Saturday, November 29, 2008

better mousetraps and a broken windows theory

UPDATE: As of Saturday night, the broken windows at Ruby Tuesday have all been boarded up.

A middle-aged woman, whom I assumed was mentally unstable, vandalized City Place Mall yesterday evening, systematically breaking each window of the shuttered Ruby Tuesday restaurant with a baseball bat as she carried a bag of groceries in the other hand.

I'm not kidding! I drove to Bethesda with a friend last night to see Slumdog Millionaire, only to find that all showings at the Landmark Bethesda Row Cinema were sold out - as they have been each Friday for the past two weeks - so we returned to Silver Spring to catch the 9:50 showing at the AFI. When I rounded that corner at Colesville and Fenton and heard glass breaking, I thought the worst. Worse than when I got circled by a group of kids two years ago in the same damn spot.

She was white, middle-aged, wearing a sweater, and she did not hesitate as she swung the bat into each pane of glass in each window up Colesville and around the corner, where she jumped a gate into the patio in order to knock out the windows there. A little crowd of spectators formed behind the bus stop - out of sight in case she decided to turn her weapon on us - too shaken to call police. A couple of us did and waited impatiently for them to arrive.

"What happened?" said every astonished passer-by, careful to avoid the shattered pieces on the ground. "A woman was breaking windows with a baseball bat," I said. "And y'all are out here takin' pictures?" One girl asks. "Well, I did dial the police," I reply.

so much more AFTER THE JUMP . . .

It must've taken five or ten minutes for the cops to come, and when they do, the flashing lights draw people out into Fenton Street - from where, I don't know - to watch. I wasn't there to see the woman retrieved and taken away, for fellow witnesses to identify her, and so on. But later I pulled up some old stories about City Place Mall. The developer called it a "better mousetrap" for shoppers otherwise headed to Bethesda; when it opened in 1992 (the day before my fourth birthday) traffic backed up Colesville Road from the Beltway; two years later, the same developer pleaded for help from the County, saying they needed to "clean up the area adjacent" to the mall.

And we cleaned it up well, but I still had a teacher in high school - one of my favorite teachers, no less - who said she'd tried to go to that Ruby Tuesday once but they wouldn't serve her because she was white. She would refer to it as being in a "black district," knowing all too well that if she'd said "Downtown Silver Spring," there would've been trouble. I wonder if they hadn't served the window-breaker as well, and a few months after the fact, she'd returned with a vengeance.

Broken glass on the sidewalks of Colesville Road.

A broken window at the corner.

Meeting the police.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

what's up the pike: thanks for something

Well, tomorrow's Thanksgiving, and if you're reading this at all, you're probably doing so from a place that is not East County. JUTP will be on break from posting through Monday, but I'll be busy working on some real exciting stuff for you when you come back from the break. Meantimes, here's a look at what's happening in East County while you're away:

- Not all of County Executive Ike Leggett's proposed budget cuts were passed by the County Council, but a handful of Ride-On routes did make the chopping block. As a result, you'll see reduced service on Route 4 (Silver Spring-Kensington); Route 26 (Glenmont-Montgomery Mall); and Route 18 (Silver Spring-Langley Park).

- A local developer's scaling back his plans to build thirty-six townhomes on a site adjacent to Wheaton Plaza due to complaints about the project's compatibility with the surrounding single-family neighborhood. The three-acre property is currently zoned for only eighteen homes, though its location - at the edge of the Wheaton CBD, fronting University Boulevard West, and within walking distance to Metro and a regional shopping mall - make it an ideal site for higher density. Planning Department staff endorsed the rezoning, despite the Master Plan's recommendations to do otherwise. For more info, check out the Planning Board's staff report (warning! PDF file).

- As always, check out my weekly column in the Diamondback, the University of Maryland's independent student newspaper. This week, I'm talking about the anticlimactic commute home I look forward to for Thanksgiving Break.

- Speaking of College Park: the Purple Line has inspired a public art installation on campus dubbed the "Bridge to Nowhere," consisting of a series of blue posts resembling the supports of an elevated rail line. The piece is one of several appearing throughout the University as part of a new course on civic artwork.

Have a happy Thanksgiving! We'll see you next week.

Monday, November 24, 2008

purple line hearing: residents debate wayne ave. route, who rides the bus

Part TWO of a re-cap of last Saturday's Purple Line hearing in Takoma Park. Earlier, we looked at what elected officials had to say. Also check out this slideshow of the hearing.

