June 26, 2010

NCPC Chair Bryant asks FTA to deny DC streetcar grant

If you're Preston Bryant, the chair of the National Capital Planning Commission and an economic and infrastructure consultant in Richmond, yes it is. Bryant sent a letter to FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff asking the agency "to withhold federal funds from the District" for the streetcar system. The H Street-Benning Road line would not involve federal funds, but DC is looking for an "urban circulator" grant to extend the planned streetcar across the Anacostia River to Benning Road Metro. This segment would almost entirely lie outside the L'Enfant City, the only area that has ever had a ban on overhead wires. That means that Bryant is asking FTA to refuse to fund a project which is legal even without changing any laws.

NCPC is tasked with protecting the "federal interest." The federal government, and NCPC, have taken very little interest in most of the District's planned streetcar corridors, including H Street and Benning Road, Georgia Avenue, and neighborhoods in Wards 7 and 8. Items that impact the Mall and views of major monuments are generally agreed to be part of the federal interest, and DC has clearly offered to protect those. The updated draft of the DC Council's overhead wire legislation even more clearly protects these. All new streetcar purchases will be required by law to operate for one mile without wires, and the Council will need to approve any new segments including a plan detailing the potential impacts on view corridors or historic districts.

However, Bryant is not satisfied with that or even giving NCPC heightened power to guard against wires on their view corridors (even though NCPC seems relatively uninterested in other blights on their view corridors). He has asked the DC Council to give NCPC the right to review and approve every single streetcar segment, no matter where in the District, even outside the L'Enfant City. SOURCE: Greater Greater Washington

Manute Bol's funeral to be held at National Cathedral

WASHINGTON - The funeral for former NBA player and humanitarian for Sudan, Manute Bol, will be held at Washington National Cathedral on Tuesday, June 29, at 10am. The service will be open to the public and press. Representatives from Bol's family and foundation, Sudan Sunrise will be in attendance. Bol died June 19th at age 47 at the University of Virginia Hospital in Charlottesville. According to the Associated Press, Bol battled with severe kidney problems and a painful skin condition.

Bol, who was seven feet, six inches, tall played 10 seasons in the NBA. He was drafted by the Washington Bullets (later renamed the Washington Wizards) in 1985, where he played until he was traded to the Golden State Warriors just before the 1988-89 season. Bol spent his later years working as an advisory board member of Sudan Sunrise, which promotes reconciliation in his native Sudan. Sudan Sunrise, a not-for-profit, non-denominational organization, is a movement of Americans, Sudanese and others to facilitate reconciliation and solidarity between Southern Sudanese Christians, Darfurian Muslims and all Sudanese. SOURCE: FOX DC

June 25, 2010

Panhandling problems in Montgomery County

In response to concerns about safety problems posed by panhandlers in Montgomery County, a work group has been formed to study the issue and recommend solutions. The group, which is composed of police, county officials and residents, has been meeting monthly since January and is developing recommendations for County Executive Isiah Leggett (D). It was created after members of the Wheaton Urban District Advisory Committee wrote to Leggett in July, asking him to create the task force in response to panhandlers in Wheaton and elsewhere in the county.

"Years ago, you didn't see people begging and panhandling in the street," said the county police department's assistant chief, Betsy Davis, a member of the work group. "Over the years, it's become more prevalent on street corners."

Panhandling is legal in Montgomery unless those asking for money act aggressively or block traffic, police said. Aggressive behavior, as described in the county code, includes threatening someone, asking for money in a manner that would intimidate a reasonable person, touching a person without consent or following a person who has not given money, police spokeswoman Lucille Baur said. Capt. Russ Hamill, commander of the 2nd District police station, said, "This obviously does cause some concern for the community; we get calls usually about panhandlers in the middle of an intersection or on a traffic island." But because panhandling is legal, Hamill said, law enforcement officials are "left between a rock and a hard place" until the work group recommends a new approach.

"It does cause us concern, but it would require legislative change for us to do anything," Hamill said.

Whether to impose further restrictions on panhandlers -- or require them to obtain permits to solicit money alongside roads -- has been a source of debate. Davis said the group is learning about the approaches other jurisdictions take toward panhandling. Gaithersburg, for example, restricts panhandling in roadway medians. But enforcing such an ordinance could prove tricky, she said. If panhandlers were required to obtain permits or if panhandling were to be made illegal in certain circumstances, violations would be difficult to enforce.

"If we ran to every call and locked everyone up, we'd be in central processing all day," Davis said.

She said the work group is in the "listening" phase, and she hopes to give a summer intern the task of gathering research about approaches to panhandling from jurisdictions across the country.

"I don't want to rush into making any of these decisions," Davis said. "We're trying to listen to see what the best practices are."

Sen. Jamie B. Raskin (D-Montgomery) of Takoma Park said he introduced legislation last year that would have required roadside solicitors to undergo a permitting process and traffic-safety training. He introduced the bill, which did not pass, after being approached by community groups with concerns about panhandlers approaching drivers at intersections. Raskin said enforcement of the proposed bill might have been a problem.

"Every law, including laws against murder, is difficult to enforce," he said. "That doesn't mean we should simply give up the effort." SOURCE: Washington Post

Ladmark Bethesda Theatre faces foreclosure

After efforts to revitalize the debt-ridden Bethesda Theatre failed, the historic Wisconsin Avenue landmark is to be auctioned as a mortgage foreclosure Tuesday. The 1938 theater, owned by the Bethesda Cultural Alliance, has a $4 million debt, said Steven A. Silverman, director of the Montgomery County Department of Economic Development.

The department, a board member of the alliance, is tasked with financial and operation support of the theater. The alliance was formed by the Bozutto Group after the theater reopened in 2007 following the developer's $12 million rehabilitation of the theater. Bozutto rehabilitated the theater in conjunction with development of The Whitney, an apartment complex above the theater, and the alliance includes Bozutto executives.

Silverman's team recently began to solicit a management company to contract with the alliance to run the theater. The alliance met Monday to review 12 proposals but none appeared to be in a financial position to absorb enough of the debt, he said. He added that after foreclosure, there will be an opportunity "to either work with the successful bidder or work with the bank to keep it open as a viable theater." SOURCE: Gazette

Annual fees at dog parks??

I had an email from a reader, Eric Sutton who has highlighted the question of where local dog park fees will go. He says it better than I can. See below.

It looks like the county will be charging a yearly fee for all dog parks in the county. The Advisory board for the Wheaton dog park, Friends of the Wheaton Dog park, are concerned that the monies will go into the general fund and not back into maintenance of the dog parks. The Wheaton dog park was the first built in 2003. It has been worn down from over use due to it being the only park available down county. The opening of the Cabin John dog park has taken a little of the strain off of Wheaton but has left us with a dire need to resurface the old worn and dusty blue stone surface, along with the need of drainage work, year round water access, and a much need appearance upgrade. The board is holding a meeting at the dog park Saturday, June 26th at 11AM. We encourage the community and users of the park to come out and voice there concerns regarding targeted user fees and where our money will go.

There you go folks, this Saturday you can make your voice heard. SOURCE: What's Up Wheaton

How does White Flint compare to Tysons?

