Don’t bottleneck the Purple Line

Dear Resident:

The Purple Line will be an economic development engine for Montgomery County.

Connecting Maryland’s biggest university, UMD, with Montgomery County’s downtowns and Metro corridors, it is the kind of infrastructure change that will foster smart growth and prosperity.

I got my start in the County pushing for the Purple Line — in fact I pledged 15 years ago to “Build the Purple Line or Die Trying.”

So you’ll understand that I am concerned that the County Executive has renewed his 2009 proposal to weaken the Purple Line.

Specifically, Mr. Elrich has proposed that rather than having a two way tunnel with tracks in each direction, we’ll have a one way train tunnel into downtown Bethesda. Trains would have to wait on either end for the tunnel to clear before entering.

In other words, we would build a bottleneck into Bethesda.

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Why I voted “no”

When I introduced the “farm + solar” zoning change with Council President Tom Hucker back in January 2020, my goal was to build a cornerstone of Montgomery County’s climate action policy.

By allowing less than 2% of the land in the County zoned “Agricultural Reserve” (which is itself one-third of all land in the County) to be used for privately funded community solar projects, the proposal would have generated enough clean energy to power more than 50,000 homes, while continuing agricultural practices on that land.

Regrettably, with opposition fueled by the County Executive, a majority of Councilmembers adopted two amendments to ZTA 20-01 that are so restrictive that the proposal may result in very little if any solar.

As a result, I voted “no,” because I am concerned that rather than a small step forward for Montgomery County, it may be a large step backward for Maryland. Consider these words from Chesapeake Climate Action Network, which along with the Sierra Club and Poolesville Green strongly supported the original plan:

Clean energy has to go somewhere. If liberal Montgomery County can’t reach a sensible compromise policy, imagine the push back from Republican county and state elected leaders who think climate change is a hoax anyway.

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CDC Guidance on Masks

Dear resident,

In the midst of the vaccination rollout, I want to be sure that you have not missed the important new guidance from the CDC about masks.

The CDC conducted research and found that when 2 people are both wearing tightly fitting masks, or doubling up on masks, exposure to aerosols that transmit virus was reduced by 95%.

For example, the CDC recommends wearing a surgical mask (those are the light blue ones that you can readily purchase from a variety of retail vendors, not the N95 type) with a fabric mask on top of that, both adjusted to fit tightly.

Please review this CDC guidance carefully and consider how you can increase your level of protection by wearing a more powerful mask combination.

The CDC research is good news because it means that we can stamp out this virus by

  1. Increasing our mask protection
  2. Continuing to safely distance
  3. Getting vaccinated

Sincerely,
Hans

P.S. you probably know that I have a personal passion for mask protections. I was one of the first elected officials in the U.S. to propose a mask requirement, and we got it done. Governor Hogan even thanked Montgomery County specifically when he announced a statewide mandate shortly afterwards.

Vaccination town-hall with AARP

Dear resident,

Since the start of this vaccination rollout, I have urged the State and County to focus on older residents, who are medically vulnerable.

While people age 80+ are between 2-3% of our County population, they have comprised over 50% of all our deaths from COVID-19.

That is why seniors must continue to be an urgent priority. We know that at our current pace, it will take several more weeks to work our way through appointments for those 75+.

On Wednesday, at 1pm, I invite you to join me for a tele-townhall for seniors sponsored by AARP, featuring the County’s health experts and a vaccine safety expert from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

When: Wed. Feb 10, 2021
Time: 1 PM
Call: 877-229-8493
Passcode: 115393

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Finding a way forward on farm solar

As a lead sponsor of the proposed zoning change to allow “community solar” on less than 2% of the County’s 100,000 acres of land zone Agricultural Reserve, I can no longer support the zoning change as it was amended by the Council on January 26, 2021. If it comes before the Council again, I am hopeful that we will still find a compromise that provides a clean path forward for a meaningful amount of solar energy; if not, with regret I will vote against it.

The original proposal I introduced with Council President Tom Hucker would have generated enough clean electricity to power about 50,000 homes, helping the County achieve important climate goals and supporting State goals to shut down coal-fired power plants — all while providing discounted clean energy to low income residents.

Working with groups such as the Sierra Club, Poolesville Green and Chesapeake Climate Action Network, we developed a plan that we hoped would be a cornerstone of our County’s environmental and climate action agenda.

The Council’s amendments thus far, unfortunately, restrict the land that can be used so significantly that, if adopted, the zoning proposal would establish a local precedent for solar power that many clean energy advocates are warning us could move Maryland backwards rather than forward, akin to a local government blocking offshore wind generation on the Eastern Shore.

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