The following is a Dear Colleague letter sent by Del. Joseline Pena-Melnyk in response to the horrific attack on a transgender women in Baltimore County last week (see the above video) that demonstrates why the anti-discrimination legislation she has championed is so badly needed.
To My Maryland General Assembly Colleagues,
I respectfully ask that each of you take the time to view the video at this link, but please be advised that it is disturbing and portrays a horrific hate crime:
Incidents such as this illustrate why the transgender community in Maryland and elsewhere needs to be protected through antidiscrimination legislation. Supporters of House Bill 235 in this past legislative session recognized this need and stood up for the rights of this community. While HB235 did not include protection from discrimination in public accommodations due to the intense pressure opponents placed on the bill’s supporters, the bill would have raised public awareness of the issue and paved the way for complete protection for Maryland’s transgender population. Contrary to statements made by those who should be leading the fight for civil rights in Maryland, this was not an anti-family bill, but a basic civil rights bill. The failure of this bill goes against Maryland’s long history of being in the forefront of civil rights movements.
This attack, which took place in District 8, has been broadcast all over the national news, and the video has gone viral, bringing shame to the State of Maryland for allowing such things to take place. I challenge each of the Senators who voted to recommit HB235 on sine die (see the link at http://mlis.state.md.us/2011rs/votes/senate/1123.htm) to serve as primary sponsors of a stronger version of HB235 in the 2012 legislative session. It is time to rectify the wrong that has been done to transgender citizens of our State.
Friday, April 29, 2011
Thursday, April 28, 2011
Last night at the 4-H Center, the Chevy Chase Land Company unveiled its vision for the land it owns at Chevy Chase Lake near the proposed Purple Line stop. They proposed 4.3 million new square feet of development, including 900,000 square feet of commercial office space, 200,000 square feet of retail space, 3000 new residential units (over 3 million square feet), and a hotel with 150 rooms.
The photo above shows the Land Company's proposed new street grid with the main street paralleling the path of the Purple Line which goes above ground due to the need to cross Connecticut Ave. The Land Company's plans includes 12 high-rise buildings of ten stories or higher, 4 mid-rise buildings of five to nine stories, and 3 low-rise buildings with four stories--the red numbers in the photo indicate the number of stories. (There is a somewhat larger photo of the central area plans after the jump.)
The following is an artist's rendition of the Land Company's proposed development presented at the meeting at the 4-H Club. The strip rising toward the Purple Line with the biker on it is the Trail.
The Land Company did not commit to limit the number of parking spaces per housing unit or for the office space in response to a question by Richard Hoye--former aide to former Councilmember Trachtenberg--about parking and encouraging transit. There was discussion of potential widening of Connecticut Ave. in a manner similar already planned for Jones Bridge Rd. to handle increased traffic. I did not learn about the availability of short-term parking for retail shoppers, though it was stated that there would be no long-term parking for people wishing to commute--the latter is consistent with the current plans for the Purple Line light-rail station.
I do not know if the plan includes any bike lanes on either Connecticut Ave. or the new internal street grid beyond the possibility of biking on the Trail. The Land Company stated that their plans included wide sidewalks, particularly along the proposed Main Street. Some of the high-rise buildings are very close to existing neighborhoods, such as the Hamlet and the townhouse development on Manor Road.
The Land Company stated that there was no land set aside for schools or plans to expand existing schools in response to a question from the audience expressing concern because of overcrowding issues at B-CC High School. Mr. Dalrymple, the attorney for the Land Company who ran the meeting, said it would be up to the County to address these issues.
The Planning Board Staff are expected to deliver their vision for the area at a public meeting sometime in May. Elza Hisel-McCoy (Elza.Hisel-McCoy@mncppc-mc.org) is the Project Manager for MNCPPC. (By the way, kudos to Dale Tibbets, Chief of Staff to Councilmember Marc Elrich, for giving someone a neighborly jump start after their car battery died when the meeting ended at 9pm.)
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Monday night marked the end of the 428th legislative session of the Maryland General Assembly. As always, it is an honor and privilege to represent you in the State House. Your District 18 Team—Senator Rich Madaleno and Delegates Al Carr, Ana Sol Gutiérrez, and Jeff Waldstreicher—has continued working together this year to advocate for the issues, programs, and services that best meet the needs of District 18 and Montgomery County. We appreciate the thousands of emails, postcards, letters, phone calls, and office visits we received throughout the 90-day session.
