Montgomery Update: “Anti-Hate Task Force Concludes Its Work”

Below you’ll see the weekly message from County Executive Marc Elrich, titled “Montgomery Update: Anti-Hate Task Force Concludes Its Work:

“Dear Friends,

I want to extend my congratulations to the new president and vice president of the County Council, Andrew Friedson and Kate Stewart, who were voted in by their fellow Councilmembers this week. I look forward to working with them to improve our community. It has been one year since this historic Council with six female members was sworn into office–the first time in County history that our legislative branch has a female majority.

Over the past year, we have worked together to increase education spending to record levels, continued to combat climate change, expand affordable housing options for County residents and enact significant legislation, including the rent stabilization bill.

I want to thank outgoing President Evan Glass for his work over the last year, including his leadership on the Safe Streets Act and the creation of the Anti-Hate Task Force.

I attended the last meeting of this task force last week. I was very impressed by the presentations, although disheartened by the incidents and experiences that were reported.

We are dealing with a rise in anti-Semitic, Islamophobic, homophobic and racist hate incidents locally and nationally.

The Montgomery County Police Department had 54 police reports tied to prejudice in Octoberand 60 in November. That is more than a 300 percent increase compared to the same time last year. This is concerning, especially since we know more is happening than what is reported.

We remain committed to being a safe and inclusive community for everyone. The only way to combat the hate is to work together and push back against it.

The County’s Committee Against Hate Violence within the County Office of Human Rights hosted a seminar in Rockville this week focused on helping people identify and report Federal hate crimes. The forum also touched on preventing, handling and mediating incidents of Hate/Bias/Violence. Any witness can file a Federal civil rights compliant online by following this link.

I want to remind everyone of the importance of reporting local hate or bias incidents .  Call 911 in an emergency or call 301-279-8000 for non-emergencies. There is also a Maryland Hate Crimes Hotline (1-800-637-6247) available between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays.

We have allocated funding for security grants to help groups and community organizations protect themselves. The request for help has risen each year. We quickly moved $300,000 to address immediate needs and have worked with the County Council to increase the total amount available.

With the war and bloodshed in Israel and Gaza, the tensions have increased here at home. I urge everyone here to continue to engage peacefully. We also want to help those who are harassed and attacked. They need support during these difficult times. I share the sadness of many that the cease fire has ended, and that the resumption in fighting is again taking too high of a toll on civilians.

Alcohol Beverage Services Lottery – Entries Due by Dec. 9   

 

The window to take advantage of the Alcohol Beverage Services (ABS) special liquor lottery is closing quickly. Registration is open through Saturday, Dec. 9, for an opportunity to purchase highly sought liquors. In Montgomery County, we sell these bottles at the manufacturer’s suggested retail price, which is much lower than the price charged by most retailers outside of Montgomery County.

This lottery is for County residents who are 21 years or older. You can enter by visiting montgomerycountymd.gov/abs/lottery. Winners will be selected and announced on Dec. 19.

A separate lottery for alcohol license holders–generally restaurants–will be held at the same time. There will be about 400 bottles in total available. This is a bonus lottery that is in addition to the lottery we held in spring where more than 1,000 bottles were sold. We use a lottery system to offer fair pricing and equitable access as much as possible with such a limited supply. The lottery also gives County businesses the chance to carry rare spirits for their customers.

While this promotion creates a lot of excitement, it is only one part of the ABS story. ABS is the exclusive alcohol wholesaler of liquor, beer and wine for Montgomery County businesses. It operates 27 retail stores generating more than $35 million in net income per year. Profits go toward the County’s debt and into the general fund. The money replaces almost 2 cents on the tax rate. Without these sales, taxes would increase.

ABS is also responsible for alcohol licensing for bars, restaurants and other businesses. Part of the ABS budget is used for enforcement and education for more than 1,000 County businesses.

The County encourages adults to drink responsibly. ABS is a big supporter of sober ride efforts around the holidays. This is the second year we distributed drink coasters with a special QR code that can easily put someone in touch with a safe ride home if they had too much to drink. Besides public health campaigns, ABS also works with several partners to provide responsible alcohol training and underage prevention programs.

ABS does a lot of good for Montgomery County, including making us one of the safest counties in the nation for youth by having direct control over alcohol sales. If you do enjoy fine spirits, I hope you are able to win an opportunity to take advantage of this special lottery and you can also visit some of our newly renovated retail stores. This is video from one of those openings earier this year. Follow ABS on Facebook or X to learn about other highly allocated liquor events.

