Wednesday, February 27, 2013

TV Special on Poverty in Montgomery County

Montgomery County ranks among counties with the highest median incomes. We take pride in being the economic engine of Maryland. Our schools make the lists of the best in the nation, Yet we have pockets of poverty that are not easily seen. Families of working poor and people whose circumstances have taken dramatic turns for the worse due to the economic conditions of the past few years make up an increasing portion of our community.

We have people in this county who have lost significant jobs and have been unable to find other employment. We have people who work two jobs, and when they add up their paychecks, they still do not have enough to pay their basic bills. These families live right here, and they need help—but they are not always easy to identify.

That’s why I asked County Cable Montgomery to help shine a light on the hidden poverty within our county. We often only get a chance to see the affluence in Montgomery County, and this television program, The Unseen Montgomery, gives us a chance to see a growing part of life here.

The Unseen Montgomery, a 30-minute show terrifically produced and hosted by Susan Kenedy, points out that, on average, it requires a family income of $73,000 for a family of four to provide for all of its living essentials. But it also states that, over the past five years, Montgomery County has seen a 52 percent increase in the number of people receiving assistance from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps) and that more than 5,600 families a month receive food from the Manna Food Center, a nonprofit that acts as the local food bank.

The first broadcast of The Unseen Montgomery will be at 12:30 p.m. on Sunday, March 3. It will replay that day at 8 p.m. The next scheduled rebroadcast will be at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 9. It will be rebroadcast at various future times that have yet to be determined. CCM is broadcast as Cable Channel 6 on Comcast and RCN and Channel 30 on Verizon. You can also see the broadcast via streaming on the County Web site or on YouTube.

The show identifies nonprofits that provide help to those in need, including Manna; A Wider Circle, which collects used furniture and household items for those in need; and the Food Recover Network, which collects unused food from restaurants and venue concession operators for nonprofit organizations that redistribute it to those in need. Also featured are the Family Self-Sufficiency Program, a structured program that seeks to get people free of assistance, and Arleeta’s Pantry at the Woodside Methodist Church in Silver Spring.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Honoring 10 Local Companies on the Inc. 500 List

I had the pleasure of presenting County Council proclamations to 10 local companies that were included in the 2012 version of the Inc. 500, which recognizes the fastest-growing private companies in America. The businesses, which represent a wide variety of industries including energy, marketing, technology and health, earned their rankings based on their three-year revenue growth rate from 2008-2011.

Two of the 10 companies recognized are part of Montgomery County’s Business Innovation Network, which helps growing companies realize their potential with the help of five business incubation centers that offer office and lab space, as well as business support services, to emerging technology, life sciences and professional services companies.

In 2011, the bottom line of each of these 10 Montgomery-based companies was truly top shelf as they generated combined revenue of more than $210 million and their three-year growth rate ranged from 839 percent to 1,990 percent.

These elite local 10 are Blue Corona of Gaithersburg, Digital Management of Bethesda, E-SAC of Rockville, MBL Technologies of Rockville, RainKing Solutions of Bethesda, Sonatype of Silver Spring, Special Operations Solutions of Silver Spring, Standard Solar of Rockville, RISTA Science and Technology of Rockville and WeddingWire of Bethesda.

We at the Council congratulate these 10 companies and thank them for furthering Montgomery County’s reputation of encouraging innovation and for being one of the nation’s best places for businesses to start, grow and flourish.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Town Hall Meeting in Silver Spring

Let us know what matters most to you at our Town Hall Meeting for the Silver Spring area on Wednesday, March 13, at the American Film Institute Silver Theatre and Cultural Center, 8633 Colesville Road. The event begins at 8 p.m. You can voice your opinions on specific issues and ask questions of us in an organized, but informal, setting. I hope to see you there.

The meeting will be taped for later broadcast on County Cable Montgomery (CCM—cable Channel 6 on Comcast and RCN, Channel 30 on Verizon). For more information about the Town Hall Meeting or about the broadcast times, call 240-777-7931.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Full Report: Nonprofit Business in Montgomery County

Several people have asked where to get the full report, Beyond Charity: Nonprofit Business in Montgomery County. Well, here it is—full of interesting information including these highlights:

• Montgomery County’s 501(c)(3) charitable nonprofits paid $2.2 billion to 43,371 employees in 2011 and have nearly $4 billion in combined purchasing power.
• Nonprofits employ one in 10 workers in the County.
• Nonprofit employment in the county grew 9.1 percent between 2007 and 2011, while overall employment in the county decreased by 2.5 percent.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

All Committee Meetings Now Available Live on TV or Internet

Now you can watch all of the County Council’s committee meetings from the comfort of your home or anywhere with Internet access.

