Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Montgomery Blair Katrina Project

The Montgomery Blair Katrina Project, a group of seniors at Blair High School in Silver Spring, organized the Run-o-vation 5K to help raise money for rebuilding efforts in New Orleans. It's been almost 3 years since Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast, but the damage still demands our attention. The proceeds of the event will go to Hands On New Orleans, an organization that leads a range of volunteer projects to continue the rebuilding process in New Orleans.

The course which ran through Sligo Creek Park and the neighborhoods of Park Hills and Seven Oaks was 3.1 miles long.

Thanks to the organizers from Montgomery Blair High School, the many sponsors and all the race participants.

See more race pics here.

Adults, teens discuss wish list for library - Gazette

Public hearings begin for new Silver Spring facility

by Amber Parcher | Staff Writer | Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2008

From a spacious teen center to more computers and an expanded literature and foreign language section, adults and teens in Silver Spring have a lot to say about what they want in their new library.

They shared their ideas Saturday with library and county officials in two meetings that were the first steps in deciding what should be included in the new library. There will be three more public design meetings in September and October.

The proposed library would be at the corner of Wayne Avenue and Fenton and Bonifant streets. The 66,000-square-foot site will most likely feature the multi-story library, affordable housing units and a station for the Purple Line, which is slated to run through the property.

But the project, which would improve the oldest and second-smallest library in the county and is 10 years in the making, is still fairly uncertain, said Rita Gale, one of the library's public services administrator.

Officials do not know the orientation of the library, the site plan or what will be included in the library itself.

What is certain is the county has acquired all of the land at the new site for more than $5 million, said Gary Stith, the director of the Silver Spring Regional Center.

"Square foot by square foot, this is the most expensive site the county's ever acquired," Stith said.

The new library will most likely be two stories and, at 38,400 square feet, more than double the size of the old one, Gale said. The project will be funded through the Capitol Improvements Program. Gale said she couldn't estimate cost until more definitive plans are approved.

At the meeting Saturday, about 50 community members cited concerns that the Purple Line, which will most likely run through the property, would take over the site.

"It would clobber it," said Jim Polk, of the Silver Spring Friends of the Library.

But Gale and Stith stressed the library would be the focus.

Almost everyone at the meeting agreed the focus in the library should be art. Silver Spring is a designated arts and entertainment district and the library should be "a cultural destination," said Jose Dominguez, the director of the Silver Spring nonprofit arts center Pyramid Atlantic.

"Folks come to see Montgomery County's extensive arts collection," he said. The library could display local art, he and others suggested.

What the library doesn't have enough of is literature, both nonfiction and international, many people at the meeting said.

Silver Spring resident Jay Latman said if he wants a book, he almost always has to order it online through another library because the Silver Spring Library won't have it.

Another common theme was the need for more computers — both catalog computers and regular-use PCs.

About 15 teenagers in the library's teen public meeting took that suggestion one step further and said they'd like to see both PCs and Macintosh computers in the library. And they should be stocked with high-tech software such as Final Cut Pro and Adobe Photoshop, they said.

The teen meeting, which followed the adult meeting, was necessary because teens also use the library and should have a say in the new one, said Darian Unger, the chairman of the Silver Spring Advisory Board.

Stith said he thought some of the teens' ideas were more interesting and specific than the adults', such as recommending the expansion of the foreign literature collection to include Japanese and Latin, and having historical reference films.

Almost all of the teens said they use the library on a regular basis, either to hang out with friends or to do school work, and they were in agreement with the idea of a separate teen room.

"It could be a place where you could meet your friends, to stay out of trouble," said 18-year-old Katya Hernandez. Hernandez said she uses the library to study but would like to see it become more social.

But Gale broke the bad news to the teens that construction on the new library probably won't start for another three years, pending decisions about the Purple Line and approval from the County Council in December.

Fourteen-year-old Joshua Reckson summed up everyone's thoughts about the prolonged project:

"But we won't be teens anymore," he said.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

‘Linkages' helps students overcome barriers to success - Gazette

Program offers support for low-income pupils and their parents

by Amber Parcher | Staff Writer | Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2008

A county program that helps eliminate non-academic barriers to students' success will open its doors again this year to children who have difficulty concentrating on schoolwork for reasons outside of the classroom.

Linkages to Learning, a county-funded initiative, helps impoverished children and their families address the social, economic, health and emotional issues that interfere with a child's education through mental health services, parenting workshops, social services and charity.

Available in 35 Montgomery County Public Schools with a large number of children who receive reduced-rate or free lunches, indicators of poverty, Linkages to Learning provides the support many low-income families may not have, said Ebony Davis, the site coordinator and case manager at Greencastle Elementary School and Benjamin Banneker Middle School in Burtonsville.

"We're here to meet the needs of the community," Davis said.

Nicki Sanders, the assistant director of Linkages to Learning, said the pitfalls of poverty can affect a student's learning ability in many ways.

"If the kids are coming to school hungry, if they're going home and they don't have the basic necessities — then all of those non-academic things impact the children when they get to school," she said.

The program combats those problems however it can, whether it's as simple as giving a child a snack, or as complicated as helping families steer through immigration laws.

"So we're kind of here to eliminate all of those non-academic barriers that will prevent a child from being successful," Sanders said.

The program runs out of the schools, which makes it more accessible for participants, Sanders said. A case manager, therapist and site coordinator are assigned to each site. (In some schools, people like Davis double up on roles.)

To get kids and their families ready for the beginning of the school year, Davis organized a school supply drive through local donors and handed out brand new backpacks filled with supplies last week to 25 of her clients.

"To help them start off on the right foot," she said.

Linkages to Learning is vital at the start of the school year because it makes the hallways a little more secure for troubled and at-risk youth, said Monica Martin, the county Department of Health and Human Services' representative to the program's oversight committee.

"There are friendly faces kids can connect to," she said.

Peggy Salazar, the principal at Oak View Elementary in Silver Spring, said the program has long-term benefits for her students and their families.

"They stick with the families for however long they need them before they exit the program," she said. "Rarely is it a one-shot deal."

Martin said the countywide program costs about $4 million annually. Each site receives a $180,000 grant from the county's Department of Health and Human Services and partners with a nonprofit in the community (in Davis' case it's the YMCA) for resources and staff.

But Sanders said the program relies on donations from the across the county that add up to $1 million more in funding every year.

"It just continues to amaze me that Montgomery County is fortunate enough to have such a great collaboration to make this happen," she said.

Through collaboration, Davis said she will plan many more parenting and family workshops throughout the school year at Greencastle Elementary and Banneker Middle School.

To donate or volunteer with Linkages to Learning, call Ebony Davis at 301-572-7001 or 301-476-7672.

Immigrant advocates see hard road ahead - Gazette

County policy on immigration warrants continuing to erode trust

by Sebastian Montes | Staff Writer | Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2008

Latino groups have resigned themselves that the Montgomery County Police Department will continue to enforce federal civil immigration warrants, despite the continued opposition within immigrant supporters.

"They won't change it, so we have to live with it," said Henry Montes, co-chairman of Leggett's Latin American Advisory Group. "I think there's still some question about what some to the things may mean in terms of being carried out. We feel it might be open to interpretation to officers on the street. … Somehow or another, they should have an evaluation system to it. It's kind of difficult to say this will work in the rank and file."

A month ago, copies of the draft police policy began circulating in which police would continue enforcing civil immigration warrants, called detainers.

Anti-illegal immigration advocates were dissatisfied because they wanted a full-fledge crackdown. Immigrant advocates called on county leaders to reverse course because the policy was damaging trust of the police within the immigrant community.

Officers learn of the detainers during traffic stops and other routine questioning. Most of those warrants are for civil, not criminal, immigration violations. The person is handed over to federal immigration agents to be deported.

Meeting with Police Chief J. Thomas Manger last month, several Latino leaders worried that much remains unclear in the policy and that there is little way of knowing that officers are sticking to the letter of the law.

Help Save Maryland, and other groups opposed to illegal immigration, were glad to see that County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) and Manger did not retreat from enforcing the warrants, they wanted them to go further, by enrolling in federal training that essentially deputizes local officers as immigration agents.

"It's just lip service to say they'll enforce that. Leggett just refuses to see the problem. I fear that the county is lost to politicians, and they're just pandering for votes," said Leo Carling, a Help Save Maryland member from Kensington.

Meanwhile, the civil immigration arrests are coming faster in Montgomery than in the five years since the U.S. Department of Justice began putting the warrants into a national law enforcement database.

In 2006, county police arrested about 30 people on the civil warrants, according to the county Department of Correction and Rehabilitation. Since then, the pace has nearly tripled; 85 in 2007 and 58 so far this year.

The new directive will be the first update in eight years to officers' orders on dealing with foreign nationals.

County Councilman Mark Elrich was among those who met privately with Leggett last year to ask that he order police to stop enforcing the civil immigration warrants, which are called detainers.

"I have mixed feelings, but I really don't think we should be enforcing the detainers," said Elrich (D-At Large) of Takoma Park. "… If it's because of actions while here, as opposed to merely being here, I don't have any problem with that. If it strictly has to do with immigration status and it's not triggered by a behavioral issue … then I would prefer us not to be involved in it."

The council, however, is unlikely to legislate police policy, he said.

"We're not going to legislate to tell the police chief what laws to enforce and not enforce," he said. "It might have been good to get a heads up on it … but I think it's their decision at this point."

Del. Ana Sol Gutierrez, a native of El Salvador, said the policy has changed the dynamic between the police and immigrants.

"We are in extraordinary times. We are no longer able to keep our trust in the police," said Gutierrez (D-Dist. 18) of Chevy Chase. "… What has been good policing [in the past] today is much more threatening to our community."

Help Save Maryland and other groups counter that if immigrants are afraid of having their immigration status checked, it's because they aren't in the country legally.

"When I was a kid, we were afraid of the police, too," Carling said.

The problem, advocates said, is perception. While police try to downplay their role in immigration arrests and build back immigrant trust, the community continues to believe that county police are deporting immigrants.

"Maybe both sides are wrong, maybe both sides are right, but it's happening," said Mariana Cordier, a defense attorney and past president of the Maryland Hispanic Bar Association. "… I see it every day in court, from both sides, victims and witnesses — everyone is extraordinarily afraid."

