Another day and another executive debate

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SILVER SPRING — In what has become a weekly ritual as the June primary draws closer, five of the Democratic candidates running for County Executive gathered at the Silver Spring Civic Center for yet another candidate forum.

The Latino Democratic Club of Montgomery County hosted the forum, which was moderated by WAMU reporter Armando Trull. Appropriately enough, the discussion revolved mostly around issues important to the County’s largest Latino population. Candidates in attendance included Council members Roger Berliner, Marc Elrich and George Leventhal, former Rockville Mayor Rose Krasnow and businessman David Blair. Delegate Bill Frick was the lone candidate to not attend, as he was in Annapolis fulfilling his duties as a state delegate.


County Executive candidates square off again

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SILVER SPRING — If any of the 300 spectators who arrived at the Northwood High School gymnasium for Sunday’s County Executive candidate forum hoped one of the candidates in attendance would distinguish themselves from the crowded field, they probably left the three-hour event disappointed. 

Seven candidates are vying to replace Democrat Isiah Leggett as County Executive, who became term-limited in 2016 after voters approved a ballot initiative championed by attorney, activist and perennial candidate Robin Ficker, the sole Republican in this year’s race.


Elrich and Berliner square off over public financing

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Ehrlich BerlinerCounty Council members Marc Elrich (D-At Large) and Roger Berliner (D-1). COURTESY PHOTO  The new public finance laws in Montgomery County are leading to a war of words between two current council members running for County Executive.

Marc Elrich, (D-At-Large) is using public financing and claims Roger Berliner (D-1), who isn’t using public financing, is part of the problem with politics.

In the first required finance report of the 2018 campaign season, Berliner reports that real estate development businesses, and individuals associated with those firms, contributed approximately $266,000 - nearly half - of the funds his campaign raised from Jan. 10, 2017 to Jan. 10, 2018, according to the State Board of Elections.

These groups include local residential and commercial real estate developers, building contractors and financial investment firms associated with real estate.

“The business community is obviously a significant stakeholder in our county, and I’m proud to have the business community’s support,” Berliner said. “I’m proud that the business community believes that I am the best candidate to lead our county to a more prosperous future.”

“This is why we need public financing,” Elrich said. “The whole point behind public financing is to take special interests out of elections like this. In Montgomery County there’s never been a bigger special interest than real estate development. There is no rival to the real estate development industry. What they look for is people who will minimize the impact on them of the cost of doing business in Montgomery County. Clearly Roger is heavily dependent on them for money.”


“Ease the Burden”

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Local leaders look to mitigate effects of federal tax plan

Local leaders are bracing for the impact of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which could hit County residents hard by eliminating a useful deduction for high tax states and cities.

On Wednesday both the House and Senate passed the long-awaited tax bill, which provides for $1.5 trillion in federal tax cuts and temporarily the top income tax rate from 39.6 percent to 37 percent. The bill’s personal income tax cuts were written to expire in some years to meet requirements imposed by Senate rules, while cuts to the nation's corporate tax rate are permanent.

“This is one of the most important pieces of legislation that Congress has passed in decades to help the American worker, to help grow the American economy,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc), who has been pushing for massive tax cuts for the majority of his political career. “This is profound change, and this is change that is going to put our country on the right path.”

While many Americans’ taxes will be decreased, a provision in the bill that caps property tax deductions at $10,000 has become an issue for residents in places with high property taxes according to elected leaders.

Montgomery County Council member Roger Berliner (D-1) wrote a letter urging Montgomery County Chief Administrative Officer Timothy Firestine to allow residents to prepay property taxes in order take advantage of the current, and more favorable tax deduction before the new tax cut takes effect.


Berliner says “NO” to cuts in education while Leggett mulls options

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MoCo LogoROCKVILLE — No program is safe from cuts as the County seeks to mitigate the effects of a projected budget shortfall next fiscal year, County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) said.

Last week Leggett announced that the County officials were anticipating a large unexpected budget shortfall, and asked that each County agency consider cutting two percent of their budget.

The sudden shortfall caught County finance analysts and council members by surprise as they based their $5.4 billion budget for the fiscal year 2018 off of much greater revenue projections.

"For me, everything is on the table, and you try to work through the particular details," Leggett said of the coming budget cuts.


Elrich spearheads County’s minimum wage increase

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20171107 121455Marc Elrich stands with fellow Council members and community leaders in announcing the passing of the minimum wage increase legislation. PHOTO BY NEAL EARLEY  ROCKVILLE – The minimum wage in Montgomery County Council will soon begin a slow rise from its current level of $11.50 per hour to an eventual $15 an hour, ending a year filled with debate, endless amendments and compromise upon compromise among members of the Montgomery County Council, which voted unanimously on Tuesday to approve Bill 18-27.

The bill now heads to the desk of County Executive Isiah Leggett (D), who in January vetoed a prior attempt by the Council to pass a minimum wage bill, but said in a statement Tuesday that he plans on signing the revised legislation.

“Based on the changes from the original bill, what the County Council approved today is close enough to the conditions I laid down for my support that I will sign the measure into law,” Leggett said.

Incremental change is the centerpiece of the bill, which will require employers to incrementally increase their minimum wage to $15 per hour over the course of the next six years.


County Executive candidates debate issues in Sentinel forum

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County Exec Candidate DebateFrom left to right: Roger Berliner, Marc Elrich, Executive Editor Brian Karem, George Levanthal and Bill Frick joined the Sentinel-hosted candidate forum to debate issues this week.     PHOTO BY MARK POETKERROCKVILLE — The four Democratic candidates running for Montgomery County Executive squared off in a debate Monday night to make their cases to County residents.

The debate, hosted by the Sentinel Newspapers, was an opportunity for the four men vying for the Democratic nomination for County Executive – Council members Marc Elrich (D-at large), George Leventhal (D-large), Roger Berliner (D-1) and Del. Bill Frick (D-16) – to separate themselves from one another.

New in this year’s election, is a campaign finance system. For those participating in it, the program limits donations to county executive candidates to $150 and matches a portion of donations with public money.

Debate moderator and Sentinel Newspapers Executive Editor Brian Karem asked the candidates if they took campaign contributions from developers.


County’s HHS amends minimum wage proposal to $15 an hour

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MoCo LogoThe County Council Health and Human Services Committee voted to make two amendments to the current proposal to increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour.

The HHS committee voted 2-1 to extend the implementation period by two years and change the definition of a small business from one of 25 employees or less to 50 employees or less.

“It’s very difficult to project what can to happen in the future. We have a madman in the White House,” said Council member and HHS Committee Chairperson George Leventhal (D-at large). “We don’t know where the economy is going to go. Currently the economy remains strong despite the uncertainty of our federal leadership.”


County Council tackles Purple Line issues

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Montgomery Council President Roger Berliner (D-1) said the hardest part of building the Purple Line is yet to come.

“The hardest part is now before us,” Berliner said. “And it will be more important than ever that we have open communication with respect to this project.”

The Montgomery County Council Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment Committee met with state transit officials Sept. 28 to discuss the expected disruption and impact from the construction of the Purple Line, a 16- mile light-rail train that will connect Bethesda to the New Carrollton Metro Station. The committee meeting served as an opportunity for state transit officials to answer questions the community has on the Purple Line construction.

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