Tag Archives: Chevy Chase

Is the Change in Early Voting Locations a Partisan Move?

Today, I’m pleased to present a guest post by Adam Pagnucco:

Is This Voter Suppression?

Last week, Montgomery County’s Board of Elections voted to close early voting centers in Chevy Chase and Burtonsville and open new ones in Potomac and Brookeville. This prompted charges of voter suppression from Montgomery County Council Member Tom Hucker, who represents Burtonsville and started an online petition to overturn the decision. Hucker points out that the Board’s vote was on party lines, with a Republican majority voting for the change, and that the Burtonsville site has a significant concentration of minority voters. The Board’s Republican President, who ran for County Executive last year, claims that the change was motivated not by politics but by a desire to expand early voting to areas that have not had it.

Who’s right? Let’s look at the data.

First, let’s examine the demographic characteristics of the areas surrounding the early voting sites. For this exercise, I pulled U.S. Census data on zip codes within one mile of each site. Zip codes 20814 and 20815 apply to the Lawton Center in Chevy Chase, 20866 and 20905 apply to the Praisner Center in Burtonsville, 20854 applies to the Potomac Community Recreation Center and 20832 and 20833 apply to the Longwood Community Recreation Center in Brookeville. Following is information on race and income of the residents in these zip codes for the years 2009-2013.

White Non-Hispanic Percentage of Population

Lawton Center, Chevy Chase                                          77%
Praisner Center, Burtonsville                                        38
Potomac                                                                                       68
Brookeville/Olney                                                                  64

County Total                                                                               48

Black Non-Hispanic Percentage of Population

Lawton Center, Chevy Chase                                          4%
Praisner Center, Burtonsville                                        32
Potomac                                                                                       4
Brookeville/Olney                                                                  12

County Total                                                                               17

Hispanic Percentage of Population

Lawton Center, Chevy Chase                                          9%
Praisner Center, Burtonsville                                        9
Potomac                                                                                       7
Brookeville/Olney                                                                  9

County Total                                                                               17

Mean Household Income

Lawton Center, Chevy Chase                                          189,879
Praisner Center, Burtonsville                                        127,711
Potomac                                                                                       256,851
Brookeville/Olney                                                                  143,685

County Total                                                                               132,222

On these measures, Burtonsville stands out from the other locations. It has a lower income than the other three sites, a lower percentage of non-Hispanic whites and a higher percentage of African Americans. Its African American percentage is nearly double the county’s average. And yet, this site is targeted for closure.

Hucker’s argument is not just rooted in demographics, however. He asserts that the changes are motivated by a desire to advantage Republican voters at the expense of Democrats. Is he right? Let’s look at data on voter registration and actual voting.

For this exercise, I pulled data on voter registration as of August 2015 on all precincts within one mile of each early voting site. Here is the total number of registered voters of all parties near each site.

Registered Voters, All Parties, within one mile

Lawton Center, Chevy Chase                                          22,012
Praisner Center, Burtonsville                                        12,833
Potomac                                                                                       11,649
Brookeville/Olney                                                                  13,014

The Lawton Center is within walking distance of Downtown Bethesda, the biggest single employment location in the county, so this statistic actually understates its potential reach. The Praisner Center saw more early votes than any site in the county in the 2014 general election with the exception of Silver Spring. Any prioritization of voter access without regard to party should protect the continued operation of both sites.

Now let’s look at the Republican percentage of registered voters.

Republican Percentage of Registered Voters within one mile

Lawton Center, Chevy Chase                                          17%
Praisner Center, Burtonsville                                        16
Potomac                                                                                       20
Brookeville/Olney                                                                  29

County Total                                                                               19

In terms of Republican registration percentage, not only do the two new sites exceed the two closed sites, they also exceed the county average.

Registration is only part of the story. Let’s look at the percentage of the vote received by Republican Governor Larry Hogan in last year’s general election in precincts within one mile of each site.