Today’s Washington Post has a front page story on the Fairfax County Supervisors’ approval of a plan to revise and improve Tyson’s Corner. Tyson’s, headquarters for many huge corporations and home to the regional supermall, is a quintessential “edge city,” built up over decades without plan or limits, into a behemoth wobbling on only three legs — there’s essentially no residential living in Tysons. The inevitable problem with not having residences in a dense community is that the car becomes king. The guiding logic behind “New Urbanism,” the philosophy behind the White Flint Sector Plan and Montgomery County’s planning shift toward urban density centered around Metro stations, is to reduce dependence on automobiles by putting people near everything they need. Which means having them LIVE near their work, schools, shopping and fun. The Tysons renovation is designed, in large part, to develop just this sort of complete community:

The proposal permits Tysons to become a city of office and residential towers with sidewalk cafes, boutiques and manicured courtyards. It also calls for energy-efficient buildings, affordable housing, park space and a new street grid to filter local traffic. A planned circulator bus system would ferry riders among future Metrorail stations, offices and shopping malls. “Tysons is a downtown. While it may not be a municipality, it will be a community,” Supervisor Catherine M. Hudgins (D-Hunter Mill), whose district includes the employment hub, said before the vote. “Tysons is not going to be an auto-oriented environment. It’s going to be walkable for the people who live there and for the economy.”

Sound familiar? It should. The Tysons and White Flint planning processes have been going on in parallel for years. In fact, there has been significant intellectual sharing between the two planning groups. The White Flint Advisory Group — the group of outside advisors to the Planning Board which began its deliberations in 2006 — expressly modeled some of its first plans on the same sort of discussions from Tysons. The final report of the Advisory Group included some of the vision and goals, discussed in several Advisory Group meetings, developed by the similar Tysons group.

So it’s not surprising that the two visions are similar: walkable, transit-oriented, sustainable. But there are also big differences between the Tysons plan and the White Flint Sector Plan: Tysons is much bigger and much denser than White Flint. Tysons is also much more transit-oriented, planning four new Metro stops on the new “Silver Line.” Ironically, though it includes a similar new “grid” of streets to promote walking, it’s likely that the sheer size of the Tysons community will result in retaining a greater automobile-dependence than White Flint. The new Tysons is built around four new 1/2-mile walking zones, but it’s unclear whether people will take the Metro for a mile or so to change from one “zone” to another. (Tysons will also have a circulator bus system to promote better circulation within the overall community.)

It will be an interesting experiment to see if Tysons can make the New Urbanism model work in such a large and heavily-used area. Some people believe that the New Urbanism model can be too small, as in the new Rockville Town Center; now we’ll see if it can also be too large.

[UPDATE: Thursday’s Washington Post had a front page article on the obstacles to the new Tyson’s proposal. Mentioned just in passing was the need to finance the infrastructure redevelopment; that’s the issue which is currently holding up the White Flint Sector Plan, which was approved by the Montgomery County Council last March. The Post article doesn’t describe any similar political/County Executive staff dawdling on the Tysons financing.]

Barnaby Zall SOURCE: Friends of White Flint

Maryland lawmakers discuss oil spill

Maryland lawmakers met on Capitol Hill today to discuss the safety of Maryland's seafood in light of the Gulf Oil Spill disaster.

View more news videos at: http://www.nbcwashington.com/video.

Purple Line and local races

For about six years, I lived in my car. It was a long time ago, but I still bear the emotional scars of those days and nights of danger, dread and hardship ... when I drove into D.C. for my 9-to-5 job. In truth, I had a home, but I spent more time sitting on I-270 every day than I did with my family. Sometimes I lived on the train, just like a hobo in a country-western song. That's why I'm so awfully glad that mass transit is going to be a point of discussion as the Maryland gubernatorial race gets into full swing. The Baltimore-Washington area has some of the worst traffic in the continental United States, according to a January 2010 study -- with the Capital Beltway coming in third nationwide for the worst bottlenecks and most time wasted sitting in a jam. The Baltimore Beltway made a respectable showing at number 21, so this is not just a D.C. problem.

There are two mass transit projects that could ease some of the pain, and the O'Malley administration is looking for federal approval and funding to get them rolling. Both are proposed light rail projects and both have huge price tags, so naturally both are political hot potatoes.

The Purple Line would create an east-west corridor between Cheverly and Bethesda and reduce traffic congestion between Prince George's and Montgomery counties, without having to connect in downtown D.C. Baltimore's Red Line would run from Woodlawn to Bayview, with tunnels running through downtown Baltimore and Fells Point. The estimated cost of the two projects is $3.4 billion, give or take, with the feds picking up half the cost.

Unfortunately, at this point, the candidates for governor are just using the transit issue as a political dart to toss at each other in hopes of chalking up points. The challenger, former Gov. Robert Ehrlich, says he would "scuttle" Gov. Martin O'Malley's plans and develop something called "bus rapid transit" instead. Ehrlich says light rail is unaffordable. But his old-school alternative is fossil-fuel-guzzling, and the ongoing operating expenses are nearly twice those of light rail.

I know -- mass transit in Maryland probably won't be the hottest issue in the upcoming elections. Jobs and the economy still make the best sound bites. But in the wake of the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, transportation and energy are creating opportunities for lots of colorful partisan posturing and pugilism.

The O'Malley camp has already released a couple of "attack ads" against Ehrlich, saying he is a pawn of Big Oil. I'm not really buying it -- although there are some questionable items on Ehrlich's record, like working for a firm that represents Citgo, Exxon Mobil and Shell Oil, and votes to open up the Gulf to drilling exploration or to reduce corporate liability for hazardous waste cleanup. So why should Fredericktonians care about traffic and transit problems in Baltimore or Washington? Simple. Because so many are living in their cars. And because more traffic means more idling, which means more wasted gas, more offshore drilling, more potential for accidents, more devastating pollution and dead pelicans. And more finger-pointing and body-slamming between political candidates. SOURCE: Frederick News Post

Former Lobbyist Jack Abramoff works at Baltimore pizzeria

BALTIMORE — Like any new employee, Jack Abramoff is trying to keep a low profile — or as low a profile as a cause célèbre disgraced lobbyist and convicted felon can keep when news cameramen keep staking out his new workplace. Mr. Abramoff started his new gig this week at Tov Pizza — “the best kosher pizza in town,” according to a catchy jingle that plays while callers are on hold. He has so far stayed largely cloistered in a back office. He will work about 40 hours a week, said the owner, Ron Rosenbluth. He comes in around 10:30 a.m., leaves around 5:30 p.m., and wears a yarmulke to work, as many of the male customers and employees here do. He earns between $7.50 and $10 an hour (“or a little less than what he used to make”). He has been responsible, punctual, courteous. “He is not the monster he has been portrayed as,” Mr. Rosenbluth said.

Mr. Abramoff did not appear at the front of the restaurant during a two-hour stretch late Wednesday afternoon as families walked in and out, having ordered slices, veggie burgers and baked ziti. There was, however, a chance sighting in a back office (he wore a red polo shirt and appeared to be reading something). He declined a request for an interview through Mr. Rosenbluth, and departed through a side entrance, skirting photographers waiting for him in a parking lot.

It is too soon to tell if Mr. Abramoff is cut out for a career in the pizza business, Mr. Rosenbluth said Wednesday. “He’s only been here three days,” said Mr. Rosenbluth, who has been here 26 years. But of course, Mr. Abramoff stands out among the 18 people who work here. He is that Jack Abramoff, the former lobbying macher who pleaded guilty in 2006 to felony counts involving fraud, corruption and conspiracy, and served three and a half years at a minimum security prison camp in Cumberland, Md. He is now living at a nearby halfway house, which arranged for Mr. Abramoff’s employment here. “People ask me, ‘Why would you ever hire Jack Abramoff?’ ” said Mr. Rosenbluth, who said he has not bothered to learn much about Mr. Abramoff’s past. “I say, ‘Why wouldn’t I hire Jack Abramoff?’ He’s paying his debt to society, right?” While in prison, Mr. Abramoff reportedly gave regular Torah lectures, according to a report this week in The Baltimore Jewish Times, quoting a former inmate. Mr. Abramoff focused on Jewish law and also led an introduction to prayer course, the publication said.

