Friday, June 29, 2007

Lamone Withdraws Endorsement

Read about it in the Baltimore Sun, and the Washington Post.


Brownback: For It Before He Was Against It

Dan Milbank of the Washington Post reports:

Sen. Sam Brownback (Kan.), a Republican presidential candidate, voted for the [immigration] bill, then changed his vote after defeat was obvious.
Sen. Brownback's presidential campaign web site states:
U.S. Senator Sam Brownback today voted against the Senate immigration bill.

"I voted against the Senate immigration bill because I am not convinced it would fix our broken immigration system and it would most likely repeat the mistakes of the 1986 reform," said Brownback.
I guess honesty isn't one of Brownback's virtues either.


Thursday, June 28, 2007

Gutierrez Fights Immigration Warrants

The Washington Post reports:

Things got a bit heated when the issue of enforcing immigration warrants came up last week during Montgomery County Police Chief J. Thomas Manger's monthly meeting with members of the Latino community.

State Del. Ana Sol Gutierrez (D-Montgomery) was challenging Manger's decision to ask officers to pick up immigration violators and turn them over to the federal government. The civil warrants in recent years have been added to the FBI-run National Crime Information Center database and pop up when a county officer runs a computer check during routine stops.

Manger said he wished the warrants weren't in the database but couldn't ask his officers to ignore them. Manger has been criticized by some in the county who have called him a member of the Minuteman Project, an anti-illegal-immigration group.

The discussion prompted former County Council member Michael L. Subin, who heads the county's Criminal Justice Coordinating Commission, to stand up and defend Manger.

"Anyone who questions the honor of Chief Manger is questioning my honor," Subin said. "If you compare him to the Minutemen, you are calling him a racist and a fascist."

Gutierrez -- who identified herself when the meeting began only as a "citizen and taxpayer," not as a delegate -- reiterated that she felt the civil warrants didn't belong in the database, which was created as a repository for criminal records.

"I give up," Subin said, as he stormed out of the room. "I don't want to waste my breath."

Later that day, Gutierrez and other Latino leaders met with County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) but failed to persuade him to ask Manger to disregard the warrants.

Immigration isn't controversial just at the national level, though I fear that the federal government's failure to address the issue in a serious way will only exacerbate the problem. I'm just glad that the Constitution prevents this from becoming a multi-generational problem like in so many other countries without birthright citizenship. Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment reads:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
While the share of Latinos in the U.S. who are not American citizens is somewhere between 40 and 50 percent, the share of Latinos under the age of 18 who are citizens (and future voters) is over 80 percent. Politicians and parties should take note.


I Love Diebold

The Washington Post reports:

Linda H. Lamone, Maryland's elections administrator, is featured prominently promoting a Diebold Election Systems product that caused delays in last year's elections.

Her appearance in the company's new marketing and sales brochure has critics asking whether she violated state ethics law by publicly promoting a vendor.

"Our election judges just love this product, and so do I," reads a caption attributed to Lamone and placed next to her photograph, referring to Diebold's "ExpressPoll-5000," an electronic poll book that debuted in Maryland in September's primary. "We in Maryland are extremely pleased with the performance of the system during the general election," the caption continues. Lamone is pictured in a state office, smiling and flanked by a Maryland flag.

Lamone wasn't paid for the appearance. However, I don't know why an official is conducting product endorsements for companies with contracts with the State. And, of course, there is the matter of the fiasco with the same machines on their first outing in the primary. Both Republican and Democratic legislators thought the decision to appear in the ad was questionable according to the Baltimore Sun:

"We're not to use public office to endorse a product," said Del. Elizabeth Bobo, a Howard County Democrat and critic of Diebold. "At best, this is an example of extremely poor judgment. And that doesn't even address my concerns with the content of her statements."

Sen. Andrew P. Harris, a Baltimore County Republican, agreed.

"Our top election official shouldn't be appearing to endorse a vendor's product," he said. "We've always approached procurement decisions in an objective fashion, and a vendor's literature would not be a place necessarily associated with objectivity."

