Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Montgomery County Md's Isiah Leggett: county executive or self-appointed land development guru?

one has to wonder about the wisdom of an elected county executive who, in his legacy building, rejects widespread and time-tested good-government practices in favor of "innovative" land development schemes. specifically, one has to wonder about Isiah Leggett, Montgomery County MD's county executive.

"But nearly a decade in, as Leggett (D) nears the end of his 12-year tenure, this signature project has not gone forward as expected. Only a fraction of the money anticipated from land sales to private developers has been paid so far. And the county’s difficulty in finding a new site for a school system bus depot has slowed progress on a major portion of the planned Shady Grove community, including a new park and elementary school.

Critics on the County Council say Leggett overpromised and underdelivered, adding to the county’s $3.2 billion debt by borrowing against land sales proceeds that have yet to materialize.

“This is just not a good news story,” said Council President Roger Berliner (D-Potomac-Bethesda), one of three council incumbents running for county executive in the 2018 Democratic primary.

But Leggett says he devised a creative way to replace outdated buildings and pursue transit-oriented development policies far more quickly, and effectively, than had been done in the past. Even his own staff was skeptical, he recalled in an interview.

“I was the sole person who believed we could move all these pieces,” he said. “You can argue that a few dollars didn’t come in at the precise time. . . . The county comes out far ahead in the long-term.”


Council member George Leventhal (D-At Large) said it was “not good planning” to jump into the development venture without knowing where the depot would be moved.

“I don’t think it’s something we can foist on a community just to transform a Metro station,” said Leventhal, also a candidate to succeed Leggett as county executive.

The Shady Grove initiative has generated an unexpected level of debt. Most big capital improvements, like roads and schools, are financed through the sale of general obligation bonds, where principal and interest are usually paid off over 20 years. But the Leggett administration, interested in moving quickly and anticipating that land-sales proceeds would soon be in hand, kept the smart growth projects out of the capital budget, opting instead to use $200 million in short-term loans on which it only paid interest. Such interim financing is meant to be retired quickly, to avoid added expense for taxpayers. But the county is still carrying a balance of about $160 million.


Looking for funds to pay off some of the debt, Montgomery officials announced last month that they may use the $22 million netted from settlement of the county’s lawsuit against the designer and builders of the Silver Spring Transit Center.

The county could also sell more bonds to convert the debt from short-term to long-term. But that would crowd out other construction projects in the capital budget, which caps new bond debt at $340 million annually.
Isiah Leggett’s signature plan for Shady Grove is less lucrative than promised - The Washington Post

it didn't work out for the "monumental debacle" public-private partnership paul s sarbanes silver spring transit center.
it didn't work out for the silver spring arena (Proposed Silver Spring Arena Fails To Generate Developer Interest - Bethesda Beat - Bethesda, MD ). 
and, it hasn't worked out for Isiah Leggett’s signature plan for Shady Grove.

image by EnLorax G. Edward Johnson

Sunday, July 16, 2017

the story of the paul s sarbanes silver spring transit center: march 2013 to now

construction problems with the silver spring transit center became public in march 2013. 
Concrete issues at the Silver Spring Transit Center - The Washington Post

I began this blog in october 2013. in a post dated august 2014 I said:
"Much of the media's (print, TV, radio, internet) coverage of this story has revolved around politics--Republicans blame Democrats, etc. However, the SSTC isn't a story about politics. 
  • The SSTC is a story about serious failures in design and construction of a public work. 
  • The SSTC is a story about how government has wasted taxpayer money. (53% of the funding for the SSTC are federal funds, meaning ALL taxpayers, from coast to coast, are paying for this seriously flawed lemon. 11% are MD funds and the remaining 36% are Montgomery County funds.)
  • The SSTC is a story about public safety for those who will use it--if it ever opens.
  • The SSTC is a story about government accountability in protecting the public's investment and their safety.
  • The SSTC is a story about how government deviated from the tried and true, competitive methods for selecting a contractor (bids) and for selecting a design engineer and a concrete inspector and tester (multiple firms competing for the project).

