Environmental Q&A

Since the Environmental Debate was cancelled, the Muddy Branch Alliance, Seneca Creek Watershed Partners, Kentlands Community Foundation, GO GREEN Group, and Green Gaithersburg sent an email to each of the candidates asking us to answer a number of questions related to the environment.  They offered 13 different detailed questions, and my responses are provided below:

 

City of Gaithersburg Candidate Questions Relating to Environmental Protection and Sustainability

Please choose to answer 3-5 (or more) of the following questions that best illustrate your stance on environmental protection and sustainability. Submit your responses to muddybranchalliance@gmail.com by Tuesday, October 24th. The Muddy Branch Alliance will post the list of questions and all answers, unedited, on our website for viewing by the public.

 

1. What are your environmental budget priorities for the City of Gaithersburg if elected? How would you plan to fund them?

I support the City’s efforts to continue to reduce our impact on our environment.  As the President of the Saybrooke HOA, I began discussions with the city manager to see if there were opportunities to partner with the City to upgrade our neighborhood’s storm water management systems to help Gaithersburg reach its mandated quotas. If elected, I would continue to work with legacy neighborhoods to find ways to improve how our city collects and treats stormwater.

I also would continue the City’s policy of requiring adequate green space in new developments, and empower the city’s arborist to take a proactive role is protecting our city’s canopy.  Having been recognized with a Tree City USA Award every year for more than a quarter century, the city recently undertook the task of cataloguing every tree in the city’s right of way into its GIS mapping system.  Planting trees is one of the easiest ways to clean the air, and as an asthmatic, I have an even greater interest in higher air quality.

4. What role does the council have in increasing parkland or natural spaces for the citizens of Gaithersburg?

With such a focus on high-density “smart growth” redevelopment projects of late, the Council’s job is to make sure the public’s interest in open spaces is maintained.  Park spaces provide more than just an environmental benefit, they help to create community and improve the quality of life for our citizens.  Gaithersburg’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Culture is second-to-none, and as a member of the City Council I will be an advocate to preserve the programs and amenities that make our city the envy of surrounding communities.

5. Given that application of road salts is one of the critical impairments to our stream, the Muddy Branch, what role does the City have in finding a way to lessen the impact?

Gaithersburg excels at snow removal.  One only has to drive into unincorporated Montgomery County after a snow to see the difference.  While efforts to improve storm water treatment can serve to mitigate some of the impact of road salts on our waterways, finding safer, alternative solutions that maintain driver and pedestrian safety would be ideal.  I would support a small pilot program, similar to how the city is testing compost collection, to determine whether any of the commercially available natural alternatives would 1) provide the same level of safety as road salts, and 2) be as cost effective as road salts.  But at the end of the day, the safety of our driving public and those taking mass transit must take priority.

6. If projects to address storm water require additional funding, would you support an increase in the storm water utility fee? What other innovative approaches would you suggest?

I do not support raising any taxes or fees to support new projects.  The City of Gaithersburg has a proud tradition of being a pay-as-you-go municipality, and we must continue to work within our means.

9. The city’s 2009 Master Plan on Environment and Sustainability states that the City believes there should be an increase in the use of multi-modal transportation as an effective means for reducing energy usage and carbon emissions, reducing traffic congestion, and increasing the quality of life for residents. If you are elected to the council what are your plans for achieving these goals?

I am a big believer that we need an “all-of-the-above” approach to solving our energy and transportation challenges.

In 2016, Gaithersburg partnered with other municipalities to form a Solar Co-Op.  I welcome opportunities for the city to take advantage of solar energy in city facilities where feasible to not only help the environment, but take advantage of potential cost savings and insulating tax payers against future PEPCO rate hikes.

Traffic congestion remains one of the biggest causes of increased emissions, which is why I support improvements to our transit system—like adding two-way, all-day traffic to the MARC Brunswick Line—as well as to our transportation grid, like building the long-awaited 5.5-mile MidCounty Highway extension (M83), to take the stop-and-go stress off our existing roadways for the drivers who are already here.  We also need to study overtaxed intersections, like Montgomery Village Avenue and MD355 and determine what improvements can be made to improve traffic flow.  Not only will improving traffic congestion help the environment, but it can help our small businesses near these pain points.

11. Do you support the expansion of solar energy by the City of Gaithersburg, residents and businesses? If so what should the city do regarding its own facilities and to encourage this expansion by a greater number of people?

As stated above, I welcome opportunities to take advantage of solar energy in city buildings where feasible to not only help the environment, but take advantage of potential cost savings and insulating tax payers against future PEPCO rate hikes.

 

 

 

 

Jim McNulty