Thursday, December 18, 2014

Bethesda serves holiday cheer at the Goodwill Dinner

Tonight was our annual Goodwill Dinner at the BCC Rescue Squad. The dinner was founded and is organized by the Regional Services Center, Greater Bethesda Chevy Chase Chamber of Commerce, and the Bethesda Hyatt.

Participating organizations include thes Bethesda Urban Partnership, The Children's Inn at NIH, BCC Rescue Squad, and Police 2nd District.

The Goodwill Dinner serves needy individuals and families who live in the Bethesda area. This year, close to 400 individuals were served a Holiday dinner with all the trimmings. All who attended received winter hats, gloves, and scarves. Children received toys and photos with Santa.

County Executive Ike Leggett serves at Bethesda's Goodwill Dinner


 

 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Board asks for greater coordination on Friendship Heights issues

The Following is a November 26, 2014 letter from the Western Montgomery County Citizens Advisory Board to the County Executive and County Council regarding the need for cross-jurisdictional dialogue on priorities in the Friendship Heights central business district and Western Avenue corridor.


Dear County Executive Leggett and Council President Rice:

On October 20, 2014, the Western Montgomery County Citizens Advisory Board (WMCCAB) hosted a community roundtable with residents; representatives from DC Ward 3 Area Neighborhood Commissions; and officials from the Village of Friendship Heights, Town of Somerset, and Chevy Chase Village.  Universally, community leaders and residents expressed a desire for more cross-jurisdictional communication and coordination.  As a result of this successful meeting, WMCCAB members believe there is a need to revive the long-dormant Friendship Heights Task Force, or similar cross-jurisdictional dialogue, to make productive cross-border coordination a reality.  

The Friendship Heights Task Force was established in 1998 to allow representatives from Montgomery County and the District of Columbia to coordinate planning, transportation priorities, public safety, and community projects in Friendship Heights.  It was active until 2001 but has been dormant since then.  The need for a renewed emphasis on coordination between Montgomery County and the District concerning Friendship Heights was very apparent from the roundtable discussion.  Participants, including commissioners from Advisory Neighborhood Commissions (3D, 3E, and 3G) raised issues pertaining to pedestrian, bicycle, and vehicle safety; bus routes, public safety, and environmental concerns.  Some specific areas of concern were:

  • Building bicycle infrastructure in Chevy Chase, Friendship Heights, and Bethesda that connects to the DC bicycle network.  Examples offered included safe bicycle routes from NW DC to Westbard, Bethesda and Chevy Chase Lake and safe bicycle circulation in those areas. Connectivity to the District’s Oregon Avenue bicycle boulevard was also discussed;
  • Adding direct bus connections to connect NW DC activity centers and neighborhoods with activity centers in Montgomery County including future Purple Line stations;
  • Coordinating Montgomery County; Maryland State Highway Administration; and District pedestrian safety infrastructure and outreach in Friendship Heights. 
  • Resolving traffic concerns including improvements to safety at the intersection of Friendship Boulevard/Western Avenue/Jennifer Street
  • Improving dialogue on pedestrian, bike and vehicle safety at Chevy Chase Circle; 
  • Improving Little Falls Stream and Rock Creek watersheds in Montgomery County by adopting programs similar to the District’s “RiverSmart” program.

Participants also requested that the County and the District explore the establishment of a Business Improvement District (“BID”) including both the County and District portions of Friendship Heights.  Businesses on the District side of the border are already exploring the possibility of the formation of a BID.  The WMCCAB is aware that the Office of Legislative Oversight is currently investigating and researching different types of BIDs to help County communities seeking to create something other than an Urban District.  We suggest that the Office of Legislative Oversight’s report also address the feasibility of cross-jurisdictional BIDs, such as the one suggested at the roundtable discussion.    

Given the scope of cross-border issues in Friendship Heights, we urge the County Council and County Executive to re-establish a mechanism for the two jurisdictions to once again coordinate planning and transportation policies for the area.  The WMCCAB is happy to help in any way and is exploring regular annual meetings with neighboring Area Neighborhood Commissions and local municipalities. 

Sincerely, 
James A. “Jad” Donohoe, IV, Chair

Friday, October 17, 2014

Bethesda Development map reaches 100,000 views.

We are very pleased that our Google Map of development projects in Bethesda has been viewed more than 100,000 times!

Bethesda is currently undergoing the changes envisioned by the 1994 Bethesda CBD Sector Plan and its 2006 Woodmont Triangle Amendment.

You can take part in the future of Bethesda by following the progress of the Bethesda Downtown Plan which is now underway.

 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Friendship Heights focus of Oct. 20 Advisory Board meeting

We're putting the final touches on the agenda for next Monday's (October 20) Citizens Advisory Board meeting at the Village of Friendship Heights.

The agenda will include a round-table discussion with members of DC's Area Neighborhood Commissions (3D, 3E, and 3G) on topics of common interest. Also, County and District Planners will discuss transportation plans and linkages across Western Avenue. Montgomery County Police Commander David Falcinelli and his counterpart, Metropolitan Police Commander Michael Reese, will discuss public safety and emergency coordination.

The Village of Friendship Heights is Metro accessible at 4433 South Park Ave., Chevy Chase. The meeting will run from 7-9pm and is open to all.

Friendship Heights

 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Public Meetings in September

Now that August is past, we are back in full swing organizing a series of public meetings for September.


Next Tuesday, September 9, the White Flint Downtown Advisory Committee meets at 8 am at the Bethesda North Conference Center. On the agenda are updates on beautification, development of a streetscape plan, and the White flint District website.


The Woodmont Triangle Action Group then meets on Friday, September 12, 8am at the BCC Regional Services Center. Development proposals for 8008 Wisconsin, the St. Elmo Property, and Lot 667 are on the agenda.


Finally, the Western Montgomery County Citizens Advisory Board meets Monday, September 15, 7pm, at the BCC Regional Services. The agenda includes the Fire & Rescue Master Plan, the merger of Pepco and Exelon, and a proposal to install parking meters in Friendship Heights.


All meetings are open to the public.

