Category: Tom News

Working to make New Hampshire Avenue safer

This morning Councilmember Hucker joined community leaders, the Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT), the Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA), and Prince George’s County Councilmember Deni Taveras at the intersection of New Hampshire Avenue and Northampton Drive in Silver Spring to discuss pedestrian safety improvements.  Sitting on the border of Montgomery County and Prince George’s County, this stretch of New Hampshire Avenue has been long neglected by both counties in part due to uncertainty about the location of the county line itself.  I’m working to change that.

A constituent of Councilmember Hucker from the Oakview neighborhood, Scott Baumgartner, reached out to the office recently with various pedestrian safety concerns at and near the intersection.  The intersection of New Hampshire and Northampton is adjacent to two large apartment complexes and is served by some of the busiest bus routes in the region, including Ride On routes 20 and 22, along with Metrobus route K6 and MetroExtra route K9.  Despite the high transit ridership and pedestrian activity of the area, the surrounding pedestrian facilities are sorely lacking.

While walking around the intersection and along New Hampshire Avenue, the Councilmember identified several needs that require addressing to make the area safer and more accessible for pedestrians:

  • A new marked crosswalk with accessible curb ramps where Northampton Dr meets New Hampshire Ave.
  • A new short stretch of sidewalk along an existing desire path to connect Avenel Rd with the bus stop at Northampton.
  • Repainting existing crosswalk markings across New Hampshire Ave to make them more visible.
  • Repairs to the existing sidewalks on New Hampshire Ave and creation of accessible ramps at existing curb cuts to meet accessibility standards.
  • Trimming and removal of overgrown vegetation infringing on the sidewalk.
  • Repairing the mural along New Hampshire Ave at Piney Branch Rd.

Councilmember Hucker was encouraged to hear MCDOT’s commitment to add a marked crosswalk across Northampton and to add accessible ramps on either side of the intersection.  The Councilmember is coordinating with MCDOT and SHA to address the various other issues along New Hampshire Avenue and he is hopeful that many of these common sense fixes will soon be made.

Restaurant Week is Back for a Fourth Year

I launched Restaurant Week in 2015 to help promote our great restaurants and also expose residents to the terrifically diverse cuisine in our community. In our 4th year, we had 32 participating restaurants offering special fixed-price lunch and dinner menus featuring culinary treats from America, Korea, Italy, Latin America and more. This year I was especially proud Restaurant Week was featured on Good Day DC on Fox 5, and engaged over 5,000 local residents.

Silver Screens another success

Despite some meteorological challenges this summer — i.e., we had more than our fair share of rainy Fridays and some cancellations — our annual Silver Screens series of free outdoor movies was again a big success.

Many thanks to AFI Silver for presenting the movies and Sonny’s Green at The Blairs for hosting them. And thanks to everyone for turning out for these fun family evenings.

I’m looking forward to working with them again next summer — and hoping for drier weather.

Fighting climate change: What we can do

In August, I worked with One Montgomery Green, Integrative Strategies Forum and Poolesville Green to present “Leading the Way — Montgomery County Confronts Climate Change.” This month, a public briefing following up on the discussions at this important conference will be held in Rockville.

More than 80 residents, specialists and others attended last month’s public meeting in Silver Spring, sharing what local groups are doing to mitigate climate change, reviewing county programs in its Climate Mobilization Report and discussing initiatives the county could launch or expand to reduce our carbon footprint.

The meeting was held as an affiliate event with the Global Climate Action Summit , set for Sept. 12-14 in San Francisco.

As a result of these discussions, a report will be presented to county leaders at a public briefing at 6-8 p.m. Sept. 12 at the Council Office Building in Rockville.

As the Council’s Lead for Environment — and with frightening news about rising sea levels and record wildfires, floods and heatbeing reported on practically a daily basis — I know that fighting climate change is among our generation’s most urgent challenges.

Our County Council has set an ambitious goal of zero carbon emissions by 2035 and I’m committed to helping meet that goal.

This year I spearheaded a successful proposal to change our zoning law to allow community solar projects, each capable of generating up to 2 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 200 homes. And next month there will be hearing on another proposal of mine that’s designed to cut the red tape and expense for businesses that want to install their own solar projects.

More information about the Sept. 12 briefing is here: https://bit.ly/2NBmkgT

County’s student loan refinance program advances

As many of you know, I fought this spring to have $60,000 included in our fiscal 2019 operating budget to fund a market-demand study and cost analysis for a new county student loan refinance program, through which borrowers could refinance their college loans and save thousands of dollars. This summer, we solicited bids and received several from reputable vendors.

