Democrat for County Council District 1
 

Community

 
 

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Seniors

Seniors are the fastest growing group in the county and are expected to double in number by 2040. At the same time, the population of older adults is becoming more racially, ethnically, and economically diverse, and the county must meet the needs of our active, vital senior residents as well as those who are more vulnerable. 

For its efforts to make Montgomery County a place where residents can age, thrive, and contribute to making the county a better, stronger, more inclusive community for everyone, Montgomery County has just earned renewed certification in the AARP/WHO Network of Age-Friendly Communities. The county’s Age-Friendly Advisory Group is comprised of representatives from public and private organizations to oversee the work of ten working groups. They meet regularly to provide updates on their recent activities and future plans. These community leaders provide important input into planning for an age-friendly future designed to meet the changing needs of all county residents, with a focus on our rapidly growing and diverse older population.  More information on Age-Friendly Montgomery County is here

In addition, through a public-private partnership, the county has strengthened its efforts to support and empower caregivers and families experiencing dementia. More information on the Dementia Friendly initiative is here.

 

Health and Wellness  

Maintaining or improving physical, cognitive, and emotional health is critical, especially for seniors. I support programs that promote health and wellness awareness, resources, and activities.

Additional efforts, including workforce training, are needed to provide older adults with coordinated, personalized, community-based help that allows them to age safely and with dignity in their communities.

I support age-in-place Senior Villages to expand opportunity, choice, and care for all older people. Villages are local, often volunteer-led, groups that support community members who choose to stay in their homes. They foster social connections through activities and events and coordinate neighbor-to-neighbor efforts such as help with transportation, groceries, and simple tasks at home.

Senior centers and programming for seniors at community centers provide additional opportunities for fostering social connections and well-being. North Potomac Community Center is a model for multi-cultural centers and should be replicated elsewhere in the county.

 

Security

Older people may struggle with rising housing costs, health care bills, and diminished savings. The cost of living in Montgomery County can outpace retirement income. But, I believe that after raising their families here, contributing to their neighborhoods, and supporting the local economy, our aging parents, neighbors, and friends deserve the opportunity to stay in Montgomery County and enjoy a safe, secure retirement.

I encourage continued county efforts to protect seniors from maltreatment, physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation of every type through education, intervention, and prosecution.

I support increased government funding for nonprofit sector efforts to provide physical, financial, and technological safety for older adults, and I would expand efforts to take advantage of all state and federal programs, including the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s Office of Disability, Aging, and Long-Term Care Policy (DALTCP).

To promote both financial security and personal well-being, I encourage expansion of senior employment programs so that our community can benefit from older adults’ lifetimes of experience, and so that more seniors can remain independent and less reliant on public and private assistance.

 

Transportation and Mobility

I applaud the work of Age-Friendly Montgomery to expand outreach, accessibility, and affordability of public transit for older adults, including efforts to expand transit options like extending free bus service to Saturdays, applying for additional federal funding for the Call-n-Ride service, and recruiting additional volunteer drivers. Their work with DOT to provide ADA compliance at bus stops, extend pedestrian crossing timings, and increase the size of street name signs for improved visibility are efforts that will all improve accessibility for older adults, and their various advertising campaigns are critical for ensuring that older adults are aware of the many transportation options available to them. 


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Affordable Housing

We need to take the long view in Montgomery County in order to ensure that we preserve options for affordable housing. The county should conduct a comprehensive evaluation of all publicly-owned land as soon as possible. Then, development of housing stock can proceed with intention and forethought. The county needs to collaborate with community partners to explore innovative ideas for how we can provide more affordable housing options. I support the county continuing to explore partnerships like home sharing, where homeowners offer extra rooms to people looking for affordable housing, and partnerships with nonprofits and the faith-based community.

Everyone deserves an affordable, decent home – whether they own or rent. In addition to age-in-place Senior Villages, I support expanded options for housing that provide older adults with choices to meet their changing needs and preferences – including affordable rental opportunities.

Low-income renters who are over 60 years old may be eligible for a tax credit from the Maryland renters' tax credit program. The program is administered by the Housing Initiative Partnership, a nonprofit developer and counseling agency. Visit www.HIPhomes.org, call 301-916-5946, or email ccastro@hiphomes.org to find out if you qualify for up to $1,000 in state assistance. 


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Support for People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

My vision of Montgomery County is a community in which everyone feels safe, supported and respected – a community where all people are valued, including those with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD).

Government services must be funded beyond crisis needs and aim to make individuals as independent as possible so that they can enjoy life and become productive citizens.

 

Education

We should strive to eliminate barriers that prevent students with I/DD from graduating with a high school diploma, because that diploma is often a requirement for the employment that will support their independence.

Schools should provide options to combine inclusion with mainstreaming if that meets a student’s needs. In any case, students should receive the level of support and be subject to expectations that best suit their needs. I support teacher training and resources to encourage appropriate special education.

Students who are transitioning from school age entitlements to young adulthood should be supported so that they can be as independent as possible, including increased opportunities to develop appropriate life skills.

Regarding Individualized Education Program (IEP) development, implementation, and dispute resolution, a 2015 Review of Specific Special Education Processes and Procedures found that MCPS is in compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). But the report also found that increased knowledge, training, and reporting would help ensure more meaningful participation in the development and implementation process for both parents and staff, and may help in resolving disagreements and disputes more collaboratively.  For example, providing IEP documents in several languages would help meet the culturally diverse needs of parents in understanding the complexities of the special education process.

 

Health Care

Health care issues greatly impact the lives of people with I/DD and their families, as they battle with discrimination, poor quality of care, and affordability.

Organizations that provide services to adults with I/DD are largely dependent on federal Medicaid reimbursement, which does not adequately account for the higher cost of living in Montgomery County, or the higher minimum wage. Historically, the County has provided an annual financial supplement averaging 125% of the County minimum wage to these organizations, and I support continuation of this supplement.   

 

Housing, Employment, and Transportation

People with I/DD have the right to live and work in their community, and including individuals with disabilities strengthens our community.

Individuals with I/DD deserve safe, accessible, affordable housing in the community, without housing discrimination. The County should provide funding and services to enable them to live as independently as possible. I support universal design and visitability standards to help both those with disabilities and older adults. 

I support career education to facilitate employment opportunities for people with I/DD, which will encourage independence and reduce reliance on government assistance.

People with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities need access to both public and private transportation for community involvement and independence. Shared ride services, such as MetroAccess must be more reliable and more time sensitive.

 

Awareness

I’m a supporter of Best Buddies, an organization that builds one-to-one friendships between people with and without I/DD. Founded in 1989 by Anthony Shriver, the organization has grown from its one, original chapter at Georgetown University to an international organization with more than 2,300 chapters worldwide.

My daughter, Victoria, joined Best Buddies in 1999, and she and her Buddy, Ramon, have been friends ever since. I’m happy to join them at the Maryland Best Buddies Friendship Walk on May 5, 2018.

And please join me in taking the Spread the Word to End the Word pledge now at https://www.r-word.org/. Ending the use of the word “retarded” is a starting point toward creating more accepting attitudes and communities. Instead of offensive, derogatory terms, let’s use respectful, people-first language. Language affects attitudes, and attitudes affect actions.


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Safety Net Programs

Montgomery County is only as strong as its people.

We must protect the less fortunate and expand opportunity for all, in order to enable sustained economic growth that is broadly shared. Working with the nonprofit sector, government can ensure that everyone has the building blocks of a decent life, including affordable necessities such as food, housing, and caregiving for children, seniors, and people with disabilities.

Spending our $5.4 billion county budget is the biggest responsibility that the Council has. I support a budget that gives priority to human needs. County spending should provide for real growth in meeting the needs of the most vulnerable and realize the goal of reducing poverty and increasing economic security for all.


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Airplane Noise

My family and I have lived in Tulip Hill for 30 years. We join the thousands of District 1 residents suffering from excessive levels of noise, air pollution, and health and safety risks imposed on our communities by the FAA’s new flight paths and procedures at Reagan National Airport (DCA). Our problems are similar to those of residents near BWI airport and at other airports around the country.

The problems are due in large part to recent FAA decisions to channelize previously dispersed air traffic into narrow flight corridors. The FAA shifted arrival and departure flight paths from the west side of the Potomac River to the east side of the river without first notifying Maryland officials and without conducting environmental analyses. They also allowed arriving flights to descend sooner and fly lower for longer stretches, which increased the noise. More information about the changes can be found in the Council’s Analyst Packet

I’m working with neighbors, elected officials, and other stakeholders to resolve the disruptive and unhealthy effects of these changes. The goal is to return to previous dispersed air traffic plans, not to shift the current problems to another part of our region.

You can help by submitting complaints at https://viewpoint.bksv.com/dca3, and by joining the Montgomery Quiet Skies Coalition.