Tag Archives: Dan Reed

Dan Reed for Planning Board

By Adam Pagnucco.

One of Montgomery County’s most remarkable activist careers was started when a bus failed to show up on Route 29.  Yes, it’s true.  Most of us would simply grouse about it for a few minutes, call a cab and move on with our lives.  But Dan Reed wrote about it on the Internet and wondered, “Why is Route 29 the only road across the Northwest Branch? A ‘Route 29 spur’ was proposed as part of the County’s Master Plan for roads that would have connected University Boulevard to 29 north of Lockwood Drive, bypassing Four Corners and the Burnt Mills Dam. Of course, this was forty years ago. The Right-Of-Way probably no longer exists – but, boy, would it have saved a lot of trouble this morning.”  And so began one of MoCo’s greatest creative endeavors, Just Up the Pike.

Most people in MoCo who start out as transportation or land use activists begin local and stay local – very local.  They’re concerned with something that impacts their neighborhood.  That’s how Dan started, as someone who cared about his native East County and wanted to chronicle it, champion it and make sure it got the attention and respect it deserves.  But he didn’t stop there.  He wrote and wrote and grew and grew.  In his exploration of East County, he learned both about the technical aspects of transportation and land use planning as well as the differing views held by the many people who lived there.  He combined this with his education in architecture and planning at U-Maryland and the University of Pennsylvania to become one of MoCo’s preeminent story tellers, advocates and experts.  He also branched out to take on subjects including local history, education, demography and politics.  All of this has come to form a vision of MoCo combining the transit-oriented development and multi-modal priorities of the smart growth movement with the cultural sensibilities of millennials.  Very few people have accomplished such a body of work in this county as has Dan Reed.

Now Dan is applying for the Planning Board.  This is an immensely powerful position.  The five board members recommend master plans for the county’s communities to the council.  They also have input into the county’s budgetary and transportation priorities.  Finally, they approve specific plans for individual development projects that collectively and continuously transform the county.

Planning Board members, who are selected by the County Council, have been a diverse lot over the years.  They have included developers, attorneys, community activists, planning professionals and people of many other backgrounds.  But there has never been a Planning Board applicant quite like Dan.  It’s rare that one person would have a comparable background in leadership, vision, advocacy, writing and professional expertise all in one package – and to have those characteristics developed, not regionally or nationally, but right here in MoCo.  And from the perspective of diversity, few would argue that our county would benefit from the engagement of more young people and more African Americans, both groups of which Dan is a member.

As a blogger for more than a decade, Dan has a point of view.  But like all points of view, both its content and its expression are not universally appealing.  David Lublin identified several things Dan has said over the years about residents in the western parts of the county that they would understandably find to be displeasing.  Let’s consider Dan’s writing in context.  First, he began writing Just Up the Pike at the age of 18 and he wrote many of his posts in his early 20s.  Males of that age are not known for their judiciousness, discretion and restraint but Dan was better than most.  Dear reader – what were YOU doing at that age?  Your author admits nothing, and if my fraternity brothers post pictures here, they will be promptly deleted!  Second, Dan and I (and David Lublin) have written well over a thousand blog posts each over the last decade.  Surely there are a few things in such a vast body of work that we might look back on and think, “Hmmmm.  Maybe I would write that differently today, or maybe not at all.”  Does that invalidate the other 99% of content that might contain merit, and in Dan’s case, significant merit?  Reasonable people could disagree on that, but I would argue that with Dan, the 99% overwhelms the 1%.  And third, on those occasions when Dan has pointed out differences in education, income, school performance and other factors between the county’s regions, he was not wrong to do so.  Might there have been more tactful ways to express such perspectives?  Perhaps, but there is not a single one of us who has a perfect record of doing so.  Dan may have some work to do on this, but so do I – and in our current benighted era of incivility, so do we all.

What all of this means is that Dan Reed is a human being – highly educated, ridiculously qualified and gifted, but human nonetheless.  Those of us who have read Just Up the Pike over the last decade have watched Dan grow up – a process that for the rest of us has mercifully occurred away from the Internet.  The person Dan is now is an ideal candidate for public service.  Few people combine his insight, vision, passion, knowledge and readiness.  MoCo is lucky to have him.

Dan Reed for Planning Board.

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Planning Board Candidate Dan Reed Doesn’t Like Bethesdans Much

Dan Reed has applied for the Montgomery County Planning Board. Besides being a trained architect (B.S. from UMD), planner (Masters in City Planning from Penn), and former employee of Councilmember George Leventhal, he is also a prolific writer and very active in development and transportation issues.  All of this is great. What is not great are his views towards a large bloc of people whom he’d like to govern.

Specifically, he sure doesn’t think much of people who live or hang out in Bethesda. Even though Dan stated “I don’t go to Bethesda Row often,” that did not prevent him from expressing very strong opinions about people who live in the area. Here is his pitch to B-CC students that Silver Spring is a better place for them to hang out than Bethesda:

You and I both know [your parents have] been taught to fear everything east of Rock Creek Park, so you’ll earn major street cred by hanging out in a place where the kids don’t all wear private or Catholic school hoodies with Timbs. (This is also an effective way to avoid your date’s ex from the Landon School who lurks outside the Barnes and Noble in Bethesda Row.)…

Once you get a little older, you’ll discover that there aren’t many bars here, and those we do have cater to an older demographic than what you’ll want on a Friday night out. Of course, by then you’ll probably be going to a prestigious liberal arts college in some leafy New England town that those of us who came from lesser public high schools could only dream of…

So, while you’re still in Bethesda, why not take a walk on the wild side and make some pubescent memories this weekend in Silver Spring. You can tell your incredulous friends on Monday how you went slummin’…

This screed was not a one-off for Dan and his contemptuous view of those who live in Bethesda.  In a response on his blog to a piece published by Bethesda Magazine, he wrote:

How many fine [Bethesda] individuals think of Silver Spring primarily as an exporter of black kids? How many Bethesda youth are unaware of the glorious Friday nights to be had in Silver Spring?…

Alas, Bethesda Magazine must feel some kind of inferiority complex about their town’s parking garages, where each weekend so many midlife-crisis Mercedes coupés and tricked-out swagger wagons are trapped that the streets ring with the screams of Montgomery County’s frustrated suburban élite…

Sometimes, I wonder why their staff of Bethesda Magazine doesn’t just pour all of their money and effort into something constructive, like battling illiteracy in DC, rather than giving a two-hundred-page-long pat on the back to people with the money and taste to live west of Rock Creek Park…

And, on yet another occasion, Dan wrote:

… I claim all of Bethesda as ours, so long as they stay on their own side of Rock Creek Park so we can remember “normal people” still live in Montgomery County.

Apparently, in Dan’s eyes, Bethesdans are elitist racists who think that Silver Spring is, to paraphrase Neville Chamberlain, a far-off land of which we know nothing.  As someone whose parents moved to Silver Spring before he was born and has since spent many a day and night there (I guess we are brave enough to sometimes leave the land of “shitty Irish bars and middle-aged-trendy clothing stores”), I think the tone and underlying animosity toward the people who live in Bethesda as expressed in Dan’s blog posts are disturbing.

Yes, there are major differences between Silver Spring and Bethesda, just as there are between many other areas of the County.  But, as a planning board member, Dan will make major decisions that will have an influence on the future of all of Montgomery County.  The County’s future should not be entrusted to someone with such blatant animosity towards a major portion of the community he will supposedly serve.

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New Urbanism Succeeds Yet the Greater Greater Washington Agenda Does Not

kentlandsdowntown

Downtown in the Kentlands–a Succssful Example of New Urbanism in Montgomery County

Part I (“They’ve Come Undone”) in this series overviewed the area’s recent rejection of several pricey transit projects. Part II (“Why has the GGW Agenda Stalled”) began to explain why, focusing on their high cost and Metro’s ills. Today, I look at the disconnect between Greater Greater Washington’s vision for high-density transit-oriented development and the new urbanism that has been embraced by many suburbanites.

