QUALITY OF LIFE
People move to Montgomery County for two reasons: our excellent schools and the excellent quality of life. Our County has long been a progressive leader on so many social justice issues ensuring that we are providing the best quality of life possible for each and every resident no matter where they live.
However, we are facing challenges unlike we have ever seen before and need stronger hands-on leadership with a vision and record of getting things done to ensure that Montgomery County retains the quality of life our residents expect and deserve.
In addition, we need to focus on growing our economy and creating jobs, instead of losing them as we currently are – so much so that Montgomery County leads Maryland in job loss – in order to be able to continue to afford all of the services we are known for.
Poverty in Montgomery County is at historical levels. Montgomery County Public Schools have more kids on the free and reduced meals plan (FARMs) than the entire school population of Washington D.C. This is unacceptable, and only highlights the growing chasm of inequality and the emergence of “two Montgomerys.” We cannot continue to let this happen, and we must re-commit to eliminating poverty. We will focus on creating jobs and investing resources in the areas with the most abject poverty first. We will provide the resources for our poorer residents to not only get on their feet, but independently stay on their feet with the right skills to find good jobs that can help them climb the social and economic ladder toward opportunity and success. Working together with strong leadership, we can eradicate poverty by providing the opportunity of meaningful employment for all in Montgomery County.
One of the reasons I first ran for public office was because I could not afford to live in Rockville, the city I was born and raised in. I thought the government could and needed to do more and worked hard as County Executive to preserve and create 36,000 affordable housing units as well as established a dedicated funding source for the Affordable Housing Initiative Fund, and worked to make it more affordable to live here by creating the Local Earned Income Tax Credit. Montgomery County provides an excellent quality of life, and is an attractive place to move to, live in and raise your children in, however that also means it can be an expensive place to live. We can and must do more to make this county more affordable for people with good jobs here in our community to live. Whether for the impoverished amongst us, seniors retiring or Millennials entering the workforce, increasing housing affordability will be central to achieving a sustainable, economically vibrant county.
Children and Adults with Special Needs are an increasingly important issue not only in Montgomery County but nationwide and I want to address the issue head on. I will create a Special Needs Task Force upon being elected to discuss the priorities of this population as they relate to transitioning, education, jobs, housing and transportation in order to improve, strengthen and expand opportunities, programs and services for people of all ages with special needs. Read my full Special Needs Platform here
Mental Health and what we can do to help those who are mentally ill is something I care deeply about and affects my family and me personally. Having been diagnosed with major depression back in 2006, I also first-hand understand the benefits of recognizing the illness and seeking treatment for it. It is because of that and the support of my family and many around me that I can proudly say I am alive today and healthier than I have been in a long time. Getting help works and saves lives and I promise to ensure that getting access to that help is improved. Mental Illness, particularly among the youth, has led to too many tragic events. I plan to ensure Montgomery County is providing the funding necessary to have the resources available to help the mentally ill, especially in our schools. Mental health and substance abuse are shared state, federal and local responsibilities. While ensuring that services are appropriately funded, I will also see that local leadership fosters creativity and cooperation among health professionals, police and courts, community groups and family members to make systemic improvements to identify and offer services to those in distress. Science today has found many ways to help the mentally ill, and it is time we started dealing with this issue head on and provide the ability for those who want help to get it.
There is one thing everyone in Montgomery County has in common: we are all getting older. While I appreciate the County’s “Senior Agenda” as a first step, we need a more substantial plan to make sure that Montgomery County is doing its utmost to become a senior-friendly county. We must become an inclusive and accessible county that promotes active aging. I want to follow the examples of a growing number of cities and counties across the nation and join the World Health Organization’s Network of Age-Friendly communities in order to better meet the needs of our aging population. We can accomplish this goal by optimizing opportunities for health, participation, and security for our older residents to enhance their quality of life as they age. We must enhance our efforts to educate and communicate to both seniors and their adult children on all the benefits Montgomery County provides to its older residents so they can take advantage of them. Communities throughout the region are already beginning to adjust themselves as senior friendly, by creating “villages” that allow older adults to remain in their communities, give members a voice in the types of services provided and when and how they are provided, encourage volunteerism, reduce isolation, and create a sense of community among members. The County should engage further with them, as well as all the other senior communities to form a partnership and help spread the word on benefits available. Through stronger leadership, we will also work with state leaders to address how state tax policies are impacting seniors and their ability to retire here compared to other jurisdictions. Read my full Active Aging Platform here.
STRENGTHENING AND SAFEGUARDING OUR COMMUNITY CONNECTIONS
Montgomery County must do more to take proactive steps to prevent crimes from happening in our communities throughout the County. We must also further improve collaborations between victim advocates and human service providers and law enforcement and justice system agencies to ensure that victims and their families are treated with respect and receive the services they need. While County police currently do intervention tactics these are mostly reactive approaches for identifying potential or actual criminal behaviors. We must increase our community policing efforts to help prevent crimes from occurring in the first place. Effective community policing requires sufficient attention to community needs with resources that allow for connecting at the neighborhood level. As County Executive I will make it my priority to ensure that our community outreach programs are proactively working with the community to make deep connections and prevent incidents from happening before they occur.
Montgomery County is a great place, and a big part of that is our diverse community. My father came to this country, like many of our current residents, as a teenager not speaking a word of English. After serving in WWII and at the NSA, he became an ESOL teacher in our County’s school system. Growing up as one of 13 children, I saw first hand the challenges immigrants faced, and the benefits a great education and teacher provided them. Through my career in public service, I have tried to emulate my father’s example and provide opportunity to anyone willing to succeed. When previously County Executive as we were being reshaped by immigration and shifting demographics, we welcomed the change to successfully improve our schools and services while growing jobs, making Montgomery County an even more desirable place to live. Now a majority-minority county, we need a strong hands-on leader who knows how to work with our burgeoning and changing population to ensure that they are not only welcome to our county, but integral in its success. I have done it before and I will do it again.