Monday, December 22, 2008

Planners Recommend Light Rail for Purple Line - Press Release - Park & Planning

For immediate release:
December 22, 2008

For more information, contact:
Valerie Berton
Communications Manager
Montgomery County Planning Department

Montgomery County Transportation Planners Recommend Light Rail for Purple Line While Protecting Popular Trail

SILVER SPRING – On Thursday, January 8, the Montgomery County Planning Board will cast its vote on the best way to build the Purple Line, proposed for years as a new east-west public transit route across Montgomery and Prince George's counties. The Board will make recommendations about bus versus light rail, the route and other issues, such as station locations and ways to protect and improve a popular bike trail that runs along the line's proposed path.

Today, the Board's transportation planners issued their recommendations, the most significant of which was that the Purple Line run on light rail rather than bus rapid transit. Light rail can better handle the expected ridership, forecast to reach 2,000 passengers during the busiest weekday hour in the year 2030, planners say.

The Board will weigh the planners' recommendations during its January 8 public hearing, then send its input to the County Council and to the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA). Its decision concerns only the Montgomery County section of the Purple Line.

MTA will make the final decision on the biggest public transportation project in the county since Metro built the Red Line. The proposed 16-mile Purple Line would run from Bethesda to New Carrollton, including stops at and provide connections to Metro at Bethesda, Silver Spring, College Park and New Carrollton, as well as buses, the MARC train and Amtrak.

State transportation officials estimate that up to 70,000 passengers will ride the Purple Line daily.

The planners' report endorses one of MTA's Purple Line alternatives (called "medium investment light rail") specifying the type of transit, the route and 22 stations, with two significant differences.

Planners recommend the state eliminate the station at Wayne Avenue and Dale Drive in Silver Spring because their analysis showed that riders will tend to board either east of the area or closer to the Silver Spring Transit Center now under construction.

Planners also call for preserving the Capital Crescent/Georgetown Branch bike trail tunnel under Wisconsin Avenue in Bethesda. They say the trail should continue through the tunnel but be constructed above the train. Planners also recommend widening the trail to 12 feet where possible as part of the Purple Line project.

The transit line will do more than just create a shortcut between the two legs of the Red Line and reduce reliance on cars. If done right, planners say, the Purple Line will create better connections to where people work, live and spend their time as well as spur opportunities for new housing in some communities. Moreover, the Purple Line should promote new street activity in the downtown areas along the route.

Since planners first envisioned the Purple Line in the mid-1980s, they studied the route and impact of the section proposed between Bethesda and Silver Spring. In today's report, planners recommend that the state better analyze travel demand and other issues on the east side of the line through East Silver Spring and Takoma-Langley. For example, some residents in East Silver Spring favor a Purple Line tunnel under Wayne Avenue. Planners recommend new analysis to gain understanding about the impacts of a surface versus tunnel path – although they prefer a street-level line on Wayne Avenue.

Planners worked with a Planning Board-appointed citizens' advisory group that provided input for the report. While the citizens' group was unable to reach consensus on whether the Purple Line should be light rail or bus – or over what route it should run – the report recognizes the group's work and recommendations on many of the issues.

Learn more at

The public is welcome to speak at the Board's January 8 public hearing, although given the large number of people who may want to speak, Chairman Royce Hanson is encouraging people to send written testimony of any length. Written testimony should be received by noon on January 2. Testimony will be limited to two hours, with each speaker receiving no more than three minutes.

People signing up to speak on January 8 will need to specify which segment of the Montgomery County Purple Line they wish to address – Bethesda/Chevy Chase; Silver Spring; Long Branch/Takoma/Langley; or the entire length – using the online sign-up system at or by calling 301/495-4601..

Public hearing on the Purple Line

Approximately 2 p.m. Thursday, January 8

Park and Planning Headquarters
8787 Georgia Ave., Silver Spring

# # #

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Group brainstorms solutions for safe teen hangout downtown - Gazette

Parents, community leaders discuss ways to get youths more involved in activities, decision-making

by Jason Tomassini | Staff Writer | Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2008

The need to provide a safe hangout for teens displaced from a popular hotspot by the construction of a new community building in downtown Silver Spring drew about 40 parents and community leaders to a meeting Saturday at City Place Mall.

"Downtown Silver Spring is where all the youth hang out because they feel safe; we want to continue that," said Lillian Buie, community affairs manager for Downtown Silver Spring, the property manager for Ellsworth Drive and City Place Mall.

The meeting was prompted by the death of Tai Lam, a Montgomery Blair High School freshman who was killed in a Nov. 1 shooting on a Ride On bus while he and a group of friends were returning to their Long Branch neighborhood from downtown.

Most in attendance said teens need a new place to congregate now that the artificial turf field at Fenton Street and Ellsworth Drive is off limits for the construction of the Silver Spring Civic Building and Veterans Plaza.

"Kids do not have a safe space to hang out and be productively engaged in the late hours," said Emily Sudbrink, who has a teenage daughter and works for Montgomery County Public Schools Safe and Drug-Free Schools Program. "At this age, kids want to hang out in large groups. We need to create space with a variety of things for kids to do."

Many attendees wanted to create a space where youth-focused nonprofits such as Impact Silver Spring and the Gandhi Brigade — organizers of the meeting — could share space and pool resources to offer teen programs. They also cited the need to give teens more say over the kinds of events and activities offered.

Suggested locations for the space included the new civic building or the current site of the Silver Spring Library, which will become vacant when a proposed new library is developed.

Specific programs to engage teens were also suggested, including an internship program at local retailers. Marilyn Seitz, owner of Pennyworth Thrift Shop on Bonifant Street, said her store has partnered with Montgomery College and high schools to establish a work-study program.

College students learn retail skills for their courses, while high school students receive student service learning hours, Seitz said. She would like to see more businesses get involved in such programs.

Seitz has enlisted 15 students at her store since September. "The kids are not quite as dependable [as other staff]," she said. "But they learn how to be dependable."

Jose Dominguez, executive director of Pyramid Atlantic, said he would work to establish an internship program at Pyramid's Community Arts Store on Ellsworth Drive.

Because youth yearn for attention, the publicity that criminal behavior receives makes it attractive to other teens, said Michael Petty, director of public safety for Downtown Silver Spring. It is important to give leaders within youth groups the responsibility to make a positive impact downtown so others will want to follow, he said.

"If they come to Silver Spring so much, it gives them a sense of ownership," Petty said.

"And they will take more care of it," Seitz added.

Another program discussed at the meeting is a proposed adult-youth ambassador program that would match adults with teens to greet others in downtown Silver Spring. The teams would notify pedestrians of sales in the downtown or upcoming events and provide a less-threatening image of youth to adults, according to Buie and Impact Silver Spring Director Frankie Blackburn.

A meeting for those interested in developing the ambassador program is set for 7 p.m. Jan. 2 at Potbelly Sandwich Works at 917 Ellsworth Drive. A "test run" of the program will be conducted and participants will its potential.

"We want to let young people know they are welcome here," said Phil Moses, a parent and Silver Spring resident, noting that that message "needs to come from responsible adults, not just security."

Monday, December 15, 2008

A Message from Montgomery County re Ride On Bus Service

A note from Montgomery County re Ride On Bus Service

Montgomery County is forced to make difficult budget decisions to close a $250 million projected budget shortfall in fiscal year 2010. The County Executive directed every Department in the County to propose savings in order to meet the goal of reducing the County current year budget by $50 million. Ride On service cuts are a possibility. The services listed below are being proposed for change and/or elimination because of their weak performance. Concurrently, routing changes that do not cause an increase in expenditures would be made.

Montgomery County Ride On Transit hereby notifies the general public and other interested parties that a public forum will be held on Tuesday, January 13, 2009 starting at 6:30 pm and ending after the last speaker at the Executive Office Building, Lobby Auditorium, 101 Monroe Street, Rockville, Maryland. For additional information pertaining to the public forum, please click on the links below the summary of reductions. Comments may be e-mailed to: or faxed to 240-777-7801 by 5:00 pm on January 21, 2009. If you are interested in speaking at the public forum, you must e-mail on or before January 6, 2009, your name, home address, city, state, zip, telephone number, and organization to Carolyn G. Biggins, Chief, Division of Transit Services, 101 Monroe Street, 5th Floor, Rockville, Maryland 20850 and bring two (2) printed copies of your testimony for the record.

A summary of the proposed service reductions and route changes are below. Please forward this e-mail to the various homeowners associations that you are affiliated so that they are aware of the proposed service reductions. Also, this information was mailed to you today, December 12, 2008. The detailed notification flyer may be viewed by clicking on the links in English and Spanish.

