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Live Discussion with Ike Leggett

Portrait of County Executive Ike Leggett

Welcome to the Live Discussion with County Executive Isiah Leggett. This online interactive forum allows residents in Montgomery County to send questions directly to County Executive Isiah Leggett. You may submit questions anytime, and questions will be answered during the scheduled discussion time.


Virtual Town Hall Meeting Transcript (Wednesday, May 23, 2012)

Mr. Leggett: Good afternoon. Thank you for joining me for today's live discussion. Let's get started.


Ashton from Silver Spring
Lot's of uncut high bushes and growth at the recently completed area of the ICC intersection 29 and Fairland Rd. Also, no marked sidewalk for pedestrians to cross from one side to the other at the intersection of Route 29 and Fairland Rd. Would also appreciate installation of sidewalk at the intersection of Old Columbia Pke and Fairland Road. Very dangerous for those coming home at night from the bus at Old Columbia Pike. Many are simply walking adjacent to moving cars, etc. Please pass this on to the proper agency.Thanks.

Mr. Leggett: Thank you for your comment. On the question of no marked sidewalk for pedestrians to cross from one side to the other at intersection of ICC/29 and Fairland Road, I presume you mean marked crosswalks instead of sidewalks. Yes, there are no marked crosswalks at the intersection. However, US 29 (Colesville Road) is State-maintained roadway. As such, the traffic signal at the intersection is designed and administered by Maryland State Highway Administration (MSHA). Therefore, I will forward your request to MSHA requesting that they conduct an investigation and respond to you directly with their findings and recommendations. On the issue of a sidewalk at the intersection of Old Columbia Pike and Fairland Road, I will have the County’s Division of Transportation Engineering schedule an on-site investigation to determine the feasibility for installing sidewalks at this intersection. Prior to starting the entire process, requires additional information to help identify the proposed site to build sidewalks. DTE will notify you regarding the investigation results and whether or not the proposed sidewalk is recommended. I appreciate your bringing this to our attention. Let’s see what can be done.


John from Eastern Montgomery
Mr. Leggett, Please explain to me why it is OK to GIVE a ton of money to Costco and Lockheed and then turn around and try and institute an EMS fee? Shouldn't my tax dollars be spent on Emergency services and NOT handouts to billion dollar corporations? In regards to Costco, please do not use the "jobs" excuse. Yes, Costco will bring a few hundred jobs to the area, but these are not exactly very high paying jobs. The majority of Costco employees are stocking shelves and probably not making a living wage. So, you want to bring a few hundred people to Montgomery who are going to be employed by Costco AND also be requesting welfare/food stamps/housing? How does that make sense? I can kind of understand the lockheed martin thing, since a majority of those workers are going to be middle class. I can just not see any good to Costco coming to Wheaton. I understand the warehouse is a done deal, but the traffic in Wheaton is going to be a nightmare on the weekends. Take a look at the Costo pa

Mr. Leggett: Thank you for your question. First, of course, the Emergency Transportation Insurance Reimbursement Act would allow the County to recover approximately $18 million a year in Emergency Medical Services costs from insurers and the federal government, at no cost to County residents -- whether or not they have health insurance. County residents would not even get a bill. The County would accept the reimbursement offered as payment in full and would waive all co-pays and deductibles. County residents would not pay a dime. And no increase in insurance rates – that’s because the costs of emergency services – a minuscule bit of health care costs -- are already included in the premiums determined regionally by insurers and already paid by County residents. Either you allow the County to request reimbursement from insurance companies and the federal government from premiums already paid to them -- just as nearly every other jurisdiction in the region does – or you raise taxes higher, or you cut services already reduced severely over the past five years. Contrary to your position, the EMS Reimbursement helps to potentially reduce taxes. On Costco, plainly put, this is a money-maker, not a money-taker for the County. Bringing Costco to fill the now five-year-long hole left at Westfield Mall when Hecht’s went out of business is first and foremost about jobs. The initiative would produce 475 permanent jobs at a time when the County has several thousand jobs due to the economic downturn. It would create an additional 250 to 300 construction jobs and it would leverage more than $50 million more in private investment. Additionally, the County would receive property taxes, income taxes, and impact fees – and the State of Maryland would receive sales tax – from the Costco operation. Right now the empty Hecht’s is generating zero tax dollars and it is a blight on the rest of the shopping mall which therefor reduces tax dollars that we otherwise receive for the thriving shopping center. This development would strengthen the County’s vision for Wheaton. But the success of that revitalization vision – and private investment in that vision -- rests on the mall being successful. Westfield businesses and many other businesses in Wheaton are already supportive of the Costco possibility. Why? Because every business in Wheaton needs more customers, more boots on the ground, more patrons. And, in central Montgomery County alone, Costco has more than 12,000 business members. Small businesses shop at Costco for supplies the same way contractors depend on Home Depot for the materials they need. In fact, 92 percent of businesses in central Montgomery County have Costco memberships. The County’s economic development strategy is broad – including major efforts on expanding our biotech efforts, work to retain and expand federal job presence, and forging new ground in green technology. Incentives are only one factor among many in corporate decisions to locate. We continue our efforts on a broad array of opportunities. The investment by the County in a successful company such as Costco would create jobs, strengthen Wheaton revitalization, and provide individuals and small businesses with increased consumer choices. And Montgomery County needs all kinds of jobs at this time of economic downturn, including retail jobs, in order to meet the varying employment needs of our residents. It would be a money-maker that would strengthen the County’s tax base and, thus, help maintain critical County services. We would more than recover the $4 million investment in a few years. Regarding Lockheed Martin, we are enforcing a law that was designed to collect taxes from hotels open to the public. In this case Lockheed operates a closed facility for their staff for training and they stay on their premises for a few days at the company. Unfortunately, the law intended for regular commercial hotels has been interpreted to inc


Edith from Silver Spring
County Executive Leggett do you think it would be possible to oversee Housing Opportunities Commission - HOC? Right now it appears they don't answer to anyone thus creating situations that are unbearable for residents that stand up to them as myself. I am aware they have a 'board,' but there not interested in the 'people' Thank you

Mr. Leggett: Thank you for your question. I believe the Housing Opportunities Commission has served a great purpose by helping to foster, promote and manage affordable housing in the County – affordable housing that is spread throughout the County and not concentrated. Their hard-working staff does a great job. HOC is governed by a Board of Directors appointed by the County Executive and confirmed by the County Council. Some say that HOC’s quasi-governmental status helps protect affordable housing initiatives and decisions from getting caught up in politics. There may be a point there. However, I have supported and do support folding HOC into the County’s Department of Housing and Community Affairs in order to eliminate duplication of efforts and make the work more effective and save money. To date the County Council has not agreed with that reform. Thanks for writing in.


Nancy from Bethesda-Chevy Chase
Let me preface by saying I understand the County faces budget shortfalls. However, being a non-driver (b/c of eyesight), Ride-On's infrequency and unreliability (particularly the former) have been extremely disheartening and frustrating to me, and no doubt to MANY others. I can't begin to tell you the number of times I have gone to the Giant at Georgetown Square, and come out just in time to see my bus fly by. This would not bother me if it weren't a half-hour between buses. That is why no one who has a choice really rides. When I was working the same thing applied over at Sumner Place getting the 23 back to Friendship Heights. Often I reported to the supervisors that the bus was early AT A TIMED STOP, which he said is never supposed to happen. In brief, despite the County's budget shortfalls, MoCo must lead the charge in public transit, which, yes, will include a short-term loss for a long-term gain. As I have told Ride-On for years: look at the European model. Where public transit is

Mr. Leggett: Thank you for your question. I'm sorry for your inconveniences with our Ride On system. I assure you that we remain committed to constant improvement of the system. Unfortunately, as you probablly know, the County has experienced several years of severe budget gaps which have required steep reductions in our budget. Our fiscal situation is improving and I have begun adding funds once again for Ride On route improvements. One significant tool Ride On introduced several weeks ago is a Smart Phone app for Apple and Android users called Ride On Real Time. This app will help riders by letting them know in real time when the bus will arrive at a specific site. This new system should reduce or eliminate the type of problem that you just described. Further, just yesterday I received the report of the Transit Task Force I appointed several months ago. The report contains valuable information and recommendations for improving the Ride On system and adding a major new rapid transit vehicle system which is affordable and can be constructed more quickly than fixed rail. Please be assured of my commitment to an efficient Ride On system.


