While the nation is focused on the major party presidential campaigns and the popular televised debates, our non-partisan local city council election has just a couple of community forums (see videos, when available), combined with traditional door-to-door campaigning and posting on the blogs and social networks.
The latter Internet media may be “newfangled” to some candidates, but it is where I am most comfortable, having been online (and actually helping to build the Internet) since 1977. By now, most of the incumbent candidates have found my blog, or at least my Facebook page and posts that I’ve shared with the various Greenbelt groups.
Good, now we can have a discussion if not a debate…
[I’ll try to be formal and accurate with attribution of ideas, good and bad. Let me know if I’ve made a mistake and I’ll be happy to correct the record.]
Should our next budget include funding for additional staff?
Mr. Herling says he has pushed for hiring a director of economic development since 2003. I’m not sure of that fact, but most see that he and Mr. Jordan have been at the forefront of contracting first the Sage Policy Group (see report) and now the Hyattsville Community Development Corporation (see proposal).
The work that the Hyattsville CDC will execute will add very important information, info that they label a “business toolkit”, to our city website. Indeed, this type of information is the standard minimal level of support for any municipality serious about supporting business development (see Bowie, Hyattsville, New Carrollton, and College Park as examples).
Sometimes adding staff is better than outsourcing to a contractor
It is good that this work is being done, but for the money being spent I would have pushed to fund a new staff position, at least half-time, shared between the Planning & Community Development and the Public Information & Communications departments. A person with good web skills, and teamed with some pro bono help to get started, could not only assemble the business section, but also maintain it into the future as will be required of the contracted work.
Speaking of the future, the work to support the review of development plans, impact studies, and compliance to regulations for the Greenbelt South Core and North Core (aka FBI) projects is enormous. We can’t expect the same static staff level of the last decade to function well until we hear and respond to their cries for additional staff.
What type of economic development is appropriate for Greenbelt?
You’ve heard me say we should emphasize our ignored science and technology sector. It seems like a good match for Greenbelt, surrounded by technology and federal agencies, with residents who work in the field, and with an abundance of empty office space.
We should be working to take advantage of the county’s action (18 months ago) to create a special business district exactly for this effort. More recently, we have a pro-business governor and a newly restructured state Dept of Commerce formed from a bipartisan effort of the Maryland General Assembly. These resources will not last forever; other communities will jump at the opportunity to get this type of support from the county and state.
Incumbent reaction to my sci-tech area of emphasis has been understandably lukewarm. I believe Ms. Davis said we should study it, which seems to be the council’s collective response to most ideas, new and old. I understand the need to create community consensus; that’s a mission we have at the Greenbelt MakerSpace.
Without great art, science and technology is just a bunch of numbers
We’re making progress with educating residents, and council, about the role of sci-tech in Greenbelt. I think we are now past the point where folks view this as competition, or even a threat, to our historic embrace of the arts. A lot of good effort has built a strong arts (and entertainment) reputation for Old Greenbelt. That should never be put at risk, but set forward as an example. I look forward to helping the city build an equally strong program to support science and technology.
Are we ready to expand the budget for new projects?
The only incumbent to consistently challenge new spending is Mr. Roberts. Under the policy position I label Fiscal Restraint, I want to add my voice to his in support of keeping property taxes under control. This is especially important in 2016 as most residential property will be reassessed upwards, as much as 35% to 50% by some estimates. This “found” revenue will fund spending increases for the next 3-year cycle of city budgets.
New projects on tap for 2016 range from a new dog park for Old Greenbelt, championed by Ms. Pope, to high-definition cablecast capabilities for council meetings, championed by Mr. Jordan. For both, I can see higher priorities and less expensive solutions. While a zero-growth spending policy may be detrimental to economic development targeted to create a sustainable future, pressure for a tax reduction over unchecked spending seems like a wise policy.
I believe Ms. Stewart suggested that we focus on sustainability and green energy businesses. That’s a great idea as that is a business area that encompasses a lot of sci-tech. The greatest feature of a sci-tech business district is the unbounded breadth of business ventures to support. You may see me focus on computer science and network “cyber” security business opportunities, but that is only because that is what I know best.
Ms. Mach has come out to suggest we focus on co-op businesses, another good idea that should, of course, fit well with the history and brand of Old Greenbelt. I think, however, like the general focus on opportunities at Roosevelt Center, that this is unlikely to make a serious dent in the million square feet of vacant office space in Greenbelt.
Mr. Putens has suggested we focus on the needs of our senior community noting that Green Ridge House is occupied at capacity with a long waiting list. I look forward to exploring ideas with him to create and execute a plan of action to meet this need.
If there is an issue out there, or an idea that you have, that you would like to see added to this list, please use my contact form to contact me, or catch me out in the community or at one of the forums. I’m hosting an event at the New Deal Cafe, Sunday October 18, from 3 to 5pm. Come for discussion and stay for the belly dancers at 6pm.