Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Council Elects New Leadership

Congratulations to our new Council President, Hans Riemer and our new Council Vice President, Nancy Navarro. We will have two very talented leaders at the helm in the coming year, and I feel optimistic about our future. Best wishes Hans and Nancy! You can read the full press release here.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Youth Town Hall

I couldn’t be happier with this year’s Youth Town Hall meeting. Nearly 300 students and young residents of Montgomery County were in attendance on Wednesday, November 29. My colleagues and I spoke with many students individually while others asked the full Council questions about important issues affecting their lives. Some topics discussed included bullying prevention, gang activity, pre-k education, issues affecting minority students, school overcrowding and overall safety in schools. I want to thank everyone who attended and I was especially impressed with the thoughtfulness of the questions we received. If you couldn’t attend, you can still watch it here.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Town Hall Meeting for Students - Wednesday, November 29 at 7:00 p.m.

The Council will hold the always-popular Town Hall Meeting for Students on Wednesday, November 29, at the Council Office Building in Rockville. The meeting will be held in the Council’s Third Floor Hearing Room beginning at 7 p.m. A pre-meeting reception will begin at 6:00 p.m. in the building’s second-floor cafeteria. 

This meeting is open to high school, middle school and local college students. This event provides an opportunity for the participants to let Councilmembers know how they feel about specific issues and to ask us questions in an organized, but informal, setting. 

The meeting will be broadcast live on County Cable Montgomery (CCM—cable Channel 996 on Comcast, Channel 1056 on RCN, and Channel 30 on Verizon) and rebroadcast at various times in the weeks following the meeting. The meeting will also be streamed on Facebook Live and YouTube (FB.com/CountyCableMoco and YouTube.com/CountyCableMoCo).

If you need more information or have questions about the meeting, email sonya.healy@montgomerycountymd.gov or call 240-777-7926.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Holiday Schedule for Thanksgiving

Montgomery County government will observe the following holiday schedule for Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, November 23:

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Montgomery County Executive's Ball - Sunday, December 3, 2017

Join me at this year’s Montgomery County Executive’s Ball on Sunday, December 3 at the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel and Conference Center. This annual event supports the invaluable education programs of our County’s arts and humanities organizations. Purchase tickets here or visit www.mocoexecball.org for more information.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Metro Red Line Takoma Station Closed and No Train Service From Silver Spring to Fort Totten Stations from November 25 through December 10

Beginning Saturday, November 25 through Sunday, December 10, there will be no Red Line trains operating between the Silver Spring and Fort Totten stations, as the Takoma station will be closed for a major improvement project. For more information and travel alternatives, visit the WMATA website.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Holiday Schedule for Veteran's Day

Here's the County's schedule for Veteran's Day:

Montgomery County government will observe the following holiday schedule for Veterans Day, Friday, November 10.
County Offices – closed  
Libraries – closed
County Liquor stores – all County liquor stores will be open normal hours.
Recreation – aquatic and community centers open as scheduled with the exception of the Germantown Indoor Swim Center, which is closing at 2 p.m. on November 10 and closed all day on November 11 for a swim meet; classes and programs will meet as scheduled; all senior programs cancelled, and administrative offices and senior centers closed.

Montgomery Parks - For operating schedule, visit www.MontgomeryParks.org
Ride On – will operate on a special modified holiday:  http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/DOT-Transit/holiday_schedules.html.  .
Metrorail – Information available at www.wmata.com
Metrobus – Information available at www.wmata.com
TRiPS Commuter Store at Silver Spring Transit Center - open 6 a.m. - 6 p.m.
TRiPS Mobile Commuter Store – not operating 
Refuse/recycling pickup – Regular schedule
The Shady Grove Processing Facility and Transfer Station – Regular schedule
Parking at public garages, lots, curbside meters – free
State offices and courts – closed

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Full Council Approves Minimum Wage Bill Increase to $15/hour

