Virtual Town Hall Meeting Transcript (Tuesday, November 20, 2007)
Mr. Leggett: Hello, and welcome to this evening's live chat. I look forward to receiving your questions and comments on any issues that concern you. Let's get started...
Kevin from Silver Spring
Greetings, Sir -
I'm wondering if you would share your thoughts on Metro's proposed fare hike.
Mr. Leggett: I believe that the proposed Metro fare hikes disproportionately impact Montgomery County. We have a large number of riders who travel great distances and an even larger number of parking lots scattered along the Red Line. There's a heavy emphasis on increasing the parking fees and charges for Metro ridership, which impact unfairly rail riders along the Red Line. Recently we testified against these fare hikes and presented alternatives that are more equitable for the larger metropolitan area.
Jerry from Up County
Is there any evidence that the installation of all these speed cameras has done anything other than collect revenue for the County. And if it could be proven that the cameras have not improved public safety, would you discontinue the program?
Mr. Leggett: Yes. During May, June and July, these speed cameras proved to be a major deterrent to unsafe driving. For example, along Randolph Road, the number of speed citations per hour dropped from an average of 60 to 56. In addition, we've had similar reductions in the level of speed in other areas throughout the County.
Arnold from Eastern Montgomery
Breaking a commitment that has been in the MCPS CIP for the last 3 years the Superintendent announced in the 09 CIP that improvements to the inadequate Redland M.S (obsolete 50s pod design) will not be undertaken. Instead 75% of the funding is taken away and we get painting, floor tiles and new black boards. This is a travesty Ike and we hope you can do something about it.
Mr. Leggett: I fought hard to significantly increase the amount of funding for MCPS CIP. For example, I decided to recommend adding $15 million in FY09, which could be used to augment the Redland Middle School project. In addition, I am reasonably hopeful that our efforts in the legislative Special Session will result in an overall contribution from the state of $55 million which will significantly aid the County in addressing many of the badly needed capital projects in the school system as well.
Laura from Up County
Please clarify the portion of Bill 23-07 that specifically relates to transgenders being allowed to use "any restroom, shower, dressing room, locker room, or similar facility associated with the gender identity that the person publicly or exclusively expresses or asserts." I would like in clear language whether a male will now be allowed to use restrooms and locker rooms in Montgomery County Public Schools. Thank you.
Mr. Leggett: The Council action last week removed language that was objectionable to many regarding the use of restrooms by transgender individuals. As the law now stands, restrooms are not covered by this bill.
Bill from Bethesda-Chevy Chase
Several of my neighbors (at least half a dozen the weekend of November 3) report on our neighborhood listserv that their cars have been entered and ransacked by thives looking for keys in glove compartments, but taking parking change and other items. My neighbors report that police tell them they cannot come out and take a report. If police won't allow a crime to be reported, how can the County have accurate accounting of crime?
Mr. Leggett: Unless the crime is in progress, for the type of crime you describe, it is the practice of our Police Department -- and most departments across the country -- to accept reports over the telephone. This saves scarce patrol resources to be used more efficiently and effectively for more serious crimes. We do track and investigate these crimes.
Patrice from Bethesda-Chevy Chase
I would like to know if the Legal Status of the Twenty-three workers that were offered temporary leaf collection positions with the County beginning November 1 was checked. If not, why not?
Mr. Leggett: Yes. The immigration status of all County employees is verified.
Marilyn from Up County
The Fire Safety Code of Montgomery County does not prohibit cooking on patios, porches, and balconies except where the living space of one townhouse is superimposed over the living space of another. (piggy-backed). Why are rows of side-by-side townhouses excluded? A fire from careless grilling on a deck or too close to the house can result in the destruction of an entire section...up to eight homes.
A short walk in Montgomery Village reveals that most grills are on decks or next to the house, and there has been a devestating fire in the Forest Brooke section because of careless deck cooking.
The homeowner associations are reluctant to initiate or impose penalties because there would be no backup from the Fire Marshal's Office.There is just as much potential danger in these situations throughout the county as in the piggy-backed townhouses.
