Will Rockville Choose Diversity or Bureaucracy?

diversityWalletHub named Rockville as the one of America’s most diverse cities in 2016 based on social class, ethnicity, economics, and households. It ranked 14 out of 301, being bested by our neighbors in Gaithersburg (#1), Silver Spring (#4), Germantown (#5), and Frederick (#8), but ranked higher than places usually lauded for their diversity, such as San Francisco (#20), Alexandria, VA (#45), Denver (#67), San Antonio (#119), and Seattle (#149).

On Monday, March 6, the Rockville Mayor and Council will hold a public hearing on the role of the City Police in the enforcement of federal immigration laws.  Will Rockville’s diversity be celebrated or feared? Will immigrants be threatened or welcomed? Will the answers be quickly forthcoming or will they become mired in bureaucracy?  It’s uncertain where the City of Rockville will land and I suspect it will be a tense and difficult conversation.

It’s a conversation that started shortly after the Presidential election. Mayor Newton read a statement at the start of the City Council meeting on November 14, 2016 to recognize that Rockville’s strengths are Continue reading →

Amazon.com Opens in College Park

Amazon @ College ParkRockvillians (and anyone else) can now have their orders shipped to Amazon@CollegePark, which is especially handy for students (and their parents) at the University of Maryland. It offers a safe and secure location where you can pick up your package on your time – no more attempted deliveries or missing packages, or delays in a mail room. They’ll hold your package for up to 15 days before returning it.  Plus, Prime and Student members receive Free Same-Day Pickup on millions of items when they place their order before noon and ship to Amazon@CollegePark, or Free One-Day Pickup on orders placed after noon.  They also accept returns of most items that were sold by Amazon.com.  The only thing you can’t do here is shop—there are no products available for purchase (that would be HUUUGE store, believe me).

You can learn more by visiting at Terrapin Row at 4200 Guilford Drive, Suite B1 in College Park just south of the University of Maryland campus.

La Limena Named One of the Region’s 100 Best Restaurants

screen-shot-2017-02-22-at-4-26-25-pmThe February 2017 issue of Washingtonian named La Limena, a Peruvian/Cuban restaurant in Rockville, among the “100 very best” in the DC region.  This listing includes it among such Michelin-starred restaurants as Pineapple & Pearls, Minibar, Fiola, Rose’s Luxury, and the Inn at Little Washington, but it’s far less expensive. If you’ve already eaten there, you know it’s popular and packed nearly every hour. Thankfully, they’re opening a second restaurant later this year in the Talbott Shopping Center just north of the Woodmont Country Club on the Rockville Pike.

La Limena is located at 765 Rockville Pike (northwest corner at Wooton Parkway/First Street) but it can be hard to find because it’s deep in the corner of a strange two-part shopping center (how did the Planning Commission allow this?).  The shopping center contains a CVS, PNC Bank, and IHOP, and you’ll want to park close to the furthest back corner of the northern shopping center (you won’t be able to see the sign from the street).

Alas, no other restaurants in Rockville are included in this year’s “100 very best” but close by are:

Happy eating!

REI Moving from Rockville to White Flint in April

REI store in Rockville.

REI store in Rockville.

REI, the outdoor sports store at the southern edge of Rockville at 1701 Rockville Pike, has announced it’s moving south about 1500 feet to become part of the new Pike & Rose mega-shopping center/experience in White Flint. With the loss of Sports Authority and Hudson Trail Outfitters in recent years, this neighborhood’s remaining sports stores are smaller specialists: Revolution Cycles, Performance Bicycle, and Road Runner Sports.  REI has announced the following schedule:

  • March 18, 2017: Garage Sale
  • April 15: Last day accepting shop work
  • April 23: Last day in Rockville
  • April 25: Opening at Pike & Rose in White Flint
  • April 28-30: Grand opening events

Competition for tenants along the Rockville Pike continues to intensify as the internet becomes a more popular place to shop and customers seek more interesting and engaging experiences.  The simple stripmalls that line Rockville Pike will be with us for a while but the richer social environments of Pike & Rose and Rockville Town Square will be more attractive gathering places.  JBG‘s efforts around the Twinbrook Metro Station is expected to follow this new model, however, it seems that development has stalled for the last year and doesn’t have sufficient gravity to attract a sustainable customer base (Terano and Galvan, the last major projects, opened in 2015).

MLK Day a Good Reminder of How Far Rockville Has Come

Today we’re remembering the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for his work on overcoming the racial divide in America.  Although he never visited Rockville, his values were affecting some of the people who lived here.  In 1963, the first African American family moved into Hungerford, which prompted fear in the neighborhood that property values would fall.  In response, the city and county increased police patrols to quell any potential violence, the local newspaper didn’t report on the event, and the City Council held a special meeting to determine the city’s role, including “its moral responsibility for bringing about the peaceful transition of the neighborhood.”

While some neighbors were gathering to get these new neighbors to move out, others were making them feel welcome and distributed a fact sheet to counter the rumors and local churches and businesses came forward to discourage protests and attacks against the African American family.  It took a couple weeks before the tension dissipated, but in the 1960s, it could have become a violent confrontation.  I’ve attached an article from the National Civic Review that provides more details.

Today, Rockvillians would be shocked to hear of events like this occurring in our community.  Racial and ethnic differences are certainly still present and cause concern in some residents and neighborhoods, but they are far less prevalent that those around class differences.  The fights about affordable housing are typically surrogates about keeping people in the working class out of professional class neighborhoods (remember Beall’s Grant II?).  As with African American moving into a neighborhood for the first time back in the 1960s, the arguments are surprisingly the same:  lower property values and increased crime.  Rockville has come a long way from the racial strife of the 1960s but we still have a long way to go.

