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.”
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.
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.