Although he is not running for County Council on his party's national platform, Republican Rob Vricella does have a prominent GOP role model: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Vricella, a Chevy Chase Village resident seeking to represent District 1, wants to shatter what he calls the "group think" on the County Council that has led to budget deficits and inflated government worker salaries. He wants to slash county budgets while holding the line on revenues so taxpayers get the best possible value. He vowed he would vote against any proposed property tax increase over the county's charter limit, an action that requires a unanimous council vote. In the future, Vricella said, he would cut spending and keep taxes at present levels until the budget situation allowed for them to be cut prudently.
"I think when families in this county are having a hard time making ends meet, I think the county employees need to share in that pain," Vricella said. "I mean, I'm not happy about it. But something has to be done. We can't raise taxes anymore."
In a similar vein, he bashed the county's recent increase in the energy tax and the carbon tax passed on Mirant's power plant in Dickerson, a tax proposed by District 1's incumbent Democrat, Roger Berliner of Potomac. For the council's leadership itself, he wants to cut council members' salaries and council staff budgets by 30 percent. More broadly, Vricella said, Fairfax County, Va., makes Montgomery County look fiscally suspect because it pays its government workers and teachers significantly less, and also spends less per public school student. Even if he has trouble attracting council and union support to his measures, Vricella said he hopes his outspoken attitude would at least shine a light on the council's budget situation. But he said he does not blame the unions. He blames council members for acceding too often to unions' negotiating position.
"These are incompetent people that do not deserve to be re-elected," he said.
Vricella has worked in real estate development for 20 years, and said he has personal knowledge about how government regulations and excessive taxes put a stranglehold on creativity. Rather than pushing development upcounty and increasing the infrastructure burden on county government, Vricella thinks the county's Smart Growth policy should be aggressively pursued in lower Montgomery County, so development is concentrated in existing urban areas. On transportation issues, Vricella thinks he can solve the problem of how to reduce Metro system costs without fare hikes or service cuts: Make the system's budget less opaque to be able to scour Metro's financial landscape for savings.
Despite the Democratic tradition in District 1, Vricella said he is running on basic pocketbook issues and has received positive reaction from residents. He said District 1 voters are open-minded about his message and do not want to be given mandates about their lives from politicians.
"People are not automatons," he said.
-Residence: Chevy Chase Village
-Date of birth: March 4, 1963
-Education: 1985, B.A., University of Maryland, College Park; 1988, J.D., Catholic University
-Work experience: 25 years work experience, primarily in the real estate industry
-Family: Married 19 years to Michelle; 8-year-old son, Robbie
-Top issues: Cutting spending to close the budget deficit, and not raising taxes
-Campaign funds on hand: About $10,000
-Previous political experience: Volunteered on past campaigns at the national, state and local level
-Other affiliations: Board Member for 20 years and former president for six years of Southern Maryland Vocational Industries, Inc., a nonprofit that provides housing and job-coaching services for the severely mentally and physically disabled
-Website: www.robvricella.com. SOURCE: Gazette