Last Thursday, the Montgomery County Council voted to appoint Germantown businesswoman Tina Patterson to the vacant seat on the Montgomery County Planning Board, making her the only member of the five-member board to live north of Rockville. However, after the vote, some council members, even some who voted for her, expressed regret they didn’t approve another candidate.
She was one of four finalists for the position. She had also been a finalist the last time there was a vacancy on the board. She replaces Marye Wells-Harley who is about to complete two four-year terms and is ineligible for reappointment.
Also among the finalists were Dan Reed, a blogger and urban planner from Silver Spring, Bruce Romer of Bethesda, and Peter Myro Khin of Silver Spring. However, it seems Patterson and Reed were the top candidates.
Dan Reed is a certified urban planner and the creator of the popular Just Up The Pike blog, which focuses on development, design, and life in Silver Spring and East Montgomery County. He has also been a contributor to Greater Greater Washington, an online news site dedicated to covering planning and land use in the Washington D.C. area and its surrounding suburbs.
Patterson, 54, is the owner of Germantown-based Jade Solutions LLC and has lived in Montgomery County for 11 years but says she is not affiliated with either political party.
The vote was 8-1 with only At-Large Councilmember George Leventhal voting against Patterson’s appointment based, he said, solely on political reasons. According to Maryland State Law, the Planning Board is to have no more than three members from one political party. The board currently has three Democrats — Wells-Harley (who Patterson will replace), Chair Casey Anderson and Natali Fani-Gonzalez. The other members, Norman Dreyfuss and Gerald Cichy, are both Republicans.
Since Patterson identified herself as an unaffiliated candidate, Leventhal would not join his fellow Council members in voting for Patterson.
“The state law is written to prevent complete disenfranchisement of minority parties,” said Leventhal, “but it also anticipates that the party majority [on the Planning Board] will reflect the party majority of the County Council. The party majority of the County Council has always included a majority of Democrats, and the Council has always maintained a majority of Democrats on the Planning Board. I think very highly of Tina Patterson who is not a Democrat, but unaffiliated with any political party and I would have been enthusiastic about appointing her to the Planning Board when Republican Planning Board member Norm Dreyfuss finishes his second term in 2019. However, I cannot support an appointment that will place Democrats in the minority on the Planning Board.”
After the vote two council members, At-Large member Hans Reimer and District 4 representative Nancy Navarro said they would have rather voted for Dan Reed, but couldn’t because he was not going to be nominated. Patterson was the only candidate that would have gotten at least five votes.
Reimer wrote on his Facebook Page, “I have always respected [Dan Reed] as one of our county's leading voices on planning, community and economic development issues. He was my first choice for the Planning Board. Nevertheless, I am confident that Tina Patterson will bring a valuable perspective to the Planning Board and I look forward to working with her.”
Leventhal responded to Reimer’s Facebook post saying, “Of course, you, or I, or any other Councilmember could have nominated Dan, but we knew there were not enough votes to appoint him, so nominating him would have caused strife and extended debate among members, which the group agreed not to have.”
During the Council vote to approve Patterson, At-Large Councilmember Nancy Floreen spoke of the importance of having the UpCounty represented on the Planning Board.
“Tina brings incredible mediation experience,” said Floreen. “The Planning Board is a mediation board resolving community issues. I think that is incredibly important. I also think it is incredibly important that we have a representative from the UpCounty, we lost that last year, and now we will have an UpCounty representative. It is the future of Montgomery County, and it is really important that that community be represented.”
As one would expect, Councilmember Craig Rice, who represents the Germantown area from District 2 was supportive of Patterson’s appointment regardless of her lack of political affiliation.
“Here in Montgomery County rise above [political issues] and say we want to put the best people in the right positions,” said Rice during the vote. “We don’t believe in trying to politicize things. I think the qualifications of Ms. Patterson are definitely ones that are far beyond what we would ask. It is the reason why she has been asked back to interviewed by the County Council twice now. She does also represent the UpCounty which does give a different voice. I do think that it is important for us to understand that there is a huge amount of growth that is happening in the UpCounty Region and people who live there and people who live there, certainly need to have their voices heard in being represented on the Planning Board.”
Meanwhile, a Greater Greater Washington blog post written in part by its founder David Alpert states that “Patterson may move the county in the wrong direction” because she stated a position that many of her fellow UpCounty residents agree with, that M-83 should be built in favor of Bus Rapid Transit. It is, of course, not something that the majority of the members of the County Council do not support. Only one of the nine members of the Council live in the UpCounty region.
“I think M-83 should be built with the understanding that the impact on the environmentally sensitive areas must be addressed first,” wrote Patterson in the Sierra Club questionnaire according to Greater Greater Washington. “I support the BRT, but I am aware that the BRT will not address many commuters’ needs due to other factors (e.g. work schedule, other commitments). Considering this, I’m not certain that rededicating lanes of auto traffic to the BRT is efficient.”
The Greater Greater Washington piece also took offense when Patterson did not equivocally say she would protect the Agricultural Reserve; she also didn’t state that it should be changed or discarded at all.
“I do think the current protection of the Ag Reserve is adequate,” wrote Patterson, “but will most likely have to be reviewed in the next 5 to 10 years as the County continues to grow to determine the impact growth in the UpCounty on the Ag Reserve (e.g. greenhouse gas emissions).”
Patterson’s business, Jade Solutions, provides consulting services including product management, proposal development, alternative dispute resolution and facilitation services. She is a member of Committee for Montgomery and Leadership Montgomery. She is a volunteer with the Montgomery County Interfaith Advisory Board. She previously served on the Board of Directors of the Black Rock Center for the Arts in Germantown.
The board’s website says Wells-Harley will remain on the board through July 27, which is the board’s last meeting before its August break; Patterson, who will serve a four-year term, will be sworn in thereafter. The position pays $30,000 a year.