. They have threatened to sue the county over budget cuts amounting to roughly $33 million, or less than 2 percent of the school system's annual spending. That's what the County Council wants to slash from the schools' budget for the fiscal year starting in July.

True, the schools' spending for next year had already been frozen at current levels despite rising enrollment. But shrinking revenue has sapped budgets countywide; in fact, the schools are taking a much lighter hit than most other county agencies and services. Under County Executive Isiah Leggett's proposed budget, transportation spending would be cut by 25 percent; libraries by 24 percent; parks by 16 percent; recreation centers by 15 percent; and health and human services programs by 11 percent.

The kid-glove treatment of the schools is reflected in the overall allocation of county funds. Over the past decade, schools have generally accounted for 53 to 56 percent of annual county spending, with the rest divided among other services, including police, fire and rescue, parks, Montgomery College, and other administrative functions. Under Mr. Leggett's proposed budget, the school system's slice of the county pie would increase to 57.2 percent. If the County Council has its way and knocks $33 million from the school system's budget, its share of overall county spending would be about 56 percent -- still a percentage point higher than its average over the past decade.

Mr. Weast argues, with some merit, that the schools are the county's golden goose, and they are already taking a hit by the freeze in spending, including teachers' salaries, in the face of rising enrollment. County Council members, digging in their heels, insist that 22,000 teachers and other school employees should take furloughs -- in effect, pay cuts -- just as most other county workers are doing.

The sensible way out is a compromise. But with egos, conflicting personalities and political futures all colliding in an election year, both sides seem incapable of meeting each other halfway. That speaks poorly of Mr. Weast, whose brinkmanship has gone too far; of Council President Nancy Floreen, whose leadership skills are in doubt; and of Mr. Leggett, who is silent when he should be guiding the two sides out of the deadlock. SOURCE: Washington Post

Ervin weighs filing ethics complaint against Leggett

Montgomery County Council Vice President Valerie Ervin is considering filing an ethics complaint against a member of Executive Isiah Leggett's office. At issue is whether an employee in Leggett's office used his position to bully county nonprofit organizations into sending out politically charged e-mails. Ervin (D-Dist. 5) of Silver Spring also is questioning the purpose of Leggett's Office of Community Partnerships, which requested the e-mails, saying it appears to be doing political work on the county executive's behalf.

Leggett (D) distributes grant money to county nonprofits, and Ervin said leaders of the nonprofit groups felt pressured to send the e-mails or risk losing their funding.

Ervin says the head of the county's Office of Community Partnerships, former Councilman Bruce Adams, asked the nonprofits to lobby council members to keep the office intact. Adams and county spokesman Patrick K. Lacefield denied Ervin's claims that the request was improper.

"I've got a 40-year record in this county for a high level of ethical behavior," Adams said. "I don't think anyone is going to seriously question the manner in which I have operated."

"Somebody is entitled to their own opinion, but they aren't really entitled to their own set of facts," Lacefield said.

He said Ervin is the first person to raise questions over the purpose of the Office of Community Partnerships. The office's mission is to reach out to African-American, Hispanic, Asian, Middle Eastern, Caribbean and African residents through nonprofit and faith groups. The office also has worked to ensure that minority residents fill out the U.S. census forms. However, Ervin said the office is a way for Leggett to endear himself to immigrant, minority and faith-based communities.

"It's all for Ike," she said. "Taxpayers are paying for Ike to have these political activities in his office."

While Leggett has not filed for re-election, he has said he plans to seek a second term. Leggett created the Office of Community Partnerships in 2007, but similar services have been provided during past administrations. Ervin said she spoke to the county Ethics Commission about her concerns, and might file an official complaint against Adams. According to Ervin, Adams violated the portion of the county ethics law that states, "A public employee must not intentionally use the prestige of office for private gain or the gain of another."

During an April 30 council committee meeting, council members discussed merging the office into the county's Regional Service Centers, but instead voted to order a report by Dec. 1 on possible other models for the Office of Community Partnerships.

"In the meantime, the political machinery went into full throttle," Ervin said.

The committee discussion prompted Adams, who earns $189,483 in salary and benefits, to ask the nonprofit community to tell the council that his office should be spared.

"The council members did hear from people that we're valuable," Adams said of the e-mails and related phone calls.

The e-mails, obtained by The Gazette, include praise for the Office of Community Partnerships, Leggett and Adams and ask that the office's budget be spared. One e-mail states, "Specifically the [Office of Community Partnerships] has helped the [Metropolitan Community Development Corporation] in our capacity building efforts by providing us with many resources including information on funding opportunities. Recently, I worked closely with Bruce Adams in preparing for the 2010 Census."

Ervin said she received a complaint from one nonprofit head who said she refused to send a letter but was concerned that her organization would lose out on county funds as a result.

"Nonprofit groups, whether they receive a grant or not, are able to have their First Amendment rights," Adams said. "We want them to speak up. We don't want to mute them." SOURCE: Gazette

Maryland's history with the U.S. Supreme Court

With the news that President Obama is nominating Solicitor General Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court, this is a good time to take a look at Maryland’s connection to the Court. Supreme Court scholar Henry Abraham credits Maryland with five Supreme Court justices, including two Chief Justices. Abraham’s tally is based on the state a Justice resided in at their appointment, so it does not include what is arguably Maryland’s most significant contribution to the Supreme Court, Thurgood Marshall. Marshall was born in Baltimore but denied admission to the University of Maryland’s law school. He got his J.D. from Howard University and became chief counsel at the NAACP where he helped pioneer their legal integration strategy, argued Brown v. Board of Education before the Supreme Court, and helped integrate the very law school he was denied admission to. That school’s law library now bears his name. Prior to President Johnson appointing Marshall to the Supreme Court, he served as the United States’ first African-American Solicitor General. Similarly, Elena Kagan is the first woman to hold that role.

Chief Justice Roger Taney was appointed by President Andrew Jackson and is plagued by at least two historical strikes against him. First, he was the fifth Chief Justice and followed John Marshall, the pioneering Virginia jurist who firmly established the Supreme Court’s role as a coequal branch of government. Second, and perhaps more significantly, the Taney court issued the Dred Scott decision. Dred Scott was a horrendous ruling which said that slaves were property, even in areas of the country where slavery was not legally allowed. The decision helped bring about the Civil War.

Samuel Chase was appointed by President Washington. Chase had served as Chief Justice of Maryland’s high court. He was actually impeached by the House of Representatives, largely for his extra-judicial rhetoric about democracy being mob rule. The Senate acquitted Chase, but those who say judicial politicization began with Robert Bork have not read their history.

Washington also appointed Thomas Johnson, another former Chief Justice of the Maryland high court, former Governor, and a fellow Revolutionary war general. Due to poor health, Johnson served for just 14 months which still stands as the court’s shortest tenure. President James Madison appointed Gabriel Duval, the first justice to reach the age of 80 on the bench. He had been a Maryland justice and an official with the federal Treasury Department.

The final justice credited to Maryland is the current Chief Justice, John Roberts. Roberts, a President Bush II appointee, is a New York native who has spent his career working in and around Washington. Although a resident of Maryland, he is not closely associated with the state. SOURCE: MPW

Montgomery Planning Board votes down Costco amendment

The Montgomery County Planning Board slowed down plans to lure a Costco to Westfield Wheaton Shopping Center today by voting down a measure that would fast-track zoning approvals for the warehouse store and its proposed 16-pump gas station. The board unanimously disapproved of the plan, which County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) had proposed in March to circumvent what he said were lengthy and arduous zoning requirements that might cause the county to lose the Costco deal. Costco has said it will refuse to build the store if it does not include a 16-pump gas station. Planning Board commissioners said today there seemed to be no rational reason to speed up the process. The gas station provides no benefit — and actually presents potential harm — to the community members fewer than 150 feet away from its proposed location, said Chairman Royce Hanson.

"This may not be the worst text amendment that I have ever seen, but it certainly gets honorable mention," he said.

Some environmentalists have warned that having a gas station near a neighborhood could contaminate the groundwater and put noxious fumes in the air. Residents have opposed the amendment because they say it will eliminate current environmental and zoning safeguards that would protect them from the harms of a gas station. The board's disapproval sets the stage for a County Council public hearing on the topic, which will take place at 7:30 p.m. on May 20 at the Montgomery County Council Building at 100 Maryland Ave. in Rockville. The Planning Board will transmit its comments to the County Council, which is slated to vote on the amendment sometime this month. The council is the only body that can vote to make the amendment law, and a majority of council members have already publicly said they do not support the amendment .

