March 1, 2024

Message from County Executive Marc Elrich

 

Dear friends,

Today we begin a commemoration of Women’s History Month. Women in Maryland earn about 87 percent of what men earn. To create more gender pay equity in the future, it is important that we provide career mentorship opportunities to young women in middle and high school now. Our Commission for Women is hosting a virtual career guidance session later this month for middle and high school girls. Read the story later in this newsletter for more information.

Maryland Counties Need Local Authority

I was back in Annapolis this week testifying before the Ways and Means committee on behalf of what I consider the most important bill in the legislature. Here is a link to that testimony.

House Bill 919 would give local counties the same authority that municipalities in Maryland already have and that is used by local jurisdictions in Northern Virginia. This legislation would allow the creation of special taxing districts designated to fund specific investments like transit infrastructure.

What I tried to emphasize to lawmakers is that this is an economic development opportunity that has worked across the river in Northern Virginia. Developers and businesses choose higher taxed areas in Virginia, like Fairfax and Tysons Corner, rather than lower taxed Maryland, and they do so because they understand that the investments their taxes produce–like the Silver Line–make their area more attractive to businesses.

These special taxing districts also help deliver projects in a timely manner. That is something we cannot do in Montgomery County because we do not have this tool. We only have impact taxes, which must be paid in a lump sum up front–this is expensive for developers and does not provide a steady stream of revenue for bonding.

House Bill 919 is only enabling legislation, which means that any changes to implement special taxing districts would require enactment by the County Council and include the public. This legislation is a 2024 legislative priority of the Maryland Association of Counties, an organization that represents all 23 counties in Maryland and Baltimore City.

The future of our state’s growth–and Montgomery County’s–is linked to investments in transportation. It is painfully clear after learning of the $3 billion shortfall in State transportation funds late last year that Maryland needs a better way forward. The collapse of the State’s infrastructure fund cannot be allowed to paralyze our plans for transportation infrastructure.

People tell me they worry that enacting special taxing districts will cause development to go to Northern Virginia. The reality is that companies already choose Northern Virginia because their tax system creates valuable infrastructure that benefits their investments. If you go to Tysons to develop, the taxes on commercial property are almost 50 percent higher than ours–so if the taxes were the issue, those businesses should be clamoring to come here.

I am asking for a favorable report out of committee for House Bill 919 and support from a majority of state lawmakers to enable the enabling legislation to pass this session.

Local Group Pushes for Gun Reforms and Safe Gun Storage



A few weeks ago, I told you about how we continue to make public safety a high priority. I have talked about some of our efforts, including drone assistance, license plate readers, security cameras in public garages and signing bonuses to recruit more officers.

I went on a ride-along with police officers a couple of months ago, and I had a chance to talk with them about the proliferation of guns. This is not only a Montgomery County problem–this is a national problem but we have to address it at the local level as much as we can.

This week I invited Joanna Pearl, a local leader with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, to join me on my media briefing. She and other volunteers with the Maryland chapter have been busy over the last few weeks in Annapolis advocating for legislative changes. I would like to see those responsible for producing ghost guns held to the same standard we demand of licensed gun dealers.

The group’s Be SMART campaign encourages responsible gun ownership.
  • Secure guns safely in homes and vehicles.
  • Model responsible behavior around firearms.
  • Ask about the presence of unsecured guns in homes your child visits.
  • Recognize the role of guns in suicide.
  • Tell peers to be SMART.
Guns contributed to more deaths among children and teens in the U.S. and in Maryland than any other factor. Every year adolescents and teenagers are responsible for approximately 350 shootings across the nation. Whether accidental, intentional or self-inflicted, these are heartbreaking numbers.

Encouraging gun owners to keep their guns unloaded, locked away and separate from ammunition are steps that can lower the risk of a gun getting into the wrong hands.

If we talk more openly about the importance of securing and storing guns properly, we can make Montgomery County safer and save lives.

Augmented Reality Introduced for Black History Month Lesson



We concluded Black History Month this week with a unique event that has leveraged new technology to learn to about the County's history. This week the County, Montgomery Parks and the University of Maryland previewed augmented reality (AR) history lessons about the Oakley Cabin African American Museum and Park in Olney. This is the first AR experience of its kind launched for a historical site in Maryland.