Mr. Rosenbluth says he is hoping that he can get help with marketing strategies from Mr. Abramoff, who used to run Signatures, a restaurant in Washington. By “marketing,” Mr. Rosenbluth does not mean that Mr. Abramoff will win notoriety for his establishment — though he clearly has, since the media attention has been steady and, judging from Mr. Rosenbluth’s disposition, somewhat annoying. “I have a restaurant I need to run,” he said.

Still, better Tov Pizza get the attention than the other kosher pizzerias in Baltimore, said Jason Broth, the restaurant’s night manager. He added, “I think the marketing term is, there’s no such thing as bad publicity.” SOURCE: New York Times

Goodbye Waters House

Here is another sad goodbye to a valued part of Montgomery County because of budget cuts to every part of our county government, except of course the bloated MCPS budget. The Gazette reporter Andre L. Taylor writes of the closing of The Waters House. The Waters House is the oldest house in Germantown, dating to around the late 1700s/early 1800s. For the last 10 years it was run by the Montgomery County Historical Society as a library and research center, the Waters House History Center, and was also available to be rented out for special occasions. Heritage Montgomery, the Lincoln Park Historical Foundation, and the King Barn Dairy MOOseum also use the house for their offices. No more, as the county axed the budget of the Historical Society, which now has to vacate the property and remove everything by August 1. Meanwhile the Board of Education is crying all the way to the bank... SOURCE: Parents' Coalition of MC

Metro fare hike begins on Sunday

WASHINGTON - Metro's Board of Directors approved the transit agency's largest-ever fare hike on Thursday, with rail fares increasing 18 percent across the board and Metrobus fares going up 20 percent. The base rush-hour Metrorail fare rises from $1.65 to $1.95, and the non-rush hour fare from $1.35 to $1.60. The price for a Metrobus ride, with a SmarTrip card, increases to $1.50 from $1.25. The new maximum fare, with SmarTrip card, will be $5. The changes go into effect on Sunday. Metrorail riders will also confront the new peak-of-the-peak fare increase beginning Aug. 1. From 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m., and 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m., there will be a 20-cent surcharge on all trips. The fare hikes are part of Metro's plan to close a $189 million budget shortfall for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

June 24, 2010

Death Row in Maryland skids to new location

BALTIMORE (AP) - Maryland's death row has moved. Corrections officials say the state's five death row inmates were taken this week from Baltimore to western Maryland. They'll now be housed at the North Branch Correctional Institution, a maximum-security prison in Cresaptown. Death row had been located at the Maryland Correctional Adjustment Center, formerly known as Supermax, for more than 20 years. That prison is now used to house inmates in transit and awaiting court appearances. The state's execution chamber remains in Baltimore. Five men have been executed since Maryland reinstated the death penalty in 1978, most recently in 2005. The state has had a de facto moratorium on capital punishment since late 2006 because its lethal injection protocols are under review.

Mohammed brothers' family copes after car accident deaths

Idris Rafiq Muhammad, 20, and Khalifah Muhammad, 18, died last night on Layhill Road, near Middlevale Road in Silver Spring in a car crash in Montgomery County.

iPhone customers begin queue in Bethesda

CLUCK: Urban farms increase in Montgomery County

Mark Parisi, who spent his boyhood on a Connecticut farm, thought it made perfect sense to put two pigs in his suburban Takoma Park back yard and raise them to become pork chops. But not everyone in the neighborhood was thrilled to see the porkers rolling around in the dirt. Soon, someone squealed, and the authorities came calling. But when they arrived, time and again, they found nothing amiss on Parisi's small plot of land. It turns out that pigs, chickens, goats and the occasional rooster are perfectly legal in Montgomery County and many other Washington suburbs. That puts the buttoned-down, Blackberry-obsessed region, partly by accident, partly by design, on the leading edge of a national "grow your own" movement that has evolved well beyond organic vegetables.

"Yes, some of my friends think I am crazy," said Parisi, who works in sales for a construction firm, uses a Blackberry and is the proud owner of 350-pound Myrtle and the more svelte Merrill, who last weighed in at 150 pounds. Parisi said his affinity for farm animals is akin to someone who might have a passion for $300 shoes. "Everyone has their own definition of 'crazy,' " he said.

Parisi is hardly alone in raising suburban livestock. Around the Beltway, where farmland has given way to suburbia in the past four decades, the rules of the roost range. In the Washington area, the District alone has an outright ban on farm animals, but suburbs such as Montgomery, Prince George's and Fairfax allow pigs, chickens, goats and other livestock under certain conditions.

It's clear that farm animals are dwelling amidst the swimming pools, soccer fields and shopping centers. Across the country, many communities are loosening rules banning backyard livestock. The popularity of such small-scale farming is also evident in new, glossy magazines such as Urban Farm; Chickens; and Hogs. In many jurisdictions, there also has been an uptick in complaints about suburban farm animals.

That's the case in Montgomery County, where two years ago the zoning office received only six calls about farm animals in residential neighborhoods. In fiscal year 2009, there were 11. So far, this fiscal year, which ends June 30, there have been 24 -- from chickens in Bethesda to goats in Derwood. Most of the animal owners aren't doing anything illegal, such as creating too much ruckus or spilling manure into nearby streams, said Susan Scala-Demby, Montgomery's zoning manager. In Montgomery officials say that as long as no animal cruelty or nuisance is involved, it's all in how you house backyard livestock.

Free-range pigs in Montgomery? Not a problem. Even a cow with no barn could be considered in compliance. But if Parisi builds a pen for the pigs, he would be breaking the law because his yard is too small to site the pen far enough from neighbors' houses.

But if Parisi builds a pen for the pigs, he would be breaking the law because his yard is too small to site the pen far enough from neighbors' houses. Parisi's pigs arrived separately several months ago after Parisi went looking for them on Craigslist. First came Myrtle, a "rescue pig," who was living in unpleasant conditions in Baltimore, Parisi said. Despite his devotion to Myrtle ("I tended to her every need," he said), he thought Myrtle might prefer a porcine pal.

"Pigs are social animals," Parisi said. "When they are alone, they tend to get in trouble. They can develop psychoses."

Pigs on parade

Parisi's neighbors in Takoma Park, a laid-back community sometimes nicknamed "Berkeley East" for its self-imposed ban on nuclear weapons and its granola sensibilities, are divided on the propriety of pigs. One neighbor, a vegetarian who asked not to be named for the sake of neighborhood peace, said he was worried about the pigs' potential to become someone's supper. Neighbors may also have been put off by Parisi's turfless and muddy pig plot, or by visits from Myrtle and Merrill, who on two occasions burrowed under the fence to check out life on the other side.

"No one was hurt," said Parisi.

Shawnee and Paul Spitler, Parisi's next-door neighbors, lured the pigs back to Parisi's yard during one escape attempt by tempting them with carrots and old bread. Shawnee Spitler said she has no quarrel with Parisi and has been happy that the couple's sons, Ansel, 4 and Pascal, 2, have seen animals close up. Other neighbors are not as forgiving. But repeat visits from county zoning inspectors, animal control officers and police over the past several months found nothing wrong. Their logs noted Parisi had minimized the odor. Parisi estimates he routinely cleaned up about five pounds of pig manure daily, using an anti-ammonia compound -- organic, he said -- to keep down the smell.

"Who knew?" said Jerry Ryan, who lives a few doors down from the pigs, and whose wife, Mary Ann, a lawyer, has been researching the county's law. "Pigs must have a strong lobby."

A fowl trend?

