Thursday, May 28, 2009

Park Hills Civic Association Dedicates Presidential Inaugural Flag

At its May 27, 2009 General Meeting, the Park Hills Civic Association received and dedicated an U.S. flag that was flown over the U.S. Capitol on the day of the inauguration of President Barack Obama. The flag was presented as a gift to the Park Hills Civic Association from PHCA President Alan Bowser, who arranged for the flag in cooperation with the offices of U.S. Senator Benjamin Cardin, Democrat of Maryland.

The flag was accompanied by a certification of the Architect of the Capitol, which read:

"This is to certify that the accompanying flag was flown over the United States Capitol on January 20, 2009.

At the request of the Honorable Benjamin L. Cardin, United States Senator, the flag was flown for the Park Hills Civic Association in honor of the Inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States."

At the dedication ceremony, PHCA Secretary Chris Richardson led the Association members present in the Pledge of Allegiance:

"I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands: one Nation under God, indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all."

The flag will be kept in perpetuity by the Park Hills Civic Association and displayed on patriotic holidays and special events.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Residents split on Purple Line tunnel - Gazette

Proponents say MTA report light on negatives; opponents say gap between stations would not serve local riders

by Jason Tomassini | Staff Writer | Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Residents who live near the site of a proposed Purple Line tunnel that would run beneath Wayne Avenue in Silver Spring were divided last week in a heated meeting with the Maryland Transit Administration, which is calling for a surface route along Wayne.

Proponents of the tunnel said the MTA's recently released 15-page report was light on details regarding the negative impacts of the surface option. Backers of a surface route defended the MTA report, noting that the tunnel would not serve the immediate community because of a 1.5-mile gap between stations in Silver Spring.

The MTA and Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) are considering three options of either light-rail transit or bus rapid transit for a 16-mile mass transit route that would connect downtown Bethesda to New Carrollton via Silver Spring.

But at the May 20 meeting at Oak View Elementary School in Silver Spring the focus was on two options: a medium-investment light-rail line that would run above ground along Wayne and a high-investment light-rail route that would tunnel from the Silver Spring Transit Center at Wayne and Colesville Road through downtown Silver Spring to Mansfield Road.

Medium-investment light-rail has been endorsed by County Executive Isiah Leggett (D), the Montgomery County Council and the county Planning Board.

The surface route calls for a station at the planned site of a proposed Silver Spring Library at Wayne and Fenton Street and a second in downtown Silver Spring, said Michael Madden, the Purple Line project manager. The tunnel option would displace three houses on Wayne and restrict access to three or four others, Madden said.

With a tunnel, it would take 5.4 minutes to get through Silver Spring as opposed to 9 minutes for the surface option. But with the tunnel only bringing stations at the transit center and Manchester Place, the short travel time only benefits those traveling through Silver Spring, not residents along Wayne, said Jonathan Elkind, a Silver Spring resident and chairman of the Silver Spring Advocates, a pro-Purple Line group.

For the Silver Spring portion of the Purple Line, the medium-investment option would cost $179 million and the tunnel option would cost $352 million, according to the study.

The main advantage of the tunnel option is it would take the Purple Line transit cars off of already-congested Wayne, proponents said. Under the medium-investment option, the Purple Line would not have dedicated lanes. Left-turn lanes would be added to Wayne to accommodate the light rail.

But Silver Spring resident Adam Daniel said adding a train to Wayne would make things much worse than they are now.

"Wayne is a street with noisy buses on it," said Daniel, who lives near the Wayne and Dale Drive intersection. "If anything, I would expect it to be a quieter street than it will be decades down the road if there is no mass transit."

The community met with MTA engineers five times to discuss the neighborhood impacts of the Purple Line, said Chris Richardson of the Park Hills Civic Association. For instance, under the surface route option, residents along Wayne would lose property due to the widening of the street to make way for new left-turn lanes.

But the impacts were not detailed in the draft environmental impact statement released by the Maryland Transit Administration last year or the tunnel study released this month, Richardson said.

"That would leave me to believe the decision to do a surface route on Wayne was already made," Richardson said.

Mark Gabriele, president of the Seven Oaks and Evanswood Civic Association, echoed those sentiments in a heated exchange with Madden.

"You go into great detail for the disadvantages of the tunnel but no details about surface disadvantages," Gabriele said.

"The study was to analyze a tunnel, not the surface," Madden responded.

"I'm angry, policymakers are supposed to rely on civil servants for advice," Gabriele shot back.

"What about the people in the seven houses?" Madden responded, referring to the displaced or affected homes under the tunnel option. "Are they part of the community?"

Madden said a finalized version of the tunnel analysis will be completed in the next couple of weeks and will include a more detailed study of the surface route option. Madden said he does not expect the County Council to take any official vote on the tunnel and the final decision will be made by O'Malley sometime in June.

To read the Maryland Transit Administration's study of a tunnel beneath Wayne Avenue, visit

Playground could be named after civic activist - Gazette

Planning Board to consider proposal from Kensington Heights Civic Association

by Jen Beasley | Staff Writer | Wednesday, May 27, 2009

On life's playground, Wayne Goldstein didn't throw sand.

"He was just always very positive and always smiling and friendly even when he was disagreeing with you," said Donna Savage of the late civic activist. "He just had this gift for being able to disagree with you in a very, very, very pleasant way and very few people have that gift."

That's why Savage, the land-use chairwoman of the Kensington Heights Civic Association, and Sean Neary, president of the civic group, have requested that the playground at Kensington Heights Neighborhood Park be named for Goldstein, who was the sitting president of their association when he died of a heart attack on April 27.

Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission staffers are recommending the request be approved by the Planning Board, which will consider it on Thursday. County Councilwoman Valerie Ervin (D-Dist. 5) of Silver Spring has also endorsed the request.

Savage said their original desire was to name the entire park after Goldstein, a longtime advocate for neighborhood issues and community causes around the county, but she and Neary discovered that was not Parks Department policy.

The playground seemed the next best thing. Goldstein began an annual KHCA picnic there three years ago in an effort to loosen up meetings.

"The playground … is sort of the essence of that park," Savage said. "It's in the middle of the park and it's the thing that gets used the most and it's the place where we have the picnic."

If the request is approved, the KHCA will pay $250 toward the plaque designating the Wayne M. Goldstein Playground and raise the final $100 needed through donations. Savage said she hopes the park rededication can be done at the annual picnic on June 13, where Goldstein will be honored.

"It's quite a blow for us to lose him as far as the county was concerned and as friendship was concerned but also because he was our sitting president."

Larcenies, burglaries a growing problem in Third District - Gazette

Police say more frequent patrols, locking doors and keeping valuables out of sight will help stem crime

by Robert Dongu | Staff Writer Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Last September, Silver Spring resident Christine Gardner was running late taking her daughter to school when someone made her pause.

Gardner noticed a teenager walking in her neighborhood of Springbrook Manor off New Hampshire Avenue. It seemed odd, she said, because it was a school day and class had started. The boy walked slowly, his head fixated on the ground until he stopped at her neighbor's house.

"He didn't look like he belonged there," Gardner said Friday.

Gardner went around the neighbor's house and spotted the boy again, this time opening the screen door to the front of the house. After seeing him loitering near a side door to the home, she called police.

"I wanted to just keep going," Gardner said. "But if something happened there, I wouldn't forgive myself. … I almost didn't call because I didn't want to [be] just profiling."

