The process of applying for and interviewing with County Council was a wonderful chance to learn more about County issues and to encourage progress by the County on some issues that I think are important to City residents.  Below is part of the prepared text I used in some of my answers. 

Three most important issues and things you would add to it:
Passing the 2015 budget, White Oak master plan, and the zoning code rewrite are three of the issues that I think will be most important for this Council and for District 5. 

I’ve been through two budget processes at the city scale - i.e. much smaller - that require understanding debt, infrastructure needs, salary and pension issues and measuring the demand for services from residents.  I think the County could do more to create a simpler and clearer set of performance metrics that reflect levels of service and quality of life in the county and I'd like to see a stronger emphasis on that in the budget
 

A specific issue I would add is the opportunity to review and evaluate the school superintendents' CIP and County Executive's capital budget, including school capital projects.  We face a real challenge with the past and projected growth of our school population.  Just keeping up with that growth is a huge challenge, but I'd want to bring a special focus on the school infrastructure in District 5.  For example, I want to understand better why less than 2 percent of the school-specific CIP budget for construction this year is proposed in Districts 4 and 5 in Executive Leggett's CIP proposal.  I recognize that much important spending and projects are elsewhere in the proposal, but I'm particularly interested in the problem of overcrowding in the downcounty cluster schools like Forest Knolls and Rolling Terrace. I very much appreciate the follow up that Councilmember Ervin and her staff put into the mold issues and overcrowding at Rolling Terrace Elementary and I would continue to prioritize that work to try and convince you, my colleagues, that we need some faster investments in expansion and dedicated HVAC work in these and other downcounty and northeast consortium schools that are over capacity by 100-200 students and face problems that are not going to be solved by simply moving students around within a cluster of schools, almost all of which are overcapacity.

 

Balancing development and environmental protection.  What factors would you look at for balance?

The safe political answer is to say that it can always be a win-win but I know that is really hard to achieve.  There is almost always a cost in everything governments have to decide.  That has been my experience on a city council and I expect that is the experience you have here.  The factors I would try to look at concern how development impacts the quality of life of the people in the broad area affected by a development.  Quality of life is services, jobs, home prices, and also open space, recreation, traffic, safety, future school construction needs and so many other factors.  In general, its more costly to provide infrastructure and services per capita in low density residential areas than high density or urbanized ones.  I would generally favor actions that encouraging more development and redevelopment in the areas that already have some of the densest population and infrastructure. 
 
But Clearly, one part of this question is about the Clarksburg plan and ten-mile creek.  From my understanding of the issue, I don't see how the Council ends up not needing to make some more adjustments to the current plan revision to reduce the foot print of development closest to critical parts of the watershed.  I still believe much of the development planned should go forward and that amendments proposed already by the planning board are a big step in the right direction but I would want to work with staff, all of you and as well as constituents to better understand if there are options that could provide better protection to our drinking water, a fair return for developers on their investments and more of the growth that residents of Clarksburg want.  I cannot imagine that there are not still more compromises that could be reached,even if no one is initially that is not going to make people happy. 
  
Is the current Maintenance of Effort (MOE) fair in terms of state requirements for how much the county spends on schools?
Basically, I think the state-directed changes in how MOE is calculated was a blunt way to get at an important goal, but it does so at the cost of discouraging this and other counties from making any investment above the MOE level because the county will be penalized for doing so.  I assume that a real solution to MOE will take years to resolve and that there will need to be an effort to find  common ground between state legislators, unions and counties throughout the state..  In keeping with your question, Councilmember Andrews, the highest priority would seem to be to address the disincentive put into state law in 2012, that penalizes the county for higher investments.  An ambitious solution would be to allow counties to 'bank' above MOE investments and count those toward meeting MOE in future years -that would encourage counties to make proactive, sometimes one-time big investments in school funding.  A less ambitous solution could be to just keep MOE pegged to the MOE in the previous year, regardless of whether the county budget exceeds MOE in some years.  That change would also encourage investments in education by this Council and take away the state penalty for doing so.    A third option would be to make waivers easier or perhaps find a way to work out a two-year waiver process to make it possible to carry out the county's budgeting process with more predictability. 

 

Pay raises for county staff - would you have done that?
I support raises to county staff salaries given the sacrifices staff have made through the past economic downtown but I would have tried to do something more in keeping with the rate of pay increases in the region, in our federal government and in our businesses.  I would have preferred to see a more gradual rate of increase.  In making such an increase, I think it would have also been important to focus on the lowest paid employees of the county - people who are, for example, below the living wage for a single parent like bus drivers and security guards.

 
General remarks about the White Oak/Fairland/Science gateway master plan?
In the White Oak area, there is a lot the Council and Planning Board can do to impose transportation infrastructure changes that would minimize traffic and congestion on Columbia Pike... but no matter what, there will be more traffic and impacts on residents, especially those down the pike.  More jobs and services in the White Oak area.  I understand why the planning board recommends changing the goalposts as the way to get the balance needed between development and congestion.  The traffic goals are simply impossible to achieve which is why reality has never come close to achieving them.  Ultimately, I support the planning board's recommendation because development, services and jobs are so important in this part of the county. I would also support the planning boards recommendation that fees from White Oak developments be dedicated to bus rapid transit and other transit funding.  A premise of the revision is that allowing more development and thus more congestion now is going to be followed by investments to reduce those congestion costs later.  Council action to set aside such funds would be more than a good faith effort to uphold that promise. 

 


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