Following are Council Member Roger Berliner's remarks at the 39th Annual Bethesda Memorial Day Observance.
Ladies and Gentlemen, good morning to you. Thank you for inviting me once again to offer a very few words. There has been much press coverage of the way in which political figures running for office have talked about their service eligible years. Some have been quite disappointing to many of us. As a public official seeking re-election, it made me reflect on my own short story and how I would talk about it.
I grew up and came of age in the anti-war movement. Love, not war, was the answer. When I was of draft age, there was a lottery to determine whether you would be inducted. On the day of the lottery, I drew a very high number which meant I would not be called. And that was a good day. I was equal parts scared and opposed to the Vietnam War. I don’t know what I would have done had I been called to serve. I came from a privileged background and not a single friend of mine, in high school or college, served in Vietnam. The closest I came to war was protesting it. And I still protest it. I have not given up on the hope that there comes a day when we do not have to send our young men and women into harm’s way, a day when we are able to resolve our differences without dying over them.
But that day seems a long way off right now, and we do live in a world where there are people who are willing to die to harm us, many of us. And so I, along with you, honor those who serve us, who have served us, and who will serve us in the future, and ask God’s blessing over them, their families and loved ones. We can not repay the sacrifice of those who wear the uniform on our behalf. All we can do, all we must do, is remember them and be grateful to them.
Monday, May 31, 2010
Following are Council Member Roger Berliner's remarks at the 39th Annual Bethesda Memorial Day Observance.
Once again, the Washington Post has unleashed a screaming tirade against the Montgomery County Education Association (MCEA) and other county employee unions. In its latest attack, the Post upholds Fairfax County as a model of good government because it prohibits collective bargaining for public employees and it calls on MoCo politicians to reject all public sector union contributions. And of course, MCEA gets special thrashing for its “outsized electoral clout.”
What accounts for this?
The Post’s basic argument, which it repeats over and over again with little new data to back it up, is that cowardly MoCo politicians are slaves of the teachers union and allowed the county’s budget to bloat because of excessive salaries. We rebutted that theory months ago by demonstrating that MoCo teacher salary increases were not out of line with other jurisdictions and that MoCo’s school budget was less dominated by compensation than the school budgets in Arlington, Fairfax, Falls Church, Loudoun, Manassas and Prince William. The Post knows all this because they read this blog every single day and cherry-picked our data. And while public employee unions are unquestionably influential, they were clobbered this year and are badly divided. Nowhere in its editorial does the Post mention that many county employees are about to be furloughed and that MoCo teachers will now have to endure larger class sizes. The Post is not about to allow facts to interfere with its propaganda.
The real reason the Post hates MCEA and teacher unions across the country is simple: money. The Washington Post Company is not a newspaper. It is a multi-industry conglomerate dominated by its Kaplan Inc. subsidiary, which accounts for a majority of its revenues and employees. The Post newspaper lost $357 million in operating income over the last two years. Without profits from Kaplan, the newspaper might already be in bankruptcy.
Most people think of Kaplan as an education testing company. But in fact, it is a wide-ranging education firm that is continually expanding its services. One of its many business lines is private schooling. Kaplan operates Kaplan Academy, which it describes as “a flexible, results-oriented online high school” in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Oklahoma, Oregon and Washington. That is just one of several private Kaplan schools including:
Kaplan College Preparatory School: “A premium online school for students grades 6-12 with one-to-one college admissions and academic support.”
Kaplan High School: “A self-paced online high school for students grades 9-12 with flexible start dates. Available everywhere.”
Kaplan University High School: “A quality online education tailored to meet the demands of busy adult lifestyles.”
In addition, Kaplan Virtual Education (KVE) “partners with private schools, academies and service providers around the world to offer educational options to students.” It also “works with states, school districts, and other education providers to improve student achievement and increase graduation rates through alternatives to traditional high school… KVE can provide everything from supplemental online curriculum to comprehensive, certified instruction, administrative services, and technical support.” In its last annual report, the Washington Post Company wrote that KVE “operates charter and private virtual schools that offer online instruction to students in grades 6 through 12. KVE also provides instructors and curriculum and manages virtual schools for 19 school districts throughout the U.S. At year-end 2009, KVE was providing courses to approximately 3,850 students.”
That’s right, folks, the Washington Post Company is a direct competitor to public school teachers! Every time it writes an editorial promoting vouchers or charter schools or slamming teacher unions, it is using one part of its business (its newspaper) to promote another part of its business (Kaplan). And it is doing so without disclosing any of the above to its readers. None of this is an accident because of Kaplan’s critical importance to the Post Company’s bottom line. In 2009, Kaplan had positive operating income of $195 million, the most of any company subsidiary. The Post’s newspapers lost a combined $164 million.
In almost every article the Post writes about Facebook, it discloses the fact that Post owner Donald Graham is a member of Facebook’s Board of Directors. So what would happen if the Post began disclosing its operation of private schools in every article or editorial it writes about teacher unions? Why isn’t it doing so already?
Now we all know the answer to that.
Disclosure: Your author has worked for sixteen years in the labor movement, but never for any public employee union.
Sunday, May 30, 2010
County Council member Roger Berliner and his Democratic primary challenger, Ilaya Hopkins, will face off in their first public debate on Tuesday, June 1, at 7 p.m. at the Lawton Community Center. Charles Duffy, host of Montgomery County Cable TV's "Political Pulse," will moderate, and the candidates will take questions from the audience. Residents are invited to come at 6:30 p.m. to meet the candidates before the debate.
The evening is being co-hosted by Chevy Chase Section 5, Chevy Chase Village, Chevy Chase West, Citizens Coordinating Committee on Friendship Heights, Citizens for a Better Bethesda, East Bethesda, Edgemoor Citizens Association, Garrett Park, Martin's Additions, Rollingwood Citizens, Somerset and the Town of Chevy Chase.
Saturday, May 29, 2010
From the Kojo Nnamdi Show:
Following is the Sierra Club's letter of endorsement to District 1 County Council Member Roger Berliner.
May 25, 2010
Roger Berliner, Councilmember
100 Maryland Avenue
Rockville, MD 20850
Dear Mr. Berliner:
I am pleased to inform you that the Sierra Club’s Montgomery County Group has endorsed your candidacy for the District 1 County Council election seat. Our Group assesses each candidate based upon their past record and present commitment to help us achieve our main goals to: conserve energy and address climate change, reduce sprawl and promote public transportation, and preserve high quality land and water resources and conserve biodiversity.
We are extending our endorsement of your candidacy because the positions you have taken support our goals. Your leadership on climate change reduction and energy efficiency legislation over the last 4 years has been critical for our County and establishes us as a model for other jurisdictions. Most recently, we supported the bill you introduced that passed and levies a carbon tax on large carbon emitters in the county. We are also proud supporters of legislation that you authored that requires new homes to be significantly more energy efficient, requires the Planning Department to estimate the impact on greenhouse gas emissions of master plan revisions and sets up a revolving loan fund to be used for energy efficient retrofits of existing buildings.
We would also like to note your support of public transportation related initiatives such as the Purple Line, the proposed bus rapid transit system and the major redesign of Rockville Pike into a boulevard that promotes walking, biking and surface public transit. We will work with you to expand these and other critical investments in our community.
As you know, the Sierra Club endorsement means a lot to our members in the county and to the general voting public. Our endorsement sends a message to voters that you strongly support improving the environment and it highlights your proven track record in advancing environmental protection.
Please be informed that our endorsement can be used by your campaign in many ways:
a) You may use the Sierra Club name in your campaign materials.
b) Mailing labels of the Sierra Club members in your district/area can be made available for use in your campaign (within Club guidelines).
c) Press events announcing the Sierra Club endorsement can be conducted in close coordination with our Chapter Political Chair and staff/Chapter Compliance Officer.
d) Requests for volunteers to help in campaign activities can be coordinated through our Chapter/Group Political Committee.
The Sierra Club encourages your efforts to raise environmental issues during your campaign and we are confident that you will continue working on protecting and improving our environment.
