Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Council Receives Update on the County's Fiscal Plan

Yesterday the Council’s agenda included an update on the County’s Fiscal Plan. We heard that our revenue estimates have turned out to be too high. That’s why the County Executive will be sending us his proposed savings plan for this fiscal year, through the end of June, 2018. We should receive the Executive’s proposal within the next two weeks. You can learn more from the Council’s staff packet  and watch yesterday’s Council session to hear the questions we asked. Stay tuned for more updates.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Council Elects New Leadership

Congratulations to our new Council President, Hans Riemer and our new Council Vice President, Nancy Navarro. We will have two very talented leaders at the helm in the coming year, and I feel optimistic about our future. Best wishes Hans and Nancy! You can read the full press release here.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Youth Town Hall

I couldn’t be happier with this year’s Youth Town Hall meeting. Nearly 300 students and young residents of Montgomery County were in attendance on Wednesday, November 29. My colleagues and I spoke with many students individually while others asked the full Council questions about important issues affecting their lives. Some topics discussed included bullying prevention, gang activity, pre-k education, issues affecting minority students, school overcrowding and overall safety in schools. I want to thank everyone who attended and I was especially impressed with the thoughtfulness of the questions we received. If you couldn’t attend, you can still watch it here.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Town Hall Meeting for Students - Wednesday, November 29 at 7:00 p.m.

The Council will hold the always-popular Town Hall Meeting for Students on Wednesday, November 29, at the Council Office Building in Rockville. The meeting will be held in the Council’s Third Floor Hearing Room beginning at 7 p.m. A pre-meeting reception will begin at 6:00 p.m. in the building’s second-floor cafeteria. 

This meeting is open to high school, middle school and local college students. This event provides an opportunity for the participants to let Councilmembers know how they feel about specific issues and to ask us questions in an organized, but informal, setting. 

The meeting will be broadcast live on County Cable Montgomery (CCM—cable Channel 996 on Comcast, Channel 1056 on RCN, and Channel 30 on Verizon) and rebroadcast at various times in the weeks following the meeting. The meeting will also be streamed on Facebook Live and YouTube (FB.com/CountyCableMoco and YouTube.com/CountyCableMoCo).

If you need more information or have questions about the meeting, email sonya.healy@montgomerycountymd.gov or call 240-777-7926.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Holiday Schedule for Thanksgiving

Montgomery County government will observe the following holiday schedule for Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, November 23:

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Montgomery County Executive's Ball - Sunday, December 3, 2017

Join me at this year’s Montgomery County Executive’s Ball on Sunday, December 3 at the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel and Conference Center. This annual event supports the invaluable education programs of our County’s arts and humanities organizations. Purchase tickets here or visit www.mocoexecball.org for more information.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Metro Red Line Takoma Station Closed and No Train Service From Silver Spring to Fort Totten Stations from November 25 through December 10

Beginning Saturday, November 25 through Sunday, December 10, there will be no Red Line trains operating between the Silver Spring and Fort Totten stations, as the Takoma station will be closed for a major improvement project. For more information and travel alternatives, visit the WMATA website.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Holiday Schedule for Veteran's Day

Here's the County's schedule for Veteran's Day:

Montgomery County government will observe the following holiday schedule for Veterans Day, Friday, November 10.
County Offices – closed  
Libraries – closed
County Liquor stores – all County liquor stores will be open normal hours.
Recreation – aquatic and community centers open as scheduled with the exception of the Germantown Indoor Swim Center, which is closing at 2 p.m. on November 10 and closed all day on November 11 for a swim meet; classes and programs will meet as scheduled; all senior programs cancelled, and administrative offices and senior centers closed.

Montgomery Parks - For operating schedule, visit www.MontgomeryParks.org
Ride On – will operate on a special modified holiday:  http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/DOT-Transit/holiday_schedules.html.  .
Metrorail – Information available at www.wmata.com
Metrobus – Information available at www.wmata.com
TRiPS Commuter Store at Silver Spring Transit Center - open 6 a.m. - 6 p.m.
TRiPS Mobile Commuter Store – not operating 
Refuse/recycling pickup – Regular schedule
The Shady Grove Processing Facility and Transfer Station – Regular schedule
Parking at public garages, lots, curbside meters – free
State offices and courts – closed

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Full Council Approves Minimum Wage Bill Increase to $15/hour

Today we unanimously approved Bill 28-17, Human Rights and Civil Liberties – County Minimum Wage – Amount – Annual Adjustment, that will increase the County’s minimum wage to $15 per hour on July 1, 2021 for large employers with 51 or more employees. Mid-sized employers with between 11 and 50 employees must raise wages to at least $15 per hour on July 1, 2023. Small employers with 10 or fewer employers must pay workers $15 per hour on July 1, 2024. Non-profit
organizations with 501(c)(3) designations and eligible service providers must raise wages to $15 per hour by July 1, 2023, unless they are considered a small employer. In addition, Bill 28-17 provides that the minimum wage must be adjusted annually for inflation according to the Consumer Price Index for urban wage earners and clerical workers (CPI-W), starting July 1, 2022.

