April 2, 2011

Snyder, City Paper feud continues

Redskins owner Dan Snyder is at the center of another controversy – this time it centers around a report by Washington City Paper claiming that Snyder didn’t follow through with some environmental guidelines near his home. Snyder sued Washington City Paper in February, claiming that he was libeled by the publication. Now, it appears that the battle between the two is escalating. A story in Washington City Paper’s online edition claims that Snyder has failed to satisfy complaints from the U.S. Park Service over trees he cut down on his property six years ago. Snyder was ordered to pay fines and replace the trees because they overlooked park property. But the publication claims he hasn’t replanted any. A spokesman for Snyder said the Washington City Paper story is untrue. And so does the U.S. Park Service.

Travel the Underground Railroad in Md.

Visitors to a park in Maryland will be able to experience what it was like to travel the underground railroad. Saturday marks the start of this year's free guided hikes of the Underground Railroad Experience Trail at Woodlawn Manor Cultural Park in Sandy Spring. The free, two-mile hikes simulate the underground railroad experience. The 90 minute hikes will be offered every Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon ending Nov. 5. Guided hikes of the trail have been taking place for at least five years.

Taxpayers Have Three Extra Days to File Their Taxes This Year

Annapolis, Md. (April 1, 2011) – Comptroller Peter Franchot today reminded Marylanders that this year’s tax filing deadline has been extended to Monday, April 18, allowing taxpayers three additional days to prepare and file their 2010 tax returns. As an added bonus, taxpayers who owe money can receive an extra two weeks to pay their liability if they file their tax return electronically by the April 18 deadline and choose to have their payment direct debited. Payments must be scheduled for April 30, 2011 or earlier.

“This is no April Fool’s Day joke,” said Comptroller Franchot. “Taxpayers have an additional three days to prepare and file their taxes this year. I recognize that Marylanders who owe taxes may be feeling the pinch more than ever this year so these filers have the opportunity to extend their payment until the end of the month,” added the Comptroller. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has extended the filing deadline because of Emancipation Day, a holiday observed in the District of Columbia, falls on Friday, April 15 this year. According to the IRS, by law, District of Columbia holidays impact tax deadlines in the same way that federal holidays do. Therefore, the tax deadline will be on the following Monday, allowing all taxpayers an extra three days to file this year.

Taxpayers requesting an extension must do so by the April 18 deadline and will have until Monday, October 17 to file their 2010 tax returns. An extension only delays filing, not the obligation to pay the tax owed. Penalties and interest are applicable to underpayment and begin to accrue on the tax deadline.

“If you are filing for an extension on your federal return and you do not expect to owe any additional taxes to the state of Maryland, then you do not need to file for an extension with my office because it happens automatically,” said Comptroller Franchot. “However, if you expect to owe additional tax to the state, you must file for an extension with the state as well as the IRS and pay the amount you estimate to owe.”

Free, state tax assistance is available at all of the agency’s 12 taxpayer service offices, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Additional hours of assistance will be offered on Saturday, April 16 from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m., and on Monday, April 18, from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. at all agency locations.

Taxpayers can also download state tax forms, find helpful information and check the status of their refund by visiting the Comptroller's Website, www.marylandtaxes.com or by calling 410-260-7980 or 1-800-MD-TAXES for free state tax help. The call center is open Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. through April 18, as well as on Saturday, April 16 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. To check the status of a refund by phone, please call, 410-260-7701 or 1-800-218-8160.

State school superintendent to retire at the end of the school year

Maryland school superintendent Nancy Grasmick announced her retirement this afternoon at the State Department of Education headquarters. She will step down June 30, a year before her contract expires. State superintendent Nancy Grasmick will retire at the end of this year. Photo courtesy msa.md.gov.

Grasmick, the longest-serving school chief in the country, has served as state superintendent for two decades. Since her arrival, the Maryland school system won numerous national awards, including the nation’s best school system award from Education Week three years in a row.

“Our students and our schools have made tremendous progress over the past two decades, and stand on the edge of even greater progress,” Grasmick said in a press release. “It has been my great honor and privilege to work with our state’s outstanding educators to provide our children with the educational system they richly deserve.”

Governor O’Malley thanked Grasmick for her work as state superintendent of schools, setting aside their past disputes about education policy.

April 1, 2011

Police Seek Suspects in M&T Bank Armed Robbery

Second District officers reported to the M&T Bank located at 3720 Farragut Ave. after a report that an armed robbery took place, the release said. During the initial investigation, police were informed that two men—both armed with handguns—entered the bank and verbally demanded cash. The men received an undisclosed amount of cash before they fled the scene on foot and headed toward Dupont Avenue. No one was injured during the course of the crime.

Police are looking for two black male suspects who were described as being six feet tall. One suspect was last seen wearing a green and brown camouflage-patterned hat and jacket with blue pants, while the second suspect was last seen wearing a black hat, jacket and pants.

Detectives from the Robbery Section of the Montgomery County Police Major Crimes Division will continue to investigate the bank robbery. Anyone with information about the crime or the suspects are asked to contact the Robbery Section at 240-773-5100, 1-866-411-8477 or 240-773-8477. A reward of $1,000 is being offered for information that leads to the arrest and/or indictment of the people involved in the crime.

D.C. flight makes emergency landing in Ohio

DAYTON, Ohio (AP) - An Ohio airport official says an American Airlines flight was diverted to Dayton's airport after about a half dozen people on board complained of illness. The director of Dayton International Airport says the pilot alerted the airport Friday morning that some passengers were complaining about air quality. Director Terrence Slaybaugh says Flight 547 was traveling from Reagan National in Washington, D.C., to Chicago's O'Hare Airport.

Slaybaugh says one passenger had an asthma attack. That passenger and two others were taken to a hospital for treatment. He did not know their conditions. He says the plane had about 140 people on board, including the crew. Arrangements will be made to get the other passengers to their destinations. American Airlines did not immediately return messages. SOURCE: TBD

Knut the polar bear drowned after suffering brain disorder

Investigators have determined that Knut the polar bear died of drowning after suffering a brain disorder. Fans are set to protest on Saturday against plans to display his remains in a climate change exhibit. Two weeks after the death of Knut the polar bear, investigators have determined the cause of the four-year-old's untimely demise.

According to the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW), Knut suffered from a brain inflammation and muscle spasms that caused him to fall from his perch and drown in the enclosure's pool. Claudia Szentik, pathologist with the IZW, said that the inflammation in Knut's brain was so massive that "he would have died sooner or later." Although Knut showed no signs of stress, IZW President Heribert Hofer explained that wild animals can bear a large amount of pain without outwardly showing it.

Protest plannned

The current director of Berlin's Natural History Museum, Ferdinand Damaschun, said it was conceivable that Knut's remains could be preserved and put on display in an exhibit about climate change. These plans have sparked a backlash among Knut fans, who plan to hold a demonstration outside Berlin Zoo on Saturday. Meanwhile, the zoo plans to build a bronze statue to commemorate the world-renowned polar bear who was visited by 11 million people during his lifetime. Knut shot to fame after being abandoned by his mother and hand-reared by keeper Thomas Dörflein.

Maryland man charged with attempted murder for Thanksgiving Eve shooting in Pottstown

POTTSTOWN - A man who allegedly attempted to kill another man at a party in the borough in November 2010, embracing the victim in a hug before pulling out a handgun and shooting him, is now in police custody. Oscar Armando Gonzalez, 38, of Baltimore, Md., was apprehended by Pottstown police outside of Bethlehem Thursday and arraigned Thursday night. Gonzalez is charged with attempted murder, aggravated assault, and related offenses. He is incarcerated in Montgomery County Correctional Facility in lieu of $150,000 cash bail.

According to court papers, Gonzalez was at a party in the 500 block of Walnut Street Nov. 24, 2010, when he allegedly shot the victim, Mauricio Escobar, one time in the side. When police arrived at the residence around 11:30 p.m., they discovered Escobar "covered in blood," and Gonzalez had fled the scene. Police said they received information indicating Gonzalez was working for a tree cutting business outside of Bethlehem Thursday afternoon, and they took him into custody from his job without incident. See Saturday's edition of The Mercury for the full story.

East County Intercom newsletter

Dear East County Residents:

The new edition of the "East County Intercom" community e-newsletter for April 2011 is now available for you to read. Please click here to access the information. Join us on April 6, 2011 at our monthly East County Citizens Advisory Board meeting at 7:15 p.m. at the Eastern Montgomery Regional Services Center, 3300 Briggs Chaney Road, Silver Spring, Maryland 20904 (Conference Room.) Click here for the Agenda. If you have questions, need further information or need to request special accommodations to participate in this activity, please contact Anjoo Chohda at 240-777-8411or email her at: anjoo.chohda@montgomerycountymd.gov
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2 Teen Girls Missing From Montgomery County

ROCKVILLE, Md. - Authorities are asking for the public’s help in finding two missing teenaged girls. Montgomery County Police say 17-year-old Destiny Magana and 15-year-old Stevonya Reid were last seen Wednesday afternoon outside Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville, Md. They are believed to still be together. Stevonya Reid's family says she may be in need of medical attention.

