Transportation makes growth possible. Land use planning makes growth possible. But too often these are viewed as separate processes, when in reality they have huge effects on each other.
Opportunities abound in Gaithersburg. The Corridor Cities Transitway (CCT) will connect our western side to the Metro system and to points north. It runs right through the middle of our most vibrant economic corridor, home to NIST, Johns Hopkins’ planned Science City development, MedImmune, and much more. And the route 355 Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) plan runs past Olde Town and LakeForest and through what was once our major shopping and job centers as well as the new Watkins Mill Interchange developments. Continue Reading
We need more schools. This is not just an issue in Gaithersburg – it is a county-wide and even a state-wide issue. There is not nearly enough money to build the new classrooms we need. So what do we do?
A recent county conference focused on infrastructure needs, mainly on schools but also on transportation needs, and a number of creative approaches were presented that impressed me and much of the audience. There is a lot of empty office space – can we use office buildings for classroom space? Alexandria Virginia has used this kind of creative thinking to reduce costs for adding classrooms and it’s working – we need to get there in Montgomery County, too. Continue Reading
Governments seem to keep focusing on where we are now and where we want to be, without paying attention to what comes in between. The in-between can be very painful unless there is good planning. Highway planners learned this lesson long ago – they carefully plan detours and timing to minimize disruptions.
Some places where we get this wrong:
School systems adopt a new standard (like Core States), which needs to be implemented overnight. What about teacher training? What about adapting the curriculum for special needs kids?
Trade agreements are signed, which have very beneficial effects in the long run but cause great challenges in transition. NAFTA resulted in job losses in the USA, which will be regained, but they will not be the same jobs. There should have been accommodation for displaced workers – not just unemployment insurance, but training and relocation programs to match capabilities with job needs.
There are great ideas and great opportunities, but there is a path from Point A to Point B that needs careful planning.
The EPA requires everyone whose water drains into the Chesapeake Bay to treat their storm water to remove pollution. Gaithersburg will be required to treat 20% of our storm water within seven years. Our staff estimates that this is going to cost nearly $30 million, and this is not a project we’ve been saving for already.
Although the regulation focuses on improvements to water quality in the Bay, the money we spend will actually result in big improvements locally. The cities streams get runoff way too fast and have regular problems with bank undercutting. This makes the channel wider, which exposes it to sunshine in the summer. That combined with heat from the pavements raises water temperature excessively. The erosion also leads to a muddy bottom, which doesn’t provide the stability and habitat of a pebbly bottom. The benefits will be seen in our own back yard as well as in the Bay.
We are a “pay as you go” city with no debt and a balanced budget. When we want to build new facilities, we save money for a few years, then spend it all at once. This makes our budget look “lumpy”. We run a surplus while we are saving money for a project, then we run a deficit when we launch that project.
Our staff was sensitive to how this looks, but I strongly support moving forward with projects that we need. So let me make sure everyone understands how the capital budget process works here. I’m sure you will see that it makes good sense. Continue Reading
In 2014, our former Mayor, Sidney Katz, won election to the Montgomery County Council. Jud Ashman was selected by his colleagues on the City Council to serve as Mayor, opening a seat on the Council. I was selected to fill this seat for the next year, and as part of the selection process, I had to make a 3-minute speech to the Mayor and Council. The text is here:
Mister Mayor, members of the city council, city staff, and fellow citizens of Gaithersburg, thank you for this opportunity.
I once asked an old friend, a political consultant, what makes a good politician. He told me, it helps to be tall. To be a confident public speaker… and to have great hair…
This document was submitted to the Mayor and Council of the City of Gaithersburg as part of the package submitted to express my interest in becoming a member of the city council, late in 2014. It covers many of my priorities as a council member, and is still relevant.
Fiscal Responsibility and Budgeting
The top priority for any organization, before any other priorities can be addressed, is fiscal responsibility. The City of Gaithersburg is in an excellent condition in this regard, with recent budget surpluses and well-funded capital accounts. Maintaining and continuing to improve this status is a top priority for me. Continue Reading