Thursday, July 2, 2020

14 years!

As longtime readers know, I started this blog 14 years ago last Friday, June 26, at the age of 18. I was passionate about this place, but it was a lonely effort. Most of my friends had other things to worry about, and they were tired of me ranting in class or at parties or at shows about the Purple Line.

I wish 18-year-old me could see how much things have changed!

BLM protest at Walter Johnson High School
A socially-distanced protest at Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda, organized by two recent graduates. Photo by the author.
This spring, I've had the chance to meet a number of young people in Montgomery County who are leading the fight for equity and justice in our community, from the MCPS school boundary analysis to over two dozen Black Lives Matter protests that have happened here since May. They live in all parts of the county. They come from a variety of different backgrounds. What unites them is their energy, their persistence, and their willingness to say what needs to be said.

Zoe Tishaev, a graduate of Clarksburg High School, organized a two-hour discussion on exclusionary zoning in Montgomery County called A Legacy of Segregation, where I spoke along with Jane Lyons from the Coalition for Smarter Growth and Planning Board member Partap Verma. You can watch it here:

Last weekend, I had the honor of speaking at a BLM protest at Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda organized by Matt Garfinkel and Nat Tilahun, two MCPS grads who understood the power of making yourself heard right here at home.

These are just two examples, but I'm constantly inspired by the hard work of our student activists - and challenged to push harder for what's right. As grown-ups (am I a grown-up yet?) we would do well to listen to them.

Anyway, here's the text of my speech on Saturday. Here's to 14 years of Just Up The Pike, and here's to 14 more years:

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

thomas hardman (1958-2020)

Thomas outside Dunkin' Donuts in 2008.
Photo by the author.
Thomas Hardman, a longtime Aspen Hill resident, computer programmer, occasional political candidate, and moderator of several local Facebook pages, was found dead in his Gaithersburg apartment over the weekend. An autopsy reports that he had a heart attack. He was 62.

Thomas's friend, civic activist Cary Lamari, reported the news on Facebook last night. Lamari says he asked people if anyone had heard from him since he hadn't posted in several weeks, and filed a missing persons report. Montgomery County police conducted a distress call and found Thomas Sunday night. He was not married, and did not have any children.

From Cary's Facebook page:
Thomas was liked by many people on Facebook and in the Aspen Hill Community, He attended Robert Perry High school and has been a staple in County political discussion for many years. You could always find Thomas at meeting in the Aspen Hill Civic Association meetings and he had a wonderful historical memory of past events and developments in our Community...Thomas was a good and Moral person and will be missed.
Thomas was a big part of the JUTP community as well. Back in the early days of the blog, Thomas was a frequent commenter and a longtime friend of the blog, eagerly offering his thoughts over coffee at Dunkin' Donuts (and it was always Dunkin' Donuts).

From 1980s punk rock to obscure science fiction to Linux to the arcana of Montgomery County, Thomas always had a good anecdote to share and an eagerness to find solutions. According to his personal website, he received a patent in 2008 for an "invention in the field of computing and dataprocessing."

Friday, June 5, 2020

montgomery county could loosen up single-family zoning in silver spring, sort of

Downtown Silver Spring is one of the region’s youngest and most diverse neighborhoods, but rising home prices could make that a thing of the past. To address that, Montgomery County will look at ways to loosen up single-family zoning in the area.

fourplexes on nolte avenue
Fourplexes in Silver Spring. Montgomery County could allow more of this to be built. Image by the author.
After a public hearing Thursday, the Planning Board voted 4-0 to expand the boundaries of the Silver Spring Downtown Plan, a 20-year vision for the area that will cover everything from parks to streets to zoning. It'll allow planners to legalize “missing middle” homes, like duplexes, townhomes, and small apartment buildings, in areas where only single-family homes are allowed now.

"We have unrest in this country because we have people who are excluded from opportunities," said commissioner Partap Verma. "I grew up in missing middle housing, and if it wasn't for the opportunities that my immigrant parents had then, I wouldn't be here before you."

Downtown is back, but a victim of its own success

Montgomery County currently defines downtown Silver Spring as an area bounded by 16th, Spring, Cedar, and Fenton streets, and Eastern Avenue. After decades of decline and disinvestment, downtown has bounced back in a big way, attracting new residents and businesses. It’s become a hub for the region’s Ethiopian community, as well as a destination for beer lovers. Silver Spring is also one of the few places in the United States where black and white boys do equally well as adults.

Silver Spring has historically been an affordable area, but we have a regional housing shortage, and there's a growing demand for close-in neighborhoods with transit. Thousands of new apartments, including apartments set aside for low-income households, have been built in recent years, but it's not enough. In the 20910 zip code, which contains downtown and surrounding areas, home values are now higher than they were before the Great Recession.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

across maryland and virginia, suburban protesters speak out against police brutality

All over the United States, people have taken to the streets to protest police brutality against Black people after George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis last week. Many of these demonstrations have taken place in center cities, including here in downtown DC. Yet suburban communities in Maryland and Virginia have stepped up as well.

Protesters kneel while blocking Germantown Road at a protest on Sunday. Photo by Rachel Taylor.
Protests started in the DC area on Friday, after two days of rioting in Minneapolis following George Floyd’s death on May 27 (One officer has been charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter in connection with Floyd's death). Since then, there have been demonstrations around the White House every afternoon. The first suburban protest may have been Saturday evening in Manassas, a community in Prince William County with a large Latinx population, a long history of harassing immigrants, and a history of protest.

Demonstrators blocked Sudley Road, a state highway lined with big-box stores and shopping centers. Tweets from the protest show a line of people in a standoff with police, peacefully holding posters. As in cities around the nation, police responded with violence. Twitter user Tony posted photos of police tear-gassing and shooting rubber bullets at the crowd.