April 7, 2022

Message from the County Executive

Dear Friends,

“I’m still trying, you don’t give up. If you give up, then you haven’t accomplished too much, but I feel like what my sister and I have done in Damascus and for the County and the State, if you don’t work together and try to unite together, it's downhill. I’ve tried all these 101 years, and I feel like that’s the only way to do it, is to unite and talk from the heart, try, and try again. If you fail once, don’t give up, keep trying.” William Harvey Zeigler

Harvey spoke these words in December after receiving the inaugural Inez Zeigler McAbee and William Harvey Zeigler Humanitarian Award. I was proud and honored to rename the County Executive’s Humanitarian Award after him and his sister, Inez Zeigler McAbee. Sadly, Harvey passed away this week at age 102. Our sympathies and condolences are with Harvey’s family, friends and all those who were mentored and inspired by him over his long life.

At his core, Harvey was a humanitarian. During his lifelong pursuit for equality and justice, his accomplishments included calling out job discrimination and promoting the hiring of African Americans in government agencies, including Montgomery County Public Schools and the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service. Harvey was a Montgomery County Human Rights Hall of Fame member, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr Humanitarian Award recipient, African American Living Legend Award recipient—as well as a leader and member of the Montgomery County branch of the NAACP.

Harvey was a World War II veteran, and upon returning to Damascus, was not even allowed to join the American Legion with his fellow veterans due to his race. He cited that awful experience as the reason why he became involved in civil rights and spent a lifetime fighting racism and injustice. Last February, at 100 years old, Harvey was still being an important County role model and influencer by allowing the media to cover his COVID vaccine shot.

William Harvey Zeigler’s life and legacy will never be forgotten. I certainly will not forget the impact he had on me. He was a friend that I will truly miss. All in Montgomery County owe him gratitude for his life’s work to make this a better, more equitable and more livable county for all. I was honored to know Harvey and I am glad I had a chance to talk with him just few weeks ago.

Earth Month Begins with ‘Now or Never’ Warning from the UN

April is Earth Month and a great time to focus on the future of our planet. The latest UN Report on Climate Change, released this week, shows that carbon emissions from 2010-2019 are higher than ever before in human history. UN Secretary General António Guterres warned it is ‘now or never’ to limit global warming. Secretary Guterres said specifically, “This is not fiction or exaggeration. It is what science tells us will result from our current energy policies. We are on a pathway to global warming of more than double the 1.5-degree Celsius—or 2.7-degrees Fahrenheit—limit that was agreed in Paris in 2015.” I encourage everyone to read Secretary Guterres op-ed that was published in The Washington Post this week where he cited a “litany of broken climate promises” that revealed a “yawning gap between climate pledges and reality.”

The bottom line is that we need to commit to combatting climate change, reducing carbon emissions and prioritizing sustainability—not just during Earth month. This must be a year-round endeavor with collaboration and cooperation at all levels of government, in every business and corporation and in each of our homes and lifestyle. Climate change is the existential crisis of our time. I have been very vocal about the need to take real action in leading Montgomery County to address what we can to ensure a healthier community and planet for our current and future residents. I am proud that, as a County, we are known around the region, State and throughout the nation as a leader on this issue.

We have some of the most ambitious climate goals in the country, including reducing our communitywide greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2027 and 100 percent by 2035. The Climate Action Plan we launched last summer is our roadmap for reducing emissions and will help us analyze the risk of major climate hazards and climate vulnerabilities in the County. Implementing the Climate Action Plan is an all-hands-on-deck effort and requires concerted action to address emissions from the buildings, transportation and energy sectors. It will also enhance climate resilience, all while prioritizing racial equity and social justice in the community.

Earlier this week, Montgomery County’s Department of Environmental Protection and the US Green Building Council of the National Capital Region hosted its 9th Annual Energy Summit – and its first in-person summit since the pandemic began. More than 300 attendees, including green building and sustainability professionals, gathered in Silver Spring, as well as online, for the two-day summit. I was pleased to address the audience and update it on our progress, our goals and on the challenges and limitations we are facing. I discussed some innovative financing tools that will help us find capital to continue to electrify our fleet of vehicles, transition our buses to hydrogen fuel and expand solar throughout the County. We wrote, and the Council passed, regulations to require that new buildings be more efficient. However, we are still waiting for our Building Energy Performance Standards (BEPS) legislation—which we sent to the Council one year ago—to be voted on.

