Tuesday, February 11, 2014

New Name, New URL

We're Moving! theSeventhState.com

When I thought about restarting Maryland Politics Watch, it felt time for some changes. I wanted a new platform and a new name to reinvigorate the blog. So I'm moving to theSeventhState.com. You can also follow me on twitter @theSeventhState.com.

All of the posts from this week have already been migrated over to the new digs. You'll notice a switch from Blogger to WordPress. I'm still completely new to this platform so the metaphorical curtains haven't even been hung yet, but I think it looks better already. And the name has changed but the commentary and analysis remain the same. (Somehow, I hear Statler and Waldorf groaning from the rafters.)

All future posts will appear there but not here. Maryland Politics Watch will remain up so the old posts and links will remain active. Thanks to everyone who helped with MPW but a special shout out to Adam Pagnucco who put in so much time, energy, and most of all, heart.

Oh, and if you're wondering about the new name, just Google it.



Progressive Neighbors Debates Maryland's Foreign Policy

Lots of issues came up at the Progressive Neighbors Forum in Takoma Park yesterday but the issue that generated the most heat was American Studies Association boycott (ASA) of Israeli scholarly institutions.

Two bills have been cross-filed in the Maryland General Assembly directed at undermining the ASA boycott. Montgomery Del. Ben Kramer has filed HB 998 with a number of cosponsors: Delegates Barkley, Barve, Bates, Boteler, Cardin, Cluster, Costa, Cullison, Eckardt, Frank, Fraser, Hidalgo, Frick, Gaines, Gilchrist, Glenn, Haddaway, Riccio, Hogan, Hucker, Impallaria, Jacobs, Kach, Kaiser, A. Kelly, Kipke, Lafferty, Luedtke, McComas, McConkey, W. Miller, Morhaim, Myers, Olszewski, Otto, Pendergrass, Ready, Reznik, B. Robinson, S. Robinson, Rosenberg, Serafini, Simmons, Stein, Stocksdale, Szeliga, Valderrama, Vaughn, Waldstreicher, M. Washington, Weir, Wood, and Zucker.  Due to timing, Baltimore Sen. Joan Carter Conway did not have time to seek cosponsors for the parallel bill in the Senate, SB 647.

Peace Action Montgomery distributed flyers at the forum (see page 1 above with 2 and 3 below) arguing strongly against the bill as unconstitutional and just plain wrong. Although many in the audience opposed the bill--no one in the audience expressed support--the bill is not on Progressive Neighbors' very lengthy priority list.

Sen. Roger Manno was in the line of fire at the meeting. He attacked the boycott and defended the bill's central goal in the Washington Jewish Week:
In an interview after the hearing Manno explained, “My responsibility as a lawmaker and as a member of the Senate budget and taxation committee, which writes that check, is to ensure that the dollars are spent wisely and that it reflects the values of our community. … And we don’t support [the boycott that the ASA is supporting].”
The same article notes that UMBC has issued a statement condemning the ASA boycott, as have many academic institutions.

There is a certain irony to Peace Action Montgomery's opposition to the bill. The boycott's proponents handed out flyers lauding the long history of boycotts to promote social justice from India to South Africa . . . in order to condemn the proposal that the State of Maryland boycott ASA as a statement in support of its view of a more just world.

Thought experiment: What would Peace Action Montgomery's response be to a proposed ASA boycott of HBCUs?

The arguments that the bill violates academic freedom are specious. The proposed legislation would not ban any professor from supporting ASA's boycott, attending ASA conferences, or membership in ASA. It just wouldn't permit Maryland institutions to pay for it. Universities regularly decide which scholarly activities they deem worthy of support. We may not agree with them but the State has a right to decide how to spend its money and which endeavors to support.

In political science, we are experiencing this up close. Oklahoma Republican Sen. Coburn successfully amended the bill that funds the National Science Foundation so that grants may only go to proposals that aid national security. As you might suspect, this has not gone down well with most political scientists. But no one questions its constitutionality or claims it violates the First Amendment.

This issue has a profound potential to alienate Jewish Democrats and other supporters of Israel. I believe heavy majorities of Jewish Democrats strongly support, even yearn for, a negotiated peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Secretary of State John Kerry is working doggedly to address the real barriers to a workable and lasting peace despite extreme difficulties. Nonetheless, ASA's efforts to isolate Israel offend deeply and undercut them. Jews may not be unanimous on this issue (we seem incapable of it; just watch either the Knesset or Life of Brian) but the vast majority strongly oppose efforts to boycott Israel.

Not to mention that Israeli universities are often the center of efforts to build peace within Israel, which makes one suspect that the academic body of scholars focused on studying America perhaps doesn't know too much about it. Regardless, I imagine that I am not the only one amazed at the idea that the world awaits with bated breath the opinion of academic organizations on various issues of the day, particularly those completely outside that organization's area of expertise. (OK: irony of blog-writing academic condemning pronouncements on issues of the day by academics is duly noted.)

Jews are passionate for peace and for Israel. Trying to make them choose is a losing strategy. I don't think legislators or candidates are going to find it easy to straddle this issue.


Monday, February 10, 2014

Duchy Trachtenberg For?

In this pre-filing period, some are still making up their mind whether to jump in the political pool and in which race to take the plunge. Former one-term at-large County Councilmember Duchy Trachtenberg is not just the object of speculation but clearly thinking about it.

Duchy has a long history of running for office in Montgomery County. In 2002, Duchy lost the general election for Council District 1 to Republican Howie Denis by 1.8% of the vote--Howie was the last Republican to serve on the County Council and had significant Democratic support. (Sidenote: GOPers would call Denis a RINO as they stand perplexed wondering at why they cannot win in MoCo.) Running at-large in 2006, Duchy came in third and secured one of the four Democratic nominations, easily won the general, and joined the County Council.

But in 2010, Duchy fell to fifth place in the Democratic primary and lost the nomination and her seat. Not only did newcomer Hans Riemer leap over her to take second place, Becky Wagner in sixth came much closer to beating Duchy than Duchy did to slipping past incumbent George Leventhal in fourth. Duchy launched a campaign for the Sixth Congressional District that lasted only a few months when she ended her "underdog" campaign on January 4, 2012 due to a recurrence of breast cancer.

Duchy is thinking again about running for something in 2014. She wrote top-drawer campaign consultant Joe Trippi a check for $9250 in December 2013 out of her state political account. I'm assuming it was not a Chanukah or Christmas gift. Duchy's last congressional report from April 2013 similarly showed a $12,000 payment to Trippi.

Her past interest in Congress suggests she--along with the rest of MoCo pols--may be waiting to see if Rep. John Delaney decides to enter the gubernatorial race. On the other hand, her last federal campaign finance report showed just $644 cash left while her state campaign account has a more impressive $122,575 so perhaps another county council race is in Duchy's future.

As John Gallagher reminded me after my last post, she cannot transfer more than $1000 from the state to the federal account. And the state report indicates no loans that would allow her to repay herself and then donate the money to her congressional account. If she ran for Congress, Duchy would need to tap into her own resources and her network, though her past problems with Maryland NOW may impede her efforts despite her long connection.

Duchy may have ambitions but she'd have to make many changes to her campaign and personal approach to win. As Adam Pagnucco outlined in his must-read dissection of her previous loss, she has a lot of fences to mend:
First, she alienated most of her supporters in 2006 – and not just in the unions – through her conduct as a Council Member. Second, she was unable to build a new base because of her ineffective staffing, failure to build relationships and non-existent constituent service. And third, she made very bad resource decisions during the campaign.
Adam's post is the number two Google hit for "Duchy Trachtenberg" on Google--another problem that Duchy will need to address if she runs.

UPDATE: Adam Pagnucco's post on why Duchy lost her reelection bid is now the #1 Google hit for "Duchy Trachtenberg" -- beating out the Maryland Manual.


Sunday, February 09, 2014

Mr. Delaney Leaves Washington?

Congressman John Delaney gives not-so-subtle signs of wanting to enter the gubernatorial race. He has leaked a poll that shows many undecided voters and the three current contenders with low support. Delaney took a jab at Doug Gansler for "suggesting a sensible solution on the Maryland Exchange which is the same solution we have been proposing for months" (h/t Maryland Juice).