The reaction against suburban sprawl, well-detailed in Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream, led to many thoughtful efforts on how to build more workable communities and the new urbanism movement.

Despite its many excellent contributions–and they are numerous–Greater Greater Washington’s (GGW) more extreme vision that ultimately rejects less dense versions like the Kentlands shown above have helped undercut support for its agenda for expensive light-rail and streetcar projects.

The American Dream

The ideal for most American families is not a Manhattan apartment but remains a single-family residence with a yard. Parents still envision their kids playing in the yard rather than running down to Busboys and Poets.

That home doesn’t necessarily have to be on the type of large lot associated with suburban sprawl. For many, the dream can be a townhouse, as long as they still have their own piece of grass to call their own and hold barbecues. Even people who move back into central cities often choose these sorts of homes over new apartments.

Urban Living is Expensive

Many people who like the urban dream, however, still have trouble realizing it. Precisely because it is desirable for reasons oft-outlined by GGW, they cannot afford it. It’s an unavoidable consequence of the very success of areas like Bethesda and Silver Spring.

This trend only accelerates as urban areas develop and become more sought after. The addition of many new apartment buildings in Silver Spring and Bethesda has not made either place a bargain. Moreover, it encourages renovation of older, more affordable housing into more expensive units.

Additionally, apartments and close-in townhomes are often more expensive than single-family homes due to the condo fees that go with them. Even if the price to buy is cheaper, condo fees can render the monthly cost unaffordable. And condo fees aren’t tax deductible and don’t go towards acquiring an asset like mortgage payments. A friend recently explained to me that this is why he couldn’t and didn’t move into downtown Wheaton.

GGW is aware of these problems and laments them but does not get that the high cost an inevitable part of the project. Indeed, from the perspectives of governments that support transit-oriented growth, it is the central point because higher land values and high-income residents provide more tax revenues.

Residents often do understand, which is why they some are resistant to new transit-oriented development even as others are excited. Renters rightly sense that they are going to have to move eventually. Small business owners will find commercial rents too high as the area catches fire. Homeowners worry that their taxes will increase along with home value–and the former matters a lot if you’d like to stay in your home awhile.

The Kentlands Vision of New Urbanism

The urban vision exemplified by the Kentlands–one of the earlier new urbanist developments–has proved very attractive to suburbanites. Central to this vision was to make suburban living a more community-oriented experience by taking what worked in older towns and applying it to the suburbs.

Density should be highest closer to the central shopping area but decline as you move away from the center to town homes and then close together single-member homes. Instead of dead-end cul-de-sacs that feed into a single artery, there is a more natural old-style town traffic plan.

Streets are tighter, which gives a more neighborly feel and slows down drivers–much like in Chevy Chase or Kensington. Garages are given less pride of place. The central shopping area or “downtown” provides people quick access to the necessities.

Other developments similar to the Kentlands have proven very popular in Montgomery. Unlike the Kentlands, several have the potential to be linked to transit, which should only increase their livability–good for residents–and desirability–good for the tax base.

Greater Greater Washington Rejects the Kentlands

Despite grudgingly acknowledging some positive aspects of the Kentlands, Greater Greater Washington is fundamentally less keen, envisioning much more dense developments with few, if any, single-family homes.

GGW attacked the Montgomery County Council’s decision to appoint the Kentlands developer over Ben Ross, one of its own contributors and former head of the Action Committee for Transit (ACT).  Ben Ross is critical of single-family homeowners in extreme terms that led councilmembers to repudiate his book:

A major obstacle, he says, is the resolve of owners of single-family homes to preserve “their privileged place in the residential pecking order.”