Hogan Percentage of Gubernatorial General Vote within one mile

Lawton Center, Chevy Chase                                          33%
Praisner Center, Burtonsville                                        33
Potomac                                                                                       43
Brookeville/Olney                                                                  55

County Total                                                                               37

Again, the GOP enjoys a net advantage. The Brookeville area is one of the few parts of the county in which Larry Hogan scored an outright win, and – guess what? – the Republican-majority Board of Elections has given it an early voting site.

U.S. Census and voter data show that the early voting site change on net has improved voting convenience for Republicans and some groups of white and high-income residents while decreasing voting convenience for African Americans and lower-income residents in East County. The voting trends near the sites suggest that this may help Governor Hogan’s performance in the next election.

Is this voter suppression? I guess that depends on your definition of “suppression.” But since U.S. Census and voting data are publicly available – and the latter is held by the Board of Elections – it’s hard to believe that the board was acting blindly. Suppression or not, this has the look of manipulation for partisan gain.


Fountain Named for Chevy Chase Land Company Founder Source of Controversy

NewlandsFrom the Chevy Chase Land Company Home Page

The Chevy Chase ANC (Advisory Neighborhood Commission) in the District of Columbia will consider a resolution (see below) next Monday night to call for the renaming of the fountain in Chevy Chase Circle after someone other than U.S. Sen. Francis Newlands, who helped to found Chevy Chase, due to his long-time efforts to promote his negative views of Blacks, Jews, and Women.

The Chevy Chase Land Company still recalls Sen. Newlands with pride. When they unveiled their plans for Chevy Chase Lake at the Planning Board, then-President David Smith began his PowerPoint with a slide of Sen. Newlands. About as much time was spent telling us about Sen. Newlands’ role in founding the area as their actual plans for the area, though unsurprisingly no mention was made of his bigoted views.

Sen. Newlands still appears on the home page of the Land Company website (see above) with a biography on a linked page that–beyond crediting him for founding Chevy Chase–also informs the community that:

Because Senator Newlands was considered one of the fathers of modern irrigation, in the 1930s a fountain was built in Chevy Chase Circle (which was considered the gateway to the Federal City) memorializing his contributions in this area. To recognize the 100th anniversary of its founding, The Chevy Chase Land Company refurbished and repaired the Chevy Chase Circle Memorial Fountain in 1990, and held a rededication ceremony attended by members of the community. . . .

The Land Company to this day remains family owned and is proud of its long tradition of family leadership and its deep connections to the Chevy Chase community.

Here is the proposed resolution:

Resolution Calling for the Renaming of the Fountain at Chevy Chase Circle

WHEREAS, the fountain in Chevy Chase Circle is called the “Francis Griffith Newlands Memorial Fountain,” as evidenced by a plaque at the fountain dedicating it to the late U.S. Senator Francis G. Newlands (1846-1917), the fountain being listed on the National Registry of Historic Places;

WHEREAS, the Chevy Chase ANC desires that the fountain be renamed for a person that our community respects and honors, in accordance with all necessary approvals by any governmental agencies;

WHEREAS, the Chevy Chase ANC respectfully makes this request for the following reasons:

1. Senator Francis G. Newlands was instrumental in the creation of Chevy Chase D.C. & MD, but his vision was for Chevy Chase to be forever racially segregated. He included in most property deeds in Chevy Chase a racist covenant precluding land from ever being owned by African-Americans or Jews (these covenants have since been declared void but are still present in original deeds, usually lined out). He also used the formation of Rock Creek Park as a segregationist barrier in D.C. generally.

2. Senator Newlands was a lifelong outspoken racist and segregationist. He openly called (including in his 1912 campaign for U.S. President) for amending the constitution to prohibit the vote to African-Americans and limit immigration to whites-only.

3. During his political career, he fought to limit education for African-Americans to domestic and menial work only, and for other measures to suppress the rights of African-Americans.

4. He also opposed women’s suffrage.

5. The historic public record reveals his outdated beliefs. For example, he said: “I believe this should be a white man’s country, and that we should frankly express our determination that it shall be.” New York Times, June 17, 1912.

