County Executive Candidates Quizzed on Amazon

The Amazon bid for a new headquarters and the county’s economic development dominated discussion Monday night at a county executive candidate forum in Olney.

“We need a county executive to talk business,” former Rockville mayor Rose Krasnow said. “If they sense they’re not liked … then we don’t have a chance to get them.”

The five Democrats seeking the party’s nomination — Krasnow, businessman David Blair and Councilmembers Roger Berliner, George Leventhal and Marc Elrich — and sole Republican, Boyds lawyer Robin Ficker, answered questions for about two hours.

The Greater Olney Civic Association hosted and moderated the event, which drew about 225 people, at the Olney Theatre Center.

In discussing Amazon, Berliner said he wanted the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority to offer 15 acres of its land toward the county’s Montgomery’s bid.

WMATA owns undeveloped land near the White Flint Metro, which 14 months ago Berliner urged the transit agency to develop.

The county officially has been mum about where it is suggesting Seattle-based Amazon should build it new headquarters, although news reports have suggested the site of the former White Flint Mall in North Bethesda would be large enough to handle the company’s need for 50,000 employees near public transportation.

The discussion on Amazon also covered what would happen if Amazon chose somewhere else.

“Whether we get Amazon we’ll be just fine,” Leventhal said, rattling off county treasures like the C&O Canal and Rock Creek Park.

Regardless of whether the county lands the new Amazon site, Krasnow said the county needs a new economic development strategy. For example, she said people in government knew Discovery was leaving Silver Spring as far back as 2014, but they didn’t know when. The county needed a better response.

Another major topic was property taxes, which the County Council increased 8.7 percent to pay for school programs.

“We need to grow our economy, not increase taxes,” Berliner said.

In a similar vein, Leventhal said the county had reached “a tipping point” on taxes.

Several times during the forum, Ficker criticized the council members on the stage for that 8.7 percent property tax increase.

He asked the audience whether they should vote for council members who increased taxes or for him, who passed charter amendments who stopped tax increases “cold.” Pulling out his wallet, Ficker said he saved Montgomery County residents $10,000 by preventing tax increases.

But Berliner, Leventhal and Elrich all said they would support the property tax increases now because the money went for schools.

Blair and Elrich, who has been endorsed by the Democratic Socialists of America, may represent opposite ends of the political spectrum, but they both said they would restructure government.

Blair said he could find efficiencies in the county’s $5 billion spending. Elrich said he can go to unions looking for less expensive ways to do business.

Other comments:

— 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.

— Ficker joked he was running against the “Beltway Boys.” Blair, in a rebuttal, said he has spent his entire life outside the Beltway.

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Douglas Tallman

About Douglas Tallman

Reporter with 35 years experience throughout Maryland. Reach me at or via Twitter at @MCM-Doug


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