Over the holiday weekend and on Monday we celebrated the 4th of July throughout Montgomery County with parades, fireworks, and gatherings – many that returned for the first time in three years. These events drew thousands of residents and visitors to our communities and neighborhoods large and small, reflecting our diversity, inclusion, and a desire to celebrate what’s best about our country.
In wake of the tragic mass shooting in Illinois and other incidents of gun violence throughout our nation, we were very fortunate that all our July 4th events were safe. I want to thank the Montgomery County Police Department, Fire and Rescue Services, Department of Recreation, Department of Transportation and our municipality partners for their planning and time away from their own families to ensure that our events were safe, secure, and well managed for everyone’s enjoyment.
Born on the 4th of July
The 4th of July was also the date of the formation of the Montgomery County Police Department. On July 4th, 1922 – 100 years ago - MCPD was formed to take on some of the responsibilities of the Montgomery County Sheriff’s office. The department was designated to be between 3 to 6 officers who were to be appointed to two-year terms, with one of them designated as the Chief.
This week, we honored this milestone with a 100 Year Commemorative Ceremony. I joined Governor Larry Hogan, our Congressional Delegation, County Council Members, and other dignitaries at the Red Brick Courthouse in downtown Rockville - the same location where the first 6 police officers were sworn in 100 years ago.
In 1922, when MCPD was formed, the County’s population was only 32,000. At six officers, that was one officer per 5,300 residents. When I moved to the county in 1960, we’d grown to 340,000 people and we had about 200 officers, about one officer per 1,500 residents. Today, our County has 1.1 million people and MCPD has 1,300 sworn officers and 650 support personnel, a ratio of one officer per 850 residents. And today our police department is one of the best in the country.
At this event we unveiled the time capsule from the 75th anniversary and buried a new time capsule in honor of this 100-year anniversary. I hope you join me this year in wishing our officers and MCPD staff a happy 100th!
You can watch clips of this special ceremony by clicking here. For more events and information about MCPD’s 100th anniversary, please visit www.mcpd100.org
Maintaining security, protecting freedom of speech
There has been a lot of attention this week on the protests in some of our neighborhoods around the homes of Supreme Court justices. The attention was generated by the Marshal of the Supreme Court releasing a letter to the media before they sent it to me and without anyone there picking up the phone to talk with my office or the Montgomery County Police Department about security concerns.
In fact, this letter was not emailed to my office but to the email account of the County’s Public Information Office at 10 am on Saturday morning of a holiday weekend, 10 hours after the Washington Post wrote about the letter. And the email noted that this letter was mailed – via US mail - to us on Friday. We still have not officially received this letter in the mail as of mid-week. Their eagerness to notify the press contrasts sharply with their lackadaisical approach in reaching out to us and does not convey a sense of urgency about security.
We – and our police – are enforcing the law. The officers of the Montgomery County Police Department are ensuring that protestors do not linger in front of homes and that they are not there too late. The officers have been doing a great job managing public safety while also allowing freedom of speech . We as a County are not encouraging these protests, but we won’t deny people their Constitutional rights to protest if they do it in a lawful way.
The primary responsibility for the safety of the Supreme Court justices and their families lies with the federal government. The County police are there to help and have always been willing to provide support that the U.S. Marshals need. Under federal laws, the Marshals have the authority to arrest anyone who violates a federal law. I am always willing to discuss any issues of concern, but I don’t appreciate a publicity stunt intended to convey the impression that the County is not doing its part .
Montgomery County taxes among the lowest in region
A recent report from the D.C. government confirms that Montgomery County is a great place to live and do business. Their report measures tax burdens on households around the region and it found that Montgomery County has the 2nd lowest tax burden on residents of 8 jurisdictions in the Washington DC area - 2nd only to Washington DC. Additionally, the DC government’s most recent report measuring business tax burden ranked Montgomery County as having the lowest tax burden for both small and large businesses.
It's unfortunate that people continue to repeat misinformation often aimed at encouraging the county to provide tax breaks to developers based on a narrative that is not supported by the facts. Reports like this show Montgomery County is a great place to live and to do business.
Having studies like this should help our revenue continue to the grow as more and more employers see the benefit of basing their companies in Montgomery County.
“Sprouting” new business in Burtonsville
I was pleased to join community and business leaders and the District 14 delegation to announce that Sprouts Farmers Market will be coming to Burtonsville as a major part of the plans to redevelop the Burtonsville Crossing Shopping Center.
This was wonderful, long-awaited news for East County residents, and I very much appreciate the property owner’s (Edens) willingness to work with me and my team as we looked for ways to recreate a vibrant shopping experience. Sprouts provides a springboard for further revitalization, and I look forward to working with Edens as we continue to develop a plan that integrates the adjacent county owned land with Edens’ revitalization efforts.
This is the third major economic development project we’ve been able to get moving in East County, following the commencement of the Hillandale gateway project on New Hampshire Avenue and the White Oak town center project along Rt. 29. And plans are underway to add a Montgomery College location in East County, with the possibility of a full-scale campus within the next decade. These projects will bring much needed jobs and nearby educational opportunities to this long-neglected but promising area of the County.
Completing “Complete Streets”
Our Complete Streets directives are now ready to be acted on by the Council so that street safety and uniformity go hand in hand. This will help establish new standards for the sidewalks, bike routes, and street construction that keep the safety of cyclists and pedestrians at top of mind. Complete Streets standards are a critical component of implementing the County’s Vision Zero goal of eliminating traffic deaths by 2030.