WHEREAS, Chevy Chase acknowledges the historic role played by Senator Newlands as the lead developer of Chevy Chase, but as we long ago progressed beyond his segregationist vision for our neighborhood, over the last many decades building a warm community that is open, tolerant, and inclusive in every respect;

WHEREAS, the primary purpose of this Resolution is to create a positive opportunity to name the fountain for a person that our current community (and the area and nation as a whole) respects and honors, leaving Senator Newlands to the annals of history;


The Chevy Chase ANC supports the renaming of the fountain at Chevy Chase Circle, and suggests the name [TBD, nominees include John J. Pershing (who lived in Chevy Chase) and Frederick Douglas (who lived in DC)]. The Chevy Chase ANC requests that the D.C. Council pass a Resolution supporting this Resolution, and forwarding both resolutions to the D.C. Historic Preservation Office for implementation through a name change on the National Register of Historic Places (which lists the fountain), a new plaque at the fountain itself, and such other measures to complete the renaming of the fountain.


Bethesda Just Wants to Have Fun

County Executive Ike Leggett’s Nighttime Economy Task Force has made a number of recommendations to attract a more active nightlife to Montgomery. Sorry I meant to say MoCo. We’re all hipsters now here at 7S.

Aaron Kraut of BethesdaNow.com summarized the key proposed changes:

The Task Force will recommend the county extend the hours of operation for venues with alcohol licenses an hour, to 3 a.m. on Fridays, Saturdays and the Sundays before Monday federal holidays and 2 a.m. on weeknights.

That would match D.C. and Prince George’s County and prevent what Pohoryles said restaurant owners call “the mad dash,” the period when Montgomery County bar goers get in their cars and drive to D.C. for another hour of alcohol service. The rule would keep the half-hour “grace period,” in which last call would actually be half-an-hour before closing time.

Also part of the bar-friendly recommendations are changes to the county’s noise ordinance in specific urban areas.

The Task Force will recommend increasing the allowable noise levels for “qualifying arts and entertainment activities in these areas,” to 85 decibels, allowing those levels to midnight and ensuring nearby residents are informed of the law prior to moving in.

So basically more booze + noise = fun. Heck, I suspect any random group of college students could have told you that. The only problem is that downtown Bethesda’s prime demographic is not college students or recent college grads but empty nesters.

Neighborhoods near to downtown Bethesda are a combination of families and empty nesters. In six years on the Town Council of the Town of Chevy Chase, located directly east of downtown Bethesda, I have never heard anyone lament that the bars in Bethesda close too early and that they have to dash elsewhere to keep drinking.

The Task Force’s chair wants to reassure that the changes are meant to benefit everyone:

Heather Dlhopolsky, a Bethesda attorney and chair of the Task Force, made it clear the Task Force wasn’t just about catering to the 20-34 year-old crowd, citing the significant number of empty nesters moving to downtown Bethesda.

Nevertheless, the recommendations have provoked a backlash precisely from that group. Jon Weintraub provided this summary of the thoughts expressed at a meeting of over 40 condo owners from many different buildings in downtown Bethesda:

There is universal opposition to the County Executive’s Nighttime Bethesda proposal, if it means extending bar hours and changing the revenue ratio. It should not move forward! What can be done to ensure that the noise ordinance is not altered for downtown Bethesda?

Instead Weintraub wants to know:

What is the planner standard for public green space, library, and recreational facilities per 1000 units of development in the downtown?

What can the county and the planning board do to improve the quality of metro service to Bethesda given density decisions are tied to the presence of the metro?

The meeting was organized by Jon Weintraub with Jane Fairweather, a very successful local realtor who knows the Bethesda market extremely well and hardly one to object to changes if she thought they would make her market more and not less valuable.

No doubt some will deride their objections as those of anti-business older people who expect unreasonable levels of quiet and have confused the area with an assisted living facility. But my impression is that their objection is not to a vibrant nightlife but want it to fit in with the area’s existing strengths.

Bethesda is filled with restaurants and also has a large number of bars for that matter. However, the empty nesters who can afford to buy all those condos–and provide a lot of custom to these businesses–prefer it quiet before 2am.

The key to keeping Bethesda so successful is make changes that reinforce what is already attractive not just to families and empty nesters but also to many twenty and thirtysomethings. Middle of the night noise, drinking and nightclubs probably aren’t it.

