July 30, 2021
We are continuing to see increases in the spread of the delta variant of the COVID-19 virus in the County and around the country. We are also seeing an increase in case and positivity rates. It is important to note that 77 percent of our newly confirmed COVID cases are unvaccinated individuals. And our local data indicates that people 20 to 40 years old who are unvaccinated are driving our new cases. To break that down, 36 percent of the cases are among people aged 20 to 39 and 12 percent of the cases are aged 10-19, meaning that 48 percent—or almost half—of the cases are among people aged 10 to 39.
Vaccinations are clearly protective, and Montgomery County continues to be in a good place with vaccination rates. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data, 70.5 percent of our entire population is fully vaccinated and 83 percent of our eligible population (12 and older) is fully vaccinated. More than 90 percent of people 12 and older have had at least one dose of vaccine.
This is all good news, but it highlights the fact that the worrisome numbers are concentrated among the unvaccinated who are at great risk and are putting others at risk. The spread of the delta variant puts not only the adults who do not want to get vaccinated at risk, but it puts children under 12 and vaccinated adults with compromised immune systems in harm’s way. So, we will continue our efforts to increase vaccination rates.
This week, Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) decided to mandate masks for students, faculty, staff and visitors in all schools. I support this decision. It is the best approach to minimize transmission of the virus and to keep our students, their families and MCPS staff safe. This school decision follows guidance from the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Earlier this week the CDC recommended universal masking in indoor public spaces in jurisdictions that are experiencing "substantial" transmission rates. At this point, our transmission rate is "moderate," not substantial. However, some nearby jurisdictions, including the District of Columbia and City of Alexandria, have hit “substantial" transmission rates. Today, the District renewed its indoor mask mandate. That is why our public health officer, Dr. Travis Gayles, and I will recommend to the County Council that we reinstate an indoor mask requirement if transmission rates hit a “substantial” level here in Montgomery County.
We could see these rates growing worse before they plateau and decline. Our high vaccination rates are not going to fully protect us. So, masking in schools and ensuring that all our friends, family, co-workers and neighbors are vaccinated, are important for everyone’s safety. Do it for you, but more importantly, do it for the people you care about.
Providing Rental Relief
We are making good progress getting much needed funding out to residents who need assistance. We have distributed almost $29 million since May 2020 to residents in need. Now we are actively working with the County’s Sheriff’s Department, which is providing a weekly list of those facing imminent evictions so that we can prioritize assistance to these most at-risk households.
Police Release Video From Tragic Police Shooting Of Ryan LeRoux
As you may know, earlier this week the Police Department released video footage of the police-involved shooting of Ryan LeRoux. Like many residents, I have questions about this incident. I am trying to understand how an incident that began calmly suddenly turned violent. I also want to determine whether there are tactical approaches that would minimize the creation of situations where officers find themselves at-risk and have to make split-second life or death decisions. We need a careful review of how this outcome might have been averted. My concern is that even if an event is deemed justifiable in that moment, it may not have been inevitable.
As County Executive, I have the responsibility of doing everything I can to prevent this from happening again. I have asked our partner, Effective Law Enforcement for All, Inc., an organization that is working with us on the Reimagining Public Safety Initiative, to work with the County as we conduct an "after-action" review of this and other incidents. These reviews will provide additional recommendations for policy and procedures, as well as any training needed to avoid similar situations.
This will not be a separate investigation into this incident, but a set of "case studies" in how we respond to situations and whether our tactics and procedures before, during and after incidents can and should be improved.
I continue to express our condolences to Mr. LeRoux's family and friends. I also want to make it clear that we will continue to be transparent by communicating and engaging with the community about this incident throughout the legal process. It is important for every resident to have confidence that the police and other public safety professionals are committed to protecting them. Transparency builds trust, and trust is essential in our efforts to reimagine public safety.
The County Council earlier this week approved Zoning Text Amendment (ZTA) 19-07 to revise the procedures for the installation of telecommunications towers and antennas that can accommodate 5G technology. While I understand that some revisions to those procedures may be necessary, this ZTA does not provide the right balance, nor did the process address multiple community concerns. I had proposed, and continue to believe, that a workgroup of residents, industry and other representatives is needed to allow an opportunity to understand the complexities of the issue and to provide for meaningful community participation. You can read my entire statement here.
This week we also formally launched our new public safety radio system, which will improve public safety communications across the County and with neighboring jurisdictions. This system will increase reliability and connectivity. You can read more about it here.
Helping Businesses in Silver Spring and Valuing Our Diversity
In a 7-1 vote on Tuesday, the County Council passed legislation to allow the creation of a Business Improvement District (BID) in the downtown area of Silver Spring. Despite the positive sounding name, the proposal was strongly opposed by many small business owners in downtown Silver Spring. The BID, which would be financed by a mandatory tax on all businesses, is structured to give the power to property owners with the largest and most expensive property. That is why many small business owners have expressed great alarm about it. The Racial Equity and Social Justice Impact statement from the Council’s Office of Legislative Oversight explained it this way:
“The exclusion of residents from the SS BID Board, and the concentration of voting power for board members with the largest assets, shifts the power of public district decision-making from a stakeholder group representing diverse culture and income backgrounds to a stakeholder group that predominantly represents the interests of medium and large businesses. Granting greater voting power to board members with larger businesses also shifts decision-making power from People of Color-owned businesses to White-owned businesses as the later on average are larger than the former.”
You can read more about that here.
One of the bill’s sponsors, Councilmember Hans Riemer, when trying to make the case for the bill, said, “Who would want to join into an association where the people who are paying the most expense don't have greater control?” I don’t believe that wealthier people or businesses should have greater control. I believe we can have an organization that represents and values the diversity of Silver Spring and that we can work together to address the issues in the area. This week, I joined Councilmember Will Jawando at a press conference to express our opposition to this bill and to announce that I will veto it. You can listen to the event here.
The Olympic Stars
We congratulate Montgomery County's own Katie Ledecky on her multiple medals at the Tokyo Summer Olympics. We will continue to cheer for her and the other Montgomery County athletes competing in this year’s Olympics.
