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 condes? 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.?
Alvin Jones Arnett (R), 47, of 6318 Alcott Rd., Bethesda, is Conrail's assistant vice president for government affairs. A former staff assistant in the U.S. Senate, he has been director of the U.S. Office of Economic Opportunity and the Appalachian Regional Commission. He is a Coast Guard officer and a past president of Woodhaven Citizens Association.
Housing: Condo conversion obviously meets a need -- otherwise the "market" would not be as active as it is. But, condo conversion creates no new housing stock; it merely converts rented units to owned units. The condo conversion tax has not slowed the process (after all, why should it? -- it is "passed through" to the new condo owner, anyway). To attack condo conversion is to misapply the effort. The attack should be to build more moderate-rent apartments. In Appalachia, with our 207 "front end revolving pot" housing program, we literally introduced Section 8 and 236 housing to the mountains. Such a program could work wonders in Montgomery County.
Taxes: Yes, we should absorb all the effective social service programs that we can. My examination of the fiscal 1983 budget indicates that no new taxes would be required to keep pace. Several social programs have taken an awful beating at the hand of the County Council. At the very same time, the pay and staff of the council easily out-stripped inflation! Some sensitivity, some caring, some creativity!
Disposal: Unlike the county officials who blow much on the subject of rail haul during this election season -- and then do nothing -- I decided that because I am a railroader, a former strip mine reclaimer and, on top of that, a former West Virginian, I would go to West Virginia to test the feelings of the people about rail hauling our trash into the mountains of the most prominently mentioned site, Grant Count, W. Va. "Not your trash in my back yard" is their disposition. Some intermediate usable processed form, maybe, but raw trash -- no! The central processing facility is a good concept in the wrong place.Why central? Central schools, central business districts, central medical services, of course, but "centrally processing" trash amounts to "polluting" a good concept. Landfills in an urban area are "Mt. Trashmore" monuments to official creative slothfulness; they are anti-neighbor. I would suggest the pelletizing concept.
Scott Fosler (D), incumbent, 37, of 4104 Woodbine St., Chevy Chase, was elected to the County Council in 1978; he chairs the Committee on Government Management and Process and serves on planning, transportation, land use and human services committees. He is a former federal employe and staff member of the Institute of Public Administration.
Housing: In 1979 I proposed a comprehensive condominium program for Montgomery County, which is now in place and working, with the following key features: (a) a legal framework for orderly condominium conversion (not to stop conversions, but to bring order to a turbulent market, e.g., through adequate notice of intent to convert, disclosure of property condition, consumer protections, etc.); (b) right of first refusal for tenants to purchase their own apartments; (c) provision for tenants least able to cope with the sudden transition (e.g., extended tenancy for the elderly); (d) set-aside of a proportion of moderate-rental units; (e) a framework for the governance of condominiums after conversion, and (f) incentives for the construction of new rental units. A transfer tax on the sale of condominiums has generated $4.4 million to support new rental construction. Revenue bonds issued by the Housing Opportunities Commission and guaranteed by county general obligation bonds also are supporting construction of moderate-rent apartments.
Taxes: A three-part strategy should be pursued to deal with federal cutbacks. First, assure that the federal government does its fair share. As chairman of the National Association of Counties' intergovernmental affairs committee, I have represented county government in shaping a more favorable policy regarding New Federalism, including federal responsibility for basic maintenance programs (e.g., nutritional programs and medical care). Second, encourage cooperative government, business and community efforts. When the federal government cut benefits to the "working poor," the county government worked with county businesses to upgrade the recipients' jobs and salaries. We need to expand these types of "public-private partnerships." Third, achieve efficiencies to fund reduced programs. Strenuous efforts to improve efficiency have yielded savings to fund critical programs, without increasing the tax rate. An example this year is the county's funding of $700,000 for special education (handicapped) programs cut by the federal government. Taxes should not be increased unless such measures are inadequate to fund critical programs.
Disposal: An energy recovery facility (to generate steam or electricity) could be financially beneficial in the long run, if current assumption hold true. However, if waste volumes diminish (through a reduction in household waste generation, private shipment outside the county or increase in secondary material prices), the expensive facility might not produce the quantity of energy -- and, hence, the revenue -- now projected. Furthermore, outstanding health questions need to be addressed. In meeting with local officials in West Virginia, I found a positive, if tentative, attitude toward the possibility of rail hauling Montgomery County refuse to fill in vacated mines. Contacts at the state level are now being pursued. Any rail haul agreement, however, would have to be ironclad, to protect Montgomery County's ability to dispose of solid waste. Further negotiations and analysis in the next six months will determine which approach better combines the advantages of low cost, high health standards and assurance of service.