January 31, 2014

Cherri Branson Selected to Fill District 5 Council Seat

County Executive Ike Leggett welcomes new District 5 Councilmember Cherri Branson at her swearing in ceremony. Branson will serve the unexpired term of former Councilmember Valerie Ervin who resigned in early January
Cherri Branson has been selected by acclamation by the County Council as the new Councilmember for District 5. She succeeds former Councilmember Valerie Ervin, who resigned from the Council to become executive director of the Center for Working Families. Branson will complete the unexpired term, which ends December 1, 2014.

She has held key staff positions in the U.S. House of Representatives since 1989 and is currently Chief Counsel for Oversight on the Democratic staff of the House Committee on Homeland Security.

Branson is a past president of the African American Democratic Club of Montgomery County. In 2011, the Council appointed her to County’s Commission on Redistricting. She has also served on the Charter Review Commission.

“Cherri Branson has outstanding civic and professional experience, and the Council looks forward to her service,” said Council President Craig Rice. “We were fortunate to have many excellent applicants, and our decision was a difficult one. We deeply appreciate their willingness to serve the community.”

“I am familiar with many of the key issues facing the County and the Council, and I will work quickly to learn more,” Branson said. “I pledge to effectively represent the residents of District 5 -- and all the people of Montgomery County.”

Executive Talks to Students about a Legacy and Lessons

County Executive Ike Leggett recently visited St. Francis International School in Silver Spring to talk to students about the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the lessons of Civil Rights, especially for young people as they chart their futures.

County Council to Host Town Hall Meeting in Clarksburg

The County Council will meet with residents of Clarksburg, the County’s fastest-growing community, at a Town Hall Meeting on February 26 at Rocky Hill Middle School starting at 8 p.m. The school is located at 22401 Brick Haven Way, just off of Route 355. A pre-meeting reception will begin at 7:30 p.m.

For more information, call 240-777-7931 or check County Calendar.

Montgomery County Council of PTAs Endorses Leggett’s Capital Budget, CIP

The Montgomery County Council of Parent-Teachers Association (MCCPTA) has announced their support for the recommended $1.7 billion Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 Capital Budget and FY 2015-2020 Capital Improvements Program (CIP) unveiled by County Executive Ike Leggett.

MCCPTA President Janette Gilman stated, "County Executive Leggett's recommended budget addresses the urgency of building school capacity to accommodate the explosive, continuing growth of our student population. The priority placed on school construction as county revenues rebound is very welcome.”

In their news release, the organization noted that the “Executive’s recommendation includes a significant increase in the local contribution for school funding, $1.117 billion, an historic high.”

The MCCPTA pledged to “work closely with the County Executive, County Council, and our delegation in the Maryland General Assembly to secure additional state funding to match the additional local contribution.”

Get more information from the County’s school construction funding website.

County Executives Request Support from Gubernatorial Candidates for Increased Education Funding

County Executive Ike Leggett (center) and his counterparts from Baltimore and Prince George’s counties have sent a joint letter to each of the three Democratic candidates for governor requesting that the candidates – Anthony Brown, Doug Gansler and Heather Mizeur – join the executives in advocating for increased state funding for education for their respective counties.

The letter read, in part: “Additional capital investments in education in our jurisdictions will provide a higher quality learning environment for our students and enable our teachers to meet the education needs of the 21st century. In addition to the long term education benefits, this investment will create jobs, foster economic development and improve the quality of life across the counties.”

See the letters on the school construction funding website.

Facing Seasonal Storms: It’s All About Being Prepared

Three easy-but-important steps that residents can take to be prepared for seasonal storms are provided on a handy flyer produced by the Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security.

Information on how to sign up for Alert Montgomery, knowing what phone numbers to have on hand and how to make an emergency kit are detailed.

Hot Tips for Cold Weather Safety

Our area has attracted unusually cold weather this winter, complete with gusty winds and temps with wind chills sometimes going below zero.

The County Fire and Rescue Service (MCFRS) reminds residents that, especially in these conditions, it’s important to be prepared, monitor the weather, be safe and take a minute to check on elderly or homebound neighbors and friends.

See the rundown of MCFRS-recommended tips for cold-weather safety.

Remaining Enrollment Dates for Affordable Health Care

Enrollment for health coverage through the Affordable Care Act continues until March 31. Residents of Montgomery and Prince George’s counties can sign up for health care coverage at more than 25 sites throughout the community via Maryland Health Connection, the state’s insurance marketplace.