Hanson and other commissioners said it's troubling to think the county could skip over its traditional process for allowing gas stations in heavily populated areas. Under current zoning law, the gas station proposal would undergo rigorous reviews with the Planning Board, the Board of Appeals and the County Council before being voted on, which could take more than a year. The zoning-text amendment would allow the gas station to be approved in about a month with fewer hurdles, and it would skip the Board of Appeals altogether.

"I'm troubled that we're trying to breach everything that we've done as a county," said Commissioner Amy Presley.

Jim Agliata, the vice president of development for Westfield Wheaton, said the mall won't wait for the original zoning process. Westfield Wheaton, which has had a vacant anchor store property for years that is rapidly losing money, needs Costco and its gas station now, he said.

At a Wheaton redevelopment meeting earlier this month, Agliata said the mall isn't trying to steamroll anybody by taking the quickest route to approval; it's just the only route.

"We're not trying to get out of those obligations," Agliata said of the environmental and noise-level requirements the state and county will impose on the gas station. He said the mall would be happy to comply with any requirements the county puts in the amendment.

There has been vehement opposition to the amendment, and Kensington and Wheaton residents said they felt somewhat vindicated by the board's decision. Kensington Heights Civic Association resident Danila Sheveiko, who heads a civic association work group that opposes the amendment, said he's cautiously optimistic about the Planning Board's vote.

"It's nice to have somebody in charge support us for a change," he said.

But Sheveiko warned residents there's still a long road ahead of them. Even if the County Council votes down the fast-tracked amendment this month, there's a possibility Costco will try to push the gas station and its store through the traditional zoning process. Sheveiko said his community has "plenty of concerns about that, as well."

"We won one little battle, but we'll see how the war goes," he said. SOURCE: Gazette

Almost a month after oil spill, Obama gets angry

WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama on Friday angrily decried the "ridiculous spectacle" of oil industry officials pointing fingers of blame for the catastrophic spill in the Gulf of Mexico and pledged to end a "cozy relationship" between the oil industry and federal regulators that he said had extended into his own administration. Obama said he shared the "anger and frustration" felt by many Americans, and promised he would "not rest or be satisfied" until the leak had been capped, the spill had been cleaned up and gulf residents could return to their livelihoods. He also acknowledged differing estimates about just how disastrous the damage from the leak could become. He said the administration's response has "always been geared toward the possibility of a catastrophic event."

With millions of gallons of oil fouling the fragile Gulf ecosystem after a drilling rig exploded April 20 and later sank, Obama said: "It's pretty clear that the system failed and it failed badly." Eleven workers were killed in the accident. Obama slammed BP and other companies responsible for equipment involved in the spill for pointing fingers at each other instead of accepting responsibility.

There's "enough blame to go around and all parties should be willing to accept it," the president said.

This week executives from three oil companies -- BP PLC, which was drilling the well, Transocean, which owned the rig, and Halliburton, which was doing cement work to cap the well -- testified on Capitol Hill, each trying to blame the other for what may have caused the disaster. Obama decried that scene. SOURCE: Huffington Post

Republicans introduce bill to prevent Euro bailout

After a week of preemptive attacks on a possible IMF bailout of Greece, Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) introduces the European Bailout Protection Act, aimed at preventing taxpayer dollars from going to a rescue plan.

"This legislation would require that countries like Greece cut spending and put their own fiscal house in order," says Pence, backed up by other members of the House GOP, "instead of looking to the United States for a bailout. We face record unemployment and a debt crisis of our own, and American taxpayers should not be forced to bear the risk for nations that have avoided making tough choices."

The full release is below the fold, with the detail that the bill "does not permanently prohibit the IMF from lending" to the troubled counties. Nevertheless, Ezra Klein is not a fan of this proposal. (Thanks to my colleague Ben Pershing.) U.S. Congressman Mike Pence, Chairman of the House Republican Conference, joined Conference Vice-Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Committee Rep. Jerry Lewis, Rep. Jeb Hensarling, and Rep. Kay Granger in introducing legislation today to stop U.S. tax dollars from being used by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for bailouts for European countries. Rep. Pence released the following statement today as the European Bailout Protection Act was introduced:

“The American people are fed up with taxpayer-funded bailouts and deserve to know we are bailing out Greece and possibly other European countries. If the Obama Administration has its way, the U.S. will contribute to a nearly trillion dollar bailout of European countries with economic crises that are a direct result of wasteful government spending.

“This legislation would require that countries like Greece cut spending and put their own fiscal house in order, instead of looking to the United States for a bailout. We face record unemployment and a debt crisis of our own, and American taxpayers should not be forced to bear the risk for nations that have avoided making tough choices.


The European Bailout Protection Act would:

1) Prohibit any funds that have yet to be drawn by the IMF from being used to provide financing to any EU countries until all EU nations are in compliance with the debt to GDP ratio requirement in their own collective growth pact.

2) Require the Treasury Secretary to oppose any IMF loans to EU nations until all EU countries are in compliance with their debt to GDP ratio requirement.

The bill does not permanently prohibit the IMF from lending to these nations; it simply prohibits the U.S. from participating in the proposed European bailout. SOURCE: Washington Post

MCGEO union collects 5,000 signed protest cards

MCGEO sent the following letter to the County Council today along with its SOS cards, which were filled out by about 5,000 residents opposing county budget cuts. MCGEO's maneuver is part of a strategy to prevent its part of the government - which is basically everything except the schools and the fire and police departments - from being cut too much to preserve the school budget. The public employee unions are now fighting over a shrinking pie. SOURCE: MPW

Doug Prouty, President of MCEA on WAMU today

The Politics Hour crew chats with D.C. schools chief Michelle Rhee and Doug Prouty, the president of Montgomery County's teachers' union. The show runs from noon to 2 PM. To listen via WAMU 88.5 FM stream, Click here.

Council to Discuss Furloughs, Energy Tax on May 17

ROCKVILLE, Md., May 14, 2010—The Montgomery County Council’s Management and Fiscal Policy (MFP) Committee at 2 p.m. on Monday, May 17, will continue discussions on proposed furloughs for employees of County government and County agencies as part of its efforts to achieve a balanced Fiscal Year 2011 Operating Budget. The Council is scheduled to reach a tentative agreement on the budget on May 20 and is scheduled to formally adopt the budget on May 27.

At 1:30 p.m. on Monday, a joint meeting of the Council’s MFP Committee, which is chaired by Duchy Trachtenberg and includes Councilmembers Valerie Ervin and Nancy Navarro, and the Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment (T and E) Committee, which is chaired by Nancy Floreen and includes Councilmembers Roger Berliner and George Leventhal, will continue discussions on County Executive Isiah Leggett’s proposal to sharply increase the County’s fuel/energy tax.

The full Council is nearing decisions on most items impacting the new budget, which will go into effect on July 1. On Monday, beginning at 9:30 a.m., the Council will hold worksessions on several issues that have yet to be resolved. The Council meeting, and the afternoon committee meetings, will be held in the Third Floor Hearing Room of the Council Office Building at 100 Maryland Ave. in Rockville. The meetings will be televised live by County Cable Montgomery (CCM—Cable Channel 6 on Comcast and RCN, Channel 30 on Verizon) and also will be available via streaming through the County Web site at

During its morning session, the Council will discuss the annual Community Grants program and the new MC 311 Customer Service Center that will radically change how the County addresses requests for services and information. The Council also will get an updated report on the proposed consolidation of the Park Police unit of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission with the Montgomery County Police. Another item on the Council agenda is Department of Economic Development.

The MFP meeting on Monday afternoon will further explore the County Executive’s proposal to have County government employees take 10 days of unpaid furloughs in the next fiscal year. But since that proposal was presented on March 15, the Council has asked other County agencies to also include furloughs for all employees.

White Flint Town Hall: Neighborhood Mobility Balance

Ian Lockwood, an expert in traffic calming and mobility design, with the firm of AEcom, formerly known as Glatting Jackson, is the presenter at the 2010 White Flint Town Hall. Live-blogging from his presentation. Quick summary: old traffic calming methods focussed on physical barriers, which had many problems. Newer methods look at influencing drivers’ behavior through psychology. Throughout the world, traffic calming, done right, can reduce carbon emissions and congestion, increase property values, and create a sense of “place” in a community.

