Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Advisory Board testifies in support of school funding transparency, Bethesda Urban Partnership, public libraries

The following testimony was provided to the Montgomery Country Council by the Western Montgomery County Citizens Advisory Board on April 15, 2015.

Members of the County Council, on behalf of the Western Montgomery County Citizens Advisory Board, we thank you for the opportunity to share with you our feedback of the County Executive’s Fiscal Year 2016 operating budget. Our input comes from interested citizens, neighborhood organizations, local businesses, community groups, non-profits and many others who took the time to share their thoughts about what our priorities for the county should include.

With multiple days of testimony from dozens of groups, we are keeping our recommendations short to highlight how important we feel that they are within the budget.

In our letter from early March to serve as input for the County Executive’s Budget, we asked that funding be prioritized to effectively manage the impact of new residents. The front line of that effort in downtown Bethesda is the Bethesda Urban Partnership, or BUP we call it. With continued urbanization, there’s no substitute for the BUP. BUP makes downtown Bethesda a vibrant community, aesthetically pleasing and a destination for so many. We ask that BUP’s funding be fully restored by an increased transfer from Parking Lot District funds.

With regard to education, the community understands the technical process of the County Council allocating funds, primarily by statute through the Maintenance of Effort law but has little if any direct oversight over how this money is spent. We wholly support fully funding public education. However we would like to bring to your attention a growing desire for there to be more transparency and input over how education dollars are being spent. We feel that any action towards transparency and input from you will make our schools more effective at educating our children.

The recent news that Marriott may look for a new location for its headquarters continues to highlight our needed effort to find and tout competitive advantages to Washington, DC, northern Virginia and our neighbors to the east, Prince George’s County. The County Executive’s six-point plan has brought more vision to this effort and we feel the 7.5% increase in spending for DED should be maintained. 

The CAB was delighted to see the 5% increase in library funding as libraries serve a core government function and have fantastic advocates.

An area of concern is a 4.7% decrease in spending for the Board of Elections. Those involved in the 2014 General Election know that there was a considerable delay from the time polls closed at 8pm until results were available the day after, unlike in other counties. Even though this year’s decrease is due to no major elections, the long delay in election results being released causes people to question vote totals, leaves candidates with rooms full of supporters anxiously awaiting the outcome and is an area where we lag our neighbors in a very public way.

As you deliberate over the coming weeks, we want to further ask you to support:

  • The holistic approach of aging in place, such as home healthcare, social activities, support groups for ailments and illness, housing and protecting senior citizens against physical, emotional and financial abuse;
  • Affordable housing programs for the working poor and those in need of temporary support;
  • Services and organizations that aid the quality of life for intellectually and developmentally disabled citizens, such as the Arc of Montgomery;
  • Continuing the quality of our current public transportation system. As you've surely heard, one objection to developing a new Rapid Transit System has been the ability to properly operate already existing modes of transportation. 

Finally, we would like the operating budget to support increased outreach and usage of 311. We feel that this is a fantastic service that significantly reduces the need to navigate through bureaucracy and citizens need to know about it. The Public Information Office has set a target that 15% of requests be web based but we feel that there needs to be more so people know where to report potholes, get information about trash pickup, access housing programs, seek help in case of mental health crisis, or - as is currently on the Tips section of the website to request a county service - report a dead deer along the roadway.

Submitted by Tara Flynn, Chair and Scott Goldberg, Vice Chair

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Writer's Center offerings

The Writer's Center in Bethesda offers a lot, perhaps more than its name would suggest. Here's a sampling:
  • Year-round workshops for writers of all abilities in fiction, essay, poetry, playwriting, screenwriting, business writing, TV writing, comedy writing.
  • Open-door poetry and prose readings held weekly by writers and poets.
  • A bookstore, with one of the largest selections of literary journals in the mid-Atlantic, open for browsing at the Walsh Street location. There also is an e-bookstore. Most of the authors are Writer's Center workshop leaders or writers who have given readings at The Writer's Center. 
See the center's monthly calendar for upcoming workshops and events.



Monday, March 30, 2015

Madonna of the Trail

There is a great deal of history in Bethesda. The old Bethesda Post Office on Wisconsin Avenue has been in the news recently. However, the "Madonna of the Trail" statue next to the Post Office commemorates something even older.


The statue of a pioneer mother marks the spot where the pioneers spent the first night out of Georgetown on their way west. Bethesda was the eastern terminus of the Cumberland Road, the first portion of the National Old Trails Road leading to the Santa Fe Trail.


Erected by the Daughters of the American Revolution in 1929 (and dedicated by then Judge Harry S. Truman) the statue is one of twelve that can be found between Maryland and California.