In addition to weekday hours, weekend enrollment events will be held at four locations, two in Montgomery and two in Prince George’s County:
  • Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services 8818 Georgia Ave., Silver Spring
    12900 Middlebrook Rd., Germantown
  • Prince George’s County Government at Landover 425 Brightseat Rd., Landover
  • Prince George’s County Government at Temple Hills 4235 28th Ave., Temple Hills
The remaining events will be held on the following Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Later afternoon attendees should arrive and sign in by 3 p.m.)
  • February 8, 15 and 22 
  • March 1, 8, 15, 22 and 29. 
To find additional in-person enrollment help, go to www.capitalhealthconnection.org and click on Sign Up Locations.

Residents who need health coverage can also enroll online at www.marylandhealthconnection.gov or by calling Maryland’s Consumer Support Center at 1-855-642-8572 (TTY 1-855-642-8573).

Bilingual Voters Needed to Work Early Voting Sites, Plus Election Day

Because of the diversity of the County, the Montgomery County Board of Elections (BOE recruits workers who speak dozens of languages for every election. Bilingual voters are needed both for Early Voting sites -- every day from June 12 to June 19 – and on Election Day, Tuesday, June 24.

The County places election judges who are fluent in Spanish at every polling place, in accordance with the requirements of Section 203 of the 1975 Voting Rights Act. So, BOE has a special need for voters with Spanish speaking fluency.

For more information, contact the Montgomery County Board of Elections at 240-777-8532, download an election judge questionnaire from www.777vote.org, or email Dr. Gilberto Zelaya at gilberto.zelaya@montgomerycountymd.gov.

Executive Interviewed on Managing Urbanization

At a recent UN-Habitat forum for global leaders, held at the United Nations, UBM’s Future Cities met with County Executive Ike Leggett, to discuss how the County is managing its own urbanization and how to strike a balance between urban and rural lifestyles.

See interview.

Put the Groundhog in His Place – Think Spring, Now!

Beginning February 10, Montgomery County Recreation will begin accepting registrations for its spring classes. Registration for swim lessons opens on February 12.

Check out the Spring Guide that’s full of a wide variety of classes and programs designed to help residents of all ages stay active and have fun, such as aquatics, sports, therapeutic recreation services and active adult senior programming.

Register in one of four ways: by mail or fax, online or in person at the Montgomery County Recreation Administrative Offices located at 4010 Randolph Rd., Silver Spring.

Registration information and copies of the Spring Guide are available at montgomerycountymd.gov/rec.

For more information, call 240-777-6840.

Think Summer -- Register Now for Summer Camps and Programs

Registration for Montgomery County Recreation’s summer camps and programs is now open.

Choose from hundreds of affordably priced offerings, including sports, nature, robotics, magic, swimming and theatre, listed in the Summer Camps Guide, available online at www.montgomerycountymd.gov/rec or in print at Recreation facilities throughout the County. Camps and summer programs are available for tots to teens and all skill levels at hundreds of locations around the County.

Early registration is encouraged, because space is limited and signups are handled on a first-come, first-served basis.

There are four ways to register: online at RecWeb, by mail, by fax or in person at the Recreation Department Administrative Offices, 4010 Randolph Rd., Silver Spring.

For more information, call 240-777-4980.

Payment Plans for Summer Camps

Payment plans perfect for every budget are available for Recreation Summer Camps.

Signing up is quick and easy, and your payments can be automatically deducted from your credit card. There are no interest fees or other extra charges.

When registering, make an initial payment of 25 percent of the total cost. After that, make three more payments that equal 25 percent of your total cost.

See payment schedules and other information on the payment plan.

New School Funding Website

The County has a new website (montgomerycountymd.gov/schoolfunding) focused on its joint effort with Baltimore and Prince George’s counties to significantly boost State support for school construction funding.

The site will be used to help mobilize support and resources as the County seeks State assistance to help solve its school capacity shortage

Gilchrist Center in the Gaithersburg Library

Montgomery County Public Libraries Director Parker Hamilton (red jacket) welcomed the family of former County Executive Charlie Gilchrist at the Gilchrist Center for Cultural Diversity Open House held in conjunction with the grand reopening of the Gaithersburg Library on January 4. Pictured from left (back row): Don Gilchrist with daughter Maya, Maryland State Delegate Jim Gilchrist with nephew Ben, Office of Community Partnerships Director Bruce Adams, Phoebe Gilchrist, Tonya Gilchrist, Parker Hamilton, Center volunteer Phyllis Okechukwu, Center staffer assigned to the library site Karen Zelaya and volunteer Azar Shishavi; (bottom row) Center staffers Gabi Raudales, Patty Larson, Kaori Hirakawa and Natalie Chhuan.
The newest branch location of the Charles W. Gilchrist Center for Cultural Diversity has opened in the newly renovated and reopened Gaithersburg Library at 18330 Montgomery Village Ave.

