Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Here is the latest information on yesterday's shoplifting incident at Wheaton Plaza, which ended with two suspects escaping and one in custody. The escapees attempted to strike a county police officer with their silver Honda getaway vehicle, which has since been recovered.

The following statement was issued by the police department:

"Detectives from the Montgomery County Police 4th District Investigative Section continue to investigate a shoplifting incident and potential assault that occurred yesterday evening outside of the Westfield Wheaton shopping center and caused a Montgomery County police officer to discharge his service weapon.

The officer-involved shooting continues to be investigated by the Major Crimes Division of the department.

On Tuesday, March 30 at approximately 5:54 p.m., 4th District officers responded to the report of a shoplifting incident that had just occurred at the Target store in the Westfield Wheaton shopping center located at 11160 Veirs Mill Road in Wheaton. Responding officers were given a description of the getaway vehicle, a silver Honda, from store security officers. It was learned that one suspect had already brought stolen items to the vehicle and had returned to the store.

Two 4th District officers located the vehicle leaving the Target parking lot and attempted to stop it. Detectives are investigating the circumstances that caused the officer to shoot, including a potential assault caused by the suspect driver attempting to strike the officer with his vehicle.

The vehicle fled from the officers. It was located a short time later unoccupied near the Bally’s fitness center in the shopping center. Based on the preliminary investigation there is no evidence that the suspects received any injuries from the shooting. No officers were injured. One shoplifting suspect was taken into custody inside the Target store.

Terry Maugans, age 66, of no fixed address, was charged with theft under $1,000. He is currently being held at the Montgomery County Detention Center on a $3500 bond.

The two remaining suspects who fled in the vehicle, bailed out of that vehicle, and then fled on foot, remain at-large. They are described as two Hispanic males, in their early 30’s, approximately 5’9” tall, and weighing approximately 160 pounds.

As is standard procedure, Officer George Saoutis who fired his service weapon, has been placed on paid administrative leave while the investigation is being conducted. He is assigned to the 4th District Police Station in Wheaton and has been with the department for approximately two and a half years. Anyone with information about the shooting incident is asked to call the Major Crimes Division at 240-773-5070. Anyone with information about the shoplifting and/or assault and suspects is asked to call the 4th District Investigative Section at 240-773-5530. Callers may remain anonymous."

The Montgomery County Police Department has issued the following bulletin, and seeks the community's help in capturing two suspects currently at large:

"Detectives from the Montgomery County Police 4th District Investigative Section are investigating a shoplifting incident that occurred this evening outside of the Westfield Wheaton shopping center and caused a Montgomery County Police Officer to discharge his service weapon.

The officer-involved shooting is being investigated by the Major Crimes Division of the department. Today at approximately 5:54 p.m., 4th District officers responded to the report of a shoplifting incident that had just occurred at the Target store in the Westfield Wheaton Shopping Center located at 11160 Veirs Mill Road in Wheaton. Responding officers were given a description of the getaway vehicle from store security officers.

Two 4th District officers located the vehicle fleeing from the Target parking lot, attempted to stop it, and one officer fired his service weapon. The vehicle continued fleeing from the officers.

It was located a short time later unoccupied near the Bally’s fitness center in the shopping center. Based on the preliminary investigation there is no evidence that the suspects received any injuries from the shooting. No officers were injured.

One white male shoplifting suspect was taken into custody inside the Target store. The two remaining suspects who fled in the vehicle, bailed out of that vehicle, and then fled on foot. They remain at-large and are described only as two Hispanic males.

As is standard procedure, the officer who fired his service weapon has been placed on paid administrative leave while the investigation is being conducted. The involved officer is assigned to the 4th District Police Station in Wheaton and has been with the department for approximately two and a half years. Anyone with information about the location of the remaining suspects is asked to call the Major Crimes Division at 240-773-5070. Anyone with information about the shoplifting incident is asked to call the 4th District Investigative Section at 240-773-5530. Callers may remain anonymous."

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


Just last week we received word that the Montgomery County Council had voted unanimously to give developers a tax cut, while your taxes went up 8%, and a new energy tax is on their agenda.

Now, the state government wants in on the take.

USA Today reports that some in Annapolis want to force Montgomery and other counties to collect a "tax on rain" from...!!!

That's right. Big Government will arbitrarily determine how much stormwater runoff there is from your residential property. And then charge you a tax of $24, $120, or ??? per year!

Wait a minute, aren't these the same lawmakers who are about to give developers a tax cut of sorts, by exempting them from the 2007 stormwater regulations?


Once again, a tax cut for the developers and a tax increase for you!

What are you going to do about it on Election Day?

Monday, March 29, 2010


You may not have heard much about a bill that was quietly passed last week by the Montgomery County Council. But you'll likely notice the results of this "procurement reform" law in the near future when you receive your county tax bill.

Among other provisions that could raise the cost of procurement in Montgomery County Government is one that definitely will: The new law applies the existing county "living wage" law to every county contractor - including the smallest of small businesses. That means, even a 1 or 2 person operation.

What this will do is raise the cost of purchases in two ways: First, some contractors will be unable to pay the living wage ($11-something dollars - to call that a "living wage" in Montgomery County is a joke) and will no longer contract with the county. That will reduce the number of contractors or vendors for any given product. Simple economics (not the strong suit of the county council these days) tells us that less competition will make prices skyrocket. The county will still need those supplies, and will be more than happy to pass the cost on to you, the taxpayer.

Second, the remaining contractors - faced with what is essentially a tax - will do what business does in the real world: pass the tax on to the customer. That customer - the government - will again pass that on to you.

Once again, the council has made their bloated budget bigger, and raised the cost of living in Montgomery County.

Thursday, March 25, 2010


I just have to say, "I told you so." Remember how Councilmember Marc "No Developer Influence" Elrich was calling for a tax cut for developers(!!)?

Well, I was reading the puff piece on the White Flint "victory" in the Washington Post yesterday...

(Holy smoke, that article sounded like it was written by the developers and county council themselves. One phrase to describe reporter Miranda Spivack's downright gushing praise of the plan, and glossing over of the gaping financing and infrastructure issues? "Over the top," maybe? I have to admit that JBG building they pictured is a design we need more of in the county, instead of those horrid cookie-cutter, two-tone brick "town center" structures - though I'm bewildered as to why we can't have more buildings like that in downtown Bethesda - But I digress...)

...and it appears that there are tax cuts for the developers in the plan! So get this: developers got a tax cut, while you got an 8% property tax increase AND Ike Leggett has a new Energy Tax on the way for you! How do you like them apples?

Another Exclusive!!!

We have no money, they say. They try to deny disability benefits to disabled police officers, they've cut disabled transportation in half, and - still my favorite - literally took the dentures away from low-income senior citizens.

They need a waiver to break the law so they can spend less money on education now and in the future.

They're about to complete a dismantling of the Ride On bus route system, even while claiming they will boost mass transit use as they approve every project their developer buddies bring before the council dais.

But developers and the special interests have proven to be high-maintenence relationships for Ike Leggett and the County Council.

Keeping the cash flowing, even as they claim there's no money for roads, schools and public safety, is a major challenge. Or is it?