Proposed Reductions

1. Route 4 Eliminate weekday midday - 10 am to 1:30 pm
2. Route 6 Eliminate weekday midday - 10 am to 1:30 pm
3. Route 18 Reduce weekday midday frequencies between Takoma Park & Langley Park from 15 to 30 minutes.
4. Route 26 Eliminate Saturday and Sunday service to Trolley Museum
5. Route 43 Reduce weekday midday frequencies from 20 to 30 minutes (10 am – 2:30 pm)
6. Route 63 Abbreviated midday service, with service to the County Health Department on Piccard Drive maintained.
7. Route 75 Weekday service will be rerouted to the County Correctional Center, Clarksburg Town Center & Gateway Business Park. Service north of MD 121 to the Urbana Park & Ride will be discontinued.
8. Routes 79/82 – Routes combined. Route 79 extended to Clarksburg Town Center via Skylark Drive weekday peak hours replacing Route #82. Bus service eliminated to DOE and through the Milestone neighborhood north of Father Hurley Boulevard.
9. Route 83 Reduce weekday peak frequency from 15 to 20 minutes (approximately 5 am to 9 am and 3:30 pm to 7 pm)
10. Route 90 Eliminate Saturday service. Eliminate weekday midday service between Damascus and Milestone.
11. Route 96 Eliminate weekday PM peak service to Montgomery Mall. Service will be discontinued to Montgomery Mall after 4 pm. Service will be retained between Grosvenor Station & Rockledge/Rock Spring
12. Route 98 Reduce weekday peak frequency from 15 to 30 minutes 5:30 am to 9:00 am and 4 pm to 7 pm.

Route Changes

1. Route 18 Implement a diversion to serve Elizabeth House.
All trips to/from Silver Spring by way of Second Avenue will be modified.
(Weekday 9:00 am – 3:00 pm & Saturday 11:30 am – 4:00 pm).

2. Route 98 Implement a diversion to Churchill Senior Center, approximately 10 AM to 10 PM Mon-Fri.

Ride On’s website:

Links for FY09 Public Forum Notice:

English link:

Spanish link:

Thank you for your assistance in this matter.

Carolyn A. Jones, Manager
Customer and Community Relations Unit
Ride On Transit
Division of Transit Services
101 Monroe Street, 5th Floor
Rockville, Maryland 20850
e-mail address:

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Think Local First -- Check out the Silver Spring Buy Local Guide

The Silver Spring Buy Local Guide is a printed map of the Silver Spring Central Business District with over 200 listings for a diverse array of local sources for what you may shop for on a regular basis. There are many reasons to choose to shop at locally-owned, independent businesses, including the fact that each dollar you spend at a local, independent business will circulate several times within the local economy, and over 2/3 of it stays in the community.

It is not always possible to buy everything you need from locally-owned businesses, but the point of this campaign is to encourage you to "think local first".

Hearings show support for Purple Line - Gazette

MTA has not yet analyzed all input

by Andrew Ujifusa | Staff Writer | Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2008

Early statistics compiled by the state about public hearings on the Purple Line indicate that a majority of participants support the project and its light rail alternative.

The Maryland Transit Administration analyzed public oral testimony at four hearings in November. Of the 224 individuals giving public testimony, 179 favored the Purple Line project in general (80 percent), while 117 favored light rail (65 percent) and 17 supported bus rapid transit (9 percent). Not all elected officials who gave testimony were included in the analysis.

But the MTA's report does not include comments received via e-mail and the MTA's web site, private oral testimony given at the hearings, or written comments. These other forms of input add up to 728 submitted opinions.

The lowest level of Purple Line support among those giving public oral testimony was at the Chevy Chase hearing on Nov. 18. Of 71 individuals giving such testimony, 51 people supported the project (70 percent), while 36 people supported light rail specifically and 13 supported bus rapid transit. Eleven individuals opposed the Purple Line project altogether.

Several Town of Chevy Chase officials and residents have argued that a bus rapid transit system along Jones Bridge Road would better serve the transportation needs of the area without harming the Capital Crescent Trail and the immediately surrounding area, which is the proposed light rail alignment in the Chevy Chase area.

The Purple Line project would provide public transportation from downtown Bethesda to New Carrollton through Silver Spring over 16 miles.

Purple Line project manager Mike Madden said the level of support shown for the Purple Line and the light rail alternative was about what he expected.

"We heard a lot more support for light rail than we did for bus rapid transit," Madden said.

MTA officials gave a presentation about feedback from the public hearings to the Montgomery County Planning Board Monday evening.

Asked why MTA was giving its report to the Planning Board without including all testimony, Madden replied that the board was particularly interested in public oral testimony, but that he preferred to wait until the public comment on the project closes on Jan. 14, 2009. The Planning Board is having a public hearing on the Purple Line Jan. 9.

"Their specific emphasis is what we heard at the public hearing through oral testimony. We have to remind them that that's not the only form people submitted comments through," said Madden.

Pat Burda, chair of the Town of Chevy Chase's Long-Range Planning Committee, said the community has always been concerned that the public hearing and comment schedule was rushed over the holiday season and not well-executed by the MTA.

"They're covering themselves in saying they've gotten input. But we would suggest that there's input, and then there's input," Burda said.

Support for the light rail option ran highest at the Silver Spring hearing, where 40 individuals giving public oral testimony spoke in favor, out of 52 in favor of the Purple Line project. No one giving public oral testimony at the University of Maryland hearing supported bus rapid transit.

Burda said there was still a major lack of understanding about the speed and reliability about rapid buses, and that there was no uniform opinion in any community about any specific Purple Line alignment.

"There's a huge educational component, and I would say the state has not done its job," she said.

The Maryland Transit Administration held four hearings on the Purple Line in November:

224 people gave public oral testimony

179 favored the Purple Line

117 favored light rail

17 favored bus rapid transit

728 comments have not yet been considered

Council member's rapid bus system on transit table - Gazette

Plan touted as way of relieving county's most clogged roads

by Janel Davis | Staff Writer | Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2008

Some area officials seem to be warming to the possibility of a rapid bus system in the county as another method of relieving congestion on some of the county's most clogged roadways.

The brainchild of Councilman Marc Elrich, the bus service is being touted as a way to ease traffic, reduce pollution and alleviate budget demands.

The plan, which was first reported by The Gazette last month, would involve the use of upscale buses to run along county routes on dedicated bus lanes, or in medians, at speeds equivalent to trains.

To Elrich (D-At large) of Takoma Park, the rapid buses are beneficial for the environment, cost effective — they're less expensive than light-rail projects — and can begin using some of the county's newer energy-efficient buses. Under the plan, rapid bus service would run along Interstate 270, Route 29, Rockville Pike, and Connecticut and Georgia avenues.

Cost of the project would be between $6 million and $19 million a mile — depending on whether track can be laid down an existing median or shoulder or streets have to be retrofitted from curb to curb — Elrich said, roughly the midpoint when compared with similar systems worldwide.

"Employers want to guarantee that their employees can get to work. I look at this as a way for everyone, including developers and employers, to be at the table," Elrich said. "This is the kind of long-term investment that is needed."

To get — and keep — motorists out of their cars, Elrich is proposing parking caps to meet ridership goals.

In a region with one of the worst daily commutes in the country, there is always a need for additional transit, transportation officials and local leaders said.

"Bus rapid transit is very much a part of our rapid transit corridor studies in the county," said Henry Kay, deputy planning and engineering administrator for the Maryland Transit Administration.

MTA is currently working on possible alignments of the Purple Line, linking Bethesda and New Carrollton, as well as a Corridor Cities Transitway, from Shady Grove to Clarksburg. Rapid bus service is one of the possible alternatives that the administration is studying.

"I think we can conclude that it's an option that works in both corridors," Kay said. "However, we also have to look at environmental and community impacts and whether there is support from elected officials and others."

Rapid bus service already has the support of Del. Alfred C. Carr Jr. The Cleveland native rode that city's rapid buses during a trip home for Thanksgiving.

Cleveland began its rapid bus service in October. Cities including Boston; Charlotte, N.C.; Miami; Santa Clara, Calif., and Los Angeles also operate the service, as do London, Mexico and Brazil.

"The BRT idea is very cost effective compared to some of the other options," said Carr (D-Dist. 18) of Kensington. "It includes things such as smart traffic signals [allowing buses to continue through intersections], prepay stations. It's much more like transit."

To pay for the system, Elrich is reviewing a range of strategies, including impact fees that would go toward a dedicated rapid transit fund, taxing districts to pay for the routes in specific areas, carbon tax credits and state and federal funding. But with the county and state facing sizable deficits, and state transportation department funding down, some of the project might have to be funded privately.

The county's chamber of commerce is interested in protecting the state's Transportation Trust Fund and identifying other transportation funding, said Lisa Fadden, vice president of public affairs for the local chamber.

"We are interested in [Elrich's] proposal as a part of the solution to our ongoing transportation needs in Montgomery County," she said. "However, we believe that what is needed is a comprehensive, bimodal approach that includes both road and transit improvements."

With Elrich's plan, the "devil is in the details," said Councilwoman Nancy M. Floreen, chairwoman of the council's transportation committee.

