I love Bowie and know it very well from being engaged and active the past decade, however, I believe we need a vision and a plan for the future of our City. I plan and design infrastructure for communities for a living and I've seen communities around the country that have a strong sense of vibrancy (rich in culture and community), and those that have a strong commitment toward sustainability and the environment. I believe Bowie has the potential to be one of the greatest communities in both of these areas, however, we have a lot of work to do to get there. I want to protect green space while guiding future growth in and around the City to be sustainable and vibrant. As a leader, I will protect the interests of our existing residents over new residential development, and I will strive to develop and implement a financial plan that supports growth through improved house values and increased high paying jobs in the City, while restricting urban sprawl development which places a burden on our existing way of life.
I believe I may have one of the strongest and clearest visions on future development and growth for Bowie of all the candidates in 2019. Growth needs to be Smart and Green, and all new develop should enhance our community, not impact it. I will protect open space and green infrastructure in Bowie, and I will take a hard stance against new development until developers can prove that they can contribute to our community much more than they will impact it. I will also fight for the City to have greater control over redevelopment and ensure redevelopment is designed in a way that provides opportunities to bring the community together. See below for more detail under "HOT" Topics issues.
For many years our community leaders have lacked the constituent services skills our community deserves. I will make constituent services a priority during my term, and will vowel to answer all emails and calls from citizens. I will do everything I can do address and resolve issues, and if I can't I will forward them over to the appropriate City staff that can help. For longer term issues, I will track them and continue to follow up with key personnel until a satisfactory resolution is met.
Bowie is well-known for providing services for youth and senior citizens. Continuing and strengthening these services is important, not only for those that receive the services, but for the entire population. Youth services help our youth grow into productive members of society and prepare them for adult life. This is an important focus for all communities to look out for our future generations. Our senior citizens also deserve to be taken care of, protected and given opportunities to enjoy their community. Seniors should have options to stay active in the community and enjoy the simple pleasures of life, well beyond retirement. We work hard the majority of our life, we should all be rewarded and enjoy it after decades of contribution, and its satisfying to know that Bowie can be a place to offer those pleasures in life. Perhaps, our seniors might even continue to contribute and further enhance our community while in retirement.
While the City does not fund or have control over our schools, it is possible for us, and our community groups, to influence and help advance specific programs offered within the schools. These programs may be during school hours, or after. We should continue to seek opportunities to enrich learning opportunities for our children and continue to invest in our schools so our elementary schools can continue to be some of the best in the area. Our Council also needs to fight to bring school funding back into this area. For years surplus fees have been paid by developers in the area that goes into the County's school budget, however, that money does not make its way back to Bowie schools. We need to lobby the County Council to change this and retain a portion of that funding for Bowie schools.
Many cities across the country are taking a new age approach to revitalize and reconnect age old communities. Cities and towns of all shapes, sizes and cultures, have developed strategies to strengthen their culture, enhance the connection between residents, increase vibrancy and create a unique sense of place that the community is proud of. Bowie is slowly losing its culture and its uniqueness, and we need to preserve it and strengthen it. I believe Bowie, just like dozens of other cities and towns across the country, need to strengthen our programs and our infrastructure to bring the community closer together. The community I grew up in was close-knit, I believe Bowie can be too. Bowie is the 4th largest incorporated City in Maryland and far exceeds the population of many towns throughout the country that have adopted local cultural renaissances. Bowie, in recent years, has also become the focus We can do the same. We can build a unique and vibrant community that we all are proud of. One that we can leave our homes with out a vehicle and enjoy the community while engaging our neighbors. A group I started in 2016 has been working to advance such project in the City, and I will continue to support them. See examples of such projects at www.bowieconnect.org
Last year, myself and a few others realized 2 things: 1) Old Bowie was in desperate need of a vision for its future, 2) There are many artists and musicians in the area that are in desperate need of a central location to grow their arts and music. In response to this we've organized the Old Bowie Arts & Entertainment Group (Old BAE Group) that has spent the past 6 months focused on developing strategies that will help implement an Arts & Music District in Old Bowie. We envision a District that will preserve the historic architecture and small town feel of Old Bowie, while promoting a new and vibrant culture in the community. I will continue to support this project during my term, and will help expedite this vision into a reality.
I don't believe you will find any other At-Large candidate that shares my position on development. I will fight for smart choices in development and seek to change the nostalgic ideals that all development is good development. I will be consistent in my approach that I will only approve development that either serves the best interest of this community, or pays MORE than its fair share to invest in community infrastructure. I won't stop development completely, but if it can't at least provide one of these two benefits to the community, we can do without it.
