Message from the County Executive:
We engaged in crucial community discussions this week that focused on mental health, crime, hate crimes and violence. We are committed to solutions, but there are no quick and easy answers. If there were, we would have done them already and brought relief to many families searching for answers and fraught with stress.
We hosted a listening session in Wheaton this week, facilitated by the Wheaton Urban District Advisory Committee, and a “Stop the Violence” Community Town Hall in Germantown. These sessions were somber as we listened to the concerns and experiences shared by community members. There is a clear expectation and urgency in dealing with these problems.
We know that part of the solution must be addressing the mental health crisis that affects our youth and adult populations. It is evident that we currently lack an adequate number of mental health professionals to address the crisis at hand, but we have been hiring as fast as we can find applicants.
The County (frankly, any county) nor the State has yet to adequately support local mental health needs for decades. In our case, we even closed our own system of mental health clinics hoping that insurance coverage would solve the problem. However, it has not, and we need to step into the void.
Montgomery County will receive more than $6 million from legal settlements reached with drug companies that unleashed opioids and fentanyl on our country. I remain frustrated that these drug companies got away with simply paying fines and settlements. The individuals who approved these terrible acts are held accountable—in jail despite their actions leading to thousands of deaths.
Given the damage that these drug companies have done to the community, this amount of money is a pittance compared to the mountain of harm and grief they have caused, not to mention the cost to manage these problems. These funds will be distributed over several years and will be used to provide more assistance for crisis situations.
We have allocated $1.6 million of the settlement money over the next three years. This will be dedicated to prevention and harm reduction initiatives, grief support and specialized help tailored for adolescents. Additionally, a portion of the funds will be utilized to hire additional professionals such as school nurses, therapists and program managers, thereby expanding our support network. We recognize the need for this assistance across various areas from schools to jails to outpatient clinics.
When it comes to positively influencing our children and keeping them away from trouble, two factors stand out: their peers and mentors. This is why during the summer, our Department of Health and Human Services and our Department of Recreation actively support the “Summer of Peace” initiative. By providing young individuals with opportunities to interact in safe and enjoyable environments, we can greatly impact their lives not only during the summer, but also in the long run. We have already organized events in Germantown and White Oak. Please look at this poster to learn about upcoming events.
As a former elementary school teacher, I understand idle children often find themselves in trouble, and younger children are more susceptible to being drawn into inappropriate behaviors by their older peers. Our recreation department has varied offerings of activities and events for children and young adults. Our Recreation department website has more on available programs: https://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/rec/
We Are a Leader in Addressing the Pay Equity Gap
Great news: Montgomery County is a leader in pay equity nationally. This news is from our first Pay Equity Act report which you can read here.
There is no wage gap between women and men when evaluating base pay. In fact, women actually enjoy a marginal advantage, earning 2 cents more per dollar than their male counterparts (earning $1.02 on the dollar compared to male employees). When comparing gross pay, which includes overtime and other pay differentials like longevity, there is still a gap of 10 cents between male and female full-time employees but that gap is lower than the national, state and county average.
In accordance with the County Pay Equity Act, the County does not ask job applicants about their salary history. We have also increased transparency by posting all salary schedules online and ensuring consistent pay ranges based on factors such as experience, education and performance. The County has also looked at pay within County Government for jobs that predate the new law to ensure fairness and equity among longtime employees.
Even though we are doing better than almost anywhere else, we will use this report to identify how we can improve.
County Public Space Firearm Ban Wins in Court
A Montgomery County ban on firearms in public spaces passed by the County Council and signed into law last year has cleared its first judicial hurdle. This law strictly prohibits the carrying of firearms within 100 yards of places of public assembly, including parks, churches, schools and public buildings.
Last week, a Federal court denied the request for a Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction, which attempted to put an immediate halt to the law.This victory is an important first step in defending our law.
The Supreme Court ruled last year that firearms regulations can only be imposed if they align with regulations from the 18th and 19th centuries, even when dealing with modern firearms that did not exist back then. We successfully demonstrated that our firearms law falls in line with the historical tradition of firearms regulations in our nation, and the Court agreed.
I appreciate the excellent work of our County Attorney’s Office in this lawsuit and I also want to recognize the previous County Council for implementing restrictions on firearms in public spaces.
We will continue to prioritize the safety and well-being of our community as we move forward.
Many Dogs Looking for Their Forever Home
We have a pressing concern at the Montgomery County Animal Services and Adoption Center. The center is currently facing an overwhelming number of dogs in need of assistance.
In comparison to last year, we have witnessed an alarming increase of more than 200 dogs being surrendered or abandoned. Regrettably, the rate of adoptions has not kept pace with this influx, leaving us with an overcrowded facility and limited options for these deserving animals.
To encourage more adoptions, the fees are waived for the next 50 dogs larger than 40 pounds that find loving homes. Additionally, we are appealing to the public for temporary fostering assistance, particularly for our larger dogs, who face greater challenges in finding adoptive families compared to puppies and small dogs.
I urge you to visit our website to explore the profiles of the animals available for adoption and to obtain further details on how to foster a dog. If you are unable to foster or adopt personally, please share posts and help us spread the wordabout these wonderful animals in need of care and affection.
Initiating the adoption process is simple and can be done online by completing an adoptions questionnaire and submitting the required documents via email.
