Maryland Voter Guide 2022

2022 Voter Guide: Joan U. Pontius, candidate for Howard County Council District 5

Howard County Council
District 5

Joan U. Pontius



Ellicott City, Howard County

Retired data analyst/project manager with a specialization in bioinformatics

I have a Bachelor's degree in Microbiology from the University of Pittsburgh, a Master's degree in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Miami, and a Doctorate in Biology from the Free University of Brussels. As a result of living in Belgium for 8 years, I speak conversational French and Dutch. During my career I was trained as a project manager and have Project Management Professional (PMP) certification.

Community activism. Testifying before county and state officials. Active in social media websites related to Howard County. Co-chair Howard County Green Party Treasurer Maryland Green Party

Why are you running for office?

I want to provide a voice for the county residents in the decision making process regarding the future direction of the county. Too often profit-driven interests take precedence over the quality of life for the citizens of Howard County. I believe we can meet the economic needs of the county without compromising social and environmental considerations. The conversion of our open spaces to residential and commercial use is irreversible. We have watched changes provide economic benefit to special interests, while eroding the quality of life of the county's residents and harming our environment. Taxes and Spending County tax rates have grown from the lowest in the state (2.4% in 1999) to the highest in the state (3.2%). The larger tax base from new housing and businesses has not led to a reduction in our tax rates. I want to see the county move towards sustainability and fiscal responsibility .

What do you see as the most pressing issue the county faces and how would you address it?

he biggest issue in Howard County is the lack of a sustainable economy. As an effort to raise revenue, the county often turns to the conversion of open spaces to residential and commercial parcels, which then leads to overcrowded schools, environmental damage, segregated communities, loss of open spaces, and excessive storm water run-off. This short-sighted planning leads to higher costs instead of savings.

Is the county doing everything it could to reduce flooding in Ellicott City? If not, what more should be done?

The county needs to: -Put an end to the development leading to storm water run off. -Retain open spaces. -Retain storm water before it reaches Main Street.

What would you do to increase affordable housing? Where does affordable housing rank on your priorities for the county?

The acres and acres of developments going in of homes "starting at $900k" is converting our open spaces into high maintenance/high energy use homes and leads to segregated communities. I would like to see any new development include a range of home prices, as well as rental properties. I would like to see energy efficiency standards include energy use per capita. Affordable housing is a crucial topic since it ties into schools, social diversity, energy use, and preservation of open spaces.

What are your plans for increasing or improving public transportation in the county?

Public transportation is important not only to reduce emissions, but to reduce traffic congestion, traveling costs, and to provide HoCo residents access to various resources within the county. Ideally, I would like to see the use of public transportation incentivized by providing free shuttles. I'd also like to see routes expanded into western Howard County, so that residents there could more easily access amenities in Columbia, such as medical facilities, stores, and businesses.

What plans do you have to help the county and its businesses successfully emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic?

Maintain the availability of testing sites and home tests so that individuals know when to self-quarantine. Prioritize access to high speed internet to allow telecommuting for workers and students. Make use of the state and federal funds intended for relief for small businesses and residents.

What are your views on the future growth and economic development in the county?

Howard County is one of the most affluent counties in the country and has traditionally had low unemployment. Future growth has to benefit all our residents. We need to encourage start up small businesses that can pay themselves and employees a living wage. Having our workers being paid a living wage will help reduce the economic disparities in the county.

What role can the county government play to improve education in county schools?

The county needs to: -provide funding to relieve overcrowding -reject housing developments that, through pricing or age-restrictions, lead to segregated communities -insure that homes and schools have access to high speed Internet for remote learning -increase technical training and opportunities for students who are not college-bound

What efforts do the county schools need to make to address systemic racism in education and society?

t is crucial for schools to provide students a deep understanding of the foundations of civil rights and equally important for students to be aware of society's ongoing struggles toward equality. Part of this can be addressed through lesson plans. Other aspects such as bullying need to be addressed by student counselors and perhaps even family counseling. It is equally important to lead by example and provide equitable access to education to all students through high school. Given the racial wealth disparities in Howard County, it is important that all opportunities such as sports, summer school, and even community college not be restricted by family income. It is crucial for non-English speaking students to receive language instruction so that they can quickly become integrated with other students.

What steps must the county take to improve public safety?

The county must continue its vigilance in recent public safety issues such as Covid, gang activity, and human trafficking. The county must also find and address the root cause of excessive storm water runoff to avoid flooding and the loss of life and property destruction. As traffic returns to pre-Covid levels, it will be important to follow state highway recommendations and carry out the required road improvements.

How is climate change impacting the county and what can be done locally to address the effects?

The county must prepare for flooding, extreme heat and cold, and seasonal changes. The destruction from flooding in Ellicott City and elsewhere will continue without the prevention of excessive storm water run off. The need for air-conditioning on days of extreme heat could lead to brown-outs. The county needs to work with BGE to restructure their incentives for energy conservation, and have them adhere to federal pricing regulations by providing lower prices to low-use customers. The change in seasons will affect agriculture. It will be important to increase the county's variety of agriculture in both types scale and types of plants. This could be done by encouraging small scale vegetable farming, easier distribution of local produce from larger farms, and pick-your-own events to help local farms harvest their crops.

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