Monday, November 28, 2005

Planning board 'resisted' member's efforts to investigate zoning violations

Planning board members "resisted" a fellow member's attempts to investigate illegal practices of a local developer.

Meredith K. Wellington, a member of the planning board, says of the hundreds of alleged zoning violations by the Bethesda Crest developers, "I think the confusion was created by the staff and the applicant, glossing over the details," according to the Washington Times.

"This suggests an effort to confuse and mislead."

According to the Times, "Other board members resisted her efforts to investigate other charges of building code violations in Bethesda Crest."

MoCo inspector general & state prosecutor investigate Clarksburg corruption

What is the extent of the corruption involved in the Clarksburg Town Center project, and what motivated county politicians to look the other way?

"The county inspector general and the state special prosecutor are investigating," according to the Washington Times.

The owner of the development says, "I absolutely deny that we did anything wrong intentionally."

Planning board let crooked contractor off hook, homeowners say

After allowing widespread illegal development activity at Clarksburg Town Center and trampling local homeowners who fought the project, Montgomery County officials are now letting the crooked developers off the hook.

Neighbors aren't impressed with the county recently slapping the developers with token fines, saying officials are interested only in regulations and not in correcting their own lack of oversight.

"You cannot rectify what has gone wrong at Bethesda Crest, at Clarksburg and elsewhere, and you cannot deter this kind of misconduct in the future with that kind of self-imposed myopia," James Gilligan, a federal attorney and local citizens association member, told the Washington Times.

"Despite all the politicians' talk about reforming the planning process, today's decision ... shows that nothing has changed and that real reform is going to require new political leadership in Montgomery County," he said.

Study: Massive county spending hasn't improved test scores

"The public is told over and over again that higher spending on education is the only way to improve student achievement, even though the evidence clearly points in the other direction," the DC Examiner says in an editorial.

"Duncan's own county is a good example of how you can't buy higher test scores - you've got to earn them. While a study by the nonprofit Maryland Tax Education Foundation noted that the county's public school system is a 'relative bargain' (compared to notoriously high-tax Connecticut, New Jersey and New York, that is), it also found that 'massive extra spending hasn't moved the needle on test scores.'

"How massive? Try $1.2 billion beyond adjustments for inflation and enrollment for a 30 percent increase in eight years. Put another way, Montgomery County is spending $338 million more on its schools than it did in 1997, but even with this massive infusion of funds, 'results on state testing have been inconsistent. [And] SAT scores relative to the rest of the country have been flat despite the heavy spending increases.'"

County education spending sticks teachers with more red tape; less time to help kids

Is Montgomery County's ever-increasing education budget helping teachers to do their job better?

Apparently not, according to a November 17 DC Examiner editorial, which chides the county for penalizing successful teachers and schools while creating disincentives for non-performers to do their jobs:.

"Teachers complain that this latest trendy remedy has only resulted in an expanding bureaucracy - and more meetings they are required to attend, leaving them even less time to plan, grade papers and counsel students.

"If educators and politicians were serious about following a real business model, they would be handing out financial incentives only to schools that delivered measurable results.

"But that's exactly the opposite of what happens now. Schools get more resources when they don't get the job done, not the other way around, creating a major disincentive to success."

Friday, November 25, 2005

Silverman blamed for crooked planning scandal

County Councilman Steve Silverman, one of the main advocates of turning Seven Locks Elementary School into a subsidized high-density housing project, is being blamed for the Clarksburg development scandal.

Silverman greased the skids for disgraced Planning Commission Chairman Derick Berlage, whom a DC Examiner editorial says "is most directly responsible for the total lack of oversight of the Clarksburg Town Center project. If you want to know how Montgomery County could possibly have approved a residential project with streets too narrow for fire and rescue vehicles, ask him."

The Examiner points the finger at Silverman: "As chairman of the council's Planning, Housing and Economic Development Committee, [Silverman's] job was to supervise Berlage - his predecessor on the committee - whom Silverman helped get the $129,000 Planning Commission job. Silverman wants to be the next county executive, but Berlage may well be his 'Brownie.'

