April 27, 2011
Montgomery County Gazette
Listen to the People When It Comes to Purple Line

Dear Editor:

Your article, [“Some residents fear extending Capital Crescent would derail Silver Spring neighborhood,” Feb 2], was an excellent report that has meaning for the future of Montgomery County. It reveals where programs go when a county plays by K Street rules. The county has given up citizen-based decision-making. While citizens go about the business of living and working, planners listen to the vocal special interests. In the case of the Purple Line and the Capital Crescent Trail, primary input has come from developers, trolley enthusiasts and cyclists. Most citizens can’t keep up with everything that goes on. According to some, it is too late. One cycle trail blogger says homeowners are “10 years late to the party.” Do citizens really have no voice? Is it a party? Are developers and special interests the only ones who matter in today’s process?

Our money is being spent right now to design a $1.6 billion trolley through Chevy Chase Lake and $100 million worth of new bike trails through Montgomery. The trolley and the trail both avoid population centers. They are development projects, not better transportation. They don’t make sense. If mass transit is justified, then bite the bullet and build a subway. There is no good reason to replace the existing trail. If the Chevy Chase Land Company wants a trolley, then they can pay for it the old-fashioned way. Sen. Francis Newlands did. He paid for his trolley out on Connecticut Avenue as part of the Chevy Chase development.

Woodside is a close-in jewel of suburbia. At one time, Woodside had the first public elementary school in Silver Spring. It was closed in the ‘80s. There was also Montgomery Hills Junior High School. Now the county can’t or won’t reopen either. Cost? Low demand? Higher priorities? None of that is plausible when surrounding elementary schools, all from the ‘50s, use trailers to add space. We bus kids to trailers.

Over many years, Woodside has suffered erosion by development and “community planning.” Meanwhile we plan big budget trolleys and exotic bike trails with tunnels and bridges. Montgomery’s priorities for spending and processes for planning are what have run off the tracks.

Montgomery County should get back to basics: education, police, fire, roads, sidewalks, tree trimming, libraries, parks and caring for the homeless. Only then can Montgomery regain its position as one of the most desirable locations in the nation. Citizens all over Montgomery are urging common sense. The politicians and the planners should listen to all the people, not just the most moneyed and well organized.

Bob McDonald, Silver Spring