Category Montgomery County Government

The final candidates in District 4 (and elsewhere in the county)

Now that the filing deadline has passed, in District 4, the new county council district that includes North Bethesda, here are the final candidates:

County Council District 4 (North Bethesda, Kensington, Silver Spring, Takoma Park)

  • Al Carr (D)
  • Amy Ginsburg (D)
  • Troy Murtha (D)
  • Kate Stewart (D)
  • John Zittrauer (D)
  • Cheryl Riley (R)

Learn more from Bethesda Beat

The election date has also been finalized for July 19. Early Voting will be held July 7 to July 14

If you’re going to be on vacation in July, request for a vote-by-mail ballot by Tuesday, July 12 by visiting https://voterservices.elections.maryland.gov

Notes from the end of the Maryland Legislative Session

White Flint/North Bethesda/Pike District will receive quite a lot from the state coffers. During the legisltative session that just ended, these projects were funded:

$16 million for the White Flint redevelopment project that will help support a national epicenter of computationally enabled life sciences research.  

$120 million for transportation, including funding for the County’s new bus rapid transit system (BRT), zero emissions buses, the Bethesda South Metro station entrance and a new north entrance at the White Flint Metro Station. 

You can learn about other operational and capital county funding from the state as well as new programs and laws here.

Work on Western Workaround Will Continue through 2023

From Bethesda Beat

The Western Workaround project involves realigning the intersection of Old Georgetown Road and Executive Boulevard. When completed, it will be a four-way intersection with:

  • Old Georgetown Road approaching from the south, as it does now
  • Old Georgetown Road continuing east from the intersection to Md. 355
  • Towne Road running north-south between the intersection and Josiah Henson Parkway, formerly known as Montrose Parkway
  • Executive Boulevard approaching from the west, as it does now

Timothy Cupples, the chief of the transportation department’s Division of Transportation Engineering, told Bethesda Beat last week that construction crews are finishing work on Towne Road, which will travel along the western boundary of Pike & Rose.

Cupples said construction is supposed to be finished by the end of this year, but the winter months limit construction, and work could last into the spring of 2023.

Nebel Street Shelter Opens

The new Nebel Street Shelter in Rockville opens today after a ribbon-cutting ceremony Saturday.

The two-story, year-round shelter will provide temporary shelter for up to 200 men experiencing homelessness. It could potentially house up to 290 individuals if necessary, Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich said during the ribbon-cutting ceremony

Bedrooms are divided into pods of six individual beds, with each bed six feet apart. Pods can be isolated from the general public, a measure in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, said Susie Sinclair-Smith, CEO of the Montgomery County Coalition for the Homeless (MCCH). MCCH operates the shelter program. 

The shelter will provide services like on-site psychiatric and related healthcare, medical exams, an employment lab, housing location services and a meal program that provides three meals everyday to clients year-round.

Our testimony on the CIP Budget

This is the testimony provided to the county council last night on the County Executive’s propose capital budget for the county.

My name is Bill Carey. I’m representing the Friends of White Flint, a non-profit organization, composed of residents , businesses, and property owners who work together to transform the White Flint/Pike District/North Bethesda area into a walkable, vibrant, smart growth community.

We applaud the emphasis of the CIP budget on transit, especially its focus on the Route 355 Bus Rapid Transit line. Route 355 BRT is critical to fulfilling the vision of the 2010 sector plan. We are, however, disappointed that there is no money for bike and pedestrian improvements in North Bethesda.  Walkability and bikeability are equally important for fulfilling the sector plan’s vision.

We urge the council not to push back funding for the northern entrance of the White Flint metro station, soon to be called North Bethesda station, hat is a vital connection for the Pike District.

Finally, we ask the council to ensure that the funding for Woodward High School’s renovation remain on track so that it can open with a stadium, athletic fields, an auditorium and other essential amenities as planned.

Montgomery Co. announces delay in completion of North Bethesda homeless shelter

From Channel 7 WJLA-TV

NORTH BETHESDA, Md. — Montgomery County’s Department of General Service has announced the expected project completion date for the Nebel Street Homeless Shelter will be delayed several weeks.

The new expected completion date allows a street utility project to be wrapped up. The utility project must be completed by the utility company to allow DGS to be able to access the gas and water main lines.

