Monday, July 31, 2006

a response to the "progressives" of moco

Stop it. Just stop it right now.

I think it's funny that people say they like places like Dupont Circle or Georgetown - both spectacular examples of good urbanity and good place-making - but, when Mr. Evil Developer shows up to the Park and Planning Commission with plans of bringing a mini-Dupont or a mini-Georgetown to our county, it's suddenly "overdevelopment" and the "end of our quality-of-life," forcing the developer to bastardize attempts at good design and producing - guess what? Another strip mall. Another development of McMansions. And yet people still complain.

Tell me: who's going to build the Purple Line? Bob Ehrlich? No. Ike Leggett? No. They're both in cahoots with the Columbia Country Club crowd. Personally, I'd rather my politicians be bought by Mr. Evil Developer, who could profit from the Purple Line, than by self-possessed Montgomery County residents, who don't really seem to care how their maids get to work in the morning.

Steve Silverman is what he is: a career politician who is pro-growth. I do not consider that to be a handicap. Ike Leggett will make promises of slow growth, but only at the expense of our County's economy and status, and that is if he can actually slow growth. Do you want to live in a place that is stagnant? There are thousands of dying small towns throughout the country that would kill to have what we have. Why would we give that away?

You'll say Silverman gets his contributions from developers: fine. So did Ike Leggett in '98. And, besides, the financing and construction of new homes is one of the largest sectors of the American economy. Developers will have a lot of influence. Why is that? Greed? No, stupid. Because you need a place to live, and Mr. Evil Developer puts a roof over your head.

Why do we have McMansions? Developer Greed? No, stupid. Your Greed. You put down the money for one, and now you're fighting tooth-and-nail to keep those property values from plummeting when another one's built down the street. You could buy a smaller house - say in Silver Spring, by the Metro - but that would cramp your style. And, besides, all those apartments nearby, what with their low-income residents, would make you feel wildly uncomfortable. Face it, Montgomery County, are you really being progressive - or are you just prejudiced?

Neighbors for a Better Montgomery says they want to stop our "population overcrowding" and the "uncivil human behavior it spawns" in their thirteen-page manifesto, Where Are The Brakes? Now, is that being progressive - or is that a fascist streak? You tell me. They're next to you, pushing the anti-Silverman campaign along.

If you're going to continue your war against Steve Silverman, the development community and the sprawl it creates, you'd better practice what you preach. I want to see boycotts of strip malls and picket lines outside of Ryan Homes developments. Otherwise - you need to go back to your Ford Excursion. It's probably still on the Beltway where you left it at an hour ago.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

eating pho with hans riemer

click here for a photo of Hans and myself eating pho

Just Up The Pike has been in existence for roughly a month now, so I was more than surprised to get an e-mail from County Council candidate Hans Riemer a couple of weeks ago saying that he was interested in the blog and wanted to meet for a drink sometime. I don't drink [when I want to remember what happened the night before], so I suggested we have dinner instead.

I met Hans at Ceviche in Downtown Silver Spring, making his way through a mixed drink after a long night of campaigning with Patrick Higgins, owner of Jackie's, which I still have yet to eat at. Patrick asked me a few questions about blogging, especially about the lack of editorial control. I can't say that I'm always going to be objective - in fact, that's not my goal. I will be honest; unfortunately, the truth can be partisan.

After a few minutes in the bar, Hans and I left for Pho Hiep Hoa next door, where we hashed out the sorry state of the County over Vietnamese soup and fried rice for an hour and a half. He's an instantly likeable guy - friendly, inquisitive, and passionate, despite the fact he was exhausted from a day of knocking on doors and meeting voters. It's that zeal, I think, that helped him register a million voters through Rock The Vote and sets him apart from Valerie Ervin, who has the luxury of name recognition and hasn't pounded the pavement as much.

