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By Suzanne Pollak @SuzannePollak
POTOMAC — County Executive Marc Elrich told the state and local politicians and community leaders gathered last week at the Jewish Community Relations Council’s legislative brunch that transportation and education are his highest priorities.
About 250 people ate omelets and lox and bagels at the third annual Schmooze and Nosh legislative brunch Nov. 29, hosted by Beth Sholom Congregation in Potomac.
Elrich said he intends to go through the County’s budget thoroughly, looking for surplus money he would then use to improve the County’s infrastructure and pay for early education.
“The idea is not to reduce taxes,” but rather “that your dollars get spent in the most efficient way,” he said.
Elrich labeled the lack of equality in County schools as a civil rights issue, noting, “I am going to do everything I can to push this agenda forward” to help all County students, which will go far in ending poverty, he said.
“We are seeing about half our kids go to kindergarten two years behind. It has long-term effects to their education,” he said. “Kids who don’t start well, don’t end well. Think of what it means to be two years behind when you are five years old.”
Addressing the Jewish audience, Elrich noted, “The Jewish community has been a real partner. You play a significant role in social justice.”
Elrich, who is Jewish, stressed, “You are going to have an ally in Rockville.”
He promised to continue funding security measures for religious institutions. “We have to make sure people are safe,” he said.
He said he also intends to send a strong message that “hate will not be tolerated.”
Addressing the County’s reputation of being bad for business, Elrich said his administration will compare its building and permitting requirements with those in the surrounding area with the goal of making the County more welcoming to business.
“I do think job growth is important. [Raising the] minimum wage is not the end. It is the beginning,” he said,
Speakers also included U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D) and Chris Van Hollen (D), who both emphasized their support for Israel and their efforts to thwart the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel.
“The rise of hate here in America and around the world, what we saw in Pittsburgh, I think hits everyone to the core,” Cardin said, referring to the Oct. 27 shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue in which 11 people were killed.
While not mentioning President Donald Trump, Cardin said, “We don’t want to connect the dots, but we know words have consequences.”
Van Hollen noted that he will continue “standing up for our values and sending a very clear message when our President won’t.”
Referring to an increase in hate crimes and gun violence, Van Hollen said, “We’ve got to do a lot better as a country. All faiths need to come out together.”
He added, “We need to be a community that respects all faiths…We are so much stronger when we all work together.”
Van Hollen also said he would work to protect the immigrant population and fund security for religious nonprofits.
Cardin spoke of the need to continue protecting the Chesapeake River and alleviating the area’s traffic woes.
During the event, Meredith Weisel, director of Maryland Government and Community Relations for the JCRC, listed her organization’s priorities for 2019.
Countywide, they include obtaining more funds for social services, advocating for security funding at places of worship, working on policies to reform the criminal justice system and assisting public and private schools.
Statewide, the JCRC’s priorities include seeking funds for religious institution security and the disabled, standing up to hate crimes, protecting victims of abuse, and funding programs for Holocaust survivors.
Nationally, the JCRC will support Israel and healthcare, she said.