Tuesday, June 21, 2016

OLO Report Compares Tax Burdens of Six Local Jurisdictions

Take a look at the report from our Office of Legislative Oversight entitled Individual and Business Tax Burdens in Local Jurisdictions. The report analyzes the tax burden for individuals and businesses in Montgomery County compared to five other local jurisdictions: Prince George’s, Howard and Frederick counties in Maryland, Fairfax County in Virginia and the District of Columbia.

The tax burden data in the OLO report comes from two reports conducted for the District of Columbia government. Some highlights of the OLO report include:

  • Among the local jurisdictions examined in the report, Montgomery County ranked third in projected Fiscal Year 2016 total revenue at $5.1 billion, following the District ($14.0 billion) and Fairfax County ($7.5 billion).
  • Among families in the six jurisdictions at five annual income levels ranging from $25,000 to $150,000, Montgomery County ranked third in annual tax burden at all income levels except for $50,000. At the $50,000 level, the tax burden in Montgomery County is lower than all but one of the jurisdictions examined.
  • A September 2013 report created for the D.C. Tax Revision Commission found that in many scenarios, taxes are lower for businesses located in Montgomery County, compared to Prince George’s County, Fairfax County and the District of Columbia.
The Council is scheduled to receive a briefing on the report on Tuesday, July 12. Stop by the Third Floor Hearing Room of the Council Office Building or watch it on County Cable Montgomery.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Council Names Gerald Cichy to Planning Board

Congratulations to our newly appointed Planning Board member. Here's the full press release:

The Montgomery County Council today unanimously named Gerald Cichy of Rockville to a soon to be vacant position on the Montgomery County Planning Board. He will begin his term in July, when the second and final term Amy Presley concludes. 

By law, the position had to be filled by a Republican, a voter who declines to affiliate with a party or by a member of another party officially recognized by the Montgomery County Board of Elections. In addition to Ms. Presley (Republican), current board members are Chair Casey Anderson (Democrat), Norman Dreyfuss (Republican), Natali Fani-Gonzalez (Democrat) and Marye Wells-Harley (Democrat). 

Mr. Cichy has more than 50 years in transportation and planning both in Montgomery County and the Washington region. He was director of the Montgomery County Department of Transportation from 1979-84. He also has served as a senior executive at the Maryland Transit Administration, the Maryland Department of Transportation, the U.S. Department of Transportation and the District of Columbia Department of Transportation.

His experience has included work with the proposed Corridor Cities Transitway in Montgomery County, the planned U.S. Route 29 Busway/BRT, the Purple Line, the ICC commuter bus, transit-oriented development, the B-W Maglev and BRAC transit and rideshare services.

He was awarded a U.S. Patent for a Bus Rapid Transit Vehicle, with doors to directly assess transit platforms. He was the recipient of the Federal Transit Administration’s "Innovative Idea Award" for his concept of a 200-Mile Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) System supplementing the 100-Mile plus Metrorail System in the Washington Region. 

“With my recent retirement from the Maryland Department of Transportation and the Maryland Transit Administration, I am able to bring my wealth of experience, time, commitment and energy to this board position,” Mr. Cichy wrote to the Council in his letter of application. “It would be a great pleasure for me to, once again, serve my home County and community.” 


Thursday, June 9, 2016

Legislator of the Year

I'm so grateful to the Chamber for this recognition. See the video or read the full press release:

Montgomery County Council President Nancy Floreen will receive the Legislator of the Year Award from the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce at its 57th annual dinner at 7 p.m. on Thursday, June 9, at the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel and Conference Center.

Council President Floreen, who chairs the Council’s Planning, Housing and Economic Development Committee and serves on its Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment Committee, this year led the Council toward creating a Fiscal Year 2017 operating budget that emphasized “Education First, but Not Education Only.” She was the lead sponsor of a plan that will accelerate the Montgomery County Public Schools’ schedule for refurbishing existing schools and building new ones. 

