June 17, 2021

Message from the County Executive   

Dear Friends,

Earlier today, President Biden signed a bill declaring Juneteenth as a Federal holiday. Juneteenth is significant for multiple reasons. The date of June 19, 1865, celebrates when 2,000 Federal troops arrived in Galveston, Tex., to take possession of the state and enforce the emancipation of its enslaved persons. In honor of Juneteenth, we have issued a proclamation and County offices, like federal and state offices, will be closed tomorrow, June 18. We will celebrate Juneteenth on Saturday, June 19—just as this County has done for almost 25 years. We encourage you, your family and friends to attend the festivities at the BlackRock Center in Germantown. This year’s theme, “Freedom at the Rock . . . Acknowledge, Educate, Celebrate,” traces the African-American struggle for freedom through education, art, dance, and music. We also present African-American Living Legend Awards to five people who have helped shape the cultural heritage in our County. More information is available here.

June is Men’s Health Month, and this week, I proclaimed June 14-20 as “Men’s Health Week.” This includes Father’s Day. Happy Father’s Day to all the fathers, grandfathers, uncles, mentor, and those who are a father figure to their family and friends.

Our COVID-19 rates continue to drop and we continue to lead in our vaccination rate for residents 12-and-over among the nation’s jurisdictions with populations of over 300,000 people. Approximately 75 percent of our eligible residents (those 12 and older) have been vaccinated. We also continue to host vaccination clinics throughout the County. Information and details about our efforts are available here.

This week, Governor Larry Hogan announced that the State of Emergency in Maryland will end on July 1. The Governor’s announcement was not surprising, given the State’s current number of cases and vaccinations rate, but we still have work to do and we are doing it. The Governor also announced that the eviction moratorium will last until Aug. 15. We have been working hard to get rental support out to tenants who have been hit hard by this pandemic, and we continue to urge the Governor to extend the eviction moratorium so all qualifying applicants can receive the support that might preclude an eviction process. Thousands of Marylanders have been economically impacted by the pandemic. While we are getting COVID-19 under control, we still have much work to do to address the economic aftermath of this virus.

Rental assistance, as well as other economic issues, will be important issues as we move into the recovery phase of the pandemic. I look forward to working with the Governor, my fellow County Executives and Mayors and our State and Federal delegations to ensure that all Montgomery County residents and businesses rebound as quickly as possible.

We received great news from the company Novavax this week, on the heels of last week’s kickoff for its new global headquarters in Gaithersburg. The company announced that the test results of its vaccine have been a big success. The efficacy of this vaccine is 90.4 percent—on par with Pfizer and Moderna and higher than Johnson & Johnson. This vaccine also showed 100 percent efficacy at preventing moderate or severe disease. Congratulations to the employees of Novavax—we are happy to have them here in Montgomery County.

Last week, we also had another big event as we signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the County, the University System of Maryland and Montgomery College to guide the future of post-pandemic education here. I have been working on this effort for almost two years and this MOU is really an exciting development. It will help create great career opportunities for our students and be a catalyst to retain and expand our bio and life sciences companies. We are home to the National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug Administration, the National Institute of Standards and Technology and related agencies. This MOU is bringing together the educational and business communities to further advance our efforts to build a thriving bio-tech business community. This will help us develop a pipeline of talented people in this County that can fill the jobs that are here and the ones that will be coming.

On a different note, I want to mention that the County Council is beginning its review of the “Thrive Montgomery 2050” amendment to the County’s General Plan. I have numerous concerns about the current draft, and I have outlined my concerns in a memo I sent to the County Council. You can read my comments here. I look forward to further discussions about the plans for the future of the County.

I want to close by talking about the connection between Juneteenth and the current work we are doing to address racial equity in the County. When I was on the Council, I co-sponsored and led the charge for the County to create an Equity officer. When I became County Executive, I appointed the County’s first Equity Officer, Tiffany Ward.

Over the last year, we have created an Office of Equity, hired staff and worked to ensure that our budgeting process takes equity into consideration. I want to make sure that our departments are looking at the racial impacts of how and where we challenge our resources so that all residents are served, and we look at everything through an equity lens.

I want to share why I believe this work is so vitally important to not just Montgomery County, but society as a whole. A lot of people do not know the history of this country or the County, and that does not serve us well. I moved here more than 60 years ago, and we were not the open and inclusive place that we are striving to be today. In those days, it wasn’t even something, frankly, that we sought to become. Housing still had covenants that dictated who a house could not be sold to based on the race and religion of the buyer. There were still African-American communities that lacked running water and sewers, adjacent to growing suburban communities where this would never be an issue. We were just integrating our schools and other facilities. People talked about developing Silver Spring as a “Whites only” place, and in my civics class, we had a debate on civil rights where the pro side represented the view that civil rights were basic human rights while the con side described African Americans as a sub-human species that needed to be taken care of. While I found it outrageous even then, not everyone in that room did, and the teachers felt no need or responsibility to correct the statements made by the opponents of civil rights. This difference is not a simple intellectual difference where people can agree to disagree and then sit down and have dinner together. This is a fundamental difference that divided the world into people who had rights—and those that did not. That was true in parts of Montgomery County and that was pretty much true across the country. We still have not recovered from that kind of thinking, and it is important that the move to inclusivity be embraced by all of us.

We can’t just say we are a diverse community. We have to live it. That is what our equity efforts are all about.

With appreciation,

Marc Elrich
County Executive