|Awesome photo of me by Aimee Custis.|
I've spent a long time thinking about this. Over the past few months, I've traveled across the county, hearing from residents, community advocates, and business owners about the issues and challenges facing our county. If you've been reading this blog since the start (11 years next month!) you know that this county, and East County, is constantly evolving, and we have an awesome opportunity to make it a more inclusive and sustainable place. I hope to help our county leaders do that.
Next week, the County Council will interview me and three other applicants, all on live television. And sometime in May or June, the council will vote to appoint the new Planning Board member. If you'd like to write them a letter on my behalf, I'd be honored to have your support. You can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
As part of my application to the County Council, I included this letter:
We are at a crossroads in Montgomery County. For decades, Montgomery County was a prosperous and largely homogeneous bedroom community for the nation’s capital. In recent years, that has changed. We are still prosperous, though many parts of the county struggle with poverty; we’re far more diverse, having become majority-minority in the 2010 Census; and we’re no longer a bedroom community, as according to the Census, 60% of employed Montgomery County residents work in the county.
Yet ahead lie big changes in how we live, work, and get around. The county is largely built up and there may not be opportunities to accommodate new growth simply by sprawling further out. There’s a growing demand for walkable communities with at least some urban features, not only from young adults but also from retiring adults, and from the county’s growing minority and immigrant communities.
Big employers seek smaller office spaces and are leaving office parks for Metro-accessible locations, while major chain retailers shrink or close altogether, leaving gaps in our malls and shopping districts. New technologies like bikesharing and ride-hailing are creating new ways to get around, but the looming threat of autonomous vehicles could totally disrupt the way we inhabit our communities altogether.
For the past eleven years, I have watched those trends as a community member and an urban planner, and I’ve seen how they’re already starting to transform Montgomery County. I have the experience needed to help this county meet these challenges head on. As a younger person who grew up in East County, I have the perspective to speak to the vast array of experiences Montgomery County residents have, especially those who do not always participate in local affairs.
I’ve spoken with so many people in this county who struggle to find housing they can afford with easy access to jobs, education, or loved ones. Aging Baby Boomers say they’re ready to downsize from their big single-family home, and unable to find an apartment or condominium nearby that meets their needs. Others say their kids moved to Frederick County or out of the region because they simply can’t afford it here. Many of my own friends, who grew up here and are now settling down and starting families, tell me that they can’t find the kind of housing they want.
This county has a responsibility to protect and preserve our neighborhoods, as well as our environment, our economy, and social opportunities. I learned from last year’s election that people in Montgomery County are excited to be engaged in their community, and I want to use this position to engage them.
We have the opportunity to create a stronger, more equitable, more vibrant county, and one that can be an example for communities around the nation. I would like to work with the Planning Board and the County Council to help accomplish that.
I'm so excited that you are in the running. As your blog indicates, you value open communication. You understand all the issues, and I admire your patient, kind nature. I do hope you're appointed!
--Wendy Leibowitz, Vision Zero advocate
Hey Dan! This is Shiree from last night's PechaKucha. I sent an email on your behalf and wish you all the success that you deserve. Good luck!
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