"A former chairman of the County Council's land-use committee, Berlage managed (if you could call it that) a largely unsupervised 900-employee agency that deliberately altered site plans, keep sloppy records or none at all, and even allowed developers' attorneys to write its legal opinions - all while being rude and dismissive to the public. Inspector General Thomas Dagley says it has also delayed his efforts to obtain key documents and interview staff."

Friday, November 18, 2005

Cox: Kendale project to cost 20% more than taxpayers were told

The Kendale "replacement" school will cost significantly more than the county promised the taxpayers.

Responding to community questions at the November 17 Board of Education meeting, school board member Sharon Cox said she expects the Kendale project to cost 15% to 20% more than county officials had promised.

New Kendale cost overruns to exceed 50 percent

BoE member Sharon Cox's estimate about inflating costs of the Kendale replacement school barely begins to tell the story of cost overruns, waste and possible corruption - even before the scheduled ground breaking begins.

Earlier this year, Seven Locks PTA members worked with local contractors to get a realistic assessment, based on MCPS plans, of what construction of the Kendale school should really cost.

The contractors came back with estimates about 30 percent lower than the county estimates.

Now, with Cox estimating that the cost could be as much as 20 percent more than the county's earlier estimates, we find that the Kendale cost overruns are at least 50 percent higher than they should be.

And the county has barely begun to clear the towering maples and oaks from the forested excavation site.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Council vote affirms growth limit policy that would have protected Seven Locks

County leaders have disregarded their own development guidelines as they pressed ahead to shut down Seven Locks Elementary School, build a triple-sized "replacement school" on a narrow wooded lane, and prepare for construction of possibly hundreds of subsidized high-density housing units at the corner of a clogged intersection.

In its November 15 vote to reject a proposal to curb congestion and sprawl, the Montgomery County Council drew new attention to its existing policy that considers new development in light of traffic congestion at local intersections and development's impact on public schools.

The move was another indication that county leaders were breaking established policy during their shadowy decisions to shut down Seven Locks and build a school three times the size on Kendale Road.

The issues:

1. Too narrow. Kendale Road is a wooded country lane only 22 feet wide - too narrow for two school buses to pass one another and therefore dangerous to children traveling to and from school. The county has no plans to widen Kendale Road or even construct a sidewalk, as it plans to build and open the new school by 2007.

2. Too dangerous. The southern end of Kendale Road empties into Bradley Boulevard, just yards from the busy and sometimes dangerous intersection of Bradley and River Road. During morning and afternoon rush hours, the stretch of road is often clogged with cars.

3. More road blockage planned. To County officials say they plan to block regular traffic from entering the southern end of Kendale from Bradley, thus preventing bus and family traffic to the school from the Bradley & River intersection, and forcing traffic through a steep intersection on the side of a hill from Bradley to Kentsdale Road, and then to the northern entrance of Kendale.

4. Height & density restrictions lifted. County officials continue to tell residents that there are "currently no plans" to surplus the existing Seven Locks schoolyard at the overcrowded Seven Locks and Bradley intersection, even though officials plan to build high-density housing on the site. The county quietly waived height and density restrictions on that site, indicating that the high-density housing plans are indeed in the works. If constructed, the housing project would add hundreds of cars to the already overcrowded Seven Locks & Bradley intersection - and school construction officials admit that the architectural designs for the Kendale school allow no room for possibly hundreds of new students expected to be living in the project.

Bottom line: The county continues to press ahead with its Kendale school/housing project in complete violation of its own policy against adding to traffic congestion.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Perez: County rigs school impact tests 'so everyone passes'

County Council President Tom Perez implies that growth policy is rigged in a way that favors out-of-control development at the expense of public schools.

"The county’s growth policy does not adequately account for the impact on schools, Perez of Takoma Park said," according to the Gazette. "Schools are allowed to exceed real capacity, yet the school impact test is set 'so everyone passes,' he said."

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Board of Education reneges on written agreement

As if foreshadowing any future agreement with Seven Locks parents and neighbors, the Montgomery County Board of Education has reneged on a written agreement that it made after losing a federal court case to parents concerning objectionable curriculum.