Coming from the progressive Bay Area, Hans was quick to call out "poseur progressives" or "limousine liberals" as what they are, and openly wonder: "what happened to pushing for change, looking towards the future?" with an idealism that's rarely seen in Montgomery County today. He spoke of an interest in architecture that translates into an appreciation of urbanism and what makes a place like Silver Spring so great. Naturally, his first question to me was about the Death Star which, like so many local holes-in-the-wall, is about to be patched over.

Hans compared Silver Spring to his hometown of Oakland, California, and the complexities of a city so diverse - "a big city that's next to a bigger city and constantly in its shadow." That pretty much hits the nail on the head: Silver Spring living in the shadows, whether of D.C. or Bethesda and the rest of Montgomery County. He knows this city despite having lived here for a relatively short time. I don't see that as a handicap.

Hans Riemer works hard and doesn't mince words. He doesn't see the devil in developers, but he shows a genuine interest in the thoughts and dreams of his constituents - and of the bloggers, who also played a large part in his career at Rock The Vote. The fact he's reaching out to the blogging community in Montgomery County says a lot about his commitment to his adopted home, and I think it will play well in the coming months.

go east, young man!

For Whites in Prince George's, a Mirror on Race

Front page of the Post today says what I (as a half-Black, half-Indian Suitland "ex-pat") have been hoping would happen for a long time: that people - especially white people - would give up on living in suburban West Virginia or the overrated horse country of Loudoun County and start looking east again, towards oft-maligned but still thriving Prince George's County. Of course, some culture shock is bound to happen:

Time, says Hopper, can often be more of a suggestion in Prince George's.

My friend "just laughed at me. She was like, 'Oh, Abby, 2 didn't really mean 2,' " Hopper said.

Now, we know better to invoke the principle of Colored People's Time. Appointments can - and will - be kept just as promptly in Greenbelt as they are in Gaithersburg.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

"back to the future" with Royce Hanson

Update: According to Marilyn Praisner, her suggestion that Hanson "look back to the future" was a complete mis-quote. Praisner seems to like to eat her words, so I will have to leave this non sequitur up.

The Planning Board has a new - er, old chairman: Royce Hanson, who also served as chairman during the 1970's. He is called the "architect of the Ag Reserve," protecting a third of Montgomery County's land from those storybook-wilderness-destroying developers and probably has a lot to do with our County's distinction as "America's Most Progressive Municipality."

And, though I don't like her very much, I applaud Councilwoman (and Calverton resident) Marilyn Praisner for asking Hanson to consider how the 1981 Eastern County master plan "overlooked the needs of older neighborhoods" such as Calverton.

The current shape of East County owes a lot to this plan written up twenty-five years ago. It saw the area as the fringe of a future "edge city" straddling I-95 known as Konterra, which only now is starting to develop. The conglomerations of apartments in Briggs Chaney and White Oak were built in anticipation of Konterra, as was the office park on Cherry Hill Road. The '81 plan even proposed a light-rail line be built from Silver Spring to Burtonsville (via Wheaton) to serve these new, dense communities.

Does that mean older neighborhoods such as Calverton have been ignored? No. Does this mean planners should pay more attention to how old and new neighborhoods interact with each other? Yes.

The future of East County is density. Hopefully, Royce Hanson's experience will enable him to seek the kind of development that respects what is already here. And, if we're lucky, we might even get that light-rail line.

Monday, July 24, 2006

your chance to stick it to park and planning

Planning Montgomery County

This blog is intended to be a forum for the Montgomery County community to explore the challenges and opportunities associated with growth. It will provide a spectrum of community perspectives and guidance to the Planning Board about how to create great places to live and work in the future.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

the ICC: potential blockbuster?

After a Road Cuts Through It, They Plan to Forge On

The long-debated intercounty connector is poised to slice [Longmead Crossing] in half diagonally. The highway has received final federal go-ahead, and the first earthmovers could appear on the horizon beyond the soccer field as early as late fall . . .

