How would the Candidates for County Executive do Placemaking in the Pike District?

This is the third in our series sharing the Friends of White Flint questionnaire responses from the candidates for County Executive. (You can read the first article focusing on top infrastructure projects for the White Flint area here and the second article on alcohol privatization here.)  We continue to vary the order of the answers to be fair to all.

The June 26th primary is a critical one, and we want voters to be as educated as possible about the candidates’ views on issues that matter to the White Flint/Pike District area. Find out about the candidates and don’t forget to vote in next month’s primary.

We asked the candidates, “Placemaking is the art of creating public spaces that promote people’s health and happiness. Placemaking connect us to one another and creates a sense of community. The White Flint/Pike District/North Bethesda area lacks a sense of place. How would you do placemaking, in our neighborhood? 

Bill Frick

We reached out to Bill Frick twice but he did not respond to our questionnaire.

David Blair

Given that North Bethesda was recently named as one of the best places to live in Maryland, White Flint is doing a great job creating a community with a great sense of place. As County Executive, I would like to further the success of this area by focusing on strengthening relationships with the business community, ensuring our schools are properly funded, and addressing our traffic issues.

To promote a sense of community, we should support our restaurant and business community. I’ve met with several business owners in the food industry and it’s clear we need to make it easier to sustainably “buy local” here. We need to invest in our county’s unique agricultural sector. I’ll conduct an aggressive marketing campaign to encourage businesses to procure more goods and services from businesses in the County. Des Moines, Iowa embarked on a similar initiative and discovered shifting 5% of spending to local vendors could generate more than $1 billion in economic benefit and as many as 6,500 jobs. If they can do it, so can we.

Marc Elrich

The Planning Board has to hold future development to providing the amenities envisioned in the plan. The pretty pictures only materialize if the developers build as the community envisioned. Design and placemaking are under the Planning Board’s control. The county government has to deliver the promised infrastructure, including elements that are our responsibility in the creation of these spaces.

George Leventhal

This is occurring already, with the emergence of restaurants, entertainment, improved pedestrian and bicycle access. A second White Flint Metro entrance, closer to Pike and Rose would also be important. I will work to realize the vision propounded in the White Flint I and II master plans, for a walkable, livable, mixed use community with employment, entertainment, housing and shopping.

Roger Berliner

This has been the overarching goal of the plan from Day 1. During my tenure, we have not had a Plan come before the Council that had such a cohesive group of community leaders with a shared vision – a vision of a revitalized White Flint that would become a desirable place to work, live, and play.

To create a sense of place you need mixed use development – commercial and residential coexisting; pedestrian and bike friendly infrastructure; great retail, restaurants and entertainment venues; transit access; active parks where people can gather and play; and streets that can be closed for special events. Placemaking can also be enhanced by utilization of a common logo, consistent streetscaping, wayfinding signage, and a strong Business Improvement District. As county executive, I would invest in the Pike District and ensure essential components of the 2010 Sector Plan are realized. I would work with all the stakeholders to ensure the potential of this area is maximized for the betterment of the community and the county.

Rose Krasnow

Placemaking is a people-centered approach to the planning, design and management of public spaces.  Ideally, it is a collaborative process that strengthens the connection between people and the places they share and maximizes a particular community’s assets.  When done well, placemaking can promote the health and well-being of residents.

The White Flint Plan recognized that, as densities increase, placemaking becomes ever more important.  Relocating the surface parking lot in front of the aquatic center so that Wall Park can truly become a park, and building a new recreation center on the site, are important placemaking components.   A sizable civic green in the heart of White Flint will provide a gathering space for activities and celebrations.  As stated earlier, the ultimate design of this space should be determined through a collaborative process with residents.  Individual developments will need to include well-designed plazas, pocket parks, and green streets, similar to those provided in Pike and Rose. Finally, the recreation loop will provide connectivity among these amenities, further enhancing placemaking in the area.

What do the County Executive Candidates think about Privatizing Alcohol Sales?

This is the second in our series sharing the Friends of White Flint questionnaire responses from the candidates for County Executive. (You can read the first article focusing on top infrastructure projects for the White Flint area here.)  The June 26th primary is a critical one, and we want voters to be as educated as possible about the candidates’ views on issues that matter to the White Flint/Pike District area.

We continue to vary the order of the responses and limit our comments to just the facts.

We asked the candidates, “Do you believe that alcohol sales should be privatized or continue to be managed by the county government and why? How does your decision affect the White Flint area?”

David Blair

While I do not believe the county should be in the liquor business, this is the path the county has taken, and certain decisions are difficult to unwind. My main concern is with the 350 employees of the DLC and the $100 million in bonds that need to be paid off. I will explore all options to privatize alcohol sales. In the meantime, I will work with the DLC to deliver more choices to consumers and will seek continual improvements with customer and delivery services, expand the number of DLC stores in the county, and continue keeping our residents safe with DLC backed initiatives curbing drunk driving and underage drinking incidents. These improvements will help the White Flint restaurant business thrive and continue to compete with other counties.

George Leventhal

I continue to support the County Council’s proposal for privatization of special order beer and wine sales, which would address most of the complaints from restaurateurs.

Rose Krasnow

In general, I do not believe the county should be in the liquor business.  However, significant changes have been made at the Department of Liquor Control in recent years, beginning with the decision to appoint someone with private side management experience as the Department’s new Director.  Robert Dorfman has transformed the DLC’s inventory and distribution system and has worked to ensure that restaurants and stores can get the products they need when they need them, including special orders.  Many of the County’s liquor stores have been renovated and marketing efforts encouraged.  The current system also promotes small businesses in the form of beer and wine stores, rather than large big box stores such as Total Wine.  The county also has a lower percentage of DUI arrests than jurisdictions that do not regulate liquor sales.  Given the County’s current strained resources, and the fact that the Department generates approximately $32 million in annual profits, I would only consider privatization at this time if there was a viable plan for replacing the revenue the county would lose. 

Bill Frick

Friends of White Flint reached out to Bill Frick two times but did not receive any answers to our questionnaire.

Marc Elrich

I don’t think this affects White Flint – but keep in mind that it’s the DLC revenue that pays for Montrose West. The DLC contributes around $30 million to county revenues, equal to almost 2 cents on the tax rate, and there is no feasible plan whereby the county would be made whole by the state if we give up the revenues. The state already is served by warehouses that are essentially individual monopolies; they don’t compete on pricing (the state requires that the wholesale price of a bottle of alcohol is uniform throughout the state) and won’t buy our warehouse because they’d just need to add additional trucks to their existing facilities.

I prefer to continue fixing the DLC. We’ve brought in a director with experience from the liquor industry and a manager who actually ran liquor warehouses. The professionalization of the staff is changing the way the system runs, reducing complaints, and I believe that we can increase sales and profits so we can use the money for other unmet needs in the county. 

Roger Berliner

I have long believed the County should get out of the liquor business or at least end the monopoly. We do not do “business” well. The private sector does. And it hurts our county – consumers and businesses. One third of our consumers purchase alcohol outside of Montgomery County. I also hear all too often from restaurants or bars saying that they can’t get the products they need to run their businesses successfully and that, oftentimes, items are out of stock. Restaurant owners say this makes it hard to keep, attract and grow clientele. Restaurants are an important aspect of any community’s night life and placemaking. Ending the monopoly would support consumers and our economy.

Friends of White Flint comment:  While the candidates acknowledge their desire to privatize liquor sales, nearly all the candidates assert that the funds generated by liquor sales would be too difficult to replace and instead favor the current path of modernization and improvement.  Roger Berliner comes out strongest for full privatization but does not address how he would replace the $30 million generated by the DLC.

What do County Executive Candidates think about important issues in the White Flint/Pike District area?

Friends of White Flint sent a short candidate questionnaire to all of the Democrat candidates fighting for your vote in the June 26th primary. Over the next couple of weeks, we will share their responses with you. The June 26 primary is a critical one for the White Flint area. Actually it’s a critical election for all of Montgomery County, so take the time to educate yourself and select the county executive candidate who not only believes in the tremendous potential of the White Flint/Pike District community but who also is determined to work with property owners, businesses, and residents to bring the White Flint sector plans to life.

We will vary the order of the responses to be fair to all the candidates, and we’ve attempted to restrict our comments to only facts rather than opinions.

The first topic we’ll tackle is infrastructure.  Candidates were asked “What are your top three infrastructure projects for the White Flint area and how would you fund and implement those projects?”

Rose Krasnow

One: A second metro entrance across the street from Pike and Rose

Two:  A new MARC Station

Three: Bus Rapid Transit on Rockville Pike

The White Flint I Plan was somewhat unique in that a number of property owners (the White Flint Partnership) came together with residents in the area (Friends of White Flint) to come up with ways to transform underutilized land characterized by large surface parking lots into a vibrant, walkable district with many amenities.  The county forward funded a significant amount of infrastructure and will be challenged to come up with more dollars since redevelopment has taken longer than anticipated, generating less tax revenue.  I would hope that the State would finance the new Marc station, that we could get more Federal transit dollars to help implement BRT, and that we could work with developers and WMATA to get funding for the new Metro entrance.

Comment from Friends of White Flint: This answer includes funding solutions. Rose is the only candidate to mention a new MARC train station. Rose also acknowledges the challenge of forward funding dollars from the special White Flint Taxing District that developers pay into when they build.

Roger Berliner

One: High quality BRT in the median on Rockville Pike – the urban boulevard envisioned in the plan – County GO Bonds and State funds. This cannot happen until the western workaround and eastern workaround are built out– paid for from the Special Taxing District and County funds;

Two: A second entrance to the White Flint Metro – paid for with a partnership between county and WMATA;

Three: Parks – the redesign/re-use of Wall Park and creation of a civic green and a new North Bethesda Recreation Center – GO bonds in CIP Budget and/or Advance Land Acquisition Revolving Fund (ALARF)

Comment from Friends of White Flint: Roger offered very specific funding plans for each of projects. He is also the only candidate to mention the recreation center and parks.

Marc Elrich

My top three infrastructure projects for the White Flint area are bus rapid transit (BRT) on 355, BRT from Montgomery Mall, and BRT from Glenmont. These three projects create the capability to move people along an east-west and north-south axis so that many car trips can be intercepted before they reach the Pike, and that creates the capacity to achieve the mode shares (i.e., the right mix of cars and non-auto transit) that are tied to the additional stages of development in White Flint – whether or not a large corporation happens to land there.

Comment from Friends of White Flint: Marc did not disclose how he would pay for the three BRT projects he discussed. Two of his three projects aren’t in the White Flint area, although they will help people get to and from the White Flint area.

David Blair

The White Flint area would benefit from public transportation, bike and pedestrian safety, and use of technology to keep cars moving rather than expanding roads because it will lead to a lower impact on our environment and infrastructure. I firmly support bus rapid transit and would like to make it free to incentivize public transportation use. To address our transportation issues, I believe there are short-term and long-term solutions. Some of the short-term solutions include fixing Metro and ensuring the Purple Line is completed on-time and on-budget, providing, free BRT and free Ride-on service to get more cars off the road, as well as implementing reversible lanes on I-270, installing adaptive traffic lights, and creating a local emergency quick action response unit to manage traffic accidents and keep residents moving. The long-term solutions include following through on our transportation Master Plans and creating new transit options for Clarksburg residents, who have been struggling with severe traffic due to the county’s inability to follow through. I would carefully study extending the Red Line to Clarksburg and will work closely with state, local, and federal partners to develop dedicated funding for Metro

Comment from Friends of White Flint: This appears to be a boilerplate response that didn’t really answer the question and didn’t discuss funding. Most of his answer is focused on areas other than White Flint.

George Leventhal

One: North entrance to White Flint Metro;

Two: Bus Rapid Transit on Rockville Pike;

Three: North Bethesda Transitway from White Flint to Montgomery Mall.

We should look for any available federal or state assistance to fund these, but they can also be paid for through the White Flint Development District. If Amazon comes here, we should seek to include them in the state’s $2 billion commitment to transportation improvements.

Comment from Friends of White Flint: George’s third priority isn’t in the White Flint area, although it will help people get to and from the White Flint area. He was vague about funding these projects. Also, The White Flint taxing district was not designed to fund BRT or the North Bethesda Transitway.

Bill Frick

Comment from Friends of White Flint: We asked Bill Frick twice for his answers to the questionnaire but he did not return his questionnaire to Friends of White Flint.

Overall Comment from Friends of White Flint:  It is interesting and encouraging that every candidate mentioned Bus Rapid Transit on Route 355 as one of their infrastructure priorities.