Pedestrian safety, drunken driving and reduced speed limits dominated District 19’s community meeting Thursday night at the Aspen Hill Library.
“This is basically it, Aspen Hill and Glenmont,” Del. Vaughn Stewart (D) said when describing where many of the state’s pedestrian accidents occur.
Stewart said he hoped to get fines increased for drivers who do not yield to pedestrians, from the current $80 to $150.
But many of the 100 people attending the meeting were not satisfied, believing the $70 increase would not be enough to curb the problem.
One person suggested that a driver’s license should be suspended forever, while another person thought that a reduction in the speed limit to as low as 15 miles per hour would be helpful. Still another person requested more drunk-driving checkpoints.
During a question-and-answer period, Eileen Smith asked that the government distribute a simple reflective sash free of charge that pedestrians could wear. Drivers would better be able to spot pedestrians wearing reflective sashes, and the cost would not be that high, Smith said.
“There are just too many people being struck,” she said.
Also addressed during the 90-minute meeting were transgender rights and the need for additional school construction and pre-kindergarten classes.
Two women pointed out how difficult it was for transgender people to change their name or cope in prison.
As for increased funding for educational purposes, Del. Bonnie Cullison (D) explained that there is a strong consensus in Annapolis for school-building improvements and new construction.
However, she said, “The issue is funding.”
Cullison said she hoped that at least minor improvements could be achieved this year, including salary increases for teachers and more children attending prekindergarten classes.
During the meeting, District 19’s four legislators explained what committee they were assigned to and what their priorities were for the current session.
As a member of the House and Government Operations Committee, Cullison pointed out that she would be involved in prescription-drug costs and health care issues.
As a member of the Finance Committee, Sen. Ben Kramer (D) said he hoped to raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour, work on business and banking regulations, and other “hot topics” that Maryland needs to deal with due to “paralysis on the national level.”
Kramer, who previously served as one of the District’s delegates, said he wanted to enact a vote-by-mail program, which he called “a proven success” in other localities.
Del. Charlotte Crutchfield, a lawyer who sits on the Judiciary Committee, said she intends to focus her efforts on bail reform, juvenile justice and women’s rights in the prison system.
Stewart was appointed to the Environment and Transportation Committee and said he expects to work toward increasing the state’s use of renewable energy.
On the transportation side, he said he intends to focus on pedestrian and driver safety through education and road and signage improvements.
His comments against the state’s proposal to widen Route I-495 were met with much applause. Stewart said he would work to mandate that all road projects must first have storm water, greenhouse effect and other environmental studies conducted.
The community meeting was part of the Aspen Hill Public Affairs Forum, which started in 1984.
The Friends of Aspen Hill Library, Aspen Hill Civic Association, the Aspen Hill Advisory Committee, the Glenmont Exchange and the Strathmore-Bel Pre Civic Association sponsored the Jan. 3 meeting.