Police arrived within minutes and the boy, a Springbrook High School student, was apprehended by police and taken to the school, which is located nearby. Gardner said the boy didn't receive a harsh punishment because she called police too early – the suspect hadn't taken anything when police arrived.

Barry Wides, president of the North White Oak Civic Association, said the association works with police, including Educational Facilities Officer Rodney Barnes, who helped foil the alleged bomb plot of two Springbrook students last month. He said Barnes attends association meetings.

"When we see suspicious incidents we report them," said Wides, who said the police's planned relocation to a site in the White Oak area could help deter crime there.

Gardner said she thinks much of the burglaries and larcenies in the area are from teenagers since the crimes tend to be unorganized in nature. While Gardner commended the police and said they're not to blame for crimes in her neighborhood, she said some teens know they'll be disciplined less harshly than adults who commit the same crime.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Northwest Park Oakview Weed and Seed Program

The Steering Committee of the Northwest Park Oakview Weed and Seed Program meets quarterly at Broad Acres Elementary School in Silver Spring. The Steering Committee includes residents and representatives of public agencies and non-profit organizations.

At this meeting were representatives of the Hamptons Community Association, the Avery Park Community Association, the Oakview Civic Association, the Northwest Park Civic Association, Northwest Park Apartments Management Co., the Long Branch Neighborhood Initiative, the International Corridor C-Safe Program, the Broad Acres Elementary School Linkages to Learning Program, the Long Branch Library, the Park Police, U.S. Rep. Donna Edwards, U.S Rep. Chris Van Hollen, the Montgomery County Department of Housing and Community Affairs, the Silver Spring Regional Services Center, and the Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Board.

Weed and Seed, a community-based strategy sponsored by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), is an innovative, comprehensive multiagency approach to law enforcement, crime prevention, and community revitalization. CCDO oversees the Weed and Seed initiative.

Weed and Seed is foremost a strategy—rather than a grant program—that aims to prevent, control, and reduce violent crime, drug abuse, and gang activity in designated high-crime neighborhoods across the country. The more than 250 Weed and Seed sites range in size from several neighborhood blocks to several square miles, with populations ranging from 3,000 to 50,000.

The strategy involves a two-pronged approach: law enforcement agencies and prosecutors cooperate in "weeding out" violent criminals and drug abusers and public agencies and community-based private organizations collaborate to "seed" much-needed human services, including prevention, intervention, treatment, and neighborhood restoration programs. A community-oriented policing component bridges the weeding and seeding elements.

At each site, the relevant U.S. Attorney's Office plays a leadership role in organizing local officials, community representatives, and other key stakeholders to form a steering committee. The U.S. Attorney's Office also facilitates coordination of federal, state, and local law enforcement efforts so that sites effectively use federal law enforcement partners in weeding strategies. In some instances, the U.S. Attorney's Office helps sites mobilize resources from a variety of federal agencies for seeding programs.

The Weed and Seed strategy is a multilevel strategic plan that includes four basic components: law enforcement; community policing; prevention, intervention, and treatment; and neighborhood restoration. Four fundamental principles underlie the Weed and Seed strategy: collaboration, coordination, community participation, and leveraging of resources.

For more information, contact Victor B. Salazar, Site Coordinator, Northwest Park Oakview Weed & Seed, Silver Spring Regional Center at (301) 565-7300

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Panel Weighs Options for Renovating Silver Spring Auditorium - Gazette

By Jason Tomassini | Gazette Staff Writer Thursday, May 21, 2009

Flexible classroom space and an intimate performance atmosphere are priorities for the renovation of the dormant Old Blair Auditorium in Silver Spring, which would provide nearby schools and residents with program and meeting space.

A committee of county and school officials, residents and the project's architects has met in the past month as part of a feasibility study to renovate the building, which is owned by Montgomery County public schools.

The auditorium has been closed since 1999, when Montgomery Blair High School moved to its new campus at Colesville Road and University Boulevard. The old auditorium is part of the Silver Spring International Middle School and Sligo Creek Elementary School campuses at 313 Wayne Ave.

The two design options favored by the committee would include four classrooms in the back of the auditorium, to be used by the two schools. Those rooms would be available for lease to community groups at night and on weekends. The committee also has discussed using the auditorium for a health clinic or office space.

One of the favored options, called "Scheme 3," includes 800 seats in the auditorium, 600 on the floor and 200 in a second-floor balcony. The two first-floor classrooms would be 1,000 and 850 square feet, respectively, and the two second-floor classrooms would be 1,000 and 800 square feet, according to preliminary plans from the project's architect, Calverton-based Grimm and Parker.

"It has more seating and does it in a flexible way," said Greg Lewis, executive director of the Silver Spring-based Washington Revels, a performance arts group.

The other favored option, called "Scheme 2B," includes 750 seats in the auditorium. The two first-floor classrooms in that design would be 950 and 1,150 square feet, and the two second-floor classrooms would be 1,400 and 1,300 square feet. The larger rooms would be more suited to the dance and music classes planners say are likely to be offered in the auditorium.

Silver Spring International Middle School uses its cafeteria for performances, as well as a space at Northwood High School, said Joe Mamana, assistant principal at Silver Spring International. Mamana said his school would get "first dibs" on using the renovated Old Blair.

"Since our school opened [in 1999], our performers have always found alternative areas," Mamana said. "Something like this would increase the appeal of our performers."

The renovation project is likely to cost several million dollars, said Steve Parker, president of Grimm and Parker.

More defined cost estimates will be determined by the fall, when County Executive Isiah Leggett (D), the County Council and the county school board review the proposed designs.

In 2005, Old Blair Auditorium Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the renovation project, received $600,000 in bond money from the Maryland General Assembly. County Council member Valerie Ervin (D-Silver Spring) said the bond was extended after the council approved the $25,000 feasibility study late last year.

The state bond funding is contingent on the county matching the $600,000 when it funds the design and construction of the project in its Capital Improvements Program for 2011-16, Ervin said.

"The most important thing we got done is to get the feasibility study done," Ervin said Friday. "Because without [the study], nothing could move."

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Storm Water Challenges in Silver Spring

This week, I explored the dramatic erosion to the hillsides bordering the Paint Branch stream valley caused by uncontrolled storm water. My guide was Diane Cameron, Conservation Program Director of Audubon Naturalist Society, who has been working on storm water and environmental protection issues in Montgomery County for many years.

The Grand Canyon of Paint Branch is the result of uncontrolled storm water running off the roofs and parking lots of a corporate office park, east of Route 29, in Silver spring, MD. The enormous volumes of water have eroded tons of soil and rock and have carved a "canyon" into the hillside.

The storm water runs into one of Montgomery County's most pristine streams, the Paint Branch, a tributary of the Anacostia River.

According to the Maryland Department of the Environment, “urban development has a profound influence on the quality of Maryland’s waters. To start, development dramatically alters the local hydrologic cycle. The hydrology of a site changes during the initial clearing and grading that occur during construction. Trees, meadow grasses, and agricultural crops that intercept and absorb rainfall are removed and natural depressions that temporarily pond water are graded to a uniform slope. Cleared and graded sites erode, are often severely compacted, and can no longer prevent rainfall from being rapidly converted into stormwater runoff.”

