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County reconsiders small cell antennas

  • Published in Local

celltowerFile photoThe Montgomery County Council is again considering another zoning text amendment that will make way for a series of telecommunication antennas that have been the subject of controversy around the County.

On Tuesday, Council President Hans Riemer (D-At-Large), introduced ZTA 18-02 on behalf of County Executive Isiah Leggett (D). If passed, it would amend county zoning laws to make it easier to erect small cell antennas in commercial zones. The bill’s introduction marks a change in policy for the Council after similar legislation that would have also facilitated the placement of hundreds of small cell antennas on both commercial and residential property was put on hold after meeting significant resistance from the public.

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County budget process runs into new problems

  • Published in Local

MoCo LogoGERMANTOWN — The budget process for County Executive Isiah Leggett’s last year in office takes place during a time of uncertainty.

Leggett has bragged to residents about the County’s low unemployment rate, its “triple A” bond rating and its growing reserves, as he has toured the County to talked to residents as part of his series of annual budget forums. Yet, as the term-limited Democrat prepares to submit his final budget to the County Council by March 4, the County that Leggett has served for many years is in the grips of an unexpected budget shortfall.

“My first objective is to try to do no harm,” Leggett said, “to provide the services and the programs for the things that we are already funding where it makes sense for us to continue that. Once we achieved that objective, then I would look to try to expand beyond that depending on the level of resources available.”

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Education committee recommends $30 million cuts

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The Montgomery County Council Education Committee considered County Executive Isiah “Ike” Leggett’s (D) proposed cuts in funding for Montgomery County Public Schools and Montgomery College last week when the Council’s committees met to nail down the details of how best to absorb the projected $120 million budget shortfall brought about by the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. 

“We understand that this is a moment of unique times although unfortunately for us in the County it seems to be this uniqueness happen more often, which kind of redefines uniqueness,” said Council member Craig Rice (D-3), who chairs the Education Committee.

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Budget shortfall could hit County gang prevention

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ROCKVILLE — Montgomery County Council Members are concerned that the County’s new effort to pour money into preventing the growth of gang activity could be a casualty of the forthcoming budget cuts intended to mitigate a budget shortfall.

“Here’s my concern so, alright, we are going to engage very actively in January to address the savings plan,” said Council member Nancy Navarro (D-4) during a joint meeting of the Council’s Public Safety and Health and Human Services Committees. “At the same time that we also heard there were programs that we have funded previously that have not actually been implemented.”

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Small businesses see new minimum wage law as a "business killer" for them

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MoCo LogoWhile local union members and activists cheered and waved their “Fight for $15” signs on Monday as Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett signed legislation Monday to boost the minimum wage to $15 an hour, some small business owners fear that their livelihoods and those of the people they employ will be hurt by the mandated increases.

“It will force me out of business,” said Richard Gorinson, owner of J&S Shoes in Wheaton.

Gorinson said “[B]y the time it goes into effect, I’ll go out of business.”

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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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Hogan dedicates Intercounty Connector to Bob Ehrlich

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Maryland Gov. Robert “Bob” Ehrlich met with then-President George W. Bush for lunch at Camp David in 2003, Bush asked Ehrlich a simple question.

“What can I do for you?” Ehrlich said Bush had asked him.

Ehrlich said governors usually have a short list of requests for the president, but at that meeting Ehrlich said only one thing came to mind – help in pushing the longplanned Intercounty Connector project along.

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Aspen Hill Library reopens to the public

  • Published in Local

ASPEN HILL — The Aspen Hill Library held its grand reopening on Saturday morning after being closed since November. Many Montgomery County residents and politicians were in attendance.

The size of the renovated library is 16,100 total feet square feet on two levels. The exterior of the building was painted, and the parking lot was reconstructed to meet Americans with Disabilities Act requirements.

Some of the design features are new information and checkout service desks, an enhanced children’s area, a teen space with seating and collection, collaboration spaces, an ADA upgrade of public restrooms on the lower level, and new furniture, including new tables in the children’s and adult areas.

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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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