Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Local Ice Dancers Win Gold

What a treat it was this morning to recognize Rachel and Michael Parsons of Rockville, who recently became the first brother-sister duo to win the ice dancing gold medal in the International World Junior Figure Skating Competition. In the competition in March in Taiwan, they produced their best-ever score to come from behind and pass the then-leading Russian team to win the title. The pair trains at the Wheaton Ice Arena. See the video.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Microloan Program for Entrepreneurs

The Council unanimously approved Bill 49-16 that will create a County microloan program that would provide loans from $500 to $15,000 for County residents needing additional help to start small businesses.

Nationally and locally, micro businesses have been found to improve the economic well-being and self-sufficiency of individuals who often find themselves in low wage jobs, but have the creativity and desire to own and operate a wide variety of businesses.

The amended legislation calls for the Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation to administer a “culturally proficient” program. Loans would be limited to no more than $15,000, with the expectation that most loans will initially be in the $500 to $5,000 range. Loans would be limited to County residents who headquarter their business in Montgomery County. Loan recipients would be required to participate in educational and technical assistance that would be part of the program.

The legislation was inspired by a meeting with the leadership of organizations that are currently working the most in this arena. During the meeting, the leaders expressed the belief that Montgomery County’s entrepreneurs would greatly benefit from the necessary technical assistance and access to microloans that can help aspiring entrepreneurs realize their dreams.

More information on the legislation is available at http://tinyurl.com/l3leg22.

Protection for Neighborhoods from Foreclosed Properties

Today we unanimously approved bill 38-16 that will impose a civil penalty for property owners who fail to register a foreclosure purchase. The intent of the bill is to keep unmaintained properties from becoming a nuisance to the community.

The bill will impose a civil penalty for the failure to register a property that is purchased by foreclosure. By Maryland law since 2012, the purchaser of a foreclosed property must register the property with the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation and the Maryland Foreclosure Task Force within 30 days of the property's foreclosure sale. The law authorizes local jurisdictions to enact legislation to impose a fine of $1,000 for failing to register.

The law was meant to address the period of nine to 18 months that frequently occurs between the date of a foreclosure and the date that the property title is transferred. During this time, local jurisdictions have a hard time identifying the party responsible for maintenance, security and taxes. To date, Montgomery County has not enacted any punitive fine and hundreds of foreclosed properties have gone unregistered since the General Assembly approved the law.

DLLR estimates that 20 percent of foreclosure property purchasers statewide do not register their property or register after the deadline. Based on the data from the State Foreclosure Registry, there were 1,432 foreclosures in Montgomery County in Fiscal Year 2015. Of these, 34 percent (492) either failed to register or registered long after the deadline. The unregistered properties are much more likely to go unmaintained, costing the County thousands of dollars in housing code enforcement and impacting the value of nearby property.

In addition, many purchasers of foreclosed properties—often banks and out-of-state investors—wait to record the deed to the property until it is resold to another purchaser. By circumventing the normal process and improperly (and illegally) transferring the property to a new homeowner in this fashion, the County does not receive the recordation tax or the transfer tax, which shortchanges the County of approximately $6,000 in revenue for a property of average value.

Council Passes Healthy Vending Bill

This morning we unanimously approved Bill 1-17 that will require all vending machines on County property to carry at least 50 percent of items that meet American Heart Association recommended nutrition standards for sugar, salt, fat and other measures.

The bill provides for healthier items to be offered along with chips, candy and regular soda. For the next two years, 50 percent of snacks in machines on County property need to meet American Heart Association recommended nutrition standards for sugar, salt, fat and other measures. After that, the percentage of healthy food and drink offered will be required to rise to 65 percent. Every drink machine would also offer bottled water.

Almost one in four children in Montgomery County is not able to maintain a healthy weight. This rate outpaces the national average. More than half of all adults in the County are not keeping a healthy weight.

