Tuesday, December 31, 2013

What's In and What's Out for 2014

Out -- Low Wages: The Council approved an increase in the county's minimum wage, which is currently $7.25 under Maryland law. The county's minimum wage will increase to $8.40 on October 1, 2014 and will be phased in to $11.50 in 2017. The measure is not perfect, but I'm glad that some Montgomery County families will be able to breathe a little easier.

In -- AAA Bond Rating: All three bond rating agencies reconfirmed the County's AAA bond rating. This is good news because it allows us to issue bonds for our capital borrowing at the most favorable rates, saving taxpayers millions of dollars over the life of the bonds.

In -- Homeowner Associations: Approximately 100 people representing more than 60 organizations and 12 County departments and agencies attended my forum designed specifically for homeowner association and condo board leadership. You can see the entire meeting on YouTube.

Out -- Long Lines: The Montgomery County Board of Elections has increased the number of Early Voting Centers to nine for the 2014 elections. Early voting for the primary election will occur from June 12 to June 19, 2014, and early voting for the general election will occur from October 23 to October 30, 2014.

In -- County Council Anywhere: You can now watch Council sessions and hearings live on your mobile device.

Out -- Invisibility: Montgomery County ranks among counties with the highest median incomes. We take pride in being the economic engine of Maryland, and our schools make the lists of the best in the nation. Yet we have pockets of poverty that are not easily seen. Now, thanks to an award-winning documentary, The Unseen Montgomery, this poverty is no longer invisible.

In -- Chevy Chase Lake: After hearing from many stakeholders concerning changes to the 1990 Bethesda-Chevy Chase Master Plan, we approved the Chevy Chase Lake Sector Plan, which coordinates new development with the construction of the Purple Line while still protecting the character of the community.

Out -- Hunting for Information: The Montgomery Business Development Corporation has launched a new Web site that includes the only tool in operation that enables users to see available sites or leasable space throughout the County. It also features extensive demographic information to help new and existing businesses.

In -- Size: Montgomery County is home to 30 of the 100 largest publicly traded companies as identified by the Washington Business Journal. The County's highest ranking company on the list is Bethesda-based Lockheed Martin Corporation, coming in at #3 with revenue of more than $47.1 billion.

Out -- Smoking: There is no risk-free level of exposure to second hand smoke, so I’m glad we unanimously passed my bill to ban smoking on most property leased or owned by the County. As stewards of public health, we are responsible for protecting residents, employees and visitors from dangerous exposure.

In -- Population: Do you feel like one in a million? You should because Montgomery County'spopulation has reached the one million mark. Ours has been the largest jurisdiction in the state since 1989, and Montgomery is the first county in Maryland to reach the million-person milestone.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Property Assessments Out This Week

Is your property among the roughly one-third of Maryland properties reassessed this year? Check out this press release from the State Department of Assessments and Taxation. For Montgomery County, the total cash value of assessments is up 11.0 percent, compared with. 4.7 percent statewide. The tables show some very interesting information, including the ups and downs we have experienced since 2002.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

PHED Draft of Zoning Code Rewrite Now Available

The PHED Committee's draft of the Zoning Code Rewrite is now available on the Montgomery Planning Web site. This draft includes all the changes made by the PHED committee in addition to plain language edits, corrections, and clarifications. The full Council will hold worksessions to discuss the PHED draft on January 14, 15 and 16.

Updated: Process for Filling District 5 Vacancy

Here is the most recent press release on our plans to fill the District 5 County Council vacancy:

Montgomery County Council President Craig Rice today outlined the process to appoint a new Councilmember for District 5. On Dec. 10 Councilmember Valerie Ervin announced that she will resign from the Council on Jan. 3, 2014 to become executive director of the Center for Working Families.

As provided in Sections 102 and 106 of the County Charter, the Council intends to appoint a new Councilmember for District 5 by Jan. 31, 2014 to complete Councilmember Ervin’s unexpired term, which ends on Dec. 1, 2014. The new Councilmember must reside in District 5 and be registered to vote in the same political party as Councilmember Ervin (Democrat).

The Council intends to select a person who has shown a clear understanding of the issues that are important to residents of District 5. To assure a level playing field for all persons interested in seeking election to the next full term from District 5, the Council expects to appoint a person who does not plan to run for election to that term.

Applicants should submit letters of interest with a resume to Council President Craig Rice, Montgomery County Council, 100 Maryland Avenue, Rockville, Maryland 20850 by 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014.  Applications can also be submitted via email to: county.council@montgomerycountymd.gov.

Each applicant must be a registered voter in Montgomery County, registered to vote as a Democrat, and, at the time of appointment, a resident of Council District 5.  Each resume submitted should include the applicant’s professional and civic experience, political party affiliation, home and office telephone numbers, and home and email addresses. Each application letter, recommendation letter, and resume submitted as part of the appointment process will be made available to the public. Each applicant must submit a confidential County financial disclosure statement for Council review. (The form will be transmitted to each applicant for completion.)  Only the financial disclosure statement of the ultimate appointee will be made available to the public.

The Council will decide which applicants to interview. Interviews will be scheduled for 2 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 17 at the Council Office Building. Additional interviews, if necessary, will be scheduled for 2 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 22 and Friday, Jan. 24.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Process for Filling District 5 Vacancy

Here is the Council President's statement on the process for filling the District 5 vacancy:

Councilmember Valerie Ervin announced on Dec. 10 that she will resign from the Council on Jan. 3, 2014 to become executive director of the Center for Working Families.  We wish her the best in this new position.

Under Section 106 of the County Charter (shown below), the Council intends to appoint a new Councilmember for District 5 by Jan. 31, 2014 to complete Councilmember Ervin’s unexpired term, which ends on Dec. 1, 2014.  The Council intends to select a person who has shown a clear understanding of the issues that are important to residents of District 5.  To assure a level playing field for all persons interested in seeking election to the next full term from District 5, the Council intends to appoint a person who does not intend to run for election to that term.

Excerpt from Section 106 of the County Charter regarding a vacancy on the Council in the final year of a term:

When a vacancy has occurred, a majority of the remaining members of the Council shall appoint a person to fill the vacancy within thirty days. An appointee to fill a vacancy, when succeeding a party member, shall be a member of the same political party as the person elected to such office at the time of election.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Holiday Giving

Montgomery County is known for its affluence, so it is easy to forget that we have many residents who do not have enough money to pay for even their basic needs, let alone the extra expenses associated with the holidays. To learn more about poverty in Montgomery County, take a look at the award-winning program, The Unseen Montgomery, produced by our very own County Cable Montgomery.

In addition to highlighting the hidden poverty in the county, the show identifies nonprofits that provide help to those in need, including Manna, which serves as our local food bank; A Wider Circle, which collects used furniture and household items for those in need; and Interfaith Works, which offers a whole host of programs for our most vulnerable residents.

If you can afford to pick up extra canned or other non-perishable foods, or if you have clothing or furniture you can donate, your gift certainly can go to good use right here in our community. And of course, our nonprofits are also happy to accept money. If you aren’t sure which nonprofit to support, check out Neighbors in Need Montgomery, an umbrella charity campaign that supports many local organizations and enjoys a dollar for dollar match from a generous family.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Winter Weather Information

Winter weather is expected this weekend, with the possibility of ice and snow.  Montgomery County officials offer residents the following tips for surviving severe weather:

Preparing for the Storm

Emergency preparations should include having enough food, water, medication (if needed) and batteries to last two to three days. Make sure portable radios, smoke detectors and flashlights are working properly. 

