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History


Exodus: Why DC's Jewish community left the center city, then came back

Beginning in the 1950s, synagogues and other Jewish institutions left DC's central commercial corridors for Upper Northwest and Maryland, and they didn't return until the late 1990s.


Photo by Matthew Dailey on Flickr.

Washington's Jewish community was relatively small in 1920s, standing at less than 15,000 members. Today, it's got over 200,000.

This interactive chart depicts the Jewish community's proximity to the US Capitol over time:


Graph by the author. Click for an interactive version.

Before World War II, Jewish residents, like their African American counterparts, faced housing discrimination through racially-restricted covenants that excluded Jews from being allowed to live in some DC neighborhoods, mostly in Rock Creek Park, along with some areas of Montgomery County including parts of Chevy Chase.

Also, Jews were not welcome at institutions like country clubs, leading the area's Jewish community to create its own clubs. Notably, the Indian Spring Country Club moved from Petworth to Silver Spring and eventually to Layhill, mirroring the path of neighborhoods where Jews were able to live.

In the 1940s, the legal foundations of restrictive covenants were weakened, meaning the city's African Americans were no longer boxed into subneighborhoods and the city's Jews had greater freedom to move into Maryland. Also, DC suffered a severe housing shortage during the war, with the capital's population booming while construction material and manpower were diverted to the war effort.

These factors led to DC's white population falling precipitously after the war, with whites taking new federal highways to newly-built outlying areas and buying first homes with GI Bill loans that, for them, were easy to come by.


Image by the author.

In the 1950s, greater Washington was the sixth largest Jewish community in the United States, with 81,000 people (today it's ranked fifth in the US). Half of that population already lived outside the city, mostly in Montgomery County, which you can see here:


Graph by the author.

A 1956 survey captured DC's remaining Jewish community in the midst of the change, two years after the District's schools desegregated. The survey found large percentages of Jewish families planned to move within six-months, mostly to Montgomery County and neighborhoods in the northwest part of the city, west of Rock Creek Park: 21% of families planned to leave the northeast quadrant; 25% planned to leave neighborhoods in the southeast and southwest quadrants.

Even in many neighborhoods in the part of DC's northwest quadrant that's east of Rock Creek Park, the bastion of Jewish DC, 16% planned to move. Beginning in the 1950s, the Jewish community also had more options in the outlying areas. Among the most appealing destinations were new subdivisions built by Jewish real estate developers in areas of Montgomery County like Silver Spring. Kemp Mill attracted an Orthodox Jewish community. Langley Park in Prince George's County become predominantly Jewish in the 1950s.

The map below is of Jewish landmarks in DC and Maryland during the mid 20th century compiled by the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington. If you click to the interactive version and then click the link with each icon, you can view photos. The collection also features pictures from the archive of Giant supermarket, run by a local Jewish family until 1998. That map makes clear that, while DC had many serious social problems in the 1940s, widespread "food deserts" were not among them.


Click for the interactive version.

Bicycling


When bikeshare stations are near Metro, more people use them... especially if they're outside of DC

Bikeshare can help get people to a Metro station when they live or work too far away to walk there. As a result, the region's busiest Bikeshare stations are next to Metro, especially outside of DC.


The CaBi station at the Pentagon City Metro. Photo by mariordo59 on Flickr.

Although some people do use bikeshare as their primary mode of getting around the same way others use bus and rail transit, one of bikeshare's most important functions is to act as a first and last mile connection, meaning people take it to and from home and wherever they board another service. That's where bikeshare has the most benefit when it comes to increasing transit access and use.

The graph below takes a look at how many of our region's Capital Bikeshare (CaBi) stations are located near Metrorail and how many trips begin and end at those stations. As you can see, CaBi stations near Metro are more active than those that are not:


All charts by the author.

Nearly a third of our region's CaBi stations are within a quarter-mile of a Metro station, but nearly half of all trips begin or end at them. Also, 8% of CaBi stations are located at the Metro (I determined by counting the stations whose names include a Metro station name), and 9% of all trips begin and end at them.

To dig deeper into different parts of the region, I divided the region into geographic clusters: In Montgomery County, there's Rockville, Silver Spring/Takoma Park, and Bethesda/Chevy Chase/Friendship Heights; In Arlington County, there's North and South Arlington (with Arlington Boulevard being the dividing line); there's also Alexandria, and of course DC. Prince George's doesn't have any CaBi stations yet.

The CaBi stations near Metro in DC see slightly more use than the stations that aren't near Metro. But in the clusters outside of DC, CaBi stations near Metro see much more use than ones that aren't. In fact, while 26% of CaBi stations in these clusters are within a quarter mile of Metro stations, 45% of all trips start or end there, and while only 10% of CaBi stations in these clusters are at the Metro, they account for 21% of all trips.

Since so many people outside of DC use Metro to commute, we would expect CaBi stations near Metro to capture both local users and commuters and for their overall use to be proportionately higher than the stations farther from Metro. That's the case just about everywhere—for instance, in South Arlington, 18% of CaBi stations are within a quarter mile of a Metro station, however these stations account for 39% of all the trips in that cluster.

Similarly, 5% of the CaBi stations in South Arlington are at Metro stations, but they account for 20% of the total trips. Curiously, the CaBi stations a quarter mile from Metro stations in Alexandria have proportionally fewer trips, but those at the Metro station have proportionally more trips.

Bikeshare at transit stations provides another mode for people to travel to and from the transit station, introducing another opportunity to increase the level of activity in a specific area.

It's likely that CaBi stations at Metro stations outside of DC have higher levels of use because they serve not only people in specific neighborhoods, but also people who use the Metro system. Although it seems intuitive that people using bikeshare at a Metro station would also use Metro, the available the CaBi data do not include the exact reasons why people are using specific CaBi stations.

As other jurisdictions in the region look to start their own bikeshare systems, it would be wise to not only place stations at and within a quarter mile of Metrorail stations, but also to use a bikeshare system that is compatible with CaBi. Doing so would open up the number of potential bikeshare users to not only people in the neighborhood, but to everyone with access to the Metro system.

Public Spaces


Student protests in Montgomery County show why public space matters

Suburban communities designed for cars don't always have obvious places for people to gather and assemble. So when students at several Montgomery County high schools and Montgomery College walked out of class in protest this week, they headed onto highways and into shopping malls—and their community supported them.

Suburban protesters make space to assemble where they can

Over five days last week, students in Montgomery County, Prince George's County, and the District protested the election of Donald Trump and his hateful rhetoric towards minorities and immigrants. In DC, student protesters marched downtown on Pennsylvania Avenue, a street lined with major buildings of both local and national significance. But as a large, mostly-suburban county, Montgomery County doesn't have an obvious "main street" or downtown for public assembly.

When people have a message or a cause, whether it's a religious meeting, a sports club, a writing workshop, or a huge protest, they need a place to gather. In Montgomery County, student protesters gravitated to whatever large, visible spaces they could find. That mostly meant big suburban highways not designed for lots of pedestrians; being there often put protesters on foot at odds with angry drivers.

In Germantown, students at Seneca Valley and Northwest high schools kept to the sidewalks of Great Seneca Highway, a 50-mile-an-hour road. In East County, students at Blake High School (where I went) marched down one lane of Norwood Road, a rural road with no sidewalks at all.


Blake High School students protest on Norwood Road. Photo from NBC4.

Some protests took place at malls and in town centers, which were built and conceived as places for shopping and entertainment, and maybe some public events like concerts and festivals. Though many of them are privately owned and the right to free speech there is murky, their prominence makes them good places to have political actions.

Student protesters at Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville marched on Maryland Avenue through Rockville Town Square, a lifestyle center built in 2007. The town square is officially a public space, but it uses private security who haven't always respected First Amendment rights.

