Thursday, May 8, 2014

Candidates Forum Roundup

Last night, the civic associations of Woodmoor, South Four Corners, and Northwood-Four Corners hosted a candidates forum for those running for the Montgomery County Council District 5 seat.  The event was held in the auditorium of Pine Crest Elementary School in Woodmoor.  All five candidates were present for the lively forum: Terrill North, Evan Glass, Tom Hucker, Chris Barclay, and Jeffery Thames.  The event was well attended; I was at the forum, and I estimate that there were between 75-100 people in there.  The line of questions at the forum can be roughly broken down into the following categories: governance, transportation, and development.              

The candidates on stage in the Pine Crest multi-purpose room.  Photo by the author.

I attended the event with my father (a 24 year Woodmoor homeowner), and we arrived around 6:50, 10 minutes before the scheduled start.  The front of Pine Crest looked much like it does on election day: dozens of campaign signs everywhere, cars in the lot with political bumper stickers, and people handing out literature at the door.  Inside, some of the candidates were already mingling with attendees as members of the homeowners associations finished setting up.  I spoke briefly with candidates Chris Barclay and Evan Glass before the event got started.  As the late arriving crowd continued to trickle in, the forum got underway at 7:10.  

The format was as follows.  The forum was moderated by Carol Barth of the Northwood-Four Corners Civic Association (NFCCA).  The candidates were asked two types of questions.  One type was called the lighting round: Each candidate was given four signs that said "Yes", "No", "Maybe", and "Don't Know", and they all had to hold up their answers together when the question was asked.  The second type of question was timed:  Candidates were given a question, and they each had between 1 and 2 minutes to answer it, depending on the question (time limit was chosen by moderator).

Almost all of the questions were pre-selected by the civic associations.  The audience members only had a chance to ask questions if they had written them on a card and passed it up to the moderator via other civic association members.  There was no town hall style "open forum" where attendees could raise their hands and ask questions directly to the candidates.  However, there was ample time before and after for attendees to ask the candidates questions individually during the mingling sessions.

Here's how each candidate responded to the various questions in general terms.  These are not meant to be quotes, instead, they are the theme of the candidates message as they answered each question.  I'll try to be as neutral as possible in my descriptions based on my notes, and I will try to focus on things each candidate said that differed from the others (they agreed on many things like community engagement, accountability, etc. so it would be repetitive to state things like that over and over).      

Terrill North:

Governance: Gave out his home phone number to show his commitment to accessibility.  Spoke about how he formed two civic associations in Takoma Park to better engage the community.  Said that vacated council seats should be filled via special election and not appointees from other council members if a council member resigns before their term is up.
Transportation: Supports BRT.  Prefers that a Route 29 line be routed down New Hampshire Avenue to Fort Totten.  Work with community to implement BRT in the best way possible.  Stressed that Four Corners is surrounded by diverse communities with different socio-economic conditions.  Neighborhoods should compromise to find a solution that suits both.  Streets should be made safer by adding more marked crosswalks at existing desire crossings (places were people already cross without a crosswalk) and putting up fences to prevent jay-walking in dangerous places.
Development: Stressed holding developers and contractors accountable.  Spoke about his oversight experience from his day job designing green ships for the Navy.  Inject competition into development and design process.  White Oak- people need permanent jobs and workforce development.  Set up foreign trade zone to make it easier for pharmaceutical companies to have labs in White Oak without taxing the raw materials for their experiments, tax finished product instead.  This will encourage more businesses doing experiences to locate in White Oak.  Says White Oak needs more homeowners.  Down payment assistance programs to help accomplish this goal.  Current White Oak residents should benefit from new job opportunities in white collar sector and all sectors.