Keep a fresh supply of extra batteries on hand, along with a basic first aid kit and a non-electric can opener.

Check with neighbors who may require special assistance to see if they need help in stocking up on supplies or medications, and call them during the storm.

Park vehicles in driveways or off the street, if possible. When parking on-street, pull close to the curb on the even numbered side of the street to clear the way for snowplows.

Be sure your vehicle is ready to drive after the storm by filling the gas tank; checking tires to make sure they have an adequate tread and are fully inflated; checking oil, antifreeze and windshield washer fluid levels; and ensuring windshield wipers, lights, flashing hazard lights, exhaust system, heater, brakes and defroster are all working properly. Keep a windshield scraper and small broom in the car for ice and snow removal, and a small sack of sand or kitty litter to improve wheel traction.

If driving during the storm is unavoidable, put together a separate disaster supply kit for the trunk of the car that includes:
  • Flashlight with extra batteries.
  • Flares.
  • Blankets or sleeping bags.
  • Dry clothing, mittens, socks, and a wool cap.
  • Newspapers for insulation.
  • Plastic bags.
  • Canned fruit, nuts, or high energy “munchies.”
  • Bottles of water.
  • A small shovel, a pocket knife, and small tools --pliers, a wrench and screwdriver.
  • Jumper cables.
  • First aid kit and necessary medications.
  • Brightly colored cloth to tie to the antenna.
During the Storm

During the storm, residents are urged to travel only if absolutely necessary, and to 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.

If traveling is hazardous, residents should be prepared to shelter in place.

In the event of a power outage, avoid using candles or outdoor grills indoors, to prevent the risk of a fire.

For downed trees on public property, residents should call 3-1-1 (or 240-777-0311 from a cell phone).  To report trees that have fallen on utility lines, contact local utility companies. Contact information is available on the County’s website at http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov. “Hot” wires or sparking wires, especially those across roadways, may be reported by calling 9-1-1. 

After the Storm

In the event of power outages, treat intersections with non-working traffic signals as four-way stops.  If your home is without power, contact your utility company:  PEPCO, 877-737-2662; BG&E, 877-778-2222; or FirstEnergy/Potomac Edison, 1-800-255-3443.

Exercise caution when shoveling snow. Try to shovel snow into the yard rather than into the street. Cold weather puts an extra strain on the body. Individuals with heart disease or high blood pressure should follow their doctor’s advice about shoveling snow or performing other hard work in the cold. Avoid overexertion. Heart attacks from shoveling heavy snow are a leading cause of deaths during winter.

When going outdoors, dress warmly and stay dry. Adults and children should wear a hat, scarf or knit mask to cover face and mouth; sleeves that are snug at the wrists, mittens (they are warmer than gloves), a water-resistant coat and boots, and several layers of loose-fitting clothes.

Serious health problems such as hypothermia and frostbite can be caused by prolonged exposure to the cold. Watch for loss of feeling and white or pale appearance in extremities such as fingers, toes, ear lobes and the tip of the nose. Signs of hypothermia include uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness and apparent exhaustion. In both cases, residents should get medical attention immediately if symptoms are present.

Do not attempt to drive if you are not comfortable driving on icy or snowy roads. When preparing to drive, be sure to thoroughly clear the snow from the entire car – including roofs, windshields trunks and hoods – to ensure visibility and prevent snow from blowing onto surrounding cars. When driving, do not speed and be sure to leave plenty of space between your car and the one in front of you. Avoid pulling out in front of other vehicles and do not slow down before going up a hill.

For timely severe weather and emergency notifications, go to https://alert.montgomerycountymd.gov and sign up for Alert Montgomery. Warnings and emergency updates will be sent directly to your cell phone and/or email address. The service is free, but text charges may apply, so check with your cell phone carrier before selecting text alerts.  Information is also available on the County’s website at http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/snow.

Zoning Code Rewrite Session 14

On Monday the PHED Committee will hold its second worksession to address issues raised at the November public hearings on the Zoning Code Rewrite. The session begins at 1:00, and you can follow along on County Cable Montgomery. Also, check out the recently revised FAQ page. To have your comments on the rewrite included in the public record, e-mail county.council@montgomerycountymd.gov.

Free Screening of Driven to Defraud

Car sales fraud costs U.S. consumers billions each year. To help consumers fight back, the Montgomery County Office of Consumer Protection (OCP) and the Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition (MCRC) invite you to attend the Washington area’s first public screening of Driven to Defraud, MCRC’s powerful documentary film on auto sales fraud, on Wednesday, December 18 at 7 p.m. in the Fenton Room of the Silver Spring Civic Center located at 1 Veterans Plaza in Downtown Silver Spring, MD. This event is free and open to all.  Please come early as space is limited.

Driven to Defraud documents the scams some car dealers use to abuse Maryland car purchasers and shows you how to protect yourself when you buy a new or used car. The film explains how yo-yo sales, interest rate mark-ups, rebuilt wrecks, and other scams work through the eyes of car-buyers who have been victimized, consumer advocates, and honest auto dealers working to stop the fraud.

You will have an opportunity to ask Investigator Jim Parks, OCP’s auto expert and a Certified Master Automotive Technician, your car-repair questions. MCRC leaders will also be available to discuss what consumers and policymakers can do to stop auto fraud.

You can see a 90-second preview trailer for the film here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t6Lti1UCNPg.

OCP, the County’s consumer protection agency, investigates thousands of complaints each year involving automotive sales and repairs, new home purchases, home improvements, credit issues, retail sales, internet services and most other consumer transactions. OCP provides pre-purchase information to consumers, as well as speakers to the community on consumer issues.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Apply Now to Merit System Protection Board

We’re taking applications for appointment to a three-year term on the Merit System Protection Board. Generally, the board is expected to oversee the Merit System and to protect employee and applicant rights guaranteed under the County Merit System. Get your application in by the new extended deadline of January 15.

By law, no more than two of the three members of the Merit System Protection Board may be of the same political party. The appointee to this term may be a Democrat, a Republican or someone who declines to affiliate with a party. In addition, the appointee may be a member of another party officially recognized by the Board of Elections.

The County Merit System Protection Board's mission is to oversee the Merit System for the protection of employee's and applicant's rights guaranteed under the Merit System. There are two methods in which the board processes appeals:

  • A written decision issued after a review and discussion of a written record
  • A written decision issued after a pre-hearing conference and a formal hearing in cases involving a suspension, demotion or dismissal
The board holds hearings during the day, which can take the full day, with any additional proceedings scheduled for subsequent evening(s). Also, the board normally meets for approximately an hour in the evening once or twice every month. Additional time is also required for preparatory work. Members of the board receive $7,594 per year, which is adjusted annually to reflect 50 percent of the percentage change in the Washington Area Consumer Price Index.

Board members are restricted in political activity while serving. Section 403 of the County Charter states in part "... No member shall hold political office or participate in any campaign for any political or public office during the member's term of office." Members of County boards, committees and commissions may not serve on more than one such group at a time.

Letters of application are made public as part of the appointment process. Letters expressing interest, including a resume listing professional and civic experience, should be addressed to: Council President Roger Berliner, Montgomery County Council, 100 Maryland Avenue, Rockville, MD 20850.

For more information on the Merit System Protection Board appointment, call 240-777-7979.

