Chevy Chase Montgomery County Executive Candidates' Forum on Library Service
30 March 2006
Edited and annotated for clarity; please credit
Transcription doc file

Robin Ficker

Chuck Floyd

Ike Leggett

Steve Silverman

Anne Kilcullen:
My name is Anne Kilcullen and I'm a member of the Chevy Chase Library community, and I'd like to welcome you to this Montgomery County Executive Candidates Forum on Library Services, and I'd like to introduce the candidates: Robin Ficker, who's a Republican {Independent}; Ike Leggett, Democrat; and Steve Silverman, Democrat.

Chuck Floyd, the other Republican candidate, couldn't be with us; he's out of town, but he has sent a statement on library services that we will read later.

As I said, the first set of questions were chosen from questions that were sent to us by email. Each candidate will have two minutes for his response. And we're going to start in alphabetical order. So Mr. Ficker, you'll be first, then Mr. Leggett, then Mr. Silverman.

Anne Kilcullen Q.1:
The first question that we have is a general question on library services. We'd like to know if you or your families regularly use the library, and which library you use, and we'd like to know how you rate libraries in importance relative to other county services.

Robin Ficker Q.1:
Well, I got my library card back in 1951, when they first started the bookmobile at the corner of Piney Branch Road and Flower Avenue. I was Card Number 90. My Dad worked in the Library of Congress for forty years. He used to bring me home six books every week to read.

I remember in fourth grade at Oak View Elementary we had a contest as to which of the students would read the most books in a year, and they kept a graph all year long. Well, Sandy Landman, a young lady, and I were in a battle for first place all year. It turned out that both of us read more books that year than all the other students in the class put together, but Sandy beat me by four books.

I couldn't understand how she kept getting ahead of me. I was an active participant in class, and then I noticed that under her desk she was reading a book all day long in class. Just recently I went to my forty-fifth reunion of my Montgomery Blair Class of 1960, and sure enough, Sandy was there, and she brought a paperback book with her.

I rate libraries “Number One”. Instead of having 7 million visitors a year to Montgomery County Libraries, as County Executive I want to increase that to 20 million, because the smartest people pick the best brains. You can travel by reading a book in the library, you can be an important person in history by reading a book in the library, and I want to teach the youngsters, just as my dad who worked in the Library of Congress for forty years taught me: use your library and you're going to be a success in life.

Ike Leggett Q.1:
Thank you. I want to thank all of you for coming out this evening.

My library of choice is my neighborhood library, the Fairland Library. In fact, last year, 2005, the Fairland Library cited me for my work and contributions at the ten year anniversary for that library. I got started here in Montgomery County, very actively involved in the community with the storefront library in the Fairland community. After many many months of work and contributions we were able to build a library in Fairland.

It is a reflection of what I believe are the true values of our community. Libraries are not a separate part of our community. It is an integral part of the community. It is part of the continuing learning process. Continuing learning is not something that is separate and apart. So I value libraries quite quite clearly, in my opinion, to be very very close to what we do with our public schools.

We should ensure, that as we continue in our public schools, to provide an opportunity for adults in all of our communities, so that they will have libraries accessible to everyone. The Fairland Library, in my opinion, is a good example of a neighborhood coming together and working to ensure that we have a library. And we need to do more throughout all of Montgomery County. And I pledge to continue to do that. Thank you very much.

Steve Silverman Q.1:
Thank you very much for hosting this event.

I'm very proud to be a participant in this process with you. I live in the White Oak area of Silver Spring, and I use my library card at the White Oak library. {holds up card} It's a little tattered, but taking a page out of Paulette's testimony --- whenever she would testify before us at the Council she would always have her library card with her as a reminder.

I'm very pleased to have been a member of the Health and Human Services Committee, for my eight years on the Council, which oversees libraries. I worked my first year on the Council with my colleagues on that committee to expand Sunday library hours at our community libraries in Fairland, and Germantown, and Olney, and Silver Spring. Before I got on the Council, our library service on Sundays was restricted to the regional libraries.

I've also been very tenacious in supporting our capital budget to make sure that the Germantown Library finally gets built --- we're looking forward to a ribbon-cutting there; that the Rockville Library would get built --- it's under construction, I just went by it today in Rockville; and we're trying to move aggressively on the Silver Spring, Olney, and Clarksburg libraries as well.

We've had some rough times with the library budget, because unfortunately it ends up being a stepchild sometimes when the cuts are made. I've worked very hard on the Health and Human Services Committee to restore some of those funds --- I'm sure we'll have an opportunity to talk about that later --- but we have now moved to a point where in the last two years the budget that has been approved last year by us, and this year's recommended County Executive budget, will go from 31 million dollars to 37 million dollars in library services, restoring many of the cuts that occurred when we had a sort of mini-recession a few years ago.

I'm committed to continuing that effort through our budget process, and I want to make sure that I continue to work with our wonderful library community and users. I have wonderful childhood memories of my library in New Hampshire, and I want to make sure we all continue to have a library that we can be proud of.

Thank you.

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Anne Kilcullen Q.2:
Our next question is a follow-up to what Mr. Silverman mentioned. As you all know, there was a great reduction in library funding in 1999, where a good deal of money was cut from the books budget as well as the staffing budget.

