Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) and County Council President Nancy Navarro (D-Mid-county) today testified in Annapolis in support of a bill that would raise the state’s gas tax to pay for transportation projects.
Both argued that the Washington suburbs of Montgomery County are an economic engine that directly affects the prosperity of the entire state. They said if projects such as the Purple Line light rail don’t get state money to match potential federal funding, that engine would suffer from traffic and gridlock.
“I know what some of you may bbe thinking — ‘please, feel free to invest your own money on State transportation projects. Your transit and failed intersection needs aren’t our problem,’” read Leggett’s testimony before the State Senate Budget and Taxation Committee. “I would argue that they are, particularly if the Washington region is going to continue to be depended upon to be a key economic engine and creator of jobs for the state. All of our new master plans require transportation investments. These plans, and the jobs they will create, can not move forward without this investment, which the state must partner in.”
The bill, proposed by Senate President Thomas Mike V. Miller (D-Calvert County), would raise the state’s gas tax for the first time in 21 years and includes a provision that would allow individual counties to collect up to 5 cents per gallon for local projects.
Opponents are against raising the tax because of already high gas prices and the because some don’t see the consequent transportation funding as benefitting their districts.
Navarro testified that the 3 percent gas tax hike proposed in Miller’s bill would not be sufficient to pay for all of the county’s transportation needs.
“We would support a fully phased in 6 percent sales tax on gasoline or a 1-cent increase on the state sales tax, which would both raise a more substantial level of revenue,” Navarro said.
Rendering via Maryland Transit Administration
Montgomery County 2nd District Police commander Capt. Dave Falcinelli today said there have been at least three incidents in the last week involving a Hispanic male approaching young girls in the Chevy Chase and Silver Spring area.
In one incident in Chevy Chase Village, a woman says the driver of a minivan got out of his car and walked toward her before she managed to run to a friend’s house.
Falcinelli sent out a public safety alert through the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center with police reports from the three incidents, two of which occurred near the D.C. line last Friday and on Tuesday and one which occurred in Silver Spring, near Chevy Chase and East-West Highway:
Police information: 4420 South Park Avenue. On Tuesday 2/19 at approximately 4:00 p.m., the 13 year old female was walking when she noted a small maroon SUV drive by several times. The driver eventually pulled alongside the victim and began asking her questions (how are you, whats your name etc.). The victim was able to run to a store on Wisconsin Avenue and contact a parent.
Suspect: H/M, late 30searly 40s, short black hair
Vehicle: Small maroon SUV, black trim on bottom of doors.
Police information: 2442 Ross Road. On Friday 2/15 at approximately 4:30 p.m., the H/M suspect in his 40s approached a group of young girls playing outside and began making inappropriate comments about their bodies. He asked at least one if she wanted to go with him, however that girl was able to run to her friends. One victim stated that she had seen the suspect in the area on more than one occasion.
The third incident comes from an urgent alert from the Chevy Chase Village police:
Suspicious Hispanic Male in the 5500 Block of Kirkside Drive
On Tuesday evening (Feb. 19) at 7:00 p.m., a young woman who works in the Village reported to police that, as she walked south on Kirkside Drive near the intersection with Grove Street, she noticed that a light blue or grey minivan was driving very slowly behind her. The minivan was also southbound on Kirkside, but the van crept slowly as it kept pace with her. At one point, the driver shone a flashlight at the woman. As the woman pulled out her cell phone to take a photo of the vehicle, the driver got out of the minivan and walked briskly directly toward the woman. Instinctively, she ran to a nearby friends house and went inside. The friend also saw the man, and he soon returned to the van and drove off. Village police were on the scene very quickly, but the van had already driven off. The vehicle is possibly a light blue or gray older Honda minivan described as beat up.
The suspect is described as follows:
Hispanic male, 25-30 years old. Short buzzed haircut, no facial hair. Wearing blue jeans and a T-shirt (unknown color shirt).
The victim also reported that over the preceding couple of weeks, she had noticed a white panel van driving slowly behind her in that same section of Kirkside, however yesterdays event was the only one in which she was approached.
Falcinelli asked residents to call 911 (emergency) or 301-279-8000 for a non-emergency immediately if they observe anything suspicious.
Tonight will mark the first time in four years that County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) delivers a “State of the County” address, though it appears unlikely the two-term executive will hint at his future political plans.
Leggett told The Gazette he will not make a decision on whether to run for a third term in 2014 against his predecessor Doug Duncan (D), Gaithersburg Councilman Phil Andrews (D) and potentially other Council members vying for his job until after budget season and the Maryland General Assembly.
The address is 7:30 p.m. at the Silver Spring Civic Building, and is free and open to all. It will also be shown live on County Cable Montgomery.
The county is facing a roughly $135-million budget shortfall for fiscal 2014, and that’s without the employee raise deal that Leggett recently negotiated with the county employee union. Montgomery must also deal with a recommended school budget that is $10 million more than the minimum required by the state’s strengthened maintenance of effort law, stalled efforts to increase transportation funding in Annapolis and the looming consequences of the federal sequester.
Not even a month after it opened, the Dry Fried Wing Bar and Grille in the old Box Bar space downtown is closed and the owner of the Box is coming back with a new concept.
McCarther said Dry Fried Wing owner George Farrell, who together with the Dry Fried Wing company put on a January grand opening celebration touting the wings and the importance of minority-owned businesses, defaulted on payments and came to him to buy back the bar.
“I love Bethesda, have for 20 years,” McCarther said.
McCarther, whose Hooters-themed Box Bar and Grill gained quite the reputation after it opened in 2011, said Rockville native Mike Westcott will perform when Roc Bar Live (7525 Old Georgetown Rd.) opens next weekend.
A message for James Boyd, the new CEO of Dry Fried Wings, was not immediately returned. But a publicist for Dry Fried Wings at the time of the bar’s opening said the company never did own a controlling interest in the bar, as the company announced immediately before the grand opening ceremony.
The grand opening ceremony included civil rights leader and former CEO of Dry Fried Wings Dr. Ben Chavis and former Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele. They spoke about empowering minorities through business ownership.
Montgomery County Police Bethesda District commander Capt. Dave Falcinelli yesterday said citizens calling in suspicious behavior in neighborhoods led to four recent arrests of suspects in theft and burglary cases.
One of those arrests came Jan. 18 in the Ashburton neighborhood, off Old Georgetown Road.
Those so-called “nuisance crimes,” theft from autos and residential burglaries that are common in upscale Bethesda neighborhoods, will continue to be the primary challenge for Bethesda police and detectives in the upcoming year, Falcinelli said.
Despite continuing reports of thefts from autos in neighborhoods across the 2nd District, the number of incidents actually declined by 23 percent (1,175 to 902) in 2012 compared to 2011, Falcinelli said. But he also said he expects those numbers to rise this year with the inclusion of Potomac and parts of the Randolph Hills neighborhood in the new 2nd District.
Falcinelli said redistricting has gone smoothly since it went into effect Feb. 4.
When asked about enforcing laws against illegally parked cars on busy Wisconsin Avenue, Falcinelli told the Western Montgomery County Citizens Advisory Board his District doesn’t have the manpower to make sweeps of the area. He said his traffic sergeant recently went to businesses along the stretch with letters warning them to stop allowing delivery truck drivers and others to park in the far right lane.
A new collection of transit advocates yesterday began a push to get Annapolis lawmakers focused on transportation funding and a member of the group fueling the effort yesterday night asked for support from a Bethesda Advisory Board.
Kelly Blynn, of the D.C.-based nonprofit Coalition for Smarter Growth, told members of the Western Montgomery County Citizens Advisory Board that without transit projects such as the Purple Line light rail in Bethesda or a Bus Rapid Transit system along Rockville Pike, Montgomery County could not handle the over 200,000 more people coming to the county by 2030.
The Coalition for Smarter Growth spearheaded the “Get Maryland Moving” campaign, which it introduced on Tuesday.
