Local officials unimpressed by Trump’s tough talk on opioid crisis

WASHINGTON — Despite claims that his administration is “involved more than any administration, by far” in combating the nationwide opioid epidemic and a promise to unveil “very strong policy” in the coming weeks, Montgomery County officials and a member of President Trump’s own opioid commission remain unconvinced that an executive branch led by a President who dismisses the efficacy of his own presidential commission while calling for the death penalty for drug dealers is truly committed to fighting opioid abuse.

“The administration is going to be rolling out policy over the next three weeks, and it will be very, very strong,” Trump said while speaking toward the end of a White House’s opioid summit, which featured cabinet secretaries and officials from various executive branch agencies who highlighted their accomplishments over the past year and previewed future plans for an audience of addiction treatment professionals, law enforcement, and ordinary Americans who have been affected by the epidemic or lost loved ones to it.

The March 1 event was emceed by Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s former campaign manager and one of the few senior advisors who has been with him since he became President in January of last year. Trump selected Conway, a veteran GOP pollster, political consultant and television pundit, to be the White House’s “opioid czar” in November despite her lack of qualifications or experience in medicine, public health or any other relevant field.

Nevertheless, Conway boasted that the administration has made “great progress” against opioids thanks to the work of the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis and Trump’s decision last year to order then-Acting Health and Human Services Secretary Don Wright to declare the crisis a Public Health Emergency. But Trump himself seemed to dismiss the idea that implementing the recommendations of his own commission would be effective in reducing the opioid scourge’s effects on the nation.

“If you want to be weak and you want to talk about just blue-ribbon committees, that’s not the answer,” said Trump, who then suggested that a solution could be found in harsher punishments – not prevention or treatment.


Takoma Park union at odds over performance

takoma park logoTAKOMA PARK — With contract negotiations at a standstill, the employees at Takoma Park’s Public Works Department say the city’s pay-for-performance system is an obstacle in their union negotiations with the city.

“The public should know if the city employees are being paid fairly,” said David Burbank, president of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees 3399. “The pay-for-performance system is a total misnomer … it’s a corporate-based pay system.”


Chief says Takoma Park crime is declining

takoma park logoTAKOMA PARK — Highlighting the declining crime rate, Takoma Park police chief Antonio DeVaul delivered his first report as head of the city’s law enforcement agency Wednesday evening in front of the City Council.

“We’ve seen a slight decrease in reported crime over the last year,” DeVaul said during the meeting. “I’m pleased to announce that violent crime has decreased.”


B-CC students organize gun violence forum

B CC ForumSen. Chris Van Hollen met with students Sophie Cobb, Gabriela Jeliazkov and Julien Cary at a forum at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School to discuss gun violence. PHOTO BY NEAL EARLEYWASHINGTON Members of Congress joined three Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School students Tuesday at a forum on gun violence, continuing the student-led debate over guns after a massacre at a high school in Parkland, Florida, and giving the students another opportunity to take their issues to those in power.

“I had my opinion and I had my beliefs and, obviously, I felt very discouraged by the recent presidential election, but definitely I’m seeing that we do have the power to make a difference because prior, I think, I just felt helpless,” said Sophie Cobb, a B-CC senior who helped organize the event with two fellow students, Julien Cary and Gabriela Jeliazkov


Local high student to appear at Kennedy Center

WASHINGTON, D.C. — At age 16, Clarksburg High School Student Mateo Ferro will achieve something many performing artists only dream of: he will perform at the Kennedy Center. 

Ferro’s interest in musical theater began while a student at Rocky Hill Middle School in Clarksburg, where a teacher encouraged him to audition for the school productions when he was in sixth grade.


No “Gotcha!”

Metro managers say Grosvenor turnbacks will continue through the end of the year

metro logoWASHINGTON — Maryland’s representatives on the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority board questioned a decision by the system’s chief operating officer to present three options for eliminating some of the Red Line’s rush hour trains that terminate at Grosvenor-Strathmore Station.

