Monday, July 25, 2016

PARKing Day Makes Lots Fun

The full press release:

The Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) is encouraging artists, planners, businesses, organizations, groups and individuals to participate in International PARK(ing) Day on September 16 by temporarily transforming a metered parking space into a fun, parklike spot. MCDOT has identified parking spaces in Silver Spring, Bethesda, Wheaton and Montgomery Hills for use by participants who are encouraged to creatively reimagine the urban landscape.

“PARK(ing) Day is an annual, global event that gives residents, businesses and organizations an opportunity to temporarily transform metered parking spaces and stimulate conversations about how we use our urban landscape,” said MCDOT Director Al Roshdieh. “We hope PARK(ing) Day will encourage everyone to rethink their transportation choices to support infrastructure that is more transit-oriented, bikeable and walkable.”

PARK(ing) Day participants can choose from 80 different locations (each one comprised of two adjacent parking spaces) in the County’s parking districts. The spots were chosen with safety in mind. The use of parking spaces will be allowed from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., including set up and tear down. There is no charge to participate in the event.

Those interested in taking part in PARK(ing) Day can get more information and apply online or by mail. Participants are required to meet certain guidelines that are spelled out in the application.

Get inspiration and see what others have done on past PARK(ing) Days online.

Learn more about International PARK(ing) Day.


Thursday, July 21, 2016

Council Asks for Safety Improvements at Veirs Mill Road and Turkey Branch Parkway

Following the second fatal accident in less than a year at the intersection of Veirs Mill Road and Turkey Branch Parkway, the Council has asked Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, State Secretary of the Department of Transportation Peter Rahn and Administrator of the Maryland Highway Administration Gregory Johnson to take “more aggressive action to resolve the serious safety deficiencies at this intersection.”

Within the past week, a bicyclist was fatally injured on the road, which is near the crossing of the Matthew Henson Trail. After another bicyclist was killed near the same area in December, County Councilmember Nancy Navarro asked the State for improved safety measures at the intersection. The State Highway Administration responded by installing flashing yellow lights to make drivers aware that pedestrians and bicyclists may be in the area.

In the letter that went to the State official this week, the Council wrote: “While we appreciate the effort, we believe the flashers are insufficient to address the problem since they require motorists to slow down and exercise caution but not to stop. Drivers continue to exceed the 40-mph speed limit even when the light signal is activated. At these speeds, a collision with a pedestrian or bicyclist is almost certainly fatal.

“In the wake of this latest tragedy, we urge you to take more aggressive action to resolve the serious safety deficiencies at this intersection.”

The complete text of the letters written by the County Council on July 20 and by Councilmember Navarro on Jan. 6:


July 20, 2016


The Honorable Larry Hogan, Governor 
100 State Circle 
Annapolis, Maryland  21401

Pete K. Rahn, Secretary 
Maryland Department of Transportation 
7201 Corporate Center Drive 
Hanover, Maryland  21076

Mr. Gregory C. Johnson, Administrator
State Highway Administration 
707 North Calvert Street Baltimore, Maryland  21202

Dear Governor Hogan, Secretary Rahn and Administrator Johnson:

            Once again, we are mourning the loss of a young man who was struck and killed on Veirs Mill Road (MD 586) at the Matthew Henson Trail crossing. Less than a year ago, another bicyclist lost his life at the same intersection. With downhill approaches in both directions and high traffic volumes on Veirs Mill Road and the Matthew Henson Trail, there is no question this intersection remains a pedestrian and cyclist hazard.

            After the fatal collision in December, Councilmember Nancy Navarro wrote the attached letter asking you to expedite the process for implementing measures to improve pedestrian and bicycle safety at this intersection. Since then, the State Highway Administration has taken steps to address the safety concerns and has installed flashing yellow lights. While we appreciate the effort, we believe the flashers are insufficient to address the problem since they require motorists to slow down and exercise caution but not to stop. Drivers continue to exceed the 40-mph speed limit even when the light signal is activated. At these speeds, a collision with a pedestrian or bicyclist is almost certainly fatal.

            In the wake of this latest tragedy, we urge you to take more aggressive action to resolve the serious safety deficiencies at this intersection. We ask you to investigate the feasibility of a pedestrian-actuated traffic control device and structural improvements that may make this area safer for pedestrians and bicyclists. We understand from your correspondence with Councilmember Hans Riemer in March that an earlier study determined that the pedestrian volumes did not satisfy the warrants for a pedestrian-activated signal, but we encourage you to take another look in light of the ongoing hazard.

            On a separate topic that is also critical for bicycle safety, a loophole in the Maryland law must be fixed. In 2010 the State legislature amended § 21-1103 of the Maryland Code to allow cyclists to ride their bikes in crosswalks. While this was a strong step forward, the law that protects pedestrians on the crosswalks (§ 21 – 502) needs to be amended to include wheelchairs, electric personal assisted mobility device and bicycles. It has been reported that a judge dismissed charges against the driver who struck and killed the 19-year-old at the same intersection because he was riding his bike, not walking it, and thus was not protected by the law. We will be working with our Delegation to amend this law to safeguard all legal users of a crosswalk in our state, and we ask for your support in that endeavor.