The concept of busways throughout the county isn't new. The county has focused on road improvements because the vast majority of its residents don't use public transit, she said.

"The real issue is 80 percent of my people never take transit, and we have to respect that portion of the population," Floreen said.

Implementing busways could be done quickly by dedicating a lane on existing roads to it, she said, but operating costs could be tremendous if the service is extended to parts of the county where fewer people would use it, she said.

"You could do it in Silver Spring, Bethesda, Rockville, but once you deal with those densely populated places, you're then dealing with a different set of issues," Floreen said.

Library design plan moves forward - Gazette

Proposed pedestrian bridge could force 10th community meeting

by Jason Tomassini | Staff Writer | Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2008

A design for the new Silver Spring Library favored by County Executive Isiah Leggett will move forward, despite last minute concerns by the county planning department regarding a proposed pedestrian bridge included in the plan.

The Montgomery County Council Health and Human Services Committee decided Thursday to proceed with design option "1C" for the library. But a controversial pedestrian bridge proposed to extend over Wayne Avenue and connect the library with the Wayne Avenue parking garage could force a 10th community meeting to discuss plans.

The chosen design was among several developed by the project architects, Washington, D.C.-based RTKL, following eight community meetings in the fall. The design would place a six-story library, including a level of office space and an art center, along Wayne Avenue and Fenton Street and a 10-story, 146-unit apartment complex on Bonifant Street.

This design would include a pedestrian bridge that would connect the library to the third level of the Wayne Avenue garage located across the street. The bridge would eliminate the need for library parking on the site and allow library users to avoid crossing Wayne. Short-term parking specifically for the library would be available near the bridge inside the garage.

Minutes before the meeting Thursday, county and library officials received a memorandum from the Montgomery County Planning Department which said that an Urban Renewal Plan drafted for Silver Spring in 1999 prohibits a bridge over Wayne Avenue.

"The big concern is to make sure there were feet on the streets so retail would be successful," Gary Stith, director of the Silver Spring Regional Center, said in response to the renewal plan, which he helped write. "... [But] the purpose of the pedestrian bridge is to provide access to a specific use and that is the library."

In the memorandum, dated Nov. 25 and signed by Planning Department Director Rollin Stanley, a mid-block crosswalk at Wayne is recommended instead, because it is less costly and would allow for better access to street-level retail planned for the project.

The pedestrian bridge would cost an estimated $684,000, according to David Dise, director of the county Department of General Services. Despite being surprised by the memorandum, several county officials at the meeting said the Urban Renewal Plan could be overridden.

"We all know a master plan is a guide, it is a planning tool," said Diane Schwartz Jones, an assistant chief administrative officer for Leggett (D). "It is not a mandate and the Silver Spring Library was not envisioned at this site at the time the master plan was being contemplated."

General services will begin with preliminary engineering for the "1C" design but a community meeting could be scheduled for January to get residents' feedback on the bridge, with an additional HHS committee meeting to follow, said Councilman George L. Leventhal (D-At large) of Takoma Park.

In the meantime, an analysis of a mid-block crosswalk on Wayne would be conducted.

In community meetings, residents favored an option that would front the library along Bonifant and the apartment building along Wayne. This option does not include a pedestrian bridge but would require a 120-space, $11 million, underground parking facility for the library. At an estimated $78 million, that option would cost $20 million more than the option Leggett and the HHS committee chose.

Because of the estimated 143-foot-tall residential building in that option, a zoning text amendment would be required for this option due to the existing 110-foot limit on Wayne. In the memorandum, the Planning Department favored the "6A" design, although with a 110-foot-high apartment building that would not require a zoning amendment and would reduce the amount of housing units on the site.

With the council committee moving forward with design "1C," it was uncertain how the approval process would be affected by the planning department's opinion.

"With a mandatory referral [hearing] we can't stop anything obviously, but we would probably restate our concerns about the design ‘1C,'" said John Marcolin, an urban designer with the Maryland National-Capital Park and Planning Commission, during the meeting.

"If I may say so, your concerns are a little inconclusive," Leventhal responded. "… We are beyond considering both [design options] today."

"We want you to consider ‘6A,'" Marcolin said.

The Silver Spring Urban District Advisory Committee has favored option "1C," as has the Silver Spring Friends of the Library, although the Friends would not favor an option that does not include a pedestrian bridge.

"Without that bridge, this whole ‘1C' would not be endorsed by this group," said Marilyn Wisoff, vice president of the Friends of the Library. "It would deprive people the services of the library."

Board OKs site plan for hospital - Gazette

Washington Adventist official will now apply with state to open facility in 2013

by Robert Dongu | Staff Writer | Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2008

The Montgomery County Planning Board last week unanimously approved the site plan of the new Washington Adventist Hospital, the last county approval needed to move the hospital from Takoma Park to the Calverton/White Oak area.

The 48-acre campus would provide emergency services, a healing space and a faith center in a wooded setting. Hospital officials estimate that the facility, to be located off Plum Orchard Drive near Cherry Hill Road and Route 29, will have 294 hospital beds and could be completed in 2013, pending state approval.

While the site will have the same number of hospital beds as the century-old Takoma Park campus, it will have all private rooms, according to an Adventist HealthCare press release. The Takoma Park campus will continue to be operated by Adventist HealthCare.

Stuart Rochester, chairman of the Fairland Master Plan Committee, commended Adventist HealthCare for its outreach to residents.

"The hospital has been very good in getting in touch with the community," said Rochester, who added that the new hospital could help with the "renaissance" of Route 29. The surrounding area is home to the Food and Drug Administration's White Oak complex.

At the hearing Thursday, Washington Adventist Hospital President Jere Stocks and a team of hospital officials, attorneys and architects emphasized the accessibility of the new campus calling it an easier trip for ambulance drivers on Route 29, as vehicles would travel in the opposite direction of the more congested Takoma Park campus to the south.

"We [want] to provide the whole array of inpatient-outpatient services on this campus that are required by a modern-day health care facility," Stocks said. "We want to do that in a very functional and efficient manner."

In addition to providing patients with more space, private rooms will serve a health purpose as well. "It helps to better control infection," Stocks said.

The new facility will also be bus-friendly and provide easier access for employees using public transportation, hospital officials said. They added it will provide day care services for 40 to 60 children from the moment the hospital opens, a number that they expect to see grow.

Public transportation will not be too far for employees or visitors, said Geoffrey Morgan, vice president for expanded access for the Rockville-based Adventist HealthCare.

"There's a bus pull-off area that we've committed to just to the south of the site" he said.

"We want buses to come and drop people off so they can use buses," said Planning Board Commissioner Jean Cryor. "That's one of the things that we care about a lot.… It's essential to [the project]"

Planning Board officials expressed approval of Adventist's approach toward the new hospital.

"It looks to me like you've done a very good job from an architecture and landscaping and site plan perspective," Planning Board Chairman Royce Hanson said.

Board member Joe Alfandre questioned the group about ambulances that would remain on Route 29, even with the new location.

"Those ambulances would be traveling a more direct route to Cherry Hill and the new facility," Morgan responded.

Although Rochester said traffic to the hospital will likely bring more congestion along Route 29, he doubted there would be gridlock. The challenge, he said, is not to cave into pressure to develop the area along the road near the hospital. While Rochester praised the jobs the hospital would bring, he cautioned about overdevelopment.

"We have to settle for not adding density. … It's a tricky situation," Rochester said.

The next step for hospital officials is to write a letter of intent to the state in February, according to Adventist HealthCare spokesman Tom Grant. A more comprehensive certificate of need will be filed in April.

"What we are going to show [the state] is that we've worked with the county and the community," Grant said.

Some buildings from the 13-acre Takoma Park campus will be demolished and renovated to construct a Village of Health and Well-being, which will have emergency or urgent care, an uninsured and low-income clinic, a gym, and other facilities.

The board's decision comes the same week Adventist released a statement detailing its plans to develop a campus and hospital in Clarksburg.

Report: Long Branch lacks career-focused youth programs - Gazette

Data from Excel Beyond the Bell analyzes current programs to address needs and avoid redundancy

by Jason Tomassini | Staff Writer | Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2008

Youth in the Long Branch neighborhood of Silver Spring are served by a large number of nonprofit organizations but don't have enough career-focused after-school programs, according to a report by a public-private partnership examining youth programs in the county.

The report, part of the Excel Beyond the Bell partnership of county and nonprofit organizations that launched in May, analyzes the current programs offered to middle and high school students in Long Branch, Wheaton and Germantown in an effort to address needs and reduce redundancy in youth programming.

The report included programs that met regularly after school on weekdays during the school year and were easy to access for students.

There are 216 programs offered in Long Branch by 21 organizations, 19 of which are nonprofits. The 19 nonprofits offer 48 programs in Long Branch, compared to just 13 programs offered by nine community providers in Wheaton, which has a similar number of high school and middle school students.

