August 26, 2021

Message from the County Executive

Dear Friends,

We had good news at the beginning of the week with the announcement that the Pfizer-BioNTech’s’s COVID-19 vaccine has been granted full approval for people 16 and older. I hope that will convince more of the unvaccinated to now get vaccinated. For now, however, our cases remain at “substantial transmission” level, according to the CDC.

In fact, the number of cases per 100,000 is double what it was last year at this time (when no one was vaccinated).

Even though we lead the nation with 85 percent of our eligible population fully vaccinated, our fight to beat the virus continues.

Last week, I attended the Maryland Association of Counties (MACo) conference in Ocean City; it was a productive conference where I had important conversations and attended informative sessions with colleagues across the state. From COVID-19 response and vaccinations to economic recovery efforts, this was an important time to have these discussions. I received compliments throughout the conference about our County’s performance during the pandemic, and I expressed my pride in the work of our government and our residents who have supported and understood our efforts to protect the public health. I was dismayed that face coverings were not required at the conference (of course, I wore one indoors); and a few days ago, conference attendees were notified that several attendees, including staff to the Governor, had tested positive for COVID-19. I am happy to report that my test results came back negative.

The transmission of the virus at the MACo Conference is an example of how easily COVID can move in a large group. From what I saw, probably less than 50 percent of attendees wore their masks indoors so the outbreak is not surprising and illustrates the importance of face coverings (which despite CDC guidance were not required). The cases at MACo reinforce the importance of following CDC guidance and the importance of testing after travel.

I continue to be concerned about the number of unvaccinated because the unvaccinated are making both vaccinated and unvaccinated people sick. I continue to support efforts by performance venues, restaurants, and other establishments to require proof of vaccination or a recent negative covid test. With almost 95 percent of our over-12 population having one dose and around 86 percent fully vaccinated, the number who may not be able to enter is small and the number who will feel safe entering is substantial. These requirements are good for business and for the community.


As cases of COVID-19 have been increasing, I want to make sure that County employees and visitors to County facilities are as safe as possible. After discussions with our labor groups, this week I announced that by Sept. 18, County employees will be required to submit documentation that they have been vaccinated or undergo regular COVID-19 testing. I appreciate the hard work and collaboration that went into developing this policy. Our goal was to respect the rights and privacy of our workers as well as the health and safety of all our employees and the public. We were able to accomplish this, and I am proud of the result.


Next week, approximately 160,000 students return to Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS). This week, MCPS Interim Superintendent Dr. Monifa McKnight joined me at my weekly media briefing and presented the preparations the schools have made to protect the health and safety of our students. You can listen to the briefing here. It is an exciting time for students, teachers, and staff as they return to in-person learning. After nearly a year and half of online or hybrid learning, the school halls and classrooms will once again be filled with people, and their safety is our first priority. This is not going to be easy, and we must be ready to face challenges from COVID-19 outbreaks. MCPS has been working diligently to create a safe environment for students as well as plans for disruptions from potential outbreaks.

Everyone needs to be prepared for a world where masks are required at all times in the buildings. MCPS is working with County health officials to ensure that every precaution is taken to keep students safe. For more information on MCPS plans click here and also, please visit its website.


During the media briefing, we also provided an update about the future of School Resource Officers (SROs) who are police officers detailed to school buildings. With the start of the new school year, we will no longer have SROs in our schools. Over the last few months, a task force, including representatives from MCPS, the police department and other departments have discussed how to address school safety without SROs. We will now have Community Engagement Officers, and this is not just a title change. These officers will not be in the schools, and they will not enforce school policy. When issues do arise that require law enforcement, school administrators have been instructed to contact 911 for any issues and not the Community Engagement Officers. Additionally, police and schools will meet once a month to discuss issues that may arise.

We will also continue to gather feedback and recommendations to provide a broader range of services to students and families in areas such as mental health and conflict resolution. This work is an important first step at providing a more holistic approach to address the needs of students.


As I have reported earlier, we have released a comprehensive Climate Action Plan, which is one of the most ambitious plans in the nation. We have already begun work on a number of initiatives in the plan, and I am committed to a continued focus on the work. This week I announced that Adriana Hochberg, currently serving as an Assistant Chief Administrative Officer, will now be our County’s first Climate Change Officer. In this new role, Adriana will lead the implementation of our Climate Action Plan and promote sustainability efforts of the County. Adriana spearheaded the development of the County’s Climate Action Plan and is perfectly positioned to lead this effort.

Among other efforts, Adriana will help with two important initiatives that we sent to the County Council in the spring to address emissions from new and existing buildings, which account for approximately 25 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. The Building Energy Performance Standard legislation (BEPS) will require owners of the largest and most energy-consuming buildings to take action to improve their buildings’ energy performances. You can read more about BEPS here. The other is the adoption of the International Green Construction Code, which would require that new buildings use less energy, generate more renewable energy and create healthy spaces for our residents. You can read the memo I sent to the Council here.

The Council is scheduled to review these proposals in the fall, and we hope that they will quickly implement these important actions.


Sadly, I would like to offer my condolences to the family of Axel Trejos who was tragically killed last Wednesday night near the Plum Gar Recreation Center. I want to thank and acknowledge our UpCounty Regional Services Center staff for supporting Mr. Trejos’ family and community and for helping raise $1,200 to assist the family during this difficult time. Our Regional Services Centers provide important outreach and resources to our communities. There are five regional services centers in the County. If you don’t know where your regional service center is, you can go here to learn more about them.

