Capital Spending FY23-FY28: My County Council CIP Testimony

Capital Spending FY23-FY28: My County Council CIP Testimony

I’ll share the testimony I presented to County Council’s February 9, 2022 public hearing on the county’s FY 23 Capital Budget and FY23-28 Capital Improvement Program (CIP)

Council President Albornoz and Council Members,

Recognizing that the six-year Capital Improvement Program (CIP) proposal covers a variety of worthy but competing spending priorities, I will focus my advocacy on bus rapid transit (BRT) and affordable housing. I support spending in both areas and regret only that the county executive has not proposed a greater amount for affordable housing.

Veirs Mill Road and MD355 are priority Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) corridors. Veirs Mill Road service will provide a much-needed higher-speed, roughly east-west transit option to a significant number of minority and low-income riders. It will connect housing and employment centers, reducing congestion and – particularly with bus system electrification – the environmental impact of getting around Montgomery County, as will the MD355 route. As a bus rider myself – but more important, as an environmental and equity advocate – I support full CIP funding of these BRT routes.

I will add two points: Current plans would have a significant segment of the MD355 service operate in mixed traffic, rather than in dedicated lanes, and there’s no guarantee that the Veirs Mill Road service will have dedicated bus lanes. We won’t have true bus rapid transit without dedicated bus lanes. Also, please keep Ride On fare-free through the entirety of the network, to better support riders who are struggling financially, grow ridership, speed trips, and boost operator safety by eliminating fare collection.

Affordable housing: $146.3 million sounds like a munificent sum. However that’s only $22 million each CIP year for affordable housing acquisition and preservation. That’s not a lot, given Montgomery County’s huge unmet demand for housing of all types, and especially for affordable housing.

Please see whether you can find additional funds for affordable housing, without taking funds from school, park, and other investments, and complement our affordable-housing support with zoning and land-use reforms that will encourage property-owner and developer creation of new housing without county capital investment. I urge you to bring Thrive 2050 to a vote and advance the zoning reforms that we all know are needed.

In conclusion, equity and environmental considerations call for robust funding of Montgomery County affordable housing and transit projects including particularly bus rapid transit.

Support for 2022 HB 59, Registration of Lobbyists

Support for 2022 HB 59, Registration of Lobbyists

Here is Maryland House of Delegates testimony I submitted this year, in support of legislation introduced by Delegate Al Carr (District 18) —

Chair Lierman and Land Use and Ethics Subcommittee Members,

I support HB0059, legislation requiring lobbying registration and establishing provisions for local governments.

This legislation addresses an actual issue and will boost transparency and accountability, key attributes of good government.

I served two terms as an elected member of the Takoma Park City Council. I can think of three instances when paid lobbyists interacted with me and with city officials in private or testified before the council as a whole, without public disclosure:

  • A container-company regional vice president, accompanied by a government-relations contractor, lobbied me and colleagues in opposition to a community-initiated city ban on polystyrene food serviceware.
  • A pesticide-industry association representative lobbied me and colleagues in opposition to city legislation, again initiated by community members, to ban lawncare pesticides.
  • Real-estate attorneys and a government-relations firm approached city officials and lobbied council members regarding a pending development proposal that faced community opposition.

These are simply examples. These lobbyist activities and others like them should have been formally registered and disclosed, but they weren’t as there was no municipal requirement.

HB0059 would create much needed lobbying provisions for Maryland local governments. Please give this legislation a favorable subcommittee report and vote to pass it out of committee.

Thank you for your consideration.

My pick for State’s Attorney, and why this local race matters

My pick for State’s Attorney, and why this local race matters

Perry Paylor is my pick for Montgomery County State’s Attorney in the 2022 Democratic primary. He is running to fight for a brighter and more equitable future for all County residents, and he is uniquely positioned among the candidates to make change reality. 