We'd like to know how you would propose to raise the level of public library staffing to meet the great variety of County {Council} needs.

Steve Silverman Q.2:
Sure, let me just follow up. The last two years we've been able to fund the Executive's Budget with what was sent over, without having any reductions, and he'd included significant dollars --- last year three million dollars more than the previous year --- to make up for some of those cuts.

In Fiscal Year 04, a couple of years ago, during the Operating Budget, my colleagues on my committee, Tom Perez and George Leventhal and I, restored almost half a million dollars above and beyond what the County Executive had proposed, because we just didn't feel that it was an adequate amount of resources.

Some of that was also to accelerate the re-opening of the Bethesda Library. that's something I had wanted to open in July, when in fact it had been built. Unfortunately my other colleague, Mr. Dennis, and I could not convince our colleagues to open it up when it should have been opened, but we ended up getting it accelerated by a couple of months, to be able to get the Bethesda community the library opened in a timely manner.

We have to continue to look at, on a targeted basis, restoring the cuts that were made both in terms of circulation, the children's library provisions, plus the staff level that has been cut throughout the entire library system. We have to make sure that when folks go into the library, that it's not like going in to the Giant {Food Stores}--- that you can actually get service, that you actually have people who are in the library there to serve you, assist you, and you're not on your own. And I think that's a commitment that we all share, but the commitment really is going to be, and is, a matter of taking a look at our records, of putting additional dollars back into the library system.

Thank you.

Ike Leggett Q.2:
Well, I was not part of the cuts that were made in the last few years; I left the Council in 2002. But during my time on the Council from 1986 to 2002, let me give you a picture of what we were able to accomplish. We increased the budget of the libraries by 129 percent. We went from 13 million dollars to over 30 million dollars. We renovated and constructed 17 out of 22 libraries within the entire system.

There was a tremendous growth during that period of time. It was {is} a tremendous growth because we made the commitment that libraries were important.

Now the question is, how would you fund for future expansion, for future needs? Well, there are only two ways that we could do that. First of all, you have to make certain that we properly prioritize what is in the budget to make sure that libraries are an important part of the budget. Secondly, we have to make certain we do one other thing, that is, provide the revenues.

The revenues come from one of two ways. One-- by the general revenues that we have overall for the taxes; and secondly by fees. If we increase the level of fees, it will probably reduce the amount of access for some who cannot afford those fees.

I would approve trying to ensure that we provide additional revenues. We may not get there in one year; you've indicated four million dollars. But I pledge that we will do that at least over a period of time. But certainly, we have to provide the revenues in order to ensure that we have expanded hours, ensure that we have the facilities designed for all participants in this system.

Robin Ficker Q.2:
I'm going to make libraries my top priority, because I know that if you have a good teacher, and you have a good library, you have a well-educated child at the end of it all.

You have to make sure that the Tweedledum and Tweedledee candidates to my left tell the truth about libraries. In the last election I put a question on the ballot to compel the County Government to stick to the Charter property tax revenue limit. Mr. Silverman funded a mailing which went out saying, "Thanks to another bad idea from Robin Ficker, your future is at risk. Question A could cause the loss of eight libraries."

That's what Mr. Silverman funded, and of course Mr. Leggett, who never criticizes him, didn't say a word. He {Leggett} then put out a sample ballot for his party, saying that Question A, sticking to the Charter limit on property tax revenues, would hurt the County's flexibility in raising the funds necessary to meet the needs of the County.

Last year, the County stuck to the Charter property tax revenue limit. They did not close eight libraries, Mr. Silverman --- they didn't close any libraries.

I'm going to have a question on the ballot this year to reduce property tax revenues by the amount of revenue the County collects by having its piggy-back income tax over 50 percent, which will refund half the County's surplus to you, the taxpayer.

Mr. Silverman, what untruths are you going to say about the libraries when that question goes on the ballot? Mr. Leggett, are you going to once again remain silent, and say that if we cut our budget we're going to hurt our libraries? No!

Libraries are my top priority. We can keep taxes down, and we can make our libraries number one. I want to increase our library visitors from seven million people a year to twenty million.

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Anne Kilcullen Q.3:
We of the Library Board and the Friends of the Library are very, very concerned about the library budget, and we'd like to know if you would support a one-time appropriation of four million dollars to bring the Montgomery County Public Library funding back to 1999 levels in constant dollars.

Robin Ficker Q.3:
The problem with my opponents is that everything is a priority for them. When you go before the libraries, they say libraries are a priority. Housing, housing is a priorty. Everything is a priority.

I can tell you, promise you, libraries are my number one priority. I grew up in a library household. I don't think we need a four million dollar increase in the library budget. I think we need a forty million dollar increase in the library budget. I think we need kids learning to make a habit of going to the libraries, and we're going to have productive citizens.

The people of Montgomery County, one third have gone to graduate school, two-thirds have graduated from college. They have children who want to learn. The library is {are} where you get your education, it's where you take your trips, it's where you learn how animals think when they're out in the woods, it's where you learn which places in the world to visit, it's where you learn what happened in U.S. history, in European history --- it's a wonderful place.

And I'm going to encourage the youngsters, and I have three children who want to buy a home in Montgomery County when it gets affordable, I have three children who expect to have families in Montgomery County, and I want to make sure every little boy and girl uses the library --- get away from that TV set, come to the library, and learn how to be a thinker, think for yourself, be productive.