"We just don't have the money." Well, it's true. But they make money by shifting funds from basic services like snow removal, police and fire, libraries, and transportation to political pet projects run by organizations with strong ties to the politicians, and to developers.

The Webb Tract (almost $200M cash) is one poster child for that technique.

Now, here's another:

I have some surprising news for you. Did you know that you are now the proud owner of an apartment building in Takoma Park?

Well, ok, the decision was made for you. But... it's yours! Purchased with $700,000 of your taxpayer dollars. Isn't it great that we have these superior minds, enlightened leaders, who can make all the decisions that we, the unwashed masses, simply don't have the ability to comprehend?

Now, we have no money, right? So Leggett and Leventhal, we're to believe, went through the sofa cushions at HHS and - golly gee - all those quarters added up to $700,000!

It's enough to make you want to buy stock in CoinStar!

“I am proud that we are committing County resources and efforts towards Housing First and the project we are opening today,” said Leventhal.

But they're not done! HHS will also be "funding case management services."

Many residents who have foreclosed homes, have been laid off from work, and in some cases, don't know where all the meals are coming from this week... ...wish that they could make money appear like Leggett and Leventhal. But they don't have the ability to shake citizens upside down until the last coins drop out of their pockets like our county elected officials do!

What we have here is four more apartment units off the market and in the hands of government. For those of you with the misfortune to only learn about the economic theories of Karl Marx and Keynes in school, let me explain what that does: 4 more units off the market makes every other unit still on the market worth more. So what Leggett and Leventhal do in these cases, is to actually increase the cost of housing by driving up prices using taxpayer funds. It's outrageous.

Leave the foreclosed properties to the market, and for far less than $700,000, the government could have assisted a private investor to buy and renovate the property.

I've heard about, but not read, a Gazette story on "workforce housing" (that phrase is so 2006) at King Farm. It talks about an IT employee moving in. Last time I checked, IT and tech people earn higher than average salaries. Our county government has no business subsidizing self-sufficient wage earners to live near their work, when cheaper homes are available elsewhere in the county. And yet, here are more housing units off the market, and in government hands.

Now the county could lower the cost of housing by reducing its immoral, Draconian property taxes. Mr. Leggett and Mr. Leventhal have defiantly refused to do so.

Why? What do they prefer about their affordable housing "plan?"

I'll tell you.

By having government use your money to gobble up homes, they can drive up prices as they reduce supply. As prices rise, less working people can afford housing in the county. And that means... ...more people dependent on Government for housing.

Isn't that clever?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


Marc "No Developer Influence" Elrich and every one of his County Council colleagues voted to approve the White Flint sector plan.

Throughout the council's press release, it claims that infrastructure will be built, but never offers one single example of any such project. The fact is that there is over $1 billion of infrastructure necessary to even begin to support this plan, and that would still leave 355 gridlocked north and south of the White Flint "sector."

Once again, every councilmember showed they could be bought off.

And once again, this council puts the cart before the horse on new development. Note carefully that Councilmember Duchy Trachtenburg states in the PR that, "I look forward to working with my Council colleagues on the development of a sustainable financing plan for the White Flint plan area and a development coordination mechanism which will give comfort to our neighbors and the business community about infrastructure and financing issues.”

In other words, there is no "sustainable financing plan." Councilmembers got their donations, made the political payoff, and they'll get another check this year. That check will ensure 3 things: 1. Kick the can down the road again. 2. Make sure that the "financing plan" is laid on the backs of unsuspecting future White Flint residents with a Clarksburg-style tax. 3. Building will begin immediately, without the infrastructure.

At least they have Harris Teeter! Clarksburg and Rockville Town Center are still waiting for even one grocery store.

Interesting that well-planned, traditional commercial developments like Little Falls Mall and Damascus Centre both got brand-new, upscale Safeway stores.

What does that tell you about our council's foolhardy development schemes?

They think you're the fool. Prove them wrong in November at the voting booth.

County politicians are already known for having been bought off by developers and special interests. If you examine the campaign contributions of each politician, you will find their votes match up precisely from White Flint to Piney Branch. And, of course, there are the political kickbacks that might even give Ben Nelson pause. All part of the game here in Montgomery County.

But the Powers That Be are about to take the game to a whole new level. The Washington Examiner reported last week that Montgomery County's delegation to the Maryland General Assembly is trying to ram through a bill that would - get this - allow the Montgomery County Council and Department of Economic Development use your tax money to invest in county startups.

It's no wonder Gordon Gekko is coming out of jail.

Alas, the Examiner missed the scariest part of the story: While it may be wrong and unethical for county politicians to "gamble" with taxpayer money they've robbed from schools (no wonder they want out of the Maintenence of Effort law), police and senior citizens, there's a more insidious aspect to this plan.

If politicians can take donations from developers, and then vote to approve their projects as a councilmember, what will stop them from investing taxpayer money in businesspeople and businesses that donate to their campaigns?

Apparently, nothing.

Should councilmembers who don't understand basic economics, or how to balance a budget, be trusted with millions more in taxpayer funds to waste on politically-connected startups?

Absolutely not.

But this proposal reveals that the level of arrogance and hubris among county elected officials is at an all-time high. Invincible politicians + unlimited taxing and spending = fiscal catastrophe. County residents are living with the consequences right now.

The last thing we need is taxpayer-funded gambling where the house - and the house's campaign contributors - win every time.

This proposal should be stopped in Annapolis, and its backers stopped by the voters in November, for daring to believe they could pull a fast one over on the public by keeping this quiet.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


When it comes to tricks, the Powers That Be in Montgomery County - and their media supporters - are the experts. Remember when a developer testifying before the Rockville Planning Commission used his Blackberry to electronically jam the microphone, thereby preventing those watching at home from hearing the details of his project? Then you are probably a new reader, and missed that exclusive report a few years ago!

So let me talk again about another trick: "senior" housing. This is used to win support for new, mixed-use condo buildings, especially when they are being proposed for an inappropriate area. It's done to convince nearby residents that only law-abiding elderly folks will be moving in, they'll be quiet, they won't commute to work in cars, and they won't have kids to crowd the neighborhood schools.

This is being used in Rockville right now, to replace a forest near the Town Center with a Victory Housing "senior" apartment complex. One of the few remaining green spaces in downtown Rockville is being turned into a paved complex, thanks to the county, which sold the land in a sweetheart deal. The same county government that always claims to be green, and says you should pay a 5 cent grocery tax to "clean the rivers," is clear cutting the last forest in the City of Rockville. I recommend that during "Corporate Ca$h Hour"... er, sorry, "Earth Hour," our county elected officials take the Hypocritical Oath, to continue wasting taxpayer money on wacko projects like toxic mercury lightbulbs and powering your home with those little pinwheels like you got at Ocean City when you were a kid. While trashing and devastating our environment with unlimited development and toxic waste!