Council Elects New Leadership

Congratulations to our new Council president, Craig Rice and our new Council vice president, George Leventhal. We have two very talented leaders at the helm this year, and I feel optimistic about our future. Best wishes, Craig and George!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Press Release: Council Approves Increase in Minimum Wage

Here's the full text of the press release:

Montgomery County Council Approves

Increase in County Minimum Wage
First of Four Phases to Begin on Oct. 1, 2014; Minimum Wage Would Increase to $11.50 Per Hour in 2017 

ROCKVILLE, Md., November 26, 2013—The Montgomery County Council today enacted amended Bill 27-13 that establishes a County minimum wage for certain private sector and County employees for work performed in the County for an employer operating and doing business in the County. The County minimum wage would be phased in over four years, reaching $11.50 per hour on Oct. 1, 2017.
 
Bill 27-13, with amendments, was approved by a vote of 8-1. Voting in favor of the bill were Council President Nancy Navarro, Council Vice President Craig Rice, and Councilmembers Roger Berliner, Marc Elrich, Valerie Ervin, Nancy Floreen, George Leventhal, and Hans Riemer. Councilmember Phil Andrews voted against the bill.
 
The chief sponsor of Bill 27-13 was Councilmember Elrich. Council President Navarro and Councilmember Ervin were co-sponsors.
 
Bill 27-13 will:
  • Require certain employers in the County to pay a minimum wage to employees for work performed in the County.
  • Provide enforcement by the County’s Office of Human Rights and the Human Rights Commission.
Maryland's minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, or $15,000 a year for a full-time, year round worker. This leaves a full-time earner and their family below the Federal poverty line. Twenty-one states have raised their minimum wage above Maryland's rate.
 
Bill 27-13 establishes a County minimum wage for work performed in the County unless the State or Federal minimum wage is higher. The County minimum wage would be phased in over four years. The rate would be $8.40 per hour on Oct. 1, 2014, $9.55 per hour on Oct 1, 2015, $10.75 per hour on Oct. 1, 2016, and $11.50 per hour on Oct. 1, 2017.
 
The County minimum wage would not apply to a worker who is not covered by the State minimum wage or a worker eligible for an opportunity or youth minimum wage under the State or Federal law. 

Today, the Council, in addition to modifying the phase-in of the increase to $11.50 per hour, approved several other amendments to the original bill. The amendments included will:
 
  • Apply the County minimum wage to tipped employees by requiring an employer to pay a base equal to 50 percent of the State minimum wage with an obligation to make up any shortfall in tips up to the County minimum wage.
  • Delete the health care credit.
  • Add an exemption for a person under the age of 19 who works 20 hours or less in a week.
  • Add a provision requiring the County Executive to delegate enforcement to a State agency that enforces the State Wage and Hour Law and is authorized to enforce a County minimum wage law.
  • Add an anti-retaliation clause.
  • Amend the applicability to clarify that a worker must perform the work in the County.
  • Apply the County minimum wage to County employees.

Press Release: Council Approves Plans for BRT

Here's the full text of the press release:

Montgomery County Council Approves
Plans for Bus Rapid Transit System
Completed System Would Cover 82 Miles, 110 Stations

ROCKVILLE, Md., November 26, 2013—The Montgomery County today unanimously approved the Countywide Transit Corridors Functional Master Plan. The main purpose of that plan is to establish the routes and possible station locations of the proposed countywide Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system.

BRT is a plan for specially designed buses to travel over mostly dedicated lines throughout the County. The plan approved by the Council provides a framework for future transit that would enhance transit already available in the County in the form of Ride On, Metrobus and Metrorail and MARC Commuter rail, as well as the future Purple Line and Corridor Cities Transitway (CCT).

The Countywide Transit Corridors Functional Master Plan recommends a network of Bus Rapid Transit lines covering about 82 miles and 110 stations, not including the already master-planned CCT.
 
The master plan approved by the Council recommends the routes, the station locations and, for each segment, the minimum right-of-way. The recommended plan also states whether there would be dedicated lanes or not, and whether there would be up to 0, 1 or 2 lanes added in the road's cross-section dedicated to BRT. 

The recommendations in the approved plan will serve as guidelines. Subsequent project planning studies could indicate that a route should be diverted slightly to serve a major destination. A station location in the plan means that there would be a station in the vicinity.

"I’m happy we are at this point today of adding Bus Rapid Transit routes to the master plan and acknowledging the importance of transit in our county.  Seven years ago I asked my staff to find some roads where we could put transit that connected people from where they live to where they work. I knew that with all the existing congestion and all the planned and already approved development, we needed more and better transit to deal with traffic congestion and reduce carbon emissions" said Councilmember Marc Elrich, who introduced the concept of BRT for the County. 

“Today our Council has set out a bold course toward a less congested future,” said Councilmember Roger Berliner, who chairs the Council’s Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment Committee. “A network of 10 Bus Rapid Transit corridors—in dedicated lanes—is at the heart of the plan unanimously adopted by our Council.  It is an aspirational plan that will be implemented only after extensive community involvement, and if achieved, will make our County a transit leader in the country. It is a plan that focuses on moving people most efficiently utilizing our existing infrastructure, not just cars, and by doing so we will improve our quality of life, our environment, and our competitiveness in the region.”

The master plan does not recommend specific approaches on how BRT would be implemented on certain routes. For example, where the plan recommends dedicated lanes and adding one transit lane to the cross-section, it does not specify whether it would be a reversible lane (one direction in the morning peak, the opposite in the evening peak) or bi-directional lane (both directions in both peak periods, with a periodic lane to allow buses to pass).
 
Including the CCT, the plan identifies about 81 miles of dedicated lanes and 21 miles of mixed traffic operations. Subsequent project planning will determine the details of each route and there will be opportunities for considerable public input.
 
"I was very proud to preside over the passage of the Countywide Transit Corridors Master Plan, a plan to augment our public transportation system with an ambitious network of dedicated lanes for buses,” said Council President Nancy Navarro. “By itself, the plan we approved today will not alter the flow of traffic on any road in the County. We still have many years of funding decisions, public hearings, design and analysis before the first shovel can touch the ground for any of the routes in the plan. But we have put down an important marker—the Council understands that the only way to accommodate growth without traffic screeching to a halt is investing big in transit." 

Councilmember Valerie Ervin said: “As the Council’s representative on the County’s Pedestrian, Bicycle and Traffic Safety Advisory Committee, I appreciate the designation of additional Bicycle-Pedestrian Priority Areas, which will promote better accommodation of non-automotive modes of transportation and increase safety, as part of the Countywide Transit Corridors Functional Master Plan. In addition, I recognize how interconnected improved transit is to our land use decisions, especially in eastern Montgomery County.”

Councilmember Hans Riemer said: "As a member of the transportation committee I am pleased to see the transit master plan earn such strong support. Recognizing that most people will continue driving, this plan seeks to add fewer new cars to our roads in the future by gradually building a high quality public transportation alternative. We should proceed immediately with the Corridor Cities Transitway as our demonstration project."