The Task Force has a lot of suggestions to streamline the process of establishing a business that would probably be helpful to that end. Ironically, the one change that would please restauranteurs and bar owners the most is the one that they shied away from adopting:

Montgomery County operates as a control alcohol jurisdiction, with all alcohol purchases coming from a central DLC [Department of Liquor Control] warehouse. That has led to complaints from restaurant owners about the availability of special orders, such as craft beer, and the time it takes to fill an order.

Evan Glass, a Silver Spring activist and prospective County Council candidate, said the group should talk about how necessary the DLC is.

It’s a contentious issue, in large part because the DLC contributes $25-$30 million a year to the county’s General Fund. It also recently opened a new warehouse in Gaithersburg.

Glass suggested the DLC should at least keep a portion of that contribution to hire more employees who could help it be more responsive.

Most agreed that recommending wholesale changes, or the dissolution of the DLC, was too big a task for the Task Force. The final recommendation, when it comes out in the Task Force’s final report next week, will call for a study of the DLC’s effectiveness from the Council’s Office of Legislative Oversight.

The irony here is that the Task Force attacked directly requirements that restaurants sell as much food as liquor. Yet, they’ve stayed away from a major barrier to locating restaurants here because alcohol is more expensive in MoCo and unique beers and wines are harder to obtain. The City Paper, practically the definition of urban hip, wrote about the issue back in 2007.


The Mini Munis of Chevy Chase


Chevy Chase, Maryland Zip Code

Even people who live in Chevy Chase get confused about all of the mini municipalities in the area. I’ve had people think I represent them, though they don’t live in my town. Here is a short guide for the perplexed.

The Chevy Chase, Maryland zip code includes all of the area in the above map. Many portions of the zip code are not part of any incorporated municipality. Much like Bethesda, these areas are a postal address and unincorporated parts of Montgomery County. Some of the western parts of Chevy Chase bleed into Bethesda and the northern parts into Kensington. When I moved back to Maryland and went to get a driver’s license, MVA refused to accept a document with “Bethesda” as the city because my other proofs of residence said “Chevy Chase.”

The Town of Chevy Chase


The Town of Chevy Chase started out as Section 4 but became the Town after it annexed Section 8 in 1976. The Town is the more or less the area between Wisconsin and Connecticut Aves. and between East-West Hwy. and Bradley La. with the commercial area on Wisconsin excluded. The largest incorporated municipality bearing the name of Chevy Chase, it has slightly more than 1000 homes and 2,800 residents and is mostly within walking distance of Bethesda. Many of the homes, particularly those located closest to Bethesda, have been redeveloped, leading the Town to adopt its building code around six years ago. (I have served on the Town Council since 2008, including two years as the Town’s mayor.)

Chevy Chase Elementary School, the Jane E. Lawton Community Center,  and the National 4-H Conference Center are also located in the Town. The Town Council operated out of the 4-H prior to the construction of the Town Hall. The Town’s annual Fourth of July picnic is its most popular event.

Town services include back door twice-a-week garbage collection as well as recycling. Over 20 percent of Town residents participate in the Town’s recently established organic recycling program operated by Compost Crew. This week, the most popular town service is that we shovel the sidewalks when more than three inches of snow falls in addition to clearing the streets.

Chevy Chase Village


Chevy Chase Village is larger in area but smaller in population than the Town with just under 2000 people because its homes are mostly on bigger lots. The wealthiest municipality in Maryland, the Village has its own police department located in the Town Hall. It also has a post office located in the Village Hall. The southwestern portion of the Village is very close to Friendship Heights.

Straddling Connecticut Ave., the Village is perhaps best known these days for its speed cameras. The Village loves the cameras because they slow down traffic and generate revenue. Others are perhaps less keen. I once heard traffic along this stretch of Connecticut described as “the funeral procession.” I like to tease Village Board of Managers Chair Pat Baptiste that I try not to walk too quickly in the Village to avoid getting (another) ticket. Pat is extremely experienced in Village and County politics, having served as Chair in the past as well as on the County Planning Board.

