June 19, 2010

WHACK: Metro bus driver arrested for assaulting passenger

WASHINGTON - A Metro bus driver has been arrested for assaulting a passenger. The incident happened around 5:30 a.m. Friday on an inbound #71 bus at the corner of Georgia Avenue and Van Buren Street. A spokeswoman for Metro characterized the incident as an "altercation" between the driver and a "disorderly" customer. A witness, who declined to give his name, told FOX 5 that the passenger appeared to be elderly and developmentally disabled. Metro would release no details about the passenger. In any case, Metro Transit Police were summoned to the scene, conducted an investigation, and proceeded to arrest the bus driver. Vento Mickens, who has been driving Metro buses since 1986, was charged with simple assault. Metro said the passenger was treated on the scene by an ambulance crew, and declined an offer to be checked out at a local hospital. Metro spokeswoman Cathy Asato said the transit agency trains its bus drivers to inform passengers of the rules, and not enforce the rules.

Mickens, the driver, has been suspended with pay until the transit system investigates the incident. There have been a series of violent incidents in recent years involving Metro bus drivers, including the case where one bus driver got out of his vehicle and punched a police officer wearing a "McGruff The Crime Dog" costume. Another Metro driver was convicted of assaulting a woman passenger who testified that he pushed her down a stairwell at a Metro station. Asato said the transit agency is developing new training for bus drivers to help them cope better with passengers in disruptive or dangerous situations. SOURCE: FOX DC

County News

District One Democratic Debate ˆ Mark your calendars - A debate of District One democratic candidates will take place on July 14 at 7:00 pm at the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center, 4805 Edgemoor Lane, Bethesda, Md. This debate is hosted by the Bethesda Civic Coalition, the Edgemoor Citizens Association, and the Downtown Bethesda Condominium Association.

The Bethesda Civic Coalition is a group of residents of Bethesda who came together to oppose development in the CBD not in compliance with the Sector Plan who have expanded their mission to include the impact of all aspects of growth in downtown Bethesda on all Montgomery County residents. The Edgemoor Citizens Association represents neighbors bordering the downtown Bethesda area and is involved in a wide variety of issues impacting neighborhood development, livability, recreation and transportation. The Downtown Bethesda Condominium Association represents 825+ condominium and town house owners in our downtown.

Clara Barton Summer Fun Center - For families with children ages 5-12: sign up now! The Clara Barton Community Center, 7425 MacArthur Blvd., in Cabin John is hosting a summer of fun -weekdays, June 28th through August 6th, 9 am-4pm. There‚ll be indoor and outdoor activities for children, including arts and crafts projects (from tie-dye shirts to jewelry), pizza days (Tuesday and Thursday), and water play on Fridays. The Clara Barton Summer Fun Center is well planned and supervised by a variety of staff members. This is a fun way for kids to spend their days at different sports, music, arts, crafts, and more. The cost? Very reasonable! $240 for all six weeks. Children may come every day or whenever they wish. Remember to pack a lunch. No transportation is provided for the children, but there is a bus stop on MacArthur Blvd. near the Center for Ride-On bus, No. 32), and staff will escort children to the stop and wait with them. Questions? Call the Center at 301-229-0010. (The director of the Center, a facility of the Montgomery County Recreation Department, is Modestine Snead.) The Center‚s web site is http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/rectmpl.asp?url=/content/REC/recipix/clara_cen.asp

End-of-Life Who Decides? - Planning ahead and making our wishes known can lighten the burden on our loved ones and help ensure that we can have death on our own terms. With only one in four people having an advance directive in place, critical decision making is and will be left to others at the end of life. Chevy Chase Town Hall (Lawton Recreation Center). 4301 Willow Lane, Chevy Chase, MD 20815. Thursday, July 8th 2010. 12:00 pm - 3:30 pm. Guest Speakers: Donna Wagner, Ph.D., President of National Owl; Councilwoman Duchy Trachtenberg, Montgomery County Council; Paul Ballard, Asst. Attorney General, State of MD Counsel, Health Decisions Policy.

Public Notices for Rockville Housing Enterprises - Public Housing Wait List will be open to receive pre-applications from 8:30am June 22 to 5:00pm June 24, 2010 for 3 and 4 Bedroom Units. For more information go to: http://www.rockvillehe.org/notice.html

Give Blood Give Life - Every two seconds someone in America needs blood, and with every unit of blood you donate, you can save as many as three lives! Mark your calendars and give blood on Wednesday, June 30 (10:00am-4:00pm) at Suburban Hospital; or on Sunday, July 11 (9:00am-1:00pm) at the Bethesda Central Farmers Market and help make a difference. The summer is an especially important time for blood banks, so please pass this info on to your friends, families, and co-workers to make these drives as successful as possible.

Montgomery County has burst of robberies

Maryland’s wealthiest county has seen a steady decrease in crime over the last decade. But one category hasn’t faired as well, robberies. Montgomery County has seen the number of robberies jump from 654 in 1999 to 1,100 in 2008. The reason, Police Chief J. Thomas Manger told the Washington Examiner, is gangs. Pack robberies in which gangs roam streets and attack unsuspecting residents is, “the biggest problem we’re facing right now,” Manger said. Despite a rising population, Montgomery County has been successful in keeping crime down. But authorities say that state laws against gangs and less stringent sentencing have kept them from being able to bring down the robbery rate. Fairfax County, Va., a twin county to Montgomery, has had more success in decreasing crime thanks in part to strict gang laws. Authorities believe those gangs that once resided in Northern Virginia have now moved into Maryland and Montgomery County.

“The fact is we don’t keep bad guys in jail as long as the state of Virginia,” Manger told the Examiner. “That never ceases to make my head explode. The solution for [Maryland] is we’d rather release [criminals] back into the community than pay the extra money.”

Officers often see the same people on the street that they arrested just days earlier, and many times they say those arrests were made because of robberies. A law broadening the definition of gang activity was passed by the Maryland General Assembly earlier this year. It also made it easier to prosecute gang related crimes. But those looking for more gang prevention say the law was needed years ago. The county is responding by putting more robbery detectives on the force and putting officers along the Prince George’s County line and in Gaithersburg, two problem areas. SOURCE: NBC

June 18, 2010

Martin v. Bob and the Jewish vote

By Barbara Pash. For MarylandReporter.com

With two published polls showing the race for governor neck-and-neck, the contest to win “subsets” of voters becomes more crucial and this certainly applies to Maryland’s large Jewish community. Where its vote will go depends on whom you talk to.

“My sense is that Jewish voters remain overwhelmingly Democratic and overwhelmingly pro-O’Malley,” said state Sen. Jamie Raskin, a Montgomery County Democrat. “In every congregation in my district, O’Malley is very popular.”

Lee Cowan, active in the Maryland Jewish Republican coalition, sees it differently. “Erhlich had a lot of success working with and being embraced by the Jewish community of Maryland,” he said.

One estimate puts the number Jews at around 300,000 in a statewide population of some 5.6 million. The Jewish community is concentrated in Montgomery County (about 100,000) and Baltimore City-County (about 95,000 ). They appear to be overwhelmingly Democratic. Of the approximately 180,000 registered Jewish voters, they are said to break 70 percent Democratic, 20 percent Republican and 10 percent independent or in other parties. Raskin points out that this voting cycle, the state Democratic Party is even stronger than it was in the previous O’Malley-Ehrlich contest. For the 2008 presidential campaign, the party registered an extra 175,000 voters, a reflection of the enthusiasm for the Barack Obama.

