Category Montgomery County Government

Redistricting Article in Bethesda Beat that quotes our executive director, Amy Ginsburg

From Bethesda Beat

Some community organizations concerned about proposed County Council district map

Some community leaders from various areas of Montgomery County said they are concerned about a proposed map of new County Council districts.

A redistricting commission recently presented its proposal to the County Council. The first of at least two public hearings is scheduled for Tuesday at 1:30 p.m.

County voters approved a ballot measure in November 2020 to increase the number of council districts from five to seven. Because four at-large seats — ones that represent the entire county — will remain, there will be 11 council members instead of nine after next year’s elections. 

Under the current proposal, six of the seven districts would be majority-minority districts, although African Americans, Latinos or Asians by themselves are not in the majority in any of the proposed districts.

The only district where non-Hispanic white residents are the majority is in the proposed First District, which includes Bethesda, Friendship Heights, Chevy Chase, and Potomac.

Some community leaders and civic organizations aren’t satisfied with the proposed map.

Marilyn Balcombe, president and CEO of the Gaithersburg-Germantown Chamber of Commerce, who is running for the council in District 2, said she appreciated the work of the commission, and that new technology, census data and software means the map is better than in previous redistricting cycles.

But she is concerned about upcounty representation, especially in the northeastern part of the county. That proposed district stretches too far south, through Olney and Sandy Spring, to be considered a true representation of the upcounty, Balcombe said.

That means it will be difficult for voters to elect someone from Damascus, Goshen or Montgomery Village, she said

“It will be difficult for someone from that area to be elected from that area to the district, because there’s not enough voters up there,” Balcombe said.

Some have expressed concern that the current map divides communities of interest. That includes the Greater Shady Grove Civic Alliance, which represents Derwood, a community near Gaithersburg. 

Alliance President Carol Kosary said she is upset that the current map splits up Derwood.

The Derwood community is interested in several issues, ranging from better lighting along local walking and biking trails to how rainfall drains into local watersheds, she said.

It doesn’t make sense that parts of Derwood are included with a district that includes Wheaton, which is much more densely populated, Kosary said. 

“We’re currently split between two County Council districts, and it really has never worked well for the community, because you’re never a big enough voice in a district to get the attention of council members,” Kosary said.

She added that having four at-large council members, representing the entire county, is a nice concept, but Derwood has not felt that those at-large officials have been responsive.

Daniel Koroma, however, believes the current map proposal is a good one.

Koroma, a White Oak resident running for the County Council District 5 seat, said the district in the proposed map including White Oak does a better job of representing East County. It’s an area that has been historically underrepresented, he said.

It’s not a perfect map, Koroma said, but it’s about as fair a map for the East County as possible. He said other communities might feel their voice is being split up, but his region has had its challenges.

“If they’re using a racial equity lens, the question is, which area of the county in Montgomery County has been disenfranchised for decades?” Koroma said. “And no one would say the East County hasn’t been part of that.”

Other organizations, however, don’t agree that the map is fair for their communities. That includes multiple groups in North Bethesda. 

Amy Ginsburg, executive director of Friends of White Flint, said including North Bethesda in a district with Kensington, Silver Spring and Takoma Park does not make sense. She said residents in her area associate themselves with the economic and political communities along the Md. 355 corridor.

Ginsburg said the redistricting commission made a mistake when it voted that Rockville and Gaithersburg must be included in the same district, because other communities, including those in North Bethesda, did not receive such consideration.

The commission had a tough job, but the proposed “bowtie” district including North Bethesda southeast to Silver Spring and Takoma Park is not the answer, she said.

“If everybody was happy, you would have put together a modern miracle, but we are going to live with this for 10 years. … Getting it right is far better than getting it done [too quickly],” she said. 

John Seelke, a member of the Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Board, said he is “not a huge fan” of the same district. 

Seelke said areas such as North Bethesda and Silver Spring have different local economic needs and overall resources, and one council member in the district would have trouble representing both constituent groups. 

Regarding the decision to include Gaithersburg and Rockville in the same district, Seelke said both those of cities have elected mayors and city councils that can advocate for their residents on issues — something unincorporated areas do not have.

“I know that this process is not one that’s going to satisfy everyone, but I do hope that the County Council will look back and consider what are the challenges or problems that could come out of the districts that came together,” Seelke said of the map.

Those interested in testifying at Tuesday’s public hearing can find instructions on how to do so here

               The proposed new County Council district map

A resident describes the geographic absurdity of the proposed bow tie council district

From resident Dale Lawrence

The analogy of the “bowtie” shape for the proposed newly gerrymandered district to include North Bethesda is apt.

The proposed district with North Bethesda on one end and Takoma Park on the other is in no way a contiguous geographic entity.  I drive back and forth between N Bethesda and Takoma Park through Silver Spring many times a week.  I have family there, and I use resources of the Walter Reed Annex at Forest Glen which is accessed by that same road, Forsythe Ave in the Forest Glen Park area. I have traveled the route connecting our end of the new proposed district with the other end a thousand times over 30 years.  

Let me share my appreciation of the geographic absurdity of the proposed district to include us. First, review the map showing all districts as currently proposed and notice that in every other district, persons residing within the district are able to travel over dozens or hundreds of routes within and across their district. Their proposed districts display contiguity, enable sharing common and convenient resources, and promote a sense of a shared community.

In horrible contrast, the “bowtie” that links N. Bethesda to its proposed sister communities (Silver Spring and Takoma Park) has exactly 1800 feet of connection at the pinch point at the isthmus of the proposed district. 

But even worse, the I-495 route blocks any streets, save one, at the point of the pinched “knot” of the “bowtie.” ONE street, with one lane in each direction, is left to connect the two ends of the “bowtie.”  It leads to a steep hill with no sidewalk. The street is so narrow, it requires oncoming vehicles — including the No. 5 RideOn buses, school buses, trucks, private vehicles and bicyclists —  to pass at a speed under 10 mph.  Pedestrians, without a sidewalk, cannot walk on this short road.

The single, dangerously narrow street connecting the new district’s ends is emblematic, of course.  Other routes can get one to Silver Spring, etc.; however, if left unchanged, the current design makes a mockery of the contiguity principle. Indeed, by gerrymandering it makes a loud statement that the County Council is content to discourage the communities of N Bethesda and Silver Spring/Takoma Park from getting to know each other, develop shared purposes and or have any common resources.

Learn more on our blog: http://www.whiteflint.org/2021/11/05/your-community-needs-you-to-advocate-for-a-new-redistricting-map-that-does-not-mute-our-voice-or-harm-north-bethesda/

Your community needs you to advocate for a NEW redistricting map that does not mute our voice or harm North Bethesda

The redistricting commission has submitted to the council its recommended map for the seven new council districts, and it is not good for North Bethesda.

The proposed district is shaped like a bow tie and combines North Bethesda with Silver Spring and Takoma Park. Many individuals and organizations (including Friends of White Flint, Luxmanor Civic Association, the Greater Bethesda Chamber of Commerce, and the White Flint Downtown Advisory Committee, among others) believe the proposed gerrymandered district minimizes our voice in local politics, pulls North Bethesda away from our neighbors and community, and prevents our needs from being met.

We urge you to ask the county council to create a new map. (Contact info is below.) Also, please post your thoughts on social media with the hashtag #aNewMap … and don’t forget to tag all the county council members.
 
Here are more detailed reasons why this proposed map disenfranchises North Bethesda residents and businesses and greatly increases the risk that our needs will be ignored. 

1) North Bethesda’s economic and political sensibilities lie with the Route 355 Corridor, so we should be in a district with others on the corridor. Whether that’s Rockville or Bethesda is for the Council to decide, but it certainly shouldn’t be Silver Spring and Takoma Park.

2) This is a gerrymandered district. The shape of our proposed new district is a bow tie that is neither compact nor composed of adjoining territory as required by law. It does not preserve communities of interest as required by the commission’s ground rules.

3) There are two sides to this bow tie district. The Silver Spring/Takoma Park side of the bow tie has 100,000 people. The other side of the bow tie which includes North Bethesda has 50,000 people. Our voice will be muted and our residents will be disenfranchised. In fact, the Redistricting Committee is on record calling it the Silver Spring District; already North Bethesda is being marginalized.

4) North Bethesda is one of major economic drivers for Montgomery County and its success is vital to the county’s future. It should be more than an afterthought or sacrificial lamb whose district placement is determined because it achieves some of the goals of the redistricting committee. Other people in the county have had more of a say in the redistricting, which we believe is wrong. Why were the cities of Rockville and Gaithersburg allowed to insist they must be in the same district but we were not allowed to insist we are in the same district as other Route 355 communities? Some may argue North Bethesda is part of Rockville while others may argue North Bethesda is part of Bethesda. No one believes it is part of Silver Spring.

5) North Bethesda’s ties are to the Bethesda area. We are part of the BCC Regional Services Center, the Greater Bethesda Chamber of Commerce, and the Western Montgomery County Citizens Advisory Board. Our children attend schools in Bethesda and North Bethesda. We have few natural ties to the Silver Spring/Takoma Park area.

6) This process is being rushed without sufficient public input, and we will have to live with this redistricting map for the next ten years. Redistricting is too important not to do it right.

What you can do to advocate for our community

We need you to urge the council to create a new map that keeps North Bethesda with its Route 355 neighbors, We also need you to help ensure this becomes a very visible public issue.


1) Write and call ALL the councilmembers before November 18. Just calling our District One Councilmember Andrew Friedson will not have a sufficient impact. It is critical that you reach out to all nine councilmembers. Use the talking points listed above or use your own words. Feel free to copy us at info@whiteflint.org.

Gabe Albornoz  240-777-7959  councilmember.Albornoz@montgomerycountymd.gov
Andrew Friedson  240-777-7828   Councilmember.Friedson@montgomerycountymd.gov           
Evan Glass  240-777-7966 Councilmember.Glass@montgomerycountymd.gov 
Tom Hucker  240-777-7960 Councilmember.Hucker@montgomerycountymd.gov
Will Jawando  240-777-7811 Councilmember.Jawando@montgomerycountymd.gov
Sidney Katz  240-777-7906 Councilmember.Katz@montgomerycountymd.gov
Nancy Navarro  240-777-7968 Councilmember.Navarro@montgomerycountymd.gov
Craig Rice  240-777-7955 Councilmember.Rice@montgomerycountymd.gov
Hans Riemer  240-777-7964 Councilmember.Riemer@montgomerycountymd.gov

2) Post on social media your reasons why North Bethesda should not be in the same district as Silver Spring and Takoma Park. Use the hash tag #aNewMap and tag all the councilmembers. Utilize the talking points listed above. 

Facebook Tagging
@MontgomeryCountyMdCouncil 
@andrewfriedson
@willjawando
@friendsoftomhucker
@sidneyakatz
@EvanMGlass
@NancyCNavarro
@HansRiemer4
@councilmemberalbornoz
@ricepolitics
 
Twitter Tagging
@MoCoCouncilMD   
@SidneyKatz4MC
@RicePolitics
@CmHucker
@willjawando
@Andrew_Friedson
@nancy_navarro
@hansriemer
@albornoz_gabe
@MC_Council_Katz
 
Instagram Tagging
@mococouncilmd
 
Thank you so much for your help making sure our voice is heard.
 
For more information, please contact Amy Ginsburg, Executive Director of Friends of White Flint, amy.ginsburg@whiteflint.org or visit www.whiteflint.org

November Programs at Josiah Henson Museum

The Josiah Henson Museum continues to see good attendance and we are proud that we have had the opportunity to host over 2000 guests since we opened on April 23. 

In celebration of MD Emancipation Day, Josiah Henson Museum and Park will be hosting the following programs.

Josiah Henson Museum Open House
November 6 | Josiah Henson Museum & Park | 10 am – 4 pm | Free, Self-guided Tours

“African American Religious Thought and the Movement for Liberation” Panel Discussion
November 18 | Josiah Henson Museum & Park | 7 – 8 pm | Free, Registration Link  – https://apm.activecommunities.com/montgomerycounty/Activity_Search/136943

A redistricting map you can actually read

Please click an interactive, high-res map at https://gismontgomery.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=e74800c960094a05a4f88a45586fc634 to review the proposed redistricting of Montgomery County. As you can see, they’ve carved North Bethesda from its neighbors and put it with the Silver Spring, Takoma Park, Long Branch district.

We’re meeting with other organizations, HOAs, and civic associations so that we can launch a united campaign against this redistricting plan. We believe the needs of North Bethesda will be ignored in favor of the needs of Silver Spring and that this gerrymandered district simply doesn’t make sense. Are we going to be part of the Silver Spring Regional Services Center now instead of the Bethesda Chevy Chase Regional Services Center, too? Should our businesses now belong to the Silver Spring Chamber instead of the Greater Bethesda Chamber? Of course not.

Stay tuned for ways you can fight this.

A drum roll please — it’s the the 2021 White Flint Biennial Monitoring report!

https://montgomeryplanningboard.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/2021-White-Flint-BMR-Production-10-15-2021.pdf

It sounds dull, but it does provide a worthy summary of the progress that’s been made in the Pike District/North Bethesda area as we work to transform our community into a walkable, thriving neighborhood.

Below is the report’s executive summary:

This 2021 Biennail Monitoring Report is delivered as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. The pandemic has impacted the use of public transit, offices, and commercial development. However, several property owners have submitted
new development proposals and infrastructure improvements have advanced to further implement the Sector Plan recommendations. Public engagement has continued through the current pandemic with virtual meetings to monitor and provide public input regarding the implementation of the Sector Plan.

The implementation of Western Workaround, which is the roadway realignment of Old Georgetown Road and Executive Boulevard and the opening of Towne Road, has progressed with the completion of phase one, and phase two should be completed in 2022. Additional bikeways are anticipated later this year on Marinelli Road.

Most of the first phase staging requirements have been implemented. However, some of the critical streetscape
and bikeways within a quarter-mile of the Metro Station remain incomplete. Complete funding for the northern
White Flint Metro Station entrance is also outstanding.

This report is the fourth BMR released by the Planning Department since the approval of the 2010 White Flint
Sector Plan. The BMR is a Sector Plan requirement to monitor and assess progress made towards implementing key elements in the Sector Plan, and it must be submitted to the County Council and County Executive.

Redistricting Montgomery County

As you can see below, the redistricting committee had voted to put North Bethesda with Silver Spring and Takoma Park in their proposed redistricting map. On first glance, we think that North Bethesda is not well-served by being part of the Silver Spring district. Stay tuned for more info, including what you can do to advocate for different options.

Yes, we know it’s fuzzy, but it’s the map we have right now. We’re working on getting you a better one.

From Montgomery County Media

Members of the Redistricting Commission voted 6-5 for the map it will send to the county council recommending how to divide the county into new districts.

The map divides Montgomery County into seven districts each of which can elect one council member and one at-large council member. The map stands as a revision of one presented last week when the commission narrowed its choices to three maps as the county moves to add two additional council seats. During a meeting Wednesday, Commissioner David Stein said changes reflect input from commissioners as well as the public.

The Commission must now write a report for the county council. Members will meet next on Nov. 3 to vote on a final report and map to deliver to the council by Nov. 5.

District 1 includes Chevy Chase, Bethesda, Potomac, and Travilah.

District 2 is exclusively upcounty; it contains all of North Potomac, all of Germantown, and includes Clarksburg.

District 3 is in east county and would be a plurality African American district. It starts at the Beltway around Four Corners, goes up to Burtonsville and up to the top of Cloverly, Spencerville, and Colesville.

District 4 includes Rockville and Gaithersburg. The commission voted to keep the cities together.

District 5 is the Silver Spring district. It includes Silver Spring/Long Branch and Takoma Park, extending up to North Bethesda.

District 6 is the Wheaton district; it starts in Forest Glen and includes all of Wheaton, the entire Glenmont district, and goes up through Aspen Hill into Derwood.

District 7 is the upcounty/midcounty district. It includes Olney, Montgomery Village and continues all the way into Damascus.

Stein said six districts are majority people of color. The revised map moved part of Chevy Chase from the Silver Spring district into the Bethesda district, resulting in the Silver Spring district going from Takoma Park up to North Bethesda. The Wheaton district therefore loses North Bethesda and extends up to Derwood, Stein said. The Hispanic population and voting-age population of the Wheaton district increases to become a plurality. The upcounty/midcounty district has more upcounty representation by adding in areas around Damascus. Some upcounty community concerns were addressed, so Germantown and North Potomac are no longer split, Stein said.

