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WSSC battles “unusual” number of water main breaks

  • Published in Local

WSSC LogoWashington Suburban Sanitary Commission members on Wednesday approved $12 million in funding to deal with the “unusual” number and pace of water mains breaks in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties this winter, which have put both jurisdictions on course to see a record number this winter.

“It is absolutely an unusual a high number of breaks,” said Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission spokesman Jerry Irvine. At least 1000 water mains across both counties have ruptured since Dec. 1, at great inconvenience not only to WSSC customers but to the repair crews who have had to remain on call for 24 hours.

The pace at which mains are breaking puts the area on course for a total much higher than the usual average of 1,200 breaks between December and March. WSSC saw an average of 100 breaks a day at the peak of the cold snap that gripped the area from late December through early January. But according to Irvine, as temperatures have warmed slightly the number of breaks per day is back down to the “more reasonable” 35 per day, because the number of breaks tends to level off when temperature remains constant and there are not rapid changes in temperature.

“Once the system has been shocked by the original blast of cold water we're kind of steady state,” he said.

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Chelsea Manning files to run for US Senate Maryland seat

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Chelsea Manning.  COURTESY PHOTOChelsea Manning. COURTESY PHOTOChelsea Manning, a former U.S. Army intelligence analyst convicted of leaking a trove of classified information to WikiLeaks in 2010, has filed for candidacy in the U.S. Senate race in Maryland, according to online Federal Election Commission records.

Manning, a controversial figure who is seen by some as a hero to the U.S. and as an enemy by others, served seven years of a 35-year sentence in a military prison before being granted clemency by then-President Barack Obama as one of his final acts before the end of his term in January 2017.

Conservative blog Red Maryland first reported on the FEC filing.

According to FEC online records, Manning filed candidacy paperwork on Jan. 11 at 3:02 p.m. under the committee name, “Chelsea Manning for U.S. Senate.”

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MoCo’s elite LAX team flies high at national tourney

  • Published in Sports

20180108 Spooky Nook 3The MoCo elite team played well in the national tournament. PHOTO BY MIKE CLARKMANNHEIM, PA. — Montgomery County middle and high school girl’s lacrosse was well represented last weekend by the MC Elite club teams at the 2018 IL Women Indoor National Championships. The Rockville-based MC Lacrosse program sent to the tournament its Midnight Elite team of the graduating class 2022 and the Midnight and Carolina Elite teams of the 2023 class, both of which were amongst the top 50 middle school teams in the country. 

The tournament also featured top-tier teams from as far away as Connecticut, New York, and Ohio.

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Leggett plans budget cuts

  • Published in Local

MoCo LogoMontgomery County Executive Isiah “Ike” Leggett released his plan for $60 million in proposed cuts last week, after news the County is way short of its proposed revenues for the current year.

Leggett’s proposed cuts, most notably target schools – the largest part of the County’s budget – include a proposed $25 million cut to Montgomery County Public Schools and a $5.2 million cut to Montgomery College.

“There are very few options that are there, you don't go there unless you absolutely have to,” said Leggett of his proposed $30.2 million cut to schools.

In addition, Leggett also proposed a $3.8 million cut to police, a $2.6 million cut to the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission, a $2.6 million cut to fire and rescue services and a $4.4 million cut to the Department of Health and Human Services to make up for the revenue shortfall.

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County resident recounts problems with Hollywood sexism

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Montgomery County native Kat Hess says she always wanted to work in the film industry.

“By the time I graduated from college, it was an absolute obsession of mine and I somehow convinced my parents to let me go to film school to pursue it,” Hess said. She said that attending film school, where male students outnumbered female students in classes by four- or five-to-one ratios, opened her eyes to how women were under-represented in the business.

“This was also where my decision to work in film stopped being just about the pursuit to work in art, it became about representation,” Hess said. “Every screenwriting class I would voice my opinion about either the lack of or the terrible way women were being portrayed. I realized it wasn't just the guys in my class (all of which I do think highly of – most became like brothers to me), but it was representative of a bigger problem in Hollywood. Why aren't women on screen? Why aren't their stories being told? Why are they only in movies in the service of the male storyline?”

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Ficker banned from speaking, claims bias

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MoCo LogoROCKVILLE — Attorney, activist, and perennial candidate Robin Ficker said he was barred from speaking at last week’s County Council public hearing because he is running for County Executive as a Republican even though he admits that he was going to attack the Council instead of testifying about the bill under debate.

“It’s personal. It’s not Robin Ficker-personal; it’s the fact that I’m the only Republican running County-wide,” Ficker said. “They didn’t want to hear what I had to say and they didn’t want me to get any publicity from testifying before the Council.”

