Burb Media’s three local news sites (MoreThanTheCurve.com, AroundAmbler.com, and GlensideLocal.com) partnered with NorthPennNow.com to ask questions of all of the candidates running for Montgomery County Commissioner in both the Democratic and Republican primaries. The answers are presented unedited and without comment. We are publishing them as we receive them.
Jamila Winder is one of five candidates running in the Democratic Party primary for Montgomery County Commissioner. The primary election is being held on May 16th. Democratic Party voters will cast two votes in the county commissioner race.
Winder is currently a Montgomery County Commissioner (she was appointed after the resignation of Dr. Val Arkoosh). Previously she served on the Norristown Area School Board and as a supervisor in East Norriton Township.
SEPTA recently canceled its plan to extend rail to King of Prussia. It also has paused plans to improve parking at three train stations in the county (Philmont, Gwynedd Valley, and Noble stations) and recently considered, but dropped, a plan to remove a direct bus line between Plymouth Meeting and the city. How do you feel SEPTA can best serve Montgomery County?
SEPTA can best serve Montgomery County by improving regional service between Montco and the City but also by investing in better local service. Right now there are few options for public transportation between the major population centers in Montgomery County. Big expensive projects like the KOP rail line can be helpful but we also need some medium size projects to better connect people to places to work, play, and live throughout Montgomery County
Pandemic’s Impact on Commercial Real Estate
The aftermath of the pandemic has resulted in many more people working from home, which is
forecasted to negatively impact the commercial real estate market in the coming years. What do you feel the county can do to encourage businesses to relocate to Montgomery County?
The County Commissioner’s through our Planning Commission have been working to address this very
real issue. The pandemic has fundamentally changed the way many businesses operate. Fortunately, we
have seen a gradual return of many businesses to the more typical office-based workforce but many
industries may never fully return to pre-pandemic norms. Montgomery County and many municipalities
are getting creative through promoting the implementation of mixed-use zoning initiatives as well
coordinated redevelopment strategies through local business corridors. All options and incentives must
be on the table as we evolve from traditional retail and office based businesses to a new transformative
based commerce system.
To follow up on that question, if the occupancy rates drop, what do you think the county can do to
encourage municipalities to allow for additional uses or conversion of office buildings?
Again we need to partner with municipalities to innovate other uses for office buildings to address the
affordable housing crisis. We can offer incentives to developers who carve out a percentage of their
developments in every part of the county. Montgomery County needs to be a place where members of
our community can both live and work.
Montgomery County transitioned to a pre-trial services system in recent years, which has led some residents to question why MDJs [magesterial district judges] no longer set bail in their communities and instead have been moved to a countywide on-call rotation. Do you believe MDJs [magesterial district judges] should set bail in the communities they’re elected to serve? What are the advantages of the county-wide system?
The Commissioners supported the formation of a new oversight department called Supervision Services
to streamline operations of all Court Supervision Departments.
Supervision Services is responsible for the operational management of all Court Supervision
Departments, including: Adult Probation Department, DUI Administration, Juvenile Probation Department, Pretrial Services, and Treatment Courts.
Community Supervision is a public safety-focused alternative to incarceration that allows offenders to
work, attend school, stay connected to and support their families, and make restitution to the victims of
their crimes. It acknowledges a person’s ability to change when afforded the appropriate resources and
Specifically, Pretrial Services has been a priority of the current administration. It provides accurate and
timely information to assist the court in making informed decisions regarding pretrial release; to
supervise and provide services for defendants while utilizing cost effective measures for the community;
to promote compliance with court orders and court appearances; and to support public safety. The
program has been up and running for over a year and is starting to show results based on its data-driven
Bail Reform – Follow-up
As a follow-up, in light of recent incidents involving defendants accused of violent crimes being
bailed out only to re-offend while awaiting proceedings, do you believe the pre-trial services unit
needs to be adjusted? Or do you believe these incidents are outliers?
There is always room for improvement and the current pre-trial services effort is showing promise. We
are collecting data to ensure we understand the rate of recidivism and effects on public safety.
If you win the election, what policy or reform will you want to be remembered for after you have served?
I want to be known as the Commissioner that was an advocate for our employees to ensure that
Montgomery County truly is a great place to work and that employees earn a competitive salary with
good benefits. Our employees are the lifeblood of our County operations and we cannot deliver on our
programs and services without top talent who care about supporting the residences of Montgomery
The county owns the property in Conshohocken (Plymouth Township) that is home to Covanta’s trash to energy plant. According to Energy Justice, the plant is the largest source of air pollution in the county. It has also in recent years experienced a series of malfunctions that have led to neighbor complaints about odors. What can the county do as the landlord of the property to improve the environmental and neighborhood impact?
Unfortunately the Covanta plant is a catch 22, it is a part of our counties infrastructure but also
something we will have to do away with in the long term. The next commissioners to serve
Montgomery County will have to make a decision regarding the plant that is informed by the
needs of the local residents affected by the plant.
What are three things the county can do to encourage developers to consider including affordable
housing within their projects?
In August 2022 through our Recovery Office, we announced plans to invest $32.4 million dollars into
housing priorities identified by our community. This funding will support 325 new affordable housing
units, the creation of two new temporary housing facilities, preservation of existing affordable units, and
support for future affordable housing.
In September 2022 the Commissioners also took action to allocate an additional $1.2 million dollars in
funding to support the county’s unhoused population through increased street outreach and emergency
- As Commissioner, I will not vote to allocate funding to residential developments that do not have
an affordability component proposed as part of the project. If developers want public funding,
they must offer a public benefit.
- In addition, I will work to partner with our 62 local municipalities to support their efforts to bring
affordable housing options in every part of the County. If every one of the 62 municipalities in
the County ensured that some affordable housing units were being built in their community, we
could largely solve this problem.
- Lastly, I will find other creative ways to invest in affordable housing projects.
Homelessness in Montco
In the past two years, homelessness has grown in the county, while shelter space and availability have decreased. As a commissioner, what would you advocate for the county to do to alleviate this problem?
Everyone deserves a home. Unfortunately, homelessness and hunger are a part of all our communities.
In Montgomery County at least 330 individuals, including families, will sleep outside at night.
Homelessness is a housing problem and Montgomery County needs affordable housing for all residents
now more than ever.
The County is always ready to fund affordable housing and other supportive housing. But we need the
leadership and compassion of our municipal partners, developers, and residents to help make it a reality.
The County recently launched a Homelessness task force to bring together a centralized group of internal and external stakeholders who care about the homelessness challenge and will be working to implement actionable strategies to reduce homelessness. Programs like Your Way Home are helping to address homelessness in the County.
What are the most over and underused words in politics?
The county commissioners passed a 8% property tax increase in 2022. What is one idea you have on how the county can save or reduce the amount of money it spends?
Over the past 3+ months I have been on the job I have already met with many department heads
in Montgomery County. There are always opportunities to streamline processes and reduce
redundancies in any large organization. During those meetings I have been taking note of the
processes being used in each of our departments looking for ways to improve on what exists
now. We definitely should continue to lean in on finding other revenue streams through grants
and private partnerships to support our budgetary needs.