Speakers: Council Member At-Large:
Gabe Albornoz, Member, Health and Human Services Committee, and Public Safety Committee
Will Jawando, Member, Planning, Housing and Economic Development Committee, and Education and Culture Committee
Following our meeting in January with new Council Members Evans and Friedson, here is an opportunity to meet with the other two new members.
5 Questions sent to the speakers in advance of the meeting:
1. Bang Fraud – The investigation clearly showed the lack of internal controls at the Department for Economic Development. The county government does not need another embezzlement of these proportions. However, the County’s external audit contract does not provide for either testing of, or an opinion on, internal controls. This is true for WSSC and MCPS audit contracts too. Expanding the County’s external audit to include this opinion and additional testing would increase oversight of Department of Finance control activities. It might uncover control risks in the numerous grants and contracts the County awards annually. Would you support expanding the audit contract?
2. Economic Development – The Fuller Institute just reported that job growth in Montgomery (and Frederick) counties was significantly slower than DC and Northern Virginia. In fact, over the last 5 years, DC and Northern Virginia have been creating jobs twice as fast as we have. How do you measure the performance of the Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation and what are some of the ways in which we can compete with the success of the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority? While we have some of the same assets as Fairfax County (education levels, highly-qualified personnel, good quality of life, good schools), why are we lagging in attracting businesses to the county?
3. Education and Health and Human Services Programs–
The HHS committee controls hundreds of millions in spending to supplement the MCPS budget. How does the committee coordinate the HHS strategic plan with MCPS planning efforts to close the achievement gap? More spending has been planned for pre-K education which will serve a fraction of the estimated 30,000 economically disadvantaged pre-K kids. Will the committee require rigorous academic performance measures to determine if the pre-K program has been successful 3-5 years from now?
The Council routinely approves the MCPS budget without linking spending to plans to close the achievement gap. How would you change this?
The County Government, WSSC and the Maryland National Capital Parks and Planning Commission each have an Inspector General. MCPS, the single largest component of the Montgomery County budget does not. Would you support establishing an MCPS Inspector General?
4. Housing and Economic Development– The PHED committee revised affordable housing policies a year ago to address the weak inventory which has been stagnant at 16,000 units since 2009. The inventory is still not increasing as older MPDUs are removed as quickly as new ones are added. In addition, our locally funded voucher program remains underfunded. The committee also recommended a new economic development unit which is struggling to compete in our region. How would you increase the inventory of affordable housing?
5. Public Safety– the 911 emergency response system is run by the County, and unlike the successful program in Fairfax, is slowly transitioning to rely on cell phone data for location response. The aging system is subject to occasional breakdowns and outages, and accountability for performance is limited. Would you support making this an independent entity to incentivize performance and reliability?