Montgomery County’s Racial Equity and Social Justice Committee Members Elect Planning Board Member Partap Verma as Chair
November 17, 2020
Commissioner Verma will work with committee members to set the agenda on the county’s racial equity and social justice priorities for 2021
WHEATON, MD – The Montgomery County Planning Board, part of The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC), announces that Planning Board member Partap Verma has been selected to chair Montgomery County’s Racial Equity and Social Justice Advisory Committee. The County Council created the committee as part of its Racial Equity and Social Justice Act, 27-19, which was signed into law in December 2019 to actively address racial disparities within the county.
The committee, which reports to the County Executive and County Council, will set the county’s racial equity and social justice priorities for 2021, work to ensure that racial equity issues are incorporated in policymaking and work with the community to identify critical areas of improvement.
While County Executive Marc Elrich nominated Verma to the 15-member group in July 2020, committee members voted overwhelmingly in November to have Verma serve as chair.
“It’s an honor and a privilege to be elected the chair of this historic committee,” Verma said. “This committee is needed now more than ever, and I’m excited about the opportunity to effect change in a real and meaningful way in our county. As a son of immigrants, I believe the dream of achieving equity and addressing social justice issues can be realized in this county, and I hope this committee is able to take our incredible county one step further in a positive direction.”
Council President Sydney Katz, who approved Verma’s nomination to the committee, said, “I’m delighted that Partap Verma has been chosen to serve as the chair of the County’s Racial Equity and Social Justice Advisory Committee. His background, innovative ideas and experience in the law, diplomacy and community advocacy will help to shape a more inclusive future for Montgomery County. Mr. Verma’s leadership, combined with the essential work of all the committee members, will help our community take the steps necessary to begin dismantling systemic racism and creating a more equitable future for our residents and future generations.”
Councilmember Nancy Navarro, who spearheaded the legislation that created the committee, added, “The work of this group is instrumental to dismantling persistent disparities in Montgomery County. I’m thrilled to know that Partap Verma will be leading this diverse group of residents who are committed to this effort. Mr. Verma’s record of community involvement and of championing the causes important to residents most impacted by systemic racism makes him the ideal person for this role. I’m personally glad to have his extraordinary insight and record of service in moving this effort forward.”
Policies for the Most Vulnerable
Verma, who works at the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as an associate counsel focusing on privacy law and Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) compliance, was appointed to the Montgomery Planning Board in July 2019.
When County Council members decided to appoint Verma to the five-member Montgomery County Planning Board last year, they spoke of his commitment to creating policies to serve the county’s most vulnerable residents. Upon accepting the position of chair of the Racial Equity and Social Justice Advisory Committee, Verma reiterated his desire to have the group address issues most important to “the black, brown and most vulnerable communities — namely affordable housing, access to transportation and increasing economic opportunities.”
Verma is a lifelong Montgomery County resident, a product of Montgomery County Public Schools and was once a participant in the Free and Reduced-Price Meals program. Commissioner Verma, who is openly gay, lives in Forest Glen with his military war veteran spouse and their three children.
Creating Equity in Master Plans
Montgomery Planning along with the Planning Board have started to implement the county’s racial equity law, which directs the “Planning Board to consider racial equity and social justice impact when preparing a Master Plan.”
Since the passage of the Racial Equity and Social Justice Act, Montgomery Planning developed an action plan for incorporating racial equity and social justice when preparing a Master Plan or Functional Plan, building on initial equity in planning efforts that Montgomery Planning began in 2018. One of the goals of the ensuing Equity in Master Planning Framework is to create a more holistic approach to master planning that includes equitable engagement at the beginning and throughout the master planning process.
Prioritizing Equity in Montgomery Parks
Parks are central to communities where people live, work and play. They serve a pivotal role in advancing racial equity by bringing communities together and helping break down social, racial and cultural barriers. Montgomery Parks is striving to reduce social and economic fragmentation by revitalizing and connecting public spaces for people to come together from different backgrounds. To advance that goal, Montgomery Parks is in the process of hiring an equity analyst to create and manage an equity strategy for the department to help guide its efforts to better achieve inclusion in all aspects of park programs, operations and management.
About Commissioner Verma
Verma, a certified mediator, specializes in privacy law, FOIA, agile development and alternative dispute resolution. Prior to joining DHS, he served as general counsel at the U.S. Department of State, specializing in interagency information sharing, national security issues and immigration law. He also worked as a consular officer in Turkey and India as well as on task forces supporting crises around the world.
Prior to his appointment to the Planning Board, Verma represented Forest Glen issues at Montgomery County’s Mid-County Citizens Advisory Board as the land use chair and served on the executive board for Sierra Club Montgomery. Additionally, he served as a mediator and panel attorney for the Montgomery County Department of Housing and Community Affairs’ Commission on Common Ownership Communities. Verma is also the founder of Friends of Forest Glen and Montgomery Hills and the blog “Finding Forest Glen.”
Verma received a law degree with honors from the Pennsylvania State University School of Law in 2005 along with certificates in transnational law from Duke University and comparative law from the University of London. In 2001, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from the University of Maryland.
Since his appointment to the Planning Board, Verma has provided guidance on the Thrive Montgomery 2050 General Plan update, the Subdivision Staging Policy, the Silver Spring Downtown and Adjacent Communities Plan, Pedestrian Master Plan, Forest Glen/Montgomery Hills Sector Plan, Interstate 495 and Interstate 270 Managed Lanes Study and more.