Archive: Michael Laris

Posted at 8:09 PM ET, 11/12/2009

Fillmore deal done, Montgomery officials say

After months of wrangling on the details, a deal has finally been reached on building a Fillmore Music Hall in downtown Silver Spring, Montgomery County officials said Thursday night.

The Lee Development Group, which has development ambitions in the area, will give Montgomery the $3.5 million property needed for the venue, which will be run by the entertainment concern Live Nation. The site will keep the J.C. Penney fa├žade.

Maryland and Montgomery will each kick in $4 million to help pay for the hall, which the county will own. Officials said the state and county will get $1 million a year worth of direct and indirect financial benefits from taxes and rent from the project, and will have to pay about $355,000 annually to cover its borrowing.

Boosters said adding music gigs just across the street from the AFI Silver Theater will make the Colesville Road-area a potent entertainment draw. More on the fine print of the agreement when we see the details.

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Posted at 1:58 PM ET, 11/ 6/2009

O'Malley emergency order allows paramedics to give swine vaccine

Gov. Martin O'Malley issued an emergency order Friday to help speed immunizations once more swine flu vaccine is available in Maryland.

The order allows paramedics, emergency medical technicians, and cardiac rescue personnel to give shots to the general public. Before, they could give them to each other under some circumstances.

The emergency order is essentially a bureaucratic necessity and isn't as alarming as it might sound. Maryland and other communities are ramping up for what they hope will be plentiful supplies of vaccine later this month.

They don't want long lines because of scant supplies to be replaced by long lines because there aren't enough people to give shots.

The order also gives Maryland's Secretary of Health and Mental Hygiene, John M. Colmers, the power to add "additional categories of health care providers" to the list of those who can vaccinate.

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Posted at 8:53 AM ET, 11/ 3/2009

With labor talks underway, Andrews calls for pay freeze in Montgomery

Montgomery Council President Phil Andrews warned Monday that the ballooning county budget deficit - it's now hit at least $400 million, given rollbacks in expected tax revenues - will require an across-the-board salary freeze next year.

"All the alternatives to a pay freeze are worse. They are worse for the employees and they are worse for the public," Andrews said, adding that it's the only way to "avoid draconian cuts in services, layoffs and tax increases" in an already tough economy.

There's no accident to his timing: labor talks are underway between the county administration and public employee unions.

"I think it's important that that message is made clear at this point, so the parties in the collective bargaining agreements are under no illusions about what is affordable," Andrews said.

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Posted at 3:37 PM ET, 10/29/2009

Montgomery's Leggett proposes mid-year budget cuts

Schools, libraries, police and a host of Montgomery County departments would get a mid-year budget trim under a $30 million cost-cutting plan being proposed by county executive Ike Leggett.

But that would just be a small down payment on the far-reaching cuts needed to close next year's budget gap, which Leggett projected at nearly $370 million.

And Leggett said that big number could get bigger still. Next year's shortfall "may significantly worsen in the near future because of continued revenue deterioration and the very real potential for further and substantive reductions in State Aid," Leggett wrote to the county council, which can approve them, wait, or come up with new ones.

Among the proposed reductions: police would roll back its 2010 recruiting class from 47 to 36 officers, library materials would be cut by more than a million dollars, and public schools would take a $9.7 million hit.

For the full list of the proposed cuts, click here.

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Posted at 7:42 AM ET, 10/22/2009

Free speech returns to Montgomery and Prince George's parks

The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission has indefinitely suspended a series of rules slammed as unconstitutional by the ACLU. They've also agreed to work together on permanent revisions to the regulations.

Park police will no longer stop someone for holding a campaign sign without a permit, as happened to a volunteer campaigning with Montgomery GOP candidate Robin Ficker on the Fourth of July. The park rule makers also dropped permit requirements for collecting signatures and conducting interviews.

Click here for a copy of the suspension order.

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ACLU Goes After Speech Limits in Montgomery, Prince George's

The American Civil Liberties Union on Monday demanded that officials who govern parks in Montgomery and Prince George's counties junk rules restricting free speech. The rules require a permit to carry signs or solicit signatures, according to the ACLU. "In...

By Michael Laris | October 12, 2009; 01:44 PM ET | Comments (1)

Swine Flu Close to Home for Rep. Van Hollen

The swine flu vaccine being injected in a succession of nostrils Friday in Silver Spring came too late for Rep. Chris Van Hollen's 13-year-old son. "He's flat on his back at home," said the Maryland Democrat as dozens of Montgomery...

By Michael Laris | October 9, 2009; 03:25 PM ET | Comments (0)

Can Montgomery become Cambridge or San Diego?

A county council member Wednesday afternoon joined a burgeoning local government effort to try to answer that question. Council member Michael Knapp, a former congressional aide and biotech executive, called for a broad-based program to expand research jobs in the...

