November 3, 2022

Message from the County Executive

Dear Friends,

This has been an incredible week in Montgomery County with several big announcements and openings that demonstrate the progress we are making toward our education, environment, economic development and equity goals.

Montgomery County Builds Nation’s Largest EV Bus Solar Charging Station and Microgrid

We had a ribbon cutting in Silver Spring this week for the nation’s largest EV Bus solar charging station and microgrid at the Brookville Bus Depot. The County welcomed Federal transportation leaders and many elected officials for a tour of the facility that checks two boxes.

First, it upgrades our public transportation system allowing us to advance efficient and effect public transportation. Second, it falls in line with our environmental sustainability goals of addressing climate change.

By 2026, we anticipate using the self-sustaining facility to be able to charge our fleet of 70 electric buses. Electrifying that many buses will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 62 percent over the next 25 years.

We have no doubt that this innovative project will soon be modeled everywhere throughout the nation as other jurisdictions get as serious as we have been on the reducing our carbon footprint.

I want to thank our Department of Transportation, Department of General Services, our state and federal delegations, and our partners at AlphaStuxure for this game-changing project. This works toward our transportation infrastructure needs and our efforts to combat climate change and as we continue to follow through on our Climate Action Plan.

Montgomery College to Open New East County Center

Big things are happening in East County, where Montgomery College announced Wednesday plans to open an education center in White Oak next fall. Along with our recent progress of moving economic development forward in the East County, this addition is great for residents in the East County and for the County as a whole. This center is the first major expansion by Montgomery College in more than 20 years.

For an institution that is ranked among the top 10 community colleges in the nation, and a community that needed more access to higher education opportunities, this wait has been too long.

Since becoming County Executive, I have been laser-focused on bringing increased access to higher education for East County residents. According to this Montgomery College feasibility study, more than 3,200 Montgomery College students in East County commute at least one—and sometime more than two—hours on public transit to get to their classes at other campuses. We had to do better, and I am so glad that everyone was on the same page to ensure the funding for this new center was allocated.

Less than a year from now, full course work will be available in subjects like nursing, information technology and daycare certification in a new 55,000-square-foot facility. The new center will also support general education classes, English for speakers of other languages and business courses. The center is also expected to house a “Raptor Center” to offer student support services like admissions and enrollment help.

This move is being supported with an investment in the U.S. 29 Bus Rapid Transit Flash line. Our capital budget has committed $40 million in transportation infrastructure improvements making the development in White Oak a public-private partnership. Hillandale and Fairland are two communities that also stand to benefit thanks to the recently launched Ride On transit route 27.

This project will help East County address its needs because we will be able to adapt training and educational programs at this new facility to meet workforce needs. This truly has been an expansion that has been needed for a long time and I am excited to see the changes and innovation that are born from this venture.

For more information on the courses, campuses and opportunities that Montgomery College provides, visit

Get Your Mail-In Ballots In Before Election Day

With Election Day fast approaching, I urge voters who have received a mail-in ballot to return them to one of 50 drop boxes placed around the County or return them by mail. They must be postmarked by 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 8, to be counted.

Around 139,000 mail-in ballots were requested. Coupled with low early voting numbers, this tells us that many people opted to get their ballots sent to them this year. Please realize that if you requested a mail-in ballot, but then visit the polls on Election Day to vote in person, you will be asked to fill out a provisional ballot. This is done so the Board of Elections can determine if someone is trying to vote twice.

While I expect the delivery of results to take time—and I urge people to have patience for final results—I do not expect the same kind of delayed results that we saw in Montgomery County during the primary. This is due to the State courts stepping in and changing when mail-in ballots can begin being counted. I want to thank all of those who advocated and got this process changed.

Voters deserve results that are tabulated accurately and timely. There are more than 200 officials around this nation on the ballot next Tuesday that do not think the 2020 Presidential Election was correct, including officials on the ballot here in Maryland. This lack of faith in democracy is scary, and another reason why our election process must be free from interference, intimidation or any reason that would question the legitimacy of the count.

I want to thank everyone at the Montgomery County Board of Elections and all poll workers, volunteers and observers for their service to this sacred process.

Cannabis Legalization Among Referendum Items On Ballot

I am glad to see that the residents of Maryland will finally have a vote on legalizing cannabis. It is long past time to do the right thing and legalize reasonable amounts of marijuana. Surveys show that most Maryland voters support a referendum that would legalize cannabis for recreational use by those 21 and older.

