State song may soon be demoted to historical status

  • Published in State

Maryland Flag“Maryland, My Maryland,” the Civil War battle hymn that refers to “Northern scum” soon may no longer be the state song.

But rather than replace “the embarrassing, outdated and racist song,” as Senator Cheryl Kagan (D-17) called it, the State Senate opted last week to demote the song to historical status.

“It will be designated as historical. We are putting it aside,” said Kagan, who stressed that her preference for the new designation is “historical, not historic. ‘Historical’ means that’s what we used to believe.”

The lyrics, which are from a poem written in the early days of the Civil War by James Ryder Randall, “are offensive and outdated,” she said, explaining why she has been trying to repeal and replace the song since 2016.

Before the song is officially downgraded, the House of Delegates must agree. An official vote in the House has not yet been scheduled.


Homeless disagree with County

  • Published in Local

A homeless man sleeping on the pavement in Silver Spring in July of last year. FILE PHOTO A homeless man sleeps on the pavement in Silver Spring in July of last year.      FILE PHOTO Despite optimistic talk of how more and more homeless people were moving into permanent housing, the tenor of Monday night’s community dialogue on homelessness changed when about 15 homeless people entered the meeting in the Silver Spring Civic Building and disputed how well the County is handling its homeless population.

“Morally it’s wrong to say you have compassion, and you don’t,” said Sharetha Wilson, who recently moved into her own place after four years living on the street.

“You say you have compassion, but you pass us on your way,” she told the packed meeting room. “If you see us on the streets, if you see us in church, why not say, ‘How can I help you?’” she asked. “You all snub your noses.”


Remembering veterans in a Rockville ceremony

  • Published in Local

Rockville Veterans Day Ceremony Mayor Bridget NewtonRockville Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton celebrates Veterans Day at the Rockville American Legion. PHOTO BY MARK POETKER  American veterans “show and demonstrate there truly is good in our communities,” and to look at those who serve, said Marine Corps veteran Cpl. Enrique Mazon Jr. on Saturday during a Veterans’ Day ceremony at American Legion Post 86 in Rockville, and asked those gathered there to “look at the people who serve” rather than those in the news who demonstrate “divisiveness, a lack of civility and kindness.”

Mazon and his three brothers – all natives of Las Vegas, Nev. – have all served or are currently serving in the military, and have been involved in a combined total of six combat deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Rockville resident and married father of two praised his parents for showing their children that, “It’s not about us. It’s not about being entitled. It’s about the love. It’s about the duty and the selflessness” of being an American.

It’s important to realize that many who have served in this country’s military are now teachers, doctors, police officers and elected officials. They continue to serve “all with the same duty and dedication” they had while in the military, he said.

However, he said, some of these men and women who served their country now need others to step up and help them.


Blair HS security investigating race-related fliers found on campus

  • Published in Local

Montgomery Blair High School LogoAdministrators at Montgomery Blair High School are investigating how fliers reading “It’s okay to be white” came to be around the Silver Spring school.

Security cameras captured an unknown person whose face was obscured by a hooded sweatshirt posting one of the inflammatory fliers -- which appeared at numerous schools across the United States and Canada – before they were discovered by staff members early Wednesday morning.

In a letter sent to parents of Montgomery Blair students, Blair Principal Renay Johnson explained that the fliers were found when staff arrived at the school at 5:45 am that morning, but were immediately removed before students arrived for school that day.

Johnson assured parents that she and her staff – whose research has found the fliers to be part of a national campaign to foment racial tensions – are taking the seriously and are continuing to investigate.

“I want you to know that Montgomery Blair is a very smart, diverse and inclusive community and we will not fall victim to attempts to divide us,” Johnson said. “We are committed to providing a safe and welcoming environment for every student.”


Cardin meets interfaith group following Charlottesville riot

  • Published in Local

20170831 153445 1Sen. Ben Cardin (D) stands with interfaith clergy at discussion on community unity after Charlottesville rally violence in August. PHOTO BY SUZANNE POLLAK  While there was much agreement expressed by the 45 interfaith clergy members who attended Sen. Ben Cardin’s (D-Md.) Aug. 31 meeting on how to unite the community after the violence in Charlottesville, Va., there was also dissent.

