Phil Andrews Unanimously Elected as New Montgomery County Council President
Roger Berliner Unanimously Elected as Council Vice President
ROCKVILLE, Md., December 2, 2008—The Montgomery County Council on Tuesday, Dec. 2, unanimously elected Phil Andrews, its current longest-serving member, to a one-year term as Council president. Councilmember Roger Berliner was unanimously elected to a one-year term as vice president.
Council President Andrews, who was the Council vice president for the past year, succeeds Mike Knapp as president. Council tradition has seen the previous year’s vice president elected as president.
Council President Andrews, 49, represents District 3, which basically includes all or parts of Rockville, Gaithersburg, North Potomac, Derwood and Washington Grove. He is chair of the Council’s Public Safety Committee and also serves on the Education Committee. He was first elected to the Council in 1998 and was re-elected in 2002 and 2006.
Councilmember Andrews has been chief sponsor of significant legislation that has been approved by the Council over the past decade including a law making all Montgomery County restaurants smoke-free, the Washington region’s first-such law; a law ensuring that contractors on most County projects are paid a living wage; and a bill passed earlier this year requiring that a seller disclose in real estate advertisements to prospective homebuyers what the estimated property tax bill would be for the first full tax year after they purchase the home.
Councilmember Berliner represents District 1, which includes all or parts of Bethesda, Cabin John, Chevy Chase, Friendship Heights, Garrett Park, Glen Echo, North Bethesda, Potomac, Randolph Hills and Somerset. He serves on the Health and Human Services Committee and on Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment Committee, where he is the lead member for energy and environment issues. He was first elected to the Council in November 2006.
In April, the Council approved a package of seven bills to protect long-term climate change factors in the County. Chief sponsor Berliner worked for more than a year to create and refine those bills. Councilmember Berliner urged the Council to create a task force to study issues regarding infill development and has aggressively worked to protect the community and transportation needs around the Bethesda Naval National Medical Center, which will grow significantly as it absorbs the soon to be closed Walter Reed Army Hospital.
“I want to thank my colleagues for the trust they have bestowed upon me,” said Council Vice President Berliner. “It is a trust that I will work hard to honor through a meaningful partnership with Council President Andrews, who I am confident will lead us through this challenging time.”
In his remarks on becoming the new Council president, Councilmember Andrews said he takes the lead on the Council during a period when the County faces an operating budget shortfall for Fiscal Year 2010 currently projected at approximately $448 million.
“The Council will work closely with the County Executive to eliminate the deficit by cutting spending, and not by raising tax rates or by exceeding the charter limit,” said Councilmember Andrews. “The Council will maintain essential public services, and will protect the safety net to help those in great need.”
Councilmember Andrews also provided a brief outline on how he believes the County can meet the budget challenges it is facing.
“Hard times force hard choices and present the opportunity to reconsider fundamental assumptions about what the County does and how the County does it,” he said. “The County cannot sustain simultaneously the size of the current workforce and provide the level of pay increases employees expect and continue to obligate future taxpayers to ever-larger retire health care and pension benefits. We need to scale down in a thoughtful and targeted way the size of the workforce, through normal workforce attrition and productivity improvements. We also need a thorough re-examination of County programs and benefit commitments for future employees.”
The complete text of Council President Andrews’ remarks to the Council can be found at www.montgomerycountymd.gov. Then click on “County Council.”
Remarks of Phil Andrews on becoming Council President
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
I thank Councilmember Trachtenberg for nominating me, and I thank all of my colleagues for the opportunity to serve as Council President. I appreciate your confidence in me during this extraordinarily challenging time. I also thank the residents of District 3 for giving me the opportunity to represent them since 1998. There is no greater honor than serving the public.
I am pleased to have Councilmember Roger Berliner serving as our vice president. Together we will work closely with all Councilmembers and with County Executive Leggett to navigate our good County through the growing fiscal storm AND to make our County more weather-proof for the future.
I want to acknowledge my wife Staci and our son Justin, who is an MCPS third-grader. I wouldn’t be here without your support, sacrifice and continued understanding of why I’m not home more often. I also want to recognize and thank my Mom and Dad and my brother Keith.
I want to recognize and thank my superb staff who have served with me for the past decade: my chief of staff, Lisa Mandel-Trupp, and my legislative assistants Dave Hondowicz, Maria Peck and John Smith. Lisa, Dave, Maria and John: You have represented me so well for so long in so many ways. Thank you for your dedication. I also extend a warm welcome to my new staff member Kunda Kimaro. I also want to thank my former chief of staff Bobbie Walton, who served with me for seven years, and who is now making waves in Michigan.
The Council also is well-served by exceptional analytical and administrative staff, led by Director Steve Farber and Deputy Director Glenn Orlin, and by an outstanding research arm, the Office of Legislative Oversight, led by Karen Orlansky. Our fifth floor analysts regularly produce top-notch policy analysis, the Council again will benefit greatly during the coming year from their work.
It has been my privilege to serve on the County Council for 10 years, and I could not ask to serve with eight more intelligent, committed, hard-working people. Marc, Don, Duchy, Nancy, Roger, Mike, Valerie and George: I’ll draw on your talents throughout the year so that the Council does the best job possible for the people of our County. I especially want to acknowledge Mike Knapp’s outstanding leadership in helping the Council recover from the shock of Marilyn Praisner’s sudden death in February. Thank you Mike for your steady hand and reassuring manner during a terribly difficult time. I also want to salute Marilyn’s staff: Joy Nurmi, Pat Brennan, Sherry Kinikin, Claire Iseli, and Jackie Hawksford. Despite their deep grief, they soldiered on and continued serving the residents of the East County, just as Marilyn would have wanted them to do, for the four months that the District 4 seat was vacant. And they have all continued to serve the residents of District 4 as staff for Don Praisner.
My colleagues’ professional expertise, and knowledge of agency budgets, will be fully needed in the year ahead as the Council addresses a projected FY10 budget deficit of approximately $450 million, a deficit that very likely could grow larger in the next few months.
The Council will work closely with the County Executive to eliminate the deficit by cutting spending, and not by raising tax rates or by exceeding the charter limit. The Council will maintain essential public services, and will protect the safety net to help those in great need.
This combination of policies is what is called for when many people are hurting due to falling personal income and higher taxes.
Last Tuesday, the Council approved $33 million of savings in the first round of mid-year cuts in the current budget. I expect that the Council and Executive will need to produce a second round of mid-year savings during the coming weeks.
Even without the recent economic free-fall, FY10 would have been a very challenging year fiscally because of the structural imbalance between spending commitments and trends, and revenues. The Council’s priority this year will be to put the County’s fiscal house in order and get on a sustainable spending path for the long-term. By placing the interests of the next generation ahead of short-term electoral considerations, we will demonstrate that the faith of the people who elected us to serve was well-placed.
Hard times force hard choices and present the opportunity to reconsider fundamental assumptions about WHAT the County does and HOW the County does it. The County cannot sustain simultaneously the size of the current workforce AND provide the level of pay increases employees expect AND continue to obligate future taxpayers to ever-larger retire health care and pension benefits. We need to scale down in a THOUGHTFUL and TARGETED way the size of the workforce, through normal workforce attrition and productivity improvements. We also need a thorough re-examination of County programs and benefit commitments for future employees.
When collective bargaining negotiations take place, it is crucial that the agreements be affordable and sustainable. For the good of ALL, no ONE can get everything they want.
The Council will reduce spending in many areas to balance the budget. Our challenge is to cut WISELY to ensure the public continues to receive excellent basic services, and to ensure that the safety net is there for those in great need. There will be substantial cuts in many non-emergency services. In addition, everyone will be asked to make a sacrifice. All 33,000 employees funded by the County should be asked to do their part by forgoing cost-of--living
increases next year, which would save $125 million. I value our dedicated employees and I acknowledge this will be hard for many of them. However, I want to prevent layoffs if possible, which would be the likely alternative.
I won’t ask our dedicated employees to do more than I am prepared to do. If furloughs become necessary, which would save $10 million a day if applied to all agencies, I will donate my pay for those days.
As we trim and re-invent County government, we also need to reform it by making government as open, accountable, and responsive to the public as possible. The Council must listen to everyone, but be beholden to no one, and always put the public interest first.
During the next few months, the Council will work on a series of reforms to make County government more open, accountable, and responsive to the public, beginning with these four:
• The first reform initiative will be of the disability retirement system. Legislation is being prepared for introduction next Tuesday that would reform the County’s disability retirement system to ensure that the system works the way it should. It must provide a secure retirement for those employees disabled on the job, while screening out those without legitimate claims. The County’s Inspector General has documented beyond any reasonable doubt that our current system is not working as it should. Councilmember Trachtenberg and I have been working closely together on reform legislation for the past few months. Last week, a majority of the Council sent a letter to County Executive Leggett indicating strong support for reform of the County’s disability retirement system.
• The second reform initiative will be to provide information on-line about government spending so it is available for all to see. Council Vice President Roger Berliner and I are preparing legislation that would follow the lead of the federal and state governments in posting on-line information about all County spending so that the public can easily access this information. The public has every right to know where its money is spent and to be able to access this information easily. The Council will work with the Executive Branch to make this happen.
• The third reform initiative will be to require applicants for County grants to disclose the salaries of their top three executives to ensure that public funds are targeted to organizations that are the neediest—as well as the most effective—in helping people.
• The fourth reform initiative will be to acquire the authority to strengthen campaign finance disclosure for candidates for the County Council and for County Executive. Since 2001, the County Council has supported legislation that would authorize the Council to establish campaign finance reforms that meet the needs of the people of Montgomery County. Del. Susan Lee is sponsoring a bill in the General Assembly—MC 913-09—that would enable Montgomery County to establish stricter disclosure requirements for County Council and County Executive elections than are currently required by state law. The Council voted to support this legislation last week. Now we need the Montgomery County delegation and the General Assembly to approve it as well. The bill will have a public hearing before the delegation the evening of December 11 here in Rockville.
In addition to the initiatives described above, the Council will hold a community forum next month on Jan. 27 to hear the public’s suggestions for budget cuts and savings. Residents also can e-mail me their ideas and I will forward the suggestions to all Councilmembers and appropriate staff for consideration and a response.
Finally, the Council will spend considerable time on land use, transportation, and growth policy in 2009. The Council will revise both the Germantown and the Gaithersburg West Master Plans, and review the County’s Growth Policy. In addition, the Council will make
important recommendations on the Purple Line and on the Corridor Cities Transitway.
Right now, many residents are hurting. I urge all of us to give what we can to help others get through these hard times. Yesterday, I met with representative of the Archdiocese who described how food banks are running very low. I pledged that the Council will help publicize the need for donations of food. NOW is the time to help by donating money, food, or by volunteering.
One of the most important jobs of the Council President is to inspire the best in everyone. Certainly, there will be contentious policy debates, but as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. noted, creative tension can lead to progress—and progress in advancing the public interest is essential. Pulling together and at our full strength, we’ll make it through this storm, reach the shore AND emerge better prepared for the future.