GAITHERSBURG—The Mid-County Citizens Advisory Board, or MCCAB, has begun drafting a letter to send the Montgomery County Council concerning the proposed budget for 2020.
Before the county council finalizes discussion on the budget for the coming year, MCCAB will send a letter highlighting which programs and departments within the county they feel need more support.
“I feel like the letter we write is to say, these are the things that are important to us and these are the things we want to see funded,” said Michael Gelman, who serves as the chair of the Quality of Life subcommittee of MCCAB.
The MCCAB is meant to serve as a bridge to 220,000 county residents and businesses that call mid county home. The mid-county area is about 99 square miles and stretches from just below Wheaton to above the Rachel Carson Conservation Park.
On April 4, the MCCAB subcommittee on Quality of Life discussed three major points they hope to capture in their letter; economic development, affordable housing, pedestrian and traffic safety.
The first issue the subcommittee focused on was bringing economic development to the mid-county. The group thought that prioritizing funding from the proposed 2020 budget towards a food incubator program located at the Glenmont Shopping Center would be beneficial for the area.
Food incubator programs give entrepreneurs education on running a business or restaurant. The programs are often free or offered at a low cost and can help to jumpstart a number of businesses all at once. Incubators can also provide shared workspace, business consultants and even personnel. When they are funded by the government, they are often tools for job creation or economic diversification. A food incubator program strategically placed in an area like Glenmont could bring new business and restaurants that would be beneficial to much of the mid-county.
The subcommittee discussed other locations where the county could place an incubator program and the consensus was simple to push for a placement outside of the down county.
“If it comes down to an option between Wheaton and Glenmont for the food incubator program at least it’s not Bethesda,” said Gelman.
The subcommittee agreed to focus more funding in economic development programs outside of areas that are already well developed like Silver Spring and Rockville.
“I think that there are great opportunities in other areas, suburban areas of the county, and the thing is it’s not being implemented in this county at all in my opinion,” said Louis Mozzano, who serves as the chair of the MCCAB.
Mozzano explained that historically development has been centered around the beltway, which has left other areas without the same levels of economic growth.
“Even mid county residents can’t support the businesses already in this area,” Regional Director of the Mid-County Services Center Louisa Montero-Diaz said. “There aren’t enough services, so people end up going to places like Bethesda.”
An influx of funding and a variety of businesses might keep residents from having to travel to other areas of the county. A focused approach could encourage more growth in the mid county.
“The Glenmont area is clearly in more dire straits,” said Pete Wilson who is a member of MCCAB. “It could take precedence over Wheaton because it has the library and other services and Glenmont has nothing,”
The subcommittee also agreed upon urging the council to fund existing programs that have proven to work as opposed to creating a slate of new programs or initiatives.
The third and final topic the group intends to highlight in their letter is pedestrian and traffic safety.
“After all their talk of Vision Zero, they’re cutting three programs related to pedestrian safety,” said Wilson. “And there was no mention of pedestrian safety in the 2020 budget.”
Vision Zero is a program designed to eliminate preventable traffic deaths by changing road designs to make pedestrians more visible or even lowering the speed limit.
“Reading and going through this budget it seems like pedestrian safety is not a priority,” said Mozzano.
Mozzano explained that the members of MCCAB generally feel heard by county officials. They do not feel as though their recommendations are falling on deaf ears. When officials are invited to attend MCCAB meetings officials often accept and eagerly attend, Mozzano said.
“We are fortunate enough to have great diversity on our board and we have the ear of the county,” Mozzano said.
In the coming meeting the letter will receive input from the whole MCCAB. Then it will be voted on and eventually approved by the full organization before it is sent to the County Council. Public hearings on the budget will be held in early April and the County Council will take final action on the proposed budget before June 1.