April 5, 2024

Message from the County Executive Marc Elirch

Dear Friends,

Let me begin by expressing my deep sadness for the people of Taiwan following a deadly earthquake. Experts have said it is the strongest earthquake to hit the country in 25 years. I just spent a week there for an environmental conference and economic mission.

I was in communication with several of the people we met on the trip, and I was relieved to learn they were okay. Last week, I spoke highly of their emergency response network. Departments that communicate well and work together can help save lives during and after disasters.

My thoughts are with the people I met on my trip, County residents who have loved ones impacted by the earthquake and all the people of Taiwan

Public Safety Event in Silver Spring

This week I joined County Council Vice President Kate Stewart, Council President Andrew Friedson, Councilmembers Evan Glass and Natali Fani-González, County Police Department (MCPD) Chief Marcus Jones and other community leaders to highlight some of the changes we have made to address concerns about crime.

During my administration, I have prioritized listening to the public and used that feedback to help shape our way forward. I have heard from the public, our businesses and residents alike, about their concerns about crime in the community. Holding this week’s event was a good way to let many people know how we are addressing these concerns.

One of the most pressing issues we are actively working to address is staffing for the police department. MCPD is currently down more than 170 officers, and while we use overtime to fill the gaps, we—like every jurisdiction around the region—need to hire more police officers.

We have bolstered recruitment efforts in a few ways, including increased pay to be competitive in the region and $20,000 signing bonuses for new recruits. We are working with a recruitment firm that specializes in law enforcement to identify new strategies for attracting well-qualified applicants. We are also pursuing reforms to policies such as education requirements and prior cannabis usage time limits that are more strict than neighboring jurisdictions. These requirements are currently dissuading and suppressing candidates from applying with MCPD. We are seeing some positive movement. Our September 2024 recruit class showed an increase of about 20 percent more candidates than we had for our last class that started in January.

As we work to bring on a new generation of officers, we want to return to more community policing strategies. We are adding more patrol officers on foot and bicycles to provide better coverage in dense, urban areas and more opportunities for residents and businesses to get to know and interact with them.

To improve the efficiency of police responses, we are investing in technology that makes their work better and safer. The County has added more cameras to public parking garages and expanded the use of license plate readers and mobile camera platforms.

We recently implemented our “Drone as First Responder Pilot” program. We are the only large jurisdiction in the nation currently utilizing this technology. Since launching the program last fall, the drones have been used in response to a wide variety of crimes including armed robbery and attempted kidnappings. Drones can respond fast to catch a crime in progress and collect key evidence. We have already expanded the program to Wheaton. My Fiscal Year 2025 recommended operating budget proposes expanding the hours in Silver Spring and Wheaton and adding sites to cover the Germantown/Gaithersburg/Montgomery Village area and Bethesda. Last month, we welcomed Governor Wes Moore to MCPD for a demonstration of this program. He was very impressed by the technology and saw the advantages this technology could have for elsewhere in the State.

The police department is not solely responsible for public safety, so we also engage public support through our Police-Private Security Camera Incentive Program. The program aims to deter and solve crime by incentivizing the installation of security cameras in geographic areas experiencing higher calls for police service. Residential and commercial properties within a designated priority area are eligible and applicants can be owners or tenants. The maximum rebates of up to $250 dollars are limited to one security camera per qualifying residence or up to five security cameras per qualifying business or nonprofit organization.

Where possible, the County is expanding other services and making changes to lessen the burden of police responses and to allow the police to focus on places where they are most needed and effective. For example, the County has expanded the number of mobile crisis teams being used to respond to mental health emergencies and additional security is being added to homeless shelters. We have worked collaboratively with the Council to require late-night safety plans for some businesses and create a common closure time for establishments operating as part of our vibrant Silver Spring nightlife.

There is not one tool that will fix concerns all public safety concerns. Still, through a cohesive set of investments and support for our police department, other County agencies and key community providers, I believe we can make Silver Spring and Montgomery County a safer place to live, work and play.

I want to thank the law enforcement officers that serve in Montgomery County for their role in public safety. I also want to thank the businesses and residents that continue working with police to help keep our community safe.

We are creating the infrastructure needed to not only solve crimes but prevent them as well. If you would like to watch this week’s press event about public safety, follow this link.

Celebrating Earth Month by Fostering Environmental Awareness and Action

April is Earth Month, a time to celebrate our planet and to take action to reduce pollution.

In 2017, Montgomery County declared a climate emergency and set nation-leading goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions (climate change pollution) by 80 percent by 2027 and 100 percent by 2035. To achieve this, we are implementing the County’s Climate Action Plan, and we encourage and need your help.

