MY POSITIONS ON IMPORTANT ISSUES
I'll continue to add additional issue positions such as education to this page, so please check back soon.
City Residents Call on Elected Officials to Act
Foremost among issues calling for attention by city leaders are:
Empowerment of the NAC structure to assure resident involvement in discussions and decisions affecting the way of life. The 12 Neighborhood Advisory Councils (NACs), first established by resolution in 2002 and revised in later years, were intended to be forum for residents to “to become involved in identifying and recommending positive changes to improve their neighborhoods by enhancing communications with elected officials.” In recent years, communication has become one-way information—with two-way exchange of ideas diminished and, sometimes, non-existent. Empowering the NACs to assume a partnership role with City elected and appointed officials is key to guaranteeing an on-the-ground, day to day experience of the residents who pay taxes and volunteer their time and energy to community activities is included in all deliberations. This experience can strengthen and enrich ordinances, regulations, policies and practices of the City, the economic engine of Frederick County.
A holistic approach to planning and development that recognizes the interconnectedness of all areas of the city as well as the unique character of her several districts (with special consideration of and attention to the charm and character of the Historic District). Recent approvals for development highlight what appears to be a narrowly focused approach, with little or no deference given to the Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance (APFO). Coupled with a raft of waivers and variances and minimal attention to Historic Preservation guidelines, this inattention results in a negative cumulative effect on traffic, schools, and water/sewer resources. Rational comprehensive planning requires that infrastructure development precede building construction.
City action and leadership to address homelessness, alcohol and drug problems, and the lack of behavioral and mental health services and resources for vulnerable individuals and families in the downtown core and surrounding streets. Residents and business owners have raised the alarm over the past several years about the lack of resources as well as the behavior of individuals who loiter to prey on residents, visitors, and service-seekers. The city has consistently deferred responsibility to the private sector and nonprofits, who operate largely in silos, most often relying on the police. Attention is lavished on a small area of commercial blocks while neglecting community revitalization efforts to improve the quality of life for the people who live and work in the area and to alleviate the impact of the concentration of services on the surrounding community.
The downtown core (the Square Corner and streets radiating north, south, east, and west) is the heart of Frederick’s business district and a major economic driver for the city and county. Even so, it is essential that the city’s (and county’s) investment in commercial growth is balanced throughout the jurisdiction. Opportunities must be offered to all prospective entrepreneurs through, for example, grants flowing to the city from the County, State, or Federal government. These investments must be enhanced by infrastructure that supports safe and sustainable growth, focusing on a vision that addresses quality of life issues such as public safety (including pedestrian safety), enforcement of noise and liquor regulations, and environmental concerns.
One of the new “carrots” that can attract prospective businesses is the recently adopted Vacant Property Registration Ordinance (VPRO) which requires registration of commercial and mixed-use properties, the ground level non-residential portion of which is more than 50% vacant for a year. A $1000/day fine is levied on unregistered vacant properties and the tax rate for such properties increases to 2 times the normal rate after 4 years vacant to 5 times the normal rate after 10 years vacant.
These properties can be an enticing opportunity for new venues and vendors. Their location on heavily travelled streets in the downtown core or reached by private or public transportation in outlying areas provides a built-in customer base that, according to planners, is growing each year. Aggressively enforcing the Ordinance tells potential entrepreneurs they can invest in the city, knowing the city has their back and will not allow the blight of vacant structures to diminish their earnings potential.
Judiciously applying the resources available for economic development, the City and County can ensure a stable and profitable environment that can be enjoyed by all for years to come.
As an electric power engineer, I know that putting too much current onto a circuit will cause a “fault” Traffic is no different. If you put too much traffic out on an inadequate road, you will have more accidents. As the population of the city and suburbs have grown, so has the traffic grown on old and narrow roads. The answer has been constant road expansion. This answer is now the problem. Constant construction slows traffic. By the time the road is complete, the traffic increases to fill it, only replicating the original problem. There is an expression: “When you have dug yourself into a hole; STOP DIGGING! Not only must we move to better mass transit, but we should also encourage business to use more telework and staggered work shifts. Most of all, we must ask ourselves, how much more development can we sustain before the county turns into one big multi-lane highway like Southern California. Is this the lifestyle we want?
Communities of color bear a disproportionate burden of the ill effects of pollution due to the proximity to toxic facilities as well as inadequate access to healthy food, inadequate transportation, air and water pollution, and unsafe homes.
Acting with a focus on Environmental Justice improves the air and water quality for our most vulnerable residents. It also improves the environment for everyone, since this focus can pinpoint hazards to the larger community.
Recently, I joined other Sierra Club members to lobby state legislators to approve the Environmental Human Rights Amendment to the Maryland Constitution, House Bill 596. This legislation would help to make a healthful environment a core responsibility and priority of government. Over time, it would serve as a foundation for more effective environmental laws, regulation and administration.
This bill has a good chance of passing the state legislature. Frederick County should follow the state’s example in spirit, if not in legislation. As a County Council member, I will review all County legislation to ensure it complies with these principles.
Resiliency — Response to Climate Change for Frederick County
The additional energy in the atmosphere due to increased CO2 is already resulting in weather extremes. What we will see in Frederick County will be swings of heavy rain creating stormwater flooding followed by periods of drought. Both weather events can be hazardous. The frequency of “red alert” summer days will increase, putting our most physically fragile and economically vulnerable residents at risk. As council members we will need to be knowledgeable of the areas of the county most vulnerable and evaluate practical, affordable ways to adapt and mitigate these changes.
During the past year an extraordinary effort by citizen volunteers of Mobilize Frederick (formerly CEMWG), produced the Climate Response and Resilience Report. This report provides practical guidance for county and city officials to plan the future for our residents. As an elected official I will work with my county and city colleagues to incorporate recommendations from this report in policy and legislation.
Some of the recommendations that could be incorporated in the near future, are green building codes and the pending bill number 22-01 requiring all new housing to include “EV ready” wiring for charging electric vehicles. Much less expensive at the time of construction, this hook up could be available on garages, homes or at EV charging pads for apartments and townhouses. Similarly, installing improved stormwater management infrastructure prior to constructing new housing developments is crucial to safeguarding lives and protecting property. .
Comprehensive planning as championed in Livable Frederick can continue to guide the county council to maintain the quality of life most of us enjoy and to improve the quality of life for residents who equally deserve its benefits. We need to provide more parks and green space for city residents and preserve treasures like the Sugarloaf Mt. area while accommodating the need to build additional housing that is affordable.
Business, Industry and Jobs
During the “Great Recession” and later during the Covid Crisis, Frederick County had an unemployment rate that was considerably lower than the national average and lower than most of Maryland as a whole. This employment stability has been as a result of having a diverse and balanced base of high-tech industry, business, academia, and government. Frederick County has been declared to be the fourth best place in America to retire to, giving us a base of prosperous retirees. Our budget is balanced and our bond rating is the best possible. We do not need to upset this critical balance. In fact, we are in a position as a county to pick and choose the sorts of businesses and industry we want to attract. We need to have businesses and industry that show the intention of being good neighbors, good employers and the sensitivity to fit into Frederick’s environment.
When we are approached by any business that insists upon unethical closed meetings and nondisclosure agreements from our elected officials, we must question their ability to fit into our community. This is a form of intimidation. We are worthy of much better treatment.
Less fortunate communities than ours have gone through desperate negotiations, setting up costly tax incentives, and land grants in order to attract a major employer only to be jilted a few years later when their suitor finds an even better package elsewhere. These communities are frequently left with large facilities and warehouses that do not adapt to alternative uses. Thus, the community not only looses the employment base, but are stuck with the maintenance costs of the empty structures. Grabbing at any opportunity that comes by without caution can have ruinous consequences. This is not Frederick County’s situation and we must guard against such a future.
Flooding and Drainage
The tragic damage of Ellicott City’s Historic District to flooding was as a result of two forces: increased occurrence of “once every 100-year” floods due to global warming and the loss of forestland which absorbed the rainfall. Dense housing developments proliferate hard surfaces like roads, driveways, sidewalks and roof tops; excess rain has fewer places to percolate into the soil. Thus, there is increased runoff with no place to go except into basements. Frederick City is planning to increase the size of its drainage pipes to move more flood water away from the city center. However, this will only deal with “once every 10-year” floods but not “once in every 100-year” floods which are increasing in frequency. Paving paradise and putting up a parking lot can have serious unintended consequences.