I envision a future Bowie, and the surrounding area, that preserves existing open space and green infrastructure as much as possible. Of course, this must be balanced with the American ideal that Americans can own land and prosper from it. While I believe in this traditional American ideology, I believe its an ideology that was best suited for a different time, or a different place than 2019 in Bowie. Today the entire country, and specifically this region, is faced with rapidly aging infrastructure, yet an exploding population. The Bowie drinking water system, our surrounding highway network and our public schools all require significant investments that our community has yet to find funding for. New development very often does not generate enough revenue to offsets these challenges. In fact, it more often places additional burdens on our water, roads, schools and public safety than it will help support them. Labor and construction costs continue to sky-rocket, making the purchasing power of the dollar for new infrastructure less and less, but we are not requiring new development to compensate for this. If development generated enough taxes to cover the costs of needed infrastructure improvements, it may be a smart business decision to support future development, however, I believe its a bad business decision for Bowie that will only add to the growing problem.
We got to this problem today because we cut rates on developers to incentive them to build. We can't afford to continue to build on top of each other, at least until we adopt a strong economic strategy and we commit to a long-range strategic infrastructure investment plan that will bring Bowie to where it needs to be. Until we have these plans and policies in place, I'm content protecting the open space and green infrastructure that our existing citizens fell in love with when they first bought their homes here.
I believe there is not a person in Bowie that is "anti-ice", despite what has been said in recent events. The Ice Arena is a nostalgic structure in Bowie that deserves its place in Bowie for decades to come. However, I believe we need to built, not just the Ice Arena, but the Sports Complex correctly. On April 11, 2018 the Bowie City Council voted to approve the site selection and the design of the Ice Arena, after many years of debating it. Within about 1 year, from April 2018 to June 2019, the project selected a site and developed the design of the facility without any public involvement. This would be okay for a small project, but this is a project with a price tag of $25M for construction. I work in an industry that builds project with budgets of this size, and I can assure you it is unheard of for a project to go from site selection, acquire property and go from 0% to 100% design ALL in one year. On top of this, there was no public involvement. In my line of work, a project of this size and importance that expedites its schedule this rapidly, is very questionable and may even be unethical because it did not go through proper channels for public input.
We are now seeing the negative effects of this flawed process come to surface. The City believed that the location that was selected was the only logical location and no public involvement was necessary in its selection. As a result residents of Church Road have organized against it, and proponents for smart growth within the City have also expressed their disappointment in its location. In addition, in a similar manner to the site selection being decided too quickly, the types of facilities to be placed in the facility was also decided too quickly. Very little to no research or coordination was done with outside stakeholders to find creative mechanisms to fund the facility so that basketball and perhaps even swimming could be built in the Sports Complex. A quick decision was made based on the fact that Ice Hockey could generate enough fees to cover operating costs of the facility. Ice Hockey users may cover operating costs, but it was never clear how long it would take for those users to pay off the construction cost of the facility. It was simply assumed that the tax payers should eat those costs. If tax payers are going to eat those costs, however, we should ensure the construction costs are split equitable across the population, particularly by ensuring there is court space available for basketball and other floor sports.
Our council meetings in July will reveal the results of how long it will take for the Ice Arena to pay back its construction costs, however, we are still left with the issue of location and the equability of other sports to have the right to use this facility consider the high cost. I believe we should further explore these and delay the construction until we figure this out. In the mean time, I believe we should find ways to continue the existing ice program until this is figured out. We have to delay building the awesome new ice facility the ice community has long desired, however, when completed, this facility will not just be an ice arena that is far away from the rest of the City, in a location not wanted by local resident. A facility along these lines will eventually become a facility that is not beloved by its residents as the existing Ice Arena is today. Given a little more time to determine a better location, and identify additional partnerships for additional funding, we can build a facility that will satisfy more user groups, be located in a place where residents want it, and can be done for the same cost of Bowie tax payer money. It will be a facility that will stand the test of time and only strengthen the nostalgic appeal that the existing Ice Arena has in Bowie.
I do not want to see the land owned by the Jesuits (MD 450 just west of MD 301) developed because it will impact the dwindling forested areas around the City, it will add traffic, and it will burden our city resources more than it will generate revenue. I will NOT vote to give the Jesuit Property access to the Bowie water system and I will work toward obtaining federal land grants to see if we can preserve portions of the land. I recently learned from door knocking that there is significant African American history in that land and graves of slaves, whose ancestors can be tracked today. We need to preserve this history for the families of those connected to these people and designate it as a historic landmark that people can visit and learn from the struggles of our past.
I'm determined to preserve as much of possible of the land and hope to acquire federal and state grants to do so. If we can't preserve all of it, I won't allow the the development to move forward without very strict negotiations with the developer that favor the EXISTING residents of Bowie:
If a developer cannot profit under these 4 conditions, then they should look into investing into a different area to develop. I will not allow existing Bowie residents to continue to deal with the aftermath of new development, long after the developers walk away.