A Year Later: 2019 County Council Summary

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December is upon us. It’s the most wonderful — and busy — time of the year! This month also marks one year since members of the county council were inaugurated. Knowing that it can be hard to find time to keep up with what is happening in local government, especially during this season, I want to share a summary of our work over the last 12 months.

Since last December, the council has considered 82 bills. Of those, 67% passed unanimously, illustrating that most the council’s work is noncontroversial and nonpartisan. However, there are some issues where our different worldviews and beliefs are highlighted. Those are most apparent in the 18% of bills (15) passed on a four-to-three vote, with 14 of those 15 being party-line votes (Democrats yes, Republicans no), including:

  • Banning the use of polystyrene products (Styrofoam) by food service facilities in the county, like Chick-fil-A and Dunkin’ Donuts.
  • Making it easier to locate medical marijuana dispensaries in neighborhoods.
  • Increasing fees like the rain tax and movie tax.
  • Increasing your income and property taxes by roughly $553 per year for the average household.
  • Allowing high-density housing (R-22) in medium-density (R-5) zoning to create affordable and workforce housing.
  • Allowing the county to require union contractors on public works projects.
  • Banning discrimination in housing based on things like citizenship, source of income, and gender expression.
  • Creating a commission to investigate and fine housing discrimination violations at up to $10,000 per offense.

For my individual legislative work, I have spearheaded a number of initiatives this year, including:

  • Asking the county executive to reconsider his withdrawal of the county’s participation in the 287(g) immigration program and ICE detainee housing program (both efforts defeated on party-line votes).
  • Capping your local income tax rate to prevent future tax increases. This plan was similar to property tax cap already in place, although the county executive and county council used a state law to bypass our property tax cap and increase your property taxes this year (effort defeated on party-line vote).
  • Enabling greater access to county records for the county auditor to find waste, fraud and abuse (passed unanimously; will be on the 2020 ballot for approval).
  • Confirmation of the police chief, fire chief and county attorney (passed unanimously; will be on the 2020 ballot for approval).
  • Ethics reform for the county council to ensure that we are held to the same high standards of transparency, accountability, and no self-dealing that we expect from others (currently under consideration).

Another topic that I have worked on behind the scenes this year is regulation for community-based assisted living facilities and group homes. While we absolutely need these facilities in our community, some developers are using the loose regulations and rules in place to change the “community” nature of these facilities into major businesses operating in residential areas without adequate infrastructure or safety measures to guarantee safety for some of our most vulnerable citizens. I am working with the community and others to try and find a solution that respects the rights and dignity of all parties involved. This is something I expect to continue working on into the New Year.

Representing you on the county council this year has been a joy. Through the challenges, I remain committed to doing my very best to give back to this community that has given so much to me. From my family to yours, we wish you a merry Christmas, happy holidays and a happy New Year!

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