Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Six-Year Balanced Fiscal Plan and Reserve Policy

We signed off on a six-year balanced fiscal plan which I recommended in April. We also enacted a new reserve policy that will take us to a 10 percent reserve in nine years.

Although the County Charter does reference it, this is the first time the Council has instituted a six-year projection designed to reduce annual budget gaps and lessen the impact of severe economic downturns. The plan will not constrain future Councils in their year-to-year decision making, but it will provide valuable information and guidance for sustainability over the long term. The plan not only will guide Councilmembers but also will give communities and the County's four agencies--Montgomery County Public Schools, Montgomery College, the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, and County Government--a realistic view of what they can expect in the upcoming years. The plan will be updated annually as conditions change. I see it as a great tool for everyone.

Under the new reserve policy, we will gradually increase our reserve to 10 percent of adjusted governmental revenue over a nine-year period. The current reserve target is 6 percent of total resources. We will have to be very thoughtful about spending to meet our goals, but this plan will put us on more solid footing for future economic downturns. It is important to note that a 10 percent reserve is fairly modest according to our financial advisers who recommend a reserve equivalent to 60 days of operating expenses.

In April the bond rating agency Moody's placed the County on "watchlist negative." Moody's listed both our recent history of structural deficits and our low reserve fund policy as factors in the warning. We covet our AAA bond rating, which reflects the County's excellent financial management over time. Maintaining the top-notch rating allows us to borrow at a low interest rate, which means we can invest in infrastructure at a lower cost.

This is a new era in Montgomery County, and it means we're going to have to be more disciplined. This comprehensive fiscal management package is a big step in the right direction.

Friday, June 25, 2010


Montgomery County will again this year host two Independence Day fireworks displays on Sunday, July 4. Germantown Glory will be held at the SoccerPlex in the South Germantown Recreational Park, 18041 Central Park Circle. Mid-County Sparkles will be held at Albert Einstein High School, 11135 Newport Road, Kensington.

Germantown Glory
A concert by Bobby and the Believers will begin at 7 p.m., with fireworks at approximately 9:30 p.m. Blankets, chairs and picnics are welcome. No alcohol is permitted. Food vendors will be on site. Rain date for the fireworks only is July 5.

To reach the South Germantown Recreational Park from I-270, take exit 15B (Route 118 south) toward Germantown; go for 2.8 miles and turn right onto Richter Farm Road. Go one mile and turn left onto Schaeffer Road. The park entrance is 0.3 miles on the right.
For more information about Germantown Glory, call the Recreation Department at 240-777-6820.

Mid-County Sparkles
Pre-fireworks activities will include children’s activities and a musical concert with Groove Killers beginning at 7:30 p.m. The fireworks will begin at approximately 9:15 p.m. The viewing areas will be at the front of the school on the ball field and at the Newport Mill Middle School, 11311 Newport Mill Road. Since there will be no on-site parking at either school or at adjacent properties, except for handicapped parking, shuttle buses will pick up passengers, beginning at 6:15 p.m., at Westfield Wheaton and the Wheaton Metro Station.

Low lawn chairs and coolers are welcome. Food vendors will be on site. No alcoholic beverages are permitted. Rain date for the fireworks only is July 5. No shuttle service will be available on the 5th.

For more information on the Mid-County Sparkles celebration, call the Mid-County Regional Services Center events line at 240-777-8115.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Holiday Schedule for Fourth of July

Here is the County's holiday schedule for Independence Day on Monday, July 5:

  • County Offices -- closed
  • Libraries -- closed
  • County liquor stores – open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. with the exception of the following stores, which will be closed: Cabin John, Diamond Square and Burtonsville
  • Ride On – Saturday schedule
  • Metrobus – Saturday schedule on Sunday, July 4; and Sunday schedule on Monday, July 5
  • Metrorail – Special schedule on Sunday, July 4 and Sunday schedule on Monday, July 5
  • Parking at public garages, lots, curbside meters – free
  • Refuse/recycling pick-up – no collection*
  • Transfer Station – closed
  • MCPS Administrative Offices – closed
  • State offices & courts – closed

*collection provided one day later for remainder of week (last collection day is Saturday)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Appearing on Political Pulse

Tune in to Political Pulse on Montgomery Municipal Cable (channel 16) this week. I will join host Charles Duffy and at-large candidate Jane de Winter to discuss Montgomery County’s future. The show will air on:

Thursday, June 24 at 9:00, p.m.
Friday-Sunday, June 25-27, at 6:00 p.m.
Tuesday, June 29 at 9:30 p.m.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Appearing at the American Highway Users Alliance

Tomorrow I will participate in a panel discussion titled “The Surface Transportation Authorization Bill: Consequences of Current Failures and Opportunities to Change the Dynamic” at the American Highway Users Alliance Quarterly Meeting in Washington, DC.

I will join panelists from the Maryland Department of Transportation and the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Our discussion will focus on the stalled bill’s importance to local governments, particularly as it affects planning, programming and the ability of counties to respond to transportation needs. We need all hands on deck to move our transportation agenda forward. Federal, state and local governments must work together, and I’m glad to be a part of these important conversations.

Several projects in Montgomery County which are planned to be constructed by the Maryland Department of Transportation cannot proceed to construction due to lack of funding. They include the Purple Line; the Corridor Cities Transitway; the widening of the western portion of the Beltway over the American Legion Bridge; and the addition of reversible high occupancy toll (HOT) lanes on I-270. This year the Council decided to use local dollars to fund one such project—a $60 million segment of the Montrose Parkway.

