Ryan’s answers to the Gazette’s 2011 candidate questionnaire:
1. How successful has the city’s economic development plan been in encouraging redevelopment and development within city limits? If you were (re)elected to council, what ideas could you offer the city on how to improve its efforts to encourage more development and redevelopment in the city?
The city’s prioritization of economic development even in a recession has proven extremely successful. We jumpstarted projects that were stalled for years, bringing in HUD to complete Hidden Creek and Archstone in Olde Towne. We’re proceeding with redevelopment of the Fishman and Y sites and seeing progress at Parklands, Crown Farm, and the Vistas. Even NIST is expanding. Smaller redevelopment projects like the new Cancer Center on Bureau Drive and the bank on Quince Orchard Road also bear witness to our success. If reelected, I want to explore more ideas to benefit smaller businesses and revitalize the 355 corridor.
2. What are your thoughts on the city’s decision last spring to stop printing its newsletter, The Communique? How effective are the city’s attempts to communicate with residents electronically?
Trimming the budget in tough times is difficult, but stopping a printed newsletter was reasonable to save money (and trees). When the economy improves, I’d support restarting the newsletter. But new technologies have enabled us to connect instantaneously with more citizens for free. Subscribership to Alert Gaithersburg has skyrocketed. We launched Facebook and Youtube pages that regularly post new content. We are finalizing digital permitting processes. Our television station has upgraded quality and expanded programming. A monthly article from the City Manager is circulated to community publications. And we are about to launch a new and improved website.
3. How effective has the current council been in overseeing the actions and decisions of the city staff? How could that oversight be improved?
Under our system of government, the Council does not manage the daily activities of staff but rather sets policy and provides oversight while the City Manager controls day-to-day operations and staff decisions. The current council has kept informed of staff decisions, worked closely with staff to respond to constituent concerns, and amended policies to ensure smoother staff operations – but we have respected the role established by the City Charter which discourages micromanaging. We improved oversight by implementing modern personnel rules, which had been lacking, to ensure consistency and fairness in the way staff decisions are made and reviewed.
4. Has there been a recent approval or decision of the city council that you disagreed with or had a differing opinion about? How would you have addressed the issue differently, if making a decision alone?
In December 2010, I opposed the majority’s designation of Severance House, owned by the Episcopal Church of the Ascension, as a historic property. The Church agreed with me. I carefully explained my belief that the Council needed to weigh additional factors not considered by the Historic District Commission, because we have broader legislative powers. I also felt that the federal Religious Land Use Act prevents local governments from interfering in a church’s efforts to pursue its mission. In the end, City staff mediated a compromise between the Church and preservationists to keep the building but allow necessary additional parking.