Sierra Club Montgomery County Group
Friday, May 28, 2010
Senator Mike Lenett (D-19) has been endorsed by the Mid-Atlantic Regional Council of Carpenters. The leader of the regional council said:
Frankly, this race makes no sense to us. We are aware of a number of union leaders who have asked Mike's challenger not to do this. This challenge to a sitting senator within the same party with a strong labor record is not in labor's interest. It is in labor's best interest for both pro-worker incumbents to run for re-election and serve us in Annapolis.Following is Lenett's press release.
CARPENTERS UNION ENDORSES SENATOR MIKE LENETT FOR RE-ELECTION
May 27, 2010
Silver Spring, MD--State Senator Mike Lenett (D.19) today proudly announced that he has earned the endorsement of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Council of Carpenters (MARCC), the regional affiliate of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America.
"Although both candidates have good labor records, this was an easy endorsement for us," said Bill Halbert, MARCC's CEO and Executive Secretary-Treasurer. "As a State Senator, Mike has a perfect record on labor issues, and he has been working to support workers his whole career," stated Halbert.
"Frankly, this race makes no sense to us. We are aware of a number of union leaders who have asked Mike's challenger not to do this. This challenge to a sitting senator within the same party with a strong labor record is not in labor's interest. It is in labor's best interest for both pro-worker incumbents to run for re-election and serve us in Annapolis," added Halbert.
"Mike has always stood by labor and we will stand by him," said Halbert.
"I am thankful for the support from such an important part of our building trades workforce," stated Senator Lenett, "and I look forward to continuing to work with them to promote good jobs with family-sustaining wages and quality health care coverage."
Disclosure: The author is employed by the international union with which the Mid-Atlantic Regional Council of Carpenters is affiliated. The author had no prior knowledge of this endorsement and did not participate in this decision.
This past week, a push poll targeting Senate challenger Saqib Ali went out through District 39. That is a sign of rising heat in one of MoCo’s most contentious primaries.
One source described the phone poll as beginning with general questions about several politicians, including Martin O’Malley and Ike Leggett, and then becoming more specific with references to Senator Nancy King and Delegates Ali (who is challenging her) and Kirill Reznik and Charles Barkley. The pollster then asked the resident whether he supported Ali or King. The pollster followed by conveying positive information about King and negative information about Ali and asked if that affected the resident’s voting intentions. Two of the questions asked whether the caller knew that 20-25% of Ali’s money came from Robin Ficker and that Ali cast the deciding vote in favor of slots.
Both statements are factually inaccurate. Ali voted against the slots amendment during the special session and while he voted for the slots implementing bill, it passed by a large margin in the House. And while Ficker supports Ali, the State Board of Elections campaign finance database does not show any contributions from Ficker to Ali.
Another constituent wrote the following angry email to District 39 politicians slamming the poll:
From: [Name and Email Withheld]Reasonable people can disagree about the definition of a push poll. We believe this one qualifies because 1) there is no legitimate reason to contact four people in the same household, and 2) it includes false information about Ali.
Date: Thu, May 27, 2010 at 8:15 PM
Subject: Give me a break.
Hi, my name is [Name Withheld]. I live in your district. Currently, in my home are 4 registered democrats, and each of us received phone calls from ER Surveys yesterday. I have several complaints.
First, the last phone call came at 9:54 p.m. My husband and I were in bed, and did not appreciate being disturbed. I had already taken the survey at 8:00 pm. At that time, I had agreed to take the survey as I like to do my part, and understand the importance of polling. Throughout the survey, I was extremely honest, thoughtful and respectful though by the end of the questioning I felt disrespected because of the exceedingly evident bias towards Nancy King.
The slant of the polling became obvious after just a few questions, as all the questions relevant to Mrs. King seemed to follow the general format: “How important to you is it that Nancy King is responsible for (insert something extremely positive that Nancy King was responsible for here.)”
Meanwhile, I was curious if there would be any questions pertaining to Saqib Ali. The pollster informed me that Mr. Ali would be included, but that the questions would appear in a slightly different format. Several minutes later, after answering several more questions about Nancy King, the pollster finally moved on to the “slightly different” questions concerning Saqib Ali. The general format followed: “How important to you is it that Saqib Ali is responsible for (insert something extremely negative that Saqib Ali was responsible for here.)”
I’m no statistician, but I couldn’t help feeling the questions were prompting specific answers. I felt that I had been manipulated into supporting Nancy King through my answers to questions that were blatantly slanted towards her, while simultaneously being denied the chance to provide positive support for Saqib Ali. I resent that, and I suddenly felt as though I might as well have been on the phone with Rush Limbaugh.
This is not how I want my thoughts projected as our party moves towards November. In addition, all three of my children (well educated, politically active, and loyal to the democratic party) were so disgusted with the poll they refused to take it. There is nothing sadder to me. The success of our party, the democratic party, lies in its ability to attract politically active, saavy, and young individuals, and that ability is compromised if such people are discouraged from participating by cheap polling tricks.
Statistical prompting is a serious no-no, and frankly I’m particularly upset that the bias of the questions was so poorly concealed. It’s one thing when my children, well educated in political science and statistical design, can detect such bias, but it’s another when it’s so obvious even to me. And as far as I’m concerned, no polling place should be calling a family household past 8:00 pm. You ought to be more considerate of young families who may have sleeping children, in addition to those like myself who are tucked in by 9:00 p.m.
Thank you for your time, and cheers to looking forward to your future respect towards mine.
One informant compares this poll to a poll done in the District 20 Senate race in 2006. In that poll, leading questions were asked in favor of Senator Ida Ruben and against challenger Jamie Raskin. The similarities with the current poll point a long finger in the direction of Senate President Mike “Big Daddy” Miller, who supported Ruben in 2006 and supports King now. But let’s emphasize that our sources – including our spies in Annapolis – deny responsibility. We cannot assign blame for the poll to King, Big Daddy or any other particular individual without more evidence.
What is clear is that at least a few people want to keep Saqib Ali out of the Senate VERY badly.
Update: Ali’s campaign is now accusing King of engaging in “Karl Rove-style politics” and spreading lies about his record.
Update 2: Senator King told us she had nothing to do with the poll.
Budgets have political consequences. This one was no exception. Here are a few things that stand out.
1. Dominance of the Bond Rating Agencies
In our very first blog post, we labeled MCEA the “800-pound gorilla of MoCo.” No more. Now the county has three 800-pound gorillas: Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s and Fitch. When the rating agencies began issuing warnings on the county’s AAA bond rating, the County Executive and the council immediately moved to increase the size of the energy tax hike, grab more money from furloughs and the school system and boost next year’s reserve from 5% to 6% of the general fund. One aggrieved labor leader compared the county to a third world country having to deal with the IMF. For years and years, the Post, taxpayer groups, conservatives and others have howled in the wind about fiscal discipline while the council regularly approved budget increases in the upper single digits (or more). The rating agencies have successfully bullied the elected officials into spending restraint – at least, for now.
2. The Unexpected
There were a number of surprises this year. First, Council Member Duchy Trachtenberg flipped her vote to yes on the ambulance fee, allowing it to pass 5-4. In explaining her change of mind to the Gazette, she said, “We no longer have the luxury of leaving insurance money on the table.” Well, if the ambulance fee was nothing more than insurance money, why not support it last year or the year before? The volunteer fire fighters are now vowing to unseat everyone who supported the fee, adding to Trachtenberg’s LONG list of enemies.
Second, long-time business allies Nancy Floreen and George Leventhal supported the energy tax against loud outcries from their friends. Floreen told them, “At this point we have to raise this revenue… We have no choice.” Leventhal said, “We’re in a box. We need the revenue... We’re faced with a lot of really hard choices.” All the Council Members wound up favoring an increase of some kind, though they disagreed on the amount and the final hike was a compromise.
Third, former Board of Education members Ervin and Navarro turned a lot of heads by taking on both the school system and the school unions. Ervin was out front early in supporting school furloughs and voted with Navarro and Trachtenberg in favor of them in the Management and Fiscal Policy Committee. That quickly became the position of the entire council. School officials and school union leaders were sorely disappointed with both women, whom they expected to defend them. One such official accused them of “hypocrisy” by pointing out the contrast between rhetorical statements about protecting kids and demands for teacher furloughs. Another official said that both women had “alienated” some in the school unions. This level of rage coming from the schools proves once and for all that neither Ervin nor Navarro can ever be characterized as servants of Jerry Weast or labor.
