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
Today’s council highlight surely was the committee session on the curfew. There was a lot of very intelligent debate on the issue. One of the statistics that struck me as very concerning is the rising trend of juvenile arrests in the county. The number increased from 1,548 in 2006 to 2,626 in 2010. That is truly an explosion — juvenile arrests were 21% of all arrests in 2010. At 2,626 arrests, that is about 7 a day!
If a curfew gives the police a way to be more preventative with juveniles by sending them home before problems escalate, that could ultimately not only prevent crime but also reduce juvenile arrests and help keep kids out of the justice system. One of the changes to the proposal from the executive that I was glad to see was making it a civil rather than a criminal offense. I want to keep kids out of jails.
My concern continues to be for protecting young people. I want young people to be able to hang out at night and not have to worry that they are going to get stabbed. Yes young people have to give up a little — though, really, not much, since most can’t be out on the streets after 11pm on weeknights or midnight on weekends anyway — but I think you will get safer places to hang out as a result.
The council policy packet, well worth reviewing, is here.
I started today with a tour of the command centers for emergencies,
911, transportation and storm operations. In the wake of 9/11 the
county elevated it’s command operations and there is an impressive
center in Gaithersburg now. Some of the highlights included seeing
the real time traffic control systems, where hundreds of cameras
monitor traffic and operators can change timing at any of the new
traffic signals from the center’s desktop computers; the bus tracker,
which provides real time information about the timing and location of
buses via GPS, even including ridership numbers; and meeting the storm
operations team, who are I am sure working over time right now due to
the extreme rainfall we are experiencing today. This experience
affirmed my belief that we need to invest more extensively in
technology to manage our existing road and transit capacity. We can
greatly expand our transportation capacity within our existing built
footprint by using information more effectively.
Then I had lunch with the county executive, whom I saw last night at
the Equality Maryland benefit. We talked about many issues including
the curfew. After that a meeting with police chief Manger to talk
more about the curfew. He notes that he doesn’t see slam-dunk
statistics about curfews and crime, but believes a curfew would be a
very effective tool in some situations.
Next a meeting with Leah Muskin-Pierret, a student organizer against
the curfew. She argued that a curfew would foster distrust of the
police and violate the rights of young people. I’m glad we are doing a
youth town hall in October, the timing is helpful to young people who
want to weigh in.
Finally, a reception at VisArts in Rockville for an exhibit by the
artist who painted the murals in Maine that the GOP governor removed
for being pro-union.
All in all a great day.
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.