montgomery in focus masthead
May 2010

 

Budget Woes Worsen - back to top

mounted police officersOver the past weeks, we've received two pieces of bad news--that income tax distributions were significantly lower than projected and that Wall Street rating agencies had some concerns about our fiscal situation.  As a result, two weeks after he proposed an operating budget for next year, the County Executive sent us a new set of budget proposals.  He now proposes doubling the energy tax, raising the cell phone tax, and making an additional $65 million in cuts to County services and programs.

At this point, we are looking at laying off more than 400 employees, instituting furloughs and reducing County services across the board with especially significant and drastic cuts in parks, recreation and libraries.

The phone calls and e-mails continue to flood our offices--from parents whose children will no longer receive specialized services for disabilities; from employees frightened of losing their jobs; from people who depend on Ride On to get to work each day; and from small business owners who fear additional taxes and fees will put them out of business.  We are acutely aware of the real and personal impacts our budget decisions have on residents and employees.

As we continue to work through this extremely difficult budget situation, the likes of which we have never seen before, Councilmembers have committed to these four goals:

  1. fairness to taxpayers
  2. equitable treatment of all employees
  3. maintenance of a 6% reserve
  4. adherence to a balanced fiscal plan.

To follow along, go to the Council's Web page and click on "budget update."  We will pass a final budget on May 27.


 

New Montgomery Business Development Corporation - back to top

On the good news side--this week I introduced a bill to form a new Montgomery Business Development Corporation (MBDC) that will have the County's Department of Economic Development join with the influence of private businesses to promote business development in the County.

This proposal evolved from my pledge to make economic development the top priority during my term as Council president. Councilmembers Roger Berliner, Valerie Ervin, Mike Knapp, George Leventhal, Nancy Navarro and Duchy Trachtenberg are co-sponsors of the bill.

The nation, and the Washington region, are currently in an economic era unprecedented in our lifetimes.  Throughout this downturn, Montgomery County has remained one of the nation's economic engines, and we have to send out the word that we are open for business. It is one thing for government to send that message, but when we team with some of the nation's, and the world's, top companies to roll out the welcome mat, it becomes quite an inspiring invitation. That is what we are creating with the MBDC.

The bill sets the mission of the MBDC to "develop the vision for the County's economic future and to recommend and advocate for legislative and regulatory changes that move the culture and regulatory environment so that business success can create that vibrant and growing economy."

Through the MBDC, we are going to be deferring to the business community on how to handle important issues. I am not going to tell this group what to do. I am going to listen to what it recommends.

I'm glad that business leaders throughout the county joined me on April 26 at Discovery Communications World Headquarters in Silver Spring to announce the program.


 

40 Environmental Accomplishments - back to top

On the eve of the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, Ike Leggett and I unveiled a list of 40 of Montgomery County's environmental accomplishments over the years.

Not everyone knows that we've been a national leader in protecting the environment for decades. Frankly, we sometimes take for granted the truly innovative and meaningful policies and programs we have instituted over the years. These 40 achievements have changed the course of our local history and have inspired jurisdictions across the country.

For instance, last year, the County exceeded its 2010 farmland preservation goal, with 71,500 acres now protected through easements. An additional 35,500 acres of land has also been preserved as local parks which protect stream valleys and have virtually eliminated flooding damage to homes. Together with the Agricultural Reserve, these parks and other easements are protecting nearly 50 percent of the County.

We also announced that eight new businesses were certified under the County’s Green Business Certification Program in response to a challenge to become a "green" business by Earth Day. The newly certified companies joined 11 others already certified as green by demonstrating their commitment to environmental stewardship, conservation of energy and water, carbon footprint reduction, and waste reduction and recycling. Check out a description of what the certified green businesses have done to earn their certification.

