Candidates for county council were asked the following questions by The Washington Post:
Housing: What should the county do, if anything, to forestall the continued conversion of middle-income rental housing to condos? What zoning changes or incentives would encourage developers to build more moderate-rent apartments?
Taxes: Should the county subsidize federal social service programs now being cut and would you support increased taxes in the next four years to pay these costs?
Disposal: How can Montgomery County best deal with its long-range waste disposal problems: rail hauling, the new incinerator, new landfills etc.?
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 has served twice as president of the Maryland Municipal League. A former educator, information technology advisor and manager at NASA, he introduced "flexitime" in the federal government.
Housing: The answer to the rental housing shortage is not additional restrictions on condominium conversion, but rather, amelioration of the factors depressing rental construction and investments. As of now, other investments offer greater return and less risk. While all new construction is suffering from the effects of high interest rates, rental housing investment carries the further burden of being perceived as a rent control threat. A council policy of companion protection from rent control for investors -- and from unreasonable rent increases for tenants -- would help significantly. Then forget the "grand" solution! Concentrate on using every available housing option: low-interest loans, revised codes incorporating new materials and processes, mortgage revenue bonds, "elder cottage" housing, creative financing instruments, selective surplus school reuse and innovative mixed-use arrangements. Finally, I would favor a county initiative in public/private demonstration projects using advanced construction systems, with emphasis on modularity and expandability -- looking to the special needs of the elderly, the handicapped and "young marrieds."
Taxes: The county must make the hard decisions that insure continued support for essential services for all citizens. However, rather than automatic, blanket county replacement of all program losses of federal funds, my ordered approach would be to: 1) conduct a zero-base review of all programs; 2) establish priorities in terms of both programs and funding levels; 3) seek state substitute support to replace federal cutbacks (in line with state's pivoted position under New Federalism), and 4) 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 effort to generate new revenue sources, expand the tax base and manage more efficiently must be made -- emphasizing creative solutions and new technology application.
Disposal: Understandably, there is no area of Montgomery County that is not unalterably opposed to having a waste disposal facility located anywhere near its environs. Yet, the problem is real and must be dealt with. Because of the emotionalism surrounding the issue, the criteria for site selection must be as scientifically objective and devoid of political considerations as humanly possible. Council members, in turn, must be prepared to make the tough decisions demanded by the situation, based on the best technical, analytical, social, environmental and cost data available. The decisions also must be timely to minimize the uncertainty and expense for all parties. Rail haul is a very attractive alternative because it transports the physical waste beyond Montgomery County borders (and thus may prove more economical than landfills, incinerators, etc.) and provides a time buffer for technology to find a fully acceptable solution. A willing site operator and state and local approvals remain the major barriers.
John Saveland (R), 37, of 1915 S. Fallsmead Way, Rockville, is a management consultant for Science Applications Inc. He is president of the Men's Republican Club in the county, serves on the Republican Central Committee, and was a voting precinct chairman last year. He is active in PTA, his civic association and church programs.
Housing: Currently, the best customers for converted apartments are the renters who already live there. Many are now reluctant condominium owners because when their apartments were converted, alternative rental housing was not available within Montgomery County. They were forced to buy their own apartments. The most effective way to slow condominium conversions is to increase the supply of rental housing. Without the built-in customers (i.e., current tenants), converted units will sell less well, removing much of the financial attractiveness for the converters and slowing the rate of conversions. The lack of properly zoned land contributes to the apartment shortage. Because of the high housing densities involved, such property should be close to high-volume transportation facilities and also, if possible, close to major employment centers. Areas lacking in adequate unused transportation capacity or at a distance from employment and commercial centers would not be suitable for rental housing development.
Taxes: We in Montgomery County have never received in benefits even close to what we have paid out to state or federal governments for social services programs. To the extent that we can divert taxes paid for these programs to the Montgomery County government, we will realize considerably greater return on each tax dollar invested. One program area that I especially believe merits local funding is rental assistance. The tax exempt financing needed to make rental housing financially feasible in Montgomery County requires that 20 percent of the units be set aside for Section 8 eligible renters, who pay only 25 percent of their income in rent. The shortfall in rental receipts, which used to be paid by the federal government, now must be spread over the other 80 percent of the tenants as higher rents. The county has used the 4 percent condominium conversion tax to fund some rental assistance programs, but I believe rental assistance is a responsibility of the entire community. The burden of supporting these programs should not fall only upon condominium buyers (each of whom had to pay thousands of dollars in conversion taxes) or non-assisted renters, most of whom are middle-income households.
Disposal: The proposed incinerator would produce 25 megawatts of electricity and would cost $250 million to $350 million. The next Pepco generator planned will produce 300 megawatts and the 1982 cost would be $400 million to $450 million. From an economic standpoint, the incinerator clearly is a failure. The Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. will burn a mixture of coal and processed trash (purchased from a Baltimore County) in a generator scheduled to begin operation within several months. Montgomery County should do nothing on its incinerator plans until sufficient health and economic data on the BG&E unit is available. In the meantime, rail haul possibilities should be aggressively pursued.