The Democratic Party’s registration advantage has widened considerably since 2006 and Raskin, for one, does not expect Jewish voters to switch party allegiance for Ehrlich. “He hasn’t provided a strong rationale for ousting O’Malley and returning him to office,” said Raskin.

“If Ehrlich is counting on Jewish votes to win,” said Raskin, “it’s not going to happen.”

“Only praise” for O’Malley

Craig Zucker is on leave from the state comptroller’s Office, where he was deputy chief of staff, to run as a Democratic candidate for a Montgomery County delegate’s seat. Like Raskin, Zucker expects O’Malley to capture the majority of the Jewish vote. In the Jewish community, Zucker said, he hears “only praise” for O’Malley, who has visited Israel twice and promotes Maryland-Israel business ties. “That sits well with the Jewish community,” said Zucker.

Republican Cowen said it’s a bit early to be making predictions about gubernatorial winners and losers since political activists and voters are focused on the local council and legislative races. Still, Cowen feels that, given Ehrlich’s popularity in the Jewish community, if there is enough of a backlash among Jewish voters to what they see as Obama’s harsh treatment of Israel, they could well vote for Ehrlich.

Whatever the case, Cowen believes the election is going to be close and, needless to say, he expects Ehrlich to win. State Sen. Paul Pinsky, a Prince George’s County Democrat, dismisses the Israel argument. “This is state politics, not the U.S. Congress, where they get into Israeli foreign policy,” he said. Pinsky does not think that Erhlich has offered anything new to make Jews vote for him, but he does not believe that the community’s vote will play a major role in the election. The reason? Because they have consistent turnout and they consistently vote Democratic. Pinsky said the much larger African-American community, perhaps a quarter of the state population, is a more influential subset. “They’re mainly Democratic but the turnout is not as consistent,” he said.

Montgomery County role

Ronald Halber of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington begs to differ. The executive director of the political arm of the greater D.C. Jewish community believes Jews will play a major role, particularly how they vote in Montgomery County.

“Ehrlich has to get 35 to 40 percent of Montgomery County to win the election,” Halber said, and the Jewish community there, he has heard, “represents one-third of the Democratic voters.”

As it has in the past, Halber expects the Montgomery County Jewish community to vote largely Democratic, although he hedges his bets by noting that the poor economy and dissatisfaction with President Obama might move some Jewish voters to Ehrlich.

Arthur Abramson, executive director of the Baltimore Jewish Council, the political arm of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, sees a different scenario. He calls both candidates “good friends” of the Jewish community and believes that they will split the Jewish vote throughout the state. SOURCE: MarylandReporter.com

Redskins re-establish 'broken; bond with ex-greats

Virginia county chairman wants Arizona illegal immigration law in Virginia

WOODBRIDGE, Va. - Prince William County's Chairman of the Board of Supervisors wants Virginia immigration law to be a lot like Arizona's. Corey Stewart has started an online petition and a Facebook page for his "Rule of Law Campaign.” He says the county's controversial crackdown three years ago simply sent violators to other counties in the state. He believes the political climate is right. But opponents say Prince William County's crackdown had to be watered down to pass constitutional muster. They say immigration reform is needed but any new law should wait to see the outcome of the law in Arizona. It already faces a handful of legal challenges and the feds are also threatening to take the state to court. LINK: www.coreystewart.com/ruleoflaw

Virginia and Maryland talk tech firms and investors

Investors who fund tech startups in Virginia over the next three years won’t pay a dime in state capital gains tax on the eventual profits — part of the commonwealth’s aggressive bid to lure new technology investment through a package of new incentives and policy changes. State officials are betting that the benefits of attracting corporate relocations, startups and venture capital will outweigh the loss of immediate or potential tax revenue. And they’ve placed an especially heavy stake in the tech sector, offering a bundle of enticements geared specifically for IT, biotech, green energy and other related enterprises.

Maryland also queued up two key tax policy changes for July 1, passing a 10-year extension of the research-and-development tax credit and increasing funding for the coveted biotech tax credit to $8 million, from $6 million. Montgomery County has passed, but not yet funded, a similar supplemental credit. Virginia’s long-term capital gains exclusion will mean a venture capitalist who backs a successful startup, and the entrepreneur, could see millions in additional profits when they sell the company years later.

“That’s a pretty powerful message,” said John Backus, founder and managing partner of Reston-based venture capital fund New Atlantic Ventures. Every entrepreneur, he said, has big dreams when he or she starts a business. And though not all of them fulfill those dreams, “the ones who do are going to make a lot of money” under the capital gains tax break. Virginia taxes capital gains at the same rate as income: 5.75 percent. To qualify, the company must have had less than $3 million in revenue in the fiscal year prior to the investment, which must take place before June 2013. The exemption, sponsored by Sen. Mark Herring, D-Leesburg, passed nearly unopposed in both the Virginia House and Senate this year with

the heavy backing of Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell. Backus co-chaired the technology policy work group for McDonnell’s transition team. Virginia lawmakers also upped the $3 million cap for the perennially oversubscribed angel investor tax credit to $5 million. They put in place a $500 tax credit for each clean-energy job an employer creates, up to 350 jobs. Tech companies could also benefit from a change to the major business facility job tax credit, as the General Assembly lowered the job-creation threshold for receiving the $1,000 credit from 100 new employees to 50.

“For us, it’s all about competitive advantage,” said Josh Levi, vice president of policy for the Northern Virginia Technology Council. “These tools give us a competitive advantage in ensuring Virginia is the preferred destination for technology businesses.”

That escalating competition — fueled by more and more tax dollars — is starkly on display as Govs. McDonnell and Martin O’Malley, a Democrat, jockey for economic development bragging rights. Virginia recently won a high-profile headquarters relocation for Northrop Grumman Corp., aided by up to $14 million in state grants and proximity to the Pentagon, its biggest customer. O’Malley shortly after rolled out a vast proposal to kick-start tech investment — dubbed InvestMaryland. The blueprint seeks to raise $100 million in venture capital by offering deferred tax credits to insurance companies that invest in Maryland VC funds. Biotech in Maryland saw a 26 percent drop in VC funding in the first quarter of 2010, according to the governor. O’Malley’s proposal will require legislative approval.

Former Gov. Robert Ehrlich, who is running against O’Malley, has unveiled a competing plan to promote entrepreneurship. He wants to cuts the state’s corporate income and sales taxes. SOURCE: Washington Business Journal

'Who Stole the Electric Car' movie hits Netflix!

I want to let everyone know of my friend in the movie business, Scott duPont, and yet another movie he has just produced: Who Stole the Electric Car? Here's the plot:

While attempting to show his girlfriend (Megan Brotherton) that he truly cares about the environment, self-absorbed Guy (Carl Fieler) ends up stealing the world's first electric car, taking a hostage (John Brody) and embarking on a wild cross-country road trip with the cops hot on his tail. This zany comedy inspired by the documentary Who Killed the Electric Car? co-stars Chris Shields as Guy's vegetarian sidekick.

