September 15, 2022

Message from the County Executive

Dear Friends,

We begin the celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month this week. It runs from Sept.15 to Oct. 15. Over the course of the next 30 days, I will be visiting with men and women from the Latino community whose businesses represent a wide array of industries including retail, auto repair and childcare.

I want to thank the leaders in cities and communities throughout the County for hosting events and being so supportive of Hispanic Heritage Month. I encourage you to check out the calendars we have developed, which identify ceremonies, art projects and other events that pay tribute to the rich history and culture of Latinos in each area of Montgomery County.

The latest census data indicates that 217,409 Latinos call Montgomery County home. That is a 31 percent increase from 2010, with 21 percent of the County classified as Latino.

This increase also impacts our public school system. Latino students make up an even larger portion of the MCPS school population, nearly one in three students. We have recognized this change by focusing more of our resources on helping Hispanic and Latino children and adults in a variety of different ways.

In our County, you will find schools that have expanded programs to help students who come from countries all over the world. There are now six schools that offer two-way language immersion classes to help Spanish-speaking children at the elementary school level. Efforts like this have helped MCPS raise its graduation rate for limited-English speaking students by nearly 10 percent in the last five years.

Montgomery College also is a resource for Latino students through the Hispanic Business and Training Institute. It offers classes in business, entrepreneurship, professional development and licensure. These classes are taught in Spanish or are bilingual.

This summer, Montgomery County began to enhance its outreach to Hispanic and Latino businesses by educating them on the procurement process.  We held a three-part workshop on obtaining County contracts entirely in Spanish. That work continues over the course of this month with two business workshops for Latino businesses, with one focused on working women.

Montgomery County’s Spanish-language health campaign, led by the Latino Health Initiative, used the Emmy-award winning character La Abuelina, to help encourage the community to take COVID-19 seriously and get vaccinated. These efforts saved lives and led to one of the highest vaccination rates among Latino communities in the nation. 

There are a number of events planned over the next month to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, so please join us as we honor and appreciate our Latino communities and their contributions to our County. 

Changes are needed to the Thrive 2050 Master Plan

We received a troubling update this week on the County’s Thrive 2050 proposed general Plan. Thrive 2050 is the County’s roadmap that will shape how our neighborhoods, business districts, public spaces and parks will look for years to come. This general planning document is intended to guide all of our master plans moving forward for the next three decades.  It is important to the future of this County because it lays the framework for future zoning. It will influence decisions over budget expenditures—billions of dollars—for education investments, transportation infrastructure, economic development, environmental protection, and affordable housing preservation and production, as well as our racial equity and social justice efforts.

For future zoning, while Thrive 2050 does not include zoning itself, it recommends all future land uses that are the basis for zoning. The current version of Thrive recommends significant changes to current land uses without sufficiently addressing the consequences produced by those changes. I have raised concerns about Thrive throughout the process. You can see what I have written here, but the most recent development is the most concerning: the report from consultants about their racial equity and social justice review of Thrive 2050. 

I am glad the County Council commissioned this analysis because it had not been done by the Planning Board originally. This review was conducted quickly because of time constraints and was intended to solidify the plan moving forward, but it did the opposite. We now have more questions than answers. In fact, after one presentation by the consultants on the report, the Council has now added a new session next Tuesday to discuss in-depth the consultants’ RESJ review and recommendations for Thrive.

These recommendations were the impetus for the memo I sent to the County Council urging it to not move Thrive forward until fundamental issues with the plan and concerns regarding the lack of equity and community involvement are resolved.

I encourage everyone to watch the presentation of that review given to the  Council earlier this week. Below are some of the excerpts from the report:

In general, the report recommended substantial changes to Thrive – here are some of those excerpted below:

The feedback gathered by the consultant team over the summer and the significant changes it recommended is why I urged the Council to disapprove the Thrive 2050 plan. The Council does not have time to revise Thrive before the statutory deadline, which is Oct. 25. It simply cannot be done in that time.

There is absolutely no urgency to push this plan forward. While it has been presented as the solution for affordable housing, the County already has a strong policy in favor of affordable housing. The previous housing element—which is only 10 years old and part of the current general plan—has more concrete solutions for affordable housing than this document.

We need to get this right; we should not rush it. In fact, as one of the consultants noted during the hearing: “Compressed time frames are the enemy of equity and justice.” That is a powerful statement that we need to take to heart. We want to give our community the best road map moving forward, and we need to take the necessary time to draw that map.

Newly renovated rental community is helping preserve affordable housing in Rockville

This fiscal year I have earmarked $140 million in the budget for affordable housing. One hundred million of that will be used for capital lending, which is two-and-a-half-times the amount spent on affordable housing in previous budgets. One hundred million dollars of County financing can produce or preserve up to 2,000 dedicated-affordable housing units. We have already dedicated at least $40 million of that capital lending to keep 700 units facing increasing rent pressures affordable, like properties near the forthcoming Purple Line.

Parkside Landing is one example of how we are working on our affordable housing needs sans a complete Thrive 2050 plan. This is a beautiful and affordable rental community near Dogwood Park in Rockville and within walking distance of downtown and a Metro station. This complex could have been the latest older community turned into “market rate” apartments with sky-high rent. Instead, we worked with property owners to lend them more than $5 million. Other funding partners crucial to this project were the City of Rockville, Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development and HUD.

Rockville Housing Enterprises used the financing package to preserve 118 affordable units and produce 59 additional affordable units. With this project, we protected the affordable housing already in place and created new affordable units for renters.

What we do not want to see is more affordable housing options lost to market adjustments and new development. We only have around 22,000 units today, down from 45,000. If we do not make moves like this, our affordable housing options will continue to disappear.