Overall, the center provides activities and services to the County's diverse community and functions as a central point of contact for residents to County and other community services.

The Gaithersburg location is open Monday, Tuesday and Thursday from 5 to 9 p.m. and
Saturday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Phone 240-777-4960.

Common Ownership Communities: What are They About?

The Office of Consumer Protection and the Commission on Common Ownership Communities (CCOC) have developed a series of educational videos to help homeowners, residents and boards of common ownership communities learn more about their communities.

Among the topics featured are: what is a common ownership community; an overview of the CCOC; buying a home in a community association; homeowner roles and responsibilities; budgeting and the reserve fund; and board roles and responsibilities.

The CCOC advises the County Executive and County Council on ways to handle issues associated with common ownership of property in communities; promotes public awareness of the rights and obligations of living in common ownership communities; and works to eliminate disputes and maintain property value.

The Office of Common Ownership Communities (OCOC) in the Office of Consumer Protection, provides owners, tenants, residents, boards of directors and management companies of self-governing residential communities with information, assistance and impartial dispute resolution programs.

Leggett’s CountyStat Program Earns National Leadership Award

The CountyStat program, instituted by County Executive Ike Leggett six years ago -- to increase government performance and hold those responsible accountable for the results -- has been recognized by the American Society for Public Administration with the 2014 Center for Accountability and Performance’s (CAP) Organizational Leadership Award.

The award recognizes outstanding applications of a systems approach to performance measurement that has resulted in a culture change and sustained improvements and has demonstrated positive effects on government performance and accountability. Recipients are selected from all levels of public service as well as from international and public service nonprofit organizations.

An accountability and assessment process, CountyStat reinforces the County government’s focus on results in an effort to improve performance.

CountyStat is accessible online, so the public can access a variety of performance information, including presentations on pedestrian safety, overtime use, pothole repairs, permitting services, facilities rentals and cell phone use.

Read the news release.

Three County Students Receive Comptroller’s Maryland Masters Awards

Three Montgomery County students have received Maryland Masters Awards from State Comptroller Peter Franchot in recognition of their “extraordinary artistic skills, reflecting the vision of Maryland’s future” during a ceremony at Newport Mill Middle School in Kensington.

The honorees were: Nicholas Tucker, a fifth grader at Piney Branch Elementary School, who created an undersea scene with a stingray, fish and sea plants; Pauline Turla, an eighth grader at Newport Mill Middle School, used the Adobe Photoshop shape and transform tools to form small fractals for a landscape of trees and mountains; and Adam Anderson, a senior at Winston Churchill High School’s Academy of the Creative & Performing Arts in Potomac, captured the image of a decommissioned railroad engine at the B&O Railroad Museum in Baltimore in a digital photo.

The comptroller initiated the awards program to celebrate the achievements and talents of students from throughout the state enrolled in public schools from kindergarten to 12th grade. The students’ art will be on exhibit for two months at the Comptroller’s Office in Annapolis.

Read more about the program.

Two Fortune Blue-Ribbon Companies Call County Home

Bethesda-based Lockheed Martin and Marriott International have made Fortune's list of top Blue-Ribbon companies for 2013, placing 24th and 25th, respectively, out of 36.

To qualify for the Blue Ribbon list, a company must appear on at least four Fortune lists in one calendar year. Lockheed and Marriott appeared on four Fortune lists last year, including the Fortune 500 and CNNMoney's Top MBA Employers.

According to the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development, Lockheed Martin has 7,500 employees in the state, and Marriott, just under 10,000.

County’s Compost Facility Featured in BioCycle Magazine

The County’s Yard Trim Composting Facility in Dickerson is the topic of a feature article in the current issue of BioCycle, the official magazine of the US Composting Council.

Entitled “County Yard Trimmings Facility Achieves EMS Certification,” the article by Marilu Enciso details the history and current operation of the local facility and describes the steps to implementing an Environmental Management System (EMS) at the Dickerson operation and the benefits to both the community and the operation.

