Friday, April 29, 2011

County Will Not Apply for Waiver of Maintenance of Effort

We have sent a letter to the State Board of Education concerning our unanimous decision not to apply for a waiver of the State’s Maintenance of Effort funding level for Fiscal Year 2012. The letter is signed by Council President Valerie Ervin and County Executive Ike Leggett and reflects our decision that we must take this step so that we can create a stable, sustainable future for our schools and all County agencies.

Our commitment to the County’s world-class school system is unwavering. The budget we expect to pass for the school system in FY12 will increase from last year’s amount, while the budgets of many County departments will decrease. Our goal is to protect classroom instruction while ensuring that scarce resources are available for all of our critical priorities – including safety net human services, public safety, and other vital parts of County government.

Our County has sought to reform the State Maintenance of Effort law to provide some modest flexibility in times of great fiscal crisis, particularly for counties like ours that have significantly exceeded Maintenance of Effort requirements over the last decade. These legislative changes were not adopted, and therefore we take this step to achieve an equitable and sustainable future for our community.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Budget Committee Meetings May 2-6

The committees will wrap up their work next week and finalize the recommendations they will make to the full Council in the following weeks. Check the Council's Web site for committee agendas, full Council agendas, and background materials (usually available two days in advance). Also remember, many of the committee meetings and all of the full Council meetings are broadcast live on County Cable Montgomery (channel 6).

On Monday, May 2, the Planning, Housing and Economic Development Committee wraps up its discussion of the Maryland-National Park and Planning Commission. The Public Safety (PS) Committee considers the Sheriff, State’s Attorney, Corrections and Rehabilitation, prisoner medical services and the Circuit Court. The Health and Human Services (HHS) Committee finishes its discussion of Public Libraries.

On Tuesday, May 3, the Government Operations and Fiscal Policy (GO) Committee discusses the income tax offset, property tax, speed camera revenue and allocation of the recordation tax. The PS Committee continues its discussion of Police and Fire and Rescue Services.

On Wednesday, May 4, the GO Committee discusses revenue measures and fiscal policy while the HHS/Education (ED) Committees look at pre-k, Head Start, and SHARP Street Suspension Services. The Transportation, Infrastructure Energy and Environment (T&E) Committee finalizes Transportation and Environmental Protection as well as fleet management. The ED Committee looks at Montgomery County Public Schools.

On Thursday, May 5, the GO Committee discusses the Office of Legislative Oversight’s analysis of proposed changes to county government employees’ retirement, health and life insurance benefits as well as collective bargaining agreements. Discussions may continue on May 6.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Bethesda Green's Second Annual Fields of Green Internship Fair

What are you doing this summer? Be Green. Make a Difference. Gain Experience. Get an internship with a local green company.

Bethesda Green, a community eco-education center located in downtown Bethesda, is hosting its second annual Fields of Green Internship Fair on May 7 from 10am to 2pm. At the fair, college-aged students will be able to explore opportunities with local green companies, meet with potential employers and find green internships for the summer.

Bring your resume, skills and a smile to: 4825 Cordell Avenue, Suite 200 (Second floor of Capital One Bank Branch), Bethesda, MD.

To register and view the opportunities visit

Friday, April 22, 2011

March Unemployment Rate Down Slightly

We’re making slow but steady progress on our unemployment rate. Montgomery County’s March unemployment rate, just announced, was 5.0 percent. That’s down from 5.1 percent in February. Our unemployment remains well below the national average and shows a nice drop from our January 2010 rate, which spiked to 6.2 percent. We still have a way to go, though, to get back to our November 2007 rate of 2.5 percent.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Budget Committee Meetings April 25-29

The Council has a full week of budget work in its committees. Remember, you can get more information on the Council’s Web site. Here are the highlights:

On Monday, April 25, the Public Safety (PS) and Planning Housing and Economic Development (PHED) Committees takes up the Park Police, and then the PHED Committee will continue with the Board of Appeals, the Hearing Examiner and Economic Development. The Government Operations and Fiscal Policy (GO) Committee begins its discussion of compensation and benefits across agencies, including collective bargaining agreements and retirement. The Education (ED) Committee considers Community Use of Public Facilities, Montgomery College and adult English literacy.

