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Public weighs in on possible BRT on U.S. 29

  • Published in Local

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ROCKVILLE – There is little debate that traffic is one of the biggest issues in the County, but there is much debate on what to do about it.

Tuesday night, residents testified at the County Council on the County’s plan for a Bus Rapid Transit system on U.S. Route 29.

The proposed U.S. 29 BRT would be a 14-mile bus route that would quickly shuttle people up and down the East County while driving in both mixed traffic and on shoulder lanes. The proposed bus route would cost $31 million, $21.5 million coming from the County and $10 million coming from a U.S. Department of Transportation grant.

At the public hearing Tuesday night, reaction to the planned BRT was mixed. While most agreed there needs to be more transit options for commuters in the East County, residents are split on what that solution is.

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Candidates test new campaign finance system

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MoCo LogoMore than a year from the 2018 primary election, candidates for County offices are heading in to a new territory of publicly-financed campaigns,

In 2014, the County Council passed a law to publicly finance County elections in hopes to counter the impact of campaign donations from large businesses and political action committees.

Montgomery County is the first county in the state to have publicly-financed elections, meaning the new funding system for candidates is untested.

“It leads some people running for office to look more to grassroots and small donations,” said Ed Amatetti, a Republican candidate for County Council District-2 on the new campaign finance system.

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Berliner says budget aggression will not stand

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Montgomery County Council President Roger Berliner reassured activists and professionals in the Jewish community last week that the County’s proposed budget that includes a 1 percent cut in funding for nonprofits will not stand.

“It just simply can’t stand, and I know my colleagues feel the same way,” Berliner told the 60 participants at the 12th annual Jewish Community Relations Council’s Montgomery County Advocacy Day on April 6.

The reduced funding is proposed to come out of the Department of Health and Human Services Non-Developmental Disabilities Provider Services Contracts budget, which many nonprofits rely on to provide services to County residents.

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Green Party candidate files for County Council at-Large

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Tim WillardTim Willard. COURTESY PHOTO  

BETHESDA – Green Party candidate Tim Willard of Kensington has filed with the County Board of Elections to run for the County Council at Large in 2018.

“I’m running on a platform of sustainability,” Willard said. “We have start planning an end to growth, it’s getting expensive, and we have to figure out how we go into the future,” he added.

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Council closer to funding bus rapid transit in eastern county

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If everything goes as planned, the East County will be one step closer to having a new alternative for commuters.

Last week, the Montgomery County Department of Transportation and the Maryland Transit Administration released a study on the proposed Bus Rapid Transit for U.S. Route 29.

Representatives from MCDOT and MTA spoke to the County Council Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment Committee last week. The T & E committee did not vote on the proposal during its meeting last week.

The proposed BRT for Route 29 is part of a series of BRT lines the County is proposing – along with one on MD-355 and MD-586 – that it hopes will cut down on heavy traffic congestion in the County. The BRT would operate partially along the shoulder lanes as a quicker alternative to buses.

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Council questions WSSC rate structure change

  • Published in Local

LAUREL – A change in county water bills is almost certainly coming, but exactly how much more (or less) residents will pay is still to be determined.

On March 30, the Prince George’s County Council Transportation, Housing and Environment Committee (THE) held a joint meeting with their counterpart from the Montgomery County Council, the Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment (T&E) committee to hear from Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission staff about progress on the utility’s rate structure study. WSSC has to change the rate structure to remain financially viable, officials say.

“There’s always this tension between having enough revenue to meet the needs for providing the services, both water and sewer, but also on the capital side,” said Council member Todd Turner, chair of THE. “People are consuming less water, so because the revenues aren’t coming in because of the consumption, what are you going to do? Unfortunately, nothing goes down in cost, it seems like, so in making that (increase) reasonable, there’s a balance that we have to find as part of this process.”

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Leggett brings in the county budget

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Leggett 20091001 104316County Executive Ike Leggett

ROCKVILLE –, County Executive Ike Leggett met with the County Council to discuss his new proposed budget last week.

Unlike last year, this year Leggett does not propose any increase in property taxes above the charter limit in his $5.4 billion operating budget. Per usual, about half of the County’s proposed budget will go toward education with $2.5 billion for Montgomery County Public Schools and $309 million for Montgomery College.

Leggett’s proposed budget is a 2.7 percent increase from last year and does not dramatically increase funding for any County agency. In this year’s budget Leggett proposed a 2.3 percent increase to MCPS or $25 million additional to the state-mandated Maintenance of Effort.

“Given that, along with continued uncertainty about the economic recovery and State and federal actions, I am limiting any new programs or significant program expansions to those that clearly achieve our shared priorities and best serve County residents,” Leggett said.

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Berliner supports local Muslim communities

  • Published in Local

SILVER SPRING – Montgomery County Council President Roger Berliner (D-1) came to the Muslim Community Center as part of MCC’s Community Education Series to address members’ concerns regarding hate crimes in the area after the MCC received a threatening letter in late February.           

“This is a time and a conversation that I never thought I’d have in my lifetime,” Berliner said.  “For those of us who believe in government and the goodness of our people, this has been a particularly challenging time … if you don’t feel welcome in Montgomery County, then we’ve failed you.”

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Two more residents file to run as they seek county office

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Two more people filed to run for County office last week after the filing period begun Feb. 28.

North Potomac consultant and former teacher Ed Amatetti filed last week, and is running as a Republican for the County Council District 2 seat, while Rockville accountant Richard Gottfried filed for one of the open County Council at-large seats and is running as a Democrat.

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County hears more on fatal fire

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Silver Spring fire 8-11-16An internal audit was held on the County's response to the Flower Branch Apartments fire that killed seven and displaced over 100 people last August. FILE PHOTO  

During their internal audit about the County’s response to the fire at Flower Branch Apartments in Silver Spring that killed seven and displaced more than 100 people last August, County officials did not interview victims from the fire.

At last week’s council meeting, officials from several County agencies briefed the Council on an internal audit of the County’s response in providing services in the immediate aftermath of the fire. The audit listed several recommendations for the County, including a need for better communication between County staff.

Council member Tom Hucker (D-5) said the audit was disappointing and criticized County officials for not interviewing the victims of the fire who received the County’s services.

“It seems strange to me, as an approach, that you would just talk to County agencies and the non-profits we fund, but not the actual victims,” Hucker said.

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