Category Archives: Montgomery County Executive

Marc Elrich: Name One Program You Would Cut

  1. Name one program in the county budget that is not working and can be cut. Tell us how much in annual savings that would yield.

While there’s no one program we could cut that would produce enough savings to fund the education, transportation, and other investments the county needs, I want to explain how I would take a different approach to how the county makes budget decisions.

Montgomery County faces enormous economic and fiscal challenges: slow job growth, federal budget cuts, an aging population, poverty and its attendant social costs, inadequate infrastructure, and rising school enrollment.  Revenue projections indicate that just maintaining current services will continue to be a challenge, not to mention dealing with the costs necessary to address some of the critical unmet needs facing us.  We have to find ways to maintain the services our residents expect while addressing challenges that can impact our quality of life.

The next County Executive will need to get as much value as possible from every tax dollar, and the only way to do that is to bring a new way of thinking to how we spend our $5 billion budget.  While that’s easier said than done, my record shows I can deliver.  During my first term on the County Council, for example, I recognized that the proposed renovation of the Circuit Courthouse had morphed into an incredibly expensive total replacement.  The project didn’t make sense.  I challenged the assumptions behind the change and I ultimately helped save the county tens of millions of dollars by demonstrating that a renovation could be done much more efficiently.

If elected, my team will move away from the county’s traditional budgeting approach, which starts with last year’s spending and adjusts it incrementally.  We won’t balance budgets with across-the-board cuts that punish good programs and protect poor performers.

Our budgets will instead be built from the ground up to achieve the outcomes residents want, such as closing the opportunity gap, reducing commute times, making housing more affordable, and improving public safety.  We will work to foster a culture of innovation, cooperation, creativity, and transparency so we can move away from a “this is how we’ve always done it” mindset into a model of continuous improvement.

What does that mean?  We will work with our employees, nonprofit partners, and our customers – both residents and businesses – to ensure that our service delivery follows best practices and meets our customers’ expectations.  We will insist on accountability and make funding decisions based on performance.  We will publish an annual report, available to everyone, showing how tax dollars were spent, the measurable progress we are making toward our outcomes, and where we need to do better.

I have no doubt that, by realigning work to reflect best practices, insisting on performance accountability, and creating a culture of teamwork, we can operate existing programs more efficiently.  Doing so will allow us to pivot existing human and capital resources to better address the challenges facing us.

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Roger Berliner on Jobs

Job growth has been stagnant in Montgomery County over the past few years. What would you do to encourage increased job growth?

Increasing prosperity — and having that prosperity shared more broadly — is the central platform of my campaign.  As in most things, achieving this will be a multi-prong effort:

1.  In our county, small business is big business. And for far, far too long, businesses in Montgomery County have seen our county as a foe, not a friend.  We need to be a partner to business, not an obstacle.  That is what prompted me to be the lead sponsor on legislation that created both the Small Business Navigator and the Business Solutions Group in county government — to put in county government resources that are intended to make life easier for our small business community. When we adopt new programs and regulations in our county, we need to make sure we are doing so in a manner that will not harm small businesses.  That is how I have done my work on the Council and it is how I will do my work as County Executive if I have the privilege of leading our great county.

2.  We need to attract businesses to Montgomery County. We have extraordinary assets. Amazon’s request for proposals for its new H2Q brought that home:  Montgomery put checks in all the important boxes.  Smart, skilled work force — check. Transit — check.  Vibrant urban amenities – check.  Awesome quality of life — check.  Diverse population- check.  Good government-check.  Strong, national business leaders-check.  We need to do a better job of promoting our county.  As County Executive, I will be a passionate, ceaseless champion of our county.

3.  What are the fundamentals that create economic growth and opportunities? A skilled workforce, which is why I have been the leading champion of workforce development; world class transit, which is why I have championed fixing Metro, building the Purple Line & Bus Rapid Transit and supporting Ride On Extra; affordable housing, which is why I sponsored legislation that requires our county to consider co-locating affordable housing on county property and increases the obligation of developers to provide affordable housing; creating vibrant urban nodes, with world class architecture, that attracts millennials and businesses like Marriott and Fox 5 to Bethesda; embracing innovation, which is why I led the way to create the Office of Innovation in our county government — we either lean forward or fall back.

4.  Build a “green economy”. Under my leadership, our county has become one of the most sustainable communities in our country.  Those efforts have not only led to our county government being “carbon neutral”, but to creating good green jobs.  Solar companies are thriving; energy efficiency firms are flourishing; composting and organic farming is growing; and our commitment to storm water management should increase jobs and job training opportunities.  A green economy is a healthy economy.

5.  Support our immigrant entrepreneurs. Immigrant-owned businesses are the fastest-growing segment of the county’s economy. Often, these businesses need only a little help to get started. That is what motivated me to lead the effort to create our county’s first micro-loan program, modeled after successful programs around the world.

6.  Pay people a decent wage, which is why I support increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour consistent with the County Executive’s proposal.

My record on creating a more favorable economic climate in our county has led four Montgomery County Business Hall of Famers, past presidents of local chambers of commerce, entrepreneurs of the year, minority business leaders and green business leaders to endorse me.

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George Leventhal on Jobs

Job growth has been stagnant in Montgomery County over the past few years. What would you do to encourage increased job growth?

We have seen good news on job growth recently. County Executive Leggett’s office reported in January that the county had added 7,163 jobs since the previous January and in May that resident employment had increased by 10,900 jobs (not all located in the county) since the previous May. High-profile business location decisions recently have included Marriott’s decision to keep its headquarters in the county, Discovery’s decision to keep 230 jobs in Silver Spring rather than relocate them to Virginia, and WTTG/Fox 5’s decision to relocate to Bethesda from Northwest Washington.

Montgomery County has a great story to tell, but we need to do a better job telling it. Our quality of life is high; we have great public schools; honest and effective government; excellent cultural and recreational opportunities; beautiful natural features; proximity to airports, shipping routes, interstate highways and public transportation; high family incomes; a low crime rate, and a low unemployment rate. I supported creating the new Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation and am glad to see it is investing more than ever before in marketing our county’s excellent attributes to grow our job base and retain existing employers.

We have one of the smartest, most diverse work forces in the United States. We should advertise ourselves as the International Gateway to the Nation’s Capital, to attract employers from around the world and entice the talent our employers need to compete in the global marketplace. While our workforce already possesses more graduate degrees than any other community, and a wider array of language skills than most, we must make language education a higher priority in our schools. Language immersion should be expanded, especially in languages critical for global trade and national security, like Mandarin, Spanish, French, German, Hindi/Urdu, Arabic, Russian, Farsi, and Portuguese.

To appeal to the millennial generation of workers, and the generations that will follow them, we must continue our placemaking efforts, to build great urban communities in locations well served by transit, including Bethesda, Silver Spring, Rockville, Wheaton, and Glenmont, and we must expand transit options to economic opportunity hubs like Gaithersburg, Germantown and White Oak.

We should increase vocational training in our schools. The courses available at Edison High School are insufficient. Not all students will, or need to, attend college. Many good-paying jobs in industrial, manufacturing, information technology and other sectors can be filled by high school graduates with additional technical and vocational training.

We need to continue focused efforts to streamline our planning, permitting and procurement processes to see where they can be made more efficient and business-friendly. We must also strengthen our efforts to keep Montgomery County tax dollars in our local economy, by strengthening programs like the Local Small Business Reserve (which I originated), and minority, female and disabled business purchasing preferences.

I support designating Enterprise Zones to attract investment to areas that are struggling, like Glenmont and Burtonsville. I have also supported tax credits for investors in life science, environmental technology and cybersecurity, and I am currently exploring a county add-on to federal Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) awards. I will seek to reduce our county energy tax, which puts our high-tech and data-intensive businesses at a particular disadvantage.

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Marc Elrich on Jobs

Job growth has been stagnant in Montgomery County over the past few years. What would you do to encourage increased job growth?

Most job growth comes from new businesses expanding in the location in which they were founded.  Surveys indicate that the quality of life and the quality of public goods in an area – including transportation systems and schools – matter far more when businesses are making their initial location decisions than the taxes and other financial incentives they might be offered.

While there is a lot about the economy that is beyond our control – there’s no silver bullet for job growth – there is much that the county can do to create the conditions for businesses to start and thrive.  To the extent that we have cumbersome and inappropriate regulations, we need to change them, and to the extent that regulatory costs are excessive, we need to lower them.  More importantly, I would focus on incubating new local-grown businesses, nurturing their growth, and improving the county’s economic infrastructure.  Other jurisdictions have creative small business incubators and we can learn from their successes to grow a stronger local economy.  The empty spaces in shopping centers and office buildings were once filled with small businesses, and we need to nourish a new generation of entrepreneurs to refill them.

The bus rapid transit (BRT) system proposal that I initiated and have been advocating for during my time on the County Council also holds real potential as a tool for job growth.  Businesses have made an issue of the lack of transit as an impediment to growth.  If we want people to create startups or expand existing businesses, we need entrepreneurs to feel confident that their employees have a reliable way of getting to and from work, that their customers can get to their stores, and that they will be able to transport the goods and services they need to stay in business.

A well-implemented BRT system would reduce future congestion and move more people than roadways alone, making the county a more attractive location for businesses of all sizes.  It would greatly benefit residents as well.

We also need to work with the school system, including Montgomery College, to make sure our students are prepared for jobs that don’t necessarily require a four-year degree but do require post-high-school education.  And we should expand apprenticeship programs in cooperation with the building trades organizations that need the next generation of skilled workers.

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Bill Frick on Jobs

Job growth has been stagnant in Montgomery County over the past few years. What would you do to encourage increased job growth?

For far too long, our Council has been complacent with the status quo and at times even outright hostile to the private sector.  Resting on the expectation of stable employment from the federal government, the Council has been largely indifferent and even averse to growing the private sector economy.  We can no longer afford to talk about the need for job and wage growth and yet show no interest in facilitating business growth that creates those jobs.  As Norm Augustine likes to say, “you can’t be for jobs and against employers.”

From our notorious permitting process to our burdensome tax policies, we need to stop treating small business as the enemy.  Small businesses are the vital engine that will drive our middle class growth.  We need to reorient our administration to recognize that being punitive to businesses isn’t actually in our interests.

We must also foster and facilitate growth and entrepreneurship.  We benefit from an amazingly well-educated and creative workforce. But our women and men often find DC or Virginia or Baltimore to be more promising environments in which to grow and create businesses.  I want to enhance access to capital by building on our programs to keep local and state dollars in the community banks that are most likely to lend to small businesses, like I did at the state level. And I will help jump-start our hospitality, service, and restaurant economy by reforming or eliminating the Department of Liquor Control, a broken system that has functioned as a repellent to restaurants and consumers alike. I led this fight in the legislature, and will win this fight as County Executive.

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In Their Own Words, Part IV: George Leventhal

We continue with our County Executive questionnaires with Councilmember George Leventhal (D-At Large).

What was your most important achievement in your current or past office? How do you think it demonstrates your leadership ability?

My most important achievement is that I have consistently been a champion for those who most need a government on their side. My leadership in public office has been to utilize innovative methods of helping and serving those who, but for the involvement of government, could not achieve a high quality of life on their own.

  • I established the Montgomery Cares program, a network of community clinics that this year will provide 70,000 visits to patients without health insurance. The program includes medical check-ups; sick visits; medications; lab tests; X-Rays; flu shots; access to specialty care; access to behavioral health care; oral health care; and more.
  • In 2015, because of my leadership, Montgomery County housed every identified homeless veteran in the county. We are one of three states and 51 communities that have achieved functional zero for veteran homelessness.
  • In 2017, I provided funding to ensure the county can house every chronically homeless individual by the end of 2018, through the “Inside Not Outside” campaign.
  • I have been the champion every year since 2003 for supplementing the wages paid to caretakers for people with developmental differences.
  • I passed the Design for Living legislation, which provides property tax credits for investments that make housing accessible for elderly and disabled residents.
  • I created the county’s Interagency Commission on Homelessness.

I have consistently championed funding for the Maternity Partnership Program, to ensure prenatal care for expectant mothers without health insurance, and Care for Kids, to ensure health insurance for all Montgomery County children.

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In Their Own Words, Part III: Bill Frick

We continue with our County Executive questionnaires today with Del. Bill Frick (D-16).

What was your most important achievement in your current or past office? How do you think it demonstrates your leadership ability?

During my career in Annapolis there have been many legislative successes that I am proud of, and each highlight different approaches to leadership.  For many, I have been a negotiator and dealmaker. I was the lead legislator in creating a state-sponsored retirement plan to help low-income workers save for a secure retirement. When I started on this path, the bill was seen as a fringe liberal proposal, but I worked with colleagues in the House and Senate of both parties and carried the bill to a bipartisan success that has been held out by AARP as a national model.

There have also been times when I have served as an unapologetic warrior for our values.  I was the lead house sponsor on legislation to increase the state’s reliance on clean renewable energy, an issue that enjoys little Republican support.  For two years, I championed this legislation until it passed the House and Senate in 2016, only to have Larry Hogan veto the bill.  As a part of the leadership team, I led the override vote that finally allowed the Clean Energy Jobs Act to become law, despite the united objection of the Republicans.

Different circumstances call for different leadership styles, and I am proud that I’ve been able to adapt my role and style to promote and protect Maryland’s values.

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In Their Own Words, Part II: Marc Elrich

We continue with our County Executive questionnaires today with Councilmember Marc Elrich (D-At Large).

What was your most important achievement in your current or past office? How do you think it demonstrates your leadership ability?

My most important achievement has been increasing the minimum wage in Montgomery County, and helping to increase it in Prince George’s County and Washington, DC as well.  Opponents of minimum wage increases often try to pit neighboring cities and counties against each other, inaccurately arguing that raising wages in one area will cause employers to flee to surrounding lower-wage localities.  I helped convince lawmakers in these three jurisdictions that joining forces and pushing for higher minimum wages together would defeat this erroneous argument while delivering a real economic win for hundreds of thousands of people.

While I pushed hard for Montgomery County’s minimum wage to increase automatically with inflation, I ultimately accepted a bill without that provision, and with a slower phase-in than I had wanted, to secure the votes necessary for it to pass the Council.  I didn’t give up, however, and have continued to fight for a living wage for county residents, sponsoring a $15 minimum wage bill that earned the support of a majority of my colleagues last year.  Though that bill was vetoed, I am confident that we will soon succeed in passing a version of the legislation I reintroduced.

I believe this achievement demonstrates both my recognition that our residents’ needs demand urgent action and my ability to produce tangible changes through the political process.  I begin by listening to and working with affected communities.  Whether you’re a full-time worker living in poverty or a resident who loves your community and wants to be certain that, as we grow, the county provides the schools, transportation, and other infrastructure necessary to handle that growth without harming the environment, I am committed to getting results for you.  Master planning must include residents; transportation solutions must be affordable and appropriate; and protecting green spaces and water quality, preserving existing affordable housing, and encouraging the use of alternative energy must be priorities.

As County Executive, I know how to build the coalitions with our residents, businesses, and organizations to continue to help this county work for all of us.

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In Their Own Words, Part I: Roger Berliner

Together, Adam Pagnucco and I put a short list of seven questions to the candidates for county executive. We’re grateful that all four have taken the time to respond thoughtfully and in detail.

Unlike interest groups that ask candidates to fill out questionnaires in the hope of garnering an endorsement, our purpose here is a combination of allowing each candidate to better introduce himself and his priorities to you along with questions regarding a selection of issues facing the county we regard as important.

We found their answers illuminating and hope you do too. Today, we start with Councilmember Roger Berliner’s (D-1) response to our first question:

What was your most important achievement in your current or past office? How do you think it demonstrates your leadership ability?

I think my single most important achievement in office has been keeping your lights on.

Pepco was one of the most unreliable utilities in the country.  Our power would go out for days at a time – during storms and even on “sunny days”.  Lives were at risk.  Those who could afford it bought back-up generators so they could keep their lights on.  Most of us simply suffered. It was totally unacceptable.

I led our county in asking for a state investigation of Pepco.  The state regulators at the Maryland Public Service Commission have 100% control over Pepco.  The state granted our request.  During the course of that investigation, we learned for the first time that in terms of reliability, Pepco had been in the lowest quartile nationally for five years in a row.  When I asked whether Pepco would be held responsible, the regulators said that Maryland didn’t have reliability standards so how could Pepco be punished?

I was not satisfied with that answer. I researched laws in other states, drafted state legislation and shared it with the Governor and legislative leaders. Under the leadership of now-Senator Feldman, the legislature passed a law that has made Pepco financially accountable for its reliability.  And guess what?  Pepco has gotten better.  Our power does not go out nearly as much. That makes your lives so much better.

I think what this demonstrates about my leadership is that I fight for consumers; that I am not afraid to take on powerful interests; that I roll up my sleeves and do the nitty gritty work necessary to be effective; that I am able to work collaboratively with our state officials to get things done when they are beyond our county’s ability to do so on our own; and that I have a track record of improving the day-to-day quality of life of Montgomery County residents, which is what a County Executive should do.

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