July 29, 2021
According to Maryland State Statistics, the current seven-day average of County residents per 100,000 testing positive for the virus is 4.8. On July 1, the seven-day average was recorded at 0.9 positive cases per 100,000 residents.
The number of County residents who are receiving vaccinations has slowed dramatically, but more residents are gradually being vaccinated. According to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from this week, more than 814,000 County residents age 12 and over have received at least one dose of a COVID vaccination (representing 77.5 percent of the population 12 and over). CDC statistics show that more than 741,400 County residents are fully vaccinated (70.6 percent of residents 12 and over).
At a media briefing this week, County Executive Marc Elrich and County Health Office Travis Gayles indicated that the County would continue to monitor the trends in the number of COVID cases in the County and regionally to determine if adjustments must be made to current County guidelines to keep residents safe from the virus.
The Board of Education unanimously approved the plan this week to require face masks indoors for all students and employees this fall. Students also will be required to wear masks on school buses, but according to the plan adopted, they will not be required to wear masks outdoors on school property.
County Executive Marc Elrich Helps Launch New $42 Million Public Safety Radio System That Will Improve First Responder and Resident Safety
Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich this week in Potomac helped launch the County’s long-awaited $42 million new public safety radio system, which will improve public safety communications across the County and with neighboring jurisdictions. The system has been operating since March of this year. The new system will provide greater reliability, security and interoperability to best serve the first responders and more than one million residents.The radio communication system is an infrastructure project that will serve approximately 8,000 active radios with capacity up to 150,000 radios. The system will be utilized by the first responders and dispatchers of the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service, the Montgomery County Police Department, the Emergency Communications Center (911), the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, the Montgomery County Department of Corrections, the County Department of Transportation and local municipalities.
“The County has been long overdue to put in a new public safety radio system and I am glad that we were able to launch this new state-of-the-art system,” said County Executive Elrich. “The job of our public safety agencies is to be ready for anything and this new radio network makes greater collaboration and coordination across first responders possible. Whether we’re responding to a pandemic or a severe weather event or escorting a parade or community gathering, citizens can rest assured that police, fire and EMS are seamlessly connected and working together to keep them safe.”
The video from today’s event can be seen at https://youtu.be/-bm1VqqGMIE.
Photos from today’s event can be viewed at https://www.flickr.com/photos/montgomerycountymd/albums/72157719659803110.
The new Motorola ASTRO 25 radio system replaces an aging radio network that had become increasingly vulnerable to disruptions. The network has a total of 22 antenna sites, which is an increase from 11 before the upgrade. The County now has 11 new radio sites that will provide improved in-building and overall coverage. The capacity of the system is 80 percent greater than that of the previous system to support additional radio users. Radios have been updated for compatibility with the new network. In addition, the security of first responder communications has been enhanced with radio verification and encryption.
“The new public safety radio system is a significant upgrade and has assisted with comforting police officers and dispatchers by providing reliability of clear communications," said County Police Chief Marcus Jones. "It is vitally important to have confidence in covering all of the 505 square miles in Montgomery County for any emergency call and needed communications for everyone’s safety. This has been accomplished, and we are grateful."
The contract with Motorola Solutions includes 10 years of maintenance and support services. The vendor was selected to build the new network based on its experience, technical expertise and established footprint for interoperable communications across the region. Motorola Solutions currently operates the Maryland First Responder Radio System Team (FiRST) statewide P25 Land Mobile Radio (LMR) system. That system was designed to provide radio communication across the entire state, as well as nearly all of the countywide systems and those used throughout the capital region.
“This new P25 radio system will serve to enhance coverage, resiliency and our overall communications interoperability in Montgomery County and with our local, State, Federal and regional partners,” said Assistant Chief Michael Baltrotsky of the County Fire and Rescue Service. “The system ensures interoperability across many different land mobile radio types and vendors and most importantly also provides enhanced coverage over our previous radio system for critical areas such as the Potomac River, Triadelphia Reservoir and other rural areas of Montgomery County.”
Gail Roper, director of the County’s Department of Technology Enterprise Business Solutions, said: “This new radio system is built with multiple levels of physical redundancies to minimize disruptions, which ultimately ensures better outcomes for our residents and first responders. It is integrated with our computer-aided dispatch to provide features such as location awareness and will pair with state-of-the-art software for future operational enhancements.”
July 28, 2021
County Executive Elrich and Department of Permitting Services Launch Expedited Residential Solar Permitting Process That is One of the First in Nation
The new process supports County Executive Elrich’s Climate Action Plan, as well as the County’s goal of reaching zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2035.
|Residental Solar Panels|
"Montgomery County's goals to combat climate change are the most aggressive in the State of Maryland and meeting these goals means greatly expanding the use of renewable energy," said County Executive Elrich. "SolarAPP+ will enable the County to streamline the solar permitting process, making it easier and faster for residents to generate solar energy on their rooftops. We are very thankful and appreciative to now have a presidential administration that is addressing climate change as seriously as we are."
The SolarAPP+ pilot will begin in August with large solar installers in the County. The use of SolarAPP+ is projected to reduce the review and processing time for solar installations. To fine tune all the processes necessary for solar installation, the pilot program will be rolled out with select installers. DPS will complete its evaluation of the pilot program in the fall. At the completion of the pilot program, DPS anticipates submitting executive regulation to enable the use of SolarAPP+ for all solar permit applicants.
“The Department of Permitting Services is pleased to work with SolarAPP+ to explore options that make our permitting services even more dynamic and customer centric,” said DPS Director Mitra Pedoeem. “With this pilot program, we will work closely with industry experts to make sure we provide not only faster permitting but continue to provide a high level of safety to our citizens.”
SolarAPP+ is industry-supported through the Solar Energy Industry Association.
|McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area|
The McKee-Beshers area is a 2,000-acre mixture of woodlands, fields, wooded bottomland and managed wetland impoundments (green-tree reservoirs). The property shares a common boundary with the National Park Service Chesapeake and Ohio Canal to the south and borders Seneca Creek State Park on the east.
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife and Heritage Service plants sunflowers each spring in the area. The primary purpose for planting sunflowers on wildlife management areas is to provide a food source for mourning doves, as well as other wildlife species.
