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“Disappointed”

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Federation confronts school system over sex abuse cases

MCCF MCPSMontgomery County Public Schools officials are up in arms following a contentious meeting of the Montgomery County Civic Federation last month, during which audience members angrily confronted Superintendent Jack Smith over MCPS’ handling of lawsuits related to child sex abuse in County schools.

“I am extremely disappointed that Dr. Smith was treated disrespectfully by audience participants, who were misguided about the approved agenda for the meeting,” MCPS Chief of Staff Henry Johnson wrote in a letter to MCCF president Jim Zepp. “In fairness to the superintendent, the MCCF leadership should have interceded and accepted responsibility for not informing the superintendent of the alternative agenda.”

According to Johnson, Smith’s attendance at the Jan. 8 meeting – which had an announced topic of “What’s in the MCPS Fiscal Year 2019 Operating Budget?” – was secured in August of last year after Smith was invited to discuss the MCPS budget around the time it would be considered by the County Council.

While Smith did deliver remarks on the budget, as planned, he was later accosted by audience members demanding he comment on a resolution the Federation passed late last year relating to child abuse and neglect and concerns of how much money the District was spending on legal settlements.

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Heroes honored for saving woman's life

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Winffel family2Norma Winffel (left) receives the award from MCCF President Jim Zepp (right) on behalf of the Winffel family.  PHOTO BY JACQUIE BOKOW  

ROCKVILLE - As Norma Winffel recalled her husband and the significance of his actions May 6, she fought back tears and smiled during a meeting for the Montgomery County Civic Federation. 

“I want the world to know that he was not just a number, he’s just not a statistic,” Norma said. “He was a hero to us and now the world knows that.”

The federation awarded Norma and her family the Community Hero Award at the beginning of their meeting Monday evening at the County Executive building.

The federation’s president, Jim Zepp, said Malcom Winffel’s and Carl Unger’s actions at the Westfield Montgomery Mall during Eulalio Tordil’s shooting spree served as examples of “self-sacrifice” and “heroism.”

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A History of MCCF's 'Orphaned Roads' Project

In 2008, County Executive Ike Leggett made a surprise visit to the Montgomery County Civic Federation's January meeting.  He presented the MCCF with a handsome, framed certificate “in Recognition and Appreciation of your valuable work to research and chart policy alternatives for Montgomery County's Orphaned Roads.” This surprise visit did not make it into the Washington Post or any newspapers.  So, how did this honor come about?  It is a “long story” but one well worth telling.

My road, Fawsett Road, in Potomac was created in 1945.  Back then, a land owner who wanted to subdivide his property and sell off lots could do so with minimal investment in infrastructure.  A road accessing lots and future homes could be nothing more than a dirt track.  Our road was created by Howard Fawsett in the Fawsett Farms subdivision.  Fawsett probably used nothing more than his tractor with a plow blade to widen the track that ended just short of one of the many, long-abandoned gold mines in this area.  The 1,550 foot long cul-de-sac was dedicated to the County in 1947. 

Over the years, home were built and residents moved in.  We pooled money to pay for truckloads of gravel to be spread every few years and a snow plow contract.  When there were only a few homes, minimal traffic and little stormwater runoff, the road was tolerable.  But as the road aged, people began to want something better.  In the 1960s, a group asked the County's Department of Transportation (DOT) to pave the road.  They were told that not only would they have to repay the County for the project, but the cost was estimated to be 1 million dollars – a price too heavy to bear for only 18 property owners.

mccivicfedIn the early 1990s, Howie Denis was our District 1 Councilman.  He met with a group of homeowners who still wanted to pursue the illusive dream of a real road, then went to bat for us.  DOT told him that it was impossible to do anything for Fawsett Road because DOT didn't know how many roads in a similar condition existed in the County, nor how much it would cost to improve them and accept responsibility for their future maintenance.  Mr. Denis put $250,000 into the budget to hire a consultant to provide that information.

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Affordability and responsibility

Last Month Jerry Garson, our Civic Federation Transportation Chair, who has been doing an extraordinary job as Chair, testified before the County Council at the September 22nd County Council hearing on County Spending Affordability Guidelines. His testimony is below.

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Delphi Oracle is overrated

In the late 1960s the Rand Corporation developed what is known as the ‘Delphi’ method, named after the Delphic oracle, who prophesied the future. Rand’s ‘Delphi method’ was designed during the Cold War, originally to be used as a forecasting method wherein experts repeatedly answer a series of questions, with a facilitator summarizing the results. The idea is this event recurs and eventually a consensus can be reached. The theory is that decisions are more accurate coming from a groups structured in this way, rather than an unstructured group.

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Keep public meetings open to all

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mccivicfedAfter a vacancy in the Open Meetings Compliance Board, Governor Hogan has appointed three new members to the Board: Jonathan Hodgson, April Ishak, and Rachel Shapiro Grasmick. Last week the Board came out with an important Opinion that affects the residents of Montgomery County.

