The Montgomery County Council recently passed a resolution declaring a climate emergency, one of the first jurisdictions in the country to do so. But resolutionary politics is easy; resolute action is more difficult. Taking positive steps to reduce our greenhouse gases intersects with many different policy areas.
How we grow our county will have a profound affect on our carbon footprint. Do we separate living spaces, from working and shopping spaces thus increasing traffic congestion and greenhouse gases?
When we locate work, living and shopping spaces within close proximity of each other and close to public transportation, we reduce our carbon footprint, expand green spaces, reduce congestion and improve the health and well-being of our citizens. But development should not be dictated by developers. It needs to happen in a collaborative environment with all stakeholders allowed to have input. Additionally, it needs to fit in with the capacity of local infrastructure.
The county and the state of Maryland have adopted ambitious renewable energy goals. The county has adopted stringent energy standards for new buildings. A challenge, however, will be to make older buildings more energy efficient. Considering the number of older buildings in the county, this will require some creative policy considerations, but it is a challenge we must not shy away from.
Part of the energy solution is expanding public transit. We cannot expect that highways will solve our congestion problems and they certainly will not serve our energy problems. And expanding public transit means not only dedicated funding for Metro, but our leaders need to start asking the question, “What will our Metro system look like on its 100th anniversary.
Biking, walking, crossing the street
One of the most common complaints I here is the inability to cross streets safely, the ability to let children bike or walk to school. We need to think not just about biking and walking in our town centers, but connecting our neighborhoods and schools in a meaningful way. The county has adopted Vision Zero, a plan to reduce traffic deaths to zero by 2030. Safer bike and pedestrian paths and crossings are essential to making that goal a reality.
The Dickerson power plan and waste incinerator must be part of a comprehensive plan to reduce our carbon footprint. Yet closing the waste incinerator has to be part of comprehensive waste management plan. This is not a challenge to be taken lightly. We need to expand efforts to reduce, reuse and recycle our waste if we are going to achieve the goal of Zero Waste.
As parts of our county become denser, it is imperative that we preserve and expand green spaces.
Creating a greener Montgomery county will surely promote healthier lifestyles and healthier citizens. But that is not sufficient. Montgomery County is home to an excellent health care system and Maryland is a health care leader in many ways. The Montgomery Cares program fills a need for many country residents for people who otherwise might fall through the cracks. It must be preserved and even expanded in an environment that threatens many safety net programs.
Support working families
Montgomery County is one of the richest counties in the country and District 1 is the richest District in the county. Too many people who work in the county cannot afford to live in the county. When people must travel long distances to work, it increases congestion for everyone. Therefore, affordable housing opportunities closer to work benefits everyone in the county.
The Montgomery County Council recently approved moving the minimum wage to $15/hr by 2023. I support that effort.
The county has a well-deserved reputation for educational excellence. Expanding educational opportunity for all county residents and closing the achievement gap are imperative to support opportunity for working families.
The county faces a wide range of challenges. No one person can be an expert in them all. I feel my progressive values coupled with my experience as a questioner and a problem solver, can move the county toward a greener healthier community that supports working families.