The County’s Yard Trim Facility received the coveted EMS certification last summer, becoming just the second such facility in the United States to become certified. Read news release.

Woodbourne Creamery: Where Tradition Meets Technology to Make History

On a 140-acre farm in northern Montgomery County, tradition has teamed up with technology to create a 21st-century operation that has already made history locally and nationally.

This is why local officials, including County Executive Ike Leggett and County Councilmembers George Leventhal and Craig Rice, recently joined Woodbourne Creamery owners Mary and John Fendrick and agricultural enthusiasts from around the County to celebrate the grand opening of the creamery and see firsthand the unique operation. See coverage on County Report This Week/Episode #188/16:07 minute mark.

Woodbourne Creamery, part of Rock Hill Orchard, a pick-your-own fruit and vegetable farm off Ridge Road in Montgomery County’s Agricultural Reserve, is the County’s first new dairy in 60 years and the only local farm processing its own milk in an on-farm bottling facility. It is also the first all-pasture robotic dairy in North America which means that the Woodbourne cows -- Guernseys -- are a happy, free-range, grass-fed herd that milk on their own schedules.

How’s that possible? Last year, the Fendricks installed a Delaval VMS (voluntary milking system) robotic milking machine that allows the cows to milk on their own preferred schedules. The cows are provided with water in the field all day, and they enjoy coming and going at their leisure. And, because the VMS is completely automatic, the Fendricks can spend more time running other facets of the farm.

January 16, 2014

Executive’s Recommended FY 2015 Capital Construction Budget: Record Funding for School Construction; Increased Investments in Transportation, Infrastructure, Job Creation Initiatives

Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett has unveiled his six-year Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 Capital Budget and FY 2015-2020 Capital Improvements Program (CIP) that continues to make funding the County’s unprecedented growth in school enrollment the highest priority. 

Overall, Leggett is proposing a $4.49 billion fiscal year (FY) 2015-2020 CIP budget -- an overall spending increase of 2.3 percent -- while moving forward on the County’s priorities in education, economic development, mass transit, road maintenance, affordable housing and facilities serving seniors and youth

The budget recommendation supports record-level funding for Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS), including:
  • the construction and technology request, including State and local contributions, at $1.7 billion, up 25.8 percent from the previous CIP. 
  • the total local contribution to schools at $1.247 billion. 
  • a significant increase in the local contribution for school construction totaling $1.117 billion – up 13.1 percent or $129.5 million from the approved FY 13-18 CIP – and an historic high. 
A total of 455 new classrooms would be added, under the recommended budget..

Other budget highlights:

Higher Education -- Support for projects at Montgomery College and The Universities at Shady Grove.

A Strong and Thriving Economy -- Funding continues the County Executive’s Smart Growth Initiative to facilitate private, mixed-used, high-density development near the Shady Grove Metro Station. Public-sector funding in support of White Flint redevelopment is included to leverage significant private-sector resources. These projects, along with the Great Seneca Science Corridor and the White Oak Science gateway, are part of Leggett’s plan to create 100,000 new jobs in the County.

Transportation -- The budget recommends a balance of road, mass transit and pedestrian-bikeway projects while also focusing resources on maintaining core transportation infrastructure.

Affordable Housing in an Inclusive Community -- The budget exceeds the Executive’s stated goal of issuing $100 million in bonds to support affordable housing projects. Already, more than 9,000 affordable housing units have been created and preserved over the past seven years.

Public Safety –The budget recommends a new $51.9 million fire apparatus replacement initiative to create even more improvements in coverage and response time. The funding is primarily paid for by insurance company monies collected through the County’s Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Transport Insurance Reimbursement Law.

Environment -- The recommended budget includes more than $363 million in storm water management actions that will help meet federal clean water act requirements.

The Capital Budget: A Closer Look at Transportation Funding

A less visible but just as important part of the Capital Budget funding is the nitty-gritty investment needed to take care of the assets already in place in the County. Like roads.

After County Executive Ike Leggett first took office, his administration did the first-ever inventory of County roads -- to assess their condition and prioritize repairs. This initial step resulted in major investments over the years for County roads.

“In the eight years before I took office, the County spent $37 million on our primary and arterial roads. For my first eight years, we will have spent $66.7 million – 80 percent more,” Leggett said.

“In the eight years before I took office, the County spent only $17.7 million on our residential streets and on rural roads. The figure for my administration is $137.6 million – a 676 percent increase.

