Wednesday, September 30, 2009

MDOT Repeats Call for Delay on Gaithersburg West

Following is a new letter from the Maryland Department of Transportation about Gaithersburg West.

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MoCo Budget: Even the Tough Calls Are Not Enough

A new County Council staff memo lays out a grim budget scenario: the council could implement some of the toughest fiscal measures at its disposal and it may still not be enough to close the deficit.

The memo deals with problems in two Fiscal Years. In FY 2010, which is the current Fiscal Year (7/1/09-6/30/10), the county suffered a net loss of $18.8 million in state aid cuts. The County Executive is due to send a package of $30 million in cuts to the council in late October to offset the aid cuts as well as to serve as a buffer against more revenue writedowns. The Executive wrote to the council, “Service reductions and mid-year layoffs may be required to produce meaningful and reliable savings.”

In FY 2011 (7/1/10-6/30/11), matters are projected to get worse. The forecast deficit for next year is $364.4 million. The staff lays out the following options for major reductions, with cost figures in millions:

1. No general wage adjustments (COLAs): 123.3
2. No step increases: 27.6
3. No retiree health insurance (OPEB) pre-funding: 64.5
4. Reduce reserves from 6 to 5 percent: 40.0
5. Eliminate most PAYGO from the capital program: 30.0
Total: 285.4

As the report says, every one of these options is controversial. The public employee unions gave up their cost of living increases for FY 2010 but not their step increases. Not pre-funding retiree health insurance obligations just delays the hit down the road. Cutting reserves risks a credit downgrade from Wall Street. PAYGO is a practice of paying for a small share of capital projects using current revenues. Abolishing it increases the amount of borrowing the county needs to construct new projects. The key point is that as bad as every one of these options is, even if they are all passed together, the council still would be $79 million short of closing the deficit. And the deficit could go higher if the state cuts aid again or more revenue writedowns occur in November 2009 or March 2010.

The staff is urging that the council go directly to the bottom line: labor costs. They note:

Like other jurisdictions across the nation, we are “managing” the current fiscal squeeze. Many have already had to take more aggressive steps than we have, including no step increases, furloughs, layoffs, and in some cases actual cuts in salary and benefits. If economic reality is now in fact the “New Normal,” “managing” the fiscal squeeze going forward may not be enough. Instead, we will have to break new ground by making harder choices about budget priorities and focusing more systematically on the four-fifths of the budget that for us, as for other local governments, goes to salaries and benefits for our employees.
That means there are an awful lot of heads on the guillotine.

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Big Daddy, Busch: No More Free E-ZPasses (Updated)

Angry state legislators are marking this blog for deletion after one of their most cherished perks has been pulled by their masters: free E-ZPasses. Here’s the E-ZScoop.

Early this year, the Maryland Transportation Authority (MdTA) voted to impose fees on E-ZPass holders, prompting a mass switch to cards issued by other states. Last month, your author found out that state legislators could get free E-ZPasses, and 128 out of 188 took advantage of the opportunity. But MdTA refused to tell us who held the passes, citing “privacy and security issues.”

So we filed the following Public Information Act request in the first week of September:

Honorable Beverley K. Swaim-Staley
Acting Chairwoman, Maryland Transportation Authority
2310 Broening Highway, Suite 150
Baltimore, MD 21224

Dear Chairwoman Swaim-Staley:

This is a request under the Maryland Public Information Act, State Government Article § § 10-611 to 628. I wish to inspect all records in your custody and control pertaining to the following:

1. A complete list of all state legislators, both current and former, with “non-revenue,” i.e. free, E-ZPass accounts.

2. A list of any former state legislators who continue to possess non-revenue E-ZPass accounts after leaving office.

3. The total amount of toll revenues the state would have collected if these accounts had been revenue-generating for each account.

4. The legal authority used by the Maryland Transportation Authority as a basis for distributing non-revenue accounts to state legislators.

5. A description of the accounting controls used by the Maryland Transportation Authority to ensure that the non-revenue accounts possessed by state legislators are used only for official business.

If all or any part of this request is denied, I request that I be provided with a written statement of the grounds for the denial. If you determine that some portions of the requested records are exempt from disclosure, please provide me with the portions that can be disclosed.

I also anticipate that I will want copies of some or all of the records sought. Therefore, please advise me as to the cost, if any, for obtaining a copy of the records and the total cost, if any, for all the records described above. If you have adopted a fee schedule for obtaining copies of records and other rules or regulations implementing the Act, please send me a copy.

I look forward to receiving disclosable records promptly and, in any event, to a decision about all of the requested records within 30 days. Thank you for your cooperation. If you have any questions regarding this request, please telephone me at 301-XXX-XXXX.

Sincerely,

Adam Pagnucco
Author, Maryland Politics Watch
MdTA has not yet responded to this request.

On September 25, Senate President Mike “Big Daddy” Miller and House Speaker Mike Busch sent this letter to the members of the General Assembly revoking their free E-ZPasses. We apologize for the poor quality of the copy, but our sources probably smuggled it out of Annapolis under cover of darkness. Clearly, you were not supposed to know about this.


As you can imagine, this is not going down real well. One legislator texted your author immediately upon receipt of the letter, saying, “Congratulations Adam ‘Recession’ Pagnucco!” This comes on top of grumbling over giving up pay to match furloughed state employees. After we posted a press release from the District 15 Delegation announcing their giveback of eight days’ pay, several legislators contacted us to complain that they were giving up that amount or more with no fanfare. “I’m not putting out a press release just because I’m doing the right thing!” one fumed.

But the Hypocrites of the Week award belongs to the Maryland Senate Republican Caucus, who have made great hay over the E-ZPass fee uprising by accusing the Governor of breaking his promise not to “nickel and dime” Marylanders. How many Senate Republicans were carrying free E-ZPasses at the time of that attack?

We’ll find out. Because while we congratulate Big Daddy and the Speaker for revoking a needless perk, our Public Information Act request is still pending. The answers are coming.

And any legislators who have been criticizing spending and perks while pocketing a free E-ZPass should beware.

Update: NBC4 and the Post have picked up the story and have generously credited this blog. The Sun also wrote about it but does not mention us.

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Montgomery County’s Most Influential People, Part Three

Get ready for the big time, people! These six elected officials are the heaviest hitters in Montgomery County.

6. Brian Frosh, Senator (D-16)
31 Votes

Reader: Potential heir to Mike Miller. Has a lot of influence, but has been holding the use of it in check to make that potential a reality. Unfortunately, that's leaving a vacuum in progressive leadership in the Senate.

Reader: Montgomery County’s only Senate Chair and an important progressive voice in the county.

Reader: Although somewhat recalcitrant and in the shadows, Frosh has become the elder statesman of Montgomery politics.

Reader: He is widely acknowledged as one of the two or three smartest legislators in the General Assembly. At a time when political discourse has become coarse and lacking in civility, Brian Frosh remains one of the bright lights in our state.

Reader: As chair of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, Senator Frosh exercises a great deal of influence over extremely contentious, personal, and emotional legislation involving civil rights, criminal law, and criminal justice. His decision to delay or withhold a committee vote can break a bill. Because of the issues that his committee deals with, Senator Frosh is a key focus of attention for the most committed ideologues of both the left and the right. Another factor adds to his influence: Since he is in the running to succeed Mike Miller as Senate President, Senator Frosh is a legislator whose favor many other senators and activists are more likely to curry. Should Miller have another change of heart and announce his departure from leadership after 2010, look for Frosh’s influence to increase even more.

Reader: Great State Senator, hopefully he’ll replace Miller as Senate President if he can bring together the county delegation’s votes and score some votes from the Prince George’s delegation.

Reader: Because he is respected by nearly all for being smart, progressive and an utterly decent person. Possible future Senate President.

Reader: Progressives who follow Annapolis have no love lost with Senator Frosh, who has moved to the center in a quest to be the next Senate President. His constituents don’t know the details of how he carries the water of Mike Miller - they only know him as an environmental champion and powerful committee chairman. Senator Frosh isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, and may even get his wish to become Senate President one day - maybe even without selling his soul out to Mike Miller and conservative Democrats in the process.

Reader: Doesn’t exercise much influence outside his own committee, but always could.

Reader: Central to state formation of legal public policy. Highly underrated. Possible future Senate President (in the year 2030 when Miller dies!)

Reader: Intelligent, honest. Brian is a very rare politician in that he is always true to his word. He truly believes in Constitutional rights, fairness, and a level playing field.

Adam: Brian Frosh proves nice guys can still go a long ways in politics. He gets lots of respect for being a squeaky-clean, honest liberal who doesn’t get in the faces of people who disagree. Not a MoCo partisan – pursues the state’s overall needs rather than focusing on the county’s narrow priorities.

4 (tie). Valerie Ervin, Montgomery County Council Member
33 Votes

Reader: Ervin is probably the standout candidate right now to succeed Ike in 2014.

