October 21, 2011
On Wednesday I attended Rail~Volution, a national conference about building better communities through transit. I saw a presentation by Peter Calthorpe that I will go ahead and say was the best presentation about planning and the environment that I have ever seen. We can see all around us now the evidence of a change in living patterns as people return to the cities and embrace/build the high quality of life that a great urban area can provide.
Here in Montgomery County we have great suburban neighborhoods and a truly rare agricultural belt, but our urban districts are only starting to blossom. It is in these urban districts, served by public transportation, that we must focus our future job and housing growth. That will be the best way to keep our suburban and rural ways of life intact while fostering the job growth we need to pay for our government services and accommodating the population growth that we know is coming. And I would say most importantly, it is a necessary change if we are going to avert catastrophic climate change. I think we all know that we cannot continue to add cars to the road and vehicle miles traveled at the same rate in the next 50 years as we have in the last 50 years. We have to make a bold change.
These concerns are what animates me in a lot of the daily battles that we have at the County Council. The council has a huge influence on land-use and transportation. Zoning, for example, is the intersection of community building, economic development, neighborhood preservation, environmental stewardship, transportation planning, and so many other key policy areas. It is NOT an eye-glazer!
On a separate note, if you have been reading this blog you know that I have been working diligently to sustain the Fenton Street Market, a great example of grassroots economic development in the Silver Spring area. I am delighted to see this work get results as Hannah McCann and Megan Moriarty have announced they will work to keep the market going. There was a huge gap between the county and the market over use of public space in Silver Spring that we have been working to resolve. We are close now. If this works I hope to see similar efforts take root around the county.