From the County Council Office of Valerie Ervin

Dear Resident, 

 

When I took the gavel as Council President last December, I promised residents that the Montgomery County Council would get back to basics, focus on disciplined governing, and implement long-term structural changes in the interest of our community. On May 26, the Council reached agreement on a budget that accomplished all of these goals. 

The unanimous passage of the fiscal year 2012 budget was a watershed moment because we did more than balance the budget for a single year. The Council created a blueprint for addressing our long-term structural deficit.

We established a consolidated retiree health benefits trust to ensure that all agencies can honor their commitments to our retirees. The Council also approved stronger reserves against future downturns and lowered future bond issuance to control debt service costs. Finally, we made structural changes to employee health and retirement benefits that will save $273 million over the next six years.

Instead of having County Government employees bear the full burden of these changes, we included all County and public school system employees. We also incentivized benefit practices that promote savings.
 
As our outstanding history of education funding makes clear, the Montgomery County Council is deeply committed to our world-class school system. But ironically, it's our past massive support of the schools that has required us to bring next year's funding in line with current fiscal realities. The budget reduction we recommended to the Board of Education represents approximately one percent of the school system's tax supported programmatic budget. We will continue to work with the Board to minimize the impact on the classroom.

As chair of the Council's Education Committee and a former member of the Board of Education, I support the intent of the State's Maintenance of Effort (MOE) law to maintain local investment as one way to improve the educational outcomes of our children. But in practice, the MOE law is inflexible and illogical. To highlight this point, this year, six counties stood in solidarity and withdrew their requests to the State Board of Education for waivers from the law. 

We care deeply about children not only when they are in school but also when they are not. Yet, there is no state-mandated maintenance of effort funding requirement for health and human services, libraries, public safety, or transportation. These and other services are also essential to our nearly one million residents, especially our children.

Throughout this budget process, the County Council never lost sight of its true mission: to make Montgomery County a place where residents can raise their children with confidence in the future, a place where jobs are plentiful and meaningful, a place that is safe and secure, and a place where those who are sick, homeless, unemployed or struggling to make a living know that they are not forgotten.

Valerie Ervin 

Fiscal Year 2012 Budget Highlights
 

State and local governments across the nation, like many County residents, have felt the severe impact of the recession and the slow recovery. These difficult budget times forced us to make choices that were necessary to position ourselves for better days ahead. We approached these challenges knowing that if any community has the capacity to adapt, it is Montgomery County.

 

The County Council engaged with residents through public hearings, town hall meetings, phone conversations, emails, and meetings to help us determine our budget priorities. While it was a challenging budget year, the Council managed to preserve essential services for County residents. Below is a sample of budget items that the Council restored.

  • Fire and Rescue - Added funds to the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service to begin a second, 30-person recruit class. Restored County funding for the Montgomery County Volunteer Fire Rescue Association.
  • Montgomery College - Restored funding for critical academic programs, student services, and institutional support functions. Also included funding to operate the new Rockville Science Center so students can utilize this state-of-the-art laboratory as part of their college education.
  • Municipal Tax Duplication - Restored funding for municipalities like Kensington and Takoma Park to provide essential services for residents.
  • Planning - Restored funding to allow the Planning Department to complete its master plan work program without delay and to prevent delays in regulatory approvals. Funded detailed analysis of options for Bus Rapid Transit throughout the County.
  • Police Department - Approved $2.4 million to enhance police coverage in the 3rd Police District, which will provide additional police in the Silver Spring Central Business District, and provide additional police officers in the IDA Sector in East County. Restored community policing funds for local police districts to provide neighborhood outreach and other crime prevention initiatives. Maintained a public safety presence at County Police substations in East County, Olney and Long Branch.
  • Public Libraries - Restored funding for Silver Spring and Long Branch Libraries. Restored $1 million for the department's materials budget.
  • School Resource Officers - Restored six school resource officers to our public high schools.
  • Transportation - Maintained essential Ride On services. Restored Kids Ride Free Program, allowing students 18 years of age and younger to ride free on Ride On and Metrobus in Montgomery County between 2:00-7:00 p.m. on weekdays. 
  • Safety Net Services - Maintained a portion of the Working Families Income Supplement tax credit for working families in the County. Restored $1 million to the primary medical care program that serves low income uninsured County residents. Restored funding to help organizations that provide hands-on assistance to people with developmental disabilities. 