The corridor routes in the recommended plan are:
Corridor 1: Georgia Avenue North. A  proposed 9.6-mile corridor that would run nearly entirely on Georgia Avenue (Maryland Route 97) between the Wheaton Metro Station and Olney.
  • Corridor 2: Georgia Avenue South. A proposed 3.9-mile corridor that would run nearly entirely on Georgia Avenue between the Wheaton Metro Station and the District of Columbia line.
  • Corridor 3: Maryland 355 North. A proposed 15.3-mile corridor that would run almost entirely on Maryland 355 between the Rockville Metro Station and Redgrave Place in Clarksburg, with two routes in Germantown East. The southern portion of the corridor lies within the City of Rockville and the center portion lies within the City of Gaithersburg.
  • Corridor 4: Maryland 355 South. A proposed 7.8-mile corridor that would run entirely on Rockville Pike/Wisconsin Avenue (Maryland 355) between the Rockville and Bethesda Metro Stations. Despite the fact that it would run directly parallel to the Red Line, it is projected to carry more riders than any other proposed BRT route in this plan.
  • Corridor 5: New Hampshire Avenue. A proposed 8.5-mile corridor that would run on New Hampshire Avenue (Maryland 650) from the Colesville park-and-ride lot south to Eastern Avenue at the District of Columbia line. This corridor is distinctive because it will require cooperation with Prince George's County and the District of Columbia.
  • Corridor 6: North Bethesda Transitway. A proposed 2.7-mile corridor that would run from either the Grosvenor or White Flint Metro Station to Old Georgetown Road, south on Old Georgetown Road to Rock Spring Drive, and west on Rock Spring drive and Fernwood Road to Montgomery Mall.  There would also be a new interchange connecting Fernwood Road to the HOV lane to and from the south on I-270. This is part of a planned transit/HOV lane that would connect to the HOT lanes in Virginia.
  • Corridor 7: Randolph Road. A proposed 10.l-mile corridor that would run in mixed traffic nearly entirely on Randolph Road between the White Flint Metro Station and the U.S. Route 29 corridor station at Tech Road.  In the western segment of the corridor, an alternative would be to add a BRT lane on Montrose Parkway between Veirs Mill Road and Rockville Pike.
  • Corridor 8: University Boulevard. A proposed 5.5-mile corridor that would run on University Boulevard (Maryland 193) between the Wheaton Metro Station and Langley Park. It would also connect to—and, for a short stretch, run concurrent with—the Purple Line, as well to five other proposed BRT corridors: Veirs Mill Road, Georgia Avenue North, Georgia Avenue South, U.S. 29 and New Hampshire Avenue.
  • Corridor 9: U.S. Route 29. A proposed 12.3-mile corridor that generally would run along Colesville Road and Columbia Pike between the District of Columbia boundary and Burtonsville, with two routes in the White Oak area.
  • Corridor 10: Veirs Mill Road. A proposed 6.2-mile corridor that would run almost entirely on Veirs Mill Road (Maryland 586) between the Wheaton and Rockville Metro Stations.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Recreation Department Offers Holiday Events

The Montgomery County Department of Recreation is offering a wide range of community events for the whole family to enjoy this holiday season:

  • Holiday Magic and Fun – December 6, 6:30 to 8 p.m. Good Hope Community Recreation Center, 14715 Good Hope Road, Silver Spring. Free. Celebrate the magic of the holidays with Speed, one of the east coast’s premiere magicians.
  • Bauer Drive Craft Show – December 7, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.  Bauer Drive Community Recreation Center, 14625 Bauer Drive, Rockville.  Free. The show features an assortment of vendors showcasing their artistic talents and creativity. Items for purchase include fiber arts, holiday items, jewelry, photography, pottery, woodwork and more.
  • Clara Barton Holiday Craft Show – December 7, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Clara Barton Community Center, 7425 MacArthur Boulevard, Cabin John. Free. Sponsored by the Friends of Clara Barton Community Recreation Center, the show features local artists and crafters.
  • Scuba Santa – December 8, noon to 4 p.m. Olney Swim Center, 16605 Georgia Avenue. Ages 10 and up may use provided scuba equipment after receiving instruction. Those nine and under can hold their breath and swim down for a quick shot with Santa. Or, Santa will go to the concrete steps leading into the pool’s shallow end. A suggested donation is any non-perishable food item of $5 or more. Cash donations are also accepted. All donations benefit Manna Food Bank.
  • Clara Barton Senior Lunch – December 11, noon to 2 p.m. Irish Inn, 6119 Tulane Avenue, Glen Echo. For more information, call 240-777-4910.
  • Workshop and Winter Wonderland – December 11, 6 to 9:30 p.m. Damascus Community Center, 25520 Oak Drive. Cookie Exchange – bring six dozen – four dozen to share, and two dozen to trade. Local craft vendors and music. Also, hot chocolate, caroling and a visit from Santa. Crafts, games, dreidels, etc. Bring two canned food items for the needy. Volunteer musicians, prop person (train conductor with train), toy builders or event helpers are needed. Student Service Learning (SSL) hours available.
  • Potomac Community Center Senior Holiday Party – December 13, 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.  Potomac Community Recreation Center, 11315 Falls Road. Live holiday music by “Rearview Mirror.”  Refreshments served for a nominal fee. For more information, call 240-777-6960.
  • Winter Bash Middle School Dance (Grades 6-8) – December 13,  8 to 10:30 p.m. Good Hope Community Recreation Center, 14715 Good Hope Road, Silver Spring. Bring a friend for games, music, food and fun. Dance contest and a door prize. $5 per person. Course #370931.
  • Clara Barton Community Holiday Party – December 15, 5 to 7 p.m. Clara Barton Community Center, 7425 MacArthur Boulevard, Cabin John. Free. Holiday activities for the whole family.
  • Active Adults 55 + Jingle Bell Fun – December 16, noon. Longwood Community Recreation Center, 19300 Georgia Avenue, Brookeville. Catered lunch and performance by the Rearview Mirror Band. $12 per ticket or $20 per couple. For ticket information, call 240-777-6920.
  • Annual Jingle Bell Breakfast – December 18, 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.  Long Branch Senior Center, 8700 Piney Branch Road, Silver Spring. Holiday music and a continental breakfast of bagels, juice, coffee and tea. No charge, but reservations must be made by December 16. Call 240-777-6975.
  • Winter Wonderland – December 20, 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Marilyn J. Praisner Community Recreation Center, 14906 Old Columbia Pike Burtonsville. Includes “Pigs at the Pole” presented by Blue Sky Puppet Theater, holiday crafts, cookies and punch, and visits with Santa. Course #370029.
  • Breakfast with Santa – December 21, 9 to 11 a.m. East County Community Center, 3310 Gateshead Manor Way, Silver Spring. Kids will enjoy a hearty breakfast, have their picture taken with Santa and participate in fun activities. Cost is $3 for children ages 3-7 and $5 for ages 8 and up.
  • Santa’s Workshop – December 21, 1 to 4 p.m. Mid-County Community Recreation Center, 2004 Queensguard Road, Silver Spring. Family fun includes Rufus the Red-Nosed Raindog performed by the Blue Sky Puppet Theatre. Also, activities include crafts, games and a visit with Santa. Free, but pre-registration is requested. Course #365235.
For more information about these activities, or to register for one of the courses, visit www.montgomerycountymd.gov/rec or call 240-777-6840.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Council Approves Long Branch Sector Plan

On Tuesday we approved the Long Branch Sector Plan that will guide revitalization of that section of Silver Spring. With this plan, we hope we have created incentives for positive commercial redevelopment, while protecting the needs of existing community members. Using the Purple Line as a catalyst for redevelopment, the plan protects the area's character, its affordable housing and its small neighborhood-oriented businesses.
 
The plan recognizes that development of the Purple Line—the proposed east-west transit line that will connect the Bethesda and New Carrollton Metrorail stations—will have significant impact on Long Branch and its real estate values. To prevent a loss of market affordable units, and potential displacement of lower-income residents, we amended the plan to retain the zoning on most of the existing multi-family developments.
 