Reader: One of the only Council Members with people skills to complement her policy and political abilities. A promotion is likely, but where? Exec? Congress? Annapolis?

Reader: I expect that her commitment to neighborhood causes and constituent services are gaining Valerie Ervin a district full of supportive voters. Because she was so quick to seek higher office from the School Board she’d just been elected to, I didn’t trust her when she first announced her candidacy for the 2006 County Council race. But in the time since then, she’s won me over. She has been an energetic advocate for community issues I care about, she has been an effective advocate in protecting the quality of life in residential neighborhoods, she has reached out to me and my neighbors, and she’s a joy to spend time with. Any politician who can change my opinion of her from mistrust to strong support in such a relatively short time is, in my opinion, a force to be reckoned with.

Reader: Former union member and proud of it (rare given the faux politics in this county). Comes from the working class and remembers her roots. Determined, courageous. Just compare with the hollow rhetoric of Duchy Trachtenberg.

Reader: I have personally observed her ability to get things done and see her dedication to issues that really affect neighborhoods, such as the recent controversy surrounding the Sligo Creek Golf Course.

Reader: Influence is not always positive and she plays politics big time. Nevertheless, she is a union darling and has a bully pulpit that she uses effectively. She is difficult to defeat on matters she takes a stand on. She also brings several votes with her on the big issues.

Reader: In a strong position on the Council and a shoo-in for re-election. Clear accomplishments and a good case for re-election. Almost everyone else on the Council has potential problems as they approach a surly electorate in 2010.

Reader: Common sense, takes risks, leads without fear, inspires a true cross-section of the county’s voters – keep an eye on her.

Reader: I rank Valerie above Ike Leggett because she’s the first person community members, unions, and other civic leaders turn to when they want to get things done. Her role in electing Donna Edwards in 2008 (she supported Donna in 06 and 08 when no one else did and was key to getting her local labor and political support) and now Nancy Navarro has positioned her as the strongest political player in the county and the region’s leading progressive voice. Navarro’s win was just as big a win for Valerie as Valerie now leads a majority coalition (Ervin, Navarro, Leventhal, Floreen, Knapp). Her base is strong – solid inside her diverse and liberal vote-rich district, popular among progressives, young activists, labor unions, civic leaders and the business community. Most importantly, Sonya Healy is the smartest, and probably hardest working, person in Rockville. One District 16 official recently told me, “Valerie and Sonya clearly carry the intellectual heft of the County Council.” Her relationship with the labor unions in a county and state heavily influenced by labor unions makes her even more influential, and she is well positioned to move up.

Reader: Valerie Ervin is a true rising star, not just in Montgomery County, but in the Maryland Democratic Party as well. In her few years at the County Council, she has proven to be a liberal but pragmatic operator who can maintain strong ties with interests ranging from business, labor, communities of color and progressive groups. More importantly, unlike our Executive, she is not afraid of taking potentially unpopular or controversial positions, and she is willing to expend capital for her allies. Given that this has been a successful endeavor (witness the election of Nancy Navarro to the Council), Valerie is now positioned as the true powerbroker in County politics. As a result, she is mentioned by many as a top tier candidate for County Executive, Lieutenant Governor, and maybe even Governor.

Adam: A force in county politics who has never forgotten where she came from. Whipped Ike Leggett in his backyard during the 2009 special election and is the person he fears the most. She is the subject of more speculation about her future than any other MoCo politician with the exceptions of Chris Van Hollen and Doug Gansler.

4 (tie). Sheila Hixson, Delegate (D-20)
33 Votes

Reader: The Chair of the Powerful House Ways and Means Committee knows how to work the corridors of power in Annapolis.

Reader: Knows where all the bodies are buried in Annapolis and MoCo.

Reader: As chair of the powerful Ways & Means Committee she can kill bills and also get bills through if she wants. She has the only real leadership position from MoCo in the House.

Reader: Because she will kill any bill in her committee.

Reader: Tradition, wisdom and influence – good to have some of that left in our delegation.

Reader: Feared more than respected or liked in Annapolis.

Reader: Her absolute power as chair of Ways and Means has blocked many good public policy initiatives from being considered (and possibly passed) by the House of Delegates.

Reader: Where would we be if her chairmanship were held by a Baltimore Delegate?

Reader: Potentially big role in tax policy over $30 billion, but most of it is not her call, but rather Busch’s and the Caucus.

Reader: Most experienced tax policy leader in the state (this includes the Senate). Don’t EVER think of crossing her! LBJ in heels!

Reader: Sheila Hixson continues to be one of the most powerful, yet underrated politicians in Montgomery County. Her position as Chair of the Ways and Means Committee means that little can get done in Annapolis without her support. Nevertheless, she represents a very liberal district where a chunk of single-issue voters seems to never forgive her for supporting the ICC, regardless of all the other work she does for the County and ignoring the fact that nothing more can be done about the ICC. Unfortunately, this means Delegate Hixson will likely have to work hard for reelection, but as long as her slate-mates are happy with her, she should be safe.

Adam: Our sources are divided on Hixson. Her supporters point to her Chair of Ways and Means, a position she has held since 1993. Her detractors claim that the Speaker makes most of the big decisions on taxes and Hixson must implement them to keep her Chair. Regardless of who is right, look at it this way. Ten years ago, the county’s most powerful women included Connie Morella, Marilyn Praisner, Betty Ann Krahnke, Nancy Dacek, Ida Ruben and Sheila Hixson. Today, Hixson is the only one of them who could still make that list.

3. Rich Madaleno, Senator (D-18)
42 Votes

Reader: Rich Madaleno is already highly influential on budget matters (not just on the key Committee but one of the “deciders” of that Committee) and chairs the Senate delegation in his first term.

Reader: Having the ear of the Senate President is an automatic path to power. Having it on budget issues gives Madaleno tremendous input into the course of the state.

Reader: When it comes to the state budget, Rich is always the most knowledgeable guy in the room. He’s a real asset for Montgomery County.

Reader: District 18 had an open senate seat in 2006, yet then-Delegate Rich Madaleno ran unopposed in the primary. That said a lot about Rich Madaleno’s political standing three years ago, and I see no evidence that it has diminished since then. People in Montgomery County and Annapolis respect him for understanding the complexities of budgets in ways that few other legislators do. He understands legislative politics, too: In the game of legislative chess, he can see 20 moves down the road. Few if any question his integrity. One indication of his standing in Annapolis is his interactions with Senate President Mike Miller: When Madaleno has crossed Miller, Miller has threatened but not punished him. (Contrast that with Budget and Taxation Committee-mate Rona Kramer, for instance). With regard to looking out for neighborhoods in his district, he has been a vocal advocate for Georgia Avenue issues since 2003, his freshman year in the House. This was three years before the area community association's pre-primary letter-writing campaign and Crossing Georgia website made everyone else sit up and take notice. For some politicos, the fear they engender in others gives them influence. People don’t fear Rich Madaleno, and that has cost him on occasion. But they like, respect, and trust him a great deal, and that gives him a different type of influence.

Reader: Has the smarts to be an effective legislator and the patience to work on issues important to him.

Reader: With unrivaled budget experience in county and state government as both a staffer and elected official, Madaleno is emerging in many people’s minds as a logical candidate for County Executive when Ike steps down.

Reader: Perhaps the most untouchable political figure in the county because his reputation alone is bigger than life.

Reader: I think that Rich is the only real leader in our delegation. He is always the go-to guy. He is highly regarded among all his peers. He is smart, he gets things done in Annapolis.

Reader: Extremely smart and knowledgeable on all issues. Annapolis insider and knows how to get things done - much like Chris Van Hollen when he was a State Senator. Very popular at home and can sell tough issues.

Reader: Senator Madaleno is one of the more respected members of our County’s Annapolis delegation, so it is no wonder his colleagues chose him to chair their Senate delegation. Whether you agree or disagree with his views, there is no doubt that he is a true district representative who channels the views and interests of his constituents well, whether on tax policy or the Purple Line.

Reader: The Budget expert of the General Assembly is also one of the smartest senators, well versed on all the important issues, the chair of the Montgomery County delegation, often quoted in the press, the hero of the gay community, and well-liked by his colleagues. He may again go unchallenged in the next primary election, and if he continues to fund-raise, will have the capacity to help his colleagues out, thus increasing his clout in Annapolis.

Adam: Terrible budget times amplify the importance of his skill set. Also effective as a crusader for civil rights who earns points with his civility. Indispensable to his county, his district and everyone who cares about equal rights.

2. Ike Leggett, Montgomery County Executive
50 Votes

Reader: I guess.

Reader: The County Executive almost has to be on the most influential list, although Ike seems to be doing his darndest to squander his influence. Increasingly unpopular and bordering on the sleep-inducing in speeches, and the purchase of helicopters is only the latest in a long saga of missteps. The Governor doesn’t listen to him, our state delegation doesn’t listen to him, and increasingly the County Council doesn’t listen to him. He may not be on the list for much longer.

