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Daily Journal 07/09/12: Wheaton, Digital Government, Pepco

On Monday, I met Larry Couch, chair of the Justice and Advocacy Council (JAC) of Montgomery County. The JAC is a Catholic organization that advocates for our low-income. We talked about a variety of issues, including the Working Families Income Supplement, a tax benefit that helps our low-income families by supplementing their wages. The JAC fought to create the original State Earned Income Tax Credit, which the county matches with its own local tax credit.  We talked about working together to get the county to a 1-1 match of dollars provided by the state (today we add about 75% of the amount). 

Next, Councilmember Navarro and I convened a discussion about Wheatonpublic safety issues with Chief Manger, and Mid-County Regional Services Center Director, Ana Lopez van Balen, and their teams. We reviewed progress from the Wheaton Public Safety Audit of 2004 and parameters for a new public safety initiative there. Our goal is to integrate these elements of the Wheaton Public Safety Task Forceinto the larger effort of Wheaton Revitalization. More soon.

In the afternoon, I attended a GO Committee on IT issues. As the Council lead for Digital Government, I have been working to accelerate the county’s digital strategy. I was very happy to review the substantial agenda that has been put forward by our agencies on open data, digital citizenship, data visualization, social media, mobile platforms, and other areas– and not only for county government but also MCPS, HOC, MNCPPC, and Montgomery College. These groups will be working together on a range of initiatives in these areas and residents will begin to see the results soon.

In the evening, I met with the Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Board. We talked about Pepco and who has accountability for ensuring that we have decent electric power here in the County. The point I stressed to the group is that I believe its time for the Governor to give us a fresh start at the PSC.  The PSCis the only entity in the state that has direct authority over Pepco.  They are an independent state agency and their members are appointed by the Governor. The Governor needs to appoint new members because these members are not getting the job done. 

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Wheaton Public Safety Task Force

As a long-time supporter of redevelopment in Wheaton, I have worked to ensure our County government continues to make Wheaton an important priority. Today, I am pleased to announce that the county is considering launching a Wheaton Public Safety Task Force.


When it comes to Wheaton’s future, we envision a safe and vibrant town bustling with community activity. An integral component of this is the provision of public safety. I understand some of our community members are hesitant to frequent Wheaton due to concerns about crime. Although Wheaton has experienced positive changes since the Wheaton Public Safety Audit of 2004, I firmly believe there is more work to be done.


In early April, Councilmember Nancy Navarro and I, requested the Montgomery County Police Department to establish a Wheaton Public Safety Task Force. This task force would focus on the following goals:


1.) Enhance public safety in Wheaton’s Central Business District
2.) Solicit community concerns about public safety and prepare responses/recommendations
3.) Work alongside other County agencies to improve safety for downtown retail and residential activity
4.) Engage residents and business owners as part of ongoing public safety efforts
5.) Improve public perception of Wheaton’s Central Business District
6.) Review, update, and implement any remaining recommendations from the Wheaton Public Safety Audit of 2004.

Last week, we received a letter from MCPD’s Chief of Police, J. Thomas Manger, calling a public safety task force “a good starting point for us working together. We look forward to getting this important initiatiave going soon and please get in touch with me if you would like my office to provide you with more information. Stay tunes for announcements. 

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Daily Journal, March 12 (Cost Shift Update & Wheaton Revitalization)

Today, the council president and county executive sent a letter to the state delegation about the proposals for the pension shift and maintenance of effort. The letter concludes by saying, “In our meetings in Annapolis with you and other leaders of our delegation, we have stressed that we will stand by you if at the end of the day the total package that emerges treats Montgomery County and its residents fairly. We stand by that pledge. However, in the absence of substantial changes to the pension cost shift and maintenance of effort legislation, we will not be able to say that.”

Tough times.

On a more positive note, we had a long discussion at the economic development committee about Wheaton. As I said at the meeting, I personally appreciate what the county executive has done by putting $42 million into the capital budget (meaning that the money is borrowed, and not money that could be used on salaries, etc) for Wheaton redevelopment. I have been concerned about the specific proposal that this budget item would fund though, as it has a potentially devastating effect on many small businesses in Wheaton while the upside benefits may or may not materialize in 2, 5 or even 10 years. I am looking for a plan that will have more certainty in the benefits and reduce our impact on small businesses. This can be achieved by funding the construction of a county building on county property in Wheaton, rather that a platform over the Metro.


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Daily Journal, March 9

Friday morning I was a guest reader at Rachel Carson Elementary School in Gaithersburg, Maryland. This is a Maryland Blue Ribbon school and hopefully will be a national award winner soon, with something in the range of 98% of the kids passing the MSAs, according to the principal. What an amazing achievement. The first grade kids were a lot fun! We really engaged in the story of Abraham Lincoln, as I read from a book that is one of my son Henry’s favorites.

I got a chance to speak with Gary Bartee of the Montgomery County Association of Administrators and Principals. One of his big focuses is the peer review system, which is Montgomery County’s innovative way of improving accountability for teachers by providing support and training to teachers who are not performing. I was happy to see a Washington Post article about this system the next day; it is an approach that deserves more recognition nationally. It is also worth noting that a few years ago MCPS refused Federal Race to the Top money due to a dispute over how to do teacher evaluations. The Federal requirements would have forced the county to redesign our own carefully constructed evaluation and support system. It was a good decision by Jerry Weast to opt-out.

Meanwhile I am continuing to work on Wheaton redevelopment, as we prepare for some important council decisions. On Friday afternoon I met with the Coalition for the Fair Redevelopment of Wheaton. We walked around Triangle Lane and spent some time talking with Mr. Leo, proprietor of Marchones. I’m looking for an approach in Wheaton that will support our local small businesses, not replace them.