Saturday, February 28, 2009

district 4 "head-to-head tour" 2009

Meet the District 4 County Council candidates in these exclusive, one-on-one interviews, which will be posted as they're completed.

Friday, February 27, 2009

hardman throws hat into district 4 race as democrat

Thomas Hardman at a candidates' forum last year.

. . .bringing the total to eight candidates, including (deep breath) Democrats Steve Kanstoroom, Ben Kramer, Cary Lamari, Nancy Navarro and Chris Paladino and Republicans Lou August and Robin Ficker. As you may remember, Thomas Hardman ran as a Republican in last year's election before switching parties last fall.

So far, I've met Lamari and Paladino (more on that week), but now have six more to go, three of whom I had the great pleasure of interviewing last year. As always, there is no shortage of excitement in a District 4 County Council Special Election.

You can read Hardman's announcement of candidacy on his blog, MoCo MoJo.

tale of two summers sets coming-of-age story in wheaton

"It's been a crummy first day of you not being here in crappy old Wheaton, Maryland. If there is any place more boring on earth to spend a sweltering summer by my goddamn self, I can't think of one . . . the sheer deadliness of our little 'burb is really starting to bug me out." - Hal, Tale of Two Summers
I was researching Wheaton Plaza online last December when I stumbled on Tale of Two Summers, a 2006 young adult novel by Brian Sloan set in Wheaton. As uncomfortable as I felt rummaging through the Young Adult section for this book, I felt even stranger reading about all of these actual places that I have actually visited.

Tale of Two Summers is the story of two sophomores at Einstein High who've grown up together in Wheaton and, for the first time in their lives, have to spend the summer apart. Chuck, a classic over-achiever with a flair for the dramatic, enrolls in a theatre camp at the University of Maryland, while his best friend Hal, lazy, cynical and recently out of the closet, stays at home to get his driver's license.

The conceit, at least for the first half of the novel, is that Wheaton is VERY VERY FAR from College Park, so Chuck devises a blog (called "Tale of Two Summers") to communicate with Hal. While he starts off complaining about how boring and uncultured Wheaton is (seemingly ignorant that CP is like, seven Metro stops and a transfer away), Hal's perspective quickly shifts when a dashing French parkour enthusiast named Henri literally falls into his lap outside of the [former] P&G Cinema.

They become fast friends - erm, "friends with benefits" - and Henri introduces Hal to a new side of Wheaton, taking him downtown to visit a sex shop, a Moroccan coffeehouse, and a gay bar called De Lounge. Henri's curiosity (and pot-smoking habit) start to chip away at Hal's frustration with his life, his shitty suburban upbringing and his sexuality.
"On his suggestion, we headed across Veirs Mill Road into the heart of downtown Wheaton. Yes, that's right-Wheaton! (Cue horror-movie music.) . . . Sure, downtown Bethesda's cool and Silver Spring is even manageable, with that new minimall and movie megaplex . . . but crappy ass, nowhere-central Wheaton? I think not." - Hal and Henri leave the confines of Wheaton Plaza
"A gay bar? In Wheaton? Surely you jest," I say, laughing as I read. But then, a few weeks later, I was pumping gas on Georgia Avenue when I looked across the street and, lo and behold, there was De Lounge. (How many times have I been to Paul Kee Restaurant next-door and never even knew it existed?) It's especially confusing that Sloan name-drops so many real places in Wheaton while fudging everything in College Park, where Chuck lives in St. Ann's Hall and updates the blog at McKibbin Library. You'd think the University of Maryland was trying to shut him down or something unless he made up the buildings on campus.

I used to avoid Young Adult fiction when I was the right age for it, so I don't know if there have been other books written a) about Wheaton or b) with a gay protagonist, but I appreciated both thoroughly. It's nice to see writing about Montgomery County, even if it doesn't lend itself as a backdrop to literary masterpieces like New Orleans in Kate Chopin's The Awakening. Books are just one way that we develop our local culture and establish ourselves as a diverse, vibrant place to live. It took Hal a little while to figure it out, but he came around.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

as always . . .

Check out my weekly column in the Diamondback, the University of Maryland's independent student newspaper. This week, I'm writing about my unsuccessful attempts at apartment-hunting in Rockville, in which a leasing agent told me I "didn't look like I could afford to live" in his complex.

(Yes, I said "Rockville," which you'll know from reading this blog is not in East County. What me living on Rockville Pike would mean for Just Up The Pike is that I wouldn't have to pay for a new domain name.)

paint branch modernization a setback for student-walkers

The new Paint Branch High School is set for construction in 2014 . . . we hope.

Next Thursday, the Planning Board reviews the modernization of Paint Branch High in Burtonsville. Four decades old this year, the school seeks to knock down its existing building at Old Columbia Pike and Briggs Chaney Road and build a new facility next door.

While staying on site's a great move for the student body, many of whom live nearby and walk to school, it's literally a setback for accessibility. Unlike the current building, which is so close to Old Columbia Pike that it almost disappears behind a rise in the road, the new Paint Branch will be set behind faculty and staff parking lots and a bus turnaround, making for a reduced street presence and a slightly more miserable walk for students who already have to brave the Route 29/Briggs Chaney Road interchange on foot.

Construction is slated to begin in 2014, having been pushed back several times due to budget constraints. The modernization may also displace an historic Wye Oak tree (that's the state tree, don't you know) currently located in the adjacent Airy Hill Park, which will be incorporated into the new Paint Branch campus.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

somewhat disproved, is the consortium idea still worth it?

Blake High School is one of three campuses in the Northeast Consortium.

School Board member Phil Kauffman of Olney says the Northeast Consortium, which provides East County eighth-graders with a choice of three high schools each offering different "signature programs" in different subjects, may be too expensive to sustain. The consortium - which includes Paint Branch, Springbrook, and Blake high schools - costs $3 million a year to run. Critics say it hasn't fulfilled its original purpose of increasing racial diversity in the schools and that test scores have actually fallen since the consortium was established in 1998.

I still don't understand what the problem is. Like many eighth-graders here, I was told I was going to Blake because of its exciting arts program, not because I would help balance out the glut of affluent white kids whose parents were scared to send them to Paint Branch or Springbrook. I wouldn't have traded my time at Blake for anything - and I know I was happier there than I would've been had I ended up at Paint Branch, which is the closer school to my house.