“The situation worsens after construction. Roof tops, roads, parking lots, driveways and other impervious surfaces no longer allow rainfall to soak into the ground. Consequently, most rainfall is converted directly to runoff. The increase in stormwater can be too much for the existing natural drainage system to handle. As a result, the natural drainage system is often altered to rapidly collect runoff and quickly convey it away (using curb and gutter, enclosed storm sewers, and lined channels). The stormwater runoff is subsequently discharged to downstream waters such as streams, reservoirs, lakes or estuaries.”

“Water Quality is affected by the accumulation of trash, oil and rubber from cars, fertilizers and pesticides applied to lawns, sediment from bare or poorly vegetated ground and other pollutants entering streams, rivers and the Chesapeake Bay. Inflow of sediment can cloud water, blocking sunlight from submerged plants. Sediment also settles to the bottom of streams, clogging the gravel beds used by fish for laying their eggs. Nutrients, such as phosphorus and nitrogen, from fertilizers enter the water and promote unusually rapid algae growth. As this algae dies, its decomposition reduces or eliminates oxygen needed by fish, shellfish, and other aquatic life for survival.“

As the following map from the County's Department of Environmental Protection shows, the water quality in the Silver Spring area is "poor."

For more information, visit

To learn what you can do about storm water and improving the quality of the water in the creeks and streams, check out these websites. There are several important organizations that are concerned with storm water and stream restoration: Friends of Sligo Creek, the Audubon Naturalist Society, and Stormwater Partners.

Officials, residents discuss safety at Silver Spring summit - Gazette

by Jason Tomassini | Staff Writer | Wednesday, May 20, 2009

County officials and Silver Spring residents gathered Saturday at Montgomery College for the first Safe Silver Spring Summit, providing a rare opportunity for officials, adults and youth to be in the same room and offer varied perspectives on their own safety.

After statements from county and law enforcement officials, five workshops were held with residents of all ages to discuss various safety issues, such as gangs, self-policing and truancy.

"We wanted this to be as broad-based a discussion as possible," said Tony Hausner of Prezco, an umbrella group of several civic associations in Silver Spring that planned the event. About 120 people participated in workshops and discussions throughout the day.

With participants split into five classrooms, here is an account of the various discussions held Saturday afternoon.

Workshop on gangs — 1 p.m.

Susan Cruz of the Crossroads Youth Opportunity Center in Takoma Park discussed the center's outreach coordinators, such as workshop participant Mario Martinez, who attempt to identify gang members in the community and bring them to the center.

"We're trying to find a counteroffer for youth instead of gangs," said Cruz, who spent time working in gang intervention is Los Angeles. "We need to be out there chasing kids around, just like the gangs do."

As alternatives to being in gangs, the group suggested using the current site of the Silver Spring Library on Colesville Road as a youth center when the new library opens. The group also discussed having teens work on the future renovations at the Old Blair Auditorium at 313 Wayne Ave. in Silver Spring.

Workshop on safety in Central Business District — 1:20 p.m.

Residents spoke with members of the youth group Mixed Unity, who disputed that many of the youth that frequent downtown Silver Spring are in gangs.

Most youth come downtown simply to hangout in an unstructured environment. Providing a similar environment for youth groups would better engage at-risk teens, said Mixed Unity member Douglas Ceron-Reyes.

That point resounded with Silver Spring resident Roni Falk, who said her 15-year-old daughter shies away from environments with obvious adult supervision and would prefer groups such as Mixed Unity or places such as the open artificial turf area at Fenton Street and Ellsworth Drive in downtown Silver Spring that was removed to make way for construction of the Silver Spring Civic Building and Veterans Plaza.

"It was interesting hearing their perspective and what they find threatening," Falk later said of speaking with the Mixed Unity students. "They have a much different environment than I do."

Much of the discussion centered on defining what is "civil behavior" downtown, so that visitors, security and police all expect the same environment.

The students acknowledged the increased concentration of teens downtown, due largely to the loss of the artificial turf.

"It's a big and free space and now we are crammed into that walking area," said Howa Toure, a Montgomery College sophomore in Mixed Unity. Youth now hang out in the shopping area on Ellsworth Drive, where "we're loitering if we aren't buying something," Toure said.

Truancy workshop — 2 p.m.

In another classroom, a group, including two members of the state's attorney's office, the director of safety for Downtown Silver Spring and teenagers, discussed truancy and how parents, teachers and law enforcement can make sure students stay in school.

The students said many truants hang out at businesses on Ellsworth Drive in Downtown Silver Spring. Michael Petty, director of public safety for Downtown Silver Spring, said that problem is difficult to address because it deals with private businesses on a public street.

Assistant State's Attorney George Simms said it doesn't help that businesses that "have an interest in seeing large chunks of children in their restaurant" might not be "interested in monitoring kids that shouldn't be there at a certain time."

Montgomery Blair High School sophomore Adam Ndiaye made a point that some county officials hadn't considered. He said parents are as much to blame for truancy as parents.

"Teachers are always complaining about calling parents and no one picks up and they don't call them back," Ndiaye said.

"Yeah because they don't know them," interjected 19-year-old Fatima Williams, a Montgomery College student.

Later, the state's attorney's office compiled the e-mail addresses of the participants to spark future discussion that will help the county combat truancy.

Discussion summary — 2:45

All the workshop participants then returned to an auditorium to summarize their discussions, sharing solutions. It was here that participants could see many of the issues they discussed – gangs, youth groups, public safety – were more connected than they had thought, said Silver Spring resident Emily Sudbrink.

"It's not one area's problems, it's not one neighborhood's problems, it's everyone's problems," Sudbrink said.

Transit Authority opposes Purple Line tunnel - Gazette

Study says the proposal would not be cost-effective

by Jason Tomassini | Staff Writer | Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A Maryland Transit Authority study recommended against building a tunnel beneath Wayne Avenue between the Silver Spring Transit Center and Mansfield Road in Silver Spring as part of the Purple Line, claiming the tunnel is not cost-effective.

The MTA and Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) are considering three options for a 16-mile mass transit route that would connect downtown Bethesda to New Carrollton via Silver Spring.

All three options would include a tunnel east of Manchester Road under Plymouth Street, emerging on Arliss Street. The high-investment option also would include a tunnel from the Silver Spring Transit Center that would emerge at Wayne Avenue east of Cedar Street.

The MTA studied a tunnel option that would extend the tunnel beneath Wayne and downtown Silver Spring to Mansfield Road. A short, street-level rail line on Wayne would then connect to the tunnel near Manchester.

Board split on plans for library pedestrian bridge - Gazette

Committee to discuss options again before County Council votes

by Jason Tomassini | Staff Writer Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Befitting of the divisive nature of the project, the Montgomery County Planning Board split its vote last week on an amendment to allow a pedestrian bridge over Wayne Avenue in Silver Spring that would link a parking garage with a proposed library.

The roughly $750,000 bridge is the last detail of the design for the library site at Wayne Avenue and Fenton Street. County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) and the County Council's Health and Human Services committee want a bridge, but county planners recommended against it. The HHS committee will again discuss the pedestrian bridge before consideration by the full County Council.

Residents weigh gentrification, affordable housing in Crossroads - Gazette

Redevelopment would maintain same level of low-income homes, planning officials say

by Jeremy Arias | Staff Writer | Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Residents advised planners last week to maintain current affordable housing levels in the redevelopment of the Takoma/Langley Crossroads during a presentation of the Montgomery County plan.

