From the County Council Office of Valerie Ervin

Dear Resident,

The holiday season is swiftly approaching, and now is the time when we begin to reflect on the past year and remember what we are thankful for.  As I reflect on the past four years, I cannot believe that my first term on the County Council is coming to a close.  It seems like only yesterday that I began meeting with many of you to discuss our goals for my first-term on the Council.  While we have accomplished great things by working together, there is still more work ahead of us.  

As I move into a leadership role on the County Council, I am committed to working with all of my colleagues to enhance the quality of life in Montgomery County.  Throughout the next year, I will work to make sure that we are sticking to our fiscal plan, eliminating ineffective programs, and evaluating our core government functions using a new performance-based budgeting approach. 

Of course, I will continue my work on important issues like education, public safety, the environment, transportation, and improving the lives of working families; however, with restricted resources many expanded services will not be possible. As a single mother who raised two sons, I know what it's like to make difficult budget choices, and I can assure you that the 17th County Council will be stretching every dollar to its limit.  
I want to express my heartfelt thanks to you, your family, and your friends for putting your trust in me.  I am honored to have the opportunity to serve my community for a second term as a member of the Montgomery County Council.  I look forward to continuing to accomplish great things by working together. 

Silver Spring Residents to Receive Noise Relief from Train Whistles

trainOne person really can make a difference in our quality of life.  Just ask Joe Rosenberg, who has been working to end train horn noise in Forest Glen for more than a decade.  Once I met Joe and discussed how the train horn noise was affecting the lives of residents living in Rock Creek Hills, I knew I had to step in. 

After more than two years of lobbying, I am happy to report that trains moving through the at-grade railroad crossing at Forest Glen Road in Silver Spring, located approximately one-quarter mile north of I-495, will no longer be required to blow their whistles.  With approximately 60 trains passing through this crossing per day, this Quiet Zone will provide much needed noise relief for residents.  The effective date of this change was November 1. 
The Forest Glen Road crossing has minimal pedestrian and vehicle traffic, but was still subject to federal rules that require all trains to blow warning whistles when approaching the crossing.

Safety is paramount at train crossings, and locomotive engineers still have the discretion to use their whistles, even in a Quiet Zone.  In addition, the Department of Transportation has added protection for pedestrians and bicyclists through a series of safety measures.  Lighting and signage have been enhanced, and a median barrier has been installed to keep cars from going around the gates that deploy when a train is approaching.
I want to thank Mr. Rosenberg, residents in the Rock Creek Hills Citizens Association, and staff from the Montgomery County Department of Transportation who worked with me to make this change possible.

Down-County Progress:  Recent Groundbreakings, Ribbon Cuttings, and Openings

Silver Spring Civic Building at Veterans Plaza

Civic Building Ribbon CuttingWith a snip of the scissors, I was proud to cut the ribbon on the much anticipated Silver Spring Civic Building at Veterans Plaza.  Cutting the banner were (from left): Darian Unger (with daughter Allegra), chair of the Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Board; County Councilmember Duchy Trachtenberg; Dist. 20, Senator Jamie Raskin and Delegate Sheila Hixson; Council President Nancy Floreen; County Executive Leggett; Chair of the Greater Chamber Silver Spring Chamber of Commerce Jere Stocks; former County Executive Sid Kramer; County Councilmember Marc Elrich; myself; 4th District Congresswoman Donna Edwards; and Councilmember George Leventhal. Representing the Silver Spring arts component Silver, ballerinas from the Maryland Youth Ballet Academy held the banner in place.

Silver Spring Library

Valerie at Library MeetingA new chapter in the continuing redevelopment of downtown Silver Spring began when I joined with local officials, community members and library advocates to break ground for the new Silver Spring Library. I am delighted that the new Silver Spring Library will become a hub for community life in downtown Silver Spring and will reflect the value residents place on literacy, education, and culture. I have also been working with Council staff to propose an amendment to the Silver Spring Urban Renewal Plan so that a pedestrian bridge can move forward.

The Fillmore

Fillmore GroundbreakingI joined a crowd of residents to celebrate the groundbreaking of the newest investment in Silver Spring: the Fillmore. This is a unique public-private partnership with the Lee Development Group, Inc., Live Nation Worldwide, Inc., and officials from federal, state, and county governments. The project will not only be an exciting multi-genre music and entertainment venue, but it will also create jobs, preserve the historic facade of the old J.C. Penney store site, and stimulate activity along Colesville Road.  It will also serve as a venue for community use space.

Takoma Park Fire Station #2

Takoma Park Fire Station 2After nearly a decade of discussion, I am excited to report that Takoma Park's Fire Station 2 at 7201 Carroll Ave. is open.  As many of you know, the old firehouse was built in 1927, and it was substantially changed in the 1950s.  The firehouse was partially renovated 1984; however, this piecemeal approch was not able to meet the needs for our modern fire equipment.  This new fire station has modern appratus bays, dorms and living quarters, and training and administrative space.  All of these things will enable better fire station management.  I am especially happy that the exterior design of the fire station includes considerations for historic preservation and community interests.