The approved plan continues implementation of programs to make Long Branch a more walkable community, with an emphasis on pedestrian safety.
 
Among the items addressed in the approved plan was designation of the Flower Theatre on the Master Plan for Historic Preservation. The plan is specific about retaining certain parts of the structure, including the theatre fa├žade, two adjoining shoulders and a second wall to a depth of 40 feet from the theatre building line. The plan also calls for implementation of design guidelines to encourage compatible and appropriate future development nearby. The plan states that new buildings along Flower Avenue should not rise above the theatre’s height.
 
In efforts to help preserve affordable housing in Long Branch, the plan recommends CRT Zone optional method density incentives for developers. It also recommends the targeted use of tax credits and other financing tools that support public/private partnerships. The plan encourages live/work units in appropriate locations and provides for a range of unit sizes, including those accommodating larger families.
 
The approved plan encourages the retention of small businesses and neighborhood-serving commercial uses.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Holiday Schedule for Thanksgivng

Montgomery County government will observe the following holiday schedule for Thanksgiving Day on Thursday, November 28:

  • County Offices – closed
  • Libraries – closed
  • County liquor stores – closed
  • Recreation – all programs and facilities are closed
  • Montgomery Parks – all Parks facilities are closed on Thursday. For operating schedules on Friday, including Brookside Gardens, ice rinks, tennis centers, trains and carousels, visit www.MontgomeryParks.org.
  • Ride On – Sunday schedule
  • Metrobus – Sunday schedule
  • Metrorail – Sunday schedule
  • TRiPS Commuter Stores (Silver Spring and Friendship Heights) – closed
  • Refuse/recycling pickup – no collection*
  • Transfer Station – closed
  • Parking at public garages, lots, curbside meters – free
  • MCPS Administrative Offices – closed
  • State offices & courts – closed
*Collection provided one day later for remainder of week (last collection day is Saturday).

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Revised FAQ Page on Zoning Code Rewrite

If you still have questions about the Zoning Code Rewrite, check out the recently revised FAQ page. Here is just one example of what you can find there:

Q: Why are non-residential buildings allowed in R-60 and R-90 if they will introduce non-residential uses into single-family neighborhoods?

A: Non-residential buildings do not introduce non-residential uses into single-family neighborhoods. The uses that are allowed in a zone are determined by the Use Table in Section 3.1.6. Currently, in single family zones, the code allows for uses such as churches, day care facilities, non-residential offices, libraries, schools, etc. The provisions for nonresidential buildings will establish standards that do not currently exist for the buildings that contain these uses. These buildings would only be permitted if they contain a use that is legal, as outlined in Section 3.1.6. The purpose of creating the nonresidential building is to protect residential neighborhoods from the impacts of non-residential uses. For example, there are currently no limits on density for non-residential uses in the R-90 or R-60 zones. The proposed draft represents a substantive change that limits the density of uses located in non-residential buildings and requires increased street frontage, setbacks for parking lots, larger side setbacks from neighboring residential properties, and screening.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Holiday Schedule for Veterans Day

Here's the holiday schedule for Veterans Day on Monday, November 11:

  • County Offices -- closed
  • Libraries -- closed
  • County liquor stores -- open regular hours
  • Recreation -- aquatic and community centers are open as scheduled. Aquatic classes and programs will meet as scheduled. All other classes, administrative offices, senior centers and all senior programs will be closed
  • Montgomery Parks -- for holiday operating schedule on Parks' facilities, including Brookside Gardens, ice rinks, tennis centers, trains and carousels, visit www.MontgomeryParks.org
  • Ride On -- special modified holiday schedule (www.rideonbus.com), click on "Holidays" to see specific schedules
  • Metrobus -- Saturday schedule with supplemental service
  • Metrorail -- Saturday holiday schedule
  • TRiPS Commuter Stores (Silver Spring and Friendship Heights) -- closed
  • Refuse/recycling pickup --no collection*
  • Transfer Station -- open
  • Parking at public garages, lots, curbside meters -- free
  • MCPS Administrative Offices -- open
  • State offices and courts -- closed
*Collection provided one day later for remainder of week (last collection day is Saturday).

Monday, November 4, 2013

BRT Session 6

On Tuesday the Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment Committee will hold the sixth worksession on the Countywide Transit Corridors Functional Master Plan. The agenda for this worksession is:

  •  Follow-up on North Bethesda Transitway
  •  Markup of the plan

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Halloween Safety Tips

Tips from the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service:

With Halloween quickly approaching, the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service and Safe Kids Montgomery would like to offer some important tips for a safe Halloween. “Recent research shows that on Halloween, children are at greater risk of being fatally injured by a motor vehicle than any other day of the year,” said Fire Chief Steven Lohr. “While we always encourage responsible driving, we’re asking drivers to be especially vigilant this Halloween. Please eliminate all distractions, expect the unexpected, and do not exceed posted speed limits, especially in residential communities. Despite the fun and excitement, it’s a potentially dangerous night with so many kids on our streets. Without adequate adult supervision, trick or treaters often forget important pedestrian safety rules. Hence, safe driving behaviors go a long way toward averting a potential tragedy.”

 
Plan a safe route.
1. Where are trick or treaters most likely to be struck by a car? When crossing in the middle of the block. Accompany children and remind them to stop at all street corners, cross only at intersections and crosswalks. Teach them to look left, right and left before crossing the street and to continue looking both ways as they cross. If you’re a motorist, please slow down and be prepared to give trick or treaters a brake. 
 
2. Stay in familiar neighborhoods and have a parent or responsible adult accompany trick or treaters. Visit only those houses where the lights are on. Accept treats only in the doorway and NEVER go inside a house or apartment.
 
3. Secure emergency identification (name, address, phone number) discreetly within Halloween attire or on a bracelet.
 
4. Safety in numbers.  If they’re old enough to trick-or-treat without an adult, designate a route before the kids go trick or treating, tell your kids to stay in a group, avoid taking short cuts through backyards and alleys and ask them to check in regularly.
 
5. Ensure trick-or-treaters stay away from open flames or jack-o-lanterns with candles burning. 
 
6. Children should avoid busy streets, always use sidewalks, and follow all traffic rules and regulations. Motorists should drive slowly and be alert to small children crossing streets. Many accidents occur when motorists are backing vehicles out of driveways, unaware of the presence of small children.
 
Be a good neighbor.
1.  Keep your porch lights on and eliminate tripping hazards on your porch and walkway. Remove outdoor safety hazards such as toys, bicycles, garden hoses and lawn ornaments. Make sure the driveway and steps are cleared of leaves, which can be a slipping and falling hazard. Make sure that the driveway and walks are well lit for incoming trick-or-treaters. Replace burned-out or broken light bulbs.
 
2. Pets get frightened or lost on Halloween. Confine your pets for their safety and for that of trick or treaters. Also keep candy, which can be toxic, away from pets.    
 
Be Safe – Be Seen.
1. Don’t assume the right-of-way. Motorists may have trouble seeing trick-or-treaters in the dark. Just because one car stops doesn’t mean others will.
 
2. Encourage kids to follow all the rules for pedestrian safety. That includes obeying all traffic laws, looking both ways before crossing, using crosswalks, crossing at intersections and corners and never darting between parked cars. 
 
All Dressed Up.
1. Plan costumes that are bright and have reflective qualities. Consider adding reflective tape or decals to costumes and trick or treat bags. Be sure kids carry a flashlight and use glow sticks for extra visibility.
 
2. When shopping for costumes, wigs and accessories purchase only those with a label indicating they are flame resistant.
 
3. Have an adult inspect treats BEFORE eating anything. Do not eat any unwrapped, partially wrapped, or homemade-looking treats.
 
4. Shorter IS safer. Make sure that shoes fit well and that costumes are short enough to prevent tripping, entanglement or contact with an open flame.
 
5. Because masks can limit or block eyesight, consider non-toxic makeup as a safer alternative.
 
6. If a sword, cane or stick is part of your child’s costume, make sure it is not sharp or too long. A child may be easily hurt by these accessories if they trip or fall.
 
Decorate Safely.
1. Illuminate your jack-o-lanterns with flashlights or battery-operated candles instead of real ones. You won’t have the worries of an open flame coming in contact with anything  . . .or anyone.
 
2. If you do use candles, keep them well away from where trick or treaters will be walking or standing.  Review with your children the principle of “stop, drop and roll” should their clothing catch fire. 
 
Lastly, teach children how to call 9-1-1 if they have an emergency or become lost.

Council Approves Working Families Income Supplent Bill

The Council unanimously approved the amended Working Families Income Supplement Bill yesterday. Here is the full text from the press release:
 
ROCKVILLE, Md., October 29, 2013—The Montgomery County Council today unanimously approved Expedited Bill 8-13. The bill would increase the County’s Working Families Income Supplement for low-income households to 90 percent of the Maryland refundable credit beginning in Fiscal Year 2015, 95 percent in FY16 and 100 percent in FY17 and beyond.
 
The chief sponsor of Expedited Bill 8-13 was Councilmember Hans Riemer. Councilmembers Roger Berliner, Marc Elrich and George Leventhal were co-sponsors. The Government Operations and Fiscal Policy Committee, which is chaired by Nancy Navarro and includes Councilmembers Riemer and Valerie Ervin, at a worksession on Oct. 21 voted 3-0 to recommend that the full Council pass the bill with several modifications.
 
The bill would permit the Council to approve a lower amount in the annual operating budget by a vote of at least five Councilmembers. The minimum funding levels in the bill for the WFIS would not apply in any year that the State increases its refundable earned income credit above the current level.

Started in 1975, the EITC allows households earning income to apply tax credits to their returns. The County Working Families Income Supplement (WFIS) is derived from the federal earned income tax credit (EITC). The EITC is a refundable tax credit for lower income working families and individuals. Recipients of the WFIS include some of the lowest-paid residents of the County. To qualify for the EITC in Tax Year 2013, a taxpayer must earn less than:
·   $46,227 ($51,567 married filing jointly) with three or more qualifying children
·   $43,038 ($48,378 married filing jointly) with two qualifying children
·   $37,870 ($43,210 married filing jointly) with one qualifying child
·   $14,340 ($19,680 married filing jointly) with no qualifying children
 
The Tax Year 2013 maximum credit is:
·   $6,044 with three or more qualifying children
·   $5,372 with two qualifying children
·   $3,250 with one qualifying child
·   $487 with no qualifying children
 
In FY11, the County had 33,840 WFIS recipients who received an average amount of $381.81 each.  Restoring the County match to 100 percent would provide an additional $124, for a total of $505.81.  For a worker on the edge, this could mean making a car payment, paying an overdue utility bill, or paying rent.  The program encourages people to work because a recipient must have earned income to be eligible for a refund.
 
Twenty-two states (including Maryland), the District of Columbia, New York City and Montgomery County offer their residents a WFIS based upon the EITC. Maryland permits residents to claim a credit of one-half of the federal EITC and provides a refund for up to 25 percent of the federal EITC. In 2000, the County began matching 100 percent of the Maryland refundable credit to help working County residents meet the high costs of living in Montgomery County. In May 2010, the Council enacted Expedited Bill 33-10, which permitted the Council to set the WFIS at less than 100 percent of the Maryland refundable credit by resolution each year.
 
Accordingly, the Council set the WFIS at 72.5 percent for FY11, 68.9 percent for FY12 and 75.5 percent for FY13. On May 23, 2013, the Council appropriated funds to increase the WFIS to 85 percent of the Maryland refundable credit during FY14.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

County Leaf Collection Begins November 4

The Montgomery County Department of Transportation, Division of Highway Services will conduct its annual vacuum collection of leaves in the southern part of the County from November 4 through mid-December. DHS makes two collections on every street in the vacuum leaf collection district during the fall.

Residents should look for signs posted along the streets announcing the collection dates in their neighborhoods. DHS posts green signs indicating the date of the first collection and red signs indicating the second and final collection.

The leaf vacuum collection district is bounded by I-495, I-270, the Rockville City limits, Norbeck, Bel Pre and Bonifant roads, Northwest Branch Park, and the District of Columbia and Prince George’s County lines.

Leaves should be placed in piles or containers on the grass or behind the curb, off the road pavement. Placing leaves in streets or alleys can disrupt traffic and surface drainage, hamper snow removal operations or pose a fire hazard to automobiles parked over them. Keep leaves off road shoulders and bikeshare lanes. Leaves, especially when wet, can pose a hazard for cyclists.

The leaf collections are restricted to leaves only. Tree debris, sticks, branches or coarse garden debris should be placed in containers or tied in bundles, no more than four feet long, and placed where yard trim is regularly picked up.

Residents who miss the two scheduled vacuum collections can still have their leaves collected by placing them in paper yard trim bags or reusable containers for pick up on their regular yard trim collection day. Leaves placed in plastic bags will not be accepted.

DHS makes every effort to maintain posted schedules, but weather and equipment issues can affect the timing.

To determine if a residence is within the boundaries of the leaf vacuum collection district or view the leaf collection schedule, visit DHS’s website or call 311.

County Retains AAA Bond Rating

All three bond rating agencies--Standard & Poor's, Fitch and Moody's--reconfirmed the County's AAA bond rating. This is good news because it allows Montgomery County to issue bonds for our capital borrowing at the most favorable rates, saving taxpayers millions of dollars over the life of the bonds. The County's pending issuance will refinance $295 million of bond anticipation notes and $27.7 million of long-term debt. Montgomery County is only one of 38 counties (out of 3,140) in the nation to receive a AAA rating from all three rating agencies.

During the Great Recession, the Council took extraordinary steps to strengthen the County's fiscal health. Starting in 2010, we approved a balanced six-year fiscal plan that ensures the County develops a long-term strategic approach to budgeting. We also made structural changes that have enabled the County to bounce back faster than most jurisdictions nationwide.

Monday, October 28, 2013

BRT Session 5

On Tuesday the Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment Committee will hold the fifth worksession (use the same analyst’s packet as 10/25) on the Countywide Transit Corridors Functional Master Plan. The agenda for this worksession is:
  • Corridor 9: US 29
  • Corridor 5: New Hampshire Avenue
  • Corridor 8: University Boulevard

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Forum for HOA and Condo Leadership Draws a Crowd

Approximately 100 people representing more than 60 organizations and 12 County departments and agencies attended Wednesday night's forum designed specifically for homeowner association and condo board leadership. I dedicated nearly the entire meeting to questions and comments from participants, who raised issues ranging from speed humps to nuisance animals and a whole lot in between. Many participants said homeowner associations and especially condo boards, which can assess monthly dues in the hundreds of dollars, need better tools for collecting overdue fees. Several people had questions about the recently revamped Water Quality Protection Charge and its associated credits. Others expressed a need for individual utility meters in multi-family buildings.
 
With so many department and agency heads on hand, participants were able to walk away with answers to their questions or commitments for further follow-up. Several participants expressed appreciation for the opportunity to meet with leaders and decision-makers face-to-face.
 
I organized this forum because people who are involved with their homeowner associations are connected to their community in a unique and highly localized way. I wanted to make sure these volunteers have the tools they need to continue in their good work.
 
You can see the forum on YouTube. It is a little long, but it is chock full of good information from both the participants and from these County representatives:

Cathy Matthews (Upcounty Regional Services Center) Jewru Bandeh (East County Regional Services Center), Ken Hartman (Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center), Nadim Khan (Health and Human Services), Reginald Jetter (Permitting Services), Eric Friedman (Consumer Protection), Peter Drymalski (Commission on Common Ownership Communities), Steve Shofar (Environmental Protection), Rick Nelson (Housing and Community Affairs), Walter Wilson (County Attorney), Gwen Wright and Pam Dunn (Park and Planning), Bruce Johnston and Gary Erenrich (Transportation), Cmdr. James Fenner and Lt. Jaques Croom (Police) and Susan Hoffman (Recreation).

BRT Sessions 3 and 4

On Friday the Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment Committee will hold the third and fourth worksessions on the Countywide Transit Corridors Functional Master Plan. The agenda for these worksessions is:
  • Corridor 10: Veirs Mill Road
  • Corridor 1: Georgia Avenue North
  • Corridor 2: Georgia Avenue South
  • Corridor 7: Randolph Road
  • Corridor 9: US 29
  • Corridor 5: New Hampshire Avenue
  • Corridor 8: University Boulevard

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Nine Early Voting Sites for 2014

The Montgomery County Board of Elections has increased the number of Early Voting Centers to nine for the 2014 elections, pending Maryland State Board of Elections approval. Early voting for the primary election will occur from June 12 to June 19, 2014, and early voting for the general election will occur from October 23 to October 30, 2014. Here are the 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

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

BRT Session 3 Cancelled

The Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment Committee worksession on the Countywide Transit Corridors Functional Master Plan scheduled for this Friday is cancelled. Instead, the committee will meet both in the morning and in the afternoon on Friday, October 25.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Firefighters Wear Pink for Breast Cancer Awareness

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, so I was pleased to present a County Council Proclamation to the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service and Local 1664 for their outstanding efforts to raise money and awareness for cancer research and programs.

Through the International Association of Fire Fighters Passionately Pink Campaign, firefighters trade in their traditional on-duty shirts for bright pink ones throughout the month of October. So far, they have raised more than $12,000 to benefit the Susan G. Komen Foundation and the Red Devils through sales of the shirts.

One in eight women in the United States (or 12 percent) will develop invasive breast cancer at some point in her life, making breast cancer the most common cancer among women except for skin cancer. I salute the firefighters for doing their part to help defeat this terrible disease.

And one more thing—have you had your mammogram this year?

Friday, October 11, 2013

Bus Rapid Transit Session 2

On Monday the Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment Committee will hold the second worksession on the Countywide Transit Corridors Functional Master Plan. This agenda for this worksession is:

  • Bicycle-Pedestrian Priority Areas
  • MARC Brunswick Line
  • Corridor 9: US 29
  • Corridor 5: New Hampshire Avenue
  • Corridor 8: University Boulevard

Columbus Day Not a County Holiday

Remember, Montgomery County government and Montgomery County Public Schools do not observe Columbus Day on October 14 as an official County holiday. Most Montgomery County services will operate and facilities will be open on that day. Because the State of Maryland and the Federal Government do observe the holiday, state and federal offices and courts in Montgomery County will be closed. This means you must pay parking fees that day at Montgomery County-owned public garages, lots and curbside meters. Among the services that will operate on normal, Monday, weekday schedules are Ride On; refuse/recycling pickups; and County liquor stores.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

BRT Session 2 Postponed

The Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment's worksession on the Countywide Transit Corridors Functional Plan scheduled for this Friday has been postponed. I will let you know as soon as we have established the new date. This meeting was to have covered: review and make recommendations on the east-county routes including US 29 (Corridor 9), New Hampshire Avenue (Corridor 5) and University Boulevard (Corridor 8).

Forum for Leaders of HOAs and Condo Associations

Are you in a leadership role in your homeowners association, your condo owners organization or a management company? If so, join me for an informational forum designed just for you and the unique way you help your community. This is your chance to ask questions and share your ideas on a variety of subjects including:

  How can you make sure your voice is heard by the Montgomery County Council?
  How does the Zoning Code Rewrite affect your neighborhood?
  Which transportation projects will ease congestion in your community?
  Who do you call to fix local problems?
  How can you weigh in on development and other issues in your community?

I want to know what matters most to you, so come prepared for a lively, informal discussion. Bring your most vexing questions and your best ideas for improvement. Representatives from the Planning Board, the Department of Transportation, the Office of Consumer Protection and other Montgomery County departments will be on hand to hear your views.

Wednesday, October 23
Reception at 7:00 in the 2nd Floor Cafeteria
Forum at 7:30 in the 3rd Floor Hearing Room
Council Office Building
100 Maryland Avenue, Rockville

Parking is available in the garage behind the building. RSVP to councilmember.floreen@montgomerycountymd.gov or 240-777-7959. I look forward to seeing you on the 23rd.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Bus Rapid Transit Session 1

On Monday the Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment Committee will hold the first of five planned worksessions on the Countywide Transit Corridors Functional Master Plan. This agenda for this first worksession is to:

  • Receive a presentation of the Draft Plan by Planning staff
  • Hear remarks from representatives of the Executive Branch and the Transit Task Force
  • Discuss the types of decisions to be made in the plan and the types of decisions that should not be made in the plan
  • Identify issues/options that Councilmembers with to have explored before acting on the plan, in addition to those to be raised by Council staff
  • Review and make recommendations on Bicycle-Pedestrian Priority Areas
  • Review and make recommendations on adding a third track for CSX’s Brunswick Line
The tentative agendas for the subsequent worksessions are: 

October 11: Review and make recommendations on the east-county routes including US 29 (Corridor 9), New Hampshire Avenue (Corridor 5) and University Boulevard (Corridor 8) 

October 14: Review and make recommendations on mid-county routes, including Georgia Avenue (Corridors 1 and 2), Veirs Mill Road (Corridor 10) and Randolph Road (Corridor 7)

October 18: Review and make recommendations on west- and north-county routes, including MD 355 (Corridors 3 and 4) and Norht Bethesda Transitway (Corridor 6) 

October 21: Review and make recommendations on any follow-up issues

Do You Qualify for the Affordable Care Act Insurance?

The Maryland Health Connection is the state's new insurance marketplace under the Affordable Care Act. If you need health coverage, you have three ways to enroll:

  • Sign up online. See the plans Maryland is offering, enroll and choose the plan that best fits your individual needs.
  • Call Maryland's Call Center at 1-855-642-8572 (toll free) or 1-855-642-8573 (TTY) and enroll over the phone.
  • Meet in person with a health navigator to complete enrollment. For a calendar showing where navigators will be located, go online and click on the calendar.

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 2014. 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 Nancy Navarro, Montgomery County Council, Stella B. Werner Council Office Building, 100 Maryland Avenue, Rockville, Maryland, 20850, or by e-mail to county.council@montgomerycountymd.gov by 4:00 on November 6. If you have questions, contact the Council Grants Manager Joan Schaffer at 240-777-7935 or joan.schaffer@montgomerycountymd.gov.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Watch Council Sessions on Your Mobile Device

You can now watch Council sessions and hearings live on your mobile device. Using your Android or iPhone, go to http://m.montgomerycountymd.gov/CCM/liveplayer.html for live streaming. Thanks to our technology folks for their excellent work on this.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Zoning Code Rewrite Session 11

On Friday the PHED Committee will hold its eleventh worksession on the Zoning Code Rewrite. This will be the last worksession before the additional public hearing. Our agenda: wrap up.

