October 1, 2021
This week I joined my colleagues Will Jawando and Gabriel Albornoz to introduce legislation mandating that County employees get vaccinated against COVID-19 as a condition of employment, unless they qualify for a documented medical exemption.
We need to take this step because the existing vaccination policy for County employees is not getting results. While County Executive Marc Elrich has come out against a mandate, he has also been bargaining for months with the County unions to promote vaccination.
The results speak for themselves.
As of September 30, 77.6% of County employees reported having at least one dose of a vaccine, compared to 98% of eligible County residents. Vaccination rates in some county departments are much lower, with the Department of Corrections and Fire and Rescue Services reporting only 63% of employees having gotten at least one dose.
This is simply unacceptable.
Getting vaccinated is one of our most powerful tools to contain the pandemic. Our employees who are doing the right thing and getting vaccinated deserve to know that their workplaces are safe.
July 28, 2021
Most of us don’t think much about how our technology works. We just expect it to work.
I know that your wireless bill is a significant expense. What is the point of paying for poor service?
I am happy to share that the County Council passed zoning change legislation I have been working on to legalize the installation of small antennas on utility poles and light poles so that our wireless networks can continue to expand.
If we do not make this change, our service quality will steadily decline. We will have trouble doing whatever we want to do with our mobile devices because the networks will be overwhelmed with traffic.
While the prospect of some additional equipment on our utility poles isn’t exactly lovely, our home wifi routers aren’t either and yet we all have them and rely on them. This isn’t much different, it’s just that equipment is outside.
Montgomery County has to take steps to build a stronger economic future. While we have been debating whether 5G should be legal, other jurisdictions in the region have long since moved forward.
How are we supposed to compete for job growth from companies like Apple, Microsoft, Google, or Amazon, if we turn our backs to technology infrastructure? The answer is that we can’t. Companies don’t want to be in a technology backwater.
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July 22, 2021
Some may be surprised that I brokered a deal to fund transit with toll revenue from the managed lanes plan — and supported moving forward with that plan.
You shouldn’t be. First of all, I have said clearly and consistently: my position is I want 1. the project to remain the existing right of way and 2. to make transit a real component.
With the agreement from the state to fund transit with toll revenue, these goals will be met.
Let’s talk about transit funding. The resolution that the 5 Council members supported at the COG TPB, with approval/support from Transportation Secy Slater and MDOT, refers to a major transit line such as the CCT or BRT on 355 and says, “MDOT will work collaboratively with Montgomery County to develop plans for construction, final delivery, and operation, funded through ongoing toll revenue”
MDOT has also stated they will advance fund engineering on the project to take it to final stages of completion. That’s the near term money; the long term money is the toll revenue.
What project are we talking about? Either the decades long planned Corridor Cities Transitway, or a high level BRT line on Rockville Pike / 355. These are not small projects, these are big projects, well north of $500M, and we have no other prospect for funding them.
Using toll revenue — aka a carbon tax, aka congestion pricing — is a good way to pay for transit alternatives. Prior to this deal, the County and the State had no plan to pay for a transit alternative.
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July 21, 2021
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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July 9, 2021
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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