Today we unanimously approved Bill 28-17, Human Rights and Civil Liberties – County Minimum Wage – Amount – Annual Adjustment, that will increase the County’s minimum wage to $15 per hour on July 1, 2021 for large employers with 51 or more employees. Mid-sized employers with between 11 and 50 employees must raise wages to at least $15 per hour on July 1, 2023. Small employers with 10 or fewer employers must pay workers $15 per hour on July 1, 2024. Non-profit
organizations with 501(c)(3) designations and eligible service providers must raise wages to $15 per hour by July 1, 2023, unless they are considered a small employer. In addition, Bill 28-17 provides that the minimum wage must be adjusted annually for inflation according to the Consumer Price Index for urban wage earners and clerical workers (CPI-W), starting July 1, 2022.

What people want most is a job. I am pleased this legislation protects small businesses, especially those with less than 50 employees, while providing a transition over five to six years to implement a $15 per hour minimum wage. However, this is a regional issue and I strongly urge our State legislators to expand this Council’s efforts and enact legislation so all Marylanders can earn a fair wage. We need to make sure we have an environment that supports job growth by retaining and attracting new businesses in Montgomery County. Here's the full press release and you can watch my comments at today's Council session.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Proposal To Address Congestion, I-270 and I-495

I testified last Thursday at the state delegation's Annual Statewide Transportation Investment Tour. I encouraged the state to think big and take an aggressive, multi-modal approach in the Governor's P3 program to address traffic on I-495 and I-270. here's the full press release:

ROCKVILLE, Md., Nov 3, 2017— Councilmember Nancy Floreen, member of the Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment Committee, testified yesterday at the State Delegation’s Annual Statewide Transportation Investment Tour.
Every year, the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) Office of the Secretary and representatives from MDOT’s business units visit Montgomery County to discuss transportation investments. This tour provides updates for local officials and the public on the Governor’s Administration Draft FY 2018-2023 Consolidated Transportation Program (CTP), and details of MDOT’s $14.7 billion six-year capital budget.
In her testimony, Councilmember Floreen encourages the State to “think big” and “to take an aggressive multi-modal approach in the Governor’s P3 program to address traffic on I-495 and I-270. By expanding the effort to include the Corridor Cities Transitway, a longtime County priority, in the P3 project, Maryland can be assured of assuming national leadership in multi-modal planning; linking highway improvements to transit needs; and achieving a truly comprehensive solution to our deep and abiding congestion problems.”
To read Councilmember Floreen’s entire testimony, visit https://tinyurl.com/ya67u6by .

Friday, November 3, 2017

County Maintains AAA Bond Rating

Good news: Montgomery County has maintained its Triple-A bond rating for 2017 from three Wall Street bond rating agencies. Fitch, Moody’s, and Standard & Poor’s all affirmed the “AAA” rating – the highest achievable -- for the County. They all termed the outlook for Montgomery County as “stable.” Here's the press release:

County Executive Ike Leggett today announced that Montgomery County has maintained its Triple-A bond rating for 2017 from all three Wall Street bond rating agencies.

Fitch, Moody’s, and Standard & Poor’s all affirmed the “AAA” rating – the highest achievable -- for the County. They all termed the outlook for Montgomery County as “stable.”

“The County’s budget management demonstrates a strong commitment to bolstering its reserve cushion in preparation for the next downturn,” said Fitch. “Given the County’s conservative management practices and emphasis on increasing reserves, operations are expected to remain strong.” Moody’s noted that “the county’s financial flexibility remains sound,” while S & P indicated that the County’s “financial practices are strong, well embedded, and likely sustainable.”

The Triple-A bond rating enables Montgomery County to sell long-term bonds at the most favorable rates, saving County taxpayers millions of dollars over the life of the bonds. The rating also serves as a benchmark for numerous other financial transactions, ensuring the lowest possible costs in those areas as well.