But if anyone should speculate on whether or not the Northeast Consortium does or doesn't work, it's going to be Kauffman, whose wife Beth is a teacher at Blake and whose daughter Rachel was in my graduating class and a good friend of mine. As someone who knows the ins and outs of at least one consortium high school, he'd be the best judge of its value - but I wonder if giving students a positive educational experience is so easily quantifiable.

walking to school, walking into the real world

The old Blair High School on Wayne Avenue put students within walking distance of Metro and Downtown Silver Spring. Photo courtesy of smata2. BELOW: Blair's current campus in Four Corners.

It's not quite Hilton Hotels, but the International Baccalaureate Organization is looking to relocate its United States office to Montgomery County, citing the large number of local schools offering their intensive college-prep curriculum. Their main criteria for a site is a) one that's near Metro and b) one that's near a high school offering their program, which has limited their search to the west leg of the Red Line. It's an interesting way to locate a business, assuming their workers have teenagers and will try to settle nearby, but tough to accomplish even in MoCo.

While a number of county high schools offer IB, only a few are Metro-accessible, notably Richard Montgomery in Rockville and Bethesda-Chevy Chase. On the east side, the closest school to a Metro station is the vaunted Montgomery Blair, just two miles away from both the Forest Glen and Silver Spring stations - but you'll only find IB classes at Springbrook High, which is five miles away from Glenmont.

Of any level of school in MoCo, high schools are the ones that best belong in the "center of town," if you will, because its students stand to gain the most from being within easy walking distance to stores, transportation and hangouts. Kind of disappointing. Having worked in Downtown Rockville with students from Richard Montgomery, I can attest to what a difference pedestrian and Metro accessibility can make for kids who can't drive, in terms of getting to jobs, meeting friends, and becoming a visible, active part of the community rather than being sequestered away in a classroom or basement.

The lives my co-workers at RM led were a far cry from my own high school experience at Blake, where my entire walking-to-stuff career consisted of a trip to the Olney 9 sophomore year with a few friends. (This was before Downtown Silver Spring opened, and at the time, the idea of walking to the movies seemed revolutionary.)

And while Blair's relocation to Four Corners ten years ago has given students a bigger campus and more room for playing fields, it's hampered their independence, with a school hemmed in by two state highways and the Beltway. Those who have to walk or use transit do so at their own peril. The old Blair High School (currently Sligo Creek Elementary and Silver Spring International Middle) on Wayne Avenue, just outside of Downtown Silver Spring, was probably a better place for young adults to gain their independence, simply because they could easily get around on their own.

International Baccalaureate's move to MoCo means that our public schools will receive even more outside attention for their academic excellence. But their criteria for selecting a site will hopefully encourage some thought about how students can learn about the world outside of school.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

looks like this race finally got interesting (updated)

Robin Ficker campaigning for Mark Fennel during last year's District 4 special election.

From the Gazette:
Tax reform advocate and perennial candidate Robin Ficker has moved across the county to a home in Silver Spring to run for the vacant District 4 County Council seat . . . Ficker's parents purchased a house in the Fairland area in 1969, and he has lived in the area "off and on" ever since, he said.
What can I say but welcome to East County, Robin Ficker. (Thanks to Adam at MPW for the tip.) A brief (brief because it's free and I'm cheap) background check reveals that his mother does in fact live in Fairland, and Ficker himself has held no fewer than three Silver Spring addresses throughout his lifetime. Ficker's real estate website also notes that he's opened a second office in College Park, which combined with a move to East County begs the question: does this move mean he will resume his daily morning routine of running up and down the stairs of Cole Field House on the University of Maryland campus?

The Gazette article also mentions two other entries into the District 4 race: Republican Lou August and Democrat Steve Kanstoroom, who ran in last year's special election and was interviewed by JUTP. That brings the list of contenders up to seven, with Democrats Nancy Navarro, Ben Kramer, Chris Paladino and Cary Lamari (who we met last Friday) having already announced their candidacy.

And remember: if you'd like to run for County Council, the deadline to register is next Thursday, March 5.

Monday, February 23, 2009

phoning it in, y'all (this day in JUTP)

It's going to be a busy week here in College Park, so I'm doing myself a favor and taking off for a day or two. JUTP officially operates on a daily schedule, so what this just means is that I might still post, but don't hold your breath, unless you're going for a swim - in which case, by all means, please do.

But in the meantime, check this out: today marks the one-year anniversary of El Pollo Rico burning down, if you've been keeping track - and, here at JUTP, we ran a series on Silver Spring folk legend (and occasional contributor) Lisa Null. And in 2007, I interviewed County Councilmember George Leventhal and, ironically, took another break from blogging.

Anyway. I'll see you in a day or so.

Friday, February 20, 2009

does polling place consolidation hurt minority voters?

That's what Adam Pagnucco at Maryland Politics Watch says might happen due to the Board of Elections' plan to consolidate some polling places for the District 4 special election, citing low turnout:
"If implemented, the precinct closure plan recommended by Montgomery County Board of Elections Executive Director Margaret Jurgensen would disproportionately close precincts that voted for Nancy Navarro in 2008 . . . Navarro won a disproportionately large share of precincts with high black and Latino populations. By targeting Navarro’s precincts for shutdown, the Board of Elections plan may very well inconvenience black and Latino voters at greater rates than white voters."
Seriously? They'd better have a legitimate explanation for this, because there's nothing like allegations of voter suppression to draw indignant voters to the polls. (I hope.)

cary lamari: despite long career of activism, still "not a politician"

Part ONE in our series of interviews with candidates in the County Council special election. For more information on Cary Lamari, check out his campaign website and campaign page on Facebook.

Cary Lamari and I are respectively the second-youngest and youngest people sitting in Nancy's Kitchen, a cozy restaurant in Leisure World Plaza. Despite my extreme lateness to our interview (he'd had enough time to finish breakfast, shake a few hands and drive most of the way home before I called him), he's still willing to introduce me to a few gentlemen seated at the booth across from me.

"This is Ben Kramer's uncle," Lamari says. "He used to cut my hair." That's State Delegate Ben Kramer who, of course, is running against Lamari for the open District 4 County Council seat, and is quite popular around Leisure World. "How old is he?" asks one of the other gentlemen at the table. "I don't know," I reply with a shrug. "I'm eighty-three," replies Ben Kramer's uncle. "It's the alcohol," jokes the other gentleman. "It preserves him."

But when we sit down, Lamari is all business, jumping right into his family story. The son of Italian immigrants, he was born in the District and grew up in Wheaton. "My father was an electrical engineer, and he was tickled he could get a job as a laborer because he would feed his family," he says. "Our neighbors looked at us funny, but you grow with a community and you become a part of the community."