The State’s Attorney is Montgomery County’s lead prosecutor. This is an elected office whose policies have a major, underappreciated impact on public safety, justice, equity, and the well-being of county residents. Yet the office’s 70+ lawyers have been led in recent years by an old-school prosecutor, and it shows. Did you know, for instance, that —

As of May 2020, the county jail population was 54% Black, compared to 18% of our County’s population. Between 2011 and 2020, Youth of Color comprised 90% of our detained juvenile population and 100% of our juveniles charged as adults. And there are no People of Color supervising trial attorneys in Montgomery County or in the top ranks (with the exception of the Community Outreach Officer, who does not supervise attorneys).

Perry Paylor will bring the change we need.

Perry needs your support in the form of a campaign contribution. I’ve contributed. Will you? Any amount will help: $25, $50, $100, $250, or more. Visit to donate.

Why do I support Perry and why should you?

Perry Paylor has experience and credibility as a candidate. He is currently Deputy State’s Attorney in Prince George’s County. He understands the importance of diversion programs and alternatives to trial, eliminating cash bail (which discriminates against individuals without means), and ending the prosecution of low-level crimes, and he has fresh ideas on addressing domestic violence, elder abuse, and youth in the criminal justice system.

Here’s a short campaign video: To find out more, visit Perry’s Web site to learn about his background, leadership, and the steps he will take to create a safer Montgomery County.

Perry’s campaign will rely on contributions to get its message to voters across the county. Can we count on you? Please visit to contribute.

Thank you for your support, and best wishes for the new year!


P.S. Since this is an electoral message, I’ll state that it is not authorized by any candidate or committee. I’m writing you because I believe Perry Paylor is the right candidate for a very important race.

Montgomery County Should Create a Path to Public Campaign Finance

Montgomery County Should Create a Path to Public Campaign Finance

The Montgomery County Council is considering legislation to amend the county’s public campaign finance system. Expedited Bill 45-21, as introduced, would “permit certain limited inkind donations (equivalent to $10,000 or less) from state or County central committees to publicly financed candidates.” Interesting and reasonable. But so long as the council is considering finance amendments, how about an addition that could encourage candidates to switch from conventional finance?

My December 7, 2021 public hearing testimony proposes creating a path to public finance that, importantly, would prevent harm to candidates who run using public finance from the start. Here’s what I had to say —


Expedited Bill 45-21, Elections – Public Campaign Financing – Restrictions

December 7, 2021

Support with Amendment: A Path to Public Finance

Councilmembers, please amend Expedited Bill 45-21 to create a path to public finance for candidates who start an election cycle with a conventional finance committee.

I’m a proponent of public campaign finance and used it myself in 2018. A challenge is that some candidates start an election cycle unsure which office they’ll run for, so they start with a conventional finance committee to keep their options open. For example, former Delegate Bill Frick started the 2018 cycle fundraising to run for reelection to the House of Delegates. He then switched to a Montgomery County race but would have had to spend down or return a considerable sum in order to take advantage of Montgomery County public campaign finance.

The County Council should provide a path to public finance for candidates who enter a cycle with a conventional finance committee. Montgomery County should allow those candidates to benefit from the fundraising they’ve done – we all know the hard work involved – but within the strictures of the public system. Further, that path to public finance must be the only path so as to not disadvantage candidates who are not switching systems.

The mechanism: Add provisions to Expedited Bill 45-21 to allow a candidate to transfer funds from a conventional finance committee, to a public finance committee, within the limits and strictures of the public-finance system. These provisions must disallow creation of a public finance committee by a candidate who previously had a conventional finance committee within an election cycle, outside of this path.

Detail: Contributions within the public finance contribution limit and rules may be retained, and the unspent balance of those contributions may be transferred to the public-finance account. These earlier contributions within public finance rules, whether or not they have been spent, would count toward matching threshold requirements and would be eligible for county matching. However contributions not allowed by public finance (e.g., from corporations and PACs, transfers from another candidate’s account, and any unspent balance from previous election cycles), and amounts above the public-finance contribution limit, must be returned and would not be eligible for matching or count toward matching requirements.

For example, if a candidate accepted a $500 conventional finance contribution from an individual and wanted to switch within the same election cycle to public finance, the candidate would have to return $250, the above-limit amount, to the donor. $250 would be transferred to the public finance committee if not already spent, and that

amount would match-eligible whether or not already spent. If a candidate accepted a $1,000 conventional finance contribution from a PAC or corporation and wanted to switch to public finance, the candidate would need to return the full $1,000 to the donor because PAC and corporate contributions are ineligible.

This path to public finance would respond to a real-world scenario in order to expand the use of Montgomery County public campaign finance. Please give it your consideration.

Thrive Montgomery 2050 testimony, June 17, 2021

Thrive Montgomery 2050 testimony, June 17, 2021

Here’s testimony I presented at the June 17, 2021 Montgomery County Council hearing on the Thrive Montgomery 2050 plan. Comment was limited to two minutes so this testimony is brief.

I like the Thrive Montgomery 2050 initiative and appreciate Montgomery Planning’s work to bring us to this point.

I support bold steps to create new housing, commercial opportunities, and amenities, particularly in areas well served by transit such as Takoma Park, Silver Spring, Somerset, and Chevy Chase, via up-zoning; steps to promote walkable, bikeable neighborhoods and corridor commercial centers; and prioritization of equity and environmental concerns. Beyond this, I’ll address just two points.

One is quick: I regret the omission, in the final text – unless I missed something – of explicit discussion of development parking minimums. Excess parking imposes costs on tenants, adds to building footprint and bulk, and leads to driving at the expense of transit use, walking, and biking. Can you find a way to address this?

I’ll start my second point with an excerpt from page 27:

“The 1964 plan envisioned corridor cities along I-270, I-95, and Route 29, yet subsequent planning efforts… disregarded and ultimately removed the growth corridor along Route 29 and I-95 in the eastern portion of the county [which] effectively directed new public and private investment away from the East County and toward the established urban ring and I-270 corridor… This recurring pattern aggravated the racial and economic disparities between the eastern and western parts of the county that remain today.”

I see shadows of this error in the draft before us, which does not classify southeast county areas such as Long Branch and Takoma-Langley Crossroads as growth centers, as they should be classified. These are border areas, heavily immigrant and moderate income, yet this plan neglects them, just as the 1964 plan neglected East County. Growth in those areas isn’t easy – cooperation with Prince George’s County would be required – yet equity and the interests of all county residents, including in over-developed Bethesda, say that attention is imperative. We must set the stage for strong execution on our growth, equity, and environmental ideals. Please do what you can to address this omission.

Thank you.

Planning Board testimony supporting Montgomery County zoning text amendment (ZTA) 20-07, to promote “missing middle” housing

Planning Board testimony supporting Montgomery County zoning text amendment (ZTA) 20-07, to promote “missing middle” housing

Montgomery County Councilmember Will Jawando’s proposed Zoning Text Amendment (ZTA) 20-07 would allow duplexes, townhouses, and small apartments in neighborhoods zoned R-60 (single-unit houses on lots 6,000 sq. ft. or larger) within a mile of a Metrorail station. I drafted Takoma for All’s testimony asking the Montgomery County Planning Board to support the bill with amendments, including that it cover the whole of Takoma Park, and I presented TFA’s position at the February 4, 2021 Planning Board meeting. Here’s our testimony —

February 4, 2021 — Item 5
Zoning Text Amendment No. 20-07: R-60 Zone – Uses and Standards 

Takoma for All (TFA) is an advocacy organization that promotes a sustainable, equitable, transit-oriented community through the creation and preservation of affordable and market-rate housing, commercial spaces, and community amenities. 

TFA supports Montgomery County Councilmember Will Jawando’s proposed Zoning Text Amendment (ZTA) 20-07 and asks that the Planning Board recommend four amendments. 

We’re all aware of the need for additional housing in Montgomery County, and we see allowing duplexes, townhouses, and multi-unit apartments building in areas zoned “residential detached” as one mechanism toward that end. We also support steps to encourage racial and economic diversity throughout the county. ZTA 20-07 would advance us toward both goals. Lacking a Montgomery County transit oriented development (TOD) residential zone or countywide TOD master plan, this ZTA is a proper (and timely) mechanism for these reforms.

Takoma for All’s suggested amendments are as follows:

  1. Some residential areas within the ZTA 20-07 coverage radius around Metrorail stations are not zoned R-60. Please recommend amendment of ZTA 20-07 to cover R-90 and R-40 zones in addition to the R-60 zone. 
  2. Takoma For All communicated another requested amendment to the Takoma Park City Council, which held a worksession discussion of ZTA 20-07 on January 21. The council is considering a position. Relaying that amendment to you:  Please recommend that ZTA 20-07 — both allowance for duplexes, townhouses, and multi-unit apartments and lessened parking and infill density requirements — cover the full extent of incorporated Takoma Park.
    Many Takoma Park neighborhoods, both within a mile of the Takoma Metro station and outside that radius, already support a mix of Missing Middle housing types in the form of houses subdivided into apartments and small-scale apartment buildings as well as townhouses. City areas that are distant from the Metrorail station are close to the planned Long Branch and Takoma-Langley Crossroads Purple Line stations, to the Takoma Langley Crossroads Transit Center, and to express buses and possible future bus rapid transit along New Hampshire Avenue.
    A ZTA 20-07 covering the full extent of Takoma Park would advance the goals of the city’s 2019 Housing and Economic Development Strategic Plan and our city’s commitment to racial equity and economic diversity. A particular benefit is that an extended-coverage ZTA would raise the density floor for a couple of large redevelopable parcels in the city: the former Washington Adventist Hospital campus and the Washington-McLaughlin property, site of a former school.
    Please recommend amendment to cover the whole of Takoma Park, just as 2019’s ZTA 19-01, liberalizing accessory dwelling unit (ADU) rules, was extended to cover the whole city.
  3. Please recommend a third amendment:  All clauses that reference a radius distance from “a Metrorail Station entrance” should also be amended to cover that radius distance from “a Metrorail Station entrance, Purple Line station, or bus-rapid transit (BRT) station.”
  4. Finally, please recommend elimination of parking minimums within the areas covered by ZTA 20-07, within one mile of a Metrorail station and additionally within one mile of a Purple Line or BRT station, if the ZTA is amended to cover those other transit facilities, within the “residential detached” zones that are covered.

Takoma for All asks the Planning to support ZTA 20-07 and recommend it be amended to cover 1) R-40 and R-90 zones, 2) areas close to Purple Line and bus rapid transit stations in addition to Metrorail stations, and 3) the entirety of the City of Takoma Park and that it 4) eliminate parking minimums in the covered areas.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment. 

Submitted February 4, 2021 on behalf of Takoma for All  by Seth Grimes,

Takoma Park’s Housing and Economic Development Strategic Plan includes:

Objective #1: “Increase the number of units and variety of housing types across the affordability spectrum that are attractive to a diverse demographic and do not result in economically segregated communities or increase existing economic segregation.” 

Strategy A: “Encourage and facilitate the creation and expansion of housing types that are under-represented in Takoma Park, or in a particular section of Takoma Park, and desired by existing and new residents of various incomes, needs, abilities and family configurations; work to change County allowable use and zoning provisions to accomplish this.” 

Strategy D: “Encourage infill housing development, such as single-family detached homes, townhouses, and multifamily structures; encourage investments to grow residential capacity on properties with existing single-family homes through accessory dwelling units and owner-occupied group homes. Build in such a way as to be resilient to the effects of climate change; and, where possible, use grants, credits or other methods to lower purchase prices, maintenance costs, and energy costs to allow for greater affordability.”

My Thrive Montgomery 2050 Public-Hearing Testimony

My Thrive Montgomery 2050 Public-Hearing Testimony

Thrive Montgomery 2050 is “a general plan for the county with a 30-year horizon. It sets a vision for the county and encompasses broad, county-wide policy recommendations for land use, zoning, housing, the economy, equity, transportation, parks and open space, the environment, and historic resources.” If you’re concerned with equity and opportunity — for human development, economic vitality, and environmental progress — and believe as I do that land-use policy can advance us in these causes, then you’ll want to look into this plan.

The Montgomery County Planning Board held a Thrive Montgomery 2050 public hearing on November 19, 2020. The following is my hearing testimony:

I like the Thrive Montgomery 2050 initiative and I very much appreciate Montgomery Planning’s work.

The majority of comments you will hear will be high-level and values based. I’m going to be very specific and focus on just three points. The first two are narrow:

1) The document discusses “missing middle” housing, the desirability of changing zoning to enable wider creation of smaller, multi-unit buildings. Cool. However, Action 1.1.4.a calls for housing “particularly in areas located within a 15-minute walk or bike ride of rail and bus rapid transit (BRT).” Let’s develop a robust action plan that will bring housing-diversity benefits to all areas, prioritizing high-promise areas — as you’re doing now with the Silver Spring Downtown and Adjacent Communities Plan — with others slated to come later.

2) I absolutely love Action 4.3.1.a: “Eliminate motor vehicle parking minimums for new development projects in downtowns, town centers, and rail and BRT corridors to encourage travel by walking, bicycling, and transit,” but it should be extended to adjacent areas as well, perhaps with that same “15-minute walk or bike ride” criterion. I also appreciate Action 5.2.1.b’s language about “redeveloping surface parking lots and underutilized property” but that action shouldn’t be limited to “mixed-income housing at employment centers.” I’m thinking, in particular, about adaptive reuse of office parks such as Rock Spring.

3) Point 10 under Trends and Challenges is “We need to look for regional solutions” (page 23). The narrative states, “we have strong ties to the Baltimore region. We must consider how to take advantage of our proximity to the economic opportunities available in neighboring jurisdictions, including major job centers, colleges and universities, and cultural and recreational attractions. We also should consider regional solutions to the challenges we face and think of Montgomery County as part of a larger ecosystem.”

The 1964 Wedges and Corridors featured 6 corridors in an asterisk design. One of those corridors was along I-95 (and the railway line) in Prince George’s County, paralleling the Prince George’s-Montgomery border, with a direct connection to Baltimore-Washington Airport.

Montgomery County did precious little to take advantage of this corridor, really prior to the last decade’s development in White Oak. Think what we might have gained if Montgomery County had worked with Prince George’s to pursue East County corridor development over the last half century, including lessened development pressure on Bethesda and American Legion Bridge congestion.

Ingredients are in place, or soon will be. The Intercounty Connector, while ill-conceived, is now an underutilized reality connecting points west to I-95. We have our first bus rapid transit on Route 29, and construction has started on another east-west connector, the Purple Line, which crosses the the southern ends of the corridor in Silver Spring and in Langley Park. Yet corridor cities and areas such as Hillandale, Burtonsville, and Fairland remain in sore need of attention.

The only explicit mention of East County I could find in the Thrive 2050 document was a one-liner, “Policy 3.3.4: Create new educational and workforce development opportunities in the East County,” with only one specific idea, “Explore creating a fourth Montgomery College campus in the East County.” I would have liked to see much more than this in the document. I hope this time we will truly plan regional solutions, with special focus on East County revitalization in cooperation with Prince George’s and Howard Counties, pursuant in particular to Goal 3.2, “Grow vibrant commercial centers,” and the policy points under it.

End Transit Fare-Evasion Enforcement

End Transit Fare-Evasion Enforcement

I wrote a letter on behalf of the Silver Spring Justice Coalition and recruited cosponsors, calling for cancelation of a request for proposals for Montgomery County FLASH bus service traffic enforcement. We call for “an immediate end to police referral of fare evasions that are not accompanied by violent crime or the threat of violent crime. As soon as feasible, we also call for free bus service for all riders, building on existing free and reduced-fare programs.” Our message is below and also posted on the SSJC Web site.

From: Silver Spring Justice <>
Date: June 26, 2020 at 3:12:33 PM EDT
Subject: MCDOT Fare Evasion Security RFP

Director Conklin and Division Chief Hibbert,

Silver Spring Justice Coalition and the additional undersigned partners call for the cancellation of this solicitation and for reform of Montgomery County’s Transit Services fare policy, including an immediate end to police referral of fare evasions that are not accompanied by violent crime or the threat of violent crime. As soon as feasible, we also call for free bus service for all riders, building on existing free and reduced-fare programs. The reasons are as follows:

  • Fare enforcement is discriminatory. Studies in Washington DC, New York City, Portland, Minneapolis, Seattle, Los Angeles, and Cleveland have shown that fare enforcement disproportionately targets Black and Brown people, and that people of color face harsher penalties when they are stopped. In Washington, a report found that 91% of citations and summonses were issued to Black people, according to a article.
  • Police referrals risk escalating minor incidents into problematic encounters. These problematic encounters are likely to disproportionately harm Black and Brown people.
  • Fear of fare-evasion challenges could discourage immigrant use of transit. Some community members fear that interactions with authorities could lead to referral to immigration enforcement.
  • It has not been established that fare enforcement affects evasion rates.
  • Enforcement actions, even educational interventions, may disrupt transit service and degrade performance. This will harm riders who depend on punctual service.
  • The loss of revenue due to fare evasion will not pay for contemplated enforcement action. Enforcement is costly, and fares are set at approximately $2.

By contrast, free FLASH service (and making Ride On service free permanently) would have a host of benefits. It would boost ridership and lead to fewer cars on the road, decreasing traffic congestion and transportation energy consumption. It would eliminate the question of enforcement and its assorted costs. Further, free service would disproportionately assist Montgomery County’s most needy residents and visitors. It would help the County recover from the devastating economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has left many thousands of our neighbors unemployed or barely getting by.

In short, the cancellation of the fare-evasion solicitation, an immediate end to police referral of fare evasions that are not accompanied by violent crime or the threat of violent crime, and free bus service would have enormous benefits for the County and its residents.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.


The Silver Spring Justice Coalition
Christ Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, Racial Justice Circle
Democratic Socialists of America
IMPACT Silver Spring
Montgomery County Civil Rights Coalition and Defending Rights & Dissent
Progressive Montgomery
Racial Justice NOW
Showing Up for Racial Justice – Montgomery County, MD
Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom Silver Spring
Takoma Park Mobilization
Sunil Dasgupta for Montgomery County Board of Education, at-large

Sunil Dasgupta for Montgomery County Board of Education, at-large

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

I support Sunil Dasgupta for the 2020 at-large seat on the Montgomery County Board of Education, and I’m hosting an online event with Sunil on Monday, May 11, 5:00 pm-6:00 pm, that I invite you to attend. The form to register is Sunil’s campaign will send a Zoom link prior to the event.

We’ll be receiving mail-in ballots soon — I received 2020 Maryland Absentee Ballot e-mail from the Board of Elections on May 4 — so in case you want to vote before Monday, I’ll relate to you now that:

I support Sunil because a) he’s highly qualified and b) he has taken a clear progressive position supporting boundary analysis and changes as an approach to relieving school overcrowding. Progressive here means that for Sunil, equity — equal access — is a primary consideration as we tackle pressing and difficult school capacity, funding, educational, and student-support challenges.