2 Teen Girls Missing From Montgomery County: MyFoxDC.com

Mid-Atlantic Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Upcoming Events

Events are posted on our Calendar of Events on a biweekly basis. Please visit our Calendar frequently to view new entries.

April 7, 2011 - Greater Silver Spring Business Leaders Luncheon, El Nopalito Grill, Silver Spring, MD. Time: 11:30AM - 1:15PM. The Greater Silver Spring Chapter of the Mid-Atlantic Hispanic Chamber of Commerce invites you to its monthly Busimess leaders luncheon... | Read more and register online

April 13, 2011 - I-270 Business Leaders Luncheon, Hilton Hotel, Gaithersburg, MD. Time: 11:45AM - 1:15PM. The Rockville, Gaithersburg and Germantown Chapters of the Mid-Atlantic Hispanic Chamber of Commerce cordially...| Read more and register online.

April 13, 2011 - Grand Opening, Wireless Outlet, Inc. Store, Arlington, VA. Time: 4PM - 6PM. The Arlington County Chapter of the Mid-Atlantic Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (MAHCC.org) Cordially invites you to attend a Private...| Read more and register online.

April 20, 2011 - I-270 Corridor After-Hours Business Mixer, La Tasca-Spanish Tapas Bar, Rockville, MD. Time: 5PM - 7PM. The Rockville, Gaithersburg & Germantown Chapters of the Mid-Atlantic Hispanic Chamber of Commerce cordially invite you to its...| Read more and register online.

April 21, 2011 - Greet & Meet Business Mixer and Speed Networking, El Nopalito Grill Tapas & Tequila Bar, Silver Spring, MD. Time: 5PM - 7PM. The Greater Silver Spring Chapter of the Mid-Atlantic Hispanic Chamber of Commerce cordially invites you to its Speed Networking... | Read more and register online.

April 26, 2011- Frederick Chapter "Know Your Chamber" Breakfast, Frederick, MD. Time: 8AM - 9:30AM. The Frederick, Maryland Chapter of the Mid-Atlantic Hispanic Chamber of Commerce cordially Invites you to an exciting. . . | Read more and register online.

May 5, 2011 - "Cinco de Mayo" Celebration, Mariachi Restaurant, Frederick, MD. Time: 5PM - 7PM. The Frederick Chapter of the Mid-Atlantic Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (MAHCC.org) cordially invites you to its Annual "Cinco de Mayo"... | Read more and register online.

May 5, 2011 - "Cinco de Mayo" Celebration, La Tasca-Spanish Tapas Bar, Rockville, MD. Time: 5PM - 7PM. The Rockville, Gaithersburg & Germantown Chapters of the Mid-Atlantic Hispanic Chamber of Commerce cordially invite you to their Annual "Cinco de Mayo" celebration ... | Read more and register online.

May 5, 2011 - "Cinco de Mayo" Celebration, El Nopalito Grill Tapas & Tequila Bar, Silver Spring, MD. Time: 5PM - 7PM. The Greater Silver Spring Chapter of the Mid-Atlantic Hispanic Chamber of Commerce cordially invites you to its Annual "Cinco de Mayo" celebration ... | Read more and register online.

For more information call 301-404-1946.

First Cancer Treatment Facility Opens in Germantown

Cancer patients in Germantown have a new ally in their fight against the disease. A new outpatient care facility by Adventist HealthCare opened at 20330 Seneca Meadows Parkway on Friday. The new radiation oncology center is the first in Germantown to offer radiation therapy. Spokesperson Jennifer Plaia said the center expanded healthcare access for upper Montgomery County and the decision to open the facility was not influenced by the reported cancer cluster near Fort Detrick or any other study.

“With 4,000 new cases of cancer reported in Montgomery County each year, and with a growing upcountry population, we had long planned to expand radiation oncology service,” Plaia said. The estimated $5 million facility offers outpatient radiation therapy using cone beam technology, which generates images of a patient’s tumor in various angles before radiation is administered. The images can then be reconstructed to produce a 3-D image of the tumor. SOURCE: Germantown Patch

Israel/Irish Night with Ambassador Oren & Governor O'Malley

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) took his musical talents to the residence of the Israeli ambassador in Washington on Tuesday night, where he was among the guests who “jammed” with an Israeli-Celtic band. A video from the reception, held to celebrate what Israel and Ireland have in common, has been posted on YouTube and the Web site of the Embassy of Israel. SOURCE: Washington Post

Wheaton town square will stay public, emulate Bethesda

A parking lot in downtown Wheaton will soon be transformed into a town square. Not only will it make the area more walkable and vibrant, but Montgomery County officials say it will belong to the public and emulate many elements of the successful Bethesda Row. A few weeks ago, I wrote about concerns that the new square on what's now Parking Lot 13 would not be owned by Montgomery County, which raises some serious issues about the public's right to public space.

In contrast, Montgomery County leased downtown Silver Spring's Ellsworth Drive to a private developer. After private guards hassled photographers taking pictures on Ellsworth, County Executive Ike Leggett clarified that it is a "public forum" allowing free expression and photography. SOURCE: Greater Greater Washington

March 31, 2011

Blair Robot Project places seventh at regional competition

The Blair Robotics team placed seventh out of 63 teams at the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) Robotics Competition in Washington, D.C. on March 25. Blair won eight of the 10 matches they participated in.

LogoMotion, the theme for this year's competition, consisted of alliances of three robots, each from three different teams. The teams must have placed shape tubes on scoring racks located on alliance walls. The tubes could have been placed anywhere, although placing tubes to form a logo earned additional points.

According to team leader senior Aaron Tucker, the team experienced relatively few mechanical failures. However, they made several notes for improvement for the next regional competition, such as improving construction. "Our main problems were that the towers that we deployed the mini-bot on were raised slightly, unlike our testing tower. So we had to fix that for deployment, and the mini-bot, to work," Tucker said. "On top of that, our gripper kept on knocking off tubes on the way down, and the drivers had viewing angles that we didn't practice driving with."

Tucker also noted that Blair worked under the fifth seeded alliance captains going into the quarterfinals because higher seeded teams chose some of the lower seeded teams, including Blair, to be captains for higher ranked alliances going into the final rounds. Of the 63 teams that competed in the event, only one alliance of three robots went to the finals. That alliance was composed of Teams 233, 768 and 2377, teams from Cocoa and Viera Beach, FL, Baltimore, MD and Pasadena, MD respectively.

Overall, both Tucker and junior member Marcus Clarke were pleased with the turnout of the D.C. regional. Clarke found the competition thrilling and was interested even when the robots performed poorly. "[The] competition was great and really fun," he said, "It was full of exciting times such as setting the high-score at least once and having our mini-bot work for the first time and down times like when the arm of our robot broke." SOURCE: Silver Chips

Major issues still unresolved as General Assembly session enters final days

ANNAPOLIS— Maryland lawmakers are rushing to approve bills on everything from hot-button social issues to the budget before they leave town in less than two weeks. The General Assembly is close to adopting its most important measure — a $34 billion spending plan to pay for education, health care and roads.

But most of Gov. Martin O’Malley’s top priorities — including measures to establish a $100 million venture fund and to mandate that utilities buy offshore wind energy — have yet to clear their respective committees. Get the information you need fast. Sign up for our Breaking News alerts today. Those and measures to place a new tax on alcohol sales and to extend in-state college tuition rates to the children of illegal immigrants are still locked in the House Ways and Means committee.

“There’s a lot of big stuff that’s still in our committee,” said Delegate Frank Turner, D-Howard.

A group of African-American clergy waded in the lobby between the House and Senate chambers Tuesday morning, with hopes of dislodging the immigrant tuition bill from Turner’s committee. A watered-down version of the measure — which would have students attend community college before being considered for in-state status at Maryland’s four-year universities — helped the measure clear the Senate, but supporters were uncertain if the compromise would be enough to guarantee success in the House.

“We’re going to keep pushing,” said Bishop Douglas Miles, of Baltimore’s Koinonia Baptist Church.

A proposal to legalize same-sex marriage in Maryland appeared on its way to quick passage earlier this month, but was derailed in the House when supporters could not secure the 71 votes needed for passage. A related measure to grant better protections to transgendered Marylanders passed the House during a rare weekend meeting, but died in the Senate when Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, D-Calvert, blocked it from coming to a vote. Lawmakers passed the nominal deadline Monday for bills to be approved by one chamber and considered by the other without facing procedural roadblocks. But high-profile measures, such as the governor’s, can still be fast-tracked in the waning days of the session with approval from the Assembly’s leaders.

