Montgomery in Focus Masthead
August 2011

 

Teens Protest Proposed Curfew

teen doing t.v. interviewYoung people (and quite a few older people) came out in force to express their opposition to a bill to establish a youth curfew in Montgomery County. The bill, introduced by the County Executive and supported by the Police Department, is intended to address issues relating to increased gang activity, violence and crime involving minors. It would impose a curfew of midnight on weekends and 11:00 p.m. on weekdays for people under the age of 18.

There's a lot to think about in regard to this bill, and I expect we will have detailed discussions about it before taking any action. Regardless of whether this bill passes or how it may change during our deliberations, I must commend our youth for their civic engagement. Several teens spoke extremely eloquently at the public hearing, while dozens more supported them from the gallery. A few wrote us e-mails and thousands expressed their views via Facebook. To our civically active teens, I say: keep up the good work!

Our Public Safety Committee will take up the issue on September 15, and the full Council will consider it after that, so there is still plenty of time to let us know what you think.


 

County Files Brief in Pepco Investigation - back to top

Nancy FloreenDespite earlier reports that Montgomery County would withdraw its participation in the Maryland Public Service Commission's (PSC) investigation into Pepco's reliability, you can rest assured we are fully in the game, recently filing a brief in support of improving Pepco's service.

The 57-page brief argues that the PSC should declare that Pepco has been "imprudent" in operating an unreliable electric system in Maryland since at least 2005, and that the PSC should impose the following remedies:

  • Require that Pepco/PHI's shareholders, not Pepco's customers, bear the cost of improving the quality of its service to at least a "second quartile" reliability level; 
  • Consider reducing Pepco's allowed rate of return on equity and require Pepco to provide certain billing credits to its customers; and 
  • Ultimately, consider modifying Pepco's service territory or revoking Pepco’s authority to exercise its franchise.

On August 8, Montgomery County and all other parties may file additional reply briefs answering the arguments contained in each other's initial briefs.  The Public Service Commission then will review all the briefs in the hearing record and issue a written order deciding the case.


 

Chew on This: MCPS Food - back to top

Serving food that is both healthy and tasty (not to mention affordable) challenges not just parents but our school system too.

The food service program of Montgomery County Public Schools complies with or exceeds federal, state and local requirements for school food, and has implemented a variety of practices aimed at encouraging students to eat healthier foods. However, a report released today by our Office of Legislative Oversight also found that when it comes to encouraging healthy eating, the MCPS Department of Food and Nutrition Services DFNS) "has not pursued these practices as vigorously as some other school systems."

The report indicates that food service programs, although open to all MCPS students, serve mostly low-income students. MCPS data from the report also show that school meal participation levels are increasing and are close to reaching target school lunch participation rates.

Any MCPS student may purchase a school lunch or school breakfast. Students from low-income families earning up to 185 percent of the federal poverty level may qualify for free or reduced-price meals (FARMS). Overall, 58 percent of elementary school students and 29 percent of secondary school students participated in the School Lunch Program in Fiscal Year 2011. This reflected a slight increase from Fiscal Year 2010, when 54 percent of elementary and 28 percent of secondary school students participated.

FY11 data indicate that the School Lunch Program served an average of more than 57,000 meals per day. Of students enrolled in FARMS, 78 percent participated in the lunch program compared to 23 percent of students who were required to pay full-price for lunches.

The School Breakfast Program served an average of 21,000 meals per day, with half of these served in the 30 schools that participated in Maryland Meals for Achievement. Of students enrolled in FARMS, 36 percent participated in the breakfast program compared to five percent of students who were required to pay full-price for breakfast. mixed fresh vegetables

The report looked at ten trends in school food service practices aimed at encouraging healthy eating and increasing school food program participation. The report finds that MCPS engages to some degree in each of the practices. For example, to encourage healthy eating, DFNS offers a salad bar as part of the school lunch in Parkland Middle School, posts menu and calorie information in cafeterias and serves flavored milk with reduced sugar content. To increase participation in the School Breakfast Program, DFNS recently began serving free breakfasts to all students who qualify for FARMS, eliminating the 30 cent charge for a reduced-price breakfast.

The report also noted that MCPS received recognition from the USDA's Healthier US Schools Challenge program and the Physicians' Committee for Responsible Medicine for nutritious menus that exceed federal requirements.

However, the report also stated that some school districts have done more to encourage students to eat healthier foods. Examples from other jurisdictions include revising the menu to eliminate all processed foods, offering all-you-can-eat fruits and vegetables with school meals and offering in-classroom breakfast district wide.

Additionally, the report cites DFNS data that shows student satisfaction with the food served is not meeting the target set by DFNS, despite increasing participation levels. Specifically, DFNS has fallen short of its target of an 85 percent or higher satisfaction rating from parents or students.

Another factor the report considered was the financial aspect of the food service program. As an enterprise fund, DFNS is designed to be a self-sustaining operation. However, DFNS experienced a deficit in FY10, anticipates a deficit for FY11, and loses 50 cents for each free and reduced-priced lunch it serves.


 

Your Thoughts on the County Charter Wanted - back to top

Do you have a suggestion regarding the County Charter? If so, get your ideas to the Charter Review Commission by October 31.

The Charter is the constitutional framework for County government. Charter Section 509 provides for an 11-member Charter Review Commission to study the Charter and provide a report to the Council (scheduled for May of 2012). Any recommendations for possible Charter revisions would be considered by County voters in November 2012.

The Commission is requesting the views of residents, civic groups, organizations, County agencies, employees and other individuals on how County government operates and what Charter revisions could make government work more effectively. You can get a copy of the Charter by contacting the Council Office at 240-777-7900.

Send your submissions to: Charter Review Commission, Montgomery County Council, 100 Maryland Avenue, 5th Floor, Rockville, MD 20850. Or e-mail your comments and suggestions to the Commission at charterreview.commission@montgomerycountymd.gov.


 

Fast Fact - back to top

The Walter Reed National Military Medical Center opens September 15.  Starting in late 2011, the Maryland State Highway Administration will make several improvements to the roads around the medical center to accommodate the projected increase in traffic.  The following intersections are included:

  • Rockville Pike (MD 355) at Cedar Lane
  • Connecticut Avenue (MD 185) at Jones Bridge Road
  • Rockville Pike (MD 355) at Jones Bridge Road
  • Old Georgetown Road (MD 187) at West Cedar Lane

For more information about the Bethesda BRAC projects and an interactive timeline, visit the County's  BRAC website

If you'd like to know about non-driving options while all that disruption is in progress, Bethesda Transportation Solutions can help you find another, better way to get to work. The BTS website not only has information on public transit, biking and teleworking, it also holds commuter information days in office buildings around the downtown and, upon request, will come to your office to make an in-depth presentation.  


 

Green Tip of the Month - back to top

Check out the County's new online bike map, or if you prefer a traditional map, request one by e-mail from the County's commuter services office. 

To encourage more bicycle commuting, Montgomery County is providing free bike rack installation upon request at workplaces or other public locations.  Priority is given to sites with access to public buildings within County right-of-ways that are adjacent to schools, libraries, employment centers, recreational and civic buildings.


 

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 councilmember.floreen@montgomerycountymd.gov or call 240-777-7959 if you would like me to address a particular topic with your group.