Saturday, February 28, 2009


Hold the phone... Ike Leggett and the council are also buying the Webb Tract, according to The Gazette.

It's going to be more than $120 million in taxpayer dollars. So, that brings the Shady Grove boondoggle to a whopping $182 million dollars - and counting!

That is about a third of the whole budget shortfall! Have our elected officials truly lost their minds?

The Webb Tract is owned by developer Miller and Smith. Can somebody run that in the campaign finance database, and find out if Miller and Smith donated to anyone who votes for this debacle?

Once again, the Upcounty gets the second-class citizen treatment from the executive and council, who just obliterated the Upcounty Ride-On schedule.

Let me leave the last words to an actual taxpayer and resident of Montgomery Village, as quoted in the Gazette:

"Now the county thinks that the Webb tract is a perfect dumping ground for all the trash that they don't want… because we put up the least resistance of anybody," East Village resident Brian Benhaim told the board after the county's presentation, echoing the comments of several residents. "This is ridiculous; this does nothing good for the community. This will devastate the community … that whole area will get wiped out in value. Please fight this; this makes no sense."

It's outrageous.

Public Safety Employees Losing Pay,
Benefits, While Big-Spending Council
Acquires Properties for Shady Grove
"Smart Growth" Boondoggle

Unbelievable. Just weeks after I testified a second time against the council's effort to deny retirement benefits for disabled police officers - and told the council to save money by cancelling the so-called "Smart Growth Initiative" - what has happened?

The council - in league with executive Ike Leggett and their dear friends at the Washington Post editorial board - is still making police officers and firefighters scapegoats for their fiscal mismanagement. And, after a very public fake-out, have gone ahead with the Shady Grove dumb growth boondoggle to satisfy the needs of the developers and special interests who elected them.

In other words, the complete opposite of what I suggested in my testimony.

Please tell me where the council found $72 million dollars for 2 completely unnecessary land purchases? Who did they buy them from, and which politicians did the owners contribute campaign funds to?

The Post just attacked our career firefighters (I guess the Post needed a break from their attacks on our volunteer firefighters) and said that the union's concessions would only save $7 million. Let's do the math... $7 million vs. $72 million... uh, let's see...

We have the most irresponsible, incapable, and incompetent council in Montgomery County history, and this land purchase proves it.

You can't spend money you don't have.

How about that $900,000 the council gave to good friends at Centro Familia, which the Inspector General says is entirely unaccounted for?

No problem, said Councilmember George Leventhal in the Post.

Okay, almost 1 million dollars missing and no one on the council is doing anything about it? Do they realize how much money that is? Unaccounted for? Usually people go to jail when this kind of thing happens. The organization is now claiming the money is accounted for, but no evidence has been provided to the public so far. And the spokeswoman is no longer speaking to reporters.

And now we hear that the county economic development department gave $25,000 to a company run by the son of a Leggett appointee.

The council seems to have money for everything except public safety.

It's outrageous.

Sunday, February 15, 2009


Here's a troubling story from The Gazette. Apparently, the county Special Olympics bowling team was told their time was up when AMF reopened its Shady Grove bowling alley.

Now called "300," the new clientele is supposed to be more upscale. (This is pretty much a clone of Strike Bethesda). That's why I find it disturbing that the team was suddenly unable to be accommodated - how convenient.

The good news is that the Special Olympics team has found a new home at Bowl America on Clopper Road. Still, why shouldn't the team be able to enjoy the fancy new facilities at 300 like any other resident?

According to the article, AMF insists it is a chaperone issue. However, the article goes on to add that only 2 of the facility's past bowling leagues re-signed contracts with 300.

Debbie Fickenscher, who is both a team coordinator and a team member's mom, according to the Gazette, was quoted as saying that the team did in fact appreciate the new alley before they got the boot:

"For the time we were there, it was wonderful, and it was not lost on the
athletes that they were in a brand new thing
," she said.

I'm not sure if this is a violation of the ADA yet, but at best, it is a public relations disaster for 300.

Saturday, February 14, 2009


Westwood Shopping Center Plans
Revealed in Planning Board Document

The draft of the Montgomery County Planning Board's new growth policy argues for the demise of the strip mall countywide. In its place, developers will be permitted to profit from building vacant luxury apartments and empty retail storefronts, as they have done in recent years.

But as we know, that money is fool's gold for the taxpayer. Developers make money, but no economic activity is generated by largely vacant housing and failing boutiques. Politicians direct taxpayer funds to developers and pro-developer master plans. A portion of developer profits is then returned to the politician in campaign contributions. Politician is reelected, and here we go again.