At the dinner that is expected to have a crowd of more than 800, other honorees will be Bell Nursery USA (Visionary of the Year Award); the National Institutes of Health (Public Sector Partner of the Year Award); Lawrence Duncan, III, vice president of Federal and State Government Relations and PAC Affairs of Lockheed Martin Corporation (Business Advocate of the Year Award); and Leslie Ford Weber, director of Campus and Government and Community Affairs for the Montgomery County campus of Johns Hopkins University (Chairman’s Award).

 Now in her fourth term, Council President Floreen has been an advocate for a strong business environment in the County. She inspired creation of the Montgomery Business Development Corporation that led to a new approach to economic development in the County, spearheaded the Green Business Certification Program and championed the rewrite of the County Zoning Ordinance and modernization of the Road Code. She previously served as Council president in 2010. 
The Donohoe Companies, Inc., Federal Realty Investment Trust, Linowes and Blocher LLP and Percontee, Inc. are the sponsors of the Legislator of the Year Award.

“Linowes and Blocher, Federal Realty Investment Trust, Percontee and Donohoe are honored to sponsor Nancy Floreen as the Chamber’s Legislator of the Year,” said Barbara A. Sears of Linowes and Blocher. “Nancy has been an effective leader in Montgomery County for nearly 30 years. As an at-large member of the Montgomery County Council for the last 14 years, she has helped shape County policies and laws in numerous areas with the best interests of the business community, residents, and other stakeholders in mind.  In her role as a legislator, she has consistently demonstrated the ability to balance competing interests while skillfully advancing important legislative goals.”

Council President Floreen said she was honored to be selected to receive the prestigious award.

“I am pleased to be recognized by such a venerable organization as the Chamber of Commerce and I am also proud to be associated with our many outstanding businesses that make Montgomery County such a great place to live, work and raise a family,” said Council President Floreen. “Most of all, I am grateful for having had the opportunity to work with the Montgomery County businesses of all sizes that have taken civic engagement so seriously and have made such a tremendous impact on our community.”

For press admission or inquiries regarding the dinner, contact Michelle Guzman of the Chamber of Commerce at mguzman@mcccmd.com or 301-738-0015.


Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Passing of Former Councilmember Esther Gelman

Esther P. Gelman, who served as member of the Montgomery County Council for three terms from 1974-87, passed away on Monday, June 6, after a long illness. She would have been 85 on her birthday next week on June 14.

Mrs. Gelman served as president of the Council in 1984. She was the fourth woman to serve as Council president. A member of various Council committees, she sponsored legislation in such areas as comparable pay, religious leave accommodations, smoking prohibitions and the establishment of the Community Crisis Center for abused women.

Throughout her long political career Gelman was an active advocate for the rights of victims of sexual assault and spousal abuse and helped improve human services available to residents of Montgomery County.

She was born in Baltimore on June 14, 1931, and graduated cum laude from the University of Colorado in 1952 with a B.A. in English, History and Philosophy. 

In 1951, Mrs. Gelman married Norman I. Gelman. They had two daughters, Judy and Sharon.

Her funeral will be held at 11:30 a.m. on Friday, June 10, at Adat Shalom at 7727 Persimmon Tree Lane in Bethesda. In lieu of flowers, her family has asked that contributions be made to an organization she helped to create—the Montgomery County Public Schools Foundation, which provides higher education scholarships for financially needy students.

Mrs. Gelman began her political career in 1960 through involvement with the local Democratic party and various civic and neighborhood organizations. As correspondent for the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) from 1968 to 1970, she reported on the activities of the Commission and of the Montgomery County Planning Board. She served as a commissioner of the M-NCPPC from 1970 to 1974. 

Mrs. Gelman was active in the Maryland Association of Counties (MACo), the Metropolitan- Washington Council of Governments (COG) and the National Association of Counties (NACo). She was president of MACo in 1984.

In its edition of Jan. 3, 1984, The Washington Post listed “Winners and Losers in the State of Maryland” in 1983. Mrs. Gelman had just been elected president of the County Council and was listed as one of the 10 “winners.” Others on the list of winners included Abe Pollin, owner of the Washington Capitals and Bullets, and the Baltimore Orioles, who won the World Series in 1983.