“And,” he noted, “keep in mind we did this during the Great Recession.

See the news release for list of specific road projects funded in the FY2015 Capital Budget.

Leaders from State’s Three Largest Counties Urge Increased State Funding for Public Schools

County Executive Ike Leggett joined Prince George's County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (left) and Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz (right) at a crowded Annapolis news conference advocating increased funding for State school construction and maintenance for the counties’ needs. The three counties are home to 44 percent of Maryland’s students and 46 percent of students eligible for free and reduced meals.
Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett, Prince George's County Executive Rushern L. Baker III and Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, along with General Assembly Members from the "Big Three" counties, gathered in Annapolis to demonstrate the need for more school modernization and construction money from the Maryland General Assembly

According to the executives, their three counties make up 44 percent of the state's student population and 46 percent of the students that participate in the state's Free and Reduced Price Meals (FARMS) program. In addition, the combined student enrollment in the three school districts is projected to increase by more than 30,000 students by 2021.

The executives stated that they have committed hundreds of millions of dollars in local funding for school renovation and construction projects over the past three years despite budget challenges. They pledged that they are prepared to continue making significant long-term local contributions to school capital funding moving forward and they are asking the state to provide much needed assistance.

"In Montgomery County, our school system has grown by about 2,000 students a year over the past several years," Leggett said. "Our County's unprecedented increase in enrollment is the highest in the State. Over the next 12 years, projected enrollment will grow by 25,000 students.

“We three County Executives have a very simple message: Our kids and families can't afford for any of us to play 'catch up.' The State has an interest in helping us to educate the next wave of teachers and scientists and researchers and entrepreneurs who will lift up our counties and this state long after all of us are gone.”

FY 15 Operating Budget Public Forums Kick Off in Germantown

County Executive Ike Leggett kicked off the series of  Fiscal Year 2015 Operating Budget Public Forums at BlackRock Center for the Arts in Germantown before an audience of approximately 50 residents. This was the first of five such forums scheduled in the coming weeks.

The public forums give residents the opportunity to provide input for the budget to the executive and budget analysts. Leggett called input from residents “crucial in helping me determine the County’s budget priorities.” Several dozen forums have been held since he initiated them on a regular basis when he was elected seven years ago.

County government spending increased more than 40 percent in the four years before Leggett took office. One of his first priorities was to put the County’s fiscal house back in order. He said the County is in “a much better position than we have been the past few years, and I see brighter days and a more sustainable budget ahead. Revenue projections are up, and our budget projections will include an 8.1 percent cash reserve, the highest in the County’s history.”

However, he cautioned that there are still challenges and “we have to be careful not to get into an unsustainable budget period.”

Questions/discussions covered the following topics:
  • Increased maintenance for the libraries’ grounds. “We’re trying to get back to a more robust maintenance schedule.” ;
  • Additional support and staff for the regional services centers and directors. The Executive agreed for the need and commented on "the good work of the centers and directors.”;
  • The feasibility of re-financing the County’s debt to help lower the total amount “We could wind up paying more. There’s no easy way around it. I’m not sure we can do much better.”;
  • Concern for the overcrowded conditions in public schools and would there be a request in the MCPS operating budget for spending above the Maintenance of Effort. “I am not ready to recommend spending above the MOE. That is a decision made each year based on circumstances.”
  • Restoring funding for programs to help parents keep older children with disabilities at home. “Part of the problem comes from the state and federal levels and the County can only do so much. But, we can do more.” Leggett added that parents can “fight with us at the state level to get more funds.”;
  • Vision of the County regarding aging, disabled individuals with aging caregivers. “Services [for situations like this] have been affected by state and federal cuts but I want to try to start restoring some of the cutbacks.”;
  • Concern that Germantown Reproductive Services was issued a license to do business with no inspection and that an inspection was performed only after the death of a patient. [It was determined that the inspection was to be performed by the state.]; and
  • The African Women’s Council requested help in finding their own place/office from which to conduct business. The Executive encouraged them to apply for grants available through his office and the County Council.

Leggett concluded the forum by summarizing his goals for the coming FY 2015 Operating Budget:
  1. Ensure sustainability;
  2. Maintain a same-service budget that contains stable revenues and addresses challenges; and
  3. Build on that with realistic increases. 

See schedule for remaining budget forums.

View the Forum presentation (pdf).

