Weekly Message From the County Executive: Maryland Shows Its Belief That We Are on the Right Path in Transportation

Courtesy montgomerycomd.blogspot.com

 


“Dear Friends,

Every February, we join in the celebration of Black History Month. We start the month by recognizing Rosa Parks and the Transit Equity Day on Feb. 4. This year, the County Department of Transportation is asking customers to share what they know about Rosa Parks and what she did to help spark desegregation across the nation. We are using our social media channels (@MCDOTNow) to share some of those videos and stories.

I lived through times when racism, bigotry and hatred had an iron-clad clasp on society. It was marked by segregation and unequal justice, or more directly, it was the hallmark of injustice. There remain strong and violent headwinds in the fight for justice.

Some of the largest impediments are those who want us to reverse course on the progress we have made. We are not going to let that happen. Nor will we be satisfied with the status quo.

We have made progress in Montgomery County as we have emphasized the equitable delivery of services for our community. We have made it a point to ensure that all of our decisions, from fiscal to programmatic, are seen through a racial equity and social justice lens, so no groups are left out. Even with that in place, our Black population occupies the lower rungs of virtually every social determinant: home ownership, income distribution, access to community health, educational parity and those who are rent burdened.

The County–like the country–has deep and generational poverty and that has real consequences. It becomes self-perpetuating; many children growing up in poverty are not able to envision a way out. It is all they see and experience. Poverty affects academic outcomes, and poor academic outcomes limit job opportunities and income potential. A generation raised in poverty becomes adults in poverty and is left to raise another generation of children in poverty. That is good for no one.

People can look back on the lives of their families historically and see this unbroken line of poverty and come to see it as fate, or destiny, from which almost no one escapes. The young people who think that life is without hope experience lasting psychological and emotional damage. For those of us without that experience, it can be hard to imagine. For those mired in that, it is a real and persistent problem. We cannot expect people to solve this on their own. We need to provide tools and opportunities.

We have work to do in Montgomery County to give more people hope for a better future. It will take hard work moving forward, but we are going to work together on creating more opportunities for everyone.

Last year, I sat down with the County’s director of the Office of Human Rights, Jim Stowe, for a lengthy conversation about the state of race relations and other topics. You can find links to that interview here:

 

Board of Public Works Approves More Than $80 Million for BRT and Other Transportation Projects

I accepted an invitation from Governor Wes Moore to testify this week before the Maryland Board of Public Works (BPW) and talk in detail about our plans for the Flash Bus Rapid Transit Network, also known as BRT. Our Flash BRT Network is the solution to better transit across the County.

My work on this began in 2008. We just did not have the money then to appropriately plan out and design what we are finalizing today. The idea is to provide a way to better connect our County that is not reliant on rail or more lanes for cars. If you think about it, Metro’s Red Line is a great way to get in and out of Montgomery County and is set up for those working in D.C. As we think about how we can grow and expand our economy, we have to think about ways to easily and conveniently get around the County.

On my visit to Annapolis, I thanked State leaders for the more than $85 million dollars it has earmarked for Flash and other improvements. This transit network is the most effective and efficient use of taxpayer dollars to alleviate congestion, and it is important to helping us achieve our Climate Action Plan goals of reducing 100 percent of greenhouse gas emissions by 2035.

In the last year, we have gone from our initial Flash bus route on US 29 to designing five more routes along 355, Veirs Mill Road, New Hampshire Avenue, North Bethesda and an extension of the Route 29 line. Three of those lines will intersect at the Wheaton and North Bethesda Metro stations. There are hospitals, college campuses and countless businesses on these premium bus routes. When we build it out completely, there will be largely dedicated bus lanes to ensure that there is an advantage in taking Flash.

The Flash lines will offer tangible benefits that driving to and from work will not allow, like free Wi-Fi, so you can work or be entertained while on the road.

 

While we appreciate the assistance from the State, relying solely on State funding has meant that we cannot move at the pace that makes sense. If we had dealt with funding this seriously over the last decade, we would have a lot more people connected to public transit by now. In fact, we would have a completed network by now.

In the 21st Century, we know that bus rapid transit is the most cost-efficient method of transit we need. If we want to see the kind of economic growth that Northern Virginia has experienced over the last decade, improving our infrastructure is the key.

The State’s BPW is also funding $9 million in electric batteries for zero emission buses in Montgomery County. It will support other important infrastructure projects like pedestrian upgrades for Route 27 between Clarksburg and Damascus, bike trails on Bowie Mill Road and improvements along the Great Seneca Science Corridor. Cyclists will also see improvements along the Norwood Road bike path and at the Cherry Hill Road bike facility through this funding approved by the BPW.

These are improvements which will enhance the quality of life for many people in Montgomery County.

I want to thank the Board of Public Works–Governor Moore, Comptroller Brooke Lierman and Treasurer Dereck Davis–for their unanimous support of these transportation investments.

During the Board of Public Works meeting, Governor Moore pointed out that we are working arm-in-arm with similar goals in mind. He complimented the work we are doing in our County and our being an example of developing the kind of partnerships that are a win-win for local and State government.

With these funds, we can help make Montgomery County more transit friendly and less polluted. I hope our path toward a more sustainable and cost-effective transit network is one that can be replicated across Maryland.

MCPD Chief Marcus Jones Announces Retirement

I want to acknowledge the retirement announcement made this week by Chief Marcus Jones of the Montgomery County Police Department (MCPD.) He will be with us until July, so there is plenty of time to plan what comes next for MCPD.

I am grateful to Chief Marcus Jones for his 38 years of service to our community. In his four years as chief, he has shown compassion for victims, a willingness to modernize MCPD and steadfast advocacy on behalf of his officers and department.