But some homeowners are not waiting around to find out, [Roger] Plaut included. The doctoral student and his wife, Mene, recently sold their end-unit townhouse to move a few miles west . . . Choosing to leave "was a moral dilemma for us," he said. "We didn't want to live by a six-lane highway. The issue was, 'Sure, we're getting out of it if we sell, but what about the people we've left behind?' "

Plaut has written a slew of letters to the Gazette representing Longmead Crossing and opposing the ICC - but he now lives in Rockville, nowhere near the highway route.

I believe that if you move to a community for certain reasons, you should work to preserve them. In the past, fleeing neighborhoods that "fell on bad times" led to white flight and suburban sprawl. What happens when all those surprised Derwood homeowners decide to leave when the ICC is built? Property values across the County will suffer as a few more acres in Howard County are cleared and subdivided.

Selling out when the ICC comes through - which it will, so long as Dubya (not Bobby Haircut) is in office - is simply cowardice. If you really care about the state of Montgomery County neighborhoods, you stay and fight to the end. I will.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Update: Milty Peterson is definitely preaching to you

An update in the ongoing Piped-In Evangelism controversy erupting in Downtown Silver Spring that we first reported earlier this month:

Silver Spring, Singular reports that Chick-Fil-A has entered the fray, playing Gospel music outside of their location at Ellsworth and Fenton. This is in addition to the Christian rock heard elsewhere throughout the Downtown Silver Spring complex.

The homeboys and emo kids who frequent Ellsworth and Fenton - most notably the handful of guys staging rap battles in front of the Ben and Jerry's across the street - should be warned.

it's like those "ICC Study" signs never went up

The lingering disconnect between The Powers That Be, Those Holding The Purse-Strings, and The Little Guy continues in East County:

- According to the Examiner, The Intercounty Connector is coming as a surprise to one Silver Spring resident who bought property in the right-of-way only six months ago, when the route was selected last July. Well, if he happens to be near Route 29 as well, what's left of his land should be worth a whole lot.

- Local resident and planning gadfly Stuart Rochester demanded that the Planning Board reconsider preliminary plans to redevelop the forty-year-old Burtonsville Shopping Center, but was quickly shut down. The developer says Rochester wanted to see a tenant listing for the proposed "town center" that has barely entered the design phase.

Don't worry, Stu. Our beloved Dutch Country Farmers' Market isn't dead yet.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

under the radar: More on The Death Star

The Special Exception request to open a professional office at 8603 Cedar Street, informally known as "The Death Star," has been posted on the Planning Board website, along with pictures of the proposed renovation of the circa-1938 cottage-turned-punk house. (According to Montgomery County, it is still a doctor's office, which doesn't explain how the current residents do what they do there.)

This is what D.C. businessman Leizer Z. Goldsmith proposes to do with the property when he relocates his office to Silver Spring. (More renderings at Park and Planning.) An addition would be built on the back along with a third floor, pretty much enveloping the old house. The new building, with its flat roof and increased height, seems to squash the old Georgian roof and tall front gable. (I note the "urban circle-of-life" symbolism: the slick professional stepping on the Mohawk-topped urchin.)

Well, it's no Champion Billiards, but hopefully I won't be the only one who'll note the departure of the Death Star.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

ehrlich trying to sabotage purple line?

Former Metro Advisory Board member Robert Smith has a column in tomorrow's Post about the Purple Line, detailing what he calls a "prolonged attempt" by Governor Ehrlich to stall the project, thus hiding the fact it has been severely underfunded, with all present and future available funds going to the InterCounty Connector.

There are two ways to look at this: One is that Governor Ehrlich has been revealed as a lying, incompetent scumbag who would sell away the future of Montgomery and Prince George's counties for a toll road whose benefits are at best dubious and negative effects to communities throughout the region glaringly obvious.

Another is that Smith, recently booted from the Metro Board by Governor Ehrlich for anti-gay remarks made while on a local TV show, is looking for a way to get back at him for challenging his Roman Catholic faith.

