House of Delegates, District 19
District: 19 Political party: Democrat Birthplace: New York, NY Age: 29 Residence: Longmead (Silver Spring, MD) Education: J.D, Georgetown University Law Center; B.A., Columbia University; Barrie School, Silver Spring, MD Professional experience: Vice President, The Arora Group, providing health care to veterans and military families; Law Clerk, Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler; Aide, Senator Hillary Clinton; Law Clerk, United State Attorney's Office; Aide, Democratic National Committee; Delegate, American Bar Association's House of Delegates Community experience: Board Member, Youth Achieve, working with at-risk youth to prepare them for the workforce or post-secondary education; Advisor, The Washington Leadership Program, providing government internships and leadership training for minority college students; Executive Board Member, Montgomery County Young Democrats; Executive Board Member, Young Democrats of Maryland; Volunteer, Candlewood Elementary School; Volunteer, Maryland-National Capital Park Police; Volunteer, Olney Theatre Center Campaign website: www.samarora.com Campaign e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Campaign phone number: 240-245-0018
See The Gazette's coverage of the House of Delegates District 19 race
Q. How would you rate the performance of the current House of Delegates: excellent, good, fair or poor? Explain.
In many respects, the current House of Delegates has done a good job amid increasingly difficult circumstances. The passage of the landmark Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Act during the 2009 session demonstrated the kind of leadership and vision we should expect from our Delegates. However, there have been opportunities for leadership that the House has missed. For example, the effort this year to raise the liquor tax (which has not been changed since 1955) and bring in over $200 million in critical new revenue was killed by the powerful alcohol lobby before coming to a vote. We need to stand up to special interests in Annapolis. That is the kind of Delegate I want to be for our community, which is why I do not accept any campaign contributions from special interests or Maryland lobbyists.
Q. The Montgomery County delegation has been criticized over the years for not bringing home the bacon to the county? A fair or unfair assessment, and how would you change it if at all?
Bacon always smells wonderful, but making sure we get Montgomery County's fair share means more than boosting the roughly 17 cents return we get for every dollar we send to Annapolis; it means getting the right kind of funding. While tax revenues are down and the state is struggling to fund vital services, the Montgomery Delegation may need to work together and focus on fewer strategic priorities than in previous years in order to make sure we get the resources we need most. Montgomery County legislators should fight for critical county- and area-wide funding priorities we need urgently like improving Pepco's reliability, keeping down out-of-pocket prescription drug costs for seniors, and making sure our schools have the resources they need.
Q. How would you assess the handling of the state budget over the past four years?
While few could have predicted four years ago that we would face the greatest economic downturn since the Depression, the General Assembly's work over the last year in particular showed a willingness to make difficult choices. Nevertheless, we still are faced with a $1.5 billion structural deficit that we need to solve in order to prevent more severe cuts to vital services. It is going to take a new way of looking at Maryland's revenue streams, including raising the liquor tax and closing the tax loophole that allows out-of-state corporations to avoid paying taxes on profits made in Maryland. We can also roll back luxury tax giveaways that Maryland cannot afford right now, including excise tax breaks on yacht trade-ins and sales tax exemptions on rare gold coins purchases. These measures and others I have proposed can save Maryland around $500 million. They alone will not close the $1.5 billion budget deficit, but they are significant steps in the right direction. It is going to be difficult to put our state budget back on trackI am under no illusion of thatbut it's time to take on this challenge and make sure that Maryland is able to fund our community's real priorities.
Q. What are your thoughts on transportation in District 19, and how would you address any challenges?
If Montgomery County is going to grow by 200,000 people in the coming decades, we need to start focusing on where they are going to live and how they are going to travel around the area. Severe traffic congestion already poses one of the greatest threats to the quality of life in many parts of District 19, and I believe we need to take a comprehensive approach to reduce traffic, including expanding mass transit options and promoting mixed-use development around Metro stations so that we can live, work and shop without major traffic delays.
I support the expansion of clean and safe mass transit like dedicated bus rapid transit lanes on Georgia Avenue, Connecticut Avenue, and Norbeck Road in addition to the Purple Line and believe that Maryland must keep its commitment to funding Metro. We should close the gaps in the statewide smart-growth policies to prevent sprawl in overdeveloped areas of Montgomery County and encourage mixed-use building around Metro stations.
While I believe the current ICC plans have several significant flaws, construction is well under way (as I literally can see from my home in Longmead), and we must work together to mitigate the effects of construction and use on our community's residents. About $370 million has been set aside for environmental mitigation of the ICC's effects, and, as Delegate, I will work to make sure these funds remain dedicated to helping our community and that these projects are completed on time. The ICC's toll rates will be among the highest in the nationupwards of $12.60 for a round trip commuteand will be prohibitively high for many working families. As Delegate, I will seek to review the expensive tolls and offer discounts to drivers who carpool or drive clean fuel or hybrid vehicles.
Q. What are your thoughts on development in District 19? Is there too much, not enough or the right amount?
If our area is expected to grow significantly, we need to begin thinking about growth in new ways, because we cannot afford more of the same sprawl. The additional of 773 single family homes on Layhill Road known as Poplar Run are an example of the type of over-development District 19 cannot sustainadding over 1,000 vehicles to already congested roads. Adopting "smart growth" strategies with mixed-use development like the ones at Rockville Town Center and Downtown Silver Spring can help stimulate our local economy while allowing residents the option to live, work and shop without major traffic delays.
Q. Should the state shift any share of teacher pensions to the counties? Explain.
I oppose shifting the state's liabilities onto our already cash-strapped counties. Montgomery County cannot afford the burden any more than the State can, and such a move would merely shift the liability without addressing the important issue of chronic underfunding. Additionally, the pension program is one of the only programs where Montgomery County benefits from the money its residents send to the State, and I believe that Montgomery legislators should stand solidly together to defend the pension so that we can continue to attract highly qualified teachers to MCPS.
Q. What are your top three priorities for the next four years, if elected?Creating jobs and strengthening our economy should be Maryland's top priority right now, and we need to be thinking about smarter ways to move forward. Creating jobs locally will strengthen our tax base and enable Montgomery County and the State of Maryland to afford vital public services and maintain one of the best school systems in the nation. As Vice President for Business Development of a Maryland company, I have experience creating jobs, and I want to put my experience to work for our state and bring more high-growth, high-value industries to Marylandindustries like biotechnology, nanotechnology, cybersecurity, and "green" technology. These growth industries will create jobs at all levels and improve our economic strength. Second, we must protect education funding for our schools, community colleges, and universities. I am a graduate of a Montgomery County high school and have volunteered in our public school system and mentored at-risk students. I believe that strong schools and a well-educated workforce are the best investments we can make to ensure a strong local economy and give our children a brighter future. Getting the funding we need means fixing Maryland's budget, which has ballooned to a $1.5 billion deficit and forced the legislature to make severe cuts. I have proposed a combination of additional revenue programs and budget changes that would generate about $500 million for the State. This is not a full solution, but it is a step in the right direction to prevent cuts that would further raise K-12 class sizes and increase tuition at our colleges and universities. Third, I believe we can secure Maryland's clean energy future and become a leader in the new energy economy. As Delegate, I will work to move forward with smart-grid technology that can save Marylanders $100 on their energy bills each year by reducing electricity usage, which will also help us burn less fossil fuels. I believe we need to move away from dirty power sources and remove state subsidies encouraging coal mining. Instead we should invest in alternative energy sources like solar, wind, geo-thermal, and even chicken waste. As law clerk to Attorney General Doug Gansler, I worked on the AG's plan to convert 500 million pounds of Maryland chicken waste into clean energy. It may sound unconventional, but innovative ideas like this can help turn current sources of pollution into clean energy while creating jobs.