Montgomery in Focus Masthead
March 2012

 

Talk With a Teen Girl Today

Nancy Floreen with teen girlsIt is a good time to be a teen girl in Montgomery County. Nearly 91 percent of girls finish high school and about 989 of every 1,000 girls avoid pregnancy. That doesn't mean girls don't face real challenges though. Thanks to the Talk With a Teen Girl forum put on by Crittenton Services this week, we now have clearer insight into the real lives of girls who live in our community. I was proud to serve on the discussion panel with Crittenton participants and board members.

Right here in Montgomery County, 39 percent of girls (ages 2-18) were overweight or obese in 2011. Given that, it does not come as a surprise that a peer survey conducted by Crittenton participants identified eating healthy at school as their top concern. According to the teen panelists, schools do serve fresh fruits and vegetables, but there is competition to get them. They reported reaching the front of the lunch line only to find all of the healthy foods already had been taken. Incidentally, the girls insisted on serving only healthy snacks at the evening's event.

The panel also identified fights among young people as an important issue. I was shocked to learn that juvenile arrests for girls (ages 11-19) in Montgomery County tripled from 2008 to 2011. Dating violence and sexual stereotyping also made the list of concerns. Nationally, almost 1 in 10 adolescents report verbal, physical, emotional or sexual abuse from a dating partner each year.

While the vast majority of teen girls do not get pregnant before finishing high school, teen pregnancy remains a top issue among them. The statistics are not the same for all County girls, though. In fact, the birth rate for girls (ages 15-17) was 40 per 1,000 for Latinas; 15 per 1,000 for African-American girls; and 11 per 1,000 for white girls from 2007 to 1010.

Congratulations to panelists Dajane Barrett, Jennifer Blanco, Yuvi Hurtado, Eboni Johnson, and Edinam Kumazah as well as the other Crittenton participants who created the peer survey, analyzed the results and shared their insights with us. Representatives from several Montgomery County departments and agencies, Montgomery County Public Schools, non-profit organizations and the media all showed up to listen. I thank the girls for giving us a meaningful look into their lives.

And their biggest request of us?  Talk with a teen girl today. To find out what you can do, visit Crittenton Services.


 

Stop the Shift

State budget efforts are underway, and we in Montgomery County are very concerned about some elements of the Governor's budget. In particular, the plan to some of the costs of shift teacher pensions to counties would have a serious impact on our ability to provide programs and services. The Montgomery County Council issued a statement opposing the shift. If you want to help, contact your State legislators. Here's the full text of the statement:

Maryland State HouseMaryland's counties and school systems face a serious problem in Annapolis right now. Governor O'Malley has proposed shifting half the cost of teacher and other pensions from the state to the counties. The County Council, County Executive Ike Leggett, and Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS), as well as our employee organizations and our counterparts throughout the state, strongly oppose this shift. As Board of Education President Shirley Brandman said on Feb. 14, the shift "will have an immediate negative impact on the important services that our local governments provide."

For Montgomery County, the proposed pension shift would cost $47 million in Fiscal Year 2013 and $315 million over the next five years. The measures proposed to help counties pay the cost are inadequate and may not be enacted in any event.

How much is $47 million? It pays for the jobs of nearly 500 teachers, firefighters, police officers, and other vital County personnel. It is more than the County's general fund budgets for housing, transportation, and environmental protection combined. Our entire budget for libraries is less than $30 million.

The recessionary County budgets of the past three years required painful cuts that have seriously affected our residents and employees alike. For the coming year we face a further budget gap of $135 million and more hard decisions. If we now have to absorb another large burden from the state, there will be real damage to all our vital services - our schools, college, police, fire and rescue, safety net, libraries, parks, housing, transportation, recreation, and many others.

We understand that the state too must balance its budget and faces hard choices. But it is the state that sets the basic structure of pension benefits. In 2006 the state raised pension benefits by 29 percent, retroactive to 1998, but failed to provide sufficient funding. In fact, the state's financial support for the pension fund has fallen short for many years. Counties should not be asked to assume financial responsibility for costs not of their making. We have cut services to the bone, and we have reached our limit on taxes.

Elected officials and concerned organizations throughout the state, including the Maryland Association of Counties, the school community, and employee organizations, have joined together to convey this message to the Governor and the General Assembly. The coalition's web address is www.stoptheshiftmd.com. There you can learn how you can make a difference. The General Assembly will make its decision on the pension shift soon, probably by mid-March. The stakes for all our County residents are very high.


 

Save Time--Vote Early

The Primary Election is April 3. Not only is this the Presidential Primary, but candidates for Senate, Congress, the Circuit Court, the national conventions and the Board of Education are also on the ballot.

If April 3 is not conveniont for you, that's fine. Montgomery County will open five Early Voting Centers from March 24-29, from 10 a.m.-8 p.m. (Sunday hours noon-6 p.m.)  You can vote on the same voting equipment used on Election Day, but at a time that is more convenient.

Early Voting Centers are located at:

  • Bauer Drive Community Recreation Center, 14625 Bauer Drive, Rockville
  • Germantown Recreation Center, 18905 Kingsview Road, Germantown
  • Marilyn J. Praisner Community Center, 14906 Old Columbia Pike, Burtonsville
  • Montgomery County Executive Office Building, 101 Monroe Street, Rockville
  • Silver Spring Civic Building, 1 Veteran’s Plaza, Silver Spring  

During early voting hours, the Web site will display a scroll bar with wait times of each of the five centers, updated hourly.

Remember, you must register to vote by 9:00 p.m. on Tuesday, March 13. on order to vote in the Primary Election.


 

Fast Fact

Check out the video, Do You Know MoCo?, that Planning Director Rollin Stanley presented to us recently. It includes some fascinating facts about our county's changing demographics as well as ideas on how government can best respond to new trends.


 

Green Tip of the Month

If you've been looking for an opportunity to think globally but act locally in Montgomery County, then mark your calendars for the Community Clean Water Summit on March 3rd, 2012 (snow date March 11th) and show your support for the local streams in your watershed.

This summit, which will take place at the Silver Spring Civic Building located at 1 Veterans Place, Silver Spring and is near public transportation, is the perfect opportunity for networking and volunteerism. You will meet with local environmental leaders working to make Montgomery County a cleaner and healthier place to live and can join your neighbors to learn how to make a difference in the health of the County's streams.

For more information, visit mygreenmontgomery.org.


 

Let's Talk

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.