July 28, 2023

Message from the County Executive


Hello Friends,

We are hopefully nearing the end of this dangerous heat wave, defined as when the Heat Index reaches or surpasses 105° F. We issued a Heat Emergency Alert, which is rare and meant to help protect everyone from potentially deadly heat. Even at night, when temperatures are lower, the heat still poses a health threat with extended exposure during a Heat Emergency Alert.



Many of our departments have temporary policies and procedures in place to help protect people and animals which include:
  • Designating County facilities, including libraries, swimming pools, recreation centers and senior centers, to be open to the public as cooling options during normal operating hours.
  • Ride On buses to carry water bottles for riders and can be used to get out of the heat.
  • Our facilities for the homeless in Silver Spring and Rockville are both to be open around the clock instead of closed during the day, like they normally are.
  • Staff and volunteers at the Animal Services and Adoption Center are given adjusted instructions regarding walking animals to keep them safe.
  • Pet owners are warned not to leave pets unattended in vehicles or outdoors in the heat. Violations could lead to criminal charges.
During times of extreme heat, we need to look after one another, especially the elderly and those who are living without air conditioning. If you need any information about staying cool and safe, call 311 or visit the Heat Emergency website. You can report any heat-related safety concerns for people or pets to 301-279-8000.

Intense Heat a Reminder of Climate Change Problems Around the World



Record-breaking temperatures, wildfire smoke and drought conditions are not mere anomalies. Sadly, these are becoming our new normal. Unless we take climate change seriously, things will only worsen.

There have been more than 12,000 record-high temperatures so far this year.
  • In Phoenix, the heat produced nearly 30 straight days of temperatures above 110° F.
    • People have been getting third-degree burns from contact with metal objects or from falling onto the pavement.
    • At least seven have died.
  • Miami hit a record for 44 days with a heat index above 100° F.
    • Water temps in the ocean around Florida have exceeded 100°.
  • In El Paso, records were broken for consecutive days with triple-digit heat.
The scorching weather is not limited to the United States. This is a global concern.
  • Palermo, Italy, recorded its hottest day since records began in 1790, hitting 116.7° F.
  • Deadly wildfires are causing mass evacuations in Greece.
  • China’s highest recorded temperature happened earlier this month at 126° F in Sanbao.
Even underwater, our coral reefs in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico are facing bleaching threats due to rising water temperatures. In Antarctica, where it is currently winter, the ice continues to quickly recede during a time of year when it usually does not. Experts said this is a “five-sigma event,” meaning that it is a one-in-7.5-million-year event.

This week, we learned about the breakdown of the ocean circulation system, referred to as the “conveyor belt,” in the Atlantic that could simultaneously accelerate the melting of the Greenland ice sheet, create cold conditions in Europe, create drought conditions in parts of Africa and raise sea levels along the East Coast of the U.S. beyond the sea level rise already predicted to occur without the breakdown of the circulation system.

None of this is normal, but unfortunately it is going to be, unless we make serious policy changes quickly. The Montgomery Climate Action Plan is our “roadmap” to improving sustainability and combatting climate change. The goal of the Climate Action Plan is to reduce 80 percent of carbon emissions by 2027, and 100 percent by 2035. This is one of the nation’s most ambitious plans and our goal of a 100 perecent greenhouse gas reduction is 10 years ahead of the State’s goal to achieve the same by 2045.

I urge you to read our Climate Action Plan and follow the news and developments from our Department of Environmental Protection.

Capital Area Solar Switch Program



While we alone cannot solve climate change here at the local level, we are promoting programs, incentives and best practices to help achieve our climate goals.

One new program is called the Capital Area Solar Switch. This program is open to anyone in Montgomery County interested in going solar. You can sign up by following this link. Applications are accepted until Aug. 30.

The goal of this program is to make it easier and less expensive for residents to install rooftop solar panels, battery storage and electric vehicle charging stations for their homes. A virtual webinar will be held from noon-1 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 9, for people who would like to be taken through the process and ask program leaders questions.

Upon signing up for the program, homeowners will be asked for a fully refundable $150 deposit that will either be applied to the installation cost or refunded if there is no installation. So far, more than 415 County residents have enrolled, but we want those numbers to greatly increase.

I have solar panels on my home, and it is worth it. My electric bills are much lower, and thanks to Federal tax credits, I have already recovered the initial downpayment I spent on this system. Please consider making the switch to solar for your house, too.

Rent Stabilization Bill Is Signed into Law



This week, we celebrated the passage of the Rent Stabilization Bill as I signed it into law. The law will limit yearly rent increases to inflation plus 3 percent, up to 6 percent, and it will take effect after regulations are approved by the County Council.

Rent stabilization is an important step in providing predictability and stability in housing for renters. Those of us who are homeowners are able to count on a steady mortgage payment and do not to have to wonder each year if the cost of housing will drastically increase and put us at risk of losing our homes. Renters do not have that security.

Takoma Park has had rent stabilization for decades and I have seen how meaningful rent stabilization can make a difference in people’s lives. It is good for families and for our schools. Children do not have to move because of unaffordable rents and parents do not have the stress of sky-high rent increases. We know that reduced student mobility is a positive factor in academic performance.

Some developers and property owners worked hard to defeat the bill and ignored the provisions that protect property owners. They pushed the false narrative that it will keep them from being profitable. But the truth is that property owners are allowed to increase rent every year by inflation plus 3 percent, with a cap of 6 percent. That’s a lot. Most working families do not see that type of increase in their incomes every year.

The bill also allows landlords to go above that amount if they show that they have actual costs that are higher than the allowed up to 6% increase. And the bill allows increases for capital expenditures, big capital projects that fall outside of regular maintenance like roofs, boilers, and air conditioning systems. It allows them to maintain their prior net operating income percentage, meaning that new rents would be set so they maintain their historic profitability.

