SILVER SPRING—The Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Board met on March 11 to hear reports from Montgomery County’s new Chief Administrative Officer Andrew Kleine and Emil Wolanin from the Department of Transportation.
The advisory board provides advice on specific issues in Silver Spring and Takoma Park to county government officials.
The board was briefed by Kleine about budgeting for Montgomery County in the coming years and plans County Executive Marc Elrich has for the county in the future.
During the meeting, Kleine explained that managing the county’s budget is a balancing act.
“It’s not an easy budget to adjust,” he said. “I haven’t yet gotten to implement my budget ideas.”
Kleine is very new to the office. He spent the last ten years serving as Baltimore’s budget director and was nominated for his position as chief administrative officer by Elrich in December of 2018.
“Baltimore and Montgomery County are very different places,” Kleine said, “but the principles are the same.”
Kleine aims to help Elrich and the county to reach goals like improves early care and education staff the county with a diverse employee base, and stay out of the way of businesses.
He explained that early education for children in the county is a high priority for Elrich. The goal is to have quality, affordable early care for every child from infants to age five.
A total of $7 million will be included in the budget to fund programs that increase the number of available spaces for child care, especially for children living in low-income areas of the county.
Another goal Kleine looks to achieve is creating a diverse leadership team within the county. He explained that there have been eight appointees so far and there are eight more jobs for which he is actively interviewing candidates.
“I wish it was going faster,” Kleine said, “but in a lot of cases I’ve given final interviews and found that they were not the right fit. I’d rather get it right than get it done fast.”
The third goal Kleine highlighted for the board was allowing businesses to grow in the county without high levels of government intervention.
“We want to benchmark business regulation to make sure the county does not get in the way of growth,” he said.
In his position Kleine oversees the day-to-day functions of the county government, and he said a major part of his job will be to listen to the community. He has already demonstrated this philosophy by attending meetings like the advisory board meeting and answering the community’s questions.
“I know Andrew shares my belief that policy should be both data-driven and compassionate,” Elrich said in a press release. “I also know that he is more fiscally conservative than my instincts might be, and I think that is a good thing.”
Matt Losak, who serves as the chair of the Advisory Board, said that the fact Kleine had even taken the time to come and talk to the board was a good indication of his office’s efforts to be transparent with the community.
The board was also briefed on possible changes the county could see to parking by Jose Thommana, the division chief of Parking Management, and Wolanin, the deputy director of the Department of Transportation.
Together they explained that the parking budget would be facing a deficit over the next six years.
The deficit can be attributed to more than one factor, according to Wolanin. However, an easy issue to highlight is that a lot of revenue for the parking districts in Silver Spring, Bethesda, and Wheaton is collected from writing tickets on cars that are parked too long or parked illegally. But with easier ways to plug the meters like cell phone apps, that revenue has dwindled.
“We’re seeing less ticketing in our parking districts due to friendlier parking practices,” Wolanin said.
Thommana estimated that a single parking spot could bring in $1,200-1,500 in revenue per year.
To fix the revenue problem there are a couple of options according to Wolanin. We could see an increase in the hourly rate to park, or we could see expanded parking hours. Both options would increase revenue and start to fill the gap.
But the danger of making changes like these is that they disproportionately affect renters, Wolanin said. It can even have an adverse effect on local businesses that rely on affordable parking right outside their storefronts.
People who live in apartment buildings without enough parking, or rental houses without driveways are going to feel the sting of this change more than higher income community members who can afford to pay for guaranteed parking, Wolanin said.
Any significant changes to the parking districts are still under discussion.
Chris Perry, a community member in attendance at the Advisory Board meeting, said that gatherings like this one allow people in the area to understand the issues facing the community.
“It’s a way of educating people, and it’s a way of airing the issues,” Perry said. “You begin to understand what the process of government is like, so to me; it’s a good forum.”