“Happy New Year: 2022 was a year of challenges – the tragic shooting at Magruder High School, two residential building explosions displacing residents, turmoil at the Planning Board, distressing Supreme Court decisions, as well as historic high inflation and gas prices making life more difficult for the neediest among us. However, during our most trying times, this County, our government employees and residents responded, assisted and uplifted our neighbors and families most in need while addressing issues where improvement and progress is needed.
2022 was also an election year with lots of historic moments in both State and local elections. I am thankful to have a won a second term as County Executive and am excited for the upcoming term. But before we turn the page to a new year and a new term, there were a lot of good stories that happened in the County that you may have missed or were so important, they need to be repeated. Above is a link to a video of our “Top 10 of 2022” key achievements and issues. I hope you take a moment to watch. There were plenty of successes and progress beyond this list, but here is a quick summary of some of our top accomplishments.
10 – Reimagining Public Safety
- Montgomery County Police Department marked a century of protecting County residents.
- Our budget includes more money for starting salaries and improved recruitment efforts are resulting in greater interest in our academy.
- The Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service had to respond to two apartment and condo explosions, as well as a plane entanglement in high tension wires.
- It also lent support to victims of hurricanes in Puerto Rico and Florida.
- Homicide rate plummeted over the summer, dropping 85 percent from the start of the year.
- Introduced and began implementing Reimagining Public Safety recommendationswith new and updated trainings, more support on calls from our health department’s mobile crisis team, and for officers more mental health support, resources, and increased compensation.
9 – Providing Refuge to Migrants
- Montgomery County was the first community in the region to assist migrants being bussed by Governors of Texas and Arizona as political pawns.
- Partnered with SAMU International, a humanitarian relief organization based in Washington D.C., to offer a respite center in Montgomery County to aid with arriving migrants.
- Since opening in early June, Montgomery County’s contact point for migrants has served and supported more than 1,880 people.
8 – County’s Response to Troubling Supreme Court Decisions
- Created a $1 million grant fund to help support women’s health and to ensure access to abortion, family planning, reproductive and maternal health providers in Montgomery County.
- Implemented a new policy for County employees that bars County payment for travel to states with policies that roll back a woman’s right to choose.
- County Executive signs County Council bill that banned weapons from our public spaces and we will fight in court to uphold our rights to keep our residents safe.
7 – Montgomery College East County Education Center
- New academic building operated by Montgomery College that will open in fall 2023 in Eastern Montgomery County, located off Route 29 at 2221 Broadbirch Drive in Silver Spring.
- The center will feature classrooms, training labs and student advising space, and will offer credit and noncredit courses.
- MC expects to serve more than 1,000 students there in the first year.
- Will provide opportunity for programs that focus on the needs of our County’s emerging industries – life sciences, IT, and hospitality.
- The center will also house “Raptor Central” – the student support services one-stop shop for admissions and enrollment.
- This campus will enable East County residents to easily access Montgomery College’s award-winning programs without having to drive across the County.
6 – Record Funding for Education
- Funded Montgomery County Public Schools at its largest budget ever of $2.92 billion.
- More than $100 million above the State’s Maintenance of Effort Requirement.
- Invested $20 million for our Early Care and Education Initiative and provided significant enhancements to after school programs that will help our kids catch up and accelerate their learning.
- County received more than $22.6 million in Federal and State grants to expand access to computers, discounted broadband service and technology training for seniors and others.
5 – Producing More Affordable housing
- Advocated for a countywide “No Net Loss” policy to protect residents in older communities that could face steep price hikes due to changes in the housing market. We must protect the affordable housing we already have and not lose it to redevelopment.
- Created the Affordable Housing Opportunity Fund to help us preserve existing affordable housing.
- Identified 18 County-owned properties offering the potential for new affordable housing projects under consideration or development.
4 – The Brookville Bus Depot EV Bus Charging Microgrid
- Brookville Bus Depot Electric Vehicle Bus Charging Microgrid opened in Silver Spring – the largest of its kind in the nation.
- Montgomery County is just the third community nationally to have solar-powered charging stations for buses.
- This bus depot demonstrates that Montgomery County is a leader when it comes to sustainable infrastructure.
- Transportation is one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas. We are leading by example with clean, renewable energy being produced onsite and stored in a Microgrid system for when it is needed.
3 – Combatting Climate Change by Passing Building Energy Performance Standards and Decarbonization Bills
- Signed “Building Energy Performance Standards”– or BEPS – into law.
- Will expand the County’s benchmarking requirements by setting minimum energy performance standards for existing buildings.
- Will be one of the most effective ways to reduce energy demand and carbon pollution from the built environment as the County tackles its ambitious climate change goals.
- Will lead to energy improvements for multifamily residential and commercial buildings that will save money and create new local jobs
- Established all-electric building standards for new construction projects.
- Also known as the decarbonization bill, this new law is needed to fight the impacts of climate change.
- Goal is to ensure that new buildings in Montgomery County are built using modern, efficient electric technology to help achieve our climate goals, save money, and improve health and indoor air quality.
2 – Montgomery County Becomes Nation’s Largest Jurisdiction to Pass 90 Percent Fully Vaccinated Mark
- Montgomery County became the first large jurisdiction in the nation to have 90 percent of the population fully vaccinated to protect against COVID-19. Booster rates also far outpace the rest of the nation,
- County’s death rate from COVID is two-thirds of the national average.
- According to New York Times data of more than 3,000 counties throughout the United States, Montgomery County is listed among the least vulnerable jurisdictions to COVID-19.
- County hires new health officer: Kisha Davis, to lead public health guidance, outreach and support efforts.
1 – UM3 Institute for Health Computing
- Signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the University of Maryland, College Park; the University of Maryland, Baltimore; and the University of Maryland Medical System, also known as “UMMS,” to establish the “University of Maryland 3—Institute for Health Computing” or “UM3-IHC.”
- UM3-IHC will be on the leading edge of the growing marriage of computing—data visualization, machine learning and Artificial Intelligence—to biological research that helps advance treatments and cures for a variety of disease.
- This agreement creates a research facility and academic presence that links our bio-life science corridor and serves as an anchor and attraction to developers and businesses near the North Bethesda Metro Station, formerly known as White Flint, in the Pike District.
- We are at the center of the fourth largest bio-health cluster in the country, but the only one in the top 10 not anchored by a graduate level research institution.
- This institute will plug the academic research gap for government institutions like NIH, FDA and local bio-science companies.
- Will be a catalyst for our life sciences industry, lead to economic growth, and offer new opportunities for internships, experiential learning, and jobs for our students and graduates of Montgomery College and the Universities of Shady Grove.
- This partnership with the University of Maryland system will be transformational.
- As University of Maryland Medical System CEO Mohan Suntha stated, “One day the nation will describe Montgomery County as the Silicon Valley of health care computing.”
As outlined above, 2022 was an incredible year for Montgomery County. It was a year when many seeds that we planted in previous years finally started to sprout. And our public health, equity and transportation and infrastructure investments have begun to pay dividends.
I expect more successes and partnerships in 2023. And I look forward to working with the new, and historically diverse, County Council, a new Governor, Lt. Governor, Comptroller, Attorney General and General Assembly, as well as our incredible Congressional delegation.
Thoughts and Condolences: Unfortunately, we are ending our year on a few sad notes. My friend and neighbor, Jamie Raskin, let our community know of his Lymphoma diagnosis. As our nation has seen over the past six years, Jamie Raskin is a fighter. We have seen Jamie fight for our County, fight for our State, and even fight for the soul of our nation. And now as he prepares to fight cancer once again, we send him and his family the love, the support, and the hope that they have always given to us.
Additionally, Montgomery County’s Muslim community lost one of its leaders earlier this month. Aquilur Rahman was a founding member of the Montgomery County Muslim Council and the Montgomery County Muslim Foundation. As a community activist and a leading cancer researcher, Dr. Rahman made an impact here at home and across the world. And last week, the Silver Spring community lost longtime business owner and founder of the Greater Silver Spring Chamber of Commerce, Bruce Hatch Lee, to cancer. Our condolences go out to their families and friends.
Fighting Frigid Temperatures: Last weekend’s frigid holiday weekend was very busy for County first responders and support services. Montgomery County’s Fire and Rescue Service (MCFRS) responded to more than 2,600 calls for service for an average of about 530 a day. Typically, it averages about 350 calls a day. On Sunday, Dec. 25, Christmas Day, which is historically a slower/lower volume response day, MCFRS responded to 624 calls. And it handled well over 200 calls alone for fire alarms and broken pipes over the three days.
I want to thank the dedication shown by our first responders in the Police and Fire departments, the Department of Health and Human Services and Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, as well as utility crews that helped restore services as quickly as possible. Their resolve and compassion likely saved lives. They coordinated with community partners like the Red Cross, which was able to make accommodations for families dealing with the power outage, brought them food and offered emotional support. This was a lot of work and forced people to sacrifice holiday gatherings with their families. I want to again send my appreciation to all who took care of strangers during this very dangerous holiday weekend.
New or Gently Worn Coats Needed: This cold weather has prompted several community groups to launch a coat drive for the Long Branch community. The Montgomery County Police Department, Montgomery County Recreation and the Silver Spring Regional Services Center are coordinating the effort. They are working with Silver Spring Cares and CHEER to collect new and gently worn coats donated by the community. Coat collection will take place Dec. 27 – Jan. 5 at locations across the County. Individuals can also make a monetary contribution via GoFundMe. Drop off locations include community recreation centers in Germantown, Rockville, Potomac, Wheaton and Silver Spring. The 3rd District Police Headquarters in Silver Spring is also a collection spot. Free coats will be distributed to those in need on Friday, Jan. 6, from 4-7 p.m. at the Long Branch Community Recreation Center. Coats will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis, with a limit of one coat per person. The recipient must be present to receive coat. Registration is not required.
Silver Spring, Bethesda, and Rockville Among Most Charitable in Nation: A new report analyzing Go Fund Me contributions throughout the year found that Silver Spring ranks third on the list of most generous cities nationwide. It ranked first in 2020. Bethesda ranked 17th on the 2022 list and Rockville took the 20th spot. This is great news to see how well compared to others our community comes together for each other in times of need. We know that community spirit will continue to be strong in 2023 as well.
As this is the last week of the year, it is an important time to remember to give if you can. Many nonprofit organizations count heavily on end of year giving to make it through next year. With costs rising due to inflation and staffing shortages, our nonprofits are more in need than ever before. And if you cannot afford to donate money, please consider volunteering more as a great New Year’s resolution.
I wish you and your family and healthy, safe and prosperous 2023,