You can also access the full list of reconciliation list items, as well as my full remarks on the FY12 budget

Roasted for a Great Cause

Jubilee Association of Maryland 

 

Jubilee Roast 1On May 4, I was the honored guest of the Jubilee Association of Maryland (Jubilee) Roast, which was held at the Silver Spring Civic Building. It was a sell-out crowd for a night filled with fun and friendship. 

Jubilee provides community residential services to adults who have intellectual and other developmental disabilities at more than 50 locations in Montgomery County.  

 

Jubilee Roast 2The organization is know as a leader in its field, often serving as a model for other organizations throughout Maryland and across the nation, on how to best serve people with developmental disabilities. Jubilee is a voice for those who are often not heard. The people who work with and volunteer for Jubilee are selfless individuals who are helping us improve the quality of life in Montgomery County.

Jubilee Roast 3Armed with my sense of humor, I was roasted by long-time friend Congresswoman Donna Edwards of Maryland's 4th District; Congresswoman Gwen Moore of Wisconsin's 4th District; Town of Somerset Mayor Jeffrey Slavin; and Avi Edleman, my former campaign manager and a recent graduate of Columbia University. Charles H. Atwell, president and CEO of Innovative Business Interiors, Inc., did a marvelous job as the evening's emcee. 

Thanks to everyone who made the night such an outstanding success. I look forward to attending the roast next year-as a guest. Clips from the roast can be found at http://www.mct-tv.org/ or http://www.mymcmedia.org/.

Working Across Boundaries  

 

Working together we can achieve great things. I am a strong believer in this approach to governing which requires spending time with representatives in neighboring jurisdictions and on Capitol Hill.

 

Valerie Ervin and Rushern BakerI recently met with Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker to discuss how we can continue to improve upon the quality of life in our counties. The common issues we face do not recognize the border between District 5 and Prince George's County. Some current issues include the upcoming sector plans, bi-county agencies, public safety, and promoting economic development.

 

Valerie and Donna EdwardsI also recently visited Congresswoman Edwards on Capitol Hill to discuss our efforts to create a bike-share program and our infrastructure needs in Montgomery County. We also made time to tape a new show which will air on County Cable Montgomery called "No Boundaries". This show discusses issues that affect local and national policy-makers. You can also check it out on YouTube.  

Getting Greener Downcounty  

 

Early in my first term on the Council, I became interested in community gardens when I visited the Red Wiggler Community Farm in Germantown (http://redwiggler.org). This amazing program got me thinking about how I could promote organic agriculture in urban areas of the County.  Since then, I have become known as the "Mother of Community Gardens" in Montgomery County. I am proud to report that in partnership with the Montgomery County Parks Department, we have opened seven sites in our parks and two sites on school property.

 

King Street Community Garden Groundbreaking 

 

On April 20, we celebrated the opening of a new community garden, located at King Street and Eastern Avenue, in south Silver Spring. I want to thank Harvey Maisel and Ursula Sabia Sukinik for all of their work on the site and Evan Glass for his ongoing advocacy. 

 

This new site is critical because it is located in a densely populated urban area and will increase community access to nutritious foods. Since there is high demand at all of the County's community gardens, I look forward to continuing to collaborate with many more organizations in the future. All the plots have been given out for this season, so I look forward to seeing you in gardens this summer.

 

For more information on the community gardens program, go to: www.parkscommunitygardens.org or email the community gardens coordinator at Ursula.SabiaSukinik@montgomeryparks.org.

Master Plan Update    

 

East County Science Center Master Plan

The Planning Department has begun holding monthly Community Advisory Committee meetings to get input on the future of the White Oak, Hillandale, and the Route 29 Corridor. I will be hosting a Community Meeting with Planning staff on June 25 from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at February Circle and April Lane to learn more about what you would like to see in your community. In addition, a community forum open house that focuses on transportation in the plan area will be held on June 28 from 4:30-9:00 p.m. at the East County Regional Service Center. For additional information, click here

 

Takoma Langley Crossroads Sector Plan

The Takoma Langley Crossroads Sector Plan has been approved by the Planning Board and has been submitted to the Council. A public hearing was held at the Council on Tuesday, May 24. The Council's Planning, Housing, and Economic Development Committee will conduct worksessions on the plan during the summer months. Click here for additional information.

 

Wheaton CBD Sector Plan

The Council will hold a public hearing on Wheaton CBD Sector Plan on July 19 with Planning, Housing and Economic Development Committee worksessions to follow. Other District 5 plans that are currently being developed and reviewed by the Planning Department are the Long Branch Sector Plan and the Kensington Sector Plan. Click here for more information on the Wheaton plan.

Signing a New Law for Environmental Stewardship  

Bag Tax Signing 

On May 11, I signed Bill 8-11, Taxation - Excise Tax - Disposable Carryout Bags, into law with the County Executive. The intent of this bill is to create an incentive to change behavior. This new law promotes environmental stewardship by encouraging residents to utilize reusable bags. This will will help decrease our reliance on plastic bags, which often end up in our streams and tributaries. As a member of the Chesapeake Bay Trust, it was gratifying for me to shepherd this bill through the County Council.

 

The County will conduct a public outreach campaign and bag giveaways before the law goes into effect on January 1, 2012. I want to thank the environmental community for their steadfast support of this new law. A copy of Bill 8-11 can be found here.

Recognizing Community Heroes 

One of the best parts of my job is recognizing the unsung heroes living in our community. As co-chair of the awards selection committee for IMPACT Silver Spring, I enjoyed congratulating each of the award winners at the 2011 IMPACT Now event, which was held in the Silver Spring Civic Building.  

 

The award winners included: William Smith, civic activist, advocate for safe pedestrian access, and author of the blog Montgomery Sideways; John Landesman, program coordinator, Montgomery County Public Schools; and Wanjiru Kamau, founder and CEO of the African Immigrant and Refugee Foundation. Our community is a great place to live, thanks in large part to these outstanding individuals, and others like them, who devote their lives to serving others.

Silver Spring Green

Silver Spring Green Logo

The County's Green Economy Task Force, which I served on, recommended that the County encourage environmental community initiatives to provide educational outreach and economic benefits to businesses and residents. I am excited to be on the steering committee of the new Silver Spring Green initiative in order to accomplish this goal.

The mission of Silver Spring Green is to strengthen community bonds and enhance our quality of life by making information on sustainability practices accessible and relevant to residents and to empower individuals to protect the environment.

On June 5, Silver Spring Green will hold a free electronics recycling collection drop-off event at Blair High School in Silver Spring (map) from 12:00 PM - 4:00 PM. Click here for more information.

Please stop by Silver Spring Green's booth on June 4 at the Fenton Street Market at Veterans Plaza in Silver Spring or contribute your thoughts using the online survey at: SilverSpringGreen.org.

If you are interesting in participating in future discussions, please contact Rich Romer on my staff at 240-777-7960 to get involved.

Whistleblower Protection Regulations Approved  

In a continuing effort to prevent waste, fraud, and abuse in County Government, the Council approved the executive regulations for the whistleblower protection bill I sponsored last year.  Bill 2-10 amended the County's law regarding the disclosure of illegal or improper actions and prohibits the retaliation against County employees or employee of contractors and sub-contractors for disclosing information.  As the sponsor of this bill, I wanted to broaden whistleblower protections and make sure that all employees feel comfortable coming forward with information.