Brickyard Coalition Inc.
INTERVIEW QUESTIONS FOR COUNTY COUNCIL CANDIDATES 2014
|Street Address||Friends of Beth Daly|
P.O. Box 2908
Germantown, MD 20875
|Education||B.A., Miami University|
|Occupation||Director of Political Sales and Outreach, Telemundo|
1. If elected to the County Council, what would be your top three priorities over the next four years?
In a complex county of one million residents and diverse issues, it’s too simplistic to say that there are merely three priorities. However, I have focused my campaign on a few:
I want infrastructure to keeps pace with growth, especially with regard to transportation and schools. Public transit and road improvements cannot be an afterthought; intersection improvements, road fixes and public transit are tools to ending the traffic crisis in Montgomery County.
Portable classrooms should be an emergency/temporary – not permanent – solution to student population growth. And speaking of schools, we must retain the quality of our public schools and reduce the achievement gap. We also must hold MCPS accountable for the initiatives it enacts.
We need to protect our green spaces, freshwater streams and the county tree canopy – before it is too late. As a founding member of the Save Ten Mile Creek Coalition, I testified and worked to save the last pristine creek in the county, a regional emergency water source. Creating and preserving parks is also a priority, especially in areas with dense development, and I will work tirelessly to protect our mature tree canopy.
We also must help create an economic environment that appeals to businesses, workers and families, including making sure the county budget are spent wisely and sustainably. We must play to our strengths, so that there will be knowledge- based jobs for future generations.
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.
From Chevy Chase to Clarksburg, White Flint to White Oak, our growth is outpacing infrastructure. The Montgomery County Council just can’t say “no” to unchecked development. We need to make sure schools, roads, public transit, libraries, etc. are adequately considered while the incentive is in hand for the developers – not ten years down the road. I will work to bring in third-party traffic analysis so that our overburdened roads and intersections are accurately accounted for when planning for public transit and traffic remediation.
And our lack of preparedness for increased school enrollment is simply inexcusable. Portables are emblematic of our county’s irresponsible choice to prioritize growth over our children’s education. The county council must start using real metrics to anticipate growth and require developers to provide solutions ahead of construction and to help build schools and public facilities.
As I travel around the county talking to residents, I hear from many that the council (as well as Montgomery Park & Planning) has not been listening to them. They cite council unwillingness to heed strongly expressed public opinion. In many master plans and land use issues, community input and robust expression has been overridden. Two recent examples are the Chevy Chase Lake Sector Plan, opposed by all the surrounding neighborhoods, and of course the Brickyard Road issue. In the Emory Church Road issue in east county, citizens had to resort to the courts for vindication of their master plan. In both the Brickyard and Emory cases the council failed to respect the community – until they were forced to. We can do better, and it should not require our citizens to sue their government. The council needs to be held accountable and reminded that councilmembers serve the public, not particular special interests. While civic engagement is generally a good thing, it is not appropriate for the council to be crossing swords with the public over compliance with components of an area master plan.
I will work to make sure our county government is more transparent: Among other measures, we must start posting online any exemptions developers and other entities receive from traffic tests (e.g., White Oak), forest conservation rules (e.g., Chelsea School) and stormwater management requirements (e.g., Costco). All committee votes (where much of the real decision-making occurs) and councilmember calendars should be subject to timely public view.
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.
More than 75 percent of businesses in Montgomery County are considered small businesses. They employ thousands of workers who are taxpayers, residents, and community members. We need to keep that cycle intact by minimizing the burdens we place on those employers and – accordingly – on their workers. The more successful these employers are, the less pressure there is to raise residential or other taxes.
The county currently has a number of programs like the Local Small Business Reserve Program and programs that focus on contracting with certified local minority/female/disabled-owned businesses. If these programs continue to show positive results for the county and the businesses, I would support expanding them. We need to look for successful models around the country, and build them to suit our communities and needs. We should look at creative ways to give small start-ups a leg up, such as considering pop-up zoning to fill vacant storefronts, or a community shared kitchen for restaurant entrepreneurs. And we need to streamline our regulatory system and consider having a county point person/specialist assigned to assist businesses in navigating the county’s rules and regulations and coordinating intra-agency details. We need to make Montgomery County a place where businesses feel welcomed and want to come and stay.
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?
We should strongly consider having both the biotech incubator and a cybersecurity center, as each will bring high quality jobs and employers to the county. This is important especially because Montgomery County uniquely houses National Institutes of Health and many biotech firms (both start-ups and large employers), as well as being close to the federal government security apparatus. The 60,000 square foot William Hanna Innovation Center biotechnology incubator is a success, featuring costly laboratories and conveying important benefits to local entrepreneurs. If we want a cybersecurity center, by all means let’s use the federal grant to build one and make use of the many vacant spaces in our county, but Montgomery County should not benefit one incubator at the expense of the other. We also need to look beyond just real estate benefits for our incubators—and put together more partnerships with local businesses as well as the Universities of Shady Grove and Montgomery College.
Transparency here is key: It would be most effective to have everyone working together toward the goal of two successful incubator programs, in which the council, the county executive and affected businesses and constituencies work together – and not behind closed doors.
5. Would you support any increase in residential real estate taxes over the next four years? Would you support any decrease in residential real estate taxes or any other tax?
I do not support an increase in residential taxes. Montgomery County taxes are high: Our income tax rate is at its allowed maximum and our median residential property tax is the maximum allowed in our charter. I would like to examine the rationale for recordation and transfer taxes, which are high in Montgomery County. I would like to consider reducing these costs for first-time homeowners and for homebuyers below a certain income.
I will advocate for the State of Maryland to more equitably share corporate tax revenue with the counties – Montgomery County receives less than a quarter back on every dollar it sends to the state. Identifying new revenue sources is always a challenge, given the tax burden on residents and the need to attract businesses that will provide jobs.
The county’s fiscal house is in better shape than it has been for years. That said, we don’t know what lies ahead. To remain in control of our spending regardless of what comes our way, I have advocated for a third-party review of the county’s operating budget. We need to bring an eagle eye to program and department budgets, to find expenses that can be cut, and to eliminate duplicative or ineffective efforts. As the economy improves, we must return some services that were hurt by the cuts, but we must be careful not to return to the unsustainable spending we had before the recent recession.
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 partnership between the County and WMATA and what appears to be their lack of regular and clear communication is core to the problems that ensued. The transit center concept – to connect multimodal transit lines and further stimulate the redevelopment of Silver Spring – was a sound idea. But from the beginning, the project was saddled with a lack of interagency coordination, which led to unneeded project growth and cost overruns, while the public was largely kept in the dark. The Council and Executive inadequately considered whether the anticipated benefit justified the projected costs. Then, it ceded too much power to WMATA in exchange for an insufficient WMATA contribution. On top of those costs, we face increased costs for the center going forward due to failures by those retained by the County including the Project designer, inspectors and contractor, as well as short-falls of the County officials charged with overseeing the Project. At this point, there are no great solutions to the unfinished business of the transit center, but I would encourage the County Executive to address all of the identified issues now and not kick the can of known problems down the road for future administrations.
To avoid repeating this sort of debacle, I will work to improve construction planning, oversight, transparency and accountability. For major construction projects, and other projects outside of the standard construction performed for the County, I will encourage use of design-build contracting so that there is a single point of responsibility. I will call for all parties, with the county executive’s Department of General Services (DGS) taking the lead, to write up a “lessons learned” as a guide to future projects.
I have testified many times before the county council about the need to build and improve public transit, including adding a third track to the MARC Brunswick Line and extending the Route 355 Bus Rapid Transit corridor line to Clarksburg, but it is imperative that we make sure construction is staged so that we can evaluate successes and failures before we spend almost $120 million on a project.
7. As a member of the County Council, what would you do to improve the relationship between MCPS/BOE and the County Council?
I believe in building personal relationships, as I always have done in my personal, community and professional life. I have had and will continue to have conversations with school board members and other councilmembers and their staffs – even when we disagree. I also will make sure my staff interacts with the school board and staff in a positive way. My office will be open and accessible – to the public and stakeholders on issues, and to other councilmembers and staff – as well as the Board of Education and Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS). I will listen and learn.
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?
Yes, I would consider this, because of the sheer size of our school system. With more than 151,000 students and a budget of $2.3 billion, it would make sense to have a professional staff. This may also help the board achieve necessary independence, as they could conduct their own staff analysis and evaluation of superintendent and MCPS initiatives.
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. No one occupying or leasing county owned property should be exempt from our regulations and master plans as they are achieved through community decision-making processes.
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?
I oppose this use of the Brickyard site. Given the location of our county’s population centers, it is geographically inappropriate to put a bus depot on this site. The site is also very restricted by the narrow local roads, circles and speed bumps. A major new bus depot needs a location that presents a more industrial profile, as well as quick access to significant roadways for ingress and egress to serve the county’s students.
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?
An organic education farm seems a much better use of the property, one that leaves it available for potential development into a middle school as originally envisioned in the master plan. An organic farm in the heart of the county would be an invaluable teaching tool in our schools for showing suburban and urban children where their food comes from. Montgomery has over 200 schools, and many children in the county never have seen a working farm up close. It could be used in a broad array of lessons from the early elementary years to more sophisticated environmental science lessons in the high schools. An inter- generational connection to the land could carry into future stewardship of the environment in other areas. And importantly, such a farm enjoys broad community support. In addition this use requires little public funding to bring to fruition, compared to the other possible uses.
Regardless, the county must ensure that there is an inclusive public process before making any decision about the future of this school site or other public lands. Any change of use must be referred to the Montgomery County Planning Board as required by the Mandatory Referral Act.
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?
The problem is undeniable. In addition to the traffic hazards of striking a deer, the deer population is causing significant damage to our forests by reducing the young forest trees and the understory, which also displaces related birds, insects and other dependents on various tree species. Fifty or sixty years from now, when most now-mature trees have died, many replacements simply will not be there.
We need to continue to research and use the latest in birth control and scientific methods to reduce deep populations. Currently birth control is costly and only moderately effective, but we need to keep up-to-date with the science and policy of other counties and states with similar issues. In the meantime, unfortunately, deer must be culled. I believe the difficulty in any culling strategy will be in creating thoughtful, well-established limits for times and distances required for approved hunters to cull the deer. We must pay careful attention to satisfying homeowners concerned about safety/quiet enjoyment while effectively reducing the deer population. There was a vigorous public debate on this question at the state legislative level during the just-ended session in Annapolis, as well as a hearing held by the Montgomery delegation a year ago. The county needs to hold more similar conversations and allow citizens to be heard before taking action.
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?
Arguably the most important job the county council does is land use. I originally was prompted to run by school overcrowding and the excessive number of portables. I will insist on balanced development by making sure the school and traffic tests in the Subdivision Staging Policy reflect what actually is happening on the ground, and I will work to ensure that there is adequate funding for school construction ahead of development, not years later.
We are making land use decisions now that will affect us for decades to come, creating dramatically more dense, mixed use “cities” where there were once smaller, neighborhood-serving shopping centers. But how we grow is just as important as how much we grow: We must ensure that transit-oriented development actually is supported by transit before we approve master plans with large-scale growth; and we must ensure our roads and intersections are up to the task – before the first permit is pulled. The current council has fallen down on the job in this regard, green-lighting significantly larger master plans and zoning changes without first locking in adequate infrastructure and funding. This is a mistake. We must balance our need for new jobs and residents with creating the infrastructure capacity – schools, roads, public transit, libraries, police and fire, etc. – to accommodate the growth. This must be done with strong consideration for protecting and improving our green space, tree canopy, water and air quality and overall sustainability.
And finally, we must better engage the public so that a pro forma public hearing does not take the place of active and sincere long-term engagement with our existing neighborhoods and communities while we are planning for the new neighbors. It’s our quality of life that is at stake. It’s that simple.
14. What unique qualities do you believe you have to serve as a member of the Montgomery County Council?
Currently, three of the four at-large members reside in Takoma Park – and all four live south of White Flint Mall. I am uniquely positioned to run for an at-large seat on the council because I have lived both upcounty (14 years) and downcounty (ten years). As an apartment dweller in downtown Bethesda, a new mother of two boys in a single-family home in Kensington, and now an empty nester in the heart of the Agricultural Reserve, I have experienced Montgomery County’s variety, and I appreciate that we are all – regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, or any other difference – in this together.
Although this is my first run for public office, I have more than 20 years of experience working in Democratic politics, first for U.S. Sen. Howard Metzenbaum (D-Ohio), then as a media professional for Democratic candidates and progressive causes, and most recently for Telemundo, promoting political messaging to its Spanish-language viewers. I was named “Media All Star” by Media Week magazine in 1993 for my team’s work on the Clinton-Gore 1992 campaign. I am legislative director of the Sugarloaf Citizens Association; was appointed by County Executive Ike Leggett to the Upcounty Citizens Advisory Board where I am land use chair; and served as a community leader on the regional Transportation Planning Board for the Council of Governments. I am active on the Save Ten Mile Creek Coalition, Dickerson Facilities Implementation Group, PTA, within my church and as a hospice volunteer.
I know how budgets work and respect budgetary accountability. While directing the advertising placements for President Clinton’s campaign, I managed tens of millions of dollars and had to account for every penny. I know how to spend other people’s money and to be accountable for it. I will do the same as a county councilmember.
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.
Endorsements to date (others pending):
- Sierra Club Maryland Chapter (one of only two at-large candidates to get the nod, along with sitting Councilmember Marc Elrich)
- Montgomery County Public Schools Retirees Association (retired teachers) • Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 35 (police union)
- Maryland Del. Charles Barkley (D-39)
- Council Member Michael Sesma, Gaithersburg City Council
Major Donors and Fundraising:
- Total raised $130,000+ (including $55,000 personal loan from candidate) from individual donors from all over Montgomery County. Goal: $200,000.
My campaign team and I have many professional, civic and personal connections throughout Montgomery County. We have an active, committed core campaign team of about a dozen smart, hard-working and motivated volunteers from all over Montgomery County, including a full-time campaign manager, a campaign chair and a treasurer. We have a paid field director. I have a strong website, www.bethdaly.org, and an active social media, press and email outreach campaign. I (and my campaign team) attend dozens of events every week and have since last fall. We are canvassing and phone banking several times a week, and are building up our volunteer base (which is increasing as we garner more endorsements). We will have tables at all precincts on Election Day and at all nine early voting centers. We have an active precinct and elected official outreach effort, and have distributed hundreds of bumper stickers, yard signs and mail pieces. Our mail effort will be tailored to maximizing the vote for Beth Daly on June 24th and in early voting.
We intend to continue building on our momentum and look forward to additional endorsements from organizations as well as political leaders. I am in this to win so that I can serve the people of Montgomery County. I would be proud to receive the Brickyard Coalition endorsement.