The County’s ability to provide these animals with forever homes is currently in jeopardy, and we are facing a crisis. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
Anti-Hate Task Force Kickoff Meeting
I joined County Council President Evan Glass, State’s Attorney John McCarthy and others this week for the first meeting of the newly formed Anti-Hate Task Force. We were joined by leaders from the Jewish, African American, LGBTQ+, Asian American and Pacific Islander, Latino and Muslim communities. You can watch my comments to the task force here.
The group was formed in response to the increase in hate crimes and hate based incidents in Montgomery County. While we are constantly working to be as inclusive as possible, we need the help of everyone in the community.
Too many people are increasingly feeling insecure about being able to move freely about our communities. We cannot allow this to be tolerated or to become “normalized.” We must prioritize education and awareness to keep our communities safe and need to foster a culture of inclusivity and empathy from an early age. This County has probably passed everything we can pass to create a safe environment and we have been uniformly supportive of promoting inclusivity.
With every major incident we can bring a wide spectrum of our community to stand together against hate. But for all of this, and as good as it is, there remain incidents of hate, too often involving younger people. Kids do not get these ideas spontaneously out of the air. They are being influenced by adults. Drawing on our community to push back against those who would divide us is going to remain essential to pushing back hate. While I do not think that hate will ever win the day here, the fact that those acts inflict harm and pain on members of our community is not acceptable.
Two more meetings are scheduled in August, one in September, two in October and two in November ahead of a presentation to Council. I thank the Task Force members for the time they are devoting to helping us address this issue.
Our Age-Friendly Community Welcomes Maryland’s Secretary of Aging
Montgomery County this week welcomed the newly appointed Maryland Secretary for the Department of Aging Carmel Roques. She has been touring the State to get a sense of how each county operates and made her final stop in Montgomery County.
Montgomery County is a place where people of all ages come together to create a vibrant and inclusive community. We are constantly working to foster a sense of belonging and well-being for people of all ages.
From accessible sidewalks and crosswalks to public transportation and community centers designed with older adults in mind, Montgomery County has invested in creating an environment that supports active aging. These efforts make it easier for our older residents to remain connected, engaged, and independent.
An age-friendly community is not just about infrastructure. It is about fostering connections across generations. Montgomery County encourages intergenerational activities that bring together residents of all ages, fostering mutual understanding, respect and support.
Through a wide range of community programs, we empower our senior citizens to stay active, pursue their passions and contribute their wisdom and experience. From fitness classes to art workshops, there is something for everyone to enjoy and engage in meaningful activities.
Montgomery County recognizes the incredible value older adults bring to our community. We encourage volunteering opportunities that allow seniors to give back and share their skills and knowledge. From mentoring young entrepreneurs to participating in neighborhood clean-ups, seniors play a vital role in building a stronger, more cohesive community.
Our County’s commitment to becoming an age-friendly community extends to residents of all backgrounds. We believe in inclusivity, diversity and equity. By embracing the needs and aspirations of our aging population, we create a County that truly thrives and flourishes.
Contributions to Montgomery County made by seniors are immeasurable. We value your wisdom and experience and we are committed to creating an environment that supports your needs and aspirations. Together, we can build a community where every individual can age with dignity and respect.
As County Executive, I am proud of the progress we have made in making Montgomery County an age-friendly community. But our work is not over. We will continue to listen, learn and adapt to ensure that every resident, regardless of age, feels valued, supported and empowered.
Montgomery County on Threads
The County is now sharing news and information about our community through the new social media platform Threads. It is tied to Instagram, so you must have an Instagram account before using Threads.
Summer Sounds and Chuck Levin’s 65th Anniversary
You may know that I love music and concerts and I wanted to highlight some of the upcoming concerts.
At Glen Echo Park, weekly concerts began in Juneand continue every Thursday until Aug. 24. The Bethesda Summer Concert series continues this month, with concerts every Friday at 6 p.m. at the Streetery on Norfolk.
In Wheaton, the TGIF Friday Concert Series is back. We appreciate the support from Chuck Levin’s Washington Music Center, which is sponsoring this concert series. Chuck Levin’s Music Center is celebrating its 65th anniversary this year and we are very fortunate to have them as a strong community partner in Montgomery County. The concerts will be at the Marian Fryer Town Plaza, adjacent to the Wheaton Business Triangle and near the Wheaton Metro Station.
I hope you get a chance to enjoy some free, live music this summer. As always, my appreciation for all of you,
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Sydney Montgomery, a graduate of Clarksburg High School who has helped over 7,ooo students with the college and law school admissions process, has been listed in this year’s 30 Under…
SATURDAY 12/9/23 Join us for the ultimate year-end celebration of art, vintage finds, and fashion at CNXN.WORLD's Art & Vintage Event! Sponsored by So What Else, Inc. We will be hosting a hygiene product drive as well! Please bring items like soap, toothpaste, shampoo, deodorant, and more to donate and make a difference. Sign up for a chance to WIN a $40 credit you can use towards any purchase at the event! We've got food, drinks, and more prizes during the event! Vendor Lineup: @thefoundrymd @poetic_sole @on2thenext_vntg @fleetwoodmarket @anatething @bimdayz @thriftlifeadvintage @yester_dayz @bratty_couture @camryncurtiss @crushthrifts @888deadgirl @ken_blendz @misfitbodega @mando.nc @mozartsthriftshop @seamslikenew @skuffstore @the.crucial.cookie @sowhatelsehelps Saturday, December 9th, 20231:30 PM to 6:00 PM4924 Wyaconda Rd, North Bethesda, MD 20852. See you there!