The 2024 County theme for Earth Month is “Act Now” to positively impact our regional environment for generations to come. From composting and recycling workshops to community cleanups and education initiatives, there is something for everyone to participate in and contribute to the cause.

This Earth Month we encourage you to make tangible actions that lead to lasting climate change. Join us at many of the activities and events the County hosts throughout April.
  • Illumination Stations (April 8, 9, 10, 16, 17, 29, 30). An initiative launched by the County’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) where residents can learn about energy efficiency and exchange old incandescent and compact fluorescent bulbs for new energy-efficient LED light bulbs throughout the month. This promotes energy savings and highlights the importance of greener technologies in daily lives. For more information, click here.
  • GreenFest. The largest annual environmental festival in the County will take place Saturday, April 27, at the Blackrock Center for the Arts in Germantown. People of all ages come together to celebrate, learn and start or continue their journey to improving our community and the environment. The event is free. For more information, click here.  
  • Food Waste Prevention Week (April 3-7). Stop by any of the Food Is Too Good to Waste education events at specific local grocery stores throughout the County. For more information, click here.
  • White Oak Community Cleanup (Sunday, April 14. Noon-2 p.m.). Assist in the cleanup and support this community. Montgomery County’s volunteer sign-up is open. For more information, click here.
  • Backyard Composting Workshop (Saturday, April 13. 10:30 – 11:30 a.m.) at the Damascus Library. Take part in a workshop and pick up a backyard composting bin and materials. Bins are only available to County residents. By accepting a bin, you agree that Montgomery County may contact you to provide follow-up assistance that may be needed. For more information, click here.
  • Townes of Gloucester Community Cleanup (Saturday, April 13. 10 a.m.-noon). Assist in the cleanup and support this community. Montgomery County’s volunteer sign-up is open. For more information, click here.
  • Backyard Food Scraps Composting Webinar (Online. April 30. 6:30 -7:30 p.m.). Join the DEP Recycling and Resource Management Division’s Waste Reduction and Recycling Section for a virtual workshop on how to compost various types of food scraps in your backyard. Free. For more information, click here.
  • Rockville Science Day (Sunday, April 21. Noon-5 p.m.). At Montgomery College’s Rockville campus. Join more than 100 exhibitors celebrating science, including NIH, the University of Maryland, NSA's National Cryptologic Museum and many more. Montgomery County’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) will have a display focusing on composting and recycling. Free to attend and park. For more information, click here.
Our choices today have far-reaching consequences for tomorrow. Let Earth Month serve as a cue to take at least one simple action to become more sustainable in our day-to-day lives. Examples include always recycling or swapping an old lightbulb for an energy-efficient one. Coming together as a community and embracing sustainable practices can pave the way for a cleaner, greener Montgomery County.

Highlighting the Need to Prevent Food Waste

I toured the Manna Food Center in Gaithersburg this week to highlight Food Waste Prevention Week. Manna helps turn millions of local dollars into food for our community, working with our partners to ensure the food reaches needy families.

The Edible Food Recovery working group is looking into ways to increase edible food donations. Its work can be enhanced with public support. Consumable food like prepared meals, baked goods, fresh produce and canned or boxed food can be saved from disposal and donated to food rescue organizations. You can learn more about how to redirect food by visiting communityfoodrescue.org or calling 240-268-2502. The group is working to implement the County’s Zero Waste goals of creating no food waste. You can help by using leftovers in other meals and not over shopping at the grocery store. Here is a link with more tips on reducing food waste.

I hope you will “Act Now” to reduce food waste. You can find more about reducing food waste at Reduce Food Waste, DEP, Montgomery County Government, MD (montgomerycountymd.gov). Meal planning, altering preparation techniques and composting can all help minimize the trash created from cooking.

Spotlight on Public Health Workers

The start of April marks National Public Health Week. Now that we are on the other side of the pandemic, I think we have a renewed respect for the work of our public health staff. This is a week to highlight their work.

During the pandemic, when many of us could stay in our homes and work, they were out in the community–even before we knew to wear masks. Public health workers are indispensable to the well-being of our community, and this is a moment to thank them for all they do.

This year’s theme is “Protecting, Connecting and Thriving: We Are All Public Health.” It is a reminder that public health is about physical and mental health. It is about a clean environment. It is about connected and supportive communities.

This week, we are focusing on the mental health of teenagers as we launch “Care Be Aware” Teen Mental Health Week on Saturday, April 6.

Mental health plays a crucial role in enhancing the lives and well-being of the youth. For far too long, there has been a “stigma” about mental health. Although that stigma has thankfully lessened, we are still aware that too often mental health concerns are overlooked or ignored. When not addressed in children and young adults, those mental health issues can become much worse as they become adults.

We are calling this effort “Care Be Aware” to spotlight the resources available to young people and their families. Some events include a poetry slam with rap artist Queen Sheba, RecZone events at schools and recreation centers and workshops on art and writing.

A full schedule of events is available on the MCPL website.

The idea is to introduce fun and engaging ways for teens and adolescents to relieve anxiety and learn about the partners who can help with mental health issues.

“Care Be Aware” will coincide with RespectFest, an annual antibullying and empowerment event for teens on Sunday, April 7, at the Wheaton Recreation and Library Center.

A priority of mine since my first day in office has been to break down silos between departments and use all resources to assist in common goals. An effort like this, which unites HHS, Recreation and libraries resources and is assisted by our County’s Innovation Team, is what I want to see. I expect more of it in the future.

Celebrating Cultural Heritage in Montgomery County

Since February, the Silver Spring-based program Carpe Diem Arts has partnered with Montgomery County Recreation to produce monthly shows for the Cultural Heritage Concert Series.

Each concert celebrated the month's U.S. cultural heritage designation, such as Black History Month in February and Irish American and Greek American Month in March. Concerts will continue through June, with organizers hoping to bring together a diverse and intergenerational audience to foster an appreciation of the music and songs from these cultures.

In addition to the concerts at recreation centers, the program branches out to area schools. So far, performances have been held at Wheaton Woods Elementary, Veirs Mill Elementary in Silver Spring and Piney Branch Elementary in Takoma Park.

Each of those are Title 1 schools that use Federal money to support social-emotional learning, extra instruction in reading and mathematics, additional teachers, materials of instruction and after-school and summer programs to extend and reinforce the regular school curriculum.

April’s concerts will celebrate Arab American and Scottish American cultures.

The Cultural Heritage Concert Series is supported by a Wheaton Cultural Project Grant, Sparkjoy Foundation and the Ukes on the Move project, which has provided each school audience with free ukuleles.

This project is funded in part by a Challenge America grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. To learn more about upcoming projects and shows, visit the Carpe Diem Arts website.

Health Update

Montgomery County continues to see fewer cases of COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses, a sign that we are out of the traditional flu season.

As you can see in the graphic above, we are about to head into the peak of tree pollen season. It is interesting to note that pollen season has arrived earlier than usual since we had a warmer winter. Our region just finished its sixth warmest winter to date—yet another sign that we need to follow the directive this Earth Month and “Act Now” to combat climate change.

There are some simple steps to take to reduce allergy symptoms.
  • Keep windows closed when pollen counts are high.
  • Use special HEPA filters in central air conditioning vents might help filter out pollen.
  • Change clothes each time after coming inside to limit pollen exposure.
  • Take a bath or shower each night before bed to prevent pollen buildup.
  • Wash bedding in hot, soapy water at least once per week.
Despite dealing with the pollen, this is one of my favorite times of the year. It is the time to start planting gardens filled with healthy fruits and vegetables.

I love gardening. It is one of my favorite hobbies. It is relaxing and interesting and can produce incredible food that means much more when growing it yourself.

Not everyone in the County can find the room to plant a formal garden, but I highly encourage the use of balconies or community gardens to practice your green thumb. The bulk of my gardening is done on my front deck.

You can watch this video we published last year detailing my love of gardening and my eco-friendly home.

Celebrating 12 Years of Montgomery al Dia and Music in our Schools

I had the opportunity to congratulate Lorna Virgilí live on her radio show this week. Montgomery al Dia has been serving Montgomery County for a dozen years.
The show is recorded live for the Radio América 900 AM audience then edited into a video that can be shared online through forums like Montgomery County en Español. Lorna does a wonderful job discussing important topics from the budget to affordable housing to community hunger issues. Her show shares information with a mostly Spanish-speaking audience and helps keep more County residents informed.

Speaking of videos, there are many new ones to check out on the Montgomery County YouTube page including one celebrating Music in Our Schools Month in March.

I am glad I got to meet these educators and the student from Richard Montgomery High School who visited my office. I had a great time talking about music, our schools and the role arts can play in helping someone find their voice.

I also highlighted Dark Sky International Week and finally got to hand out well-deserved awards to County employees for doing exemplary work serving Montgomery County residents.

As always, my appreciation for all of you,


Marc Elrich
County Executive