“What is remarkable about this is that Montgomery County has continued to receive a Triple-A bond rating from all three bond rating agencies even during these past few years when other jurisdictions – including the federal government – were seeing downgrades and despite federal shutdowns, budget sequestrations and the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression,” said Leggett.

“Our ability to maintain our coveted Triple-A rating affirms my approach to putting the County’s fiscal house in order and reducing unsustainable increases in County spending, while investing in making government more effective and creating opportunities for the growth of good jobs in the future.”

“The retention of the County’s AAA Bond Rating is important for saving millions of dollars over the life of our bonds,” said Council President Roger Berliner. “This has helped save our taxpayers significant money and is a result of the prudent fiscal policies developed by the Council in 2010 and 2011.”

"As chair of the Council’s Fiscal Policy committee, I am pleased to learn that Montgomery County has once again retained its AAA bond rating from all three major rating agencies,” said Councilmember Nancy Navarro. “The retention of our AAA rating is a testament to our strong commitment to responsible fiscal policy."

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Legislation Introduced to Create More Affordable Homes - Bill 34-17, Housing -Moderately Priced Dwelling Units (MPDUs)

Today I introduced Bill 34-17Housing - Moderately Priced Dwelling Units (MPDUs) - Amendments, which is the first major revision to the MPDU law in 13 years. This legislation would add flexibility to the MPDU program. Our County's future depends on a robust economy. This bill will set the stage for many new housing opportunities to support a growing workforce. Here's the full press release:

ROCKVILLE, Md., Oct. 31, 2017—Today, Councilmember Nancy Floreen, Chair of the Planning Housing and Economic Development Committee, introduced the first effort in thirteen years to update the County’s rules to increase the supply of affordable homes. Significant revisions to the Moderately Priced Dwelling Unit (MPDU) program, which Councilmember Floreen proposes in Bill 34-17, Housing – Moderately Priced Dwelling Units – Amendments, hold the promise of increasing the number of affordable homes for families who need them.  
Councilmember Floreen’s bill will add needed flexibility to this landmark program, to bring it in line with current needs. It would confirm the Council’s authority to increase the required percentage of MPDUs on a community by community basis during each master plan review. Master plans guide development and land use in the County.  The Council reviews, revises, and approves master plan recommendations made by the Planning Board.  Currently, County law requires at least 12.5% of housing developments to be MPDUs, but, in some areas, the Council has determined that 15% is a more appropriate minimum requirement.  
“Our County’s future depends on a robust economy. This bill will set the stage for many new housing opportunities to support a growing workforce,” said Councilmember Floreen.  
In a break from the past, Bill 34-17 extends the requirement to contribute to our housing needs by requiring a payment to the Housing Initiative Fund for all new housing developments including those below the current threshold of 20 units. It also broadens the authority of the Director of the Department of Housing and Community Affairs (DHCA) to accept Housing Initiative Fund payments in lieu of including MPDUs in a development. Experience has shown that the County can achieve more MPDUs in certain circumstances if affordable homes are provided in a different location. The funding can be strategically used to increase needed rental units in place of condominiums with unaffordable fees. Restrictions apply so that the off-site location remains in the general vicinity of the original development. These new sources of revenue will add badly needed support to the county’s efforts to add more affordable units for the folks who need them the most.  
Also, the bill would authorize the Director of DHCA to calculate the MPDU obligation by square feet if the result is more homes or homes better sized to meet the needs of our low and moderate-income residents.  
Councilmember Floreen’s bill contains many other provisions designed to update the MPDU program, make it more responsive to the needs of today’s residents, and, most importantly, produce more homes for families.

Monday, October 30, 2017

The Full Council Meets with Senator Ben Cardin

Today we met with Senator Ben Cardin. This informal session allows time for Senator Cardin to discuss important issues with the County Council. We covered a wide range of topics including concerns of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), gun control, the proposed tax reform bill, and healthcare. We are fortunate to have Senator Cardin advocating for the residents of Montgomery County.

