Vote for the Environment

Vote for the Environment

The Montgomery County Council declared a Climate Emergency in December…

… but in May declined to budget a modest $70,000 toward meeting our climate commitment. That won't do. Climate change is a global challenge, and we need to get serious locally, fast. Please vote for the environment when you vote in this month's primary.

In December, the Council committed to "transform the climate by reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2027 and reaching 100% elimination by 2035." It's an ambitious goal – and could generate very significant economic benefit – but we need to get moving. The nonfunded $70,000 would have paid for a Director of Climate Emergency Mobilization as a first step toward establishment of a Climate Emergency Office and steps beyond.

The Council's December resolution was prompted by local activism, by the Montgomery County chapter of The Climate Mobilization (MOCOTCM). (I'm grateful for MOCOTCM's endorsement of my campaign for Montgomery County Council, at large, recognizing my pro-environment positions and accomplishments as a Takoma Park Councilmember.)

Local advocacy matters, especially with the EPA in Scott Pruitt's thieving hands and Governor Hogan running state government. As my friend and neighbor Betsy Taylor, chair of 350 Action, puts it, "Montgomery County has a rich history of environmental activism, from those protecting our farmland and tree canopy to others promoting clean energy. Citizen engagement on these issues has been and always will be essential."

It's citizen engagement that protected the Ten Mile Creek watershed and won Montgomery County's lawncare pesticide ban and polystyrene food serviceware ban, and that will lead to our closing the Dickerson incinerator and the County's coal-fired generating station.

Which candidates do you trust to accelerate pro-environment policy-making and County investment? To enact clean-energy and zero-waste policies that respond to the climate emergency and live up to our commitment?

Burning trash is dirty. Adoption of zero-waste policies is a necessary step toward closing the Dickerson incinerator, which send 200,000 tons of ash to landfill each year. We need to reduce waste via food recovery, high recycling rates, and elimination of single-use plastic food-service materials among other steps. No need for delay: organizations such as the Food Council have been pushing forward education and action campaigns. Locally, Takoma Park pioneered curbside food-waste collection for composting. We should move quickly to a county-scale program with phase-in of a requirement that all food serviceware disposables be compostable.

Energy conservation and 100% clean energy are parts of the equation: solar and wind power, net-zero building standards and energy-efficiency retrofitting, a move to electric vehicles, and transit expansion. Smart roadways will add capacity to our existing road network and will speed trips and reduce emissions.

And let’s reintroduce pension-fund divestment from fossil fuels and work with state legislators to pass new renewable energy portfolio standards.

You can count on me to respond. I'll link you to my environment position and close by quoting climate champion Mike Tidwell: "Seth understands environmental challenges, and he knows how to make local government work. This is why I’m backing Seth for Montgomery County Council at large." Will you join Mike in supporting me?

Please vote for the environment in this month's primary.

Follow-up: Youth Homelessness in Montgomery County

Follow-up: Youth Homelessness in Montgomery County

Good news: The County Council included $246,500 funding for a drop-in center for youth experiencing homelessness in the County’s FY19 budget.

At the May 9 event, Youth Homelessness in Montgomery County: Challenges and Solutions
Community advocacy made a difference, including at the May 9 program on Youth Homelessness in Montgomery County. Messages to the Council made a difference, including via the letter-writing campaign we set up. And this work certainly helped broaden awareness.

The youth who spoke out at the May 9 program were amazing. We have posted a small set of photos from the event and LocalDVM posted an event video.

Thanks also to the other program participants including Councilmember George Leventhal, who turned community advocacy into a specific funding proposal.

The Department of Health and Human Services will be responsible for next steps, for opening the center and designing its programming. We hope and expect that HHS will take its lead from affected community members.

There is work to be done beyond creating an initial drop-in center. Montgomery County has addressed veteran homelessness and is very near reaching the goal of ending chronic homelessness. The County’s Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness envisions comprehensively tackling youth homelessness next.

The County will need active public and expert involvement. Let me know if you’d like me to keep you apprised of opportunities to help.

Mental health matters. How can county government help?

Mental health matters. How can county government help?

Mental-health issues impose a huge burden on Montgomery County families and individuals. Maybe you or someone you know has experienced their effects.

Here’s a telling statistic: one in five students suffers from a mental health disorder, according to Christina Conolly, Montgomery County Public Schools’ director of psychological services. Data show nearly 7 percent of children ages 3 to 17 had ADHD, 3.5 percent had behavioral or conduct problems, 3 percent had anxiety, and 2.1 percent had depression. Mental health “affects everything you do, in terms of how you’re learning, how you’re sleeping, how you’re eating,” Conolly said, speaking at a February program.