"It was a different Wheaton then," Lamari adds. "We've become a lot more diverse and a lot more tolerant of our differences."

The biggest issues facing District 4 right now are "taxes, the economy and congestion," says Lamari, followed by the school system. "You have to look at Montgomery County in the big picture . . . I believe that the quality of life has diminished when you talk about infrastructure and schools."

Quality of life first became an issue to Lamari when he built a home off of Norbeck Road in 1984. The area "was a no-man's land," he says. "There was a junkyard behind the church, there was a barbed wire fence around Leisure World, there was a park our kids couldn't get to. I was outraged."

so much more AFTER THE JUMP . . .

Traffic on Norbeck Road (Route 28) at Georgia Avenue.

"I started noticing growth in Montgomery County," he says, "and I wondered what are they dynamics in making a good project." Deciding to jump into local politics, Lamari "studied" under former Councilmember Ida Mae Garrett, visiting her with current Councilmember Phil Andrews. "She was our mentor," he says. "She taught us how to be a good Democrat and how to be a good activist, how to accomplish your goals . . . it wasn't politics back then. It was the local issues."

When he began attending meetings for the Aspen Hill Master Plan, which was revised in the 1990's, he'd see representatives for local developers and residents from Leisure World, but no one representing his own community. "No wonder we aren't getting any positive development," he recalls saying. Lamari "fought" for road widenings, pedestrian access, and the expansion of local parks.

On the Mid County Citizens Advisory Board, Lamari criticized the Pay-and-Go program, which allowed developers to pay a surcharge for the road and infrastructure improvements their projects require, calling it a "token fee" that didn't cover the expenses incurred. "I decided to fight City Hall . . . you didn't do that under the Doug Duncan administration," says Lamari. He resigned from the board, but he didn't stop talking. Instead, Lamari jumped over to the Montgomery County Civic Federation, where he became their president. In 2003, he testified at the Annual Growth Policy hearings. "I vociferously stood up and said 'this isn't a gift to developers, it's a pay-off,'" says Lamari.

Six years later, he laments, nothing has changed. "We still don't have an Annual Growth Policy that's quantifiable, that has a vision, that has any direction for where we want to target our growth. I say if we're going to grow, let's have a plan," says Lamari. "Let's do it the right way and let's do what we can afford . . . You want to target that growth where you'll have the best results with that investment. That was where we failed in Clarksburg," he adds, referring to the rapidly-growing Upcounty new town.

But Lamari argues that some investments are better than others. He opposes the InterCounty Connector, not because it would pass a thousand feet from his home, but "because it doesn't make sense," he says. "I believe what Marilyn Praisner said: we have the cleanest streams [in East County] but the least transportation investment. And, in my view, the three-billion-dollar expense of the ICC doesn't help. You have to weigh two things. The cost of the environment and the cost of other transportation options - widening Norbeck, grade-separated interchanges, widening Muncaster Mill."

He blames the SHA for their unwillingness to study widening Norbeck Road, which parallels the ICC and carries much of the traffic projected to use it. When completed, the first phase of the highway will terminate on Norbeck just east of Georgia Avenue. "It is kind of ridiculous to terminate the ICC onto a two-lane road with no shoulders for eighteen months," he says, noting that the traffic will be a safety issue for Leisure World, the nearby retirement community with 8,500 permanent residents. "You limit access to the safety vehicles serving these people."

When I ask Lamari if there's an example of good development in Montgomery County, he lists a few places, mostly along the 270 corridor. "I love the Kentlands because it's a walkable community," he says, referring to the renowned New Urban development in Gaithersburg. "But if you're going to work, people need options, such as [the Corridor Cities Transitway] . . . don't make people fight in traffic on 270."

"I love the TOD idea," says Lamari. "but I believe in Montgomery County we can have an urban lifestyle for those who enjoy that, we can have a suburban lifestyle for those who enjoy that, and we must preserve our rural lifestyle . . . We're not a sleepy bedroom community anymore."

Lamari calls the Kentlands in Gaithersburg an example of good development in Montgomery County.

"You don't want to make people's lives difficult," he continues. "They want to be home with their families. You want to give them choices. You want to make friendly communities, neighborhood shopping centers - you need to have a balance with jobs. We put all our economic opportunities on the west side of the County and into Virginia. You gotta look at the big picture."

After twenty-five years of civic activism, Lamari still considers himself an outsider, taking care to remind me that he's "not a politician." His experience in the public eye limited to seats on advisory boards and community groups. "It's amazing how an individual who wants to participate in government can make his voice heard," he notes, "and it's amazing how people will stifle his voice."

"I think the civic community is very valuable," says Lamari. "People charge that they're 'NIMBYs.' I think it's okay to be a NIMBY. Residents that feel a passion for certain issues may get involved, but when they see how the system works, they want to contribute. I got involved to get my son to a park . . . it's those people who start out as NIMBYs who become positive contributors."

"It's incumbent on an elected official to have an open ear to all sides, all interests, all stakeholders. Then he's gotta do what's right."

For more information, check out Cary Lamari's campaign website and campaign page on Facebook.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

is wheaton too "modest" for a nice downtown library?

Rockville's Town Square is organized around public buildings, like the VisArts Center and the Rockville Library. Shouldn't Wheaton's downtown work the same way?

Lots of letters in the Gazette this week about whether or not to move the Wheaton Library downtown, which we discussed at length last week. There's a really big disconnect between what move opponents say and what they're implying.

In one letter, resident Howard Phoebus says "the modest nature of Wheaton is just fine," citing the horrors of the new Georgia Crossing shopping center at Georgia and University which, for all the traffic it may or may not have generated, is filled with modest, local stores. No "high-end" chains here. Meanwhile, resident Jeff Gates (who I believe commented here the other day) writes that he doesn't want to see "high-density townhouses" built on the former library site, despite the fact that any development there would provide affordable housing, helping to keep Wheaton "modest."

The argument that the County could save money by renovating the current, forty-seven-year-old library and build a smaller, "satellite library" downtown doesn't make any sense, given that most people looking for materials would still wind up at the old library. By this logic, a new library should be built downtown, where it's more easily accessed by Metro/bus/foot, and a satellite facility built on the site of the current library. But even that's kind of ridiculous, because the libraries would still only be five blocks apart.

