Schuh Turns His Back on Business

Schuh Turns His Back on Business

 

Op-ed by Steuart Pittman as published in The Capital July 30

My campaign for county executive has been labeled by my opponent’s team as anti-business. I’m not, of course. My record of working against burdensome business regulations and promoting market-based solutions to social problems goes back thirty years. I am unabashedly pro-people, pro-environment, and pro-business.

Steve Schuh claims the pro-business label as well, but this week he lost it. On Tuesday evening at the candidate forum on affordable housing, he came out strongly against smart growth. On Wednesday, I read in this paper that he wants to cut public transportation. Smart growth and public transportation are the keys to a pro-people, pro-environment, and pro-business future.

Here is my take on what happened.

Smart growth combats sprawl. It preserves open space and reduces traffic by placing housing and commercial development near transportation hubs. Schools and infrastructure are always part of a smart growth plan.

I argued at the affordable housing forum that smart growth facilitates creation of housing that is affordable for our local workforce. It uses less land, and land is expensive.

Development in our county has been reckless. We had a 24% jump in new home closings last year. Many were built in locations that we thought were protected. The average sale price was $600,000 for single-family and $400,000 for townhomes. Only 18 of the 1,597 homes closed were condos. The sprawl that destroys the natural beauty of our county is also creating a workforce housing crisis.

Steve Schuh pivoted from a fall fundraising pitch for his “pro-growth agenda” to a spring letter to neighborhood associations pledging to “slow growth.” He made a rare appearance before the county council in February announcing new “smart growth initiatives.”

But Tuesday night he closed the door on smart growth, saying, “Whether it’s affordable or not affordable, just any kind of large-scale, apartment-type development is in my opinion not the way to go.”

This will come as a shock to our county’s Chamber of Commerce. The Workforce Housing Task Force Report that they published in 2006 just got shredded.

But Schuh went further this week. He wrote a letter to the Secretary of Transportation asking that two light rail stations be closed and that service to the most heavily used station in the county be ended during “non-essential hours.”

Cuts to public transportation in most jurisdictions result from low ridership and budgetary concerns. The light rail costs the county nothing, and the southernmost station averages 1,124 riders daily. Many of those riders transfer to busses that take them to their jobs elsewhere in the county, including Arundel Mills Mall.

So why would Steve Schuh cut the transportation that these workers and businesses rely on?

According to spokesperson Owen McEvoy, Schuh recently heard from Senate candidate John Grasso and some residents that the light rail brings a criminal element into their communities. McEvoy adds that, “There has not been a crime wave, but we have been hearing more loudly from the community.” In other words, it’s an election year and we think we can get some votes with this.

We do have a crime problem at and near the light rail stations. That’s why we now have police officers riding the trains and patrolling the areas. Our challenge is that we have fewer sworn officers on our police force than we had when Steve Schuh took office.

The new public safety positions that Steve Schuh congratulates himself on have not been filled. We have fewer than 700 sworn officers and we know that we need to be well over 800 to serve the growing population. Our officers need to be compensated fairly and get back to normal schedules, so we don’t continue losing more than we hire.

Our county needs more public transportation, not less. And it needs more housing that is affordable for our workforce. We can do both while improving public safety and protecting our environment.  

It just takes some political bravery.

Posted on 01 Aug 2018, 01:52 - Category: Campaign News

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By Authority of Friends of Steuart Pittman, VIrginia Clagett Treasurer
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