New Council Members Gabe Albornoz and Will Jawando Speak at MC Taxpayers League Monthly Meeting
By Ed Amatetti
Since 1975, the non-partisan Montgomery County Taxpayers League has functioned as an information resource for countless citizens and advocated for efficient and effective county government. MCTL meets on a monthly basis. Become involved and help us keep our county accountable.
On March 20th, the Montgomery County Taxpayers League’s monthly meeting welcomed two of the newest County Council members, Gabe Albornoz (HHS and Public Safety Committees) and Will Jawando (Education and Planning/Housing/Econ Dvlp Committees) and listened to their thoughts about how they plan to govern. This event followed MCTL’s February meeting with Andrew Friedson and Evan Glass, our other new council members.
Mr. Jawando comes to the council with a law degree from Catholic University, a history of local civic involvement and experience in government service at the national level, including former President Obama’s Dept. of Education. Gabe Albornoz is the former director of Montgomery County’s Department of Recreation and has served on 37 boards, many of which included local civic organizations and citizens’ commissions.
The topics that were brought up during this meeting included the following:
Discussions revolved around the recent embezzlement of $7 million by the former CEO of the Department of Economic Development. MCTL has been advocating to expand the contract provisions of the county’s external auditors to include rendering an opinion on the county’s internal controls. Instead, this month the new council voted unanimously against such a contract expansion, a vote questioned by many of the attendees, especially in light of this fraud.
Another topic of interest at the meeting was Economic Development. The performance of the county’s two-and a half year old Economic Development Corporation received tepid reviews by the two invited council members as well as attendees, particularly as compared to its counterpart in Fairfax County. Discussions then moved to MC’s decade-long underperformance in creating jobs or growing the tax base.
Although there was talk about incubators and the need for region-wide development, there was little mention of the fact that Montgomery County’s policies make it an undesirable place to do business. The issues of regulations and mandates on business and the need to streamline the permitting process were raised by attendees. While Mr. Jawando didn’t feel that our business taxes were out of line and mentioned DC’s recent imposition of a new tax on developers, he also expressed support for a line-by-line audit and benchmarking of business fees, regulations, mandates and permitting.
The discussion of Education centered on two areas: 1) efforts to closing the achievement gap; and 2) taking initial steps toward universal pre-K. It was agreed that efforts on the AGap have yielded little progress for decades and that MCPS has not been measuring performance outcomes based on its many ongoing programs. School Superintendent Smith’s Equity Accountability Local School Report Card program, which will be launched on April 5, 2019, was suggested as a hopeful strategy.
Pre-K expansion was supported by both council members as a way to lower the AGap. However, several attendees questioned the effectiveness of Pre-K without establishing academic performance measures to assure that regression doesn't occur by 3rd grade, as studies of Head Start show. Both council members support creation of an IG for MCPS. The idea of using alternative education programs, such as charter schools and PTECHs, was raised as a possible way to leverage the efforts of traditional schools and inject a degree of innovation and competition, but this was rejected as a strategic component by both new council members.