Interview with Marc Elrich for Montgomery County Executive

Marc Elrich, Democrat Nominee for County Executive

Marc Elrich, Democrat Nominee for County Executive

Voters need facts to help them distinguish between candidates for elective office. County Executive Candidate, Democrat Marc Elrich, shares his views on his record, his plans for Montgomery County, and the reasons voters should choose him as our next County Executive.

1. Why primary voters chose me.
2. How I support growth and employment.
3. Why supporting labor strengthens the County economy.
4. How I support smart growth.
5. Contrast with Nancy Floreen.
6. What else voters should know about me.

1. Why primary voters chose me.

Q. You Won A Tight Primary Race To Be The Democratic Nominee For Montgomery County Executive. Why Do You Think The Voters Chose You?

A. People know me, and they understand that I stand with—and have always stood with—communities all over this County. I ran four times for County Council before I won in 2006. After each election, I did not give up. Instead, I stayed involved with communities, working with residents to demand a Silver Spring redevelopment that was good for the area, which is what we finally got after some terrible proposals. I stood with environmentalists and residents in the Ag Reserve to oppose building an incinerator; I helped tenants advocate for better conditions; I helped some tenants understand how they could buy their own building and become homeowners rather than renters. Since being elected to the County Council in 2006, I have been the top vote-getter in each election, and I think it is because I have continued to listen to residents and work with communities. I have been proud to be the leader on a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system, as well as the $15-minimum-wage bill and a historic tenant protection bill, both of which passed unanimously. I worked hard on each of these issues to address concerns expressed by communities and my colleagues so that the end result had broad-based support

2. How I support growth and development.

Q. The Washington Post has called you "the foremost opponent of business and growth for a decade." Why is that charge inaccurate, and what would you do to stimulate growth and employment in the county?

A. To put it mildly, the Post's current posture is perplexing. In 2014, when they endorsed me they said, "...Mr. Elrich...has also been the chief driver behind an ambitious plan to develop a network of dedicated lanes for fast buses, which would make Montgomery more livable for residents—and more attractive to employers.” Their 2010 endorsement said, "Mr. Elrich, a first-term member and former teacher, has been a pleasant surprise, a left-leaning iconoclast who has also become one of the more independent-minded, detail-oriented and constructive members of the council. His dogged advocacy of an express bus network in the county has galvanized support, and his proposals to streamline government and procedures for new development are serious and substantive.”

I have support in the business community. Most recently, I was proud to be endorsed by the realtors—they sell Montgomery County's quality of life, and they endorsed me because they know I will work to protect what is good and improve where needed. Numerous studies show that businesses locate based on decisions of quality of life—decent schools, transportation, and amenities like parks and good neighborhoods. Do not confuse developers with all business; developers build the buildings, but they do not create the businesses that use their spaces. In fact, we have 10 million square feet of empty commercial space in this county. I have the support of small business owners who appreciate my proposals to bring back small business assistance and target incubators for them. Additionally, I proposed the BRT system 10 years ago because I understood that to have development that didn't increase gridlock, we needed (and need) real rapid transit that isn’t stuck in traffic with the rest of the vehicles.

Furthermore, as the Post noted in 2010, I have proposals to streamline county government, and as County Executive, I will have the opportunity to implement what I know can work. I am confident I will be successful because the county employees are willing partners in this effort; they know we’re in a world of constrained resources and if we don’t streamline the government thoughtfully, their members likely face the across-the-board cuts as they did during the recession. Businesses want to locate in places where the government works efficiently, and we have a high standard of customer service.

3. Why supporting labor strengthens the County economy.

Q. You are often criticized for supporting a higher minimum wage and organized labor. How are these views consistent with responsible financial management and growth?

A. (I address some of this in the previous answer.) My support from organized labor is an asset—they are (and have stated they will be) willing partners in my efforts to restructure and streamline government. Regarding a higher minimum wage, we all win when working people earn enough to pay for a roof over their heads and food on the table. I don't believe in allowing workers to be paid wages that can't cover the absolute basics of decent life. Frankly, jobs that pay extremely low wages are not the ones we should try to bring to the county. Responsible financial management requires an understanding of our county's operations and the challenges we face. I have that knowledge as well as solutions—that is why one of my top priorities is restructuring government in partnership with our workers. We want growth that brings quality jobs. I have been the one consistent advocate for responsible growth that brings the transportation, schools, and amenities we need to make this county a great place to live and work.

