Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Proclamation for Open Water Triple Crown Winner Jim Clifford

What a treat it was to present a County Council Proclamation to Jim Clifford, who became the world's oldest person to complete the Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming when he swam across the English Channel in ten hours, three minutes. The Open Water Triple Crown consists of three swims--21 miles across the English Channel, 20 miles across the Catalina Channel and 28 miles around Manhattan Island. At age 63, Jim broke the record for the fastest swim across the English Channel in the over 50 age category. He completed the Catalina Channel swim in nine hours, 49 minutes and the Manhattan Island swim in nine hours, 30 minutes. What an amazing accomplishment.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Montgomery County to Honor Vietnam Veterans

Here's the full press release:

Bob Schieffer, who recently retired as host of the CBS show Face the Nation, has agreed to be the host and guest speaker on Saturday, Oct. 24, as Montgomery County will honor the men and women who served the nation during the Vietnam War. The event will take place at the Universities at Shady Grove in Rockville, starting at 10:30 a.m. 

The Vietnam War—which changed the lives of those who served and altered the political scene back home—ended for the United States in 1975. Honor and Gratitude: Montgomery Salutes Vietnam Veterans will be the first significant event in those 40 years to honor the County’s Vietnam veterans. It is estimated that between 130 and 140 Montgomery County residents lost their lives in the Vietnam War. There are more than 13,000 Vietnam veterans currently living in the County. 

County Executive Ike Leggett (who is a Vietnam vet), Council President George Leventhal and the County Council will lead the special ceremonies at the Universities at Shady Grove at 9630 Gudelsky Drive in Rockville. The event will be recorded and broadcast on many of the public cable television channels that compose the County’s PEG (Public, Education, Government) organization, which is hosting the event. In addition, the PEG organization will be recording the stories of many of the veterans for a documentary. 

The program will include a look back at some of the significant events of the U.S. involvement of the conflict that dates to July 8, 1959, when two U.S. military advisers were killed in a raid at Bien Hoa. More than 800 people are expected for the Oct. 24 event, including those who were present in major actions of the 11-year U.S. involvement. Those events included attacks on the USS Maddox in August 1964 that led to Congress on Aug. 7, 1964, passing the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution that gave President Lyndon Johnson the power to take whatever actions he saw necessary to defend South Vietnam against Viet Cong forces. 

Honor and Gratitude: Montgomery Salutes Vietnam Veterans event organizers are currently seeking to contact more of the veterans who will be honored on Oct 24. Those veterans, or family and friends of the veterans, seeking more information about the event should call 301-424-1730 / ext. 350. Additional details, including how to register to attend the free event, can be found at:http://tinyurl.com/pdo4h4q 

“It has been almost four decades since our Vietnam veterans returned home,” said County Executive Leggett. “We want to take this opportunity to acknowledge their courage and patriotism and say thank you for making the world a better place. As a veteran of the Vietnam War, I know the sacrifices that were made by members of our military during times of war. This event is a perfect way for all of us to pay tribute to these brave and honorable men and women.” 

Mr. Schieffer was a reporter for more than half a century and 2015 marked his 46th year at CBS News and his 24th anchoring "Face the Nation." Prior to joining CBS in 1969, he was a reporter at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram where he was the first reporter from a Texas newspaper to report from Vietnam. 

Mr. Schieffer has won virtually every award in broadcast journalism including eight Emmys, the overseas Press Club Award, the Paul White Award presented by the TV News Directors Association and the Edward R. Murrow Award given by Murrow's alma mater Washington State University. In 2008, he was named a living legend by the Library of Congress. In 2013, Mr. Schieffer was inducted into the National Academy of Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame. 

Speakers at the event will include veterans who served in various aspects of the Vietnam conflict. The event will honor their service and also will look at how those experiences influenced their lives since. 

“So many in our community heroically served our nation, and the world, 40 years ago,” said Council President Leventhal. “Oct. 24 will be a day where our County recognizes those whose actions helped that had such a great impact on our nation. There have been many books written, and many movies made, about the people we will honor, but on this day, we will personally thank—and hear directly from—some of the men and women who did so much to shape the life and freedom we know today.” 

An important part of event will be the opportunity to record the stories of the Montgomery residents who served in Vietnam. 

“Whether they were troops in the jungles, on helicopters and bombers, serving on the ships, the river patrol boats, in the medical corps or the troops supplying them all, there are stories that have yet to be told about Vietnam,” said Merlyn Reineke, chair of the PEG Governing Board. “This event will introduce a new generation to the sacrifices made by the brave men and women in Vietnam, and as the County’s cable providers, we will be there to preserve these stories so future generations will know about their heroism. It is hard to believe there has never been a major event to honor Montgomery County’s Vietnam vets, but we think this is the right time to salute them.” 

Friday, September 25, 2015

Council to Commemorate Hispanic Heritage Month

On Tuesday the  Council will hold special ceremonies to commemorate Hispanic Heritage Month. The special event on “The Current State of the Latino Community in Montgomery County” will include a panel discussion with Hispanic and Latino leaders in the County whose work on social justice issues have helped shape the community. There also will be a video presentation featuring Hispanic and Latino residents who will share their life experiences and express their views on issues that will shape the future. Tune in to County Cable Montgomery at 11:00 a.m. to see it.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Report: Resources and Staffing among MCPS Schools

We received a report today from the Office of Legislative Oversight describing school funding and allocation patterns within Montgomery County Public Schools. The report, titled Resources and Staffing among MCPS Schools, compares differences in class size, staff tenure, per pupil expenditures and teacher salary costs between MCPS’ schools with the highest rates of free and reduced priced meals and those with the lowest FARMS rates. The report also examines the additional state and federal revenue that MCPS receives and budgets for ESOL and compensatory education programs that serve these two student subgroups.

The achievement gap between poor and middle class or wealthy students remains one of the most important and most intractable problems within our otherwise excellent education system in Montgomery County. I’m grateful to the Office of Legislative Oversight for its in-depth look at the resources allocated to resolving this long-standing issue. The findings raise some complex questions that I encourage the Board of Education to consider seriously.

Each year, the Board of Education asks the County Council for additional funding over Maintenance of Effort to meet the needs of its increasingly diverse and low-income student enrollment. According to the OLO report, though, MCPS only allocated two-thirds of the $151 million it received in additional federal and state aid for low-income students to compensatory education programs designed to meet their learning needs. That leaves $47 million in funds designed to close the gap unaccounted for. Why should the County Council ask taxpayers to chip in more resources for closing the achievement gap when MCPS hasn’t used all the money it already has precisely for that purpose?

MCPS notes in its response to the report that using $47 million in compensatory education funding for non-compensatory education programs is legal under state law. I don’t question whether it is legal, but I question whether it is morally right given the persistence of the achievement gap between poor and non-poor students in MCPS. What could MCPS have done for under-achieving students if the $47 million had been spent exclusively on compensatory programs? MCPS claims that it must use the $47 million in compensatory funding for other programs in order to maintain the high quality of instruction across the County. Does MCPS really need to tap this relatively small resource when the total MCPS budget is $2.3 billion? Where is the nearly two and a half billion dollars going if not to instruction across the County?

These are serious questions, and I look forward to working with MCPS on serious solutions. I thank the Office of Legislative Oversight for its hard work on the report.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Fourth Committee Meeting on Pesticides Tomorrow

Tomorrow at 9:30, the Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment Committee will hold its fourth worksession on Bill 52-14 which would restrict the use of cosmetic pesticides.

The bill, as introduced, would ban the use of “non-essential” pesticides on lawns, certain athletic playing fields, and County-owned public grass areas. It also would require property owners to post a notice when they apply pesticides and would require the County to adopt an integrated pest management program for certain County-owned property. The bill contains exemptions for agriculture, control of noxious weeds and invasive species, maintenance of golf courses, the protection of human health and the prevention of significant economic damage. At tomorrow's meeting, the committee will consider several proposed amendments to the bill. If you would like to follow along, you can watch the meeting live on County Cable Montgomery. It will also be available on demand 24 hours later. You can get background information on the Council’s Web site.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Purple Line Presentation and Informational Open House

Here's the flier and the full press release:

The public is invited to attend a presentation by the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) regarding recent scope changes to the Purple Line project. The meeting will be held on Thursday, September 17 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Silver Spring Civic Building, 1 Veterans Place, Silver Spring. The Purple Line is a proposed light rail line that will run from Bethesda in Montgomery County to New Carrollton in Prince George’s County. The presentation by MTA will begin promptly at 7 p.m. and will be followed by an open house, during which attendees will have an opportunity to discuss project changes with staff.

Adjustments to the Purple Line scope were made after a thorough review to identify ways to reduce project costs. As a result, some requirements have been reduced to provide more flexibility, encourage greater innovation and achieve cost savings. A detailed list of the scope changes can be found at www.purplelinemd.com. The revised approach will help deliver a more cost-efficient light rail system while still providing quality service and honoring commitments made to the Purple Line communities.

Sign language interpreter services will be provided, upon request, by emailing Karen.Falcon@montgomerycountymd.gov no later than September 14.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Sign Up for Public Hearings Online

Starting this fall, you can sign up for public hearings online. The Sign Up to Testify feature appears in two places--within the header and under the Council Activities tab. Of course, you can still sign up by calling 240-777-7803. Also new, you can get the speakers list online about three hours before the public hearing begins.