Winter Increases Needs for the Homeless   

The colder weather is especially hard on those without stable housing and those living in substandard housing conditions.

This is why we have expanded our services to house and shelter those experiencing homelessness by opening a new permanent shelter last year. The demand has unfortunately pushed the facility to capacity and is stretching our resources again.

We work with individuals experiencing homelessness through a comprehensive street outreach effort that restores dignity and partners with individuals to reach their housing and life goals. We identify, engage and assess individuals in need and connect them to services we provide. Our goal is to provide housing to all those who need it and make homelessness a short-term issue.

Contact the 24-hour Homeless Information Line at 240-907-2688 if you see someone trying to live in freezing temperatures. Our outreach specialists will be there to help. An email to [email protected] also can trigger a help request. We recommend that any resident call 911 if they see someone who could be in immediate danger.

To end homelessness in Montgomery County, more affordable housing options must be provided. I am proud to have invested record funding toward the creation of affordable housing over my first five years as County Executive and expect to propose more record investment in next year’s budget. Although we have much work to do, we are seeing some success.

Over the past 18 months, we have helped produce or preserve more than 1,800 affordable units. We have seven more projects that will be completed by the end of 2023, producing more than 500 additional affordable housing units.

In the last few weeks, we have celebrated two developments. We broke ground on the redevelopment of Park Montgomery. This will be a 15-story building in Silver Spring that was built in 1971. The existing 141 apartments will be renovated and a new building with 76 more units and a garage underneath will be added. All 217 units will serve families earning between 30 and 60 percent of area median income.

The County contributed $10.6 million and a reduction in local taxes for the project. Total costs on the project are estimated to be $98.8 million. Around one-third of the renovated units will be three-bedroom apartments. In a few years, these apartments will be a quarter-mile away from a Purple Line station.

I attended the groundbreaking of the Sligo Apartments project last week. It will be 98-unit affordable rental apartment community, also in Silver Spring. All apartments at this location will be affordable. This new construction will be mixed-income and mixed-use. It will be a modern, high-quality apartment community.

We often hear the phrase “home for the holidays” this time of year. But we must remember and consider those who do not have stable housing or those who live with the stress of not being able to afford a place to live.

Climate Message of the Week: Adapting to Demand for EV Charging Stations

Montgomery County is working to meet the demand for more electric vehicle (EV) charging stations after a significant surge in EV registrations this year. Nearly one-third of Maryland’s electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles are registered in the County. Last month, we passed a milestone of 1,000 new plug-in vehicles drivers in the County. The rise in EV registrations highlights the increasing popularity and acceptance of electric vehicles as a sustainable mode of transportation.This is an important step toward achieving our Climate Action Plan goals to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2027 and 100 percent by 2035.

Currently, transportation is the largest producer of greenhouse gas emissions in the County, with personal vehicles making up 75 percent of transportation emissions. To meet these reduction goals, 100 percent of private and public transportation options in the County will need to be powered by zero emissions technologies within the next 11 years.

Since the County’s first public EV charging stations were installed in 2015, the County’s Department of Transportation (MCDOT) and Department of General Services have installed more than 80 charging ports at parking garages and other County buildings. Overall, there are more than 700 charging ports across the County, including more than 100 DC Fast Charging ports.

In addition to increasing our public use ports, MCDOT and the County’s Department of Permitting Services released new guidelines in 2020 allowing homeowners to apply for right-of-way permits for private use curbside charging stations. To help residents of apartments buildings and condominiums get access to charging, property owners can get technical support and financing through the Montgomery County Green Bank.

The importance of EV charging stations extends beyond mere convenience. They are pivotal in making electric vehicles a practical and appealing choice for a broader audience, thereby playing a crucial role in our fight against climate change.

Studies have shown that the availability of EV charging stations directly influences the adoption rate of electric vehicles. When drivers are confident they can recharge their vehicles conveniently, they are more likely to switch from gasoline cars to EVs.

I encourage you to take the pledge to make your next vehicle an EV. Be sure to check out dealership incentives and Federal and State tax breaks you could get for going electric.

AstraZeneca Increases its Investment in Montgomery County  

I want to highlight some good economic development news reported this week regarding the expansion of one of Montgomery County’s largest life sciences companies.

AstraZeneca has plans to lease space in a new building nearby its main campus in Gaithersburg, which already is home to 4,300 employees. The company says the move fits with its growth plan, but will wait to announce details for the new facility.