Our staff expects to rate the bids and award the contracts this month, with the actual studies getting underway shortly thereafter.

This is great news, as it means we’re on our way to helping our college borrowers ease their huge debt loads. The nation’s total student loan debt is now about $1.5 trillion — an enormous sum that’s crippling the ability of young professionals and their families to buy homes, start businesses, pursue graduate degrees and save for retirement.

Our county program would be similar to those that several states have run successfully for years. These programs are self-sustaining, with private activity bonds issued to refinance loans at lower interest rates; the borrowers’ monthly loan payments are used to pay off the bonds.

Not only do such programs help borrowers, they’ve been shown to boost the local economy. Businesses such as Microsoft use these public refinance programs to attract and retain employees.

By establishing the first such program run by a county in the U.S., Montgomery can become a national leader in this growing movement to help ease this burden on borrowers.

At a time when the Trump administration is doing what it can to hurt student borrowers — seeking to end the federal loan forgiveness program, siding with lenders over borrowers through its regulators — it’s more crucial than ever that the county step in to help.

You can sign a petition to support the proposal here.

Helping More Businesses Switch to Solar Power

As I reported in my last newsletter, I recently introduced a zoning text amendment designed to make it easier for businesses to install solar energy panels on their property.

It’s a follow-up to the zoning change I introduced that the council approved this spring, allowing community solar projects that can provide electricity to residents who can’t have their own solar panels.

This new proposal would exempt accessory use solar projects from the costly and lengthy site plan process.

Too often, the cost of the site plan process can outweigh the benefits of adding solar panels to a property.

Many of our businesses want to participate more in the new green economy, for both financial and environmental reasons, and this proposal would help them do just that.

The zoning change would apply only to properties zoned for commercial, employment, industrial and mixed-use without residential.

Together, by promoting more solar energy, these two zoning changes can help our county meet its goal of zero carbon emissions by 2035.

A public hearing on the proposal is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 11, at 1:30 p.m. You can sign up to testify at the hearing online athttps://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/council/phsignup.html or by calling 240-777-7803.

And the Planning, Housing and Economic Development Committee is scheduled to discuss the proposal at 9:30 a.m. on Thursday, Sept. 13.

More information is here: https://bit.ly/2Ap0LOA.

Concerns About Plans to Widen the Beltway

Like many of you, I’m concerned about Gov. Larry Hogan’s plans to possibly widen the Capital Beltway through Montgomery County. I’ve heard from many residents who point to the massive disruptions this project could cause, especially because it would require taking significant amounts of private property through Silver Spring.

Some also question the wisdom of investing billions of dollars into expanding our highways, when other traffic solutions, such as mass transit, are more environmentally friendly and would do much more to help the county meet our goal of zero carbon emissions by 2035.

The County Council held a briefing from our staff on the Beltway and I-270 plans at our first post-recess meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 11. You can watch the streamed version on the council’s website, here.

And please continue sending me your ideas and feedback on this major issue at Tom@TomHucker.com.

Council Tackles Bicycle Master Plan

Among the many available options, including cars, buses and Metrorail, many of us have turned to bicycling, for health, environmental, economic and other reasons.

The growing popularity of cycling has spurred the county to adopt a comprehensive Bicycle Master Plan, incorporating and revising bike and other master and sector plans dating to 1978.

It will bring the county in line with leading practices in bicycle network planning and help us realize our Vision Zero Two-Year Action Plan to eliminate traffic-related fatalities and serious injuries.

The new plan calls for creating a low-stress network of bikeways throughout Montgomery County, so cyclists of all ages and abilities can safely ride to transit stations, employment centers, shops, public facilities and other destinations in the county. A new bikeway classification system organizes bikeways based on their level of separation from traffic.

In addition, long-term bicycle parking stations are recommended at all Metrorail Red Line and many MARC Brunswick Line stations, and future Purple Line and Corridor Cities Transitway stations.

About 30 people testified at a public hearing on the new plan on July 10.

AFI Silver Screens kicks off with ‘Jurassic Park’

I’m proud to once again help present Silver Screens, AFI Silver’s annual terrific series of free outdoor family movies this summer. This year’s screenings kick off with 1993’s “Jurassic Park” on Friday, July 13, and continue on Friday evenings through Aug. 31. Movies start at sundown, between 8 and 8:30 p.m. There’s a new venue this year: Sonny’s Green at The Blairs District, 1401 Blair Mill Road in downtown Silver Spring. The Blairs is also a co-presenter, along with the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center. Other films this summer include “Moana” (July 20) and “Jumanji” (July 27). More information and the schedule are here: https://bit.ly/2xIFZYM.