I pray that the former is true. It's fairly obvious that the InterCounty Connector will be difficult to fund, and Flanagan's retching about the difficulty of the Purple Line to build suggests there might be a lot more at stake here than a few trees.

Friday, July 14, 2006

under the radar: The Death Star

Last fall I was invited to see the band of a kid I knew from high school play at a house on Cedar Street (the white house at center) known as The Death Star. I don't know where the name comes from, but paintings of Darth Vader's space station hang in the living room. The Death Star is home to a number of kids who follow the punk lifestyle, playing shows on the weekends for about forty or fifty kids from the local punk "scene."

In two weeks, that may soon come to an end: the Montgomery County Planning Board will be considering a proposal to run an office out of the house. (Those kids don't hold the title, of course.) Not quite gentrification - not quite the Ellsworth condos going up across the street (foreground of picture), but another sign that Silver Spring is heading away from its gritty past.

The show last fall was pretty good. I never belonged to any "scene" in high school so it was interesting to get a look at this very exclusive world that most people don't get to see. In a couple of years, "exclusive" will have a completely different meaning Downtown.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

guess what? MoCo still isn't "overdeveloped"

It’s the first realistic assessment of Montgomery County’s growth I’ve heard in a long time, and it comes from County Councilman George Leventhal in a Post story about the issue of new development and how it has hijacked this fall’s County elections:

"Saying that we're going to slow growth, I think it is in part a hollow promise . . . I am not going to say voters' concerns are not real, and I don't want to minimize voters' concerns and toss them aside," he said. "But I think it's important to look at the actual statistics. We're not growing as much as our neighbors."

That’s right. The County’s population increased by 5.2% between 2000 and 2005, while Loudoun County’s population increased at ten times that rate. So when you hear a group of well-organized NIMBYs cry that Montgomery is overdeveloped, tell them to shut up. We are not Calcutta, nor will we be any time soon.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

purple line what?

Sitting in traffic at Conn. Ave and East West Highway (next to the Columbia Country Club) this morning, I wondered how many people on my bus know there could be an alternative. I wondered if they knew that the very establishment we were sitting in front of was stealing a faster commute from them.

According to this week’s Gazette, that may not be the case. Despite continuing efforts to educate the public about the Purple Line and a continuing stream of articles about its possible effects to Silver Spring neighborhoods, many people don’t even know it exists.

Other commuters, like David Keyes of Takoma Park, were uncertain whether or not the Bi-County Transitway was the same as the Intercounty Connector, the highway project which will link Montgomery and Prince George’s counties.
‘‘I don’t really know much about it. Is it like the ICC?” Keyes said.

Surprising, huh? The ICC’s pretty famous, but unless you live in Chevy Chase or East Silver Spring, the Purple Line is all but invisible.

The few commuters who were aware of the Bi-County Transitway spoke of it as a positive addition for the commuting community.
‘‘I think that it will be very good,” Takoma Park resident Pedro Bela said.

Seems like the State could stand to put up a few more Spanish-language signs in Langley Park. It’s not a racist comment: these are the people that matter, and they deserve more than another bus to take them to Bethesda in the morning.

Monday, July 10, 2006

then and now in east county

then: a stand of walnut trees along Marlow Road looking towards Musgrove Road in the Deer Park neighborhood in the fall of 2004.

now: Marlow Road looking west; the lot has been cleared (the barbed wire taken down) and prepared for the development of twelve new homes.

Thursday, July 6, 2006

a disclaimer

I make fun of the Gazette letters, but I, too, am in the Gazette this week. (Finally!)

We must sometimes sacrifice the past to make way for the future

Feel free to lambast this if you please. It is only fair. I think it's a more coherent argument than most, though, including Mr. Doore's.

more hilarity in the Gazette letters

Local Calverton windbag G. Stanley Doore is at it again, writing a letter in this week's Gazette about how elevated highways and monorail will finally save Montgomery County from storm-related traffic woes - instead of making us a wanna-be Jacksonville, Florida:

The thunderstorms the area recently experienced demonstrated another of the many advantages of elevating roads like an Intercounty Connector and using elevated monobeam-monorail above streets and waterways to avoid problems.