Lockwood did his graduate work on traffic calming at a time before it was well-known. In fact, there wasn’t any good academic work at the time, so he was a pioneer in the field. The traffic calming experience in North America is about twenty years old, but in other countries it is much older. Traffic calming is now a widespread field. With the increase in the number of people driving, the problems are exacerbated much more so than in the 1980’s. Traffic calming is physically changing the nature of the street to result in calmer traffic. Ian took a tour of neighborhoods today; he took a similar tour only a few years ago, but things have changed in only that short time. Driver expectations have changed and aggressive behavior has changed.

Traffic calming will result in fewer deaths on the street. All has to do with reducing speeds, so more likely to reduce collisions. Fields of vision expand so drivers can see more. At higher speeds, drivers focus further away; at slower speeds, drivers focus closer. Collisions at 40 mph result in 80% of pedestrian victims dying; at 20mph only 5% die. Traffic control devices are attempts to communicate with you, like a stop sign. Route modifications like street closures remove in a less connected neighborhood; generally we don’t support them any more, because they always created winners and losers. Someone always wanted them on someone else’s street. It pits neighbor against neighbor. All these behaviors are avoidable if you change driver behavior. Street scaping is principally a beautification measure.

Traffic calming is directly addressing driver behavior by slowing them down. Slower routes reduce cut-through traffic. Planners split streets into 2 categories: framework streets that collect and distribute traffic. Most arterial streets are framework streets, but also some neighborhood streets, such as Tilden Lane. On non-framework streets, there are more options for calming, including changing the cross-section of the street. Bulb-outs shorten the width of the streets, reducing the crossing distance for pedestrians, helping to enforce parking rules, and controlling drivers’ expectations. Putting trees in them creates a beautiful sense of closure.

Speed bumps - 2-3 inches high — aren’t allowed on public streets because they don’t work but hurt cars. Speed humps, on the other hand, are some of the most effective measures. If you add sufficient numbers of measures, deployed properly, the crash rate drops by half.

Ian presented a long series of examples of calming devices from around the country and the world. Many of these were around schools. One of the things to use in White Flint neighborhoods would be “marking your territory.” Identify to drivers that they are entering a neighborhood, and moving out of high-speed streets. Make the landscaping conspicuous or use signs. The key is coming up with a menu of measures, space them correctly, don’t use too many, and stage your implementation. Traffic calm enough, stop, see if it solves your issues. Then do more if needed, but if your problem is solved, then stop.

In White Flint neighborhoods, there are lot of double yellow lines on neighborhood streets. That is the wrong vocabulary for a local street. Double yellow lines are highway markings, and they communicate higher speeds to drivers. Plus, at night, drivers focus on the lines, and more pedestrians are at risk. Your streets are the biggest public realm in your neighborhood, more than parks. People identify with them, and identify your neighborhood by the streets. They should be carefully designed for multiple purposes to help define and develop the neighborhood, not just move cars. For example, use “rain gardens” designed to accept water in a natural setting, rather than iron storm grates.

Several places in White Flint neighborhoods are good candidates for roundabouts. They reduce speeding and are good candidates to replace signals, without the overhead machinery. Roundabouts are safer than signals, but not the larger traffic circles. You can walk easily across them, and they reduce crashes. Hugely safer for pedestrians. At a signal, traffic is coming at pedestrians from all angles, but in a roundabout, traffic approaches only from one direction. Circles have higher traffic speeds because they are so big. Maintaining a roundabout is much cheaper than a signalized intersection. Huge reduction on how much fuel is used as well, so some federal funds are available for roundabouts from energy reduction programs.

On Route 50 near Centreville in Virginia, Ian put in four roundabouts. The congestion is gone and accident rates are way down. In California, he narrowed a five lane signalized road to a two lane road with a roundabout and not only cleared congestion, but enlivened the community. A new restaurant opened named the Roundabout. Tuckerman at Old Georgetown, or Tilden at Old Georgetown could be candidates for testing for roundabouts.

In the old days, streets were “shared space,” without sidewalks or double yellow lines. 1904 video of streetcar in San Francisco (Youtube it) shows “the flow of the city” across the street. In shared spaces in England, Finland and Switzerland, accident rates go down. A big difference is the paving, and the attitude of the municipality. Cause drivers to take responsibility for their own behavior. The environment tells them what to do. Get drivers to focus on the near and middle distance. All about place and emphasizing people and not motorists.

Traffic calming plans tend to be very simple and clear, so they can be implemented in stages. They use only a couple of methods uniformly across an area, rather than all possible devices. Emphasize place, not throughput or speed. Design in context. Inappropriate places “violate your space” and neighborhood. Emphasizing speed and reducing travel time actually increases sprawl, not to mention energy use. As soon as your reward the unsustainable trip, the land use changes to respond, exacerbating your problems. Instead reward the sustainable trip, the short trip, the biking trip. The person cutting through the city is not as important as the city itself; they can still go through, but on the city’s terms, not the highway’s.

Change of attitude toward highways; as they come down, new land is made available. Think about all the quality of life issues in the area. It’s not just traffic calming; it’s context-sensitive design. Complete streets. Smart transportation. Safe routes to schools. Just competent street design. Vibrant uses made possible by good street design.

You still have to accomodate the motorist, but let’s level the playing field for the pedestrian, the bicyclist, the kids. You get a better community over time. You can replace many traffic lanes with good design, with many benefits for the surrounding neighborhood. Summarizing some of the calming methods most likely to prove useful in White Flint neighborhoods, Ian saw many similarities through several neighborhoods, including limited access. Those tend to have “cut-through traffic” issues, although studies show that most such traffic is from neighborhood residents and visitors. Deal with the busiest streets first. Deal with your entrances so drivers know they’re entering a special place. Remove double yellow lines. “I would highly discourage closing off your streets, because you’ll just re-route the traffic to your neighbors’ streets.”

Ian Lockwood will be holding meetings tomorrow with individual neighborhoods. For more information, see SOURCE: Friends of White Flint

The naked truth: 20 Stars without makeup [SLIDESHOW]

To see the slideshow, click here at the Daily Caller.

In the latest issue of Life & Style, Kim Kardashian “ditches the comfort of her regimen and flaunts her natural beauty for the first time.” Sure she does. Not ones to be fooled by the magazine’s clever ruse, we decided to do some serious investigative journalism and get to the bottom of this. What do stars look like without makeup? Is their beauty that flawless and unattainable? As it turns out, stars don’t look so great when they’re photographed sans makeup. Shockingly, they don’t wake up every morning with a weightless layer of foundation, flawlessly applied eye liner, and shimmery blush on their faces (cough, Kim Kardashian, cough).

Of course, one could argue that they’re only human and we shouldn’t expect them to look like their red-carpet selves all the time but…well…we do. Here are the fruits of our investigation, which shows stars in the worst light possible. Indulge in your wicked side and enjoy. S

Future of MontCo Park Police in Doubt

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Eighteen of the 88 officers in the Maryland National Capital Park Police force in Montgomery County could lose their jobs because of the county budget shortfall. But the president of the fraternal order of police that represents the park officers says cutting those officers would mean losing a sense of safety for many park users.

"The parks will not be as safe with 20 percent of the officers fired," said Cpl. Greg Matthews, the union president. Matthews said the cuts would take effect in September if they're approved. He said the union understands the tight budget times the county is facing, but cutting public safety jobs is not the answer. Talk of Police Cuts Spark Park Safety Concerns "These are real people, real lives, real mortgages," Matthews said.

The union is also fighting a recommendation made by County Executive Ike Leggett to eliminate the department and merge the officers into the county police department.

"Tough times call for tough measures, but eliminating the park police is a public safety issue and we are not willing to accept this," Matthews said. He argues that if the department is merged with the county, police presence will decrease and crime in parks could increase.

Royce Hanson, chairman of the Montgomery County Planning Board, has also spoken out against the merge. He said in a statement: "It is bad public policy and bad management. It imperils the safety of park users, especially in down-county parks." A spokesman for Leggett told News4 that if public safety would be jeopardized, the county would not consider merging the departments. He said it makes sense to look at the merge as officials grapple with the budget.