County officers may ask someone's immigration status only if the person is not carrying identification, or if it is ‘‘relevant to an investigation." Any arrest of a foreign national must be for a local crime or in response to a federal warrant.

Washington Adventist plans clear some hurdles, await hearings - Gazette

Hospital officials moving through county regulatory process for facility in Calverton/White Oak

by Amber Parcher | Staff Writer | Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2008

Plans for the Washington Adventist Hospital's relocation from its current site in Takoma Park to the Calverton/White Oak area near Route 29 are moving along, according to hospital officials.

Last week, the county hearing examiner recommended approval for the hospital's special exception for zoning to build new emergency, acute care, ambulatory and medical office buildings on 48 acres off Plum Orchard Drive and Cherry Hill Road.

The next step, said Geoffrey Morgan, the vice president of expanded affairs and full-time project coordinator, is to wait for similar approval from the county Board of Appeals in September. Once that is approved, the hospital will schedule a public hearing with the Planning Board to review site plans.

"The majority of the work is behind us now," Morgan said.

The move has been in the planning stages since 2005, when hospital officials had decided the 14-acre Takoma Park site the hospital had occupied for nearly 100 years was not large enough for expansion.

The hospital has been wading through special exception approvals because the proposed new site is part of the Westfarm Technology Park and is zoned for light industrial use.

After all the approvals on the county level are obtained, the hospital will seek state regulatory approval for building permits, Morgan said. In the meantime it is focusing on design concepts and land use, said its president, Jere Stocks.

Preliminary plans include a core hospital, a connected ambulatory-care building for outpatients, two medical office buildings on the north and south sides of the property, two parking structures and 260,000 square feet of medical office space, Stocks said.

One less perfunctory feature will be a nondenominational faith center and healing garden along a 4-acre lake in the back of the property, Stocks said. The faith center is an important part of the campus, he said.

"There's a whole certain spiritual element to healing," Stocks said. "Mind, body, spirit health is very important in this campus."

Stocks added there will be conference facilities within the faith center for general community use.

The western side of the hospital will open to a view of the lake and the east and front side of the campus will have beautifying landscaping and water features, especially near the cancer center, Stocks said.

Plans for the remaining site at Takoma Park are still being discussed, Stocks said. Hospital officials have been working with Takoma Park residents for the past year to make sure there will still be adequate health care in the area.

In March, the Takoma Park City Council created a land-use committee to advise the city on how to use the land, but the committee hasn't taken any action yet, said Takoma Park City Manager Barbara Burns Matthews.

Stocks declined to say what ideas he was considering, but said the final concepts he announces in the fall will provide "very robust" service to Takoma Park.

"This truly is a way for us to expand health care," he said. "A combination of those two facilities will strengthen the health care safety net."

Stuart Rochester, chairman of the Fairland Master Plan and a community activist, said the Calverton/White Oak community has been meeting regularly with the hospital for several years.

He said the hospital is part of a larger movement of development activity up the Route 29 corridor, with construction at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in White Oak and a proposed biotechnology center in the same area.

"This augers very well for the future of eastern county, which was kind of a stepchild for many years," he said.

Other hospital moves across the county haven't affected Washington Adventist's plans, Stocks said, adding he's turned off his peripheral vision to Holy Cross Hospital's expansion plans.

Holy Cross announced earlier this month it would be opening two health care clinics in Wheaton and Gaithersburg and a new hospital in Germantown, sparking concerns with Washington Adventist's parent company, Adventist HealthCare, it is encroaching on more of its territory at Shady Grove Adventist in Rockville.

Stocks said he's focusing solely on his hospital's vision of having an expanded coverage area.

"We're getting closer and closer to the dream of having a relocated hospital," he said.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Montgomery Schools Open With Hike in Enrollment - Washington Post

By Daniel de Vise
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Montgomery County schools opened today with what the superintendent described as an unexpected bump in enrollment of more than 1,000 students, some of them switching from private schools.

Superintendent Jerry D. Weast, leader of Maryland's largest school system, said he is projecting well over 138,000 students as classes resume and as many as 140,000 within 18 months. Enrollment last fall was 137,717.

"It's people who are living here, coming back in record numbers from private school," Weast said this morning at Shady Grove Middle School in Gaithersburg. He was there to plug an expansion of county efforts to improve somewhat stagnant middle school performance.

Weast said there was notable enrollment growth in the Bethesda area and Silver Spring.

Yesterday, Prince George's County schools, with the state's second-largest system, opened with about 130,000 students, and the D.C. public school system opened with about 50,000 students. D.C. public charter schools have various start dates.

Schools in Howard, Charles and Frederick, Md., counties also opened yesterday, in addition to some in Anne Arundel County. The rest of Anne Arundel's schools open today.

Schools in St. Mary's and Calvert counties opened last week; schools in Northern Virginia open next week.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Developing Dissonance - Washington Post

Music Hall Planned In Silver Spring Stuck On a Note of Discord

By Ann E. Marimow
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, August 25, 2008; B01

If any family can be considered the founding family of Silver Spring, it is the Lees.

Bruce and Blair Lee's great-great-great-grandfather bought the land that is now South Silver Spring before the Civil War and built a summer home there that he named Silver Spring. The family's real estate business went on to develop nearby apartments, a shopping center and Lee Plaza, the art deco-style office building that towers over the corner of Colesville Road and Georgia Avenue.

Yet the Lees find themselves caught in a political struggle, involving the very place where their roots run so deep, over Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett's (D) high-profile redevelopment proposal to bring a live music venue to downtown Silver Spring.

Leggett's plan to open one of Live Nation's Fillmore music halls at the site of an old J.C. Penney store depends on $8 million in taxpayer funds -- and the donation of land by the Lee Development Group. In exchange, the Lees want a measure of protection to ensure that the county's project does not interfere with an adjacent development they are considering.

To the county's chief planner, Royce Hanson, the protection the Lees are seeking would give them a "blank check." To the Lees and Leggett, the family is giving up valuable land and needs assurances that Montgomery's development rules will not change midcourse. By their own account, the Lees run a conservative, risk-averse and closely held family operation.

"My relatives understand that this county is crazy. None of them trust the county," said Bruce Lee, the company's president, who shares that mistrust.

Cousins Bruce and Blair took on leading roles at Lee Development Group after the death in 2003 of another cousin, E. Brooke Lee, who had led the company for more than two decades.

Blair Lee, 63, is the hyper-political Gazette newspaper columnist and WBAL (1090 AM) radio commentator, who works behind the scenes providing strategic advice. His father, the late Blair Lee III, was the Maryland lieutenant governor who finished out the gubernatorial term of Marvin Mandel after Mandel was convicted of mail fraud and racketeering.

Bruce Lee, 44, is the music hall project's genial, boyish public face, who makes the rounds at the County Council. He joined the company after college, working the hands-on property management side of the business and delving into Silver Spring's revitalization debates.

"If you're talking to Bruce, you are talking to Blair and vice versa," said longtime friend Kevin Maloney, who runs a commercial real estate firm in Bethesda. "Their styles are different and their responsibilities are different, but they are working for the same end result."

There was Bruce Lee last month, flustered, his head shaking after county planners unanimously panned the land-use proposals that supporters say are needed to make the music hall a reality. Planning Board members, while supportive of the project, said Leggett's deal with the Lees would wipe out their leverage to negotiate for public space and potentially delay other construction projects for up to 15 years. Board member John M. Robinson, who counts Bruce Lee as a good friend, called the county's case for the land-use measures a "charade" that would give the Lees "privileged status."

It is unclear how the board's recommendation will influence the council when it takes up the measures next month. Leggett said last week he has "strong support" on the nine-member council, in addition to backing from a long list of business and community leaders, but he could not say whether he has five votes.

At home in Kensington, Bruce Lee has for six years kept a yellow sticky note on his bathroom mirror to remind him that the family will not be forced into building on its surrounding property until market conditions are ripe. The note reads, "Remember: This is a Montgomery County economic development initiative and the county came to you."

To understand his caution, it helps to know the history of Lee Plaza. The building opened in the late 1980s, just as a real estate recession hit. For three years, the $21.5 million building was 80 to 85 percent vacant.

Still, it has been 18 years since the Lees demolished the J.C. Penney building now slated for the Fillmore, leaving the prime property fallow across the street from the American Film Institute's Silver Theater. Some developers privately ask what the Lees were waiting for, while others say the family was wise not to get out in front.

Developer Lloyd Moore, a veteran of the Silver Spring redevelopment wars, said there was so much bitterness and controversy at the time, "I don't see why anyone would participate in that environment."

The path to building the Fillmore is unprecedented in local land-use history because the music hall, which would count as the Lee group's public amenity and public-use space, would be built before the Lees commit to an adjacent project.

"He's kind of handing off his bargaining chip before he knows what he's going to need to strike a deal," Silver Spring developer Bryant Foulger said of the risk to the Lees.

Though they are not risk-taking developers, the Lees know how to play hardball. Leggett and the Lees pulled the plug on an earlier deal with the Alexandria-based Birchmere Music Hall after it had been in the works for five years under former county executive Douglas M. Duncan. They got spooked in part when the Birchmere began talking about opening a restaurant and club in Loudoun County. Bruce Lee moved quickly to line up Live Nation. Birchmere representatives declined to comment for this article.

The politically prominent Lee family name turned out to be a surprising liability when Leggett went searching for state money for the music hall. The cousins' grandfather, Col. E. Brooke Lee, was speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates and in 1913 their great-grandfather became the first popularly elected U.S. senator. Blair Lee ran his father's unsuccessful campaign for governor in the 1970s, and then was Montgomery's lobbyist in Annapolis.

But for years, Blair Lee has taken shots at state legislators in his weekly column, deriding Montgomery's delegation for being disorganized, weak and a laughingstock at the State House.

"Until MoCo stands up on its hind legs, it will always be shortchanged, double-crossed and pushed around," Blair Lee wrote in his assessment of the 2008 legislative session.

"I'm sure that it wasn't a plus," Del. Sheila Hixson (D), a friend and neighbor, said of the project's connection to the Lees.

In a column this month, Blair Lee blasted Baltimore's plans to use state dollars to pay for a new $400 million sports arena: "If you need a big new arena to assuage your inferiority complex, pay for it yourself. Don't pass me the tab."

