Executive Kittleman Announces Economic and Community Service Initiatives in State of the County

By | September 8, 2019

>>Thank you very much, Leonardo,
and thank you for those kind words. It really is great to
be with you all again. It’s hard to believe
it’s been a year. I certainly want to thank
Leonardo and Chairman Miles Coffman, and the rest of the
board and chamber staff for having us here today. And I want to particularly thank
my wife Robin and our four children. (APPLAUSE)>>This year, Robin
and I are celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary, so thank
you very much for sticking out. (APPLAUSE)>>I’m not sure she
knew what she was going to get into 30 years ago,
but here she is. Also, my daughter
Mary is with us today. She actually was my super plunge
partner this year at the Polar Bear Plunge supporting
Special Olympics Maryland. This was my third year as a
super plunger, but her first. I told her the water really
wasn’t that cold at Sandy Point State Park, and she
said sure, she’d do it. So Mary, thank you very much
for being there with me. That’s 24 times in 24 hours. (APPLAUSE)>>And we’re also
excited to have one of Mary’s closest friends, Alyssa Parker,
with us today, who was just named to the U.S. National Field Hockey team. (APPLAUSE)>>Alyssa is a Glenelg
graduate who will be joining the Team USA in its
training program. And we really hope to see her
at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. Alyssa, we couldn’t be prouder. (APPLAUSE)>>And I know
big Doug’s looking down. The State of the County gives us
an opportunity to reflect back on the previous year. This past year, we lost two
Howard County leaders – Hugh Nichols, our 3rd county
executive, and Chuck Ecker, our 5th. Hugh, who passed away in
December, will be remembered for his wise and steady leadership
and dedicated public service. Chuck, who passed away in
October, was known for his easy-going nature and tireless
commitment to public education. And I recall, at Chuck’s
memorial service, I think it was Dick Story that talked about
the frogs and that – Chuck Eckerisms. And I think about that I have
used that a lot since his memorial service because he used
these frogs as an example of when you’re dealing with
difficult issues and when you have to do something
you don’t really like. And his comment was if you have
to eat a frog, eat it fast. (LAUGHTER)>>And the corollary
to that – the Ecker corollary is if you have to eat a lot of
frogs, eat the biggest one first. (LAUGHTER)>>And I’ve been
trying to take that to heart, but Chuck was a tremendous
mentor for me and I miss him a lot. This year, I want to also start
off by offering special thanks to the Howard County employees
and dozens of others who helped the county recover from the
largest snowstorm we’ve ever had. (APPLAUSE)>>I spent several
days in our Emergency Operations Center – a top-notch facility –
and several nights sleeping on a cot in my office – not so
top-notch – and I wish every resident had the opportunity
to see the EOC in full swing. The coordination between county
departments, the Maryland National Guard, the Columbia
Association and others – it’s truly impressive. I’d like to acknowledge our
Director of Emergency Management – Ryan Miller – for his
outstanding leadership throughout the storm, and in
fact, throughout every storm and crisis we have
here in the county. I also want to thank Tom
Meunier, our Bureau Chief for Highways, for his
tremendous efforts. (APPLAUSE)>>Try to
drive on those sometimes. I did that out at the
fairgrounds last summer – it is not easy. And also – speaking of driving a
snowplow – and also I’d like to acknowledge someone who
represents the many, many unsung heroes of the storm
– Darren Sirk. Darren, stand up please. (APPLAUSE)>>Darren is a
snowplow driver who put in 16 hour days for 5 days to make
sure our residents could get to work, to the store and to
their doctor’s appointments. Darren didn’t see his family
from Friday morning until Tuesday night. Few people realize just
how hard these folks work. (APPLAUSE)>>You know, we worked
as hard as we could to get the roads cleared, but of course,
some people get very frustrated when they don’t get plowed out. In fact, we got some
pretty colorful emails. (LAUGHTER)>>One of which
suggested that I do something to myself that I don’t think
is physically possible. (LAUGHTER)>>But, you know,
people get frustrated. I can understand that. Now friends, I’m pleased to
report to you today that the state of our county
continues to be strong. It is strong because of the
choices we make as a community. The first budget my
administration put together had the highest education funding in
Howard County history with 59 percent of the operating budget
dedicated to K through 12 education. I’d like to particularly thank
the County Council, all of whom are sitting right here, for
their support during this process and for the first
unanimous budget vote in eight years. (APPLAUSE)>>Last year, I
stressed the importance of sustainability and that
applies to budgets too. We’re optimistic the economy
