.We haven’t done this before, and we wouldn’t if we didn’t think it was a big deal. Like almost-a-half-billion-dollars big deal. But, here goes:
Please call your current council reps—or you can email all of them at once at email@example.com—and ask them to hold off on approving Council Bill 54, for now. If approved as is, the legislation would authorize the County Executive to enter into a thirty-year agreement for the design, construction, partial financing, operation, and maintenance of a new Circuit Courthouse on Bendix Road. Ask them to please give this bill more time for the careful analysis it deserves, including better informing the public about what’s at stake and why. A mere four business days will separate the only public hearing on this bill from the Council’s vote on its approval, now scheduled to take place Friday (tomorrow, 7/27) morning.
You can see what’s been filed in association with CB-54 here: https://apps.howardcountymd.gov/olis/LegislationDetail.aspx…. And you can read what the County has posted about the proposed “P3” arrangement at issue here: https://www.howardcountymd.gov/HowardCourthouse. Good luck downloading the thousand-page-long agreement at either link.
The thing is, as currently proposed CB-54 affords the County Executive the unilateral discretion to make any changes he deems necessary to the proposed deal, even after it’s been “authorized” by the Council. I asked at the public hearing, this past Monday night, what exactly did that mean the Council was being asked to approve, and what could change without their further review and approval.
I also asked: where is the other half of the plan. The one that spells out what happens when all the regular, busy courthouse activity—and all the people it brings here—leaves old Ellicott City for good.
And finally, here’s the follow-up concern I have: where is the side-by-side cost-benefit comparison of keeping this singular, strong civic anchor in the Ellicott City Historic District versus backing a brand-new courthouse into a residential neighborhood on what sounds like a pretty good place to instead put a middle school. I worry that this is yet another instance of the County siting undoubtedly necessary functions based on a favored property location, not fundamental land-use or planning concepts.
There’s no quarrel here that we may need a bigger, or safer, or otherwise improved courthouse building. The issue is whether encumbering public funds of this magnitude, over this many decades, in the midst of the dire capital needs we face elsewhere, is the right decision to be making at this time, on this accelerated a schedule, and why.
Today, the results of the 2018 Primary election were affirmed, and the #WalshForOne team #WonForAll, by an amazing 6 votes! Thank you for your nomination for November - we can't wait to keep this train rolling!
...Vote? Did you? Did you? Did you make sure your friends and family and neighbors did, too? We need those votes! We need every last one of them! We are sooooooooooo close!!! (Can’t you feel it?!!! I sure can, and it’s AMAZING!!!!)
Wait, what’s that you say? You already did vote, and so did every other single person you know? Well, thank you so much!!! But guess what? YOU CAN STILL HELP US WIN THIS PRIMARY!
(1) We need friendly faces Tuesday, Election Day (June 26) at each of fifteen different D1 polling locations (Bonnie Branch Middle, Centennial High, Centennial Lane Elementary, Dunloggin Middle and Northfield Elementary, Elkridge Elementary and Elkridge Landing Middle, Ellicott City Senior Center, Ellicott Mills Middle, Hollifield Station Elementary, Ilchester Elementary, Park View, Running Brook Elementary, The Heartlands, and Worthington Elementary). Voting starts at 7 am and goes to 8 pm. Would you please consider signing up for a two-hour shift, or two, at your neighborhood polling location? Why not ask a friend or four who might like to join you? We have campaign shirts for you all to wear, flashy signs to hold, and flyers to hand out to interested voters! (Plus there’s that whole knowing-you’ve-done-something-to-better-how-this-County-governs thing.) PM me, or sign up right here if you can: https://docs.google.com/…/1FAIpQLSdrAd6fO_0hKADPOJ…/viewform
(2) Are you really sure that everyone you know already voted? I mean it: You gotta text them, call them, go with them on a coffee break. You gotta vote, and you gotta get anyone who will listen to you to vote, too. It matters. A lot. Get to voting.
And (3) Please bring those campaign signs from your front yard, and your friends' and family's and neighbors' yards (tell them I said it was okay), and plunk them down right at that polling place of yours, right next to all the other ones our other voters already brought there before you, as though to say: THIS IS LIZ WALSH COUNTRY. THIS IS #ONEFORALL.
Y’all. I am so excited. It has been four super long, super busy, and super impactful months, and WE ARE ALMOST THERE!!! WE CAN DO IT!!! ❤️
Hey y’all: We’re gathering up all the questionnaires I’ve answered since entering the D1 race in late February, all in one place, so you can verify what I’ve always been about (schools, overdevelopment, trees), and where I’m headed (responsible, data-driven law and policy). Like what you see? Give us a thumb’s up at Early Voting! We love that.❤️
The Baltimore Sun: https://elections2018.news.baltimoresun.com/…/elizabeth-li…/
The People’s Voice (Ethics Ballot): http://docs.wixstatic.com/…/e215ab_aa9360ac1a22499494adf21a…
League of Women Voters (you gotta put your address in): http://www.vote411.org./
The 2016 presidential election was a wake up call.
I have an eight-year-old daughter. And the notion that the world I was turning over to her was somehow worse for her than the one my own Momma gave me, that could not stand. Down to the Women’s March we went, January 21, 2017. And the more steeled I became every passing day to change the course. Change the course.
As a lawyer for nearly twenty years I had always sought out pro bono work in service to the rule of law, to fight against abuse of power. I filed suit in Baltimore City Circuit Court against the landlord of a dangerously neglected apartment building on behalf of the elderly tenants who lived there. I represented a young African-American farmer in Mississippi denied equal treatment when applying for federally-subsidized loans. The amicus brief I helped write in defense of DC’s handgun ban (https://www.americanbar.org/…/publiced_preview_briefs_pdfs_…) was cited in the Supreme Court’s 2008 opinion in District of Columbia v. Heller. On special assignment from the Maryland Public Defender’s office, I took on the appeal of an African-American homebuilder criminally prosecuted for breaching a number of homebuilding contracts in Prince George’s County during the 2009 recession (https://mdcourts.gov/data/opinions/coa/2011/14a11.pdf). I submitted petitions for clemency of prison terms imposed under federal sentencing guidelines that discriminatorily penalized non-violent drug offenders, at the close of Barack Obama’s presidency. And I did work for the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, writing know-your-rights materials for BLM protestors taking to the streets after fatal police shootings—in Baton Rouge and Charlotte and so many other cities—in 2016, and, most recently, for a new crop of young activists protesting revocation of the DACA program.
At home, I had been tracking new development in old Ellicott City (as @savechurchroad) ever since Howard County government okayed a Developer's request to clear 7.5 acres of woodlands there. But now I started paying even more attention to what my own elected representatives and other local politicians were doing. About my kids’ crowded schools, our flooding neighborhoods, the congested streets. And I began paying attention to what they were not doing. And why.
***Jon Weinstein: You take all that money from Developer LLC and then maybe you don’t question their bunk math next time they show up at your Zoning Board hearing to demand even higher density housing. You vote to allow industrial mulching operations on land zoned for agricultural preservation in neighborhoods where families drink well water. You botch passage of an APFO law that would impose just slightly more controls on development in your own most crowded school district and then you dilute even those measures, too, with your loophole amendments.
You make promises you cannot keep.***
Change the course, D1. I get that us voters may not agree on every issue there is, that’s what democracy’s all about. For me, there has to be a guiding principle motivating the candidates I elect, more than simple political gain. Like doing what’s right. For all our kids. For the environment. For our neighborhoods and homes. Every time. No compromise. No lies.
I am True Blue. I am #WalshforOne. And this will be #OneforAll.
Over-development, in the old Ellicott City watershed particularly, is what got me here in the first place. In 2016, after that last catastrophic flood, I started showing up at the County Council hearings. I implored them, our D1 incumbent included, to enact real, meaningful law, to curb further development in this special, fragile place — not just put forward platitudes, and exception-filled, ultimately abandoned #forshowbills. To no avail. Two years later, new construction -- like Burgess Mill Phase II and Long Gate Overlook (across from Target on MD-103) still builds in, still excepted from meaningful stormwater management standards. And two years later, Main Street has been wiped out, again.