Parisi, who arrived in the Washington area in 1998 to attend college at American University, comes from a long line of livestock owners. He grew up on a farm in Branford, Conn., where his parents had horses and other animals. His uncle kept 200 pigs in the city limits of New Haven before he went to war in Korea. Parisi had hoped to get his pigs butchered in Mount Airy and then smoke the meat in a backyard smokehouse, a plan he abandoned mid-construction because he could not comply with required setbacks. Now he hopes to use Merrill as a breeder. Myrtle, whom Parisi thought was a female, turned out to be a castrated male, so his future is a little murky.

Parisi also keeps six chickens in a coop inside his garage. Parisi cools his indoor chickens with a fan in the hot months, and collects a couple of eggs per day. He'd like to have them in the backyard with the pigs, but again, he bumped up against the setback rules. It's unfortunate, he says, because chickens are a symbiotic bug patrol for pigs, feasting on pests that pigs tend to attract. Elsewhere in Takoma Park, chicken ownership is on the rise. A group of families is organizing a chicken co-op, and will have joint custody of several laying hens. Down the street from Parisi, Steve and Heather DeCaluwe are raising chickens in a backyard coop that they said meets county standards.

The four DeCaluwe chickens produce about two dozen eggs each week, which the couple often gives to neighbors. The chickens spend their ample free time roaming the couple's lush vegetable garden.

"If they lay, they will cluck a little bit, if they are hungry they will cluck a little bit, but other than that they are pretty quiet," said Heather DeCaluwe.

Valerie Taylor, who led a successful pro-chicken movement last year in a Cincinnati suburb coincidentally named Montgomery, said chickens can be less obtrusive than a barking dog.

"They poop less than dogs do, they create less smell than dogs. I can almost guarantee if your neighbor has a dog, you know it," she said.

Traveling pigs

In Takoma Park, some of Parisi's neighbors have created an extensive pig paper trail at county offices. In one response, County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) noted that Parisi was not violating the law. And despite county plans to revise its entire zoning law, there are no plans to redo the section on livestock.

"The zoning ordinance permits agricultural uses in most residential zones," Leggett's letter noted.

But Parisi, who said he "doesn't want a war," is giving up. After a four-hour standoff with recalcitrant Myrtle and Merrill one recent weekend, he loaded them into a truck and carted them to his parents' house in Connecticut, where they are spending the summer. Parisi's mother already has grown particularly partial to Myrtle, probably giving the pig a pass on becoming pork chops. Meanwhile, Parisi is pondering purchasing new digs for the pigs. He's looking for a small farm where they can roam and root. And he's thinking, once there, he could get more live-in livestock.

PICTURE: Mark Parisi keeps chickens and pigs at his home in Takoma Park. In suburban areas such as Montgomery County, it is not against the law to keep livestock. SOURCE: Washington Post

Muhammad brothers killed in Silver Spring car crash (with video)

Police in Montgomery County are trying to determine what caused a car accident that killed two brothers from Silver Spring last night. Idris Rafiq Muhammad, 20, and Khalifah Muhammad, 18, died last night on Layhill Road, near Middlevale Road in Silver Spring. Their 2006 Nissan Senta hit the right-side curb, left the roadway and hit a utility pole. The older brother had been driving. Police say both were wearing their seatbelts at the time. The two women in the back seat, ages 17 and 18, were not wearing their seatbelts. They were injured, but both are expected to survive. SOURCE: NBC Washington

A Matter of Size open on 7/2 in DC

A Matter of Size is an Israeli comedy like nothing you've seen before, a hilarious and heart-warming tale about four overweight guys who learn to love themselves through the Japanese sport of sumo wrestling! The film was awarded 3 Israeli Oscars, and has won 7 Audience Awards at film festivals all over the world, including the Washington Jewish Film Festival! Opens Friday, July 2nd! Avalon Theatre at 5612 Connecticut Ave, NW Washington, DC 20015. 202-966-6000. www.theavalon.org

Montgomery County overspends $60 million on snow budget

Don’t count Montgomery County officials among those wishing for winter relief this week. Snowmageddon forced the county to go $60 million over its $3.2 million budget slated for snow removal and storm cleanup, according to figures released by County Executive Ike Leggett. During the winter, Montgomery County experienced 17 snow and ice storms, accumulating roughly 100 inches of snowfall. Leggett wants the County Council to approve using the county’s reserves to cover the costs. Council members are exploring legislation that would raise mandatory reserves in future years, hoping to avoid another budget crisis and strengthen the county’s standing with credit-rating agencies. SOURCE: Washington Examiner

Oliver Stone says DC is pushier than Hollywood

View more news videos at: http://www.nbcwashington.com/video.

Fairfax County has 23 high schools on Newsweek's list

Twenty-three Fairfax County high schools* have been designated among the most demanding public schools in the country and are featured in the 2010 Newsweek-Washington Post list of 1,622 top U.S. high schools, found at www.newsweek.com. The 1,622 schools represent the top six percent of high schools nationwide. Woodson High School made the list of top 100 schools published in Newsweek, based on a formula devised by Washington Post education reporter Jay Mathews. Woodson was ranked 91st on the 2010 list.

Rankings for other Fairfax County Public Schools are: McLean High School, 101; Langley High School, 117; Centreville High School, 140; Madison High School, 143; Herndon High School, 152; Oakton High School, 157; Lake Braddock Secondary School, 172; Fairfax High School, 179; Marshall High School, 200; South Lakes High School, 216; Chantilly High School, 219; West Springfield High School, 274; South County Secondary School, 303; Robinson Secondary School, 325; Westfield High School, 346; Stuart High School, 432; Falls Church High School, 466; West Potomac High School, 523; Hayfield Secondary School, 539; Lee High School, 1,141; Annandale High School, 1,200; and Mount Vernon High School, 1,424.

The Challenge Index measures public high schools’ ability to challenge their students. A school’s ranking is determined by dividing the number of Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB), or Cambridge tests given by a school to all its students by the number of seniors who graduated in May or June. The index is designed to identify schools that challenge average students.


*Note: Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, which serves students across the region, was not included in the list because of its selective admissions process. It is recognized in a sidebar titled “Public Elites,” (http://www.newsweek.com/2010/06/13/america-s-best-high-schools-in-a-different-class.html) which highlights 21 high schools with selective admissions. For more information, contact the FCPS Department of Communications and Community Outreach at 571-423-1200.

POSTER'S NOTE: Fairfax County had 23 schools on Newsweek's list, compared to 7 in Montgomery County and 12 in Baltimore County. SOURCE: Fairfax County Public Schools

FREE LUNCH: Montgomery County increases sites for free food for kids in summer

ROCKVILLE, Md., June 24, 2010—Montgomery County Council Vice President Valerie Ervin, Superintendent of Schools Jerry D. Weast and members of the County Board of Education will join students for lunch at Rolling Terrace Elementary School in Takoma Park at 12 noon on Monday, June 28, to discuss the expansion of free walk-in sites for the summer lunch program. The program will have a total of eight free walk-in sites this summer, an increase from seven sites last year. The first walk-in center opened in 2007. The summer lunch program is aimed at increasing the number of eligible children who have healthy food options during the summer.

“We have to remember that many children depend on the meals they receive at school as their primary source of nutrition,” said Council Vice President Ervin, who chairs the County Council’s Education Committee and represents District 5, which includes Kensington, Silver Spring, Takoma Park and Wheaton. “Schools may be closed, but the need to feed children—especially those who qualify for free and reduced meals—does not end. That is why I keep pushing to expand the summer lunch program.”

