UPDATE: Rockville fires Swift

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Rockville Seal

ROCKVILLE – Rockville is one manager down after action this week.

The city manager fired the director of Community Planning and Development Services March 3, spokesperson Marylou Berg confirmed.

“I made a change in the best interest of the organization and the City,” City Manager Rob DiSpirito said Monday. “I feel that the department needed new direction and a fresh start.”


UPDATE: Local authorities rule death of man found in house explosion site a suicide

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Rockville house explosion 1Montgomery County Fire & Rescue Service responded Friday to a home explosion on Ashley Drive in Rockville. The bodies of a man and a dog were found Saturday. FILE PHOTO

ROCKVILLE – The Montgomery County Fire chief said investigators from Montgomery County Police, Fire and Rescue, and the Alcohol, Tobacco, Explosives and Firearms Bureau continue to investigate the cause of Friday’s house explosion where investigators found the remains of a man and his dog. The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner ruled the man’s death a suicide.


Man missing after home explosion in Rockville

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Rockville house explosion 2Units from Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service responded to a home explosion on Ashley Drive in Rockville. PHOTO BY MARK POETKER  

Montgomery County Fire and Rescue are searching for a missing man after a home explosion in Rockville early Thursday morning.

Just before 1:00 a.m., a home located on 11422 Ashley Dr. in the Randolph Hills neighborhood of Rockville exploded, destroying the home. Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Services Spokesperson Pete Piringer described it as, “complete blast explosion damage, a burning rubble pile, a very large debris field.”


Rockville considers sanctuary

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City holds public forum and listens as residents and neighbors discuss immigration

Rockville Seal

ROCKVILLE – More than 80 people testified during a public hearing Monday on a planned ordinance which would preclude the city from enforcing federal immigration law.

Residents, property owners and workers in the city, as well as individuals from elsewhere in the county, shared concerns about what would happen if the ordinance was implemented.

Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton said the purpose of the public hearing was to give residents a chance to comment on the idea of Rockville becoming a sanctuary city. She said she and the council received many letters over the past few weeks pertaining to the sanctuary city status.

There were “many in support and there are many who have concerns,” Newton said.


On The Road Again

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Confederate statue will head north and join Jubal Early ferry in Dickerson

 Confederate statue 7-31-15

The last battle of the Civil War in the County is perhaps finally over.

After deciding to remove the Confederate soldier statue about a year ago, the County found a new home for it Tuesday, deciding to relocate the statue to White’s Ferry in Dickerson.

The statue, built in 1913 with donations from the Daughters of the Confederacy, was dedicated to County residents who fought for the South during the Civil War. The inscription on the statue reads, “To Our Heroes of Montgomery County Maryland: That We Through Life May Not Forget to Love the Thin Gray Line.”

Currently, the statue sits next to the Old Brick Courthouse in downtown Rockville, surrounded by a wooden box covering part of the statue to prevent graffiti.

“I fully understand that the statue reflects a piece of County history and that many County residents are proud of the sacrifices and bravery shown by their ancestors,” said County Executive Ike Leggett, who was in favor of moving the statue. “Nonetheless, as originally enacted, it was not and is not part of the heritage of all of our residents. When originally constructed and placed on County property, it failed to reflect both sides of this unfortunate struggle in our history.”


Gathering for bagels and not bombs

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Bagels not bombsLoretta Rudolph and John and Robyn Quinter attended the Wednesday morning rally in support of the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School, which had been the victim of a bomb scare two days earlier. PHOTO BY SUZANNE POLLAK  

About 50 people gathered at the Randolph Hills Shopping Center in Rockville on Wednesday morning to show support for the nearby Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School, which had received an automated bomb threat by telephone Monday morning.

Students did not evacuate as police checked the interior and exterior of the building Monday. No bomb was found. More than 20 Jewish schools and community centers received similar threats that same day.

“I felt like we needed a place to stand together to show that this is not who we are,” said Aviva Goldfarb, of Chevy Chase, who coordinated the Bagels Not Bombs rally at the shopping center across from the Rockville school.


Rockville city manager’s proposed budget includes more police officers

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ROCKVILLE – The city manager’s proposed fiscal year 2018 capital and operating budgets include increased water costs for residents, new capital improvement projects and added police officers.

