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Leggett Makes History With Veto

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First line-item veto by any county executive in 25 years affects stormwater management

Leggett 20091001 104316County Executive Ike Leggett. FILE PHOTO  Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett broke precedent and issued a line-item veto in the County Capital Improvements Programs budget over a fight with a majority of the members of the County Council over the future of stormwater management.

Leggett’s line-item veto, which is narrowly tailored to specific parts of the $4.5 billion capital budget, is the first in Leggett’s nearly 12-year tenure as County Executive and the first line-item veto by any county executive in 25 years. The veto blocks the current status quo of how the County awards contracts for its stormwater-management programs.

In January, Leggett proposed reforming the way the County Department of Environmental Protection awards stormwater-management contracts. Currently, the County offers separate contracts for different companies to plan, design, and build stormwater-management projects. Leggett proposed putting the entire process – the planning, designing, and building – of a stormwater-management contract into one contract for a company to bid on, saying it would make the process more efficient and save taxpayers money.

“I regret that you and the Council majority have made this veto necessary,” Leggett wrote in a letter to Council President Hans Riemer (D-at large). “Playing politics with a critical environmental issue, doubling down on a costly and inefficient status quo, and kicking the proverbial can down the road will never be confused with efficient governance.” 

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Stormwater runoff causes new council rift

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countysealThe final votes to approve the County’s operating and capital budget are usually a formality, with both budgets almost always passing unanimously.

However, last week Council member Nancy Floreen (D-at large), voted against the County’s capital budget, saying she could not support a budget that cut many stormwater management projects. While Floreen was the lone vote against the capital budget, she is not alone in the way some Council members feel about County Executive Ike Leggett's proposed capital budget, particularly about how it affects the County’s stormwater management programs.

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Council passes funding for immigrant legal services

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countysealThe Montgomery County Council on Tuesday unanimously approved $373,957 in funds for legal services for immigrants facing deportation, as the Council was set to approve its budget.

The vote was met with protest from both immigration and legal advocates, who had originally supported the measure, and by opponents who said they do not want the County to spend taxpayer dollars on legal services for immigrants.

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Council approves additional funding to Leggett’s budget

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countysealThe Montgomery County Council unanimously approved an additional $14.8 million to the budget on its reconciliation list as the Council is set to give final approval to the budget Thursday.

The $14.8 million is a part of the Council reconciliation list, spending that was not originally included in the County Executive’s proposed budget and that the Council’s various committees voted to add through their weeks of meetings.

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Council passes ZTA on small cell towers

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countysealROCKVILLE — After more than a year of delays and revisions, the Council and telecommunications companies have finally gotten their way regarding small cell antennas.

On Tuesday, the Council unanimously approved a zoning text amendment clearing the way of the use of small cell telecommunication antennas in commercial zones.

“This is really intended to make some very modest changes to reflect the reality of our world,” said Council member Nancy Floreen (D-at large).

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Council pushes to make County wine capital

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Bottle of wine poured into glassROCKVILLE — A proposed County Council zoning change could make it easier for Montgomery County to become the winery capital of the East Coast – at least that what some council members hope.

On Tuesday farmers and small grape growers spoke in support of Zoning Text Amendment 18-03, which would loosen regulations in the County’s agricultural reserve in hopes to facilitate the expansion of wineries, breweries and distilleries.

ZTA 18-03, which Council members Hans Riemer (D-at large) and Craig Rice (D-3) are lead co-sponsors on, would amend the County’s current zoning regulations to allow for distilleries, breweries and cideries. While wineries are currently allowed under current County zoning laws in the agricultural reserve, other alcohol production facilities are not.

“The proposed ZTA is important to our success because it brings clarity to what is currently a confusing and burdening zoning code,” said Poolesville farmer Robert Butz.

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County Council holds public hearing on small cell tower expansion

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MoCo LogoROCKVILLE — Tuesday night’s public hearing on another bill to facilitate the expansion of small cell antennas was the second go-around and a familiar story for all those involved.

In March, Council President Hans Riemer (D-at large), at the request of County Executive Ike Leggett, introduced a new bill, Zoning Text Amendment 18-02 that would make it easier to place small cell antennas in urban areas. Unlike the previous bill, which the Council did not vote on after public protest, ZTA18-02 only facilities the expansion of small cell antennas in urban areas, meaning the current zoning regulations requiring individual public hearings for placing poles that carry the antennas the same.

Edward Donohue, a representative from T-Mobile who testified at the County Council Tuesday night said the data demands for the first quarter of 2018 have exceeded all the combined data demands from 2012 to 2014.

“There’s an ever-increasing demand on infrastructure in the County,” Donohue said. “And additional sites are really needed in order to address the capacity and coverage issues.”

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County considers adding to its budget

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countysealThe Montgomery County Council is considering adding $21.6 million to the budget, as the Council will finalize its reconciliation budget by Monday.

The $21.6 million in additional funds is what the Council Committee determined was necessary to add to the County Executive’s budget after weeks of meetings – a tradition for the County’s legislative body as it makes additions and cuts to its proposed budget.

Montgomery County Council Executive Director Marlene Michaelson recommended that the Council make some cuts to the proposed $21.6 million-list of additions to the Fiscal Year 2019 budget, cautioning the Council about the need for fiscal prudence after a decline in projected tax revenue.

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“Aggressively”

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County counters federal moves against immigrants with a plan to help them out

MoCo LogoImmigrants who find themselves in federal immigration court often cannot afford legal counsel and have to represent themselves, which means that many federally-ordered deportations go unchallenged.

Now the County is looking to step in the federal immigration issue, by declaring it will fund legal representation for immigrants who find themselves in front of an immigration judge.

Council President Hans Riemer (D-at large) said the effort to fund legal services for immigrants who live in the County is in reaction to President Trump’s stricter policy on immigration and his promise to deport more undocumented immigrants.

“Given that the federal government is continuing with its targeting of our communities, you know, we just felt that had to match that as aggressively as we could,” Riemer said.

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Creatures of scary habits

Plane OverheadSomewhere in Potomac tonight there is a family sitting in a home that cost more than $1 million, upset with the noise coming from commercial aircraft flying into Reagan National Airport and they’ve convinced the county to spend $150,000 to an aviation expert in order to come up with alternative flight plans into Reagan.
Putting aside that it is still hard for me to swallow that there is an airport named after the president who took a giant squat on air traffic controllers, I’ll happily sign up to take the money from the county because I can tell you there can be little if no change in the traffic pattern at National.
That’s not something those people living in multi-million dollar homes want to hear, but it’s something that’s going to be said.

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