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What does Maryland's primary mean for smart growth?

Turnout was low in Maryland's primary election yesterday, but there were some surprises, especially in the local races. What does it mean for urbanism in the state, particularly in Montgomery and Prince George's counties? Our contributors offer their thoughts.

Attorney general nominee Brian Frosh in Silver Spring. Photo by Alan Bowser.

Ronit Dancis: Though primary elections tend to draw out the voters most inclined to oppose change, candidates in Montgomery County who campaigned on an anti-growth platform didn't perform well. In the at-large council race, groups including the Sierra Club threw their support behind anti-growth candidates Beth Daly and Marc Elrich while targeting Purple Line advocate George Leventhal, who had just cast crucial votes against M-83 and Ten Mile Creek.

As in 2010, Marc Elrich won first place, but Beth Daly, who campaigned as "Marc's second vote," took 5th place in a race for four seats. In District 3, developer ally Sid Katz defeated two opponents more attuned to smart growth. As a result, the council will have a three-person pro-development bloc, with Katz, Craig Rice (District 2) and Nancy Floreen (at-large).

Dan Reed: Smart growth supporters got a win of sorts in Montgomery's Council District 5, containing Silver Spring, Takoma Park, White Oak, and Burtonsville. Current state delegate Tom Hucker is leading former journalist Evan Glass by just over 200 votes.

A 12-year resident of downtown Silver Spring, Glass helped start the South Silver Spring Neighborhood Association, bringing together a redeveloping urban district that's one of the region's youngest neighborhoods. He's advocated for more affordable housing, the county's Bus Rapid Transit plan, and changing the county's liquor laws to support local businesses and nightlife.

As state delegate, Tom Hucker fought for the Purple Line and has support from the building trades, who are naturally pro-development. But as a council candidate, he opposed new housing near the Silver Spring and Takoma Metro stations. He also allied with Councilmember Marc Elrich, who received donations from real estate interests even as he lambasted Glass for doing the same.

This tight race suggests that voters aren't necessarily interested in the "growth-vs.-no growth" debate. It also gives Glass has a good place to start from if he ever runs for office in the future. (Full disclosure: I supported Evan Glass's campaign.)

Ben Ross: Legislative results brought some good news for urbanists. Two strong transit advocates will enter the House of Delegates: David Moon, a former Purple Line Now! and Communities for Transit staffer, won in District 20 (Silver Spring and Takoma Park), and attorney Marc Korman in District 16 (Bethesda and Potomac). Susan Lee moved up easily into the Senate in District 16 while Lou Simmons, the county's lone vote against the gas tax increase, failed to advance to the Senate in District 17.

In District 18, containing Chevy Chase, Kensington, and Wheaton, lone Purple Line supporter among the incumbent delegates Ana Sol Gutierrez was easily reelected, while senator and Purple Line opponent Rich Madaleno fended off a surprisingly strong challenge from Purple Line supporter Dana Beyer.

Jim Titus: The primary results for bicycling were as good as we could have hoped. Brian Frosh has been one of the State Senate's key supporters for bicycling rights, and we can expect an informed perspective should the need arise for an official opinion of the Attorney General. That is certainly better than the outgoing Attorney General, who advised state police that stop signs are optional, at least when he is the passenger.

On the Prince George's County Council, the strongest bike supporter has been Eric Olson, who was term limited. But his chief assistant Danielle Glaros will replace him. She will be a strong voice for the eventual urbanization of New Carrollton, thorough technical understanding, and sufficient political skills that she will almost certainly serve a term as Council Chairman.

Dan Reed is an urban planner at Nelson\Nygaard. He writes his own blog, Just Up the Pike, and serves as the Land Use Chair for the Action Committee for Transit. He lives in downtown Silver Spring. All opinions are his own. 


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I challenge you to read opposition to Takoma Metro development in the letter that Tom Hucker signed, together with his colleagues Jamie Raskin, Sheila Hixson, and Heather Mizeur -- the most progressive legislative team in one of the country's most liberal states! What they seek is "constructive and substantive changes to the current proposal." Like 95% of EYA's Takoma critics, they are "very supportive of residential development at the Takoma Metro site" but express concerns about the design and process. Read what they wrote:

by Seth Grimes on Jun 25, 2014 2:25 pm • linkreport

I'm not sure this election says anything about voters' views on smart growth. At least in the Montgomery county and statewide elections I was paying attention to, the incumbent always won. If there was no incumbent, like the governor's race, the hand-picked successor won. For MC council, 4 at large incumbents ran and all 4 won. I think it says less about Daly and more than the fact that it's very hard to beat incumbents who don't have a critical mass of enemies.

The one interesting factor is that anti-Purple line now seems toxic. Every flyer that showed up at my door and campaign websites (district 18) either clearly stated support for the Purple line or didn't mention it at all. Madaleno's fliers mentioned all sorts of mass transit and smart growth support and simply didn't bring up the Purple line (Strangely, Beyer's negative campaigning hit Madaleno on everything except his Purple line opposition)
Al Carr showed up at my door. I asked him about his Purple line position. His reply was that he voted for the gas tax that would fund it and now hopes to see it built as quickly as possible in a way that satisfies neighborhood concerns. That might still be a delaying tactic, but it's far from his stance of a few years ago.

For county council 5, Glass and Hucker are both fairly pro-smart growth & Purple line, but so were all the other candidates. It didn't seem to be a major dividing issue.

by D anon on Jun 25, 2014 2:29 pm • linkreport

I'm holding Roger Berliner to his promise to see that plowing the CCT happens after snowstorms.

by Crickey7 on Jun 25, 2014 3:44 pm • linkreport

Chevy Chase residents and some environmental groups are now planing to sue over the Purple Line, on the basis of it violating the Endangered Species Act.

by JDC on Jun 25, 2014 4:05 pm • linkreport

In d18, Madaleno, Carr and Waldstreicher now regard the Purple Line as a settled issue. Delegate candidate Rick Kessler raised the Purple Line a little bit, but in general it was a bigger issue four years ago.

by woody brosnan on Jun 26, 2014 6:52 am • linkreport

Interesting quote in a recent Gazette article regarding the Takoma Park apartment building. A local resident said that many people she knew where in favor of this project but were afraid to speak up. Not surprising.

by Thayer-D on Jun 26, 2014 7:49 am • linkreport

Thayer-D I don't believe that, people LOVE talking politics in Takoma Park.

by asffa on Jun 26, 2014 9:37 am • linkreport

Yeah, but this isn't politics.

by Thayer-D on Jun 26, 2014 9:45 am • linkreport

Thayer-D Really? I still think a person saying anything like "Takoma Park people are just afraid to say they agree with me" is being absurd.

by asffa on Jun 26, 2014 9:58 am • linkreport

Really, except they didn't say anything like "Takoma Park people are just afraid to say they agree with me"

Here's the quote:

"Not all of the speakers opposed EYA’s proposal. Elise Ambrose, a Takoma Park resident, said the taller portion feared by many residents will be set back far enough from the street that it won’t be an issue. She said afterward that she knew many neighbors who thought the present proposal was fine, but they didn’t want to voice such thoughts in public.

“For 16 years, EYA has been involved with this,” Ambrose said. “That’s absurd.”

by Thayer-D on Jun 26, 2014 10:49 am • linkreport

This article somehow suggests Hucker's ties to development, where Glass received over $22,000 from development PACS and then had independent expenditures greatly overshadowing his own spending from large developers.

Given the twist of facts, I do not believe a Glass supporter should have been writing this article.

Thankfully, Hucker won after a count of the absentee ballots last night.

by Ronald R. on Jun 27, 2014 7:56 am • linkreport

dan wrote a very fair article. I guess by independent expenditure you mean the same Realtors PAC that gave 6k to anti-development guru Marc Elrich. So here is what Evan Glass actually said during the campaign -- that we should be focusing on the creation of more jobs not new residential development both in the East County and the SS CBD.

by woody brosnan on Jun 27, 2014 8:16 am • linkreport

I support Marc Elrich. He is necessary watchdog on the Council, an advocate for renters, an expert on zoning, a visionary on transit and a progressive on issues like the minimum. His colleagues should have given him at least a committee chaimanship after the last tactics.
But one has to ask if his divisive political tactics are helping or hurting his cause. Just because someone disagrees with on a zoning issue does not put them in the pocket of a developer. His efforts to unseat one of the three other at-large candidates failed, leaving even fewer potential allies in the Council. While he may have pulled Hucker over the finish line it is noteworthy that Hucker never aligned himself with Marc's zoning views during the campaign. Marc's unfair assault on Evan Glass -- linking him to Romney -- was very disagreeable to longtime Elrich supporters also backing Glass. In his last campaign Elrich bragged about all his support from the business community; this time they were evil-doers. It is hard to see how Elrich is going to put together a coalition for either his ideas or himself and that is unfortunate.

by woody brosnan on Jun 27, 2014 8:42 am • linkreport

In Hyattsville (District 22), voters in the House of Delegates primary had this choice: Three seats, "contested" by three incumbents. There was exactly one "challenger", and he is the son of the county executive.

I don't know if District 22 was unusual, or the norm. But if it's the norm, is it any wonder that turnout was anemic? Politburo elections were more competitive.

P.S. The Metro-based capcha gadget is the best I've ever seen.

by sglover on Jun 27, 2014 12:53 pm • linkreport

Katz is hardly pro-development. Have you seen gburg old town - not only is he mayor but he owns many of the bldgs and it's a disaster area. Katz inherited a business that subsequently has gone bust - no biz skills.

He's the old boy in the old boy network and he is a pay to play guy (see how the crown development was built by his major donor and virtually all other development has been shot down). He is holding up development in kentlands downtown that Saul is begging to invest in. Katz is a status quo kind of guy - shake hands, kiss babies and get free lunches.

by Andrew on Jun 27, 2014 4:22 pm • linkreport

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