by Aaron Kraut — March 25, 2015 at 10:00 am 227 3 Comments

People walking down the sidewalk along Bethesda Avenue (file photo)

A study of 30 factors influencing health found that Montgomery County is the healthiest jurisdiction in Maryland and compares well to the healthiest places in the country.

The sixth annual County Health Rankings, from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, used Census numbers, hospital stats, crime data and other government reports to come up with the results.

The rankings were split into five categories: quality of life, health behaviors, clinical care, social/economic factors and physical environment.

Montgomery County ranked No. 1 or No. 2 in the state in all categories except physical environment, where high housing costs, the amount of people driving alone to work (66 percent) and the amount of people with “long commutes” (52 percent) put the county at No. 8 out of the state’s 24 local jurisdictions.

Howard, Frederick and Carroll Counties followed Montgomery as the state’s healthiest, per the rankings. Baltimore City was judged to have the poorest health, followed by Caroline, Cecil and Allegany Counties.

Montgomery County had an 8 percent adult smoking rate and a 19 percent adult obesity rate, both numbers that were in the healthiest 10 percent of U.S. counties.

The county’s relative wealth and access to education helped too. The rankings considered high school graduation rates (87 percent), those who did at least some college (76.9 percent) and children in poverty (10 percent), all of which put Montgomery in the top 10 percent in the country.

by Aaron Kraut — March 16, 2015 at 12:15 pm 602 2 Comments

The Sunrise at Fox Hill senior living community in Bethesda, via Sunrise at Fox Hill

A website says Bethesda is the No. 7 best place to retire in Maryland.

SmartAsset, a financial data site, ranked Bethesda No. 7 in the state, one spot behind Rockville and behind other towns such as Easton, Chestertown and Annapolis.

The website said it factored in the number of doctors offices per 1,000 people, recreation centers per 1,000 people and retirement centers per 1,000 people, plus the percentage of seniors in in its rating. It found Bethesda has 4.8 doctors offices, 0.2 recreation centers and 1.2 retirement centers per 1,000 people.

It also created a tax rating for each city and town, calculating effective income and sales tax rates using $35,000 as what “a typical retiree” earns each year from retirement savings, social security or part-time employment.

“In our final analysis, we ranked each county and city on these three factors, and calculated an average ranking for each area, weighting the three factors equally. The areas with the lowest average ranking are the best places to retire,” the website said.

Bethesda received a 68.34 rating. Easton, the No. 1 Maryland place on the list, got a 74.07 rating.

Nine of the top 10 places to retire in the nation were in Florida, with ratings ranging from a perfect 100 to 97.49.

Photo via Sunrise at Fox Hill

by Aaron Kraut — November 18, 2014 at 1:15 pm 3,147 13 Comments

The Bethesda Library

Bethesda is once again at the top of a list — this time for an honor that has been bestowed upon the area in one way or the other a few times before.

NerdWallet, a website that rates services including credit cards, insurance plans and shopping deals, named Bethesda as the “Most Educated Place in America.”

The website also ranked Potomac as the No. 2 most educated place in America and North Bethesda as the No. 10 most educated place in America.

It’s not the first time Bethesda has earned a top ranking on a most educated list and not the first time the area has been ranked near the top in an attempt to name the smartest places.

NerdWallet used Census numbers for almost 2,000 Census Designated Places in the country. Forty percent of the overall score for each place depended on the percentage of the population with at least a high school diploma or associate’s degree. Thirty percent of the overall score was based on the percentage of the population with at least a bachelor’s degree.

