Friday, September 08, 2006

Stop Digging!

Marc Elrich, at-large candidate for the Montgomery County Council, was just running out of school (he teaches 5th graders at Rolling Terrace Elementary) when I caught him for an interview on his candidacy and his priorities.

Elrich has served in government as an elected official for 19 years while teaching full-time in our public schools and working with numerous committees and civic groups on community matters, redevelopment and development generally, transportation, and other issues.

Since Elrich really addressed the issues in detail, I've decided to give you a feel for where Elrich thinks the County should go and how we should deal with the challenges we face with a minimum of commentary by just giving him some space. Details are available OnBackground.

I think the county faces pretty serious challenges, but none more serious than trying to manage growth in a responsible way. Not because I'm nuts about growth and think it's the center of the universe, but because funding what it takes to support growth affects a host of other funding decisions. I want to be sure we make good decisions and that we avoid simplistic approaches that primarily end up digging us a deeper hole.

Whether I'd be fast or slow growth would depend on the three things: the policies that govern it, the infrastructure to support it, and the availability of resources to fund the infrastructure. People who try to get out of this by saying we're simply going to grow by 300,000 people and that's a fact, ignore the reality that we have some power and something to say about this. But worse, they refuse to say how they're going to accommodate it with either the facilities or the capital to build them.

No one talks about the cost of infrastructure to pay for the roads and schools, they just talk about "gotta have growth". How bout the other gotta haves: police, fire stations, rec services, classrooms, and transportation (roads or public)?

Park and Planning told the Council that growth is costing more than the revenue it generates, so under current practices we're both neglecting existing problems and digging a deeper long term hole to get out of.

Most people who listen realize I'm not talking about grinding the county to a halt and most people think this is a pretty conservative business-like approach. I've had business people tell that my approach is how they'd approach running their business - you build capacity for expansion and you don't saddle yourself with unsustainable long-term obligations.

That's Marc Elrich up close -- more details are available OnBackground. So what do you think? Do you prefer full interviews like the ones Crablaw has featured on FreeStatePolitics, posts based on interviews with some quotes like the pieces I did on Tom Perez and Jamie Raskin, or hybrid pieces like the fuller Elrich piece at OnBackground that avoid some of the repetition that comes out in an interview without inserting too much of the writer's opinion?


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