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Candidates file for County Council seats

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Since last week, two additional candidates filed their paper to run for two County Council seats that will be open in 2018.

That brings the total number of people who have filed to run for the open council seats to 22. The addition of a term limit referendum created four new open seats on the County Council for the 2018 election.

Meredith Wellington (District-1)

Meredith WellingtonCOURTESY PHOTO Wellington, a Democrat, and former member of the County Planning Board, said she got her start in politics when her son needed a place to play baseball. She said she and others helped lobby to the County to build what would become the Wisconsin Place Community Recreation Center in Chevy Chase.Wellington is originally from Texas, but has lived in the County since 1978. Wellington served on the Planning Board for eight years from 1999 to 2007, the Montgomery County Park Foundation and has worked as a lawyer for the National Labor Relations Board.

Wellington said the community center is an example of the type of development she wants in the County, where the County encourages developers to make voluntary contributions to the surrounding community by helping to pay for land for parks, school or traffic infrastructure.

“I firmly believe that developers should make more in-kind donations to improve amenities,” Wellington said.

On transit, Wellington said she supports funding for Metro and Ride On Extra, but said the County should look at expanding or widening roads. Wellington said much of District 1 is not close to a Metro stop and she believes the County should widen roads in order to accommodate more cars and buses.

“So we have a network of roads that are suitable for buses,” Wellington said. “If we need to expand roads, widen roads, we should do that and that will also benefit cars.”

On economic development, Wellington said the County should be more aggressive in how it tries to attract businesses to relocate here, saying the County should have representatives around the world that market on behalf of the County.

“We are a premium location for science and we need to spread that word and develop ourselves more as science center,” she said.

On the environment, Wellington said she would like to see improvements in storm water management in the county. She wants to close a loophole for single-family homes and advocate for a greener, plant-based, approach to be used in storm water management.

Ashwani Jain (At-large)

Ashwani JainCOURTESY PHOTO  County native and a Democrat, Jain said he got his first foray into politics when he was asked in high school by then-Senator Barack Obama’s campaign for president to volunteer. Jain, a cancer survivor who said for much of his life he felt powerless, said politics gave him empowerment and a sense of purpose. Jain worked campaigning for Obama much of his life until he was hired to work at the White House.

Jain, 28, said the issues of the County, affordable housing, schools, traffic and inclusion are related and that the County’s solutions to problems should be multi-dimensional.

“For me all those issues are interconnected end the best way we can close the opportunity gap is to address all those issues in a comprehensive way,” Jain said.

Jain said the County should pass a “Community Trust” ordinance to declare the County as a sanctuary jurisdiction.

Sanctuary jurisdiction is a loosely-defined term for cities and counties that prevent their local officials from assisting with enforcement of immigration law. County officials have said that Montgomery County is not a sanctuary county, and cooperates with Immigration and Customs Enforcement for “serious criminals.”

However, Jain said he believes Montgomery County is a sanctuary jurisdiction.

“Given the fact we already operate as a sanctuary jurisdiction we just need the political will to declare it as such,” Jain said.

On education, Jain said he supports universal pre-kindergarten, saying it would cut the opportunity gap for the County’s African-American and Latino students. Jain said he also supports increasing the County’s minimum wage to $15 per hour saying the County needs a “living wage.”

 Jain also said the County is losing technology start-ups and said he supports incentives, including tax incentives, to keep entrepreneurs in the County.

“We got to make sure if you are starting a business or you have a business that you are able to keep that business,” Jain said.

@neal_earley

 

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County to appeal recent pesticide ruling

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MoCo LogoAfter an Aug. 4 decision by a Montgomery County Circuit Court to strike down the County’ ban on pesticides, the County Council decided to appeal.

On Aug. 16, the County Council voted to direct the County Attorney, Marc Hansen, to appeal the Montgomery County’s Circuit Court decision on the County’ ban on “cosmetic” pesticides. Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Terrence McGann ruled that County’s ordinance preempted state law.

“Our Council’s legal team advised us that the County would have a reasonable chance of prevailing in an appeal of the Circuit Court’s decision,” said Montgomery County President Roger Berliner (D-1) in a statement.

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Firm admits mistakes in minimum wage study

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MoCo LogoThe County-hired consulting firm that conducted a study on raising the minimum wage in Montgomery County said it made a mistake when calculating the results.

“Obviously we take full responsibility for the error in our study,” said Dean Kaplan, managing director of PFM Consulting, the Philadelphia-based firm that conducted the study.

Back when PFM Consulting originally published its study, for which the County paid $149, 600, Leggett said the numbers were sobering. He said the projected job loss results were significant for the County, adding that even half the projected number would be a lot.

“The numbers are so staggering that if you were to still cut it in half, you still have a pretty substantial number,” Leggett said after the study was first released.

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Two more at-large candidates file for County Council seats

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Will Jawando Mohammad SiddiqueWill Jawando (D) and Mohammad Siddique (D) both filed for at-large seats on the Montgomery County Council. COURTESY PHOTOS  Since the new term limits amendment to the County charter, preventing reelection bids for at-large incumbent Council members Nancy Floreen, George Leventhal and Marc Elrich, there will be at least three new At-Large Council members in 2018. Two more at-large candidates officially filed for County Council this week, bringing the total number of candidates to 11 for four at-large seats.

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MoCo Dems begin the Summer of Resistance and Renewal

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The Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee launched its “Summer of Resistance and Renewal in Montgomery County” in mid-July, but the canvassing that makes up those efforts began in earnest this past weekend. Those canvassing efforts are aimed at drop-off voters with the hope of ensuring a Gov. Larry Hogan loss in 2018.

“There’s good turnout for general elections, for presidential elections, more of a drop-off with midterms,” said Jackie Coolidge, a precinct official in District 18. “This is going to be a very exciting year leading up to the election.”

Before the canvassing started, the small group of canvassers gathered in the Margaret Schweinhaut Senior Center, and one of the organizers, Marie Mapes, posed an important question: “What are the barriers to (drop-off voters) feeling engaged in the Democratic Party?”

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Flower Branch improves one year after fatal fire

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Silver Spring fire 8 11 16This fire at Flower Branch Apartments last year cost seven people their lives. Inspectors and tenants say conditions are better one year later. FILE PHOTO  A year after the fire that killed seven at the Flower Branch Apartments in Silver Spring, things are steadily improving according to tenants, activists and politicians.

Last August’s fire brought attention to a countywide problem with code-enforcement at rental properties as the tragedy revealed the harsh living conditions in which tenants were living. Since the fire, according to tenants, things have steadily improved with stricter enforcement from the County and more attention from the management company.

“I’ve heard there are still issues going on,” said Felicia Prospere, vice president of the Flower Branch Tenant Association and resident at Flower Branch Apartments. “I know some changes have been made. There’s a new manager, he’s been very responsive to us…so far from what I heard from other tenants who have communicated with me, he has been addressing their concerns.”

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Push back on minimum wage study by County

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MoCo LogoLast week’s release of a Montgomery County-commissioned study if the County increased the minimum wage to $15 per hour was a devastating blow to its proponents.

The results of the study, conducted by Philadelphia-based PFM Consulting group, are a dark prediction for minimum wage increase advocates, projecting the County would lose 47,000 jobs and $396.5 million in aggregate by 2022. The study also concludes that the County’s current minimum wage of $11.50 per hour is too high and the ideal minimum wage for the County would be $11 per hour.

Despite the sharp public relations blow the study dealt to their plan for a minimum wage increase, the members of the County Council that voted in favor of it have no intentions of backing down. However, even with the anticipated public rebuke of the study when its authors speak to the Council on Sept. 19, finding a way to increase the minimum wage will be a daunting task.Advocates on the Council for the minimum wage increase have attacked the study’s methodology saying it was conducted to reflect the sentiments of business owners surveys, saying the study were biased in favor of the feelings of business owners, not economic science.

“To me it’s just a total bogus study,” said Council member Marc Elrich (D-at large), the lead sponsor of the bill to increase the minimum wage.

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Takoma Park City Council experiences difficulties with youth-mentoring nonprofit

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Takoma Park Govt logoTAKOMA PARK – Over two straight meetings, members of the Takoma Park City Council discussed the difficulties they experienced when attempting to contact one of their nonprofit partners.

The organization in question, Making a New United People, had an agreement with the City Council to help young adults find summer employment.

The agreement, which Council member Fred Schultz (Ward 6) described as a "handshake agreement," involved the organization to assist 20 young adults in getting hired at a Taco Bell restaurant located near New Hampshire Avenue in Takoma Park. The agreement was not related to any other contracts the organization has with the city.

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State senator defends future frontline Metro workers’ pensions

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GAITHERSBURG – A state senator representing Montgomery County on Thursday defended pensions for future Metro employee pensions, which the general manager proposed replacing with fixed contribution, and suggested changes for state funding of Metro.

State Sen. Richard Madaleno (D- 18) said after a news conference Thursday he believes the presence of pensions and sufficient benefits improves Metro workers’ performance in their jobs.

Madaleno cited a 2015 article by Justin Wolfers and Jan Zilinsky of the Peterson Institute for International Economics, who said, on the basis of numerous studies, that workers with higher wages and pensions were likely to perform better as employees because they were happier.

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Two more candidates file for at-large seats

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After a term-limit referendum passed in November keeping County Council members to three consecutive terms, a new crop of candidates have filed to run for County Council.

With three of the four of the atlarge Council members – George Leventhal, Nancy Floreen and Marc Elrich – term limited, new candidates have declared their candidacy to fill the soon-to-be vacant seats for the June 2018 primary.

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