Thursday, December 29, 2016

What's In and What's Out for 2017

In -- Education:  We committed ourselves to the core goals of closing the educational opportunity gap; reducing class sizes across the board; and making decisions that are both achievable in the short term and sustainable over time. That's why we passed an "education first" budget.

In -- Marriott:  Marriott is the gold standard for corporate excellence, and their decision to continue growing their business right here in Montgomery County is great news.

Out -- Hate:   After some incidents of inflammatory speech, vandalism and harassment, the Council passed a resolution reaffirming this County's tradition of respect for all residents.

In -- Economic Development:  We launched the privatized Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation to give economic development a real shot in the arm, and we have welcomed its first executive director.

Out -- Job Insecurity:  Our sick and safe leave law, which requires employers to provide paid sick leave, took effect in October. New legislation expanded the law to include parental leave.

In -- Renters:  Under the new landlord-tenant law, renters can look forward to greater transparency about their rights and obligations under a lease as well as an enhanced focus on inspections and enforcement with regard to health and safety issues.

In - Clean Energy:  The Council Office Building's new solar panels are a part of a larger, and very successful, County initiative to generate clean solar energy on-site.

Out -- Electronic Cigarettes:  In 2015 the Council approved my bill to ban the use of electronic cigarettes wherever traditional tobacco smoking is prohibited and to require child-resistant packaging for liquid nicotine. Now the federal government is following our lead and taking aggressive steps to keep e-cigs out of the hands of minors.

In -- Gold:  Montgomery County's four Olympians brought home seven medals from the Games in Rio.

In -- New Leadership:  Congratulations to Roger Berliner and Hans Riemer who have been elected president and vice president of the Council. As the outgoing president, I had the opportunity to reflect on the Council's business over the past year.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Holiday Schedule for Christmas and New Year

Here's the County's holiday schedule for the Christmas and New Year holidays:

  • County Offices – closed Monday, December 26 and Monday, January 2 
  • Libraries – closed December 25, 26 and January 1, 2
  • County Liquor stores – closed
  • Recreation – All facilities and programs closed December 25 and January 1. Senior centers are closed December 24 through January 2. For information on schedules for aquatic facilities and community centers during the holiday week go to
  • Montgomery Parks - for the holiday operating schedule on Parks’ facilities visit
  • Ride On – Saturday, December 24: Saturday schedule with limited late evening service. Trips scheduled to depart from the terminal at 10:01 p.m. or later will NOT depart. Sunday, December 25: Sunday schedule. Monday, December 26: Sunday schedule (Christmas Day - observed). Sunday, January 1: Sunday schedule; Monday, January 2: Sunday schedule (New Year's Day - observed)
  • Metrorail – Information available at
  • Metrobus – Information available at
  • TRiPS Commuter Stores (Silver Spring and Friendship Heights) – closed
  • Transfer Station and Poolesville Beauty Spot– closed on December 25 and January 1
  • Refuse/recycling pickup – will operate as scheduled
  • The Shady Grove Processing Facility and Transfer Station - closed
  • Parking at public garages, lots, curbside meters – free
  • MCPS Schools and Administrative Offices – Schools and offices closed Monday, December 26 and Monday, January 2; no school for students and teachers December 26 – January 2
  • State offices and courts – closed Monday, December 26 and Monday, January 2

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

County's Olympians to be Honored

Update 12/21: see the video of the event.

Here's your chance to congratulate the County’s 2016 Team USA Olympians. The free celebration will be held on Monday, December 19 from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m. at the Silver Spring Civic Building. The evening will include presentations from the County Executive and Council, musical entertainment and more. Jack Conger, Katie Ledecky and Ashley Nee are confirmed to attend. Helen Maroulis is traveling and will not be able to attend.

Montgomery County is home to four of the 11 athletes who represented Maryland during the 2016 Olympic Games which took place in Rio de Janeiro from Aug. 5-21.