There are a few people who have the right idea, though. Three letters from supporters of the move generally agree that if "all our community had access to education facilities such as public libraries, there would be a great deal less crime," Meanwhile, Marian Fryer, who used to chair the Wheaton Redevelopment Advisory Board, rails against the "them vs. us" mentality of her neighbors and a resistance to change in a community that most everyone agrees has bad traffic, poor pedestrian accessibility and a reputation for crime.

As a public institution, libraries belong at the center of a community's civic life. Just look at the regional library in Rockville Town Square or even the Barnes and Noble in Bethesda. Why shouldn't Wheaton, which has even better road, rail and bus access at the center of its downtown than Rockville and Bethesda, put their library in the place where the most people can benefit from it? This isn't just an argument about books or free parking. It's about creating a solid public realm, and it's the one thing that Wheaton's business district could use the most.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

polisar's song appears on grammy-winning soundtrack

Speaking of music: Burtonsville singer-songwriter (and friend of JUTP) Barry Louis Polisar has won a Grammy, sort of. His song "All I Want Is You," which appeared on the Juno soundtrack, which won Best Soundtrack at the music awards event a week and a half ago. (It's funny because, when I saw that movie for the first time on my friend's laptop little over a year ago, I was thinking "Man, that song sounds familiar," and, well, I was pleasantly surprised, as if to say Man, they should have totally listened to you and put a miniature Roman Coliseum in Burtonsville.

Anyway, if you haven't heard this song before, check it out:

what's up the pike: if you were a song . . .

If Silver Spring were a song, what would it sound like? Nashville USA or Salsa Ritmo?

Just Up The Pike celebrated President's Day a little late this year, but only because there are so many posts to be written that a break was definitely required. Here's a look at what's happening in East County:

- Once again, Maryland Politics Watch has delved into the nuts-and-bolts of this year's special election for County Council with an in-depth analysis of the four candidates, all Democrats, running for the open District 4 seat. Last week, JUTP sat down with civic activist Cary Lamari, which you'll read more about in the next couple of days.

- The Gazette talks about Muzak, the people who provide what they call "retail theatre" to shoppers in Downtown Silver Spring, but also in common areas at the Blairs, which I can't help but find a little creepy. I figure most people would like their apartment complex to be a refuge from shitty pop music but, then again, you don't pay $2,500 a month to not hear music when you're at the pool.

It's worth noting that, even though Muzak is stereotyped as "elevator music," they generally don't produce their own music anymore, instead offering their clients a selection of programs featuring both popular and not-so-popular songs specifically chosen to convey a particular mood. While I doubt they can really reflect the "eclectic" make-up of Silver Spring's visitors and patrons in their music, anything they play through the speakers on Ellsworth is better than the "Jesus music" I heard walking down Ellsworth three years ago.

- As always, check out my weekly column (and last week's column, which I forgot to link to) in the Diamondback, the University of Maryland's independent student newspaper. This week, I'm talking about loud movie patrons, a topic which has caused much weeping and gnashing of teeth at Silver Spring, Singular but proved to be kind of fun because it brings people together, that is, if everyone's agreed that they don't really care what Liam Neeson is saying so long as he's shooting people. (I'm pleasantly surprised that D'Back was willing to print most of the swears I heard, including the B-word and an (abridged) N-word, though the P-word I quoted was conspicuously absent.)

Monday, February 16, 2009

east county, upcounty tighten moco's gender gap

In MoCo, working women earn the most compared to their male counterparts in Germantown, Gaithersburg and Wheaton (pictured), according to Census data.

One of the fun things about Census data is that you can find statistics on just about anything. While doing some research for a studio project last week, I noticed that the Census' "fact sheets" list the median earnings of male and female full-time workers in a given place. In other words, it's a rough estimate of the "gender gap" in a community - the myth that women make 76 cents to the dollar their male counterparts make which, according to this article, is actually derived from median yearly earnings.

The following figures are taken from the 2005-2007 American Community Survey or, if that wasn't available for a certain place, from the 2000 Census. (Those numbers are marked with an asterisk.) I didn't look at the numbers within any greater context, so we can't draw any big conclusions from this.

Within MoCo, the gender gap is most pronounced in the most affluent communities, while smaller in the Upcounty and East County. Olney has the widest gender gap in the county, closely followed by Chevy Chase. In Germantown, women make 93 cents to the dollar their male counterparts earn.

City/Census Designated Place (CDP)Median household incomeMedian earnings for male full-time, year-round workersMedian earnings for female full-time, year-round workersFemale earnings compared to male earnings
Germantown71,22653,51349,59693%
City of Gaithersburg74,88354,68650,09392%
Wheaton-Glenmont71,14643,60939,37390%
Silver Spring67,25549,95244,04088%
Potomac154,370100,000+78,44278%
City of Rockville86,08569,95553,49276%
Bethesda117,723100,00074,07274%
Town of Chevy Chase*160,331100,000+66,70567%
Olney116,31992,65560,06565%


so much more AFTER THE JUMP . . .

And within East County, there's less of a pattern. Affluent Colesville actually has a wider gender gap than predicted by the 76-cent myth, but so does Fairland, which has a large concentration of affordable housing.

City/Census Designated Place (CDP)Median household incomeMedian earnings for male full-time, year-round workersMedian earnings for female full-time, year-round workersFemale earnings compared to male earnings
Wheaton-Glenmont71,14643,60939,37390%
Calverton*63,99044,42539,56389%
Silver Spring67,25549,95244,04088%
White Oak67,95948,23042,45588%
Takoma Park*48,49040,66835,07386%
Burtonsville*73,24152,00341,13379%
Colesville*91,69661,11946,16975%
Fairland70,05960,03748,01775%


As a whole, Montgomery County's gender gap fits the "76-cent myth," but compared to the District of Columbia and the state of Maryland, it's pretty wide:

City/Census Designated Place (CDP)Median household incomeMedian earnings for male full-time, year-round workersMedian earnings for female full-time, year-round workersFemale earnings compared to male earnings
MoCo89,28469,18653,12577%
Maryland66,87353,42843,24881%
Washington, D.C.52,18751,27849,00695%


So, long story short: if you're a working woman, you might want to consider working in/moving to Germantown, Gaithersburg, or Wheaton. On the other hand, if the concept of traditional gender roles/being a trophy wife appeals to you, check out Olney, Chevy Chase or Bethesda.

