From the County Council Office of Valerie Ervin

Residents and Friends, 


I hope you and your family had a chance to make some fantastic memories together this summer. Since vacations are over and the kids are back in school, I wanted to take this opportunity to share with you some of the issues that I have been working on during the Council recess. 


It comes as no surprise that issues related to sustainable farming, farm to table, and farm to school food production were front and center again for me this summer. In addition to my ongoing efforts on community gardens and childhood nutrition, I was proud to play a small role in the ongoing efforts to preserve Nick Marvell's Brickyard Educational Farm, which is an organic farm located down-county. I want to thank Governor Martin O'Malley for meeting with me and representatives from the farm last month. We discussed his leadership on sustainable agriculture and farm to table initiatives throughout Maryland. After the meeting, the Governor issued a letter of support for preserving the farm. He explained that, "The vital connection between our farms, the food we eat, and our children's future has never been more important than it is right now." 


I have also been busy working on supporting positive activities for young people. I was happy to be one of the primary sponsors of the Dream Concert in downtown Silver Spring, which was a partnership with Amnesty International and Justice for Students to raise awareness about the Dream Act. This was a great event featuring local bands, which played music in Spanish and English, and lots of dancing. I want to thank all the "Dreamers" for supporting the rights of all students who live in our community to have access to a college education. 


I also tried out my three-point shot at the 2012 Audacity of Hoops Basketball Tournament. This is an annual three-on-three basketball tournament for county high school students that I sponsor with the Department of Recreation, IMPACT Silver Spring and Pyramid Atlantic. This year, Howard County Executive Ken Ulman and Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler joined us to shoot some hoops. I want to thank them for taking time out of their busy schedules to participate because it helps to reinforce the relationships between local leaders and our youth. My basketball skills are a little rusty, but we had a tremendous turnout and everyone had a great time. 


In stark contrast to these positive events, a great tragedy occurred in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, on Aug. 5, when a gunman opened fire on a Gurdwara and impacted peace loving people all over the world. I was a guest at a vigil and prayer service for the victims and families of the tragedy hosted by the Guru Nanak Foundation of America, which is one of the the oldest and largest Sikh congregations in Maryland that performs charitable and religious activities in Montgomery County. The violence perpetrated against the peace-loving Sikh community is a heartbreaking reminder of how much work needs to be done by all of us to fight against hate and to open our hearts to understanding of all people and cultures. 


To cap off the summer, I had the opportunity to attend and blog about my experience at the Democratic National Convention (DNC) in Charlotte, North Carolina. It was one of the most hopeful and uplifting experience that I have ever had. 


San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro spoke about his experience as an immigrant and growing up as the son of a single mom. Michelle Obama moved the convention to tears as she described her experiences as first lady. Former President Bill Clinton reenergized the party about its mission. Finally, President Obama reminded us what it means to be an American. As he stated, "Yes, our path is harder, but it leads to a better place. Yes our road is longer, but we travel it together. We don't turn back. We leave no one behind." 


I left the DNC invigorated about the role that government plays in the lives of working families and the profound difference that government can make in all of our lives. It is truly an honor and a privilege to serve the residents of Montgomery County.



Valerie Ervin  

Valerie Ervin  


Montgomery County Salute to WWII Veterans


As the daughter of a career military man, I know the tremendous sacrifices military families make each and every day. My father, Henry L. Ervin, served in the U.S. Army and Air Force. I was honored to share my experiences growing up on military bases all over the world, during the County's Salute to World War II Veterans. On behalf of a grateful nation, I want to thank all of our veterans and our men and women who are currently in the armed service for their commitment and sacrifice. My comments from the County's Salute to World War II Veterans are below.



I am the daughter of a career Air Force enlisted soldier and a Montgomery County Councilmember. My father left Alabama in 1945 to join the Army. He first enlisted in the Army, and when President Truman signed the executive order integrating the military, he enlisted in the Air Force.


I was born on Anderson Air Force Base on the island of Guam to two very young parents. My four siblings and I grew up on military bases, and we moved around a lot.


I remember my mother starching and ironing my father's fatigues. On Sunday nights, when my father was home, he would bring his shoe kit into the living room and polish his boots and his dress shoes until they shined like glass.


I was always proud of my father. As I was growing up, I never fully understood what he was doing for the almost thirty years he served our country, and that he was willing to give his life in that service. This became true for me, when my father was deployed to Vietnam to serve there for one year. I was in junior high school, and I remember how unpopular the war was at the time.

We didn't have the Internet, so we wrote lots of letters back and forth. My father would send pictures of the children who lived in the villages of Vietnam and Thailand and would write about how terrible life was for them during the conflict. When my father returned home, he didn't talk much about his experience for many years, until he got sick from exposure to Agent Orange.

