3 questions with Md. delegate candidate Vanessa Atterbeary
Vanessa Atterbeary is a candidate for the Maryland House of Delegates, District 18, which includes Wheaton, Kensington, Chevy Chase, and Woodside (west Silver Spring). Vanessa lives in Silver Spring (not downtown), and works as a lawyer.
In private conversations with Vanessa, she expressed her support for the Purple Line in addition to Smart Growth initiatives in District 18 and Maryland. Vanessa recently took some of her precious time to answer some questions that explain some of her positions in greater detail on issues for southern Montgomery and the state.
1) What strategies will you employ as you work to bring the Purple Line as endorsed by Governor O'Malley, a project that you support, to groundbreaking?
The Purple Line affects several local jurisdictions - not just the 18th District - and I believe we can form a solid voting-block of delegates to assure groundbreaking starts on time. The longer we put this off, the more painful construction disruptions will be. Providing capable leadership which can build coalitions across jurisdictions, as well as, within the Montgomery County Delegation, is critical. This is the type of leadership I will bring to the table. In addition, we need to leverage smart-growth to encourage population growth near areas serviced by the Purple Line and reduce the traffic load on our streets.
We also need a public information campaign to help counter some of the inaccurate assertions circulating the Internet, like fears of additional fencing at the University of Maryland (that were never part of the plan) and rumors of closing the Capital Crescent Trail to bicyclists (when every major bicycle club endorses the plan). Town Hall meetings should be held to inform the public and receive feedback so that we can ensure that there's no legitimate reason to postpone construction.
2) On your website, you emphasize job creation in Montgomery County and Maryland as a top priority. Where do you envision locating the job growth? Also, how do you advocate planning for the residential growth that would result from positive job growth?
I believe in smart growth, and one of the most important aspects of smart growth is to support existing communities by developing areas where infrastructure already exists. A program of revitalization can be very beneficial to an unincorporated area like Wheaton, a city, a county, and a state, as our neighbors in the District of Columbia are experiencing with the eastern end of downtown and the Verizon Center. I don't think we need an excuse before we make everyone's life better. We must ensure that as residential growth occurs, the existing infrastructure is maintained, improved, and services which residents rely on are not neglected. Once we have effectively navigated our way out of this current economic downturn, a number of incentive based programs can be more fully implemented to also encourage job and residential growth. As a delegate representing District 18 it will be incumbent upon me to listen to the community.
In addition, we need to protect as much of Maryland's natural resources and biodiversity as we can while we still have it. Redeveloping blighted areas should take precedence over cutting down trees for new low-density housing. We watch as Virginia destroys millions of trees in order to expand local roads and highways because they invested so little in preventing sprawl.
3) Recently, the Washington Post took note that Maryland's smart growth laws have been "toothless." As you are aware, downtown Wheaton has been designated as a "Smart Growth Area" by the state of Maryland. As a delegate, what steps would you take to advance progress in Wheaton?
More than anything, ensuring smart growth programs are properly funded goes a long way to solving the toothless reputation they have developed. Money talks at least as loudly as regulation, and properly incentivizing developers and giving tax breaks directly to family businesses purchasing homes or leasing office space in targeted areas will help mold development into a manageable state.
The most important thing we can do, though, is to solicit input from the residents of Wheaton. I believe in asking the people who have to live there for help in guiding our development of the area, rather than dictating how their environment will be developed. I've heard several opinions, for example, that Westfield Wheaton Mall needs to remain an indoor mall. Others believe it should be redeveloped into a walkable mixed-use mall with shops, offices, and apartments. Ultimately, the residents should decide, and I look forward to hearing more from them.
Disclose: I reside in Wheaton in District 18
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