Saturday, November 26, 2016

Fire reported at South Lake Elementary School playground in Montgomery Village

Montgomery County firefighters responded to a report of a fire at a playground in the Montgomery Village area of Gaithersburg this morning around 8:05 AM. The blaze was reported at the South Lake Elementary School playground, at 18201 Contour Road. No further information is available at the moment.

Friday, November 18, 2016

MoCo holds naming contest for BRT system...and the names are as lame as BRT

The latest gaffe in the unending quest of the Montgomery County political cartel to build a $5 billion bus rapid transit boondoggle is a naming contest for the system. But it turns out your creativity is not needed - they've already chosen three potential names: "Flash," "Rapid" or "Swift."


Flash could help us generate some genuine laughs, as we know the BRT will take 48 minutes to travel only 15 miles. Can you imagine telling someone, "I'm waiting for the Rapid?"

Neither can I.

After the County admitted they were getting consulting advice from the Communist Chinese government on BRT, the implosion of the Independent Transit Authority scam, the realization that BRT will result in the condemnation of thousands of residential and commercial properties countywide, and the revelation that the "futuristic, sleek, train-like vehicles" are actually just going to be old-fashioned diesel buses, these ongoing pratfalls are par for the course for a boondoggle the public opposes - and which could cost taxpayers $500-1000+ a year in additional taxes.

"I am ready to support the infrastructure upgrades [a.k.a. tax increases] that may be necessary in order to provide a higher level of service," County Councilmember and tax-hike specialist Hans Riemer said yesterday.

With Ike Leggett already promising a major tax increase in 2017, which will follow the historic tax hike of 2016 that resulted in the passage of term limits by voters, taxpayers are most definitely not ready to support these"infrastructure upgrades."

Hosting a naming contest in which the public can't even suggest a name? Just more evidence that the cartel swears by Steven Lukes' Power: A Radical View as much as Robert's Rules of Order. Lukes' book fuels most of the ham-fisted government corruption that produces things like the Westbard sector plan and BRT.

In Lukes' concept, when I negotiate with you, the only options on the table for discussion are all acceptable to me. The options that are unacceptable to me are not even up for discussion. Sound familiar?

Taxpayers' goal now should be to continue stalling the creation of BRT until 2018, when we can finally clean house of the remaining stragglers who weren't covered under the 3-term limit this time. Then we can vote in new leaders who will support transportation projects that will actually reduce congestion, and move the largest number of commuters for the lowest cost. These include a new Potomac River crossing, the M-83 Highway upcounty, extension of the Montrose Parkway to the ICC, the Damascus Bypass, widening East-West Highway, upgrading Beach Drive, and building the Northern Parkway.

Naming contest?

The name most high-information voters would give BRT can't be printed in a family newspaper.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

MoCo snow fiasco (Photos)

A minimal snowstorm downplayed by forecasters turned into a major traffic disaster last night, as Montgomery County and the state of Maryland failed to pretreat roadways. The result? A six-car pileup in front of Pyle Middle School in Bethesda, dozens of fender benders, stuck and abandoned cars, drivers running out of gas on the Capital Beltway, and more than a few pedestrian wipeouts.
Traffic on the Beltway
after midnight
"I'm sleeping on the couch at work," tweeted
Fresh 94.7 FM DJ Dana McKay

"Good lord what a cluster,"
@jose3030 tweeted
By early this morning, the Beltway was in catastrophic shape, entirely shut down near the I-270 Spur in Bethesda. Drivers were pulling over to sleep in their cars, and Montgomery County Fire and Rescue spokesperson Pete Piringer reported that even fire vehicles were stuck in places for hours.
Six-car Pyle-up by
Pyle Middle School
Twitter user Justin Fidler reported from the scene that there were no injuries in the 6-car "Pyle-up" in front of the school, but that Wilson Lane was closed in both directions as firefighters awaited the arrival of a salt truck.

Montgomery County's storm operations center announced it was activated - two hours after the storm hit and the chaos began. The County Department of Highway Services attempted to awaken members of the Montgomery County Council, who were asleep at the switch during the entire storm. Only Councilmembers Roger Berliner, Sid Katz and Nancy Navarro responded by retweeting the DHS message regarding current operations late Wednesday evening.
MoCo Highway Services tries
to awaken Montgomery County
...who were largely asleep
at the switch during the storm

African-American mayors of
Washington take a lot of heat
for snow disasters; why don't white
leaders in MoCo get bad local press?
Many drivers were asking what had gone wrong, and took to social media to rip local authorities for their negligence. The Montgomery County Civic Federation asked MoCo transportation officials why the County and State continue to be unable to coordinate snow operations within the County.
"Pitiful job!" in Bethesda
Rockville to Silver Spring in
3.5 hours
Aspen Hill was "bad"
"Not one plow" in Wheaton
Failure to pretreat all state and most County roads not only created terrible driving conditions, but also made it difficult for snowplows and salt trucks to clear the hard sheet on roads by this morning's rush hour. In the worst-case scenario, remnants of this small storm could remain in many spots as a hard ice foundation, soon to be piled high with snow on top when Winter Storm Jonas arrives tomorrow.

