Virtual Town Hall Meeting Transcript (Tuesday, March 19, 2013)
Mr. Leggett: Welcome to today's Live Discussion. I look forward to your questions, so let us get started.
Louis from Up County
As you probably know, during the past six years, the Maryland State Department of Assessments and Taxation corrected tens of thousands of assessment records that were incorrectly coded to show investment properties and second homes as "principal residences". Based on the updated records, Baltimore City and other jurisdictions have going back and collected millions of dollars of improperly awarded homestead credits.
When will Montgomery County follow Baltimore City's lead and collect the many millions of dollars of homestead credits and $692 offset credits (which are also supposed to be awarded only to actual "principal residences") that have been improperly awarded during the past several years?
Mr. Leggett: Thank you for your question.
The good news is that we are already doing this. In fact, we have been working on it for the past year. We have identified 2,000 properties in the County that are incorrectly categorized as “owner-occupied.” We have collected $135,000 to date and expect to collect several million dollars before the process is completed.
Thomas from Rockville
This question is for public safety. Sir, what is the reasoning behind police officers (Rockville/Montgomery) doing traffic stops on busy roads like Veirs Mills or Rockville Pike during rush hours causing a bigger problem with commuter traffic? Would it not be better if the officers initiated the traffic stops on such roads, obtain the offenders drivers license and registration info and then have the offender pull to a side road or business? It just makes better sense to me. Having moved from Richmond, Va. to Rockville about 6 years ago, the aforemention procedures were utilized in the city when applicable. Your feed back on this would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.
Mr. Leggett: Thank you for your question. I agree with you that our Officers should not impede or cause safety concerns when addressing violations. Officers have discretion where to initiate the traffic stop – there is no policy dictating exactly where it has to occur. There are many times that the offender pulls over immediately and the stop occurs on the busy roadway. The officer can tell the offender to pull to a side street or if he/she feels it is better to remain there, the stop will remain at the original location.
Officers are aware that the stop sometimes causes a traffic delay but there are reasons that might warrant remaining on the street such as better visibility if something were to happen. Officers are reminded to take traffic delays into consideration when conducting a traffic stop.
Francis from Up County
When will the report on the structural problems associated with the Silver Spring transit center be made available to the public? thank you.
Mr. Leggett: Thank you for your question.
As a matter of fact, right after this chat I am going over to the Council with the Silver Spring Transit Center report commissioned by the County Attorney. We will brief the Council first in closed session about possible claims the County may make on behalf of County taxpayers relating to the findings. Then the Council will go into open session to be briefed on the report. When they do, the report will be released for all to see -- about 3 p.m. this afternoon. The link will be
I will reserve going into detail until a little later. I will say that no one wants to get the Transit Center open quicker than County government. This report will be a comprehensive investigation of what needs fixing and how it can be fixed. I will move ahead to do just that, regardless of litigation that may result.
Rebecca from Silver Spring
I am interested to hear the exact date you plan to open the Silver Spring transit. I am not interested in excuses as to why you have failed to open the transit center to date, nor do I wish to hear why giving an open date is not possible. Please give the exact date the transit center will open. Please also explain how you plan to make up to the citizens of Silver Spring for the construction fiasco. Thank you.
Mr. Leggett: Thank you for your question. Unfortunately, we can't give you an exact date. This is a very serious matter which involves the safety of potential users that simply cannot be ignored. This afternoon, as I said before, we will receive a report that outlines what needs to be fixed. Due to the risk and safety matters involved, this is not something that conforms to a precise date. I will move expeditiously to implement what needs fixing, regardless of possible litigation.
