Friday, January 31, 2014

Apply Now for Planning Board Chair

Apply now to fill a position on the Montgomery County Planning Board for the expiring term of Fran├žoise Carrier (Democrat).  Her term will expire on June 14, 2014.  Ms. Carrier, who serves as the Planning Board Chair, has indicated that she will not apply for reappointment.

The Council will designate a new chair in conjunction with the appointment process by designating either the appointee or another sitting Board member to be the chair. If a current member of the Board is designated chair, the new appointee will serve as a board member.

No more than three members of the Planning Board may be from the same political party, and each member must be a resident and registered voter of Montgomery County when appointed. Members serve four-year terms and are limited to two full terms. The position can be filled by a Democrat, Republican, a voter who declines to affiliate with a party, or a member of another party officially recognized by the Montgomery County Board of Elections.

The Council will designate a new chair in conjunction with the appointment process by designating either the appointee or another sitting Board member. Applications must be received no later than 5 p.m. on April 7.

In addition to Ms. Carrier, current board members are Casey Anderson (D), Norman Dreyfuss (R), Amy Presley (R) and Marye Wells-Harley (D). Annual compensation for Board members is currently $30,000, and the Chair currently earns $168,450.  The Council expects to set the salary for the Chair prior to the appointment.

The Planning Board serves as the Council’s principal adviser on land use planning and community planning.  Planning Board members also serve as Commissioners of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission.

The Planning Board’s responsibilities with regard to planning include preparation and amendment of the County General Plan; preparation and amendment of Master Plans and functional plans; formulation of subdivision regulations; preparation of or recommendations on text amendments to the County Zoning Code; implementation of the subdivision process by reviewing and approving all preliminary plans, site plans and other plans for development; advice on the planning implications of capital facilities and programs of the County government, Montgomery College, the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission and Montgomery County Public Schools; commenting, under its mandatory referral authority, on plans for public facilities of local, state and federal agencies; and approval of the work program and the annual operating budget for the Planning Department and the Commission’s bi-county offices.

The Planning Board sits as the Park Commission and approves the annual Parks Department operating budget and Capital Improvements Program (CIP); land acquisition contracts and major development contracts for parks; development plans for individual park facilities; policies for park operations; and park user fees.

The Montgomery County Planning Board meets all day every Thursday and often meets on one other evening a week. The entire Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission meets the third Wednesday of every month. On average, a Planning Board member can expect to spend at least two full days a week in scheduled and informal meetings. Additionally, substantial time is required for preparatory work and other activities related to Planning Board responsibilities.

Send your letter of application expressing interest, including a resume listing professional and civic experience, to: Council President Craig Rice, County Council Office, Stella B. Werner Council Office Building, 100 Maryland Avenue, Rockville, Maryland 20850. Applications can also be submitted via email to county.council@montgomerycountymd.gov.

Applications must be received no later than 5 p.m. on Monday, April 7.  It is the Council’s policy not to consider applications received after the deadline. After the April 7 closing date, Councilmembers will review the letters of application and select applicants for interviews to be held soon thereafter.

Letters of application and resumes are made public as part of the appointment process, and are available for public review. The interviews are conducted in public and may be televised. A resume of professional and civic experience should be included with each letter of application. A financial disclosure statement of assets, debts, income and family property interests will be required to be filed by each applicant.  Only the ultimate appointee will be required to make the financial disclosure statement available to the public.

CIP Public Hearings February 5 and 6

Let us know what you think about the County Executive’s proposed six-year Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 Capital Budget and FY 2015-2020 Capital Improvements Program (CIP). The Council will hold public hearings on February 5 at 1:30 and 7:00 and February 6 at 7:00. To register to speak, call 240-777-7803. If you prefer, you can send your comments to county.council@montgomerycountymd.gov to have them included in the public record. The Council will hold several worksessions over the coming months before making a final decision on funding.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

New Councilmember Appointed

Congratulations to Cherri Branson who we have appointed as the new Councilmember for District 5. Ms. Branson will succeed former Councilmember Valerie Ervin, who resigned from the Council on January 3 to become executive director of the Center for Working Families. Ms. Branson will complete the unexpired term, which ends on December 1, 2014.