Mr. Leggett: You are correct that it currently is not illegal. However, given the potential hazards that you've described, we need to review this matter to determine if additional legislation is needed. Our Fire and Rescue Service recommends that townhouse owners not grill within 20 feet of any structure -- the same standard that legally applies to apartment buildings and multi-family dwellings.
lloyd from Up County
I have a youth basketball program in the Germantown area and a Youth Outreach Program within my basketball organization. I have been trying to help save young people from gang violence and negative peer pressure with limited resources. I need to know where can I receive assistants from? I have a total of 45-60 kids that I coach in basketball and I used that as a tool to alternatives to violence. My age group range from 7-18 years old. It hurts me to see these good kids get caught up in a cycle or lifesytle that will eventually end their lives. Please contact me because I need better resouces to help me save these young kids. I been looking for grants but just can't find any,so please put me in the right direction. Thank you.
Mr. Leggett: We have a very strong Positive Youth Development Initiative which encompasses the type of program that you are leading. For example, there are after-school sports academies and a variety of other programs to assist young people to avoid negative choices. I would urge you to contact Coach Carter in my office at 240-777-2500, and inform him of your program and discuss with him how we can be of assistance. We continue to explore all avenues to develop a comprehensive program to help many of the types of kids you are working with in your program. Thanks for your valuable contribution to our community.
Damien from Mid County
What can we do to increase the number and type of items that can be recycled? There are some restrictions that aren't logical, such as container type, and materials that are very recyclable that aren't accepted.
Mr. Leggett: Thank you for bringing this to my attention. We are always looking for ways to improve our recycling program. I will explore avenues to expand the number of items we currently recycle.
kellie from Up County
Who within the County Council can help me with my new construction home loan that I received 3.5 years ago. I am having continuous problems from park & planning to permitting. I am working directly with the Chief who is in charge of this particular program. I've reached out to everyone for help and as of this email, my son and I are still homeless.
20827 Zion Road - Gaithersburg, Md
Mr. Leggett: I'm not quite clear about whether your concern is with the financial loan itself, or attempts to attain a permit. Please contact Jennifer Hughes in my office at 240-777-2500 so that we can discuss how we might help you.
Phillip from Mid County
What do I need to do to secure Assistant Living for my Son Tony who had major Brain Surgery in April 2006. He is currently living with me but space is a problem, special equipment is needed and the proper care can't be received due to my inexprence in working with the disable.
He has submitted his application three Months ago and hasn't received a letter or call to give status report. Is there anything else that we can do?
Mr. Leggett: Thank you for your inquiry. I am sorry to hear about your son Tony's brain surgery and the delay in securing appropriate placement for him. Please contact Chuck Short in my office at 240-777-2500 so that we can determine how to best respond to your concern.
Sharon from Up County
Why only 3 Clarksburg communities are to be charged with special tax? Who made the decision that other communities will not need & use the infrastructures thus funded? And why are we chared 2 (or even 3) times more than other Development Districts in the county? Kingsview and Southern Germantown only pays $500-$700 per household, here we are to be charged $1200-$1500 with a 2% annual increase for 26 years. And which laws say that developers can tax residents at their own will? My family and many of our neighbours really appreciated the huge efforts you have put into this issue, but please, please reconsider this and please stop the developers from taxing Clarksburg.
Mr. Leggett: Development districts were approved by the Council as a tool to ensure the timely construction of needed infrastructure. We have not determined the necessary items to be included to allocate the final costs assessed to individual homeowners. It is my intent to narrowly focus such costs to a reasonable number of facilities in a fair and equitable manner. Failure to pay through the development district process would mean a lengthy wait to obtain the infrastructure you anticipated when you purchased your home. It is also my fear that developers can proceed to enforce private liens against individual homeowners, which could potentially be much higher in cost and remove the authority to have such costs as a tax deduction. I will forward my recommendation to the County Council on this matter in the very near future.
C from Up County
Just look around us at the great accomplishments we have achieved. The Scriptures Deuteronomy to be exact -- tells us that we all warm ourselves by fires we did not build and drink from wells we did not dig.
This quote from your ignagural speech fits your immigration position--deny any problem and provide to those who do not contribute. Will you bring the consequences in the scripture for disobedience to the law onto Montgomery County?
Mr. Leggett: Thanks for remembering my inauguration speech and your diligent research. The immigration problem is a result of a failure to properly develop a comprehensive approach to this issue at the national level. That failure puts local jurisdictions in a very difficult position. I am not convinced that many of those who are seeking work are not making a contribution. In most cases, they pay taxes and they help to support our local economy through their labor (which many businesses and residents are dependent on) -- which others will not do. We have to address this in a fair and practical way that is not an undue burden on our local government.
Mr. Leggett: Thank you for your participation. I look forward to joining you in the near future for our next online chat.