Friday, February 13, 2009

civic building: not kicking ass, but taking names

The Gazette reports that MoCo's forming a committee to find individuals worthy of having their name on the Silver Spring Civic Building, scheduled for completion next spring. (Is that right? The building is still very much a whole in the ground.) Names already being tossed around include James P. Gleason, the first Montgomery County Executive; former executive Doug Duncan - whose name was not put on the Rockville Library because he's still alive - and former state delegate Jane Lawton.

Each of these people either lived in Rockville or Chevy Chase, bringing me to ask: shouldn't we be making a list of Important People who lived in Silver Spring? That was the reasoning behind naming a new Downtown park for former Planning Board Commissioner Gene Lynch, who lived in Woodside, or the re-dedicated Marilyn Praisner Center in Burtonsville: these were places in the communities Lynch and Praisner were a part of. (An exception is the Paul Sarbanes Transit Center at the Silver Spring Metro, named for the senator who still lives in Baltimore.)

As this new building will [hopefully] become the center of Silver Spring community life, it's only appropriate to name it for someone who has been a significant part of Silver Spring community life themselves. It would be pretty awesome to name the building for some of our more famous native sons, but I think you'd have a hard time making the case for the Lewis Black Civic Building or the Ben Stein Civic Building. (I vote for the Dave Chappelle Civic Building - or the Connie Chung Civic Building. Fun with alliteration!)

So . . . what would this list of Silver Spring Important People look like? (Or should we just concentrate on selling naming rights? Pepsi Civic Building, anyone?)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

let's make a date

The County Council has set April 21 for the primary and May 19 for the general election to fill the District 4 seat left vacant by the passing of Don Praisner last month. You can read more on the Gazette or at Maryland Politics Watch.

civic activism 101: show your research

A group of Wheaton residents is fighting a proposal to move the Wheaton Regional Library downtown, where planners say it could revitalize the CBD.

Despite recent bad news about the Wheaton CBD, talk of its redevelopment has become increasingly urgent since Park and Planning started working on a new Sector Plan last spring. Last summer, planning consultants proposed moving the Wheaton Regional Library at Georgia and Arcola avenues into Downtown Wheaton as an anchor for the business district, and a group of residents wants to put the kibosh on that fast. They're circulating a petition to "Save Wheaton Library" with a website stating plain and clear that this is a "Bad Idea." The website lists a series of reasons why the move is a poor choice, none of which are backed up by any facts or supports.

It wasn't too long ago that I learned how to write an essay in high school, and I still remember quite clearly that if you're going to make an argument, you have to back up your facts. Let's go one-by-one:

1. The current Wheaton Library retains an easy and familiar presence.

Elaborate, please, and define "easy and familiar" as you would like them to mean in this context. Making an argument is all about definitions. I'm "familiar" with the library because I went there once a week growing up. But if you're saying that someone new to the library would say it looks "familiar" because it looks like a library, that would be something else entirely.

2. The Library reaches out to novice and first-time users (especially children and immigrants). Moving the Library risks alienating a developing set of new patrons, especially those in this multi-cultural hub of the county.

Most libraries reach out to children and immigrants - both groups want to learn how to read or speak English. This isn't really news, or really special to the Wheaton Library, making it a lousy support. You want to make it clear that the library as-is makes a contribution that it couldn't elsewhere. It's also not clear what moving the library would do to "alienate" anyone. Elaborate!

3. Planning for saving the Rafferty Center is part of a vision including the Wheaton Library, the Rafferty Center and the Rec Center as the heart of our youth development focus providing "wise choices" for the growing number of latch-key children. This is especially critical since the library is in close proximity to the children of modest income families who can profit from organized programs.

This is actually a salient point. The possibility that the Rafferty Center (the former gym of Good Council High School, now condos) and the Library could become a center for local youth is a good reason in support of keeping everything as is. But you could say the same thing about the library moving Downtown, where it could work with the Gilchrest Center for Cultural Diversity and the Mid-County Regional Services Center.

4. Parking at the Wheaton Library's present site is ample, free, and there are no complications about misuse (as is the case in other CBDs).

What case? You have to provide an example. You could be talking about the controversy over free parking at the Rockville Library (located in Rockville Town Center) but we can't assume. It's worth noting, though, that #2 and #3 discussed the vast numbers of [presumably low-income] immigrants and latch-key children using the library. Perhaps parking isn't as big an issue as general access, and while the current library can be reached by a number of Ride-On and Metrobus routes, a Downtown library would be a short walk from even more bus lines (including the heavily-ridden Metrobus Q2) and, of course, the Metro.

so much more AFTER THE JUMP . . .

5. Parking at Wheaton serves the handicapped very well since the entrance is close at hand, not true with some other CBD libraries within the county and in Virginia.

Again, supports! Why should I take you seriously if you won't give me a) case studies or b) names of libraries? Why don't libraries in Virginia like handicapped people? Is that even relevant? And, besides, most of the current library is located upstairs, meaning that a person in a wheelchair still has a hard time getting from their car (or bus, or train) to a book.

6. Low income patrons are further encouraged to use the library since parking is free.

See #4, and note that plenty of people pay to park in Downtown Wheaton when going to shop or eat, many of whom could be called "low income," according to the Census. As Councilmember George Leventhal found while researching the free parking issue last year, public libraries in Baltimore and the District - and even Philadelphia, whose Benjamin Franklin encouraged literacy - charge for parking.

7. Some residents state they would not use the library in the CBD (nor allow their children to do so) due to the heavy traffic and difficulties in crossing the streets.

Which residents? PROVIDE SUPPORT FOR YOUR STATEMENTS (interviews, testimony, etc.) OR THEY ARE WORTHLESS.

8. In these tight financial times it makes no sense to reinvent the wheel, to spend precious taxpayer dollars moving something valuable just to rebuild it a few blocks south.

This is true. The burden lies on the County to prove that moving the library downtown will provide the return-on-investment that they want (a revitalized CBD) despite the economic downturn. Rockville Town Square cost $100 million to build, $20 million of which went to the library there, and it's been regarded as a success.

9. The Library as currently situated is easily, safely, and pleasantly accessible by foot and public transportation to thousands of residents in its surrounding neighborhoods.

You have to define "easily, safely and pleasantly" for this to have any impact. Some would say that walking five long blocks from the Metro is an unpleasant walk to the library. Others might say that they'd rather not have to drive to the library, and they'd prefer it was easier to reach by public transportation.

