Weekly Message from the County Executive Marc Elrich

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Weekly Message from the County Executive Marc Elrich

Per Montgomery County:

Dear Friends,

Greetings and happy first week of fall. I hope that over the next three months your families get to enjoy and explore the splendor of fall throughout Montgomery County. If you are looking for events to attend, places to go or something new to do, please check out Visit Montgomery’s website at https://visitmontgomery.com/.

As for our COVID-19 update this week, we continue to be in the “substantial transmission” category, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. We currently have the lowest test positivity rate in the State. However, our case rates are significantly higher now than they were at this time last year without the vaccine. On this date last year, we had 53.11 cases per 100,000 residents. This week, we were at 84.23.

And COVID cases continue to increase among children, who account for nearly 30 percent of all cases reported statewide. Those under 18 make up 22 percent of our State’s total population, meaning that they are now being impacted more than their proportion of our population. Some people still think that this virus doesn’t impact kids because, at the beginning, our elderly were hardest hit. But the reality is that we need to be aware that our children are vulnerable, especially now that school is back full-time.

The relatively good news is that despite the increase in cases, our high vaccination rates continue to mitigate the problems. Our COVID vaccination rates continue to be best in the nation among large jurisdictions. Of our total population, 74.9 percent are fully vaccinated and more than 82.5 percent has at least one dose. Almost 89 percent of the eligible population (12 and older) is fully vaccinated and almost 98 percent of this population has at least one dose.

We continue to work at identifying who and where the populations are that still need to be vaccinated and how to convince them to get their shot. Last Friday, I joined the Maryland Department of Health at Africutz Barber & Beauty Shop in Silver Spring for its “Haircuts for Health: Getting Beyond COVID” effort to support equitable and convenient access to vaccinations for hard-to-reach communities. Africutz offered free haircuts for those who got vaccinated and there was plenty of health staff on hand to answer questions and concerns.

This is one of the ways we are trying to get the message out to hard-to-reach communities. We are trying to explain that the evidence shows that vaccines work and that even with the “breakthrough” cases for the vaccinated, the bad outcomes (hospitalization or even worse, death) are much less likely for those who are vaccinated.

Remembrance and Reconciliation is Essential

The Montgomery County Remembrance and Reconciliation Commission, Montgomery History and the Montgomery County Lynching Memorial Project this weekend will address the history of lynchings in Montgomery County. As part of our effort to better understand our past and create a more inclusive and equitable community, we are committed to making sure County residents are exposed to the parts of our history that often are not taught or discussed and that a legacy of injustice remains in our society to this day.

Montgomery History will host “Unwritten Law: A Virtual Symposium on the Lynchings in Rockville” from 9 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 25. Three Montgomery County historians will provide accounts of the lynchings of Mr. John Diggs-Dorsey and Mr. Sidney Randolph. This historical analysis will provide background on the economic, social and political context of Montgomery County in the final decades of the 19th century and explore how elements of these murders were replicated in other parts of Maryland and the United States. You can register via Zoom here.

On Sunday, Sept. 26, the Montgomery County Lynching Memorial Project and the County’s Remembrance and Reconciliation Commission will host the Remembrance Pilgrimage Walk from noon-3 p.m. This will be followed by the Soil Collection Ceremony from 4-5:30 p.m. The Sunday events will be in-person and you can register here. For more information please visit http://www.montgomeryhistory.org/remembranceweekend/.

Earlier this month, I wrote about the focus on the Underground Railroad and Josiah Henson. The Josiah Henson Museum and Park helps put American history in context, celebrates the Underground Railroad and honors Josiah Henson. You may find this video interesting about some of the work that was done at the site. The history of slavery and racial injustice needs to be taught. As Maya Angelou said, “History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.”

Tackling Climate Change – at the United Nations and Here at Home

This week is Climate Week and Clean Energy Week. World leaders are gathering at the United Nations for a meeting on climate and energy issues. The magnitude of the climate emergency requires an all hands-on deck approach from all levels of government and society, worldwide.

