Category: Campaign

Hucker Helps Good Hope Estates Finally Get Sidewalk

Hucker Helps Good Hope Estates Finally Get Sidewalk

The wait is finally over. After over 30 years of waiting for a sidewalk on Good Hope Road – the time has finally arrived. Good Hope Estates will finally get its long-awaited sidewalk. A warm and sincere thank you to all the advocates, past and present who supported this monumental moment for our community.

Tom said, “This project has the potential to create a truly walkable and transit-accessible community by connecting residents in an area of the county where many residents share one vehicle. The project will accomplish this by connecting residents to transit along Briggs Chaney Road and to the new Good Hope Neighborhood Recreation Center that will open later this year. Our Council staff recommended delaying this project by two years, but I fought against that recommendation, and I’m pleased to report that the full Council agreed with my recommendation and voted to fund the sidewalk.”

Hucker at White Oak Town Hall

Hucker at White Oak Town Hall

It was great to see the big turnout at the Montgomery County MD Council‘s town hall meeting in White Oak.

Issues on residents’ minds included: transportation (including BRT and station design, buses, senior bus service and road paving); public schools, including their physical condition and how we can close the student achievement gap; development, especially concerns and hopes about Viva White Oak, the possibility of Amazon coming to the county and more consumer choices in Silver Spring; and DACA and immigration, including advocacy for providing legal assistance to immigrants.

You can watch the meeting here:https://www.facebook.com/CountyCableMoCo/videos/1728216513904036/ And if you have concerns or ideas about these or other issues, feel free to contact my office at 240-777-7960 or at tom@tomhucker.com.

Hucker Proposes New Solar Energy Initiative

Hucker Proposes New Solar Energy Initiative

ROCKVILLE, Md., Feb. 13, 2018 — Montgomery County Councilmember Tom Hucker has introduced a zoning change that would authorize solar energy projects that could power up to 200 homes in neighborhoods.

Councilmember Hucker, who is the Council’s Lead for Environment on the Council’s Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment Committee, introduced a zoning text amendment that will allow solar energy installations with a capacity of up to 2 megawatts. The co-lead sponsor is George Leventhal and co-sponsors are Councilmembers Marc Elrich, Sidney Katz, Roger Berliner and Council Vice President Nancy Navarro.

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“For years, Montgomery County has been a leader on green energy and other environmental issues,” Councilmember Hucker said. “Maryland has an average of 213 days of sunshine each year. That’s an important resource that we must take full advantage of. Allowing community solar projects will create jobs and help us meet our renewable energy and greenhouse gas reduction goals.”

In December, the Council passed a resolution setting the goal of eliminating greenhouse gas emissions entirely by 2035.

Stephanie Riddick of the Sierra Club Montgomery County Group said her group was “especially appreciative” of the proposal because it will benefit low- and moderate-income residents.

“We hope that the ZTA will be an opportunity to continue the discussion on how Montgomery County can study our energy situation and work towards creating a 100 percent clean energy future for all county residents,” Riddick said.

While solar power is a reliable, low-cost renewable energy source, many residents cannot take advantage of it for a number of reasons. For example, many homeowners have rooftops shaded by the tree canopy, own a condominium or can’t afford the initial outlay. Other residents can’t install their own solar panels because they rent their homes.

To help address this issue, the General Assembly in 2015 passed a law creating the community solar program, allowing electricity consumers to subscribe to larger, shared solar projects in their service area. Last year, the Maryland Public Service Commission released its long-anticipated regulations on community solar projects.

Other counties, such as Prince George’s, Baltimore and Anne Arundel, already allow such community projects, with 38 such projects approved around the state.

However, Montgomery County’s Zoning Code restricts solar projects to a limited use in nearly all zones and limits solar energy production to 120 percent of on-site energy consumption. These outdated restrictions make it difficult, if not impossible, to establish community solar projects because very little excess energy is allowed to be produced to support other subscribers.

The proposed ZTA allows solar projects in zones other than the agricultural reserve. It raises the generating limit to 2 megawatts, enough to power up to 200 homes.