Montgomery County: 40 Environmental Accomplishments Since the First Earth Day in 1970:

  • Created the Department of Environmental Protection to protect and enhance the quality of life in the community through the conservation, preservation, and restoration of the environment, guided by the principles of science, resource management, sustainability and stewardship.
  • Adopted Environmental Codes on: air quality control, energy management and policy, erosion and sediment control, stormwater management, forest conservation and trees, noise control, pesticides, pond safety, quarries, sewage, sewage disposal and drainage, and solid waste.
  • Enforces laws to address illegal dumping and air quality, noise and water pollution violations.
    Was one of the first local jurisdictions to establish and implement innovative strategies to protect and improve the County’s water and groundwater.
  • Is one of a handful of local governments in the nation to monitor water quality using biological indicators, in addition to water chemistry, to assess stream health and guide watershed restoration efforts.
  • Completed scores of projects to restore and improve water quality through a comprehensive watershed approach that combines restoration of stream banks and in-stream features with stormwater pond retrofits. This approach provides both ecosystem benefits and stormwater pollution control.
  • Protects the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay by treating wastewater at advanced state-of-the-art wastewater treatment plants. Eighty percent is treated at the Blue Plains Wastewater Treatment Plant, the largest, advanced wastewater treatment plant in the world. A significant portion of the remaining wastewater is treated at the Seneca Wastewater Treatment Plant, which also helps protect Seneca Creek.
  • Was the first in Maryland to create a stormwater utility (through the Water Quality Protection Charge) to maintain and retrofit stormwater structures and protect water quality.
  • Has been a leader in Maryland to promote stormwater management designs that use on-site filtering of rainfall runoff to reduce stormwater pollution. To mimic natural processes and enhance ecosystems, environmental-site design uses vegetation to filter and absorb rainfall runoff into the ground, which reduces stormwater pollution on residential, institutional and commercial properties.
  • Is a national leader in offering technical assistance and rebates to encourage environmental-site design installations on private property. Residential, commercial and institutional land owners are encouraged to control stormwater pollution through the County’s RainScapes Program.
  • Designated Special Protection Areas in County law to preserve areas with high-quality or unusually sensitive water resources or other environmental features.
  • Was a key advocate for a regional water conservation compact that has greatly improved the Washington area’s ability to deal with droughts and balance human needs with the ecological needs of the Potomac River.
  • Led the effort to establish a regional partnership to implement comprehensive, innovative strategies to protect and improve air quality.
  • Was one of the first jurisdictions in the country to set a goal of reducing 80 percent of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The Montgomery County Climate Action Plan outlines strategies to achieve this goal.
  • Established the first Code Red/Ride Free policy in the Washington region, offering free bus trips during the worst ozone days to reduce vehicle emissions.
  • Purchased nearly 300 alternative fuel buses, vans and trucks to reduce air pollution and reduce
    consumption of imported fuels. Nearly one-half of the County’s bus fleet is hybrid diesel/electric or runs on compressed natural gas.
  • Strengthened local air quality laws and developed the resources necessary to address indoor air quality and health concerns.
  • Negotiated collection contracts with private waste haulers to use trash and recycling trucks powered by compressed natural gas (CNG) to reduce harmful air emissions, with more CNG trucks being phased in.
  • Purchases 30 percent of energy as clean, wind power, one of the highest in the nation. Other County agencies will soon purchase 20 percent as clean energy.
  • Established property tax credits for energy-efficiency and renewable-energy projects.
  • Established monetary rewards for purchasing clean energy or renewable energy certificates, or generating on-site clean energy.
  • Public Schools (MCPS) are now installing geothermal energy for all new schools and modernizations, saving 30 percent over conventional energy systems. MCPS also has solar arrays at eight schools, and expects to replace up to seven megawatts of power with solar energy by 2017.
  • Public water and sewer utility, the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC), is the largest local government direct purchaser of clean energy in the United States (at the time of purchase). WSSC purchases one-third of its energy requirements from a wind farm, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 90 million pounds per year.
  • Converted traffic signals from incandescent to Light Emitting Diode (LED) lights, resulting in an energy savings of 220 percent.
  • Even with Montgomery’s population is reaching the one million mark and growing, has the country’s most successful farmland and open space preservation program (known as the Agricultural Reserve Program), according to the Natural Resources Defense Council and the American Farmland Trust, with 93,000 acres preserved (including 71,500 acres of agricultural easements).
  • Preserved an additional 35,500 acres of land as local parks, protecting stream valleys and virtually eliminating flooding damage to homes. Environmental guidelines help protect streams and wetlands with forested buffers. Agricultural preservation, federal/state/local parks, and various easements are protecting almost 50 percent of the County.
  • Established a forest conservation law that has resulted in 10,000 acres of forest conservation easements and an active reforestation program. A Forest Preservation Strategy outlines ways to maintain and expand the County’s forest canopy.
  • Is one of only a handful of jurisdictions nationwide to establish local legislation that requires new multi-family and non-residential construction to be LEED certified (or equivalent).
  • Local legislation requires County buildings to be LEED silver (or equivalent), and all new school construction or modernizations also have that goal.
  • Developed a Green Business Certification Program in partnership with the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce, to formally recognize businesses and others that have taken voluntary steps to protect, preserve and improve the environment.
  • Closed the Gude and Oaks landfills, which did not meet modern environmental standards.
  • Installed landfill gas-to-energy technology to recover methane gas and generate energy at closed landfills.
  • Began Countywide residential recycling programs that recycle more than 50 percent of residential waste generated.
  • Passed legislation that requires commercial and multi-family properties to recycle.
  • Opened a resource recovery facility to convert waste to energy. The Montgomery County Resource Recovery Facility is the first publicly-owned one to install air pollution control technology that cut nitrogen oxides emissions in half.
  • Operates a Household Hazardous Waste facility to keep harmful household products out of the waste stream and prevent environmental and/or human health impacts.
  • Began the Ecowise Program to provide safe hazardous waste disposal to small commercial generators.
  • Established the Dickerson Compost Facility as an essential component of County efforts to recycle yard trim.
  • Recycles nearly 70 percent of land clearing and construction and demolition debris.
  • Provides innovative reuse and recycling programs through online exchanges and collections of bicycles, clothing and textiles, electronics, scrap metal, used vegetable oil and other materials.

 

Green Tip of the Month - back to top

Are invasive plants in your yard?  Non-native invasives crowd out native plants and could be spreading from your yard.  Check out Friends of Sligo Creek's RIP (Removing Invasive Plants) project.

It aims to inform residents about the impact of invasive plants in Sligo Creek Park and to work with residents in removing them. Removal events are held throughout the year following a plant calendar. The group says it needs everyone’s help to control invasive plants.


 

Golden Shovel Awards Presented - back to top

The Golden Shovel Awards recognize County residents who made extraordinary efforts to help others during a winter in which the area received its largest overall snowfall in history.

I initiated these awards in 2003 to honor residents who lace up their boots to help neighbors shovel out after a snowfall.  This year's winners committed selfless acts that not only helped their neighbors, but united entire communities.  It's important to recognize these efforts because our residents are the pride and joy of the county. 

And the Golden Shovels went to:

  • Gary Biggs--Silver Spring (nominated by Jane O'Dell)
  • The Buell Family--Rockville (nominated by Ana Volper)
  • The Busciano Family--Silver Spring (nominated by Julie Statland)
  • Bill Flannery--Silver Spring (nominated by several neighbors)
  • Jeff Hopkins--Takoma Park (nominated by Randy Cohen)
  • Duke Ikeda--Gaithersburg (nominated by Marvin Elster)
  • Jay Jones--Gaithersburg (nominated by several neighbors)
  • Students from MC*LEAD--Rockville (nominated by Nik Shushka)
  • Tim Myers and Yoko Nagasaka--Silver Spring (nominated by Paul Sladen)
  • The Neal Family--Bethesda (nominated by Joseph and Sheila Silberstein)
  • David Perdue--Silver Spring (nominated by Tina Sandri)
  • Jeff Raines--Montgomery Village (nominated by John Padan and Ragnhild Van Alstyne)
  • The Rivera Family--Silver Spring (nominated by Elaine and Hal Stein)
  • Bobby Stockman--Gaithersburg (nominated by Chris Moore)
  • Paul Tamul--Germantown (nominated by Gaylen Garnand DiSanto and Peter DiSanto)
  • Thomas Thoma--Silver Spring (nominated by Helen Maurer)
  • Jeff Truesdale--Gaithersburg (nominated by his daughter, Suzanne)
  • Bill Wallish--Silver Spring (nominated by neighbor Florence Rand)
  • Daniel Whiting--Kensington (nominated by several neighbors) 

 

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.