Put it on your Netflix queue! To interview Scott duPont, call 407-738-1608 or email him at ScottDup@juno.com.

Thoughts about public safety employer-employee cooperation act

For clear evidence that the Senate Republican caucus contains a not inconsiderable number of lunatics, check out this story from Kris Maher in the WSJ (you’ll notice that I read the paper very closely today — blame the iPad app):

The Senate is moving closer to passing legislation that would require states to grant public-safety employees, including police, firefighters and emergency medical workers, the right to collectively bargain over hours and wages. The bill, known as the Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act, would mainly affect about 20 states that don’t grant collective-bargaining rights statewide for public-safety workers or that prohibit such bargaining.

And here’s the clincher:

The bill, backed by at least six Republicans in the Senate, prohibits strikes and leaves to states’ discretion whether to engage in collective bargaining in several areas, including health benefits and pensions.

My strong inclination would be to banish all six from the Republican caucus, but that could be too hasty a judgment. How can we understand the non-logic of those who are even considering voting for the scandalously bad bill? Sen. Mike Johanns of Nebraska dares to call the bill reasonable.

Republican Sen. Mike Johanns of Nebraska called the bill “reasonable.” “For several years now, we’ve seen the benefit of a similar policy in Nebraska which prevents public employees from going on strike while helping to establish reasonable compensation ranges.”

Many Nebraskans also tout the benefits of the state’s unicameral legislature. One wonders if Sen. Johanns will now impose unicameralism on the rest of the 50 states, or if he will decide, in what we might call the “Nebraskaization Initiative,” to identify policies that have succeeded in Nebraska and forcibly impose them on the rest of the country. And then we learn the following:

The other Republican co-sponsors in the Senate are Scott Brown of Massachusetts, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

I’ve long believed that the Republican Party should allow for more ideological diversity. But I’m not sure that principle should extend to the embrace of politicians who fail to understand the virtues of a federal system, in which states are given room to pursue a wide variety of different policy approaches. The extent of the power-grab defies belief.

If the legislation passes and states choose not to grant the minimum collective-bargaining rights outlined in the bill, the Federal Labor Relations Authority, which oversees labor-management relations for federal employees, would step in and implement collective-bargaining rights for these workers.

Organized labor — increasingly dominated by public-sector workers — sees this as compensation for the failure of their card-check effort. The losers in this scenario will be taxpayers.

“If states and localities have chosen not to go in the direction of collective bargaining, that should be their right to do so,” said Neil Bomberg, a lobbyist for the National League of Cities. Currently, 15 states don’t grant collective-bargaining rights to public-safety workers on a statewide basis, two states, Virginia and North Carolina, prohibit such workers from bargaining, and four states allow collective bargaining for firefighters but not for police.

Notice that Virginia is on the list. Remember that Washington Post editorial from a few weeks back, “A tale of two counties”?

Virginia law denies public employees collective bargaining rights; that’s helped Fairfax resist budget-busting wage and benefit demands. As revenue dipped two years ago, Fairfax officials froze all salaries for county government and school employees with little ado. By contrast, Montgomery leaders were badly equipped to cope with recession. County Executive Isiah Leggett took office proposing fat budgets and negotiating openhanded union deals after he succeeded Mr. Duncan. Then, as economic storm clouds gathered, he shifted gears and cut spending — while still trying to appease the unions.

Essentially, this legislation would deny other states the opportunity to escape the vise-like grip public employees have placed on taxpayers in Montgomery County and other jurisdictions around the country. Rest assured, the focus on police officers and firefighters is only an entering wedge. This legislation will also undermine Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels successful efforts to reduce spending and improve the cost-effectiveness of public services. A while back, Josh Barro suggested that police unions were becoming the new teachers unions. I’m a great admirer of the women and men who risk their lives to protect public safety. But I’m not an admirer of union leaders who use goodwill for public safety officers to negotiate wage agreements that really will endanger core public services. We shouldn’t accept bullying by public school teachers, and we shouldn’t accept bullying by police unions either. SOURCE: National Review

9:30 club sues over live concert venue in Silver Spring

The owner of the District's 9:30 club is suing to prevent Maryland from giving Montgomery County $4 million to help build a music venue in downtown Silver Spring, saying government officials are hiding the project's real costs. Live Nation, a major force in the music business with artists such as U2, Madonna and the Eagles, would rent out the venue on Colesville Road and hold rock-style concerts for about 2,000 standing patrons. Ground is expected to be broken this year on what will be known as Fillmore Silver Spring.

The lawsuit against the state, filed this week in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court by the club's parent company, IMP Inc., and that company's co-owner Seth Hurwitz, challenges the state subsidy for the project; Montgomery County is also spending $4 million in county funds. The suit says state officials would be breaking the law by paying the subsidy because Montgomery has provided only "skimpy" information about the project's costs, despite requirements by the General Assembly for more information.

"It's bad enough they're laying off teachers, cutting budgets and expecting everyone else to make sacrifices at the same time they're spending $8 million to build a rock club, but the least the government can do is follow the law in the process," Hurwitz said.

A spokesman for Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) disputed the claims and said the county has "met the conditions" required by the General Assembly, which also has been affirmed in writing by the chairmen of the budget and appropriations committees.

Hurwitz, whose company also books acts for Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia and Rams Head Live in Baltimore, has questioned the deal before. He says Montgomery officials should have put the operating agreement out to bid instead of privately negotiating with Live Nation after a deal with the Alexandria-based Birchmere went sour. He also has said his company could create a music venue in Silver Spring without public funds.

The Live Nation deal, crafted by the Leggett administration, would be the first for-profit arts venue to receive direct subsidies in Montgomery. The arrangement, approved by the County Council, compels Montgomery to absorb any cost overruns, which have occurred before in county construction of arts venues. During the administration of County Executive Douglas M. Duncan (D), the $100 million Music Center at Strathmore was $50 million over projections; there were also overruns at the American Film Institute and the Round House Theatre, both in Silver Spring. In most instances, public funds made up the difference in the overruns for those nonprofit ventures. SOURCE: Washington Post

June 17, 2010

Gaithersburg Rotary and CSAAC announce Monte Carlo Night with Miss Maryland

There will be fun for all at a Monte Carlo Night, June 25th at the Holiday Inn on Montgomery Village Avenue. The event will feature games of chance, amazing card tricks, your photograph with Miss Maryland International, a DJ for dancing, and silent auction prizes including a round of golf, club-level seats for a Redskins game and a new Gucci purse. This is an activity of the Gaithersburg Rotary Club to raise funds for its local and international service projects. More information, and on-line ticket sales, are on the website, www.gaithersburgrotary.org.

U.S. Senate debate for all Maryland candidates on 7/20

June 17, 2010 - The Montgomery County Chapter of Americans for Prosperity and the Montgomery County Young Republicans are proud to announce a scheduled debate featuring the candidates seeking to represent the State of Maryland in the United States Senate.  All of the filed candidates including the incumbent Senator have been invited to attend.  See the attached advertisement for the confirmed attendees to date. The debate will be held at the Earle Wood Middle School at 14615 Bauer Drive in Rockville, Maryland on Tuesday, July 20th at 7pm.  This event will be moderated by Brian Karem, Managing Editor of the Montgomery Sentinel.  This event is free and open to everyone!  Please forward this event information to all interested parties.

