If elected to represent District 1 on the County Council, I will focus on an array of issues. The first three priorities listed below represent my primary campaign themes, but you can also learn about my commitments to all of the issues on my radar below as well:
Protecting Our Seniors’ Quality of Life
There are things we can — and must — do at the County level to improve the quality of life of our parents and grandparents.
Over 60% of the population in District 1 is part of the Baby Boomer Generation or older. Through thoughtful land use decisions, I will work to create a more inclusive environment for our aging residents by promoting exercise and recreation, more independence with aging in place, relief from excessive property taxes, promoting accessory in-law suites, encouraging participation in community activities, and creating opportunities for heightened social connections.
Read more about issues for today's aging members of the community at the National Council on Aging: https://www.ncoa.org/public-policy-action. Learn more about Age-Friendly Montgomery County by clicking here.
Attracting New Business to Montgomery County & Growing our Economy
We need to retain, not restrain business in the County.
Business is the foundation of the County’s tax base and every reasonable effort should be made to attract and accommodate new enterprise. We cannot afford to lose any more of our existing businesses and endure another tax increase, so we must take steps for business retention. I am a former owner of a small business that still exists today after building it from the ground up and selling it to a successor. When I became the Mayor of Kensington, I implemented this same vision and successfully lobbied our state government to alter existing liquor laws, which resulted in more Kensington restaurants. We must exercise regular communication between the Executive Branch, the County Council, Planning Department, WorkSource Montgomery, and the Economic Development Corporation and work as a team to avoid overlapping efforts and wasteful spending. There are 21 incorporated jurisdictions in Montgomery County, making municipalities key players in the County and they should not be treated as adversaries. The County should create more productive positions such as the Small Business Navigator that help, not hinder commerce. We must adopt a proactive, not reactive approach to the business community.
Decisions made in master plans and zoning affect our daily lives — traffic, transportation choices, schools, economic growth, environment, green space and housing. Balancing the way we grow so we may improve upon these problems is crucial for our future.
The people I talk to throughout our district tell me they’re frustrated, and issues like traffic, overburdened schools, and underwhelming economic growth are big parts of the reason why. We will only succeed in tackling these challenges if we commit to growing smarter. The current Council has proven unable to deliver the results that we deserve in our County. It’s time for a change. As a County Council Member, I will bring an understanding of zoning, an education in Urban Planning as well as years of experience in land use. I am the only candidate running who, as a Mayor, has chaperoned a master plan through the county and municipal processes. I will engage communities and listen to their concerns. I will seek to build better consensus with neighborhoods and builders to achieve the best public amenities and the right mix of development that will not overburden our schools or our roads. Traffic congestion affects us all causing a negative impact on our daily lives. The solutions must be incremental, such as free bus fare for students during peak hours, County bus service for independent school students, employers implementing Metro incentives, telecommuting, and flexible work schedules. Careful coordination with our municipalities, the Planning Board and the School Board are essential in protecting our quality of life in Montgomery County. A delicate balance must be struck between the building industry and the needs of each community in District 1; be it Bethesda, Beallsville, Chevy Chase, Dickerson, Garrett Park, Kensington, Poolesville or Potomac.
More Issues on Pete's Radar
One of the toughest challenges I endured during my youth and transition into adulthood was dealing with Dyslexia. I am grateful my parents made sure I had the resources to succeed while receiving a quality education. It is my hope all kids in the county have adequate resources for their own education in order to achieve their dreams.
In order for our children to succeed, we must invest in early childhood education to close the achievement gap. I support Universal-Pre K programs. Universal Pre-K provides children with opportunities that will enhance their educational progress and a quality education during critical developmental stages.
We need better access to programs for students with disabilities and will also advocate for increased mental health services to create an educational climate that prevents bullying and alleviates academic pressure on our youth. One way to help students with disabilities (and all students for that matter) is to focus on smaller class sizes for individualized instruction and special services with a continued focus on per pupil spending. Additionally, as immigration remains a driving force for county population growth, cultural competency initiatives become more necessary for educators to have knowledge of a student's culture.
Our schools are overcrowded and school construction funding for our county is scarce. Montgomery County has the largest school system in Maryland and MCPS usually foots 80% to 85% of the bill for the construction cost of each new and replacement school (school construction study may be found here). Moreover, District 1 is in dire need of adequate funding for operating expenses to hire additional teachers and increase classroom technology and supplies to keep pace with growth.
One new idea for creative funding and solutions is the new Local Area Transportation Improvement Program for traffic/transportation needs. Long story short, vehicle trips generated for a proposed master plan at “build out” are estimated and the cost of mitigation improvements are determined. The cost is divided by the trips to arrive at a per vehicle trip fee. A builder must pay the County the fee x (times) the number of trips for their development at the time of permits; or within a short period thereafter. In other words, the money is in the bank before the development is started and the County has the funds upfront to make the changes necessary and accommodate new traffic. At the moment, the new LATIP formula is being tested in White Oak only, but is very promising. I would like to replicate this formula to a per student fee (vs. vehicle) so the County has the funds ahead of the overcrowded schools. This is the resolution by the County Council.
Read on for Pete's new school ideas under Vacant Commercial/Office Space.
The McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area in Poolesville is one of our environmental treasures in northern District 1, which many residents visit annually to witness the stunning acres of sunflowers. Even though one-third of the county's Agricultural Reserve is in District 1, many residents south of Poolesvile don't have the same abundance of green spaces in their neighborhoods, so it is important to preserve the spaces that do exist. As Kensington Mayor, I ensured that our parks and green spaces were maintained so residents could fully enjoy them. I intend to use this same balanced environmental approach on the County Council. A balanced approach to our environment helps serve the best needs of our citizens. That is why, beyond our wildlife areas, we must strive to find innovative approaches to be environmentally friendly. These approaches include doing our part to reduce CO2 omissions, enhancing solar energy, applying climate resilience through green roofing, and strengthening county composting and recycling programs. My experience as an urban planner and Mayor has taught me many things, but most important is to think outside of the box. As your Councilman, I will use this approach to not only help you enjoy our parks, but also to make Montgomery County an environmental leader in our state and our nation.
Montgomery County Pride — Our LGBTQ Community
Celebrating diversity in our county is one of the things we do best. I am a member of the Visionary Board for Montgomery County's first LGBTQ center, which will provide resources for our LGBTQ residents to make them feel safe and secure while realizing what is possible to lead healthy and productive lives. My husband Duane and I have called this county our home for many years. We opened a business together. We've built a life together. And we intend to make sure that our county remains a place for other LGBTQ folks to have the same opportunities for generations to come.
Vacant Commercial/Office Space
Instead of sitting empty or being torn down, let’s convert these underutilized assets into much-needed schools for our students, technology hubs, restaurant parks and vertical farms. With new ideas, we can repurpose old commercial sites. During his Fellowship with the Urban Land Institute in 2017, Pete toured the site of a former office that was converted into a new school, saving $64M. It’s time to think outside the box, as the status quo is not working.
On any given day, there are almost 900 homeless people in Montgomery County. This is an appalling statistic and unacceptable in one of the wealthiest counties in the country. I’ll work with terrific local organizations like, Coalition for the Homeless, Housing Unlimited and EveryMind to get more resources into mental health and affordable housing to help end this widespread County issue.
Biker and Pedestrian Safety
Our county's culture is rapidly changing to accommodate alternative means of transportation and to make it safer for our neighbors to use them. With the dramatic changes resulting from Purple Line Development, we must fight to ensure that our cyclists and pedestrians receive the safety and convenience they deserve. Whether it's increasing bike rack availability and the number of traffic signals specifically designed for cyclists and pedestrians, tracking and utilizing data related to cyclist/pedestrian accidents, or selecting proper routes that ensure that they are both motor vehicle and cyclist/pedestrian friendly, I will fight to make it easier for you to get around your neighborhood. I have been a biker for 25 years. It's not only an alternative mode of transportation, but an excellent way to exercise while enjoying our environment. That's why bikeways were a high priority for me while working on Kensington's 2012 Sector Plan. The town had poor bike routes and little protection from auto drivers. As a result, Kensington now has dedicated lanes that improves the safety for our citizens' enjoyment. Additionally, while designing the county's first bio-retention parking lot, we incorporated bike lockers into the site plan to encourage Marc Train riders to bike to the station. We also erected new bikeway signage around town to lead riders to the Rock Creek system. Our county has worked hard to create a vision for the enjoyment and convenience of cycling and walking and I will see to it that our vision remains in place to better our health and the environment. I will build coalitions with local organizations to create the safest and easiest means possible for our growing population of cyclists and fellow pedestrians to travel throughout our district and support policies that do the same.
As a former five-term Mayor and Maryland’s Deputy Secretary of State, I understand that leadership often requires tough decisions. Because Montgomery County is in a financial crunch, I believe that now is not the time to be asking taxpayers to fund politicians’ political campaigns. That’s why I made the choice to fund my campaign the traditional way by working hard for the private contributions from people like you — residents, business owners, and members of the non-profit community.
As a fiscally responsible public servant, I believe in providing the best amenities and services to the people of Montgomery County. As a public servant with a track record of getting things done, I recognize these amenities are not free. Every dollar that goes to a political candidate is a dollar that’s not going to hiring more teachers, housing the homeless, or easing the tax burden on our seniors, families and small business.
The fact of the matter is that when the County Council initiated the new campaign public financing program they did not do so in a vacuum. They approved this $11,000,000 in new spending on politicians and their private campaigns after raising our property taxes by 8.7%. While in theory the concept is admirable, our essentials should come first — before local political campaigns. There are urgent matters that require more attention from the Council than campaign funding.
For example, with $11M we could:
- Employ over 100 new teachers, with benefits, for our children’s education.
- With over 800 homeless citizens in our county, over 550 can be housed, clothed, given medical attention and employment coaching for the millions spent on public campaign financing.
- Purchase 35 ambulances or hundreds of vital life-saving apparatus for our first responders in the county’s fire and police departments.
- Purchase additional snow equipment to make sure we don’t wait over a week for our streets to be plowed during a heavy storm.
- Ease the property tax burden on struggling homeowners — especially our seniors.
Air Traffic Pollution
Improving our transportation methods and expanding our transportation choices are part of Balancing Growth — one of my three top Priorities. And that includes air traffic issues. The new flight patterns of 2013 allow planes to fly too low above schools, businesses, and homes creating detrimental impacts. This air traffic has resulted in grave noise pollution to our environment.
From Tulip Hill, to Cabin John, to Potomac, new flight patterns and procedures stemming from Reagan National Airport are interfering with our students' education, disrupting our small business operations, and denying many neighbors the quiet enjoyment of their own homes. Not only is this unacceptable, this noise pollution can have serious legal ramifications. If elected, I will address this issue.
First, we must partner with local advocates, like members of the Montgomery County Quiet Skies Coalition (MCQSC), to form a united front on this issue. Second, my experience as a Mayor and Maryland’s Deputy Secretary of State will allow me to build further consensus among our government representatives at the county, state, and federal levels to fight for a fair solution to this dilemma. Finally, I am willing to pursue further actions as necessary beyond coalition building to preserve the rights of our citizens. Together, we can and will make a difference in creating friendlier skies.