3. Sticking Together
The council was under intense pressure from all sides during the crisis. But rather than pull them apart, it actually pushed them together. Your author has heard multiple stories of Council Members who were barely on speaking terms with each other now being bosom buddies! None of them felt they had many choices, and all were battered and hardened by the abusive emails they received. (The ones containing grammatical errors that were sent by teachers provoked some gallows humor about the need to invest more in teacher training.) At the end, the Council Members had no one but each other. This may not last, but it was a unique moment during this term.
One benefit to this is that it becomes harder for endorsing organizations to differentiate between the incumbents. Labor is displeased with furloughs, but every Council Member supported them. Business is displeased with the energy tax hike, but every Council Member except Phil Andrews voted for it. (Andrews wanted an even steeper levy on business customers.) Every Council Member voted for the budget except Andrews and Knapp. Andrews voted against it because of the ambulance tax, while Knapp is displeased over “one-time solutions.” Unless an endorsing organization thinks it can take out seven or more incumbents, there’s not a lot to work with here.
One outraged observer sputtered, “A majority of this council is determined to appear united and unanimous out of a perceived need for incumbents to circle the wagons for the September primaries. That means that the majority will follow the minority to achieve the goal of unanimity. It is about them and their careers, not the taxpayers.” That’s fine, but what are you going to do about it?
4. Common Interest
The Council Members are not the only ones with common interest. The business community was hammered by the energy tax. County employees received no raises and some were furloughed. Non-profits and immigrants will endure large grant and service cuts. The smart growth community is constantly defending the Ride On system from route eliminations and schedule cuts. This is all going to continue.
The common enemy that all of these groups have is not the County Executive or the County Council: it’s the lack of economic growth. In our “Population, Jobs and Commutes in the Washington Region” series, we demonstrated that Montgomery County has lagged behind Fairfax and much of the rest of the region in population, employment and real wage growth for decades. That hurts the business community by limiting profits. It hurts county employees by limiting the tax base. It hurts the non-profits, the poor and the immigrant community by limiting services. And it hurts the pursuit of smart growth by limiting revenues necessary to build transit projects. Whether they know it or not, their interests are all intertwined. In the end, just like the politicians, all these groups have is each other. Only if these communities work together in pursuit of economic revitalization will MoCo’s long, slow fall come to an end.
Thursday, May 27, 2010
District 14 Delegate candidate Vanessa Ali comes well recommended. No, not by Governor O’Malley. And no, not by Senator Barbara Mikulski. And no, not even by Ike Leggett. You see, she is a woman walking under the anointing of God.
Don’t believe us? Just ask her!
At last weekend’s Colesville strawberry festival, Ali was handing out the palm card shown below. The card refers to a website (www.vanessaali.com) that is not yet active. (Why on Earth do candidates distribute lit referring to inactive websites?)
But Vanessa Ali does have another website: this one. “It is not by chance that you are here at this time,” she says. “God bought you here so that He could speak to your heart, and we could share our ministry with you.” That’s right, folks – it’s “bought,” not “brought!”
Ali is a minister, but not just any ordinary minister. “Vanessa Ali’s dynamic style of preaching and teaching touches hundreds of lives as she ministers locally and globally in conferences. Vanessa Ali has been given a mandate to empower people of God. Vanessa Ali ministers to the spiritual needs of people worldwide through letters of encouragement, cassette tapes, books, conferences, retreats, and quarterly newsletters.”
Ali’s ministry includes “speaking in tongues.” This is good preparation for politics.
“A prophetic word gave her the charge and mission for her life. God began to show Vanessa visions of herself speaking before multitudes of people. After much fasting and prayer, and upon the divine leading of the Holy Spirit, she established Bethel Christian Center in Burtonsville, Maryland in July 2003. She is the founding pastor of a charismatic, non-denominational church where the gifts and fruits of the spirit are manifested in the life of the believer from the least to the greatest.” The address of Bethel Christian Center matches Ali’s home address.
“Receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of you life Now!
HEAVEN OR HELL?
HEAVEN! YOU DECIDE OR HELL! YOU DECIDE, IT’S NOT GOD’S CHOICE IT’S YOURS.”
Become an “E-Partner” and “Support us through monthly financial pledges.” Again, good training for politics.
So you better be careful which lever you pull on Election Day, folks. Heaven or Hell – you decide!
In these challenging economic times, it is essential that Montgomery County Democrats return strong voices to Annapolis. From creating economic opportunity, to investing in our schools, the District 18 Democratic Team has worked tirelessly to put Montgomery County first. They have ensured that our priorities have been funded and have shown political courage by making difficult decisions to balance the budget. That's why I am proud to endorse the District 18 Democratic Team.
The Post and the Sun both remarked on former Governor Bob Ehrlich’s preference for bus over rail on the Purple Line last week. Governor Martin O’Malley’s administration picked light rail for the project. But the difference between the two candidates on transit goes much further than that.
Ehrlich’s opposition to rail on the Purple Line and his friendship with project opponents in the Columbia Country Club is a matter of public record. We summarized it in an April 2008 blog post:
The Columbia Country Club has a long history of fighting the Purple Line. Between 2001 and 2006, four of the club’s current officers – President McNamara, First Vice President Joseph J. Brigati, Second Vice President Eugene A. Carlin and Secretary Martin Wiegand II – collectively contributed $4,600 to former Governor Robert Ehrlich and $550 to Senate Budget and Taxation Committee Chairman Ulysses Currie. (One can only imagine how much more was donated by the club’s full membership.) In September 2003, Ehrlich reciprocated, declaring that the Purple Line “will not go through the Country Club.” Robert Flanagan, his Transportation Secretary, explained, “The Governor happens to love golf.” But that is not all. The transportation spending decisions made by Governors Ehrlich and O’Malley while in office have been very different. Consider this chart on the six-year transportation capital spending plans promulgated by the two Governors that we published in September. The plans starting in Fiscal Years 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006 were drafted by the Ehrlich administration. The plans starting in Fiscal Years 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010 were drafted by the O’Malley administration.
At the same time, then-District 18 Delegate and Chevy Chase resident John Hurson struck a deal with Ehrlich to route buses along Jones Bridge Road as a substitute for the Purple Line. In return, Hurson reversed his position on slots from opposition to support, matching Ehrlich’s agenda, and was promptly rewarded with a fundraiser by racetrack owner William Rickman Sr. Hurson and Ehrlich’s arrangement infuriated many Montgomery County politicians but no doubt delighted the country club’s members.
In the Ehrlich years, transit capital spending through MTA and WMATA accounted for 27-29% of all transportation capital spending. Under O’Malley, transit spending hit 35% in his last two years. O’Malley boosted transit’s share by largely protecting the capital budgets of both MTA and WMATA while applying transportation cuts mostly to roads. The Democrats have been inexcusably slow to finance new transportation projects, but Ehrlich – who is running on a sales tax cut – would be even worse.
O’Malley is far from perfect. The Post and Greater Greater Washington were right to criticize his administration for recently holding back a capital payment to WMATA. But looking at the overall record, the contest for Governor presents a very easy choice for transit advocates.
Following is the council's press release.
Montgomery County Council Approves $4.3 Billion Total Operating Budget for FY11
4.5 Percent Decrease for All-Agencies Budget Is First Decrease Since Adoption of County Charter in 1968
Tax-Supported Budget of $3.66 Billion Is 5.0 Percent Decrease;
Approximately 450 County Government Positions Eliminated
Schools, Public Safety, ‘Safety Net’ Are Priorities; Property Tax
Stays Within Charter Limit; $692 Tax Credit for Homeowners
ROCKVILLE, Md., May 27, 2010—In an austere year caused by the deep recession, the Montgomery County Council today approved a $4.3 billion total County operating budget for Fiscal Year 2011, which begins July 1. The budget is 4.5 percent less than the approved budget for FY10, marking the first decrease in a total budget since the adoption of the current County Charter in 1968.