This week’s unveiling included a panel discussion about how to use the new technology. Eight Oakley Cabin AR experiences allow visitors to use their mobile phone to see a park interpretive staff avatar, and 3D models of the interior and exterior of the missing third cabin. The AR tours will be available in seven languages and there also will be interactive games and a flyover recreating the historical surroundings tied to this handheld history lesson.

I am very excited about this project. I hope it helps people of all ages understand why the Oakley Cabin is important.

Understanding our history–even the parts that are uncomfortable and unpleasant–are essential to building a better future. New technologies such as AR can better engage more residents, especially younger residents, to help them understand the past and see how to address and solve some of the problems of today.

World Wildlife Day



Montgomery County is home to more than one million people, which  almost can make you forget that it is an important place for many wild animals, too.

Sunday, March 3 is World Wildlife Day. It is not uncommon for trail and park users to run into a fox or to see a deer in your own yard. Montgomery Parks’ Living with Wildlife werbpage is a good resource for information on living with wildlife in our area.

However, habitat loss, pollution and climate change threaten the delicate balance that sustains our local ecosystems and the resources that support everyday life. In response to these challenges, Montgomery County continues to support several conservation efforts to protect our natural environments.

Many of the initiatives to expand the County’s green spaces are led by Montgomery Parks, which currently restores and maintains 419 parks, comprised of more than 37,000 acres of parkland.

Montgomery County is home to a rich ecosystem. From the wooded trails of Rock Creek Regional Park to the rolling hills of the protected Agricultural Reserve, the County provides habitats for a variety of important wildlife species.

Celebrate World Wildlife Day by not just acknowledging the importance of our natural environment but acting to preserve it.

Here are some individual actions all of can take:
  • Plant native plants to help ensure that bees, birds, small mammals, butterflies and other insects have the right kind of food and cover. Native plants adapt to a local environment and once established, require less water and maintenance. Montgomery Parks will host several native plant sales starting in April.
  • Diversify your plantings and include an assortment of deciduous trees of various heights, surrounded by shrubs, groundcover and perennials.
Trees are total powerhouses by:
  • Removing carbon from the air.
  • Cooling the planet with shade.
  • Providing habitat and beautifying our neighborhoods.
Montgomery Parks’ volunteer Weed Warriors program works to remove non-native and invasive plants that pose a serious threat to the health of trees in our area. In 2023 alone, Weed Warrior volunteers saved more than 17,000 trees.

You can make a difference by volunteering at a Weed Warrior Workday. These workdays are open to the public and no advanced training is required. Learn more about upcoming Weed Warrior events here.

Taking control of our home environment is good for wildlife and it is a concrete action to help combat climate change.

Caring for the water environment that is home to many animals is crucial, too.

The five rivers that comprise the Chesapeake Bay watershed—the Susquehanna, Potomac, Rappahannock, York and James—provide almost 90 percent of the freshwater that enters the Bay. Along with hundreds of thousands of smaller rivers and streams, they provide habitats necessary for many fish species, invertebrates, reptiles and amphibians.

Water control projects like RainScapes are watershed friendly ways to slow, absorb, clean and reduce rainfall runoff from roofs, walkways, driveways and compacted lawns. Along with helping to reduce drainage and prevent stormwater pollution and erosion, RainScapes reduce energy and water consumption, create wildlife habitat, improve air quality and enhance landscapes.

You can learn more about the County’s rebate program for some RainScapes by visiting our website.

Silver Spring Recreation and Aquatic Center Opens



We had a wonderful grand opening of the Silver Spring Recreation and Aquatic Center last weekend. Over the years, so many people, including former County Executive Ike Leggett and Councilmember Gabe Albornoz, have been involved in bringing this project to fruition, and I want to thank our Department of General Services and Department of Recreation for their work. You can see and hear more about the event by watching this video. Click here to read more about the features of the new Center.

Health Report

March marks the fourth year since our nation began dealing with the widespread impacts of the COVID-19 virus. The emergency phase of the pandemic ended last year but the effects can still be felt in the community, whether it be the continuing struggle with hunger or mental health needs that started or were heightened with the pandemic. When I met with former County Executive Ike Leggett last week, I appreciated his recognition of the County's work through the pandemic. It was a struggle, but I know our worked saved lives.

Getting the word out about the benefits of the vaccine brought together many different community groups across Montgomery County to learn, share and spread life-saving information. It was from those partnerships and the commitment to the greater good that we developed some of the networks that are still helping people today.

