Friday, December 19, 2014

What's In and What's Out for 2015

In – jobs:  With my proposal for a special appropriation for economic development, which the Council approved, we will substantially increase the number of challenge grants and prizes available for entrepreneurs and innovators through the Department of Economic Development. It also will allow additional spending on marketing and business development programs generally. With this special appropriation, we are stimulating the local economy by encouraging entrepreneurship and job creation, and that's a good investment.

Out -- ambiguity:  Confused about zoning in Montgomery County? You’re not alone. Up until recently, only a select few understood the nuances of our 1,200-page zoning ordinance. But now, thanks to the newly overhauled code, zoning information in Montgomery County is clearer, more accessible and available online. That means residents will be able to participate more effectively in key land use decisions and that small businesses will be able to locate and expand in the county without having to untangle a complicated web of archaic rules.

In -- public campaign financing:  This year, the Council approved a voluntary public campaign financing system for candidates for County Council and County Executive. Beginning with the 2018 election, a candidate for Council or Executive may seek matching funds for small dollar contributions of $150 or less from a Public Election Fund.

Out -- nicotine:  I recently introduced a bill that would prohibit the use of electronic cigarettes in public spaces where traditional cigarette use is prohibited, including public buildings and restaurants.The bill also would prohibit use of electronic cigarettes by minors and would require child-resistant packaging for them. The use of electronic cigarettes, commonly called “vaping,” has grown dramatically since the product’s introduction in 2007. The practice has become so commonplace that the Oxford Dictionary selected the word “vape” as its 2014 “Word of the Year.” Although electronic cigarettes do not produce tobacco smoke, they do contain nicotine and other potentially harmful chemicals.

In -- White Oak:  The Council approved the much-anticipated White Oak Science Gateway Master Plan, transforming the area on the east side of the County around the Route 29 corridor and the Food and Drug Administration into a community of vibrant mixed-use centers. With the passage of this plan, we are realizing a once-in-a-lifetime chance to create the opportunity for robust employment and amenities in the eastern part of the County after a generation of moratoria.

In – pets:  The new Montgomery County Animal Services and Adoption Center opened to the public last spring. The state-of-the-art facility is operated by the Montgomery County Police Department’s Animal Services Division and serves as the County’s only open-admissions animal shelter. Programs and services offered at the new Center include: adoptions, lost and found, pet licensing, field services, pet-owner and adopter support and foster and volunteer opportunities.

Out – congestion:  They say you never really learn to swear until you learn to drive, but now you may be able to save a few nickels from going in the curse jar, according to the most recent Mobility Assessment Report. The study conducted by the Montgomery County Planning Department shows stabilization and even improvement in congestion in several key areas, especially on roadways near the Intercounty Connector.

In -- Georgia Avenue/Randolph Road:  The long-awaited interchange project to replace the existing Georgia Avenue/Randolph Road signalized intersection in Glenmont is now underway. Residents stand to benefit not only from congestion relief but also improved traffic safety and enhanced economic development.

In – good neighbors:  Last winter, with the seemingly never-ending snow storms, I awarded Golden Shovels to a record 111 individuals. This award honors those who help their neighbors clear snow and ice after a storm and make their communities safer. We received an avalanche of nominations, demonstrating just how generous Montgomery County residents are.

In -- new faces:  The Council welcomes our newest members, Sidney Katz and Tom Hucker. While they are new to the Council, they aren't new to public service, and they already hit the ground running. I'm looking forward to serving as Council vice president this year while my friend and fellow fourth-term Councilmember, George Leventhal, serves as president.

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