will continue to improve, but I have to make one point clear. The days of substantial revenue
increases and large surpluses are over. We need to proceed with caution
when considering sizeable increases for programs,
departments or initiatives because there are many competing
needs and only so much new revenue to go around. And as we work to prepare the
next budget, we will again prioritize government services
that are essential to our quality of life, such as
education, public safety, maintenance of our roads
and infrastructure. And we will be mindful of
living within our means. The past year has brought
many challenges and many accomplishments. It was a year of rethinking,
rebuilding, reorganizing and restructuring – a process that
will continue through the year and beyond. We’re focusing our efforts on
four major areas: community services; open and efficient
government; revitalization and infrastructure; education
and economic development. These areas reflect our
commitment to making real and discernible progress to directly
impact and improve people’s lives in Howard County. Let’s talk first about
community services. Based on feedback from my
transition team, community leaders and experts, I am
reorganizing the departments of Citizen Services and Housing. I filed legislation in January
to make structural changes to both departments. These changes will expand the
delivery of human services and make them more
efficient and effective. The Department of Citizen
Services will become a more robust Department of Community
Resources and Services. And in the interest of
transparency, the Housing Commission will move out of
the Department of Housing and Community Development to make
it clear that it functions independently from
county government. We also looked at how to
strengthen services for our growing aging population. In the next 20 years, residents
aged 65 and older will increase from 10 percent to almost 22
percent of our population. We’re committed to implementing
the recommendations of our 20-year plan, “Creating An Age
Friendly Community,” which we released last fall. And our delivery of human
services will follow a philosophy called “No Wrong
Door,” which encourages government agencies to use
a comprehensive approach to improve services for
people needing support. For example, a person with a
disability and suffering from depression and worried about
housing shouldn’t have to contact three agencies to
get his or her needs met. We can avoid service silos by
creating a service delivery system that addresses the
full spectrum of issues. I am pleased to announce today
that my next budget will include funding to support the creation
of a Non-Profit Center. (APPLAUSE)>>This center will
bring together the Department of Social Services and the county’s
front-line human service organizations. The center will allow us to
consolidate services, increase collaboration among agencies,
improve the efficiency of space and enhance the visibility
of our service providers. As you know, one of my
priorities has been to improve mental health services. Working with the Horizon
Foundation and Howard County General Hospital, we added a
behavioral health specialist to assist with the Health
Department’s Community Care Teams. And we piloted a program
with Way Station to provide outpatient crisis stabilization. To date, in just five months, we
have served 174 people who were in need of urgent care. So thank you Horizon Foundation
– thank you Howard County General Hospital. (APPLAUSE)>>Now we are very
fortunate in Howard County to have a police department with
caring professionals who are dedicated to keeping us safe. As recent events in Harford
County demonstrate, we should never forget the dangers
they face every day. In September, we announced
initiatives to combat human trafficking, and we are
already seeing an impact. We just had another
arrest yesterday. We created a dedicated account
to fund victims’ services and police training, added a second
full-time officer to investigate human trafficking cases and we
requested state legislation to assist law enforcement efforts
with monitoring massage parlors to weed out the few that are
fronts for prostitution and human trafficking. I’d like to thank the Howard
County State Delegation for their unanimous, bipartisan
support for this legislation. As part of our ongoing efforts
in community outreach, I have consulted with the police
department about moving forward with a pilot program to evaluate
body cameras for our officers. Following a recommendation from
the citizens’ advisory council, Police Chief Gary Gardner is
forming a work group to initiate a pilot program. This group will address many
issues that come with this technology, including cost,
usefulness and policy matters, as well as transparency,
accountability and privacy. While no decision has been made
about instituting a permanent program, the pilot will be the
next step in evaluating body camera use in Howard County. We have a Fire and EMS
Department in Howard County that is constantly innovating
and improving. In October, we launched Pulse
Point, an app designed to help save lives. We were the first county in