I am proud of the work we did in Montgomery County during the emergency phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, and I want to stress how important it is to continue to protect yourself and your family. Vaccines for COVID-19 and flu are still recommended. A COVID-19 vaccine can prevent serious complications from the virus and keep you out of the hospital.

As always, my appreciation for all of you,




Marc Elrich
County Executive

February 29, 2024

County Celebrates Opening of Silver Spring Recreation and Aquatic Center

County Celebrates Opening of Silver Spring Recreation and Aquatic Center

Enjoy some photos of the new Silver Spring Recreation and Aquatic Center (SSRAC). Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich was joined by U.S. Representative Jamie Raskin, County Council President Andrew Friedson and other Councilmembers, the County’s Department of General Services, Montgomery County Recreation, the Housing Opportunities Commission, Holy Cross Health, other elected officials and residents for the grand opening on Saturday, Feb. 24.

County Celebrates Opening of Silver Spring Recreation and Aquatic Center 

Located at 1319 Apple Ave. in the heart of the Silver Spring Central Business District, the SSRAC offers recreation and leisure activities, including pools designed for general swimming, low level diving, exercise, aquatic play, training and teaching opportunities. The facility also features a gymnasium, fitness space, movement and dance studios, multipurpose activity rooms, staff offices, a teaching kitchen, café, a new home for the Montgomery County Sports Hall of Fame, public use space and social space. Find out more on the SSRAC website.

County Celebrates Opening of Silver Spring Recreation and Aquatic Center
County Celebrates Opening of Silver Spring Recreation and Aquatic Center

WalletHub Names Gaithersburg Most Diverse City in United States

WalletHub Names Gaithersburg Most Diverse City in United States

Once again, Montgomery County stands out as the home of diversity in WalletHub’s latest look at ethnic and racial diversity. This year’s list of Most Ethnically Diverse Cities includes Gaithersburg at the top, followed by Germantown at #3, Silver Spring at #4 and Rockville at #8.

The online finance company publishes an annual survey that analyzes more than 500 of the largest cities across the U.S.

All four Montgomery County cities had the best scores among small cities, defined as less than 100,000 residents. Scores were tallied based on residents’ ethnicity and race, language and birthplace. Gaithersburg is the most ethnically diverse city in the U.S., with 32 percent of its residents identifying as white, 26 percent Hispanic, 16 percent black and 21 percent Asian.

“Our community has benefited from how diverse it has become because of our willingness to welcome those who are different from us,” said County Executive Marc Elrich.

Read more about the survey here.

Montgomery County Public Libraries Celebrates ‘Read Across America Week’ March 2-6 with Special Events


Montgomery County Public Libraries (MCPL) is partnering with the Jewish Council for the Aging Heyman Interages Center (JCA), or Interages, to celebrate “Read Across America Week” with a reading program at three MCPL branches. The celebration will take place Saturday, March 2, through Wednesday, March 6.

The one-on-one reading program will pair JCA volunteers with children in kindergarten through third grade. The volunteers have been recruited, vetted and trained by JCA in communication and intergenerational interaction. Reading sessions will be at the Gaithersburg, Wheaton and White Oak libraries.

“Instilling a love for reading in our young people is one of the most important things we can do to in providing great educations for our upcoming generations,” said Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich. “Having a reading partner often is the key to making reading fun and interesting. The Read Across America program in which Montgomery County Public Libraries partners with the Jewish Council for the Aging is a model program worth replicating wherever possible, even within our own homes.”

Participation does not require advanced registration. Children may bring their own book to the reading sessions or select one from the library.

Program dates, times and locations:
For more information about the program, contact Clotilde PuĂ©rtolas at Clotilde.puertolas@montgomerycountymd.gov.

Montgomery County Police Department Receives $499,993 Federal Grant to Help Combat Opioid and Firearm Crimes 

 Montgomery County Police Department Receives $499,993 Federal Grant to Help Combat Opioid and Firearm Crimes


Montgomery County’s Police Department (MCPD) recently was awarded a $499,993 competitive Federal grant to address opioid epidemic and firearm-related challenges. The funding will enable MCPD to handle cases with greater efficiency, process evidence more quickly and stay updated on advancements in forensic science.

“One of the reasons I advocated for the establishment of our new Office of Grants Management was to more aggressively go after and win competitive grants such as this Department of Justice grant that will assist the Montgomery County Police Department’s forensic crime lab to more quickly and effectively solve crimes,” said County Executive Marc Elrich. “I am grateful to the Department of Justice for this funding opportunity and applaud our Office of Grants Management and the Police Department for their work in securing these competitive funds. Investing in state-of-the-art technology is an important component of our public safety efforts. We are going to see improved results and quicker turnaround time from our crime lab due to us securing this important competitive grant.”

The grant was awarded to MCPD by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance through the Paul Coverdell Forensic Science Improvement Grant Program. It will provide MCPD's forensic crime lab with essential equipment including a mass spectrometer, a high-capacity virtual microscopy scanner with analysis software and employment of a contracted firearms/toolmark examiner.

Police Chief Marcus Jones said the grant will have a major impact on the department’s ability to solve crimes and make the County safer.

“By securing this grant, the Montgomery County Police Department’s forensic crime lab is poised to make significant strides in addressing the challenges posed by the opioid epidemic and gun crimes,” said Chief Jones. “This strategic investment will not only reduce case load backlogs, but also will bolster our ability to solve crimes, prevent drug-related deaths and create a safer community for all County residents.”

Visit the Office of Grants Management’s (OGM) website to learn more about County grant programs, other grant-related resources and OGM’s mission.

Montgomery County Recreation is Hiring for Summer

Montgomery County Recreation is Hiring for Summer

Montgomery County Recreation is hiring part-time, seasonal employees to work during the 2024 summer season. Available positions include camp directors, assistant directors, camp counselors, lifeguards and more.  

“Summer work in our Department of Recreation provides such a valuable and rewarding opportunity to create fun programming, exciting experiences and lifelong memories for youth in our community,” said Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich. “I encourage everyone to come to the upcoming job fairs to learn more and apply to work with us.”  

Job fairs are scheduled at the following locations and dates:  
  • Friday, March 8. 6–8:30 p.m. Long Branch Community Recreation Center. 8700 Piney Branch Road, Silver Spring. 
  • Saturday, March 9. 10 a.m.–12:30 p.m. Nancy H. Dacek North Potomac Community Recreation Center, 13850 Travilah Road, Rockville.
  • Saturday, March 9. 3–5:30 p.m. Germantown Community Recreation Center, 18905 Kingsview Road, Germantown. 
  • Tuesday, March 12. 6–8:30 p.m. White Oak Community Recreation Center, 1700 April Lane, Silver Spring. 
  • Thursday, April 4. 6–8:30 p.m. Upper County Community Recreation Center, 8201 Emory Grove Road, Gaithersburg.
  • Saturday, April 6. 10 a.m.–12:30 p.m. Bauer Drive Community Recreation Center, 14625 Bauer Drive, Rockville. 
  • Saturday, April 6. 3–5:30 p.m. East County Community Recreation Center, 3310 Gateshead Manor Way, Silver Spring. 
Applicants should bring their resumes, come dressed for success and be prepared to discuss their experience. The department is looking for dedicated, hardworking and motivated individuals. Applicants should note these job fairs are not job or location specific. Applicants may attend any job fair regardless of where they are seeking to work in the County.  

The part-time/seasonal pay rate begins at $16.70 an hour and increases based on experience. Applicants must be at least 16 years of age at the start of camps (lifeguards must be at least 15). Bilingual applicants are encouraged to apply. 

As a condition of employment, applicants will be required to pass a criminal background investigation. The investigation will include state, federal and sex offender background checks. 

If you are interested in working with Montgomery County Recreation you can also visit the website for additional information or to apply online. Explore both part-time and full-time opportunities.  

Expanded Eligibility for Police-Private Security Camera Incentive Program

Expanded Eligibility for Police-Private Security Camera Incentive Program

The Montgomery County Department of Police (MCPD) has announced expanded eligibility of the priority areas of the Police-Private Security Camera Program. 

Locations within these areas are eligible to participate in the program. 

The Police-Private Security Camera Program is designed to deter and solve crimes by incentivizing the installation of security cameras in geographic areas experiencing relatively high crime incidents.  An owner or tenant of a property used as a residence, business, or nonprofit organization located within an eligible priority area may apply.

To participate, individuals, businesses or nonprofit organizations must register online. Residents must purchase and install their security cameras before applying for reimbursement.  

For more information on the program, including applying and viewing an interactive map to determine eligibility, visit the MCPD website. 

Montgomery County Public Schools Looking for Hosts for Summer Rise Program

 

Montgomery County Public Schools Looking for Hosts for Summer Rise Program


Interested in preparing the next generation for the workforce and growing your talent pool? Help rising Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) high school juniors and seniors learn about your workplace and career field as part of the Summer RISE 2024 program. MCPS is seeking hosts in all career fields, particularly those in arts and entertainment, architecture, bioscience, business management, computer science, cybersecurity, engineering, finance, healthcare, law and veterinary services. Summer RISE is an MCPS initiative to help students learn about career opportunities.

If you are interested in offering a student(s) an in-person, virtual or a hybrid experience between June 24 and July 26, sign up to become a host today. Host registration will close Friday, March 15. For more information, join an informational session or visit www.MCPS-SummerRISE.org. Email or call Davida Gurstelle at Davida_Gurstelle@mcpsmd.org or call 240-740-5599 with questions.  

Montgomery Commission for Women and Montgomery Women to Hold Free Virtual Career Seminar for Middle and High School Females

Montgomery Commission for Women and Montgomery Women to Hold Free Virtual Career Seminar for Middle and High School Females

The Montgomery County Commission for Women and Montgomery Women will host a free virtual career guidance session for middle and high school female students—“A Virtual Career Exploration for Her”—from 7-8:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 21.

The Zoom event is free, but registration is required. Register here. Students completing a brief survey at the event's conclusion can earn two hours of student service-learning hours (SSL).

Panel discussions will look at careers ranging from fire services, STEM careers, the law and entrepreneurship.

It will give students the opportunity to hear from professional women who will share their experiences, knowledge and education.

For more information about this event, contact Ijeoma Enendu at ijeoma.enendu@montgomerycountymd.gov or Carmen Kaarid at carmen.kaarid@montgomerycountymd.gov.

Permitting Services Podcast Highlights Montgomery County Design for Life Property Tax Credit Program

 

Permitting Services Podcast Highlights Montgomery County Design for Life Property Tax Credit Program


The 12th episode of the Montgomery County Department of Permitting Services (DPS) Podcast series, “Design for Life Property Tax Credit Program", features information and tips about navigating the permitting process for homeowners who are planning to add accessibility features such as elevators, grab bars, no-step entrances, ramps, stairlifts and wider doorways at their homes.

To qualify for the Design for Life Property Tax Credit Program, homeowners must spend at least $500 on accessibility features and the work must be certified by DPS.

“This is an important episode for Montgomery County homeowners who are planning to redesign or renovate their homes to make them more accessible for people with mobility issues,” said DPS Customer Support and Outreach Division Chief Gail Lucas, who hosts the podcast. “This is the time of year when property owners are planning home improvements and we want to make sure they are aware of the Design for Life Property Tax Credit Program and how it works.”

Joining Ms. Lucas on the podcast is DPS Residential Plan Reviewer Mariella Dallas, who explains how important it is to submit detailed drawings for the review process.

“It’s important to indicate you are applying for a Design for Life property tax credit when filling out the application at the beginning of the permitting process,” said Ms. Dallas. “That alerts plan reviewers to look for these accessibility features on the drawings. We also suggest applicants book a free, predesign consultation to meet virtually with code officials to get your questions answered before you apply for permits.”

Homeowners can book a predesign consultation online by visiting the DPS website at montgomerycountymd.gov/dps. The Design for Life website includes detailed information about the program for building professionals and homeowners.

The Design for Life permit and process webpage is another resource to guide applicants through the steps—from applying for permits, submitting plans, scheduling inspections, applying for tax credits, reviewing the application, to receiving the property tax credit on your property tax bill.  

This episode of the Permitting Services Podcast is now available on the DPS website and various podcast platforms including Amazon, Apple and Spotify. It also is available at https://permittingservicespodcast.buzzsprout.com/. Subscribe to the podcast by tapping the “plus” or “follow” sign on the podcast provider’s platform. This episode is also available to watch on video on the County’s YouTube channel.

Previous podcast episodes have covered building safety, accessory dwelling units, deck permits, commercial building trends, use and occupancy certificates, fences, fire code compliance, the public right-of-way, septic systems, urban farming and zoning. Listeners are encouraged to send questions and ideas for future podcast episodes to dps.podcast@montgomerycountymd.gov. 

The Department of Permitting Services is located at 2425 Reedie Drive, 7th Floor in Wheaton. The customer service lobby is open from 7:30 a.m.-4 p.m., Monday-Friday. No appointment is necessary to receive in-person assistance. Customers may also reach out to DPS staff by calling MC 311 or 240-777-0311.