Will anyone among Montgomery County's "leadership" be held accountable for the disastrous storm response, property damage and injuries? Not by the Washington Post. The newspaper's initial story on storm response is critical of D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, but mysteriously passes on assigning similar blame to elected officials here in Montgomery County. Here we go again. The disasters will continue until there are consequences at the ballot box.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Damascus KFC evacuated due to natural gas leak

The KFC on Ridge Road in Damascus has been evacuated at this hour due to a natural gas leak, according to Montgomery County Fire and Rescue spokesperson Pete Piringer. There is a possiblity of a carbon monoxide leak, as well, Piringer says. A hazmat team is investigating.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Driver attempts to hit officer as police chase covers MD 355/270 corridor from Germantown to Bethesda

Montgomery County Police pursued a stolen vehicle Wednesday night throughout large portions of the jurisdiction. Around 11:45 PM, police spotted a stolen, white Mercedes Benz with Virginia tags, and began a chase around Gunners Branch Road in Germantown.

Multiple units, including at least one K-9, pursued the Mercedes through the Watkins Mill area off of MD 355, with the suspects reportedly weaving all over the road. The chase continued through Old Town Gaithersburg and the heart of Montgomery Village, before turning north on Brink Road to MD 27, and back to 355 again.

While racing through Montgomery Village, one officer called for a helicopter. As the County Council foolishly declined to fund a County Police helicopter a number of years back, that means waiting for a Maryland State Police chopper to come from outside the County. A while later, an officer pleaded with the dispatcher, "Can you get the helicopter started?"

Returning to Germantown, stop sticks were deployed at Observation Drive to no avail. Based on scanner reports, it appears the driver of the Mercedes aimed the vehicle at one of the officers attempting to deploy stop sticks. "Be careful with the sticks - he went right at that officer," a colleague warned via radio.

A second attempt with stop sticks failed in Germantown. "We set 'em up, and they were missed," an officer radioed.

The suspects then returned to southbound 355, turning onto Montgomery Village Avenue and then onto southbound I-270. "Let DC and Virginia know we might be coming their way. P.G., too," an officer told the dispatcher.

Sure enough, the suspects passed River Road and Clara Barton Parkway, and crossed the American Legion Bridge into Virginia.

"Cut off all the lights and let him go!" an officer shouted into the radio.

A Virginia State Police cruiser passed him, and was attempting to continue the pursuit on the Beltway as Montgomery officers withdrew from the chase.

Alas, the radio channel for the Virginia State Police Division 7 is currently offline, so the outcome of the pursuit is not known at this time. There was no report on the pursuit on the Fairfax County Police channel.

Once again, this is a reminder of the dangers County officers face on a daily basis in protecting our community.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

MoCo threatens residents: Keep government liquor monopoly...or else! (Photos)

Signs tweeted by
Justin Fidler
Montgomery County's political machine is in full panic mode as public opposition to the County government's monopoly control of liquor increases in volume. Punches are being thrown, and landing. But new government signs print at taxpayer expense are threatening those very taxpayers with "sky is falling" outcomes and punishments should the unwashed masses dare to boot Big County Government out of the liquor business at the ballot box this November. This follows another taxpayer-funded propaganda campaign to maintain the monopoly that I reported on just yesterday.

The County is even using schoolchildren as human shields, threatening to derail construction projects at Walt Whitman, Pyle, Ashburton, East Silver Spring, Greencastle, Montgomery Knolls, Pinecrest, Piney Branch, Woodlin, Christa McAuliffe and Col. E. Brooke Lee if voters reject the government liquor monopoly. This even as many of the same elected officials are clamoring to approve classroom-busting, high-density development in those same school clusters in the coming months. Oops.

What else will happen if you pursue your quest for better beer and wine lists, and the right to purchase Bud Light at CVS?

"Liquor stores on every corner," thunders the sign. 

Here's a good one - the monopoly actually touts its authority to keep certain liquor products it arbitrarily decides are a little too wild for you, the heavy-tax-paying adult, out of your hands. Boasting of its "power to exclude" certain products - now there's a heckuva way to convince residents that this is a good system. Just what we want: less choice, right?

They also made another gaffe in the process - they state that Montgomery County is only the second-best jurisdiction in Maryland when it comes to alcohol abuse and drunk-driving accidents. So we're not the healthiest in America, as our elected officials boasted? No, not even in the state, according to the County's own propaganda.