The remaining programs in Long Branch are offered by Montgomery County Public Schools (158 programs) and the county Recreation Department (11 programs).

"There is a lot more going on with the nonprofit community [in Long Branch] than in other communities in the county," said Carol Walsh, chief of policy, planning and programs with the Montgomery County Collaboration Council, an agency that coordinates public and private agencies for Excel Beyond the Bell.

Walsh presented the report Dec. 2 to the Long Branch Community Based Collaborative, which brings community organizations together to provide better after-school activities for youth and is part of County Executive Isiah Leggett's Positive Youth Development Initiative. The report was released in September.

In Long Branch, Wheaton and Germantown, programs focusing on careers and work force preparation were rare. None were available for middle-school students in Long Branch and just 2 percent of the 117 high school programs focus on careers.

Thirty percent of high school programs focus on life skills and leadership, significantly higher than other areas in the county, and 25 percent are based around athletics, a considerably lower number.

The data on Long Branch provide a tool for public and private youth organizations to identify areas that might require funding, said Gabriel Albornoz, director of the county Department of Recreation.

"Times are getting tough fiscally, so decision-makers are going to want to know what's out there," he said. "This helps us figure out what's out there."

The collaboration council hopes to provide a similar report by June on after-school needs and participation as expressed by parents and youth in Long Branch, Germantown and Wheaton.

"There may be something really different for the kids in Long Branch than the kids in Germantown," said Cheryl Jenkins, director of data and research for the collaboration council. "We'd rather see how we can match this report up to what people are saying they want."

A large number of high school programs in Long Branch did not require academic eligibility for participation. The report found only 37 percent of high school programs require the minimum 2.0 grade-point average required for academic eligibility by the county Board of Education. In Wheaton, 78 percent of high school programs require academic eligibility.

Walsh credited those statistics to the high proportion of programs in Long Branch provided by nonprofits, which might not have academic reports readily available.

While 60 percent of programs for Long Branch-area high school students span the duration of a school year, the community suffers from a high percentage of programs that do not meet regularly. About 43 percent of programs for Long Branch that target middle and high school students meet just once a week. However, in Wheaton, 6.4 percent of high school programs meet once per week and 93.6 percent meet at least three days per week.

"The programs don't run very long or very often," Walsh said. "And we know the more they run, the better it is for kids."

Population grows in Montgomery County - Washington Business Journal

by Tierney Plumb Staff Reporter

More than 10,000 more people reside in Montgomery County than was previously thought.

Last summer, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated the county’s July 2007 population at 930,813. Census demographers said that was about a 5,500-person increase from the previous year.

But the planning staff sifted through construction figures and Rollin Stanley, planning director, was convinced more people lived in the county.

Stanley was right. The bureau worked with the planners and has rewritten the figure to 941,491 – meaning that 10,678 extra people live in Montgomery County.

The staff’s population projections stemmed from the number of residential units built in Montgomery County since the last official census in 2000.

County Executive Isiah Leggett sent in a letter of support and the planning department was able to challenge the census’ county population figure.

The figure includes the incorporated municipalities, including Gaithersburg and Rockville, which provided data for the planning department.

With more inhabitants, economic development staff said it can now better market the county to new residents and businesses.

Contributing to the higher numbers were the county’s urban centers, such as Silver Spring, where several new condo units have risen around a large transportation hub.

About $200 billion in federal funds is given each year to states and other areas based in some part on Census estimates.

School Board Votes Unanimously To Give Kids Inaugural Holiday - Washington Post

By Daniel de Vise | Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 10, 2008; B02

The Montgomery County school board voted yesterday to declare a holiday on Inauguration Day, the latest in a wave of actions that will close most of the region's public schools Jan. 20.

School systems in Charles, Loudoun, Prince George's, Prince William and St. Mary's counties and elsewhere have altered their calendars since Election Day so that students -- and, in some cases, employees -- can attend the inauguration of the country's first African American president, Barack Obama. Other systems, including those in Fairfax County and the District, had already planned to close.

A few school systems, including those in Anne Arundel and Howard counties, will remain open but are taking care to allow students and staff excused absences.

Montgomery School Superintendent Jerry D. Weast recommended against closure. But more than 5,000 people signed a student petition on the online networking site Facebook in support of an Inauguration Day holiday, and board members were deluged with requests from parents and staff. A resolution from board member Christopher S. Barclay (Silver Spring) passed unanimously.

"It is clear that our community would like to participate in all kinds of ways in this inauguration," Barclay said before the vote.

Summary Notes - Neighborhoods and Transportation and Pedestrian Safety Joint Committee Meeting - Nov. 17, 2008

Participants: Alan Bowser, Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Board (SSCAB); Dwayne Jenkins, Silver Spring Regional Services Center; Kathy Stevens, SSCAB; Megan Moriarty, SSCAB; Anita Morrison, co-chair; Darian Unger, SSCAB; Martha Waddy, New Hampshire Estates Civic Association & Long Branch Neighborhood Initiative; Sgt. Tom Harmon, MCPD; Lt. Paul Liquorie, MCPD; Lt. Eric Burnett, MCPD; Jason Tomassini, The Gazette; Lisa Dubay; Jennifer Nettles, Peterson Management; Tony Hausner, Prezco; Luther Hinsley, Avery Park Community Association; Harry Sanders; Caren Madsen; Barbara Ditzler; Jennifer Deseo, Silver Spring Penguin; Rukiyat Gilbert, Southern Management; Kevin Walling.

November SSCAB and October Joint Committee Meetings: Megan Moriarty gave an update on the topics covered at the last SSCAB meeting and the Committee’s meeting that included conversations about the Silver Spring/Takoma Park Indicators Project and the Regional Center’s website redesign.

Public Safety Update: Sgt. Tom Harmon provided an update on traffic and pedestrian issues. He noted the Street Smart initiative began this week and on Dec. 3 there will be a pedestrian safety event with Santa at the Crossroads (New Hampshire Ave. and University Blvd.). He also informed the group his officers have begun seat belt enforcement in the CBD. Violations are $25. There are still officers detailed to the Interim Operating Site for the Metro. He reminded everyone to be vigilant while driving in the CBD and look out for pedestrians, especially at night.

Lt. Paul Liquorie gave the committee an update about the Tai Lam murder investigation. The police response time was under two minutes and a number of different units have been working together since then. Three suspects have been apprehended. They are alleged gang members, but the police do not believe gang activity was a motive in the shooting. He also explained the County’s response to gangs and their cooperation with Federal officials.

Lt. Liquorie reported on an accidental shooting last weekend and noted that the department is working on strategies to work with youth to prevent crimes. In Park Valley, a suspect in 5 burglaries was apprehended because a neighbor reported his suspicious activity. He urged all community members to do the same.

Martha Waddy distributed the Weed and Seed update report for November (see attached).

Tony Hasner reported that Prezco (an umbrella organization for 12 civic associations) is planning a crime summit in March (see proposal ideas below). The group made suggestions that included: including renters in the planning and summit, obtaining crime statistics to guide the planning, using the experience of the committee that held a similar event a few years ago and covering youth programs that can prevent crime.

Dwayne Jenkins announced the next Youth Collaborative meeting will be Dec. 2 at the Long Branch Community Center.

Plans for Washington Adventist Hospital’s Takoma Park Campus: Dean Teague, Vice President for Ancillary/Support Services at WAH, presented the plans for the current hospital site once the new facility in White Oak opens. WAH plans to create a Village of Health and Wellbeing based on a community survey. The plans include space for a number of uses: education (connection to Columbia Union College to increase number of nursing students), research, social services, health care services (an urgent care facility will remain), wellness (new gym), support services and senior living. WAH is planning to open the White Oak facility in 2013. Committee members raised questions about how losing an emergency room will affect the community. Dean explained that patients that cannot be served by the urgent care facility will be transferred to the White Oak hospital. The City of Takoma Park has an advisory council that is monitoring and giving input on the plans.

Environmental Update: Caren Madsen, environmental coordinator for the committee, provided an update on upcoming meetings related to the State of Maryland draft National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit and the county Forest Conservation Law. Caren reported that a hearing was scheduled for the state to take public comment on the draft NPDES permit on Nov. 19th. The public comment period on the permit is open until Dec. 2. Written comments on the State storm water management permit for Montgomery County should be addressed to Mr. Brian Clevenger, Maryland Department of the Environment, Water Management Administration, 1800 Washington Blvd, Ste. 440, Baltimore, Maryland 21230. To review the draft permit, please visit: The County Council and County Executive's office continue to work on a set of amendments to the existing Forest Conservation Law to strengthen provisions of the law. A Nov. 24th Council Transportation and Environment Committee meeting has been rescheduled to accommodate the ongoing discussions between the Executive and Legislative branches of county government on this issue.

Committee Elections. The committee elected Megan Moriarty co-chair.