Councilman Mike Knapp said he was open to the idea of the merge. He wants to know if efficiencies can be achieved, saving the county money. Many park users told News4 they were against the cuts and merging the forces. They feel the parks will be less safe and could become more dangerous.

"I know in New York there is a place called 'muggers park'," said Marian Schwenk. "I don't want that to happen here." "I think it's the worst thing," said Don Shulman. "The focus on parks would be gone. I feel very strongly about that." MSNBC

Silver Spring Stage Present VAGINA MONOLOGUES Benefit Performances 5/14-16

Silver Spring Stage is proud to present The Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler as a special benefit to the theater for 5 performances only this weekend May 14 to May 16. This exceptional celebration of women and empowerment will move audiences seamlessly from laughter to tears to rejoicing. Silver Spring Stage dedicates this benefit to two veterans of its theater community who succumbed to cancer last year. The proceeds will support Silver Spring Stage and two cancer foundations. The production is directed by Grace Overbeke, Christie Walser, and Rayona Young and features new and familiar actors to the Stage.

Silver Spring Stage is located in the Woodmoor Shopping Center, lower level (next to the CVS) at Colesville Road and University Boulevard. Ticket prices are $20. Performances are Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 8:00 PM and Saturday and Sunday at 2:00 PM. Tickets can be purchased at Eve Ensler wrote the first draft of The Vagina Monologues in 1996 following interviews she conducted with 200 women about their views on sex, relationships, and violence against women. The interviews began as casual conversations with her friends, who then brought up anecdotes they themselves had been told by other friends with more women contributing to the work. Ensler wrote the piece initially to "celebrate the vagina", which then changed into a movement to stop violence against women. She founded the V-Day movement ( to stop violence against women and girls.

The Vagina Monologues introduces a wildly divergent gathering of female voices in funny and touching testimonials, including a six-year-old girl, a septuagenarian New Yorker, a vagina workshop participant, a woman who witnesses the birth of her granddaughter, a Bosnian survivor of rape, and a feminist happy to have found a man who "liked to look at it." The Stage's 2009-2010 "Appearances Can Be Deceiving!" season continues with George Bernard Shaw's enchanting Pygmalion (June 4-June 27), and the provocative Fat Pig by Neil LaBute (July 16-Aug. 8)

About Silver Spring Stage
Silver Spring Stage has provided quality, affordable theatre for over 40 years. We are an all-volunteer, non- profit organization and appreciate any contribution to enable us to offer excellent and entertaining productions. Thank you for your interest and support of Silver Spring Stage. All programs at Silver Spring Stage are made possible in part by grants from the Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County and the Maryland State Arts Council. For more information, visit SOURCE: Baltimore Broadway

May 13, 2010

WSSC rates go up in Montgomery, Pr. George's

Montgomery and Prince George's county households will pay an average of $13.80 more per quarter for water and sewer services beginning July 1 as part of a $1.1 billion budget approved Thursday for the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission. The two county councils approved the utility's budget unanimously in a joint session. The 8.5 percent rate increase will also apply to businesses and government buildings. The additional money will fund increased sewage treatment costs, such as for electricity and fuel, and measures the agency must take to comply with a consent decree to control sewer overflows. The increased revenue also will pay to continue inspections and replacement of aging infrastructure, said WSSC spokesman John White.

The WSSC's aging underground pipes drew national scrutiny last year after a massive concrete pipe ruptured beneath River Road in late 2008, stranding motorists in a torrent of frigid water. Like water utilities across the country, experts have said, WSSC has fallen behind on replacing its pipes, some dating back almost 100 years. This is the seventh year the utility has increased water and sewer rates. SOURCE: Washington Post

Montgomery Co. man sentenced in carjacking attempt

A Maryland man accused of plotting to kill President Barack Obama when he was a candidate will serve one year in prison for a carjacking conviction. Twenty-year-old Collin McKenzie-Gude pleaded guilty to trying to carjack a 78-year-old man the day authorities searched his home in 2008. On Wednesday, a Montgomery County Circuit Court judge sentenced McKenzie-Gude to three years for the carjacking charge, but gave him credit for the nearly two years he's already spent behind bars. At the hearing, McKenzie-Gude apologized to his family and the man, saying of all his mistakes the last two years, this was "the most disgusting and despicable behavior." In January, a federal judge sentenced him to five years in prison for possessing bomb-making chemicals. SOURCE: San Francisco Examiner

Foreclosures rose in Va., Md. and D.C.

Foreclosures rose in Virginia, Maryland and D.C. in April but still accounted for less than 4 percent of the total nationwide, according to the latest survey by RealtyTrac Inc. Virginia foreclosures increased 19 percent to 7,065, while Maryland foreclosures rose 3 percent to 5,446. D.C. foreclosures jumped 64 percent to 256, according to the Irvine, Calif.-based foreclosure research company. Nationally, there were 333,837 foreclosures in April, a 9 percent decline from the month before. Defaults in D.C., Maryland and Virginia accounted for 3.8 percent of the national total.

In the Washington area there were 5,005 foreclosures and Prince George's County was the hardest hit with 1,373, according to RealtyTrac. Fairfax County had 959 foreclosures; Prince William County had 792; and Montgomery County had 649. The number of foreclosures falls off after those big jurisdictions. Loudoun County had 337; Frederick County had 287; City of Manassas had 96; Arlington County had 87, and Alexandria had 81. Fairfax City had 35 foreclsoures in April, Fredericksburg had 29, and Falls Church had just 4. The bulk of the national foreclosure burden continues to be on a few states. California had 69,725 and Florida had 48,384 foreclosures last month accounting for 35 percent of the nation’s total. Michigan, Illinois and Nevada added another 54,260 foreclosures to the national total, meaning five states accounted for more than 50 percent of foreclosures in the U.S. SOURCE: Washington Business Journal

POLITICAL SALAD: Kagan, 9/11, and the Saudis

At a time when the ideal Supreme Court nominee comes coated in Teflon, the better to fend off partisan attacks, Elena Kagan has a pretty good resume. She has never served as a judge and her writings reveal little about how she would rule on the most ideologically divisive issues of the day. The absence of any meaningful paper trail, apart from things such as her decision as Harvard Law School dean to ban military recruiters, makes her less of a target.

Yet there is one legal case in Kagan's background that to a small group of litigants constitutes a profound distortion of justice, a slap in the face that they say stings even now, one year later. And they contend that the Senate Judiciary Committee should keep this case in mind, painful though it may be to revisit the matter, as it reviews Kagan's nomination in the coming weeks.

It was on May 29 of last year that Kagan - as U.S. solicitor general - filed legal papers with the Supreme Court urging it not to hear arguments in a lawsuit against the government of Saudi Arabia brought by thousands of family members and other victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Days later, the Supreme Court rejected the case, following the lead of the solicitor general, as it often does in deciding whether to weigh in on a matter. The Supreme Court decision effectively let stand lower-court rulings that the Saudi government and senior members of the Saudi royal family could not be sued by U.S. citizens - even if the plaintiffs had shown that millions of dollars in Saudi government money went to bankroll al-Qaeda in the years leading up to the Sept. 11 attacks.

"We were terribly disappointed with her ruling," said Beverly Burnett, of Northfield, Minn., whose son, Tom, perished on United Flight 93 when it went down near Shanksville, Pa. "We had hoped she would be with us so that we could have our day in court."

What Burnett and many others desperately want to know is why, after evidence that some believe points to Saudi government responsibility for the attacks, they so far have been barred by U.S. courts from having their case heard.

And why the Obama administration argued, through Kagan, that their case should not be heard. Burnett and the other plaintiffs alleged in lawsuits brought by several law firms, including the Center City firm of Cozen O'Connor P.C., that for years the Saudi government funded Islamist charities that in turn supplied money and logistical support to al-Qaeda fighters in the Balkans and Southeast Asia. The plaintiffs charged that the Saudis continued to finance the charities even after U.S. officials on two occasions warned the money was being used to support terrorist operations. Because of longstanding economic, military, and diplomatic ties between the two countries, the litigation was sensitive for both the Obama administration and Saudis.

The Saudis complained in court papers that the lawsuits had upset relations between the two countries. And, as Kagan last year weighed what position to take in the Supreme Court appeal, plaintiffs lawyers lobbied the administration to decide in their favor.

