ROCKVILLE, December 4, 2012—The Montgomery County Council today unanimously elected Nancy Navarro as president and Craig Rice as vice president of the Council. They will serve one-year terms as officers of the Council.
Councilmember Navarro, who represents District 4, served as vice president of the Council for the past year. She becomes the first Latina president of the County Council.
“I want to talk about One Montgomery,” Council President Navarro said to set the tone of her presidency. “To me, One Montgomery means recognizing the differences among us, while emphasizing that however different our backgrounds or our lifestyles may be, we are all connected. We all depend on each other. We all share the same need for a government that encourages economic growth, protects our families, educates our children, and provides a safety net in case we fall on hard times.”
President Navarro was elected to represent District 4 in a special election in May 2009 and was re-elected in the general election of November 2010. She chairs the Council’s Government Operations and Fiscal Policy (GO) Committee and serves on the Health and Human Services Committee. Prior to her election to the Council, Councilmember Navarro served on the Montgomery County Board of Education, where she was twice elected president (2006 and 2008). She was appointed to the Board of Education in October 2004 to fill the term of the vacant District 5 seat. In November 2006, she was elected to a full four-year term.
Council Vice President Rice, who represents District 2, was elected to the County Council in November 2010. He is the youngest African American to ever serve on the Council and only the second African American man to serve in that role. He is a member of the Council’s Education Committee and its Health and Human Services Committee, where he serves as the lead member for libraries. A lifelong resident of Montgomery County, in the fall of 2006, he was elected to the Maryland House of Delegates, defeating a 12-year incumbent. He served on the Ways and Means Committee and was a member of both its Education and Revenues subcommittees. He also served on Montgomery Delegation's Land Use and Transportation Committee.
Complete text of Council President Navarro’s remarks upon her election:
To my colleagues: Thank you for this great honor. Thank you for putting your trust in me to lead the Council.
I want to acknowledge my family, husband Reginald Laurent, youngest daughter Isabel, oldest daughter Anais and sister Nandred—their unconditional love and support sustains me—friends and supporters: Thank You for being here this morning.
Roger: congratulations on a successful presidency. Your calm, even-keeled presence helped us get through a lot of tough issues this year, and you led us to important advances in many areas.
And congratulations to you, Craig. I think we’ll make a great team, and I look forward to a great year.
I also want to recognize our enormously talented legislative staff–they do an incredible job, and it cannot be easy dealing with nine bosses. My staff: Adam, Ken, Bertha, Mayra and Inem – you are awesome and I very much appreciate your dedication and service.
I look forward to continuing the Council’s work with County Executive Leggett.
Of course, I know he has a great deal of help from his excellent department heads and the dedicated, experienced workforce staffing every county agency.
I’m also excited to work with our state delegation to ensure Montgomery County gets what it needs—what it deserves—from state government.
And of course, I will continue to work closely with the Board of Education, the Superintendent, the leadership at Montgomery College and the Universities at Shady Grove, and the tremendous crew of administrators, teachers, and support staff that are running one of the best educational systems in the world—from pre-K to 16 and beyond.
And with our Parks and Planning Departments, whose work shapes our communities, promotes economic development, and helps maintain our connection to nature.
Today I want to talk about One Montgomery. To me, One Montgomery means recognizing the differences among us, while emphasizing that however different our backgrounds or our lifestyles may be, we are all connected. We all depend on each other. We all share the same need for a government that encourages economic growth, protects our families, educates our children, and provides a safety net in case we fall on hard times.
When I came to the Council in 2009, the entire world was in the midst of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.
County Council candidates used to campaign by promising new programs and more funding. These promises gave way to a new fiscal reality. We had to prioritize the most essential services and make painful cuts to the rest. We streamlined, improved efficiency, and learned to do more with less.
We did not take the politically expedient path—we rejected a band-aid approach and the cuts we made were structural and long-term.
In 2010, we created—for the first time—a six-year fiscal plan so we could make decisions with a longer horizon in sight.
In 2011, we made the tough decision to rebase our school budget so we could protect our ability to adapt to changing financial circumstances.
And this year, for the first time in 20 years, we decreased our capital budget to make sure we aren’t overburdened by our debts.
Our work has paid off. This September, even with the prospect of federal cuts casting a cloud over the entire Washington region, Montgomery County retained its pristine Triple A bond rating.
Our revenue has begun to rise slowly and we’ve been able to restore some services.
And we did almost all of this unanimously.
Being One Montgomery means making progress together because, even if we don’t always agree on every detail, we share a common set of core values. It’s an honor to sit on this dais with a group of public servants who, faced with very difficult choices, were able to take unified action for the common good.
But One Montgomery also means embracing our diversity. Our county is incredibly diverse by any measure you can think of—our residents come from across the country and around the world, from every socioeconomic class. We have students and young professionals living in urban high-rises; teachers and police officers starting families in garden apartments; lawyers, small business owners, and Cabinet Secretaries in houses lining quiet cul-de-sacs; and everything in between. We even have working farms and historic small towns, all right next to the jobs and amenities of our nation’s capital.
This diversity is our greatest strength.
Even if you are not a biologist, a government employee, or a waiter at a restaurant, we all benefit from a strong bioscience cluster, major federal offices, and a thriving retail marketplace.
When the housing market collapsed in 2008, our County weathered the storm better than most because our economy is so diversified.
With uncertainty on Capitol Hill and the possibility of falling off a fiscal cliff, our county is better positioned because of the diversity within our federal presence.
This is why our economic development strategy cannot rely solely on attracting any one large employer, or relying on any one sector.
Which brings me to another point: I’ve heard for too long that Montgomery County is not open for business.
Today I want to be absolutely clear: Montgomery County is one of the best places in America to grow a business of any size. When it comes to schools, housing, office space, consumers, workforce and amenities, Montgomery County is the place to be.
Just ask Choice Hotels or United Therapeutics, who recently chose Montgomery County for their international headquarters. Ask Costco, which is about to open a new store in Wheaton, or the Fillmore, which is bringing top names in entertainment to Silver Spring.
Ask federal agencies: Walter Reed and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence are estimated to bring an additional 5,500 jobs to the Bethesda area, and NOAA has recently decided to keep it’s headquarters and 4,200 employees in Silver Spring.
Over the last few years, this Council has invested tens of millions of dollars in our business community through incentives, economic development grants, and innovative public-private partnerships like the Montgomery Business Development Corporation and the biotech investment tax credit program.
And we never forget our small businesses. Nearly 95 percent of Montgomery County companies are small businesses. County-led redevelopment projects are revitalizing our downtown cores, but we must not allow these projects to negatively impact small businesses. That’s why I sponsored Bill 06-12 to create the Small Business Assistance Program, and we must now fully fund it. We also created the position of Small Business Navigator—someone in our economic development office whose job is solely to help small businesses seize government opportunities and work around obstacles. Our chambers of commerce play a vibrant role in advocating for the needs of our business sector and we welcome their ideas.
Of course, we still have much work to do. We have to make sure our master plans encourage the right balance of housing, jobs, and amenities in every part of the County.
And we need long-term transportation solutions. Our land use and economic development strategy relies heavily on the promise of state funding for the Purple Line, the Corridor Cities Transitway, and other high-priority projects. Without these projects, traffic—and our economy—will grind to a halt. Montgomery County is the economic engine of Maryland. As our county has said time and again, this is a state problem and it requires a state solution.
One Montgomery also means fairness and opportunity for everyone. Our guiding principle must be that our children’s academic achievement will not be pre-determined by their socioeconomic status.
Right now, as we speak, there are two seventh grade students sitting together in a Montgomery County classroom. They are friends, they have the same outstanding teachers, and they attend the same in-school activities.
But when the bell rings at the end of the day, where do they go?
One child has extracurricular activities — maybe a music lesson or a sports practice. Her parents pick her up, take her home and feed her a nutritious meal. They make sure she does her homework, and they are there to help. She has a tutor if she needs one. She has an iPad or a laptop to do research and explore her world.
The other child goes home to an empty house -- maybe a younger sibling to take care of. His parents work two jobs and can’t afford childcare or after school activities. No one is there to supervise him or help with homework. Some nights, he might have a warm meal, some nights he might not. If we’re lucky, the most trouble he gets into is watching too much TV.
One student arrives at school the next day well-rested, having eaten a full breakfast, homework in hand. Ready to learn. The other is tired and hungry.
Sometimes when the rest of the state, and some right here at home, think of Montgomery County, they only see the first child. The second child is invisible. But both children are our future.
Although we are blessed that many families are doing well, poverty is real in Montgomery County. The 2010 census reported more than 72,000 people living below the poverty line. For contrast, Prince George’s County had 79,000—7,000 more. Almost one-third of our students receive Free and Reduced Meals.
When one child is hungry and unsupervised, it means trouble for every kid in that class. When one child lacks the infrastructure to keep them away from drugs and gangs, it brings crime and violence to all of our neighborhoods. You see, we are all connected and we are all responsible.
Of course, we cannot spend unlimited money. Limited fiscal resources is the new normal.
On top of that, the state has recently made the Maintenance of Effort law much stricter and shifted much of the cost of teacher pensions to the counties.
This means we have to balance competing priorities. We have, and must maintain, one of the best public school systems in the world. But the best school system in the world cannot educate a child that has no structure, no support, and no opportunities after the final bell rings.
Last year, I proposed the Youth and Families Support Enhancement Initiative to make a down-payment on services to address the underlying issues of poverty, family dysfunction, and a lack of positive youth programming.
The Council and Executive committed nearly $1 million dollars in funding for:
More gang prevention specialists in the Street Outreach Network
Replicating the successful East County Teen Escape Club in four new sites across the county
The Student/Teen Employment Program to provide youth with job opportunities and indispensable learning experiences over the summer
Funding to expand the successful Excel Beyond the Bell program
We provided $500,000 for child care subsidies so parents can afford quality child care.
We funded Wellness Centers and Linkages to Learning, two programs that are providing fundamental services to students and their families.
We increased subsidies to help low-income families pay their electric bills and keep the lights on. We restored some of the cuts to our libraries.
This year, we must double down on these efforts.
In closing, our policies do not exist in isolation. They are dependent on each other.
We cannot provide a good education or a strong safety net without a strong economy, and our economy will not be strong if we don’t help children and families achieve what they are capable of.
If we invest in the economic infrastructure to support our businesses and the social infrastructure to support our residents, a rising tide truly will lift all boats.
Somos un Condado Unido, luchando dia a dia, construyendo un mejor futuro para nuestras familias. Aportando nuestro granito de arena, orgullosos de ser Latino Americanos. Pero recordemos que los cambios solo ocurren por medio de la participacion activa de todos, por medio de cada contribucion a la infraestructura economica y social de nuestro condado—Juntos lograremos mucho.
We are One Montgomery. Our future is bright, and our fates are intertwined. Again, I would like to thank all of you for being here this morning, and to the residents of Montgomery County, thank you for granting me the opportunity to serve. Muchisimas Gracias.
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 Montgomery County Small Business Reserve Program, http://www6.montgomerycountymd.gov/content/DGS/Dir/OBRC/LSBRP/index.html
 MCPS by the Numbers, http://www.montgomeryschoolsmd.org/about/statistics.aspx