In addition to mourning doves, sunflowers and sunflower seeds are a favorite food source for a host of other songbirds, mammals and pollinators. Sunflowers require pollination by insects, usually bees, to produce a seed crop. In turn, honeybees and many other species of native bees, benefit from the abundant nectar and pollen that sunflowers produce.
The many benefits of sunflowers are lost when they are cut or trampled by people. These sunflowers are planted for the benefit of wildlife and regulations prohibit the cutting, destruction or removal of any plants from these areas. The public is welcome to visit, admire and photograph the sunflowers in bloom. However, visitors must be responsible and ensure that their actions don’t have negative consequences.
With its ever-growing popularity, it’s best to visit the sunflower fields on a weekday. If you choose to visit on the weekend, be sure to practice proper social distancing and wear a mask.
Regulations to protect the sunflower fields include:
- Destruction or removal of any plants (including sunflowers) is strictly prohibited.
- Parking is only allowed in designated parking areas.
- Do not block gates. Violators may be towed and ticketed.
- Driving is only allowed on main roads (River Road, Hunting Quarter Road and Sycamore Landing Road). Only authorized or emergency vehicles are allowed behind gates.
- Dogs are allowed, but must be leashed.
- Wildlife Management Areas are trash-free. No trash cans are provided. Take all trash with you.
The sunflower fields are home to ticks, mosquitoes and poison ivy. Long pants and shoes are recommended. Each field hits peak bloom at slightly different times.
Directions to the management area: From the Capital Beltway, take Exit 39 (River Road) west toward Potomac. Proceed approximately 11 miles to the intersection of River Road and MD 112 (Seneca Road). Turn left and continue on River Road for about 2 ½ miles. McKee-Beshers will be on the left.
Visit the Maryland Department of Natural Resources site for more information and updates on the sunflowers’ progress.
‘What’s Happening MoCo’ Podcast Features an Overview of Upcoming Montgomery County Agricultural Fair
The new episode is now available.
Mr. Svrcek said this year’s “nine best days of summer” will feature more than 40 family friendly carnival rides. The fair also will include options for free entertainment and an abundance of tasty traditional, ethnic and unique fair foods. Among the highlighted attractions will be a pirate-themed show, an illusionist and a host of Agricultural education activities, such as the "Mooternity Ward," livestock pavilions and the Ol’ Timers area. In respect to COVID-19, the fairgrounds will host a free vaccination area in partnership with the Montgomery County government.
The Montgomery County Agricultural Fair was born out of the desire of 4-H leaders to provide a show for the 4-H members in the County. That would allow the 4-H members to exhibit their prize livestock, garden and home economics projects to the community. The first fair was held in 1945. The Montgomery County Fair is now one of the largest county fairs in Maryland. It operates with the help of more than 2,000 volunteers each year. The fair was not held in 2020 due to the COVID-19 health crisis.
For more information about this year’s Fair, visit https://mcagfair.com.
The on-demand video of the newest episode can be viewed via the What’s Happening MoCo Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/WhatsHappeningMoCoPodcast. The podcast also can be heard via several popular podcast platforms including Apple Podcasts at https://bit.ly/whats-happening-moco, Spotify, Amazon Music, iHeartRadio, Google Podcasts, and others.
In past episodes, podcast host Derrick Kenny has talked with guests on a wide variety of subjects. The show’s guests have included elected officials, Montgomery employees who specialize in specific aspects of government, business leaders and entertainers who live in the County. New podcasts are released twice a month.
Residents and others interested in asking a question or suggesting a topic to be addressed in a future episode are encouraged to engage via the Facebook page or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What’s Happening MoCo podcast episode archives can be accessed by visiting the podcast’s webpage at https://montgomerycountymd.gov/CCM/whats-happening-moco-podcast.html.
They will replace retiring directors Catherine Matthews (UpCounty), Luisa Montero (Mid-County) and Reemberto Rodriguez (Silver Spring) and Ken Hartman (Bethesda-Chevy Chase), who was promoted to a new position in the Montgomery County Government.
The new regional directors were confirmed by the County Council on July 27. Overall, there are five regional service areas in the County, including the East County.
"Our Regional Service Centers are critical outreach and operational hubs for a County as large and diverse as Montgomery County,” said County Executive Elrich. “The engagement and assistances these offices provide our residents are invaluable assets to our government operations. I want to thank our four departing directors; as everyone who has worked with them knows, they have been dedicated to the community and tireless in their efforts. Their many successes will remain even as they leave their positions. Between the four of them, they have over 65 years of service to Montgomery County, including an extraordinary 45 plus years from Catherine Matthews. Each of these individuals embodied our County's values of good governance, equity and inclusion."
County Executive Elrich said the new directors would continue the outstanding work performed by their predecessors.
“I am confident that our new directors will pick up where their respective predecessors left off,” he said. “They bring a variety of different backgrounds, experiences and insight to Montgomery County, and I am looking forward to working closely with them. I also want to acknowledge the ongoing dedication and hard work of Jewru Bandeh, who continues to serve as the RSC director for East County."
Background on the new directors:
Luisa F. Cardona de Vence brings more than 10 years of experience engaging diverse communities in local, State and Federal government. She is a justice-driven attorney who advocates to eliminated unfair laws and bring about systematic change. For the past six years, she served as the deputy director for the City of Atlanta's Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs—Welcoming Atlanta. During her tenure she helped the city end an immigrant detention contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, implemented a city-wide Language Access Plan to 8,000 employees and led diverse community outreach campaigns for the 2020 Census and City of Atlanta COVID-19 vaccination efforts. She previously served the immigrant community as an attorney in Atlanta, Washington D.C., and Maryland.
Peter Fosselman brings more than 30 years of experience in the business, private, and public sectors. He most recently served as the master plan ombudsman for Montgomery County, overseeing the implementation of the White Oak Science Gateway Master Plan and the White Flint Sector Plan. From 2006-16, he was the mayor of Kensington. He oversaw changes in Kensington to include a new sector plan, rejuvenated streetscapes, professional marketing, community events and the County’s first bio-retention storm drain parking facility. Mr. Fosselman was elected president of the Maryland Mayors’ Association composed of 152 Maryland mayors. Prior to joining the County administration, he was appointed Deputy Secretary of State by Governor Martin O’Malley and continued under Governor Larry Hogan. In his post, he was responsible for the Charity and Legal divisions.
