Categories
County Council

Glass, Rice Introduce Special Appropriation for Arts & Humanities Orgs, Artists

Councilmembers Evan Glass and Craig Rice introduced a Special Appropriation to the Fiscal Year 2021 Operating Budget that would provide $3 million in grants to organizations in the arts and humanities sector. Additionally, micro-grants totaling $325,000 will go to micro-grants to artists. Federal Grants will fund these grants.

Tweet from Councilmember Glass on 6/23/2020

You can read more about this Special Appropriation on the Council website.

Categories
Opinion

OPINION: Local Law Enforcement Doesn’t Know How to Read the Room

As we do the work required to make our County safer for every resident, especially our Black neighbors, we need to take a long and hard look at the system that has allowed systemic racism to continue, and in some instances, flourish in Montgomery County. One of the first things you learn when trying to be an ally, and especially an anti-racist, is the need to listen. Listening to the folks that are being impacted the most by these policies and systems is one of the first steps in rectifying the harm caused.

Earlier this week, Councilmember Tom Hucker organized a “Community Discussion on Policing” but failed to invite activists within the Black community that has been calling out systemic racism in Montgomery County for years. Worse, though, is the fact that Councilmember Hucker asked a representative from the Fraternal Order of Police to be a part of the discussion. Both MCPD Chief Marcus Jones and Torrie Cooke from the FOP were allowed to answer questions about the budget and asked for additional funds to pay for more training and hire more resources. They called for changing the current structure of the MCPD. Still, they refused to discuss the need to defund and reallocate funds from the MCPD budget and put them into areas that would benefit the community more.

I released an initial statement on my thoughts about the discussion on Twitter:

A few days later, Law Enforcement Officials announced a discussion about Law Enforcement and the Community but failed to invite any members of the community as panelists.

This is a disgrace. Montgomery County deserves better than this. These are conversations Montgomery County should have had years ago with the killing of Emmanuel Okutuga in 2011, or in 2018 after the murder of Robert White or this past May after the killing of Finan Berhe. The protests around the County and region were sparked by the murder of George Floyd-and let’s be clear; it was a murder, not an “abhorrent loss of life”-aren’t really about George Floyd. They are about the systemic racism within Montgomery County Law Enforcement agencies, like MCPD, that allows the status quo to continue.

Local activists within the Black community have been calling for the need to change for years. The Montgomery County Council only recently passed the Racial Justice and Social Equity bill. The Council also just established the Police Advisory Committee. These are all reasonable first steps, but more needs to be done.

Community organizations in Montgomery County are calling this discussion performative, and it feels like it is. Only after hundreds, maybe thousands now, of emails to defund MCPD are they starting to hint that they may be open to change. However, if you want to have an honest conversation with the community, you need to invite them to the table. Having conversations that center around Law Enforcement is not the way forward. Montgomery County needs to take to heart what members of the Black community have to say, and Law Enforcement should listen.

We aren’t going to solve the systemic racism in Montgomery County by training police more, hiring more of them, and ignoring the fact that MCPD has killed three black men in the past decade. Our way forward, and at this point, the only way is to engage with anti-racist community organizations as equal participants in these conversations.

Categories
County Council

Montgomery County Council Backs Resolution Declaring Racism Public Health Emergency

On May 30th, Councilmember Will Jawando tweeted that he would be introducing a resolution declaring Racism a public health emergency in Montgomery County following the murder of George Floyd and the unprecedented number of protests around the region.

Today, backed by the full council, the resolution was introduced. In the resolution, Jawando called out some striking disparities between Black and White residents of Montgomery County.

Compared to White residents, Black residents experience dramatically higher rates of unemployment (7.5% v. 3.3%), poverty (11.2% v. 4.0%), dropout (6.3% v. 2.1%); and lower rates of homeownership (42.5% v. 73.2%), college attainment (44% v. 65%), and annual household incomes ($73,000 v. $119,000). Further, Black residents are twice as likely as their share of County residents to be arrested (43.9% v. 19.8%).

As part of the Resolution, the Council would commit to understand how racism has influenced previous legislative work and work towards creating new policies that would work to remedy the harm.

Read the entire Resolution.

Updates

See statements below from Councilmembers Will Jawando, Nancy Navarro, and Gabe Albornoz.

Categories
County Council

Councilmembers to introduce legislation on Police Use of Force

In a statement released on social media, Councilmembers Jawando, Rice, Navarro and Albornoz stated that they will be releasing legislation that will limit police Use of Force. Below is their full statement, reprinted.

