Connecting our region so Montgomery County can thrive

Dear Resident,

Over the past two weeks, I have been working feverishly to save a major transportation project that the County has long supported — improving 270 and the American Legion Bridge — while securing a commitment from the state for a major transit project as part of that plan.

I’d like to tell you why.

You may know that I have used my time in office fighting to make our transportation options safer, more equitable, and greener. I have helped shepherd the Purple Line through numerous crises, and no Councilmember has done more to secure bike and pedestrian improvements Countywide.

Every year in the budget, I push for more buses, more bike lanes, and safer sidewalks. I have successfully fought to expand Metro service, lower speed limits, increase automated enforcement, and remove dubious highways from our plans.

I am also increasingly alarmed about our County’s sluggish economy and the shifting center of regional economic gravity to Northern Virginia. As that trend has accelerated, the harmful consequences to us of untenable delays on the American Legion Bridge have become greater.

The American Legion Bridge is now a barrier to economic activity between our jurisdictions which incentivizes companies to locate in Virginia rather than Maryland and thereby accelerates the regional shift South at our expense.

Fixing this problem can help retain some regional balance. Opposing a solution here doesn’t advance any important goals, it just moves growth to a different part of the region — Virginia.

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Thrive 2050: planning for our future

Dear residents,

In the coming months, the Council is expected to finalize a vision document to guide the future growth of our community.

It is called “Thrive Montgomery 2050” and you may have heard something about it.

It is not a rezoning nor does it allow anyone to do anything with their property that they cannot do already. Instead, it is a broad vision with objectives and strategies that can be implemented with future community-driven plans.

Some opponents, including the County Executive, are calling on the Council to stop working on this initiative, despite the fact that it has been underway for nearly two years and we have received public testimony and input from hundreds of residents.

While I don’t support delay, I certainly think we can improve on the draft that we received and I am reading through the feedback I am receiving.

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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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