Jacob Newman has more than 15 years of experience in program development, project and grant management, fiscal oversight and business and community engagement. He previously served as the Montgomery County managing director for the Latin American Youth Center/Maryland Multicultural Youth Centers (LAYC/MMYC). Over the past 13 years at LAYC/MMYC, he has managed a broad portfolio of programs focused on education, workforce development and wrap around supports for more than 500 youth annually. In 2013, he led the restructuring of the Montgomery County Conservation Corps and subsequently implemented River Corps, the locally and nationally recognized innovative green infrastructure job training programs. Mr. Newman serves on the board of directors for Nonprofit Montgomery and Safe Silver Spring.
Gregory Wims is a sixth-generation Montgomery County native who has dedicated his life to serving others. He has more than 45,000 community volunteer service hours and has served on more than 30 nonprofit boards and commissions. He is the founder of the Victims’ Rights Foundation (VRF), which works closely with law enforcement, local governments and the business community to help victims of violent crimes. He has raised more than one million dollars for the VRF in the last 25 years. Mr. Wims started a small business in the 1980s after leaving the United States Small Business Administration, where he worked in the Minority Small Business Office. He most recently was the vice president of Government Affairs for Bold Concepts, Inc. in Gaithersburg.
The North Potomac Senior Center is located at 13850 Travilah Rd. in Rockville. The Wheaton Senior Center is located at 11701 Georgia Ave. and the White Oak Senior Center is located at 1700 April Lane in Silver Spring. Starting Aug. 2, they will open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday.
The Margaret Schweinhaut Senior Center is located at 1000 Forest Glen Rd. in Silver Spring.
The Damascus Senior Center, located at 9701 Main St. in Damascus, and the Holiday Park Senior Center, located at 3950 Ferrara Dr. in Silver Spring, fully reopened on June 14 after being closed for extended periods due to the COVID-19 health crisis.
The Long Branch Senior Center is currently scheduled to remain as a homeless shelter. Community members who had previously used the transportation to the Long Branch Center can call 240-777-4925 for assistance in alternative transportation options.
The onsite lunch program is available to those 60 and older. The meal program provides a healthy meal on days when the participant attends the program.
Curb-to-curb transportation will be available for any resident 55 and older who resides within a center’s service area, which is approximately a three-to-five-mile mile radius. Transportation will be offered five days a week for Holiday Park and Damascus locations. All other locations will be offering modified transportation while Centers are providing limited offerings.
To register for a class or program, visit www.mocorec.com
For more information about senior programs, call 240-777-4925.
County Recreation to Extend Summer Programs at Six Recreation Centers to Assist Families Prior to the Start of the School Year
RecAssist provides financial assistance to eligible residents to use toward most Recreation activities and memberships. County residents who currently receive public assistance from any of the following programs are eligible for RecAssist: Temporary Cash Assistance (TCA); Supplemental Security Income; Housing Assistance from a Shelter; Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP); Maryland Medicaid; Care for Kids; Maryland Energy Assistance; Montgomery County HHS Rental Assistance Program; and WIC.
Registration for extended summer programs is available at ActiveMONTGOMERY. For more information, or to register visit, MCR website or call 240-777-6840.
MCDOT Wins Federal Funding to Develop a Real-Time Ride On Crowd Sourcing App to Tell Transit Users ‘How Full Is My Bus?’
The Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) has been awarded a $450,000 grant by the Federal Transit Administration to create a Ride On Crowd Sourcing System (ROCSS) application that provides real-time bus status and passenger counts for Ride On routes to the public and MCDOT’s central dispatch. The new technology is the first to coordinate with strategically placed buses to assist routes nearing capacity and offer “How Full Is My Bus?” trip planning services.
This cutting-edge project is slated to begin this fall with a pilot of users from the Montgomery County Transit Advisory Group. Rollout to all riders is projected to begin in spring 2022.
The new app will decrease bus wait times by providing additional buses instead of requiring riders to wait for the next scheduled bus. Strategically placed buses will be positioned for a quick response and can be placed on several routes within minutes to provide additional service on a bus route that is nearing capacity. ROCSS will inform the public when a new bus is being dispatched.
For riders who may choose to seek alternative or multiple transit options, ROCSS will provide trip planning that includes other local options such as Metrorail and Metrobus. By using real-time passenger count information that updates every 20 seconds, ROCSS will increase rider confidence and reliability.
The grant is part of the Federal Transit Administration’s support of strategies that improve transit operations and enhance the mobility of transit users affected by the COVID-19 public health crisis.
MCDOT will be the first transit agency in the region to have this information sent to Central Dispatch to deploy strategic buses and the first to use the information to provide alternate trip planning.
Ride On services remain free to all passengers—a temporary change made during the health crisis. All passengers are required to wear a face-covering to board and must continue wearing the covering for the entire time riding on a bus. All buses have a supply of face coverings for those who cannot provide their own. Buses will continue to be cleaned by the County’s Department of General Services twice daily with hospital-grade disinfectant. Bus filter and ventilation systems also are treated each night with a disinfectant.
The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) recently implemented expanded hours for its Metrorail and Metro bus services. WMATA, a partner with the Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT), is now operating Metrorail until midnight seven days a week (an hour later than previous service) and has increased late-night Metro bus service to 2 a.m. on 36 routes.
Metro has announced that additional service improvements will follow in September. More information can be found at wmata.com/stations.
MCDOT is reminding residents of two major Metro projects to improve safety that will impact riders of the Red Line. One project will close the Metrorail stations at Shady Grove and Rockville from September through December. For more information on these service disruptions, click here.
Metro’s expansion of hours coincides with MCDOT increasing its Ride On bus service and returning Flex on-demand service. Flex operates in defined zones in the Rockville and Glenmont/Wheaton areas. More information on Flex can be found here.