 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Advisory Board asks for study of Bethesda's one-way streets

The following is the text of the Western Montgomery County Citizens Advisory Board's August 1, 2014 letter to County Executive Isiah Leggett and County Council President Craig Rice concerning one-way streets in downtown Bethesda:

Dear County Executive Leggett and Council President Rice:

We respectively request that Montgomery County initiate a study of returning some one-way streets in Bethesda to two-way traffic. Two-way streets simplify navigation for drivers. They are more successful for retailers. They are also considered more pedestrian friendly.  

Streets that should be studied for two-way traffic include:
  • Woodmont Avenue (from Old Georgetown Road to Hampden Lane)
  • Old Georgetown Road (from Commerce Lane to Woodmont Avenue)
  • Montgomery Lane (from Woodmont Avenue to Wisconsin Avenue)
  • North Lane (from Woodmont Avenue to East Lane)
  • East Lane (from North Lane to Montgomery Lane)
Such a study should include a robust process of public comment. It should also analyze the positive and negative impacts on nearby intersections, including Wisconsin/Commerce, Wisconsin/ Montgomery, and Wisconsin/East-West/Old Georgetown. 

Changing these streets to two-way traffic could improve Bethesda’s urban fabric and make Bethesda easier for visitors to navigate. With the Bethesda Downtown Plan in process now, we believe this is the right time to study this change.

Thank you for considering the Board’s advice on this matter.

Sincerely, 

James A. "JAD" Donohoe, Chair
Western Montgomery County Citizens Advisory Board



Thursday, August 7, 2014

Public Safety Update

The following is a publicsafety update from Captain David Falcinelli, Commander, Montgomery County Police, 2nd District (Bethesda, North Bethesda, Potomac).

Dear 2nd District Residents:

Tuesday night was National Night Out and the 2nd District was fortunate to take part in two very successful events highlighting the partnership between the police and the community. For the last two years, I have worked to stay abreast of crime trends and deploy resources quickly and appropriately to address them. After speaking to several residents last night, I wanted to send out a couple reminders of just how important it is for each of you to practice good personal safety practices and how it contributes to keeping our crime at manageable levels.

Crime updates:

In July, we had only one robbery in the entire district bringing the total for the year to 22, which is the exact same number at this time last year. However, also in July, we had 123 vehicles entered where property was removed. Of these 123, 88% were left unlocked. In the others where force was used to gain entry, it was primarily because expensive items were left in plain view such as laptops, wallets, purses, etc. We are up 7.7% in this category so far this year. We have reviewed suspects on video and watched as they try door handles, then move onto to the next car when they find it locked. We have talked to suspects after they are arrested and they will tell us that they like to commit this crime here because "most people leave their cars unlocked and there is good stuff inside."

Also in July there were 19 residential burglaries. Of these burglaries, 6 involved property such as bicycles taken from open garages.

In June, 30% of stolen cars were taken with a spare key left inside the car.

While I will continue to deploy my resources to those areas most affected by crime trends, there is still a lot of work we need to do together to deter and prevent many of these crimes from occurring. The first step is to make sure you are doing what you need to do to prevent yourself from becoming a victim by simply locking your car, not leaving spare keys inside your car and closing and locking your garage doors, especially at night.. The second step is to be a good neighbor – call your neighbor when you see a garage door being left open, share the stats on thefts from cars and what needs to be done to prevent this crime and deter criminals from coming back to our neighborhoods, and call the police when you see a strange car or person in the neighborhood especially late at night.

I am very excited about my new District Community Action team which is a team of 7 officers that focus on hot spots only. They are not tied to the police radio for the constant calls for service, but rather go to areas that have experienced crime trends and provide a visible deterrent to discourage future activity and make arrests if possible. In June, this team arrested three different suspects operating stolen cars or attempting to steal them. I am also very pleased to have a new Petty Crimes Detective. This officer’s responsibility is to look mostly at misdemeanor property crimes such as thefts from cars, credit card thefts, etc. and put the pieces of the puzzle together to identify trends and suspects. Just last week, a suspect that had committed thefts at various country clubs was arrested after the Petty Crimes Detective pieced together evidence from three different crime scenes to identify the suspect responsible for them.

Traffic updates:

Cedar Lane is now re-opened. Woodmont Avenue through the business district is scheduled to be completely re-opened on August 15th.

Officers have been asked to provide extra patrol to MacArthur Blvd. for parking violations that mainly occur on the weekends in the area of Great Falls Park access points. Officers are also continuing to enforce distracted driving violations such as texting and cell phone use. Pedestrian safety and enforcement operations will continue throughout the year at marked crosswalks throughout the district. Montgomery County school buses are now equipped with cameras that will record and ticket those who pass on the flashing red.

After almost three years as your commander, it is abundantly clear that we cannot do our job without your help. We need to continue to work together to make the 2nd District a great place to live, work and play. I have two community services officers that are more than willing to conduct free home or business security surveys, or speak at a neighborhood meeting about crime and/or safety issues. They can be reached at 240-773-6700 and ask for the CSO. Please help us by doing your part to protect our community!

Sincerely,

Captain David Falcinelli

Commander – 2nd District

 

Friday, July 11, 2014

Police Update

The following is a letter from Captain David Falcinelli, Commander, Montgomery County Police 2nd District:

Dear Residents of the 2nd District:

It’s been a few months and I wanted to share some updates from the 2nd District…

Traffic:

Many thanks to those of you who have managed to work your way around the Cedar Lane closures. I understand that this has been an inconvenience, but the project is a priority for the State Highway Administration (SHA) and it will hopefully be completed prior to the beginning of the next school year. Starting July 13th, SHA will begin a nighttime re-paving project of Wisconsin Ave. between Bradley Blvd. and Old Georgetown Rd. You will experience lane closures between 9pm and 5am.

Officers from the 2nd District won the recent Commander’s Challenge for seatbelt enforcement with the issuance of over 1,100 citations in just three weeks. It is hard to believe in this day and age that some people still refuse to wear their seatbelts. Time and time again throughout my career I have witnessed lives saved by simply buckling up. The fine did increase this year from $25 to $83 so hopefully this will finally convince those hold-out’s to buckle up. I have also noticed that many drivers can be seen holding their cell phone in their hand while driving down the road and using the speakerphone. This is against the law! The cell phone cannot be in your hand while the car is in motion – period! As far as texting, if your car is on the roadway, you cannot write, read or send a text message even if you are stopped. Our officers our still enforcing these laws so please share this information with your family members to keep us all safer on the roads.