This election matters. A lot. We need uncompromised and competent government. We need action, not words. And I need your vote to get there.
Early voting starts June 14, from 10 am to 8 pm daily, through June 21 at the Miller Library, Bain Senior Center, Ridgely's Run Community Center and Howard County Fairgrounds. Election Day is June 26.
I am #WalshforOne and, together, we will be #OneforAll
Y’all. Did we find your street yet, door knocking? Did you get one of these flyers? If not, let us know where we should be visiting next, and whether you’ll be joining us! We’d love to meet you.❤️
Early voting starts in NINE DAYS. This little grassroots campaign has steadily gained momentum ever since February 27 when I entered the D1 race, to do what's right, for us, for a change.
But we have got to bring this primary race home. We are up against the monied interests--the developers and the candidate those developers fund--who are intent on preserving the status quo, intent on profiteering to the detriment of everything and anything that matters most to those of us who call this special place home. No more.
My team has done an amazing job of getting the word out--that there is a qualified, principled and homegrown candidate in D1 that will put constituent interests first and foremost, and always--but we can't hit the whole rest of District 1 in the next ten days alone. We need your help!
*Put up a yard sign or two or five
*Drive around with a pretty magnet on your car
*Pass out flyers to your friends and neighbors and favorite local businesses
*Sport your campaign t-shirts, and make sure your babies are wearing their #WeeOnesforWalsh❤️ ones, too
*Join in our door-knocking, postcard-writing and phone-banking efforts
*Share and like our page and posts (how about this one?), on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and on the web (walshforone.com)
*Come to one or more of our scheduled meet-ups and bring someone new to our campaign with you
***And, most important: Make sure you're REGISTERED TO VOTE AS A DEMOCRAT BY TODAY, JUNE 5 (here: https://voterservices.elections.maryland.gov/VoterSearch), dang it. And that so are all your friends and family and neighbors and your cub scout leader and soccer and cheer coaches and your high school friends and people you just met in the line at the grocery. Do it. It matters. A whole lot.
Gosh, I sure think so. That's how I got into this race in the first place, that's why I'm more resolute than ever that we must win this primary. This is for my kids, my neighborhood, my town. This is #OneforAll.
I feel compelled to propose a legislative plan of action specific to flood mitigation. This plan provides details on what I would do, today, if I was your Councilperson. I encourage your feedback and welcome your partnership to make this plan a reality.
Please tell me, what did I leave out? What can we do better than before, and sooner? When do we start? ❤️
I. Right now.
A. Fund an early warning flood alert system along the Hudson, Tiber and New Cut branches. Rain gauges already are in place. The County already paid for hydraulic modeling, too. Automate an early warning system based on those two inputs alone (adding reputable weather forecasts and stream channel sensors when possible) that will, under certain defined conditions, (a) sound a local siren/flashing lights and send an alert to every phone in the vicinity; and (b) activate County first-responders to clear people and cars from known floodways and to close roadways and parking lots to incoming traffic.
B. Vote on an emergency measure prohibiting new development building permits, plan approvals or waivers for six months.
• To verify that new development complies with current State and local land-use law. If plan approvals or waivers were granted in error, rescind them.
• To require Professional Engineer certification as to the projected flowrate and direction(s) of storm water runoff from each project site (1) prior to the proposed development; (2) under specified design conditions; and (3) at 100% overflow of designed storm water controls.
• To enact stronger storm water control management and environmental conservation laws.
II. Right after that.
A. Prioritize and fund flood mitigation projects with greatest cost-benefit impact, mandating that the County:
• Identify best candidate sites for flood mitigation and the full array of possible federal, state and local funding mechanisms to implement them.
• Prioritize daylighting stream beds, green infrastructure and public park placemaking, modeled after the climate-adapted parks utilized as part of the Marin (California) Watershed Program and at Copenhagen’s Enghaveparken by Third Nature.
• Identify private acreage along the length of known floodways, acquisition of which will be most strategically significant to overall watershed protection.
