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TAKOMA PARK — With a new County administration taking office Dec. 1, residents had the opportunity to relay their concerns to County Executive-elect Marc Elrich during a listening session, Saturday, at Takoma Park Middle School.
“It’s been, for me, a real-good learning session,” Elrich, 69, said after the nearly two-hour event. “There are overarching issues … but there are also area-specific questions and it’s just fascinating.”
Elrich, who previously served on the Takoma Park City Council from 1987 to his election to the County Council in 2006, responded in a simple Q&A format to a variety of topics, including the upcoming rollout of 5G wireless cell towers, immigrant legal services, police accountability and pedestrian safety.
“In the elections, there were moderated questions and pretty focused on every narrow range of topics, and now I’m hearing from people on issues that concerns them, and every session is different,” Elrich added.
While inclement weather preempted the first scheduled session in Cabin John on Nov. 15, Elrich held listening sessions in Germantown on Nov. 17, Silver Spring on Nov. 27, and Olney on Nov. 29.
The session started off with a resident asking about the Dickerson Generating Station, a coal power plant, and the Montgomery County Resource Facility in Martinsburg, an incinerator that converts waste into energy.
In addition to phasing out the incinerator and pursuing a “more aggressive” recycling program and food waste conversion, Elrich said he would like to see the coal power plant in Dickerson adhere to Obama-era EPA emission guidelines and an eventual shutdown.
An activist with Takoma Park mobilization asked what the County could do to help with immigrant legal services.
Elrich explained that the County will continue to fund legal nonprofits, adding that, “If we give money to a nonprofit that provides legal services, then those records aren’t accessible by the [federal] government.”
With County development being a major issue during both the primary and general elections, Elrich reiterated his commitment to ensuring that all future development projects consider their impact on schools and transportation, saying he wants to see “actual standards that are realistic.”
Once in office, Elrich said that he plans to pursue reversible lanes on Interstate 270 as well as bus rapid transit on the Corridor Cities Transitway and Route 29.
“We’ve got to be more responsible about tying growth and the infrastructure,” he added.
With respect to Gov. Larry Hogan’s proposal to widen Interstate 270, Elrich said he would oppose the plan – be “loud but polite.”
Responding to a question on enhanced protection for domestic violence victims, Elrich said he would like to see trackers for domestic violence perpetrators, and improved and automatic alert systems for victims, adding, “If I can watch an Uber vehicle move towards me, I should be able to do something similar [about restraining order violations].”
With a target to reach zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2035, Elrich explained that the County could implement electric buses, electrify government-owned vehicles, encourage electric-car ownership and incentivize solar roofs, summarizing that “we need to require more than we require.”
Elrich, who said he drives an electric car and has made environmental improvements to his home, added that neighbors adopting a certain environmental practice would encourage others to do the same.
Having gained a reputation as a housing and renters’ rights advocate on both the County Council and Takoma Park City Council, Elrich said that the Montgomery County Department of Housing and Community Affairs failed to prioritize the inspection of large apartment complexes and buildings, adding that the agency’s director, Clarence Snuggs, would be replaced.
Elrich also promised a resident that one of his priorities would be to get a permanent director for the Montgomery County Public Libraries. Anita Vassallo currently serves as the acting director, after being named in 2017.
The next listening session was held at Poolesville High School on Tuesday, Dec. 11 from 7 to 8:30 p.m.