Since March 15, when County Executive Isiah Leggett presented his recommended budget, the Council has worked to achieve equity in the allocation of limited funds. On May 19, the Council unanimously agreed to reduce the budget for Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) by $19.7 million in the operating budget and $4.7 million in capital budget, for a total reduction of $24.4 million (1.1 percent less than proposed by the Executive). These funds will help mitigate deep cuts in the safety net and other vital services, including Montgomery College. The MCPS share of the total combined agency costs will be 57 percent, compared to 55 percent this year.
The County Government operating budget and the Aggregate Operating Budget (including spending affordability guidelines) were each approved by 7-2 votes. Council President Nancy Floreen, Council Vice President Valerie Ervin and Councilmembers Roger Berliner, Marc Elrich, George Leventhal, Nancy Navarro and Duchy Trachtenberg voted to approve each budget. Councilmembers Phil Andrews and Mike Knapp voted against the proposals.
On May 20, the Council voted to restore a number of significant items to the budget, including key additions that address health and human services needs. Items added include additional funding for the Montgomery Cares, the Patient Navigator program, MCPS school health room aides, residential treatment providers, the Community Vision program, Parent Resource Centers, residential treatment provider supplements and the Mental Health Association suicide hotline. Funds also were restored so that contracts for health and human services would be reduced by 5 percent, instead of the 7 percent recommended by the Executive.
The budget re-establishes the reserve at 6 percent, which should help maintain the County’s AAA bond rating. The reserve was reduced to 5 percent in FY10.
The overall tax-supported budget of $3.66 billion is down $191.0 million from the FY10 adopted budget, a decrease of 5.0 percent. This is the second consecutive year the tax-supported portion of the budget has decreased.
“In this austere budget year, we are all in this together,” said Council President Floreen. “Despite a record drop in revenue, we have worked to develop a budget that is fair – fair to our residents who rely on County services, fair to taxpayers and fair to employees. We have also increased our reserve, and we are working on a balanced fiscal plan for the next six years.
“In allocating sharply reduced resources, we have given top priority to our school children – the MCPS share of total agency spending is 57 percent, up from 55 percent in FY10 and over the last decade – as well as Montgomery College, public safety and the safety net.”
The Council also approved the total Fiscal Years 2011-16 Capital Improvements Program (CIP) of $3.9 billion. The six-year CIP plan for all agencies (excluding the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission) addresses major projects. The approved CIP is an increase of $167 million (4.5 percent) from the previous CIP. The $3.86 billion for the tax-supported part of the CIP is an increase of $197.5 million (5.4 percent) from the previous CIP. The CIP for Montgomery County Public Schools increased by about 10 percent, including funds for 28 new schools and additions (including 11 projects new to this CIP).
The MCPS budget of $1.9 billion represents 56.6 percent of the budgets for the four agencies (a decrease of 1.1 percent from the FY10 approved budget); the Montgomery College budget of $215.8 million represents 6.4 percent (a decrease of 0.8 percent from the FY10 approved budget); the County Government total of $1.2 billion represents 34.3 percent (a decrease of 6.9 percent from the FY10 approved budget); and the M-NCPPC budget of $92.5 million represents 2.7 percent of the budget (a decrease of 13.2 percent from the FY10 approved budget).
In a budget year complicated by the national and regional economic downturn, the Council’s budget protects core services and “safety net” programs, but does not exceed the County’s Charter Limit on property tax revenue. The budget includes a $692 property tax credit for owner-occupants of principal residences. It freezes pay for employees of County Government, Montgomery College, the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) and MCPS.
Employees at all agencies (including the County’s public safety sectors)—except MCPS—will take unpaid furloughs in FY11. Furloughs for County Government employees, including elected officials, will be progressive: three days (24 work hours) for employees whose salaries are less than $50,000; five days (40 work hours) for those with salaries of $50,000 to $100,000; and eight days (64 work hours) for those with salaries greater than $100,000.
The Council provided funding for nine Educational Facilities Officers (EFOs) for the outreach program sponsored by the police department in partnership with the Montgomery County Public Schools. The officers involved in the program are assigned to a high school and its cluster of middle schools. The officers spend the majority of the day fostering positive interactions with students and school staff.
The budget includes a plan to consolidate all recreation facility and athletic field permitting, all class/program registration and most class/program operation in the County Department of Recreation from the M-NCPPC Department of Parks to create a more streamlined and user-friendly system for County residents. The Council believes this consolidation, over time, will lead to budget savings and operational efficiencies.
Councilmember statements on the budget agreement:
Councilmember Phil Andrews: “Although I strongly support the Council's decisions to eliminate pay increases and furlough employees to minimize layoffs, I cannot vote for an operating budget that most unwisely relies on revenues from ambulance fees that will likely be rejected on referendum and that hikes energy taxes on homeowners by 150 percent."
Councilmember Roger Berliner: “In the most difficult and painful year in our County’s history, our task was to allocate pain equitably. If we are measured by that standard, I believe we performed well in respect to our responsibility.”
Councilmember Marc Elrich: “Today the Council ended an extraordinarily difficult budget process in which we reduced spending from last year’s budget by 4.5 percent. This could not have been done without the very close collaboration of my colleagues. But most importantly we had the cooperation of the County employee unions who gave up cost of living raises, length of service step increases and will get an average of five furlough days. In addition, 450 County employees will lose their jobs. Even with these sacrifices, we have been forced to make major cuts to county services while raising new revenues to address the challenges of an almost $1 billion deficit. I will continue to push efforts to reorganize and restructure County Government because our long-term sustainability depends on our ability to achieve all possible efficiencies.”
Council Vice President Valerie Ervin: "As a former member or the Board of Education and Chair of the Council's Education Committee, I know there has been a lot of anxiety about the additional $24.4 million in cuts to the school system; however, I am confident that this reduction will not impact the classroom. We always put children first, and this Council has protected the services that children need each day. In addition to providing a top-notch education, many children and their families rely on Montgomery County for health care, housing assistance, and transportation.
"We are partners with the Board of Education, and we must work together to repair any damage to our working relationship that has occurred over the last several weeks. The future of our County depends upon our leadership and this collaboration."
Councilmember Mike Knapp: “While this budget is significantly more responsive to the needs of our residents than the one proposed by the County Executive, it still relies too much on tax increases, tenuous assumptions and one-time solutions—which all but guarantees that we will be addressing many of the same issues a year from now. I appreciate the work that has gone into this budget, but regret that, ultimately, I cannot support it.”
Councilmember George Leventhal: “In his 1996 State of the Union message, President Bill Clinton said, ‘The era of big government is over.’ Many of his liberal supporters were dismayed, but we face a similar moment in Montgomery County today. President Clinton said further, ‘The era of big government is over. But we can't go back to the era of fending for yourself. We have to go forward to the era of working together as a community, as a team, as one America, with all of us reaching across these lines that divide us—the division, the discrimination, the rancor—we have to reach across it to find common ground. We have got to work together if we want America to work.’ In Montgomery County today, we know we must reorient our expectations and reinvent county government so that our taxpayers can afford it. As we look ahead to the years to come when we must develop a long-range plan for economic sustainability, I am optimistic – just as President Clinton was -- that our future will be bright if we work together.”
Councilmember Nancy Navarro: “In order to create this budget, my colleagues and I had to make many difficult decisions and some important changes to the County Executive’s proposed budget. Recognizing the importance of our public school system, we approved a final budget for Montgomery County Public Schools that amounted to only a 1.3 percent reduction from its FY10 budget, while increasing its capital budget by 10 percent. I am confident that our School Board and Superintendent Jerry Weast will institute any necessary reductions in a manner that minimizes any impact on schoolchildren. My two daughters are MCPS students and I served on the Board for five years, so I know that their education is in good hands.”
Councilmember Duchy Trachtenberg: "Serving on the Montgomery County Council has been a continuation of my life's work to represent our most vulnerable citizens and to give them a voice in policy and budget decisions. As I've often stated, they are not strangers to us, for they are the neighbors and friends and sometimes family members who ride our buses, receive a free meal at the senior center, or seek shelter and refuge in time of crisis. In this year's budget, the Council has once again demonstrated its commitment to putting people first. Despite the reversal of economic fortune, we have prioritized the needs of our citizens and there is no wiser investment in our future than that.
