Roger Berliner Questionnaire Responses

Brickyard Coalition Inc.
INTERVIEW QUESTIONS FOR COUNTY COUNCIL CANDIDATES 2014

Name

Roger Berliner
Street Address6421 Rock Forest Drive
Bethesda, MD 20817
Education
Dartmouth College, BA
JD, McGeorge School of Law
Occupation
Director of Political Sales and Outreach, Telemundo

 

Questions:

1. If elected to the County Council, what would be your top three priorities over the next four years?

If I am given the honor of continuing to represent District 1 residents as I have for the past 7 plus years, my top three priorities will be (1) implementing the next generation of transit, bus rapid transit; (2) making our county a better place for businesses in order to grow our tax base; and (3) continuing to approach land use issues in a balanced manner -- protecting our wonderful residential neighborhoods while focusing development where it is sustainable, smart, and an economic plus.      

2. Please list what you consider to be the top three failures of the county council over the past four years, and what do you think should have been done to avoid or mitigate the problem.

While I recognize that our Council, like any institution, can do its work better, and certainly more harmoniously, I do not recall any significant actions taken that I think represents a major failure on the part of the Council.  We have had hard decisions to make, decisions that have caused pain, but that pain was borne out of the necessity to cut our spending in the midst of the great recession.  When confronted with situations in which our Council did not have the legal authority to remedy a particular situation, such as the Brickyard matter, our Council stepped up and passed legislation to ensure that going forward we were in a position to ensure our review of the use of county property. Similarly, when confronted with the failures related to the Silver Spring Transit Center, our Council exercised its proper oversight responsibilities and required regular updates.  More broadly, I address a number of the challenges our county and our Council faces going forward in response to the questions below.  

3. What would you do to encourage business, especially small business, to locate and remain in Montgomery County? Please provide at least three specific proposals that you support which would assist businesses in Montgomery County.

I have long recognized that small businesses are the key to Montgomery County’s economic future.  Indeed, supporting small businesses was one of my priorities when I served as Council President.  As Council President, I spearheaded a number of efforts to help create a better business climate, including (1) introducing legislation that led to the creation of an Office of Innovation, an active force designed to make our county more attractive to cutting edge businesses and spark innovative approaches by our county government; (2) creating the position of Small Business Navigator, someone in county government helping small business navigate the complexities of government regulations; (3) the creation of the streamlining task force whose task it is to find ways to reduce regulatory red tape; and (4) reducing the increase in energy taxes by 10% a year for the past two years.  I am currently working on ways to help our young adults get the job skills they need to support a family.  A skilled work force is a key element of any successful long term business attraction and retention strategy.    

4. Do you support closing the biotech incubator and replacing it with a cybersecurity center? If yes, why is that a priority? What do you purpose be done to mitigate the loss of the biotech incubator?

No.  I don’t understand why we should not be able to accommodate and support both.  

5. Would you support any increase in residential real estate taxes over the next four years? No. Would you support any decrease in residential real estate taxes or any other tax? I support reducing the energy tax.  

6. In your opinion, what led to the cost overruns and construction problems with the Silver Spring Metro Center and what changes, if any, should the County make in regard to future construction projects?

The County Executive and his administration argue that both the design firm and the contractor failed to perform their duties satisfactorily.  Insofar as there is the strong possibility of litigation, as a County official I would be negligent in my responsibility as a steward of our taxpayer dollars to suggest otherwise -- even if there were, which I do not believe there is, strong evidence to the contrary.  Certainly our county government has come to recognize that a project of this complexity is outside of its core competency, and it would have obtained more expertise and structured much more oversight if they had to do it all over again.

7. As a member of the County Council, what would you do to improve the relationship between MCPS/BOE and the County Council?

The structure of our relationship, and the breadth of our responsibility versus the single issue focus of the school system makes for an uneasy relationship.  The school system is literally half of our budget, and yet our Council has no capacity to either direct dollars to specific programs or provide any policy guidance.  That is the sole province of the BOE.  And then there is the whole issue of the state modified “maintenance of effort” law which further complicates our budgetary decisions.  As in any inherently complex relationship, the best approach is direct and continuous communication.  Communication builds trust, without which very little can be accomplished.   

8. Would you support and vote for providing the Board of Education members with full-time professional staff to assist in fulfilling their elected duty to provide oversight of MCPS?

Given the very limited nature of our direct budgetary authority, I don’t believe we would ever be voting on this matter.  However, I do believe full time professional staff is a critical component of building the capacity of a very part time school board to act independent of the system it is overseeing. 

