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Howard County Council Legislative Record Tracker - October Edition

Hiruy Hadgu

These are the pieces of legislation introduced in September, which the County Council will potentially vote on October 7, 2019. This list does not include other pieces of legislation introduced previously. The bill details maybe found here.

In the following, the new legislation, its potential impact on the applicable issues (budget, school quality, affordable housing, or accountability), and a brief description are provided. The scores (-2, -1, 1, or 2) are assigned based on how approval of the legislation as proposed will affect the aforementioned issues.

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The Circle of Influence Hurting Affordable Housing in Howard County

Hiruy Hadgu

Most community activists and elected officials get their start in politics at any level of government to address an issue about which they are deeply passionate. Only a work of passion would warrant spending an inordinate amount of time tackling intractable issues such as school funding, public transportation, or perhaps bringing attention to the lack of pedestrian paths, traffic signals etc… on top of taking care of family and their day jobs.

Of course some get involved out of ambition and for power too.

In local politics, solving problems and making a difference are the prevalent reason people get involved. It is not an easy job. The workload is enormous, it is time consuming, it does not compensate for the opportunity cost of the time that could be used to generate income, and the pace of progress is painfully incremental. In some cases, it almost can feel like taking one step forward and two steps backward.

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On Segregation, it’s the County Council and County Executive’s Turn to Act

Hiruy Hadgu

The use a politically charged issue to make the opponent look bad, and the use wedge issues to create divisions, and reap the benefits of this division are well honed skills of the establishment members of Howard County's Democratic Party.

This explains the resolution’s odd timing and hollow content. It was less about the need to address segregation and more about creating a politically difficult environment for the Superintendent.

This is why the resolution addressed zoning and land-use in the most cursory way rather than address it head-on.

The problems started due to zoning and land-use laws and the County Council and County Executive have a chance to begin addressing them today.

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How Howard County Developers and Politicians Plan to Increase the Budget Deficit

Hiruy Hadgu

“[N]ew residential development not only “pays its own way”, it also subsidizes existing residential units in the County”. This was a conclusion reached by a Urban Analytics after conducting a study paid for by taxpayers in response to the adequate public facilities ordinance (APFO) update of 2018.

If this statement does not sound familiar, it is the same conclusion a similar study reached fifteen years ago.

In 2005, economist Anirban Basu’s firm Sage Policy Group conducted a study for the Maryland Builders Association, in response to a slew of impact fee legislation adopted by several Maryland Counties and concluded "what we have found is that new development tends to more than pay for itself and disproportionately finances the growth in government…”

Now we have a record budget deficit.

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Center Maryland, MBIA and Howard County Democratic Party Politicians

Hiruy Hadgu

Local politicians rely on the lack of information and lack of accountability to accomplish very little for the masses and a lot for the special interests.

Empty rhetoric and hollow promises with a dose of superficial actions are reserved for the voter, while concrete actions for the special interest, who are in this case major developers.

Certain members of Howard County’s Democratic Party are entrenched with these developers and a large part of the reasons for school overcrowding, the budget deficits, and other infrastructure issues can be directly attributed to them.

Here is a clear illustration of how this entrenchment plays out.

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Howard County Council Legislative Record Tracker - Recess Edition

Hiruy Hadgu

The Howard County Council Legislative Record Tracker has been updated with recent County Council votes.

As a taxpayer if you wonder why we have a budget mess, look no further than these votes. As a parent if you wonder why schools are overcrowded, look no further than these votes. As a voter if you wonder why little trust exists in the county process and accountability, look no further than these votes. As a resident who wants cares about affordable housing, if you wonder about why we lack it, look no further than these votes.

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Why Howard County is Facing Record Budget Deficits

Hiruy Hadgu

Howard County is like most counties plagued with leaders and policy influencers who espouse the orthodoxy that residential home construction is a source of positive revenues.

The county continues to subsidize Developer corporate profits thru low mitigation standards, low impact fees, and poor development regulations. This has resulted in "record"​ budget deficits, which will get worse unless the county changes course.