This is common sense stuff. No one is being asked to invest without getting a fair return on their investment. They will be able to get a return on their investment and maintain their properties. All we’re asking them to do is justify the need to raise rent above 6 percent.

This is a very reasonable bill that was a compromise. Those that say differently are simply using scare tactics that are not helpful to preserving and extending affordable housing.

This bill helps renters. It is also good for the entire community. Many businesses rely on lower wage workers. Driving those people out of the County will damage the ability of many businesses to attract and maintain their workforce.

As important as this bill was, alone, it is not enough to address affordable housing issues. We will continue to work on other initiatives, investments and policies to produce, preserve and protect affordable housing.

Fentanyl Awareness Signs and Symptoms

During our recent public safety and youth engagement forum in Wheaton, a concerned woman in attendance asked a simple yet profound question: "How do I identify what fentanyl looks like, and how do I know if my child is using this drug?"

This question is crucial, and it reminds us that, amid all our discussions about fentanyl prevention, we must address this very fundamental concern.

First and foremost, we have observed that a significant amount of fentanyl is being confiscated in tin foil, as many individuals use it to smoke the drug. In addition to recognizing what fentanyl may look like, parents need to be aware of the signs and changes they may witness in their children who might be using this dangerous drug.



Physical signs and symptoms may include:
  • Changes in appetite, eating more or less than usual.
  • Bloodshot eyes or unusually large or small pupils.
  • A runny nose that cannot be attributed to allergies or a cold.
  • Impaired condition or slurred speech.
  • Unusual sleep patterns, sleeping at odd hours.
  • Drastic changes in social circles, mixing with different groups or changing friends.
  • Losing interest in previously enjoyed activities.
  • Extreme fatigue and sadness.
  • Neglecting personal hygiene like bathing, changing clothes, or brushing teeth.

Psychological signs and symptoms to watch for are:
  • Increased anxiety levels.
  • A sense of euphoria or heightened energy.
  • Irritability that seems out of the ordinary.
Behavioral signs include:
  • Mood swings and drastic shifts in emotions.
  • Paranoia or displaying suspicious behaviors.
  • Missing important appointments and neglecting responsibilities at work, school or home.
  • Exhibiting secretive behaviors.
  • Giving up hobbies, sports, and social interactions.
  • Facing financial difficulties or unexplained spending.
Please note and share with loved ones and friends our County's 24 Hour Crisis Center phone number at 240-777-4000. This number is a lifeline for those who need help or are concerned about someone who might need assistance.

Additionally, I have tasked our HHS teams with improving our communication about these signs and other critical information related to fentanyl awareness. I encourage you to know the risks of fentanyl and opioid use by visiting montgomerycountymd.gov/opioids or knowtherisksmc.org.

Together, we can combat this threat, protect our loved ones and work toward a safer and healthier Montgomery County.

La Abuelina to Focus on Road Safety



Throughout the pandemic, our cartoon character La Abuelina was enormously helpful in sharing information about COVID-19 prevention and vaccinations. La Abuelina garnered national and international media attention and has received an Emmy three years in a row.

Recognizing the success of this campaign, I asked that we copyright her image and use her for other public safety and educational efforts. Vision Zero’s pedestrian safety efforts was a logical use.

In the coming weeks, La Abuelina will play a crucial role in sharing information with the community on how to safely navigate pedestrian hybrid beacons, newly installed in placed like Silver Spring and Gaithersburg. This technology gives users the ability to stop traffic and provides extra protection for people walking, biking and rolling across the street. Road safety leaders say that public outreach is crucial to help walkers and drivers safely navigating the crossing.

The campaign includes bilingual social media posts and pop-up events at grocery stores over the next two weeks in Gaithersburg and Aspen Hill. Upcoming events will take place at the following locations while additional activities are posted on the campaign website:
  • Wednesday, Aug. 2, 4-8 p.m. Aspen Hill Shopping Center, 13661 Connecticut Ave., Silver Spring.
  • Saturday, Aug. 5, Noon – 4 p.m. Aspen Hill Shopping Center, 13661 Connecticut Ave., Silver Spring.
Whether you are walking, biking or driving, please always be safe and aware on our roadways. One mistake can be deadly. For more information about Vision Zero, follow this link.

Farm Tour Visit



Last weekend, I participated in the annual County Farm Tour and Harvest Sale. I would like to thank the farms, wineries and breweries in Montgomery County that participated this year.

I was able to visit one winery, one cidery and two farms. Now with our grape crush facility at Crossvines, I am looking forward to even more fabulous wines. All of this should add to our growing agritourism.

Looking ahead, we have another significant event on the horizon. The Montgomery County Agricultural Fair will run from Aug. 11-19 at the fairgrounds in Gaithersburg.

This is another important event that raises money, attention and awareness for our farmers. You can start planning your trip to the fair now at mcagfair.com. You can also plan your own trip into the Ag Reserve (like taking the Tastemakers Trail) through the Visit Montgomery Adventure Planner App.

UPS Labor Deal is a Win for Workers

A few weeks ago, as we celebrated our nation’s birthday, I praised the role of unions in helping workers win key victories, which is an essential part of true independence.

It was great to see this week the UPS workforce and the Teamsters Union successfully negotiate an agreement for pay and benefits, and the protection they deserve. Drivers delivered goods in un-air-conditioned trucks in the summer, sweltering working conditions that UPS initially refused to address.

These workers were critical to our nation’s economy during the pandemic – they risked their health and their family’s during a time when UPS profits increased 140 percent. These workers deserved more, demanded more and got more.

I also want to take a moment to acknowledge my support for the actions taken this summer by the Writer’s Guild and in the Screen Actors Guild who create the movies, television and streaming entertainment that we all love. I hope their strike ends soon, but most of all I hope it is successful in getting corporations to understand that their greatest asset is the people producing the work from which they profit.

