Thursday, June 10, 2010

County Council At-Large Candidates on the Next Four Years

Today’s question taken from MCEA’s questionnaires for the At-Large County Council candidates is: What are three things you would like to accomplish in the next four years if you are elected to the Council?

Marc Elrich

Unless and until we deal with our inefficiencies and silos, we are going to continue to spend money on things we don’t need at the expense of things we do need. Without measurable outcome goals, we’ll continue to fund projects that are not effective at the expense of those that are. I am working to have the County evaluate the structure of County government using a combination of stakeholders and outside consultants. I want to examine the workflows and processes in government with the goal of substantially reorganizing departments and the workplace in order to achieve a greater level of efficiency and to free up spending from unproductive activities so we can use the resources on our priorities. Resources will be our greatest challenge in the future and we need to make sure that what we spend money on is effective in achieving the results we want. I want us to regain a sounder fiscal footing because if expected growth in revenues is slow while requirements for increasing reserves are tightening, then we have to squeeze as much operating efficiency out of what we already do as possible. Our ability to fund high quality services and meet people’s expectations for quality of life depend on freeing up resources from unnecessary expenditures.

Second, I’d like to see my BRT proposal get off the ground. It has support in the Civic, environmental, business and labor committees. It’s the least expensive way to provide significant Mass Transit which would have a very positive impact on our ability to do more development without negative community and environmental impacts. Most people view transportation, or the lack of it, as the real constraint on growth once the economy recovers and that’s why this coalition of interests have seen my proposal as offering a way out the box. Our inability to move people will stymie our recovery, whereas if we’re successful in implementing a rapid transit network we’d gain a significant advantage over our regional competitors.

Third, I want to complete the PHED committee work on the Zoning Code rewrite and the revision of the Development Review processes. Our codes are arcane and complicated – hard to understand by all parties involved and prone to arbitrariness in their application. The Development Review Process is difficult, can add years to the approval process without qualitatively improving the process and can add substantial expense to a project for no benefit. The Zoning Code has been under discussion for revision for more than a decade and people were talking about reforming the review process before I was elected. It adds enormous expense not just to private projects, but to County projects and school projects as well. I’ve always supported developers paying for infrastructure, but that’s different than having them spend excessively just to navigate the process and adding to their costs for our inefficiency doesn’t benefit anyone. There are too many intra and inter-agency bottlenecks, a lack of coordination, a lack of common understandings so that responding to one reviewers requests can result in having a previous approval rescinded by a different reviewer. I have seen examples of projects built on approved plans . only to be forced to change things already signed off on at the point of inspection. Needless to say it contributes to ill-will and to a sense that “regulation is bad”. I believe regulation is a positive but the process of regulation is broken and needs to be fixed. As it is we are unable to respond to unique circumstances or opportunities because the process is inflexible. This is another piece of what it will take to restore the County’s fiscal health.

I believe strongly that the County’s history of having a strong safety net and high quality public services – schools, libraries, parks, public safety – is something to be proud of and something we want to maintain. But we’ve seen with the collapse of the economy that the funding can dry up very quickly and recover very slowly and that efforts to fund everything now compete with funding for core services.

Without a plan to provide economic stability and given the demands that are going to be placed on us, our ability to find adequate funding for the things we value will require us to reexamine how our government operates. It’s been frustrating to watch us give ground on important social services because of the shortfalls, so building a more stable and sustainable government is essential.

Nancy Floreen

a. improve job growth
b. expand the tax base
c. return to higher funding levels of county services

George Leventhal

a. Attract jobs and investment to restore a healthy economy;
b. Continue advocating for construction of mass transit, attend the Purple Line groundbreaking during the next four years;
c. Maintain access to health care for the uninsured.

Jane de Winter

•Strengthen the county’s long-term fiscal health.
•Support and enhance county programs that support high school students at risk of dropping out and establish stronger career pathway links between MCPS, MC, and the private sector.
•Reduce the amount of time it takes to get a development project from conception to occupancy.

Robert Dyer

1. Solve the structural budget deficit.
2. To have in place a long-term, comprehensive transportation plan, and the funding to pay for it.
3. Pre-kindergarten (all day) for every child in Montgomery County.

Fred Evans

• Continue to support, and to seek improvements for, our strong public education system in Montgomery County. Our system is the foundation of our community and our economy, even in these difficult times.
• Maintain strong police and fire/emergency services to ensure that our communities are safe and livable. Our county cannot reduce services in these areas in order to care for and protect our communities.
• A careful analysis and resulting economic action plan must be completed as soon as possible to improve our current financial crisis. All key stakeholders should be brought into the analysis in order to develop an effective long range plan.
• Health and Human Services, especially for those who do not have access to medical insurance and care, must available to all. This includes mental health services.

Hans Riemer

1. Stabilize our long-term fiscal position in a way that protects our key priorities, particularly education. My goal is to meet the challenge of restructuring our government for a new era of reduced tax revenues, while working diligently to expand our tax base for the long term.

2. Support sustainable economic growth by changing development rules to prioritize walking, biking and transit. We are maxed out on cars but we must continue to add jobs and housing or our tax base will decline. To protect our quality of life, we need to focus future development on transit and build infrastructure to support it.

3. Reshape Montgomery County's politics to bring new and diverse residents into the process and generate outcomes that represent the dynamic and vibrant place this county has become. Nobody has all the answers but when everyone is involved we do have the answers.

Brandon Rippeon

Create jobs; hire, train, retain the best qualified individuals to become MCPS teachers; address the many and growing social problems of MoCo.

Becky Wagner

- Develop a plan for necessary restructuring of our government and implement the strategy in an effective way.
− Implement an aggressive strategy to bring good businesses to the County as part of a comprehensive way to grow our revenue base, with the objective of restoring funding to education, the workforce and needed services.
− Evaluate our stated goals for affordable housing; understand why they have not been achieved and move to incentives to increase that housing stock.