County’s Schedule for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday Holiday

Montgomery County government will observe the following holiday schedule for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Birthday on Monday, January 20:
  • County Offices – closed 
  • Libraries – closed 
  • County liquor stores – closed
  • Recreation – aquatics programs and facilities open; all other classes and programs canceled; Administrative office, senior centers and community centers closed 
  • Montgomery Parks – for operating schedules, including Brookside Gardens, ice rinks, tennis centers, trains and carousels, visit www.MontgomeryParks.org
  • Ride On – Special modified holiday schedule (check schedules at www.Rideonbus.com
  • Metrobus – Saturday schedule with supplemental service 
  • Metrorail – Saturday Holiday schedule
  • TRiPS Commuter Stores (Silver Spring and Friendship Heights) – closed 
  • Refuse/recycling pickup – no collection* 
  • Transfer Station – closed 
  • Parking at public garages, lots, curbside meters – free
  • MCPS Administrative Offices – closed 
  • State offices & courts – closed 
*Collection provided one day later for remainder of week (last collection day is Saturday).

County Marks Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Birthday with Special Programs

This year, Montgomery County’s Day of Service activities in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday on Monday, January 20, will take place at four sites throughout the County. Each location will serve as a collection site for non-perishable food donations for Manna Food Center and donations of sleeping bags, blankets and socks for the homeless. The collection for the homeless is organized by the Tri-Sigma Chapter of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc.

Montgomery County’s Volunteer Center will coordinate indoor family-friendly service projects from 1 to 3 p.m. at the North Bethesda Marriott Conference Center, 5701 Marinelli Rd. Information and registration to participate can be found at www.montgomeryserves.org.

Additionally, various organizations are holding environmental clean-up projects throughout the weekend of January 18 to 20. Locations, times and registration information are at www.montgomeryserves.org.

For questions, contact servicedays@montgomerycountymd.gov or call 240-777-2600.

The 20th anniversary Tribute and Musical Celebration in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. will be held at The Music Center at Strathmore on Monday, January 20 at 3 p.m. The event is free and open to the public, however tickets are required and may be reserved at www.strathmore.org. For individuals unable to secure advanced tickets, a stand-by line will form outside the music center at 2 p.m. on the day of the performance and unclaimed tickets will be released to the public at 2:45 p.m.

The sponsors for the musical celebration include: Fund for Montgomery, Southern Management Corporation, Choice Hotels International, Comcast, Safeway, Mid-Atlantic Petroleum Properties, LLC, Carl M. Freeman Foundation, Fitzgerald Auto Malls, The Sanford and Doris Slavin Foundation, The Gazette, Verizon, The Allstate Foundation, Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, Montgomery County Equal Employment Opportunity, The City of Gaithersburg and The Montgomery County Muslim Foundation.

For more information about the musical celebration, call Yvonne Stephens, 240-567-4203 or email Yvonne.stephens@montgomerycollege.edu or contact Julian Norment, 240-777-8413 or email julian.norment@montgomerycountymd.gov.

Read the news release.

Women’s Legislative Briefing – Seminars for Teen Girls Added This Year

The Montgomery County Commission for Women will host the 2014 Women’s Legislative Briefing on Sunday, January 26 at The Universities at Shady Grove in Rockville. Doors open at 11:30 a.m. with the program from 12:30 to 6 p.m

This year’s keynote speaker is Joanne Bamberger, author of the Amazon bestseller Mothers of Intention: How Women & Social Media are Revolutionizing Politics in America.

New this year is a series of seminars for teen girls in grades eight to 12. Students must be accompanied by a parent or chaperone. The program will also include a panel discussion on women’s issues in Congress and seminars on legislation in this year’s Maryland General Assembly.

Automated School Bus Cameras in Operation

Maryland Law requires that when approaching a stopped school bus with its flashing red lights activated, motorists traveling in the same direction as the bus must stop. The law also requires that motorists approaching the bus from the opposite direction must stop unless there is a physical barrier, such as a median.

When Montgomery County Public School students returned to classes after the New Year, the County Police began a new enforcement program -- “Respect the Bus: Don’t Get Bus-ted” -- targeting motorists who pass stopped school buses.

Several school buses are now equipped with automated cameras that record vehicles passing stopped school buses that have their flashing red lights activated. The violations will be reviewed by the Police Department’s Automated Traffic Enforcement Unit, and citations will be mailed to the registered vehicle owners. The fine is $125 and no points.

The program will expand over the next several months, targeting bus routes with the highest reports of violations. The cameras can be moved throughout the County as needed.

