Thursday, October 23, 2014

County Maintains AAA Bond Rating

Great news. Here's the full press release:

County Executive Ike Leggett today announced that Montgomery County has maintained its Triple-A bond rating from three Wall Street bond rating agencies, just a week after Leggett led a group of County officials, including Council President Craig Rice, to meet with the agencies to brief Wall Street on the County’s fiscal situation and future plans.

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

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

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

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

“We have boosted our reserves to the most ever, closed nearly $3 billion in budget gaps, made tough choices on spending, and saved millions for taxpayers with changes in County health and retirement benefits. Montgomery County has weathered the downturn and the investments we made during the toughest of times are enabling us to create more jobs and opportunity.”

“Working together in partnership, the County Executive and the County Council have made sure of strong County fiscal stewardship,” said Council President Craig Rice. “That is the foundation upon which we are building an even brighter future.”

The bond rating agencies underlined the County’s successful approach.

“Despite the 2013 federal government shutdown and sequestration, we note that the county did not experience significant disruptions to its financial performance due to, what we consider the diversity of its revenue base and its strong management practices,” wrote Standard & Poor’s Rating Services.

“Montgomery County continues to exhibit a very impressive economic profile,” wrote Fitch Ratings. “The County has gained employment each year between 2010 and 2013…Montgomery County has a sophisticated management team that uses conservative budgeting and established debt and reserve policies that have resulted in healthy reserve and liquidity levels.”

“The stable outlook reflects the county’s improved financial position that is supported by structurally balanced budgets and increased reserves,” wrote Moody’s.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Find Local Events with Visit Montgomery County

Visit Montgomery County just launched a local advertising campaign promoting its new county-wide calendar of events. The campaign includes Ride On bus ads, print and online advertisements in Recreation News, The Gazette, The Washington Post Express and an on-air campaign with All the Hits 107.3. Although Visit Montgomery invests more than $450,000 in advertising each year, this is the first time they are advertising in the local market.

In late August, Visit Montgomery County launched a new Web site,, with updated features like a county-wide calendar of events, interactive map and a trip builder. Visitors can subscribe to an event-specific feed, such as “family fun” or “outdoor adventures” and have the events automatically appear on their Outlook, iCal or Gmail calendar. The event calendar is always in the top five pageviews on the Visit Montgomery website, and that number continues to grow as popular events occur. During the first week of September, the pageviews for the Silver Spring Jazz Festival increased by more than 1,000 from the previous week.

I advocated for creating and funding the new Web site because I thought we needed one Web site with all events in Montgomery County. In 2013, I introduced Bill 36-12, which increased the allocation of the hotel tax to Visit Montgomery from 3.5% to 7%. The Council passed the bill and the funding increase began on July 1, 2013.

Visit Montgomery County encourages local organizations to post their events on the new online calendar of events free of charge. The guidelines are that the event occurs in Montgomery County and would be of interest to a tourist or resident. The goal is to be a one-stop shop for all events in Montgomery County.

The mission of Visit Montgomery County is to enthusiastically promote, market and sell Montgomery County as a destination for meetings, conventions and individual travelers, fostering economic development and benefiting and supporting members and the overall business community. It is Visit Montgomery County's goal to show leadership and be regarded as a quality organization of experts and advocates of its members, partnering with local, county and state organizations and government officials in an effort to further these goals.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Early Voting October 23-30

If you are registered to vote in Montgomery County you can stop by any of the nine Early Voting Centers October 23-30, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. to cast your ballot. Many voters find that early voting is more convenient than voting at their assigned polling place on Election Day (November 4).
Early Voting Centers:
  • Activity Center at Bohrer Park, 506 S. Frederick Avenue, Gaithersburg
  • Damascus Community Recreation Center, 25520 Oak Drive, Damascus
  • Executive Office Building, 101 Monroe Street, Rockville
  • Germantown Community Recreation Center, 18905 Kingsview Road, Germantown
  • Jane E. Lawton Community Recreation Center, 4301 Willow Lane, Chevy Chase
  • Marilyn J. Praisner Community Recreation Center, 14906 Old Columbia Pike, Burtonsville
  • Mid-County Community Recreation Center, 2004 Queensguard Road, Silver Spring
  • Silver Spring Civic Building, One Veterans Place, Silver Spring
  • Wheaton Community Recreation Center, 11711 Georgia Avenue, Wheaton 
Visit or the new mobile site at for more information on early voting, including wait times for each center, updated hourly during voting hours.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Council Recognizes Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Today we recognized local breast cancer prevention and treatment programs as a part of the County Council proclamation in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Since BCAM began in 1985, mammography rates have more than doubled for women age 50 and older and breast cancer deaths have declined. That’s something to celebrate, especially since one in eight women in the United States—or 12 percent of women—will develop invasive breast cancer at some point in her life, making breast cancer the most common cancer among women except for skin cancer.