As a community of compassionate global citizens, our heart breaks for those in Haiti and Afghanistan. Our Office of Community Partnerships has identified several nonprofit organizations assisting these countries and their residents. For more information on their work, go here.

As always, my sincere appreciation for all of you.

Marc Elrich
County Executive

Additional Dose of COVID-19 Vaccine Available to Residents with Compromised Immune Systems

Residents with compromised immune systems are now able to receive a third additional dose of the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines at locations throughout Montgomery County, including local pharmacies, doctors’ offices and County-operated clinics. Guidance shared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last week recommends that people with a range of conditions, such as organ transplant or stem cell recipients, people with untreated or advanced HIV infection, people currently receiving cancer treatment, people who are taking medications that weaken the immune system, and others. Visit the CDC’s website for a complete list of conditions. People should talk to their health care provider about their medical condition, and whether getting an additional dose is appropriate for them. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is not currently authorized for third doses.

On Aug. 18, public health and medical experts from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) outlined its plan for COVID-19 booster shots, pending FDA approval and CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommendations. According to the plan, booster shots for those who are not immunocompromised would be given eight months after an individual is fully vaccinated (after the second dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine) This means that frontline health care workers and first responders would be among the first to receive a booster dose. The booster will provide longer-lasting protection against COVID-19. For most of the public, the eight-month period will occur later in the fall.

Visit the County’s COVID-19 vaccine page for more information on locations offering the third dose. For those who are not immunocompromised, refer to your immunization card to determine when you will be eligible.

If you are not yet vaccinated, find free vaccination clinics at If you feel sick or think you may have been exposed to COVID-19, get tested. Find free testing clinics at

MDOT SHA Set to Begin Ramp Metering on Southbound I-270

In an effort to relieve congestion on I-270, the Maryland Department of Transportation has installed a ramp metering system. Ramp metering uses sensors that detect real-time traffic conditions and activates traffic signals to more efficiently control traffic merging onto the highway to minimize delays and reduce congestion.

On Aug. 17, crews uncovered and turned on signals to flashing yellow along the 23 southbound locations. The flashing lights will alert motorists that activation of the ramp metering system is coming. The turn-on process will take about a week to complete, with groups of ramp signals being activated each day. Then, on or about Sept. 15, crews will turn on the ramp metering system at all southbound ramps where the equipment is installed.

When ramp metering is in operation:
  • Motorists will see a warning sign with flashing beacons.
  • When the beacons are activated, motorists should be prepared to stop at the stop line.
  • Once the signal turns green, drivers may proceed on the ramp and merge onto the highway.
  • The signal will allow one car at a time to enter the highway, optimizing traffic flow onto I-270.
  • Motorists are advised to use caution and reduce speeds approaching the traffic signal as there may be stopped vehicles waiting to merge onto the highway.
Ramp metering signals will have the capability to operate between 4 a.m. and 11 p.m. daily and are anticipated to be active during peak-traffic hours and when sensors detect congestion on I-270. The system also detects the length of vehicles in queue to help ensure ramps don’t back up onto arterial roadways. For more information and to view a location map and ramp metering video, click here.

Montgomery County Department of Transportation’s Safe Routes to School Program Encourages Parents to Organize ‘Walking School Buses’       

With the return to in-person instruction next week, the Montgomery County Department of Transportation’s (MCDOT) Safe Routes to Schools program is encouraging parents to organize a “Walking School Bus” to enable young students to safely walk to schools in their neighborhoods. Walking school buses provide a safe and fun way for children to get physical activity as they travel to and from school with adult supervision.

A walking school bus is a parent-organized effort similar to a carpool group but rather than share driving responsibilities, adults supervise a group of kids walking to and from school. Each “bus” walks along a set route, with one or more adults leading the group of children. The walking group picks up, or drops off, children at designated stops, similar to a traditional school bus. Walking school buses also provide a safe way for parents to help each other with the demands of getting children to and from school in an outdoor and socially distanced manner.

“Ensuring the safety of children walking to school is our priority,” said Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich. “The ‘Walking School Bus’ program is a great option for families who are rethinking the ways they get to and from school. This is a safe, healthy, and environmentally friendly program.”

Safe Routes to School programs, which encourage and enable children to safely walk and bicycle to school, often include walking school buses in their activities. A variation on the walking school bus is a bicycle train where a group of children and adult leaders ride to school together.

There are many benefits to participating in a Walking School Bus, including:
  • Increasing daily physical activity
  • Opportunities to learn about and practice road safety
  • Saving money on gas and reduce car emissions
  • Reducing traffic in school zones
  • Meeting other families and making new friends
  • It is fun
The program is a partnership between MCDOT's Safe Routes to Schools program, Montgomery County Public Schools, and the Vision Zero Initiative. Schools can sign up for free information by signing up for the Safe Routes to School newsletter here.

“We are encouraging students to stay healthy, active and safe by walking to school,” said MCDOT Director Chris Conklin. “Walking school buses are a great opportunity to teach children about traffic safety, it strengthens community ties and helps to reduce traffic and carbon emissions.”