She earned many honors and awards throughout her career including the 1984 American ORT Federation’s Golda Meir Award for Distinguished Education and Humanitarian Service, the Montgomery County Government Spousal Abuse Award and the President’s Award from the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Chamber of Commerce, the Montgomery County Health Services Planning Board, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Hebrew Academy of Greater Washington. 

Following her election to the Montgomery County Council in 1974, Mrs. Gelman began campaigning for legislation to restrict smoking in public, which resulted in Bill 26-76 "Smoking in Public Places" and in her 1985 co-sponsoring of Bill 27-85 "Smoking in County Government Workplaces and Rail Transit Stations."

In 1982 Mrs. Gelman voiced her concern with the issue of comparable worth by introducing Bill 55-82, "Comparable Worth-Equal Pay for Work of Equal Worth." She continued her advocacy of women's issues in 1984 by sponsoring legislation designed to improve day care facilities and payment methods for County employees.

See the tribute on County Report.

Friday, June 3, 2016

County's Unemployment Rate Drops

The Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation reports that Montgomery County’s unemployment rate for April was 3.3%. That's  down from 3.5% in March. 

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Council Passes "Education First" Budget

This year we set out to make a major course correction. We committed ourselves to the core goals of closing the educational achievement gap; reducing class sizes across the board; making decisions that are both achievable in the short term and sustainable over time; and ensuring that residents see results for any additional investments we ask them to make.
Two of the four goals relate directly to the classroom, and that’s why we created a historic partnership with the Board of Education to pass an “education first” budget.

With this budget, students and parents can look forward to more teachers, paraeducators, counselors and other student support positions, in addition to expanded programs to support achievement goals and enhance college and career readiness. What’s more, we will be able to construct school revitalizations and additions sooner than expected. Our schools are bursting at the seams, and this relief is long overdue.

While this is an “education first” budget, it isn’t an “education only” budget. As much as many people care about our outstanding school system, we know that others have different priorities. This budget is very much about those people as well.

This budget provides a much-needed boost to police and fire and rescue services as we will be adding more police officers and firefighters and giving them the equipment they need to continue to make this one the safest counties in America. This budget is about libraries, recreation, parks, the safety net, Montgomery College, and transportation programs that help get people around this county better.

This budget means that no matter where you live in the county, if you call an ambulance, you can count on a life-saving response time. Our police force will now be equipped with body cameras. Potholes will be filled, snow will be plowed, grass in parks and on playing fields will be mowed and trees will get planted in the right-of-way. While our unemployment rate has fallen steadily over the past couple of years, our newly privatized program for economic development promises an even better job market in the future. We are going to help new businesses in their early stages and hope they will remain here once they become successful. We are going to aggressively seek to get established businesses to relocate here and we are going to fight to keep the great businesses of all sizes that already call Montgomery County home. Our avid readers and researchers will appreciate the interim Wheaton Library and extended hours at several branches. And students will have better access to after-school enrichment programs.

I want to be clear that this year’s decisions represent more than a one-year budget. They represent a plan for the future. For the first time in eight years, we opted to raise the property tax over the Charter limit. That wasn’t an easy decision, but I am optimistic that we’ve set up a structure that is responsive to our community’s needs and is sustainable over time.