And I'm going to --- forget the four million --- forty million dollar increase in the library budget. And I'm not going to go to other groups and say I'm going to increase their budget by that amount.

But for you folks, yes Sir.

Ike Leggett Q.3:
Financial responsibility --- let me remind you that I am the author of the Charter review limit spending affordability process in Montgomery County, and I support the Charter.

However, we cannot, as Mr. Ficker has just indicated, increase the budget 40 million dollars in libraries, hold spending constant, and maintain our ability to stay within or below the Charter amendment. That's simply not possible.

I'm not going to stand here and tell you that I'm flat out going to provide four million dollars. It is a top priority for me. And I believe that we can do it. And I promise to make certain that we do everything in my powers as County Executive to ensure that we get to that number. But to stand here and say that we're going to automatically find four million dollars at one time, in one spot, I'm not sure that I'm going to say that.

That is not what I'm about in terms of County Executive. I believe that we can get there. But it's a responsibility to look at all facets of the budget, and to make certain that we provide the revenues that are necessary, and if we can get there, I pledge to do it.

Steve Silverman Q.3:
Well, it's hard to know where to start. I wasn't very good at math, but I think even our youngest people can figure out that you can't on the one hand promise a doubling, more than doubling, of the library budget, 40 million dollars --- the library budget proposed right now by the County Executive is 37 million --- but now on the one hand you propose doubling the library budget, but then, by the way, you want to take away-- I don't know, 150, 200 million dollars, Robin-- because that's what the impact would be of this ballot initiative. The fact of the matter is, we have to have responsible government; people have to understand that you get what you pay for.

My response to the issue of the four million dollar lump sum, is I want to take a look through our budget process this spring and figure out, with the additional six million dollars that we will have put into the library budget this year and last year, whether in fact we will get to where you want to get to. And that's my commitment: to work through what those numbers are, to figure out if we've restored the kind of positions that are necessary.

But I think we also need to take a look at our library system for the twenty-first century. The library is no longer just simply a place where you go in, you get a book, and you leave. It's become an extraordinary tool for our immigrant community, an extraordinary opportunity to access the worldwide web in a way that no one could have imagined years ago, and I'm very pleased to be working closely with Parker Hamilton {said "Henderson"} who is the new head of our library system.

She was assistant CAO {Asst. Chief Administrative Officer in the Executive Branch of the Montgomery County Government}, and we're able to look at a strategic plan for the next five years or the next ten years, because I think the focus really has to be where do we go with the library system as a whole.

It's not just about whether you're putting dollars into the library system, it's whether you're putting the dollars in in the right and strategic way, as we've done with our school system and as we've done with other departments in the County.

That's my commitment, and I'll continue it.

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Anne Kilcullen Q.4:
As you can see from the questions, we're very concerned about providing staff and good things in the library for people to come in and receive, but we're also concerned about library facilities.

As our circulation goes up and the number of visits to the library increases every single year, our library facilities are not being kept up. We're very very concerned about the upkeep. Building maintenance is not part of individual departments in Montgomery County; it's set up within the Department of Public Works and Transportation.

Are you aware that there are libraries that have over fifteen-year-old carpets? So we have children inhaling the germs of decades at library programs, and we'd like to know how you'll address this problem of the upkeep, and the cleaning, and the updating of facilities.

Ike Leggett Q.4:
It is totally unacceptable for us to have carpet that is fifteen years old.

We don't have to wait for next year, or five years from now, when I am elected County Executive to do that. We could do that right now, because it doesn't require that much money and resources in order to take out the kinds of carpets that are causing the problems you just described. If that exists today, we should remove it, front and center.

In terms of ongoing maintenance, we have to go back again to our Capital Budget and Operating Budget. We should be able to adjust our resources within the framework that I've described before, with additional revenues and possibly some additional fees, to ensure, A, that we have the ongoing capital expansion that we need, but also make certain that we can operate within the existing system that we maintain our libraries.

There's no justification for us to have libraries where roofs are leaking, where we have carpets that are not properly kept, where we have HVAC {HAV} maintenance problems throughout our library system. Many of those things can be corrected. But we do that on a systematic basis. And this is what we started years ago in the school system, whereby we provided an ongoing maintenance budget, primarily for schools. And we were able to reduce significantly the amounts of problems and difficulties and maintenance throughout the year.

We can apply that same approach to libraries, and to make certain that they are operating in an efficient manner and do not have the kinds of problems that you've just described.

Steve Silverman Q.4:
Well, we've looked at this issue for the past couple of years on the HHS Committee and you're absolutely right. The fundamental problem is this: we have not focused on our infrastructure county-wide.

We've got more than just libraries. We've got mold in portables in the schools, our community recreation centers have challenges, there's a sound system at the Schweinhaut Center that I'm committed to repairing this year, it's only $10,000. The reality is we have only in the last year and a half done a comprehensive review of our infrastructure needs in the county.

And it's really simply this: we all love, as I know you know, we all love to go out to ribbon-cuttings for new facilities. But there aren't a lot of ribbon-cuttings for carpet replacement. {laughter} Maybe if there were then we would have an opportunity to be funding these things at a higher level.