On Tuesday, April 26, the Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment (T&E) Committee continues its work on Environmental Protection, this time looking at water quality protection and solid waste services.

On Wednesday, April 27, the PHED Committee continues to look at Recreation and Economic Development and begins Permitting Services. The GO/Health and Human Services Committees looks at the County Executive’s proposed Office of Community Engagement, which would be comprised of the Office of Human Rights, Human Rights Commission, Commission for Women, Regional Services Centers, Office of Community Partnerships and Gilchrist Center).

On Thursday, April 28, the GO Committee finalizes its discussion of compensation and benefits, collective bargaining and retirement. The PS Committee continues its discussion of Fire Rescue Services, and the HHS Committee looks at services for children, youth and families as well as behavioral health. The T&E Committee considers a number of budgets, including transit, parking and fees/charges/fares.

On Friday, April 29, the PS Committee continues its discussion of Consumer Protection and Emergency Management and Homeland Security and begins its discussion of Liquor Control. The GO Committee looks at several technology and communications budgets. The PHED/HHS Committees take up the Conservation Corps and Housing First. The PHED Committee continues its discussion of Economic Development and considers the Housing Opportunities Commission and the Department of Housing and Community Affairs.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Budget Committee Meetings April 14-20

Our committee work on the operating budget continues this week. On Thursday, April 14, the Public Safety (PS) Committee takes up Fire and Rescue Services, Corrections and Rehabilitation and the Sheriff. The Government Operations and Fiscal Policy (GO) Committee looks at a number of smaller budgets including the County Executive, the County Attorney, the Merit System Protection Board, the Ethics Commission, the Public Information Office and MC311. The Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment (T&E) Committee considers the fleet and facilities portions of the General Services budget.

On Friday, April 15, the Planning, Housing and Economic Development (PHED) Committee looks at Urban Districts and Recreation, while the GO Committee takes up Procurement, the Inspector General, Intergovernmental Relations and other smaller budgets. The PS Committee considers School Resource Officers. There are no committee meetings scheduled for April 18-20.

Check out the committee agenda on the Council’s Web site for more information, and check back regularly as times and agenda items can change. Background packets are available about two days in advance of a committee meeting.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Council to Get Budget Overview

On Tuesday, the Council’s Staff Director will give us a budget overview that will provide a framework for our deliberations over the next several weeks. The overview includes useful information from the Office of Legislative Oversight on the Executive’s proposed changes to group insurance and retirement. It also looks at how the proposed budget works with our long-tem fiscal plan and the need to address our structural deficit while maintaining equity among agencies. Check out the background packet for more information, or tune in to County Cable Montgomery (channel 6) at 10:50 on Tuesday.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Budget Committee Meetings April 7-12

This week as we hold our public hearings on the operating budget, we also begin our committee worksessions on the budget. This Thursday, the Health and Human Services (HHS) Committee takes up public health services, including the Minority Health Initiatives, and the Public Safety (PS) Committee looks at the Office of Consumer Protection.

On Monday, April 11, the Government Operations and Fiscal Policy Committee (GO) considers several smaller budgets, including the grants to municipalities, while the Planning Housing and Economic Development (PHED) Committee takes up the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission. Also on Monday, the Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment Committee (T&E) begins its discussions of transportation items, and the HHS Committee considers aging and disabilities services and special needs housing.

On Tuesday, April 12, the combined HHS/Education Committees look at various children’s programs, and the T&E Committee takes up utilities, including WSSC.