I've written years ago about a "senior" housing tower rammed through the planning process by Dr. Yes on River Road. To refresh memories, it is a wonderful site for the elderly, or anyone else to live. I mean, who doesn't want to step out on a balcony high above an industrial area, warehouses, self-storage facilities, and gas stations? Ah, yes, take in the fresh air. Now it's time for Grandpa to walk to the store. It's quite a walk. Don't trip, Grandpa! Maybe take the bus instead? First walk down the industrial alleys to River Road. Then... oh no! It's quite possible that the county council will have eliminated all bus service on weekends and holidays along River Road! Walk back up and call Peapod, Gramps.

They say they're going to install a signal on River Road. Any real engineer knows that is ridiculous - 4 traffic signals in one block of River Road?

Yes, it's a dream site in a dream location, ladies and gentlemen. County planners should be proud.

But this may never happen. The truth is, as I've mentioned before, "senior" housing comes with no guarantee. Often, it is simply a Trojan horse used by developers to build in a sensitive area. Then, once it's built, the mission changes, and - like Park Bethesda or the Fenestra - you have frat parties going all night.

"Well, some of these kids are seniors in college, so, technically that's senior housing."

Sorry, I couldn't hear you - your Blackberry's jamming the microphone.

What got me started on this senior housing thing again?

A fantastic article in USA Today that totally backs up what I've been saying for years!

Read it yourself, but here's my favorite part:

Sherwood Lakes in Virginia Beach was going to build a third of 180 homes for
55-plus buyers. "As we were building,
we realized the market for
age-restricted was almost non-existent
," says Dustin Little, sales
consultant for Sherwood Lakes and a real estate agent.
"We went to the
City Council and lifted the age restriction."

Boy, that was so easy! Just remember that the next time you're told it's "just senior housing." You know, for which the market is nonexistent.

Another example was in the very appropriately named Surprise, Arizona. Don't fall for this "surprise" in your neighborhood.

Monday, March 22, 2010


Another Exclusive!!!

Regular readers are aware that the County Council's late Spring Break beach trip (officially referred to as the Maryland Association of Counties meeting) comes at the taxpayer's expense. Gov. Martin O'Malley famously called off a $12,000 taxpayer-funded bash at Seacrets nightclub due to "tough times." It just wouldn't be right to party at "Jamaica USA" on the taxpayer's dime during a recession (but OK at other times?!), right?

Have you been invited to Ike Leggett and Council President Nancy Floreen's next party?

You ought to have been, because you're paying for it!

Actually, it's not one party... it's three parties! In one day!

On March 27, Leggett and Floreen start partying early at Gaithersburg City Hall. It's a "Breakfast and Books Census Celebration!" For what we've paid, I hope it's not just one of those hotel Continental deals.

Then hit the road to Wheaton Plaza! It's time for the "Cuenta Conmigo Fiesta Census Celebration!" While you're at it, cuenta conmigo how big the county's budget deficit is!

If you still have enough energy left, it's off to Langley Park, for the "Count on Me Census Celebration!" Where Leggett or Floreen should tell the crowd, "count on me to tax and spend the county's finances into oblivion!"

In an election year, these "rallies" sound awfully like campaign rallies. So shouldn't these two candidates pay for them, instead of the taxpayers? It's outrageous.

They don't know how to balance a budget. They don't know how to provide basic services. But, ladies and gentlemen, they sure know how to party! Especially when you're picking up the tab.

Friday, March 19, 2010



Another Exclusive!!!

Last evening, Gov. Bob Ehrlich made a surprise appearance at the Montgomery County Republican Party Lincoln Day Dinner at the Hilton Rockville Hotel.

Watch EXCLUSIVE video of his speech on the Robert Dyer Channel at right now!!!!

The Post doesn't have it, the Gazette and Sun don't have it, TV doesn't have it; only has this exclusive video from the most anticipated candidate of the 2010 elections!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

When we last heard from Montgomery County Councilmember Marc "No Developer Influence" Elrich, he was proposing a tax cut for developers. Okay...

Now the Gazette is crediting Mr. Elrich as one of the biggest supporters of one of the biggest developer projects in the county: the new White Flint.

The lowball, overly conservative numbers say that this project will create 9,800 new housing units, and 6 million square feet of commercial space. And best of all, it will do all that while increasing congestion on 355 and other roads, and crowding classrooms. All of this construction is great for the environment as well! Thanks to politicians in Annapolis, stormwater runoff will be allowed, and in fact, encouraged!!!

Marc "No Developer Influence" Elrich cannot wait, and neither can his developer-beholden colleagues, whose campaign accounts are filled to the brim with developer dollar$.

Every single councilmember has endorsed the plan. And endorsed the zoning change to mixed use, without which this development would have been illegal. So that "developer influence" really paid off, didn't it!!!

Importantly, you the voter now know that every incumbent on the ballot supported this traffic jamming, classroom crowding sector plan. Your choice in November will be clear.

Let Marc "No Developer Influence" Elrich tell you about his concerns in his own words, with no developer influence on those words!!!:

"I think the bigge$t i$$ues got re$olved."

Well, the article makes it sound that way. In fact, the building of a new school and MARC station to support even a fraction of this development are anything but resolved.

But with enough "developer influence," you might $tart to believe ju$t about anything!!!

A tax cut for developers, but tax increases for you, including 8% Property Tax increase last year, and now a new whopper of an energy tax on the council's agenda.

No developer influence, but how about some old-fashioned voter influence at the polls this November?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


The FY2011 budget released by Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett this week cannot realistically close the $800+ million shortfall.

First of all, like Gov. Martin O'Malley's state budget, it assumes funds that are not certain to be available. Specifically, it relies on the dangerous Ambulance Fee, which will only pass the county council if its members plan on not running for reelection.

Second, it relies on an energy tax increase that will cost much more than $3 a month for the average Montgomery County homeowner. This would require Ike Leggett to break his promise to not raise taxes this year, and for the council to pass a flat, regressive tax increase on the poor.

Third, the budget (as predicted) cuts in all the wrong places. It eliminates police officers in schools at a time when many schools are facing serious gang problems. It reduces funding for transportation and eliminates Ride On routes, two core government services.

Fourth, the claim of eliminating full-time positions is a false one. The Washington Post's Michael Laris credited Ike Leggett for terminating hundreds of employees over the last few years. That is simply not true. The county itself has stated that almost every one of those jobs was an unfilled position. 0 - 0 = 0. (At least it did when I was in school). This week's claim of new "axings" is mostly false, as well. County officials have promised to move almost every one of these employees into "other positions." These "other positions," of course, draw salaries, benefits, and pensions. Hence, there are no budgetary savings realized by these "firings." It is just a PR stunt, and with reporters willing to boost these stunts, it's hard to get the facts out. That's why you're reading this blog, to get the information you cannot get from the local media.

Finally, the budget makes plain that these are the first executive and council in the history of Montgomery County to seek less money for schools, eliminating $173 million while ensuring less education funds in the future, and larger class sizes.

Meanwhile, Health and Human Services emerges intact, and we had plenty of cash on hand to buy the Webb Tract in Montgomery Village to benefit developers at Shady Grove - Hmm. Does that kind of sound like what I predicted in previous blog entries? Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it does.

Again, these councilmembers and their dear friends in the media will tell you they are the experts. They have the birthright, divine right, and only right to public office in Montgomery County.