There's a quote by Margaret Mead that goes "A small group of thoughtful people could change the world." Sometimes, it's true. Sometimes, it's a small group of thoughtful people that, despite their good intentions, ignore everything taught to them in high school English about how to construct a good argument for their cause. Whether or not you agree with moving the Wheaton Regional Library, it's worthwhile to do your research before start to speak.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

town hall meeting tonight in white oak (updated)

UPDATE: Councilmember Leventhal asked us to clarify what he said in the e-mail printed below. "The purpose of my e-mail was not 'to support pushing the date back' as I have yet to decide which date I prefer," wrote Leventhal in an e-mail to JUTP. "I was sincerely trying to get my constituents' input as to their views and to describe fairly the two different proposals before the Council."

Tell County Executive Ike Leggett what's on your mind at tonight's Town Hall Meeting in White Oak. The show starts at 7:30pm at White Oak Middle School on New Hampshire Avenue.

I never seem to be able to go to these things anymore, which is too bad. Leggett's Town Hall meetings have always been a great opportunity to meet people in the neighborhood, scrounge up new story ideas and, of course, to watch our generally amiable County Executive verbally spar with his loving constituents.

ALSO: We've already got four candidates in the District 4 special election, but no actual date for the vote, due to a fight between MCPS and the Board of Elections over whether to hold it during the school system's Spring Break or later. The County Council will try to set a date during their session Thursday afternoon and, in the meantime, Councilmember George Leventhal (D-At Large) sent this e-mail out asking District 4 residents to support pushing the date back:
. . . All involved agree that the primary election must be held in April and the general election must be held in May. The controversy revolves around the date of the primary election and whether or not it should be held on a day when school is in session, since many schools are used as polling places. Because the only day schools are closed in May is Memorial Day, any general election must be held while schools are in session and there is no controversy over either date proposed for the general election.

The Board of Elections has proposed to hold the primary election on Tuesday, April 7 and the general election on Tuesday, May 12, and Councilmember Valerie Ervin has offered a motion to support the Elections Board's proposed dates. You can read Councilmember Ervin's press release explaining her motion here. However, April 7 falls during the Montgomery County Public Schools' spring break, which means that many families may be out of town. While voters would, of course, be permitted to utilize absentee ballots, voter turnout may suffer.

Council President Phil Andrews has proposed a primary election date of Tuesday, April 21 and a general election date of Tuesday, May 19. Holding the primary on April 21 when school is in session may maximize the number of people who will vote; however, two concerns have been raised: (1) parking lots will be full and voters will be unable to park; (2) security at schools, particularly elementary schools, will be compromised if a large number of people are allowed to move freely in and out of the buildings . . .
Which makes more sense? Having the vote while school is in session, possibly disrupting classes but making it easier for parents to turn out, or doing it over Spring Break, taking advantage of all those empty schools while losing all the voters who chose to hit up Cancun instead? (Remember, now that Obama is president, young people actually enjoy voting.)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

what's up the pike: fired up, shields ready

Living in Wheaton = need armored vehicle?

- This rendering of MetroPointe, a new apartment complex literally atop the Wheaton Metro, shows a Hummer driving by the building. Not the cute, yuppie-friendly Hummer H3, but the Humvee you see navigating the streets of Baghdad, not Montgomery County. What are they implying? Are they saying Wheaton is SO dangerous that you need an armored vehicle to leave your $2,000-a-month apartment, or is Wheaton so nouveau riche that its new residents can afford to drive such a car? Very confusing.

- The District 4 race heated up over the weekend, with four candidates already throwing their hat in the ring. Maryland Politics Watch has been on top of the story, announcing the candidacy of Chris Paladino and Layhill activist Cary Lamari along with the ensuing fight between the Board of Elections and Montgomery County Public Schools over when the election should actually be held. In addition to Paladino and Lamari, State Delegate Ben Kramer (D-Dist. 19) and School Board President Nancy Navarro (D) are also running to replace Councilmember Don Praisner, who passed away earlier this month.

- Speaking of District 4: Thomas Hardman asked us to make a plug for District 4 Wiki, the user-generated website all about East County where you can eventually read (and write, of course) about the ongoing campaign. The Wiki was started last summer by Hardman, who ran in last year's special election and Eileena York from Citizens Involved.

- Delegate Herman Taylor (D-Dist. 14) was found guilty for DUI last week. Taylor, seen above (center) at a District 14 delegation dinner last year, was charged with drunk driving last May when a police officer discovered him slumped over in his car while parked at the 7-Eleven in Hillandale.

Monday, February 9, 2009

was east county ready for a little georgetown on the patuxent?

Hampshire Hamlet's developers promised to bring Georgetown to this site in Colesville, near New Hampshire Avenue and the InterCounty Connector. BELOW: The homes feature more detailed fa├žades than you'd see in most new developments.

East County has never attracted developers who wanted to take risks. Most new homes that get built here are your typical four-bedroom Colonials - family room, two-car garage, quarter-acre lot. Nothing special. As a result, it was surprising when high-end builder Mitchell and Best came in promising to build something that "could easily grace the streets of Georgetown, Annapolis or Alexandria," as their own marketing propaganda said.

At Hampshire Hamlet, a development at New Hampshire Avenue and Cape May Road, Mitchell and Best promised a real traditional neighborhood, with big front porches, garages tucked in back and homes pushed up against the street. And it wasn't just any street - it was New Hampshire Avenue, a rural byway-turned-suburban arterial that sees more backyard fences than front porches. It's a big gesture to put houses facing a major street like that, and it says you want to be noticed.

These are the kinds of homes you'll see in King Farm and Kentlands, two New Urban neighborhoods in Rockville and Gaithersburg where Mitchell and Best has been active in the past. Or in actual old neighborhoods like in Bethesda or outside of Downtown Silver Spring. They're designed to encourage community-building - if you give people a porch, hopefully they'll sit on them and meet their neighbors. And they charged top-dollar for that potential sociability: when I visited in the spring of 2007, prices started at $788,000.

so much more AFTER THE JUMP . . .

"The Hamlet," a much more conventional home being built at Hampshire Hamlet. BELOW: A proposed site plan from 2007 shows homes with rear garages.

And while the economic crisis has hit everyone hard, it's been especially cruel to a developer trying to sell Georgetown in the suburbs. While the traditional houses were completed along New Hampshire Avenue (three of which have yet to sell, even at discounts of nearly $200,000), Mitchell and Best introduced a new model for the rest of the subdivision's lots. It's a design that planner-types call a "snout house" - living space in back, garage way, way out in front. They provide a little more privacy for the occupants at the expense of the neighborhood, which now enjoys a streetscape of garage doors and cars. It's not necessarily a bad thing, but it is more of the same we've had in East County, which is disappointing.

