The candidates for Montgomery County executive faced off in a two hour debate on Monday, March 5, 2018 in Olney, MD.
Participating in the debate were Democratic candidates Roger Berliner, David Blair, Marc Elrich, Rose Krasnow, George Leventhal, and Republican Robin Ficker. Democratic candidate William “Bill” Frick could not attend due to commitments in Annapolis.
The debate was hosted by the Greater Olney Civic Association. Debate moderator was past GOCA President Barbara Falcigno. About 225 people attended the event.
The Amazon bid for a new headquarters and the county’s economic development dominated the discussion during the debate.
“We need to grow our economy, not increase taxes,” Berliner said. “I was very much a part of the Amazon bid and I am a firm believer in our Amazon bid. I believe we have a decent shot at getting Amazon. If we don’t get it, from my perspective it illuminates our path forward. The economy of the future is an innovation economy and so what our county needs to do is position itself for an innovation economy.”
“It would be wonderful to land Amazon, not only for all the high paying jobs, but also because it would bring millennials to our county,” Krasnow said. “Right now the fastest growing population is people over the age of 65. But, in order to land them we really need people to sit down with them and talk business. If they sense they’re not liked they won’t come here.”
“I love HQ2 because it’s going to bring in 50,000 jobs, $100,000 a piece, it’s going to bring in people who have visions for the future, upward mobile, because that’s where the county is going under my administration, it’s going up,” Ficker said. “Amazon is a wonderful company and it belongs in the number one county.”
The discussion on Amazon also included what would happen if Amazon chose somewhere else.
“If we don’t get them, to use a baseball analogy, I would want to invest in the “farm teams” so we can get the next Amazon,” Blair said.
The candidates were asked to provide a few specific areas of where they would increase revenue and where they would cut costs and if they would increase taxes if they were elected county executive.
“I would go through the budget from the bottom up,” Blair said. “I would not increase taxes. We need to start creating jobs here. We need to start expanding the economy. I say that for a couple of reasons. One, we have 10 million sq. feet of unoccupied commercial real estate today. That is a staggering amount. What Rose said is absolutely right. Small businesses will be the success of Montgomery County. We need to do a better job of buying local. We should be supporting our local businesses.”
Other things mentioned at the debate included:
Blair said Ride On costs $120 million to operate but only takes in $20 million. He’d offer the bus service for free, or replace the large buses for smaller, less expensive ones.
Berliner touted his efforts to hold Pepco accountable.
Primary Election Day is Tuesday, June 26th, 2018.