East Silver Spring resident Karen Roper testifies at the hearing. BELOW: Elaine Ellis holds up a "No Train On Wayne" sign.

Among the residents who testified at last Saturday's Purple Line hearing, nearly all endorsed some form of the proposed transitway between Bethesda and New Carrollton though many were more specific about what they'd like to see. Woody Brosnan of North Woodside dismissed the Bus Rapid Transit option, saying "we have enough buses already."

He quoted from a letter to the editor in Saturday's Washington Post, a resident of Chevy Chase who claimed the Purple Line would make the Georgetown Branch unusable. "'Where will all the families walk their strollers?' Our families walk their strollers on sidewalks," said Brosnan. "I didn't think the County spent $10 million for some of our wealthier residents to have a tree-lined baby walk."

The most controversial topic, however, was one proposed alignment which would run down the middle of Wayne Avenue. Erin Johansson, who lives on Wayne, looks forward to seeing the Purple Line built on her street. "My son likes choo-choo trains, but my husband and I are for it because we lived in San Francisco, a block from the light-rail," said Johansson. "It was a controlled street, very safe, very quiet, more so than on Wayne now with the buses."

Tina Slater, who lives on Mansfield Road "six houses" from Wayne Avenue, noted that their Park Hills neighborhood wouldn't have a stop on the Purple Line if it were below ground. She called the transitway "an excellent solution that respects both the needs and character of our urban community."

so much more AFTER THE JUMP . . .

Residents watch the proceedings.

Kathy Christiansen, who originated the "No Train On Wayne" signs that currently line the avenue and surrounding streets, called the route a "recipe for disaster, not a panacea to our traffic woes," while Christine Arnold-Lourie complained about the possibility of "clanging bells and whistles as the train approaches and unnecessary stop at Wayne and Dale." She ridiculed projections that the station, one of twenty-one proposed along the Purple Line, would have fourteen hundred boarings each day. "That's more people than are in our neighborhood!" she said.

Karen Roper, an East Silver Spring resident who sits on the Purple Line Advisory Committee, focused attention on another alignment that would tunnel under her neighborhood along Silver Spring and Thayer avenues. "The public discussion on the Purple Line has shortchanged East Silver Spring in favor of traffic relief," said Roper. "The issue is how much negative impact can East Silver Spring stand for the development of Long Branch and Langley Park."

Many of the people who testified did not drive and spoke of the current difficulties of getting around with public transportation. Eastern Village residents Ed and Joan King gave up their cars to help the environment. "I've been riding buses for three years and I'll tell you, it's not always pleasant," said Joan King. "I was persuaded that for our planet, mass transit is necessary . . . I hope our neighbors will understand."

A pro-Purple Line sign outside of Falcon Hall.

Kathy Jentz, who lives in East Silver Spring, said the light rail option was the only viable way to build the Purple Line. "We've already had Bus Rapid Transit. It's called the J4, and I've waited forty minutes for it . . . it's failed as a solution for getting from College Park to Bethesda," says Jentz, a former board member of Purple Line Now! "Often I am the only white person on the bus. I've talked to my neighbors and they will not ride the bus . . . there is a long-time stigma."

Outside of the hearing, one person who asked not to be named said she was "very disturbed" by Jentz's statement. "I ride the bus," said the resident, who is white. "I mean, is this Montgomery County?"

Elaine Ellis, who lives along Wayne Avenue, was equally dismayed about the Purple Line debate and what it said about the community she's lived in for so long. Since the doors opened at 12:30, she'd stood outside of Falcon Hall in below-freezing temperatures, holding a "No Train On Wayne" sign. "I wouldn't be out here all day if I wasn't pissed off," said Ellis. "I feel like the County Council is not looking out for residential neighborhoods. It's just development, development, development."

purple line hearing: east county pols hop on board

Part ONE of a re-cap of last Saturday's Purple Line hearing in Takoma Park. Later today, we'll look at what local residents had to say. Also check out this slideshow of the hearing.

School Board president Nancy Navarro testifies.

At the last of four hearings on the Purple Line Alternatives Analysis/Draft Environmental Impact Study last Saturday, East County residents made it clear they're all for transit, but are still split on how and where it should be built. The meeting, held in Falcon Hall on Montgomery College's Takoma Park/Silver Spring campus, was well-attended by elected officials, civic leaders and a wide cross-section of area residents who came to testify, to listen, and to learn about the proposed sixteen-mile transitway between Bethesda and New Carrollton.