See my full comments on the approved budget or read the press release for all the details.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Holiday Schedule for Memorial Day

Here's our holiday schedule for Memorial Day, Monday, May 30:

  • County Offices – closed 
  • Libraries – closed 
  • County Liquor stores – all Country liquor stores will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Recreation – all indoor and outdoor aquatic facilities will be open; administrative offices, senior centers and community recreation centers will be closed 
  • Montgomery Parks - Montgomery Parks – Holiday schedule available at http://montgomeryplanningboard.org/blog-news/2016/05/09/montgomery-parks-happenings-and-operating-schedule-for-2016-memorial-day-weekend/
  • Ride On – Will operate on a Sunday schedule
  • Metrorail –Will operate on a Sunday schedule. Additional information available at www.wmata.com
  • Metrobus – Will operate on a Sunday schedule. Additional information available at www.wmata.com
  • TRiPS Commuter Stores (Silver Spring and Friendship Heights) - closed
  • Refuse/recycling pickup – no collection, all collections scheduled on or after the holiday will be made one day later in the week. Monday collections on Tuesday; Tuesday collections made on Wednesday; Wednesday collections on Thursday; Thursday collections on Friday; and Friday collections on Saturday
  • The Shady Grove Processing Facility and Transfer Station - closed 
  • Parking at public garages, lots, curbside meters – free
  • MCPS Schools and Administrative Offices – closed
  • State offices and courts – closed

Thursday, May 19, 2016

My Remarks on Today's Budget Decisions

Today the Council unanimously reached a preliminary agreement on the Fiscal Year 2017 operating budget and the Fiscal Years 2017-22 Capital Improvements Program. Here are my complete remarks on today's vote:

Leadership is about setting the stage in which difficult conversations can occur. Leadership is about undertaking personal risk to achieve the larger good. Leadership is about the strength to persevere in the face of sustained opposition. Today, leadership is the face of Board of Education president Mike Durso, along with vice president Judy Docca and board members Chris Barclay, Phil Kauffman, Pat O’Neill, Jill Ortman-Fouse, Rebecca Smondrowski and student member Eric Guerci. Leadership is reflected in the coalition formed by union representatives, the Montgomery County Council of PTAs, agency heads and stakeholders all over the county. Leadership is here at this dais. Thank you for your willingness to think about our budget, our educational system, and our future in new ways, to forge a historic new partnership and to take bold action even in the face of extreme pressure to maintain the status quo.

As we embarked on this budget process, we committed ourselves to the core goals of closing the educational achievement gap; reducing class sizes across the board; making decisions that are both achievable in the short term and sustainable over time; and ensuring that residents see results for any additional investments we ask them to make. As a result, we have completely recalibrated the County Executive’s proposed budget.

I really want to acknowledge our taxpayers, who are partners in this restructuring effort. With the increase in the property tax, the owner of an average-priced home will pay less than a dollar a day more. This is a price to be sure, but a modest one for enhanced services and educational opportunities, and I am certain that this investment in our future will enhance property values to everyone’s benefit.

Thanks to our unprecedented collaboration with the interim superintendent, the Board of Education and the employee unions within the school system, Montgomery College and across County Government, we have been able to achieve a significant course correction and make considerable progress toward our core goals. In particular we have been able to rebalance compensation and benefits packages in a way that allows more resources to go directly to the student experience and other key public services. This is unprecedented.

This “education first” budget differs significantly from the County Executive’s proposed budget as we reallocate more than $36 million:
  • To reduce class size by two students in many schools.
  • To lower student to staff ratios by increasing the number of para-educators.
  • To add focus teachers to impacted schools to provide targeted support in literacy and math.
  • To add parent community coordinators, psychologists and pupil personnel workers to provide support for our most vulnerable students and their families.
  • To add school counselors to impacted elementary schools.
  • To expand the Achieving College Excellence and Success program to more schools.
That is not all. With the change in the rate of the recordation tax, we will generate an additional nearly 200 million dollars over the next six years. This is substantial. This money will go predominantly to fund school construction.

Let’s be clear. Nobody likes the idea of increasing taxes of any kind, but our needs are great. The recordation tax, as we have approved it, is the most progressive approach to meeting the needs our residents have clearly identified as their top priorities.

I want to thank the Greater Capital Area Association of Realtors for their many helpful suggestions. Because of their recommendations, we are increasing the exemption from the recordation tax to 100,000 dollars, thereby benefiting every single party that engages in a real estate sale or refinancing in Montgomery County. And we are delaying its impact by two months.