Montgomery County is one of many jurisdictions around the world that submitted an Energy Compact to the United Nations this week. Energy Compacts are commitments being made by nation-states, companies, local governments and nonprofits worldwide to advance progress on the UN Sustainable Development Goal 7 that aims to “ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.” Montgomery County’s Energy Compact highlights the vision of our Climate Action Plan and the actions that we must take between now and 2035 to advance progress toward zero greenhouse gas emissions in the County. As the saying goes, we need to think globally and act locally.

I am very proud of the Climate Action Plan that we released in June. It is a strategic plan that outlines the path for the County to reach our climate goals to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions by 2035. The Climate Action Plan also discusses the effects of a changing climate on Montgomery County and outlines strategies to reduce our climate-related risks. This plan is one of the most aggressive in the country and we have no time to waste in implementing its recommendations.

Earlier this month, Hurricane Ida and the deadly aftereffects of torrential rain, flash flooding, and tornados brought climate change front and center here and around the country even as we continue to grapple with COVID-19. Due to climate change, these storms are bigger, more intense, and more destructive year after year. We can’t reverse this trend, but we can slow down the deadly impacts. This is not going to happen by simply wishing or praying for it to get better. We need smart policy and the political will and courage to make tough decisions.

There are two climate action policies that are part of our Climate Action Plan that I sent to the County Council to address emissions from new and existing buildings. The Building Energy Performance Standard legislation, known as “BEPS,” will require owners of the largest and most energy-consuming buildings to take action to improve their buildings’ energy performances. The other is the adoption of the International Green Construction Code, which would require that new buildings use less energy, generate more renewable energy and create healthy spaces for our residents.

I participated in the National Drive Electric Poolesville Event last weekend. It is my understanding that this was the largest National Drive Electric Week celebration in the world. Here in Montgomery County, transportation makes up 42 percent of our County’s greenhouse gas emissions. Converting to electric vehicles—which we have begun for our buses and police vehicles–is one part of our climate efforts.

Single-occupancy vehicles still make up the bulk of greenhouse gas emissions, producing about two-thirds of total emissions for the transportation category. We must focus on switching to electric vehicles and also support public transportation, walking, biking and micro mobility.

Our County Government is leading by example. Saturday’s EV car show featured our two brand-new electric police cruisers (Mustang Mach E), which we are piloting. We have also committed to a net-zero emissions bus fleet by 2035. That effort will be complemented by adding clean hydrogen vehicles to that fleet. We already have four EV buses on the road and will have up to 44 electric Ride On buses by 2023. Additionally, I was proud to help with the effort to convert the MCPS fleet to electric buses.

We are also promoting walkable, bikeable and mass transit accessible smart growth development. This week, I attended the groundbreaking of Twinbrook Quarter, a multi-purpose commercial and residential development located at the Twinbrook Metro Station. This transit-friendly development will be anchored by Wegman’s and will be a very attractive location and destination for companies looking to grow in or move to Montgomery County.

I want to thank B.F. Saul—the developer of this project—for its outreach and work with this local community. Mr. Saul made a point about the importance of working with the community and involving them in the project, so that what gets built fits with the broader community vision. As our economy continues to recover from pandemic impacts, projects like Twinbrook Quarter will be important to our job creation and smart growth goals.

Additional Early Voting Sites Added

As we prepare to enter another election year, it is critical to ensure that we are protecting, expanding, and ensuring that every resident has easy access to cast their vote. It has been a sad tragedy over the last several months as states around this nation passed legislation whose purpose is to disenfranchise voters and suppress the votes.

I am pleased that the Board of Elections approved the addition of two more early voting sites, one at the White Oak Community Recreation Center and the other at the Nancy H. Dacek North Potomac Community Recreation Center. I and my Council colleagues had urged this approval in this letter we sent to the Board. An early voting site is also likely to be added at the Bauer Drive Community Recreation Center. There is a formal process that must happen (including approval by the State), but since the Council and I agree that it is a good idea, it is likely there will not be any obstacles to that. You can read about the issue in this article from Bethesda Beat.

As always, thank you for your ongoing support.

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