Housing, economic development, mental health issues and recovery from the coronavirus pandemic are top priorities for the six new incoming Montgomery County council members, the council chairman told reporters on Monday.
Council Chairman Gabe Albornoz said elected members – Laurie-Anne Sayles (at-large), Marilyn Balcombe (District 2), Kate Stewart (District 4), Kristin Mink (District 5), Natali Fani-Gonzalez (District 6), and Dawn Luedtke (District 7) – will bring “tremendous diversity” to the new council. They were part of a Democratic sweep of county council seats last week.
The current nine-member council will grow to 11 members in December, after county voters approved a ballot measure in 2020 to increase the number of council districts from five to seven. Four council members at-large remain in the new structure.
Albornoz said Monday the new council will focus on any solution to help create more affordable housing options for residents. Rent stabilization is on the table, but there needs to be a “holistic” approach to addressing this issue, Albornoz said.
When it comes to public safety, amid higher crime levels across the county, Albornoz said there may be some disagreement. But action will be taken by the council, he said.
“I think everyone has different perspectives to help deal with some of the crime wave that we’ve seen, but also some of the historic inequities that have been created within our criminal justice system. “Albornoz said. “And I know everyone is going to be looking to approach this from different angles.”
Many new council members said solutions to crime must be holistic, not just police-level focused. For example, there needs to be more social programs and violence prevention initiatives, especially among the county’s youth, they said.
Albornoz, health officials eagerly await Kisha Davis as permanent health worker
The council is also expected to vote Tuesday on County Executive Marc Elrich’s choice for the county’s new health officer, Kisha Davis.
Davis, who lives in the county, is a family physician and was most recently vice president for health equity at Bethesda-based Aledale. This company works with independent medical practices, health centers and clinics to support the delivery of equitable, high-quality patient care, Bethesda Beat previously reported.
Albornoz, who hopes to remain chairman of the council’s health and human services committee in the next term, said he was interested in working with Davis on health inequities that have been exacerbated during the coronavirus pandemic. coronavirus. Local elected officials and health officials spoke about the lack of access to health care, barriers to the cost of services, and how some areas are more vulnerable to disease, not just COVID-19.
Albornoz said Davis can help lead efforts to bring more telehealth and mobile health opportunities to these communities.
Sean O’Donnell, county public health emergency preparedness manager, said Davis will provide another valuable voice at the table, especially as health officials navigate the coronavirus, flu and other illnesses this winter.
James Bridgers – the county’s acting health officer – will serve as division manager of public health services.
Health officials are closely monitoring all types of illnesses over the coming months, he said.
“Last year, when there was a huge omicron [coronavirus] peak, the spread of the flu decreased significantly during that peak because people were staying home and people were getting sick with something else at the time,” O’Donnell said. “Hopefully we don’t have another huge spike like that this year, but…it’s hard to say.”
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