Ten percent each was assigned to the percentage of people with a master’s degree, the percentage with a doctorate degree and the percentage with a professional degree.


by Aaron Kraut — September 30, 2014 at 8:15 am 220 0

Flickr photo by ehpien

FoWF Founder: Leggett Should Walk Across Rockville Pike, Old Georgetown Road — Barnaby Zall, founder of the Friends of White Flint group, wrote yesterday that County Executive Isiah Leggett must address the apparent “disconnect” between the goals outlined for White Flint and Transportation Department plans for Old Georgetown Road. Officials have said they’d made no decisions on a new design for the road. Friends of White Flint last week charged that they were considering a design that would essentially make the road eight lanes wide, instead of the Sector Plan-prescribed four. [Friends of White Flint]

Locals Dot Forbes 400 Richest Americans List — Developer and Washington Nationals owner Ted Lerner, Mitchell Rales, investment firm boss David Rubenstein and developer Bernaud Saul II are four local multi-billionaires who once again appeared on this year’s Forbes list of richest Americans. [Washington Business Journal]

MoCo Law Enforcement Honored For ‘Sovereign Citizen’ Case — The Anti-Defamation League recognized Montgomery County law enforcement for its investigation and arrest of Lamont Butler, the squatter who claimed a $6 million Bethesda mansion for his own in 2013 because the property originally belonged to his “Moorish American” group. The ADL says it recognized Montgomery County for the case because it was an example of fighting the spread of anti-government extremism. [The Gazette]

Flickr photo by ehpien

by Aaron Kraut — September 15, 2014 at 2:05 pm 1,666 24 Comments

Downtown Bethesda

Bethesda may be among the coolest, most snobby and richest small cities in America, but it’s not one of the 100 best to live in, according to a media and marketing company called Livability.com.

The website’s editors said they studied a host of factors and hooked up with research teams at the Martin Prosperity Institute to gauge the livability of American cities with a population between 20,000 and 350,000. Bethesda didn’t make the Top 100 list for 2015, though a bunch of its neighbors did.

“This is a great time for America’s small to mid-sized cities that are trying to lure the huge Millennial generation of potential home-buyers. Creating a livable community is key to attracting businesses and movers, as well as for retaining residents,” said Livability editor Matt Carmichael.

Researchers analyzed more than 40 data points that were then grouped into eight categories — economics, housing, amenities, infrastructure, demographics, social and civic capital, education and health care. The eight scores were weighted based on an exclusive survey conducted for Livability.com by Ipsos Public Affairs, a market research firm.

Carmichael said Bethesda was considered, a change from last year when Livability excluded Census Designated Places.

“It fell a little short of the top 100 but North Bethesda did make the list this year,” Carmichael said.

North Bethesda came in as the No. 64 best place to live. Rockville was No. 19, Frederick was No. 32 and Silver Spring was No. 72.

Carmichael also said cities at the top of the list were helped by major institutions such as a university, hospital or state capital that can help small cities “compete in terms of sports, culture, jobs and entertainment.”

“Innovative biomed and technology companies anchor the economy in Rockville,” according to the website, which was also impressed with the shops of the Rockville Town Square development. North Bethesda’s selling point was apparently its upscale neighborhoods such as Garrett Park Estates, Halpine, Old Georgetown Village and Luxmanor.

Silver Spring was also said to “enjoy a vibrant music scene.” Frederick apparently ranks No. 1 in the state for high school student performance and career readiness.

by Aaron Kraut — September 2, 2014 at 1:15 pm 424 1 Comment

Inc5000 logoA one-man Chevy Chase marketing company that sells health supplements, electronics and other consumer goods is the No. 39 fastest growing private company in the country, according to Inc. Magazine.

Inc. recently came out with its annual list of the 5,000 fastest growing startups and it includes repeat appearances from area companies such as Bethesda-based Wellness Corporate Solutions (No. 702) and Chevy Chase-based WeddingWire (No. 741).

But leading the pack of fastest growing privately owned companies in the area and state was Team Extreme Marketing International, a Chevy Chase-based company owned and operated by Alex Swenson. Swenson began selling a variety of goods on daily deals sites in 2011, then pivoted to become a design and marketing firm.

According to Inc., it made $6.8 million in revenue in 2013, up from $104,694 in revenue in 2010.

It’s the only Maryland company to make it into the top 100 on the list and one of eight to make it into the top 500.

At No. 228 is Strategi Consulting, a Chevy Chase IT consulting firm that has grown nicely since it was founded in 2008. It now employs 14 people and had a 2013 revenue of $3.5 million.