As we have promised, taxpayers will see results for their investment. In fact, we are able to fulfill even more than the Board of Education requested for its Capital Improvements Program. Some specific projects that will benefit from this new revenue are:
  • Wootton High School revitalization/expansion is now scheduled for completion in 2021, avoiding a one-year delay.
  • Poolesville High School revitalization/expansion is scheduled for a 2023 completion, also avoiding one-year delay.

  • Clarksburg Cluster Elementary School scheduled for 2019 completion, avoiding a one-year delay.
  • Greencastle, Woodlin and East Silver Spring Elementary Schools, which previously had not been funded at all, are scheduled for a 2022 completion.
  • HVAC and roof replacements throughout the County will also be accelerated.
The County Executive’s recommended Capital Improvements Program could not have funded these and other vital projects at the same level or on the same schedule.

As parents well know, and testified to earlier this spring, our schools are bursting at the seams. With more than 156,000 students, our school system is the 17th largest in the U.S. This budget brings our schools CIP funding to a record $1.7 billion and will provide some long-overdue relief for our students and teachers.
I want to take this opportunity to recognize the hard-working employees who are the engines of County Government, Montgomery County Public Schools, Montgomery College and the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission. Our employees drive our government’s success, and our employees have indeed helped to make Montgomery County a model in the nation. Our employees are contributing significantly to this year’s budget adjustments and to our squaring up in the long term. I really regret that this has been painful, but I have worked to keep the lines of communication open, and there have been no surprises. We have some of the best employees around, and although many had hoped for more, I’m pleased to say that most of our personnel will receive a 4.5 percent pay increase this year. That is more than most people employed in the private sector or other governmental jobs, and certainly more than people living on Social Security.

While we have focused primarily on education this year, there are many other items in the budget that will have a direct impact on residents’ lives. We’re asking homeowners to pay more in their property taxes this year, and with that increase we’re focusing on some of the items that residents have identified as their top priorities.

For example, we’re investing heavily in public safety with larger recruit classes in the Police and Fire Departments and in the Sheriff’s Office. We are restoring funding for a paramedic engine at the Hyattstown Fire Station as well as staffing at the Hillandale and Burtonsville stations. And we are providing funding for all police officers to be equipped with body cameras.

We are also beefing up our safety net with an increase in the Working Parents Assistance program’s subsidies for child care; an increase for initiatives for homeless veterans and chronically homeless adults; an increase for the Smartsacks program, which provides food for elementary school children; and numerous other support programs for our most vulnerable residents.

Many of our County’s avid readers and researchers will be glad to see a 2.3 percent increase in this year’s library budget, which includes funding for the interim Wheaton Library while the new Wheaton Library/Recreation Center is under construction. Library users will enjoy extended hours at four branches and additional support for the arts.

Residents in Tobytown will receive bus service, and residents all over will see improved roads, more trees, and more stump removal. And our seniors will now ride buses for free on Saturdays.
Did I mention that we are putting more resources into the program that affects just about everyone? I think we get more e-mails on this than any other subject—and that is roadway maintenance. Much greater detail about this large and complex budget is in a news release which can be accessed from the Council web site at http://www2.montgomerycountymd.gov/mcgportalapps/Press_Detail.aspx?Item_ID=14069.

I want everyone to know that we wouldn’t be here today without our incomparable Council staff—Steve Farber and our outstanding team on the fifth floor, as well as the Office of Legislative Oversight, which has provided us volumes of background information over the course of the year. I know that all of us Councilmembers rely heavily on our personal staffs. I am particularly grateful to my staff, especially my chief of staff, Judy Jablow, who has handled this particularly challenging budget with the right combination of intellect, grace and patience.

This budget is unprecedented. It realigns our spending priorities in a way that is more responsive to those of our residents. It respects employees and taxpayers alike, and it sets us up for a future that will be responsible, nimble and sustainable.Thank you, Councilmembers, for your hard work and collaboration. You are the definition of leadership.


