Friday, September 28, 2007

Van Hollen: Congress Delivers Largest Increase in College Assistance Since The GI Bill in 1944

Chris Van Hollen on the new education law:

“Every year, some 200,000 students do not go to college in America solely because they cannot afford the cost. Help is on the way.

“Last week, the 110th Congress fulfilled its election-year promise and sent to the President’s desk legislation that will help millions of students and families pay for college by reducing the cost of student loans and increasing Pell grants. This was done at no new cost to the taxpayer by reducing subsidies to banks and other lenders. I was proud to be a co-sponsor of this vital bill, which the President signed today.

“This new investment in college financial assistance is critically important. In today’s economy, a college education is as important as a high school diploma was a generation ago. Yet college costs have grown nearly 40 percent in the last 5 years and the federal investment in education has not met the need. From 2001 to 2006, the maximum Pell grant increased by only $300, or 8 percent - frozen by the Republican-led Congress at just $4,050 for the last four years. As a result, students and their families have had to take out more loans, accumulated more debt, and, in many cases, forgo a college education altogether because the costs are too great.

“This new law will increase the maximum Pell grant by $490 in just one year, and by $1,090 over the next 5 years. This will restore the purchasing power of the Pell grant and make it easier for the 5.5 million students who receive these grants to afford college. The bill will also cut the interest rates in half on new need-based federal student loans, from 6.8 percent to 3.4 percent over the next four years, slowing the accumulation of debt and saving the typical student borrower – with $13,800 in need-based student loan debt - $4,400 over the life of the loan. And as students repay, they will never have to spend more than 15 percent of their yearly discretionary income on loan payments. Young people should not have to choose between paying their rent and paying off their loans.

“The new law will also provide assistance to those who choose critical jobs in public service by offering loan forgiveness after 10 years of service to military service members, first responders, law enforcement officers, firefighters, nurses, public defenders, prosecutors, early childhood educators, librarians, and others. It encourages young people to become teachers by providing up-front tuition assistance for undergraduate students who commit to teaching in high-poverty communities or high-need subject areas.

“My constituents in Maryland – where almost 50,000 students take out need-based loans to attend public colleges and on average graduate with over $14,000 in debt - will see tangible results from this law. Over the next 5 years, Maryland students, including the nearly 70,000 who receive Pell grants, will receive over $370 million in loans and assistance.

“Today, we’re going to help open the door to college to ensure the best possible future for our young people. We’re going to harness the ability and ambition of our best and brightest and encourage them to enter public service. And we’re going to help students afford advanced degrees, so the United States will remain on the forefront of innovation and discovery in a competitive global economy. We made that promise to the American people last November, and today we are seeing it through.”


Thursday, September 13, 2007


I am off to Uzbekistan so I am going to have to watch Maryland Politics from afar until the 27th. Blogging on Maryland may be a bit light though I hope to fill you in on Tashkent soon.


On Reforming the Process for Filling Vacancies in the General Assembly

In a post from just over a year ago, I pointed out that the obscure Democratic Central Committee was a rather powerful group of people. Recently, the Montgomery County Central Committee selected a new senator in District 39 and two new delegates in Districts 16 and 39, and there has been a lot of buzz surrounding the process for filling vacancies for the General Assembly. Some are outraged at the process and the decisions and calling for special elections to fill vacancies.

A special election would be a good reform if it were implemented sensibly. Appointments made by the Central Committee should only last until the next scheduled regular general election for either the General Assembly or for Congress. Under this scenario, the recent spate of appointments made by the Central Committee would only last until 2008 instead of a full three years.

Holding special elections immediately would be a mistake. As I outlined awhile back, participation in the Democratic primary--the key election in most races in Montgomery County--is only around 20 percent of the electorate even in years, like 2002, where interest in General Assembly races is relatively high. It would be much lower if only one state legislative race were on the ballot so the quality of the democracy touted by advocates of special elections would be relatively low.

Moreover, the County Board of Elections would somehow have to find a way to staff polling places for first the primary and then the general election--a very tough task even in regular election years. It would also be expensive to hold these special elections. If a delegate won election to the Senate, the Board would even have to go through the whole cycle twice with two sets of low turnout special primary and general elections.

Having the special election in conjunction with the presidential election would not eliminate appointed senators and delegates but would at least cut down on their length of service as appointees and allow for more immediate involvement by voters. Moreover, these special elections would probably have even higher turnout than the regular elections for the General Assembly as turnout in presidential election years in even higher.

The Central Committee should also work on reforming the process of selecting appointed members of the General Assembly. The meetings should surely be held in halls big enough to accommodate the candidate, their supporters, and anyone who wishes to watch. The interview should also probably go beyond opening and closing statements and include questions from members of the Central Committee.

Other aspects of the process should also be discussed. Should members of the Central Committee be able to vote for themselves or participate on the Committee while they are a candidate for an appointment? One tends to think not except that this has been part of the process for a long time in Maryland. Kirill Reznick is hardly the first member of the Central Committee to cast a vote for himself. Nevertheless, it seems time for a debate about whether we should allow this to continue.

This sort of process is (regrettably?) common in Maryland. Treasurer Nancy Kopp presumably had the right to vote on her election to that office since she was a delegate when first elected. Members of the General Assembly are also often chosen as judges. In some cases, these are real bloopers (google Judge Palumbo to see what I mean). However, Kopp was an excellent choice as treasurer. I can easily imagine Jeff Waldstreicher being a judge someday. His service as a delegate in District 18 should not disqualify him.

Serious consideration should also be given to requiring members of the Central Committee to cast their votes openly. Our legislators have to take open positions as elected representatives, though their committee and delegation votes often remain obscure. Perhaps members of the Central Committee should have to vote openly as well.

One final note: the choices for delegate the other day are not as strange as some suggest and let's not forget that the Central Committee was, after all, performing exactly the role which they were elected to do. I know little about District 39 but Kirill Reznick's presence on the Central Committee indicates not just a conflict of interest but that he was not an unknown. In District 16, Reggie Oldak's strong fourth-place showing in 2006 garnered her a lot of support but my guess is that others (e.g. the incumbents) were unhappy that she challenged the incumbents.

Moreover, the attacks by supporters of the two perceived frontrunners Don Mooers and Reggie Oldak, even if quite mild (e.g. see the comment earlier on the blog), may have hurt both candidates as it often does and tempted the Central Committee to look for an alternative. The choice of Frick was a surprise to me but he has apparently been active in his district's Democratic club and a less shocking a choice than some thought.

Of course, no one has to approve of the choice of the Central Committee and the voters will have a chance to express their votes, though unfortunately not until 2010. I would not be surprised to see a more contested primary than usual in District 16. Reggie Oldak built a lot of name recognition in her last bid and it will be interesting to see if she makes another go for it.


Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Steele for DC

Yesterday, Michael Steele joined former Republican Rep. J.C. Watts in advocating for D.C. voting rights in an opinion piece in the Washington Times. The bill, drafted by Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA) and sponsored by Joe Lieberman (I-CT) in the Senate, would give one seat to DC and one at-large seat to Utah, thus preserving the partisan balance even while finally giving the nation's capital real representation in the House. Utah would have received the 436th seat in 2000 according to the Census.

Republicans refused to bring up the bill for a vote in the previous Congress but Speaker Pelosi brought it up for a vote and the House has passed it. The Senate should pass it and President Bush should sign it. It's a good bill and it's long overdue.


Who The Frick Is Bill???

Otto Von Bismarck was once said to retort that there are two things you should never being made: sausages and legislation. Well you can add closed ballot elections of the MoCo Democratic Central Committee to that list. In the strangest set of circumstances I had seen in almost thirty years of observing elections, Bill Frick was selected the new Delegate from District 16 (Bethesda and Chevy Chase) to replace the ailing Marilyn Goldwater on the very first ballot. Goldwater stepped down less than one year after she pledged to finish her entire four year term.

Ho hum you say. Sure but as one veteran political observer mentioned to me last night that if they had a pool of who was going to win and in what round no one would have guess Bill Frick in the first round. The money collect could have been used to completely cover the capital campaign that the Central Committee is embarking on to upgrade its equipment.

Otto where are you when we need you.

The eleven candidates spent time and money wooing the 23 members of the MoCo Central Committee for the past month. It had several very worthy candidates. And most insiders were assuming that the selection would be either long time party activist Don Mooers or Regina "Reggie" Oldak who came in forth in a three person race last September. But someone tell me who had Frick in first???

Probably it is best summed up by another political observer when Jane Lawton beat two veteran party insiders in same format in 2005, "they seem to like the person the know the least." Then again that idea went out in the final vote of the night so Otto was right on the mark.....

If there was one universal comment from the now apparent Frick bandwagon "he is a great speaker and a charming young man." I would not know about being a great speaker as I was not allowed in the room when he spoke (they went alpha order). By candidate six I was in the back back room cranking my neck to see everyone.

Ok here is the blow by blow -- assuming you are still reading this far down -- the Central Committee had three times as many people as they had seats for everyone considering that they had four vacancies to fill (two on the Board of Elections, one for District 16 and one for District 39). Just like last month everything could have ended unceremoniously if the local Fire Department saw the overcrowding.

Things that need to change
Why would the Central Committee expose itself to horrible PR and egg on its face because they don't want to spend the ducats to get a room that could hold everyone??? I guess democracy (small "d") went out the window when the big "D"s gather.

So the Central Committee would only allow in the room if you were a member of the Central Committee, an elected official, the candidates and when your candidate was speaking they got to bring in 5 people. So everyday folks who wanted to see the proceedings were thrust out. Not very democratic for the Democratic Party. All I will say is if the BOE (Board of Elections) treated the party observers the way the Central Committee treated the attendees they would have raced to the courthouse to stop it. What is good the goose is good for the gander. Strike one for the Central Committee.

No Q&A just opening/ closing statements
Next because the list of District 16 candidates totaled eleven by the time everyone had their five minutes for an opening statements no one wanted to ask a question because then they would be subjected to eleven answers to parse through. Tell me that there is better way to elect our representatives to Annapolis. Strike two.

Things Leading up the vote
So one hour of candidates giving opening (and closing) statements, followed by zero questions in a room of the connected with outsiders on the outside, we get the first vote. If no one gets a majority on the first ballot then they drop off the lowest people until someone gets a majority. So with eleven running and 23 total votes you knew that some of the candidates would be shutout. But who had seven with goose eggs?

Closed Ballots have got to go
Finally, all of the members of the Democratic (and Republican) Central Committee are elected by the members of their party. So as a public official you have to make tough choices. But how would the public react if our elected officials voted on high profile issues such as the war in Iraq via closed ballot?? You are right -- zero. So why does the Central Committee get to have a closed ballot of the most important vote they will ever make? Why the answer is obvious -- they don't want to let everyone know who they really voted for? Tell me you like that in your elected officials. We know what US Senators voted for John Roberts as Chief Justice and I think that is a bit more important than which person is sent to Annapolis as Delegate. Strike three for democracy among the Democrats of the Montgomery County Central Committee.

There was no democracy among the Democrats
Strike four would be to allow this format to continue. It is not that the Central Committee is a collection of bad people. I know most of them. And I like them. I love politics (why else would I force my way into a crowded room to see this stuff). But why not open up the process? Where is the transparency? Where is the democracy among the Democrats? If you don't want to have people know exactly where you stand on the issues then don't run for public office; and the Central Committee members are publicly elected every four years (last done September 2006). Stand up. Be counted. Let us know who you voted for.

I am sure that Bill Frick will do a great job as will Kirill Reznik (who won the final vote of the night on the first ballot over Hugh Bailey by a 12 to 11 with Reznik voting as a member of the Central Committee). I also like previous winners of this process (read Jane Lawton and Susan Lee) but still this is a poor way to run a railroad -- or elect our officials. The system needs to change.

We need a room big enough to hold everyone. We need those voters (the Central Committee) to at least ask questions of the candidates. Does not matter if you asked them in private; again elected officials have mark-ups and hearings on things that they have already decided their position. We more transparency. We need democracy in our elections. The Central Committee needs to be more democratic (small "d") or it should get out of the business of selecting our officials. Of the 32 members of the MoCo Delegation now five of them have gotten elected the first time to their seat via the MoCo Democratic Central Committee.

It is the 21st Century. We can do better.


And the Winner in District 16 is . . .

Bill Frick. According to what I've heard, Bill Frick received 12 votes to 6 for Don Mooers, 4 for Reggie Oldak, and 1 for Chuck Butler. Delegate Frick now has three years to establish himself as an incumbent. However, it will be interesting to see if the primary in 2010 was more heated than in 2006 due to the level of interest in the seat. The Central Committee has now selected two of the three delegates in District 16.


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Help the Families of Wounded Service Members

Got some extra frequent flyer miles you can't use? Maryland Representative Dutch Ruppersberger created hero miles, a program that gives the family members of wounded troops free plane tickets to visit their loved ones who are recovering in military hospitals.


Van Hollen on Petraeus

“The testimony by General David Petreaus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker today offered no new information from what the Bush Administration has put forward in recent weeks. The whole purpose of the so-called ‘surge’ was to create political space to enable the Iraqi government to undertake political reconciliation. The GAO report on Iraq released last week underscored that this not happened, with Iraq only meeting one of eight legislative benchmarks. And in the assessment of our intelligence community, as enunciated in the declassified NIE of August 2007, the Iraqi government will become more precarious over the next six to twelve months. Our brave American service men and women are sacrificing daily for a policy that has no end in sight. A policy of ‘more of the same’ is no strategic vision, strains our military to the breaking point, and enables Iraqi leaders to dither endlessly instead of reaching a political consensus over the future of their country.”


Budget Forum Impressions

Last night's budget forum at the Kensington Town Hall was well attended by local activists as well as a number of local elected officials. One could also not fail to impressed by the number of citizens who took time to learn more about the budget crisis and to take their hand at trying to solve it. Many thanks to Dee Schofield of the District 18 Democratic Caucus who worked hard to put the forum together and to Sen. Rich Madaleno and Secretary Eloise Foster who walked us through the budget maze. Here are some quick and dirty impressions from the forum:

Elected Officials: In addition to Sen. Rich Madaleno on the podium, all three delegates from District 18, Jane Lawton, Ana Sol Gutierrez, and Jeff Waldstreicher, were there. Councilwomen Duchy Trachtenberg and Nancy Floreen listened closely and booed amusingly when the issue of cutting aid to the counties, especially for teacher retirement, was mentioned. The senior assistant to Executive Ike Leggett didn't look too thrilled by that idea either. Sen. Mike Lennet and Councilman Marc Elrich also came to the forum. Kensington Mayor Pete Fosselman and Town Councilman Al Carr were there to graciously welcome everyone to their Town.

The Budget and MoCo's Legislators: The budget is going to place our legislative delegation in a tough bind. Do they stand firm and oppose slots like their constituents even though this is the revenue raiser least likely to impact Montgomery? Do they oppose tax increases which will fall disproportionately on county residents? If the governor threatens to slash support for teach retirement or some other program dear to the heart of Montgomery, does the delegation see his bluff and dare him to cut funding for teachers in the state's largest county which provided a motherload of votes for him? Let's hope that our county and legislative leaders are strategizing hard to have a plan when the budget finally comes up.

Eloise Foster is someone I had not met before getting involved with the budget forum. However, one quickly sees why three governors have trusted her on budget issues and two of them have appointed her as budget secretary. She is smart, knowledgeable, and discreet yet also does a good job of outlining and defending the basic approach and priorities of the administration.

Blair Lee is a Democrat who drives many progressives up the wall because his columns seem way too supportive of conservatives. After the forum, I heard him commenting eloquently and sharply on the current budget crisis. A fierce defender of Montgomery's interests, he knows the issues well and would be a worthy adversary in any debate on the topic. We can expect him to advocate vocally against more taxes unless Montgomery's legislative leaders bring home something bring for the County--and it better not be something we already have or were promised in his eyes.

Immigration. The anti-immigration posse were handing out flyers to everyone entering the Kensington Armory and were under the delusion that denying services to illegal immigrants would save Maryland $300 million. Not only would it would be illegal to deny many services, including schools and emergency health care, it would also be extremely shortsighted even from a selfish perspective. Keeping kids out of school seems like a great idea if you want to increase crime and create a class of people who have no skills, no attachment to this country, and only a poor command of the language. The irony is that most illegal immigrants go to great lengths to avoid government because they don't want to be sent home so they are actually less likely to use government services.

District 16: Tonight, the Montgomery County Central Committee will choose a successor to Del. Marilyn Goldwater. Reggie Oldak and Don Mooers, both considered strong candidates, were at the forum, as was at least one member of the central committee--District 18's Vic Weissberg. Dana Beyer, a former candidate for delegate in District 18 and now an aid to Councilwoman Duchy Trachtenberg, was arguing hard for Reggie Oldak. Oldak came in a strong fourth in last year's Democratic primary. Others tell me that Mooers may have the edge. We'll just have to wait and see what the central committee decides.


Monday, September 10, 2007

Budget Forum Tonight

Governor Martin O'Malley's Budget Secretary Eloise Foster and District 18 Senator Richard Madaleno will lead a public forum on Maryland's budget shortfall on Monday, September 10, at 7:30 p.m. in the Kensington Town Hall (the Armory).

Foster also served as budget secretary under Gov. Parris Glendening, and Madaleno previously served as lobbyist on Montgomery County budget matters for former County Executive Doug Duncan. American University Government Professor David Lublin will also serve as a panel member.

The panel will explain the budget process and discuss the pros and cons of different ways to bring the FY08 budget into balance. Charles Duffy of Political Pulse will moderate.

Audience members will have the chance to fill out a budget worksheet and try to balance the budget by selecting from among various expenditure cuts and revenue increases. The current projected shortfall for FY08 is $1.5 billion.

"We plan to give the audience the same kinds of options the Governor and General Assembly will be considering." said Madaleno. "We want this to be a realistic exercise. It's a chance for citizens to learn about the budget process and to participate in finding a solution."

Event organizers are asking those who attend to bring their calculators, said Duffy. Their completed budget worksheets will be collected, and the results tallied and released after the event.

The budget forum is sponsored by the District 18 Democratic Caucus, the Greater Silver Spring Democratic Club, and PREZCO. The event is free and is open to everyone.


Friday, September 07, 2007

O'Malley Ponders

O'Malley keeps giving us clues as to how he intends to balance the budget. Interestingly, the major papers report somewhat different tidbits to their readers. Today, the Baltimore Sun let us know that O'Malley expects the State to raise and to broaden the sales tax:

O'Malley has been talking for months about the need to modernize Maryland's tax code to make it "inclusive and fair." He has yet to offer a specific proposal, but he said yesterday that based on discussions with legislative leaders, an expansion and increase in the sales tax will likely be a part of the final compromise. Maryland's sales tax, designed when the state's economy was dominated by manufacturing, does not tax most services, such as shoe repair, haircuts and advertising.
Meanwhile the Gazette says no special session if legislative leaders cannot reach consensus by September 30:
‘‘The clock is ticking. The lieutenant governor and I already have a pretty good working idea of the number of steps that will be required to close this huge gap we inherited and hopefully we’ll have leadership consensus by [the end of] September,” O’Malley (D) said in his strongest comments to date.
The Washington Post warns us that O'Malley may not fully fund the Thornton Plan for continued increases in education spending:

During a radio interview, O'Malley questioned whether it would be "prudent" to include the full amount in the fiscal 2009 budget that he is required to submit to lawmakers by January.

"Whether we're able to do the sort of inflationary kicker at the degree to which it was originally locked in five years ago . . . remains to be seen," O'Malley said on "The Marc Steiner Show" on Baltimore's WYPR (88.1 FM). "I'm not sure it would be prudent to do that, given the $580 million that just came in. But that, again, is something that has to be worked out with the General Assembly and leaders there."

O'Malley later told reporters that the state might consider capping future funding increases at a percentage less than dictated by the formula or holding off on increases until the state budget crisis is solved


Wednesday, September 05, 2007

On Political Pulse

Congressman Chris Van Hollen (Democrat, MD's 8th District) will be on the Political Pulse TV Show in Montgomery County on Thursday, September 6th at 9:00 p.m., Tuesday, September 11th at 9:30 p.m. and Thursday, September 13th at 9:00 p.m.

Topics that will be discussed include:

1. Congressman Van Hollen's views as the Chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC);

2. His views on the Iraq War; and

3. His legislative initiatives, including the recently-passed Farm Bill which includes a substantial amount of money to help clean-up the Chesapeake Bay.

On Tuesday, September 18th at 9:30, David Wolf, President of CareFirst Blue Cross Blue Shield, and Jim Lowthers, President of UFCW Local 400, will appear on the "Political Pulse" TV Show to debate Healthcare in America. Special thanks to the Industry Advisory Council (IAC) Health IT Subcommittee (Co-chairs Joyce Hunter - Apptis Inc. and Sandra Davis - Vangent Inc.) for helping to put this debate together.


Election Judges Needed

Election Judges Needed for the 2008 Primary and General Elections!

The Montgomery County Board of Elections is looking for registered voters, 18 years or older by Election Day, to work in the polls as Election Judges. Training is provided and Election Judges receive a stipend for attending training, attending a pre-election meeting at their polling place and working on Election Day.

Election Dates:

Presidential Primary - February 12, 2008 General - November 4, 2008

If you are interested please call or email:

240-777-8500 or

240-777-8570 or (Democrats)


Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Bethesda Metro Center Redevelopment

There will soon be a meeting to outline the latest plans to redevelop Bethesda Metro Center:

The Western Montgomery County Citizens Advisory Board – Land Use Committee will meet on Monday, September 10 at 7:00pm. The meeting will be held at the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center, 4805 Edgemoor Lane, Bethesda.

The Meridian Group will present a project plan amendment to redevelop the food court portion of the Bethesda Metro Center property (the 3-story portion of the office building) with an office building including ground-floor retail/restaurant uses. The proposed project also includes improvements to the outdoor plaza and to the bus station area below the plaza.

This Land Use Committee meeting is an informational session that is open to the public. The purpose of the meeting is to inform the committee members and any public attendee about prospective development projects. The Western Montgomery County Citizens Advisory Board, as an advisory board to the County Executive and County Council, does not take a position on any particular development project.

If you have questions or need additional information, please call or email Karen Thon.

Her phone number is 240-777-8210.

Her email address is .

The Citizens Advisory Board may not take a position but the notice is interesting as much for what it doesn't mention as what it does. The notice talks about "improvements" but doesn't state that the project would take up quite a bit of the existing public-use space to put in this massive building. The proposed office building would have 16 stories above ground (plus about two more for the roof) and 5 stories below the plaza for parking in addition to the bus terminal.

The existing plaza is less than ideal. At the same time, I can't quite see how the addition of a new glass tower is somehow going to make the space more inviting. It certainly lacks any aspect of the human scale which has made Bethesda Row work. I can't attend this meeting but I am hoping that people ask some good, hard questions about the exterior plan for this project.

Another area to explore is the nature of the public amenity. In order to qualify for optional-method development, developers have to provide an appropriate public amenity. In this case, the developers are taking away the plaza--the existing public amenity. One wonders if the proposal really compensates for this loss and provides a new amenity on top of it to justify allowing construction of this new building.

The notice mentions that they will improve the bus terminal and the plaza. However, they are taking a huge bite out of the plaza to put in the building. Moreover, construction will tear it up so much that they would need to rework it anyway. Presumably, it is to the builder's advantage to make the exterior around their building nice. The Planning Board will need to see if the proposal even comes close to compensating for the loss of open space let alone meeting the requirements for optional-method development.

More questions for the developers:

Where will all the buses and metro passengers go during construction? Or are they leaving this until the project has been approved even though the inconvenience may last for years during the construction of the building? Will the project overlap with other nearby projects (Lot 31, Woodmont East, Hampden La.)? Remember that no public plan has yet to be released for how to deal with the proposed two-year closure of Woodmont Ave. on the Lot 31 project which is far more advanced in the approval process.

What will the impact on traffic be of creating a new office tower in the center of Bethesda. It would be nice to think that everyone will ride Metro but clearly that is not realistic or even part of the plan since they are building a five-story parking garage. Wisconsin Ave. is already jam packed during rush hour. Is the parking garage sufficient to meet the demand of the building? Or will the workers spill over into nearby already overcrowded public lots?

I'm not an expert on these and other question. However, apparently neither are the developers. Their previous proposal for a condo building was already shot down. Will their proposal for a new office tower fare any better? Should it?

You can take a peek at what the developer has submitted to the Planning Board yourself by navigating through their website:

Go to
Click on planning department under Montgomery (not Prince George's) on the left side
Click on development in the reddish "What's going on" box
A new browser window will open, click on next in that window
Enter project number of 91992004B
Click on search for related plans and reports
Click on "select all" and then click on "search"


Bethesda Circulator Problems

The Bethesda 8 has recently been renamed the Bethesda Circulator. However, this valuable, free service run by the Bethesda Urban Partnership (BUP), has a few problems:

1. Not on time. The buses are supposed to run about every eight minutes but they frequently get bunched up and it isn't uncommon to wait 15 minutes. If you really want people to ride the bus from one part of Bethesda to another, the service needs to be more reliable.

2. Buses not clearly labeled. In the past, one of the buses was dressed up like a trolley while the other was frequently an ordinary Ride-On bus. While one of the buses still looks like a trolley, the other doesn't look like a public bus and has only two small signs on 8.5 x 11 inch paper indicating that it is the Bethesda Circulator. The leather seats in this bus are very comfortable and the driver was a very friendly woman on the day I rode it. However, you need to know it's a bus in order to ride it.

3. Stops not clearly labeled. The whimsical benches dot Bethesda but many stops lack any other sign that it is supposed to be a bus stop. BUP, which is funded by the public through a share of revenue from Bethesda parking meters, is reluctant to fork out funds for new signs. Not a smart decision on where to cut the budget to say the least.


O'Malley Seeks Budget Consensus

It may not be peace in our time but consensus on the budget between the Governor, the Speaker, and the Senate President may still be overly ambitious.