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A Better Growth and Infrastructure Policy


The Council this week formally approved an updated Growth and Infrastructure Policy, one of the most consequential ways we can boost our County’s economy, address our housing affordability crisis, and secure resources to build schools and transportation infrastructure.

Over the course of 19 committee and full Council work sessions and numerous meetings with residents and advocates, we crafted a policy that I’m proud to say is better aligned with our smart growth priorities and will make Montgomery County more affordable for new residents, more attractive to new businesses, and more competitive in the region. By making some significant changes supported by community stakeholders and refined data, we’ve made clear we’re putting up a welcome sign to our County where there was previously a wall:

  • The Council unanimously supported my proposal to end the failed housing moratorium policy countywide. The moratorium policy, which prohibited all residential construction if schools in certain areas were over capacity, was meant to drive additional investment to alleviate school overcrowding. Though in reality, it deprived the County of the very tax revenue needed to build those school projects while failing to stop the overcrowding, which is overwhelmingly caused by natural turnover in existing housing. It was an outdated policy that unnecessarily pitted existing residents against new residents.
  • We replaced the housing moratorium with a more precise and data-driven approach called a Utilization Premium Payment or UPP. Those who seek to build in areas with schools over capacity will still be able to create the housing we need to address the crisis. But they will have to pay, and pay more, based on the extent to which a local school or cluster is overcrowded. This allows us to generate additional revenue for school construction projects without preventing the new housing we clearly need.
  • Better aligning impact taxes with the actual impact projects will have on infrastructure and making Montgomery County more competitive in the region is a significant victory in this policy that we were able to achieve thanks to refined, location-specific data.
  • We prioritized smart growth by establishing new desired growth areas. We crafted new ways to encourage private-sector development in areas that already have, or will soon have significant transit infrastructure such as Metro, the Purple Line, and Bus Rapid Transit. This greater emphasis on livable, walkable housing and job centers will allow us to build a more environmentally sustainable and modern County better equipped to attract new residents and businesses.
  • For the first time, we incorporated Vision Zero principles into this policy. By shifting our focus from how fast drivers can travel through an area to the types of road, sidewalk, bike lane, and crosswalk designs that are best for all road users, we’ll start directing more transportation investments to projects that actually prioritize people’s safety.

Thanks to all who weighed in over months of work to help create a policy that allows us to grow in the right places and in the right ways while making our community more welcoming and attractive to new residents, new businesses, and new investment.

Public Accountability and County Transparency (PACT) Act

Leaders shouldn't be able to use their positions of public service for private gain. Our legislation will ensure that doesn't happen by strengthening County Ethics Law on outside employment, requiring transparency with procurements and contracts, and ending the controversial practice of using taxpayer dollars for discretionary severance payments.

Thank you Council President Sidney Katz, Council Vice President Tom Hucker, and Councilmembers Nancy Navarro, Craig Rice, and Evan Glass for your support. Check out our newsletter for more information on our  #PACTAct

COVID-19 Updates and Resources

New State Assisted Housing Relief Program


MCPS

  • MCPS is providing meals at these  sites for students. Meals will be provided at MCPS sites from 11:00 AM – 1:00 PM at school sites and from 11:30 AM - 12:30 PM at bus distribution sites. Meals will be provided four days a week: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. 

Libraries
  • Library branch book drops are open and contactless holds pick up service has resumed. Learn more here.

COVID-19 Renter Relief Act
  • The Council passed the COVID-19 Renter Relief Act, which became effective April 24, 2020 and prohibits landlords from increasing existing tenants’ rent by more than 2.6% after April 24th and during the COVID-19 catastrophic health emergency. FAQs are online.

Montgomery Cable Channel with COVID-19 Updates
  • Montgomery County's public, education and government channels have launched a new Corona Montgomery channel, creating creates a direct communications channel to all residents, including those who don't have access to hi-speed internet and technology. It will air critical COVID-19 related information. The programming is available on channel 10 on Comcast, Verizon and RCN.