Harris said, given that Lamone did not accept money in exchange for her praise, she shouldn't be punished. But, he said, someone "needs to tell her not to do that in the future."


Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Raising Taxes and Montgomery

In my last post, I listed some of the potential ways that Maryland could raise additional revenue (read: new taxes) to plug the gaping hole in the budget which would have existed no matter who was elected governor last November. The various tax proposals are far from county neutral; there are big differences between the tax proposals in terms of their impact on Montgomery County.

Democrats may like the idea of taxes which put the pinch on the wealthy but these sorts of taxes inevitably disproportionately are paid by the good people of MoCo. According to the Department of Planning, median household income in Montgomery was estimated as 31% higher than for the state as a whole and higher than any other county except Howard. The U.S. Census similarly estimated that the poverty rate in 2004 was 6.5% in Montgomery as compared to 9.2% across Maryland.

Creating a new upper income tax bracket will thus disproportionately fall on the shoulders of Montgomery taxpayers. My guess that the same is true of efforts to raise the top corporate tax rate since Montgomery is one of the more economically vibrant areas of the state. As anyone who has bought a house lately knows, land isn't cheap here either, so raising the property tax will hit MoCo homeowners hard.

Some may think that this is all good news and that our wealthy county should be ready to pony up the dough. However, much of the County's wealth is reflected in substantially higher costs, especially for housing. People may earn more in MoCo but they have to spend more than they would for an equivalent home and lifestyle elsewhere in Maryland--a reflection of the desirability of living here.

It may be tempting for Gov. O'Malley to raise taxes that hit Montgomery. His political base is in Baltimore and its suburbs remain the top swing counties in the State. On the other hand, Montgomery delivered far more votes to his ticket than any other jurisdiction in the State--and a higher share of its votes than any except Baltimore City and Prince George's.

Some may think that seeing this in county terms is a mistake. Reggie Oldak, formerly a candidate for delegate from affluent District 16, has suggested that it is time to make the state income tax more progressive and close loopholes in the corporate income tax. Perhaps one should view upper income tax brackets as simply as ordinary people versus the wealthy.

Except that many critical services, such as the schools and county police, are funded and carried out at the county level. Poor residents of Montgomery would be a lot better off if these upper income taxes were county taxes instead of state taxes as the revenue would stay here. Raising these taxes at the state level will also make it politically tougher to raise county taxes.

I'm not suggesting that Montgomery should get the same share of taxes back as it pays to the State. It would be a bizarre system if that were how it worked. Nor am I saying that changing the tax system should be off the table. However, Montgomery's legislators better make sure that the County receives funding (not future promises) for its spending priorities before agreeing to any of these proposals.

MoCo is prosperous but it is facing new and expensive challenges in terms of education and transportation to take just two examples. It will take money to meet these challenges. With the largest delegation in the State, Montgomery's legislators should be ready to play politics in the top leagues to protect our interests and not give away the store by agreeing to new taxes before seeing where the new spending will go.


Monday, June 25, 2007

Let's Get Fiscal

Maryland faces a big hole in next year's budget currently estimated at $1.5 billion. Sen. Rich Madaleno's office provided me estimates of how much money (in millions of dollars) some of the different ways we can raise the dough will net:

Raising the Top Tier Income Tax to 5% (from 4.75%)
FY2008: $162.5, FY2009: $325, FY2010: $341.2

Creating Top Income Tax Bracket of 6% (for incomes over $150,000)
FY2008: $175 , FY2009: $350 , FY2010: $367.5

Expanding Sales and Use Tax
FY2008: $313.1, FY2009: $657.4, FY2010: $690.3

Raising Sales and Use Tax to 6%
FY2008: $717.2, FY2009: $750.2, FY2010: $788.6

Raising Gas Tax by 12 Cents
FY2008: $390.2, FY2009: $394.6, FY2010: $399.2

Expanding Sales and Use Tax to Gasoline
FY2008: $449.5, FY2009: $440.1, FY2010: $439.7