I've already covered the issue of why strip malls are indeed appropriate in neighborhoods and along Rockville Pike. We've already had a preview of the concrete canyon proposed for Rockville Pike. Only in the fantasy world of Dr. Yes and his developer buddies does replacing a parking lot with a building improve our environment. Exactly who wants to dine at an outdoor table on the curb of a major state highway? Can you smell the exhaust? I feel like I'm in Paris already.

The open environment of the Pike should be retained. 355 should be widened not only for traffic, but also for bus and bike lanes. Small areas of the heavily-used - and therefore much needed - surface lots can be modifed to improve drainage and add green space. Surface lots are not only essential for shopping, but are also safer than garages. Garages are not green - just check out how many lights are burning away inside of the nearly-vacant garages in Rockville's town center. I'd like to hear a conversation in which Dr. Yes and Mr. Stanley from our planning department tell Pierre Charles L'Enfant about the virtues of concrete canyon design.

And we already know that the current plans for the Westwood Shopping Center and Westbard Sector are simply too large in scale and unacceptable. Once again, I offer the Shops at Sumner Place as the ideal model for how a neighborhood shopping center should be redeveloped. It has what the residents need, but does not draw heavy traffic from outside the neighborhood. And it doesn't have vacant apartments above it. What is does have is open space, well-lighted surface parking, and doesn't tower over the neighborhood.

Here's the exact quote, to give you an idea of what planners and developers have in store for your neighborhood:

"Every strip mall in the county, or large surface parking lot, should be considered a potential site for mixed-use development."

- Montgomery County Planning Board Growth Policy Draft Report, 2009
Says who? It's time to restore a citizen-driven process, where residents are making decisions. All the Planning Board is giving us are commands, orders, and "here's how it's going to be, whether you like it or not." Remember, we pay their salaries and we - the residents - are the boss. Not Dr. Yes, and not the developers. But it is increasingly hard to tell that is the case.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


The Montgomery County Commission for Women has published a new brochure designed to help victims of domestic violence. Titled, Let's Talk About Violence in Relationships, it explains how to recognize - and hopefully prevent - violent and abusive relationships.

You can read the brochure online in six languages at:

It is in a box in the left center of the website homepage.

Monday, February 09, 2009


The news that recording artist Chris Brown has been arrested and charged with felony domestic violence - and that the victim is allegedly his equally-famous girlfriend, Rihanna - shows once again that domestic violence affects people at all levels of society. But it also raises the question of whether the public will be outraged enough to stop buying the products of a man who is - allegedly - coldly capable of beating a woman and putting her in the hospital.

This is certainly not the first case of celebrity domestic violence. Nor will it be the last. But if today's movies are going to continue to glorify violence against women, the real world needs to at least maintain what is left of its moral compass.

And this is certainly a case of sheer stupidity on Mr. Brown's part, as he could not have chosen a worse moment to perpetrate - allegedly - such heinous acts.

Criminal acts should have consequences. And much like our local politicians who have been convicted of drunk driving, the rich and famous require consequences that also take into account their influential status in society. Children will get a message out of this. Hollywood, the media, and the criminal justice system should ensure they get the right one.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

"Mommy, what's a
slot machine?"

In the grand tradition of candy cigarettes and "alcopops," Maryland is about to experience a new gateway addiction: slots marketed to children at Arundel Mills Mall.

That's not a misprint, and it is the shocking new development in the sordid dealings of Gov. Martin O'Malley & Co. with the casino industry.

You heard right. In the near future, soccer moms will be able to add one more stop when making the rounds at Hanover, MD's popular mega-mall: the casino.

"You guys have fun at Build-A-Bear, I'll be in the casino."
We heard ad nauseum that slots were needed to save the horse racing industry. Aside from the issue of why the taxpayer should pay for an increasingly abusive "sport" that few apparently wish to patronize... come now the slots aren't even going to be located at the Laurel track? I can hear a cuckoo clock going off in the governor's office right now.
But then wait a minute - remember how in Baltimore, the slots are going to the crumbling industrial neighborhood soon to be developed by a major Democratic campaign contributor, and not to Pimlico. You know how these things work. A classic bait-and switch.
Slots are funding education alright! Kids are learning about slots at an early age. And everyone at the mall is about to experience the likely increase in crime slots will bring. To the family oriented mall. Is this really happening? In the liberal state of Maryland?
Sounds like the first details of the Paul Blart sequel are writing themselves. Paul Blart: Casino Cop. Look at him trying to stop a Leisure World resident speeding towards the Arundel Mills Casino!
Turn right at Abercrombie!, left at Sbarro!, and follow the magic sounds of

money, money, money!!!.

Which is what the slots scheme is all about.

Monday, February 02, 2009


Here is an interesting story from WJZ-TV 13 in Baltimore: