Montgomery Co.’s new executive lays out pro-business, progressive agenda

An audience watched as Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich and members of the County Council were sworn in Monday at North Bethesda’s Music Center at Strathmore. (WTOP/Kate Ryan)

NORTH BETHESDA, Md. — For the first time in 12 years, Montgomery County is getting a new county executive, and while 69-year-old Marc Elrich worked to dispel his reputation as “anti-business,” he also made clear he’ll push hard on progressive issues.

“I’m not an incrementalist,” he told the crowd, to applause.

During the inaugural ceremony in North Bethesda’s Music Center at Strathmore, Elrich said he’s very much aware of the rap against him as business-hostile, but he outlined one of many plans to improve the business climate.

“I know full well that without a healthy business climate, we will not have the revenues we need to address the social problems we face,” he said.

Throughout his campaign, he kept hearing the mantra that Montgomery County is an awful place to try to do business, he said. “I kept hearing over and over again that we have the worst business climate in the world. Maybe the planet, possibly the universe,” he joked.

Elrich, though, said that he would work to streamline the regulatory process in the county, and that he’d carry out a study to see how the county’s business climate stacks up against those of its neighbors.

“We’re going to benchmark Montgomery County’s codes and regulations against surrounding jurisdictions,” he said. “If we’re doing stuff that other people aren’t doing, we’re not going to do it anymore.”

While Elrich emphasized he wants to work with businesses, he also said that his administration would focus on the environment, and that includes environmental considerations when it comes to transportation.

Elrich, who wants to continue the push for bus rapid transit, tossed out a challenge to a proposal from Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s administration to widen Interstate 270 and the Capital Beltway.

Urging better transit for county residents and a robust transportation network, Elrich said “we need better transit options to get cars off the road.”

“Note to the governor: no Beltway widening,” he added.

Elrich also wants to expand early childhood education but said he’s aware of the fiscal constraints facing the county. Still, he wants to push ahead with those plans, and to continue closing the achievement gap that lingers in an increasingly diverse county.

Referencing a movie on the life of writer James Baldwin, Elrich said the problems plaguing education equity continue decades after the height of the civil rights movement. “And thinking about that, I realize that if we wait for people to get comfortable with the notion of justice, we will wait a very, very long time.”

Elrich also said he wanted to tackle issues surrounding tenants’ rights and what he called “truly affordable housing.”

Elrich thanked his predecessor, now-former County Executive Ike Leggett, saying that he knows county residents will miss the three-term county leader.

“I’ve told people that I expect you to miss Ike, because he’s a really nice guy,” Elrich said. “But I don’t want anyone to ever miss the work he did, particularly in our communities, because I’m going to continue that. I’m confident that the members of this council will continue that.”

Council President Hans Riemer spoke before Elrich, welcoming “new voices to county leadership” and welcoming the crowd to a “new era” in county government.

The nine members of the County Council were also sworn in, including newcomers Gabriel Albornoz, Evan Glass, Andrew Friedson and Will Jawando.

Like WTOP on Facebook and follow @WTOP on Twitter to engage in conversation about this article and others.

© 2018 WTOP. All Rights Reserved. This website is not intended for users located within the European Economic Area.