All of our committee meetings now either are being broadcast live on County Cable Montgomery or recorded for later broadcast on the County’s cable station. At times when two committees are meeting simultaneously, you now have the option of seeing one meeting live on television and the other on the Internet via streaming.

The move to broadcast all committee meetings—which total approximately 190 in an average year—is part of the County’s Open Government Initiative to make more aspects of government operations accessible to the public.

The County has long had the policy of televising live all Council sessions and public hearings on County Cable Montgomery (CCM—Cable Channel 6 on Comcast and RCN, Channel 30 on Verizon). Special events such as town hall meetings hosted by the Council or the County Executive are either broadcast live or recorded for later broadcast.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Holiday Schedule for Presidents' Day

Here's our holiday schedule for Presidents’ Day on Monday, February 18:

~ County Offices – closed

~ Libraries – closed

~ County liquor stores – closed

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

~Montgomery Parks – for holiday operating schedule on Parks’ facilities, including Brookside Gardens,ice rinks, tennis centers, trains and carousels, visit

~ Ride On – Special modified holiday schedule

~ 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 – closed

~ State offices & courts – closed

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

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

My Personal Reasons for Supporting the Proposed Bike Helmet Law

I am lucky to have survived my bike accident 15 years ago, so I feel strongly about the proposed Maryland law to require all bicyclists, not just children, to wear a helmet. I just delivered this testimony to the Maryland House of Delegates Environmental Matters Committee in Annapolis:

Good afternoon, Ms. McIntosh and members of the committee. My name is Nancy Floreen, and I am an at-large member of the Montgomery County Council; however, I am testifying as an individual today.

Fifteen years ago I took a leisurely bike ride on the Capital Crescent Trail and wound up in the intensive care unit of the Georgetown University Hospital neurology department. I spent five days there, and while I eventually recovered, I never regained any memories of the accident. I don’t really know what happened, but I do know that I was not wearing a helmet.

That’s why I’m here to ask you to vote for HB339, requiring all bicyclists to wear a helmet.

I understand that there is significant opposition to this bill, and I appreciate the arguments made by bicycle advocates that this bill could discourage people from bicycling, particularly in the emerging bikeshare program. These are valid points.

Still, I cannot stress enough the importance of wearing a helmet. According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than a half a million people in the US are treated in emergency rooms annually--and more than 700 people die--as a result of bicycle-related injuries. Ninety-one percent of those killed in biking accidents are not wearing helmets. We can change these statistics. We must change these statistics.

While I am here in support of HB339, I want to note that a helmet law is only one of many actions we must take to make bicycling safe and accessible. We must also create a complete bicycle network with bike lanes connecting to each other as well as to major destinations like schools, transit stations and job centers.

These networks require roadway improvements like buffered and non-buffered bike lanes, shared use markings and conflict zone markings. Specifically, I encourage the State to look at placing bike lanes on Georgia Avenue from Spring Street to 13th Street and on the east side of Colesville Road from East-West Highway north to Georgia Avenue. These improvements will do as much as (if not more than) a helmet law to ensure bicycle safety for current riders in addition to those who may use bikeshare.

In 1884, Mark Twain said, “Get a bicycle. You will certainly not regret it…if you live.” It’s 2013, and I look forward to continuing to work together to make bicycling safe and enjoyable for everyone. Thank you for your time and attention to this matter today, and remember…governing is like riding a bicycle; to keep your balance you must keep moving forward.

Bill to Help Promote Montgomery County Passes

Montgomery County has a tremendous number of events and amenities, and the bill we passed today will enhance our ability to share these with residents and visitors alike.

Bill 36-12 will provide increased funding to promote the County as a good place for business travelers, for tourists to stay while they enjoy the Capital Region and for visitors and residents right here within the County.

The bill will increase the amount of the hotel/motel tax collected by the County and directed to the County’s Conference and Visitors Bureau from 3.5 to 7 percent.
I was the chief sponsor of the legislation.

Our tourism industry is one of the largest voices for promoting economic development in Montgomery County. By increasing the amount of money the Conference and Visitors Bureau receives from the hotel/motel tax, we are giving it the funding to be a bigger player in the region.

During public testimony about the bill, we learned that Montgomery County spends less overall on promotions than all neighboring jurisdictions other than Arlington County in Virginia. Assuming the hotel/motel tax revenues stay consistent with recent years’ collections, the bill will provide approximately $630,000 additional for the CVB.

In looking ahead, we must be ready to more aggressively compete for tourism and conventions with Prince George’s County and other Maryland jurisdictions that have, or will have, casinos.

Smoking Ban Passes

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.

The approved bill included recommended amendments from its original form suggested by the Council’s Health and Human Services Committee. The committee recommended that the bill expand the ban to bus stops and bus shelters.

