April 28, 2022

Message from the County Executive

Dear Friends,

This week we are concluding celebrating April as Earth Month. From our Energy Summit at the beginning of the month to our popular Greenfest event last weekend, we have been celebrating Earth Month with educational events and fun activities. We also launched our first trash trap to help waterways stay clean and celebrated the Maryland General Assembly passing the Climate Solutions Now Act and increasing funding to expand our Bus Rapid Transit system. I am looking forward to signing our Building Energy Performance Standards, or BEPS, legislation into law on Monday.

I want to thank our Department of Environmental Protection, Department of Transportation, Department of General Services and the County Libraries and Recreation departments for their hard work and advocacy during Earth month—as well as every day of the year.

On a personal note, I am concluding Earth Month with the installation of solar panels on my house. I am very excited to have my home powered by this clean and renewable energy, and I look forward to seeing the impact it will have on my energy bills. If you are interested in solar for your home, there are Maryland tax credit programs available for residential solar installation, as well as opportunities to be a part of a solar co-op.

Although Earth Month is ending, our commitment to sustainability in our government and throughout our communities will continue. Rachel Carson wrote in Silent Spring, “In nature, nothing exists alone.” Montgomery County residents understand that the air we breathe, the water we use and the food we consume are all connected, and we must ensure that this planet is survivable for future generations.

Despite Recent Surge in COVID-19 Cases, County Hospitalization Rates Remain Low

Our COVID-19 case rates and positivity rates continue to increase, but the good news is that our hospitalization rates remain low. Currently, Montgomery County is at “moderate” transmission levels of COVID, but remains in the “low” community level according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The current surge in cases is the first one since the pandemic began that is not creating increased strain on our hospital system. This is evidence that vaccines and treatments are effective protection from severe illness and hospitalization.

This week, Dr. Fauci said “Right now we’re at a low enough level that I believe that we’re transitioning into endemicity. … We’re not in the full-blown explosive pandemic phase. That does not mean that the pandemic is over.”

I appreciate Dr. Fauci’s point that while we may be transitioning into a new phase, this pandemic is not over. COVID is still in our community, and it is still spreading. With proms, graduations, end of the school year celebrations and Mother’s Day taking place in the weeks to come, people getting vaccinated and boosted remains a top priority. And if you travel or are around large numbers of people, please test yourself or get tested.

Bon Appetite! ‘MoCo Eats Week’ Continues

Visit Montgomery’s “MoCo Eats Week” continues through Saturday. There are deals and discounts at nearly 80 participating restaurants throughout the County.

Over the last two years, our restaurants have been hit hard, and while they have been innovative and adaptive, they are still feeling the effects of the pandemic. MoCo Eats Week is a great opportunity to demonstrate your support and appreciation for our restaurants and their employees who work in this industry in Montgomery County.

I also want to acknowledge the work of our Alcohol Beverage Services over the last two years. The pandemic has been a logistical, organizational, and staffing challenge for ABS. However, ABS has been innovative, efficient, and effective and quickly adapted their operations throughout while consistently improving customer service. ABS and Department of Health and Human Services inspectors went out as needed, including evenings and weekends, to ensure venues were safe for customers. They checked to make sure businesses were complying with our capacity, physical distancing and mask requirements at bars and restaurants during the height of COVID.

To assist businesses in keeping their doors open, we allocated nearly $12 million dollars in relief to support our restaurants. And through it all, the flexibility and adaptation our restaurants have exhibited during this crisis has been remarkable. Whether that has been through contactless carry out, the expansion of delivery services or the utilization of outdoor dining “Streeteries” program, these innovations have changed what we expect as customers and how the restaurants do business.

Most importantly, our restaurant owners and managers adherence to guidance and recommendations helped us become one of the safest communities from COVID. Many of our restaurants throughout the County donated food and assisted efforts to help our most impacted residents. We are grateful for their partnership and compassion.

County to Start ‘Crushing It’ in the Wine Industry

I brought the idea of a grape crush pad to the County more than a decade ago when, through a series of conversations, I realized that Montgomery County had the potential to create a wine industry that would be comparable to what we’ve seen develop in Northern Virginia. We have the soils, climate and farmland to create something significant—and our wineries are already demonstrating the ability to produce high-quality wine.

It feels great to see an idea come to fruition. This week, we held a groundbreaking ceremony for an exciting new development called “Crossvines “in Poolesville. Crossvines will be a combination of a winery, grape-crushing facility, events venue, restaurant and wine education center. Crossvines is expected to bring approximately $22 million of economic activity to Montgomery County. See photos from the groundbreaking event.

The facility will share land with the Poolesville Golf Course and is being built on an empty spot not currently used for golf. In addition to the vineyard, the plan is to construct a 16,500-square-foot clubhouse with a banquet and dining hall, a grape crushing facility, a malting and distilling facility, educational pavilion, picnic area and outdoor class space.

Crossvines is a collaboration between the Montgomery County Revenue Authority, the Universities at Shady Grove, and The University of Maryland Extension. Students will be able to study grape cultivation, vineyard management and winemaking at the new facility. Additionally, there will be a partnership with the Universities at Shady Grove to provide hands-on experiences for students in their agri-tourism, marketing, culinary arts and other related programs.

I am excited about this project and express my sincere appreciation to former County Executive Ike Leggett for his support and investments in this project. Crossvines will be a critical component for catalyzing the wine industry ,and hopefully, will bring the associated tourism that has emerged in other places in the country.

This project is one of its kind in our region and I am excited to see it open later this year.

Time to Thank a Teacher

Teacher Appreciation Week will be celebrated next week. I want to express my appreciation to our teachers. I was an elementary school teacher and I know how difficult it is to motivate children and keep them engaged. The pandemic has been extraordinarily difficult for our teachers—and all of our school staff—and what they have done over the last two years is impressive. No matter the unprecedented challenges they have faced, their focus on the education of students has not wavered.

Please join me and thank all our teachers for their service to our children and our communities.

Addressing School Safety

Montgomery County Public Schools’ Superintendent Dr. Monifa McKnight and Police Chief Marcus Jones this week presented to the County Council the updated plans for the Community Engagement Officer program. The superintendent, chief and members of the County Council recognized and discussed the need to provide public safety resources for the students, appropriately address their mental health and welfare and deal with discipline issues separately from actual criminal behavior.

I was pleased to hear that MCPS is making progress on the hiring of social workers and psychologists that help with the emotional support of our students and de-escalate and prevent incidents from happening. The County provided the funding for additional mental health staff, but MCPS—like so many organizations—is having difficulty filling the positions.

Chief Jones was clear that police officers will not be patrolling hallways, intervening in school discipline issues, and, specifically, not arresting students for marijuana possession in MCPS school anymore.

These agreements and understandings are laid out in the memorandum of understanding, which was discussed at the Council earlier this week. I believe that we are moving forward in the right direction under this model.

We Shall ‘Never Forget’

We recognized Yom Hashoah, also known as Holocaust Remembrance Day this week. This date corresponds to the 27th day of Nisan on the Hebrew calendar and marks the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.

We must never forget the six million Jewish people lost in the Holocaust, and we must continue to fight against hatred, antisemitism and oppression. As we see war atrocities in Europe and hate crimes here at home, we are reminded by the Holocaust what horrors fascism, racism, homophobia and religious persecution can lead to.

Montgomery County is a proud community of diversity and inclusion. Hate has no home here. We must continue to educate ourselves and families about the challenges and victories the people in our communities have faced. The more we understand and celebrate the history and contributions of each other, the stronger we will become as a County.

As always, my appreciation for all you do.

Marc Elrich
County Executive