Marc Elrich Inaugurated to Second Term as the 7th Montgomery County Executive

by Patrick Herron

Marc Elrich was sworn-in to his second four-year term as the 7th Montgomery County Executive along with 11 members of the Montgomery County Council during a historic Montgomery County government Inauguration ceremony at the Strathmore Music Center. The incoming Montgomery County Council increased by two members, from nine to eleven, with the most women ever, as well as became the most racially and ethnically diverse Council in County’s history. To read the full transcript of the County Executive’s Inaugural speech please click here. To view the Inauguration Ceremony, please click here.

County Executive Elrich expressed appreciation to his fellow elected officials, government employees, residents, non-profits, and businesses for successes over the past four years, and, most notably, in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Looking forward to his second term, the County Executive expressed economic optimism, expansion of educational offerings, continued investment in infrastructure as well as an urgent call to action to combat climate change, produce more affordable housing units, and expand the County’s emphasis on equity . The County Executive expressed interest in collaborations with the new County Council, the County’s General Assembly Delegation, the incoming administration of Governor-Elect Wes Moore and Lt. Governor-Elect Aruna Miller, as well as the County’s Congressional delegation on policies, solutions and funding priorities for the challenges that lie ahead.

“I want to welcome all of our new Councilmembers and the returning Councilmembers and I look forward to working with each of you for the betterment of Montgomery County,” began Elrich in his remarks. “Four years ago, when I stood before you, none of us could have predicted that we’d be dealing with a global pandemic, an economic disruption, an attempted insurrection, and so much more. But it was COVID-19 that really changed our lives. When I saw the images of New York City where body bags of Covid victims were being dragged out of buildings, I was determined that was not going to happen here. Because of our collective efforts, we succeeded. The County death rate from Covid was only two-thirds of the national average and if the other 3,000 counties in this nation had the same results as us, there would be over 300,000 fewer dead Americans. Today, we are the most vaccinated large jurisdiction in the nation. And we did that by turning to our community partners, who helped us reach deeper in our communities and enabled us to achieve high rates of vaccination for all our residents. Our success cannot be credited to any one leader or institution – it was accomplished by our collective and communal response to this unprecedented health threat. Covid isn’t gone, but we have far more tools to use if we need them. But there was always a bigger picture, and we always knew that every problem that faced us coming into office would still be waiting for us when we emerged from the worst of Covid. So, while we were focused on public health, we did not let it deter us from working to move this County forward.”

Besides the County’s Covid response and recovery, Elrich also noted the following successes of his first term in office:

  • Establishing County’s first office of Racial Equity & Social Justice and appointing first Chief Equity Officer.
  • Launching one of the nation’s most aggressive Climate Action Plans
  • Creating budget surpluses without increasing taxes.
  • Maintaining AAA bond rating.
  • Historic investments in educational funding, housing, early childhood education and in transportation.
  • Increase in service delivery collaborations with community partners.
  • Fairly compensating County employees
  • Eliminating unnecessary regulations and red-tape
  • Building County’s first year-round homeless shelter
  • Established Reimagining Public Safety efforts  – providing more transparency and accountability – and increasing resources, training and pay to first responders
  • Record private sector investments in County economy

“The County has taken on big projects: starting Bus Rapid Transit, making county properties available for new affordable housing and starting up a new Montgomery College Campus in East County,” Elrich continued in his second Inaugural address. “And a couple of weeks ago, we announced a new partnership with the University Maryland system to create an Institute for Health Computing in North Bethesda – which the dean of the University of Maryland Medical System said would make us the “Silicon Valley of Health Computing.” This initiative will provide leading edge computing, data visualization and AI research along with talent from the University system and population data from the University of Md. Medical System. With our proximity to federal research institutions, a trained workforce, and an ecosystem of booming life science and advanced computing companies, something very important and special will grow here. We are changing the narrative about the economic future of this County from pessimism to optimism. Too often, we can be our own worst enemy and allow well-funded political forces to dictate a manufactured, false, and negative narrative about this County and our government. But the stars are now aligning for a renaissance in our economy built on the foundation that this County has always been known for – a robust education system with a highly educated and trained workforce.”

The County Executive addressed three key areas of concerns for continued policy approaches and advocacy – the need for more affordable housing, increased urgency to combat climate change, and expanding equity to all residents and neighborhoods.

Producing More Affordable Housing:

In terms of affordable housing, the County Executive outlined a three pronged approach to preserve, protect, and produce more affordable housing in the County. Noting the tens of thousands County residents who are severely rent burdened, the County Executive announced the following upcoming policy proposals.