Statement of Councilmembers Jawando, Rice, Navarro and Albornoz Related to Use of Force Legislation

The last few weeks have highlighted a national trend of the types of policing practices that have led to fatal or dangerous outcomes for the community, and specifically community members of color. Here in Montgomery County we are not immune. We believe we can do better. And doing better means building systems that root out injustice and working with law enforcement to build relationships with the communities they serve. We need our police to be our guardians, not warriors seeing danger in every interaction.

Most recently, the County Council has sought to ensure racial equity, social justice and inclusion throughout our county. The Council has also worked hard to increase transparency and accountability in the actions of the Montgomery County Police Department. This is supported by County legislation including the Racial Equity and Social Justice Act, the Law Enforcement Trust and Transparency (LETT) Act, Policing Advisory Commission, the Community Policing Law, the Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair (CROWN) Act and the Remembrance and Reconciliation Commission.

Together in the coming weeks, we will be introducing legislation to further protect the civil rights of county residents, increase police accountability and create safer and more inclusive communities for everyone who calls Montgomery County home. Specifically, our bill would set a higher standard for use of force by police, outlaw certain deadly tactics such as choke-holds, and require police officers to intervene if a fellow officer is committing a crime or violating department policy. We look forward to working with the County Executive and the Montgomery County Police Department on this initiative. These measures are a necessary step intended to protect the safety of residents during interactions with law enforcement, which will in turn help to build trust with law enforcement.

Categories
State

51 House Delegates ask Hogan for Rent and Mortgage Relief

51 House Democrats have asked Governor Larry Hogan to provide rent and mortgage relief to Marylanders that have been effected by COVID-19. Read the letter below:

Categories
State

Governor Hogan Orders Stay at Home

On March 30th, 2020 Governor Larry Hogan announced a new “Stay at Home” order. This is not a shelter in place. Below are some the guidelines.

General Guidelines

  • Effective at 8PM on 3/30, everyone must stay in their homes except for essential activities, travel to work, performing services related to work
  • Businesses can remain open if they are considered an essential service
  • Businesses can deliver goods still
  • Businesses that are non-essential can remain open for minimal operations (more info below)
  • Fitness centers, theaters, golf courses, senior centers, and other recreational establishments must remain closed
  • Tattoo parlors, barber shops, salons, etc should be closed
  • If you are a victim of domestic violence or your living situation is unsafe you are allowed to seek a safe space
  • If you are experiencing homelessness you are allowed to seek a safe space
  • If you violate this order you can be charged with a misdemeanor and/or receive a $5,000 fine

What is considered essential?

  • Obtaining supplies (food, medicine, other groceries) for you, your family, and pets
  • Going outside for activity (walking, walking pets, jogging, riding bikes, hiking)
  • Caring for a family member, friend, pet in another household or location (this includes providing transport to an essential service like medical care)
  • Travel required by law enforcement or court order
  • Travel to a federal, State, or local government building for a necessary purpose

Non-Essential Business Guidance

  • You must close to the general public
  • Staff and owners can work but only on minimal operations
  • Minimal operations include: facilitating remote work, maintaining property, preventing loss or damage to property (including ensuring perishables do not spoil)
  • Caring for live animals
  • FOR RETAIL: you can continue to sell products on a delivery basis

Restaurant and Bar Guidance

  • Restaurants and bars will remain closed to the general public except for pickup, carryout, drive-through, delivery
  • Must follow social-distancing recommendations
Categories
Federal Government State

Federal Social Distance Guidelines Extended Through April

Social distancing guidelines have been extended through the end of April, according to Pres. Trump. However, Maryland is following guidelines that lean more towards shelter in place. Governor Hogan has been reluctant to call the actions he and his administration have taken shelter-in-place.

How will this impact MoCo? Most existing Maryland guidelines from the governor have also extended to the end of April so this won’t change what we are doing.

Governor Hogan stated state officials expect an increase of cases in Maryland in 2-3 weeks. Models for Maryland suggest similar results using the restrictions and closures that Hogan implemented.

Categories
County Council Government State Yesterday's News

Yesterday’s News, Today – 3/17/2020

The past few days have been a jumble. I’m not sure what time it is and I keep checking the calendar to make sure I have the right day. It’s stressful, but I’ve seen the community come together and that gives me hope.

There was a lot of news to digest yesterday so here is a condensed version. New updates will be posted on Twitter, Facebook, and/or Instagram.

How to help MoCo during the state of emergency

We are all in a tough spot, but none are getting hit as hard as small businesses and folks that work in the service industry. We’ve put together some ways that you can help them.

