Wednesday, January 30, 2013

HHS Committee Takes up Smoking Ban

The Council’s Health and Human Services Committee will take up my bill to ban smoking on County property tomorrow morning at 10:00. Tune in to County Cable Montgomery (CCM—Cable Channel 6 on Comcast and RCN, Channel 30 on Verizon) to follow along. The meeting also will be streamed through the County Web site.

The full Council is tentatively scheduled to vote on the measure on February 12.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

SNAP the Silence Challenge

Will you join me in the SNAP the Silence Challenge led by Councilmember Valerie Ervin? I, along with many other elected officials and County residents, will experience what it is like to live on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formally known as the Food Stamp Program. That’s just five dollars per day.

I understand that putting food on the table is just one of the many challenges faced by low-income working families, but I think that living on a SNAP budget will give me a different perspective and level of understanding about the struggles faced by those whose wages are too low to lift them out of poverty. Please join me February 4-8.

Here are the challenge guidelines:

~ Spend only a total of $5 per day for all food and beverage during the challenge week.

~ Count in your total spending all food purchased and eaten during the challenge week, including fast food and dining out.

~ Only eat food that you purchase for the project. Do not eat food that you already own (this does not include spices and condiments).

~ Avoid accepting free food from friends, family or at work, including at receptions, parties or other events where food is served.

~ Keep track of receipts on food spending and take note of your experiences throughout the week.

Friday, January 25, 2013

County's Snow Response Plan

Did you know that when it snows, 200 employees with 175 pieces of equipment spring into action? Here's a snapshot of the County's snow response plan:

When snow begins to cover roads, salt crews spread salt on all main County roads and emergency routes.

When snow accumulates to three inches, plowing and salting crews continue to clear all main County roads and emergency routes.

Once the snow stops, crews begin plowing neighborhood roads.

Crews complete plow routes and spread abrasives on hills, at intersections and on roads around schools.

To learn more about snow removal or to use the interactive snow map, click here.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

County's Snow Emergency Web Page

I posted this before, but here it is again. Keep this link handy for today's weather and tomorrow's predicted snow. The County’s snow emergency page has everything you need to know about snow plowing, closings and power outages. It’s a great resource.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Letter to Governor on Electric Reliability

This joint letter to the Governor from the County Executive and the County Council is a good step in the right direction in our efforts to ensure relilable electricity service in Montgomery County. In it, we support much of the Grid Resiliency Task Force's report and suggest further measures. Kudos to Ike Leggett for his work on this. Here's the full text of the letter:

January 16, 2013

The Honorable Martin O'Malley
Office of the Governor
100 State Circle
Annapolis, Maryland 21401

Dear Governor O'Malley:

We are writing to say how pleased we are regarding your filing of the Report of the Grid Resiliency Task Force ("Report") released October 3, 2012 and your continuing concern with the reliability of the electricity distribution system in Maryland. As you know, Montgomery County has long been concerned about the reliability and resiliency of the electric system that serves the residents and businesses of Montgomery County.

We share the principles guiding the recommendations in the Report (p. 6) and many of
the recommendations in the Report are ones Montgomery County has fought for in the past. In particular, Montgomery County agrees with the need for the Major Outage Event Reports (as well as other reports) to provide more detail "to allow regulators or other interested parties to make specific recommendations regarding hardening systems, improving operational flexibility,or reducing restoration times" (p. 76).

Montgomery County, however, asks that you, through the Public Service Commission
(PSC), take two additional steps: 1) require PSC Staff to perform a formal review of the Major Outage Event Reports (and all other reports) submitted by utilities to confirm compliance with the Regulations (the PSC should invite public comment as part of this review process); and 2) the PSC should issue findings at the conclusion of its review and these findings should indicate,based on the report, what quartile ofreliability the electric utility filing the report is on track to achieve.

Montgomery County also respectfully disagrees with the Report's recommendation to
allow for a tracker cost recovery mechanism. The County has opposed this type of mechanism in the past and continues to maintain that Pepco should have to show that the money it spends on infrastructure is done prudently, efficiently, and effectively through the normal regulatory process before asking ratepayers to pay for these proposed improvements.

Montgomery County was an active participant in the PSC's Rule Making 43 Work Group
and we look forward to working with the PSC to continue to improve the service quality and reliability standards for Maryland's electric companies.

In closing, we urge you to ensure that the PSC keeps the spotlight focused firmly on the goal of this important matter-namely, improving the reliability of the electric power grid for Maryland. Taking the additional steps we urge will help achieve that goal.


Isiah Leggett
County Executive

Nancy Navarro, President
County Council

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

County's Snow Emergency Web Page

Keep this link handy in case we get snow tomorrow. The County’s snow emergency page has everything you need to know about snow plowing, closings and power outages. It’s a great resource.

Green Business Forum on January 22

The Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce (MCCC), the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection and Montgomery College will sponsor a Green Business Forum next week on “Greening Government Procurement: It's Coming!” The event will be held Tuesday, January 22 from 7:30 to 9 a.m. at the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce, 51 Monroe Street, Suite 1800, Rockville.

Featured panelists include David Dise, director, Montgomery County Department of General Services; Nancy Gillis, director, Federal Supply Chain Emissions PMO, U.S. General Services Administration; and Maribeth Malloy, director, Environmental Sustainability & Governance, Lockheed Martin Corporation.

Registration is required due to space limitations. Register at the Chamber’s website.

The Montgomery County Green Business Forum is free and open to the public and is held four times a year. Each forum features experts offering unique perspectives on the advantages of being a green business.

The Green Business Certification Program helps County businesses by providing them with a “greenprint” for introducing sustainability into their day-to-day operations and supply chain decisions. Organizations that embrace green practices enhance environmental quality while promoting economic development. More information about the program and how to become certified is available online.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Property Values Fell in Maryland but Rose in Montgomery

In Maryland, properties are reassessed by the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation every three years. This is so that property owners pay only their fair share of local property taxes. If your property was reassessed this year, you would have received a notice from SDAT around January 1.

The 678,763 reassessments conducted this year reflect another decrease in real estate values for residential properties in Maryland. Statewide, residential values fell by 6.9 percent while 76.8 percent of properties decreased in value since their last assessment in 2010.

However, in Montgomery County, residential values rose by 1.7 percent while 45.2 percent of properties decreased in value.

Statewide, residential and commercial values combined fell by 3.6 percent. These values rose in only two counties—Montgomery and Howard, at 4.1 percent and 2.5 percent respectively.

Learn more.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Apply Now to the Board of Investment Trustees

Apply by February 13 to for a partial term as the Council representative on the Board of Investment Trustees for the Montgomery County Employee Retirement Plans and the Board of Trustees for the Consolidated Retiree Health Benefits Trust. The Boards set investment policy, hire investment managers and monitor investment performance for the Trust Funds.

The Board of Investment Trustees is responsible for overseeing the investment of approximately $4 billion in assets for nearly 11,000 active and retired members of the three retirement plans: defined benefit, defined contribution and deferred compensation.

The Board of Trustees is responsible for overseeing the investment program for the Consolidated Retiree Health Benefit Trust, which has assets of approximately $200 million.

This partial term will expire on March 1, 2014; however, the appointee is eligible to apply for reappointment to a full three-year term at that time. The Council policy is that an individual must not serve more than two consecutive full terms on any County board, committee or commission. The appointee may not furnish or be employed by a firm that furnishes to pension funds and other institutional investors the kind of investment services purchased by the board. Members of County boards, committees and commissions may not serve on more than one such group at a time.

The Board of Investment Trustees consists of 13 trustees appointed by the County Executive and confirmed by the County Council. Trustees include the directors of the Office Human Resources, Office of Management and Budget, Department of Finance and the County Council staff; two representatives of the County Council; one active member of the retirement plans who is not a member of a collective bargaining unit; one retired member of a County plan; two members of the public; and individuals recommended by each of the three County employee collective bargaining units.

The Board of Trustees consists of 19 trustees, 13 of whom are members of the Board of Investment Trustees, along with the following additional members: one active employee recommended by the superintendent of Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS), one retired member of MCPS, one MCPS bargaining unit representative, one active employee recommended by the Montgomery College (MC) president, one retired member of MC, and one MC bargaining unit representative.

Trustees serve three-year terms without compensation from any source for services rendered to the boards. The boards meet six times a year from 8:30 a.m. until approximately 1 p.m., usually on Fridays in January, March, May, July, September and November.

This Council representative position on each Board is for a person who is knowledgeable in pensions, investments or financial matters. The Council will recommend one applicant to the County Executive for appointment to serve on both boards. After the Executive appoints the Council representative, the appointee’s name is submitted to the Council for final confirmation. Within 10 days after confirmation, each trustee must sign a certificate stating that the trustee accepts the fiduciary responsibility of the trust funds and will administer the affairs of the trust with care, skill, prudence and diligence. Appointees must complete a financial disclosure statement within 15 days of Council confirmation and annually thereafter.

Letters expressing interest in the position, including a resume listing professional and civic experience, should be addressed to Council President Nancy Navarro, County Council Office, 100 Maryland Avenue, Rockville, Maryland 20850. Letters of interest must be received no later than 5 p.m., Wednesday, February 13. It is the Council’s policy not to consider applications received after the deadline.

Holiday Schedule for Martin Luther King Day

Here is our holiday schedule for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday on Monday, January 21:

~ County Offices – closed

~ Libraries – closed

~ County liquor stores – closed

~ Recreation – aquatics programs and facilities open, all other classes and programs canceled; administrative office, senior centers, and community centers are closed

~ Ride On – Special modified holiday schedule (check schedules at

~ Metrobus – Weekday schedule

~ Metrorail – Special schedule (peak service all day with peak fares; regular weekday fares at Metro parking lots)

~ 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).

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Find a Forest Conservation Easement

Do you have a forest conservation easement on or near your property? Easements protect forests on private land by limiting certain activities, part of the Planning Board's emphasis on forest conservation. Now you can locate easement areas using the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission's online tool.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Smoking Bill Public Hearing Postponed

The public hearing on my proposed smoking ban has been rescheduled to January 22 at 1:30 p.m. If you would like to testify, call 240-777-7803, and remember to check out my tips on testifying.

User-Friendly Tool Highlights Current Development

Want to know more about development projects proposed near where you live or work? To stay abreast of Montgomery County development activity, visit the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission’s online development finder to learn details about building applications to be considered by the Planning Board.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Consumer Resolutions for the New Year

As 2013 gets underway, our Office of Consumer Protection is challenging you to be smart and savvy consumers by making these ten simple resolutions for the new year:

• Always check a store’s return policy before making a purchase. Knowing the store’s return policy – including restocking fees – makes returns easier.

• Read parking rules before parking your car. Checking the signs in the parking lot before walking away from your car can save you hundreds of dollars and hours of aggravation.

• Shred documents that contain personal information.

• Protect your smartphone by always logging out of banking and social networking apps and clearing the phone’s browser history. Password-protect your phone and never share data over public wi-fi networks.

• Review monthly statements promptly. Always review monthly credit card and bank statements immediately to ensure that all charges are accurate and no hidden fees appear. Dispute billing errors or charges in writing right away.

• Never wire money to someone you don’t know. Wiring money is like sending cash – once it is sent, you cannot get it back. Scammers frequently use money wiring because it is quick, difficult to trace, and typically, there is no way to reverse the transfer.

• Order and review credit reports annually from each of the three nationwide credit reporting agencies at or call 1-800-332-8228.

• Use a credit card – not a debit card – when shopping by phone, television or online. If a problem arises, charges can be disputed within 60 days from receipt of the bill.

• Do your homework before signing a contract or making large purchases. Always check the business’ complaint history, know the refund policies and check for any required licenses.

• Contact the Montgomery County Office of Consumer Protection with any consumer-related concerns.

The Office of Consumer Protection 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.

For more information and to check any merchant’s complaint record, call 240-777-3636 or email or visit OCP’s Web site.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Tips on Tesifying

When the Council returns later this month, we will take up some important topics including my proposal to ban smoking on county property and two tree bills. We have public hearings on a variety of issues scheduled nearly every week, and we want to know your views. For newcomers as well as seasoned veterans, here are a few tips to make the most of your testimony:

• Keep it simple. Put your request or main point at the beginning of your testimony. Use plain language and put technical points at the end.

• Keep it short. The Council adheres to the three-minute limit, so make sure your points come across in that time frame. You don't have to use the entire allotted time, though. Sometimes good things come in small packages.

• Bring 15 copies of your testimony with your name, contact information and main points clearly identified.

• Let your personality shine through. Levity or a personal anecdote can help you stand out in the crowd.

• Relax. Don't be afraid of the formal setting or the television cameras. Just be yourself.

I understand public speaking isn't for everyone, so you can also call or e-mail. To have your written correspondence included in the public record, send it to or Council President, 100 Maryland Avenue, Rockville, Maryland 20850.