Primary 2002: Marc Elrich

Primary 2002: Marc Elrich

County Council at Large

August 27, 2002

County Council at Large

<sh>Marc Elrich

<lst>Age: 52

Family: two foster sons, and a son and daughter



Previous office held  Takoma Park City council from 1987 to the present

Occupation: fourth grade Montgomery County teacher

Current employment: Montgomery County Public Schools

Education: Albert Einstein High School, 1967, Univ. of MD, BA History, 1991; Masters in Teaching from Johns Hopkins

Community ties: Past president of the Between the Creeks, member Silver Spring Takoma Park Traffic Coalition, City Council of Takoma Park, Sierra Club

Endorsements: MCEA, AFT, Sierra Club, Neighbors for a Better Montgomery, Fraternal Order of Police, Action Committee on Transit, Glenmont Group, Blair Ewing, Phil Andrews, Neal Potter, Sharon Grosfeld

* Why are you running for this position?

* I'm running because I think the county is at a critical point where decisions in the next few years will greatly affect our quality of life. I think control of growth is an essential issue because our past history of allowing overdevelopment, that is development when the roads and schools don't exist to service it, has resulted in the congestion that plagues our roads and the portables that crowd our schools. Without the will to say no to developers and to use the Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance as intended, to protect neighborhoods, we face a worsening of congestion and school overcrowding.

* What is your top public-service accomplishment?

* I helped craft the rent stabilization law in Takoma Park which has helped us maintain a stock of affordable housing that otherwise would have been lost. An evaluation done by a professor at the University of Maryland indicated that we had managed to maintain housing quality comparable to that in surrounding Montgomery County communities that didn't have rent stabilization. This has

literally meant that low income and moderate-income households have more money to feed their families and pay for medical expenses than they would otherwise have. I feel that given the crisis in affordable housing in the region our solution has helped make life better for thousands of families who otherwise couldn't get help.

* What are the top five problems facing your constituents and what approaches will you use to solve them?

* School overcrowding and large class size caused by a $800 million backlog of unfunded construction needs. I will work to accelerate the school modernization program and add classrooms so that we can reduce class size. One reason why controlling growth is critical is that uncontrolled growth forces us to build new schools and roads for new developments using money that would otherwise have been available for modernization and expansion of our existing schools.

Transportation and congestion. Deliberate county policies have made it possible for development to proceed even when the roads and schools were not adequate. To accommodate development, the executive and council have changed the definition of what is "adequate" in order to permit development at higher levels of congestion. I will work to change the Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance and create standards that protect communities. We've also had a lack of funds to build transportation projects and I would levy higher impact fees on new construction to ensure that it pays for the infrastructure required to support it. I support the Inner Purple Line, Corridor Cities Transit way and most of the Council transportation package, including the roads.

Adequate funding for capital projects.  I've proposed a mix of taxes and fees, different from the Executive, that spread more of the burden over the business community and tax homeowners less.  We won't be able to build schools or roads if we don't deal with the revenue shortfall.

Human services, particularly health care and mental health care.  I'd support greater funding in these areas, would provide adequate funding to ensure that mental health clinics are forced to close or reduce the number of clients that they serve.  I would not have supported the tax break for Discovery that was sought this last year, given that the county argued that it had inadequate revenues to help the mental health clinics.

Control growth.  We are getting swamped by growth that places more demands on the budget than it produces revenues to solve.  I would control growth so that it only occurs where and when the infrastructure is in place and I'd ensure that it paid adequate impact fees to provide the new infrastructure it requires.

* What qualities, qualifications and characteristics will you bring to this office?

* I have a long record of public service as an elected official. I've worked with many civic organizations to help them in issues involving development. I've served on a Master Plan Review committee for Silver Spring, on the Silver Spring Redevelopment Advisory Board, and most recently on the County's Transportation Policy Review Task Force. I've been a teacher in the county public schools and am familiar with education issues from inside the system. My approach is analytical and I commit myself to learning issues that I'm involved with. I try to build consensus and am sensitive to the different needs that stakeholders have in the decisions we must make.

* How will voters best distinguish between you and your opponents?

* We need council members who don't owe their election to contributions from the developers. County developers contribute in some cases more than half the money in council races, a level that is unheard of in Federal or state elections. I don't take developer money.  I've long and consistent record on civic issues throughout the county. I believe that the "civic" interest needs to come first. The most important factor in making Montgomery County desirable

is our quality of life. So I believe that protecting neighborhoods, investing in schools, and promoting transportation solutions makes the county stronger and provides the optimum climate for citizens and businesses.

* What is one thing you promise not to do if elected?

* I promise not to close my door to anyone regardless of where they stood on the election.

* What do you predict for the short-term (two-year) outlook of the Montgomery County budget and what adjustments will you propose to prepare for your prediction?

