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MoCo Council Member Comes Out Against Employee Raise Deal

by BethesdaNow.com | February 15, 2013 at 2:40 pm | No Comments

Montgomery County Councilman Phil Andrews (D-Gaithersburg) today came out strongly against a County Executive Isiah Leggett-brokered deal that would give most of the 5,000 members of the county’s employee union a pay raise of 13.5 percent over the next two years.

Members of the county’s general employee union (MCGEO) haven’t seen a pay raise in four years.

Andrews, who has announced he will run for county executive in 2014, said those employees “deserve a pay raise after several difficult years, but one that is sustainable for taxpayers, that does not create unrealistic expectations and that does not encourage other public employee unions, whose agreements also are funded by County taxpayers, to ask for as much.”

“At a time when the County Executive has asked agency and department heads to prepare for another austere year, his lack of any explanation of how he would pay for these sizeable pay increases is striking,” Andrews said in a prepared statement. “If his earlier indications about the budget are true, the money to pay for these pay increases will directly compete with funding for important services.”

The county faces a roughly $135 million budget shortfall for fiscal year 2014. Some, including Andrews, have criticized Montgomery County Public Schools for proposing a budget that is $10 million more than what the state’s recently strengthened maintenance of effort laws require.

Budget analysts have said funding the schools at the maintenance of effort level could already mean a five percent cut in other county services.

The agreement between Leggett and MCGEO includes 3.5 percent increment increases and 3.25 percent cost of living increases for county employees in fiscal years 2014 and 2015. Andrews said the cost of the contract could exceed $40 million over three years.

Andrews said he will vote against the contract and lobby his Council colleagues to vote against it unless the Council reduces the pay increases.

Flickr photo via mdfriendofhillary

WWBG: South African Wines

by BethesdaNow.com | February 15, 2013 at 1:30 pm | No Comments

Editor’s Note: This weekly column is sponsored by Georgetown Square Wine and Beer (10400 Old Georgetown Road). This week’s post was written by store employee Michael Grabowski. 

There’s something to be said about a coastline and a warm breeze in creating good wine. But California isn’t the only coast with vineyards worth a sip of your time. Although South Africa has been a major player in the global wine market for only the past 20 years, the region has been producing wines for over three centuries. South African wine regions are able to cultivate a wonderful variety of grapes in a climate similar to Napa Valley and Burgundy, France.

The focus of this week’s article is wine from the town of Stellenbosch, South Africa. Situated along the coast and in proximity of the South African capital of Cape Town, the town has a rich winemaking tradition that is supported by mountainous terrain, deep, rich soils, and consistent rainfall. The wineries in Stellenbosch — and across the wine regions of South Africa — also provide visitors breathtaking views that can enhance the taste of any wine sipped on a beautiful day.

De Morgenzon DMZ Chardonnay 2012

When I first tasted this wine, I literally said “goodness me” out loud. You’ll be able to taste a perfect blend of pear and apple, followed by a vanilla and honeysuckle finish. This is an excellent wine to enjoy on a warm spring day or on a cold winter night paired with a nice smooth cheese and fruit chutney. You will always want to keep a bottle of this wine nearby.

 

Thelma Mountain Red 2009

42% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Shiraz, 14% Grenache and 14% Petit Verdot – talk about a smooth red wine. Aged in oak barrels (I’ll take two barrels please), this wine has hints of cherry and plum flavors. A kick of spice hits about a second after the first sip. Open it about two hours before drinking and your taste buds will be thanking you, glass by glass.

 

Kanonkop Kadette 2009

44% Pinotage, 41% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Merlot and 6% Cabernet Franc – This is another wine to let breathe for about two hours before drinking. Its aroma is hard to resist, but patience is rewarded. This wine does not disappoint. Once the wine opens, you’ll taste a flavor burst of cherry, banana, and berries, with a spicy finish. Delicious.

All three wines tasted for this article should be on any wine lovers “must try” list. Enjoy!

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of BethesdaNow.com.

Community discussion guidelines: Our sponsored columns are written by members of the local business community. While we encourage a robust and open discussion, we ask that all reviews of the businesses — good or bad — be directed to another venue, like Yelp. The comments section is intended for a conversation about the topic of the article.

Dog Training Center Getting Positive Reception In North Bethesda

by BethesdaNow.com | February 15, 2013 at 12:50 pm | No Comments

The response to Steve Mulder and partner Jean-Louis Marechal’s Zoom Room dog training facility on Rockville Pike has been among the best the company has ever seen, Mulder said today.

Dog agility classes are filling up and the two have received more RSVPs for the grand opening (set for Saturday at 3 p.m.) than any other Zoom Room location in the country. Based on the crowd at today’s ribbon cutting ceremony, it’s easy to see why.