National Capital Trolley Museum in Colesville Now Open on Saturdays for Guided Tours and Streetcar Rides
The National Capital Trolley Museum in Colesville is now open Saturdays for hourly docent-guided tours followed by a ride around the park on a historic streetcar.
The collection of restored trolley cars includes ones from the former DC, Transit System, the Washington Railway and Electric Company, the Capital Transit Company and from former lines in New York City and Philadelphia. The international section includes cars from The Netherlands and Toronto.
The Trolley Museum is located at 1313 Bonifant Rd. in Colesville. The museum’s main phone number is 301-384-6088.
The museum is currently open only on Saturdays (until further notice) from noon to 5 p.m. with limited admissions. Hourly docent-guided tours are given starting at noon through 4 p.m. They are followed by a streetcar ride.
Reservations through electronic ticketing are strongly recommended. Walk-ins will be accommodated if space is available.
Click here for information about reservations and tickets to visit the Museum and ride the streetcars.
The museum is supported in part by funding from the Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County, Maryland Heritage Areas Authority, Montgomery County Government, and Heritage Montgomery and by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission.
A bill proposed by County Executive Marc Elrich and approved by the County Council created a law that prohibits straws from being offered to dine-in customers, except upon request or to comply with Federal disability rights laws. The law is now in effect.
Straws provided in self-serve dispensers, and with carryout, delivery, or drive-through sales, can be provided as has been the case in the past.
The “Skip the Straw” campaign seeks to help enforce the provisions of Bill 32-20, which aims to reduce waste and remove single-use straws from the environment. The Council approved the bill in December 2020.
“Bill 32-20 is intended to keep litter out of our streams and waterways,” said County Executive Elrich. “There are viable, reusable, degradable and compostable alternatives on the market today that are comparable in cost to plastic straws. Working together, we can move Montgomery County away from plastic straws to environmentally safe alternatives to protect our County, our region and the planet.”
DEP is working closely with the business community to develop and provide bilingual educational materials for businesses to use in their efforts to inform employees and customers of the new County requirements.
“Single-use plastic straws are a problem in the recycling system and the environment,” said DEP Director Adam Ortiz. “They jam recycling machines and, if improperly disposed, plastic straws blow out of trash cans, wash down storm drains and end up in our streams, rivers and oceans. With this bill, Montgomery County is moving forward to help clean up the environment.”
Beginning Dec. 21, 2021, the legislation will require that straws provided in response to customer requests, in self-serve dispensers and with carryout, delivery or drive-through sales, be reusable, marine-degradable or home compostable. Restaurants must retain a limited supply of plastic straws that can be provided to customers to comply with Federal disability rights laws.
Durable and reusable straws are made of bamboo, glass, metal and silicone. Marine degradable/home compostable straws include ones made of paper and hay, many of which are comparable in price. There is an exemption to the requirement for situations where a plastic straw is required to accommodate a customer’s medical or disability-related needs.
DEP is working with food service businesses to ensure awareness and understanding of the requirements. It also will offer technical assistance to bring about compliance with the law.
To address instances of willful non-compliance, the law does allow for the issuance of a citation with a fine of $500 for the initial offense. Repeat offenses could result in fines of $750, which may be levied each day that the violation persists.
For more information on straws, visit www.MontgomeryCountyMD.gov/SkipTheStraw.
‘Businesses and Licensure’ Will Be Theme as Montgomery County Hosts Revitalization and Recovery Virtual Town Hall on Friday, Aug. 6
“Businesses and Licensure” will be the theme from noon-1 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 6, when Montgomery County’s COVID-19 Economic Revitalization and Recovery program continues its series of virtual town hall meetings to keep businesses informed on strategies for doing business as the health crisis continues.
County Executive Marc Elrich initiated the series of town halls held every other Friday to share timely updates on COVID-19 topics of interest to the business community. The town halls give businesses an opportunity to hear directly from County leaders. Jerome Fletcher, the County’s assistant chief administrative officer (ACAO) for economic development, hosts the sessions. He also provides updates on grant programs available to County businesses and offers ideas that can help economic recovery.
During the Aug. 6 town hall, ACAO Fletcher will welcome Clark Beil, a senior administrator in the County’s Department of Health and Human Services. Mr. Fletcher and Mr. Beil will discuss how the Office of Licensure and Regulatory Services has changed from before the COVID-19 health crisis to the present. In addition, ACAO Fletcher will address updates on the County COVID-19 vaccination efforts and economic recovery from the health crisis with County Health Officer Travis Gayles and Acting ACAO Earl Stoddard.
If business owners, employees or residents have questions they would like to see addressed at the Aug. 6 town hall, they can be submitted by Wednesday, Aug. 4, to BizPortal@MontgomeryCountyMD.gov.
“In addition to discussing the changes at HHS, specifically the Office of Licensure and Regulatory Services, we want to hear your ideas for town halls as we move forward,” said ACAO Fletcher. “We are evaluating the future format of these meetings, and we look forward to hearing from you on Aug. 6.”
To join the broadcast, go to https://zoom.us/j/98584224354?pwd=ekdBd05kT08zRmxCekQzajkwdW9LZz09
The webinar ID is 985 8422 4354. The passcode is 057204. Spanish interpretation is available.
The town hall will be broadcast on County Cable Montgomery (cable station CCM), which is available on Comcast and RCN (channels 6 and HD996) and Verizon (channel 30). The town hall can be viewed live via County social media at https://www.facebook.com/montgomerycountyinfo.
Town halls are recorded and available through the Montgomery County Business Portal at https://montgomerycountymd.gov/Biz-Resources/covid19/4BizNews.html
Montgomery Planning and Parks staff have officially unveiled a mural that was selected through the Wheaton Headquarters Mural project to go on the new Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission headquarters in Downtown Wheaton. The mural, called “Tradition is a Part of Us, Humanity is All of Us,” was designed and painted by local Wheaton Artist Nicole Bourgea over the past couple of months. The mural, which is on the building’s north wall, depicts different culturally celebrated dances (both traditional and casual).
