Councilmember Nancy Navarro to Attend Launch of New MCPS, Hispanic Heritage Foundation and code.org Partnership

Councilmember Nancy Navarro to Attend Launch of New MCPS, Hispanic Heritage Foundation and code.org Partnership at 1 p.m. TODAY, March 24, at Wheaton H.S.

Councilmember Navarro Facilitates Partnership Aimed at Preparing Youth for Technology Careers

ROCKVILLE, Md, March 24, 2014—Montgomery County Councilmember Nancy Navarro at 1 p.m. TODAY will wheaton hsattend a news conference at Wheaton High School where Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) is announcing a partnership that will introduce youth to technology careers. Following the press conference, the event will feature an interactive “Coding Jam Session” that will teach youth how to code using HTML and CSS.

Councilmember Navarro facilitated the partnership between MCPS and the Hispanic Heritage Foundation, suggesting Wheaton High School as a location to hold this first of its kind event in Montgomery County.

Wheaton High School is located at 12601 Dalewood Dr. in Silver Spring. Other speakers expected include Phillip Kaufman, president of the Board of Education; Joshua P. Starr, superintendent of schools; Antonio Tijerino, president and CEO of the Hispanic Heritage Foundation; and Jake Baskin, the program manager for code.org.

The program will help address the workforce development challenge Montgomery County is facing to fill the gap for skills and experience needed to perform in-demand jobs. By 2020, as baby boomers are retiring, millennials will be representing about 50 percent of the workforce. According to a report by the Center for American Progress, by 2030, more than half of new workers will be people of color and the American workforce will need to fill 83 million replacement and new jobs.

“I am very pleased to see the launching of this new partnership,” said Councilmember Navarro. “When Mr. Tijerino told me about his organization’s Coding Jam Sessions being held at schools throughout the country, I immediately thought we needed to bring this to Montgomery County to inspire curiosity and interest in our students.”

Councilmember Navarro said the program will be part of efforts Montgomery County is making to retain and create jobs.

“We are making investments in the retention and creation of jobs through direct incentives and through the passage of Master and Sector Plans that are creating a technology destination in Montgomery County,” said Councilmember Navarro. “The time to prepare all young people to succeed in increased globalization and emerging technologies is now.”

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A Productive Year as Council President

This morning marked the end of my one-year term as Council President. This year, the Council accomplished a great deal. We maintained our fiscal responsibility by passing a balanced budget, invested in our future by fully funding our IMG_3108schools, and helped our most vulnerable residents by raising the minimum wage. We strengthened support services for our seniors, passed legislation protecting our environment, and made government more accessible for our residents. We also strengthened our relationship with our delegation in Annapolis by advocating for the successful transportation funding bill that will provide the resources for Montgomery County’s transit priorities.

Thank you to my colleagues for giving me this opportunity to serve. I look forward to working with newly elected Council President Craig Rice and Vice President George Leventhal. As I look back at the past year, I can’t help but marvel at all the things the Council has accomplished together.

 

Accomplishments of the Montgomery County Council
December 2012—December 2013

Maintaining Fiscal Responsibility: As the economy continued to recover from the Great Recession, the Council made smart fiscal decisions to keep our economy moving in the right direction. The three major credit rating agencies acknowledged these decisions by reaffirming Montgomery County’s AAA bond rating. In the Fiscal Year 2014 budget, the Council kept its promise to lower the fuel / energy tax by an additional 10 percent, bringing the two-year total reduction to 20 percent. The Council also provided raises for the County’s dedicated workforce for the first

Investing in our Future: The Council fully funded the Board of Education’s FY14 budget request for Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS). It approved an additional $280 million in funds outside the MCPS budget to serve students and their families. These additional services include debt service on school construction bonds, pre-funded retiree health benefits, and support services, such as school health nurses, crossing guards, technology modernization, and after school programming. The Council also released a report by the Office of Legislative Oversight on the academic achievement gap, strengthened the Kennedy Cluster Project and expanded funding for Excel Beyond the Bell. In addition, the Council supported increased funding for Linkages to Learning, school-based Wellness Centers, and the popular Teen Escape Club program.time in several years.

Strengthening the Social Safety Net: Helping our most vulnerable residents was a key priority for the Council this year. The Council increased the County Executive’s recommendation for the Department of Health and Human Services by $5 million, including a 3 percent cost-of-living adjustment for nonprofit service providers. It passed resolutions calling for the state to increase the minimum wage and reaffirming the Council’s commitment to anti-poverty and safety net programs.

The Council increased funding for the Student/Teen Employment Program, increased staffing for the anti-gang Street Outreach Network program, and added additional resources for the Department of Recreation to support at-risk youth. It provided additional funding to reduce the waiting list for the Montgomery Coalition for Adult English Literacy (MCAEL), increased resources for the Working Parents Assistance Child Care Subsidies Program, and expanded food recovery efforts. In the FY14 budget, the Council funded the Working Families Income Supplement at the highest level since the Great Recession. Most significantly, the Council made history by becoming the first county in the nation to raise its minimum wage. By 2017, the minimum wage in Montgomery County will be $11.50, among the highest in the nation.

Supporting our Seniors: The Council significantly increased funding for a variety of senior programs in the FY14 budget. For the first time, the Council established a Senior Mobility Manager position in County Government and provided additional funds to the Public Information Office to promote senior transportation options. The Council also increased funding for mental health services for seniors and continued its support for senior recreation activities.

Protecting our Environment: The Council passed important legislation to protect our environment this year. It passed legislation preserving trees in the County right-of-way and requiring the replacement of trees destroyed through development. The Council also updated the Water Quality Protection Fee to now include commercial properties, but reduce the rate for most residential properties. The Council also approved funding to bring bike-sharing to Montgomery County.

Promoting Open Government and Access for All: Last year, the Council launched an initiative to better communicate with our constituents. Since then, it has procured a new constituent management database, hired bilingual public information officers, and improved its technology infrastructure. The Council launched the first Council E-Newsletter and will modernize its website in the coming year. The Office of Legislative Oversight developed the first “Interactive Fiscal Model” so residents can review and weigh the budget decisions the Council makes each year. For the first time, residents were able to testify at public hearings in a language other than English, with real-time closed caption translation. The Council also held an unprecedented four nights of public hearings on the Zoning Code Rewrite, where it heard from hundreds of residents about a range of issues. Finally, the Council passed the Right to Vote resolution, creating a Right to Vote Task Force—a citizen group that will recommend ways to increase participation and promote greater access to the democratic process for our residents.

Focusing on Economic Development: The Council had one of the most ambitious master and sector plan schedules in recent memory. One of the most significant accomplishments of the term was passing the Countywide Transit Corridors Functional Master Plan, calling for Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) with dedicated lanes along many of Montgomery County’s most congested roadways. This plan sets the stage for a high-quality transit network that will accommodate the expected regional growth over the next few decades. The Council also approved several plans in anticipation of the Purple Line, such as the Chevy Chase Lake Sector Plan and the Long Branch Sector Plan. The Glenmont Sector Plan and Burtonsville Crossroads Neighborhood Plan, which were also approved this year, are two examples of the Council working with our state delegation to designate “Enterprise Zones” in areas to complement land-use decisions.

Working with Annapolis: The Council’s partnership with the Montgomery County Delegation in Annapolis was strengthened this year. The Council was outspoken in its advocacy for the ultimately successful Transportation Infrastructure Investment Act, which will raise more than $650 million for Montgomery County to build the Purple Line, Corridor Cities Transitway and other County transportation priorities. This landmark transportation bill is expected to raise more than $4.4 billion statewide over the next six years. The Council also passed a resolution calling for stronger gun control in the wake of the Sandy Hook school shooting, and the Governor and General Assembly responded by passing the most sweeping gun control legislation in the nation.

Remarks by Council President Navarro
December 3, 2013 

The theme of my speech when I was elected president last year was ‘One Montgomery.’ I talked about the need for us to confront the social and economic challenges our County was facing head on. I said that now—more than ever before—we must be in this together. That we all share the same need for a government that encourages economic growth, protects our families, educates our children and provides a safety net for those who fall on hard times. . . .

“‘One Montgomery’ means investing in our economic infrastructure so we can continue to strengthen our social infrastructure. It means providing equal opportunity to all of our 1 million plus residents—throughout our 500 square miles . . .

“One of the initiatives I felt most passionately about this year is increasing access to the government for our constituents. Too many of our residents either don’t know how to access government or find it difficult to navigate the system. Last year, we set aside funds for the first time with the goal of increasing communications with our residents. This year, we continued that effort by establishing a new constituent management system, hired full-time bilingual public information support and significantly upgraded our technology infrastructure. We also, for the first time, allowed non-English speakers to testify at public hearings with real-time closed-caption translation. Finally, we held an unprecedented four nights of public hearings, where we heard from hundreds of residents, about the ongoing Zoning Code Rewrite. . . .

“One of my top goals this year was to strengthen our relationship with our delegation in Annapolis. It is powerful when the Montgomery County Government and our State Delegation speak with one voice. This was evident in our advocacy for the successful passage of a transportation financing bill that will provide more than $650 million to Montgomery County to build the Purple Line, the Corridor Cities Transitway and other top transportation priorities. . . .

“The question we ask ourselves each year is this: are we better off today than we were one year ago? Did we accomplish what we sought to? Did we serve the interests of our constituents? Did we make progress for our community? My view is that we will look back on this year as one of transformation. This year, we served our neediest residents, we set the stage to fundamentally reshape our transit infrastructure and we made the investments in our future that will pay dividends for years to come. Montgomery County is stronger today than it was a year ago and I have every bit of confidence that we will continue to make progress and move forward as One Montgomery.”

Montgomery County Council President Nancy Navarro Named to Washingtonian Magazine’s List of “Most Powerful Women”

ROCKVILLE, Md., October 31, 2013—Montgomery County Council President Nancy Navarro has been named by Washingtonian Magazine as one of the “Most Powerful Women.” The list includes “117 of the area’s most influential women in government, business, health, media, law, education, nonprofits and the arts.” Council President Navarro is one of 53 women who are new additions to the list.

Selected annually by the magazine’s editors, the 2013 list includes First Lady Michelle Obama, Maryland U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski and Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor.

“I am deeply humbled to be on a list with such distinguished women,” said Council President Navarro. “I appreciate Washingtonian magazine’s editors for recognizing me for this distinct honor.”

The list of the “Most Powerful Women” is featured in the November 2013 issue of Washingtonian magazine. A reception recognizing the honorees will be held at the Fairmont Hotel in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 13.

Councilmember Navarro is the first Latina ever elected president of the Montgomery County Council. She was elected to the Council in a special election in 2009 and re-elected to a four-year term in 2010. Since 2010, she has chaired the Government and Operations and Fiscal Policy Committee.

Prior to joining the Council, she was a member of the Montgomery County Board of Education, where she was twice elected president. During her tenure there, she focused her efforts on kindergarten readiness, advancing the achievement of the County’s neediest students, strengthening parental engagement, expanding bilingual staff and increasing the Board’s accountability to its stakeholders.

Before entering public life she co-founded a community-based organization whose mission was to assist the economic and educational development of Latino and other immigrant communities. School readiness, healthy family development, and academic achievement were primary goals of the organization.

One key initiative led by Council President Navarro’s office is the groundbreaking Latino Civic Project. The purpose of the project is empowering the Latino community to engage in civic participation and to advocate for issues affecting their neighborhoods. More than 100 participants have joined Council President Navarro at conferences, organizational meetings and public hearings. These community leaders volunteer their time and effort to becoming involved in the civic process and have an active commitment to creating positive change in their communities.

In 2011, President Barack Obama appointed Council President Navarro as a member of the President’s Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, where she serves on the Early Childhood Education Committee.

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Quality, affordable health care for employees of County contractors

Today I sent this memo to my colleagues on the Council, announcing that I will be introducing a bill requiring County contractors to provide affordable health insurance to their employees. This is a difficult issue, but I am convinced there is a solution that results in health coverage that is affordable for employees, for the contractors that employ them, and ultimately for the County. As we work through the legislative process, I look forward to discussion and input from my colleagues and the community.

 

 

Montgomery County Retains AAA Bond Rating From All 3 Rating Agencies

Montgomery County Retains AAA Bond Rating From All 3 Rating Agencies 

Council President Nancy Navarro:

Tough Choices, Smart Growth, and Long-Term Fiscal Planning Keys to Success

 

ROCKVILLE, Md., October 28, 2013—Montgomery County Council President Nancy Navarro today hailed the decision by all three bond rating agencies—Standard & Poor’s, Fitch and Moody’s—to reconfirm the County’s AAA bond rating.

During the Great Recession, the Council took extraordinary steps to strengthen Montgomery County’s fiscal health. Starting in 2010, the Council approved a balanced six-year fiscal plan that ensures the County develops a long-term strategic approach to budgeting. The Council also made structural changes that have enabled Montgomery County to bounce back faster than most jurisdictions nationwide.

The AAA bond rating allows Montgomery County to issue bonds for its capital borrowing at the most favorable rates, saving County taxpayers millions of dollars over the life of the bonds.  The County’s pending issuance will refinance $295 million of bond anticipation notes and $27.7 million of long-term debt.

Montgomery County is only one of 38 counties (out of 3,140) in the nation to receive a AAA rating from all three rating agencies.

On Thursday, Oct. 17, and Friday, Oct. 18, Council President Navarro, County Executive Isiah Leggett and Council Vice President Craig Rice met with representatives from the three rating agencies in New York City.

“This decision by the rating agencies is a reflection of the hard work of this Council and the County Executive,” said Council President Navarro. “During the most challenging economic times, we developed a proactive strategy to put our fiscal house in order for the future.

“The land-use decisions the Council has made over the past few years—to invest in smart-growth opportunities and encourage redevelopment in all corners of the County—will create a strong tax base for years to come.

“Since I joined the Council, we have closed a cumulative $2.7 billion budget gap, slowed the rate of growth in expenditures and put our County on a sustainable fiscal path. As our economic recovery continues, this decision today by the rating agencies demonstrates that Montgomery County is moving in the right direction.”

Council President Navarro has chaired the Council’s Government Operations and Fiscal Policy Committee (GO) since 2010.

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Colesville Community Meeting

An announcement from the Department of Housing and Community Affairs:

Colesville Community Meeting

Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013

7:00 p.m.—9:00 p.m.

Transfiguration Episcopal Church

13925 New Hampshire Ave.

This meeting is part of a project that the Council added to this year’s Capital Budget at Council President Navarro’s request. DHCA is working with a consultant to develop a proposal to make improvements in this area. This could include facade improvements for local businesses, landscaping or streetscaping, and pedestrian safety measures to make the area easier to walk and bike. They held a community meeting on September 17 to solicit suggestions, and they are holding a second meeting on October 30th to present their draft analysis to the community and get feedback.

Montgomery Council President Nancy Navarro to Join President Obama in Rockville

Navarro Comments on Impact of Shutdown on

 County Residents and Local Economy

ROCKVILLE, Md., October 3, 2013—Montgomery County Council President Nancy Navarro will join President Barack Obama in Rockville this morning, where he will give remarks on the government shutdown.

Council President Navarro released the following statement:

The federal government shutdown is hurting our residents and could devastate our County’s budget. 70,000 federal employees live in Montgomery County. Every day the shutdown lasts, the County loses at least $500,000 in tax revenue. That’s the same cost as hiring at least seven new police officers, firefighters, or teachers.

A small group of Congressmen are holding the whole country hostage in a feeble attempt prevent their fellow citizens from accessing affordable health insurance. Montgomery County is home to the federal government’s health and science infrastructure. We have the FDA in White Oak, NOAA in Silver Spring, the Department of Energy in Germantown and NIH in Bethesda—just to name a few federal installations. Our residents are less safe when political posturing in Washington stops doctors from finding cures to deadly diseases and scientists from inspecting our food.

I call on the obstructionists in Congress to end this ill-conceived government shutdown as soon as possible.

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Montgomery Council President Navarro Participates in Regional Latino Health Forum

Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG) Today

Hosted Forum to Highlight Regional Issues

Related to Access and Quality of Care in Latino Community

ROCKVILLE, Md., September 30, 2013—Montgomery County Council President Nancy Navarro today participated as a panelist with several regional elected and appointed officials at the Metropolitan Washington Council of Government’s (COG) Latino Health Forum. The panel discussion, which highlighted healthcare disparities in the Latino Community, included Walter Tejada, chairman of the Arlington County Board, and Beatriz Otero, the District of Columbia’s deputy mayor for Health and Human Services. The purpose of the forum was to increase awareness about regional issues of access and quality of healthcare in the National Capital Region.

latino health forum

The forum provided an opportunity to engage in a regional discussion about what jurisdictions are doing. It included discussion on ways to think creatively about working collaboratively to close the gap in services provided to this growing constituency. The conversation also focused on the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Consistent with national trends, Latinos face a variety of barriers to receiving high-quality health care services because of economic factors, language barriers and cultural competency in the delivery of health care.

“This conference represents an important first step toward developing a regional approach to bridging the gap in access to quality care for everyone in our community,” said Council President Navarro.

The forum took place at the Kaiser Family Foundation in Washington, D.C., and the agenda consisted of several panel discussions covering a range of important issues around the provision of healthcare for Latinos in jurisdictions across the metropolitan area.

After each panel discussion there was a question-and-answer period. Attendees included stakeholders from non-profit organizations, private and public healthcare providers, community-based organizations and local health department officials.

A Regional Latino Health and Community Resources Directory was provided to participants as a resource that includes a list of more than 100 agencies and programs that serve the communities of the National Capital Region. Copies are available for download through the COG web site at www.mwcog.org.

For more information about the forum, contact Bertha Flores in the office of Council President Navarro at bertha.flores@montgomerycountymd.gov .
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Youth Town Hall Meeting on Wednesday, October 9th

High School, Middle School and Local College Students

From Across the County Will Be Able to Express Views,

Ask Questions of Councilmembers

ROCKVILLE, Md., September 27, 2013—The Montgomery County Council, which for the past several years has held Town Hall Meetings throughout the County in its efforts to find out what issues most concern residents, will learn what is on the mind of younger residents when it hosts its fourth-ever Town Hall Meeting for Students on Wednesday, Oct. 9, at the Council Office Building in Rockville. The meeting, in the Council’s Third Floor Hearing Room, will start at 7 p.m. A pre-meeting reception will begin at 6:30 p.m. in the building’s second-floor cafeteria.

The Council Office Building is located at 100 Maryland Ave. in downtown Rockville. It is about a three-block walk from the Rockville Metrorail station, which also is a main stopping point for many RideOn bus lines. For students traveling to the meeting by car, free parking will be available by entering the Council parking garage from the Fleet Street entrance.

Students who wish to attend the meeting are asked to RSVP by calling 240-777-7931. The meeting will be broadcast live on County Cable Montgomery (CCM—cable Channel 6 on Comcast and RCN, Channel 30 on Verizon) and rebroadcast at various times in the weeks following the meeting. Susan Kennedy, a producer for the County station, will moderate the meeting.

The Council is composed of President Nancy Navarro, Vice President Craig Rice and Councilmembers Phil Andrews, Roger Berliner, Marc Elrich, Valerie Ervin, Nancy Floreen, George Leventhal and Hans Riemer.

The October meeting is open to high school and middle school students from public and private schools from around the County and to students from local colleges. The meeting will allow the participants to let Councilmembers know how they feel about specific issues and also will provide the opportunity to ask questions of the Councilmembers in an organized, but informal, setting.

Council President Navarro said that the youth town hall meetings have become learning experiences for both the Councilmembers and the students.

“The County Council funds the school system and many other programs which have a direct impact on our county’s youth, and this meeting is an invaluable opportunity to hear directly from them,” said Council President Navarro. “In the past, feedback from our youth has led us to restore the Kids Ride Free program on Ride On, launch the Teen Escape Clubs and begin many other important initiatives. We gain a unique perspective on the needs of our young residents, and we always take their feedback seriously.”

Council Vice President Rice, who is a member of the Council’s Education Committee, said that hearing the perspectives of students is a great opportunity for Councilmembers.

“So many major decisions concerning education—and students—are made by adults talking with other adults,” said Council Vice President Rice. “But the students often have so much to offer that adults do not necessarily see. We are looking forward to learning about how they see the issues we are discussing and to hearing from them about new things they would like to see us consider.”

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County Council President Navarro, Senator Cardin, Congressman Van Hollen, D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray to Join Together to Protect Right to Vote for All

 

At Event on Monday, Sept. 23, in Rockville, They Will Address Importance of Voting Rights in Montgomery County, D.C. and Nationwide

 

ROCKVILLE, Md., September 20, 2013—Montgomery County Council President Nancy Navarro will be joined by U.S. Senator Ben Cardin, Congressman Chris Van Hollen, D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray and other community leaders at 10:30 a.m. on Monday, Sept. 23, in support of action at all levels of government to improve and protect the right to vote of citizens in Montgomery County, Washington, D.C. and across the country. Council President Navarro will be highlighting her “Right to Vote” resolution that was recently introduced before the Council.

Council President Navarro’s resolution calls for creation of a task force that will review and offer recommendations to improve the election processes in Montgomery County. The resolution, which is co-sponsored by the other eight members of the County Council, also calls for Congress to strengthen the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Council President Navarro’s “Right to Vote” resolution would “affirm the Council’s commitment to expanding participation in elections and protecting voting rights for all of our residents.”

The event will be held on the front steps of the Council Office Building at 100  Maryland Ave. in Rockville.

Also expected to attend the event are Council Vice President Craig Rice and Councilmembers Phil Andrews and Nancy Floreen. State Senators Rich Madaleno and Jamie Raskin and Takoma Park Councilmember Tim Male also are expected to attend, as are representatives of FairVote, the ACLU of Maryland, Common Cause Maryland, the Montgomery County Young Democrats, the Montgomery County Muslim Council, the District 39 Democratic Club and the County Board of Elections. Representatives from the offices of Senator Barbara Mikulski, Congressman John Sarbanes and Congressman John Delaney also are expected to be in attendance.

Final approval of the Montgomery County resolution is set for Tuesday, Sept. 24. It was formally introduced before the Council on Sept. 10.

“With states like North Carolina and Texas rolling back voting rights and instituting draconian photo ID laws, the need for robust federal enforcement of election law is needed more than ever,” said Council President Navarro.

The resolution also calls on Congress to give residents of the District of Columbia full representation and voting rights in the House of Representatives and the United States Senate. At the local level, the resolution urges the Montgomery County Board of Elections to select new early voting sites that are easily accessible by public transportation.

The text of the resolution can be found at: http://www.councilmembernavarro.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/RighttoVoteResolution_9-4-13.pdf

The complete text of Council President Navarro’s statement regarding the resolution:

The right to vote is the cornerstone of our democracy, yet this fundamental right is not explicitly protected in the U.S. Constitution. While Governor O’Malley and the Maryland General Assembly have taken important steps to expand voting opportunities, several other states and the Supreme Court have made devastating decisions to move in the opposite direction. That is why I am introducing a resolution that will affirm the Council’s commitment to expanding participation in elections and protecting voting rights for all of our residents. I am pleased that all eight of my colleagues have signed on to this resolution as co-sponsors.

At the County level, we have limited authority in making election law. While Montgomery County funds the local Board of Elections, election rules are ultimately determined at the state level. However, County Government can be a catalyst for offering innovative proposals our state and federal officials can adopt. As chair of the Council’s Government Operations and Fiscal Policy Committee, which has oversight over the Board of Elections budget, I believe it is essential that Montgomery County has a strong voice in discussions about increasing voting rights and reforming our elections.

The resolution also calls on Congress to give residents of District of Columbia full representation and voting rights in the House of Representatives and the United States Senate. The lack of voting rights for residents living in our nation’s capital is a disgrace. The United States is the only democracy in the world where residents of its capital are not represented in their national legislature. Beyond this issue of basic fairness, D.C.’s lack of representation also hurts surrounding jurisdictions, like Montgomery County. Without a voting member of the House and two Senators, the D.C. area has less of a voice on key regional issues—like transportation—than we deserve.

At the local level, the resolution urges the Montgomery County Board of Elections to select new early voting sites that are “easily accessible by public transportation.” Montgomery County will have several new early voting sites in 2014 and we need to make sure that all eligible voters, regardless of income or access to a vehicle, have an opportunity to cast a ballot.

Finally, this resolution creates a task force that will review and offer recommendations to improve our election processes in Montgomery County. I hope this citizen-centric approach will provide us with creative ideas to increase civic education and participation in our democratic process.