The positions I am taking on the key issues facing Montgomery County are based on my 16 years of practical experience as an At-Large County Councilman. They are intended to improve the quality of life for everyone who lives, works, or owns a business in Montgomery County. Take a moment to review them, they are laid out below, and let me know what you think.
Your input is critical to ensuring we address the challenges that are most important to you. That's why I am continually meeting with constituents in living rooms, kitchens, coffee shops, and forums across the county to listen carefully and to share my plans. If you would like to meet and discuss my positions with your friends, family, and neighbors, please email Jessica@georgeleventhal.com.
If you would like to share your thoughts on Economic Prosperity, Transportation, Education, Affordable Housing, Seniors and other issues, please click here.
Feedback fuels democracy.
Meanwhile, please watch or read my speech from my big campaign kick-off.
We have seen good news on job growth recently. County Executive Leggett’s office reported in January that the county had added 7,163 jobs since the previous January, and in May that resident employment had increased by 10,900 jobs (not all located in the county) since the previous May. High-profile business location decisions recently have included Marriott’s decision to keep its headquarters in the county, Discovery’s decision to keep 230 jobs in Silver Spring rather than relocate them to Virginia, and WTTG/Fox 5’s decision to relocate to Bethesda from Northwest Washington.
Montgomery County has a great story to tell, but we need to do a better job telling it. Our quality of life is high; we have great public schools; honest and effective government; excellent cultural and recreational opportunities; beautiful natural features; proximity to airports, shipping routes, interstate highways and public transportation; high family incomes; a low crime rate, and a low unemployment rate. I supported creating the new Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation and am glad to see it is investing more than ever before in marketing our county’s excellent attributes to grow our job base and retain existing employers.
We have one of the smartest, most diverse work forces in the United States. We should advertise ourselves as the International Gateway to the Nation’s Capital, to attract employers from around the world and entice the talent our employers need to compete in the global marketplace. While our workforce already possesses more graduate degrees than any other community, and a wider array of language skills than most, we must make language education a higher priority in our schools. Language immersion should be expanded, especially in languages critical for global trade and national security, like Mandarin, Spanish, French, German, Hindi/Urdu, Arabic, Russian, Farsi, and Portuguese.
To appeal to the millennial generation of workers, and the generations that will follow them, we must continue our placemaking efforts, to build great urban communities in locations well served by transit, including Bethesda, Silver Spring, Rockville, Wheaton, and Glenmont, and we must expand transit options to economic opportunity hubs like Gaithersburg, Germantown and White Oak.
We should increase vocational training in our schools. The courses available at Edison High School are insufficient. Not all students will, or need to, attend college. Many good-paying jobs in industrial, manufacturing, information technology and other sectors can be filled by high school graduates with additional technical and vocational training.
We need to continue focused efforts to streamline our planning, permitting and procurement processes to see where they can be made more efficient and business-friendly. We must also strengthen our efforts to keep Montgomery County tax dollars in our local economy, by strengthening programs like the Local Small Business Reserve (which I originated), and
minority, female and disabled business purchasing preferences.
I support designating Enterprise Zones to attract investment to areas that are struggling, like Glenmont and Burtonsville. I have also supported tax credits for investors in life science, environmental technology and cybersecurity, and I am currently exploring a county add-on to federal Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) awards. I will seek to reduce our county energy tax, which puts our high-tech and data-intensive businesses at a particular disadvantage.
We need to provide opportunities for our own children and grandchildren to work here and live here.
The issue of de facto segregation in our schools is too important for the next County Executive to take a hands-off approach. As County Executive,
- I will ensure that our schools provide opportunities for every family in our community regardless of race, income, or zip code. We can no longer tolerate segregation by race and income increasing in our schools. In our community, where we embrace progressive values and promote diversity and inclusion, we must address the fact that outcomes for Black and brown kids are deeply inequitable when compared to outcomes for other students.
- I will pursue radical inclusion when it comes to our public schools by exerting positive pressure on the Superintendent and School Board to expand choice and language programs across the county.
- I will work to stop rationing access to rigorous coursework. The current system based on the number of seats available is not keeping pace with the number of students who could benefit. We will work to replace it with an equitable system that ensures any child who wants rigorous coursework can get it in their home school, or go to any school that offers it.
- I support wraparound services and opportunities -- before and after school -- for the families that need them most. Expanding prekindergarten -- with universal prekindergarten for every family in our county -- is a top priority. Only by investing in every child can we end the shame of racial segregation and provide them chances that will ultimately secure our county's future.
- We need to push our school board to review school boundaries holistically. The current piecemeal approach pits cluster against cluster, uses scarce resources inefficiently, and too often favors building new schools in well-off clusters over other schools in clusters that are under capacity. I want to change that by offering exciting new magnet or language programs at many more schools to help draw students from over-capacity schools to schools with more classroom space and excellent programming.
One more point. Research conducted in Montgomery County shows affordable housing promotes academic success. To keep our public schools among the best in the nation, Montgomery County must also promote affordable housing programs and policies that enable people and families of all means, including teachers, police officers and others, to live in every neighborhood in our county.
The best way to increase the affordable housing stock is to build more housing. This is why I was the only consistent Council vote for affordable housing, even when adjacent neighbors raised objections. We can create more and better affordable housing opportunities for Montgomery County families and, if elected County Executive, here is what I would do:
- Increase the Housing Initiative Fund (HIF) by at least $100 million over the next four years and expand the availability of housing vouchers for low-income county residents.
- Build on the good ideas for expanding affordable housing in the Rental Housing Study recently commissioned by Park and Planning.
- Adding flexibility in imposition of MPDU requirements, including variability by FAR to encourage larger below-market rental apartments. .
- Considering a phase-in of a 15% MPDU requirement, for areas that can sustain it, and associated density bonuses.
- Considering a reduction in parking requirements to enable more affordable housing adjacent to transit stations.
- Considering the study’s recommendations for required payments to the Housing Initiative Fund by subdivisions with fewer than 20 units and for a demolition tax.
- Strengthen requirements for affordable housing on public land. We should review the feasibility of affordable housing development on public land before it is repurposed in any way, and audit all county property, including parking garages, to assess its feasibility for affordable housing development.
- Explore the feasibility of rezoning land to permit the establishment of Community Land Trusts and clusters of tiny homes.
- Revisit, and provide even greater flexibility for the approval of accessory apartments and other shared housing arrangements.
- Add affordable housing development to the portfolio of the Montgomery County Faith Advisory Commission. Religious institutions are mission-driven and many have land that could be made available at a below-market price. Our current Faith Advisor Rev. Mansfield "Kasey" Kaseman is working on a GIS system to map houses of worship that also could be used to identify locations for new affordable housing. By bringing willing houses of worship together with developers we could turn this available land into different types of affordable housing, from multifamily to collections of tiny homes.
We must never get too satisfied in thinking that Montgomery County knows the best approaches already. Because we need to keep abreast of innovations in other state and local governments, I will hire a fresh, creative thinker with a passion for affordable housing to head the county’s Department of Housing and Community Affairs with the expectation DHCA will explore and bring us new ideas for effective, inclusive and progressive solutions to provide Montgomery County families with more and better affordable housing opportunities.
Similarly, I will also seek creativity, energy and a passion for affordable housing when selecting a Chief of Special Needs Housing in the Department of Health and Human and my appointees to the Housing Opportunities Commission.
One more point: In December, I earned my Ph.D. from the University of Maryland School of Public Policy. My dissertation, “The Stubborn Persistence of Homelessness,” specifically sought to assess whether the 100,000 Homes Campaign, which enlisted 186 communities across America (including Montgomery County) between 2010 and 2014, had a statistically significant impact on chronic homelessness. The answer: it did not. But, the program did have many positive effects by helping communities better understand people who were chronically homeless and establishing evidence-based practices for reducing chronic homelessness.
As County Executive, i would bring an important affordable housing lesson from my dissertation: we must be passionate about testing new affordable housing ideas and not being afraid to walk away from the ones that don’t help and to embrace the ones that do.
ADVOCATING FOR THE MOST VULNERABLE
My parents, both physicians, instilled in me a deep sense of equity and social justice. These are values I bring bear in my work on the County Council. Since 2002 I have been Chair of the Health and Human Services Committee, and I have used that position to be a champion for those who most need a government on their side. My leadership in public office has been to utilize innovative methods of helping and serving those who, but for the involvement of government, could not achieve a high quality of life on their own.
I established the Montgomery Cares program, a network of community clinics that this year will provide 70,000 visits to patients without health insurance. The program includes
medical check-ups; sick visits; medications; lab tests; X-Rays; flu shots; access to specialty care; access to behavioral health care; oral health care; and more.
In 2015, because of my leadership, Montgomery County housed every identified homeless veteran in the county. We are one of three states and 51 communities that has achieved functional zero homelessness for our veterans.
In 2017, I provided funding to ensure the county can house every chronically homeless individual by the end of 2018, through the “Inside Not Outside” campaign.
I have been the champion every year since 2003 for supplementing the wages paid to caretakers for people with developmental differences.
I passed the Design for Living legislation, which provides property tax credits for investments that make housing accessible for elderly and disabled residents.
I created the county’s Interagency Commission on Homelessness.
I have consistently championed funding for the Maternity Partnership Program, to ensure prenatal care for expectant mothers without health insurance, and Care for Kids, to
ensure health insurance for all Montgomery County children.
Ending chronic homelessness in our county is among my top priorities. No one deserves to be homeless. I will continue to work closely with County agencies to ensure every single man, woman, child, and veteran is safely housed and never homeless again.
In 2015, Montgomery County government, in conjunction with its service providing nonprofit partners, successfully found housing for every identified homeless veteran. This year, our goal is to house every chronically homeless person (those who are disabled and have been homeless for a year or more or have had multiple episodes of homelessness totaling a year or more). In June, we launched the "Inside/Not Outside" campaign, to end chronic homelessness in Montgomery County.
ACCESS TO HEALTHCARE
I want to ensure that every adult and child in our County has access to health care. In 2005, I was among the group of leaders responsible for creating the Montgomery Cares program, and I’ve been its leading advocate since then.
In 2005, I understood that the limited focus of the national health care debate—access to insurance—created an opportunity for leaders in Montgomery County to focus on the key issue for working families, which is access to care. The Montgomery Cares program operates as a network of community health clinics serving the poor. Patients are served, often in their own language, at 28 locations dispersed throughout the County. Each site also dispenses free prescription medicines. I am committed to ensuring that this program remains viable and active for our residents who are poor and need it the most.
THE PURPLE LINE
One of my top priorities has always been to push for the construction of the Purple Line on the Metro system. This is an important transportation project that will connect Bethesda, Silver Spring, College Park, Riverdale and New Carrollton.
Creation of the Purple Line will help to get more people off of our congested roadways and will help to reduce fossil fuel emissions in both Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties. I also support the Corridor Cities Transitway, which will serve commuters in northern Montgomery County, and the creation of a Bus Rapid Transit network. As a founder and ex-officio board member of Purple Line Now!, I have tirelessly promoted the Purple Line light rail alternative and worked diligently with community groups, the County Executive, and my County Council colleagues as well as state and Prince George’s County officials to ensure support for the Purple Line throughout the State of Maryland. The addition of the Purple Line will be transformative in that it will allow both Montgomery County and Prince George’s County residents greater ease of access to our education and research centers, including the University of Maryland. In addition, we have an enormous opportunity to create an investment in our County’s economy by having significant Federal funds made available to us to construct the Purple Line. If the Purple Line is somehow canceled, that Federal appropriation will go to another state. I do all in my power to prevent this from happening if I am elected your next County Executive.
In addition, I’ve also launched or supported the following initiatives:
Our Environment and The Paris Climate Agreement
I am passionate about the environment, and I want Montgomery County to be the cleanest, safest, healthiest county in America. Along with other Council members, we introduced a resolution to reaffirm the county’s commitment to the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement after President Trump announced earlier this month the U.S. would withdraw from the accord. Montgomery County has worked for more than a decade to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and use more renewable energy. In addition to the expected passage of the council resolution, the county also joined the “We Are Still In” coalition of more than 1,000 U.S. states, cities, businesses and universities that plan to pursue the climate goals of the Paris agreement.
Persons with Disabilities
Caregivers who work with disabled children and adults at different service providers in our County need extensive training to perform their work properly. These workers are paid far less than their State employee and private enterprise counterparts. The quality of the hiring pool available to service providers who are State and County funded providing service to the disabled suffers as a result. I will continue to do all I can to advocate for wage parity for individuals who provide essential services to the disabled residents of our community and to fight for the quality of life issues affecting our disabled neighbors and their families. Recently, I enacted legislation to assist seniors and disabled people to stay in their homes by providing property tax credits for accessibility improvements.
Enhancing Citizen Access to Public Hearings
In an effort to have as many county residents’ voices heard during Council public hearings, I have requested that the addition of live streaming on YouTube be implemented at the Council. The cities of Rockville, Gaithersburg and Takoma Park already stream their council meetings on YouTube and their own websites. With YouTube, residents would be able to receive notifications any time the Council is in session and meetings would be archived immediately and available on-demand for later viewing. I also requested that Council staff explore the feasibility of allowing residents to provide public testimony via Skype, Google Hangouts, FaceTime or other video chat apps since many residents will never be able to attend a public hearing in Rockville due to their work schedule, family responsibilities or transportation issues.