I have long supported this effort to finally end this part of the failed “war on drugs.” When it comes to cannabis enforcement, our justice system has disproportionately impacted minority communities for decades. People of color are more likely to be stopped and sent to jail over marijuana possession.

Although this referendum would legalize cannabis in this state, smoking marijuana in public would still be banned and punishable by fines starting at $250. The General Assembly will still have to create the tax structure and appropriate market rules. It also will have to ensure that there is equity in the growing and distribution licensing process. There is a lot of work to be done, but a “yes” vote on this referendum is needed to get these processes started.

There is also a ballot question for Montgomery County residents only that was added late by the County Council. Question A would take away the power of the elected County Executive to remove and appoint a County Attorney, thus making the County Attorney position a lifetime appointment. In most counties with elected executives, the County Attorney serves at the pleasure of the executive. After an election, a new executive can replace the County Attorney. The charter change proposed in Question A would remove that authority from any future County Executive. It is a move with which I disagree.

Please take the time to vote and have your voice heard through this election.

Booster Shots Continue to Be the Best Medicine As Respiratory Illnesses Arrive Early

We continue to monitor a slight uptick in COVID-19 cases, though our community threat level remains “low.” However, we are seeing more non-COVID-19 respiratory illnesses driving people to the hospital. This is very concerning, especially as we are heading into the winter months.

We are specifically concerned about the number of children hospitalized with RSV, a common respiratory illness that is hitting communities across the nation earlier than normal. The increase may be driven by the fact that many children have not been exposed like this in quite a while. We may be ready to have our kids return to school and after-school activities, but our immune systems have had quite a break from what used to be normal. We need all parents to be aware of RSV and be on the lookout for any symptoms with their children.

More people are visiting the hospital with flu-like symptoms and more people being tested for COVID-19. This is leading to a slight uptick in recorded positive cases over the last week. Health experts are referring to it as a “wavelet.” They expect COVID-19 cases to rise over the upcoming weeks, but the hope is that we do not go too far above 100 cases per 100,000 residents. Our main concern and focus will continue to be the rise in hospitalizations and any strains on our healthcare system this fall and winter.

The other development with COVID-19 is the variety of Omicron subvariants that we are seeing in Montgomery County. The Omicron variant is different than the original COVID-19 strain, but we now have a vaccine specifically made to protect against it. That is why it is important for families to get bivalent boosters for anyone 5 and up if it has been more than two months since their last COVID-19 vaccine.

At the County’s Boosterama last weekend at the Westfield Wheaton, more than 100 families received their COVID shots. We had a steady stream of folks for the three hours that we were there. I want to thank Westfield Wheaton, our partners Latino Health Initiative’s Por Nuestra Salud y Bienestar and our Department of Health and Human Services for organizing the event.

It is very important for everyone to get their booster shots prior to Thanksgiving and the start of the holiday season. So far, about 14 percent of all County residents have gotten their bivalent booster, and 24 percent of those 50 and over have received the updated shot. These rates are about twice the national average, but are still too low for the protection we need this winter.

Getting the flu shot is also a priority as this flu season is predicted to be one of the worst. The County will have a free flu clinic from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 10, at the Dennis Avenue Health Center in Silver Spring. Appointments are required. Most pharmacies, urgent care centers and health care providers in the community also offer the flu vaccine.

Vaccines are the best defense against viruses like COVID-19 and the flu, but you can also protect yourself and others by washing your hands regularly, staying away from those who are sick and staying home when you are sick.

November is Native American Heritage Month

This month, we honor the contributions made to our nation by Native Americans during Native American Heritage Month. Their culture and traditions proved to be an example for our forefathers long before we became a nation.

There are many places nearby to us to learn and explore Native American history and cultures. The Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum have joined together to pay tribute to Native Americans. Native Veterans will be honored Friday, Nov. 11, with a procession through Washington, D.C. that will be live streamed. A native cinema showcase also is planned to end the month at the National Museum of the American Indian.

The Indigenous People of this country have shown remarkable resilience in the face of tremendous challenges. I encourage everyone to learn more about these great people. Their struggles and contributions are an important part of the nation’s story.

We Must Talk About Carbon Monoxide--the ‘Silent Killer’

Earlier this week I joined the County Council to mark November as Carbon Monoxide Awareness Month. It is known as the “silent killer” because as a colorless, odorless gas, victims have no idea they are breathing a deadly poison.

Every year more than 400 Americans are killed by carbon monoxide poisoning. Many of those victims mistake the symptoms like headaches, dizziness and shortness of breath for early signs of the flu.

Since 2019, many existing homes in Montgomery County have been required to place carbon monoxide detectors outside bedrooms. They have been required in new home construction across Maryland since 2008.

As the seasons change, this can be a dangerous time of year as people are starting to turn on heaters for the first time.

Because of the high cost of rent, some people may try heating their homes with a gas heater. This could put them in a dangerous position. We do not want people to expose themselves to poison or a house fire because they are trying to avoid high heating costs. Using an oven or gas-powered stove for heat can be a danger as well.

According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, the most common source of carbon monoxide poisoning is an unvented space heater. Other common sources of carbon monoxide poisoning are malfunctioning appliances, clogged chimneys and exhaust from running automobiles in closed garages.

Please keep yourself safe and follow this link for more information about housing complaints and what is expected of rental properties regarding CO detectors.

Operation Greenlight Honors Montgomery County Veterans

Veterans Day is Friday, Nov. 11. It is a day we pay tribute to every American who has served our country through the military. In the week leading up to Veterans Day, you will notice Montgomery County honoring military service through Operation Greenlight.

There are an estimated 36,000 veterans living in Montgomery County. Operation Greenlight is a symbolic gesture that organizers believe can help take the stress off vets returning to civilian life. A Pew Research Center study found show that between 44 to 72 percent of service members experience high levels of stress when they transition out of the military.

Just saying thanks to our veterans is not enough. We must also re-commit this government to provide support, services and resources they need. Our veterans were willing to sacrifice their safety for our freedom, and many of them are still dealing with physical pain and mental health issues. Veterans have a 57 percent higher risk of suicide than those who have not served. An estimated one in every 10-15 veterans suffers from a substance use disorder or addiction. Veterans also account for 11 percent of homeless adults in the U.S.

Whether it is veterans of my generation who are still dealing with the trauma from the Vietnam War or younger men and women who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, every veteran’s military experience, aftermath and coping ability varies. We cannot expect a “one size, fits all” solution. We must provide support for their physical and mental health and ensure they have access to economic opportunities. We must improve our hiring of veterans in the County government and increase access to procurement agreements with veteran-owned companies.

We must be deliberate in our effort to show love and care for all of them. By lighting buildings and facades green this November, participating groups are showing veterans that we are behind them and that they have a "green light" to move on with life. This is an important time to highlight the many resources available at the County, State and Federal level to help military members with that transition.

You will be able to see the County's green light shine starting Monday, Nov. 7. All that week we will have green lamp posts lit in the plaza between the County's Executive Office Building and the Circuit Courthouse in Rockville.

I hope you will also shine a “green light” at your home or business this week to show our veterans your thanks and appreciation for their service and sacrifice.

Gearing Up for Montgomery County Budget Forums

Our annual budget forums designed for the community to learn about and discuss the Fiscal Year 2024 operating budget are right around the corner. These meetings give the public several opportunities to weigh in during the early stages of the budget process and bring the County's attention to items that need to be considered for inclusion.

This year, there will be eight meetings scheduled between mid-November and mid-December. Some of the forums will be in different languages—including Spanish and Chinese. You can get a look at where these budget meetings are being held and sign up to speak by following this link to our budget forums page on the OPI section of the County website.

You also will find information there about attending virtually. We are trying to make these meeting more accessible because getting input from the public is one of the crucial steps in developing a budget. I encourage residents to participate in these discussions because they are for you. No matter where you live or your age, I want to hear from as many people as possible.

We have been fortunate to maintain a very strong financial position throughout the pandemic highlighted by our 50th consecutive AAA bond rating awarded earlier this year. Being in excellent financial standing enables us to consider projects that other jurisdictions may not be able to finance. Through our budget, we will continue to support programs and services through an equitable framework that are needed to improve our community.

Maryland Emancipation Day Celebration in Sandy Spring on Saturday

As next Tuesday’s Election Day will determine our future course as a nation, it is always important and critical to learn our history and remember our past. We are very fortunate to live in a County that reflects our history accurately and provides events and opportunities for residents to learn and reflect on our painful past.

Maryland’s Emancipation Day will be recognized Saturday, Nov. 5, at the Woodlawn Manor Cultural Park in Sandy Spring. It will honor the day in 1864 when Maryland’s new state constitution freed all slaves—one full year ahead of the 13th Amendment that abolished slavery nationwide.

Guided hikes along the Underground Railroad will be available starting at 10 a.m. I would like to thank Active Montgomery for its role in presenting the tour, along with Montgomery Parks for hosting this event and bringing to life this important part of our State’s and nation’s history.

As always, my appreciation for all of you,

Marc Elrich
County Executive