Sunil is engaged and highly responsive. He has the ability to take on difficult matters such as overcrowding in a sensitive way that will advance us toward solutions rather than deepening divisions, and he has the experience and connections to be effective in the BOE role from day 1. I’ll paste in additional position points below my signature.

Of course Sunil understands education, our public schools, and our system, and he has a true activist’s passion to work especially hard for Montgomery County students who most need strong Board of Education advocates on their side. Condensed background: “Sunil Dasgupta, Ph.D., is a first-generation immigrant, parent of three public school students, and a longtime educator in Montgomery County. Sunil serves on the Board of Directors of the Montgomery County Council of PTAs (MCCPTA) and is MCCPTA Health and Wellness chair and Rockville Cluster Coordinator. Sunil was PTA President at Earle B. Wood Middle School and serves on the Montgomery Planning Board’s Schools Technical Advisory Team. Sunil teaches political science and directs the Political Science Program for UMBC at the Universities at Shady Grove (USG). Nearly 90 percent of Sunil’s students have been Montgomery County Public School students who take the 2+2+2 pathway from high school to Montgomery College and finally to the USG.”

Learn more about Sunil and his positions, sign up for campaign updates, and contribute at, and I hope you will join the Monday session I’m hosting for him, May 11, 5 pm-6:00 pm, RSVP here’s campaign will send you the Zoom link and a reminder 24 hours before the event, and will see you online then!



Sunil will — key positions:

  • Defend public education from budget cuts and unequal access
  • Add teachers and staff, and reduce class size/staff ratio to meet the individual needs of students
  • Expand counselors and social workers to meet the crisis in student mental health
  • Enable parents, teachers, and staff to work together to ensure student success
  • Push for climate change action by adding solar generation and converting the MCPS bus fleet to electric
  • Find the resources to achieve these goals, including rebalancing the capital and operating budgets
  • Create a process for regular, systemwide school boundary review and adjustment, using time-lagged execution of change to ensure student assignment stability
  • Develop processes for open data, transparent decisions, and public accountability

Website and Donation Page:
Twitter: @sunildasgupta4
Facebook: @SunilforSchoolBoard
Instagram: @sunildasgupta4

In support of the Montgomery County “COVID-19 Renter Relief Act”

In support of the Montgomery County “COVID-19 Renter Relief Act”

I contacted the Montgomery County Council in support of pending legislation that would impose temporary residential rent stabilization. The legislation, Expedited Bill 18-20, is sensible, reasonable, and fair, as I wrote in my message. If you’d like to learn more, check out the April 14, 2020 council agenda item and also a short video in which lead sponsor Councilmember Will Jawando explains why he introduced the bill.

Here’s my message to the council. Please consider conveying your own support for the bill to the council.

Allow me to express my support for Expedited Bill 18-20, the “COVID-19 Renter Relief Act.”

I support the aim of protecting vulnerable county residents. The COVID-19 crisis has made their situations markedly more challenging. Montgomery County must take whatever sensible, reasonable, and fair steps it can to to protect these individuals and families. Expedited Bill 18-20 would put in place one such step, by creating temporary residential rent stabilization with a defined sunset date.

The bill’s financial impact on landlords would be modest, however the bill could make a huge difference to residents living on the edge, who have lost employment and who maybe now have to educate their kids at home and deal with the pandemic’s health impact. The bill will also benefit the county as a whole, by helping residents who then won’t have to seek support from the county because of an unstable housing situation.

I’ll further observe that the City of Takoma Park has had residential rent stabilization for many years. Our rental housing stock is in good shape; it’s outside the city that the most glaring landlord neglect in recent years has occurred. Rent stabilization — noting that the proposed county rule is temporary — will not lead to degraded housing conditions.

My thanks to Councilmember Jawando for introducing the bill and to Council President Katz and Councilmembers Rice and Navarro for co-sponsoring. I hope the other councilmembers will sign on as co-sponsors and that the council as a whole will enact the legislation.