On the Issues

I’m Bill Cook and I am running for Montgomery County Council, District 1. I am running because I want to restore the trust between the residents of our county and our elected representatives. To do that, we need an independent voice on the council. We need a voice for the people–not the development companies, unions, or political action committees. That’s why my campaign only accepts small dollar donations from people – no money from corporate donors or special interest groups will be accepted.

I am not a political insider or a wealthy bureaucrat. I am a small business owner who grew up here in Montgomery County, went to school here, whose family lives here, and who will fight to defend our community and way of life from the threats of reckless development and poor planning.

With your support, we will face today’s problems, like overcrowded schools, congested roadways, and stalled economic growth. Together, we will accomplish solutions that focus on improving quality of life, that strengthen our communities, and protect our environment.

Continue reading for more details on my positions. If you have any concerns not addressed here, please contact me and let me know what you think – I want to know how I can earn your vote.


Education

There’s no greater asset to Montgomery County than our exceptional public school system. Our schools, teachers and the quality education they provide are the primary reason that residents choose Montgomery County as their home. That is why we must do all we can to overcome the growing challenges facing our schools.

Schools are becoming overcrowded and the achievement gap persists. By the year 2020, District 1 schools are expected to be 160% overcapacity – this is unacceptable.

The county has already increased funding to provide the resources the school board needs to address struggling students and closing the achievement gap. These resources should first be focused on the areas where they will have the most impact; Namely: the younger students. Research tells us that smaller class sizes and better student engagement have a greater impact on students in kindergarten through 3rd grade.

Outside the classroom, we should remember that a student’s first teacher is their parents. Parents with multiple, low-wage jobs have less time to spend with their kids and encourage their academic success. This why we must embrace policies that reduce poverty by raising the minimum wage, provide job skills training, and sustained economic growth.

The overcrowding of our schools is becoming critical and we must act aggressively in acquiring funding from the state to build new schools and expand existing ones. We must lobby Annapolis aggressively and empower our residents to be active in pressuring our state legislators as well.

Housing

The shrinking availability of affordable housing in our community is forcing young professionals, our children, retirees and lower income residents to live elsewhere. If we are to preserve our diverse community and keep our families close, we must take steps to protect affordable housing. Montgomery County should adopt a policy of ‘net zero loss on affordable housing’ to stop the trend of housing loss. We should consider the popular MPDU program. Some MPDU properties have long waiting lists while others have vacancies – we should examine the pricing and income requirements to ensure the program is optimized.

Economy

Despite having a highly trained and educated workforce, we have, for too long, struggled to attract companies and high paying jobs. Complaints from the business community include high taxes and oppressive regulations. The details of those complaints can get a bit muddy but we clearly need to be more competitive with our taxes and reform our regulatory offices.

We can begin by getting rid of the energy tax which puts us at a competitive disadvantage with our neighboring counties. The energy tax was supposed to expire years ago – we need to follow through on that promise.

The practices of our regulatory offices and their relationships with business owners is the first place we should look to reform. A frequent complaint from business owners is that government offices are more concerned with imposing fines for regulatory infractions than with helping businesses setup shop. This is backwards  – our regulatory offices should be helping business owners navigate the process and avoid infractions — not playing “gotcha”.

Transportation

It’s obvious to anyone with a car that our traffic congestion is getting out of hand. As a cyclist, runner, and public transit user, I can attest that alternatives to driving are limited. As our county’s population has soared, our traffic problems have grown – but it doesn’t have to be this way. Our population growth is a sign of success for our community but the traffic problems are a sign that we have mismanaged that success. As we grow and develop our neighborhoods we must also invest in adequate roadways and expanded public transit to maintain the quality of life our residents deserve.

Our efforts to alleviate traffic congestion should be focused on scalable, environmentally friendly solutions. We know that roadways are neither scalable nor environmentally friendly – so, we must focus our attention to solutions like bus rapid transit, metro, and creating urban areas that foster biking and walking.

Additionally, we can provide incentives to businesses that promote working from home and delivery companies that make deliveries at off-peak hours. These solutions will, of course, require funding. That is why we must demand more investment from the development companies who profit from our growth.

Environment

The county has made some great choices in protecting our environment but there’s more work to do. We must continue to protect our agricultural reserve, our parks and tree canopy, and adhere to the county’s Climate Protection Plan of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 10% every 5 years.

We must continue to get cars off the road by improving our public transit system, foster renewable energy, and improve fuel efficiencies.  And above all else, we must protect our water sources from development projects and dangerous practices like hydraulic fracking – I am proud to have played a small role in helping get the Ban Fracking bill passed in Annapolis.