MCDOT offers free resources to get parents and volunteers started. For more information visit, and subscribe to the Safe Routes To School newsletter here.

For ongoing updates, follow @MCDOTNow on Twitter, visit the department website at and subscribe to MCDOT’s ‘Go Montgomery!’ newsletter.

Montgomery County Public Election Fund Questions Can Now Be Answered by Office of Consumer Protection

Montgomery County’s program of providing the option of public financing for candidates in County elections is one of the most foremost programs of its kind in Maryland. As the next County election looms in 2022, and with campaigns already underway, the County’s Office of Consumer Protection (OCP) has been designated as the place for candidates or residents to direct their questions about the program of matching funds.

The County Council designated OCP as the County’s “Public Election Fund Liaison.” The position was established to assist interested members of the public, applicant candidates, certified candidates and participating candidates with understanding about the program. Questions can be submitted to OCP’s liaison through a new online form specifically designed to provide responses at Public Election Fund Liaison Questions.

Maryland enacted legislation in 2013 that enabled counties to have the option of providing programs of public financing for candidates in local elections. The legislation makes sure that the program is administered by the county Department of Finance but gives each county an opportunity to draft its own criteria to participate.

Montgomery County adopted legislation in 2014 for local elections that was first used during the 2018 election cycle. The County law was most recently amended effective this year to create the “liaison” position to enhance the ability for candidates and the public to receive information about the program and its eligibility requirements.

“Our Office has been educating consumers and merchants for almost 50 years,” said OCP Director Eric Friedman. “Customer service is our middle name, and we look forward to providing information about public campaign financing with the same gusto.”

The Public Election Fund is now open for the 2022 election cycle. Candidates, who are required to be County residents, could be eligible if they are running for the offices of county executive or at-large or district Councilmember.

Even if a candidate is certified for access to the Public Election Fund, they also must also be involved in a contested election to qualify for matching funds. That would be an election in which there are more candidates than actual seats available.

The Public Election Fund was designed to allow candidates from not relying on contributions from political action committees, corporations, labor organizations and central committees. However, it is not mandatory for those seeking covered positions to utilize the fund.

The Public Election Fund provides matching contributions to participating candidates through use of a matching formula, which can be found (2021 Summary Guide) in the Public Election Fund Summary Guide.

The Public Election Fund can provide a maximum matching contribution of $750,000 for a candidate for county executive; $250,000 for a candidate for an at-large position of Councilmember; and $125,000 for a candidate as a district Councilmember. In the 2022 election, voters will choose seven at-large Councilmembers (an increase of two from the current setup) and four district Councilmembers.

The fund matches qualifying contributions, between $5 and $250 (no more than $100 in cash) made from the personal funds of County residents during the four-year election cycle’s qualifying period (period starting on first day of January following the previous election and ending 45 days before the primary election). Montgomery County’s qualifying period for the 2022 election cycle ends on May 14, 2022.

Each position requires a minimum number of qualifying contribution donors and aggregate donation amounts to become certified for matching funds. Those minimums are 500 contributions with an aggregate of $40,000 for county executive; 250 contributions with an aggregate of $20,000 for Council-at large; and 125 contributions with an aggregate of $10,000 for district Council.

For more information about the Montgomery County Public Election Fund, go to

It's National Dog Day; Pick Up After Your Pet

Why is this so important?

At least 142,000 dogs live in Montgomery County. The average dog makes about 3/4 of a pound of waste every day. If we do the math, that’s 106,500 pounds of dog poop – a kind of raw sewage – every day. A lot of dog owners scoop their dog’s poop. Even so, in Montgomery County, MD almost 43,000 pounds of poop is left on the ground every day. So, yes, dog poop is a very big deal.

Click to learn more:

If You Know a Deserving Veteran Who Needs a Car, ‘Keys to Progress’ May Be Able to Help

Since 2013, Progressive Insurance has been honoring veterans with vehicle donations through the Keys to Progress® veteran vehicle giveaway program.

The one-day vehicle giveaway event happens every November. Employees across the country volunteer to find vehicles to donate, organize fundraising activities to collect money or goods to provide recipient families, and plan memorable vehicle giveaway events for the veterans.

The goal of providing transportation support is to offer a little relief and improve the lives of military men and women facing tough circumstances—from difficult personal and family health needs to excessive rent burdens, unemployment, and homelessness.

If you are a veteran and have interest in being a vehicle giveaway recipient, you need to apply through a nonprofit organization (e.g., charity, military association like a Veterans of Foreign Wars post, Veterans Administration hospital, etc.).

To qualify, a candidate must:
  • Be able to provide a DD-214 (Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty)
  • Fall below 200 percent of the Federal poverty guidelines table issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
  • Have a valid driver’s license
  • Have no major driving infractions during the last seven years
  • Be able to insure and maintain the vehicle
  • Not own a vehicle nor show a hardship with current vehicle
  • Provide at least one year income tax filing
  • Be able to pass a background check
  • Be able to pay transfer fees
  • Pay all applicable sales tax and fees after one year of ownership
  • Pay insurance coverage after six months of ownership
Applications are reviewed starting in May of each program year and recipients are typically selected and contacted by Sept. 30.

Watch the most recent recap of the Keys to Progress program from November 2020.

