Please see the full text below of my speech at the Committee for Montgomery’s Annual Legislative Breakfast from December 14, 2017.
Thank you Committee for Montgomery and on behalf of the County Council, greetings to our leaders from education, business, nonprofit, government, media, labor, and civic communities! And special greetings to the 3 of you not running for County Council!
This is an exciting time. It is the beginning of a new political era in Montgomery County.
So let’s take stock of where we are going.
Our community has always been a very special place to live.
We have long been known as home to some of America’s most appealing, if exclusive, suburban communities.
Our leaders often sought to guard us from the changes happening around us.
But today, Montgomery County is changing for the better, and should continue to change in order to stay relevant.
Just as we must constantly reinvent education to meet the changing needs of the times, so let us guard our values while embracing change in our community, because we are not just suburban Montgomery, we are inclusive, metropolitan Montgomery.
People used to come here to get away from the city. Now I hear from residents that they want to be closer to restaurants and entertainment, they want streets that are safe for walking and biking, they want more access to public transportation.
We may have a reputation for liquor control, but today we have an emerging local brewery scene, whose entrepreneurs call Montgomery the best place in the region to open a business, and a growing winery industry.
We were once known for suburban office parks, but now we can confidently say – if Amazon calls, we have the thriving downtowns, transit, workforce, inclusive values and progressive culture that companies are looking for.
Today we are a global destination for immigrants from every walk of life, from doctors and NIH researchers to construction workers, landscapers and refugees. Less than a hundred years ago, we had neighborhoods where African Americans and Jews were not allowed to live.
We have built one of America’s leading community colleges and an innovative consortium college — and now, thanks to the Purple Line, Maryland’s largest research institution in College Park will be just minutes away.
Luckily we still have our traditional advantages: superb schools, a stable economy, a skilled workforce, and a high quality of life.
As an inclusive metropolitan community, we have new challenges. Our seniors feel the stress of change and more of our school children come from families that are struggling day to day.
But what makes me proud to call Montgomery County home is that we see the changing needs of our community not as a mark of failure but as a chance to create opportunity.
Just in the past several years we have reduced MCPS class size and invested in Montgomery College, revolutionized workforce development and redeveloped economic development, and we are getting results.
Still there remains a giant gap in our educational system: 0-5 years old.
In fact, 70% of low-income children are entering kindergarten not ready to learn. They start school significantly behind their peers and we can’t intervene enough in later years to close that gap.
It is time for us to embrace the goal of making sure that all children start kindergarten ready to learn.
That is why last year, under the banner of “incremental universalism,” we added funds for child care subsidies and to make Head Start – which is pre-k for the lowest income four-year olds – a full day program.
Let’s work together this year to take another step forward.
And since our state leaders are here I will add that we need Maryland’s support for MCPS operating and school construction budgets, to restore Metro, and to unlock the bridge to Northern Virginia.
But while some may be nostalgic for the Montgomery County of yesterday, my view is that there has never been a better time to live in Montgomery County.
Our downtowns are thriving.
Our labs are humming.
Our culture is brewing.
Our arts are shining.
Ladies and gentlemen, we are a new Montgomery County. We are inclusive, metropolitan Montgomery. And we are getting better all the time.
Thank you very much!