Civic Federation Public Utilities Chair and Parents’ Coalition member Louis Wilen has uncovered a report on radon in our Montgomery County Public Schools. Radon is linked to cancer according to the EPA, specifically lung cancer and leukemia. The report, provided by MCPS officials, is so far limited to a poorly photocopied list of the school facilities and the radon level for each school. We have no additional information.
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.
In 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.
Of all the budgetary advice given to the County Council in recent years, perhaps none was more incomprehensible to council members and destructive to property tax fairness than a footnote that appeared in an April 25, 2014 internal memo. The footnote, included as part of a presentation about property tax rates, said:
There is a very important distinction about the “H” and “D” owner occupied codes in the data system and the four new codes (R, U, M, and L) that SDAT developed to remove Homestead Tax Credit eligibility for the July 2014 tax bill. SDAT is not going to use the “H” and “D” codes to remove the credits for the July 2014 tax bill for non-filers. Instead SDAT will use the new codes. Also, the H and D codes will remain to allow semi-annual payment by the property owner because the General Assembly did not include semi-annual payment as one of the lost benefits for failure to submit the Homestead Tax Credit application by the extended December 30, 2013 deadline.
Prepared by: Department of Finance 4/25/2014
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.
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.
On 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 […]
Exelon’s acquisition of PHI/Pepco rounded into the final stretch last week. The companies have largely been extremely successful in their bid to provide minimal benefits for ratepayers and huge payouts for shareholders. For the past year it looked as though Exelon had conquered the necessary regulatory agency approvals in their quest to own PHI/Pepco.
Yes, 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.
Our county government wants to promote more residential development. But more development results in more congestion on our roads and more demand for parking; both forms of infrastructure that are costly for the government to build and maintain. And our reputation for bad congestion deters people from moving into Montgomery County.
The following Testimony was presented at the Montgomery County Executive’s Transit Task Force Public Forum, which was held on June 17th, 2015. Nancy Abeles represents the Bethesda Crest Homeowners Association, which is located along MD State Route 355, the Rockville Pike.
What do the residents of Montgomery County want? We want—and need—a flexible, 21st century, affordable system, or set of public transit pieces. We do not need, nor do we want, last centuries’ shopworn model. That is, we don’t want a fixed route diesel bus system, especially one that takes our property, using the ‘quick take’ […]
Last week the Transit Task Force, a creation of County Executive Leggett and Council member Marc Elrich, held a public forum and took testimony regarding the proposal for an Independent Transit Authority. The overwhelming response – again —was, no to the ITA. Again our Civic Federation members turned out and again testified in opposition to the […]
Well, this was an easy column to write. The County Executive re-constituted the Transit Task Force, and this Wednesday, June 17th, a public hearing on the Independent Transit Authority was held. Again. So, it was tempting to merely reprint what I had written the first time, in January, when this ITA was stealth-introduced by Mr. Leggett. And, here we are again. The ITA language has not changed from what we see online. And neither has the position of the Civic Federation. We oppose the creation of an Independent Transit Authority.
This ends the tale of the birth of the Montgomery County Civic Federation. The other segments (Sentinel, 7 May and 21 May 2015) told of the “belt line” freight railroad proposed to encircle most of D. C. Two very influential belt line opponents were Col. E. Brooke Lee, a developer and political figure, and Oliver […]
The Federation was formed 90 years ago in reaction to plans for a freight railroad called the belt line that would have circled most of the District of Columbia inside today’s Capital Beltway. This is part 2 of my report that began in the Sentinel, 7 May 2015. (Square brackets cite Washington’s Evening Star newspaper.) […]
By the 1920s, the rapid growth of Washington’s suburban bedroom communities had created dozens of locally- focused civic groups. But a single event in 1925 galvanized the inner suburbs and led to the urgent birth of the Montgomery County Civic Federation (MCCF) to focus on broader issues.
Costco’s proposal to build a 16-pump, 12-million-gallon mega gas station at Westfield Wheaton started a 5-year, David-and-Goliath struggle with the Kensington Heights Civic Association (KHCA), the Stop Costco Gas Coalition, the Kenmont Swim & Tennis Club, and other civic, environmental, and individual supporters.
Do we need to accommodate our growing student population with appropriate infrastructure and sound, true green schools? Of course we do. Does it therefore follow that we need to demolish every existing structure we see to build new? No, not at all.
April in Maryland means that it’s Archaeology Month. Archaeology takes place all year long, but this month we celebrate the profession and the exciting – and the mundane – finds and contributions to human history.
In the last year did you: testify at the County Council? Send an email to the County Executive about an issue? Read a county budget? Read a county council staff report? Participate in a local meeting about your community? Attend a Civic Fed monthly meeting? We at the Civic Fed extend our thanks and welcome you to the world of civic activism – welcome to our world.
This year is our 90th year as the premiere umbrella group for civic organizations countywide. Yes, the Civic Federation was founded in 1925. What else was happening in 1925? Calvin Coolidge had just taken office to become the 30th president of the United States. Sears and Roebuck, after 32 years of catalog sales only, opened their first bricks-and-mortar store, in Indiana. Scotch tape was invented. Nellie Tayloe Ross became the first woman governor, of Wyoming. And, our Civic Federation was formed by a group of active individuals.
Next week is Sunshine Week, a week devoted to government transparency. Sunshine Week is an offspring of the Sunlight Foundation, located here in Washington, D.C., the brainchild of the remarkable Ellen Miller, and Mike Klein, the co-founders of that organization.
Budget season. How will your elected representatives spend your tax dollars? Our March 9th Civic Fed General Meeting will be on the County budget and Joe Beach, the Director of the County’s Finance Department, and Steve Farber, Staff Director at the County Council, will go through the proposed budget.