Friday, January 30, 2015

Advisory Board Welcomes New Members

The Western Montgomery County Citizens Advisory Board is pleased to welcome four new members: Hrant Jamgochian, Ann Marie Mehlert, Jonathan Sachs, and Carrie Wofford.  Mr. Jamgochian, Mr, Sachs, and Ms. Wofford were appointed by County Executive Leggett in January as residential representatives on the Advisory Board.  They were confirmed by the County Council on Tuesday, January 27.  Ms. Mehlert joined the Advisory Board in October as a business representative and representative of the Greater Bethesda-Chevy Chase Chamber of Commerce.

Hrant Jamgochian is a health policy expert who currently serves as the Executive Director for the national patient advocacy organization Dialysis Patient Citizens. He brings over 20 years of public policy experience to the Western Montgomery County Citizens Advisory Board. Hrant received his Juris Doctor (J.D.) from the Catholic University Columbus School of Law as well as his Master of Laws (LL.M.) in Global Health Law from the Georgetown University Law Center. A member of the Bradley Boulevard Citizens Association, Hrant has called Bethesda his home for more than a decade. He enjoys spending time with his wife and young son. 

Ann Marie Mehlert is a real estate attorney at Lerch, Early & Brewer in Bethesda, Maryland who works with real estate developers, investors and owners on all aspects of commercial real estate. For more than 25 years she has negotiated and documented transactions from acquisition and financing through development, leasing and sales. Ann Marie received her Bachelor of Arts magna cum laude from Boston College and her Juris Doctor cum laude from The American University Washington College of Law. She is admitted to practice in Maryland and the District of Columbia. She currently serves on the executive board of Montgomery Women and as general counsel for Round House Theatre. Ann Marie also is a past president of the suburban Maryland chapter of Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW). After years of spending weekend mornings on soccer fields throughout the country (her husband is a former Division I National College Soccer Coach of the Year and her three children are all former Division I college soccer players), Ann Marie now enjoys Saturday and Sunday mornings from the comfort of her couch, watching English Premier League games on television.

Jonathan Sachs is a lifelong resident of Montgomery County and currently lives in downtown Bethesda. He works in health care in the county, focusing on public policy issues and advocacy. Jonathan previously served as a member of the Montgomery County Nighttime Economy and Transit Task Forces. In the summertime, you can probably find him at the ballpark cheering on the Washington Nationals. Jonathan graduated from the University of Maryland with high honors in Government and Politics. While at the University, he served as President of the Student Government Association.

A resident of the Town of Somerset and a mom of two MCPS boys, Carrie Wofford brings two decades of experience in public policy, having served as Senior Committee Counsel on the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, as well as director of new policy ideas for the Senate Democratic Policy Committee and policy advisor in the Clinton White House and the Labor Department under Secretary Robert Reich. Educated at Bryn Mawr College and Yale Law School, Carrie also practiced law at WilmerHale LLP for a number of years and founded a non-profit organization to protect veterans from predatory for-profit colleges.

The Regional Services Center and Advisory Board would like to thank all of our outgoing members for their service to their community, particularly past Advisory Board chairs Delegate Marc Korman and Heather Dhlopolsky, chair-elect of the Greater Bethesda-Chevy Chase Chamber of Commerce.


Friday, January 23, 2015

Leggett to Host Final FY16 Operating Budget Public Forum; Residents’ Input Crucial in Determining Priorities

UPDATE - Due to inclement weather, the Budget Forum is rescheduled to February 2.

Leggett to Host Final FY16 Operating Budget Public Forum; Residents’ Input Crucial in Determining Priorities


About 150 attended last week's County budget forum with County Executive Leggett hosted by the Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Board.  120 attended the Mid-County Advisory Board forum last night. 

The County Operating Budget is the document that maps out how tax dollars are spent.  The forums are one opportunity for the community to learn about the fiscal climate, ask questions, and let your priorities be known.  Your input is critical.  


Next Monday's forum with County Executive Leggett is hosted by the Western Montgomery County Citizens Advisory Board.  The forum begins at 7pm at the BCC Regional Services Center, 4805 Edgemoor Lane in Bethesda.  There is plentiful public parking under the Regional Services Center which is located immediately adjacent to the Bethesda Metro station. 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

History of the Pike District

The following is a "history of the Pike District" developed for the upcoming pikedistrict.org website.  

Pre 1800

Native American peoples traveled along an ancient route known as the Seneca Trail which today is approximately followed by Old Georgetown Road (MD 187).  Portions of General Edward Braddock's army followed the Seneca Trail from Alexandria, VA, to Cumberland, MD, during the ill-fated Braddock Expedition of 1755.

