Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Accomplishments and appreciation

Being a Regional Services Director means keeping a close eye on emerging community service needs and helping in many small ways to "fill the gaps". 

I am very pleased with several recent accomplishments and milestones including the launch of a weekend clean up crew in the White Flint Metro Area; the grand opening of Bethesda's "Tunnel Vision" art project; the launch of Live and Learn Bethesda; and the 10th anniversary of the Glen Echo Park Partnership for Arts and Culture.  For each of these initiatives, the Regional Services Center provided critical support - but none could have happened without the hard work of members of our community and support and leadership of our elected officials. 

In the last few years, out of necessity during this difficult fiscal climate, many Regional Services Center services were eliminated and staff reduced.  Thankfully, with support from dedicated volunteers and partners, we continue to make progress in our core mission as catalysts for civic participation, collaboration, and services.

I sincerely thank those community members, volunteers, and partners we work with each day who are dedicated to improving the community.  I also thank County Executive Isiah Leggett, Council President Roger Berliner, and members of the County Council for their continued support.

Ken Hartman, Director

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Community Solutions Program Launches

The nonprofit Conflict Resolution Center of Montgomery County will launch its new, free Community Solutions program at an event on May 18, 5:30-7 pm. There will be a press conference, followed by a reception. The event will be at the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center (4805 Edgemoor Lane, 2nd floor, Bethesda, MD 20814).

The new program is designed to help civic associations, community groups, nonprofits and local government agencies tackle controversial problems that affect multiple parties and develop mutually acceptable solutions. It is the only program of its kind in Maryland and one of just a handful in the nation.

CRCMC volunteers will work with meeting conveners to ensure that all affected groups are represented and will facilitate meetings – ensuring that participants have a chance to speak, their ideas are recorded in writing, and any agreements reached are written using their words. The program, which is free to groups throughout the County, is funded by the Office of the County Executive and the State of Maryland Mediation and Conflict Resolution Office (MACRO).

RSVP for the event to yonelle@crcmc.org

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Advisory Board votes to support EMS Reimbursement legislation

The following is the text of the letter sent by the Western Montgomery County Citizens Advisory Board in support of Bill 17-12E: Emergency Medical Services - Reimbursement

May 10, 2012

Dear Council President Berliner:

Thank you for this opportunity to present the views of the Western Montgomery County Citizens Advisory Board (WMCCAB) regarding Bill 17-12E: Emergency Medical Services – Reimbursement.  The WMCCAB met on May 7th, 2012 to discuss Bill 17-12E with Montgomery County Fire Chief Richard Bowers, Assistant Fire Chief Scott Graham, and County Councilmember Phil Andrews – who presented their respective positions concerning the Emergency Medical Services Transport Fee (EMSTF).

After careful discussion, with participation of our guests and audience present, the members of the WMCCAB voted 7-2 in support of the Bill 17-12E.  One member abstained from the vote. 

The members of the WMCCAB understand that the prior EMSTF was struck down by voters via referendum and significant opposition remains.  This is something that should not be taken lightly.  However, the Board concluded that based on the significant body of evidence stemming from implementation in other jurisdictions, the program will do no harm to County residents.  Given this, we can no longer justify forgoing revenue that could actually strengthen our ability to deliver essential services.

The WMCCAB bases its support on the following points:
  1. The representatives from Montgomery County Fire & Rescue Service (MCFRS) provided evidence that similar programs have actually not seen a significant reduction in 911 calls in nearby jurisdictions (such as Fairfax) and that virtually all other surrounding jurisdictions have successfully implemented similar, if not identical, programs.
  2. The revenue generated by this program would go into the general fund, allowing for restoration of some important services, but more importantly would ease the blow from any negative impacts from State actions.  Regardless of the percent of the total budget, $16 million should not be disregarded.
  3. MCFRS stated that no resident would be billed for ambulance service, and that the waiver process would be simple for those who make use of it. 
WMCCAB members who voted in opposition to Bill 17-12E, oppose the EMSTF based on the following concerns:
  1. The voters of Montgomery County rejected the EMSTF by a 20,000 vote margin.  Citizens are concerned that elected officials will disregard their choice regarding the EMSTF.
  2. The ambulance fee would not resolve the budget issues of the entire County as has been suggested.  The $16 million that would be collected from these ambulance fees, less the amount to maintain the program, is one-third of one percent of a $4.5 billion County budget.  A Councilmember has suggested that money could be easily found elsewhere in the $4.5 billion budget to replace the $16 million that would have been collected from the ambulance fees.
  3. The County approach to billing is different than the model used by surrounding jurisdictions. These jurisdictions do bill residents for ambulance service and have a waiver system that is described as complicated.  There is concern that an out-sourced billing operation relying on hospital information may result in improper billing of County residents.
  4. All EMSTF revenue should be dedicated solely for fire/rescue and not supplant existing revenue.  County taxpayers already pay for ambulance service with the Fire District Tax that funds fire and rescue services.
Should the Council approve Bill 17-12E, all members of the WMCCAB urge the County to undertake a strong, comprehensive outreach campaign to ensure that every County resident understands that they will not be billed for ambulance service.  This outreach should be especially geared towards senior citizen and non-native English speaking communities.

Thank you for considering the views of the WMCCAB on this matter.

Heather Dlhopolsky, Chair

Woodmont Triangle Action Group to discuss development of 4900 Fairmont

The Woodmont Triangle Action Group meets next on Friday, May 11, 8am, at the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center.  On the agenda is action of a letter supporting modifications to the redevelopment plans for 4900 Fairmont Ave.  The Action Group will also discuss a draft zoning amendment allowing density transfer into Woodmont Triangle from properties along Old Georgetown Road. 

The purpose of the Woodmont Triangle Action Group is to coordinate and monitor the progress of development, retail revitalization, and the provision of amenities and facilities in the Woodmont Triangle district of downtown Bethesda. Creation of the Action Group was a recommendation of the Woodmont Triangle Amendment to the Bethesda CBD Sector Plan. 

Membership includes representatives from the M-NCPPC, the Bethesda Urban Partnership, Civic Associations, Bethesda Transportation Solutions, the Greater Bethesda-Chevy Chase Chamber of Commerce, the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center, the Western Montgomery County Citizens Advisory Board, and other appropriate groups.