  • Propose taking aggressive steps to increase the County supply of affordable housing, by preserving our affordable housing stock, producing more affordable housing, and protecting tenants from displacement.
  • Propose legislation that requires No-net loss of Affordable Housing when existing housing is replaced.
  • Propose legislation that replaces Moderately Priced Dwelling Unit (MPDU) program with a program that expands the number of units required from new development and serves a wider range of incomes.
  • Enactment of rent stabilization program.

“Affordable housing stands as one of our greatest challenges. We are at a tipping point, and Montgomery County has spent too long in fantasyland when it comes to solving this problem,” stated Elrich on affordable housing. “Current policies won’t create the housing we need, and the math simply doesn’t work– getting 15% of new market units as affordable doesn’t come close to meeting existing and projected needs. Like over 50,000 units of not close. Reaganesque trickle-down economics suggests that just building more market housing will solve the affordable housing crisis– but the market doesn’t build any more affordable units than governments require them to build and that’s a sad and sorry fact. If we want different outcomes, then we need different policies that actually create affordable housing.”

Combating Climate Change:

County Executive Elrich also called for a greater sense of urgency for the County to combat climate change. He expressed hopefulness for the passage of polices that allow the County to achieve the Climate Action Plan goal of 100% carbon emissions by the year 2035. Specifically, the County Executive committed to the following solutions over the next four years.

  • Provide funding for buildings to transition from gas to electric
  • Electrifying and retrofitting our County buildings and fleet for energy efficiency
  • Expanding the collection of food waste Countywide and moving to composting
  • Expanding the implementation of solar on roof tops, parking lots and field.
  • Financially assisting marginalized communities most often impacted by climate change to transition to clean energy,
  • Shutting down the incinerator, which is both a public health and climate change threat

“The next challenge we face is climate change, where the news only gets worse, and yet the world dithers around the edges. Half-measures will not stop this impending disaster,” said Elrich. “Five years ago today, the County passed the most aggressive climate goals in the country. There are many obstacles to progress, including climate deniers, the misbelief that there are no solutions, that we lack the resources, or that we simply cannot make a difference. People need models and they need success stories to show we can overcome the obstacles, and Montgomery County will continue to be that example of success.”

Expanding Equity:

The County Executive also noted that the key to the County’s economic and educational prosperity must come through an emphasis on equity. During his inaugural speech, Elrich highlighted the following equity related initiatives that will be focus of the County government over the next four years.

  • New health officer, Dr. Davis,  will bring a focus on Health in All Policies in the County, including working with health providers in the county, to broaden and increase the effectiveness of and access to our community health programs.
  • Re-evaluation of public safety to address adverse and/or unnecessary police interactions have a disproportional racial impact.
  • Creating a restoration center to divert more people from the criminal justice system.
  • Increasing focus on polices to on expanding home ownership.
  • Equity perspective applied to all operating and capital budgets.
  • Building Montgomery County East County academic center of Montgomery College will open new doors to education.

“In the end we must go on the journey as a community,” Elrich said on equity. “A little less than 60 years ago when Dr. King was in the halls of Congress lobbying for Civil Rights legislation, a reporter asked him how he felt about critics who said he was moving too fast and King responded that ‘they want us to wait another 40 years.’ Well, 40 years has come and gone and for almost every metric of what we call success: health, home ownership, income, educational attainment; black people are at the bottom of the metric. We know systemic racism and inequalities permeate our system. I’m excited by our new partners in the state, as this is a priority of the new Governor, we have many goals in common and there’s much we will work on together.”

Conclusion:

“I still see myself as an activist,” concluded Elrich in his Inaugural speech. “I serve the interests of people and I try not to over-promise – I recognize I don’t have magical powers and sometimes I can’t do what I’d like to do because that’s just the way it is. But I don’t think that just because you’re an elected representative that the job description requires you to defend the institutions, policies or practices just because they exist. So, I’ve told my staff, at all evils, that if there are better ways of doing things, I am not afraid of change. Some people see changing as a confession of errors, I see change as a growth opportunity. At my core I know: Montgomery County is the best place to raise a family, the best place to open a business, and the best place to look to the future. I am appreciative of all those who helped us get to where we are today and of all the people who believe in our County, and the path we are on. I look forward to the work and partnership ahead with all of you. I know that Montgomery County’s best days lie ahead. And we will get there together.”

Follow this link for a recorded version of the inauguration ceremony.

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