Hardly the words of someone who plans to be Gansler's BFF. (While Anthony Brown endorsed Rob Garagiola, Gansler stayed out of the congressional race.) Josh Kurtz argues that these political feints are part of an effort by Delaney to get Gansler to leave the race, opting for the Sixth District congressional seat that Delaney would have to vacate to run for governor. Until the filing deadline, after all, nothing is truly settled so political animals can fight over the pecking order.
Delaney's entry into the race would indeed probably hurt Gansler more than Heather Mizeur but Brown has the most to gain. Delaney's profile is similar to Gansler's demographic and political profile. Delaney would have to work harder to attract either the hard-core progressives that are Mizeur's base or the O'Malley supporters who have flocked to Brown.

But this doesn't work for Delaney unless Gansler exits stage west. To the extent that Brown can consolidate the African-American vote and O'Malley supporters, Delaney's entry benefits Brown. And this matters a lot because African Americans make up a larger share of Democratic primary voters than in the overall population.

Make no mistake: all candidates are working hard for both black and white votes. Gansler's ability to attract Jolene Ivey to his ticket--a very well-liked, savvy African-American delegate with a high profile--was a real coup and Gansler has courted black voters for years. Mizeur similarly attracted first-time pol Delmon Coates who reinforces her outsider progressive message. And Brown got a great, experienced running mate in Ken Ulman who should help Brown, especially in Howard County.

Having said that, a passel of white candidates seems most likely to benefit Brown and make it an uphill battle for either Delaney or Gansler. Call it a mutual political suicide pact unless one can so completely marginalize the other--unlikely--as to render them irrelevant. Delaney would likely run a strong campaign--his focused and well-run congressional race demonstrated that--and he may view Gansler as bloodied but Gansler has run twice statewide and has the funds to stay in the race. Moreover, he has passion and a vision for the state with primary day still several months away.

Delaney may entice Gansler into the congressional race but that is no sure thing either for Gansler. Let's leave aside that Gansler doesn't live in the district--this seems oddly common among candidates for this juicy Democratic morsel. A bunch of other high profile candidates would surely also jump in the pool for that nomination. Gansler would have his sizable gubernatorial campaign fund but otherwise the same political problems. Maybe a better bet but definitely not a sure one.

Meanwhile, the other candidates still have to keep an eye on Mizeur. Unquestionably, the two-term delegate is a longer shot candidate. But she is staking out the most left-wing territory--not usually a bad place to be in a Democratic primary. She is the only woman in a Democratic primary in which women invariably make up a disproportionate share of voters. And despite having less money, she is the candidate who knows the most by far about how to run a campaign. Her delegate campaign from eight years ago probably belongs in a textboo.

UPDATE: John Gallagher kindly wrote and explained to me that Doug Gansler could not transfer more than $1000 from a state into a federal account. That gives them a lot more of an incentive to stay in the gubernatorial race. This professor is always happy to learn, so thanks!


Saturday, February 08, 2014

UPDATE on Sam Arora

Sam Arora replies to my earlier post on his ruminating about running for reelection:

The oblique snipe at me seems understandable (or at least unsurprising) in light of my post and earlier posts on this blog (here, here and here) calling Sam out for his changing stance on marriage equality. Regardless, I'm glad to hear that Sam was just talking large to a few people in Annapolis and for him to reaffirm his decision to exit the House.

And hey, I'm now legally married and Sam is retiring.


And He's Back? Sam Arora

Delegate Sam Arora is very good at reconsidering. After campaigning on a strong-pro marriage equality platform in 2008, he then changed his mind and voted against the bill that he had originally cosponsored. Sam thus had the singular dishonor of being the only delegate from liberal Montgomery County (66% voted for marriage in the referendum) to vote against marriage equality.

After announcing on November 1 that he will not run for reelection to the House of Delegates--most likely after having been tossed off the incumbent slate (kudos to them) and realizing that support given by many liberal groups had evaporated--Sam Arora is rumored to be reconsidering. Perhaps he thinks that the many primaries in Montgomery County will distract the locals he angered with his vote from his race. Perhaps he believes that LGBT and other progressive activists will be blindsided if he runs and have moved their focus in the wake of his retirement announcement.

Wrong again, Sam. Very wrong.


And We're Back. . .

After a long hiatus, I've decided to start blogging again. I'm hoping to move to a new platform and URL so watch this spot to follow Maryland Politics Watch. For now, I'm not going to publish comments because I just don't have the time or desire to moderate them. Enjoy!


Monday, February 13, 2012

Maryland Juice

I'm not posting these days so I'm happy to recommend David Moon's Maryland Juice. Great name, smart guy.


Saturday, September 24, 2011

Where Was George?

The question that people are asking after receiving an email newsletter from Council President Valerie Ervin that is signed by all county councilmembers except George Leventhal:

Dear Friends of Montgomery County:

As the Council gears up for its busy fall schedule, we want to update you on some key issues the Council will be addressing. We also want to share with you our perspective on the Council's recent actions.

Issues we will consider this fall range from the curfew bill proposed by the County Executive to the post-Census redrawing of Councilmember district lines. We will also take up several land use master plans that are vital to strengthening our economy and improving our quality of life.

Our agenda so far this year has focused on the severe budget challenges that the County, like governments across the nation, has continued to face. The Council acted unanimously on issue after issue and approved a $4.4 billion County budget for Fiscal Year 2012. We listened closely to the comments we received from thousands of concerned County service recipients and taxpayers, we consulted extensively with our employee representatives, and ultimately we spoke with one voice on how best to close the huge gap between projected expenditures and resources.

The Council started with three priorities: to protect our core services - education, public safety, and assistance for our most needy residents; treat our taxpayers fairly; and provide equity among our employees. In a series of 9-0 votes on controversial issues, we did just that. Even though the overall approved budget was actually smaller than the budget approved three years ago, we targeted the reductions carefully. For MCPS and Montgomery College, we focused on areas that do not affect the classroom. For some core services, we felt that the reductions proposed by the County Executive cut too deeply, and so we restored limited funds to Police, Fire and Rescue, Health and Human Services, Libraries, and other key operations.

One of our top goals was to protect our hard-working employees and their families from layoffs. Another top goal was to ensure fair treatment for the employees of all County agencies. We felt that the County Executive's recommended changes to health and retirement benefits for County Government employees were too large, and so we made them more equitable.

Another essential goal was to protect classroom instruction in our world-class school system while ensuring that scarce resources are available for all our critical priorities. The $2.1 billion budget we approved for Montgomery County Public Schools will help create a stable future for our schools and all County agencies. The tax supported budget that we approved for the school system was an increase over the last fiscal year.

In June, despite these budget challenges, the three major bond rating agencies reaffirmed the County's critical AAA bond rating, but the continued turmoil in financial markets makes clear that our challenges are far from over.

We are proud of the way the Council came together to act unanimously on this year's difficult budget. We are deeply committed to progressive values, and all of us care deeply about the concerns of our taxpayers, service recipients, and employees in this economy. We will continue to do the best job we can for the County's one million residents.


Valerie Ervin

Valerie Ervin

Council President

Roger Berliner

Council Vice President

Phil Andrews


Marc Elrich


Nancy Floreen


Nancy Navarro


Craig Rice


Hans Riemer



Friday, September 23, 2011

Del. Tiffany Alston Indicted

You can read the indictment here (click on press releases). Likely best known for her very public withdrawal of support for same-sex marriage legislation, first-term (last-term?) Del. Alston is accused of using campaign funds to pay for her wedding:

Charges brought by the Office of the Maryland State Prosecutor allege that Del. Tiffany T. Alston (D-Prince George’s) spent thousands of dollars of campaign contributions to pay for wedding expenses and for the salary of an employee in her law firm.

In several instances, Alston wrote herself checks from the account of “Friends of Tiffany Alston” and then cashed the checks for personal use, according to the prosecutor’s office.

Alston is charged with one count of felony theft, one count of misdemeanor theft, one count of fraudulent misappropriation by a fiduciary and two election law violations.

Alston did not immediately return a phone call on Friday.

The felony theft charge carries a maximum of 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. The misdemeanor charge carries a maximum 18-month sentence and fine of $500.

Alston, 34, was a little-known freshman in the Maryland House of Delegates until this spring. She co-sponsored a bill to legalize same-sex marriage but then left a hearing room with another lawmaker just before the bill came up for a vote.

The two later returned, but their disappearance delayed the committee vote and amounted to the first of many setbacks for the legislation.

