By Kevin O’Rourke
At the inaugural meeting of the newly elected Montgomery County Council, At-Large Councilmember George Leventhal was unanimously elected to serve as Council President for the year. Leventhal, who severed as Vice President of the Council last year, was nominated by new District 3 Councilmember Sidney Katz.
The new Council was sworn into office at a ceremeny held at Richard Montgomery High School on Monday, Dec. 1.
Germantown resident and District 2 representative Craig Rice served as Council President last year.
At-Large Councilmember Nancy Floreen was unanimously elected to serve as Vice President of the County Council, after being nominated by Councilmember Nancy Navarro. Floreen is also an At-Large Member of the Council.
During his acceptance speech, Leventhal said that he wanted Montgomery County to be known as the county that works. “We are not Congress,” he said, “we want results.” He spoke about the importance of job creation and the need to market the county better as an international gateway. He also spoke about the need for equity and fairness in handing out contracts and working toward being in the forefront on environmental issues in the county.
“My sincere thanks to my council colleagues who this morning elected me Council President for the coming year,” Leventhal said on his Twitter account.
Leventhal, 51, of Takoma Park, is beginning his fourth term on the county council. He is the Montgomery County Democratic Party Chairman. Levanthal has served as Health and Human Services Committee to help reduce homelessness in the county. He is co-founder of the Purple Line Now, which advocates the 16-mile long modern light rail project that will connect Bethesda, Chevy Chase, Silver Spring, Takoma/Langley, College Park, and New Carrollton in neighboring Prince Georges County. During his campaign for re-election, he said he will work to restrict the use of toxic pesticides in the county and earned sick leave for county employees
Nancy Floreen has been a member of the County Council since 2002, and served as Council President in 2010. Floreen, 63, or Garrett Park, chaired the Council’s Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment Committee until 2010 when she became Chair of the Planning, Housing and Economic Development Committee. Previously, she served as mayor of Garrett Park and the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, as well as, the County Planning Board. Floreen has pledged to work toward ensuring the county’s fiscal sustainability, to increase job opportunities, as well as continue to improve education.
As he was turning over Council President duties, outgoing president Craig Rice thanked Leventhal for his leadership and support last year. “He and I worked well together this year and I applaud and appreciate him stepping up when needed,” said Rice.
“In December of last year, I set a very ambitious goal of things that I wanted to accomplish and I am proud to say we have done many of them,” said Rice. “I wanted us to continue maintaining fiscal responsibility: As the economy continued to recover from the Great Recession, the Council made responsible fiscal decisions to keep the County moving forward. In May the Council unanimously approved a $4.99 billion total County operating budget for Fiscal Year 2015 that fully funded the County’s world-class school system, provided major new support for Montgomery College, added new resources to the County’s great park system and boosted critical areas that had suffered during the recession, including libraries, public safety, and transportation. The budget included reserves at historic highs, and in October the three major credit rating agencies reaffirmed County’s AAA bond rating. The Council lowered the 2010 increase in the County fuel/energy tax by an additional seven percent, bringing the three-year total reduction to 27 percent.”
Rice also spoke about the County’s investment in education and approval of total budget of $2.28 billion for Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) to fully fund the Board of Education’s request and provide new resources to close the achievement gap while adhering to the State’s Maintenance of Effort requirement. “The Council also added 10 School Resource Officers, which will provide one officer at every high school. The Council approved a total budget of $297.0 million for Montgomery College which was basically the entire College’s tax-supported request and provided $3.5 million for the Germantown Bioscience Education Center. The Council also added $2 million for the Achieving Collegiate Excellence and Success (ACES) high school program aimed at those who are under-represented in higher education,” said Rice.
He spoke of the Council’s support of the social programs in the county through the funding of the “safety net” programs, which resulted in an 11 percent decrease in the number of homeless counted in the 2014 COG Point-in-Time Survey and a 33 percent decrease in the number of unsheltered single adults, he said.
“The Council continued its strong support of the Montgomery Cares program by adding $960,200 to increase Montgomery Cares community pharmacy, specialty care and behavioral health services. The Council added $225,000 for adult outpatient mental health services and $250,000 to establish a mobile crisis response team for children and adolescents. The Council continued to reduce homelessness in Montgomery County by funding another 15 permanent supportive housing subsidies for medically vulnerable homeless adults and 20 rapid re-housing subsidies for families,” said Rice.
Rice also spoke of the Council’s approval of establishing a new County minimum wage law. “Montgomery County, which previously followed the State minimum wage, established a new County minimum wage law that takes a graduated approach. Starting on Oct. 1, 2014, in its first phase, the County minimum wage increased from the State minimum of $7.25 per hour to the new County minimum wage of $8.40 per hour. The wage will reach $11.50 per hour on Oct. 1, 2017.”
He said last year’s Council tackled the most master plans ever taken on by the County Council. “Our Clarksburg/Ten Mile Creek Plan Was Approved: A limited master plan amendment was unanimously approved in April for the Ten Mile Creek area of Clarksburg that stays close to the original density projected in the 1994 Master Plan for the emerging community, but takes significant steps to protect the long-term health of a watershed area that feeds the Little Seneca Reservoir.”
“A passion of mine as well as many others on this Council was Improving the Procurement Process,” said Rice. “In October, the Council authorized the creation of two task forces to recommend improvements to the County procurement process and the County’s programs to increase the participation of local small businesses and businesses with minority, female and disabled owners. In addition, we have two bills that I hope will be approved shortly that will radically change the procurement process for our MFD companies that still need some help from us to grow into the MedImmune or Hughes Network Systems of tomorrow.”
“I look forward to working with this 18th Council through another four years marked with success and milestones that put Montgomery County at the top of the list of places to live, work and play,” said Rice.