Couldn't the same be said about spending state money on Montgomery's music hall? The difference, Blair Lee said, is that the Fillmore has already signed up as a tenant, will make money for the county and relies on only $4 million in state funds.

After six years in the works, the family could still pull out of the music hall, Blair Lee said. "But if we walk away, we lose, the county loses and Silver Spring loses."

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Area artists mix media to create ‘Image Word' exhibit - Gazette

Takoma Park event pairs artists, poets, improv dancers, musicians for unique results

by Jamie Rosen | Special to The Gazette | Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2008

"To go across, you have to crawl on your hands and knees," a poet chants to meditative flute and percussion. Four dancers painstakingly creep across the floor in front of eight consecutive panels of poetry and photography floating on spacious white paper.

"Perhaps your heart opens," the poet continues, then pauses as the dancers crawl past the series of photographs of poet Anne Dykers' face and hands in front of a tree. "And the world, on its perfect axis, becomes itself."

The dancers complete their journey and kneel before the poet, looking finally at peace.

Dykers read her work and watched it come to life at the Thursday closing of Image Word, an exhibit at the Takoma Park Community Center that paired seven poets each with a visual artist to create single works combining both media. The exhibit followed last year's artist-poet collaboration, Inspired Results, in which artists and poets reacted to each others' pieces.

Dykers produced her piece with visual artist Margot Neuhaus after the two were paired by Anne Becker, poet laureate of Takoma Park and co-curator of the exhibit. Becker felt they shared a motif in their work.

"What I said to both of them was in their work, in Anne's poetry, in Margot's visual art, that they have a very similar connection with silence," Becker said.

After agreeing to collaborate, Dykers and Neuhaus shared the process of selecting the final poem from words Dykers composed. Together, they cropped the photographs Neuhaus took of Dykers reenacting the dream that inspired her poem, in which she crossed a trestle over a river gorge, and produced the piece, "With Silence."

Collaborating with another artist was a new experience for Neuhaus.

"To be part of a shared work and a community has been very satisfying to me as artist," she said. "I put in words a process that is subconscious or unconscious. I think becoming aware of my process by sharing it with Anne, that was very rich for me."

"Through the whole exhibit, what was really interesting to me was the process, whereby your techniques, your feelings, your experiences are enlarged by working with other artists in various formats," said Becker, who also participated as poet and dancer.

The theme of the show, "creation," played out both in the awareness artists developed of their creative processes and the themes inherent in their work.

"[The exhibit] was pretty matronly," said Eric Rydzewski, who came to the exhibit with his aunt. "There were lots of references to flowers and rebirth [in the poetry], and I felt that way about the artwork as well."

One of the more abstract pieces incorporated 2,000 plastic eggs arranged in a circle of stacks with additional stacks in the middle, accompanied by a series of haiku involving themes of creation from the perspective of a single woman. The piece, "In the Garden," was created by visual artist Jim Landry and poet Greta Ehrig.

"Jim and I would describe our working process as sort of a ping pong match, bouncing ideas off each other," Ehrig said. She added that the collaboration was exciting, "but at the same time there's a certain giving up of control that happens and a certain unexpectedness of it all."

David Fogel, co-curator and visual arts coordinator for the Takoma Park Community Center, said he wanted the show to bring artists out of their niches, but he agreed that collaborative exhibits can produce some trepidation.

"When you curate a typical show, you know what you're going to get," he said. "This exhibit was: Let's just believe in the creative process, believe in the talents [of the artists], that what's going to be produced is going to be inspiring and insightful and thought-provoking and hopefully emotional, too, all the things that great art should be."

For Dykers and others, trust in the process paid off.

"It was a really wonderful experience," she said. "We really did the piece together. … [And] I felt like the musicians and the movers and the poem were working very well with each other, like there was a real responsiveness, a real interplay between the movers, the music and the poem."

Fogel and Becker plan to host another poet-artist collaboration in 2009. They also plan to move a reworked version of the current exhibit to Space 88 in Silver Spring in mid- to late October.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Library to host design meetings - Gazette

The Silver Spring Library is hosting a series of public meetings to discuss the design of the new library. The first will be held 10 a.m. to noon Saturday (August 23rd) at the Round House Black Box Theatre, 8641 Colesville Road.

It will be followed that day by a special meeting for teenagers to tell officials their preferences for the new library 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the library, 8901 Colesville Road. Pizza will be served at 12:30 p.m. before the teen discussion.

"These are meetings for the Silver Spring community to say now what they would like to have in the new library - what kind of place they want it to be," said Gail Gormley, head of adult services.

People who can't attend the meetings can still e-mail their preferences to

The meetings are sponsored by Montgomery County Public Libraries, the Silver Spring Regional Center and the Montgomery County Department of General Services

Police consider advisory board - Gazette

Silver Spring's Third District is the only county station without such a group

by Mike Meno | Staff Writer | Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2008

Police in Silver Spring's Third District station are considering whether to form a residents advisory board that would meet regularly with police to discuss local crime issues.

All other police districts in Montgomery County maintain active police boards, which typically meet monthly to discuss crime trends and specific incidents as a way to promote communication between police and residents.

Third District commander Capt. Donald Johnson said the Silver Spring station regularly communicates with concerned citizens by sending officers to various community meetings sponsored by residents associations or the Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Board. Only recently have they considered forming a police advisory board, he said.

"We're putting feelers out to the community members," Johnson said. "… I think it's a good thing to do if there was an interest in the community."

Several community leaders interviewed said they were receptive to the idea. Third District police actively communicate and maintain positive relations with residents, they said, but that doesn't mean there isn't room for improvement.

"Certainly, the police have been pretty responsive," said Phil Olivetti, a member of the Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Board. "But anything that would make it more of a regularized fashion I think would be helpful."

Darian Unger, chairman of the Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Board, said police regularly attend the board's transportation and neighborhood committee meetings, but said those are mostly attended by board members. A standing police board could give all residents the opportunity to voice concerns to police, he said.

"The police are responsive to the community when they hear our concerns, and therefore anything we can do to facilitate that communication is great," Unger said. "…We're very excited about [the idea] because we think it will be helpful."

Earlier this month, Germantown's Fifth District Police Commander Capt. Thomas Didone credited that district's police advisory board with providing background information that led to the arrest of a suspect in the slaying of a 23-year-old Silver Spring man along a park trail.

Johnson said he believes police in Silver Spring are equally in touch with residents and receive necessary information.

"Everybody knows everybody and communicates with everyone," he said. "Our monthly meetings that we attend, there is a lot of information exchanges there."

Evan Glass, a Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Board member and president of the South Silver Spring Neighborhood Association, said police have done a "good job" of attending meetings and said they should being looking at other ways to improve communication.

"We already do have plenty of meetings with the different officers from the many county and civic groups that are at these meetings," he said.

Glass said some residents would benefit from an investment in "real time" crime updates, possibly online, that could let people know about situations as they unfold.

Johnson said he too had reservations about how effective a board that met once a month might be in the age of up-to-the minute Internet communication.

"Now with e-mail, we converse weekly, sometimes daily on issues," he said.

Olivetti pointed out, however, that regular face-to-face interactions could be preferable for some residents, especially those without e-mail.

"For people who aren't on a listserv, then they miss out on that communication," he said.

Johnson said any resident with an interest in forming or joining a Third District police board could call the station at 301-565-7740.

"We are very involved with the community," Johnson said, "and I don't think we're at any disadvantage now."

Monday, August 18, 2008

Montgomery Blair Katrina Project - 5K - Sunday, August 31, 2008

From students at Montgomery Blair High School....

The Montgomery Blair Katrina Project, a group of seniors at Blair High School in Silver Spring, have organized the Run-o-vation 5K to help raise money for rebuilding efforts in New Orleans.

It's been almost 3 years since Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast, but the damage still demands our attention. The proceeds of the event will go to Hands On New Orleans, an organization that leads a range of volunteer projects to continue the rebuilding process in New Orleans.

Still over 60% of houses and buildings remain uninhabitable. Some families haven't been adequately reimbursed by the government. Some families haven't even gotten a FEMA trailer house yet, and affordable temporary housing barely exists otherwise. New Orleans matters, for its diverse cultural history, for its wetlands and ecosystems, for its wonderful and deserving communities. Help make a difference!

Sunday, August 31, 2008

The course (3.1 miles) goes along Sligo Creek Pkwy from Wayne to Colesville and back twice.

$18 for students, $25 for adults, $35 day-of

7:30 am registration, 8:30 am race

EXTRA PERKS: tons of gifts from Silver Spring stores, free T-shirts and water bottles, free food, and an appearance by some REDSKINS CHEERLEADERS!

A free Fun-O-Vation 1k will be held for kids after the race so bring your whole


Sunday, August 17, 2008

Slots are leading at the first turn, but concerns are moving up on the outside - Washington Post Editorial

And They're Off . . .
Slots are leading at the first turn, but concerns are moving up on the outside.

Sunday, August 17, 2008; B06

ADEBATE over slot machines that has simmered in Maryland for years is coming to a head with a November referendum on a proposal to install 15,000 machines. Maryland has a budget shortfall, and slots would provide a cash infusion -- but they could also lead to crime and gambling addictions. There are reasonable arguments on both sides; we hope that the coming campaign goes beyond slogans.

State officials estimate that slots would generate $600 million or more annually, half of which would go to education. Supporters of the referendum, including Gov. Martin O'Malley (D), the Maryland State Teachers Association and local unions, say that without slots the state will have to slash its budget or raise taxes. But the $600 million estimate was made last year, before the economy worsened. Casino revenue in many parts of the country, including neighboring states, is down, and Maryland slot-goers aren't likely to spend as much as the state expects.

The state estimates that Marylanders travel to Delaware and West Virginia to spend up to $400 million annually on slot machines. Machines in Maryland, they argue, would help recapture the lost revenue. But University of Maryland economist Robert Carpenter argues that the methodology used to reach that figure is unreliable. Mr. Carpenter also points out that residents may just divert dollars they spend on clothes, food and entertainment to slots. Such spending would produce higher tax revenue but not healthy economic growth for the state. Other state officials, including Comptroller Peter Franchot (D), also question the accuracy of the estimates.

