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MCPS budget plan means cuts – but not at students’ expense

MCPS logoThe Montgomery County Public Schools superintendent proposed a $2.59 billion operating budget for Fiscal Year 2019, an increase of $67.3 million from the $2.52 billion FY 2018 budget.

Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Jack Smith said he prioritized in his budget helping student performance and supporting schools.

“My budget recommendation focuses on the foundational elements of our district – students, classrooms and schools,” Smith said. “This budget addresses increasing enrollment, rising costs and critical investments to both maintain the level of academic excellence our schools are known for and to close the gaps in access, opportunity and achievement for students who have yet to meet their potential.”

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Ficker banned from speaking, claims bias

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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Cold weather brings breaks

The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission said unusually cold temperatures has caused 79 water main breaks in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties.

Because of the water main breaks, water has been cut off to parts of Prince George’s County including to parts of Temple Hills, Suitland, Camp Springs, Oxon Hill and Hyattsville. While water service has not been cut off to Montgomery County, there are still 40 water main breaks in the County.

“It’s to be expected,” said WSSC spokesperson Luis Maya about the freezing temperature causing a significant amount of water main breaks.

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Leisure World announces safety forum after resident’s arrest for child sex assault

Residents of Leisure World want more transparency and cooperation from the retirement community’s governing board as they seek information from police about the registered sex offenders who live there after police charged one resident with sexually assaulting a 12-year-old-boy in his apartment.

On Dec. 14, officers of the Frederick Police Department charged 63-year-old Ramon Manuel De Los Reyes of Chiswick Court, Silver Spring, with sexual solicitation of a minor, third-degree sex offense and second-degree rape.

According to police, De Los Reyes befriended the boy through social media and drove to his Frederick County home to pick him up after his grandmother, who he lives with, had gone to sleep. After bringing the boy to his home in Leisure World and allegedly assaulting him, he drove the boy back to his home. The grandmother contacted police the next day.

The Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children and Sexually Violent Offender Registration Act – a federal law which was part of the 1994 crime bill signed by then-President Bill Clinton – requires states to implement a registry of those who have been convicted of certain sex crimes and crimes against children. Frederick City Police Sgt. Andrew Alcorn explained that Maryland’s sex offender registration law requires sex offenders to register with law enforcement in the county they live in.

According to Montgomery County Police spokesperson Sgt. Rebecca Innocenti, it is also normal protocol for law enforcement in Montgomery County to post awareness flyers to notify neighbors when a registered sex offender moves into a new residence.

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PEPCO investigates cause of Gaithersburg power outage

GAITHERSBURG – Thousands of PEPCO customers lost power Monday night due to a broken circuit breaker, PEPCO spokesperson Frank Tedesco said. 

“We had an issue with a circuit breaker in the Montgomery Village substation,” Tedesco said.

According to PEPCO’s recorded customer information line, as of 5:30 p.m., 5,075 customers did not have electrical power.

Tedesco said during the span of three hours between 5:16 p.m. and 8:05 p.m., 5,745 customers lost power intermittently. Although as of just before 8 p.m. employees had repaired the circuit breaker, 825 customers connected to a single feeder line were without power up until 8:05 p.m.

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Takoma Park selects new police chief

Chief DeVaulAntonio DeVaul, former chief of the Montgomery County Park Police, has been named as Takoma Park's new police chief. COURTESY PHOTO  After a nine-month search, Takoma Park City Manager Suzanne Ludlow on Tuesday announced Montgomery County Park Police Chief Antonio DeVaul as her choice to lead the city’s police department.

“We’re thrilled with the new police chief,” Mayor Kate Stewart said. “We went through a process since last spring to select a chief and the one we selected accepted the job.” 

Stewart said the search began when Takoma Park Police Chief Alan Goldberg resigned on March 10 for personal reasons. She explained the process included numerous council resolutions, meetings with stakeholders, and opportunities for residents to provide input.

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Pastor collects socks for local homeless

socksSILVER SPRING — Since the days when they were handed out by Jon Lovitz’s Harry Hanukkah character on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live,” pairs of socks have long been the most dreaded of holiday gifts. But a local pastor is collecting them on behalf of a group of people who are grateful to receive them: Montgomery County’s homeless population.

Converted Heart Christian Methodist Episcopal Church pastor Darryl A. Burton came to Washington, D.C. from Chattanooga in 1983 and earned his Masters of Divinity from the Wesley Theological Seminary in 2011. As pastor of the first CME church in the County, Burton has made homeless outreach a primary focus of his ministry since the church opened in 2015. These efforts led Burton to launch the Cold Feet Initiative, an effort to collect socks for donation to the homeless.

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“Do What We Can”

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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Shake, Rattle, but Metro won’t roll

metro logoA Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority contractor has confirmed that some homes located over a section of the Green Line are vibrating more than they should but the cause of the vibration is unknown, Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld said last week.

“WMATA continues to analyze track conditions, car design and car maintenance to identify the cause or causes for the elevated readings,” Wiedefeld said, but a report on the investigation of vibrating homes will not be available until 2018.

Ward 4 D.C. Council member Brandon Todd said residents in Northwest D.C. have been complaining to him about vibrations and damage to their homes for more than a year. 

“I remain extremely concerned that progress on this matter has been unusually slow, given the significance of the impacts described by residents,” Todd said last month.  “They report intense shaking of the vibration of their homes, which is causing cracks in the wall and other property damage. Similar reports have also occurred in other neighborhoods throughout the district.”

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Rockville optimistic about budget status

Even as Montgomery County prepares for significant budget cuts to cover the $120 million budget shortfall that finance officials discovered for this fiscal year, Rockville City officials said their budget revenues are looking just fine.

“It’s an interesting contrast between the County and the City, in my opinion, the county always budgets to the bone and to have a budget crisis is pretty much usual,” said Rockville City Council Member Mark Pierzchala.

Last week Montgomery County officials suggested that the cause of the $120 million budget shortfall was a downturn in income tax receipts, which they attributed to choices made by large investors in anticipation of a large tax break from the Republican tax bill, which President Trump has pledged to sign early next year.

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