9. Do you believe that public school land or county-owned land leased directly or indirectly to a private entity should conform to all Montgomery County zoning, master plan and other land use regulations that would apply to a private landowner?

Yes.

10. The two MCPS bus depots at Shady Grove must be relocated to another site and other MCPS depots are over capacity. As we understand, there is a joint work group made up of MCPS and county staff led by the Department of General Services considering alternative locations for the bus depot. Would you favor or oppose the use of the Brickyard school site, located on a residential road with three traffic circles and 11 speed bumps, as a location for use as a bus depot?

Oppose vigorously.  

11. Assuming the selection process was made by competitive bid, would you favor using the Brickyard school site as an organic educational farm in furtherance of the No Child Left Inside policy and as suggested by Governor O’Malley?

Yes.

12. The deer population is exploding in many parts of the County, including the Brickyard community. What specifically can Montgomery County do to decrease and control the increasing deer population?

As a member of the Public Safety Committee, I have led the effort to increase funding for controlling our deer population.  In addition, I have asked the U.S. Park Service to pursue mitigation on its property along the river, which is a haven for deer.  Finally, I have supported state law changes that should make it easier for removing deer in our more suburban environment.     

13. Rapid growth has had a major impact on related county services, specifically health, transportation and education. What are your thoughts on common-sense development based on infrastructure and the need for a balanced approach while recognizing the importance of a transparent planning process, accountability and protection of the environment?

I was proud to lead our Council in its deliberations regarding the level of development appropriate in what is known as Stage 4 of the Clarksburg master plan.  There, my goal was to balance the need to protect 10 Mile Creek, a true “treasure”, with the amount and kind of development that Clarksburg needs at this moment in time.  I think we found that balance.  But that balance is different in different places.  In White Flint, the balance moves towards greater development because it is along a strong transportation corridor and smart growth results in reducing our carbon footprint.  However, at the same time, even there, we need more transportation infrastructure, and our commitment to our community must be to provide that transportation capacity in the form of BRT.  More broadly, we need a community and stakeholder engagement on our “public facilities ordinance” because of the concerns that your question underscores – how are we doing in providing the infrastructure necessary to support the growth that is taking place in our community, and if we are not meeting those obligations, what must we do differently.    

14. What unique qualities do you believe you have to serve as a member of the Montgomery County Council?

I am not sure that all of these qualities are necessarily unique, but I would say that (1) my leadership qualities have been recognized by my colleagues who have honored me by electing me to serve as either President or Vice President for 3 of the past 7 plus years and by regional leaders who have elected me as Vice Chairman of the Washington Region’s Council of Governments (COG) and if re-elected, I should serve as COG’s Chairman in 2017, a plus for our County; (2) my capacity to bring about consensus and my commitment to finding common ground without sacrificing principle is a quality I bring to the Council; and (3) perhaps most uniquely, my extensive professional background in energy law and environmental policies have enabled me to lead our council and our state in addressing Pepco’s poor reliability, including providing the first draft of what became the state law requiring reliability standards for Pepco, a law that has already resulted in better reliability; urging the Governor and the Maryland Public Service Commission to investigate micro-grids and a true 21st century grid or Utility 2.0;  sponsoring 20 energy and environmental bills aimed at making our county a model of sustainability; and being the only local government official to be asked by the U.S. Secretary of Energy to serve on the State Energy Advisory Board.     

15. Please share with us an overview of your campaign (including your key endorsements, major donors, fundraising, and campaign plan) and why you believe you will be a competitive candidate.

I have had a huge outpouring of public support since my opponent filed to run against me.  Political leaders ranging from U.S. Senator Ben Cardin to the Mayors of virtually every municipality within District 1, to State Senators Frosh (D-16) , Madaleno (D-18), and your Senator, Brian Feldman (D-15); and community, neighborhood, PTA leaders from virtually every segment of our community.  I have the support of both environmentalists and business leaders; of neighborhood leaders that fight to protect the quality of their neighborhoods and smart growth and transit advocates; leaders on behalf of women, senior citizens, farmers, non-profits such as mental health and the homeless …and the list goes on.  I am proud of the depth and breadth of my support to continue to serve the people of District 1 and our broader community.  My fundraising, which I had to jumpstart, has been very successful.  It is gratifying that so many people are eager to help me.  And before the month is out, I will have all the resources I will require to get out our positive message of producing real results for our community.  Finally, in handicapping any race, it is instructive to look at the past – 4 years ago, I was challenged by a respected opponent ….and I won 75-25.  Eight years ago, I defeated a popular incumbent by thirteen points.  I will run a strong campaign and hope to earn the privilege of continuing to serve District 1 residents on the County Council.