Montgomery County Council At-Large (four seats) | Bethesda Magazine

Montgomery County Council At-Large (four seats)

 

Republican

 

Robert Dyer

Where you live: Bethesda

Date of birth: 46 years old

Current occupation and employer (may also list up to two other jobs you’ve held); if retired, list your last job and employer: Founder and publisher of Suburban News Network

Political experience (public offices held and when, as well as unsuccessful campaigns for office and which years): Elected to Montgomery County Republican Central Committee, District 16 (2006-10). Candidate for state delegate, District 16 (2006). Candidate for Montgomery County Council at-large (2010, 2014).

Campaign information:

1 – What experience (work, political or other) has prepared you to hold this office? (100 words max)

I’m the only candidate with over a decade of experience and accomplishments countywide as an activist. My boots were on the ground for all the major issues of this decade, including Westbard, Moses Cemetery, Rock Spring, Bethesda Downtown, bus depot, Rockville Pike Plan, and keeping Damascus rural. I’ve testified before the Council and Planning Board, marched alongside you in the protests, and reported your side of the story as a journalist.

Where were the other candidates when it mattered most? Nowhere to be found. As Henry Ford said, “You can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do.”

2 – What is the most important issue in this race and what specific plans do you have to address it? (100 words max)

We must reform our planning process to protect existing residential neighborhoods, while firmly tying new development to the infrastructure needed to support it.

I’d restore the Office of the People’s Counsel, to represent residents’ interests in land-use decisions. I’d bring back resident committees to oversee sector plan rewrites, instead of the developer-friendly “charrette” process.

Developers must pay more for schools and transportation. The next Council will vote on sector plans for Aspen Hill, Gaithersburg East, Forest Glen and Germantown, critical reasons to elect me — the only candidate with a long record of fighting developers on behalf of residents.

3 – What is one major issue the current County Council has handled poorly and what would you have done differently? (100 words max)

The current Council is clueless about business, and has run our economy into the ground. We’ve become a bedroom community for growing job centers elsewhere in our region like Tysons. While Discovery was planning its exit from Silver Spring, the Council was debating a ban on circus animals and vending machine snacks. MoCo’s government liquor monopoly is killing our bars and restaurants.

I would repeal the 2016 property tax and 2010 energy tax hikes, require two regulations to be eliminated for each new one passed on business, fully-privatize liquor sales, and build a new Potomac River crossing to Dulles.

4 – What measures do you advocate to address what is often referred to as the “achievement gap” in Montgomery County Public Schools? (100 words max)

Superintendent Smith must resign. He failed to keep students safe, or improve academic performance, and his replacement’s compensation package must be performance-based.

MCPS is the 8th biggest offender in the nation among schools that overspend on administrators, rather than the classroom.  Those dollars must start going to classrooms. But throwing money at the problem won’t work unless we also adopt a new curriculum.

Unlike Councilmember Riemer’s plan to preserve the geographic inequity of good schools clustered in the southwest of the county, I’m demanding good schools in every neighborhood. The “soft bigotry of low expectations” cannot be tolerated in MCPS.

5 – Do you support Gov. Hogan’s plan to ease traffic congestion by widening I-495 and I-270, including the installation of toll lanes? (100 words max)

Yes. It provides the widening we need at virtually no cost to taxpayers. Flyover ramps in tight spots will prevent demolition of homes. Contrary to false reports, tolls will be reasonable like the Beltway Express Lanes in Virginia — unlike I-66, a state-run boondoggle that funnels revenue to developers.

Virginia is building Metro lines and Express Lanes and stealing our jobs. We must urgently build Express Lanes, the M-83 Highway, and a new Potomac River crossing to Dulles to regain our status as a major economic development player in the region. The Council has failed to deliver the infrastructure needed.

 

Chris P. Fiotes Jr.

Where you live: North Potomac

Date of birth: Dec. 17, 1933

Current occupation and employer (may also list up to two other jobs you’ve held); if retired, list your last job and employer: Retired broker, C.P. Fiotes & Associates; worked in the U.S. Senate for the sergeant at arms at the recommendation of U.S. Sen. Charles McC. Mathias (1975-1986); former U.S. Navy Reserve

Political experience (public offices held and when, as well as unsuccessful campaigns for office and which years): Ran for Congress in Maryland’s 6th District, 1992; ran for Montgomery Council at-large, 2014.

Campaign information:

1 – What experience (work, political or other) has prepared you to hold this office? (100 words max)

I spent 10 years working in the U.S. Senate and learned firsthand not only the legislative process and negotiations, but, most importantly, how working across party lines and interests can get things accomplished. Additionally, I have owned my own commercial real estate business for the past 25 years and understand balancing budgets and the impact of taxes and the local economy on small businesses and jobs.

2 – What is the most important issue in this race and what specific plans do you have to address it? (100 words max)

My top priority is economic growth for the future of Montgomery County. We need to stimulate job growth by controlling taxes and providing incentives for small businesses in particular. Fiscal responsibility requires us to provide oversight and control of spending and ensure that funds are allocated and spent to achieve maximum results and eliminate waste. I intend to push for more accountability from the executive departments.

3 – What is one major issue the current County Council has handled poorly and what would you have done differently? (100 words max)

The Transit Center in Silver Spring was a boondoggle. It cost the taxpayers enormous amounts of money with a questionable outcome. The Council had a responsibility to exercise oversight and fiscal control of this project, but it dropped the ball. For projects of this scope and significance, I would have demanded regular briefings on their status and financial health. That way, the Council could have intervened earlier in the process rather than have to wait till the end and fork out more money to fix the problems.

4 – What measures do you advocate to address what is often referred to as the “achievement gap” in Montgomery County Public Schools? (100 words max)

The most important asset our school system has is our teachers. More and better paid teachers can contribute significantly to closing the achievement gap. Additional resources to support teachers and after-school activities also can improve the performance of students who do not have this support in their homes. There are some programs we cannot compromise, and education is one of them. For many other programs, we can partner with the private sector to offer opportunities for expanding, such as investments in our infrastructure and roads.

5 – Do you support Gov. Hogan’s plan to ease traffic congestion by widening I-495 and I-270, including the installation of toll lanes? (100 words max)

Yes. These strategies have proven to work well in other regions. However, we need a two-pronged approach to transportation. On the one hand, locating future growth and development near existing mass transit options can reduce the demand. On the other hand, pursuing public-private partnerships to improve our road system will reduce the financial burden on the taxpayers and take advantage of industry best practices.

 

Penny Musser

Where you live: Boyds

Date of birth: October 1961

Current occupation and employer (may also list up to two other jobs you’ve held); if retired, list your last job and employer: Allstate insurance agent: Previously: Managed a large insurance agency for 28 years in Gaithersburg.

Political experience (public offices held and when, as well as unsuccessful campaigns for office and which years): None

Campaign information:

did not respond to additional questions

 

Shelly Skolnick

Where you live: Silver Spring (inside the Beltway)

Date of birth: I am 75 years old.

Current occupation and employer (may also list up to two other jobs you’ve held); if retired, list your last job and employer: Attorney with Skolnick Law Firm, P.C.

Political experience (public offices held and when, as well as unsuccessful campaigns for office and which years): Candidate for Montgomery County executive (2002), Montgomery County Council at-large (2006), U.S. House of Representatives in 8th District (2012), Montgomery County Council at-large (2014), U.S. House of Representatives in 8th District (2016).

Campaign information:

1 – What experience (work, political or other) has prepared you to hold this office? (100 words max)

For over 40 years, I have lived in various parts of Montgomery County (Bethesda, Rockville, Derwood, Olney and Silver Spring). Thus, I am very familiar with the concerns and needs of residents in many parts of Montgomery County. Also, I have observed the many changes to Montgomery County that have reduced the quality of life and increased the cost of living for the County’s residents.

2 – What is the most important issue in this race and what specific plans do you have to address it? (100 words max)

The most important issues are improving the quality of life, and reducing the cost of living, for the million residents of Montgomery County. To address these issues, I am proposing multiple affordable solutions to quickly reduce traffic congestion: implementing a Bus Lane Toll at no cost to the taxpayers (rather than the billion-dollar BRT), Bus Rider Buildings at MetroRail stations, 50% fares during Hush Hours for MetroRail, and transferring MetroBus and MetroAccess from Metro to the local governments.

3 – What is one major issue the current County Council has handled poorly and what would you have done differently? (100 words max)

The 100-mile billion-dollar Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) program is a costly and ineffective response to the county’s traffic congestion. In the past (and currently), I have proposed a Bus Lane Toll (BLT) solution where the left lane on 3-lane and 4-lane roads would be reasonable variable toll lanes during rush hours. The tolls would avoid any taxes for this solution. Also, the tolls would pay for reduced fares for bus riders using the BLT lanes during rush hours.

4 – What measures do you advocate to address what is often referred to as the “achievement gap” in Montgomery County Public Schools? (100 words max)

I have proposed a voluntary Pre-K and Post-K program during July and August prior to kindergarten and after kindergarten. This is an affordable solution, since the classrooms and teachers are available during the summer. Thus, the solution can be quickly implemented. Also, I have proposed free tuition at Montgomery College for students who perform volunteer work, such as teacher aides. These volunteer college students would be available to help teachers during the Pre-K and Post-K program.

5 – Do you support Gov. Hogan’s plan to ease traffic congestion by widening I-495 and I-270, including the installation of toll lanes? (100 words max)

Not at this time. Instead, I have proposed a Bus Lane Toll (BLT) solution for our 3-lane and 4-lane roads. The BLT solution is at no cost to the taxpayer, and can be quickly implemented. During rush hours, the existing left lanes on I-495 and I-270 would be toll lanes (for cars and buses) with reasonable variable tolls collected by the EZPass system. Some of the toll revenue would be used to reduce bus fares during rush hours.

 

 

Democrat

 

Gabe Albornoz

Where you live: Kensington

Date of birth: March 22, 1976

Current occupation and employer (may also list up to two other jobs you’ve held); if retired, list your last job and employer: Director, Montgomery County Department of Recreation

Political experience (public offices held and when, as well as unsuccessful campaigns for office and which years): First time running for elected office

Campaign information:

1 – What experience (work, political or other) has prepared you to hold this office? (100 words max)

I am a lifelong Montgomery County resident, a graduate of MCPS, and have lived in Gaithersburg, Silver Spring, Bethesda and Kensington. I have experienced our growth firsthand.

For 11 years, I have served as Director of the County’s Recreation Department, leading an agency with 3,000 employees and a $39 million budget. I have also served on over 38 Boards, Commission, and Committees at the State and local level and political level, including becoming the first Latino Chairman of the Montgomery County Democratic Party. I know where we have been, where we are, and where we need to go.

2 – What is the most important issue in this race and what specific plans do you have to address it? (100 words max)

We are facing declining revenues and a growing economic divide at the same time we have seen a much greater demand on critical services, especially our school system. We must expand our economy to ensure that we have the sufficient revenue to address our growing needs and that we have economic opportunity across the County.

Specifically, we need to support our existing businesses through an aggressive buy local initiative and by ensuring that we provide access to capital and expand our marketing initiatives. We should also focus on adding incubator space and entrepreneurial education initiatives.

3 – What is one major issue the current County Council has handled poorly and what would you have done differently? (100 words max)

We have had stagnant economic growth in the County. This is in part due to the economic recession and housing challenges we have had in our Community. We must be more aggressive in supporting our Economic Development Corporation to ensure we change the perception that Montgomery County is unfriendly to business.

Council can play an important role in courting new businesses in emerging markets. We must also focus on the creation of housing stock for the middle class, which includes our millennial population to ensure that we have the workforce present that attracts businesses.

4 – What measures do you advocate to address what is often referred to as the “achievement gap” in Montgomery County Public Schools? (100 words max)

I am deeply committed to eliminating the achievement gap in MCPS. My entire professional career has been in programs that effectively and creatively help children and their families succeed in their schools, communities and families. As a  council member, I will continue to build coalitions of essential partners, including MCPS, government, nonprofits, business and parents to prepare children to succeed in school and ultimately in careers. I will support funding for proven effective programs that collaboratively address student achievement. I will support universal pre-K, as well as an array of effective family support services for at-risk youth and their families.
5 – Do you support Gov. Hogan’s plan to ease traffic congestion by widening I-495 and I-270, including the installation of toll lanes? (100 words max)
I support the goal of easing traffic congestion on both I-270 and I-495. However, I support the use of reversible lanes on I-270 all the way to Frederick. I do not support the Governor’s proposal for widening I-495 within Maryland – it is undoable without significant impacts on existing properties. The State needs to immediately advance the study of capacity and operational strategies from 1-270 and along 1-495 into Virginia to include spot improvements, transit, pedestrian and bicycle connections. These strategies can take place earlier and will provide traffic relief sooner and without negative effects on our environment and communities.

 

Evan Glass

Where you live: Silver Spring

Date of birth: Jan. 30, 1977

Current occupation and employer (may also list up to two other jobs you’ve held); if retired, list your last job and employer: Executive director of nonprofit Gandhi Brigade Youth Media; former CNN journalist

Political experience (public offices held and when, as well as unsuccessful campaigns for office and which years): Candidate for Montgomery County Council District 5 in 2014

Campaign information:

1 – What experience (work, political or other) has prepared you to hold this office? (100 words max)

I currently serve as executive director of Gandhi Brigade Youth Media, a nonprofit that provides free afterschool programs for underserved youth. We operate our programs in libraries, middle schools and high schools throughout Montgomery County. Additionally, I have a successful track record of civic engagement as president of two civic associations and chair of a citizens advisory board.

My commitment to our community also extends to board leadership of Montgomery Housing Partnership (affordable housing), Conservation Montgomery (environmental protection), Committee for Montgomery (legislative advocacy), Montgomery County Arts Advocates (arts education) and Equality Maryland (LGBTQ rights).

2 – What is the most important issue in this race and what specific plans do you have to address it? (100 words max)

If we want to expand early childhood education, build more affordable housing and expand our transportation system, we will need to figure out how to pay for those items. Instead of increasing taxes or cutting programs, I am focused on expanding the tax base and creating new sources of revenue so we can invest in our roads, schools and support services for seniors and youth. We must continue attracting businesses in the life sciences sector, which desire proximity to FDA, NIH and other federal agencies. I am committed to expanding prosperity and equity to the entire county.

3 – What is one major issue the current County Council has handled poorly and what would you have done differently? (100 words max)

I am excited about this election because it will result in four new members serving on the Council. This is important because there are a host of areas — from better oversight of construction and road projects to fostering a better working relationship with MCPS and the Board of Education — that I would like to improve upon. And with a near majority of new Council members, we can rethink the way our Council operates so that Montgomery County government works for every resident.

4 – What measures do you advocate to address what is often referred to as the “achievement gap” in Montgomery County Public Schools? (100 words max)

I want to ensure that every child receives the best education possible. This will require us to provide additional resources to assist teachers and staff, as well as improving the buildings’ physical infrastructure.

But preparing our students for the classroom also means that we need to provide for their entire well-being. When a student goes to school with food insecurity, housing insecurity or financial insecurity, that student is less likely to focus on learning. Increased support for our social safety net is an important tool to assist with closing the achievement gap outside of MCPS.

5 – Do you support Gov. Hogan’s plan to ease traffic congestion by widening I-495 and I-270, including the installation of toll lanes? (100 words max)

I am committed to easing traffic congestion in our region so that residents can travel in a safe and efficient manner. But Governor Hogan’s plans to widen I-495 and I-270 are misguided and shortsighted, as neither plan contains a public transportation component — which is key to moderating future traffic problems. I am also concerned about the hundreds of homes and businesses that will be bulldozed if the project were to proceed.

 

Will Jawando

Where you live: Silver Spring

Date of birth: Jan. 2, 1983

Current occupation and employer (may also list up to two other jobs you’ve held); if retired, list your last job and employer: Lawyer. Previously associate director of White House public engagement under President Obama, then adviser to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in the Obama administration

Political experience (public offices held and when, as well as unsuccessful campaigns for office and which years): Ran for Maryland state delegate in District 20 in 2014. Ran for Congress in 8th District in 2016.

Campaign information:

1 – What experience (work, political or other) has prepared you to hold this office? (100 words max)

My personal experience and both local and national public service: my work on Capitol Hill and in the Obama Administration, I co-lead the county’s African American Student Achievement Action Group, ran the county’s largest ever high school summer career program, and served on the County Juvenile Justice Commission. I launched Our Voices Matter, a nonprofit working in underrepresented communities. Our campaign has earned endorsements that reflect my diverse experience: Sierra Club, SEIU Local 500, Montgomery County Education Association, CASA in Action, MCGEO, Fraternal Order of Police, LiUNA, Progressive Maryland, Latino Democratic Club, and the Coalition of Asian Pacific American Democrats.

2 – What is the most important issue in this race and what specific plans do you have to address it? (100 words max)

Expanding opportunity and growing our economy. We must support small and minority-owned business even as we work to attract major employers. That means streamlining regulations and permitting, increasing availability of low-interest business loans and expanding our Business Navigator Office (which helps new businesses open). We must also build more pathways between MCPS career-and-technical programs, Montgomery College and private business. This could fill the nearly 30,000 jobs that require some kind of technical training yet are currently vacant. Yet a quarter of MCPS graduates do not go on to either college or a career-track certification or internship.

3 – What is one major issue the current County Council has handled poorly and what would you have done differently? (100 words max)

There are previous Council decisions that permitted major development without ensuring adequate road and school space to service those families — leaving commuters stranded behind choke-point intersections and children in overcrowded classrooms. Land-use decisions require far more discipline in order to mitigate impact on our schools and roadways. I’d have voted to only allow for development when it was matched with the capital improvement needed for transit and schools to handle new commuters and children.

4 – What measures do you advocate to address what is often referred to as the “achievement gap” in Montgomery County Public Schools? (100 words max)

We are blessed with great teachers and curriculum-specific enrichment and language programs. But we have to rebalance how we distribute resources, so we reduce class sizes where they are overcrowded, and do a better job of opening programs — in engineering, language-immersion, communications arts, science, and more — to low-income and families of color, many of whom are currently shut out of these opportunities. We actually have an “opportunity-and-achievement” gap, and it is critical to close the opportunity gap in order to fix the achievement gap.

5 – Do you support Gov. Hogan’s plan to ease traffic congestion by widening I-495 and I-270, including the installation of toll lanes? (100 words max)

Before we invest any taxpayer money into private toll lanes that fall short in fixing traffic congestion, we must give serious consideration to more viable, long-term solutions, such as reversible lanes and mass transit. We need to make decisions based on facts. The fact is that using taxpayer money for private toll lanes will only destroy neighborhoods and parkland while doing little to fix long-term traffic.

 

Hans Riemer (incumbent)

Where you live: Takoma Park

Date of birth: Sept. 5, 1972

Current occupation and employer (may also list up to two other jobs you’ve held); if retired, list your last job and employer: Currently a Montgomery County At-Large council member. Previously: senior adviser for AARP; national youth vote director for Barack Obama

Political experience (public offices held and when, as well as unsuccessful campaigns for office and which years): At-large member of Montgomery County Council (elected 2010, re-elected 2014)

Campaign information:

1 – What experience (work, political or other) has prepared you to hold this office? (100 words max)

Today, I serve as County Council President, leading the Council’s deliberations through many significant challenges with our finances, budget, education, transportation, and economic development. In the years since I was first elected in 2010, I have gained extensive knowledge of our community’s complex needs as well as how to be a more effective Councilmember for our community. With four councilmembers departing the Council and a new County Executive incoming, we will need effective, experienced leaders on the County Council. Previous to the Council, I worked at AARP, for Barack Obama, for Rock the Vote, and in other progressive leadership roles.

2 – What is the most important issue in this race and what specific plans do you have to address it? (100 words max)

We are a community that values education in order to create opportunity; education is always number one for me. Reducing class size and prioritizing school construction are key policies for the Council. As the needs of our community change we must also change the mission of education. We must invest in early education (pre-k), particularly for low-income children, and ensure access to affordable after school programs for all families. We must build new programs for STEM and coding. We must better understand and meet the needs of all children, including those with learning challenges.

3 – What is one major issue the current County Council has handled poorly and what would you have done differently? (100 words max)

When I joined the Council, I vowed to change our alcohol laws; for example, to allow beer and wine sales at the grocery store. I established the Night Time Economy Task Force and a Council Committee on Liquor Reform. I proposed to partially privatize our DLC’s warehouse operation, but our state legislators did not approve that, and the small retailer lobby has blocked grocery store sales in Annapolis. Yet, my efforts liberalized liquor laws for restaurants and established a new local alcohol industry, with more than 9 new breweries opening since 2014, and a nascent winery sector.

4 – What measures do you advocate to address what is often referred to as the “achievement gap” in Montgomery County Public Schools? (100 words max)

While the Board of Education decides education policy, the County Council can have a big impact on the success of students by addressing root causes. I have worked hard to invest more in early education for low-income children. As a result of my initiatives, low-income kids all across Montgomery County are getting access to full-day Head Start and pre-K that was previously part-time or unavailable. I have added after-school programs for high poverty schools, and increased affordable housing requirements for new development in affluent areas, in order to reduce the concentration of poverty and promote economic integration.

5 – Do you support Gov. Hogan’s plan to ease traffic congestion by widening I-495 and I-270, including the installation of toll lanes? (100 words max)

I do not support widening 495, but there is big room for improvements on 270. The County Council has long been on record in support of adding reversible HOV or HOT lanes on 270 all the way to Virginia, and I support that approach. I support expanding the Hogan plan to include a transit mode such as the CCT, BRT, monorail, or another significant system.

 

 

Green

 

Tim Willard

Where you live: Kensington

Date of birth: Feb. 7, 1952

Current occupation and employer (may also list up to two other jobs you’ve held); if retired, list your last job and employer: Retired. I worked for 26 years as an archivist at the National Archives, then retired to become a full-time grandpa.

Political experience (public offices held and when, as well as unsuccessful campaigns for office and which years): I ran for County Council at large in 2014.

Campaign information:

1 – What experience (work, political or other) has prepared you to hold this office? (100 words max)

I have a good knowledge of County affairs and have testified before the County Council on a variety of issues. I have been active in groups working on both national and local issues, including Standing Up for Racial Justice, Peace Action Montgomery, the Civic Federation, the Climate Mobilization, and 350 MoCo. I have worked on campaigns to save Ten Mile Creek, to get the County to declare a climate emergency, and to get recognition for the historic Black cemetery on River Road.

2 – What is the most important issue in this race and what specific plans do you have to address it? (100 words max)

Climate change is the most important issue we will face in our lifetimes. I support the goal of achieving 100% renewable energy production as rapidly as possible. The County should invest in building solar energy arrays, powering buildings by locally generated renewable energy and supporting efforts like community solar. We should require solar panels on all new buildings and increased building efficiency. The County should build a fleet of electric buses and vehicles.

3 – What is one major issue the current County Council has handled poorly and what would you have done differently? (100 words max)

The County has gotten into a financial bind due to poorly planned development, which has left us with more infrastructure needs than we can pay for. We also tear down more affordable housing than we put up. The recently passed Bethesda sector plan would tear down affordable garden apartments and replace them with expensive high rises where only a percentage of the units are “affordable.” We need to plan for necessary infrastructure before we build and shift priorities to what will best meet the needs of our residents.

4 – What measures do you advocate to address what is often referred to as the “achievement gap” in Montgomery County Public Schools? (100 words max)

The Kirwan Commission determined that Maryland needs to spend about $2.9 billion more each year on K-12 education if all students were to have equal access to high-quality schooling. Montgomery County should try to get a large portion of those funds because most of the growth in student population in the state has been here. The Commission also showed that schools with higher concentrations of poverty have lower-than-average total expenditures per school. We must ensure that all school districts receive adequate funding to meet students’ needs and that all students have access to programs for gifted and talented students.

5 – Do you support Gov. Hogan’s plan to ease traffic congestion by widening I-495 and I-270, including the installation of toll lanes? (100 words max)

I oppose widening I-495. It would be expensive, would take too many homes, and would not solve the congestion problems, according to studies. Adding one or two reversible lanes on I-270 as the Council has recommended, combined with improvements such as reconfiguring traffic lanes where I-270 southbound merges with I-495, could help address traffic bottlenecks there. I support widening I-270 out to Clarksburg, which was promised transit years ago that has not been built and suffers serious congestion problems.

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