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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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County Council holds forum on workplace sexual harassment

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MoCo LogoROCKVILLE — For months the “Me Too” movement was among the biggest stories in the nation.

Reporters, politicians, movie producers and stars were all accused of sexual harassment – something all industries learned that they were not immune from – including the Montgomery County government. On Tuesday, representatives from the County’s departments gathered to talk about workplace harassment more than a month after custodial staff accused Montgomery County Fire and Rescue personnel of making sexist and racist comments toward them.

“So I think kind of given the climate of the, you know, the nation and what’s going on right now, I do think we need to take a closer look,” said Shawn Stokes, director of the Office of Human Resources for Montgomery County.

Other County department heads and human resources managers joined Stokes on the panel in order to summarize their department’s policies on harassment and mandatory workplace training required for all department employees. While the particulars of each County department differ, all County employees are required to go through some sort of workplace harassment training.

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Council decides to delay Montrose Parkway East

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countysealAfter heated debates and discussion, the County Council on Tuesday finally reached an agreement on what to do about the proposed Montrose Parkway East road project – delay it for at least year.

The compromise keeps the idea of the project alive while pushing the decision to build down the road. Although it has been on county planners’ minds for years, the project became more significance after Amazon listed Montgomery County – specifically a site close to the proposed road near the former White Flint mall – on a list of possible destinations for its proposed second headquarters.

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County hammered for Montrose Pkwy decision

  • Published in Local

MoCo LogoWith two votes against and one in favor, the Montgomery County Council Transportation and Energy Committee voted down a proposal meant to alleviate traffic congestion in North Bethesda near White Flint.

The 2-1 vote at last Thursday’s hearing means the committee will defer approval of Montrose Parkway East, a proposed four-lane highway that would connect the Rockville Pike and the Montrose Road interchange to Veirs Mill Road. The debate over the project proved contentious, as some committee members see the project as a potential infrastructure upgrade that could help lure Amazon to build their new headquarters in the County.

“Now it may happen, it may not happen, we don’t know,” said Council member Nancy Floreen (D-At Large), the lone vote for the project on the committee. “I don’t fault my colleagues for trying to solve other community-based problems, but until we know the results of what’s going on the economic development front, I would suggest we and move we table this conversation until we know the answer.”

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County ponders ballot problems

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MoCo LogoWhile the process of arranging candidates’ names on a ballot is normally straightforward, the unprecedented number of candidates running for the four County Council at-large seats this year could lead to controversy as state election officials attempt to cram a whopping 35 primary candidates onto this year’s primary ballot in a way that is fair to all those running.

“I think it’s very fair to say that this particular office [County Council at-large] will be a challenge for us to determine the proper arrangement of the ballot,” said Donna Duncan, assistant deputy administrator for the Maryland State Board of Elections, which is currently in the process of crafting the myriad ballots for the primary.

While there is a committee that will have some input into the process, MSBOE Project Manager Natasha Walker will bear most of the responsibility for the final look of ballots for the June 26 primary, which the Board must certify by May 2. Voters won’t have to wait that long, however, as Duncan predicted that the Board would post preliminary versions for each of the state’s various elections by the end of March.

Although Duncan said that in the past she has seen ballots for local party central committee elections boast more than 20 candidates, this year’s Democratic at-large primary field is the largest she can remember seeing for any particular race.

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County throws support behind local union

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countysealROCKVILLE — Local union leaders, members of the County Council and the County Executive gathered in solidarity last week before the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case that could do significant harm to labor unions, and in the process, cut off a major source of funds to Democrats across the country. 

On Monday, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. The case will determine whether public sector unions can legally require employees who are not union members – but still reap the benefits of a collectively-bargained contract – to pay the union so-called “fair share” fees. 22 states allow public-sector unions require employees who are not members to pay such fees – which are generally 20-30 percent less than full union dues – if the union negotiates their employment contract.

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County hears public input on new BRT study

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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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Taxes weigh heavy on county office candidates

  • Published in Local

While some Montgomery County voters favored the Montgomery County Council’s unanimous vote to raise property above the limits of the County Charter, tax increase was one of the most contentious issues that the Council tackled in 2016, as many property owners were infuriated by the vote, which raised the average homeowner’s taxes by 8.7 percent.

With an unprecedented 33 candidates seeking the four at-large seats on the County Council as the 2018 election season gets underway, a number of contenders in the 33-candidate field are looking to stand apart from the pack by promising not to raise property taxes any further. The Sentinel surveyed all 33 at-large candidates on the subject of property tax increases, many of whom pledged to not support further property tax hikes.

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Maryland considers dedicated Metro funding

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Maryland Flag Metro LogoANNAPOLIS — A delegation for business people and elected officials made their way to the state capital Tuesday to make their case that Metro, the region’s struggling mass transit system, needs a reliable supply of state dollars.

On Tuesday, the Maryland House of Delegates Appropriations Committee held a public hearing for a bill that would give the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority $125 million in dedicated funding. WMATA has requested this type of funding for some time from the three jurisdictions of D.C., Maryland and Virginia, as it is one of the few mass transit systems in America without a source of dedicated funding or a consistent permanent supply of public money.

Council member Roger Berliner (D-1), who served on the Council of Governments, a regional body of elected officials from D.C., Maryland and Virginia that work on regional issues, said no issue has united people more than the need for a dedicated funding source for Metro.

“I’ve had the privilege of serving on the board of the Council of Governments for many years and last year as chair,” Berliner said. “In all of those years, no issue has united our entire region, Republicans and Democrats, urban and suburban, more than the need to finally provide dedicated funding for Metro.”

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