Friday, February 13, 2015

it's not about an agenda, but choices

Let's set the record straight: I'm okay with people who want to live in houses with yards. I like the Kentlands. And some of the time, I like Seventh State and its predecessor Maryland Politics Watch, which have offered great coverage of state and local politics for years.

Are you confused? I was too when I read Seventh State creator David Lublin's recent posts on the "Greater Greater Washington agenda," which argue that GGW's (and my) advocacy for stuff like transit and walkable neighborhoods is failing because the Purple Line is in trouble, traffic continues to get worse, and people continue to live in suburban places.

But it's not that simple. For starters, if promoting sidewalks, bike lanes, transit, and housing that people can afford is an "agenda," then sign me up. I bet you can sign most other people up too, because those things aren't really as controversial as they sound.

We know that driving rates in Montgomery County have actually gone down even as the population grows. We know that the county's urban neighborhoods are growing faster than many suburban ones. And we know that, when asked, many people say they'd like to live in walkable, transit-served neighborhoods.

It's not urban vs. suburban, it's about choices. Don't get it twisted!
It's about choices.
But this isn't an urban versus suburban thing. It's about choices. More people are choosing urban neighborhoods. But many people still prefer suburban neighborhoods. Others want something in between. Meanwhile, the lines between "city" and "suburb" are getting blurry, whether you're talking about how places look and feel or demographics, creating the opportunity for even more choices.

Yet as GGW's David Alpert notes, even though people want transit projects like the Purple Line, the political climate is much more dire. On one side are folks like Governor Larry Hogan who want to cut government spending. On the other are affluent communities like the Town of Chevy Chase, where Lublin was once mayor, which has spent lots of time and money to fight transit or development in their backyard.

The result is that people have fewer choices, especially people who want what "the GGW agenda" has to offer. And regardless of which choices you personally prefer, we all lose when there are fewer choices, or when a select few try to take choices away from everyone else.


Cary Lamari said...

I agree in substance but not in implementation, yes the discussion becomes blurry when a political emphasis is placed on Growth using the need for transit as its catalyst primarily to support developer profit and a degradation of the quality of life for our residents. Montgomery County should be about choices and in fact The General Plan refinement emphasis was to promote exactly that, however it appears many planners and elected officials seem to forget the overarching mandate and that is to provide these choices within the envelope of their geographic location. We as a County should respect people’s right to live where they wish. Our goal as residents of this County should be to demand from our elected and appointed official’s infrastructure that enhances and is proportionate with our geographic choice! We should not be unduly imposed on by one political viewpoint championed by special interest groups. Yes we all want walkable livable communities however that perspective is different governed by the choices made by our residents. Urbanism is a good thing in our Urban areas, some people also appreciate and enjoy their suburban and rural attributes! It should not be a matter of us against them but sometimes it becomes just that when politics and money gets in the equation! My opinion!

Kelly Blynn said...

"It should not be a matter of us against them but sometimes it becomes just that when politics and money gets in the equation!"

That's true. I learned today that the Town of Chevy Chase is spending $29,000 per month on its lobbying efforts against the Purple Line.