From the County Council Office of Valerie Ervin

Councilmember Valerie Ervin Elected Vice President of Montgomery County Council

Valerie sworn in as Council VPOn December 8, I was unanimously elected Vice President of the County Council. I am honored to be the first African-American woman to hold this office, and I appreciate the trust that my Council colleagues have placed in me. While I am taking on this added leadership role, I will continue to keep my focus on the needs of District 5 residents.

This year, the Council will be forced to come to grips with an extremely difficult budget cycle. Like you, I know what it's like to balance a household budget when times are tight. We will be doing the same thing, on a much larger scale, at the County Council. We will continue to fund the core priorities that make this county great, while learning to do more with less.

I value your input and suggestions on ways that county government can work better. Please don't hesitate to reach out to me with your ideas and suggestions. I know that by working together Montgomery County will continue to achieve great things.

Councilmember Ervin Introduces Bill to Encourage Employees to Report Fraud, Waste and Abuse

On January 15, I introduced Bill 2-10, Personnel - Contracts- Retaliation, to protect employees working for county contractors who report fraud, waste and abuse to county government officials. Current county law protects employees who report fraud, waste and abuse; however, this same protection isn't provided to employees working under county contracts.

I believe that we must do all we can to insure that we are spending taxpayer funds efficiently and wisely. The goal of this bill is to help create an environment where a contract employee is more likely to report an employer who may be wasting government funding or creating a public health or safety danger.

Once the County Council appropriates funds for county contracts, it is up to the executive branch to make sure that these contracts are being administered properly. Employees are often the best sources of information in cases of fraud, waste and abuse, and they should be protected if they come forward with information, instead of fearing termination for doing the right thing.

In 1997, the County Council passed legislation to create the Inspector General's Office to serve as a watchdog to detect and prevent fraud, waste and abuse. The county also established a fraud hotline (800-971-6059), which is available for residents and employees.

A copy of Bill 2-10 can be found by clicking here (PDF file). The public hearing on this bill is currently scheduled for February 9 at 1:30 p.m.

Sidewalk Construction

Kid on sidewalk

As the Chair of the Education Committee and as the Council's representative to the Pedestrian and Traffic Safety Advisory Committee, I know that sidewalks are essential for pedestrians and provide vital links for our children to and from school.  The county's annual sidewalk program is an ongoing capital improvement project for sidewalks that are relatively simple to construct and require little to no engineering design.  The County's Department of Transportation (DOT) coordinates with and involves the community regarding sidewalk installation.  However, the administrative processes required to approve the construction of each sidewalk can add anywhere from three to nine months before a sidewalk can be constructed. 

At my request, the Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment (T&E) Committee held a worksession on this issue in December.  As a result of this meeting, I am cosponsoring expedited Bill 3-10, Streets and Roads - Sidewalks - Public Hearing Requirement, which will expedite the administrative approval process to allow faster construction of sidewalks that are non-controversial, have substantial community support, would be placed entirely in the public right-of-way and don't require a detailed engineering design.         

I believe that this is a balanced approach that will improve pedestrian access in a substantial way.  This legislation will be available for review at the Council's web site here (PDF file).  A public hearing is currently scheduled for February 9 at 1:30 p.m.

Public Safety Forum

Public Safety Town HallIn late December, I convened a public safety forum with Montgomery County Police and Park Police in downtown Silver Spring in response to some high-profile crime incidents that occurred in and around Silver Spring including a bank robbery.

This meeting helped to educate officers about community concerns and provided information to residents about crime trends in District 5. Information sharing is critical as we continue to work with police officers to clamp down on crime. While overall crime rates are down countywide, residents are truly the first line of defense in fighting crime in our neighborhoods. Organizations like Safe Silver Spring and Weed and Seed have made tremendous progress, but they can't do it alone.

Residents must continue to work with community police officers.  If you see suspicious or criminal activity, please report it, so the police can provide an appropriate response. I cannot thank our public safety officers enough for all that they do for the community.  Look for my next public safety forum this spring.

For your information, the non-emergency number for the Montgomery County Police Department is 301-279-8000 and the anonymous crime tip line is 240-773-TIPS (8477).

Snow Removal Briefing

snow removal

At my request, the Council's T&E Committee scheduled a briefing on county snow removal procedures. I requested this briefing in response to concerns from down-county residents who alleged that they did not receive the same attention as other areas of the county during December's blizzard. The briefing evaluated how the county responded to the winter storm and if changes can be made to improve response times.

At this meeting, DOT pledged to continue to work with residents because they are always looking for ways to improve service. However, with snow fall totals ranging from 16 to 24 inches around the region, it was difficult to deploy trucks to all neighborhoods as fast as some may have expected. Overall, DOT employees worked very hard to clear our streets in a timely manner.

I will continue to monitor this issue. As always, if you need assistance please don't hesitate to contact my office at 240-777-7960. We will be happy to advocate on your behalf.

Honoring Buffalo Soldier James Daugherty

Wheaton Logo

It was my honor to recognize James Daugherty, a Silver Spring resident, with a Council proclamation.  Daugherty, at the age of 19, joined the Army's 92nd World War II Infantry Division, a segregated unit made up of African Americans whose members became known as the "Buffalo Soldiers."

His unit has been recognized for its heroic achievements and Mr. Daugherty was awarded a Bronze Star. Mr. Daugherty also had a distinguished career in the U.S. Public Health Service and became the first African American to serve on the Montgomery County Board of Education. Mr. Daugherty's first-person accounts of his military experiences are chronicled in his book, The Buffalo Saga.

At the ceremonies in Rockville recognizing Mr. Daugherty were, left to right: his wife, Dorothy; his son, Derek; Councilmember Mike Knapp, a military veteran; Mr. Daugherty; myself and Councilmember Phil Andrews.

Takoma/Langley Pedestrian Improvements

Takoma Crossroads Groundbreaking

I was happy to participate in the ribbon cutting of the Takoma/Langley pedestrian improvements along the intersection of New Hampshire Avenue and University Boulevard.  This project will help minimize future pedestrian injuries and deaths, while maintaining the flow of traffic and accommodating public transportation needs.  I want to thank Erwin Mack, Executive Director of the Takoma/Langley Crossroads Development Authority, for his advocacy which helped make this project a reality.

Need Help Paying Your Utility Bill?

Utility Meter

With winter in full swing, I wanted to remind you that Montgomery County has programs to help eligible residents with the cost of heating and electric bills.  For more information, please call 240-777-4450 or go to visit the Montgomery County Web site.

County Council Youth Town Hall Meeting

The Montgomery County Council is holding a youth town hall meeting on Wednesday, February 3, 2010 at 7:00 pm to get input on community issues from young people around the county. The meeting will be held at the Council Office Building, which is a three-block walk from the Rockville Metro stop. Free parking is also available in the building's garage on Fleet Street. This meeting will also be broadcast on the County's Cable Channel.

Flippin' Pizza Ervin Style
Flippin Pizza

I celebrated the grand opening of Flippin' Pizza in Silver Spring (8517 Colesville Road) by learning how to make my own New York-style pie like the pros. This is the newest restaurant in downtown Silver Spring and the pizza is terrific.

Team Ervin Gains a New Staffer
Shondell Foster

I am delighted to announce that Shondell Foster from the County Council's central staff has joined my office as a policy analyst.  Shondell will be handling land use and zoning issues as well as public safety and other community issues.

Shondell is a graduate of American University, Washington College of Law where she served as a student attorney for the Civil Practice Clinic and the Glushko-Samuelson Intellectual Property Law Clinic.  Prior to working on the Council's central staff, Shondell interned at the Federal Aviation Administration and the Maryland General Assembly.  Although external demands on her time have prevented her from volunteering this year, she has enjoyed volunteering with the Bar Association of Montgomery County's Pro Bono Program to provide legal advice and representation to County residents.