Reviews | Montgomery County Problems Can Be Solved

County Executive Marc Elrich (D), despite his impassioned rhetoric, has repeatedly failed to address the challenges facing Montgomery County. We grapple with a housing crisis, our local response to global climate change, and the ongoing effort to promote economic development and racial equity. These issues require innovative thinking and strong leadership.

A problem weighs heavily. Prosper Montgomery 2050, a comprehensive housing, transportation, land use and economic plan, is Montgomery County’s best chance to integrate various policy strands into something approaching a comprehensive plan. to face the future. The stakes couldn’t be higher.

Elrich’s scorched earth opposition to the plan employs all the tactics familiar to anyone trying to effect change, especially in the county’s wealthier neighborhoods: endless consultation requests wrapped in vague concerns about inequality. the satire of the Takoma torch is painfully on point: “Marc Elrich responds to the county’s housing crisis by unveiling ‘Thrive Montgomery 1950’.”

Montgomery County is experiencing a housing crisis throughout the region and in almost every type of housing. Mansions, apartment buildings, mid-range homes, subsidized housing, and even garages converted into housing should all be welcome to meet this challenge. Yet even as teachers, police and other frontline workers struggle to afford to live here, Elrich refuses to push for new construction.

Elrich’s rhetorical sleight of hand is to criticize any effort to expand the supply of housing that is not fully affordable, that is, priced appropriately for low-income residents. Take the case of the Artspace development in Silver Spring, which Elrich objected to with the flippant comment “nothing affordable will come of it.” Four of the 11 townhouses were affordable and sold for less than $400,000and there was 68 affordable living/working apartments. When others suggest subsidized housing, he dismisses the possibility in conservative terms. “We don’t have the money to pay the subsidies,” Elrich noted in 2019. “I try to be realistic.”

In 2019, the county council decided to add 41,000 new homes by 2030, most of them affordable for low- and middle-income residents, but council members had to do so over Elrich’s objections. His absurd argument? That the county should increase revenue first so that housing for this demographic is not needed. The baffled response of Casey Anderson, the chairman of the Planning Board: “We don’t have enough housing, period. Whether or not we have better paying or lower paying jobs, we always have people here who need a place to live.

Our housing crisis is a disproportionate burden on black and Latino residents, whose median income is 60 percent income of their white counterparts. Every step we don’t take to ease this burden does a disservice to the residents who can least afford to bear it.

The same can be said of our transportation shortcomings. Elrich promised to expand the network of bus rapid transit lines he proposed in 2008, but only one open line, and no dedicated lanes, says Elrich indispensable, as he bowed to protests from a vocal minority. He asked for changes to the purple line currently under construction that would have significantly harmed service while ignoring opportunities for further improvements. Nor has he worked with state leaders to secure transit improvements alongside new toll lanes on Highways 495 and 270.

Transportation policy is a big part of Montgomery County’s contribution to fighting climate change. Elrich promised environmentalists he would close the county’s trash incinerator by 2022, but he stay open, producing significant pollution. He welcomed the very limited installation of solar panels in the agricultural reserve as environmentalists demanded more. Other measures that could help reduce the emissions responsible for climate change have been the subject of many studies but little action.

Elrich’s record of economic development has been abysmal, with job creation and new businesses lagging behind. This left him clinging to straws. He recently vaunted “record private investment of $18 billion” last year, not to mention that 60% of the $18 billion came from of them purchases that bring neither jobs, nor tax revenues, nor growth.

More than two years after a law requiring the county to have a countywide racial equity and social justice plan, only draft regulations have been submitted. The 2020 murder of George Floyd must be an event that catalyzes lasting progress, not just another racial injustice that we have allowed to pass without action.

Montgomery County’s problems are not insurmountable with the right leadership and vision. Hopefully we start on this path as soon as possible.

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