Evan Glass:

Governance: spoke about his experience with local community groups.  founder and President of South Silver Spring Neighborhood Association.  President of Indian Spring Citizens Association, Chairman of Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Board.  Said that he would be receptive to the community through various means, such as social media (Facebook, Twitter) and local listervs.  Also spoke about how he lives in Four Corners and how things that happen here affect him and his family.
Transportation: Supports BRT and overall transit improvements with ample community involvement.  Stated that he walks the walk when it comes to transit.  Lives in two person household with one car.  Rides Z6, Z8, and other local bus routes on a regular basis.  Talked about the race to the bottom when it comes to transit; cycle of budget cuts>lower ridership due to infrequent service>lower ridership as justification for more cuts.  Extend Ride On Route #19 (That's the only one that serves all Four Corners neighborhoods) to Forest Glen Metro like it used to be.  Pledged to take transit to Rockville if elected.  Said that Montgomery County needs people who want to invest in transit to attract jobs and businesses.  Pedestrian safety:  SHA more concerned about moving cars than pedestrians.  Must work with SHA to improve pedestrian experience in Four Corners as he has done on East-West Highway in DTSS.
Development: Talked about how he works/worked with developers as a current member of the Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Board and previous president South Silver Spring Neighborhood Association.  Said community should work with developers to ensure that new development is built with community's needs in mind.  White Oak needs more economic investment.  Economic justice to invest in White Oak.  Large areas of poverty in White Oak and further out 29.  Oversight of contractors and developers necessary.  Improve school funding to narrow the achievement gap so that residents of White Oak can benefit from new jobs.  Expand tax base by drawing more jobs to east county.  

I don't have as much info for the next three because they did not take as many firm stances on the issues  as Evan Glass and Terrill North did.  I'm not trying to be biased towards Glass or North, it's just that Hucker, Barclay, and Thames tended to agree more with the general consensus without elaborating on their own plans or going into as much detail the first two.  

Tom Hucker: 

Governance: Responsive to constituents.  Cell number on card.  Got answers from Pepco after major storms.  Spoke about his accomplishments as a state delegate in protecting the environment and passing progressive legislation.  Political connections in high up places within state gov't.
Transportation: Does not outright support BRT, but does support transit improvements.  Need for better bus stops and infrastructure in east county.  Pedestrian safety: work with SHA.  Alluded to complete streets to be more inclusive to pedestrians and bicyclists.  Did not commit to dedicated lanes for transit users.  Stressed his political connections as a means of getting things done.    
Development: Need an "umpire calling balls and strikes".  Need more competition for bids among developers.  More competition will result in a better job on projects.  White Oak: build infrastructure first.  No need to rush.  Set up enterprise zoning.

Chris Barclay:   

Governance:  Elected twice to school board.  Responsiveness to community.  Spoke about his role on school board working with communities.  Focus on achievement gap in county schools.  Need a council member who works with school board.  Focus on budget.
Transportation: Lots of work to be done before plans are finalized on BRT (somewhat supports it?).  Focus on pedestrian safety around schools.  Work with SHA for more crosswalks around schools and county police to assist students crossing the highways.  Worked to redesign University Blvd in front of Northwood HS to improve safety.
Development: Supports bringing jobs to White Oak.  Agrees that infrastructure should be in place.        
Jeffery Thames:

Governance: Not a politician.  Knowledge of community.  Worked with homeless.  Hope Restored non-profit group.  No alliances, no cronies.  Knows neighbors.
Transportation:  Unclear BRT opinion.  Need more pedestrian safety.  Pedestrian overpasses on high speed roads.  Barnes Dance style crossings in high pedestrian traffic areas (all motor traffic has red while pedestrians have walk sign to cross however they wish in an intersection.)  "Cross walk not cross run".
Development: White Oak: Steak in the game,  Unstable community that would see fluctuation if it changed too quickly.     

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That's the general idea of what each candidate said during the forum in their answers to the questions.  This is by no means a complete list of what they said or their ideas, but it represents the takeaways of people who attended the forum  (I compiled this info from my own notes and the tweets of others who attended the forum.)  To learn more about the candidates, visit their websites or social media pages.  I won't interject my own opinion into this post, but I may write another post sometime between now and the primary about which candidate will be best for Four Corners based on reasoned analysis.              


1 comment:

  1. Nice overview. I'd be very interested to see your endorsement for D5.