Balancing the Budget and Ensuring Fiscal Responsibility
This session, we were able to move our state forward despite the challenging budget climate. We passed a balanced budget that reduces the size of government while retaining essential services. To do so, we made difficult decisions about where to cut, but protected the most vulnerable members of our society: seniors, children, working families, and disabled Marylanders.
Our budget maintains our commitment to public schools and protects our investment in higher education. Two of us—Sen. Rich Madaleno and Del. Ana Sol Gutiérrez—serve on budget committees. We also ensured that the budget sustains affordable healthcare for low-income Marylanders. We took important steps toward making our teacher and state employee retirement system solvent for future generations. We fought to help small businesses create jobs, and for a modest increase in the alcohol tax that will provide badly-needed resources to help people with developmental disabilities. Finally, we invested in our future by passing landmark legislation providing all Maryland high school graduates with in-state tuition at our institutions of higher education.
Protecting our Environment and Preserving our Quality of Life
Your District 18 Team once again championed legislation to protect the environment and improve our quality of life. We successfully passed the Maryland Electricity Service Quality and Reliability Act, which will set strict standards for utilities and give regulators the ability to hold Pepco financially accountable for their abysmal performance. Del. Al Carr led the fight in the House of Delegates to strengthen this legislation by working to include more specific requirements for monitoring and inspecting Pepco’s aging infrastructure.
The General Assembly also passed several bills to protect our environment and promote clean energy. We made progress by banning harmful chemicals in baby products and worked to decrease the use of toxic pesticides in farming. We increased penalties for poaching in the Chesapeake Bay and maintained our critical investment in the Chesapeake Bay Trust Fund. Finally, we paved the way for a dramatic increase in wind energy, which will likely pass legislatively next year.
Fighting for Victims and Protecting our Community
We also continued our efforts to protect victims and keep our communities safe. Del. Jeff Waldstreicher, who serves on the Judiciary Committee, led the effort to end bullying in our schools and provide restitution for victims of human trafficking. The General Assembly also passed important new laws protecting animals, including one that bans convicted animal abusers from owning pets. The entire District 18 Team also proudly voted for marriage equality, and to protect victims of discrimination based on gender identity. Unfortunately, both bills failed to pass the General Assembly this session.
Investing in Local Priorities
The District 18 Team also obtained capital bond funding to directly benefit our neighborhoods. We secured $200,000 for design and renovation at the MacDonald Knolls Center, which supports people with disabilities. We also secured $100,000 for Warner Manor in Kensington and $50,000 for the historic Noyes Children’s Library. This year, the Montgomery County Delegation was able to secure more than $30 million in state funds for school construction.
Over the next few weeks, we will continue preparing individual responses to many of the letters and emails we received during the session. In addition, the General Assembly’s website (http://mlis.state.md.us) contains a great deal of information about our work, including the soon-to-be-released 90 Day Report. If you have questions or comments, feel free to email us at District18Team@gmail.com or at our individual email addresses below. Thank you again for your comments and support this year. We are grateful to serve as your District 18 representatives in Annapolis.
Senator Rich Madaleno
Delegate Al Carr
Delegate Ana Sol Gutiérrez
Delegate Jeff Waldstreicher
Friday, April 15, 2011
The following is an unofficial summary of the Town Council meeting last Wednesday:
The Town Council unanimously approved variances for three properties. The first provides a small variance needed to construct a small addition at 7005 Beechwood Dr. The second allows construction of a more substantial addition at 7009 East Ave. The third permits construction of rear porch at 4011 Thornapple St.
Proposed Changes to Permit and Variance Fees
The Town Council reviewed proposed increases to permit and variance fees that it had discussed at the budget work session and made changes that included reductions in the proposed increases for three fees, including the fee for a variance application, and a rise in the proposed increase of one fee. None of the proposed fees may legally exceed the cost to the Town of administering the Code and many remain substantially below the cost to the Town.
All of the proposed changes will appear in the upcoming addition of the Forecast and residents will have the opportunity to give their input at the budget hearing at the Annual Meeting before the Council considers them again.
Approval of Proposed FY12 Budget and Tax Rates
The Council unanimously approved the budget proposal that will be posted to the Town website and described in the upcoming issue of the Forecast.
