Gaithersburg candidates make final push as voting begins

GAITHERSBURG — Next Tuesday, Gaithersburg residents will cast ballots for mayor and two members of the City Council.  Early voting was held last Saturday and Sunday at City Hall.

Incumbent Mayor Jud Ashman was originally appointed to his position by his colleagues on the City Council in 2014, following the election of longtime Mayor Sidney Katz to the Third District of the County Council.  In 2015, he won a special election to serve the remaining two years of Katz's final term, defeating longtime Council Member Henry F. Marraffa, who passed away in October of 2016, and community activist Darline Bell-Zuccarelli.  As he seeks his first full four-year term as mayor, Ashman is unopposed on the ballot.  Bell-Zuccarelli had originally planned to seek the office again, but scrapped her plans due to health issues.  Despite this, Ashman said he is still actively campaigning.

"We have a great group of candidates and I'm hoping that we get a big turnout of voters," Ashman said.  "It's easy to take for granted, but so much of our daily lives is impacted by decisions at the local level, that it's really worth our time and attention on Election Day."


County passes bill to keep track of burial sites

The Montgomery County Council unanimously approved a bill Tuesday that will create a catalogue of burial sites in the County.

The bill specifically requires the County Planning Board to create and update a list of burial sites within the County.

“It’s part of our heritage and our history here in Montgomery County, to try and make sure we can identify as many of these sites as possible and ensure that they’re there for people to appreciate,” said Council member Craig Rice (D-2).


County Council says no hotel lifeguards needed until the weekend

The Montgomery County Council approved a bill Tuesday that will remove the requirement that hotels keep a paid lifeguard on duty as long as their pool is open to guests.

The legislation is a victory for managements of hotels in the County, who complained about having to pay lifeguards during slow pool hours or not hire a lifeguard and be forced to close the pool angering hotel guests.

The bill mandates that hotels will not require a lifeguard to watch over a pool while it is open, but will require at least one paid hotel employee trained in CPR working while their pool is open. The bill also necessitates that pools post warning signs and have an emergency alert system.


Two more candidates file for County Council

Chris Wilhelm (at-large)

Northwood High School teacher and Democrat Chris Wilhelm is one of the latest to file to run for County Council at-large.

Wilhelm who teaches at English as a Second Language at Northwood High School in Silver Spring and has previously worked for Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-8) and Del.  David Moon (D-20).

Wilhelm said he is proposing on making Montgomery College tuition-free for County residents.

“I think this would make a huge difference for lower and middle income families in Montgomery County,” Wilhelm said.


“All I have of my family is only memory”

Local woman recounts the harrowing journey from North Korea to living in Northern Montgomery County

Grace Jo 1Grace Jo recounts her life growing up in the oppressive regime of North Korea before moving to the United States. PHOTO BY MARK POETKER The longest Grace Jo ever went without food was 10 days when she was just a child. Without energy, no longer suffering from hunger pangs and with a high fever, she felt certain death was near. All she had consumed for the past nine days was cold water from a nearby river near her home in North Korea.

Finally, her parents returned from their illegal escape into China to find food for their six children.

Earlier, when Jo was five-and-a-half years old, her grandmother happened upon five newborn mice. She grilled them for Jo and her siblings, helping them survive through another bout of hunger while their parents continually crossed into China to bring back whatever food they could.

“How can I explain hunger?” said the Montgomery College student and Germantown resident. “I lived in a house made of wood. In the winter, the wind blew through the house” through all the holes, she said. “We were really cold and constantly hungry, and sometimes we didn’t have the energy to get the wood” to make a fire for warmth and cooking, she said.


Gaithersburg mulls variety of projects

Gaithersburg Govt logoGAITHERSBURG – City advisory committee staff told Mayor Jud Ashman and the Council Monday night of concerns about public perception of Olde Towne, updates on art projects in the City and plans for the 2018 Book Festival.

At a work session that evening, Mayor Jud Ashman and the City Council heard reports and plans from the staff of several of the City’s advisory committees.