So how do they explain an $800 million deficit?

How do they explain a tax increase when high county and state taxes plainly have caused tax revenues to tank over the last 3 years?

How do they explain their budget decisions when we have a structural deficit forecast for the next several years, with tax revenues never catching up to spending?

How do they explain giving over $400,000 to a non-profit already under FBI investigation(!) for being unable to account for $900,000 in taxpayer funds?

How do they explain cutting core government services like mass transit, education, police, and more, while retaining massive funds for purely politically-motivated budget spending?

How do they explain their beyond-belief spending, when a true budget expert would have known our current crisis was inevitable?

Don't say there's a national economic crisis!

Because Montgomery County's busted budget shortfall is several times that of the next-worst county's shortfall.

If it was the economy, every county would be in the same boat.

This one's called the Titanic.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


What's Behind the Washington Post's,
County Politicians' Crusade
Against Montgomery's Finest?

Montgomery County's police, fire and rescue personnel protect the public from criminals and respond to auto accidents, fires, medical emergencies, natural disasters, and just about every other crisis you can imagine.

What is the thanks they get for their services and sacrifice from the Washington Post and our elected officials?

Slanderous headlines, and a reckless, poisonous effort to undermine the public's trust in their police department.

As regular readers of this blog know, this is hardly the first time the Post has attacked Montgomery's Finest. It's bad enough that the Post is known for its anti-police bias. Rarely are any heroics or positive profiles printed. But anytime there is a police "scandal," real or imagined in any jurisdiction, it is sure to get a bold headline at the top of the Metro section's front page.

Nothing quite compares to the amount of ink the Post has expended going after Montgomery County officers in the two phony "scandals" over the last year: disability benefits, and the county's Executive/County Council Approved tuition assistance program.

During the former, Councilmembers Phil Andrews and Duchy Trachtenburg claimed that there were "convicted felons" in the ranks of the county police department. Yet, they have so far been unable to name names of actual convicted felons on the force. In the process, they recklessly gave the public the impression that some county officers were convicted felons. Is there any more dangerous way to undermine the public's trust in its officers?

I've challenged them, and the Post, in the past - and again today - to produce a list of names to back up their claims.

They are unable to do so, and therefore have no credibility.

But they and the Post (and others) are not done yet. Seizing on an entirely legal tuition assistance program fully approved by County Executive Ike Leggett and the members of the Montgomery County Council, they are announcing that there is yet another "scandal." This one is as fake as the last.

Please read my blog from last week to get the full facts on that:

But the Post & Co. never have time for the facts when it comes to smearing police officers with false charges and hyperbole.

Check out some of the words and phrases the Post used in yet another disgraceful editorial:

"Crooked cops"
"These courses...were in fact (sic) scams."
The inspector general's report "makes for lurid reading." (Really?)
"the officers' greed"
"fraud, waste and abuse"
"officers were able to evade the county's scrutiny"
"blatantly abusing"
"is it too much to expect that cops would know right from wrong?"
"schemes that allowed officers to score guns on the taxpayers' dime"
-The Washington Post Editorial Board

This Post editorial, like others, was simply beyond the pale. As you have read, the attempt to sully the reputations of police officers was a shameless one.

So what's going on here?

I've said it before, and I'm going to keep hammering the point home until citizens realize that some elected officials, the Washington Post, and special interests are behind a move to shift local government budget funds from public safety to developers and other political considerations.

What's happening cuts to the core of fiscal responsibility and the basic definition of American-style government.

Under this new scheme, money is to be moved from basic government functions (public safety, education, transportation, and even assistance for the disabled!) to massive development projects, "green" environmental scams, and "non-profit" contractors with ties to elected officials, among others.

Apparently, those behind this campaign are willing to stoop to new lows, and try to undermine the public's trust in its police department at a time when gang violence is at an all-time high, and the area is under constant threat of terror attacks.

It's outrageous.

Tell the Post and your elected officials you're not buying it. Support our police officers and firefighters. And get ready to express that support when you vote this November.

Monday, March 15, 2010


Boo Hoo! Domestic Violence Convicted Felon
Begs Fans to Help Him Make Money Again

When recording artist Chris Brown was convicted of felony domestic violence charges, what did he do? Most cynically-smart Hollywood types would have crawled under a rock out in the middle of nowhere for awhile. But Brown was ready for more bling, and put out a new album instead.

To their credit, many (former) fans and radio stations said, "no, thanks," to this embarrassing and shameless attempt to cash in on the worst possible publicity.

Now, the still-rich Brown is a bit peeved that he's on the verge of irrelevancy. He's posted an audio message online (that's about as web 2.0 as Montgomery County's website!).

"Bring me back," Brown pleads.

"Some radio stations aren't playing my records," he said. "They're not being that supportive and I wouldn't expect them to. But it's on the fans...It's in your power to bring me back."

"It won't be possible for me to be an artist if I don't have support from people who give me an artist outlet," Brown said. "I can't be an underground mixtape artist."

Oh yes, he can! Chris Brown should be an underground mixtape artist. Or at least go "underground" to talk and meet with victims of domestic violence living in shelters across America. He doesn't seem to understand that his mostly-female fans don't want to hear from a man who beats women up.

Maybe Chris Brown would be more warmly received in the Maryland General Assembly. There, a majority of legislators don't feel that domestic violence is much of a problem. Once again, the lawyer lobby (which includes many legislators themselves) has killed a bill that would have made it easier for women to obtain protective orders against domestic abusers like Chris Brown.

The bill would have reduced the requirement for a protective order from "clear and convincing evidence" to "a preponderance of the evidence."

This would be one of the most effective things that could be done to prevent domestic violence tragedies. And it has failed again.

We hear from the local media, and legislators themselves, that only they have the birthright, divine right, and elusive "experience" to serve in Rockville, Annapolis and Washington. No challengers need apply. They don't know how the legislative bodies "work," and would be unable to get anything done.


A simple compromise was never even posited by these "master legislators." Why not make a deal: pass the protective order bill, while allowing protective orders to be stricken from an innocent person's record once cleared, and eliminating the right of judges to seize guns when the standard is only "a preponderance of the evidence."

The latter two concepts - allowing falsely-accused citizens to carry a scarlet letter of an unjustified protective order, and seizing guns in violation of the U.S. Constitution - do nothing to help victims of domestic violence.

Easier access to protective orders could do everything to reduce the number of domestic violence fatalities in Maryland each year. And if we are going to make it easier to get these orders, and save lives, we can certainly afford to lighten up on the falsely-accused. Let the justice system take its course. Those who may be innocent will be exonerated. But we know that many women and children have lost their lives in Maryland, simply because the standard of evidence for protective orders is too high.

Thus we could have a fair compromise between victim advocates, and the defense attorney lobby, to achieve a beneficial result guaranteed to save lives.

These are the moments when the ineptness of our elected officials is revealed. And when the hidden agendas - such as gun control - behind some domestic violence "advocates'" efforts come to light.