Adjourment. The meeting was adjourned at 9:00 pm

Groups sue board, council over bank historical designation - Gazette

Montgomery Preservation Inc, Silver Spring Historical Society say process not followed, want court-mandated public hearing

by Jason Tomassini | Staff Writer | Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2008

Two private organizations specializing in historical designation have filed a lawsuit against county agencies claiming the proper historical designation process for a former Silver Spring bank building was not followed.

The suit was filed in Montgomery County Circuit Court last week by Montgomery Preservation Inc. and the Silver Spring Historical Society against the Montgomery County Planning Board and County Council, regarding the historical designation of the Perpetual Bank Building at 8700 Georgia Ave., which was built in 1958.

After the Planning Board voted in March not to designate the Perpetual Bank Building for preservation – against recommendations from the county's Historic Preservation Committee –the County Council should have held a public hearing for the final decision on the designation, said Wayne Goldstein, president of Montgomery Preservation.

But on Oct. 28, the council voted 6-3 not to hold a public hearing, favoring the Planning Board's decision. According to the suit, it is common practice to hold a public hearing on historical designations and without a public hearing, the designation process is not complete.

The suit is asking for a court-ruled public hearing with the County Council on the historical preservation of Perpetual Bank. It also asks that an amendment to the Master Plan for Historic Preservation that contains the Historic Preservation Commission's recommendation be properly considered.

"We are asking the courts to tell the council to follow the process that's been here for 28 years," Goldstein said, referring to historical designation law. "That's hardly a radical demand."

Michael Faden, attorney for the County Council, said the suit was "fairly unusual" and a "political suit" based on varying interpretations of historical designation law. He said the council has no obligation to hold a public hearing on historical designations if it has no intention of overruling the Planning Board's decision.

"I think this lawsuit is ultimately going to fail because the council has no obligation to act," said Faden, who on Monday had not yet received a copy of the suit but understood the allegations.

The suit acknowledges the council's right not to hold a public hearing if it does not expect to alter the Planning Board's decision. But the suit also claims the council never indicated whether it agreed with the Planning Board and longstanding precedent of holding public hearings should not be ignored.

A project plan for renovations to the Perpetual Bank Building was filed in the fall of 2006 to the county Planning Department with the intent to demolish the building and replace it with a building including eight floors of condominiums, two floors of office space and first-floor retail.

Albert Foer, the property's owner, said he has not seen the suit but the attempt to gain historical preservation for Perpetual Bank has already significantly delayed development plans.

"We have not received any approvals from the planning commission because it's been held up for more than a year by the historical process," Foer said. He said the new development would be four times as large as what is currently at the site and is "exactly the kind of mixed-use development that the county wants."

Originally, the Planning Board voted 3-0 not to designate Perpetual Bank as historical because the building was "mediocre" and has "been replicated in various places in the region."

This came after the Historical Preservation Committee ruled in favor of designating the building because it was among the first banks in the region to adopt a more modern architectural style and was one of the largest savings and loan banks in the country, said Clare Kelly, research and designation coordinator for HPC.

"It was very representative of what became the norm of branch banks in the region," Kelly said. She said it is not uncommon for the Planning Board to rule differently from the HPC.

After the Planning Board's decision was made, a draft report was sent to the council that included the Planning Board's ruling and the HPC's ruling in favor of the building. In the Oct. 28 council session, only councilmembers Marc Elrich (D-At large) of Takoma Park, Valerie Ervin (D-Dist. 5) of Silver Spring and Donald Praisner (D-Dist. 4) of Calverton voted to hold a hearing.

Goldstein said the only other instance where the council did not hold a public hearing on historical designation was when Clarksburg's Comsat building's went through its preservation process. That building was also nominated for historical designation in the face of demolition and was also backed by the HPC. It too received a negative ruling from the Planning Board and no public hearing from the County Council.

Suits were filed by Montgomery Preservation following that decision and in response the Planning Board held a worksession on whether to send the matter to County Council. It was decided the County Council would review the designation. But before a hearing could be scheduled, the developer worked with the community to redesign the site while still maintaining the building.

Pedestrian safety event leads to citations, violations and arrest - Gazette

Police issued 16 citations and 29 seatbelt violations last week during the annual Multijurisdictional Holiday Pedestrian Safety Initiative at New Hampshire Avenue and University Boulevard. The event also led to a police-involved shooting and subsequent arrest by Montgomery County Police.

Two drivers were cited for failing to stop for a pedestrian in a crosswalk, one was cited for running a red light and 16 were cited for speeding, according to C-SAFE Program Director Mary Kendall. Officers from Prince George's and Montgomery counties participated, along with Takoma Park police.

C-SAFE, a local crime prevention group, also issued 313 warnings with police to pedestrians in the area cautioning against jaywalking or other dangerous habits in the busy intersection.

Erwin H. Mack, executive director of the Takoma/Langley Crossroads Development Authority, reprised his role as Santa Claus at the event, joining about 30 volunteers from the nearby University of Maryland and other local youth programs to help increase awareness about the need for safety near the dangerous intersection.

"The essence was always to educate people about safety [precautions]," he said. "We don't need people dying or getting hurt because of foolishness."

The event began with a brief press conference at the crossroads at noon, with attendees including Montgomery County Police Chief J. Thomas Manger, Takoma Park Police Chief Ronald Ricucci and Prince George's County Police Chief Roberto L. Hylton, followed by enforcement and awareness activities by police and volunteers.

The education and enforcement initiative was interrupted by a traffic stop that evolved into a more serious infraction.

At about 1:23 p.m., Montgomery County Officer Francis McDonough initiated a traffic stop as part of the event, pulling over a vehicle in the 9100 block of September Lane. The driver made a U-turn and tried to hit the officer, who fired on the vehicle as it sped away, according to Montgomery County Police.

A Germantown man identified as Babajide Vidal was arrested Dec. 5 in Gaithersburg by members of a Montgomery County Police Special Assignment Team in connection with the incident.

Kendall said the incident was the result of an increased level of enforcement at the event, saying police presence at the pedestrian safety event was not noticeably impacted.

"We don't really know anything about [the suspect]," she said. "The point is that we improved the safety of the community and, if anything, because the police pulled him over they enhanced public safety."

Guide steers shoppers to local businesses - Gazette

The "Silver Spring Buy Local Guide" official release party will be held 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. today at Jackie's Restaurant, featuring drink specials and appetizer samples, as well as free copies of the guide. The guide features a folding map and directory of more than 200 locally-owned and independent businesses in the Silver Spring Central Business District and aims to promote those businesses and champion the theme of "buying local."

Funk, bebop and swing will be provided by local band Groove Jet. For more information, visit

Jackie's Restaurant is located at 8081 Georgia Ave. in Silver Spring.

Sponsors include LEDC, Montgomery County, Elastic Synapse, Ecoprint and Silver Spring Penguin.

Admission to the event is free, RSVP is required. Contact Emily Adelman at or 240-777-4951 by3 p.m. today

Silver Spring Offers Local Business Guide - Washington Post

Downtown Silver Spring is shaped something like a kite and in order to get that kite fiscally flying higher, the community has put together a local guide to highlight small businesses in the region.

Emily Adelman, Local First program manager at the Latino Economic Development Corporation, has been working on a small business guide and campaign, which officially launches today.

It's a pilot program for similar initiatives in Montgomery County that received its funding from the county council.

"There are a lot of small, local and independent businesses in downtown Silver Spring, and we wanted to start somewhere that is experiencing a lot of change and development," said Adelman. "There are a lot of folks just moving into the region and with the influx of new residents and with a new [presidential] administration coming in, we wanted to introduce them" to the smaller firms.

The Silver Spring Buy Local Guide is a folding map and directory to more than 200 locally owned and independent businesses in the region. Adelman noted that research has shown that 68 percent of consumers' money stays in a community when it's spent on a locally owned, independent business.

"We're not asking people to spend frivolously, especially in these tough economic times," said Adelman. "We just want to say 'here are some local businesses and if you're making some purchases anyway, think about shifting those purchases locally.'"

She hopes the guide will not only attract shoppers, but will better unite the smallest firms. "I hope bringing together small businesses with similar goals will help them get their messages out" -- especially on issues like raising commercial property taxes, which the Maryland legislature will discuss in a hearing this Thursday.

The campaign and kickoff party for the guide will be held at Jackie's Restaurant on Georgia Ave. at 6 p.m. Wednesday. The guide will be available at Silver Spring stores and from LEDC.

Adelman, who works out of LEDC's Wheaton office, plans to work on a similar Local First Guide for Wheaton this spring.

By Sharon McLoone | December 9, 2008; 11:09 AM ET

Monday, December 8, 2008

Simple Lifestyle for Three Costs $68,086 in County - Washington Post

County Council President Michael Knapp [also] talked about the challenges the council and County Executive Isiah Leggett face with last week's news about the growing budget gap, which has nearly doubled to about $450 million from earlier estimates. Jennifer Barrett, Montgomery County's finance chief, warned lawmakers that coffers are hurting because of the stock market drop, a decline in home prices and less-than-anticipated income tax revenue.