In the first presentation to the public following a favorable review from the Montgomery County Planning Board on April 9, residents May 13 seemed most concerned with what steps were being taken to assure that the area would neither be flooded with lower-income affordable housing applicants nor gentrified by unchecked increases in housing prices.

Planners hope to develop the five major shopping centers in the Crossroads into mixed-use retail and housing centers located around the sites of two planned transit centers for the proposed Purple Line, a 16-mile mass transit system that planners say is the key to sparking development.

Md. Road Projects Lose Out To Purple Line as Costs Rise

By Katherine Shaver
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Maryland transportation officials plan to build a Purple Line using money now envisioned for two major road projects in Montgomery and Prince George's counties, and the proposed rail line's estimated construction costs have climbed to $1.68 billion -- a $330 million increase from the most recently publicized projections.

One of the road projects would have widened 10 miles of Routes 28 and 198 between Georgia Avenue and Interstate 95 through northern Silver Spring and Burtonsville. The other would have widened about three miles of Robert Crain Highway (Route 3) between U.S. 50 and the Anne Arundel County line, according to state documents submitted to the region's Transportation Planning Board. Both projects were years away from construction.

Maryland officials laid out their Purple Line plans -- particularly how they intend to pay for the line -- as part of the pitch they will make before the regional planning board today requesting that the project be included in its 20-year funding plan. Such a step is required for any project that relies on federal money. Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) is expected to begin seeking federal construction money for a Purple Line this summer or fall.

Navarro Triumphs in Special Council Election - Washington Post

By Ann E. Marimow
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Board of Education member Nancy Navarro easily defeated low-tax advocate Robin Ficker yesterday to win an open seat on the Montgomery County Council, retaining an all-Democratic lineup on the nine-member panel.

With all precincts reporting, Navarro led Ficker, the Republican candidate, by 63 percent to 33 percent. Also on the ballot was Green Party candidate George Gluck, a software consultant.

Navarro pledged in a written statement to hold a series of town hall meetings to reach out to "all members of the community" and to provide "steady, responsive representation."

Voter turnout was light yesterday in District 4, in the eastern part of the county, with about 10,500 voters, or 9 percent of those registered, casting ballots. Election officials are scheduled to begin counting at least 1,380 absentee ballots this week, but spokeswoman Marjorie Roher said the review was unlikely to affect the outcome.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Silverdocs Announces Muhammad Ali in Attendance for "Facing Ali"

Silver Spring, Maryland, May 19, 2009. AFI–Discovery Channel SILVERDOCS Documentary Festival today announced one of this year’s special programs during the eight-day event held just outside Washington, DC.

Muhammad Ali, one of the most iconic figures of the 20th century will be making an exclusive appearance at SILVERDOCS to present Lionsgate/Spike TV' in association with Muhammad Ali Enterprises’ "Facing Ali" from director Pete McCormack and producer Derik Murray.

From the moment he captured the gold at the 1960 Summer Olympics, the fighter who first came to prominence as Cassius Clay electrified the world and transformed the art of boxing. Articulate, handsome, charismatic and outspoken, he became an icon of the burgeoning civil rights movement and a hero to millions around the globe. A master showman and a brilliant strategist, Ali won as much by getting inside his opponents’ heads as by his astounding physical talents. With exclusive interviews and vintage footage from the champ’s unmatched career, FACING ALI recreates his most unforgettable rivalries, and recounts his triumphs, tragedies and unstoppable spirit.

Through fascinating and deeply personal conversations with some of The Greatest’s most renowned opponents, including Ken Norton, Earnie Shavers, Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Leon Spinks and Larry Holmes, FACING ALI tells the story of modern prize fighting. As the boxers each recount their pivotal experiences in the ring with Ali, they also provide touching snapshots of their own remarkable careers, and unique insights into a man who remains one of the most prominent figures in American history.

"Muhammad Ali is a larger than life figure who has captured the hearts and minds of generations. We are honored to welcome him to the Festival and to present this important part of his legacy,” said Sky Sitney, SILVERDOCS Artistic Director.

SILVERDOCS will release its Competition films on May 20, 2009 and its full slate on May 21, 2009.


AFI–Discovery Channel SILVERDOCS Documentary Festival is an eight-day internationally recognized event that honors excellence in filmmaking, supports the diverse voices and free expression of independent storytellers and celebrates the power of documentary to improve our understanding of the world. Now in its seventh year, the Festival runs June 15-22 at the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center in the Washington, DC, area. The 2008 Festival featured 108 films from 63 countries presented to more than 25,000 attendees, including the influential audiences of the nation’s capital and media professionals from around the world. The concurrent five-day SILVERDOCS International Documentary Conference presents thought-provoking presentations and engages a diverse group of more than 1,000 filmmakers and media leaders concerned with the future of nonfiction storytelling, production and distribution. For more information, go to

About the American Film Institute

AFI is a national institute providing leadership in screen education and the recognition and celebration of excellence in the art of film, television and digital media. Additional information about AFI is available at

About Discovery Communications

Discovery Communications is the world’s number-one non-fiction media company reaching more than 1.5 billion cumulative subscribers in over 170 countries. Discovery empowers people to explore their world and satisfy their curiosity through 100-plus worldwide networks, led by Discovery Channel, TLC, Animal Planet, Science Channel, Planet Green, Investigation Discovery and HD Theater, as well as leading consumer and educational products and services, and a diversified portfolio of digital media services including Discovery Communications is owned by Discovery Holding Company (NASDAQ: DISCA, DISCB), Advance/Newhouse Communications and John S. Hendricks, Discovery's founder and chairman. For more information, please visit

Monday, May 18, 2009

Civic group honors Goldstein, Parent Coalition and others - Washington Post

Maryland Moment |Miranda Spivack

The Montgomery County Civic Federation honored several community activists at its annual dinner Friday in Gaitherburg.

The federation, which next year marks its 90th birthday, is made up of delegates from civic organizations across the county.

The group honored honor former president Wayne Goldstein, who died April 27 of a heart attack while on his way to a hearing on Suburban Hospital's proposed expansion of its Bethesda campus.

County council president Phil Andrews (D-Gaithersburg, Rockville) read a proclamation honoring Goldstein, and County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) said he planned to name the CountyStat office in Rockville for Goldstein. The Countystat program is an effort to use data to make government agencies more accountable and better able to measure their work.

Others organized by the federation were:

---The Parents' Coalition of Montgomery County, which received the Gazette Award for public service;

---Stormwater Partners Network of Montgomery County, which received the Sentinel Award for contributing to good government;

---Luella Mast, who received the Star Cup, given annually to a federation delegation for outstanding public service.

Meanwhile, the Planning Board is expected to recommend soon that a Kensington park be renamed in Goldstein's honor.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Safe Silver Spring Summit Convenes at Montgomery College

The first Safe Silver Spring Summit was convened on Saturday, May 16, 2009 at the Silver Spring Takoma Park campus of Montgomery College.

The Summit was sponsored by the Presidents’ Council of Silver Spring Civic Associations (Prezco), the Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Board, the Silver Spring Regional Center, and the Office of Councilmember Valerie Ervin.

