By Peter Rouleau @petersrouleau
GAITHERSBURG — State Sen. Cheryl C. Kagan came to a work session at City Hall Monday night to brief Mayor Jud Ashman and the City Council on her priorities for the upcoming legislative session.
Kagan said she would continue her efforts to improve 911 service by allowing citizens to text to the emergency number. She added that her work on this issue in the legislature earlier this year met with widespread and bipartisan support.
“I passed two 911 bills and we recently turned in a 65-page report to the governor,” Kagan said. “I was hoping for consensus, but what I found was unanimous support.”
Kagan said that school funding would be another priority.
“The Kerwin Commission will finally have a report, and we’re all looking forward to seeing it,” Kagan said.
“The governor wants to widen I-270, and we’re very concerned about that, and we’ll be meeting with homeowners and stakeholders throughout Montgomery County to get their input and address their concerns. … Montgomery County Police Chief Tom Manger and I are working to bring Freedom to Serve to Maryland. This policy allows anyone who is a legal resident of Maryland and an honorably-discharged military veteran to apply to be a police officer. … I want to be sure that we get funds from the governor for a new police station in Gaithersburg.”
Kagan also said that she would push for a statewide ban on polystyrene food containers, which have already been banned in Montgomery County.
Ashman and the Council also received briefings from several of the city’s advisory committees on their efforts over the last year and goals for the future.
Multicultural Affairs Committee members Andi Rosati and Ken Weiss discussed their group’s efforts to promote cultural awareness in Gaithersburg , including having a Día de los Muertos shrine in the Benjamin Gaither Center during Hispanic Heritage Month.
“We plan to improve the DiverseCity Showcase with more music and more dancing,” Weiss said. “We will increase the free book giveaways to strengthen Gaithersburg’s reputation as a book-loving city.”
“I would like to look into doing something for Pride Month next June,” said Council Member Rob Wu, who serves as Council liaison to the Multicultural Affairs Committee. “It’s a segment of our population we could do more to make feel welcome.”
Loretto McNally, a member of the Cultural Arts Advisory Committee who also serves as artistic director for the community theater Montgomery Playhouse, discussed her committee’s efforts to grow the cultural scene in Gaithersburg.
“One way to tell if we’re succeeding in our mission is to examine the health of the arts scene in the city,” McNally said. “We can say, anecdotally, that the arts are robust in Gaithersburg. Artistic endeavors, such as plays, concerts and exhibits, contributed $18.7 million to the city’s economy. Upwards of 400,000 people attended cultural events in Gaithersburg, and their contributions go far beyond ticket sales. They buy gasoline and go out to eat.”
The committee’s recommendations for 2019 included continuing to investigate the possibility of constructing a large performance arena in the city to serve as a venue for performances and high-school graduation ceremonies. Late Council member Henry F. Marraffa Jr. was a vocal advocate for this project.