For more information, please Dan Bullis at or 703-307-0074.

County Animal Services and Adoption Center’s ‘Pocket Pet Palooza’ Continues Through Saturday, Aug. 28

The Montgomery County Animal Services and Adoption Center (MCASAC), operated by the Montgomery County Office of Animal Services, is continuing to waive adoption fees for all small animals like rabbits and guinea pigs in a special promotion through Saturday, Aug. 28. MCASAC’s “Pocket Pet Palooza” is being co-sponsored by the nonprofit organization Montgomery County Partners for Animal Well-Being (MCPAW).

The summer months are always busy for shelters and MCASAC is seeing high numbers of small animals entering its doors. In July, only 12 small mammals were adopted while 36 small mammals entered the care of MCASAC. Extra cages have been added to the small animal adoption room to make space for incoming animals. There is a waiting list for people in need of surrendering their small pets, and strays continue to enter the building.

Residents can visit the shelter in person to adopt or can start the process online to reserve a spot to speak to a counselor. All potential adopters should review the Pre-Adoption Checklist prior to visiting or submitting a questionnaire online. Submitting a questionnaire does not reserve an animal. Adoptions are arranged on a first- come, first-served basis.

Guidelines for adoption, the pre-visit checklist and the adoption questionnaire can be found at

The Animal Services and Adoption Center is located at 7315 Muncaster Mill Rd. in Derwood, Shelter hours of operation are noon -7 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday and noon-5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. The shelter is closed to the public on Wednesdays.

Save the Date: Friendship Picnic Returns to Wheaton Regional Park on Sunday, Sept. 19

The Montgomery County Committee Against Hate and Violence invites the community to the Montgomery County Friendship Picnic taking place Sunday, Sept. 19 from noon – 5 p.m. at the Wheaton Regional Park located at 2000 Shorefield Road. The free event brings people of diverse cultures and faiths together to make new friends and discuss ways to build a stronger community.

All are welcome to this celebration, which includes traditional, Kosher, Halal, and vegetarian lunch options. There will be a wide range of activities for children and adults including musical performances, train rides, carousel, Zumba, COVID-19 testing and vaccinations, and more.

In addition to the recreation activities, there will be opportunities for small group conversations to discuss how to move toward a nonviolent community peaceably and respectfully. Everyone’s thoughts are valued, and all will be heard.

Event sponsors include the Montgomery County Human Rights Commission, the Montgomery County Office of Community Partnerships and the Montgomery County Executive’s Faith Community Working Group, Montgomery Parks, the Montgomery County Police, the County Fire and Rescue Service, and the Department of Health and Human Services African American Health Program

While the event is free, registration is strongly encouraged. Register by clicking here. The event will follow any COVID-19 protocols in place at the time by Montgomery County. For more information, call 240-777-8450 or visit the Montgomery County Office of Human Rights website.

Commission for Women Presents Seminars on the Legal Process of Separation and Divorce

The Montgomery County Commission for Women, the Family Law Section, and the Montgomery County Bar Association will present the monthly seminar “Separation and Divorce: What I Need to Know” starting on Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2021, at 7 p.m. Additional seminars will be held the first Wednesday of every month through June 2022. Each seminar is free.

A local family law attorney will lead the session discussing legal details about separation and divorce in Maryland. Session topics will cover methods of dispute resolution; when and where to file; types of divorce and grounds; financial statements; alimony; property and equitable distribution; role of the attorney; and domestic violence/orders of protection.

The event is presented on Zoom. The seminar is free; however, registration is required. The link will be forwarded after registration.

To register, visit the registration website.

Free Online Workshops for Job Seekers and Entrepreneurs Offered in August   

Free online workshops and one-on-one sessions geared toward assisting job seekers and entrepreneurs are being offered virtually throughout August. The program is sponsored by Montgomery County Public Libraries.   

An internet connection and a device (such as a smartphone, tablet or computer) are required for participation.   

The program schedule includes:   
  • Monday, Aug. 30, 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. 30:    
  • 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; Registration is required to take a proctored test. Register: .  

New Public Murals Celebrate Reopening the Arts! #ArtHappensHere

Eight local artists installed 10 temporary murals across Montgomery County promoting the safe reopening of the local creative economy and cultural industry! Commissioned by the Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County (AHCMC) through its Public Arts Trust program, #ArtHappensHere features County-based artists: Robert Cohen, Felisa Federman, Sandra Perez-Ramos, Arlette Jassel, Dinah Myers-Schroeder, Liliane Blom, Martina Sestakova, and Marcie Wolf-Hubbard.

Each original mural encourages residents and visitors to reengage with the creative sector and return to their favorite cultural events, venues, and pastimes. “Efforts to reconnect with audiences far and wide are vital,” said Suzan Jenkins, CEO of the Arts and Humanities Council. “The arts and humanities are only now beginning to reopen after being shuttered since March 2020. The only way to ensure survival for our cultural community is for the public to safely participate in creative experiences throughout the county once again.”

