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Speech and Testimony

State of the County

Thank you. It’s wonderful to see everyone in person. I delivered last year’s State of the County via video and for a former classroom teacher like me, it’s just not the same. It was very important to me to have us gather in person again.

Over the past year, we have slowly been getting back to normal. And although we sometimes take a step backward, before we take two steps forward, such as the recent Omicron surge, it is incredible to reflect on what we have been through over the past two years but with an awareness that this fight is not over.

I like to view the pandemic through my grandchildren’s eyes. This pandemic robbed them and their generation of years that are crucial to their growth and education. From little kids attending daycare to young adults in college or just starting their careers, all our young people, including my grandchildren, this pandemic has been deeply significant. We can see their struggles, but we should also be in awe of how they continue to adapt, persevere, and demonstrate the best qualities among us.

The State of the County in Montgomery County in 2022 very much reflects this. The challenges and obstacles of the past two years have not and will not stop our progress, our compassion for one another, and our hope for better tomorrows.

The State of Montgomery County in 2022 can be defined by the achievements of our neighbors:

9-year-old, Cavanaugh Bell, who during the pandemic used his savings to make care packs for senior citizens, and then when he ran out of money, he turned to social media and eventually created a food pantry.

Rockville High School Graduate and Mechanical Engineer Taryn Bailey who is on the NASA team that made the first helicopter flight on MARS.

Brothers Haroon, Idris and Yahya Mokhtarzada who founded Truebill – a finance tracking app. They moved Truebill’s headquarters from San Francisco to Silver Spring in 2020, and last December sold their app to Rocket Companies for $1.3 billion.

Treasurer Nancy Kopp who recently retired after decades of service to the State of Maryland and Montgomery County. She served with grace and honesty while remaining true to her convictions and a standing up to powerful special interests on behalf of the voiceless.

And Dr. Travis Gayles, who ably served as our County’s health officer and recently received the American Medical Association’s Outstanding Government Service Award while also facing hateful, racist, and homophobic vitriol. He served our County every day and led us to be one of the safest places in country.

Sadly, we must also acknowledge some of our community icons who departed us over the past year, whose legacies and influence will always be remembered and appreciated by this County:

Former County Councilmember, Chevy Chase Mayor, and persistent environmental protector Scott Fossler.

Montgomery County Human Rights Hall of Fame member, crime victim advocate and pillar of our Latino community for the Montgomery County Police Department, Blanca Kling - known affectionally as Blanquita.

Rockville resident and president of the AFL-CIO for nearly 12 years, Richard Trumka. A fighter and protector of working men and women across the globe.  

Founder of the Montgomery County Muslim Foundation and Roscoe R. Nix Distinguished Community Leadership Award recipient, Tufail Ahmed. Tufail was a trailblazer for the local Muslim Community.

Longtime Board of Education member Pat O’Neill. Her love of our children was only matched by her commitment to the constituents she served for nearly a quarter of a century.

Former Tuskegee Airman, and National Hero, General Charles E. McGee. Just a few weeks ago, I was honored to join Councilmember Will Jawando in announcing that our Silver Spring library will now be named in his honor.

And just last week, Montgomery County civil rights champion and community activist William Harvey Zeigler passed away. Last year I was so proud and honored to rename the County Executive’s Humanitarian Award after him and his sister, Inez Zeigler McAbee.

The State of our County is reflected in how we are there for each other during our toughest times and worst moments. Over the past year, there were three significant incidents that demonstrated the character and resolve of our County residents.

Last September, at Rock Creek Woods Apartments in Rockville, a torrential downpour in the middle of the night gave residents little time to escape. After an incredible response and search and rescue operation of our fire and rescue services, sadly one young man lost his life in the aftermath. Our Department of Environmental Protection is continuing its review of this incident, as well as identifying other places that may be susceptible to this sort of flooding and planning to remediate those conditions.

This past January at Magruder High School, this County experienced its first shooting incident inside one of our school buildings when one student shot another with an unregistered ghost gun that the suspect bought online and built himself. Following this incident, our County and the Magruder community were there to welcome students back to school, show them that they were loved and cared for, and immediately turned this tragedy into action by advocating for and helping the Maryland General Assembly pass a ban on these ghost guns. 

And just last month, a deadly explosion at the Friendly Garden Apartments in Silver Spring miraculously did not kill anyone but displaced more than 150 residents. Food and housing assistance to help these residents immediately poured in and I am proud to announce that in just a month and half has exceeded $600,000 in donations that has been raised to help out these families.

The State of our County is measured by our compassion and humanity in how we are protecting the health and safety of our residents, providing support for the most vulnerable, educating our children, and protecting our environment. Our successes have made international news, achieved unprecedented accomplishments, set County records, and established clear goals for a better future. 

During last year’s State of the County address, I remarked about our initial roll-out and limited supply of the vaccine that was in great demand. What a difference a year makes. This County achieved the highest vaccination rate in the nation, and we did it equitably. These successes are the reason our death rate is two thirds of the national average. If the rest of this nation had been just like Montgomery County over the past two years, 300,000 American lives could have been saved. This achievement was possible because of you, our employees and our residents.

It brings me great joy to announce that starting year, this County will no longer be sheltering our homeless just a few months per year. Last month, we opened a brand-new shelter that will be available year-round as compared to only during colder months in years past. Not only will this shelter house our homeless, but it will allow us to engage each individuals and find them more permanent housing, job opportunities, and mental health supports.

Our world-class education system continues to be a main driver on why so many families and businesses want to be in Montgomery County. My recommended Fiscal Year 23 (FY23) budget funds Montgomery County Public Schools, Montgomery College, as well as our childcare and after-school programs at record high levels. And it begins the opening of a new Montgomery College campus on the east side of the County. This campus has been desired for a long time and we are finally making this a reality and it’s a major step toward providing equitable education opportunities.

And our Climate Action Plan has caught the attention of leaders from Annapolis to the White House and amongst policy experts around this nation. Our plan is one of the most aggressive in this nation with a clear goal of the reducing 100 percent of greenhouse gases by 2035.

Today, I am proud to announce that the State of the County in 2022 is robust and continues to be resilient, innovative, and equitable while also creating more opportunities for our residents than ever before.

The State of County Is Stronger Than Ever:

After over two years of operating in crisis mode in response to the pandemic, nearly 15 years since the beginning of the great recession, and, for the first time since I have been a County official, our revenues have returned stronger than even predicted and we finally have surpluses.

This is a long way from just three years ago when I inherited a $90 million dollar deficit in my first budget, a same service budget in my second budget at the onset of the pandemic, and a budget last year that was balanced only by federal investments similarly based on same services.

Because of the investments we have made in our community and the Charter change that I, along with many in the County and community, championed in 2020, the County’s fiscal picture has drastically improved.

This budget makes significant community investments while also—for the first time—meeting the County’s 10 percent reserve target.

Although we are not used to seeing a budget this good, we have every reason to be optimistic for continued better days ahead.

After years of stagnant job growth our life sciences industry is booming, and our County is quickly growing as a national epicenter for this industry. Life science companies have always been here. Sadly, it took a pandemic to realize how important they are. Our region is the third-fastest-growing life sciences market and the fourth largest bio cluster in the nation. And we are seeing a rebound for our hospitality companies as travel returns.

Every budget and finance expert in our government and at the state level, are confident that this funding will be sustainable for the next several years.

This means that the State of our County government is stronger than ever. Out of more than 3,000 counties in this nation, we are one of approximately 50 counties with a Triple-A bond rating from all three credit agencies. To be among the few local jurisdictions to achieve this mark of financial stability for more than three decades is a testament to consistent financial stewardship, smart choices, and wise investments.

For too long, our County government has fallen behind on wages making it more difficult to compete for talent. I am proud that in my FY23 budget, we are addressing this problem and I am recommending raises that are fairer and will make us more competitive.

And we are going to continue to attract diverse talent by making this a place that is more innovative, provides opportunity for creativity, and embraces teleworking. We made this pivot to teleworking due to the pandemic, it has worked, and it is here to stay.

And, the strength of our County is reflected in the opinions and feedback directly from our residents. Just last week we announced our biannual resident survey results. 86 percent of residents surveyed rated the overall of quality of life in Montgomery County as excellent or good. This is a four-percentage point increase since 2017 and 90 percent of residents surveyed rated our County as an excellent or good place to live.

