Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Why serve on SSCAB? (By Mark Mendez)

A guest blog by Mark Mendez, Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Board member

September 2017

Fellow advisory board members,

As we enter the fall and a new year, I’d like to share why I applied to the Silver Spring Citizens’ Advisory Board in 2012. A former SSCAB member suggested that our neighborhoods needed to know 'what was coming down the pike' and felt I had the temperament to represent us on the board.

Over the past five years, I’ve enjoyed my time on the board and have been able to get ahead of the curve on some events. I could relay information and get neighbors involved on behalf of my local neighborhood of Rosemary Hills and Silver Spring in general. Through SSCAB meetings, I've made important connections with agencies and individuals that impact what happens where we live and more importantly, come to understand their priorities.

My own interests have centered on how county planning decisions impact current residents and businesses. The neighborhoods of Silver Spring all have aspects that can be improved, but also have unique strengths that should not be taken for granted.

I’ve realized that displacing or destabilizing longtime businesses and assuming they can find another home in the county or that new entrepreneurs will fill the void is risky planning at best. To this end, I suggested a topic and offered to organize two of the advisory board’s public meetings in September 2016. I invited members of the county planning board, planning department and county council to review the role of community input in our current planning process. The meetings were well attended and participants benefited from candid discussion and new perspectives.

On a more micro level, I’ve been able to bring attention to small business owners in an industrial area that was slated for redevelopment for additional residential housing. Working with neighbors and business owners to change the conversation surrounding industrial zoning was a 2+ year process. Part of this effort for me was creating an FB Page and website that shined a light on small business owners in West Silver Spring so their livelihoods were seen as more than a zoning category. I included a number of employer profiles within the videos here:


This year, the council came to recognize the importance of this area and reversed the trend of rezoning industrial areas for more housing. In the end, the business area was preserved and the council approved a unique sector plan that creates a variety of housing options in Rosemary Hills and significant affordable housing directly at transit. This ‘20-year’ plan for west Silver Spring plays to the strengths of the area and supports the region with important services while recognizing the role of transit.

In the coming months and years, all of us will have the chance to shape where we live. This is especially true for Purple Line or BRT neighborhoods where change is coming. I believe that being an active member of the SSCAB makes Silver Spring a stronger and more authentic home.

Mark Mendez
Rosemary Hills

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Marketing with MeetUp

NOTE: This is a guest posting by Kathy Jentz, a Silver Spring activist. The article was originally published by the American Farm Publications Inc.

Marketing with MeetUp
By Kathy Jentz

Who says social media is the death of face-to-face interaction? MeetUp.com has been around for almost 15 years now and is used by over 30 million members for more than 600,000 monthly in-person meetings. The whole basis of this web site is to create connections beyond online.

Yet, marketers and businesses have been very slow to adapt MeetUp as a tool for growing their customer base. This resource is low-cost and one of the most under-used of the social media channels for reaching new customers.

First, create a MeetUp account, if you don’t already have one. Then, go to your Profile and upload your same avatar image that you use on the rest of your social media channels and thoroughly fill out your information. Be sure to select several interest groups. There are many that are in the horticultural and agricultural worlds – from “Sustainable Farming” to “Plant Collecting.” This part is free, to create a MeetUp group you sign up for a basic or an unlimited plans that allow organizers to run up to 3 Meetup Groups on a single account.

Next, set up groups in your specialty area. You might search first to see if there is anything similar to what you are considering already in your area and then join that. You want your group to be specific and narrow in scope. Remember, you can host up to 3 and can create other groups for your various business focuses. An example of a MeetUp group might be “Organic Flower Farmers in New Jersey.”
After you attract a few group members, engage with them online and ask them to introduce themselves. You can then set up a tentative in-person MeetUp. You could host it as a brown-bag lunch at your own location or at a neutral spot like a nearby coffee shop.

Now you want to share and market that event far-and-wide across all your social media networks. MeetUp makes that pretty easy by allowing you to connect your various accounts to your profile. Post to your blog about it and announce it on other, related MeetUp groups. Print up flyers announcing your group and meeting and insert them in customer orders.

Don’t be disappointed if you do not have a large turnout at your event. Focus here on quality over quantity. Make the events attractive and fun and eventually you will start to build up a loyal base. A friend of mine, who sells beautiful flower photography, set up a MeetUp group for other flower photographers in her area and once a month they go together in the early morning to various local public gardens to take photos as a group. Afterwards, they meet for coffee and compare shots and swap photography tips.

Some ways to liven up your in-person meetings include having a guest expert speaker (that can be you!), providing delicious food, breaking the ice with introductions plus nametags and games, and pulling in a charity to benefit from the gathering. The nonprofit could be a marketing partner and help promote your event as well. An example might be a gleaning day at a local fruit farm at the end of the harvest with participants being able to keep some produce, but the bulk going to a local food pantry.