Healthy vending legislation was passed by the Howard County Council in 2015 and will be introduced to the Prince George’s County Council this year.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Budget Overview on Tuesday

Tune in to County Cable Montgomery on Tuesday (about 10:00 a.m.) as our Council Administrator provides his extremely informative and insightful overview of the core budget issues involved the FY18 operating budget. We're conducting our committee work over the next several weeks, and we are scheduled to make final decisions May 18 with implementing resolutions to be adopted on May 25. If you aren't able to watch the session live, you can see it on demand 24 hours later (agenda item 3). Get the background information.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Students: Learn about Business this Summer

Take a look at this new opportunity for MCPS rising juniors and seniors. WorkSource Montgomery, in collaboration with Montgomery County Public Schools and Montgomery County Government, is offering the Summer R.I.S.E. program to provide youth with enriching summer career development experiences through local businesses and nonprofit organizations.

Students will participate in a three-week career exploration that will introduce them to the structures of businesses, technical skills for a wide range of industries, the role of technology, and the importance of customer service in every profession. Students will complete a career-readiness curriculum and learn about financial literacy through online and in-person professional training to help prepare them for college and beyond. A $300 stipend will be awarded to students who successfully complete the program. See the video.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Local Heroes Honored

Today at the 43rd Annual Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce Public Safety Awards, people from all over the county honored our public safety professionals for acts of valor that occurred in 2016. Honorees were nominated and selected by Montgomery County's Fire and Rescue Service, Department of Police, Sheriff's Office, Maryland-National Capital Park Police-Montgomery County Division and the Department of Correction and Rehabilitation. The event highlighted dramatic video obtained from body-worn cameras.

Congratulations to today's honorees:

Sergeant Sabrina Pirtle
Chief Donald A. Deering Community Service Award

Critical Stress Management Team, Department of Correction and Rehabilitation
Unit Citation

Police Officer III Yves Didier N'Kodia
Honorable Mention, Medal of Valor (Northampton Drive Repeat Offender)

Deputy Sheriff III Jason Carew and Deputy Sheriff II Steven McDonald
Honorable Mention of Valor (Suicide Attempt in Silver Spring)

Resident Supervisor II Alicia Jackson and Resident Supervisor III Andre Stepp
Honorable Mention of Valor (Lifesaving Attempt in Pre-Release Center)

Sergeant Manuel Saponara and Police Officer Brian Holloway
Honorable Mention of Valor (Domestic Violence in Germantown)

Police Officer III Dale Steffen
Honorable Mention of Valor (Suicide Attempt in Germantown)

Police Officer III David Kocevar
Bronze Medal of Valor (Deadly Shooting Spree in Prince George's and Montgomery Counties)

Repeat Offenders Unit (Police Officer III David Kocevar, Sergeant Brady Clouser, Corporal Jeffrey Rachael, Detective Donnie Oaks, Detective Kenneth Halter, Detective Roger St. Louis, Detective Thomas Tippett, Detective Richard Volpe, Detective Charles Bullock and Detective Dominic Dinisio
Bronze Medal of Valor (Deadly Shooting Spree in Prince George's and Montgomery Counties)

Corporal Johnny Beason
Silver Medal of Valor (Shooter in Clarksburg)

Police Officer III Jeffrey Hughes
Silver Medal of Valor (Flower Branch Apartment Fire)

Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service (represented by Captain William Cooke, Fire Fighter Rescuer III Enrique Escolero and Fire Fighter Rescuer III David Wakely)
Unit Citation of Valor (Flower Branch Apartment Fire)

Fire Fighter Rescuer III David Braun
Bronze Medal of Valor

Monday, March 27, 2017

Apply Now for Property Tax Credit for Long-time Homeowners

Visit the Department of Finance's Web site to get more information on Bill 42-16 that creates a new property tax credit for residents who are at least 65 years old and who have either lived in the same home for at least 40 years or are retired veterans of the U.S. military. The application form is at the bottom of the page.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Information Posted on Property Tax Credit for Long-time Homeowners

Visit the Department of Finance's Web site to get more information on Bill 42-16 that creates a new property tax credit for residents who are at least 65 years old and who have either lived in the same home for at least 40 years or are retired veterans of the U.S. military. The application form will be available later this month.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

New Date for Town Hall Meeting for Silver Spring Area

The Town Hall Meeting for Silver Spring has been rescheduled for Wednesday, April 19.