According to Webb Smedley from the Action Committee for Transit, a local Purple Line advocacy group, nearly half of the fifty-five individuals who spoke were in support of using light-rail trains instead of bus rapid transit. Those alternatives - of which there were eight altogether, including a no-build option - would route the Purple Line along the popular Georgetown Branch Trail between Bethesda and Silver Spring that bisects one of the region's most exclusive country clubs. While that alignment raised controversy at an earlier hearing in Chevy Chase, the debate at Saturday's hearing was about where the line should go east of Silver Spring.

The elected officials who testified were uniformly in support of the Purple Line, citing the need for more reliable transit and a return to higher gas prices. "Commuters are more ready to leave their cars home and take transit than since World War II," said State Delegate Heather Mizeur (D-Dist. 20). Nancy Navarro, school board president and former County Council candidate, testified about seeing a "young Latino mother try to cover her infant child as she ran to catch a bus," calling her "the face of who will benefit" from the Purple Line.

so much more AFTER THE JUMP . . .

At-Large County Councilmembers George Leventhal and Nancy Floreen, who testified at other hearings, watch the proceedings.

County Councilmember Valerie Ervin.

State Sen. Jamie Raskin (D-Dist. 20) talked about being "thrilled" as a kid to ride the just-opened Metro by himself, and offering those same opportunities to today's youth. "We have to fear for the future if we don't deal with the transportation issues we have now," said Raskin.

Bruce Williams, Mayor of Takoma Park, said the current economic downturn made now an even better time to start building the Purple Line. "We know money is tight, but this is the best time to invest in infrastructure," said Williams. "By the time developers are ready, the Purple Line will be finished."

County Councilmember Valerie Ervin (D-Dist. 5) hadn't prepared any statements before she took the podium, but she immediately launched into poetics in her endorsement of the Purple Line. "We all drink deeply from wells we did not dig," said Ervin. "We do this for all those people who built the roads and bridges for ourselves and our children." A Park Hills resident, she noted she could see the Purple Line's possible Wayne Avenue alignment from her house. "Our community is literally divided" by the proposal, she lamented.

State Sen. Jamie Raskin.

A frequent target by those spoke was Chevy Chase, where the Columbia Country Club and Save The Trail Coalition have been working to stall the project, which would run along the Georgetown Branch Trail. Elected officials representing that area who spoke at a hearing there on Tuesday - State Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Dist. 18), State Del. Al Carr (D-Dist. 18) and Chevy Chase Town Councilman David Lublin - all testified in support of a Bus Rapid Transit line along Jones Bridge Road that bypassed both the town and the country club.

"We cannot let the recreational needs of a few wealthy golfers supercede" the needs of transit riders elsewhere, said Del. Tom Hucker (D-Dist. 20). "If more buses were the answer, we would've done it years ago."

College Park Mayor Stephen Brayman chided Montgomery County for its "controversies" with the Purple Line in Chevy Chase and East Silver Spring. "While in Prince George's County we have some decisions to make with the alignment, I don't know anyone who's opposed to the Purple Line," he said.

Friday, November 21, 2008

silver spring, aspen hill runners-up for "best places" list

But what about all those dangerous curbs? Even so, Silver Spring was named the second-best place to raise a family in Maryland by Business Week magazine.

I never take these "Best Places to Live" lists seriously. I can't fault them for picking suburbs, but the ones they choose tend to be pretty white-bread. Take Olney, which made #17 on Money Magazine's "Best Places" ranking last year. Don't get me wrong: Olney's a great town, nice schools (which I attended, sort of), nice shitty movie theatre, nice Cal Tor. But it's still The Bubble, a place for affluent families to shelter their kids from all of the perceived evils of the Big Bad City like poor people and diversity and culture.

Perhaps Business Week magazine was thinking of that when they released their "Best Places to Raise Your Family" list for 2008. The ranking - which for the first time considers "racial diversity" in addition to things like the cost of living, job growth, local parks and cultural amenities - goes to one city (with more than 50,000 residents) and two runner-ups in each state. Ironically, the winner for Maryland is still Gaithersburg, which also makes #29 on Money's Best Places to Live 2008 list. (Also on that chart: "Columbia/Ellicott City", #8; Rockville, #66; Germantown, #81. Olney is conspicuously absent.)

But the runner-ups for Best Places to Raise Your Family in Maryland? In at number two is Silver Spring, which may be the Big Bad City to your friends in Olney, but through its unrelenting mix of culture, grit and diversity manages (in my humble opinion) to produce kids who are better-positioned for living and working in an increasingly diverse country and a global economy. And at number three is Aspen Hill, which looks like an attempt to compensate for all the Gaithersburgs and Olneys on the list. Diversity? Absolutely. Arts and culture? Not so much. Shitty movie theatre, even? Not for a few decades, though the shopping center it was located in is probably one of the nicest strip malls in the area.

Aspen Hill . . . ? I think we'll have to ask former County Council candidate and Aspen Hill booster Thomas Hardman why his community is the third-best place to raise a family in Maryland.

purple line hearings wrap up tomorrow

Trail advocate Wayne Phyllaier on the Georgetown Branch Trail in Silver Spring, one of the proposed routes for the Purple Line.

As always, Maryland Politics Watch doesn't fail to get the whole story. Following up their posting of testimony from Chevy Chase Town Councilman David Lublin, State Delegate Alfred Carr and State Senator Rich Madaleno at Tuesday's Purple Line hearing in Chevy Chase, they've also got comments from rail advocate Ross Capon, MoCo Chamber of Commerce president "Gigi" Godwin, and County Councilman George Leventhal.

While the first three individuals expressed support for either a) the use of bus rapid transit and b) a routing away from the Town of Chevy Chase, the last three support light rail and the master-planned route along the Georgetown Branch Trail. Not to toot my own horn, but if you're interested in learning more about the Purple Line, check out JUTP's series from last summer on the proposed transitway, in which we interviewed local activists on both sides of the project - both physically and emotionally.

The very very last Purple Line hearing will be Saturday from 12:30 to 5pm in Falcon Hall, 7600 Takoma Avenue, Takoma Park. It's on the Montgomery College Silver Spring-Takoma Park campus. For more info, check out the MTA's website.

with robbery suspects caught, east county residents return to banal suburban existence

All three suspects in yesterday's bank robbery in Clarksville - which resulted in a chase that spanned four counties and ended with a shoot-out in the Greencastle Lakes neighborhood - have been apprehended, with one suspect fatally shot. While East County takes a sigh of relief after a day that contained an area-wide police search, multiple roadblocks and school lockdowns, it's now up to Howard County Police to explain their questionable treatment of the suspects, which is now undergoing an internal investigation:
"Police deployed "stop-sticks" multiple times on Route 32 near Route 29, ultimately flattening three of the truck's tires. The truck hit an officer's car, and police took Zombro into custody. That arrest was videotaped by WJLA-TV (Channel 7). The video shows an officer punching Zombro in the back while he was lying on the ground."
Meanwhile, kudos to the Post for painting East County as part suburban wasteland, part war zone. Whether or not it was actually deserved, it's part depressing, part exciting (emphasis added):
The bank robbery pursuit put a sprawling neighborhood south of Burtonsville in a virtual lockdown as officers roared along streets hanging onto the sides of tactical SWAT trucks, searched wooded areas on horseback and looked in "any place that could contain a human being," said Lt. Paul Starks, a Montgomery police spokesman. At least two police helicopters circled above. Residents coming out of the neighborhood were stopped by pairs of officers, with one slowly opening car trunks and another pointing a high-powered rifle . . .
They drove nearly another mile, into a neighborhood of dozens of townhouse developments, with at least four public schools nearby.
Oh, well. Anything's better than the sniper attacks, during which I spent three hours on a school bus held up on Route 29 at Briggs Chaney Road (back when there was a stoplight) because of a roadblock set up to catch a particular white van.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

we're asking you not to pick up any hitchhikers . . .

One of the suspects in a bank robbery this morning in Howard County was shot this afternoon when a police chase ended in the Greencastle Lakes neighborhood, while another is still at large. According to the Washington Post, roadblocks were set up to check cars entering or leaving the immediate area in a search for the escaped suspect, while Burtonsville-area schools were placed on "Code Blue" lockdown. Students at Greencastle Elementary School, which is in the "search area," will remain in class until the police clear them for dismissal, says a statement from the MCPD.

My brother, who attends Galway Elementary School in Fairland - which did not have security restrictions in effect - says that he was kept in class for twenty minutes after school ended before he could take the bus home, while students living in the Greencastle area were kept until their parents could pick them up.

Montgomery County has issued a media advisory stating that all County-sponsored activities at the East County and Marilyn J. Praisner recreation centers have been cancelled for the rest of the day. Meanwhile, roads near Route 29 and Greencastle Road are closed except to local residents as the search continues. The police recommend that people living in these neighborhoods not answer their doors or offer rides to strangers, and to call 911 with any suspicious information.