By Michael Laris | September 30, 2009; 04:46 PM ET | Comments (1)

Budget Pain Coming in Montgomery: Raises, Reserves Being Examined

Montgomery County is facing a $364 million budget shortfall next year. That big number got some additional head-shaking context Tuesday: Even after a series of theoretical cuts (which would still need to be negotiated with public employees unions) the county...

By Michael Laris | September 30, 2009; 10:00 AM ET | Comments (2)

Clicking Away in Montgomery As Md. Opens Up To Speed Cameras

There's nothing like a speed camera to get drivers hot. Some residents like them - at least on their own quiet streets. But they also loathe them - at least when they get nabbed commuting. There's also the back and...

By Michael Laris | September 29, 2009; 06:01 PM ET | Comments (2)

Health Studies Proposed For Montgomery Roads

A majority on the Montgomery County council Tuesday launched an effort to require health impact studies before major roads are built or improved. Sponsor Duchy Trachtenberg (D-At Large) said a proposed road known as the Midcounty Corridor, which would run...

By Michael Laris | September 29, 2009; 03:52 PM ET | Comments (0)

Biden Talks Up Health Reform With Montgomery Seniors

Vice President Joseph Biden arrived late to a meeting with more than t200 seniors in Silver Spring Wednesday and asked them to sign a note to his 92-year-old mother so she wouldn't scold him for his tardiness. Biden came to...

By Michael Laris | September 23, 2009; 06:10 PM ET | Comments (0)

Montgomery Council Reverses Course On Land Purchase

We noted last week the dance between Ike Leggett and the county council over plans for a science city near Johns Hopkins' Montgomery campus. The particular point of contention was what to do about a stretch of land near Montgomery...

By Michael Laris | September 22, 2009; 05:58 PM ET | Comments (1)

How Some Would Save $1 Million in Montgomery

Here's an idea for how to fix Montgomery County's troubled tuition assistance program for county employees: Get rid of it, at least for next year. That was the idea floated Monday by Montgomery County Council President Phil Andrews. The program...

By Michael Laris | September 14, 2009; 04:52 PM ET | Comments (2)

GEICO Dispute Crawls On, Draws In Navarro As Council Returns

The chanting procession by 16 purple-clad demonstrators during Thursday's evening rush on Wisconsin Avenue marked the latest beat in the running conflict between Chevy Chase-based insurer GEICO and the Service Employees International Union. Representatives from the SEIU local 32BJ, which...

By Michael Laris | September 14, 2009; 09:00 AM ET | Comments (3)

One Sharp-Edged Speech, Two Views From Maryland

Sen. Ben Cardin (D) saw a clear-eyed president giving it straight. If it makes some people squirm, so be it. "I was proud the President called it like it was and I'm sure there were some people who were uncomfortable...

By Michael Laris | September 10, 2009; 07:45 AM ET | Comments (0)

A Final Fruit Fight Item: Turning The Other Cheek On Montgomery's Roadside Stands

Just in time for the Labor Day roadside rush, Maryland's State Highway Administration reached an agreement Thursday with Montgomery County activist Robin Ficker over his son's disputed fruit and vegetable stand. Ed Harris, counsel to the highway administration, said the...

By Michael Laris | September 4, 2009; 06:00 PM ET | Comments (2)

Van Hollen Talks Health Care at Leisure World

There were no disruptions or wild bouts of yelling Friday when Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D) met with more than 250 constituents in a chandeliered ballroom at Leisure World of Maryland in Silver Spring. "Please be civil," one of the...

By Michael Laris | August 31, 2009; 10:30 AM ET | Comments (2)

Fruit Detente In Montgomery?

Ah, the Montgomery County fruit and veggie wars may be coming to an end. Robin Ficker, whose son Rob's fruit stand has been at the center of a dispute over equal treatment, said today that a judge has instructed him...

By Michael Laris | August 28, 2009; 06:21 PM ET | Comments (5)

End-of-Life Politics: The View From A Hospice

For people who have spent years wrestling with the emotional complexities of caring for the dying in Maryland, the recent spasm of angry, hyper-charged debate over end-of-life issues and health-care reform has been cause for some major head shaking. Ann...

By Michael Laris | August 19, 2009; 05:52 PM ET | Comments (0)

You're Up: Marylanders Take a Swing at Shrinking Government

Gov. Martin O'Malley asked for ideas on how to cut hundreds of millions from Maryland's budget. What will be done with them? Officials released 351 pages worth of the suggestions this afternoon. Among them: "purchase a bankrupt hotel or motel...

By Michael Laris | August 14, 2009; 01:40 PM ET | Comments (2)

About the Writers: Michael Laris

Mike Laris came to Maryland by way of Los Angeles, Palo Alto, Beijing and various stops around Northern Virginia and the District. He's written for The Post about everything from a part-time barber who racked up a $21,000 bill for...

By Christopher Dean Hopkins | July 1, 2009; 07:46 PM ET | Comments (0)


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