O’Malley’s lobbying team has been working to address concerns about the governor’s agenda before lawmakers leave town April 11, trying to align House and Senate proposals, said Joseph Bryce, the governor’s chief lobbyist.

“We’ve been trying to get everybody on the same page, because with less than two weeks left you need to have them be as close as possible to one another, so we’ve spent a lot of time behind the scenes on that, answering questions,” Bryce said Tuesday.

Concerns about the costs to Maryland ratepayers of the governor’s wind bill have stalled action by lawmakers, although an initial vote by a key House panel could come as soon as Monday, said House Economic Matters Committee Chairman Dereck Davis, D-Prince George’s. Davis said he’s not surprised by the pace, given that members just emerged from elections last fall.

“The first year of a term, it’s been my experience things tend to move a little slower because you have a lot of freshmen and people are sort of recovering from the election. They haven’t spent say the whole interim working on bills and issues, they’ve been campaigning,” Davis said. “So the first year is always a little slower.”

Broad, sweeping measures affecting hundreds of thousands of Marylanders — including the state plan to implement federal healthcare reform and proposed cuts to state workers’ pensions and other retirement benefits — appear likely to make the cut. Bills that miss the 90-day cutoff either die or can be sent to legislative purgatory: the summer study. House Environmental Matters Committee Chairwoman Maggie McIntosh told O’Malley weeks ago that his plan to crack down on septic-system pollution would have to wait for a study. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Thomas “Mac” Middleton, D-Charles, meanwhile floated the possibility of studying the governor’s wind bill over the summer.

Senators looking to ease up on medical marijuana users passed a measure to allow them to present a doctor’s note as a defense in court. The House would rather study the issue. Miller preempted the process by seeking a study on the possible merging of the University of Maryland, College Park and the University of Maryland, Baltimore now before suggesting any changes. Lawmakers wrangling with a series of hot-button bills on illegal immigration in 2008 chose to study the issue rather than vote on any definitive measure. This session they asked for an additional year to study the issue. Proposals which have moved include narrower, more targeted bills.

A measure to legalize direct shipment of wine to connoisseurs — which fell under the weight of Maryland’s alcohol lobby three years in a row — now appears headed for the governor’s desk, albeit trimmed back to only allow for shipping from wineries. And a proposal to let dogs hang outdoors while their owners dine at restaurants easily cleared the House and is scheduled for a Senate hearing April 5. House Minority Leader Anthony O’Donnell, R-Calvert, commented: “A week and a half before the session ends, it’s hard to characterize the session because a lot of things are still in the balance.” SOURCE: Herald-Mail

Whitman hosts first national debate tournament, local officials judge final rounds

The speech and debate team hosted its first national tournament this weekend, the Beltway Invitational. The tournament featured two types of debate: student Congress, modeled after the U.S. Congress, and Lincoln-Douglas, a one-on-one philosophical debate. Students from over 25 high schools nationwide participated in the tournament.

On Saturday, Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne, former Representative Jim Moody and World Bank economic advisor Shahid Yusuf judged the final round of student Congress debate. While no Whitman students participated in the final round, team members who typically participated in Congress, including seniors Ross Slaughter and Amar Mukunda, organized this section of the tournament.

Senior Taz Sella, who attends Carroll High School in Texas, won the Congress tournament. In Lincoln-Douglas, senior twins Jeff and Larry Liu, who attend Indian Springs High School in Alabama, won first and second place.

In addition to the tournament, Whitman hosted a Lincoln Douglas round robin. Unlike the tournament, competitors had to be invited to debate in the round robin tournament. Each of these debaters competed in four rounds. Seniors Alex Zimmermann and Daniel Imas placed fourth and seventh.

By the end of the day, the two debaters with the best records became co-champions and participated in a final round adjudicated by judge Leonie Brinkema, Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler, Maryland District Attorney Rod Rosenstein, judge Jane Roth and Maryland Representative Chris Van Hollen.

Senior Marshall Thompson and senior Ben Sprung-Keyser, who attends Harvard-Westlake High School in California, debated in the final round where they discussed whether juveniles charged with felonies should be tried and prosecuted as adults in the American criminal justice system.

The final round was formatted differently than most Lincoln-Douglas debates. The debaters’ statement times were reduced, the debaters spoke slower and the judges were given the chance to ask the debaters questions. PICTURE: Members of the Whitman speech and debate team posed with Representative Chris Van Hollen after the final round Sunday. Photo by Stephanie Haven.

SOURE: Black & White

From Councilwoman Nancy Floreen . . . Bag Tax Op-ed in the Washington Post

The County Executive transmitted his Recommended FY12 Operating Budget to the County Council on March 15. The proposed budget contains cost-cutting measures that will be difficult for residents and employees in the short term, but I am pleased that it includes a balanced long-term fiscal plan. I commend the County Executive and his team for their hard work in developing the proposal. Last year, I spearheaded a new approach to budgeting that requires a balanced six-year fiscal plan, and I'm gratified to see a continued long-term perspective in our budget work. I have asked our Office of Legislative Oversight to look at the plan, particularly in terms of its progress toward resolving our structural deficit.

I encourage you to engage in the conversation about the hard decisions we will make in the coming months. As I have said many times before, I remain committed to fairness and equity among stakeholders and will work to make sure no one group shoulders a disproportionate burden.

You can let us know your thoughts on the County budget at one of five public hearings spread over April 5-7. The public hearings will be held at 7 p.m. on April 5; at 1:30 and 7 p.m. on April 6; and at 1:30 and 7 p.m. on April 7. All hearings will be held in the Third Floor Hearing Room of the Council Office Building. To register to speak, call 240-777-7803.

If you can't make the public hearings, you can still let us know your views by e-mailing county.council@montgomerycountymd.gov. Our six committees and the full Council will analyze the recommendations over the next two months and will adopt the FY12 budget in late May. The budget will take effect on July 1.

Tune in to Montgomery Municipal Cable (channel 16) at 7:30 on Thursday, Friday, Saturday or Sunday during the weeks of April 18 and May 2. I will discuss my thoughts on the budget in further detail on Inside Out with Pat Smith.

Maryland alcohol tax bill passes Senate

The Maryland Senate on Wednesday passed a proposal that would tack a 3 percent tax on the sale of alcohol, moving it one step closer to the governor’s desk. Senate Bill 994 now heads to the House of Delegates for consideration to be included in the General Assembly’s final spending plan.

If the bill is included in that plan, Gov. Martin O’Malley’s signature would be all it needs to become a law. O'Malley spokesman Shaun Adamec said the governor will keep an open mind to any revenue measures that reach his desk. Fast-tracked SB 994 would put an extra 1 percent sales tax on alcohol over each of the next three years. When fully phased in, the bill would generate up to $88 million a year for the state. In 2012, the bulk of revenues from the first 1 percent increase would go to restoring cuts in education aid in Baltimore, Prince George’s, Allegany and Garrett counties.

An additional $5 million of the tax’s revenue would be used in 2012 to reduce the waiting list for developmental disabilities services — and in its ensuing years, those numbers would increase to at least $10 million in 2013 and at least $15 million in 2014. Additionally, the bill could mean an infusion of cash to the state’s general fund that would offset some cuts lawmakers are seeking to reverse. SOURCE: Biz Journal

Vermont inches closer to single payer

POLITICO's Sarah Kliff reports today that a handful of states are scrambling to nullify the federal health care legislation -- but Vermont is trending in the opposite direction. Under the stewardship of the state's Democratic governor, a bill that moves the state towards single payer passed the state's lower chamber:
After a full day and evening of debate, the Vermont House gave preliminary approval to health care reform legislation that's designed to put the state on the path toward a single payer system. The vote on the measure was 89 to 47. Backers of the bill say it's needed because the state's current health care approach is broken. But opponents say it could dismantle the high quality system that's already in place.

Neighbors, Parents' Coalition Fighting Proposed Cell Phone Pole on Sligo Middle School Property

T-Mobile special exception hearing was on Feb. 11th, will be discussed at PTA meeting on Mar. 8th.

Residents near Sligo Middle School are hoping the special examiner will rule against MCPS’ and T-Mobile special exception request to put a 130-foot cell phone monopole on the property of the school.

The special exception hearing, held on Feb. 11th, garnered the attention of a number of residents in the areas north of the school. In addition to concerns that they were not properly notified, residents think the pole will lower property values, become a safety hazard to the nearby school and impact the open space near Sligo Creek Park.

According to Mary Pat Wilson, real estate management specialist for MCPS who attended the hearing, T- Mobile approached MCPS almost two years ago to put a single monopole cell reception tower on the site. In hearing testimony, T-Mobile’s lawyer noted that the middle school site was not their first choice, but building sites in more commercial areas were either unsuitable or not willing to enter into a lease.

The single pole would be placed behind the school’s tennis courts, in the center of a 30 by 80 foot gravel compound surrounded by a fence and trees.

