Ryan’s answers to the Town Courier questionnaire.
QUESTION 1: Why are you running for City Council?
I am running for reelection to continue my focus on creating jobs, revitalizing our town centers, and supporting our local businesses – while also protecting the quality of our neighborhoods, our city services, and our environment. Additionally, I want to ensure that critical safety-net services continue to assist those who are struggling. We have proven that we can maintain fiscal responsibility without cutting the cultural, recreational, and educational programs that make Gaithersburg a wonderful place. National magazines including Forbes, Business Week, and CNN/Money have recently ranked Gaithersburg among the best places to live and raise a family. I’m proud of that record. Despite our challenges, I believe in making a positive difference through public service. I hope that I have earned your vote with the hard work, the responsiveness, and the thoughtful and balanced approach to tough issues that I have provided over the last four years.
QUESTION 2: What is the one issue that you believe will define this election and what is your stand on it?
The key issue in this election is how to balance the need for economic development and job creation against the need to protect the quality of existing neighborhoods, roads, and schools.
Against the backdrop of the recession, the City has taken bold steps to encourage investment. Leveraging innovative programs like our Toolbox fund and the Gaithersburg Accelerator, we have brought hundreds of high quality, science-based jobs to Gaithersburg and jumpstarted several stalled Smart Growth projects.
At the same time, I have consistently fought to ensure that our quality of life is not sacrificed in the name of economic development. Overcrowded schools and roads affect public safety, home values, and the environment.
My record over the last four years reflects my belief that we need to strike a balance that ensures the quality of our existing neighborhoods while allowing for targeted, thoughtful economic development that creates jobs and strengthens Gaithersburg.
QUESTION 3: What are your thoughts on economic development for the city?
Despite the recession, we had the foresight to prioritize economic development to ensure that Gaithersburg would be ahead of the curve in helping the local economy to recover and grow. We created an economic development fund to create jobs and fill empty buildings. While other cities are still reeling from job losses, we are delivering positive results.
Our flexible fund helps both large and small businesses. We helped keep hundreds of jobs in the city and created hundreds more by attracting companies like MDA. But we also helped small businesses upgrade their buildings. Our innovative Gaithersburg Accelerator has nurtured emerging biotechs like Zyngenia and IBT. We need to explore more ways to help our small businesses.
We also jumpstarted stalled construction projects around the city, creating even more jobs and transforming Olde Towne. My signature initiative, Bank on Gaithersburg, helps families achieve financial stability, further sparking economic growth.
QUESTION 4: Should the Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance (APFO) be amended? Why or why not?
Reasonable amendments to the APFO make sense, to give us the flexibility to permit economic development and Smart Growth. I have voted to exempt certain projects from the APFO on a case-by-case basis. But simply adopting the county’s formula as the lowest common denominator, and sacrificing some of the city’s oversight over new development, is the wrong approach. It will lead to even more overcrowded schools. With the revitalization occurring in Olde Towne right now, and the hundreds of jobs we have brought to Gaithersburg, there is not much evidence that the APFO is stifling the economy. Indeed, several already-approved projects are still in the pipeline. Our goal should not be to simply mirror the county; we should have standards that are better than the county’s. The current proposal under consideration by the Council would strike a balance between allowing sensible growth and retaining our power to prevent overdevelopment.
QUESTION 5: What are your thoughts on volunteer help in the city?
From our Book Festival volunteers to our NJROTC students who present the colors at city events, from our youth sports coaches to our PTA and HOA leaders, volunteers are an essential ingredient to the success of Gaithersburg, providing critical input on how to improve our operations and helping to ensure that our programs are successful. I started out as a volunteer on the Education Committee, seeing firsthand how volunteerism improves the lives of those who are struggling. On the Market Square Advisory Committee, I worked with volunteers to enhance a vibrant public square for the benefit of residents and businesses. And I try to lead by example by continuing to volunteer for various causes and events throughout the year. Gaithersburg strives to always recognize and thank our volunteers, build partnerships, and recruit new faces to include voices from throughout the community. We should continue, and expand upon, those efforts.
QUESTION 6: Are you comfortable with the current tax rate in Gaithersburg? Please explain.
Gaithersburg’s tax rate is still the lowest among the twenty largest cities in Maryland. Amending the rate was probably the toughest decision faced in recent years. But the recession caused revenues to plummet, and the federal, state, and county governments slashed their aid to cities. Faced with the prospect of Draconian cuts to the services that residents care about, the city assembled a plan including a 10% budget cut and a 5-cent rate increase, to keep us on a reliable fiscal track for several years while remaining debt-free. We held multiple public forums and received minimal objection, reflecting what I believe is the value that residents place on city services. Given the evolution and population growth of Gaithersburg over 45 years, I think changing the rate only once during that time was a reasonable, albeit tough, decision. I have no intention of supporting any tax increase for the foreseeable future.