We have made history here. No other Council has done what we’ve done. It has been really hard. Many of us have had to prioritize our county’s future--our children’s education--over our residents’ very valid concerns about affordability, and our employees’ very legitimate commitment to the sanctity of the collective bargaining process. Many of us have had to risk the disappointment of groups that have supported us personally and politically in order that we might serve the greater good.


In a time where, on the national level, extremists routinely malign principled and disciplined decision-making, you (my colleagues) stand out as a strong, collaborative and responsive team of governmental leadership at its best. It has been a true honor to lead you through this very difficult budget process. You should be very proud of what we have achieved.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Two MCPS Students Named Intel Finalists

Today we had the opportunity to congratulate Josephine Yu and Arnold Mong, the highly motivated seniors at Montgomery Blair High School who were named two of the 40 finalists in the prestigious Intel Science Talent Search competition and who competed in a high-profile event in Washington, D.C. The Intel competition is the nation's oldest and most prestigious pre-college science competition, and it honors exceptional high school seniors across the country for their scientific research and for their potential as future leaders in the science community.

In her project, Lattice and Continuum Models of Solitons and Vortices in Bilayer Graphene, Josephine developed a theoretical model to study two stacked sheets of graphene, a material that holds potential for use in electronics and biomedical applications. For his project, Exposing Non-Classical Properties of the Greenberger-Horne-Zeilinger States in Perfect Correlation Cases, Arnold designed a test that could potentially improve the encryption of data in communication by detecting whether transmitted data has been modified or intercepted.

There were nearly 1,800 entries this year, and 14 MCPS students made the semi-final round. Projects were judged in three categories: basic research, global good and innovation.

Monday, May 9, 2016

FDA Rules Similar to Council on Electronic Cigarettes

Did you see that the Food and Drug Administration issued sweeping new rules that regulate electronic cigarettes and ban their sale to minors?

Last year the County Council unanimously approved my bill to ban the use of electronic cigarettes wherever traditional tobacco smoking is prohibited and to require child-resistant packaging for liquid nicotine. At that time, we knew that the FDA was looking at electronic cigarettes, but we didn’t know if or when the agency would take action. I was not willing to gamble with our kids’ health and urged the Council not to wait.

I was concerned about health effects of the nicotine and other potentially harmful chemicals found in e-cigs. Perhaps swayed by the belief that electronic cigarettes are safe, or emboldened by the fact that e-cigs have little odor that parents could detect, teens who have never tried traditional cigarettes are using e-cigs, putting themselves at risk for nicotine addiction, nicotine poisoning or exposure to harmful chemicals.

Now, I am very pleased that the federal government is following our lead and is taking aggressive steps to keep electronic out of the hands of minors.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Take Your Child to Work Day

What fun to have children of Department of Permitting Services staff members join us for Take Your Child to Work Day. Our guests learned about the Council’s work, the public process and the importance of getting involved in local issues. Then they convened a Kid Council to decide on a bill requiring children to wear helmets while bicycling. After hearing testimony from witnesses, the Kid Council rejected the bill in a close vote. FYI, the adult Council decided this bill several years ago and determined that children do need to wear helmets. We look forward to seeing these young people again when they return as engaged citizens or elected officials.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Health Officer's Report on Zika Virus

On Tuesday the County's Health Officer briefed the Council on the Zika virus, how it may affect Montgomery County and what precautions you should take. Although no cases of the virus have been reported in Montgomery County, there have been eight travel-related cases in Maryland, and the range of mosquitoes that carry the disease can expand to our area. See the video of the briefing (agenda item 6) or visit the County's Zika virus Web page for more information.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Golden Shovels Awarded Today

It is always a pleasure to recognize our Montgomery County residents who have gone above and beyond to help their neighbors shovel out after a snowstorm. And this year, our heroes had a lot of work to do with snow totals ranging from 32.4 inches in the southern part of the County to 53.5 inches in northern areas of the County. Here are this year's Golden Shovel winners.

Rich Castillo and Family of Olney unselfishly shoveled out the homes and driveways of elderly neighbors.

