UP Ward 5 Candidate Statement
Hello, my name is David McGaughey. Jaime and I live (with our two daughters) at 6924 Pineway. I am running for the UP Ward 5 council member seat and wanted to introduce myself, explain the main issues I think the town should be concerned about, and my positions on them.
About me and my family
I work as a scientist doing DNA sequence and “big data” analysis for the NIH in Bethesda. Jaime and I have lived in UP since September 2009. We have two kids, a 1st grader at UPES and a preschooler who, pre-COVID, was at Greenwood Daycare. Even if you don’t know me, you probably have seen me, as I’m the guy on that huge blue cargo bike (often with two kids riding on the back). I post on the listserv occasionally: I wrote a MD COVID tracker by zip code (davemcg.com/zip_level) and, in 2018, posted about running a traffic counter though my window.
This is probably a major issue for any neighborhood in / near a city. Residents are, rightfully, concerned about stop sign running, parked cars getting clipped, overflow from rush hour, cut-through traffic, and speeding. As I see it, the town currently uses a few levers to control traffic:
- Police enforcement (I personally feel like telling the police to “work harder” won’t be very effective)
- Stop signs (this avenue has been exhausted as I think nearly every intersection has one now, including several that flash)
- Speed humps (these are NOT effective in my opinion, though more severe speed bumps could be)
- “Your current speed” signs
The roads are not just for the cars to drive on. We walk and run on them. We would like our children to be able to safely cross them. We want to enjoy our sidewalks without cars zooming by. We want our children to be able to ride bikes on our roads.
As this is a universal issue there are many resources discussing ways to control traffic:
I would like the town to consider using a larger array of means to influence vehicle speeds. Personally, I’m very interested in chicanes, which are essentially permanently parked cars. As many of us are already parking our cars on our roads, this shouldn’t be a particularly substantial change. In areas where people report their cars regularly getting clipped, this will force better behavior.
You may remember I posted on the list-serve in 2018 about a raspberry-pi system to automatically count cars. This system counted nearly a thousand cars each day going past my house (with substantial directionality - cars went towards Baltimore in the morning and towards Adelphi in the afternoon). This suggests a substantial amount of thru-traffic. I would love if the town could implement some kind of cheap (!) monitoring solution in the town infrastructure so we can quantify our traffic volume and create a data-driven plan to correct the problems.
Storm drains / “why won’t the water go away”
I have personally seen my own yard and the adjacent empty lot go underwater 3 times in the past 10 years by storm drains going backwards due to uncontrollable water volumes. The issues we currently have with water are substantially impacted by issues outside our town. The culverts are too small underneath Baltimore Ave and development on all sides is paving over permeable land. The town will continue to need to be vigilant in pushing for aggressive storm water control measures for any new developments (like the one UMD is proposing just north of College Heights Estates) and advocating for downstream improvements at the county level. With the Cafritz (Whole Foods) development I understand the town played an important role in forcing the developer to dramatically expand their storm drain holding capacity.
The new Town Hall
The current office space at Town Hall is very constrained for our town employees and there is no communal space for town council meetings. This isn’t ideal. However, spending several million dollars on a town hall seems way beyond our means. We either need a more economical option or to continue on the current path (meetings at UPES and an old house for the employees). Could we lease space elsewhere or plan to build something cheaper? $3,000,000 / 900 households is approximately $3,300 per household. If indeed the mayor and a majority of the council want to approve this expenditure, I think this kind of spending would warrant a town referendum. I personally would vote against a town hall as currently proposed.
I think the town owes us a compelling argument on why we should add another employee (and a relatively expensive one) to our payroll. While other towns around us have a town manager / administrator, UP is also substantially smaller. The current approach appears to be gently “easing one in” by making it a part-time position. I think the messaging has been poor as the mayor and town council seem to have reduced the argument to “yes we need one; it is very helpful and we are doing it.” Again, $150,000 / 900 is $167 per household. Do we get $167 of value in another employee? My starting position on this matter is “no, why do we need to spend $167 per household” on an employee who is overlapping the responsibilities of the mayor and council. I need to be convinced.
Thanks for reading my opinions on these matters. We have lived in UP for over ten years. We love biking and walking through our beautiful town, admiring the many mature trees covering our town, and socializing with the many friends we have made here. I hope we can continue to work to make our streets safer for our children (and our street-parked cars), improve the storm drainage throughout our town, and carefully and responsibly spend our town residents’ money.
If you have any comments on what I have said or would like to discuss other issues important to you, please contact me at:
mcgaughey [AT] gmail [DOT] com