What people want most is a job. I am pleased this legislation protects small businesses, especially those with less than 50 employees, while providing a transition over five to six years to implement a $15 per hour minimum wage. However, this is a regional issue and I strongly urge our State legislators to expand this Council’s efforts and enact legislation so all Marylanders can earn a fair wage. We need to make sure we have an environment that supports job growth by retaining and attracting new businesses in Montgomery County. Here's the full press release and you can watch my comments at today's Council session.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Proposal To Address Congestion, I-270 and I-495

I testified last Thursday at the state delegation's Annual Statewide Transportation Investment Tour. I encouraged the state to think big and take an aggressive, multi-modal approach in the Governor's P3 program to address traffic on I-495 and I-270. here's the full press release:

ROCKVILLE, Md., Nov 3, 2017— Councilmember Nancy Floreen, member of the Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment Committee, testified yesterday at the State Delegation’s Annual Statewide Transportation Investment Tour.
Every year, the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) Office of the Secretary and representatives from MDOT’s business units visit Montgomery County to discuss transportation investments. This tour provides updates for local officials and the public on the Governor’s Administration Draft FY 2018-2023 Consolidated Transportation Program (CTP), and details of MDOT’s $14.7 billion six-year capital budget.
In her testimony, Councilmember Floreen encourages the State to “think big” and “to take an aggressive multi-modal approach in the Governor’s P3 program to address traffic on I-495 and I-270. By expanding the effort to include the Corridor Cities Transitway, a longtime County priority, in the P3 project, Maryland can be assured of assuming national leadership in multi-modal planning; linking highway improvements to transit needs; and achieving a truly comprehensive solution to our deep and abiding congestion problems.”
To read Councilmember Floreen’s entire testimony, visit https://tinyurl.com/ya67u6by .

Friday, November 3, 2017

County Maintains AAA Bond Rating

Good news: Montgomery County has maintained its Triple-A bond rating for 2017 from three Wall Street bond rating agencies. Fitch, Moody’s, and Standard & Poor’s all affirmed the “AAA” rating – the highest achievable -- for the County. They all termed the outlook for Montgomery County as “stable.” Here's the press release:

County Executive Ike Leggett today announced that Montgomery County has maintained its Triple-A bond rating for 2017 from all three Wall Street bond rating agencies.

Fitch, Moody’s, and Standard & Poor’s all affirmed the “AAA” rating – the highest achievable -- for the County. They all termed the outlook for Montgomery County as “stable.”

“The County’s budget management demonstrates a strong commitment to bolstering its reserve cushion in preparation for the next downturn,” said Fitch. “Given the County’s conservative management practices and emphasis on increasing reserves, operations are expected to remain strong.” Moody’s noted that “the county’s financial flexibility remains sound,” while S & P indicated that the County’s “financial practices are strong, well embedded, and likely sustainable.”

The Triple-A bond rating enables Montgomery County to sell long-term bonds at the most favorable rates, saving County taxpayers millions of dollars over the life of the bonds. The rating also serves as a benchmark for numerous other financial transactions, ensuring the lowest possible costs in those areas as well.

“What is remarkable about this is that Montgomery County has continued to receive a Triple-A bond rating from all three bond rating agencies even during these past few years when other jurisdictions – including the federal government – were seeing downgrades and despite federal shutdowns, budget sequestrations and the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression,” said Leggett.

“Our ability to maintain our coveted Triple-A rating affirms my approach to putting the County’s fiscal house in order and reducing unsustainable increases in County spending, while investing in making government more effective and creating opportunities for the growth of good jobs in the future.”

“The retention of the County’s AAA Bond Rating is important for saving millions of dollars over the life of our bonds,” said Council President Roger Berliner. “This has helped save our taxpayers significant money and is a result of the prudent fiscal policies developed by the Council in 2010 and 2011.”

"As chair of the Council’s Fiscal Policy committee, I am pleased to learn that Montgomery County has once again retained its AAA bond rating from all three major rating agencies,” said Councilmember Nancy Navarro. “The retention of our AAA rating is a testament to our strong commitment to responsible fiscal policy."