Artists incorporated images reflecting the wide diversity of Montgomery County’s communities in their designs, welcoming back audiences and visitors from all backgrounds and walks of life. Artist Felisa Federman uses colorful hands and birds to represent the varied cultures of Montgomery County in her piece installed at both the Bender JCC and Glen Echo Park Partnership for Arts and Culture. Robert S. Cohen’s mural--mounted at BlackRock Center for the Arts and Dance Exchange--portrays a positive image of inclusivity and interaction through an array of colorful abstract figures. Other artists, like Sandra Perez Ramos, seek to increase public participation by promoting the benefits of the creative sector. Her mural--located at Montgomery Parks--employs trees as a symbol of strength, connection, community, and cooperation. Each symbol represents and reminds people of the power of arts and culture to unify communities, improve well-being, strengthen economies, drive tourism and revenue for local businesses, spark creativity and innovation, and much more.

All the murals are located in cities across Montgomery County including Takoma Park, Silver Spring, Glen Echo, Bethesda, Sandy Spring, Olney, Poolesville, and Gaithersburg. More information on each of the artists, 10 murals, and their exact locations can be found on AHCMC’s website,

Montgomery Parks Extends Open Parkways for Labor Day Weekend; Announces Operating Hours

Montgomery Parks, part of The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, announces Labor Day operating hours, including extending its  Open Parkways through Tuesday, Sept. 7, at 7 a.m., for the holiday weekend.    

Open Parkways Schedule 

Portions of Sligo Creek Parkway, Beach Drive, and Little Falls Parkway will be open to pedestrians and bicyclists for exercise and recreation. 

Open to pedestrians and bicyclists (closed to motor vehicles), from Friday, Sept. 3, at 9 a.m., to Tuesday, Sept. 7, at 7 a.m. 
  • Sligo Creek Parkway  
    • Old Carroll Avenue to Piney Branch Road (1.1 miles)    
    • Forest Glen Road to University Boulevard West (1.5 miles)    
  • Beach Drive from Connecticut Avenue to Knowles Avenue (2.7 miles)     
Open to pedestrians and bicyclists (closed to motor vehicles), from Saturday, Sept. 4, at 7 a.m., to Tuesday, Sept. 7, at 7 a.m.
  • Little Falls Parkway from River Road to Arlington Road (1 mile) 

Labor Day Marks the Final Weekend to Enjoy Seasonal Amenities

Additional facilities open during the holiday weekend include:

The following facilities will be closed on Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 6, 2021

Need a jump-start on your weekend planning?  Visit the Parks Picks blog for a weekly list of fun things to do or see in Montgomery Parks.

August 19, 2021

Message from the County Executive

Dear Friends,

The conversations continue about the necessary steps to contain COVID, even in our County where we lead the nation with 85 percent of our eligible population fully vaccinated and 94 percent with at least one dose, according to CDC statistics.

Even with those impressive numbers, we must continue to be careful. The number of COVID cases is still concerning, and we remain a community with “Substantial Transmission” of the virus according to the CDC. This means the indoor mask mandate remains in effect in Montgomery County.

The vast majority of hospitalizations and deaths are unvaccinated people. Out of the more than 1,500 people in Maryland who have died from COVID-19 since the end of January, 96 percent were unvaccinated and only four percent were vaccinated. And in our County, the “break-through” cases (vaccinated people who get COVID) that required hospitalization were .004 percent of the vaccinated population.

We continue to vaccinate more individuals—more than 5,000 this past week—especially people age 16-39, which is good news. And more people are getting tested. Testing is important, but getting vaccinated is, of course, the best way to stop the spread of the virus.

With school starting on Aug. 30, we must do everything we can to protect our students, parents and staff. We need to reduce the opportunity for outbreaks in our schools, so if you are returning from vacation, whether you are vaccinated or not, please get tested.

Remember, the Delta variant is highly contagious and can be transmitted to and by vaccinated people.

For the unvaccinated: please get vaccinated. Vaccinations are available at our County clinics, pharmacies, hospitals and many other places, including at the County Agricultural Fair, which runs through Saturday night. Go to our website to find a vaccination location.

Proof of vaccination

I want to express my support for efforts by some Montgomery County businesses that have begun to require proof of vaccination or a recent negative test result. They understand that this is important to their patrons, particularly in restaurants, where people do not want to risk exposure when they are unmasked for an extended period while eating.

Proof of vaccinations—especially in places like restaurants, movies and entertainment venues where people gather, eat, and drink—will create more business by providing a better sense of safety for customers. I believe there should be a regional vaccination passport, which is currently being reviewed for feasibility by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.

I understand that some people object to requiring either proof of vaccination or a recent negative test result, often arguing that getting vaccinated is a personal decision. That personal decision becomes a public decision when one person’s individual right becomes his/her right to make other people sick, and that right does not exist.

We will do what is necessary to protect the public health and I applaud those businesses who recognize that a safe and comfortable space is what their customers want and deserve. With 85 percent of eligible people vaccinated, that is a lot of people who can return to public spaces, and the safer those spaces are, the more people will return to our businesses, workplaces, shops and restaurants. For those who do not want to get vaccinated, tests are widely available. You can get more information on test locations here.

Booster Shots

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has made two recent recommendations regarding additional doses. First, people who are moderately to severely immunocompromised should get a third shot to make sure they have enough protection against COVID-19. You can read the CDC information here. And beginning today, County sites will be offering the third dose for these individuals. More information is on our website. Please know that when you view the list of clinics offering the third dose, it will include the information on which vaccine they are offering.