A chart from a 2015 report on Behavioral Health in Montgomery County provides numbers for the larger County population:


As a candidate for Montgomery County Council, at large, I am committed to addressing County mental and behavioral health needs. I’ve posted a position, drawing on conversations with affected families and community advocates…

Montgomery County has some very good services that work with persons in need of mental health assistance, and excellent partners such as NAMI Montgomery County, EveryMind, Cornerstone Montgomery, the Collaboration Council, and Adventist Healthcare. We have youth and non-English-language partners such as Identity, and programs extend into Montgomery County Public Schools. We have a 24 Hour Crisis Center with mobile crisis outreach response.

Yet there is unmet demand. We have insufficient psychiatric outpatient services and hospital beds for those with serious mental illness. This gap has overburdened our hospital emergency rooms and resulted in long ER waits for all county residents. Student mental and behavioral health are particular concerns, as is our reaction to individuals with mental health issues. The National Alliance on Mental Illness estimates that 70 percent of youth in the juvenile justice system have a mental health condition, and substance abuse and addictions are rampant.

We must work with state regulators and with County agencies and providers to redouble our commitment and expand the scope of County mental health services and partnerships. I will support programs to reduce criminalization, suicide, and homelessness and promote measures to enhance recovery for all individuals with mental illness and behavioral health needs.

I welcome your comments, stories, and suggestions. What has your personal / family experience been with mental and behavioral health issues and the support you’ve received? How can Montgomery County better support you and your family? If you have dealt with these issues, I admire your courage and would like to hear from you how we can improve life for residents confronting these challenges.

Earth Day + 1 – Local Action to Combat Climate Change

Earth Day + 1 – Local Action to Combat Climate Change

Earth Day 2018 was yesterday, April 22, but the fight against climate change can’t be a once-a-year thing.

Did you know that President Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970, the same year as the first Earth Day? Yet with Donald Trump and Scott Pruitt undoing environmental protections, we’re back in an era of dirty politics, literally.

Activism and state and local action are needed, now more than ever.

Task #1 is to defeat Governor Hogan in November. It’s outrageous, for instance, that Hogan last year rescinded Maryland’s “zero-waste” goal and mandatory-recycling targets. Until November, and after, Montgomery County can and should lead the way.

Last December, the County Council declared a Climate Emergency with a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2027 and 100% by 2035. That’s good! The Council is taking a next step, creating a new Climate Policy Director post. (As a Takoma Park Councilmember, I supported hiring an Environmental Sustainability Manager in 2014, and I know the impact that dedicated staff can have on environmental education, planning, and programming.) Zoning Text Amendment 18-01, introduced by Councilmember Tom Hucker, will allow solar generation of up to 2 megawatts of electricity at a site, enough for 200 typical residential homes, equal to removing 310 passenger cars from the road. Excellent… noting however a need for ZTA modifications to respond to Ag Reserve concerns.

The choices the next County Council makes will leave a profound mark on our environment. A number of points are especially critical:

  • We must move to 100% green energy — solar and also wind and geothermal — via net-zero commercial and residential building standards, retrofitting, and rapid transition to electric vehicles, with the charging facilities to support them.
  • Let’s stop burning our trash. Via waste reduction and waste recovery, we can shut down the Dickerson incinerator without simply sending our trash to landfill. The County should push for much-higher recycling participation and move toward broad organics (food-waste) composting and away from single-use plastics, and we should explore technologies for atmospheric-carbon drawdown.
  • Let’s preserve and restore our watersheds, expand our parks, plant trees, make wise transit and development decisions, and improve walkability and cycling infrastructure.

We know how to do these things. For instance, the City of Takoma Park has provided curbside food-waste collection to all single-family homes since 2014. Takoma Park bans disposable single-use plastic bags and has considered a requirement (like San Francisco’s) that food-service establishments use only compostable disposables and collect all disposables and food waste for composting.

Actually, the County has been taking sensible environmental steps for a decade — I count a variety of January 2009 Montgomery County Climate Protection Plan recommendations that have been realized — but the challenge remains daunting. For each success like the creation of a Green Bank to finance energy efficiency projects, there are a dozen unrealized ideas on the table, and we have faced defeats such as a court ruling overturning the County’s Healthy Lawns Act, which banned nonessential pesticide use.

Today is Earth Day + 1. I’m dedicated to making every day Earth Day, via local action to combat climate change and protect the environment. Are you on board?

A message to Montgomery County pesticide ban supporters

A message to Montgomery County pesticide ban supporters

A letter to supporters of Montgomery County Bill 52-14, the Healthy Lawns Act banning cosmetic lawncare pesticide use, from Catherine Cummings and Julie Taddeo, co-founders of Safe Grow Montgomery (named for identification only) –

In October 2011, out of concern for our families’ health and for the environment, we raised the idea of a Takoma Park lawncare pesticide ban. Seth Grimes, a candidate for City Council, responded. Seth was elected and helped us turn our idea into city law. Then, when we joined with parents, activists, and environmentalists around Montgomery County, he answered our call a second time and helped pass the County’s ban.

Seth is running for Montgomery County Council, and he needs our help. He is the sort of responsive, experienced, progressive leader our County needs, now more than ever.

Three years ago, you contacted the council in support of our pesticide bill. Will you step forward again and join us in supporting Seth’s campaign?

Learn more about Seth’s record at sethgrimes.org – his work with Shepherd’s Table and in county social services, to pass a living wage bill, in defense of immigrant rights. One of his signature issues is early childhood education. Seth gets Montgomery County’s needs. Please join us in supporting Seth Grimes for County Council.

(Seth is running for one of four at-large council seats; you may vote for four at-large candidates total.)

Please reply to this message if you’d like campaign updates or to help. And your campaign contribution will help Seth compete: sethgrimes.org/donate.It’s a big county. Your support will help us elect a visionary environmental leader to the Montgomery County Council.

Thank you so much!

Julie Taddeo and Catherine Cummings

P.S. Seth is proud to have won environmentalist endorsements from Mike Tidwell (Chesapeake Climate Action Network), Brenda Platt (Institute for Local Self Reliance), and Bob Bingaman (Sierra Club). (Affiliations are listed for identification only.)

Equity and Opportunity in Montgomery County

Equity and Opportunity in Montgomery County

Our society is unequal, but of perhaps greater concern, it is inequitable. Synonyms for inequitable: biased, unfair, unbalanced, discriminatory. We need to redress past inequity. We need to ensure opportunity for all.

We must concern ourselves with discrimination, whether intended or not, associated with gender, race and ethnicity, geography, economic resources. “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” said Martin Luther King, Jr., injustice to any person and not just in any place.

Let’s think in terms of redress, having two senses: correction (of the underlying inequity) and compensation, noting that in many cases, those who are advantaged in an inequitable situation and wield power in that situation are not those who created the situation. We’re nonetheless duty-bound to address it.

  • Let’s ensure educational programming and spending that will close the achievement gap and, even better, prevent it from opening via universal pre-K and early learning opportunities.
  • Let’s address criminal-justice issues that have led to mass incarceration of African American and other minority youth and adults – end the school-to-prison pipeline – apply principles of restorative justice – boost reintegration into society.
  • Let’s recognize the role African Americans and other minorities have played in building our county and historic discrimination against women and LGBTQ neighbors: We aim for inclusion and balance and equitable civic and political representation.
  • Let’s help all county residents thrive, including seniors via aging-in-community initiatives and immigrants via English-language instruction and cultural sensitivity.
  • Every resident deserves safe and affordable housing in an attractive neighborhood, strong schools, convenient transportation, and fair wages and the opportunity to start a business.

I applaud Montgomery County Public Schools’ Equity Initiatives Unit, aiming for awareness, knowledge, and understanding of one’s own and students’ and staff’s racial and cultural identity. Let’s extend this framework to gender and sexuality and let’s apply it broadly to county government.

The bottom line: Equity should be a primary consideration in Montgomery County revenue, spending, and programing decisions, and in county government operations. I will work to make that happen.


A recently published Urban Institute report, “Racial Inequities in Montgomery County: 2011–15,” describes “a challenge in overcoming the racial and ethnic inequities that are highlighted in the divide between Council District 1, home to Bethesda and Chevy Chase, and District 5, where Silver Spring and Takoma Park are located.”

The report is worth a look. “This brief measures inequities in education, income, employment, and homeownership by race and ethnicity in Montgomery County and its council districts and provides a profile on what racial equity would look like in the county. Quantifying this information will help county agencies, policymakers, and advocates recognize the community’s needs and to build new solutions and create a more equitable county.”

Income disparities by race across Montgomery County

Please visit sethgrimes.org/issues for the statement in the first part of this article and other takes on Montgomery County concerns.

“Seth has the skills, knowledge, contacts, and vision we need in county leaders”

“Seth has the skills, knowledge, contacts, and vision we need in county leaders”

I’m gratified to have the support of Takoma Park community leaders Diana and Howard Kohn.

“Dozens of candidates are running for office in 2018. Seth Grimes – a former Takoma Park councilmember, an environmental champion, and an accomplished community advocate – rises to the top in the race for Montgomery County Council, at large.”

The Kohns’ full letter…

An additional Potomac River bridge is a lousy transportation option

An additional Potomac River bridge is a lousy transportation option

Of 10 regional transportation-improvement options designated last summer by the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board for further study, the clear worst is an additional Potomac River bridge + Montgomery County highway corridor. Add that such a project would be hugely expensive and environmentally destructive, cutting a swath across Montgomery County’s Agricultural Reserve.

The image here is from the Long-Range Plan Task Force: Draft Analysis Results, available at https://t.co/Fs9qBlhIAD.

I’m glad Montgomery County (http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/COUNCIL/Resources/Files/res/2017/20170718_18-870.pdf) and the City of Takoma Park both voted to oppose consideration of this option, and thanks to the Montgomery Countryside Alliance and the Coalition for Smarter Growth for their advocacy.

The Minimum Wage Should be Set Locally. One Chart Shows Why.

The Minimum Wage Should be Set Locally. One Chart Shows Why.

“I helped enact a minimum wage increase as a legislator in Annapolis,” writes Delegate Bill Frick. “Minimum wage policy, however, is more effective as a state policy than as a local one.”

Thus we infer that Mr. Frick opposes Montgomery County legislation that would phase in a $15 county minimum wage. Bill 28-17 is due for County Council vote this Tuesday, November 7, and I hope it is enacted.

Mr. Frick’s argument is a misdirection. “More effective” isn’t a consideration because a 2016 state Fight for Fifteen bill, HB 1372, failed to even make it out of committee, and I know of no plans for reintroduction in the next year’s election year legislative session. So Maryland’s minimum will ascend no higher than the $10.10 level Mr. Frick supported in 2014. And “more effective” will remain an abstraction, like saying that a six-legged horse could run faster than one that actually exists.

Why won’t the Maryland General Assembly raise the state minimum? I’d surmise because much of the state has a far lower cost of living than Montgomery County’s.

Let’s look at the data, in particular a measure called the Self-Sufficiency Standard, “how much income families of various sizes and compositions need to make ends meet at a minimally adequate level without public or private assistance.”

The 2016 self-sufficiency wage in Montgomery County, for a household of one adult, one preschooler, and one school-age child is $40.99. “A parent with two young children would still need to work over 155 hours per week in Montgomery County to make ends meet with a minimum wage job.” To support just herself, a single adult living in Montgomery County would need to work 63 hours per week at $11.50/hour, or 48+ hours at $15/hour.

Yet the self-sufficiency standard varies widely across Maryland. The chart below shows why legislators outside high-cost counties including Montgomery might see a higher minimum as less of a priority than we in Montgomery do:

Montgomery County especially needs a higher minimum, but statewide action has failed. So Mr. Frick would let a specious search for “more effective” policy hold us back from needed local action.

There are many precedents for local action in the face of state obstructionism. Here are three:

  • The Charlotte, North Carolina non-discrimination ordinance that was nullified by the infamous North Carolina “bathroom bill.”
  • Montgomery County policies that mandate police non-cooperation with federal immigration authorities, proudly in place despite the General Assembly’s failure to enact a Maryland Law Enforcement and Governmental Trust Act.
  • Montgomery County’s Healthy Lawns Act restricting cosmetic lawncare pesticide use, enacted in the face of inadequate federal and state protections. (The county is preparing to appeal an adverse July court ruling that overturned the law based not on substance, but rather on supposed state preemption.)

A progressive stance says, if you can’t make progress at a state level, then enact locally, where you can pass a bill, as in these example. And don’t let a specious search for “more effective” policy hold you back from doing what’s right.

Mike Tidwell: Will you join me on Sunday?

Mike Tidwell: Will you join me on Sunday?

A letter from environmental activist Mike Tidwell:

My friend and former city council rep Seth Grimes launches his Montgomery County Council campaign this weekend at a Takoma Park event. I’ll be with him. Will you join us?

Seth drafted Takoma Park’s polystyrene food serviceware ban and wrote a bill expanding recycling. Seth worked with activists to ban cosmetic lawncare pesticide use and helped pass a countywide ban. He promoted curbside food-waste pickup for composting and advanced the city’s environmental sustainability agenda. He has backed fossil-fuels divestment and acted to protect the county’s watershed and the urban forest.

Seth understands environmental challenges, and he knows how to make local government work.

This is why I’m backing Seth for Montgomery County Council at large and speaking at his October 22 launch event, 2 pm in Takoma Park. RSVP at http://bit.ly/SG22Oct to join us.

If you can’t make it then, you have another opportunity on Sunday October 29: Seth’s Campaign Launch II in Bethesda at 2 pm. RSVP at http://bit.ly/SG29Oct.

Both events are free, but donations of $10-$150 are welcome. Seth has opted in to Montgomery County public finance and is not accepting developer or PAC money. Visit http://SethGrimes.org to learn more and donate.

The time to get behind strong, progressive candidates like Seth is now.