  • Jack Conger from Rockville competed in the 4x200m freestyle swimming event. Conger graduated from Our Lady of Good Counsel High School in 2013. Conger earned a gold medal.
  • Katie Ledecky, former gold medalist from the 2012 Olympics competed in the 200m freestyle, 400m freestyle, 800m freestyle and 4x200m freestyle. Ledecky, from Bethesda, graduated from Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart in 2015. Ledecky earned a silver and four gold medals.
  • Ashley Nee from Bethesda competed in the Canoe Slalom. Nee graduated from Northwestern High School.
  • Helen Maroulis, a graduate from Col. Zadok Magruder High School student, is a wrestler who competed in the Freestyle 53 kg. Maroulis earned a gold medal.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

New Leadership and a Look Back

Congratulations to Roger Berliner and Hans Riemer who have been elected president and vice president of the County Council starting today. I have every confidence that next year will be another great one for our county.

As the outgoing president, I had the opportunity to reflect on the Council's business over the past year. Here are my remarks in full (see the video):

This was absolutely a year to look back on with pride. The Montgomery County Council truly set the gold standard for commitment and hard work to move our community forward.

Principally, this was an "Education First" year. Entering into a historic and unprecedented partnership with the Board of Education, we took their budget both for instruction and construction to the highest levels ever funded.  We followed that up with tightening the school capacity test for development and significantly increased the school impact taxes. As a result of our budget decisions, students and parents are now getting more teachers, paraeducators, counselors and other student support positions, as well as expanded programs to support achievement goals and enhance college and career readiness. What’s more, we’re on track to construct school revitalizations and additions sooner than expected. 

I want to especially recognize Craig Rice as chair of the Education Committee for his leadership and advocacy, particularly with respect to the opportunity gap he has prioritized us addressing.

While we’re on the subject of education and opportunities for youth, I especially want to congratulate Nancy Navarro for partnering with the Norman and Ruth Rales Foundation and MCPS to bring the Building Educated Leaders for Life (BELL) summer program to more than 1,000 students annually from Title 1 schools, as well as her dedication to early childhood education initiatives.

Certainly we focused heavily on education this year, but it wasn’t our only priority.

We also focused on health and welfare, including prohibiting minors from using indoor tanning devices and mandating food allergen awareness training in restaurants.

And for those residents who aren’t sure where their next meal will come from, we thank Roger Berliner for leading the charge to create a strategic plan to reduce food insecurity in our county.

We also focused on equality, fairness and lending a helping hand by creating a new property tax credit for seniors; tightening wage reporting requirements to ensure workers are paid a living wage; and ensuring workers can take parental leave.

Also, Montgomery County now benefits from a Mental Health Court designed to address the challenges of increasing numbers of people committing minor crimes due to mental illness. Thanks in part to Sidney Katz’s participation on the Mental Health Court Planning and Implementation Task Force, people who have committed crimes due to a mental illness can access a structured program for treatment.

And, as a result of Marc Elrich’s landlord-tenant bill, renters can look forward to greater transparency about their rights and obligations under a lease as well as an enhanced focus on inspections and enforcement with regard to health and safety issues.

In the category of good government, I want to recognize George Leventhal for introducing the bill that established a salary schedule for heads of County departments and principal offices, thereby ensuring better transparency and accountability. 

And I also recognize Hans Riemer for spearheading the effort to win a Department of Labor grant to study paid family and medical leave throughout the county, thereby helping chart the best path forward.

It has been a very big year in terms of business and development. We launched the privatized Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation to give economic development a real shot in the arm, and we have welcomed its first executive director. We have put our business community in charge of our business development program, and that is an outstanding achievement for this County.

In our land use planning efforts, we have focused on supporting and modernizing existing communities. We are completing the work on Lyttonsville, which will join the sector plan work on Montgomery Village and Westbard to encourage appropriate reinvestment in those areas. We put many hours into updating the Subdivision Staging Policy, and subdivision regulations, which modernized our processes for reviewing development, tightening tests, adding clarity to often misunderstood regulations that will guide our future, and support the infrastructure that the future requires.

Of course, legislation is only part of the work we do here.  There have been quite a few challenging community issues this past year. There is no better example of that type of constituent service than that of Tom Hucker and his deep involvement with families affected by the explosion and fire at the Flower Branch apartments in Silver Spring.

In fact, public outreach to our more than one million residents has been a hallmark of this body. 

This year the Council as a whole held four town hall meetings, a public forum on cell towers and 52 public hearings. Individual Councilmembers held dozens more town halls, forums and special events in their districts or for special populations. This is a Council that likes to meet with people face to face, and you can find at least one our sponsored events just about every week of the year.  

In 2016, we made great strides in reaching more people and doing it in more ways, reflecting a County that is becoming more tech savvy and more diverse. We have aggressively expanded our use of social media to better inform residents about issues and about Council actions. We now have thousands of followers on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. In order to expand our reach we have staff dedicated to outreach in our Hispanic and Asian communities. We also greatly improved our immediacy in 2016. You can now get video summaries of many Council actions and key discussions the day they happen. Our cable station, County Cable Montgomery was recognized with a local Emmy for its outstanding communications work. It's quite an array of community connections success.

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t address one big issue of the last year or so, and that is the seismic shift in the way our country engages in public discourse. We’ve seen a dramatic increase in vitriolic speech and a prevalence of style over substance. It seems that the news media have been crippled by the overwhelming task of fact finding and fact checking, and the American public is showing signs of political fatigue no matter what their party affiliation.

Although we like to think of ourselves as somewhat insulated from national trends here in Montgomery County, the truth is that we’ve experienced tremblors here too.

Unfortunately we’ve seen some acts of vandalism, hate speech and harassment, and that has made folks understandably jittery. Many Councilmembers and staff have experienced more impoliteness and a lack of civility in the course of their everyday work, and that can be dispiriting. 

But we cannot let this get in our way. The work we do represents our future, and we are fortunate to be in this unique position of being able to shape it for the better.

It is with the particular challenges of this past year in mind that I want to say thank you to all of you for what you do to make our little corner of the world a better place.

On a personal note, I want to thank my chief of staff, Judy Jablow for her sage advice and for her outstanding leadership among the Confidential Aides. I also want to recognize the rest of my team--Ruthann Eiser, Jocelyn Rawat and Tedi Osias.  I know that each of my colleagues feels equally grateful to their own personal staffs.

Of course we all are indebted to the larger Council team—the 5th floor analysts and support staff, the Office of Legislative Oversight and the Legislative Information Office. You are the backbone of this organization, and we are deeply grateful to you.

Success is no accident. It takes hard work, patience, perseverance, learning, trust, collaboration and commitment, with a dose of good humor thrown in. By that, by any definition, this has been a most successful year for this Council. You all have demonstrated these qualities and for that our county has been very well served. It has been my deep privilege to lead you this past year, and I am sure that next year will be equally outstanding. Thank you all.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Changes to Council Web Site Create More Access

Check out the new and significant revision to the Council's Web site. You can now access in one click agendas for Council sessions and committee meetings. You can also get informational packets for every issue to be discussed at meetings and view live meetings and archived videos of past meetings. Go to and click on "Council Meeting Portal" to get this information plus minutes of prior meetings, summaries of Council actions and voting outcomes on legislation.

The Council broadcasts live all Council sessions, public hearings and committee meetings. If two committee meetings are ongoing simultaneously, you can choose from the site to see the live broadcast of either.

On the same page, click on “Archived Agendas and Packets,” to access archived agendas and prior informational meeting packets dating to 2004. A new “search” feature greatly improves the ability to find items by subject or name. Videos on demand are available for Council meetings and most committee meetings dating to 2005. Videos of evening public hearings back to 2010 also are available.

You can view videos of some Council special events, such as town hall meetings, or special programs produced by County Cable Montgomery  under “Other Council Videos.”

To access the new site and its key information for upcoming meetings:

  • From the Council home page, click on the box near the top of the page that reads “Council Meeting Portal. Agendas, Packets, Live and Archived Video.”
  • On the page, under “Current and Upcoming Meetings,” find meetings identified by date and the desired session.
  • Click on “Agendas/Packets” and then go to the meeting informational packet for that specific item.Agendas for upcoming meetings are generally available two-to-three working days before a meeting. Detailed informational packets for each item on an agenda are generally added about 48 hours prior to the meeting.

Information on previous Council sessions or committee worksessions are available by finding the desired meeting and clicking on either “Agendas/Packets” or “Video.” Meeting videos can be viewed by specific items, so you do not have to watch the entire meeting when seeking video on just one item.