Pollard begins at Montgomery College

Dr. DeRionne P. Pollard has been named as the next president of Montgomery College. The College’s Board of Trustees made the announcement on May 18 in a communication to students, faculty, and staff. Dr. Pollard brings 15 years of community college teaching and leadership experience to Montgomery College. She currently serves as the president of Las Positas College in Livermore, California.

“The Board of Trustees looks forward to the leadership that Dr. Pollard will bring to one of the country’s best community colleges,” said Dr. Michael Lin, chair of the Montgomery College Board of Trustees. “Throughout the search process, Dr. Pollard impressed both the board and the search advisory committee by her passion and devotion to the advancement of the community college mission and the students we serve.”

Dr. Pollard will officially start her role as president on August 2, 2010. She will become the ninth chief executive officer in the College’s 64-year history.

“I am thankful and truly honored that the Board of Trustees selected me as the next president of Montgomery College,” said Dr. Pollard. “I am impressed with the caliber of the faculty, staff, administrators and students at Montgomery College. I look forward to meeting and learning from them and the alumni, donors, business community and elected officials who support this wonderful institution and its mission of changing lives.”

Since 2008, Dr. Pollard has led Las Positas College as its president. Under her leadership, the community college has seen nearly a 15 percent increase in enrollment while also implementing an aggressive $230 million facilities modernization program. She pursued and encouraged new and expanded strategic community partnerships, which have led to the increased recognition of Las Positas College within the Tri-Valley region, the state of California, and the country as an institution dedicated to student success and community transformation. Additionally, Las Positas College recently underwent a successful reaccreditation process.

Dr. Pollard’s community college career began as a professor of English at the College of Lake County (IL) in 1995. She taught courses ranging from developmental reading and college composition to minority literature and early American literature. Additionally, she developed the institution’s award-winning New Faculty Institute and its Center for Teaching and Learning. After several progressive administrative positions, Dr. Pollard was selected as the college’s vice president of educational affairs. She served in the position until her appointment as president of Las Positas College.

Dr. Pollard received her Ph.D. in educational leadership and policy studies in higher education from Loyola University Chicago, and both her M.A. and B.A. in English from Iowa State University. SOURCE: Knapp website

Sadly, animal cemetery is in the weeds

The county's Humane Society is still struggling to care for Asp[e]n Hill Memorial Park, the historic cemetery for celebrity and local pets on Georgia Avenue. Waist-high grass blankets many graves laid decades ago among cedars and oaks on the 8-acre tract, which is also an oasis amid asphalt for deer occasionally seen loping around the grounds. Concerns about neglected maintenance at the site led county officials to insist last year that buildings there be repaired or boarded up, which the Montgomery County Humane Society has done as it seeks a way to preserve the property that it once imagined could be a center for humane education.

After a story in The Gazette last July, landscapers mowed and trimmed the cemetery for free. But weeds have outgrown donations again, and maintenance is not always regular, said Jo Ann Hoffman, the society's chairwoman. The society is looking for ground maintenance help, particularly from a company that would donate or deeply discount services, said Cris Bombaugh, the organization's president. In 2007, the county Humane Society became the third animal welfare group to take on responsibility for the property after Dorothy M. Shapiro of Potomac, who purchased it in 1988 to prevent it being developed, sought someone else to care for the cemetery, which had fallen into disrepair.

"They are under an obligation to preserve that property and restore it — that's a sore point," Shapiro said Tuesday.

Other charities have shown interest in taking over the property but have balked because of overdue maintenance that they would have to take on, while donations are lagging with the economy, Shapiro said. SOURCE: Gazette

Montgomery County has 7 schools on Newsweek list; Baltimore County has 12

The county public school system has seven high schools on Newsweek magazine's list of the top 100 public high schools in the nation, the most of any school system. High schools are named to the top 100 list based on their ability to provide all students with access to Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate classes. Last year, the school system placed four schools on the Newsweek top-100 list. The county school system is the only one in Maryland to have high schools on the top-100 list.

Richard Montgomery ranked the highest among local high schools, at 33rd; Poolesville ranked 59th; Bethesda-Chevy Chase, 63rd; Winston Churchill, 75th; Thomas Wootton, 83rd; Walt Whitman, 85th; and Walter Johnson, 95th. All 25 county high schools made Newsweek's rankings of the nation's top 1,622 high schools. To be eligible for the list, at least half of the students at a school must take the AP or IB classes in their junior or senior year. The 1,622 high schools to qualify represent about 6 percent of the nation's public schools, according to the Newsweek website. The other local schools on the list were:

-Montgomery Blair, which ranked 139th;
-Quince Orchard, 218th;
-Paint Branch, 263rd;
-Rockville, 299th;
-Albert Einstein, 361st;
-Sherwood, 364th;
-James Hubert Blake, 433rd;
-Northwest, 439th;
-Col. Zadok Magruder, 481st;
-Gaithersburg, 521st;
-John F. Kennedy, 538th;
-Wheaton, 541st;
-Springbrook, 546th;
-Damascus, 553rd;
-Clarksburg, 656th;
-Seneca Valley, 723rd;
-Watkins Mill, 741st;
-Northwood, 752nd.

Last week, the county school system was recognized for having the highest graduation rate in the nation among large school systems, according to a national report by Education Week. The publication's 2010 Diplomas Count report had the county with a graduation rate of 83 percent of its seniors in 2007, the top figure among the nation's 50 largest school systems.

The Fairfax County school system, in neighboring Virginia, had the second-highest graduation rate at 82 percent, according to the report. In last year's Diplomas Count report, Montgomery County's school system tied for first with the Cypress-Fairbanks school system in Houston. Both systems graduated 81 percent of their students. SOURCE: Gazette

Newsweek lists 12 Baltimore County high schools among nation's best; Montgomery County has 7

Twelve of Baltimore County 24 public high schools have been named to Newsweek magazine’s annual list of “America’s Best High Schools, with nine repeat honorees being joined by two newcomers and another back after a year’s absence. The list 0f 1,622 schools, compiled in collaboration with The Washington Post, represents the top 6 percent of high schools in the nation, based on total student participation in highly rigorous coursework and exams. The 12 county schools are:

• Dulaney High School— ranked 253
• Towson High School — 334
• Carver Center for Arts and Technology — 470
• Eastern Tech — 564
• Pikesville High School — 590
• Hereford High School — 632
• Catonsville High School — 951
• Western School of Technology and Environmental Science —1,179
• Owings Mills High School — 1,240
• Loch Raven High School — 1,302
• Franklin High School — 1,457
• Perry Hall High School — 1,525

Perry Hall and Western Tech are new to the list. Loch Raven was named to the list in 2007 and 2008 but did not make it last year.

Catonsville, Carver, Dulaney, Eastern Tech, Franklin, Hereford, Pikesville and Towson were also named to the list in 2007, 2008 and 2009. Owings Mills was named to the list in 2008 and 2009. Maryland had 98 schools on the list, with seven from Montgomery County in the top 100.

While California (285 schools), New York (162 schools), Florida (135 schools) and Texas (127 schools) had more schools on the list than Maryland, no state had a greater percentage of its schools than Maryland (53 percent). Newsweek’s honor roll is based on an index which divides the number of Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, or Cambridge tests taken by all students at a school in 2009 by the number of the school’s graduating seniors. In 1992-1993, the AP participation rate for Baltimore County Public Schools was about 2 percent, according to the county. Last year, the system’s participation rate was 14.2 percent, more than double the national rate of 7 percent. For the complete list, go to http://www.newsweek.com/tag/americas-best-high-schools.html. SOURCE: Explore Baltimore

Ride On bus by Walt Whitman to change

The County Council decided May 27 to terminate or alter service for 14 Ride On routes. County executive Ike Leggett submitted a proposal March 15 to the County Council that included changes to 18 bus routes. The County Council voted to reject many of the proposed route cuts, including one to Route 29, which students frequently use the route to get from Whitman to downtown Bethesda or Friendship Heights. The County Council understands the effect terminations will have on riders, and worked to make changes with the least impact.

“Those routes that were proposed for elimination were generally our poorest performing services,” said Phil McLaughlin, Ride On operations manager.

The final decision constituted a two percent reduction in Ride On service, while the county executive’s original proposal would have reduced service by 5.5 percent had it been fully approved. The County Council already decided to end the “Kids Ride Free” program that allowed all Montgomery County students to take the bus for free between 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. on weekdays with proper school IDs.

“I work in Bethesda after school, so I take the Ride On once or twice a week,” junior Kristina Laukitaus said. “It would get really expensive to pay every time I take the bus to or from school.”

The route changes will take effect Labor Day. SOURCE: Black & White

Judge throws out speed camera lawsuit; Leggett praises decision

A Circuit Court judge has dismissed a two-year-old class-action lawsuit against speed cameras in Montgomery County and three Maryland cities. Judge David Boynton ruled in favor of Montgomery, Rockville, Chevy Chase Village and Gaithersburg on Tuesday, calling off a two-week trial set to begin July 12. Bowie lawyer Timothy Leahy filed suit in May 2008 saying the jurisdictions have been operating their speed camera programs illegally by paying their camera contractors on a per-ticket basis.

In March 2009, Boynton permitted Leahy to pursue the claim as a class-action suit -- involving anyone who has received a ticket from Montgomery's cameras. Montgomery gives 40 percent of its ticket revenues -- or $16.25 per ticket -- to its contractor, Affiliated Computer Services. Maryland law prohibits per-ticket payments to camera operators to avoid financial incentive for issuing more tickets. Boynton ruled in each case that the jurisdictions, rather than the camera contractors, operate the systems.

"The message is clear," said Patrick Lacefield, spokesman for Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett. "Slow down." He said the county had been confident it would prevail. "We're the operators of the system because we are the final authority when a citation is issued," he said. Montgomery generates about $1.2 million in camera ticket revenue per month. Montgomery's contract with ACS says the compensation rate is based on ACS providing "digital speed camera vehicles, equipment and personnel to service the technology six days a week for two eight-hour shifts per day."

ACS also is responsible for recording, printing and mailing citations as well as collecting ticket payments. After two ACS employees verify a camera ticket and accompanying license plate photo, a police officer in the relevant jurisdiction will approve the citation for ACS to print and mail, according to the contract. SOURCE: Washington Examiner

June 16, 2010

Metro admits escalators have their problems

Anna Bonnie Barrella, of Brookeville, is missing

BETHESDA, Md. - Police are looking for a Brookeville woman who disappeared after a doctor's appointment Tuesday. Anna Bonnie Barrella, 54, of the 2400-block of Honeystone Way has blonde hair and blue eyes. She is about 5' tall and 120 pounds. She drives a white Mercedes C cloass with Maryland tag 29499CD. Barrella was last seen leaving her doctor's office which is located in the 6200-block of Montrose Road in North Bethesda. At her appointment, doctors told her she would require treatment at a hospital for an undisclosed ailment. Police and family and concerned for Barrella's mental state and welfare. If you have any information on Barrella's whereabouts you are asked to call Montgomery County Police at 240-773-5530 or 301-279-8000. SOURCE: ABC2

Park Police President lists issues about proposed merger

Rather than firing 12 park police officers and rather than merging the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission Park Police into the Montgomery County Police Department, maybe the County Council and County Executive Isiah Leggett could save money by trimming the fat off the county police first. For example, Chief Thomas Manger has a staff of 14, one of which is an officer who makes in salary and benefits a total of $205,615. The total cost of the office of the chief is $2.37 million for fiscal 2010. This one office is the equivalent of 20 percent of the total park police budget for Montgomery County for one fiscal year. None of these officers are on the "street" in an enforcement capacity.

Second, is it necessary to pay an assistant chief of police $336,542 in salary and benefits? This is more than Manger makes.

Third, Leggett could easily reduce his security staff or at best limit their salaries. As it stands, the price of his staff, which is $360,000, would have funded approximately eight officers of the Maryland-National Capital Park Police for one fiscal year. It is reminded that these four "officers" do nothing more than serve the executive. They enforce no laws.

Fourth, Leggett should take a serious look at the need of a police helicopter program. The county's need of such an expensive luxury should be seriously reconsidered in this time of fiscal crisis. The helicopter program has not yet gotten off the ground; no county police helicopter has flown any mission to date, but the pilots have gotten raises ["Extra pay for helicopter officers in new police contract," April 21].

The question is how will this proposed merger provide any savings? It won't, but it will have a cost. The fact is that the county police is a top-notch agency, but it responds to calls for service only. As Joe Beach, the director of the Office of Budget and Management, said to the council's Public Safety Committee on April 28, "There would be a significant decrease in service to the parks" if a merger was to occur. In this same hearing, Manger said that the parks would be "patrolled less often" in other words; the parks would not be a priority for the county police.

County police will not proactively patrol park lands unless they are called for a crime. The cost will be a severe drop in proactive police patrols of the park system; the loss of the horse mounted patrols; an increase in environmental and natural resources crimes; an increase in gang crime and an overall decline in a five-time nationally recognized park system. The merger is in fact a colossal mistake that will have unseen and unintended consequences. One simply needs to look to the city of Austin, Texas, which took upon this same merger idea in 2008, and they severely regret it. If saving money is what the executive wants, then he need not look any farther than his own police agency, but I have the feeling that saving money is not the motivation; it seems to be a greedy power grab and the citizens who use the parks will be the victims ... literally.

Sgt. Michael Young, Rockville
The writer is president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 30.
SOURCE: Gazette

Springbrook High School science teacher arrested for cocaine at Dewey Beach

Dewey Beach, Del. --- With less than a week remaining in the school year, a Montgomery County high school science teacher has been placed on administrative leave after he was allegedly caught doing drugs in Dewey Beach, Delaware. According to court documents, 49-year-old Daren Noah Dembrow of Silver Spring, Maryland knowingly possessed narcotics and drug paraphernalia used to sniff cocaine. In his complaint and warrant, Patrolman Paul W. Hudson states that he was on routine patrol on the bayside of New Orleans Street when he saw Dembrow walking west on New Orleans Street toward Bayard Avenue around 12:05 a.m. this past Saturday.