Knapp pointed to a startling piece of data that county officials publicized last month: A family of three -- one adult, a preschooler and one school-age child -- needs an income of $68,086 to live at a minimal level in Montgomery. Two years ago, when the same analysis was done by county officials, the amount was $61,438. Either is far more than $17,600, the official federal poverty level for that family. For a family of four, the minimum income needed is $79,736.

The income data is part of a report completed every two years by the county to help it evaluate what types of public assistance the county may need to provide. The federal standard is used to determine eligibility for federal and state programs, but county officials say they do not reflect the high cost of food, housing and basic living expenses in communities such as Montgomery, one of the most expensive counties in the nation. The summary, formally known as the Self-Sufficiency Standard Report, is assembled by the county's Community Action Board, made up of volunteer members appointed by the county executive to assess the needs of low-income residents and to monitor county policies that affect those residents.

Montgomery Extra - Washington Post, December 4, 2008

Md. Busway Promoted As Solution To Gridlock - Washington Post

by Miranda S. Spivack

Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, December 8, 2008; B01

Montgomery County Council member Marc Elrich thinks he might have found a way to let the suburbs grow without putting more cars on the roads: Build a rapid bus system that can speed past traffic.

If his efforts succeed, Montgomery could become a leader in the region and one of only a dozen or so jurisdictions in the nation to embrace the low-polluting, high-end bus systems that can move thousands of riders at fairly high speeds, often in their own lanes.

"The county ought to think about calling a halt to building roads for five years, building a transit system and then seeing what else you need," said Elrich (D-At Large). "Now, we identify a traffic problem and our first instinct is to add lanes to fix it. We never have the money to do a transit project."

Elrich has been talking up rapid buses with developers, lawyers, lawmakers, regulators and community groups. He said he hopes to organize a meeting with regional transit officials soon.

Rapid buses, sleek vehicles that look like trams or light-rail cars, run on alternative fuels and can include comfortable seating, WiFi, multiple doors and cashless fares. They operate in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami and Pittsburgh, among other cities. They are planned for a dozen other jurisdictions, including New York, Atlanta, Albany, N.Y., and Hartford, Conn. Rapid buses are used in Australia, China, England, France and South America.

Elrich's plans for higher-end buses would add more east-west lines to parallel the proposed Purple Line, under discussion by officials as a bus or light-rail link between New Carrollton in Prince George's County and Bethesda. His proposed north-south bus routes would run along Route 29, parts of Connecticut Avenue, Georgia Avenue, Rockville Pike and Interstate 270.

Esther Bowring, a spokeswoman for Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett (D), said the county is interested in Elrich's ideas.

"We have an overall commitment to really try to expand transit, to make it easier and more convenient for everyone," she said.

In the next decade, thousands more people are expected to move into Montgomery, pushing the county's population to more than 1 million. Despite expected increases in housing density that will make parts of the county look like small cities, there is little urban-style infrastructure, such as sidewalks or closely spaced Metro stops. Many residents get in their cars for the shortest of trips.

A rapid bus system may be the cheapest and quickest way to add seats for new riders, said Lurae Stuart, a bus expert at the American Public Transportation Association. "It is flexible, too. You can do something very low-cost and then move up the scale."

Rapid buses can run on paved medians, or special bus guideways, without competing with car traffic. The buses often are longer and more luxurious than standard Metrobuses. They use magnetized fare card systems and often have station stops that look like rail stops.

"It is what a real transit system in a real city would do," Elrich said.

Cost is always a concern, but Metro senior planner Jim Hughes said that over time, faster bus systems could boost revenue and increase efficiency. Metro officials want to add about 20 express bus routes in the next seven years across the region to the four it has. In Montgomery, possible routes are Veirs Mill Road and Georgia Avenue.

The opportunities for speedy travel by transit are now limited in Montgomery to Metro's Red Line, which runs on a north-south axis with long spans between stops. The Red Line requires riders to travel south to the District to move east-west in the county.

Elrich said that a rapid bus system could help fill those gaps and would be more appealing to riders than the slow-moving, county-run RideOn system of small buses or the larger Metrobuses that also cover substantial distances and make multiple stops.

Rapid bus systems are less expensive to build than rail, with some estimates saying rail is twice as costly. Light-rail operating costs can be cheaper, however, because more drivers per passenger are needed for rapid buses.

Elrich said it costs about $20,000 per bus to attach guide wheels that allow the buses to run on their own roadways while also enabling them to ride on regular streets when necessary. The overall cost to build the system varies, but a high-end estimate is $20 million a mile.

A bus system using clean fuel also has the potential to improve air quality, meeting another challenge for the region.

Elrich said that although he is pushing rapid buses, he's not trying to take sides in the debate over which system should be used for the Purple Line, where the debate is among light rail, bus and subway.

But he said a rapid bus line could be put in place more quickly and replaced more easily on the Purple Line with rail if policymakers so choose.

Jerry Pasternak, who was a top aide to county executive Douglas M. Duncan (D) and is now a lobbyist, lauded Elrich's concept but said it faces many hurdles.

"You have to line up so many other pieces of this puzzle. Is there a commitment from the state, [Metro], the council, the executive? Everybody has to line up behind it."

Riders also need incentives to use it, he said.

"If you want to get people out of their cars, you have to make the buses convenient, reliable and free. There is no reason why it should cost me more to take the Metro into D.C. than it takes me to drive and park," he said.

Figuring out who will fund the system is also a challenge, Pasternak said.

"If developers get added density, height and are able to make a profit, they will participate and pay a fair share of the cost. If this is another extraction from developers, there will be no reason for them to buy into it," he said.

County Council member Valerie Ervin (D-Silver Spring), a longtime Purple Line proponent, said she supports rapid bus transit as long as it doesn't replace the prospect of light rail in many of the communities she represents.

She said ridership studies show that poor or working-class residents ride buses in Montgomery and that more affluent riders shy away. Despite light rail's high upfront cost, she said it ultimately would bring more riders, reduce traffic and limit pollution from cars and buses in poorer communities.

"We have to make the hard decisions now. Our grandchildren will appreciate it," she said.

Elrich said he hopes to tap into impact taxes that developers pay to fund the bus system.

He is also examining caps on parking, something Boston did more than two decades ago. That pushed riders to public transit and has improved air quality, studies show.

"We need to figure out what would work here at a cost that we can afford to build," Elrich said. "Don't start out way over your head."

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Theater offers a glimpse of Fillmore venue - Gazette


Click here to view the video

After a girl threw her scarf on stage at surf-rocker Donavon Frankenreiter during an Oct. 24 concert at a Live Nation venue in Philadelphia, the laid-back Southern Californian songwriter decided the offer deserved some additional attention.

"When do you want it back?" Frankenreiter asked the girl in between songs as he wrapped the scarf around his neck.

"Soon!" the fan replied back.

"What, you don't want it to get all sweaty?" Frankenreiter joked, pretending to be offended and receiving a chorus of laughs from the crowd of about 700 people.

The scene is an example of the intimate atmosphere at Philadelphia's Theater of the Living Arts, the Live Nation-operated venue that hosted Frankenreiter, and an experience that Live Nation officials hope to bring to downtown Silver Spring.

The Los Angeles-based concert promoter expects to open a Fillmore concert venue in two years at 8650 Colesville Road, the site of the former J.C. Penney, offering between 70 and 150 concerts a year in the 2,000-person capacity venue. The Montgomery County Council passed two crucial land-use measures in October paving the way for the Fillmore.

While the Silver Spring venue would be larger than the Theater of the Living Arts, the two-story, 800-person capacity Philadelphia concert hall offers a glimpse of what to expect in Silver Spring.

Located on Philadelphia's renowned South Street, the TLA is in the heart of a lively business district with shopping, restaurants and culture similar to that of downtown Silver Spring. Both the TLA and the proposed Fillmore rely on public transportation and parking. And both venues will book similar small- and mid-level national and regional acts, said Ted Mankin, vice president of booking for Live Nation in the Washington, D.C., area.

At the TLA, Frankenreiter's fans raved about the comfortable crowd size and the connection with the performer.

"It's very quaint and intimate," said Rob Grassinger, who recently moved to the Philadelphia area from San Francisco with his wife. He said the TLA reminded him of the San Francisco Fillmore, a historic, 1,250-capacity venue now operated by Live Nation.

To enter the downstairs bar area or the second-floor balcony, which featured a full bar, event staff checked identification and gave wristbands to those age 21 and older. At one point a concertgoer asked if he could take his drink to the bathroom with him, but event security said they would watch it for him until he got back.

"As long as liquor licenses are held and we are open and have beverages available, it's up to us to make sure we enforce the laws," Mankin said. "What people come out to do is listen to music."

Drinks were not allowed outside the bar areas until the main act went on stage. The upstairs bar area had about 40 stools with several tables, two leather couches, four flat-screen televisions with a live feed of the concert and 10 beer taps. Beers ranged from $5.75 to $10.75.