Nearby homeowner and Parents’ Coalition member Janis Sartucci filed a motion to dismiss the special exception. Sartucci’s main objections: the staff member who authorized the special exception was not a member of the board of the education, the body ultimately authorized to sign real estate and telecommunications deals. Sartucci also noted that the “lessee” box was checked in the special exception, but no lease exists currently between MCPS and T-Mobile. SOURCE: Wheaton Patch

If Tysons is to become a real place, it needs real names

What do Gallery Place, Van Ness, and White Flint all have in common? Originally they were mere Metro station names, but since being introduced they have all transcended to become the names of entire neighborhoods. What do Tysons-McLean, Tysons I & II, Tysons Central, and Tysons-Spring Hill Road have in common? They are proposed Metro station names that will never, ever do the same. Maybe if people drop the “Tysons” part of each name and just use the second half colloquially, but even then it’s hard to imagine anyone calling a neighborhood “I&II”.

Yesterday, Fairfax County’s Board of Supervisors approved its recommendations for the 8 new Metro stations that will open in Fairfax as part of the Silver Line. The names are, in a word, terrible. The four stations in Tysons Corner are particularly unfortunate, because the county is engaged in a long term plan to remake Tysons as an urban center. Suburban park and rides might not need distinctive names, but urban neighborhoods do, and in this way Fairfax is utterly failing its own agenda for Tysons Corner.

I’ve discussed this before, as has GGW, but the proposed names for Tysons are so mind-bogglingly bad that they really do merit response. What sort of names might better define the urban neighborhoods Fairfax hopes to create in Tysons Corner? How about any of the following, all named after neighborhoods, parks, or roads in the vicinity of the proposed stations:

Fairfax Proposal Better Option Tysons-McLean Scott Run Tysons I&II Galleria Center Tysons Central Westpark Tysons-Spring Hill Road Spring Hill

The good news is the WMATA Board has ultimate say over what these stations will be called, so there is still hope that they will ignore Fairfax’s recommendations in favor of station names that will convey some sense of place to the neighborhoods that are sure to grow around them. But how likely is WMATA to overturn a local decision? And really, why should they? It’s not the Metro Board’s job to fix Tysons Corner. SOURCE: Beyond DC

Former President Jimmy Carter leaves Cuba without jailed U.S. contractor

HAVANA - Former President Jimmy Carter left Cuba on Wednesday without gaining the release of a U.S. government contractor jailed the past 16 months, a deflating end to what was otherwise a groundbreaking visit. Carter spent hours talking about improving ties with brothers Raul and Fidel Castro, describing the latter as an "old friend." He met with religious leaders and members of the island's small opposition community, dined out at an atmospheric Old Havana restaurant and even sat down with family members of five Cuban agents serving long prison terms in the U.S.

But when the 86-year-old ex-president flew off in the afternoon without Alan Gross on board, it dashed the hopes of Washington officials and relatives who had hoped Carter would be able to bring the Maryland native home. Gross, who was working on a USAID-funded democracy building program when he was arrested in December 2009, is serving a 15-year sentence after being convicted earlier this month of bringing communications equipment into Cuba illegally.

State Department officials have said privately that Cuban authorities indicated they might release Gross on humanitarian grounds following his trial and sentencing earlier this month. But Carter said that from the very beginning, he knew Gross would not be freed during his visit.

"The Cuban officials made it very clear to me before I left my home that the freedom of Alan Gross would not be granted," he said.

Carter said that he met with Gross at an undisclosed location Wednesday morning and that the 61-year-old contractor told him he had lost 40 kilograms (88 pounds) since his arrest.

"He still seems to be in good spirits, professing his innocence," Carter added.

Carter said Gross' lawyer plans to appeal his conviction, and if that fails, "perhaps in the future an executive order might be issued to grant him a pardon, a release, on humanitarian grounds." Gross' 26-year-old daughter and elderly mother are both suffering from cancer. Gross is from Montgomery County, Md. Carter said he believes Gross is "innocent of any serious crime" and did not pose a serious threat to the Cuban government. SOURCE: NY Daily News

Two charged in death of University of Maryland student Justin DeSha-Overcash

Two men have been charged Thursday in the death of University of Maryland student Justin DeSha-Overcash, a law enforcement source tells ABC7 News. The suspects, who have no relation to the University of Maryland, allegedly murdered the 22-year-old because they knew he was a drug dealer and wanted his money, a source says. The men are charged with first degree murder.

DeSha-Overcash was shot to death January 11 in the home he rented in the 8800 block of 38th Street in Adelphi, just across University Boulevard from College Park. His murder was the 12th of the year in Prince George's County. Authorities initially implied that he was killed over his involvement with drugs, but DeSha-Overcash’s family denied those claims.

FOOD: Opening Day for the Washington Nationals

Opening Day for the Washington Nationals: MyFoxDC.com

WASHINGTON - It's opening day for the Washington Nationals. The Nationals open their season Thursday afternoon against the Atlanta Braves.

To accommodate fans, Metro will be running a handful of eight-car trains on the green line and special shuttle trains between the Mt. Vernon Square and Navy Yard stations.

Metro expects to carry about 20,000 people to and from the game.

Game Time:
March 31, 1:05 PM ET @ Nationals Park
Radio: 106.7 The Fan
Washington Nationals Homepage >>>

March 30, 2011

Montgomery councilman seeks further ban on smoking

Smoking would be banned in some parts of Montgomery County apartment buildings and within 25 feet of their playgrounds under a proposal being considered by the County Council.

The regulation, introduced Tuesday, would prohibit smokers from lighting up in the hallway, laundry room, lobby or other indoor common area of a multiple-family home, such as an apartment complex or town house development. The ban would not apply to outdoor common areas, except for playgrounds.

However, the regulation already is being criticized by at least one tobacco lobbyist, who says the county government is effectively trying to ban a legal activity.

Montgomery County already outlaws smoking in the workplace and in restaurants, said Councilman George L. Leventhal (D-At large) of Takoma Park. His regulation seeks to close a loophole that still allows people to come into contact with dangerous secondhand smoke where they live and play, he said.

A public hearing on the regulation is scheduled for May 5.

"I think it's another example of government trying to control people's lives," said Bruce Bereano, a lobbyist for the state's tobacco wholesalers. "It's typical Montgomery County, just trying to have government run every aspect of [citizens'] lives."

Leventhal said he decided to introduce the regulation after hearing from a county resident whose neighbor constantly smokes in the hallway of his apartment complex.

"Secondhand smoke is a health risk, and it's just rude," Leventhal said.

LGBT Lounge launches in Montgomery County

Pride In The Sky
The Only LGBT Lounge In Montgomery County

Saturday, April 23rd
8p.m. - 1:30 a.m.

The ONLY LGBT Lounge In Montgomery County Is Back and Every Month!
A new report ranks the healthiest counties in every state, and it's good news for many who live in Maryland and northern Virginia.

The University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation compiled the second annual County Health Rankings report. It looks at various health factors such as tobacco use, obesity, and access to health care and air quality. Counties are then scored and ranked within each state.

In Virginia, Fairfax County placed first on a list of 132 cities and counties. Arlington County took second place, and Loudoun County third. Alexandria City, Fairfax City and Manassas City also made the top 10.

In Maryland, Howard, Montgomery and Frederick counties ranked first through third, respectively. Prince George's County didn't fare so well, coming in at No. 17.

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation President and CEO Dr. Risa Lavizzo-Mourey said the report shows that, "where you live, learn, work and play makes an incredible difference to your health." The report is also intended to give communities a road map to improve overall health.

For the full report or to compare the health of several counties within your state, visit www.countyhealthrankings.org. SOURCE: NBC

Lululemon has new look; Honors Slain Employee

The Lululemon store in Bethesda, Md., remains closed for now following a deadly attack, but it has a new, more somber look out front. The front of the store has been covered in a drape with the word "love" printed on it. The drape is in tribute to Jayna Murray, an employee who was murdered in the store earlier this month. One of her co-workers, Brittany Norwood, has been charged with her death. A representative for Lululemon told NBC Washington that the store will eventually open back up, saying "we plan to continue serving Bethesda."

Gaithersburg Garage Fire Out; No Injuries Reported

GAITHERSBURG, Md. (WUSA) -- About 55 firefighters responded to a Gaithersburg fire Wednesday morning, officials said. Firefighters got to the scene of the blaze at around 6:50 a.m. When they got to the home, on 19000 block of Rhodes Way, they saw flames shooting out of the garage.

Cherry Blossoms Festival 2011 Underway!

The National Cherry Blossom Festival predicted the peak blooming period for the 2011 cherry blossoms to be from MARCH 29 – APRIL 3!

