Community Engagement, Participation. Engage your local Council or other Representative. August 2020
For the last
five months, Montgomery County and our nation have faced an unprecedented
crisis with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. As we encountered these
challenges in March, I am proud that our community's reaction was to be
"all in this together". Yet, we could not truly understand what
was to come: the health emergency and deaths of residents here and across
the country; the economic fall out; the social justice awakening after
the murder of George Floyd by law enforcement in Minneapolis; and the
uncertainty we face looking towards next year.
We have all
sacrificed or lost something during this pandemic. Perhaps you or someone
in your family has lost a job. Your children’s school has shifted to
online learning, childcare is limited or closed, and school sports are eliminated.
All while perhaps experiencing the painful loss of a loved one, a
neighbor or a friend to COVID-19, as I have. And while this moment is no
doubt trying, I know if we remember “We are all in this together”, we can
get Montgomery County and our country moving forward.
As your At-Large
Montgomery County Councilmember, I am deeply grateful and humbled to have
the privilege to represent each of you and work with my colleagues on
policies to directly help county residents address the most pressing issues
of our time. This includes over $36 million in support for our local
small businesses. Additionally, the County Council has appropriated $14
million in grants to assist businesses with reopening efforts. To learn more about these
programs or to apply you can click here. Below you will find
updates on some of our other work on behalf of our residents.
make up 19 percent of our county’s population but account for 55 percent
of those involved in use of force incidents. Unfortunately, residents
here have lost their lives as a result of police use of force, and many
others have been harmed emotionally and physically. It is abundantly
clear that we must make significant changes to policing and our overall
approach to public safety. Every member of the public should know they
are a valued and protected member of the community.
Councilmembers Rice, Albornoz and Navarro, I introduced a bill to dramatically reform
the “use of force” policies for the Montgomery County Police
Department. Following numerous constructive discussions in committee and
before the full Council, I am pleased to report that this bill passed on
policy encourages stops and creates incentives for arrests. Data shows
these stops and arrests disproportionately impact people of color. Our
numbers in Montgomery County reflect national trends, and we need to do
our part to turn those trends around. Our legislation is modeled on the
national PEACE Act proposal, and in line with the “8 Can’t Wait”
Montgomery County on a path to a new and better future for policing in
our communities by addressing some of the most urgent issues relating to
deadly police interactions. Together with the new Police Advisory Commission,
Montgomery County is becoming a model for reimagining policing.
County Public Libraries recently began Phase 1 of their reopening plan.
They are receiving returned books at their book drops and have started a
"Holds to Go" program to allow you to schedule an appointment
to pick up holds placed either online or over the phone. You can find
more information on MCPL’s website.
As of August 2,
MCPL began using the following hours at all of their branches, except
Noyes Library and Maggie Nightingale (where the hours won't change from
current service). The new service hours are:
1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
In March, when
the libraries first closed, I launched our “Virtual Storytime”
every weekday, with the goal of reading children’s books out loud to our
online audiences as long as the libraries remained closed. We were
fortunate to have amazing guests join us such as Montgomery County’s own Katie Ledecky and Dominique Dawes, Congressman Jaime Raskin,
Academy Award nominated actress, Cynthia Erivo, and
a town hall with renowned
race scholar Dr. Ibram X. Kendi. As we begin the process of
reopening, I have scaled back my Storytime sessions to twice a week:
Wednesday and Friday. I hope that you will continue to bring your little
ones to enjoy these sessions -- and to use our friendly public library services
as they re-open.
COVID-19 and the
cascade of job losses brought unforeseen levels of hunger and food
insecurity to our county’s families. Before COVID-19, approximately
63,000 Montgomery County residents did not have secure access to food.
According to the Food Security Task Force Response Strategy Report
assessing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, an additional 30,000
residents will need food assistance. The Food Council and others have
identified a growing gap in the financial resources required to address
this crisis, estimated to be between $20-$50 million.
In June, I
introduced a special appropriation, in partnership with Councilmember
Albornoz and our other Council colleagues, creating the Montgomery County Food
Security Fund. In support of the Food Security Task Force
Response Strategy, we developed a comprehensive plan creating a
partnership between the public and private sectors. This partnership will
help leverage the purchase and distribution of shelf stable food from food
banks and support our local restaurants who are making prepared meals and
our farmers who are providing fresh fruits and vegetables to residents in
On June 9th, I introduced a resolution
declaring Racism a Public Health Emergency, which passed with
the full support of the Council. Racism has led to a lack of investment
in communities of color and deepening health disparities for everyone.
Scientists have disproven the wrongheaded notion that there is a
biological basis to distinguish racial groups; instead they see race as a
social, cultural, and/or political construct wherein racial segregation
has real consequences on health and health disparities. In fact, racism
is now considered a social determinant of health.
amplified the disparities in health outcomes, as African Americans across
the country are dying at the highest rate of any group in the U.S. In
Montgomery County, African Americans account for 1 in 4 of all COVID-19
deaths with the highest rate of any group at 88.3 per 100,000 residents.
Racism affects African American health outcomes in disproportionate ways,
whether it’s in a hospital where Black women die in childbirth at 3 times
the rate of white women, regardless of their income or level of
education; or living in poorly maintained communities as a result of
government sanctioned redlining; or environmental racism, which leads to
higher rates of asthma and more pedestrian fatalities in our
neighborhoods due to lack of investment in infrastructure. These effects
are serious and long lasting.
Being a person
of color shouldn’t mean a shorter, sicker, or more dangerous life. Sadly,
this is the case for many African Americans, Latinx, Asian and
communities of color no matter what their level of income or education.
The time for change is now, which is why I introduced this resolution
that calls on us to have a plan of action to address disparities in each
of these areas. As a full Council, we have established a track record of
promoting racial equity, social justice and inclusion throughout County
government. Click here to sign a petition
calling for the Governor to declare racism as a public health emergency
On August 4th, I
introduced, along with Councilmember Rice and each of my colleagues, a
special appropriation supporting AAHP’s Targeted COVID-19 Response
According to the
Washington Post, nearly 1 in 3 Black Americans know someone directly who
has died of COVID-19. Councilmember Rice and I worked with the Executive
Committee of AAHP to create a targeted response to fighting COVID-19 in
the African American Community. The comprehensive approach will include a
permanent testing site in East County along with pop-up testing in a
variety of easily accessible locations; contact tracing; the distribution
of COVID-19 Kits to the community and the development of a Black
physician partnership to provide residents who test positive for COVID-19
with financial assistance for co-pays, deductibles and the cost of
was proud to support Councilemembers Navarro and Albornoz, along with all
my colleagues in passing a similar appropriation for the Latinx
community. These investments reflect work we are doing supporting my
Racism as a Public Health Emergency Resolution mentioned above. We must
address the core issues that create the disparities for our communities
Building on an
initiative I introduced last year with Councilmember Andrew Friedson, on
July 21st the Council voted to provide emergency funding to expand the EveryMind Crisis Hotline.
During COVID-19, there has been a 25% increase in calls to the
public health crisis and restrictions intended to slow the spread of
disease have placed stress on individuals and families. Having families
in close quarters has exacerbated family tensions and feelings of
alienation and isolation. Consequently, mental health supports are
in great demand by County residents struggling with COVID-19 related
Montgomery County hotline, which provides supportive listening,
information and resource referrals, and crisis intervention (including
suicide assessments) through telephone, text, and chat services, has
supported County residents expressing increased stress and anxiety due to
the virus as well as significant loneliness and isolation as a result of
the need to quarantine and social distance. If you or someone you know
are in need of help please encourage them to call or text 301-738-2255,
EveryMind’s Montgomery County Hotline for individuals in
In the midst of
the worst financial and health crisis in any of our lives, many of our
fellow residents are struggling to make ends meet. We face a looming
homelessness crisis when evictions begin again at the end of August. In
an effort to stem this crisis, I have introduced a resolution
calling on Governor Hogan to extend the moratorium on evictions through
the end of January.
As we consider
our plans for reopening schools, and society as a whole, it is imperative
that we keep the changing state of our county in mind. Montgomery County
Public Schools announced that they will not be returning for in person
classes for the fall semester. The information we are getting from our
County Health officials indicates that it will not be safe to reopen
schools before November. MCPS will continue to monitor the situation and
will evaluate whether it is safe to return to schools in the 2nd
this is an evolving situation and we need to make every effort to keep
our children safe throughout this crisis, so that they can all get back
to school when it is safe to do so.
As a parent of
four small children, including three school aged students in both public
and private schools, and one child who receives special education
services, I completely understand the hardship this creates for families.
I am hopeful we can return to school buildings as soon as possible and I
appreciate the difficulty distance learning has posed for educators,
parents and students.