David Yungmann: On the RecordI care deeply about our community. That is why I feel it important to be open and transparent about where I stand on the issues.
Q. The Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) is lauded as one of our great assets in Howard County. Where does it fit within your priorities?
A. Our home values and, for many, our quality of life, depend on the outstanding reputation of our schools. I have been a very active participant for nearly two decades in the grassroots efforts to shape its policy, governance and the conditions of its individual schools. I am, however, cautious on budgetary issues, and believe that our school spending must be balanced with other County priorities and services that also contribute to the quality of life in Howard County.
Q. What form does that budgetary caution take in your mind?
A. The school system’s budget is more than 50% of the total county budget and accountability of those funds has been inadequate in the past. I support efforts by the County Executive to have greater oversight on HCPSS spending and favor a reasonable audit process. Due to maintenance of effort requirements, this year’s budget becomes a floor for future years, even if the County experiences financial challenges, so we must always be thinking long-term on salaries, administrative structure, debt and operational efficiency.
Q. What about school overcrowding?
A. We have complex APFO (adequate public facilities ordinance) regulations and numerous districts closed to development, yet several schools are grossly overcrowded due to poor HCPSS planning tools and deficiencies in APFO itself. HCPSS must develop better ways to project enrollment from both new homes and turnover of existing communities, as well as methods to meet short-term capacity challenges without excessive construction or redistricting. Knowing school construction needs will always exist, I question why the County allocates the largest portion of developer impact fees to subsidize affordable housing and only half as much to school construction.
ZONING AND DEVELOPMENT
Q. Zoning, development, and land use are some of the most contentious issues in local government. What are your guiding principles regarding this set of issues?
A. I’ve devoted hundreds of hours to development and zoning issues over the years – from my involvement in the redevelopment of Downtown Columbia to leading the opposition to the Dar-Us-Salam mosque/school project in Cooksville. I try to evaluate all of these issues using a few basic principles.
- Predictability: Property owners, including both residents and businesses, deserve to know how they can use their property, how their neighbors can use their properties, and what the immediate community will look like into the future. Our zoning code is outdated and littered with a patchwork of ambiguity and loopholes. There are too many ways through which the intensity level of property uses can be increased unless existing communities mount opposition efforts.
- Protection of Existing Communities: Residents should not carry such a high burden to protect their existing communities from incompatible development. Changes such as conditional uses should place that burden on the applicant to demonstrate how the use meets a community need and doesn’t negatively impact the existing neighborhoods.
- Rural Preservation: The capacity and intensity of certain uses provided for in the zoning code should be smaller in scale and intensity in the Rural Conservation and Rural Residential districts than what would be permitted for the same use in the higher density areas of the County. I also oppose any expansion of the Planned Service Area that would extend public water and sewer.
- Sustainability: The County can provide services most efficiently in higher density areas. These walkable, connected areas are also in high demand by millennials and empty nesters, employers and other businesses. I favor this highly sustainable development (and redevelopment) over expansion of the suburbs or development of the Rural West.
Q. What zoning and development issues are particularly important in District 5, home to the County’s agriculture/farming industry and most of its undeveloped property?
Agriculture: Farming and agriculture is our County’s oldest industry, the promotion of which continues to be a major priority pursuant to our General Plan. We still have dozens of generational farm families, many of which made the preservation of over 30,000 acres of land in our County possible, who are dedicated to their businesses, community and industry. But residential development and increasing regulations have presented growing challenges for the farming industry. I wholly support the right of farmers to conduct a full range of agricultural activities on their properties and exploring opportunities to promote the industry to our next generations. The education of Council members and others in County government on these unique issues is a key responsibility of the District 5 representative.
Supply of Land: As land grows scarce in the eastern parts of the County, organizations and businesses are looking west for large parcels that are more plentiful. The restrictions on residential development have made these parcels even more affordable so they are increasingly attractive for uses such as schools, churches and businesses. Our loose zoning regulations provide far too many opportunities for these types of buyers to increase the intensity of use on these large parcels beyond what is compatible with the rural residential community the County wants to maintain.
Overcrowded Schools: Many neighborhoods in the eastern section of the District are dealing with overcrowded schools and/or concerns over redistricting to cure overcrowding at a neighboring school. All long-term projections support the need for an additional elementary school in the Rt. 40 corridor and other additional capacity which I support. See the Education section above for more discussion about planning and growth issues.
Traffic: Several roads, especially arterials such as Rt. 99, Rt. 40 and Rt. 97, are virtually gridlocked, especially at rush hour. Rt. 99 in particular has become dangerous for residents attempting to drive in and out of the many neighborhoods. Traffic studies for new development and road improvement should focus more on peak hours.
Q. How does the opioid crisis affect District 5?
A. I support all efforts to educate citizens about the dangers of unused prescription drugs, including the existing initiatives of County Executive Kittleman, as that addiction leads to heroin abuse. We need to focus attention and enforcement in the Rt. 70/40 corridor, a prominent thoroughfare in District 5, on which much of the transport, distribution and use of heroin is centered. The heroin crisis, however, affects more than just opiate users and dealers; there is a significant auxiliary effect of increases in other crimes, such as robberies, muggings, car-jackings, etc. by repeat offenders fueled by their heroin addiction.
Q. Where do you stand on illegal immigration in the county?
A. It’s not complicated at all. Our county government has an obligation – indeed, elected officials have a sworn obligation – to defend our state and federal constitutions, county charter and standing laws. The cost of illegal immigration – increased education costs, crime, inundation of our hospital and other health centers and taxing of our first responders – is all borne by the legal citizens and taxpayers of Howard County. We must continue our valuable working relationship with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) which plays a critical role in our law enforcement successes.
Q. What public-safety concerns do you have that might fly below the radar for most people?
A. Because Howard is an affluent county, few people appreciate the amount of domestic violence, human/child trafficking and other crimes our first responders encounter. Both police and fire & rescue are continually stretched by our growing population. The over 100 languages spoken in the County present a crucial need for training so first responders can effectively communicate with all citizens. I’m also concerned that our rapidly growing senior population continue to be the targets of everything from fraud to violent crime.
Q. What are our strengths and advantages?
A. I see our strengths in two key areas:
- People: Our personnel are dedicated, smart and focused. We’ll continue to make consistent training a priority and ensure that all personnel are required to meet a consistent high standard of expertise and capability for their specific role
- Innovation: All of our public safety teams use extensive data and systems to track service and outcomes. These tools lead to initiatives such as the successful Repeat Offender Unit. Police use data to implement innovative early intervention and tracking systems for domestic violence. Both police and fire & rescue uses data to ensure exceptional response times in the face of population growth and density changes, especially in the Rt. 1 Corridor, Downtown Columbia and the West.
Q. What’s your position on Public Campaign Financing?
A. I will never support taxpayer money being spent on campaigns unless it is 100% voluntary and does not place administrative burdens on the County. I was disappointed that the Howard County Council passed a bill in June 2017 to model Montgomery County’s system of taxpayer-funded elections, and I’m proud of our current District 5 Councilman, Greg Fox, who was the lone vote against the bill. Although I am open to discussing ways to reduce the influence of large donors on our local elections, a taxpayer should never have to contribute his or her hard-earned money to a politician who will vote against their values.
Q. How about “sanctuary” status for Howard County?
A. There are very few issues on which I won’t at least consider alternative views – and this is one of them. Immigration laws are established by the Federal government and local governments have an obligation to comply with those laws. Beyond that general principle, we benefit from the ability to lean on Federal agencies when dealing with dangerous criminals. Handing a criminal over to a Federal agency for incarceration or deportation rather than housing and prosecuting them at our cost preserves County resources for other priorities.