Council Honors 40 Environmentalists - back to top

In honor of Earth Day, I solicited nominations, and the County Council recognized 40 environmentalists who are the face of the significant work toward better climate policies, energy efficiency, renewable energy and other environmental goals that Montgomery County has achieved in the past 40 years. They include current and historical policy makers, community activists, farmers, scientists and others with a passion for the environment. They are largely responsible for the great quality of life in Montgomery County, and we are indebted to them.

The awardees (in alphabetical order):

The Abramson Family has been constructing green buildings since the 1960's beginning with a mixed-use development called The Blairs. The family continued its green practices with The Tower Building, the first green office building in the County, and Blair Towns, the first LEED certified rental apartments in the United States. In 2008, the family co-developed 2000 Tower Oaks Boulevard, the first and largest multi-tenant commercial office property to achieve LEED Platinum designation in the metropolitan region. Their business is 100 percent carbon-neutral and has been recognized nationally by the EPA and DOE for its achievements in Green Power purchasing.

Anne Ambler is a long-time County environmental advocate and former chair of the Montgomery County Sierra Club. She has served on a County task force aimed at improving implementation of the Forest Conservation Law and as president of the Neighbors of the Northwest Branch of the Anacostia River, an organization which protects, promotes and restores the water quality of the Northwest Branch Watershed.

Ron Balon was Montgomery County Public Schools' energy manager and led key initiatives such as creating and expanding the School Energy Response Teams, dramatically improving the efficiency of schools and overseeing purchases of clean energy and deployment of on-site photovoltaic solar arrays on a number of schools. His projects embedded an environmental ethos into the youth of Montgomery County.

Ginny Barnes has led grassroots water quality and stormwater management efforts for 20 years. She has served on the Legacy Open Space Program, the C & O Canal Stewardship Task Force, the Forest Conservation Task Force and the Forest Conservation Advisory Group to bring about good environmental policies Countywide. She is known for spearheading efforts to maintain the "green wedge" within the County.

Arlene Bruhn championed revisions in Maryland's Roadside Tree Law that protects trees during development or redevelopment of property. She has advocated for legislation to conserve street trees in Montgomery County to ensure that neighborhoods are pleasant and walkable, and she has called attention to the interface between tree health and stormwater runoff.

Diane Cameron is a leader of the Storm Water Partners Network, which is devoted to protecting and restoring the waters in the County. She currently works on implementing the County stormwater permit, one of the most progressive such permits in the country, and training citizens to restore the Anacostia River to vibrant health. She is currently the Director of the Audubon Naturalist Society Conservation Program.

Rachel Carson is considered the mother of the modern environmental movement. She authored the controversial book, Silent Spring, which denounced the indiscriminate use of chemicals and pesticides in agriculture and the environment as a whole. After Silent Spring, she received many honors for her contributions to the scientific and literary communities. Although Ms. Carson died in 1964, her legacy has continued to inspire leaders throughout the decades.

Carol Carter has been the primary leader of the County’s landscape beautification awards program for 23 years. As a member of the Keep Montgomery County Beautiful Task Force, she helped create in 1986 the concept for recognizing landscaping efforts by residents, community associations and commercial operations. She has kept the entranceway to her own community beautiful since 1974.

Jimmy Clifford founded the Building Lot Termination Program, building on the success of the Transfer Development Rights Program, which focuses development in designated areas while preserving farmland. A no-till farmer, he has championed numerous agricultural preservation initiatives.

Margaret and Morrill "Don" Donnald oversaw numerous nature programs at Adventure, a nature and research facility administered by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission. The Donnalds and a host of volunteers carried out a bird banding program that investigated bird migration from 1972 to 1995 and banded more than 98,000 birds of 154 species.