Councilmember George Leventhal tussled on Facebook with restaurateur Roberto Pietrobono (Gringos & Mariachis, Olazzo), who asked, "At what point in time would you be fed up if you were in our position as restaurant owners? For me it's been 15 years." Leventhal replied that he hoped the proposed "special orders" change would solve Pietrobono's woes.

Alas, as regular readers here already know, the "special orders" plan won't do that. It will allow the Department of Liquor Control to retain the power to declare which products are special order. It will allow the DLC to levy a tax on those new private liquor transactions, which as anyone who knows about business realizes, will raise the cost of product for consumers and hospitality businesses (of course, the County Council is not known for its vast knowledge of operating businesses). How does that make Montgomery County competitive with the District again?

Are you smart enough to decide the fate of liquor control in Montgomery County?

According to the Sentinel newspaper, Councilmember Leventhal says you aren't. Of Leventhal's opposition to a ballot referendum on the issue, the Sentinel reported "he did not think voters should decide whether to privatize alcohol because they would not understand how it would affect the county.

Leventhal posted that he thought only restaurant industry insiders were concerned about the County having monopoly control of liquor. But his colleague, Councilmember Hans Riemer, who also favors government retaining monopoly control, recently acknowledged the biggest complaint heard is the inability to buy beer and wine at grocery stores.

It's clear that the people have spoken. Now, will the politicians listen?

As a resident, is your current inability to buy Bud Light or a bottle of chardonnay at Giant, and your being forced to pay more for alcohol than those in the District, really "of little interest" to you?

Monday, January 4, 2016

MoCo Liquor stores hand out flyers to preserve monopoly, days after DLC delivery disaster (Photo)

Flyer being handed out, as
tweeted by Justin Fidler
Montgomery County-operated liquor stores are handing out literature to customers that threatens to raise their property taxes by "$100" if the County's Department of Liquor Control loses monopoly control over booze. The flyers state they have been printed by the County Office of Public Information, which is obviously funded by taxpayer money. What they don't state, is that just days ago, the DLC failed to make scheduled deliveries to restaurants, bars and beer-and-wine retailers at the height of the critical holiday season. More on that in a moment.

Of course, County Executive Ike Leggett has already stated his intention to raise taxes in the next budget, as the County Council's fiscal mismanagement over the last 14 years has created a structural deficit with no end in sight. And, no, raising taxes every year to cover ever-increasing spending is not a responsible record for a public official.

Councilmember Hans Riemer, who has posed as a critic of the liquor monopoly to promote himself through the local media, has ironically ended up defending the current regime along with seven of his colleagues. Roger Berliner, who represents District 1 on the Council, has declined to oppose new attempts to end the monopoly. Delegate Bill Frick - who like Berliner represents Bethesda, where bars and restaurants have been hurt by the current monopoly - has joined Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot in efforts in Annapolis to allow private competition within the county.

The flyer states that the current monopoly "doesn't cost taxpayers a single dime." Well, not only did these flyers cost the taxpayers, but the current County-controlled system requires both consumers and private businesses to pay more for liquor than they would in the District. So that statement is false.

Riemer's compromise, to allow competition for "special order" products, not only conveniently allows the DLC to define which products are "special orders," but would also allow the DLC to levy an arbitrary fee the consumer would end up paying - a tax, in other words. Tax? No wonder Riemer and the Council are for it!

But the flyers are essentially a gaffe for the County liquor regime, as they are being handed out mere days after yet another DLC holiday delivery disaster. As the Seventh State blog reported December 31, a DLC blunder resulted in missed deliveries to restaurants and bars between December 23-29. Don't worry, DLC Director George Griffin assured them, orders would be back on schedule by New Year's Eve. Oh, and there was a little matter of an order backlog... No big deal if you own a restaurant, bar or beer-and-wine store, right? - it's only one of your biggest times of the year during the holidays, after all.

This comes after the DLC was criticized last year for being unable to fill orders for items as basic as Maker's Mark during previous holiday seasons. You can't make this stuff up, folks.

The bottom line is that the vast majority of County residents want government out of the liquor business, the benefits of high-quality retailers in competition with each other, and the simple ability to pick up Bud Light or a $9 wine bottle at the grocery store. Despite odd claims that the state is responsible for the current inability to do the latter, the reality is that requires the same sort of state-level law change in Annapolis that Riemer is seeking for his current plan. The only difference is that our elected officials aren't asking for it. Hmm...why is that?

This is not the first time we as taxpayers have been forced to pay for PR materials promoting a position the majority of residents oppose (Ambulance Fee, Bus Rapid Transit, anybody?). It should be the last.