Other sponsoring organizations included the Montgomery County Police Department (3rd District), Montgomery Count State Attorney’s Office, Northwest Park Oakview Weed and Seed Program, Montgomery County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, International Corridor C-Safe Program, MD Community Crime Prevention Institute, Downtown Silver Spring, Montgomery County Public Schools Safe and Drug Free Schools, Safe Takoma, Impact Silver Spring, CASA de Maryland, MD Office of Crime Control and Prevention, USDOJ/COPS, Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services, Youth Violence Prevention Coordinator and the Street Outreach Network.

Among the program’s speakers were Montgomery County Councilmember Valerie Ervin, Montgomery County Council President Phil Andrews, Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy and Montgomery County Executive Isiah “Ike” Leggett. Other speakers included Lt. Paul Liquorie, Montgomery County Police Department (Third District), and Montgomery College Provost Brad Stewart.

After welcoming remarks and a slide presentation of recent Silver Spring public safety statistics by MCPD’s Lt. Paul Liquorie, the program participants broke out into six working groups to discuss key issues and to propose solutions for public safety in Silver Spring.

The workshop topics were: 1. Making Safe and Civil Public Spaces/ Central Business District (CBD) of Silver Spring; 2. Gangs and Pack Robberies; 3. Youth: Schools, Truants, and Kids Hanging Out; 4. Policing, Security, Resources and Communication; 5. Por qué y cómo iniciar un programa de vigilancia comunitaria en el vecindario (Why and How to Start a Neighborhood Watch); and 6. Residential Neighborhoods.

The Prezco neighborhoods include: East Silver Spring, Indian Spring, Linden, North Hills of Sligo Creek, North Woodside/Montgomery Hills, Park Hills, Seven Oaks-Evanswood, Sligo Branview, South Silver Spring, Woodside, Woodside Forest, and Woodside Park.

See more pictures of the Safe Silver Spring Summit at

The Montgomery County Chess Movement!

One of the most memorable and inspirational events that I’ve seen in many years in Silver Spring took place on Friday, May 8, 2009 on Ellsworth Drive in Downtown Silver Spring.

It was the inaugural program of the new Montgomery County “chess movement,” organized by Maryland State Senator Jamie Raskin, and inspired by the life and death of Montgomery Blair High School student, Tai Lam, a chess enthusiast.

Girls and boys, men and women of all ages, races and national origins gathered to play chess near the Silver Fountain in Downtown Silver Spring. On a center stage, on a giant chess board, with giant pieces, passers-by could play chess with an authentic international chess master: Allan Savage, a FIDE Master, U.S. Chess Life Master, and International Master in Correspondence Chess, who is supporting the expansion of chess in Montgomery County. Also in attendance and taking on all challengers was Scott Lowe, a 16 year old Kennedy student and a US Chess Master!

It was really very inspiring to see so many Silver Spring residents so enthusiastically and intently engaged in this centuries’ old game of strategy, recreation and competition.

At the event, Senator Raskin announced that the First Annual Tai Lam Invitation Chess Tournament would be held at the end of May. Tai Lam was the popular Montgomery Blair High School student who was shot and killed on a Montgomery County Ride-On bus in November 2008. His murderer was subsequently arrested and has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder.

Said State Senator Jamie Raskin: "Chess brings people of all ages and places together. It's a universal language. It trains your mind to think ahead, to be confident, to be creative, to be strategic. We are very excited about the Tai Lam Chess Invitational Tournament for kids which will be right back here on Ellsworth in the heart of Silver Spring on Saturday, May 30 from 1:30 to 4:30. The death of Tai Lam was a trauma to our community. It could have been any of our kids lost to the random savagery of gang violence. Fernando Moreno was Tai's chess teacher and a leader for chess in our community and he is really working hard to get all our kids playing. Now we have a movement behind him. Chess should be as big and important to our community as soccer, that other universal game."

Check out the new website for "All the Right Moves" - Montgomery County , Maryland's exciting new chess movement, launched in May of 2009. Its objectives are to build thriving chess clubs in every elementary, middle and high school in the county and to create a vibrant chess culture for our young people. ATRM is convinced that learning to play and master chess will help our children to develop strategic thinking skills and crucial habits of non-violence, mental focus and creativity. is the website for “All the Right Moves”

For more about chess, check out

More pictures from the Downtown Silver Spring Chess event at

Wayne Goldstein, Civic Activist – A Tribute

by Alan Bowser

Wayne Goldstein, a widely respected leader of the Montgomery County civic, environmental and historic preservation communities, is being mourned by his family and many friends and professional colleagues through the Washington metropolitan area following his unexpected death on April 27, 2009.

Goldstein, a resident of Kensington, served as President of the Montgomery County Civic Federation from 2006 to 2008 and was awarded the organization’s Star Cup award for outstanding community service. He also served as President of the Kensington Heights Civic Association and was the President of Montgomery Preservation, Inc. at the time of his death.

Goldstein was a familiar figure in community meetings and public hearings throughout the County, providing hours of detailed testimony before the Montgomery County Council, the Planning Board, and Board of Special Appeals. Well known for wearing his distinctive hats, a pony tail and a kind smile, he regularly offered insightful and well-argued statements in support of individuals and communities who relied on his voluminous research on public policy issues.

Wayne Michael Goldstein was born in Montgomery County in 1952. He graduated from Bethesda Chevy Chase High School and Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts. An accomplished gardener and owner of a landscaping business, he had a passion for the environment and local history that became the foundation for a distinguished record of community service in the County.

As President of the Civic Federation, he worked hard to increase the participation of neighborhood and homeowner associations in the County’s public life, effectively weighing in on a broad range of contentious planning and development issues. Caren Madsen, who worked with Goldstein for the past five years in her role as the chair of the MCCF Environment Committee, met him originally over a controversial land use issue in her Silver Spring neighborhood. Over time, their relationship morphed into a partnership to encourage the County to revise its forest and tree laws.

"Wayne was so much more than an activist," said Madsen. "He was a prolific researcher who was meticulous and careful to stick to the facts of any issue. More than that, he was a true friend. Wayne did what he did for two reasons -- he enjoyed helping people and he was passionate about having good government that represented the best interests of citizens."

As President of Montgomery Preservation, Inc., Wayne was a key player in advocating for the preservation of historic structures and sites in the County, including the Silver Spring National Guard Armory, the Jessup Blair Park, the Silver Spring B&O Railway Station, the Watson House, Falkland Apartments, and the Comsat buildings, designed by internationally known architect, Cesar Pelli. Wayne’s energy, dedication and advocacy were clearly evident as he successfully brought Pelli to Montgomery County to participate in a Goldstein-led charette on the preservation of the Comsat buildings.

"Wayne Goldstein was quite a character," said Elizabeth Merritt, Deputy General Counsel for the National Trust for Historic Preservation. "People would see that hat of his across the room at a public meeting, and they would know that historic preservation interests would be eloquently represented. He was a relentless and passionate advocate for preservation, and there are many places in Montgomery County that would have been lost if it weren't for his tireless efforts."

As a member of the Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Board’s Neighborhoods Committee, Goldstein frequently offered his insightful analysis of housing, transportation, and planning issues in Silver Spring. During my tenure as Chair of the Neighborhoods Committee, Wayne was a very active participant in our discussions of urban development, environmental protection, and affordable housing. Aware of his busy County-wide schedule of meetings, we appreciated that he would join our committee meetings on a regular basis. With his support and guidance, we were able to significantly raise the level of our civic discussion of community issues to a very sophisticated and productive level.