Crime:

Just recently, officers from the 2nd District received a call for a bank robbery in the Kensington area. The area was quickly locked down and a suspect was found hiding in a shed in a backyard by one of our K-9 units a short time later. This suspect was responsible for not only the Kensington robbery, but also for one bank robbery in the Bethesda business district and two others in Potomac. This was outstanding work by our officers to get this dangerous criminal off the streets.

As expected, property crimes such as burglaries and thefts from auto tend to rise during the summer months. This year has been no different. In June, the 2nd District experienced 102 thefts from cars. Of these 102, 81 (or 79%) were unlocked. On the ones were force was used, it was normally because valuables were seen in plain view in the car. The most targeted items continue to be wallets, purses, cell phones, laptops, glasses and other small valuables. I cannot stress enough the importance of locking your cars and removing valuables and anything that appears to be of value. While you may not think anything of leaving a laptop case on your front seat, someone that is intent on stealing from cars, especially in darkness, sees that case and thinks there is a laptop inside. They will risk making noise by breaking a window to get into your vehicle. We did make two arrests in June, but so far in July we have had 23 additional incidents.

Some other safety points to consider are:

1. Close and lock your garage doors, especially at night. We have experienced several incidents where items from garages such as bicycles have been stolen overnight.

2. Do not leave a spare car key inside or on your car. We average about eight stolen autos per month. In June, there were seventeen events. Of these seventeen, five were stolen by using a key that was left inside the vehicle. We recently made two separate arrests of car thieves so hopefully that will reduce our numbers. So far in July, we have had no further incidents.

3. Please call 911 immediately for a crime in progress, or our non-emergency number 301-279-800 for a suspicious situation such as an unfamiliar person with a backpack on your street late at night (theft from autos). Let us come and investigate and determine if this person is supposed to be there or not.

Just recently, the 2nd District launched our latest crime-fighting venture called the District Community Action team (DCAT). This is a group of highly motivated uniformed officers that are assigned to work hot spots. They are not normally assigned routine calls for service, although they help out when call volume is high. Earlier this week, an alert resident dialed 911 when he observed his car being broken into. DCAT responded quickly, set up a perimeter, and apprehended both suspects. This week, they have been asked to be a visible deterrent in neighborhoods experiencing a rise in thefts from autos. I am very excited about this unit, so please call or e-mail me if you feel there is a problem in your community where they may help. I meet weekly with my undercover team, detectives, petty crimes unit and DCAT to review the latest crime trends and develop tactical deployment strategies for the upcoming week.

As always, it is up to both of us to do our parts to minimize crime in the 2nd District. I promise to make the best use of my resources and deploy them where they are most needed. I need you to get better at practicing personal safety prevention like locking your cars, houses and garages if you are one of the many that still do not do that.

Thank you for your time. Let’s close out summer together by bringing our theft from autos and thefts of cars down to more acceptable numbers.

Captain David Falcinelli, Commander

2nd District

240-773-6700

 

 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Cedar Lane to Close June 6

The State Highway Administration (SHA) will be closing a 1,000 foot section of Cedar Lane in Bethesda, starting 12:01 AM Friday morning June 6 through mid-August. SHA must close Cedar Lane between Rockville Pike and Elmhirst Parkway (at the Stone Ridge School) in order to replace aging pipes that run underneath Cedar Lane.
This is part of a larger project to make urgently needed improvements to the intersection of Rockville Pike (MD 355) at Cedar Lane. When it is completed, this project will make the intersection function better and more safely for vehicles and pedestrians. This project is one of several designed to improve roads, transit, bike and pedestrian facilities around the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and National Institutes of Health.
PLAN YOUR SUMMER ROUTE! Cedar Lane won’t be an option between Bethesda and points to the east between June 6 and mid-August. Here is a link to SHA’s prescribed detours around the work zone:
SCHOOLS: The closure will affect school transportation in the last week of Montgomery County Public Schools, as well as MCPS summer programs. MCPS signed off on the June 6 closure to help ensure that Cedar Lane would re-open prior to the opening of schools on August 25. MCPS will alter affected bus routes during the road closure; families will be notified of route changes.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

White Flint - What's in a name?

Note: This post was updated on May 20.

The White Flint Downtown Advisory Committee is working hard towards a destination website that will feature listings of shops, eateries, events, and places to live in the White Flint Sector Plan area.  

The biggest challenge ahead is how to move forward with promoting the area while there isn't complete agreement on what to call it. 


Is it Rockville, Bethesda North, the Pike, Metro White Flint, or something else? It seems everyone has an opinion as evidenced by the comments section of a recent article in the Washington Post.


Take our survey and tell us what you think the area around the White Flint Metro Station should be called.


The survey is now closed.  Results can be viewed here.

Monday, April 28, 2014

County DOT Reaches Out to Bethesda Neighborhoods on Pedestrian Safety

The following is text of a letter sent to Bethesda neighborhood leaders.

As part of County Executive Ike Leggett’s Pedestrian Safety Initiative, the Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) has been focusing on “High Incidence Areas” (HIAs) for pedestrian collisions. With the significant level of pedestrian traffic in Downtown Bethesda, it is probably no surprise to you that your community is one of these HIAs – areas of the County with the highest rates of pedestrian crashes. Over the last year and half, MCDOT has been working with a group of fabulous volunteers in the Wheaton area, who have helped us spread the word to the community about how to be a safe pedestrian, and how drivers can keep pedestrians safe. We began to form a similar group in Bethesda last fall. We are now looking forward to expanding this group of volunteers, and in working with the local community to spread the word about how to keep pedestrians safe. 

The County’s Pedestrian Safety Initiative uses a three-pronged approach that coordinates Engineering, Education, and Enforcement with the intention of influencing pedestrian and driver behavior. We have already begun working with a group of students and Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School through the Walk Your Way grant program, and are looking forward to efforts there. We also partner with Montgomery County Police, and you may have noticed that officers are in the community ticketing drivers and pedestrians who do not follow the law.