The REAL story of the SSTC has yet to be told in the hundreds of media reports over the past year and a half. The real story of how and why Montgomery County selected the SSTC's contractor/builder, the design engineer and the concrete inspector/tester and special quality inspector has not been made pubic."

silver spring transit center: The untold story of the Silver Spring Transit Center

it's been more than four years since construction problems with the silver spring transit center became public. has the real story of the paul s sarbanes silver spring transit center been told? what are its lessons? most importantly, have the lessons been learned?

Friday, July 14, 2017

taxpayers lose in the paul s sarbanes silver spring transit center "monumental debacle"

Montgomery County’s expensive private attorneys - The Washington Post

my comment:

"well said. ... the transit center suit looked to me like a case of legal chicken. on one side: the owner, Montgomery County--the hand that feeds private engineers and construction contractors. on the other side: the private engineering firm, the general contractor, subcontractors, the private inspection and materials testing firm, their big-pocket insurance carrier(s) and the insurance carriers' lawyers. 

The case was complicated by Montgomery County taking on the role of construction manager for the project. The county may have thought that they had a good case; but, if one "reads between the lines" of the KCE report (the private engineering firm that the county hired to investigate the engineering and construction problems), then the county's case wasn't as strong as the county made it out to be. Perhaps the county was counting on the "don't bite the hand that feeds you" principle, or the "deep pockets" principle or "my hired guns are bigger than your hired guns" principle; but in the end, it looks to me like the county rolled the dice, and they came up snake eyes. all were at fault, including the county."

The Paul S. Sarbanes Silver Spring Transit Center "monumental debacle" is a classic case of what happens when politicians play with house money. 

Taxpayers--federal, state and local--lose.

image: misc 24

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Metro's mismanagement by committees of politicians who know nothing about running a successful railroad

Metro Board On Verge Of Major Overhaul | WAMU

my comment:

you can't run a successful railroad, or anything else for that matter, by committee--especially, 3 committees of politicians from different jurisdictions--4 if you include the federal government. 

been there; done that.

let's try something different than the abysmal failure of management-by-political-committees that resulted in ruining a state-of-the-art transit system in just 40 years.

let's get someone(s) who knows something about running a successful railroad, and put them in charge.

maybe they'll be able to bring metro back from the dead.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

the gift that just keeps on giving

Montgomery Co. approves millions more for Silver Spring Transit Center fight


congratulations to sucker taxpayers. 
(that's ALL of us--federal, state and local)

Friday, June 9, 2017

Déjà vu all over again--Metro and the Silver Spring Transit Center

The stories are similar; the endings are the same: 
  • a "monumental debacle" public works project that is 5 years over schedule, tens of millions over budget and is flawed by design, construction and inspection "errors and omissions"
  • a once state-of-the-art subway system, only 40 years old (a baby as far as subway systems go), plagued by serious safety, operations and maintenance problems, ruined by public and private incompetence in the form of mismanagement, neglect and political malfeasance

Who pays for these disasters?

We taxpayers do--all of us. No one goes to jail. No one loses their job. 

Once again, we're left holding the bag.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

a juror's comment on the Silver Spring Transit Center trial

Juror 97 •
As a Juror on the trial, don't believe what you read. Mismanagement and bad decisions by county are main factor to issues. The county would have lost.

thanks for your juror's perspective. from an engineer's perspective, without the benefit of witnessing the trial, I see all parties at fault. KCE's report made that pretty clear to me (even though IMHO KCE went easy on the county's mismanagement). However, after the cracks became public, all the way to the trial, all we got from the media was the county's perspective. Insurance companies and their lawyers have a big impact on how these issues are settled. IMHO the settlement is about money, not who is to blame.

"You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time."  
Abraham Lincoln 

Friday, June 2, 2017

can secret settlements save fubar metro?

"Metro, which now operates the center after the county turned it over to the transit agency, was originally part of the case, but settled just before the trial, according to 'The Daily Record'." Really??? Where are all of the reporters who were reporting every statement that David Dise made for years, after the cracks became public, but before the SSTC was opened to the public? Isn't WMATA settling the case news? how much was the settlement? who paid whom? what are the details? are there conditions? the public has a right to know.
Trial Begins in Silver Spring Transit Center Lawsuit - Bethesda Beat - Bethesda, MD
that's one.  

"Settlement equals cash. Since we all know that cash does not grow on trees, it has to come from somewhere: That’s were your purse comes in. Every year, you pay DC taxes. Every year, the DC government provides WMATA a subsidy derived from DC tax dollars.

Call me crazy, but if DC tax dollars are being used to settle a lawsuit then I think we, as DC tax payers, should have a right to know how our money is being spent."
K. Denise Rucker Krepp is the ANC 6B10 commissioner.
that's two. 

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

some details emerge in the Silver Spring Transit Center lawsuit settlement

County Agrees To Settle Silver Spring Transit Center Lawsuit - Bethesda Beat - Bethesda, MD

my comment: 
there are no winners here. the biggest losers in this "monumental debacle", as councilman Phil Andrews aptly put it, are county, state and federal taxpayers who, in the end, will pay millions for cost overruns that resulted from poor engineering, construction and inspection, and from the lawsuit. All parties, including Montgomery County, construction manager of record for the project, are responsible for this debacle.

"The lawsuit has gone through numerous twists and turns since it was filed by the county in August 2015. Pretrial discovery and preliminary hearings on a blizzard of motions filed by the county and the defendants took more than a year.


Leggett and other county officials familiar with the case said there were several reasons for pursuing a settIn March, Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Michael Mason threw out the county’s allegations of fraud and its demand for punitive damages against the contractors. Mason also ruled that if the county won, it could not collect costs for attorneys or consultants. The county hired outside attorneys for the case, costing millions in fees. Montgomery’s main outside consultant to investigate problems with the project, KCE Structural Engineers, alone cost $8.5 million.
After Mason’s decision, county lawyers were left to pursue about $40 million in claims for breach of contract and cost overruns.
The county also faced an $11 million counterclaim from Foulger-Pratt, seeking costs that the firm said were incurred by county delays and the addition of a new two-inch layer of concrete on the transit center roadways.
From the outside, the transit center looks like a nondescript garage. But its unusual racetrack-like oval design, on land with multiple elevations, increased the complexity of the project. The concrete structure, expected to withstand the stresses produced by an estimated 120 buses an hour barreling to 32 bays, was “post-tensioned” with steel supports embedded in the concrete.
Problems first emerged in April 2010, when Georgios Mavrommatis, who examines plans for the county, looked at drawings of a long, curved wall on the northeast side of the building. He saw that there was no provision for slip joints where the floor met the wall. Engineers use slip joints to allow a building to move under stress, such as when a heavy bus rolls by.
Douglas Lang, Parsons Brinckerhoff’s main engineer on the project, expressed confidence that the design was sound without the joints.
The settlement is outlined in two documents the county released Tuesday. In one, Parsons Brinckerhoff and Balter agree to pay the county $25 million. In the other, the county agrees to pay Foulger-Pratt $3 million. Neither the companies nor the county acknowledge any negligence or wrongdoing. A non-disparagement clause also prevents the parties from saying anything critical about each other going forward.
Metro, which also sued the contractors in 2015, settled its case shortly before the trial began. The terms are not known. The transit center has operated safely since opening in the summer of 2015.
Before the settlement was announced, the trial in Mason’s courtroom was a remarkable scene, with as many as 13 lawyers crammed among five tables where there are usually two. When all attorneys approached the bench for conferences — a frequent occurrence with multiple defendants — it looked like a kind of legal rush hour. Mason kept a tight lid on the proceedings, barring attorneys from discussing the case outside court and ordering the county to scrub its website of information about the transit center’s problems so jurors couldn’t do their own research.
Each party tried to dominate the narrative, mostly by pointing fingers. The county said it had every reason to trust the contractors it hired. Foulger-Pratt said a faulty, incomplete design by Parsons Brinckerhoff and delays created by the county made it impossible to do the job in a timely manner. Parsons Brinckerhoff contended that the county rushed the project.
The flurry of arguments thrust the jury a into a netherworld of construction arcana, with disquisitions from attorneys on slab thickness, torsion and shear and axial stiffness.
While the county requested a jury trial, there were signs that it may have been losing confidence in the jury’s ability to sort matters out in the county’s favor.

