Howard County Council District 5 Candidate Joan U. Pontius – Baltimore Sun
Howard County Council
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 Ph.D. in Biology from the Université Libre de Bruxelles. After living in Belgium for 8 years, I speak French and Dutch conversationally. During my career, I trained as a project manager and obtained the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification.
Community activism. Testimony before county and state authorities. Active in Howard County-related social media websites. Howard County Green Party Co-Chair Maryland Green Party Treasurer
What do you think is the most pressing issue facing the county and how would you address it?
he biggest problem in Howard County is the lack of a sustainable economy. In an effort to increase revenue, the county often turns to converting open space into residential and commercial lots, which then results in overcrowded schools, environmental damage, segregated communities, loss of open space, and a excessive stormwater runoff. This short-sighted planning leads to higher costs instead of savings.
Is the county doing all it can to reduce flooding in Ellicott City? If not, what more should be done?
The county must: -Stop development causing storm water runoff. -Keep spaces open. -Hold back stormwater before it reaches Main Street.
What would you do to increase the number of affordable housing units? Where does affordable housing rank among your priorities for the county?
Acres and acres of “starting at $900,000” home developments are converting our open spaces into high-maintenance, high-energy homes and leading to segregated communities. I would love to see any new development include a range of home prices, as well as rental properties. I would like energy efficiency standards to include energy consumption per capita. Affordable housing is a crucial topic as it relates to school, social diversity, energy use and preservation of open spaces.
What are your plans to increase or improve public transportation in the county?
Public transportation is important not only for reducing emissions, but also for reducing traffic congestion, travel costs, and for providing HoCo residents with access to various resources in the county. Ideally, I would like to see the use of public transport encouraged by the provision of free shuttles. I would also like to see roads expanded west of Howard County, so residents can 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 availability of testing sites and home testing so individuals know when to self-quarantine. Prioritize high-speed Internet access to enable telecommuting for workers and students. Use state and federal funds intended to provide relief to small businesses and residents.
What do you think of the future growth and economic development of the department?
Howard County is one of the wealthiest counties in the nation and traditionally has low unemployment. Future growth must benefit all of our residents. We need to encourage the start-up of small businesses that can pay themselves and their employees a living wage. Having our workers earn a living wage will help reduce economic disparities in the county.
What role can the county government play to improve education in county schools?
The county must: -provide funds to reduce overcrowding -reject real estate developments that, through pricing or age restrictions, lead to segregated communities -ensure homes and schools have high internet access throughput for distance learning – increase technical training and opportunities for students who are not college-bound
What efforts should county schools make to address systemic racism in education and society?
It is crucial that schools provide students with a thorough understanding of the basics of civil rights and equally important that students are aware of society’s ongoing struggles for equality. Some of this can be addressed through lesson plans. Other aspects such as bullying need to be addressed by student counselors and perhaps even family counselors. It is equally important to lead by example and provide equitable access to education for all students up to secondary school. Given the racial wealth disparities in Howard County, it is important that all opportunities such as sports, summer schools, and even community colleges are not limited by family income. It is crucial that non-English speaking students receive language lessons so that they can integrate quickly with other students.
What steps should the county take to improve public safety?
The county must continue its vigilance on recent public safety issues such as Covid, gang activity and human trafficking. The county must also find and address the root cause of excessive stormwater runoff to prevent flooding, loss of life, and destruction of property. As traffic returns to pre-Covid levels, it will be important to follow national highway recommendations and make any necessary road improvements.
What is the impact of climate change on the county and what can be done locally to deal with the effects?
The county must prepare for flooding, extreme heat and cold, and seasonal changes. The destruction caused by flooding in Ellicott City and elsewhere will continue without the prevention of excessive stormwater runoff. The need for air conditioning on extremely hot days could lead to brownouts. The county should work with BGE to restructure its energy conservation incentives and make them adhere to federal pricing regulations by offering lower prices to low-power customers. Changing seasons will affect agriculture. It will be important to increase the variety of county agriculture in scale types and plant types. This could be done by encouraging small-scale vegetable growing, facilitating the distribution of local produce from large farms, and organizing pick-your-own events to help local farms harvest their crops.