Candidates for county executive 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.?
Charles W. Gilchrist (D) incumbent, 45, of 405 W. Montgomery Ave., Rockville, was a member of the state Senate from 1975 to 1979 before becoming county executive; he served on the Finance Committee. A graduate of Harvard Law School, he has been a tax attorney and treasurer of the Democratic State Central Committee.
Housing: The number of rental apartments in the county has stabilized. A significant portion of the condominium-owned apartments are for rent. Our county has led the region in new apartment construction. Our condominium transfer tax fund stimulated construction of 500 new apartments (offsetting the end of federal aid). We also underwrite rehabilitation of apartments threatened with decay. We gave block grant to provide B'nai B'rith with seed money to sponsor housing for the elderly. The Housing Opportunity Commission assists developers in building moderate-priced rental units. We obtained state and county legislation to provide tenants' rights if apartment house owners seek to convert to condominiums. Elderly and handicapped tenants have the right to remain tenants for life. The county has "right of first refusal" to purchase such buildings and keep them rental.
Taxes: We must help when some, but not all, federal programs are reduced. We operate a housing program that takes up some of the slack left by federal cutbacks. We operate partnerships with the private sector to help the working poor become economically self-reliant instead of totally welfare dependent.We replaced dufunct federal legal services for our poor with a county government/bar association program. In some cases, we have replaced federal funds by increases in state and local appropriations, e.g., transportation and roads. I would recommend a tax increase, if essential, to maintain services for our citizens, particularly those such as the elderly and the handicapped who cannot sustain minimum standards of decent living without such outside help. However, to date we have been able, through our own existing resources and the cooperation of our civic-minded business sector, to continue vital services without tax increases.
Disposal: We are committed to meeting long-range problems by pursuit of state-of-the-art technology consistent with protecting the integrity of our communities. Our rail haul task force includes private citizens and public officials. All studies are shared with the public; we encourage knowledgeable critiques by citizens and their scientist-advisors. If environmental protection adds to costs, we must be prepared to pay them. Regional cooperation for waste disposal for the Baltimore-Washington and Washington-metro areas is essential for all parties. Resource recovery is merely one option among a range of technologies being explored. We must keep an open mind regarding all alternatives for cost-effective, environmentally safe solutions. Greater efficiency of existing capacity -- e.g., Blue Plains and Piscataway -- can indefinitely defer marginally justified new construction.
Joseph C. McGrath (R), 35, of 1552 East-West Hwy., Silver Spring, a former vice president of American Security Bank, has worked for the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare in education and rehabilitaton programs. An Army veteran and Harvard graduate, he is president of his tenants association and has a master's degree in education.
Housing: The county is rapidly losing its stock of multi-family rental housing. As county executive I would take steps to reverse this trend. Among them would be amending the master plans to increase allowable density where adequate public facilities now exist. In addition, I would pull together financing packages to make it attractive for a developer to build multi-family rental units in the county. The conversion of rental units to condominiums will cease to be a problem when the county's supply of rental housing exceeds the demand.
Taxes: It has yet to be determined what the impact will be at the county level of proposed cutbacks in social service programs. The county already subsidizes certain state social service functions, and the continuance of essential services and programs will be maintained. There are two clear ways to deal with the question of taxes needed to pay for services. First, increased efficiencies in the operation of government will limit the need for increased taxes. Second, economic expansion and development also will contribute to spreading out the tax burden, thereby reducing the need for tax increases. I believe these steps can and should be taken before a tax increase is considered.
Disposal: A comprehensive package to dispose of sludge and trash is needed. I have worked on such a package while in the private sector, and I expect to translate that knowledge into action in the public sector. Specifically, it involves the blending of trash and sludge into a low-grade, nitrogen-based fertilizer. This can be done in a container that would limit the problem of odor. It also would provide a marketable byproduct that could be sold, given away or disposed of in a much more acceptable fashion than we are currently employing. Such a process would limit the need for a very expensive energy resource recovery facility, additional open composting facilities and new landfills.