Weekly Message from the County Executive Elrich: “ First-Person Stories on How Montgomery County Helped in Hawaii”

Per Montgomery County: “Dear Friends,

I used this week’s video to talk about my work at home to live a little more sustainably. I explain why I have invested in solar and an electric vehicle, and how I’ve saved on my energy bills and not buying gas for my car. I also enjoyed the opportunity to give you a brief tour of my deck garden and offer some tips that I have taken away from growing herbs and vegetables. Please click on the frame at the top of this section to watch this video.

Gardening is not only good for our physical and mental health, but also is important for our community’s food resiliency efforts. This week, we announced grants to 10 organizations to expand the amount of healthy food available to residents. Grants were awarded to faith organizations, urban agriculturalists, neighborhood associations and other organizations to take advantage of planting opportunities throughout our community.

If you have not tried gardening yet, here is an informative article by Better Homes & Gardensand here is an article about vegetable gardens in containers Vegetable Container Gardening for Beginners (thespruce.com). You can also get more information locally through the Master Gardeners program at Home Gardening | University of Maryland Extension (umd.edu), Brookside Gardensand at Nature Forward: Adult Programs – Nature Forward. Montgomery Parks also administers a community garden program and you can apply for a plot in the future.

Labor Day: A Time to Honor Workers

Monday is Labor Day. I am thankful for the dedication and hard work of the approximately 10,000 wonderful employees of the Montgomery County Government. Our County workforce is known and noted often as the best teams, departments and operations in their fields throughout this region, state and nation.

I also want to acknowledge and appreciate the partnership we have with our partners in labor that represent County employees. I am proud that this government is considered to be a pro-worker enterprise and will continue to support pro-worker efforts, polices and reforms that are needed in this government, as well as in the private sector.

It is important that workers outside of County Government also are treated with respect, which is why I fought for the increase of the minimum wage to $15 and indexing it to inflation. If the national minimum wage had been indexed to inflation for the last 40 years, the local effort would not have been necessary. I have fought for the increase of the minimum wage for decades, and am proud to champion our historic efforts to raise the minimum wage. I am also proud that our County has a Prevailing Wage Law, which requires workers on large County-financed contracts to be paid the going rate. This is another important protection for workers.

Labor Day is a time to remember the groups and leaders who have fought for worker’s rights like the eight-hour workday, overtime and other benefits that working Americans now expect from employers. The labor movement has been an important voice for workers and for economic and social justice in this country. We appreciate the role that labor unions have played in building this County and this nation.

I will be participating in two Labor Day parades this year. The first is in Kensington and starts at 10 a.m. with festivities continuing until 2 p.m. On Monday afternoon, the City of Gaithersburg will host a parade through the Olde Towne district starting at 1 p.m.

I hope to see you out there.

Search and Rescue Crews Sent to Hawaii Return Home

Members of the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service who are also part of the FEMA Urban Search and Rescue Team returned from Hawaii this week. I want to thank them for their heroic work in intense heat and extremely difficult conditions.

Captain Jason Light provided an update in this week’s media briefing. He talked about eight straight days of work and the professionalism that was on display which, in his words, “made Maryland look good.”

Captain Light compared the work to efforts needed from search and rescue teams after 9/11 and the Oklahoma City bombing. You can hear from Captain Light here. As he mentions in the beginning, please understand that FEMA and the Hawaiian leaders have asked all the specialized crews to limit what they share when they return home out of respect for the victims and their traditions.

Montgomery County is proud of the work these professionals do. They foster teamwork and earn trust in every community they visit. It takes support on the local and state level to train for these situations.

It also takes sacrifice on the part of our first responders and their families. We appreciate their dedication, talent, and service.

National Preparedness Month

September is designated as National Preparedness Month. As the month begins, the southeastern part of our nation is still dealing with the havoc of Hurricane Idalia that brought rain, flooding and powerful winds.

I appreciated President Joe Biden noting the connection between the increase in the number of extreme weather events and our climate crisis. On the County level, we continue to work in all the areas to meet the goals and targets in our Climate Action Plan to address the hazards of a changing climate. Part of that work includes making sure our residents are prepared.

The County’s Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security (OEMHS) promotes emergency preparedness and encourages a few steps to keep families safe during fires, storms and other events that can cause power outages and other impacts.

Those steps start with having a plan in place ahead of time. Make sure that plan includes how to contact family members if phone lines or internet networks are down. OEMHS has worksheets that can be filled out to help organize contact information and map out a plan before loved ones are separated. The workbook is available in English, Spanish, French, Chinese, Amharic, Korean, Russian and Vietnamese.

Next, building an emergency kit can literally be a life saver in some cases. In some environmental disasters, you could be asked to shelter in place for days at a time. Kits should include snacks and water, hygiene items, flashlight and batteries. They should also include copies of important documents like insurance cards and birth certificates. Rethinking and resupplying expired items is something that should be done at least once a year.

