Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A Tribute to Wayne Goldstein

By Cary Lamari.

When I turned on my computer yesterday I was in shock. Wayne Goldstein, my dear friend and colleague, had passed away, suddenly and with no warning. He died en route to another round of testimony before the County’s Hearing Examiner. He was going to battle for the Huntington Terrace community, backing them in their fight to keep an important local road open to the public rather than allowing Suburban Hospital to have its way and swallow up both the road and more homes in an expansion move.

Jim Humphrey, Marc Elrich and Wayne Goldstein.

I first came to know Wayne during my time on the Mid-County Citizens Advisory Board. We remember him for his production during the 1990’s of an acerbic, superbly crafted, Michael Moore-ish video challenging the necessity of building the new jail in Clarksburg. Historic preservation became his passion and he fought against the potential loss of mature trees and open space adjacent to Montgomery College and the break up of the historic Falkland Apartments, both in Silver Spring. He proactively organized a charette to try to devise the best possible reuse of the Comsat Building designed by the famed architect, Cesar Pelli in the I-270 corridor.

Wayne recognized early on that County residents are almost always at a disadvantage when challenging well-financed development interests and their law firms in rezoning, special exception and land use cases. Years ago, he developed his own expertise at researching land use issues. His testimony in support of local communities was invariably complete, detailed, articulate and compelling. Last year there was a site plan being considered for the redevelopment of Bethesda Metro Center. The land use attorneys representing several different business interests spent some time squabbling and shouting at the Planning Board and behaving childishly. Wayne, in his own inimitable style, testified quietly giving the perspective of the Civic Federation’s Land Use Committee. The Planning Board paid him their highest tribute saying that at least Wayne and the Civic Federation always presented their testimony with dignity unlike the lawyers who had been embarrassing themselves and the legal profession all day. I spoke to Wayne later that day, and he had that wonderful, silly smile he always wore when recounting his experiences. Wayne was always good for a smile.

Wayne and I worked together on many initiatives including “Pay and Go” and the Montgomery County Civic Federation’s petition drive to put Question C on the ballot for which Wayne gathered thousands of signatures, always with a smile and a willingness to talk to people about the nature of the problem and the need for a solution.

Many might not appreciate this fact, but people like Wayne actually provided a sorely needed balance to County Government. During my time as President of the Montgomery County Civic Federation, Wayne asked me to host a forum on “Citi-stat”, the program developed and used by then-Mayor O’Malley to streamline the city government of Baltimore. The Civic Federation held the forum, and O’Malley made his presentation. We were sufficiently impressed that we pressed Ike Leggett to consider using the same approach to improve the County’s government if elected to serve as County Executive. Now that Ike Leggett is in charge, “County-stat” has been initiated and is said to have saved approximately 5 million dollars just in the last year. I hope Ike implements the remaining components of County-stat as a tribute to Wayne Goldstein.

One thing Wayne could not tolerate – hypocrisy. And he was good at uncovering hypocrisy! He proved over and over again that there is significant room for improvement in our County government. Wayne never sought election to public office, and most residents are probably unaware of how much he contributed to their quality of life. I will personally miss my friend Wayne, his infectious smile and quiet dignity, and his relentless quest for better government. Montgomery County has lost yet another major champion of the people when they lost Wayne Goldstein.

Thank You,
Cary Lamari