We would love to partner with you to spread our important message to your community, and we hope that you are interested in working with us. Here are some ways we can work together on this effort:

  • We are developing and will soon be sending along a social media toolkit, which will include pedestrian safety themed Facebook posts, Tweets, and e-mail messages that can be sent out to your community.
  • If you have well-attended resident meetings, we are happy to come out and speak to your group about pedestrian safety.
  • If you have children in the local schools, we would love to get connected with your PTA and/or school administrators to identify opportunities to educate kids and parents about important safety tips.
  • Please consider volunteering with us! We will be at several local special events this Spring, including Strut Your Mutt and Imagination Bethesda, and would love to have community volunteers help with these efforts. We also offer SSL hours for middle and high school students who participate in our programs.
  • You can learn more about our program by visiting our website: www.montgomerycountymd.gov/walk. We will be in touch in the very near future, but in the meantime please feel free to contact us directly with questions, to sign up for volunteering, or with suggestions for how we might reach your community.

We look forward to working with you!

Jeff Dunckel

Montgomery County Pedestrian Safety Coordinator

Jeff.Dunckel (at) montgomerycountymd.gov

Joana Conklin

Montgomery County Pedestrian Safety Education Specialist

Joana.Conklin (at) montgomerycountymd.gov

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Western Montgomery County CAB Testimony on FY-15 Operating Budget

The following testimony is from the Western Montgomery County Citizens Advisory Board to the County Council concerning the 2015 fiscal year operating budget. This testimony was given on April 9th, 2014:


Council President Rice and Councilmembers, my name is Jad Donohoe.  I am the chair of the Western Montgomery County Citizens Advisory Board. 
Thank you for this opportunity to present our views on the 2015 fiscal year operating budget. 
The Board recognizes that the County is emerging from a difficult time in which you have had to close a series of budget gaps caused by the troubled economic landscape. As we restore budgets and programs, we urge caution and careful deliberation.
With this in mind, we encourage you to look for opportunities for existing programs to operate more efficiently and to find savings through shared investments and coordination across multiple agencies.  Specifically, we suggest a multi-agency task force be convened to identify such opportunities. 
We also wanted to call your attention to funding for programs which our Board hears about most often from our west county neighborhoods: specifically, improved funding for Public Libraries, Regional Services Centers (RSCs), School Resource Officers (SROs), Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety, Bikeshare, Ride-On and Master Plans.
Public Libraries
We support the County Executive’s recommended increase in funding for Public Libraries.
·        The circulation of traditional books has not diminished and the demand for e-books has skyrocketed. 
·        We regularly hear requests for additional evening and weekend library hours.  Particularly in our more urbanized areas, evening library hours can play a significant role in the “Nighttime Economy.”
·        With this increased use comes a need for adequate funds for cleaning and maintenance.
Regional Services Centers (RSCs)
We urge you to add additional funds above the County Executive’s recommended budget for Regional Services Centers in order to restore full-time administrative support in each RSC.  We applaud the recent relocation of some part-time administrative support, but a full-time admin is needed at each RSC.
·        For many County residents and community organizations, the RSCs are their connection to County government and the proof that government is available and responsive to their concerns.  
·        Without adequate administrative support on site at the RSCs, time that RSC directors spend engaging with the community is spent on administrative tasks like scheduling and building management issues.  
·        Running the RSCs on a skeleton crew fails to leverage the significant capital and operating investment we have made in the RSCs, and it limits the work that RSCs can do - a problem recently highlighted by the 2014 Committee Evaluation and Review Board recommendations.
School Resource Officers (SROs)
We enthusiastically support the County Executive’s recommendation for two additional School Resource Officers.  We are very supportive of this program, and welcome this additional funding.
Pedestrian Safety
The Board applauds the County’s emphasis on pedestrian safety.  We encourage you to continue the high level of support for pedestrian awareness education – including enforcement against drivers who ignore marked crosswalks.
Bikeshare and Bikelanes
We thank you for the recent roll out of Capital Bikeshare in the County.
·        We encourage you to consider additional funds to connect up the system in Bethesda with that in Rockville by adding multiple new bikeshare stations in the growing areas of Twinbrook and White Flint.
·        We also urge additional bikelanes and bike trails, and maintenance of the existing network. Like all networks, our network of bikelanes and bikeshare stations become more useful and usable as they increase in size.
Ride-On
We support the continued investment in Ride-On and ask that the County consider ways to make transit smarter, including:
·        Real-time tracking and mapping of bus routes
·        Free service within 1/2 mile of urban metro stations (to reduce traffic and aid the nighttime economy)
·        New or expanded routes that more directly connect our urban areas to one another including Friendship Heights/Bethesda, Bethesda/White Flint, and White Flint/Twinbrook.
Master Plans
We applaud the ongoing review of the Downtown Bethesda Master Plan. We urge you to fund the review of the Westbard Sector Plan (our County’s oldest Sector Plan), and the White Flint II Plan, which will guide development in the area between the emerging urban centers of White Flint and Twinbrook.
We appreciate your consideration of these points as you review the FY2015 budget. Thank you.
Jad Donohoe, WMCCAB Chair 

White Flint Downtown Advisory Committee Testimony on FY15 Operating Budget

The following testimony is from the White Flint Downtown Advisory Committee to the County Council concerning the 2015 fiscal year operating budget. This testimony was given on April 9th, 2014:


Good afternoon, President Rice and Councilmembers.  My name is Francine Waters and I am presenting this testimony as Chair of the White Flint Downtown Advisory Committee.