The Nebel Street facility is a critical project that will provide temporary shelter for individuals experiencing homelessness and will provide associated services which are insufficient for the current population and future projections. DGS purchased the two-story building located at 11600 Nebel Street in North Bethesda to provide sleeping quarters, meals, and medical and case management services. This new facility will enable the county to implement its new emergency shelter policy for the unhoused population so that they have access to year-round shelter and a temporary place to spend their days until they are connected to permanent housing.

“The Nebel shelter project had been progressing as planned, but the project delay due to the utility work and supply chain issues is unfortunate,” said DGS Director David Dise. “We are sourcing other suppliers and are in regular contact with senior management of Pepco, Washington Gas and WSSC, all of whom are expediting the street utility work. While it is good news there is permanent place for the shelter and a project design that will more effectively serve those in need of shelter, the project delay impacts those who reside in the temporary shelter, the Recreation Department and community members who have waited for their community recreation center and senior center to be reopened.”

Candidates for District 4 County Council Race Announced

So far, three candidates have announced they are running for the District 4 County Council race, and one of them is a name you will recognize.

Friends of White Flint Executive Director has entered the race. In this week’s Bethesda Beat article, it said, “A graduate of Charles W. Woodward High School, she has headed a number of nonprofits, including Neediest Kids, the  Manna Food Center and the Low Vision Information Center.”

Takoma Park mayor Kate Stewart is also running for this council seat. Bethesda Beat noted that “Stewart has been Takoma Park’s mayor since 2015. She said that has given her experience in dealing with some of the same issues facing the County Council, including housing affordability, racial equity and responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

John Zittrauer of Silver Spring announced yesterday that he was also entering the race. In a Bethesda Beat article it said, “Housing — not only affordable housing, but also housing for homeless people — is a key priority for him moving forward.”

Amy Ginsburg, John Zittrauer, and Kate Stewart

Redistricting Article in Bethesda Beat that quotes our executive director, Amy Ginsburg

From Bethesda Beat

Some community organizations concerned about proposed County Council district map

Some community leaders from various areas of Montgomery County said they are concerned about a proposed map of new County Council districts.

A redistricting commission recently presented its proposal to the County Council. The first of at least two public hearings is scheduled for Tuesday at 1:30 p.m.

County voters approved a ballot measure in November 2020 to increase the number of council districts from five to seven. Because four at-large seats — ones that represent the entire county — will remain, there will be 11 council members instead of nine after next year’s elections. 

Under the current proposal, six of the seven districts would be majority-minority districts, although African Americans, Latinos or Asians by themselves are not in the majority in any of the proposed districts.

The only district where non-Hispanic white residents are the majority is in the proposed First District, which includes Bethesda, Friendship Heights, Chevy Chase, and Potomac.

Some community leaders and civic organizations aren’t satisfied with the proposed map.

Marilyn Balcombe, president and CEO of the Gaithersburg-Germantown Chamber of Commerce, who is running for the council in District 2, said she appreciated the work of the commission, and that new technology, census data and software means the map is better than in previous redistricting cycles.

But she is concerned about upcounty representation, especially in the northeastern part of the county. That proposed district stretches too far south, through Olney and Sandy Spring, to be considered a true representation of the upcounty, Balcombe said.

That means it will be difficult for voters to elect someone from Damascus, Goshen or Montgomery Village, she said

“It will be difficult for someone from that area to be elected from that area to the district, because there’s not enough voters up there,” Balcombe said.

Some have expressed concern that the current map divides communities of interest. That includes the Greater Shady Grove Civic Alliance, which represents Derwood, a community near Gaithersburg. 

Alliance President Carol Kosary said she is upset that the current map splits up Derwood.

The Derwood community is interested in several issues, ranging from better lighting along local walking and biking trails to how rainfall drains into local watersheds, she said.

It doesn’t make sense that parts of Derwood are included with a district that includes Wheaton, which is much more densely populated, Kosary said. 

“We’re currently split between two County Council districts, and it really has never worked well for the community, because you’re never a big enough voice in a district to get the attention of council members,” Kosary said.

She added that having four at-large council members, representing the entire county, is a nice concept, but Derwood has not felt that those at-large officials have been responsive.

Daniel Koroma, however, believes the current map proposal is a good one.