The State of Montgomery County Is as Resilient as Ever:

Our response to and recovery from this pandemic is not over. Despite plenty of good news, we cannot disregard the thousands of our residents who are still struggling from the economic hardships, stress, and loss of loved ones and incomes due to the pandemic.

There may be no greater long-term impact of the pandemic than the learning loss incurred by our students. 

I am proud to have provided record funding to our schools, $117.4 million above the State’s Maintenance of Effort Requirement, and fully funded student needs. We also invested $20 million for our Early Care and Education Initiative and made enhancements in after school programs that will help our kids learn and provide mental health and wellness supports.

Our children have not been the only ones that have been impacted by the pandemic. Quite frankly, there are few among us who have escaped the stress from this pandemic over the last two years.

My recommended budget adds funding on several fronts to engage and help every resident who may need assistance.  We have recommended $1 million dollars to support the transition to the 9-8-8 three digit dialing code to connect residents with suicide prevention and mental health crisis services and $800,000 to continue to address increased call volume at EveryMind, the County’s mental health hotline.

Throughout our nation, our state, and our region, we have seen the stress from this pandemic manifest itself into more incidents of crime and concerns over public safety. Montgomery County is no different.

We have fared much better in terms of our public safety numbers than many of our neighbors and peer jurisdictions around the nation. In our recent resident survey results 77 percent of respondents had a positive feeling in terms of feeling safe in our County. But this is seven percentage point drop compared to pre-pandemic levels. This is very concerning, and we are going to address this now.

Two budget cycles ago, I proposed raising the salaries of our police officers, which were among the lowest in the region, so we could more quickly fill vacant positions and compete for the best qualified officers. At that time, the County Council opted for a ‘same services’ budget. As I re-attempt this effort, I hope that the Council will agree that these salary increases are greatly needed and deserved.

In our Police Department, we are not only going to enhances police recruitment and retention by strengthening the competitiveness of compensation, but we are also recommending expanding the police recruitment unit itself to attract the next generation of officers that will better reflect the diversity of our population.

And our police force is also being improved by the increased accountability, transparency, and community oversight processes that were prescribed in last year’s historic police reform laws that were passed by the General Assembly.

But improving public safety in Montgomery County is more than addressing crime. In our Fire and Rescue Services, we are making our response times quicker and more robust by expanding the Mobile Integrated Health Program to address the needs of frequent 911 callers, adding a Paramedic Chase Car, and increasing staffing at Sandy Spring Fire Station 40.

We are also proposing $800,000 in the Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security for nonprofit security grants for organizations at high risk of experiencing hate crimes. We are the only local jurisdiction in our state and region that supports our nonprofits and faith community in this way.

In the Department of Correction and Rehabilitation we are addressing a major equity issue by eliminating administrative fees for participants in court related diversion programs including the Intervention Program for Substance Abusers and Alternative Community Services Programs. We are also resurrecting the previously shut down bakery program to expand workforce development programming and opportunities for inmates.

I am very excited about our Restoration Center project. No longer should we be taking non-violent offenders, especially those with substance abuse issues, and just locking them up in jail. This is and has been a recipe for disaster, as well as an inefficient expense of taxpayers' dollars. Our new Restoration Center will provide the County a specific facility for these individuals that can help deal with their problems while getting them rehabilitated to re-enter society and reduce the chances of recidivism. I want to thank our County delegation who helped fund this project.

Our public safety efforts also involve continuing our Re-imagining Public Safety efforts that focus on prevention and stopping crimes before they even happen because when our police, fire, EMS, and corrections department get involved, it’s already late in the process.

And our public safety efforts cannot succeed without our continued efforts toward racial equity and social justice. In just a few weeks, a report from our partners at Effective Law Enforcement for All will be providing specific recommendations to improve our training and engagement techniques as well as increasing accountability throughout the chain of command.

Additionally, we are going to continue to ramp up crisis intervention staff in Health and Human Services (HHS), social workers and psychologists in our school system, and increased funding to our community partners through grants.  

I want to thank and acknowledge all our public safety partners and engaged citizens, businesses, who have come together to address these problems and concerns.

One example of our collaborative efforts is right here in Silver Spring. Over the past year, we saw a significant rise in complaints and incidents that were impacting the residents and businesses. This problem wasn’t a responsibility of just MCPD, this involves the entire County government – our permitting and inspections, HHS health inspectors, and our Silver Spring Regional Services Center. By meeting with, listening to, and engaging this community we are creating a safer Silver Spring.

And we are not in this fight alone. I appreciate the work that has been done in Annapolis this session to ban ghost guns. The fact that these guns were legal in the first place was insane. Montgomery County has seen the threat and harm of these guns month after month, and this new law will help us get these guns off our street. I want to thank and acknowledge Chief Jones, State Attorney John McCarthy, Sheriff Popkin and the leadership in our state delegation that got this bill through.

If 77 percent our residents feel safe in Montgomery County, it is our responsibility to ensure that the remaining 23 percent can come to feel equally safe with a great sense of urgency.

Finally, the resilience that this County has demonstrated over the past year is also engrained in our government operations and our employees. It didn’t take a pandemic for me to know that our County had systemic inequities in health outcomes, that our homeless residents need a shelter to go to every month of the year, that our rents our too high, or too many of our residents are food insecure.

But it did take this pandemic, help and investment from the State and Congress, and, fortunately, a favorable budget that now allows us to take on these problems more seriously with a greater sense of urgency and greater ability to have an impact. 

One of the great lessons of the pandemic and is now embedded in our budget is the funding of our hubs in our community. These hubs have been pivotal toward our outreach efforts during the pandemic, providing food, vaccines, tests and allowing us to connect deeper in the community. We learned that not everything needs to be driven from our offices alone. To continue these efforts, we are recommending $5.6 million dollars for service consolidation hubs to assist our most vulnerable residents.

I am also recommending $6.3 million dollars in our upcoming budget for our African American Health Program, Latino Health Initiative, and Asian American Health Initiative. All three of these efforts have a made a significant impact. Not only are they using established networks and community engagement and outreach efforts in these communities but are also utilizing culturally competent communications.

One example is Abuelina – our Emmy award winning cartoon character of a Latina grandmother and her family. Abuelina has been featured in TV and Print public service announcements and quickly has become a recognized and trusted spokes-character for our COVID-19 outreach efforts with our Latino residents. I want to thank our partners at Salud y Bienestar as well Council President Gabe Albornoz and Council Member Nancy Navarro.

We are also creating an Office of Food System Resilience, enhanced grant funding for food assistance programs, and $4 million to continue to directly provide food to individuals and families most at need.

Our efforts to end homelessness is being boosted by $2 million which will provide 120 rapid rehousing slots as well as $3 million more to increase the maximum rental assistance subsidy for more families in need. We are also recommending $600,000 to provide year-round comprehensive health services to residents of the County’s year-round homeless shelters.

We are also budgeting $1 million to create and staff a new adult protective services team to investigate cases of abuse of older residents and vulnerable residents, $1.1 million increase to support the Developmental Disabilities Supplement program, and $1.4 million increase for the Medical Adult Day Care Supplement program.

And we are continuing one of the most successful anti-poverties programs we implemented – the Working Families Income Supplement.

The State of our County Is More Innovative than Ever:

But as we face these new and evolving challenges due to the pandemic, we simultaneously continue our focus on problems that have plagued us for far too long, doing something substantial enough to combat climate change, building new and preserving established affordable housing units, and creating jobs.

If it wasn’t for the pandemic over the last two years, climate change would have been the lead story.  Our plans and goals to do our part for the environment is setting the bar for every County and city throughout this nation. We are taking actions, introducing policies, making investments, and utilizing innovative solutions – not just giving the same old lip service, platitudes, and pandering to this existential problem

Last July we launched the Climate Action Plan – the most aggressive plan for a jurisdiction of our size anywhere. I want to acknowledge and thank our Department of Environmental Protection Interim Director, our Chief Climate Change Officer, Adriana Hochberg for her leadership as well as the efforts of hundreds of our employees from the Department of Environmental Protection as well as the Departments of General Services, Housing, Transportation, along with so many other departments, the County Council, MCPS, our colleges, and, most importantly, our community advocates and activists for their collaboration and input into this Plan.

If we take the steps prescribed, we can reduce 100 percent of our greenhouse gas emissions by 2035.

Just last week, the United Nations released its Climate Report that said basically, “it’s now or never” to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which have never been higher in human history.

We are taking a multi-prong approach. We proposed and the Council approved the Green Building Code. We now need the Council to approve our Building Energy Performance Standards, or BEPS. Without adopting these standards, achieving our greenhouse gas emission reduction goals will not be possible.

I am pleased that The White House invited us to join their 33 inaugural states and local jurisdictions to be a part of Building Performance Standards Coalition.

Additionally, we are deploying an integrated microgrid and electric bus charging infrastructure project that will enable at least 44 buses in the RideOn Montgomery County transit fleet to transition from diesel to electric power, while reducing lifetime emissions by over 155,000 tons. And we are transitioning our County vehicle fleet to electric vehicles.

We are installing solar panels at County sites and pursuing innovative design concepts such as the use of solar PV glass to improve the resiliency within our public facilities. And we continue our efforts to provide more charging stations and access to charging throughout the County to help residents transition to electric vehicles.   

As I conclude my first term in this office, there is one effort that I am not going to accomplish within these four years – and that is shutting down our trash incinerator. Upon taking office, I inherited an extended lease on this facility, which made it impossible to close the incinerator as we hoped. 

Fortunately, we are receiving proposals that will introduce new and innovative processes that will better dispose and recycle our waste. We recycle far less than we should. And other jurisdictions have passed us by.

We are going to become a leader in this area, and we will be shutting down this trash incinerator as soon as possible.

We are in position where we have no choice but to address climate change, COVID-19, economic disruption, affordable housing and racial inequity simultaneously, because these issues are fundamentally intertwined and require integrated strategies that cut across all sectors.  

While climate change is an existential threat, preserving and building affordable housing has been a problem for decades now.

For years, the County’s only solution has been to approve more housing, hope it gets built, and then expect that some small portion of these units will be affordable. The gap between what gets built and what we need is enormous and unchanging over many decades.

The truth is the only affordable housing we get is the housing we require. For those who bemoan the lack of the affordable housing need look no farther than our existing policies which drive the meager amount of affordable housing in the housing supply. Because for as long as we have had an affordable housing problem, this has been the solution.

And, as you can guess, this has not worked and has only made this problem worse. And quite frankly, it’s been a questionable process that ignores the needs of the poor, the working class, and all those on fixed incomes.

I work for residents, the homeowners, the taxpayers, and those who can’t afford the cost of rent or to buy a home here. We are being innovative, holding them accountable, and, finally, making a dent into creating real affordable housing by a simple three-pronged approach - Preserving, Protecting, and Producing.

As the County grows, development pressures threaten our existing naturally occurring affordable housing stock and we need to protect tenants from displacement. “No Net Loss” is a requirement whose time has finally come.

Last year, we negotiated with the Halpine View property owners we were able to preserve access to affordable housing and expand affordable units and increase the number of deeply affordable. Existing tenants will not just have the right to apply, they will have the right of return. This was a win-win for all of us and we are working to replicate the success of this program with other developers around the County.  

We are protecting current affordable housing through our Affordable Housing Opportunity Fund. This fund supports preservation of currently affordable housing by providing short-term loans which allow time for developers to arrange long-term financing.

The County has committed $14 million to this fund thus far to be leveraged with private lending. My FY23 budget recommended an increase of $6 million for total of $20 million. With matching private funds, the lending capacity of this fund should support $80 million of acquisition lending.

And the third leg of addressing affordable housing is production. We have two recent success stories that I am excited to announce.

The first is plans for a redevelopment in Bethesda of three full blocks that will line the east side of Wisconsin Ave. This project will include two residential buildings with ownership opportunities as well as affordable and deeply affordable housing at levels that exceed current requirements, along with two Bethesda parks, identified in the Bethesda sector plan. We negotiated public benefits that will be paid for by the developer and will benefit residents through tax revenue, green space and, most importantly, more affordable housing in an area that needs it.

This is significant and good news for the residents of Bethesda and Montgomery County. I want to thank the developers, the County Transportation and Housing departments and the East Bethesda Citizens Association for making this happen.

I am also quite excited about a second affordable housing project in Emory Grove that I am pleased to announce today.  

This historically black community or Emory Grove was settled by freed slaves in the late 1800s. At its center was religion, one of the oldest and largest African American Methodist camp meetings in the mid-Atlantic, and at its heart was and continues to be the Emory Grove United Methodist Church.

The original Emory Grove community encompassed about 300 acres. There were 100 homes with walking paths connecting neighbors. There was a community grocery store, and the renowned Du-Drop Inn, which hosted some of the most famous performers of the 20th century (Sam Cooke, Ike and Tina Turner, James Brown). And there was Johnson’s Field, home to Emory Grove’s own all-Black baseball team and a place where many professional local Negro League teams played in the 1940s and 1950s.

And then came the 1960s and “Urban Renewal.” Instead of investing in the infrastructure needed to support the community, the County chose to use public health as a means to shut down the camp meetings, and many residents of this vibrant, tight-knit community were displaced as more expensive housing was built and community institutions were lost.

The County has a chance to right this wrong. Today, there are nearly forty acres of redevelopment capacity under the control of the Emory Grove United Methodist Church, the Housing Opportunities Commission, the Parks Department, MCPS, and the County. Together, we are working to bring a project to fruition that will create affordable homeownership, affordable rentals for seniors, and a walkable, pedestrian-friendly, integrated village with opportunities for community-based cultural and retail components and significant historical programming. I am so pleased to be working with our partners as we reach out to the Emory Grove community to make sure we get this right.

Joining us today is Carolyn Taylor who is a fifth-generation resident and a native of Emory Grove. She is also President of the Historic Emory Grove Rotary Club and has been working with us on this project. Thank you, Carolyn.

We will continue to build on these successes. At my direction, the Department of General Services has created a web page offering 17 County-owned properties to developers willing to build affordable housing projects, including deeply affordable units. There is much that remains to be done to address the need for affordable housing. I believe we are taking significant steps in the right direction.

I also want to acknowledge the important work of tenant organizing and education.  We have funded groups and they have worked to help our tenants have decent living conditions. Thank you to the Renters Alliance, CASA, and Impact Silver Spring for their work.

The State of our County is more Equitable than Ever Before:

Malcolm X is quoted as saying, “The only way we'll get freedom for ourselves is to identify ourselves with every oppressed people in the world.”

This is the essence of what providing equity is all about, and for far too long, this has not been a word or subject prioritized by this government. But even before the pandemic or the rise in the interest of social justice following the death of George Floyd two years ago; this has been a priority of this administration since day one.

I was the first County Executive to create a Chief Equity Officer position as well as the Office of Equity and Social Justice. And I couldn’t be prouder in the work and growth of these efforts by our Equity Officer Tiffany Ward.

For the first time ever, the Office of Racial Equity and Social Justice was involved throughout this budget process. Many of the decisions in this budget will positively impact communities most burdened by structural inequities. To continue these efforts, I am recommending that Office of Racial Equity and Social Justice will be additional staff.

And as we move toward a more equitable future, we are also reconciling our past. This budget recommends funding to assist with community planning for a memorial to Black residents who were tortured and killed by lynching in Montgomery County.

Inequities were made all too clear during the pandemic with communities of color and low-income families disproportionately impacted. To change this, we must continue to build capacity within County government to implement policies and programs throughout County government that address these inequities.

The State of our County is Creating More Opportunities than Ever Before:

When COVID-19 hit, it didn’t just affect our health, it affected the business community and the employment picture throughout the world. At the height of the pandemic, the Unemployment rate in Montgomery County reached 8.6 percent. Today, our unemployment rate has dropped to 3.9 percent, more than a point lower than the statewide unemployment rate.

This reflects the success in our small business community, who took on new burdens during this pandemic and responded, adapted, and thrived, as well as the growth in our life sciences,

This pandemic only heightened the need to focus on the life sciences throughout our nation. Montgomery County and our region have more PhD’s than almost everywhere in the Country, and our lab space continues to grow and explode with announcements on an almost weekly basis. We recognize that with our huge growth in the life sciences, we must grow our life sciences workforce and make certain that everyone in the County—no matter their background/education—can work in this exciting field. 

That’s why I am happy to announce today that our team has just put together a grant to support the planning for a potential biomanufacturing training facility right here in Silver Spring. 

I serve on the steering committee for the Global Pandemic Prevention Center that is to be headquartered here and focused on preparing for the next pandemic. Locating in Montgomery County is a smart decision. Where else in this country is the biggest nexus and footprint of both private sector life science companies and public sector health entities? The Global Pandemic Prevention Center could be the next gamechanger for our economy.

Our life sciences industry has been showing exponential growth over this year alone, including over three million square feet of lab and related space in the County, with more expected. We have continuously removed barriers to the growth of these businesses and will continue to find ways to make our County even more hospitable to the growth of our life sciences, and other key industries.

Life sciences is growing throughout the County and coming to the North Bethesda, formerly White Flint, Metro Station. Last month Stonebridge Development announced over 550,000 square feet of life sciences in the area, and this legislative session, Governor Hogan and our Legislative partners secured $16 million for development of the site. We continue to work with WMATA for a solicitation for a Master Developer of this site. I look forward to more announcements soon.

Our investments are not limited to one area of the County. We are supporting businesses throughout the County, providing assistance to small businesses, renewing communities. And we have $40 million ready to support the Viva White Oak development when it goes forward. Additionally, we have advanced the Gateway Project on New Hampshire Ave, the Town Center on Columbia Pike, and the, mostly abandoned, Burtonsville Shopping Center. These projects were all stalled when I came into office, and we are getting them moving.

Life Sciences is not the only game in town. Our hospitality sector continues to grow with both Choice Hotels and Marriott opening new headquarters in Montgomery County. When I toured the new Marriott headquarters with Marriott leadership, I was delighted to hear their praise for the incredible employees at the Department of Permitting Services. This is the message I hear repeatedly by the business community, and I am grateful for our employee’s hard work.

Beyond permitting, another key area for our future economic development success is our transportation infrastructure. Reliable mass transit is a great equalizer, and our investment in mass transit is critical to ensure that more Montgomery County residents can access services, get to their jobs, and can have a better quality of life.

In October 2020, I was tremendously pleased to open our Route 29 Flash Bus Rapid Transit system, and we’ve seen ridership continue to grow with the Flash ridership increasing by 50 percent during the pandemic. These rides are reliable, consistent, bike equipped, and most are wi-fi equipped.

I am thrilled that we’ll be expanding Bus Rapid Transit through our Flash program throughout the County. In my Capital Budget proposal before the County Council, I included funding for two more Flash lines – along Viers Mill Road from Wheaton to Rockville, and along 355 from Rockville to Germantown. In addition, during this legislative session, our Delegation was able to secure over $60 million for the growth of BRT, as well as a consistent state investment into the future.

Together, we will continue to lead the state and region is affordable, accessible, and reliable mass transit which is based on an equitable and environmentally friendly approach to bettering County government.

At the end of the day, the State of our County is about our people.  It is about all of you – your colleagues and the residents you all serve with dedication and hard work. 

I have lived in this County for more than 60 years. I have watched it grow from a sleepy suburban bedroom community to an economic epicenter of our state and region. When I was a kid, there were just about 350,000 residents of this County, only about three and a half percent were people of color.

Following the 2020 census, we officially went over 1 million residents for the first time. Only 43 percent of our residents are white, and 32 percent of residents today are foreign born. We are one of the most diverse counties in this country.

As a kid who attended the March on Washington as a teenager, and then continued marching and protesting for civil rights, against war, for women’s equality and environmental justice, this is the County I always hoped it would be. My family reflects this county’s diversity, its progressive ideals, and its compassion and commitment to equality and inclusion.

I am proud of the way we embrace our diversity to make us stronger and I am proud of the work that all of us have done together as a community. It has been my greatest honor and the best job I have ever had to be your County Executive, especially at this critical time in our history.

And because of our work, because of the compassion and energy of our residents, the state of our county is strong.

From the bottom of my heart, I want to thank all of you, our County employees, residents, businesses, and communities for your vigilance, dedication, and perseverance.

Thank you.

Release ID: 22-001