In downtown Silver Spring, protesters at Blair, Einstein, and Northwood High schools marched through Ellsworth Drive, a public street that the county leases to a private company who manages it. Ten years ago, photographer Chip Py was nearly arrested for taking a picture, and the protests that followed resulted in the county defending the right to free speech there.


Students protesting outside the old Montgomery County courthouse. Photo by Dan Hoffman.

Community leaders made the space for protests to happen

What made these student protests successful is that the "mental space" existed for them; community leaders trusted and supported students. School officials allowed the students to leave campus largely unsupervised (though MCPS superintendent Jack Smith says they won't be given excused absences) and county police provided escorts and blocked off roads. Other adults lent a hand to guide the protesters without dictating to them.

During the first protest on Monday, protesters at Montgomery Blair, Northwood, and Einstein high schools walked out of class and headed down University Boulevard, a state highway. Community organizer and MCPS parent Jeffrey Thames joined the group, estimated at a thousand protesters.

Montgomery County police blocked the road, allegedly worried for the students' safety after a driver flashed a gun at protesters and drove through the crowd. He asked the students where they wanted to go, and one of the leaders said, "Take us to Wheaton Plaza."


Student protesters in downtown Silver Spring. Photo by the author.

With a police escort, he led them to the mall, where students peacefully gathered on a parking garage, waving signs and yelling chants. Owner Westfield allowed the demonstration to proceed, and the police blocked Georgia Avenue to allow the protesters to march to Silver Spring. Some students wanted to go onto the Capital Beltway and block traffic, as protesters have done in several other cities, but Thames coaxed them away.

Instead, he led the marchers to Veterans Plaza in Silver Spring, a fully public space. It and the adjacent Silver Spring Civic Building is where county residents go to vote, for public meetings, and to meet with government officials. "That's my comfortable place. That's where we have the freedom to demonstrate," says Thames. "You show up in force, you make the officials making the decisions aware that you are there and you are participating."

What do these protests mean?

The teens who walked out of class this week were making a statement against bigotry and hate and for love and compassion, and with one unfortunate exception the five days of protest were peaceful. The students also made a statement about the importance of public space and free speech in their community, and the adults around them affirmed it.

Over the past few years, Americans across the political spectrum have confronted the social and economic inequality that persists in our country, which have often resulted in civil unrest. Now, more than ever, we need our streets, downtowns, and squares for people to speak out and be heard. In Montgomery County, teens and adults alike are working to make sure those spaces are there.

Housing


To make room for future workers, Montgomery County needs to build 4,200 new housing units per year

More and more jobs are coming to Montgomery County, and the workers taking them need places to live. The county's planning office recently created a few graphics showing that while Montgomery is building enough housing units, they aren't necessarily lining up with what workers will be able to afford.


Photo by Dan Reed on Flickr.

In 2013, George Mason University released a study forecasting the region's anticipated housing needs.

The study said that between 2012 and 2032, Montgomery would add 129,619 jobs and that to accommodate that growth, it will need to add 83,829 new housing units. In a recent presentation on growth trends, planners at the Montgomery County Planning Board Chair's office highlighted a few key takeaways about the intersection between the county's coming job growth and its housing market.


All slides are from a presentation from Montgomery County's planning department.

Factoring what's been built between 2012 and now, that means the county needs to incorporate about 4,200 units per year moving forward. Meeting this figure wouldn't mean a crazy building spree. It just means that as Montgomery County grows, it needs to expect to build reasonable amounts of new housing to meet that growth.

It's not just about adding any housing. It's about adding the right mix of housing types.

All of the jobs expected to come to Montgomery don't pay the same, which means it makes sense to think that new housing built in Montgomery County shouldn't cater to only one income bracket.

Here's a list of the types of jobs likely to come to Montgomery:

Unfortunately, the Montgomery planners point out that when you look at the needs indicated by GMU study's job projections and compare them to housing currently on the market in the county, there are some big gaps.