Chief Jones has been a strong partner in implementing innovative practices and new public safety technologies that improve security for our residents and safety of our officers. And, during a period of police recruitment challenges nationwide, I was glad to work with him on increasing pay for our officers and providing signing bonuses for new officers.

I am not the first and I will not be the last to thank him for his service to and leadership of MCPD.

County’s Accelerator Program and Innovation Team


We had more than 100 Montgomery County employees on hand this week for our “Bright Spots” showcase. Photos from the event are available here.

Our colleagues are asked to question “the way we have always done things” to find new and better ways to serve our residents. And they have delivered on that challenge, from automating back-end processes to speeding up service to improving the layouts of our alcohol beverage stores. The showcase is about celebrating these Bright Spots so that what works can spread.

Employees are encouraged to identify opportunities in our systems and waste in our processes, trained to identify the root causes and to take action to make improvements. Our Innovation Accelerator provides training, coaching and support to employees across the government as they drive continuous improvement.

I love attending these events because, after nearly four years, participants have come up with dozens of great improvements for our customers and employees. At an event like this, everyone can learn from the streamlining, digitizing and collaboration ideas that have helped departments across County Government. This is important, not just for the public, but for our employees. These projects are ways to make things work faster and more efficiently. These changes help with job satisfaction, as well as serving the needs of the public. I see our innovation team as an investment in our employees and our product.

There are always opportunities to make changes for the better. Part of the reason I got into government was to do more good. The Innovation Accelerator pulls upon best practices from across the country, and the work accomplished through our innovation team is one of the most dynamic engines in the County. We have new accelerator cohorts launching in February, March and May. I am sure they will add to what is already a strong and productive program. You can learn more by visiting montgomerycountymd.gov/innovation/.

Date Set for 2024 Energy Summit


The annual Montgomery County Energy Summit will return April 15-16 at the Silver Spring Civic Building. This two-day event will provide a forum for the commercial building community to prepare for compliance with energy benchmarking, building energy performance standards and emerging building codes. Building owners, managers, energy service providers and other sustainability professionals are encouraged to attend for a full assessment on the latest trends in green building, energy efficiency, renewable energy and related commercial and multifamily topics.

In December 2017, Montgomery County declared a climate emergency and committed to 100 percent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2035. The residential and commercial building sectors combine to contribute 50 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in Montgomery County. The County is proposing a variety of programs and policies to mitigate emissions in new and existing buildings, including a Building Energy Performance Standard (BEPS) for commercial and multifamily buildings.

The Energy Sumit is hosted by the County’s Department of Environmental Protection and is one of many initiatives taken to drive the building sector toward an energy-efficient, low-carbon future, in alignment with the County’s climate action goals. The summit will explore requirements and provide hands-on learning opportunities and case studies from commercial and multifamily buildings.

Montgomery County is a leader in energy efficiency, with executive regulations related to BEPS implementation that are currently being considered by the County Council. Now is the time to prepare and make a plan to meet these new requirements.

With exciting change ahead of us, this year’s summit will focus on current and upcoming progressive commercial building compliance with energy benchmarking, building energy performance standards and emerging building codes. Help will also be available to navigate these programs. Companies that offer innovative solutions in energy efficiency, sustainable technologies or related services are encouraged participate, specifically in the summit’s Innovation Alley. They can submit an expression of interest here by Feb. 16 to be considered.

Visit mcenergysummit.org for detailed event information, speaker profiles, registration details and updates. I look forward to seeing the County’s many leading commercial building and sustainability professionals there.

COVID-19 Update 

 

There has been a slowdown of influenza and RSV in our community, though COVID-19 numbers rose slightly over last week. It is still respiratory virus season so stay home when you are sick, cover your cough and get vaccinated.

A few weeks ago, I caught the COVID virus for the second time. To limit other people’s exposure, it is really important for everyone to obtain and use COVID tests if you have signs of a cold. You can order up to eight free COVID tests from the Federal government by visiting covid.gov/tests or calling 1-800-232-0233.

Comptroller Unclaimed Property

Maryland has a plan to reunite many people with property that is legally theirs. Feb. 1 marked both Maryland and national “Unclaimed Property Day.”

The Maryland Comptroller’s Office is responsible for all unclaimed property in the State. Last year, $81 million was returned in unclaimed funds. This February marks the start of a new campaign to help more people get their own unclaimed stuff. There are hundreds of thousands of Marylanders with unclaimed property, including thousands of residents in Montgomery County. I encourage you to visit this link to learn about how to make a claim.

Launch of EquiCare Grants

Montgomery County has begun a new effort to include more families and young children in our early childhood education efforts. The “EquiCare Subsidy Seats” grants are designed to alleviate the financial burden on child care programs, covering the entire tuition costs so qualified families do not bear any expenses toward tuition. Awarded child care programs will evaluate eligibility of families based on Montgomery County residency with an income at or below 400 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) and are not eligible for the Maryland State Scholarship or Montgomery County Working Parents Assistance programs.

Early intervention has proven to an essential step in improving outcomes in early childhood education. For too long, we have not been able to help the families and children that could benefit the most from early learning programs. The $1 million dedicated to EquiCare Grants will help families pay for a majority of their childcare costs. It will also help support the childcare system overall by helping provide stability while at the same type ensuring that kids of all means have equal opportunities to benefit from early education programs.

I have seen as a teacher how far some kids have to climb to overcome the issues created by not giving them the same kind of opportunities as other children. Hopefully, these EquiCare Grants will help eliminate these challenges and help more children across Montgomery County find success in school.

As always, my appreciation for all of you,

Marc Elrich
County Executive”

 

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