Raising Corporate Income Tax Rate to 8% (from 7%)
FY2008: $62.5, FY2009: $125, FY2010: $125

Combined Income Tax Reporting for Business
FY2008: $12.5, FY2009: $25, FY2010: $25

Raising Property Tax (to 13 cents from 11.2 per $100)
FY2008: $100-124, FY2009: $100-124, FY2010: $100-124

Raising Tobacco Tax by $1
FY2008: $206.4, FY2009: $161, FY2010: $157

Doubling of Alcohol Tax Rates
FY2008: $28, FY2009: $28.6, FY2010: $29.1

Slots (Based on 15,500 machines in 7 locations)
FY2008: $0, FY2009: $16.5, FY2010: $412.6, FY2011: $807.4

Slots (Based on 9,500 machines in 4 locations)
FY2008: $0, FY2009: $1.1, FY2010: $109.7, FY2011: $337.3

So which combo platter would you like to order? Anyone have suggestions for budget items to cut and how much money it would save?


On Political Pulse

Kumar Barve, the MD House of Delegates Majority Leader and Tony O'Donnell, the MD House of Delegates Minority Leader will be on "Political Pulse" on Channel 16 TV in Montgomery County on Tuesday, June 26th at 9:30 p.m. and Thursday, June 28th at 9:00 p.m.

Majority Leader Barve and Minority Leader O'Donnell will debate issues relating to the $1.5 Billion budget deficit that Maryland is facing. Some of the possible solutions that are being discussed to solve the looming deficit, including taxes, revenues from slot machines and possible spending cuts will be discussed.


Friday, June 22, 2007

Creating Traffic

Lots 31 and 31A, better known as the parking lots across the street from Barnes and Noble at Bethesda and Woodmont Aves., is becoming the Area 51 of Bethesda. Some of the new traffic is temporary and some is permanent.

Woodmont Ave. will be closed for approximately two years so that a massive underground parking lot can be constructed underneath the existing street as well as the two parking lots.

It will no longer be possible to make a left turn from Woodmont Ave. on to Leland St. due to the construction of a new median designed to block this sort of turn. As a result, Leland St. will no longer serve as a cut through between Woodmont Ave. and Bradley Blvd. or Hillandale St. All of that existing traffic will be dumped on to already overcrowded Wisconsin Ave. and Bradley Blvd.

Woodmont Ave. will be narrowed so that there are no longer two lanes of traffic in each direction throughout its length between Bethesda and Wisconsin Aves., presumably making it more difficult to traverse that stretch of road. I also wonder where Ourisman will unload cars now.

Finally, the 250 new residences will also add cars to the road in Bethesda. You didn't really think that they would all ride Metro?


Thursday, June 21, 2007

Kathy Strom for CC on Growth Policy

Chevy Chase Councilwoman Kathy Strom testified before the County Council for the Town on the proposed growth policy changes:

Good evening. My name is Kathy Strom, I . . . am a Council member of the Town of Chevy Chase. We appreciate the opportunity to appear tonight and present testimony on behalf of the Town concerning the Montgomery County Planning Department’s recommended amendments to the County’s Growth Policy.

As you know the Town is a residential community located adjacent to downtown Bethesda. The Town has been directly impacted by the prior Montgomery County growth policy and will be directly impacted by the policies proposed in this plan. We are currently experiencing a very congested traffic situation throughout downtown Bethesda and the neighboring communities and we are concerned that the real world “on the ground” situation will only get worse as the projects already approved and “in the pipeline” are built. Thus, while we are supportive of the direction in which the Planning Department’s proposals are heading and we appreciate that the current Council is seeking a new direction in growth policy from that which has been in place for the past several years, we wanted to bring to your attention a few specific areas where we believe the policy could be improved to the benefit of our community and the Bethesda area as a whole.

We have three specific recommendations related to traffic:

-We believe there is a need for a more stringent transportation test than that proposed. We need a test that is both practical and based on the real situation on the ground. It is clear to anyone driving in Bethesda today -- without the additional retail spaces, hotels, and apartments that have been approved and are in the pipeline or might be approved under the proposed test -- that congestion is extreme already. This is also important when considering the response time for public safety services which will always rely on the roads.

