Next year, 2018, will be a big year politically, not just on the national level, but here in Montgomery County (MoCo). There will be elections for County Executive to replace the retiring Ike Leggett and for the County Council.
Four men are competing for the Executive role, Marc Elrich, Roger Berliner, George Leventhal and Robin Ficker. All except Ficker are currently members of the County Council, so they have records on environmental issues. All of them also have websites where they address their most important issues. The primary is in June of 2018. In our time of great environmental peril, how do they portray their visions for the environment?
With these men (and others) on the County Council, Montgomery County has made real environmental strides. It has joined other cities and states in pledging to reduce CO2 emissions as called for by the Paris Agreement. Our MoCo government is carbon neutral and fracking was banned in MoCo before it was banned statewide. MoCo has a Green Bank to fund energy efficiency and renewable projects. The county has a policy of divesting from the fossil fuel industry and it is expanding public transportation options and protecting its streams and tree canopy. What more can it do? And how do the current candidates plan to do it?
Where Candidates Stand
On his website, Mr. Leventhal writes that it's vital to, "ensure clean air and clean water for ourselves, our children and our grandchildren; and continue bringing down our greenhouse gas emissions and expanding access to alternative and renewable energy for all our residents." There are no specifics, but Mr. Leventhal notes that with his support, MoCo is reducing its greenhouse gas emissions.
Roger Berliner features our county's record of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, protecting the streams and maintaining the tree canopy on his website. Mr. Berliner, now Chair of the County Council’s Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy & Environment Committee, informs us of the achievements listed above as well as that rooftop solar has more than tripled in the last four years. He notes that the county needs new transit options in order to reduce traffic gridlock, improve Metro, Bus Rapid Transit and more. Certainly, getting more cars off the roads is one thing Montgomery County can do to change our environmental future, as cars are a primary source of greenhouse gas emissions and street level air pollution.
Mr. Elrich recognizes that environmental protection is key to our future and we need to do more. He too mentions enhanced Bus Rapid Transit but also improved building codes to improve energy efficiency. This is important as the generation of electricity for buildings contributes significantly to global warming. Improving transportation could not only improve the dismal traffic situation, but our environmental outlook as well. France and the U.K. have recently committed to removing cars powered exclusively by internal combustion engines from their fleets within a few decades in part because auto exhaust is damaging to human health.
Mr. Ficker solicits campaign contributions front and center at his website.
What is missing from the messages of the three progressive candidates, Leventhal, Berliner and Elrich? All are committed to universal healthcare, helping the vulnerable, and looking for transportation solutions. All of these align with progressive ideals. But they also announce a commitment to growth - nowhere is there a suggestion that government perhaps needs to limit growth of population, sprawl, and the fleet of personal automobiles powered by fossil fuel combustion. In the future, the relevance of the phrase "less is more" may return to prominence.