And, of course, there's crime. J. Joseph Curran Jr., Maryland's former attorney general and the current governor's father-in-law, issued a report in the mid-1990s that concluded slots would lead to "violent crime, more crimes against property, more insurance fraud, more white collar crime, more juvenile crime, more drug- and alcohol-related crime, more domestic violence and child abuse, and more organized crime."

Advocates say that slots would save the state's sagging horse racing industry by subsidizing race purses. A report this month that showed most of Maryland racehorse winnings go to out-of-state owners debunked that argument. The state would give one-sixth of the money generated by slots, or about $100 million (it hopes), to the horse racing industry. Eighty percent of that money would go to out-of-state owners and Maryland's wealthiest breeders, leaving what amounts to pocket change for local owners struggling to get by. The report, by the Maryland Tax Education Foundation, a nonpartisan taxpayer advocacy group, also concluded that lucrative purses do not necessarily increase the number of bettors.

About six in 10 voters support the referendum, according to a January survey by the Baltimore Sun. But support softened when respondents learned more about the machines. For instance, 56 percent of respondents said they thought it was inappropriate to use state money to subsidize horse racing. Most Marylanders won't have pollsters calling to inform them about the issue. Let's hope that the lobbying groups don't drown out this debate by bombarding voters with promises they can't keep.

Staving Off The Next Wave Of Foreclosures - Washington Post

Sunday, August 17, 2008; B08

The growing problem of home foreclosures in the Washington region and specifically in Montgomery County has affected an already uncertain economic situation and caused suffering for families who have seen their piece of the American dream slip between their fingers.

Montgomery County had a total of 1,468 foreclosures in April and May, while it had 1,646 during the first three months of the year. Both figures dwarf the 183 foreclosures in the county during the first three months of 2007. The hardest-hit areas include Gaithersburg, Germantown, Wheaton and Aspen Hill. In Montgomery County, foreclosures seem to cluster in the sector of "starter" detached homes and older townhouses.

To tackle this problem, we must work to prevent foreclosures before they happen. Roughly 60 percent of borrowers facing foreclosure have never talked with their lender or a counselor. In many cases, there may be opportunities to work difficulties out and prevent foreclosures. To help in this effort, the county has:

· Organized public meetings throughout the county to reach at-risk homeowners with information on what they can do to save their homes.

· Partnered with the state to fund the foreclosure counseling necessary to problem-solve with homeowners. Nonprofits funded under this program are working with about 200 families. We are seeking to add more federally certified counselors and will be providing training in the county to increase the available pool of foreclosure counselors.

· Matched $2.5 million in state funding with $2.5 million from the county's Housing Initiative Fund to underwrite some potential losses of lending institutions in refinancing homeowners at risk.

· Enlisted the county's churches, synagogues, mosques and other congregations to help spread the word about public meetings, counseling and the toll-free 1-877-462-7555 HOPE hotline to find help.

· Convened meetings with area banks and real estate agents to put their resources and skills to work in attacking the foreclosure issue.

· And increased our efforts to identify vacant foreclosed properties and to enforce housing codes to preserve the quality of life in neighborhoods where foreclosed properties might become an eyesore.

In the past few months we have inspected 400 properties and issued violation notices for overgrown vegetation or solid waste. We have secured voluntary compliance for all but 40 of those notices. In those cases, we have had the grass cut and charged the property owner.

The public purchase of foreclosed properties is an option that has received some attention. We have explored this option and have reservations about it as a cost-effective solution. While some properties are being sold for less than the full mortgage amount, this does not reflect a reduction from current property value. Many of the mortgages are for amounts in excess of the assessed real property value. In addition, rehabilitating foreclosed properties costs $15,000 on average. A better route may be our continuing work with real estate agents to determine the inventory of foreclosed homes and alternatives for disposition of those properties.

A home is where a family's story begins. Foreclosure is no kind of happy ending. While the problem is bigger than any local government can handle alone, area jurisdictions can -- and should -- use available resources to prevent as many foreclosures as possible.

-- Isiah Leggett


The writer is county executive of Montgomery County.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Montgomery Blair performer leads class for Long Branch youngsters - Gazette

by Mike Meno | Staff Writer | Wednesday, July 23, 2008

It was not a typical theater setting, but the young actors preparing to perform at the Long Branch Community Center received serious stage direction last week from youthful leaders.

‘‘Speak slowly and enunciate your words,” the head instructor, Adam Carey, 16, told the middle-school-age class of six girls and one boy in a meeting room at the Silver Spring center. ‘‘Make sure you’re looking at each other so it looks like you’re talking to each other.”

The students are summer campers who have opted for an alternative to the standard activities, such as swimming and basketball, offered at the center on Piney Branch Road.

Carey, a former Long Branch camper himself, has returned this summer to offer youngsters a chance to do something different.

Growing up in Long Branch, Carey said, he spent most of his time at the center swimming and playing kickball. It wasn’t until eighth grade that he discovered his true passion: acting in front of an audience.

In Long Branch, ‘‘there weren’t a lot of theater opportunities, and so I wanted to give some of those opportunities to kids who live in the area,” said Carey, who will be a senior at Montgomery Blair High School. He has become a regular performer in the school’s theater program, with roles in recent productions of ‘‘The Comedy of Errors” and ‘‘Beauty and the Beast.”

The camp’s theater class, which doubled as Carey’s Eagle Scout project, was part of the community center’s Summer Fun Center. It was taught for one hour every weekday for six weeks and culminated in Friday’s performance in front of the entire camp.

Carey’s friends and schoolmates Kaycee Tucker and Laura Boyer served as co-instructors in the class and helped him and the middle-schoolers write a play, ‘‘The Pajama Party,” the story of a missing teddy bear at a sleepover.

At the last rehearsal, Carey and Tucker gave performance tips to the young actors: Keep your body facing the audience. Improvise dialogue if you forget your lines. Never break character.

‘‘They try to get us excited for it,” said Silver Spring resident Priscilla Perez, 11. ‘‘That way, we won’t be nervous.”

Tucker, 17, who graduated from Blair in the spring, spent the first few minutes of a recent class leading the students through physical and verbal warm-up exercises, including jumping jacks and tongue twisters.

‘‘The whole point is to have fun,” Tucker said. ‘‘That’s why Adam and I do theater in school, because it’s fun.”

Silver Spring resident Lisa Jobe, 11, said she signed up for the class because she is interested in acting. ‘‘It’s fun to act like somebody else for a while,” she said.

Jocara Knight, director of the Summer Fun Center, said he was happy with the way the class worked out.

‘‘He did a very good job,” Knight said of Carey. ‘‘He seemed like he was a very good positive role model. I’m getting a very good reaction from the kids, and they seem to very much enjoy it.” Knight said he is considering including the class in the camp’s activities again next year, and possibly expanding it.

Carey said part of the reason he proposed the program for Long Branch was because of recent crimes in the area that he worries have tarnished the neighborhood’s image. With programs such as his theater camp, he hopes more positive stories will come out of the neighborhood.

‘‘I live right down the street,” he said. ‘‘This is my community.”

Knight said the class was an example for the entire camp. More than 70 youngsters watched the theater group’s performance Friday.

‘‘It’s very important to see someone doing something positive,” he said.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Neighbors Join America's Night Out Against Crime

Residents in three Weed & Seed communities celebrate with events ranging from a carnival atmosphere to more intimate settings, Councilmember Ervin visits with residents

August 5, 2008, Silver Spring, Maryland. This evening residents in the communities of Northwest Park, Avery Park, and the Hamptons Homeowners Association gathered together in their respective communities to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of National Night Out, “America’s Night Out against Crime!”

The Northwest Park Apartment Community began their event early at 4:00 pm under overcast skies and tolerable humidity, given the DC metro areas history of blistering heat during this time of the year “this is perfect weather” commented Alex Garcia, Northwest Park’s Community Manager. Several hundred residents attended the event catered with free food, DJ, a clown, moon-bounce supplied by MCPD, and crowd pleasing Park Police Officer mounted on his horse. The event concluded around 7 pm after Kay Management raffled off small appliances in addition to book-bags with school supplies. Montgomery County’s auto-theft division raffled off auto-theft prevention devices.

The Avery Park Community Association celebrated its Second Annual National Night Out Event. Association President Luther Hinsley with the assistance of residents and Laramar Communities, LLC, held their event outdoors featuring food, music and plenty of fellowship for residents who had never met one another prior to the event. Additionally, representatives from Montgomery County Government’s Code Enforcement Division were on hand to talk and interact with residents.

The Hamptons Homeowners Association celebrated National Night Out in a more intimate fashion. Gathering residents in the community recently victimized by daytime robberies, HOA President Lisa Arrington brought everyone together in a circle to strengthen the bonds between neighbors. Residents talked about their families and years spent in the community. A common theme sounded off by homeowners was how much they loved their community and the importance of watching out for one another. Approximately 50 residents and their children took part in the event. In closing remarks Ms. Arrington thanked Weed & Seed’s support to the community.

All three events were treated to a visit by the traditional parade of motorcycles and police cars from Montgomery County’s 3rd Police District. Community Outreach Officers and Senior Staff including Weed & Seed Steering Committee Co-Chair, Lt. Bob McCullagh, were among those greeting residents and children. Riding along with MCPD was Montgomery County Councilmember Valerie Ervin and Constituent Liaison, Amparo Macias. Residents were pleasantly surprised by Ms. Ervin’s guest appearance and offered warm welcomes engaging her in discussion about the status of their respective community.

The Weed & Seed Program is a community based multi-agency approach to community revitalization, crime prevention and law enforcement.

For more information about this program contact Victor Salazar at (301) 565-5847 or email: Visit the Department of Justice Community Capacity Development Office website at

What is a charrette? Frequently Asked Questions

As Silver Spring plans a "charrette" for the new Silver Spring Library, here is some general information about "Charrettes." It's from the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (known as M-NCPPC, or the Commission) website set up to explain and describe the process for developing SilverPlace.

Frequently Asked Questions: Information about the SilverPlace Charette

What is a charrette?

In urban planning, a design charrette is a collaborative effort between all the stakeholders in a particular community to create a unified vision for a development project. In the case of SilverPlace, the stakeholders are the residents, local businesses, the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (known as M-NCPPC, or the Commission), the developers and other civic groups and public officials. The charrette is led by a team of experts including urban planners, architects, engineers, landscape architects and traffic engineers.