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Legislation Introduced to Create More Affordable Homes - Bill 34-17, Housing -Moderately Priced Dwelling Units (MPDUs)

Today I introduced Bill 34-17Housing - Moderately Priced Dwelling Units (MPDUs) - Amendments, which is the first major revision to the MPDU law in 13 years. This legislation would add flexibility to the MPDU program. Our County's future depends on a robust economy. This bill will set the stage for many new housing opportunities to support a growing workforce. Here's the full press release:

ROCKVILLE, Md., Oct. 31, 2017—Today, Councilmember Nancy Floreen, Chair of the Planning Housing and Economic Development Committee, introduced the first effort in thirteen years to update the County’s rules to increase the supply of affordable homes. Significant revisions to the Moderately Priced Dwelling Unit (MPDU) program, which Councilmember Floreen proposes in Bill 34-17, Housing – Moderately Priced Dwelling Units – Amendments, hold the promise of increasing the number of affordable homes for families who need them.  
Councilmember Floreen’s bill will add needed flexibility to this landmark program, to bring it in line with current needs. It would confirm the Council’s authority to increase the required percentage of MPDUs on a community by community basis during each master plan review. Master plans guide development and land use in the County.  The Council reviews, revises, and approves master plan recommendations made by the Planning Board.  Currently, County law requires at least 12.5% of housing developments to be MPDUs, but, in some areas, the Council has determined that 15% is a more appropriate minimum requirement.  
“Our County’s future depends on a robust economy. This bill will set the stage for many new housing opportunities to support a growing workforce,” said Councilmember Floreen.  
In a break from the past, Bill 34-17 extends the requirement to contribute to our housing needs by requiring a payment to the Housing Initiative Fund for all new housing developments including those below the current threshold of 20 units. It also broadens the authority of the Director of the Department of Housing and Community Affairs (DHCA) to accept Housing Initiative Fund payments in lieu of including MPDUs in a development. Experience has shown that the County can achieve more MPDUs in certain circumstances if affordable homes are provided in a different location. The funding can be strategically used to increase needed rental units in place of condominiums with unaffordable fees. Restrictions apply so that the off-site location remains in the general vicinity of the original development. These new sources of revenue will add badly needed support to the county’s efforts to add more affordable units for the folks who need them the most.  
Also, the bill would authorize the Director of DHCA to calculate the MPDU obligation by square feet if the result is more homes or homes better sized to meet the needs of our low and moderate-income residents.  
Councilmember Floreen’s bill contains many other provisions designed to update the MPDU program, make it more responsive to the needs of today’s residents, and, most importantly, produce more homes for families.

Monday, October 30, 2017

The Full Council Meets with Senator Ben Cardin

Today we met with Senator Ben Cardin. This informal session allows time for Senator Cardin to discuss important issues with the County Council. We covered a wide range of topics including concerns of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), gun control, the proposed tax reform bill, and healthcare. We are fortunate to have Senator Cardin advocating for the residents of Montgomery County.

Open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) begins November 1

The Affordable Care Act enrollment begins November 1. Several changes have occurred but health insurance coverage is still available through the ACA. The enrollment period is only 45 days this year (until December 15), so be sure and enroll early so you don’t miss the chance for affordable health coverage. You can browse and compare plans at www.marylandhealthconnection.gov. Financial assistance is still available for those who qualify.  Find out what documents you need to enroll at www.montgomeryhealthconnection.org.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Apply for Merit System Protection Board - Application Deadline is Wednesday, November 1

We're accepting applications from qualified voters of the County for appointment to a three-year term on the Merit System Protection Board. Generally, the Board is expected to oversee the Merit System and to protect employee and applicant rights guaranteed under the County Merit System. Here's the full press release:

ROCKVILLE, Md., October 17, 2017 - The Montgomery County Council is accepting applications from qualified voters of the County for appointment to a three-year term on the Merit System Protection Board. The term of Charlotte Crutchfield (Democrat) will expire on Dec. 31. Ms. Crutchfield has indicated that she does not intend to apply for reappointment. Applications must be received in the Council office by 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 1.  
 
In addition to Ms. Crutchfield, current members of the board are Angela Franco (Republican) and Michael Kator (Democrat). By law, no more than two of the three members of the Merit System Protection Board may be of the same political party. The appointee for this position may be a Democrat, Republican, a voter who declines to affiliate with a party, or a voter who is a member of another party officially recognized by the Board of Elections.
 