The White Flint Downtown Advisory Committee (WFDAC) was established by the County Council to:


•        Advise County departments on public services in the White Flint Sector Plan area,
•        Coordinate activities that promote and advance business interests and a sense of sense of community within the area,
•        Advise the County Executive and County Council on the eventual establishment of an Urban District.
The Committee is focused on accomplishing the tasks before us and greatly appreciates the support provided by the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center.  With their help, we have completed several initial tasks, including:
•        Developed a retail/restaurant directory
•        Created a map of development projects (which has been viewed more than 18,000 times in the past year.)
•        Drafted a history of the White Flint area.
Other short range projects, which will enhance & improve the White Flint Business district, while leading towards our long range goal of the establishing an urban district, are in progress:
•        A beautification pilot in which property owners will improve the appearance of Rockville Pike.  This builds on the existing weekend maintenance crew - managed by BCC Regional Services Center and the Department of Corrections - which has done an outstanding job in “cleaning up” White Flint. 
•        Establishing a single destination portal for the “business district” which contains retail, housing, events, and development activity information.
•        A review of management and funding options for a future Urban Services District.
We greatly appreciate the $20,000 in funds you provided in the FY14 budget which makes these projects possible.
We believe that much can be accomplished with a modest investment of public funds. 
In this spirit, we are requesting a modest increase ($75,000) in the FY15 budget for the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center for the following needs that will improve the appearance and sense of community in White Flint:
•        Development of White Flint streetscape guidelines, perhaps through an Urban Land Institute Technical Assistance Panel ($20,000).  Urban streetscape standards have yet to be developed.  This funding will help create standards for lanterns, benches, and sidewalks in the “in between” blocks that connect anticipated development.
•        Additional contract support for promotional activities and coordination of maintenance activities. ($35,000)  These funds will help improve the engagement of local business and residents, promote existing activities and events, and enhanced maintenance needs.
•        Spot improvements to the appearance of the Public Right-of-Way. ($20,000) 
The members of the WFDAC are happy to serve the County by representing the views and concerns of the communities of White Flint.  We look forward to continuing to advise the County Executive and County Council in FY15.
Thank you for considering our testimony.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Public Safety Update

Below is a crime update from Captain David Falcinelli, Commander of the 2nd Police District serving the communities of Bethesda, Chevy Chase, Kensington, North Bethesda, and Potomac.


While we continue to be fortunate in the 2nd District and the County with generally decreasing crime rates, the past year has had some significant events which I wanted to bring to your attention, as many closures have been made.

On November 25, 2013, homeowners behind the Wildwood Shopping Center were victims of an armed home invasion. Videos of the suspects were obtained at a nearby business immediately after the event and shared with the public soon after. One of two suspects was identified as Gary J. Lee Thomas of Upper Marlboro. Detectives obtained a warrant for his arrest and he was recently arrested in D.C. on an unrelated charge. He will be transported to Montgomery County for service of that warrant after his release from DC custody. The second suspect is still unknown.

On March 13, 2014, a resident of Chevy Chase had her car taken at gunpoint. Two days later, this car was involved in a pursuit by U.S. Park Police officers in DC where shots were fired. One of these occupants, David Joel Sutton of DC, was determined to be responsible for the original carjacking and warrants are now on file for him which will be served upon his release from US Park Police custody.

Just last week, two suspects broke into a residence in Chevy Chase. After police were alerted, the suspects were spotted nearby and one was arrested after a lengthy foot pursuit. The suspect that was captured has been identified as Michael Keith Muschette of DC. The investigation into the identification of the second suspect is continuing.

All of these suspects live outside of Montgomery County but chose to commit their crimes here. I cannot stress enough that you know your neighbors and your neighborhoods better than anyone else, and you must be our eyes and our ears. If you see someone not familiar to your neighborhood acting in a suspicious manner, please make note of a description of the person and/or any associated vehicle and call our non-emergency number 301-279-8000. Your phone call may help us prevent a crime from occurring and/or discourage these criminals from coming back to Montgomery County. As we move into Spring and hopefully warmer temperatures, there will most likely be more criminal activity especially with suspects breaking into cars.  Call us immediately and we will respond as soon as possible to investigate. Please remember to lock your cars and remove any items of value or those that appear to be of value (such as a laptop case).  Do not leave spare keys on or inside your vehicles.

On a traffic safety note, officers from the 2nd District are conducting aggressive enforcement of cell phone and texting laws. Traffic officers issued 31 tickets in under one hour today and will continue to do enforcement operations to make our roads safer. One crash on a major artery during rush hour makes life miserable for the rest of us using that road. Is that text or call really that important to risk your life and the lives of other drivers? Remember – it is against the law for a driver to use their hands to use a handheld telephone while the motor vehicle is in motion. HANDS FREE AT ALL TIMES WHEN THE CAR IS IN MOTION. Contrary to popular belief, holding a phone in your hand and using the speakerphone is a violation if the car is in motion. READING/WRITING/SENDING texts or other electronic messages is against the law while the car is in the travelled portion of the roadway regardless of whether it is in motion or stopped. Please share this information with your children as I will be asking officers to step up enforcement operations near our schools also.

Thanks for doing your part to keep our neighborhoods, roads and families safe. Please call me if you have any concerns.

Captain David Falcinelli
Commander – 2nd District

Monday, March 17, 2014

Leggett Budget Boosts Schools, More Police, Job Creation, No Prop. Tax Increase

Leggett’s FY15 Budget Boosts School Funding to Record Levels, Puts More Police Officers on the Beat and Expands Job Creation Efforts; Focuses on Seniors and Youth and Reduces Property Tax Rate

Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett today announced his recommended $4.97 billion operating budget for fiscal year (FY) 2015, that begins July 1, and includes a tax-supported County government budget of $1.478 billion. The budget funds education beyond what is required by the State Maintenance of Effort Level law to meet future needs created by the skyrocketing number of Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) students, puts more police on the beat and reduces the County’s property tax rate.

“This operating budget devotes record spending to MCPS,” said Leggett. “As a teacher, a grandparent with kids in our public schools and one for whom education was the ticket out of abject poverty, there is nothing more important than a good, quality education. That is why this operating budget provides an unprecedented County contribution of $1.5 billion for MCPS, 99.3 percent of the Board of Education’s request and $26 million over the State-required Maintenance of Effort level. I am adding at least $11 million in the existing MCPS fund balance to this total to raise the increase to $37 million. For Montgomery College, I am recommending a County contribution of $110.6 million, an 11 percent increase over last year and $11 million over Maintenance of Effort.”

Leggett’s budget adds 23 more Police officers and expands Positive Youth Development programs, services critical to the growing senior population and funding for life sciences and cybersecurity.