Reader: A legislator by nature, clearly not an executive.

Reader: Some may not like Ike’s waffling style, but the Executive of Maryland’s largest jurisdiction is a high profile job and carries considerable weight here in the County and throughout the state.

Reader: I’ve been pleased with his fiscal restraint philosophy, or at least as much as one is capable of in Montgomery County.

Reader: He’s the County Executive, which de facto makes him one of the most influential people in Montgomery County politics. A look at the 2006 primary election results for County Executive shows Ike as more popular than he really is. Leggett won in a lopsided victory against Silverman because he represented change that he has not delivered, anti-development sentiment, and the lack of a State or Federal candidate pushing Montgomery County voters to turnout. Anti-development sentiment was particularly strong in 2006 because the press coverage of the Clarksburg development scandal made voters concerned that the county’s leaders were in the pockets of developers. Growth has since slowed, and now that the Purple Line seems more certain voters will be less angry about traffic congestion. Leggett’s stands on Latino and Labor rights issues show he is not on the side of working families, and he has not been a leader in the fight to dismantle the achievement gap in MCPS. He will always have a loyal following among the 60+ crowd, but as the MPW polls have showed, the wide-reaching progressive coalition of voters that elected him in 2006 is very dissatisfied. Ike doesn’t take stands on most hard issues, and his “professorial” style of leadership usually just equates to no leadership at all.

Reader: Ike Leggett is the consummate politician. He is a better legislator than he is at being the Executive. Being the Executive requires decision making skills and having a vision. People are willing to give him a pass because he is so likable. There is also the myth that he cannot be beaten. Many believe that the only competitive race against Ike would have to be by another African American.

Reader: Love him or hate him, he is still the County Executive.

Reader: He’s the County Executive and still wields a bit of influence - mostly with the voters, but that is waning. I almost didn’t put him on the list.

Reader: If you wanted to use reverse psychology to achieve your own ends, he’s someone you want on your side. It seems that by not doing anything until the last minute then deciding whether or not to take credit for the results (depending on how good or bad they are), he’s gotten many, many other people to do the heavy lifting of running the county for him.

Reader: Quietly uses the power of his office. Probably the only sane office holder at the county level.

Reader: Agree with him or not, he still controls the agenda and no effective opposition inside or outside party has arisen. He may not win every issue, but he wins most of them and he still sets the tone. His “smart growth initiative” is moving along and actually makes sense. Mike [Knapp] and his gang can’t hang together long enough to put up a coherent fight. Also, with the competition intense among Council Members for who succeeds Ike, none of them will do too much to make one of their own the leader because of the implications for the Executive race. It’s a weird world, but it leaves Ike dominant even when he’s not always on top of every issue.

Reader: Maybe should be dropped a few more pegs after his endorsement did little to help out Ben Kramer.

Reader: Is this high mostly due to the office itself. Would be less influential than the Council as a whole, except for their divisions. Not greatly respected by his peers, which is a problem.

Reader: Montgomery County’s Executive is one of the most influential people in local politics. Unfortunately, it is too bad that he has a negative impact on the County rather than a positive one. Time and again, the Executive has proven himself unwilling to take stands on many issues, thereby creating twice as many enemies than had he simply picked a side. This waffling style of politics might make sense for a member of the Council, but not for an Executive. This nice guy routine will only work so long as Ike doesn’t face a real opponent for reelection, but should that change, expect the many disaffected Ike supporters to line up against him. Oddly, the one time when Ike does take controversial positions is when he aligns himself with entrenched politicians like Al Wynn, Ida Ruben and the Kramer family. All of this smells like “old school” politics at its worst in an era when voters are seeking vision, competence, and a change from status quo politics. This is the era of Obama, yet Ike is still governing in the era of Dukakis.

Adam: You guys can complain all you want about Ike, but he does not have a credible challenger yet. Last time we checked, an incumbent without a challenger usually gets re-elected.

1. Chris Van Hollen, U.S House of Representatives
56 Votes

Reader: Mr. Democratic Party has national standing, a deep purse and perfect hair.

Reader: The fact that he came in number two last year is ridiculous. Van Hollen is now the partial architect of the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives, a mover at the national level, and could give Hoyer a run for his money when Pelosi leaves the Speaker’s chair. He also went from insurgent challenger in 2002 to the elder statesman of Montgomery County now.

Reader: If he wants to exert himself, he is probably one of the few politicians who could convince another to run or not run for something. As his power in the House grows, so does his ability to influence events in the county.

Reader: Beloved by nearly a million Montgomery and Prince George’s constituents. Sky’s the limit for this guy.

Reader: Extremely ambitious but not transparently so. Much like Ike Leggett, Van Hollen managed to navigate his way up through the ranks, in large part, by avoiding contentious issues. As a result, he doesn’t have many political enemies. The lesson is that there is generally little or no upside in Montgomery County politics for taking an unambiguous stand on a difficult issue. After almost 20 years in elected office, can anyone really articulate with specificity where Van Hollen stands on the ICC or the Purple Line??

Reader: Chris Van Hollen has always impressed people with his brains, his energy, and his liberalism. Everyone knows he's going places. He is well respected among Montgomery County political figures and activists. If he wanted to, he could exercise a great deal of influence in local politics. However, he sees himself more as the Watcher than Galactus, generally choosing not to interfere.

Reader: Everyone loves Chris! A successful role as the Chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and now the Assistant to the Speaker it appears everyone in congress also respects him. I can’t think of a more valuable endorsement from an elected official in Moco than Van Hollen. While he tends to stay out of Moco internal political fights, he is easily defined as the man from Montgomery County. Every time he is mentioned as running for the Senate, you get at least half a dozen people saying they would run for his seat. He’s got the top echelon of Moco leaders chomping at the bits waiting for his next “move.”

Reader: An obvious choice. If talent, hard work, and smarts were not enough, I’d give him an edge just on the decency factor. He’s probably the nicest person in elected office, at any level of government.

Reader: He is everybody’s favorite politician. He is smart, charismatic, does his homework, pays attention to his district and is building an incredible support base in Congress and around the country. He raises money like nobody else. I think that Chris can write his own ticket. I can’t think of anybody in elected office that is held in such high esteem.

Reader: Superstar. Viewed as progressive when he actually compromises quite a bit and is heavily involved in the sausage making of Congress behind the scenes. He was born to legislate and yields a lot of national influence as well as back home.

Reader: Huge potential influence, but not sure he uses it. As the only fed on the list, is in a different category than everyone else. Can potentially affect more dollars and more people than any of us, but I don’t believe he does that so often.

Reader: The 8th District representative is a true national player, given his role at the DCCC and with the Obama administration. He continues to maintain high popularity among constituents, and his strong national connections should make him a strong contender for a U.S. Senate bid. Nevertheless, at least at the local level, his absent voice during some of the more controversial local debates does not go unnoticed. Much of this is likely due to the attention he must give to helping run the national Democratic Party, but it is also at least partly due to his unwillingness to ruffle feathers and get his hands dirty. That might be a perfectly fine strategy for him, but it also makes him a bit boring and a bit like yesterday’s news, since it has been a long time since he had a competitive race. Of course, all that may change in the midst of a heated Senate bid, as we expect people to get energized once again.

Adam: I agree with the lavish compliments from most of the spies. In addition, let’s remember that MoCo residents care MUCH more about national politics than state and local politics. Van Hollen’s sky-high profile as the Democrats’ point man endears him to his constituents. Nothing makes a MoCo liberal happier than to see his or her local Congressman spanking Karl Rove and other Neanderthals on the Sunday talk shows.

We’ll start looking at the non-electeds tomorrow.

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MD State Delegate Victor Ramirez on "Political Pulse" on Channel 16 TV‏

Maryland Delegate Victor Ramirez from the 47th State District in Prince George's County will be on the Political Pulse political talk show on:

Thurs, October 1st at 9:00 p.m.
Fri-Sun, October 2nd-4th at 6:00 p.m. and
Tues, October 6th at 9:30 p.m.

Delegate Ramirez is a leading voice on Hispanic issues in Maryland and he will discuss various topics including:

1. The recent Maryland bill that revoked driver's licenses for undocumented citizens;

2. The health care debate and the controversy that has arisen over whether undocumented citizens should have health care coverage rights;

3. Possible spending cuts to the State's budget; and

4. National Hispanic Heritage Month.

Political Pulse is on Channel 16 TV in Montgomery County.

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Council Staff: Blast from the Past

Check out these two photos of the County Council staff from the mid-1990s.

Our camera-toting spy tells us this photo was taken in 1996. Ike Leggett cuts a dashing presence near the top right corner and Glenn Orlin (top left) is positively debonaire! The Stella Werner building must have been a swinging place back in those days.


Here's another one from after 1996. Our best guess is that this may have been taken in 1997 or 1998 because Steve Silverman, Blair Ewing and Phil Andrews are not in the photo. They were elected in November 1998. Note the presence of legendary Council Member Marilyn Praisner on the left. I'll bet she was running that building back then.