It didn't work. Kagan's amicus brief, which said such lawsuits would interfere with U.S. foreign policy, and the ensuing Supreme Court decision, prompted Sen. Arlen Specter (D., Pa.) to introduce legislation that would amend the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act. The law was cited as a reason for ruling against the plaintiffs. Specter sought to make clear that U.S. citizens can sue foreign governments that finance acts of terrorism, even in politically delicate situations.

Specter, who was joined by cosponsors Sens. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) and Charles Schumer (D., N.Y.), was blunt in his criticism of Kagan. He contended that the Obama administration urged the Supreme Court not to hear the case because the litigation had become an irritant to U.S.-Saudi relations.

Of Kagan, he said, "She wants to coddle the Saudis."

Specter had earlier voted against her nomination to be solicitor general because, he said, she had ducked questions during her confirmation hearings on the Saudi litigation and other matters.

He still seemed irritated Monday. In a meeting with reporters, he promised as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee to grill her once again on why the lawsuits should not go forward. The 9/11 victims and their family members, at the very least the ones who filed the lawsuits, would expect nothing less. SOURCE:

Neighbors Fight to Make Old School Property a Park

WHEATON, Md. - A property battle in one Montgomery County (web | news) neighborhood may be nearing an end but not the end many neighbors were hoping for. People in several Wheaton communities hoped an old school would be turned into a park, but instead of more open space, there could be more development. The property is one of the only remaining places along Georgia Avenue between the Beltway and Olney that could be turned into a park.

Neighbors attempted to secure funding from Montgomery County to buy the property, but that failed. Now they are looking for state grants, but that, too could be a long-shot. The old Maryland College of Art and Design building, owned by the nonprofit Montgomery College Foundation, has been closed for nearly three years. Some Wheaton neighbors call an eyesore. Overgrown weeds line the sidewalks, plywood covers broken out windows and at night the empty parking lot attracts unwanted visitors.

"People that are able to hide from Georgia Avenue traffic behind the building and engage in loud noises and sit in the parking lot and drink or smoke or whatever," said Plyers Crossings Mill resident Spencer Biles.

Beverly Sobel is one of the most vocal neighbors calling for this land to be turned into a park. She and other neighbors are banding together to apply for state money to buy the property from the Montgomery College Foundation, but now it appears they may have some competition.

"We are starting to get down to the wire here because we were informed that the college is now actively pursuing a single family development here," stated Sobel.

Attracting a developer to buy the four acres from the Montgomery College Foundation could be much more lucrative. Amid budget cuts, the foundation sees the school and its land as an asset. There's another financial concern. Critics of the park plan and the Montgomery County Department of Parks questioned whether or not the county could pay for the proposed park's upkeep long term, especially given the state of Montgomery County's economy.

Neighbors are firing back.

"That is an issue that comes up no matter what the economy is like. There's always gonna be a funding issue. The source of funding is always an issue," said one resident.

Sobel said, "We're not asking for a park redesign, we're not asking for a soccer field to be installed immediately. We would just be happy having the open space." Because the land didn't qualify for county money some people say it's unlikely it will qualify for state money. Still, the neighborhoods plan to come together to present a proposal to the state. The process could take up to a year. SOURCE: News 8

Steele's favorables slip sharply in Maryland

The past four years haven't helped the way Republican National Committee Chairman Michael S. Steele is seen by his fellow Marylanders. In a new Washington Post poll, 37 percent of the state's registered voters say they have an unfavorable impression of the state's former lieutenant governor, while 33 percent view him favorably. Thirty percent offered no opinion.

That's a sharp contrast to four years ago, when Steele was serving out his final year under former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) and stepping out on his own to run an ultimately unsuccessful race for U.S. Senate. A Post poll in June 2006 found that 51 percent of registered Maryland voters viewed Steele favorably, while only 26 percent had an unfavorable impression. Twenty-three percent had no opinion. Since then, Steele has emerged as a polarizing force on the national scene, which clearly hasn't helped him at home in Maryland, where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans more than 2 to 1.

Among registered Democrats in Maryland, only 19 percent now view Steele favorably, while 52 percent see him unfavorably and 29 percent have no opinion. Republicans break far differently, with 63 percent viewing Steele favorably and 9 percent unfavorably, while 28 percent have no opinion. The numbers among independents largely mirror those of the state as a whole: 33 percent favorable, 36 percent unfavorable and 31 percent with no opinion. SOURCE: Washington Post

May 12, 2010

Einstein's Visual Arts Center faces budget cuts

Beginning in the 2011 school year, only one teacher will instruct all Albert Einstein Visual Arts Center (VAC) classes due to county budget cuts, according to VAC instructor Michael Piechocinski. The VAC teachers were informed in mid-April. Einstein's Visual Art Center will cut one instructing position and one class starting in the 2011 school year. VAC teacher Jane Walsh will lose her position, but Piechocinski will remain on staff. "We were informed that as a part of the MCPS budget situation, we will have a 50 percent reduction in staff here at the VAC," Piechocinski said. "We will be reduced from two to one."

Piechocinski plans to eliminate one VAC course to compensate for the loss. "We will cut one of the double period courses in the morning," he said. Currently, there are three different sessions offered daily between 7:25 a.m. and 2:10 p.m. The VAC is a countywide comprehensive program directed toward portfolio development, according to the VAC website. The programís goal is to help students realize and achieve their full potential, and serves students both in and out of the Downcounty Consortium.

"We have, over the years, had students come as far as Poolesville and Damascus," Piechocinski said. "Roughly about one third of our 70 so students are coming from other cities."

Despite this recent setback, Piechocinski is not worried about the future of the VAC. "In any situation, you always strive to be as positive as possible," he said. He expressed that as long as the students remain focused, the program will remain strong. "The success and continuation of the program will depend on the students," he said. "Will it be difficult? Yes. Is it going to be possible? Yes," he said. SOURCE: Silver Chips

Buford man dies in Maryland wreck

A 33-year-old Buford man was killed in a one-vehicle accident Tuesday afternoon in Maryland. Jose Roberto Rubi Argueta was in the left, rear passenger seat of a 2007 Cadillac Escalade that apparently left the roadway and struck a tree, according to Montgomery County, Md., police. Argueta was transported to a local hospital, where he died. The driver, Olga E. Guevara, 42, and the front-seat passenger, Rodolfo Jose Martinez Barahona, 30, were seriously injured, but are expected to survive, police said. Both are Maryland residents. The wreck happened around 5:25 p.m. on Georgia Avenue in Brookeville, according to police. The incident is still under investigation. SOURCE: AJC

Maryland lawmakers might sponsor Arizona-type bill

At least two state delegates are considering sponsoring get-tough illegal immigration legislation in Maryland replicating a new Arizona law that has drawn criticism from Hispanics, the ACLU and President Barack Obama. The law requires state and local police to question those suspected of being illegal immigrants about their immigration status, and immigrants would have to be ready to prove their citizenship at any time. Under the law, police would arrest those who cannot prove they are in the country legally. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers already perform those checks, but supporters of the bill say not enough enforcement is being done at the federal level.

The Arizona bill was signed into law April 23. However, anti-illegal immigration legislation has fared poorly in the Maryland General Assembly, and even those introducing the bills do not believe they'll succeed in a heavily Democratic legislature.

"Maryland is infested with politicians that are basically advocates for illegals," said Del. Patrick L. McDonough (R-Baltimore, Harford).

If re-elected in November, McDonough said he will introduce Arizona's bill in Maryland. Parts of the bill are similar to the 11 anti-illegal-immigration bills he has introduced in the past eight years.

"I'm not Johnny-come-lately," he said. "I've been fighting for this issue."

Del. Charles A. Jenkins (R-Frederick, Washington) said he planned to discuss the Arizona bill with Frederick County Sheriff Chuck Jenkins, who has been at the forefront of the issue. The two are unrelated. Sheriff Jenkins' agency participates in the 287g illegal immigration enforcement program, which, since January 2006 has identified more than 70,000 people — mostly in jails — who are suspected of being in the country illegally. Del. Jenkins said he planned to either introduce a modified bill based on Sheriff Jenkins' suggestions or speak with McDonough about co-sponsoring an identical bill.