            Montgomery County shares the Maryland Department of Transportation’s commitment to moving the State toward zero deaths on our roadways. There is no way to prevent people from making mistakes on our roads, but these mistakes need not be deadly. The crossing at Veirs Mill Road/Turkey Branch Parkway and the Matthew Henson Trail is undeniably dangerous, and we thank you for prioritizing improvements there.

Sincerely,
                      
Nancy Floreen                   Roger Berliner                   Marc Elrich   
Council President               Council Vice President       Councilmember

                       
Tom Hucker                      Sidney Katz                       George Leventhal
Councilmember                  Councilmember                  Councilmember

                 
Nancy Navarro                   Craig Rice                         Hans Riemer
Councilmember                  Councilmember                  Councilmember

Enclosure

cc: Isiah Leggett, Montgomery County Executive
      Al Roshdieh, Director, Montgomery County Department of Transportation
      Montgomery County Delegation




Nancy Navarro Councilmember, District 4


January 6, 2016


Larry Hogan, Governor 
100 State Circle
Annapolis, Maryland 21401

Pete K. Rahn, Maryland Secretary of Transportation 
7201 Corporate Center Drive 
Hanover, Maryland 21076

Gregory C. Johnson, State Highway Administrator
707 North Calvert Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21202


Dear Governor Hogan, Secretary Rahn, and Administrator Johnson:

On Monday, December 28, a 19-year-old man named Frank Towers was struck by an SUV and killed while riding home from work on his bicycle at the intersection of Veirs Mill Rd. (MD 586) and Turkey Branch Parkway. As you know, the area around this intersection has been a pedestrian and cyclist hazard for some time. Two people were killed within a mile of this intersection by cars last year. 

While I am aware the Montgomery County Police Department (MCPD) and State Highway Administration (SHA) are currently reviewing this incident, I am urging your administration to take prompt action to increase pedestrian and bicycle safety at the intersection of Veirs Mill Rd. (MD 586) and Turkey Branch Parkway, as well as undertake a comprehensive review of all intersections along Veirs Mill Road (MD 586).

According to the Washington Post, SHA “has an active project underway to add additional flashers at this location…to address the occurrence of rear-end crashes…” While I am pleased some thought has already gone into making this intersection safer for vehicular traffic, I am concerned there is not enough emphasis on pedestrian and bicycle safety. As SHA continues to review traffic calming strategies for this area, I hope you will prioritize the need to reduce the number of accidents involving pedestrians and bicycles. I implore SHA to expedite its process in light of this most recent tragedy by taking swift action to resolve these serious safety deficiencies.  

In 2015, Montgomery County experienced more than a dozen pedestrian and bicycle fatalities. The vast majority of these incidents occurred along State Roads. I look forward to working with your administration, the County’s Department of Transportation and Police Department to reduce the number of these incidents to zero in 2016.


Sincerely,



Nancy Navarro Councilmember, District 4


CC:      Isiah Legget, Montgomery County Executive
            Thomas Manger, Montgomery County Police Chief
            Al Roshdieh, Acting Director, Montgomery County Department of Transportation
            Nancy Floreen, Montgomery County Council President
            Roger Berliner, Chair, Transportation, Energy, & Environment Committee
            Roger Manno, Senator (District 19)
            Richard Madaleno, Jr., Senator (District 18)
            Bonnie Cullison, Delegate (District 19)
            Ben Kramer, Delegate (District 19)
            Marice Morales, Delegate (District 19)             
            Al Carr, Delegate (District 18)
            Ana Sol Gutierrez, Delegate (District 18)
            Jeff Waldstreicher, Delegate (District 18)
                        


Thursday, July 14, 2016

Annual Farm Tour July 23 and 24

Get the family ready for the 27th Annual Farm Tour and Harvest Sale on July 23 and 24. You can get seasonally fresh food, learn about agriculture and visit with some of the farms' four-legged residents. Did you know that agricultural activities occupy about one-third of the County’s land area? The majority of the farms in the County are family-run operations, which employ more than 10,000 residents. The County has 540 farms in Montgomery County, many of which produce crops that help feed residents.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Design Excellence Award Winners

Today we had the opportunity to celebrate with the 2015 Design Excellence Award winners. The award recognizes exceptional work in architecture, landscape architecture and urban design. The Silver Spring Civic Building, designed by Machado Silvetti, won the first annual Award for Design Excellence. Four projects received the Jury Citation Award. They are the Headquarters of Rupert Nurseries, designed by Muse Architects; the Cultural Arts Center at Montgomery College, designed by Smith Group JJR; the Town of Somerset Pool Bath House, designed by McInturff Architects; and Eleven55 Ripley, designed by Shalom Baranas Associates.