Over the last few years, we have worked hard to foster the right environment to help grow our life sciences industry significantly and this is another example of that.

Our region is now ranked third in the nation as a life sciences hub and for life sciences research talent. We are home to more than 300 companies and 40,000 biotech workers. Life sciences development is doing well and will be helped by the creation of the University of Maryland Institute for Health Computing near the North Bethesda Metro Station.

County Office Vacancy Rates

I received a letter last week with concerns from some business representatives about the County’s office vacancy rate and the loss of tax revenue due to declining assessments of these buildings. This is a problem that is happening around the region and across the country as more people work from home and the need for office space declines.

We have been aware of this and that is why our Department of Permitting Services is available to help companies looking to convert office space. We have been able to adapt to help meet the demand in lab space for life sciences work and, in at least one case, office space is being converted to take advantage of the short-term housing rental market. We welcome suggestions on how to work out whatever wrinkles there are.

It is unlikely that office work will be at the same levels that existed prior to the pandemic and the built environment has to adapt. We are happy to work with building owners and others on solutions. The good aspects of this are that conversions to housing will occur most likely in urban cores closest to transportation. This is an opportunity to turn some lemons into lemonade.

Health Update  

We have seen a slight rise in COVID-19, RSV and flu across Maryland, but we are far below the levels we were seeing last year at this time.

However, a lower level of cases does not mean we should not be careful. People who are vulnerable, particularly those with compromised immune systems, need to take precautions and remember that flu and RSV vaccines are available now. As more of us are spending increased time indoors, consider getting your flu and COVID-19 vaccines to help protect the ones you love.

Be careful and do what you can to stay safe.

More Money Helping ‘Rec Assist’

There is no better way to be healthy than by remaining active. I want that opportunity for everyone, even if they do not have a lot of money to spend on activities. That is why a program offered through our Department of Recreation is so important.

This week we announced that up to $400 per person will be available in 2024 through the “Rec Assist” program. These funds help eligible residents pay for recreation programs that charge fees. This is an increase in the amount available to each individual compared to previous years. The funding can help people struggling with essentials take advantage of arts, dance, sports and other fun activities.

Rec Assist is aimed at helping families that already receive public assistance through programs like Care for Kids, Free and Reduced-Price Meal Services, Maryland Energy Assistance and more.

You can apply for Rec Assist online and then have money in your ActiveMontgomery account ready to go at the start of the year.

All County residents can benefit from another Department of Recreation initiative that is being continued in 2024. Residents can receive a free fitness pass to take advantage of gyms and games rooms in recreation centers around the County. You can find a list of locations here.

During “free in 2023,” more than 100,000 people got a gym pass–almost four times as many as the number of passes issued the year before. For more information about free fitness passes in 2024, follow this link.

Return of ‘Flash Lights’ on Flash Buses

The Montgomery County Department of Transportation last year thought a great way to highlight our Flash Bus Rapid Transit line along Colesville Road and U.S. 29 was to add holiday lights to its buses. It got lots of people talking and so “flash lights” are returning to the route throughout December.

Flash provides express service to some of our County’s most popular destinations. We hope the lights will encourage people to shop locally, enjoy our County’s vibrant performing arts scene at a music venue or theater or take a spin around the outdoor ice-skating rink in Downtown Silver Spring.

Flash buses have limited stops between the Silver Spring Transit Center, Briggs Chaney and Burtonsville. They run approximately every 10 minutes on weekdays and every 30 minutes on the weekend.

Happy Hanukkah

 

Hanukkah began this week. The celebration is also known as the Festival of Lights because it marks the miracle of lamps burning for eight days when they should have gone out after just one day. Whatever holiday you celebrate, I hope it is filled with joy, peace and warmth.

As always, my appreciation for all of you,

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AC Milan Soccer Camp at Maryland Soccerplex

AC Milan Academy is hosting a soccer camp at Maryland Soccerplex from March 1st through March 3rd for girls and boys aged 5 to 16 from any club who want to develop their soccer skills and learn the unique methodology of AC Milan directly from AC Milan coaches.

March 1st (Friday) 6pm-7:30pm

March 2nd (Saturday) 6pm-7:30pm

March 3rd (Sunday) 10:30am -12pm and 3:30pm-5pm

Location:18031 Central Park Cir, Boyds, MD 20841

Price: $349 + AC Milan Junior Camp Kit

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