4. How I support smart growth.

Q. You’ve said that the County has approved large numbers of high-density residential buildings, as in Silver Spring and Bethesda, without requiring developers to pay for needed infrastructure. How would you change that system without slowing growth?

A. We need to be partners in growth. While these (currently active) plans have already been approved, I would approach funding infrastructure differently, using development districts, which don't require developers to pay all the money up front, give certainty about what is expected of them, and are based on what is actually built and give certainty to residents that the infrastructure we promised will be there when we need it. Remember, we want growth that is good for this county—that brings good jobs, and good jobs come to places with quality schools, functioning transportation networks, and vibrant neighborhoods. Nancy likes to imply that congestion and overcrowded schools are a sign of our success, while I look at the failure to provide infrastructure as mismanagement. There’s no reason in the world why we can’t do this right and as County Executive, I will..

5. Contrast with Nancy Floreen.

Q. What are the major differences between you and Nancy Floreen, and why are your approaches better?

A. The differences are stark.

This election is a referendum on big-money in politics: I am participating in public financing where no one can contribute more than $150, and I only accept donations from individuals. I also continue my practice of not accepting contributions (even small ones) from developers and their attorneys. Nancy Floreen, by contrast, gets the vast majority of her funding from developers—95% according to Maryland Matters— from corporate interests and with many contributions of $6,000.

Broad-based Support: I am supported by more than 30 organizations, representing tens of thousands of people, including teachers, environmentalists, nurses, firefighters, police officers, social justice advocates, realtors, and many more. I've also been endorsed by Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen; U.S. Representatives Jamie Raskin, John Sarbanes and Anthony Brown; County Executive Ike Leggett, and almost every elected official in Montgomery County.

School Funding: I have supported funding to relieve school overcrowding. Nancy supported reducing the amount.

Affordable Housing: I have led multiple efforts to preserve existing affordable housing. Nancy supported efforts to eliminate the housing. I have insisted that new development include real traffic solutions. Nancy has supported development without adequate transportation relief and has voted to have the bar lowered for what defines adequate.

Growth: I have supported smart growth, which requires opposing stupid sprawl. Nancy supports development almost anywhere, and she has been one of those most willing to remove infrastructure requirements. Sixteen years ago, she ran on the End Gridlock state, but her policies have increased gridlock. I’m the one who proposed BRT, which has the potential to finally address this problem. I pushed to redirect money for an unnecessary, expensive, environmentally destructive road to be used for desperately needed school construction. Nancy chose the unnecessary road over schools.

The Environment: I advocated and voted for the bag tax as part of an effort to reduce bag pollution in the Chesapeake Bay (it works). Nancy voted against it. I have also been a champion to protect our county's trees in various tree legislation. Nancy led an effort to weaken the protection.

Minimum Wage:
I championed the minimum wage; I worked with people who had legitimate concerns to modify the legislation to come to an agreement. Nancy grudgingly came along after supporting efforts to weaken it without trying to improve it.

6. What else voters should know about me.

Q. What would you like voters to know about you that isn’t coming across?

A. I have deep roots in this county. I was a teacher for 17 years in a high-poverty public school, and I served for 19 years on the Takoma Park City Council before being elected to the County Council, where I have served as an at-large Councilmember for 12 years. I am a product of the Montgomery County public schools—McKenney Hills Elementary School, Montgomery Hills Junior High School, and Einstein High School. I went to the University of Maryland, raised my children in Montgomery County, and my grandchildren live around the corner from me in Takoma Park.

I want to make this county as great and equitable as possible. As County Executive, I intend to use a racial and gender equity lens to inform our decisions. One of my top priorities will be closing the opportunity gap with an inside/outside strategy that focuses on the “whole” child. This includes adequately funding our schools and advancing programs like early childhood education, tenant rights, and the minimum wage that help stabilize families and lessen the burden of poverty, which ultimately is carried by our children. I believe we have the resources to preserve and enhance our quality of life and move towards social and economic justice for all our residents.

Many thanks to Marc Elrich for providing this information to WDC and our readers.
Interviewer: Liz Joyce, Communications Committee