Council At Large Candidates Discuss Housing, Crime, Taxes at Tuesday Night Forum

Five of the six Montgomery County Council At Large candidates shared their views on housing, crime, public transportation and taxes during a forum Tuesday night sponsored by the District 20 Democratic caucus and the Greater Silver Spring Democratic Club.

Vying for the four seats are incumbents Gabe Albornoz, Evan Glass and Will Jawando, attorney Scott Goldberg, former Gaithersburg Councilmember Laurie-Anne Sayles and Brandy Brooks, who did not attend the two-hour forum at Eastern Middle School in Silver Spring. The forum took place before a hybrid both in-person and virtual audience.

The candidates tended to agree on most issues, all calling for increased housing stock, more housing for low and middle income residents and bringing more jobs to the county. They also favored increasing bus rapid transit throughout the county with designated lanes for the buses.

Albornoz noted there is plenty of land where moderate income housing units could be built, including at county parking garages, underutilized commercial buildings and church properties, where the religious institution would be a partner in creating the housing.

On crime, he favored more programs and mentorships for youth. “We do need to support police officers,” he said, noting that the Montgomery County Police Department is losing officers, and its current recruiting class is its smallest ever.

He was one of the few candidates to issue caution on establishing a wealth tax, saying it could cause rich people to move elsewhere.

Jawando stressed the need to help people of color afford to live in the county. One way he suggested was to lower the tax brackets for lower and middle income residents. “Inequality is raging” in the county, he said. He also called for expanding mental health services and reforming police practices. “You can have reform, and you can have safety,” he said.

He also said he favored requiring all new buildings to have reduced emissions.

Goldberg called economic opportunity the best way to reduce crime. More jobs keeps young people out of jail, he said. He also spoke out against the state’s proposal to expand I-495.

He noted that people used to flock to Montgomery County for its great schools. “I don’t know if that’s true today,” he said. The county should look for a way to draw people here. He suggested it could be through hospitality, health care, hi-tech or breweries. “We can be a destination for agro-tourism,” he said.

Glass stressed transportation and called for increasing free rides on county buses, a program he sponsored. “We’ve got to get the Purple Line built,” he said.

He also noted, “We are in a climate emergency, and we need to starting acting like it. Bottom line.”

Sayles discussed the need to restore trust between police officers and the community. She peppered her remarks with achievements made in Gaithersburg, which she said was debt free. She is “very supportive of a wealth tax. Everyone should pay their fair share.”

She also said she favored a system that would make renewal of permits and subscriptions to the county automatic. That would free the county from having to chase after those who haven’t paid, she said.

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