1. What background uniquely qualifies you for the position?
I am the only candidate running for County Executive who refuses campaign funds from the interest groups—corporations, unions, developers (and political action committees)—that the County Executive negotiates with on behalf of taxpayers.
I bring both extensive experience of 16 years on the County Council and a record of both progressive legislation and fiscal responsibility. I was the chief sponsor of the County’s Living Wage law, Smoke-free Restaurant law, the law that expanded employment opportunities for people with disabilities, and the bill that would establish the County’s first public financing system. And I was chief sponsor of the laws that reformed our broken police disability retirement system and that saved taxpayers $280 million by eliminating the use of a pay raise that had been canceled in the calculation of pensions. I am a former president of the County Council and executive director of Common Cause Maryland.
2. What is the next step for dealing with the Silver Spring Transit Center? Who is to blame for the many problems?
The next steps regarding this debacle are
- to make the needed repairs (to problems that were identified in 2010 and should have been addressed much earlier) to ensure that the facility is safe and can be turned over to WMATA and open to the public as soon as feasible;
- to protect County taxpayers from shouldering costs others are responsible for; and
- to learn the lessons from this fiasco, and apply them to County construction oversight practices so something like this never happens again.
There is a lot of blame to go around: the contractors who didn’t perform; the on-site supervisors who didn’t catch the problems earlier; and the two County Executives – Mr. Duncan and Mr. Leggett – who were/are in charge during the project’s pendency over the last 15 years, who didn’t adequately assess the risks of the project’s design, and didn’t get it done right. It’s time for new leadership in the County Executive’s office.
3. What is your strategy for reducing traffic in Montgomery County?
The County must address traffic congestion in multiple ways. We must build and urge the state to fund more transit, including the Purple Line and Corridor Cities Transitway. and expand clean bus service. Transit helps everyone and reduces our carbon footprint. I am the only candidate for County Executive who received a perfect score from the Action Committee for Transit. We must connect more hiking and biking trails to encourage more people to walk or bike to work. We must make targeted, cost-effective road improvements, especially at intersections and better time traffic lights and add “smart” traffic signals that adapt to the level of congestion. We must better use existing capacity. The state should lower the $8/day roundtrip tolls on the ICC highway so people aren’t priced off of it. When development projects are improved, there must be adequate and timely staged traffic improvements to address added congestion.
4. How will you promote green technology over the next term?
As County Executive, I will ensure that the County gets back to being on the cutting edge of green policies and practices. As the County Executive candidate endorsed by the Montgomery County Green Democrats, and as a former field manager for the League of Conservation Voters who worked to stop the Reagan Administration from decimating our environmental laws, and the only candidate who opposed building the environmentally-destructive and highly underused $3 billion ICC highway. I bring a deep commitment to protecting and enhancing our environment. As County Executive, I will ensure that the County buys all of its energy from clean sources. I will convert as much of the County’s vehicle fleet to clean energy as possible. I will strengthen the County’s enforcement of environmental laws by ensuring there is adequate staffing and training.
5. What is your plan for keeping/making Montgomery County affordable?
Since January 2013 I have knocked on about 20,000 doors to hear concerns of our residents. The concern I heard most frequently was that the County is too expensive, a concern that I very much agree with. The County must do a better job of controlling its own costs to keep taxes from increasing faster than many people’s incomes. 70% of County Government spending is salaries, benefits and pensions. I will negotiate labor agreements that are fair to both employees and taxpayers. We can’t afford to sustain the 13.5%-19.5% pay raises over two years for County employees that Mr. Leggett and a majority of the County Council agreed to last year. The County should give smaller raises and redirect some of the significant savings to tax relief and to programs that help vulnerable people, including affordable housing.
6. Does the County need to cut its budget?
The County needs to keep the increase in the budget to no more than the inflation rate on a regular basis, and to spend tax dollars more effectively, efficiently, and in some cases differently (less on pay raises; more on expanding library hours, infrastructure repair and environmental protection). As president of the County Council during the Great Recession in 2008-09, I helped ensure that the County made the tough and wise decisions to balance a very difficult budget that was smaller than the year before in absolute dollars for the first time in 15 years. We avoided employee layoffs, didn’t raise taxes, make careful cuts to services, and canceled a pay raise to save $125 million. The County needs to avoid the pre-Recession and now post-Recession pattern of unsustainable pay raises that are canceled when bad times come. It’s irresponsible to both taxpayers and employees.
7. What services are inadequate?
County libraries are closed too much, our infrastructure is falling apart in many cases, and we need to continue to improve services to victims of domestic violence. As County Executive, I will open all County libraries on Sunday afternoons to improve access to life-long learning. This is especially important for residents who work long hours. I will invest more to fix and to do preventive maintenance on infrastructure, which will save money in the long run. As the former chair of the County’s Domestic Violence Coordinating Council, I have helped lead efforts that have improved services to victims of domestic violence, but the County still needs to address the lack of a safe and secure child drop-off/exchange center. I would also increase the very small budget of the Inspector General, who does an excellent job of identifying inefficient or wasteful spending.
8. If you could enact a single change for Montgomery County, what would it be?
We need public financing of elections of County Council and County Executive elections to transform politics here by reducing the influence of interest groups, involving more people in elections, and opening up the possibilities for people to run for office without catering to the wealthy and powerful interest groups. After working for twelve years to get the needed authority from the General Assembly, I recently introduced the region’s first bill to establish a public financing option for County candidates. I’m pleased that it has been endorsed by Common Cause, the Sierra Club, Progressive Maryland, Progressive Neighbors, the ACLU, and Young Democrats, and by all of my Council colleagues. As the former executive director of Common Cause Maryland for six years, I led the tough battle that achieved the first limits on PAC contributions in state and county elections.
- The Gazette
- Montgomery County Green Democrats
- Montgomery County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association
- Marion Edey, founder of the League of Conservation Voters
- former Montgomery County Planning Board Chairman Royce Hanson
- former County Sheriff Ray Kight
- Gaithersburg City Councilmember Jud Ashman
- former Rockville Mayor Phyllis Marcuccio
- former Rockville City Councilmember Mark Pierzchala
- former County Councilmember Ruth Spector
- County environmental leaders, including Caren Madsen of Silver Spring, and Dolores Milmoe and Caroline Taylor in the Agricultural Reserve
Although not endorsements, I received the only perfect score among candidates for County Executive from the Action Committee for Transit and Maryland NARAL gave me its 100 percent rating.
Twitter at: /twitter.com/PhilAndrewsFrUs
Mailing address for campaign committee: Friends of Phil Andrews, 16428 Tomahawk Drive, Gaithersburg MD 20878