“I look over all the time and wonder how this hits them,” William Nussbaum, one of the outside attorneys hired by the county, said at a bench conference out of the jury’s earshot last week. “I wonder if, you quiz them now, they could tell you what’s going on here.”
Silver Spring Transit Center contractors, Montgomery County settle lawsuit over late, overbudget project - The Washington Post

my comment:

good job, Mr. Turque; thanks for your report. not only is it informative, but your descriptions are priceless. "When all attorneys approached the bench for conferences — a frequent occurrence with multiple defendants — it looked like a kind of legal rush hour. ... The flurry of arguments thrust the jury into a netherworld of construction arcana..." If everybody in this fiasco had done their job--engineers engineer, contractors construct, inspectors inspect and construction managers manage--like you write, then the SSTC would have been structurally sound, on time, and on budget.

the SSTC lawsuit is settled. will details follow?


From County Executive Ike Leggett:
“I am pleased that the County has settled the lawsuit we brought to recover taxpayer costs associated with the repair and remediation of the Silver Spring Transit Center. This is very much in the public interest. The $25 million payment to the County will cover 90 percent of the hard costs we incurred to deliver a safe and durable Silver Spring Transit Center.”
Montgomery County Settles Suit Over Silver Spring Transit Center | Montgomery Community Media
  • details to follow?
  • where are all of the media that were covering this story after the cracks first became public?
  • are we going to hear from the defendants?
  • are we going to hear from county, state and US taxpayers who funded the SSTC?
  • where are the investigative reporters and tough questions that were so absent from the media's reporting when the cracks first became public--and since?
  • is this going to be another whitewash telling only one side of the story (Leggett, Dise, et al)?
we should know shortly.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

WMATA/purple line decision: “incredibly disappointing, but not entirely surprising” MD gov. Larry Hogan

Purple Line Project In Maryland Suburbs Delayed Again – Perhaps Indefinitely | WAMU

makes sense to me.

why follow up the Paul S. Sarbanes Silver Spring Transit Center "monumental debacle" with a project with highly questionable ridership projections and links to a metro rail system with serious safety, operational, management and funding problems?

Saturday, May 20, 2017

$100 million trial that the media isn't covering

It's been almost two weeks since the trial over the Paul S. Sarbanes Silver Spring Transit Center (SSTC) began.


Two years ago there were thousands of media reports about the "monumental debacle" SSTC--cracks, design errors, construction errors, inspection errors, HUGE cost overruns, etc.

Montgomery County MD and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) sued the engineer, the contractor and the private materials' testing and inspection firm.

The engineer and the contractor blame Montgomery County.

One would think that with all of the media attention that the SSTC got at the time--and the millions of federal, state and local taxpayer dollars involved--that there would be plenty of media coverage now that the trial has begun.

not so. 


the public wants to know.

Friday, May 12, 2017

metro settles silver spring transit center lawsuit???

"Metro, which now operates the center after the county turned it over to the transit agency, was originally part of the case, but settled just before the trial, according to 'The Daily Record'." Really??? Where are all of the reporters who were reporting every statement that David Dise made for years, after the cracks became public, but before the SSTC was opened to the public? Isn't WMATA settling the case news? how much was the settlement? who paid whom? what are the details? are there conditions? the public has a right to know.