Rolling Terrace Elementary, located at 705 Bayfield Street in the Downcounty Consortium, was chosen as a host for the summer free lunch program in 2009 based on research compiled by an inter-agency working group. The working group identified children’s lack of access to food as a significant barrier to academic achievement and nutrition during the summer. About 30 percent of Montgomery County Public Schools students qualify for Free and Reduced Meals (FARMs), a poverty indicator and a figure that may be higher due to underreporting. Montgomery County Public Schools has been a sponsor of the Summer Food Service Program since 1976. The program is operated with federal funding.

“The summer is an important time of continued learning and growth for our students and we are committed to doing our part to make sure they receive nutritious meals during the day,” said Superintendent Weast. “I am very pleased that we are able to expand this program over the summer.”

The Montgomery County Public Schools Division of Food and Nutrition Services delivers food to students enrolled in more than 120 summer programs throughout the County. Rolling Terrace is one of eight free walk-in sites, which means that students not registered for a summer camp or recreation program can still stop in and eat a nutritious lunch. All free walk-in sites are located in areas where at least 50 percent of students are eligible for FARMS.

“Many studies have shown the link between student achievement and good nutrition,” said Councilmember Ervin. “Local officials must do all we can to ensure that we are taking advantage of these federal funds to feed our neediest children.”

In addition to Rolling Terrace, the returning free walk-in lunch sites include Maryvale Elementary (Rockville), Summit Hall Elementary (Gaithersburg) and Kennedy High School (Wheaton/Glenmont). Four sites are new, although several replace other nearby sites. The new sites are Argyle Middle (Silver Spring/Aspen Hill), Glen Haven Elementary (Silver Spring), Harmony Hills Elementary (Silver Spring/Aspen Hill) and Stedwick Elementary (Montgomery Village). The walk-in sites are strategically placed in dense dwelling areas that are easily accessible to many families. The walk-in programs will operate through Aug. 20. The programs are available 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. each weekday. SOURCE: MOCO

Metro Fights Crash Victims' Families In Court

Tawanda Brown's daughter died in the train crash last year, so she appreciates the memorial service Metro arranged for her and the other families. But she says Metro hasn't been as deferential to their lawsuit seeking damages in civil court. "They've asked to dismiss this claim," Brown says. "So all of this [memorial service] looks good. It's in the forefront. We appreciate that. But this is not where it ends. It's just the beginning." Metro is moving to dismiss the lawsuit by claiming sovereign immunity, a legal clause that prevents state and federal agencies from being sued. Paul Figley, a professor at American University's Washington College of Law, says the purpose of soverign immunity is to protect them from crippling legal decisions. "If you're the plaintiff," he says, "sovereign immunity is never a good thing. But for the society as a whole, it may be." Metro says its motion to dismiss is a routine step in a lawsuit like this, and it's working with the families to find a resolution. SOURCE: WAMU

June 23, 2010

Barn collapse may have hurt horses

Severe weather leaves mark in Montgomery County and DC

MCGEO union leader on leave until July 20

Gino Renne is on leave through July 20, his assistant said Monday. The announcement comes a short time after news became public of his arrest on assault charges. Renne, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1994/Municipal and County Government Employees Organization, was charged May 16 with first- and second-degree assault and reckless endangerment after police say he threatened his wife with a revolver during an argument at their home, according to Frederick County Circuit Court documents. The couple lives in New Market.

It is not clear when Renne's leave began, or if he is being paid. Renne's executive assistant, Michelle Weis, said Monday that Renne would not return to work until July 20. His voicemail message on his cell phone says the same. Renne's calls have been directed to Weis. Gail Heath, special assistant to Renne, said Monday that Renne provided a public statement about his leave of absence. She said she would e-mail the document to The Gazette, but the statement was not received by deadline Tuesday.

Two D.C. Public Charter Schools Close, One In Jeopardy

More than 150 students in D.C. will have to look for new schools after two public charter schools decided to close down. The Academy for Learning Through The Arts couldn't recruit enough students and the Children's Studio School will return to operating as a private entity. And the fate of a third charter school remains in jeopardy. In a preliminary decision, the D.C. Public Charter School Board voted to revoke the charter for the Kamit Institute for Magnificent Achievers. 165 students attend the 6 through 12th grade school. Tamara Lumpkin, deputy director with the board, says there is a list of issues.

"There was a concern about the school operating in accordance with it's mission and also in complying with the federal requirements relating to students with special needs."

A board review also found there were not enough text books, inaccuracies on transcripts and students from Maryland recruited to play basketball without paying nonresident tuition. The school can request a hearing before the board makes a final decision. SOURCE: WAMU

Metro concerns remain a year after deadly crash

I-270 in Montgomery County reopens after delay for hours

GAITHERSBURG, Md. (AP) ― Authorities say three southbound lanes of Interstate 270 in the Gaithersburg area have reopened after being shut down for several hours. Police say the interstate was closed after a tractor-trailer hit a pole, bringing down power lines. Northbound traffic is exiting at Shady Grove Road. SOURCE: WJZ

June 22, 2010

After hours in heat, passengers receive apology from MTA

As Obama talks with McChrystal, remember Maryland and Delaware causalities

Montgomery County's last casualty:
Spc. Anthony Paci, 30
US Army
Rockville, MD
03-04-10 in Afghanistan

REMEMBER THEM: War causalities in Maryland and Delaware

Ehrlich meets with charter school parents

Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., who is pledging to double the number of charter schools in the state if he is elected governor, will be meeting in Montgomery County with parents who have been prevented from opening charter schools. Baltimore City still has the vast majority of charter schools, in part because the local school board, which must approve all charters, has been more friendly to these schools than other jurisdictions like Montgomery and Frederick counties. The city also has gotten far more applications from parents, teachers and non-profits who want to open charters. Tomorrow morning, the Maryland state school board is going to be considering a charter school policy, although the details haven't been released. SOURCE: Baltimore Sun

Crime report: 3rd District: 6/7/2010 to 6/15/2010

Robbery: A 19 year old male was robbed and assaulted while walking in the area of Randolph Road and Fairland Road on Tuesday 6/8 between 2:45 a.m. and 3:30 a.m. The suspects approached the victim, knocked him to the ground, assaulted him and removed his wallet and MP3 player before fleeing on foot. Noted in the last weekly report. Suspects: (2) B/M’s 5’10” one described as having dreadlocks

• Residential Burglaries: Two of the three burglaries occurred in close proximity and may be related. A third incident occurred on the 4D border and appears to be a part of recent trend in the J1 & I1.

Wednesday 6/9 11:15 a.m. – 12:45 p.m. 700 block of Winhall Way. The suspect(s) kicked in a rear door to enter and removed jewelry.

Wednesday 6/9 8:00 p.m. –Thursday 6/10 4:58 p.m. 2900 block of Craiglawn Road. The suspect(s) pried the front door to enter the vacant home. Nothing was taken.

Tuesday 6/8 9:00 a.m. -5:00 p.m. 12800 block of Swallow Falls Court The suspect(s) broke a rear sliding glass door in an attempt to enter.

• Robberies: The three robberies do not appear to be related. An adult male was robbed by a lone gunman while sitting in his vehicle in the 13500 block of Greencastle Ridge Terrace on Monday 6/7 at 1:30 a.m. The suspect approached the victim produced a handgun and demanded the victim’s property. The victim complied and the suspect fled with the victim’s wallet and cell phone. Suspect: B/M 5’7” 190 -200lbs wearing white glasses white shirt, silver handgun

An adult female was robbed as she walked in the parking lot in the 13600 block of Colgate Way on Monday 6/7 at 10:50 p.m. The suspects approached the victim and grabbed her. One suspect covered the victim’s mouth while the second forcefully removed her purse. The suspects fled on foot. The victim received minor injuries. Suspects: (2) B/M’s 15-17years, 5’5” to 5’8”, black bandanas covering their faces

A Pizza Hut delivery man was robbed as he delivered food to vacant apartment in the 13800 block of Castle Boulevard on Wednesday 6/9 at 10:35 p.m. The victim knocked on the door and a suspect pushed into him, knocked him down and placed a shotgun head. The suspects fled after removing cash and the victim’s wallet from his pocket. The suspects also removed additional cash and a GPS system from the victim’s vehicle that was parked in the lot. Suspects: (5) B/M’s 20-23 years, 5’8” 150-160lbs wearing dark clothing. One suspect was armed with a shotgun.