Advocates estimate that Maryland has between 230,000 and 350,000 illegal immigrants. "They were drawn to Maryland because we made it easy for them," Del. Jenkins said. "But you can roll up the welcome mat and say we're not going to be a sanctuary state."

McDonough said his concerns are gangs, drugs and crime, which he associates with illegal immigrants. He decided to announce his intent to file the bill before the start of the 2011 General Assembly session — and before November — to make immigration an election-year issue. McDonough said he will send a letter to every state elected leader, including Gov. Martin O'Malley and his challengers, asking whether they would support his bill. The results of that poll will be posted on McDonough's website, he said. "This will have a major impact on the governor's race," he said.

However, neither O'Malley nor his top Republican opponent, former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R), has focused on immigration in their early campaign speeches. In a statement to The Gazette, O'Malley campaign manager Tom Russell said: "It is the federal government's job to protect our borders and reform immigration laws and enforcement. We won't be taking Arizona's approach here. But we will always work with immigration enforcement."

Ehrlich spokesman Andy Barth said the former governor has not studied the Arizona bill, but opposes illegal immigration. However, it is unlikely that such legislation would make it to the governor's desk in Maryland, and groups already are lining up to challenge the constitutionality of the Arizona bill.

"Let's see how far it goes," said Sen. Lisa A. Gladden (D-Baltimore city). "It might not go too far. We can copy Arizona if we want. The problem is there are going to be some court challenges."

The American Civil Liberties Union already has challenged the bill, said Ajmel Quereshi, an attorney with the ACLU's Maryland chapter.

"The bill encourages racial profiling and betrays America's core values," he said, adding that the law is a violation of civil rights.

"I think it's just Profiling 101," said Del. Victor R. Ramirez (D-Prince George's). "I think to stop someone and ask them to present certain identification based on their appearance is unconstitutional."

If he is re-elected, Ramirez said he will fight McDonough's bill. "I think it's extreme," Ramirez said.

McDonough said the Arizona bill is identical to federal law. The Arizona law violates the U.S. Constitution, Quereshi said, because the federal government, not the states, is responsible for determining legal status. Also of concern is that local and state law enforcement officers would not be required to be trained in immigration enforcement under the law, Ajmel said.

Brad Botwin, director of Help Save Maryland, an anti-illegal immigration group, said there would be training for law enforcement. Currently, four Maryland counties — Prince George's, Queen Anne's, Frederick and St. Mary's — participate in a federal program called the Secure Communities initiative. Under the program, the counties agree to share fingerprints of charged suspects with the federal immigration department, which can screen for immigration violations. Montgomery County, meanwhile, does not participate in the program, but sends the names of suspected immigrants charged with violent crimes or weapons-related offenses to federal authorities.

Prince George's joined the federal cooperation program in December. As of April 1, 109 people arrested in the county had been handed over to ICE officials. Last week, immigrant advocacy group Casa of Maryland led 45 protesters in response to the April 20 arrest by Prince George's County police of Florinda Faviola Lorenzo-Desimilian, a married mother of three young children. She was charged with a misdemeanor — and flagged for possible deportation — for allegedly selling prepaid phone cards without a license from her Langley Park home.

Gustavo Torres, executive director of Casa of Maryland, said McDonough's bill has no chance in Maryland and accused the delegate of political gamesmanship.

"He is trying to be in the media right now because (of the election)," Torres said, calling the bill racist. He believes Maryland is too progressive to approve it.

Lawmakers in Utah and Oklahoma also are considering introducing similar legislation, according to Brad Botwin, director of Help Save Maryland, an anti-illegal immigration group. He said the bill would be good for Maryland, but said some elected leaders, such as O'Malley and Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett (D), have resisted immigration reform. Without his bill, McDonough said illegal immigrants will flood Maryland — driving up the costs of education, health care and other government services.

"People go where they are wanted," he said. "They do not go where they are not wanted. They're going to come across the Potomac on rowboats. It will be like the Cubans going to Florida." SOURCE: SoMdNews

Rockville Auto Body Shop Goes Green to Protect Environment

Scuderi Auto Body CARSTAR, a Rockville collision repair and auto body shop, has been certified green for its efforts to increase energy efficiency, reduce emissions and lessen pollution. Scuderi CARSTAR has received its green certification according to U.S. EPA standards by GRC-Pirk, an Environmental Assessment firm.

"Our focus on energy savings and pollution prevention is of paramount importance for our business and our community," said Scuderi CARSTAR owner, Chip Scuderi.

Scuderi CARSTAR has been taking steps to "go green" for several years. In 2002, the company won the National Prevention Award for its invention of the nation's first non-hazardous paint gun cleaning system, The Bonny Marlin System. In 2008, Scuderi CARSTAR implemented the BASF Waterborne paint refinish system, which significantly lowers air pollutant emissions. In 2009, the company was recognized by Montgomery County, MD for its recycling program. That same year, Scuderi CARSTAR joined the Maryland Green Registry to reinforce its dedication to green initiatives. With eco-friendly options becoming significantly more important to consumers, Scuderi CARSTAR has implemented these expectations into its auto body repair services.

About Scuderi Auto Body CARSTAR Scuderi CARSTAR is a Rockville auto body shop that specializes in eco-friendly collision repair, auto painting and other car repair services. CARSTAR was founded in 1989 and has become the largest group of branded collision repair centers in North America, with over 400 locally owned and operated locations. Visit for more information on Scuderi Auto Body CARSTAR.

MTA pushing for additional Purple Line stop in Silver Spring

State transit officials are pushing for a light rail station at Dale Drive in Silver Spring to be completed during initial construction of the Purple Line, despite opposition from county officials and planners and mixed opinions from residents. The Maryland Transit Administration has long taken a wait-and-see approach with the concept of building a Purple Line station at Dale Drive and Wayne Avenue, deferring a decision until after initial construction of the Purple Line, the proposed 16-mile, 20-station light rail system connecting downtown Bethesda to New Carrollton. If community support was strong enough and estimated ridership numbers proved that a station in the overwhelmingly residential, single-family neighborhood was necessary, MTA could build the station at a later date, county officials have said.

But support for a station is already there, according to Michael Madden, the Purple Line project manager with MTA. So while the council, planning department and Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett have not wavered on wanting to evaluate a Dale Drive station after the Purple Line is built, negotiations over fast-tracking the stop have begun as the county reviews the Purple Line Functional Master Plan, a planning guide for the proposed route.

"They have already told us to design [the Purple Line] so we can build the station at some other time," Madden said in a phone interview last week. "We want them to reconsider the recommendation."

Madden said there's no timetable for a final decision on the station, and it won't come to a formal vote, instead requiring a compromise from both sides.

"It's possible [for MTA] to override the council, but we don't plan on having to do it," Madden said.

Cost is not an issue with the Dale Drive station; it will cost an estimated $2 million to build the stop and $1.67 billion to build the entire transit line. It's the potential for rampant development that comes with any new transit line that is a concern, opponents to the station say. And, with a station also planned for the new Silver Spring Library at Fenton Street and Wayne Avenue, just a half-mile from the proposed Dale Drive station, it's also a question of whether enough people will use the station to justify risking the neighborhood's character, opponents say. SOURCE: Gazette

Whitman Softball ends season with a loss, look to playoffs

Varsity softball ended their regular season with a 4-0 loss to the Sherwood Warriors, May 10, finalizing their record at 7-9. Despite losing third baseman Alex Rodgers to a jammed finger, the Lady Vikes held the Warriors to only four runs in the first couple of innings. The Vikes last game against the Warriors ended early by cause of the mercy rule, but this time the team stayed in the game until the end, showing their improvement over the season. The ladies look to start off playoff season strong against Gaithersburg, May 13. SOURCE: Black & White

Vovak disappointed Leggett neglects his online question

BETHESDA, MARYLAND – Today Montgomery County Executive Isiah Legget answered ten questions during his live, online discussion with residents. But one question he did not answer was a simple one: "Will Leggett debate Daniel 'The Whig Man' Vovak, his Republican opponent?"

"I am disappointed in him," says Vovak. "Montgomery County now votes about seventy percent Democrat in elections and the county executive can't answer a basic question about a public debate with a simple 'yes,' 'no,' or 'maybe.' Also, from the answers, it is obvious that his remarks were prepared prior to receiving questions. At least he promised to sit down and talk with me when we last spoke, during the Democrat Spring Ball two weeks ago. We also talked about his unusual executive toilet."