Montgomery County is fortunate to have many partners across various disciplines that not only raise awareness about the importance of early detection of breast cancer but also provide medical and support services to those who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. Today we honored these providers.

By way of today's proclamation we stand with the mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts, and friends who have been affected by breast cancer, and that we recognize the ongoing efforts of dedicated advocates, researchers, and health care providers who strive each day to defeat this terrible disease.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Briefing on Deer Management

I get a lot of questions about deer in Montgomery County, so I want to let you know here's your chance to learn more. In a few minutes, we will begin a worksession on the County deer management program. The briefing will include an overview of the program, including the challenges to increase management efforts. It also will include an update on the impact of deer in the agricultural community and information on restrictions related to the discharge of weapons related to the program.

This is the 20th year of the County’s deer management program. Nearly 30,000 acres of publicly owned land is now being managed for deer. Deer management has been initiated in most of the larger parcels of parkland in the County owned by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, State parkland, WSSC-owned land and several publicly owned properties.

On average, deer populations have been reduced by more than 59 percent where management is occurring. The average number of deer-vehicle collisions within one-quarter of a mile of parkland is 10.9 for parks with no deer management compared to 3.4 for parks where management is being conducted.

If you can't watch the briefing now, you can get it on demand beginning tomorrow afternoon.

Council Appoints Natali Fani-Gonzalez to Planning Board

I'm looking forward to working with our new Planning Board member, Natali Fani-Gonzalez. She's a great communicator, and she has a real sense of Montgomery County. She will make a terrific addition to the team. Here's the full press release:

The Montgomery County Council today unanimously named Natali Fani-Gonzalez to a vacant position on the Montgomery County Planning Board.

Ms. Fani-Gonzalez, a Kensington resident, was one of 25 applicants for the position. The Council interviewed four of those applicants. She will serve a four-year term.

Ms. Fani-Gonzalez is the founder and principal of The Matea Group, a strategic public relations firm based in Montgomery County.

In her letter of application, Ms. Fani-Gonzalez wrote, “During the past decade, I have shown initiative, creativity in problem solving and a commitment to building consensus and excellence in a variety of settings. Through my public relations firm, I have successfully advanced local, state, national and international issues, including global migration and development, the Maryland Dream Act, online privacy and Internet freedom, transparency in elections, access to health care, the national Deferred Action for Undocumented Children, Women’s rights, family economic justice and veteran’s rights.”

Earlier this year, Ms. Fani-Gonzalez was awarded a citation by the Maryland General Assembly for outstanding contributions to the state. 

In her letter of application and in her interview with the Council, Ms. Fani-Gonzalez, who is fluent in English and Spanish, told Councilmembers she could bring a unique perspective to the five-member Planning Board.

“As part of the millennial generation—the largest and most diverse generation in the history of the nation, I will bring a pragmatic vision with a strong social conscience amplified by the use of technology,” she wrote in her letter of application. “Indisputably, the planning of a strong and successful Montgomery County must include the realities of my generation: an innovated, open-minded, achievement-orientated, socially focused, informed and high-tech community.”

Monday, October 6, 2014

Apply Now to Grants Advisory Group

Apply by November 6 to the Council’s Grants Advisory Group. We will appoint the volunteer community panel to review grant applications and advise us on proposals received from the non-profit community. 

The Council believes that a strong partnership with non-profit organizations is critical in meeting the County’s needs, so we have established a grants process in which the Council accepts applications from non-profit organizations seeking funds, forwards proposals to the Grants Advisory Group for advice and comments and then makes funding decisions during our spring budget deliberations.

It is anticipated that the Grants Advisory Group will be appointed in December and will be asked to report to the Council by the end of April 2015. Panel members will need to attend training sessions and review relevant materials during late January and February. The applications review will take place between late February and April 15.

The Grants Advisory Group will be asked to provide the Council with written comments on each of the grant proposals. The workload will vary based on the number of applications received and panel members appointed; however, it is expected that each member would review approximately 20 applications. Panel members should anticipate approximately six to eight meetings late January and mid-April, with the potential for weekly meetings in March. 

Volunteers for the Grants Advisory Group can come from panels reviewing Community Development Block Grants or Community Service Grants, as well as from other advisory boards or community groups. Applicants for the Advisory Group cannot be employees of, or member of a board of, a nonprofit group applying for Council grant funding. The Council will designate the chair of the Advisory Group. 