Second, the CDC, along with other Federal public health and medical experts, is now recommending that the general population get a booster shot eight months after being fully vaccinated. You can read the CDC statement here.

I want everyone to know that our public health team is prepared and has anticipated the advent of boosters and have been planning for it. The plan focuses on distributing boosters efficiently and equitably, and working with the private sector as much as possible.

Public Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles

Our public health officer, Dr. Travis Gayles, is resigning. I want to thank Dr. Gayles for his leadership, strength and compassion as the Montgomery County Health Officer during our County’s most significant health threat. I appreciate his service to the residents of Montgomery County and my administration. Dr. Gayles absorbed a torrent of hate and vitriol from some people--including receiving threats to his safety, and racist and homophobic emails and social media attacks. Yet, his recommendations and consistent guidance on the best public health practices have been central to our being one of the safest large jurisdictions in the country.

Our director of the Department of Health and Human Services, Dr. Raymond Crowell, has already begun the process to find the replacement of Dr. Gayles, which is a joint appointment between the County and the State. We will expect someone who will remain independent and will do what is right, not expedient. Dr. Gayles showed how a health officer should guide us, and I expect his replacement to do the same.

AAA bond rating saves taxpayers millions

We received great news this week: All three major financial rating agencies—Fitch, Moody’s and S&P—gave Montgomery County a Triple-A bond rating. Montgomery County continues to be one of the most financially stable jurisdictions in this nation. We are one of only 49 counties in the country with a Triple-A rating from all three agencies—and that is out of 3,000 counties.

A “Triple-A bond rating” is like having a really good credit score. It enables the County to sell long-term bonds at the most favorable rates, which saves County taxpayers millions of dollars.

We have earned Triple-A ratings for almost 50 years. I am proud that we were able to maintain this financial strength even during the pandemic. You can read more about the ratings here.

Bisnow Event: Welcome to Montgomery County and to North Bethesda!

At Bisnow’s “Welcome to North Bethesda” event last week, I gave an update about some of our efforts on economic development for the County.

Montgomery County is home to many companies in the life sciences and technology sectors. We are home to companies that are changing health outcomes for the better, and are making major contributions to the fight against the pandemic. We are also home to major Federal institutions, including the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the Food and Drug Administration. We are using our strengths to aggressively court additional companies to locate here. We are investing in companies that strengthen our life sciences cluster and have a good return on our investment.

We also have done tremendous work in permitting and procurement to make doing business in the County more straightforward and efficient. In fact, our Department of Procurement has won multiple national awards for its work. Through our recent preference for local business procurement, we have increased spending with local businesses by 20 percent in just one year.

Even during the pandemic, we continue to make improvements to help our businesses large and small. If you want to listen to my talk with the business community during the Bisnow event, click here.

It’s official: We are the first Maryland jurisdiction with more than one million residents

The 2020 Census data was released last week, and Montgomery County officially went over a million residents. We are the first jurisdiction in State history to hit that milestone.

Our population grew 9.3 percent over the decade. We have seen a 17.9 percent rise in our Black population, a 20.7 percent rise in our Asian population and a 31.4 percent rise in our Latino population. As one-sixth of our State’s entire population, Montgomery County’s demographics help make Maryland the most diverse state on the East Coast.

This diversity enriches our communities and our lives. Everyone is welcomed in Montgomery County, and these census numbers prove it.

Bringing solar energy to low-income communities

Earlier this week, I joined Montgomery County Green Bank CEO Tom Deyo, Montgomery County Housing Opportunities Commission Director Kayrine Brown and Groundswell CEO Michelle Moore to launch the County’s first community solar project for low- and moderate-income families.

The community solar project is the first in Montgomery County to fall under the Low- and Moderate-Income (LMI) set aside of the Public Service Commission’s community solar pilot.

This project will save these residents $500 annually on their energy bills, and this project is intentionally designed to bring improvements that do not result in the displacement of tenants.

For far too long, equity has been missing from our energy reduction goals. I am proud of our efforts to make policy decisions and investments through both an 'equity' and 'sustainability' lens. Projects like this will be a model for more to come. You can read more about this project here

As always, my sincere appreciation for all of you.

Marc Elrich
County Executive

County Executive Elrich’s Statement on Travis Gayles Stepping Down as County Health Officer

Travis Gayles, the Montgomery County
health officer
Travis Gayles, the Montgomery County health officer for the past four years, sent his resignation to County Executive Marc Elrich and the County Council on Aug. 18. He provided advice and guidance to the County throughout the COVID-19 health crisis. County Executive Elrich made the following statement regarding Dr. Gayles leaving his position:

“Earlier today, Dr. Travis Gayles informed me that he will be leaving his position as our County’s Public Health Officer on Sept. 12. I want to thank Dr. Gayles for his guidance, expertise, and professionalism over the last four years, and particularly the last 18 months. His service to the residents of Montgomery County has been exemplary, and we are a healthier and safer County thanks to his work. Throughout this pandemic, Dr. Gayles has been a voice of reassurance and reason that our residents have counted on during the worst public health event in modern American history. I have relied on him because I trusted his decisions would be guided by science, not politics. His calm demeanor and sound leadership have been invaluable and helped Montgomery County become one of the most vaccinated jurisdictions in the nation. Our community has benefitted from his advice and knowledge, and he will truly be missed. I want to thank Dr. Gayles for his unwavering commitment to our County and wish him all the best in his future endeavors.

