May 17, 2024

Message from the County Executive Marc Elrich

Dear Friends,

I am in China this week in the second week of an economic development mission. Like last week, it has been a busy and educational week. We have met with government leaders, business people who are interested in Montgomery County and toured some advanced, computerized manufacturing facilities. I will share more when I return next week in my regular weekly video updates.

I prepared in advance a short video for this week about the garden I created at my home in Takoma Park. Please take a moment to watch the video and I hope it gives you a sense of the joy of gardening. I love gardening because it brings me peace and calm while also reducing stress.

If you would like more information or resources on how to grow your own garden, access community gardens or explore public gardens around the County, consider checking out the following websites:
County Council Fiscal Year 2025 Budget Straw Vote

The County Council took a straw vote on the Fiscal Year 2025 operating budget on Thursday. I have been following the deliberations while in China, and I very much appreciate that the Councilmembers voted to support virtually all of the recommended budget that I sent to them for their review. The Council is scheduled to have its formal vote to approve the capital and operating budgets on Thursday, May 23.

I appreciate the County Council’s support of most of my budget recommendations, including critical compensation increases for our hard-working and dedicated County employees. However, I am deeply concerned that the Council’s process is hard to reconcile with the principles of good government and smart policy. After weeks of public committee sessions supporting proposals and virtually all unanimous votes to fund them, the County Council made significant decisions in private to reverse some of their decisions, without public conversation, transparency or accountability. You can read the rest of my comments here.

Affordable Housing Update

I was not able to attend last week’s annual Affordable Housing Summit held in Rockville, but I was pleased to hear that Acting HUD Secretary Adrianne Todman spoke and discussed major Federal investments like the recently announced $5.5 billion in grants aimed at affordable housing. She told the crowd about her agency’s work through grants, which act as "building blocks to empower communities to take ownership of community development investments."

Acting Secretary Todman also commended Montgomery County for its innovative policies and proactive approach toward affordable housing initiatives.

The Council has indicated its support for the record $169 million for affordable housing initiatives in the County’s FY 2025 operating budget. These funds include $65 million in new funds and $56 million in the Housing Initiative Fund. Capital Improvement Projects, such as the “Revitalization for Troubled and Distressed Common Ownership Communities,” also are prioritized to ensure that our communities remain vibrant and inclusive spaces for all residents.

Earlier this month, we held a workshop with Enterprise Community Partners and Truist Bank that was held at Mt. Jezreel Baptist Church to discuss the Faith-Based Development Initiative. This initiative will allow houses of worship to transform their underutilized land into affordable homes. Thanks to $585,000 in funding from the County and Truist, seven houses of worship are already working to create 750 affordable homes on their land.

Montgomery County Celebrates AAPI Heritage Month

Every May, the County celebrates Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month. This annual event celebrates one of the fastest-growing segments of the County's population. This year’s event will be from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. on Sunday, May 19, at Seneca Valley High School in Germantown.

Hosted by the County’s Asian American Health Initiative (AAHI) and the Office of Community Partnerships (OCP), the event will offer the opportunity to enjoy cultural performances, explore resources in the AAPI community, participate in health fairs and engage in kid-friendly activities.

Law Enforcement Will Be in Spotlight on ‘Public Safety Day’

The County’s “Public Safety Day” from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. on Sunday, May 19, at the Montgomery County Fairgrounds in Gaithersburg will offer opportunities to interact with representatives of the police department and the Fire and Rescue Service. The free event also will have demonstrations by special units within the police department, like the Autism/IDD unit.

You can also enjoy family activities, fair rides, pony rides, music and community performances. It will be a fun event for all members of the family.

Cultural Heritage Concert Series Continues  

Montgomery County Recreation has been recognizing Asian Pacific Islander Cultural Heritage Month and Jewish American Month in May with a free concert series at venues across the County. The next concert will be at 2 p.m. on Sunday, May 19, at the Plum Gar Recreation Center in Germantown. Featured at this concert will be recording artists Seth Kibel on flute, clarinet and saxophone; keyboardist Sean Lane; and Chao Tian on Chinese hammer dulcimer.

The series is sponsored by Carpe Diem Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts. Following Sunday's concert, there will be a reception with locally sourced refreshments. It will provide a chance to meet the artists and the staff and board of Carpe Diem Arts. The reception will provide an opportunity to learn more about the Carpe Diem Arts impactful programs in area schools and communities.

The final concert in the series will be from 11 a.m.-noon on Wednesday, May 22, at the Long Branch Community Recreation Center in Silver Spring. The highlighted performers will be Caron Dale and Kyoko Okamoto.

Honoring 50 Years of Service to Montgomery County

I want to take this opportunity to honor retiring Montgomery County Public Libraries (MCPL) Director Anita Vassallo. She joined Chief Administrative Officer Rich Madaleno on the weekly media briefing Wednesday, which you can watch here.

Anita's decades of service and leadership have been instrumental in shaping our library system into a vibrant hub for the community.

Anita began working in MCPL libraries more than 50 years ago when she was still in high school. She followed the advice of her mother, who told her she should get a job in the library based on the amount of time she spent there as a student. Five decades later, it turns out her mother offered very good advice.

Anita has seen the department change significantly over the years and decades. As we always say, “The libraries have more than just books.”

Most of the money now spent on new materials goes to digital properties rather than traditional books. Under Anita’s guidance, MCPL has prioritized preschool reading proficiency, prepared teenagers for college and the workforce and facilitated digital inclusion for non-English speakers.

Libraries have been essential meeting places for community groups and fierce advocates for the right to read any material on behalf of the marginalized and often overlooked. They are crucial to helping everyone improve themselves and continue their education at any age.

I want to thank Anita for her work and wish her well in retirement—if she can stay out of the library.

As always, my appreciation for all of you,

Marc Elrich
County Executive