• Preserve the neighborhoods and streetscapes that long predate the development run-off that now threatens them
• Enlist expert, experienced input from entities beyond DPZ leadership and the usual local land-use interests.
B. Authorize an audit of DPZ.
• To determine whether required bases for DPZ leadership’s grant of waivers from environmental conservation and other requirements exist; whether effective dates for plan submissions and approvals comport with actual processing timelines and applicable law; and whether the plan and waiver approval process, generally, is subject to any undue or improper influence.
C. Vote on an emergency measure requiring that any new construction complies with existing law as it pertains to storm water management and environmental conservation (including buffers and setbacks). That is, there can be no more grandfathering in of old plans or redevelopment, or excusing infill development. Everything new complies with the same set of laws, no exception.
III. Going Forward.
A. Eliminate current loopholes in the County’s land-use law.
The County has demonstrated a long-standing willingness to approve all manner of Developer requests to be excused from land-use requirements that, if actually enforced, would have the effect of preserving green space. That discretion must be revoked.
• By deleting Section 16.604 of the Subdivision and Land Development Regulations, which authorizes DPZ to waive applicable State and county land-use requirements.
• By deleting Section 16.116(c) of the Subdivision and Land Development Regulations, which authorizes DPZ to allow Developers to build roadways, utilities and stormwater management facilities in wetlands, streams, wetland buffers, stream buffers and steep slopes. (A four-story, 133-unit age-restricted apartment building proposed at the intersection of Route 108 and Columbia Road (“Dorsey Overlook”), for example, relies on this particular loophole, thereby avoiding the need to secure a waiver via Section 16.604, above.)
• By deleting the availability of zoning variances to reduce required setbacks from adjoining properties and roadways, under Section 130.0.B.2.a of the Zoning Regulations.
B. Enact stronger storm water management law.
• To add storm water infrastructure into APFO consideration.
• To increase storm water drainage fees assessed new development.
• To address present-day precipitation.
• To protect downstream properties.
• To incorporate Best Management Practices.
• To incentivize residential and commercial participation in low-impact lawn programs, leaning on existing resident experts like the Howard County Watershed Stewards.
C. Enact stronger forest conservation law.
• To enhance both individual tree and forest canopy conservation requirements.
• To require 1:1 replacement ratio.
• To build, connect and maintain natural corridors and hubs (what the County already terms its “Green Infrastructure Network”).
• To widen and plant buffers around natural and man-made stream beds and wetlands.
• To widen and plant buffers from adjacent properties and roadways.
• To require that further assessments of existing on-site tree and forest resources and conservation plans be performed by an independent consulting arborist.
• To eliminate fees paid in lieu of compliance, or swapping re-forestation efforts off site.
• To establish target forest cover goals by neighborhood.
D. Lower annual housing allocations permitted new development.
E. Change criteria for open-space preservation (e.g., lower acreage, adjacency requirements) so that more properties, particularly on the east side of the County, qualify.
• Task County regulators with identifying best candidate properties for conservation, County-wide, building into the Green Infrastructure Network.
We all know what causes these floods.
These aren’t the natural disasters of Ellicott City’s centuries-long history. It’s not the Patapsco River churning up into the slew at the very bottom of Main Street, behind that once-again missing clock.
No. It’s a thousand different vicious rivers. Muddy, churning, swift. Gushing down every slope and gutter and street, careening down the steep hillsides that loom above this narrow little arc of resilience and hope.
From up in the hills. Where old plans and re-development get grandfathered in under old laws. Where the County declines to enforce even the barest minimum State and local conservation requirements, for even the very largest trees or thickest forest canopies. Where the County waives mandated buffer zones and set backs, from perennial and intermittent streams, from adjacent properties and from scenic roads. Where wetlands don’t necessarily warrant wetlands protection if it means Developer LLC can’t fit in all those houses it wants.
Howard County has commissioned plenty of task forces, and working groups, and reports on the subject of flooding in this old town. Plenty of them recent. I’m guessing other state and federal agencies have, too. They say, openly or in veiled terms: more must be done to control development upstream. And then they sit on the shelf next to all the other compromise recommendations, waiting for the next one to join them. And the County does nothing different. Again and again and again.
I am furious. And I am grief-stricken. For the friends and family of missing (edit:now confirmed deceased) Eddison Hermond. For my hometown. For common sense.
I will not abide any further County complicity with this man-made destruction and loss. I will not. I cannot. Not one more time.
The “HoCo School Interest” group asked every Howard County Council candidate the same three schools-specific questions. Our answers were limited to 350 words or less. Mine are below.
Question No. 1: What do you see as the top 3 challenges facing our school system? In your role as a County Council member, how can you provide relief to these challenges?
1.) Overcrowding. Especially in District 1 (Ellicott City, Elkridge and Hanover), we need more seats, more classrooms, more schools for the students here now. 240 portables crowd Howard County’s schools’ yards--90 of them in schools teaching D1 kids. Eight of eleven elementary schools that D1 kids attend are over-capacity, five of eight middle schools, four of six high schools. We need long-term, comprehensive planning for schools--new ones, additions and renovations--founded on verifiable, timely data and reliable projections of student enrollment from both existing and new housing stock.
As D1’s Council rep, I will scrutinize the basis and accuracy of the County analyses to prioritize those capital education projects that must be funded first. I will fight against any effort to scatter established neighborhoods into different school districts. I will pressure state legislators to increase to fair-value rates school surcharge fees assessed against new development. My vote as a Zoning Board member will deny Developers their perceived entitlement to re-zone mixed-use and commercial properties into highest-density residential and, as a Council member, their allocations of thousands of new housing units annually. And, most importantly, I will advance APFO legislation that will close our schools to new development when capacity reaches--or is projected to reach--100%. No “buy ins.” No “adjacency” tests. No “waiting periods.” No exception.
Independent from Developer influence, I will not compromise the quality of our kids’ education for the sake of special interest profit.
2.) Funding. I will ensure that we seek out all applicable State contributions (including casino funding), grow our commercial tax base, and not continue to divert public funds to private interests (e.g., the Columbia TIF), so that we do not further shortchange this County’s singular economic driver.
3.) Safety. I don’t mean guns and law enforcement. Injecting those into our schools without community buy-in and specialized training will likely endanger at least certain of our student population. I mean jam-packed classrooms, hallways and cafeterias; a maze of portables outside; kids riding to schools on the floors of buses. None of that--what happens here every single school day--is safe.
Question No. 2: How can you provide leadership to support our children in low-income households to help to assure the success of every student?
As we’ve seen during this year’s budget process--again--less funding results in fewer educators and counselors, and larger class sizes. One more child, on average, has been added to every single Howard County classroom in the last four years. (In District 1, we know, our kids’ classrooms are the ones driving up that average.) No question, the students first and worst impacted by these ever-diminishing resources are our most vulnerable. I will fully support funding this County’s schools, including their annual operating budgets, prioritizing our most vulnerable kids.
I also will fully support the Community Action Council of Howard County’s efforts to extend early childhood education opportunities to even more of our lowest-income children and ensure that their bellies are full and their beds warm at night--both directly through the annual budget approval process and indirectly by raising their profile within a community that may be generous, but unaware of the extent of the need existing right here in Howard County. I would encourage, for example, that the County partner with local grocers to implement a reusable shopping bag incentive that might feature our own Howard County Food Bank in the associated programming and printed materials made part of that roll out, including the reusable bags themselves.
As D1’s council rep, I will seek out ways to increase the stock of available low-income housing, including by eliminating the fee-in-lieu payments that allow Developers to forego building it in the first place.
And, I will advance legislation towards achieving gender equity in pay, starting right here at home. The National Women’s Law Center reports that mothers “working full time, year round outside the home are paid just 71 cents for every dollar paid to fathers, a gap that translates to a loss of $16,000 annually.” Even when moms work in the same occupations as dads, they’re still paid less. (May 22, 2017 “Equal Pay for Mothers is Critical for Families” Fact Sheet). New County law could prohibit prospective employers here from inquiring into applicants’ salary history and mandate that County and private employers collect and report equal pay data.
