Tag: Montgomery County

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.

dog parkdog park

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.

Great Week for East County

Great Week for East County

East County is on the rise!

Last week, the County Council unanimously supported my amendment to restore funding for the Maydale Nature Center, we passed $7.5 million to revitalize Hillandale Park, and we broke ground on the new Washington Adventist Hospital in White Oak.

Hillandale Park
Hillandale residents will be able to enjoy long-overdue renovations to Hillandale Park, which includes, a new entrance and sidewalk, hard surface internal trail loop with exercise equipment and heart-smart trail markers, restrooms, full size soccer field with irrigation and fencing, themed multi-age playground with public art, Snake Path and Dinosaur Egg Nest, two picnic shelters, two tennis courts with lighting, two basketball courts with lighting, stormwater management facilities, and landscaping.

Maydale Nature Center
It’s no secret that there has been a lack of investment in East County. I will continue prioritizing much-needed projects like the revitalization of the Maydale Nature Center. We’re very fortunate to live in such a beautiful region, and we need to expand opportunities to connect our youth to the wonders of our natural environment. Since many Montgomery County Public Schools cannot afford to send their students far across the County to attend outdoor education programs, many educators have expressed to me an interest in seeing new options, closer to them.

The idea to restore the nature center and improve outdoor education opportunities to the historically underserved children of East County received unanimous support. My amendment locks down $250,000 in funding and directs Montgomery Parks to transport and install a modular classroom, which will serve as a year-round Nature Center.  Maydale was a widely popular Parks resource that served thousands of students annually between 1994 and 2007, and I am glad to see that we are committing to its restoration and revitalization.

Washington Adventist Hospital
East County residents deserve access to quality healthcare. Through a partnership with the FDA, Washington Adventist Hospital is relocating from Takoma Park to White Oak, in a move that transforms White Oak into a hub for biomedical research. In fact, it’s estimated that the regional impact of post-construction spending of $214.8 million will support 1,901 jobs and generate an economic boost of $307.9 million. As part of the White Oak Gateway Master Plan, the modernized healthcare facility will bring critical investments into the County, and contribute to a vibrant and diverse local economy.

Last week’s victories for East County are just the beginning. If you have any questions or concerns about the upcoming improvements to the Washington Adventist Hospital, the Maydale Nature Center or Hillandale Park, please feel free to reach out to Councilmember.hucker@montgomerycountymd.gov or call (240) 777-7960.

County Delegation Supports Student Loan Refinancing

County Delegation Supports Student Loan Refinancing

Many of us know how hard it can be to keep up with student loans. With national student loan debt soaring over one trillion dollars, this issue has become a crisis for those wishing to purchase a home or start a family. Student loan refinancing is a critically important public policy challenge, and we now have the chance to implement a program that could allow teachers, nurses, attorneys and others to save thousands of dollars each year.

Many of our local business leaders, including Julie Verratti – Co-Founder and Co-Owner of Denizens Brewing Company in Silver Spring – have  a unique experience with student loan debt. According to Julie,  having the ability to refinance loans at lower rates may have helped free up  more cash to start her business. We need to make it easier for our young entrepreneurs to thrive.

Last week, the Montgomery County Delegation in Annapolis unanimously supported the creation of a Montgomery County Student Loan Refinancing Authority (bill MC 27-16). Enacting this legislation would mean that Montgomery County could provide student loan refinancing for residents that would substantially reduce the financial burden on our young people and working-families, free up funds that will be reinvested in our economy, and improve our county’s regional competitiveness to attract new talent (following the example of Las Vegas business loans by Credit Professor and similar organisations). We all want to lessen the economic burden on our neighbors and provide incentives for young workers to live in Montgomery County, as well as encourage businesses to start and grow here.

The House version of the bill (HB1079) will have a public Ways & Means Committee hearing on March 7th at 1:00 p.m. Please contact your local officials and ask them to support HB1079!

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.

CMs Todd & Hucker Meet on 16th Street Traffic Circle

Hucker and Todd 16th Street Traffic CircleToday, Montgomery County Councilmember Hucker and DC Ward 4 Councilmember Brandon Todd met in Silver Spring to coordinate efforts around the 16th Street Traffic Circle. The Traffic Circle has been the site of routine traffic and safety incidents for several years. Both representatives are in the first years of their respective terms, and they are looking at this problem with fresh perspectives, and a commitment to bring their respective jurisdictions together to make progress.

