Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Montgomery to Get Cybersecurity Center

Here's some great news from our Deparment of Economic Development Director, Steve Silverman:

I would like to share some very exciting news with you! Montgomery County, the State of Maryland, U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) signed a Memorandum of Understanding February 21 creating The National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence in Montgomery County.

Thanks to $10 million in federal appropriations secured by Mikulski in NIST's FY 2012 budget, the Cybersecurity Center of Excellence will encourage tech transfer by allowing private companies to learn about and apply public sector cybersecurity advances to their own products and applications. The Department of Economic Development is working direclty with NIST to identify a location near NIST's campus for the Center.

Friday, February 24, 2012

My Talk with Teen Girls

It is a good time to be a teen girl in Montgomery County. Nearly 91 percent of girls finish high school and about 989 of every 1,000 girls avoid pregnancy. That doesn’t mean girls don’t face real challenges though. Thanks to the Talk With a Teen Girl Today forum put on by Crittenton Services this week, we now have clearer insight into the real lives of girls who live in our community. I was proud to serve on the discussion panel with Crittenton participants and board members.

Right here in Montgomery County, 39 percent of girls (ages 2 to 18) were overweight or obese in 2011. Given that, it does not come as a surprise that a peer survey conducted by Crittenton participants identified eating healthy at school as their top concern. According to the teen panelists, schools do serve fresh fruits and vegetables, but there is competition to get them. They reported reaching the front of the lunch line only to find all of the healthy foods already had been taken. Incidentally, the girls insisted on serving only healthy snacks at the evening’s event.

The panel also identified fights among young people as an important issue. I was shocked to learn that juvenile arrests for girls (ages 11 to 19) in Montgomery County tripled from 2008 to 2011. Dating violence and sexual stereotyping also made the list of concerns. Nationally, almost 1 in 10 adolescents report verbal, physical, emotional or sexual abuse from a dating partner each year.

While the vast majority of teen girls do not get pregnant before finishing high school, teen pregnancy remains a top issue among them. The statistics are not the same for all County girls, though. In fact, the birth rate for girls (ages 15-17) was 40 per 1,000 for Latinas; 15 per 1,000 for African-American girls; and 11 per 1,000 for white girls from 2007 to 1010.

Congratulations to panelists Dajane Barrett, Jennifer Blanco, Yuvi Hurtado, Eboni Johnson, and Edinam Kumazah as well as the other Crittenton participants who created the peer survey, analyzed the results and shared their insights with us. Representatives from several Montgomery County departments and agencies, Montgomery County Public Schools, non-profit organizations and the media all showed up to listen. I thank the girls for giving us a meaningful look into their lives.

And their biggest request of us? Talk with a teen girl today. To find out what you can do, visit Crittenton Services.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Stop the Shift

Montgomery County Council Statement Opposing State Pension Cost Shift to County

Maryland's counties and school systems face a serious problem in Annapolis right now. Governor O'Malley has proposed shifting half the cost of teacher and other pensions from the state to the counties. The County Council, County Executive Ike Leggett, and Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS), as well as our employee organizations and our counterparts throughout the state, strongly oppose this shift. As Board of Education President Shirley Brandman said on Feb. 14, the shift "will have an immediate negative impact on the important services that our local governments provide."

For Montgomery County, the proposed pension shift would cost $47 million in Fiscal Year 2013 and $315 million over the next five years. The measures proposed to help counties pay the cost are inadequate and may not be enacted in any event.

How much is $47 million? It pays for the jobs of nearly 500 teachers, firefighters, police officers, and other vital County personnel. It is more than the County's general fund budgets for housing, transportation, and environmental protection combined. Our entire budget for libraries is less than $30 million.

The recessionary County budgets of the past three years required painful cuts that have seriously affected our residents and employees alike. For the coming year we face a further budget gap of $135 million and more hard decisions. If we now have to absorb another large burden from the state, there will be real damage to all our vital services - our schools, college, police, fire and rescue, safety net, libraries, parks, housing, transportation, recreation, and many others.

We understand that the state too must balance its budget and faces hard choices. But it is the state that sets the basic structure of pension benefits. In 2006 the state raised pension benefits by 29 percent, retroactive to 1998, but failed to provide sufficient funding. In fact, the state's financial support for the pension fund has fallen short for many years. Counties should not be asked to assume financial responsibility for costs not of their making. We have cut services to the bone, and we have reached our limit on taxes.

Elected officials and concerned organizations throughout the state, including the Maryland Association of Counties, the school community, and employee organizations, have joined together to convey this message to the Governor and the General Assembly. The coalition's web address is www.stoptheshiftmd.com. There you can learn how you can make a difference. The General Assembly will make its decision on the pension shift soon, probably by mid-March. The stakes for all our County residents are very high.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Survey Results at Talk With a Teen Girl Today

Did you know that from 2008 to 2011 (just 3 years!), juvenile arrests for girls in Montgomery County tripled? That statistic came as a shock to me. But you will see evidence of it in the peer survey girls from Crittenton Services conducted.

You will also learn about girls’ thoughts on other important issues like the obesity epidemic and the fact that more people are now living in poverty. The results of the survey, combined with a panel discussion, will give us meaningful insight into the real lives of Montgomery County girls.