President Obama paid a visit to George Will’s home in the Village before his inauguration in 2008 but it appears that the friendship didn’t blossom based on his columns. As the Village not only votes heavily Democratic, like most of Chevy Chase, but supported him strongly in the 2008 Maryland presidential primary, President Obama nonetheless probably feels welcome.

Section 3 of the Village of Chevy Chase


Incorporated in 1982, the Section 3 of the Village of Chevy Chase Section 3 is home to 760 people who live on 280 lots north of Bradley La. and between Connecticut Ave. and Brookeville Rd. Andy Harney is not just a neighbor but the longtime Town Manager. Smart, direct, and tough, she’s great at standing up for her town’s interests, as anyone who has ever seen her in action knows.

Village of Chevy Chase Section 5


Located just north of slightly larger Section 3, the Village of Chevy Chase Section 5 is the more southern of the two “sections” and home to 650 people. It has 223 homes and one restaurant, La Ferme. Like its southern neighbor, it incorporated in 1982.

Martin’s Additions


The Village of Martin’s Additions incorporated a little later than the two sections, its western neighbors, in 1985 and has 933 residents according to the 2010 Census. Like the two sections, its narrow streets make it tricky to navigate but also are why it’s so cute.

Friendship Heights


A triangle located between Willard and Wisconsin Ave., the Village of Friendship Heights is really a special tax district rather than a municipality. The 2010 Census reported that 4,700 people live in Friendship Heights. Unlike the municipalities described here, Friendship Heights is characterized by apartment and office buildings rather than single-family homes. The Shuttle Bus service to the Metro and the Giant is very popular.



Halfway between Friendship Heights and Bethesda between Wisconsin Ave. and Little Falls Pkwy., the Town of Somerset has 1,200 residents. Mayor Jeffrey Slavin, who been mayor since 2008 and served on the Council previously, governs from the most attractive town hall in Chevy Chase. The Town Hall is located next to the popular Town Pool, which Somerset worked hard to renovate.

Village of Drummond

How small is Drummond? It’s too small for the Census Bureau to reveal its population. Another special tax district, Drummond is just two-thirds of one street with 43 homes. Nevertheless, the tax district is older than many of the municipalities, having been established in 1916. You’ll see Drummond just north of Somerset if you’re walking down Wisconsin Ave.

North Chevy Chase


Home to 519 people living in around 200 homes, North Chevy Chase is just south of the Beltway in the northeast quadrant of the intersection of Jones Bridge Rd. and Connecticut Ave.

Chevy Chase View


Perhaps a tad more conservative than most of liberal Chevy Chase, Chevy Chase View is just south of Kensington and is part of the greater Kensington metro area. Although the area has a long history, Chevy Chase View incorporated only in 1993. It has 920 residents.

Kensington and Garrett Park

The most excellent Towns of Kensington and Garrett Park are also  considered by many to be part of Chevy Chase, though outside the zip code and with their own postal addresses. Unlike the other towns, Kensington has a commercial district. Mayor Pete Fosselman has served since 2006 and overseen the adoption of a new plan for the town. Del. Al Carr was on the Kensington Town Council before being entering the legislature. County Councilmember Nancy Floreen served as Garrett Park’s mayor before moving on to Rockville.

I’m just too tired to write more but go check out Antique Row in Kensington and Black’s Market in Garrett Park.


Chevy Chase Town Council Meeting

In addition to writing this blog, I am one of the five members of the Town of Chevy Chase’s Town Council and the current Town Treasurer. The following is an unofficial summary of our meeting last Wednesday.

Executive Session

The Town Council met in closed session from 5:30-7pm to discuss (1) potential litigation as it relates to the Purple Line, (2) an Open Meetings Act complaint, and (3) a Maryland Public Information Act (MPIA) request.

Purple Line

Mayor Pat Burda made remarks on the Town’s actions regarding the Purple Line. Here is part of her statement:

I was quoted in the Washington Post as saying “the Town is not lobbying Congress.” The statement, which I attempted to clarify before it reached the printed Sunday Post, referred specifically to an inquiry about lobbying the Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.  I also said that it would be foolish to try to lobby Congress to defund the project given Senator Mikulski’s position as Chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

To fully set the record straight, the Town is speaking to Members of Congress to raise the same concerns we raised with the Maryland Transportation Administration about the proposed Purple Line project.  It is our hope that through this effort of educating decision makers about the currently proposed Purple Line, that the Federal Transit Authority (FTA) will carefully consider all of the facts before them.