David Feldman is the executive director of Bethesda Green, an initiative to make Bethesda more environmentally friendly. He also is CEO of the Livability Project, a firm dedicated to helping communities develop sustainability initiatives. He combines his previous economic development and business experience to innovatively further environmental and community development.

Neal Fitzpatrick serves as executive director of the Audubon Naturalist Society of the Central Atlantic States. He has served on the Maryland State Water Conservation Committee and the Attorney General's Environmental Advisory Committee. Through his work with Audubon, he has championed stormwater runoff regulations, habitat and greenspace preservation, and fisheries protections.

Sally Gagné is a founding member and first president of the Friends of Sligo Creek, a local non-profit dedicated to the protection of the Sligo Creek Watershed. The original "weed warrior," she began her advocacy after noticing the large numbers of invasive plants surrounding the creek. She also authored North Hills of Sligo Creek - History, People and Surroundings.

Seth Goldman is president and TeaEO of Honest Tea, an organic, fair trade beverage company that has been a leader in promoting green business practices in Montgomery County. He co-founded Bethesda Green, a sustainability initiative that promotes eco-friendly practices and incubates emerging green businesses.

Gilbert Gude, a former Republican congressman from Montgomery County, championed environmental causes and introduced a bill to preserve the 185-mile Chesapeake and Ohio Canal and make it the Country's narrowest national park. He introduced many environmental bills in his tenure, including one to protect the Potomac River valley. In his later years, he wrote two books about the Potomac River.

Frederick Gutheim was known as the sage of Sugarloaf for his advocacy on behalf of the Agricultural Reserve and the historic preservation ordinance. He authored several books including The Potomac, which is a history of the river and its region.

Royce Hanson is the current and a former chair of the Montgomery County Planning Board. He has dedicated his professional life to land use planning and has been the face of smart growth in Montgomery County. He is most recognized as the architect of the Agricultural Reserve, 93,000 acres of protected agricultural land that plays a vital role in Countywide environmental conservation and has been emulated by jurisdictions nationwide.

Robert Harrigan spent decades as a scientist and conservation advocate who led efforts to preserve open space and waterways in Montgomery County. A national champion whitewater racer, he was a founder of the Potomac River Whitewater Race and, through the race, called attention to the need to preserve the Potomac River shoreline.

David Hauck is the current chair of the Montgomery County Sierra Club and has worked on the innovative Cool Cities/Cool Counties campaign that seeks to address climate change by encouraging local governments to commit to substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and document reductions through annual greenhouse gas inventories.

Jack Hewitt invested his career in acquiring and operating park lands for the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission. During his tenure, he was centrally involved in increasing the park system from fewer than 2,000 acres to over 20,000 acres. His innovative purchasing plan, which was a win-win for the park system and the land owners, made the program a tremendous success.

Joe Howard, as the longtime manager of the Lathrop E. Smith Center, has provided hands-on environmental experiences to thousands of school children, inspiring a generation of new environmental leaders. He also founded the county's Champion Tree Program, which recognizes trees that are the largest of their species.

Malcolm King was instrumental in the creation of Great Seneca State Park and Lois Green Conservation Park. Through his work with the Isaac Walton League, he was responsible for the formation and implementation of the Save Our Streams Program. He also played a pivotal role in bringing the National Headquarters of the Isaac Walton League of America to Montgomery County.

Barbara Knapp is a founding member and Secretary of the Maryland Chapter of the American Chestnut Foundation, which is working to restore this important tree, to the Appalachian forest. The chestnut tree had been decimated by blight. The chapter now has 15 orchards in Maryland, including several in Montgomery County.

E. Brooke Lee founded the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission to plan for orderly development and protection of the natural resources in Montgomery and Prince George's counties. He laid the foundation for one of the nation’s most successful park systems and made Montgomery County almost flood-proof by putting the floodplains into the park system.

Lonnie Luther manages L & M Farm, a family-owned beef operation that also produces poultry and sheep. He and his family have done an outstanding job of conserving the natural resources on their farm, and Dr. Luther has served as an example to other farmers and new residents in the Agricultural Reserve in the areas of land conservation and land management practices.

