Civic Federation

Civic Federation (62)

The rat-with-antlers problem

mccivicfedOn February 12, 2012 the Civic Federation passed the following resolution:


Whereas the Deer Management Work Group has been in effect since 1993, and managed hunts in selected parks have taken place since 1999, and

Whereas the County’s population of white-tailed deer has increased despite these management efforts, and

Whereas upward trends in deer population coincide with increased Deer Vehicle Collisions, pervasive destruction of natural habitat in parks and stream valleys and landscaping in private yards, and increasing incidents of Lyme disease including sufferers living in suburban areas,

Therefore, be it resolved that the Montgomery County Civic Federation urges our county and state officials to expand funding and to work collaboratively towards liberalizing appropriate regulations to extend the hunting season for deer and facilitate controlled and safe hunting on both public and private lands.


At all levels, our government has been responsive to our requests regarding the need to reduce the deer population in the county. The Montgomery County Parks Department has added more parks each year to those where managed hunts and sharpshooter programs cull the herds. These programs will be carried out in 41 sites around the county including state parks and several federal facilities like NIST and NIH during the coming hunting season. The Department is also initiating a pilot program to allow carefully selected groups of organized archery hunters to work in the Great Seneca and Watts Branch stream valley parks. And they have collaborated with us and with the Superintendant of the C. & O. Canal National Historic Park to write language and regulations for hunters working on private land to track and retrieve wounded deer that may wonder into public park land.


Our delegation to Annapolis passed legislation in 2014 to decrease the “safety zone” for archery hunters from 150 yards to 100 yards. This allowed the County Council to pass corresponding legislation making it somewhat easier for archery hunters to work in suburban neighborhoods.


At the federal level, U.S. Representative Chris Van Hollen asked Superintendant Brandt to take steps to reduce the number of deer in the C.& O. Canal NHP. This is badly needed, particularly in the area of the Gold Mine Loop at Great Falls where the forest understory has been destroyed by overbrowsing. Superintendant Brandt has partnered with the Superintendant of the NHP at Harper's Ferry to apply for permission to carry out an Environmental Assessment (EA) of deer damage to both parks. Their application has been approved and they expect the EA to be completed by the summer of 2016 at which time they will make recommendations on steps to reduce the herd size.


All these measures are helpful, but the deer do not limit their browsing to public parks. Many of our downcounty neighborhoods are overrun with hungry and starving deer. As the old expression from the 1960s goes, “If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem.” Many homeowners would welcome an archery hunter into their yard to shoot from a balcony, elevated deck or tree stand. This form of hunting is one of the safest sports in the U.S. But all it takes is one neighbor within 300 feet of the shooting area to refuse to sign the consent form, and the hunt cannot be carried out. Fairfax County by comparison has no safety perimeter requirement. Any homeowner may hunt in his/her yard or authorize another archery hunter to do so. They are not even required to notify neighbors that hunting will be going on. Even with this very liberal approach to hunting, Virginia, like Maryland, has no record of any person or pet being accidentally killed or injured by an archery hunter,


How can you help?   First, get your local civic association working with you in this effort. We can help organize an informational program with expert archery hunters to speak to your members and address concerns about how, when and where archery hunting on private proptery may take place.

Next, see if you have a place in your yard which may be appropriate for hunting. The position must be elevated and allow the hunter to shoot at a downward angle. This allows for an arrow which misses the target to go safely into the ground where it can be easily retrieved by the hunter. And it means that arrows will not go into your neighbor's yards. If you think you have a safe hunting location, talk to your neighbors and see if they will support you. If you have their backing, contact a reputable archery hunting association. Three such groups in Montgomery County are:

Animal Connection Deer Management Team 


Bow Hunting Fire Fighters of Maryland            


Maryland Bowhunters Society                         


An expert hunter will know all the legal requirements and regulations, advise you on the suitability of your location, and help with paperwork. This has worked miracles in my own neighborhood. A skilled hunter has taken out 17 deer over the past three seasons and left us with a much smaller, healthier and less voracious herd. One last tip: a property that backs onto parkland or a public utility corridor will require half as many permissions from neighbors as a home surrounded by other homes.


