Friday, June 11, 2010

County Council At-Large Candidates on What Has Shaped Their Thinking on Politics

Today’s question taken from MCEA’s questionnaires for the At-Large County Council candidates is: Describe a political event that shaped your thinking about politics and/or your decision to run for public office.

Marc Elrich

Probably going to a meeting of activists in Minnesota and listening to a discussion about the frustration of electing people who promised to support progressive issues, only to find that once elected they didn’t keep their word. The conclusion they’d reached was that we needed to elect our “own” to office, rather than relying on people with no connection to the issues to be the ones we expect to fight for them. It changed my perspective because I’d been an activist for years, content to get 3 minutes at a mike in front of a typically unsympathetic legislative body. You’d give your speech and leave and more often than not, nothing changed. So it was then I decided I wanted to be on the other side of the dias, in a position to make decisions, rather than simply hoping that I’d influence someone else to make the right decision.

Nancy Floreen

The absence of women leaders.

George Leventhal

There are so many. I have had an interest in politics and public affairs as far back as I can remember. Growing up in the Washington, D.C. area, I was always exposed to politics. I vividly recall the assassinations and funerals of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy. I recall passionate discussions about the Vietnam War and Watergate. In high school I handed out literature for Ted Kennedy’s 1980 presidential campaign. I managed my first political campaigns in college and have continued to work with candidates and elected officials ever since. I have always believed the ballot box is the best way to change society for the better and to meet people’s basic needs.

Jane de Winter

My interest in politics began while I was a pre-teen. Both my parents are Republicans and I grew up with an extended family that loves Rush Limbaugh. I knew very early on that I disagreed with most everything that was said at family meals and that I did believe it was the role of government to fix problems, ensure equal opportunity, and provide assistance to the most vulnerable among us. When I voted in my first primary election at age 19, an election judge called my mother to ask if she knew that her daughter was a Democrat. Some of the issues that I was most passionate about in college were Apartheid, the ERA, and a women’s right to choose. I started at Brown with the intent of majoring in Political Science, but developed an interest in Economics. Most of my studies in this field focused on the public policy arena: monetary policy, public finance, and macroeconomics, all of which help me understand how governments can effectively keep the economy on track and provide the services residents need.

There hasn’t been any one event that precipitated my decision to run for County Council At Large, rather it is the strong belief that the factor that will have the greatest influence on the future of our county—the extreme poverty among our children—isn’t recognized as such.

Robert Dyer

The passage of important legislation during the presidency of George H.W. Bush influenced my belief that government can play a role in advancing the rights of the disabled, fighting pollution and promoting public service. His lifelong commitment to public service, I think, exemplifies the type of mature, responsible and competent leadership we need to deal with the challenges ahead. To witness our County Council violate the public trust with its shameful mismanagement of taxpayer funds for political gain – and the spectacle of its attempt to scapegoat disabled police officers last January 15 (at a hearing at which I testified in support of our county police officers) to cover up their own failure as Council Members – and their plan to permanently reduce MCPS funding led me to run for this office.

Fred Evans

In 1958, my father, Dan Evans, decided to run for a position on the United Steelworkers (USW) Board of Trustees. At that point, he had been an employee of Jones and Laughlin Steel, in Pittsburgh, for 22 years. Because he was concerned about the strained relations between the union and the steel company owners, he wanted to have a voice in the process. As a result, he enlisted me to stand with him at the various entrances to the mill and distribute his cards announcing his candidacy. I will never forget the overwhelming feeling of pride as I watched my father engage his fellow workers and explain why he should be elected. Prior to this event, I perceived my father to be a relatively shy man. This experience changed that perception and also taught me valuable skills about how to approach individuals and talk with them.

This may not be a “typical” political event, but it taught me a great deal about politics as a young boy. Yes, my father won the election and was an active voice in the USW until he retired in 1972.

Hans Riemer

I was raised in Oakland, California, in the Reagan years. I saw a deep divide in my community between people who had opportunity and people who did not. For example, in the school system, it was clear to me at an early age that I attended a high quality public elementary school, and there were schools in the city that were violent, scary, and did not foster learning and opportunity. I heard about a tax revolt and Prop 13, which slowly starved the schools of funding, and while staying home to take classes in support of teachers during numerous strikes, I saw a school system, a community and the California Dream on a steady march of decline.

My parents were politically active and we discussed community and national issues at the dinner table. I learned that our most serious problems require policy solutions and political change, and my experience in Oakland drove me to want to do something about it. I knew that I wanted to help build a progressive majority for change in this country, and I have found ways to do it. My contributions include helping to protect Social Security from privatization by the Bush Administration, elect President Obama, and expand health care for young adults, among many.

Serving on the Montgomery County Council is a new way for me to tackle these same problems. I believe in the power of good economic policy---decisions we make that shape the ability of a parent to provide for a family, of the family to contribute to society. I want to be sure our schools continue an upward march, because our education policy makes Montgomery County more than a great place to live, it makes it a decent place to live. I am deeply concerned about the environment and the impact of decisions we make at the county level about how we grow, and I know that we can do better than we have been doing for the past 60 years. I believe we must manage our government's finances with discipline and prudence, or a door will open for people whose only objective is to destroy government through measures like the Ficker Amendment and California's Prop 13. As the demographics of our county shift and low-income and disadvantaged populations make up more and more of our residents, I know we can and must find a way to stitch together one strong community that creates opportunity for all.

As I raise my own family here --- my son is 2 --- I want to make sure that we rise to meet our challenges.

Brandon Rippeon

Witnessing the poor and incompetent job the current MoCo government has done over the past four years. In addition I am concerned about the internecine relationship which has developed between the incumbent government and MCPS, as well as the Council itself.

Becky Wagner

As a former staff member for Senator Paul Sarbanes I had the privilege to observe and be part of thoughtful and decisive leadership which shaped our vision for our future. I have spent a lifetime stepping forward to make systemic changes in our community.

Why did I finally decide to run for elected office?

Almost 18 months ago, the current County Council held a rancorous debate on the future of the Hillmead property in Bethesda. Would it become a park, or would the house be renovated to serve a large homeless family? The debate, which played itself out in the media and the Council chamber, was vitriolic, self-serving and an embarrassment.

In the end, a comfortable neighborhood with a park ended up with a bigger park, and not one stick of affordable housing resulted from the decision. I decided at that moment that I had more to offer the County, and that would be to serve as a member of the Council.