I have longed supported a unionized work force and decent wages. This week, I took lunch orders at Sala Thai Restaurant in Bethesda to show my support of the nationwide One Fair Wage initiative that would eliminate the tipped minimum wage.



Access to labor unions, the right to organize and decent wages, are all important for worker protection, a family’s prosperity and our nation’s economy.

As always, my appreciation for all of you,

 





Marc Elrich
County Executive

July 26, 2023

Neighborhoods Across the County Will Celebrate National Night Out on Tuesday, Aug. 1



Neighborhoods throughout Montgomery County, including many in the cities of Gaithersburg and Rockville, will join in the celebration of National Night Out on Tuesday, Aug. 1. Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich and Police Chief Marcus Jones will be among those joining police and fire department representatives and local leaders stopping by events that will include block parties, community cookouts and activities for all ages.

Neighborhood events will start at various times. Most start around 5 or 6 p.m., although some enthusiastic communities will get started as early as 3 p.m. Residents should check with their neighborhood or civic associations for details on events that may be happening in their communities.

National Night Out was established in 1981 by an organization that became the National Association of Town Watch. Today, the friendly community events also share information on drug prevention awareness, generate support for anti-crime programs, encourage residents to be involved in their communities and send a message that neighborhoods and businesses are organized to fight back against crime.

National Night Out is an annual community-building campaign that promotes police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie to make neighborhoods safer, more caring places to live. National Night Out enhances the relationship between neighbors and law enforcement while bringing back a true sense of community. It provides a great opportunity to bring police and neighbors together under positive circumstances.

Millions of neighbors take part in National Night Out across thousands of communities from all 50 states, U.S. territories and military bases worldwide.

Several Gaithersburg neighborhoods are joining communities across the country to participate in the National Night Out. One event in Gaithersburg is scheduled for 6-8 p.m. at the Casey Community Center at 810 South Frederick Ave. in Gaithersburg. That event will include an opportunity to meet police officers from the Gaithersburg Police Department and allied agencies. It will provide a chance to explore police cruisers and learn about a wide variety of safety topics while enjoying music, a cheer demonstration and urban line dancing by a local deejay.

McGruff the Crime Dog will stop by several of the scheduled block parties in the City of Rockville to spread his anti-crime and anti-drug message.


21 Organizations Receive Grants Totaling $1,425,000 to Support Adult English Language Learning

The Montgomery Coalition for Adult English Literacy (MCAEL), in partnership with Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich and the Montgomery County Council, recently awarded grants totaling $1,425,000 to 21 organizations that provide 27 adult English language learning programs across the County.

MCAEL is a community coalition of public, nonprofit and business partners that support nearly 60 adult English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) and literacy service programs. The goal of the MCAEL grants program is to increase the availability and quality of adult ESOL services, thereby helping adults gain the English language skills needed to reach their potential as parents, workers and community members.

“Montgomery County is one of the most diverse jurisdictions in the nation—home to individuals and families from all over the world representing hundreds of languages and dialects,” said County Executive Elrich. “Learning literacy is critical for creating economic opportunities as well as our County’s workforce development. We have invested more than $1.4 million to help ensure our residents have access to ESOL services. I appreciate MCAEL and the organizations that received these grants for the work they do, which can be life-changing for thousands of our residents.”

Adult English language learners experience a range of transformative benefits as participants in these programs, from being able to speak to staff at their children’s schools to attaining better-paying jobs.

“MCAEL’s work to promote literacy and break down language barriers improves the lives of program participants and the interconnectedness of our community,” said Council President Evan Glass. “For more than 14 years, MCAEL has provided capacity-building grants to providers of adult ESOL classes across Montgomery County. This new round of grant funding provided in partnership with Montgomery County Government will build on this important work and create lasting results for English language learners and our community.”

Larissa, who moved from Cameroon last year, describes not knowing the language as nerve-wracking and lonely. She was afraid to go out.

“I was afraid, and I was ashamed,” said Larissa, who enrolled in English language class at CASA. Soon, she said she “started to have some hope. English was my key.”

Another beneficiary of the program is Karen, who has been taking classes through Family Services, Inc., in Gaithersburg.

"I understand better when someone talks to me,” said Karen. “I feel more confident having a conversation by phone—like doing a medical appointment or requesting information. I have improved my writing. I write emails and notes to my child's teacher now. English classes helped me to get a job.”

Recipients of these grants include:
  • Ana A. Brito Foundation, Inc.
  • Briggs Center for Faith and Action
  • CASA (Life Skills ESOL Program)
  • CASA (Workforce ESOL Program)
  • Catholic Charites of the Archdiocese of Washington, Inc.
  • Chinese American Parent Association of Montgomery County
  • Chinese Culture and Community Service Center
  • City of Light Helping Hands
  • Classroom 2 Community (formerly Literacy Council of Montgomery County)
  • Community Reach of Montgomery County, Inc. (Language Outreach Conversation Classes)
  • Community Reach of Montgomery County, Inc. (Language Outreach Program)
  • Covenant Life Church
  • Ethiopian Community Center
  • Family Services, Inc./Sheppard Pratt (ESOL Program)
  • Family Services, Inc./Sheppard Pratt (Family Discovery Center)
  • Family Services, Inc./Sheppard Pratt (Conversation Classes)
  • Francophone Africans Alliance
  • The George B. Thomas Leaning Academy, Inc.
  • Identity Inc.
  • Impact Silver Spring
  • Mill Creek Parish United Methodist Church
  • Rockville Seniors, Inc.
  • Seneca Creek Community Church (Saturday ESOL Classes)
  • Seneca Creek Community Church (Weekday ESOL Program)
  • Vietnamese American Services (Citizenship Class and Workforce Development)
  • Vietnamese American Services (Conversation English Class for Adult Learners)
  • Washington New Covenant Fellowship Church
To learn more about this year’s MCAEL adult English language learning grant recipients, visit the MCAEL website

‘Captured, Examined & Returned: The Folklore of Alien Abductions’ Will Be Focus of Conversation with Smithsonian Curator Jim Deutsch on Monday, July 31

Folklore follows formulas and conventions that govern the folksongs, the folk art and the folktales and legends people share. Many of the personal accounts of being abducted by aliens follow a three-part formulaic structure: captured by aliens; examined by aliens; and then returned to pre-abduction status, often with lasting memories of the encounter.