Find current regulations, Q & As and much more information on suburban hunting, at the Montgomery County Civic Federation's website:


The views expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect formal positions adopted by the Federation. To submit an 800-1,000 word column for consideration, please send an email attachment to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .




Pepco and Exelon and Montgomery County

Exelon’s acquisition of PHI/Pepco rounded into the final stretch last week.  The companies have largely been extremely successful in their bid to provide minimal benefits for ratepayers and huge payouts for shareholders.  For the past year it looked as though Exelon had conquered the necessary regulatory agency approvals in their quest to own PHI/Pepco. 


Parents cheer back to school

mccivicfedYes, folks, it’s that time of year again! Public school in Montgomery County begins on August 31st. And with it, the Board of Education (BOE) and Montgomery County Public School (MCPS) staff turn to thoughts of cash. Fiscal Year (FY) 17 is coming up, and the MCPS Department of Management, Budget and Planning (DMBP) has released its annual Operating Budget Guide and schedule for internal MCPS use.


Legislative Oversight releases report


mccivicfedThis past Tuesday, July 28th, the Office of Legislative Oversight released four reports. These are: OLO Memorandum Report Excel Beyond the Bell, Behavioral Health in Montgomery County, MCPS Revitalization/Expansion Program, and a memo report on Procurement Performance Metrics.


Time to promote cycling, alternative transportation

mccivicfedOur county government wants to promote more residential development. But more development results in more congestion on our roads and more demand for parking; both forms of infrastructure that are costly for the government to build and maintain. And our reputation for bad congestion deters people from moving into Montgomery County.



Question independent transportation

mccivicfedThe following Testimony was presented at the Montgomery County Executive’s Transit Task Force Public Forum, which was held on June 17th, 2015. Nancy Abeles represents the Bethesda Crest Homeowners Association, which is located along MD State Route 355, the Rockville Pike.


Punch your smart transit ticket

metro logoWhat do the residents of Montgomery County want? We want—and need—a flexible, 21st century, affordable system, or set of public transit pieces. We do not need, nor do we want, last centuries’ shopworn model. That is, we don’t want a fixed route diesel bus system, especially one that takes our property, using the ‘quick take’ method. No need for that in this day and age.


We suggest these options for effective rapid public mass transit, or ‘smart transit.’

  1. put money towards an excellent Metro system
  2. make Ride On free, saving time and attracting riders
  3. encourage the use of Bridj
  4. implement real-time computer traffic signalization controls rather than fixed signalization, which encourages idling, contributing to greenhouse gas emissions
  5. take a close look at the existing network of buses, as was done in Houston and route buses where people use and need them
  6. ask the riders what they want, and ask neighbors what it would take to get them to use public transit and implement a system that addresses our transportation needs

Set the reset button and begin again, this time with data and facts, to come up with solutions to our transit and congestion issues.

And just say no to an ‘Independent’ Transit Authority.

Again, an ITA is an end run around our Charter. The original purpose of the Charter was to take control over our affairs from those in Annapolis and move it here to the people. This bill reverses that intent absolutely. It creates a private authority appointed by one person, an authority with unlimited rights to tax, above the charter limits on which we voted. It creates an authority with no oversight, one that, according to the information we have seen, would create its own procurement process; have the authority to control the destiny of thousands of our public employees, with no oversight. It would take on all Ride On bus system functions; all bus systems; including finance, maintenance, planning, and operations; the parking lot districts; any transit funded by the people. With a poor track record, as evidenced by the wasteful spending on the Silver Spring Transit Center, essentially a money pit parking lot, the County government has already shown it is incapable of these tasks.

The County Executive would have the power to appoint five people each for a five-year term, at least, with no term limits. This oligarchy would have powers to raise taxes as they wish with no oversight or control as we expect in a Democracy. This oligarchy would have the power to enter into contracts with other governments and private parties with no oversight; and establish its own procurement policies and procedures with no oversight. This oligarchy would be granted the power by you to seize our property from us with no public oversight or accountability by the public.

Please stop this process. We are tired of going to endless meetings, tired of paying staff and dozens of consultants to push this ‘system’ which at this point is OTE, tired of testifying for something no one wants and certainly no one wants to pay for.

No one wants the B“R”T and certainly no one wants the ITA. Let’s move on and let’s do something creative here in Montgomery County. Let’s initiate public discussions on a flexible, responsive, 21st-century transit system. One that even the members of the Transit Task Force would use.