I will have a not-so-hidden agenda this year: proposing a set of proactive solutions to domestic violence. Proactive, because I want to stop domestic violence before it happens. Too many are focused solely on what to do after a woman has become a victim. While that is important, and will be part of my agenda, it cannot be the only priority.

If the state won't act, we need to do all we can at the county level.

It's time for our legislators to stop partying in Annapolis, and start solving problems.

Friday, March 12, 2010


Wasting the People's Time and Tax Money is
Job One for Councilmembers, Legislators

A county government supposedly lacking funds for basic government functions has spent a fortune on an infantile "pedestrian safety" campaign.

Did we really need government to spend millions of dollars to tell us to look both ways before crossing the street?

Don't text (or read texts) while driving. Don't talk to strangers. Keep household chemicals and medicines out of the reach of children.

There either is a law for each of those common sense ideas, or there soon will be.

Now, who thought it was a good or safe idea to text while driving? It's something I've never done. And guess what? Nobody ever told me not to do it! I just use common sense about safe driving.

Like me, you can probably think of a long list of things one ought not to do while driving. It's a no brainer, as Dr. Weast says. Does this mean we'll have a new law for each one? Most outrageous, is the fact that it already was illegal to text while driving. If a police officer saw you driving down the street while obviously texting on a cell phone, and not looking where you were going, he or she could already have pulled you over and issued a warning or citation for a more general traffic offense. Do you seriously think it has been legal all this time for a driver to be in motion while fully engaged in another activity? If you aren't already, you should be insulted that your councilmembers and legislators think you are not only a child, but not smart enough to know existing law, and that they are pulling a fast one over on you!

Most political experts tell us there is a rash of these simpleminded laws because politicians have no more money to spend, and this is a cheap way to show they are "doing something."

But they would be wrong. Not only do these regulations - such as George Leventhal's restaurant "menu reform" and trans fat ban - cost businesses money, but the time, staff hours, and other associated legislative costs actually are costing the taxpayer. After all, we pay not only the legislators' salaries, but those of their staff, as well.

They believe you are incapable of making the basic decisions everyday life requires. Show them how skilled you are working the voting machine this November.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Find the Budget!

Another Exclusive!!!

Can you find the Montgomery County budget that your tax dollars fund? It's not available in public in print. So let's check the county's "award-winning," and "popular" website....

OK, we're at the home page. Nothing about the budget here.

Let's try this link at the bottom, which says "Additional Information About Important Issues and Topics," because the budget is pretty important, isn't it?

Hmm. Nothing about the budget here, either.

Try clicking on "Departments" to find the budget department.

Now click on OMB.

Nothing about reading the budget on this page.

I'll click on a link for the FY2010 budget from last July(!!).

It's taken forever, and a lot of independent thinking on my part. But I've finally found a budget.

Oh, no! The citizen can only download about 100 large PDF files in order to read the county budget. That's Web 1.0 from 10 years ago!

Isn't it time the county website was updated to Web 2.0, where citizens can study the budget in HTML or Flash or some other realtime format? And made available in print so that those without home computers can review it as well by picking up readily accessible copies at local libraries?

Let's turn Government into Government 2.0. Unless someone fears the public having easy access to how their taxpayer dollars are being spent by the County Council...

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


Once again, the environmental hypocrisy of our elected officials has been laid bare in Annapolis. After extensive lobbying by developers and their puppet legislators in the General Assembly, the Maryland "Department of the Environment" has issued "emergency" rules that obliterate the water runoff restrictions passed in 2007.

These restrictions were not only for the benefit of streams, rivers and the Chesapeake Bay, which are partially polluted by soil and chemical runoff from construction projects, but also could have slowed the destruction of strip malls across the county and state.

Apparently, your developer-beholden delegates and senators didn't realize that the new guidelines would be especially costly for developers who want to wipe out neighborhood shopping centers and replace them with mixed-use condo/retail projects. Aside from the traffic impact of doing this without improving nearby roads and highways, these projects are designed to turn neighborhood amenity centers into regional destinations.

The new rules would likely have slowed this "infill" development, strongly promoted by Dr. Yes and Rollin Stanley.

Several of the biggest environmental hypocrites in Annapolis were preparing bills to postpone changes indefinitely.

But then an even bigger hypocrite stepped in: MDE.

Yes, the same MDE that stonewalls me every time I inquire about environmental incidents that residents were never told about. The same MDE that has O'Malley campaign interns working the phones, and don't even know how to transfer your call to another department. "Dude, is it OK if just tell you the number, and, um, you just, like, call it yourself?"

Same MDE!

The "compromise" is that developers can now pollute away until 2017 anywhere, and indefinitely in "smart growth" areas. AKA, infill projects at your neighborhood shopping center.

This means that already-polluted Little Falls, Seneca, and Ten Mile Creeks will be getting a fresh flush of filthy runoff from new projects. And your legislator is laughing all the way to the bank.

It's outrageous.

"We're pleased," said MDE spokeswoman Dawn Stoltzfus.

"Environmentalists" are "satisfied," according to the Baltimore Sun.

"1000 Friends of Maryland" (or is that 1000 Developers of Maryland?) and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation say it's a mighty fine piece of work by MDE.

Wonder what they'd have said if these rules were issued by a Republican administration?

And that's hypocrisy for you.

This reminds me of the time Attorney General Doug Gansler responded to questions I raised on this blog re: his lack of action against polluters, by commissioning an article in the Washington Post. When the reporter asked "environmentalists" for comment, they all said they had no problem with Gansler, and thought he was doing a great job. Not busting polluters = a great job? Hypocrisy.

Even the Sun printed an Orwellian headline above the fold: "Tougher MD Pollution Rules Survive." Doublespeak 101.

Dying fish are encouraged to call the MDE from polluted waters.

"Glub glub."

"Um, dude, can I like, give you the number, and then you can, um, call it yourself?"

Tuesday, March 09, 2010


Making the Case for Two Upcounty Hospitals

Another Exclusive!!!

The fight to decide who gets to build a new hospital in upper Montgomery County may be distracting us from the larger needs of not only the county's residents, but of residents in the counties that share our border.

Both Holy Cross and Adventist HealthCare have submitted excellent, if modest, proposals for the community to consider. These hospitals would be in Germantown and Clarksburg, respectively. Both have their individual supporters among government officials.

However, I believe that our county and state must commit the resources necessary to build both projects, and make further investments over time to expand those facilities, if we are to face the health and public safety challenges the near future poses.

The need for more hospital beds could not be more clear. Each proposal touches on that issue. However, even together, the total number of beds would be simply a good step forward.

Here's an example of our problem: On January 2, 2007, you might have felt like it was a rather ordinary - if cold - day in Montgomery County. If that was the case, you probably were not seeking emergency treatment in area Emergency Departments. At midday, ambulances were being turned away from Sibley Memorial Hospital in NW Washington, Suburban Hospital, and Shady Grove Hospital EDs. There was no terror attack, no smallpox outbreak, and no natural disaster. Just quite a number of sick people with the flu and norovirus. And yet, EDs in the southwest sector of the county were overwhelmed.