- We also believe that the traffic mitigation measures under the LATR guidelines that are currently available to developers in exchange for changes to zoning restrictions should be considered more rigorously for real public benefit and, if granted, be strictly enforced.

- We recommend that the Council ensure that traffic mitigation and traffic flow issues relating to all of the approved and pending projects be required to be coordinated. Under current policy, Maintenance of Traffic Plans (MOTs) are considered and approved for individual projects without sufficient regard to cumulative community impacts. For example, there are currently two large projects planned for the intersection of Woodmont and Bethesda Avenues (one of which is anticipated to close an access portion of Woodmont Avenue for two years), two along Arlington Boulevard, and at least one along Wisconsin Avenue near Montgomery Avenue – all which may come to fruition within the next few years and continue on for several years. Access to essential services such as grocery and drug stores which are in the vicinity will be greatly restricted and therefore the impact on our community will be immediate and significant. We may have no choice but to go into the District for such services until all projects are completed and therefore businesses will suffer as well from such uncoordinated, large, simultaneous projects as are currently anticipated for the next several years.

Likewise, we are concerned about the potential for overcrowding at our area schools with the continued influx of residential development of apartments and town homes. Therefore,

- We support the proposed revision to use the Montgomery County Public Schools program capacity figures and endorse the proposed change to discontinue the current practice of borrowing enrollment capacity from adjacent school clusters. We feel strongly that portable figures should not be included in figuring capacity, particularly as the County is committed to eliminating them altogether.

- We do, however, think that a 135% of capacity level as the point at which approval should not be granted is too high and that a lower level would be much more appropriate in light of existing crowding at our local schools.

We will also submit these comments for the record and appreciate the opportunity to provide you with our views on ways in which the proposed growth policy could be improved to better manage future growth, especially in already highly highly developed and congested areas such as Bethesda/Chevy Chase.


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Marc Elrich on Growth Policy

Marc Elrich wrote the following letter regarding the changes to the County's growth policy proposed by the Planning Board:

The Planning Board has handed its draft of the Growth Policy to the County Council and it’s decision time. Now is the time for you to get involved. Now is the time for you to contact the Council about why the rate of growth and development and how we pay for it is important to you.

There are some good proposals, some bad and one very bad recommendation in the Planning Board’s Final Draft Growth Policy.

GOOD - The impact fees are higher. For the first time, the proposed development impact fees generally reflect the true cost of providing the needed roads and schools to support new development.

GOOD - The school test is a vast improvement over the current test and is based on the class size reductions that the County is trying to make.

BAD - A School Facilities Payment would allow developers to buy their way into overcrowded school districts and dump more students into schools already at 110% - 135% capacity.

GOOD - The draft Growth Policy explicitly focuses on facility, fiscal, economic, environmental and social sustainability.

BAD - The environmental factors need to be much stronger. It doesn't matter how much traditional infrastructure and services we provide if our air is poisoned, our streams are dying, our farms are being paved, and our planet's baking.

BAD – It acknowledges the importance of police, fire & rescue, and other facilities (such as parks, libraries, recreation and health) but only recommends guidelines - not real tests - for determining adequacy.

GOOD – The Policy takes the quality of development design into consideration as a factor in our quality of life.

VERY BAD – The proposed transportation test is no test at all. It is virtually impossible to fail no matter how bad the roads are. The new Policy Area Mobility Review (PAMR) is so bad that it may negate all the good in the Policy. Unbelievably, the PAMR test declares that the current transportation system throughout the entire County is adequate! We know that just isn’t true. The PAMR test disregards the congestion which locks up most major County roads because you can always ride a bus. So the draft Growth Policy would allow developers to pour more and more traffic on a non-functioning road system, simply because someone might ride a bus. For example, a street with a speed limit of 40 mph is considered adequate if it averages 10 mph in the rush hour and buses average 7.5 mph! As far as this test is concerned, congestion is not a problem.