Please join me on February 22 for “Talk With a Teen Girl Today.” The forum will be held from 5:30-7 p.m. at the Silver Spring Civic Building.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Talk With a Teen Girl This Wednesday

I was speechless when girls from Crittenton programs shared the unique obstacles they face in the County today. The good news is that all of us, whether we have daughters of our own or not, can do something to help. That’s why I hope you will join me on February 22 for “Talk With a Teen Girl Today.” The forum, to be held from 5:30-7 p.m. at the Silver Spring Civic Building, will include release and discussion of a survey that will provide insight into the real world of some teenage girls in Montgomery County.

The evening’s panel discussion will include Pamela Johnson, former national program officer of the Children’s Bureau and board chair of Crittenton Services; Antonio Tijerino, president of the Hispanic Heritage Foundation; Pamela Jones, president and CEO of Crittenton; and Nicki Sanders, director of programs for Crittenton. NBC4 news anchor Pat Lawson Muse will moderate the panel, which also will include three teen girls from Montgomery County high schools.

The panel discussion will focus on the results of the survey developed by the girls on the panel. The survey questions looked at how adolescence is a challenging stage of life for many teen girls in Montgomery County. Crittenton experts specializing in positive youth development for teen girls will report additional key findings and trends in Montgomery County.

My hat is off to Crittendon for organizing this event. Since 1983, Crittenton has served more than 10,000 young women living in the Greater Washington area. Its voluntary, school-based programs nurture the strengths and build the assets of girls growing up in high-risk environments that frequently lead to serious problems. Through weekly meetings during the school day and a range of out-of-school activities, Crittenton’s youth development specialists deliver a structured curriculum, become trusted advisors for the girls and promote bonding between the girls and their families.

In the 2011-12 school year, Crittenton is working with girls in Montgomery County who attend Argyle, E. Brook Lee and Kelly Miller middle schools and Blair, Gaithersburg and Kennedy high schools. The organization also is working with girls at Ward 7 and Ward 8 D.C. public high schools.

For more information about the forum, visit the event’s web site or call 301-565-9333.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Streamlining Efforts Continue

Yesterday I attended the first of at least two public forums designed to be the beginning of a good faith, collaborative, cross-agency effort to streamline our complicated and unwieldy development approval process.

Representatives from the County Executive, the County Council, the Executive Branch Agencies, the Montgomery County Planning Board, the Board of Appeals, the Montgomery County Office of Zoning and Administrative Hearings, WSSC and the State Highway Administration all attended and listened to recommendations from the business community.

For more information or to submit your comments, visit the Web site.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Holiday Schedule for Presidents' Day

Here is our holiday schedule for Presidents’ Day on Monday, February 20:

~County Offices – closed
~Libraries – closed
~County liquor stores – closed
~Recreation – administrative offices and senior centers are closed; community centers will be open; all classes canceled except aquatics classes and programs which will take place as scheduled
~Ride On – special modified holiday schedule
~Metrobus – Saturday supplemental
~Metrorail – 5 a.m. to midnight
~TRiPS Commuter Stores (Silver Spring and Friendship Heights) – closed
~Refuse/recycling pickup – regular collection
~Transfer Station – open
~Parking at public garages, lots, curbside meters – free
~MCPS Administrative Offices – closed
~State offices & courts – closed

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Talk With a Teen Girl Today

Adolescence is challenging, and teens today often feel invisible and unheard. That is why I’m partnering with Crittenton Services of Greater Washington to give you an opportunity to "Talk with a Teen Girl Today.”

Please join me on Wednesday, February 22 from 5:30 pm to 7:00 p.m. at the Silver Spring Civic Building at Veterans Plaza to listen to a panel of teen girls from Crittenton programs in Montgomery County speak out on the issues they face in their schools, homes, and lives. We will also share results from a survey that teen girls developed on the issues affecting their peers and additional facts and figures on the lives of girls in Montgomery County.

I was speechless when girls from Crittenton programs shared the unique obstacles they face in the County today. The good news is that all of us, whether we have daughters of our own or not, can do something to help. Crittenton Services has effectively promoted the healthy development of Montgomery County’s girls for nearly thirty years, and I’m grateful for their leadership on this important project.

Please join me not only in listening to these amazing teen girls, but also in learning the simple things that you can do to make a difference in their lives. I look forward to seeing you there.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Real Cost of Teacher Pension Shift

What does $47 million mean to me? 465 jobs. That’s right. Under the Governor’s plan to shift some of the cost of teacher pensions to local governments, Montgomery County could face a $47 million burden in the upcoming fiscal year alone. According to our experts, this is equivalent to the salaries for 89 public safety workers, 109 general government workers, 153 new teachers and 114 non-teaching school employees. State legislators are considering this plan now. My message to them: Montgomery County residents and employees are already stretched to the max. We can’t take on this cost too.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Do You Know MoCo?

Check out the video, Do You Know MoCo?, that Planning Director Rollin Stanley presented to us on Tuesday. It includes some fascinating statistics about our county’s demographics.

Your Thoughts on Capital Improvements Program Wanted

Let us know what you think about the County Executive’s proposed six-year Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 Capital Budget and FY 2013-2018 Capital Improvements Program (CIP). The Council will hold public hearings on February 7th and 9th, with the 9th set aside for testimony on the capital budget for MCPS. To register to speak, call 240-777-7803. If you prefer, you can send your comments to county.council@montgomerycountymd.gov to have them included in the public record. The Council will hold several work sessions over the coming months before making a final decision on funding.