Monday, April 30, 2007

Jane Lawton's Endorsement

Delegate Jane Lawton has endorsed Rob Enelow and Linna Barnes for reelection to the Chevy Chase Town Council:

I am writing to urge your support for the re-election of Mayor Linna Barnes and Councilman Rob Enelow. I have worked closely with both Linna and Rob, and I know firsthand of their intelligence and leadership, as well as their commitment to the Town and its residents.

As you know, the Council had many challenges over the past few years. There are issues that demanded careful consideration and decision. Linna and Rob have made every effort to provide an open and fully participatory process. They have welcomed the input of residents and other stakeholders, and each has worked to find the best solutions for our Town. . . .

Linna Barnes has served ably as the Council's liason to the Construction Committee and to the current Land Use Committee. As Mayor, her first term has been distinguished by her commitment to improve communications with residents and her desire that more residents be involved in decision-making. She was instrumental in hosting various Town Meetings, including one on the Li property and another with state and county officials regarding the serious storm water problems. Now it appears the Town will receive county funding for storm water drainage! Linna has increased e-mail alerts to improve safety and support a strong sense of community through improved communications.

Rob Enelow has worked tirelessly with the Traffic Committee to improve traffic, pedestrian safety, and more recently, with the Town's Environmental Committee. Rob has recently led the successful effort to strengthen our laws that protect our tree canopy and to limit the impact of new construction on water drainage. Rob is also working with the Climate Protection Committee to support the national effort to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and greenhouse gases. In my own capacity as your State Delegate, I work on envirionmental issues and thus, greatly value Rob's leadership in this area.

It is not easy to represent all the diverse interests in a Town like ours, but both these Council Members have earned our support. . . .
Delegate Lawton served on the Council for many years and received extremely strong support in the Town in her campaigns for the state legislature.


Sunday, April 29, 2007

Adam Pagnucco on the Budget

The revenue-spending balance is clearly a major issue in Montgomery County. There is a lot of discussion about raising revenue. I tend to think a lot of taxpayers feel increasingly squeezed by rising public and private costs. Gas is already a lot more expensive. Property is much more expensive. I don't know how much room there is for cutting in the county budget without undermining services. I asked Adam Pagnucco, a local activist and a leader in the fight for a tunnel under Georgia Ave. by the Forest Glen Metro, if he had any ideas and received this thoughtful reply:

In Montgomery County local races, four issues regularly rise to the top: education, development, traffic congestion and the environment, in no particular order. In last year’s elections, all four issues were discussed by the candidates – especially development. But this spring a fifth issue has risen to surpass all of them: the county’s difficult choices on the budget. The budget is not only an unavoidable issue because it is central to the functioning of the government – it also affects the ability of county leaders to deal with each of the above four issues that are important to voters.

The county has a short-term problem and a long-term problem with its budget.

The short-term problem appeared in the first budget submitted by our new County Executive. While Ike Leggett’s proposal for $4.1 billion in county spending was 6.3% higher than last year’s budget, the increase was below the prior year’s rate of 9%. Leggett pronounced recent budget growth “unsustainable” and declared that no county agency, including the schools, would get its entire budget request. Despite an aggressive lobbying campaign by public sector unions – especially the Montgomery County Education Association – the County Council seems likely to uphold the broad outlines of the County Executive’s proposal.

Furthermore, Council President Marilyn Praisner has identified a $269 million budget deficit for the fiscal year starting in July 2008. The deficit margin is about 7% - which is close to the increase recommended for this year. The council may very well combine a small tax increase with careful maintenance of core spending to deal with this deficit. This may be enough to avoid modifying the county’s labor contracts with its employees as the Council President has recently discussed.

As serious as the short-term problem is, it does not compare to the county’s budget issues of 1991-92 when it suffered from an economic recession. At that time, 7,000 county employees were furloughed for four days. Public employees occupied the council chambers, teachers engaged in a work slowdown and some public school students walked out of classes to protest potential cuts. No one is predicting similar upheaval this time.

However, the long-term budget problem represents a significant challenge. Since 1990, the county’s population growth has averaged 1.4% per year while its budget has generally grown 5-10% per year. In recent years, the county has managed this by depending on big increases in property tax receipts driven by its real estate boom. That real estate boom has ended and property tax receipts will soon reflect that. The county faces three choices in the long run:

1. Large tax hikes to fund budget increases. The danger here is that those tax hikes may slow the county’s economic growth rate even further, worsening its fiscal problems in the future.