Koroma, a White Oak resident running for the County Council District 5 seat, said the district in the proposed map including White Oak does a better job of representing East County. It’s an area that has been historically underrepresented, he said.

It’s not a perfect map, Koroma said, but it’s about as fair a map for the East County as possible. He said other communities might feel their voice is being split up, but his region has had its challenges.

“If they’re using a racial equity lens, the question is, which area of the county in Montgomery County has been disenfranchised for decades?” Koroma said. “And no one would say the East County hasn’t been part of that.”

Other organizations, however, don’t agree that the map is fair for their communities. That includes multiple groups in North Bethesda. 

Amy Ginsburg, executive director of Friends of White Flint, said including North Bethesda in a district with Kensington, Silver Spring and Takoma Park does not make sense. She said residents in her area associate themselves with the economic and political communities along the Md. 355 corridor.

Ginsburg said the redistricting commission made a mistake when it voted that Rockville and Gaithersburg must be included in the same district, because other communities, including those in North Bethesda, did not receive such consideration.

The commission had a tough job, but the proposed “bowtie” district including North Bethesda southeast to Silver Spring and Takoma Park is not the answer, she said.

“If everybody was happy, you would have put together a modern miracle, but we are going to live with this for 10 years. … Getting it right is far better than getting it done [too quickly],” she said. 

John Seelke, a member of the Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Board, said he is “not a huge fan” of the same district. 

Seelke said areas such as North Bethesda and Silver Spring have different local economic needs and overall resources, and one council member in the district would have trouble representing both constituent groups. 

Regarding the decision to include Gaithersburg and Rockville in the same district, Seelke said both those of cities have elected mayors and city councils that can advocate for their residents on issues — something unincorporated areas do not have.

“I know that this process is not one that’s going to satisfy everyone, but I do hope that the County Council will look back and consider what are the challenges or problems that could come out of the districts that came together,” Seelke said of the map.

Those interested in testifying at Tuesday’s public hearing can find instructions on how to do so here

               The proposed new County Council district map

A resident describes the geographic absurdity of the proposed bow tie council district

From resident Dale Lawrence

The analogy of the “bowtie” shape for the proposed newly gerrymandered district to include North Bethesda is apt.

The proposed district with North Bethesda on one end and Takoma Park on the other is in no way a contiguous geographic entity.  I drive back and forth between N Bethesda and Takoma Park through Silver Spring many times a week.  I have family there, and I use resources of the Walter Reed Annex at Forest Glen which is accessed by that same road, Forsythe Ave in the Forest Glen Park area. I have traveled the route connecting our end of the new proposed district with the other end a thousand times over 30 years.  

Let me share my appreciation of the geographic absurdity of the proposed district to include us. First, review the map showing all districts as currently proposed and notice that in every other district, persons residing within the district are able to travel over dozens or hundreds of routes within and across their district. Their proposed districts display contiguity, enable sharing common and convenient resources, and promote a sense of a shared community.

In horrible contrast, the “bowtie” that links N. Bethesda to its proposed sister communities (Silver Spring and Takoma Park) has exactly 1800 feet of connection at the pinch point at the isthmus of the proposed district. 

But even worse, the I-495 route blocks any streets, save one, at the point of the pinched “knot” of the “bowtie.” ONE street, with one lane in each direction, is left to connect the two ends of the “bowtie.”  It leads to a steep hill with no sidewalk. The street is so narrow, it requires oncoming vehicles — including the No. 5 RideOn buses, school buses, trucks, private vehicles and bicyclists —  to pass at a speed under 10 mph.  Pedestrians, without a sidewalk, cannot walk on this short road.

The single, dangerously narrow street connecting the new district’s ends is emblematic, of course.  Other routes can get one to Silver Spring, etc.; however, if left unchanged, the current design makes a mockery of the contiguity principle. Indeed, by gerrymandering it makes a loud statement that the County Council is content to discourage the communities of N Bethesda and Silver Spring/Takoma Park from getting to know each other, develop shared purposes and or have any common resources.

Learn more on our blog: http://www.whiteflint.org/2021/11/05/your-community-needs-you-to-advocate-for-a-new-redistricting-map-that-does-not-mute-our-voice-or-harm-north-bethesda/