“The defendant pulled out of his left hand pocket a blue straw and a small baggie that contained a white substance.” Ptlm. Hudson states in his warrant. Ptlm. Hudson says he then saw Dembrow sniff the white substance into his nose through the blue straw. Dembrow then placed both the bag and blue straw back into his left hand pocket.

That is when the officer says he confronted Dembrow and identified himself as “Ptlm. Hudson, of the Dewey Beach Police Department.” Dembrow allegedly replied with “Na, I’m good” and attempted to walk away. The officer stopped Dembrow and asked him to place his hands behind his back and he was then handcuffed. Dembrow was placed under arrest and taken to the police station where the narcotic and blue straw both tested positive for cocaine. The complaint alleges that he had 0.5 grams of cocaine in the bag. Dana Tofig, a spokesperson for the Montgomery County Public Schools, says Dembrow is a science teacher from Springbrook High School. He has worked for the school system since August 2007. Tofig says Dembrow will be placed on administrative leave pending a school investigation. Wednesday, June 16, is the last day of school. SOURCE: Washington DC Examiner

June 15, 2010

Gaithersburg government to install 6 surveillance cameras

Congress candidate Bruce Stern opposes $50B bailout

June 15, 2010 (Rockville, Maryland): Maryland Republican Congressional Candidate Bruce Stern today voiced his opposition to President Obama's request to Congress to quickly approve an additional $50 billion in emergency aid to state and local governments. In a letter written over the weekend to lawmakers, the President claimed this new stimulus spending bill is necessary to prevent "massive layoffs" of police, firefighters and teachers employed by state and local governments.

In speaking out against the President's new stimulus bill, Mr. Stern stated: "The President just does not get it. The last thing this country needs right now is to add another $50 billion to our national debt. Federal spending has been so out of control lately that even Democrats are balking at the President's request and there is talk by the Democratic Congressional Leadership of "spending fatigue" in Congress. Furthermore, by classifying this spending bill as "emergency funding," the President avoids the PAYGO rules and the requirement that Congress find budget offsets for this massive new spending bill."

Mr. Stern continued: "The President's economic policy is all over the map. On the one hand, he appoints a bi-partisan commission to focus on cutting the national debt and reducing the deficit and, on the other, he is seeking passage of a massive new stimulus bill that will add tens of billions of dollars to the deficit. The President is clearly starting to feel the pressure of the upcoming mid-term elections and with this new stimulus bill is seeking to do anything to reduce the unemployment rate, irrespective of the long-term costs to the country. Although I understand and appreciate the value of teachers, police officers and fire fighters, and the services they provide to our local communities, the Federal government is not in a position to provide $50 billion in funding to state and local governments to help safeguard at-risk municipal positions. Funding for these jobs needs to come from the state and local governments, not U.S. taxpayers."

Mr. Stern, 45, is seeking the Republican nomination for the U.S. House of Representatives' seat representing Maryland's Eighth Congressional District. He is a practicing attorney and the principal of Stern & Associates, a Montgomery County law firm. He is also the owner of Peninsula Settlements, LLC, a real estate settlement company based in Montgomery County. He lives with his wife Nicole, a Psychologist, and their three daughters, in Gaithersburg. Additional information on Mr. Stern and his campaign is available online at www.sternforcongress.com.

Outgoing planning chairman openly discusses problems with Montgomery County executive & council

By Miranda S. Spivack
Washington Post Staff Writer. Monday, June 14, 2010; B01

If Royce Hanson could rewind to 2006, when he left a comfortable academic post to resuscitate Montgomery County's parks and planning agency, he would probably say thanks, but no thanks.

"I had operated under what turns out to be a false assumption: that the planning board is the principal adviser to the County Council on planning matters. It turns out that in many cases, the board is given no more credit . . . than somebody who walks in off the street. "Had I known . . . I probably would not have come back under any circumstances," said Hanson, 78, whose term ended last week. Nationally recognized for innovative thinking about planning, Hanson was embraced by the council to lead the county out of the thicket of Clarksburg, a roiling controversy in 2006 that had become synonymous with lax oversight of development.

It was Hanson's second tour of duty; he had chaired the board more than 30 years earlier, when he led the effort to protect 93,000 agricultural acres in the county as a development-free zone and helped formulate the law that allows growth if there are enough schools and roads to support it. Taking the helm again, Hanson put in place a final design for the urbanizing suburb, creating a vision for revamping Rockville Pike into an urban center and leading efforts to create a biosciences community near Gaithersburg. He also tightened environmental enforcement -- although not enough, in the eyes of many local environmentalists -- and stepped up oversight of construction violations. He launched a major rewrite of the county's complicated zoning law and tried to weather substantial budget cuts.

In many ways, Hanson has helped Montgomery rethink the way it manages growth. "There is more focus on what the outcome is and whether that is good for us as a community. He has helped foster that," said Patrick O'Neill, a development lawyer and president of the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Chamber of Commerce.

Jim Humphrey, a land-use expert for Montgomery's County Civic Federation, said he thinks that Hanson had done much to improve enforcement after Clarksburg but still worries that developers have the upper hand. "The planning department has still been allowed to act more as a partner with developers than keeping true to approved visions for communities," he said.

Council member Marc Elrich (D-At Large) also praised Hanson for his post-Clarksburg improvements. "He said, 'The buck stops here, and we are going to do things differently,' and he did." But Elrich said that Hanson and his top lieutenant, Rollin Stanley, who is also widely regarded as a creative thinker about planning, too often ignored other viewpoints, especially on matters of traffic and density. "The question should be, 'How can I allow more growth without wrecking the place?' " Elrich said.

'Natural tensions'

With such a bulging résumé, Hanson should feel some satisfaction. But his tenure has been bittersweet, his dealings with elected officials a major reason for his frustrations. Too often, he said, he has bumped into what he thinks is a "concerted effort" by politicians to diminish the planning agency's role and wrest control from the semiautonomous five-member planning board. As a former candidate for county executive and for Congress, who led reapportionment efforts that sparked a Supreme Court ruling striking down Maryland's system as discriminatory, Hanson knows that elected officials ignore their in-box at their peril. Planners, he said, can help them balance the needs of the present with their hopes for the future by persuading politicians "to imagine something different for people who are not calling, because many of them have not been born or have not moved to the county."

Timothy Firestine, the top aide to County Executive Isiah Leggett (D), acknowledged Hanson's frustrations. But he said they are due to "natural tensions" among political leaders, developers and planners.

"I know that Royce feels that way, but . . . there was no concerted effort to say, 'Let's diminish their role.' "

Leggett had his own frustrations, Firestine said. The planning agency's sometimes ponderous approach slowed things down, forcing the executive branch to fend off complaints that Montgomery is a place where process impedes progress. "It wasn't good marketing, so to speak," Firestine said.

An unplanned detour

Hanson had not planned to come back. He had written a series of policy papers for the council after Clarksburg, advising how to right the agency and pick a chairman. Council members decided against reappointing their former colleague, Derick Berlage, as planning board chairman and eventually asked Hanson to take the job, which paid about $150,000. He accepted reluctantly, having a long list of other personal priorities, such as continuing his academic research and writing more books about planning and constitutional law.

