From the County Council Office of Valerie Ervin

Dear Resident, 

 

I have worked very hard over the past seven years to raise the awareness about poverty, food insecurity, access to child care, and other topics that have a huge impact on the quality of life of residents in my district and around the county. But I never imagined that I would earn the title of "the food lady" a term that was penned by a blogger from the Huffington Post. For me this is a badge of honor.

 

I am proud that as a result of my leadership and partnerships with the non-profit community, Montgomery County will be the first county in the nation to implement a Food Recovery Network. This initiative will establish a coordinated, streamlined process for collecting edible food, which would otherwise go into the waste stream, and distribute it to non-profit providers who serve the hungry.

 

Low-income children are at the greatest risk of food insecurity, and often the meals that they eat lack the vitamins and nutrients, which are essential for their development and have a dramatic impact on student achievement. This problem is increasing, and as many of you know, one-third of Montgomery County students quality for Free and Reduced Meals, which is an indicator of poverty.  

 

I want to salute everyone who participated in the Food Recovery Work Group, especially Jackie Coyle, an inspirational leader and executive director of Shepard's Table, who chaired the group. In addition, Montgomery College has committed to the Food Recovery Program by encouraging student and food service provider participation.  

 

Members of the Council's Food Recovery Work Group after the release of the report:

Greg Ten Eyck of Safeway; Montgomery College President DeRionne P. Pollard; Ben Simon, who started the University of Maryland's Food Recovery Network; Brian Banks of the Capital Area Food Bank; Janet Coyle, chair of the work group

 

I also had the pleasure of visiting another innovative program centered on food at the Universities at Shady Grove. The motto of their Campus Kitchens Project is "teach, reach, feed, lead." Their mission is to: "strengthen bodies by meeting hunger and nutritional needs in the community; empower minds through leadership and service; and build communities by fostering the next generation of community-minded adults." The Campus Kitchens Project provides more than 200 meals each month to families at The Dwelling Place. When I visited with students at the Campus Kitchen in September, they gave me some delicious cooking tips. I was invigorated and humbled by their passion, not only for cooking, but for helping strengthen our community.      

Students at University of Maryland Eastern Shore - Universities at Shady Grove Campus Kitchens working to prepare meals

  

Every day our non-profit providers, faith-based institutions and community volunteers go the extra mile to help those in need. It is our responsibility to do all that we can to help close the gaps and promote innovative programs that are making a difference. As we enter this season of Thanksgiving, please do not forget to support area food banks and other community organizations serving those in need. I look forward to seeing you all at the Silver Spring Thanksgiving Day Parade on Saturday, November 23.    

 

All the best, 

 Valerie Ervin  

Valerie Ervin

 

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Pedal Power: Bikeshare Expands Transportation Options 
  

I am committed to expanding low-cost transportation options through reliable transit and facilities that allow bicyclists and pedestrians to travel in a safe, reliable and convenient way. Since 2008, I have been pushing at the local, state and federal levels for a county bikeshare program and the expansion of interconnected bike routes. On September 27, I was excited to finally launch the first stage of this program. My respect and gratitude goes out to all of the activists from Montgomery County and around our region that helped make this program a reality. Also, thank you to my son, Jonathan, an enthusiastic environmentalist and bicycle racer - your mother, the councilmember, listened to you well.

 

Montgomery County's bikeshare program will consist of 51 bikeshare stations and 450 bikes in Bethesda, Friendship Heights, Silver Spring, Takoma Park, Rockville, Shady Grove and the Life Sciences Center area. This program, the first in Maryland, will be located along stations on both sides of Metro's Red Line, and will be part of the regional Capital Bikeshare network, linking the County with the District of Columbia, Arlington and Alexandria's systems. 
  

You can sign-up or follow updates on the bikeshare program here.

 

 As the Council's representative on the Pedestrian, Bicycle and Traffic Safety Advisory Committee, I am also committed to continuing to make our county safe, accessible and friendly for bicyclists and pedestrians, especially after the launch of bikeshare. I have championed legislation to make it easier and faster to build sidewalks where communities want them; funded bikeshare; pedestrian safety and roadway projects; and co-sponsored legislation to incentivize the creation of bikeshare stations. On September 24, the Council received its fourth annual review of the County's pedestrian safety programs, which you can see here.

 Fighting for Working Families: Raising the Minimum Wage

As a member of the Council of Governments Board of Directors, I am keenly aware of how important it is for county leadership to act regionally. On October 9, I stood with Council President Andrea Harrison and Councilmember Karen Toles from Prince George's County, Council Chair Phil Mendelson from the District of Columbia, and my own Council colleague Marc Elrich to raise the minimum wage. The three largest jurisdictions in our area have introduced legislation to raise the minimum wage.    

