Montgomery County Group Election Report
A big THANK YOU to all the people who volunteered and worked on the elections for the candidates the Sierra Club endorsed! And a big THANK YOU to all of you who voted for our endorsed candidates! The Montgomery County Group and their Political Committee put a lot of time and effort into interviewing candidates, endorsing, and promoting endorsed candidates for this primary election and the work paid off. We're proud that the majority of the candidates who we endorsed won. We also greatly appreciate the candidates who we endorsed but were not voted in through the primary and we encourage people to step up and take on the challenge of fighting for our key environmental issues by running for office. We're particularly pleased that during this election we worked with a variety of mailing and phone calling efforts to support priority candidates and we know that it helped in races like Karen Montgomery's and Bonnie Cullison's. We encourage all of our members to keep up the good work and make sure you make your voice heard and vote for all of the Sierra Club endorsed general election candidates! Please check out our website for updates and additional information on elections and our activities.
Metro Sites Slated for Development
In June, Governor Martin O'Malley designated 14 Metro and MARC stations for Transit Oriented Development (TOD), which means pedestrian friendly development around major Metro stations and other transit stations.
The Sierra Club commends this crucial step toward our Smart Growth goals. We are especially pleased with the selection of Wheaton Station in Montgomery County and of three metro stations in Prince George's County. In addition, Maryland's Department of Housing and Community Development is moving to Naylor Road Station, an ideal location for spurring development in the eastern region near the urban core. Developing around transit in our neglected inner suburbs is a major step toward reducing the socioeconomic divide that haunts this region. It also fights sprawl and traffic congestion.
The action follows 2008 legislation facilitate Transit Oriented Development. The Maryland Department of Transportation defines TOD as "consistent with Governor O'Malley's Smart, Green and Growing initiative that [works to] create more livable communities, improve transportation options, reduce the state's carbon footprint, support resource based industry, invest in green technologies, preserve valuable resource lands and restore the health of the Chesapeake Bay".
While the Sierra Club would have preferred faster action following the initial 2008 legislation, the recent announcement promises a major step forward should O'Malley win a second term. In an age where dependence on automobiles—and the oil that they consume—has spurred poor air quality and obesity at home, difficult entanglements overseas, climate change around the world, and an unprecedented crisis in the Gulf of Mexico, innovative efforts to cut car use and revitalize communities are crucial.
A newly formed coalition of Montgomery County environmental, conservation, watershed and civic groups is coming together to work to sustain our quality of life and keep it green, Conservation Montgomery, made up of civic groups, environmental organizations and individual citizens, will work to address the environmental challenges facing us in the next decades as our county population approaches a one million. The coalition will serve as a forum and educational tool for county residents who want to work toward having:
Conservation Montgomery will bring local environmental groups together to join forces in common causes, presenting the connection between livable communities and environmental stewardship with greater strength. As a coalition the group can work with those elected officials interested in making a difference, toward preservation of many of the positive elements of our current quality of life in Montgomery County, while rising to the challenges presented by the recent economic downturn.
Conservation Montgomery will operate a website, a community bulletin board, and a resources database as a public forum for addressing a comprehensive set of county issues. The organization will offer tools for residents and policy makers and will broker partnerships to work toward positive outcomes for our communities. Conservation Montgomery is funded by members and member organizations and will be a 501(c)(3) non-profit. More information is available on the colorful and informative website.
Fairland Science Center Planned
During the debate about the Life Sciences Center in Gaithersburg West, many voices questioned pouring further resources into stimulating economic growth in the outer I-270 Corridor. These voices, including the Sierra Club, expressed dismay that economically the eastern part of the County would be left even further behind. This imbalance causes numerous problems, including environmental ones, for both sides of the County's "Regional Divide." Demographic forecasts show widening disparities in job growth, salaries and household income.
Officials like Royce Hanson, then Planning Board Chairman, excused this unbalanced growth policy by referring to the need to promote the location most attractive to businesses, to compete with Fairfax County. The overwhelming problem with the eastern corridors, especially the Route 29 Corridor, is lack of transportation capacity for growth, especially public transport.
Rather than exercise restraint at the Life Sciences Center, County officials declared a new round of planning for a competing technology center in the Route 29 Corridor. The process for this new plan, for the East County Science Center, has begun. The area includes the new FDA campus, the site of the new Adventist Hospital, and several private properties seeking biomedical development.
Transportation remains a huge problem. The current road system is at capacity and cannot be expanded for many reasons. The ICC will just pour more traffic onto already congested roads. Royce Hanson was right that this currently cut off area will not be attractive to businesses unless it can be served by effective public transport. To compete with the Shady Grove Life Sciences Center, it must compete for transit funds. This will take a huge effort by east county elected officials, with major support from their public, environmental groups and local business organizations.
See the Planning Department website for more information.