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, dispite 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?
John P. Hewitt (R), 60, of 9607 Bruce Dr., Silver Spring, a realtor, is president of Frank L. Hewitt Co., Inc. He has been director of the state Energy Policy Office and executive director and director of parks for the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission. He is active in numerous civic groups.
Funds: Montgomery County must decide whether the affected programs will be abolished or funded from other revenue sources. Existing programs must be put in priority order to determine which will have the grestest or least impact on the public if cut. As with any budget, whether personal or governmental, some activity has to be proportionately reduced or income has to be increased. If federally funded county programs are worth keeping, government and citizens must bite the bullet and raise taxes to support them. If there is not sufficient public support, the county must cut programs it cannot afford.
Housing: I believe there is a need to time and simplify the development process and reduce the complex level of reviews. New housing development plans may never develop because public facilities, such as sewer, water, roads and fire and police protection, are never realized. It is essential that public funds, coordinated with the private sector of housing developers, be instituted to ensure a realistic solution to the county problem.
Population: The county should ensure that adequate educational facilities and opportunities are available, especially for non-English speaking minorities, so that they may learn the English language and American customs as quickly as possible. Equal opportunities of all kinds should be guaranteed to all residents, in keeping with the traditions of Montgomery County. Cable TV should provide great opportunities in the educational field as well as in general information and training, through public access channels and other public service programming.
Views: In our representative form of government, officials are elected to carry out the will of the majority while protecting the rights of the minority. Citizen participation should start earlier in the planning process. Too often citizen input is solicited so late that decisions already have been made or directions have been set. Obviously, all citizens will not be pleased with all decisions that are made. Complaints will arise from the minority that the public is not being served. Should sufficient numbers of citizens agree with the complaint, the situation can and should be remedied at the polls at the next election.
Joseph C. McGrath (R), 35, of 1552 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, is a former vice president of American Security Bank. An Army veteran, he is president of the Falkland Tenants Association and treasurer of the Boys and Girls Clubs. He has a degree in American government from Harvard and a master's degree in education.
Funds: At the present it has not yet been determined exactly how much federal money Montgomery County will lose, nor has it been determined which county programs may be adversely affected. I believe that our county government is best equipped to determine the allocation of its financial resources despite the source. The county executive has a responsibility to assure a fair and equitable allocation of county funds to support essential programs and services for all segments of the county population. As county executive, I will see to it that this job is accomplished in a responsive, compassionate and decisive manner.
Housing: Money and land are keys to development of moderate income housing. There is little I can do on construction and mortgage financing. But on land I would take the initiative. I would recommend that the master plan be amended to increase allowable density in areas where public services and facilities already exist with the capacity to serve a greater population. I would also convene an advisory commission of builders, developers, bankers, realtors and housing specialists to provide the county government with all available ideas on how we can utilize county, state and federal programs to aid in meeting the county's needs for land development and housing.
Population: Jobs, housing and educational opportunities are keys to meeting the needs of our diverse population. I have already mentioned in the previous question my plans for housing. I believe my experience as a bank vice president uniquely equips me to meld the tax incentives and persuasive financing packages necessary to lure housing and industry to the county. Providing a job and a decent place to live will go a long way toward meeting the needs of our diverse population. In addition, I am committed to working with our council and school board to make our school system the best in the region. That way we will be able to ensure all children of the county of the best preparation for the jobs, challenges and opportunities of tomorrow.
Views: Our county has some of the most talented, highly educated and resourceful residents of any county in the country. This resource has been shamefully wasted by the Gilchrist administration during the past four years. The two examples you cite are two of many where people have been asked to participate in the governmental process only to learn that their input was not incorporated in the final decision. Many thoughtful citizens are now reluctant to get involved with their governmet government because they feel it would be a waste of their time. The decade of the '80s will require even greater citizen involvement if we are to maximize our limited financial resources. As county executive, I will make citizens an integral part of the governmental process. I will listen, decide and then act.
Luiz R. S. Simmons (R), (Incumbent) 33, of 10 Eton Overlook, Rockville, a lawyer, has been a member of the House of Delegates since 1978. He is director of the nonprofit Senior Legal Education Services Inc. and a member of the Maryland Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. He has worked in federal government studies on narcotics and children.
Funds: The county must take a two-fold approach. First, it is imperative to implement an extensive program of performance audits to increase the efficiency of public spending programs, expose waste and develop recommendations for trimming expenditures. Second, the county must make the assistance and expansion of small business a top priority. Small business expansion provides the bulk of new jobs in our economy. Business expansion means new jobs and an expanding assesable base.
Housing: The county must first guarantee and provide for real citizen participation in the formulation of housing policy. Citizens have been shut out of housing. The use of low-interest loans to builders, noncash tax incentives and the encouragement of equity sharing programs are among the approaches I would consider to increase the stock of moderate-income housing.
Population: The county should reach out more aggressively to employ qualified minorities. County programs should be examined by the executive to ensure that existing programs contain, where appropriate, a component which addresses the special needs of minority communities.
Views: Montgomery County has failed miserably to ensure genuine citizen participation in basic decisions which affect schools, public safety and the environment. The county had adapted a de facto policy of making the decisions before a public hearing is held, instead of after the hearing is held. The executive should institute a full-scale review of county decision making, with a view toward correcting past abuses and securing citizen input through appropriate institutional guarantees.