Imagine what the situation will be if a terror attack, disease outbreak, or natural disaster does occur. That's not even getting into the fact that the population is completely unprepared for evacuation. The everyday diversion of ambulances is probably the most critical argument in favor of one or more new hospitals.

Holy Cross plans to add 101 beds (some have argued that some of those beds are being shifted from Holy Cross in Silver Spring, but that has not been clarified yet for me to state as fact). Adventist's hospital would add 86 beds.

That's probably a good start, but not enough to handle a catastrophic event unless we build both.

A second compelling reason to build both is the increasing need for care among those without health insurance. Not only would both hospitals be required to provide charity care under state regulations, but both companies are actually eager to do so. These services would enhance those already being provided at their current facilities.

This is not only good from a moral standpoint, but from a fiscal one as well. Our county's elected officials have run Montgomery's finances into the ground over the last 8 years. With almost 40% of the county's rich having moved to Northern Virginia, a loss of billions in revenue is colliding with a long-term structural deficit in a most imperfect storm.

We simply cannot go on like this, and programs such as Montgomery Cares and other taxpayer-funded health plans will have to be scaled back. The County Council just bragged about having kept the funding for Montgomery Cares in the budget. It may be a feel-good statement for some special interests, but the reality is that once the stimulus money dries up, the county will literally be bankrupt if we continue spending at this rate. Whistling past the graveyard is a favorite pastime of this council, but wealthy citizens will continue to flee, and Wall Street will yank the AAA bond rating. "Feeling good" doesn't pay off debts, and debts get collected on, and governments do go bankrupt.

It's time to wake up.

And time to build two hospitals.

We can have two more EDs serving the health needs of the most vulnerable. Every human being has the right to health care, in the sense that emergency health needs should be met for every person, regardless of ability to pay. These hospitals can help us provide that, while reducing the burden on the budget and the taxpayer. Cadillac health plans for the uninsured are no longer realistic, and we need to get real before it's too late.

A third issue is the critical need for more mental health services in the county. The Holy Cross plan calls for 6 psychiatric beds. We need more than that, and we should ensure that both hospitals will help us meet the mental health challenges ahead. Right now, we not only lack facilities for mental health patients, but our county police are burdened with having to be the mental health envoys of the community. More facilities, providing more patients with treatment, will not only help our police focus on the serious crime issues, but also help us address our homeless population - which is embarrassingly large for such a wealthy jurisdiction.

A fourth need is jobs. Holy Cross plans to offer 600 jobs; Adventist will offer 1000. These exclude the construction jobs that would also be created. 1600 sure sounds better than either figure by itself, especially during these bad economic times. We have the highest unemployment in decades in Montgomery County, and our council is promoting the same mixed-use development that has failed to create jobs over the last 8 years. These hospitals would offer real jobs, not McJobs.

Fifth, I believe that the Clarksburg hospital should eventually include a trauma center. Anecdotally, I hear often about victims of traffic accidents in the Upcounty being sent everywhere from Baltimore to Washington County to the Washington Hospital Center. While those are all excellent facilities, Upcounty residents - as well as residents of lower Frederick and Carroll counties - deserve a shorter helicopter flight for emergency treatment.

Clarksburg is ideally located in the center of that region. Yes, I realize that trauma centers are very expensive. But the state of Maryland should help us make that investment, as well as the Federal government.

In 2006, when I ran for the House of Delegates, I spoke often about the need to press the Federal government for more funds. We need transportation funds, because not only do Federal workers use our roads and transit systems to get to work, but because we are on the outskirts of a major terror target, the nation's capital.

Likewise, as a terror target, we have a need for more hospital beds than a Midwestern city. It is a public safety issue, and a national security issue.

A new trauma center is badly needed for our Upcounty residents, and for residents elsewhere in the state.

This need, and the possibility of receiving Federal funds, is very real.

In the Baltimore Sun, Edward Gunts wrote that the University of Maryland's Shock Trauma Center is receiving $2.4 million in Federal funds for an addition. This is because the UMSTC offers training to military surgeons, doctors and nurses. Of course we have the Naval Hospital - soon to add Walter Reed's programs - here already; this would provide an opportunity for those personnel to work with one or both Upcounty hospitals. Then we could qualify for Federal funds.

Overall, $13 million in Federal funds will be going to the Baltimore facility, which is overcrowded right now. $50 million is coming from the state, and $35 million will be raised by the UMSTC.

Of course, Adventist's hospital is scheduled to cost $177 million (I don't have a figure for Holy Cross's proposal). These are going to be expensive.

Aside from protecting Clarksburg's already damaged streams, I would advise that these lofty but foolish goals of "green" buildings and LEED certification be put aside. We cannot afford to waste funds on "global warming" not caused by human activity. (Did you hear about the climate change recently discovered on Mars? All those darn Hummers on the Red Planet must have been responsible, right?).

Contain costs, and get government spending under control so that we can start focusing on the core responsibilities of county and state government. That's what our elected officials need to do, starting today.

Finally, Holy Cross will be joining with Montgomery College's nursing program to address the shortage of nurses in area hospitals. (Don't get me started, though, as some hospitals are not hiring, despite a high ratio of patients-to-nurses!)

In conclusion, the strengths of each project would make building both worthwhile. Adding some of the expanded features I've proposed would make an even greater payoff on the investment.

Can we afford it? That's a question we must ask about virtually every budget item and wishlist today. But I would at least like to add to the debate and discussion, in the hopes that we won't shortchange an opportunity to make a serious improvement in the health and safety of the Upcounty and our neighboring counties.

Monday, March 08, 2010


Ike Leggett's Blue Ribbon Panel Commission has studied, analyzed, interviewed, calculated, absorbed, synthesized, counterbalanced, questioned, sliced and diced the data.

And, after all these months, used all of that effort to reach a groundbreaking and shocking conclusion:

Apartment rents are high in Montgomery County.

"Golly!," exclaimed Gomer Pyle, in the front row at the press conference last week.

I'd like to welcome Mr. Leggett and the Washington Post to the table. I've been talking about this issue for several years now.

Some are now calling for "rent control" in Montgomery County. That can be put to rest rather quickly, because that is not only a foolhardy approach, but - get real - a developer-controlled council and Planning Board will never pass rent control.

There are really two separate issues to address when tackling the high cost of rent in Montgomery County: First, using the free market to lower prices. And related to that, ensuring that the free market is in fact operating unfettered.

And, before I get into that, let me add that I'm talking just about rent here; those in the market to buy will find some very good prices on single family homes, townhouses, and condos outside of the Bethesda/Chevy Chase/Downtown Rockville/Downtown Silver Spring areas. Which really negates any need for "affordable housing" owned by government or its "partners."

Those low prices are showing us how misguided, and even detrimental, the county's "affordable housing" strategy is for the taxpayer and non-wealthy home shopper.

Now, about that free market. And making sure it is actually "free." We've been told by Dr. Yes and Rollin Stanley that high-density apartments are to be built around Metro stations. However, in downtown Bethesda, the Arlington Road corridor had multiple properties adjacent to the Bethesda Metro station. Every one of those properties has been shifted from the original plan to boutique luxury condos and apartments. Instead, small buildings with a few dozen units are being approved and built behind the Metro station, and in "Old Bethesda." In fact, when an additional building was proposed for the Bethesda Metro plaza, on top of the station(!), it contained no housing at all!

