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Women become the new majority in historic inauguration ceremony in Montgomery Co.

The incoming Montgomery County Council became the most racially and ethnically diverse in the county's history, also having women as the majority for the first time.

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. — History was made Tuesday at the swearing-in inauguration ceremony of County Executive Marc Elrich and 11 members of the Montgomery County Council. 

The incoming Montgomery County Council will increase by two members with women being the majority, the most women the county has ever had in the council. The council also became the most racially and ethnically diverse in the county's history. 

The councilmembers sworn in include incumbents Gabe Albornoz (at-large), Evan Glass (at-large), Will Jawando (at-large), Andrew Friedson (new District 1), and Sidney Katz (new District 3). Newly elected councilmembers include Laurie-Anne Sayles (at-large), Marilyn Balcombe (new District 2), Kate Stewart (new District 4), Kristin Mink (new District 5), Natali Fani-González (new District 6), and Dawn Luedtke (new District 7).

Elrich showed appreciation to the new County Council. 

“I want to welcome all of our new councilmembers and the returning councilmembers, and I look forward to working with each of you for the betterment of Montgomery County,” Elrich stated in the bringing of his remarks. 

Concerns for the new county's incoming council

In his speech, Elrich addressed three key areas of concern for continued policy approaches and advocacy: additional affordable housing, increasing urgency to combat climate change, and expanding equity to all residents and neighborhoods. 

Affordable housing

Elrich also added in his speech how the county struggle with affordable housing.

“Affordable housing stands as one of our greatest challenges. We are at a tipping point, and Montgomery County has spent too long in fantasyland when it comes to solving this problem,” Elrich stated.

Elrich criticized a suggestion to help solve affordable housing. 

"Reaganesque trickle-down economics suggests that just building more market housing will solve the affordable housing crisis – but the market doesn’t build any more affordable units than governments require them to build and that’s a sad and sorry fact. If we want different outcomes, then we need different policies that actually create affordable housing.”

Climate change

Elrich also called for a greater sense of urgency for the county to combat change. He expressed his hopefulness for the passage of policies that could allow the county to achieve the Climate Action Plan goal of 100% by the year 2035. 

“The next challenge we face is climate change, where the news only gets worse, and yet the world dithers around the edges. Half-measures will not stop this impending disaster,” said Elrich. “Five years ago today, the county passed the most aggressive climate goals in the country."

Elrich committed to the following solutions for the next four years:

  • Electrifying and retrofitting our county buildings and fleet for energy efficiency
  • Expanding the collection of food waste countywide and moving to compost
  • Expanding the implementation of solar on rooftops, parking lots, and field
  • Financially assisting marginalized communities most often impacted by climate change to transition to clean energy,
  • Shutting down the incinerator, which is both a public health and climate change threat

Expanding Equity

Another topic Elrich brought up in his speech was the county's economic and educational prosperity. 

“In the end, we must go on the journey as a community,” Elrich said on equity. "Well, 40 years have come and gone, and for almost every metric of what we call success: health, home ownership, income, educational attainment; Black people are at the bottom of the metric. We know systemic racism and inequalities permeate our system."

Elrich highlighted the following equity-related initiatives that will be the focus of the county government over the next four years:

  • The new health officer, Dr. Davis, will bring a focus on Health in All Policies in the County, including working with health providers in the county, to broaden and increase the effectiveness of and access to our community health programs.
  • Re-evaluation of public safety to address adverse and/or unnecessary police interactions have a disproportional racial impact.
  • Creating a restoration center to divert more people from the criminal justice system.
  • Increasing focus on policies to on expanding home ownership.
  • Equity perspective applied to all operating and capital budgets.
  • Building the Montgomery County East County academic center of Montgomery College will open new doors to education.

In his closing remarks, Elrich said, "At my core, I know Montgomery County is the best place to raise a family, the best place to open a business, and the best place to look to the future. I am appreciative of all those who helped us get to where we are today."

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