Weekly Message from the County Executive Marc Elrich

Per Montgomery County:


Dear Friends,

This Sunday will mark the 21st anniversary of the terrorist attacks on our country on September 11th, 2001. On that day, 2,996 individuals lost their lives, including 11 Montgomery County residents. Our thoughts remain with the family and friends of these victims, as well as the thousands who perished during the War on Terror in the following years.

As the years have passed, many of our younger residents are not as connected to the events of that day. A new report by the group More in Common and polling firm YouGov, shows that younger and older adults have different views about the significance of these attacks. I remind and encourage all residents, and especially our young adults and students to visit the County’s 9/11 memorial in Rockville.

The 9/11 memorial is located at Courthouse Square Park and honors the 11 Montgomery County residents who lost their lives on this day: William Edward Caswell, Dr. Gerald Paul Fisher, Capt. Lawrence D. Getzfred, Michele M. Heidenberger, Angela Marie Houtz, Teddington Hamm Moy, Lt. Darin H. Pontell, Scott A. Powell, Todd Hayes Reuben, Patricia J. Statz and Ernest M. Willcher. This Friday, September 9th, there will be public remembrance ceremony hosted by the City of Rockville at the memorial starting at 9am.

9/11 was a day that changed our nation and world forever. We will never forget this day and those we lost.

MCPD makes arrest in 51-year-old cold case killing of law enforcement officer

A Montgomery County murder from October 1971 made news across the nation this week. An arrest in the case came almost one year after the investigation into the murder of Special Deputy Sheriff Captain James Tappen Hall was reopened. He was found fatally shot while working a part-time security job at the Manor Country Club 51 years ago.

Earlier this month Larry David Smith– known as Larry Becker back then– admitted to killing Captain Hall. He was interviewed just after the shooting by detectives but never named as a suspect. A fresh look at the case by a pair of MCPD detectives led to a new interview and reported confession.

Hall’s murder was the only unsolved law enforcement death in this County’s history—until now. More than 5 decades later his family finally has some of the answers they’ve longed to hear. I want to commend the Montgomery County Police Department for not giving up on cases like these. All families of murder victims deserve justice.

Our thoughts and sympathies remain with the Hall family for their loss. Captain Hall will be remembered and honored for his service and sacrifice. We’re all glad it was finally solved, and the family can have some closure.

A holistic approach to public safety results in success over summer

It’s been a team effort this summer to keep crime in check. Our police, health and human services and recreation departments deserve thanks along with our Regional Service Centers for their efforts to address crime and violence. Although we sadly had a homicide in Rockville over the holiday weekend, it was the first homicide since June and only the second in nearly four months. Additionally, there have been no homicides in the Silver Spring district this year after a major emphasis on public safety in the area that started last fall.

In Germantown, Wheaton, Gaithersburg and White Oak, our “Summer of Peace” efforts were very successful and well received. We invested nearly one million dollars in HHS and Recreation programs for youth services and activities. Our community partners at Identity and the Collaboration Council have been incredible assets to our efforts.

We are not declaring mission accomplished, but I am cautiously optimistic that our targeted, community-based interventions are making a difference. We will continue to make efforts to expand the underlying causes of crime.

Additionally, our new police recruit class started last week with 30 cadets. Our last recruit class was only 18 so it appears we are already seeing the positive impacts from our pay increases for officers. It is imperative that we continue to improve MCPD staffing as well as continue our partnerships and collaborations with residents, communities, and our non-profit and faith communities. By working together, we will continue to improve public safety in Montgomery County.

COVID rates remain low, new Omicron Booster now available

School is back and Labor Day is behind us but I wanted to thank everyone who came out to the holiday parades in Kensington and GaithersburgMonday. It was great to see so much enthusiasm out there and families enjoying our wonderful community.

At the Gaithersburg parade, I had a wonderful conversation with this year’s Grand Marshal, Sue Palka. Sue complimented the County on our response to COVID and I appreciate her comments. I often receive thanks for how serious we continue to take COVID and how hard we have worked to keep the community safe. I am equally grateful to our County employees, our businesses, our non-profits, the school system and, especially, our residents for their continued vigilance.

The threat to our community from COVID-19 remains ‘low’ with cases near 130 per 100,000 people and hospitalizations continuing to trend downward. Admission rates for COVID in our area hospitals have been slashed nearly in half from their most recent peak a few weeks ago. It comes as the nation is on the verge of gaining new protections from the virus ahead of the next flu season.

The new Pfizer and Moderna shots are recommended for anyone 12 and older, if it’s been at least 2 months since your last shot. Our County-operated clinics have some doses and we expect to get more on a regular basis. We recommend appointments as our supply is limited at this point. Appointments can be made through Go Vax Moco.com. Maryland’s vaccine locator is at coronavirus.Maryland.gov/pages/vaccine. It lists many locations, including pharmacies, where booster appointments are also available.

