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Category: social justice

In support of the Montgomery County “COVID-19 Renter Relief Act”

In support of the Montgomery County “COVID-19 Renter Relief Act”

I contacted the Montgomery County Council in support of pending legislation that would impose temporary residential rent stabilization. The legislation, Expedited Bill 18-20, is sensible, reasonable, and fair, as I wrote in my message. If you’d like to learn more, check out the April 14, 2020 council agenda item and also a short video in which lead sponsor Councilmember Will Jawando explains why he introduced the bill.

Here’s my message to the council. Please consider conveying your own support for the bill to the council.

Allow me to express my support for Expedited Bill 18-20, the “COVID-19 Renter Relief Act.”

I support the aim of protecting vulnerable county residents. The COVID-19 crisis has made their situations markedly more challenging. Montgomery County must take whatever sensible, reasonable, and fair steps it can to to protect these individuals and families. Expedited Bill 18-20 would put in place one such step, by creating temporary residential rent stabilization with a defined sunset date.

The bill’s financial impact on landlords would be modest, however the bill could make a huge difference to residents living on the edge, who have lost employment and who maybe now have to educate their kids at home and deal with the pandemic’s health impact. The bill will also benefit the county as a whole, by helping residents who then won’t have to seek support from the county because of an unstable housing situation.

I’ll further observe that the City of Takoma Park has had residential rent stabilization for many years. Our rental housing stock is in good shape; it’s outside the city that the most glaring landlord neglect in recent years has occurred. Rent stabilization — noting that the proposed county rule is temporary — will not lead to degraded housing conditions.

My thanks to Councilmember Jawando for introducing the bill and to Council President Katz and Councilmembers Rice and Navarro for co-sponsoring. I hope the other councilmembers will sign on as co-sponsors and that the council as a whole will enact the legislation.

Follow-up: Youth Homelessness in Montgomery County

Follow-up: Youth Homelessness in Montgomery County

Good news: The County Council included $246,500 funding for a drop-in center for youth experiencing homelessness in the County’s FY19 budget.

At the May 9 event, Youth Homelessness in Montgomery County: Challenges and Solutions
Community advocacy made a difference, including at the May 9 program on Youth Homelessness in Montgomery County. Messages to the Council made a difference, including via the letter-writing campaign we set up. And this work certainly helped broaden awareness.

The youth who spoke out at the May 9 program were amazing. We have posted a small set of photos from the event and LocalDVM posted an event video.

Thanks also to the other program participants including Councilmember George Leventhal, who turned community advocacy into a specific funding proposal.

The Department of Health and Human Services will be responsible for next steps, for opening the center and designing its programming. We hope and expect that HHS will take its lead from affected community members.

There is work to be done beyond creating an initial drop-in center. Montgomery County has addressed veteran homelessness and is very near reaching the goal of ending chronic homelessness. The County’s Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness envisions comprehensively tackling youth homelessness next.

The County will need active public and expert involvement. Let me know if you’d like me to keep you apprised of opportunities to help.

Equity and Opportunity in Montgomery County

Equity and Opportunity in Montgomery County

Our society is unequal, but of perhaps greater concern, it is inequitable. Synonyms for inequitable: biased, unfair, unbalanced, discriminatory. We need to redress past inequity. We need to ensure opportunity for all.

We must concern ourselves with discrimination, whether intended or not, associated with gender, race and ethnicity, geography, economic resources. “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” said Martin Luther King, Jr., injustice to any person and not just in any place.

Let’s think in terms of redress, having two senses: correction (of the underlying inequity) and compensation, noting that in many cases, those who are advantaged in an inequitable situation and wield power in that situation are not those who created the situation. We’re nonetheless duty-bound to address it.

  • Let’s ensure educational programming and spending that will close the achievement gap and, even better, prevent it from opening via universal pre-K and early learning opportunities.
  • Let’s address criminal-justice issues that have led to mass incarceration of African American and other minority youth and adults – end the school-to-prison pipeline – apply principles of restorative justice – boost reintegration into society.
  • Let’s recognize the role African Americans and other minorities have played in building our county and historic discrimination against women and LGBTQ neighbors: We aim for inclusion and balance and equitable civic and political representation.
  • Let’s help all county residents thrive, including seniors via aging-in-community initiatives and immigrants via English-language instruction and cultural sensitivity.
  • Every resident deserves safe and affordable housing in an attractive neighborhood, strong schools, convenient transportation, and fair wages and the opportunity to start a business.