Wellness Corporate Solutions appears on the list for the third straight year, and for the first year since moving from Glen Echo to a bigger office in downtown Bethesda. The company creates and implements wellness programs for corporate clients and government agencies.

It’s added 60 employees over the last three years and brought in $12.6 million in revenue last year.

WeddingWire, the website that hooks up wedding vendors and professionals with couples planning for their special day, also appears on the list for the third straight year. The company is based in Friendship Heights and has provided quite a boost to the area with 236 new employees over the last three years.

It’s also expanded into other event types. There’s now a PromWire.com. That helped the company generate $34 million in revenue in 2013.

by Aaron Kraut — August 6, 2014 at 3:05 pm 1,232 6 Comments

Bethesda Lane on Bethesda RowForbes has once again included Bethesda (or more accurately the “Bethesda-Frederick-Rockville Metro area”) in the top 20 of its annual list of coolest American cities.

This time around, Bethesda comes in at No. 19, one spot ahead of Santa Ana, Calif., and not far behind such actual cities as Los Angeles (in a tie for No. 16), San Antonio (No. 15), Miami (No. 13) and New York (No. 11).

Washington, D.C. was No. 1, which almost immediately drew plenty of snark and doubt as to the veracity of the rankings.

For what it’s worth, the Bethesda-Frederick-Rockville Metro area scored a 95 on Forbes’ Arts & Culture Index, an 89 in the Recreation Index and boasted a population made up of 24.6 percent millennials, or the generation of people age 20-34.

Bethesda was recently named America’s snobbiest “small city” by a real estate website and is regularly featured on rankings of towns and cities based on apparently random metrics.

In 2012, Bethesda came in as the No. 17 coolest city on the Forbes list, which surprised many.

The rankings are commonly a source of derision. D.C. wasn’t the only city that faced it on Wednesday.

Here’s Dave Weigel, a national politics reporter for Slate, on Bethesda’s inclusion on the Forbes list:

by Aaron Kraut — July 25, 2014 at 8:15 am 156 0

Flickr photo by Danny Fowler

Politicians, Blogger Blame Media For Low Voter Turnout — After a paltry 16 percent of Montgomery County registered voters showed up for last month’s gubernatorial primary, the County Council on Tuesday used a session on voting reforms to reflect on why there’s such voter apathy for local elections. Some blamed the lack of media coverage. One blogger, Center Maryland’s Josh Kurtz, wrote the media was partly to blame, but so were other factors including a “minor league” field of candidates. [Center Maryland] [Washington Post]

County Official: The Bethesda I Know Is Not Snobby — A real estate website recently named Bethesda the No. 2 “snobbiest” small city in the U.S., something which the county’s lead official in Bethesda made clear he doesn’t agree with. Ken Hartman, director of the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center, wrote in a regular Regional Services Center email that “the words ‘snobby’ and ‘snooty’ are inappropriate and unfair adjectives for our local communities of Rockville and Bethesda.” Rockville was also on the top-10 list. Hartman listed about a dozen local organizations and nonprofits that he said prove just how inaccurate the list was. [Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center]

Planning Board Approves Chevy Chase Lake Development — The Planning Board on Thursday approved the first development project to come as a result of the Chevy Chase Lake Sector Plan. The sketch plan would allow for up to 329 apartment and townhouse units on the existing site of HOC-controlled affordable housing. [Planning Board]

Flickr photo by Danny Fowler

by Aaron Kraut — July 24, 2014 at 8:35 am 778 5 Comments

Sidewalk work along Norfolk Avenue

Website: Bethesda The No. 2 ‘Snobbiest’ Small City In America — The latest city ranking list from real estate website Movoto uses media home prices, household income, college degree rates, private school numbers and fast food restaurant numbers to decide which is the “snobbiest” small city in the U.S. Bethesda comes in No. 2, Rockville in a “tie” for No. 8. [Movoto]