All of these encounters will be the focus of the free online presentation “Captured, Examined & Returned: The Folklore of Alien Abductions” that will be led by Smithsonian Curator Jim Deutsch from 7-8:30 p.m. on Monday, July 31. The presentation from Silver Spring Town Center, Inc., will use a folkloric framework to analyze some alien-abduction narratives and will discuss what function(s) they serve.

To register to participate in the conversation, go to Meeting Registration - Zoom.

Mr. Deutsch is a curator and editor at the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage in Washington, D.C., where he has helped plan and develop public programs on the Peace Corps, Hungary, China, Circus Arts, Apollo Theater, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Mekong River, U.S. Forest Service, World War II, Silk Road, and White House workers.

Mr. Deutsch also serves as an adjunct professor—teaching courses on American film history and folklore—in the American Studies Department at George Washington University. He has taught American Studies classes at universities in Armenia, Belarus, Bulgaria, Germany, Kyrgyzstan, Norway, Poland and Turkey.

‘Road to Sprawl: The Intercounty Connector & the Limits of Mobility, Development and Land Preservation’ Presentation Will Be Available Starting Monday, July 31

The history behind the plan and building of the Inter-County Connector is the focus of a free online presentation from Montgomery History that will be available for a one-week period starting Monday, July 31. John Spiers, a visiting assistant history professor at Boston College, will lead “Road to Sprawl: The Intercounty Connector and the Limits of Mobility, Development and Land Preservation.”

Throughout his career, Dr. Spiers has presented looks at the histories of how communities throughout the U.S. have evolved. In 2011, one of his presentations at the Montgomery County History Conference was “The Long and Winding Road: A History of the Intercounty Connector, 1950-2006.”

Suburban communities have spent a lot of time dealing with sprawl, said Dr. Spiers, but he states that they keep making the same choices that got them there in the first place. Focusing on the case of the Intercounty Connector, he discusses how efforts were made to support public participation and environmental review for the highway, but ultimately, the highway’s creation was an attempt to build the way out of congestion without modifying underlying land use policies to support compact growth.

He further states that recent proposals to expand I-270, the Capital Beltway and other major thoroughfares reaffirm that auto-based transportation limit the possibilities for local development and land preservation.

To view the presentation starting July 31, go to » WATCH (montgomeryhistory.org).


$1 Million Available in Grant Funding for Small, Emerging and Volunteer-Led Nonprofit Organizations to Support Grassroots Projects

$1 Million Available in Grant Funding for Small, Emerging and Volunteer-Led Nonprofit Organizations to Support Grassroots Projects

Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich and the Montgomery County Council have announced that $1 million in grants is available through the new Community Projects Fund to assist small, emerging and volunteer-led nonprofits in implementing community focused projects, initiatives and events. The first round of grants, totaling $250,000, is open now. The opportunity will be reopened later in Fiscal Year 2024 (FY24) with at least $250,000 available in each quarter to support new community needs and opportunities.

Awards will be prioritized to nonprofit organizations with fewer than three employees and annual budgets of $250,000 or less. Nonprofits do not need to be based in Montgomery County to apply, but all projects must occur within the County or be exclusively focused on County residents.

The Community Projects Fund is intentionally flexible to allow nonprofits to identify their own needs and new programming best suited to support their communities. The full program Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO), the online application, a link to a recorded online information session, links to additional training events and other resources are available on the Montgomery County Office of Grants Management – Grant Application Platform. The Community Project Fund will reopen for new proposals on Oct. 1, Jan.1, 2024 and April 1, 2024.

Applications can be submitted by eligible nonprofits until 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 20.

Applicants with questions about the application process should contact Ali Hoy in the Office of Grants Management by calling 240-773-3384 or by email at ali.hoy@montgomerycountymd.gov.

“An important reason for launching the Community Grants program was to give small and emerging nonprofits better opportunities to access County resources,” said County Executive Elrich. “These opportunities are critical to gaining experience managing grants, building a track record of success and being able to successfully go after larger funding opportunities from the County, State and Federal government. We also need to acknowledge and reward our volunteer-led nonprofits who do amazing things for Montgomery County with tiny amounts of funding thanks to their commitment and passion for service.”

FY24 Community Project Fund award amounts will vary with a minimum award of $5,000 and a maximum award amount of $25,000 over a six-month performance period.

“The nonprofit sector is critical to maintaining a strong social safety net in Montgomery County,” said County Council President Evan Glass. “I am pleased that the County is pursuing reforms to improve the grants process for our nonprofit partners. As the County makes these important changes, we must ensure that we work alongside our nonprofit partners. Nonprofits are instrumental partners for our County and their engagement in this process is key.”

Grant applications will be reviewed by an independent committee organized by the Office of Grants Management. The committee will include neutral, qualified individuals from Montgomery County Government who are selected for their experiences in the Community Grant program’s subject area, grants administration or project management. The panel members will review and score applicant proposals on a 100-point scale based on the criteria and priorities established in the Community Grant program, with cumulative ranking informing the final awards.

For information on grant opportunities for larger nonprofit organizations and longer-term programs, see the July 14 press release on the FY24 Community Grants program.