Following his death, there has been a wonderful outpouring of community expressions of loss, remembrance and affection for an extraordinarily talented individual who labored tirelessly for the benefit of all Montgomery County. Wayne Goldstein was funny, he was smart, he was courageous, he was cool. His loss is immeasurable, his work irreplaceable, he was our friend, and we will miss him very much.

What Friends Are Saying…

"Wayne was someone who really lived out what it means to be fully dedicated to what we love most and his fierce love for the history of our neighborhoods was a gift to all of us." Kathy Staudt

"I’m new to the neighborhood but his passion and enthusiasm was allied to a different drum from all of us that he alone heard. Together it made quite a tenacious combination! His care and attention to the meaning and importance of history of the landscape, the beauty of built space, the way the past interacts with the future, and the living environment of plants and trees, will seriously be missed in our group" Mark Farr, Wilbur House

"Wayne's passing is a great loss to all of us. I came to know him a bit over the last several years as we struggled to save the memorable House and its setting. Wayne's passion and dedication to preservation were unique. He would show up at meeting after meeting in our neighborhood as our long and drawn-out efforts continued despite rejection. And Wayne always had another idea or plan or tactic to suggest. So it is this fierce love of what he did that I will always remember, and, of course, the Cheshire Cat smile. Sadly, Wayne still had so much more to give. But those who knew him and worked with him will treasure his legacy.” Jim Cassell

"Wayne was the model of a true and devoted activist. Our neighborhood and in fact the entire County is poorer as a result of his passing.” Ted Power

Fillmore could break ground within a year - Gazette

Information on Silver Spring music hall slow in coming

by Janel Davis | Staff Writer | Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Construction of a long-awaited Silver Spring music hall could begin within a year if county officials and the company donating land for the hall can agree on the final land use details of the music hall and a future development project.

"We're at the one-yard line," Bruce Lee said this week.

His company, Lee Development Group, donated the land for the Fillmore music hall as an amenity in exchange for land use allowances for a future mixed-use commercial project.

The Live Nation-owned Fillmore hall is slated for the site of the former J.C. Penney building on Colesville Road in downtown Silver Spring. That site is adjacent to the site of the Lee's future project, which the company has not determined.

Last year the council approved the land-use provisions that provide protections from changes in the county's land use laws for the Lee Group's future project.

County councils pass WSSC rate increase - Gazette

Lingering concerns remain up in the air

by Daniel Valentine | Staff Writer | Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Without acknowledging continuing tensions between the two governments, Montgomery and Prince George's county council members last week approved the largest water and sewer service rate hike in 16 years.

The 9 percent rate increase for the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission's 400,000 customers shakes out to about $4.47 more per month for the average user. The action was taken to balance the utility's $961.7 million budget for the next fiscal year, officials said.

Montgomery officials had supported the 9 percent increase from the start. Prince George's County initially had sought a 6.5 percent rate hike.

Suspensions drop after MCPS pushes alternatives - Gazette

But rates for black and Latino students remain the same

by Sebastian Montes | Staff Writer | Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Middle and high schools in Montgomery County are suspending less than half as many students as two years ago after a profound shift in philosophy toward early intervention, mediation and engaging problem behavior in the classroom, before the principal's office.

In fall 2006, 2,250 high school students were suspended for at least a half-day, according to Montgomery County Public Schools data; by fall 2008, the figure was cut in half, to 1,123. Middle schools saw an even sharper drop: suspensions fell from 1,684 to 622 over the same period.

The sharp decline has met a mixed reaction: parents and school leaders are encouraged to see that something is finally having an effect, but it raises questions of whether teachers are being burdened with too much.

Committees question proposed board mergers - Gazette

Bills call for cutting citizens advisory groups from 84 to 72 as cost saving measure

by Jason Tomassini | Staff Writer | Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Several members of citizens committees marked for elimination in a proposed bill spoke out against the measure Tuesday, questioning whether it could save the county any money as the bill's sponsor has claimed.

As part of two bills that would cut the number of county citizens groups from 84 to 72, Councilman George L. Leventhal has proposed the Silver Spring Urban District Advisory Committee and Transportation Management District Advisory Committee be merged with the Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Board.

Leventhal (D-At large) of Takoma Park said the bills could save the county at least four weeks and up to four months of staff time per year. Paid county employees are required to attend committee meetings and prepare agendas.

Teens call for more extracurricular activities at school - Gazette

Gangs, fights also discussed in forum at advisory board meeting

by Robert Dongu | Staff Writer | Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Teens told the East County Citizens Advisory Board their side of the story last week on academics, gangs and school violence.

James Hubert Blake High School seniors Alex Blockner and Ryan Arrendell and Springbrook High school senior Malcolm Clyburn fielded questions from the board at the first county-sponsored Youth Forum. The forum was held at the Eastern Montgomery Regional Services Center in Silver Spring, with board member Alfredda Payne serving as moderator. It was held by the board's outreach committee so the board could gain input from teenagers, a segment of the population from which the board doesn't often hear.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Bridge debate in Silver Spring carries on - Washington Business Journal

Friday, May 15, 2009, 11:13am EDT | Modified: Friday, May 15, 2009, 11:55am

Washington Business Journal - by Tierney Plumb Staff Reporter

The debate of whether or not to build a new pedestrian bridge in downtown Silver Spring is heating up, with the Montgomery County Planning Board now split on the decision.

County planners have recommended against a proposal for a pedestrian bridge connecting a new library with the third level of a parking garage in downtown Silver Spring.

While the staff recommended no bridge, the board was split in a two-two vote on Thursday, with one member absent.

With the tie vote, the motion to accept staff’s recommendation failed.

The board is, however, not the final decision-maker.

Comments reflecting the board’s split vote will be sent to the County Council, which has the final vote.

They will have the chance to approve or deny an amendment to a Silver Spring urban renewal plan that would allow for a bridge to link library goers to the Wayne Avenue parking garage. The urban renewal plan currently prohibits pedestrian bridges across several downtown streets, including Wayne Avenue.

The new library is slated for Wayne Avenue and Fenton Street and would replace an aging, overcrowded library on Colesville Road.

County Executive Isiah Leggett is for the bridge and his staff says the bridge would accommodate library users, especially those with disabilities.

The proposed library will include a special book collection for the disabled.

Planners suggest a library design with limited parking on the first level to serve people with disabilities.

Planners are against the bridge because it links to a parking garage and they say that encourages cars over more energy-efficient modes of transportation.

Planners also said a bridge would discourage foot traffic on the streets and could harm business. Other jurisdictions like Baltimore and Rosslyn, they said, have removed pedestrian bridges for those reasons.

County planners and the county executive’s office aren’t the only parties taking sides.

The county council’s Health and Human Services Committee, which reviewed the library proposal, supported the library with a bridge. The Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Committee does not.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

First Silver Spring Blues Festival: A Huge Success

The first Silver Spring Blues Festival at Downtown Silver Spring was a huge success. Held on Saturday, May 9th on Ellsworth Drive, the festival attracted hundreds of blues fans and casual spectators under sunny skies.

The festival featured international bluesman "Memphis Gold" and his band which included legendary harmonica player Charlie Sayles and popular vocalist Black Betty. Other featured acts were Three Chords and the Truth, Silver Spring guitarist Jonny Grave, the DC Blues Society Band and the Capital Blues Ensemble. WPFW radio personality Ida Campbell was the festival emcee.

Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett attended the Silver Spring Blues Festival as did Montgomery County Councilmembers Valerie Ervin, Marc Elrich, George Leventhal, and Maryland State Delegate Tom Hucker.

In addition to Stokey the Clown, facepainting, and crafts activities led by Pyramid Atlantic, the musical petting zoos organized by the DC Blues Society and Dale Music were extremely popular.

The Silver Spring Blues Festival was produced by the Silver Spring Town Center, Inc., in partnership with the DC Blues Society, Montgomery College, PFA Silver Spring LLC, Three Keys Music, the Silver Spring Regional Services Center, the Silver Spring Penguin and the Silver Spring Voice.

The festival was videotaped by Montgomery Community Television for broadcast later this year.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Silver Spring Ranks 20th in Forbes "Top 25 Towns to Live Well"

Forbes just released its list of "America's Top Towns to Live Well," and Montgomery County did very well!

Silver Spring itself is ranked 20th, with Columbia 7th, Rockville 8th, North Potomac 13th, Germantown 17th and Potomac 23rd. On the other side of the river, only Fairfax is represented, at 3rd.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

2 Students Charged With Explosion, Slaying Plot - Washington Post

Montgomery High School, Principal Were Allegedly Targeted

By Dan Morse and Aaron C. Davis
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, April 30, 2009

Two Montgomery County teenagers have been charged with arson and conspiracy to commit murder in an alleged plot to kill the principal at their White Oak high school with a nail-filled bomb and then trigger a major explosion inside the school, authorities said yesterday.

The Springbrook High School students -- juniors ages 18 and 17 -- are suspected of having set three fires at the school, including one Tuesday before the discovery of the plot that led to their arrests, police said.

According to police, the students planned "in the near future" to throw the bomb into the principal's office, and then puncture a gas pipe in the school's auditorium and use an incendiary device to set off an explosion.

Montgomery Police Chief J. Thomas Manger said investigators think the students "really had an intention of doing this."

Options Add Costs On Md. Purple Line - Washington Post

Studies Find Issues With Two Proposals

By Katherine Shaver
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 7, 2009

Trains slated to run on a proposed Purple Line between Montgomery and Prince George's counties would be too slow and unreliable if restricted to a single track along part of the Georgetown Branch trail and would disrupt residents east of downtown Silver Spring if sent through a tunnel there, updated studies of the project released yesterday show.

Maryland transit planners said they considered both options for the proposed 16-mile transit line, in response to requests from the Montgomery County Council and citizen groups. Some council members had hoped a single track would limit destruction of trees on the wooded trail between Bethesda and Silver Spring. Some Silver Spring residents say trains running along narrow downtown streets would add to traffic congestion in the revived entertainment district.

State planners said building a 1.5-mile tunnel between the Silver Spring Metro station and Mansfield Road, beneath homes on Wayne Avenue, would make trains more reliable and save riders enough time -- about four minutes in each direction -- to meet federal funding requirements.

But, they said, building the portal where trains would enter and leave the tunnel would require demolishing three houses on Wayne, limit access to three driveways and place a retaining wall just beyond front yards.

Running trains under downtown Silver Spring also would cut out two stations -- at Dale Drive and near a future library at Wayne and Fenton Street -- leaving people in those areas with longer walks to a train, the study found.

The tunnel would add $173 million to the estimated $1.3 billion cost of the plan endorsed by both counties' councils and executives. The larger price tag would hurt the project's chances of receiving scarce state money, planners said.

Jonathan Jay, vice president for one of the Silver Spring civic groups that requested the tunnel study, questioned why it didn't mention the amount of land that would be taken from homes and schools to widen Wayne for above-ground trains.

"This looks not so much like a study but a polishing of questionable arguments which [the Maryland Transit Administration] has previously made for not wanting to build a tunnel," Jay said.

Michael D. Madden, the state's manager on the study, defended the analysis, saying, "We want to make it clear to the community so they understand all the impacts and advantages of the tunnel."

The Montgomery council had asked the state to examine the possibility of running a single track along 3,500 feet of the trail between Pearl Street near downtown Bethesda and an area just west of Columbia Country Club's golf course. Because the publicly owned right of way narrows there, almost every tree along the wooded trail would have to be cut down to accommodate two tracks, state planners have said.

A single track would require 10 to 12 fewer feet of land along that portion of the hiking and biking path, planners wrote, but it still would require clearing most of the trees in that area.

A single track also would make a Purple Line less attractive because trains would be slower, run less frequently and encounter a choke point if delayed in either direction, planners wrote.

Four cities that have used single tracks, including Baltimore, eventually added second tracks because of those problems, the report found.

Montgomery County Council member Roger Berliner (D-Potomac-Bethesda), who had asked for the single-track study, said he hadn't seen the conclusions but was surprised construction of one track would require cutting down nearly as many trees as building two.

"I thought anything that we could do to mitigate the impacts on the environment should be explored fully," said Berliner, who supports the route along the trail, which is in his district. "While I'm disappointed in the conclusions, I'm sure they did their work in good faith."

Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) is expected to decide by early summer on a Purple Line plan to submit for federal funding, which is essential to building it.

The Maryland Transit Administration's study analyzed the Purple Line as both a light rail and a rapid bus system, but O'Malley is widely expected to endorse a light rail plan favored by both counties' councils and executives.

Light rail cars, which are akin to long trolleys, would run primarily in their own lanes along streets and use overhead electrical lines.

A Purple Line would be the first east-west transit line built in the Washington area to provide suburb-to-suburb travel.

The latest studies are available at under "Additional Studies."

Many County Latino Teens In Crisis, Say Leaders, Survey - Washington Post

Graduation Rates Lower Than in Other Groups

By Donna St. George
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 7, 2009

When Adolfo Avalos looks back at his teen years in Gaithersburg, he can see how much went wrong. There were physical fights, school problems, gang involvement, anger at himself and the world: so much trouble that he finally dropped out.

"I got kind of like in a box, and I didn't know how to get out of it," said Avalos, 21.

His experiences reflect what community leaders describe as a crisis for many Latino teenagers in Montgomery County.

High school graduation rates for Latino youths in Montgomery are lower than for any other racial or ethnic group in the county. Last year, 78.13 percent of Latinos in Montgomery received diplomas, compared with 94.5 percent for non-Hispanic whites, 83.94 percent for African Americans and 95.45 percent of Asians and Pacific Islanders. At the same time, the birth rate for Latinas 15 to 17 was nearly three times higher than for African Americans and nearly four times higher than for non-Hispanic whites, according to state health statistics.

Community leaders say such numbers go hand in hand with the results of a 2006 survey of more than 1,000 Latino teens that the leaders have brought to the attention of school and county officials in recent weeks.

The survey reports that 94 percent of Latino teens like Avalos spend no time with an adult mentor, and 50 percent have friends who were or are involved in a gang. More than 40 percent reported being involved in physical fights the previous year, and 30 percent said they did not feel confident that they would graduate from high school.

Suburban Md. Lawmakers Approve 9% Water Rate Hike - Washington Post

By Katherine Shaver
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 7, 2009; 5:36 PM

Residents in Prince George's and Montgomery counties will pay an additional 9 percent for water and sewer services beginning July 1, and more of the utility's decaying underground pipes will be repaired under a new budget approved today by local lawmakers.

Under the plan, Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission customers will pay $13.50 more on their quarterly bills, which now average about $155 for residential customers.

