COMMITTEE ACTIVITIES AND OUTLOOK FOR WORK
AGRICULTURE: The Ag Study committee reviewed the Census of Agriculture this year and reported upon its findings and the government programs that are designed to support agriculture in the county. The League reached consensus on the desirability of the county’s taking steps to encourage the development of soil and water conservation plans.
The ongoing work of the committee will be to determine actions that the county might take to encourage more development of soil and water conservation plans, especially among the equine community. In addition, the committee will review work being done to determine the status of receiving areas for transferrable development rights from the agriculture reserve to areas suitable for more dense development. We expect to share this information with all League members.
EDUCATION: The Education Committee outlook for work in 2015-16 consists of further investigation of the effects and results of the federal No Child Left Behind bill and the Common Core Standards nationally, Maryland-state-wise and in Montgomery County. We will also monitor new developments in education on all three levels. If the LWVMD adopts an education related study we will participate. We will investigate the possibility of launching a study leading to a unit presentation in 2016-17. Further, we will try to put together a panel of speakers on the achievement gap in Montgomery County for a Trending Topics event.
HEALTH: The Health Committee has been active on the Youth at Risk Committee and does not plan a study in 2015-2016. We plan to keep up with the County Council’s Health and Human Services Committee hearings on issues of interest to LWVMC, and we will examine and comment on the proposed Montgomery County budget. We will maintain membership on the Fetal and Infant Mortality Review Board’s Community Action Team.
HISTORIC PRESERVATION: Historic Preservation Committee will monitor and observe the Historic Preservation Commission and support the Historic Preservation staff of the Park and Planning Commission. We may report upon new, interesting additions to the roster of designated historic sites.
HOUSING: The Housing Committee plans to concentrate on action by monitoring and lobbying governmental activities and legislation to promote accessible, affordable, fair and safe housing with particular attention to special needs housing, the moderately priced dwelling unit law, and the production of more affordable housing. We will be taking a preliminary look at the status and rights of renters in Montgomery County. We also plan to report on the Office of Legislative’s survey of affordable housing in Montgomery County.
HUMAN RESOURCES: a possible name for a new committee (proposed) that would bring together members interested in working on health and social issues that come up with children, elderly, lower income residents or the general population. It might bring together the people monitoring those issues, alleviating the need for monthly meetings of smaller committees that were not currently conducting studies.
INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS: The IR Committee continues its study of the global water shortage begun in late 2014, focusing on global fresh water conflicts, their source, the players/nations involved, and what challenges these conflicts pose for the local and the international community. We have concentrated on 14 areas of fresh water conflict worldwide and provided presentations on each of these. When we have completed these presentations, we will summarize our findings and concentrate on what new technologies and policies can do can do to help alleviate water shortages and quash such conflicts, particularly US foreign policy efforts. We sponsored a speaker at the March 2015 trending topics who spoke about her organization’s diplomatic efforts to forge agreements between nations on water usage and water sharing and the challenges it faced. This March and April were devoted to presenting Great Decisions at the Cedar Lane Unitarian Church and will be again in March and April of 2016.
LAND USE & TRANSPORTATION: Monitoring transportation issues that affect Montgomery County, the metro area and Maryland and land use issues in Montgomery County continue to be our focus. Transportation areas include safety for pedestrians and bicyclists, Metro, Ride-On and MARC transit riders, the Corridor Cities Transitway, the Purple Line, as well as road changes and the proposed BRT system. Current land use issues largely concerned the rewriting of master and sector plans often with their transportation impact. This year we have advocated before the County Council, Planning Board, and State Legislature.
Our very successful March transportation forum Crossing Boundaries was sponsored by LWVNCA and was planned and implemented by our Montgomery County League. Eight speakers were recruited to represent greater regional areas. Notes and power point presentations may be found at http://www.lwvnca.org/Resources.html#s03.
In 2015-16 we plan to take a closer look at the intersection of the environment with land use and transportation policies within Montgomery County. We expect to continue advocacy for transportation and land use issues as they occur.
MAKING DEMOCRACY WORK (MDW): This is the League’s committee for civic outreach and election projects. Post-2014 election activities took a different turn than anticipated, partially due to the low-turnout and building on two members participating in the MC County Council’s Right to Vote Task Force. We created a bookmark style Your Voice, Your Vote!: Voting in Montgomery County for a quick reference in non-election periods. MDW members initiated a Civic Engagement Roundtable in January 2015 to engage about thirty community leaders in creating specific projects to encourage people to vote.
Activities for 2015-2016 will continue to focus on voter education and increasing voter turnout in preparation for the April 2016 Presidential Primary Election, followed by the General Election in November. We will support the action items identified by the Civic Engagement Roundtable process to collaborate with the Board of Elections to a) introduce voters to the new optical scan voting system for 2016, b) identify and assist with civics education for immigrant and new citizen groups, c) seek new venues for voter registration, d) identify low voting precincts in which to focus outreach efforts, e) support and advocate on behalf of the Board of Elections, and e) make more use of electronic media.
MDW will be under new leadership for 2015-2016. After over a decade as Chair, Barbara Sanders will continue to monitor activities regarding the Election Process but has passed on other duties as follows: Committee Coordinator – Mary Lanigan; Citizen Education – Vicky Strella and Zaida Arguedas; Voter Registration – Miriam Dessureau; Publications – Chris Hager. We encourage members to join our committee, for short-term projects, especially around the Voters’ Guide, occasional voter registration duties, monthly monitoring of the Board of Elections, or a long-term commitment to increasing the registration and turnout and improving the voting experience in Montgomery County.
NATURAL RESOURCES: During 2014-15 the NR Committee explored implementation of the recommendations of the County’s Climate Protection Plan related to energy sources and use - and presented a February Fact Sheet and informational units on this topic. We continued our routine of also tracking and discussing local, state, and national environmental issues and relevant publications as well as identifying environmental actions to recommend to the local president and action chair. Three of our NR Committee members also participated at the state level in tracking 2016 legislation for the LWVMD Report from State Circle. One serves currently on the County Water Quality Advisory Group.
The NR Committee anticipates continuing its study of the County’s Climate Protection Plan. In 2014-15 our focus was on energy aspects, which constitute about 40% of the CPP’s recommendations. For 2015-16, we plan to add in all the rest of the CPP except for its transportation recommendations (that our transportation and land use committee is taking up). The remaining topics include forests, agriculture, green infrastructure, and education and outreach. We will also look at funding.
NETWORK FOR CHILDREN: The Network for Children has focused for the last two years on the Youth at Risk study. For 2015-2016, we plan to return to monitoring both policy and budget issues that impact the welfare of children and youth.