Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Ilaya Hopkins for Planning Board

I have no hesitation in suggesting that the County Council should appoint Ilaya Rome Hopkins to the Planning Board. She'd be an outstanding addition and bring valuable skills to the Board.

No question about it, the Planning Board is one of the toughest jobs in Montgomery County. Yet it also among the most important. Here are some of the reasons that I think Ilaya would be an excellent Board member:

Knowledge and Organization. Ilaya has been intimately involved in the Planning process on a number of occasions but particularly in the BRAC/Medical Center process. One of the most complex and quick changes to Montgomery County, Ilaya mastered to material and as is one of the few people I know who really understands what is going on. She has an M.A. in International Relations and is used to working with big organizations from USIA to the Navy. In short, she always knows her brief.

Community. I live in a municipality which brings a lot of institutional advantages. Ilaya organizes a civic association which cannot rely on staff or taxes to help out. Nevertheless, she has made the East Bethesda Civic Association an effective advocate for her community. She has done this even though the neighborhood often has diverse and conflicting interests. No mean feat.

Listening and Respect. Anyone who has been an elected official knows that you need to spend more time hearing from people than talking. This is especially true on the Planning Board where one spends about one minute talking for every hundred minutes of listening to others. Ilaya not only understands how to listen but is actually good at hearing people. She can hear all sides and help bring people together. Knowing how to disagree without being disagreeable is a rare skill and especially useful in Planning.

Independence, Integrity, and Judgment. One might assume that I always agree with Ilaya though that's not the case. She thinks through the issues carefully and independently and forms her own opinion, having listened to all views and the evidence. I don't think I've met many people with the ability to take their own stand and defend it well. Equally important, she knows how to respect the professionals who work for the Board yet also ask the tough questions. Even when I don't agree with Ilaya, I have to respect her opinion and the thought behind it. The Planning Board Staff and County residents will value her approach.

In sum, with no denigration meant to other candidates, the Council can't go wrong if it appoints Ilaya. Will she make mistakes? Yeah, sure. We all do. I also think hers is a rare talent it'd be a shame to miss.