Youth Soccer League Sues BOE Over Field Selection Process — The MSI youth soccer league is suing the Board of Education over its bidding process for three high school turf fields around the county. According to MSI, officials part of the school system’s process were biased in favor of other leagues because of personal connections and because the leagues chosen represented wealthier communities. [Bethesda Magazine]

British Man Gets Year In Prison For Ripping Off Bethesda Company — Darren Oliver Raymond Charles Defoe, 40, was sentenced to a year and a day in prison for ripping off $275,000 in rented equipment from Bethesda film production company Visual Edge Productions. Defoe and a co-defendant pleaded guilty to providing bogus insurance information before taking the rented cameras, lenses, tripods and batteries straight to Dulles Airport and on a plane back to the United Kingdom. [The Gazette]

by Aaron Kraut — June 5, 2014 at 3:10 pm 251 1 Comment

Street in Kensington, Photo via Wikipedian1234Washington Nationals owner Ted Lerner could buy all 7,418 homes in Kensington, if he wanted to.

Real estate website Redfin on Thursday released a report in which it took billionaires on Forbes’ recent list and matched them up with entire towns and cities they could buy with their wealth. The completely hypothetical scenarios seem to be a way to show how much $1 billion is (hint, it’s a lot) and the real estate values of places around the country.

In Redfin’s fictional real estate investment, 30 billionaires in the report — with a combined personal wealth of $582 billion — could buy up 6 percent of the total U.S. home equity.

In our area, Redfin determined that the 34,061 households in Bethesda are worth a combined $32,603,073,897, which would match up with the personal wealth of former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Amazon.com founder and Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos could afford to buy up the 83,578 households of Silver Spring with his $27 billion.

Redfin calculated the value of all single-family homes, condos and townhomes in each town or city by taking all MLS sales between April 1, 2013 and April 1, 2014. Redfin than used those sales “as a representative sample of all homes in a city,” so if 10 percent of homes sold for $1 billion, Redfin estimated the combined value of all home sin that city to be $10 billion.

Redfin estimated the nearly 7,500 homes of Kensington would run you $4.2 billion, which is Lerner’s net worth. We think the baseball owner and real estate magnate is fine with his home in nearby Chevy Chase.

Photo via Wikipedian1234

by Aaron Kraut — May 1, 2014 at 11:10 am 2,132 0

Bethesda Row, Flickr pool photo by AmyMarieMooreHardly a week goes by without a ranking of small American towns and cities based on some random metric drawn from U.S. Census numbers.

This week, Bethesda has been named as the richest small city in American, according to real estate blog and city ranking specialist Movoto.

How’d we get there?

Movoto started with a list of 950 places with populations between 30,000 and 80,000, according to the 2010 Census. Props to Movoto for realizing Bethesda — despite not being an incorporated town — is indeed its own place.

The blog then ranked all 950 places based on median household income and median home value. The average was used to find the top 25 most wealthy small cities in the country. From there, Movoto scoured business listings for data in nine interesting categories:

  • Really expensive fine dining establishments per capita (Bethesda ranked No. 4)
  • Really expensive clothing retailers per capita (Bethesda ranked third.)
  • Really expensive jewelry stores per capita (No. 4)
  • Luxury car dealers per capita (No. 4)
  • Country clubs per capita (No. 6)
  • Cosmetic surgeons per capita (No. 4)
  • Distance to nearest polo field (Bethesda came in first place for this.)
  • Distance to nearest yacht club (No. 9)
  • Distance to nearest private airport (No. 2)

The rankings were then averaged together and voila, Bethesda is your richest small city in the U.S.:

If you know anything about Bethesda, this really shouldn’t come as any surprise. Not actually a city, but a Census-designated place of 60,858 located less than 10 miles from the U.S. Capitol Building, it shows just how inexorably linked money and power truly are.

You can see how Bethesda ranked across all our criteria above, and that’s in either the top 10 (or even top five) for everything. It was first in distance to a polo field (eight miles), second in distance to private jet facilities (six miles), and third in terms of really expensive clothing retailers per capita. Its lowest rank was in distance to a yacht club, and that was only ninth for the nine-mile trek required to hit the water in a luxury vessel.