The security at the TLA was private Live Nation staff and concentrated near the door and the entrances to the two bar areas. Among attendees, who ranged from teenagers to middle-aged adults, opinions were mixed on how Live Nation security treated fans.

"You can walk in and they check everything but they don't take your camera and stuff," said Janelle McCauley, who enjoyed the freedom the TLA allows for fans.

Andy French, who has been going to the TLA for 15 years, said security has become more aggressive since Live Nation began operating the venue in 2007.

"Since it's been introduced as the Fillmore, security has become a lot more non-relaxed, a lot more strict," French said. "My favorite memory of going to shows is bringing in a marker to hope to get the bands' signature on the ticket and now you can't even do that."

Outside the venue, nearby business owners said a ubiquitous Philadelphia police presence on South Street limited incidents outside the TLA. And many merchants had a positive opinion of the concert hall.

"Since Live Nation started booking the acts there, it's been a lot more consistent as far as actually having shows," said Daniel Christiansen, co-owner of Copabanana, a bar and restaurant three doors down from the TLA. "It's been great for foot traffic."

Silver Spring residents and business owners have expressed concern in the past about masses of concert-goers causing nuisances downtown, but South Street business owners have embraced the venue and the crowds.

"What I like to do is work with them and maybe do a cross promotion," said Tom Gaylord, owner of the Lickety Split bar near the TLA. "People can come in before the concert and [we offer specials]."

Mankin said he has met with officials at the American Film Institute's Silver Theatre and Culture Center, located across the street from the Fillmore, to discuss collaborative programming. He also will meet with the Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Board to limit the venue's impact on residents and business owners.

Live Nation venues stop serving alcohol one hour before the concert ends, and concerts at the Silver Spring Fillmore must end before 1 a.m.

Mankin said the restaurants and shopping at City Plaza and on Ellsworth Drive will make a concert at the Silver Spring Fillmore a full-day event. Those who frequent the TLA said they make use of the restaurants and shopping nearby.

"Before the concert, we go and have dinner then we go to the show and then come out after," said Jeanne Berkel over a 1 a.m. beer at Lickety Split. "You can make a whole night out of it."

Mankin said the Silver Spring Fillmore's downtown location is a key aspect of the venue. The proximity of the site to transit options will limit the amount of event parking built for the Fillmore (the TLA has no event parking but is near public parking).

Despite the similarities, the Silver Spring venue is unique because it will be built and opened as a Live Nation venue, Mankin said. The TLA was under different ownership until Live Nation took over operations in 2007.

Mankin said Live Nation officials have already begun meeting with the community to make sure all needs and concerns are addressed.

"It's your venue, it's your town," he said. "People aren't going to say, ‘We are playing Washington, they will say, We are playing Silver Spring.'"

Outcry spurs talk of expanded police powers - Gazette

This story was updated on Dec. 3 at 1:46 p.m.

In the wake of public outcry over three recent homicides allegedly committed by illegal immigrants, Montgomery County State's Attorney John J. McCarthy, the county police chief and other county leaders are looking closely at stricter guidelines for handling suspects of serious crimes who are in the country illegally.

In at least two cases, the suspects are illegal immigrants who had previously been released from custody for other crimes. The director of the county corrections department said that eight of the 16 murder suspects currently in custody have federal immigration warrants against them.

Spurred by McCarthy and Police Chief J. Thomas Manger, some county officials want to take a "more proactive approach" that would prevent the release of illegal immigrants suspected of serious crimes while they await judicial proceedings, said Council President Philip M. Andrews (D-Dist. 3) of Gaithersburg.

County leaders have not yet defined what additional powers police or others might be given, but a consensus is emerging that something needs to be done, said Councilman George Leventhal (D-At large) of Takoma Park who said he has "great confidence" in Manger's ability to find the right balance between fighting crime and keeping the trust of the immigrant community.

"We're talking about the people who are clearly undesirable," said Leventhal, a vocal advocate for immigrants. "These are not people we want in Montgomery County."

Both Leventhal and Andrews said county officials have been privately discussing the issue for several weeks. On Monday, McCarthy met with a group of Latino leaders in the morning and with County Executive Isiah Leggett in the afternoon. Last week, Manger sought input from his Latino advisory group, according to participants.

At the center of the outcry are illegal immigrants Hector Mauricio Hernandez of Takoma Park and Gilmar Leonardo Romero of Silver Spring who were charged last month with murder in the shooting death of Tai Lam, 14, of Silver Spring on a Ride On bus. Hernandez, 20, was out on bond awaiting trial on an October weapons charge, according court records. Romero, 20, was arrested on June 24 for a concealed weapon; the charge was dropped and he was released on June 30.

In June, a popular waiter at the Red Robin restaurant at Lakeforest mall was stabbed to death by an 18-year-old Honduran — six weeks after he was caught by police with marijuana at an elementary school. Manuel Antonio Barahona of Gaithersburg pleaded guilty to second-degree murder last month.

In August, a Silver Spring man died after allegedly being attacked with a metal bat by a roommate's brother. Jose Zavala, 29, is in county custody for that death after being extradited from Texas in September.

And in October, Jose Garcia-Perlera, 33, of Hyattsville was charged in the September death of an elderly Bethesda woman. He was charged in 2000 for a series of burglaries in New York. He was released from police custody pending trial but did not show up in court, according to police in New York.

Critics point to cases like these as evidence that the county needs to take a harder line on illegal immigrants.

Lam's death was a "preventable tragedy," said Susan Payne, an outspoken critic of the county's stance on illegal immigration, at a public forum with the County Council two weeks ago in Gaithersburg.

"We are living in a county where a 14-year-old child is murdered on a Ride On bus by people who are in this country not only illegally but are criminals," she said to a round of applause from the audience. "When are we going to … start protecting the lives of citizens in this county and stop continuing these sanctuary city policies that are killing elderly people [in] home invasions and now 14-year-old children on Ride On buses?"

Current county protocol, which has been closely scrutinized, requires police officers to alert federal agents when routine background checks on individuals indicate the person has an immigration warrant, but county police do not initiate their own investigations into immigration status. The county holds the person for up to 72 hours while they wait for federal agents to take custody.

Illegal immigrants are not prevented from being granted bond.

In an interview Monday, McCarthy said it was "premature" to specify what steps the county might take to tighten restrictions but said they could take shape as early as January.

Manger declined requests for an interview.

The county's stance on immigration has remained nearly unchanged since 2003, with Manger and Leggett steadfast in their position to not enroll in the federal program that deputizes local police with the powers of federal immigration agents. Frederick County enrolled in the program, known as 287g, in the spring and has since transferred more than 220 illegal immigrants to federal authorities, according to Casa of Maryland, an immigrant advocacy group that has been tracking the issue.

Montgomery County's willingness to consider stricter rules comes as a surprising and unwelcome turn for some immigrant advocates, who for years have called on county leaders to keep the policy as is.

Not only will it further erode community trust in the police, it also might cross the "fine line" to racial profiling, said Grace Rivera-Oven, a longtime Latino advocate.

"This issue is not as easy as people want it to be," said Rivera-Oven, who meets regularly with county leaders. "It's not as simple as, ‘Oh, all our problems are going to go away because we're checking people's status.' [Immigration] is just an ingredient in the whole thing, and frankly, it's a small ingredient," she said.

"This is more a systematic issue of us not having very good guidelines for keeping people off the streets and frankly, I don't think it is going to make a difference," Rivera-Oven added.

AIDS forum targets minorities for prevention message - Gazette

County, state and national health officials in a forum Monday discussed methods to increase AIDS and HIV prevention and education among minority and ethnic groups who may be misinformed about the virus.

"A big problem in minority communities is the issue of shame, being excluded, denial," said the Rev. Ken Jackson, president of the Black Minister's Conference of Montgomery County at the forum held on the Takoma Park/Silver Spring campus of Montgomery College in observance of World AIDS Day.

Discussions focused primarily on how to get the word out to minorities, immigrants and youth groups, demographics prevalent in Montgomery County.

There were 227 new HIV infections reported in Montgomery County in 2006, according to the most recent data from the Maryland AIDS Administration, placing the county third in Maryland behind Baltimore City and Prince George's County.

AIDS is a set of symptoms and infections resulting from the damage to the human immune system caused by the human immunodeficiency virus or HIV. HIV is transmitted through direct contact of a mucous membrane or the bloodstream with a bodily fluid containing HIV.

Among the county's immigrant population, AIDS awareness is stifled by a fear that being tested or treated for HIV through government agencies could lead to deportation, said Barbara Golding of the Dennis Avenue Health Center in Silver Spring.

The center, run by the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services, provides testing and treatment for those already infected with HIV or AIDS and offers help in finding health care and financial support for those infected. But Golding said many people don't seek out the center's services until it's too late.

"People are coming to us later in the infection and … they are already dying," she said.