Another amendment allows the County’s director of Health and Human Services to designate outdoor smoking areas on certain County properties. This change was made with concerns on the impact the bill could have on County-owned and -leased facilities that house programs used to treat people with addictions. It was pointed out that prohibiting smoking in these types of facilities could negatively impact the treatment of people who are stepping down from hard drugs.

The ban also does not prohibit smoking on County-owned golf courses. The only public course this currently impacts is the Falls Road course in Potomac.

Another change recommended by the Health and Human Services Committee and included in the approved bill regards several County owned or leased buildings that include private residences. We decided to grandfather existing tenants but to prohibit smoking in those residences that become vacant after the effective date of the bill.

Any violation of the law is a class C civil violation. Each day a violation exists is a separate offense.

Monday, February 11, 2013

How Nonprofits Contribute to Our Economy

I was pleased to see the new report, Beyond Charity: Nonprofit Business in Montgomery County. Among other findings, the report shows that 10 percent of the County’s workforce is employed by nonprofits, with total wages of $2.2 billion.

The new report shines a spotlight on the economic impact of nonprofits in the County, bringing together current data on our nonprofit sector, national research and numerous examples of how nonprofits across the County generate economic impact.

The report looks at nonprofits from several economic vantage points, starting with the fact that nonprofit businesses, like their for-profit counterparts, are employers and purchasers of goods and services.

Supporting data include:

• Montgomery County’s 501(c)(3) charitable nonprofits paid $2.2 billion to 43,371 employees in 2011 and have nearly $4 billion in combined purchasing power.
• Nonprofits employ one in 10 workers in the County.
• Nonprofit employment in the county grew 9.1 percent between 2007 and 2011, while overall employment in the county decreased by 2.5 percent.

The report was funded by the Montgomery County Department of Economic Development, along with the Department of Health and Human Services.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Get ENERGY STAR Tax Free Next Weekend

Marylanders will get a break from the state's 6 percent sales tax on qualifying ENERGY STAR products from February 16-18, 2013. During Shop Maryland Energy weekend, the following ENERGY STAR products are tax free:

~ Air conditioners
~ Clothes washers
~ Furnaces
~ Heat pumps
~ Boilers
~ Solar water heaters (tax-exempt at all times now)
~ Standard size refrigerators
~ Dehumidifiers
~ Programmable thermostats
~ Compact fluorescent light bulbs

Shop Maryland Energy weekend will occur in perpetuity (or until legislative amendment or repeal) from the Saturday immediately preceding the third Monday in February until the third Monday of February. Additionally, a tax-free week on clothing and footwear priced $100 or less will occur every year during the second week of August.

From 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, February 16, through midnight on Monday, February 18, 2013, qualifying ENERGY STAR products will be exempt from Maryland’s six percent sales tax. A list of exempt and taxable items is available on the Comptroller’s Web site at, or by calling the Taxpayer Service Section at 410-260-7980 in Central Maryland or toll-free 1-800-MD TAXES from elsewhere.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Nonprofits and Our Economy

On Monday, I’ll join Ike Leggett, George Leventhal and Steve Silverman, along with representatives from the academic, private and nonprofit sectors, for the release a new report, Beyond Charity: Nonprofit Business in Montgomery County. Among other findings, the report shows that 10 percent of the County’s workforce is employed by nonprofits, with total wages of $2.2 billion. That’s serious business.

Day Four of the SNAP Challenge: Hungry

It’s day four of the SNAP the Silence Challenge, and I confess to being a bit hungry, feeling the need to eat the moment I get home in the evening. I miss the feeling of being full as well as variety in my diet. I’m really hoping that my coffee allotment will hold out until the end of the challenge, especially since I already spent the dollar I saved for an emergency on extra chicken.

While I feel that my supplies are fairly meager, I recognize that I might not even have this much if I had not been able to shop in bulk (and use my Costco membership), or if I had not been able to shop at multiple locations—luxuries that many SNAP recipients likely do not enjoy.

Monday, February 4, 2013

What $25 Bought Me

As expected, fresh veggies topped the list in terms of price, followed closely by chicken. Here’s what my $25 SNAP the Silence Challenge budget got me:

Kale/veggie salad
Chicken thighs
Instant oatmeal
Coffee and milk (I am using what I have but charging myself for the portion)

I have $1 left in case of emergency. Thank you to everyone who gave me advice on what to buy and where to buy it. I did some of my shopping Costco and some at this morning's kick-off at Giant.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Making my Shopping List

I'll be joining some of my Council colleagues and nonprofit providers at the Giant on Hungerford Drive on Monday morning at 9:00 to shop for the SNAP the Silence Challenge, so stop by and say hello. Even better, join us in the challenge.

I've been working on my shopping list, trying to make sure I get enough fruits and (especially) vegetables, as recommended by my oncologist, but I'm already finding it tough on just $25. Here are some resources on how to extend a food budget: