Categories
Government State

COVID-19 Exposure Notifications are now available in Maryland on iOS and Android devices

COVID-19 Exposure Notifications are now available for Maryland. The notification system is an API developed by Apple and Google in conjunction with health departments to help alert individuals who may have been exposed to COVID-19. For privacy reasons, these alerts are turned off by default but you can turn them on if you’d like to be notified.

On iOS, go to Settings -> Exposure Notifications

On Android, go to Settings -> Google -> COVID-19 Exposure Notifications

Categories
Education Elections Montgomery County

Lynne Harris wins election to Montgomery County Board of Education At-Large seat

The Montgomery County Board of Education race was one of the most controversial races I’ve ever seen in local politics. Two of the pro-equity candidates moved on from the Primary, Sunil Dasgupta and Lynne Harris. Unofficial vote counts were released by the Montgomery County Board of Elections last night showing that Lynne Harris has won by 23,280 votes.

NameTotal VotesPercent
Sunil Dasgupta127,07545.26%
Lynne Harris150,35553.55%
Write-ins3,3541.19%
Results as of 9:55pm

Congratulations, Lynne!

Categories
Government Montgomery County

What’s wrong with higher taxes?

Adam Pagnucco at The Seventh State recently wrote about Montgomery County’s spending during the pandemic, arguing that the county needs to balance the budget. His alternative was to threaten a tax hike. It seems unlikely the federal government will send more funds to state and local governments under another stimulus program. The situation is a lot more nuanced than that, and direr if the county cuts or stops spending to help residents during a pandemic in which the federal government has been unable and unwilling to offer relief.

Tax rates

First, let’s get taxes out of the way. Montgomery County has one of the lowest real, personal, and utility tax rates in the entire state. Only a handful of counties have lower tax rates than Montgomery County. We happen to live in one of the wealthiest counties in the entire country, with five billionaires that made the Forbes’ 400 richest American’s list in 2019. Five. Billionaires. Let’s put billions into perspective though. It’s a hard number to grasp because it’s so much larger than anything most Americans will have access to. 10,000 seconds is about one-tenth of an entire day. 100,000 seconds is a little over one day. 1,000,000 is about 11 days. 1,000,000,000 seconds is…a little over 31 years.

Let’s also consider that Montgomery County has the most households in Maryland and the highest median household income per capita in Maryland, according to the 2010 U.S. Census and the 2010-2014 American Community Survey.

So Montgomery County has the most households and is one of the wealthiest counties in the entire country (and coincidentally also in Maryland) but also has one of the lowest tax rates in the state.

Residents in crisis

There are around 130,000 rental units in Montgomery County and 15% of them haven’t been able to pay full rent during the pandemic. The Department of Housing and Community Affairs estimates that landlords are losing around $35 million a month in rent. Now, I’m not a huge fan of landlords, but this sounds pretty bad. In fact, a looming eviction crisis would absolutely devastate the economy in Montgomery County. We would lose 22,000 residents and any taxes that they pay. The only good thing that would come of it would be lower rents for those that could afford to stay (maybe). We can also assume that if these folks can’t pay rent, they can’t pay utilities.

In addition to housing, many residents are struggling to buy necessities, including food. We’ve all seen pictures of endless lines of cars while they wait for grocery distribution at one of the distribution points in the county.

Students enrolled at MCPS and their families are having a hard time accessing school-provided lunches. Parents have to go back to work because no one can afford extended shutdowns when the federal government can’t function. Students have to spend time managing the household while their parents are working.

Taxes aren’t the bogeyman

Taxes pay for services that residents use daily. Utilities, roads, first responder services, police, traffic lights, public transportation, schools, libraries, etc. They also are used to pay for emergency services that residents have needed during the pandemic. Without these services, the county would ultimately be in a much worse situation. Imagine having one of the lowest tax rates in the state but not the tax base to maintain it. We are already in a precarious situation, banking on continual population growth to maintain the tax revenue needed to fund county services. What happens if mass evictions take place once the eviction moratorium ends? If residents can’t pay rent, they certainly won’t be able to pay any back rent once the pandemic ends. Where are they going to go? Montgomery County is one of the most expensive places to live in the entire DMV. They won’t stay here. Montgomery County doesn’t have enough housing, let alone affordable housing.

Fewer taxes means more potholes, fewer first responders, fewer new books at libraries, more classrooms being overcrowded, aging infrastructure that can’t be replaced, fewer health and mental health services, slower public transportation. When people talk about “balancing budgets” and threaten tax hikes, they never consider the impact it will have on everyday services for everyday people. During non-pandemic times, we never had enough money or will to fund services that middle and low-income residents needed to stay afloat. Now that we have a pandemic and a looming financial and housing crisis, we need more government spending, not less. This is precisely the time for a tax hike. Don’t be fooled by people who claim austerity is the way to go. We don’t need a balanced budget, we need to help our residents survive a pandemic.

If you feel that this helped you in any way, consider buying MoCo Local a coffee or beer. You can do so through Venmo (@Vito-Anastasia).

Categories
Elections Government Montgomery County

Germantown, Gaithersburg, Wheaton lead turnout in Early Voting

Germantown, Gaithersburg (Bohrer Park), and Wheaton lead turnout in Early Voting so far. With one day left for in person Early Voting, it looks like there were not enough people willing to vote in person in 2020 to beat 2016 Early Voter Turnout.

Early Voter Turnout by Year

YearTotal
2020122,254
2016160,458

2020 Voter Turnout So Far

Despite some disappointing in person Early Voting numbers for 2020, Montgomery County is currently around 65% Voter Turnout. With Day 8 Early Voting Totals, Election Day Voting Totals, and final Absentee/Mail-in and Provisional Totals we may beat 2016 Voter Turnout.

YearEarly VotingPolling Place (Election Day)Absentee/Mail-inProvisionalTotal
20161609922582995062011280481191
202012225430715511058440467

Between 2016 and 2020 Montgomery County added 16,524 new voters.

If you feel that this helped you in any way, consider buying MoCo Local a coffee or beer. You can do so through Venmo (@Vito-Anastasia).

Categories
Elections Government Montgomery County

Dismal Voter Turnout on Day 7 of Early Voting

Only 7.969 participated in Early Voting on Day 7. This is far below the voter turnout for Day 7 of the 2016 General Election, which saw 21,937 voters. The Bohrer Park Voting Center in Gaithersburg, MD saw the most in-person voters with a total of 1,161 votes.

Voting Center LocationTotal
Bohrer Park1161
Damascus557
Executive Office Building503
Germantown1068
Lawton657
MidCounty304
Potomac862
Praisner585
Sandy Spring494
Silver Spring Civic Center684
Wheaton1094

If you still haven’t filled out your ballot, check out The 2020 MoCo Local Election Guide.

If you feel that this helped you in any way, consider buying MoCo Local a coffee or beer. You can do so through Venmo (@Vito-Anastasia).

Categories
Elections Government Montgomery County

Days 5 and 6 of Early Voting in Montgomery County were hit and miss

18,576 voters turned out on Day 5 of Early Voting in Montgomery County, MD which exceeded the Day 5 turnout in 2016. The Germantown Voting Center saw the most activity on Day 5.

Day 6 of Early Voting in Montgomery County was a bit disappointing. Only 8,256 voters turned out to vote. The Bohrer Park Voting Center in Gaithersburg, MD led turnout with 1,277.

Day 5

Voting Center LocationTotal
Bohrer Park2478
Damascus1217
Executive Office Building1307
Germantown2635
Lawton1493
MidCounty802
Potomac2095
Praisner1410
Sandy Spring1277
Silver Spring Civic Center1657
Wheaton2205

Day 6

Voting Center LocationTotal
Bohrer Park1277
Damascus466
Executive Office Building604
Germantown1141
Lawton530
MidCounty390
Potomac825
Praisner675
Sandy Spring479
Silver Spring Civic Center761
Wheaton1108

If you still haven’t filled out your ballot, check out The 2020 MoCo Local Election Guide.

If you feel that this helped you in any way, consider buying MoCo Local a coffee or beer. You can do so through Venmo (@Vito-Anastasia).

Categories
Elections Government Montgomery County

Day 4 of Early Voting Outpaces 2016

17,698 voters participated in Early Voting in Montgomery County, MD on Day 4. In the 2016 General Election, only 13,831 voters exercised their right to vote on Day 4. The Germantown voting center saw the most voters on Day 4 with a total of 2,374 votes cast.

A total of 87,453 voters have cast their votes in Early Voting so far.

Voting Center LocationTotal
Bohrer Park1996
Damascus1347
Executive Office Building1108
Germantown2374
Lawton1495
MidCounty1142
Potomac2182
Praisner1391
Sandy Spring1329
Silver Spring Civic Center1298
Wheaton2036

If you still haven’t filled out your ballot, check out The 2020 MoCo Local Election Guide.

If you feel that this helped you in any way, consider buying MoCo Local a coffee or beer. You can do so through Venmo (@Vito-Anastasia).

Categories
Elections Government Montgomery County

Montgomery County voters continue to break Early Voting Turnout Records in Day 3 of Early Voting

22,792 voters participated in Day 3 of Early Voting in person. In 2016, only 16,411 voters participated in Day 3 of in person Early Voting. The Bohrer Park location in Gaithersburg led the totals with 3,190 voters.

Voting Center LocationTotal
Bohrer Park3190
Damascus1258
Executive Office Building1098
Germantown2879
Lawton2025
MidCounty1138
Potomac2854
Praisner1997
Sandy Spring1695
Silver Spring Civic Center2019
Wheaton2639

If you still haven’t filled out your ballot, check out The 2020 MoCo Local Election Guide.

If you feel that this helped you in any way, consider buying MoCo Local a coffee or beer. You can do so through Venmo (@Vito-Anastasia).

Categories
State

Bills to Repeal the Law Enforcement Officer’s Bill of Rights Drafted in Both MD House and MD Senate

Last week, State Senator Jill P. Carter of Baltimore announced that she had drafted the bill to repeal the Law Enforcement Officer’s Bill of Rights in the Maryland Senate.

One of Montgomery County’s Delegates, Delegate Gabriel Acevero, has submitted the draft request for the House.

Maryland was the first state to enact a Law Enforcement Officer’s Bill of Rights and has one of the strongest bills that protects cops, on par with states like Mississippi. Repealing LEOBR would end several protections that prevent law enforcement from being held accountable for their actions and would allow disciplinary records to be made public, which currently is not the case.

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