The proposed budget maintains the constant yield tax rate which means that the property tax rate is set at a level designed to collect the same amount of revenue as last year. In this case, due to a decline in assessed value of properties in the Town, this will result in an increase in the tax rate from .10 to .105—equivalent to an increase from $100 per $1 million of assessed value to $105 per $1 million of assessed value—though the Town is projected to collect no more money from property taxes than last year.
The expenditures in the proposed operating budget for FY12 are 18.6% lower than in the FY11 Budget and 20.6% lower than in the FY10 Budget, though it is less drastic reduction from FY11 projected actual expenditures because the Council cut expenditures in mid-year by roughly 13.5% in response to a decline in expected revenues.
The one major change in services proposed is a change in yard trash collection from twice weekly to once weekly. Town residents will have a chance to comment on this proposed change and other components of the budget proposal at the Town Annual Meeting. The budget proposal, including the budget narrative which helps to explain each line of the budget, will be posted to the Town website.
Purple Line Mitigation Advisory Group Report
Rich Brancato of MAG reported to the Town Council on three proposals for the crossing at Lynn Drive other than an at-grade crossing. The Committee viewed none of the proposals as acceptable. The Town Council agreed by consensus to adopt MAG’s recommendation to work for a safe at-grade crossing at Lynn Drive, though the Council also discussed the need to obtain public input before making any final recommendation to MTA.
Street Lighting Evaluation
Joel Rubin, Chair of the Public Services Committee, reported on his committee’s recommendations regarding street lighting. The Council asked the Committee to flesh out aspects of the proposal further, especially potential costs, so it can be considered at the May Council meeting before the Town puts out a proposal or options for public comment.
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Dear Friends and Neighbors:
I’m writing to you just minutes after the 2011 Maryland General Assembly’s legislative session ended. For nine years, I have proudly served you as our community’s common-sense voice in the Maryland House of Delegates. But I have to tell you: this session was the most emotionally draining, the most challenging -- and in some ways, the most disappointing thus far.
I am not at all a single-issue person. Over the years, I have honed my knowledge of our state’s tax policies; I have pushed for education reforms; I have marshaled key legislation aimed at preserving Maryland’s status as having the best schools in the nation. In fact, I think it’s fair to say that others in the chamber see me as having great expertise in education policy.
But on Friday, March 11th -- my heart sank when the House of Delegates could not come up with enough votes to pass marriage equality legislation. This bill would have legalized same-sex marriages in our state. The proposal practically sailed through the Senate, but hit several roadblocks in the House -- including opposition from several legislators who had pledged their support on the campaign trail.
As a gay woman who has been in a committed relationship for the last eight years -- I’m sure you can imagine my heartbreak and disappointment. You see, like thousands of others in long-term, committed same-sex relationships in our state, my girlfriend and I want to get married in Maryland and in my parents’ lifetime.
I wanted to start with this issue -- obviously because it is personally important to me -- but also because many people have asked me why the House of Delegates didn’t cast an actual up-or-down vote on the issue. Ultimately, we believed that putting up a vote on the issue would have unnecessarily locked legislators into a position that would be hard for them to change in the future.
Knowing that this issue has gained unprecedented public support in just the past few years, we thought it would be best to give members of the House more time to consider this issue before insisting they cast a vote. I fully expect that the legislature will consider marriage equality next year. I’m proud to have worked on the bill, but I’m saddened that we were just a few votes shy of the votes needed for passage.
I am really proud that the entire District 14 delegation -- Senator Karen Montgomery, Delegates Eric Luedtke and Craig Zucker -- stood for marriage equality. Together, we represent nearly 120,000 people who reside in Ashton; Brinklow; Brookeville; Burtonsville; Calverton; Cloverly; Colesville; Damascus; Laytonsville; Olney; Sandy Spring; as well as parts of Silver Spring and West Laurel.
Each and every voice in District 14 just got a little louder since I was appointed to a leadership position in the House of Delegates, as one of two Chief Deputy Majority Whips. In this role, I help the Speaker of the House round up votes on key priorities of the House of Delegates, including the budget, school funding issues and raising the alcohol tax.
State Budget Highlights
Like our nation’s economy, Maryland’s economy is still on somewhat shaky ground even though the economic recovery has begun to take hold.