For many years, the economic revitalization of Olde Towne has been one of the most contentious issues in the City. Lenny Levy, chairperson of the Olde Towne Advisory Subcommittee, said that the City had made progress on that front recently.

“Archstone, Hidden Creek and other Olde Towne apartment communities are over 90 percent leased,” Levy said. “16 South Summit is in design to be our new police headquarters and several new restaurants are open, including Rincon Peruano and Greene Growlers, which used to be Growlers.”


Man arrested for secret video surveillance in children's gym

Suspect may have deep ties to local community, including local PTA and Cub Scouts

Jonathan Oldale MCP courtesy photoJonathan Oldale at the time of his arrest. COURTESY PHOTOA Chevy Chase man arrested in October for conducting nonconsensual visual surveillance in a private place is may have ties to a local elementary school parent-teacher association, according to two PTA newsletters from September 2016.

Police arrested Jonathan Oldale, 54, Oct. 18 concluding a nearly five-month-long investigation, according to an Oct. 27 police press report. Police began investigating Oldale in May after an employee of the Silver Star Gymnastics and Fitness Club reported finding a backpack containing a concealed camera under a "wet floor" sign on the floor of a bathroom. 

Montgomery County Police are hosting a public safety community meeting Wednesday Nov. 1 at 7:15 p.m. at the National 4-H Conference Center in Chevy Chase to address parents’ concerns surrounding Oldale's arrest. 


Dexter Manley joins MoCo officials at Gburg drug awareness event

dexter manleyDexter Manley joined County officials in speaking at the drug awareness event Save A Life Montgomery at Covenant Life Church. PHOTO BY SUZANNE POLLAK  GAITHERSBURG — Dexter Manley did not come to Save A Life Montgomery to talk about all the quarterbacks he sacked or his two Super Bowl rings.

Instead, the former Washington Redskins defensive end once nicknamed “Secretary of Defense” spoke to parents and young people gathered at Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg to speak about his personal story of drug abuse, 38 stays in rehab, and his shame at entering college “functionally illiterate.”

Speakers from the County’s police, schools and government, as well as the offices of the State’s Attorney’s and the governor were featured during a four-hour event highlighting the dangers of alcohol and drug abuse, and how it can crush a person’s dreams.

“In Maryland, right now, we are losing an average of six lives a day,” Clay Stamp, Gov. Larry Hogan’s emergency management advisor, told the audience. “We have to raise the conversation. I meet with people every day who lost a loved one.”


Takoma Park candidates talk issues at city election forum

TAKOMA PARK – Candidates in the 2017 Takoma Park city election explained their views, priorities (and goals for the city) to voters in a forum Monday night at the City’s Community Center.

The forum included incumbents and challengers from all six of the city’s wards as well as Mayor Kate Stewart. City-based publication Takoma Voice hosted the forum.

Takoma Radio host and Takoma Voice editor Eric Bond gave each of the candidates approximately 15 minutes to respond to his questions. Candidates running for the same ward seat were given simultaneous time on the stage.


Public weighs on WSSC rate structure

WSSC LogoROCKVILLE – County residents weighed in on proposed changes to the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission’s rate structure during a public hearing Oct. 19.

In March, members of the Maryland Public Service Commission ruled that WSSC’s rate structure unfairly discriminated against larger households, requiring the water utility to changes its rate structure.

WSSC has held public hearings on five proposed rate structures since the PSC’s ruling in seven months ago. The PSC held a public hearing on two of the five proposed rate structures. Three of the five options would increase the bill of the average WSSC customer, which is currently $205 a quarter for 165 gallons a day of water used. Option 3B and Option 4A would lower the water/sewer bill for residential customers using 165 gallons per day.

WSSC vice chairperson T. Eloise Foster said WSSC officials scheduled the public hearings as a way for the public to give feedback on the proposed changes in the rate structures.

“It was really clear to us from these meetings that we need to do a better job of building trust with our customers,” Foster said.