For more information about the program, contact the Police Traffic Division at 240-773-6600.

Read the flyer about the program, including illustrations of situations when motorists must stop for the school bus.

Radon Action Month: Act Now for a Safer Home

During January, the Department of Environmental Protection is recognizing National Radon Action Month by encouraging residents to act to protect their homes and families. Radon is a naturally occurring, invisible, odorless, tasteless gas. It is released from soils and disperses outdoors, but can reach harmful levels when trapped in buildings.

Unsafe levels of radon can lead to serious illness.According to the Surgeon, radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S., behind smoking. But, simple fixes in a home or building can lower human health risks from the gas. January is an especially good time to test homes and schools because windows and doors are closed tightly and people spend more time indoors.

Radon test kits can be purchased at local hardware and home improvement stores or directly from radon testing companies. Many are priced under $25. Radon problems can be fixed by qualified contractors, with repairs typically costing between $800 and $2,500.

See more information on radon, testing, mitigation and radon-resistant new construction.

Read the news release.

Wall Street Journal Looks at Study of Local Bag Taxes: County’s Results Showed Change in Consumer Behavior

From the WSJ’s “Washington Wire”, reporter David Wessel writes about “Why a Bag Tax Works Better Than a Reusable Bag Bonus.”

Wessel begins, “Government policies, no matter how well-intentioned, often fail to achieve their goals. Practitioners of the rapidly expanding field of behavioral economics, which seeks to better understand why people do what they do, are laboring to change that.”

His article focuses on a September 2013 PhD dissertation by then-Princeton doctoral candidate Tatiana Homonoff that looks at the effectiveness of bag taxes in Montgomery County, the District of Columbia, Arlington, VA and Santa Monica, San Jose, and Santa Cruz County in California.

Homonoff’s work evaluated two policies designed to reduce consumers’ use of disposable grocery bags: “…a five-cent tax on disposable bag use and a five-cent bonus for reusable bag use.” Her research revealed that “the tax decreased disposable bag use by a substantial amount while the bonus generated virtually no effect on behavior….”

Wessel writes about the research, “Before the tax, several stores offered a 5-cent bonus to shoppers who brought their own bags. In stores that offered no incentive, 84% of shoppers took at least one throwaway bag per shopping trip; in stores that offered the nickel lure, 82% did.

“In contrast, some 82% of Montgomery County shoppers used at least one disposable bag per shopping trip before the bag tax was imposed; 40% did afterward. “

Read the entire WSJ “Washington Wire” story.

Public Libraries Launches Three New Online Services

Montgomery County Public Libraries (MCPL) has kicked off the New Year by launching three new online services -- Zinio for Libraries, 3M Cloud Library e-book lending system and Learn4Life – that will appeal to a wide variety of customers.

Zinio digitally recreates, page-by-page, full-color magazines with interactive elements such as audio and video; intuitive navigation; and keyword article search. Registered customers may view 100 magazine titles and checkout as many as they want.

The 3M Cloud Library e-book lending system currently offers titles from all of the “big six” publishers. Customers can check-out and read books and browse the digital bookshelf from any location.

The Learn4Life program makes it easy to take high-quality, free courses and career training programs entirely over the Internet.

Get more details about the services.

For more information on how to access the new services, visit any MCPL branch or the MCPL website at http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/library.

Healthy Montgomery Seeks Public Comment on Action Plans for Addressing Behavioral Health and Obesity

Healthy Montgomery is a one-stop source of population-based data and information about community health. It is intended to help planners, policy makers and community members identify issues and devise solutions

The Healthy Montgomery Steering Committee invites residents to review and make comments on the Behavioral Health Action Plan Report and the Obesity Action Plan Report. Comments will be reviewed and shared with the action plan work group members and the Healthy Montgomery Steering committee for possible inclusion in the final reports.

The Healthy Montgomery Behavioral Health Action Plan includes three recommendations to improve the overall behavioral health (including mental health and substance abuse) of County residents.

The Healthy Montgomery Obesity Action Plan includes recommendations to prevent and reduce obesity among County residents.:

Read the complete action plan reports.

Residents should email comments by close of business on Friday, January 31 to Healthy.Montgomery@montgomerycountymd.gov.

For more information about Healthy Montgomery, contact Susan DeFrancesco at 240-777-1704 or email  susan.defrancesco@montgomerycountymd.gov.