Send your letter of interest along with a resume to Council President Craig Rice, Montgomery County Council, Stella B. Werner Council Office Building, 100 Maryland Avenue, Rockville, Maryland, 20850, or by e-mail to by 4:00 on November 6. If you have questions, contact the Council Grants Manager Joan Schaffer at 240-777-7935 or

Thursday, October 2, 2014

MBDC Announces Three New Board Members

MBDC has three new members. We're extremely grateful for their willingness to serve. Here's the full press release:

The Montgomery Business Development Corporation (MBDC) has announced the election of three new members of its Board of Directors.  Joining the Board for three-year terms are Lisa Cines, CPA, Office Managing Partner Dixon Hughes Goodman, Leslie Ford Weber, Director of Campus, Government and Community Affairs for Johns Hopkins in Montgomery County, and Kelly T. Leonard, CEO of Taylor-Leonard Corporation. The Board makes policy decisions and oversees the MBDC operations.

Lisa Cines is the Office Managing Partner, Dixon Hughes Goodman LLP with over 30 years of public accounting experience.  She is well versed in accounting firm management with an emphasis on strategic and financial management, marketing and business development.  The Washington Business Journal named Ms. Cines as one of the “25 Women Who Mean Business.”  She currently serves as the Chair of the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce, serves on the board of Rockville Economic Development Inc., chairs the Advisory Board of the Maryland Women’s Business Center and is a member of the University of Maryland Smith Business School Advisory Board.

Leslie Ford Weber is the Director of Campus, Government and Community Affairs for Johns Hopkins in Montgomery County.  Ms. Weber coordinates the regional legislative agenda at the state and federal level and manages multiple relationships with the local executive and legislative branches and community organizations for both the University and Johns Hopkins Medicine.  Ms. Weber joined Hopkins-affiliate Suburban Hospital as Executive Vice President of the Suburban Hospital Foundation in 2004 and was also named Senior Vice President of Government and Community Relations in 2008. Ms. Weber is a graduate of the Leadership Montgomery program, a past chair of the Greater Bethesda-Chevy Chase Chamber of Commerce, and currently serves as the Treasurer of Montgomery Women and a board member and Vice-chair of the Economic Development of the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce.   

Kelly T Leonard is the CEO of Taylor-Leonard Corporation, with expertise in business development specifically for entrepreneurs and small business.  Ms. Leonard is a speaker, trainer, business leader, and 2014 Minerva Entrepreneur Women-Owned Business of the Year Award recipient. A certified public accountant, seasoned financial services professional, and corporate trainer with over twenty-five years of experience in federal government, private and public accounting environments, including Fortune 100, Kelly has an innate ability to connect with diverse audiences across disciplines.  Prior to becoming CEO of Taylor-Leonard Corporation (T-LC), Kelly held leadership positions with GE Capital, Kaiser Permanente, and PriceWaterhouseCoopers.  

Montgomery Business Development Corporation is a non-partisan business development organization created by the Montgomery County Council in 2010 to expand the County’s economic development capabilities, including strategic planning, marketing, business retention and attraction, and data analysis.  For more information about Montgomery Business Development Corporation, please visit

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Report Shows Improved Congestion

They say you never really learn to swear until you learn to drive, but now you may be able to save a few nickels from going in the curse jar, according to the most recent Mobility Assessment Report. The study conducted by the Montgomery County Planning Department shows stabilization and even improvement in congestion in several key areas. That’s right, improvement in congestion. In fact, intersections categorized as severely congested have dropped from 17 percent in 2011 to 11 percent now. This marks the lowest rate since 2005.

Several factors likely contribute to the change, including land use planning that focuses development around transit, intersection improvements throughtout the county and efforts to make walking and biking safer and more accessible.
A key factor, though, is the Intercounty Connector, where use continues to grow steadily at a rate of 3 percent per month. Those who take the ICC cut their travel time in half compared to travel on local commuter routes like MD 28 and MD 108. What’s more, local roadways that parallel the ICC have shown improved travel time and reduced congestion since the opening of the toll road in November 2011.

While this is good news, there is still plenty of room for improvement, as commuters who travel on MD 355 near Shady Grove or pass through the intersection of MD 355 and West Cedar Lane will attest. These spots top the lists of the 50 most congested roadways and intersections. Check the report to see how your commute compares.
We will get a full briefing on the report at the Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment Committee meeting scheduled for 2:00 on October 9. You can watch the meeting live or on demand on County Cable Montgomery.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Schedule for Planning Board Interviews

Here's the schedule for tomorrow's interview of four applicants for the Montgomery County Planning Board. One applicant who was selected for an interview—Mohammad Siddique—has since withdrawn his application.

