Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Apply For the Merit System Protection Board

Applications are due by Wednesday, November 1, 2017. Here's the full press release:

ROCKVILLE, Md., September 19, 2017 - The Montgomery County Council is accepting applications from qualified voters of the County for appointment to a three-year term on the Merit System Protection Board. The term of Charlotte Crutchfield (Democrat) will expire on Dec. 31. Ms. Crutchfield has indicated that she does not intend to apply for reappointment. Applications must be received in the Council office by 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 1.  

In addition to Ms. Crutchfield, current members of the board are Angela Franco (Republican) and Michael Kator (Democrat). By law, no more than two of the three members of the Merit System Protection Board may be of the same political party. The appointee for this position may be a Democrat, Republican, a voter who declines to affiliate with a party, or a voter who is a member of another party officially recognized by the Board of Elections.

Generally, the board is expected to oversee the Merit System and to protect employee and applicant rights guaranteed under the County Merit System. There are two methods in which the board processes appeals:
·         A written decision issued after a review and discussion of a written record.
·         A written decision issued after a pre-hearing conference and a formal hearing in cases involving a suspension, demotion or dismissal. 

The board, on a periodic basis, conducts special studies, audits or inquiries of the administration of the merit and retirement pay systems and, in this effort, may compel the attendance of witnesses. Written reports of its findings and recommendations are filed with the County Executive and the County Council. The board also provides comments on any proposed changes in Merit System law or regulations.

The board generally holds hearings during the day, which may take the full day, with any additional proceedings normally scheduled for subsequent days or evening(s). The board normally meets once per month during the day for approximately two hours. Additional time is also required for preparatory work. 

Members of the board currently receive $7,862.91 per year, which is adjusted annually to reflect 50 percent of the percentage change in the Washington Area Consumer Price Index. The chair receives $10,084.77 per year.

Board members are restricted in political activity while serving. Section 403 of the County Charter states, in part: “No member shall hold political office or participate in any campaign for any political or public office during the member’s term of office.” 

Members of County boards, committees and commissions may not serve on more than one such group at a time.

Letters expressing interest, including a resume listing professional and civic experience, political party affiliation, home and office telephone numbers, and an email address should be addressed to: Council President Roger Berliner, County Council Office, 100 Maryland Avenue, Rockville, Maryland 20850, or can be emailed to county.council@montgomerycountymd.gov. Applications must be received no later than 5 p.m. on Nov. 1. It is the Council’s policy not to consider applications received after the deadline. After the application closing date, Councilmembers will review the letters of application and may select applicants for interview.

Letters of application and resumes are made public as part of the appointment process. Any interviews held are open to the public and will be televised. A financial statement of assets, debts, income and family property interests will be required of all applicants. Only the appointed candidate will be required to make the financial statement available to the public.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Montgomery County Adopts the International Green Construction Code (IgCC)

Today we unanimously passed Executive Regulation 21-15 AMII, which adopts the International Green Construction Code (IgCC). We established green building code requirements that significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Montgomery County. Here's today's press release:

Montgomery County is taking a major step forward to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and meet climate protection goals with today’s unanimous Council approval of Executive Regulation 21-15 AMII, which adopts the International Green Construction Code(IgCC) establishing green building code requirements.

“I commend the Department of Permitting Services for its persistence in pushing this code forward and I thank the County Council for its approval of the Executive Regulation,” said Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett.

With adoption of the IgCC, Montgomery County establishes a baseline requirement that new, non-residential construction and additions of 5,000 square feet or more must be designed and constructed to reduce building energy use by at least 50% over the average commercial building energy consumption in the base year of 2000. 

In addition to reducing energy consumption by 50%, projects must mitigate heat island impacts associated with development and divert at least 50% of construction and demolition waste material from landfills.  This green building code is a critical step in meeting the County’s commitment to implementation of the County’s Climate Protection Plan

“This green construction code will result in reduced energy spending for building users,” said Diane Schwartz Jones, director of the Department of Permitting Services. “It is essential to reduce environmental impacts from building-related greenhouse gases and places us on a path to leave a far better legacy for future generations.”

The requirements of the IgCC will take effect on Dec. 1, 2017 in Montgomery County. 

For more information, visit the Department of Permitting Services website.

Monday, September 18, 2017

FOX 5 Chooses Montgomery County for Their New Headquarters

I am pleased that WTTG Fox 5 and WDCA Fox 5 Plus will move its headquarters to Bethesda. This is great news as it will bring approximately 200 jobs to the County. You can read more about the relocation here.