A graduate of Vassar College (B.A.), Indiana University School of Law (J.D.), and Emory University School of Law (LL.M.), Ms. Branson has held key staff positions in the U.S. House of Representatives since 1989. She is now Chief Counsel for Oversight on the Democratic staff of the House Committee on Homeland Security.  She has been president of the African American Democratic Club of Montgomery County. The Council appointed her as a member of the County’s Commission on Redistricting in 2011. She has also served as a member of the Charter Review Commission.

The swearing-in ceremony is scheculed for 4:00 today and will be televised live by County Cable Montgomery (CCM--Cable Channel 6 on Comcast and RCN, Channel 30 on Verizon). It will also be streamed through the Council Web site at www.montgomerycountymd.gov/council and available later on demand.

Monday, January 27, 2014

My Pick from WLB: Miss Representation

There were a lot of reasons I enjoyed yesterday's Women's Legislative Briefing, including serving on a panel about women in elected office with my friends, Nancy Navarro and Valerie Ervin. The Commission for Women always does a terriffic job with this event, and I particularly enjoyed the screening of Miss Representation, a documentary film that exposes how mainstream media contribute to the under-representation of women in positions of power and influence in America. While watching the film, I was stuck by how much our economy depends on selling goods at the expense of women and girls. If you haven't had a chance to see it yet, I encourage you to check it out, or you can see a list of the statistics featured in the film.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Residential Road Plowing

Here's the update we received from DOT about the status of residential road treatments:

MCDOT crews have fully transitioned into treating residential neighborhoods and will continue until all residential streets have been addressed. All roads are anticipated to be treated by evening rush hour. However, travel countywide will continue to be hazardous due to winds that may result in “blow over" snow on previously treated roads. MCDOT’s policy of treating neighborhood streets is to provide “passable” roads which may allow a thin layer of packed snow or ice after plowing and treatment. Crews will continue to monitor all neighborhood street conditions as melting and/or refreezing of runoff occurs. Please exercise extreme caution at all times. Progress and information on residential plow operations may be tracked on the County's Storm Operations Map found on its website at http://www5.montgomerycountymd.gov/snowmap/. Additional request for service or to report missed streets may be requested through the map portal which is the most effective manner to request additional service and/or to report missed streets. Please note that the portal will only accept requests if the street(s) are reported by MCDOT to be complete. Please be patient as DOT attends to more than 4,200 lane miles of residential street during snow removal.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Council and Committee Meetings Cancelled Tomorrow

The following Council sessions scheduled for tomorrow have been postponed and will be scheduled at a later date:

9:00--PHED/T&E worksession on Clarksburg/Ten Mile Creek
12:45--Council session
1:30--public hearings

No word yet on whether the government offices will be open.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Zoning Code Rewrite Finished

Today we finished our work on the first proposed major changes in the Zoning Ordinance since 1978. We had reserved additional time this afternoon, all day on Thursday and part of next Tuesday for worksessions if needed, but those sessions are now cancelled.

We took straw votes on many proposed revisions to the zoning ordinance, but those votes remain tentative decisions until our final, formal vote on a date to be determined in February.

If you have been following along, you know the PHED Committee held numerous worksessions over a six-month period in 2013 on revisions that were recommended by the Planning Board. The full Council held the first full-day worksession on proposed revisions yesterday.

You can view Council sessions on demand at County Cable Montgomery beginning the day after the meeting.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Next Steps to Fill District 5 Vacancy

Here's the press release from the Council President:

ROCKVILLE, Md., January 14, 2014—Montgomery County Council President Craig Rice today outlined next steps in the process to appoint a new Councilmember for District 5. On Jan. 3, 2014, Councilmember Valerie Ervin resigned from the Council to become executive director of the Center for Working Families.

As provided in Sections 102 and 106 of the County Charter, the Council will appoint a new Councilmember for District 5 to complete the 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 former Councilmember Ervin (Democrat).

Applications closed on Jan. 8, 2014. Each application letter, recommendation letter, and resume was made available to the public. “The Council deeply appreciates the interest of all the applicants in serving the community,” said Council President Rice.

The Council will interview 13 applicants.  (One applicant, Harold McDougall, withdrew.) Interviews are scheduled for 2 p.m. on Jan. 17, 22, and 24 in the Third Floor Hearing Room of the Council Office Building at 100 Maryland Ave. in Rockville.  The interviews are open to the public and will be televised live by County Cable Montgomery (CCM—Cable Channel 6 on Comcast and RCN, Channel 30 on Verizon). The broadcast also will be streamed through the Council web site at www.montgomerycountymd.gov/council and will later be available on demand.

The interviews will start with a list of questions provided to interviewees in advance. The interview schedule and the list of questions appear below.

The Council is scheduled to vote on the appointment on Tuesday, Jan. 28.  Immediately after the vote the new Councilmember will be sworn in by the Clerk of the Circuit Court.

Interview Schedule

January 17

Jeanette Dixon 2:00 pm
Kim Jones 2:30 pm
Alan Bowser  3:00 pm
Dale Tibbitts 3:30 pm
Michael Diegel  4:00 pm

January 22

Arthur Jackson, Jr.  2:00 pm
Herman Taylor 2:30 pm
Andrew Kleine  3:00 pm
Timothy Male 3:30 pm
Cherri Branson 4:00 pm

January 24

Ronald Galvin, Jr. 2:00 pm
Jay Hutchins III 2:30 pm
Daniel L. Wilhelm  3:00 pm

Interview Questions for the District 5 Council Seat
  1. Why would you like to be the interim Councilmember for District 5, and what do you hope to accomplish in this role?
  2. What civic, professional, or other experience qualifies you for this appointment?
  3. What do you see as the three most important issues facing the Council in 2014?  Are there any issues that you would add to this list?
  4. Many of the Council’s land use decisions require balancing the community’s desires for further economic development and enhanced environmental protection.  What factors would you look at in trying to achieve a reasonable balance in individual cases?
  5. As you know, the operating budget for the public school system currently makes up about half of the total County operating budget, and the state maintenance of effort law requires its funding to be increased as enrollment increases.  What factors would you look at in trying to balance the school system’s request for funding above the required level with the needs of other high priority County programs and agencies, such as libraries or public safety?
  6. This position requires a very large commitment of time and attention to prepare for meetings of the Council and its Committees and to interact extensively with constituents and others from the public sector, the private sector, and the community at large.  In particular, during much of April and May the Council will meet five days a week as we consider the budget.  Are you prepared to make this commitment of time and attention?
  7. The current professional staff who serve District 5 residents collectively have more than 20 years' experience working for the Legislative Branch.  Would you have any reservations about retaining the current staff to maintain continuity of service for District 5 residents?
  8. Is there any actual or potential conflict of interest, or anything else in your background, of which the Council should be aware?
  9. Can you confirm that you do not intend to run for this seat, or the Council generally, in this year’s election?

Holiday Schedule for Martin Luther King Day

Here is our holiday schedule for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Birthday on Monday, January 20:

  • 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 closed
  • Montgomery Parks – for operating schedules, including Brookside Gardens, ice rinks, tennis centers, trains and carousels, visit www.MontgomeryParks.org
  • Ride On – Special modified holiday schedule (check schedules at www.Rideonbus.com)
  • 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 – 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).

Monday, January 13, 2014

Zoning Code Rewrite Goes to Full Council

On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of this week, the Council will hold all-day worksessions on the PHED Committee’s draft of the Zoning Code Rewrite. This draft includes all the changes made by the PHED committee in addition to plain language edits, corrections, and clarifications. These meetings are open to the public, or you can watch them live on County Cable Montgomery.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

MBDC Gets Grant for Healthcare Workers Training Program

The Montgomery Business Development Corporation is at it again, this time winning a grant award for a business-led training initiative for healthcare workers. Nice work, MBDC. Here’s the press release:

ROCKVILLE, Md., January 9, 2014—The Montgomery Business Development Corporation (MBDC), which was created three years ago by the County Council, this week announced it will receive a grant award from the Employment Advancement Right Now (EARN) Maryland program for a first of its kind, business-led training program for healthcare workers.

MBDC’s proposed Healthcare Workers: Rx for Employability initiative will convene a health care sector partnership as part of EARN Maryland, a state-funded competitive workforce and economic development grant initiative created in 2013. Under the leadership of Governor Martin O’Malley and Leonard Howie, secretary of the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation (DLLR), EARN Maryland is the state’s first skills training and economic development program of this type.

The Healthcare Workers Rx for Employability partnership proposed by MBDC will focus on the healthcare industry’s business leadership and is designed for flexibility and collaboration.

“We are fortunate in Montgomery County to have some of the County’s most prominent and innovative business representatives working with us to advance our shared economic development goals,” said County Councilmember Nancy Floreen, who chairs the Council’s Planning, Housing and Economic Development Committee.  “MBDC and its partners are poised to make a difference in Montgomery County generally, and with this project, specifically.  It is great that the organization received this grant award, and I’m confident it will do great things with it.”

MBDC, the lead applicant for the grant, brings unique connections with both the business community and public agencies. Working in collaboration with the Montgomery County Department of Economic Development, MBDC’s mission is to provide engagement and a platform for the private business community in economic development and policy decisions. The health care industry is a major employer in Montgomery County and MBDC has been active in developing partnerships and outreach with workforce and training entities to support this industry. MBDC will oversee and facilitate the implementation of a structured collaborative action plan.

EARN Maryland is based on a successful national model. Among similar initiatives around the country, this approach led to skills advancement, career building opportunities and increased wages. Sector strategies are among the few interventions with a growing body of evidence showing improved employment opportunities and wages for workers as well as increased productivity and other positive outcomes for employers.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Cold Weather Tips--Save Your Pipes

Check out this press release from our Fire and Rescue about protecting your pipes during freezing weather:

Montgomery County, MD - - Montgomery County Fire and Rescue reminds residents that it’s not too late to prepare for the cold weather ahead. With below-freezing temperatures in the forecast this week, a few simple steps can keep your family safe and your home’s pipes from freezing. Fire officials offer the following tips to prepare your home for winter weather:

1. Prepare your pipes in advance. Remove, drain and store garden hoses used outside. If practical, use an inside valve to shut off and drain water from pipes leading to outside faucets. This reduces the chance of freezing pipes just inside your house.

2.  Properly winterize automatic landscaping sprinkler systems.

3.  Check and monitor any exposed pipes in unheated areas such as basements, garages, attics and crawlspaces.

4.  As temperatures drop below freezing, protect indoor sink pipes located along exterior walls by opening under-sink cabinet doors to allow heat to circulate.

5. Consider keeping your thermostat at the same temperature during the day and at night. While temporarily suspending any pre-programmed energy-efficient settings could result in a slightly higher utility bill, it might prevent a costly repair bill if pipes freeze and break.

6. If your pipes break, seek the assistance of a professional plumber and never use a hair dryer or other appliance to thaw frozen pipes – you risk electrocution.

7. If you are going to be away during the cold weather, leave the heat on in your home and set the thermostat no lower than 55 degrees.

8. Mobile homes are typically more vulnerable to frozen pipes so take proper precautions.

9. Stay informed. Sign up for Alert Montgomery.

Please check on your elderly neighbors and friends who may need additional assistance to ensuretheir safety and always having working smoke alarms in your home. Visit us for more safety tips.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

County's Snow Emergency Page

With winter weather expected tonight and tomorrow morning, keep this link handy. The County's snow emergency page has everything you need to know about snow plowing, closings and power outages, including an interactive map of snow plow progress. It's a great resourse.