  • 2 p.m. Charles Kauffman
  • 2:30 p.m. Victor Weissberg
  • 3 p.m. Dennis Kamber
  • 3:30 p.m. Natali Fani-Gonzalez 
You can watch the interviews live or on demand on County Cable Montgomery.

Town Hall Meeting for Students

This year we will hold the always-popular Town Hall Meeting for Students on Wednesday, Oct. 15, at the Council Office Building in Rockville. The meeting will be held in the Council’s Third Floor Hearing Room beginning at 7 p.m. A pre-meeting reception will begin at 6:30 p.m. in the building’s second-floor cafeteria. RSVP by calling 240-777-7931. 

The October meeting is open to high school, middle school and local college students. The meeting will allow the participants to let Councilmembers know how they feel about specific issues and also will provide the opportunity to ask questions of us in an organized, but informal, setting.

The event will be broadcast live on County Cable Montgomery (CCM—cable Channel 6 on Comcast and RCN, Channel 30 on Verizon) and rebroadcast at various times in the weeks following the meeting. Susan Kenedy, a producer for the County station, will moderate the meeting.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Bill to Help Homeowners' and Condo Associations

I'm pleased to co-sponsor George Leventhal's bill designed to protect the financial and operational viability of the County’s homeowners’ and condominium associations. The bill would condition the issuance of a rental license for a property in a homeowners’ or condominium association on being no more than 30 days past due with the association dues or fees. This would aid the growing number of associations that are already financially distressed due in part to negligent property owners who rent their units but fail to pay their dues. The bill is scheduled for introduction on Tuesday. A public hearing is tentatively scheduled for October 14 at 1:30. To register to speak, call 240-777-7803.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Council Will Interview Five for Planning Board

We will interview five applicants for the Planning Board on Tuesday, September 23. Here is the entire press release:

ROCKVILLE, Md., September 16, 2014—The Montgomery County Council on Tuesday, Sept. 23, will interview five applicants for a vacant position on the Montgomery County Planning Board. The position is a four-year term. 

The Council received letters of interest from 25 applicants. The Council selected the following five applicants to interview for the position: Natali Fani-Gonzalez, Dennis Kamber, Charles Kauffman, Mohammad Siddique and Victor Weissberg. 

The interviews will be held in the Third Floor Hearing Room of the Council Office Building at 100 Maryland Ave. in Rockville. The times of the interviews will be announced later this week.

The public is invited to attend the interviews, which will be televised live by County Cable Montgomery (CCM—Cable Channel 6 on Comcast and RCN, Channel 30 on Verizon). The broadcast also will be streamed at:

The interviews will be rebroadcast on Friday, Sept. 26, as part of a rebroadcast of the Council’s activities on Sept. 23, including its morning general session. The rebroadcast will begin at 9 p.m. Friday and will be available before that time on demand.

The resume of each applicant to be interviewed is available as part of the information packet on the interview process. That information can be viewed at:

Friday, September 12, 2014

Watershed Restoration Grants Available

Non-profit organizations, community associations, service and civic groups, and faith-based organizations--apply now for watershed restoration grant funding. Here's the full press release:

Montgomery County and the Chesapeake Bay Trust today announced a new grant program to support watershed restoration and outreach throughout the County. The goal of the Montgomery County Watershed Restoration and Outreach program is to reduce stormwater runoff and pollutants through community-based restoration, including RainScapes practices, as well as to implement projects focused on public involvement through education, outreach and stewardship.

“This innovative program encourages on-the-ground restoration projects as well as outreach and engagement activities that reduce stormflow and pollutants and engage Montgomery County residents,” said Fariba Kassiri, acting director of Montgomery County’s Department of Environmental Protection. “We are pleased to work with the Chesapeake Bay Trust to administer these grants that will help restore and protect the local rivers and streams in the County.”

Non-profit organizations, including local watershed groups, community associations, service and civic groups, and faith-based organizations, are eligible to apply for funding. Grants up to $50,000 are available (with larger awards possible with prior approval), and all projects must take place in Montgomery County, outside the municipalities of Rockville, Gaithersburg and Takoma Park.

“The Chesapeake Bay Trust administers hundreds of grants each year that engage individuals in projects and programs that support watershed restoration and the improvement of local streams and rivers,” said Jana Davis, executive director of the Chesapeake Bay Trust. “This partnership is an excellent opportunity to educate local residents about watershed restoration opportunities while also providing valuable resources to implement low impact development stormwater techniques.”

Funding is available for three types of efforts: public outreach and stewardship projects, community-based stormwater runoff and water quality improvement practices, and RainScapes Neighborhood projects. 

