September 27, 2011
Today was jam-packed with tough policy issues. First, a conversation
with the Fire Chief as a follow up to our committee meeting last week
on vehicle policy issues. Then a Gov Ops committee meeting where we
debated the level of borrowing we can afford to finance construction
of capital projects like schools, libraries, etc. I recommended, as
did Council president Valerie Ervin, that we should not reduce our
spending in this area because it will shrink our local economy. The
Count Executive is recommending $50 million in cuts to these projects
over the next 2 years.
Then a meeting with community advocates in the BCC cluster who are
opposed to the site that has been chosen for the middle school. I have
to give a shout out here to Cathy Fink, a local musician whose album
Pillow Full of Wishes is absolutely one of our family favorites. It’s
tough getting lobbied by the lady who sings your kids to sleep!
Then to T/E committee to discuss the issue of artificial turf fields.
There have been a lot of concerns raised about them. My conclusion is
that the science certainly raises enough concern to implement testing
but not enough to warrant a moratorium. I am pleased that the parks
department is implementing a rigorous test on runoff and environmental
impacts. That will tell us a lot. I requested lead tests for all our
existing fields and that we explore alternatives to tire crumb for
filler for these fields.
Now I’m prepping for a vigorous discussion tomorrow on the CR family
of zones. We are working to bring new plans to life for communities in
Wheaton, Kensington and Takoma/Langley but we need to get the zones
right or the investment will not come.
I love this job!
September 20, 2011
Today we had another round of discussions about the county’s take home
vehicles. The proliferation of these vehicles and the county’s
inability to properly manage the system has been a running problem for
decades. In 1992 and again in 2001 there were major council initiated
investigations into the problem, finding each time that the county was
failing to collect payments from many employees for their commutes.
The estimate at the time was over $200,000 in lost collections per
year. This year at my request the T/E committee reviewed take home
vehicles again and found the same situation occurring! The
administration has cut the number of take home assigned vehicles by
14% in response and has instituted new procedures to reclaim money
owed to the county going forward. Whether this can really work given
the repeated failures over the years is something I am considering
After the busy day of council work I went to a dinner organized by
Bethesda Green at Chef Tony’s focusing on “farm to table” issues.
With 40% of county land set aside for agricultural uses, we actually
have very little “table food” farming. It’s something we need to
September 15, 2011
Today I had a number of meetings and discussions on the topic of employee take home vehicles. Ever since I first learned that a number of employees had vehicles that they could take home at night and the county government was not forthcoming with information about them, I have been pushing hard for answers and reforms. We are getting ready for a committee hearing next Monday that will cover both public safety vehicles (except police vehicles) as well as county vehicles. We asked the executive branch to revise the policy and reduce the take home vehicle fleet significantly last spring, and now we are getting a revised policy. It has taken a long time, I have to say. I think we are going to make some real progress on this issue next week and put some changes in place that will save some real money.