Several elected officials from Montgomery County visited the White House on Thursday to meet with officials in the Trump administration, including U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross.
Those who attended included Democratic state Sens. Cheryl Kagan (Rockville), Brian Feldman (North Potomac/Poolesville) and Will Smith (Silver Spring/Takoma Park), along with County Council member George Leventhal.
After the visit, Kagan said a variety of local and state officials from across Maryland and Delaware had attended the meeting. The officials discussed a number of issues, including the census, the opioid crisis and transportation.
Kagan said she asked administration officials whether Maryland could receive additional federal grant money to help fund Metro, but was promptly directed to reach out to Congress. She said the response was essentially a “blow off.”
“I said that if you are committed to safety and being a good federal partner, more than one-third of Metro riders are federal employees,” she said.
Last year, former U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood determined that Metro needed an additional $500 million per year in dedicated funding, according to The Washington Post. In March, Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia agreed to collectively provide that amount, with Maryland contributing $167 million. The federal government also currently provides $150 million annual for the transit system.
“I believe that the Trump administration has completely abdicated its responsibility regarding federal funding for Metro’s safety. With federal employees as more than one-third of the ridership, they really should pay their fair share,” she said.
Kagan said she wasn’t surprised the administration was dismissive of state and local transportation concerns, but she was still pleased about getting the opportunity to “hold the administration accountable.”
Leventhal said the visit was mostly “one-sided presentations,” including one from a representative of the Department of Housing and Urban Development who “seemed a little fuzzy on the details of what her agency does.”
Leventhal said he asked Ross during one session whether he would reconsider the commerce department’s decision to include a question about U.S. citizenship on the 2020 census short form.
“He said he couldn’t talk about it a great deal because it was under litigation,” Leventhal said.
Asked whether the visit was worth it, Leventhal said he wasn’t sure it was “all that useful for Montgomery County.”
Dan Schere can be reached at Daniel.firstname.lastname@example.org