Friday, January 30, 2009

A Death in the Family

I am saddened to learn about the death of my friend and colleague, Councilmember Don Praisner. Simply put, Don was a nice guy. He took on the challenges of public office because he thought it was the right thing to do, and he took his responsibility to his constituents very seriously. He cared deeply about continuing Marilyn’s dedication to County service. My heart goes out to his family, who I know will miss him terribly. I will miss him too.

Council Gets Climate Protection Plan

The Sustainability Working Group, which was established by the Council last April and whose members were appointed by the County Executive, released its 58-point Climate Protection Plan in January. Although not prioritized, the plan’s action steps are recommended to meet the County’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050.

The SWG studied and selected the best parts of programs around the country and solicited ideas from County departments and agencies to create the plan. To have made the list of recommendations, an action must be a proven practice; must be technically and logistically feasible in the short term; and must have definable steps.

The Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment Committee, which I chair, will receive a full briefing on February 2. We do not intend to adopt the plan as a whole. Rather, individual recommendations will be studied and implemented as appropriate over time with adequate opportunity for public input. My hat is off to the SWG for its thoughtful work.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Committee Makes Recommendations on Purple Line

Today the Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment Committee took up the Locally Preferred Alternatives for the Purple Line, a proposed 16-mile transit way between Bethesda and New Carrollton connecting four branches of Metro and three MARC commuter rail routes.

After listening to the community, the Planning Board and the County Executive, we unanimously support the medium investment light rail alternative and a high quality Capital Crescent Trail. We also recommend that MTA conduct further study of tunneling at Wayne Avenue to determine the impact on the local community and to see if the savings in travel time justify the increased cost. Additionally, we recommend that the trail be widened to 12 feet and more where possible; that tail tracks emerging from the tunnel at Woodmont Plaza be no more than 100 feet; that Dale Drive not be designated as a stop at this time; and that grass tracks be utilized.

The full Council will take action on this issue on January 27, and our positions will be forwarded to the Maryland Transit Administration. The State will submit its plans to the Federal Transit Administration in summer/fall 2009 at the same time it submits plans for the Red Line (to serve Baltimore) and the Corridor Cities Transitway (to run from Gaithersburg to Clarksburg).

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

How Has the Recession Affected You?

I hear conflicting messages when I travel around the county. I get the sense that some folks continue to feel relatively unaffected by the recession while others are facing significant hardships. We know that income and property tax revenues are down throughout the County just like everywhere else. We also know that our non-profit organizations are facing record demands for assistance. So, what does that mean on a personal level? How has the souring economy affected you and your family?

Friday, January 16, 2009

County Transportation Plans for Inauguration

I plan to watch this historic Inauguration on television with friends and family. Because I’m still recovering from a knee injury, I won’t be able to attend the event in person, but I’ll definitely be there in spirit. I also plan to attend the Maryland Inaugural Ball at the Mayflower Hotel on Sunday even though I’ll have to skip the dancing.

Whether you plan to attend the festivities or simply commute to work, you’ll want to stay on top of the special transportation plans and programs. Visit the County Web site for up-to-date information on roads and transit over the weekend and through Tuesday. Now might be a good time to try out some of the commuting options you may have been considering like biking, carpooling or telecommuting. Tips on these options are also listed on the County’s site.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

History Channel Covers Local Infrastructure

Today I had the privilege of providing an interview to the History Channel for its upcoming documentary on the country’s crumbling infrastructure. I enjoyed working with the Tinseltown pros, and I am especially pleased to have infrastructure issues playing out on a national stage.

We discussed the recent water main break on River Road that put lives in jeopardy, closed schools and caused extreme inconvenience to commuters, residents, businesses and holiday travelers. Beyond that, we talked about the seriousness of aging infrastructure that increasingly causes headaches for us all.

Montgomery County, along with many other jurisdictions nationwide, grapples with competing needs. Invisible problems like underground pipes struggle to compete with sexier capital projects like libraries and community centers. Water pipe maintenance is expensive, which is why we currently are on a 200-year replacement cycle. While Montgomery County residents traditionally have been generous when it comes to the public good, there is a limit to how much people reasonably can be asked to pay.

Stay tuned for more information about our progress on infrastructure as well as dates and times to see the documentary.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Purple Line Discussions Coming Soon

Over the past couple of months and especially in recent weeks, I have received a lot of correspondence about the Purple Line Draft Environmental Impact Statement and Alternatives Analysis. I am listening carefully to everyone’s input and want to ensure that the project respects community concerns as well as the transit objective. The Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment Committee, which I chair, will be reviewing the Purple Line proposal on January 22, and the full Council will consider it on January 27, so keep your comments coming.