In Wisconsin, Ohio and other states dominated by a much more conservative bent, governors and legislators have targeted public employee unions and severely watered-down their collective bargaining rights. Other states have cut health care programs, education, and delayed needed infrastructure projects.
In Maryland, we have kept our promise to ensure adequate pension plans for teachers, police officers and other public employees. We have put our money where our mouths are by investing in public education, biotechnical research, and infrastructure. I believe these decisions will position our state to recover much more quickly from the national economic downturn.
Maryland Schools #1 in the Nation -- Three Years in a Row!
I serve as chair of the Education Subcommittee, and in that position, I play a key role in the decisions our state makes to strengthen our schools. We still have a huge education achievement gap to address; bullying is all too rampant in our schools; and there are still too many temporary/portable classrooms, especially in our inner-city schools.
For three years in a row, Education Week magazine has ranked Maryland schools as the number one in the nation. But we have a moral obligation to keep improving our public schools before we can look ourselves in the mirror and say we are providing a top-notch education for all our state’s public school kids.
To continue the fight against bullying, I introduced a bill that would have required schools to inform parents of the health risks that children might experience as a result of being bullied. While the bill passed by an overwhelming vote of 120-17 in the House, it unfortunately stalled in the State Senate. I plan to reintroduce the bill next year. And in the meantime, if your child has been a victim of severe bullying, please contact my office.
I also introduced a bill to create a standard set of qualifications for substitute teachers across the state. While it’s true that substitute teachers don’t spend much time with our children, we must take advantage of all of the 185 days of the school year if our children are to succeed. Establishing fair standards and qualifications for substitute teacher is a modest, common sense step we can take to improve public education at very little cost to the taxpayer.
Your New District 14 Team Delivers
One of the most important things your legislators can do in Annapolis is to ensure that worthy projects in our communities earn the state funding they need to come to fruition. I was proud to work with my District 14 colleagues on a number of great projects for our community.
A few years ago, our team secured $100,000 in state funding for the Damascus Heritage Museum for a permanent building to replace the temporary one in place now. Several reasons prevented the construction from being completed on time and the state typically rescinds funding that has not been spent within a specified time period. Fortunately, we got that timeframe extended so that this outstanding and worthy project can be finished. We expect the building will be completed and open to the public in the near future. Stay tuned.
The state will also be dedicating an additional $100,000 (in addition to the $150,000 allocated in prior years) to renovate Falling Green -- a historically significant house located on property owned by the Olney Boys and Girls Club. I am especially proud to help support this project because in doing so, we will not only restore a part of our county and region’s history -- but will also provide much needed office space for the Boys and Girls Club.
Did you know that more than 7,000 children play sports (football, baseball, soccer, softball, lacrosse, etc.) through the Olney Boys and Girls Club?
And speaking of sports… the issue of concussions has earned a great deal of media attention in recent years. As chair of the Education Subcommittee, I was proud to play a key leadership role in making high school and youth sports safer by increasing awareness of the risks of concussions.
A new law that takes effect in October will require a coach who has reason to believe a youth has suffered a concussion on the field -- to consult with a qualified health care professional before that child can play again. We must take the repercussions of concussions very seriously.
Now, we in Montgomery County absolutely love our community theaters. And the crown jewel of local theater is undoubtedly our award-winning Olney Theater. We should give a standing ovation to our state’s budget because it includes a $150,000 allocation to offset the cost of recent capital improvement projects that have contributed to the growing excellence of our theater.
Energy and the Environment
While our collective energy costs are rising, the energy companies we depend on have faced circumstances that have reduced their reliability. In part due to harsh storms and overgrown trees in sections of Montgomery County, some people have complained specifically about PEPCO’s reliability. That’s why I voted in favor of a bill that requires all energy providers to meet reliability standards and pay fines when they do not.
Of course, we know that on a global scale, we must find alternative energy sources and those sources must be cleaner and renewable. I supported Governor Martin O’Malley’s initiative to establish wind farms off Maryland’s coastline. I hope this initiative will be successful next year.
For the first time in my legislative career, I decided to test the waters -- so to speak -- in the environmental arena. Of course, funny enough, the one environmental issue I pursued was directly tied to education. I introduced a bill to require our state to examine the feasibility of making modest investments in hybrid-electric school buses. It didn’t pass this year, but I will try again next year.
There’s really no other way to say it: it’s amazing -- and sometimes it’s shocking -- how unfair certain federal and state tax policies are. I introduced a bill to close a gaping loophole in current law that allows corporations to abdicate paying their fair share of taxes by essentially creating phantom companies.
The legislature considered raising the gas tax and also the tax we pay when we purchase beer, wine and hard alcohol.
Did you know our state’s gas tax hasn’t increased since 1992 and our tax on beer and wine has remained flat since 1972? It’s amazing to think that the legislature hasn’t increased the tax on hard alcohol since 1955. Eisenhower was president then!
While the legislature decided against increasing the gas tax, we did feel compelled to increase the alcohol tax. The tax on alcohol will rise from 6 percent to 9 percent with the increases going to fund needs for the disability community and, for just one year, money for school construction, including $9 million for Montgomery County Public Schools.
Like you, I want to keep more of my money in my pocket. None of us likes paying more taxes -- but as the famous quote goes -- taxes are the price we pay to live in a civilized society.
Leadership and Closing
It is my pleasure and honor to represent our communities in the Maryland General Assembly. As a citizen legislator, I would not be as successful without your guidance and I thank each one of you for your calls, e-mails and letters.
I was delighted this year to be appointed by House Speaker Mike Busch as one of two Chief Deputy Majority Whips, meaning that I am now part of the House leadership.
Thank you for trusting me to represent your values and your perspectives in our citizen legislature. As corny as it may sound, since I was five years old (just ask my brothers), I knew I wanted to launch a career in public service.
I wish you a happy and healthy spring and summer! Bring on the warm weather and break out the barbecues! If I can ever be of service to you, please call me. And speaking of barbecues, I’d love to drop in on yours -- please consider inviting me! I promise to bring something delicious!
Anne R. Kaiser
p.s. If you would rather receive this letter and other occasional updates via e-mail, please send us a message at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Deborah Vollmer filed for election to the Town of Chevy Chase Town Council to run for one of the two seats along with incumbents Linna Barnes and Pat Burda. No other candidates filed to run before the closing of the filing deadline at 5pm today.
Deborah Vollmer also ran for the Town Council two years ago when she received seven percent of the vote. She is currently engaged in a lawsuit against both the Town and the neighboring property owner regarding the construction of the house next door to her own home.
I am extremely disappointed by the Senate’s action today to send HB 235 back to the Judicial Proceedings Committee. The twisted and unfair process HB 235 had to go through to even make it to the Senate floor mars the Senate’s otherwise outstanding work this year. The Senate’s treatment of this legislation will be remembered for a long time by the LGBT community and Marylanders who believe in equal rights for all.
After an overwhelming vote in favor of HB 235 by the House of Delegates, this bill was inappropriately referred to the Senate Rules Committee, which delayed action for nearly a week. After successful votes in the Rules Committee and Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, the full Senate never had an opportunity to debate this issue because of today’s vote to recommit.
The Senate’s action today means that transgender individuals in Maryland will continue to be denied housing on the basis of their gender identity. Every homeless transgender person that dies on the street will do so because of the Senate’s failure to pass HB 235. Every transgender individual who cannot provide for themselves or their family because they are denied employment based on their gender identity will do so because of the Senate’s failure to pass HB 235.
I remain firmly committed to seeing this landmark civil rights legislation pass the Maryland General Assembly. Before next session, I will pre-file a new version of the Gender Identity Antidiscrimination Act that includes provisions for housing and employment, as well as public accommodations in the hope it can receive a full debate and vote in the Senate before the last day of the session.
Monday, April 11, 2011
The Senate voted 27-20 to recommit the Gender Identity Anti-Discrimination Bill back to the Judiciary Committee, effectively killing it on the last day of the legislative session.
All Montgomery County legislators voted against recommitting the bill. Sen. Kittleman was the only Republican to vote to support the bill. The breakdown among African-American senators followed the pattern of the marriage bill with Baltimore City legislators tending to vote against recommitting the bill with their counterparts from Prince George's voting to recommit the bill.
Key switchers from the marriage bill which passed the Senate included Senators Kasemeyer, Klausmeier, Robey, and Zirkin. Two Democratic senators from more marginal districts who nonetheless supported the bill were Senators Brochin and Young.
Voting to Recommit (against the bill)
Voting against Recommit (for the bill)