For the first year, things seemed smooth. Hanson set up new procedures within the agency to guard against more Clarksburgs. But soon there were challenges. The council took up the planning board's proposed growth policy and substantially revised proposed changes or simply ignored them, saying they did not mesh with the council's vision and could bring too much congestion. Last year, council members embraced some of Hanson's proposals for more dense, urban development but also rejected a key component: a test to show how much traffic is too much.

Planning board member Joseph Alfandre said he sometimes found agency proposals confusing but that some of that was because board members often were kept in the dark about details. "I don't think there will ever be a watchdog as watchful as Royce," he said. But, he said, he looks forward to the arrival of Francoise Carrier, who has been named to succeed Hanson and who he thinks may operate more collegially. "I think we are capable of so much more."

An academic approach

Trained as a lawyer and planner, Hanson would occasionally vent in public when his views were challenged, at times sounding like an exasperated parent. Other times, he could meticulously walk his audience through plans, explain why the agency's approach worked and win over his critics.

Board vice chairman Marye Wells-Harley, appointed a year ago to the panel, found Hanson's vast knowledge indispensable. "He was a great mentor," she said.

But as the planning agency moved ahead with a series of blueprints for big chunks of the county, the council's staff was less hospitable. Hanson said the staff sometimes acted as "a super planning agency." The Leggett administration also caught his ire when the county executive sought to make an end run around the planning board in the name of economic development to push projects including a Live Nation venue in Silver Spring or a Costco in Wheaton.

"If there is any big disappointment, I feel like I have lost the confidence of the council, on and off but particularly in the last year," Hanson said, despite persuading it to consider ways to accommodate more growth and center it near public transit. "The only way that a chairman here or a board here can serve them well is to tell them from time to time things they do not want to hear," he added.

Hanson finds debate healthy, if sometimes disappointing. "My view is that conflict is useful. It illuminates choices that are real. One should not, in the interest of some kind of cooperative pablum, not vigorously defend positions that you think are correct." At the same time, he said, "you should be willing to accept reasonable accommodations."

For his next act, Hanson plans to write at least three more books, including one on planning that will use Montgomery as a case study.

"Some of what happened in the county is instructive to follow," he said. "And some of it is instructive to avoid." SOURCE: Washington Post

June 14, 2010

County news

Quince Orchard Library to Host 11th Annual Community Day - A magic show by Tom Lilly, arts and crafts, face painting, the U.S. Navy Band Woodwind Quintet and Master Gardeners are part of the family-oriented attractions of the 11th Annual Community Day to be held at the Quince Orchard Library, 15831 Quince Orchard Rd., Gaithersburg, on June 19 from 11 am to 3 pm. For more information go to: http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/apps/News/press/PR_details.asp?PrID=6671

Foreclosures Tapped For Cheap Housing - Montgomery County, MD officials initiate a state-sponsored effort to convert foreclosed homes to affordable housing for low- to moderate-income families as part of the Obama administration's $3.9 billion Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP). For more information go to: http://www.hocmc.org/News/Newsroom/HousingAffairsLetternewsaboutHOCpurchaseofforeclosures.asp

Montgomery County Maryland Hiring Firefighter/Rescuer Recruits - Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service (MCFRS) is now accepting applications for the position of Firefighter/Rescuer I Recruit. Two separate recruit classes are anticipated; however both classes will be dependent on available funding. Recruit Class „A‰ is open to applicants with no previous experience or training. Recruit Class „B‰ is open to applicants that possess a specific level of training at the time of application. For more information go to: http://mcfrs.blogspot.com/2010/06/montgomery-county-maryland-hiring.html

Quality of Life Committee Meeting - The Western Montgomery County Citizens Advisory Board‚s Quality of Life Committee will meet on Friday, June 18, 2010, 9:00 am at the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center, 4805 Edgemoor Lane, Bethesda, MD. Topics include: Senior Services at the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center and the Youth Advisory Committee. If you have questions or need special accommodations contact Debra Atkins at 240-777-8200 or email her at debra.atkins@montgomerycountymd.gov

Peeping Tom Incidents in North Bethesda - Montgomery County Police 2nd District detectives are investigating „peeping tom‰ incidents that have occurred in North Bethesda. Since April 26, 2010, there have been four reports of „peeping tom‰ activity at residential apartments which all involve a similarly described black male suspect, in his 30‚s or 40‚s. One other incident may be related, but the suspect fled before his intentions were clear. The incidents have occurred at night and during early morning hours. For more information go to: http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/Apps/Police/News/NA_details.asp?NaID=5498

MCPL - Help us plan library programming. To participate in a short online survey go to: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/6F7RX8S

The Master Gardener Plant Clinics are Back!

Davis Library
Dates: Saturdays, April - Sept, 2010. Time:10:00 AM
The Master Gardeners from Montgomery County Cooperative Extension will offer their highly popular plant clinic at the Davis Library, Saturdays, April through Sept between the hours of 10:00 am and 1:00 pm. Bring your ailing plants or any other gardening questions for expert advice. Free. No registration required.

Twinbrook Library
Dates: Once per month between April - Sept 2010. Time:10:00 AM

The Master Gardeners from Montgomery County Cooperative Extension will offer their highly popular plant clinic at the Twinbrook Library, once per month from April through Sept between the hours of 10:00 am and 1:00 pm. Bring your ailing plants or any other gardening questions for expert advice. Free. No registration required.

Germantown Library
Dates: Wednesdays, May - Sept 2010. Time:7:00 PM

The Master Gardeners from Montgomery County Cooperative Extension will offer their highly popular plant clinic at the Germantown Library, Wednesday evenings May through Sept between the hours of 7:00 pm and 8:30 pm. Bring your ailing plants or any other gardening questions for expert advice. Free. No registration required.

MCPS Has Seven Schools in Newsweek's Top 100 List - Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) has seven schools on Newsweek's list of the top 100 public high schools in the nation˜the most by one district. For more information go to: http://www.montgomeryschoolsmd.org/press/index.aspx?page=showrelease&id=2783

Rockville Science Center, Energy Savings and Reduced Environmental Impact - As part of the MC's Green Routine, the new Rockville Campus Student Services Center (scheduled to open in fall 2011) is being submitted for Gold certification under the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design(LEED) Rating System. For more information go to: http://insidemc.montgomerycollege.edu/showStory.php?id=20017

Bethesda Fresh Farm Market ˆ On Saturdays, June 19 - October 30 from 9am - 1pm, Norfolk Avenue between Fairmont & St. Elmo Aves. For more information go to: http://www.bethesda.org/bethesda/farmers-market

Public Comment Period Remains Open for Master Plan Elements Through June 16 - The City of Rockville invites comments on the proposed changes to the Master Plan for the City. Comment should focus on the addition of two new state-required elements: the Municipal Growth Element and Water Resource Element. For more information go to: http://www.rockvillemd.gov/news/2010/06-june/06-11-10b.html

Habitat for Humanity Homeowner Information Session - Learn about the Habitat homeownership model, requirements for purchasing a home, the selection process, selection criteria, etc. Will be held on June 16th from 6:30-8:30 pm at Habitat for Humanity, 9110 Gaither Road Gaithersburg, MD. For more information go to http://www.habitat-mc.org/homeownership/ or call(301) 990-0014 x26.