I applaud Montgomery County Public Schools’ Equity Initiatives Unit, aiming for awareness, knowledge, and understanding of one’s own and students’ and staff’s racial and cultural identity. Let’s extend this framework to gender and sexuality and let’s apply it broadly to county government.

The bottom line: Equity should be a primary consideration in Montgomery County revenue, spending, and programing decisions, and in county government operations. I will work to make that happen.

A recently published Urban Institute report, “Racial Inequities in Montgomery County: 2011–15,” describes “a challenge in overcoming the racial and ethnic inequities that are highlighted in the divide between Council District 1, home to Bethesda and Chevy Chase, and District 5, where Silver Spring and Takoma Park are located.”

The report is worth a look. “This brief measures inequities in education, income, employment, and homeownership by race and ethnicity in Montgomery County and its council districts and provides a profile on what racial equity would look like in the county. Quantifying this information will help county agencies, policymakers, and advocates recognize the community’s needs and to build new solutions and create a more equitable county.”

Income disparities by race across Montgomery County

Please visit for the statement in the first part of this article and other takes on Montgomery County concerns.

Legislation would protect Montgomery County burial sites

Legislation would protect Montgomery County burial sites

Below is my comment on Montgomery County legislation that would protect county burial sites. Redevelopment of Bethesda’s Moses African American cemetery site, near the Macedonia Baptist Church, pushed the need to address burial sites to the forefront. A council bill hearing is scheduled today, September 12, 2017.

Thanks to SURJ MoCo: Showing Up for Racial Justice, Montgomery County MD for their advocacy on this issue. The bullet points in my letter are drawn from SURJ’s materials.

This version of my comment is addressed to the legislation’s lead sponsors:

Councilmembers Rice, Berliner, and Leventhal,

I write in support of Bill 24-17, Land Use Information-Burial Sites, and Subdivision Regulation 17-01. I recognize that you are lead sponsors of the legislation.

I agree with Planning Board staff’s analysis: “Staff finds that the proposed legislation in SRA 17-01 and Bill 24-17 is a beginning but believes that the County Council should more comprehensively address the topic of protection for burial sites and archaeological resources, in part by examining other review processes outside of subdivision review. Staff believes that the County could benefit from establishing a special advisory committee with wide representation to more comprehensively explore legislation surrounding burial sites and archaeological resources.” (

In particular, I call your attention to community advocacy, that further:

  • The County Council and Planning staff must solicit input from affected communities when crafting and evaluating planning documents and legislation.
  • Focus should be not only on preliminary plans, but also on sketch plans, requiring early identification of burial sites in sketch plan applications.
  • Burial sites need to be identified on all official documents and protected during all phases of planning and permitting—such as sector plans, residential and non-residential construction, tax maps, and road configurations.
  • This legislation only pertains to subdivision applications, but almost all of Montgomery County is already subdivided. All development applications should be required to appropriately preserve burial sites.
  • Provisions for discovery of unknown burials and emergency situations, with a requirement for archaeological protocols and additions to the inventory, should be added.
  • Enforcement language needs to be included here, with consequences.
  • To manage and monitor this agenda, plus conducting research and outreach programs, a full-time credentialed staff person is needed.

Thank you for your work on this legislation and for considering these additional points.


Seth Grimes

On women in tech and leadership

On women in tech and leadership

YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki writes, “Yesterday, after reading the news, my daughter asked me a question. ‘Mom, is it true that there are biological reasons why there are fewer women in tech and leadership?'”

The news: Yet another instance of a pernicious and frequent allegation – this time from a now-fired Google engineer – that denies women’s abilities and contributions.

Wojcicki’s simple answer: “No, it’s not true.”

We should all be so clear and outspoken. And we should work to right the balance, via educational and employment opportunity for all, without bias and with special attention to encouraging and enabling girls and women and those who don’t fit traditional categories, via STEM programs, via paid parental leave, via access to affordable, reliable, safe child care. Those are examples. Your thoughts?

Click here for Wojcicki’s article.