Montgomery Co. executive hails COVID resilience, cites new goals in annual address

Last year, Montgomery County, Maryland, Executive Marc Elrich offered a state of the county address in an online video presentation.

This year, Elrich held his annual assessment of the county’s outlook in person at the Silver Spring Civic Building.

He recognized the difficulties of the past two years, thanking public employees and private citizens for adapting to the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic.

“Because of the compassion and energy of our residents, because of the commitment and dedication that you all bring to your work, that is why the state of this county is strong” said Elrich.

He noted how a year ago, access to vaccines was difficult, and how now, a second round of booster shots are widely available. “What a difference a year makes” he told the audience.

Elrich used the speech to highlight priorities, like expanding bus rapid transit, reforming public safety and increasing access to housing, but he also acknowledged challenges like a “significant rise” in complaints about crime in downtown Silver Spring.

In the past year, he said there were responses to three incidents that “demonstrated the character and resolve” of residents in trying to find solutions to life-threatening problems. Elrich mentioned the flooding at a Rockville apartment complex that left one man dead, and said since then the county has worked to identify and prevent similar issues in flood-prone areas.

Elrich said since the shooting of a student at Magruder High school in January, the county enacted restrictions on so-called ghost guns like the one police say was used in that incident. And during the General Assembly session in Annapolis, lawmakers enacted a statewide ban on the firearms.

And in the wake of the Friendly Garden Apartments explosion and fire that displaced more than 150 residents, food and housing assistance was made available to those affected, said Elrich.

Elrich said the county opened a shelter for unhoused residents, and rather than a 10-month facility, the Nebel Street Shelter will provide housing all year.

Two new housing initiatives were highlighted by Elrich: plans to add some affordably priced condominium units in downtown Bethesda along Wisconsin Avenue, and the addition of apartments in the Emory Grove area in an area that had been home to an African American community dating back to the late 1800s.

The latter is part of a plan to address what Elrich described as the displacement of many residents there due to housing and development policies that started in the 1960s. The current plan, said Elrich, “will create affordable home ownership, affordable rentals for seniors, and a walkable, pedestrian friendly integrated village.”

Elrich closed his remarks with another thank you, saying “It’s been my greatest honor, and the best job I ever had to be your county executive.”

Elrich is working to continue in that job: he’s running for re-election, and faces challengers from both sides of the aisle.

As of Thursday, before the candidate filing deadline of April 15 at 9 p.m., four Democratic challengers had filed in the July 19 primary, and two members of the GOP had also filed to face off in the primary election.

Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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