May 3, 2024

Message from the County Executive Marc Elrich

Dear Friends,

I was pleased to deliver the State of the County speech Thursday night in Rockville, where I laid out some of our major accomplishments, ongoing challenges and a pathway to addressing future challenges. We livestreamed it on the Montgomery County Facebook and on my X (formerly Twitter) account. You can also watch it on youtube.

I hope you will listen to it because I really tried to talk about our work and our plans in so many areas. I talked about our school system and how, even though my recommended budget provides the largest increase ever without an accompanying tax increase, the schools still have tremendous needs. I discussed how we are tackling public safety in a variety of ways, including increased recruitment of police officers, expansion of the “Drone as First Responder” safety program and our recognition that we must address root problems of mental health and drug misuse. I also briefly touched on our work to address climate change. We are already national leaders in our environmental work, but there is much more to be done, and we need everyone to do their part.

I mentioned how intensively we are working to preserve and produce affordable housing, and I noted how a study from Montgomery Planning showed that more housing is not being built because the developers cannot get the rents they want—even though there are 30,000 units approved that can start as soon as developers apply for permits. For for-profit housing developers, we are meeting the demand for market rate housing, but the demand for affordable housing is left unmet. Meeting the need for AFFORDABLE housing is the great challenge.

I talked about how we have built a County Business Center that is reaching out to businesses all over the County, and I mentioned some of our procurement successes, including 50 percent of our procurement contracts are to first-time County vendors, and a record 31 percent of the County's procurement—more than $350 million—is going to local companies.

I also explained how we analyze our budget through a racial equity lens. Today, every item in our budget is reviewed by the Office of Racial Equity and Social Justice. Our first-ever Office of Racial Equity and Social Justice is advancing racial equity and dismantling structural racism within County Government to ensure that we are doing more than just paying lip service to this cause. Our employees and managers are consistently taking equity training and workshops.

I spent a bit of time discussing why we need tax reform. I explained that we have the lowest taxes on commercial property in the region. In Fairfax, commercial property tax rates are 20 percent higher. In one part of Fairfax—Tysons—they are about 50 percent higher than here. In Washington, D.C., the commercial property tax is even higher. In Virginia, those special taxes are used only to fund transportation. Those additional revenues have allowed them to build transportation infrastructure, including the Silver Line. Commercial property owners supported the implementation of higher taxes there because they realized that those investments are good for business. I also talked about a more progressive taxing system where a few might pay more, but the many would see reduced or no change in taxes. We can learn from our neighbors and better target our taxing structure in a way that makes economic and quality of life sense. You can watch this part of my speech here.

New Collaboration Announced for Regional Transit Partnerships

I participated in the first-ever joint board of directors meeting for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA, or Metro) and the Washington Metropolitan Council of Governments (COG) this week. The shared goal is to create a unified vision for transit in the region and a sustainable funding model for WMATA. This is an unprecedented opportunity for regional collaboration and action.

Metro links the Capital Region and is essential for our entire area to function cohesively. Our area requires a robust and extensive transit system, but we have yet to consider integrating the transit networks so riders can easily depend on public transit between jurisdictions.

We all know the pain of traffic on our roadways—imagine how much worse it would be if all the people who rely on Metro were out on the road, too. Transit is also crucial for people who do not have cars, whether because of age, ability or means. Of course, more people on transit and out of their vehicles is also good for the environment.

The easier we make it for customers to use our extensive transit network of more than a dozen bus and rail systems, the more public transportation will be used.

In Montgomery County, our plans are focused on expanding the reach of the Red Line and Commuter Rail by building the Flash Bus Rapid Transit system that will link communities and will better connect the regional network operated by the State and WMATA. Flash currently runs along US 29, and we are investing to add Flash lines along Veirs Mill Road and MD 355.

In addition to these projects, we are planning additional routes to create a robust BRT network to include Old Georgetown Road, Randolph Road, Georgia Avenue, University Boulevard and New Hampshire Avenue and expanding the US 29 Flash route. These routes will connect the County and create an attractive alternative to driving for many more County residents.

When Montgomery County joined with Maryland to compete for Amazon’s then-proposed second headquarters more than six years ago, to accommodate development, the State included funding for three BRT lines in the Pike District of North Bethesda. That same kind of support is needed today. We need a commitment to building transit because that helps make our economic development possible.

You may not know this, but I planned out the BRT routes by hand more than 15 years ago. Those drawings became plans adopted by Montgomery Planning and the County Council, and it got us moving in the right direction—but there is still a long way to go. The partnership between WMATA and COG should lead to good things for Montgomery County residents and transit customers.

Launching the Zero Emissions Bus Transition Plan

The Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) and the Department of General Services (DGS) have jointly released the Zero Emission Bus (ZEB) Transition Plan which shows the path to zero-emission technology by 2035. You can view the plan on the MCDOT website under projects or via this link.

This plan will help guide our efforts to convert our entire fleet of nearly 400 Ride On buses to battery electric or green hydrogen-powered buses. This will substantially reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions.

By engaging the public and showing the world our path away from fossil fuels, we hope to inspire other governments and people to take action to reduce their carbon footprint.

This plan is just one component of the County’s Climate Action Plan, which aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2027 and 100 percent by 2035.

When we set a goal of zero emissions, we did not know how exactly it would be achieved. We could not foresee green hydrogen being a reliable energy source because the technology was nonexistent. As we continue this transition, we have purposely kept the plan flexible so that we can take advantage of new and evolving technology as it becomes available. I am proud of our departments, both MCDOT and DGS, for taking advantage of Federal grants and leveraging unique partnerships with companies like AlphaStruxure to implement solar-powered microgrids for clean bus charging.

We are pleased to be at the forefront of local governments promoting sustainable transportation and serving as a model for other counties.

Innovation Team Ironing Out Wrinkles in Government

Difficulties, frustration and seemingly impossible challenges are nothing anyone wants to deal with, especially when doing business with County Government. That is why we have a group of professionals working to smooth out wrinkles in our system for customers and our employees.

I have talked about our Innovation@MCG Team before. It is out with a new Impact Report that updates some of the work it has done over the last year. It works with teams across our organization to help us deliver a more effective, sustainable government.

Innovation Team projects can be anything that requires a process or organizational change to create a better product.

For example, the County has reduced the time behavioral health clients spend waiting to see a provider. It used to take up to 90 minutes to complete forms in person and wait for them to be processed. One innovation project resulted in updated the forms that dramatically reduced clients' time at our County facility.

The Innovation Team has tackled internal staffing issues causing low morale and high attrition. The team organized a framework for problem-solving committees and guided teams through workshops to resolve challenges. It also helped address a common public complaint by improving communications within the department.

The Impact Report also details how the Innovation Team helped clear up confusion and frustration in the lobby of our Health and Human Services offices by improving signage and creating simple directions in multiple languages.

The Innovation team works on projects with departments and also runs a course for employees to grow their ability to innovate. In this past year, 74 staff members joined our Innovation Accelerator course, putting them on the path to seek out and eliminate issues within departments, offices and public services. Let us know if you have an issue with any Montgomery County services. You can contact my office here.

Remembering Austin Heyman

I was very sad to learn of Austin Heyman's recent death. Mr. Heyman was the host of “Seniors Today” on the County cable channel and was a longtime friend of Montgomery County.

Mr. Heyman had an impressive list of accomplishments and service to the community. Once he retired as a public servant, he spent a lot of time serving Montgomery County.

Mr. Heyman founded the Jewish Council for the Aging’s Interages Center and served as its first executive director from 1973 until 1997. He also chaired the Montgomery County Commission on Children and Youth, was president of the Montgomery County Council of PTAs and was a member of the Maryland Task Force on Guidance and Counseling. He was a founding member of Volunteer Partnership Montgomery and the Montgomery County Vital Living Steering Committee.

Unsurprisingly, he was presented with an AARP Maryland Lifetime Achievement Award for his decades of service and was inducted into the Montgomery County Human Rights Hall of Fame in 2008.

It is fitting that the organization he founded to help seniors in our area is now known as the “Heyman’s Interages Center.” I offer my condolences to his family members and friends on their loss.

National Small Business Week

We recognized National Small Business Week by doing a business tour in UpCounty.

My first stop took me to 61 Vineyard, the first winery in Damascus. County Councilmember Dawn Luedtke and I met Pam and Mark Giganti, who started their winemaking journey 10 years ago. They now have a successful business and awards and the owners recently learned that their 2022 Merlot was awarded “Double Gold” in the Maryland Winemaker’s Choice Competition. 61 Vineyard is located next to Stone Silo Brewery, so whether you have a taste for beer or wine, they have you covered.

Seeing agricultural-related businesses thrive in our Agriculture Reserve shows what a good decision it has been to stop the sprawl that threatened our farmland. Companies can grow from small beginnings, which is one reason we invested in The Crossvines in Poolesville.

Crossvines, which opened last summer, is a unique place and a concept I proposed to then-County Executive Ike Leggett about 12 years ago after touring California. It is home to a wine-crush pad, allowing farmers to enter the wine-making business without investing in large equipment upfront. The facility will enable farmers to plant and harvest their grapes and bring them to the crush pad where, as the name suggests, they get crushed. The juice is processed into wine, and the County provides stainless steel and wooden barrels for storage and a bottling line that lets the farmers bring their wine to market.

You can plan a visit to Crossvines and to other attractions through and you can check out the Tastemakers Trail. If you are hungry, The Crossvines has an excellent restaurant that is open five days a week.

My next stop was Neighborhood Veterinary Associates in Clarksburg. Four veterinarians collaborated to open the practice on Newcut Road. County Councilmember Marilyn Balcombe and I presented the owner and staff with a certificate from the County. They serve 7,000 patients, which is not as hard to believe when you consider they treat dogs, cats, ferrets, rabbits, rodents, birds, reptiles, fish and more.

The final stop was at Fyzical Therapy & Balance in Germantown. Jarrett Shavitz and Tim Garrison showed me and Councilmember Balcombe around and told us about their practice. They have benefited from Germantown’s growth since expanding here from Frederick in 2022.

I am glad Fyzical Therapy and many other businesses have been able to use the free resources our County Business Center provides to start, grow or locate in Montgomery County. It is genuinely becoming what I envisioned—a one-stop shop for direct assistance for any business in the County. So far, we have tallied 1,900 businesses directly assisted by Business Center staff, and we expect those numbers to grow as we expand our resources and help people connect around the County.

For many years, local small businesses were not part of the economic development plan. We have changed that by introducing business incubators and extending direct help to small business owners. I am glad we have a team that can make a difference for small business owners. Visit to learn more about the Business Center team and how it can help you.

Early Voting Underway

Early voting for the 2024 Maryland Primary is now underway at 14 sites around the County. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. through Thursday, May 9. You can get more information about this year’s primaries at

Montgomery County’s Department of Transportation (DOT) Ride On bus service has several routes to transport voters to the early voting centers. For a complete list of those routes, follow the link on the MCDOT website or click here.

As always, my appreciation for all of you,

Marc Elrich
County Executive