Sally McGarry has pioneered grassroots environmental activism in Montgomery County. A former board member of the Maryland League of Women Voters and the Montgomery County Conservation Corps, she has championed protection of the Chesapeake Bay, recycling, beautification of our roadways and public spaces and environmental education.

Caren Madsen, a Silver Spring resident and chair of the Montgomery County Forest Conservation Advisory Committee, has been a long-time advocate of preserving trees in the County and developing new legislative solutions to preserve the tree canopy. She works on national environmental issues in her position with NOAA, one of the County's federal partners.

Adrienne Mandel has spent the past quarter of a century serving as a legislative lobbyist for Montgomery County as a three-term State delegate representing District 19, and now as a Commissioner of the WSSC. Her career has been marked by strong advocacy for a clean and healthy environment. As a delegate, she sponsored more than 35 pieces of environmental-related legislation.

John Menke served as a member of the Montgomery County Council and head of the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection. Major accomplishments include legislation for the first County energy conservation requirements, support for Metro and establishment of the integrated solid waste system including recycling and advanced waste to energy conversion.

Steven Morrison personally assumed the mission of protecting and preserving the Matthew Henson Trail in Silver Spring. Recently, he and his team of volunteers removed more than two tons of trash from the trail including a toilet bowl, more than 100 tires, a refrigerator, auto parts and hundreds of beverage containers.

Jane Nishida serves as co-chair of the Montgomery County Sustainability Working Group that coordinates the County's sustainability practices and presented the County’s first Climate Protection Plan. She is the former secretary of the Maryland Department of the Environment and former executive director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

John Parrish is a botanist/ecologist, specializing in botanical research and environmental education. He recently published a compilation of the native woody plants of Montgomery County in the botanical journal, Marilandica, as well as a compilation of the native flora of the Sligo Creek Watershed for the Friends of Sligo Creek. He continues to speak out for the protection of the county’s last remaining natural areas.

Neal Potter was the Montgomery County Executive from 1990-94 and a long-time member of the County Council. While on the Council, he sponsored bills to establish the Montgomery County Conservation Corps. He authored Council-sponsored State legislation on taxation, farmland preservation and farmland assessment. He also served as co-chair of the Metropolitan Washington Coalition for Clean Air and received of the Audubon Naturalist Society's Legislator of the Year Award.

Mike Rubin orchestrated a joint land protection effort that included the State of Maryland, the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, Montgomery County, the Trust for Public Land and himself. At 800 acres, the resulting Hoyles Mill Conservation Park represents the largest single land preservation acquisition in the County.

Robert Schueler was one of the first generation of wildlife biologists in the country and an active member of Trout Unlimited. He had a passion for restoring the brown trout population to the Paint Branch Watershed. Through several decades of testimony at public meetings, technical comments and continuous advocacy with County and state agencies, he left an enduring legacy that trout and streams matter in Montgomery.

Kevin Selock is a leader in WSSC's efforts to improve the effluent quality of water leaving the utility's plants. He is currently involved in a feasibility study that is looking into the possible use of an anaerobic digestion process that could allow WSSC to lower its dependence on carbon-based fuels. He is also working with the Maryland MDE to develop water reuse regulations.

Lathrop Smith was a member of the Montgomery County Council, the Upper County Planning Commission and the Board of Education. Throughout his career, he was a staunch advocate for conservation. The Lathrop E. Smith Center for outdoor education in Rock Creek Regional Park, which is named for him, provides on-site, hands-on environmental education to the County’s total sixth grade population.

Robert Taylor spearheaded WSSC's effort to become the first local government agency in the region to directly purchase renewable energy. For the past 15 years, he has overseen the innovative wind power program that is both economically and environmentally friendly for WSSC, Montgomery County and the region.

Mike Tidwell is the founder and director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, a non-profit organization that raises awareness about global warming in the region. He has fought the trash incinerator in Dickerson and promoted alternatives to sprawl development. He lives in a green home that is often open to the public for educational purposes.

Sammie Young has served since 1984 on the Keep Montgomery County Beautiful Task Force that has developed the Adopt-a-Road anti-litter campaign, the Storm Drain Marking program, a beautification grant program and an annual landscaping and photography competition.