It's likely that there just won't be that many workers looking to buy at the high end of the housing market, but that there will be quite a few wanting to buy at the low end. If the housing supply continues to look the way it does now, a lot of market rate housing will not be affordable to the incoming workforce:

Of course, not everyone is going to buy a house. But the picture is similarly bleak for renters:

For those making the minimum wage, even affording a studio (with "affording" meaning paying 30% or less of your income) would require making more than two and half times what you do. But if you look above those making the least and examine the average wages of those who rent, we see even they are nearly 27% short of earning what they need to afford a one-bedroom on their own.

Clearly the current housing opportunities do not match the needs of the incoming workforce.

The county is starting to build more, which will need to continue

The latest building permit data for the county shows that supply is starting to catch back up with demand. The graph below shows past permit data (blue) matched with what the George Mason study forecasted future need to be (4,200 units a year, in green):

While the 20-year average (3,510 units) is lower than what is needed, that doesn't tell the full story. In many years, Montgomery exceeded the needed 4,200 units, and last year it was only a few units short; the big dip was because of the 2008 recession.

That's a good sign for anyone hoping the county will keep pace with the demands of a growing region and workforce.

Pedestrians


Maryland shouldn't outlaw this type of pedestrian crossing signal, says a Montgomery County Councilmember

Proponents of a new type of walk signal that's gaining popularity in DC and Virginia say that the technology makes walking safer. In Maryland, though, the State Highway Authority (SHA) prohibits their use. That shouldn't be the case, according to Montgomery County Councilmember and Transportation Committee Chairman Roger Berliner.


A HAWK signal in DC's Cleveland Park. Photo by Eric Fischer on Flickr.

HAWK (High-Intensity Activated crossWalK beacon) signals tell drivers to stop at pedestrian crossings that are in the middle of a block or where there isn't a traditional traffic light. People who want to cross press a button, which activates a yellow light that tells drivers to slow down and then a double red light telling them to stop.

One reason engineers like HAWK signals is that they have a low "warrant threshold," meaning there are generally fewer barriers to putting them up than a normal traffic light. Another is that they allow drivers to proceed after the people who pushed the button have crossed.

But while HAWK signals can be an effective means of improving safety at crosswalks, they aren't without criticism. They don't look or light up like normal traffic lights, which can confuse drivers. And because they remain completely dark until activated by a pedestrian, some drivers may think the HAWK signal is not working and treat the intersection as a stop sign.

The fact that HAWK signals stay dark until activated is the primary reason Maryland's SHA does not permit their use on state or local roads. Under the Maryland Motor Vehicle Code, a dark signal should be treated as a stop sign. It appears SHA has determined that HAWK signals are applicable to this section of the code.


A HAWK signal in Pentagon City. Image from Google Maps.

In a letter to the Montgomery County Delegation to the 2017 General Assembly, Roger Berliner questioned the logic of Maryland's restrictive amendments on "pedestrian hybrid beacons," especially in light of what he sees as clear federal guidelines on how to install and use them. He asked the delegation to consider introducing legislation that would allow HAWK signals in Maryland:

"The reasons for this change from the federal guidelines are not clear to me. What is clear to me, however, is that HAWK signals can improve pedestrian safety on SHA-administered roads. I am asking that you give serious consideration to introducing legislation during the 2017 General Assembly that would require the state to adopt either 1) the Federal Highway Administration Manual or 2) the specific language of Chapter 4F in the Federal Highway Administration Manual."
Noting that multiple Federal Highway Administration studies have shown that HAWK signals improve safety and compliance at pedestrian crossings, Berliner continued:
"I was the lead sponsor of legislation requiring Montgomery County to establish a framework and deadline for a Vision Zero campaign to achieve zero traffic deaths. The work of the County's Vision Zero Working Group is ongoing, with a recommended action plan expected early next year. We have already seen too many tragedies occur in crosswalks, making improved crosswalk safety critical in the Vision Zero effort. HAWK signals are a proven solution in this regard that I believe we must embrace."
Read the whole letter here.