I kid, but the reality is this: we now have a document that was an infrastructure task force last year, and the Council has had reports last year and this year --- we put an additional seven million dollars, above and beyond what the County Executive proposed, this past year in the budget for infrastructure maintenance across the board. Some of that money went into the library maintenance as well. But I think that what we need to do is take advantage of our current economic climate.

The economy is good, and that means that we ought to be taking some of these revenues that we now have and putting them into the kind of one-time expenditures that we have neglected for many years. I'm not quite sure what Ike is talking about in terms of increasing fees and increasing revenues. We have all the revenues we need right now to get the job done.

What we have to do is make sure is that instead of misprioritizing the resources that we have, that we look at putting the revenues that we have right now as a result of a good economy into the one-time expenditures that we have unfortunately neglected for too long.

Robin Ficker Q.4:
You need a change in the Montgomery County Government.

These guys have been there. They haven't improved the libraries. The number of visitors has stayed about the same. We need a change.

I know that the smartest person picks the best brains, and the best brains are in the library --- they're in books. We want to encourage our young people to come to the libraries. We've got to maintain the libraries. If I have to start and go to the Giant and rent a steam-cleaner, I'll help you clean the rug, or get a new rug. We need to put the money into the libraries.

The county budget, in Fiscal Year 98 was two billion. In Fiscal Year 04, three billion. And this next year, it's almost four billion. A billion dollars is a lot of money. We can find 10 million, 20 million, to put into Montgomery County libraries.

This is the highest level of education in the United States, on the average, in Montgomery County.

Why don't we have the best libraries in the United States? That's the way I look at it.

And I think that if we make it a priority and forget some of these other priorities --- Strathmore is nice, but a hundred million dollars for Strathmore? The maintenance budget, out of 17 million, one million dollars goes there.

We need to spend more money on our libraries instead of talking about slots and nonproductive exercises. Productive exercises take place in the library. That's where kids and young people and adults get the incentive to improve their lives and the lives of others, to get that advanced degree. I've got three college degrees, and I realize now, I think I know now, that I know less than when I started going to college, because there's so much that you can learn, and the library's the place to learn.

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Anne Kilcullen Intro to Sam Freedenberg:
Thank you. I'd like to now introduce Sam Freedenberg, who is going to ask the questions that you've submitted.

Sam Freedenberg Intro:
My name is Sam Freedenberg. I am the chairman of the Aspen Hill Library Advisory Committee, and I am co-President of the Aspen Hill Friends of the Library. I just wanted to remind you that this event was set up by the Chevy Chase Friends of the Library, and sponsored by the Friends of the Library in Montgomery County.

I have questions for the candidates that you gave me tonight, and I wanted to assure you that the candidates have agreed to answer all of the questions that have been submitted that we may not have time to get to tonight, and that they will be posted on the LibrariesFriend web site which is --- I'm sure most of you are familiar with that site. So, I'd like to continue, and Mr. Leggett will be the first to be asked this question.

Sam Freedenberg Q.5:
Would you support linking school and library funding?

Ike Leggett Q.5:
I'm not precisely sure what you mean by "linking schools and library funding". I do not believe that the libraries should be an integral part of the public schools budget.

I do believe, however, that we should properly fund the libraries. There are many things that overlap between public education and the library system itself.

One of the things that I think would be a very very disastrous problem for the library system would be to be caught up in the public schools system, impacted by the cuts and the changes that occur there. I would hate to have the library become simply a small minority portion of the overall schools budget. We can better prioritize that, look at that so the public is sure what we see, and not have it buried within the school system's budget.

The library is an integral part of the educational process. However, having the library budget separate, so the citizens know what we fund, why we fund it, and the resources that we are going to utilize in order to make those funds happen, is what I think is important. Simply burying it within the school system, I think would be wrong.

Steve Silverman Q.5:
If the suggestion is that there should be some linkage through some type of a formula, I think that creates a challenge. I think it creates a challenge simply because there are so many services in this county, besides library services, that have a claim on our tax dollars.

I think a system that allows a debate like this to take place is indicative of the interest that our community has in library services, and I look forward to continuing over the next two months to work with many of the library advocates to make sure there's an appropriate share of the budget provided for library services.

I think what is important in terms of linkage is that we understand that we have a library system that is used by our kids, as well as some of us who aren't kids any more. And the reality of that is we need to have I think a greater working relationship between our school system and our library system to make sure that they work together, that there is more communication. This is a real challenge.

The school system's budget is 1.8 billion dollars. They've got a lot of people floating around in administration, and we need to figure out a way to make sure that they're working together with the head of our library system and the appropriate branches, to make sure that there are opportunities for partnerships. That's what I think we need to do in terms of the linkage issue.

But I think it will be a real challenge to start talking about formulas. I also want to commend, I should have at the beginning, the Friends of the Library, all the Friends of the Libraries, and those people who serve on our Library Advisory Committees, I think there are 19 or 20 of them now, who take the time out of their schedules to work raising money for their local libraries and helping to support our library system, and mostly letting us know what's necessary in the system. I think that through that type of working relationship we're going to be able to find the appropriate level of funding for a first-class library system.

Thank you.

Robin Ficker Q.5:
Well, Steve earlier referred to the library system as a stepchild in the budget process. That's going to change when I'm elected County Executive; it's not going to be a stepchild any more. It's going to be a proud son or daughter who likes to spend time doing productive things.

As the twig is bent, so grows the tree. Mr. Wiest knows that. {Jerry Weist, head of the Montgomery County Public School System} He knows that it's a very good life skill to get kids in the habit of going to the libraries early on, and I will sit down and talk with him and work out some way to increase linkages between the school system and the libraries.

I can't think of a better place to be, as a child, than in the library. That habit is formed at a young age, in the age when kids are in school, and I think there needs to be a linkage in the budget. Why should the libraries be a stepchild? They shouldn't be.

I think that we've been missing out on promoting libraries to our youngsters. There should be field trips to the libraries --- teach the kids --- I know there are libraries in the schools, but they aren't as complete as the main libraries. There should be field trips on the part of the classes, to the schools, to the libraries, and I think that it will be a good idea to promote linkages between the school system and the libraries.

Why Mr. Wiest hasn't done this to a greater extent, I think it's just because the County Executive hasn't sat down with him and promoted it. It's because Mr. Silverman on the Council hasn't sat down and promoted it. It's because when Mr. Leggett was on the council he didn't sit down and promote it. I'm going to promote it. I'm going to sit down with him and talk about how we can increase access to our libraries, instead of TV and less productive exercises.

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Sam Freedenberg Q.6:
Given advances in information technologies, what is your vision to enhance new technologies throughout our libraries?

Steve Silverman Q.6:
We need to implement the strategic plan for libraries, which basically calls for a significant increase in technology in our library system. We aren't where we need to get to, and again, those are the kind of things which are one-time expenditures which we can use some of the resources that we've been getting this year and are projected to come in in the future --- I think there are some real opportunities there.

The library of the future is going to be very different from the library that I grew up with in New Hampshire. And by that I mean, that we need to make sure that there is sufficient space for computer access, Internet access. I mentioned earlier that we've got an incredibly diverse immigrant community. And even though we are one of the most wired counties in the country, in terms of technology in our homes, the reality is that when you talk about a 93% Internet access rate in the homes, you're talking about a lot of people for that extra 7%, and a lot of people in our lower-income communities who are not able to get access to the Internet like my son or your children are.

So I want to make sure that we invest in technology in our libraries, we provide the space, we have the resource folks in the library system to assist people, and that we utilize this not only for our kids but for our business community. We've got a tremendous amount of small businesses in this community who use our library system for research, for business access. It's something that we're going to reinstate in the Rockville Library when it opens, hopefully later this year. But those are the kind of uses of technology that we haven't had in the past, and I think we can move forward with if we simply implement the plans that are on the table.

Thank you.

Ike Leggett Q.6:
We've talked about one-time technology, and that's very good today, in today's climate, under the existing budget that the county is currently evaluating. But I've been around long enough to know that when we have one-time expenditures, and the way the budget flows in and out, from one year to another --- that is not something that is likely to last. This is why I urge that we review our fee structure. This is why I urge that we look at how we can dedicate funds, so that we can ensure that we have the technology, not just today, but ongoing, to ensure that we have it as relates to the future as well, to respond to the problems of maintenance that we have in our library system.

We need to have ongoing dedicated resources in order to ensure that we can resolve this problem, not just today, but over a long period of time. As it relates to technology per se, we can do both. I don't think there's a choice that we have to make between technology and providing the books and hard resources that we need in the libraries today.

We are going to be, comparatively, one of the best wired communities, if not the best in the entire country. The problem for us is that there are large numbers of people out there, especially seniors and those without access, who cannot take advantage of this technology. We need to do both. We can do both. But we are not going to do it simply looking at one-year one-time dedicated funding.

Robin Ficker Q.6:
Well, you need a county executive that has a scientific bent and technological bent. I do have a degree in engineering from Case Institute of Technology.

I note that the average number of people using public Internet workstations per public service hour per branch of the library is only 13. That's too low a number. The average percentage of time that public Internet workstations are used in the library system is only about 50%. That's too low a number.

I don't think people know that these workstations are available. The number of public Internet workstations in the library system is only 317. While my opponents, while our opponents have been in office, the number of public workstations has increased over the last few years only about 30 workstations. Where have they been? Why haven't they been increasing the number of workstations? The Interet has been increasing-- Internet usage has been increasing exponentially. Why has the increase in workstations in our libraries been increasing only at a flat line, and a not very fast-rising flat line as it is?

We need a new approach to Internet access in our libraries. We need to have rooms as big as this, filled with workstations, so people can come in and use the Internet, and use advanced technology, use the minds in Silicon Valley and up on I-270 to access the information.

There's only one medical library in Montgomery County, but we should be able to access it in all our local libraries by having a large number of workstations. Where have these guys been? Why have our workstations been increasing on a flat line instead of on a 60-degree increase?

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Sam Freedenberg Q.7:
This next question is going to be a little bit more personal. What book are you reading now, or what is the last book you read, and what is the book that has had the most influence on your life and why?

Robin Ficker Q.7:
Well, I'm reading the same book you are, if you go to the movies. You think who won the Academy Awards recently, who played Truman Capote in the movies --- IN COLD BLOOD.

I never read it when it came out, but it was given to me by a friend recently, and that guy could write a book! I'm telling you, his vocabulary flows, the language is masterful, and I'm enjoying that right now. I'm on page 80. The family was just shot, and now we're going after the killers.

The books that influenced me the most in my life were the Great Books of the Western World, the Syntopicon. They came out in a set of 60-some books, and when I was in high school I'd sent away a card that I'd seen in LIFE magazine or NEWSWEEK, one of the magazines, and I wanted to talk to someone about the Great Books of the Western World.

Well, to my house came a salesman, and I found out after I bought a set of those books and went into debt to buy it myself, on my own meagre budget as a high schooler, I found out that that guy had made 60 straight sales. Well, I still have that set of Great Books of the Western World, and the Syntopicon is a marvel to me, because you can look up a topic and see what the great authors in history have said about that topic, and it's a wonderful thing. I commend it to you. I'm sure that you have your books, your favorite books in mind, but take a look at the Great Books of the Western World.

Ike Leggett Q.7:
I'm currently reading Bill Clinton's book. {crowd noise, some boos, then some laughter and applause}

The book that has had probably the greatest impact on me is one that many of you probably have not heard of. It's called THE AMERICAN SOUTH, prepared by a college professor at Southern University, by the name of Jason Cloud {?sp?}. And what he did was to track the lives of African Americans as they interrelated to many of the problems and challenges of the South, the migration from the South to the North, and the struggles that African Americans had over large periods of time.

That book, I think, reflects two things. One, it reflects the challenges and difficulties that many of us face, and it reflects also opportunity, access. People were able to move, people were able to fight and move for change, that I think clearly reflects part of my life.

This is why as a young person I got very actively involved in the civil rights movement, actively involved as a student government president at Southern University, leading most of the civil rights demonstrations and boycotts and pickets in and around Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

That has had a profound impact on my life, because now I see that we can make change in this country, that we can have people who are responsible in leadership positions, and that we can ensure that we have the access, the opportunity, and hope for all Americans.

Thank you.

Steve Silverman Q.7:
Well, I grew up an only child in New Hampshire, had a very happy life. My parents were voracious readers. This was prior to video games. We only had one TV in our house. So I spent a lot of time going back and forth to our local library getting anything that I could get my hands on.

I spent a lot of time reading HARDY BOYS, and in fact I know how old I am now because every time I go into a library I sneak over to the mystery section, to the young kids' mystery section, and see what number they're up to. Well, when I stopped reading them they were up to about 45, and now they're at like 190, so I know there are still a few out there.

I read a lot of biographies, and I can't stand here and say there's one book that had the most impact on my life. But I read virtually all the biographies that I could find, the Presidents, the inventors, the leaders in this country, and I've tried to continue to do that, when I'm not reading Council packets for the next Health and Human Services work session, then I do try to gravitate back to biographies.

The one I think I've enjoyed the most recently was T REX, about the life of Teddy Roosevelt, because what it really showed --- and the one I'm reading right now is on Lincoln, the new book on Lincoln, by Doris Kearns Goodwin --- which interestingly enough of course are two Republicans --- but they both are indicative of great leaders who overcame tremendous adversity, who had a clear vision about where they wanted to take the country, and how they did not let the adversity which they suffered, either in their personal lives or as elected officials, get in the way.

The life and times of Teddy Roosevelt, a young sickly kid with asthma, rising up to just a remarkable series of accomplishments, is a testament to what people can do in this country, and it provides me the kind of regular inspiration to know that when people work together they can get the job done. And I look forward to doing that as your County Executive.

Thank you.

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Sam Freedenberg Q.8:
This question is: for the good of all of us in the county, can you commit to providing full two-person staffing at the Correctional Facility Library, in the interest of staff safety and the ability to carry out the library's role in the rehabilitation of people now in jail?

Ike Leggett Q.8:
We have a real problem in our institutions in trying to provide access and opportunity for those who are incarcerated. I believe that the library system, and those who receive the information and books in the correctional facility, have done a pretty good job. They are clearly challenged and stressed by the number of people who are trying to do this very difficult job. But there are also some other needs in the library system.

I think this is a worthy goal, one that I would look at, but I am not going to promise to fill that in terms of a precise number, to say, before I've looked at the complete numbers and budgets of the library system, to say that we would have two people, or two staff persons, designated to the corrections system.

It is something that I would clearly look at, and evaluate, and I think that it's a worthy goal, and hopefully we can fund that. But I am not going to stand here and say to you that I would automatically do that, and there's a place to do that, when we do not have the full array of all the library needs before us.

I hope that we can do that, and I pledge to look very carefully at that because I think that it is an important priority. But to stand here and give you a promise that I would automatically do that, when we have other library needs that we have talked about today, is something that I would evaluate and look at very carefully.

Steve Silverman Q.8:
Yes. This isn't much money. We've got, in this year-- of all years-- we can certainly put in the additional dollars for this. I've just met with Art Wallenstein {?sp} who runs our corrections facilities, a few days ago to talk about conditions in the jail. But more importantly, what we need to be doing in order to have a cost-effective jail system. That was one of the topics we talked about. But we also have to go beyond, quite frankly, just the library system at the jail; that's fine, and we should be able to do that.

We have a tremendous need for mental health services in our jails {said "libraries"}. Another topic that is covered by the committee that I serve on, Health and Human Services, is mental health services in this county. Before I got to the Council, I served on the Board of Directors of the Mental Health Association. And like many of you, I have many friends and acquaintances who have suffered mental illness and need support.

In our jail system, probably about a third of the people that are in our jail system are there because of primarily mental illness. And what we need to do is to broaden our view of the corrections system, to get away from just "let's lock 'em up and throw away the key" to a system that does focus on rehabilitation, and not end up having our mental health system be linked to our corrections system as just simply the place where folks who are mentally ill end up going.

What Art and I talked about, and I think this is where we need to go, is to look at providing the kind of mental services that are necessary in the corrections system, so that folks get, if they need drugs that they need to have, they'll get them, if they need the counseling then they'll get the counseling as well.

We have just not provided the kind of services --- to be frank about it, not a huge constituency. We don't have a lot of people coming in a budget tim wearing t-shirts saying fund mental health services or the library for the jail system. But if we want to stop the revolving door and be the compassionate county we hope to be, then that's where I think we have to start looking at resources.

Thank you.

Robin Ficker Q.8:
Well, I know one thing: if we kept you good folks in this room for a year, you'd read a lot of books. Who's got more time to read books than anyone else? The people that are in jail; they can't go anywhere. And they need it.

I'm just getting started in my defense practice. I've only done 20,000 cases so far. I know a lot of people who have spent time in jail. I know why they're there: drugs, alcohol, lack of education.

We need an extra person in the Detention Center, so these fellows --- they're mostly fellows, not entirely --- can get a good education and learn to lead a productive live.

And the way they learn that is by learning from the mistakes of others --- you read about that in books --- to learn of the successes of others --- you learn about that by reading books. And they've got the time to read books.

We should make our library facilities available to each and every inmate, help them get their GEDs. I know these folks; they've got the time. Many of them don't want to keep living the life they've been living.

They want to make a change, just like you want to make a change in your County Government, they want to make a change in their lives. And libraries are the way to do it. They've got the time.

Let's have some people-- more people -- making these books available to the guys so that they can learn a life-skill so they won't go back in, so they won't be repeaters, so they won't be one of my best customers and keep coming back every year.

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Sam Freedenberg Intro to Summations
We've reached the end of the question and answer period of the program for this evening. Again, any additional questions that were asked, that might even now be in that jar over there, we will make sure that the candidates respond to them, and that they are on the LibrariesFriend web site. To complete our program tonight we will allow each candidate to speak for three minutes about library service.

First, however, I do have a statement from Chuck Floyd, the Republican candidate who could not be here tonight. With your permission I will read his statement.

Sam Freedenberg reads Chuck Floyd's statement aloud:
I am sorry that I cannot attend tonight's event. I thought I would be back from a business trip to CA, but unfortunately I am held over for another day. I want to thank everyone for attending tonight since debates about the issues affecting Montgomery County are very important in educating the voters.

Just a quick background on myself. I am a retired U.S. Army officer, a former diplomat working for Colin Powell at the U.S. Department of State, a small business owner, and currently a security and government contracts consultant. My wife, Kathryn, and I live in Kensington with our two daughters, Anna (8) and Julia (13).

I graduated from the University of Richmond and have two masters' degrees in business, along with a Command and General Staff College degree from the U.S. Army's master degree level program at Fort Leavenworth.

I have always used public libraries and I am a big supporter of the public library system. We take our daughters to several of the public libraries in the county all the time. Public libraries are part of the government's responsibility of public service to its citizens. I will fully support the libraries in Montgomery County, but will seek to change a few of the current policies.

First, I will ensure that the Homeland Security Department has a “real” mission dealing with homeland security---not policing libraries. The library staff and the county police can handle any public safety issues that may arise.

Second, I will support free parking at the libraries for citizens who want to use these public facilities.

Third, I want to protect free speech, yet my top priority is to protect our children by a policy of “no porn” in our libraries. If an individual wants to view porn, then it can be accomplished in non-public places where children will not be exposed to porn. Is it illegal to yell “fire” in a public place? Is it common sense to protect children? Does our society try to protect children from sexual predators? I do not think that the taxpayers should fund someone's habit of looking at porn. I will be a leader in protecting our children from porn in the government (i.e. schools, libraries).

Sam Freedenberg Intro2 to Summations
We will now take statements. The candidates will have three minutes to speak about library service and any issues that they might not have touched on tonight that they would like to convey to us. We will begin with Mr. Silverman.

Steve Silverman Summation
Thank you very much, and I appreciate your hosting this event for us. I said a little earlier, and I want to say again, how much those of us who have served on the Health and Human Services Committee appreciate the great work of our library folks, but also the Friends of the Library and the Library Advisory Committees. You're the eyes and ears of our system, and frankly, in my seven years going through seven budgets on the Council you've been very helpful in providing me with advice about what you think really needs to be a priority within our library system's budget.

I do want to take a minute and comment on the free parking issue. I'm one of the cosponsors of the free parking resolution which is about to pass the Council. We will find the resources to make sure that parking is free throughout our library system. The position that has been taken by others in connection with the Rockville Library was something that wasn't thoroughly discussed two years ago. We were too busy trying to make sure that the library would get built in the first place. But now that we're at that point where it's going to open, I think it's going to be very important that we keep a commitment to make sure that our library system does in fact remain free. And a resolution which just passed through the committee that I'm on, two to one, which will go to the full Council I think next week, will provide free library parking not only at Rockville, but also at Bethesda, where there's been metered parking for years. We'll figure out, technologically, how to do that. But the commitment that I have made as a co-sponsor of the resolution is to ensure that we don't charge people to park to use our library system.

The election's only six months away, so you'll have plenty of opportunity to review the Democratic Primary race between Ike and me over the next six months. I will just share with you that I've had the pleasure of working for many years with many of you in this room, and thousands elsewhere. I have an established co-chaired committee of a little over fifty honorary co-chairs who represent the diversity and face of Montgomery County, many of whom I work with on Silver Spring revitalization issues, as I did for years before I got on the Council. And we have over a thousand community activists who have joined our effort to make sure Montgomery County becomes a better place.

We need to make sure we are continuing to recognize our priorities, not only in our library system, but to provide affordable housing, traffic congestion relief, a quality education system --- these are the things we need to concentrate on. And working together I know we can get the job done for Montgomery County. I ask for your support on September 12th, and I look forward to being your County Executive.

Thank you very much.

Robin Ficker Summation
Well, I think I've lived in Montgomery County as long as the other three candidates put together, and if we all learned about Montgomery County at the same rate, I'll let you conclude who knows more about Montgomery County than the other candidates. We have to be able to get to the libraries. I'm in favor of a new bridge across the Potomac, at Muddy Branch.

I'm in favor of extending Metro to Germantown, and of linking up as we should have done 25 years ago, and these guys haven't done, the Silver Spring and Bethesda Metro stations. We have to be able to get around. Our two main streets in Montgomery County are clogged most of the day. One little truck can shut down Montgomery County; that's not right.

And there's going to be a change coming. I'm going to be thinking about you citizens --- not what the developers want me to do; because I'm not taking developer funding in this campaign. When Mr. Leggett was on the Council, from 94-98, 64% of his funding came from developers. When Mr. Silverman was Chairman of the Council he spent his time vacuuming up developer money, to the tune of 70% of his campaign funding.

The developers are going to take a back seat to you, the citizen. I'm going to be thinking of your schools, your libraries, your transportation, what you want for your children, what you want for your parents, helping you.

I've lived all my life here in Montgomery County. My children have lived all their lives here in Montgomery County. My folks came here in 1933. I'm from Montgomery County, I'm a Montgomery County guy, and I know we have to have successful, blossoming libraries in Montgomery County for our youngsters, our oldsters, and all those in between.

I'm going to be not a friend of the library --- I'm going to be a best friend of the library. That's going to be a priority, and I'm not going to go to other groups and tell them they're {said "that's"} going to be my priority. This is my priority, and I hope that you consider me an independent running for County Executive.

There's need for a change in Montgomery County, not more of the same. We can do better. So, I ask for your vote in November.

I'm looking forward to representing you. And I'm going to have open hours, starting at 7:30 Monday morning, where anyone can come, without an appointment. We're not even going to have a door on our County Executive office, because it's going to be your office, not the developers' office.

Ike Leggett Summation
I thank all of you for coming out this evening.

I guess you know that all of the candidates here, and all the candidates in the history of politics in Montgomery County, have all been for libraries. That's no secret.

The question that you need to answer is, "Who can best deliver?" Who can look at the budget, analyze it appropriately, and look at the long term and determine how we are going to fund all of those things which we clearly agree.

We heard a statement earlier about a resolution to provide free parking. Well, as indicated before, I'm not on the Council. But before the council acted, I had already acted and indicated very clearly to the public that I believe all libraries should provide the public free parking in Montgomery County.

When you go back, when you evaluate the time that I've served on the Council, from 1986 to 2002, simply look at the record --- look at the revenues provided by the Council in the time that I served. We increased the {Libraries} budget in Montgomery County 129%. We built, renovated, 17 of 22 libraries, and we did it all in the time that I served on the County Council. It is important for us to look forward.

Some time ago Ms. Dickerson here --- who's been very active in library concerns for a long period of time --- exactly seven years ago, almost to this day, she appeared before the County Council, and in her testimony she said two things that I think I remember from that day --- one of which is, she thanked the Council for our “Children First Initiative”, an initiative that I started, designed to help all of us get our children involved in the library in our entire school system.

She said something else. She said that we shape buildings initially; thereafter, the buildings shape us. What is meant by that, is that if we build libraries, if we make the construction, we involve the investment in our community, then the libraries will help to shape us as a community, because it will reflect our values, it will reflect our concerns, and the aspiration for a lifetime of learning. That's what you're going to get with Ike Leggett as County Executive.

Thank you very much.

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Sam Freedenberg Thank Yous
First, I'd like to thank all the candidates for their coming here tonight, for answering all of our questions and thank them in advance for answering the questions that we will have in the future. I want to encourage everybody to stay involved --- the election is in November, and don't wait until the last minute.

The Primary is in September, and the General Election is in November. Stay involved, stay active, and thank you again to the candidates, thank you all for coming. We have refreshments here, and you're free to stick around.

We have this room until eleven o'clock tonight. {laughter, and applause}

Edited and annotated for clarity; please credit
Transcription doc file

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