Maryland to use the app and already have more than
1,000 residents signed up. Pulse Point contacts people who
are trained in CPR and willing to provide assistance when
someone nearby is having a cardiac emergency. At the same time, the app
reaches out to emergency personnel for response. Preparing our community is just
another way we are making a real difference to improve people’s
lives in Howard County. Now when I was elected, I
pledged an open, responsive and inclusive government and we’ve
made strong progress with that. I pledged to continue my town
hall meetings beyond the campaign moving them throughout
the county and I have kept that promise. We had four last year and will
do another four this year. In fact, our next town hall
is scheduled for Tuesday in Elkridge – come on out. These meetings are
open to everyone. I’m committed to this because
listening to you makes a difference. I learn of problems and
frustrations that need attention. And some of our best ideas
and solutions come from you. And remember, I work for you. One thing I heard about over and
over was that residents wanted greater involvement and
transparency in the planning and zoning process. Our Department of Planning and
Zoning suggested we create a Citizens Planning Institute to
better engage residents in the process. We listened, we agreed and we
will be launching the institute this year. I want to particularly thank Stu
Kohn, president of the Howard County Citizens Association
– please stand Stu. (APPLAUSE)>>Stu is someone who
advocates for greater community engagement and is a leader in
the community on many, many issues. We learned that American flags
were being discarded improperly, understandably upsetting,
especially to our veterans. So we created a Flag Retirement
Program at Alpha Ridge Landfill to allow flags to
be properly retired. I’d like to thank the American
Legion Post 156 for assisting with this program. Another way to communicate
with you is to have a more user-friendly website. I think everyone who uses the
county’s website will be happy to hear we’ve just
completed a redesigned site. The new site, which went live
Tuesday with a soft launch, will improve your ability to find
information whether you have a phone, a tablet or a computer. And this year… (APPLAUSE)>>…Yeah, I was
actually in the office on Wednesday morning and somebody
saw me in the hallway and they came up and said, I just want to
thank you for that new website. And that was only a day later
so that was really great. And this year we will be kicking
off TRACKHoward – a performance measurement program which will
allow us to use data to improve the delivery of county services. For example, the time it
takes to get a permit. Using TRACKHoward, the actual
time it takes will be measured, available for review and
will show areas that need improvement. Strengthening our infrastructure
and revitalizing our aging neighborhoods is another key
priority of our administration. We’re using our available
resources and collaborating with partners in the public
and private sectors. We started with Long Reach
Village Center, which was purchased by the county
before my administration. After five public meetings
seeking input from residents, we completed an Urban Renewal Plan. The next step will be finding
private developers to bid on the project. I would particularly like to
acknowledge and thank Council Chairperson Calvin Ball for his
assistance with this process. (APPLAUSE)>>We’re also looking
at Oakland Mills Village Center, which, believe me, we
do not intend to buy. (LAUGHTER)>>But through a
collaboration, we hope to jumpstart redevelopment there. County Government, the Columbia
Association and the Oakland Mills Village Board are
working together to complete a feasibility and design study. The study will consider whether
the center could support a destination anchor and factor in
the impact of Blandair Regional Park to the east and downtown
Columbia to the west. The county has also been closely
involved with developing a comprehensive, affordable
housing plan for downtown Columbia. It’s a project that has involved
many, many players, and we’re close to the goal line. I would particularly like to
acknowledge County Councilperson Mary Kay Sigaty for all her hard
work and dedication in helping to bring this plan to
fruition – thank you Mary Kay. (APPLAUSE)>>It’s hard to
believe Columbia turns 50 next year. As we turn the half century
mark, there are many exciting things happening downtown. Downtown Columbia is an economic
engine which will help drive the county for years to come. Merriweather’s new stage and
other improvements are starting to take shape. Two new office buildings are
under construction – the first new commercial buildings built
in downtown Columbia in more than a decade. I’d like to acknowledge David
Costello and Kingdon Gould, who are over here. Would you please stand? (APPLAUSE)>>David and Kingdon
are partners in Little Patuxent Square, a nine story, $75
million, mixed-use building going up across from
the Columbia Mall. And many of you have driven past