Ms. Bourgea said the mural was inspired by her son, who has Down’s syndrome and loves to dance. In her contest submission, she wrote: “This mural is a bold, colorful celebration of the fact that, while we dance to our own beats, we all smile in the same language. We come from diverse multicultural legacies with unique perspectives and various abilities, but we each have an important gift to offer with our life.”
Ms. Bourgea’s design was selected by the community through online voting, where it won support of more than 60 percent of community members.
The mural project was made possible by a generous donation from Stonebridge Development, the private partner who helped to build the 14-story building that is the M-NCPPC headquarters and home to numerous County Government departments. Learn more about the mural and the inspiration from the artist herself.
Montgomery Parks is updating the 2017 Parks, Recreation and Open Space (PROS) Plan to guide the future development and management of the County park system. Parks, recreation and open spaces provide active, social, and leisure opportunities that are essential to the high quality of life for residents. The focus of the 2022 PROS Plan is to provide equitably activated, central community spaces that meet recreational needs and protect and manage natural and cultural resources for future generations.
The PROS Plan update will correlate with the developing THRIVE Montgomery 2050 General Plan update for the County that showcases how great places with equitable access to opportunities produce strong communities. THRIVE uses a placemaking approach to inspire people to reimagine and reinvent public spaces.
Placemaking is more than just promoting better park facilities. Placemaking is a holistic approach to planning parks and open spaces as part of a larger community, rather than zeroing in on individual facilities. It replaces the fragmented planning processes with a broader perspective to address various common problems, such as traffic congestion, little-used parks and loss of outdoor school fields.
The PROS plan process and schedule:
- April 2021: Project kick-off
- Summer / Fall 2021: Community engagement
- November 2021: Preliminary recommendations review by the Montgomery Planning Board
- Dec. 1, 2021: Draft PROS Plan due to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR)
- Spring / Summer 2022: Final recommendations review and approval by the Montgomery Planning Board
- July 1, 2022: Final PROS submission to DNR and Maryland Department of Planning (MDP)
The 2022 PROS Plan will serve as the planning policy for parks and recreation in Montgomery County to the year 2027 and beyond. Additionally, the PROS Plan will fulfill the requirement of the Department of Natural Resources Land Preservation Parks and Recreation Plan (LPPRP) to receive state funding.
An internet connection and a device (such as a smartphone, tablet or computer) are required for participation.
The program schedule includes:
- Throughout August – Every Monday; 9:30-11:30 a.m. H.I.R.E. (Helping Individuals Reach Employment) Sessions. Sign up to meet virtually/confidentially one-on-one with a career counselor for advice and assistance with your job search. Register for sessions on:
- Aug. 2: https://mcpl.libnet.info/event/5179581
- Aug. 9: https://mcpl.libnet.info/event/5179601
- Aug. 16: https://mcpl.libnet.info/event/5179628
- Aug.23: https://mcpl.libnet.info/event/5180148
- Aug. 30: https://mcpl.libnet.info/event/5180223
- Monday, Aug. 9; 1-3 p.m. Job Search Strategies (in a Pandemic). Learn about best practices for conducting a job search in the current (pandemic) job market. Register at https://mcpl.libnet.info/event/5059565
- Thursday, Aug. 12; 2-4 p.m. How to Prepare for your Virtual Job Interview. Learn how to differentiate yourself from other candidates, be Zoom ready, package your experience, tell your story, be ready for challenging questions and feel more confident in your next interview. Register at https://mcpl.libnet.info/event/5071007
- Tuesday/Thursday, Aug. 17 and 19; 5:45-7:45 p.m. LinkedIn Boot Camp for 45+ Job Seekers (Part I / Part II). Two-session/two-day workshop focuses on the mechanics and strategy of using LinkedIn as a tool to conduct a successful job search. Register at https://mcpl.libnet.info/event/5125809
- Wednesday, Aug. 18; 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. How to Apply for Jobs with Montgomery County Government. Learn how to apply for jobs with the Montgomery County Government. Register at https://mcpl.libnet.info/event/5193320
- Tuesday, Aug. 31; 12:30 p.m. Proctored Northstar Assessment Test. Assess your Digital Literacy Skills. Demonstrate your digital literacy skills by taking a proctored Northstar Assessment test. during a scheduled test session. If you score 85 percent or higher, you will earn a Northstar Digital Literacy Certificate to share with your employers. Tests will be administered and monitored remotely. This allows participants to take the test from the convenience of their home. Request a Learner Account to get started at https://mcpl.link/northstar-signup. Registration is required to take a proctored test. Register: https://mcpl.libnet.info/event/5336799
July 22, 2021
Locally, the news around COVID-19 vaccinations continues to be quite positive, but our average number of cases is rising. We continue to remain concerned about the increase in the Delta variant cases and are watching carefully.
On the brighter side, about 83 percent of our eligible residents—people 12 years and older—are fully vaccinated. And more than 90 percent of the eligible population have received at least one dose. This is a major milestone, and I want to thank you all for your efforts. We continue to rank as No. 1 nationwide for percentage of the 12 and older population that is fully vaccinated among all U.S. counties with 300,000 or more residents.
These numbers are impressive, but as we know, children under 12 are not yet eligible for the vaccine. This week, the American Academy of Pediatrics announced its recommendation that students--regardless of their vaccination status—should be wearing masks in classrooms. We are working with our schools and our Board of Health to provide updated guidance given this announcement. Additionally, I have asked our COVID response team to create contingency plans in order to prepare next steps if COVID rates worsen. Hopefully, they will not, but we need to be prepared.
Earlier this week, I stood with Police Chief Marcus Jones as we provided details surrounding the tragic death of Ryan Leroux and expressed our condolences to the Leroux family. Please know that there will be a full investigation of this matter so that we can understand what happened and why. The County has a process designed to ensure that investigations are fair and carried out by an independent third party that does not have an active involvement in policing here, which is why the Howard County State's Attorney investigates Montgomery County police-involved shootings. I have also directed the police to do a full review of the incident and their tactics so we can help make sure this outcome does not happen again.