Montgomery and Prince George's council members approved the $961.7 million total budget for fiscal 2010. They added $1 million to the utility's initial request for repairs to its largest, high-pressure water mains, which officials say pose the greatest risk to the public because they can break catastrophically and without warning.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Hometown guitar slinger to play at Silver Spring Blues Festival - Gazette

by Jason Tomassini | Staff Writer | Wednesday, May 6, 2009

On the surface, Jon Musgrave was never supposed to be a blues musician.

Despite the ever-present cowboy hat, guitar strapped to his back and his stage name "Jonny Grave," the 21-year-old lifelong Silver Spring resident's day job as a guitar repairman at Dale Music store on Georgia Avenue and anthropology studies at Montgomery College don't exactly conjure up images of legends like B.B. King and Buddy Guy. Neither does fighting for the attention of beer-drinkers and diners during his regular sets at Quarry House Tavern and McGinty's Pub in downtown Silver Spring.
Naomi Brookner/The Gazette
Blues musician and lifelong Silver Spring resident Jon Musgrave, 21, who works at Dale Music in Silver Spring, will perform Saturday in the first Silver Spring Blues Festival under the name Jonny Grave.

But Musgrave, a slender guy with a neat beard, says a deeper look will prove he has every right to play music steeped in African-American tradition that originated hundreds of miles away from Silver Spring.

"There's a lot folks that will say, ‘Wow, you're good … for a white kid from the suburbs,'" Musgrave said Thursday night at the Quarry House, where two nights later he would play a set for his 21st birthday.

"… It's kind of awkward being white and from the suburbs, it's just weird, but I think if people give me a chance and let me play and let the music speak for itself, it doesn't matter."

That music will be on display 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday at the first Silver Spring Blues Festival on Ellsworth Drive in Silver Spring. Musgrave will take the stage at 2:25 p.m. and play a set of acoustic blues for his hometown audience.

Most of the songs Musgrave performs are covers of traditional blues songs. Even at age 21, Musgrave is an encyclopedia of blues history, rattling off classic songs and anecdotes about his idols such as R.L. Burnside, Robert Johnson and Howlin' Wolf.

He had a childhood spent mostly in the company of musicians and artists: His mother, Julie, is a painter and photographer and his father, Reuben, is a longtime folk musician. Both would hold parties with their artist friends. With his father's extensive record collection, a wealth of global music knowledge was available at Grave's Silver Spring home.

"He was around a lot of adult friends of the family and a lot them were musicians," said Reuben Musgrave, who for years has performed with his son at the annual Washington Folk Festival to be held this year May 30 and 31 in Glen Echo. "A normal activity was to sit around and play music."

While Musgrave's childhood was full of musical enlightenment, an education, a supportive family and a budding music career, he described himself as a "bad kid" who was affected by various school changes and alcohol abuse within his family.

Much of Musgrave's love for blues comes from relating to the musicians from the traditional blues era, not because of the severe racism or poverty they went through, but simply because they used blues as he does: as a diversion.

"Music was a lifesaver, it was an escape, a drug, a hallucinogen," Musgrave said. "You become a rock star for a half hour or more and you go back to normal life."

It was music and a Gateway to College program at Montgomery College that "saved his life" from poor grades and problems he would only describe as "not drugs or anything." He eventually enrolled at the University of Maryland for a year but struggled before returning to Montgomery College.

Now earning money as a musician – he only plays on the weekends so gigs won't interfere with his job or studies – Musgrave has found a way to support himself and stay grounded. He hopes to re-enroll at the University of Maryland and become a teacher.

He stays practical but dedicated to his passion, aided by the acceptance he received at recent gigs in Alabama, which he said helped break down the perceived outsider status. He opened for and played with Kenny Brown, a longtime blues musician who played with R.L. Burnside, one of Musgrave's idols.

"That was the real thing," he said, noting that being flown to Alabama by the concert promoter added to the trip's authenticity.

The headliner of the Silver Spring Blues Festival, Tennessee-born Chester Chandler, aka Memphis Gold, even touted Musgrave as a throwback to past eras.

"[Musgrave] does a lot of old traditional stuff. … He is keeping some of the old blues alive," said Chandler, 54, who lived in Silver Spring from 1995 to 2000 and is known for saving a group of kids in a train derailment off Lyttonsville Road in 1996.

But some aren't ready to hand over traditional blues music to a new wave of performers.

"Everybody wants to be B.B. King and Buddy Guy, real blues artists, the originators," said Barbara Chandler, Memphis Gold's wife and a longtime blues and soul music industry veteran raised in Silver Spring. "There will never be any more of them."

Regardless of how he's viewed by those within blues, Musgrave expects Saturday's festival to be another high. After all, he'll be on stage again in Silver Spring, the place that unexpectedly inspired an unlikely blues talent.

"Look around, isn't this a great atmosphere for writing a song?" said Musgrave, referring to the diversity of Silver Spring and the many quirks of Bonifant Street and Fenton Village. "This place shaped a lot of how I grew up."

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Octogenarian Charlie Koiner Leads the Way in City Farming - Real People Eat Local

By Kristi Bahrenburg Janzen, Real People Eat Local

Only one block from a typical urban strip in downtown Silver Spring, MD, that includes an old parking garage, a beauty parlor and an Ethiopian restaurant, Charlie Koiner, who’ll be 88 in November, still has a farm. It’s hard to believe, but turning east onto Easley Street off Fenton, in the course of one block, you shift from urban grime to fertile rural splendor, from the cramped seat of your hot car to a comfy lawn chair under a mature shade tree, from the usual “rodent issue” to a farm cat named Hank.

Like the proverbial turtle, slow and steady, Charlie Koiner seems to have won the race, as his lifetime of farming and gardening has propelled him from “regular guy” to local pace-setter, an icon of the “new” urban agriculture. You first realize you’re at his place when, right there on the corner, you get a glimpse of his current offerings on a handmade sign – for example, “figs,” “raspberries” and “tomatoes” right now in September. Then you see the whole thing: his acre -- which appears much larger amid the neighborhood of modest World War II era homes with neat little yards – is brimming with a stunning variety of vegetables, berry bushes and fruit trees. Multicolored zinnias and gladioli, and magenta cockscomb celosia in the central plot give the whole place a festive atmosphere.

“It’s great!,” says Koiner’s neighbor Karla Saunders. “No one believes me when I tell them I have a farm in my block,” she says. “There’s something quite comforting about the sign that tells you what’s available. It just feels out of place and out of time.”

Experienced, talented and friendly, Koiner inspires a loyal following. If he doesn’t have what you want on his display table, Koiner is well-known to wander back into his yard and pick it for you. Steve Simko, a patron who biked by recently to pick up some produce, explains, “This is the best stuff. It’s fresh stuff. It’s close by. And Charlie is the best farmer in the state of Maryland.”

Perhaps Simko is not exaggerating. The lines of vegetables and seedlings are beautifully straight; the leafy greens are lush; there’s nary a weed in sight; the produce is unblemished. If anyone needs official confirmation of Koiner’s aptitude, here it is: This year, Koiner and his daughter Lynn -- who helps him out at the farmers market, manages his email traffic, and tends her own plots of culinary herbs – brought home a jaw-dropping 130 ribbons from the Montgomery County Fair, as well as four Grand Champion awards. Lynn also received the coveted “Best of Show” for her market basket.

More from this article at