The past week has been frantic. We are in the fight of our lives on this proposal to shift costs for teacher pensions from the state to the counties. Yesterday I was in Annapolis for a strategy meeting with stakeholders and I joined a press conference with County Executives from many of the biggest counties in the state. The press event kicks off our campaign to fight the cost shift and was well covered in the media, with stories in the Post, Examiner, Gazette, Patch, and some greatly TV news coverage including the following story from NBC:
Last night I attended a county-wide forum sponsored by the Montgomery County PTA’s about the education. The PTA has come out strongly against the cost shift, noting that it will greatly weaken our ability to fund MCPS. I made the point that the primary reasons the state pension plan faces such a large deficit is that the state adopted a very risky funding policy that resulted in chronic underfunding, then the state increased benefits retroactively, and then the markets tanked.
Now state officials are trying to say that we should “share some responsibility” for the cost of the pensions. But we don’t share any responsibility for the mistakes they made! We don’t control how much they contribute to the fund or how large the benefits are.
During the middle of the PTA forum, I noticed a tweet from Governor O’Malley about comments he made at a convention that evening. He talked about how even in tough times, the state had kept funding for education as a high priority. While it is true that the state increased spending today on education salaries, it is also true that the state knowingly underfunded its pension obligations for education employees.
Today the County Council voted 6-3 for my motion to “table” the County Executive’s proposed youth curfew.
Since the curfew was first proposed in July, Montgomery County has significantly increased its police presence in certain hot spot areas where troubling incidents have occurred.
The result of this increase in police staffing has been remarkable: According to MCPD data, while in previous years we averaged 6 robberies per month, now we are averaging 1.5. In other words, crime has fallen to less than a third of what it was in downtown Silver Spring.
These facts on the ground have changed my view of the need for a proposed curfew at this time. At the same time, I cannot rule out the possible need for a curfew down the road. That is why I proposed to keep it “on the shelf” by tabling it. I think that is the right position for the county now.
I will continue to monitor the facts on the ground closely and do everything I can to make our community safe for our kids and all residents; and I will continue to view a youth curfew as a measure of last resort.
Thank you for weighing in on this important community issue. I will keep looking for practical ways to have a positive impact and I will look to you to help me achieve it. In addition, public safety will be one of the many issues discussed at my Town Hall Solutions Forum on Monday, December 12 at 7pm in Richard Montgomery High School‘s cafeteria.
Yesterday, I attended a policy forum on workforce training hosted by the Hamilton Project of the Brookings Institution. It was a very informative event and has given me a lot to think about for policy making in Montgomery County. I also attended a legislative dinner hosted by the MCCPTA. I enjoyed the chance to meet many of the activists from around the county, and as a bonus, I got to eat with my friend Juan Johnson, a PTA leader from Germantown whom I’ve known since my earliest jobs in DC in 1995 or so.
Today I was invited to join a meeting of childcare center directors. Needless to say, with a toddler and an infant in my family, I am interested in this topic. I sat with several directors of childcare centers and Uma Ahluwalia, the county’s director of Health and Human Services. I believe wholeheartedly we must do more to support early childhood programs. Particularly in Montgomery County where many of our youngest children are English language learners, the more we can do at an early age the better off we will all be since all of our kids are in the same classrooms.
Today also featured much wrangling on the topic of the curfew. There is a Post story out now describing how I have worked with council president Berliner to put the curfew on a “shelf” so to speak. I have mixed feelings about it as do many people. Regardless, the enhanced police enforcement in Silver Spring and Burtonsville that we budgeted this year is working well — crime is one third (!!) of what it was before the up-staffing — and I think we should wait to see if that progress is sustained before deciding on a sweeping step like a curfew.
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.