“My commitment to prudent fiscal policies has restored the County’s economic health, allowing us to focus current available revenue on the priorities that are so essential to the needs of our growing community,” said Leggett. “My recommended budget increases resources for business growth and job creation, public safety, health and human services, libraries and other services that are so important to maintaining our strength and further enhancing our future quality of life.”

The budget includes:

A total of $4,970,806,004 for Montgomery County Public Schools, Montgomery College, County Government and the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC);

Recommended tax-supported expenditures of $4,335,880,302;

Holding the line on property taxes at the Charter limit with a drop in the property tax rate from $1.01 per $100 of assessed value to 99.6 cents so that the average homeowner will pay $17 less this year;

A property tax credit of $692 for each owner-occupied residence to limit the burden on homeowners;

Reductions in all County taxes, as a share of personal income, from an average of 4.41 percent in FY07 to a projected 4.0 percent in FY15 – a 10 percent decrease;

Full funding of the County’s Retiree Health Benefits at $105.1 million;

A 5.2 percent increase in tax-supported funding for the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission;

County financial reserves at the policy level of $379.9 million, the highest in the County’s history;

PAYGO in the Capital Improvements Program at 10 percent of current revenue to match bond funding in the capital budget, consistent with fiscal policy;

No increase in the Water Quality Protection Charge or solid waste charges for County residents; and

A Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission budget that would increase water and sewer rates by six percent in FY15 in accordance with the Commission’s recently approved budget.

“During my administration, all County taxes, as a share of personal income, have gone down by 10 percent, from an average of 4.41 percent in FY07 to a projected 4.0 percent in FY15,” said Leggett.

Below are budget highlights:

Education

The budget increases County spending for Leggett’s priorities, with education at the top of the list. To meet the challenge of skyrocketing school enrollments, Leggett’s FY15 recommended operating budget includes a record-high of $2.164 billion for the Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS), an increase of $79.8 million – or 3.8 percent. The unprecedented County contribution is $1.502 billion, $26 million over the Maintenance of Effort requirement of the State of Maryland and 99.3 percent of the Board of Education request – a 3.8 percent increase.

The recommendation for Montgomery College totals $237.3 million, an $8.9 million increase of 3.9 percent. The County contribution is $110.6 million, which is $11 million over Maintenance of Effort and an 11 percent increase over last year.

The budget also increases English adult literacy programs by 10 percent.

Public Safety

Leggett’s approach to public safety continues to show results, with a nine percent decrease in total crime from 2012 to 2013, part of a seven-year trend that reduced serious crime by 33 percent and all crimes by 26 percent. For the Police Department, Leggett proposed a five percent, $11 million increase that will add 23 sworn officers and two forensic scientists, and double the number of School Resource Officers assigned to County high schools. This expansion is part of Leggett’s multi-year plan to add 120 new officers and 23 Police civilian employees -- for a total of 143. The recommended budget adds a Wheaton patrol unit and a Germantown Central Business District unit.

The Montgomery County Fire & Rescue Service (MCFRS), career and volunteer, continue to make substantial improvements in protecting the lives and property of County residents, significantly reducing, in the last seven years, both ambulance and fire response times in all parts of the County. Civilian fire deaths have fallen from 13 in 2009 to two in 2012 and three in 2013. Because most of those fatalities were older residents, Leggett’s budget strengthens ongoing outreach to seniors who are most at risk for fire deaths. In total, he is recommending $224.3 million for the Fire and Rescue Services, an increase of 3.4 percent.

Economic Development

Leggett has made creating Montgomery County’s jobs of the future one of his top priorities and over the past two years of economic recovery, Montgomery County jobs are up three percent. His FY15 recommended operating budget includes funding to repurpose the William Hanna Innovation Center to become the National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence. It increases Life Sciences and Incubator support by $400,000 and increases by $500,000 County funding for BioHealth Innovation, the public-private partnership to enhance the commercialization of critical research conducted in the County. This budget also increases County support for the successful Local Small Business Reserve Program and for the American Film Institute.

Under Leggett’s administration, Montgomery County was the first local jurisdiction in the nation to establish a Biotech Tax Credit that provides incentives for investment in biotech firms. This year the program provided $500,000 to eligible companies. A new local Cybersecurity Tax Credit is designed to similarly stimulate investments in County-based firms, and Leggett’s budget proposal includes $500,000 for incentives in FY15.

Libraries

To restore some of the deepest cuts made during the recession, Leggett began rebuilding the Department of Public Libraries budget over the last two years by restoring some hours, materials and staffing. Two renovated libraries in Gaithersburg and Olney were reopened and, this fall, the new Silver Spring Library will open.

The FY15 recommended budget includes $37.2 million, a 6.7 percent increase from FY14 and a 30 percent increase since FY12. The budget increases hours by five percent at the following 11 branches: Davis, Marilyn J. Praisner, Potomac, Aspen Hill, Chevy Chase, Damascus, White Oak, Kensington Park, Little Falls, Long Branch and Twinbrook.

Positive Youth Development

From 2007 to 2012, Leggett’s Positive Youth Development Initiative has helped reduce gang-related crimes by almost 50 percent by providing positive after-school opportunities for at-risk youth, intervention to keep young people out of gangs and resources to prevent and stop gang activity. Leggett’s budget proposes adding to the Watkins Mill Cluster an ‘Excel Beyond the Bell’ middle school and a High School Sports Academy. For the successful Linkages to Learning program that addresses the comprehensive needs of at-risk students and their families, the budget adds a site at South Lake Elementary School in the Kennedy Cluster and expands the program to the Watkins Mill Cluster.

Senior Initiatives

In addition to more resources dedicated to senior fire safety, Leggett’s budget further expands his commitment to make Montgomery County a “community for a lifetime” by restoring operating hours reduced during the economic crisis at three County senior centers. Also included are increases for adult protective services, adult foster and day care, a senior ombudsman and caregiving services. Modifications to the Call ‘N’ Ride program income eligibility guidelines will expand the program to an additional 900 residents. Funding for Ride On’s Kids and Seniors Ride Free programs are also recommended to increase.

Affordable Housing

Leggett’s recommended budget brings the County’s total investment in affordable housing during the last eight years to more than $320 million, creating, acquiring or preserving more than 9,000 units of affordable housing in the County and leveraging a $1 billion investment in housing development and rehabilitation.

