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August 2010


Mother Nature Strikes Again - back to top

fallen treeWe've hit the trifecta--hopping snowstorms, an earthquake, and now hurricane-force thunderstorms.

At the peak of Sunday's storm, 219,800 of 302,000 Pepco's Montgomery County customers were out of power; that's 68 percent.  Even the Potomac Water Treatment Plant experienced a power failure, prompting mandatory water restrictions.  Traffic slowed with 330 traffic signals out, and our 911 system saw a 540 percent increase in call volume.

A storm this size called for a massive response. According to an update we received from our department heads and Pepco officials, thousands of workers sprang to action.  The County's 311 call center extended its hours to provide round-the-clock service.  Fire and Rescue Services pre-deployed to fill tankers in anticipation of a water shortage.  Police directed traffic at critical intersections, and the Department of Transportation and Pepco joined them to respond to downed trees and power lines.  Pepco even called in electrical workers from neighboring power companies to help with the biggest restoration effort since Hurricane Isabel in 2003.

I, along with all the members of the County Council, heard from frustrated residents and business owners, particularly as power outages stretched into days.  I was frustrated, too, as my house remained dark until Wednesday.   While I recognize that Montgomery County presents an especially challenging problem for utilities because we have some of the densest tree cover in the nation (and we love our trees!), I can't help but wonder if there is a better way.  That's why we sent a letter, signed by every member of the Council, to the Public Services Commission asking for the state agency's assistance.  We will follow up with a Council review of Pepco's readiness and responsiveness this fall.

In the meantime, we need to improve our relationship with Mother Nature.


Business Development Corporation Approved - back to top

open for business signI'm pleased that we unanimously approved the bill that establishes a Business Development Corporation (BDC) that can provide the County with strategic planning and advice, legislative and regulatory advocacy and evaluation of County government's economic development performance. The group also can join the County Executive and Department of Economic Development in attempting to persuade specific businesses to move to or stay in the County. I am proud to have sponsored this bill which evolved from my pledge to make economic development the top priority during my term as Council President.

The nation, and the Washington region, are currently in an economic era unprecedented in our lifetimes. Throughout this downturn, Montgomery County has remained one of the nation's economic engines, and we have to send out the word that we are open for business. It is one thing for government to send that message, but when we team with some of the nation's, and the world's, top companies to roll out the welcome mat, it becomes quite an inspiring invitation. That is what we are creating with the Business Development Corporation.

The redrafted bill authorizes the Council to designate a quasi-public, nonprofit corporation to act as the County’s Business Development Corporation. Its board of directors will be made up of 11 voting members, including a Chamber of Commerce representative, a small business owner, an owner or manager of a medium sized business and up to eight senior managers of major companies in the County. The board also will include, as non-voting ex-officio members, the director of the Department of Economic Development, the superintendent of Montgomery County Public Schools, the president of Montgomery College and either the Planning Board chair or the planning director.

Business leaders themselves will create a proposed BDC that follows the provisions of the bill. It is conceivable that more than one BDC will be organized. If that occurs, the County Council will select one BDC.

Through the BDC, we are going to be paying attention to the business community on how to handle important issues. I am not going to tell this group what to do. I am going to listen to what it recommends.

The bill received strong support from business leaders who pledged to be involved in the Business Development Corporation to attract businesses of various interests and sizes to join them in Montgomery County.

I'm optimistic the corporation will be officially designated before the start of the next state legislative session that begins in December. We expect the group to issue its first report within a year.


Putting Our Financial House in Order - back to top

Joint statement by Nancy Floreen and Ike LeggettIke Leggett, Nancy Floreen and Duchy Trachtenberg

The Great Recession has wreaked havoc on state and local governments nationwide, and Montgomery County is no exception. Plummeting revenues have forced many painful choices including pay freezes, furloughs, service reductions, and increased taxes.

This may be a "wake-up call" for some local jurisdictions -- but not to Montgomery. The work of putting Montgomery’s fiscal house in order – cutting unsustainable spending trends and responding to the economic downturn -- began several years ago.

But times remain tough, and in just the past two months we have taken five more decisive steps to meet our fiscal challenges.

Step 1. We passed a County budget unlike any other in County history. For the fiscal year that started July 1, the Executive Branch and the County Council closed a budget gap of nearly $1 billion, or about one-fourth of our total budget. We reduced overall spending by 4.5 percent, the first year-over-year decline in four decades. While this required a pay freeze and furloughs for our employees, as well as service reductions for our residents, we preserved our highest priority services in education, public safety, and the needs of our most vulnerable. We kept property taxes at the Charter limit, providing a $692 credit to all owner-occupied homes. The higher taxes we did approve, on energy and wireless phones, were just 17 percent of our total gap-closing plan. They were a last resort in order to avoid even more crippling cuts in critical services.

Step 2. We strengthened County reserve funds, which fell sharply as the recession deepened. Our new policy will gradually raise reserves to 10 percent of adjusted governmental revenue, greatly improving our ability to handle future downturns and confirming the historical excellence of our financial management.

Step 3. We pulled together all our agencies -- Montgomery County Public Schools, Montgomery College, the Park and Planning Commission, County Government, Housing Opportunities Commission, and WSSC -- to aggressively seek savings from joint interagency efforts in technology, utilities, benefits, procurement, facilities management, and other areas.  We've also asked an expert group of County residents to propose more efficient and innovative ways to deliver County services.

Step 4. We are reexamining the County's structural budget challenges by analyzing the "cost drivers" that create spending pressures and the policy options to address them.

Step 5. We approved a six-year fiscal plan that outlines the spending limits needed to achieve balanced annual budgets. This will help us prevent future budget gaps and lessen the impact of severe downturns. It marks a new era in the County’s fiscal stewardship.

All these steps will help make us leaner, more productive, and better able to meet the needs of our one million residents. We have also taken important steps to expand the County’s tax base by approving the White Flint Sector Plan, the Great Seneca Science Corridor Master Plan, the nation’s first local biotech tax credit, and a new Montgomery Business Development Corporation.

Already these moves are bearing fruit. Just two weeks ago, all three bond rating agencies affirmed Montgomery County’s "Triple-A" bond rating with a "stable" outlook, which allows the County to borrow for future schools, road, and other construction needs at the most favorable interest rates -- saving County taxpayers millions of dollars a year.

One of the three agencies had put the County on a "watch" list due to the economic downturn and falling County tax revenues. Due to the actions we've taken, the County is now off that list -- and that's great news.

Our fiscal challenges are far from over, but these steps -- added to the work we’ve already done over the past several years -- will make our great County even stronger.


Election Information - back to top

Here is some important information about the upcoming primary election on September 14:

  • The deadline to register to vote or to change your party affiliation is August 24.
  • Early voting is available September 3- September 9 (10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.) including Labor Day but closed Sunday.  Early voting centers are Bauer Drive Community Recreation Center, Germantown Recreation Center, Marilyn J. Praisner Community Recreation Center, Montgomery County Executive Office Building and Silver Spring Civic Building.
  • The deadline for receipt of your completed application for an absentee ballot by mail is September 7.  After that date, absentee ballots may be requested in person at the Board of Elections office.
  • The Board of Elections still needs election judges, especially registered voters who speak Spanish.

For more information, visit the Board of Elections Web site.  The general election will be held on November 2.


Fast Fact - back to top

Did you know that 29 percent of Montgomery County's 971,600 residents have earned an advanced degree, placing us highest among large counties nationwide in educational attainment? Or that 38 percent of residents speak a language other than English at home? Or that the Gross County Product -- total earnings of all industries in the County -- is about $43 billion annually? Learn more interesting facts in M-NCPPC's Montgomery County Snapshot.


Green Tip of the Month - back to top

Join a sustainability cooperative. The Maryland Energy and Sustainability Cooperative is a member-owned organization that uses the collective buying power of its members to empower the local green economy, making green living more accessible and affordable for individuals and businesses.  Save money on a whole host of green products and services, including energy audits, heating and air conditioning, green roofs and much, much more.  Suppliers, individuals, families and organizations are all eligible for membership.


Let's Talk - back to top

Is your community organization hosting a public meeting?  Please let me know how I can help.  I am happy to assist residents in understanding pending bills or in finding ways to get involved in the political process.  Even more important, I want to hear about what matters to you.  Send your meeting notices to or call 240-777-7959 if you would like me to address a particular topic with your group.