On Wednesday, April 13, the HHS Committee looks at grants, including the Arts and Humanities Council; the PHED Committee takes up economic development issues; and the GO Committee looks at issues related to communications and technology.

These are just the highlights, so check out the committee agenda on the Council’s Web site for more information. Check back regularly as times and agenda items can change.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Pepco Work Group Releases Survey Results

The results are in. The County's Pepco Work Group received nearly 12,000 responses to the survey it conducted in January and February. A total of 10,895 residents responded, while 654 businesses completed the survey. Among the findings reported by Pepco customers taking the survey are:

  • Almost 95% reported they had experienced at least one outage of more than five hours in the past year. Just over 50% also reported that they had experienced non-major-event-related outages of more than one hour in the past year.

  • The economic costs of long outages experienced in the past year can be estimated, based on reports obtained from survey respondents, from $22.9 to $114.6 million for residents in Montgomery County and $21.1 to $211 million for businesses. Pepco’s Montgomery County customers appear to be incurring outage-related costs that are on the same magnitude as Pepco’s 2010 earnings of $139 million.

  • 10,430 residential respondents, or 95.7%, experienced one or more outages of longer than five hours in the past year. Of these respondents, almost 65% reported calling Pepco more than twice to check the status of the outage. Only 5% of Pepco’s residential customers reported that they did not attempt to call Pepco at all. Of those who experienced long outages, 85.5% incurred costs or other economic losses that they otherwise would not have incurred.

  • 609 commercial respondents, or 94.9%, experienced one or more outages of longer than five hours in the past year. Of those who experienced long outages, 83.3% incurred costs or other economic losses that they otherwise would not have incurred.

There are a number of cases pending before the Public Service Commission as well as legislation being considered in the Maryland General Assembly that may help to improve Pepco’s reliability. To learn more, see the Pepco Special Edition of my newsletter.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Council Approves Housing Element of General Plan

On March 29 we unanimously approved revisions to the Housing Element of the County’s “General Plan,” making changes that will guide the development of new housing and redevelopment of existing housing over the next two decades while also seeking to protect the character of existing neighborhoods. The Housing Element of the General Plan is intended to be a 20-year policy document that drives decisions made in the formulating and updating of master plans, sector plans and zoning text amendments. The Council’s Planning, Housing and Economic Development (PHED) Committee, which I chair, has been holding worksessions on updating the Housing Element over the past couple of months. The Montgomery County Planning Board previously proposed updates to the Housing Element. As part of their worksessions, the PHED Committee discussed the Planning Board’s intent to describe how most future new development in the County will create communities that have higher density housing, depend more on residents using public transit and less on using automobiles. These communities would likely be mixed use, with office, retail, entertainment and recreation opportunities nearby to residences—lending themselves to being walkable. The Housing Element continues to emphasize the County’s goals for all types of housing for ranges of household income. The amendments that the Council adopted put stronger emphasis than did the Planning Board draft in regard to protecting existing neighborhoods that will be adjoined by newer, high-density neighborhoods. The Council’s amendments also encourage the County to diligently enforce housing codes to prevent deterioration of housing in existing neighborhoods and to prevent overcrowding in those neighborhoods. PHED Committee recommendations that the Council adopted include policies to strengthen established neighborhoods through targeted programs that improve schools, parks, safety and new or upgraded pedestrian and bicycling facilities. Other policy revisions would ensure that infill development complements existing houses and neighborhoods and protects residential neighborhoods from excessive traffic that could result from new development. I believe the amended housing element provides needed and reachable guidelines for the type of new development that will come to Montgomery County over the next 20 years. In addition, we made sure that the existing neighborhoods—neighborhoods that have given Montgomery County its character and helped make it such a desirable place to live—will continue to not only sustain, but also to thrive in a way that will continue to give us variety in the types of housing available in our communities. The PHED Committee also recommended amending the Housing Element to reflect actions the County is already taking to require and encourage the use of green design and materials and to improve energy efficiency.