This year’s proposal increases the general fund contribution to the Housing Initiative Fund by 10 percent over last year’s level. Resources were also provided for direct rental assistance to 1,925 households in FY14 and 2,069 in FY15, an increase of 7.5 percent. Funding in this budget continues workshops and individual counseling efforts to reduce foreclosures.

Health and Human Services

Leggett believes that the level of care for a community’s most vulnerable residents is the best indicator of the quality of that community. Significant additional resources are provided in the FY15 recommended budget for a variety of public health, behavioral health and other critical safety net services. These include replacing federal shortfalls in the community services block and emergency solutions grants; greater funding for the developmental disability supplement and nurse monitoring services for more than 2,000 senior and disabled clients; raising the adult foster care reimbursement rate; adding funds for adult protective services, adult day care, caregiver support, the long-term care ombudsman program, abused persons program and behavioral health programs; and greater funding to increase collaboration to close the academic achievement gap, serve at-risk students and enhance welcome centers.

Community Grants

To meet the challenges of a growing and more diverse population, Leggett believes that a County government partnership with community organizations is vital in leveraging resources and strengthening outreach. In the FY15 budget, Leggett is recommending an increase in community grants of $975,000, for a total of $5.9 million, which includes $1.6 million for Council community grants.

The full budget and highlights are available on the County’s website at: County Executive's Recommended Operating Budget for FY15.

 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Board requests funding for libraries, regional centers, & school resource officers.

The following is text of a February 28 letter to County Executive Isiah Leggett from the Western Montgomery County Citizens Advisory Board regarding the FY 15 County Operating Budget.

Dear Mr. Leggett: 

Thank you for this opportunity to present the views of the Western Montgomery County Citizens Advisory Board (WMCCAB) in advance of the release of your recommended operating budget for fiscal year 2015 (FY2015).  We particularly appreciate you coming to the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center (BCCRSC) on January 13th to hear from the WMCCAB and members of the community regarding our budget priorities. 

The County is beginning to emerge from a difficult time in which our elected leaders have had to close a series of budget gaps caused, largely, by the troubled economic landscape.  This year’s estimated budget gap will be smaller than those of the past few years, but challenges remain as the needs are still great in many areas.  While we believe our government needs to be adequately staffed and support our public workforce, we urge caution and careful consideration as positions are added and as programs are restored to pre-recession levels.  The County does not want to inadvertently find itself in a situation in future years where it must eliminate positions or curtail services once again. 

We continue to encourage the County to look for more opportunities for existing programs to achieve greater efficiency and savings through shared investments by multiple agencies.  A multi-agency task force could be convened to identify such opportunities.  Other opportunities may exist within annual maintenance programs.  For example, the County Departments of Transportation and Environmental Protection could look for opportunities to incorporate green infrastructure into annual street resurfacing and maintenance efforts.  Other communities have demonstrated that strategic investments in innovative green infrastructure techniques can produce improved water quality, pedestrian safety and neighborhood character within the existing budgets of current programs.         

Based on input from the community, the WMCCAB would also like to highlight the following specific issues that are important to the business, non-profit and residential communities within the area we represent.  We recognize the extraordinary challenge of balancing so many competing priorities. 

Public Libraries:   

We join you in celebrating the renovation of two libraries.  Further, we applaud your determination to continue to restore library funding, which is still below 2008 levels.  Increased operating funds are still required for (1) book purchases and (2) additional library hours.  Book purchases require new funding in two formats: while the circulation of traditional books has not diminished, e-book demand has skyrocketed.  Our libraries need the funds to meet these demands.   We also regularly hear requests for additional library hours for evenings and weekends.  Particularly in urbanized areas of the County, evening library hours can play a role in the “Nighttime Economy” and can allow for more use of library meeting rooms, etc.

Regional Services Centers (RSCs): 

The RSCs perform a valuable local governance service and must be maintained and strengthened in future operating budgets.  For many County residents, the RSCs are their connection to County government and the proof that government is available to them and responsive to their concerns.  The BCCRSC has been instrumental in coordinating public dialogue on the ongoing Bethesda Downtown Sector Plan and White Flint urban services; assisting emerging Senior Villages; and increasing educational and non-profit services for the public at the RSC.  Without adequate administrative support on site at the RSCs, time that RSC directors would otherwise spend on engaging with the community is spent on administrative tasks like building management and scheduling.  This “penny wise, pound foolish” approach limits the work that RSCs can do, a problem recently highlighted by the 2014 Committee Evaluation and Review Board recommendations.

School Resource Officers (SROs):  

WMCCAB has long advocated for the SRO program and it has become only more vital with the prevalence of school shootings nationwide.  We are pleased that you are considering a funding increase for this program and that funding was increased last year. The program has been effective in promoting safety and positive community relations at the high school level.  For the SRO program to work, the officer must have adequate time to focus on a school and become a trusted figure there.  This cannot happen if a single officer is responsible for numerous schools with thousands of students. 

Other Services:

We heard from the audience and from our membership at the January 13th meeting regarding the importance of senior services, services for the disabled, and Ride-On. All deserve your continued support. We also once again urge funding for the Planning Department as they take up planning efforts that impact western Montgomery County, including the Bethesda Downtown Sector Plan, White Flint 2 Sector Plan, and a new Westbard Sector Plan.

We appreciate your consideration of these points as you craft your FY2015 budget request.  Thank you again for addressing WMCCAB and the community at our January 13th meeting. 

Sincerely, 

Jad Donohoe, Chair

Thursday, February 27, 2014

White Flint Committee Testimony on Capital Budget

The following is the testimony of the White Flint Downtown Advisory Committee to the County Council concerning the FY15-20 Capital Improvements Program. The Council's Transportation, Energy, and Environment Committee is scheduled to discuss White Flint projects on Monday, March 3.

February 5, 2014

Public Hearing on Montgomery County Capital Improvements Program Budget

Good afternoon, President Rice and Councilmembers. My name is Francine Waters and I am presenting this testimony as Chair of the White Flint Downtown Advisory Committee.