Open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) begins November 1

The Affordable Care Act enrollment begins November 1. Several changes have occurred but health insurance coverage is still available through the ACA. The enrollment period is only 45 days this year (until December 15), so be sure and enroll early so you don’t miss the chance for affordable health coverage. You can browse and compare plans at www.marylandhealthconnection.gov. Financial assistance is still available for those who qualify.  Find out what documents you need to enroll at www.montgomeryhealthconnection.org.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Apply for Merit System Protection Board - Application Deadline is Wednesday, November 1

We're accepting applications from qualified voters of the County for appointment to a three-year term on the Merit System Protection Board. Generally, the Board is expected to oversee the Merit System and to protect employee and applicant rights guaranteed under the County Merit System. Here's the full press release:

ROCKVILLE, Md., October 17, 2017 - The Montgomery County Council is accepting applications from qualified voters of the County for appointment to a three-year term on the Merit System Protection Board. The term of Charlotte Crutchfield (Democrat) will expire on Dec. 31. Ms. Crutchfield has indicated that she does not intend to apply for reappointment. Applications must be received in the Council office by 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 1.  
 
In addition to Ms. Crutchfield, current members of the board are Angela Franco (Republican) and Michael Kator (Democrat). By law, no more than two of the three members of the Merit System Protection Board may be of the same political party. The appointee for this position may be a Democrat, Republican, a voter who declines to affiliate with a party, or a voter who is a member of another party officially recognized by the Board of Elections.
 
Generally, the board is expected to oversee the Merit System and to protect employee and applicant rights guaranteed under the County Merit System. There are two methods in which the board processes appeals:
• A written decision issued after a review and discussion of a written record.
• A written decision issued after a pre-hearing conference and a formal hearing in cases involving a suspension, demotion or dismissal.  
 
The board, on a periodic basis, conducts special studies, audits or inquiries of the administration of the merit and retirement pay systems and, in this effort, may compel the attendance of witnesses. Written reports of its findings and recommendations are filed with the County Executive and the County Council. The board also provides comments on any proposed changes in Merit System law or regulations.
 
The board generally holds hearings during the day, which may take the full day, with any additional proceedings normally scheduled for subsequent days or evening(s). The board normally meets once per month during the day for approximately two hours. Additional time is also required for preparatory work.  
 
Members of the board currently receive $7,862.91 per year, which is adjusted annually to reflect 50 percent of the percentage change in the Washington Area Consumer Price Index. The chair receives $10,084.77 per year.
 
Board members are restricted in political activity while serving. Section 403 of the County Charter states, in part: “No member shall hold political office or participate in any campaign for any political or public office during the member’s term of office.”  
 
Members of County boards, committees and commissions may not serve on more than one such group at a time.
 
Letters expressing interest, including a resume listing professional and civic experience, political party affiliation, home and office telephone numbers, and an email address should be addressed to: Council President Roger Berliner, County Council Office, 100 Maryland Avenue, Rockville, Maryland 20850, or can be emailed to county.council@montgomerycountymd.gov. Applications must be received no later than 5 p.m. on Nov. 1. It is the Council’s policy not to consider applications received after the deadline. After the application closing date, Councilmembers will review the letters of application and may select applicants for interview.
 
Letters of application and resumes are made public as part of the appointment process. Any interviews held are open to the public and will be televised. A financial statement of assets, debts, income and family property interests will be required of all applicants. Only the appointed candidate will be required to make the financial statement available to the public.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Prescription Drug Take-Back Day is Saturday, October 28 from 10:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m.

Here's complete information regarding Montgomery County's participation in this year's Nationwide Prescription Drug Take-Back Day:

Montgomery County Law Enforcement Agencies and DHHS to Participate in
DEA Nationwide Prescription Drug Take-Back Day

For Immediate Release: Monday, October 16, 2017

On Saturday, October 28 between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., community members can drop off unused, unwanted, or expired prescription drugs as Montgomery County once again participates in the Washington Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA’s) National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day.