The rest of the world understands this basic principle; however, government and people here don’t.

Unfortunately, Doore and a small cadre of like-minded individuals are the main voice of East County, serving as little more than a distraction to the real issues in our community. Our County Councilwoman, Marilyn Praisner, is similarly out-of-touch, so it's no surprise that three people are running against her in this November's election.

East County desperately needs new representation - both in the County government and from its neighborhoods. If we had better leaders, maybe we would not be the "forgotten part" of Montgomery County.

Wednesday, July 5, 2006

cronyism, still leaving East County high and dry

- Steven Ginsberg's blog at the Post website presents some very familiar information on the status of the Purple Line, via a bus tour with some MTA officials. Once again, they say - construction is to start in 2011 (when the ICC is finished), and that is if we are very lucky.

This is barring a) high cost estimates, meaning no Federal funding; b) more bitching and moaning from Chevy Chase (and now, sadly, East Silver Spring) NIMBYs, which will be aided by another lawsuit from the Columbia Country Club; or simply c) Ehrlich pulls the plug once and for all, regardless if the first two occur.

- The Post writes an editorial on Site II, the former sludge plant off of Broadbirch Drive near the WesTech Business Park, and stalled plans to turn it into a science-and-technology office park with similar aspirations as the existing Silver Spring Innovation Center downtown. The Prince George's County Council is blocking the project to gain control of a program run by WSSC, the property's owner, that could benefit a P.G. commissioner. (Note, though, that the development is well within Montgomery County.)

Monday, July 3, 2006

this fourth of july . . .

Remember those who have died in service to our country, and the thousands of people each year who also put their lives on their line just to get a taste of the great American Dream.

There is a lot of writing on the decline of community in America, and I saw it firsthand this afternoon. Walking home from the bus stop, I stopped to speak with a good friend who lives on Musgrove Road. This four block stretch of Musgrove has become a major commuter route, it seems, for people trying to avoid the construction up at Briggs Chaney, and the 25-m.p.h. speed limit is generally ignored. I wasn't surprised that people were speeding. What surprised me, though, were all the people who blew their horns at us or yelled out their windows as they sped by.

What happened to common decency? Are pedestrians really that much of a barrier to your getting home? This isn't Kentlands; those who travel by foot like myself catch a hell of a lot of flack, but before today I was willing to give people more credit.

There is a huge contingent of people in East County who rely on their feet to get around in suburban area inherently hostile to pedestrians. Unfortunately, those of us lucky enough to drive aren't very considerate to them.

Sharpie artists riding the bus

These were the markings on the seat of my Z9 bus home today. We had a substitute driver, which must mean a substitute bus - and all the shout-outs to Southeast and Capitol Heights (let alone the Crips?) on the vinyl suggested it wasn't from around here. Those in other parts of Montgomery County might be surprised that East County buses are not covered in graffiti, despite the high ridership of the five or so Metrobus routes that go up Route 29.

Saturday, July 1, 2006

Is Milty Peterson an evangelist?

The past couple of times I've been in Downtown Silver Spring I've noticed the Classical music normally piped in through the speakers has been missing, and in its place, some sort of soft rock was playing. This is understandable: there isn't a dentist's office in Metropolitan Washington that isn't playing 97.1 or 107.3 over their speakers to appease the soccer moms who listen to them.

But something's different in Downtown Silver Spring. Is it just me - or did I just hear "Jesus is Lord"? They're playing Christian rock through the speakers.

Now, I was raised Methodist, but there are still some places where I'd like not to be evangelized. I'm sure this latest development in Silver Spring isn't amusing a lot of people. Then again, though, the piped-in music tends to get drowned out by the real Downtown soundtrack of idle car engines and blasting reggaeton.