The White Flint Downtown Advisory Committee was established by this Council to advise County departments on public services in the White Flint Sector Plan area and coordinate activities that: promote and assist in advancing business and residential interests; help to create a sense of community; and enhance public safety within White Flint.

The members of the White Flint Downtown Advisory Committee endorse the following priorities for the FY2015-2020 Capital Improvements Program (CIP) and the White Flint Metro Sector Plan area.

• Timely construction of transportation infrastructure improvements which are critical to the transformation envisioned for White Flint, specifically: White Flint District East: Transportation (CIP No. 501204), White Flint District West: Transportation (CIP No. 501116), and White Flint Traffic Analysis and Mitigation (CIP No. 501202).

• Completing Chapman Avenue Extended (CIP No. 500719) which is vital for traffic and pedestrian circulation.

• We also believe the CIP must include projects for the improvement of White Flint’s streetscape and pedestrian and bicycle access as is done in Bethesda and Silver Spring. We also ask that streets in White Flint be evaluated for adequate lighting and included in the Streetlight Enhancements-CBD/Town Center project (CIP No. 500512).

• We support the relocation of Fire Station #23 and believe the project should include a police substation, and offices for regional service center and any staff responsible for managing the area (as part of an Urban District or other entity).

• In order to realize the vision of the White Flint Sector Plan, adequate recreational facilities must be provided to fill existing gaps in services and serve new residents. We recommend that the County include in facility planning and ultimately establish stand-alone projects for recommended public facilities including the future satellite regional services center, express library, and civic green.

• Finally, we endorse the co-location of public facilities wherever possible in White Flint, and specifically endorse developing the North Bethesda Recreation Center (CIP No. 72100) as an addition to the Kennedy-Shriver Aquatics Center.

Thank you for the opportunity to share our thoughts concerning the CIP as it relates to White Flint.

 

Big Train Nonprofits of the Night Sponsored by the Trawick Foundation

Again this summer, thanks to the generous support of the Jim and Carol Trawick Foundation, Bethesda Big Train Baseball will showcase the extraordinary nonprofits of Montgomery County.

Big Train Baseball will honor two nonprofits at each of the 24 home baseball games to be played at Shirley Povich Field this June and July. Each nonprofit that signs up to participate will receive 100 free tickets and will have a table to set up a display and banner and will be able to hand-out information about the organization.

For more information about Big Train Baseball, including the schedule and directions to the field, please log onto http://www.bigtrain.org/.

Povich Field is located in Cabin John Regional Park near Westfield Montgomery. To sign up, please email bruce@greaterwash.org.Big

 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Committee testifies in support of White Flint projects

The following testimony was provided to the County Council on February 5, 2014, regarding the proposed Fiscal Year 2015-2020 Capital Improvements Program.

Good afternoon, President Rice and Councilmembers. My name is Francine Waters and I am presenting this testimony as Chair of the White Flint Downtown Advisory Committee.

The White Flint Downtown Advisory Committee was established by this Council to advise County departments on public services in the White Flint Sector Plan area and coordinate activities that: promote and assist in advancing business and residential interests; help to create a sense of community; and enhance public safety within White Flint.

The members of the White Flint Downtown Advisory Committee endorse the following priorities for the FY2015-2020 Capital Improvements Program (CIP) and the White Flint Metro Sector Plan area.

• Timely construction of transportation infrastructure improvements which are critical to the transformation envisioned for White Flint, specifically: White Flint District East: Transportation (CIP No. 501204), White Flint District West: Transportation (CIP No. 501116), and White Flint Traffic Analysis and Mitigation (CIP No. 501202).

• Completing Chapman Avenue Extended (CIP No. 500719) which is vital for traffic and pedestrian circulation.

• We also believe the CIP must include projects for the improvement of White Flint’s streetscape and pedestrian and bicycle access as is done in Bethesda and Silver Spring. We also ask that streets in White Flint be evaluated for adequate lighting and included in the Streetlight Enhancements-CBD/Town Center project (CIP No. 500512).

• We support the relocation of Fire Station #23 and believe the project should include a police substation, and offices for regional service center and any staff responsible for managing the area (as part of an Urban District or other entity).

• In order to realize the vision of the White Flint Sector Plan, adequate recreational facilities must be provided to fill existing gaps in services and serve new residents. We recommend that the County include in facility planning and ultimately establish stand-alone projects for recommended public facilities including the future satellite regional services center, express library, and civic green.

• Finally, we endorse the co-location of public facilities wherever possible in White Flint, and specifically endorse developing the North Bethesda Recreation Center (CIP No. 72100) as an addition to the Kennedy-Shriver Aquatics Center.

Thank you for the opportunity to share our thoughts concerning the CIP as it relates to White Flint.

 

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Bus Rapid Transit in Montgomery County





                A map of the 11 proposed Bus Rapid Transit routes (click to expand)

Montgomery County is in the process of planning bus rapid transit (BRT) network to improve accessibility and mobility throughout Montgomery County. BRT is similar to light rail operations, but would run exclusively on modified county roads. BRT combines the speed and efficient travel of light rail with the cost-effectiveness and flexibility of buses. 

BRT can come in many different forms, and Montgomery County is planning on implementing different road designs for different corridors. Such designs include two-way medians, reversible medians, and dedicated curb lanes. Watch this video to learn more about the different BRT designs and what they look like.

Plans also call for implementing fare-card and system integration with existing and planned transit modes like WMATA, MARC, RideOn, Metro Bus and the Purple Line.

All successful BRT systems share these characteristics in common:
Dedicated Transit Lanes: Auto-free lanes running in center medians or along curbs to separate rapid transit vehicles from ordinary auto traffic.

Permanent, Modern Stations
: Convenient, clean stations offering off-board fare collection, real-time arrival information, and level boarding to reduce boarding times and keep passengers moving.

Signal Priority
: Priority for bus vehicles at intersections to avoid signal delay and commingling with auto traffic.


For more information check out this website and the accompanying video:


http://www.communitiesfortransit.org/what_is_rts
http://www.communitiesfortransit.org/what_rapid_transit_looks_like

Website for Montgomery County Planning: http://montgomeryplanning.org/transportation/highways/brt.shtm



Common Features of BRT systems (Source: GAO)
Click to expand