Summer Concert Series in Olde Towne Gaithersburg Will Feature Jazz and Swing of ‘Seth Kibel Quintet’ on Thursday, Aug. 3


The jazz and swing of the Seth Kibel Quintet with vocalist Flo Anito will be featured at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 3, as Gaithersburg’s free popular Summer Outdoor Concert Series continues at the Gaithersburg City Hall Concert Pavilion.

The outdoor concerts take place at the concert pavilion located on the grounds of Gaithersburg City Hall located at 31 South Summit Ave. Attendees should bring a blanket or low-back chair for lawn seating at both the Thursday evening concerts or the Wednesday morning Children’s Summer Concert Series from 10:30-11:15 a.m. on Wednesdays. The Children’s Concert Series also takes place at the concert pavilion.

The casual, outdoor setting on Thursday evenings provides music from 6:30-8 p.m. New this year, the City is partnering with Saints Row Brewing to include on-site beer sales and food trucks.

Seth Kibel is one of the Mid-Atlantic's premier woodwind specialists. Working with some of the best bands in klezmer, jazz and swing, he has been wowing audiences on saxophone, clarinet and flute, Seth has made a name for himself in the Washington/Baltimore region and beyond.

He has been the featured performer with The Kleztet, Bay Jazz Project, Music Pilgrim Trio, The Natty Beaux.

Seth is the winner of 28 Washington Area Music Awards (Wammies), including "Best World Music Instrumentalist" (2003-11) and "Best Jazz Instrumentalist" (2005, 2007-8, 2011-14).

Scheduled to perform with Seth on Aug. 3 in Gaithersburg are vocalist Flo Anito, Harry Appelman on piano, Bob Abbott on double bass and Wes Crawford on drums.

The Thursday Evenings in Olde Towne concert series also will include an Aug. 10 performance by Mama Moon and the Rump Shakers (blues).

The Children’s Summer Concert Series on Wednesdays from 10:30-11:15 a.m. will include:
  • Aug. 2. Wendy and The Lost Boys (Rock)
  • Aug. 16. Marsha & the Positrons (Kindie – kids and indie–rock)
Parking in Olde Towne is free. Limited spaces are available at City Hall, the upper parking lot by Wells/Robertson House and at the Community Museum across the train tracks. Limited free parking also is available in the parking garage located across Summit Avenue at 112 Olde Towne Ave. A list of additional short-term parking locations in Olde Towne can be found here.

Concerts are weather-dependent. Check the City’s website or social media for updates.

The Summer Concert Series is funded in part by a grant from the Maryland State Arts Council (MSAC). To discover more about MSAC grants and how they impact Maryland's arts sector, visit www.msac.org.

For more information on the concert series, call 301-258-6350 or visit www.gaithersburgmd.gov.

‘Lessons from La Abuelina’ Campaign Will Help Drivers and Pedestrians Safely Navigate New Crosswalk Devices


The Emmy award-winning campaignLa Abuelina” is joining the Vision Zero Initiative’s pedestrian safety team to educate residents throughout July and August about how to safely navigate the newly installed pedestrian hybrid beacons (PHBs) located across the County. After the animated character “La Abuelina” was used to urge Spanish speaking residents to get COVID-19 vaccinations, she will now be featured in English and Spanish social media posts and pop-up events located at PHBs to help explain how the traffic control devices offer extra protection to drivers and people walking, biking and rolling across the street.

“’La Abuelina’ was created during COVID-19 and was a great way to communicate with our Spanish speaking communities about prevention, testing and vaccinations,” said County Executive Marc Elrich. “The campaign helped achieve high testing and vaccination rates and earned national and international media recognition, Due to this success, I requested her character be copyrighted by the County and used in other important public health and safety messaging. I am glad that she will now be a part of our Vision Zero efforts to promote pedestrian safety on our roads. With this new campaign, Abuelina is helping spread the word about the innovative new pedestrian hybrid beacons, so our residents know how and when to safely cross.”

Upcoming events will take place at the following locations while additional activities are posted on the campaign website.
  • Saturday, July 29, Noon - 4 p.m. Plaza del Mercado, 2211 Bel Pre Road, Silver Spring
  • Wednesday, Aug. 2, 4-8 p.m., Aspen Hill Shopping Center, 13661 Connecticut Avenue, Silver Spring
  • Saturday, Aug. 5, Noon - 4 p.m., Aspen Hill Shopping Center, 13661 Connecticut Avenue, Silver Spring
A PHB is a traffic control device used at mid-block crosswalks or intersections to provide a safer crossing for pedestrians. It differs from a pre-timed traffic signal or flashing beacon because it remains inactive or “dark” until a pedestrian who wants to cross a street pushes the call button to activate the beacon. Once activated, the PHB initiates a yellow to red lighting sequence of flashing and steady lights that directs motorists to slow and come to a stop, thereby providing right-of-way to the pedestrian to cross the roadway before going dark again.

“Pedestrian Hybrid Beacons are an attractive and cost-effective option to meet pedestrian safety needs, typically at mid-block crossings or where traffic or pedestrian volumes are too low to warrant a standard traffic signal,” said MCDOT Director Chris Conklin. “When looking at locations for the beacons, we consider the volume of pedestrian traffic, the type of roadway, traffic speeds and sight lines. We have recently installed about 10 of them in the County and have another 10 planned.”

Vision Zero is Montgomery County’s initiative to eliminate all roadway-related fatalities and serious injuries. Vision Zero was adopted by the County for its proven methods for saving lives. At Vision Zero’s core is the ethical principle that it is unacceptable for people to be killed or seriously injured when moving within the transportation system. The people that design, maintain, operate and use the roadway network share a responsibility for safety to ensure that mistakes do not result in serious injuries or death.