News Roundup

Coronavirus

County

State

State of Emergency

Governor Hogan issued new orders for the State of Emergency:

  • ordered bars, restaurants, gyms, and theaters to close as of 5PM on 3/16. Restaurants can still offer drive-thru, carryout, pickup, and delivery.
  • prohibits gatherings of more than 50 people but the CDC now recommends that gatherings be kept to fewer than 10 people
  • the Maryland Department of Health is working on adding an additional 6,000 beds
  • the Maryland Responds Medical Reserve Corps have been activated
  • health practitioners with licenses in other states are now allowed to practice in Maryland
  • utilities are prohibited from being shut off and providers cannot charge late fees: this includes gas, electric, water, sewer, phone, cable, and internet
  • evictions are halted during the state of emergency
  • schools can now provide three meals and a snack to each student per day
  • the National Guard has been moved to a higher state of readiness

During the State of Emergency you can request a 30-day refill on your prescriptions. Health insurers are required to cover them and have to waive restrictions on time-limits.

Maryland Business Express released a list of resources for business

A special enrollment period has been opened for the Maryland Health Connection so if you need health insurance, sign up now

Business

I don’t have words to describe this chart showing how dramatic the change in U.S. restaurant customers is.

U.S. Restaurant Diners Disappear With Virus’s Social Distancing

The data doesn’t look better when you add some color to it.

Reminders

It’s important to take time for ourselves so we can reset. Delegate Eric Luedtke shared his experience with anxiety disorder and it was a reminder, to me, to take a few deep breaths.

Categories
Opinion

OPINION: Maryland’s General Assembly Needs to Act Now to Avoid Economic Nightmare

Facts are stubborn things, once quipped the bard Shakespeare. And so they are. There are two important, stubborn facts facing Marylanders today. First is that a global pandemic has reached our shores, and we are now in a state of emergency, both in Maryland and nationwide. The second is that, whether we like it or not, our citizen-legislature has less than a month to pass law before their work comes to an end for a year. 

The first fact is avoidable, but with our federal government response in disarray, likely all the same. The second one is inevitable; we do not as a state have a full-time legislature, and so must reconcile to the fact that our laws are passed and reviewed for only a short window every winter by part-time elected officials with skeletal staffs. But a third fact has yet to indeed become one: an impending economic crisis unlike anything we have seen in recent times.

Another fact: Maryland’s economy is about see a period of slow or reversed growth in the near-term, as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Large retailers have already begun curtailing hours of service, and some have announced eventual plans to shut down operations completely. Small restaurants, cafes, and other service-oriented businesses will soon need to suspend operations, or involuntarily weigh lay staff to deal with decreased revenue. In turn, local business owners and their employees will have significantly less cash in their pocket, if any at all. 

What this means in a society governed by debt and where debt collection is a multi-billion dollar industry, is that everyday Marylanders will face eviction, the cutoff of utilities, foreclosure, car repossession, and derogatory credit reports very, very soon for no fault of their own. The only thing standing in the way of such economic ruin is the General Assembly doing its actual job (less selfies and self-promotional social media posts, please), and passing emergency legislation to enact an automatic stay against debt collection into law. Such a stay has historic precedent in American legal tradition: it is standard with every bankruptcy petition filed with a court. But bankruptcy isn’t really an effective way to deal with the current crisis (and it ruins a person’s financial life for at least seven years). The only real solution available is for the state legislature to admit facts are indeed stubborn things, and get to work right now on emergency legislation to protect Marylanders from predatory collection schemes by creditors whose bottom line is not safeguarding our economy, but maximizing returns for their unscrupulous investors (who else buys the stock of a debt collector?). This isn’t rocket science: the Maryland General Assembly needs to protect our citizens from an economic nightmare. 

Hamza Khan is a local activist based in Potomac, Maryland.

Opinion pieces do not represent the views of MoCo Local. We pride ourselves on publishing content that represents a diverse set of ideas and backgrounds. If you would like to have a piece submitted to to our Op-Ed section, please see more details here.

Categories
Government State Transportation

Governor Hogan and Comptroller Peter Franchot announce agreement on adding toll lanes

@GovLarryHogan

Governor Hogan and State Comptroller Peter Franchot announced an agreement on adding additional toll lanes to local highways. The deal did not include local officials. Instead of adding lanes all around the Capital Beltway, Hogan and Franchot plan to approve adding lanes to the American Legion Bridge and I-270 up to Shady Grove.

According to MCM, Rockville Mayor Bridgett Donnell Newton was blindsided by the deal. The deal would involve snatching up homes and land along I-270 in Rockville.

While the agreement does include handing over some of the toll revenue for public transit, it did not address environmental concerns that were voiced by advocates opposing the plan. Local advocates are organizing under Maryland Advocates for Sustainable Transportation (MAST).