While united against President Donald J. Trump’s statement equating white nationalists with the counter protesters at the Virginia rally last month, those attending the 90-minute discussion in Rockville also complained about conditions for their individual communities.

“Why, all of a sudden, does it take one person, one white person, to die, to forget all about the other 19 who were injured,” asked Bishop Paul Walker, of HYOP Life Skills Reentry Program. The death of an African-American doesn’t rile up the community the way the killing of a white person does, he said.


Residents express concerns about construction of new county playgrounds

  • Published in Local

Almost every Montgomery County playground has a shredded wood chips surface, partly because the natural product is less expensive than recycled rubber tire, which also is used at playgrounds and parks.

But, said Kathy Dearstine, Montgomery Parks project coordinator for playground renovations, both recycled rubber and wood chips have drawbacks, and she would prefer using a combination of both products at each playground. Ideally, she said, wood chips would cover most of a playground, and recycled rubber would be used where flooding may occur or where wheelchairs and strollers are pushed. The recycled rubber can be used to make hills and slopes, she said.

Of the County’s 275 playgrounds, 252 have floorings made of engineered wood fiber, which Dearstine described as “a wood chip that has been shredded a few times.”


Leisure World town hall

  • Published in Local

The vast majority of the 300 Leisure World residents attending a town hall meeting July 28 made it clear that they oppose the management of their residential facility in Silver Spring and won’t consider supporting a proposed $7.2 million administration building until they see the results of an engineering study on the current structure.

So far, however, no engineering study has been undertaken or agreed to by the management of the large complex that is home to 8,500 people who are at least 55 years old.

“No matter what you hear, [construction of the new building] is not a done deal,” said Sheryl Katzman, president of Just Us, the residents’ group that conducted the meeting. Her organization wants both an engineering study and a resident-wide referendum held on the proposed building.


“It’s Solvable . . .

  • Published in Local

Reaching out to the chronic homeless to find a solution

MPI 0021 1A homeless man sleeps on the pavement in Silver Spring. PHOTO BY MARK POETKER  Oumou Cisse squatted down to speak with the homeless man resting by the Silver Spring Metro station. She identified herself as “street outreach” before asking him if he needed a new pair of socks.

Without making eye contact, the disheveled man tilted his arm awkwardly to accept the clean, white socks. Although he hadn’t said a word to Cisse, an outreach specialist at Bethesda Cares Inc. who often walks six miles a day around downtown Silver Spring, considered the brief encounter successful .

It’s all about building trust, Cisse and John Mendez, director of outreach and special projects at Bethesda Cares, explained. That’s why they keep an eye on those sleeping around the Silver Spring library, the Metro station, the recycling dumpsters, where the smell isn’t as strong as the trash dumpsters, and the numerous bus stop shelters and alleyways.


Some students still want to get “Lost in Space”

  • Published in Local

Brad Gurda’s seventh-grade students at Parkland Magnet School for Aerospace Technology in Rockville are in for a surprise when school starts again in September. Their teacher will be wearing the blue flight suit he was given while attending the Honeywell Educators at Space Academy program this summer.

Gurda spent five very intense days in Huntsville, Alabama, learning not just about space and what astronauts experience but also how to make science interesting to his students.

“It was remarkable,” said the 31-year-old teacher, who lives in Frederick. For five days, he joined a group of teachers from 45 states and 33 countries as he participated in classroom lectures and laboratory and field training. He worked with a team of 15 teachers who performed many of the same exercises that astronauts do.


Leisure World residents revolt against new plans

  • Published in Local

Leisure World logoSome residents of Leisure World, a residential facility in Silver Spring that is home to 8,500 people who are at least 55 years old, are so frustrated with management’s call for a new $7.2 million administration building that they intend to hold a town hall meeting of their own.

Just Us, a residents group run by Sheryl Katzman, is inviting residents to attend a July 28 meeting. The idea, Katzman explained, is to make sure that residents are aware that under the proposal, the administration building will be demolished and a new one built near the golf course even though an engineering study was never done to see if the current building could be refurbished instead.

“The residents are trying to put a stop to it. I am leading the charge,” Katzman said.

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