Friday, March 20, 2009

meetings on ellsworth violence not taking community input

Two weeks after a "Stop the Violence" concert on Ellsworth Drive erupted in fighting and thirty-five arrests, one resident alleges that the Peterson Companies - who developed and manage the Downtown Silver Spring complex - has been trying to hide the conflict and any discussion relating to it.

The following is a series of e-mails between Silver Spring resident David Lautenberger; Jennifer Nettles, manager of Downtown Silver Spring and board member on the Chamber of Commerce, several local advisory committees and non-profits; and Captain John Feissner of the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Services. Lautenberger argues that not inviting the community to participate in meetings between the Fire Marshal and the Silver Spring Urban District Advisory Board suggests that their concerns are not valued in any analysis of the incident and, rather, favors any attempts by the Peterson Companies to put their own "spin" on what happened.

read the e-mails AFTER THE JUMP . . .

From: [David Lautenberger]
To: [Jennifer Nettles]; additional Peterson Companies e-mail addresses
Cc: Montgomery County Council; two Gazette reporters
Sent: Wed Mar 11 12:18:57 2009
Subject: Downtown Silver Spring / Events of Saturday Night 3/7/09

Ms. Nettles and The Peterson Companies Management:

I live on the quiet residential end of Ellsworth Drive four blocks north of Fenton Street and have been here for 24 years. I belong to our civic association and am a block captain of our Neighborhood Watch Program. I patronize the local shops, pay taxes and pick-up litter left on Ellsworth Drive by those passing by. Our neighborhood welcomed the DTSS project and the many opportunities it brings to the neigborhood. All we ask is that you (i.e., The Peterson Companies) be a good neighbor and steward of what was constructed largely with public money and lots of community input and support.

The events of Saturday night and some of your comments in the Gazette indicate that you and The Peterson Companies are not up to the commitment to be either good neighbors or good stewards of the public trust.

First of all, you need to reasonable establish limits on crowd size in the "plaza" area. Wall to wall people with loud throbbing Go-Go music is not reasonable for that plaza. There was no space for patrons of the various shops to move about freely; there was no space for ambulance, police or firefighters to move freely; there was no space for innocent folks trapped in the melee to simply get out of the way; there was no provision for directing the hundreds of additional people coming out of the Majestic theater away from the area.

Your comment that 7,000 people in that small space was acceptable and that even 10,000 could have been handled is ABSOLUTELY INCOMPREHENSIBLE AND TOTALLY IRRESPONSIBLE.

One big question is: "Why was this event allowed to continue for 1 hour after the planned 9 pm ending?" Who made that stupid decision? Has anyone been folowing Prince George's County efforts to shut down Go-Go clubs because they attract criminal elements?

By copy of this email to our County Council, MCPD and the County Fire Marshall I request that a formal review of the capacity of the plaza area be conducted from a public safety point of view and that the results be analyed in context of what happened Saturday night and what could have happened if a fire broke out, if someone had a heart attack or if shooting or looting had started.

By the grace of God a real tragedy was avoided that evening. You should not have a second chance. You need to get it right - right now. A long, hot summer is coming.

Your comment that future such events will continue and that you will not turn your back on anyone is specious. You are turning your back to the decent people of Silver Spring who fought hard for the very project you manage and who simply want a decent place to shop, eat, have a drink or watch a movie. By allowing the loitering and disgustingly rude conduct of so many self proclaimed "thugs" who typically frequent Ellsworth Drive on a typical Friday or Saturday evening you have turned your back to us. By promising more go-go concerts with 10,000 16 to 20 year olds you are turning your back to the people or paid for the project and are your real community and customers.

You also need to establish a code of decency rather than tolerance of the disgusting behavior so often encountered at the corner of Ellsworth and Fenton which I refer to as "Thug Central." I have a 20 year old son and a 17 year old son. They have told me of behavior witnessed - and I have personally experienced behavior in DTSS that is way beyond their expections of reasonable or decent. My sons have at times been frightened and offended by the thugs that hang out leaning on light poles with their pants hanging down, cursing at passers-by, shouting lewd comments at girls and generally daring anyone to approach them. They are thugs and need to be told to "move along" that they are not welcome. You do need to turn your back to them and tell them to clean up their acts or get out of town.

The key to success of the DTSS project is the PERCEPTION of a safe, decent, friendly shopping and entertainment environment. So far you are failing miserably in that perception - and all of us will suffer for it. The community needs a full report on this and promises that it will not be allowed to happen again.

I expect a reply.

David M. Lautenberger

From: Feissner, John
Sent: Friday, March 13, 2009 8:04 AM
To: Jennifer Nettles; additional Peterson Companies e-mail addresses
Cc: Lautenberger, David; additional e-mail addresses
Subject: FW: Downtown Silver Spring / Events of Saturday Night 3/7/09

Good Morning.

I have been tasked my The Montgomery County Fire Marshal to conduct fact finding surrounding an event that took place on March 7th in Silver Spring. I understand that the Peterson Group may have had something to do with the sponsoring of this event.

I would ask that someone from the Peterson group give me a call to schedule a meeting. I look forward to hearing from your group soon.

Captain John Feissner

From: David Lautenberger
Sent: Wednesday, March 18, 2009 3:24 PM
To: John Feissner; Jennifer Nettles
Cc: Councilmember Valerie Ervin
Subject: Follow-up: Downtown Silver Spring Event of 3-7-09 // Fire Marshall's Inquiry // SS Urban Advisory Meeting

Captain Feissner and Ms. Nettles:

I am writing to find out if representatives of The Peterson Companies and the Fire Marshall have met to discuss the various issues related to the March 7th events as requested by Capt. Feissner?

If the meeting has taken place I would hope that a detailed report of the meeting would be made available to the community, and if the meeting has not yet taken place I would hope that, when scheduled, it would be an open meeting so that interested citizens might attend. Please advise.

I have also noted that Ms. Nettles and the organizers of the event are scheduled to present testimony to the Silver Spring Urban District Advisory Committee at their Thursday, March 19th meeting. Interestingly, no one from the community was invited to speak at the meeting as to potentially "opposing" views of the event.

David M. Lautenberger

From: Jennifer Nettles
Sent: Wednesday, March 18, 2009 4:16 PM
To: Lautenberger, David; John Feissner
Cc: Councilmember Valerie Ervin
Subject: RE: Follow-up: Downtown Silver Spring Event of 3-7-09 // Fire Marshall's Inquiry // SS Urban Advisory Meeting

Captain Feissner and I have emailed each other and he has been invited to a meeting on this Friday.

You are correct that the organizers of the event are talking with the Urban District Advisory Committee at their next meeting. Your comments and various other community comments, including opposing views will be discussed at the meeting.

Please feel free to give me a call if you want to discuss further 301-587-0867.


From: Lautenberger, David
Sent: Wednesday, March 18, 2009 4:25 PM
To: Jennifer Nettles; John Feissner
Cc: Councilmember Valerie Ervin
Subject: RE: Follow-up: Downtown Silver Spring Event of 3-7-09 // Fire Marshall's Inquiry // SS Urban Advisory Meeting

Thank you for your reply, Ms. Nettles. Please tell me if I understand you correctly to say that (a) your meeting with Capt. Feissner is private, and (b) that the community's comments will be merely "discussed" rather than invited at the Urban District Advisory Committee meeting. If the answers to (a) and (b) are "yes" then I believe we as a community, quite unfortunately, have a definite problem. Do you fear the community's involvement?

David Lautenberger


Thomas Hardman said...

This is all so totally "typical MoCo Establishment".

Mr Lautenberger: first and foremost you need to understand that the County flatly doesn't give a rat's ass about citizen opinions unless the citizen opinions exactly mirror what the County wants to hear. Simply stated, you aren't in a position to either make more money for the County or its politicians' campaign funds. Regardless of anything you do, they will still be taxing your property at approximately the same amount, no matter what you say. They don't have to listen to you. The same can't be said of the management of Ellsworth who can either kick in extra taxes -- even if not that much -- garnered by catering to the worst possible element and thus increasing sales. Or that management can tell the County "don't you get between my marketing department and your tax revenue from our customers, or we'll just walk away from DTSS. Meantime, give us more incentives to stay in business here. Increase taxes on the loudmouths complaining about the clientele our marketers dragged in from as far away as SouthEast DC and Waldorf".

Seriously: don't bother writing officials, they don't care. Write your elected representatives exactly once with your complaint, and then when exactly nothing ever happens, write them once again to tell them that you'll be hard-pressed to vote to return them to office. And then when you still get no action, face up to the facts. They don't give a rat's ass about you because they know that if you won't vote for them in the next election, you'll vote for yet-another clone of the Establishment.

Well, take them to school: vote Third Party. Vote "Dark Horse Candidates". Vote for people you've never heard of, and have not heard-of mostly because they aren't being promoted by the Establishment propaganda machine. Vote for people you know who come to your little neighborhood "thangs" and talk like you talk, and don't spit out a dogpile of stupid-ass trendy-speak that makes no damn sense if you actually take the time to deconstruct what they said.

Demand action. Get action, or get busy replacing the people who give you no action.

For far too long it's been "power to the Establishment". Make this year, next year, the year after that... make all day every day about DEMOCRACY. Let the voice of the People be heard and be FEARED. These people think we're slaves or something.

Fire them.

While you still can.

Susan said...

It occurs to me that the parties with a true interest in this are the businesses that are harmed because people who will spend money are more inclined to stay away from DTSS.

Has anyone written to Austin Grill, Ceviche, and the other businesses to tell them that they are reluctant to patronize their businesses because they are uncomfortable with the large crowds and preponderance of rude teenagers on weekend nights?

Mike said...

As Natasha Richardson's death shows, all it takes for someone to get killed is for them to fall down and hit their head on the ground. That this did not happen in the Ellsworth stampede is fortunate, but it is entirely possible that in the next such melee, somebody fleeing will fall and be seriously injured or killed. Perhaps it will be a child. Perhaps it will be somebody's mother.

If that should happen, the people in charge who are whitewashing what happened will have much to answer for.

Thomas Hardman said...

Here's the latest development.

The way that this is spinning it is this: It's not the County's problem. That there has to be a dialog between the residents and the concert organizers.

So, let's see: Bad Things Happen. People in charge of the situation that has Bad Things Happen hear the outcry and declare that "we can make sure that no more Bad Things Happen". Fearful that more Bad Things will Happen, people who had Bad Things Happen to them make arrangements.

And so long as they pay Protection Racket money, no more Bad Things Happen.

"It's just a cost of doing business" or of living where you do, eh?