Candidates for county council were asked the following questions by The Washington Post:
Growth: A number of observers believe requirements such as citizen input into planning decisions and certain design standards have stymied economic growth in Prince George's County. Do you favor removing such obstacles in order to attract new economic development?
Schools: School Superintendent Edward J. Feeney said that the schools were underfunded this year, causing the layoff of 507 teachers. County Executive Lawrence J. Hogan and other politicians maintained that the budget was sufficient and that Feeney's cuts were more dramatic than necessary. What do you think?
TRIM: Do you favor modification of the tax-limiting TRIM amendment? If so, what changes would you support?
Louis Cross (R), of 9406 Brandywine Rd., Clinton, is a native of Maryland who has farmed in the Brandywine area. He was employed for many years with the Maryland Tobacco Association and has been an active member of civic organizations.
Growth: The people deserve the opportunity to participate in the economic development of this county and should participate in the planning and design standards decisions.Participation by people will not stymie economic development, but will bring upright development without political ties. Only special-interest groups and elected officials want the citizens out of the decision making. The people must have a voice in the zoning and planning of this county. Let's bring government back to the people and lower taxes by leadership.
Schools: Edward Feeney and the Board of Education have too much power. This should be investigated. We need better education. Our classrooms are too crowded today because of Feeney's and the board's decisions. They should not make decisions on busing and closing of schools, just to name two areas that are questionable. Our children deserve the best to improve our standards. The layoff of teachers was a political move, and there isn't a place for politics in providing education to our youth. Good leadership and management are necessary within our school system. Let's take a look at the school administration.
TRIM: TRIM economics is like going on a personal diet and then winding up taking special nutrients to offset physical losses. Where are we today with TRIM? -- at a loss for school supplies, with a need for more money for police, fire and rescue services, to name a few areas that have suffered. We need strong leadership and management in our county government. TRIM limited taxes and now proposes an increase. Anyone with basic math and civics can make that determination. Let's go back to the late '70s and evaluate what was then proposed, and cut government, not increase taxes. Let's seek other revenues -- like slot machines... TRIM?
Joseph W. Johnson (Ind.), 39, of 9002 Greenfield La., Clinton, is a computer specialist with the Navy Department. A civic activist for more than a decade, he chaired the Citizens for a Community Council in 1980, a petition drive to change the makeup of the County Council, and led the referendum drive to place county bond issues on the ballot.
Growth: Prince George's County's economic development has been "stymied" because of a media-created image problem, high interest rates and a general downturn in the economy -- not citizen "input." Prince George's County developed from what was essentially a big tobacco farm with some small towns into the nation's fastest-growing county in the space of 10 years. That explosion of development occurred with a zoning process riddled with corruption and loopholes. The lack of public scrutiny ultimately resulted in county commissioners being convicted of accepting bribes from developers and the county being developed with a general disregard for the environment. Citizen testimony, along with a series of citizen referendums over the last decade, has forced county government to be more accountable.
Schools: The Prince George's school system has 50,000 fewer students to educate in 1982 than it had in 1970. I believe that most reductions should be made in administrative areas and we should take this opportunity to reduce class size. I have never known a school superintendent who didn't argue that the schools were underfunded.
TRIM: No, not at this time. The TRIM amendment was a result of ever-increasing residential property taxes and the public's perception of poor administration of the county government. The present County Council has made TRIM harsher than necessary. I would support a "tier" tax with separate classes for residential and nonresidential properties. Such a system would shift the tax burden away from homeowners, who now pay more than their fair share in property taxes. The council should lobby the state legislature for passage of enabling legislation, should such legislation be considered necessary.
Sue V. Mills (D), incumbent, 46, of 3033 Brinkley Rd., Temple Hills, was elected to an at-large seat on the County Council in 1978. A former teacher, she served on the county school board for eight years as a member and chairman. She serves on a number of educational commissions and is active in civic and political groups.
Growth: While I agree that our enthusiasm for citizen input, indeed, occasionally has had an adverse impact on economic development, I definitely do not favor a return to the star chamber proceedings of two decades ago. The procedures for planning and design standards badly need to be streamlined. Such streamlining would be beneficial to all involved -- including the citizens -- if done in the name of good government for all. During the past four years, I have had some notable success in leading a campaign to simplify and consolidate procedures necessary to promote the economic vitality of Prince George's County.
Schools: Superintendent Feeney, and the school board, made a grandstand play that cost 406 teachers of Prince George's County their jobs. The County Council provided $306.3 million to run the school system. I believe the total funding was adequate. Superintendent Feeney, and the school board, established the priorities for spending the money and obviously plasced teacher employment far down on their list of priorities. Every person knowledgeable about the school budget and the cost of operations generally and publicly has agreed that the teacher layoffs were the result of poor judgment and poor planning.
TRIM: Yes. However, I do not favor the TRIM Plus Four amendment as it will appear on the ballot on November 2. The amendment is poorly written and in reality does not address the major issue for which TRIM was intended. I believe revenue realized from all new development should be beyond the stultifying total dollar restrictions of TRIM itself. With the authority to treat new development for tax purposes the same as older development, millions of dollars of additional revenue could be realized by the county without placing an undue burden on any group or class of taxpayers. All too often the original objective of TRIM is lost in the discussion of TRIM Plus Four. The original objective of TRIM, of course, was to limit the amount of revenue the county could raise through the property tax, and was intended to encourage intelligent council members to search for other sources of revenue. I just recently proposed that the state share with the counties the hundreds of millions of dollars in lottery ticket sales as an innovative merthod of achieving greater revenue for the county without increasing property taxes.