Dear Friends,Sadly, more acts of antisemitism and hate continue to plague Montgomery County. This past weekend, we saw antisemitic flyers distributed in the Kensington area falsely linking ancestors of our Jewish community to slavery. Last week, students at three schools were punished for drawing swastikas on desks.
Last month, it was antisemitic graffiti spray painted outside a high school in Bethesda and some teachers were sent anonymous and disturbing letters. In the fall, we dealt with more antisemitic messages on bus stops and fences near the Bethesda Trolley Trail.
Police are still investigating those incidents and a new $5,000 reward was recently established by the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington and the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington for information that leads to an arrest and conviction. Anyone with information about these crimes can call Crime Solvers of Montgomery County at 1-866-411-TIPS.
It is not just antisemitic incidents of hate. We also have seen vandalisms at historic black churches, hate crimes against our AAPI community and protests from the Proud Boys trying to intimidate or LGBTQ+ residents. This week, a Pride Flag was desecrated at the Pilgrim United Church of Christ in Wheaton.
There is no easy way to put an end to these acts of hatred. I wish there were, but we are actively working with police, the community and other partners to solve these incidents and prevent future similar acts.
Parent Forum on Fentanyl
At Clarksburg High School on Saturday, Jan. 28, the advocacy group Montgomery Goes Purple is hosting a fentanyl awareness forum for families to provide tools to prevent drug use and help protect our children. It is free and will take place from 9:30-11:30 a.m. in the school cafeteria. This forum will also be live streamed on the MCPS homepage. The County also has made it easier for families to reach the school to attend the forum in person by making bus fare free on routes 10 and 75 Saturday morning and early afternoon.
For years, our community has been dealing with the scourge of opioids. We have taken some actions to help. Emergency, anti-overdose solutions are now easy to find on police officers, firefighters, other lifesavers and in all MCPS schools. Now we are seeing more young lives put in jeopardy because of fentanyl.
Earlier this month, a 15-year-old overdosed and died. It is one of eight recent overdose deaths in Montgomery County this winter. Data provided by the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service shows an additional 38 people would have likely been killed since December if not for the life-saving drug known as Narcan.
Opioid misuse can lead to overdose, but even more concerning is the proliferation of fentanyl. According to Montgomery County Public Schools, fentanyl is to blame for a 77 percent increase in youth overdoses in 2021.
Fentanyl is a synthetic drug intended to mimic opioids. When it is pressed into pill form, it looks like many other drugs. Users taking the pills may not realize the danger they are putting themselves in. Nationally, 71 percent of adolescent overdose deaths in 2021 involved fentanyl.
The more kids experiment with drugs, the greater the risk posed by the presence of fentanyl in the drug market.
Make it a priority to talk to your kids about the dangers of drugs like fentanyl. You can find information on identifying drug use and symptoms of an overdose by visiting the Save A Life section of the County website courtesy of our Department of Health and Human Services.
$30 billion in Private Investment in Montgomery County During 2022
We received some good news this week from the Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation (MCEDC). It was a record-breaking year for investments in Montgomery County businesses.
Combined assets from initial public offerings (IPO), mergers and acquisitions, private investments and venture capital deals totaled close to $30 billion dollars. That is up from more than $18 billion in 2021 and just over $4 billion in 2020.
This is a reminder that businesses have the opportunity for exponential growth here in Montgomery County. Venture capitalists accounted for $867.88 million of the money spent on local companies, including $242.98 million that went to Robotic Research, which is working on self-driving technology.
Some startup ventures that have been helped by our business incubator programs, like Arcellx, saw an IPO that topped all other Nasdaq-listed public companies introduced in 2022. The biomedical research facility, which is focused on cell therapy and immunotherapies, got two rounds of funding in 2022 totaling more than $235 million.
In terms of mergers, a deal announced last month by Amgen to buy Horizon Therapeutics should keep the building frenzy near the Universities at Shady Grove going.
MCEDC has provided a full list of the Montgomery County companies that received a significant financial boost in 2022.
We have seen tremendous growth in our life sciences industries spark the need for more lab space in our area. That did not happen by accident. The County is making purposeful and deliberate choices to invest in our business environment, communication and customer service to continue to make Montgomery County an exciting place to do business.
Together, we are laser focused on targeting growth industries, encouraging growth whenever possible and making certain our permitting processes are updated so they are not a deterrent to expansion. We have made great progress and will continue to be focused daily on continued improvements.
Concerted efforts like these are critical in making it easier than ever to do business in Montgomery County and I am glad to see it is paying off for many of our local companies.
Kid Museum Honors Middle Schoolers Aiming to ‘Invent the Future’
This past weekend, I helped present awards to innovative students from Farquhar Middle School in Olney whose idea for “Factory Filters” won the Innovation Award as part of the Invent the Future Summit hosted by the Kid Museum. They were just some of the hundreds of students from across Montgomery County who channeled creative problem-solving, teamwork and STEM skills to answer the question: “What will you do to improve life on this planet?”
Click on this link for a photo album from the event.
Work on this summit kept participants busy all last semester developing hands-on solutions for today’s and tomorrow’s problems. The program was developed in partnership with Montgomery County Public Schools teachers to offer students a deep-dive into making and inventing. These workshops expose students to immersive lessons in engineering design, fabrication, electronics and coding.
To keep up with opportunities available through the Kid Museum, including day camps you can take advantage of when kids are out of school, visit their blogsite that will soon have an update from this weekend’s Invent the Future Summit.
COVID-19 Still Impacting Hospitals
Since September, hospitals in our area have been dealing with a triple threat of RSV, flu and COVID-19. It has put constant pressure on our hospitals for many weeks, straining capacity and prompting a warning from health experts to consider treating mild cases of COVID-19 through your doctor and avoiding the hospital.
This week, our hospitals remain nearly full, but our COVID-19 counts are showing signs of decreasing as RSV and flu cases did before them. That may make it seem like we are out of the woods, but we are not. The percentage of hospital beds devoted to COVID patients remains elevated and keeps our community level status at 'medium.'
Safety measures are as important as ever. Vaccines and boosters are still the best way to protect yourself and your family. Demand for these shots continues to drop significantly even though data shows a far lower percentage of breakthrough cases with the new bivalent boosters introduced in September.
Voluntary facemask use in indoor public places is strongly recommended. Facemasks must be worn in health care and congregate sites like shelters and nursing homes. Washing your hands frequently and staying home when sick are also ways to stop the spread of disease.
Emergency room activity is still high and health experts recommend only using the Emergency Room for life threatening issues until COVID-19 recedes even more.
MCDOT Expanding Public Transportation Incentives Program
Did you know that commuters using public transportation can save up to four times their costs and cut greenhouse gas emissions by half as compared to using a personal car?
The FareShare program allows employees to work with their employers to lower the cost of commuting by using public transportation. The Internal Revenue Service will allow contribution limits to increase from $280 to $300 per month. The money can be used to pay for transit passes, vanpool fares and other 2023 public transportation expenses.
To take advantage of the pre-tax savings, employees and employers must both get on board with the commuting benefits program. Employers pay for the first $25 of a participating commuter's expense then the County will cover—up to $300 in monthly travel expenses. The full subsidy could be as high as $3,600 per year, per employee. There is a maximum payout of $40,000 to each business per year.
The money can be used by commuters using a Ride On bus, Metrobus, Metrorail or MARC train. There are also ways for this program to help with Metro parking expenses.
The idea is to lower the cost of commuting while taking cars off the road and helping the environment. For questions about taking advantage of the program, go to MCDOT’s FareShare page.
Women’s Legislative Briefing on Jan. 29
Montgomery County will host its 43rd annual Women's Legislative Briefing on Sunday, Jan. 29. It will be held virtually from 12:30-5 p.m.
This is an opportunity to update the public on Montgomery County's legislative proposals before local, State and national legislative bodies that address issues of specific concern to women. It will focus on how the importance of advocacy and the protection of democracy.
This year’s theme, “Empowered Women Defend Democracy,” is crucial as we encourage civic action in order to elect leaders who represent solutions for issues affecting women and girls.
Compared to other high-income countries, the U.S. has a much lower percentage of women elected to government office. However, evidence shows that women who are elected to public office have different priorities and see very different results than their male counterparts.
Women introduce many more bills on health care, education and childcare than men do. We know that empowered women can change laws, policies and even those who represent us in office. This year, the Montgomery County Council has its first female majority, and I am excited to work with these historic and trailblazing leaders.
The briefing is organized by the County Commission for Women. There will be panels featuring Board of Education Member Brenda Wolff, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce President Carmen Larsen, business owners and leaders in public safety, housing and public policy. You can look at detailed information about each panel by following this link.
Montrose ABS Store Reopens
I want to let everyone know there is a newly designed “Oak Barrel & Vine” store in Montrose that opened on Friday Jan. 27.
The Alcohol Beverage Services (ABS) store on Rockville Pike has been shut down for months for this redesign. It reopens with more shelf space, a dedicated tasting area, and a better experience for customers.
Our County’s ABS generates about $30-35 million of revenue annually for taxpayers. Upgrading these stores is a great way to increase revenue and improve customer satisfaction. One “Oak Barrel & Vine” store is already open in Cabin John and a third is currently under construction in Gaithersburg.
Congratulations to ABS employees and customers on this good news that we can say “Cheers” to. Please check my social media accounts on Facebook and Twitter for updates from the grand opening event.
As always, my appreciation for all of you,