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Council committee recommends circus animal ban bill

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While the venerable Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Baily Circus lowered the curtain its last show earlier this year following years of protests by animal rights groups, a proposed County bill could prevent any remaining traditional circus from operating in Montgomery County.

On Nov. 9, the Montgomery County Council Public Safety Committee recommended adoption of Bill 23-17, which would prohibit circuses and other traveling shows from using many species of animals as performers in Montgomery County.

Leventhal said the bill is meant to prohibit traveling circus animals and exempts animals that are used as livestock or for agricultural purposes.

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Elrich spearheads County’s minimum wage increase

  • Published in Local

20171107 121455Marc Elrich stands with fellow Council members and community leaders in announcing the passing of the minimum wage increase legislation. PHOTO BY NEAL EARLEY  ROCKVILLE – The minimum wage in Montgomery County Council will soon begin a slow rise from its current level of $11.50 per hour to an eventual $15 an hour, ending a year filled with debate, endless amendments and compromise upon compromise among members of the Montgomery County Council, which voted unanimously on Tuesday to approve Bill 18-27.

The bill now heads to the desk of County Executive Isiah Leggett (D), who in January vetoed a prior attempt by the Council to pass a minimum wage bill, but said in a statement Tuesday that he plans on signing the revised legislation.

“Based on the changes from the original bill, what the County Council approved today is close enough to the conditions I laid down for my support that I will sign the measure into law,” Leggett said.

Incremental change is the centerpiece of the bill, which will require employers to incrementally increase their minimum wage to $15 per hour over the course of the next six years.

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County passes bill to keep track of burial sites

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The Montgomery County Council unanimously approved a bill Tuesday that will create a catalogue of burial sites in the County.

The bill specifically requires the County Planning Board to create and update a list of burial sites within the County.

“It’s part of our heritage and our history here in Montgomery County, to try and make sure we can identify as many of these sites as possible and ensure that they’re there for people to appreciate,” said Council member Craig Rice (D-2).

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County Executive candidates debate issues in Sentinel forum

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County Exec Candidate DebateFrom left to right: Roger Berliner, Marc Elrich, Executive Editor Brian Karem, George Levanthal and Bill Frick joined the Sentinel-hosted candidate forum to debate issues this week.     PHOTO BY MARK POETKERROCKVILLE — The four Democratic candidates running for Montgomery County Executive squared off in a debate Monday night to make their cases to County residents.

The debate, hosted by the Sentinel Newspapers, was an opportunity for the four men vying for the Democratic nomination for County Executive – Council members Marc Elrich (D-at large), George Leventhal (D-large), Roger Berliner (D-1) and Del. Bill Frick (D-16) – to separate themselves from one another.

New in this year’s election, is a campaign finance system. For those participating in it, the program limits donations to county executive candidates to $150 and matches a portion of donations with public money.

Debate moderator and Sentinel Newspapers Executive Editor Brian Karem asked the candidates if they took campaign contributions from developers.

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County’s HHS amends minimum wage proposal to $15 an hour

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MoCo LogoThe County Council Health and Human Services Committee voted to make two amendments to the current proposal to increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour.

The HHS committee voted 2-1 to extend the implementation period by two years and change the definition of a small business from one of 25 employees or less to 50 employees or less.

“It’s very difficult to project what can to happen in the future. We have a madman in the White House,” said Council member and HHS Committee Chairperson George Leventhal (D-at large). “We don’t know where the economy is going to go. Currently the economy remains strong despite the uncertainty of our federal leadership.”

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County executive candidates square off

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POTOMAC – Saturday’s candidate forum was one of the first opportunities for the four men filed to run for County Executive to take the stage together and speak to the public directly.

On Saturday, the Montgomery County Muslim Council hosted a forum at the Potomac Community Center for the four people who filed to run for County Executive candidates and current County Council member Roger Berliner (D-1) Marc Elrich (D- at large), George Leventhal (D- at large), and attorney and former member of the Maryland House of Delegates Robin Ficker.

The candidates answered questions about diversity, profiling, schools and taxes.

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Sentinel Hosts Live Stream Debate Among Democrat Candidates for County Executive on Oct. 16

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MoCo LogoROCKVILLE -  The Montgomery County Sentinel will be hosting a live stream debate among the Democrat candidates for County Executive on Monday, Oct. 16, in the Council Hearing Room (third floor) in the County Council Building at 100 Maryland Avenue in Rockville. 

Brian J. Karem, the executive editor for The Sentinel Newspapers, will moderate the event which is scheduled from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. 

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Levanthal proposes video chat county testimony

  • Published in Local

Testifying in front of the County Council could get a lot easier, or if you’re not tech savvy, a lot harder.

On June 5, Council member George Leventhal (D-at large) suggested the idea to allow residents to testify at County Council hearings through online video chat services such as Skype or Google Hangout.

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Race for county executive, county council touched by public financing law

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Robin Ficker remembers raising $200,000 for his unsuccessful 2014 run for State Senate.

Now, public contributions to his 2018 campaign for County Executive can be matched up to $750,000 by the County Public Financing Fund, a potential fundraising boon to his campaign. Even more importantly, his campaign could change the political landscape of Montgomery County. Public financing itself could create a more democratic election and encourage voter participation in 2018.

According to Ficker, a former member of the House of Delegates, the County Public Financing Fund “gets the big moneyed interests out of [the race] and gives power to the average person in Montgomery County.” Ficker notes that the fund’s ability to match citizens’ donations “gives the average person some clout” especially since the first $50 donation to a campaign is matched six-to-one and adds $300 to the campaign, something that Ficker considers unique, saying “There is no jurisdiction in the United States that has anything close to this.”

Although Ficker says he has never taken contributions from PACs, unions, or other groups, this law forbids participating candidates from taking such contributions, another attempt by the Montgomery County Council to expand the impact of private citizens and limit the influence of large organizations. Furthermore, officials say that the Public Campaign Financing law requires candidates to accept only donations from Montgomery County residents and only donations between $5 and $150.

However, there is some debate as to the effectiveness of the program’s limits on donations from large organizations. According to George Leventhal, the program is “an experiment in democracy which is intended to reduce the influence of big money in local politics.”

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Council gets its turn to comment on budget

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ROCKVILLE – Last week the County Council heard from the residents. Now it has its chance to craft a budget.

After County Executive Ike Leggett released his $5.4 billion proposed budget in March, the Council took comments from the community in a series of public hearings before it deliberates during the next month or so to craft a budget.

Unlike last year in Leggett’s proposed budget, this fiscal year’s does not contain any considerable tax increase, and Council President Roger Berliner (D-1) said a tax increase over the County charter limit is not on the table this year.

Many of the people who showed up last week to testify asked the County to fund their particular interests, whether they are Montgomery College or one of the County’s nonprofit partners such as Manna Food Center.

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