He visited me before he died. He was very ill, but he still wanted me to take him to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. I had never seen my father shed a tear until then. He spent hours searching for the soldiers that he served with, and I remember him standing at the wall for a long, long time. Afterward, he talked about the friends that he had lost and how the sacrifices of those men should never be forgotten. Going through this experience with my dad had a profound effect on me.

I am wearing two buttons today: one is a photograph of my father in his fatigues taken around 1973; the other is of my nephew, a staff sergeant who is serving in the Air Force and just returned home from Korea.

Military families make tremendous sacrifices every day. The courage and optimism that is necessary to bear the long separations from loved ones is more difficult than many people will ever know.

My father's military service inspired me to a life of public service. There is not a day that goes by that I don't talk to him and ask him for his advice. Today we are here to say thank you.

President Obama said it best in his speech at the Democratic Convention, "Yes, our path is harder, but it leads to a better place. Yes, our road is longer, but we travel it together. We don't turn back. We leave no one behind." So many of your lives are based on these principles, and your service to our nation is what makes America the greatest place on Earth. Thanks for your commitment and sacrifice on behalf of a grateful nation.  

The Audacity of Hoops
  Audacity of Hoops in action  
On Sept. 15, I co-hosted the 2nd Annual Audacity of Hoops 3-on-3 Basketball Tournament together with the County Department of Recreation and IMPACT Silver Spring. Youth came from all over the county to play in the outdoor tournament on Ellsworth Drive alongside the Fenton Street Market to create a bustling atmosphere in downtown Silver Spring. 
Audacity of Hoops The Audacity of Hoops is a three-on-three tournament that seeks to use sports and recreation as a means of engaging students and their families in constructive activities. The tournament is not only about providing young people with choices that are free, fun and positive, it also signals the growing importance of promoting physical activity by encouraging sports and exercise. Like last year's tournament, add-on events included slam-dunk and free throw contests. This year, we added female teams, jerseys screen-printed by Pyramid Atlantic, and teams from county agencies, including the Recreation, Police and Fire & Rescue Departments. And check out this spectacular dunk on YouTube!
The tournament is truly a collaborative effort with county agencies, non-profits and local shops and restaurants. Special thanks go to Gabe Albornoz, director of the Department of Recreation; Ronnie Galvin of IMPACT Silver Spring; Jose Dominguez of Pyramid Atlantic; and all of the youth who came out to play.

Increasing Access to Nutritious Food     


Lunch with kids at MCPS  
Many of you may have read the recent Washington Post article on the growing incidence of students hungry at school. Access to high-quality, nutritious food for children is one of my top priorities. Low-income children are at the greatest risk of food insecurity and often the meals that they do receive lack the vitamins and nutrients essential for their development, which can have a dramatic impact on student achievement. Many children depend on the meals they receive at school as their primary source of nutrition. 

The Summer Food Program is an essential way to provide nutritious meals to students, especially the one-third of students who qualify for free and reduced meals, when school is out. This summer, nearly 9,000 students received meals at 114 locations, including 12 walk-in locations, where children 18 and under can come in for a free meal. 

The program is aimed at increasing the number of eligible children who have healthy food options during the summer. In 2007, as chair of Council's Education Committee, I requested that MCPS consider ways to expand and improve the Summer Food Program. Since that time, I am happy to report that the number of children in the program has expanded by approximately 30 percent.

Fairness For Working Families

Displaced Service Workers
On Labor Day, we honor all the men and women who help make this one of the most vibrant and successful regions in the nation. In a recent letter to the Washington Post, Phil Mendelson (D-At Large), chairman of the D.C. Council, and I wrote about our support for one group of workers in particular - janitors, food service workers, nurse's aides, security guards and others who work hard at tough jobs in a low-wage world.

These service industries are subject to rapid contractor turn over with little or no notice to employees. I was the lead sponsor of County Bill 19-12, known as the Displaced Service Worker Protection Act. This bill ensures that vulnerable, low-wage service workers have temporary job protections when their employer's service contract is terminated. It provides a degree of financial security to workers who often survive paycheck to paycheck by requiring a new contractor to offer temporary employment to incumbent employees for the first 90 days of the new contract. The bill does not regulate compensation, and will have little to no financial impact on the cities, counties or the state, according to a noted expert in real estate economics. 

Montgomery County has a very high cost of living. This bill is about fundamental fairness for some of our region's lowest-paid employees, and simply represents what the District and other cities have already shown: There is a modest and workable way to make their lives more secure. I am proud to stand with these service workers and will continue to stand with them as they fight for fairness. Thanks to my cosponsors, Council Vice President Nancy Navarro and Councilmembers Marc Elrich, Craig Rice and Hans Riemer, not only for their support on this bill, but for honoring their pledge to working families. I also want to recognize the County Executive, who issued a letter of support early on in the process and signed this bill on Sept. 21.

Back to School Safety      


Since our students have returned to school, please remember to keep an eye out for children as they make their way to and from school.  In June, the school bus safety camera bill, which I sponsored, took effect.  
Passing a stopped school bus is one of the most dangerous vehicle offenses. This law authorizes the placement of school bus safety cameras on county school buses. If a driver is photographed overtaking a stopped school bus the fine may be up to $250. The goal of this new law is to change the behavior of drivers who currently ignore traffic laws intended to keep our students safe while traveling on school buses. A public education campaign will be implemented prior to citations being issued. 
In addition, as the Council's representative on the Pedestrian, Bicycle and Traffic Safety Advisory Committee, I have asked for a status update on the County's Pedestrian Safety Initiative and our Safe Routes to School Program. The Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment (T&E) and Public Safety (PS) Committees are scheduled to jointly review these programs on Nov. 1 at 2:00 p.m. in the Council Office Building.

Moving Bikeshare Forward in Montgomery 


Barcelona Bikeshare

Since 2008, I have been pushing at the local, state and federal levels for funding for a Montgomery County bikeshare program and expanding interconnected bike routes. As you may know, over the course of the past several months the county has been successful in obtaining grant funding for a bikeshare program. 
Bikesharing provides short-term bicycle rentals at self-service, automated, solar-powered docking stations sited at publicly accessible locations. Bikes may be picked up at one location and returned to another, creating a system that allows for one-way trips. 
On Sept. 11, the Council President and I introduced two initiatives: Bill 25-12, Taxation - Impact Tax - Bikesharing, which allows transportation impact tax funds to be used for certain bikesharing stations; and Zoning Text Amendment 12-14, Bikeshare Facilities - Incentives, which authorizes building permits for bikeshare facilities without a requirement for conformance to an approved site plan. The hope is that these regulatory changes will provide added incentives for developers to expand bikeshare stations throughout the county. 
The other critical piece of the program is the need to ensure that we are providing the infrastructure needed so cyclists can safely coexist with motorists. This is why I have advocated for funding the MetBranch Trail, Capital Crescent Trail, and the Silver Spring Green Trail. I have also developed the Pedestrian Safety Initiative in partnership with the County Executive and serve on the County's Pedestrian, Bicycle and Traffic Safety Advisory Committee. All of these efforts will ensure that the bikeshare program is implemented in a holistic way. 
I am committed to expanding low-cost transportation options through reliable transit and facilities that allow bicyclists and pedestrians to travel in a safe, reliable and convenient way. I am so excited to have the resources necessary to finally green-light this project, and will keep moving this initiative forward..

African Heritage Month 


I was proud to commemorate September as African Heritage Month. Montgomery County and surrounding jurisdictions have become the primary point of entry for African families coming to the United States. In fact, 14% of Montgomery County immigrants are from Africa, with the majority residing in Silver Spring, Takoma Park and Langley Park. This growing, diverse African immigrant population continues to make great economic and cultural contributions to daily life in our community by starting businesses, leading non-profit organizations and creating other enterprise activities. Together with Lene Tsegaye, Asmara Sium and many others, we celebrated the rich history and traditions of African immigrants that have become woven into our country's society and culture.

Food Recovery  

Food Recovery Network

With the rising cost of food and many residents struggling to make ends meet, working families have been forced to make difficult decisions. The Capital Area Food Bank reports that 40 percent of its clients have to choose between food and other necessities like rent or mortgage payments, utilities, medical care, and transportation. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, in 2010 more than 34 million tons of food was generated in the United States. In 2011, 19 percent of the county's waste stream was made up of food.

I am in the process of forming a Food Recovery Network Implementation Work Group, through a Council resolution, based on the successful model at the University of Maryland to provide low-income residents with assistance and to bolster our non-profit community partners who work on issues associated with hunger. The Food Recovery Network, which is already a proven success, redistributes food that would otherwise be wasted to those in need. This expansion is an innovative partnership that will have a strong positive impact on our county.

For more information, check out the program video on YouTube.

Making Our Streets Safer  

As the county's representative on the Pedestrian, Bicycle and Traffic Safety Advisory Committee, I am committed to making our streets safe for our residents who use alternative modes of transportation. After years of working with residents and our State Delegation, residents celebrated the activation of a new traffic signal at the intersection of Claridge and Veirs Mill Road (MD 586) in Wheaton on July 20. The new traffic signal will help protect pedestrians and bicyclists crossing multiple lanes of traffic.

I saw first-hand how dangerous crossing at this intersection was and talked with neighbors about the numerous close calls that occurred at this location. The intersection is bordered by St. Catherine Laboure Parish and is a highly used bus stop. It was the site of 70 accidents between 2003 and 2008, including three fatalities. I am delighted that our work with the State Highway Administration has lead to safer streets for this area and its residents
No Boundaries with Muriel Bowser 
 I exchanged thoughts and ideas on a wide variety of issues with District of Columbia Councilmember Muriel Bowser during the taping of No Boundaries, a show produced by County Cable Montgomery (CCM).  

During a break in the taping at The Society Lounge in downtown Silver Spring, we were joined by Society Lounge owner Jason Miskiri (right). The broadcast will air soon on CCM (Channel 6 on Comcast and CCM, Channel 30 on Verizon).

I want to thank Emmy-award winning producer, Barbara Grunbaum for her work on all of the episodes of No Boundaries. 
Celebrating India's Independence   
I was honored to be recognized by the National Council of Asian Indian Associations at its celebration on Aug. 26 as one of the county's distinguished leaders. It was attended by many dignitaries, including Indian Ambassador H.E. Nirupama Rao. This organization exemplifies the commitment of the Asian Indian community to freedom, democracy and full participation in community life. 
 As you may know, India became an independent nation, after a long struggle, on Aug. 15, 1947. India's Independence Day is celebrated by all residents of India, one of the world's largest democracies, regardless of caste, creed or religion. Each year, to celebrate, people pay homage to their leaders and those who fought for India's freedom. 
Shark Week   
Anyone who was in downtown Silver Spring in August saw the Discovery Channel's advertising for "Shark Week," which annually is one of the most successful cable broadcasts/campaigns in the nation. See more Chompie video on YouTube.
Coalition for Juvenile Justice  
This summer, I was the opening speaker at the four-day Coalition of Juvenile Justice State Advisory Groups' annual national conference.  The conference focused on innovative programs that have improved relationships between youth, their families and government agencies. 
The county is having to consistently step up to the plate to preserve essential services for our children and working families.  My focus was on early childhood education and early interventions to keep our children on the path to educational achievement and out of the juvenile justice system.  We know that high-quality, pre-kindergarten programs, child care subsidies and early interventions, like truancy court, help our students achieve success. 
All of these actions are essential to ensuring that we sustain high graduation rates, protect the health and welfare of our children and put them on the path to success
Land Use Update  
Burtonsville Crossroads Neighborhood Plan 
The Council will take up the Burtonsville Crossroads Neighborhood Plan this fall. This plan establishes a vision to transform the existing crossroads into a complete community, including improving the street network, adding an open space system, and providing for civic activities and recreational opportunities. The Planning, Housing & Economic Development (PHED) Committee will review the plan on Oct. 8 and Oct. 29. Please contact my office if you would like to share your views on this plan. For more information, visit the Montgomery Planning (Burtonsville) page.

White Oak Science Gateway Master Plan 

The Planning Board will review the White Oak Science Gateway Master Plan this fall, beginning Sept. 20, and will provide opportunities for public input. This master plan will revitalize this area and will dovetail with the county's economic development goals. This plan will focus on correcting the jobs/housing imbalance on the east side of the county and will compliment the county's life science assets, academic institutions and educated workforce. I encourage you to stay involved as it moves forward. Check out for more information.

Early Voting  
The choice is yours. Not only do you get to choose who you vote for, but also when to vote. As an alternative to your usual polling location on Nov. 6, you can vote early from Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012 through Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012 from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. (except Sunday, 12:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.). The five sites include:
  • Bauer Recreation Center
  • Executive Office Building
  • Germantown Recreation Center
  • Marilyn Praisner Recreation Center
  • Silver Spring Civic Building 


For more information see the County Board of Elections website.

Ballot Questions  
On Nov. 6 there will be more to decide than just political races on the 2012 Presidential General Election Ballot. Residents will also be asked to vote "for" or "against" several ballot initiatives, including the Dream Act, Civil Marriage Protection Act and Effects Bargaining. 


The Dream Act (Question 4) helps keep college affordable for our state's residents. The Civic Marriage Protection Act (Questions 6) is about equality for all Marylanders (see Councilmember Ervin's Marriage Equality video for more information).


Question B is a referendum on a law unanimously passed by the County Council that protects accountability, innovation and efficiency. Voting in favor of Question B allows the Police Chief to run the department in the most efficient and productive way and still protects the full range of collective bargaining enjoyed by all other police unions across the state and all other county unions. On Sept. 19, the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee overwhelmingly voted (109-14) in support of the Council's action and to support Question B.


You can find the language for these and other initiatives on the Maryland State Elections site.