Craig Rice Recaps Year as President (PHOTO & VIDEO)
As his term comes to an end, Montgomery County Council President Craig Rice recapped his year as President at the Council’s Dec. 2nd meeting, noting, “we certainly did a lot this year.”
Rice also said that he was glad the Council was able to address many of the goals he set upon taking office.
You can watch his last speech as Council President, below:
You can also read Rice’s remarks, below:
“I want to again acknowledge my colleagues as I surrender the reins as the Council president. I am humbled by the confidence each of you placed in me last December and I thank you. It has been a distinct honor and privilege.
“I want to thank Vice President George Leventhal for his leadership and support. He and I worked well together this year and I applaud and appreciate him stepping up when needed.
“I want to acknowledge my mother and father, Leon and Vivian, and thank my children. Being Council president has meant many more nights and weekends away from home than usual which always takes its toll on family life which I value and cherish. Thank you to my wife Tia for stepping up to allow me to handle the County’s business as president. You have, and continue to be, my rock.
“I want to say thank you to the entire legislative staff led by Steve Farber. What a great year. I thank each of you for the great relationships and tremendous work products you provided.
“And to my amazing team headed up by my Chief of Staff Steven Goldstein, Deputy Chief of Staff Sharon St. Pierre, Senior Legislative Analyst Rose Taylor and Senior Legislative Analyst Daniela Moya-Geber: Boy, did we accomplish a lot of work this year—and we always had a smile on our faces. Thank you for enabling me to have a banner year as president.
“Many of you have heard me throughout the year talking about how important it is that we continue to function as ‘One Montgomery’—a theme espoused during the presidency of Councilmember Navarro.
“This year, I worked hand in hand with County Executive Leggett and his staff, Superintendent Starr and the School Board, Dr. Pollard and Montgomery College and Stu Edelstein and Universities at Shady Grove to make sure Montgomery County stayed on track as the economic engine and education leader of the State.
“In 2012, I had the privilege to visit the White House where President Obama told a group of Young Elected Officials that ‘You don’t get elected to be somebody; you get elected to do something.’ And I feel confident that we answered the President’s call: We certainly did a lot this year.
“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.
“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.
“It was important that we continued Investing in the Future: The Council approved a 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.
“We had to protect our most vulnerable by Strengthening the Social Safety Net: This was a key priority as the FY15 budget protected core services and “safety net” programs. 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. The efforts of County Government and our non-profit partners 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.
“We knew we needed to do more for our lower wage earners so a New County Minimum Wage Was Approved: 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.
“We wanted to make it easier for people to understand our zoning code so the First Major Zoning Ordinance Revision Since 1978 Was Completed: The first major changes in the County Zoning Ordinance since 1978 were adopted in March and included a new digital zoning map. The changes went into effect on Oct. 30. The Council left significant zoning provisions in residential neighborhoods unchanged. Commercial and mixed-use zones were revised to allow development that will foster mixed-used pedestrian-oriented centers of development with public benefits.
“We tackled the most master plans ever taken on by the County Council. This was important as the master plans serve as a blueprint of what we foresee to come for that area. To name just a few, the White Oak Science Gateway Plan Was Approved: The White Oak Science Gateway Master Plan that will transform the area on the east side of the County around the Route 29 corridor and the Food and Drug Administration into a community of vibrant mixed-use centers was approved on July 29.
“And 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.
“As we continue to focus on people getting back to work, “Ban the Box” Legislation Was Approved: In October the Council enacted a ‘Ban the Box’ law. Bill 36-14 will prohibit certain employers from conducting a criminal background check or otherwise inquiring into an applicant’s criminal record before the end of a first interview.
“A passion of mine as well as many others on this Council was Improving the Procurement Process: 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.
“We Conserved Energy and Protected the Environment: The Council approved a package of measures that will protect the environment and improve energy conservation. Among the measures, one would require that any contract the County enters to maintain street lights be with a company that specializes in LED lights. Other bills would require an expedited review process for permits to install electric vehicle charging stations or rooftop solar photovoltaic systems and provide for reduced fees for those permits.
“In keeping with our Senior agenda, we continued to Help Our Seniors: Bill 17-14, approved in October, lowers the minimum eligible age for the property tax credit for senior citizens of limited income from 70 to 65, and will double the amount of the credit from 25 percent to 50 percent of the State and County Homeowners’ Property Tax Credit awarded in that year.
“So as you can see, we addressed some of the most serious challenges. We utilized planning, preparation, investment and, most of all, leadership.
“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.
“Thank you again to my colleagues and I congratulate each of you on your success, our success.”