The most important component of successful charrettes is involvement from all interested parties. It is vital to receive input and ideas.

What is the process?

The first step is for the charrette team to establish the basic requirements for the site – in essence, the goals and guiding principles for the development. Then, the team will encourage input at a series of open workshops and meetings.

What happens during these meetings and workshops?

Using the recent SilverPlace charrette as a model, there is a public kickoff meeting where everyone is welcome. Charrette team members will lay out what they know about the site (size, requirements, constraints, etc). Stakeholders are welcome to begin expressing their ideas.

Over the next two days, the charrette team will sketch out a variety of options for the site, derived from what they gathered at the public input sessions. The public is welcome to drop in during these work sessions, talk to the design team and view the work in progress. In the evenings, the team will present the results of their work to the stakeholders, seeking feedback.

On the third day, the charrette team will prepare the final charrette presentation. So that they can remain focused, this meeting will include the designers only.

On the final day (in this model, the charrette team will make a final presentation to the public.

About 30 – 60 days later, the design team will release a formal report with drawings of the proposed development.

How will people learn about the charrette?

In the case of SilverPlace, the charrette team will send postcards to a broad list of area residences and businesses. Additional notice to businesses will come through the Chamber of Commerce. The team has sent announcements and news releases to the media, and placed an ad in a local newspaper.

Who got the announcement flyer?

The Commission mailed announcements widely about the pre-charrette meeting to its mailing list. Those were followed up with emails to more than 20 civic associations.

Will computer-aided design be among the resources available during the charrette?

We will use some, but the architects will mostly hand sketch a variety of designs based on the changing ideas and input from the stakeholders at the charrette. The architects will do 'pin ups' of the designs as they evolve over the course of the week for all to review.

How will you interpret input from non-planners?

The charrette leader will work hard to solicit the input of residents and other stakeholders and incorporate these ideas into collaborative designs during the charrette process..

M-NCPPC has developed a separate website for SilverPlace. Please visit

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Youth Input into New Silver Spring Library - Saturday, August 23, 2008

Attention Teens!

Montgomery County Public Libraries, Silver Spring Regional Services Center and Montgomery County Department of General Services

Invite you to attend a meeting to talk about your ideas for teen space, programs, and services at the New Silver Spring Library

Saturday, August 23, 2008
12:30-2:30 p.m.
at Silver Spring Library (8901 Colesville Road)

Pizza served at 12:30 p.m.

Discussion 1-2:30 p.m.

For more information please call the library at 240-773-9420

Community theater explores darker edges of the stage - Gazette

Silver Spring group takes on controversial topics in 41st year

by Jen Beasley | Special to The Gazette | Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2008

Your neighbor could be on a communist witch hunt. Your grocer, a stern boarding school matron. Your accountant, the next Dylan Klebold.

But only on the weekends.

Silver Spring Stage will kick off its 41st theatrical season this month, bringing a diverse run of plays to the area that will explore everything from McCarthyism to school shootings to relationships, and bring local thespians and theater enthusiasts together to put them on.

Bridget Muehlburger, this year's play selector, said it is the goal of Silver Spring Stage to bring productions that might attract nontraditional community theater audiences, even if they also attract a little controversy.

"What makes us different from most other community theaters is that we have seven full-run shows," Muehlburger said. "The opportunity that affords us is to try to find contemporary plays, plays that draw a different demographic, as well as being able to do the old tried-and-true Agatha Christies."

Under this year's theme, "Find Yourself," falls the Christie classic "The Mousetrap," as well as a holiday production of "A Little Princess," and a one-act festival that will start the season Aug. 15. But Silver Spring Stage is mostly putting on darker, wry, adult productions such as the Muehlburger-directed "Columbinus," which will examine the pressures on high school students through the lens of the Columbine High School shooting, and will run in April, the month of the tragedy's 11th anniversary.

"In every one of these plays, you're trying to find out who you are and what you believe and what draws you to your beliefs," Muehlburger said.

Muehlburger said the goal of the play is to get people to think about issues such as school shootings.

"I would say it's maybe more empathetic than sympathetic," she said of "Columbinus." "It tries to help you see them from a different perspective, but certainly not to defend or glorify the situation."

The first full-run play following the one-act festival will be "Dinner with Friends," a drama about the crumbling of one couple's marriage and the effect it has on the marriage of their old friends.

"I've been waiting for someone to do this close to my house for years," said Andrea Spitz, who has 25 year's experience in community theater and turned out to audition for the production on a recent weekend, reading for both female parts.

None of the players, directors or stage crew is paid in anything but applause, but Spitz said the hobby is its own reward.

"It's the community part [of community theater] that I like," Spitz said. "I find that the folks that are involved are incredibly dedicated and the environment is warm and supportive, which is not necessarily the case in professional theater."
Even the building itself is playing a new role. The Silver Spring Stage recently underwent significant remodeling thanks to two grants of $25,000 and $18,000 issued by the Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County, according to Board of Directors Chairman Richard Ley. After matching the grants through fundraising efforts, the theater was repainted, retiled and refurbished.

The recasting was the first significant one for the building since it was converted from a bowling alley in 1968. The result is an unconventional diamond-angled stage constructed of the original lane wood, neither proscenium nor theater in the round, which leads to unusual stage blocking.

"The stage layout itself is unique. The whole theater's unique," Muehlburger said.
"There's so much theater in the D.C. Metro Area both professional and community, and we're all fighting for the same audience," Muehlburger said. "So you have to try to set yourself apart."

For more information about scheduling and tickets, visit

Activity provides alternatives for youths - Gazette

Brainstorming session explores recreational options for young people looking for less structured programs

by Mike Meno | Staff Writer |Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2008

During his last summer before entering middle school, Van Ess Akrofi, 11, has been attending day camp at the Takoma Park Community Center, where he plays games, goes on field trips and talks with his friends.

But when the scheduled activities end, Akrofi says he'll often go to the Community Center's game room and teen lounge, where he and his friends can play cards, pingpong, Xbox and other activities without the direct supervision of adults.

"Sometimes we just find things to do that aren't in the schedule," he said during camp last week.

Community leaders in Takoma Park and Silver Spring have been brainstorming ways to expand recreational options and destinations to area youths, many of whom, like Akrofi, aren't always looking for highly-structured activities to keep them busy.

One of the biggest concerns of area residents, according to a recent survey by the Takoma Park Community Action Group, is what those young people are doing when they are unsupervised and where they choose to hang out. In response to the results, the organization, led by Takoma Park City Councilman Terry Seamens (Ward 4), hosted a gathering of area youth activity providers to talk about what options young people have, what others can be created and how to best advertise potential activities.

For example, Ellen Robbins, the director of the Takoma Park Maryland Library, said the library hosts several ongoing youth activities, such as a Tween Book Club, that many teenagers ignore, choosing instead to hang out by the library's wall facing Philadelphia Avenue.

"My perception is that often they want a lack of structure," Robbins said at the meeting last week. "They want to hang out. They want to be with their friends."

Takoma Park Middle School Principal Renay Johnson said she often receives calls from residents concerned about children loitering around their neighborhoods in the hours after school, and she suggested leaders focus more on evening and weekday activities, to which others agreed.

"They got a home, they got a school, they need a third place," said Brad Stewart, provost of Montgomery College's Takoma Park/Silver Spring campus.

Diana Kohn, who works with Historic Takoma, said "the kids will find a place if we don't give it to them," and pointed to the soon-to-be-gone artificial turf at Ellsworth Drive and Fenton Street in downtown Silver Spring as an example of how youths can flock to locations not intended as a hangout.

Montgomery Blair High School Principal Daryl Williams said one of the major obstacles in actively recruiting children into programs, however, is often their parents, who cannot speak English, aren't able to pay for the activities or can't transport them to places.

David Ottalini, past president of the Blair PTA and the father of two children who went through Montgomery County schools, said his children always found activities, such as soccer, to keep them occupied, but it sometimes wasn't easy. He suggested a centralized list of area youth programs that parents could use as a starting point.

"That's what frustrated me," he said. "The resources are out there, but finding information about them is not always easy."

The following is a partial list of area organizations that provide summer and after-school youth activities in the greater Silver Spring area and participated in a recent discussion hosted by the Takoma Park Community Action Group:

Camp Fire USA: provides small group indoor and outdoor programs. E-mail

Community Bridges: offers leadership programs for young, at-risk girls. E-mail

Digital Bridge: provides technology training to rural, low-income and immigrant youth and adults. Go to

Gandhi Brigade Youth Media: youth directed community media project provides in video and graphic design. Go to

IMPACT Silver Spring: provides community programs for local schools and neighborhoods. Go to

Maryland International Corridor C-SAFE program: community-based crime prevention initiative in the New Hampshire Avenue corridor. E-mail

Safe Takoma: crime prevention program in the Takoma Metro area. E-mail

Montgomery County Recreation Department. Go to

Takoma Park Recreation Department. Go to

YMCA of Metropolitan Washington. Go to

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Silver Spring Group Sponsors Fundraiser to Support Preservation of Historic House

July 29, 2008

Media Contact: James Cassell, 301-585-4638,

Silver Spring Group Sponsors Fundraiser to Support Preservation of Historic House

Date of Event: Sunday, August 10, 2008
Time: 2:00 to 5:00 PM
Address: 1102 Edgevale Road in Woodside Forest (near intersection of Watson Road & Dale Drive) Silver Spring

Some Silver Spring residents who wish to preserve the rich history of their community got organized more than two years ago to have the Watson House included in the County’s Master Plan for Historic Preservation. The house, ca. early 20th century, is a largely unaltered Dutch Colonial that sits between two other already historically designated houses in Silver Spring’s Woodside Forest.

The Committee to Save the Watson House was formed under the auspices of the Woodside Forest Civic Association (WFCA). Since then, the group has called on the expertise of some professionals to help navigate the series of County hearings necessary to accomplish the task of historic recognition. The work of these experts complements the countless hours the volunteers have committed to their cause.