Before a subsequent vote, Alston introduced an amendment seeking to revert the legislation to authorize civil unions, not same-sex marriage. When that failed, she voted against the legislation, saying her vote was “for my constituents.”
Hat-tip to the several people who flagged this for me. Best early comment: "That's not a straight way to pay for your wedding."


D14 Central Committee Vacancy

From the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee:

The Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee (MCDCC) will hold an election at its next regularly scheduled meeting -- Tuesday, October 11, 2011, at 7:30 p.m., 3720 Farragut Ave., #303, Kensington -- to fill a District 14 voting position on the Committee. Maryland’s 14th Legislative District is in northern Montgomery County and comprises the communities of: Ashton, Brinklow, Brookeville, Burtonsville, Calverton, Cloverly, Colesville, Damascus, Fairland, Goshen, Laytonsville, Montgomery Village, Olney, Sandy Spring, Silver Spring, Spencerville and Sunshine. Anyone who is a registered Democrat and resides in Legislative District 14 may apply for the position by e-mailing or faxing a cover letter and their resume to the Central Committee no later than 5:00 p.m. on Monday, October 10. (We encourage candidates to apply as soon as possible.) Email: MontgomeryDems@msn.com; Fax: 301-946-1002.


Sunday, August 28, 2011

Hurricane Irene Assessment and Response in the Town of Chevy Chase

Dear Neighbors:

The Town staff and Town arborist have completed an evaluation of the damage caused by Hurricane Irene in Town. In addition to multiple power outages, there are a number of trees that fell during the storm. Following is a list of the addresses where trees have fallen and a description of the resulting damage. If residents are aware of any other public trees that have fallen and need to be addressed by the Town, please e-mail townoffice@townofchevychase.org or call the Town Office at 301-654-7144 and leave a message if the office is closed. Town staff are checking messages regularly.

Trees at the following addresses have fallen on primary power lines and must be removed by PEPCO.
-- 4107 Thornapple Street
-- 4102 Oakridge Lane
-- 7105 45th Street
Both Thornapple Street and Tarrytown Road are impassable as a result of these fallen trees or power lines. Both streets have been cordoned off as a result.

Trees at the following addresses have taken down power lines serving individual homes. PEPCO will need to restore these lines as well.
-- 4314 Curtis
-- 4412/4414 Stanford
-- 4104 Woodbine

A tree at 4316 Stanford has fallen but has not affected power lines. The Town's tree contractor will remove this tree tomorrow.

The Town arborist has removed many large branches from Town streets, and the Town's maintenance crews will begin the removal of smaller branches and debris tomorrow. Following this clean up, the Town will have the streets swept.

Please do not to touch any downed wires and report all power outages to PEPCO at 1-888-PEPCO-62. We're also contacting PEPCO to let them know about problems and encourage speedy restoration, but it is very important that you do the same. There are almost 200,000 households without power in the PEPCO service area in Montgomery, Prince George's, and DC, so it will likely take time for all power to be restored.

As I went around the Town this morning, I saw many neighbors already picking up branches and leaves around their homes and want to thank them for their help. I'm also grateful for the good cheer shown by many of our neighbors even as they have experienced fallen trees on their property and a loss of power. Thanks also to the many neighbors who have checked in on people near them who may need help--I hope people will continue to reach out to their neighbors as we recover from this storm.

David Lublin
Mayor, Town of Chevy Chase


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Unions Attack Valerie Ervin

This went out in the mail a few weeks ago but still seemed worth mentioning. For reporting on this issue, see Robert McCartney's article in the Washington Post. For an alternative point of view, see the anti-union and pro-Ervin editorial in the Washington Post. Ironically, the editorial's use of terms such as "union bosses" undercuts their own complaint about the "tenor of public comments" made by union leaders.


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Local 1994 MCGEO for Marriage Equality

The following letter was sent to all members of the Maryland General Assembly:

Dear Delegate Michael G. Summers:

UFCW Local 1994 MCGEO fully supports legislation to allow gay and lesbian couples the right to marry in Maryland.

Families, no matter their demographics, deserve the right to protect their family interests.

Without the freedom to marry, gay and lesbian couples do not receive the same recognition or protections for their families as other couples.

“Marriage” gives protections and recognition to everyone – in hospital emergency rooms, funeral homes, and when discussing benefits with employers; while “civil unions” and “domestic partnerships” are not always recognized.

This is a civil rights issue, not a religious issue.

At one time, the State of Maryland refused to allow interracial marriage or to recognize interracial marriages from other states as “legal.” African Americans were treated as second-class citizens. Those restrictions are long gone. Yet we are still forcing the same second class status on gay and lesbian Marylanders by refusing their right to marry.

It’s time to let our prejudices go. I urge you to support full equality for Maryland’s lesbian and gay couples.


Gino Renne
UFCW Local 1994 MCGEO


Monday, August 15, 2011

Kumar Running for Comptroller

Maryland Juice reports the news: If there is an open-seat race for Comptroller (read: Peter Franchot runs for Governor), then Del. Kumar Barve will seek the job.


Friday, July 22, 2011

Governor on Marriage Equality

An outstanding and eloquent statement:


Governor to Sponsor Marriage Equality Legislation

Great news from Annapolis today. The Baltimore Sun reports:

Standing with House and Senate supporters, Gov. Martin O'Malley announced this afternoon that he will lead the charge for gay marriage in Maryland and put his name on a bill that allows same-sex couples to wed.

"Marylanders of all walks of life want their children to live in a loving, stable, committed home protected under the law," O'Malley said. He said it would be one of "a small handful" of legislative priorities.

. . .

O'Malley tasked his top lobbyist, Joseph C. Bryce, with spearheading the effort to move the bill in 2012. Bryce, a well respected Annapolis aide, will coordinate the new Marylanders for Marriage Equality coalition and develop a strategy to garner additional votes.
This is very good news on a number of fronts:

The Governor taking a leadership role and making this one of his priorities should be a major boost to passing the bill. As I think everyone learned from the slots battle, Gov. O'Malley can be extremely effective at getting his priorities through the General Assembly. His leadership and the very fact of it will carry real weight in the House and the Senate.

Joe Bryce is one of the most experienced people in Annapolis. Having him designated by the governor to coordinate the coalition is an enormous boost for the effort to pass marriage equality. I also view it as a real sign of the Governor's genuine commitment.

In short, today was a very big day for supporters of equality in Maryland. Thanks, Governor.


Thursday, July 21, 2011

Fiends of Chevy Chase Lake II

The Chevy Chase Land Company's efforts to create an ersatz "community" group to present support for its plans that find little favor in the actual community--see the articles in the Gazette and Patch--has been a terrific flop.

"Friends of Chevy Chase Lake" described itself as a "community organization formed and run by residents of Chevy Chase Lake." Except the manner of its debut (not to mention a more recent letter from Land Company President David Smith) destroyed this claim. This new group announced its existence on materials handed out by representatives of the Chevy Chase Land Company at the meeting organized by the Land Company--not the Planning Board Staff--to present its own plans as shown in this photo of the handout:

At the Land Company's meeting, one of the very first people that Land Company President David Smith just happened to call on in the 30 minutes of the two hours allotted to questions was the young leader of this "group" who also coincidentally just happens to live nearby to David Smith. Smith overlooked residents from a neighborhood adjoining his proposed project sitting right in front of him until the end of the meeting when they demanded to be heard.

"Friends of Chevy Chase Lake" has received only desultory support in the community. The following is a screenshot of its Facebook page from the day after the Land Company's meeting:

They haven't gained much traction since--just 6 people "Like" Friends of Chevy Chase Lake as of May 13th.

And 9 as of July 19th:

The few supporters of the group do not appear to live at Chevy Chase Lake. Among the three identifiable people who have posted on the Wall of this Facebook group are (1) a builder who lives in Washington, D.C., (2) a resident of Rockville, and (3) an architect who lives in Silver Spring.

Copies of the Land Company's plans appeared very quickly on the site of this "independent" group. The info page of this Facebook group doesn't contain any information at all about the group.

And the advertised web page doesn't exist:

It will be amusing to see if they try to generate new support for this group or the plans in the wake of this post. See Part I for how the CCLC is trying to revive this failed effort.


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Fiends of Chevy Chase Lake I

The Chevy Chase Land Company appears to be attempting to revive its failed attempt (see tomorrow's post) to create a community group in an effort to attack the Planning Staff's proposal for transit-oriented development at Chevy Chase Lake. The group is to be called "Fiends of Chevy Chase Lake" as explained in the letter from Land Company President David Smith reproduced after the jump.