Novavax expansion moves forward
Montgomery County has become a hub of pandemic prevention and response activity. Earlier this year, Gaithersburg-based Novavax announced expanded production of their COVID-19 vaccine, which is now authorized around the globe and in the U.S.
We are doing our part to help with the expansion in Gaithersburg. Earlier this week, I sent a Resolution to the Council to ensure that Novavax continues to grow and create jobs. Working with the state of Maryland, we have secured a $5 million financial commitment to help Novavax expand over the next decade. By 2030, the company expects an eightfold increase in its workforce along with 250,000 additional square feet of lab space.
To learn more about how Montgomery County is “Built for Bio”, please check out the Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation’s website on the bio and life sciences industries.
“9-8-8” is coming soon
Plans are in the works to simplify how people experiencing mental health emergencies here in Montgomery County can reach out for help. By mid-July you’ll be able to reach the National Suicide Prevention Hotline by dialing 988 on your phone instead of the full phone number which is 800-273-8255. Montgomery County is also home to a 24-Hour Crisis Center that’s open every day of the year, even for the uninsured.
New Police Accountability Board’s complaint portal now open
A new portal for filing complaints against police officers in Montgomery County is now available through the Montgomery County government website – www.montgomerycountymd.gov/pab. This is important news and a much easier way to report a concern. Written complaints will also be accepted if they are mailed to my office - “Office of County Executive, 101 Monroe Street, 2nd Floor, Rockville, MD 20850.”
The newly formed Police Accountability Board, or PAB, will oversee complaints filed against the Montgomery County Police Department and other law enforcement agencies in the county (the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office, City of Gaithersburg Police Department, and City of Takoma Park Police Department).
Members of the 9-person PAB were selected by my office and confirmed by the County Council last month. One of the PAB's first tasks will be rounding out the Administrative Charging Committee, or ACC, which will evaluate complaints from the public. The ACC will hold hearings on complaints they find credible.
One important role for these new groups will be working with law enforcement agencies to review, provide policy advice, and report on disciplinary matters stemming from public complaints about police or deputy misconduct. They’ll also hold quarterly meetings to review the outcomes of disciplinary matters in the name of police oversight.
We thank these appointees for their time and wish them all the best as they work to help our community.
COVID-19 rates remain steady, County booster rates reach new milestones, leading state in baby vaccinations
As for our COVID update this week, case rates continue to hover between 200-250 cases per 100K residents, which is where we have remained now for the past month. We do expect an uptick in reported cases following a holiday weekend when many of our residents test themselves after being at gatherings and parties with others.
Our hospitalization rates are also remaining steady and have dropped slightly this week to 6.3 admissions per 100K residents. While this may not sound high, our hospitals are still understaffed, so I am hoping these numbers continue declining week to week.
Also, it is important to note that our BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants now make up more than half of the new cases we’re seeing. Protection from vaccines and boosters don’t last. Even with strong vaccination rates of 60 percent for anyone 12 and up and 80 percent for those 65 and up, we’ve still seen the virus spread through the community.
Montgomery County leads the state in the number of children 6 months to 5 years old who have gotten their first vaccination to protect them from COVID. This should not be a surprise, as we have consistently led the state and nation in our vaccination and booster rates. Close to 5,000 kids got their vaccines in just the first few days the vaccines were available to the public. That's more than three times as many as the next county in Maryland, which is Howard County.
Thanks again to our HHS department and staff for a smooth start to our vaccine clinics aimed at young children. The number of infants and toddlers vaccinated so far still account for less than 10 percent of those now eligible in that group. We have plenty of vaccine supply and can take both walk-ins and appointments at our clinics and health offices. For more information on clinic locations and hours please visit www.govaxmoco.com.
Long COVID is a growing concern
We often mention that our death rate is only two-thirds the national average and we have reduced deaths in Montgomery County from 1,104 in 2020 to 624 in 2021. However, through the first six months of 2022, COVID has killed 315 people here, putting us on pace to lose more people to COVID this year than we did last year, despite much higher vaccination rates.
For many people, life seems normal again. As I mentioned at the top of this letter, this past holiday and holiday weekend was our first together with so many people since before the pandemic. It was great to see so many people on Independence Day dancing, eating BBQ, and having fun.
We want to celebrate all we’ve done to protect ourselves and our neighbors, but the unfortunate reality is that COVID is still out there and it’s still making some people very sick. Vaccines have been a huge help in keeping COVID patients out of intensive care or worse, but catching COVID can still be a threat to your long-term health.
This week in my weekly COVID-19 media update we heard from a pulmonologist who detailed how distressing long COVID can be. There is a laundry list of symptoms associated with patients who may have to live with the impact of a bout with COVID for up to a year or longer. Those symptoms can include severe weakness, prolonged fatigue, shortness of breath, a mental fog, and depression, just to name a few. Long COVID can also impact major organs in your body like your kidneys, lungs, heart and brain. It impacts minorities disproportionately; at this time, doctors are still experimenting with treatments for the varied impacts of long COVID.
The bottom line is that COVID has not gone away. Your best bet is to stay up to date with your vaccines and boosters, avoid crowds when you know there’s an elevated risk of transmission, and continue to adhere to safety protocols like social distancing and wearing a face mask when appropriate.
In closing, I want to say Eid al-Adha Mubarak! Wishing all that are celebrating a safe and joyful Eid.