“In the months ahead, the Council will need to define a sustainable fiscal plan; an improved reserve fund policy; a collaborative effort to address our very large compensation and benefit obligations; and a constructive approach in consolidating and restructuring our County service delivery. We must succeed in these efforts for our residents deserve nothing less."
Key Council Actions Regarding FY 2011 Montgomery County Operating Budget:
Increased the July 2010 candidate class from 30 to 36 at a cost of $278,100. This would allow those who have already received job offers the opportunity to move forward in the hiring process, since the January 2011 class has been abolished.
Restored $126,920 to retain the four Police satellite facilities at Olney, Piney Branch, East County and Clopper Road
Restored $2.5 million for enrollment growth and $1.9 million for operation of new facilities
Health and Human Services
Restored $112,000 for the Patient Navigator program
Restored $462,340 for the Montgomery Cares program, allowing for an additional 70,000 primary care visits retaining the current reimbursement rate of $62
Restored $183,300 for Fund 3 Eligibility Screeners
Increased funding $70,000 for Respite Care
Restored $1,541,340 for School Health Room Aides
Restored $66,530 for residential treatment providers
Restored $218,790 for the Community Vision program
Restored $48,120 for Parent Resource Centers
Provided $487,010 so contracts to health providers would be reduced by 5 percent instead of 7 percent
Provided $165,000 so contracts for development disability service providers would be reduced by 5 percent instead of 7 percent
Provided $20,250 so contracts for residential treatment provider supplements would be reduced by 5 percent instead of 7 percent
Restored $25,000 for the Mental Health Association’s suicide hotline
Children Youth and Families
$21.4 million for Child Welfare Services
• $15 million for income supports for low-income families and individuals in need of food, medical and other assistance
• $4.1 million for services that support youth involved in or at risk for involvement in the juvenile justice system or in need of substance abuse of other services.
• $4.8 million for Linkages to Learning
• $3.8 million for Child Care Subsidies
• $3.5 million for evaluation, assessment, and early intervention services to families with children under age three when there is a concern about development
• $3.1 million for services focused on increasing the quality early care and education programs available to young children
• $1.8 million for positive youth development and gang prevention and intervention for youth at risk of joining or involved in gangs
Arts and Humanities
Provided $500,000 for Olney Theatre, available if the theatre meets certain conditions
Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission
• Voted to consolidate recreation facility and athletic field permitting, class/program registration and some recreation program operation into County Government from the M-NCPPC Department of Parks to create a more streamlined and user-friendly system for County residents. The Council believes this consolidation, over time, will lead to budget savings and operational efficiencies
• Approved a work program for the Planning Department that allows it to continue work on the zoning ordinance rewrite and begin work on several new master plan initiatives in FY11.
• Voted to consolidate the Park Police and the Montgomery County Police communications and dispatch operations
• Restored $95,000 for consulting services for Route 29 Corridor Plan
• Restored $81,900 for the deer management program
Approved $968,300 (approximately half of the $1,845,800 approved for Council grants in FY10) for a total of 33 grants to nonprofit organizations to support a variety of programs and services, including food, eviction prevention, utility assistance and other safety net services to help low income families facing severe economic hardships.
This includes programs such as Manna Food Center’s weekend food program for low income school children and A Wider Circle’s donated furniture distribution to low income families.
Funded several youth development proposals from community nonprofit organizations working to prevent teen pregnancy, help low income first generation students get into college and provide needed after school programs for County youth.
Provided $100,000 to assist with capital improvements for the Ivymount School, a special education school for students with disabilities.
Approved $1,004,700 (compared to $1,845,800 approved for Council grants in FY10) for a total of 35 grants to nonprofit organizations to support a variety of programs and services, including food, eviction prevention, utility assistance and other safety net services to help low income families facing severe economic hardships.
This includes programs such as Manna Food Center’s weekend food program for low income school children and A Wider Circle’s donated furniture distribution to low income families.
Municipal Tax Duplication
Provided $748,820 to restore half of the cut in payments to municipalities recommended on April 22 by the County Executive
Working Families Income Supplement
Provided $1 million to restore part of reductions recommended on April 22 by the County Executive
• Restored $109,420 for the Historic Preservation Commission’s responsibilities
• Voted along with Prince George’s County Council to increase water and sewer charges for the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission by 8.5 percent
• Increased the Water Quality Protection Fund budget to cover the inspection and maintenance of stormwater management facilities transferred into the program
• Increased the Water Quality Protection Fund budget for additional staff to assist in the implementation of the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit.
Highlights FY 2011-16 Capital Improvements Program (CIP) for MCPS
The FY11-16 CIP adopted by the Council will be just under $4 billion, about 6 percent higher than previous approved CIP. The Montgomery County Public Schools CIP will increase by more than 10 percent. The key changes are:
Funds 28 new schools and additions, including the 11 projects new to this CIP: Bradley Hills Elementary addition, Clarksburg/Damascus Middle addition, Clarksburg High School addition,,Clarksburg Village Elementary (new school), Darnestown Elementary addition, Georgian Forest Elementary addition, Somerset Elementary addition, Viers Mill Elementary addition, Waters Landing Elementary addition, Westbrook Elementary addition and Wyngate Elementary addition
Adds $6.6 million for one or more additions to elementary schools in the Richard Montgomery Cluster, where MCPS forecasts overcrowding within the next 5 years. In the next year or two the Board of Education will identify where the addition(s) will be built
Keeps all 27 school replacement/modernization projects on the Board of Education’s requested schedule
Funds $11.3 million in FYs11-12 to build gyms in the remaining 7 elementary schools that do not have them
Increases HVAC Replacement funding by $9.4 million (168 percent) in FY11
Increases Planned Lifecycle Asset Replacement funding by $1.9 million (45 percent) in FY11
Increases funds for ADA Compliance by $0.9 million (87 percent) annually
Increases funds for Indoor Air Quality projects by $0.8 million (61 percent) in FY11
Adds $6 million to renovate restrooms in 71 schools during FYs11-16
To achieve a balanced budget, the Council took action on several proposals to increase revenue. These actions included:
Approved Bill 13-10 that creates the Emergency Medical Services Transport Fee (or ambulance fee) proposed by the County Executive. Bill 13-10 authorizes the County to charge the health insurance companies of those transported by County ambulances between $300 and $800, depending upon the level of care needed. They also will be charged $8.50 per mile of transport. Residents will not be charged for any co-pays or deductibles that are not covered by insurance. Residents without health insurance will not be charged. It is estimated the fees could raise approximately $12.9 million annually for the County. Fees could be charged as early as July 1.
Approved Expedited Bill 29-10, which will make Montgomery County the first County in the nation to create a carbon emissions tax on major emitters of carbon dioxide. The carbon tax, whose chief sponsor is Councilmember Roger Berliner, will require a major emitter of carbon to pay an excise tax of $5 per ton of carbon emitted. Currently, the only impacted emitter would be the Mirant Corporation power plant in Dickerson.
Approved a resolution that reflects the County Executive’s proposal to increase the County tax on energy use, including on home heating oil, electric and natural gas. The Executive proposed doubling the energy tax, but the Council reduced the increase to 85 percent in FY11. The measure will split the increase between residential and commercial users. The average County household will pay $13 more per month than it currently does, depending upon the type of energy primarily used in the home and the amount of energy used. The bill will sunset after two years.
Approved an increase to the current tax on cell phone lines from $2 to $3.50 per line per month.
Defying the conventional wisdom that challengers usually do not get institutional support, District 19 Senate candidate Roger Manno earned the endorsements of two labor groups today. Following is his press release.
For Immediate Release
Contact: Arie Stock
May 27, 2010
MAJOR LABOR UNIONS ENDORSE ROGER MANNO FOR STATE SENATE
Silver Spring, MD - The Washington D.C. Building and Construction Trades Council (WDCBCTC), and Communications Workers of America have announced early strong endorsements for Roger Manno, candidate for the Maryland State Senate in the 19th District.