“We are fortunate to have a strong team in the Department of Health and Human Services, the Division of Public Health Services, the Board of Health, and across my administration to continue our COVID-19 response and recovery efforts. Dr. Raymond Crowel will immediately begin working with the Maryland Department of Health on filling this important position.”

County Executive Elrich and County Leaders Launch New Community Solar Project at Paddington Square Apartments in Silver Spring

Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich this week joined County Council Vice President Gabe Albornoz, Councilmember Will Jawando, State Delegate Lorig Charkoudian, Montgomery County Green Bank CEO Tom Deyo, Montgomery County Housing Opportunities Commission (HOC) Director Kayrine Brown and Groundswell CEO Michelle Moore to launch the County’s first community solar project that will directly impact low- and moderate-income families. Representatives from Sunlight General Capital, SunCatch and Pepco also participated in the event at Paddington Square Apartments in Silver Spring, which is an affordable housing community.

The community solar project is the first in Montgomery County to fall under the Low and Moderate Income (LMI) set aside of the Public Service Commission’s community solar pilot. Subscriptions from 30 percent of the project will benefit LMI households and save them $500 annually on their energy bills.

To view the event at Paddington Square, go to

“This is a major residential project with the intentionality that the improvements do not result in the displacement of tenants,” said County Executive Elrich. “For far too long, equity has been missing from our energy reduction goals. Since taking office, we have focused this government to make policy decisions and investments through an ‘equity’ and ‘sustainability’ lens. Projects like this will be a model for more to come. I appreciate the work and collaboration of the Montgomery County Green Bank, the Montgomery County Housing Opportunities Commission, Groundswell, Sunlight General Capital, SunCatch and Pepco for this innovative project.”

The Community Solar at Paddington Square project will offer 91 subscriptions to households that want to be a part of an equitable clean energy future, with 28 of the subscriptions set aside for low- and moderate-income households.

Any Maryland resident who receives a Pepco utility bill can sign up for the program. Everyone who subscribes will receive a monthly credit on their Pepco bill.

“We are excited to see this equitable community solar project come online to offer the opportunity for all residents to have access to renewable energy,” said Green Bank CEO Deyo. “The collaboration with Pepco, the County and the project partners has made this effort possible to deliver benefits to County residents and to support the County’s drive to meet its greenhouse gas reduction goals.”

This $850,000 project is being erected on the roofs of Paddington Square Apartments—a Montgomery Housing Opportunities Commission property. The project will save 235 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, enough to power 28 homes or remove 51 cars from roads for an entire year. The Housing Opportunities Commission is leasing the roof for $1 to the solar developer.

Montgomery County Green Bank is the investor and brings its lower-cost capital to support the ability of the project to achieve the LMI household component. The Green Bank will invest about $450,000 in the project from its equity from the Exelon-Pepco merger funds.

By using Groundswell’s innovative SharePowerTM model, the Community Solar at Paddington Square project equitably expands solar access by putting income-qualified households first to receive solar savings. As a result, the 28 “empowered” households can enroll to SharePowerTM and receive a no-cost community solar subscription to that could cut their electricity bill in half.

“Solar energy is abundant, and community solar is a perfect way to equitably share power and savings with our neighbors,” said Groundswell CEO Moore.

Earlier this summer, County Executive Elrich released Montgomery County’s Climate Action Plan—one of the most ambitious climate plans in the nation. The Climate Action Plan identifies 86 actions that the County must address to eliminate greenhouse gases by 2035 and increase climate resilience. From the plan, 75 actions are currently underway. Strategies outlined in the plan focus on those who are most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, as well as opportunities to enhance racial equity.

Last week, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a sobering report noting that human-induced climate change is already affecting many weather and climate extremes in every region across the globe.

Montgomery County, Loudoun County and Capital Infrastructure Announce White's Ferry Operation Study Underway

The Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) announced this week that it is working with the Loudoun County Department of Transportation and Capital Infrastructure (DTCI) on a study of White’s Ferry’s operations. The study, which is on schedule, is designed to provide information to ensure that the ferry, when it reopens, is positioned to provide reliable service for the long term and maximum value to users.

The study began on June 23. A study report providing recommendations is expected to be finalized in late September.

“Since operations of White’s Ferry ended last December, we have been working with our partners in Loudoun County to resume service as soon as possible,” said Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich. “This study is a critical step in this process and will help answer the crucial question of ‘when will the ferry return?’ Restoring the operation of White’s Ferry, to cross the Potomac River between Montgomery County and Loudoun County, is important to reducing travel times for many of our residents. We are committed to working with Loudoun County officials and local stakeholders to ensure a dependable long-term solution is put in place immediately.”

Ferry service across the Potomac River is recognized as an important part of the region’s transportation network. White’s Ferry ceased operations on Dec. 28, 2020, following a Circuit Court opinion in a private lawsuit over the use of land for the ferry landing. White’s Ferry’s operation has been traced to 1786. It was the last of about 100 ferries that shuttled passengers across the Potomac River.

Prior to closing, White’s Ferry transported approximately 600 to 800 vehicles per day across the river and connected bicyclists and pedestrians between Leesburg in Loudoun County and Poolesville in Montgomery County.