In addition to chairing the Council’s Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment Committee, I also serve as Vice-Chair for Transit for the National Association of Counties’ Transportation Steering Committee.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Olney Manor Dog Park Opens Saturday

Join Lady (my schnoodle) and me for the grand opening of the Olney Manor Dog Park tomorrow, 9:00-noon. This is the fifth dog park in the county’s system, joining Black Hill Regional Park, Cabin John Regional Park, Ridge Road Recreational Park and Wheaton Regional Park. Parks staff tell me that dog parks continue to be one of the most popular amenities in the parks system. And I know Lady is looking forward to getting a treat from Bark!, one of the local businesses participating in the event.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Town Hall Meeting Wednesday

Join us for a daytime Town Hall Meeting this Wednesday, June 16, in the Leisure World Social Hall at 2 p.m. This is your opportunity to voice opinions on specific issues and ask us questions in an organized, but informal, setting.

Topics expected to be of interest include the public safety, traffic, growth, the County budget, health programs and taxes—including the recently increased energy tax.

We recently approved the Fiscal Year 2011 budget that required closing a shortfall of almost $1 billion due to decreasing revenues. We made some very difficult decisions that will impact every resident of this County. This meeting will allow us to hear about your priorities and concerns. And it also gives us the opportunity to explain some of the issues that are before us.

This Council has made a priority of having better direct communication with residents, and Town Hall Meetings have proven to be an excellent way to do just that. For residents, these meetings provide a forum where they can see their elected officials in a different format than a televised meeting or through a news release.

The meeting will be taped for later broadcast on County Cable Montgomery (CCM—cable Channel 6 on Comcast and RCN, Channel 30 on Verizon). Leisure World is located at 3700 Rossmoor Blvd. in Silver Spring. Non-residents of the community must check in at the security gate before proceeding to the Town Hall Meeting.

For more information about the Town Hall Meeting or about the broadcast times, call 240-777-7931.

Friday, June 11, 2010

First Segment ICC Tolls Set

The Maryland Transportation Authority just let us know its toll schedule for the first 5.65-mile segment of the Intercounty Connector (ICC), and I am pleased that they listened to us and chose the lowest level cost to drivers. The first segment will run from I-370 at Shady Grove to Georgia Avenue near Rockville/Olney.

When the segment opens in late 2010/early 2011, drivers of cars and light trucks will pay $1.45 during peak hours, $1.15 during off-peak times and $0.60 during the overnight period. To learn more, visit the Maryland Transportation Authority’s Web site.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Summer Food Safety

Our public health officer tells us that more than half of the cases of salmonella each year occur during the summer months. While not fatal, this type of food poisoning usually occurs 12 to 36 hours after eating contaminated food. Symptoms include headache, nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea and fever.

Dr. Tillman tells us that foods likely to contain bacteria when undercooked include eggs, meat, poultry, fish and cooked high-protein foods that have not been refrigerated after cooking, such as rice, potatoes and beans.

The following tips will help residents enjoy the summer after the social gathering has ended:

Cook foods to at least 145°F, pork to at least 155-160° F, ground beef to 155-160° F, poultry to 165° F, stuffing and stuffed meat to at least 165° F. Hot foods should always be served while still hot.
• Cook hamburger patties and meat loaf so the center is NOT pink and the juices run clear. Crumbled ground meat should be cooked until no pink color remains.
• Keep hot foods hot. After cooking meat or chicken on the grill, keep it at 135°F or warmer until serving. If reheating fully cooked items such as baked beans or hot potato salad, heat to 165°F.
• Keep cold foods cold. If using a cooler, keep it out of the sun and avoid opening it too often so it stays as cold as possible. Keep cold foods at 41° F or colder at all times.
• Transport cold foods in a cooler to minimize bacteria growth. Use an insulated cooler with ice packs.
• When making cold salads and sandwiches—or any food served cold—refrigerate all ingredients (below 41° F) before mixing, and then return to the refrigerator until served.
• Thoroughly clean and sanitize utensils and cutting surfaces between the preparation of different food items, especially after handling raw poultry, beef, pork and eggs. These raw foods have surface bacteria that could contaminate other foods. Never put cooked meat on the same unwashed platter used for raw meat.
• Do not buy or use cracked eggs.
• Do not thaw meat and poultry at room temperature. To keep the outside of these foods cold while the inside is still defrosting, thaw them overnight in the refrigerator or under cold running water. Microwave ovens can be used to safely defrost meat and poultry, but cook immediately.
• Promptly refrigerate leftovers. Store food in shallow uncovered containers to cool rapidly.
• Reheat leftovers thoroughly (165° F or more) before serving.
• Wash hands with soap and water before preparing food, after handling raw food and after using the bathroom or playing with pets.
• Prepare food as close to serving time as possible. This eliminates the time element that can allow any bacteria that may be present to increase to large numbers. Food should be left out no longer than two hours. If the temperature is 90° F or warmer, food should not be left out longer than one hour.
• Finally, when in doubt, throw it out.
For more information about safe food preparation and handling, call the United States Department of Agriculture’s meat and poultry hotline at 1-888-674-6854 or go to http://www.fsis.usda.gov/food_safety_education/USDA_Meat_&_Poultry_Hotline/index.asp.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Refurbished Properties Now Affordable Rentals

Today I had the opportunity tour a formerly vacant foreclosed property that is now available for rental through the Housing Opportunities Commission. The acquisition and renovation of the house, as well as 15 others in Germantown and Wheaton, is part of a $7.1 million effort made possible by funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Neighborhood Stabilization Program, the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development’s Neighborhood Conservation Initiative and a HUD Community Development Block Grant. This program is a real win-win. It is good not just for families in need of affordable housing, but for neighborhoods and the county as a whole. I’m glad we’ve been able to work with our state and federal partners to make this program happen.