Ficker said he signed up to testify before last week’s impromptu County Council meeting, but was not included on the list of witnesses for the hearing, which was meant to quickly to introduce and pass a bill that allowed residents to pay their taxes early in hopes to avoid a projected tax increase from changes in federal taxes.

Council President Hans Riemer (D-at large) said members from his staff picked the people who testified at the meeting based upon the analysis of the bill they gave in their requests to speak at the public hearing.

“We wanted people who had some content, and Mr. Ficker expressed none,” Riemer said. “Those who were here had written us extensive emails, you know, even providing a thorough analysis of the issue, so we felt that they would be constructive and helpful.”

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“Do What We Can”

  • Published in Local

Council passes plan to help homeowners hit by new tax plan

MoCo LogoROCKVILLE — Responding to the recently-passed Republican tax plan that could result in higher taxes for Maryland residents, the County Council on Tuesday introduced and passed a bill 7-1 that will allow residents to prepay their County taxes under the current tax laws.

“We must do what we can to protect our people from the negative impact of this terrible Republican tax legislation,” said Council member Roger Berliner (D-1), who originally proposed the idea of allowing residents to prepay their County taxes last week. “And this legislation before us is the only legislation that I am aware of that can postpone the pain for one more year.”

The Council returned from their holiday recess to act quickly on the bill, which County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) signed on Tuesday in the hope that it will mitigate some of the effects of the federal bill Council member Craig Rice (D-2) was the lone vote against the bill, while Council member Tom Hucker (D-5), abstained, as he was not present for the vote.

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“Ease the Burden”

  • Published in Local

Local leaders look to mitigate effects of federal tax plan

Local leaders are bracing for the impact of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which could hit County residents hard by eliminating a useful deduction for high tax states and cities.

On Wednesday both the House and Senate passed the long-awaited tax bill, which provides for $1.5 trillion in federal tax cuts and temporarily the top income tax rate from 39.6 percent to 37 percent. The bill’s personal income tax cuts were written to expire in some years to meet requirements imposed by Senate rules, while cuts to the nation's corporate tax rate are permanent.

“This is one of the most important pieces of legislation that Congress has passed in decades to help the American worker, to help grow the American economy,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc), who has been pushing for massive tax cuts for the majority of his political career. “This is profound change, and this is change that is going to put our country on the right path.”

While many Americans’ taxes will be decreased, a provision in the bill that caps property tax deductions at $10,000 has become an issue for residents in places with high property taxes according to elected leaders.

Montgomery County Council member Roger Berliner (D-1) wrote a letter urging Montgomery County Chief Administrative Officer Timothy Firestine to allow residents to prepay property taxes in order take advantage of the current, and more favorable tax deduction before the new tax cut takes effect.

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County prepares opioid suit

  • Published in Local

MoCo LogoROCKVILLE – Montgomery County has taken a significant step towards filing a lawsuit against manufacturers of prescription opioid painkillers by hiring the San Francisco-based law firm of Robbins, Geller, Rudman and Dowd LLP as outside legal counsel to conduct the suit, County Executive Ike Leggett announced last Wednesday.

“Every day brings fresh evidence of the very real damage that the Opioid crisis in wreaking on individuals and communities throughout our great nation,” Leggett said in prepared remarks. “I wish I could stand here and tell you that Montgomery County is immune to this epidemic. Unfortunately I cannot do that.”

The announcement is the latest step Leggett has taken towards filing the civil action against prescription opioid manufacturers, which Leggett accused of violating marketing laws by downplaying the addictive nature of their products.

Not only will Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd help represent the County in its forthcoming action – which Robbins Geller attorney Aelish Baig said the County will file in early January -- but it will also help the County wrap up its own investigation into prescription opioid manufactures.

“Just what the lawsuit will look like is currently unfolding, but we will take the action, if necessary, to ensure we stop this very addictive process,” Leggett said.

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Berliner says “NO” to cuts in education while Leggett mulls options

  • Published in Local

MoCo LogoROCKVILLE — No program is safe from cuts as the County seeks to mitigate the effects of a projected budget shortfall next fiscal year, County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) said.

Last week Leggett announced that the County officials were anticipating a large unexpected budget shortfall, and asked that each County agency consider cutting two percent of their budget.

The sudden shortfall caught County finance analysts and council members by surprise as they based their $5.4 billion budget for the fiscal year 2018 off of much greater revenue projections.

"For me, everything is on the table, and you try to work through the particular details," Leggett said of the coming budget cuts.

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