Time on Your Hands? Try Volunteering

The Day of Service traditionally observed in the County on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday is certainly one time for residents to take time and give back to the community.

But, it’s not the only time when helping hands are needed.

To get more ideas for upcoming and/or ongoing opportunities to volunteer right here in Montgomery County, check out the Volunteer Center’s newsletter.

Behind on HOA/Condo Fees?

Homeowners can avoid foreclosure and mounting collection and attorney fees by taking advantage of the County-funded HOA/Condo Fee Rescue Program. Home Savers can help pay your past due HOA/Condo Fee up to $4,000.

For more information, call (301)760-7636, email counseling@aa-hc.org or visit the
Asian-American Homeowners Counseling website at www.aa-hc.org.

County Executive Part of United Nations Panel on Building Better Urban Futures

County Executive Ike Leggett recently participated in a leadership dialogue at the United Nations (UN) in New York City on “Accelerating Action towards Sustainable Urbanization: The Role of Private Urban Partnerships in Catalyzing Change.”

Leggett served on a panel that was to “provide a high-level platform for an exchange of critical thinking, insights and innovations” to private sector, urban and UN leaders. The panel was part of UN Habitat’s “For A Better Urban Future” effort designed to feed input and ideas into next year’s UN World Urban Forum in Colombia.

In his remarks, the Executive noted that Montgomery County’s population is fortunate on many fronts, such as public safety, access to food and water, educational and employment opportunities, and many other basic human needs. However, he said, “… we face the challenges of crippling traffic congestion, a lack of sufficient affordable housing, protecting water and air quality, an aging population requiring increased health and social services, and many other issues.”

Leggett said he feels that for many issues, the solution is “partnering with the private sector, which can provide economic, intellectual and technological solutions that complement government services.”

Read Leggett’s remarks.

Four MCP Officers Complete Multiple Marathons

Montgomery County Police officers (left to right) Lieutenant Mark Plazinski, Assistant Chief Luther Reynolds, Captain Laura Lanham and Detective John Reinikka at the 2013 New York Marathon.
Montgomery County Police officers (left to right) Lieutenant Mark Plazinski, Assistant Chief Luther Reynolds, Captain Laura Lanham and Detective John Reinikka at the 2013 New York Marathon.Back in 2009, three Montgomery County Police Officers who ran individually for fitness teamed up to train together to run in the Marine Corps Marathon. Family Crimes Detective John Reinikka urged his fellow Family Crimes Division officers Laura Lanham and Mark Plazinski to take the longer marathon-preparing practice runs together. That original running teamwork has yielded years of marathon successes.

Fast forward to 2012. Montgomery County Assistant Police Chief Luther Reynolds set a new goal of running a marathon and joined in the training runs with now-Captain Laura Lanham, Lieutenant Mark Plazinski and Detective John Reinikka. Their goal -- to run the New York City Marathon.

However, they encountered an unexpected obstacle when Superstorm Sandy caused cancellation of the race. Undeterred, Reynolds, Lanham and Plazinski headed to Raleigh, NC, and ran the City of Oaks marathon taking place that same weekend.

With their shared goal of running in the 2012 NYC marathon unfulfilled, the four agreed to try to compete in 2013. On November 3, they achieved their original goal of running the New York City race. Afterward, Detective Reinikka said, “It was the best marathon ever. I love the city, and the crowds of supporters were just fantastic.”

But Reynolds, Lanham and Plazinski truly peaked on November 23, when they completed the grueling JFK Ultra-marathon – 50.2 miles - held in Boonsboro. The event was created in 1963 as one of the many 50-mile races held across the country as a result of President John F. Kennedy’s efforts to promote a healthier lifestyle for Americans. The JFK 50 Mile in Washington County is the only original JFK race that has been held every year since Kennedy’s assassination.

Of the approximately 1,100 participants, about 750 completed the race. The course took runners over South Mountain on the Appalachian Trail and 26 miles on the C&O Canal towpath, ending with eight miles on a hilly country road.

Running the ultra-marathon was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life,” said Reynolds. Lanham said, “The JFK 50-miler was on my bucket list, and now I can cross that off.” Would Lt. Plazinski tackle another ultra-marathon? “Once was definitely enough for me!”

This doesn’t mean that any of the four will stop running. A new year has begun, bringing new running goals for the officers.

Shown before the ultra-marathon in Boonsboro are (left to right in red): Assistant Chief Luther Reynolds, Captain Laura Lanham and Lieutenant Mark Plazinski.