Friday, October 02, 2009

Montgomery County’s Most Influential People, Part Five

Here are the five most influential non-elected people in the county. Their key advantage: you can’t vote against them to get rid of them!

5. Jon Gerson, Director of Community Outreach, Montgomery County Education Association
12 Votes

Reader: The political voice and face of MCEA, still the best endorsement in Montgomery County.

Reader: May not have the awesome power he had in 2006, but Gerson is still a kingmaker and MCEA is a force to be reckoned with.

Reader: The Apple Ballot still yields incredible power as a voter tool. I choose not to elaborate any further.

Reader: The much-hyped Apple Ballot is purported to drive at least 5% of voters, depending on who you ask. Whether you believe that or not, one thing is for sure, and that is that whether or not it leads to victory, it is definitely not a good thing for a politician to be off the Apple Ballot. Most of them know this, and so the Apple Ballot strategy is factored into most every campaign in the County.

Adam: This is all about respect for MCEA’s Apple Ballot, which remains the WMD of MoCo local politics. Pity the poor politician who gets caught in the blast zone.

4. Gino Renne, President, UFCW Local 1994, Municipal & County Government Employees Organization (MCGEO)
19 Votes

Reader: Labor’s top dog in Rockville.

Reader: The most militant labor leader in the county. Depending on whom you ask, that either makes him more or less effective.

Reader: Knows how to use union power. He even looks like an extra from the movie “Hoffa.”

Reader: MCEA, SEIU 500 and MCGEO are the three most important county unions, and among the most important political players in the county. Gino has Bob Stewart, who’s a tough organizer, and the two play hardball well.

Reader: Gino understands what we’re dealing with, takes the most hits of any union when it comes to loss of employee base and is still willing to try to work out a sustainable budget plan.

Reader: Great combination of brains and brawn!

Reader: They get their people out when needed and certainly make their voices heard. I may not always agree with the way they do things, but they are often effective.

Adam: After all these years, MCGEO’s fearsome overlord still knows how to break balls and bust heads.

3. Adam Pagnucco, Author, Maryland Politics Watch
30 Votes

Reader: No other nonprofit, lobbying outfit or media outlet produces the consistent churn of news, research, and other salacious tidbits that emerge from Maryland Politics Watch. It is no wonder that readership has skyrocketed in such a short time and that this blog’s coverage of local politics has now jumped leagues ahead of any mainstream media outlet. It is both a testament to Adam Pagnucco’s hard work and smarts, but also a statement of the disheveled state of our local news outlets. Politicians and advocates alike ignore Pagnucco’s blog to their peril.

Reader: His blog is the MoCo political bible.

Reader: Adam, you’ve taken this blog which had some nice analysis and made it a bit more pointed. Drives me crazy sometimes but everyone reads it. And you actually listen to people and report and analyze intelligently. Ironically, my least favorite story was the one you said that was the most read.

Reader: Every elected official in the county reads MPW [editor: not quite]... and cares what is said about them in the blog. Politicos check it daily (at least) to find out what’s going on ... or to find out how it’s being covered. Mainstream media sources use it as a source, not always with attribution. As MPW’s primary blogger, Adam Pagnucco has solidified it into the state’s leading political blog. One recent indication of its influence: Saqib Ali chose MPW as the engine to launch his recent attack against Nancy King, recognizing the unique ability of MPW to further his agenda.

Reader: Makes and breaks political fortunes. Beware the pol who crosses him. The Gazette and Post are so 90s.

Reader: Has seen a startling rise as a key opinion maker in the County. Many think he is becoming more influential than the Washington Post in political circles, especially as the big paper crumbles. His missives are lucid, nimble and indispensable.

Reader: Because everyone on these lists reads him. One of the few people smart enough to know how to cite real authority but also knows that the numbers were probably juked to begin with.

Reader: This is not done to butter you up ‘cause we have our differences on some issues but you have worked hard to deserve a spot.

Reader: Don’t get a swelled head, nor is this a transparent ass-kissing move. You happen to actually be influential given that many decision-makers consult your blog regularly.

Reader: The political landscape in Montgomery County will never be the same since Maryland Politics Watch partnered with Adam Pagnucco. He is smart, brash, well-informed, has a sense of humor and oh by the way... his blog can make or break a political career. The first thing I do every morning is to check the blog to read what he is reporting. I know that I’m not the only one. There is a new sheriff in town!

Reader: Your posts are must reads around the state. MPW is now featured every day on the The Sun now has a reporter who appears to do little more than cover your blog posts – and respond to them. As the Post and Gazette contract and limit local coverage to reporters/editorialists fresh out of distant colleges, Adam will become more powerful at setting the press agenda. He could take this enterprise private and make a good living from the comfort of Forest Estates.

