Councilmember Nancy Navarro Newsletter - December 2010
News from Councilmember Nancy Navarro
|On December 6, 2010, I was inaugurated to my first 4-year term on the Montgomery County Council representing District 4. From left to right are: Council President Valerie Ervin, Councilmembers George Leventhal, myself, Craig Rice and Hans Riemer.|
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| Dear Neighbors: |
As the end of the year approaches and we begin our new council term, I would like to thank the residents of District 4 for sharing their thoughts and concerns, being good neighbors, and working to improve their community.
Many of you contacted my office over the last year and a half to share feedback on the budget, schools, master plans, public safety and the many other issues, large and small, that affect our quality of life in Montgomery County. Your feedback has been essential, and has helped me advocate effectively for the needs and concerns of District 4 residents.
Highlights of accomplishments since June 2009:
- Worked with Councilmember Ervin to prioritize the East County Science Center Master Plan, capitalizing on the adjacent FDA headquarters to bring jobs and amenities to District 4.
- Voted for a balanced FY11 budget that more fairly distributed the impact of cuts among agencies and employees.
- Kept the East County police substation open-it was slated for closure in the FY11 budget.
- Voted for measures, including a 6-year fiscal plan and a new reserve policy, that will help ensure the County's future fiscal stability.
- Supported reform of County's disability retirement law for employees.
- Sponsored legislation requiring equal benefits for same sex partners of employees of County contractors.
Over the next four years, I will continue to fight for the needs of District 4 residents. In tackling a difficult FY12 budget and addressing our structural deficit, I will prioritize public safety, education, the safety net, and economic development. As the new chair of the Government Operations and Fiscal Policy Committee, I will also work to preserve jobs and front-line county services.
| | Montgomery County's 17th Council
The 17th Council of Montgomery County was inaugurated on December 6, 2010. Each member was elected to a four-year term. Seated, left to right: Roger Berliner, Valerie Ervin, Nancy Floreen and George Leventhal. Standing: Hans Riemer, Craig Rice, Marc Elrich, Nancy Navarro and Phil Andrews.
| |Chairmanship of the
Government Operations and Fiscal Policy Committee
I was recently appointed by the Montgomery County Council President as the new chair of the Government Operations & Fiscal Policy Committee (formerly the Management & Fiscal Policy Committee). The three members of the Committee include Council President Valerie Ervin and Councilmembers Hans Riemer and myself. The Committee has a broad jurisdiction covering economic and fiscal policy; spending affordability; County Government administrative departments; cable and telecommunications issues; technology issues; personnel and compensation issues; procurement policy; oversight of interagency teams on training, public information, procurement, and PEG (public, education, and government) cable television channels.
The next GO meeting is scheduled after the recess on January 24th at 9:30 am in the 7th Floor Committee Hearing Room. The agenda items include:
- Spending Affordability Guidelines for the FY12 Capital Budget and other general CIP assumptions;
- Executive/Council MOU Regarding County Cable Montgomery;
- Executive Regulation 13-10, Retaliation against county employees for disclosing illegal or improper actions in county government; and
- Executive Regulation 11-10, Employee Training and Tuition Assistance
| Achieving Financial Stability|
Fiscal Year 2011 Savings Plan
On December 14th, the Council approved a $32.3 million mid-year savings plan. This amount was somewhat less than the $36 million reduction requested by the County Executive, which he described as a "down payment" on the projected FY12 $300 million budget gap.
While I recognize the need to begin addressing our FY12 gap, I strongly advocated maintaining basic county services, particularly public safety and programs for the most needy and vulnerable in our County. Accordingly, a majority of my colleagues and I voted to preserve the following services that were slated for cuts:
- Seniors: We maintained meal services for needy seniors in District 4 at the Ross Boddy, East County and Praisner recreation centers.
- Police: We did not cut nine School Resource Officers from the Police budget, but instead requested that MCPD manage department-wide vacancies to achieve the same savings amount of $518,650.
- Safety Net: We maintained the energy rebate program for low-income households.
- Fire & Rescue: We voted to retain 11 ambulances in the Fire and Rescue Service.
- Transportation: We did not further reduce spending for pedestrian signal timing and road patching.
If you have any questions or concerns on the FY11 Savings Plan, please contact my legislative aide, Laurie Mintzer Edberg, at 240-777-7824 or Laurie.Edberg@montgomerycountymd.gov.
My first piece of legislation as Chair of the GO Committee was Bill 57-10, introduced by Council President Ervin. This bill, which passed unanimously on December 14th, modifies the County's collective bargaining impasse procedures by requiring an arbitrator to consider the County's ability to pay before considering other factors in the decision. This legislation respects our collective bargaining process while ensuring that the County's current fiscal circumstances are given priority by the arbitrator in the decision-making process.
Structural Deficit Report
During last year's budget deliberations, the Council requested that the Office of Legislative Oversight (OLO) prepare a report on the County's structural budget deficit. The report, which was released early this month, describes the budget's cost drivers and presents a number of options for addressing the deficit.
You may view the report in its entirely here. Please feel free to share your feedback on OLO's findings and recommendations with me. In addition, the Council is planning a community outreach effort beginning in January/February before narrowing down the recommendations for further analysis.
Economic Development in
Last year, I requested that the Planning Department take a look at Burtonsville and make recommendations that would enhance its character and help revitalize its commercial center. As a result, planners began work on the Burtonsville Neighborhood Plan in December and should present recommendations by the end of 2011. The Planning Department will suggest improvements to MD198 to improve its aesthetics, safety and walkability, and will also address issues regarding the Burtonsville Crossing shopping center. You can learn more about the Burtonsville Neighborhood Plan and stay informed as it progresses here: http://www.montgomeryplanning.org/community/burtonsville/.
