SAFE NEIGHBORHOODS: Q&A
What kind of relationship do you have with the people who keep Montgomery County safe?
I have been endorsed by the Montgomery County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association and the Montgomery County Career Fire Fighters Association (IAFF Local 1664), who I've worked with in my role as Chair of the Montgomery County Council's Public Safety Committee. IAFF Local 1664 president Jeffrey Buddle said they endorsed me because I've worked with them "to ensure the best interest of the citizens are always first and foremost." I have worked hard to ensure that the fire service has adequate resources so they can reduce emergency response times and better serve you. I also support four-person staffing, in which every fire engine carries a fire fighter paramedic in addition to three other fire fighters.
I have also been endorsed by Montgomery County's police officers union, Lodge 35 of the Fraternal Order of the Police. Our department moved to adopt body cameras in response to what they saw happening around the country on their own initiative. They adopted policies that sharply reduced taser usage after recognizing problems with the then-current policy. They have emphasized de-escalation training for their officers (so that interactions with suspects are not allowed to rapidly worsen) and they have opened up their review processes to the public as well. I give a lot of credit to our police leadership for acting proactively on these issues.
Still, I think there’s more we can do to shed light on how they deal with discipline issues stemming from citizen complaints. Residents should feel confident that officers, just like everyone else, are held accountable for their actions. While I think our department is one of the better departments anywhere, I would welcome continued dialogue about what’s needed with residents who are working on these issues and observing the steps that the department has already taken, and who have suggestions to improve our processes. Safe Silver Spring founder Tony Hausner has endorsed me because he believes I "can be a powerful force in uniting county agencies and external organizations that are focused on community safety."
How will you reduce traffic fatalities and move us closer to Vision Zero?
I would support road design that matches the speed cars are intended to travel - currently, some of our roads look like they should have higher speed limits than they actually do. Designing roads differently could both reduce speeds in more urban areas and free up space that could facilitate the addition of bike lanes, which should be isolated from the general roadway. Putting bike lanes next to the curb is much safer for bikers than putting them in the middle of the road. I am particularly interested in putting parking outside of bike lanes whenever possible.
I also like the use of lighted crosswalks, including stop signals where appropriate. Stricter enforcement of the law regarding stopping for pedestrians would also help. I don’t think public education programs on pedestrian safety have been effective and they should not be relied upon to ensure pedestrians are safe - they are necessary but not sufficient.
What can we do to stop gun violence?
I support a ban on assault rifles, any military weapon, and conversion kits, and I oppose the militarization of local police. I also believe in gun registration, mandatory waiting periods, background checks, and a loss of gun rights for anyone with a history of assault, spousal abuse (or abuse in general), use of weapon in a crime, threats with a weapon, or violence more generally. I have been proud to march with students from Montgomery County Public Schools to demand congressional action, and to speak out about this issue. I also support legislation being considered at the state level requiring that domestic abusers give up their guns, and I pushed to have judges consider that in domestic violence cases before them.
What have you been doing to protect women from domestic abuse and how will you continue to work on this issue as County Executive?
We need a culture that takes prosecution of violence against women more seriously and I have spoken with women about tangible things we can do at the county level. We have made some progress. I think our Family Justice Center is very important, and we have opened our first Safe Exchange Center, which will provide a safe place for parents to exchange custody of children without coming into contact, in accordance with court custody rulings. I support opening more exchange centers in the downcounty as well as farther upcounty. I have worked closely with Court Watch to get the first center open and share their sense of urgency in opening others.
I have also asked that we explore providing women who have been victims of assault, or women who have been threatened with assault and have a protective order, with a tracking device to monitor whether the person they’re protected from is maintaining the required legal separation distance. If that distance is violated, the woman would be warned and the police department would receive a notification of the violation so police would be dispatched to provide protection and enforce the separation requirement.