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Maryland's Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (RPS) Incentivizes Natural Gas and Subsidizes Out-of-State Electricity Producers

Hiruy Hadgu

The Maryland State Legislature wants to amend the Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) to increase the share of renewable energy production to 50% by 2030.

This aggressive goal is unrealistic, since Maryland has not even delivered on its existing goal to produce 14% of its energy with Tier 1 renewables by 2017. To date only 4% of its energy comes form these so-called Tier 1 sources.

Maryland needs nuclear power to meet its clean energy goals.

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Thank You: We Are Just Getting Started

Hiruy Hadgu

This week, I am thinking about the 1,338 (as of June 30, 2018) individuals who voted for me. Without a single doubt I can say these people believed in my campaign platform and knew exactly for what and for whom they voted.

I am also thinking about the volunteers who spent countless hours of their valuable time to knock on doors and cover the polling station.

I am thinking about those who held house parties for me and generously contributed to my campaign.

Finally, I am thinking about my campaign committee that included my mom who organized the most amazing fundraiser, the organizations who believed in me and endorsed my campaign, the many community activists and leaders who took time and spent countless hours to educate me on issues.

We are just getting started. As long as I have a platform and your continued support, I will speak out for fairness. I plan to remain engaged in county issues and combat special interest influence.

In the coming years, multiple opportunities will arise where the taxpayer could lose, while special interests gain billions:

  • School impact fees- over the last 15 years, the county has foregone at least $500 million in school impact fees that could have been used to build new schools.

  • The Downtown Columbia TIF- the second half of the tax increment financing (TIF)

  • The Laurel Park Station development and TIF- another developer is expecting TIF dollars to subsidize its profits.

  • Public Private Partnerships (P3s)- The proposed courthouse will utilize this creative scheme to siphon county dollars.

  • Comprehensive zoning rewrite- this could be another opportunity for developers to extract billions of dollars from public land.

  • The Savage Parkland Swap- this is another example of developer giveaway.

  • The Erickson Development- a developer is proposing the expansion of the planned service area (PSA), for water and sewer, using a so-called community enhancement floating (CEF) zone under the guise of solving a county problem.

We need to be vigilant and scrutinize every proposal to ensure the taxpayer does not lose.

Thank you for all the encouraging emails, phone calls, and texts. Running for county council has been an amazing experience and I am so grateful to everyone who supported me from the beginning.

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Closing Argument of My Campaign for County Council

Hiruy Hadgu

I am running for county council to break the grip developers have on county government.

Many candidates have pointed to some nice attributes as qualification for the role of county council.

Experience, being a life-long Howard County resident, or having children have all been cited.

Let’s remember however, that many Howard County voters are not happy with some of the existing county leaders who have all of those attributes.

The questions a voter needs to answer are this: who will question and push back against special interests, not succumb to political party influence, and ultimately make decisions based on data?

My positions on many issues are clear and I have been the most outspoken candidate on issues of growth management and developer influence.

If a candidate is not willing to explicitly say what they will do before they get elected, how can we expect them to do what we need after they get elected?

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BIG ENDORSEMENT: Progressive Maryland

Hiruy Hadgu

Our campaign has received another major endorsement!

Thank you to Progressive Maryland and Progressive Howard County.

I am grateful for this endorsement. It is yet another validation that our campaign is talking about the issues people care about.

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BIG ENDORSEMENT: Sierra Club Maryland

Hiruy Hadgu

Our campaign has received another major endorsement from the Sierra Club!

I am very grateful for this endorsement from a group of citizens who devote so much of their time on difficult issues to protect our environment.

Development and climate change affect our local communities. Too often, the cost of doing business does not include the impact on the environment.

Taxpayer dollars can only be protected once we incorporate externalities to the cost of doing business.

I am committed to ensuring our environment and county revenue is protected by calling for such measures.

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A Taste of Habesha | Campaign Fundraiser

Hiruy Hadgu

If you like authentic Habesha (Ethiopian/Eritrean) food or have always wanted to try it, this is your chance!

You are invited to attend a fundraiser for my campaign.

Spend the afternoon with us and experience a unique fundraiser with Habesha cuisine and music!

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Reasons to Vote Hiruy for County Council

Hiruy Hadgu

As a candidate, I made two important decisions: to not accept developer contributions and to provide concrete policy positions and a platform that addresses county-specific issues.

I strive to provide information to voters on county-specific issues. I want voters to elect a candidate that will address the county problems. I think the stakes are just too high for platitudes.

Between June 14 and 21 (early voting) and on June 26 (election day) voters have an important decision to make.

I humbly ask for your vote for the following reasons.

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BIG ENDORSEMENT: The People's Voice

Hiruy Hadgu

I am so grateful that The People's Voice has endorsed my campaign for county council.

The People's Voice is a civic and political organization that works to provide information to the voter on county-specific issues and pushes for transparency in the county government's decision making process.

The organization is comprised of citizen activists who are hyper-engaged in county issues. They understand these issues on a very deep level. They advocate on the environment, growth management, on behalf of the disabled, and many more issues critical to residents of Howard County.

 Learn more about them here

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Howard County's Affordable Housing Shell Game

Hiruy Hadgu

In the search for solutions, there are serious stakeholders and there are those who simply create obstacles.

In 2015, CDHC presented a recommendation that made 15% of housing affordable to households at an average of 60% of Average Median Income (AMI) - 1/3 would serve 40%, 1/3 at 60%, and 1/3 at 80%.

This was met with stiff resistance. Instead of providing any workable solution, developers enlisted organizations such as Howard County Chamber of Commerce, who sent a letter saying “we agree with the expectation that downtown Columbia will include expanded opportunities for in-town living in both housing for and affordability. The need for affordable, workforce housing is a goal shared by all. We do not, however, agree with the recommendations proposed by CDHC.

The public does not trust the process. County leaders have given everything in return for nothing. Exemptions, free money by way of tax-increment financing (TIF), very low fee-in-lieu exemptions, and developers' lack of good-will, has led to our current problem.

So the first thing to do is establish this trust in the process.

Next. No exemptions. Require a minimum of 10 to 15% affordable housing in all zoning districts of the county. New Town, Turf Valley, Maple Lawn, Village Centers, Downtown Columbia, River Hill, either have received exemptions or do not require any affordable housing.

Once the threshold is established, survey the county's existing affordable hosing inventory and the locations. In parts of the county where the threshold is met, require the developer to pay a fee that is market based.

Where possible revise existing agreements. If the Downtown Columbia DRRA can be renegotiated, we need to go back to the drawing table. I have already stated my concerns regarding the $90 million TIF the county has given to HHC. These questionable practices should be audited to protect the county's welfare.

Inclusionary zoning practices rather than practices that concentrate poverty in specific areas of the county should be the goal. If we continue in the current path, we will increase the segregation by income and race, which is already apparent. All we have to do is look at the free and reduced meal (FARM) percentages in certain schools.

We need solutions. Not platitudes.

We need problem solvers. Not obstacles.

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Less Than 100 Days to Election Day

Hiruy Hadgu

The 2018 primaries will be held in June. Here are the times and locations for the two voting periods. Note that your early voting locations maybe different from the polling locations on election day.

Early voting: June 14th to 21st
Polling precinct locations: Find the locations here.

Election Day: Tuesday, June 26th.
Polling precinct locations: Find your location here.

Click here to check you voter registration status.

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BIG ENDORSEMENT: Our Revolution Maryland

Hiruy Hadgu

I feel truly honored by this endorsement. It is yet another validation that my campaign for county council is about regular citizens; not special interests.

My deepest gratitude goes to the members of Our Revolution Maryland and Howard County, who have put their faith in me to effect local changes by breaking developer influence in county government.

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