* I think we're going to have problems funding capital items like schools and transportation because of shortfalls in state money we depend on. It may change once Annapolis deals with its funding problems. Where Duncan would raise property taxes, which impact people regardless of income, I would use the income tax because it's based on ability to pay. I would separate the

residential from commercial property tax rates and set the commercial rate at about 110% of the residential rate. I would also impose impact fees on new construction - $10k on houses, $10 sq ft on commercial construction, with exemptions for affordable housing.

* Where can the county afford to trim the budget?

* I think we can do restructuring across the board and squeeze out at least a half to a one percent savings overall ($15-30 million). I'd end corporate tax breaks like the ones given to Marriott and Discovery.

* Do you support the recently reviewed Potomac Master Plan? Specific elements that might need revision?

* I support it. I don't support the bridge proposals that others have made, and I think open the area up to substantial new development would simply replicate past mistakes of promoting development in areas without infrastructure.

* How would you characterize transportation issues in Montgomery County and what specific actions would you support as a result? Please address you position on: Smart Growth; Metro Purple Line; ICC; Regional Transportation Authority; recently passed County Council plan calling for more than $4 billion in state funding over the next 10 years; raising the gas tax and other possible means of paying for transportation infrastructure.

* I support a hybrid of the Council plan and the plan put forward my Montgomery Civic Federation whose priorities I would give great weight in deciding what

to fund and when to fund it.  Both plans are a substantial mix of transit and road improvements.  I support the Inner Purple Line, but oppose the ICC, the Techway and bridge.  I don't support an RTA.  We already have COG as a metropolitan planning body and WMATA as a transit authority.  I would not give an RTA the taxing and landuse authority now reserved for local jurisdictions which is the only reason to supercede COG.  I'd favor raising the gas tax if more of the money went to transit.  I favor raising the income tax to raising property taxes, I'd have higher impact fees and a higher property tax on commercial rather than residential property.  I'd certainly be involved working with state leaders to come up with revenue generating ideas that will close the state's budget gap. On Smart Growth I support the concept with the caveat that you can't transfer so much growth into the older communities that you destroy them in the process.  We ought to use Smart Growth as an objective, but also ensure that projects don't overwhelm the infrastructure, so, for example, I thought the amount of new development proposed for Friendship Heights is excessive.

* What is your position on a Techway and new bridge across the Potomac River in Montgomery County? Do you favor a new study?

* I oppose the bridge and any new study. I support improving the existing bridge that draws traffic from Frederick and the northern end of the county.

* How would you characterize and prioritize the

preservation of open space in Montgomery County? What

actions would you take?

* I think we need to make sure there are no new incursions in the Ag Preserve and I'd take steps to down zone the wedge and focus development along the corridors as was envisioned. I also think it's

important to acquire open space where it exists in the older more developed parts of the county.  They have far less usable open space than we would normally plan for a community now and that when good parcels become available, we should try to acquire come of them.

* Is the current rate and mix of county fees and taxes appropriate and equitable? What would you do differently?

* If a transportation plan were passed, I'd fund it differently than proposed by Duncan.  I'd use the income tax, rather than property tax to raise much of the money.  I'd have a different and higher tax rate on commercial property rather than residential property.  I'd have impact fees on residential and commercial development that could raise a substantial amount of money, for example, had we had a $10k fee on each new house for the last 8 years, we'd have raised $30million from residential construction alone each year.  I'd also look at following what Takoma Park did in making the storm water tax into a fee.  This enabled us to collect from more sources than were paying taxes so that the amount paid by homeowners as a fee is less than they'd have paid were it a tax, and we collect more money in total.  I think we need to enlarge protections in the form a the circuit breaker for property tax in order to protect people on fixed incomes.

* Schools in Potomac and the rest of the county are overcrowded with renovation, additions and new schools behind schedule. What is the state’s role in solving this and what do you propose? How would you balance the need for funding for school construction and transportation infrastructure?

* The state's role ought to be greater than it is, but we can't wait for the state in order to address the problem.  Also the county has a responsibility not to approve development that creates more pressure for schools if it knows, as it has, that it won't get or have adequate funds to build the schools.  I favor greater controls on growth so that existing dollars can be used on meeting the backlog of school needs, rather than funding schools that promote new

residential developments.  Blair and I proposed raising the county's use of bonds to increase the money available for schools in order to accelerate the construction, and the impact fees I've proposed would raise additional money that would be used for both schools and transportation.  We have to build both schools and transportation and can't afford to neglect either.

* Does the special exception process in the county work as it should? Changes you would propose?

* I'm not sure it works as well as it should.  Parents complain that the system basically considers its job done if it meets the minimum federal standards and that is not adequate.  There are very legitimate concerns that once a child enters the special ed system that they don't ever catch up and consequently remain behind their peers academically.  I think we need greater monitoring of the program to see whether it's effective in remediating special needs or whether we're merely warehousing children outside the regular classroom. And I'd like to see proposals that make it clear that we're doing more than simply the minimum effort required by law.