Appearing with Manno at his May 16th State Senate kickoff, WDCBCTC Executive Secretary and Treasurer Vance Ayres, representing 25,000 workers, stated, "If we had more folks like Roger Manno in Annapolis, there wouldn't be all the problems with people losing their houses, who have no health care. I know a lot of legislators. I know good legislators, and I know great legislators. He's one of the great ones, and so we, the Washington DC-region building trades, formally endorse, Roger Manno."
Echoing these statements, Ron Collins, Vice President CWA District 2 said, "Communication Workers of America is pleased to announce our strong, early endorsement of Roger Manno for the Maryland State Senate. While many legislators simply vote the right way on labor issues, Roger has tirelessly carried the water and walked the walk for workers in the State of Maryland. The 76 locals and 35,000 members of CWA District 2 stand united in our commitment to ensure that he is our next State Senator."
Thanking WDCBCTC, and CWA for their early endorsements, Manno stated, "I am honored to stand with these important labor unions in their daily fight for decent wages, reasonable working conditions and comprehensive health care for the hard working families in our communities. By working together to build broad coalitions we can ensure that there are no compromises when it comes to the working families of Maryland. Today's endorsements are a recognition that Leadership takes teamwork, and I look forward to continuing this fight together."
For more information or to become a member of the team, go to www.rogermanno.com.
# # #
This year’s budget was tough. But dealing with the county’s long-run fiscal future will be even tougher.
The chart below, adapted from the County Executive’s proposed operating budget, summarizes the county’s fiscal difficulties in a nutshell. The bottom line represents resources available to the county from FY 2012 through FY 2016, consisting of taxes, state and federal aid, fees and fines, investment income and reserves. The top line represents uses – in other words, spending on operations and capital. Note the fact that these two lines are never projected to meet. This is the very essence of a structural deficit.
The county is projecting deficits of $212 million in FY 2012, $303 million in FY 2013, $415 million in FY 2014, $464 million in FY 2015 and $514 million in FY 2016. But these estimates likely understate the problem for six reasons. First, Annapolis may very well hand off tens, perhaps even hundreds of millions of dollars in teacher pension liabilities to the counties next year. No county will pay more than Montgomery. Second, the state has received $4.5 billion in federal stimulus funds over the last three fiscal years (2009-2011). That money will dry up, and as it goes, so will state aid to the counties. Third, if the county cannot match its prior year per-pupil local education funding, it may be fined by the state in accordance with the Maintenance of Effort law. (It narrowly escaped that fate this year.) Fourth, the county has been delaying payments it owes for retiree health benefit costs. It must resume them in the future and they will add up to tens of millions every year. Fifth, the bond rating agencies are pressuring the county to increase its reserve from 6% of the general fund to 10%. That will siphon off money that would otherwise be available to county agencies. And sixth, if the county cannot show the bond agencies that it has a long-run plan to make the resource and use lines shown above meet next year and every year, it will lose its AAA bond rating. That means borrowing costs will go up. All of the above together represents a VERY SERIOUS challenge.
Consider these comments from informants inside the county government.
Fiscal policy is forever changed so that any future expansion of services has to be in the context of setting higher reserve levels. If you consider the bond house demands that we move toward 10% reserves over time, that we have to start paying into the other retirement fund, that we’re likely to get teacher pensions in part - those are going to be fixed demands against every new dollar of revenue. So while the budget may grow, much of that growth will be captured in funds that just sit there and provide security against another economic meltdown like this one. In that context, service restoration will be slow and contracts aren’t going to see any significant increases for awhile. We don’t have many revenue sources that fill these large gaps. A year ago people thought we’d solve next year’s problem with a tax increase. Now we’ll need the increase just to stay level and it’s unlikely to close the gap.Spy #2:
The Montgomery County Executive, County Council, and the Maryland General Assembly must come to terms with the fact that the Maintenance of Effort law and the 2006 pension agreement for teachers were predicated upon a faulty assumption that revenues would rise every year. Our county and state simply cannot afford to comply with either of these laws now. Both must be revised. MCEA [county teachers] and MSTA [state teachers] will fight any changes tooth and nail but elected officials must resist pressure from the teachers’ union or our county and state will be insolvent in the next few years. Good managers can increase productivity with shrinking resources and the Montgomery County Public Schools must learn to do the same thing…Spy #3:
The county must now persuade the rating houses that it has a long-term plan for fiscal solvency and that too is likely to provoke stiff opposition from the teachers and other public employee unions. Employee compensation and benefits can no longer rise at a rate two to three times the increase in the Consumer Price Index as they have during the past decade.
Bottom line is that unless we get a big boost in the tax base in the coming year, we will have to make even worse cuts next year, because we have to keep up our reserves and start contributing to retirement health benefits (OPEB) that we’ve put off. Query whether we get downgraded by Moody’s. If we do, it will be a black mark to the county’s reputation that can never be erased and we are all probably toast, union endorsements to the contrary.Council President Nancy Floreen has called for a study of the county’s structural deficit and Council Member Roger Berliner proposed a commission to examine it. Both are following a long tradition in MoCo of using process steps to demonstrate progress on items that need urgent action. Here is what every county politician knows but few are saying.
The current county government was built up at a time when the tax base was significantly larger. That tax base can no longer support the government at its current size. The tax base is unlikely to grow back to its former strength if the county implements anti-competitive measures like the job-killing energy tax hike while using band-aids like a new economic development authority to try to cover up its problems. As bad as this budget year was, the county eliminated just 450 positions out of its nearly 30,000-person workforce and only 90 of those positions were occupied. With labor costs accounting for roughly 80% of the budget, is this enough to achieve long-term balance?
There is a lot of blood yet to be spilled on the cutting floor. Otherwise, the county’s head itself will be on the block and the rating agencies will bring down the axe.
Tomorrow, we will look at politics.
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Marc Elrich, an incumbent At-Large MoCo County Council Member, and Hans Riemer, who is running for one of the 4 At-Large seats, will be on the "Political Pulse" political talk show on:
Thurs, May 27th at 9:00 p.m.
Fri-Sunday, May 28th-30th, at 6:00 p.m. and
Tues, June 1st at 9:30 p.m.
Topics that will be discussed by the guests include: the County's huge budget deficit, spending and taxes in the County and the influence of County Government employee unions.
Political Pulse is on Montgomery Municipal Cable in Montgomery County.
The Maryland League of Conservation Voters (LCV) has released its 2010 rankings of state legislators on environmental votes, as well as their lifetime records. Here are the lifetime voting percentages for all MoCo legislators, with 100% being the maximum possible score.
Delegate Roger Manno (D-19): 100%
Senator Brian Frosh (D-16): 99%
Delegate Ana Sol Gutierrez (D-18): 98%
Delegate Tom Hucker (D-20): 98%
Delegate Heather Mizeur (D-20): 97%
Senator Jamie Raskin (D-20): 97%
Delegate Bill Frick (D-16): 96%
Delegate Karen Montgomery (D-14): 96%
Delegate Bill Bronrott (D-16): 94%
Delegate Al Carr (D-18): 94%
Delegate Anne Kaiser (D-14): 94%
Senator Rich Madaleno (D-18): 94%
Delegate Craig Rice (D-15): 94%
Delegate Henry Heller (D-19): 93%
Senator Mike Lenett (D-19): 93%
Delegate Luiz Simmons (D-17): 93%
Delegate Jeff Waldstreicher (D-18): 93%
Delegate Saqib Ali (D-39): 92%
Delegate Susan Lee (D-16): 92%
Delegate Kirill Reznik (D-39): 92%
Delegate Charles Barkley (D-39): 91%
Delegate Kathleen Dumais (D-15): 91%
Delegate Jim Gilchrist (D-17): 91%
Delegate Herman Taylor (D-14): 90%
Delegate Sheila Hixson (D-20): 88%
Delegate Ben Kramer (D-19): 87%
Delegate Kumar Barve (D-17): 85%
Senator Rob Garagiola (D-15): 84%
Delegate Brian Feldman (D-15): 83%
Senator Jennie Forehand (D-17): 82%
Senator Nancy King (D-39): 82%
Senator Rona Kramer (D-14): 65%
Frosh and Prince George’s County Senator Paul Pinsky (D-22) have the highest lifetime scores of any Senators, with 99% each. Republican Senator Nancy Jacobs (R-34) of Cecil and Harford Counties has the lowest score at 8%. Delegates Elizabeth Bobo (12B) of Howard County and Roger Manno (D-19) of MoCo are the only legislators with 100% lifetime scores. Republican Delegate Warren Miller (9A) of Howard County has the lowest lifetime score of any Delegate at 10%.