CPS Investigating After Toddler Found Wandering Streets

SILVER SPRING, Md. (WUSA) -- Montgomery County Police say investigators with child protective services are now looking into the case of a boy found wandering the streets early Tuesday morning. According to police the boy, only identified as a 3-year-old, was found in the 10300 block of Castlehedge in Silver Spring shortly after 6 in the morning. A neighbor who found the boy said he woke up to the sound of the child crying outside his house. Chris Saxton said, "So I came out and pretty much tried comforting the kid." Saxton then called the police. The boy was taken to nearby Holy Cross hospital, and his mother wasn't located until later on in the morning. Investigators say she had called to report her missing son. Neither the boy's nor his mother's name are being released. Police did state the young child was in the custody of child protective services until the investigation into the events is finalized.

Bethesda could charge for Saturday parking:

Bethesda could charge for Saturday parking: Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett wants to start charging for parking at municipal lots in downtown Bethesda. Some businesses worry it will drive off business, while others realize it will drive parking turnover, increasing the number of customers. (WAMU) SOURCE: Greater Greater Washington

Abortion opponents to open office near Germantown clinic

Two anti-abortion advocacy groups have joined to open a "pro-life center" this week in the same Germantown office park where LeRoy Carhart, a doctor targeted by anti-abortion activists because he provides late-term abortions, started practicing in December. Maryland Coalition for Life and Operation Rescue, a Wichita-based anti-abortion group that created the website KickOutCarhart.com, will move into the office Saturday, according to a press release.

Both groups have rallied against Carhart since he started practicing in Germantown on Dec. 6. The office will be used as a place of prayer for pro-life supporters and as a resource and referral center for pregnant and post-abortive women, according to the press release. Protests and pickets will not take place at the new center, but pro-life supporters from the two groups will continue to demonstrate on the public sidewalk outside the business park.

"Locating an office like this across from the most notorious late-term abortionist in the country was a high priority for us," Operation Rescue President Troy Newman stated in the release. "We wanted to do more than just ask women not to abort their babies. We wanted to provide them with practical assistance, spiritual guidance, and true friendship so that abortion would no longer be a consideration," Carhart maintains regular hours at the clinic, Reproductive Health Services, but does not work there full-time, according to Vicki Saporta, president and CEO of the National Abortion Federation.

Carhart began practicing in Maryland because the state's abortion laws are more permissive than many others, including Nebraska, where he has been based since 1985. SOURCE: Gazette

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray State of the District Address

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray State of the District Address: MyFoxDC.com

WASHINGTON - D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray is preparing to deliver his first State of the District address. Gray will make his speech Monday evening in the auditorium at Eastern Senior High School. It's been a rough first three months in office for Gray. He's been accused of promising a job to former mayoral candidate Sulaimon Brown in exchange for Brown's continued attacks on former mayor Adrian Fenty. Gray has also come under fire for hiring relatives of his aides and for the salaries paid to his top staff. A recent poll showed him with a 31 percent approval rating. The speech gives Gray a chance to lay out his vision for the district and preview his budget proposal, which will be delivered to the D.C. Council on April 1.

March 29, 2011

Leggett: Cell towers Adversely Affect Neighbors

Hear what County Executive Ike Leggett has to say when asked about a plan to put a 130 foot tall cell phone tower on a public school playground in Silver Spring. SOURCE: Parents' Coalition

Smoking Restrictions in Common Areas of Multiple-Family Residences and Playgrounds to be Introduced Before Montgomery Council

Release ID: 11-078
Release Date: 3/29/2011
Contact: Neil Greenberger 240-777-7939 or Delphine Harriston240-777-7931
From: Council Office

ROCKVILLE, Md., March 28, 2011—A resolution will be introduced before the Montgomery County Council on Tuesday, March 29, that would prohibit smoking in certain common areas and playgrounds of multiple-family residential dwellings. Introduction of the resolution, whose chief sponsor is Councilmember George Leventhal, will lead to the next step of the process toward possible adoption—a public hearing tentatively scheduled for May 5.

The resolution will be introduced during a full day for the Council beginning at 9:30 a.m. in the Third Floor Hearing Room of the Council Office Building at 100 Maryland Ave. in Rockville. The meeting will be televised live by County Cable Montgomery (CCM—Cable Channel 6 on Comcast and RCN, Channel 30 on Verizon) and also will be available via streaming through the County Web site at www.montgomerycountymd.gov. The meeting will be rebroadcast on CCM at 9 p.m. on April 1.

The proposed regulation that would restrict smoking would apply to a common area of “any indoor area of a multiple-family residential dwelling which is accessible to the occupants of more than one dwelling, including a hall, lobby or laundry room.” The regulation would also prohibit smoking within 25 feet of a playground area of a multiple-family residential dwelling.

During the morning session, the Council also will introduce a resolution that reflects County Executive Isiah Leggett’s proposal to increase several transportation fees.

Under his proposal, the cost of a monthly Ride On bus pass would increase from $30 to $45; the fee for long-term parking in the Bethesda Parking Lot District would increase from 65 cents to 75 cents per hour (with monthly passes increasing from $120 to $140); Bethesda Parking Lot District parking charge hours would expand to Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. in lots and garages; and the long-term parking fees in the Silver Spring Parking Lot District would increase from 50 cents to 60 cents per hour (and from $95 to $113 per month pass). A public hearing on the increases is tentatively scheduled for April 26.

During the morning session, the Council will honor Raynell Cooper, a Richard Montgomery High School senior who recently won the 2011 national “Teen Jeopardy” competition. Starting at 7:30 p.m., the Council will host four public hearings regarding recommendations made by the Organizational Reform Commission (ORC).

The ORC was composed of members appointed by the Council and County Executive Isiah Leggett. All members had extensive experience in reform in the government or private sector. The committee issued its report that included 28 recommendations on Jan. 31.

The recommendations that will be the subject of public hearings focus on support staff for the Criminal Justice Coordinating Commission, reorganization of the Community Use of Public Facilities division, reorganization of the Commission on Women and reorganization of the Human Rights Commission.

Miller Tosses First Northwest No-Hitter Since 2001

Before Stephanie Miller could focus on beating Bethesda-Chevy Chase, the Northwest sophomore had to defeat self doubt.

Making her first start in the circle this season, Miller hurled six consecutive balls to start the bottom of the first inning against B-CC and walked the first two Baron batters.

“I was just really nervous,” she said after Monday’s game. “I was like, ‘I can’t let myself get down.’ It was a battle between whether I was going to let it affect me or not.”

Miller won the battle. After struggling early, including walking four in the first two innings, Miller settled down and tossed a no-hitter and the Jaguars defeated the Barons 23-0 in five innings at B-CC. Miller’s no-no was the program’s first since Shannon Fry accomplished the feat in 2001. Miller struggled with control at times, but managed to work her way out of any trouble. She walked five, hit one batter and struck out six. She threw 40 of 78 pitches for strikes and threw a first-pitch strike to eight of 19 batters. Only two Barons reached second base and only one advanced to third. SOURCE: Germantown Patch

Did taxpayers get soaked for pumping station construction?

ROCKVILLE, Md. - Have you ever been double-billed for an item? It makes you kind of steamed, doesn't it? That's why some Montgomery County Councilmembers appeared to get a little hot under the collar in a briefing on the Inspector General's report that suggests there are "questionable payments" in the financing of a pumping station and main in the West Germantown Development District.

Inspector General Thomas Dagley issued a report that indicates developers were paid twice for the Hoyles Mill Wastewater Pumping Station -- once by the county and once by the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission.

The project dates back to 1998 when County Attorney Marc Hansen said the county was trying to encourage development, so it acted like a bank, and helped finance projects like the construction of a pumping station. "The developer had to pay money back to the county as the developer sold properties, and the obligation to repay the county was passed on to the homebuyer," he said.

"The people who did buy the homes, they paid twice," said Councilmember Hans Riemer, during a briefing where members of the Montgomery County Council's Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment Committee struggled to follow the flow of funding in the project.

But it's the position of Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett's staff that the IG has it all wrong. In a memorandum dated March 15, Chief Administrative Officer for the County Tim Firestine denies Dagley's suggestion that there were double payments to the developers.

"This is not the case. The two infrastructure financing mechanisms [used in the pumping station construction] are indeed complex, especially when both are present. But the actions by both County agencies were appropriate," he says.

That and the explanations in the briefing weren't enough for Councilmembers Nancy Floreen, Council President Valerie Ervin and Councilmember Marc Elrich.

"We're not done here," Elrich said, as the group tried to pin down precise numbers from the county executive appointees.

Elrich told the appointees to "bring spreadsheets" the next time the panel comes before the council. Ervin said more examination is needed since questions about complex funding for development projects, dating back to what she referred to as "the Clarksburg debacle... keep coming back like a bad penny."

But Council member Roger Berliner had a different take on the issue. In citing the confusion the funding mechanism was causing, he challenged the inspector general to defend his work and questioned whether Dagley was "simply repeating allegations." SOURCE: WTOP

MoCo Exec, Unions Continue Clashing over Cuts

ROCKVILLE, Md. -- A painfully tight budget in Montgomery County is pitting the county executive against county employee unions. County Executive Isiah Leggett, faced with a $ 300 million budget shortfall for the upcoming fiscal year, submitted a budget proposal to the county council that will cut union workers' take-home pay and require them to shoulder a bigger share of their health insurance and pension costs. Employee health care contributions would rise from 20 percent to 30 percent. Employees would also be asked to contribute two percent more toward their own retirement.

"We need to have not just quick fixes, but we need to have long-term, sustainable kinds of reductions in our budget," Leggett told 630 WMAL News. "And this is why having changes in the pension, changes in healthcare, will help us go a long way in doing that as well as elimination of many jobs and positions." Leggett's budget ignores the legally-binding ruling of an arbitrator, who ruled in favor of the unions. Under county law, the council has that power but the executive does not. Municipal and County Government Employees Organization (MCGEO) President Gino Renne said the union plans to file an unfair labor practice charge against Leggett this week. SOURCE: WMAL

Eight-periods days “actively discouraged” for 2012 school year

Stake out your seat in the cafeteria now, because lunch next year may be a little more crowded.Counselors will now “actively discourage” students from taking eight-period days, resource counselor Frances Landau said.

Counselors will still make scheduling decisions on a case-by-case basis. The option of an eight-period day will remain available to students who need the extra credit to graduate, for example, but will be discouraged for students without such compelling reasons, principal Alan Goodwin said.

Counselors’ reluctance to schedule eight period days comes in response to budget cuts predicted for the 2012 school year. As average class sizes continue to increase, Landau doesn’t think it’s economical to allow students to take an extra course if it means adding more students to already overflowing classes. About 20 students are taking an eight period day this year, Landau said.

“It’s really a question of how big a class can be,” she said. “It’s just not fair to tax teachers like this, and we only have seven periods of class in our budget.”

Counselors may make exceptions for classes with low enrollment, Goodwin said.

Student stress was another factor in the change, Landau said. When the school first allowed eight-period days about 10 years ago, most students chose to take electives that didn’t add much to their workloads. SOURCE: Black & White

Md. Woman Receives CPR On Side Of Road

ROCKVILLE, Md. (WUSA) -- Maryland State Police say two troppers possibly saved a Montgomery County woman's life Monday morning after she had an apparent asthma attack in her car. They found 23-year-old Denise Murray of Derwood in a Jeep Liberty on the shoulder of northbound Route 270 at Exit 1 around 1 a.m. She was crying and gasping for air but was able to communicate her inability to breathe. State police say she also indicated she felt like she was about to faint, when she suddenly became unconscious.

Trooper First Class A. Kolle quickly reclined Murray's driver seat and started CPR while Trooper First Class A. Crucillo monitored her pulse until EMS personnel arrived on the scene. Murray was taken to Suburban Hospital where she is currently being treated. SOURCE: WUSA

Will D.C.'s freezing nights damage the cherry blossoms?

On Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, the mercury dropped to freezing or below; last night was not expected to be any warmer. Now there’s news that a wintry mix could kick off rain on Wednesday. With this frosty spell all settled in, is the District’s most precious spring resource– cherry blossoms – in danger of dropping dead?

It’s a valid concern. The prunus genus, which covers cherries as well as plums, peaches and other globose drupe-bearing plants, is not the hardiest tree in the forest. Its bark is thin and its sap starts running earlier in the year than most fruit trees. That makes the plant vulnerable to the wild temperature swings that characterize March.

“Once they get going in the spring, with their juices flowing and the trees starting to bud out, cold weather sort of takes them by surprise. It’s sort of like walking outside while naked,” says Rusty Russell, a Smithsonian Institution botanist.

Russell says that the way the blossoms are constructed adds another layer of susceptibility in the cherry tree’s weather armor.

“The blossoms themselves are sort of fragile,” he says. “It doesn’t take much for the moisture in the cells to crystallize and cause rapid deterioration of the petals.”

During an especially cool spring, the odds are pretty good that the trees will not experience the most glorious blossoming possible. Freeze-shocked petals can appear brown and quite unsightly. SOURCE:TBD

Upcoming rallies

Docs4PatientCare with the Galen Institute
Thursday, April 7, 2011, 2:00 pm - 3:30 pm
The Columbus Club, Union Station (This venue may be changed.)
50 Massachusetts Avenue, NE, Washington, DC 20002

Please join Docs4PatientCare and the Galen Institute on Thursday, April 7 at 2 pm in Washington, DC, for a forum on the health law featuring Rep. Tom Price, MD. At this event, Jason Fodeman, MD, a visiting fellow at the Galen Institute, will present a new paper entitled Health Care Reform: Bad for Doctors, Awful for Patients. Also giving their remarks and participating in a panel discussion will the President and CEO of Docs4PatientCare, Hal Scherz, MD; as well as Richard Armstrong, MD, FACS, chief operating officer of Docs4PatientCare.

The doctor who will be presenting the paper, Dr. Jason Fodeman, was a student at Johns Hopkins. In 2003, while there, he published a book entitled, HOW TO DESTROY A VILLAGE: WHAT THE CLINTONS TAUGHT A SEVENTEEN-YEAR-OLD. I enjoyed it very much.

To get on the mailing list for the event, write to contact@docs4patientcare.org


Continuing Revolution Rally (sponsored by Tea party Patriots)
Thursday, March 31, 2011, 12pm - 1:30pm Robert A. Taft Memorial, Washington, DC, near the Capitol

Tea Party Patriots Co-Founders Jenny Beth Martin & Mark Meckler, Rep. Mike Pence (IN), Rep. Michele Bachmann, (MN), Rep. Steve King (IA), Rep. Louie Gohmert (TX), Rep. Jim Jordan (OH), Rep. Tom Graves (GA), Rep. Joe Walsh (IL), Andrew Langer (President of The Institute for Liberty), Colin Hanna (Founder of Let Freedom Ring), Dick Morris (NY Times Best Selling Author and Commentator)




Cut Spending Now Rally (sponsored by American for Prosperity) to tell the Budget Committee that we want real spending cuts! Wednesday, April 6, 2011, 12 noon to 5pm Capitol Hill (corner of Independence & 1st St. SE), Washington DC With - Michele Bachmann, Mike Pence, fellow AFP Members from the region, and special guests. Free Food & Refreshments

Buses - We will take a bus if there enough people sign up. We are asking for a $10 donation to ride and food will be provided at the event.Please serious confirmations only. Contact infomd@afphq.org to reserve your seat on the bus. Questions: 703-224-3200, infomd@afphq.org

http://www.americansforprosperity.org/032211-cut-spending-now-rally-%E2%80%93-wednesday-april-6-washington-dc **********************************************************

Citizens' State of the State (sponsored by Americans for Prosperity) April 8, 2011, 12 noon to 3pm Lawyers' Mall, Annapolis, MD Speakers




Tea Party (sponsored by Harford County Campaign for Liberty)
April 15, 2011, 5pm to 7pm
212 S. Bond St., Bel Air, MD

2nd Annual Tea Party on the Bay Friday (sponsored by Americans for Prosperity, Queen Anne's County, MD) April 15, 2011, 6:00 PM Red Eyes Dock Bar @ Kent Narrows, Family-Friendly Event. There will be great food, music, patriotic face painting and inspirational speakers. Donna P. Gildea, 410.707.1406 www.afpmaryland.com

Cost of Libya Intervention $600 Million for First Week, Pentagon Says

One week after an international military coalition intervened in Libya, the cost to U.S. taxpayers has reached at least $600 million, according figures provided by the Pentagon. U.S. ships and submarines in the Mediterranean have unleashed at least 191 Tomahawk cruise missiles from their arsenals to the tune of $268.8 million, the Pentagon said. U.S. warplanes have dropped 455 precision guided bombs, costing tens of thousands of dollars each. A downed Air Force F-15E fighter jet will cost more than $60 million to replace. And operation of the war craft, guzzling ever-expensive fuel to maintain their positions off the Libyan coast and in the skies above, could reach millions of dollars a week, experts say. Read more HERE from my colleagues Luis Martinez and Devin Dwyer. SOURCE: ABC

Germantown Hawks Win Local Baseball Tournament

Cal Ripken, Jr.

It's a name that is synonymous with baseball. Especially in the state of Maryland, where Ripken grew up and played Major League Baseball for 21 years.

Now, a group of 11 year-old little leaguers from Germantown will forever have their names linked to the Baltimore Oriole great, after winning a weekend tournament named after the Hall-of-Famer this past weekend at the Ripken Spring Training Tournament in Aberdeen, Md.

The Germantown Hawks, one of 12 teams participating in the 11 and under division, went 5-0 over the two-day tournament, including a 13-7 win over the Pro Skills Baseball Academy team in the championship game on Sunday and a 10-1 win over the Savage Spirit in the tournament's semi-final game earlier in the day. The tournament featured teams from all over the state as well as Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

The Hawks' Chris Marshall was named the championship game's Most Valuable Player.

"Obviously you feel great about it," Hawks coach Lorin Greber said. "Personally I felt very satisfied to have our new kids as well as their parents experience a tournament and a facility like Ripken's. Being able to experience that is very, very special."

Greber called the facilities at Aberdeen the nicest he has seen in his coaching career and said that his team is fortunate to live close enough to compete in tournaments there annually. The main field at Aberdeen, as Greber described it, is a "mini replica of [Oriole Park at] Camden Yards" complete with a replica warehouse in right field.

"It's really neat for the kids to be able to play on a field like that," Greber said. "And for the parents to be able to sit and watch their kids in that kind of environment. I felt very happy for our new kids and our parents who were able to experience that for the first time."

The Hawks won their first tournament game on Saturday over the Oxford Outlaws, 13-0, followed by a 15-1 victory over the CP Stars and a 13-0 win over the Lake Shore Graysox before their semi-final game against Savage. In total, the Hawks outscored their five opponents, 54-9. SOURCE: Germantown Patch

Burglaries, Thefts Surge Across D.C.

While violent crime is down, police have reported more than 50 burglaries in the Dupont Circle area so far this year. Last year, the number at this point was 15. Meanwhile, thefts in neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River are up 65 percent. That's what police tell the Washington Post. They say often these are crimes of opportunity, with thieves entering homes and cars through unlocked doors and making off with cash, iPods, and smart phones. In some neighborhoods, officers are telling residents not to walk around with those devices in clear view. They say property crime is widespread across the District with burglaries citywide up 18 percent from last year. Thefts are up 23 percent. SOURCE: NBC

Bill Frick Update

Just received this from Bill Frick and wanted to share with the community — some good news there but still waiting to hear what our delegation is doing to address our water quality issues:
Dear Friends,

What a weekend for Maryland policy! Two terrific bills passed through the House on a busy Saturday session, and I wanted to share the good news as soon as possible.

It’s a great privilege to serve you in the Maryland General Assembly. If you have any concerns or constituent service needs, please do not hesitate to contact me at bill@billfrick.com or at (301) 858-3454.
Direct Shipment of Wine

After years of delays, the House finally passed legislation to facilitate shipment of wine directly to consumers. The bill is not perfect, as it is limited to wineries only — thus excluding rare wine retailers and some wine clubs that Marylanders would like to join. Nothwitshtanding its flaws, the bill represents progress that has been far too long in coming.

Accountability and Transparency in Tax Expenditures

Today the House also passed my bill to improve our state budget process. According to estimates, Maryland spends nearly $4B a year through a combination of tax credits, exemptions and deductions. In many instances, we have little information on whether the expenditures are achieving the result that they were adopted to achieve. If adopted by the Senate, House Bill 620 will force tax credits to expire unless they are re-authorized following a cost-benefit review. In these tough times, we can’t afford to spend money – through appropriations or tax credits – without justification. SOURCE: Bethesda Actually

March 28, 2011

Geraldine Ferraro Dies At 75

BOSTON (AP) -- The first woman to run for U.S. vice president on a major party ticket has died. Geraldine Ferraro was 75. A family friend acting as a spokeswoman for the family say Ferraro, who was diagnosed with blood cancer in 1998, died Saturday at Massachusetts General Hospital. Ferraro was an obscure New York City congresswoman when she was catapulted to national prominence at the 1984 Democratic convention. Walter Mondale chose her to run with him against incumbents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush. In the end, Reagan won 49 of the 50 states, the largest landslide in nearly half a century. Some observers said legal troubles nvolving her husband and son were a drag on Ferraro's later political ambitions, which included her unsuccessful bids for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate in New York in 1992 and 1998.

Montgomery Council Vice President Berliner Testifies Before Maryland Public Service Commission in Support of Strong Standards That Would Lead to Bette

Release ID: 11-076
Release Date: 3/25/2011
Contact: Neil Greenberger 240-777-7939 or Cindy Gibson240-777-7827
From: Council Office

ROCKVILLE, Md., March 24, 2011—Montgomery County Council Vice President Roger Berliner, who has led the County’s efforts to force electric provider Pepco to deliver better and more reliable service, today in Baltimore asked the Maryland Public Service Commission to support the establishment of strong standards that would lead to better service from the utility.

“Standards, per se, are not the answer,” testified Council Vice President Berliner, who chairs the Council’s Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment Committee. “What we need—at least for Pepco—are standards that match those of the best performing utilities in the nation. That is what our residents expect and that is what our residents deserve. Nothing less. And that is what you must insist upon.”

The complete text of Council Vice President Berliner’s statement today:


Revisions to COMAR 20.50 – Service *
Supplied by Electric Companies – Proposed * Administrative Docket
Reliability and Service Quality Standards * RM 43

Prepared Statement of Council Vice President Roger Berliner

On Behalf of Montgomery County

March 24, 2011

On behalf of Montgomery County’s Executive, our County Council and our almost one million residents, we commend you for initiating this proceeding.

As the Chairman has said on numerous occasions, it is harder to judge a utility’s performance if you don’t have standards against which to measure them by.

That is why so many states have adopted reliability standards and why the Governor is supporting, and the House of Delegates is poised today to pass, legislation requiring such standards.

Our County is the poster child for why we need both stringent standards and meaningful financial penalties if those standards are not met. According to nationally respected surveys, the performance of our utility, Pepco, on normal, sunny days, has been in the lowest quartile in the nation for the past five years.

And while there has been a lot of focus on storms, and the length of time our citizens are without power in the aftermath of storms, the far more critical measure in fact is how the system operates during normal weather conditions. This is why the County strongly believes there must be two distinct standards: one for reliability during normal weather conditions and one for how a utility responds to major storm events. Because it stands to reason if a system fails to deliver reliable power during normal conditions, it will fall apart under stress.

And for five long years, our citizens have endured a system that fails to provide remotely reliable service during normal conditions and completely falls apart during a storm. My constituents have characterized their service as “third world” and it is probably a toss up as to whether they receive more reliable service than customers of the other Pepco – the Pakistan Electric Power Company.

The cost of this failure – measured by almost any standard -- has been extraordinary. You have heard all of the stories – and they are true. To me, this sorry state of affairs is best captured by the fact that during this extraordinarily difficult economic time, people are dipping into their life savings to spend tens of thousands of dollars on back up generators so that their families are safe and their power stays on. This should not be happening, commissioners, and I know that you know that too.

As you and your staff know, our County has filed extensive written comments in this proceeding. Today, I would like to highlight two absolutely essential points.

The first is this: standards, per se, are not the answer. What we need – at least for Pepco – are standards that match those of the best performing utilities in the nation. That is what our residents expect and that is what our residents deserve. Nothing less. And that is what you must insist upon.

And you will not be alone in doing so. That is precisely the approach that the Public Service Commission of the District of Columbia has adopted in just the last two weeks. According to that Commission, their proposed new rules would require “Pepco to improve its reliability to match those of the nation’s best performing utilities.”

The people of Montgomery County are no less worthy of top performing service than the people of the District of Columbia and we urge you to adopt an equally rigorous stance.

I have heard and read Pepco’s concerns with respect to costs, and I have heard the Chairman express somewhat similar concerns. I understand that concern, but I would urge you to not fall into the mindset that the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) warned about over a decade ago. In describing investments in reliability, EPRI observed that these investments have traditionally been “cost-based, selecting the least cost way of achieving the criteria, rather than value-based, selecting the way that maximizes customer value.”

It is time to focus on customer values. And our customers, our constituents, rightfully value a very high level of service reliability.

And while there has been a lot of focus on how much it may cost to bring Pepco out of its third world status and into the realm of top performing utilities, very little has been said about the economic costs of outages. They are huge.

Less than two years ago, the much respected people at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory published a study entitled “Estimated Value of Service Reliability for Electric Utility Customers in the United States.” That study concluded that the average cost to a medium to large financial institution or a real estate organization of a single, eight-hour outage was approximately $150,000. That’s $150,000 for one eight-hour outage. Do you know how many outages our residents have endured over the past five years of eight hours or more? I don’t, but I am willing to bet it is more than twenty, which would mean that the cost to this one type of business over that time exceeded $3 million. Then multiply that number times the cost to all the other businesses and residents. It is staggering. It is crippling. And it is unplugging the economic engine of our state.

And finally on the issue of costs, I would urge you to not overlook your own capacity to allocate those costs fairly between ratepayers and shareholders. I think it is fair to say that in the case of Pepco, their shareholders have fared better than their customers. So, when you decide whether and how Pepco should recover its costs, you are within your rights to take into account this fact coupled with the enormous costs incurred by its ratepayers.

Our bottom line to you on standards – at least with respect to Pepco – is that you require nothing less than top performance.

Our second issue is to ask you to make sure that there is meaningful accountability. And by meaningful, we mean that Pepco should know going in that if they fail to meet the standards met by other utilities in the country, they will face significant financial penalties. We do not believe civil penalties are sufficient in that regard. Like our representatives of senior citizens, AARP, we believe you should adopt the Massachusetts model, and put at risk up to 2.5% of their authorized return. That will get a utilities attention. That will get the attention of the Board of Directors. That will get action. And that is what we need. We need more than just a PR blitz. We need standards equivalent to those met by top performing utilities backed by substantial financial penalties – penalties comparable to the cost imposed on customers for poor performance.

Commissioners, you have the responsibility, authority, and, we submit, the obligation to fix this mess and ensure our citizens reliable electric service. And we are confident you will do so.

Maryland's Transvestite Protection Act

Maryland Delegate Mike McDermott (a true public servant if ever there was one) reported in his Field Notes Post on Sunday that the Maryland House passed what is euphemistically called a 'Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Anti-discrimination' bill during Saturday's session.

Mike's comment:

"..One of the more disturbing bills passed on Saturday was HB-235. This is the “transgender, cross-dresser” bill which now requires for employer accommodations of these confused individuals. The bill will allow for our public school teachers to call themselves “Bob” one week and “Bonnie” the next week.

"It will be a real problem for small business and big business alike and is sure to be just one more reason not to move a family or a business into Maryland. Myself and Delegate Otto did not vote for this bill for reasons too numerous to name..."

[The bill info for HB235, including a link to the actual text of the bill can be found here.]

One might wonder about the fact that the voting took place on Saturday, though that may have just been where it popped up in the logjam, but this bill sure seems to have been moved under the radar.

The Gay Marriage issue had been pretty much front-and-center for a good while, and that may have diverted attention from HB235. But there has been little mention of it in the 'press' in the days coming up to the vote-- a fact that makes it look even more like the Stealth bill it apparently is.

One of the main points of the legislation seems to be that if some guy is 'feeling pretty' today and wants to put on full makeup and a lovely print dress for work, not much can be said. An employer will be required to make accommodation.

Somebody will say "It's about time. This is America. You can be whatever you want to be."

But what happens when he has to 'tinkle' and he heads for the ladies room?

Are you liberal ladies going to be OK with that? How about your husbands?

And, as Delegate McDermott indicated, this could even show up in our schools. What a wonderful thought.

Delegate Rudolph Cane said the bill is about "ending discrimination."

That's a pretty selective application of that concept.

So if a male teacher comes to work wearing a dress, that's fine-- his 'right'-- but if he were to come to work carrying a Bible, what then?

Imagine when Podunk Tractor Supply's parts-counter guy decides to start coming to work as 'Jane' instead of Joe, and their parts business falls off to nothing. They're stewed. Can't discriminate, you know.

And how about Betty (who'd rather be called 'Bill')-- one day when she goes to the beach, she decides to just put on some swim trunks like the other 'guys' and skip the top.

"They don't have to wear one, so why should I?"

You have to wonder what's going through the heads of the many 'delegates' who sponsored and voted for this bill. The only thing I can think of is 'upcoming election' and votes (though the word 'pandering' also comes to mind.)

But I think they've really stepped in something this time. This is radical, even for the People's Republic of Maryland.

The bill now moves to the Senate's Judicial Proceeding Committee for amendments and according to the Maryland House's clerk office, should receive a vote on the Senate floor before the end of this year's legislative session on April 11.

I'll be amazed if we hear anything about it before that vote takes place. Monty Vernon

SOURCE: Salisbury News

Author: The old warhorse is leaving something stinky along the road!

Writer Ron Miller has crafted an excellent piece about Senate President Mike Miller, likening him to an old horse headed to the glue factory! Among the several bombs Mike Miller dropped in this legislative session of the Maryland General Assembly is the so-called Dream Act to give illegal alien children the same college tuition rate as citizens. As I told you earlier today, the Dream Act passed the Senate and is headed to the House of Delegates this week.

Here is Ron Miller writing at Southern Maryland Online earlier this week. The Dream Act will be one more enticement for illegal aliens to come to Maryland, use our services and out-compete our citizen workers for jobs.

This is bad legislation on a number of levels. First of all, it’s yet another expense we can’t afford. It’s going to cost about $800,000 the first year of implementation, and increase to $1.6 million and $3.5 million in subsequent fiscal years. This comedy of a legislative body continues to add items to a budget that is over $1 billion out of balance, and recent revenue projections suggest things are going to get worse, with federal budget cuts, gasoline prices and the devastation to Japan’s economy all having a ripple effect on Maryland’s coffers.

Second, it’s yet another step toward Maryland becoming a sanctuary state for illegal aliens, if it hasn’t already laid claim to that title. If you are here in this country illegally and you have children, the most attractive destinations for you are probably going to be those states that offer such benefits.

Currently, there are 10 states that grant in-state tuition to the children of illegal aliens. None of them border Maryland. Imagine the influx of illegal aliens from Virginia, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Delaware as they witness the Free State waving another freebie at them to entice their migration here.

Read it all!

By the way, in January the Center for Immigration Studies reported on a meeting of pro-migration, pro-amnesty activists meeting in DC where they admitted that black workers are hurt the most by more immigrants and rich white-collar people benefit from getting cheaper nannies and restaurant help at their favorite ritzy restaurants! It’s enough to make you scream! SOURCE: Potomac Tea Party Report

Flaming Van Snarls I-270

Traffic where I-270 meets the Beltway slowed to a crawl on Monday morning when two vehicles collided. The incident took place south of the Democracy Boulevard exit on the I-270 spur, WTOP reported. A minivan collided with a sedan in the center lanes. The van caught fire and was engulfed in flames. Rubbernecking slowed traffic on the Beltway.

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

Harry Coover Jr., Inventor of Super Glue, Dies at Age 94

(NewsCore) - The man who invented Super Glue has died in Tennessee at the age of 94, The New York Times reported Sunday. Harry Wesley Coover Jr., who discovered the super-sticky adhesive by accident during World War II, died of congestive heart failure Saturday night at his home in Kingsport. Inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2004, Coover was awarded the National Medal of Technology and Innovation last year by President Barack Obama. Super Glue did not make him rich, however, as it did not become a commercial success until the patents had expired. Son-in-law Dr. Vincent E. Paul said, "He did very, very well in his career but he did not glean the royalties from Super Glue that you might think."

One of Coover's proudest accomplishments was that his invention was used, in spray form, to help treat injured soldiers during the Vietnam War, by stopping bleeding. His daughter Dr. Melinda Coover Paul said, "I think he got a kick out of being Mr. Super Glue. Who doesn't love Super Glue?" Besides his daughter, Coover, who was born in Newark, Del., is survived by two sons, Harry III and Stephen, and four grandchildren. SOURCE: FOX

Is Ike Leggett A Cheese Head?

With echoes of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's assault on collective bargaining still reverberating throughout the land, it was only a matter of time before the overheated rhetoric started boiling up from public employee unions here in Montgomery County. How could this be, one might ask, in this solidly pro-labor, one-party liberal bastion that we love to call home?

It seems that Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett is now being labeled a "radical Republican" by local union leaders, who suggested he should "don a cheese head," as reported this week in the Washington Post. Ike Leggett a radical Republican? On what planet? Apparently, his crime was to suggest that public employees increase their pension contributions by 2 percent of their salaries and contribute a bit more toward their own health insurance premiums.

Keeping in mind that county employees' total compensation has risen far faster than the rate of inflation for more than a decade, and their benefits are far more generous than most of us in the private sector who pay their salaries, labor leaders are on pretty thin ice comparing our situation to what is going on in Wisconsin. Leggett's suggestion should be seen for what it is: An inevitable adjustment of compensation levels to today's fiscal reality.

It's time to cool the rhetoric and look at the facts regarding our current fiscal crisis: Roughly 80 percent of the county's annual $4.35 billion budget is spent on employee salaries and benefits, with significant unfunded pension liabilities on top of that. There simply is no other place for Leggett and the County Council to go to find the savings they need, and in this economy tax increases are not an option as the utter failure of last year's "millionaires tax" clearly showed. It makes more sense to trim back on employee costs, as much as that hurts, and even if it means rejecting the most recent outcome of the collective bargaining process. The alternative is to eliminate completely new capital spending for roads and schools, increase class sizes by cutting teacher positions, close libraries and fire stations, or zero out entire social programs that have already been cut to the bone.

No one is suggesting we eliminate collective bargaining as a basic right, and Leggett is not sinking to Walker's level and bashing unions for everything that has gone wrong in our economy. This is about finding the right balance to keep good people interested in working for the public sector, and keeping their pay and benefits affordable to us taxpayers. The council needs to find that balance, and we can all do without the rudeness and incivility that we saw in Wisconsin.

Montgomery County is no Wisconsin, and to balance this budget, everyone is going to have to give a little. SOURCE: Germantown Patch