Nancy Floreen's Montgomery in Focus, December 2015

Masthead that says Nancy Floreen's Montgomery in Focus

Council Elects New Leadership

Roger Berliner and Nancy Floreen

I'm very pleased to have been elected Council president in a unanimous vote of my colleagues. Roger Berliner was elected vice president, and we will serve one-year terms effective today. Here are the remarks I made to the Council:

Thank you. I’m gratified and humbled by this election. I want to congratulate Roger Berliner as he assumes the role of vice president. Roger is a seasoned veteran of Council leadership, having already served as president and vice president as well as chair of the Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment Committee.  And this year he will be chair of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. All of us will benefit from his counsel and experience.

I especially want to thank outgoing president George Leventhal. Under his outstanding leadership we have truly been a "Council That Works" to create a "Government That Works." The breadth of the Council’s accomplishments this past year has been extraordinary. I will work hard to build on George’s record of listening carefully to our community and harnessing the ideas and energy of the entire Council. Thank you, George.

There’s still plenty of work to do, especially since we anticipate serious budget challenges this spring.  We must preserve and enhance the services that define us as a county, including public safety, transportation, the safety net for our most vulnerable residents, and our world-class education system. But the question we will need to ask ourselves is whether, as the County Executive has implied, these fiscal challenges will warrant a significant tax increase next year.

Two weeks ago, at George’s suggestion, we started an intensive review of the factors driving the cost of government.  We know that in the last 15 years, our per capita income has grown by 60 percent, but the percentage of our residents living below the poverty line has grown by just as much. In that period our County budget has doubled, even though it was flat during the Great Recession and has only grown slowly since then. We can’t pre-judge the decisions we will make in the spring, but I really want to make sure that we base them on the realities our residents face.

That’s why I’m so focused on doubling down on our commitment to economic development, job growth and expanding the tax base. Five years ago, in the depth of the recession, we launched the Montgomery Business Development Corporation, a public-private partnership designed to leverage the best minds, resources, and institutions with the aim of fueling our economy.

In a natural next step from MBDC, we are now replacing the County’s Department of Economic Development with a new non-profit organization, led by business leaders themselves, to strengthen our ability to retain current businesses and attract new ones. I have high hopes for this new kid in town. We expect the new Economic Development Corporation to think differently, act nimbly and truly elevate the status of economic development and business growth in Montgomery County. That will be good for the bottom line and good for our entire community.

What else is on the agenda for 2016?  Knowing my colleagues, I’d guess a lot. You are all champions for closing the achievement gap, protecting public health, expanding access to opportunities and preserving the environment. So I am confident we will have many innovative ideas to consider. And we will do so in partnership with the County Executive and our Delegation in Annapolis.

Factors Driving the Cost of Government

Although we are only about a third of the way into the current fiscal year, we are already looking at the basic elements and underlying priorities that will shape next year's budget and those after it. The County Executive has cautioned that fiscal challenges ahead may require a significant tax increase in FY17. Our Council Administrator and staff gave an outstanding presentation on the factors driving the cost of government. Some of the statistics may surprise you. Get the whole report.

Councilmembers' Letter on Liquor Control

I joined seven of my colleagues in writing to State Senator Nancy King, who chairs Montgomery’s State Senate Delegation, and State Delegate Shane Robinson, who chairs the County’s State House Delegation, to reiterate our position opposing proposals to privatize County’s Department of Liquor Control.

We are deeply concerned that this would cost the County in excess of $30 million, which would further force an increase in taxes, a reduction in services or both. Read the letter.

County Maintains AAA Bond Rating

Nancy Floreen at Council dais.

Good news. Montgomery County has maintained its triple-A bond rating from three Wall Street bond rating agencies. Fitch, Moody’s, and Standard & Poor’s all affirmed the "AAA" rating – the highest achievable -- for the County. They all termed the outlook for Montgomery County as “stable.” The triple-A bond rating enables Montgomery County to sell long-term bonds at the most favorable rates, saving County taxpayers millions of dollars over the life of the bonds. The rating also serves as a benchmark for numerous other financial transactions, ensuring the lowest possible costs in those areas as well.

Green Tip of the Month

Step into a magical winter wonderland illuminated with more than one million dazzling colorful lights shaped into hand-crafted, original art forms of flowers, animals and other natural elements. Stroll from garden to garden enjoying twinkling tree forms, fountains, sparkling snowflakes overhead and more. The Garden of Lights at Brookside Gardens is celebrating its 18th season as a local family holiday tradition.

Fast Fact

Woodlawn Barn

History buffs, check out this segment on County Cable Montgomery's The Bottom Line to learn about the rehabilitation of the Woodlawn stone bank barn and adjacent carriage house. The visitor center, which is scheduled to open in the spring, will feature interactive exhibits on the Underground Railroad, the Quaker experience in Montgomery County, and the barn as a feature of the County’s agricultural landscape. You can get to the bucolic setting in Sandy Spring easily from our major population centers, and you'll be impressed with the the learning experience. We sure were when we took a sneak peek a couple of weeks ago.

Let's Talk

Is your community organization hosting a public meeting? Please let me know how I can help. I am happy to assist residents in understanding pending bills or in finding ways to get involved in the political process. Even more important, I want to hear about what matters to you. Send your meeting notices to or call 240-777-7959 if you would like me to address a particular topic with your group.

December 2015

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