Nancy from Bethesda-Chevy Chase
Another issue I wanted to address is the minimum 65 degrees rule. It seems to me that this was likely aimed at "slum lords" who try to turn off or cut way back on heat in the winter. Its effect though is to impact rental and even condo complexes in the spring when management is deiciding when to switch from heat to A/C. Granted units (using Parkside as an example) in the back on the ground level are much cooler than units on the top which get the direct sun all day. While it is unpleasant to be too cold, especially when bathing/showering, two things need to be pointed out: 1. One can always put on sweat shirts, grab a comforter in the evening, etc., but there is only so much one can take off even in one's own home! For the county to say that A/C is a "luxury" in this area is ludicrous. 2. Space air conditioners cost 10 times what space heaters do, so that is hardly equal either. All I ask is, given the change in climate, can we not bring some common sense into the equation by combining

Mr. Leggett: Thanks for your question. I know this is a concern for renters, especially when the weather flips back and forth, as it has, between cold and warm – sometimes on alternate days. I think the problem with making the change you suggest is the following. In multi-family apartment buildings with central heating and cooling, flipping back and forth between heating and cooling isn’t as easy as with thermostats in individual houses. In such multifamily properties, tanks must be drained and chillers activated to make a switch, requiring time (sometimes as long as three days) and money. Then, if the outside temperature flips again, a plumber has to be called in to do it again. Obviously, if the weather is especially erratic, this could occur several times. We will continue to look into this and see if there is some different approaches that can be taken that will address the interests of landlords and tenants. One of the big complaints we have had is from tenants who complain that landlords pass along excessive rent increases connected to operations of heatind and cooling.


Jill from Bethesda-Chevy Chase
Since the county insists that soccer fields are desperately-needed to meet growing demand, why is the county willing to dispose of the two regulation-sized fields at Rock Creek Hills Local Park in favor of a school when there are other options? How is the county planning on replacing these public amenities?

Mr. Leggett: Thank you for your question. As our population grows and the demand for services continues to expand, there are increasing demands placed on an ever smaller number of County-owned properties. This demand is creating the need to revisit the use of existing facilities. The decision to use Rock Creek Hills Local Park as a school was made by the Board of Education. There was the need for an additional middle school in that area and the School Board, apparently faced with few options, chose the Park as their best option to meet the needs of a growing student population. This Park was formerly a school site and therefore, the School Board has the right to reclaim the site. I understand the difficulties that such a change in land use can place on the surrounding community. I am sure the Board of Education will make every effort to involve the community as it plans the new school.


Ellen from Silver Spring
Are sound readings going to be taken in the neighborhoods surrounding the ICC now that the road is in use? Fairland Estates could use you help.

Mr. Leggett: Thanks for writing in. The short answer to the first question is no, there are no State plans to take sound readings in the neighborhoods surrounding the ICC, which is regulated only by the State of Maryland. The State Highway Administration’s view is that noise monitoring does not need to be done. The noise increases allowed and mitigation needs are discussed in detail in the Environmental Impact Statement. That information can be found on the project website at http://www.iccproject.com/feis-download.php. Detailed noise analysis can be found on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) page http://www.iccproject.com/deis.php or http://pdf.iccstudy.org/DEIS/pdf/tech_reports/nqtr.pdf While they say they will continue to discuss these issues with neighbors of the project, major changes are not anticipated. We will continue to monitor the situation and ask them for a reconsideration of their present policy related to noise.


Lisa from Not from Montgomery County
Do you still defend your decision to cut school construction funding, as the state said today it was the most crucial thing they could do as they increased construction funding?

Mr. Leggett: Thank you for your question. As County Executive, education continues to be my top priority and I continue to recommend extremely generous school construction budgets. In the next fiscal year, I recommended more than $272 million for school construction, modification and major maintenance projects. For the next six fiscal years, my recommendation totals over $1.35 Billion. While this is a marginally lower level than the last CIP, it still represents significant long term growth in the school construction budget. Although I welcome the slight increase of $3 million over our projection, this is a small sum in the totality of our six-year budget of $1.35 billion. Also keep in mind that two years ago I had an unprecented increase in school construction. This increase was larger than any amount recommended by any County Executive in the County's history. Having done that, and recognizing the needs of other County construction requirements such as recreation centers, libraries, and public safety facilities, I thought it was appropriate to hold the school construction budget close to it's current funding levels.


cathy from Rockville
Is the County Executive actually on this Chat, or are his staff members answering the questions?

Mr. Leggett: Thanks for your question. I am indeed on-line answering these questions just as I personally go out to town hall meetings on a regular basis. It is very important to me to maintain contact and dialogue with the people of Montgomery County who I am privileged to serve. Call me right now at 301-919-9372.


Nicolle from Silver Spring
Hello! I just moved to Wheaton and would love to see more bicycle infrastructure here. I don't have a car and get around by walking, biking, and scootering, and have been surprised and disappointed to see the lack of bike racks and bike lanes around Wheaton. Can we please get bike parking racks at the shopping plazas on University Blvd, Amherst Ave, and Georgia Ave? I'd love to use real U-racks instead of signposts. If there is a better way that I could help this to happen, please let me know. Thanks!

Mr. Leggett: Thank you for your question. We work to make the County a safer and more inviting place for bicyclists in various ways. For example, through our larger capital projects, master planned bicycle facilities are included. On-road bicycle facilities such as bike lanes are also included during routine maintenance resurfacing efforts. Thus, when roadways are scheduled to be resurfaced, it is an opportunity to modify existing lane markings and provide added space for cyclists with wider curb lanes, shoulders and/or bike lanes. We also have the Annual Bikeways Program that implements smaller scale projects that are largely requested from the community. Currently, in the Wheaton area we have the Georgia Avenue Corridor Metro Access Route from Hewitt Avenue to Forest Glen Road. This will provide additional signing and guidance for cyclists along Georgia Avenue. Montgomery County has the Bicycle Rack Installation Program where requests are considered on a first- come, first-serve basis. Priority for bike rack installation includes public buildings such as libraries, schools, community and recreational centers. Requests can be made by completing the Bike Rack form on the County Department of Transportation website. Also, just this month, the County received a State grant to expand our bikesharing program, already in Rockville and the Shady Grove area, to Friendship Heights, Bethesda, Silver Spring, and Takoma Park. This system of short-term rentals allows users to rent bicycles in one place and return them to another location. Thank you for your question.


Rico from Silver Spring
What are the plans to repeal the bag tax? I've seen massive amounts of dog feces and dropped groceries as a result of residents not having access to the bags once provided with their groceries. It's a little excessive and needs to be repealed or I'll probably be looking into moving my home and business into Northern Virginia where they respect liberty.

Mr. Leggett: Thank you for your question. I have no plans to repeal the bag tax. I continue to believe that it is an important tool in our efforts to protect the environment, espcially our streams, rivers and the Bay. I understand your frustration. Change takes time. I believe that most people agree with our commitment to the environment and will make changes in their habits to help achieve this goal. People have already made the change just like in other jurisdictions. I am certain that future generations will appreciate our efforts even more. We respect liberty here in Montgomery County. I hope that you remain in the County but if you decide to relocate to Virginia because of a bag law that you could avoid by bringing a bag or simply paying a nickel per bag, I wish you well in finding the liberty you seek in Virginia.


Karl from Up County
Mr. Leggett: I would like to thank you for your leadership during the tough times we face. However I have some question as how you can allow the school system to give raises out when there is such a pension burden facing the County school system. In the past you have mentioned you have no control over what they (MCPS) does with over half the County budget. Perhaps the citizens are voting for the wrong positions and should elect the school supervisor. You must provide leadership in this area, the County is headed down a revenue hole that we will not be able to dig ourselves out of. I look forward to you taking this challenge and protect our County’s future.

Mr. Leggett: Thank you for your question and for your support. I urged MCPS and the elected School Board to follow my lead in giving $2,000 lump sum payments to employees in lieu of COLA and increments. They chose to do otherwise. I would point out that recent “Maintenance of Effort” legislation passed in Annapolis will basically “wall off” the County’s ability to effect schools’ spending, which is half the County’s budget, even giving the state an automatic “intercept” of County revenues if the County fails to meet the new “Maintenance of Effort” funding levels. I will continue my efforts to create greater efficiencies and greater accountability from our School Board and other County officials.


Curt from Up County
What are yout thoughts on Council Bill 16-12 that would seemingly tie the County's utilities hands as it relates to tree trimming? We have so many power loss problems that are attributable to citizens reluctance to allow the utility companies to not just trim but remove trees near power lines. Now this bill will make it even harder for the utility companies to do their job and trim and cut trees to ensure that citizens dont lose power during storms.

Mr. Leggett: Thank you for your question. There is now doubt that Pepco must improve its maintenance program which includes tree trimming. Of course this requires a balanced approach to trimming trees that enables trimming but limits the damage to the trees and the canopy which communities desire. My staff is working with the County Council to help craft a legislative response that seeks to achieve this balance.


Keith from Silver Spring
Are there any internships or jobs in place for recently graduated college students? if so how can a student find out this information?

Mr. Leggett: Thank you for your question. The County has a job classification called, "Public Administration Intern". You can apply for this online through the County's website at the Office of Human Resource's job site -- http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/careers -- This position is a general position that various County departments can use for entry level positions that require a college degree.


Mr. Leggett: Unfortunately, that's all we have time for today. Thanks for your questions. I hope you will join me again in June for the next Live Discussion. Please have a safe and happy Memorial Day.


 

Last edited: 4/11/2011