Western Montgomery County Citizens Advisory Board Meeting - The Western Montgomery County Citizens Advisory Board will meet on Monday June 21, 7:00 pm at the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center, 4805 Edgemoor Lane, Bethesda, 2nd floor. Guest speakers include Councilmembers Roger Berliner and Duchy Trachtenberg. Call Debra Atkins at 240-777-8200, if you have questions or need further information.

Catch a Movie on the Square - Movies on the Square kicks off Wednesday, June 16, with the showing of "Julie & Julia" at 8:45 pm in Rockville Town Square. Bring the family to enjoy a free outdoor movie.

2010 Brain Health Week - Join us for Brain Health Week‚s fun-filled events and activities promoting brain health awareness, education, and healthy lifestyles. Many events are free to the public; and with a majority of the activities taking place at Washingtonian Center and RIO, 9811 Washingtonian Blvd, Gaithersburg, MD. Area employers are encouraged to promote the activities amongst their staff on Sunday, June 20th through Friday, June 25th, 2010. For more information go to: http://alznca.kintera.org/faf/home/default.asp?ievent=340120

Guess the vegetables and fruit in Daniel's garden

ANSWERS: Strawberries, turnips, beans, tomatoes, grapes, cucumbers, radish.

Vovak against new Maryland license plate glamorizing war

Daniel Vovak, a Republican candidate for Montgomery County Executive, has stated that if he is elected as Montgomery County Executive that he will challenge the new Maryland license plate's motto and design, which will be the default license plate on every Maryland vehicle.

"I do not support the glamorization of war, which is what Governor O'Malley is trumpeting with this new license plate," says Vovak. "If the governor wants to brag about Maryland's war history, then let him do it in Annapolis, but not in Montgomery County. I don't want my car serving as an advertisement promoting any war agenda and I'm sure my sentiments are echoed by many others in Montgomery County and in the State of Maryland, where the bitter memory of the Battle of Antietam is vivid. In Montgomery County, we love peace, not war! Beyond that, this new Maryland license plate just makes Maryland look ugly, not beautiful." SOURCE: Vovak campaign website

MCPS and Pearson form controversial partnership

Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) has formed a private partnership with Pearson, an education publishing company, to create a rigorous, integrated curriculum for elementary school students. Over the next two years, MCPS will be working with Pearson to develop the curriculum, which the publishing company hopes will be complete in three years. MCPS has granted Pearson the rights to market the curriculum to other school systems in the nation that are interested in adopting the program.

The partnership formed after a conversation between county superintendent Jerry Weast and spokespeople from Pearson. The conversation originally focused on the idea of developing assessments that would be more beneficial to students and eventually turned to the idea of creating an integrated curriculum, according to Public Information Director for MCPS Dana Tofig. An integrated curriculum combines major subjects English and Math with art, science and social studies - subjects that are often times neglected, Tofig explained. "An integrated curriculum is important for our students," he said.

Designing a demanding, integrated curriculum was something that MCPS had already decided to do when Pearson expressed interest in the idea. "If Pearson has success marketing it, thatís great," Tofig said. "We anticipate that in three years [the curriculum] will be fully integrated. Tofig also explained that the agreement has received mostly positive feedback from parents and teachers. Those who have had concerns, he added, do not fully understand what MCPS is trying do. "A lot of that is based on misinformation," he said. Tofig added that he encourages for parents and others who are concerned can read the official contract between MCPS and Pearson, which is available on MCPS's website. SOURCE: Silver Chips

Montgomery County fortune-telling ban ruled unconstitutional

The Maryland Court of Appeals has ruled that a half-century-old Montgomery County law banning commercial fortune telling is unconstitutional. The state court on Thursday filed its ruling, which says the Montgomery ordinance violates the First Amendment protection of freedom of speech. Nick Nefedro, who wants to open a commercial fortune-telling business in Bethesda, filed suit against the county and County Executive Ike Leggett in May 2008. Nefedro said the law violates his free-speech rights.

"Our law doesn't say you can't tell fortunes in Montgomery County, it says you can't be paid to tell fortunes in Montgomery County," said Leggett's spokesman, Patrick Lacefield, defending the county's law, originally enacted in 1951. But differentiating between fortune telling and fortune telling for cash is "not a meaningful distinction," according to the court of appeals ruling.

"Fortune telling may be pure entertainment, it may give individuals some insight into the future, or it may be hokum," the court said in its ruling. "Fortune tellers may sometimes deceive their customers. We need not, however, pass judgment on [the] validity or value [of fortunetelling]."

Nefedro, a D.C. native and a self-described "gypsy," owns several fortune-telling businesses across the United States. He charges customers for fortune telling, palm reading and other related services, according to court documents. Nefedro, 41, initially lost his battle in December 2008, when a circuit court decision ruled in favor of Montgomery County. Clifford Royalty, an attorney for Montgomery County, told The Washington Examiner at the time of the Circuit Court ruling that the county law "is narrowly drawn to serve the county's compelling government interest in protecting its citizenry." SOURCE: Washington Examiner

June 13, 2010

Fareed Zakaria on President Obama's emotion

WASHINGTON POST POLL: Majority think new Maryland license plate is ugly

According to a new Washington Post internet poll, a clear majority of clickers believe the new Maryland license plate is just ugly. State officials are unveiling a new license plate that will become standard on all Maryland vehicles. The Motor Vehicle Administration planned to introduce the new plates on Saturday during the agency's centennial celebration at its Glen Burnie headquarters. The plates feature a scene around Fort McHenry during the War of 1812. The War of 1812 plates replace the black and white standard issue plates for all cars, trucks, motorcycles and other vehicles, starting on Monday. Officials say the new plate will be issued through June 2015.


ICC tolls for Montgomery County announced

Toll rates for the first segment of the InterCounty Connector will cost drivers $1.45 during the busiest rushes, $1.15 during the lulls and 60 cents overnight, the Maryland Transportation Authority said. Those are the costs for drivers with E-Z Passes. All others will have to pay $3 on top of the tolls since the highway that will eventually connect Interstate 270 in Montgomery County and Interstate 95 in Prince George's County will not have any actual toll booths. All fares will be collected electronically through overhead sensors, and drivers without transponders will be mailed their bills.

Trucks also will have to pay more: up to $10.60 for peak travel, even with an E-ZPass. Those costs came in at the lower end of the scale approved last year, after criticism from drivers and Montgomery County Council members as being too expensive. The rates could change once vehicles start hitting the road, though. The cashless tolling system with variable rates is supposed to help control traffic, meaning that if cars start backing up, the rates would rise at those times to give drivers an incentive to spread out their trips.

The peak periods will run from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays. Much of the rest of the day would be charged at off-peak rates, though overnight hours from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. will be cheaper. Those times also could change, though, within an hour. The rates themselves will be reviewed periodically, with the transportation authority tentatively planning for quarterly reviews. The MDTA said it will give at least 10 days' notice of any changes. Those times also could change, though, within an hour. The rates themselves will be reviewed periodically, with the transportation authority tentatively planning for quarterly reviews. The MDTA said it will give at least 10 days' notice of any changes. SOURCE: Washington Examiner