Earlier in the month Councilmember Todd’s office organized a site visit of the area with DC Department of Transportation, DC Department of General Services, and the Mayor’s Office. Councilmember Hucker’s office is also working to schedule a similar site visit with officials from Montgomery County Department of Transportation, and the Maryland State Highway Administration.

Both Councilmembers agreed to facilitate coordinating meetings with their offices as well as stakeholders from DC, Montgomery County, and the State of Maryland to discuss both immediate and long-term actions to improve pedestrian and vehicular safety at the 16th Street Traffic Circle.

If you have any questions, comments or feedback about this please contact our office at councilmember.hucker@montgomerycountymd.gov.

 

Big Victory on Early Voting

Big Victory on Early Voting

We did it. The State Board of Elections approved Montgomery County’s revised early voting plan. The new plan reversed the earlier decision by the GOP majority to eliminate early voting locations in some of our most diverse and vibrant communities and guarantees that all of our residents will have an opportunity to freely exercise their right to vote. Will you please chip in today so I can continue the fight to preserve voting rights for all Montgomery County residents?

I’m proud of everyone in Maryland who joined me and leapt into action to fight the misguided decision to eliminate early voting in East County and Bethesda, potentially disenfranchising thousands of voters. You were not silent when Republicans threatened to make it harder than ever to vote. You wrote letters, you signed petitions, you made phone calls, you attended rallies and you spoke to your neighbors and friends about why this issue is so important to our democracy.

This is your victory.

But I am not satisfied with this win. In Maryland and in Montgomery County, we should be clearing the way for more people to vote, not putting up more roadblocks. That’s why I was an original cosponsor of the early voting legislation in Annapolis, advocated for expanding early voting on Sundays and voted for legislation adding same-day voter registration. And that’s why I’m pushing for state legislation to allow automatic voter registration.

And I will keep fighting to make voting easier. With a population greater than six states and the District of Columbia, I firmly believe that having only nine early voting centers is insufficient and does not serve the voters of our County well. As soon as the General Assembly session begins in January, I will be pushing to increase the number of early voting locations.  Early voting reduces lines and gives more citizens a chance to be heard — especially those with work or family obligations that make it difficult to get to the polls on Election Day. And many of our communities – including Takoma Park – deserve their own early voting location.

We share the same values when it comes to voting: As an American your voice counts. And no matter what you look like, how much money you have or where you come from you have the right to vote. I will never stop fighting to put these values into action.

This was a big win in the effort to make voting easier for all citizens. Please pitch in today so we can continue this fight.

Thanks,

Tom

Early Voting & Student Debt: Bethesda Magazine Coverage

Early Voting & Student Debt: Bethesda Magazine Coverage

Proposed State Laws for Montgomery County Focus on Changes in Alcohol, Election Regulations

One bill would enable the county to set up a student loan authority to help local students finance college educations

By Andrew Metcalf of Bethesda Magazine

Excerpt:

The Maryland General Assembly will return to work in January and Montgomery County’s state representatives are preparing a number of bills pertaining to local issues to introduce in the 2016 session.

2015-11-18 local bills

Among the proposals is the bill already generating a significant amount of controversy—Del. Bill Frick (D-Dist. 16) and five other representatives are sponsoring legislation to enable private distributors to sell alcohol in the county and compete directly with the county’s Department of Liquor Control (DLC).

A number of other bills have been posted on the county delegation’s website for consideration this year. The public will have an opportunity to comment on all the bills at a 7 p.m. Nov. 30 public hearing at the County Council office building in Rockville.

Here is some of the legislation proposed by the county’s delegation this year:

To increase the number of early voting centers – MC 14-16

This bill would increase the number of early voting centers from eight to 10 in the county. The legislation follows controversy surrounding early voting centers after the Board of Elections voted to relocate centers in Burtonsville and Chevy Chase. The Republican majority board later reinstated the voting centers after Democrats vehemently protested the change. However, after the controversy was settled, County Executive Ike Leggett said in a letter he would support state legislation that would add an early voting site in Potomac.

To enable the county to set up a student loan refinancing authority – MC 27-16

More than a dozen county representatives signed on to support this bill, which would enable the county to set up a student loan refinancing authority. The authority could help local students finance the cost of higher education through loans it would offer, according to the bill. Because this is “enabling legislation,” the bill would not automatically set up the authority upon passage; county officials would have to establish the authority and appoint a five-member board to run it. If established, the authority could then raise funds by issuing bonds in order to provide college loans to students.

Hucker Urges School System Against Buying Artificial Turf Fields

Hucker Urges School System Against Buying Artificial Turf Fields Until Other Maintenance Needs Are Met

County Council member testified before Board of Education in opposition to $11 million artificial turf field plan

By Aaron Kraut of Bethesda Magazine

The county school system’s proposal to outfit all high schools with artificial turf playing fields ran into some early opposition this week from County Council member Tom Hucker.

Hucker, who represents Silver Spring, testified at a Board of Education (BOE) public hearing Monday on the recommended six-year capital budgetreleased late last month by Interim Superintendent Larry Bowers.

After testifying in support of the addition projects Bowers proposed for elementary schools in Silver Spring, Hucker spoke out against the interim superintendent’s proposal to include $11 million in the $1.72 billion budget to begin installing the artificial turf fields at the 19 county high schools without one. Six high schools already have artificial turf fields.

Hucker told BOE members that money shouldn’t be spent on artificial turf fields until Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) addresses a backlog of heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) upgrades to Goodman brand heating at schools around the county.

“As long as we face huge needs on maintenance, to me we shouldn’t be spending millions on unnecessary luxuries like artificial turf fields until we have a safe classroom and adequate heating and air conditioning for each of our school children,” Hucker said. “We should commit ourselves together not to spend any dollars on luxuries like artificial turf until that day.”

Panorama of the artificial turf field at Walter Johnson High School, via Flickr user WJ Soccer

Hucker and the other eight council members will have final say on the school system’s capital budget when they take up the county’s entire six-year capital budget next spring.

Bowers recommended the $11 million over the next six years to complement any private fundraising from school booster clubs or other organizations that would be put toward paying for artificial turf fields.

The Thomas S. Wootton High School athletics booster club, MCPS and Bethesda Soccer youth soccer league combined to pay for a $1.2 million artificial turf field that now serves as the Rockville school’s main field.

Bowers said constant use of existing grass fields, by school teams and by outside community groups, was contributing to unsafe playing conditions.

“MCPS school fields are constantly used by schools and the community and the artificial turf will provide safe playing conditions for all participants in sporting activities,” Bowers said.

He recommended budgeting $2.5 million toward the program in fiscal year 2017.

His recommendation didn’t detail what kind of artificial turf fields MCPS and partner groups will pursue. Concerns about the possibly carcinogenic chemicals in crumb rubber, which fill traditional turf fields, inspired the County Council to pass a resolution earlier this year pushing for turf fields filled with organic materials only.

In his recommended capital budget, Bowers proposed a substantial increase in funding to address a backlog of about $160 million worth of HVAC projects, according to recommended budget documents.

MCPS says the school system would require $28 million per year for the next 10 years to address the entire backlog of HVAC projects, meaning Bowers’ recommendation of $122 million over the entire six-year budget “only begins to address this problem,” according to Bowers’ budget proposal.

Park Wayne Apartment Fire in Silver Spring

Park Wayne Apartment Fire in Silver Spring

We’re still working with A Wider Circle to assist our Silver Spring neighbors displaced by the fire in the Park Wayne Apartment. They are accepting online donations here: https://awidercircle.networkforgood.com/…/7355-a-wider-circ…. Checks can be sent to A Wider Circle, 4808 Moorland Lane, Suite 802, Bethesda, MD 20814. Please write “Park Wayne apartments” in the memo. The point of contact is Erin Fiaschetti, erin@awidercircle.org; 301-608-3504.

“One family is in need of two twin beds and some chairs. Donations of food, water, or other large items can drop them off at A Wider Circle, 9159 Brookville Road, from 9am – 6 pm Monday -Saturday, and 12 to 6 pm on Sunday. Contact Anne Thompson annethompson@awidercircle.org; 301-608-3504.”