After your event, no matter how small it was, post photos and thank those who attended. Build up anticipation for the next one. 

Business relationships are best built on friendships and MeetUp.com makes it easier than ever to connect with like-minded folks in your geographical and topic areas.

*About the Author: Kathy Jentz is the Editor/Publisher of Washington Gardener Magazine, the publication for Mid-Atlantic home gardeners. She is the former Brand Ambassador for Meadows Farms Nurseries and the Social Media Guru for various nonprofit organizations including DCGardens.com. She can be reached at KathyJentz@gmail.com or 301-588-6894.

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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Community Access Program - A success story

When the Silver Spring Civic Building and Veterans Plaza opened in the summer of 2010, there were some that thought the pricing structure was simply out of reach for many users – particularly for non-profits and other civic organizations.

The County – led by the County Executive – analyzed how to best lower the cost to worthy groups, without compromising the enterprise nature of the facility’s fiscal steward, the Community Use of Public Facilities.

The idea emerged to create a separate fund that would in essence subsidize certain uses. The rules were simple and clear. Users subsidized had to serve a public good. Priority would be given to those organizations located in or serving Montgomery County residents. Non-profits, civics and fraternal groups would qualify. The funds would go towards financially supporting a portion of the rental fees. A formal application process was adopted. And, a committee was set up to make the decision on who should be approved, and what percent subsidy should be granted. Annual cost of the Program has ranged from $100,000 - $200,000.

And so the Community Access Pilot program was born. After two years of experimentation and adjustments, the Pilot became a Program – the Community Access Program.

Groups that have qualified and received funding include:
  • Various community groups (youth, faith based, art, cultural, clubs, sorority/fraternity, etc.) that are working on improving and/or positively impacting others in Montgomery County; and,
  • Civic Groups - including but not limited to homeowners associations, neighborhood associations, tenant associations, senior citizen groups, etc.

 The CAP has been instrumental in making the Civic Building and Veterans Plaza a premier welcoming space, accessible to a broad range of users.

Over the few years in existence, the CAP has helped over 200 organizations fulfill their dreams of using this civic space at a reasonable cost.

Friday, February 10, 2017


NOTE: This is the first blog posting since November 8th. After three months of hiatious, we hope to once again occasionally post meaningful stuff...


These are the links that appear in every eNewsletter the Silver Spring Regional Area Director, Reemberto Rodriguez sends - every week or so. (If you are not subscribed to this eNewsletter, you can do so by simply going to this link. You can see recent issues here.)

These links provide a wealth of information 'a click away'. You are encouraged to browse through them, use them, and let us know if there are some critical ones missing.


(links to all Departments and much more!)

(for Citizens Advisory Board, Urban District, and A&E)

(the broader downtown area listings and happenings)

(links to venues and listings)

(for commercial hubs in the Regional Area)
(for civic matters and more)

(on County's Boards, Committees, and Commissions)




List of public stations where hyper-local news lives:


Know of others? e-mail us!






Subsidy Program Info


Recreation and Parks Programs


Farmers Markets


Saturdays 9 a.m. - 1 p.m.
(Ellsworth and Veterans Plaza)

Sundays 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.
(Laurel Ave, downtown)

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

#EVERYVOTEMATTERS Our Daily Tip to Get Out the Vote

OCTOBER 24: Engage the wait staff at Waffle House - or the McDonald’s drive through - and remind them to vote vote vote. They will appreciate a fellow citizen recognizing their dignity and worth… And your encouragement may be just what they need for them to vote vote vote.

OCTOBER 25: Vote early! Polls are open for early voting in many States. Don’t wait. Don’t delay. Don’t despair. Vote vote vote. https://www.vote.org/early-voting-calendar/

OCTOBER 26: Focus your energy on the possible. Beware of wasting your precious time, energy, or thoughts on those who you know will not change their minds. Reach out instead to those who simply need encouragement to get to the polls and vote vote vote.

OCTOBER 27: Sharing your enthusiasm for voting is the most effective way to encourage others to do the same. Stay positive. Affirm this greatest of civic duties. Talk it up. Show up!

OCTOBER 28: Remind your female friends that there was a time not too long ago when they could not vote. Don’t squander this ‘right’! Others fought - and died! - so you could vote. We owe it to our ancestors to vote vote vote.

OCTOBER 29: Remind your friends (and yourself!) that this election is much more than the Presidential race. There are MANY local races (and referenda) to learn about, care for, and vote vote vote. Simply Google “sample ballot”, enter your address, and you will see your local ballot.