2. Slowing the rate of county budget growth to equal the rate of economic growth. This would mean county budget growth of 1-2% per year. This would be insufficient to meet the standards of service to which residents have become accustomed. School, fire, police and health care costs are all increasing at faster rates even if the size of the relevant county departments remains unchanged. This budget growth rate would also be insufficient to adequately compensate county employees, and that would gradually damage one of the nation’s best-educated, least-turnover-prone local government workforces.

3. Systematically encouraging enough economic growth to fund the county’s budget.

The third option reveals a naked truth that was not commonly discussed during the last campaign: budget policy and development policy are inter-related. Over the long run, limiting economic growth will limit the ability of local government to serve its residents. But as any resident of Phoenix or Las Vegas would observe, economic growth has consequences for quality of life. The question of the last campaign was, “Should we have development or not?” But the real question is, “How can we have enough economic growth to pay for government services we need without driving existing residents crazy?”

Economic growth comes from two sources: population growth and job creation. If one of these occurs without the other, or if they occur in different geographic locations, the result is traffic congestion. The two should occur together, at similar rates, and in nearby locations. This has direct implications for county development policy.

In general, the county has three kinds of developable areas: the agricultural reserve, the four downtowns (Bethesda, Rockville, Silver Spring and Wheaton), and the rest of the county. Most residents agree that the agricultural reserve should continue to be protected for cultural and environmental reasons. That leaves the other two areas for consideration.

The four downtowns are unique assets in the county because they each have residential density, concentrated office space and pedestrian-oriented retail space all within walking distance of each other. A resident of Bethesda’s central business district (CBD) who also works in the CBD does not have to use his or her car every day. That individual can walk to work and walk to the grocery store on the way home. The fact that all of the amenities of life are concentrated in a walkable radius cuts back on car use, which cuts down on energy usage, greenhouse gases and pollution. It also reduces the need for road maintenance.

But many residents may want to live in one CBD and work in another. This means that the CBDs should be connected, preferably through transit. Bethesda is connected to Rockville, and Silver Spring is connected to Wheaton through Metro’s Red Line. Bethesda could be connected to Silver Spring through the Purple Line. And a bus rapid transit route from Wheaton to Rockville is the county’s top transit study request of the state government. If both of those projects go through, the county will have four inter-connected downtowns.

How could the county encourage economic growth in downtowns rather than sprawl in non-transit-accessible suburbs? In the downtowns, the county could use zoning text amendments (or more ambitiously, coordinated and complementary updates to master plans) to encourage transit-oriented CBD growth. In non-CBD areas, project area transportation reviews and robust school capacity tests would limit development outside the downtowns. This combination of measures would channel economic growth to the CBDs while minimizing the consequences of traffic congestion and pollution. The side effect would be to encourage the creation of downtown entertainment districts, each customized to reflect the unique cultural identities of each CBD.

For those who are uneasy about growth in downtowns, keep in mind the other two budget options: large tax hikes or gradually deteriorating government services. No local area in this country – even Montgomery County – is immune to the negative long-run effects of either (or both).


Friday, April 27, 2007

Endorsement Letter

Twenty-seven Chevy Chase residents have sent out a letter endorsing incumbents Linna Barnes and Rob Enelow for the two seats on the Town Council up for election on May 1st. Many were active supporters of the moratorium on development in the Town and supported the election of Kathy Strom and Lance Hoffman to the Council last year.

The letter touts the following achievements by Linna and Rob:

Ø Passed and implemented a road map for the future: The Town’s Strategic Plan, created through an inclusive community process, seeks to protect and strengthen what is special about the Town – its tree canopy, its architectural character, and its strong sense of community – and to position the community to meet proactively future opportunities and challenges, both within and outside our borders.

Ø Encouraged stronger and meaningful participation by Town residents through the creation of five new Town citizen committees: Community Relations, Environment, Land Use, Long Range Planning and Public Services.

Ø Increased Town efficiency: Through new standard operating procedures, staff adjustments, improved technology and other measures, the Town is better able to service its residents and the demands of the 21st Century.

Ø Strengthened public safety: Linna and Rob have been part of a Council effort to beef up security patrols, initiate better lighting and an improved design at the Elm Street Park in cooperation with the County and the Air Rights developer, expand sidewalk access and further implement the Town’s Traffic Plan.

Ø Implemented a new storm water management ordinance: These new requirements should help curb water-runoff and drainage problems that have plagued the Town for many years.

Ø Opened the development process to Town residents: Through the adoption of mandatory pre-permit meetings, residents can now learn about major construction projects, exchange information, and provide feedback early in the process.

Ø Improved Town communication: To better inform Town residents, a more citizen-friendly Web site is now up and running, and a Town e-mail list serve has been created.

Ø Made significant progress on the “Li” Property to remove this Town eyesore: After years of little action, the Town Council recently obtained a court order to have the structure removed and is actively pursuing options to prevent over-subdivision of the property.

This letter confirms my earlier impression that this election is rapidly becoming a tacit referendum on the approach that the Town has taken since the adoption of the moratorium. You can read the candidate statements for yourself online at the Town website.

I've been pleased by many of the measures that the Town has taken over the past year as outlined in the letter. I'm especially happy about the new protections of the tree canopy which help keep the area near where I live both cooler and more beautiful, and the increased ability of residents to participate in Town government. I plan to vote for both of the incumbents, Linna Barnes and Rob Enelow, in the hope that the Town will continue its effort to take a sensitive and balanced approach toward the Town's future.


Mstislav Rostropovich Died Today

Read obituaries for this former conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra and internationally renowned cellist in the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times.


Marc Elrich Responds. . .

. . . to my post below on yesterday's article in the Post on Planning Chairman Royce Hanson's comments to the Montgomery Council. See the comment section below the post for his thoughtful response as well as my own reply.


Thursday, April 26, 2007

Chevy Chase Election Heats Up

Elections in the Town of Chevy Chase have the reputation of being pretty genteel contests. Candidate often send out letters to town residents touting their accomplishments or listing a few ideas for the future and asking for a vote. The letter I received the other day from incumbent Mayor Linna Barnes was pretty standard in that regard.

Former Councilman Scott Orbach
appears ready to break out of the pattern as part of his bid to return. His letter, which I received today, directly attacks the record of the current council:

I am running for our Town's council again because, like so many of you, I'm disturbed by the direction in which the current council is heading, and I'd like to make a difference. Amid all of the focus on stricter rules and regulations, and the resulting increase in variance requests, basic Town services are suffering, to the detriment of its residents.

Specifically, I was shocked to learn that our Town's budget has skyrocketed 50% in fiscal year 2008 (about $1 million) above 2007 expenditures. Legal fees alone have risen to $250,000, 20% more than 2007. Worst of all, consulting fees will rise 700%, to $400,000. That's $350,000 above 2007, and a staggering 1,300% above 2006. Meanwhile, the Council's new-found hunger for expensive consulting services has not extended to independent studies or gathering data that estimate the impact of proposed regulations before adopting them.

Despite this dramatic rise in the overall budget, monies allotted for public safety, sanitation, and public works will actually decrease.
I suspect that the consulting fees include the up to $250,000 that the Council allotted for a potential study of the Purple Line which have attracted a lot of attention. The Action Committee for Transit issued a hard-hitting press release attacking this interest on the part of the Town. The Gazette followed up with an article on the issue.

I happened to attend the meeting when the Council voted on this matter. The reality is that it is currently just a place marker in the budget. No money has to be actually spent or even contracted. It was clear from the discussion that the council members would be perfectly happy to spend less than this amount and want to consider further how best to examine the potential impact of the proposed light rail.

The Council now plans to hold a public hearing next month, after the election, to listen to viewpoints of Town residents on the proposed expenditure. However, I suspect that the portion of the letter which may attract the most attention is his major idea regarding the ever-controversial issue of development and McMansions:
Reviewing, and repairing, our many construction ordinances. Recently passed ordinances have done little to abate the problem of development. Old homes are still being torn down to make way for new, larger homes. In fact, they have resulted in unintended consequences that create hardships and burdens for growing families whose changing needs would be served by modest home improvements. Families should be encouraged to improve their homes instead of being forced to sell to developers. Construction requirements have become so cumbersome and onerous that private homeowners simply don't have the means to deal with all the red-tape: but developers do.
Essentially, Scott is arguing that the new regulations have not curbed developers but have made it expensive and difficult for homeowners to make reasonable expansions to their homes. So far, the people around me seem able to expand their homes. Indeed, two of my neighbors across the street have managed to construct additions to their home that, in my opinion, are very reasonable and fit in well with the character of the neighborhood.

At the same time, he is correct that the process for obtaining a variance is undoubtedly more formalized than in the past. I'd be curious to know to what extent people have found it either too bureaucratic, too expensive, or impeding reasonable development. How many people have actually sold their homes because of the new ordinances and why?

The question also arises to what extent that the homes constructed by developers would be even grander in the absence of the regulations. Indeed, some town residents may think that the solution is to do more, rather than less, on this issue. In short, to the extent that issues rather that personalities matter, this election may turn on on whether residents think that the Town's efforts to control development and construction have gone too far or whether it should continue on its current path, or even go further.

Some residents are concerned about crime and Scott wants to be more aggressive on that front. He favors:
o Upgrading, rather than downgrading public safety services. The Town could hire professional police officers and utilize their knowledge and experience instead of relying on low-paid security guards.

. . .

o Deliverying urgent alerts to our home phones, cell phones, e-mail, and text message accounts through an improved rapid communication system. The fact that we had to wait three days for printed letters to be delivered by the post office after public safety threats this year (when we were notified at all) is unacceptable in theis era of momentary dissemination.

o Providing better enforcement of our traffic laws to calm Town streets.
I think there is some rising concern about crime, especially in Elm Street Park, though most still probably feel that Chevy Chase remains a very safe place. I better finish this post so I can get to the candidate meet and greet in about fifteen minutes.


Tax and Ban?

Montgomery County Planning Chairman Royce Hanson says not much can be done about traffic without a massive upping of the gas tax and limiting parking in new developments:

Montgomery County might be unable to do much to reduce traffic congestion without such drastic measures as a big gasoline tax or substantially limiting parking in new developments, the county's top planner said yesterday.

Although the Planning Board's chairman, Royce Hanson, stopped short of endorsing any of those ideas, he said he thinks that county officials need to face some hard realities: Simply changing formulas for how many houses can be built might not make a dent in the byproducts of growth -- traffic congestion and school crowding.

"In some ways, the methods that will have the largest effect on development patterns or congestion may not be investment or infrastructure or design, but some really big, mean tool such as a big tax," he told a County Council committee that had asked him to provide an update on a study of growth and its impact.

He may be right but my guess is that we're not going down either road just yet since (1) members of the County Council don't have the power to tax gas, and (2) all of these politicians worked far too hard getting elected to the Council to have political death wishes, though Marc Elrich said he agreed with Hanson's assessment.

Personally, I don't think either of Hanson's ideas would have much effect on existing traffic in that the major backup remains people trying to go from the 270 corridor out towards Dulles Airport every day. However, I suppose if the tax were high enough, it might encourage more carpooling or force people to even move to Virginia. Or they just might buy their gas on the other side of the Potomac--something many already try to do when they can as gas prices are already higher in Maryland.

Perhaps more creative thinking and a multifaceted approach is in order?


Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Felon Voting Rights Restored

Governor O'Malley signed a bill which restores the rights of convicted felons to vote once they have completed their sentence and are off parole:

Advocates say more than 50,000 Marylanders will be eligible to vote as a result of the legislation. Thirty-eight other states allow ex-convicts who have completed their sentences - including any parole or probation - to vote. But the Maryland legislation was among the most hotly debated bills in the recent General Assembly session.

"It certainly doesn't mean the floodgates are going to open, but this underscores the full meaning of citizenship," said Sen. Gwendolyn T. Britt, a Prince George's County Democrat who was a sponsor of the measure. "When you have paid your debt to society ... you should be free to register to vote."

At present, those convicted of most felonies can petition to have their voting rights restored after their sentences plus a three-year waiting period are completed. The bill passed the Senate 28-19 and the House of Delegates 78-60, with substantial numbers of Democrats joining Republicans in opposing the measure.


Tuesday, April 24, 2007

On Political Pulse

MD State Delegate Brian Feldman (D. Potomac) and Steve Kreseski, former Chief of Staff to former Governor Ehrlich, will be on "Political Pulse" on Tuesday, April 24th at 9:30 p.m. and Thursday, April 26th at 9:00 p.m. to discuss the just-ended Legislative Session. The looming State budget will be discussed at length and also whether revenues from slots will be needed
to solve part of the budget crisis. Another issue that will be discussed is whether the Republican Party can make a comeback in Maryland.

On Tuesday, May 1st at 9:30 p.m. a past interview with former candidate for President George McGovern will air on "Political Pulse." Senator McGovern will discuss his proposals for fixing the Social Security trust fund problem and he will also discuss the Iraq War and his military service.

"Political Pulse" is on Channel 16 TV in Montgomery County.


Monday, April 23, 2007

Breaking Up is Hard to Do

Budget crises are breaking up the election coalition which largely triumphed in this year's Democratic primary. Both the state and the county are facing looming budget shortfalls. At the state level, Gov. O'Malley and the Democratic majority in the General Assembly decided to postpone the day of reckoning.

The governor may call a special session to deal with the state's budget problems. He clearly loathes the idea of increasing taxes so slot machines are back on the agenda. Unlike former Gov. Ehrlich, he appears more than willing to work the General Assembly in order to make slots into law.

In Montgomery County, the County Council surprises. County Executive Ike Leggett has proposed cutting the the $1.99 billion budget proposed by the School Board by $19.7 million. Councilmembers faced the unenviable choice of supporting newly elected County Executive Ike Leggett or MCEA. MCEA even held a rally with support from members of the School Board as well as the Superintendent.

However, the Council chose neither option. Instead, alarmed by budget projections, the Council cut the school budget by a further $1.4 million. Even Councilman Marc Elrich, a former member of MCEA, voted for the cuts. Only Councilwoman Valerie Ervin (D-5), a former member of the school board, voted against the budget cuts.

The budget is no longer so easy to balance for a variety of reasons. Growth, much vilified throughout the campaign, also helps grow the budget. The latest population figures suggest population and economic growth well below the national average. Montgomery County has the highest property transfer taxes in the nation (yes, really) so the end of the property boom also takes a bite out of the County's budget.


Friday, April 20, 2007

Maryland Fights Global Warming

Maryland may be south of the Mason-Dixon line but it is firmly aligning with the northeast on this question:

Maryland joined a multistate effort to reduce pollution contributing to global warming Friday and will begin studies to find more ways to combat climate change and limit the threat rising sea levels pose to the state's 3,100 miles of coastline.

Gov. Martin O'Malley, who signed on to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) and issued an executive order creating the Maryland Commission on Climate Change Friday at Sandy Point Park on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay, said that in the absence of federal action to combat global warming, states must step up their efforts.

When fully phased in, RGGI will force a 10 percent reduction of carbon dioxide emissions from power plants in 10 Northeastern states . . .

The RGGI agreement creates the first "cap and trade" system in the United States to control emissions of carbon dioxide, the primary global warming gas. Starting in 2009, each state will be allocated a certain amount of carbon dioxide its power plants are allowed to emit (for Maryland, it's 37,503,983 million short tons a year). The states would then auction off the credits to electricity producers, who would be forced to stay below the caps or buy unused credits from cleaner power plants.

Beginning in 2015, the states' caps will be reduced by 2.5 percent a year for four years.

An economic analysis conducted by RGGI member states estimated that the cap and trade program could increase retail consumers electric bills by 0.3 percent to 3.2 percent in 2015, a difference of between $3 and $16 a year.

George S. Aburn Jr., air director for the state Department of the Environment, said the program could generate as much as $100 million a year for energy efficiency programs, such as installing "smart meters" in homes to help customers manage their power use or establishing incentive programs for people to improve the energy efficiency of their homes.

Carbon dioxide down but electric bills up. I wonder if the analysis takes into account that rising prices will encourage consumers to use less energy. Of course, it would also help if older power plants are replaced by cleaner, more efficient ones.


Chevy Chase Election

Two seats on the Chevy Chase Town Council are up for election on May 1st. Both Mayor Linna Barnes and Councilman Rob Enelow plan to seek reelection. However, they can't plan on coasting to reelection. Former Councilman Scott Orbach, who was defeated for reelection last year, also is making a bid for a Council seat. The polls at the Leland Center are open from 5 to 8pm on May 1st. However, any registered voter can get an absentee ballot which will be accepted until the polls close.


No Worries, Mate

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) faces a primary challenge:

A Lexington Park man has filed to challenge House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer in the 2008 Democratic primary for Hoyer's seat in Maryland's 5th Congressional District.

James P. Cusick Sr. becomes the first candidate to file for any race in Maryland's primary election, scheduled for Feb. 12, according to the State Board of Elections.

Cusick said he is running on a platform of banning abortion and stopping the expansion of military bases in the district, which includes all of Charles, Calvert and St. Mary's counties and parts of Prince George's and Anne Arundel counties.

I'm really disappointed with Steny Hoyer in that I don't believe he represents the values of our Southern Maryland area," Cusick said.

Hoyer spokeswoman Stephanie Lundberg said, "Congressman Hoyer is entirely focused on serving the constituents of Maryland's Fifth District."

Cusick unsuccessfully challenged Del. John L. Bohanan Jr. (St. Mary's) in the 2006 Democratic primary, receiving 13.4 percent of the vote.

In the 1990s, Cusick was incarcerated several times for failing to pay child support, according to his campaign Web site. He also spent three years in prison after defacing the Maryland State House with spray paint in 2000, the Web site said.

I'm sure all congressmen wish they could face a deadbeat dad, former inmate as their main opponent in either the primary or the general election.


Thursday, April 19, 2007

Slowest Growth Since '79

The Washington Post reports:

According to the census estimates, Maryland's total population last year was 5,615,727, the 19th-highest in the nation, which is the same ranking it has had since 1990. The state gained a little more than 26,000 people from July 2005 to July 2006, also an increase of 0.5 percent, partly because of migration from other countries.

During the same period, Maryland lost an estimated 25,610 residents to what's called domestic migration: movement to other states, the highest total since at least 1990. As for movement out of specific counties -- regardless of where residents went -- the trend was dominated by changes in the inner-ring counties of Montgomery and Prince George's. The inner-ring, or "first-tier," counties are those closest to the District.

In Montgomery County, the arrival of foreign-born residents, coupled with the birth rate, pushed the population to 932,131 last year from 927,405 in 2005, up 0.5 percent. The growth rate was Montgomery's lowest since 1979. A number of Montgomery residents are likely to be moving to Frederick, Howard and Washington counties and to Virginia and other Southern states.

Surely, somebody will buy all those condos going up in Bethesda? Or maybe prices will drop and people will be able to afford to live here again.


Friday, April 06, 2007

MCEA v. County Council Round 2?

Are the County Council and MCEA getting ready to go loggerheads over the County education budget? An activist friend writes:
The school board recently negotiated a contract with MCEA averaging 5% increases and passed an education budget of $1.98 billion. County Executive Ike Leggett recommended giving the schools $20 million less, citing a tight budget year and inadequate school subsidies from the state. According to the Sentinel, both the school board and MCEA are predicting dire consequences, including wage cuts, layoffs and increased class sizes if the budget is not fully funded.

A similar situation occurred in 2003. At that time, the county council was considering a delay in a cost of living increase due to the Teachers in their negotiated contract. Council members Subin, Andrews, Praisner and Floreen voted against MCEA, and the MCEA did not place them on the 2006 Apple ballot (see the Gazette's take as well). Subin was defeated as a result, and Floreen (despite her powerful position as chair of the Transportation Committee) squeaked into re-election in the fourth at-large slot in the primary.
It will be very interesting to see whether County Executive Leggett or MCEA will win this battle with spots on the powerful Apple ballot potentially at stake in 2010. One suspects that the court of public opinion will be crucial here. If County Executive Leggett wants to defend his cuts in a County where education is a religion, he is going to have to make his case.

Similarly, MCEA, the School Board, and other supporters of more spending will gain an edge if they can show that the education system needs the money. They may also gain sympathy to the extent that they can show that County teachers continue to fight hard with the fast rising cost of health care, housing, and transportation.

Anyone have a different perspective?


MD Senate Kills War Resolution

Sens. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery) and Paul Pinsky (D-Prince George's) sponsored a resolution on the deployment of 1300 members of the Maryland National Guard to Iraq. Here is the key part of the resolution:

WHEREAS, Approximately 1,300 members of the Maryland National Guard have been called to serve in Iraq; and

WHEREAS, There are only an estimated 7,000 members of the Maryland National Guard and many have recently served in repeated deployments; and

WHEREAS, To date, more than 3,200 of the U.S. military have died in the war in Iraq; and

WHEREAS, The Inspector General of the Department of Defense has found that the Pentagon has not been able to properly equip the soldiers it already has with many lacking adequate weapons, ammunition, armor, and other supplies to “effectively complete their missions;” and

WHEREAS, Both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives are consideringlegislative proposals relating to military operations in Iraq that include demands for the withdrawal of most U.S. troops from Iraq by 2008; now, therefore be it

RESOLVED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF MARYLAND, That the Governor and the Maryland Congressional delegation are urged to voice their opposition to the most recent mobilization order potentially affecting members of the Maryland National Guard and call for a rescission of the order unless it can be shown that (1) the members will be fully equipped with sufficiently protective body armor and armored vehicles and other necessary weapons and equipment; (2) the members will be fully and adequately trained for combat in Iraq; and (3) there is an official redeployment strategy for all Untied States military personnel from Iraq
At this late date in the session, new resolutions require support from two-thirds of the Senate to be considered. The measure attracted support from only 20 of the 47 senators, though six of the eight Montgomery senators cast a vote in favor. In addition to Sen. Madaleno, the sponsor, Sens. Forehand, (D-17), Frosh (D-16), Garagiola (D-15), Lennett, and Raskin (D-20) supported consideration of the resolution. Sens. Kramer (D-14) and Hogan (D-39) voted against.


Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Goldwater at Home, Not the House

Delegate Marilyn Goldwater (D-16) has missed most of the current legislative session:

According to records, she was present for quorum calls – which record attendance on the House floor – 11 of 63 sessions. The 90-day session wraps up on Monday.

Goldwater, 80, said her absences were not related to her incurable blood cancer, and Democrats from Montgomery County said they were unaware of, or were not discussing, her attendance record.

Reached at home in Bethesda the afternoon of March 22, Goldwater said a case of flu caused her absences.

‘‘I don’t think that my health is affecting anything I do, and for the most part, I feel fine,” she said. ‘‘I’ve had this for five years, and I’m feeling pretty good. ...I have a very mild case [of cancer] and am very fortunate.”

From her home on Tuesday afternoon, Goldwater reiterated that her attendance was due to recent bouts of illness.

‘‘This is the first year that I’ve missed days because of being sick,” she said. ‘‘Everybody gets their share of it.”

Goldwater’s medical condition, multiple myeloma, attacks the immune system and increases susceptibility to kidney damage and bacterial infections. Fewer than one in four women over age 65 live more than five years after being diagnosed with multiple myeloma, according to the National Cancer Institute.

But a patient’s health forecast also depends on how far the cancer has progressed by the time she begins treatment. Goldwater said she did not remember her doctor telling her which stage the cancer was in.

Questions about whether Goldwater planned to run for re-election arose before the Democratic primary in 2006. Political observers, including former state delegate Cheryl Kagan, were troubled by Goldwater’s faltering attendance but praised her legislative history as a whole.

When she filed to run for re-election in 2006, Goldwater had missed 18 days of the preceding 90-day session.

Two candidates challenged her in the primary election, but Goldwater grabbed the third spot on the Democratic ticket after narrowly defeating candidate Regina ‘‘Reggie” Oldak. Goldwater, William A. Bronrott and Susan C. Lee easily won November’s general election, to complete the District 16 delegation. The Gazette endorsed Goldwater in 2006.

During the campaign, Goldwater has said that she was healthy and ready to serve another term in the House of Delegates. Not all agreed. Unlike the Gazette, the Washington Post endorsed Oldak over Goldwater even though most observers agreed that Goldwater has been an outstanding delegate before her health problems.

It looks like Goldwater was unfortunately unable to spend much time in Annapolis this year. If she decides to step down before next year's session, the Central Committee and not the voters will choose the new delegate. The other sitting delegates might welcome an interim appointment as it would prevent them from facing the inevitable competitive primary for an open seat in which they would have to campaign hard for reelection.