“Maryland’s economic competitiveness is at risk if the state fails to invest adequately in maintenance, local roads and modern transit systems,” Coalition for Smarter Growth executive director Stewart Schwartz said in a statement. “These transit investments are essential for providing relief from peak hour congestion, for supporting economic development, and for reducing air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.”
Blynn came looking for allies at the Advisory Board meeting on Tuesday and described the group’s three-legged approach toward improving local traffic issues: investment in the projected $2.4 billion Purple Line, Bus Rapid Transit (still far from its final design) and Metro system improvements.
Supporters of the “Get Maryland Moving” campaign include the Greater Bethesda-Chevy Chase Chamber of Commerce, Action Committee for Transit and and Purple Line Now.
With no state funding in sight, Purple Line design work by the Maryland Transit Administration could be stopped, which local lawmakers say would derail the process. The 16-mile light rail from New Carrollton to Bethesda, with stops in College Park, Silver Spring and Chevy Chase, among others, would bring 15,000 riders a day to the Bethesda station, according to MTA projections.
County leaders say this is the year to get a gas tax hike in the General Assembly that could cover the state’s share of the cost. They are pessimistic that leaders would agree to a gas tax hike in 2014, an election year. So far, Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) hasn’t made achieving transportation funding a priority, to the chagrin of Montgomery leaders such as Councilman Roger Berliner (D-Bethesda-Potomac).
The “Get Maryland Moving” campaign includes a petition to spur action from O’Malley and others on the issue.
A Citizens Advisory Board on Tuesday night chose not to take a side on the controversial aspects of Chevy Chase Lake development, but presentations by one developer and a group of residents served as a potential preview of arguments the County Council will hear when the issue goes before it in a public hearing on March 5.
The Connecticut Avenue Corridor Committee, represented by Chevy Chase Village Board Chair Pat Baptiste and Town of Chevy Chase Mayor Pat Burda, said their main qualms with the Chevy Chase Lake Sector Plan recommended by the Planning Board are in three areas:
1. The Planning Board-approved 150-foot height for a building adjacent to the existing 150-foot office building at 8401 Connecticut Avenue. Burda said the building, roughly at the site of the existing TW Perry store and part of the Chevy Chase Land Company’s development proposal, could be lowered to coincide with the planning notion of stepping down development from the highest point. Burda said “it’s a puzzle,” as to how traffic wouldn’t be adversely affected by the density, despite Planning Staff’s conclusion that there won’t be that much traffic added to the area’s two already failing intersections. (Chevy Chase Lake planner Elza Hisel-McCoy said earlier that 80 to 90 percent of the traffic in the area comes from school thru-traffic).
Steve Robins, a land-use attorney representing the Land Company, said it would not be economically viable to put the density farther away from Connecticut Avenue and would not be fair to nearby single family home residents to put the density elsewhere on the Land Company’s property, which includes the aging strip shopping centers on either side of Connecticut Avenue between Chevy Chase Lake Drive and Manor Road.
MoCo Issues New Request For Bethesda Police Station Proposals — Montgomery County on Friday released a new RFP for developers interested in building a replacement for the county’s aging Bethesda District police headquarters. A previous public-private deal with developer JBG Cos. to build a new police station at Cordell Avenue fell through in November. [Bethesda Patch]
A New Name For White Flint? — Massive mixed-use redevelopment may not be the only thing changing around the White Flint Mall and Metro station. Some developers are working on a new branding effort for the area, which led Friends of White Flint and Just Up The Pike writer Dan Reed to ponder some potential names for the neighborhood. [Friends of White Flint]
Whitman Junior Wins Congressional Award — Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D) presented Abigail da Silva, 16, with the Congressional Silver Award last month after she compiled almost 1,000 hours of volunteer and other work with a variety of local organizations. [The Gazette]
RSVP For Town Of Chevy Chase Chili Dinner — The 19th Annual Town Chili Dinner to benefit the Manna Food Center is set for 5:30 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 24 at Chevy Chase Elementary School (4015 Rosemary St.). RSVP by contacting the Town Office. [Town of Chevy Chase]
Flickr photo by anokarina