• Residential Burglaries: The three apartment burglaries are believed to be a part of the ongoing trend in the beat; suspects were observed relating to two of these incidents that occurred on the same day in the same building. Two of these incidents were noted in the last weekly report.

Tuesday 6/8 11:02 a.m. 13500 block of Aston Manor Way. A resident responded to a noise at his front door and observed a suspect attempting to pry his door with a crow bar. The victim yelled out and the suspect fled to a waiting vehicle. While checking the building, officers observed an open door at the apartment next door and signs of damage to the door. The resident could not be contacted and it is unknown if entry was made. Suspects: (2) B/M’s 25-26 years, one wore a black coat, carrying a crow bar Vehicle: 4 door Mazda, maroon, MD tag

Wednesday 6/9 11:30 a.m. -1:00 p.m. 4400 block of Regalwood Terrace. A relative who recently moved from the residence pried the front window to enter and removed a computer, cash and checks.

Friday 6/11 7:00 a.m. -7:30 p.m. 3400 block of Robey Terrace. The suspect(s) used unknown means to enter the unit and removed cash.

• Commercial Burglary: A construction trailer for Crisak Construction, 15618 Old Columbia Pike, was burglarized between 2:00 p.m. Friday 6/11 and 6:26 a.m. Monday 6/14. The suspect used unknown means to force open the front door and removed tools.

• Peeping Tom: An adult female responded to a noise at her window in the 13500 block of Greencastle Ridge Terrace Friday 6/11 at 9:20 and observed a suspect peeping into her window. The victim approached the suspect and he fled on foot. Suspect: H/M 25-35 years 5’9” to 5’11” 200-250lbs, goatee, wearing glasses

Metro marks 1 years since crash

DEATHS: Virginia Marie Roy, former MoCo school secretary

Virginia Marie Roy, 85, of Ocean View, formerly of Silver Spring, Md., died Friday, June 11, 2010, at the Delaware Hospice Center in Milford. She was employed for the Montgomery County School District as an elementary school secretary, retiring after 28 years of service. She was a member of Mariner's Bethel United Methodist Church in Ocean View, Job's Daughters and the Eastern Star. She is survived by her loving husband of 64 years, Joseph G. Roy; a son, Michael Roy of Flintstone, Md.; a daughter, Janice Clark and her husband, Steve, of Ocean View; three grandchildren, Brian Roy of Hagerstown, Md.; Kerri Pitts of Damascus, Md., and Patrick Malayavech of Alexandria, Va., and four great-grandchildren. Services were held. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Delaware Hospice, 100 Patriots Way, Milford, Del. 19963. SOURCE: Delmarva

Jane Lawton Center to have county's first solar roof

ROCKVILLE, Md., June 21, 2010—Montgomery County Councilmember Roger Berliner announced today that the Leggett Administration has agreed to make the Jane Lawton Recreation Center in Chevy Chase the site of the Division of General Service’s first solar roof program. Councilmember Berliner, in collaboration with the Town of Chevy Chase, has been working for more than a year with local solar cooperative members and the Montgomery County Department of General Services to honor this facility and Jane Lawton in this way.

Councilmember Berliner has been urging the County to make the Lawton Center a model for the County’s program to retrofit more public buildings with solar energy. In May, Councilmember Berliner wrote to the Department of General Services “in hopes of speeding up progress on a no-cost option to install solar panels on the Lawton Center in Bethesda.” The County announced today that it had agreed to the solar panels.

“I am pleased that the Leggett Administration and General Services Director David Dise have firmly committed to moving forward expeditiously in making the Lawton Center a photovoltaic (PV) installation site for the County's planned retrofit of County roofs,” said Councilmember Berliner. “It is fitting that this much used and much loved recreation center will now also be a site for environmental education and a showcase for the positive role solar energy can play in our County's future. This is the kind of visionary leadership that embodies the spirit of Jane Lawton and her living legacy.”

The Lawton Center, which was formerly known as the Leland Community Center, is located at 4301 Willow Lane within Leland Neighborhood Park in Chevy Chase. The building serves as a recreation center and houses the Town of Chevy Chase offices and a Day Care Center. In 2009, the center was renamed to honor Ms. Lawton, who worked her way from PTA volunteer to mayor of the Town of Chevy Chase to Maryland delegate representing District 18. In addition, Director Dise has indicated that the project will qualify under the local small business initiative and that this work will be reserved for local vendors.

After pass of national health care, new MOCO planning chairman rebuts hospital growth

Suburban Hospital should revamp its $200 million planned expansion in Bethesda that neighbors have complained could disrupt the nearby community, a Montgomery County hearing examiner said. The 162-page report from chief hearing examiner Francoise M. Carrier, issued late Friday, said the hospital proposal does not mesh with long-standing county plans to maintain a residential feel along Old Georgetown Road, where the hospital has delivered health care since 1943. The report, a recommendation to the county's appeals board, can carry substantial weight when that part-time zoning panel considers the case later this year.

Suburban, a designated regional trauma center, is across the street from the National Institutes of Health in a leafy neighborhood that includes high-priced and mid-priced single-family houses, as well as medical facilities. The hospital has annual admissions of about 15,000. Last year, Suburban became part of Johns Hopkins Medicine. Suburban, which says it needs the expansion to improve its delivery of medical services, wants to grow by about 240,000 square feet and add 66 beds to give it a total of about 300. The hospital also wants to add more parking, physicians' offices and a park-like "relaxation garden" that could act as a buffer with the community.

To do this, Suburban proposed closing part of a public street and building over it -- thereby blocking a neighborhood access route to Old Georgetown Road, a major thoroughfare -- adding a parking garage and tearing down 23 hospital-owned single-family houses. Carrier said the plans should be revised and careful consideration should be given to closing the portion of Lincoln Street, which she said could have an "adverse impact" on the neighborhood. Carrier could have rejected the plans but said "an outright denial would be contrary to the public interest in supporting an important health facility."

Carrier held a record-breaking 34 hearings before issuing the report. The next stop is the county's five-member Board of Appeals, which could accept the recommendations or come up with a plan of its own. The county's Planning Board, which advises the County Council on planning matters, voted 3 to 2 in favor of Suburban's plans in 2008, after extensive internal dissension in which some staffers said the plans were incompatible with the area's master plan.

Efforts to complete the report led Carrier to delay by two weeks her arrival at the Planning Board, where she will take the reins as chairman on June 28. Suburban spokeswoman Rona Borenstein-Levy said Saturday that hospital officials, who are still culling through the report, are "disappointed" by Carrier's conclusions but said they would await review by the Board of Appeals.

"We hope that the board will see this important issue differently once they have had the opportunity to review all of the facts," she said.

Amy Shiman, president of the nearby Huntington Terrace Citizens' Association, which opposed the scope of the expansion, said she was hopeful that revised plans could "meet both the hospital's and community's goals." SOURCE: Washington Post

Is 'smart' growth 'safe' growth?

