I am very pleased to provide you with an update on my first four months working as your Councilmember, representing District 1.
Council President Marilyn Praisner has appointed me to the Health and Human Services Committee (HHS) and to the Management and Fiscal Policy Committee (MFP). The HHS Committee has jurisdiction over the health and human services agencies, libraries, the arts, culture, and the humanities. The MFP Committee has jurisdiction over economic and fiscal policy, spending affordability, County Government administrative departments, cable and telecommunications, technology, personnel and compensation, and procurement policy. The MFP Committee also has oversight of interagency teams on training, public information, procurement, and PEG (public, education, and government) cable television channels. As part of my committee work, President Praisner offered me the opportunity to serve as Lead in any area. I chose Library and Cultural Affairs because I am an unabashed believer in the arts and humanities as an essential element of District 1, Montgomery County, and our civilized society.
District 1 is the focus of much of the rebuilding that is going on in the County. Indeed, according to a just-released report, approximately three-fourths of all the rebuilding in the County has been taking place in Bethesda, Chevy Chase, and Potomac. While many of the new homes that are being constructed are both tasteful and consistent with the overall character of the neighborhood, there are too many that cause considerable consternation among neighbors. I took a “Mansionization Tour” recently with Montgomery County officials to understand better how our existing rules work, and how they don’t work. To see the clip that aired on Fox News, please click here. I left that tour, and the heartfelt conversations I had with neighbors whose lives had been negatively impacted, convinced that we need to make some adjustments in our zoning laws to better protect neighborhoods. I will be working in the months ahead with government officials, neighborhood representatives, and builders to see if we can reach a consensus on a reform package. I do not expect consensus will be reached quickly or easily. It is a very difficult and delicate issue. But I intend to try.
One of the concerns that members of our community have shared with me is that we are losing too many trees, particularly in the redevelopment process. Trees are an important community asset – aesthetically, environmentally, and economically. I have become convinced that our current laws with respect to preserving trees are inadequate, and I am working with my colleague Councilmember Marc Elrich to draft new rules that will provide greater protection for this important natural resource.
I have begun work on a major legislative package that would put the County at the forefront in the fight against Global Warming. Although the past Council, under the leadership of my colleague George Leventhal, took a number of steps that are very important, such as the adoption of Green Building Standards, increasing the County’s purchases of wind power, and instituting tax credits for residential use of clean energy, there is more that we can – and must – do. I organized a public forum, bringing together some of the best, brightest and most committed among us, to discuss the best practices that other local jurisdictions have adopted to reduce fossil fuel use in buildings and transportation. Click here to read and click here to watch my opening statement. A complete coverage of the forum is also available. Please click here to watch. Please share with me your own thoughts on what you think the County should do in this vital area.
My time at the Council has been marked by efforts to help my colleagues find common ground. I recently put forward an amendment, adopted by the Council unanimously, to modify the language of the joint Council/Executive transportation priorities letter so that we emphasize sustainable development and smart growth. Now, it is clear that Montgomery County Government’s top priorities for currently unfunded State transportation projects are the Purple Line from Bethesda to New Carrollton and the Corridor Cities Transitway from Shady Grove to Clarksburg. In addition, I sponsored an amendment that was approved 9-0 to put the Council on record supporting an increase in the State gasoline tax as a way to fund these badly needed mass transportation projects.
How the County manages its growth was a major issue in the campaign and is a major issue for our County today. I was pleased to co-sponsor and support President Praisner’s resolution to expedite Park and Planning’s review of our annual growth policy. I have great confidence in our Planning Board Chair, Dr. Royce Hanson, and look forward to his recommendations. I was also pleased to work with the Council, the County Executive, and the Dr. Hanson to reach consensus on the application of this revised growth policy, a conclusion that is the most aggressive the Council has ever adopted and yet fair to all concerned. To read my full Statement on SRA 06-03, please click here.
Apart from the legislative efforts, I have been assisting our community in having their issues addressed by our government. We have addressed constituent concerns about pedestrian safety, bus service, tree maintenance, stormwater runoff, zoning questions, and power outages, among others. Whether it is turning on a light or getting a County agency to be responsive to your needs, we are here to serve you. During the campaign, I made it clear that we would try to provide “constituent service” second to none, and I feel like we are well on our way to achieving that objective. Among our efforts are the following:
SNOW REMOVAL GROWTH POLICY
We were inundated with calls and emails during the days that followed our recent snow and ice storm, and we tried to help as many people as we could with plowing, shoveling and other weather-related issues. I hope we’ve had the last of our winter storms this year, but let us know when we can help facilitate your communications with government offices in any situation.
The prospective growth of the Bethesda Naval Medical Center poses a serious threat to the quality of life in the surrounding neighborhoods. I initiated a joint letter with United States Congressman Chris Van Hollen and Maryland Delegate Bill Bronrott to ensure that the Navy takes more time to listen to the community’s concerns, and to say in no uncertain terms that it would be unfair to put the burden on local and state government to pay for the transportation infrastructure that will be necessary in response to the anticipated growth in traffic.
Similarly, the people of the Scotland neighborhood came to me and told me how a simple traffic light that they had fought hard to get in place had never been turned on. My staff had it on within 48 hours.
My office staff is now in place, and I can tell you that we have assembled an excellent team to serve you. We’re still getting acclimated, but we look forward to hearing from you and to seeing you at community events. Reggie Oldak is my Chief of Staff; Rebecca Lord, our Policy Analyst focusing on land use; Karen Williams, our Policy Analyst focusing on Transportation and the Environment; Cindy Gibson, our Policy Analyst focusing on Education and Public Safety; and Thanh Tran, our Administrative Aide who will be happy to schedule your meeting with me or my staff. All of them will try to facilitate your interaction with County government in any way that they can.
Thank you for your trust, and please let me know what I can do for you.
Councilmember, District 1
Lead Member for Libraries and Cultural Affairs
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