Probably not the way most Montgomery residents would like their Planning Board or County Council to view them. In another post, GGW writer Dan Reed takes Suburban Nation author Andres Duany to task and attacks new towns like the Kentlands for lacking diversity and being too affluent:

Despite having everything from one-room granny flats to million-dollar mansions, it’s still a homogeneous, affluent, predominantly white place. And now, twenty years later, much of D.C. is starting to look like Kentlands.

Again, the movement of high income, often but not necessarily white, residents into areas like Silver Spring and Washington is the intended result of the urban transit policies, not an accidental or surprising byproduct.

Make no mistake, GGW thinks developments like the Kentlands are better than traditional suburban sprawl. But, at heart, they view them as second rate. Dan Reed labels them “compared to places like DC, Arlington, or Silver Spring, they are relatively isolated, homogeneous, and car-dependent.”

At best, as one of his GGW co-bloggers writes, the Kentlands can be some sort of gateway drug to embracing true urbanism:

Thus, in a twist of fate, new urbanism’s main lasting benefit may be that it’s a gateway for suburbanites to become urbanitesa baby step towards regular urbanism. A necessary step, to be sure, but one quickly passed by.

The problem for GGW is that most people in Montgomery, Prince George’s, and Fairfax live in suburban developments and will continue to do so. Though it may shock GGW, they even like them and are proud of their homes–just like people in the city.

It is difficult enough to convince residents of neighborhoods who will not benefit from these very expensive transit lines to pay for them since they will not ease traffic and they will take away money from their transportation needs. Explanations that berate people for being affluent or privileged (read: almost all of Montgomery County) for making different choices than the GGW high-rise dream will hardly facilitate it.

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MoCo Top Ten Young Guns

1. Dave Kunes & Nik Sushka. Dave is a smart, savvy operative with the heart of an activist. He revitalized the Montgomery County Young Dem’s into a force to be reckoned with within the County and beyond. That they helped carry a candidate the Virginia House Caucus had left for dead to victory–Mike Futrell–in 2013 was lost on none). Tom Hucker was lucky to have him and Anthony Brown is too. Labor’s favorite person–period. Future? Whatever he damn well pleases.

Nik, Dave’s fiancé and an all around nice person could have a future representing District 20 in the Legislature. She succeeded Dave as President of the Young Dems (which, in a strange twist of events, now seems to wield more clout than the Central Committee). She works for Montgomery College and is well versed on a number of policy issues.

2. Andrew Platt. If Andrew isn’t finishing up his first session as a delegate representing District 17 next year, I will donate $100 to a charity of his opponents’ choice. But between massive labor support, strong fundraising, and tremendous campaign vigor, I think my hundred bucks is safe. He’s sharp as anyone and has the spirit of a hustler. Future MD-06 Congressman?

3. Dan Reed. Land use aficionados have turned to Just Up The Pike for sharp policy analysis for years. In the last six months, Dan has shown versatility in taking on Josh Starr on a host of education issues for which he has dutifully taken heat. Future Planning Board Member? Or could a 2016 school board candidacy be in the offing?

4. Jonathan Jayes-Greene. Jonathan is charming, handsome and very bright. He combines a tremendous personal story with boundless political savvy to promote the issues important to him, which frequently involve immigration. Currently working in the governor’s office, maybe he’ll return there as First Panamanian-American governor?

5. Joel Sati. Joel isn’t just smart. He’s a genius. He brings the intellectual fire power of an Ivy League Department Chair to his advocacy which has often been based around the Dream Act. Currently in New York City for School, I (and many others) would love to see him run for office back home. With JD/PhD plans in his future, could he be the first African American AG?

6. Dan Campos. This Latino investment banker and former U.S. Senate staffer made a convincing 2010 bid for delegate in D17 as a Republican, earning the NARAL endorsement. He has since switched parties–and everyone should welcome him to Team Blue with open arms. Right now, he is leader of the opposition in Gaithersburg’s municipal affairs. When he runs for something, watch out. Nobody outworks Dan Campos.

7. Jonathan Sachs. A rare wunderkind made good.  Currently Director of Public Policy for Adventist Healthcare , I could see Jonathan as a successor to GiGi Godwin as CEO of the MoCo Chamber. A number of different people wrote in to nominate Jonathan for this list. Here is what two of them said:

“Probably the most notable thing about Jonathan—and it speaks to his character and intelligence—is that in a county where “progressives” rule, Jonathan is a centrist, pro-business Democrat. He thinks for himself and doesn’t fall in line with the local political dogma, so his input is all the more valuable because those who share his point of view can get drowned out in our local political conversations. But when Jonathan says something, people—included elected officials—pay attention.”

In a universe of newbies – most with slim credentials – Jonathan stands out as a star.  Rather than conjuring up bona fides, Jonathan is and has been in the trenches since his days at the University of Maryland.”

8. Kelly Blynn. Rockstar Organizer. No one does it better in Montgomery County. I dread the day I find myself on the opposite side of an issue from Kelly because that can be a very scary place to be. One nominator described her as:

“Coalition for Smarter Growth, transit advocate – a sophisticated and energetic organizer who played a central role in the BRT campaign.”

9. Kevin Walling. A well connected national operative who works at the top political phones firm in the country, Kevin traded an uphill fight for delegate for a safe shot at the MCDCC. Four years from now, he’ll have the local roots to compliment his national credentials. This will make him an even stronger candidate when he runs for office again. Rumor has it that he intends to make a play for MCDCC Chair this year.

Editor’s Note. Number 10 is the author, John Gallagher, nominated by just too many different people to leave out. Offered without comment except from the nominators:

“John Gallagher, Seventh State, mail/campaign operative – the youngest of the young guns, with a campaign resume that would be impressive for a 40-year-old.”
“You. You’re everywhere, you’re a beast, you deserve it.”

Honorable Mention: Marc Korman. Marc has aged out. However, due to his youthful good looks so many people mistakenly nominated him for the list as to necessitate his inclusion. He has an even shot at winning a delegate seat in Annapolis this year. Sidley Austin Attorney, Democratic Party stalwart and ex-Capitol Hill staffer. Anonymous comment:

candidate for delegate, former MPW – smooth edges and a good sense of humor, with broad and deep contacts across Montgomery politics and government.”

 

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Navarro Lambastes Former Council Aide

It’s not every day you see a former Montgomery County Council President take a former Council aide to task in the pages of the Washington Post. But that’s just what Nancy Navarro did to Dan Reed, a blogger and former aide to Councilmember George Leventhal.

Along with Amanda Kolson Hurley, Reed wrote an opinion piece for the WaPo arguing for the preservation and historic designation of the Wheaton Community Recreation Center, a step recommended by the County’s Planning Board:

If the rec center is demolished, it will be a blow to Montgomery County. The building is an underappreciated and irreplaceable asset. Losing it would diminish our heritage and undermine Wheaton’s ability to attract businesses and residents.

Navarro’s riposte said that their piece:

. . . showed how some seem to view this debate as an academic exercise. Wheaton residents, including unprecedented participation by the Latino community, overwhelmingly testified against historic designation throughout the process. Only historians and career preservationists testified in favor of retaining this dilapidated, leaky and moldy facility. The authors’ assertion that losing this eyesore would “undermine Wheaton’s ability to attract business and residents” is absurd.

Leventhal, Reed’s former boss, sided with Navarro on his Facebook page:

The proposal to preserve the old building fails to address adequately the cost of renovation, who should pay, and who would occupy it. Our operating budget is already strained and building maintenance has been deferred throughout the county. Park & Planning’s recommendation to preserve the dilapidated building follows years of neglect by Park & Planning. Further, preserving the old building will limit green space available for activities associated with the new combined Library & Rec Center. Wheaton deserves better!

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