A number of attendees at today’s ribbon cutting, including County Councilman Roger Berliner (D-Bethesda-Potomac) and Greater Bethesda Chevy Chase Chamber of Commerce members, brought their furry, four-legged friends to the new business at 11771 Rockville Pike, near the White Flint Metro station.

The floor on the 1,700-square-foot main gym space isn’t finished, but after about six weeks of construction and preparation, the facility that will offer obedience training, dog parties and a place for dog owners to socialize is almost ready to debut.

The grand opening on Saturday will serve as a fundraiser for Lucky Dog Animal Rescue and Zoom Room will donate $10 for every advance RSVP received, plus 10 percent of the day’s retail and class sign-up sales.

Strathmore Hosts Free Open House On Presidents’ Day

by BethesdaNow.com | February 15, 2013 at 11:45 am | No Comments

On Monday, the Strathmore Mansion and Music Center will be open to all.

Discover Strathmore, a free open house and family festival will feature workshops, classes, fine art and roving entertainment from a variety of genres and children’s entertainers.

The event runs from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the campus (5301 Tuckerman Lane) which is directly across from the Grosvenor-Strathmore Metro station and garage.

Participants will also be able to take a bow on the Music Center’s main stage and take part in hands-on art activities.

The full list and schedule of events can be found here. For more information, visit the Strathmore website.

Flickr photo by Bill in DC

Local Officials Warn Of Sequestration Damage As Deadline Looms

by BethesdaNow.com | February 15, 2013 at 10:45 am | No Comments

Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett will gather with his counterparts from Prince George’s and Howard Counties on Tuesday to urge Congress to find a way to avoid the sequester, which they worry will have a damaging effect on a local economy dependent on federal funds, employees and contractors.

This, as Maryland Democrats on Capitol Hill make a push for some action on avoiding the across-the-board federal cuts that would kick in on March 1.

Yesterday, Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D) convened a hearing of her Senate Appropriations Committee to hear testimony from federal agencies on the effects of sequestration. Many, including Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, issued impact statements that detailed severe cuts that would come to their agencies. Sebelius wrote about cuts to the National Institutes of Health, headquartered in Bethesda:

Cuts to the National Institutes ofHealth (NIH) due to sequestration would delay progress on the prevention of debilitating chronic conditions that are also costly to society and on the development of more effective treatments for common and rare diseases affecting millions of Americans. In general, NIH grant funding within states, including Maryland, will likely be reduced due to both reductions to existing grants and fewer new grants. We expect that some existing research projects could be difficult to pursue at reduced levels and some new research could be postponed as NIH would make hundreds fewer awards. Actual funding reductions will depend on the final mix ofprojects chosen to be supported by each Institute and Center within available resources. With each research award supporting up to seven research positions, several thousand research positions across the nation could be eliminated.

During her visit with the Montgomery County Council on Monday, Mikulski said she realizes the effect the sequester could have on the county.

“If the federal government catches a cold, Montgomery County could catch pneumonia,” she told MyMCMedia.

Montgomery is home to 17 federal agencies, 32,000 federal employees and many contracting firms that work with those agencies.

Also yesterday, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D) introduced a $120 billion deficit reduction plan that would avoid the sequester cuts. Van Hollen, the ranking member of the House Budget Committee, has long argued for a plan that combines spending cuts and higher taxes. House Democrats say the plan he sponsored yesterday would save 750,000 jobs the Congressional Budget Office says would be lost of sequestration takes effect.

At a Walter Reed BRAC Integration Committee meeting last month, an official from NIH said one direct effect of the budget cuts could be the closing of the campus’ Old Georgetown Road entrance near Greentree Road, at least in the mornings.

Morning Notes

by BethesdaNow.com | February 15, 2013 at 9:05 am | No Comments

Some Snow Possible Tonight, Tomorrow — Dropping temperatures could lead to a dusting of one inch around midnight and there’s a slight chance of snow Saturday afternoon into the evening. [Washington Post Capital Weather Gang]

Three Bethesda High Schools In “Pennies for Patients Challenge” — Bethesda-Chevy Chase, Walter Johnson and Whitman High Schools are participating in the 2013 Pennies for Patients High School Challenge with 13 other area schools, with the collective goal of raising $175,000 for leukemia and lymphoma research. [Chevy Chase Patch]

Planners Propose Smaller Bus Rapid Transit System — On the heels of a county-commissioned report that questioned the viability of many of the BRT routes first suggested, county planners have now introduced an eight-route system that would include a Rockville Pike/355 route and a North Bethesda Transitway route. [Greater Greater Washington]

Flickr photo by ehpien

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