John from Eastern Montgomery
I am interested to know why you and countless other politicians are ignoring the very strong voice of gun owners in Maryland? You have publicly stated that you support gun control measures, and the county council has passed a resolution that supports the governors legislation. On the Montgomery County "Engage" website, a question was asked about the impending gun control bills. Dozens and dozens of people posted that they are AGAINST the Governor's bills while there were maybe four people who were for it. Similarly, during the House Judicial Hearings on the Governor's bill (HB294), over 1300 people showed up to testify AGAINST the bill while 30 showed up to testify FOR it (The hearing lasted until 4 am, FYI). It's clear that Marylanders do not want these draconian gun control measures, but you and other politicians keep saying we do. So my question is, why are you for these bills when it's clear that the majority does not want them? When did the people's voice not matter anymore?
Mr. Leggett: Thank you for your question.
I served as an infantry captain in Vietnam and grew up in a hunting state, Louisiana.
I strongly support the Second Amendment and the right to bear arms. The challenges here are the type of weapon and tighter registration.
High-powered assault weapons, ammunition clips capable of discharging dozens of rounds in a few seconds, and armor-piercing projectiles belong in the hands of our armed forces and specialized law enforcement units, not in the hands of civilians. No one should be able to buy ammunition over the Internet. And our Police should not have to worry about being outgunned by the bad guys.
I believe we can adopt common-sense reforms and still protect the Second Amendment and the rights of those who use guns for sporting purposes.
Making it harder to get guns -- and especially certain kinds of guns – can help make weapons less accessible to troubled folks with mental health issues, people involved in domestic disputes, and children in gun-owning homes.
All public opinion polls on the issues of the assault weapons ban and background checks for all gun sales seem to indicate that two-thirds of Marylanders are in support – even more in Montgomery County. So I think most folks agree with my position.
Thank you for your question.
Marla from Mid County
What is taking so long for the rezoning of the old BAE/Vitro property in Aspen Hill. I love the new Kohl department store. I'm a senior citizen on fixed income and have a hard time getting around and would welcome a Walmart.
Mr. Leggett: Thank you for your question. I understand the community's desire to see redevelopment of this site, and have heard from a number of residents in that area that they would like to see greater shopping opportunities. I would too.
However, rezoning the old BAE/Vitro property in Aspen Hill will require a master plan amendment to the Aspen Hill Master Plan through Park and Planning, and ultimately, the County Council. Please understand that while I agree that creating more shopping opportunities on that site would benefit the Aspen Hill area generally, I, as County Executive have no official role in the planning or rezoning process.
Patrick from Up County
What is the county's most important unfunded transportation project?
Mr. Leggett: Thank you for your question. There are four transportation projects I consider critical to relieve traffic congestion and support growth in our County. The most important is in the hands of the State legislature and it is the need to raise revenue for the transportation fund so that the other three priorities can be completed. I have long warned that the transportation fund is inadequate to meet state and local needs. I have called for a gas tax increase to remedy this. Assuming there is more funding, the County has identified the Purple Line between Bethesda and Silver Spring; the Corridor Cities Transitway between Shady Grove and Clarksburg; and the Rapid Transit Vehicle(RTV)system as all critical to the future of our County. Each has been well studied and promises to address our transportation needs well into the future.
michael from Rockville
Is a law being considered in Montgomery County to ban panhandlers from begging on every corner? Permits could be given to non-profit groups, but as a new Maryland (Mont Co) resident, I don't appreciate strangers walking up to - and sometimes tapping on - my window or car, blocking the roadway and being aggressive to beg for money. Panhandling creates an unsafe and uncomfortable living environment. I have witnessed near accidents with begging in the road.
Mr. Leggett: Thank you for your question. I agree with you that this is a problem, and I believe that the status quo is not acceptable. I advocated for the General Assembly to pass State enabling legislation that would allow the County to pass a law to institute a permit process. I intend to introduce County legislation. I believe this would restrict the number of panhandlers, limit their locations, and mitigate the impact on traffic and safety.
Lee Koo from Up County
Why is Montgomery county not promoting additional river crossing to Virginia. Improving mobility and connectivity fosters better business and improves the quality of life for residents. This has been proven as success factor economically across the world for centuries now, still the county is turning a blind eye. Agreed that the county should protect farms and green spaces, but that cannot be deal breaker for mobility of people. The county should not submit to few rich and green loving folks for greater good of this county.