“Last year Montgomery County had 566 crashes involving a pedestrian or bicyclist. Tragically, 19 residents were killed. This is why I introduced the Safe Streets Act, to make more of our roads safer for all users,” said County Council President Evan Glass, who also serves as chair of the Council’s Transportation and Environment Committee. “With 17 percent of our County’s population speaking Spanish at home, and an over representation among the Latino community for motor vehicle crashes—85 percent higher among the Latino population—culturally competent traffic safety messaging is imperative to saving lives.”

“La Abuelina Family and the COVID-19 Vaccine” was produced by Montgomery County’s Department of Health and Human Services’ Latino Health Initiative to encourage Latinos to take charge of their health and make well-informed decisions in response to COVID-19. The “La Abuelina” communications campaign, part of the County’s Por Nuestra Salud y Bienestar (For Our Health and Wellbeing) initiative, received a local Emmy Award in June from the Chesapeake Bay Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (NATAS) for the third consecutive year. The campaign’s TV PSAs have garnered more than 10 million views in the Greater Washington area since first airing during the fall 2020.

“PHBs give people walking and biking the power to stop traffic with the push of a button,” said Vision Zero Coordinator Wade Holland. “Because these devices are new to Maryland, there can be confusion for walkers and drivers about safely navigating through the crossing. ‘La Abuelina’ will enhance our existing PHB outreach with memorable and fun messages, so all our residents feel confident about safely activating and crossing a crosswalk with a PHB.”

For more information on the “La Abuelina” pedestrian safety campaign, visit the campaign.

Residents Can Testify at Final Virtual Development Review Process Workgroup Listening Session on Wednesday, Aug. 2


Montgomery County’s process for reviewing and approving development projects during the Development Review Process Workgroup listening sessions will provide one more opportunity for residents to provide input. Residents can sign up to provide feedback during the workgroup’s third and final listening session that will be held virtually from 6-8 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 2.

The second listening session was held at the Wheaton Headquarters of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) on July 18.

The Maryland General Assembly’s Montgomery County delegation created the workgroup, which is chaired by State Delegate Lesley Lopez (D-District 39). It is examining the County’s development review process, with a special focus on finding opportunities to improve the County’s economic competitiveness. The workgroup’s July 18 listening session followed a June 22 listening session and three livestreamed workgroup work sessions June 9, June 27 and July 12.

State law established the M-NCPPC and Montgomery County Planning Board, whose members are appointed by the Montgomery County Council and approved by County Executive Marc Elrich. The County Council adopts the zoning code. Under County law, any subdivision, sketch plan and site plan must be approved by the Planning Board and must substantially conform to adopted master plans as well as comply with County codes.  Each project is reviewed by the Montgomery County Planning Department and the Montgomery County Planning Board, both part of The M-NCPPC, and by a Development Review Committee, which under County law is comprised of planners, county agencies, state agencies and utilities.



View a graphic explaining the development review process.

Community input will inform the workgroup’s report on its findings and recommendations for the development review process. The report must be delivered to the Montgomery County Delegation of the Maryland General Assembly by Oct. 15. Community members who want to testify at the Aug. 2 listening session must complete and submit the Sign Up to Testify form by 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 1. A Microsoft Teams link will be sent ahead of the meeting.

Live language translation or ASL requests for the listening session must be made five days ahead of the event. To make a request, please contact staff in the Planning Board Chair’s Office via email at MCP-Chair@mncppc-mc.org or call 301-495-4605. The community is welcome to watch the meetings through a livestream (also available on demand under the “Speakers and Special Events” tab).

Participants will have two minutes to speak. The workgroup members are interested in:
  • Specific experiences with the development review process.
  • Suggestions for improving the development review process.
  • Experiences with the development review process in other jurisdictions.
Community members are also invited to submit written comments to the Development Review Process Workgroup. Email development@montgomeryplanning.org and Meredith Wellington at meredith.wellington@montgomerycountymd.gov.

Learn more about the development review process in Montgomery County.


Wheaton Mosaic Mural Created by Students and Montgomery Housing Partnership Residents Working with Wheaton Arts Parade Dedicated


A community mosaic mural that was created by families living in Montgomery Housing Partnership (MHP) apartments in Wheaton working with artists from the Wheaton Arts Parade organization was formally dedicated on Thursday, July 27. The mosaic panels were created in 2019, but installation was delayed due to the COVID-19 health crisis. The Wheaton Arts Parade “Community Mosaic” was supported in part by a grant from the Arts & Humanities Council of Montgomery County.

The mosaic mural is installed on the wall of the Pembridge Square Apartments at 2319 Blueridge Ave. and is visible from the side facing Elkin St. in Wheaton. Residents from nearby Amherst Gardens also participated in its creation.

Among those at the dedication were Montgomery County Councilmember Natali Fani-Gonz├ílez, MHP representatives and mosaic artists Edwin Salmeron and Ge’Vonna Keyes. Dan Thompson of Wheaton Arts Parade led the ceremonies.

The three mosaic panels were conceived by the residents who came to the U.S. from El Salvador. The first panel represents “El Salvador as They Remember It.” The middle panel is “Wheaton Today.” The third panel is their vision of “Wheaton in the Future.”

 

Recreational Cannabis Now Legal in Maryland: Answers to Some Frequently Asked Questions


The Maryland General Assembly, during its 2023 session, approved legalization of recreational use of cannabis for adults 21-and-over. The law went into effect on July 1, but many residents still have questions about details in the law. Among the most common questions refer to being able to use cannabis in public areas and how its use can lead to impaired driving.

Smoking cannabis (and hemp) is prohibited in any public place. This includes outdoor spaces and indoor spaces open to the public including parks, streets and sidewalks, bars and restaurants, public transportation (e.g, buses, vans, trains, taxicabs, limousines) and indoor places of employment. Because cannabis remains illegal at the Federal level, a person may not possess cannabis on any Federal property, such as national park.

