Monday, January 14, 2008

Hit the Ground Running

Our launch last week went well, and I thank you for your positive and constructive comments. Keep on writing! I'm sorry that the county's current template for blogs doesn't yet allow for readers to post comments just below mine -- but if you click on the envelope icon at the bottom of this entry, you'll be able to send an e-mail whizzing directly to my inbox. By all means, e-mail away!

It has been an eye-opening couple of months to be an elected representative. As a public official, I find that there are many hospital visits, memorial services, calling hours, and funerals that I must attend. Each of these events reminds you of the frailty of human life, and the amazing significance that each of us can have in the world.

As most of you know, two of my colleagues had significant accidents that required extended hospitalization and medical care. I am pleased that both Marilyn Praisner and George Leventhal continue to make tremendous improvement and that both will be back with us when the Council reconvenes this week. I am also saddened that our State has lost two legislative leaders during the past two months. Delegate Jane Lawton passed this past November, and many of us have been mourning her loss. And now, just this past weekend, Senator Britt from Prince George's County also passed away. As we begin this New Year, we must remember how important it is for us to do as much as we can with each day and to thank those around us for all they do.

This week the Council goes back into session, and it promises to be an interesting time. We start out our day on Tuesday walking across the street to the County Executive's office where he will provide us with his recommendations for our bi-annual Capital Improvement Plan (CIP). The Council is looking forward to seeing the Executive's priorities, and then beginning the process of public hearings and review. There will be many points of interest, but one worthy of note is that Montgomery County will likely spend approximately $265 million next year for the Montgomery County Public Schools capital budget, while the Maryland General Assembly will likely approve just $300 million in capital funding for schools for the entire state! Just something to keep in mind if you have a chance to interact with your state delegate or senator!

Once we receive the capital budget, the Council will go into session with three big issues. First, we will get an update from our public safety officials and Verizon about why calls weren't getting through to our 911 system one day in December. This is a critically important issue since this happened twice in a three month period; clearly we need to get this resolved quickly and effectively.

Second, we will receive a briefing on the draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) regarding the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission recommendations to close Walter Reed and move most of its activities to Bethesda Naval Hospital. Obviously, this shift will have a huge impact on downtown Bethesda, and Navy isn't recommending sufficient funds for us to provide adequate access to a world-class medical for our nation's veterans.

Finally, the Council will review the County Executive's recommended budget reductions for this current fiscal year. A number of councilmembers have real concerns about the recommended reductions impact on public safety and services for some of our most vulnerable populations. And that's just the morning agenda!

Later in afternoon, the Council will hear two zoning cases, and we will conclude the day with an evening public hearing on development districts -- a resolution to eliminate the development district in Clarksburg and legislation that will refine and strengthen the development district law. It's gonna be a busy first day and week, with some very important issues impacting many of our residents. Stay tuned!

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