and wondered about the building going up on the corner of
Broken Land and Little Patuxent parkways. We’ve gotten lots of questions
about what’s happening there. And today, we have a
major announcement. Medstar has not only agreed to
remain in Howard County, but will expand its operation and
become the first tenant in Howard Hughes’ Crescent Project,
occupying 97,000 square feet. (APPLAUSE)>>Medstar is a leader
in health care and we are pleased that they will retain
their headquarters in Columbia – thank you Howard
Hughes for helping. All of this new development
hasn’t distracted us from our aging infrastructure. I’d like to particularly mention
two projects I believe are critical. First, our Circuit Courthouse
simply does not meet the needs of county residents or
businesses anymore. We are moving ahead with plans
for a public-private partnership to build a new courthouse. I’d like to thank Administrative
Judge Lenore Gelfman for her leadership and assistance
with this effort. (APPLAUSE)>>Second, following
my announcement last year to appropriate funding to begin
flood mitigation in historic Ellicott City, I established the
Historic Ellicott City Flood Group, with the help of Jon
Weinstein, which recently submitted its report to us. I look forward to continuing our
flood mitigation efforts and building on the progress
we’ve made this year. And I do want to thank
Councilperson Jon Weinstein for his continued support
on that and leadership. And also Debbie Slack-Katz, who
couldn’t be here today, but she’d chairing the work
group – thank you Jon. (APPLAUSE)>>One of the most
critical areas of infrastructure in the county is our
transportation system. We announced plans last
month to dualize Rt. 32 from Rt. 108 in Clarksville to
Linden Church Road. This is one of my top
transportation priorities because of the congestion
and safety on that roadway. During rush hour, it is the
sixth busiest stretch of road in the state – busier than many
parts of the DC beltway. I certainly want to recognize
County Councilperson Greg Fox who suggested the idea of
tapping into the county’s unused excise tax fund, which could
only be used for a project like this – thank you very much Greg. (APPLAUSE) Fortunately, Governor Hogan
heard our call and I want to thank him for his willingness
to fast track this project, splitting the cost between
the state and the county. Now strengthening our
transportation system is more than just roads. In January, we presented
BikeHoward, the county’s Bicycle Master Plan, which included
input from over 750 residents. I definitely want to recognize
and thank Chris Tsien, for his advocacy on this issue. At the same time we announced
BikeHoward, we also announced a county-wide Complete Streets
policy that will serve as a guide for making roads safe and
convenient for travel by foot, bicycle, car and public transit. Complete Streets is a big step
forward in creating a more sustainable community. I’d like to recognize County
Councilperson Jen Terrasa, a dedicated advocate in support
of transportation options. I think it’s appropriate that
the first Complete Streets project we’re including in our
capital budget is the Savage Area Complete Streets in her
district – thank you Jen. (APPLAUSE)>>And of course,
our number one priority in our community and our
administration is education. We continue to support the
important work of the Howard County Public School System. This year, we were again ranked
as the top school system in the state and I want to thank our
teachers, staff, students, parents and school system
leadership for their hard work. Since taking office, I have
visited 55 of our 76 public schools and look forward
to visiting the rest. I have enjoyed participating in
Read Across America, Steam Day at Thunder Hill Elementary,
the 50-year anniversaries at Waterloo and Clarksville
Elementary Schools, National Honor Society inductions and
all 12 high school graduations. And of course, there’s my
favorite – the annual Simulated Congressional Hearings where
fifth-graders learn about the Constitution and their
responsibilities as citizens. I want to recognize my good
friend Kim Eggborn, Coordinator of Elementary Social Studies,
who runs the program. (APPLAUSE)>>And as my public
service message of the day, please consider
participating as a judge. I know that Kim has forms
if you want to pick them up. (LAUGHTER) You’d be amazed by the level of
research and preparation our students put into
this every year. I’ve been doing it for probably
13 – 12, 13 years and it really is amazing. And just – if you could take one
day to do that, it means a lot to the students, to the teachers
and you’ll learn a lot as well. I’m also impressed by the
variety and quality of programs in our top-ranked Howard
County Library System. I love attending the annual
Battle of the Books and managed to get to all five last year,
even though they took place at the same time – little trick. (LAUGHTER)>>I get a special
kick out of programs like Down on the Farm. Even though it looks like fun
and games, our children are learning a lot while attending
these free programs. They’re not the
only ones learning. This year, I’d like to recognize
Cari Gast, who oversees the library’s children and teen
curriculum – Cari thank you. (APPLAUSE)>>Cari’s leadership
in the design and delivery of this curriculum for young people
is one of the reasons our library system has developed a
national reputation as a trend setter. (LAUGHTER)>>I know, I know – as
Lonnie Robbins would say, heads would roll, heads will roll. Can we move on? (LAUGHTER)>>It’s a little
longer than I thought it was there Mr. Miller. Our community college also
enjoys a stellar reputation and continues to develop new
programs and initiatives to meet the demands of students
and today’s workforce. I’d like to recognize three
folks who are here – Mark Edelen, Dave Hinton,
and Athar Rafiq. Are they over here? Oh, there they are. (APPLAUSE)>>These three guys
at Howard Community College, in partnership with the Howard
County Economic Development Authority, will be creating a
new 3-D Innovation Hub at the community college
– very exciting. This effort demonstrates the
perfect nexus of economic development and education. Stay tuned for more on this. At this time, I’d also like to
acknowledge and remember Patti Keeton. Patti Keeton made tremendous
contributions to this project we just talked about and also
impacted our community as a whole. As you may know, Patti
unexpectedly passed away earlier this week. So please keep her and her
family in your prayers. We are truly fortunate to have
an amazing educational resources in Howard County. But, as lucky as we are, we
still have families who struggle every day – to make a living, to
pay the rent and to help their children succeed in school. There are steps we can take
to improve outcomes for all students. We understand that to succeed
in school, children have to be school ready. And much of that is a result of
the stability – economically and socially – of their families. This is where partnerships,
collaboration and innovation can make a difference. In September, I met with the
local Children’s Board and asked them to focus their efforts on
both the governor’s priorities for children and my priority of
eliminating the achievement gap for all students
in Howard County. I believe there is a need to
expand successful programs to improve school readiness for
children from birth to age five. For example, through our Office
of Children’s Services, we are increasing the capacity of our
“Parents as Teachers” home visiting model. Earlier, I talked about how
economic development is important to sustaining
our quality of life. We are in an enviable
position in Howard County. Our unemployment rate is the
lowest in the state at 3.8 percent. Our median income is
among the highest. Our commercial vacancy rates are
low and our commercial tax base grew by $180 million last year. We’ve leveraged the use of the
InterCounty Broadband Network to provide free Wi-Fi in public
areas, such as main street Ellicott City, the Columbia
lakefront and our county parks and to increase distance
learning opportunities for our schools, community
college and libraries. And for those of you in western
Howard County, who have struggled without high-speed
internet service, last week we announced a public-private
partnership to bring high-speed internet service to households
and businesses that didn’t have it. I’d like to recognize David
Furman – David please. (APPLAUSE)>>David
lives in Mount Airy. For two years, David tried to
get internet service to his neighborhood without success. He didn’t give up and
thankfully he didn’t. He worked with his neighbors and
the county to help develop this public-private partnership
– thank you very much. Folks, we’re making a real,
positive difference improving lives of people
in Howard County. Sustaining our future requires
a sustainable economy. We’ve prioritized economic
development, and I’d like to thank the many companies that
have decided to locate or expand here. I’d like to highlight just one. Tenable, which is headquartered
in Columbia, recently announced a $250 million dollar
investment in the company. Tenable’s expansion will mean
300 new jobs over the next few years. Joanne Rasch, is here, Vice
President of Corporate Communications… (APPLAUSE)>>…For
Tenable Network Security. Joanne, I just want to thank you
and also the CEO, Ron Gula – I know he couldn’t be here – for
investing in Howard County – thank you very much. In addition to our large
employers, our locally-owned, small businesses continue to be
the backbone of our economy. In November, I signed an
executive order to establish the Local Business Initiative which
encourages the use of local businesses for
government contracts. I’d like to acknowledge
Jason Peay – is Jason here? Jason – thank you Jason. (APPLAUSE)>>Jason is the
president of Versatech. Jason’s company, which provides
information technology, engineering support and
management services, was the first business to self-certify
under the new program. Our Maryland Center for
Entrepreneurship continues to spur local, small businesses. Today, we’re excited to have
Evan Lutz, CEO of Hungry Harvest – please stand Evan. (APPLAUSE) Evan started his business
through the center and not only is he running an innovative
company that cuts food waste and donates healthy food to people
in need, he was recently, as you see, on the TV show “Shark Tank”
and secured a $100,000 deal. That was a fun night Evan. Evan is an example of a Howard
County innovator who makes a real difference that
impacts people’s lives. We’ve got a lot going on in
Howard County and it’s all exciting. I’m committed to fostering a
strong business environment in Howard County. I have charged the EDA to work
with county departments to make it easier for companies to
expand or relocate here. I also kept my word to residents
and businesses regarding the unfair and unnecessary
stormwater fee. Along with Councilperson
Greg Fox, we have submitted legislation to the County
Council to eliminate the fee – by 50 percent in fiscal year
2017 and completely in fiscal year 2018, while ensuring that
we have the resources to meet the federal mandates. Now you’ll notice there –
that was No-Shave November. (LAUGHTER)>>And not my best
look, but I do want to thank those – there are a lot of
folks in this audience who participated in No-Shave
November so thank you very much for doing that. It was a good cause. I don’t know if
I’ll do it again. (LAUGHTER)>>Last year, we
talked about the need for sustainability in economic
development, infrastructure and agriculture. We’ve made strides in economic
development and infrastructure, and in this year, we also have
made progress on agricultural sustainability. We held two roundtables with
county farmers and future farmers from the 4H program;
launched the Farm Academy to teach residents to learn more
about our farm tradition and expanded the local food
purchases for the Roving Radish. We challenged our staff to
utilize local produce and products, and they have
increased the amount purchased from Howard County farms from
5 percent in 2014 to almost 38 percent in 2015. I know how important our farming
community is to our economy. Soon, I will name an ombudsman
for the agricultural community. This individual will develop an
Agricultural Subcabinet to help me support our
agricultural economy. (APPLAUSE)>>It has been an
amazing, humbling experience to be County Executive of the place
I have called home for more than 50 years. As I said, the state of
our county is strong. Maintaining that strength will
depend on how we manage the challenges we face. I am confident that we are
on the right track and by continuing to work together, we
can keep Howard County great. As I close, I’d like to talk
about something that is very important to me personally and
also the county as whole – the Harriett Tubman School. A reminder of our county’s
segregated past, this school had been closed as an academic
institution and is being used as a maintenance facility for
the public school system. For more than two decades, many
in our community have been fighting to preserve this
important landmark with little success. Well, we’ve taken the
first important step. We have agreed to an arrangement
with the school system to transfer the ownership to the
county so that we can work with our community partners to
preserve this building as a cultural and educational center. My capital budget will include
a new project that will ensure that this happens
on a set schedule. I’d like to recognize two people
who are very important to this – Bessie Bordenave, a graduate of
the school and President of the Harriett Tubman Foundation
of Howard County… (APPLAUSE)>>…and Rev. Doug
Sands – another Tubman graduate. (APPLAUSE)>>They are two of
the many people who worked tirelessly to save this
important piece of history. And I also want to note Dr. Fuss
and the School Board for your support with this because it
certainly wouldn’t have happened without the collaboration
so thank you. (APPLAUSE) We need this. We need it now –
maybe more than ever. There’s a resurgence of anger
and hostility that we’ve got to address. Openly expressed anti-Muslim
sentiment – openly expressed anti-African American
sentiment – this has to stop. I was raised by a civil rights
leader who fought for equality in Howard County. It saddens and angers me that so
many great leaders fought and sacrificed to stop injustice and
discrimination in our county. People such as Silas Craft,
Morris Woodson, Elhart Flurry, Leola Dorsey, Rev. John Holland
and of course Douglas Sands. But, today, here in Howard
County, we are still dealing with racism in our community. This is not acceptable. As residents of this diverse
county, as community leaders, as parents, as role models, we
need to work harder to promote acceptance and civility. And just as my father did, I
will talk about this whenever and wherever I can. This will not be done overnight. But it will be done. Why? Because I believe in Howard
County – I know that we are a caring community. A community committed to justice
and equality and together, we will demonstrate that Howard
County is a place where every person is valued as
part of our family.
(APPLAUSE) Thank you
very much for listening.

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