Suggested projects include small-scale stormwater practice installations such as those supported through the RainScapes program (including rain gardens, native trees and conservation landscaping); bioretention cells, rain gardens, streamside forest buffers and green roofs; pet waste management and litter prevention and reduction efforts. Before applying, interested persons should contact the Chesapeake Bay Trust to discuss project ideas and partnerships.

“Montgomery County has a responsibility to meet regulatory watershed restoration and water quality improvement goals. However, significant effort is needed from individuals and community-based groups as well, since the amount of privately owned land far exceeds the amount of County-owned land,” said Kassiri. “We look forward to working with Montgomery County residents and the Chesapeake Bay Trust as we all do our part to restore and protect our vital natural resources.”

Applications are due on December 4, 2014 by 5 p.m..

To learn more and review the request for proposals, visit or contact Sadie Drescher at 410-974-2941, x103.

About Montgomery County’s Department of Environmental Protection

The mission of the Department of Environmental Protection is to: 1) Protect and enhance the quality of life in our community through the conservation, preservation, and restoration of our environment, guided by the principles of science, resource management, sustainability, and stewardship. 2) Provide solid waste management services, including recycling, in an environmentally progressive and economically sound manner.

About the Chesapeake Bay Trust

The Chesapeake Bay Trust is a nonprofit, grant-making organization dedicated to improving the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers through environmental education, community outreach, and local watershed restoration. Since 1985, the Trust has awarded $65 million in grants and engaged hundreds of thousands of citizen stewards in projects that have a measurable impact on the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. The Trust is supported by the sale of the Maryland Treasure the Chesapeake license plate, donations to the Chesapeake Bay and Endangered Species Fund on the Maryland State income tax form, donations from individuals and corporations, and partnerships with private foundations and federal and state agencies.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Remember to Stay Vigilant and Review Signs of Terrorism

As we mark the 13th anniversary of September 11 attacks, Montgomery County asks residents to remain vigilant and review the seven signs of terrorism. Here is the full statement:

September is National Preparedness Month. As we prepare to observe the thirteenth anniversary of the terrorist events of September 11, 2001, the Montgomery County Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security and the Montgomery County Police Department recommend that community members review the seven signs of terrorism, to help them become more knowledgeable about the types of suspicious behaviors that might precede a terrorist attack. 

At this time, there is no specific intelligence to suggest that a threat to the National Capital Region, and specifically Montgomery County, is imminent during this anniversary. However, our best defense is concerned community members who understand what kinds of persons, things, and situations should be considered suspicious, and then alert police to those concerns.  It is critical for those who live and work in Montgomery County to partner with their law enforcement agencies to be on the lookout for suspicious persons, vehicles, and activities in their areas.

The Seven Signs of Terrorism are:

1.  Surveillance: Someone recording or monitoring activities. This could include the use of cameras (cell phone, still or video), note taking, drawing diagrams, annotating on maps, or using binoculars or other vision-enhancing devices. 

2.  Elicitation/Gathering information: People or organizations attempting to gain information about military operations, capabilities, or people. Elicitation attempts may be made by email, mail, fax, telephone, or in person.

3.  Tests of security: Any attempts to measure reaction times to security breaches or to penetrate physical security barriers or procedures in order to assess strengths and weaknesses.

4.  Acquiring supplies: Purchasing or stealing explosives, weapons, ammunition, etc. This also includes acquiring military uniforms, decals, flight manuals, passes or badges (or the equipment to manufacture such items) or any other controlled items. Activity could also include mapping out routes and determining the timing of traffic lights and flow.

5.  Suspicious people: This includes people who don’t seem to belong in the workplace, neighborhood, business establishment or anywhere else.  Factors such as race, ethnicity, national origin, or religious affiliation alone are not suspicious. 

6.  Trial run/Rehearsal: Putting people into position and moving them around according to their plan without actually committing the terrorist act. This is especially true when planning a kidnapping, but it can also pertain to bombings. An element of this activity could also include mapping out routes and determining the times of traffic lights and flow.

7.  Deploying assets: People and supplies getting into position to commit the act. This is a person’s last chance to alert authorities before a terrorist act occurs. 

Reminders to the public include:  If something just doesn’t seem or feel right, don’t second guess your instincts.  If the suspicious activity of a person is right in front of you, don’t hesitate to call 9-1-1.  For those who are in the state of Maryland, and are aware of an on-going situation that seems suspicious, calls can be made to the Maryland Coordination and Analysis Center at 1-800-492-TIPS (8477).

Remember, “If you See Something, Say Something” to the appropriate authorities.