On March 8, Chief Operating Officer Joseph Leader briefed the board’s Safety and Service Delivery Committee on WMATA management plans to eliminate what officials call the Grosvenor turnback, as well as options to partially eliminate train turnbacks or to do nothing and leave the system as it is. He added that the Grosvenor turnback will continue until December because WMATA still needs to hire and train additional train operators solicit public feedback and complete a study required by Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act to determine whether any change would have a discriminatory impact, though he noted the change will not require a public hearing.

The three options Leader described include completely eliminating the turnback so that all 15 Red Line trains per hour traveling outbound from Silver Spring or Glenmont will go all the way to Shady Grove, partially eliminating it so that 12 trains in that direction per hour would service Shady Grove, and doing nothing, leaving the status quo of seven or eight trips per hour.

But Prince George’s County’s WMATA board member, Malcolm Augustine, said he was not happy that Leader presented three options.

“The board resolution stipulated that the turnback would be discontinued,” Augustine said. “That’s it.”


County hammered for Montrose Pkwy decision

MoCo LogoWith two votes against and one in favor, the Montgomery County Council Transportation and Energy Committee voted down a proposal meant to alleviate traffic congestion in North Bethesda near White Flint.

The 2-1 vote at last Thursday’s hearing means the committee will defer approval of Montrose Parkway East, a proposed four-lane highway that would connect the Rockville Pike and the Montrose Road interchange to Veirs Mill Road. The debate over the project proved contentious, as some committee members see the project as a potential infrastructure upgrade that could help lure Amazon to build their new headquarters in the County.

“Now it may happen, it may not happen, we don’t know,” said Council member Nancy Floreen (D-At Large), the lone vote for the project on the committee. “I don’t fault my colleagues for trying to solve other community-based problems, but until we know the results of what’s going on the economic development front, I would suggest we and move we table this conversation until we know the answer.”


MoCo students create organization for gun control

MoCo Gun ControlStudents from several high schools meet to talk about controlling access to handguns. PHOTO BY ABBY CRUZIt started with a text message from a friend.

Dani Miller, a 17-year-old junior at Winston Churchill High School, looked down at her phone and saw that a friend from Springbrook High School had just added her to a group text chain with two other Springbrook students. Miller quickly added 17-year-old Montgomery Blair High School senior Brenna Levitan, who added some of her friends, who added their friends, who would add theirs, and so on.

Before long, the exponentially-growing group included students from 22 schools across the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia who began meeting frequently at places like Rockville Town Center and the Silver Spring library.


Local students march on Washington

Students march on CapitolStudents march on the Capitol in Washington, D.C. PHOTO BY ABBY CRUZWASHINGTON, D.C.Thousands of students walked out of their high schools today in the Washington D.C. area. Students first walked out of their high schools, marched towards the nearest metro stops, rallied at the White House, and then finished their protest at the United States Capitol. 

"I protested today because I know there are a lot of students, children, and people who feel unsafe in their school," said Honor Kalala, 17, a senior at Montgomery Blair High School and one of the student leaders today. "It's not only about kids in school; it's about people on the street. I’m just not okay with it!" she said.


Two Silver Spring men charged with murder of Germantown resident

policecar1 300x200 1Police arrested and charged two Silver Spring men with the murder of 18-year-old Germantown resident Andrew Turner, who was killed at his home in December.

Police charged both Christopher Arthur Breeden Jr., 23, and Kairee Deyonte Dorsey, 27, with first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder for the Dec. 16 killing of Turner.

“We're working with police with this case, and we're going to go forward in this case to prosecute those individuals,” said Ramon Korionoff, public affairs director for the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office.

According to police charging documents, Breeden and Dorsey traveled to Turner’s house in Germantown to buy marijuana from Turner, but shot and killed Turner instead and fled the scene, according to witnesses.