Andres Pagnucco (blogger’s son): Where’s my Daddy??

2. Royce Hanson, M-NCPPC Chairman
31 Votes

Reader: This guy makes the decisions that average voters really care about.

Reader: Especially this year with so many master plans and a new growth policy, Hanson and the planning board have a huge impact on development itself and the sometimes nasty politics surrounding it.

Reader: By determining which projects move forward and when, Royce helps shape our skyline and layout. He’s one of the less visible (and less accountable?) powers in Montgomery County.

Reader: Royce Hanson is currently pushing through growth policy changes and the adoption of a CR zone that will have more radical effects on Montgomery than anything done by the County Council this term.

Reader: In a community where land use battles make an MMA match look like a Precious Moments tea party, Royce commands the respect of all sides.

Reader: Representing the various land use/development communities: Three master plans in the works, plus the annual growth policy. Need I say more?

Reader: The clear leader of the Planning Board and staff. He calls the shots and directs the show.

Reader: He’s gotten some good results out of an agency that has fewer people to do more work. Master and Sector Plans are getting produced. He butts heads with County Council Members, but that is healthy.

Reader: If there is one issue that never goes away in Montgomery County politics, it is development. That’s why the Chair of the Planning Board is one of the most influential people in the County. What Montgomery County looks like in 30 years will be due in no small part to the work of Royce Hanson, the Planning Board and the planning staff. But more importantly, these land use decisions have a huge impact on politics, especially for County offices. Many an officeholder can trace their victory (or defeat) to issues related to projects that went through Hanson’s hands.

Reader: His role on the planning board with the added perspective of a second chance decades later gives him huge say over the future of our county. His new vision, carefully crafted in consultation with Glenn Orlin, will guide our county for the next 20 years no matter who is elected in 2010. However, will lessons learned over the past 40 years in our county serve us well in plotting the next 40 years? Or, has this economic downturn truly resulted in a reset in our thinking which could open the door to new thinking beyond Hanson, Orlin, and Rollin Stanley? It must drive a person like Marc Elrich crazy to have tried for multiple elections to gain a seat on the County Council only to have his ability to shape policy constrained by nameless, powerful bureaucrats like Orlin and Hansen. It should be a lesson to all of the multitudes looking for an At-Large seat.

Adam: Living legend, planning pioneer. Fabled creator of the Ag Reserve. Laid out the basic functions and processes of the Planning Board more than thirty years ago that are still used today. Was the Democratic nominee for Congress in 1964 and 1966, a time when many of today’s elected officials were sucking pacifiers.

1. Jerry Weast, MCPS Superintendent
32 Votes

Reader: Longest serving superintendent in MoCo – no further explanation needed.

Reader: Oversees half the County’s budget. He does it with focus, determination, statistics... and charm, which is an effective combination.

Reader: The public schools are the core of the economy. Jerry Weast is the core of the public schools. He’d make a damned good candidate, too, if he ever decided to run for office.

Reader: Influence has waned significantly, but controls half of the county’s budget and can still dance circles around his board.

Reader: He’s an incredibly powerful school superintendent, plays smart politics which makes him even more influential. He’s much less influential then he was 5 years ago, before first Ervin and then Navarro, Docca, Brandman, Barclay etc. joined and took over the school board, and when Valerie replaced Subin as Council Ed Chair. He controls the largest chunk of the county’s budget, so he’s #1 on the list. He has the best PR operation in the county, probably to the detriment of our county’s students.

Reader: Whether you like him or not, he has moved MCPS to being one of the top school districts in the country.

Reader: Is there another leader in the county whose exploits have been studied by Harvard? He is smart, savvy, and strategic. He controls the largest public enterprise run at the local or state level in our county. A bad word from him could sink many a politician with the Post editorial board who seem to eat out of his hands.

Reader: Won’t be here much longer, but has wielded tremendous power during his tenure and gets great results in the school system. People may not like how political he is, but it has certainly been beneficial to the students of Montgomery County.

Reader: It is a testament to the value placed on public education in Montgomery County that Jerry Weast can be at the same time so polarizing and also be so firmly planted in his post. He does have the good fortune to run a school system in a wealthy, well-educated jurisdiction (it is hard to fail when you have such quality material to work with). Despite his successes, at this point the controversies are more remembered, and many would agree that it is time for him to go.

Adam: Brilliant bully still rules the schools. Will go down as a Hall of Fame power broker. He will only be fully appreciated after his successor comes in and gets bulldozed. Mark my words – the last thing the politicians want is to create another all-powerful Superintendent who regularly upstages them like Jerry Weast.

Well, those are our results for 2009. We’ll give the spies a little time to react, so enjoy the abuse they heap upon us next week!