Recently, the Council voted 8-1 to pass on the Subdivision Staging Policy. I am writing to explain my no vote.
Overall, the legislation did not do enough to warrant a yes vote, and modifying it now reduces our ability to make more substantive improvements later. The legislation will not accomplish its purpose, which is to insure that appropriate infrastructure is in place in advance of or congruent with future development.
In fact, it moves us toward abandoning any notion of adequate public facilities in the very areas where we’re planning the most intensive residential and commercial development. My colleagues did not support my proposal to extend the existing SSP for 9 months; the extension would have given us time to explore promising replacements for which we do not yet have enough information but will likely be available soon.
Below are some of the details of my concerns and comments about the SSP and why you should care about it. I’ve also included links to two memos I shared with my colleagues during the deliberations.
My colleagues and I sent a letter to the County Executive asking that the publicly owned artificial turf fields be tested for lead and other toxic chemicals. I have long been concerned about the use of artificial turf but recent developments, including the acknowledgement by an artificial turf manufacturer representative that their artificial turf products do contain lead, has given a new urgency to the situation. According to the federal Centers for Disease Control, there is no safe level of lead for children. These fields potentially contain other materials that could be hazardous, especially for children, whose developing bodies are more vulnerable to toxins.
Below is the letter, which lays out the case for why testing of existing fields is needed. It is time to get the fields tested. I believe we should redirect our focus to the best possible grass fields for our children and our residents.
You can read the full letter here.
Councilmember Elrich discusses his assessment of the Westbard Sector Plan, as approved by the Montgomery Planning Board in December 2015. The plan is now before the Council for its review. For more information about the status of the Council’s review of the Westbard Plan, go to Master Plans.
Yes, we have. Do we need to increase density in urban areas and elsewhere to accommodate the growth that’s coming? No. We have already planned for it. You may hear people talk about the forecasted number of new residents coming to Montgomery County in 2030 or 2040 and then talk about the urgency to plan for the projected growth by building more, increasing density and developing more to accommodate the influx.
But we HAVE planned for it. Those forecasts for 2030 and 2040 come from our own planning and zoning numbers. In other words, if we didn’t change a thing, we already have the zoning to accommodate the projected jobs and population.
Listen to this interchange between Councilmember Elrich and Paul Desjardin, the Director of the Office of Community Planning at the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (MWCOG). The exchange runs from minute 14:57 to 20:44 on the audio below. This conversation occurred as part of the monthly meeting (March 18, 2015) of the regional Transportation Planning Board where Councilmember Elrich is a representative for Montgomery County.
Click to enlarge
Here’s the link to the document that goes with the discussion: item 11, Briefing on the COG Cooperative Forecasting Process The slide is on page 5 of the document.
"Councilmember Elrich was the lead sponsor of the bill to raise the minimum wage to $15, which passed the County Council on January 17. Bill 12-16 will gradually increase the County minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2020. Five amendments to the original bill were approved before the Council voted 5-4 to approve the amended bill, making Montgomery one of the first jurisdictions in the nation to approve a $15 per hour minimum wage.
The bill now goes to County Executive Ike Leggett for his signature.
Council member Elrich said, "This vote to raise the minimum wage is a clear and bold statement that people who work are entitled to a decent wage. I can’t look at this issue any other way than from the bottom up. With this increase, we make it clear that we believe that an honest days work should result in an honest days pay and NOT leave a working person mired in poverty. Helping people lift themselves out of poverty benefits all of us. We know that poverty increases stress, affecting both adults and children; we know that stress can lead to impaired judgement, and we know that combined effect of poverty and stressful situations impacts negatively on children’s academic performance.
"Raising the minimum wage means that the tens of thousands of families that will be affected will now be more likely to meet their basic needs, and enjoy greater stability. And local businesses will benefit when more of our residents have more money to spend in the local economy. I understand the concerns of some business owners, and we have extended the phase-in period for small businesses until 2022, and we have provided provisions for a pause in the increases when local economic conditions warrant it. But I do not think that those concerns should trump what is a fundamental social justice issue: people who work should be able to make a living, put a roof over their heads and feed clothe their families.
"When FDR put forward the original minimum wage, it was explicity to insure a wage that meets basic needs. Sadly that link between the minimum wage and meeting basic needs has been shattered, and it’s time to recouple wages to the original purpose of the minimum wage.
"I thank my colleagues and all the many people who worked for and supported this bill."
More information about Bill 12-16 and its amendments can be found at: http://tinyurl.com/zk7no4n.
Councilmember Marc Elrich Discusses Raising Minimum Wage in Montgomery County to $15 an Hour during the Health and Human Services Committee session held on December 7, 2016
Councilmember Elrich's remarks during the bill signing for Bill 19-15, which will improve landlord-tenant issues
Montgomery County Councilmember Marc Elrich applauded his colleagues for unanimously approving Bill 19-15 that will improve landlord-tenant issues in a variety of ways. Councilmember Elrich was the lead sponsor of the legislation. Councilmembers Tom Hucker and Nancy Navarro were co-sponsors.
Councilmember Elrich said, "With passage of this bill, the Council takes a big step toward increasing protections for tenants and moving toward a rigorous housing inspection regime. I especially want to thank my colleagues, Councilmembers Nancy Navarro and Tom Hucker who stepped out at the beginning and co-sponsored this legislation. This bill has been a long time coming, and it is an important step toward helping tenants. Historically, tenant voices have been quiet, if not silent, for many reasons. I was particularly struck that there were no tenants on the affordable housing task force in 2008, even though tenants make up more than one-third of our County’s residents.
"Some of the important provisions in the bill include increased and improved inspections that will result in improved living conditions for many residents. My staff and I have visited units that were in disrepair and had not been inspected for years. In some cases, tenants feared contacting management and the County to address the situation. We also have heard about problems that go unfixed despite County citations directing the owners to make repairs. By expanding the number of units inspected and improving the process, it will relieve some of the pressure on tenants to ‘complain’ about problems in their units and the building. Additionally, tenants will have recourse—based on a clear process—to have repairs made in an efficient manner.
"This law will also give tenants more notice about upcoming rent increases. Too many tenants face unsustainable rent increases, and at least now, they will have 90 days’ notice of a rent increase. The bill requires that tenants be offered the choice of a one-year or two-year lease at each renewal.
"Tenants represent a large segment of our community, and for too long, they have been little noticed. Passage of this legislation is a significant step in acknowledging the need for reforms and improvements for residents in rental housing.
"I want to thank the many people and organizations who have been involved in this process for a long time—the County Executive and his staff, especially the director of the Department of Housing and Community Affairs, Clarence Snuggs; my colleagues on the Council; Council staff; the Renters Alliance; CASA; individual tenants; Board of Education member Jill Ortman-Fouse; State Senator Jamie Raskin; and countless others."
Montgomery Council approves package of new protections for tenants - The Washington Post, November 29, 2016, by Bill Turque
In this video, Councilmember Elrich discusses the importance of paid sick and safe leave for hard-working families, many of whom are “a paycheck away from homelessness.” He also discusses the impact for smaller businesses, which is why he sponsored the successful amendment to reduce the paid portion of sick leave for the County’s smallest businesses. For more information on the newly-enacted law (identified as bill 60-14), go to Bill 60-14 for the Council packet. Here is the legislation as enacted
To read the news release: Montgomery County Council Unanimously Approves Earned Sick and Safe Leave Bill
Councilmember Elrich is pleased to be joined by his colleagues Roger Berliner, Tom Hucker, Sidney Katz, Nancy Navarro and Hans Riemer in sponsoring his zoning text amendment (ZTA 15-07) that would prohibit mega gas stations within 500 feet of schools, residences, parks, day care, and environmentally sensitive areas., “Mega gas stations present a risk to the public health and general welfare of individuals nearby, and our existing law does not reflect the current scientific understanding that indicates a public health concern. Numerous, peer-reviewed, scientific studies document links between vehicle emissions and asthma, impaired lung function, and heart disease.” Read more...
Councilmember Elrich has introduced bill 19-15 to implement many of the recommendations of the Tenant Work Group, where he represented the Council and worked with the County Executive, State Senator Jamie Raskin and diverse representatives of the tenant community. Councilmembers Nancy Navarro and Tom Hucker are co-sponsors of the legislation to bring “common-sense reforms to tenant laws.
I have long been interested in promoting strategies to preserve affordable housing and provide some security for renters,” Councilmember Elrich said. “These proposed reforms are first steps toward improving the quality of life for tenants, who now are about one-third of the county population.” Read more...
The Montgomery County Council adopted a $5.08 billion total County operating budget for Fiscal Year 2016. The budget, which will take effect July 1, reflects a 1.7 percent increase over the approved budget for FY 2015. The Council also approved amendments to the Fiscal Years 2015-20 six-year Capital Improvements Program.
Councilmember Elrich thanked the County Executive “for sending the Council a recommended budget that reflects our collective values.” He also expressed his appreciation that he and his Council colleagues worked together on this “hold-the-line” budget. “While we would have liked to do more, we understand that we have budgetary constraints,” he explained. Read more...
Video on Councilmember Marc Elrich on Fuel/Energy Tax Rate
In this video, Councilmember Elrich discusses why the energy tax is an important way to raise money from entities that pay no other taxes to support the work in Montgomery County. He points out that Virginia has a substantial gross receipts tax that targets only the business community, and that the energy tax is progressive, by providing a disincentive to increasing energy use and reducing the need for increased property tax revenues, which only hit businesses and residences.
Reform of our prison system and putting people to work have been two important themes nationally. In Montgomery County, we have taken a step in the right direction by giving former prisoners a fair chance at job applications through “ban-the-box” legislation. This law delays the point at which most potential employers can ask an applicant about a criminal background so that qualified applicants have an opportunity to make their case. It will not force an employer to hire someone, but will give them a chance to learn about someone they may not have otherwise considered.
This bill is about opportunity. We invest a lot of resources in rehabilitating those who pass through our criminal justice system and it is in all of our best interests for them to succeed,” said Councilmember Elrich. Read more...