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Hogan vows to step up efforts to halt human trafficking in Maryland

  • Published in State

Human Trafficking hands grabbing nettingHuman Trafficking hands grabbing nettingROCKVILLE – Calling Maryland a hotbed for human trafficking, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) announced several initiatives to combat the problem plaguing the state.

Hogan signed an executive order Thursday creating the new position of anti-human trafficking director, an appointed position to help combat the problem. In addition, Hogan announced new funding for a variety of programs to help research and develop solutions to human trafficking.

Finally, Hogan said he would support a bill, which legislators will introduce on the first day of the 2019 legislative session in January that will increase time served for some felony human traffickers.

Hogan said three regions in Maryland are hotspots for human trafficking: Baltimore, Prince George’s County and Montgomery County.

“The chilling reality is that Maryland’s central location and access to major highways and airports like I-95 and BWI make our state a hotbed for human trafficking,” Hogan said.

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Metro continues plan to subway car safety

  • Published in Local

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Metro’s chief safety officer reported to the Federal Transit Administration that the railcar barriers between the new 7000 series railcar will be installed on all 7000-series trains by May 2019.

In 2016, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority made its own determination on how to address the between-car-barrier safety issue. WMATA chose as its remedy to install on the 7000-series cars the chain-barrier system that it uses on its older railcars. Now FTA is requiring that WMATA follow through on its own plan and commitment to install the chain barriers.

In May this year, a woman with vision impairment used her cane to search for the doorway on a train that was a 7000 series, but mistook the space between the railcars for the doorway and fell onto the tracks.

Instead of chains between the railcars, which FTA and Metro call between-car barriers, the 7000 series railcars have rubber panels attached to the ends railcars alternating with the chains. Henrika Buchanan, FTA’s acting associate administrator for the Office of Transit Safety and Oversight, wrote in June the woman’s fall indicated the alternate between-car-barriers are unsafe for riders with vision impairments and ordered their replacement with the chain-like barriers.

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“Right Thing To Do”

  • Published in Local

County moves to fund attorneys for immigrants in Montgomery 

MoCo LogoROCKVILLE — One could have mistaken Tuesday night’s County Council public hearing as a national debate about the United States’ immigration policy – not a special appropriation to the budget.

While budget add-ons are common for the Council, the recently proposed $373,957 in funding for legal counsel for immigrants facing deportation has become a contentious issue among residents as they debate the necessity of the funding and America’s immigration policy during Tuesday night’s public hearing on the proposed special appropriation.

The special budget appropriation was introduced two weeks prior with full support from the Council with the intention of helping residents who do not have documentation, from being deported. If passed, the $373,957 would go to the Capital Area Immigrants Rights Coalition, which represents people in immigration court cases pro-bono.

“This is the right thing to do, it is consistent with the core values of our County and our country,” said Laura Munez Lopez, an undocumented immigrant that came to the U.S. as a minor. “It is consistent with the values that drew my parents to seek a better life here in the first place.”

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“Aggressively”

  • Published in Local

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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Fare Game

  • Published in Local

Delegate Korman suggests less of a need for fare increases if budget proposals are met

Maryland Flag Metro LogoThe Maryland General Assembly likely will fully fund Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld’s request for the operating budget, reducing the risk of untimely fare increases or service cuts, a local delegate said.

“I haven’t heard any pushback for the operating [budget],” said the delegate, Del. Marc Korman (D-16), who represents Montgomery County, on Tuesday.

Korman said Friday’s news that Gov. Larry Hogan said he supported the idea of a dedicated funding source added to his confidence. Wiedefeld in his 2017 plan requested all three jurisdictions find means to supply money on which Metro can sell debt each year. Wiedefeld left the decision of where to find the dedicated funding up to the jurisdictions.

“We spent a lot of time on it; on Friday, he [Hogan] agreed,” Korman said.

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County hears public input on new BRT study

  • Published in Local

countysealROCKVILLE — For some, the Tuesday night hearing on whether the County Council will fund yet another study of the proposal for a Bus Rapid Transit system on U.S. Route 29 may have elicited a sense of déjà vu as once more, the same people testified on the same topics and made the same points as they did the last time, the time before that, and each of the other countless times County has dipped a toe into the BRT waters while never really getting wet. 

Bus Rapid Transit systems – which can potentially provider shorter travel times than traditional buses by offering limited stops on busses that offer level boarding for passengers and travel at least partially in its own dedicated lane. So far, the County has proposed BRT lines on MD-355 and Veirs Mill Road in addition to the one on U.S. Route-29.

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Council gives MCPD gang money

  • Published in Local

MoCo LogoOn Tuesday the County Council agreed to give the Montgomery County Police Department and the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s office a combined $843,693 to fight the County’s rising gang problem.

The money, which the Council approved unusually quickly immediately after the public hearing without a Public Safety Committee meeting, will allow the State’s Attorney’s office to start a new gang unit and allow the police department to better organize their efforts on combating gang violence.

“I did not want an additional week to go by without our taking this matter up, getting a public hearing scheduled so we could act on the same day,” said Council President Roger Berliner (D-1).

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Purple Line to receive $900 million in funds

  • Published in Local

purpleline1 327x250According to Shareese Churchill, a spokesperson for Governor Larry Hogan, the light rail Purple Line project connecting Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties may receive a $900 million federal funding agreement.

“The Hogan administration fully expects the Purple Line Full Funding Grant Agreement to be signed in the very near future,” said Churchill.

Churchill said the agreement frees up $325 million in federal funds already appropriated for the project. The agreement will total $900 million over the life of agreement.

"The Purple Line project will harness the power of the federal, state, county and private sector partners to get a major infrastructure project under construction and create jobs,” Maryland communications director Doug Mayer said. “It’s a major win for the state and local communities."

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Historical sites hail restoration of funding

  • Published in Local

As the current Maryland legislative session draws to a close, organizations advocating for the preservation of the state’s historical sites and open spaces are applauding the restoration of funds for that purpose. The capital budget, which was approved March 29, includes $600,000 in funds for preservation grants.

“With final approval of the Maryland state budget, grant funding for historic preservation will see its first appropriation in nearly a decade,” said Nicholas Redding, executive director of Preservation Maryland, a Baltimore-based historical advocacy organization that lobbied extensively to restore funding. “Thanks to the support of members, partner organizations and legislative champions, Preservation Maryland is pleased to report that funding once considered lost forever is now officially back. The Montgomery County delegation has been extremely helpful and very supportive of historic preservation work, as evidenced by their support for this funding as well as key local initiatives like state bond bill funding for Pleasant View Historic Site near the Kentlands/Quince Orchard which also passed this session.”

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DeVos and Gov. Hogan visit local elementary school

  • Published in Local

DeVos  Hogan visit Carderock Springs Elem. 1Acting Principal Jae Lee welcomes new Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and Gov. Larry Hogan (R) visit Carderock Springs Elementary. PHOTO BY MARK POETKER  

BETHESDA –Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and Gov. Larry Hogan (R) visited an elementary school Thursday for National Reading Month.

About 60 second-graders filed into the media center at Carderock Springs Elementary School Thursday morning. DeVos and Hogan read Dr. Seuss’ “Oh the Places You’ll Go” to the students. She said she had read the book to her grandchildren several times.

She acknowledged the teachers and principal and their roles in the students’ education.

Afterward, she said she enjoyed visiting the school and reinforcing the value she said reading has for students.

“It was a pleasure to continue the celebration of National Reading Month today with the students of Carderock Springs,” DeVos said. “Reading opens kids’ minds and expands their world. Literacy is the foundation of learning, and it’s the starting point on the pathway to the American dream. We must make sure every child in this country not only learns to read but continues to enjoy the benefits of a lifetime of reading and learning.”

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