I had an opportunity to return to the classroom last week for Career Day at Einstein High School. I graduated from Einstein in 1968 and enjoyed being back in the school building.
I had a wonderful morning meeting and talked to Einstein students. I answered questions about the jobs I have had throughout my life and what I do as County Executive. As I told the students, when I was at Einstein, the last thing I would have imagined as a student then, would have been being the Montgomery County Executive today.
The lesson I wanted the students to understand is that a life’s journey can follow many career paths. I also stressed the importance of finding good mentors and role models to help find their way. I encourage all residents to be mentors and spend time with our young adults. Mentors can inspire, help land a job or internship, validate positive steps and boost self-esteem.
I encourage you to seek out mentoring opportunities including the MCPS Summer Rise program. Registration is open now through mid-April. Please consider supporting this important program.
Supporting the HOME Act for Rent Stabilization
Sometimes our affordable housing problems seem daunting, and yet, they do not have to be. We just need the courage to act—and we have to act in a multitude of ways. We need to preserve our existing housing and avoid the displacement of people who live here now. We do not want to price people out of the County. One important part of that solution is rent stabilization.
We are losing affordable units faster than we can replace them. Replacing them is not enough—we need more than we have now. We are building affordable units, and we are working with affordable housing providers to preserve others, but it simply is not enough.
In 2000, Montgomery County had about 43,000 naturally occurring affordable housing units. By 2020, that number was down to about 22,000. We are projected to lose another 10,000 in the next 10 years. These units did not just disappear—they simply became unaffordable.
That situation sets the table for two competing bills introduced before County Council this week.
As many of you know, I support the measure cosponsored Councilmembers Will Jawando and Kristin Mink. They call their bill the HOME Act. It limits rent increases to the County’s Voluntary Rent Guideline or 3 percent, whichever is lower. It allows for moderate rent adjustments to help landlords keep up with the cost of maintenance and gives them the opportunity to request exemptions when their costs exceed the guidelines.
The alternate bill would legalize enormous rent increases and those increases would not be linked to an increase in building costs, which I think is crucial. You can watch my brief discussion of the importance of the HOME Act. I will be discussing rent stabilization at an event on Monday, May 13. It will be hosted by the Montgomery County Renters Alliance from 6-8 p.m. at the Silver Spring Civic Center. I will be joined on the panel by Councilmembers Jawando and Kate Stewart, Renters Alliance Board Chair William Roberts and University of Maryland professor Michael Bodaken.
Rent stabilization—the HOME Act—is a measure that is fair to tenants and to landlords and it will help us address the longstanding affordable housing crisis. I am hopeful that the Council will pass the bill and I look forward to signing it into law.
Helping North Bethesda be More Accessible and People Friendly
I am pleased that “ is finally finished after years of planning and construction. This is the area where the University of Maryland will locate its Institute for Health Computing. I was pleased to have worked with the University of Maryland on this important venture, which you can read about HERE – USE LINK Institute for Health Computing. This academic research site at the North Bethesda Metro Station will be the catalyst for development from the life sciences industry and other businesses that want to be close to the revolutionary work that will be done in data computing and artificial intelligence to bring treatments and cures faster to patients. As University of Maryland Medical System CEO Mohan Suntha said it’s possible that one day “the nation will describe Montgomery County as the Silicon Valley of health care computing.” https://www.marylandmatters.org/2022/11/12/partnership-seeks-to-make-montgomery-county-the-silicon-valley-of-health-computing/
One of our planned Bus Rapid Transit lines will run along Route 355 and having meaningful public transit options is critical to making the area accessible. Of course, it also is good for the environment to keep as many cars off the road as possible.
We are looking at some exciting plans for the future of this area, which will be meaningful for the County and the State and for advances in science and public health.
Environmental Accomplishments Highlighted in New Video
Spring is a time for renewal and this week I would like to highlight some of the ways we have delivered on my vision to make this a greener County.
The Department of Environmental Protection has produced a video going through many of the legislative and administrative changes we made in 2022 to address climate change. You can find that video on the Department of Environmental Protection home page or here on their YouTube page.
These changes fall in line with the County's Climate Action Plan to cut emissions 80 percent by 2027 and 100 percent by 2035. We are attacking these goals with urgency and implementing measures to improve air and water quality. That includes signing the Building Energy Performance Standards bill into law. Another new law would require new construction to be all electric starting in 2026. Montgomery is the first county in Maryland to be moving toward all-electric building standards.
We continue to see more people giving up their traditional cars and trucks for electric vehicles. To help with that transition, Montgomery County is adding more electric charging stations in parking garages across the County. Charging stations make it easier for EV users. DEP has also made it easier for homeowners to add a charging station near their property. In addition, Montgomery County has become the first jurisdiction to partner with local car dealerships to provide incentives for electric vehicle purchases.
These changes improve the quality of life for all residents. I encourage everyone to think about changes they can make at home to improve our environment as we head toward Earth Day in April. Registration is also now open for the 10th Annual Montgomery County Energy Summit that will be held March 28-29 at the Silver Spring Civic Building.
Montgomery County Police Graduation and Open House
Around our region and nation, law enforcement agencies are facing workforce shortages. The Montgomery County Police Department also is having the same challenges.
This week, I addressed our newest officers at the MCPD police academy graduation ceremonies in Rockville. I expressed my congratulations and appreciation to the graduating cadets and their families.
I told the graduates that trust with our community is needed more now than ever. Our community cannot thrive if residents do not have faith in those who are there to serve and protect them. And our County cannot progress unless MCPD succeeds. I am pleased that we were able to raise the starting pay for officers, making our County more competitive in the region.
This is the second class of new officers in the last seven months. The addition of new officers is going to help our staffing efforts, but we must continue to attract and recruit more officers to MCPD.
A couple of weeks ago, we announced $20,000 signing bonuses to new recruits. That news turned a lot of heads and we immediately saw a 10-fold increasement in application interest.
If you, a friend or loved one may be interested in serving in MCPD, a great way to learn about the opportunities will be by attending an open house at the County Police Academy in Gaithersburg from 8-11 a.m. on Sunday, March 12. Attendees can tour the facility and ask questions of officers and recruiters. Please use the QR code above or visit joinmcp.com to register.
I want to share some exciting news that will help our area be seen as a leader in protecting companies from online threats.
I joined Maryland’s Secretary of Commerce and NIST leaders this week in signing a new agreement committing the County to the National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence.
Since its launch in 2012, the partnership has helped develop a blueprint for cybersecurity that every business in the nation should be using. As we renew this agreement, NIST leaders are doing more to reach out to small businesses. U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce Don Graves announced the launch of the NIST Small Business Community of Interest program and Cybersecurity Connections initiative.
Both programs aim to help more small businesses with their cybersecurity plans. By allowing small business owners in Montgomery County and nationwide to take advantage of pilot programs and new methods for tightening online security, those plans will help protect companies.
These efforts will from the National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence in Rockville. The County’s participation in the partnership will continue to be managed by the Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation.
I am extremely proud of our work with NIST. I believe a strong network of businesses protected from cybersecurity threats leads to broader advancement of our economic development goals. Our area is already seen as a leader in the life sciences industry and developing a talent pool for those jobs – there’s no reason we can’t become top place in the nation in both categories.
Supporting FBI Headquarters in Prince George’s County
I joined Governor Wes Moore and several other leaders around the State this week in asking the Federal government to relocate the future consolidated FBI headquarters to Maryland. After a lengthy delay in the process, a decision is forthcoming by the GSA to select Prince George’s County locations in either Greenbelt or Landover—or alternatively a site in Springfield, Va.
County Council President Evan Glass and I this week coauthored a letter lending our full support to the Prince George’s County bid to become the home for the FBI’s new headquarters.
There are many reasons why Prince George’s County remains the best choice for relocation, including transit considerations and a savings of between one-quarter to half a billion dollars compared to moving the headquarters to Virginia.
I stand with Governor Moore, Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks and our entire Congressional delegation in supporting equitable regional growth. Selecting Prince George’s County as the new home to for the FBI would help our entire region and the State of Maryland prosper.
Let’s hope the FBI headquarters lands next door.
Silver Spring Apartment Fire Update
February’s tragic apartment building fire in Silver Spring prompted a letter this week from myself and every County Councilmember to the Maryland General Assembly in support of the “Melanie Diaz Sprinklers Save Lives Act,” which is House Bill 1292.
A majority of the older, unprotected buildings throughout Maryland are in Montgomery County, so this bill has the potential to save lives here by requiring sprinklers. The legislation is urgently needed to prevent further tragedies and would immediately improve safety for County residents.
Plans for this change are already in motion with the State fire marshal putting this mandate in place by 2033. If passed, this bill would also codify in law that all high-rise buildings be protected by an automatic sprinkler system. Its currently sitting in the rules committee and should be released so it can be heard by the full General Assembly.
I want to thank State Delegates Lorig Charkoudian, Emily Shetty, David Moon, Jared Solomon, Jheanelle Wilkins and others for their sponsorship of the bill. I also want to thank County Councilmember Stewart for leading this effort to support.
I am concerned for the dozens of families still impacted by the fire. An entire floor was displaced by this fire and even more people have had to deal with water and smoke damage issues. I am also disturbed by reports I am hearing that the management company of this building is forcing displaced tenants to sign waivers in order to recover their belongings. I do not understand how this is even legal and we are advising tenants who have signed or have been offered to sign this waiver to seek legal counsel. These tenants have been through enough already. They should not be double-victimized.
We will continue to monitor this situation. I also want to thank those who stepped up to help these displaced tenants. More than $40,000 has been raised thus far for their long-term needs. More than $7,600 also was collected and distributed last week for short-term issues like food for families unable to cook for themselves while staying elsewhere. Thank you to everyone who contributed.
In COVID-19 news, the community level remains ‘low.’ We are starting to get a better timeline of when Federal money will no longer provide some of the assets we have gotten used to over the last few years. The latest example is the overflow hospital set up to help with COVID-19 patients in Takoma Park. Adventist says it will close the facility on April 28.
I urge you to remind everyone to continue to stay up to date on boosters, vaccines and other protections. Health experts say anyone who has not received a booster shot since the new bivalent boosters were introduced in September could get one now.
Montgomery County remains committed to being a source for vaccines, boosters, test kits and masks through the end of the fiscal year on July 1. Please visit montgomerycountymd.gov/covid19 more information about scheduling an appointment to get a vaccine or finding a pharmacy or doctor near you offering boosters.
As always, my appreciation for all of you,