1800-1900

In the early 19th century, much of the area was a 3,700-acre tobacco plantation owned by the Riley family.  One of the Riley’s slaves, Josiah Henson, kept a memoir which inspired Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin.  The plantation's kitchen (in which Henson is known to have slept) still stands at 11420 Old Georgetown Rd.
In 1806, the Washington Turnpike Company began improvements to the old Seneca Trail, by then known as the Georgetown-Frederick Road.  The Rockville and Georgetown Turnpike (Rockville Pike) opened in 1818 and by-passed Old Georgetown Rd. through the Rock Creek stream valley.  The Turnpike became part of the National Old Trails Road – the route taken by settlers heading west.  From 1829 to 1887, a toll booth stood on Rockville Pike near at today’s Strathmore Avenue.
By the mid-19th century, the small community of Montrose grew up near Old Georgetown Road and Rockville Pike and included a Post Office and one-room school (built in 1868).  Montrose’s population skyrocketed with the completion of the B&O Railroad in 1873 and by 1879, school enrollment was more than 50 children.  The two-room Montrose School was completed in 1909 and housed classes from the 1st to 7th grades.  The school building still stands on Randolph Road near Rockville Pike and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
During the Civil War, the area saw skirmishing associated with Confederate General Jubal Early’s raid on Washington and the Battle of Fort Stevens.  On the morning of July 11, 1864 Confederate General John McCausland advanced south on Rockville Pike, headed for Fort Reno.  Not far south of Rockville, McCausland was met by a small Union force.  Outmanned and outgunned, the Union troops fell back to the location of modern-day Bethesda where they checked McCausland’s advance.
From the late 19th century to the 1930s, the area was served by a trolley service connecting Georgetown and Rockville operated by the Tennallytown and Rockville Railway.  The trolley route is now used by the Bethesda Trolley Hiker-Biker Trail. (map)
Tenallytown to Rockville Trolley

1900 on

In 1919, Georgetown Prep School moved to its current location on Rockville Pike from its original site in Old Georgetown Heights where it had been established in 1789.  In 1920, the present-day Strathmore Mansion was the estate house for Charles Corby, who helped revolutionize the baking industry.  Much of the Corby estate later became the site of the Holy Cross Academy and the Music Center at Strathmore.
Dietle’s Tavern, located on Rockville Pike directly across from White Flint Mall, has been in operation since 1916.  Dietle’s holds Montgomery County’s first beer and wine license.
Rockville Pike became part of the US Highway System in 1926 as part of US Route 240.  As the Washington National Pike (now I-270) was completed in stages beginning in the early 1950s, the routing of US 240 was moved over and Rockville Pike was designated MD 355.  During this time, Rockville Pike was transformed by suburban shopping centers into a retail destination.  
The Grosvenor neighborhood is named for Gilbert Hovey Grosvenor, former President of the National Geographic Society and editor of the National Geographic Magazine. Grosvenor was hired in 1899 as the first full-time employee of the Society by Alexander Graham Bell, the Society's President at the time. He eventually was named Director, and later President of the Society, and remained Editor of the magazine until 1954. Grosvenor married Elsie May Bell, the daughter of Alexander Graham Bell. Grosvenor's estate "Wild Acres" can still be found on Grosvenor Lane, just west of Rockville Pike.

The first known use of the name “White Flint” was by the White Flint Country Club which opened in 1930 on Rockville pike near Nicholson Lane. The name was derived from quartz rock - sometimes bearing gold - found in the area. 

The name Twinbrook or Twin-Brook came from the developers who originally established the City of Rockville's Twinbrook subdivision in 1946. The name was a reference to the two tributaries of Rock Creek that traversed the original 200 acres of the development. 
In 1960, Sargent Shriver and Eunice Kennedy established “Camp Shriver” nearby at Timberlawn - a short distance from today's Wall Park.  Camp Shriver was a fun place where children with special needs and intellectual disabilities could receive one-on-one attention and be physically active in the summertime.  Camp Shriver eventually morphed into the Special Olympics, a worldwide organization that serves 4.2 million athletes in 170 different countries. 
The Grosvenor-Strathmore Metro Station opened on July 24, 1984. On December 15 of that year, the White Flint and Twinbrook Metro Stations were opened. The openings marked the completion of the western leg of Metro’s Red Line which also included stations at Rockville and Shady Grove. 
Montrose School House

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Bethesda's New Capital Crescent Garage is Now Open

The new County public parking garage at Woodmont Avenue and Bethesda Avenue reopened today, Tuesday, January 20. It was closed in September 2013 to enable construction of The Flats and The Darcy mixed-use buildings on the site of County parking lot 31, across from Barnes & Noble in Bethesda.

The attractive, well-lit underground parking garage offers 960 parking spaces for the public. Vehicle entrances are on Bethesda Avenue, just east of Woodmont Avenue and on Woodmont Avenue, just south of Bethesda Avenue. Pedestrian access can be found on Woodmont Avenue and from the Capital Crescent Trail.

Parking will be free until March 1. The parking payment system will be "pay on foot".