The views expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect formal positions adopted by the Federation. To submit an 800-1,000 word column for consideration, please send an email attachment to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .



No to the ITA. Yes to free Ride On.


mccivicfedLast week the Transit Task Force, a creation of County Executive Leggett and Council member Marc Elrich, held a public forum and took testimony regarding the proposal for an Independent Transit Authority. The overwhelming response – again --was, no to the ITA.  Again our Civic Federation members turned out and again testified in opposition to the ITA, which would bust our charter.  Here is the testimony from Jerry Garson, our hard-workingMontgomery County Civic Federation Transportation Chair.


The questions posed to our residents and businesses are1. Can significant improvements be made to our current transportation systems, and 2.,Can the residents and business in MontgomeryCounty afford all the proposed costs.  These proposals will result in significant increases in real estate taxes, probably well over 25% and should be disclosed in advance of any proposals being introduced in the State Legislature.  The question that needs to be answered is what are the total costs and the related benefits to the current residents.  A full analysis of these proposed costs and the benefits has not been performed or provided to the residents and businesses.  The proposed BRT bus routes on MD 355, US 29, and Veirs Mill Road would cost $1.8 Billion with operating costs exceeding $80 million per year.


In January, the County Executive requested new state legislation that would allow Montgomery County to overhaul the current government structure for providing transit services by creating an independent Transit Authority (ITA) and perform an end-run around our County Charter and the County Charter’s taxing limits.


The bill would create a countywide special taxing district and raise real estate taxes above those allowed by our County Charter.  The ITA would be an independent agency run by a five-person board appointed by one person – the CountyExecutive.  No oversight of its operations is provided for.  It would have its own procurement process, the authority to enter into contracts with other governments and private parties, and take property through eminent domain. (Note: because of the way the subject property has already been assessed, in fact, a ‘quick take’ is possible). It would be neither answerable to, nor accountable to us – the taxpayers and residents.  The authority could build bridges, tunnels, ports, freight or rail terminals, tracks, subways, parking areas, parking structures, and building structures.  This is extremely broad language and should be changed.


Some easier and cheaper alternatives are possible.


One. Provide free Ride On bus services, which would provide more mobility and cost less than 10% of the cost of the BRT lines proposed.  The cost last year would have been $22 Million. Next year it probably would be $23 Million.  This is the amount of fare contribution made by riders.

Two. Another proposal, reported in the Bethesda Beat, is Premium Bus Service.  The Beat said, “Montgomery County officials think they have a good shot at getting federal funding for a ‘premium’ bus route that would run with all-electric vehicles along some of the most congested portions of Rockville Pike.”


Gary Erenrich, the County’s Acting Deputy Director for transportation policy, said the route would have 14 buses that would provide more frequent service with fewer stops between Lake Forest Mall in Gaithersburg and the Grosvenor-Strathmore Metro station in North Bethesda.  The bus route would cost a total of $21 million.  A duplication of the Maryland Route 355 Bus Rapid Transit operation.


In the Official Statement dated May 1, 2012, for the Montgomery County, Maryland Parking System Project Revenue Bonds, the Pledge of Net Revenues is stated, on page 7, and Appendix A has provisions that affect the revenues.  Does this pledge permit the transfer of the Bethesda Parking System to the new Montgomery County Independent Transit Authority?

The principal reason for this radical change in the County Government is to finance the construction and operations of the proposed BRT system, but the new ITA would have far-reaching powers that would extend to the creation of bridges, ports, subways, tunnels, and any other related projects if it so desired.  The extent of the County government’s control would be limited to the approval of ITA projects in the CountyCIP budget and provisions in relevant master plans.



Time to say 'No' once again

mccivicfedWell, this was an easy column to write. The County Executive re-constituted the Transit Task Force, and this Wednesday, June 17th, a public hearing on the Independent Transit Authority was held. Again. So, it was tempting to merely reprint what I had written the first time, in January, when this ITA was stealth-introduced by Mr. Leggett. And, here we are again. The ITA language has not changed from what we see online. And neither has the position of the Civic Federation. We oppose the creation of an Independent Transit Authority.


