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?
Elvera Berson (D), 52, of 1755 Glastonberry Rd., Rockville, is ombudsman for the state of Maryland. Honored for her public service in the county, she has been president of several citizens associations and serves on committees concerned with accessibility for the handicapped and public education.
Funds: Those most likely to feel the brunt of federal fund decreases are low-income and senior citizens for whom major problems will be social-health services and job training. County must fill gaps, avoiding tax increases wherever possible by limiting costly projects which are not crucial, such as new superhighways; imposing limits on its own bureaucracy; and eliminating waste and duplication and unnecessary high salaries for its own upper level employees. When necessary, tax increases should be imposed in a manner which will allow revenues to be kept by the county. Sales tax increases, if imposed, should be on selected luxury items, such liquor. County must actively seek cooperation with industry and universities for job training and retraining. This is especially important because crime and hate-violence activities increase with unemployment.
Housing: To stimulate housing, county can float bonds to enable low interest mortgages; close loopholes in Moderately Priced Dwelling Units Law; tighten enforcement of building code violatins; expedite code-license procedures to reduce red tape; have waiting list for housing divided into categories to better match need with supply; and encourage private sector to build MPOUs. County must do better job in determining actual needs for the next several years, which it has not done, although it does now have a housing policy. County must encourage more open policy both for itself and for HOC and involve citizens early in decision making to minimize citizen opposition. Housing policy must be used to provide affordable housing, scattered through county, and conforming to building codes and area zoning.
Population: Problems are primarily in areas of job opportunities, human services and housing. Job training assistance with job placement services, should be expanded by the county. County must be more aggressive in investigating and prosecuting prejudice on the part of the private sector with respect to housing and jobs. It must lead in its own hiring and promotion policies, which are not now ideal for this population nor for the handicapped. Leadership in hiring police and fire departments will improve community's perception of good faith of government. Language barrier must be overcome by actively encouraging use of free or minimal cost intensive instruction in English Language. Ombudsman services may be needed with staff who have ties to Hispanic, black and handicapped communities and who have comprehensive knowledge of available county and state services. All children must be assured of equal access to educational opportunities.
Views: Public hearings are viewed by many as often an exercise in futility since county by that time has already usually made up its mind. Citizen advisory committees set up for many projects also are viewed as being ineffective because county staff usually ignores their recommendations. Such CAC's have no standing so far as council and executive actions are concerned. These attitudes lead to citizen opposition, often in the form of lawsuits, which are costly and which prevent timely implementation of projects. This county, with its large number of active, informed citizens, must solicit citizen participation in projects early in the planning stages and must consider some type of semiofficial standing for advisory committees so that their recommendations will be more respected by elected officials and staff.
William E. Hanna Jr. (D), 61, of 632 Crocus Dr., Rockville, is vice president of the National Institute of Public Management. He was a four-term mayor of Rockville and twice president of the Maryland Municipal League. He is a former NASA manager, educator and information technology advisor.
Funds: The county must make the hard decisions that ensure continued support for essential services for all citizens. However, rather than automatic, blanket county replacement of all program losses in federal funds, my ordered approach would be to conduct a zero-base review of all programs; establish priorities in terms of both programs and funding levels; seek state substitute support to replace federal cutbacks (in line with state's pivotal position under New Federalism); and raise taxes, if necessary, to close any residual gap in funding required to meet minimum, essential needs. We must not abandon our needy and disadvantaged nor permit gains made by women and minorities to slip away in the name of economy. We also must protect against our middle class being taxed out of existence. Maximum efforts to generate new revenue sources, expand the tax base and manage more efficiently must be made, emphasizing creative solutions and new technology applications.
Housing: We must stop using lack of a "grand" solution to the housing shortage as an excuse to do nothing. Instead, we should maximize available options, acknowledging that each one represents only a partial solution but taken together have potential for significant positive impact. Among options to be explored would be low-interest loans, surplus school reuse, mortgage revenue bonds, innovative mixed-use arrangements, "Echo" housing, creative financing instruments and code revisions to permit use of new materials and processes. I would also favor county initiative in public-private cooperation to produce series of demonstration projects using advanced construction systems and space arrangements, emphasizing modularity and expandability looking to special needs of elderly, handicapped and "young married." Finally, I would undertake study of our most inelastic resource -- land - to see how best to conserve it and preserve it while at same time ensuring that citizen shelter needs are met over long-range future.
Population: Hispanics and blacks want the same things the rest of the county's population wants. Their priorities center around jobs, housing and education. Avove all, they want and need jobs for livelihood, self-respect and dignity in the eyes of others. Since the county suffers from shortage of technical and support type personnel for its large professional population, it should concentrate its attention on job training, particularly vocational training, counseling and language instruction. A good example of immediate potential for employment opportunities is that offered by the pending CATV franchise award and development. People who work in Montgomery County should be able to live there. Our ethnic population are among the hardest hit by the housing shortfall and deserve special assistance. Finally, ethnic minorities need reassurance that can look to education, for their own and their children's ultimate recress and entree to the full fruits enjoyed by the greater society.
Views: Citizens have every cause for concern with government process in Montgomery County. The council has failed in its policy-setting role by not developing overall goals for the county. At present, the council handles problems on a firefighting basis, without planning and without reinforcement of long-range objectives. This lack of direction results in endless debate before arriving at an initial decision and frequent changes of position in subsequent weeks. I would strive to streamline internal councilmanic process; seek out citizen input at beginning rather than at middle or end of problem consideration; open up hearings to all wishing to be heard; insist on order and civility both on part of council and citizens; place matter on agenda for decision shortly after closing of record; and make the decision. Both Laytonsville Landfill and CATV franchising are outstanding examples of the council at its worst in terms of fraction, indecision and interminable debate.
Ruth Spector (D), (Incumbent) 47, of 613 Smallwood Rd., Rockville, has been a member of the County Council since 1978. She has been a social worker, teacher, administrator and legislative aide. She participated in the 1980 Governor's Conference on Aging and has been active in local community groups.
Funds: Setting priorities in funding programs is an integral part of the county's bidget process. Public health and safety will continue to take precedence over other programs. As a member of the National Association of Counties' human services steering committee, I have been working to assure the best distribution of federal funds to Maryland and Montgomery County.
Housing: Increasing the supply of affordable housing remains a major goal. Legislation recently amended requiring developers of 50 or more units to provide a percentage of moderate priced units is working successfully in adding to the county's housing supply. Other measures that need to be taken include evaluation and updating of our zoning, advances in technology that result in cost savings to home buyers. Also, we need to explore methods of financing that enable the private sector to overcome the major problem of high interest rates.
Population: We can best respond to the needs of minorities by helping them build upon their own cultural strengths and support systems. We need to celebrate the diversity of people in Montgomery County. Our public schools have children speaking at least 28 different languages. We need to encourage and increase cultural exchanges within the county in business, education and civic events. I would initiate a joint effort among chambers of commerce, civic associations and government for a comprehensive analysis of our population and consideration of the possibility of countywide ethnic festivals.
Views: My decisions are reflective of views from public hearings, correspondence, phone contacts, etc. I believe I was elected to synthesize the information I have access to and to make an independent judgement trying to accommodate differing points of view, keeping uppermost in mind what I believe to be best for all people in Montgomery County. I have performed accordingly for the past four years and will continue to do so in the future.