Youth Advisory Committee

As Chair of the Education Committee and a former School Board member, I have always been a vocal advocate on youth issues. I partnered with the Recreation Department and Safe Silver Spring to improve the role and structure of the County's Youth Advisory Council (YAC). The YAC was primarily an event-based organization and provided little opportunity for young people to weight in on government issues. I knew that the focus of this body could be restructured to achieve so much more.

I believe it is critical for the County to provide opportunities for youth to become more engaged in the community and to play a role in the decision making that affects their everyday lives. These opportunities will prepare our young people to become future leaders in our community.
In September, I was honored to speak at the first summit of the new YAC. The young people were truly inspiring and provided important input about upcoming policy decisions, recommended changes to existing programs to better serve young people, and identified key budget priorities. I am optimistic that an improved Youth Advisory Committee will help the County make sure we are reaching out to young people with opportunities that have a positive impact on their lives.

District 5: Land Use Takes Center Stage

Land use planning is in full swing.  The newest plan to begin in District 5 is the East County Science Center Master Plan.  This plan's goal is to create a mixed use life science center, capitalizing on the presence of the Food and Drug Administration, Washington Adventist, and Percontee site.  This plan will increase the amount of high tech, and bioscience jobs on the eastern side of the County, thereby furthering the County's economic development goals.  Transit and mobility concerns will also be addressed in this plan.  To learn more about the plan, please click here

Several other master, or sector, plans currently underway at the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission include:

Long Branch Bike Tour

On October 30, I joined the Silver Spring Advisory Board, County Planning Department, Park Police, and residents for a bike tour and lunch-time discussion of the Long Branch Sector Plan. This plan is important for the future of Long Branch and will feature improved pedestrian access, parks, commercial areas, recreation facilities, historic residential areas and many transit locations. I encourage the community to continue to provide input to the Planning Department and to my office as we work on this plan
Team Ervin Welcomes New Staff

Beth Sylvester

I am excited to welcome Beth Sylvester to my team.  Beth is my legislative aide and is the first point of contact in my office.  She will also be working on issues affecting veterans and youth. 

Beth graduated from the University of Delaware in 2008 with a degree in Anthropology and History. She also served in the United States Army as an Intelligence Analyst and was Honorably Discharged in 2008.

Prior to joining the Council, Beth worked with Habitat for Humanity International in Americus, Georgia as a youth programs coordinator and as a grant writer for GALA Hispanic Theatre in Washington, D.C.

Bintu Musa

I am also excited to welcome Bintu Musa to my team.  She is a recent graduate of Towson University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and International Studies.  She also minored in Spanish and spent her final semester interning at the American Embassy in Georgetown, Guyana.     

Bintu is a Montgomery County native and graduated from Wheaton High School. Most recently, she served as an election clerk for Anne Arundel County Board of Elections, where she trained more than 500 election workers.  Bintu is passionate about youth initiatives and has long been involved with the County Executive's Youth Advisory Committee.  Bintu will be working on community outreach activities in Silver Spring and in East County.

Scholarship Opportunity

The Chesapeake Bay Trust's Arthur Dorman Scholarship - Awarding a $5,000 scholarship to an outstanding minority student in Maryland

Chesapeake Bay Trust

Each year the Chesapeake Bay Trust awards its Arthur Dorman Scholarship to a Maryland high school or college student who shows an exemplary commitment to improving the environment of the Chesapeake Bay watershed.  Dorman Scholars are minority students who also exhibit leadership in promoting diversity, inclusion, and tolerance for individuals of all backgrounds.

The winner of this $5,000 scholarship will be announced during the Trust's Legislative Reception in Annapolis in January. Teachers, community leaders, and organizational partners are asked to identify eligible candidates and encourage them to apply.  For the complete eligibility requirements and additional information, please visit the Trust's Arthur Dorman scholarship webpage here.

Coordination of Gang Suppression, Prevention and Intervention 

Montgomery County is a safe place to live, and overall crime was down over the last year; however, we must be ever vigilant to insure that we are doing everything we can to crack down on crime.  I am continually monitoring gang suppression and intervention initiatives.  At my request, the Council has held regular meetings of the Health and Human Services (HHS) and Public Safety Committees to get updates on how law enforcement and various other County departments and outside agencies are dealing with emerging trends. 

Most recently, the committees met in October to get an update on the coordination of gang suppression and early intervention initiatives, including two strategies that I was critically involved in implementing - the Truancy Court Pilot Program, which promotes student attendance by discovering the root causes of truancy, and the newly reconstituted Youth Advisory Committee.