Failing to focus on affordable housing will lead to the loss of our workforce. Years ago, it was teachers, firefighters and other public employees who needed this protection. Now, more people fall into the category of not making enough money to keep up with soaring home and rent prices. Solutions developed 50 years ago, like the Moderately Priced Dwelling Unit (MPDU) program, need updating. Today, there are only 6,700 affordable rental units left from that well-intentioned and important program.

Over the next several months, you will see more updates on progress we are making toward producing, preserving and protecting affordable housing. I look forward to continued updates as we move forward with the development of affordable housing on 18 separate County-owned properties throughout the County. When we put out feelers to gauge interest in working with us on these projects, we got back more than 100 responses from developers.

Just this month, the Department of General Services issued a series of Requests for Developer Proposals for County-owned sites in Bethesda, Silver Spring, Glenmont, Rockville and Wheaton. This will ensure we are selecting the best ideas and using every tool at our disposal to build more affordable housing units.

I will continue to talk extensively about our efforts and solutions to our affordable housing problem. If you would like to know more about my vision for creating more affordable housing in Montgomery County, watch this video released I released this summer.

Covid community level remains at “Low,” receiving new bivalent booster is critical for increased protection

Our COVID-19 community level remains low this week. Case rates continue to decline and our hospitalizations from COVID have decreased by about 25 percent over the past month. 

I continue to encourage everyone to get vaccinated and stay up to date on booster shots. The newly authorized bivalent boosters, or “Omicron Boosters,” are designed to protect against the Omicron strains. Bivalent boosters are meant for anyone 12 and up who has not had a booster in the last two months. They have replaced the boosters we had been giving out for months and are the only boosters available now. They are available through the County, but many more have also been shipped to our local doctors and pharmacies.

The new boosters are critical to ensuring that we do not have another winter like last year. It is imperative that folks get their shot over the upcoming weeks before the weather gets cold, everyone is inside more often and the virus becomes more transmissible.

We know how to best beat COVID and it is the vaccines. Yet, there is still a myth out there that getting a vaccine does not matter because you can get sick anyway. 

Vaccines matter and the data bear it out. We share these charts detailing hospitalization and death rate differences between the vaccinated, unvaccinated and boosted every week because there are real people dying still and most of them are people not protecting themselves. Please share the information with loved ones because vaccinations can be lifesavers. We cannot turn on back on this virus. Every time we do, it re-appears.  

Monkeypox new cases slowing, vaccinations supply/availability increasing

Case rates for m in Montgomery County have begun to slow down. When you look back over the last few weeks of data shared by the Maryland Department of Health, you will see new cases no longer growing at such a fast rate. Only 73 total cases have been identified so far, which is slightly higher than last week’s total of 69.

Montgomery County has for months been proactive in its handling of the virus. It started with vaccinating and monitoring close contacts of positive cases earlier this summer and continues today by developing pre-registration lists and working our way through them. Around 1,000 vaccinations have been scheduled for this week.

We had a successful second town hall meeting on monkeypox for the Latino community this past Monday. A third town hall meeting, focusing on the African American community, is being planned. Expanding our educational efforts is leading to questions from the public we did not get at our first town hall and that is a good thing because it shows we are reaching more people.

It is important to watch for symptoms of monkeypox like itchy bumps or lesions on the skin which are highly contagious with skin-to-skin contact. Someone who is infected can spread monkeypox two-to-four weeks.

Poolesville is the ‘place to be’ this Saturday

This Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. is the 30 Annual Poolesville Day Festival. This a free event that also includes a 5K run/walk, a classic car show, and my personal favorite, the largest National Drive Electric Vehicle Show in the world. 

Last year more than 260 Electric Vehicles were featured, and more are expected this year. If you are an EV owner and general car aficionado like I am, or if you are thinking about making the switch to electric, Poolesville is where you want to be this weekend to meet owners and manufacturers. You will learn about the tax credits and rebates you can earn by purchasing an EV. 

I want to thank the residents of Poolesville, and specifically, the folks at Poolesville Green, for their continued support and advocacy toward our Climate Action Plan goals and sustainability efforts.

Go to for more details.  

Bring your family to the 'Friendship Picnic' this Sunday in Wheaton

Wheaton will host the Ninth Annual “Friendship Picnic” this Sunday. The goal of the event is to bring together this highly diverse community.

The free event runs from noon until 5 p.m. at Wheaton Regional Park and is an initiative of the Montgomery County Committee Against Hate and Violence. The event is for the whole family and features many kid-friendly activities like a petting zoo, music and dancing.

There will be free Kosher, Halal and vegetarian lunch options, along with traditional picnic offerings. There is no need to register or bring your own food to the picnic because there will be plenty for everyone. 

Our Friendship Picnic is a wonderful opportunity to come together, say hi to neighbors and make new friends. It is events like this that help Montgomery County safer from hate and violence. We hope to see you there. 

Historic Goshen United Methodist Church celebrates 150th anniversary

I look forward to attending the Sesquicentennial Gala at Goshen United Methodist this weekend in the historic Black community of Stewartown. This church was built by former slaves more than 150 years ago. Goshen United Methodist Church is an institution in our County’s history and integral to our racial progress. It also has been a key partner with our COVID response, recovery, testing and vaccination efforts.

I want to congratulate Rev. Dr. Jalene Chase and all the members of Goshen United Methodist Church for this important milestone. I also want to acknowledge Greg Wims, our UpCounty Regional Service Center director and a Montgomery County Human Rights Hall of Fame inductee, whose family helped build this church. Greg is also the founder of the Victims Rights Foundation. He started this organization 26 years ago at Goshen United Methodist Church and has since grown it to become the largest volunteer foundation in Montgomery County.  

We are going to have a quite a celebration this weekend in Stewartown!

As always, my appreciation for all of you,  

Marc Elrich
County Executive