It’s estimated that each 2-megawatt project would represent the equivalent of getting 310 passenger vehicles off the road and preventing more than 5 million pounds of carbon from entering the atmosphere annually.

Furthermore, each project would generate about $300,000 in personal property tax, 75 to 100 temporary and permanent jobs, and up to $4 million in private investment.

Councilmember Hucker said the county must do its part to curb climate change.

“From devastating hurricanes, wildfires and mudslides to rising sea levels in the Chesapeake Bay, we’re already seeing the disastrous consequences of global climate change, which threaten to only get worse,” Councilmember Hucker said. “Community solar projects, here and around the country, will help reduce our growing carbon footprint and mitigate its impact on our planet.”

The proposed ZTA is on the County Council’s website, montgomerycountymd.gov/council/.

A public hearing on the ZTA is scheduled for April 3 at 1:30 p.m.

Media contact: Robert Rand, 240-777-7937

Update on Student Loan Refinancing

Update on Student Loan Refinancing

I’ve been working to set up the county’s own student loan finance program. Under this program, county residents could refinance their college loans at lower interest rates, shaving hundreds of dollars off their monthly payments and saving thousands over the term of their loan.

Those who are saddled with college debt – the average borrower in the county owes upward of $31,000 – knows what a drain it can be, crippling their ability to get a home mortgage, start a business or get a graduate degree. The county’s program could really ease that heavy burden.

The County Council has been generally supportive of the plan (a video of the July 20 committee meeting on the proposal is here). The next step will be conducting a market demand study and cost analysis, which will help us tailor the program to the county’s needs.

Here’s an online petition supporting the proposal, which you can sign and share.

Purple Line Update

Purple Line Update

Many of you have noticed that work got underway on constructing the county’s biggest transportation project in decades: the Purple Line.

While I wholeheartedly support the 16.5-mile light rail line that will link Bethesda and New Carrollton and run through downtown Silver Spring, I know the project got off to a rocky start.

With less than a week’s notice to the public, the Georgetown Branch Trail was closed —  and on the first day of school, which inconvenienced parents and students. The state contract called for 30 days’ notice on closing the trail, but unbeknownst to the public — and the council — the state had waived that requirement.

Any infrastructure project of the magnitude of the Purple Line is going to cause some major disruptions, but it’s the state’s job to make sure those disruptions are as minimized as possible.

For example, I have been meeting with downtown Silver Spring merchants, especially on Bonifant St., who are concerned that the Purple Line work — along with ongoing utility repairs — will hurt their business.

Among the actions we’re taking:

  • Working with county officials to increase the number of short-term parking spaces in the Bonifant Street parking lot and Wayne Avenue garage to help these merchants.
  • Looking into other steps to mitigate the impact on businesses and residents, including support for state legislation that would offer financial assistance to affected businesses.
  • Requesting state transit officials to ensure utilities — if they absolutely must be shut down on a weekend day — are shut down on Sundays, not Saturdays. Likewise for the Purple Line construction.

It’s also our job to make sure the state and Purple Line Transit Partners — the private consortium of companies building the project — are as transparent as possible and communicate often and clearly with the public.

Toward that end, the County Council recently questioned state and company officials, impressing on them the vital importance of keeping the public frequently updated on construction activities and their impact on our communities. These include blasting schedules, tree-cutting, road closures and detours, so people can plan their daily lives around this project.

Consortium officials have promised to post these updates and upcoming meetings with the local Community Advisory Teams on its website, purplelinemd.com, where you can also sign up for email or text notifications. Also, a construction hotline has been set up at  240-424-5325.

The County Council plans to have regular meetings with the state and consortium officials, and I plan to hold them accountable as the project proceeds.

My staff and I have also been working on several other important transportation initiatives in our district we will provide a more in-depth update about soon:

  • New, express Ride-On Bus service on U.S. 29, expected to start in January.
  • New protected bike lanes in Silver Spring.
  • Improvements to Georgia Avenue to make the busy stretch between 16th Street and Forest Glen Road more pedestrian- and bike-friendly, safer for motorists, and more welcoming for the Montgomery Hills businesses and residents nearby. It’s all part of the area’s sector plan.
  • Improvements to U.S. 29 to make it more pedestrian-friendly. Last month’s tragic pedestrian fatality only highlighted how dangerous this roadway can be.

 

County Council votes to raise the minimum wage

County Council votes to raise the minimum wage

I’m happy to report, as many of you know, that Montgomery County has become a national leader on this issue last month by raising its minimum wage to $15 an hour. 

Last year, the County Council voted to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, but the County Executive vetoed the bill, and we didn’t have enough votes to override the veto.

Councilmember Marc Elrich and I wrote amendments to tweak the latest legislation, giving more time for smaller employers, nonprofits and health-care providers that rely on Medicaid payments to begin paying $15/hour.

I introduced these amendments at our Nov. 7 session, and the council unanimously passed my amendments and the amended version of the bill. The following week, it was signed into law.  

There are many humane and practical reasons to raise the county’s minimum wage.

The cost of living in Montgomery County is among the highest in the nation. It’s virtually impossible to live on the current minimum wage of $11.50 an hour here. In fact, according to an MIT study, a living wage in Montgomery County for a single adult is $15.80 an hour. For a single parent with one child, it’s $29.82.

That means that raising the minimum hourly wage to $15 is overdue. This increase will provide at least some measure of relief to thousands of our low-income residents. These are our child care workers, our restaurant staff, our health-care workers, our janitors and maids, our hairdressers and manicurists, our retail sales clerks.

These are people who struggle to live paycheck to paycheck, often on the edge of poverty.  

These are real people with real children and real bills to pay: bills for rent, for food, for medicine, for bus fare, for heat and electricity. Most don’t have savings to fall back on. They need every penny they can get in their weekly paycheck.

Studies have shown that raising the minimum wage raises the standard of living for our poorest residents.

And much of the extra money they’ll get in their paychecks will go right back into the local economy — which means a stronger community for everyone.

The council was also sensitive to the concerns of our county’s employers, especially its smaller businesses. That’s why the bill gives them more time to raise their wages and suspends any scheduled wage increases if there’s a recession.

I want to thank the many community groups and labor unions that supported the $15 minimum wage, including CASA, Jews United for Justice, Progressive Maryland, Maryland Working Families Party, Service Employees International Union 32BJ and Local 400 of the United Food and Commercial Workers.  

Cracking down on human trafficking

12-31-2017 human traffickingHuman trafficking – also known as modern slavery – is rapidly on the rise nationally and right here in Montgomery County, in the form of both sex trafficking and forced labor. I’ve been working on this issue for years. And last month, I organized a first-ever 1½-hour presentation for a joint meeting of the council’s Public Safety and Health and Human Services committees.

The county has a responsibility to not only crack down on human traffickers, but do whatever we can to help the survivors, most of whom are girls and young women.

What do these survivors need? Safe housing. Education. Job training and placement. Drug and mental health treatment.

That’s what experts from law enforcement, nonprofits, social service agencies and the medical community told councilmembers during the briefing.                                                    

Among those speaking was Andrea Powell, executive director of FAIR Girls, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit that provides services to female survivors, including a safe house where the girls — some as young as 12 — and young women can live securely while they receive the counseling, job training and other services they need to get their lives back on track.

FAIR Girls — FAIR stands for Free Aware Inspired Restored — has served more than 1,000 young female survivors of human trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation in the past decade. Annually, it provides safe shelter and life skills to 50 survivors ages 18 to 24; about half the young women are from or were trafficked into Maryland.  

Other speakers included Heidi Alvarez, from the University of Maryland’s SAFE Center for Human Trafficking Survivors; Jessica Volz, a registered nurse at Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Center and co-chairwoman of the new county committee’s Victim Services Subcommittee; Sgt. Dave Papalia, head of the Montgomery County Police Department’s Vice and Intelligence Unit; and Assistant County Police Chief Russ Hamill. All are active members of the county’s new Human Trafficking Prevention Committee.

Papalia and Hamill reported on the nearly tenfold rise in human trafficking cases in the past three years in the county, from three to 29 – all of which involved forced sex work. Likewise, the number of arrests and warrants has grown from two to 16. Advocates are confident these numbers are greatly underreported.

Much of the coerced sex trafficking in Montgomery County occurs at its hotels, especially in Gaithersburg, Rockville and Silver Spring. Police are working more closely with these hotels to have staff detect and report suspected sex trafficking, Papalia and Hamill said.

Earlier this year, I sponsored successful legislation creating the first civil penalty our police can now assess on men who are creating the market for human trafficking by soliciting prostitution. We are giving police more tools like this to crack down on sex traffickers and “johns” here in the county, but we can – and must – do much more.

Our police force needs more detectives dedicated to fighting this scourge. Our county’s social service agencies and nonprofits need more resources to help its survivors. We can’t sit idly by and let this horrible business flourish in Montgomery Count

Tom Hucker Re-Election Kick-Off

Tom Hucker Re-Election Kick-Off

Please join us to kick-off
Tom Hucker’s Re-Election Campaign

The Pearl
180 High Park Lane
Silver Spring, MD 20910 
RSVP online: tomhucker.com/kickoff
Or contact Nik Sushka at:
nik@tomhucker.com | 309-530-3775
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Special Guests Include:
Senator Chris Van Hollen
Congressman Jamie Raskin
Takoma Park Mayor Kate Stewart
and D20 State Senator Will Smith

Family, friends, and neighbors welcome!
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Honorary Host Committee

Emily & Phil Ackerman, Hon. Dan Adcock, Sam Agger, Jason Alinsky, Brian Anleu, Dave Asche, Johanna Berkson, Dana Beyer, Shruti Bhatnagar, Alan Bowser, Hon. Chris Bradbury, Betsy Bretz, Hon. Karen Britto, Scott Brown, Jean Capps, Del. Al Carr, Julio Cerón, Lorig Charkoudian, Del. Bonnie Cullison, Hon. Hoan Dang, Eric Devereaux, Sean Dobson, Joe Edgell, Holly Fechner, Meg Finn, Kit Gage, Tom Gagliardo, Quincey Gamble, Barbara Goldberg Goldman, Hon. Seth Grimes, Tsega Hailemariam, Hon. Mimi Hassanein, Tony Hausner, Mike Hersh, Hon. Marlin Jenkins, Del. Anne Kaiser, Pepita Coulibaly Kragbe, Lynn Koiner, Hon. Peter Kovar, Del. Ben Kramer, Elissa Lichtenstein, Del. Eric Luedtke, Amouzou Maickel, Hon. Tim Male, Sen. Roger Manno, Janet & Richard Metcalf, Del. David Moon, Scott Moore, Del. Maricé Morales, Karen Murphy, Jumana Musa, Paula Ndirangu, Andrea Nunez, Lorraine Pearsall. Brenda Platt, Anita Powell, Kim Propeack, Richard Reis, Marie Ritzo, Mardokai Russom. Abe Saffer, Isaac Salazar, Jerry Samet, Cathy Sarri, Hon. Terry and Joyce Seamens, Daniel Seligman, Paul Shapiro, Hon. Emily Shetty, Jessica Simon, Sen. Will Smith, Hon. Rebecca Smondrowski, Thomas Squire, Hon. Kate Stewart, Nik Sushka, Jeffrey Thames, Sylvia Tognetti, Ellie Trueman, Abeba & Lene Tsegaye, Laura Van Etten, Ada Villatoro, Hon. Janet Williams, Jen Wofford, Mark Woodard, Sen. Craig Zucker

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Getting to the Pearl:

Public Transit
Silver Spring Metro

Parking
Giant Parking Lot (towing will be suspended)
Eastern Ave Street Parking (follow permit signs!)
NOAA Parking Garage on East-West Highway
Kennett Street Parking Garage
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By Authority: Friends of Tom Hucker, Dennis Desmond, Treasurer.

All funds solicited in connection with this event are by Friends of Tom Hucker, and not by Senator Chris Van Hollen or Congressman Jamie Raskin.

Hucker Seeking Re-Election

Hucker Seeking Re-Election

Over the last 2 1/2 years, Montgomery County has made a lot of progress. And I’m particularly proud that we have achieved so much for Silver Spring, Takoma Park and East County. We’ve shrunk class sizes, invested in efforts to fight the achievement gap, strengthened our transportation network and developed new programs to help working families.

But we’re far from finished, so I am running for re-election to ensure our community continues the progress we’re making. With a White House and Congressional leadership that is working overtime against our interests, it’s more important than ever that we have experienced, progressive leadership locally to protect Montgomery County’s interests and values. It’s an honor to represent Montgomery County, and I hope to continue to earn your support.

Dog Park Coming to Silver Spring

Dog Park Coming to Silver Spring

Get your chew toys and Frisbees ready — Montgomery County’s first dog park inside the Capital Beltway is nearing completion.

Montgomery County currently operates five dog parks, but all are north of the Capital Beltway. The new Silver Spring dog park, which takes up a portion of Ellsworth Urban Park, is being built as a pilot park to test urban dog park designs. This will be the first constructed as part of a county plan to add 11 more dog parks by 2022.

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The popularity and demand for dog parks is not surprising — There are now more households with dogs than with kids! The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) estimates there are nearly 80 million pet dogs in the United States. Dogs motivate people to get outside, exercise, and connect with others, and dog parks are one of the fastest-growing park amenities in the country.

The Silver Spring dog park will feature a smaller area for “timid dogs” and a large area for “well-socialized” dogs. Each area is surrounded by a 5-foot-high fence that includes a double-gated entry system. The half-acre dog is scheduled for completion in May.

Abandoned Homes: A Growing Problem in Our Community

Abandoned Homes: A Growing Problem in Our Community

The Great Recession may be over, but the aftermath is still being felt in communities all across the country. Here in Montgomery County, we have more than 400 abandoned properties that continue to drive down nearby home values and attract neighborhood crime.

Abandoned homes are a magnet for dangerous criminal activities, such as squatting, arson and defacement. Unused houses are nearly twice as likely than occupied houses to generate calls for fire or police service, and they lower neighboring property values by as much as 10%. Not only are abandoned houses an eyesore, they pose a serious public safety risk and deter new families from purchasing homes in our county.

I am introducing legislation to reduce the number of abandoned homes and make our community safer. My bill will require unoccupied homeowners to register with the county, and will increase inspections and implement graduated fees for unmaintained homes. Enacting this bill could deter homeowners from leaving properties unused and unkempt for long periods of time, and gives absentee owners incentives to repair and then to sell, rent, or occupy their property.

Here are the basic guidelines of my proposal:

      • Establish a vacant property registration
      • Require an initial inspection within a month of registering.
      • Allow homeowners 30 days to fix any code violations.
      • Charge any subsequent inspections performed by the Department of Housing and Community Affairs(DHCA) to the homeowner using a graduated fee schedule (similar to the False Alarm Response Fee Schedule).

Properties that are no longer in use are more than just a symptom of macroeconomic forces  — their links to crime and sinking property values  make them unique problems in and of themselves.  In order to stave off community decline and disinvestment, we have to act now.

If you know of any abandoned properties in your community, I am asking you to please send your photos and locations to councilmember.hucker@mongtomerycountymd.gov. Together, we will keep our community safe and strong.

Offshore Drilling Endangers Maryland Coast

Offshore Drilling Endangers Maryland Coast

Today, Montgomery County Councilmember Tom Hucker introduced a resolution to formally oppose offshore drilling and seismic testing along the Atlantic Coast. If it passes, Montgomery County will become the largest local jurisdiction to oppose offshore drilling – Ocean City, Baltimore and 100 other local jurisdictions have already taken a stand.

Councilmember Hucker made this statement after introducing the resolution, “Opening up our Atlantic shores to drilling would endanger Maryland’s coastal wetlands, exacerbate climate change, and pose a serious threat to marine wildlife. We need to get serious about protecting our nation’s long-term energy needs by expanding investments in renewable energy, while continuing to protect our state’s coastal environment.”

More than 700 federal, state and local elected officials and over 1,000 business interests have all publicly opposed drilling off the Atlantic Coast, citing threats to local ecosystems and economies. Click here to sign a petition to Governor Hogan and share your support for opposing offshore drilling.