Silver Spring Redevelopment
I supported the Silver Spring revitalization plan we have now – low-rise buildings, historic preservation of the theater - now the American Film Institute (AFI) theater - and street facing retail. Along with residents all around Silver Spring, I opposed the ill-conceived, proposed mega-mall, which then-County Executive Doug Duncan ultimately killed. As has been documented, the project that I advocated for was the one that was built.
I supported the effort to bring the Birchmere to Silver Spring; unfortunately in 2007, after years of negotiations, the County ended that effort. Almost immediately after, the deal with the Fillmore was announced. I did not oppose the concept of the Fillmore – I opposed the no-bid process that included an $8 million public subsidy (that ultimately became an $11 million subsidy - $7 million from the county and $4 million from the state) and that ignored a competitor (and Montgomery County resident) who said he’d build it on his dime. That would have been a win for taxpayers. It is said that I voted against the Fillmore; actually I (along with Councilmember Roger Berliner) voted against a land use change that was also opposed by the head of the planning department, who called the deal a “blank check for developers.”
White Oak and Development around the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Headquarters
Four years ago, the County Council approved a master plan for the White Oak area; I abstained on the vote – to make a point. I abstained because the Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA) said the plan needed to stage development with the transportation infrastructure to avoid a traffic disaster on Route 29. They said we needed to require that transit and road improvements happen before or at the same time as the new buildings were built, and yet the County Council refused to listen to the state. I — like everyone in the community — want to foster development in the area and that requires adequate transportation solutions. I voted for the funding for the plan — including two bus rapid transit (BRT) routes — because once the plan is in place, it’s my job to make sure that it works. As County Executive I will ensure that the county provides the promised infrastructure — particularly the BRT on Route 29 and New Hampshire Avenue — so that the plan can be successful while also protecting your neighborhoods. I will work with the FDA and others to make sure we attract the well-paying jobs and new neighborhood centers that the plan anticipates.
The Intercounty Connector (ICC)
Yes, I opposed it as did many other elected officials. It was environmentally and financially irresponsible. We could have eased the traffic problems and minimized environmental destruction and financial burdens by widening parts of an existing road. And we could have used the enormous savings for improved transit. I’d also note that the ICC clearly did not “End Gridlock” in Montgomery County.
White Flint and Smart Growth
I worked to improve and voted for the White Flint master plan, which importantly included bus rapid transit (BRT) on Route 355 and also created an alternative funding plan that – at least in theory – attempted to better share the infrastructure costs of development. The White Flint plan centered development near the White Flint metro for transit-oriented development (TOD). That plan is still developing, and I voted against a subsequent “White Flint II” plan that was too far from the metro and threatened to pull development away from where it makes (walkable to metro). White Flint and White Flint II are not the same; the Council should have waited on White Flint II to allow the White Flint plan to proceed. The point of planning is to guide development where it makes the most sense; increasing density and providing incentives to develop outside of the accepted guidelines of TOD areas did not – and does not – make sense.
Dramatic Language to Save Existing Affordable Housing
I have been the leading - and often lone - voice on the Montgomery County Council for the preservation of existing housing. Some blogs and candidates have mischaracterized my stance on housing in the Long Branch area. I used the term “ethnic cleansing” as shorthand for what the Planning Board proposed to do in Long Branch: provide encouragement to demolish the existing affordable housing - which houses thousands of tenants, many of them recent immigrants - to be replaced with “better” (read: more expensive) housing. While the replacement development would have included some affordable housing units, it would not have had nearly as many affordable units as exist there today.
As I said at the time: “Couldn’t we for once just let the people who live here stay here after we fix a place up?” No one did anything in response to my question. Only after I dramatized the issue by likening it to “ethnic cleansing” did anything get fixed: the proposal was withdrawn quietly, quickly, and unanimously in committee. My comments and involvement saved real existing affordable housing.
Misrepresentations from The Washington Post and Greater Greater Washington
Both The Washington Post and Greater Greater Washington (GGW) have every right to endorse any candidate they choose and to write defenses of their endorsements. But they have a responsibility to quote accurately, check sources, and fairly represent the facts. Both failed to do that recently and blatantly mischaracterized what I said about job growth in an interview with GGW. They also incorrectly summarized many of my other positions.
In reality, I have always supported creating jobs in, growing jobs in, and attracting jobs to Montgomery County, and I have laid out a five-point plan to do so. I have also been the Montgomery County Council's consistent champion of affordable housing and responsible development. It is true that I would like to see other cities and counties in the region prosper as well, and that more jobs in Frederick County would alleviate some of our traffic congestion. But it is absurd on its face to suggest that anyone running for office in Montgomery County would wish for neighboring regions' prosperity at the expense of our own.
I understand that, at the end of the day, some of the Post’s and GGW's readers may disagree with either my plan for growing jobs in the county or my approach to development. But I think it’s important they get the real facts about who I am and what I want to accomplish.
Who is Empower Montgomery?
They'll tell you that they're an "organization that can effectively represent all Montgomery County residents – and avoid having political decisions influenced by narrow special interests." But in reality, they were created to advance the narrow special interests of the county's developers. In fact, David Blair – another candidate running for County Executive - was listed as one of their founders in 2016 and 2017 before his name was removed from their website (see screenshot below).
Empower Montgomery sent out questionnaires and then interviewed candidates. I was interviewed by Charles Nulsen, Steve Silverman, Keith Haller, and Barbara Henry (only Nulsen is currently listed on the advisory board on the Empower Montgomery website). The majority of the individuals associated with this group are either developers or have strong ties to the development community.
So be very wary of anything purporting to be impartial from this group, including a candidate scorecard that is unaccompanied by what the group asked and what the candidates said. Empower Montgomery's unstated goal is very clear: to represent developers' interests.
Inaccurate ACT (Action Committee for Transit) Scorecard
There is also a serious disconnect between my record, my responses to the ACT questionnaire, and what ACT has advertised on their scorecard.