A local newspaper accuses the school board of threatening freedom of speech by censoring views of parents it doesn't like.

The Washington Examiner says of the board members in an editorial, "Despite their written agreement to seat one member of Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum on their 15-member sex-ed advisory committee, they stubbornly refuse to comply."

Regardless of whether Seven Locks parents agree with the county sex-ed program, the county's behavior has ramifications for the Seven Locks/Kendale controversy. It underscores what many see as county school officials' malicious and possibly illegal behavior toward parents and PTA chapters who question or challenge them.

According to the Examiner, "In May, the grassroots group filed a successful federal lawsuit that derailed MoCo's controversial sex-ed pilot program. CRC members are now saying that they should be the ones to choose their own representative on the panel, not hostile board members. It's a valid point with implications extending far beyond the present issue.

"That was precisely the conclusion of the lawsuit. A judge appointed by President Clinton went so far as to issue a temporary restraining order while blasting the blatant 'viewpoint discrimination' in the proposed curriculum, which board members had unanimously approved.

"Soon afterward, Schools Superintendent Jerry Weast suspended the $1 million pilot program altogether and it was back to the drawing board. . . .

"'The wisdom of approving a curriculum which prohibits students from discussing one viewpoint of a controversial subject goes to the very essences of ... the First Amendment,' Judge Williams added. He's right. Freedom of speech is really what's at stake here."

Federal judge who accused BoE of discrimination might force it to comply

The federal judge who ruled against the Board of Education on the sex-ed controversy and accused it of discrimination might force it to comply with its agreement.

Rockville attorney John R. Garza says there is "a very good chance" that the group that won the case, Citizens for Responsible Curriculum, "would ask a county Circuit Court judge or U.S. District Court Judge Alexander Williams Jr. to enforce the agreement as CRC sees it. In May, Williams issued the order stopping the revised curriculum from being taught."

The BoE has been dragging its feet on the compliance order.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Analysis: Weast's words mean nothing

Blogger's comment: Seven Locks School proponents should take no comfort in Superintendent Jerry Weast's latest flip-flop about the future of the school on Seven Locks and Bradley.

Let's look at Weast's recent statement that has caused Seven Locks advocates to celebrate:

“there are no plans to surplus the current Seven Locks school site now and, during my tenure as superintendent of schools, I will not recommend any such surplusing of that school site.”

Now, let's dissect the statement piece by piece:

1. "There are no plans to surplus . . ." This line is nothing new. County bureaucrats have been saying this all along, from the beginning, simply because the plans are not finalized or official. They have always had the intent, if not the plan. Weast's wording betrays the deception. He begins in the passive voice - "there are no plans to surplus" - instead of in his own authoritative voice.

2. ". . . the current Seven Locks school site now. . ." Again, nothing new. But the operative word is "now," indicating that he anticipates plans to surplus the site in the future.

3. ". . . during my tenture as superintendent of schools, I will not recommend any such surplusing of that school site." This statement does seem new. But does it mean anything? Unlike school board President Patricia O'Neill, Weast does not say he would oppose surplusing the site. He only says he would not recommend it. So he has made no commitment not to support surplusing the site.

4. Finally, his constant references to "school site" indicate that he does indeed intend to shut down the present school on Seven Locks and Bradley, despite the fact that the PTA and community leaders have voted repeatedly to save the school.

Bottom line: Weast's words are worthless. He still intends to ignore the PTA of the very school he intends to shut down.

Google reports that this blog dominates coverage of Superintendent Weast

Google, the world's largest Internet search engine, reports that this humble blog dominates the blogosphere's coverage of Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Jerry Weast.

To verify, go to Google's Blog Search function, type in the superintendent's name, and click the "Search Blogs" button.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Seven Locks Coalition praises Weast for changing his mind on surplusing

[Note: What follows is the text of a press statement issued by the Seven Locks Coalition on November 12, 2005]


Weast Now Against Surplusing Seven Locks Elementary School!

The Seven Locks Coalition, representing over 6000 families in the Seven Locks Road area, applauds the statement by County Superintendent of Schools Jerry D. Weast, on November 10, 2005, indicating his opposition to declaring Seven Locks Elementary School surplus.

