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First snowstorm of the year comes up short of hype

Snowman building after snowstorm StellaPauil Folder and Alex Fulda from Florida make a snowman in the first snowfall they’ve ever seen - following snowstorm Stella this week. PHOTO BY MARK POETKER  

ROCKVILLE – It took until the last week of winter, but the area finally got some measurable snow.

A nor’easter hit the County, along with much of the Northeast Monday and Tuesday giving the Washington metropolitan area its largest snowfall of the winter. The Up-County received the brunt of the storm, with Damascus getting 4.5 inches, Derwood receiving 3.5 inches while Takoma Park got 2 inches, according to the National Weather Service.

On Monday night, Gov. Larry Hogan signed an executive order declaring a state of emergency, and Montgomery County Public Schools and Montgomery County government closed on Tuesday.

After local and state governments took precautions for a large snowstorm, once most of the storm had passed, County residents did not seem too concerned about it.

“People are freaking out for nothing. This is not that bad – we’ve seen worse,” said Rockville resident Rameez Khatri of how County residents often make a big deal out of few inches of snow.

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Cop reunited with child he saved

Cop Reunited with Child 2Sahara McCallister appeared with her mother and police officer Jonathan Pruziner. PHOTO BY MARK POETKER  

GERMANTOWN – The last time Montgomery County Police Officer Jonathan Pruziner saw 7-year-old Sahara McCallister, she was lying on her back cold and wet.

On Friday the two met again, as Sahara and her mother were reunited with the cop who saved her life after she went missing more than a week ago.

Sahara, who is autistic and nonverbal, ran away while a babysitter was watching her when her mother was at work. Pruziner, one of 15 officers who responded to the emergency call, found Sahara in a nearby pond suffering from hypothermia in near-freezing temperatures.

“She was pale. She was shaking. She was foaming at the mouth. I thought she was dying in my arms,” Mary Wimpy said after seeing her daughter in the hospital after Pruziner rescued her.

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Council debates B-CC expansion plan

ROCKVILLE – While the proposed Downtown Bethesda Sector Plan would expand density in Bethesda, one thing it could also expand is Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School.

On Monday the County Council Planning, Housing and Economic Development Committee discussed buying or leasing property next to B-CC as way to find more space for the school’s increasing demands.

The council discussed several options from buying the office building located on 4401-4421 East West Highway next to B-CC in order to expand the school’s athletic fields and to leasing room from nearby office buildings to compensate for overcrowding.

“B-CC High School is the single hardest issue to for us to tackle in this,” said Council President Roger Berliner (D-1), who represents Bethesda. “Everything else seems to have a plausible answer, we don’t know what precisely what the answer is but B-CC High School – it’s a problem.”

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Water spray in tunnel results in Yellow Line Metro single-tracking

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Metro single-tracked trains between two Yellow Line stations for three hours as workers sealed off a small hole that was spraying water into a tunnel, according to a news release.

Trains single-tracked between L’Enfant Plaza and Pentagon City stations on the Yellow Line after a Metro train operator reported seeing water entering a tunnel near L’Enfant Plaza Station around 11:30 a.m. Thursday, according to a news release. At 2:30 p.m., the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority reported workers repaired the tunnel leak and restored the formerly de-energized track to service.

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UPDATED: Judges in Hawaii and Greenbelt ban Trump executive order

A federal judge in Hawaii halted the latest executive order temporarily restricting travel from six Muslim majority nations. A federal judge in Greenbelt followed suit on Thursday, also blocking the travel ban.

Judge Derrick K. Watson from the United States District Court of Hawaii wrote Wednesday in his decision that President Donald J. Trump's executive order violated the First Amendment's Establishment Clause and caused irreparable harm to one of the plaintiffs Ismail Elshikh.

After hearing oral arguments Wednesday, United States District Court for the District of Maryland Judge Theodore Chuang also blocked Trump's travel ban Thursday deciding to issue an injunction against the executive order.

“The Maryland district court has issued yet another strong judicial condemnation of President Trump’s unconstitutional Muslim ban," said Omar Jadwat an attorney from the American Civil Liberties Union in a statement Thursday. "If, as promised, he continues to try to defend this indefensible order in the courts — or goes back to the first iteration of the ban — he will just keep losing.”

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Metro signs consent decree for ADA

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Metro officials signed an agreement this week with the Justice Department requiring training in the Americans with Disabilities Act for staff following allegations from a prospective employee, according to the consent decree.

“We are pleased to have reached a mutually acceptable resolution to this matter,” Metro spokesperson Sherri Ly said Thursday.

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Takoma Park talks about bicycle riding

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The Takoma Park City Council discussed the possibility of amending the city code to allow wheelchairs and bicycles on sidewalks, and will discuss it again after not coming to a consensus.

The issue at hand fell to bicycles on sidewalks, as there were arguments for both options, also backed by different studies. Wheelchairs on sidewalks are currently not accommodated by the city code, but it was barely mentioned at the meeting.

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Tom Perez takes Takoma Park roots to national cause

Tom PerezTom Perez   COURTESY PHOTO  

Tom Perez’s political career did not begin behind the dais at the County Council building in Rockville, but in the basement of a church in Takoma Park.

Perez rose from a community activist turned County Council member to a President Obama appointee. Elected as the new Chair of the Democratic National Committee on Feb. 24, Perez is one of the main voices of opposition to President Donald J. Trump.

Perez served one term in the County Council from 2002 to 2006 before being appointed by then Gov. Martin O’Malley to be Maryland’s Secretary of Labor. But Perez’s political rise did not start with the County Council or his appointment to run a state agency, but in the basement of a small non-profit in Takoma Park.

“He's a people person and can communicate with the president or with a day laborer,” said Gustavo Torres the board president of CASA in Action.

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Takoma Park seals its reputation as a political nesting ground

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The center of power in the county, state and even at times the federal government is not Washington D.C., but a cozy city nestled just north of it.

During the last few decades, Takoma Park has transformed from a small town home to minority religious community to a progressive political haven and the crucible where political careers begin.

For a small city of 17,000 people, it is home to a long list of political players, such as Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-8), newly elected Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez, former White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot and three members of the County Council George Leventhal (D-at large), Marc Elrich (D-at large) and Hans Riemer (D-at large).

“When you have a political belief, be absolutely fearless in promoting it,” said political activist Robin Ficker, who was born in Takoma Park. “Speak your mind and speak your mind until the heavens fall and don't let anyone intimidate you. It's a belief that springs from Takoma Park.”

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Franchot suspends nine county tax preparers

Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot’s office has suspended nine Montgomery County tax preparers as part of a broader effort suspending 78 preparers in statewide.

Suspended preparers cannot file online or paper income tax returns for clients this tax filing season or other Maryland state returns, said the comptroller’s office in a March 2 news release.

The grounds for suspension were “a high volume of questionable returns received” from the preparers, which the comptroller’s Questionable Return Detection Team flagged.

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