Question No. 3: Please summarize your views on development as it affects education in Howard County. Does it pay for itself? Do you tend to favor commercial vs. residential development for the near-term future in Howard County? Are there additional structures that can be put in place to help fund educational needs adequately?
Especially in District 1, schools cannot keep up with new development. They won’t be able to under the latest APFO revisions, either. Under both old and revised versions of the County’s APFO law, new construction feeding into schools deemed “constrained” is delayed, but only temporarily. After four years, Developers are permitted to build in regardless. Like the 79 new townhomes at “Long Gate Overlook” going in next to the Dancel Y, on Route 103--even though kids and teachers already are relegated to fifteen portable classrooms among the project’s three districted schools, right now.
My view is that special interests so control the incumbent Council rep for District 1--and County government generally--that new residential development will be accommodated, by law, by lapse, by re-zoning and by waiver, no matter the consequence to this County’s very youngest constituents. My certainty of this, and that it will not change without a clean slate of truly independent representatives on the Council, is what compelled me to enter this race. My own kids are 8 and 5.
I know new development doesn’t pay for itself. Look at the Roberts property on Route 1, Elkridge. Its Developer presents a cost-benefit analysis contending that the project will generate a “modest positive fiscal impact” over the next 20 years. Problem is, the analysis assumes that only 75 school-age children will live in the 408 new units proposed there, an assumption itself based on questionable “student yield rates” provided by HCPSS (like 3-bedroom apartments will generate only “0.11 pupils per housing unit”). And the schools-cost per child is assumed to be a constant $5,617, whereas (according to the 2017 Superintendent’s Proposed Operating Budget, p. 6), the current actual average cost per pupil is actually three times that amount, $14,790.
I favor small business development over residential, especially near-term, for its reduced demands on County services. And I see additional dedicated school revenue sources as including fair-value schools surcharge fees assessed against new development; Education Trust Fund contributions enhancing, not supplanting, existing funding; additional State funding for implementing the Kirwan Commission recommendations; and a transfer tax increase.
I am a citizen candidate with real-world experience.
By profession I am a construction lawyer. For nearly twenty years, I have drafted and negotiated contracts to design, build and manage construction projects. I advise general contractors and project owners on what the law and applicable regulations permit, what their contracts require, and what that means they can do, and what they probably shouldn’t do. Depending on the circumstances, I can be a collaborative problem-solver dedicated to preserving long-standing business relationships, or I can be the fiercest, most steadfast advocate.
Before law school at Georgetown and over summers in college, I was a project engineer for a national general contractor. I bid and ran construction projects in the field. Wearing a hard hat and steel-toed boots. Shooting grades. Tracking budgets, schedules and payroll. Day shift and night shift. From this hard, hard work, I learned pragmatism, efficiency and insistence on concrete, timely and meaningful deliverables.
By education I am a civil engineer, a Rambling Wreck from Georgia Tech. To this day, I still look for relevant, verifiable data first. I examine and test key assumptions and analyses. I identify patterns and anomalies. I look for trends.
You don’t need to be an engineer, or a general contractor or a construction lawyer to see the trends, especially in District 1.
Schools bursting at the seams.
Trailers cluttering our schools’ yards.
But still, the very highest-density developments continue to push in. Into District 1 particularly.
And the schools get built elsewhere.
And the money for land preservation goes somewhere else.
We need a strong advocate for our kids and our neighborhoods in District 1.
We need an independent lawmaker as this County approaches wholesale re-making of its land-use law and policy in the next Council term.
We need an accountable representative who hears and acts on her constituents’ real and consequential concerns.
We don’t have that right now. But you could.
I am honored to offer District 1—Ellicott City, Elkridge and Hanover—the opportunity to be heard, to be represented, and to effect a real and substantial change to how this County governs. Cast your vote in the June 26 Democratic primary, and I promise: Constituents—not Developers—will be my special interest.❤️
My name is Liz Walsh. I am running this grassroots campaign for Howard County Council's District 1. This will be #OneforAll.