Thursday, September 7, 2017

Montgomery County Launches "Renters Have Rights" Campaign

Today I joined County Executive Ike Leggett, Councilmembers Marc Elrich, Hans Riemer, Tom Hucker; DHCA Director Snuggs, and HOC Executive Director Stacy Spann for a press release that  launched a “Renters Have Rights” campaign of stepped-up inspections and outreach to tenants. You can view my comments at today's event or read the full press release:

Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett today launched a “Renters Have Rights” campaign of stepped-up inspections and outreach to tenants. The purpose of this campaign is to let renters know they have a voice and that the County Department of Housing and Community Affairs (DHCA) is here to listen.

“Due to our recently updated housing law, the Department of Housing and Community Affairs now has expanded responsibilities and resources to step up their housing inspections and tenant advocacy,” said Leggett. “I urge tenants to call 3-1-1 if they have any concerns so that our housing department can inspect and enforce fixes, if needed, or otherwise offer tenants the help they request.”

Leggett was joined by Councilmembers Marc Elrich, Nancy Floreen, Tom Hucker, and Hans Riemer, as well as Department of Housing and Community Affairs Director Clarence Snuggs, and the Executive Director of the Housing and Opportunities Commission, Stacy L. Spann.

The County Department of Housing and Community Affairs (DHCA) will inspect every multifamily apartment building over the next two years. Renters can request their unit be inspected. Results of those inspections will be used to establish a list of problem properties that will be subject to at least an annual inspection, based on the responsiveness of the owner and tenants to address identified life and safety issues. The inspection process will begin with older properties, those that have received many tenant complaints, and those with a history of code violations – especially life and safety violations.

Increased inspections are a staple of the updated law, but this campaign is more than just announcing inspections. Renters are encouraged to contact DHCA to learn about their rights and DHCA is available to help mediate conflicts between renters and landlords.

The “Renters Have Rights” outreach campaign directs people to call 3-1-1 to learn how Montgomery County can provide free, confidential, anonymous help to ensure housing safety, mediate conflicts, and otherwise advocate for tenants. The updated law also includes funding for additional tenant advocacy staff.

“I am very happy to see both this public outreach campaign for renters and the stepped up inspection and enforcement actions taken by the Executive,” said County Councilmember Marc Elrich.  “This is the kind of pro-active approach that I hoped my tenant legislation would foster. I believe that this can make a meaningful difference for tenants, who account for one third of residents in our county.  I recently saw one of the signs on a Ride-On bus directing tenants to contact the county if they are having issues; in the past, tenants often did not know that the County could offer help. It is also worth noting that tenants can be anonymous even when interacting with the County.  This effort signifies a new prioritization for the safety and well-being of our County’s renters.”

“More than a third of residents in our county are renters and that number will continue to increase for the foreseeable future,” said Council President Roger Berliner. “Understanding your rights as a renter is an essential step to address issues of importance to your quality of life.  We must educate and empower our growing and diverse renter community and I am pleased that our county is playing a more proactive role in doing just that.”

“Renters Have Rights” Outreach Campaign Elements

·         Ads on interior (EnglishSpanish) and exterior Ride On buses, bus shelters and County facilities
·         Doorhangers regarding tenant rights and responsibilities to be distributed in multifamily apartment buildings
·         Online communications via social media (TwitterFacebook) and the County website, electronic boards (English,Spanish)

and the Paperless Airplane
·         Lobby signs posted in every multifamily apartment building, in six languages
·         Upcoming County-wide training sessions for landlords and tenants
·         Flyer to be distributed via elementary school backpacks in communities where renters are primarily located
The updated housing law also encourages the formation of tenant associations that can develop a voice and establish a relationship with property owners. And, it assures that landlords must offer a two-year lease at signing and renewal. Updated tenant responsibilities are included in the enacted legislation, as well.

For more information visit DHCA’s Tenant Rights website, which includes tenant rightsresponsibilitiesDHCA services, and more.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Council's Statement on President Trump’s Decision to Rescind DACA

We released the following statement today regarding President Trump's decision to rescind DACA:

The Montgomery County Council denounces President Trump's decision to dismantle the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The temporary status provided through DACA empowered about 800,000 young people, who came to the United States as children and are often referred to as “Dreamers,” to establish roots in our community, earn college degrees and obtain the skills and training necessary to secure meaningful jobs.  DACA has provided a sense of safety and ladders of opportunity for these young people and enhanced America's economy.  

President Trump's decision on DACA will force these young people back into hiding and destroy their chances for full and productive lives.  His decision flies in the face of racial and social justice and will have an economic impact on our nation.  A December 2016 policy brief from the Immigrant Legal Resource Center estimates that 685,195 young immigrants will become unemployed if DACA is eliminated.  This could mean a $24.6 billion loss for Social Security over the next decade.  The Cato Institute reports that rescinding DACA will cost Maryland about $3 billion from 2018-2028.
     
The young people with temporary status provided through DACA have played by the rules and worked hard to establish their lives in America.  That is why the Montgomery County Council will continue to stand by our "Dreamers."  We will work with our representatives in Congress to stop this misguided and unjust decision. 


Regardless of what happens at the federal level, Montgomery County remains an open and welcoming community for all its residents who are working hard to achieve the American dream.  

Click here for the press release.



Friday, September 1, 2017

Georgetown Branch Trail Detour Routes

Here's additional detour options from the Washington Area Bicycle Association (WABA) for cyclists using the Georgetown Branch Trail, which is scheduled to close this Tuesday, September 5 for the duration of the construction of the Purple Line.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Purple Line Construction Begins - Georgetown Branch Trail Scheduled to Close Tuesday

The Purple Line construction has begun in Montgomery County. The Georgetown Branch Trail is scheduled to close this Tuesday, September 5 for four to five years between Woodmont Avenue in Bethesda and Talbot Avenue in Silver Spring. Visit here for a detailed map of the alternate route and click here for MTA construction updates and notices.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Purple Line Groundbreaking

Yesterday I joined Governor Larry Hogan, my Council colleagues, other elected officials, and community members at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Maryland Transit Administration's Purple Line. This 16.2-mile light rail line will run from Bethesda to New Carrollton and will provide a mobility option that has never existed before with connections to Metrorail, bus lines and a train station. Learn more about the Purple Line and watch highlights from the ceremony here.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Labor Day Holiday Schedule

Here is our holiday schedule for Labor Day on Monday, September 4:
County Offices – closed

Refuse/recycling pickup – no collection.  Collection provided one day later for remainder of the week.  (Last collection is Saturday).  More information available at https://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/sws/holidays/

The Shady Grove Processing Facility and Transfer Station - closed

Parking at public garages, lots, curbside meters – free
Libraries – closed

County Liquor stores – all stores will be open 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Recreation – Bethesda, Germantown, Western County, Wheaton/Glenmont and MLK outdoor aquatic facilities will be open from noon to 6 p.m. Olney Indoor Swim Center will be open normal hours; all other indoor aquatic facilities, as well as the Long Branch and Upper County outdoor pools, will be closed. Administrative offices, senior centers and community centers are closed.

Montgomery Parks - For operating schedule, visit www.MontgomeryParks.org

Ride On – will operate on a Sunday schedule. Information is available at this link:   http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/DOT-Transit/holiday_schedules.html.
Metrorail – Information available at www.wmata.com
Metrobus – Information available at www.wmata.com
TRiPS Commuter Stores (Silver Spring and Friendship Heights) – closed
MCPS Schools and Administrative Offices – closed

State offices and courts – closed 

Friday, August 18, 2017

Council's Statement Regarding President Trump's Comments on Charlottesville

We released the following statement regarding the events surrounding Charlottesville:

Montgomery County Council Statement on President Trump’s Comments on
White Nationalist Rally in Charlottesville

Montgomery County has a long history of cultivating a welcoming community filled with acceptance and tolerance for all residents.  We stand together to reject bigotry, misogyny, homophobia, racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and xenophobia.  We also stand with the people of Charlottesville, Virginia who reject hate in all forms and who were sickened by the August 12 rally of white nationalists who converged on their community.  

Our residents, like others throughout the country, look to our President in these challenging times to speak to and remind all Americans of our highest ideals and our most fundamental values–not to debase them.  It was unconscionable for the President’s first words regarding Charlottesville to emphasize that “many sides” were responsible for what took place there, as though there was a moral equivalency between those there solely to advance hate and division and those there to stand on behalf of our common humanity.  When the President then subsequently doubled down on that sentiment by blaming “both sides”, the President lost all moral authority.  It is unconscionable to equate white supremacists, Ku Klux Klan (KKK) members, neo-Nazis, and other alt-Right white nationalist groups with those who participated in counter-protests.  In so doing, the President has justifiably earned condemnation from most Americans and has only won the praise of the white extremists that he emboldened.  He owes the American people an apology.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of Heather Heyer, those injured during the counter-protest, and Lt. H. Jay Cullen and Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates, who lost their lives serving the people of Virginia.

Total Eclipse in the Park

Experience the total eclipse at this fun event sponsored by Montgomery Parks.

Ready for the solar eclipse? Don’t be left in the dark. Join Montgomery Parks on August 21st for Total Eclipse in the Park – our free “watch” party. We’ve got your eyes covered with free solar eclipse sunglasses (while supplies last). Pack a picnic as well as blankets or chairs, and enjoy the afternoon in the park. There’ll be a dance party, games, giveaways and FUN!

Mon. August 21st, 2017 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.  Martin Luther King Jr. Recreational Park. Click here for more information.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Montgomery County Council Seeks Applicants for Council Administrator

After 26 years of service to seven County Councils as Council Administrator, Steve Farber is retiring in February, 2018. Applications are currently being accepted until September 12. Here's the complete press release:

ROCKVILLE, Md., August 14, 2017—The Montgomery County Council is seeking applicants for the position of Council Administrator.  On July 31, Council Administrator Steve Farber announced plans to leave his post in February 2018.  Mr. Farber was first appointed in October 1991 and has served seven Councils. 

The Council Administrator, the principal adviser to the Council, helps develop and implement the Council’s policies and work program, oversees the Council staff, and represents the Council on several County boards, including the investment boards of the County’s retirement plans.

“For the past 26 years, Steve Farber has served the Council and the community with the highest distinction,” said Council President Roger Berliner. “We look forward to appointing a worthy successor.”

Applications will close on September 12.  Details on the application process can be viewed here.
  
For further information, please contact Mary Jane Berry, Administrative Services Coordinator, at MaryJane.Berry@montgomerycountymd.gov.


Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Montgomery County Council Appeals Circuit Court Ruling Overturning Cosmetic Pesticides Ban

I was disappointed with the recent Circuit Court decision that overruled the ban on certain pesticides in the County, but I am pleased that the Council is appealing this ruling. Having battled breast cancer myself, I am particularly sensitive to the need to limit our exposure to toxic chemicals. I am concerned with the public’s health and welfare, and that all residents, particularly our children, stand to benefit from reduced exposure to pesticides. Here is the full press release on today's action:

ROCKVILLE, Md., Aug. 16, 2017—Today the Montgomery County Council directed the Office of the County Attorney to appeal the Montgomery County Circuit Court ruling that overturned the County’s cosmetic pesticides ban.  The ruling stated, “Maryland’s comprehensive program of pesticide regulation occupies the field of pesticide use and thus impliedly preempts the ordinance.” The court also held that the County’s ban on the application of certain pesticides on private property conflicted with Maryland law.

In October 2015, the Council enacted Bill 52-14, Pesticides - Notice Requirements - Cosmetic Pesticide Use Restrictions, which would have prohibited the use of certain registered pesticides on private property starting on January 1, 2018.   The County is one of the few local jurisdictions to have such restrictions.  The Council enacted this legislation with a focus on pesticides that included chemicals linked to the risk of developing cancer.

Complete Lawn Care, Inc., et al. v. Montgomery County invalidated certain provisions of Bill 52-14 because the Circuit Court found that County regulation of the use of pesticides on private property is preempted by state law.

“Our Council’s legal team advised us that the County would have a reasonable chance of prevailing in an appeal of the Circuit Court’s decision,” said Council President Roger Berliner, who also serves as chair of the Council’s Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy & Environment Committee.  “It is important that the Council is allowed to protect our community from the threat posed by pesticides on private lawns.  Moreover, the broad scope of the court’s decision threatens our existing regulatory regime and other efforts short of a ban, even if the ban itself is ultimately deemed in direct conflict with state law.  We have also been advised that an appeal will not carry significant costs, as the work involved can be absorbed as part of the Office of the County Attorney’s normal workload.  Accordingly, my colleagues and I agree that an appeal is in the public interest.” 


The Annual County Health Rankings for Maryland has recognized Montgomery County as the “Healthiest County in Maryland” for the last four years.  The County is often at the forefront of initiatives that enhance public health like the cosmetic pesticides ban.


“I am delighted that the Council is appealing the Circuit Court ruling on the pesticides ban,” said Councilmember George Leventhal, who was the lead sponsor of Bill 52-14 and serves as chair of the Council’s Health and Human Services Committee.  “Studies have linked numerous chemicals found in lawn pesticides to cancer and other serious health conditions. The Council sits as the Board of Health, but the court has ruled that we are preempted from protecting our residents from this health threat.  This sets a worrisome precedent that should be overturned.”   

County law provides that the Council is, and may act as, the County Board of Health.  In this capacity, the Council may adopt any regulation which a local board of health is authorized to adopt. “With Trump’s EPA protecting the interests of chemical companies instead of our residents, it is more important than ever that local communities take action to ensure that our children are not exposed to hazardous chemicals,” said Council Vice P
resident Hans Riemer.  “This decision takes that right away from us and should be overturned.”

“Too many people believe that because a pesticide is allowed for use by the federal government and by the state, then it must be safe,” said Councilmember Marc Elrich.  “Yet scientists, medical researchers and physicians advocate for great caution when using pesticides.  Pesticide use simply is not necessary on lawns - it is not good for the environment, our children or even our pets. It is important that we appeal this decision.”


“I was disappointed with the recent Circuit Court decision that overruled the ban on certain pesticides in the County, but I am pleased that the Council is appealing this ruling,” said Councilmember Nancy Floreen. “Having battled breast cancer myself, I am particularly sensitive to the need to limit our exposure to toxic chemicals. I am concerned with the public’s health and welfare, and that all residents, particularly our children, stand to benefit from reduced exposure to pesticides.”


“While I was disappointed with the Circuit Court’s ruling, I am pleased that the Council will be appealing this decision,” said Councilmember Nancy Navarro. “I have received hundreds of emails from constituents in just the last few days, and there is nearly unanimous support for an appeal. The County’s leadership with regard to local health and environmental policies has been a great source of pride for our residents. It is important that the Council be able to act in the best interest of County residents by ensuring we maintain our high standards for quality of life.”
 

Enacted
Bill 52-14 can be viewed here.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Minimum Wage Impact Study

Hot off the press: here’s the Montgomery County, Maryland Minimum Wage Increase Impact Study.  The report addresses the impact on the county economy and labor market; the impact on the county government; the impact on county businesses; and the socioeconomic impacts. When the Council reconvenes in the fall we will take up Bill 28-17 that would increase the minimum wage to $15 by 2020 for many workers in Montgomery County. The current minimum wage is $11.50 per hour, and there are no requirements in law for further increases. In January the Council enacted a minimum wage bill in a vote of 5-4 that was subsequently vetoed by the County Executive. If you would like to weigh in on Bill 28-17, sign up to testify later this month at the public hearing to be held in late September; or send your written comments to county.council@montgomerycountymd.gov.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Council Urges Stronger Carbon Emissions Standards

Here's the full press release:

ROCKVILLE, Md., July 26, 2017—Today the Montgomery County Council sent a letter to Governor Larry Hogan urging him to take a stand against climate change by supporting stronger carbon emissions reduction standards in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).  

Maryland is one of nine Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states that are part of RGGI, a regional cap-and-trade system on power plant carbon emissions established in 2009.  Last year RGGI began a review to determine whether to adopt a lower cap and stricter standards.  All nine Councilmembers signed a letter to Gov. Hogan asking the state to back increasing RGGI’s annual emissions reduction target to five percent.

“The urgency with which more aggressive emission reduction goals are needed has only increased in recent months given our federal government’s shortsighted and negligent decision to withdraw from the 2015 Paris Agreement,” wrote the Councilmembers.  “It is more important than ever that state and local governments do their part.  And it has become increasingly clear that doing so will not hurt our economy.  Power generators under existing RGGI standards have successfully adapted to current standards while continuing to provide a reliable supply of electricity.”

RGGI is expected to announce the results of its review this summer.  Maryland is represented on the Board of Directors of RGGI, Inc., by Maryland Department of the Environment Secretary Benjamin Grumbles and Maryland Public Service Commission Chairman Kevin Hughes.

“The regional cap-and-trade system established by RGGI in 2009 has proven to be a success, with 2015 power plant emissions in the participating states falling 6.3 percent below the cap and electricity prices across the region decreasing by 3.4 percent on average compared to a 7.2 percent increase in other states,” wrote the councilmembers.  “During this time, the nine RGGI states reduced carbon emissions by 16 percent more than other states while experiencing 3.6 percent more economic growth, according to a 2016 study by the Acadia Center.  Even stronger standards will bring stronger results.”

The complete letter can be viewed at:
https://tinyurl.com/yb7p79pb.