How many people in these photos are still there? And what will happen when they retire? They may as well shut off the lights and close the doors when that time comes.

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A Climate Bill to be Excited About

By Brad Heavner.

Sen. Barbara Boxer has said she will unveil the Senate version of federal climate legislation on Wednesday. Will the bill be inadequate to the task at hand or the most revolutionary energy policy ever considered by Congress?

The answer is both, if you consider the task at hand to be solving global warming. But it’s important to realize that no single action – even comprehensive energy legislation passed by the U.S. Congress – is going to be enough to solve the climate crisis on its own. What we need is strong progress that creates opportunities for even more progress soon. To that task, this bill is worth our strong support, particularly if the Senate version fixes some of the biggest flaws coming over from the House.

The bill the House passed in June, the American Clean Energy and Security Act (The ACES Act), makes good and measurable progress toward a clean energy future. It gets the basic framework right, setting a price on carbon with some of the proceeds to be used to invest in transforming our energy economy. It also includes new building codes, pollution standards for heavy trucks, appliance standards, and requirements that transportation spending take into account energy and climate impacts.

And, most importantly, we’ll be able to improve on it over time. If we can show a comprehensive global warming bill to be winnable in Congress, and if voters don’t revolt and people start to see the benefits of clean energy, we will be able to come back for more soon.

If it fails, on the other hand, the story in Congress will be reinforced that global warming legislation is bad politics and you don’t want to go near it with a ten-foot pole.

Don’t get me wrong, the ACES Act has serious problems. The bill only requires a 17 percent emission reduction by 2020, and much of that could be eroded by “offsets” – actions outside of the U.S. or in sectors not covered by the cap. The bill also takes away the EPA’s authority to address emissions from our dirtiest coal-fired power plants. Those compromises were painful.

Clearly, we are running out of time to deal with global warming effectively. Some suggest that means we can’t afford to pass legislation that does anything less than promise a full solution to the problem. But the plain fact of the matter in 2009 is that a good energy bill that puts America on a path to a clean energy future may be winnable in the U.S. Congress after a tough fight. The chances of winning a bill within the next couple of years that truly delivers what the science calls for are non-existent. Let’s win this and then keep fighting from there.

Forgive me a sports analogy. The planet is like a baseball team coming to bat down five runs in the bottom of the ninth. No matter how much you might need it, it is not possible to hit a five-run homer. You’ve got to get a hit, and hope the next guy does the same, and so on. The planet needs a five-run homer right now, and the ACES Act isn’t that. But it is a very solid hit that keeps us in the ball game.

In Maryland, we passed a renewable energy standard in 2003, requiring that 7.5 percent of our electricity come from clean energy sources by 2019. That percentage was so low that we didn’t know if it would mean much at the time. But since then, we have improved the number twice, to 9.5 percent in 2007 and 20 percent in 2008.

It’s time to do the same thing on a bigger issue on a bigger scale.

If you want more detail on all of this, check out this white paper.

Brad Heavner is the State Director of Environment Maryland.

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How Far Will Baltimore’s Corruption Scandal Go?

Developer Ronald Holt Lipscomb, whose alleged showering of gifts on Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon led to her indictment, is now cooperating with State Prosecutor Robert A. Rohrbaugh. That’s not just bad news for Dixon. It’s also potentially bad news for many other politicians too.

The state’s case against Dixon revolves around the provision by Lipscomb and fellow developer Patrick Turner of gift cards that were supposed to be used for needy city residents, but were instead used by Dixon for herself while she was City Council President. The state issued a twelve count indictment in January alleging that Dixon had committed perjury, theft, fraudulent misappropriation by a fiduciary and misconduct in office. After Lipscomb agreed to squeal in June, the state withdrew the original indictment and issued a new seven count indictment in July alleging theft, fraudulent misappropriation by a fiduciary and misconduct in office.

Whatever happens to Dixon, the state scored a coup by flipping Ronald Lipscomb. The 53-year-old owner of Doracon Contracting Inc. was one of the most influential minority contractors in the state at his peak. The best thing about cooperating witnesses is that they do not get to pick and choose which matters they discuss with prosecutors. Remember how the Jack Abramoff investigation eventually led to Congressman Bob Ney?

Lipscomb has many, many relationships other than his connection to Mayor Dixon. Prosecutors claim to know of 57 Lipscomb-connected LLCs. We have not been able to locate that many, but we have traced fifteen business entities and five individuals to Lipscomb’s residential and business addresses. They are:

301 E. Lombard Street LLC
6th Street LLC
Arizona Crossings LLC
Dart Consulting LLC
Doracon Contracting
Doracon Contracting of D.C.
Doracon Development
Doracon Development of Puerto Rico
Lambda Development LLC
RHL Arizona Crossings LLC
RHL Development LLC
RHL Strathdale LLC
RHL Waterview Avenue LLC
RT Ventures LLC
Street LLC
Dennis Cullop (a Doracon Vice-President)
Sharon R. Grinnell
Michael E. Herndon
Ronald H. Lipscomb
Zaiafanice J. Lipscomb

The above businesses and individuals contributed a combined $500,988 to state politicians. Here are all candidates and political funds that received at least $5,000.


A few notes. Helen Holton is a Baltimore City Council Member who was also indicted in connection with Lipscomb. Bernard Young is another Baltimore City Council Member. Talmadge Branch is a Baltimore City Delegate who is the Majority Whip in the House. Verna Jones and Nathaniel McFadden are Senators from Baltimore City. Delegate Pete Rawlings of Baltimore City chaired the House Appropriations Committee before passing away in 2003. The other list members should be familiar to our readers.

Branch’s presence on this list is interesting. In July 2008, the Baltimore City Paper wrote about his participation in two 2007 meetings at a Catonsville Diner with Lipscomb, Mayor Dixon and two businessmen who were the subject of state and federal investigations. Both of these businessmen – Brian D. Morris and Owen M. Tonkins – served as former Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley’s minority-business chiefs. Lipscomb was playing an ancient game popular in both Baltimore City and his resident county, Prince George’s, of seeding state and local politicians with money, plugging into networks of current and former bureaucrats and keeping the kettle warm for public contracts. In Lipscomb’s case, the kettle was VERY warm due to his $205,000 in contributions to the state Democratic Party.

The core of the Dixon indictment is that the Mayor became too close to her contributor, in many more ways than just the financial ones. Anyone who contributes tens of thousands of dollars to state and local politicians, and possibly raises tens of thousands more, has plenty of opportunity to get close to them. Who else was Lipscomb close to and how far did it go? Prosecutors will find out by asking questions about every name on the above list. One person not on the list, Delegate Jill Carter (D-41), may already have a Lipscomb-related problem.

As bad as Lipscomb’s cooperation is, there is something even worse on the horizon. Lipscomb is helping prosecutors in their indictment of Baltimore City Council Member Helen Holton, whom they allege accepted an off-the-books election poll financed by Lipscomb and John Paterakis. Paterakis, who was also indicted, is a MUCH more powerful figure than Lipscomb. He is the developer of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor East project, the largest private project in the city’s history, and has been described by the Sun as former Mayor William Donald Schaefer’s “go-to guy.” He was also linked to the massive Bromwell scandal. Paterakis just pleaded guilty to two counts of violating campaign finance rules and agreed to pay $26,000 in fines. Is he now also cooperating with prosecutors?

Only three people may know where as many bodies are buried in Baltimore as does Paterakis: Sheila Dixon, Martin O’Malley and God. So far, only one of them has been indicted.

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Council Approves $150,000 for Sligo Creek Golf Course

Following is the press release from the County Council.

From the office of Montgomery County Councilmember Valerie Ervin:

The Montgomery County Council today voted 7-2 to approve a $150,000 appropriation to keep Sligo Creek Golf Course in Silver Spring in operation until June 30, 2010—the end of the County’s Fiscal Year 2010. Without the special appropriation, the course was scheduled to close on Oct. 1. Councilmember Valerie Ervin, whose district includes Silver Spring, and other Councilmembers said that a task force the Council voted today to create will have to consider many options for the best long-term solution for the golf course’s future.

Neil H. Greenberger
Legislative Information Officer
Montgomery County Council
240-777-7939
Contact: 240-777-7970

Montgomery Council Approves Funds to Keep Open Sligo Creek Golf Course

Councilmember Ervin Fought for Funding to Keep Course Open Until June 30, 2010; Now Long-Term Solution is Needed

ROCKVILLE, Md., September 29, 2009 — The Montgomery County Council today voted 7-2 to approve a $150,000 appropriation to keep Sligo Creek Golf Course in Silver Spring in operation until June 30, 2010—the end of the County’s Fiscal Year 2010. Without the special appropriation, the course was scheduled to close on Oct. 1.

Sligo Creek Golf Course is a 65-acre, nine-hole golf course located inside the Beltway in Sligo Creek Park. The course has been in operation since 1927 and became the County's first public course in 1946. The vast majority of Sligo Creek Golf Course users are County residents and more than half are 50 and older. Beginning golfers and youth also utilize the course to learn the game of golf.