Vovak says he has had open communication with various groups that make endorsements for county executive. "I've got a shot at this," he says. "Because I'm similar to Connie Morella, the unions are listening to me."

Montgomery's zoning issues, part 1: Complicated zoning

Recently, I discussed the effort underway in Montgomery County to rewrite an aging zoning code. Over three decades, the code has grown unwieldy and hard to use. Thirty-three years of additions and amendments has left the code with a mess of outdated provisions, orphaned words, and a baffling table of permitted uses. Growth in pages of zoning code over time.Many of the problems with the code stem from shortsightedness and the simple march of time. Text amendments and new zones were added without regard to the goals and intent of the code. As older zones fell into disuse, they were not refined or removed. At the same time, planners devised new zones for many of the master plans.

The result: a ballooning in the size and complexity of the code. In 1977, when the code was last rewritten, it spanned 274 pages. It's now over 1,000 and grew by 100 pages in 2008 alone.

Proliferation of zones
Among the most well-known aspects of any zoning code is the large array of zones themselves. In 1977, the county had 41 zones. Today, we have 120 zones, including 15 overlay zones. At least 12 zones are totally unused, including six Planned Development zones which may never have been used. Some zones are similar to other zones, and thus are barely used.

Furthermore, the creation of mainly single-use, special-purpose zones has contributed to the proliferation. The H-M zone, for instance, was created for hotels and motels. But hotels and motels are permitted by right in 10 other zones. In fact, only two of Montgomery County's hotels are even in the H-M zone. That zone takes up just 21 acres, well under 0.1 percent of the county's land area. Similarly, the mixed use, commercial, and central business district zones make up only 1.3% of the county's land, but account for over 20% of the county's zones. On the other hand, the Agricultural Reserve takes up almost 38% of the county's land, but is made up of just one zone: RDT.Several zones are almost identical in composition. R-150 and R-200 are both low density residential zones, and have very little differences between them. While R-200 makes up 13% of the county's area, R-150 makes up only 0.4%.

Simplifying our zones is one step we are working on to make the code easier to use. In a future installment, I'll talk about our thoughts on zones. It is clear that development in the county will increasingly be located in infill situations where the current standards may prevent good infill development. The new zoning code will help create building and land typologies that will result in predictable infill development.

Matt Johnson works for the Montgomery County Planning Department.Greater Greater Washington

Wheaton residents face roadblock in plan for new park

The residents of three Wheaton neighborhoods who are fervently trying to find money to turn a vacant public art school into a park seem to have run into a dead end. That's the dire news Councilwoman Valerie Ervin (D-Dist. 4) of Silver Spring passed onto residents of Carroll Knolls, Plyers Mill and McKenney Hills in a meeting about the property last week.

"We've been down every road we can take, and we have been stopped at every single corner," she said. "We have about run out of options here."

The Maryland College of Art and Design building, which is owned by the nonprofit Montgomery College Foundation, has sat vacant for almost three years while a proposal for a townhouse development idled in the courts. The school has become an eyesore and encourages illicit late-night activity, say neighbors, who fought the townhouse project and who want the county to purchase the land for a soccer field or park. Ervin said last week it's a race against time to find a solution that leads to a park before the foundation, which supports taxpayer-funded Montgomery College, strikes a more lucrative deal that involves much more concrete.

After being shot down several times by the county's parks department for funds, Ervin said that their best hope is to organize a united front with Wheaton's state delegation to request funds from a similar parks fund run by the state. But that, too, is a long shot — if the area didn't meet the county's requirements for an open space fund, it's likely it won't meet the state's either. And that's assuming there's even money left in that pot, she said.

But Ervin also said: "I think it's the strongest option we might have."

At a time when Montgomery College is facing an unprecedented 24-percent cut to its capital improvements project funds and a 5-percent cut to its operating budget, the foundation sees the art school land as an asset, Ervin said. It is reportedly shopping around for a housing developer that could build and sell about 12 homes on the land and infuse some much-needed cash into the foundation's budget, she said. The foundation is asking for at least $4 million for the land, but parks planners said last week that the land is probably worth slightly less than $2 million.

In the ongoing saga, the Wheaton community and its politicians have had plenty of ups and downs. The residents won a major victory last year when a neighborhood lawyer working pro-bono helped uphold the area's strict covenant that allows only single-family homes. At that time, the foundation had entered a contract with Silver Spring-based Kaz Development LLC to turn the property into a townhouse development. After the ruling, the foundation dropped the Kaz deal. But that was one of the last pieces of good news for the residents.

During the lengthy court battle, the county's Planning Board twice rejected requests to fund the park under the county's Legacy Open Space program. The Montgomery Parks' initiative is meant to safeguard green space in the county by funding parks in heavily populated areas. It was the residents' best shot at a pot of money to buy the land, but the Planning Board decided the art school property didn't quite meet the program's qualifications of historic, cultural and natural value.

This past summer, Ervin suggested swapping an open swath of land near Strathmore for the vacant art building, but she said that idea fell flat when it became apparent the college has no money to expand. And most recently, Sen. Richard Madaleno and Del. Alfred Carr, both Democrats from Wheaton's Dist. 18, sponsored a bond bill in this year's legislative session that would allocate half a million dollars in state funds to create the park. But in a fiscal year where the state is struggling to pay teacher salaries, the bill never made it out of the House appropriations committee.

What frustrates residents about the situation is that the foundation acquired the land for free. The county handed over the land to the foundation about five years ago and is now expected to pay millions to get it back, said Beverly Sobel, a Plyers Mill resident who is heading the park effort.

"Our community is being held hostage by [the county's] poor decisions," she said at the meeting last week.

But the foundation was doing the county a favor by obliging officials' requests that it take over the failing art school building, which was losing hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, said Donna Pina, the director of finance for the Montgomery College Foundation, in an e-mail to The Gazette last summer. Since then, the foundation has spent "greatly in excess of $4 million" of its own money on maintaining and moving the art school into a new location, Pina said. The foundation moved the Wheaton art school to the newly built Montgomery College's Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation Arts Center at the school's Takoma Park/Silver Spring campus three years ago. The foundation, which uses money separate from Montgomery College's taxpayer funds, paid for the construction and furnishing of the new site, Pina said.

And even if the county could scrape up the estimated $7.8 million it needs for the project -- $4 million to pay for the vacant school's land and an additional $3.8 million to build a park on it -- there's no guarantee it could pay to maintain the park in the future, said Brenda Sandberg, the Legacy Open Space program manager for the county's department of parks.

"As much as we in the parks department think this is a logical place for a park, ... it is a very hard sell," Sandberg told residents last week.

The sell isn't made any easier by the fact that the Planning Board approved more than $3 million for renovations to a nearby park in the Evans Parkway Neighborhood. That park sits directly across Georgia Avenue from the Carroll Knolls, McKenney Hills and Plyers Mill neighborhoods. All that separates them from the park is a six-lane highway that no one wants to cross, say the residents who live there. Still, Sobel said her neighborhood isn't giving up hope. In the end, it's the taxpayers' wishes that should win out over any other interest, she said. SOURCE: Greenspace on Georgia

Fire at Silver Spring Metro

I saw this as I was leaving work today (took it through the construction fencing). Another "Mulberry Street" moment. This is an enormous construction site next to the Silver Spring metro station in downtown Silver Spring where a retail, parking garage and transport hub are being built. Not sure what happened other than there was a lot of smoke and the whole area smelled like burning tar. Always Fishing

Three killed in Adelphi crash

Three people were killed Sunday when their car nicked a pickup truck on New Hampshire Avenue in the Adelphi area, then veered into a guardrail and utility pole, police said. The car, a 1998 Nissan Altima, flipped and caught fire with the driver and a woman inside, police said. Another man was ejected from the car, police said. All three were killed. Police identified the driver of the Altima as Jose Chicas Iraheta, 40, of Silver Spring and his female passenger as Maria Iraheta de Bazzara, in her late 30s, also of Silver Spring. Officers said they had not identified the man who was ejected but thought he was in his 30s. The crash occurred about 3 a.m. Sunday near New Hampshire Avenue and Piney Branch Road, police said. The driver of the truck was not injured. SOURCE: Washington Post

SUV hits man at shopping center

A man was struck and critically injured Monday by a sport-utility vehicle that drove up on the sidewalk at the Eastover Shopping Center in Oxon Hill, police and fire officials said. The man was standing on the sidewalk in front of a CVS store when he was struck, officials said. He was taken to a hospital with trauma to his legs, officials said. His injuries were considered life-threatening. The SUV traveled almost 300 feet on the sidewalk and damaged several support beams and other structures, officials said. Five stores, including the CVS, were evacuated and closed until a building inspector could review the damage, officials said.