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The rat-with-antlers problem

mccivicfedOn February 12, 2012 the Civic Federation passed the following resolution:

 

Whereas the Deer Management Work Group has been in effect since 1993, and managed hunts in selected parks have taken place since 1999, and

Whereas the County’s population of white-tailed deer has increased despite these management efforts, and

Whereas upward trends in deer population coincide with increased Deer Vehicle Collisions, pervasive destruction of natural habitat in parks and stream valleys and landscaping in private yards, and increasing incidents of Lyme disease including sufferers living in suburban areas,

Therefore, be it resolved that the Montgomery County Civic Federation urges our county and state officials to expand funding and to work collaboratively towards liberalizing appropriate regulations to extend the hunting season for deer and facilitate controlled and safe hunting on both public and private lands.

 

At all levels, our government has been responsive to our requests regarding the need to reduce the deer population in the county. The Montgomery County Parks Department has added more parks each year to those where managed hunts and sharpshooter programs cull the herds. These programs will be carried out in 41 sites around the county including state parks and several federal facilities like NIST and NIH during the coming hunting season. The Department is also initiating a pilot program to allow carefully selected groups of organized archery hunters to work in the Great Seneca and Watts Branch stream valley parks. And they have collaborated with us and with the Superintendant of the C. & O. Canal National Historic Park to write language and regulations for hunters working on private land to track and retrieve wounded deer that may wonder into public park land.

 

Our delegation to Annapolis passed legislation in 2014 to decrease the “safety zone” for archery hunters from 150 yards to 100 yards. This allowed the County Council to pass corresponding legislation making it somewhat easier for archery hunters to work in suburban neighborhoods.

 

At the federal level, U.S. Representative Chris Van Hollen asked Superintendant Brandt to take steps to reduce the number of deer in the C.& O. Canal NHP. This is badly needed, particularly in the area of the Gold Mine Loop at Great Falls where the forest understory has been destroyed by overbrowsing. Superintendant Brandt has partnered with the Superintendant of the NHP at Harper's Ferry to apply for permission to carry out an Environmental Assessment (EA) of deer damage to both parks. Their application has been approved and they expect the EA to be completed by the summer of 2016 at which time they will make recommendations on steps to reduce the herd size.

 

All these measures are helpful, but the deer do not limit their browsing to public parks. Many of our downcounty neighborhoods are overrun with hungry and starving deer. As the old expression from the 1960s goes, “If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem.” Many homeowners would welcome an archery hunter into their yard to shoot from a balcony, elevated deck or tree stand. This form of hunting is one of the safest sports in the U.S. But all it takes is one neighbor within 300 feet of the shooting area to refuse to sign the consent form, and the hunt cannot be carried out. Fairfax County by comparison has no safety perimeter requirement. Any homeowner may hunt in his/her yard or authorize another archery hunter to do so. They are not even required to notify neighbors that hunting will be going on. Even with this very liberal approach to hunting, Virginia, like Maryland, has no record of any person or pet being accidentally killed or injured by an archery hunter,

 

How can you help?   First, get your local civic association working with you in this effort. We can help organize an informational program with expert archery hunters to speak to your members and address concerns about how, when and where archery hunting on private proptery may take place.

Next, see if you have a place in your yard which may be appropriate for hunting. The position must be elevated and allow the hunter to shoot at a downward angle. This allows for an arrow which misses the target to go safely into the ground where it can be easily retrieved by the hunter. And it means that arrows will not go into your neighbor's yards. If you think you have a safe hunting location, talk to your neighbors and see if they will support you. If you have their backing, contact a reputable archery hunting association. Three such groups in Montgomery County are:

Animal Connection Deer Management Team           www.acdmt.org

 

Bow Hunting Fire Fighters of Maryland                      www.BHFFMD.com

 

Maryland Bowhunters Society                                   www.marylandbowhunterssociety.org

 

An expert hunter will know all the legal requirements and regulations, advise you on the suitability of your location, and help with paperwork. This has worked miracles in my own neighborhood. A skilled hunter has taken out 17 deer over the past three seasons and left us with a much smaller, healthier and less voracious herd. One last tip: a property that backs onto parkland or a public utility corridor will require half as many permissions from neighbors as a home surrounded by other homes.

 

Find current regulations, Q & As and much more information on suburban hunting, at the Montgomery County Civic Federation's website: http://www.montgomerycivic.org/currentissuesEnv.html

 

The views expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect formal positions adopted by the Federation. To submit an 800-1,000 word column for consideration, please send an email attachment to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

 

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Parents cheer back to school

mccivicfedYes, folks, it’s that time of year again! Public school in Montgomery County begins on August 31st. And with it, the Board of Education (BOE) and Montgomery County Public School (MCPS) staff turn to thoughts of cash. Fiscal Year (FY) 17 is coming up, and the MCPS Department of Management, Budget and Planning (DMBP) has released its annual Operating Budget Guide and schedule for internal MCPS use.

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Legislative Oversight releases report

 

mccivicfedThis past Tuesday, July 28th, the Office of Legislative Oversight released four reports. These are: OLO Memorandum Report Excel Beyond the Bell, Behavioral Health in Montgomery County, MCPS Revitalization/Expansion Program, and a memo report on Procurement Performance Metrics.

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