The meeting will be held at the Long Branch Community Center (8700 Piney Branch Road) beginning at 8 p.m. with a pre-meeting reception at 7:30. You can voice your opinions on specific issues and ask questions of us in an organized, but informal, setting. I hope to see you there.

The meeting will be taped for later broadcast on County Cable Montgomery. You can find CCM on cable channel 996 (high definition) and 6 (standard definition) on Comcast; Channels 1056 (HD) and 6 (SD) on RCN; and Channel 30 on Verizon. For more information about the Town Hall Meeting or about the broadcast times, call 240-777-7931.

County Executive Transmits Recommended Budget to Council

The County Executive has transmitted his Fiscal Year 2018 recommended operating budget to the Council. The recommended budget provides a good starting point for the Council’s work on the final County budget for the upcoming year. We appreciate the hard work by the Executive and his staff to begin the process.

The Council’s public hearings on the operating budget are scheduled for April 4-6. You can sign up online to testify at one of the five public hearings.

You can also send your comments in writing online; by emailing county.council@montgomerycountymd.gov; by regular mail to: County Council, 100 Maryland Avenue, Rockville, MD 20850; or by calling the Council budget hotline at 240-777-7802.

If you would like to follow along, visit the Council's Web site, and remember to check back regularly as information will change as we make our way through our work.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Wednesday's Town Hall Cancelled

Wednesday's Town Hall Meeting for Silver Spring to be held at the Long Branch Community Center has been cancelled. I will let you know as soon as we have a rescheduled date.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Tomorrow's Council Meeting Postponed

The Council has postponed its weekly session for Tuesday, March 14, due to predictions of heavy snow coming overnight. A scheduled special presentation on the “Future of Transportation” that will address the future impact of driver-less vehicles will be rescheduled for another date.

What to Know When it Snows

Here's the full press release from Montgomery County:

The National Weather Service has issued a Winter Storm Warning for Montgomery County, effective at 7 p.m. Monday, March 13 through 2 p.m. on Tuesday, March 14. Due to the weather conditions predicted, Montgomery County community members are encouraged to prepare for heavy snow, high winds, and power outages.  Community members are urged to subscribe to Alert Montgomery at alert.montgomerycountymd.gov to stay updated on the latest important information. Alerts can be sent to one or more electronic devices, including cell phones, text pagers, wireless PDAs, and home and work emails.  For information during the storm, go to the County website www.montgomerycountymd.gov, check the County’s Twitter feed or Facebook page. The MC311 County informational call center remains open for extended hours during periods of emergencies and can be reached at 3-1-1 or 240-777-0311. Questions can also be asked of MC311 through their website: www.MC311.com

Preparing for the Storm

Check with neighbors or elderly family members who may require special assistance, to see if they need help in stocking up on supplies or medications, and call them during the storm. 
If there is a power outage, be prepared by having enough food, water, medication (if needed) and batteries to last at least two days. Make sure portable radios, smoke detectors and flashlights are working properly. Make shelter, food, water and medication preparations for pets and livestock. 
Automobile owners are urged to help clear the way for snow plow operators. When parking on-street, pull close to the curb on the even numbered side of the street. Park vehicles in driveways, or off the street, whenever possible. Plan where you will park if a State or County Snow Emergency is declared, making parking illegal on those roads. Drivers may park in County public-parking garages and lots for free during a snow emergency. 