Politics


Tuesday is election day. Here's a recap of our endorsements.

Tomorrow is election day, one of our single biggest opportunities to make the Washington DC region even greater. Please vote! If you didn't vote early and are headed to the polls tomorrow, here's a recap of our recommendations on how to vote.


Photo by Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin on Flickr.

Where to vote

Not sure where your polling place is? Plug your home address into Google's voting tool, and it will tell you your polling place, your voting and ID requirements, and a pretty good roundup of what will be on your ballot:

Our (non-ANC) endorsements

Over the past several weeks, GGWash has released its official endorsements for a number of races. Per reader request, here they all are again, in one easy place to reference (or share).

We recommend area voters choose:

  • Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine for President
  • David Grosso and Robert White for DC Council at large
  • Mary Lord for DC State Board of Education
  • Eleanor Holmes Norton for DC Delegate
  • For DC's statehood referendum
  • LuAnn Bennett and Don Beyer for Congress in Virginia
  • John Delaney and Jamie Raskin for Congress in Maryland
  • For the Prince George's at-large council seat proposal
  • Against Montgomery County term limits
Read our rationales and more details on these races here.

ANC endorsements

Are you a DC resident but unsure of which race you vote in? Use ANCfinder.org to find out.

To determine this year's ANC endorsements, we sent a reader-generated candidate questionnaire to all ANC candidates. We then published candidate responses and collected feedback. Staff evaluated all candidate responses and feedback for contested races and recommended endorsements to our volunteer editorial board, which then made the final decision.

A note about ANC candidates noted as write-in: because they completed our survey long after we began to publish our endorsements (with the exceptions of Eve Zhurbinskiy and Nicole Cacozza, who submitted in early September), candidates had the opportunity to review our analyses before submitting their responses. While they had that advantage, we do believe our endorsed candidates would make for great commissioners and deserve your write-in vote.

ANCs Ward 1

 

ANCs Ward 2

 

ANCs Ward 3

 

ANCs Ward 4

 

ANCs Ward 5

 

ANCs Ward 6

 

ANCs Ward 7

 

ANCs Ward 8

 

Each ANC is divided into a number of Single Member Districts (SMDs), averaging about 2,000 voters. Races often hinge on a small handful of votes; Your vote—every vote—really counts. This is especially true for write-in candidates, whose biggest challenge is simply getting enough people to remember their name when they go to the ballot box.

Politics


Our endorsements for races across the Washington region

Tuesday, November 8 is Election Day, and most area jurisdictions have early voting which has already begun. Here are our endorsements for some key races on your ballot.


Photo by League of Women Voters of California LWVC on Flickr.

We recommend area voters choose:

  • Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine for President
  • David Grosso and Robert White for DC Council at large
  • Mary Lord for DC State Board of Education
  • Eleanor Holmes Norton for DC Delegate
  • DC Advisory Neighborhood Commission: Read our endorsements here
  • For DC's statehood referendum
  • LuAnn Bennett and Don Beyer for Congress in Virginia
  • John Delaney and Jamie Raskin for Congress in Maryland
  • For the Prince George's at-large council seat proposal
  • Against Montgomery County term limits
Below is our rationale for all endorsements in races other than Advisory Neighborhood Commissions. You can read our detailed reasons for our ANC endorsements by choosing your ward from this page.

President and Vice President of the United States

We know, the whole nation was waiting with bated breath to find out what Greater Greater Washington thinks about the presidential race. Your long suspense is over: after some very contentious balloting, our contributors unanimously recommended voting for Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine. We figured we'd start this post off with a shocker.

Seriously, whether you're Democrat or Republican, conservative or liberal, pro-urbanism or anti, for goodness' sake, vote for Hillary Clinton. As one contributor put it, "because it's the only choice to keep our national government from slipping into utter chaos." Clinton is, they said, "most likely to continue the Obama Administration's urban policies and really enhance his domestic policy legacy."

Anyway, you probably want to get on to the local races where our endorsement is more likely to sway you. Fair enough!


David Grosso (left) and Robert White (right). Images from the candidates' websites.

DC Council at large

Each November in even years, voters pick two at-large members of the DC Council, but the law limits the number of Democrats (or members of any other party) who can be on the ballot simultaneously. The Democratic nominee is Robert White, whom we endorsed in the June primary against Vincent Orange. Also running as a technically-not-a-Democrat is incumbent David Grosso, and both deserve your vote (if you vote in DC).

One contributor, who lives east of the Anacostia, said of White: "Robert White is appealing for a person East of the River, as he has articulated a policy for preserving affordable housing, but also pairing such efforts with economic development. Typically we get one but not the other. His proposal to increase density along major corridors also has the beneficial effect of encouraging improvements in mass transit."

As for Grosso, he has been a progressive champion on many issues and a strong fighter for better education in DC as head of its education committee for the last two years. He is one of the council's best members and we look forward to the next four years on the council with Grosso and White.

State Board of Education

Voters also choose members of the State Board of Education. Incumbent Mary Lord is running against two challengers, and we encourage voters to return her to the board. While we don't talk about the SBOE much on Greater Greater Washington (want to write about it? Get in touch) and one contributor said, "I'm pretty sure I keep forgetting this group exists until election time," the board sets important education priorities.

Our contributors said that Lord "has the experience and knowledge" to serve effectively on the board, and others noted that respected ANC commissioners and neighborhood groups are supporting her.

There are also races for council ward seats (not expected to be competitive) and some State Board of Education seats (some possibly competitive) in wards 7 and 8 (and uncontested ones in 2 and 4). We did not have enough contributor consensus to make endorsements in the contested races.


Photo by Michelle Kinsey Bruns on Flickr.

DC Statehood

DC voters will weigh in on an advisory ballot referendum about statehood. Our contributors who filled out our survey universally agreed DC deserves statehood, and even if some didn't agree with every detail of the proposed constitution or process, they felt it sends an important message for voters to ratify this by large margins.

One contributor, who didn't support the process, said, "I think there are a lot of issues with how residents will be represented in the constitution developed (ANCs stay with similar power, bigger council). If we really want statehood, we need to put forward a more serious, thoughtful constitution before taking this further, or else no one else will take it seriously."

But others, while agreeing in part, suggested a yes vote: "Its not perfect, but we goddamn deserve to be a state," one wrote. Another: "It's not perfect, but it's still worth supporting."

And: "Any vote against this will be used as a cudgel by those opposed to statehood for a generation." This referendum is not even binding on the DC Council, let alone Congress which has to act to make DC a state. So the vote really is symbolic, but for an important symbol. Please vote yes on DC Advisory Referendum B.

Delegate to Congress

Speaking of DC's non-representation in Congress, our contributors support re-electing Eleanor Holmes Norton as DC's nonvoting delegate to the House of Representatives (but support changing that to a voting representative, of course).

While we haven't always agreed with all she's done, contributors said "she has years of experience working across the aisle in Congress and bringing home much needed funds for DC transportation projects; she has proven herself a partner and ally to my community;" and called her "a long-time fighter for social justice."


LuAnn Bennett on a sidewalk. Image from the candidate's website.

Congress in Maryland and Virginia

If you live outside the District and are a US voter, you can cast a ballot for a voting member of Congress. By far the most hotly contested race in our area is in Virginia's 10th district, between incumbent Barbara Comstock and challenger LuAnn Bennett. The district contains parts of Fairfax and Prince William counties as well as all of Loudoun, Clarke, and Frederick counties, plus the cities of Manassas Park, Manassas, and Winchester.

Comstock, the Republican, is portraying herself as a moderate, but as one contributor noted, she "is much more conservative that most people realize, for example a 3% environmental vote score." But even more critically for Greater Greater Washington, she has been unhelpful on issues about WMATA and transit funding.

Further, one contributor noted, "she's shown that she is not very friendly to legislation that would protect cyclists and she also signed legislation that prioritized driving over public transit infrastructure. Knowing her record indicates to me that the 10th district should have a candidate who wants to work with others to promote smart growth, which LuAnn Bennett has made one of her campaign issues."

Just over the Potomac, Maryland's 6th district streches from Montgomery County to western Maryland. Incumbent John Delaney (D) faces Amie Hoeber (R). Our contributors are not huge fans of Delaney, noting that he "is a captive of the highway lobby" and "is determined to widen I-270." However, they said, "his opponent is even worse" and "Amie Hoeber wants to basically widen everything." We encourage voters to return Delaney to office despite his flaws.

In less competitive Congressional races, contributors also had glowing things to say about Don Beyer in VA-8, who "has made smart growth and transit part of his campaign. He's promoted clean energy and public transit, including BRT in Fairfax County."

They also recommended Jamie Raskin, who won a 3-way primary for the open seat in Maryland's 8th district. "Jamie Raskin should easily win but he has been a progressive champion in Annapolis and deserves to be recognized," one wrote. And "Jamie Raskin has been great on Purple Line for many years despite opposition." Raskin has sometimes sided with residents opposed to any new housing in their areas, like on the Takoma Metro station development, but as a member of Congress he would be even more removed from this day-to-day NIMBYism and his record on other issues is very strong.


Images from the campaigns for No On B (Montgomery County term limits) and Re-Charge At Large (Prince George's Question D).

Montgomery County term limits

Montgomery and Prince George's voters will decide whether to change some of the mechanics of their counties' systems with ballot initiatives on November 8.

In Montgomery County, the main question is whether to impose a 3-term limit on county executive and all county council seats. Our contributors who answered the survey unanimously recommend no on Question B. Here's some of what they said:

  • Term limits shift the balance of power away from democratically elected officials and into unelected entities forces like interest groups and agencies.
  • Depriving the Council of experienced members is likely to lead to a Council with a short-term outlook that aims to split the difference between nimby homeowners and real-estate developers, at the expense of county residents who need housing.
  • Honestly, I'm really frustrated with the councilmembers in place today and would like to see them change, but I'm not convinced that term limits will guarantee the change I seek.
  • Term limits remove choices from the voters, and in this case is just a trojan horse for creating several open seats for wealthier residents to buy their way onto the Council.
One particularly nasty part of the term limits proposal would count a full term against anyone who served even a single year (or a day) of a partial term. That would force out Nancy Navarro, who won a special election in 2009 and then her first full term in 2010.

The county council has put Question C on the ballot to change this so that a partial term only counts if it's two years or more, the same as the 22nd Amendment to the US Constitution for Presidental term limits. While we hope voters reject term limits entirely, voters should vote yes on Question C to make the law fairer if it does pass.

Prince George's at large

In Montgomery, DC, and other jurisdictions, there are at-large councilmembers alongside ward members. This means everyone still has one person representing his or her area, but also some people who take the larger view. This system works well, and Prince George's could adopt some of it with an initiative to add two at-large members to its currently nine-member council.

Our contributors suggest approving this idea with a vote of yes on Question D. One said, "I live in a city now without any at-large representation. It's awful. You need some politicians who can focus on the governance of the municipality as a whole, instead of just parochial issues in their own district." Another felt at-large seats are "essential to end the pattern of individual councilmember vetoes over building in their districts, which empowers NIMBYs and promotes corruption."

One controversial element of this proposal would let members who are term limited as ward members then move up to at-large. Tracy Loh and Matt Johnson discussed this, and other facets of the proposal, in an earlier post.

We hope voters approve Question D and make the Prince George's council more effective.

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