Per Montgomery County:
A year ago, our nation finally declared Juneteenth a national holiday. Juneteenth celebrates and commemorates the day that the last slaves learned that slavery had been outlawed. Texas called it “Jubilee Day” and by the 1890’s it was being referred to as “Juneteenth.”
There has been no greater stain on our nation’s history than the embrace and utilization of slavery. The Emancipation Proclamation officially brought an end to this barbaric practice, but we are still dealing with systemic racism, oppression, and inherent inequities that exist between white and black Americans. Our County’s Juneteenth events reflect our County’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. I encourage all residents to join us in these celebrations but also take a moment to reflect and discuss on what we each can do toward our collective goal, as written in the Preamble to the United State Constitution, “to form a more perfect Union.”
Celebrating Juneteenth – Honoring our African American Living Legends
This year we have a full slate of Juneteenth activities for everyone of all ages to enjoy, engage, and learn. On Friday, I am hosting, along with our Office of Human Rights, the African American Living Legends Awards. While there were many impressive people nominated, we had to choose only five. We are thrilled to honor Ida Pearl Green, Dr. Rosalyn Cain King, Anita Neal Powell, Ambassador Curtis Anthony Ward and Alma Lewis Williams. These individuals have dedicated their lives to service and excellence in the African American community and throughout this County.
Celebrating Juneteenth – Forever honoring American hero, Brigadier General Charles McGee
Brigadier General McGee was more than just a WWII hero. He spent three decades in the armed services, always fighting for equality. He logged 6,308 flying hours and a remarkable 409 combat missions, among the most in service history. He flew bombing and strafing missions during the Korean War and piloted a photographic reconnaissance plane during the Vietnam War, going on at least 100 combat missions in both conflicts. In each war, his plane was hit by enemy fire, coincidentally both times on the right wing.
In 1995, he told the Associated Press. “You could say that one of the things we were fighting for was equality. Equality of opportunity. We knew we had the same skills, or better.”
We are renaming this building for Brigadier General McGee because of the opportunities and equality he provided to the generations who followed in his footsteps. He is an American hero, and the least we can do is ensure his name and accomplishments will not be forgotten.
Celebrating Juneteenth – ‘Freedom at the Rock’ in Germantown; Blues in Silver Spring
Also on Saturday, we are hosting our 25th Juneteenth Celebration, at the Blackrock Center for the Arts in Germantown. It will feature food, crafts, and fantastic artistic performances, as well as some really great soul, jazz, and Caribbean music.
The Silver Spring Blues Festival is also happening on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. It will feature multiple bands throughout the day wrapping up with an All-Star Jam.
Celebrating Juneteenth – Revitalizing the Historically Black Community of Emory Grove
We are also working to right a historical wrong. The historically black community or Emory Grove was settled by freed slaves in the late 1800s. It was home to one of the oldest and largest African American Methodist camp meetings in the Mid-Atlantic the original Emory Grove community encompassed about 300 acres. There were 100 homes with walking paths connecting neighbors. There was a community grocery store, and the renowned Du-Drop Inn, which hosted some of the most famous performers of the 20th century (Sam Cooke, Ike and Tina Turner, James Brown). And there was Johnson’s Field, home to Emory Grove’s own all-Black baseball team and a place where many professional local Negro League teams played in the 1940s and 1950s.
And then came the 1960s and “Urban Renewal.” Instead of investing in the infrastructure needed to support the community, the County chose to use public health as a means to shut down the camp meetings, and many residents of this vibrant, tight-knit community were displaced as more expensive housing was built and community institutions were lost.
The County has a chance to right this wrong. I am so pleased to be working with our partners as we reach out to the Emory Grove community to make sure we get this right.
“The Rent Is Too Damn High”
We’ve been hearing from residents receiving notices of enormous rent increases – up to 20 percent in some cases in Potomac, North Bethesda and Silver Spring! This problem is not unique to Montgomery County because all over the nation people are saying the rent is too damn high. Rent has been steadily increasing since January 2021, and according to realtor.com, rents are up nationally about 17 percent more than it was last year.
We’ve proposed temporarily re-instating the rent stabilization that just expired and allowing increases up to 4.4 percent, which is based on the housing component of Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Price Index. The stabilization would take effect immediately and last for six months. We’ve heard from tenants who have been in their building for close to 15 years who suddenly feel like they’ve got nowhere to go. Census results show 17 to 20 percent of renters in Maryland have not been able to get current on rent, consistent with a County survey of multifamily tenants.
The Council and I recognized these impacts when we implemented and extended protections from unrestricted rent increases. Unfortunately, those protections ended on June 1. Many residents are currently being impacted by the growth of inflation, high gas prices and food prices. They simply cannot absorb extraordinarily high rent increases as well. We need to act, and I encourage your support and engagement on this issue.
Deadline Approaching to Apply For Rent Relief
We also want to make sure all renters are aware that the deadline for this current round of COVID-19 rent relief is approaching on June 30. Right now, people who are more than two months behind on their rent can apply for rental assistance if COVID-19 played a role in putting them behind. Please click here to apply. If you know of anyone who may need assistance, please share this link with them as well on your social media. We don’t want anyone in need missing out on applying for these funds.
Currently, 95 percent of our applicants in this round of funding are tenants with just five percent of applications coming from landlords. Half of those in need are Black, about one quarter are Hispanic and of the applications we’ve process so far–44 percent come from family households with three or more people living under the same roof.
Through the Montgomery County Rental Relief Program we’ve been able to help more than 10,000 families catch up on late payments and stay in their homes, but we also know there are many in our community still unaware that they may be applicable for this assistance. Please help us spread the word, we cannot assume that there will be more funding available after this round expires.
COVID-19 Case Rates Cut In Half Over Last Two Weeks
We have good news on the COVID-19 front this week. Our seven-day new case rate sits just above 229 cases per 100,000 people. That’s about half of what we were reporting just a couple weeks ago. I want to thank everyone for continuing to make smart choices and preventive measures to reduce cases from our latest surge. But, as we have experienced time and time again, we cannot assume that the latest surge will be the last.
As cases wane, we must not forget that many of our neighbors and friends are still losing loved ones to this virus. In May we had 21 deaths in Montgomery County due to COVID, that was a 63 percent increase from April totals, but our death rate still remains far below the state and national averages. Our lower rates of deaths and hospitalizations is mainly attributed to our overall high vaccination rate and specifically our high vaccination rates with older residents and those who are immune compromised.
When this pandemic began, I had one resounding mission: I did not want to see those images coming out of New York City of body bags and overflowing morgues happen here in Montgomery County. Keeping our residents alive and safe from this virus, has been priority number 1, we are succeeding as compared to other jurisdictions but we still must remain vigilant even when so many want to move on and pretend that everything is back to normal.
I’m happy we’re back to a better place but it will take work to make sure we all stay in good health. Next week we anticipate sharing more information about community clinics for another round of covid vaccinations this time targeting children between six months old and up to 5. Until then, we remind everyone to get vaxxed, get boosted, continue to test and wear your mask in crowded indoor spaces and on public transportation.
Comedian George Carlin once quipped, “electricity is really just organized lightning.” But with electricity, we end up with cleaner air, healthier homes, and good jobs. These are three of the intended results that will come from the legislation that Councilmember Hans Riemer and I sent to the Council – The Comprehensive Building Decarbonization Bill.
This bill requires all-electric building standards by January 1, 2024, for new construction, major renovations, and additions. This policy is the critical next step in achieving our Climate Action Plan goals to reduce 100% of carbon emissions by 2035. It is bold legislation like that will ensure tomorrow’s construction is centered on human health and reducing our climate impact.
We need to move away from fossil fuels and replace those older technologies with things like electric heat pumps, electric water heating equipment and in homes electric cooking elements. Changing the old ways of doing business will go a long way toward fulfilling the climate change goals that every municipality should be striving for, and Montgomery County is leading the way on.
I encourage you to read and learn about this legislation as well as support its passage.
“Not Enough, But At Least Something”
Last weekend, I joined Senator Chris Van Hollen, Congressman Jamie Raskin, State Del. Jared Solomon, Del. Lesley Lopez and, Senator Susan Lee and local gun violence prevention advocates for a rally in Wheaton before the March for Our Lives on the Washington Mall. I am pleased that the outrage over the proliferation of mass shootings and gun violence has moved the Senate to create a bi-partisan deal.