Tom Cheplo of Bethesda enthusiastically used his snow blower to clear the sidewalks on both sides of the street, driveways and even part of the road. His neighbor said, “He is always helpful and a fine example of a good neighbor and citizen.”

Jeffrey Cohen of Rockville worked tirelessly with only a shovel and manual ice breaker to clear several snow piles allowing safe passage for school children and other neighbors.

Marcus Colyer and his 9-year-old son of Kensington cleared nine driveways, making his neighbors extremely grateful.

Roger Deshaies of Silver Spring used his snowblower to clear the sidewalks and driveways of seven houses on his block. He also cleared the crosswalk entrances at the end of the sidewalk multiple times, enabling children to walk safely to the local middle school.

Moe Gazafroudi of Gaithersburg cleared the driveways in his cul-de-sac. He also cleared a trail path of snow because many in the community use the path to walk their dogs.

Richard Hoye of Bethesda is a previous Golden Shovel Award winner. He continues to clear sidewalks in Bethesda and has invested his own money to purchase snow removal equipment so that he can better help his community.

Christine Kim of Olney, referred to as the “energizer bunny,” shoveled her senior-citizen neighbors’ driveways, walkways, steps and mailbox areas.

John Lee of Wheaton received four neighbor nominations. He cleared almost his entire block of snow, including driveways, walkways and sidewalks.

Andrea McCarren of WUSA Channel 9, while searching for those in need of shoveling in the Storm Tracker 9 vehicle, spotted a Bethesda woman and her young daughter with their snow-buried car. Beyond just worrying about the video she set out to get, Andrea mobilized an “all women shoveling flash mob” to clear and free the car after 20 minutes of rugged digging.

John Malone of Silver Spring organized neighbors to purchase a snow blower and then, when the major storm came in January, he cleared several pathways on his street—including one leading to the local elementary school so the students did not have to walk in the street.

Amy and Brian Palmer of Rockville gave Herculean efforts to clear snow from their neighborhood using shovels, salt and snowblowers. And after street plows left massive ice packs, they broke them up to further make sure the road was passable.

Earl Pfeiffer of Montgomery Village is 82 and shows no sign of slowing down. He tirelessly shoveled walkways and paths to the neighborhood school and with safety in mind, he cleared snow from buried fire hydrants.

Phelps Rogovoy and Casey Scufca of Germantown are neighbors who combined efforts during the major two-day storm to help another neighbor several times clear her driveway and walkway while her husband was away, serving in Afghanistan.

Larry Solomon of Olney assisted approximately 15 homeowners remove snow from their properties, sidewalks and streets. He also cleared sidewalks along both sides of the streets.

Mark Ujczo of Olney worked long hours and used his snow blower to clear his entire block and then went on to clear the public paths in and around the neighborhood common area. He also assisted shoveling out the sidewalks and driveways of several elderly neighbors.

Sofia and Nevan West of Rockville are 12-year-old twin siblings. They not only helped their mother shovel mountains of snow from their property, they also went to help a disabled neighbor shovel their driveway and sidewalk. And when a snow plow became stuck, they helped the driver shovel out the truck and even brought him a soda.

Thom Wolf of Takoma Park regularly cleared the sidewalks after every snowfall. All of his neighbors value his help, especially the elderly, the single mothers and those with physical injuries who could not clear the snow themselves.


Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Operating Budget Overview

This Tuesday our Council Administrator provided his extremely informative and insightful overview of the core budget issues involved the FY17 operating budget. We're conducting our committee work over the next several weeks, and we are scheduled to make final decisions May 19 with implementing resolutions to be adopted on May 26. See the full discussion (agenda item 6).

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Golden Shovel Winners to be Honored April 19

I look forward to presenting the 2016 Golden Shovel awards at 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday, April 19, to honor residents who helped out neighbors at various times during the harsh winter of 2015-16.

According to our Department of Transportation, the County had an average total snow and ice accumulation of 40.35 inches and snow and ice totals ranging from 32.4 inches (in the southern part of the County) to 53.5 inches (in northern areas of the County) this past winter. 

