2015 Voter's Guide: Montgomery County Commissioners (Valerie Arkoosh, Joe Gale, Josh Shapiro, and Steve Tolbert)

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dmuth's picture
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Joined: 2005-09-13 :35
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1. What is one thing you would like to see changed in Montgomery County? Please explain how you will work to effectuate that change.

Valerie Arkoosh: Did not respond.

Joe Gale: I would like to see Montgomery County taxpayers have a commissioner who is not beholden to political party bosses, special interests, and courthouse lobbyist.

I am the only candidate not chose by political party insiders but chosen by the voters of Montgomery County.

Politics as usual in our county is irresponsible and unsustainable: selling 220 acres of open space assets to fill short-term budget gaps, wasting tens of thousands of dollars on signs bearing the commissioners’ names, and dumping $25 Million into a movie studio pipedream in Norristown.

We need to eliminate wasteful spending, restore our AAA Bond Rating, fully-fund county pensions, and oppose tax increases.

Furthermore, we need to raise expectations and demand accountability from our public servants. Just this past year, our PA Supreme Court Justices were sending pornographic emails through taxpayer funded accounts; our Attorney General is facing criminal charges; and our State Treasurer has resigned after pleading guilty to extortion. The people deserve a new generation of leaders who will restore respect to public service.

Josh Shapiro: Did not respond

Steve Tolbert: Infrastructure and open space. As a county commissioner, I have an obligation to protect these two critical pieces of our communities. I believe some of our infrastructure has suffered over the past several years, and we could do more to improve our roads and bridges in order to ease traffic congestion and improve the safety of our residents. I am also committed to open space preservation. We are constantly battling the priorities of developing our communities with preserving the beautiful open space and character that help to define Montgomery County. I am committed to ensuring any development keeps that in mind.

2. Does Montgomery County have any responsibility to maintain, protect or create affordable housing? What do you propose should be done to foster housing diversity in Lower Merion Township and other parts of the County?

Valerie Arkoosh: Did not respond.

Joe Gale: Montgomery County has the responsibility to make our communities are safe, to maintain our roads and bridges, and as communities grow, to take steps to alleviate traffic congestion and other strains on resources. In meeting these responsibilities, the county government must act fiscally responsible and oppose taxes increases.

Effective local planning and zoning should promote development of a variety of housing (single family, Multifamily, etc.) to meet the needs of people from diverse economic demographics.

Josh Shapiro: Did not respond

Steve Tolbert: Yes, I think county government has an important role in maintaining and creating affordable housing, and I will support measures that responsibly promote this. The County Comprehensive Plan supports diverse housing choices, and prioritizes support for new affordable housing developments and housing for the disabled. The county should encourage our local governments to provide incentives for affordable and workforce housing, which can be accomplished through local zoning codes. The County Comprehensive Plan recommends such incentives, and I support those references. Zoning and land development decisions are made by our local governments, but the county often provides planning assistance. Lower Merion’s desire for affordable housing is commendable, but the township should strike the right balance to ensure that it is not done at the expense of overcrowding schools. The rights of local property owners should be respected, and I would only support programs that respect the rights, insight and opinions of neighbors who would be directly impacted by these programs.

3. What are your thoughts about the use of state taxpayer monies for private development?

Valerie Arkoosh: Did not respond.

Joe Gale: Taxpayer dollars should be used to provide services to the public and to improve and maintain public infrastructure. Tax dollars should not go into the pockets of private developers for private profit. A prime example of taxpayer’s money being inappropriately wasted on private development is the $25 million lost investing in movie studio project in Norristown that went belly up. This is just one of many examples of crony capitalism: privatizing profits and socializing costs.

Josh Shapiro: Did not respond

Steve Tolbert: Taxpayer dollars must be treated carefully, and I would oppose an outright use of state taxpayer monies being used for private development.

4. Many Montgomery County residents are experiencing forced densification of their Townships. What are your thoughts about increased density in the County? Do you see the need for greater density in certain Townships? Please explain fully.

Valerie Arkoosh: Did not respond.

Joe Gale: Montgomery County is geographically diverse. In the western part of the county, west of 202, townships have more open space and are less developed while, east of 202, municipalities are more populated and reaching maximum development.

As the communities in the west grow, it important that development is accomplished with a cautionary eye toward the future. Residential development is needed to meet population migration away from the city, commercial development is needed to support the tax base, and open space preservation is needed to prevent over development and traffic congestion.

In the east, communities should promote re-development projects and maintain public infrastructure to keep property values strong and prevent deterioration of neighborhoods.

Josh Shapiro: Did not respond.

Steve Tolbert: I believe this is an issue that should be left up to individual townships to determine, and local residents should be empowered to make these decisions by referendums at the ballot box. The county should only interject on these matters in very special situations where the township and its residents have exercised all other options. Zoning and land development decisions are made by local municipalities, and not by Montgomery County. Among the goals of the new County Comprehensive Plan is the enhancement of community character and protection of neighborhoods.

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