Similarly, a building proposed for the corner of Silver Spring and Thayer in downtown Silver Spring - which will be on the proposed Purple Line route - is said to be 45 feet tall, while the zoning allows for 60 feet.

Meanwhile, in areas such as White Flint and the Rockville Town Center, similar luxury apartments and condo buildings are struggling. Some property managers have gone to desperate lengths to fill their buildings in the first sign of the financial consequences of holding prices high in a down market. The Fenestra decided to turn itself into a college dorm like Park Bethesda once did. Nothing says high-class luxury like a frat party, right? Luxury condo building The Palladian in Rockville Town Square is only 47% owned. The other 53% are either rented or vacant. This not only reduces the sale value for current owners in the building, but also makes it more difficult for potential buyers to obtain financing. Recently, the City of Rockville warned the Palladian that one of its Federal housing qualifications is in jeopardy because of its low ownership ratio.

These sorts of desperate measures make clear that high-priced luxury buildings are simply not viable in today's market. My hope is that supply and demand will belatedly take effect in the county, just as it has in the homebuying market.

But the county isn't helping by inserting itself in the real estate business. By using taxpayer funds to buy properties, the county is artificially propping up the market. It would be better to let prices drop and give a tax incentive to fix up a foreclosed house, at only a fraction of the current cost to the taxpayer.

Secondly, the county and its "partners" own too many apartment buildings in prime locations. Every unit controlled by government takes another one off the market, thereby boosting prices. I believe that this is one reason rents are staying high, even while purchase prices are dropping.

Third, at some level, rent should become tax-deductible. If we can't provide a credit at the county level, we should press for this at the state or Federal level.

Finally, the Planning Board needs to stop its hypocrisy. Don't tout "smart growth," and then approve small buildings near Metro stations. Surely, 100 units equal the same profit as 50 units at twice the rent.

But right now, despite my worries in the past, I am starting to find indications that the market may be working. The best choice might be for government to get out of the way, stop buying up properties, and see what happens. If Big Government can control itself, and the Federal government keeps the economy in recession with its big-spending/grow-Government ways, relatively affordable, free-market housing could be just around the corner in Montgomery County.

Of course, that may be precisely why our elected officials are eager to intervene. Because affordable free-market housing means the loss of government-dependent citizens. And that's always a losing strategy for Big Government.

Friday, March 05, 2010


Leggett, Floreen Attempt to Bankrupt County
Police Officer, Pass Blame for County's
Budget Shortfall

Once again, our county elected officials are trying to pass the blame for our $762 million budget shortfall to anyone but themselves, the architects of this fiscal catastrophe.

And once again, Montgomery County Police officers are finding themselves falsely accused by politicians desperate to get reelected despite their ghastly record of "leadership."

County Executive Ike Leggett and Council President Nancy Floreen are publicly cheering a lawsuit filed by the county against Officer Aaron Bailey.

Under the county's employee tuition program - approved by Leggett, Floreen, and their council colleagues - Officer Bailey broke no law and violated no regulation.

Yet Leggett, Floreen, et al are now suing Bailey for $908,000! Going out on a limb, and assuming that Officer Bailey is not a billionaire, Leggett and Floreen mean to bankrupt this officer and bring him to financial ruin. For not breaking any laws!

It's outrageous.

The Leggett-Floreen & Co. lawsuit fails the smell test for all kinds of reasons.

First, they have never filed such a suit against non-profit Centro Familia, which could not account for $900,000 in taxpayer funds it received from the county. In fact, even though Centro Familia was under investigation by the FBI(!!), the council approved another grant of over $400,000 for the group! So why the sudden legal fever in a case that should be thrown out of court by the first judge who hears it? You gotta wonder.

Second, no laws were broken. Here's the background. Years back, Leggett, Floreen & Co. approved a tuition assistance program. It, like many other perks and bonuses, were agreed to for the sake of getting reelected. Now that the county no longer has the massive funds available to pay for these perks, politicians are taking back all that they promised union members in the last election. COLAs, raises, bonuses, and the tuition assistance.

But attacking the program is sheer hypocrisy. This is their program; Leggett, Floreen & Co. own it. Lock, stock, and smoking barrel. They have admitted they failed to set rules, or provide the proper oversight they took an oath of office to provide. (Same thing with Centro Familia, in a not-so-strange coincidence!)

In essence, it would be as if you gave a man $50, thinking he'll buy 3 meals today. But, instead, he buys something else you personally don't approve of. And then you got angry, and filed a lawsuit against him. There's just one problem. The man broke no law. You have to first write a law before someone can break it.

Officer Bailey's course offerings were legitimate and legal under the vague program rules instituted by Leggett, Floreen, & Co. Fellow officers, according to a Washington Post article, say Bailey and other "instructors have good reputations as firearms instructors."

One controversy is that officers were able to purchase a Glock 9mm, 40SW or 45 ACP, for $99 upon completion of the course.

What's wrong with that?

Have gun control extremists reached the point where they've lost all reason?

Who among the population is more qualified to own and operate a firearm than a uniformed police officer? They have to be gun experts to be on the force! Meaning, there was a legitimate course offered, and then a legal gun purchase by a well-trained law enforcement officer.

Where is the "fraud" in that?

For example, after a flashlight course, officers received a free flashlight.

This isn't the first time the council and executive have tried to blame police officers for their financial troubles. Regular readers well remember the fake scandal Leggett, Phil Andrews, and Duchy Trachtenburg cooked up last year: claiming disabled police officers were scamming the taxpayers by "faking" injuries, and making the outrageous charge that there were convicted felons in the ranks of the department. This was reckless, dangerous speech by the council.

How dare Nancy Floreen refer to "an abuse of the public trust," when she and other councilmembers participated in an action last year that threatened to undermine the public's trust in its police officers.

The FBI investigated. The pro-County Council Washington Post investigated. Both concluded that no officer had broken the law regarding disability benefits. Period.

At the same time, I challenged council critics of the department to stop making broad smears of law enforcement personnel, and produce the actual names of "convicted felons" in the ranks.

Those councilmembers never produced one single name.

The whole thing was complete hogwash, and a horrendous example of our elected officials' lack of respect for the men and women of our police department.

At a recent meeting with MCPS students, one student told the council that there "are no positive role models in the police department." Not one councilmember challenged his assertion! Not one. That is outrageous as the charge is false.

But that just gives you some more perspective on your county elected officials: when the chips are down, their election-year support for the police mysteriously evaporates.

Finally, consider the council's newfound criticism for the tuition program it created. They're always talking about education. This program allowed county employees to "broaden their horizons," gain new skills, and become qualified for better jobs in some cases. That's a positive thing, the last time I checked.

If it's no longer affordable, then so be it.

But there's no justification for passing the buck to the police again. It's time for the council and executive to face the catastrophe they've created, and most importantly, face the consequences of their actions.

If they can't do that, they'll be held accountable by the voters in November.