Which leads me to ask: super-suburban East County not ready for something so "urban," even after homes like this have been built in King Farm or Kentlands for twenty years? (Though, of course, Hampshire Hamlet is only "urban" in appearance, because unlike actual urban neighborhoods - say, near Downtown Silver Spring - you couldn't walk to any stores or schools from here, though there is a bus stop nearby.) OR was Mitchell and Best just unwilling to wait for the right people to buy into their vision?

A developer makes an investment and, especially in this economy, is anxious to get a return. It's hard to make a bet on innovation, but it's a shame that Mitchell and Best wasn't willing to give the east side more of a chance.

Friday, February 6, 2009

she's back . . .

School Board member and Colesville resident Nancy Navarro (pictured) has thrown her hat into the race for the District 4 County Council seat, according to Maryland Moment. Also announcing their candidacy is current State Delegate Ben Kramer (D-Dist. 19) of Wheaton, whose family is deeply embedded in MoCo politics.

No date has been set for the special election, the second in as many years for District 4. As you all know, the seat was vacated last week by the tragic passing of former Councilmember Don Praisner.

manner time, or how moco made me socially stunted

I was at Park Potomac last week, a swank development in Potomac of $1-million-plus rowhouses done up to look like 19th-century brownstones, visiting the model house. While walking from the car, my friend and I are greeted by a woman shoveling snow off the sidewalk. Off the public sidewalk, not just her stoop. She had the whole outdoor-yuppie look, so I figured she wasn't a maintenance person. "How are you?" she asks. "You know, same as always," I say, offering my standard response. "Same as always?" she says, frowning. "Are you kidding? You live in the United States of America!"

I was kind of taken aback, because you look at these houses and think "people must walk around with sticks up their asses," and I was very, very wrong. How well do these local stereotypes hold up? From the Archives of Lost Posts comes this story from last August about polite people in a store where I used to work:

The store I work at just opened a new location in University Town Center, the new eating-and-entertainment wonderland in Hyattsville (at right). Over the past few weeks, I've been splitting my hours between it and my current store in Rockville, and I've noticed one big difference: people in Hyattsville are really, really nice.

I'm not sure what it is, but when customers come into my store, they're looking for a conversation. When I ask "How are you," they respond. They want to know my name, where I go to school, what I'm studying. "Architecture? That's wonderful," one woman told me. "You're going to go very far one day. You know, with Obama, they're gonna have to change the name of the 'White' House . . . but you don't seem like someone who'd want to live there, do you?"

so much more AFTER THE JUMP . . .

A skater kid glares at me in Bethesda. (Probably doesn't help that I pointed a camera in his face.)

Or the woman who asked me, point blank: "Are you happy with who you are?" And I, in my hat and apron, have to reply, "Yeah, I guess so. I'm in school and all, keeping off the streets. It's good."

It's a huge difference from our store at Rockville Town Square, often packed on the weekends, and nary a place of goodwill. We get a lot of large families out on the town, multi-generational deals complete with patriarchs sporting country-club polos, trophy wives, and dour teenagers toting iPhones. "How are you?" I'll ask. "TWO SMALLS," the customer will reply, fingers tapping on the counter, eyes darting in all directions. "I'm fine, thank you," I follow up.

As a result, I don't know how to deal when people initiate conversation. I'm almost guaranteed a friendly "hello" and a smile if I'm walking in Downtown Silver Spring or now in Hyattsville, but you won't get so much as eye contact if you're in Rockville or Bethesda - and since I spend more and more of my time there, that's what I get used to.

A very friendly woman dancing on Georgia Avenue in Silver Spring.

For example: I'm standing in line at Qdoba Mexican Grill in University Town Center, considering a quesadilla for dinner. No fan of beans, I ask the server to put peppers and onions on it instead when the guy in front of me offers some advice.

"I just wanna let you know, man, that you shouldn't get the peppers and onions," he says. "It makes it all greasy." I stared at him like he'd just come on to me (another situation in which I lose all ability to produce a response) and give a weak "Thanks, man," totally writing him off. And I do order the peppers and onions, which are in fact a greasy mess, but he's gone before I can say "Thanks, I shoulda listened."

Thursday, February 5, 2009

savings galore and empty stores at wheaton plaza

Don't understand how Wheaton Plaza looks as sad now as it did when the economy was still booming. Good job, Westfield.

I went to Wheaton Plaza (A.K.A. Westfield Shoppingtown, Westfield Wheaton or, for the uninitiated, Wheaton Mall) yesterday to see what kind of recession-driven markdowns I could find. At the "Kiddie Corner" near JC Penney, I heard this horrible creaking sound coming from one of the coin-operated rides. Lo and behold, there was a family surrounding a little kid, heaving his weight into the machine to make it rock back and forth because the parents couldn't give him change to start it up.

It seemed like a metaphor for malls and the economy in general: lots of toys around, but no money to make them go. The corridors of Wheaton Plaza are lined with signs advertising the latest markdowns: 30%, 50%, 70%. "All Jeans $9.99," one sign will say, or "Bras Just $5." I don't need a bra right now, but I was excited by the possibility of intense savings when I visited yesterday. But while it's depressing to see how sparse all of the stores are, reticent to bring in their spring line while getting rid of winter's crap, it's even more depressing to realize that Wheaton Plaza doesn't look too much worse than it did when times were good.

Even a year ago, there were still a number of vacancies, notably the Hecht's left empty when the company was gobbled up by Macy's, who'd just built a new store in the mall. And while owner Westfield entertained a rotating cast of suitors for the space (Kohl's, Steve and Barry's - R.I.P!, etc.), the one store they did snag, Office Depot, was relegated to a box out in the parking lot. Now, of course, Office Depot closed, leaving one big white elephant floating in a sea of asphalt. Meanwhile, the mall's inner corridors are slowly being taken over by "Closing" or "Coming Soon" signs or, worse, places like the "As Seen On TV Store." (To my chagrin, they do not sell Snuggie, the heavily-advertised blanket with sleeves.)

I'd hope that the economic downturn will force Westfield to reconsider its approach to developing Wheaton Plaza instead of treating it like any other shopping mall - or, worse, a smaller version of Montgomery Mall. Their clientele (heavy on immigrants and minorities, but still fairly affluent, given what I see) and their location (inner suburb with the dining options and infrastructure of a city neighborhood) demands a new take on the mall experience, one that'll ensure a low vacancy rate while contributing to Wheaton's quietly growing business district.

