The housing crisis exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic is only just beginning to take off. Eviction moratoriums are lifting, and our legal system is not equipped to handle the backlog of cases. We need immediate action to enact greater renter protections, and assistance for small landlords who need it.
Montgomery County's extreme housing shortage is impacting all but the highest earners. Young professionals heading into their prime earning years are being forced to settle far from their jobs or move out of the area entirely, leading to long commutes, negative environmental impacts, and loss of tax revenue for the county. We need transit-oriented affordable housing, more attainable housing across nearly every income level, and development toward walkable and transit-connected communities across the county.
Taking climate change and racial and economic equity seriously means moving toward a Montgomery County in which all residents can access work, school, shops, restaurants, and green spaces quickly and easily, just by walking or taking public transit. When people can safely walk to transit to get where they need to go, we increase job opportunities, reduce interactions with the police, reduce traffic accidents, build a greater sense of community, and safeguard the environment and our children’s futures.
Reimagining Public Safety
When armed police officers are the go-to option for responding to a five-year-old child who wandered off-campus (as recently and tragically occurred at East Silver Spring Elementary School, which I attended as a child), it is clear that we do not have the best possible systems in place to keep our community members safe. We can and must do better. Police officers do not belong in schools, and they should not be responsible for responding to non-violent incidents that can be better handled by trauma-informed mental health experts, medics, and other community support teams.
As evidenced by other cities and counties across the country, community-driven solutions that prioritize long-term health and peacekeeping over criminalization and incarceration end up saving taxpayers incredible amounts of money while fostering longer-term safety for all.
Affordable housing, education, healthcare, mental health treatment, childcare, transportation, job training, parks, and community centers are also all part of public safety. We must invest more in preventing crime in addition to improving how we respond to it.
When I confronted Trump's Director of the Environmental Protection Agency in a restaurant in 2018, I told him, "I urge you to resign for what you're doing to the environment" and noted that "we deserve to have someone at the EPA who takes climate change seriously." I told him that the child on my hip, like all children, deserved better. Three days later, Scott Pruitt resigned. But three years later, the effects of his devastating rollbacks on top of years of half-measures have brought us to crisis point.
In order to meet or exceed the goals set in Montgomery County's Climate Action Plan, we need to move quickly, think creatively, and act boldly. I support expanding community solar projects including on non-productive farmland, implementing sustainable and carbon-neutral building design beginning with the County's own buildings, fast-tracking the construction of quality public transit, and prioritizing the development of walkable and transit-oriented communities.
I've worked as a restaurant server, a barista, an MCPS teacher, and now an organizer at a nonprofit that fights for justice alongside labor unions and grassroots advocacy groups.
I know that ensuring working people are paid fairly, granted adequate leave, and treated with dignity and respect is beneficial to the economy, to health outcomes, and to our community as a whole. But more importantly, it is a moral imperative.
Strong unions are a critical part of ensuring workers have the power to demand what they need and deserve.
As the daughter of an immigrant, I grew up knowing that Montgomery County’s diversity is one of its greatest strengths. Our county should be a place of safety for all residents, regardless of status, and no matter who is sitting in the White House or the Governor’s mansion.
Our community is stronger when all of us have access to safe housing, good jobs, healthcare, healthy food, and a quality education. We must pass legislation that gets us ever closer to that goal, while supporting the many community-based organizations working to do the same.
Small businesses provide jobs, boost our economy, and are an essential part of each city’s unique character and appeal. The pandemic was devastating for many small businesses, and we must work with local business owners to ensure a healthy recovery and incentivize entrepreneurship. As we expand available housing and public transit, we must also work to protect existing small businesses, while increasing walkability and transit connectedness.
No one should go without the healthcare they need, including mental health care, for financial reasons. In the wake of a year of disruption, distress, and isolation brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, mental health issues have spiked, including in children and especially teens. The rates of suicide and suicide attempts have skyrocketed. Especially now, we must prioritize making healthcare, including mental health care, reliably accessible to all who need it.
There are well-orchestrated efforts taking place across the country to roll back LGBTQ+ rights. Many of these efforts specifically target transgender children. Montgomery County must lead the way in protecting our LGBTQ+ community members, from schools to workplaces to community spaces, and work to affirmatively cultivate understanding and a culture of celebration of our differences. In a world where many are working to do harm to the LGBTQ+ community, I am grateful to live in a place that strives to do far better than enforcing tolerance.
As a former teacher, graduate of Montgomery County Public Schools and the University of Maryland, and the parent of an incoming kindergartener child, I place a very high importance on education, teachers, and school support staff. In order to best serve our children, our schools must be well-funded and their budgets protected. Teachers and staff need to know that their unions have a meaningful seat at the table, and student voices, too, must be heard and respected.
I also believe that there can and must be a closer and more collaborative working relationship between the County Council and the Board of Education.
I am one of the nearly 50% of working parents in Maryland who has had short-term disruption in employment due to difficulty securing affordable childcare. During the pandemic, I experienced firsthand the stress of working full-time while trying to care for my children without outside help.
The pandemic highlighted many of the ways in which we have long fallen short of supporting young children and their parents. The benefits of investing in quality early care and education are clear. By making infant care, toddler care, and pre-K accessible to all, we strengthen our economy by helping parents return to the workforce, and improve health and education outcomes for our children.
As the daughter of two Montgomery County-based seniors, it is deeply important to me that all our seniors are able to maximize their independence and quality of life during what should be a long and joyful period. This includes protecting the ability to age in place, ensuring access to convenient and affordable care, supporting community-based organizations that support seniors, and keeping the safety and enrichment of seniors in mind in both policy-making and development decisions.
People with disabilities should be fully included in the workplace, neighborhoods, and all aspects of community life. We must work closely with impacted people and families and with local advocacy groups to ensure policy and infrastructure are developed in line with that goal, not as an afterthought but as a fundamental part of building a Montgomery County that is inclusive and accessible for all.
Ranked Choice Voting
Ranked choice voting (RCV) is an election method that ensures winning candidates have support from a majority of voters. Voters rank candidates by preference on their ballots, and if a candidate wins a majority (over 50%) of first-preference votes, they are declared the winner. If no candidate wins a majority of first-preference votes, the candidate receiving the fewest first-preference votes is eliminated, and any ballot that ranked that candidate first is re-tabulated as a vote for the candidate marked as second-preference.
RCV is used in several states and localities across the country, including in Takoma Park's mayoral and City Council elections. A state-level bill that would allow the Montgomery County Council to implement RCV was supported by all of Montgomery County's state delegates, but died in committee. The Council and public must continue to push the General Assembly to open up this possibility for Montgomery County.