I want the residents of Montgomery County, as well as Mr. Leroux's family, to know that this investigation will be transparent. I have directed the police to release the body-worn camera videos to the public as soon as possible. This will happen after the Howard County State’s Attorney has statements from all of the witnesses. Understandably, he does not want anyone’s statement affected by what they might see in the video. However, we expect the release to occur soon. The findings from this investigation will be used in our efforts to reimagine public safety and to develop strategies that will produce different outcomes.
Managing traffic congestion on I-270 and I-495 – the ‘how’ is crucial
This week, the Council of Government’s Transportation Planning Board (TPB) voted in favor of the State’s plan regarding traffic congestion along I-270 and I-495. That plan did not include the improvements that had been sought by the County and many residents. While I appreciate the State’s interest in addressing congestion, the current plan is inadequate to actually solve these problems. Since I first took office, I have offered suggestions to improve the plan. My office has worked with the State over the past two years to bring about major positive changes to the project, including insisting that it include the American Legion Bridge, that the I-270 portion stay within the existing walls, that the Corridor Cities Transitway be funded from toll revenues, and that the ICC be used to bring cars from I-95 to the express lanes on I-270, rather than crowding the Beltway. We have been able to get to “yes” on all those items. We have sought from the beginning to reduce the costs and impacts of this project as we seek to provide traffic relief.
I want to be clear about what we were—and are—pressing the State to address. For more than 10 years, the County’s position has clearly stated that I-270 should be expanded by two reversible lanes that would provide the additional capacity needed during the rush hours: southbound lanes in the morning and northbound lanes in the evening. The State plan would add four lanes—two in each direction. Only during the peak rush hour periods are two additional lanes needed, which is why reversible lanes make sense, cost less and reduce the additional pavement needed. We also wanted design improvements on the western side of the Beltway that would mitigate against environmental and community harm. We discussed multiple ways to do that with the State Highway Administration, including suggestions that had actually been made by other bidders. Additionally, we have been advocating for a complete solution on I-270 from the American Legion Bridge to Frederick, which needs to include real transit solutions. The State’s proposal only goes between the American Legion Bridge and the ICC. If an additional track were added to the MARC rail line, train service could operate throughout the day in both directions, which is not possible currently. There is no funding to complete these improvements to Frederick, meaning that commuters from upper Montgomery and beyond will continue to be stuck in what the Governor likes to call “soul-crushing traffic.” In the evening rush hour, commuters who need to go north of the ICC will face a huge bottleneck as the toll lanes disappear and all the traffic merges into the general traffic lanes. The State has yet to say how it will fund this part and when it will do this; we have asked that the State guarantee that the whole project can be implemented. So, many County residents, particularly in Germantown and Clarksburg, will start and end their commutes mired in congestion under the State’s plan.
The current proposal increases tolls as congestion increases in order to keep too many people from using the toll road. The idea is that some people will pay very high tolls to ride freely if the no-toll/general lanes are really miserable. In other words, only people with means can buy out of the terrible traffic by paying the tolls, which are projected to be shockingly high. These tolls are not structured simply to repay the project; they are structured to limit the number of people in the new toll lanes. So if you are stuck in the general (no-toll) lanes, as most of us will be, soul-crushing traffic will remain—despite all the hype to the contrary.
The financing of this plan is also flawed and as this project now goes before the Maryland Board of Public Works. I hope that all the details of this deal are closely reviewed and investigated. State Treasurer Nancy Kopp has said that the Governor refused to fund the study that her office was legally required to conduct on the financing of this project. If this is a clean and transparent plan, then the Governor should embrace a careful review of the financing. The Legislature’s own non-partisan staff has reported that the Governor never had an evaluation done on whether a private partner was necessary for financing this project, or whether instead the State could have borrowed the money for less, financed it with tolls (or not) and reduced the price of the project by reducing financing costs. It is no wonder that the overwhelming number of State Senators and Delegates wrote a letter to the Transportation Planning Board asking it to uphold its vote and not approve this project until these concerns are addressed.
I very much appreciate the members of the Transportation Planning Board and leaders of this region who understand that we are constructively engaged in trying to solve the problem, and they supported our position with their votes. I also appreciate the community activists and political leaders, including four of our County Councilmembers, led by Councilmember Evan Glass at the TPB and joined by Council President Tom Hucker and Councilmembers Sidney Katz and Will Jawando, who have been engaged on this issue. Many of the leaders joined me for a rally this week to explain the issue, and we will continue to work toward an actual solution and to help the members of the Board of Public Works understand our concerns.
Over the past few weeks, I have also been talking and working with Maryland Transportation Secretary Greg Slater, including a two-hour negotiation just last week, to try to remove the final implementation issues. We have been raising these issues for quite sometime, including last November, when the entire County Council joined me in raising concerns about the project.
To be clear: from the beginning I have never said “no,” it has always been about “how.” My job is to protect our communities and the environment and to ensure that mega projects are designed as cost effectively as possible. I hope you will read my piece published this week in The Washington Post that explains my position and reasons for opposing the State’s current plan.
I think the Baltimore Sun editorial board got it right when it wrote, “ . . . there’s also something to be said for the just-as-vital process of building a regional consensus over such a huge, potentially disruptive and controversial project as the Capital Beltway/I-270 plan. Better to seek further compromise than jam this down Montgomery County’s throat.”
I will continue to work with the State along with our Councilmembers, State and Congressional delegations, and most importantly, our impacted residents and commuters who use I-270, the Beltway and the American Legion Bridge.
Recognizing the loss of some who were experiencing homelessness
Earlier this week, I joined County Councilmembers to memorialize some of our neighbors who died in 2020 and 2021 while experiencing homelessness. During the course of the pandemic, we had six homeless individuals die of COVID-19, a far lower number than we anticipated when the pandemic started. Because too often homeless individuals are invisible, we wanted to acknowledge their humanity. They will be missed and mourned by friends, family and those who worked to help them find stability. We cannot continue to accept conditions that lead to homelessness, including housing costs that are unaffordable and wages that do not cover necessities.
Each year, we hope there will not be a need for a service such as this, and it is my goal to end chronic homelessness in Montgomery County. Experiencing homelessness should be only rare, brief and non-recurring if it happens at all. Unfortunately, we have not reached that point. Our nonprofit partners in the Interagency Commission on Homelessness are working closely with the Montgomery County's Health and Human Services Department to end and prevent homelessness so we can continue to move closer to net zero chronic homelessness.