In a statement released by the Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) Public Information Office, Dr. Weast stated that “there are no plans to surplus the current Seven Locks school site now and, during my tenure as superintendent of schools, I will not recommend any such surplusing of that school site.”

The Coalition welcomes, as well, the recent oral statement made by County School Board President Patricia O’Neill. She stated this week that, as long as she remains on the School Board, she will oppose surplusing the school facility at the intersection of Seven Locks Road and Bradley Boulevard in Bethesda, Maryland.

These statements represent a major change for the Superintendent and County School Board.

On March 22, 2004, Dr. Weast stunned the Seven Locks community and PTA when he said that the current Seven Locks School “would no longer be needed for school purposes.”

He asked the School Board to authorize MCPS staff to explore opportunities for leveraging the value of the Seven Locks site to help fund construction of the Seven Locks “replacement” school on nearby Kendale Road. The School Board approved a formal resolution to that effect in 2004.

Mindful of the potential for future policy changes, the Seven Locks community looks forward to working with the School Board and MCPS to ensure the continuing educational use of the current Seven Locks School and to maintain the surrounding recreation area for public use.

The Coalition has thus requested the opportunity to help identify a specific school use of the Seven Locks facility before the County’s final approval of the FY 2007 Capital Budget and FY 2007-2010 Capital Improvements Program in late Spring 2006.

Weast reverses self again - now says he's against surplusing Seven Locks

Montgomery County School Superintendent Jerry Weast has flip-flopped again on the Seven Locks Elementary School issue, with his office now saying that he opposes surplusing the school.

The Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) Public Information Office released the following staement from Weast: “There are no plans to surplus the current Seven Locks school site now and, during my tenure as superintendent of schools, I will not recommend any such surplusing of that school site.”

That still doesn't save the school itself, which the county has slated for "replacement" on Kendale Road.

[UPDATE: The Potomac Almanac covered this development in detail. Click here for the story.]

School Board President O'Neill pledges to oppose surplusing SLES

Montgomery County Board of Education President Patricia O'Neill has shifted her position and said in a recent oral statement that "as long as she remains on the School Board, she will oppose surplusing the school facility at the intersection of Seven Locks Road and Bradley Boulevard in Bethesda Maryland," according to the Seven Locks Coalition.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Kendale cost overruns could waste $10 million

The Seven Locks "replacement school" on Kendale Road "has been marred by cost overruns before even reaching construction," the Potomac Almanac reports.

Had the county stuck by its own plans - and community wishes - to expand the current Seven Locks Elementary School, it would have saved taxpayers $10 million, according to Ambassador Sandy Vogelgesang, head of the Save Seven Locks Coalition.

County construction official Jim Tokar remains silent on corruption questions

Jim Tokar, the Montgomery County Public Schools official responsible for the construction of the Seven Locks "replacement school" on Kendale Road, remains silent about questions concerning corruption.

PTA members asked Tokar and other officials repeatedly for their professional opinions, as well as facts, concerning the amount and nature of corruption in the construction of the Kendale Road project and other school projects in the county.

Tokar and other county officials have ignored the questions since last winter - with one exception, when another county official, Richard G. Hawes, publicly ridiculed the concerned parents.

Weast criticized for shutting down SLES in while 17,000 kids are in portables

Superintendent Jerry Weast took criticism from a prominent community leader for continuing his plan to shut down Seven Locks Elementary School while 17,000 county students are still stuck in portable classrooms.

Seven Locks has only one portable classroom, and the temporary building is used for special purposes.

Some are questioning Weast's professed concerns about cost-effectiveness, pointing to his favorable response to County Executive Doug Duncan's request to surplus school land for a high-density subsidized housing project he favors.

"Why is the superintendent saying he’s so concerned about having 17,000 students in portables when he’s still saying he’s planning to close a perfectly good school at Seven Locks?," says Save Seven Locks Coalition leader Sandy Vogelgesang in the Potomac Almanac.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

School board asked why it disregards PTA

The President of the Seven Locks Elementary School PTA questions why the Board of Education is proceeding with its plan to triple the size of the school in a different location, against the will of the PTA.