Mark and Laura Farr, the owners of Woodside Forest’s historic Wilbur House, a ca. 1887 Second Empire-style home that is already in the County’s Master Plan, will open their doors for a fundraiser on August 10. Proceeds will benefit the efforts to save the adjacent Watson House and its historic surroundings.

The event will feature:
• Art works and silent auction
• Opportunity drawing
• Live music by professional harpist, Linda Nash
• Local history discussion by Robert E. Oshel, author of two books on Woodside Park
• Light refreshments

As of this date, more than a dozen Silver Spring businesses have agreed to be corporate sponsors for this event. WFCA is awaiting confirmation from several others. Admission is free and open to the public. Spend an enjoyable afternoon in an historic tree-lined area, and support historic preservation in Silver Spring’s Woodside Forest.

For more information, call 301-495-8818 or e-mail

Monday, August 4, 2008

The Mingus Big Band to Headline 5th Annual Silver Spring Jazz Festival on September 13

The Mingus Big Band to Headline 5th Annual Silver Spring Jazz Festival on September 13

The Mingus Big Band will headline an all-star jazz line-up at the fifth annual Silver Spring Jazz Festival to be held Saturday, September 13 from 2 to 10 p.m., in Downtown Silver Spring. This year, the festival moves to the parking lot behind the Lee Building at the corner of Georgia Avenue and Colesville Road.

Live Nation Washington, D.C. Vice President Ted Mankin was instrumental in getting The Mingus Big Band to perform at this year’s festival. This popular and well-known 14-piece jazz orchestra performs at venues across the country and abroad. Earlier this year, Live Nation reached an agreement with Montgomery County on a lease that will create a dynamic new music, entertainment, and community use venue in downtown Silver Spring called the Fillmore.

The free, outdoor program that attracted more than 25,000 music lovers last year will also feature hometown star Marcus Johnson, the Yaron Elyashiv Quintet, vocalist Gail Shipp of Silver Spring and the Samambaya Quintet.

The program will kick off at 2 p.m. with a showcase of local talent in the Jazz Ensemble Caravan, a New Orleans-style parade of youth jazz ensembles traveling throughout the community, followed by a band competition. The winning youth ensemble will receive the Silver Spring Jazz Festival Trophy.

“This festival really has something for everyone, and I invite jazz fans throughout the area to join us for what promises to be an exciting and memorable event,” said County Executive Isiah Leggett. “I want to extend my thanks and appreciation to Live Nation’s Ted Mankin for his efforts in getting the Mingus Big Band to sign on as headliners at this year’s event. This is certainly one of the ‘big bands’ in the world of jazz and I am very excited about having them come to Silver Spring.”

The Mingus Big Band celebrates the music of the composer and bassist, Charles Mingus, who died in 1979. Under the artistic direction of Sue Mingus, the Mingus Big Band tours extensively in the United States and abroad, and has nine recordings to its credit, six of which have been nominated for Grammy Awards.

Homegrown star Marcus Johnson, an extraordinary jazz keyboardist and composer, performs a blend of contemporary jazz stylings and hip-hop rhythms. Johnson launched the highly successful record label Three Keys and has released four phenomenal albums. He describes his music as “instrumental R&B with a D.C. bounce.”

With a fresh sound and a different approach to jazz than his contemporaries, Israeli-born saxophone player and composer Yaron Elyashiv stays true to traditions. Last year, he was invited to play on veteran jazz singer Myrna Lake’s latest album and a few months later, he went into the studio to record his debut album as a leader titled, “I Remember You,” a selection of original compositions and arrangements of standards.

The Silver Spring Jazz Festival is presented by the Celebrate Downtown Silver Spring Foundation and Montgomery County’s Silver Spring Regional Services Center.

Corporate sponsors include WUSA-TV, Channel 9; Comcast; The Gazette Newspapers; Home Properties; Courtyard by Marriott; Downtown Silver Spring; AFI Silver Theatre; and The Georgian.

Attendees are encouraged to use public transportation – the Silver Spring Metro (Red Line) is two blocks away – and to bring a blanket and/or beach chair. Limited parking is available in the Wayne Avenue Garage, the Town Square Garage, and the garages on Bonifant Street, Cameron at Ramsey Avenue, and Cameron at Fenton. Food vendors will be available.

For more information, call the Silver Spring Regional Services Center at 301-565-7300 or visit

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Let's Hear It - Washington Post Editorial - August 3, 2008

Squabbles over power and planning could kill a world-class music venue in Silver Spring.

Sunday, August 3, 2008; B06

THE EPIC saga of Montgomery County's efforts to attract a world-class music hall to downtown Silver Spring, now entering its sixth year, has all the allure of an off-key warm-up band that remains on stage for hour after tuneless hour. After a while, you'd pay money to get to the next act. In this case the next act is almost certainly worth waiting for since the county has made a tentative deal to land a Fillmore hall, which could draw some of the music world's hottest acts. But first it must resolve a tangled dispute between County Executive Isiah Leggett (D), who negotiated the deal, and the Planning Board, which insists that the county could do better.

The quarrel involves whether the deal will provide for adequate amenities around the hall, such as landscaping and a pedestrian walkway. There is bickering, as well, about the package of development concessions that would be granted to the current landowners, the Lee Development Group, which would donate the property for the hall. Mr. Leggett and his allies on the County Council say the county is getting a fair deal; Royce Hanson, planning board chairman, says the county is giving away the store.

We have previously conceded some of Mr. Hanson's main points -- that the county, which together with the state is contributing $8 million toward the arrangement, could have driven a better bargain. The developers, not to mention the Fillmore's owners, mega-music promoter Live Nation, have clinched themselves a sweet and probably no-lose deal.

But squabbles about pedestrian walkways and the niceties of who gets what or could have done better have obscured the larger point, which is that installing a music hall in downtown Silver Spring would go a long way toward completing the revival of a once-decrepit urban wasteland. Even Mr. Hanson concedes the point that a Fillmore hall, which would be within a block or two of the American Film Institute, the Discovery headquarters, the Round House Theatre, and a sheaf of new restaurants and clubs, would be an excellent capstone to what remains an unfinished, if now vibrant, project.

The site in question, once a J.C. Penney department store, has stood vacant and gloomy for 18 years. Now there is a viable plan on the table, one that would bring thousands of people to Silver Spring and a tub of tax dollars to the county. The argument between Mr. Hanson and Mr. Leggett, which is mostly about power and prerogative, should not be allowed to subvert that prospect.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Summary Notes - Neighborhoods Committee - July 2008

Summary Notes
Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Board
Neighborhoods Committee
July 21, 2008 7:00 pm – Silver Spring Regional Services Center

Visit the Neighborhoods Committee Blog at

Attending: Alan Bowser, Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Board; Megan Moriarty, Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Board; Chris Richardson, Park Hills Civic Association; Luther Hinsley, Avery Park Apartments Community Association; Maura Lynch, Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office; Mary Kendall, CSAFE; Lt. Robert McCullagh, Montgomery County Police Department; George French, Silver Spring Historical Society; Jennifer Nettles, Downtown Silver Spring; Jim Zepp, North Four Corners Civic Association; Karen Roper, East Silver Spring Citizens Association; Lisa Dubay, The Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health; Mike Meno, The Gazette; Assistant Chief Scott Graham, Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service; Seth Grimes, Old Takoma Resident’s Association, and Mel Tull, Silver Spring Regional Center.

Report on July Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Board Meeting and June Neighborhoods Committee Meeting. Alan Bowser reviewed the Neighborhoods Committee’s June meeting and the full Board’s July meeting. At the full Board meeting, proposed County Council testimony regarding additional funding for the Silver Spring Transit Center, and Silver Civic Building and Veterans Plaza; and the Board’s retreat follow up were discussed. A Fenton Village community planning meeting is planned for October 2008, organized by the Board’s CED Committee. The text of the Board's remarks to the County Council on the Civic Building, Veterans Plaza and Transit Center are included as an annex to these minutes.

At the June Neighborhoods Committee meeting, Kathlin Smith, Becky Reeve and Linda Siegenthaler briefed the Committee on the plans and the discussions that had taken place with regard to a new Silver Spring Library to be located at the corner of Wayne Avenue and Fenton Street. Montgomery County will organize a “charrette” for community input into the design of the library site in early Fall 2008. The County Library Department will convene three public meetings, possibly in July, August, and September, to solicit community input for a revised Program of Requirements for the new library

July Public Safety Update. Lt. Bob McCullagh, 3rd District, MCPD, briefed the Committee on recent public safety developments in Silver Spring. He made the following observations:

--Unidentified body found in Sligo Creek Park; investigation continuing.
--Increased attention to public safety issues in Downtown Silver Spring.
--Robberies continued to be significant in Silver Spring.
--3rd District MCPD had made several important arrests recently.

The Committee asked questions about pubic safety issues in Downtown Silver Spring, East Silver Spring, South Silver Spring and in the Northwest Oakview Weed & Seed area.

Alan Bowser reported that the National Night Out observance will be held on August 5, 2008. Next year, after twenty five years, the National Night Out will be held in the month of September.

A statement from MCPD 3rd District Commander Donald Johnson regarding public safety in Silver Spring is attached to these minutes.

Report on the Weed & Seed Program. Alan Bowser, on behalf of Martha Waddy, presented a report on recent developments related to the Northwest Park Oakview Weed & Seed program. Her summary of Weed & Seed area developments is attached to these minutes.

Montgomery County Emergency Vehicle Transport Fee. Asst. Chief Scott Graham, Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service provided information on the proposed Emergency Vehicle Transport Fee. This information is included as an annex to these minutes.

Committee members asked questions about the fee, particularly with respect to possible impact on calls for service, increased insurance fees, effect on volunteer fundraising, alternatives, and procurement of new equipment.

Community Prosecution in Silver Spring. Maura Lynch, Assistant State’s Attorney, Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office discussed community prosecution issues in Silver Spring. For years, experts in law enforcement have recognized the benefits of "community policing" in reducing the incidence of crime and improving the quality of life for residents. Community Prosecution, as an approach to law enforcement, has several similar objectives: to implement a proactive, problem-solving approach to crime; to create new and lasting partnerships with the community in order to improve quality of life; to improve the Office's relationship and partnership with law enforcement and public and private agencies; and, as a result of these new partnerships, to enhance the Office prosecutorial function. Prosecutors have recognized the important position their Office can have in complementing police partnerships with the community in order to better address the needs of the community.