Generally, the board is expected to oversee the Merit System and to protect employee and applicant rights guaranteed under the County Merit System. There are two methods in which the board processes appeals:
• A written decision issued after a review and discussion of a written record.
• A written decision issued after a pre-hearing conference and a formal hearing in cases involving a suspension, demotion or dismissal.  
 
The board, on a periodic basis, conducts special studies, audits or inquiries of the administration of the merit and retirement pay systems and, in this effort, may compel the attendance of witnesses. Written reports of its findings and recommendations are filed with the County Executive and the County Council. The board also provides comments on any proposed changes in Merit System law or regulations.
 
The board generally holds hearings during the day, which may take the full day, with any additional proceedings normally scheduled for subsequent days or evening(s). The board normally meets once per month during the day for approximately two hours. Additional time is also required for preparatory work.  
 
Members of the board currently receive $7,862.91 per year, which is adjusted annually to reflect 50 percent of the percentage change in the Washington Area Consumer Price Index. The chair receives $10,084.77 per year.
 
Board members are restricted in political activity while serving. Section 403 of the County Charter states, in part: “No member shall hold political office or participate in any campaign for any political or public office during the member’s term of office.”  
 
Members of County boards, committees and commissions may not serve on more than one such group at a time.
 
Letters expressing interest, including a resume listing professional and civic experience, political party affiliation, home and office telephone numbers, and an email address should be addressed to: Council President Roger Berliner, County Council Office, 100 Maryland Avenue, Rockville, Maryland 20850, or can be emailed to county.council@montgomerycountymd.gov. Applications must be received no later than 5 p.m. on Nov. 1. It is the Council’s policy not to consider applications received after the deadline. After the application closing date, Councilmembers will review the letters of application and may select applicants for interview.
 
Letters of application and resumes are made public as part of the appointment process. Any interviews held are open to the public and will be televised. A financial statement of assets, debts, income and family property interests will be required of all applicants. Only the appointed candidate will be required to make the financial statement available to the public.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Prescription Drug Take-Back Day is Saturday, October 28 from 10:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m.

Here's complete information regarding Montgomery County's participation in this year's Nationwide Prescription Drug Take-Back Day:

Montgomery County Law Enforcement Agencies and DHHS to Participate in
DEA Nationwide Prescription Drug Take-Back Day

For Immediate Release: Monday, October 16, 2017

On Saturday, October 28 between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., community members can drop off unused, unwanted, or expired prescription drugs as Montgomery County once again participates in the Washington Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA’s) National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day.

County law enforcement agencies and the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse Prevention Office are co-sponsoring the effort. This is a safe, free and anonymous opportunity to dispose of unused, unwanted or expired prescription drugs and is part of a national effort to prevent the increasing problems of prescription drug abuse and theft that continues to occur nationwide.

Drop-off locations will be open to the general public throughout Montgomery County. These locations will accept prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications only. Liquids, illicit drugs, needles, sharps and syringes cannot be accepted as part of this take-back program. Officers will staff collection boxes in the parking lots of the following facilities or in facility lobbies:

  • Bethesda
MCP 2nd District Police Station                                     7359 Wisconsin Avenue

  • Chevy Chase:
Village of Friendship Heights
      Community Center                                                           4433 S. Park Avenue

Chevy Chase Village Police Station                                 5906 Connecticut Avenue

  • Damascus
Damascus Library                                                             9701 Main Street

  • Gaithersburg:
MCP 6th District Station                                                 45A West Watkins Mill Rd.

Gaithersburg Police Station                                              14 Fulks Corner Avenue

Asbury Methodist Village – Lobby of Hefner Bldg.       417 Russell Avenue

Senior Living at Kentlands Manor                                   217 Booth St., Kentlands

  • Germantown:
MCP 5th District Station                                                20000 Aircraft Drive

  • Rockville:
Rockville City Police/Montgomery County Sheriffs       Rockville City Police Station  
2 W. Montgomery Avenue (Lobby of Rockville City Police building)

Maryland State Police Rockville Barrack                        7915 Montrose Road

Bender Jewish Community Center (JCC) of Greater Washington                                                                                                                                   6125 Montrose Road
  • Silver Spring:
MCP 3rd District Station                                                1001 Milestone Drive

Fire Station 1                                                                    8110 Georgia Avenue

  • Takoma Park:
Takoma Park Police at Takoma Park City Building Lobby 
7500 Maple Avenue
  • Wheaton:
MCP 4th District Station                                                2300 Randolph Road                                                                       

Residents are encouraged to bring in medications containing controlled substances but will accept any medications brought for disposal. All sites will take pills and medication patches of all kinds. If possible, prescription labels should be removed or personal information should be blacked out; however, pill bottles will still be accepted if the labels are attached. No questions will be asked. This is an opportunity to safely empty out a medicine cabinet of drugs that are no longer needed.