Finally, being prepared means staying informed. Use local newspaper, television and radio stations before and during emergencies so you know what is going on. Sometimes, before they relay information, we have already sent information directly to residents who have signed up for Alert Montgomery. Alerts can be sent to landline phones, cell phones or through email. The system allows users to pick and choose what categories to stay up to date on like traffic, school closures and public health threats.

This month we will be visiting senior centers across the County to bring tips and recommendations directly to older residents. As busy as we are, we need to remain prepared for threats that can threaten our homes and upend our lives. You can sign up for Alert Montgomery by following this link.

Getting to School in an Eco-Friendly Way

Vehicles are a major contributor to emissions, and the more people who can leave their cars behind, the better. That is one of the reasons we are working to improve non-vehicle routes to school. We are part of the Federal government’s Safe Routes to School program. Safe Routes to School focuses on making it safer and easier for more children to walk and bicycle to and from schools.

Each state’s Department of Transportation administers the program. The bulk of the funding allows schools and communities to retrofit roads and build sidewalks, bike lanes and pathways to improve safety for children walking or bicycling to school. A smaller portion of funding supports walking and bicycling safety education, driver awareness campaigns, traffic enforcement and promotional events to encourage more children to walk and bicycle. More than 4,000 elementary and middle schools around the country are undertaking Safe Routes to School efforts thanks to funding from this popular Federal program.

We recently installed pedestrian hybrid beacons(PHB) that are designed to help pedestrians safely cross busy streets by providing a protected crossing. This summer we launched a new campaign that utilizes our popular Abuelina character to reach Spanish-speakers and help educate them on how to use the new safety tools.

We also increased and expanded speed cameras near schools as well as traffic enforcement cameras on all school buses, which has been successful in reducing cars recklessly trying to pass school buses.

You can get more information about Safe Routes to Schools here.

Join Me at a Budget Forum

In September we will begin looking ahead with a series of community conversations focused on the Fiscal Year 2025 budget. Although the 2024 fiscal year just began on July 1, we are hosting these forums now in order to hear and incorporate public comments early in the process. This year, we hope to reach even more people. We will continue to have forums in Spanish and Chinese, and for the first time, we will hold a forum in Amharic. Another forum will be a community conversation with Parent-Teacher Association members.

The remaining forums will be in English and be specific to regions across Montgomery County. We will work with our Regional Service Centers to the spread the word and encourage community engagement at each location. I plan on being at all the forums, which will run from 7-8:30 p.m.

The first forum will be Thursday, Sept. 14, at the Mid-County Community Recreation Center in Layhill. The following week a Spanish-language forum will be held at the same location. Forums will be held Tuesday, Sept. 26, at the BlackRock Center for the Arts in Germantown and Wednesday, Sept. 27, at the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center. The complete list of forums can be found at Montgomery County Maryland (montgomerycountymd.gov.) I encourage you to attend the budget forums in your area and participate in shaping the future.

International Overdose Awareness Day

This week marked International Overdose Awareness Day. Montgomery County held its eighth annual ceremony to mourn the sons, daughters, fathers and mothers who make up the list of fatal victims. It was also an opportunity to connect people with community partners through a resource fair.

For the past year, the County has supported the Montgomery Goes Purple Initiative, which is a way to focus on substance use and mental health prevention and encourage recovery. September is designated as “Celebrating Recovery Month.”

The pace in overdoses seems to have slowed since the beginning of the year. We are grateful for that, but we must continue our efforts to reduce overdoses and substance misuse. As advocates point out, the stigma of drug or alcohol addiction often prevents people from seeking help. We have to work together as a community to remove barriers that would prevent someone from seeking help and offer support to help avoid deadly consequences.

In February, Montgomery County was part of a settlement reached between the State of Maryland, opioids manufacturer Johnson & Johnson and three major opioids distributors, McKesson, AmerisourceBergen and Cardinal Health. Money awarded through this lawsuit and others will total millions of dollars because of the way these companies fueled the nation’s opioid crisis. With the $1.6 million in damages expected from this suit over the next three years, Montgomery County has already begun planning out how to add staff and support our partner agencies. In February, we filed a lawsuit in Federal court aimed at McKinsey and Company, a consulting group that worked for Purdue Pharma. As I said at the time, we will aggressively advocate for the many Montgomery County residents who have been harmed by this deadly and preventable epidemic. The actions and decisions of this company were immoral, inhumane, and unconscionable.

If you or anyone you know needs immediate help with substance misuse, call our 24-hour crisis center at 240-777-4000.

The County’s website knowtherisksmc.org is a place to sign up for Narcan training and offers a guide to behavioral health resources available in our area.

As always, my appreciation for all of you,

Marc Elrich
County Executive”

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