Mr. Leggett: Thank you for your question. Local communities in Maryland and Virginia have opposed an additional river crossing of the Potomac River between Point of Rocks and the American Legion Bridge. In Virginia, such a crossing would steamroller existing neighborhoods. In Montgomery County, such a crossing would, of necessity, slash through our 70,000 acre agricultural reserve, one of the County’s crown jewels and unique in the region. Studies have shown that such a crossing would not significantly reduce traffic congestion to that area.
Michelle from Silver Spring
What measures will be taken to enforce gun control, without stripping people of their right to medical privacy? Who will have access to these medical records?
When you go to answer these questions, please also bear in mind that there are several cases where clear abuse of power has been willfully perpetrated by the US government upon it's people. Several of these cases have been made public, and the 2nd amendment was put in place so as to insure that would be less likely to occur. Obama has even implemented an illegal law citing how he can have our citizens killed without due process. What reason do any of us have left to trust and believe in a government that is going down a rogue path?
Mr. Leggett: Thank you for your question. We must act to reduce the availability of assault-type weapons and ammunition and keep guns out of the hands of those who may use them to harm others.
Registration and background checks and greater support for people who are mentally challenged should be addressed as well.
We should be able to accommodate the privacy concerns of individuals with the need to keep weapons out of the hands of those who should not have them.
Sandra from Rockville
What does the change in resource coordination status mean for my adult son? Who do i call when we have questions that a resource coordinator would answer?
Mr. Leggett: Thank you for your question. For many years, the County government had a contract from the State of Maryland to provide resource coordination for people with developmental disabilities. The State recently decided to change this and provide a flat rate for each person receiving the service. The rate offered by the State is significantly below the rate they paid the County in the past and does not cover our costs to operate the program. We continue to negotiate with the State on this matter and hope to have it resolved soon. Should we be unable to continue in this service, we plan to work closely with the State, the new service provider and the clients to assure a smooth transition. Please be assured that the well being of your son -- and all of our sons and daughters -- is very important to me.
Daniel from Up County
Dear Executive Legget,
Why is the county not allocating any funds to build a library or recreational parks in the Clarksbrug or up-county area. Their are thousands of new residents moving to this area but why is nothing being done by the county to improve public services.
Mr. Leggett: Thank you for your question. Since I have become County Executive, I have been working to meet all the challenges that come from the rapidly growing population in many parts of the County. We have had to meet these challenges while also dealing with the effects on our revenues of the Great Recession. In fact, we have been adding a number of new facilities in the Upcounty and are planning others. Specifically, the Clarksburg library project was initially planned to be paid for from the revenues of a special development district. The Council recently eliminated that district. As a result, the funds for that project had to be fit into the County's long term construction plan. My director of Public Libraries is working to find a creative way to meet the needs of the Clarksburg community as quickly as possible. Our hope is that a solution can be developed in our next construction plan which will be released in January of next year. I have also been working to fund additional parks and recreation centers in the upcounty, opening up new or renovating existing recreation centers in two of the upcounty faciities. Road and transit projects in the upcounty have long been a priority of mine. The Corridor Cities Transitway must be funded by the State and Federal governments and I have been a dogged advocate for these funds. This transitway is vital to the residents and businesses of the upcounty -- and to our future economic development.
Holly Rodgers from Rockville
Why are pages of new restrictions being added to the Call n Ride program. These restrictions include not being able to use lawful methods of calling a cab for the poor, elderly, handicapped citizens of Montgomery County.
Mr. Leggett: Thank you for your question. The County is modernizing many of its functions. The Call N Ride program was recently modified to move from the older paper coupon books to "swipe cards." These smart cards are more convenient for users and enable the government to better monitor the activity in the Call N Ride program. The new system will also ensure that the services go to those people for whom they are intended. I'm sorry for the temporary inconvenience that this transition has caused you. I'm confident that once fully implemented, the new system will serve you better. In the budget I presented to the County Council just last Friday, I recommended a substantial increase in transportation for seniors including new fixed routes around senior centers and restoration of funds for mini trips in the Recreation Department.