There’s one test it doesn’t pass –and that’s the laugh test. It tells County residents that the problems they face everyday don’t exist and don’t matter. We can and must do better.

It is true we wanted to collect higher fees that reflect the cost of infrastructure, not for the sake of collecting money, but in order to build the necessary infrastructure. The guiding principle of a sound growth policy isn't how to soak developers, but how to insure that we have the infrastructure that we need. If we can’t provide the infrastructure, no amount of money will make it better. We need realistic fees, but more than that, we need realistic tests. We need tests that allow development to proceed only when the infrastructure is truly adequate. If all we do is collect money, then we fail.

This is a call to action. You need to let the Council know that you want a Growth Policy that makes a more livable County, not policies that trade off our quality of life for a pile of cash. We need a growth policy that reflects three basic principles.

1) Impact fees that reflect the cost of providing the infrastructure for new development.

2) A school test that makes it possible to achieve the school systems goals for class sizes that help our children learn.

3) A transportation test that allows development where the infrastructure is adequate using standards for adequate that meet the community’s expectations. And in places where the roads don’t work, then development isn’t allowed to proceed.

What can you do? Again three easy steps.

1) Write your councilmembers and tell them what you expect in the Growth Policy. Send an email or letter to the Council President, your four At-large and one district representatives. Write in your own words even if it is very short. Form letters and forwarded emails are not effective.

2) Write letters to the newspapers and let them know you care.

3) Attend the public hearings and make sure your voices are heard. The Growth Policy is much of what the 2006 Council elections were all about. Public hearings are June 19, 8:00pm and June 26, 7:30pm. PHED committee deliberations are June 27, July 2 and July 9.


Saturday, June 16, 2007

Bring in Da' Noise?

Marc Fisher muses on the problem of noise pollution but it is the reader comments that are a real eye opener. This is one topic on which everyone has an opinion.


Friday, June 15, 2007

Purple Line Advisory Committee

Want to help plan the Purple Line? Now is your chance according to the following MNCPPC press release:

The Montgomery County Planning Board seeks applicants for a community advisory committee to work with its planners as they craft a plan for the proposed Metro Purple Line, slated to connect Bethesda and New Carrollton.

The advisory committee will help planners analyze the transit line's potential impacts on the community. Called a functional master plan, the resulting product will lay out the Planning Department's recommendations for the type of transit - light rail or rapid bus - alignment, and station locations in Montgomery County.

The Maryland Mass Transit Administration (MTA) is in charge of the Purple Line project and continues to study and seek funding for the line. The Purple Line functional master plan will provide a framework for the Montgomery County Planning Board to react quickly to the MTA's recommendations for the alignment of either light rail or rapid bus transit, expected by summer 2008.

Prospective Purple Line advisory committee members will attend frequent meetings through fall 2008. Other tasks will include considering environmental issues and resident concerns and ensuring conformance of the proposed Purple Line with other county master plans. The Planning Department staff plans to hold public outreach activities in concert with the advisory committee.

Representatives from civic groups, businesses, residents, environmental organizations, property owners and the general public are encouraged to apply for representation on the advisory committee by submitting a letter of interest by Friday, July 13, 2007 (details below).

Send letters of interest to:

Tom Autrey, Transportation Planning Division
Fax: (301) 495- 495-1302


Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Chevy Chase Town Council Meeting

The Council of the Town of Chevy Chase will hold an important meeting tomorrow. Among other issues on the agenda will be:

  • Adoption of the budget for fiscal year 2008;
  • Public Hearing and Council Action on an Ordinance to Amend Chapter 4 of the Town of Chevy Chase Municipal Code to Modify Provisions Related to Structures, Fences, Walls, Trees, Hedges, Shrubbery and Other Plant Growth on Public Property Devoted to Private Use; and
  • Public Hearing and Council Action on an Ordinance to Amend Chapter 4 of the Town of Chevy Chase Municipal Code to Modify the Method of Calculating the “Established Building Line”.
The budget includes the appropriation by the Council to look at the impact of the proposed Purple Line light rail on the Town. The Council already held a hearing on the topic as well as the budget as a whole, so town residents will not be able to speak on it. However, town residents can participate in the two public hearings as well as during the public comments section.


Teachers Could Answer Questions

Montgomery County plans to revise its sex-ed curriculum after seeing the results of the pilot project this past semester:

Montgomery County sex education teachers would be allowed to tell students who ask that homosexuality is not a mental illness under a last-minute change to new lessons that go to the school board today for a politically charged vote.

Superintendent Jerry D. Weast informed school board members in a memo yesterday of a one-sentence addition to the lessons, which are proposed for all eighth- and 10th-grade health classes in the fall. The lessons were field-tested at six schools this spring.

The extra sentence could be key to preserving the support of the board. Board members have faced mounting pressure from an advisory committee -- made up of parents, educators and representatives of various constituencies -- to bolster the lessons with statements that counter misconceptions about homosexuality. A closely divided board rejected adding such language to the teaching materials in January, when they were approved as a pilot.

"If students ask the question, they're entitled to an answer," said board member Patricia O'Neill, who had planned today to propose adding similar language.

One day, people will wonder how we could spend so much time debating something so obvious.


Monday, June 11, 2007

Odd Pro-Purple Line Letter

Supporters of the Purple Line sent out a letter to Kensington residents arguing that the Purple Line will save Kensington residents from traffic:

How often do you find yourself stuck in Beltway traffic? If you're like me, too often. But we here in Kensington have the opportunity to do something about the gridlock and pollution that frustrate all of us.

I'm sure you've heard of the Purple Line, a new light rail Metro line that has been proposed to connect
Bethesda, Silver Spring, the University of Maryland, and New Carrollton. This connection will allow commuters to take Metro between the two branches of the Red Line without going all the way downtown, providing easy access to a rejuvenated Silver Spring. It will connect us to Amtrak in New Carrollton. It will bypass the Beltway traffic jams that deny us convenient access to the academic, sports, and cultural resources of the University of Maryland. And it will provide access to the ever-more-popular restaurants of downtown Bethesda without dumping more cars onto local streets.

The enclosed fact sheet shows how the new Metro line will fit into the existing system. Kensington residents would be able to board Metro at a new Chevy Chase Lake station, directly across Connecticut Avenue from the T.W. Perry lumber yard.

. . .

Thirty years ago, the residents of
Georgetown blocked construction of a Metro station. Since then, Georgetown has become choked in traffic and parking lots. Meanwhile, Bethesda has turned into a vibrant center of activity. Do we want Bethesda to go the way of Georgetown, or do we want to maintain and enhance its character?

One wonders if the author has ever driven in the area. The letter touts how the Purple Line will make it easier for Kensington residents to access Bethesda and its restaurants. However, no one in Kensington would ever drive to Chevy Chase Lake, pay for parking, and then pay to ride the light rail to Bethesda. Bethesda is such a short distance from Chevy Chase Lake that they would simply continue on to Bethesda in their car and park there. Moreover, this scenario assumes that there will be available parking at Chevy Chase Lake.

Similarly, why would people ride the Purple Line to New Carrollton when the Red Line to Union Station, where the trains originate, would undoubtedly be quicker.

Bethesda already has a Metro stop so the situation is not exactly parallel to Georgetown. Is Ballston destined to fail if no new light rail is built there? In any case, Georgetown has hardly ceased to be a "vibrant center of activity." Indeed, Georgetown is certainly choked with traffic because of its continuing popularity. In any case, Bethesda traffic doesn't exactly move fast during high use periods even if it is not yet at Georgetown level. Of course, Bethesda's streets don't date from the colonial period either.

Is this the best argument that Purple Line supporters can come up with for the proposed light rail?


Thursday, June 07, 2007

First in War, First in Money and Last in the National League

Well I got back from my first Nationals game today with closer Chad Cordero serving up a gofer ball on his third pitch of the ninth inning for a heart-breaking 3-2 loss, the Nats remain in last place, we still are leading the way in Iraq leaving only our position of peace in doubt. With apologies to Charley Dryden, who as the sports editor of the San Francisco Chronicle, wrote the famous line "Washington -- First in war, first in peace, (and) last in the American League...," I see where my home county is leading in something, rah, rah, rah.

My first post to this blog a few weeks ago told of the three-fer we had with Edwards, Obama and Richardson visiting in the span of a few hours. It is no big surprise -- money.

Clinton and Obama are leading in the collection of money from MoCo. But Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd is ahead of Edwards, Richardson and Biden for 3rd place on this list. Interesting...

On the Republican side, it is Romney followed by Giuliani with McCain somewhere down in the middle of the pack. As Arte Johnson's character would say "verrry interesting..."

What is interesting is how much the GOP comes to MoCo to raise money almost as much as the rest of us. Then again MoCo has the most Republicans in the state. Making Montgomery County -- first in Republicans, second in Democrats and last in successful ballot initiatives.


Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Kosovo Report

I have arrived in Montenegro but you can read all about my visit to Kosovo over at the Agonist, including metrosexuals in the Balkans, why Kosovars love Americans, and the future of Kosovo. They really do like Americans over there. You can shop at a store called Hillary located next to the Route 66 diner on Bill Clinton Blvd. It's sort of like Rockville Pike in Pristina, the capital city of Kosovo--the country is small but the scenery is nice, particularly the spectacular mountains which surround much of Kosovo.


Saturday, June 02, 2007

The Doug Duncan Library???

Well it looks like only a thumbs up from County Executive Ike Leggett separates the new Rockville Library from being renamed in Doug Duncan's name.

My question does not lie in naming something after the three-time County Executive but rather in what's the rush??? Is Duncan on his death bed? Personally he looks great to me.

There is a standing County Administrative order that nothing can be named after someone until they are five years out of office. (Conveniently buried in the last line of the entire article.)

What's the point of having such a rule if you end up ignoring it the very first time you have to use it?

This headlong rush to name something has been led by County Councilman George Leventhal from day one. I understand why George is so hot to trot on this matter. Duncan added him to the "End Gridlock" slate in 2002 without which George would have had a much harder time getting on the Council. So I applaud George for wanting to honor his benefactor. It shows loyalty. Something that is sorely needed.

Still all the applause for Duncan is morbid. I don't like it. It sounds hollow to me; not genuine. Both at the Spring Ball and at the swearing-in for the new Council in December Duncan was feted more with eulogies than honors. You usually name something after someone is dead (or no longer a threat) and the last time I looked our former County Executive still has a pulse. Duncan is a young man (at least to my middle age eyes) and he has "some game" left.

So I ask why now?

Another item left unmentioned in this article is that the two members from Rockville, Duncan's base, are against it. City Councilwoman, Anne Robbins, and local resident Gayl Selkin-Gutman were the two "no" votes. What does that tell you? Disconnect in his hometown perhaps.

Still I return to my only concern -- yes, honor Duncan with something -- but how about following the guidelines that currently exist.

Let's table this idea until December 2011. That is five years and see what the folks want. If Ike wins re-election in 2010 then he will still be Executive when the time limit has passed and he will still honor a man he worked with for many years. I expect George to still be with us and he too can lead the parade for his "Rabbi" (Chicago political speak for your mentor).

I expect there will still be something left in the county to name in his honor another library, a road, a school, a park in 2011.

Naming the library after fallen soldiers from the latest war -- folks that actually have died; not the figurative wreath that is being placed around Duncan's neck now -- is the more genuine one. Fallen warriors should trump living politicians.

Naming the library after Duncan, who played a small role in its design, reminds me of the rush to honor President Reagan with an airport that he had no role in creating. We can do better than that.

Honoring Duncan will be more sincere if the full five years have past. Right now it looks like he has died and this confirms it with a rush to honor a man that has dominated the county for the past twelve years.

Let's spend some time between now and December 2011 thinking of a proper way to honor Doug Duncan. He deserves it.