Testifying before the board on November 9, SLES PTA President Harlivleen Gill said that 11 months ago, the PTA voted by two-thirds to save the existing school, to oppose surplusing property on which a current public school exists, and to halt construction of a "replacement school" on Kendale Road.

She wondered why county leaders would force an expensive new school on a community that doesn't want it: "I just cannot understand why — disregarding our views as conscientious parents, educated voters, and concerned citizens — you choose to continue on the path building a replacement Seven Locks School to which both the Seven Locks PTA and the community at large are opposed?"

Her testimony appears in the following post.

PTA president reiterates opposition to Kendale project

[Note: The following is the testimony of the PTA President of Seven Locks Elementary School, in which she reiterates the PTA's long-standing opposition to the county's plan to shut down the school and build a replacement at a different site.]

FY07 Capital Budget and FY07-12 Capital Improvement Programs
For Montgomery County Public Schools

November 9, 2005


President Pat O’ Neill and members of the board

My name is Harlivleen Gill, and I am the President of the Seven Locks Elementary School PTA.

In my brief testimony tonight, I would like to once again state the position of our PTA on the building of a replacement school for Seven Locks Elementary School, and the potential surplusing of the school site.

On December 9, 2004, the Seven Locks PTA adopted a resolution on this matter by a more than two-thirds majority. We resolved that our PTA:

• Strongly supports keeping Seven Locks Elementary School open at the current site at the intersection of Seven Locks and Bradley Blvd. We value Seven Locks as our school, our main community center and the only large recreation space within walking distance for most of our families.

• Opposes plans to surplus property where there is an existing school.

• Urgently requests the County Board Of Education and County Council to halt action on a replacement school for Seven Locks and instead proceed with more cost effective, neighborhood friendly options that will expand and / or upgrade Seven Locks Elementary School.

Since the time of that resolution, construction costs have gone up by more than 20 percent. As parents, we expect our School Board to act in the best interests of our children. As voters, we expect our elected representatives to be prudent with scarce public money. As members of a local community, we would like our voices to be heard at least as much as those of the developers. I just cannot understand why —disregarding our views as conscientious parents, educated voters, and concerned citizens — you choose to continue on the path building a replacement Seven Locks School to which both the Seven Locks PTA and the community at large are opposed?

So I am very concerned about the decisions you have made regarding this aspect of the capital improvement plan. But I am equally concerned about the manner in which you have made these decisions. We expect the School Board to be impartial and transparent in its dealings with the community, and I am disappointed that it has been neither.

I am disturbed, but sadly less and less surprised, that this pattern continues with respect to the planned replacement school. Over the past few years community groups have advocated and won approval from the county council for the addition of sidewalks on Seven Locks Road. We now discover that there are no sidewalks planned for the replacement school, and many of the other measures needed for the safety of our children are not being taken. I am attaching a petition signed by dozens of people setting forth the concerns of our PTA.

Let me conclude by summarizing:

• We ask that you keep the school at its current site, and expand/upgrade in any manner or phasing that is fiscally convenient and academically least disruptive.

• We request that you use the savings—which is in millions of dollars—to address higher priority needs at other schools in the Churchill cluster in reducing gross over-utilization of portables and capacity issues than building a mega-school that we don't want.

Board told it's wasting 'millions' on 'ill-conceived' scheme 'without due process'

Another Seven Locks PTA leader tells the board of education that it is about to waste millions of dollars on what he calls its "ill-conceived" plan to close the existing school and open a new mega-school at Kendale.

Jay M. Weinstein, Parliamentarian of the Seven Locks PTA, testifies to the Montgomery board of education, "As should be apparent by the lopsided PTA vote and the continuing outcry from many citizens' associations, the vast majority of the community in the Seven Locks area does not support the new school at Kendale. Period, end of story.

"We believe that it is a waste of millions of dollars, ill-conceived, ill-designed and has been shoved down our throats without due process.

"Very little money has been actually spent on the project, and I urge the board to change its mind before more money is wasted."

County shutting down one of best-performing schools in Maryland

Montgomery County public education officials were shown that they have decided to shut down one of the best-performing elementary schools in the entire state of Maryland.

Seven Locks Elementary School PTA Parliamentarian Jay M. Weinstein eviscerated the county's repeated claims that the planned shut-down of the school and its replacement with the Kendale mega-school is in the best interests of the children.

Though he didn't say it, his testimony raised more questions about possible crooked deals between Montgomery County politicians and developers.

Weinstein presented the board with the following facts:

• In 4th grade MSA math testing, the number one school in the entire state of Maryland was Seven Locks Elementary.

• In the MSA Reading Scale Score Chart, 80 percent of the recently graduated 5th grade class scored "Advanced," the highest category. That compares with 40 percent in Montgomery County and 30 percent statewide.

• In the MSA Mathematics Scale Score Chart, 69 percent of Seven Locks fifth graders scored "Advanced," compared to 31 percent in Montgomery County and 17 percent statewide.

While crediting the children and the SLES principal and faculty, Weinstein says that one "cannot underestimate the value of the Seven Locks small school environment and the family atmosphere that nurtures the kids and makes the school work so well."

PTA officer: If county officials say Kendale project has local support, they're lying

In attempts to legitimize their shadowy effort to build the Kendale mega-school to replace Seven Locks, county officials have stated that the local community and parents want the project.

A Seven Locks PTA officer, testifying before the Montgomery County Board of Education, sets the record straight. Referring to several PTA votes condemning the county scheme, Seven Locks PTA Parliamentarian Jay M. Weinstein tells the board:

"Any statement or document that indicates that the community supports the new school is at best misleading, or at worst a simple lie."

Parent challenges Weast's unexplained flip-flop

Superintendent Jerry Weast has a lot of explaining to do about his mysterious flip-flop on Seven Locks.

At the February 23, 2004 Board of Education meeting, Weast said, "It is far more cost effective to add onto existing schools than to open additional schools when the amount of projected space is modest, as is the case in the Winston Churchill Cluster."

But as Seven Locks parent Frances Maane tells the board, Weast inexplicably flip-flopped: "less than one month later, in Dr. Weast’s Memorandum dated March 22, 2004, he stated that 'it is less expensive to build a new facility at a new site rather than phasing construction at an existing facility over a number of years.'"

She adds that Weast "then states, 'Once the Seven Locks Elementary School is relocated to the Kendale Road site, I believe the current site at the intersection of Seven Locks Road and Bradley Boulevard would no longer be needed for school purposes.'"

Weast had already agreed to County Executive Doug Duncan's request to support the surplusing of area school property, so that Duncan could have developers build high-density subsidized housing on the sites.

"Based upon Dr. Weast’s rationale, if a replacement school for Seven Locks is less expensive, then that line of reasoning should be applied to every school in the county, and all modernizations should cease," Mrs. Maane tells the school board.

"However, it is most cost effective to keep Seven Locks open, because it is already paid for and we need the classrooms! Seven Locks is a paid-for school that does not need to be replaced. You can’t have it both ways."

'Ulterior motives' seen in county school construction

Montgomery County officials say that they are trying to relieve overcrowding by eliminating Seven Locks Elementary School and building a replacement at Kendale.

However, as SLES parent Frances Maane tells the school board, under the county plan, the school system gains only 2 classrooms.

SLES, which is "bought and paid for," has 16 classrooms. The increasingly expensive Kendale "replacement school," according to the official blueprints and drawings, has 18 classrooms.

After raising these and other points, Mrs. Maane concludes, "Thus it begins to appear that there must be ulterior motives for replacing and surplusing Seven Locks, since all the above points indicate a need for the students to have the school at that location. We are thus lead to think the decision process has been less than 'transparent.'"

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Say it with T-shirts, teddy bears, magnets and notebooks

Seven Locks kids know the crooked deal - and they're saying it with T-shirts, buttons, teddy bears and totebags. Click on SaveOurSchools to get your "Save Our Schools" stuff! Posted by Hello

Civic activists to make issue of undue developer influence

Regardless of the magnitude of the Montgomery County illegal campaign finance scandal, the issue highlights the role of developers in influencing those with the power to re-zone property and destroy neighborhoods.

Seven Locks neighbors say they will make that issue - and the suspected corruption around it - a new focus of their campaign to save their neighborhood school. The PTA voted several times to oppose the Montgomery County school board's decision, at the request of County Executive Doug Duncan, to close down their school to make way for a county-sponsored subsidized housing project.

They are not alone.

"I think the issue of developers' influence is going to explode in the elections in Montgomery County next year, and our campaign finance laws have clearly failed to restrain that influence," former Common Cause executive director James Browning tells the Washington Post.

'Most' of developer's illegal money went to Duncan & county council

"Most of the money" a large Montgomery County developer illegally gave to state and local politicians "went to Montgomery County Council members and to the county executive and gubernatorial candidate, Douglas M. Duncan," the Washington Post reports.

"Both Duncan and the council have enormous influence over zoning and other land-use decisions," according to the Post.

"It's just another example of a development company contributing a significant amount of money to the campaign cofferes of candidates who influence land-use policy," said County Council member Phil Andrews (D).

Andrews is the only member of the County Council who does not accept contributions from developers.

County Council member Steve Silverman, whom the Post says "relies heavily on contributions from builders and developers," defends the developers in the article.

Silverman has been one of the principal advocates of the razing of Seven Locks Elementary School and replacing it with high-density subsidized housing.

List of County Council members taking money from illegal donor

A major developer gave most of its illegal campaign contributions to Montgomery County Council members and to County Executive Doug Duncan, according to the Washington Post.

Here is a list of the members who accepted campaign money from that company:

Steve Silverman (D-At Large);
Tom Perez, President (D-Silver Spring);
Howard A. Denis (R-Potomac-Bethesda - and remarkably useless in the Seven Locks battle);
Nancy Floreen (D-At Large);
Michael Knapp (D-Upcounty);
George L. Leventhal (D-At Large);
Michael L. Subin (D-At Large).

Not all the above necessarily accepted illegal contributions, and several, like Denis, received only token amounts.

Denis has this to say about the mini-scandal: "If they have gone over the limit, they will have to find some way to get under."

Denis was quiet about how he and his colleagues should find some way to avoid taking illegal campaign money.

Duncan worried that probe will drag through his campaign

County Executive Doug Duncan is concerned that the Clarksburg corruption investigation will drag through his campaign for Maryland governor next year.

Duncan is also concerned that three separate investigations could uncover corruption, and delay or derail some of his other favored construction projects.

That's what Duncan's spokesman, David Weaver, tells the Washington Times.

"Mr. Weaver said Mr. Duncan is eager to have the Clarksburg problems resolved. 'He is obviously concerned that this thing isn't moving quickly enough,' Mr. Weaver said."

Silverman: 'Any more Clarksburgs'?

"County Council member Steven Silverman, at-large Democrat, who is running to replace Mr. Duncan, pressed a zoning official Monday to determine hastily whether and where there are 'any more Clarksburgs.'" the Washington Times reports.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Duncan, after announcing his governor campaign, now blasts developers and county planners

Fresh on the campaign trail for governor, County Executive Doug Duncan sailed into fairer weather, assailing major building developers and his own county planners for the unfolding Clarksburg scandal.

In a tough-sounding statement quoted in the Gazette, Duncan foamed, "I refuse to let time stand still while hearings are held and reviews are conducted."

Weast says he underestimated construction budget by $239 million

Announcing a six-year, $1.7 billion school construction budget, school Superintendent Jerry Weast said his previous proposed budget was off by $239 million.

He took no responsibility, casting blame on the rising cost of construction materials.

According to the Gazette, Weast says he is asking for the taxpayers to make up the difference in his new budget.

The budget includes schools that the local communities don't even want, such as the Seven Locks "replacement" school on Kendale Road in Potomac. The Seven Locks PTA has repeatedly voted against the plan of Weast and the county school board to build the new school, saying it would be much easier and far cheaper simply to expand the existing building.