Update: The scorecard was jointly developed between LCV and Environment Maryland. The document linked above is Environment Maryland's version of the scorecard. LCV has not publicly released its version yet.
From: Louise Hamilton [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]Disclosure: The author of this blog post is the Treasurer of the District 18 Democratic Team.
Sent: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 3:08 PM
Cc: 'Mayor Peter Fosselman'
Subject: campaign signs
To: Vanessa Atterbeary
Please be advised it is unlawful to display or post any sign in a public right of way under the town of Kensington jurisdiction. I have enclosed a copy of Town of Kensington map showing the Town’s boundaries.
Thank you for your cooperation, please feel free to call or email if you have any questions.
Code Enforcement Officer
Town of Kensington
Delegate Saqib Ali (D-39) has begun releasing videos of his Political Pulse debate with Senator Nancy King. Here are both candidates' closing statements.
You can see two other excerpts on combined reporting and gay marriage on Ali's blog. Political Pulse host Charles Duffy created a bit of news on the latter issue. Equality Maryland dinged King for failing to co-sponsor gay marriage bills in 2008 and 2009, but King told Duffy she would vote in favor of marriage if a bill reaches the floor.
The school system was not the only powerful institution that was challenged by the budget. Also in the crosshairs were the public employee unions.
When analyzing the unions, it’s important to keep in mind their differences rather than assume them to be monolithic. There are six county employee unions. MCEA, which represents teachers, SEIU Local 500, which represents school support staff, and the Montgomery County Association of Administrative and Supervisory Personnel (MCAASP), which represents school supervisors, all have members in the school system. They negotiate their contracts with the Superintendent, who sends them to the elected Board of Education for approval. The County Council can set the overall size of the school budget, but they cannot dictate line items in school contracts or specific employee policies (like furloughs). The Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 35 represents police officers, the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 1664 represents career fire fighters and MCGEO represents nearly all other non-managerial line workers. These three unions negotiate contracts with the County Executive, which are then approved by the council. The County Council has lots of authority over these contracts, and can reject them, refuse to fund increases contained in them and can even strike individual provisions in them. In most years, the six unions get similar gains, but this year was different.
One significant result of this budget is an angry split between the public employee unions. None of them are getting general wage adjustments or step increases, but in other ways they are being treated differently. The County Executive’s original proposal subjected non-public safety employees to ten days of furloughs each. (The Executive does not have the authority to decide questions related to staffing in the school system.) So of the six public employee unions, only MCGEO – which represents nearly everyone except for police officers, fire fighters and education employees – would have been hit by furloughs.
MCGEO fought back, arguing that they were unfairly targeted and basic fairness held that all employees should be furloughed at the same rate. Four County Council Members agreed with MCGEO in principle at their parking garage rally. Council staff found that if furloughs were spread across the government, each employee would only have to take 1.5 days. This prompted a response from the school unions, who raised questions about the feasibility of furloughs in the schools and argued that changes to the county reserves would be sufficient to prevent all furloughs. But the council, which was under pressure from bond rating agencies, did not buy it. In the end, they chose to implement a progressive furlough structure of three to eight days for non-school employees, with higher-paid workers taking more furlough days. The school system took a budget cut but did not have to take furloughs.
This approach created winners and losers among the unions. MCGEO is a loser, but it did suffer fewer furlough days than under the Executive’s proposal. The police and fire fighters are big losers. The Executive did not propose furloughs for them, but the council implemented them anyway. The school unions successfully held off all furloughs.
Most importantly, the six unions could not agree on a common approach to the budget. While the three school unions largely stuck together, the remaining three county government unions (MCGEO, the police and fire fighters) not only went against the schools, they also went against each other. Next year could see a similar conflict. While there has always been occasional friction between the unions owing to different budget priorities and different styles (especially among the leaders), it has been a LONG time since they were this far apart.
This picture of a public safety worker protesting Council Member Nancy Navarro’s fundraiser says it all about the state of inter-union relations.
The big question is whether the unions’ disagreements over the budget will spill over into their electoral cooperation. Regardless of their squabbling, they are all better off if they make the same endorsements and work together on behalf of their candidates. If not, only their hardened enemies on the council will benefit.
Tomorrow, we’ll look at the long term.
Wednesday, May 26 from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Airs on Channel 6 on Comcast and RCN; Channel 30 on Verizon
Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett and County Council President Nancy Floreen will host a live, televised call-in show on Wednesday, May 26 from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. Along with Town Hall meetings, online chats and other community outreach, the show is part of the Leggett administration’s efforts to foster open dialogue and communication on the important issues facing Montgomery County. The officials will answer residents’ questions on any topics of local concern.
The call-in show, hosted by Alisa Parenti, will be broadcast live on County Cable Montgomery, Channel 6 for RCN and Comcast subscribers and Channel 30 for Verizon subscribers.
Residents can call in to 240-777-6540 during the show. The show can also be viewed live on the County’s website by going to www.montgomerycountymd.gov and clicking on County Cable 6.
For more information, contact Donna Bigler at 240-777-6507.
# # #
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Well, maybe not, but you might believe that if you were asking Prince George's County Council candidate Juanita "Wild Child" Miller. On her Linkedin profile, she describes herself as "Delegate at District 9, County Council Member."
Now this is not only false advertising, it's incoherent. Miller is indeed a former Delegate, serving one term between 1986 and 1990. But she has never been elected to the County Council and Delegate seats are not relevant to the council at all. Furthermore, she now has a website where she repeats her plagiarism of rival County Council candidate Tamara Davis Brown's platform.
Has there ever been a more shameful WSSC Commissioner than the Wild Child? And has there ever been a more shameful County Council candidate?
Fifty-eight supporters of Delegate Roger Manno's campaign for Senate have written MCEA on his behalf arguing for his place on the Apple Ballot. That endorsement is rated by MoCo politicians as more valuable than support from the Washington Post. Among Manno's supporters are Delegates Hank Heller and Ana Sol Gutierrez, former Senator Len Teitelbaum, former Delegates Adrienne Mandel and Carol Petzold, former Delegate candidates Tom DeGonia, Guled Kassim and Arnold Gordon, former MCEA Board Member Jackie Lichter, Student Board of Education Member Tim Hwang and progressive leader Mike Hersh. We reprint their letter below.
Surprise, surprise! Our sources tell us that the State Department of Education has approved Montgomery County's FY 2011 Maintenance of Effort waiver request on a 7-5 vote. Wicomico County's waiver request was also approved. That means MoCo's statehouse delegation will not have to beg Big Daddy and Speaker Mike Busch for another bill canceling a state fine. Amidst all the budget gloom, this is a welcome bit of good news.
Update: The Gazette confirmed our report.
By Marc Korman.
There are numerous candidates running or rumored to be running for the District 16 open Delegate seat. The first challenger out of the gate with a kick-off was small business owner, law student, and Montgomery County Young Democrats President Scott Goldberg.
Goldberg’s kick-off was held at the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center on a rainy Sunday afternoon. About thirty-five people of varying ages attended. Also present was Delegate Roger Manno, who introduced Goldberg to the audience. Goldberg and Manno worked together in 2006, when the new candidate was a volunteer knocking on doors and talking up Manno’s healthcare policies.
Goldberg stated some of the challenges facing not just District 16 or Maryland, but really the whole country. He said that over the past ten years we have chosen to send young people to war instead of college, drilled for oil instead of developed solar, put more demands on the poor and less on the rich, furloughed workers, put our students in trailers even in successful school districts like Montgomery County, and passed slots. Goldberg’s message was that we “expect more.”
By “expect more,” Goldberg indicated he meant we could not be satisfied with the status quo. One example he cited in particular really drove him towards running. Last session, an effort was made to increase the drop out age in Maryland public schools. One Republican State Senator said we could not necessarily afford to increase the drop out age, because it meant more kids in the school system and increased education costs.
Goldberg then ticked off several policy ideas he wanted to implement if elected:
1. Clean Energy - The candidate proposed deploying solar panels on schools, tapping geothermal energy, and retrofitting state owned buildings. The goal is to actually have the state generate power to sell back to the electric companies.
2. Rainy Day Fund - Goldberg said he wanted to save more, shifting from the shortsighted view of spending and save enough so that future downturns would not have the same budgetary effect as this one.
3. Marriage Equality - He called for full marriage equality, saying the benefits of marriage should not be denied based on sexual orientation.
4. Transportation - Goldberg said he supported the Purple Line, more bike paths, and encouraging gyms with showers in office buildings so more people could ride to work. Essentially, he wanted to get people out of their cars.
Scott Goldberg will be taking this message door to door between now and September 14th. He will have lots of company in the Democratic Primary.
Full disclosure, I am a Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee member from District 16. I have not endorsed Scott Goldberg or any other challenger. Goldberg and I did attend the same law school and have worked together in the Montgomery County Young Democrats.
First there were the bank bailouts. Next there was cap and trade. Next there was the government’s takeover of General Motors. And then came health care. And the tea parties. And rising numbers of endangered Democrats in Congress. And the much-hyped return of former Governor Bob Ehrlich to run in a rematch against Martin O’Malley. On top of all of that, there is the wretched state of the economy. It has been a LONG time since the Republicans have had this much to work with. So you would think that the Maryland GOP would be seeing lots of growth, right?
You’d be wrong. The Maryland Republican Party is shrinking.
Following are voter registration counts by party as of the last five general elections, plus March 2010.
Since the election of Barack Obama as President and all of the ensuing events above, the Democrats have lost 13,801 registered voters, or 0.7% of their party. The Republicans have lost 24,292 registered voters, or 2.6% of their party. All others, most of whom are unaffiliated voters, have grown by 13,882 (2.5%).
Voter registration is driven by two things: presidential elections and presidential performance. Below are comparative counts by party since 2000.
Three spikes in all categories are obvious: the 2000, 2004 and 2008 general elections. But there are also smaller changes that occur in the interims. For example, the Democrats added an average 11,364 voters per month between November 2007 and August 2008 before adding 35,549 voters in September 2008 and 91,167 in October 2008. Dissatisfaction with George W. Bush helped Maryland Democrats build their party. But dissatisfaction with Barack Obama has not helped Maryland Republicans build theirs.
As a result, the GOP’s percentage of registered voters is the lowest in at least ten years. (The State Board of Elections’ published monthly data goes back only through 2000.) Their registration percentage has slid from a recent high of 30.1% in May 2004 to 26.5% in March 2010.
If Obama’s problems are boosting anyone’s numbers, it may be small parties and unaffiliated voters. In January 2000, there were 2.38 Republicans for every one of these voters. In March 2010, there were 1.58 Republicans for every one of these voters.
Much has been written about the Maryland GOP’s failure to raise money, which is certainly a problem. The state party reported $142.56 on hand in state funds in January and $28,144 on hand in federal funds at the end of March. But the party’s failure to grow in the face of such grand opportunity may be an even bigger problem. When will another Great Recession emerge? When will a conservative movement resembling the Tea Party spontaneously form again?
If the GOP cannot grow under these conditions, when will it ever grow?
Here's another illegal Vanessa Atterbeary sign, this one at the corner of Forest Glen Road and Sligo Creek Parkway.
According to the county, political signs in the public right-of-way on a county road must have a permit, must be temporary and must be at least 100 feet away from an intersection. This is part of a pattern of behavior by this campaign that is unlike the behavior of any other campaign in the county.
And the kicker is that this sign is only a few blocks away from the candidate's home.
Disclosure: The author is the Treasurer of the District 18 Democratic Team.
One of the most compelling elements of the budget drama was its impact on the county’s most important government institution: its public schools.
The School System
The schools are a unique part of county government in four ways. First, their policies are set by a separate group of elected officials – the Board of Education. Second, the Superintendent is extremely powerful both by the nature of his position and, in the specific case of Jerry Weast, by the nature of his personality, intelligence and longevity. Third, the school system’s three unions – the teachers, SEIU Local 500 (which represents support staff) and the supervisors – are very influential and can move the schools’ political agenda in ways that its administrators cannot. Finally, school funding is protected by the state’s Maintenance of Effort (MOE) law, which requires counties to match the prior year’s per-pupil local funding to be eligible for state aid increases. For all of these reasons, the school budget is harder for the County Executive and the County Council to cut than the rest of the government. When the system’s needs clashed with the gigantic budget deficit, it was truly a case of an irresistible force colliding with an immoveable object.
This time, the immoveable object gave way under enormous pressure. Soon after the school board approved Weast’s $2.263 billion budget, the school system opened negotiations with the Executive branch over what the Executive’s proposal to the council would be. Weast’s budget met MOE requirements, but the Leggett administration needed a lower number to make the rest of the budget work. The two agreed on a $137 million cut from the school budget and the Executive transmitted this to the council. But then three things happened: a revenue writedown, warnings from bond rating agencies about the county’s AAA rating and the County Council’s reconciliation list. The first two added pressure for more cuts, while the last item requires explanation.
Every year, the budget process begins when the Executive sends a proposal to the council. The council then goes about adding spending items back in, which go onto a document called a “reconciliation list.” The cost of the items on that list must be reconciled, or paid for, by tax hikes or spending cuts elsewhere in the government. This year’s list contained $15 million of spending added to the Executive’s proposal. At one point, it was more than $22 million.
The school system was furious at the prospect that the County Council might take the money needed for its reconciliation items out of the schools’ budget. In the system’s view, they had already agreed to go below MOE by $137 million and to support the county’s application for a state waiver. Now the council wanted even more money to support items that the school system saw as frivolous. This was part of the motivation for Weast’s threat of litigation. He simply believed he had given up enough.
The county came much closer to litigation than most people knew. Last Wednesday at 11 AM, word went out through Rockville that the school board was calling a press conference at 1 PM to announce a lawsuit. The council was scheduled to take a straw vote on the budget at 1:30 PM. This set off a mad scramble among elected officials and school system leaders to cut a deal. At that point, only $1.6 million separated the two sides. The council came down by $600,000 and the deal was set: the schools would suffer an extra $24.4 million in cuts from the Executive’s budget. Weast and the school board GRUDGINGLY accepted it and disaster was averted.
The school system fared decently. It did not suffer nearly as big a cut as most county agencies and its employees will not be subject to furloughs. It now accounts for 57% of the county’s budget, its highest percentage in recent memory. But the conflict has had a steep medium-term cost. One Rockville source put it this way:
The threat of litigation was the single most dangerous and stupid miscalculation Jerry Weast has ever made. Had the school system gone ahead and sued the county, it is highly likely the Wall Street rating agencies would have downgraded the county’s General Obligation bond rating. This would have increased the cost of borrowing for the capital budget and slowed the county’s ability to modernize and replace aging school buildings. Even with the litigation threat removed, the county is not out of the woods in terms of the risk of a downgrade…Another spy added:
While the school system’s legal argument was shaky to begin with, the fact that it now will not sue completely discredits their argument. Never again can they make the dubious claim that the County Council has no right to reduce the schools’ appropriation below the amount recommended by the County Executive because a judge will rightly ask, “But the council did precisely that in 2010. Why didn’t you challenge them then?”
Weast so overplayed his hand he almost brought everyone down with him.For all his talent, record of achievement and force of personality, Jerry Weast has hit the end of the road with the County Council. The council’s Education Committee chair openly calls him a “Rogue Superintendent.” Few if any Council Members trust his budget numbers. When he claims to submit a “bare bones budget,” no one on the council believes him even if it is true. All of them think Weast has squirreled away secret stashes of money in his $2+ billion budget. There is no longer any fear of Weast in Rockville as even his long-time allies at the Washington Post threw him under the bus less than two months after asking the county to keep him on. Whether Weast’s approach is right or wrong, he and the council are now oil and water that will never mix again.
Tomorrow, we’ll look at the unions.