 

Raising the minimum wage is not just an economic demand; it is a civil rights demand. The 1963 March on Washington called for a $2 per hour minimum wage.  Fifty years later, we are still marching and fighting for jobs and freedom and for wages that support families and build the middle class. 

 

We all have worked on social justice issues that benefit families, who are not able to make ends meet. In my opinion, the way out of poverty is to raise the minimum wage and to create sustainable jobs. These are two of the best ways to help working families reach their goals and become self-sufficient. 

 

Last month, the Montgomery County Council unanimously passed a resolution encouraging the state to raise the minimum wage to at least $10 an hour. Montgomery County Council Bill 27-13, Human Rights and Civil Liberties -County Minimum Wage-Dollar Amount, would go even further by establishing a minimum wage for private sector employees working in the county unless the State or federal minimum wage is higher. The rate would be $8.25 per hour on July 1, 2014 and be increased on a phased schedule to $12 per hour on July 1, 2016. The legislation also provides credits for employers that provide health care coverage. 

 

In 1966, Robert Sargent Shriver, said, "Most wars are declared by old men but fought by the young. But our war on poverty asks everyone to get into the fight." I am so proud that our regional partners are standing shoulder to shoulder with us as we take on this fight in Montgomery County. 

Long Branch Sector Plan Moves Towards Approval

  
The Long Branch Sector Plan covers an area of about 241 acres in the eastern portion of the County between Langley Park and Silver Spring. Reflecting public input, planners proposed land use and regulatory recommendations for a mixed-use, transit-oriented community in Long Branch. The sector plan's principles include the overarching themes of community; land use zoning and character; mobility; and sustainability. This includes development with varied housing options within a pedestrian-friendly community anchored by two Purple Line stations. It encourages reinvestment in the area, while allowing for historic preservation and a continued supply of affordable housing.
  

After community meetings, public hearings and worksessions on the plan, I am pleased to announce that the County Council has scheduled final action on an amended Long Branch Sector Plan for October 22. I would like to thank the Planning Board and staff, as well as everyone else who participated in shaping the future of Long Branch.

Purple Line Update

 

Since my election to the County Council in 2006, I have met with numerous residents, businesses and organizations regarding the Purple Line project. Of the 21 stations along the Purple Line's proposed alignment, almost half (eight) are in District 5, from Lyttonsville to the Takoma/Langley area. There is no doubt that this six-and-a-half mile stretch of the Purple Line presents countless policy and quality of life issues.

 

I recently wrote to the Maryland Department of Transportation regarding the Purple Line project's Final Environmental Impact Statement and Draft Section 4(f) Evaluation (FEIS). In my letter, I conveyed the need to ensure that the implementation of the Purple Line does not negatively impact residents who live along the alignment, including the following issues:

  • Retention of the residential character of neighborhoods, including placement of traction power substations, appropriately staging construction zones, and mitigation of emissions and noise; and
  • Pursuit of all feasible measures to reduce the severity of adverse impacts on commercial and residential properties, including avoiding property acquisition.

 

I am an advocate for mass transit improvements and building the infrastructure that the County needs for its future, but this needs to be accomplished in a way that does not adversely impact residents' quality of life.  While, at the end of the day, this is a State project, I will continue to work with MTA to ensure this proposed route improves the overall mobility of County residents, and delivers the economic and environmental benefits associated with other light rail projects throughout the country.

 

I encourage community members, civic associations, businesses and non-profits to also submit their comments. Please do so by MTA's October 21 deadline through the online comment form or by email at FEIS@purplelinemd.com.

Planting the Seed for a Better Tomorrow:

Silver Spring GreenFest 

        

  

On October 5, it was exciting to engage with others and turn awareness into action at the 2013 Silver Spring GreenFest. This event featured panel discussions, fun activities for children, and opportunities to connect with local "green" businesses. It was hosted by Silver Spring Green at the Silver Spring Civic Building in partnership with Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection and local businesses.

  

Replicating "green" organizations throughout the County was one of the recommendations in the County's 2009 Climate Protection Plan. In 2011, enthusiasm behind sustainability issues helped us drive the formation of the Silver Spring Green Steering Committee. Since then, businesses, non-profits, community leaders and residents have come together to make sustainable practices, tools and information accessible and relevant to all members of our diverse community.

 

Being able to foster more "green initiatives" at the local level can have a dramatic impact on the environment, such as planting community gardens, incentivizing the use of reusable bags, increasing the number of recycling bins, building trails, implementing bikeshare, and protecting our tree canopy.

 

I was especially excited to join with Dr. Wanjiru Kamau, founding president of the African Immigrant Refugee Foundation (AIRF), and Dr. Khanjan Mehta, professor at Pennsylvania State University, to showcase Mavuuno Greenhouses, a new social enterprise initiative. This initiative, works to reduce poverty and fight the hunger crisis in Kenya. These affordable and durable greenhouses enable individuals to have a year-round bumper harvest.

 

I have been a long-time supporter of AIRF. I am interested in how international efforts in sustainable agriculture, like Mavuuno Greenhouses, can help guide farming, including in the urban environment here in the United States.

 

I look forward to continuing my work with Silver Spring Green to further tap into our community's considerable assets and facilitate a greener Montgomery.

 

Council's Zoning Code Rewrite: Public Hearings Added

  

 

As you may know, the last comprehensive revision to the zoning ordinance occurred in 1977. Since that time, zoning changes and our piecemeal zoning text amendment process, which is necessary to respond to community and development concerns, has created a fragmented document that guides our county's land use. The goal was to create a readily usable document that property owners and other stakeholders could understand. You can read my June letter to the Planning, Housing & Economic Development (PHED) Committee here.

 

The Council has scheduled two additional public hearings on the revised zoning ordinance and the proposed local map amendment for November 12 and 14 at 7:30 p.m. based on the PHED Committee's recommendations. Residents can see the proposed Zoning Code Rewrite, along with the tentative changes being considered by the PHED committee, at www.zoningmontgomery.org. Also, you can submit your input via county.council@montgomerycountymd.gov. The full Council will hold its worksessions this fall before voting on the revised ordinance. 

We Can Stop Bullying; You Can Help

  

Bullying is a national issue that cannot be ignored or thought of as a rite of passage. It directly affects a student's ability to learn. Students who are bullied find it difficult to concentrate and show a decline in grades and self-confidence. We all have a role in addressing bullying and changing our culture.

 

On October 1, I proclaimed October as National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month. PACER's National Bullying Prevention Center started this campaign in 2006 with a one-week event, which has now evolved into a month-long effort that encourages everyone to take an active role bullying prevention. I was joined by Mirin Phool, Co-Founder/President of the Kaur Foundation; Michael Scarano, Founder/President of Rockin the Rage; Tina Patterson, Committee on Hate/Violence; and James Stowe, Director of the Office of Human Rights.

 

 

Audacity of Hoops Basketball Tournament RESCHEDULED: Nov. 2

 
Due to poor weather conditions, the Audacity of Hoops 3-on-3 youth basketball tournament has been rescheduled for Saturday, November 2.
  
This tournament not only provides young people with an activity that is free, fun and positive, but also promotes physical fitness through sports and exercise. I hope to see you there!
 

 


Best Schools in the US

 
U.S. News & World Report's 2013 Best High Schools list confirmed what we already knew: we have some of the best schools in the nation. I congratulate

the seven schools in Montgomery County that made this list: Bethesda-Chevy Chase; Montgomery Blair; Poolesville; Richard Montgomery; Walt Whitman; Winston Churchill; and Thomas S. Wootton.

 

The rankings are determined by a methodology that measures a school's academic achievement across a wide range of performance indicators. MCPS schools are regularly included in this list and often place at the top of Maryland's rankings.

 

Our County's consistent academic success highlights the strong partnership between the school system and the County Council in our shared mission to provide the best possible education for our children. On October 1, I honored these schools and was joined by Renay Johnson of Blair; Deena Levine of Poolesville; Karen Lockard of Bethesda-Chevy Chase; Dr. Christopher Garran, MCPS Associate Superintendent for High Schools; Dr. Alan Goodwin of Whitman; and Dr. Michael Doran of Wootton. I look forward to seeing even more schools ranked in the Top 500 next year.

 

 

 

Richmond City Council Reaches Out to Montgomery County
 

Leadership is about having a plan for where you want to go and knowing how to operate effectively in difficult environments to get there. On September 30, I was invited to speak with the Richmond City Council at their fall retreat on leadership. I was joined by U.S. Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia, University of Richmond School of Law Professor John Douglass and former Richmond City Council President Bill Pantele.

 

I shared my experiences developing innovative public policy initiatives, described how I led the Montgomery County Council through extremely difficult budget times, and how local leaders can successfully manage both the challenges and opportunities of local government. I am delighted that Richmond officials invited me to share my legislative experience with them. There are so many outstanding leaders in the Washington Metropolitan area they could have invited to participate in this panel. I am honored that the City of Richmond invited me to share what I have learned over my decade of public service.

 

 

 

 

Council's Student Town Hall

    

On October 9, the Montgomery County Council held its fourth Student Town Hall Meeting. I enjoyed hearing from and speaking with students about what was on their minds, as well as their positions on specific issues. As a vocal advocate for youth, I appreciate opportunities like these to encourage youth to become more engaged in the community, involve youth in decisions that affect them, and prepare them as future County leaders.

 

 

50th Anniversary of Hearts and Homes for Youth

Every child deserves a chance. Since its incorporation in 1964, Hearts and Homes for Youth has helped shelter and counsel more than 30,000 abused, neglected, homeless and troubled children, from newborns to 21 years of age, through a variety of residential and supportive programs. This organization, now based in Silver Spring, offers counseling, advocacy, educational support, therapeutic programs, workforce readiness and life skills training in a nurturing, safe and supportive, homelike environment during a significant and critical time in a young person's life.

 

On October 8, I celebrated Hearts and Homes for Youth's 50 years of working to support some of our most vulnerable youth. Since its beginning, many troubled young people have benefited from this organization and become independent, valued members of our community. Thanks Hearts and Homes for helping to ensure that these youth reach their full potential and become productive members of society.

 

 

Third Annual Food Day

As a policymaker, I am working to not only make sure our residents have enough to eat, but that it is also nutritious.  At an upcoming Council session, I will proclaim October 24 as the 3rd Annual Food Day.  

This event is a nationwide celebration
and a movement for healthy,
affordable, and sustainable food. 

 

Food Day seeks to bring together people from all walks of life: parents, teachers, and students; health professionals; community organizers,;and local officials. It aims to bring us closer to a food system with "real food" that is produced with care for the environment, animals, and the women and men who grow, harvest, and serve it.

 

 

Want More Dog Parks?

Dog owners are one of the most frequent users of the Parks System. While the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission's Department of Parks currently operates and maintains five dog parks, there remains high demand for these facilities in other areas of the County. According to the Humane Society of the United States, 39% of households owned at least one dog in 2011. Like community gardens, these dog parks could potentially be placed in currently underutilized locations in the Parks System, or incentivized in the development process.

 

After meeting with the Planning Board Chair last August, I asked the Planning, Housing & Economic Development (PHED) Committee to discuss the expansion of off-leash exercise areas for dogs, or dog parks. Montgomery Parks has already identified one potential site and is looking for public involvement.

 

Parks invites the community to provide input and gather preliminary information about plans for a new dog park to be located in downtown Silver Spring in Ellsworth Urban Park on Colesville Road, just north of the Silver Spring Library. Park planners will answer questions and solicit ideas from the public for this and future urban dog park sites. Visit ParkPlanning.org for more information or to provide comments on this project.

 

 

 

STEM Career Symposium

 

The Hispanic Heritage Foundation and MdBio Foundation will host the Leaders On Fast Track (LOFT) Life Science Career Symposium on November 16 at the Johns Hopkins University Montgomery County Campus. This event is for high school juniors and seniors and college undergraduates, especially communities that are underrepresented in life science careers, who either have an interest in the life sciences or want to learn more about this profitable and rewarding career path. It is an excellent opportunity to discover career and education options, as well as network with life science professionals.

 

You can register here.

  

  

Chesapeake Bay Trust Grants Now Available

I am proud to have served on the Chesapeake Bay Trust, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers through environmental education, community outreach and local watershed restoration. The Trust recently announced the opening of the 2014 Scholarship and Awards Program, which honors individuals for their contributions to environmental education; restoration of streams, rivers, and the Bay; and stewardship.

 

The Scholarship and Awards Program is soliciting applications and/or nominations for five awards: Teacher of the Year, Student of the Year, Honorable Arthur Dorman Scholarship, Ellen Fraites Wagner Award and Melanie Teems Award. Applicants must be residents of Maryland and/or the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The deadline for nominations is Monday, Dec. 2 at 5:00 p.m. The winners will be announced during the Chesapeake Bay Trust's 2014 Legislative Reception in January 2014.

 

 

 

Make a Difference in Your Community

Montgomery County's 2013 Community Service Day is Saturday, October 26. Make a difference in your community by joining a project looking for volunteers or planning a project of your own that meets a need in your community the week of October 20-27.  To tell us about your project or to find out more about volunteering during that week, click here.