The Land Company's proposal for a series of five community meetings to produce a "consensus plan that seeks a middle ground between the current Chevy Chase Land Company plan and the MNCPPC staff plan" strikes me as odd for several reasons:

(1) Meetings are open only to select parties

The Chevy Chase Land Company made no effort to contact the Connecticut Avenue Corridor Committee, an existing organization with over twenty participating communities. They appear to have reached out only to select people and communities.

(2) Community consultation has already occurred

The Planning Board Staff held several meetings open to all to seek input before crafting the Staff Plan for Chevy Chase Lake. A wide range of people participated, including representatives from the Chevy Chase Land Company.

(3) Contrasting missions of CCLC and MNCPPC

While the Planning Staff at MNCPPC is charged with coming up with the best possible way to fulfill the vision embodied in the Master Plan, the Land Company's main responsibility is fiduciary--to seek the highest and best use of its land. The Planning Board Staff is presenting a vision for the future and has worked hard to figure out the tricky job how to integrate the Purple Line and substantial new development into an already well-established community.

At a public meeting to unveil the Staff's plan, several residents expressed the view that substantially less should be allowed than proposed by the Planning Board Staff, so the meeting in the middle may well have already occurred. Smart growth proponent and Montgomery Planning Director Rollin Stanley presented and defended the outlines of the Staff's basic plan to the community.

(4) High summer meetings

Late July and August are a heck of a time to organize community meetings if one desires community input.


Friday, July 08, 2011

Kumar for Komptroller?

The open governor's race in 2014 is causing the dominoes to start to fall. House Majority Leader Kumar Barve is considering taking the plunge for statewide office and running for comptroller if incumbent Peter Franchot runs for governor.


Thursday, May 19, 2011

Our Future Montgomery

A press release from Our Future Montgomery, a new coalition formed by MCEA, MCAAP, and SEIU Local 500 formed to fight for more funds for MCPS


Unions representing 21,000 school employees hope to raise awareness about drastic cuts to K-12 education being considered by County Council

Rockville, MD (May 9, 2011) – As the Montgomery County Council considers the unprecedented step of rejecting nearly $30 million in state education aid in order “reset” education funding levels in the county, permanently lowering per-pupil investments, stakeholders are mounting a campaign to educate voters on the consequences of such proposals.

The first mailing from the group, who call their initiative Our Future Montgomery, will reach Montgomery County residents early this week (it can be viewed at http://ourfuturemontgomery.org/files/2011/05/Education_Matters.pdf).

A wave of online activity including social media outreach, online advertising, and calls to action around Mother’s Day and the education budget have already garnered thousands of visits to the group’s website www.OurFutureMontgomery.org and hundreds of emails to members of the Montgomery County Council.

“So many families locate in Montgomery County because of the quality of public education here. They’re education voters, and they need to know that the decisions being made right now in Rockville could affect their children’s education and their property values,” explains Doug Prouty, President of Montgomery County Education Association.

“This is an issue of fairness. Because schools employees have found ways to work together to absorb year after year of budget cuts, the official spin is that MCPS hasn’t taken a hit. Well, that’s just not true,” explains Merle Cuttitta, President of SEIU Local 500. “In particular, when my members, who don’t make a great deal of money in the first place and who have seen their hours slashed over the past three years, are told they haven’t sacrificed, we have to push back against that!”

“Ultimately, this comes down to the kids and protecting their interests. They don’t have a voice in the political arena, particularly those kids who come from disadvantaged backgrounds. The support these kids receive that is closing the achievement gap in the county and helping MCPS be a model for the nation – that’s at risk with these budget cuts. We can’t abandon them now,” explains Rebecca Newman, President of Montgomery County Association of Administrators and Principals.


Made up of parents, teachers and other school system employees, students and other stakeholders, Our Future Montgomery seeks a way forward out of our temporary – though dismal – economic circumstances and toward a brighter future for our great county. This path must involve wise and adequate investments in our institutions and our communities and most of all in our children – for they truly are Our Future Montgomery.


MoCo GOP Chair Attacks New Party Rules

It doesn't appear that democracy is the Maryland GOP's strong suit according to the Chair of the Montgomery County Republican Party:

The Maryland State Republican Party on May 7th, 2011 adopted a new voting formula for party business under which counties with a combined population of 200,000 people can outvote counties with 2.5 million people.

Under this new voting formula adopted by the state party at its Spring Convention in Ocean City:

• Anne Arundel, with 28 times the Republicans as Kent County now only has only 4.5 times the vote for party business as Kent.
• Baltimore County, with 30 times Republicans as Kent County, now only has only 4 times the vote for party business of Kent.
• Prince George’s, with 12 times the Republicans as Kent County, now has only has only 1.6 times the vote for party business of Kent.

The change continues the state party's retreat toward focusing only on the state’s few majority Republican areas.

This is only the latest example of a continuing phenomenon. Last year the state party declined to run a candidate for Attorney General. Before that, a prior State Party Chair undermined our Republican legislative leaders with his feud over legislative policy and strategy.

Montgomery Republicans reject this strategy of retreat. We believe that marginalizing Maryland Republicans only to more rural areas just makes Martin O'Malley’s, Mike Busch’s and Mike Miller’s fondest dreams come true.

Out of necessity the Montgomery County Republican party will follow its own distinct, separate course. We can do this because of the long standing strong support of our Republican donors and activists, which we appreciate.

Montgomery Republicans are committed to presenting voters with a conservative governing alternative based on a belief in personal responsibility, faith in free markets and support for limited government. We will continue to build the organizational infrastructure to support candidates who advance these views.

Montgomery Republicans will also continue to work with other Maryland Republicans, who our commitment to a competitive statewide Maryland Republican Party. These include the Republican House Caucus Slate Committee and especially those in counties such as Baltimore City, Carroll and Prince Georges.

Mark Uncapher,
Chairman, Montgomery County Republican Party


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Purple Line Costs Up 28%; Ridership Down 2500; Money Taken from MARC

The Washington Examiner reports that MTA says that cost estimates for the Purple Line have risen 28% since the plan got past the phase of consideration by the public:

It also now has a $1.925 billion price tag, up from $1.5 billion estimates made two years ago.
MTA Executive Director of Transit Development and Delivery Henry blamed the increase on the complexity of the New Starts process and the State's lack of familiarity with it:

The project is delayed because the application for federal funding has been more time-consuming than expected, said Henry Kay, MTA's executive director of transit development and delivery. He said the state hasn't applied for such federal New Starts funding in a long time.

"It got a lot more complicated while we were out of the room," Kay said.

That, in turn, has caused the costs to rise, he said.

They plan to makeup some of the gap by taking funds away from another public transit option: MARC.

State officials are still trying to line up funding for the project -- the federal funding is not guaranteed -- but they said they plan to use $135 million that was previously set aside for MARC commuter trains to pay for a portion of the Purple Line instead.

Meanwhile, projected ridership of the new line has declined:
Ridership was projected to be about 62,500 riders per day.

Now ridership is expected to be slightly lower at 60,000.

No reportage on the impact on Montgomery County's share of the cost, or the impact of these changes on the battle for vital federal funds.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Statement from Gov. O'Malley on Baltimore County Hate Crime Case

Governor Martin O’Malley issued this statement today following the hate crime charge in the beating of Chrissy Lee Polis last month in Rosedale:

“I want to commend Baltimore County State's Attorney Scott D. Shellenberger for using every available means to prosecute the heinous beating of Chrissy Lee Polis last month.

“Even with Maryland's 'hate crimes' law, it is clear that more must be done to protect the rights and dignity of transgendered people. In the struggle for justice and equality for all, I'm committed to working with the Maryland General Assembly during the next legislative session to increase awareness and provide even greater protections for transgendered people.

“As some have noted, out of this awful beating has come a moment to foster a deeper understanding and respect for the dignity of all persons. We should not allow the moment to pass without greater action.”


Chevy Chase Lake Construction News

Last night, Chevy Chase Land Company President David Smith and I spoke at the Rollingwood community association's annual meeting about the review of the sector plan at Chevy Chase Lake. David asked me to let people know that the Land Company supports having no construction at Chevy Chase Lake "until after the construction of the Purple Line."

I am sure that the community will appreciate this commitment and hope that it is embodied in the final revision of the Chevy Chase Lake Sector Plan. Elza Hisel-McCoy, the member of the Planning Staff overseeing the revision of the Chevy Chase Lake Sector Plan, also came and outlined the sector plan review process.


Pat Baptiste Elected CC Village Chair

Pat Baptiste, who was recently elected by a thumping majority after being appointed to the Chevy Chase Village Council, has now been elected Chair of the Board of Managers--the equivalent of Mayor as Somerset Mayor Jeffrey Slavin who share the news with me put it. Pat returns to this position after having served in the past in the same capacity before joining the County Planning Board. Congratulations, Pat!


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

From the Comments and My Mail on Reuseable Bags

Councilmember Nancy Floreen (D-At Large) kindly commented in response to my post about her handing out reuseable bags during her last campaign though she now opposes the bag tax. Nancy probably has commented more on MPW than any other elected official, so I thought I'd do her the courtesy of reprinting (recyclying?) it here:

Since this issue came up I am indeed embarrassed about the reuseable bags I gave out. Turns out the liners have a lot of lead in them, the bags themselves are largely made out of petroleum products, not recycleable themselves, and need to be washed. I thought AL Carr had a good idea when he started handing these things out,but based on what I now know, I am not so sure. the reason there is really not that much backlash about this tax is because it is not enough to actually change behavior. As Roger says, it's a "nudge." But Montgomery County people are already great recylcers, they don't need nudges. This is just another tax.
For the other side, see Keith Berner, who points out that bag use is down dramatically in DC and far fewer bags have been found in local waterways.

I also received mail from a Claudia Holwill (posted below), a spokeswoman for Hilex Poly--a manufacturer of plastic bags--containing a link to a video with helpful tips for reuseable bag newbies or people who are just bag curious. Among the useful nuggets of information from the "practice safe sacks" (aw shucks) video are:
  • Wrap meat, fish in separate plastic bags. Thanks Hilex Poly! I didn't know that--I've just been tossing in the salmon and the steaks in together unwrapped--the way those awful supermarket folks always give them to me--together. Probably a good tip even if you use plastic bags.
  • Don't place reuseable bags on rotating children's playground equipment. Seriously, watch the video.
Hilex Poly repeats Nancy's warnings about lead and bacteria. Hilex Poly also offers helpfully that plastic bags are a great alternative if you can't wash your bags after each use and want to avoid the mass death that has plagued jurisdictions that have adopted the bag tax:

Here is the full letter from Claudia Holwill:
Hi David,

Allow me to introduce myself; My name is Claudia Holwill and I do digital public affairs work at Edelman, a communications firm in Washington, D.C., where one of my clients is Hilex Poly, an American manufacturer of plastic bags made from recycled materials.

I am writing because I saw your post on Nancy Floreen’s reusable bags, and your caution to readers about the potential dangers of reusables, and thought you might be interested in this video we produced to help educate consumers on how to properly clean and store their reusable bags. As the operator of the world’s largest plastic bag recycling facility, Hilex Poly hopes to see solutions such as recycling initiatives, rather than bans or taxes on plastic bags.

If you would like to speak with someone at Hilex Poly for any other posts you have planned on this issue, I would be happy to set something up for you. We are also working on a number of additional videos and interactive facts sheets that I can share with you if you think they would be of interest to your readers. Thank you for your time!


Claudia Holwill
Edelman | Digital Public Affairs
1875 I Street NW, Suite 900, Washington, DC 20006


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Community on Chevy Chase Lake

The Planning Board Staff has been working hard to reach out to members of the community to find out what they would like to see around the proposed Purple Line stop at Chevy Chase Lake. Following are their conclusions from meetings open to all that included representatives of the Chevy Chase Land Company as well as lots of people who live in the area; you can compare and contrast with the Land Company's proposal here:

Future development in the commercial area of Chevy Chase Lake should remain “local” in character and identity, not a destination. Existing residential areas should be left alone. The commercial area should be a low- to medium-scale village center with expanded affordable housing, a diversity of community-serving retail and restaurants, and a central green space.

Traffic, both vehicular and pedestrian, along Connecticut Avenue is a major concern. The plan should look at improving vehicular flow, while at the same time enhancing the pedestrian experience along and across the avenue. Future development at Chevy Chase Lake should be tied in some way to transportation/transit improvements.

Access, primarily pedestrian and bicycle, from the surrounding residential neighborhoods to both the commercial area and nearby trails should be improved and expanded. New development should feature wide landscaped sidewalks. Transit opportunities and facilities should be similarly improved and expanded.

Chevy Chase Lake should feature a diverse network of open spaces, centered on a space in the commercial area that could accommodate community events, such as a farmers’ market, and should include links to the surrounding residential neighborhoods.

Land uses should focus on expanded affordable housing and community-serving retail, restaurants, services, and entertainment. New office space should be limited to small-scale professional and/or doctor and dentist uses. Any new hotels should be small, at the scale of an inn. Community-oriented civic and arts uses, including a farmers’ market, community center, and new library were suggested. Parking in the commercial area should be structured and hidden and should feature easily accessible short-term parking. Increased opportunities for recreation, primarily playgrounds, should also be considered.

  • Existing neighborhood character and “community feel”
  • Community-serving retail, particularly a supermarket
  • Existing affordable housing (e.g., HOC property, garden apartments, townhouses)
  • Convenient parking
  • Environmental identity (e.g., Coquelin Run, trees)
  • Existing residential neighborhoods
  • Open space network
  • Selection of community-serving retail and restaurants
  • Connectivity, particularly pedestrian and bicycle
  • Walkability, especially pedestrian safety
  • Affordable housing
  • Transit service (e.g., bus and Bus Rapid Transit) and accessibility of the Purple Line station
  • Coquelin Run
  • Recreation opportunities
  • Traffic management on Connecticut Avenue
  • Open space network centered on the commercial area
  • Community Center
  • “Circulator” shuttle
  • Arts and entertainment events and/or facilities
  • New recreation opportunities
  • New library
  • Safe and attractive sidewalk network
  • Activities for teenagers
  • Better traffic flow on Connecticut Avenue
  • Lake


Monday, May 09, 2011

From Nancy Floreen's Last Campaign

Not Meant for Groceries

I was surprised to learn that Councilmember Nancy Floreen handed out reuseable bags during her last reelection campaign. She expressed concerns about sanitation and hygiene related to bag reuse in a Washington Post op-ed written before she became the sole at-large councilmember to oppose the new Montgomery County bag tax:
And speaking of environments: The one inside a reusable bag is perfect for growing bacteria and cross-contaminating food, so if you opt against paying for disposable bags, you had better remember to wash your reusable ones. Do you really want to carry home unwashed chicken or seafood in a bag you might be carrying apples in later?
From the color and design, one might get the impression that using bags is an environmental rather than hazmat situation, though I know green is also Nancy's campaign color. Roger Berliner and the other eight members of the County Council seemed willing to risk public health as they disagreed with Nancy's view:
“I consider this to be a nudge, not a nuisance. This nudge has profound effects on our consciousness,” said council member Roger Berliner (D-Bethesda-Potomac), who cast one of the eight votes for the measure.

Reducing the number of plastic bags that end up clogging waterways is the principal aim of the new tax. By taxing paper bags as well, officials are trying to keep shoppers from simply choosing paper instead.
Del. Al Carr is sponsoring a similar measure at the state level.

Update: Apologies for problems with the image.


Sunday, May 08, 2011

Pat Baptiste Dominates in Village Election

Pat Baptiste, former Chair of the Chevy Chase Village Board of Managers who was appointed to fill a vacancy on the Board, came in a strong first in the election to fill four seats on the Board. Full results after the jump:

Patricia Baptiste, 246 votes or 80% of valid ballots.
David Winstead, 189 votes, or 61%.
Richard Ruda, 181 votes, or 59%.
Gary Crockett, 176 votes, or 57%.
Gail Feldman, 155 votes, or 50%.

Pat campaigned on righting the finances of the Village and the need for the Village to rake an active role in the planning process for the surrounding community. Richard Ruda and Gary Crockett are newcomers who will join the Board. Chair David Winstead has been reelected. Treasurer Gail Feldman was defeated for reelection even though a slight majority of those casting valid ballots cast a vote for her--an interesting quirk of multimember elections. I have enjoyed working with Gail on the Connecticut Avenue Corridor Committee and hope she remains an active participant.


Thursday, May 05, 2011

Daily Record Reports MTA Inflates Transit Ridership by 18 Million

The Daily Record reported that the Department of Legislative Services has found that MTA inflated bus ridership estimates by 18 million, or 26 percent, in 2009:

The MTA told the state it carried 69.8 million riders on its core bus routes in the year ended June 30, 2009. The number sent to the Federal Transit Database maintained by the Federal Transit Administration, however, was 87.8 million, or 26 percent more than the state figure.
If anything, the Department of Legislative Services may have been conservative in the size of the discrepancy in MTA's figures:
The state audit that outlined the reporting discrepancies said MTA collected $2.6 million in fares in fiscal 2009 for which no corresponding passengers were recorded. Owens said that is due to overpayments, because fare boxes cannot make change for riders.
The problems aren't limited to just bus counts:

Auditors also raised issues with passenger counts on the Metro line and MARC. They found 184,000 more passengers entered Metro stations than left them. MTA attributed that to times when the administration cannot staff stations, forcing them to open all fare gates to ensure that disabled riders can leave the station.

Daily passenger counts on MARC did not match totals for 24 of 40 days, according to the audit.

Transit advocates expressed concern that these problems may undermine efforts to bring the Purple Line, Red Line, and Corridor Cities Transitway to Maryland:
Michele Whelley, president and CEO of the Central Maryland Transportation Alliance, said undercounting riders could take away from advocates’ efforts to spur investment in mass transit, where bus routes play a crucial role in linking modes like MARC, light rail and the Metro.

“Accurate ridership counts are important in terms of transportation planning in terms of schedules, frequency of service and the opportunity to expand service based on demand,” Whelley said. “If the ridership numbers can justify increased service so that those connections are made, we should be reporting every rider who gets on a bus.”

MTA has justified the difference in the counts by stating that there are differences in the federal and state methodology. Except that FTA refuses to comment thus far. And MTA has categorically refused requests to explain how it calculates ridership estimates for submissions in the Environmental Impact Statements for the three big new big transit projects as it described the methodology as "proprietary."


Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Town of Chevy Chase Election Results

The Town held elections today for two seats on the Town Council. Incumbents Pat Burda and Linna Barnes gained reelection by wide margins over challenger Deborah Vollmer who was making her second bid for a seat on the Town Council. A total of 298 votes cast ballots in a low turnout--more than twice as many people cast ballots when the same two seats were up for election in 2009. Here are the results:

Pat Burda, 261 votes or 88% of ballots cast.
Linna Barnes, 240 votes or 81%.
Deborah Vollmer, 40 votes or 13%.

There was also a write-in for Frodo Baggins. You can compare with the results from two years ago here.


Monday, May 02, 2011

Madaleno, Kaiser Rip Arora; Others Apologize for Him

The fracas surrounding Del. Sam Arora continues. Sam, you may recall, is the delegate who was ardently for same-sex marriage before he was against it before he was for it before he, well, you get the idea. As the Gazette reported, two openly gay and lesbian legislators ripped Sam for his actions during the session.

Sen. Rich Madaleno:

"I think Sam Arora distinguished himself as someone not to be trusted, and I don't think he will have a long career in the House of Delegates," said Madaleno (D-Dist. 18) of Kensington, the Senate's only openly homosexual member." . . .

"When you co-sponsor a bill where the lead sponsor is the majority leader from your county who worked very hard to get you elected and you change your mind on the day of the vote, you damage, potentially fatally damage, your credibility," he said, referencing the bill's lead sponsor, House Majority Leader Kumar P. Barve (D-Dist. 17) of Gaithersburg.

Going forward, that could impact Arora's ability to get things done for his district, Madaleno said.

"For me, I will always have a doubt when he makes a commitment on any issue whether or not I can trust that commitment," he said.
Del. Anne Kaiser:
"I think it's definitely true that Sam hurt his reputation within the legislature and potentially within his district," she said, noting that her parents and other family members and friends supportive of the bill who live in Arora's district felt betrayed. "The sense was, ‘What is he going to back out on next?' His word was damaged."
However, Del. Ben Kramer--Sam Arora's colleague in District 19--attacked Sen. Madaleno for his comments:
"I do think that Sen. Madaleno saying that in a public forum was inappropriate and unnecessary," he said. "I can understand that Sen. Madaleno has a perspective based on a particular issue, but I don't think that it is accurate or reflective of Del. Arora's abilities or potential in the legislature."
So I guess Sen. Madaleno is really just overwrought and too sensitive? Or was it just bad form for another member of the club to call out Del. Arora for turning his back on his constituents and colleagues after campaigning for same-sex marriage, trumpeting his sponsorship of the bill to constituents, and telling colleagues he was for the bill just two days before the vote?

Meanwhile, Del. Kathleen Dumais--the floor leader for the bill--apologized for Sam:
Del. Kathleen M. Dumais said Arora handled the matter appropriately by discussing his dilemma with committee and chamber leaders.

"That gave us all the opportunity to talk him through [it]," she said. "I think that gives him credibility as opposed to not."

Dumais (D-Dist. 15) of Bethesda, who is vice chairwoman of the Judiciary Committee, believes Arora eventually has to tell constituents what led him to reconsider his stance. But she noted that such re-evaluation is not uncommon, particularly on emotionally charged issues.

"When we sit in committee and listen to hours of hours of hours of testimony on these tough issues, it gives you a different perspective than when you're out on the campaign trail and these things sound wonderful," she said.
Sam has moved on to extent of declaring same-sex marriage a relatively unimportant issue in a written statement:
"Every day I'm honored to work for the people of my district by working to protect education funding and make our communities safer," he wrote in the statement. "With all due respect to Senator Madeleno [sic], I'm finding the folks in my community are less concerned about Annapolis politics and more concerned with issues like caring for our seniors and improving Pepco."
Again, recall that this is a man who proudly campaigned on his support for same-sex marriage, took campaign donations on that basis, and then touted his sponsorship of the bill to constituents. And note that there is nothing on his current position on same-sex marriage.


Friday, April 29, 2011

Pena-Melnyk Writes Her Colleagues on Last Week's Attack


The following is a Dear Colleague letter sent by Del. Joseline Pena-Melnyk in response to the horrific attack on a transgender women in Baltimore County last week (see the above video) that demonstrates why the anti-discrimination legislation she has championed is so badly needed.

To My Maryland General Assembly Colleagues,

I respectfully ask that each of you take the time to view the video at this link, but please be advised that it is disturbing and portrays a horrific hate crime:


Incidents such as this illustrate why the transgender community in Maryland and elsewhere needs to be protected through antidiscrimination legislation. Supporters of House Bill 235 in this past legislative session recognized this need and stood up for the rights of this community. While HB235 did not include protection from discrimination in public accommodations due to the intense pressure opponents placed on the bill’s supporters, the bill would have raised public awareness of the issue and paved the way for complete protection for Maryland’s transgender population. Contrary to statements made by those who should be leading the fight for civil rights in Maryland, this was not an anti-family bill, but a basic civil rights bill. The failure of this bill goes against Maryland’s long history of being in the forefront of civil rights movements.

This attack, which took place in District 8, has been broadcast all over the national news, and the video has gone viral, bringing shame to the State of Maryland for allowing such things to take place. I challenge each of the Senators who voted to recommit HB235 on sine die (see the link at http://mlis.state.md.us/2011rs/votes/senate/1123.htm) to serve as primary sponsors of a stronger version of HB235 in the 2012 legislative session. It is time to rectify the wrong that has been done to transgender citizens of our State.




Thursday, April 28, 2011

Chevy Chase Land Company Unveils Its Plans

Red Numbers Indicate Number of Floors

Last night at the 4-H Center, the Chevy Chase Land Company unveiled its vision for the land it owns at Chevy Chase Lake near the proposed Purple Line stop. They proposed 4.3 million new square feet of development, including 900,000 square feet of commercial office space, 200,000 square feet of retail space, 3000 new residential units (over 3 million square feet), and a hotel with 150 rooms.

The photo above shows the Land Company's proposed new street grid with the main street paralleling the path of the Purple Line which goes above ground due to the need to cross Connecticut Ave. The Land Company's plans includes 12 high-rise buildings of ten stories or higher, 4 mid-rise buildings of five to nine stories, and 3 low-rise buildings with four stories--the red numbers in the photo indicate the number of stories. (There is a somewhat larger photo of the central area plans after the jump.)

The following is an artist's rendition of the Land Company's proposed development presented at the meeting at the 4-H Club. The strip rising toward the Purple Line with the biker on it is the Trail.

The Land Company did not commit to limit the number of parking spaces per housing unit or for the office space in response to a question by Richard Hoye--former aide to former Councilmember Trachtenberg--about parking and encouraging transit. There was discussion of potential widening of Connecticut Ave. in a manner similar already planned for Jones Bridge Rd. to handle increased traffic. I did not learn about the availability of short-term parking for retail shoppers, though it was stated that there would be no long-term parking for people wishing to commute--the latter is consistent with the current plans for the Purple Line light-rail station.

I do not know if the plan includes any bike lanes on either Connecticut Ave. or the new internal street grid beyond the possibility of biking on the Trail. The Land Company stated that their plans included wide sidewalks, particularly along the proposed Main Street. Some of the high-rise buildings are very close to existing neighborhoods, such as the Hamlet and the townhouse development on Manor Road.

The Land Company stated that there was no land set aside for schools or plans to expand existing schools in response to a question from the audience expressing concern because of overcrowding issues at B-CC High School. Mr. Dalrymple, the attorney for the Land Company who ran the meeting, said it would be up to the County to address these issues.

The Planning Board Staff are expected to deliver their vision for the area at a public meeting sometime in May. Elza Hisel-McCoy (Elza.Hisel-McCoy@mncppc-mc.org) is the Project Manager for MNCPPC. (By the way, kudos to Dale Tibbets, Chief of Staff to Councilmember Marc Elrich, for giving someone a neighborly jump start after their car battery died when the meeting ended at 9pm.)


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

District 18 End of Session Letter

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

Monday night marked the end of the 428th legislative session of the Maryland General Assembly. As always, it is an honor and privilege to represent you in the State House. Your District 18 Team—Senator Rich Madaleno and Delegates Al Carr, Ana Sol Gutiérrez, and Jeff Waldstreicher—has continued working together this year to advocate for the issues, programs, and services that best meet the needs of District 18 and Montgomery County. We appreciate the thousands of emails, postcards, letters, phone calls, and office visits we received throughout the 90-day session.

Balancing the Budget and Ensuring Fiscal Responsibility
This session, we were able to move our state forward despite the challenging budget climate. We passed a balanced budget that reduces the size of government while retaining essential services. To do so, we made difficult decisions about where to cut, but protected the most vulnerable members of our society: seniors, children, working families, and disabled Marylanders.

Our budget maintains our commitment to public schools and protects our investment in higher education. Two of us—Sen. Rich Madaleno and Del. Ana Sol Gutiérrez—serve on budget committees. We also ensured that the budget sustains affordable healthcare for low-income Marylanders. We took important steps toward making our teacher and state employee retirement system solvent for future generations. We fought to help small businesses create jobs, and for a modest increase in the alcohol tax that will provide badly-needed resources to help people with developmental disabilities. Finally, we invested in our future by passing landmark legislation providing all Maryland high school graduates with in-state tuition at our institutions of higher education.

Protecting our Environment and Preserving our Quality of Life
Your District 18 Team once again championed legislation to protect the environment and improve our quality of life. We successfully passed the Maryland Electricity Service Quality and Reliability Act, which will set strict standards for utilities and give regulators the ability to hold Pepco financially accountable for their abysmal performance. Del. Al Carr led the fight in the House of Delegates to strengthen this legislation by working to include more specific requirements for monitoring and inspecting Pepco’s aging infrastructure.

The General Assembly also passed several bills to protect our environment and promote clean energy. We made progress by banning harmful chemicals in baby products and worked to decrease the use of toxic pesticides in farming. We increased penalties for poaching in the Chesapeake Bay and maintained our critical investment in the Chesapeake Bay Trust Fund. Finally, we paved the way for a dramatic increase in wind energy, which will likely pass legislatively next year.

Fighting for Victims and Protecting our Community
We also continued our efforts to protect victims and keep our communities safe. Del. Jeff Waldstreicher, who serves on the Judiciary Committee, led the effort to end bullying in our schools and provide restitution for victims of human trafficking. The General Assembly also passed important new laws protecting animals, including one that bans convicted animal abusers from owning pets. The entire District 18 Team also proudly voted for marriage equality, and to protect victims of discrimination based on gender identity. Unfortunately, both bills failed to pass the General Assembly this session.

Investing in Local Priorities
The District 18 Team also obtained capital bond funding to directly benefit our neighborhoods. We secured $200,000 for design and renovation at the MacDonald Knolls Center, which supports people with disabilities. We also secured $100,000 for Warner Manor in Kensington and $50,000 for the historic Noyes Children’s Library. This year, the Montgomery County Delegation was able to secure more than $30 million in state funds for school construction.

* * *

Over the next few weeks, we will continue preparing individual responses to many of the letters and emails we received during the session. In addition, the General Assembly’s website (http://mlis.state.md.us) contains a great deal of information about our work, including the soon-to-be-released 90 Day Report. If you have questions or comments, feel free to email us at District18Team@gmail.com or at our individual email addresses below. Thank you again for your comments and support this year. We are grateful to serve as your District 18 representatives in Annapolis.

Senator Rich Madaleno
Delegate Al Carr
Delegate Ana Sol Gutiérrez
Delegate Jeff Waldstreicher


Friday, April 15, 2011

Town of Chevy Chase Council Meeting

The following is an unofficial summary of the Town Council meeting last Wednesday:

Variance Hearings
The Town Council unanimously approved variances for three properties. The first provides a small variance needed to construct a small addition at 7005 Beechwood Dr. The second allows construction of a more substantial addition at 7009 East Ave. The third permits construction of rear porch at 4011 Thornapple St.

Proposed Changes to Permit and Variance Fees
The Town Council reviewed proposed increases to permit and variance fees that it had discussed at the budget work session and made changes that included reductions in the proposed increases for three fees, including the fee for a variance application, and a rise in the proposed increase of one fee. None of the proposed fees may legally exceed the cost to the Town of administering the Code and many remain substantially below the cost to the Town.

All of the proposed changes will appear in the upcoming addition of the Forecast and residents will have the opportunity to give their input at the budget hearing at the Annual Meeting before the Council considers them again.

Approval of Proposed FY12 Budget and Tax Rates
The Council unanimously approved the budget proposal that will be posted to the Town website and described in the upcoming issue of the Forecast.

The proposed budget maintains the constant yield tax rate which means that the property tax rate is set at a level designed to collect the same amount of revenue as last year. In this case, due to a decline in assessed value of properties in the Town, this will result in an increase in the tax rate from .10 to .105—equivalent to an increase from $100 per $1 million of assessed value to $105 per $1 million of assessed value—though the Town is projected to collect no more money from property taxes than last year.

The expenditures in the proposed operating budget for FY12 are 18.6% lower than in the FY11 Budget and 20.6% lower than in the FY10 Budget, though it is less drastic reduction from FY11 projected actual expenditures because the Council cut expenditures in mid-year by roughly 13.5% in response to a decline in expected revenues.

The one major change in services proposed is a change in yard trash collection from twice weekly to once weekly. Town residents will have a chance to comment on this proposed change and other components of the budget proposal at the Town Annual Meeting. The budget proposal, including the budget narrative which helps to explain each line of the budget, will be posted to the Town website.

Purple Line Mitigation Advisory Group Report
Rich Brancato of MAG reported to the Town Council on three proposals for the crossing at Lynn Drive other than an at-grade crossing. The Committee viewed none of the proposals as acceptable. The Town Council agreed by consensus to adopt MAG’s recommendation to work for a safe at-grade crossing at Lynn Drive, though the Council also discussed the need to obtain public input before making any final recommendation to MTA.

Street Lighting Evaluation
Joel Rubin, Chair of the Public Services Committee, reported on his committee’s recommendations regarding street lighting. The Council asked the Committee to flesh out aspects of the proposal further, especially potential costs, so it can be considered at the May Council meeting before the Town puts out a proposal or options for public comment.


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Anne Kaiser's End of Session Letter

Dear Friends and Neighbors:

I’m writing to you just minutes after the 2011 Maryland General Assembly’s legislative session ended. For nine years, I have proudly served you as our community’s common-sense voice in the Maryland House of Delegates. But I have to tell you: this session was the most emotionally draining, the most challenging -- and in some ways, the most disappointing thus far.

I am not at all a single-issue person. Over the years, I have honed my knowledge of our state’s tax policies; I have pushed for education reforms; I have marshaled key legislation aimed at preserving Maryland’s status as having the best schools in the nation. In fact, I think it’s fair to say that others in the chamber see me as having great expertise in education policy.

But on Friday, March 11th -- my heart sank when the House of Delegates could not come up with enough votes to pass marriage equality legislation. This bill would have legalized same-sex marriages in our state. The proposal practically sailed through the Senate, but hit several roadblocks in the House -- including opposition from several legislators who had pledged their support on the campaign trail.

As a gay woman who has been in a committed relationship for the last eight years -- I’m sure you can imagine my heartbreak and disappointment. You see, like thousands of others in long-term, committed same-sex relationships in our state, my girlfriend and I want to get married in Maryland and in my parents’ lifetime.

I wanted to start with this issue -- obviously because it is personally important to me -- but also because many people have asked me why the House of Delegates didn’t cast an actual up-or-down vote on the issue. Ultimately, we believed that putting up a vote on the issue would have unnecessarily locked legislators into a position that would be hard for them to change in the future.

Knowing that this issue has gained unprecedented public support in just the past few years, we thought it would be best to give members of the House more time to consider this issue before insisting they cast a vote. I fully expect that the legislature will consider marriage equality next year. I’m proud to have worked on the bill, but I’m saddened that we were just a few votes shy of the votes needed for passage.

I am really proud that the entire District 14 delegation -- Senator Karen Montgomery, Delegates Eric Luedtke and Craig Zucker -- stood for marriage equality. Together, we represent nearly 120,000 people who reside in Ashton; Brinklow; Brookeville; Burtonsville; Calverton; Cloverly; Colesville; Damascus; Laytonsville; Olney; Sandy Spring; as well as parts of Silver Spring and West Laurel.

Each and every voice in District 14 just got a little louder since I was appointed to a leadership position in the House of Delegates, as one of two Chief Deputy Majority Whips. In this role, I help the Speaker of the House round up votes on key priorities of the House of Delegates, including the budget, school funding issues and raising the alcohol tax.

State Budget Highlights

Like our nation’s economy, Maryland’s economy is still on somewhat shaky ground even though the economic recovery has begun to take hold.

In Wisconsin, Ohio and other states dominated by a much more conservative bent, governors and legislators have targeted public employee unions and severely watered-down their collective bargaining rights. Other states have cut health care programs, education, and delayed needed infrastructure projects.

In Maryland, we have kept our promise to ensure adequate pension plans for teachers, police officers and other public employees. We have put our money where our mouths are by investing in public education, biotechnical research, and infrastructure. I believe these decisions will position our state to recover much more quickly from the national economic downturn.

Maryland Schools #1 in the Nation -- Three Years in a Row!

I serve as chair of the Education Subcommittee, and in that position, I play a key role in the decisions our state makes to strengthen our schools. We still have a huge education achievement gap to address; bullying is all too rampant in our schools; and there are still too many temporary/portable classrooms, especially in our inner-city schools.

For three years in a row, Education Week magazine has ranked Maryland schools as the number one in the nation. But we have a moral obligation to keep improving our public schools before we can look ourselves in the mirror and say we are providing a top-notch education for all our state’s public school kids.

To continue the fight against bullying, I introduced a bill that would have required schools to inform parents of the health risks that children might experience as a result of being bullied. While the bill passed by an overwhelming vote of 120-17 in the House, it unfortunately stalled in the State Senate. I plan to reintroduce the bill next year. And in the meantime, if your child has been a victim of severe bullying, please contact my office.

I also introduced a bill to create a standard set of qualifications for substitute teachers across the state. While it’s true that substitute teachers don’t spend much time with our children, we must take advantage of all of the 185 days of the school year if our children are to succeed. Establishing fair standards and qualifications for substitute teacher is a modest, common sense step we can take to improve public education at very little cost to the taxpayer.

Your New District 14 Team Delivers

One of the most important things your legislators can do in Annapolis is to ensure that worthy projects in our communities earn the state funding they need to come to fruition. I was proud to work with my District 14 colleagues on a number of great projects for our community.

A few years ago, our team secured $100,000 in state funding for the Damascus Heritage Museum for a permanent building to replace the temporary one in place now. Several reasons prevented the construction from being completed on time and the state typically rescinds funding that has not been spent within a specified time period. Fortunately, we got that timeframe extended so that this outstanding and worthy project can be finished. We expect the building will be completed and open to the public in the near future. Stay tuned.

The state will also be dedicating an additional $100,000 (in addition to the $150,000 allocated in prior years) to renovate Falling Green -- a historically significant house located on property owned by the Olney Boys and Girls Club. I am especially proud to help support this project because in doing so, we will not only restore a part of our county and region’s history -- but will also provide much needed office space for the Boys and Girls Club.

Did you know that more than 7,000 children play sports (football, baseball, soccer, softball, lacrosse, etc.) through the Olney Boys and Girls Club?

And speaking of sports… the issue of concussions has earned a great deal of media attention in recent years. As chair of the Education Subcommittee, I was proud to play a key leadership role in making high school and youth sports safer by increasing awareness of the risks of concussions.

A new law that takes effect in October will require a coach who has reason to believe a youth has suffered a concussion on the field -- to consult with a qualified health care professional before that child can play again. We must take the repercussions of concussions very seriously.

Now, we in Montgomery County absolutely love our community theaters. And the crown jewel of local theater is undoubtedly our award-winning Olney Theater. We should give a standing ovation to our state’s budget because it includes a $150,000 allocation to offset the cost of recent capital improvement projects that have contributed to the growing excellence of our theater.

Energy and the Environment

While our collective energy costs are rising, the energy companies we depend on have faced circumstances that have reduced their reliability. In part due to harsh storms and overgrown trees in sections of Montgomery County, some people have complained specifically about PEPCO’s reliability. That’s why I voted in favor of a bill that requires all energy providers to meet reliability standards and pay fines when they do not.

Of course, we know that on a global scale, we must find alternative energy sources and those sources must be cleaner and renewable. I supported Governor Martin O’Malley’s initiative to establish wind farms off Maryland’s coastline. I hope this initiative will be successful next year.

For the first time in my legislative career, I decided to test the waters -- so to speak -- in the environmental arena. Of course, funny enough, the one environmental issue I pursued was directly tied to education. I introduced a bill to require our state to examine the feasibility of making modest investments in hybrid-electric school buses. It didn’t pass this year, but I will try again next year.

Tax Issues

There’s really no other way to say it: it’s amazing -- and sometimes it’s shocking -- how unfair certain federal and state tax policies are. I introduced a bill to close a gaping loophole in current law that allows corporations to abdicate paying their fair share of taxes by essentially creating phantom companies.

The legislature considered raising the gas tax and also the tax we pay when we purchase beer, wine and hard alcohol.

Did you know our state’s gas tax hasn’t increased since 1992 and our tax on beer and wine has remained flat since 1972? It’s amazing to think that the legislature hasn’t increased the tax on hard alcohol since 1955. Eisenhower was president then!

While the legislature decided against increasing the gas tax, we did feel compelled to increase the alcohol tax. The tax on alcohol will rise from 6 percent to 9 percent with the increases going to fund needs for the disability community and, for just one year, money for school construction, including $9 million for Montgomery County Public Schools.

Like you, I want to keep more of my money in my pocket. None of us likes paying more taxes -- but as the famous quote goes -- taxes are the price we pay to live in a civilized society.

Leadership and Closing
It is my pleasure and honor to represent our communities in the Maryland General Assembly. As a citizen legislator, I would not be as successful without your guidance and I thank each one of you for your calls, e-mails and letters.

I was delighted this year to be appointed by House Speaker Mike Busch as one of two Chief Deputy Majority Whips, meaning that I am now part of the House leadership.

Thank you for trusting me to represent your values and your perspectives in our citizen legislature. As corny as it may sound, since I was five years old (just ask my brothers), I knew I wanted to launch a career in public service.

I wish you a happy and healthy spring and summer! Bring on the warm weather and break out the barbecues! If I can ever be of service to you, please call me. And speaking of barbecues, I’d love to drop in on yours -- please consider inviting me! I promise to bring something delicious!


Anne R. Kaiser

p.s. If you would rather receive this letter and other occasional updates via e-mail, please send us a message at: anne.kaiser@house.state.md.us.