Monday night, I attended a forum on pedestrian safety at the Friendship Heights Village Center. While I've encountered my Democratic opponents (the two who are campaigning, anyway) several times, on this night William Bronrott was actually a member of the panel. Pedestrian safety is one issue that Mr. Bronrott and I can agree on, and is actually one that he has concentrated on while in office. While many critical issues have been ignored by our current delegation, I do commend Mr. Bronrott for his continued efforts on vehicular and pedestrian safety.
I also commend the organizers for all of the free stuff they put out. They even had those plastic rulers that turn into a safety armband when you slap it against your arm, as the gentleman from the D.C. Government demonstrated with an "Ouch
!" He was only joking, he assured us.
I work in Friendship Heights, but Howard Denis (County Council - District 1) actually lives there, a few yardsticks from the Center. So he was appropriately asked to take the podium to begin the evening. He did commit a faux pas
when he recognized Duchy Trachtenberg and said that he was certain that she would wake up on November 8 as a member of the Montgomery County Council. Wait a minute. Hold the phone. The only new female member of the County Council on Nov. 8 will be Amber Gnemi. Gee whiz, let's be a little more supportive of our Republican candidates.
So, anyway, then the panel began its presentations. In contrast to the affordable housing and Westbard debates, there were actually a lot of specifics in the discussions, so I applaud that. Statistics, results of current programs, and future plans were detailed by the panel, which also included Lt. Smith from the Bethesda District of the Montgomery County Police, and traffic experts from the MDSHA, Washington D.C., and Montgomery County. Then it was time for questions from the audience, and it was all downhill from there.
Apparently, the status quo didn't want the Friendship Heights citizens to hear from Mr. Bronrott's challenger, Robert Dyer. Let me be clear: I don't have any solid evidence of that, besides some whispers between certain individuals during the Q&A. But moments later it was announced that the question period would be cut short. The self-described "Phil Donahue" (insert your own comment here
) in the crowd kept the mic on the other side of the room, while panelists turned on the slow gas for the longest answers you've ever heard. As they ran down the clock NFL-style, I could hardly contain my laughter. And there were too many officials in the crowd asking questions, and going on and on and on, which prevented actual citizens from having a chance to speak. This was a citizens' forum, not a council meeting. Strange, then, that so many senior citizens who had made the effort to attend were not allowed to comment on the issues during the forum.
Well, here's what I was going to say: I work in Friendship Heights, so I'm up there on a daily basis and know the problems unlike the panelists. For example, the "experts" didn't even know the situation with the bus terminal, which led to some justifiable muttering in the crowd. Secondly, some of the most effective solutions are the cheapest: countdown signals, rumble strips, and lighted signage. The fact is that many drivers aren't paying attention, and we can reduce some accidents by getting their attention. The other bad drivers are hardcore speeders and aggressive drivers who require police enforcement. Finally, the County needs to take into account the high percentage of senior citizens in Friendship Heights when setting the timers for crossing signals.
Frankly, I'm not convinced enough has been done on the pedestrian safety issue in Friendship Heights. Given the demographics of the area, it is embarrassing that there are not more pedestrian bridges and other such safe passages to assist residents in getting to and from their homes, shopping, Metro, and restaurants. So if you live in Friendship Heights, and you're dissatisfied with the dangerous conditions, vote for Robert Dyer on Nov. 7! I will actually get something done about it! Then I'll be on the next panel discussion. And I promise to let my opponents speak.