Green jobs apprenticeship program good for workers, industry, environment

Green jobs apprenticeship program good for workers, industry, environment

Last month, the County Council unanimously approved my bill that will create a clean-energy jobs apprenticeship readiness program through Worksource Montgomery, which provides jobtraining and other employment services around the county.

This program will help meet two critical needs in our county:

  • It will give our jobless and underemployed residents a great opportunity to train for a well-paying career and climb up the economic ladder.
  • It will help provide the skilled workers that our construction companies need, as the industry increasingly incorporates greener technologies. And the need for these workers will only grow, with significant development scheduled in County buildings, schools, neighborhoods near the Purple Line, downtown Wheaton and White Oak, all of which will have a major focus on using renewable-energy sources.

On top of that, promoting more green building technologies is good for the environment and will help the County meet its goal of zero carbon emissions by 2035.

The program will focus on training unemployed and underemployed youth and transitioning adults. The goal is to set them up for success in apprenticeship programs registered with the Maryland Apprenticeship Training Council and for eventual long-term employment in the cleanenergy construction industry.

The program will help prepare participants to work in jobs related to solar systems, green roofs, geothermal systems, rainwater catchments, pervious pavement, thermal walls, wind, natural gas, sewage treatment and other environmental technologies.

The program is not expected to cost taxpayers anything, according to a fiscal analysis by the County’s Office of Management and Budget. The program is anticipated to cost from $10,000 to $17,500 annually, with Worksource Montgomery seeking grants or sponsorships to cover expenses. More information on the bill is here: https://bit.ly/2K81CXO.

Tom Hucker Wins Democratic Primary

This excerpt is from an article in the Sentinel. Read the full article here.

COUNTY COUNCIL INCUMBENTS AMONG DEMOCRAT WINNERS IN PRIMARY
Written by  Suzanne Pollak

Celebrating their election victories Tuesday night were (from left) Council member Tom Hucker; Democratic candidates for State Delegate in District 20 Jheanelle Wilkins and Lorig Charkoudian; and District 20 State Sen. Will Smith. PHOTO BY SUZANNE POLLAK
PHOTO BY SUZANNE POLLAK   Celebrating their election victories Tuesday night were (from left) Council member Tom Hucker; Democratic candidates for State Delegate in District 20 Jheanelle Wilkins and Lorig Charkoudian; and District 20 State Sen. Will Smith.

“Democrat County Council members Tom Hucker, Craig Rice, Nancy Navarro and Sidney Katz won their party’s support again and will be joined by Andrew Friedson on the Democratic ticket in November to represent their districts.

Hucker celebrated his victory in District 5 over fellow Democrats Kevin Harris and Kenge Malikidogo-Fludd at Kaldi’s Social House in Silver Spring. Hucker was elected to the Council in 2014 after serving as a state delegate for almost 10 years.

Proud of his efforts this term to help shrink class sizes in County schools and bring the Purple Line to fruition, Hucker said he planned more work on the same issues for his next term, if elected in November.

Claiming to have worked to bring the Purple Line to fruition “for at least 15 years,” Hucker said he will continue to make sure it gets done “on time and on budget” and with minimal impact to area businesses and homeowners.

It’s important to help the small business owners, he said, adding, “Democrats need to get focused on helping businesses succeed.”

Council unanimously approves Hucker’s green jobs bill

This information has been reposted from the County Council News site. For the original post, please click here.

For Immediate Release: Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Apprenticeship program will help fill industry demand, 
give workers needed skills

ROCKVILLE, Md., June 19, 2018 — With green jobs playing an ever-greater role in our economy, a steady supply of skilled workers is essential. With that in mind, the Montgomery County Council on Tuesday approved a bill introduced by Councilmember Tom Hucker, who serves as the Council’s Lead for Environment on the Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment Committee, that will establish a clean energy apprenticeship readiness program within Worksource Montgomery.

“This program will meet two critical needs in our County,” Hucker said. “It will help provide the skilled workers that our construction companies need, as the industry increasingly incorporates greener technologies.

“And it will give our jobless and underemployed residents a great opportunity to train for a well-paying career and climb up the economic ladder, as the need for these workers will only continue to grow for years to come,” he said.

On top of that, promoting more green building technologies is good for the environment and will help the County meet its goal of zero carbon emissions by 2035, Hucker added.

The program will focus on training unemployed and underemployed youth and transitioning adults, including those leaving incarceration. The goal is to set them up for success in Maryland Apprenticeship Training Council-registered apprenticeship programs and eventual long-term employment in the clean-energy construction industry.

The bill defines green jobs as those related to renewable energy, energy efficiency, energy storage, resource conservation, environmental protection and advanced transportation.

For example, program graduates will learn to work on solar systems, green roofs, geothermal systems, rainwater catchments, pervious pavement, building thermal walls, wind, natural gas, sewer treatment and other types of environmental technology

“This is a great program,” said Council President Hans Riemer, a member of the Planning, Housing and Economic Development Committee, which voted 3-0 to support the proposal on June 11.

Councilmember George Leventhal, another committee member, agreed with the need for the pre-apprenticeship program, saying SolarCity, a Tesla subsidiary, is “hiring like mad,” according to a relative who works there.

The White House Task Force on the Middle Class said in 2009 that “green jobs have the potential to be quality, family-sustaining jobs that also help improve our environment. They are largely domestic jobs that can’t be offshored. They tend to pay more than other jobs, even controlling for worker characteristics.”

The program is not expected to cost taxpayers anything, according to a fiscal analysis by the County’s Office of Management and Budget. The program is expected to cost from $10,000 to $17,500 annually, with Worksource Montgomery seeking grants or sponsorships to cover expenses, particularly from the State of Maryland’s EARN (Employment Advancement Right Now) program.

“By demonstrating County Council and County Executive support for Green Jobs Apprenticeships, we will put Worksource Montgomery in a stronger position to win competitive grants from the Maryland Department of Labor to train the next generation of skilled workers,” said Hucker.

At a public hearing last month, all four speakers — representing the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, CASA, the Sierra Club Montgomery County Group and Community Hub for Opportunities in Construction Employment, which works with 28 local building trades unions in the region — enthusiastically supported the proposal.

“This is the right time for this innovative program, with significant development scheduled in the coming years in County buildings, schools, neighborhoods surrounding the Purple Line, downtown Wheaton and White Oak, all of which will have a significant focus on using renewable energy sources,” Hucker said.

More information on the bill is here: bit.ly/2K81CXO

Contact: Robert Rand, 240-777-7937

Release ID: 18-185
Media Contact: Sonya Healy 2407777926

Silver Screens is back and bigger than ever!

We’re excited to announce the return of our FREE outdoor film series at a new location! Join us each Friday, July 13 – Aug 31, on Sonny’s Green at The Blairs District for a season of big screen favorites under the stars! Films begin at sundown, between 8:00 and 8:30 p.m.

Councilmember Hucker’s office helped launch and secure funding for Silver Screens 2 years ago with the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center. 2018 Silver Screens is co-presented by AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center, The Blairs and Montgomery County Councilmember Tom Hucker.

Sonny’s Green is located at The Blairs District in the center of the property and is accessible from High Park Lane or The Blairs Shopping Center (1290 East West Highway) parking lot.

If you are traveling by car, free parking is available at the Public Parking Lot located at 1317 East West Highway. From the lot exit to your right and walk to the traffic light and cross to The Blairs Shopping Center. The entrance to the park is located at the back of the Giant parking lot.

July 13: Jurassic Park (1993)
July 20: Moana
July 27: Jumanji (1995)
Aug. 3: Isle of Dogs (Dogs are welcome!)
Aug. 10: CatVideoFest 2017
Aug. 17: Game Night
Aug. 24: Clue
Aug. 31: Ghostbusters (1984)

Councilmember Hucker’s Remarks on the FY19 Budget Agreement

The new operating and capital budgets that the Council signed off on this week have some major wins for District 5 and the rest of the county:

  • While holding the line on taxes and starting to reduce our borrowing, we’re fully funding the school board’s operating budget request.
  • We’re adding $237 million for additions and renovations at 10 schools in District 5, including $123 million for Northwood High.
  • We’re maintaining staffing at Hillandale Fire Station 24 and the Burtonsville station.
  • We’re adding a detective to the vice unit to combat human trafficking.
  • We’re devoting more resources — $27 million — to curb gang violence, with stronger efforts from the courts, police and community intervention programs.
  • We’ve slotted $5.7 million for a long-overdue overhaul of Hillandale Local Park.
  • At the Forest Glen Metro station, we’ve allotted $15 million for a second entrance and pedestrian tunnel under Georgia Avenue.
  • There’s money for new Bus Rapid Transit projects on U.S. 29 and New Hampshire Avenue.
  • And we’re moving ahead with studies for a new student loan finance program, which can make Montgomery County a national leader in helping borrowers refinance their crushing debt loads.

My thanks to my Council colleagues and our staff for their hard work in hammering out a budget that both meets our county’s needs and is fiscally responsible.

See my remarks here:

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.