Throughout this month, Montgomery County will be honoring Earth Month with volunteer, community and environmental events that are fun, educational and bring attention to the importance of caring for the environment. I encourage all residents to visit mygreenmontgomery/org for events and how to participate.

‘Survey Says:’ Montgomery County Is a Great Place to Live

This week we released the findings of the biannual, independent survey on the “livability” of Montgomery County. Survey results showed that 90 percent of respondents consider the County as “excellent” or “good” when asked about the County as a place to live. And 86 percent of respondents consider the County as excellent or good when asked about the County’s overall quality of life.

The results are reassuring that our efforts have had a positive impact on people’s lives. The increases in favorable responses to questions about the County’s livability and quality of life as compared to previous surveys are a testament to the role our government has played in supporting and protecting our residents through these challenging times.

The survey is an interesting reflection of where we are succeeding, areas that we need to improve and how our residents are perceiving Montgomery County as a great place to live, work and thrive for themselves and their families. You can look at the complete survey by visiting https://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/OPI/survey2021.html

COVID Cases Tick Upward

The County’s seven-day COVID-19 case rate continues to tick upward. Our case rate per 100,000 residents has doubled over the past two weeks. Our hospitalizations remain low, but have increased. We remain in the CDC “low community level” due to high vaccination rate and low hospital rates, but our community transmission level increased from the “moderate” level to the “substantial” level this week.

This uptick was expected as the BA.2 subvariant continues to grow in percentage of cases identified which is now 67 percent in our region. Our case rate projections show continued increases over the next several weeks before levels are expected to peak and wane again.

The good news this week is that our Department of Health and Human Serices experienced a 300 percent increase in weekly vaccinations as a result of last week’s second booster authorization, but 47 percent of our residents still have not received a booster. As you can see from the graphic below, boosters can make a huge positive difference.

Next week is Spring Break for Montgomery County Public Schools and we expect that many of our families will be travelling. We encourage everyone to continue to be vigilant, continue to test and report positive results, and most importantly, get vaccinated and boosted. Check out govaxmoco.com to find the nearest location to get your shot.

Public Health is Where You Are

Montgomery County is commemorating National Public Health Week this week as well as World Health Day under the theme, “Public Health Is Where You Are.” Over the last two years, we have learned firsthand how important public health and our public health workers are to our County’s welfare.

Although, COVID has gotten the lion’s share of attention, our Department of Health and Human Services, along with our State and nonprofit partners, has continued its work across numerous threats. There has been great impact on our public health including substance misuse and addictions, sexually transmitted diseases, mental health, crisis intervention—as well as racism and health inequities.

Health is a human right and a priority of my administration. Montgomery County is one of the U.S. News and World Reports Healthiest Communities. In 2021, we ranked as the 65th healthiest overall, which is up from a ranking of 101 in 2020. The recognition and improvement are due in part to our County’s world-class public health team. I thank them for their vigilance, dedication and professionalism while keeping us safe and healthy.

More Labs, Incubator Graduates and an Economic Plan

We cannot go long without hearing good economic news in our County. Recently, announcements for new lab space being planned or under construction total more than three million square feet. These announcements show the tremendous potential for Montgomery County to be a national epicenter for jobs and opportunities in these critical industries. Check out this recent Bisnow article that highlights how our County’s workforce pipeline is helping us become a national epicenter for the life sciences.

I want to congratulate three companies who have graduated from our incubator, located at Montgomery College’s Pinkney Innovation Complex in Germantown. Akan Biosciences, Intelligent Fusion Technology and Seraxis are choosing to stay in Montgomery County. These companies together have grown to more than 50 employees and have obtained millions of dollars in private investment as they continue their work in the bio health and information technologies sectors. Montgomery County is committed to having an economic development environment that fosters growth and entrepreneurship. These graduates are a great example of the value of providing innovation support.

Bravo, Montgomery al Dia!

This week we celebrated the 10th Anniversary of “Montgomery al Día” (“Montgomery Today”), Montgomery County’s Spanish-language radio show on Radio America WACA 900 AM. I was honored to be the guest on the 500th episode of this program. I want to congratulate and thank host, and Montgomery County Hispanic Public Information Officer, Lorna Virgili for this achievement and efforts to ensure that news and events of this County are being communicated to our Latino residents.

Ramadan Mubarak

I want to wish the Muslim community of Montgomery County “Ramadan Mubarak.” Ramadan is the holiest month in the Islamic calendar and reminds us of the richness Islam adds to our County’s diversity and culture. May those observing Ramadan have a blessed month.

Thanks and have a great week.

Marc Elrich
County Executive