We must work toward a day when no one dies while living on the street or in a shelter.
Cheering for our local Olympic stars
On a more upbeat note, I want to acknowledge the start of the Olympics this week and note that Montgomery County has six athletes who will be participating in this year’s Games in Tokyo.
Swimming superstar Katie Ledecky will continue her quest to break her own records, and we will be rooting for wrestler Helen Maroulis, who also is returning to the Games. The newcomers to the Olympics from Montgomery County are swimmers Phoebe Bacon and Andrew Wilson and gymnast Kayla DiCello, who is an alternate. In addition, Kennedy High School graduate Thea LaFond will represent the Caribbean nation of Dominica in the long jump. I hope all of you will tune in and cheer for these incredible hometown athletes.
As always, thank you for your support and your understanding.
CDC statistics differ somewhat from statistics kept by the State of Maryland. The CDC includes County residents regardless of where they received their vaccinations. Maryland statistics only include residents who were vaccinated in the State.
Despite the high rate of vaccination in Montgomery County, there are still many adults and adolescents who have not been vaccinated. In addition, children under the age of 12 are too young to be vaccinated. This can create a risk for a new rise in infections, particularly with the new variants, including the Delta variant. The variant currently accounts for more than one in every five COVID-19 cases in the United States.
Vaccination remains the best defense to prevent a surge of the Delta variant. A Washington Post story explaining more about the variant can be viewed at https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2021/07/07/delta-variant-covid/
To learn more about how to get a vaccination, go to www.GoVaxMoco.com.
State VaxU Incentive Scholarships for 12-17-Year-Olds Continue Through Labor Day
Maryland recently launched the VaxU scholarship program, a $1 million incentive program to encourage 12-17-year-olds to get vaccinated against COVID-19. To qualify, students must live and be vaccinated in Maryland. The first two scholarship winners were Montgomery County residents.
Two winners will be drawn at random each week for eight weeks until Labor Day. Each winner will receive a $50,000 scholarship for full tuition and fees at any public, in-state institution of higher learning. The program will conclude with four winners selected on Labor Day, Sept. 6.
For more information, visit https://mhec.maryland.gov/Pages/vaxU-scholarship-promotion.aspx.
A Few COVID-19 Facts and Details
- For an online record of your COVID-19 vaccination, view your account at Maryland MyIR. MyIR is Maryland's online immunization record system.
- People who have had COVID-19 still need to be vaccinated.
- Testing remains important for those unvaccinated, those traveling and anyone who may have symptoms.
- The COVID-19 Call Center is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Call 240-777-2982 for answers to COVID-19 questions.
Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich is visiting businesses throughout the County this summer to see how they have persisted throughout the COVID-19 health crisis and how they can be helped during the recovery as the County celebrates “Small Business Summer.”
Throughout the summer, the County’s economic development assistance programs will continue to help small businesses with their future needs. The County will be sharing news of new businesses as well as recognizing legacy businesses and businesses marking milestone anniversaries.
“The backbone of our County's economy is small and family-owned businesses and they have had a very difficult year,” said County Executive Elrich. “We want to engage these businesses, promote them, and do everything in our power and resources to help them recover economically. We need to support them this summer and year-round—especially this year. I encourage all Montgomery County residents and visitors to patronize our small and family-owned business, help them succeed and keep our money in our community.”
As part of the celebration, County Executive Elrich is visiting commercial areas and local businesses throughout the summer months to encourage the community to buy and shop local. Business spotlights will be promoted on the County’s Twitter and Facebook pages.
County Executive Elrich launched the initiative by visiting Shop Local, a retail incubator in Rockville Town Center funded in part by the County through the Maryland Women’s Business Center with six businesses selling specialty gifts and foods (Sweet by Caroline, Amaya Accessories, Costa Cosmetics, Lamimi Boutique, Chocolicious, Yul D’UZ). Afterward, he met with Nature by Trejok and Saint Valley, two of the incubator’s graduates who now have their own stores nearby.
“It is time to get out and take your family to local parks and cultural venues, patronize local restaurants and other businesses that have worked hard over the past 15 months,” said County Assistant Chief Administrative Officer Jerome Fletcher. “Residents must continue to be safe, but it is also time to start enjoying the quality of life that is so valuable here in Montgomery County.”
The Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation, Visit Montgomery and area chambers of commerce are partnering in the initiative to #RediscoverMoCo and celebrate #SmallBizSummer.
Business owners are encouraged to Share Your Story to be a part of this summer celebration of local businesses. To do that, go to https://seam.ly/vd61zTDS.
For more business resources, visit the Montgomery County Business Portal at montgomerycountymd.gov/biz.
COVID-19 Rent Relief Program Continues to Provide Assistance to Those Impacted Financially by COVID-19
The program is managed by the County's Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) with funding from the U.S. Department of Treasury's Emergency Rental Assistance Program.
While funds are available, the program will provide up to $12,000 to eligible households to pay back rent owed and/or pay for up to three months of future rent. For households below 30 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI), additional financial help may be available. Funds awarded will take into account any other local, State or Federal assistance received to pay rent.
To apply for assistance, complete the application that can be found at https://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/HHS-Program/SNHS/rent-relief.html.
Those unable to complete the online application by themselves or with assistance from their property manager or landlord can call 311 (240-777-0311) to request help. A County employee will follow-up to help with application completion.
Households must meet the following minimum eligibility requirements to be eligible for assistance:
- Have experienced a financial hardship/loss due to COVID-19
- Gross household income from previous 30 days or 2020 tax return at or below 50 percent of AMI
- Have been a Montgomery County resident since at least August 2020
- Owe at least $1,000 or more to the current landlord
Residents who are behind in rent and have been told by their landlord that they must leave their apartments should know that only a sheriff, with a court order, can evict a resident. Tenants can reach out to the County’s Department of Landlord and Tenant Affairs at 240-777-0311 and the Police Department non-emergency line at 301-279-8000. Additional information is available on the Department of Housing and Community Affairs (DHCA) COVID-19 website.