Councilmember Valerie Ervin, who represents Silver Spring, appreciates the support of her Council colleagues, but said there is more work to be done. "While I am ecstatic that we have saved the course today, we can't be in this same situation at the end of June," said Councilmember Ervin. "The Council is immediately going to convene its own task force to look at what will be necessary to preserve the golf course over the long-term."

In addition to Councilmember Ervin, voting for the special appropriation were Councilmembers Roger Berliner, Marc Elrich, Nancy Floreen, George Leventhal, Nancy Navarro and Duchy Trachtenberg. Council President Phil Andrews and Councilmember Mike Knapp voted against approving the funding.

Tuesday's agenda also included a resolution to establish a Sligo Creek Golf Course Task Force, which was sponsored by Councilmembers Ervin, Elrich, Floreen, Leventhal and Trachtenberg. The purpose of this group will be to implement a plan that will lead to the self-sustainability of Sligo Creek Golf Course. If the task force develops recommendations that are not self-sustaining, it must identify and justify ongoing costs to the County.

Several options have been discussed by Councilmembers on how to save the golf course, including Councilmember Ervin's recommendation to develop a public-private partnership with the Department of Veterans Affairs at the federal or state level and non-profit organizations that provide recreational opportunities. The goal would be to provide therapeutic golf to veterans returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Growing up in a military family, I know about the tremendous sacrifices soldiers and their families make each and every day," said Ervin. "Providing therapeutic golf for veterans in and around the Washington Metropolitan area at Sligo Creek Golf Course would be a small way to give back to those who have given so much and could maintain this treasured community recreational asset."

Councilmember Leventhal said he wants the task force to consider many options.

"I'm optimistic that the task force can bring a recommendation back to the Council that addresses the long-term financial viability of the golf course,” said Councilmember Leventhal. “My office has worked to produce a memo that details several long-term options and I hope that this document can serve as a starting point for the discussion on how we can keep Sligo Creek Golf Course open and self sustaining."

Councilmember Floreen said: “Because we are dealing with significant fiscal constraints, we must work together to find creative ways of making the golf course self-sustaining. I’m optimistic this group will be able to come up with thoughtful recommendations within the short timeframe.”

Councilmember Elrich said: “Since the threat of closing Sligo Creek Golf Course arose this spring, I have supported keeping golf on Sligo. I applaud the local community groups, neighbors and golf advocates who have fought to preserve this course. Now the hard work begins for us to find a workable solution that will keep this course alive and thriving for generations to come.”

Councilmember Ervin said the task force will work with community members to find the right long-term solution for the course.

"While we all recognize these are difficult economic times, I'm confident that members of this Council Task Force will think of innovative ways we can keep the course operational without unduly burdening taxpayers," said Councilmember Ervin. "I look forward to working with this group as they develop their recommendations. I also want to thank the Sligo Creek Golf Course association for all of their advocacy and support for saving the course."

The Sligo Creek Task Force must provide its initial report to the County Council on or before Jan. 19, 2010.

# # # #

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Montgomery County’s Most Influential People, Part Two

Our respondents collectively nominated 53 elected officials as the most influential leaders in Montgomery County. We present the leaders starting today, along with some commentary from myself and our spies, in reverse order of their number of votes.

15 (tie). Kumar Barve, House Majority Leader (D-17)
13 Votes

Reader: The Speaker’s point person on any number of issues, he is well liked in Annapolis and knows how to use the weight of the powerful Majority Leader position.

Reader: Universally liked, and that means something. I would bet there’s not an influential person on your list that hits ignore when he calls their cell phone.

Adam: Funny, charming, smart Bad Boy. Earns extra points for marrying way out of his league. Would be a wildly entertaining Speaker of the House if he could get there.

15 (tie). Karen Britto, Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee Chairwoman
13 Votes

Reader: She runs the Democratic Party with a tight fist and is working hard to see that all of the now-incumbents she selected for the legislature are re-elected in 2010.

Reader: Runs a tight ship that has helped keep the County Dems so popular.

Reader: She knows everything about every district and every precinct, and works day and night for the party and its electeds.

Reader: Puppet master, and I mean that in a good way. She understands what this county will look like in a few years and is making sure that the Democratic Party reflects that.

Reader: Our MCDCC head should be nicknamed the “hidden hand.” While your average voter likely knows little about her, Karen Britto works hard to try and keep the peace in the Democratic Party and has also been known to tip the scale when legislative vacancies occur. More importantly, she works hard to advance a vision for the party and its interests in the region. Remember that there are zero Republicans representing Montgomery County at the County Council, State House or Congress.

Adam: A gracious, wise and exceedingly well-connected woman. Easy charm conceals tempered steel. Anyone who wants to run for office in this county must see her first.

15 (tie). Marc Elrich, Montgomery County Council Member
13 Votes

Reader: I’ve been impressed with his pragmatism, and yet I believe he doesn’t stray from his core beliefs (which I don’t always agree with but I respect his commitment to them.) I don’t think any other Council Member enjoys the office more than Marc, or who puts the time into the job as he does.

Reader: Dogmatic and rigid, yet has managed to touch a chord with those that wish for a County of yesterday – rolling hills, cul-de-sacs, and a sprinkle of people of color so we can feel good about calling ourselves “liberals.”

Reader: Drops in influence now that he lacks a majority on the council and has to hustle for re-election. He should be fine, but doesn’t have a lot of money or bills to point to after four years.

Reader: A real opinion leader. First, you think he’s crazy. Next, you turn around and tell everyone about his ideas. Finally, you begin thinking they’re yours.

Adam: Show me a local politician with a more visionary idea than Elrich’s county-wide BRT system. No, I didn’t think you could.

13 (tie). Donna Edwards, U.S. House of Representatives
14 Votes

Reader: Now an icon of the netroots and the national progressive movement, Edwards has a lot of influence to wield. Some are disappointed in her performance so far, but the fact remains that for candidates for office in CD4, her endorsement will mean a hell of a lot.

Reader: Politico ranked her as one of the top incoming Congresswomen, and her super-liberal stances on every issue both reflect the liberal stances of CD-4 and her national donor network, but she has a lousy, unresponsive staff and her best skill seems to be burning bridges. She’s trying to play locally in Prince George’s to build a local base, but not in Montgomery. Most of the elected officials and activists who supported her in 2008 are dissatisfied, and she has a big problem with the local and national Jewish community. Apparently Van Hollen and Sheila Hixson got angry because they started receiving constituent calls because Donna’s office wouldn’t return them. Her poll numbers among black men are abysmal, and if Glenn Ivey runs and AIPAC raises money for him, along with a Herman Taylor challenge picking off a few votes in MoCo, she might not lose, but she’ll certainly have a fight.

Reader: At the Obama event at the University of Maryland campus when Obama introduced the top elected leaders from Maryland present at the rally, Donna Edwards was received like a rock star among the students. It was really remarkable considering she has only been in office for a year and a half. She appeals to young voters and is obviously really popular among young people. She is a relentless fighter on all the issues that matter to progressive democrats. She works hard, does her homework and is a relentless campaigner. I think that she has a brilliant future in Congress or whatever she chooses to do in the future. It is interesting to note that she is the first African American woman ever elected to congress from the state of Maryland. African American women vote in huge numbers in Democratic primaries in Maryland and in many other states. This fact alone could make her a contender in a statewide run for governor or the US Senate. There is nobody out there that can beat her in a debate. She has to make sure to listen to people who are telling her to beef up her staff which many perceive as weak.

Reader: Everyone knows her staff is her biggest problem, and her constituent services aren’t winning her any points, and she needs to be more thoughtful in how she speaks on Israel-Palestine issues, but overall Donna Edwards has shown herself to be a true progressive, bold, and highly intelligent in her approach to her job. Progressives in Montgomery County will stick with her, especially labor and the LGBT community, because despite her flaws, she’s everything we never got from Al Wynn.

Reader: Giant killer. If she can turn back prospective challengers from MoCo and PG next year, she has a bright future statewide.

Adam: Still a progressive hero despite the faults of her staff and her occasionally testy nature. Chews up opponents and spits out the broken bones.

13 (tie). Mike Knapp, Montgomery County Council Member
14 Votes

Reader: Being chair of the Planning, Housing and Economic Development Committee, he controls land use issues in MoCo.

Reader: Has respect of labor and business. Solid. Leader. Doesn’t knee-jerk like most politicians.

Adam: A decent, genial Upstate New Yorker who has never let his political success go to his head.

12. Rob Garagiola, Senator (D-15)
15 Votes

Reader: He has the ear of the Senate President, which can have a huge impact.

Reader: A rising star in the State Senate, he is Montgomery’s representative on the powerful Senate Finance Committee and has the ear of the current Senate President, Mike Miller, and the possible future President, Mac Middleton.