Disposing of prescription drugs through a drug take-back day is the safest option. If it is safe to dispose of a drug by flushing it down a toilet, the drug label or prescription information will indicate that option is an appropriate means of disposal. Otherwise unused drugs should not be poured down a sink or flushed for disposal.

Drugs should not be thrown in the trash unless specific safety precautions for safe disposal are followed. The County’s Division of Solid Waste Services offers these suggestions:

  1. Place unwanted or expired medication into a plastic bag (with a seal) or other empty container with a lid to prevent liquid medications from leaking out.
  2. Mix with kitty litter, coffee grounds or sawdust. (Liquid medications can be solidified using kitty litter or sawdust.)
  3. Seal the bag and/or container.
  4. Crush pills or tablets.
  5. Put the container and/or bag containing the medication into your regular household trash.
  6. Remove the label with the patient’s name from the original medicine vial or bottle.
  7. Place the empty plastic vial or bottle into your blue County recycling bin. Empty aerosol inhalers can also be recycled in recycling bins.

Unused and/or expired medicines that remain in home cabinets are highly susceptible to diversion, misuse, and abuse. According to the DEA, rates of prescription drug abuse in the U.S. are alarmingly high, as are the number of accidental poisonings and overdoses due to these drugs.  Studies show that a majority of abused prescription drugs are obtained from family and friends, including from the home medicine cabinet.
The returned medications on Drug Take-Back day will be incinerated according to federal and state environmental guidelines.   

###


Media Contact: Lucille Baur, 240-777-6547 or Lucille.Baur@montgomerycountymd.gov

Friday, October 20, 2017

A Community Meeting on Small Cell Antennas is this Monday, October 23 from 7-9 p.m.

The County Executive is asking for the community's input regarding a proposed Zoning Text Amendment to revise the County’s zoning code for deployment of small antennas on neighborhood streetlights and lower-height buildings.  Here's the full press release:

The County Executive is requesting public input on a draft Zoning Text Amendment (ZTA) to revise the County’s zoning code to address deployment of small antennas on neighborhood streetlights and lower-height buildings. A community meeting for this input is being held from 7-9 pm on Monday, October 23, 2017 at the Stella B Werner Council Office Building, 100 Maryland Avenue, 3rd Floor Hearing Room Rockville, MD 20850 and will be carried live on County Cable Montgomery, Facebook, and YouTube.
Because wireless technology is evolving, Montgomery County has recently received an unprecedented number of applications to deploy small cell antennas in residential neighborhoods as well as commercial areas around the County. Federal law is clear that Montgomery County cannot pass zoning laws that would have the effect of prohibiting service throughout the County. Therefore, the proposed ZTA is intended to allow providers to provide service while protecting the character of both our residential neighborhoods and commercial areas by regulating how and where these antennas can be placed, and how they should be screened or camouflaged.
The ZTA, an interactive map, and links to submit public comments can be found at www.montgomerycountymd.gov/antennaZTA.
# # #

Release ID: 17-439
Media Contact: Mitsuko Herrara 240-777-2928

Thursday, October 19, 2017

County Council Proclamation Presented to For 3 Sisters for Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Earlier this week, I presented a County Council Proclamation recognizing October as Breast Cancer Awareness month to For 3 Sisters. This grassroots organization is headquartered in Olney, MD and was founded by retired Montgomery County firefighter, Marshall Moneymaker, after he lost his three older sisters to breast cancer. You can watch the Proclamation presentation here.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Council Unanimously Approves Legislation on Short-Term Rental Services

Yesterday, we voted unanimously to enact two pieces of legislation, Zoning Text Amendment 17-03, and Bill 2-16, which address the legal and regulatory status of short-term rentals in the county. Effective July 1, 2018, these two measures allow county residents to legally use short-term residential services like Airbnb and HomeAway, with some restrictions.

