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Speak now or forever…..  Nope I’m not going to say ‘hold your peace’. Because you won’t. You’ll moan and groan about your child’s overcrowded school, the horrific traffic jams you sit in, and the clearing of seemingly every last tree for yet another development. But the stark reality is– you’ll have no one to blame but yourself for those conditions continuing.  The time is NOW to speak out and say “We’re not going to take it anymore.  We want APFO legislation that will help us catch up on our woefully inadequate public facilities.  We want schools and roads and police and fire & EMS brought up to standard BEFORE more building occurs. We want developers to pay their fair share going forward so we don’t proverbially find ourselves in a hole.

Speak now or forever…..  There’s a whole list of other ways to end that sentence when one is talking about the final opportunity to testify on the Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance. (This Monday, September 11th beginning at 6 p.m. the County Council will hear additional testimony on the APFO legislation in the Banneker Room of the George Howard building,  3430  Courthouse Drive Ellicott City.)

Speak now or forever…… regret it.   Speak now or forever face blaming yourself when your child spends a year in a decades-old ‘temporary’ classroom. Afterall,

  • it’s great practice to put one’s coat on and off multiple times in a 6 hour span—or to worsen a cold with not bothering.
  • lock downs or evacuations are an engrossing real life learning experience.
  • computers can’t be made available in temporaries due to the risk of break-ins so we’ll just teach without them….

Speak now or forever……live with uncertainty

Live with the year-to-year uncertainty that you may ‘lose’ during Redistricting Roulette so that builders can keep building. Sure the salesman told you which schools are served by your new house and you assumed that would be the case forever. Maybe you and your spouse are each working two jobs to assure your child a great Howard County Education.  However, your dream could quickly turn into a nightmare when you learn your elementary schooler will now be boarding a bus before dawn and traveling 15 miles to another location.  Maybe you believed that all Howard County schools are created equal but come to the reality that student achievement and extracurricular activities vary widely from community to community. Just how great will their High School experience be when enrollment reaches 150% of capacity? How much will your home’s resale value drop when you are not in the “prime” attendance area?

Sure you can assume that some other parent– perhaps someone more experienced at speaking out at a council meeting– will take care of this situation. Sure you can conclude that the number of people attending the council meeting won’t make a difference. Sure you’re tired after a hard day at work: So is everyone else. Are you sure you are ready for the consequences?

But schools are just one aspect of the APFO legislation. Roads are another. It is not okay to accept Road Ratings of E or F. It is not enough to simply erect signs which say “Be Alert! Congestion Next 3 Miles” or “Roadway Closed due to Flooding.”  We need development that realistically covers the cost to FIX IT! rather than making the situation worse.  It is not realistic to think increasing bicycling will eliminate the need for more roads– or for public transportation.  There is nothing quite so anxiety producing as sitting stalled in traffic as the clock ticks down the moments until your daycare center closes and will begin charging—by the minute—for your tardiness.  Or you know that sports practice has ended and your child is waiting at the curb—but once again you are stuck in traffic.  We shouldn’t have to live like this and see the situation worsen year after year.

Election promises were made to revisit the adequate public facilities ordinance. Perhaps like me, you foolishly thought that would assure significant improvements. The reality is that what is proposed in the legislation is Too Little Too Late.  It is up to YOU to demand that the legislation be strengthened by:

  • declaring development should be halted when school capacity reaches 100%, not 110 or 115%
  • declaring that the similar standard should apply to high schools (currently enrollment capacity is considered limitless!)
  • Mitigation (funding, additional time, or both) begins when a school reaches 95% capacity.
  • Include quality of life services like fire, EMS, hospitals, libraries, recreation, etc. as some surrounding counties do
  • NO reductions to the current wait time for housing allocations or school tests.
  • APFO needs to be reviewed every 4 years.
  • Increase real estate transfer tax by 1.0%.

And please:  refuse to accept adding an additional 200 units per year in the Established Neighborhoods category—established neighborhoods are already being destroyed by building half a dozen units where a single house once stood. Stop allowing building in the front or rear yards of homes!

The last opportunity to try to make vital change is soon upon us but it is not too late for you to learn enough to take a position. You can read testimony that has been submitted or listen to things that were said at the last hearing. (see below for links) It’s great that for the first time the Council of PTAs, Teachers Union and the Board of Education will be taking a position on the APFO legislation but they can’t do it alone. If you are too shy to speak, then offer to drive someone who will– and support them with your presence.

Speak now or forever…….. and meet me on the high road,

 Susan    (FYI- I spoke up at the July session so I cannot speak again.)  to read the bill and the written testimony submitted  go in two hours, 15 minutes for APFO testimony to begin (some GREAT stuff there)  to sign up to testify for CB 61, 62