As of 2006, Latinos accounted for 18 percent of new HIV cases worldwide and 10 percent in the county, said Eyal Bergman, HIV program manager with Identity, a Gaithersburg-based nonprofit that serves Latinos in the county.

In addition to fears of deportation, Bergman said there is a strong stigma among the Latino community of those with AIDS, with HIV-infected women being deemed promiscuous and men seen as homosexuals.

"The prevention message does not get across to the entire Latino population," Bergman said.

To raise HIV and AIDS awareness, Identity conducts testing at sites in Gaithersburg, Takoma Park and Wheaton, as well as the Montgomery County Correctional Facility. Identity also trains "youth educators" to carry around backpacks and hand out condoms and AIDS prevention pamphlets to teens.

Similar problems face Asian Americans, a group often overlooked when it comes to HIV and AIDS, said Nouf Bazaz, a program coordinator with the county's Asian American Health Initiative based in Rockville. She said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not keep extensive data among Asian Americans regarding the virus.

"There is no evidence indicating a lower risk among Asian Americans," Bazaz said, later adding that Asian Americans are "less aware of HIV than most other ethnic groups."

Overall, the lack of awareness is generational, with today's youth thinking the disease is not as serious or prevalent as it was for past generations, said Abimbola Idowu of the African American Health Program based in Silver Spring.

"Awareness has died off because people think there is great care," said Idowu, whose organization sponsored the forum. "They think it is something they can deal with."

Golding said she has seen a disturbing trend recently of youth attending parties to deliberately infect themselves with the disease with no clear motive.

To gain a better presence among teens, the African American Health Program worked with a group of students at John F. Kennedy High School in Silver Spring to develop an AIDS prevention brochure to be distributed to their peers in school.

A potential preventative measure for AIDS and HIV most officials did not mention was ongoing research on an HIV vaccine. While an HIV vaccine is "at least a decade away," Diane Johnson of the Vaccine Research Center at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda said thousands of clinical trials are being done to develop the vaccine.

Johnson was adamant that the volunteers participating in the clinical trials have no risk of being infected with HIV. NIH has only conducted the first of three planned phases for the vaccine trials, where 50 to 60 healthy volunteers engage in a one- to two-year process.

"We believe the development of a vaccine will be the best bet to eradicate the disease," Johnson said.

To volunteer for the National Institute of Health's HIV vaccine trials, call 866-833-LIFE or send an e-mail to

For the Montgomery County-run Dennis Avenue Health Center's sexually-transmitted disease clinic, call 240-777-1760. If you have already tested positive for HIV, call the center's client services office at 240-777-1869 for a case worker.

To reach the Montgomery County Branch of the Coalition of People with AIDS, call 240-247-1015 or for the national organization, call 1-866-846-9366.

For information on Identity's HIV counseling and testing program, call Eyal Bergman at 301-422-1272. Identity has offices at 414 East Diamond Ave. in Gaithersburg, 11141 Georgia Ave. in Wheaton and 7676 New Hampshire Ave. in Takoma Park.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

MoCo Council Chooses Andrews As President - Washington Post

Anne Bartlett

Without debate, the Montgomery County Council today unanimously elected Phil Andrews (D-Gaithersburg-Rockville) as its president and Roger Berliner (Potomac-Bethesda) as vice president as the panel confronts a budget shortfall that has doubled since September.

Andrews, a former executive director of Common Cause of Maryland first elected in 1998, succeeds Michael Knapp (D-Upcounty) for a one-year term. In taking the gavel, Andrews called on county workers to forgo planned pay raises to help close a projected $515 million shortfall and for a series of legislative changes to make the government more open and accessible to residents.

Andrews is one of County Executive Isiah Leggett's (D) closest political allies on the nine-member council, but he is not afraid to challenge Leggett on policy when he disagrees. He has been the most outspoken opponent of Leggett's proposed ambulance transport fee because of his concern that residents would hesitate to call for emergency services.

In his decade on the council, Andrews has been out front on several issues that were initially slow to gain traction with his colleagues. He was the leading sponsor of the county's living-wage law and restrictions on smoking in restaurants.

Andrews, 49, is also one of the most fiscally conservative members of the council. He was a leading voice during last spring's budget debate for rolling back employee raises if property taxes were going to rise for homeowners. He called today for tackling Montgomery's underlying imbalance between spending and revenue.

"The county cannot sustain simultaneously the size of the current workforce and provide the level of pay increases employees expect and continue to obligate future taxpayers to ever-larger retire health care and pension benefits," he said. "We need to scale down in a thoughtful and targeted way the size of the workforce."

The selection of Berliner, an energy lawyer elected in 2006, puts him in line to succeed Andrews next year.

The Gap Widens - Washington Post

Bad budget news gets worse for Montgomery County.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008; A20

WE'RE RUNNING out of adjectives to describe the widening budget gaps facing Washington area jurisdictions. Let's just say that most synonyms for "dire" could apply. The latest "dire" news comes from Montgomery County, where a projected $250 million shortfall for fiscal 2010 (the current operating budget is $4.3 billion) is likely to at least double. A deficit estimated at between $400 million and $600 million should dispel any thought that the county can scrimp its way to solvency. Deep cuts to services, and possibly layoffs, are in the offing.

Montgomery's budget leans heavily on taxes on property and capital gains. Both sources of revenue have swung sharply downward in recent months, draining the county's coffers. Earlier this year, the county shored up its budget by voting to increase property tax rates by more than 13 percent. That option is off the table next year, as County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) has vowed not to raise taxes. Meanwhile, demand for some essential county services is on the rise. The Post's Ann E. Marimow reported that requests for canned food are up 45 percent this month over the same month last year, for example.

At a time when many Montgomery residents are thankful to have jobs -- the county's October unemployment rate sneaked above 3.5 percent, a 30 percent increase from last year -- county employees are set to receive pay increases in excess of 8 percent. If the county were to cut the cost-of-living adjustments -- which account for more than five percentage points of the increases -- it would save $125 million. Officials are unlikely to find a bigger chunk of savings elsewhere in the budget.

Unfortunately, the County Council and Mr. Leggett's office have been engaged in petty budget spats that ignore the bigger picture. The council recently rejected about $19 million in spending cuts for the school system proposed by the county executive. Mr. Leggett's office contends that the council let the school system off easy, but Superintendent Jerry D. Weast is already working to pare the schools budget. The council also delayed voting on Mr. Leggett's ambulance fee proposal, which would generate about $14 million.

In the early 1990s, facing a similar budget crisis, county leaders banded together to minimize layoffs. Employees made reasonable concessions on pay increases, and lawmakers put aside their differences long enough to make necessary cuts. County leaders should rediscover that spirit of compromise and make the best of a bad situation.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Montgomery County Police Provide Holiday Season Safety Tips

Montgomery County Police want to remind citizens of several good safe practices to follow during this upcoming holiday season because the opportunities for robberies and burglaries may increase during the holiday season.

Many robberies and burglaries can be prevented and officers want to provide our community members with safety tips that can help prevent them from becoming victims of a robbery or residential burglary.

When shopping:
Don't be too distracted by your shopping, stay alert and be aware of everything around you at all times.

Park in well-lighted spaces and as close to the mall or store as possible.

Lock your car doors, and hide packages in the trunk on under the seats. Theft from vehicle is the most common crime in Montgomery County.

Don't carry large amounts of cash, pay with a check or credit card if possible.

Make sure that you are not encumbered with a large number of packages.
Make trips back to the car to stow them in the trunk as you continue to shop.

Carry your closed purse as close to your body as possible, not dangling by straps.

Carry a wallet in an inside coat or front pants pocket.

When out walking:
Where ever you are, on the street, in an office building, or shopping mall, waiting for a bus or the subway, stay alert and tuned in to your surroundings.

Walk with confidence and know where you are going.

Trust your instincts; if something or someone makes you uneasy, avoid the person or leave.

Stick to well-lighted and well-traveled streets. Avoid shortcuts through wooded areas, parking lots, or alleys.

Don't flash large amounts of cash or other tempting targets like expensive jewelry or clothing.

Have your car or house key in hand before you reach the door.

If you think someone is following you, switch direction or cross the street, and walk toward an open store, restaurant, or lighted house.

If someone does try to rob you, don't resist. Give up your property, don't endanger your life. Report the crime to police as soon as possible and try to describe the attacker accurately. Your rapid reporting of the incident may prevent others from becoming victims.

At home:
If your Christmas tree can be seen through a window, don't display presents under the tree where they could be seen.

Make sure to lock all doors and windows.

If you are going away for the holiday, let a neighbor know that your home won't be occupied.

Have someone pick-up your mail and papers.

Use timed lights to give the appearance of someone at home.

If it snows, ask a neighbor to do some shoveling for you.

After the holidays, be sure to break down card board boxes from presents for recycling so that a potential burglar doesn't know your home has a new computer, TV, video game system, etc.