I have written before about the issue of parking in "smart" growth developments. But after Roger Lewis' column about the new "Social Safeway," in the Washington Post, once again touted behind-building and garage parking, I have to respond here. Parking areas in front of commercial businesses are not only welcoming and convenient to passing motorists, but are also demonstrably safer for patrons. As I have written before, consider a customer who is being accosted by a criminal or gang members in a county parking lot. If this were to occur in a traditional front-of-store parking lot, these criminals would have to make a bolder move in victimizing a citizen. Any such criminal activity could be witnessed from the street by passing motorists, pedestrians, and - most importantly - by police passing by on a routine patrol.

Now consider if the incident is taking place behind the store. A passing police officer will not see it happening. Police cannot possibly drive into and behind every single "smart" growth, mixed-use development as they drive down 355, for example. And if the incident is occuring in a private garage, forget about it! We need to stop putting aimless development, and the greedy political wish for more property tax revenue, ahead of the safety of the public. Not to mention that the current parking in front of county shopping centers has so far helped us avoid the "concrete canyon" concept my opponents want to impose on the county.

Let's keep it that way, and when you hear about "smart" growth, "density," and "walkable communities" - and especially if those terms are applied to developments further than 1/4 mile from a transit station - that's your signal that you've been had. So take action on November 2, and vote for Robert Dyer. I will help us take a responsible approach to development that protects the environment and education, puts the infrastructure horse back in front of the development cart, and preserves the quality of life in our desirable rural and suburban neighborhoods. SOURCE: Robert Dyer

June 21, 2010

Dist. 16 Senate candidate Meyer Marks reports stolen laptop

Dear Friends and Supporters,
Just a short note to let you know that my campaign laptop along with important financial documents were stolen from me the other evening at friendship Heights metro center. This lose has been devastating me, that has forced away from the campaign trial. The the worst part, is this was new Toshiba Laptop that was purchased for Marks For Maryland Campaign committee, made possible by a generous contributor. Because of this tragic lose, your support is urgently needed. I would appreciate anything help and support you are able to provide at this time. For more information you are welcome to call me anytime PH. 240-476-5533. For your convenience contributions can be made online www.marksformaryland.org. Even with this setback I remain confident that will achieve victory. Thanks again for your continued support and friendship.

Sincerely Yours!
Meyer Marks
Marks For Maryland Senate District 16
Campaign Postal Address: 7728 Woodmont Ave. Bethesda, Md; 20814

After Father's Day, Top Maryland blogger closes blog out of love for his son

In all probability, this is the last original post I will be writing for Maryland Politics Watch for the foreseeable future. I owe it to all of you to explain why. It’s actually pretty simple. Two endeavors occupy nearly my entire life. In the first endeavor, I work for an international union (the Carpenters) as its sole researcher. I am responsible for investigating corporate, economic and academic issues throughout the United States and Canada. I travel frequently. My “office” is often nothing more than a cell phone, a laptop, a rental car and a never-ending series of randomly located hotel rooms. I do whatever I have to do to perform this job as well as I possibly can.

Every spare minute that I can find goes to my second endeavor, which is writing Maryland Politics Watch on an unpaid basis. I owe a great debt to everyone that has aided me in this, especially my precious spies. Even though I write the blog at night and on weekends and program the content for daily viewing, it requires almost as many hours as my job. If that were not the case, then the quality of the work here would not be high enough to create and sustain the audience that this blog has. Caught between these two activities is my family: my wife Holly and my one-year-old son Andres. Tragically, I have spent more time working on the blog than I have with my son.

So long as I have both a very demanding job and a very demanding blog, I cannot be the husband and father that my family deserves. So I have to choose. And right now, I am choosing the job that puts food on my son’s table. That, of course, is not the blog. Some may wonder why I don’t simply “cut back.” It is not my nature to do anything without giving it 100% effort. I’m just not made that way and I can’t change.

If I had one wish for MPW readers, it is that they could see the political process as closely as I have witnessed it. It’s really not about third readings, zoning text amendments, committee votes, task force reports, staff memos or any of that. It’s all about the people who participate in government decision-making. I have come to know these people better than anyone – perhaps, even better than they know themselves. They are a fascinating group. Elected officials are not the cardboard, All-American baby-kissing characters they try to become at election time. Nor are they all evil, money-grubbing con artists as they are frequently portrayed by the media. Yes, many of them are insecure, needy, egotistical and overly sensitive, though there are plenty of exceptions. A few of them are even paranoid, arrogant and self-obsessed. But the vast majority of them enter politics with some spark of good intent in their hearts. Many of them really do have beliefs, and even principles, and are not faking them. Most of them want to perform well. The late Delegate Jane Lawton (D-18) was an example of the very best of politics, and even of humanity itself.

What the public never sees are the sacrifices they make. I can’t count the number of times elected officials have despaired in private conversations with me – often very emotionally – about the impact of their office-holding on their families, their careers, their finances, their social relationships outside of politics, their enjoyment of the fun things in life, and even on their emotional condition. Some sacrifice these things for the wrong reasons. Maybe it’s ego or the need to be recognized. These people become little more than the badges they wear on their chests. But some sacrifice these things for the right reasons, like a true dedication to helping others. The really good ones often can’t serve without giving 100%. I sympathize. I wish there was a reliable way for the voters to tell apart the good ones from the mediocre ones and the really bad ones.

Now to the blog. I can’t say whether I will ever write again about state and local politics or policy. If I do, it will have to be in a way that is compatible with the economic and personal well-being of my family. No matter how hard I have tried, I cannot make it work under the current circumstances. I may occasionally put up guest blogs, press releases, event announcements, endorsements, videos, photos, literature and the like. (Isn’t it a shame that the mainstream media ignores most of that material?) But I cannot simultaneously be the Walter Winchell of Maryland and an international union corporate investigator and a good husband and father. Unless things change, I can no longer write original columns for Maryland Politics Watch.

Thank you to everyone, and especially to the great David Lublin, who is the best blog-father an online rapscallion like me could have ever had. SOURCE: Maryland Politics Watch
PICTURE: Andres Pagnucco trying to get his Dad's attention.

Martin v. Bob and Big Oil

By now, you've probably read or heard about the latest piece of nasty back-and-forth business between Gov. Martin O'Malley and Robert L Ehrlich, Jr., the Republican challenger. It involves a radio attack ad from O'Malley's campaign linking Ehrlich to the BP oil spill. The Sun's political team has been all over it. Read some of the coverage here at the Maryland Politics blog. Beyond the bareknuckled ugliness of the attack and the degree to which it has clearly gotten under Ehrlich's skin, what fascinates me is how old media (radio) appears to have been far more effective than new media (YouTube video) in launching the attack. Take a look at this video that was posted at YouTube June 1 by Maryland Democrats. It's titled "Big Oil Bob" and I think it is much harsher and nastier than the radio ads that Ehrlich is now pushing back hard against. As such dirty ads go, this is a winner.

Note the visual imagery of dead and oil ravaged waterfowl to which Ehrlich is linked. Note the images of Ehrlich and his wife, Kendel, looking, well, somewhere between goofy and stupid. When you ad the audio of Ehrlich saying, "Drill baby, drill," along with Kendel's seemingly silly laughter, you have a fairly personal, down and dirty political attack ad. And yet, there was not that much impact. The video was only viewed 318 times in the past 16 days, and there is no instant counterattack from Ehrlich on his Facebook page. Now comes the radio attack ad this week, and even without the powerful visuals, it strikes a nerve -- at least with Ehrlich. Take a look at his instant video reply posted on Facebook Thursday. In only four hours, it had 133 views.

