Categories
County Council Education Uncategorized

Legislation will be introduced to remove SROs from schools

On Saturday at a protest calling for the defunding of Montgomery County Police, Councilmembers Will Jawando and Hans Riemer announced that they would introduce legislation that would remove school resource officers from Montgomery County Public Schools. They will recommend that these funds be used to increase mental health resources, including counselors, and nurses.

Councilmember Jawando stated that:

“It’s not just enough to remove the potential harm of the police, you’ve got to invest that money into things the kids need. … It’s our job to say what our police can and cannot do,” Jawando said in an interview on Saturday. “We pass the laws and the executive has to implement them. It’s totally within our rights since this SRO program is totally funded through the police budget, that we would say, ‘Hey, you can’t do that.’”

Jawando, Riemer announce bill to get rid of police officers in schools

Previously, the Montgomery County School Board requested further research into the issue before making a decision. When this issue was brought before the Montgomery County Council, several members were reluctant to make any changes and tabled the discussion until the Board of Education made recommendations.

Data that is currently available has shown that Black youth are disproportionately arrested at MCPS schools. This correlates with findings nationally.

If you support the removal of police from schools, you should email all of the Councilmembers, as well as the County Executive. Their e-mails are below. If you need a template for what to say, I’ve placed what I sent below as well.

TO: marc.elrich@montgomerycountymd.gov, councilmember.glass@montgomerycountymd.gov, councilmember.hucker@montgomerycountymd.gov, Councilmember.Albornoz@montgomerycountymd.gov, councilmember.riemer@montgomerycountymd.gov, Councilmember.Friedson@montgomerycountymd.gov, Councilmember.Jawando@montgomerycountymd.gov, councilmember.rice@montgomerycountymd.gov, councilmember.katz@montgomerycountymd.gov, councilmember.navarro@montgomerycountymd.gov

BODY:

Dear County Executive Elrich, Council President Katz, and members of the County Council,

My name is Vito Anastasia and I live in Bethesda. I’ve lived in Montgomery County for the past five years and have decided to make it my home. In the past few years I’ve been an active member of the local queer community, a member of the LGBTQ Democrats of Montgomery County, and have started MoCo Local as a passion project.

I write to you today to ask that you abolish School Resource Officers from Montgomery County Public Schools. Councilmember Jawando and Councilmember Riemer will be introducing legislation to do just that and I urge you to support it.

We know that Black students make up just 21% of the student population but account for 48% of arrests at MCPS. We also know that Maryland incarcerates Black youth and adults at much higher rates than many other states. Students do not need police in schools. They need more counselors, access to more and better programs for youth, workforce development opportunities, and free, safe public spaces. We have got to stop criminalizing and penalizing students when we do not offer adequate services to help them navigate all of the struggles that they face. We have to end the school to prison pipeline.

I urge the County Council to abolish the School Resource Officer program and instead:

  1. Reinvest funds into mental health programs and resources, including additional counselors
  2. Reinvest funds into more full-time nurses
  3. Invest in harm reduction programs including affordable housing, homelessness services for youth, workforce development, and dedicated free and safe spaces for youth

Police do not prevent crime, they react to it. We have been witness to countless murders at police hands and have seen how different Black youth and adults are policed versus white youth and adults. We have to do better.

Best regards,

Vito Anastasia

Categories
Opinion

OPINION: Vote For More Representation For The UpCounty: Vote For Ballot Question C

Northern Montgomery County, also known as the UpCounty, has had far too little representation in local government for far too long. Despite comprising approximately one third of the county’s total population and outpacing the growth of the county as a whole, only two of the nine current members of the County Council reside north of Rockville and since 1990, not one at-large member has come from north of Gaithersburg.

Yet the overwhelming majority of population growth since I moved here as a toddler more than two decades ago has been in the UpCounty. The population of Germantown (my home town) alone has gone from approximately 66,000 when I arrived to nearly 100,000 today. This region is one of the most heavily working- and middle-class and most rapidly diversifying areas in the county. What’s more, we have a distinct regional culture rooted in our agricultural heritage and large migrant communities that influences our political perspectives in ways different from our down county counterparts.

The consequences of this underrepresentation are both numerous and obvious to those who live here. From events that have no attendees to residents who don’t know who to contact for help with the myriad of county services, the consequences of politicians who don’t regularly walk the streets they govern are clear.

That’s why this November, residents should vote FOR Ballot Question C and AGAINST Ballot Question D.

Ballot Question D was brought by petition to the council by some UpCounty residents to abolish the at-large seats on the County Council and replace them with four districts for a total of nine single-member districts. Ballot Question C, which would add two new districts while retaining the At-Large members, was introduced by Councilmember Evan Glass (D-At Large) to fulfill a campaign promise from 2018.

Though Question D is tempting a first glance and those who run their campaign suggest that it is the only proposal to truly address the problem of underrepresentation, the proposal is actually entirely counter-productive and would serve to reduce both individual and collective representation for the UpCounty.

Right now, every Montgomery Countian has five councilmembers that they can reach out to about policy proposals and local government services. You need help with your family’s food insecurity? You want to urge the council to increase pay for teachers? You want to voice a concern with a development project? If one doesn’t get back to you, another certainly will. Under a more parochial system, you would have only a single local legislator to approach with these kinds of issues. If they are unresponsive or disagree with your opinion, that’s it. You’re out of luck. Moreover, if you want to maximize the power of your ballot, it’s obvious that having a say on five out of nine (or eleven) of your elected officials is better than one out of nine (or eleven). It is for these reasons that at-large members are good for individual representation.

Ballot Question C captures the best of both worlds: We retain the at-large members while increasing the number of districts by two to increase representation for all.

But it’s just as important to recognize that replacing the current mixed composition of the council with exclusively single member districts also doesn’t necessarily help the collective representation of the UpCounty either. Ballot Question D is rooted in the premise that if there were nine districts instead of five, there would be more members from the UpCounty, but in fact there is no reason to believe that will be the case.

Currently the UpCounty sits within 3 districts, one of which spans the entire north-south span of the county (which is why its member lives down county). After the 2020 census, those districts will be redrawn to create five (or seven or nine, as it may be) new districts of approximately equal population size. Despite the UpCounty’s growth, it still does not constitute a majority of the county’s population – the down county is simply denser. As a result, there are no circumstances under which we would have the same number of Councilmembers as our southern counterparts. There is no telling where the additional two or four districts will go. They could all go down county or every district could be drawn to straddle the line so that members from those districts could live down county and represent small portions of the UpCounty.

That, of course, is a worst-case scenario. But it illustrates an important point: Anyone who promises that one part of the county or another will get additional seats from adding districts either completely misunderstands how the redistricting process works or is lying to you.

By retaining at large members, we retain the ability to increase the number of Councilmembers from our region beyond whatever the redistricting committee gives us in 2021.

So, why C?

Ballot Question C captures the best of both worlds: We retain the at-large members while increasing the number of districts by two to increase representation for all. The cost, another complaint frequently cited by the proponents of Ballot Question D, would constitute less than .01% of Montgomery County’s annual budget and is well worth the cost. Our county has grown by 50% since the last time the council increased its membership, and our government should reflect that. Expanding the council is, on principle, a good idea for our democracy.

But, let’s be real, Ballot Question C won’t solve our problems in the UpCounty, organizing will. That’s why I worked with a diverse array of local activists to revive the Germantown Democratic Club: To improve the connections between elected officials and the communities they represent, to turn out the vote near our homes, and to ensure that we have a platform to speak out on behalf of regional concerns. If you want more UpCounty representation, I invite you to join us.

But not only us: go to meetings of the UpCounty Citizens Advisory Board, your homeowners’ association, and planning board town halls in our area. Push for real solutions like expanding the council, exploring incorporation of large municipal areas, greater recruitment of UpCounty candidates, and better council outreach. Remember that democracy isn’t a noun, it’s a verb. Democracy is everything you and I do to build a better community for our kids and grandkids. Yes voting, but also protesting, calling your local and national representatives, unionizing your workplace, running for office, and testifying on issues you care about.

Ultimately, it’s up to all of us in the UpCounty to take our destiny into our own hands. Voting for Ballot Question D and replacing our highly representative mixture of at-large seats and single member districts with exclusively single member districts will not increase our representation on the Council, voting for Ballot Question C and becoming more involved will.

As someone who has lived in Germantown since he could walk, I want more representation for my home, that’s why I urge you to vote FOR Ballot Question C and AGAINST Ballot Question D. Thank you.

Andrew Saundry is a Germantown-based activist, organizer, actor, and teaching artist. He is President of the Germantown Democratic Club. You can find Andrew on Twitter @AndrewSaundry. The Germantown Democratic Club is also on Twitter @GermantownDems.

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
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
County Council Government

Montgomery County Council passes bill to allow tenants to terminate lease

The council passed Bill 6-19, Landlord-Tenant Relations – Termination of Lease – Tenant Health and Safety, today. This bill requires that every rental lease allows the tenant to terminate the lease without any penalties if the landlord does not correct health and safety violations withint 30 days of the Department of Housing and Community Affairs (DHCA) orders them to.

Some violations that would trigger this protection in a lease include: rodent or insect infestations, extensive or visible mold growth, lack of utilities, and pervasive and recurring water leaks.

Click here to find out more.

Categories
Government

Total Revenue in MoCo projected to increase

The Council will vote on a resolution to approve the Tax Supported Fiscal Plan Summary for the Fiscal Years 2020-25. Revenue is projected to increase in each fiscal year–2.0% in FY21, 2.5% in FY22, 2.9% in FY23, 3.2% in FY24, and 3.0% in FY25–while resources available to agencies still remain below pre-recession levels.

Categories
Government

County Executive Marc Elrich and Council President Nancy Navarro release joint statement on Immigrant Support

Montgomery County values its diverse community that is made up of people from a variety of backgrounds, cultures and nations. We want to assure our residents that the County will continue to be a welcoming community for all.

Joint Statement from County Executive Marc Elrich and Council President Nancy Navarro on Immigrant Support

The full statement can be viewed here.

Categories
Government

MoCo Council to vote on amendment allowing development in areas under moratorium

Moratorium areas within Montgomery County, MD
Moratorium areas within Montgomery County, MD (courtesy of WUSA9)

The Council is looking to vote on a resolution that would amend the 2016-2020 Subdivision Staging Policy (SSP), which placed a moratorium through 2020 on developing in certain parts of the county where public schools were at capacity. The amendment would now allow development in these areas if the development fixes or replaces a condemned or blighted property/structure or where 50% or more housing units would be considered affordable housing for families that earn 60% or less are area median income (AMI) (Council Coming Attractions).

As of 2018, the AMI in MoCo was $117,200 for a family of four (MoCo DHCA – 2018 Rent and Income Limits).

AMI by Family Size and % of AMI (MoCo DHCA – 2018 Rent and Income Limits)