Thursday, March 04, 2010


Another Exclusive!!!

A controversial new bill in Annapolis proposes that first-time drunk driving offenders be required to have ignition interlocks installed in their vehicles. One question the local media has failed to ask: will the House of Delegates' majority leader, Kumar Barve (D - District 17), be required to have one installed in his vehicle? And will Maryland's state budget director, T. Eloise Foster, be required to, as well? Barve and Foster were both convicted of drunk driving charges a few years ago.

District 16's delegate, Bill Bronrott, is in favor of the new requirement, but after several years, has yet to publicly criticize Barve or Foster for getting behind the wheel while intoxicated.

This bill should raise more questions than that, however.

In order to have such a law, there should be uniform standards and testing equipment statewide to ensure accuracy of tests. Recent years have brought questions about D.C.'s tests, which have declared drivers who drank only one glass of wine as over the limit. Since most would agree that one glass of wine is insufficient to incapacitate a legal adult, such a standard for a severe solution would be unacceptable. I have not heard similar complaints about the tests administered here in Montgomery County, so my hope is that law-abiding citizens will not have to worry if the bill becomes law.

And that leads to a second concern here, one of principle. While we need accurate, objective tests to declare a driver "over the limit," requiring he or she to have a clunky device permanently installed in his or her car, there's no doubt about something else: Big Government wants into your car. Bigtime.

Among the devices outside-the-mainstream politicians want to install in your car: "black boxes" to gather data about every aspect of your driving and vehicle condition; a GPS tracking device that not only reports your location to local, state, and Federal governments, but also charges you a variety of taxes by mile, gallon, engine size, fuel type, vehicle category, weather, time, and location; and another device that will transmit the driving directions you are listening to on your GPS to the government.

In short, Big Brother will know who you are, what you are driving, where you are, and where you are going. Even worse, it is going to send you a bill just for existing! And government will have a complete log of your every move. You know how "secure" government data is. There's a report every night on the news about this data or that data being stolen by all kinds of criminals. Such detailed data could put lives at risk, be used by criminals to blackmail citizens, and, quite simply, give the government information it has no entitlement to under the United States Constitution.

There's something terribly wrong when a state knows more of the whereabouts of its law-abiding taxpayers than of its violent criminals, convicted predators and prisoners. The oft-deadly results of such a status quo have been splashed across many a newspaper page in recent months. Some of these deaths and prison breaks have become national news, and a tremendous embarrassment to the leaders of our state. At least, I hope they have the decency to be embarrassed.

So I think the average taxpayer wants to know if politicians in Annapolis will be above the law in this case. We've already witnessed our County Council place itself above the law in several cases, including the failure to maintain education funding under state law. Now the council, and Montgomery County legislators, are working overtime in Annapolis to pass legislation that would declare the Montgomery County Council "above the law," and result in reduced school funding, crowded classrooms, fewer programs and a backwards step for special and gifted education.

It's outrageous.

And more than that, is the law still what is written in our Constitution, and will government be allowed to go above and beyond it in this new era of no privacy, and taxmania?

Wednesday, March 03, 2010


Leggett's Comments Reveal Ambulance Tax
Not as Critical as Supporters Claim

Another Exclusive!!!

Grab the garlic. Montgomery County's ambulance fee is crawling through the darkness of failed leadership once again, stalking the most vulnerable among the county's citizens.

While a majority of Montgomery County residents firmly oppose the ambulance fee, County Executive Ike Leggett continues to bring it back for vote after vote.

We've all heard the fantasy: the ambulance fee is "$12 million we're leaving on the table. If you have insurance, we'll bill your insurance company. You'll never see the bill! If you can't pay, you won't pay!"

Now the facts, exclusively on

I have some experience with ambulance fees, as I know someone who was taken by ambulance to a hospital in Pennsylvania. The municipality there had such a fee. This person - who had health insurance - did get a bill for the fee. The insurance company refused to pay the bill. So bill after bill after bill after bill kept arriving, demanding payment of the ambulance fee. There is a bill. You'll get the bill. And unless you have whatever insurance the people pushing this fee apparently have, you'll pay that bill. Or face collection.

Now, what if you can't pay the bill. Well, a county spokesman - accidently, perhaps - just let it slip that everyone will get a bill. The claim is that, if you can't pay the bill and have no insurance, you just let it go. The new twist revealed that you can't just "let it go." You have to file a waiver form with the county, and they will ostensibly decide if you pay or not. That's quite different from what we've heard before. And given some of the crazy formulas that keep struggling citizens from accessing other government assistance, who knows exactly what the standard will be?

So now that senior citizen squeaking by feels his arm getting numb, and has a chest pain. Should he call an ambulance and owe $800? It doesn't seem serious. Maybe he should just take an aspirin and lie down. Thus we have the deadly consequences of an ambulance fee.

Third, the ambulance fee - like the prompt dissolution of the Fire Board - is simply another attempt to hurt the volunteer fire departments of the county. I don't understand the strange world some of our politicians live in. With the exception of Councilmember Roger Berliner, I've never heard any elected official state out loud that Montgomery County's volunteer fire departments are critical to public safety and that this pointless tension between career and volunteer leadership (fueled by some on the council and the executive) needs to end.

The fee will directly impact the critical fundraising efforts of our volunteer departments, as citizens find themselves being double and triple-taxed for basic government services.

Still our "leaders" keep pushing this crazy ambulance fee.

With our always-rising budget shortfall currently at $762 million, we're sure to hear that the $12 million in ambulance fee money cannot be "left on the table."

Hmm. So, why is Ike Leggett stating that a $30 million salary increase for county employees is still on the table? That's more than double the projected take of the ambulance fee. In one door and out the other. While public safety employees are long overdue for an increase, the rest of the county government cannot justify a raise when private-sector employees are struggling without any increases.

What's this really about?

It's just like I've been telling you. A $12M ambulance fee isn't about getting $12M for MCFRS. It's about getting a new $12M that the county can switch from fire and rescue to the same special interests and developers who got the politicians elected.

Don't fall for it.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010


The following statement was issued by the Montgomery County Police Department:

"Detectives from the Montgomery County Police 2nd District Investigative Section are seeking the public’s help in locating a critically missing man from Bethesda. Herbert Gerald Quigley, age 66, of the 5200 block of Tuckerman Lane in Bethesda, was last seen at approximately 4:00 p.m. boarding a northbound red line metro train at the Grosvenor station. He is described as a white male, 5’9” tall, weighing 162 pounds. He was last seen wearing a long brown overcoat, a navy-blue button down shirt, khaki pants, a brown hat, and brown boots. He has been diagnosed with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease and suffers from seizures. He does not have his medication with him. He is known to frequent book stores and movie theaters. He also has ties to the area of Van Ness-UDC in the District of Columbia. If anyone has information about Herbert Quigley’s whereabouts, they are asked to immediately contact the police non-emergency number at 301-279-8000. Callers may remain anonymous."

Monday, March 01, 2010

Watch a video of Ride On Bus 90 in downtown Damascus:

And read a story about it in the box next to the video.

Route 90 runs from Damascus to the Shady Grove Metro station.