For example, each short-term rental must have a license, and that location must be the primary home of the person applying for the license. Furthermore, if the owner of the property, or the authorized representative of the owner, isn’t on the premises during the rental, then rentals are limited to 120 days a year. Also, online ads must include the County license number. Here’s the full press release:

ROCKVILLE, Md., October 11, 2017—The Montgomery County Council voted unanimously on Tuesday, October 10 to enact two legislative proposals that address the legal and regulatory status of short-term rentals in the County. The two measures, ZTA 17-03 and Bill 2-16, represent Council Vice President Riemer’s and the Montgomery County Planning Board’s recommendations to balance the substantial economic potential for County residents of short-term residential services like Airbnb with concerns about regulating these services. The measure was initially introduced by Council Vice President Riemer more than a year ago, and was sent to the Planning Board to gather public input and refine the approach. After a September 12 public hearing and two Planning, Housing, and Economic Development (PHED) Committee meetings to review these measures, the Council voted unanimously (9-0) to adopt both measures.  
ZTA 17-03 makes bed and breakfasts limited uses in most residential and mixed-use zones. It limits the total number of adult overnight guests in a short-term rental to six, limits the total number of adult overnight guests per bedroom to two, and requires one off-street parking space for each rental contract. These measures put in place a regulatory framework that did not exist before, addressing concerns about the potential for residential housing to be used exclusively as a short-term rental service.  
ZTA 17-03 was approved with two revisions: (1) The dwelling unit used as a short-term rental must be the property owner’s or owner-authorized resident’s primary residence, which was an amendment recommended by the PHED Committee and (2) If the property owner or owner-authorized resident is not present in the residence, the property can be used as a short-term residential rental for a maximum of 120 days in a calendar year, which was an amendment recommended by Councilmember Katz. 
The Council also enacted Bill 2-16, which requires that several conditions be met to receive short-term residential licensing. Bill 2-16 was introduced by Council Vice President Riemer and cosponsored by Councilmember Rice.  
Council Vice President Riemer spoke about the importance of these measures which ensure that residents can benefit from short-term rental services while maintaining the security and character of neighborhoods.  
“By bringing all the stakeholders together, we were able to find a balance that works for us here in Montgomery County,” said Council Vice President Riemer. “This legislation will allow residents and visitors to get the value of home-sharing services, while preventing abuse and stopping investors from creating de facto hotels in residential neighborhoods and taking valuable housing stock off the market.”  
At the September 12 public hearing, the Council heard compelling testimony from County residents who use Airbnb and similar services to rent out rooms. Marcy Wolf-Hubbard described how, after her husband retired due to health issues, “the income we make from renting our room helps with the high cost of living here in Montgomery County.”  
Another resident, Elizabeth Wallace, described how short-term rentals help her age in place, which was a common theme among those testifying. “I’ll be 65 next month. I paid off my mortgage a decade ago; I’d like to stay in my home.”

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Councilmembers Ask State to Limit Toxic Coal Waste from Power Plants

The full Council sent a letter to Benjamin H. Grumbles, Secretary of the Maryland Department of the Environment, asking him to reduce toxic coal waste from the Dickerson power plant and other coal-fired plants in the State. It’s imperative the State abide by current standards adopted by the federal EPA in 2015, to protect our water from the pollutants that coal plant waste produces. Here's the press release

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Georgetown Branch Trail - Detour Biking Routes

Looking for an alternate biking route for the Georgetown Branch Trail? You might want to try one of these detour routes suggested by the Montgomery Bicycle Advocates. Here's the official MCDOT bike detour route. And Here's suggested detour routes from The Washington Area Bicyclists Association (WABA).

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Council's T&E Committee Receives Purple Line Update Tomorrow, Thursday, September 28 at 10:30 a.m.

Tomorrow I join my colleagues, Council President Roger Berliner and Councilmember Tom Hucker at a Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment (T&E) Committee meeting for a Purple Line Project update from officials at the Maryland Transportation Administration (MTA), and the Purple Line Transit Partners (PLTP). Here's the press release:
ROCKVILLE, Md., September 27, 2017—The Montgomery County Council’s Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment (T&E) Committee will meet at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, September 28 to receive an update from Purple Line Transit Partners (PLTP) and the Metro Transit Authority (MTA). PLTP and MTA will answer questions gathered by Council staff from civic groups and residents who live along the Purple Line right-of-way.
The T&E Committee, which is chaired by Council President Berliner and includes Councilmembers Floreen and Hucker, will meet in the Third Floor Council Hearing Room.
The main purpose of the meeting is to enable MTA and PLTP, the consortium responsible for designing, building, operating and maintaining the Purple Line, to respond to the many questions raised by community organizations, the Planning Board, and Council staff, as well as any brought up by Councilmembers.
Council President Berliner, who also chairs the T&E Committee, asked the MTA and PLTP to introduce the key individuals who will direct the implementation of the Purple Line and related projects including the Capital Crescent Trail, the Silver Spring Green Trail, and the Bethesda Metro Station Southern Entrance. The T&E Committee also invited individuals with whom the public can be in direct communication during the construction period.
The Purple Line is a 16-mile light rail line that will extend from Bethesda to New Carrollton. It will provide a direct connection to the Metrorail Red, Green and Orange Lines at Bethesda, Silver Spring, College Park and New Carrollton. Twenty-one Purple Line stations are planned. The Purple Line will also connect to MARC, Amtrak and local bus services.

The staff report can be viewed at:
http://montgomerycountymd.granicus.com/MetaViewer.php?view_id=169&event_id=7419&meta_id=143545

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Apply For the Merit System Protection Board

Applications are due by Wednesday, November 1, 2017. Here's the full press release:

ROCKVILLE, Md., September 19, 2017 - The Montgomery County Council is accepting applications from qualified voters of the County for appointment to a three-year term on the Merit System Protection Board. The term of Charlotte Crutchfield (Democrat) will expire on Dec. 31. Ms. Crutchfield has indicated that she does not intend to apply for reappointment. Applications must be received in the Council office by 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 1.  

In addition to Ms. Crutchfield, current members of the board are Angela Franco (Republican) and Michael Kator (Democrat). By law, no more than two of the three members of the Merit System Protection Board may be of the same political party. The appointee for this position may be a Democrat, Republican, a voter who declines to affiliate with a party, or a voter who is a member of another party officially recognized by the Board of Elections.

Generally, the board is expected to oversee the Merit System and to protect employee and applicant rights guaranteed under the County Merit System. There are two methods in which the board processes appeals:
·         A written decision issued after a review and discussion of a written record.
·         A written decision issued after a pre-hearing conference and a formal hearing in cases involving a suspension, demotion or dismissal. 

The board, on a periodic basis, conducts special studies, audits or inquiries of the administration of the merit and retirement pay systems and, in this effort, may compel the attendance of witnesses. Written reports of its findings and recommendations are filed with the County Executive and the County Council. The board also provides comments on any proposed changes in Merit System law or regulations.

The board generally holds hearings during the day, which may take the full day, with any additional proceedings normally scheduled for subsequent days or evening(s). The board normally meets once per month during the day for approximately two hours. Additional time is also required for preparatory work. 

Members of the board currently receive $7,862.91 per year, which is adjusted annually to reflect 50 percent of the percentage change in the Washington Area Consumer Price Index. The chair receives $10,084.77 per year.

Board members are restricted in political activity while serving. Section 403 of the County Charter states, in part: “No member shall hold political office or participate in any campaign for any political or public office during the member’s term of office.” 

Members of County boards, committees and commissions may not serve on more than one such group at a time.

Letters expressing interest, including a resume listing professional and civic experience, political party affiliation, home and office telephone numbers, and an email address should be addressed to: Council President Roger Berliner, County Council Office, 100 Maryland Avenue, Rockville, Maryland 20850, or can be emailed to county.council@montgomerycountymd.gov. Applications must be received no later than 5 p.m. on Nov. 1. It is the Council’s policy not to consider applications received after the deadline. After the application closing date, Councilmembers will review the letters of application and may select applicants for interview.

Letters of application and resumes are made public as part of the appointment process. Any interviews held are open to the public and will be televised. A financial statement of assets, debts, income and family property interests will be required of all applicants. Only the appointed candidate will be required to make the financial statement available to the public.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Montgomery County Adopts the International Green Construction Code (IgCC)

Today we unanimously passed Executive Regulation 21-15 AMII, which adopts the International Green Construction Code (IgCC). We established green building code requirements that significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Montgomery County. Here's today's press release:

Montgomery County is taking a major step forward to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and meet climate protection goals with today’s unanimous Council approval of Executive Regulation 21-15 AMII, which adopts the International Green Construction Code(IgCC) establishing green building code requirements.

“I commend the Department of Permitting Services for its persistence in pushing this code forward and I thank the County Council for its approval of the Executive Regulation,” said Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett.

With adoption of the IgCC, Montgomery County establishes a baseline requirement that new, non-residential construction and additions of 5,000 square feet or more must be designed and constructed to reduce building energy use by at least 50% over the average commercial building energy consumption in the base year of 2000. 

In addition to reducing energy consumption by 50%, projects must mitigate heat island impacts associated with development and divert at least 50% of construction and demolition waste material from landfills.  This green building code is a critical step in meeting the County’s commitment to implementation of the County’s Climate Protection Plan

“This green construction code will result in reduced energy spending for building users,” said Diane Schwartz Jones, director of the Department of Permitting Services. “It is essential to reduce environmental impacts from building-related greenhouse gases and places us on a path to leave a far better legacy for future generations.”

The requirements of the IgCC will take effect on Dec. 1, 2017 in Montgomery County. 

For more information, visit the Department of Permitting Services website.

Monday, September 18, 2017

FOX 5 Chooses Montgomery County for Their New Headquarters

I am pleased that WTTG Fox 5 and WDCA Fox 5 Plus will move its headquarters to Bethesda. This is great news as it will bring approximately 200 jobs to the County. You can read more about the relocation here.


Thursday, September 7, 2017

Montgomery County Launches "Renters Have Rights" Campaign

Today I joined County Executive Ike Leggett, Councilmembers Marc Elrich, Hans Riemer, Tom Hucker; DHCA Director Snuggs, and HOC Executive Director Stacy Spann for a press release that  launched a “Renters Have Rights” campaign of stepped-up inspections and outreach to tenants. You can view my comments at today's event or read the full press release:

Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett today launched a “Renters Have Rights” campaign of stepped-up inspections and outreach to tenants. The purpose of this campaign is to let renters know they have a voice and that the County Department of Housing and Community Affairs (DHCA) is here to listen.

“Due to our recently updated housing law, the Department of Housing and Community Affairs now has expanded responsibilities and resources to step up their housing inspections and tenant advocacy,” said Leggett. “I urge tenants to call 3-1-1 if they have any concerns so that our housing department can inspect and enforce fixes, if needed, or otherwise offer tenants the help they request.”

Leggett was joined by Councilmembers Marc Elrich, Nancy Floreen, Tom Hucker, and Hans Riemer, as well as Department of Housing and Community Affairs Director Clarence Snuggs, and the Executive Director of the Housing and Opportunities Commission, Stacy L. Spann.

The County Department of Housing and Community Affairs (DHCA) will inspect every multifamily apartment building over the next two years. Renters can request their unit be inspected. Results of those inspections will be used to establish a list of problem properties that will be subject to at least an annual inspection, based on the responsiveness of the owner and tenants to address identified life and safety issues. The inspection process will begin with older properties, those that have received many tenant complaints, and those with a history of code violations – especially life and safety violations.

Increased inspections are a staple of the updated law, but this campaign is more than just announcing inspections. Renters are encouraged to contact DHCA to learn about their rights and DHCA is available to help mediate conflicts between renters and landlords.

The “Renters Have Rights” outreach campaign directs people to call 3-1-1 to learn how Montgomery County can provide free, confidential, anonymous help to ensure housing safety, mediate conflicts, and otherwise advocate for tenants. The updated law also includes funding for additional tenant advocacy staff.

“I am very happy to see both this public outreach campaign for renters and the stepped up inspection and enforcement actions taken by the Executive,” said County Councilmember Marc Elrich.  “This is the kind of pro-active approach that I hoped my tenant legislation would foster. I believe that this can make a meaningful difference for tenants, who account for one third of residents in our county.  I recently saw one of the signs on a Ride-On bus directing tenants to contact the county if they are having issues; in the past, tenants often did not know that the County could offer help. It is also worth noting that tenants can be anonymous even when interacting with the County.  This effort signifies a new prioritization for the safety and well-being of our County’s renters.”

“More than a third of residents in our county are renters and that number will continue to increase for the foreseeable future,” said Council President Roger Berliner. “Understanding your rights as a renter is an essential step to address issues of importance to your quality of life.  We must educate and empower our growing and diverse renter community and I am pleased that our county is playing a more proactive role in doing just that.”

“Renters Have Rights” Outreach Campaign Elements

·         Ads on interior (EnglishSpanish) and exterior Ride On buses, bus shelters and County facilities
·         Doorhangers regarding tenant rights and responsibilities to be distributed in multifamily apartment buildings
·         Online communications via social media (TwitterFacebook) and the County website, electronic boards (English,Spanish)

and the Paperless Airplane
·         Lobby signs posted in every multifamily apartment building, in six languages
·         Upcoming County-wide training sessions for landlords and tenants
·         Flyer to be distributed via elementary school backpacks in communities where renters are primarily located
The updated housing law also encourages the formation of tenant associations that can develop a voice and establish a relationship with property owners. And, it assures that landlords must offer a two-year lease at signing and renewal. Updated tenant responsibilities are included in the enacted legislation, as well.

For more information visit DHCA’s Tenant Rights website, which includes tenant rightsresponsibilitiesDHCA services, and more.