Why the instant reaction by Ehrlich to the radio ad? I believe that Ehrlich thinks he owns radio in this campaign by nature of the relationship he and his wife have with WBAL, and I think the Democrats found a way to rattle him. If I was the Democratic Party of Maryland, I'd be on the phone with WBAL this morning buying airtime just before and during the show Ehrlich hosts with Kendel every Saturday morning. You want to set the agenda of that show, run this ad. And if the station won't take your Democratic money, after you call the FCC, call me, and I'll write about it until the cows come home. With these attack ads, dueling YouTube videos, Facebook responses and the apparent power of the very old medium of radio to unsettle Ehrlich, this race is starting to look like it might still be a media feast. SOURCE: Baltimore Sun

Silver Spring post office for sale

Hey look: Silver Spring's main post office on 2nd Avenue is for sale. Presumably they will be moving elsewhere. Where, I have no idea. Here's the key component of their sales pitch: "A major attraction of this area is the transformative City Place". SOURCE: Silver Spring Singular

June 20, 2010

Olney dog park opens!

Join Lady (my schnoodle) and me for the grand opening of the Olney Manor Dog Park tomorrow, 9:00-noon. This is the fifth dog park in the county’s system, joining Black Hill Regional Park, Cabin John Regional Park, Ridge Road Recreational Park and Wheaton Regional Park. Parks staff tell me that dog parks continue to be one of the most popular amenities in the parks system. And I know Lady is looking forward to getting a treat from Bark!, one of the local businesses participating in the event. SOURCE: Nancy Floreen

DC breathalyzers were fraudulent

WASHINGTON - Two D.C. defense attorneys who specialize in DWI cases are raising new concerns about DC's flawed breathalyzers. They said not only were the machines miscalibrated, but the test results were inaccurate. Hundreds of people have been falsely convicted of drunk driving in the District and are now fighting back. Thomas Key and his law partner Bryan Brown believe the breathalyzer problems have existed for years.

"The Attorney General's office and Metropolitan Police need to come clean and tell the public what’s going on," said Brown.

The cases in question date back to the fall of 2008 and center around 10 breathalyzers used up until February, 2010. D.C. officials said 400 people were convicted of driving while intoxicated based on flawed results. Half of them went to jail. Last week, D.C. Attorney General Peter Nickles told FOX 5 the machines were miscalibrated to show a driver's blood alcohol content to be about 20 percent higher than it actually was. He said an officer in charge of maintaining the breathalyzers improperly set the baseline alcohol concentration levels. However, Nickles does not believe the new findings will change the results of routine DWI cases.

"Keep in mind, you don't do the breathalyzer unless there's some evidence, field sobriety test, officers' observations that the individual should be brought into the station," said Nickles.

Key and Brown believe the problem dates back much further than 2008 and that many more people have fallen victim.

"Tell us what you're doing to fix it. The harm that was caused by the problem and tell us what you're doing to make sure this doesn't happen again,” said Brown.

The attorneys said there may eventually be a class action lawsuit. The District has replaced the flawed breathalyzers with another brand. They have also started to devise a stricter standard for testing accuracy. SOURCE: FOX DC

Happy birthday to Father's Day, 100 years-old

We can’t let Father’s Day pass without saying, “Happy Birthday.” You read that right. It was 100 years ago that what is recognized as the precursor of today’s national Father’s Day was celebrated in Spokane, Wash. The push behind it came from Sonora Smart Dodd, who was 16 years old when her mother died in 1898 and her father, William Jackson Smart, took over care for her and her five siblings. Upon hearing of a Mother’s Day movement in 1909, she decided fathers such as hers deserved a special day of recognition, too.

Through the efforts of Dodd, working with the Spokane YMCA and the city’s Ministerial Alliance, Father’s Day was celebrated on June 19, 1910. But while Mother’s Day caught on relatively quickly, Father’s Day had a tougher road to travel. It wasn’t until 1972 that President Richard Nixon made the third Sunday in June the permanent date for the national celebration of Father’s Day. Today it is celebrated in more than 50 countries.

The National Retail Federation estimates Father’s Day spending this year will be $9.8 billion — 4.8 percent higher than last year, but still below the estimated $14.6 billion spent on Mother’s Day. Greeting cards are a part of those expenditures — an estimated $749 million. Walk down the greeting card aisle and there seems to be a higher percentage of humorous cards than sentimental ones, compared to Mother’s Day choices. But that’s OK, dads can take a joke.

The greeting card punch line, the longevity of the holiday or the amount spent on mothers or fathers are not what matters in the end. What matters is recognizing the important roles fathers play in the lives of their families and the upbringing of children. While parental roles may be changing, the importance of both mothers and fathers has not changed. Children aren’t the only ones who should thank fathers today. As a society, we should thank those fathers who live up to their responsibilities and help produce our future leaders.

We want to thank fathers who are good role models — fathers who help teach their children not only how to ride a bicycle or catch a ball, but also how to contribute to their communities, choose right instead of wrong and become good parents when they have children of their own. SOURCE: Pantagraph

Funeral for Trooper Wesley Brown

Verdict of $5.6 million bestowed on BW&H

A Montgomery County jury Thursday afternoon reached a $5.6 million verdict after a nine day medical malpractice case against an osteopath for causing nerve and spinal injuries during a high velocity cervical manipulation performed upon his patient. The claims were brought by Nancy and James Marquez against Hadi M. Rassael, D.O. and Advanced Medical and Cosmetic Group, Inc. The jury deliberated 7 hours before reaching its verdict. Approximately $2.7 million of the award was for past and future lost earnings of Ms. Marquez who was a physical therapist at the time of the improper manipulation, and who was never able to return to her profession due to her nerve and back injuries. Ms. Marquez continues to suffer intractible pain and has undergone two surgeries to repair her damaged brachial plexus and to replace a disrupted disc at level C5-6 in her back. Approximately $276,000 of the award was for past medical expenses. The remaining $2.5 million was awarded for noneconomic loss to Ms. Marquez and her husband. That award is subject to Maryland's cap on nonecomic loss. Rassael, et al. v. Marquez, et ux, Case No. 298673-V (Circuit Court for Montgomery Co.).

Ms. Marquez presented to Dr. Rassael's office for purposes of receiving a very light, non-twisting osteopathic manipulation to her hip joint know as "muscle energy technique." Since her days as a Division One swimmer on the Michigan State swim team, and her participation in numerous trialthalons, many of which she won, she suffered from periodic hip pain which was resolved through use of the muscle energy technique. She presented to Defendant Rassael's office after specifically asking whether he was familiar with that technique and was told he was. After arriving at the office, however, the doctor laid Ms. Marquez on an exam table and proceeded to examine her back. When his hands got to the back of her head, he suddenly and without warning twisted her neck in both directions in a forceful manner, causing injury to the nerves in her neck and a rupture of one of her vertebral disks at C5-6. Ms. Marquez has never recovered from her injuries which plaque her with pain and muscle atrophy that prevents her from participating in competitive sports of any type. She underwent a brachial plexus decompression surgery and a disk replacement surgery in Germany.

Of siginficance, during the trial, the defendants intended to call a neuoradiologist, Charles Citrin, M.D., as an expert. Believing Dr. Citrin was a "professional witness" whose opinions were suspect, the plaintiffs sought discovery of Dr. Citrin's financial records to prove he was a "hired gun" expert. After three attempts to obtain this information to no avail, the presiding judge, The Honorable Marielsa Bernard, ordered Dr. Citrin to appear before her. After considering his testimony as to the whereabout of his financial records as "disingenuous" and his honestly questionable, she refused to allow Dr. Citrin to testify. This is one of the first reported cases of an expert being stricken for failing to produce financial information as to his/her income as an expert witness.

The plaintiffs were represented by Alan J. Belsky and Valerie A. Grove of Belsky, Weinberg & Horowitz. The Defendants were represented by D. Lee Rutland and Robert S. Morter of Wharton, Levin, Ermantrout & Klein of Annapolis. SOURCE: Maryland malpractice lawyers