Candidates -- Well, Some Of Them -- Respond
We asked the same three questions of all four candidates for Montgomery County Commissioner. Here are the Democratic ticket's responses.
Last week, we submitted the following three questions to both the Brown-Castor (R) and Shapiro-Richards (D) campaigns for Montgomery County Commissioner, with the promise that each campaign's unedited response would be published in full on Patch.
Both campaigns graciously agreed to participate. We asked that the responses be provided by November 2 for simultaneous publication. Neither campaign had its responses in by the deadline. After some additional prompting, both campaigns reaffirmed their intention to reply. The Democratic responses arrived Wednesday afternoon. The Republican campaign has assured us its responses will arrive before the weekend.
Though we would have preferred to avoid publishing one campaign's responses before the other had submitted its own answers, with the election less than five days away, we have decided to move forward with the publication of the Shapiro-Richards campaign's answers.
We will publish the Brown-Castor's campaign's answers in an identical format soon after we receive them.
Patch: What is the likelihood that at the end of 2012, Montgomery County will have maintained or increased its existing level of services without raising county taxes? Please explain your answer.
Shapiro-Richards: We have been clear throughout this campaign. We will not raise taxes. Our plan will help ensure that we maintain our quality of life; continue to deliver the services so critical to the most vulnerable among us; and continue to invest in our future. The keystone of our plan is a zero-based budgeting process, which will allow us to start assessing government from scratch, not from a platform constructed over more than a 100 years of one-party rule. For decades, administration after administration has papered over previous budgets without taking stock of what works and what is out-dated. Good times and growth have disguised the cracks, but today’s economic turmoil has exposed the problems.
In addition, during the first 100 days we will conduct comprehensive reviews of county real estate holdings, use of technology, necessary infrastructure repairs and other aspects of county government to get a handle on county spending, and run a more efficient operation.
We will also conduct internal audits of spending controls and publish all county spending in an online database to ensure that taxpayers know how their tax dollars are being spent. We need to do more with less, keep an eye on the bottom line and balance our budget without gimmicks, and not solely on the backs of county workers as has been done in the past.
Patch: Aside from its impact on property tax bills, what do you imagine to be the typical Montgomery County resident's greatest concern when they think about the county government?
Shapiro-Richards: We have been campaigning for eight months from one end of Montgomery County to the other, and people have many different ideas about what is important in their lives, but looking at it from a macro point of view there is a common thread. Most people want to make sure that their quality of life is maintained in these difficult times. They want to make sure that we protect open space; continue to develop and maintain trails and parks; maintain our infrastructure and keep our roads and bridges in good shape; improve traffic flow; make sure that public education is protected, especially Montgomery County Community College; and, ensure that the 100,000 county residents that receive services directly from the county are cared for and protected. Our small business owners want to make sure that we maintain a vibrant economy in the county to help their businesses grow.
Patch: What is the biggest decision the current Board of Commissioners got right? What is the biggest blunder it committed? What would you have done differently?
There is little doubt that the current board of commissioners has been hampered by the incessant bickering that has dominated the culture of the courthouse for the past three-plus years. The constant fighting and name calling has prohibited them from keeping their eye on ball and has taken much of their attention and energy away from addressing the problems of the county and its residents. It should be pointed out, however, that much of the venom and name-calling has come from one source. Two commissioners worked together in a bipartisan way, and tried to govern in a bipartisan manner during tough economic times. The third commissioner, the only one of the three to seek re-election, attempted to obstruct at every turn, and dragged the debate down to sophomoric levels time after time. This commissioner’s votes and positions seemed to be fueled more by his petty dislike for the other two commissioners than by policy or the common good.
This board, particularly the bipartisan duo, performed best when it sought to deliver critically important services to vulnerable county residents, and when, despite difficult economic times, tried to protect the county’s quality of life by seeking to improve infrastructure, increase economic activity and protect open space.
A Shapiro Richards administration would have governed in a bipartisan manner, and would not have allowed personal feelings dissuade us from doing what was best for the residents of Montgomery County.
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Was this Q & A format useful to you as a voter in the Nov. 8 election? Tell us in the comments.