“I know that these past months have been challenging for Montgomery County residents who rely on the ferry for their travel and for the small businesses who rely upon the ferry traffic for customers,” said MCDOT Director Chris Conklin. “I want to assure the public that Montgomery County is working closely with all levels of government, both in Maryland and Virginia, to get the ferry reopened. The ferry is a critical part of our transportation network, and this study, along with hard work and collaboration by local officials, aims to reopen the ferry in a way the public can count on for the long term.”

The study’s scope includes an assessment of the following:
  • Roadway access and ferry use along with any other pertinent transportation issues.
  • Identifying legal and regulatory requirements associated with ferry operations.
  • Landing site improvements and landing location options.
  • Operating alternatives that may include a public/private partnership.
  • Extensive outreach to area stakeholders and similar ferry operators in other locations
"Reestablishing this critical transportation connection across the Potomac River is essential to our regional mobility, economy and quality of life," said Montgomery County District 1 Councilmember Andrew Friedson. "Regional solutions require regional collaboration and we are grateful to Loudoun County for partnering with us, along with our state and local partners, so we can return ferry service our residents and businesses need as quickly as possible.”

Since the study kickoff, multiple stakeholders have been engaged to ensure that the study results in meaningful findings. The final report will look at information from past operating data from the previous owner; operating lessons learned from other small ferry operators across the United States; and input from related organizations such as the National Parks Service and the C&O Canal Trust.

To receive a copy of the final study report and any interim updates on MCDOT’s efforts related to the ferry, sign up here. Loudoun County has set up a similar resource here.

County Executive Elrich, Council President Hucker Announce Montgomery’s Continued ‘Triple-A’ Bond Rating and Status Among Nation’s Best for Fiscal Responsibility

Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich and County Council President Tom Hucker this week announced that the County has maintained its “Triple-A” bond rating for 2021 from the three major Wall Street bond rating agencies. The County continued its status as a top-rated issuer of municipal securities, with the highest credit rating possible for a local government. The rating is significant amidst the COVID-19 health crisis.

Moody’s Investors Service, Inc., Standard & Poor’s and Fitch Ratings all affirmed the Triple-A rating—the highest achievable—for the County. Montgomery County has earned Triple-A ratings from Moody's Investors Service, Inc. every year since 1973 (49 consecutive years); from Standard & Poor’s every year since 1976 (46 consecutive years) and from Fitch every year since 1991 (31 consecutive years).

All three rating agencies emphasized Montgomery County’s large and diverse tax base, proximity to the District of Columbia, growing commercial and residential development in areas like Bethesda—as well as the County’s strong fiscal management policies.
  • The Fitch Ratings report stated: “The 'AAA' rating is also supported by a demonstrated capacity to absorb the constraints of recessionary revenue environments and the fiscal decision-making to restore and enhance the county's financial cushion and operations during recovery periods.”
  • The Moody’s reported stated: “The stable outlook reflects growth in the county's large and diverse tax base, which will likely remain strong due to ongoing commercial and residential development and the county's close proximity to the District of Columbia (Aaa stable). The outlook also incorporates the likelihood that the county's financial position will remain stable relative to budget growth.”
  • The Standard & Poor’s report stated: “We believe Montgomery County's very strong local economy and demonstrated resilience to economic cycles, in addition to a very strong management team, which we expect will continue to make necessary adjustments to maintain structural balance, are all factors that provide rating stability. We believe these strengths will help mitigate the impact of the pandemic on the county's overall financial profile.”
The Triple-A bond rating enables Montgomery County to sell long-term bonds at the most favorable rates, saving County taxpayers millions of dollars over the life of the bonds. The rating also serves as a benchmark for numerous other financial transactions, ensuring the lowest possible costs in those areas as well.

“Out of more than 3,000 counties in this nation, Montgomery County is one of approximately 50 counties with a Triple-A bond rating from all three credit agencies,” said County Executive Elrich. “To be among the few local jurisdictions to achieve this mark of financial stability for more than three decades is a testament to consistent financial stewardship, smart choices and wise investments. This bond rating saves our taxpayers millions of dollars in lower interest rates and demonstrates to the financial community that purchasing Montgomery County bonds is a wise investment. As we recover from the economic impacts and hardships from the pandemic, these funds are greatly needed to continue to rebuild our County’s economy and create jobs and opportunities for our residents.”

Council President Hucker said: "The County Council’s commitment to fiscal oversight has paid off for our residents. In 2021, we formally implemented long-standing and new fiscal policies to maintain robust reserves and allow us to cope through challenging times. Despite the huge challenges caused by COVID-19, Montgomery County has continued the longest string of AAA bond ratings of any county in the nation. This would not have been possible without the foresight and planning by the County Council, especially members of the Government Operations Committee and GO Chair Nancy Navarro.”

Councilmember Navarro, chair of the Council’s Government Operations and Fiscal Policy Committee, said: “I am ecstatic that once more Montgomery County has maintained its AAA bond rating. This past year was certainly the most challenging period since the Great Recession, putting new strains on both our fiscal resources and our government operations. It is our duty as legislators to act as good stewards of taxpayer money, to make decisions that both fund needed services equitably and maintain fiscally responsible practices. This Council came together to achieve both goals, and as a result Montgomery County is well positioned to begin the road to recovery in 2021.”