This deal will allow states to implement red flag laws, increases background checks and scrutiny on everyone under 21 trying to buy weapons. It also closes the “boyfriend loophole” that would help prevent gun sales to domestic violence offenders and tightens regulations on gun sellers.
It is not enough, but it represents movement in the right direction for the first time in 30 years. I am pleased that this proposed deal also comes with money for community health clinics. This federal aid is needed and would be utilized to get these clinics up and running as soon as possible. The proposal, however, will not ban assault weapons nor raise the age to purchase guns, so there is still a lot of work to do. But at least there is some progress being made on the Hill.
Incidents of Hate In Our Neighborhoods
On a sad note, we have experienced multiple incidents of hate in Montgomery County over the past two weeks. On May 31, KKK imagery appeared on internet app searches for Damascus High School. On June 2, in Kemp Mill, antisemitic flyers were posted at a Ride-On Station. Last week, on June 7, swastikas were carved at a MARC train station in Garrett Park. Over the past the weekend, flyers from groups affiliated with the KKK were discovered in Chevy Chase.
Our residents are rightfully concerned, and we want to assure everyone that we are mobilized, vigilant and investigating each incident. I am appreciative of the leadership MCPD has shown in collaboration with the community on these incidents and ensuring our community members feel safe. Whoever is responsible for these incidents should know that they will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
The Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, together with the Anti-Defamation League, community partners and police will host a webinar soon to discuss the increase of these incidents around the country and our response. If you see or witness an incident or material that contains hateful messaging, please follow the tips and instructions on this MCPD webpage.
With Perseverance, MCPS Successfully Concluded 2021-22 School Year
This week marks the last week of school for MCPS students, and I want to thank and appreciate all of the students, parents, teachers, staff, and administrators for their hard work, patience, and perseverance during an unprecedented school year.
It was full of tough challenges and incredible obstacles. I, specifically want to congratulate Dr. Monifa McKnight on her first school year as our Superintendent. I wish the entire MCPS family a safe summer.
For more information or resources about MCPS summer programs, please click here.
Montgomery Serves Awards Honors Extraordinary Individuals
This week we honored some of the most selfless people in Montgomery County with the 11th Annual Montgomery Serves Awards. The awards are the County’s highest honor for service and volunteerism.This year’s honorees represent volunteers dedicated to programs including social justice and educational advocacy, safety-net healthcare services and outreach to vulnerable populations. Long-time WUSA-9 anchor Andrea Roane was our marvelous emcee.
We honored Mercy Health Clinic Volunteer Medical Providers (Volunteer Group of the Year), Samanth Jayasundera (Youth Volunteer), Schai Schairer (Volunteer of the Year), and Community Ambassadors and Language Bank Volunteers (Special Recognition).
Charlotte Tacy Holliday and the Honorable Chung K. Pak received the Neal Potter Path of Achievement Award. This award honors residents 60 years old or better whose accomplishments, enthusiasm and lifelong commitment to volunteer service make them outstanding role models for all ages.
I was so pleased to present the Roscoe R. Nix Distinguished Community Leadership Awards to Nancy Kopp, Mona Negm and Reverend Kenneth Nelson. The Roscoe Nix Award honors individuas who have made extraordinary contributions to the community at the very highest levels of excellence over the course of their lives.
I don’t have enough space to write about how extraordinary these people are and their level of dedication and compassion to our county and residents. You can read more about them and their amazing accomplishments here. As I said at the event, it is an honor to be County Executive of a county with residents like these.
“Thriller!” Wootton HS Grad Wins Tony!
Bravo to a 2022 Tony Award winner from Montgomery County! Thomas S. Wootton High School graduate Myles Frost became the youngest solo winner of the Tony for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical. The 22-year-old’s role as Michael Jackson in “MJ: The Musical” was his Broadway debut.
Don’t Forget About Dad This Weekend
Happy Father’s Day to all the fathers, grandfathers, guardians, and mentors of children this weekend. I love being County Executive, but the best role I have ever had in my life is being a father and grandfather. Please remember to thank your dad as well all of the father-figures in your life. Take it from me: Dads may not always show it, but they love appreciation just as much as moms.