We have strengths. Let’s build on them

Dear residents,

Montgomery County can find success as a place where companies grow and thrive, providing jobs for our families and communities — but we have to be forward thinking and play the long game.

It is not about tax cuts for the wealthy and that tired anti-government agenda — it is about making smart decisions and savvy investments in our future.

That’s why I am so excited to share the news about an important partnership that the County is now backing to land a Federal Pandemic Prevention Center.

Some of the world’s top scientists and biotech leaders have come together through a regional economic development organization to propose a federal strategy to advance medical breakthroughs for dangerous pathogens — before they become pandemics.

This exciting idea has even won the philanthropic backing of the Gates Foundation.

For example: with funding, scientists could develop monoclonal antibody treatments for various coronaviruses that are known but not yet circulating among humans — and stockpile those recipes in case one of the coronovarises becomes a pandemic.

Montgomery County is the natural place to house this new center. With the NIH, FDA, and a powerful life sciences industry, we are already an epicenter of global pandemic response.

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Purple Line — why this matters so much

Dear resident:

The recipe for our future success as a community is not only progressive policy making but also having a strong economic foundation that provides higher paying jobs for our residents and tax revenues to support public services.

As a region with many companies that are turning scientific breakthroughs into commerce, our County government should recognize that strength and do everything possible to build on it.

One key initiative that I have been focusing on a lot: better connecting our economy to UMD and College Park.

UMD is one of the largest higher ed computer science institutions in the US. Although it is in a neighboring County, it is still one of Montgomery County’s key power centers to generate economic progress.

To build on UMD’s potential, we need a high quality Purple Line. The Purple Line runs right through campus with multiple stops there and then continues to downtown Silver Spring and Bethesda while connecting to the Red Line Corridors.

Degrading the Purple Line — as the County Executive is now proposing to do by “single tracking” trains into Bethesda and foreclosing future improvements in the frequency of trains — will really limit our County’s economic potential.

Consider this exceptionally pertinent example.

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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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Why the Council voted to override the veto of the Metro smart growth plan

Dear resident:

On Tuesday, the County Council voted to override County Executive Elrich’s veto of the “More Housing At Metro” Act, a smart growth plan adopted by the Council a week earlier.

Read the op-ed I wrote about it in the Washington Post

Our County’s 9 Metro station properties could be delivering enormous benefits to the County — including substantial tax revenues — but instead they are a drag. From a real estate perspective, some are nearly “brownfields” due to the overwhelming expense of building above a station.

The Council has a plan to break the status quo and generate some economic momentum. The legislation, vetoed by the County Executive, would provide a highly targeted property tax abatement exclusively for high rise construction on these 9 Metro station properties.

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Using ABS to help stabilize our restaurant sector

Earlier today, I sent a letter (reprinted below) to County Executive Marc Elrich asking that he direct the County Alcohol Beverage Services (ABS) to help stabilize the restaurant sector, which is experiencing a catastrophic decline in revenue as a result of the COVID-19 shutdown.

My proposal would allow restaurants to defer payments on beer, wine, and liquor purchases from the County warehouse for 12 months. Unlike grants, the money will be repaid (it will be effectively a zero interest loan; businesses that fail can be required to return their inventory to the county). The program will help restaurants with very low cash flow in a very uncertain environment to regain their footing. Keep reading >>