But, of course, Westfield let the Montgomery Cinema 'N' Drafthouse go and made a real dick of themselves in the process, so let's hope they just give up the goose and sell Wheaton Plaza to a more visionary mall developer.

so many meetings on thursday

This bus is in Alexandria. Don't know if Metro runs flowery buses in East County.

It's a big day for meetings in East County, with a major development proposal, the redesign of a major Metrobus line, and the new Silver Spring Library all on the docket. Check it out:

- The day starts at 1pm as the Planning Board reviews a preliminary plan (warning! PDF file) to develop fifty-one townhomes and single-family homes on the forty-two-acre Anselmo property on Briggs Chaney Road in Cloverly. In their report to the board, Planning Department staff raise concerns about the design, which places the townhomes along Briggs Chaney - a street currently dominated by homes on one-acre lots - while siting the single-family homes in a separate cluster away from the road.

- Right around dinner time, Metro's kicks off its study of the Q2 Metrobus line, which runs between the Silver Spring and Shady Grove Metro stations via Veirs Mill Road, with a meeting also on Thursday night. Throughout the next several months, they'll be surveying riders and implementing their suggestions on how to make the route, one of the most heavily-traveled Metrobus lines in the system, more effective. This meeting will be held at the Holiday Park Senior Center on the corner of Veirs Mill and Ferrara Drive in Wheaton at 6:30pm.

- Finally, the County discusses the new Silver Spring Library and whether to build a bridge or an at-grade crossing between the new facility and the Wayne Avenue parking garage across the street. That meeting is at 7pm in the current Silver Spring Library on Colesville Road.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

not like we don't already have an international hotel chain in town

From the Business Journal:
"Hilton Hotels Corp. has settled on Fairfax County as the destination for its new headquarters. . . . Real estate insiders have projected Park Place II, a new building in Tysons Corner built by B.F. Saul, as a likely destination for Hilton. The 312,897-square-foot, 11-story building, 7930 Jones Branch Drive , is near the McLean Hilton hotel and visible from the Beltway. Cushman & Wakefield is leasing the space."
Whatever. Choice Hotels are cooler anyway.

as always . . .

Want more JUTP? Write for us. Or in the meantime, check out my weekly column in the Diamondback, the University of Maryland's independent student newspaper. This week, I'm writing about the concept of the "creative class" and how College Park could make itself more attractive to businesses by opening (or re-opening) a local coffeeshop.

Here's a sample:
In a college town, coffeehouses are to the intellectual and artistic community what the football stadium is to the athletic community. As I wrote in a column last semester, coffeehouses bring people together, whether for a morning bagel or for an evening jam session, and they encourage civic involvement. It's where people go to meet and talk, to produce or consume art and music and to feel a part of something greater than themselves. Without places like coffeeshops, a huge chunk of campus culture is lost for lack of a place to grow and develop. Even worse, it says to potential students, residents and employers that College Park just isn't a place for creative types . . .

is this whole "consortium" thing getting through to people?

Montgomery Blair High School: a top school, but a disappointing vending machine selection.

The online magazine Slate has a new blog, "Newmans Own," about Nora and Michael, a young couple trading an apartment in North [or "Poseur"] Cleveland Park for their first home somewhere in East County. I'm totally happy that their depiction of Silver Spring and Takoma Park as idyllic suburbs will help bury a previous casting of East County as a veritable war zone, but kind of bummed about their jumping to conclusions on other things.

House #1 is a storybook cottage so cute your teeth will rot located in the North Hills above Sligo Creek Park. Sounds pretty amazing, right? Not right. Apparently, they hear that the "neighborhood high school isn't one of the county's better schools."

That school would be Northwood High, which just re-opened four years ago. The school's demographics don't look encouraging - just a quarter white, half the student body on free and reduced lunch. But they fail to realize that (or the Realtor doesn't tell them, because as my Realtor mother explains, incorrect information will get you sued) Northwood is one of the five Downcounty Consortium high schools, meaning their seventeen-month-old son could instead choose to attend Montgomery Blair, a top performer both in the region and nationally, or one of the other three in the district.

It's only funny because the couple gushes over a far more expensive (and, IMO, less cute) house in Takoma Park that is also in the Consortium, meaning that all the whining and moaning they do about their toddler's education is really for nothing. I mean, these are real educated people, magazine editors and Washington Post columnists and the like, the type you'd expect to be drooling over Bethesda and its vaunted List of 67 Things, but are moving out of D.C. because their poor kid's not going to get a decent education in the city's public schools. But what it sounds like is that they're going for the house in Takoma Park because the neighborhood looks like it should have good schools, even though it doesn't really matter.

But at the end of the day, that's what the Consortia are about: placating affluent white families while secretly using them as pawns for a giant mandatory-busing scheme. Hooray! I can't wait to find out where Nora and Michael look next.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

what's up the pike: a day late . . .

Local developer Bozzuto has pulled out of a proposed mixed-use project over the Wheaton Metro station. Rendering courtesy of Maryland Politics Watch.

- Despite his wishes to the contrary, former Councilmember Don Praisner (D-Dist. 4) will be replaced via special election as per County law, according to the Post's Maryland Moment blog. Praisner won a special election last May to fill the seat of his wife, Marilyn Praisner, who passed away one year ago on Sunday. No date has been set for this year's vote, but much as we did before, Just Up The Pike hopes to interview all of the registered candidates for our voters' guide.

Funeral information, along with the names of two funds established in the Praisners' name, can be found at Don Praisner's former campaign website.

- Local developer Bozzuto has withdrawn as the developer of a proposed mixed-use project atop the Wheaton Metro station, ending their six-year contract with WMATA because they were unable to find tenants for office buildings to be built on the site. It's another blow for the Wheaton business district, where Circuit City, Office Depot and the Montgomery Cinema 'N' Drafthouse all closed within the past few months.

- The Georgetown Running Company, a store with locations in Georgetown (surprise!) and Chevy Chase, is sponsoring an anti-Purple Line 10K run along the Capital Crescent Trail in March. On the Finish the Trail blog, Wayne Phyillaier asks why the so-called "No Rail on the Trail" race is being held on the portion of the trail where the Purple Line will not be built, noting that that segment of the Capital Crescent isn't even in good enough condition to handle a large organized run.