More Monkeypox (MPX) vaccines arrive, new state dashboard

Monkeypox or MPX is still considered to be in an outbreak stage across the U.S. More than 500 cases have been identified in Maryland, more than 60 of which are in Montgomery County. Far more people have now been vaccinated for MPX. Around 3,500 doses have been administered across the state and here in Montgomery County we are working our way through our pre-registration list.

This upcoming Monday we will host our second virtual townhall on Monkeypox for the Latino community. It will be held from 6 to 7:30 p.m. and streamed live on the County’s Espanol Facebook page. It will also air on County Cable Montgomery. If you want your question answered, please make sure to register through the special link found here.

The state’s data dashboard on MPX shows us that more than 90 percent of victims are men. The most common form of transmission is intense skin to skin contact with someone who is infected. Pimple-like rashes or lesions on your skin are signs that you could be sick and contagious. If you notice those symptoms, please get tested and follow the doctor’s orders to keep everyone around you safe.

September is Suicide Prevention Month

September is National Suicide Prevention & Awareness Month. Suicide is a very difficult issue to talk about, let alone prevent. The most recent records for Montgomery County show 77 deaths attributed to suicide in 2020. The County’s mortality rate per 100,000 people is 7.0, which is below the state average of 9.2.

Montgomery County families have an important tool at their disposal to help prevent suicide. The County, along with our partners at Everymind and MCPS, created the BtheOne.org website in 2017.

This website takes users through a series of 5 steps meant to help identify someone who may be struggling with fear and embarrassment. 1. Ask. 2. Keep Them Safe. 3. Be There 4. Help Them Connect. And 5. Follow UP.

Many times, those on the verge of taking their own lives won’t reach out for help and tend to isolate themselves. That’s why it’s important to take the extra steps to identify warning signs and be blunt with questions like,

  • Are you thinking about killing yourself?
  • How much are you drinking/using drugs?

The answers may be hard to hear but they could end up saving lives.

I also want you to know about the 988 suicide and crisis lifeline that’s now available nationwide. It’s open 24 hours a day and is available for English and Spanish speakers. Counselors are ready to take phone calls or just text with someone who needs support.

Wallethub.com lists 4 Montgomery County cities in top 10 most diverse places in nation

This week the Wallet Hub website released its 2022 list of Most Ethnically Diverse Cities in the United States. Four Montgomery County cities were ranked in the top 10. Germantown ranked 2nd, Gaithersburg 3rd, Silver Spring 4th, and Rockville 10th.

Our county’s richness, vibrancy and character come from our diversity. Last weekend, I enjoyed the Ethiopian Day Festival in Silver Spring. This weekend we have the Festival Salvadoreno at the County Fairgrounds celebrating El Salvador’s Independence Day. And later this month the annual Pan African Festival, or Panafest, returns to Silver Spring.

But our diversity means more than incredible festivals, it means that in our schools, our neighborhoods, and throughout our County – friends, neighbors, children and co-workers benefit from traditions and values shared by these different cultures. As of 2020, 32.2 percent of County residents were born outside of the United States. The national average is just 13.5 percent.

Our diversity is one of the attributes I like most about this County and I believe it helps enrich our community and economic development efforts.

Farm to Food Bank Makes Gains

Farms and food providers across Montgomery County are celebrating a wonderful bounty that saw a 25 percent increase in total pounds of food provided to hungry families in Fiscal Year 2022.

The “Farm to Food Bank Program” produced 76,933 pounds of food, which was purchased or donated. A total of 64,110 meals were provided to families through 45 food assistance providers. The program is funded by the Montgomery County Food Council and the County Office of Agriculture. The Greater Washington Community Foundation, the Sodexo Stop Hunger Foundation, Business Leaders Fighting Hunger and the County Department of Health and Human Services are also critical partners in our common goal of ending childhood hunger in Montgomery County.

The goal is to get fresh, nutritious food into the homes of families suffering from food insecurity. Participation in the program by local farms grew this past year. That growth from 12 to 22 farms also allowed more food assistance providers to be included in the program run by Manna Food Center.

We saw the need spike during the pandemic and I’m happy that over the summer the County Council agreed that establishing an Office of Food Systems Resilience was long overdue. As many as 40,000 children in Montgomery County are not sure where their next meal will come from. The new office will allow the County to support the nonprofits in our area that are critical contact points. When families don’t have to stress over food it gives kids their best chance at succeeding in school. Just over $1 million dollars will be spent establishing the new office.

The Maryland Foodbank tracks the amount of food distributed across our state with an interactive map you can see here. And please check out this excellent Fox 5 story regarding our efforts.

I applaud all these innovative ways to combat hunger, cut down on food waste and help area farms. Sixty five percent of all participating farms reported increased food production and 20 percent reported reduced food waste.

As always, my appreciation for all of you,

Marc Elrich

County Executive

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