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 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 by 4:00 on November 6. If you have questions, contact the Council Grants Manager Joan Schaffer at 240-777-7935 or

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 for live streaming. Thanks to our technology folks for their excellent work on this.