Sunday, August 31, 2008
Saturday, August 30, 2008
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
You won't read about this in the Post, Gazette, or Examiner! I have obtained a brochure, published at taxpayer expense, entitled, "Emergency Medical Services Transport Fee: Maintains and Strengthens Services at No Cost to Residents." This brochure, printed by the Montgomery County Government Office of Public Information, was not announced in the local media, but is currently available at public libraries.
Obviously, this brochure raises a host of questions and concerns:
1. Is it an accepted practice for the County Executive to print biased propaganda - supporting legislation he or she would like to be passed by the council - at taxpayer expense?
2. Can taxpayer funds be used to promote a fee not yet passed into law by the County Council?
- In both cases, an answer of "yes" would mean that a county executive could spend taxpayer money to promote any idea or wish he or she had, without permission from the county council. That would certainly weaken the supposed checks and balances between the executive and legislative branch.
3. The brochure's cover, printed in a bold black-and-white design, suggests to the average citizen that the fee has already passed. This is not only misleading, but could already frighten senior citizens and other vulnerable residents. They might be dissuaded from dialing 911, before the controversial legislation has even been passed.
4. Government publications should be factual. The brochure contains several biased statements. For example, it claims the fee will have no effect on insurance rates. That is not only an unknown at this time, but an equal amount of evidence suggests the fee will indeed raise rates. To state a conclusion at this time reflects only one side of the debate.
Once again, our elected officials are trying to drain every last cent out of the most unusual sources. Senior citizens, legal and illegal immigrants, low-income residents, and other vulnerable citizens will be the most hurt by the ambulance fee. Community relations and charitable gifts to volunteer squads and departments will be affected as well. Anything that does that is simply bad policy. It's time to stop picking the working family's pocket and start the business of governing.
Now we hear that our elected officials' next target to get more of what they call "found money," is... disabled police officers, believe it or not. Using the unique case of Gaithersburg Police Chief King, Ike Leggett suggested that too many retired officers are receiving disability funds.
The reality is that police work is not a soft desk job like many of the $100,000+ members of Mr. Leggett's staff currently hold. The day to day tasks and physical strains of the job very naturally lead to various debilitating conditions. These can include everything from bad backs and wrecked knees to devastating injuries that occur during the apprehension of suspects, raids, or the rare exchange of gunfire.
In short, officers who retire on disability have good reason to do so except in rare cases. They have to be medically approved. In light of the job, police officers simply deserve better retirement benefits. They've put their lives on the line to protect the public each day of their career.
"Safety First." That is a lost idea in Montgomery County today. Whether it's the long neglected renovations of our 2nd District police station, an ambulance fee, or a sad attempt to take money from disabled police officers to fund the whims of our elected officials, public safety seems to be the last priority.
When it comes to government policies toward police and fire professionals who serve the community, I like to quote Dan Marino from his old glove commercial: you need to "take care of the hands that take care of you."
Sunday, August 10, 2008
Greed, thy name is Upstairs at Bethesda Row. This urban monstrosity has laboriously taken shape across the street from the Arlington Road Giant. Now here come the import luxury sedans and Priuses of the landed class and the nouveau riche. In a county where the developers' new apartments and condos often have 7 or 9 tenants, Upstairs is 60% full by comparison.
Of course, that means it is 40% vacant. But that is impressive for 2008 in Montgomery County. What is the secret? How can buildings renting in Rockville's Town Center for $1600 be less full than Upstairs with 1 bedrooms starting at $2100+ a month? Could it be that there is a special target audience out there, and, "if you build it, they will come?" Did somebody say Collection at Chevy Chase? It wasn't me! But, what if, in the midst of human suffering and a housing crisis, a government would tune out the average citizen and actively approve buildings designed for a wealthy audience only?
How many MPDUs are in this building? There is no green space on this site, either. Therefore, our County Executive and Council have been caught red-handed, violating everything they have promised to do on affordable housing and "green" buildings.