According to the Department of Finance, Administration and Budget Division, the only new positions in the proposed budget are three additional sworn police officers. The last time the city received new police officers was the addition of two for a total of 59 in fiscal year 2014.

The new City Manager Rob DiSpirito said in a letter to the city and to the mayor and council that he proposed to add three police officers to the city department “to increase public safety and to improve health and well-being of our Police force.”


"I came here with dreams"

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County resident remembers fleeing violence for hope here


When the popular restaurant Silver Diner on Rockville Pike first opened for business on Feb. 14, 1989, its future operating partner was a teenager in civil-war-torn El Salvador.

Fleeing the violence in his native land, Omar Martinez, then 14 years old, crossed Guatemala and Mexico before entering the United States by swimming across the Rio Bravo into Texas in the middle of the night on Dec. 28, 1989.

“I came here with dreams to live in different sort of world where I could go to school and make positive contributions to American society,” Martinez said.

Soon after his arrival in America, Martinez was detained by the immigration authorities and was held in a minors’ detention center for roughly two months. He was eventually released into the care of his uncle, who was then a legal resident of Rockville.

After relocating to Rockville, Martinez began attending Montgomery County Public Schools and took his first job at Silver Diner, as a dishwasher. He learned English in school and eventually took advanced classes at Montgomery College.

“It took me about five years to become fluent in speaking English,” Martinez said. “It’s taken me a lot longer to learn how to write it properly.”

As Martinez started a family, he advanced at Silver Diner, working nearly every job at the restaurant before he was offered the position of general manager at Silver Diner’s Tyson’s Corner location. In 2005, he returned to the Rockville location to become its operating partner and has worked there ever since. During his tenure, the diner’s revenue has increased substantially.

“One of my dreams was to be a contributor to society, and I’ve been able to do that here in Rockville,” Martinez said, citing Silver Diner’s financial contributions to support health and wellness programs in area schools. He received an award from MCPS in 2014 as the business owner who had done the most to support the schools.

Martinez formally became an American citizen at a ceremony in Baltimore in 2001. He said that he has always felt welcome in America, but that the rhetoric and proposals of President Donald Trump, who on the campaign trail called for mass deportations of illegal immigrants and the construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, have alarmed him and many in his community.     

“Over the last year, the news that we’ve been hearing, particularly from the new president, has been very scary to my Latin American community,” Martinez said. “It’s something that keeps our friends and families awake at night.  This is the kind of threat that a lot of us came here to get away from. There was a big celebration many years ago when Germany knocked down its wall, but now, seeing that they want to build a wall here in our own backyard, separating out families is very heartbreaking.”

Martinez said he would like to show those concerned about losing jobs and resources that immigrants make significant contributions to the American economy.

“I am a businessman and I would have to say that I am very successful, and I feel that if I don’t have the workforce from other countries, I would have to close this business,” Martinez said. “Mr. Trump says he wants to rebuild American infrastructure, but he also says he wants to deport 11 million people.  If he does that, who’s going to build all these new roads and bridges? I did not come here to take jobs from Americans. I came here so that I could build something, give back and create more jobs for this wonderful country.”




Rockville looks for police chief opportunity

New Rockville City Manager Rob DiSpirito said he intends to seek input from the Rockville community about police in the city prior to a national search for candidates to fill the vacant police chief position.

DiSpirito said he intends to become familiar with the interests and needs of the city, including residents, police officers and city employees, so he can be informed on what needs the chief should be able to address.

“I need to take time, as any manager would,” DiSpirito said.


Rockville embraces culture, diversity at MLK celebration

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ROCKVILLE – The modern-day dream was the theme as performances and presentations honored slain civil rights leader the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Monday at a 45th annual celebration.

The event, held at Richard Montgomery, included dance, musical performances, poetry by students and an adult community member, awards and a keynote speech.

The tribute began with a procession consisting of West African choreography performed by dancers from Katherine Smith Contemporary Dance Ensemble, which is based in Prince George’s County. The dancers went up the aisles toward the stage in vibrant costumes. A drum group called Soul in Motion led the procession and accompanied the dancers on African drums.

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