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Launching Digital #MoCo

We live in an era of great change. But can Montgomery County government keep pace? 

That is a big question facing our county’s leaders. We want Montgomery County to be recognized as an innovation capital, where the government, the private sector, and community leaders work together on our biggest challenges.

In that spirit, the County Council recently passed a bill that I crafted called the Open Data Act. It will require County Government to be more sophisticated in how we collect and manage data and it will establish a new policy of sharing valuable data openly with the public. The new law is a foundation for a new digital strategy for Montgomery County, which I have helped formulate with County Executive Ike Leggett and his superb team.

What does it all mean for you?
  • The county budget is now on the web in remarkable detail. Citizen analysts will be able to manipulate the data and even casual users can create their own visualizations using our online tools.  The smallest budget details are searchable for each department, including the salary for all county employees. In time, every department will have a public data set.

  • Use our new 311 mobile app to request county services. Want to report a road repair or fallen tree limb, request bulk trash pickup, you name it — use 311 mobile wherever you are.

  • 3rd party app developers will improve services. Across the country, app developers are figuring out how to create valuable services for consumers based on government data. From transportation planning apps to real estate and tax apps, you are going to benefit from letting the private sector leverage county data to create apps.

  • Your voice can be heard in new ways. Already I talk with residents daily on my Facebook page.  You may also interact on Facebook with the county police department, fire & rescue, libraries, regional centers, and more. The county also has a new tool for collaborating with residents, called engageMontgomery, where you may submit your own ideas for county priorities and “second” those submitted by others. Its a great tool that government agencies are using all across the country to garner input from residents.

  • More innovation jobs in Montgomery County. MoCo has one of America’s most highly skilled workforces, we have dynamic IT and biotech companies. Striving for leadership in digital government will send a positive message to the private sector and the county council is specifically looking at how we can use these new tools to foster economic development.

  • Next steps and how YOU can get involved. We need a forum where local government officials can join with experts, programmers, journalists and most importantly, citizens like you. I have proposed that the County begin planning a summit where participants can exchange ideas, advocate for issues, leverage open government content, and provide input for better local governing practices. This is a chance to help shape the community around us. The planning is still in initial stages and we will need help from people like you. Please reply to this email if you are interested.


In launching the new digital government agenda, the County Executive released a Digital Roadmap that says, “this strategy aims to be disruptive.”

That’s exactly right. We need to disrupt and create. New ideas will help us drive change in this county for the better.

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Daily journal, 11-09-11

I began the day running late to meet Dan Adcock, the county’s Democratic Party chair. Dan and I have known one another since my second job in DC, back in 1995, when I staffed the Save Our Security Coalition and Dan represented NARFE. He is doing a great job as county party chair, which is probably harder and more thankless than the County Council. :) (Note to self: ask George Leventhal if that is true…)

Next up a groundbreaking in Wheaton for the new 15+ story tower over the Safeway. The county contributed a loan into the financing of that project, which allowed it to go as high as it did. The County Executive deserves recognition for real leadership on this. As I said to the Gazette reporter who attended, this will build the customer base for the Wheaton small business community without displacing any of them. It sets the bar very high for Wheaton and now we need to make sure we meet that bar going forward.

Then a press event with the County Executive and Bob Hoyt at the Department of Environment at the Shady Grove Solid Waste Transfer Station. The topic: you may now call 311 to book a bulk trash pickup. I am a big advocate for 311 because it brings government services to the people in a unique way: you do not need to know any politicians or officials in order to get high quality service. Just call or search 311.

Continuing a whirlwind day, I met with the union for MCPS principals and administrators—their new president Deborah Mugge has just started. The MCPS unions are in their budget discussions for the coming year. What I find so impressive about the MCPS labor – management partnership is they have a table where everyone has input and can find common ground. The MCPS unions were the first to give up their COLAs three years ago when this crisis began. I do not think the MCPS collaborative model is appreciated in this era of anti-union education reform but it does contribute significantly to our success.

Next up a meeting with a business leader to talk about some ideas I am considering on the big box bill and then finally a lengthy meeting with the county executive’s land-use team to talk about a wide variety of issues that I have been tracking, particularly Lyttonsville, Wheaton, Bethesda and Silver Spring projects.

Say, I am looking for volunteers for the Thanksgiving Parade — please email me or Facebook me if you can join! I promise fun, friends, and a memorable day.

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Daily journal, 10-6-11

I started off today meeting with Ana Lopez van Balen, the new mid
county services director, to learn more about her work and see some of
the social services that are provided out of the county building in
Wheaton. Then I stopped in to chat with Mr. Leo, my good friend who
runs Marchones Deli right there in Wheaton. We talked about the coming
redevelopment and how it may affect local small businesses.

Then into a great meeting with advocates from the senior community.
Patrick Lacefield in the county executive’s office is working with me
and a team from Senior Leadership Montgomery as well as nonprofit
service groups to help identify how we can more effectively inform
seniors about transportation options available through 311. We are
making great progress.

Then I met with community leaders from the Lyttonsville area,
including Ms. Charlotte Coffield. They have a challenge with how the
Purple Line will impact their community and I am glad to be able to
help them out. Coincidentally I heard from my dear friend Barbara
Sanders that the Purple Line received a new approval from the US DOT,
which will mean continued progress in design and construction.

Finally, a helpful presentation from Federal Realty about upcoming
development in White Flint.

The council was briefed today on results from the beefed up police
patrols in Silver Spring and Burtonsville. The additional enforcement
has cut crime significantly, which is great news.

Swirling in the background: my impact tax bill, the peace resolution,
the curfew, the fire commission, a big box community benefits
agreement bill with UFCW, politics with MCGEO, and a whole lotta
email.

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Daily journal, 08-31-11

Today was busy with meetings. Starting with former County Executive Doug Duncan, whom I always get great stories from about councils and issues past. We talked about the curfew legislation. My thinking at this stage is that there are some changes that are needed and we’ll see how that shapes up. My aide Adam Pagnucco is also doing some research on how effective curfews are in reducing crime. Then, a discussion that I convened with Patrick Lacefield and Leslie Hamm of 311 and leaders from Senior Montgomery to discuss seniors transportation issues, and particularly how seniors can access information about what options are available to them, from bus service to free rides by volunteers. I was very happy with the discussion and the 311 folks valued the input. We are going to get back together to talk about how to make seniors more aware that they can access transportation by calling 311. Additionally, several meetings relating to the “OpenGov” issues I am developing (which of course 311 is a key piece), including Sean Carr and Jeanne Ellinport. One thing I am concluding is that while Montgomery County wins “e” awards in the county competitions, we are boxing below our weight, as the saying goes. We should be measuring ourselves against big cities — Boston, San Francisco, New York, Chicago, DC. The cities provide a range of services closer to what we provide for our residents, and many of them are ahead of us in providing services, information, engagement, transparency with digital. We need to move towards a more citizen-centered digital strategy for the county.