Thank you for bringing your concern to my attention.
Richard from Mid County
What is the county doing about vacant, deteriorating homes? These buildings have reduced the quality of life and my desire to continue live in my neighborhood. But, my home will not sell easily or without a huge price reduction with these problems on my street. This is not an uncommon Montgomery County problem.
Mr. Leggett: Thank you for your question. Early on during the fiscal crisis, I directed our Department of Housing and Community Affairs (DHCA)to take a proactive approach to foreclosure assistance in our County, and to the problem of deteriorating properties.
DHCA stepped up and provided many County residents with foreclosure counseling and seminars for the public, thus decreasing the number of homes that would have entered foreclosure. In all, we've provided foreclosure counseling and support to over 13,000 residents.
Because vacant properties pose a number of potential problems for neighborhoods, DHCA also stepped up its code enforcement efforts in neighborhoods where there were a large number of foreclosures. In addition, they also work with the nono-profit sector to provide financial support to rehabilitate deteriorating properties throughout the County and they have had much success in this program.
If you suspect or know that a property in your neighborhood is vacant, and not being properly monitored and maintained by the owner or the representative of the owner, please contact the County's 311, and DHCA will inspect the property and initiate appropriate action.
I appreciate your comments.
Anonymous from Up County
As an up-county resident, I want to bring some legitimate and rather serious deficiencies to the county leadership.
1. Why is the county not promoting additional river crossings to Virginia. In this era of globalization, protectionism does not achieve any results. For any up-county citizen it is extremely difficult to get to the job centers and we feel like it is desperate plan by the rich folks and the tree-huggers closer to the river o cut-off access to Virginia (access to Dulles airport) and all the employment centers.
Why does the county not promoting business and additional transportation needs (roads) not transit to up county. MD-355 and MD-27 are a mess, instead of adding additional capacity to the roads the county installs additional speed cameras to make the life of the citizens more complex. In the community here everyone is waiting for an opportunity to move out of this county to other side of the river. I believe if the county does not promote business
Mr. Leggett: Thank you for your question. I appreciate that you view the job centers in Virginia as attractive, but as County Executive, I believe that my job is to ensure that Montgomery County is a vibrant and vital job center as well. To that end, I have been working hard to improve Montgomery County's ability to attract and retain businesses. At the height of the recession, I instituted a plan to alleviate some of the regulatory and financial burdens on our businesses. I have worked with private employers and the Federal government to identify policies and practices that make doing business in Montgomery County difficult and change those when it makes sense. In the last year or so, I have been working with the development community to identify ways to significantly improve the development review process so that the cost of development and resulting homes and businesses can be minimized. I have been a dogged proponent of additional revenues for transportation projects in Montgomery County, particularly for projects such as the Corridor Cities Transitway which would serve businesses and residents in the upcounty. I have argued at the State level against laws and policies that make it more difficult for our wealthier residents to remain in the State (and therefore, the County). When you look at the record of job retention, especially in the federal sector in biotechnology and small businesses, and our relatively lower unemployment rate, despite the recession the County has done remarkably well. We continue to be a AAA-bond rating County with quality schools, lower crime with excellent prospects for the future. I welcome your support in these areas and will continue to look toward the long-term future of our County.
Max from Up County
The Olney Library is still under construction, and we are eagerly looking forward to its reopening. Do you have any projections as to when that might happen? And can you tell us why the library was closed for more than a year before a contract was even awarded for the renovation?
Mr. Leggett: Thank you for your question. I anticipate that the library should be open for business in October of this year. I appreciate your patience and believe you will be pleased with the outcome of this project.
Mr. Leggett: Unfortunately, that's all we have time for today. My next Live Discussion will be May 21. I hope you will join me then.