The sad story of affordable housing in Montgomery County is quite old by now. You know that back in 2006, I was offering actual solutions while our elected officials were touting "Apartment Buildings for Homeless People." That phrase became an instant classic, by the way. Is that the most ironic statement you've ever heard? It actually is a fairly honest statement by our Democratic elected officials, because - as I said at the time - they consider homelessness to be an incurable disease.
What is a "homeless person?" Why would you call someone homeless after they have a place to live (Apartments Buildings for Homeless People)? Well, you would say that if you believed that they are permanently going to have no income or future prospects. Hence, they will be a permanent political constituency for those elected officials, surviving on government handouts indefinitely.
Now they have a new phrase to cover this strategy, but to try to make it sound better: "Housing First." This is the idea that you want to get a homeless person into a home immediately, rather than a shelter. Of course, that is everyone's goal. But that shouldn't be a long-term plan. First you need to analyze the situation of each individual. Is this a person who requires mental health treatment or treatment for addiction to alcohol or drugs? Then let's get them connected to those resources. Is this a person who simply needs a living wage to get going again? That can be done as well. But let's get it done, because just as some have said a human being cannot be "illegal," so it can be said that no human being should have to be "homeless."
Beyond that, we have a huge majority of working people in Montgomery County who aren't getting handouts and services. And they certainly aren't getting to move into Upstairs at Bethesda Row. Why should college graduates have to move elsewhere? Why should a person have to work two jobs to afford a clean, livable apartment in Montgomery County? It's immoral, it's a disgrace, and something must be done about it. There is no reason on God's green Earth that a studio apartment should rent for more than $900 a month. No one is asking for free housing. But, come on, this is ridiculous. The more units that come on the market, the more the rent goes up. Clearly, we have a situation where market forces have failed. Bigtime. What happened to the American Dream? Study hard, go to college, work, and society will provide you with a minimum of a living wage, housing, food, clothing, etc., in exchange, right? Not anymore.
Our elected officials have done nothing, and have allowed their developer friends to break all promises to provide MPDUs. Dr. Yes (Royce Hanson) has approved numerous new "boutique" condo buildings for the rich in downtown Bethesda, with MPDUs in single digits or even zero. That is a disgrace. And the Arlington Road corridor is becoming a Hall of Shame for affordable housing failure, with condos and apartments designed exclusively for the wealthy, and with full support from our elected officials.
Friday, August 08, 2008
Providing a patient with emergency medical attention really is all about time. The time it takes for emergency personnel to respond to a 911 call. And the time it takes for the ambulance to reach the nearest Emergency Department.
Residents in upper Montgomery County currently have two unsatisfactory options: hospitals in Rockville and Frederick. When every second counts, that is just too far away. Finally, but not without controversy, there is a proposal for a hospital in Germantown. And unlike the Suburban Hospital expansion scam here in Bethesda, it is actually giving us new hospital beds in the county.
This is not a perfect solution. It is a sensible start, as Germantown is the logical connecting point for Poolesville, Clarksburg, and Damascus. That is the same reason that I would only support a Corridor Cities [Rail]way through Germantown if it connects to those three outermost towns.
However, logistically, the Germantown hospital will still be far for those nearest the Frederick County border. It would really make sense to have another hospital in Clarksburg, Mount Airy, or somewhere else between Germantown and the City of Frederick. This is not just important for Montgomery County citizens near the border, but for Frederick County citizens north of our border. All would mutually benefit from an additional emergency facility that would be minutes away.
Remember, a person can only go 4 minutes without oxygen before suffering brain damage. Two new upcounty facilities are needed, as this literally is a matter of life and death.
Monday, August 04, 2008
Remember the old game, "Operation?" The ad warned you that getting the positive outcome for the patient "takes a very steady hand."
Democrats are going to sweep the next several election cycles in the Washington Metro Area, if James Dinegar and his Greater Washington Board of Trade have anything to say about it. Dinegar has taken the unusual step of announcing far in advance that if Virginia Republicans don't raise taxes for transportation, the GWBT will withhold all campaign funds from GOP candidates.
The powerful group has also endorsed the Democratic opponent of D.C. Republican Councilwoman Carol Schwartz. Dinegar stated that Schwartz's vote in favor of paid sick leave was "anti-business."
So let me get this straight. According to the GWBT, and other Chambers of Commerce and business groups, you, the taxpayer, aren't paying enough. But you don't deserve any new "benefits" that cost Corporate America. Does that sound fair to you? So would you vote for a candidate just because the GWBT endorses him or her? I would hope not.
I believe we need to have some form of paid sick leave, particularly in the hospitality and medical fields. This is a homeland security issue, as well as a public health issue. Terrorists are known to be planning biological attacks, such as smallpox. And pandemics, combined with the mysterious resurgence of diseases thought to be vanquished, provide even more reason to have paid sick leave.
We need sick people who handle food, clean hotel rooms, and work with vulnerable hospital populations to get off the job immediately. This will help contain the spread of nefarious attacks and deadly diseases. Paid sick leave removes the financial motivation that a worker has to come in sick.
Furthermore, I believe it is essential that we legislate paid sick leave for victims of domestic violence. So you are hearing this from a Republican, that paid sick leave is a compassionate, moral policy. It is also an essential homeland security and public health tool. If Americans are going to be told they have to pay fees just to drive to the grocery store, then Corporate America can certainly do its fair share while profiting on pseudo-scientific "green" products.
For shame, that any businessperson would state that a Democrat is better for business than a Republican. Why is this happening in groups around the region? Well, check it out: most of these groups are now all-Democrat, and working for the Democratic Party. And Democrats are providing what Corporate America and local developers and interests need: Big Government socialized medicine, high-tax funded transportation projects designed to fuel development, and access to cheap labor.
That's why Corporate America is backing Barack Obama. And why your local Democrat is endorsed by "business" groups and Chambers of Commerce. Unfortunately, the New Boss is the Old Boss. It's time for new innovations, an end to partisan bickering, and new leadership that gets things done instead of talking and staging theatrics.
Governors such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, Bob Ehrlich, Bobby Jindal, and Mark Sanford are the future of the Republican Party. We're in quite a mess this year if John McCain's running mate is not a new type of Republican, which could also include two women, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, former HP CEO Carly Fiorina, and an African-American, Michael Steele. Consider that the GOP could be the party to put a VP in line to be the first woman or black President of the United States.
We have to support an American hero, John McCain this November. There won't be much change if McCain wins, but the status quo will not change if Obama wins, no matter how lofty the speeches are. Just examine what the GWBT is doing here for Democrats, and you'll realize that "change" is the new status quo. If Corporate America wants Obama, then why would you replace your Che poster with an Obama poster on your dorm room wall?
I have to note the passing of a hero of freedom, famous Russian author Alexander Solzhenitsyn. His best known works, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, and Gulag Archipelago, exposed the truth about life in the Soviet Union to the world. They did not bother with animal characters and metaphors, but instead presented the raw truth of what evil humanity is capable of when it has unlimited power.
Solzhenitsyn's books are a must-read for every American, so that future generations will know the realities of what socialism, communism, and totalitarianism are. He was certainly not a cheerleader for all of the trappings of the "American Way," but his works made clear that any flaws in our system are far outweighed by the freedom we enjoy.
Sunday, August 03, 2008
The latest attack on wildlife in the Ocean City area is coming from Europe's choice for American President, Barack Obama. Senator Obama says he is willing to roll the dice on the health of the already devastated Chesapeake Bay by allowing oil companies to operate just offshore of Ocean City. Would he be so cavalier if the drilling was near Chicago?
Our area continues to experience a violent crime wave. The Montgomery County Police have just released the following statistics: