Brandy Brooks’ Statement on ZTA 18-05 to Establish Special Zoning for an Amazon Headquarters
Tuesday, 15 May 2018
To the members of the Montgomery County Council:
My name is Brandy Brooks. I am a resident of Wheaton, an organizer with Progressive Maryland, and a candidate for County Council At-Large. As I’ve spoken with residents across the county during the past year of campaigning, one of the most common concerns raised in these conversations is the belief that our County government prioritizes the interests and profit of developers over any concern that residents have about their quality of life and the quality of our public services. By putting forth this zoning text amendment to meet the demands of one of the wealthiest corporations in the world, the County Council is demonstrating exactly why so many County residents believe that their government no longer represents them.
There are numerous studies and live examples from our region and our own county that make it clear that the public does not receive the promised financial returns from corporate and development tax incentives – and in fact, that local governments end up shouldering additional burdens in costs for infrastructure and public services that are generated by these projects. We see this already in the way that developments approved by the County Council have created unsustainable and unmanageable impacts on our roadways and public schools. But even if one were to believe the rosy financial forecasts from Amazon boosters, there is no doubt that the impacts of this development will be far beyond any previously approved single development project – which makes it completely ridiculous that the County Executive, the Planning Board, and the County Council would seek to shorten the review timeframe and eliminate steps in the review process that help both County officials and residents to assess and respond to an Amazon headquarters proposal.
As a resident of this county, I expect my public officials to put the public interest before the private interests of one wealthy resident and the company he owns. I see that my elected officials are very willing to make concrete promises to Amazon about the financial incentives they will receive and the special processes that will be created for them. Here’s what I don’t see: I don’t see my County Council, County Executive, state legislators or governor being concrete about the benefits that will come to the community and county I live in. I don’t see concrete promises about local hiring, or ensuring that all jobs at an Amazon HQ will pay living wages – including the security, clerical, maintenance and service staff required to support such an operation. I don’t see any concrete plan for dealing with the added pressures on affordable housing and school capacity that will come with an Amazon HQ – pressures on systems that are already at a crisis point. I do see a final willingness to make significant financial investments in public transit for our region – but I also wonder why Amazon was worth such a commitment, but those of us who already live and work in the county didn’t merit the same kind of investment.
It is time for our public officials to start putting the public first. I urge you to reject the proposed zoning text amendment, and go back to the drawing board to develop a process that respects the interests of residents at least as much as wealthy corporations.
Brandy H. M. Brooks
1604 Constance Street
Silver Spring, MD 20902