2012 has come and gone, and as we begin what is sure to be another exciting year ahead, I wanted to briefly recap some of the significant milestones of the past year.
In 2012, I served for a second-straight-year as the Baltimore County Council’s representative on the Maryland Association of Counties (MACo) legislative committee. In that role, I visited Annapolis and advocated on behalf of Baltimore County on various issues of state law and policy. I also served on the land use committee, where we considered and weighed in on issues such as Plan Maryland, the Sustainable Growth and Agricultural Preservation Act (SB 236), and the re-codification of the Land Use Article of the Maryland Code. I have enjoyed serving as the MACo rep for the past two years, and I am pleased that I will continue on for the upcoming 2013 session.
Locally, on the legislative end, the County Council considered and voted on hundreds of important legislative matters, including more than 80 bills and 100 resolutions, as well as various fiscal matters, contracts and miscellaneous business items during 2012. These items addressed a variety of important issues ranging from land use regulations to budget and taxation issues, discrimination policies, ethics reform, and numerous other local issues.
From a land use and development perspective, the Comprehensive Zoning Map Process (CZMP) consumed a substantial portion of the year, with over 300 county-wide zoning issues, and 43 issues located in the sixth district. Ultimately, the council adopted new zoning maps reflecting the various zoning changes. Additionally, I supported several bills focused on making development related proposals and review more accessible to the community, including posting information on line, and revisions to the community input aspects of the development process, especially the Planned Unit Development (PUD) process.
In Parkville and Carney, I co-sponsored legislation to prohibit “panhandle” lots, and in the South Perry Hall-White Marsh Area, I recently sponsored a bill which standardized the minimum 75’ lot width for all future single family housing developments. I sponsored legislation to enhance the redevelopment potential and promote the re-use of historic industrial properties, and I also offered amendments to several bills which I felt would have potentially jeopardized the quality-of-life in certain rural, unique, or environmentally sensitive areas in the sixth district. With each action, my goal was to consider the impacts to the sixth district, with a balanced approach and an eye toward smart growth, protecting the URDL, and common sense preservation and enhancement of the quality of our neighborhoods.
From a fiscal perspective, the Council approved a slim and balanced budget, while maintaining the property and income tax rates without any increases. Additionally we approved additional tax credit opportunities for energy efficiency and performance, and sponsored resolutions to approve tax refunds for eligible disabled veterans and blind persons.
From a business perspective, I was honored to work with the various business owners, trade associations and the Chamber of Commerce, and to welcome new business and more jobs to the sixth district. I was pleased to celebrate the grand openings of retail anchors such as Big Lots in Middle River, Giant in Parkville, Boscov’s in White Marsh, and several new businesses throughout the east side.
I was especially pleased to celebrate at the ribbon cutting ceremonies for several new businesses that opened in 2012 at the Baltimore Crossroads on Maryland Route 43, including Royal Farms, Triad Isotopes, Paragon Consulting Services, Zesto Pizza & Grill, and I look forward to welcoming new jobs and new business to the sixth district in 2013 and in the years to come.
In education, we welcomed a new superintendent, S. Dallas Dance, who has worked very closely with the council to ensure that Baltimore County Public Schools continue to excel and continue improving the educational facilities – especially infrastructure and school safety.
I was pleased to help obtain future funding for various upcoming facilities improvements, (air conditioning improvements at Middleborough Elementary School and Elmwood Elementary Schools, windows and doors at Overlea High School), and I was pleased to unveil the newly renovated building at Parkville High School. CCBC Essex also celebrated its newly renovated math and science building, and the Maryland School for the Blind unveiled its newest independent living home, and broke ground on the new LIFE learning Activity Center & Cottages.
During the past year, I visited many schools, met with administration, and I once again held a reception to honor the STEM fair participants and winners of the fourth and fifth grade science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) projects from each of the sixth district elementary schools.
My background and my passion is and continues to be constituent services, and I have an open door policy, and my staff and I are here to serve you. In fact, in addition to legislative responsibilities, I am pleased that my office has handled well over 900 constituent issues, and we continually work on behalf of the residents of eastern Baltimore County on a variety of constituent related issues. Throughout 2012 I spoke to many organizations and civic and community associations with updates about the ongoing activities in my office, and to hear directly from the communities.
One particular accomplishment I am especially proud of is the resumption of water testing in our recreational waters. This critically important testing was phased out several years ago, and I heard concerns from several different associations. Thus, I made a personal plea to the County Executive to resume the testing to ensure that folks are aware of any known health risks associated with recreational swimming, boating, fishing, and other activities in Baltimore County waterways, and eventually we worked it out so that the testing resumed in 2012.
Of course, many of our older neighborhoods are also in need of significant infrastructure improvements, and while financial resources are limited, I was pleased to be able to secure additional funding for road resurfacing projects in the sixth district. In fact, the entire Hawthorne community recently had their roads resurfaced, and resurfacing will continue in several other neighborhoods once the weather warms up this spring.
Happy New Year. I look forward to working on your behalf in 2013, and for the years to come.
Councilwoman, 6th District