County law enforcement agencies and the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse Prevention Office are co-sponsoring the effort. This is a safe, free and anonymous opportunity to dispose of unused, unwanted or expired prescription drugs and is part of a national effort to prevent the increasing problems of prescription drug abuse and theft that continues to occur nationwide.

Drop-off locations will be open to the general public throughout Montgomery County. These locations will accept prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications only. Liquids, illicit drugs, needles, sharps and syringes cannot be accepted as part of this take-back program. Officers will staff collection boxes in the parking lots of the following facilities or in facility lobbies:

  • Bethesda
MCP 2nd District Police Station                                     7359 Wisconsin Avenue

  • Chevy Chase:
Village of Friendship Heights
      Community Center                                                           4433 S. Park Avenue

Chevy Chase Village Police Station                                 5906 Connecticut Avenue

  • Damascus
Damascus Library                                                             9701 Main Street

  • Gaithersburg:
MCP 6th District Station                                                 45A West Watkins Mill Rd.

Gaithersburg Police Station                                              14 Fulks Corner Avenue

Asbury Methodist Village – Lobby of Hefner Bldg.       417 Russell Avenue

Senior Living at Kentlands Manor                                   217 Booth St., Kentlands

  • Germantown:
MCP 5th District Station                                                20000 Aircraft Drive

  • Rockville:
Rockville City Police/Montgomery County Sheriffs       Rockville City Police Station  
2 W. Montgomery Avenue (Lobby of Rockville City Police building)

Maryland State Police Rockville Barrack                        7915 Montrose Road

Bender Jewish Community Center (JCC) of Greater Washington                                                                                                                                   6125 Montrose Road
  • Silver Spring:
MCP 3rd District Station                                                1001 Milestone Drive

Fire Station 1                                                                    8110 Georgia Avenue

  • Takoma Park:
Takoma Park Police at Takoma Park City Building Lobby 
7500 Maple Avenue
  • Wheaton:
MCP 4th District Station                                                2300 Randolph Road                                                                       

Residents are encouraged to bring in medications containing controlled substances but will accept any medications brought for disposal. All sites will take pills and medication patches of all kinds. If possible, prescription labels should be removed or personal information should be blacked out; however, pill bottles will still be accepted if the labels are attached. No questions will be asked. This is an opportunity to safely empty out a medicine cabinet of drugs that are no longer needed.

Disposing of prescription drugs through a drug take-back day is the safest option. If it is safe to dispose of a drug by flushing it down a toilet, the drug label or prescription information will indicate that option is an appropriate means of disposal. Otherwise unused drugs should not be poured down a sink or flushed for disposal.

Drugs should not be thrown in the trash unless specific safety precautions for safe disposal are followed. The County’s Division of Solid Waste Services offers these suggestions:

  1. Place unwanted or expired medication into a plastic bag (with a seal) or other empty container with a lid to prevent liquid medications from leaking out.
  2. Mix with kitty litter, coffee grounds or sawdust. (Liquid medications can be solidified using kitty litter or sawdust.)
  3. Seal the bag and/or container.
  4. Crush pills or tablets.
  5. Put the container and/or bag containing the medication into your regular household trash.
  6. Remove the label with the patient’s name from the original medicine vial or bottle.
  7. Place the empty plastic vial or bottle into your blue County recycling bin. Empty aerosol inhalers can also be recycled in recycling bins.

Unused and/or expired medicines that remain in home cabinets are highly susceptible to diversion, misuse, and abuse. According to the DEA, rates of prescription drug abuse in the U.S. are alarmingly high, as are the number of accidental poisonings and overdoses due to these drugs.  Studies show that a majority of abused prescription drugs are obtained from family and friends, including from the home medicine cabinet.
The returned medications on Drug Take-Back day will be incinerated according to federal and state environmental guidelines.   

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Media Contact: Lucille Baur, 240-777-6547 or Lucille.Baur@montgomerycountymd.gov