Keeping up with constituents during this time of social distancing and small gatherings is not easy, but Montgomery County Councilmember Andrew Friedson (District 1) does his best, using interactive social media.
Friedson held a Virtual Town Hall Community Conversation Nov. 12, opening with the news that COVID-19 numbers in the County are way up.
“It is an alarming situation,” he said.
Reviewing some of the changes County Executive Marc Elrich announced just days earlier, Friedson was sympathetic about the effects of the tighter controls on residents and businesses but supportive of the changes.
“We need to make significant changes to curb this alarming trend,” he said.
Those changes include limiting gatherings to 25 people, down from 50, and limiting some businesses to operating at 25 percent capacity, a reduction from 50 percent.
COVID-19 virus was high on the list of questions from residents during the meeting too.
Of the more than three dozen questions submitted by attendees, 11 of 38 concerned COVID.
Restrictions were questioned.
“Cases are heading in the wrong direction. We need to make a significant step into cutting into that,” Friedson said. “The general thought process of the public health officers and what they’ve proposed is a broad suppression strategy … every activity is inherently more dangerous. As we head to Thanksgiving and the holidays, we all need to accept our own responsibility and accountability, because one of the main areas of concern is informal family and friend gatherings. At these … gatherings the opportunity for super-spreader type events is significantly higher. We all have the responsibility to wear a mask, wash our hands repeatedly, to get tested, get our flu shot. We need to keep ourselves healthy.”
Transportation topped other concerns from those asking questions including about the Purple Line, and proposed widening of 495 and 270 to add toll lanes. The Purple rail line being constructed to connect Bethesda and Silver Spring came to a halt when the contractor walked away in a dispute over who would pay for cost overruns. Friedson said the project would be completed, with the state taking over for now.
Friedson also offered a short explanation of Question A, which was on the Nov. 3 ballot and passed, and Question B, which did not.
Friedson also answered questions about a proposal to build high rise apartments on land in the County owns by WMATA stations, currently used for parking. Friedson supports a tax abatement for building above the lots.
“We need high rise housing on Metro,” Friedson said. “The question is whether we want to expand … now we are collecting nothing. Are we going to give up nothing or get vibrancy and income which is significantly more than the abatement?”
Friedson conducts bimonthly town hall meetings online and monthly “Fridays with Friedson” meetings, also online.
Visit his website for dates of future meetings: https://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/friedson/about.html
For information on how the virus is spreading in the county, visit: https://montgomerycountymd.gov/covid19/data/
For help with anxiety, visit: https://www.every-mind.org/ or call the Crisis Center (24/7 line) — 240-777-4000; EveryMind (24/7 line) — 301-738-2255.