Birth pains of the Federation

mccivicfedThis ends the tale of the birth of the Montgomery County Civic Federation. The other segments (Sentinel, 7 May and 21 May 2015) told of the “belt line” freight railroad proposed to encircle most of D. C. Two very influential belt line opponents were Col. E. Brooke Lee, a developer and political figure, and Oliver Kuhn, news editor of Washington’s Evening Star. ( Citations to the Star are in square brackets.)


At the height of vacation season, Montgomery County citizens managed to hold a mass meeting at the invitation of the Bradley Hills Community League to formally react to the belt line. A crowd of 400 filled “a large assembly room” at the Montgomery Country Club. Washington’s Evening Star was a big help by prominently publicizing the meeting in advance [“Maryland Communities Fire First Gun Tomorrow Night”, 6 Aug 1925, p. 2]. Afterwards there was an extremely long, blow-by-blow report of what various speakers had said. [8 Aug 1925, p. 2]

Oliver Kuhn, a colorful speaker, recalled how property values fell due to other belt lines and said history “showed that property owners got out with the first announcement like rats running from a burning building”. He had brought a copy of the railroad’s petition to the PSC and “proceeded to tear it to pieces”. [8 Aug 1925, p. 2] Brooke Lee, by letter, recommended that rail and industrial development be confined to those areas where it had already started. The meeting voted to reject the belt line without a dissenting voice and formed a special committee including Mr. Kuhn to present their views to the Public Service Commission and to others.

In the next two weeks, documents of opposition were being prepared by, at least, the Town of Somerset, Glen Echo, the Silver Spring Chamber of Commerce, Woodside Civic Association, Woodside Park, and North Woodside.



Having shown overwhelming public opposition to the belt line, activists assembled in small groups where the idea took hold of a federation of civic groups to address affairs that affect the County as a whole. It should have “a number of standing committees” whose “duty will be to keep an eagle eye on every project” and on legislation so as to promptly handle those meriting federation attention. [11 Nov 1925, p. 11]   Walter Tuckerman hosted a meeting at his home that drafted a constitution.

By mid-November they were ready to call a second mass meeting to form a federation to fight “attempts to industrialize the area” and to urge “developing the county into one of the most beautiful residential suburbs of the National Capital”. [17 Nov 1925, p. 22]  The constitution was adopted and Maryland’s Secretary of State, Brooke Lee, “spoke highly of the great good “ an MCCF could do.   He urged cooperation between farm and town interests and said “the influence which we will have … will undoubtedly be in direct proportion to the extent and value of our proposal”. [20 Nov 1925, p. 16]

The Montgomery County Civic Federation was fully born on November 30, 1925 in Takoma Park when delegates from 18 civic associations elected Oliver Kuhn of Alta Vista as the first MCCF president and Frank Hewitt of Silver Spring as vice president. President Kuhn stressed that MCCF must be nonpolitical and said it was “formed of both Republicans and Democrats, … acclaimed by Socialists and indorsed by Prohibitionists”. The Evening Star printed pictures of six elected officers. [1 Dec 1925, p. 4]


From the start a strong committee structure was built in to fully study issues before presenting them to all delegates. Initial concerns of members were zoning, police and fire protection, and poor road restoration by WSSC after laying pipes. Areas west of Rock Creek had no local fire protection. Magnanimous crews from D. C. were putting out some of their fires for free. MCCF stimulated our localities to seek better fire solutions. [13 Jul 1926]  

The MCCF prepared an extensive study of the legal basis of zoning for presentation to the state legislature from which they would seek enabling authority for zoning in Montgomery County.

Only two years after its birth, the MCCF and the business community achieved the creation of the Park and Planning Commission (MNCPPC). One year later they obtained the first county zoning law, applying to southern areas.

There’s one thing we’ve lost since then. They had a spirit for making Washington and its suburbs the finest-looking capital in the world.   In 1925, that included its “beautiful boulevards leading into and out of the city”. [2 Sep 1925, p.1 and p. 2] How sad to see some of our main roads today.

I have been a delegate to the MCCF for 25 years. With the normal ups and downs as officers change, the group still strives to uphold the original standards---a nonpartisan federation of civic groups from all over the county, identifying issues of countywide significance, considering them in committee, deciding their fate in the full assembly of delegates, and then lobbying official bodies to act in the broad public interest.


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