Reader: Politically, I think he’s way too conservative, but is a solid State Senator and is the county’s counterpoint to Jamie Raskin. In looking at people to fill Van Hollen’s seat, Garagiola is among the top contenders, especially for moderate Democratic voters.

Reader: Bright and decent man with a conservative bent – thinks it serves his district well – some wonder – in comparison to Raskin – very different agendas.

Reader: Paying his dues with Mike Miller while earning creds with workforce legislation.

Reader: Tough, courageous and smart. Willing to take risks and violate liberal orthodoxy. Another possible Senate President.

Adam: I know all you spies like to gossip about Garagiola’s relationship with Big Daddy. But it’s time that we respect him for his intelligence, his ability to work the levers of Annapolis and his aptitude for learning policy and politics quickly. He is a legitimate contender to be Senate President someday.

11. Peter Franchot, Maryland Comptroller
16 Votes

Reader: Doesn’t get much respect, doesn’t give much respect. But don’t underestimate the guy. No one out-hustles Franchot.

Reader: It is remarkable how someone holding statewide elected office could have so few friends and so many detractors. The ultimate self promoter in Maryland politics. He is on this list solely by virtue of the vast authority conferred upon his office.

Reader: The State Comptroller may rub some people the wrong way, but he knows how to garner ink and is one of three votes on the Board of Public Works. His position is powerful in the State as compared to Comptroller jobs in other States.

Reader: Outspoken. Love him or hate him – he’s still underrated. He was right on slots and has an agenda. Two terms as Comptroller a guarantee and will be a challenge for Gansler to hold MoCo votes in the Governor primary in 2014.

Reader: Now that he’s cooled his jets he can refashion himself. But for a Comptroller he casts a big shadow, he knows how to use media and isn’t averse to switching gears.

Reader: In contrast to some of our more conciliatory County politicians, Comptroller Peter Franchot has been willing to ruffle feathers. Where others see challenging Governor O'Malley and Mike Miller as heresy, Franchot has stepped into the ring and usually on the progressive side of the equation. Unfortunately, though many of our politicians act like lemmings, Franchot almost always finds himself alone in his crusades. One would think this would be a sign of his lack of influence, but in fact, somehow it has all worked out and Franchot looks headed for safe reelection.

Adam: Here’s Franchot’s dilemma. When he’s noisy, he gains visibility but infuriates other politicians with whom he needs to have relationships to get anything done (assuming he’s interested). But when he quiets down, he loses influence. Franchot can still make a splash in the media but because he is not at all a team player – and never will be – his ability to move any policy issues is limited.

10. Jamie Raskin, Senator (D-20)
22 Votes

Reader: Jamie Raskin has proven that outspoken liberal does not have to mean ineffective. He’s peripatetic but still gets a lot done.

Reader: Our legislatures are filled with lawyers, too many of whom give that noble profession a bad name. Jamie Raskin, on the other hand, is exactly the kind of lawyer I want in my legislature: smart, principled, liberal, and academic. Officials and activists in Annapolis turn to him because of the knowledge and skills he brings to the table as a constitutional lawyer, qualities that make him unique in the Montgomery County state legislative delegation.

Reader: From freshman Senator to instant leader! It is as if Jamie has been in Annapolis for ever! Or he is just one smart politician. Either case, none of the other freshman from 2006 have had the impact he’s had. People from other counties who could care less for Montgomery County know his name. That’s got to be influence baby!

Reader: Since he beat Ida in 2006, his base has only kept growing. He’s a progressive star in the state, and will move up to higher office soon – he’s a favorite for Maryland AG once Gansler vacates for governor in 2014 or Van Hollen’s seat, whichever he chooses or comes first. In a county represented by Donna Edwards and Chris Van Hollen, Jamie could not be better positioned to run for higher office. He’s particularly influential now, as many potential and declared 2010 challengers look to him for advice.

Reader: Has emerged as a leader of the Progressives – some say he is too brash and will not be content to grow and become part of leadership in the traditional seniority and favor driven Senate of Mike Miller. He does have good, sometimes quirky ideas, but he is shaking up the formerly sleepy District 20.

Reader: Well loved by progressives, managed to be effective in Annapolis without being marginalized which is no small feat given how outspoken he is. But he has humor and great integrity.

Reader: No other Montgomery County politician can claim the legions of diehard groundtroops that Jamie Raskin has mobilized since first taking office in 2006. He is a true movement progressive, as evidenced by his inspiring speeches, involvement at the national level, and the true grassroots organizing he engages in with his supporters. The rumors are persistent that Raskin is planning a 2014 run for Attorney General, a position he should be a natural for, given his background as a Constitutional law professor, but he is also often mentioned as a successor to Rep. Chris Van Hollen.

Adam: Raskin is becoming an icon who is embraced by all the feuding camps of people who call themselves progressives.

8 (tie). Phil Andrews, Montgomery County Council President
24 Votes

Reader: Continues to set the standard for graciousness and how elected officials should conduct themselves.

Reader: You always know where he is on issues. He will not play games, even when one does not agree with his positions. He is to be respected for standing his ground.

Reader: He was at least a year ahead of his colleagues in understanding what was coming with the county budget, and he got a bunch of crap for it.

Reader: As his year as Council President comes to an end, Andrews made sure that issues affecting his district - the controversial I-270 widening and even more controversial Gaithersburg West Master Plan - are in the spotlight, framing the conversation of how Montgomery County will grow in the future. Like Adam wrote before, he is the person to watch in the I-270 debate.

Reader: Any higher aspirations that Andrews has will be stymied by his having pissed off so many core democratic constituencies during his time on the council.

Reader: For all of my disagreements with Phil Andrews, it is hard to say that he is not providing a steady and measured hand as Council President. It just proves that you can take strong positions on issues, tangle with those who disagree with you, and still get along with others at the end of the day. Andrews’ colleagues and especially those that wish to succeed him as Council President would be wise to take notes.

Adam: A budget-cutting President in a budget-cutting year. Andrews was a lone ranger on fiscal issues three years ago but now many of his views are dominant. He is also a decent, competent and civil public servant in a county that could use more of them.

8 (tie). Doug Gansler, Maryland Attorney General
24 Votes

Reader: By his own standards, he has been low key. But the Office of Attorney General in Maryland routinely makes legal decisions that impact the lives of every Marylander.

Reader: The antics of Peter Franchot aside, if he wants it, I think Gansler's the next Governor. Both reasonable and effective.

Reader: Doug Gansler has positioned himself well to be Maryland’s first governor from Montgomery in awhile. Accomplished good things and gained a reputation as a workhorse, not a show horse, especially in comparison with Peter Franchot but also in comparison to his rep as State’s Attorney.

Reader: His race for governor begins in November of 2010. He manages to show up to everything in the county while still being an active presence everywhere else in the state.

Reader: Not mixing it up in local or state circles right now, but almost certain to be the next Governor.

Reader: I suspect that Doug Gansler has been preparing a run for governor since at least 1987. Since becoming Attorney General, Doug Gansler has set himself up nicely for when he decides to run for the Democratic Party nomination. For instance, his vocal support for marriage equality legislation in early 2008 provided a strong contrast to Governor O'Malley’s deeply offensive reaction to the state high court's anti-equality decision a few months earlier. I suspect there are a lot of Montgomery County Democrats who are looking forward to volunteering for a Gansler For Governor campain in 2014 - and wish he were running instead of O'Malley in 2010.

Reader: Montgomery County’s strongest statewide office holder. Unlike Franchot, he understands how to accomplish things in Annapolis. He also hasn’t made any enemies, but he isn’t actually too influential on the lives of Montgomery County residents. He’s a strong candidate for Governor in 2014, but he’s not too progressive, and while he has an early money lead, who knows what will happen in 2014.

Reader: Mr. Gansler is a fundraising machine and has name recognition throughout the state. Let's hope he doesn't disappoint progressives, who are waiting with baited breath to see if he will do the right thing and issue the opinion that, according to longstanding legal precedent, Maryland must honor marriages between same-sex couples legalized in other states.

Reader: Doug Gansler has taken a strong stand in the past on marriage equality, and is about to issue a ruling on marriage equality that will have a direct effect upon my life. While that might not make everyone’s list of “Most Influential,” to me, few things matter more than an official who takes seriously the concept of equal protection under the law.

Reader: Not much impact directly on Montgomery County, but clearly a force to reckoned with at the State. He’s avoided letting his ambition push him into attention getting behavior. I think he’s better behaved than he was as the County Attorney.

Reader: Our Attorney General seems to have many enemies and haters but somehow continues steamrolling up the political ladder. The “silent majority” would be a term best used to describe Gansler voters, because I can’t seem to locate anyone who is willing to admit they actually voted for him. To his credit, he has raised ungodly amounts of money and at this point in time is entering the 2014 gubernatorial contest from a much stronger position than any of his potential rivals. Unless something changes, I predict we will be bowing down to Governor Gansler in a few short years.

Adam: Goes everywhere and raises money for everybody. Clearly running for Governor once O’Malley leaves and is, right now, the heavy favorite to win.

7. Brian Feldman, Delegate (D-15)
29 Votes

Reader: House Chair of Montgomery County Delegation. Going places.

Reader: House Delegation Chair, finishing his second term in the House. Helps give the whole delegation credibility with his demeanor and talent.

Reader: Strong job as Chair with no competitors.

Reader: As head of the Delegation, he can help unite the state delegation to pass (or stop) priority legislation for the state. Smart and respected as well.

Reader: Cool, calm and collected. A measured and serious legislator.

Reader: Does a good job as Montgomery County Delegation House Chair. Is seen by others in Annapolis as a calm, reasonable representative for Montgomery County issues.

Reader: As head of the County Delegation – holds a lot of power in setting the Legislative Agenda – since he is among the more cautious members of the Delegation – wonder when he is going to step up with a more progressive agenda.

Reader: He is Chair of the Delegation for a reason. He is confident and smart and understands the politics of everything very well. He plays the game well in MoCo and in Annapolis where he is well respected.

Reader: Mover and shaker in Annapolis who knows how to get things done.

Reader: I’ve gotten to like him a lot better. He’s quietly effective and has a lot going on in his head that you don’t see. He’s good with his colleagues, he’s respected and thoughtful.

Adam: Grows in stature every year.

Come back tomorrow for the Super Six!

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Monday, September 28, 2009

District 18 Town Hall Meeting

Following is the announcement from the District 18 Caucus.

Town Hall Meeting with Your Representatives in Annapolis

Come share your views and hear the latest from your District 18 General Assembly Members:

State Senator Richard Madaleno
State Delegates Alfred Carr, Ana Sol GutiƩrrez, and
Jeff Waldstreicher

Tuesday, October 6, 7:00 PM

The Bushey Center
12210 Bushey Drive
Silver Spring, MD

The new Maryland state legislative session is fast approaching. There will be tough decisions to be made.

Meet the people who will influence the budget and help to set priorities. Ask questions and let them know what’s important to you.

For more information, contact:

English: Lew Winarsky 301.437.4643 or Rick Kessler 301.592.9390
En EspaƱol: Ana Maria Delgado 240.277.4757

Sponsored by the District 18 Democratic Caucus

By Authority of the District 18 Democratic Caucus, Victor Weissberg Chair, Richard Mandel, Treasurer

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Snapshot: Unemployment in Maryland

Maryland has a lower unemployment rate than the U.S. average, but the regions of the state are faring differently. If you live in Baltimore City, on the Eastern Shore or in Western Maryland, you are much more likely to be unemployed than if you live in Central or Southern Maryland. Following are average unemployment rates for jurisdictions across the state in 2008 and the first six months of 2009 from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.




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Fireproof Fred (Updated)

Imagine if you hacked your boss’s email account, became enmeshed in a juicy political scandal and then were nabbed by the police on a gun charge. You’d get fired, right?

Well, you’re probably not Fireproof!

Meet Fred “Fireproof” Felton, the Assistant City Manager of Gaithersburg. Felton has been on the job for almost twenty years and has lots of friends. One of them is House Majority Leader Kumar “Bad Boy” Barve. Two years ago, the Bad Boy was being, well, bad behind the wheel and called Fireproof Fred to bail him out. So Felton had a police car pick him up from the clink – a service not available to all Gaithersburg grog guzzlers – and that prompted an angry rebuke from the police chief.

Only a month later, Felton was back in the papers when he was caught hacking into the City Manager’s email account and sending out a few interesting messages. The Gazette reported on a couple of them:

One of the messages was sent to a young woman who works part time in the city’s environmental services division and included an emoticon, a keyboard symbol, known in the electronic messaging world as a reference to large breasts, according to a copy of the e-mail obtained by The Gazette.

A second message to the woman read: ‘‘You are soo hot!!!!!!!!!,” a copy of the e-mail shows.
Well, Felton was put on the hot seat himself, but not for long. The new Acting City Manager, who was not punked by Felton’s prank, decided not to investigate. And you wonder why we call him “Fireproof?”

But Felton’s nickname is in for a test. City police arrested him after an “accidental discharge” – from a weapon, people – in his apartment. Now it turns out that he had been drinking and blew 0.11 on a breath test. Furthermore, his neighbor was only six feet away from the wall-piercing buckshot. It’s lucky for Felton that his neighbors are lucky too.

Our sources in Gaithersburg tell us that when Felton’s not drinking, hacking and shooting weapons, he’s a pretty decent fellow. We’re sure the same thing could be said about many prison inmates. So will Fireproof Fred get fired for firing?

Keep your powder dry on this one, folks.

Update: Felton has retired. Since he left voluntarily, he retains his nickname.

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Montgomery County’s Most Influential People, Part One

Last year, we ran our inaugural series identifying Montgomery County’s most influential people. The results stirred much angst in the egos of the county’s powerful, many of whom claim to be more influential than anyone else. (Just ask them!) The complaining emails and phone calls nearly drove your tender-hearted author out of blogging. So a year later, what have we decided to do?

Why, do it again of course!

No one person is qualified to render a determination from above on who has the biggest stick in the county. But we know who is qualified: our far-flung network of spies, tipsters, moles and wags. Every one of them knows something. Every one of them has an angle. Every one of them perceives at least a part of the county quite clearly. Every one of them has friends and enemies. Every one of them sees at least an act or two of the great, perpetual political drama playing out. And together – but only together – they come as close to knowing all as anyone could. Now it is time to summon their collective capabilities in a great exercise of joint consciousness to chart the strands of influence in Montgomery.

We asked each of our informants to compose two separate lists of the most influential elected and most influential non-elected people in the county. They were allowed to pick up to ten people for each list. Many of them picked a lesser number. Some even picked themselves! (Yes, we allowed that, but we required them to vote for others as well.) And we told them to use their own definitions of influence.

This was a tough exercise and many of our informants did not participate. There are a lot of people to choose from in both the elected and non-elected worlds. Moreover, influence can be used for good and for evil, a fact that weighed painfully on the minds of some of our respondents. “I just hate voting for some of these people!” wailed one spy. “They’re dirty and their tactics are underhanded, but they get the job done.” Many hands no doubt trembled at the keyboard as they typed out the names of their most despised foes. But just as interesting were the responses that declined to name close political allies. Sometimes, honesty comes only through guilty whispers in the dead of night.

Of course, we will never disclose the identities of our 71 participants no matter how far some people might be willing to go to learn them. But here is their demographic breakdown:

Affiliation
Elected Official: 25
Government Staff: 11
Civic: 9
Business: 7
Labor: 5
Non-Profit: 5
Other: 9

Race/Ethnicity
White: 57
Asian: 5
Black: 5
Latino: 4

Gender
Male: 42
Female: 29

Age
Under Forty: 22
Forty or Over: 49

Residence
Silver Spring/Takoma Park: 22
Rockville/Gaithersburg: 15
Chevy Chase/Kensington: 11
Bethesda/Potomac: 11
Other Montgomery: 10
Out-of-County: 2
Note: Many of the Silver Spring respondents live outside the Beltway.

Enough methodology. We know you want to see the results. And soon enough, you will!

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Sunday, September 27, 2009

O’Malley Raises Money for Deeds

Following is a solicitation illustrating the cross-Potomac pollination of Virginia and Maryland politics. Note the location: the home of Leggett fundraiser and EZStorage lobbyist Barbara Goldberg Goldman.

Our friends and neighbors just across the Potomac River and the entire Democratic Party need our help!

Please join us and Governor Martin O'Malley and Democratic Party Chair Susan W. Turnbull for a fundraising reception for

CREIGH DEEDS

Democratic Candidate for Governor of Virginia

(Please download the attached flyer for additional information)

October 8, 2009
5:30 PM - 7:00 PM
10030 Carmelita Drive, Potomac, MD 20854

rsvp:
Melissa Smith @ 410-269-8818, msmith@mddems.org;
Adam Goers @ 202-812-3231, agoers@martinomalley.com

CREIGH DEEDS has spent the last two decades serving constituents from all walks of life.

Here is an opportunity to help Creigh continue serving the fine people of Virginia, and to keep Virginia blue! This race is in the home stretch with just under 37 days to go and, according to recent polls, is neck and neck.

Just some highlights about Creigh:

Creigh is the only candidate in the race for governor with a plausible, comprehensive plan to solve Virginia’s transportation crisis. According to the Washington Post,“Deeds' ‘everything-is-on-the-table’ approach offers the flexibility to come up with innovative and workable strategies.”
Creigh served in the Virginia Senate since December 2001
Creigh served in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1992–2001
Creigh is Pro-Choice, endorsed by the Planned Parents Advocates of Virginia for his 2009 Gubernatorial run
Creigh supported exemption of the sales tax on the purchase of solar or wind energy systems for homeowners
Creigh supports giving tax credits to businesses that produce "green jobs"
Creigh supports tougher sanctions on lenders that deal in sub-prime mortgages
Creigh supports a state ban on the civilian ownership of semi-automatic rifles
Creigh supports and created a plan called "Better Schools. Better Jobs." The plan calls for up to $15,000 in student loans for 4-year college students, and for creating partnerships with community colleges and traditional universities
Creigh supported reducing class sizes at schools and day-care facilities and requiring more teachers and guidance counselors
Creigh wrote Megan's Law, which allows public access to the state sex offender registry, and sponsored Amber Alert Program to keep our children safe
Creigh wrote one of the most progressive laws to preserve open space and protect the environment
Creigh received the Leadership in Public Policy Award from The Nature Conservancy and the Preservation Alliance of Virginia named him Delegate of the Year
Creigh wrote the state law that has turned the tide against homegrown illegal methamphetamine drug labs
Creigh wrote some of the toughest legislation to keep Virginia families safe and secure, and has built his career as a consensus builder who delivers results
Creigh worked with Governor Tim Kaine to keep Virginia moving forward with an energy policy that will cut greenhouse gases by 30 percent over the next two decades and a pre-kindergarten program that will put children on the path to success from the start
Creigh worked with then Governor Mark Warner to put the Virginia budget back in order: cutting waste and protecting important priorities. The 2004 bi-partisan budget agreement invested more than $1 billion in education, eliminated the state food tax, and put more police officers on the streets with the tools and the training they need to keep us safe
We hope you will stop by, meet and support Creigh Deeds, and help keep Virginia “blue!”

Please download the attached flyer for details; and please, consider donating even if you are unable to attend. A donation in any amount is precious.

Looking forward to seeing you on October 8th
Mike Goldman & Barbara Goldberg Goldman

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Town Hall Meeting on Disability Cuts

Following is the meeting notice.

Town Hall Meeting on October 5, 2009
PLEASE RSVP TO THIS EVENT!
RSVP to Michele Kirkpatrick

WAITING LIST & COMMUNITY PROGRAMS CRISES!
TOWN HALL MEETING


Meet Legislators, State & Local Officials
Network with other families on the waiting list
Share your story; ask your questions
Learn about the campaign and what you can do to help
Let your legislators know the time to act is NOW!
Find out about opportunities to become an advocate in your community

A town hall meeting on the Developmental Disabilities Waiting List Crises and Underfunding of Community Programs has been planned. To date there are over 19,000 children and adults with developmental disabilities on the DDA Wait List for Community Services. 20,000 people with developmental disabilities who currently receive services require quality and stable services that are insufficiently funded. Budget cuts effective October 1 will directly impact people with developmental disabilities, their families and community programs.

Please show your support and invite your friends and families to join us on:
Monday October 5, 2009
7:00-9:00 PM
The Universities at Shady Grove
www.shadygrove.umd.edu

To RSVP to attend and/or testify, please contact Michele Kirkpatrick at 240.777.4626 or Michele.Kirkpatrick@montgomerycountymd.gov
Please RSVP no later than September 28

This meeting is Sponsored By:

Inter ACC/DD of Montgomery County
End The Wait Now! Campaign
Developmental Disabilities Coalition
People on the Go of Maryland
The Arc of Maryland
Maryland Association of Community Services
Maryland Developmental Disabilities Council
Maryland Disability Law Center

Agenda Items
* Waiting List Issue * Community Programs Underfunding
* Personal Stories * Open Forum
* Legislative Response * Response from Administration
* Call to Action * Budget Cuts

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Saturday, September 26, 2009

Sligo Creek Golf Association Says it Has the Votes

Following is the press release from the Sligo Creek Golf Association.

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County Report: September 25

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Friday, September 25, 2009

District 18 Delegation Opposes Connecticut-Jones Bridge Road Widening

Following is the letter written by Senator Rich Madaleno and Delegates Ana Sol Gutierrez, Jeff Waldstreicher and Al Carr.

September 17, 2009

Governor Martin O'Malley
100 State Circle
Annapolis, MD 21401-1925

Re: SHA BRAC proposal to widen Connecticut and Jones Bridge Road intersection

Dear Governor O'Malley,

We are writing to urge your office to direct the Maryland Department of Transportation to take a comprehensive approach in planning for the expected growth in traffic and travel due to the relocation of Walter Reed Medical Center to the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda.

State Highway Administration staff have been directed to design projects that will improve the capacity of major intersections near the Bethesda medical center. They have worked hard at re-designing these intersections and at reaching out to impacted communities. We sincerely appreciate their professionalism, diligence, and outreach. However, in the case of Jones Bridge Road and Connecticut Avenue, the original proposal was to widen all four legs of the intersection at great expense and great disruption to the community but with questionable long-term benefit.

Connecticut Avenue is used as an access corridor for Kensington, Bethesda, Chevy Chase and many other communities. The communities along this corridor will be affected by a number of different pending transportation and development projects including the opening of the ICC, L7/L8 Metrobus service cuts, the Purple Line and large mixed use developments at Chevy Chase Lake and in Bethesda. We support requests to perform sustainable corridor planning for MD 355. Any such planning of the MD 355 corridor needs to include Connecticut Avenue, Old Georgetown Road, Jones Bridge and East West Highway, as these routes are used to access many destinations on Wisconsin Avenue. Such a study would also include a review of the MD 355/ I 495 intersection design, which greatly affects surrounding intersections and communities.

We were disappointed to learn that only limited coordination has occurred between state planning for BRAC and state/local planning for these other projects, some of which will occur within the same time frame. We would like to also ask MDOT fully include the impact of these other projects in their updated analysis for BRAC transportation improvements in Bethesda.

Analysis of traffic patterns using level-of-service approaches have been standard practice in Maryland but seems less and less sustainable as we acknowledge the need to move away from single-occupancy-vehicles. We applaud the SHA staff for listening to the community and refining their proposal to reduce community impacts and make better use of the existing right of way. We look forward to additional refinements but also ask for the work to be done in a broader context. The fact that the original widening proposal was met with near-universal opposition from the affected communities points to the need for different approach. This new approach needs to take a holistic view of mobility and may require additional tools and support. The community recognizes that simple road widening tends to make intersections even less hospitable to pedestrians, bicyclists and neighborhoods. The Jones Bridge Rd / Connecticut Ave intersection was recently rated as one of the top ten intersections in the County for pedestrian activity.

SHA Administrator Neil Pedersen spoke at a recent seminar before the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments Transportation Planning Board and acknowledged the need to evaluate "person throughput" rather than "vehicle throughput" when planning transportation projects. We are very pleased to hear this vision from a state transportation official because it is more sustainable and balances the role of transit, pedestrian and bicycle access in transportation planning.

We would like to ask MDOT to fully support Mr. Pedersen's stated vision and for MDOT and SHA staff to perform their analysis of Jones Bridge Road and Connecticut Avenue using "person throughput" rather than "vehicle throughput". This type of analysis might lead to more sustainable and more cost effective options that would likely be less disruptive and more acceptable to the affected community. Such solutions might include ways to increase the ridership and capacity of local transit, including: transit signal priority, bus queue jumpers, and financial incentives for passengers to ride transit.

We also ask that the State Highway Administration reconsider direct beltway access and explore all creative options that might alleviate the need to widen local roads. We believe the State Highway Administration should also incorporate planning to address the smaller intersections that will be greatly impacted by BRAC growth. Two of these affected intersections are Summit /Knowles (MD 547), and Rockville Pike (MD 355) / Grosvenor / Beach.

Thank you for considering additional sustainable approaches that reflect both the current needs of our community, as well as plans for future growth.

Sincerely,

Richard Madaleno Jr., Senator
Ana Sol Gutierrez, Delegate
Jeff Waldstreicher, Delegate
Alfred C. Carr Jr., Delegate

cc: Congressman Chris Van Hollen
Beverly Swaim-Staley - Secretary of Transportation
Lt. Governor Anthony Brown
SHA Administrator Neil Pedersen
County Executive Ike Leggett
Council President Phil Andrews
Councilmember Roger Berliner
Andy Scott - MDOT
Phil Alperson - Montgomery County
Bob Weesner - Village of North Chevy Chase
Avice Meehan - Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Ilaya Hopkins - Coalition of Military Medical Center Neighbors
Ken Strickland, Chairperson, Chevy Chase Valley Citizens Association
Freda Mitchem and residents of NW quadrant of MD185/JBR intersection
Henry Levin - Chevy Chase Park resident
Vanessa Chernick - Chevy Chase Park resident
Parkwood Residents Association
Kensington Estates Civic Association

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Sentinel Ignores GOP Activist Scandal

The Sentinel has ignored our story on GOP activist Glynis Kazanjian, whom it allows to craft propaganda on health care for the Republican Party at the same time that she submits "news" articles on the same subject to the newspaper. Below is its latest article from Kazanjian. It is increasingly apparent that the Sentinel has as much respect for its readers as con artists have for their victims.

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