The Montgomery County Planning Department is accepting applications through July 21 for the 2016 awards. To be eligible, projects can be public or private projects located within Montgomery County; must be completed and in use; and must be built within the past 10 years.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Tips on Surviving the Heat Wave

The County urges you to take precautions during excessive heat and offers these tips on surviving the heat:

With temperatures forecast for the upper-90s to 100° later this week, and heat indexes forecast to exceed that, County officials are urging residents to take precautions to protect themselves against heat-related illnesses such as heat stroke and heat exhaustion. Residents are also asked to check on elderly friends, relatives and neighbors who may be isolated to be sure they are not showing signs of heat-related illnesses. County facilities, including libraries, swimming pools, recreation and senior centers, as well as regional services centers, will be open and may provide respite from the heat.

“Summer heat can be dangerous, especially for seniors and those with chronic illnesses,” said County Health Officer Dr. Ulder J. Tillman. “It is important for all of us to check on our friends, relatives and neighbors to make sure they are safe during extreme temperatures.

The following precautions will help residents remain safe and comfortable during excessive heat days:

  • Stay indoors, whenever possible.Visit nearby air conditioned buildings in your community if your home is not air-conditioned. In addition to County facilities, residents can visit shopping malls, movie theaters and museums. A hyperthermia plan for homeless shelters has been activated and shelters that are normally closed during daytime hours will remain open so that individuals can stay indoors. Progress Place in downtown Silver Spring will remain open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. for all homeless individuals.
Heat Safety Tips                                                                                 
  • Be careful to avoid strenuous activities that can result in overexposure to the sun, such as sports and gardening. If you must do a strenuous activity, do it during the coolest part of the day, which is usually in the morning before 9 a.m.
  • Drink plenty of water. Dehydration, cramps, exhaustion or heat stroke can result from not drinking enough fluids. Water is the safest liquid to drink.
  • Avoid drinks containing alcohol or caffeine.
  • When outdoors, wear proper protection from the sun. Light-colored clothing, a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen protection are recommended.
  • Never leave pets or young children in a car for ANY amount of time, even if the windows are cracked open.
  • Monitor those at high risk. Those at greatest risk of heat-related illness include: infants and children up to four years of age; individuals 65 years of age and older; individuals who are ill or on certain medications; and individuals who are overweight.
Knowing the signs of heat exposure can prevent serious illness from becoming life threatening. Should any of the following occur, get out of the heat, loosen any tight or heavy clothing, and drink plenty of water:
  • Heat cramps:symptoms include painful muscle spasms, usually involving the abdominal muscles or legs;
  • Heat exhaustion:first signs are cool, moist, pale or flushed skin, dizziness, nausea, headache and weakness; and
  • Heat stroke:the most serious sign of overexposure. Symptoms include red, hot, dry skin, weak pulse, rapid breathing and changes in consciousness.
Seek medical attention by calling 9-1-1.

For general information about County programs and services, call 3-1-1.

For more tips on having a safe and enjoyable summer, please go to the County’s Summer of Safety page at montgomerycountymd.gov/summersafety/, and on social media, use the #MoCoSafety.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Fourth of July Events

Montgomery County will again host two fireworks displays on July 4--Germantown Glory at the SoccerPlex in the South Germantown Recreational Park, 18041 Central Park Circle, Boyds and Mid-County Sparkles at Albert Einstein High School, 11135 Newport Road, Kensington. Both fireworks displays will begin at approximately 9:15 p.m.

In addition to these two displays, several municipalities are hosting celebrations and fireworks. Check out Visit Montgomery for a full list of fireworks and other activities.

To find out what's open and what’s closed as well as parking and trash pick-up information for the County, see the holiday schedule for the Fourth of July.

Holiday Schedule for Fourth of July

Here's our holiday schedule for Independence Day, Monday, July 4:
  • County Offices – closed
  • Libraries – closed
  • County Liquor stores – all Country liquor stores will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Deliveries will be made as normal; but there will be no pickups
  • Recreation – the Germantown Indoor Swim Center will close at 3 p.m., all other aquatic facilities will close at 6 p.m.; swim lessons will meet as scheduled; administrative offices, senior centers and community recreation centers will be closed
  • Montgomery Parks - For holiday schedule, visit www.MontgomeryParks.org
  • Ride On – Will operate on a Saturday schedule
  • Metrorail –Information available at www.wmata.com
  • Metrobus – Information available at www.wmata.com
  • TRiPS Commuter Stores (Silver Spring and Friendship Heights) - closed
  • Refuse/recycling pickup – no July 4 collection. Collection will slide by one day. For information on slide schedule go to https://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/sws/holidays/
  • 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

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.