How You Can Help
  • Volunteer Opportunities: The County has compiled a list on how you can to help. If you are a medical or public health professional willing to assist, the state has a site for specialized volunteers.
  • Donate Blood: American Red Cross now faces a severe blood shortage due to an unprecedented number of blood drive cancellations during this coronavirus outbreak. Sign up for an appointment now.
  • Give Locally: The Greater Washington Community Foundation has started a COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund to bolster nonprofits working to help low-income hourly workers, gig workers, small business owners, families in need of childcare services, homeless individuals and many more who will continue to be severely impacted during this public health emergency.

If You Need Support
  • Domestic Violence: There is support available during this time and all services are free of charge. If you know someone that may need help, the County has a guide on how best to assist them.
    • Contact the Family Justice Center by calling 240-773-0444 or emailing safe@montgomerycountymd.gov
    • The National Domestic Violence Hotline (24 hours) can be reached at 800-799-7233
    • There are many organizations available to assist including:
  • Internet: Low income families and older adults can get Home Internet Access for as little as $9.95 per month. Click here for additional information.
  • Food Assistance: Call 311 and you will be connected to our new food call center or you can look at Montgomery County Food Council's Resource Directory, which includes information on the location, hours, and eligibility guidelines of more than 100 sites where residents can access food and benefits application assistance.
    • Poolesville Grocery Distribution Service: Orders can be placed online by visiting www.mysaval.store/ - Order on Tuesdays before 4:00PM and pickup Thursdays between 2:00-3:30PM at the United Methodist Church in Poolesville. Drivers are asked to remain in their cars as orders will be loaded into the backs of vehicles. If you have any questions please call John at 443-896-7244.
    • Taxi Delivery: The Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) announced that it has partnered with local taxi companies during the COVID-19 health crisis to initiate a new program available to participants in the Call-n-Ride program to use taxis for delivery of essential goods from grocery stores, food banks and restaurants. This program is for low-income older adults and individuals with disabilities.
    • For Individuals with Disabilities: The State and other partners are collaborating to supplement existing programs for people with disabilities who may be experiencing food insecurity during this pandemic. To connect with these feeding opportunities, constituents should call 2-1-1. The 2-1-1 call specialist will connect the caller to a variety of statewide program options.
    • My Groceries To Go! for Seniors: Montgomery County applicants are required to provide supporting documentation to prove income eligibility. Participants receive get eight pounds of free, fresh produce every month. Please call the Grocery Plus main line at 202-921-7471 or email mg2g@capitalareafoodbank.org for more information. The Capital Area Food Bank's website on this program is here.
    • Senior Nutrition Program: Frozen meal packs are available to seniors through the County’s Senior Nutrition Program. Partners and volunteers are operating “grab and go” locations and are making a limited number of home deliveries to the County’s senior population. To be eligible, most people must be 60 years of age or older. Spouses of participants or a person with a disability living with a participant, are also eligible. To register for the meal program contact the Senior Center closest to you. D1 Locations:
      • North Potomac Senior Center - Sheila Hall, 202-450-8057 Sheila.hall@montgomerycountymd.gov
      • Holiday Park Senior Center - Dolors Ustrell-Roig, 240-460-2236 Dolors.Ustrell@montgomerycountymd.gov
  • Healthcare: If you do not have insurance and want to get health insurance through the state marketplace, Maryland has a Coronavirus Emergency Special Enrollment period if you have recently lost your job. You can compare prices and possibly receive financial help in order to afford coverage.
  • Housing Issues: Evictions related to this public health emergency are prohibited at this time, if you face housing or eviction issues, please contact our office at 240-777-7828 or dial 311.
  • Seniors: You can sign up now for a new free program called Senior Call Check by calling toll-free to 866-502-0560 or by registering online. Under the program, participants receive an automated call every day. If the participant does not answer, they will be called two additional times in the same day. If those calls go unanswered, an alternate person, selected by the participant, will be notified in order for them to check in on the participant.
* Additional resources listed at InfoMontgomery

* County's COVID-19 Dashboard - check it out here.
COVID-19 Renter Relief Assistance Program
Clear, Consistent, and Transparent Decisionmaking on Public Health



Decisions to protect the public's health during COVID-19 are not easy. There is still much unknown about this disease and the information about it is evolving rapidly.

That makes it even more critical that any public health order is made clearly, consistently, and transparently. If we ask our residents to follow new rules, we must ensure they have faith in the process that led to those rules as well as the policies themselves.

We sent this memo to Public Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles seeking transparency and consistency on his public health order issued regarding in-person instruction at independent schools.

Meeting Our Mental Health Needs

When it comes to our crisis intervention hotline, missing a call or text is a matter of life and death. Montgomery County is simply too good a place to allow a cry for help in our community to go unanswered because we didn’t dedicate the resources necessary to respond.

That's why I was grateful to work with Councilmembers Will Jawando & Gabe Albornoz on a $395,000 appropriation which passed the Montgomery County MD Council to help EveryMind add 8 specialists to keep up with the 25% increase in call volume during this pandemic, and to expand crisis intervention text and chat services by 4 hours in the morning.

More is needed to seriously and sensitively address mental health in our community, but this is a critical step that will save lives.

Reopen Montgomery Grant Program



Reopen Montgomery business assistance applications are still open!

Grants up to $5,000 can reimburse Montgomery County businesses for expenses incurred to comply with State and County reopening requirements to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and maintain public health. Applications will be accepted starting noon tomorrow based on a rolling lottery system.

Apply here: https://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/biz-resources/reopen/.

Mask Up Montgomery!

Even when you are outdoors. Anytime you are in a public place. #MaskUpMontgomery

Turning Goals into Actions: Transit-Oriented Housing at Metro

Few things are as impactful toward meeting our affordable housing, environmental, and economic development goals as maximizing transit-oriented development at Metro stations.

Bill 29-20, which I'm co-leading with Hans Riemer, will turn housing goals into actual housing units in true smart growth fashion. Excited to join Councilmember Riemer, Councilmember Evan Glass, Partap Singh Verma, Coalition for Smarter Growth's Jane Lyons, Sierra Club Montgomery County's Shruti Bhatnagar, and Dan Reed today at the Forest Glen Metro Station to talk about the legislation that we'll introduce tomorrow at the Montgomery County MD Council.

More details on Bill 29-20 can be found  here.

Stepping Up to Support Food Security

We won’t sit back and watch a resident go hungry. That’s not who we are or what we do in Montgomery County. That's why I was proud to join my friends & colleagues Will Jawando & Gabe Albornoz this morning to launch the Montgomery County Food Security Fund, a new partnership with the Greater Washington Community Foundation to leverage county dollars with private philanthropy to meet the staggering food challenges in our community.

These challenges are great, but not as great as our capacity to meet them if we can bring together the non-profit and faith communities, businesses and government. That’s what this partnership is about. That's what our county is all about.

We all can’t do everything, but each of us can do something: Donate. Volunteer. Fundraise. Connect neighbors to services.

As long as one family in our community doesn’t know where their next meal is coming from, we haven’t done enough.

Times of crisis are moments of character. Let's show what Montgomery County is made of: bit.ly/MoreFood4MorePeople

Early Care and Education Initiative Recovery Fund

The county's child care recovery grant initiative will begin accepting applications on Monday at 3 p.m. Our child care providers are essential to the early education and development of our children, and it's especially important we help them now in order to pave the way for a successful economic recovery.

Details and the application at this link here.

Councilmember Andrew Friedson's Statement on the FY21 Budget
Emergency Assistance for Local Employers and Vulnerable Residents

 

We must continue to make protecting public health the highest priority to stem the spread of COVID-19 and so those who have symptoms or might be infected can get the testing and medical care they need.

We also understand the severe impact the necessary measures Montgomery County and Maryland are taking to implement social distancing are having on local employers. Small businesses and nonprofits not only employ our friends, family, and neighbors. They are our friends, family, and neighbors. They and their employees need our help, and they need it urgently.

Working closely with Council colleagues and collaboratively with the County Executive, and leaders of businesses and nonprofit organizations, the Council introduced an emergency relief package as a body yesterday.

The $25 million relief package was introduced as emergency legislation with accompanying appropriations and is expected to be adopted next Tuesday so that the funds can be deployed as quickly as possible to support local employers and vulnerable residents. The $20 Million Public Health Emergency Grant Fund will provide grants up to $75,000 for business and nonprofits with 100 or fewer full-time-equivalent employees that can demonstrate financial losses caused by the public health emergency. Grant funding must be used for employee wages and benefits, taxes, debt, rent or other operating losses during the public health emergency. It will also provide teleworking micro grants up to $2,500 for local businesses and nonprofits to purchase equipment and technology to support teleworking capabilities during the COVID-19 emergency.

Additionally, the Council introduced a $5 Million Special Appropriation to support the increased need for existing County safety-net programs serving vulnerable populations, especially related to healthcare, food insecurity, housing and homelessness. The Council also proposed related measures including $260,000 for Manna Food Center to reach food insecure MCPS students and $250,000 to help provide hotel and motel lodging for frontline health care staff.

This is only the beginning of what we must do in order to protect the health of county residents and rebuild our local economy. We’re in an unprecedented time that requires unprecedented action – at the county, state, and federal levels.

Our efforts at the county level complement Governor Hogan’s announcement of a state relief package totaling $175 million to assist small businesses and workers impacted by the pandemic. Please see more details on the State’s programs and how the Departments of Commerce and Labor can help here.

Collaborating on Climate for Real Results

 

It's time to turn climate rhetoric into real results. The bill I introduced with Councilmember Hans Riemer and the support of Council President Sidney Katz will improve and expand the County's tax credit program for commercial buildings making energy reductions, slashing carbon emissions with a collaborative, not combative, approach.

Dangerous by Design: Getting Serious about Road Safety

 

If we're going to be serious about preventing deaths and severe injuries on our roadways, our county and state must stop blaming individual road users and take responsibility for the inherently dangerous roads we're designing. Please check out some of my remarks from today's Montgomery County MD Council #VisionZero briefing.

Equal and Safe Pedestrian Access

 

We can’t achieve the truly walkable and livable neighborhoods we all want if it’s not safe to walk and bike. We’ve seen the tragic consequences of dangerous by design roadways in our community this year, and we’ve been working hard to push for safety upgrades at specific locations and to ensure the underlying standards and systems we use prioritize the safety of all road users:

Most of our major thoroughfares are State roadways controlled by the State Highway Administration (SHA). I’ve discussed the need for road engineering standards that meet our community’s needs with SHA Administrator Gregory Slater throughout the year, and last week Administrator Slater presented SHA’s Draft Context Driven Guide to Access and Mobility for All Users that will enable us to install pedestrian-activated crosswalk signals, protected bicycle lanes, leading pedestrian intervals, and other proven techniques to make roads and intersections safer.

Last week, I sent a letter along with my colleagues on the Council’s Transportation Committee to the Department of Environmental Protection requesting a review of policies for collecting recycling and trash to curb the threat of blocking out sidewalks which lead to dangerous and even fatal consequences.

Today, I introduced legislation to limit sidewalk closures around construction sites, specify under what conditions a permittee can close a sidewalk without providing protected pedestrian access on the same side of the street, and require the County to publish sidewalk closure applications and permits online.

Check out the introduction of this legislation in the video above and the press release here.

Montgomery County's Economic Development Platform

 

Economic Development can’t just be part of what we do, it has to be part of everything we do at the Montgomery County MD Council. On the Economic Development plan the Council introduced today, what we've already done, and next steps:

Ensuring Fiscal Oversight

The residents of Montgomery County deserve and rightfully expect County government to spend their hard-earned taxpayer dollars appropriately, effectively, and efficiently. That requires a serious commitment to fiscal oversight that I believe is one of the County Council’s most fundamental responsibilities.

That’s why I’m so pleased to have worked with Council President Nancy Navarro and Council Vice President Sidney Katz to craft legislation the Council unanimously approved last week that for the first time requires a proactive financial audit of potentially high-risk County contracts by the independent County Inspector General’s office. This rotating, department-by-department review of County spending and financial controls will help us identify and prevent waste, fraud and abuse.

While preparing this legislation, we found that Montgomery County lags behind many of our peer jurisdictions around the region when it comes to funding for fiscal oversight activities. This is critical work. While it comes at a cost, that cost in dollars pales in comparison to the cost in public trust if we don’t take care of this core responsibility to you.

MORE:  https://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/council/Resources/Files/agenda/col/2019/20191015/20191015_9.pdf

Activating Parks and Open Space

 

As the Council's Parks Lead, I get to see how Montgomery Parks staff are creating vibrant facilities offering the activities that are in most demand by our residents.

I also want to give you a sense of the improvements that will be happening in downtown Bethesda. One of the key recommendations of the 2017 Bethesda Downtown Plan was to increase parks and open space. The newly revitalized and expanded Battery Lane Park was reopened this summer, the Council provided the funding to purchase land across from the Bethesda Row Cinema at the corner of Woodmont and Bethesda Avenues to create the new Capital Crescent Civic Green, and now exciting plans are underway to expand green space and civic space at the Bethesda Farm Women's Market.

The proposed plan includes an array of public use spaces including a playground, an open lawn, a dog park, an amphitheater/pavilion, a splash pad, flexible space for special events, and an expanded and revitalized retail market. The Planning Board will review the Sketch Plan for this project sometime this fall.

Whether it's a dog park, playground, cricket field, or the rehabilitation of a historic building to create a community gathering place, we'll continue to fight to ensure our parks system has the resources needed to best serve you.

Inclusive Housing Options

 

The Council unanimously passed Bill 20-19, which I introduced earlier this summer, waiving County licensing fees for disabled individuals in accessory dwelling units (ADUs). This bill enables residents with qualified disabilities, seniors, and veterans to take advantage of ADUs and remain close to their loved ones with one fewer financial barrier.

From my experience working to launch the Maryland ABLE program at the state level, I became acutely aware of the significant challenges so many families in our community face. Advocates and families expressed a strong interest in ADUs as a way to provide dignity and independence while ensuring family members are in close enough proximity to offer comfort and support when needed. As we looked at the accessibility of the County’s ADU program, this was an opportunity to be inclusive.

For a modest cost to the County, this bill represents a significant benefit for our families and our neighborhoods by allowing a more inclusive community.

Getting Back to Basics

 

If we want residents to trust government to do big things, we have to first prove we can get the small things right. That starts at the local level.

Few things are more fundamental to our day-to-day quality of life than what the team at the Montgomery County Division of Highway Services Bethesda Depot does every day. I was able to ride along with them around District 1 on Monday. We filled potholes, toured the Depot facility, and checked in on two roads being rebuilt after they were blown out by the flooding on July 8.

It was an awesome opportunity to see how some of the most fundamental local government responsibilities are carried out and a reminder of how important it is that we continue to focus on the basics.

Improving our County’s Economic Competitiveness

 

Thanks to my Montgomery County MD Council colleagues for their unanimous support of Bill 10-19 to strengthen the Economic Impact Statement process - showing that we see our business community as partners and recognizing the increasingly competitive regional, national, and international economic environment we face.

We must consider the impact legislation may have on nonprofits and employers who are paying the wages that sustain our quality of life and creating the tax revenue that helps fund the County services and investments we rely on.

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