Friday, February 26, 2010

Report Potholes Online

As anyone who has driven on area roads recently can attest, pothole season is here. Snow melt seeps into cracks, and then the daily freeze-thaw cycle expands and contracts pavement and creates potholes. You can report potholes online or by calling 240-777-6000. It is helpful to provide as precise a location as possible, including the nearest street address or cross street. Note: Numbered roads in the County, such as Rockville Pike (Route 355) or Georgia Avenue (Route 97) are maintained by the State Highway Administration (SHA), and you can also report potholes on SHA’s Web site.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Golden Shovel Awards Open for Nominations

Did someone you know make your neighborhood safer? Nominate them for a Golden Shovel.
I started the Golden Shovel awards in 2003 to honor residents who lace up their boots to help neighbors shovel out after a snowfall. After this season's record-breaking blizzards, I'm bringing back the awards after a two-year hiatus due to a lack of snow. The awards recognize individuals who go above and beyond in helping clear ice and snow from County sidewalks.

Our seniors, school children, people with disabilities and those who walk to work or use mass transit depend on snow-free sidewalks. This goes beyond convenience--it is a matter of public safety. I certainly hope that residents will nominate for a Golden Shovel those individuals who put the Golden Rule to work. Get your nomination form in your Gazette newspaper, or download it from my Web page.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Gap Now Estimated at $761 Million

Today we met with the County Executive for a fiscal update that set the stage for the upcoming budget season. I have been advocating for communication and collaboration between the Executive and Legislative branches, and I thank the County Executive and his staff for providing an extensive preview into his upcoming budget. By law, the County Executive transmits his proposed budget to the County Council on March 15. We hold hearings and work sessions, and then we pass a final budget at the end of May. The budget takes effect on July 1.

We knew the news would not be good. Our last fiscal update projected a gap of $608 million for FY11. Now, because of decreases in state aid, fees and taxes, the gap has grown to $761 million. The biggest contributing factor is the unprecedented 15 percent drop in income tax revenue as a result of decreases in both the number of taxpayers and the incomes of those taxpayers. The snowstorms also took a big bite.

In anticipation of next year’s budget crisis, County government already has instituted a hiring freeze and a procurement freeze. We have liquidated selected outstanding contracts and slashed spending across the board.

Still, the County Executive told us today his budget will aim to reduce public safety, health and human services, and transit spending by seven percent. He plans to reduce spending in the remaining departments and agencies by 20 percent. The Executive made it clear that significant layoffs, furloughs and service reductions likely will be required.

Although the details of the proposed budget won’t be available until March 15, I appreciate the advance information.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Talking Snow on WTOP

I enjoyed sharing the microphone today with elected officials from Fairfax County and the District of Columbia on WTOP’s Hands Across the Potomac. As we discussed snow removal efforts throughout the region, we found we had a lot in common when it comes to dealing with back-to-back snowstorms. As I said in yesterday’s post, the biggest concern right now continues to be pedestrian safety. Check out the article and the call-in show.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Pedestrian Safety after Snow

Although we are getting back to normal in many ways, visibility is still limited by large snow banks, and many sidewalks are still hidden under mounds of snow. Please continue to be very careful when driving and walking. Here are some more safety tips to keep in mind.

For drivers:

• Slow down and obey the posted speed limit.

• Stop for pedestrians at crosswalks and intersections- it's the law.

• Don't block crosswalks when stopping at intersections.

• Take extra care around schools, playgrounds, and neighborhoods.

• Always look out for pedestrians, especially before turning at a green light or making a "right turn on red."

• Obey signs, signals and markings--and never run red lights.

• Be careful when passing stopped vehicles. They might be stopping for pedestrians.

• Share the road. It is your responsibility to look out for others.

For pedestrians:

• If you must walk in the street, face traffic so you can see the vehicles coming toward you.

• Stay visible after dark and in bad weather with reflectors or retroreflective clothing. • Cross the street at marked crosswalks and intersections whenever possible.

• Stop and look every time before crossing streets, even when you have the right-of-way, and especially at intersections with “right turn on red.”

• Before crossing, look left, right, then left again, and over your shoulder for turning vehicles. • Begin crossing the street on “Walk” signals – never on a solid or flashing “Don’t Walk.”

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Information and Phone Numbers for Second Snow

I think everyone realizes that we are trying to overcome one of the largest snow storms in the Washington area history, and we know that the crews of our Department of Transportation and the utilities that serve County residents have been working tirelessly to help our residents. We also understand the frustration of waiting for your street to be cleared or for electricity to be restored.

This morning, Pepco, our Department of Transportation and other County agencies advised us that this second round of significant snowfall will almost certainly cause further transportation difficulties and power outages, so here’s a summary of storm-related information:

  • If there is an emergency, County residents should call 911. The Police non-emergency number is 301-279-8000. Please do not call 911 with snow plowing questions, as that delays responses to emergency calls.
  • Residents are encouraged to sign up for Alert Montgomery to have emergency alerts, notifications and updates sent to a cell phone, e-mail address, PDA, Twitter or Facebook.
    Stay safe. Stay off the roads if at all possible. Also, be careful of not to overexert yourself when shoveling.
  • To report snow removal problems, downed trees, social service needs or other storm-related issues, call 240-777-6000.
  • To report “hot” wires or sparking wires, especially those across roadways, call 911.
    For power outages, call Pepco at 1-877-737-2662, Allegheny Power at 1-800-255-3443 or Baltimore Gas and Electric at 1-877-778-2222.
  • Clear snow away from fire hydrants if you are able. If not, mark them with some sort of flag (even a broomstick will do).
  • The shelter at Richard Montgomery High School, 2500 Richard Montgomery Drive in Rockville, remains open. Transport to the center is being handled by County volunteers with four-wheel drive vehicles and by Maryland National Guard Members. Two more shelters have opened at the Gwendolyn E. Coffield Community Center in Silver Spring and Seneca Valley High School in Germantown.
  • If you have a four-wheel drive vehicle and would like to volunteer, call 240-777-2600.
  • Montgomery County’s Fire and Rescue Service urges residents without power to be aware that using gas or charcoal grills, propane heaters and stoves, kerosene space heaters or generators indoors can be fatal. They are a source of carbon monoxide, which can build up indoors and cause carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Montgomery County government’s cable television channel—County Cable Montgomery, which can be viewed on Channel 6 on the Comcast and RCN cable systems and Channel 30 on Verizon—is continuing to feature live coverage of road conditions at all major traffic intersections.
  • Suspension of enforcement of parking restrictions in all public parking garages and lots will continue through Thursday.
  • You can find information on County plowing policies and procedures on the County Web site.
  • For a street that may have been missed by County plows, report it via the County Web site.
  • For County Council weather-related schedule changes, call 240-777-7900.
  • Within 24 hours of the end of a snowstorm, all residential and commercial property owners are required by county law to clear their sidewalks. Residents are encouraged to help elderly or ill neighbors with this task. Snow shoveling services for a fee are listed through a web search ("snow removal services, Montgomery County, Maryland") or through the yellow pages ("landscaping and maintenance services"). Casa de Maryland, a non-profit organization, may also be able to provide fee-based services, and can be reached at 301-431-4177 or 301-431-4185.
  • Montgomery County Police report that as some roads become more passable, drivers are increasing their speed. However, motorists are advised that they may encounter varying conditions on the same stretch of road, as plowing operations continue.
  • If a County plow has damaged your mailbox, the County will install a standard post and mailbox at your residence as soon as all snow plowing is completed. Call 240-777-6000 to file a report. If you have a non-standard mailbox, call the County’s Risk Management Division at 240-777-8920. In the meantime, a temporary mailbox will be installed.
  • Montgomery County Public Library customers are asked not to return library materials until libraries reopen and are asked not to leave materials outside the library buildings. Materials due Feb. 5 through Feb. 10 will have their due dates extended one week. No fines will be charged for the period from Friday, Feb. 5, through Wednesday, Feb. 10.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Phone Numbers for Snow-Relate Questions

With the predicted blizzard, I want to remind you of a few policies, phone numbers and other helpful information.

During the storm, residents are urged to travel only if absolutely necessary, and stay indoors. Residents concerned about the safety and well-being of children, elderly individuals or adults with disabilities should call the County’s Crisis Center at 240-777-4000.

For downed trees on public property, residents should call the County’s Department of Transportation at 240-777-6000. To report trees that have fallen on utility lines, contact local utility companies. Contact information is available on the county’s website at “Hot” wires or sparking wires, especially those across roadways, may be reported by calling 9-1-1.

Within 24 hours of the end of a snowstorm, all residential and commercial property owners are required by county law to clear their sidewalks. Residents are encouraged to help elderly or ill neighbors with this task. For more information about snow removal operations call 240-777-6000, visit the county’s website at or check out my January 14 post.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Richard Montgomery Senior’s Experience at Last Night’s Town Hall

I couldn’t be happier with last night’s Town Hall Meeting for middle and high school students. More than 400 people attended, and they were prepared with some very insightful questions and comments.

My intern, Kenly Khan, is a senior at Richard Montgomery High School. Here’s what she has to say about her experience at the meeting:

“As a Montgomery County student, I was truly astounded by the turnout of the event. There was not one empty seat in the hearing room; many students were standing in the back and even in a nearby room watching the meeting on television, all eager to get their questions answered.

The pressing topic that I saw throughout the meeting was numerous students’ concerns with budget cuts affecting after-school programs. Many students felt very strongly about this issue. Students shared that the after-school programs had many benefits including helping them to become more well-rounded individuals, helping them succeed in school, and providing role models that they can confide in. Students expressed concern on other issues such as the environment, fighting and bullying, transportation, as well as several other issues that they wanted to acknowledge.

The meeting seemed to be a huge hit with everyone who participated in it. In my opinion the Town Hall Meeting for students is something that should be offered at least on an annual basis. As a member of the county’s youth, the future is in our hands, and having experienced the participation level last night, I have no doubt in my mind that our future is looking bright.”

Thanks, Kenly, for the report, and thanks also to all the students and parents who came out to Rockville to let us know what you think.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Budget and Revenue Outlook Report

Last week the County’s Chief Administrative Officer presented an Overview of Montgomery County’s Budget and Revenue Outlook to our Maryland General Assembly officials. You already know that the County is in the process of cutting an additional $70 million from this year’s budget for a total savings of $100 million. And then, we’ll be looking at a more than $600 million gap for Fiscal Year 2011 which begins on July 1. This report provides excellent detail on the County’s budget situation, and I find it particularly helpful.