Candidates for Montgomery County Executive and candidates for the County Council were asked the following questions by The Washington Post:
Funds: What should the county do to respond to anticipated losses in federal funds?
Housing: What proposals should the county consider to get more moderate-income housing?
Population: How can the county respond to the needs of its increasingly diverse population, including large numbers of Hispanos and blacks?
Views: Many citizens complain that, despite the county's rigorous public hearing process, citizens' views are not reflected in final decisions on such issues as the Laytonsville landfill and cable television. Your comment?
Rose Crenca (D), (Incumbent) 56, of 9101 Flower Ave., Silver Springs, has been a member of the County Council since 1978. Previously, she was a researcher for the Library of Congress and FBI and a teacher. She is a member of several professional, Democratic Party and community organizations.
Funds: Carefully review and evaluate current programs; rank as to priority. Those in social services and human resources areas, where cuts are anticipated and the need most greatly felt, should be on a "special" list. Begin to cut, phase out or diminish lowest priority programs. When, and if, expected cuts materialize, determine extent of budgetary reduction needed. Reevaluate priority listing, inserting as high priority those social and human resource programs which have been cut and for which no substitutes or possible assimilation exist. Appeal to and begin enlisting the private sector, such as employers, businesses, religious and philanthropic groups, for coordinated effort to "take up the slack." Add only those programs which supplement remaining ones, providing for needs which cannot be met adequately through existing public and private means.
Housing: Define "moderate" realistically. Make a better effort to preserve existing stock via code enforcement and optimal neighborhood planning. Investigate ground rent concept. Encourage innovative financing. County-backed revenue bonds, making better interest rates possible (county has AAA bond rating) and long-term financing for qualified buyers. Awards for moderately priced, quality housing projects. Pursue innovative programs, such as National Consumer Cooperative Banks. Help cut costs by: 1) streamlining the building codes and permit and inspection processes; 2) examining the building fee structure for possible downward cuts; 3) encouraging economy procedures, such as our recently adopted legislation for joint builder funding of roads; and 4) review our WSSC SEOC $1,560 connection charge for possibility of reduction. Implement our county's adopted housing policy judiciously.
Population: BLtter outreach to bring to target population existing services and resources provided by both private and public sector, such as language classes; health care, especia-ly screening and inoculations; encouragement of schools to provide courses for mainstreaming but retaining ethnic flavor and traditions; and better utilization of existing public and quasi-public as well as private vocational training programs. Also incorporate innovative programs, such as the partnership in training established by our Office of Economic Development and private employers to employ and train those in need, with objective of upward mobility. Work alsways toward mainstreaming, but always being cognizant of desire to maintain racial and ethnic ties. Work to find satisfactory housing in a variety of geographic areas so as to avoid socio- and/or economic isolation. Encourage community activities, working toward a sharing and an appreciation of our diversities.
Views: As a long-time civic activist, I tend to agree. Montgomery County is better than many other jurisdictions in this regard, but our track record should be improved by: 1) Involving citizens in the process earlier. Often, the "point of no return" is imminent by the time citizen involvement is sought or permitted. Thus, citizens feel a game is being played with a "stacked deck." 2) Part of the problem is a personality one, based on phychological factors. A pro forma hearing is hard to disguise; citizens know when "input" is only a legal requirement rather than real. A "hearing" should also be a "listening." Bored, inattentive officials destroy any semblance of coordinated, cooperative fact and opinion seeking. So does a patronizing "father/mother know best" attitude. Montgomery County citizens generally are well-informed people who know their rights and are extremely knowledgeable on wide range of topics.
Robert Raymond Fustero (D), 31, of 10508 Tenbrook Dr., Silver Spring, is a self-employed marketing representative and a part-time employe of Giant Food Inc. Previously, he was a juvenile counselor for a nonprofit group. He is an adviser to Explorer Post 250 and a member of the American Life Lobby.
Funds: Streamline its budget. Implement programs to expand its tax base. Curb county spending.
Housing: The county should consider a plan, advocated by me and formulated by Abraham Kalish, consisting of floating tax-free bonds to lower interest rates and encourage the building of new homes at no cost to the taxpayers.
Population: By giving them the same opportunities to excell that everyone else has. There must be programs to educate these groups but under no circumstance must there be special preferential treatment.
Views: More citizen input before controversial issues are acted upon. Putting the people above controversial issues.
Thomas S. Israel (D), 54, of 3211 Wake Dr., Kensington, served on the Board of Education from 1968 to 1976, Anti-TRIM Coalition and several county citizens' advisory committees. He retired this year after working a total of 29 years for various federal agencies as a program manager and budget analyst.
Funds: Conduct a rigorous analysis of affected programs to determine which should have priority for future support with county funds. Look for economics which may be possible without federal regulation. Although we may not want or be able to totally replace lost federal (or state) funds, we must maintain essential services in education, health and safety and basic support for our most needy citizens. The "livability" of our county depends in large measure on services delivered by local government. We should attempt to get more authority from the state so that we can respond more rapidly and flexibly to specific problems, such as traffic congestion. We need to build our tax base so that providing these services does not become a tax burden.
Housing: Lack of moderate income housing has been identified by many Montgomery County corporate executives as the prime reason we are losing ground in our competition with Fairfax County to attract desirable industry to enhance our tax base. We must use every tool which promises to help solve this problem, including expanding the availability of below- market-rate mortgage money from sources like pension funds; publicity about and active promotion of relatively new concepts, such as equity participation financing; vigorously pursuing the elimination of bottlenecks to more housing production, such as inadequate public facilities; and using new tax incentives laws to encourage private investment in affordable housing, including rental housing.
Population: Our citizens who are members of minority groups have the same aspirations as the rest of the population: a decent job, affordable housing, a good education for their children and sometimes the opportunity for further education for themselves. We can best supply jobs by carefully expanding our economic base and by adhering to sound principles of affirmative action in hiring practices. The need for affordable housing has been discussed above. We must continue to support our public schools, including Montgomery College, and update their curricula as required so that they can provide quality services which repond to the needs of our rapidly changing society and economy.
Views: Having conducted dozens of public hearing as president of the Board of Education, I can testify to the value of thoughtful citizen testimony. Citizens must be assured of full and timely input to governmental processes, an issue which was a key platform plank in my 1968 campaign for the school board. Once that input is provided, however, most citizens want their elected officials to make a decision promptly so that they (the citizens) can return to their normal pursuits. Citizen views are reflected in final decisions, but elected officials have to make decisions based on the greatest good for the greatest number while also protecting, to the extent possible, the legitimate rights of the affected minority. It is not the government's responsibility to satisfy every citizen on every issue. Trying to do so results in paralysis in decision making, costly delays and, in the end, satisfies no one.