Throughout Montgomery County, Community Prosecution brings together geographically organized teams of Assistant State's Attorneys (ASA's), Community Outreach Specialists and other support personnel who share responsibility for the prosecution of crimes committed within each of Montgomery County's police districts.

Senior ASA's are assigned to each of the Montgomery County police districts and share responsibility for screening cases of community impact in that district. Senior ASA's are present at the police district stations on a regular basis and assist police with investigations, warrant preparation, and roll call training. They also attend community meetings and handle quality of life issues that arise within their particular police districts.

The familiarity of each ASA with his or her police district make State’s Attorneys Office better able to gather intelligence and determine the persons responsible for crimes in that area. ASA's also connect with the community within their assigned area in order to stay abreast of the problems occurring there and to better address concerns of the citizens. Our Community Prosecution Unit works closely with schools, businesses, religious institutions, and other community groups to address and impact crime before it occurs.

The prosecutors that are chosen to be on the community prosecution team are hand picked by State's attorney John McCarthy because of their abilities not only as trial attorneys but also their skills in working closely with citizens, schools, business, community groups, religious institutions, and neighborhood watch groups.

One of the goals is to identify problem areas and issues and allocate the necessary resources to them. Prior to the creation of community prosecution the normal daily routine of the prosecutor was to receive cases and react to them. With the creation of Community Prosecution the prosecutor is to "think outside of the box" and will be proactive rather than reactive.

In Silver Spring, Assistant State’s Attorney Maura Lynch can be contacted at or 240-777-7380.

Takoma Park – Silver Spring Issues. Seth Grimes, President, Old Takoma Residents Association and Chair, Safe Takoma, discussed a range of Takoma Park – Silver Spring issues.

Historic Preservation Update. Alan Bowser reported that the Montgomery County Planning Board considered historic designation of the Falklands Apartment at its July 10th meeting. A final decision is expected in Fall 2008. A developer has proposed the demolition of the portion of the Falklands apartments located north of East-West Highway and the construction of new high-rise residential buildings with ground floor retail. The 8.99 acre property is zoned CBD-R1. The new project would include approximately 1,010 new apartments and 60,000 square feet of retail uses, including a new grocery store. The Falklands are listed on the Locational Atlas and Index of Historic Sites (Resource #36-12). A decision must be made about whether or not to designate this site on the Master Plan for Historic Preservation prior to any redevelopment. The Silver Spring Historical Society website is located at

Adjournment. The meeting was adjourned at 9:00 pm.

Next Meeting. There will be no August meeting of the Neighborhoods Committee.

The next meeting will be held on Monday, September 15, 2008.

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The Northwest Park Oakview Weed and Seed (NPOWS)
Activities Update to the Silver Spring Citizen’s Advisory Board
Neighborhood Committee

July 21, 2008
Submitted by: Martha Waddy, Steering Committee Member


I. Law Enforcement

1. Montgomery County Police: There have been a total of 324 incidents of crime reported on the Montgomery County side of the Weed & Seed Area from January 5, 2008 through June 30, 2008 Summarized by as follows:

10 Alarms 57 Quality of Life/Disorderly 1 Sex Offense – Other 1 Weapon
4 Assault w/Deadly Weapons 4 Quality of Life/Liquor 2 Sex Offense - Rape
39 Assaults 8 Quality of Life/Narcotics/Drugs 10 Thefts
4 Breaking & Entering 1 Quality of Life/Traffic 76 Traffic
24 Burglaries 11 Robberies 47 Vehicle Burglaries
2 Deaths 1 Sex Offense – Assault 22 Vehicle Thefts

2. During the month of June there were a total of 66 incidents of crime reported in the Weed & Seed area. The Oakview Community led all communities in crime followed by Avery Park and Northwest Park Communities.

3. During the month of June, Vehicle Burglaries were the most reported crime with Northwest Park and Avery Park reporting 4 incidents each.

4. Weed & Seed Police Details have been scheduled. Residents at Avery Park have reported their presence in their community.

5. Montgomery County Police have initiated warrant sweeps in the area.

II. Community Policing

1. Weed & Seed, State’s Attorney’s Office, Montgomery County Police, supported the following community meetings:

1. The Northwest Park Community Meeting on July 11, 2008.

2. Weed & Seed has been working with the Hampton’s Homeowners Association addressing recent burglaries that have occurred in both Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties.

III. Prevention/Intervention/Treatment
1. The Truancy Prevention Initiative led by CSAFE is currently developing our strategy to continue to serve Middle School Youth during the 2008-2009 school year.

2. The YMCA Community Center at Northwest Park Apartments currently serves as the Weed & Seed Safe Haven. Field trips and other summer activities have been scheduled with youth in the area. Additionally, Case Management services are being provided to local residents by the center partially funded by Weed & Seed.

3. Weed & Seed is assisting Impact Silver Spring in the recruitment of area residents to participate in its next Neighborhood Impact class.

IV. Neighborhood Restoration

1. The Broad Acres Park Renovation continues to make progress. Parks & Planning in collaboration with Broad Acres Elementary School has completed tile art work that will be installed in the plaza section of the park. The State’s Attorneys Office and Montgomery County Police are reviewing the artwork to insure no gang symbols have inserted into the artwork.

2. Parks & Planning has announced that the Broad Acres Park Renovation construction timeline has again been delayed due to the awarded contract going through the legal department.

3. The Nuisance Abatement Task Force continues to receive complaints. A red Papusa truck has been operating in the open. Residents have been complaining about customers sitting on lawns loitering and eating food. Montgomery County Police has been ticketing the truck on a regular basis for failure to operate with appropriate licensure.


The EMST Fee will be charged electronically to heath insurance companies of County and non-County residents who are transported to County hospitals by the Montgomery County Fire & Rescue Service (MCFRS). The net proceeds of the EMST Fee will go entirely to strengthening and improving fire and emergency services in Montgomery County. The imposition of the fee will not affect access to the excellent services now provided by MCFRS – except insofar as it strengthens those services by directing more resources to those needs.

Will I see any difference in Montgomery County EMS service?

No. MCFRS will continue to provide the very best service to any individual in need regardless of ability to pay – just the way it’s always worked.

Who pays the fee?

The health insurance companies of County residents and non-County residents. County residents with health insurance will not be responsible for co-pays or deductibles. County residents without health insurance will not be charged. Non-County residents with health insurance may be responsible for co-pays and deductibles, depending on their policies. Non-County residents without health insurance will receive a bill, along with a request to waive the fees under hardship guidelines.

Why is the fee necessary?

The demand for EMS response has been growing significantly for the past several years as the County has grown, especially in the Upcounty area. To respond to these service demands, improve response time, and enhance firefighter/rescuer officer safety, several enhancements have been initiated within MCFRS and will require additional resources in the future including:
• Implementing four-person staffing.
• Opening four new stations in the Upcounty area.
• Implementing an Apparatus Management Plan that will replace, upgrade and modernize apparatus, and provide additional maintenance staff, supplies, and maintenance facilities.
• Implementing the State required Electronic Patient Care Reporting (e-PCR) System. On December 31, 2008, the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems will discontinue paper reporting. Currently MCFRS utilizes this method. MCFRS must quickly implement on a fast track, an e-PCR program in order to meet State of Maryland requirements as well as be fully capable of complete revenue recovery.
• Expanding the number of officers consistent with supervisory and work hour requirements which will result in a reduction to overtime.
• Supporting Local Fire and Rescue Departments (LFRDs) by funding on-going station maintenance and other needs.
• Maintaining high levels of service to all parts of the County.

Also a factor is the pressure on County government budgets caused by economic uncertainty, declining housing markets, the state of Maryland’s budget crisis, and other factors. This has caused program reductions and increased property taxes. Clearly, a new revenue source dedicated to MCFRS would help ensure that fire and rescue services are adequately funded in the future.

Where will the money raised by the EMST Fee go?

100 percent of the net proceeds of the EMST Fee will go to strengthen and enhance the MCFRS. By law, they will be dedicated to that purpose and cannot be used for anything else.

Will there be co-pays and deductibles?

No, not for County residents. Non-County residents may be responsible for co-pays and deductibles, depending on their policies.

Do other area governments have an EMST Fee?

Nearly all of our neighboring jurisdictions either have an EMST Fee or are moving to implement one. These jurisdictions include Fairfax County, Frederick County, Prince George’s County, the District of Columbia, Arlington County, and the city of Alexandria. Anne Arundel County is in the process of initializing fee.

How about local governments in other parts of the United States?

The 200 City Survey in the 2006 Journal of Emergency Medical Services (JEMS) reported that, across the U.S., an average of 61% of EMS system funding comes from user fees.

Will this fee deter people from calling 911 for ambulance service?

There is no evidence from jurisdictions that have successfully implemented this fee that it deters anyone from calling for needed emergency medical transport assistance.

Will this fee cause health insurance rates to increase?

There is no documented evidence that ambulance bills affect underwriting of risks for insurance premiums. Ambulance bills are in the “hundreds” of dollars, compared to hospital, physician, surgeon, rehab, device, and drug bills, which are typically in the “thousands and tens of thousands.” Ambulance expenditures account for less than 1% of insurance expenditures. Since most insurance companies determine rates on a regional basis – and most jurisdictions in the region bill insurance companies for this charge -- in most cases County residents may already be paying for ambulance service as a part of their premiums.

What charges will be billed to insurance companies?

Insurance carriers would be billed at the following rates, depending on the level of services necessary:

Basic Life Support – Non-emergency* $300.00
Basic Life Support – Emergency* $400.00
Advanced Life Support – Level 1 – Non-Emergency* $350.00
Advanced Life Support – Level 1 – Emergency* $500.00
Advance Life Support – Level 2* $700.00
Specialty Care Transport* $800.00

* The terms in the schedule are as defined in 42 CFR Parts 410 and 414.
In addition, insurance companies would be billed $7.50 per mile on emergency transports, a standard charge for most implementing jurisdictions.

If the EMS call does not result in transport to a hospital, the health insurance carrier or the non-County resident without insurance would not be billed for anything.

According to the 2006 JEMS “200 City Survey,” here are average charges in the 200 largest cities in the U.S.