We'll let you know if anything else comes up.

what's up the pike: way too much on my plate

So . . . didn't get to go to the first three Purple Line hearings, though Greater Greater Washington has a fairly positive re-cap of the Chevy Chase event, and Maryland Politics Watch has testimony from town councilman David Lublin, state Delegate Alfred Carr and state Senator Rich Madaleno, both from District 18. Hopefully, you'll find me at this Saturday's hearing in Silver Spring. Here's a look at some non-Purple Line related things happening in East County:

Before the hearing, hit up the Montgomery County Thanksgiving Parade in Downtown Silver Spring. With seven floats, ten marching bands and eleven dance troupes, this year's parade promises many excellent photo ops for Chip Py, though it'll be hard to follow up this shot from last year of mounted cops riding horses as they pee on Ellsworth Drive.

- The Dutch Country Farmers' Market is still in Burtonsville, and will remain there through the winter, according to the Gazette. Developer Chris Jones, who plans to redevelop the Burtonsville Shopping Center - containing the so-called Amish Market and other now-closed shops - is still waiting for building permits. Anticipating their eviction last summer, the market already leased space for a new location in Laurel.

- Today, the Planning Board reviews the proposed White Oak Community Recreation Center, which would be built at the corner of April and Stewart lanes in White Oak. With over 33,000 square feet of space, the facility would be one of the County's largest recreation centers, featuring two gyms, a social hall, and a "skate spot." It'll also be going for LEED certification, a rating system which acknowledges the use of environmentally-friendly design and construction techniques.

- And as always, check out my weekly column in the Diamondback, the University of Maryland's independent student newspaper. I'm following up last week's column about the Purple Line with a look at how transportation affects the way we build and design our communities.

Monday, November 17, 2008

what's up the pike: two questions

While Just Up The Pike hopes to make an appearance at (and write a subsequent post about) the Purple Line hearings this week, it'll be tough to maintain the regular posting schedule over the next few days. So, in the meantime: I'll give you a topic. Or two. Discuss:

- Now that "gadfly in the ointment" Robin Ficker's thirty-four-year anti-tax campaign has finally been vindicated, will I ever wake up early enough to run up the stairs of Cole Field House with him before I graduate?

- While talking about Scumbag Nation tonight, my roommate (who you may remember from the Purple Line diaries in August) and I had an argument this evening about where the real "Montgomery County" is. According to him, places like Bethesda, Silver Spring and even Colesville (where Scumbag Nation is located) are functionally part of D.C., while upcounty locales like Gaithersburg and Germantown are independent of The City and can be considered "just plain MoCo."

What do you think? Where do you think D.C. stops and MoCo begins, if not at the city line? Can we say such a boundary really exists?

See you later this week!

Friday, November 14, 2008

what goes around comes around

Not quite a return to the scene of the crime, but close enough for two gang members allegedly involved in the Ride-On bus shooting earlier this month:
U.S. marshals in Houston stormed a city bus yesterday and arrested two fugitive gang members wanted in connection with the fatal shooting of a 14-year-old honor student aboard a Montgomery County bus this month, authorities said.

"It's kind of poetic justice that they were arrested on a bus," said Alfredo Perez, a deputy marshal who took part in the operation.
Speaking of MoCo's bus system: County Executive Ike Leggett has once again proposed cutting service on some Ride-On routes to help close the budget gap. In East County, you'd find fewer buses on Route 4 between Silver Spring and Kensington, which would lose midday service; on Route 26, which runs between Glenmont and Montgomery Mall, which would no longer stop at the Trolley Museum in Colesville on weekends; and Route 18 between Silver Spring and Langley Park, which will now run every 30 minutes during the afternoon.

Would you like to see more Just Up The Pike? Come write for us and make it happen. For more info, drop us a line at justupthepike at gmail dot com.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

what's up the pike: transit transit transit zombies

- As the MTA holds public hearings next week for the Purple Line's Alternatives Analysis/Draft Environmental Impact Statement, I'm wondering how they can make an appeal for the transitway in a manner that attracts people who are scared away by hefty reports and jargon. Can the MTA make the bus and train look fast, easy - and, most importantly, sexy? We might want to head up to Cleveland, where their transit agency is aggressively marketing their newest service, a rapid bus route called the HealthLine. The HealthLine's snazzy new website explains what BRT is, how to use the system, and what it can do for Euclid Avenue, which was one of Cleveland's premier shopping streets and is slowly being revitalized.

- Speaking of BRT: Councilmember Marc Elrich has a new proposal for several bus rapid transit lines across Montgomery County, including one up Route 29. At last week's East County Citizens Advisory Board meeting, he presented his plan, which would create a reversible lane for buses in the median of 29 and other roads. Hopefully, we can get a better look at the Councilmember's proposal, which would finally deliver the rapid transit East County's been promised for nearly thirty years.

- As always, check out my weekly column in the Diamondback, U-Md.'s independent student newspaper. This week and next week, I'm writing about - what else? - the Purple Line in preparation for the public hearings, one of which will be held right on campus in College Park. For locations and dates, check out the Purple Line website.

- Speaking of school: it looks like zombies aren't being as well-received on campus as they were in Silver Spring last month. The Humans vs. Zombies game, a weeks-long campaign in which students posing as humans must defend themselves against player-zombies with NERF guns, was halted after a professor thought someone was carrying an actual firearm.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

what's up the pike: whatever it takes

- Chevy Chase residents say the town "should not be overly concerned with costs" in a last-ditch attempt to kill the Purple Line by hiring a lawyer to review the MTA's report on the proposed transitway along the Capital Crescent Trail, which skirts the town's north side. "Do you really think we're going to bring our kids on the trail ever again?" says one resident, echoing previous concerns that the Purple Line - which will run from Bethesda to New Carrollton - would render the CCT useless to Chevy Chase families and lemonade-stand owners alike.

- The search is on for two suspects accused of killing a Blair High freshman on a Ride-On bus two weekends ago; meanwhile, the County says there weren't any security cameras on board when the incident happened. The Silver Spring depot has fewer buses with security cameras - about sixty percent total - than other ones elsewhere in MoCo.

- Blair's just having a hard time right now: both the Gazette and SilverChips (the school's top-notch newspaper) report that a girl supposedly stabbed a classmate after a disagreement.

- Our new president-elect Barack Obama showed us that anything's possible - and it really is: after thirty-two years of Robin Ficker's campaigning for lower property taxes, the message finally took. Both Maryland Politics Watch and the Post's "Maryland Moment" blog say the political gadfly's charter amendment - which would require a unanimous vote from the County Council in order to raise property taxes - has just barely enough votes to pass.

MoCo residents like a high level of service from their government, but the recent economic downturn seems to have been enough to ignore Ficker's bombastic demeanor and the recent suspension of his law license due to "slipshod" practices.

Monday, November 10, 2008

it's my party and i'll walk if i want to

Now, I don't to be a Debbie Downer, but it's a bad state of affairs when we throw a party over a sidewalk. That's exactly what happened on Good Hope Road last weekend, as residents of Great Hope Homes - a subsidized rental-townhome community - celebrated the completion of a footpath they'd spent ten years fighting for.

This bothers me for a couple of reasons. First of all, we're talking about a historically-black community that didn't see running water or electricity until the 1960's, right around the time more affluent families started moving to the neighborhood. It's unsettling that people here had to push for ten years to get a project that took less than a month to finish.

Second of all, sidewalks should already exist on streets with any pedestrian use - and Good Hope Road is one, with bus routes, a community park, and an elementary school. The construction of a sidewalk shouldn't be a matter of "hey, look what we did," it's "why haven't we done this already?"

When it comes to promoting pedestrian safety, good sidewalks are one cheap, fairly easy way to give walkers an easier time. Never mind aesthetics, which the Good Hope sidewalk - narrow, curbless and lined with a metal barrier more appropriate for the median of I-95 - already lacks.

A sidewalk is nothing to celebrate, because it should be a given, and it's a sad commentary on the County's priorities. On the other hand: if we'll throw a party for a sidewalk, do we get a parade for the new roundabouts on Fairland Road?

Saturday, November 8, 2008

ride-on shooting: transit, downtown development isn't to blame for tragedy

The man who shot and killed a Blair High freshman on a Ride-On bus last weekend has been arrested, but the fallout remains. This comes from different posters on one of the Downtown Silver Spring-area listservs:
"Many of us expressed concern that concert venues like Live Nation & Purple Line Trains on Wayne Avenue will introduce more bad behavior and increase crime in residential neighborhoods."

"I will probably move out of Silver Spring in due time as a result of the high and increasing crime rate."
A kid gets shot by a gang member on a bus while coming home from a night in Downtown Silver Spring, and we choose to blame the public transit and the activity Downtown for it. That's like saying you got drunk at a bar and you blame the bar for your drinking. Bars are a location; alcohol is the culprit. We shouldn't be pointing fingers at Ride-On and the Majestic for being a potential crime scene - we should be targeting the individuals and social institutions (like gangs) that cause it.

I want Live Nation and I want the Purple Line because I want more activity in Downtown Silver Spring. As we've discussed before, if there are a lot of eyes around, people usually won't act out. - with last week's shooting as one glaring anomaly. The more people I see, the safer I feel - thus, I feel much safer Downtown or on a bus than I would in Park Hills or Woodside or Seven Oaks, because the streets are dark and people aren't outside at night. If I were a criminal targeting someone, will it be a kid in the crowd on Ellsworth or some guy walking home down Second Avenue?

We have every right to be outraged by last week's shooting - and to do everything we can to prevent it from happening again. But we won't change anything if we don't correctly identify the problem.

Friday, November 7, 2008

what's up the pike: burtonsvilly and the wall

Townhomes in Avonshire, which sits next to the Route 29 sound barrier.

- Boy, am I regretting not going to the Zombie Walk: it made the Gazette. Further congratulations to Sligo and Eric, working tirelessly to combat stereotypes that Silver Spring is a) bland and corporate and b) has living residents.

- Speaking of the Gazette: it looks like somebody decided to go to bed early Tuesday night, because I got one lousy Obama-win-commemorative newspaper Wednesday.

- If you're looking for the fall colors, look no further than the Avonshire neighborhood on Briggs Chaney Road, where the houses battle with the trees for supremacy of hues. On top of that, it's on top of the Route 29/Briggs Chaney interchange and surrounded by sound walls that make it seem like the place is floating on a cloud. (No, really.) Check out our Avonshire fall colors/dreamworld photoset.

- Greater Greater Washington complains about proposed skybridges in the new Silver Spring library, set to go up at the corner of Bonifant and Fenton eventually. By pulling pedestrians off the street, skybridges threaten the vibrant street life the proposed library's supposed to encourage, says GGW's David. This wasn't the only skybridge that was supposed to go up in Downtown - next week, hopefully, I'll show you a 1970's-era master plan that illustrates a Silver Spring where everything happens ten feet above the road.

Have a great weekend! Keeping to what I told my readers to do in this week's Diamondback column, I'm getting the hell out of here. I'll see you on Monday.

(Our apologies for the bad Tilly and the Wall pun.)

Thursday, November 6, 2008

grab a piece of history with commemorative JUTP election day front pages . . .

Aside from the approval of slots in Laurel and the possibility that Robin Ficker's anti-property tax amendment might actually pass after thirty years of trying, there's really only one thing that made me so happy last night. I am not the least bit tired of reveling in what we as a country just did, and this morning, I got up early (not as early as I did on Tuesday) to buy a newspaper proclaiming the news. Boy, was I surprised to find that everyone else in the entire world woke up with the same idea.

Chip Py, ace photographer and friend of Just Up The Pike, sent us this photo of one lucky woman who actually found a newspaper on this historic day. "I rode home on the train with this woman who stood in line at a Deli for two hours to get this copy of the Washington Times," writes Chip in a e-mail. "All of the Newspapers in town have people handing out and hawking papers to DC Commuters . . . But Today was different."

Regular Just Up The Pike coverage will resume when America has finally comes down from its high and is able to get back to the business of screwing things up.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

college park doesn't know how to riot anymore (updated)

Then-Senator Barack Obama in College Park two years ago.

College Park is rioting, or at least talking about rioting, in support of President-elect Barack Obama's win. Everywhere I went, people were outside, yelling and celebrating. A party erupted in front of Harford Hall, where a number of student-athletes live, and everyone was dancing. I was disappointed to find that Route 1, our usual rioting spot, was pretty quiet, though one guy - a white guy - stood at the corner of Route 1 and Lehigh Road, holding up an American flag to the approving honks of every car that passed by.

"I'm gonna burn this campus down!" screamed a girl in a pink hoodie with Greek letters outside of Talbot Hall. Assuming she wanted to join our celebratory riot, I hooted in approval. "I hate Obama! Yeah, I want everybody to know!" she continued.

Yikes! I thought. "Hey, you still got 2012, right? Sarah Palin in 2012!" I yelled back.

The sorority girl and her friends stopped dead. "Uh, English?" she said, unable to understand me.

"That's right! This is Amurrica!" I replied.

"No! I'm a Republican!" the girl spits.

"YOU ARE IN MARYLAND!" I yell. And then she was gone.

I won't wax romantic about this election being a historic event, despite the fact that it was. But, for the first time in a long time, I really do feel like nothing will ever be the same in this country again.

UPDATE: Well, it's just my luck: I was an hour early to the real riot.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

i voted/yo voté

Waiting in line outside Paint Branch High School in Burtonsville at 9:15 this morning.

Everyone and their mother has come out to vote today, and morale was very, very high in the line as my mother and I waited to vote at Paint Branch this morning. It felt like a reunion - I saw old friends, classmates, one or two readers, while my mother rubbed elbows with people from my brother's school. I was impressed at how well everyone was able to put aside their politics and just hang out in the parking lot, as people flying down Old Columbia Pike hit the brakes when they saw the congregation outside and let out a collective "Shit, man, look at that."

Inside, the election judges told me that, as of 10:30 a.m., 766 people had voted at Paint Branch since the polls opened at 7. If that turnout persists, we could easily see 3,000 people just at this one polling station, which serves Tanglewood, Calverton and Deer Park. According to the 2000 Census, this area has 5,274 residents. I don't know how many registered voters there are, but that's a crazy good turnout. I think.

it's election day!

Not an endorsement for or against slots, but simply a cool photo taken last week at New Hampshire Avenue and Powder Mill Road.

You'd better bring a book, because they've been reporting long waits at early voting sites over the weekend in Virginia and predicting even longer waits in Maryland since, like, July. (I'm not sure exactly how that works.) I'll be getting up at the ass-crack of 7:30 to go vote at my polling place - and then, it's off to one of our umpteen East County Starbucks for some free coffee. (I'd follow it up with a free doughnut from Krispy Kreme but, alas, the closest stores are in Dupont Circle and Rockville.)

If you're reading this blog, chances are you probably care enough to vote! And I'll see you at the polls tomorrow.

Monday, November 3, 2008

is nothing sacred . . .

You've probably already heard about Tai Lam, the freshman at Blair High School who was gunned down and two other teenagers were severely injured on a Ride On bus in Long Branch while coming back from Downtown Silver Spring Saturday night. I'm still completely stunned by the incident - these kids didn't even know the gunman, and the police are suggesting it may have been gang-related. But I don't understand who would shoot a fourteen-year-old kid on a crowded bus.

I'd like to know what, if anything, Ride On can do (or already does) to promote a feeling of safety on their buses. Are there cameras? Is there an alarm or some sort of direct line to the police? I'm not sure what these kinds of measures would do to actually make the bus safer, but it would go a long way to increasing riders' feeling of security, especially in light of what happened last weekend.

Our condolences go out to the friends and family of Tai Lam. From the spectacular outpouring of support we've seen over the past two days, it's clear he was loved by many in the East County community.

what's up the pike: killdozer edition

- Last week's column about the ICC (which received more comments on a single post than this blog's gotten in a good long time) inspired me to take a few pictures of ICC construction (see above) throughout East County. They're in a photo set that I'll be adding to over time, so we can track the highway's progress and its effects on the surrounding neighborhoods. I'll tell you: it must be hurting to live in Tanglewood right now, where many of their fabled trees have given way to the eventual toll road.

- Excuse Me While I Put My Foot In My Mouth's Ginger has had it with Silver Spring, and lists a few reasons why she intends to get the hell out as soon as possible. We're hoping she doesn't pull a Down By The River and go back to Rockville, though her desire to find a place "where home ownership is not as distant a goal as walking on Mars" probably precludes everything within fifty miles of here. Hello, Pennsylvania!

- Traditionally a numbers-oriented game designed for policy wonks like our friend Adam Pagnucco, the County's Annual Growth Policy is getting an overhaul for 2009, taking into consideration not just how many houses we build each year but the kind of communities we build. "Growing Smarter Montgomery," as the new initiative's been dubbed by Park and Planning, emphasizes pedestrian and transit connections, higher building design standards, and more diverse communities. They're kicking it off with a series of public forums throughout the county, the first of which takes place at the Praisner Library tonight from 7 to 9. An additional forum will be held in Downtown Silver Spring in December.

- The Silver Spring Zombie Walk was a huge success, says Thayer Avenue and Silver Spring, Singular, which spearheaded the event on Saturday night. Eric from Thayer Avenue estimates that over a hundred people came out for the walk, in which people dressed up as zombies and terrorized the Downtown area. My brother was a zombie for Halloween (the night before, I realize), and he did terrorize a part of Silver Spring during trick-or-treating, albeit not Downtown. His costume was so realistic I refused to come near him.