OCTOBER 30: When you door knock, post on social media, and talk with discouraged friends: Beware. Be VERY AWARE. Many are going to great length to convince you to NOT vote. No matter: Encourage other to Vote, vote, vote!

OCTOBER 31: Do the obvious. Offer to take your parents, your adult children, your old aunt, your scrooge uncle - your own family members! - to the polls. Don’t let it be that they don’t vote because you never insisted! The family that votes together stays together.

NOVEMBER 1: Pray. Yes, pray. Pray that we - and each person we encourage to vote - find it in us to be above the fray; to understand that all of this is for much more than the craziness of the moment; that we each - individually - can make a difference. Pray on. And vote vote vote!

NOVEMBER 2: Stay positive. Impossible? No! Not if you emphasize the beauty, wonders, and magnificence of what is the U.S. of A - and its people. A people that are good and gracious; thoughtful and thankful…And yes, challenged, broken, and dysfunctional - far from perfect. Yet, vote we must. Because. Because it is the right thing to do. Vote vote vote.

NOVEMBER 3: Impress upon everyone you run across today how preciously individual we each are. Sure, we are millions. But, those millions are made up of ones. We each are one. Each ONE matters. Vote vote vote.


#EVERYVOTEMATTERS  Our Daily Tip to Get Out the Vote: Have fun. No one likes a grouch. Authentically enJoy talking up the responsibility to vote. Not only is it the right thing to do, it is also [plifting. It connects us with millions of other Americans. It is our most prolific common ritual. And it should feel good. No need to “hold your nose”; be proud to vote vote vote. !Vote mi gente!

November 5

Don't vote. Don’t complain…. So vote vote vote!

NOVEMBER 6 - Sunday

#EVERYVOTEMATTERS  Our Daily Tip to Get Out the Vote: For those who are faith-based, you probably heard reference to the importance of voting preached from the pulpit today. If not - and even if you did, here’s an inspiration.

NOVEMBER 7 - Monday

 The one question you will get the most today is: WHERE do I vote? There is a SIMPLE answer! “Just GOOGLE it!” www.google.com Just enter your address and walla! - Up comes your voting place. NO EXCUSE not to vote vote vote!

NOVEMBER 8 - Tuesday

Only one thing to do today: 

Friday, May 6, 2016

Learn How to Develop Buildings You Care About in Silver Spring, May 13-14

This is the first time such an offering is made in Silver Spring. It highlights our Area's continuing welcoming environment for entrepreneurship.

Guest Blog By Emily Brown

Learn How to Develop Buildings You Care About in Silver Spring, May 13-14

In Silver Spring, the demand for walkable residential properties in the area is intense; as pointed out in a recent blog post, from the middle of the last decade through the middle or end of this one, Silver Spring will have added in the proximity of 5,000 residential units throughout the downtown area.

On May 13-14, the Incremental Development Alliance, a national non-profit, will be holding a Small Scale Developer Bootcamp, designed to teach would-be small real estate developers the basics of small residential and mixed-use projects. This event is co-sponsored by CNU DC, and focuses on how an incremental approach to building cities makes communities stronger and creates more wealth for citizens.

While large development project are essential for meeting the residential and retail needs, small developments also play a key role in the evolution of place.  The advantages of disseminating knowledge on details of the development process include locals owning property, which in turn encourages community engagement and increased participation in the economic and civic sphere. For example, the development of small retail allows entrepreneurs and small businesses to move into spaces at oftentimes less rent found in some larger new projects.

Silver Spring is a market that is ripe for small projects. The demand is here, and so is the need to preserve a neighborhood environment that encourages small business development and local engagement. 

If you’ve ever wondered why that lot on the corner couldn’t be a coffee shop, or had an idea about how to fill a gap on a commercial strip, you may want to consider attending this event. (NOTE: THERE IS A FEE FOR THIS EVENT.)

The Small Scale Development Bootcamp  kicks off with a Happy Hour at Fire House 1 on Friday May 13 from 6:00 to 9:00 pm, with an all day training the next day, Saturday May 14, from 8:00 am to 5:30 pm. It will be taught by experienced developers, John Anderson and Michael Lander. Participants will learn technical skills and resources to navigate development financing, zoning and entitlement, site selection and building design in order assemble your own small scale real estate deal. The workshop will also address issues surrounding becoming a developer, risk management, quality of life and basic business setup and contracting methods.

WHAT: Small Developer Bootcamp
WHEN: Friday, May 13, and  Saturday May 14, 2016
WHERE: Fire Station 1 and Montgomery County Planning Department Building  
(8787 Georgia Ave Silver Spring, MD 20910)