Average Charges for Transport Providers
Average Governmental Non-Governmental
BLS Non-Emergency $396.26 $375.91 $411.52
BLS Emergency $473.02 $457.92 $492.94
ALS Non-Emergency $548.04 $514.50 $574.87
ALS 1 Emergency $625.68 $573.09 $700.52
ALS 2 Emergency $711.42 $639.58 $802.85

What if my health insurance plan only pays a certain amount for ambulance services or refuses to pay? Will I have to pay the balance?

The County will accept whatever payment the insurance company has established as “payment in full.” County residents will not be responsible for any co-pays or deductibles. Non-County residents will be responsible for any applicable co-pays or deductibles.

The single biggest payor for these services is Medicare. If coverage requirements are met Medicare has no discretion to deny claims. Heath insurance companies are required by law to pay covered services, of which ambulance services is one. Any question about any Medicare or insurance company payment would be handled by the third-party vendor and would not involve the covered individual.

How will this fee affect Local Fire & Rescue Departments (“Volunteer Companies”)?

Local Fire & Rescue Departments would deliver services just as they do now, the only difference being the entry of a code into the electronic tracking system to enable the contracted billing agent to process insurance company payments or, in the case of non-County residents without insurance, to bill for the service, with accompanying information about hardship waivers.

The County has discussed with Local Fire & Rescue Departments possible revenue sharing, as well as potential opportunities to offset any unexpected reductions in their local fundraising that might conceivably result from the implementation of an EMST fee – although there is no evidence in other jurisdictions of a drop-off in donations owing to the implementation of an EMST Fee.

How will the billing to insurance companies work?

Data will be entered by EMS personnel in the Electronic Patient Reporting System, which will be required by the State – independent of any EMST Fee – starting December 31, 2008. Paper reporting, currently used by MCFRS, will no longer be accepted. That information will be examined by the third-party vendor responsible for billing health insurance companies and non-County residents without insurance.

What will be the start-up costs for this program? What will be the ongoing expenses?

The County is projecting about $700,000 in start-up costs for the first half year, half of which is the 5 percent of proceeds payment to the third-party billing vendor. Once the program is up and running, the overhead costs are estimated at 13-14 percent of total revenue – again, including the five percent going to the third-party billing vendor.

Will there be efforts to educate County residents about how the system works – and how no County residents will pay out-of-pocket?

While there is no evidence from any of these jurisdictions that adoption of an EMST fee has resulted in any diminution of calls for 911 emergency transport or any reluctance of residents to call for needed services due to a misunderstanding that they might incur a fee, a solid campaign of public outreach and education just makes good sense. Such a campaign would begin several months before the program actually began and extend several months afterward.


From: Johnson, Donald
Sent: Thursday, July 24, 2008 4:59 PM
To: 'Alan Bowser'; Stith, Gary; Macias, Amparo
Cc: Burnett, Eric
Subject: FW: cbd


Recently I have received numerous correspondences relating to the condition of the Silver Spring Central Business District (CBD) and specifically the area on and near Ellsworth Dr. I would like to take an opportunity to discuss these concerns, review some statistics, and explain the actions that the police department has taken and will take in the future. Lt. Eric Burnett is one of the Deputy Commanders at the Third District and has responsibility for the CBD and surrounding area. Lt. Burnett and I meet and discuss issues related to the CBD on a daily basis.

The substance of the complaints is the “rowdy” behavior, large crowds, and associated criminal activity. Much of the rowdy behavior described involves the indiscriminate use of profanity which certainly takes away from the family atmosphere that everyone would like to see exist. While I am certainly opposed to the use of profanity, it is rarely illegal. We can instruct individuals not to use such language, but in general, we cannot take any enforcement action. I have instructed my officers that when they witness this behavior to engage the individuals and instruct them that their behavior is not appropriate. The same holds true for the large crowds that will often gather; that in and of itself is not a crime. Also, most of the area of Ellsworth Drive is private property owned by the Peterson Group. Lt. Burnett communicates and meets with the Peterson Group on a regular basis to discuss issues that arise.

Here is a breakdown of the crime statistics year to date when compared the same time frame in 2007.

2007 2008
Robberies 35 44
Aggravated Assaults 12 9
Residential Burglaries 35 28
Commercial Burglaries 45 26
Vehicle related theft 108 156
Auto theft 106 45
Drug arrests 102 117

In reviewing these numbers you can see that there are some increases and decreases as well. While I am not suggesting that we should tolerate any level of crime, overall there has not been a drastic increase. Of these trends, the most disturbing trend that we have seen in the increase in robberies. This is a crime where a victim is accosted and their property is removed by force or threat of force. The other significant increase is the vehicle related thefts. This is part of a station, county and regional trend. There have been significant decreases in residential burglaries, commercial burglaries, and auto thefts.

I know there is a high level of concern that police patrols in the area have decreased. Let me assure you that they have not. When the budget cuts were announced we did have to cancel the “Ellsworth detail”. This detail was designed to put two extra officers in the Ellsworth area on Friday and Saturday nights. When the detail was cancelled we developed a plan to use officers from other sectors to provide extra patrol and use officers that were assigned to other duties at that time. In addition, we have been able to utilize the Police Community Action Team. This is a group of approximately six to eight officers who will go into an area and make an impact. These officers have been given specific instruction to be visible in the Ellsworth area and while they are not exclusively assigned there, they have made an impact. Last week members of this team made an arrest of two suspects in a stolen car who were armed with a handgun. In addition, the Third District Special Assignment Team has dedicated the majority of their time to the CBD. This team is a group of officers that patrol in undercover cars and plain clothes. You will not notice them as police officers, but they are out there. This team specifically looks for street crimes and robbery is on the top of their list. On Monday of this week the team arrested six subjects for robbery. The subjects were observed by the team in the CBD. Since the arrests, the suspects have admitted to numerous other robberies in the CBD and it is believed that they were a significant part of the robbery increase. We will continue to have both teams focus in the CBD, and in addition we will be restarting the Ellsworth overtime detail next week.

The other major increase in crimes is vehicle related thefts. As I stated earlier, this increase has been seen throughout the district and is prevalent both county and region wide. District wide we have experienced a 36% increase year to date compared to 2007. In the CBD, there are literally thousands of cars parked at any given time. Suspects have a wide variety to choose from and for the most part they will target unlocked cars and where valuables are left in plain view. This is why we strongly encourage everyone to make it difficult on these criminals by securing valuables and locking cars. I am by no means indicating that these criminals are not responsible for their own actions; I am simply stating that when there is an abundance of easy targets-criminal activity will remain active. Here again, we have made significant arrests. The midnight shifts will routinely patrol target rich areas to capture these offenders. In addition, we really need your help to report all crimes and suspicious activities. I have attached an informational brochure which I would like you to review and circulate.

In closing I would like to convey to you that I am committed to making the entire Third District as safe as possible. While we will never be rid of crime, I will also never be willing to accept any level of criminal activity. I am most definitely aware of the efforts that have been made in the CBD and completely support all that has been done to revitalize the area. I know what the condition of the CBD has been in the past and will not allow all the efforts that have been put forth to go to waste. I have to constantly juggle my resources throughout the district and priorities where to devote personnel. I can tell you that the CBD has the highest concentration patrol officers in the district and probably in the county. Lieutenant Eric Burnett shares my same concerns as well. Recently, he has been devoting a tremendous amount of effort into investigating a commercial establishment that has been problematic. Again, his efforts are being done to keep you safe and improve the image of the CBD.

It is my pleasure to serve as the district commander for Silver Spring and I take this responsibility very seriously. I know we share the same concerns and have to continue to work together. Please contact myself or Lt. Burnett at any time on this or any related matter. We can both be reached at 301-565-7740.

Thank you for your commitment to the community.

Captain Donald Johnson
Commander, 3rd District
Montgomery County Police

Testimony of the Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Board
Presented by Kathy Stevens, Vice Chair
July 15, 2008

Hello, my name is Kathy Stevens, and I represent the Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Board. Our board supports full funding for both the Silver Spring Civic Building and Veterans Plaza and the Silver Spring Transit Center. Our community has been waiting for many years for both projects, and we look forward to their completion at a level of excellence that will reflect well on the county and serve the people well after many years of planning and community input.

We urge Council to provide the necessary $2.5 million that is needed for the construction of the Civic Building and Veteran's Plaza as we understand from the County Executive that the project is $2.5 million over what was allocated in the Capital Improvement Project (CIP) budget. Community members have been and continue to be deeply interested and involved in planning the Civic Building and Veterans Plaza, and the final design was reached through a painstaking process of compromise, cuts, "value engineering" (more cuts), and more compromise. The Civic Building and Veterans Plaza will be the heart of Silver Spring. Please remember that Silver Spring lost its community meeting space when the Armory was tom down in order to build the private retail space that now spans Ellsworth Drive in downtown Silver Spring. It was long understood that the county would replace the Armory with a Civic Building and Veteran's Memorial Plaza in order to provide community space including activities and open areas on the plaza and meeting rooms and programmable spaces in the building. The project is overdue and we urge you to approve this additional $2.5 million in funding.

The Paul Sarbanes/Silver Spring Transportation Center is also a key to our county's success. We need to facilitate public transportation in our region. A safe, inviting, and successful Transportation Center is necessary. The current Silver Spring metro station and bus complex is the 2nd largest transportation hub in Maryland (only Baltimore's Penn Station is bigger) and the number of commuters will only grow.

This project, too, was "value engineered" well beyond our preferences. We were again surprised and disappointed with the news from the County Executive that the construction bids were over $18 million higher than what was budgeted. We urge full funding for this project as well- which means that we ask for funding beyond what was requested by the County Executive. Over the last two years, the Planning Board and our Board agreed on several design elements that we considered absolutely essential for the Transportation Center to be successful. These elements include key escalators, transparent walkway and escalator roofs to keep commuters dry, and several other design features to make the transportation center more walkable, light, and inviting. Nobody wants this to look like a New York City Port Authority complex. That would dissuade people from using public transport... the exact opposite of this project's stated goal.

The County Executive has requested only an additional $16.72 million for this project. We support this, but we also know that it isn't enough to build what was ordered and what will work best for county residents and visitors. We agree with the Planning Board that more is necessary for this project to succeed.