The Council was not ready to take action at this meeting, but plans on holding a special meeting next week at which it may take action. This meeting will be announced in advance and open to the public. All members of the Council thanked the Mayor for the incredible amount of time she has spent and hard work she has done on this issue.

Undergrounding Utilities—PEPCO Preliminary Cost Estimate

The Town received a letter from PEPCO dated February 6 which gave their preliminary estimate to bury the power lines in the town as:

 $50 million, not including undergrounding telecommunication lines, any upgrade work required by the customer, or installation of new street lights. Costs incurred by each customer would range from $5000 to $15,000 for meter box upgrades, burying services wires and internal electrical upgrades, if needed.

PEPCO has promised to provide a more detailed cost per mile estimate to the Town within two weeks that:

will consider actual Town street mileage of 9.94 miles (versus 10 miles) as well as physical conditions in the field, including Town street width, as it impacts excavation around other utilities and traffic control, and the number and location of existing public and private trees and landscaping.

PEPCO will also provide a price quote on the cost to the Town for PEPCO:

to perform a one line schematic and conduit schematic and conduit schematic in order to further refine the ‘costs per mile’ estimate.

The letter also reaffirmed that PEPCO will not help to pay for undergrounding the Town’s power lines:

As PEPCO officials indicated at the Town’s public meeting on December 5, 2013, the Town would be responsible for all costs associated with undergrounding electrical lines in the Town.

New Power Reliability Task Force

As we continue to explore the cost and benefits of undergrounding power lines, the Town needs to consider other options designed to address the very real concerns and frustrations of Town residents with the reliability of power service in the Town.

During the course of meetings on this topic, a number of residents with real knowledge and expertise on this topic offered innovative or alternative ideas. For example, some suggested that we should explore getting PEPCO to improve the robustness of the network by making it possible to shift electricity from one feeder to another when the power goes out. Another has suggested that the Town create a town-wide micro grid using large-scale fuel cells.

As a result, I proposed that the Mayor appoint a Task Force of residents to explore alternative reliability strategies. The Task Force could work with PEPCO and also make a proposal to the Town Council for outside expertise that would enable them to conduct their work more effectively. I was pleased that the Town Council approved the proposal unanimously.

I encourage anyone interested in participating in the Task Force to email the Mayor at townoffice@townofchevychase.org along with information about the expertise that you would bring to the Task Force.

Town Election Procedures

The Town Council voted 4-1 (with Councilmember Bickerman voting against) to adopt the Staff Proposal for the conduct of runoff Town elections in the event of tie. The runoff elections would occur in a similar manner to regular elections. Residents would be notified of the runoff via postcard and other Town communication methods. Over a 20-day period, residents could go vote in the Town Office or request a ballot via email which would be delivered to their home.

The Town Council decided 4-1 (with Councilmember Strom voting against) to not notify residents in the Forecast which incumbents will file to seek reelection.

Despite the division on the votes, most members of the Council did not feel especially strongly about either issue and were happy to reach a reasonable conclusion on both matters.

Meadow Lane Preliminary Landscaping Plan

The Council reviewed the preliminary plan for the public right-of-way along the former Li property on Meadow Lane. The Council agreed 4-0 (with Councilmember Bickerman abstaining) to move forward with the proposal. Councilmember Al Lang expressed that he felt it important to proceed with taking care of this matter and enhancing the pedestrian walkway and the right of way, as a plan along these lines was part of the promise by the Town to residents when the property was subdivided. The Council also expressed to the neighboring resident who attended the meeting that we would be happy to work with her on the nature of the plantings adjoining her property. The proposal is not designed or intended to facilitate public use of the private properties adjacent to the public right-of-way. If anything, the plan should have the opposite effect.

Early Adjournment

After quickly approving the minutes and the financial report, the Council adjourned at 8:30 as snow had already begun to fall.