Bethesda got into our top 25 with a median household income of $141,817 and median home value of $805,900 in 2010, but looking at our own listing data that last number is currently around $1.1 million in today’s market.

Second place on the list was Palo Alto, Calif. Third place were our neighbors in McLean, Va.

by Aaron Kraut — April 22, 2014 at 3:25 pm 6,145 12 Comments

Walt Whitman High School, via MCPSPerennially high-achieving Walt Whitman High School is the No. 1 public high school in Maryland and No. 61 best public high school in the country, according to rankings published Tuesday by U.S. News & World Report.

The website’s popular annual rankings gave seven MCPS schools a gold medal rating for being among the top 500 public high schools in the nation. Four others got a silver medal rating for being among the top 2,019 schools.

The analysis used 2011-2012 data on overall student performance on state-mandated tests, education of minority and economically disadvantaged students and school performance on Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate exams.

For a glaring reason not to take the rankings too seriously, just take a look at Winston Churchill High School, which somehow wasn’t ranked at all.

The Potomac school was ranked as the best public high school in Maryland in both the 2012 and 2013 U.S. News analysis. Bethesda-Chevy Chase and Walter Johnson High Schools were also unranked this year.

The top 4,707 high schools in the country qualified for the list, U.S. News said.

Wootton (No. 65), Poolesville (No. 83) and Richard Montgomery (No. 163) followed Whitman among MCPS schools.

by Aaron Kraut — April 21, 2014 at 12:25 pm 1,326 1 Comment

People walking down the sidewalk at Bethesda Row (file photo)A website that ranks medium sized cities and towns on Monday named Bethesda as the No. 4 best city in the country for new college grads in 2014.

Livability.com says the combination of Bethesda’s 25- to 34-year-old population, education levels and the presence of jobs in top-hiring industries make it one of the most livable places for those looking to start a career.

Bethesda has the lowest unemployment rate (1.3 percent) on the top-10 list and more than 83 percent of the roughly 7,000 people in Bethesda age 25-34 have at least a bachelor’s degree, according to the rankings. It also helped that Bethesda is the home to leading research facilities such as NIH and major companies such as Lockheed Martin and Marriott.

“Businesses relocate for access to a talented workforce. But, increasingly, those young talents are choosing where to move after college based on livability,” Livability.com editor Matt Carmichael said in a press release. “These 10 cities are great places for recent grads, which should put them on the radar of employers looking to expand as well.”

The website said it also factored in the availability of rental units, public transportation and “cities that cater to a younger demographic by offering lots of recreational activities, hot nightlife and a hip vibe.”

“The majority of residents here make more than $130,000 a year,” according to the website. “Although there are fewer rental properties in Bethesda when compared to other cities on our list, young newcomers shouldn’t have a problem finding a trendy, hip apartment loaded with amenities like a pool, workout room and tennis courts.”

Cambridge, Mass., Bellevue, Wash., and Austin, Texas beat out Bethesda on the list. Other cities in the top 10 include Minneapolis, Hoboken, N.J., Ann Arbor, Mich., and Fargo, N.D.

by Aaron Kraut — April 9, 2014 at 3:05 pm 249 0

People walking down the sidewalk at Bethesda Row (file photo)Women in Montgomery County are expected to live for 84.9 years, the second longest life expectancy for women in any county or county-equivalent in the United States, according to a Seattle-based health research center.

According to the same study, men in Montgomery County (at 81.6 years) are tied for the second longest life expectancy of any county in the country.

Montgomery County on Wednesday cited that study and a corresponding county-level obesity study from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) as evidence that Montgomery is among the healthiest of 3,143 counties in the country.

“We have all known that Montgomery County was one of the best places in America to live, work and raise a family,” County Executive Isiah Leggett said in a press release. “Now we know it is one of the best places to live if you are planning on living as long as you can.”

The life expectancy and obesity studies aren’t exactly new. The IHME published those in July 2013. But together with a county-level study published last month on smoking prevalence, the overall picture of Montgomery County is indeed one that suggests it’s among the healthiest places in the country.

Montgomery County ranked No. 11 in the country when it came to the least amount of women who smoke, with just 9.7 percent estimated to smoke. The IHME study estimated only 13.4 percent of men in Montgomery County are prevalent smokers, good for the No. 12 ranking in that measure.

The 2013 life expectancy study found women were living five years longer in 2010 than they were in 1985 and that men in Montgomery County were living seven years longer than they were in 1985.

Montgomery males trailed only Fairfax County, Va. in the entire nation and tied with Gunnison and Pitkin Counties in Colorado. (Gunnison is home to Aspen, Col.). Females came in second behind only Marin County, Calif.

According to the 2013 obesity prevalence study, 24.9 percent of county women were obese in 2009 and 23.9 percent of men were obese in 2009. Both those marks put the county in the top 10 percent of the country when it came to the least amount of obese residents.

“There are many factors at work here — income, employment, broad access to quality health care, a focus on public health, our excellent parks and recreational facilities, and more. The more I think about it, though, the more I believe our County education system is a key factor. Educational excellence contributes to raising self-awareness and to the ability of County residents to get good jobs, provide stability for their families, and support a strong tax base with strong social services,” Leggett said.

“These statistics show that Montgomery County is making measurable progress in our public health efforts,” Councilmember George Leventhal said in the press release.

Leventhal is chair of the Council’s Health & Human Services Committee and the backer of many health related bills, such as the 2009 law that requires large restaurant chains to include calorie counts on menus. Montgomery County was among the first jurisdictions in the country to enact the calorie count law.

“Our goal should be a culture of wellness, where every resident has access to affordable medical care, pays attention to his or her diet, exercises, keeps fit, feels good and maintains a high quality of life.”

by Aaron Kraut — March 14, 2014 at 9:05 am 258 0

Flickr photo by ehpien

Whitman Wins Basketball Semi, Headed To State Title Game — The Whitman High School boys basketball rode 20 points from guard Kyle Depollar and a banked-in 3-pointer to beat the third quarter buzzer to beat Annapolis, 59-48 on Thursday at the Comcast Center. The Vikings will face perhaps their biggest challenge yet, Upper Marlboro’s Henry A. Wise in Saturday’s Class 4A state championship game. Tip-off is set for 8 p.m. at the Comcast Center. Wise beat Springbrook on Thursday night. [The Gazette]

County Snow Removal Costs About $25 Million — This season’s many snow and ice events have pushed Montgomery County’s salting, snow removal and employee overtime budget well past the previously set aside $9.1 million. The county’s costs are about $25 million and County Executive Isiah Leggett will likely ask the County Council for a supplemental appropriation in the next couple weeks. And our winter may not even be over — forecasters are calling for a chance of snow on Monday. [Washington Post] [Weather.com]

Locals Dot Forbes Billionaires List — Potomac businessman Mitchell Rales, investor David Rubenstein, the Marriott brothers and Chevy Chase Bank founder Bernard Saul II are among the richest people in the world, all with net worths of at least $2.2 billion. The richest Marylander according to the list is Washington Nationals owner, developer and Chevy Chase resident Ted Lerner, who has a net worth of $4.2 billion. That’s good for No. 354 on the list. [CBS DC]

Notice Something New On Old Georgetown Road? — Construction of the Pike & Rose development will radically change the look of Mid-Pike Plaza and around the Old Georgetown Road section of White Flint. Crews have installed new street lamps to mark the southern entrance to the development. [Pike & Rose via Twitter]

Chevy Chase Resident Worried Construction Might Take Out Elm Tree — A 150-year-old Elm tree on the Town of Chevy Chase’s Elm Street might be in danger from a home construction project. John Fitzgerald, a Town resident and environmentalist, filed a formal complaint with the Town that will be reviewed on March 26. By then, he worries a drainage ditch to go along with the construction will have badly damaged the tree’s root system. The project was given the OK by the Town’s arborist, who judged the project was in line with the Town’s strict tree ordinance. [WTOP]

Flickr photo by ehpien


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