Senator Kagan’s Kickoff List of Priorities for 2017

Cheryl KaganWith the State Senate and Assembly starting their annual legislative session soon, State Senator Cheryl Kagan outlined her priorities:

  • Enhancing our 9-1-1 Emergency System: Continuing the the work I began last year in memory of wonderful Rockville resident and activist Carl Henn to make our 9-1-1 system more reliable (this bill died in committee in a battle over security and accountability, alas)
  • Protecting Consumers: Prohibiting “bait and switch” at the gas pump and restricting the swiping and storing of personal data from our driver’s licenses.
  • Increasing Election Access and Transparency:  Modifying our election laws to provide for greater access and transparency.
  • Supporting Non-Profits:  Providing short term micro-loans to bridge funding gaps that many organizations experience.

Successes from her first year as the senator from our district include Language Access (the first bill of its kind in the nation!), “Fertility Parity,” informing voters about ‘closed’ primaries, and funding for worthy local projects (such as the Rockville Swim Center improvements). She provided an overview of her legislative agenda to Gaithersburg’s Mayor and Council on January 3, 2017 (YouTube, starting at 41:00).

I’ve just requested Delegates Kumar Barve, Jim Gilchrist, and Andrew Platt in District 18 for their legislative priorities for this year and will share them as soon as they’re available.

Rockville’s Zelda Fitzgerald featured in US Women’s Museum Report

Zelda Fitzgerald on National Women's Museum report.Philanthropist and novelist Zelda Fitzgerald, wife of author F. Scott Fitzgerald, is prominently featured in the new Report to Congress and the President of the United States on the American Museum of Women’s History. Few people know that Zelda and Scott are buried (should I say “sleeping”?) in St. Mary’s Cemetery in Rockville (it’s even listed in the Atlas Obscura) and even fewer know that it was Zelda who insisted that Scott be buried in the family plot when he died in Hollywood in 1940.  Zelda was living at a sanitarium in Asheville, North Carolina, and too ill to attend his funeral but tragically, she would join him eight years later after dying in a fire at the sanitarium.  Because the Catholic church denied his burial at St. Mary’s, the Fitzgeralds were buried in the Rockville Cemetery in Twinbrook. They were moved to St. Mary’s in 1975.

As for the American Museum of Women’s History, the report recommends it become part of the Smithsonian Institution and present a “wide spectrum of American women’s experiences in a way that appeals to a diverse audience.” They’ve identified a fundraising goal of $150-$180 million from the private sector for construction but the museum is only feasible if there is public support to provide the land somewhere near the Mall (three locations were suggested) and that the government would operate and maintain the museum. I wonder how the new President and Congress will respond?

 

Is Montgomery College President Abusing Sensible Travel Policies?

montgomery-collegeFollowing several staff complaints, NBCWashington investigated the travel expenses for Dr. DeRionne Pollard, the president of Montgomery College in Rockville, Maryland.  In addition to a $280,000 annual salary and $3,000 monthly housing allowance, the school’s Board of Trustees agreed to pay for all work-related travel for the president and her partner.  That’s resulted in more than $70,000 for travel to Napa, California, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and almost 40 other destinations since 2013, an average of 13 trips per year, including $6,000 to upgrade seats, $3,700 for extra and overweight baggage, and stays at the Four Seasons.  The college also pays for her $850 for her monthly lease for an Infiniti Q70, plus gas, maintenance, parking, and insurance, plus $10,000 per month for an SUV chauffeured by an off-duty police officer. Why all that travel to promote the school when it’s packed to the gills? Why promote it out of state when it’s a local community college? Why is the college president receiving such luxuries when most of her students are at the other end of the wage scale?

The Board of Trustee‘s response:   Continue reading →

WSSC Provides Details on Water Main Replacements in Twinbrook

Residents listen to Tasfai Gieorgis of WSSC explain the upcoming water main replacement project in Twinbrook.

Residents listen to Tasfai Gieorgis of WSSC explain the upcoming water main replacement project in Twinbrook.

A dozen residents attended an information session on the replacement of water mains in the Twinbrook neighborhood of Rockville last night to learn more about the extent and impact of construction during the next two years.  The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, one of the largest the water and sewer utilities in the nation, serves portions of Rockville and will be replacing the nearly 8 miles of water mains and installing 0.18 miles of new sewer lines in the area roughly bounded by McAullife, Linthicum, Marcia, and Meadow Hall with sections out Tweed Street and Twinbrook Parkway to Viers Mill Road (that’s 332 homes; see map below for details).  The post-war neighborhood of Twinbrook is now passing the 50-year threshold, which means that the lifespan of the water system is coming to an end, a situation that’s Continue reading →

Is Rockville Mayor Exploiting Loophole to Keep Friends on Board?

Red bars show expired terms for members of three key Rockville commissions.

Red bars show expired terms for members of three key Rockville commissions from January 2015 to October 2016.

Is political patronage motivating Mayor Bridget Newton to exploit a loophole in the law to keep friends on influential city boards and commissions, or is it merely bungling?  Right now more than half of the Planning Commission is serving on expired terms and one commissioner’s term expired more than a year ago—and it’s hard to figure out the reason.

The city code (Chapter 1, Article III) states that “Boards and commissions shall consist of members that may include alternate members, appointed by the Mayor subject to confirmation by the Council” and that “Each member shall serve for the term set by law or resolution or until a successor takes office.”  But what happens when the Mayor is unwilling or unable to appoint a successor? It’s created an unfortunate loophole for good government. If these members vacated their seats when their terms expired, the Planning Commission would now be unable to conduct business.  Instead, they’ve continued to serve for months, but in the process have secured a silent appointment to a board without the approval of Mayor and Council.

The Mayor and Council is well aware of vacancies years before they expire, so this clogged situation could only be a result of: Continue reading →