Montgomery County Council overrides veto of Silver Spring Business Improvement District

In an 8-1 vote, the Montgomery County Council overrode County Executive Marc Elrich’s veto of a bill that creates a downtown business improvement district, or BID, in Silver Spring, Maryland.

Council member Will Jawando was the one “no” vote, saying the structure of the BID did not have the support of a diverse group of small business owners in Silver Spring.

A number of groups, including the Montgomery County Black Collective, the Montgomery County Black Business Council and the Maryland Black Chamber of Commerce, wrote to the council to express concerns about representation of Black-owned businesses on the board.

Under the legislation, the board of directors of the BID would include three representatives of business owners who have properties assessed at $20 million or more. Two members would represent businesses with properties assessed at less than $20 million; one member would represent a business employing more than 50 full-time workers; and three members would represent businesses with 50 or fewer full-time employees.

While the nine-member BID board would include small business owners, Jawando said, “The fact remains that property owners with the largest and most expensive property not only have the plurality of seats on the board, but they also have more votes.”

Council President Tom Hucker, whose district includes downtown Silver Spring, said that what was once a vibrant downtown has seen jobs, shoppers, diners and concertgoers disappear.

“We had these surging, diverse crowds of young people and families and seniors spending money and enjoying the nightlife in Silver Spring.” Now, he said, those crowds “are all gone.”

Hucker said that what’s needed is a BID that can provide professional marketing to revive the business community.

Jawando responded, “I contend that these 65% of small businesses are professionals, and they should have a voice in saying what we’re doing.”

The 65% reference is related to a proposal from state lawmakers who proposed that the formation of a BID would have to have the approval of 65% of small business owners in the BID.

“No one’s saying, ‘Don’t have a new approach.’ We all agree with that,” Jawando told his fellow council members. “The question is how we do it. Are we going to do it in an inclusive way? Are we going to do it in a way that includes everybody?”

Elrich initially vetoed the legislation, saying it didn’t meet the county’s stated goals for racial equity and that the bill had been rushed to passage.

On Sept. 23, Elrich proposed a different structure to achieve the same goal of boosting business and breathing new life into Silver Spring’s downtown. Elrich proposed what he called the “Silver Spring Urban District,” which he said in a letter to Hucker would “strive to capture, enhance, and promote the great attributes of Silver Spring.”

Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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