County Council District 6


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Democrat

Natali Fani-Gonzalez

What office are you running for? County Council

Political party: Democrat

Where you live: Wheaton

Date of birth: Oct. 28, 1980

Current occupation and employer:
Natali is a business owner of a policy and communications firm with contracts at the national and regional level. Her team manages multi-million dollar contracts to design, build and run public engagement campaigns throughout the country on a variety of issues, including increasing access to early childhood education for all families, housing justice, reproductive rights, and access to health care for all.

Political experience:
In 2014, Natali ran for state delegate in District 18, yet ended up appointed to the Montgomery County Planning Board that same year. From 2014 to 2021, Natali was a member of the Montgomery County Planning Board, part of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission. During her tenure, she became vice chair of the Planning Board.

Website: https://www.nataliforcouncil.com
Email: together@nataliforcouncil.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NataliFGonzalez
Twitter: https://twitter.com/NataliFGonzalez
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/natalifanigonzalez/

Why are you running for this office?
Montgomery County is evolving through demographic shifts, economic realities and technological changes; we need a proven leader to move us forward. I am the only candidate with local government experience, managing and voting on annual budgets worth millions of dollars while making decisions on transportation infrastructure, land use, and maintenance of parks, trails and athletic fields. I’m known to be a trusted and experienced leader who gets things done and who always works in collaboration.

What is the most important issue in this race and what specific plans do you have to address it?
This pandemic has been brutal on our families, particularly low-income families. Children can’t learn if they don’t have a home, food on the table, or access to the internet. That’s why we urgently need a comprehensive housing and economic development strategy that brings good-paying jobs to our county. Furthermore, I strongly believe that Montgomery County’s economic development goals must involve our school system. Education – from early childhood education to college, including vocational schools – is key for the county’s economic development and job growth. We must bring good paying jobs, particularly green jobs, so every family has the opportunity to succeed.

What is one major issue that has been handled poorly and what would you have done differently?
Pedestrian and cyclist safety has been handled poorly. People are literally getting killed just because they are crossing the streets or riding their bike. As a Planning Board commissioner, I have a strong voting record on these vital issues as well as a strong record on engaging community members of all backgrounds to advocate for upgrades in our transportation infrastructure. On the council, I will work hard to get the funds needed – particularly from the federal government – to redesign our streets so they are safe for everyone to walk, bike, roll and drive.

What experience (work, political or other) has prepared you to hold this office?
I bring local government experience and a strong background on economic opportunities for all. Until recently, I was the vice chair of the Montgomery County Planning Board, the agency that oversees our park system, real estate development and transportation infrastructure. My long-standing voting record reveals my strong commitment to creating vibrant, sustainable, and healthy communities for all. In my tenure, I was a key player in many strategic planning objectives including the Montgomery County Growth and Infrastructure Policy, Veirs Mills Corridor Master Plan, the Aspen Hill Vision Zero study, Bethesda Downtown Sector Plan, Greater Lyttonsville Sector Plan, and the Bicycle Master Plan.


Omar Lazo

What office are you running for? County Council

Political party: Democrat

Where you live: Silver Spring

Date of birth: March 18, 1977

Current Occupation:

Owner of Los Chorros Restaurant

Owner of Simply Bliss Salon

Realtor

Political Experience:

Latino Democratic Club of Montgomery County, executive officer 2019-2021

Wheaton Urban District Advisory Committee, 2010-2021

Wheaton Redevelopment Committee

Board of Trustees Montgomery College, 2021-present

Website: https://www.omarlazo.com

Email: omar@omarlazo.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lazo4council

Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/lazo4council

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/lazo4council

Why are you running for office?

I am running for District 6 because I truly believe that a representative of a district should be a true champion for their district. I have lived in my district for over 33 years and have advocated on all different fronts. I was appointed by County Executive Ike Leggett to the Wheaton Redevelopment Advisory Committee and eventually the Wheaton Redevelopment Advisory Committee. I was one of many that gave a voice to the council and executive regarding all things related to my district. The pandemic reinforced that having someone who is truly connected to the community is vital. I have been an advocate for decades and have earned the trust and respect of my community leaders I want to represent.

What is the most important issue in this race and what specific plans do you have to address it?

The most important thing for me is that we have a representative that truly understands their district. From the pedestrians crossing the street, to the workers in small businesses, to the teachers in the schools. We will all have to focus on bringing more housing and especially affordable. We will have to work on economic development for the county to make sure that we start moving the needle in the right direction to increase our tax base to pay for more services. I am on the Black and Brown Coalition for Education Equity and Excellence, the Montgomery College Board of Trustees, and the Board of Workforce Development for Montgomery County. These three boards are important because in order to bring higher paying jobs to our county we need a pipeline for skilled, trained, and educated employees. We need to look at our work force development starting at the most basic level of education. Increasing our tax base and offering high-paying jobs to all of our residents needs to be a priority.

What is one major issue that has been handled poorly and what would you have done differently?

One of the biggest controversies has been related to Thrive 2050. I have personally knocked on thousands of doors and most people are still very confused about the plan. Our current system of outreach and input is very biased. The fact that most testimony windows on legislation happen during the morning on weekdays is very disingenuous to many of our residents. It’s an equity issue that needs to be addressed. I have seen way too many times where special interest groups organize and when the testimony signup is opened up, they bombard the system to fill all the allotted spaces. This gives a really biased view of what the community wants. We have seen how zoom is a very viable option. I believe we should create a lottery system where people can sign up to testify on a lottery basis rather than a first come first serve. We should also allow prerecorded testimony so that people that work 9 a.m.- 5 p.m. can also be heard. We must be proactive in the way in which we reach out to our community.

What experience (work, political or other) has prepared you to hold this office?

I believe that my experience and background has made me the most well-rounded candidate in my district race. For decades now I have been an advocate on many fronts including: four years working at the Department of Justice in Finance, Wheaton Redevelopment Advisory Committee, Wheaton Urban District Advisory Committee, Black and Brown Coalition for Educational Equity and Excellence, Board of Trustees for Montgomery College, Montgomery County Workforce Development Board, president of the Montgomery County Latino Restaurant Association, Wheaton Arts Parade Board, Committee for Montgomery board member, Jewish and Latino Business Coalition co-chair, second vice president of the Wheaton & Kensington Chamber of Commerce, Economic Development Transition Team for County Executive Marc Elrich, and countless other work with schools and community leaders. I have the trust of my community and my countless hours of completely volunteer work have proven my commitment to my community.


Maricé Morales

What office are you running for? County Council

Political party: Democrat

Where you live: Silver Spring

Date of birth: June 12, 1987

Current occupation and employer:
Employer: self, Law Office of Maricé Morales, Rockville

Occupation: Criminal defense, immigration and personal injury attorney

Political experience:
Maryland state delegate (2014-2018)
Campaign to be re-elected to Maryland General Assembly in 2018 (unsuccessful)

Website: https://maricemorales.com
Email: morales@maricemorales.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/morales4moco
Twitter: morales4moco
Instagram: morales4moco

Why are you running for this office?
I am running because I am deeply grateful for all of the support I’ve benefited from as a Montgomery County resident. Because of this, I want to represent the residents of District 6 on the County Council to help others connect with the resources they need to succeed— ones I have relied on myself. I feel driven to give back to the county that has given me so much.

What is the most important issue in this race and what specific plans do you have to address it?
The overarching issue in this race is increasing equity. There are many key areas in which I have specific plans to address this, including our economic development, public transit, and education. For example, while the county has designated Worksource Montgomery as the first workforce development agency, we still need additional workforce development for vulnerable workers. For public transit, I support dedicated bus lanes for BRT and bike lanes, as well as high-density housing around transit centers. And for education, we need to be offering wrap-around services in our Title I schools, with high percentages of FARMS and ESOL enrollment.

What is one major issue that has been handled poorly and what would you have done differently?
The county needs to do a better job of recruiting and retaining mental health specialists, especially in our school system. Maryland schools have only one social worker per over 2,000 students and one school psychologist per over 1,000 students. As a council member, I would ensure a collaborative partnership with the Board of Education and Department of Health and Human Resources so that we are able to promote the recruitment of trained psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers to work within our county and provide exceptional services for those that need it.

What experience (work, political or other) has prepared you to hold this office?
My experience as a former legislator in the Maryland General Assembly and my work as a criminal defense and immigration attorney has prepared me well for a seat on the council. I have worked at the federal, state, and local levels of government, as well as in the legislative, executive, and judicial branches. Because of this, I know how to build coalitions to advocate for our community’s diverse needs and effect change. Also, as a small business owner, tenant, and homeowner, I understand our need to make the county more equitable, from the economy to housing to more.


Steve Solomon

What office are you running for? County Council

Political party: Democrat

Where you live: Wheaton

Date of birth: Feb. 26, 1976

Current occupation and employer:
Podcast host – The Steve Solomon Show – self-employed
Previously 20 years as a radio producer and host – The Team 980 and national radio

Political experience:
Ran for County Council At-Large in 2018 and Board of Education District 4 in 2020

Website: https://VoteSteveSolomon.com
Email: VoteSteveSolomon@gmail.com
Facebook: Facebook.com/VoteSteveSolomon
Twitter: @SteveSolomon

Why are you running for this office?
I am a lifelong resident of Montgomery County. I think we do a lot of things well, but can do some a little better. I am a moderate Democrat. I believe that the County Council needs more people with common sense ideas to make sure we spend our $6.3 billion budget in the most efficient way possible that helps the most people.

What is the most important issue in this race and what specific plans do you have to address it?
Economic development. We need to make it easier for businesses to start and to succeed in Montgomery County. That begins with simplifying our permitting process and cutting the red tape so that it’s easier for businesses to operate here. There were many empty storefronts and empty floors in office buildings even before Covid and there are many more now.

What is one major issue that has been handled poorly and what would you have done differently?
I have knocked on thousands of doors across District 6. There are so many roads and sidewalks that are in terrible condition. We need to fix this. I would have made fixing roads and sidewalks a priority and not let them deteriorate.

What experience (work, political or other) has prepared you to hold this office?
I worked in radio for 20 years. Every day I worked with a team of others to put on a show. I am honest and I work hard. I’ve also served Montgomery County in a variety of ways – volunteering for nonprofits, political campaigns, and serving on boards and committees.


Christa Tichy

Where you live: Rockville

Date of birth: July 13, 1963

Current occupation and employer:

Small business owner, Master Electrician
Foreman, supervisor for WMATA 3rd Rail Project
Member of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 26

Political experience:

First-time candidate

Website: https://www.christatichyforcouncil.com

Email: info@christatichyforcouncil.com

Facebook: ChristaTichy4CountyCouncil

Instagram: ChristaTichy4CountyCouncil

Why are you running for this office?

I am running because I feel I am the best qualified and most able to make changes for our community. I understand from experience how to successfully lead people to gainful employment and to become self-sufficient, contributing county residents.

What is the most important issue in this race and what specific plans do you have to address it?

I have a plan to protect the environment, reduce the use of plastics, and address labor at the same time. By creating a countywide composting system, we can allocate funding to establish a local paper mill that takes advantage of mulch. We can facilitate small business opportunities, such as beekeeping, providing skills, jobs, and affordable living. Honey is highly marketable. We could manufacture our own paper bags, using beeswax to line them for reuse—as shopping bags, trash bags, diaper disposal bags, and so on.

What experience (work, political or other) has prepared you to hold this office?

As a single mother of two, I learned a skill set and started a small electrical contracting business. I am the first and best female master electrician in Montgomery County.


Mark Trullinger (Information not submitted)


Brit Siman-Tov (Information not submitted)


Vicki Vergagni

What office are you running for? County Council

Political party: Democrat

Where you live: Silver Spring

Date of birth: March 10, 1949

Current occupation and employer:
On-site community manager, Glen Waye Gardens Condominium Association, 22 years and counting.
Owner, Association Personnel/Employment Perspectives, Washington, D.C., 20 years.
Writer/Editor, Employment Supplement (semi-annual), The Washington Post (four years).

Political experience:
Co-chair (elected), Montgomery County Task Force on Distressed Common Ownership
Communities
Vice chair (elected), Montgomery County Commission on Common Ownership Communities.

Testified before two state legislatures, Montgomery County Council and Montgomery County Planning Board on a range of housing and zoning issues

President (elected), Glen Waye Gardens Condominium Association, 22 years.

Email: vickivergagni@gmail.com

Why are you running for this office?
Elected officials have lost touch with the citizens as demonstrated by their lack of commitment to “equity and inclusion” and their responsibility to offer real solutions to real problems. They have ignored workable solutions to affordable owned housing and unjustified costs related to the “commercial” classification of multi-family homes that are the “legacy wealth building” solution to our affordable housing crisis. Customer service has been trumped by fundraising. Economic development is the poorest in the area, and the creation of good jobs is at record lows. I will focus on real problems, have a record of success for creating real solutions, and have the political will to do so.

What is the most important issue in this race and what specific plans do you have to address it?
Economic development is the underlying issue. A strong economy provides jobs and underwrites affordable owned housing, a solid education system and equitable access to transportation. It also reduces health care disparities and food insecurity. My focus would be to expand on what we currently do better than others, namely organizations in our stronghold subject matter areas. In addition to seeking the location of federal agencies in those subject matter areas, I would recommend courting national non-profits and offering incentives to new businesses in those same areas. Of equal import are the small businesses that build on the skill sets of our diverse population. We are an unparalleled mecca of diversity and offering an international destination marketplace in under-developed areas such as Glenmont could dramatically energize a community. The county also must stop regulating itself out of business via cost-benefit analyses of proposed bills and of existing laws/regulations.

What is one major issue that has been handled poorly and what would you have done differently?
Affordable owned housing. The county has focused almost exclusively on “rental” housing instead of enabling individuals to build “legacy wealth” which is one of two major avenues for folks to get ahead economically. The county must find reasonably priced, out-of-the-box solutions to give low- and middle-income residents the opportunity to become homeowners, particularly first-time homebuyers. As a community manager, I have purchased foreclosure properties on behalf of the community and recovered financially by renovating and renting or selling. The community has always recouped its “lost” condominium fees, renovation costs, and sales/purchase costs. The county could make this happen via a short-term, low-interest loan fund for communities that wish to renovate and rent or sell their own units. The county also can support smaller communities without reserves by creating an umbrella association into which they mandatorily pay so they can secure funding for emergency replacements.

What experience (work, political or other) has prepared you to hold this office?
With a background in for-profit and non-profit management, and in community activism, I began my career in D.C. at the American Society of Association Executives — the leading U.S. non-profit. There I was exposed to the key leaders and all management aspects of associations, the area’s third-most-important industry, and to tourism, its second-most-important industry. These entities are key to local economic development! Then I founded a personnel firm targeted to associations and federal agencies (the area’s first-most-important industry). This required developing a market position and business plan; financing; marketing; designing/providing innovative services; hiring and managing employees. I know what overhead is — and the county has too much! I also wrote for The Washington Post. As of 2000, I have been managing a condominium that entails all of the above and managing a physical plant. My activism has been key to communities like mine. I have and will continue to “do”.


Republican

Viet Doan (Information not submitted)