Using cannabis while driving (by a driver or passenger) and impaired driving remains illegal under Maryland law. Law enforcement officers can make a cannabis DUI arrest if they observe impairment using a standard field sobriety testing (roadside test) method.

Answers to more questions about recreational cannabis use in Maryland can be found at Adult-Use Cannabis FAQs (maryland.gov).

July 21, 2023

Message from the County Executive

 

Dear Friends,

Tuesday was a historic day when the County Council passed the Rent Stabilization Bill. This important bill will cap yearly rent increases inflation plus 3 percent, up to 6 percent. I am looking forward to signing this bill into law as soon as it reaches my desk so we can start helping renters without delay. 



This is a victory for the 35 percent of Montgomery County residents who rent and it helps bring stability to our entire community. It brings much-needed certainty and clarity for both tenants and landlords and ensures a fair return for property owners.   

I have been involved in this issue going back to my days in the mid-1980s on the Takoma Park City Council. I have seen firsthand that meaningful rent stabilization can make a real difference in people's lives. Stable housing costs provide security for families and eliminate the fear of unreasonable rent increases forcing them out of their homes.

From a school and learning perspective, stable rents allow people to remain in communities and reduces student mobility.

Most of us are homeowners. Imagine what it would be like if we faced uncertainty every year over whether the mortgage on our house might increase based on the whim of a bank and leave us unable to stay there? Stability in housing is important for everyone, whether you rent or own.

This bill is an important step forward, but I do want to note that this bill was definitely a compromise. While it caps annual increases at 6 percent, it allows the increases to automatically go up to 6 percent even if inflation is only 3 percent.

For more than 30 years, the County’s Voluntary Rent Guideline was tied to inflation—a common sense notion that landlords should be able have their rents keep pace with rising costs. This bill unfortunately breaks that link. 

If landlords were to take full advantage of the law and raise rent by the full 6 percent every year, it would especially burden the large number of lower income households that call Montgomery County home. They would have a hard time keeping pace since their wages rarely, if ever, increase at a pace of 6 percent per year.   

We will closely monitor the impact of this forthcoming law. I hope, given that rent increases have averaged 3 percentor less for most of the last 30 years with no rent stabilization in place, that the previous pattern will remain the rule, not the exception.  

The bill also includes a 23-year rolling exemption for new buildings, which is well beyond the typical 15 years. 


As you can see from this chart, about 30 percent of renters are in units that were built since 2000.  That leaves them unprotected from potentially unsustainable rent hikes. 

Some believe we should address affordable housing challenges through our existing affordable housing program: Moderately Priced Dwelling Units or MPDUs. But there are only 6,700 MPDU units in our entire County. In a County this large, that is only a small amount and cannot be effective on its own. For example, almost 50,000 households earn less than $50,000 per year. Most are not even eligible for an MPDU and typically spend half or more of their incomes on rent. 

The bill protects landlords in multiple ways, including a fair return process that allows rent increases above the automatic amount if needed to cover costs and maintain profitability. 

The bill also includes a separate provision to allow increases for capital investments. This allows building owners to get rent increases for major repairs so that they can maintain their net operating income percentage—again maintaining their profitability.  The law will not take effect until after the regulations are written and approved by the County Council.

Overall, I am very pleased that this bill passed because I believe it will help protect the long-term affordability of housing in this County.

This success is the result of the collective effort of Councilmembers, advocates, our housing staff and community members. I want to extend my gratitude to the advocates, activists, and renters of Montgomery County who tirelessly pushed for this legislation. 

I also want to specifically acknowledge Scott Bruton, the new director of the Department of Housing and Community Affairs. He did an outstanding job explaining, working with, educating and addressing the Councilmembers' concerns. I also want to thank my housing team in all our efforts to produce, preserve and protect affordable housing.

Let’s continue working together to make Montgomery County a place where affordable housing is accessible to all, and our communities thrive.   


‘Montgomery Connects’ Launches New Computer Giveaway



Households earning less than $50,000 per year account for 21 percent of our population, but comprise 60 percent of County households without computers. This is a concerning statistic.

Having a computer is not a luxury anymore. It is a necessity. While schools may provide access to computers for children, every household should have its own computer for learning, working and staying connected.

I am pleased and grateful for the State funding we secured through the Maryland Connected Devices program to help 34,000 low-income families with much-needed access to computers.  

Households are eligible by either receiving certain benefits or by income level. Chromebook laptops are available to families enrolled in a benefit program like SNAP food benefits, Medicaid, free school lunch, WIC or SSI. Families benefiting from Pell Grants, Housing Choice Vouchers and Project-Based Rental Assistance also are eligible. Anyone enrolled in Affordable Connectivity or Lifeline internet or telephone discount programs qualify. 

Households earning less than 200 percent of the Federal poverty rate also are eligible. A family of four earning less than $60,000 per year would qualify.

To learn more about eligibility and scheduling an appointment, visit the website.

By providing access to technology, we empower everyone to thrive in today's digital age.

Purple Line Update



We learned late last week that the Purple Line project is beset by more delays and increased costs. The 16.2-mile rail line broke ground in 2016. It was originally scheduled to begin operations in March of 2022. It is now scheduled to open in 2027.

This is not good news. But it is not surprising. This public-private partnership deal has been a “poster child” for how not to do a major transportation project.

From the beginning of this process, I have been clear about the perils of engaging in a poorly conceived and constructed public-private partnership. Taxpayers and transit riders will continue to pay for the mismanagement of the Hogan Administration. We deserved better.

Governor Wes Moore inherited this difficult situation, and I appreciate the leadership and transparency from him and Maryland Transportation Secretary Paul Wiedefeld as they work to further public transit.

Farm Tour & Harvest Sale Returns



We have a special event this weekend, that celebrates our connection to the land and the farmers who cultivate it. The annual Farm Tour and Harvest Sale will take place Saturday and Sunday, July 22-23, across 21 farms. Here is a digital brochure that gives a brief description of participating farms and when you can visit.

This event is a good opportunity to engage with our local community, support our farmers and experience the joy of fresh, locally grown food. Come out and shop local, savor the taste of farm-fresh produce and witness the beauty of these working farms that are part of our cherished Agricultural Reserve. You will have the chance to get up close with farm animals and learn about the intricacies of farming. 

These tours are self-guided and driving-based, allowing you to create your own unique experience. Most participating locations and events are free to attend, offering a wonderful chance for all members of our community to partake in this agricultural celebration. Some sites or activities may request a small fee for specific experiences like fruit or flower picking. Additionally, there will be products, food and drinks available for purchase at the farm tour locations. 

Nearly one-third of our County’s land is dedicated to agricultural use. We take immense pride in preserving this land for farming, making us the nation's leader in farmland preservation. With 558 farms and 350 horticultural businesses flourishing in our County, the economic impact of farming is substantial, contributing $282 million annually. 

Our community is fortunate to have one of the most vibrant farming and craft beverage industries right in our backyard. The Farm Tour offers a unique chance to explore and appreciate the beauty of this essential aspect of our identity.

Passing of Former Montgomery County Attorney Marc Hansen



It is with a heavy heart that we remember the life of former County Attorney Marc Hansen, who passed away last weekend.  

Marc retired last year after 37 years in the Office of County Attorney, serving his last 12 as the county attorney. He is the longest-serving county attorney in our history.

Throughout his career, Marc provided advice and guidance to many leaders including County Executives, County Councilmembers and thousands of colleagues. Many, in and out of County Government and throughout our legal community, are saddened by this loss.  

Our hearts go out to Marc Hansen's family, friends and colleagues.

Community Health Update 

COVID-19 remains a low community threat, and for the first time since the pandemic began, the total number of Americans dying each day is no longer above historical averages. The number referred to nationally as excess deaths had been elevated since 2020, a sign of the grip that the pandemic had on us nationwide that now seems like a true era with a beginning and an end.   

There will be a new booster shot available this fall that scientists are working on now, but it will likely not be a bivalent booster, meaning the original strain of the virus will not be used in the next vaccine or booster shot. 

Please continue to visit the County’s website to learn more about COVID resources, testing and vaccines available through the County.
 
As always, my appreciation for all of you,



Marc Elrich
County Executive

July 19, 2023

Farm Tour and Harvest Sale on Saturday-Sunday, July 22-23, Will Offer Access to Fresh Produce, Farm Animals and Craft Beverage Industry

Farm Tour and Harvest Sale on Saturday-Sunday, July 22-23, Will Offer Access to Fresh Produce, Farm Animals and Craft Beverage Industry

The 2023 Montgomery County Farm Tour and Harvest Sale on Saturday and Sunday, July 22-23, will be a unique opportunity for residents to explore 21 select farms in the County’s Agricultural Reserve, shop local, enjoy fresh food, see farm animals and learn about farming as a way of life. The Farm Tour will offer a chance to visit select farms, some of which are only open to the public during this special weekend event.

The 2023 Farm Tour not only offers a fun-filled weekend packed with family-friendly activities, but it also provides a unique educational opportunity for children to connect with nature and learn about where their food comes from before it reaches their table.

Visitors are invited to enjoy the stunning views of the Ag Reserve as they tour the grounds and facilities of 21 agricultural locations, farms, orchards, breweries and wineries open during the event. Most 2023 Farm Tour locations are free to enter and explore. However, a select few charge a nominal fee for entry or activities. Food/drinks, farm products, pick-your-own and other local items are available for purchase at each farm.

Most 2023 Farm Tour locations are free to enter and explore. However, a select few charge a nominal fee for entry or activities. Food/drinks, farm products, pick-your-own and other local items are available for purchase at each farm.

Tourgoers can get a behind-the-scenes look at agriculture from robotic cow-milking to butter churning. Participating farms will offer a variety of activities including hayrides, pony rides and tractor rides. Some locations will have arts and crafts. Tours are self-guided in that families can choose to visit one, two or all 21 farms as their time and schedule allow.

“Montgomery County is often recognized as a great place to live, work and for its arts and entertainment but we also have 558 farms and 350 horticultural businesses in the County. Agriculture annually pumps $282 million into the County’s economy,” said Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich. “Farming is vital to the economic health of Montgomery County. Taking the Farm Tour is a great way for residents to support local businesses by exploring one of the country’s most vibrant farming and craft beverage industries, located practically in their own backyards.”

Montgomery County’s Office of Agriculture touts the rural Agricultural Reserve as one of the County’s hidden treasures. While Montgomery County is home to a diverse population of more than 1 million people, about one-third of its land mass is dedicated to agricultural uses. It is the highest percentage of farmland under formally dedicated agricultural land preservation in the nation.

“We invite residents to escape their everyday life, take a day trip to rural Upcounty and experience farm life firsthand,” said County Office of Agriculture Director Jeremy Criss. “This will be a weekend to enjoy all the farm fresh food, natural beauty and craft beverages that the Ag Reserve has to offer.”

Tourgoers can take part in the Buy Local Challenge to pick fresh fruit, vegetables and flowers or simply appreciate the peacefulness of the Ag Reserve.

During the Farm Tour weekend, all 21 participating farms will be open on Saturday, July 22, and 17 farms will be open on Sunday, July 23. Tourgoers should check the 2023 Farm Tour website for each farm they plan to visit for any additional costs, details on hours and activities or to make any necessary reservations. No pets are allowed except service animals for persons with disabilities.

The participating agricultural locations, breweries, farms, orchards and wineries will include: