Weekly Message from the County Executive Marc Elrich

by Patrick Herron

Per Montgomery County:

Dear Friends:

As we approach the 4th of July holiday weekend—a time when we should celebrate our nation and our freedoms—we are doing so in the dark shadow of recent Supreme Court rulings. This month has been one setback after another from the decades of progress we have made on civil rights, reproductive rights and public safety. These rights have been upended by the decisions of a right-wing, extremist dominated Supreme Court three of whom were appointed by a disgraced former president who lost the popular vote, but gained the presidency through our antiquated electoral college system. Perhaps no decision was more gut-wrenching than the overturning of Roe v. Wade, the first time ever that the Supreme Court has taken away a constitutional right. The ruling jeopardizes women, rolls back fundamental rights, and, ultimately, will significantly impact the health and life of many women in our country. This ruling turns the clock back on the progress that has been made to ensure the right of women to have an abortion.

Responding with actions, not just rhetoric

After this decision was announced, I joined almost 100 people–advocates for women’s rights and elected leaders in Wheaton–to voice our frustration, sadness and outrage.

In addition to taking to the streets to protest, we also need to push back with actions. That is why we announced a plan to allocate $1 million in funding for nonprofits and organizations that provide abortion and women’s health services. This plan for funding was transmitted to the County Council for approval this week.

These funds would allow for grants to be used for the following purposes:

  • Assisting with wraparound services for those who are accessing abortion services, as well as those who choose to have children.
  • Providing grants to organizations in the County that provide abortion services.
  • Supporting organizations focused on comprehensive family planning, reproductive health, and maternal health.
  • Providing aid to organizations that are fighting legal battles on behalf of those seeking access to reproductive rights.

Last week, I announced that the Montgomery County Government will not authorize funding for official travel to counties and states that are restricting abortion. We should not be contributing to the economies of these states. If other counties follow this practice, it will have an even bigger impact.

As Montgomery County’s Chief Administrative Officer Richard Madaleno mentioned in this week’s update with the media, some states, like Missouri, are trying to push the issue even further and penalize people here in Montgomery County for helping women from their state to access health care that is no longer available there.

This is the reason why we are going to reach out to businesses in these states and encourage them to move to Montgomery County—where women’s rights are respected. Places like Austin, Texas may have been “hip” but Texas is waging war on the rights of women. I think there are business owners and employees who will no longer want to live and work in states like Texas and Florida. Our county has a thriving economy, great schools and a great quality of life. We will proactively advertise Montgomery County as a place where a woman’s health is protected.

Thankfully, Maryland passed the Abortion Care Access Act during the last General Assembly legislative session. It will go into effect on Friday. The act allows for training to expand the additional of medical professionals to perform abortions, including nurse practitioners, physician assistants and midwives. I supported this during Maryland’s legislative session and this County will do all it can to assist women access all their reproductive health care options.

An attack on our environment

The Court also attacks our environment:

This week’s SCOTUS ruling on West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency is extremely troubling and jeopardizes necessary efforts to combat climate change and ensure a clean environment for future generations.

This ruling does not change the fact that the widespread use of fossil fuels is causing the Earth to warm abnormally. Human-induced climate change poses grave threats to public health, economic prosperity, and the planet’s ability to sustain the ecosystem services that we depend on. We must continue to take bold climate action at the local, state, and federal levels in order to swiftly bring down greenhouse gas emissions.

We here in Montgomery County are affected by the actions of West Virginia and other states that refuse to take steps to reduce harmful emissions and instead accept higher pollution levels. Our region shares the same air and drinks the same water as these states, and we will all experience the negative impacts on our environment due to today’s ruling.

Montgomery County will continue to do its part. We have a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2027 and 100 percent by 2035. Our Climate Action Plan provides a roadmap for combatting climate change, and we have many foundational climate initiatives already underway:

  • The County is currently implementing Building Energy Performance Standards (BEPS) for commercial and multifamily buildings.
  • Amended and improved the Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE)program that allows building owners to finance energy efficient upgrades to make our buildings more resilient.
  • The County is developing a Community Choice Energy program that will enable the County to offer more renewable energy supply to customers.
  • The Council is evaluating the Comprehensive Building Decarboninzation legislation (Bill 13-22), which will require all-electric building standards for new construction, major renovations, and additions and limit fossil fuels, which not only impact our climate negatively but create poor indoor air quality for County residents.
  • The Capital Area Solar Co-op, now in its second year, uses collective purchasing power in our region to drive down the cost of installing solar panels.
  • County-owned buildings are pursuing net-zero construction and additional microgrid projects are planned.
  • The County is adding multiple Bus Rapid Transit routes to encourage people to leave their cars at home and use public transit.
  • The County is transitioning the County’s fleet of passenger vehicles, Ride-On buses, and school buses to electric vehicles. Ride-On currently operates four battery-electric buses with plans to procure another 96 buses over the next three years.
  • Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) signed a contract to replace 326 diesel school buses with electric school buses over the same period, with 25 received to-date.
  • Montgomery County’s transit fleet is transitioning from diesel to electric power, while reducing lifetime emissions by over 155,000 tons.
  • To encourage private sector EV adoption, the County has begun the process of building our EV charging infrastructure with 40 Level 2 chargers located in County parking facilities and is finalizing a contract to install publicly accessible charging at over 60 additional County locations.
  • The FY23 Operating Budget establishes new positions and programs to prioritize our climate mitigation and adaptation efforts.
  • Increased funding to improve and expand pedestrian and bike infrastructure (9% increase over the previous 5-year budget).
  • The County increased funding of $18.6 million to the Montgomery County Green Bank—the nation’s first local-level green bank organization. The Green Bank continues to leverage private capital to improve the energy efficiency and resiliency of our built environment and expand renewable energy in the County.
  • The County is an inaugural member of the White House Building Performance Standards Coalition.

We will also continue to work with our regional partners and neighbors to address the urgency of climate change.

See the Climate Action Plan and quarterly updates to the Climate Work Plan for more information on how the County is responding to our climate emergency at https://montgomerycountymd.gov/climate

Fireworks return to Montgomery County after two-year hiatus

 
I want to wish everyone a happy and safe 4th of July weekend. There are celebrations scheduled in communities across the County and it is wonderful that, after a two-year hiatus, the County’s fireworks will return.

On Saturday evening, fireworks will be set off at Einstein High School as part of our “Mid-County Sparkles” event. Music starts at 6 p.m. with fireworks after dusk. On Monday evening, fireworks will be set off from South Germantown Recreational Park following a concert starting at 7 p.m. There will also be fireworks displays in Rockville and Poolesville on Monday night. And I am looking forward to walking in Takoma’s Park 4th of July parade that begins at 10 a.m. on the 4th and I am also looking forward to stopping by a number of celebrations throughout the day.

May the Fourth be safe for you

We also want everyone to be safe this weekend. The 4th of July holiday is one of the deadliest of the year in terms of traffic and pedestrian accidents, including fatalities related to intoxicated driving. In 2020, close to 500 people nationwide were killed in traffic accidents over the 4th of July holiday.

According to The Governors Highway Safety Association, Maryland is one of only five states to receive grant money to help address impaired driving over the holiday. These funds will be used to provide extra patrols by the Maryland State and Montgomery County police.

Montgomery County’s Vision Zero Coordinator, Wade Holland, also wants you to know about the “Sober Ride Program” put together by the Washington Regional Alcohol Program (WRAP). Starting at 4 p.m. Monday, resident can get a free ride home (up to $15 in credit) via Lyft if they have been drinking too much. That program goes all night and into early Tuesday morning (4 a.m.) Since 1991, WRAP has provided more than 80,000 safe rides home around the holidays.

I encourage everyone to celebrate responsibly, drive sober, and stay alert no matter whether you are driving, walking or biking on our roads. Additionally, this weekend is one of the busiest times at our emergency rooms due to injuries related to fireworks, sparklers and other accidents. Fireworks start more than 19,000 fires and send more than 9,000 people to emergency rooms each year in this country. Please remember that in Montgomery County it is illegal to possess or discharge all types of fireworks.

Montgomery County Police will respond to complaints about fireworks, but please realize they are considered a low priority call and will not be put ahead of calls that the jeopardize life and public safety.


COVID cases still high; infant and small children vaccination clinics begin

A few weeks ago, we were predicting that our COVID-19 case rates were going to decline, and they have, but they are not bottoming out as low as we have seen in the past. Our rates continue to remain above the 200 cases per 100,000 residents threshold, which keeps our county in the medium community level per CDC guidelines. Our COVID hospitalization rates have also slightly increased in the past week as you can see in the chart above.

I want to thank our Department of Health and Human Services for effectively setting up and launching our vaccination efforts and clinics last week to provide vaccines to children between the ages of 6 months and five years. You can click here to make an appointment for your child. Please remember that private health care providers will also have the vaccines.

We still need, and are asking for more, vaccines for this newly eligible group. We placed an order for more vaccines late last week, but were told to expect the shipment to arrive next week. We have enough for this upcoming weekend’s clinics, but will schedule future clinics only after we are sure we have vaccines in hand. We do nott want to have cancel any appointments.

We continue to remind everyone to please get your vaccines and boosters. As we have mentioned in the past, holiday weekends are good times to take a booster shot to have an extra day to feel better recovering from it. Please visit govaxmoco.com for more information on where to take your shot.

Bravo! Two more Emmys for our ‘Abuelina’ COVID campaign

This past Saturday, Montgomery County won two local Emmys for the team that put together our “Abuelina” advertising and outreach campaign. This program is aimed at Spanish-speaking County residents, encouraging them to get their COVID-19 vaccines and boosters. The PSAs were entered in the “Public Service Single Spot” and “Campaign Categories.”

Since the pandemic began, Montgomery County has been proactive in making sure test kits, vaccines and boosters have been distributed in an equitable way. The “Abuelina” videos were the result of a lot of hard work by County employees, community partners and a production team contracted to put together the videos. I want to thank our partners at the Communications Shop for their creativity in developing messaging that is resulting in incredible outcomes for our Latino residents.

“Abuelina” has caught the attention of MSNBC, BBC World News and other national and international media outlets as an example of an effective COVID outreach campaign that has helped achieve positive outcomes. “Abuelina” is not only a great spokesperson and example of our COVID efforts, but also a representative of our intentional emphasis on equity.

Big news for Burtonsville

Over the past week, Burtonsville was the place to be. Last Friday, I joined County Councilmembers and community leaders in unveiling a beautiful, new “Welcome to Burtonsville” sign on Route 198.

This week we were happy to join EDENS, the owner of Burtonsville Crossing Shopping Center, to announce that a Sprouts Farmers Market will soon be moving into the center, located at the intersection of Routes 198 and 29. Sprouts is a nationally known chain recognized as one of the finest grocers in America. This location will be easy for many in the DMV to access. The community-focused grocer is expected to kick off the long-awaited revitalization of Burtonsville Crossing.

This is a well-deserved outcome for Burtonsville residents, who for too many years, watched businesses vacate the shopping center, leaving a nearly empty shell of what was once a thriving center of commerce. I look forward to working with EDENS as we continue to develop a plan that integrates adjacent County-owned land with their revitalization efforts. And I want to thank and congratulate community leaders in Burtonsville, who after nearly a decade of fighting for a revitalized Burtonsville Crossing shopping center, can finally celebrate.

He deliberately endangered the lives of employees of this government

I want to express my outrage at the news and findings of the January 6 Committee. Besides this being an attempt by the former president to orchestrate a coup of our government, his actions clearly put lives in danger, and specifically, the officers of the Montgomery County Police Department who were sent to the Capitol as part of the response to the insurrection. Donald Trump’s actions were irresponsible. He deliberately endangered the lives of employees of this government.

I want to thank Montgomery County’s own, U.S. Representative Jamie Raskin, for his extraordinary work on this committee. We are grateful that he is a part of this investigation that seeks justice for those who sought to do harm that day. They must be held accountable.

Senior Tax Credit extended from five to seven years

The Montgomery County Council this week approved an extension of the Senior Tax Credit. Its vote extends the length of time that seniors and retired military members are eligible to apply for a 20 percent tax break on their homes. The extension from five years to seven years was made possible by a change in Maryland law during the most recent legislative session.

The Senior Tax Credit is available to homeowners who are at least 65 years old if the property is in their name and it is their main residence. All applicants for any Homeowners Tax Credit must be approved by the Maryland State Department of Assessments and Taxation. It applies to a homeowner’s property tax bill if the property taxes exceed a fixed percentage of the person’s gross income.

For more information on this tax credit and others, please click here.

Police Accountability Board confirmed by County Council

The County Council this week also approved all nine of our nominated members of the Police Accountability Board ahead of its formation on July 1. We received more than 60 applicants for this board, and we appreciate all those who expressed interest in serving.

All the nominees were vetted through my office and selected by me for confirmation by the Council. We selected fair-minded residents who believe in procedural justice, and we believe these individuals will bring increased accountability and transparency that will improve our police department and public safety in Montgomery County

Congratulations and thank you to every member of the new oversight committee and everyone who was considered. To read more about the members of our new Police Accountability Board, please click here.

As always, my appreciation for all of you.

Marc Elrich
County Executive

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