Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Council Elects New Leadership

I'm very pleased to have been elected Council president in a unanimous vote of my colleagues. Roger Berliner was elected vice president, and we will serve one-year terms effective today. Here are the remarks I made to the Council:

Thank you. I’m gratified and humbled by this election. I want to congratulate Roger Berliner as he assumes the role of vice president. Roger is a seasoned veteran of Council leadership, having already served as president and vice president as well as chair of the Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment Committee.  And this year he will be chair of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. All of us will benefit from his counsel and experience. 

I especially want to thank outgoing president George Leventhal. Under his outstanding leadership we have truly been a "Council That Works to create a Government That Works." The breadth of the Council’s accomplishments this past year has been extraordinary. I will work hard to build on George’s record of listening carefully to our community and harnessing the ideas and energy of the entire Council. Thank you, George. 

There’s still plenty of work to do, especially since we anticipate serious budget challenges this spring.  We must preserve and enhance the services that define us as a county, including public safety, transportation, the safety net for our most vulnerable residents, and our world-class education system. But the question we will need to ask ourselves is whether, as the County Executive has implied, these fiscal challenges will warrant a significant tax increase next year. 

Two weeks ago, at George’s suggestion, we started an intensive review of the factors driving the cost of government.  We know that in the last 15 years, our per capita income has grown by 60 percent, but the percentage of our residents living below the poverty line has grown by just as much. In that period our County budget has doubled, even though it was flat during the Great Recession and has only grown slowly since then. We can’t pre-judge the decisions we will make in the spring, but I really want to make sure that we base them on the realities our residents face. 

That’s why I’m so focused on doubling down on our commitment to economic development, job growth and expanding the tax base. Five years ago, in the depth of the recession, we launched the Montgomery Business Development Corporation, a public-private partnership designed to leverage the best minds, resources, and institutions with the aim of fueling our economy. 

In a natural next step from MBDC, we are now replacing the County’s Department of Economic Development with a new non-profit organization, led by business leaders themselves, to strengthen our ability to retain current businesses and attract new ones. I have high hopes for this new kid in town. We expect the new Economic Development Corporation to think differently, act nimbly and truly elevate the status of economic development and business growth in Montgomery County. That will be good for the bottom line and good for our entire community.

What else is on the agenda for 2016?  Knowing my colleagues, I’d guess a lot. You are all champions for closing the achievement gap, protecting public health, expanding access to opportunities and preserving the environment. So I am confident we will have many innovative ideas to consider. And we will do so in partnership with the County Executive and our Delegation in Annapolis. 
I’m very proud to be a part of this pro-active and compassionate body.  Colleagues, keep up the great work!  Thank you for your support today and for your support in the coming year.

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