Residents submitted more than 75 nominations for this year’s awards, and I will recognize 17 Golden Shovel award winners at the April 19 ceremonies. As I read through the nominations, I recognized how grateful people are for the kindness of their neighbors. These nominees are truly unsung heroes, so it was difficult to select the winners. All those nominated are certainly deserving of our appreciation, and we thank them for their selflessness. 

The 2016 awardees (in alphabetical order) are as follows:

Rich Castillo and Family of Olney unselfishly shoveled out the homes and driveways of elderly neighbors.

Tom Cheplo of Bethesda enthusiastically used his snow blower to clear the sidewalks on both sides of the street, driveways and even part of the road. His neighbor said, “He is always helpful and a fine example of a good neighbor and citizen.”

Jeffrey Cohen of Rockville worked tirelessly with only a shovel and manual ice breaker to clear several snow piles allowing safe passage for school children and other neighbors.

Marcus Colyer and his 9-year-old son of Kensington cleared nine driveways, making his neighbors extremely grateful.

Roger Deshaies of Silver Spring used his snowblower to clear the sidewalks and driveways of seven houses on his block. He also cleared the crosswalk entrances at the end of the sidewalk multiple times, enabling children to walk safely to the local middle school.

Moe Gazafroudi of Gaithersburg cleared the driveways in his cul-de-sac. He also cleared a trail path of snow because many in the community use the path to walk their dogs. 

Richard Hoye of Bethesda is a previous Golden Shovel Award winner. He continues to clear sidewalks in Bethesda and has invested his own money to purchase snow removal equipment so that he can better help his community. 

John Lee of Wheaton received four neighbor nominations. He cleared almost his entire block of snow, including driveways, walkways and sidewalks. 

Andrea McCarren of WUSA Channel 9, while searching for those in need of shoveling in the Storm Tracker 9 vehicle, spotted a Bethesda woman and her young daughter with their snow-buried car. Beyond just worrying about the video she set out to get, Andrea quickly mobilized an “all women shoveling flash mob” to clear and free the car after 20 minutes of rugged digging.

John Malone of Silver Spring organized neighbors to purchase a snow blower and then, when the major storm came in January, he cleared several pathways on his street—including one leading to the local elementary school so the students did not have to walk in the street.

Amy and Brian Palmer of Rockville gave Herculean efforts to clear snow from their neighborhood using shovels, salt and snowblowers. And after street plows left massive ice packs, they broke them up to further make sure the road was passable. 

Earl Pfeiffer of Montgomery Village is 82 and shows no sign of slowing down. He tirelessly shoveled walkways and paths to the neighborhood school and with neighborhood safety in mind, he cleared snow from buried fire hydrants.

Phelps Rogovoy and Casey Scufca of Germantown are neighbors who combined efforts during the major two-day storm to help another neighbor several times clear her driveway and walkway while her husband was away, serving in Afghanistan.

Larry Solomon of Olney assisted approximately 15 homeowners remove snow from their properties, sidewalks and streets. He also cleared sidewalks along both sides of the streets.

Mark Ujczo of Olney worked long hours and used his snow blower to clear his entire block and then went on to clear the public paths in and around the neighborhood common area. He also assisted shoveling out the sidewalks and driveways of several elderly neighbors.

Sophia and Nevan West of Rockville are 12-year-old twin siblings. They not only helped their mother shovel mountains of snow from their property, they also went to help a disabled neighbor shovel their driveway and sidewalk. And when a snow plow became stuck, they helped the driver shovel out the truck and even brought him a soda.

Thom Wolf of Takoma Park regularly cleared the sidewalks after every snowfall. All of his neighbors value his help, especially the elderly, the single mothers and those with physical injuries who could not clear the snow themselves.


The Council’s regular weekly session will be held in the Third Floor Hearing Room of the Council Office Building at 100 Maryland Ave. in Rockville. The ceremonies will be televised live by County Cable Montgomery.