July 8, 2021

Message from the County Executive      

Dear Friends,

I hope that everyone had an enjoyable and relaxing 4th of July weekend. For me, reviewing our COVID-19 status and vaccination rates is much more pleasant these days. Eighty-one percent—81 percent—of all eligible residents 12 and older are fully vaccinated.

Here’s the information on County residents who have been vaccinated:
  • 12 and older – 81 percent
  • 18 and older – 83 percent
  • 65 and older – 92 percent (and 98 percent have received at least one dose)
We should all be very proud of these numbers. All of our efforts combined—from all of you - have made us #1 in the country for large jurisdictions. This success did not (and does not) come easily. We have had enormous outreach efforts into hard-to-reach communities. (In fact, some of those efforts just won an Emmy!) We have also worked with students who have created videos to convince their peers to get vaccinated. You can check out some of the amazing videos. As a former teacher, I am always excited to see our young people get involved in important issues like this.

As you may know, we closed the Mass Vaccination Site on the Germantown campus of Montgomery College last week and we opened a new clinic at the UpCounty Regional Service Center beginning on Tuesday. We continue to make sure vaccinations (and testing) are available.

COVID-19 Unemployment Benefits Remain in Place

I am happy to report that the courts temporarily blocked Gov. Larry Hogan’s order to prematurely end federal unemployment benefits. This ruling will allow hundreds of thousands of jobless workers in Maryland to continue to collect this important benefit, which does not cost the state or counties any money. Even though the problems related to COVID-19 are slowly receding, at least some businesses and workers are still struggling and in need. There is another hearing on this issue tomorrow, and I hope that working people will prevail.

Halpine View/Preserving Affordable Housing

This week I announced an exciting new project at the Halpine View Apartments in the Twinbrook neighborhood of Rockville. This project is an important part of our effort to preserve and increase affordable housing in Montgomery County. As the County grows, development pressures threaten our existing stock of affordable housing, and we need to support efforts to preserve existing affordable housing as well as produce additional affordable housing. I appreciate the willingness of the property owners to work with us to preserve and improve access to affordable housing. This agreement requires that, for any new redevelopment of the property, existing residents will have access to the new units at affordable rates, and that all 564 affordable units at Halpine View will continue to be available and include two- and three-bedroom units. It also creates some “deeply affordable” units for people earning 30-50 percent of the area median income (AMI). This project is a win for all of us.

Reimagining Public Safety

Last week I announced the preliminary results of an audit that was conducted to review our police department. This week, we shared the report during a community forum and heard from community members. These efforts are part of our Reimagining Public Safety Initiative. When we started this initiative, I promised to provide regular updates to the community and this week’s forum was the latest update. We have also begun a data dashboard to track our progress on recommendations. If you missed the forum, you can listen. I appreciate your input as we continue this progress.

Traffic Congestion

There has been a lot of conversation about Governor Hogan’s proposal to widen the Beltway and I-270, known as the managed lanes proposal. Since he first announced his proposal, I have expressed my appreciation for his willingness to try to tackle some of the congestion issues. We agree with his concern; we don’t agree with his solution, which is unnecessarily expensive and impactful. We agree that we need two additional lanes from the American Legion Bridge up I-270 in the rush-hour direction, but they can and should be reversible lanes. They would provide two additional southbound lanes in the morning and two additional northbound lanes in the afternoon. Reversible lanes would solve the problem and it would greatly reduce the cost. Contrary to misinformation, the Governor’s proposal does not offer any relief north of I-370; it just moves the traffic choke point. People driving to Germantown, Clarksburg and Frederick will be stuck in soul-crushing traffic, made worse by the current proposal. Additionally, the private financing mechanism is unnecessarily expensive. We have been advocating since the beginning for a complete solution from the American Legion Bridge to Frederick. We want a resolution that is good for the State, County and region and the approach that I have proposed does just that. I look forward to meeting with the Governor’s team very soon as we continue our discussions to best address this issue. I will certainly keep you posted on our progress.

With my ongoing appreciation.

Marc Elrich
County Executive