Other improvements to Burtonsville's shopping district are already under way. In last year's capital budget, I supported $4.2 million for community revitalization efforts in the area, including new gateway signage, façade improvements, streetface elements and enhanced pedestrian lighting.
In addition, planning efforts have begun for the East County Science Center, which will capitalize on the nearby presence of the FDA headquarters. This plan calls for a mixed-use life sciences employment center, and will bring much needed jobs and amenities to District 4. You can read about this plan and learn how to participate in its development here: http://www.montgomeryplanning.org/community/ecsc/
| |Public Safety
My staff and I have been meeting with residents, business owners and school principals regarding public safety challenges in the Briggs Chaney-Castle Boulevard neighborhood and their effect on the community. While I believe this issue must be addressed comprehensively, it is first necessary to ensure that we have adequate levels of police enforcement. In a recent meeting with Montgomery County Police Chief Tom Manger, I discussed my concerns regarding public safety in this area. The meeting was productive, and while current budget constraints will be a challenge, we agreed that this neighborhood needs additional attention and enforcement. I look forward to working with MCPD to address this long-standing public safety issue in District 4.
MCPD was recently awarded a congressional bi-county gang suppression grant, which will support the addition of two Montgomery County Police officers and one sergeant, as well as an additional Assistant State's Attorney and correctional officer. The target area includes the White Oak-Castle Boulevard corridor, and our police will work in concert with Prince George's County and Takoma Park police to coordinate East County enforcement efforts.
Pedestrian safety, particularly for schoolchildren and seniors, is also a concern in District 4. A few months ago, I sent a letter jointly with the District 19 delegation to the State Highway Administration (SHA) requesting the installation of a pedestrian-operated signal on University Boulevard, near the Oaks at Four Corners. Residents of this senior community have shared the difficulty of crossing University Boulevard at this location, and I experienced this first-hand when I visited the community with District 19 representatives. SHA's Office of Traffic and Safety is currently reviewing the request.
In these difficult fiscal times, it is especially important to leverage existing county resources, avoid duplicative efforts, and coordinate service delivery. The Kennedy Cluster Project, which I promoted while on the Board of Education, is an excellent example of a multi-agency approach to addressing the academic achievement gap. During the 2009-10 school year, the Kennedy Cluster Project's multi-agency team handled 47 student referrals for county services. They tackled a wide array of issues, including homelessness, mental health problems, transportation needs, and food assistance. With the assistance of Representative Donna Edwards, the project recently received a federal grant to fund a full-time care coordination position. For an overview of the Kennedy Cluster project, click here.
The One Dream Academy at Strathmore Elementary School is another innovative approach to closing the academic achievement gap. Working with the Montgomery County Collaboration Council, Strathmore received a 3-year 21st Century Community Learning Center grant to fund the after-school program aimed at increasing students' math and science proficiency. After visiting the One Dream Academy in November and meeting with Principal Cheryl Smith and the Academy students, I left impressed with their efforts and progress. You can read an article about the One Dream Academy here.
| |Council Approves Sale of
Former Peary High School to Berman Academy
On November 30th, the Council approved the sale of the former Peary High School to the Melvin J. Berman Hebrew Academy. I supported this sale for several reasons. First, the Berman Academy has been an ideal neighbor and has helped revitalize the surrounding Aspen Hill community. Before the Berman Academy leased the building in 1994, Peary High School had lain vacant for several years and had deteriorated significantly. The building was a magnet for crime, drugs and vandalism and the surrounding neighborhood was desperate for relief. In fact, the Aspen Hill Civic Association expressed its strong support for the Berman Academy's purchase of the facility.
Secondly, the Berman Academy entered into its lease agreement with the understanding that it would have the opportunity to purchase the facility. While the purchase was subject to Council approval, I did not believe that denial would be an equitable result. In addition, the Academy has agreed to allow repurchase of the school at the sale price plus the fair market value of improvements, should the County ever seek to condemn the property for school purposes. Finally, the agreement contains additional provisions ensuring that the property will remain a school and that the community will continue to have use of the fields, gymnasium and auditorium during non-school use times.
Snow Removal Public Forum
On November 17, 2010, I hosted a public forum on the County's snow removal operations. The forum was organized in response to last winter's record storms that generated hundreds of complaints to my office from residents who believed their streets were not plowed in a timely fashion. Residents also expressed concerns about coordination with utility companies. Keith Compton, chief of the Division of Highway Services of the County's Department of Transportation, presented detailed information to residents about the County's snow removal operations.
|Councilmember Nancy Navarro and Division of Highway Services' Chief, Keith Compton|
Additionally, Mr. Compton informed residents for the first time of the new online map tool that shows the progress of snow plows throughout the County and indicates when emergency roads, primary neighborhood streets and neighborhood streets have been cleared. A zoom feature allows residents to focus on the plow status of their immediate neighborhood and surrounding streets and then zoom out to check out an entire trip route. Residents are also able to report missing streets directly from the map.
I wish you and yours a happy holiday and a wonderful new year. As always, my staff and I are here to help in any way we can and hope that you will contact us if you need assistance. Feel free to call or email with questions or comments!
Councilmember Nancy Navarro | 100 Maryland Avenue | Rockville | MD | 20904