Pike District Streetscape Design Guidelines Community Meeting

Thursday, October 21, 2021 7:00pm to 8:00pm

The Montgomery County Planning Department, part of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC), will partner with the Friends of White Flint to host a virtual meeting to review the Pike District Streetscape Guidelines on Thursday, October 21 from 7 to 8 p.m. These guidelines will complement the Pike District’s existing high-quality streetscape and mixed-use developments that have been constructed since the adoption of the White Flint Sector Plan in 2010 and will provide direction to future developments. The guidelines are being produced as part of the Advancing the Pike District initiative, which is sparking implementation of the White Flint Sector Plan by identifying short-term development opportunities  that can be implemented within the next two to five years. RSVPs are required to attend the meeting.

Event details:
Montgomery Planning and Friends of White Flint host the Advancing the Pike District Streetscape Guidelines virtual meeting October 21, 2021 7 to 8 p.m. Click here to RVSP to the meeting.

Pike District Connector

The Montgomery County Planning Department partnered with the Montgomery County Department of Transportation, Montgomery Parks, and the Better Block Foundation to temporarily connect the Bethesda Trolley Trail to the Montrose Parkway Trail and activate hubs at key intersections along the trail connection. The project, called the Pike District Connector, was built with community volunteers and included a kickoff community bike ride with the Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA) on September 18. The Connector will remain in place through late fall 2021.

About Advancing the Pike District

Advancing the Pike District is a Montgomery Planning initiative to accelerate the transformation of White Flint’s core into a walkable, mixed-use district by identifying short- and medium-term implementation-focused solutions that build on the Sector Plan’s recommendations, enhance mobility, and promote economic development, urban design and placemaking. The project revisits and builds upon the recommendations from the 2010 White Flint Sector Plan, which has guided infrastructure improvements and development in the White Flint area over the past decade, with the goal of accelerating White Flint’s transformation.

View the Advancing the Pike District Development Trends, Infrastructure Update and Short-Term Solutions report.

For more information about Advancing the Pike District, contact Walker Freer at 301-495-4651 or by email. Sign up for the project’s eletter to stay informed.

Community invited to attend virtual meeting for Advancing Pike District Streetscape Guidelines on October 21

The Montgomery County Planning Department, part of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC), will partner with the Friends of White Flint to host a virtual meeting to review the Pike District Streetscape Guidelines on Thursday, October 21 from 7 to 8 p.m. These guidelines will complement the Pike District’s existing high-quality streetscape and mixed-use developments that have been constructed since the adoption of the White Flint Sector Plan in 2010 and will provide direction to future developments. The guidelines are being produced as part of the Advancing the Pike District initiative, which is sparking implementation of the White Flint Sector Plan by identifying short-term development opportunities  that can be implemented within the next two to five years. RSVPs are required to attend the meeting.

Event details:
Montgomery Planning and Friends of White Flint host the Advancing the Pike District Streetscape Guidelines virtual meeting October 21, 2021 7 to 8 p.m.
RVSP

Pike District Connector

The Montgomery County Planning Department partnered with the Montgomery County Department of Transportation, Montgomery Parks, and the Better Block Foundation to temporarily connect the Bethesda Trolley Trail to the Montrose Parkway Trail and activate hubs at key intersections along the trail connection. The project, called the Pike District Connector, was built with community volunteers and included a kickoff community bike ride with the Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA) on September 18. The Connector will remain in place through late fall 2021.

About Advancing the Pike District

Advancing the Pike District is a Montgomery Planning initiative to accelerate the transformation of White Flint’s core into a walkable, mixed-use district by identifying short- and medium-term implementation-focused solutions that build on the Sector Plan’s recommendations, enhance mobility, and promote economic development, urban design and placemaking. The project revisits and builds upon the recommendations from the 2010 White Flint Sector Plan, which has guided infrastructure improvements and development in the White Flint area over the past decade, with the goal of accelerating White Flint’s transformation.

View the Advancing the Pike District Development Trends, Infrastructure Update and Short-Term Solutions report.

For more information about Advancing the Pike District, contact Walker Freer at 301-495-4651 or by email. Sign up for the project’s eletter to stay informed.