Police were questioning the driver, a fire department news release said. It was unclear why he drove on the sidewalk. The incident occurred about 1:30 p.m. in the 4800 block of Indian Head Highway. Jenay Wade, who works in the CVS, said witnesses told her that the SUV had been doing "doughnuts" in the parking lot right before the crash. A police spokesman could not confirm that report. SOURCE: Washington Post

Cutting class no longer holds much of a penalty

County high school students with multiple unexcused absences will have more chances to make up their coursework and pass their classes under a school system recommendation to reverse a long-standing practice under which the students failed the courses. Some county school board members say they still aren't sold on the school system's plans to change the so-called "loss of credit" practice, because it doesn't encourage students to attend school. The school system's current practice is to fail students in a class when they have five unexcused absences; the students are allowed to appeal the grade to the school's administrators.

Under the new regulation, slated to begin next academic year, students with five unexcused absences from a class will not automatically fail. Instead, the students would be required to undergo an intervention with school administrators to determine why they are missing the classes. If administrators find that the students had a good reason for missing the classes, they will be allowed to make up the coursework. However, if the students' absences were determined to be "unlawful" — skipping classes, for example — teachers then can fail the students, if administrators approve the action.

"The intent is not to punish the kids," said Henry R. Johnson, principal of Northwood High School in Silver Spring and a member of a school system project team that studied the possibility of changing the "loss of credit" regulation.

"The goal is to make sure the students continue to come to class. It provides us an opportunity to work with students with extenuating circumstances." School board member Laura V. Berthiaume (Dist. 2) of Rockville questioned whether the school system's new practice would lower expectations even further for students who already don't have the incentive to attend classes. SOURCE: Gazette

May 11, 2010

Montgomery schools' budget balloons over past decade

Montgomery County Public Schools' tax-supported operating budget has grown by more than 75 percent in the last decade, far outpacing the growth of other county agencies. Even this year, as the county and schools fight over potential cuts to the schools' funding and the county faces a $1 billion shortfall, the schools' share of the budget is poised to grow to 57 percent of all agency operating budgets, the most in more than 11 years. The figures, compiled by County Council staff, are giving ammunition to some county lawmakers who are pushing for a reduction in school funding as a way to prevent more drastic fiscal measures elsewhere.

"The school system needs to be asked to help more," said Councilman Phil Andrews, D-Gaithersburg/Rockville.

County government's share is about 34 percent of the county's $4 billion budget, while the county's parks and planning budget has grown 30 percent in the last decade. The county is trying to bridge a nearly $1 billion budget gap. County Executive Ike Leggett has proposed funding the schools at the same amount as this year while other county departments see their budgets cut by more than 20 percent next fiscal year. Leggett also is asking that one-fifth of county employees take 10 days of unpaid leave while leaving school employees alone.

Leggett also is proposing doubling the county's energy tax, a move the business community says will unfairly burden local companies. To offset the proposed energy tax increases and spread the budget pain in what it considers a more equitable way, the County Council has expressed support for furloughing school employees, who make up two-thirds of the county's work force. A five-day furlough would trim the schools budget by more than $30 million.

The County Council can control only the amount distributed to the school system, not how it is spent. School officials have pushed back hard against furloughs or any decrease in their budget and have threatened a lawsuit. Doug Prouty, head of the Montgomery County Education Association union, said the school's current share of the budget is appropriate given the growth of poorer and special needs students in the county. Prouty said the county can use its reserves to avoid furloughs for all county employees. Leggett has proposed boosting reserves to maintain the county's AAA bond rating.

Schools Superintendent Jerry Weast has amped up his rhetoric, telling Fox 5 that cuts from the County Council would cause "irreparable harm."

"When we have our kids at risk, their entire future, we'll do everything we have to do," Weast said. SOURCE: Washington Examiner

County News

Department of Environmental Protection Invites Public Input on Ways County Can Encourage On-Site Management of Stormwater - The Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is soliciting input from the public on ways County codes, regulations, programs, and policies may need to be updated to further encourage use of Environmental Site Design (ESD) stormwater management techniques. For more information go to:

County Offers Farmer's Market Coupons to Low-Income Seniors - A limited number of free farmer‚s market coupon books will be distributed to low-income seniors in Montgomery County beginning June 1. The coupons may be used at farmer‚s markets in Montgomery County between June 1 and October 31, 2010. For more information go to:

Thousands of Volunteers Engaged in Earth Month Activities; Volunteer Center Urges Residents to Keep Spirit Going Year Round - An estimated 4,000 volunteers throughout Montgomery County participated in more than 100 projects in April, which was proclaimed Earth Month by Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett. For more information go to:

What's Brewin‚ - Assistant Chief Scott Graham appeared recently on County Cable‚s „What‚s Brewin‰ program to provide insight into Fire and Rescue‚s Operations during the big snow storms just a few short months ago. For more information go to:

Public Renaming Ceremony for Rockville Library to be Held May 28; New Display in Library Features Memorabilia from Soldiers‚ Families - A formal ceremony marking the official renaming of the Rockville Library to the Rockville Memorial Library will be held on Friday, May 28 at 11 am in the front of the building at 21 Maryland Ave., Rockville. For more information go to:

Nominations Open for Board Distinguished Service Awards - The Board of Education is seeking nominations for the 14th annual Awards for Distinguished Service to Public Education. For more information go to:

The New Summer Recreation Guide is Here! - The new Summer Recreation Guide is packed chock full of fun and different activities for you and your family this summer. From swimming to yoga to sports to senior trips ˆ the Guide has it all! As part of our effort to Go Green and save costs, the Guide will no longer be mailed out to our customers. You can view and download the complete Guide on our website at: Printed copies of the Guide will also be available for pick up at Recreation centers, County libraries, Black Rock Center for the Arts, Strathmore Hall, Revenue Authority Golf Courses and other recreational facilities. Registration for Summer Session Activities begins May 17th. Registration for swim lessons at our indoor pools begins May 19th at 6:30 am, and swim lesson registration for outdoor pools begins June 7th at 6:30 am. Registration is quick and easy on RecWeb, our on-line registration site located at:

Rockville Farmers Market Season Opens Saturday, May 15 - The first of two Rockville farmers markets will open for the season, beginning Saturday, May 15, in Rockville Town Center on the corner of Route 28 and Monroe Street. For more information go to:

The Montgomery County Council will Interview Four for Chair of County Planning Board on Wednesday, May 12 - The Montgomery County Council will interview four applicants who are interested in filling the position on the Montgomery County Planning Board for the expiring term of Royce Hanson (Democrat). His term will expire on June 14, 2010. Dr. Hanson, who is chair of the Planning Board, did not apply for reappointment. For more information go to:

MCPS Study Documents Positive Effects of Full-Day Prekindergarten - Students in Montgomery County Public Schools‚ (MCPS) full-day Head Start prekindergarten (pre-K) program are generally more ready for kindergarten and demonstrate higher academic performance in kindergarten, according to a school system report. For more information go to:

Rockville Mayor and Council Adopt New "Green" Building Code - At their Monday, May 10, meeting, the Mayor and Council adopted a revised version of Chapter 5 of the City Code, "Buildings and Building Regulations." The ordinance is effective July 1. For more information got to:

VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITIES: NEED STUDENT SERVICE LEARNING CREDITS? - The YMCA Bethesda-Chevy Chase is looking for volunteers to help at their Y Triathlon on May 16, 2010 at 7:30 am. This super sprint triathlon is for ages 10 through adult and includes a 250 yard swim, 4.8 mile bike ride, and a 1.5 mile run. All volunteers will receive a free t-shirt. The YMCA Bethesda-Chevy Chase is located at 9401 Old Georgetown Road in Bethesda, Maryland. For more information or to volunteer, please visit: