A Strong Economy
The greatest challenge facing Montgomery County is a sluggish economy that decreases government revenue and prevents the County from providing the high quality services that residents deserve. I'm a progressive that has experience building socially responsible businesses from the ground up, starting with a software company that developed a case management application for human service organizations. We can create a strong economy where both workers and local businesses thrive. I'll advocate for redirecting our current economic development efforts towards incubating and growing small, locally owned businesses. We can partner with community development organizations and private investors to create everything from technology incubators to commercial kitchens for those who want to start food-based businesses. I've owned my own catering company - I know how small business works and I'm eager to put this know-how to work for our County.
Montgomery County has a reputation for excellent schools and we have a talented and extremely dedicated staff of teachers and administrators county-wide. But our school system is under immense stress due to overcrowding in schools, poor planning at headquarters, and underfunding by our elected leaders. I'll put school funding and planning properly for growth at the top of my agenda. Everything in our County depends on us having a world-class school system that provides an equal education to students regardless of their zip code, socioeconomic background, race, gender or ethnicity. Much more work needs to be done to open up the magnet and special programs to make sure that they are representative of the diversity of our communities.
Overcrowded schools and gridlock are caused by poor planning by both the Planning Board and the County Council. As a former senior planner for the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, I understand how the planning process works. A major mistake the Council has made over the past 4 years has been to eliminate staging from the White Oak Science Gateway Plan and the Downtown Bethesda Plan. Staging is a decades old tradition where you allow developers to develop a property in stages, making sure that you pause after each stage to make sure that the proper schools and transportation infrastructure are in place to absorb the new students and traffic caused by development. Our Council voted 8-1 on these plans to eliminate staging which gives developers a free pass to grow in an unsustainable manner. I'll fight to reinstate staging to ensure we've got the infrastructure in place to support growth.
I'll also advocate for developers to pay their fair share for the impacts of their developments. The Council voted 8-1 in 2016 to approve the subdivision staging policy which exempted all developments in downtown Silver Spring from paying any impact taxes. This impacted my family directly as I sat and watched my children sit in Silver Spring International Middle School with classrooms with up to 32 kids while the developers a few blocks away paid nothing for school impact taxes. Developers need to pay their fare share and I'll make sure they do. I estimate that the County lost up to $60 million impact tax revenue by giving these developers a free ride.
Montgomery County has the highest debt burden of any neighboring jurisdiction. Why is this important? Because every dollar we spend on debt payments is a dollar we can't spend on education, affordable housing, or gridlock reduction measures. Montgomery County will spend $429 million on debt service in FY 19. That compares to $145 million for Fairfax County and $125 million for Prince George's County. Montgomery spends 8.8% of their budget on debt service - the 3rd largest category in our budget. This is not normal and is a result of irresponsible management of our capital improvements projects budget. I'll work to reign in improper capital improvements project spending.
We have but one Earth and our commitment to preservation needs to start at the local level. I will commit to furthering the County's move towards lowering greenhouse emissions. A few ways of doing this are by increasing the use of solar on County buildings and pushing for a greener building code. I drive an electric Chevy Volt and would like to initiate the installation of more electric charging stations county-wide. I'm dedicated towards preserving our Agricultural Reserve, improving our stormwater management, and ensuring that any new development does not negatively impact our natural environment.