Monday, June 30, 2014

residents, community leaders talk about white oak plan in a new video

Four years ago, county planners began working on the White Oak Science Gateway, a plan to create a research and technology hub in East County. This summer, the County Council will finally take a vote on the plan, and community members (including me) talk about why they support it in a new video.

The White Oak Science Gateway Master Plan… Now… It’s East County’s Time! from 'nFocus Videos on Vimeo.

Many residents support the plan, noting that East County lacks the same jobs and amenities that more affluent parts of the county take for granted. But there are some lingering concerns about traffic, the amount of development proposed, and whether the county will make good on a thirty-year-old promise to bring rapid transit to the area.

One of the plan's largest components is LifeSci Village a 300-acre complex of offices, research facilities, retail space, and housing on what's currently a concrete recycling plant. Montgomery County and developer Percontee are partnering to build the project, which is on Cherry Hill Road east of Route 29. This week, Percontee released a video to build support for the Science Gateway plan, featuring interviews with local residents, business and community leaders, and yours truly.

Many of the region's traffic problems come from an imbalance between jobs, which are mostly on the western side of the region, and affordable housing on the east side. This plan could go a long way to correcting that issue, and I'm eager to see it move forward.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

we've been doing this for eight years! (thank you!)

Rachel Carson's Words
If you haven't visited the Rachel Carson pocket park on Ripley Street in downtown Silver Spring, you're missing out.
One June morning in 2006, my bus to work never showed and I decided to write a blog about it. Eight years, 1,641 blog posts, and 6,371 comments later, Just Up The Pike is still going, and it's all because of readers like you. Thanks for giving me a reason to keep going!

On that note, I'd like to try something different this anniversary. If you've got a few minutes, can you answer a couple of questions for me:

  1. How did you find out about Just Up The Pike?
  2. What does JUTP do well, in your opinion?
  3. What could JUTP do better? Is there something we could do more of?

Feel free to leave your answer in the comments, on Twitter, or on Facebook.

Thanks again! Here's to working together to make Montgomery County an even better place to live.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

if you haven't voted yet, you might as well do it now

Capital Bikeshare at Colesville and East-West Highway
A Capital Bikeshare rider passes by some big campaign signs in downtown Silver Spring. Photo by the author.
Tomorrow's primary election is a big one for Montgomery County, with contested seats in many local races, from school board to county executive and, of course, governor. These are the races that will have the biggest effect on your daily life, as the people who occupy these seats are the ones who decide everything from liquor laws to whether our neighborhoods remain affordable places to live to public school funding.

And as Montgomery County continues to grow and evolve into a more diverse, urban place, it's especially important that we have representatives at all levels of government who get that and are actually committed to making it a better place to live and work, instead of simply standing in the way. For the first time since at least 2006, back when this blog first started, voters can actually choose between candidates with very different visions for Montgomery County, so you might as well put your two cents in.

If you're still looking for some last-minute insight, there are lots of great sources for learning about the candidates, notably the non-partisan League of Women Voters guide. You can watch the candidates give video statements on MyMCMedia, the county's public access cable channel.

Of course, there are the endorsements from the Washington Post and the Gazette. But for me, the most powerful affirmations I've gotten have come from friends, family and individuals in our community whose opinions I deeply respect. If you read local blogs like the Silver Spring Independent, Another Day in Wheaton, and the Blog of Diminishing Returns, you should check out what they've got to say about this year's election.

Some organizations I'm involved with have weighed in too. The Action Committee for Transit has a scorecard ranking the candidates on how progressive they are on transit and land use issues. And One Montgomery, the group I helped start last fall to advocate for a more equitable and transparent public school system, released its endorsements for select local races.

Finally, working with some of my friends at ACT and Greater Greater Washington, along with John Gallagher, one of the smartest political minds in Montgomery County, I helped assemble a voters' guide for the contested County Council primaries:

At-Large (four seats representing the whole county)

District 1 (Bethesda, Chevy Chase, Potomac, and Poolesville)

District 3 (Rockville, Gaithersburg, Derwood, and Leisure World)

District 5 (Silver Spring, Takoma Park, White Oak, and Burtonsville)

Now that you've got some information, all you've got to do is find your polling place, which will be open from 7am to 8pm tomorrow. And tomorrow night, you can tune into MyMCMedia to watch the election night returns and hear me talk about the role social media played in this year's campaigns. You can watch the broadcast live online or on several local TV channels, including County Cable Montgomery (Channel 21).

Thursday, June 12, 2014

it's not about how fast we should grow, but where we should grow

Pointing to busy roads and crowded schools, some candidates in this year's Montgomery County primary election say the county is growing too fast. But people are going to come anyway, making the real issue where that growth should happen.

How We Grow in Montgomery County
Montgomery County's urban and newer suburban communities are growing, while older suburbs are slowing down. Image by the author.
The county's actually not growing that fast

In 2006, voters weary of the housing boom brought in a county executive and several councilmembers who promised to slow things down. The recession made people hungry for investment again, especially on the poorer eastern side of the county, but some residents and candidates this year are arguing that the county's still growing too fast and that developers need to "pay their share."

Today, Montgomery has just over one million residents, adding about 100,000 residents between 2000 and 2010, a rate of 11%. That might seem like a lot, but it pales in comparison to most of the 20th century, when the county added as many as 180,000 residents each decade and doubled in population during the 1950s. In recent years, the county's grown slower than many other parts of the region, including the District and Arlington.