The future schedule:

Before October 11: Complete PHED recommended text and map online and notice of November 12 public hearing

November 12 and 14: Council public hearing on PHED text and map recommendations

December 2 and 9: additional PHED worksessions to consider public hearing testimony

January: first Council worksession

To have your comments on the rewrite included in the public record, e-mail county.council@montgomerycountymd.gov.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Apply Now to Right to Vote Task Force

Apply by October 30 to the new citizens’ Right to Vote Task Force to study state and local laws and practices that may affect the right to vote. The task force will develop plans and take action to promote early voting and same-day registration, develop plans for a comprehensive voter registration program and make recommendations for changes in state and local laws, regulations and practices.

In Montgomery County, elections are administered by the Montgomery County Board of Elections according to federal, state and County laws and regulations. Voter turnout was 66 percent of registered voters in the 2012 presidential election and 51 percent of registered voters in the 2010 gubernatorial election.

The Montgomery County Council has a history of supporting efforts to increase access to the democratic process, in keeping with its tradition of civic activism. The State of Maryland recently expanded early voting, resulting in at least three new early voting centers for the 2014 elections, and adopted same-day voter registration during early voting.

The County Council created the Right to Vote Task Force to ensure that the County maximizes these new opportunities to make voting easy and accessible for every citizen. The task force will consist of up to 15 members, appointed by the Council, with a staff member from the County Board of Elections serving as an ex officio member. No more than two-thirds of the members may be registered to vote in the same political party. The Council will designate a chair and vice chair. The chair and vice chair must not be from the same party.

The task force must issue an interim report by February 28 and a final report with recommendations by May 31, 2014. The Task Force must also submit a report by February 28, 2015 that evaluates the efficacy and implementation of its recommendations during the 2014 general election.

Submit your letter of interest with a resume by 5 p.m. on October 30 to Council President Nancy Navarro, Montgomery County Council, 100 Maryland Avenue, Rockville, Maryland, 20850. You can also send your application by e-mail to county.council@montgomerycountymd.gov

Economic Development Week

I think every day should be economic development day, but I was pleased to formally recognize Economic Development Week this morning with a County Council Proclamation presented to the Montgomery Business Development Corporation, Rockville Economic Development Inc., the City of Gaithersburg Office of Economic Development and the Montgomery County Department of Economic Development.

Montgomery County joins the Maryland Economic Development Association and counties across the state in recognizing September 30-October 4, 2013, as Economic Development Week.

Today we honored four organizations for their outstanding efforts in marketing, business development, technical assistance, skilled workforce development, advocacy, outreach, capital projects and financing activities in support of growing the county’s knowledge-based economy and expanding the county’s tax base.

Did you know that Montgomery County is home to 30 of the 100 largest publicly traded companies as recently ranked by the Washington Business Journal? Find out which ones they are.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Public Hearing on Zoning Code Rewrite Nov. 12 and 14

The County Council will hold a second public hearing on proposed changes to the County's Zoning Law starting at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 12, and continuing on Thursday, Nov. 14. The hearing will address proposed changes to the law recommended by the County’s Planning Commission and by the Council's Planning, Housing and Economic Development (PHED) Committee. This hearing will give residents a further opportunity to comment on Zoning Text Amendment (ZTA) 13-04 and District Map Amendment (DMA) G-956.

The Council introduced the Planning Board’s recommendations on May 2 following years of the Planning Board’s extensive work and discussion with community groups and other stakeholders. The Council heard from more than 50 speakers at a public hearing on the Planning Board’s recommendations in January and has received extensive email and other correspondence from County residents as the committee continues to do its work.

The Zoning Law has not been comprehensively updated since 1977 and has grown to more than 1,200 pages over the last 30 years. The goal of the Rewrite is to reorganize and simplify the Zoning Code. Rewriting the code in plain language and reorganizing it into rational sections will enable residents to more easily participate in key land use decisions, and courts and agencies will have clearer rules to apply.

Although the County Charter calls for only one public hearing, the Council decided to hold a second public hearing because it recognizes the significance of the proposed text and map changes. Few changes are proposed for single-family residential properties, but non-residentially zoned properties and their neighbors could be affected. ZTA 13-04 would implement the text changes to the Zoning Law, and DMA G-956 would update the zoning for each property to apply a new zone. The proposed rezoning in DMA G-956 is designed to mirror each property's current zoning as much as possible.

Residents can see the proposed Zoning Rewrite, along with the tentative changes being considered by the PHED committee, at www.zoningmontgomery.org. Residents also will find an interactive map that enables users to determine the existing and proposed zoning for every property in the County. Clicking on a particular property will display the development standards (density, height limits and setbacks) for the existing and proposed zone.

To sign up to testify, call 240-777-7803 by 5 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 11. Sign-ups will begin on Thursday, Oct. 3. Spaces are limited. Written testimony or comments can be mailed to County Council / 100 Maryland Ave. / Rockville, Md. 20850 or emailed to all Councilmembers at county.council@montgomerycountymd.gov.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Zoning Code Rewrite Session 10

On Friday the PHED Committee will hold its tenth worksession on the Zoning Code Rewrite. Our agenda: wrap up, including any outstanding implementation issues.

The future schedule for the Committee work sessions is as follows:
September 27: wrap-up, continued if required

The future schedule for the Council work sessions is as follows:
October 11: complete PHED recommended text and map online and notice of November 12 public hearing
November 12: public hearing on PHED text and map recommendations
January: first Council worksession

To have your comments on the rewrite included in the public record, e-mail county.council@montgomerycountymd.gov.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Dispelling Myths About the Affordable Care Act and Seniors

If you are interested in learning more about the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) and what it means for seniors, stop by any one of a series of community events sponsored by the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services and the Montgomery County Department of Recreation that will be held in October.
 
The programs will address the myths surrounding the effect the ACA will have on seniors, and you will have the opportunity to learn more about Maryland’s plan for implementing the ACA, which mandates that legal residents age 18 to 64 have health insurance coverage beginning January 1, 2014 or face a penalty.
 
The events are scheduled for:
 
Monday, October 7, 11 a.m.
Gaithersburg Senior Center
80-A Bureau Drive, Gaithersburg
 
Tuesday, October 8, 1 p.m.
Margaret Schweinhaut Senior Center
1000 Forest Glen Road, Silver Spring
 
Wednesday, October 9, 1:30 p.m.
Holiday Park Senior Center
3950 Ferarra Drive, Wheaton
 
Thursday, October 10, 11 a.m.
Long Branch Senior Center
8700 Piney Branch Road, Silver Spring
 
Thursday, October 10, 1 p.m.
White Oak Senior Center
1700 April Lane, Silver Spring
 
Tuesday, October 15, 1:30 p.m.
Damascus Senior Center
9701 Main Street, Damascus
 
A brief presentation will be provided and a question and answer session will follow the presentation.  Registration is not required. For more information about the Affordable Care Act, go to www.marylandhealthconnection.gov. For a schedule of where in-person assistance will be available when enrollment begins October 1, go to www.capitalhealthconnection.org and click on “Resources,” then “Calendar.”