Thursday, May 11, 2017

judge warns lawyers not to discuss the case

thank you, News4, for being the only nonsubscription news source to report on the opening day of the court case for this "monumental debacle" public works project that was reported on exhaustively for years. The most telling item in your report is that the judge warned the lawyers not to discuss the case publicly for fear that a juror may hear. Does that mean that we will have to wait until the end of the trial for a juror to write a book before we learn what went on? I should live that long.

Opening Statements in Civil Suit Over Silver Spring Transit Center Delays | NBC4 Washington

Saturday, May 6, 2017

how to ruin a first class subway system in less than four decades

"The first portion of the Metrorail system opened March 27, 1976, connecting Farragut North to Rhode Island Avenue on the Red Line. The 103 miles (166 km) of the original 83-station system was completed on January 13, 2001, with the opening of Green Line's segment from Anacostia to Branch Avenue."

It's taken less than four decades to ruin Washington DC's first class subway system. 


  • incompetent management
  • incompetent board of directors
  • interference from politicians
  • operation and maintenance (or lack thereof) policies, procedures and practices that result from incompetent management, incompetent oversight and interference from politicians

Fixing METRO requires:
  • capable management 
  • capable oversight free from politics and politicians

What are the chances of this happening?
  • slim and none 

Monday, May 1, 2017

Metro mess

Metro Daily Fail: Amazing Pictures of WMATA in Action (April 28-30) - Washington DC, DC Patch

amazing! first weekend for this "new daily feature". 4 on Friday. 3 on Saturday. 0 on Sunday. (maybe there weren't any riders or trains on Sunday) it just goes to show that the public knows--and, tells it like it is.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Thursday, February 9, 2017

obfuscating the truth

County Preparing To Allocate $4.2 Million for Silver Spring Transit Center Lawsuit Costs - Bethesda Beat - Bethesda, MD

"How far can 10+ million pages go in obfuscating the truth, particularly to the public? probably pretty far. The simple truth can be found in the report that the county commissioned from independent structural engineering firm KCE and the county's own inspector general report. 1. The county took on the role of construction manager itself. 2. a county building inspector identified concerns about the design during permit stage, before construction began; but, these concerns were unheeded. 3. cracks were identified early on during construction; but, these, and other problems, were not fully vetted until the KCE investigation and report, when construction was almost complete." 

like, Judah Lifschitz

In 2014 Montgomery County councilman Phil Andrews called the Silver Spring Transit Center a "monumental debacle"Silver Spring Transit Center to cost taxpayers even more money | WJLA

He was right on the money! The Paul S. Sarbanes Silver Spring Transit Center is a "monumental debacle"

Montgomery County and WMATA are just as responsible for the Silver Spring Transit Center "monumental debacle", perhaps even more so, as Parsons Brinckerhoff, Foulger Pratt and its subcontractors, and the Balter Company. 

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Trump isn't the only one making BIG claims

"In an interview this week, County Executive Isiah Leggett (D), a former professor and assistant dean at Howard University Law School, said the upfront costs are an inevitable part of such litigation. He repeated his vow to recover “every penny” of expense to the county, including legal fees."
Legal costs mounting in Silver Spring Transit Center litigation - The Washington Post

"Montgomery can use its capital construction budget to pay for the transit-center lawsuit, which seeks damages against designer Parsons Brinckerhoff, general contractor Foulger-Pratt and the Robert B. Balter inspection company for negligence and breach of contract."

Citizens of Montgomery County, Maryland and the U.S., 
There is no "free parking" when a public works project, paid for by local, state and federal funds and users' fees, is botched. 

For Montgomery County citizens in particular, 
Robbing Peter (capital construction budget) to pay for Paul (Silver Spring Transit Center cost overruns, including legal costs) results in less countywide public works improvements.

Thursday, January 5, 2017


WMATA says that the track inspectors are to blame. The union says that WMATA management is to blame. 

Whatever the case, the public, who uses and pays for unsafe METRO, aren't to blame.