A lot of ink has been spilled by reporters and bloggers complaining about why the Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) superintendent was let go. His last day was February 16th. It’s over. And now is time to move on, to select a new superintendent.
Every year at this time the Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) superintendent announces his operating budget for the upcoming fiscal year. And every year, with little or no discussion, the Montgomery County Board of Education and the County Council approve it.
There is a somewhat ‘dirty’ joke which was told to me a long time ago by a fellow archaeologist after a long day in the field, and an even longer night drinking beer and tequila. (Archaeologists are like that). I won’t repeat it here. Suffice to say the punch line, ‘I’ll keep an eye out for you,’ is worth repeating here given the events that took place over the last week, and are still continuing.
This past week residents, including our Civic Fed members and civic activists were surprised to see a bill appear suddenly before our Montgomery County Delegation, MC24-15, which would create an ‘Independent Transit Authority.’ That bill was ‘late-filed,’ meaning it required that two-thirds of the Montgomery County Delegation vote for it to be introduced.
The City of Rockville is undergoing yet another developer-backed attack on its unique attempt to limit overdevelopment within city limits. In 2005, Rockville adopted an Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance that tied the approval of development to the school capacity of the schools actually affected by proposed development.
During the 2015 legislative session, the Maryland General Assembly will once again have an opportunity to advance civil rights for children with disabilities. Elected officials in Annapolis can correct an injustice for families of special needs students by passing legislation shifting the burden of proof from parents to school districts in special education due process […]
Forthwith our Civic Fed Top Ten list of civic activist and community stories from 2014 that have an impact on our civic organizations across the county, in no particular order. Thanks everyone who contributed to this list. Each year the civic activists in Montgomery County spend countless volunteer hours pushing for a government that represents the residents and not the big money interests.
In a huge holiday present to Kensington and Wheaton residents, the County’s Hearing Examiner, Martin Grossman, issued his final report on December 12, recommending to the Board of Appeals that Costco’s Special Exception application for a mega gas station at Westfield Wheaton be denied.
On October 7 of this year, staff from the Planning Department’s Transportation Division presented the 2014 Mobility Assessment Report to the Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment Committee of the County Council. The problem with calling it the 2014 report is that it contained the same data on levels of traffic congestion at county intersections as that which appeared in the 2013 report released last year.
Three events happened this week that are of note in the county, first, the council had a long session on Monday morning wrestling with the budget limitations for the upcoming fiscal year. Money will be tight and tax revenues are dropping.
Second, the taxpaying public found out that they were generously providing a job for just-retired councilmember Phil Andrews (D-District 3), courtesy of the re-elected State’s Attorney, John McCarthy.
Last week most of us celebrated Thanksgiving. Last month was also Native American Heritage Month, and as such it’s worth remembering that while the original Thanksgiving has been interpreted through the decades as a peaceful early encounter of two peoples, it is not necessarily a day of thanksgiving for everyone.
Ok, for this, my second column, I had a lot to choose from. The mess that got international attention, including a piece in the fabled Onion, erupted from the Montgomery County Public School (MCPS) Board of Education’s 7-1 vote stripping the academic calendar of religious holidays.
I have just inherited this column from our steadfast civic activist, Jim Humphrey, and am grateful for the opportunity to write about the Civic Fed, and the issues in which we are engaged.
What do Montgomery County parents want for their children? Access to free water in the cafeteria; fewer highly-processed meal choices; more salad bars; healthier a la carte and vending machine options; more transparency and accountability; utilization of our county’s Agricultural Reserve for fresh, local produce; less sugar; and more respect for the latest research on the dangers of chemical food additives.
At the time I became a civic activist thirteen years ago, I thought I was simply opposing approval of a redevelopment project for a property near my home that was not in keeping with the recommendations for the site in our area master plan. Thus began a process during which I have learned several valuable lessons.
For decades now, media pundits have bemoaned the influence of special interests over elections, as well as the functioning of government in general. No sooner had Congress approved the McCain-Feingold Act to close Federal election finance loopholes, and the President signed the bill into law, than special interests invented a creative new way to circumvent the law and funnel soft money to their chosen candidates for elected office.
Five years ago I would never have dreamed that the community, developers, the advisory board and urban district could cooperate on anything. By a fluke of fate, my community was given an opportunity to collaborate with a developer of a commercial property which abuts a residential neighborhood of single family homes. The success of this collaboration led our community to pioneer a process of community inclusion which I call Micro to Macro©.
Did you ever wonder how funding for new county facilities, or improvements to existing ones, are funded? And where do the ideas come from for an intersection improvement, for example, or a doggy play area in a community park? The Civic Federation will try and get answers to these questions and more when they host a program entitled “How to get your community’s request in the county’s Capital Improvements Program” at their October 13 monthly meeting.
During the twelve years I have been a delegate to the Montgomery County Civic Federation, I have known thirteen colleagues who “died in the saddle.” That’s an old cowboy expression for someone who passes on to the next world while still working–in this case, working as civic activists for the betterment of the county.
The topic of the program for the Civic Federation meeting on Monday evening, September 8, will be “Strategies for Managing the County’s Whitetail Deer.” The meeting will begin at 7:45 p.m. in the first floor auditorium of the County Council Building in Rockville.
The first time I called the county government for a “special trash” pick-up was about forty years ago. I was twenty some years old, and living in a home in Takoma Park that I had rented with four friends who were former college chums. As I recall, we called for the pick-up in order to dispose of an old, beat-up sofa and a few other items too large to fit in the can used for our “regular” weekly trash pick-ups.
As I have been involved with the Montgomery County Civic Federation (MCCF) for several years now, it always comes as a surprise when I happen upon a county resident who does not know of the group’s existence or function. For those readers who may not be familiar with the MCCF, allow me to introduce you to the organization.