Be sure your vehicle(s) are ready to drive after the storm by filling the gas tank; checking tires to make sure they have an adequate tread and are fully inflated; checking oil, antifreeze and windshield washer fluid levels; and ensuring windshield wipers, lights, flashing hazard lights, exhaust system, heater, brakes and defroster are all working. Keep a windshield scraper, small shovel and broom in the car for ice and snow removal, and a small sack of sand or kitty litter to improve wheel traction.

During the Storm

Power Outages:

Treat all “dark” intersections as four-way stops. Stop - then proceed cautiously. 
During a power outage, relying on battery-operated lights, rather than candles, is much safer. Using candles increases the risk of a fire. 

Refrigerated food will remain unspoiled only about four hours if the refrigerator is unopened. A full freezer will hold the temperature for about 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full) if the door remains closed. Use ice to keep your refrigerator at 40°F or below and the freezer at 0° or lower if there is a prolonged power outage. 

It can be fatal to use gas or charcoal grills, propane heaters and stoves, kerosene space heaters or generators indoors. These items are a source of carbon monoxide, which can build up indoors and cause carbon monoxide poisoning. Please see the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue site for more information.

Snow Treatment and Removal: 

State-maintained roads, which are the numbered roads in the County, are cleared by the Maryland State Highway Administration. Snow clearance of County roads begins with pre-treating major County roads with salt brine, a solution of salt and water, before snow begins falling unless there is rain to wash the solution away. Plowing of County roads begins when three or more inches of snow accumulates on the roads. The County’s Department of Transportation clears emergency and primary routes before it begins clearing neighborhood streets. Neighborhood streets are not cleared to bare pavement, but are made passable. Residents are asked to remain patient. There are approximately 1,000 lane miles of primary (arterial roads connecting subdivisions or business districts) and secondary roads (main collector streets through subdivisions) which are continuously treated with salt and sand and kept in “bare pavement” condition. Once the snow stops falling and major roads are clear, crews turn their attention to making streets passable for the more than 4,100 lane miles of neighborhood streets. 

For more information about snow removal operations visit the County’s website at www.montgomerycountymd.gov/snow or call 3-1-1 or 240-777-0311. 

Snow Emergency Routes: 

Both the State of Maryland and Montgomery County have designated certain roads as SNOW EMERGENCY ROUTES marked with red and white signs. When the State and/or County initiates its snow emergency plan, it is illegal to park on these designated roads or drive without snow tires, all-weather tires, mud/snow radials or chains. Vehicles without the proper type of tire (all-weather) or chains that block snow emergency routes during an emergency may be ticketed and towed at the owner’s expense. 

Snow Shovel Law: 

County residents are required by law to clear sidewalks in front of and alongside their properties within 24 hours of the end of a snowstorm. Everyone is encouraged to help seniors or others who may not be physically able to shovel. Remember not to shovel snow over fire hydrants and make a point to shovel hydrants out with a three-foot diameter around the hydrant. 

Snow Removal in Parking Lots: 

Parking lot managers are reminded not to block disability parking spaces and their adjacent striped areas when removing snow from commercial or residential parking lots.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Updated PHED Schedule

Here's the updated schedule for the Planning, Housing and Economic Development Committee, including new meeting dates for continued work on the Bethesda Downtown Plan:

  • March 13, 2:00 -- Bethesda Downtown Plan
  • March 20, 2:00 -- Bethesda Downtown Plan
  • March 27, 2:00 -- Bethesda Downtown Plan
  • March 28, 2:00 -- Supplemental appropriation for WorkSource Montgomery; Bill 38-16 Housing and Building Maintenance Standards; Bill 39-16 Housing and Building Maintenance Standards; Executive Regulation 27-16 Schedule of Fees for Permits, Licenses and Certification; Wheaton Redevelopment financing plan
  • April 3, 2:00 ZTA 16-20 Overlay Zone Bethesda
All of the committee meetings will be televised live and on demand, so tune in to County Cable Montgomery if you want to follow along. You can get agendas and background information at the Council Meeting Portal.