Friday, April 04, 2008

County Council District 4 Round-Up

OK everybody, with less than two weeks to go, here’s the latest.

1. The Prince George’s County Council District 5 special election has MoCo campaign operatives’ tongues wagging. In that seven-candidate election, Theresa Dudley defeated Adam Ortiz by 171 votes at last count with a turnout of 8.2% of registered voters. If that turnout holds in MoCo District 4, roughly 8,400 voters will show up. So a competitive D4 candidate will have 3,000 votes and a sure winner will cross the 4,000 mark. These are small, small numbers folks, and anything could happen.

2. The Post and the Gazette have churned out quite a few articles in the last week. Among them are reports of County Council staffers getting cozy with Don Praisner’s campaign manager, a recounting of last Saturday’s candidate forum and a discussion of the challenges of time and name recognition. Additionally, this blog has made MCDCC Vice-Chairman Alan Banov a multi-media star as he has been interviewed by the Gazette about the illegal robo-calls first reported here. Hopefully Mr. Banov will remember who launched his ride to fame when one of us runs for a state legislative appointment!

But the biggest story of the week is the Gazette’s report on two meetings at the home of MoCo Superintendent of Schools Jerry Weast attended by education union leaders a month ago. The Gazette reports, “At the first meeting, Weast said that the unions should endorse Navarro for the County Council, according to a person who talked about what happened on the condition of not being identified.” The Gazette quoted Merle Cuttita, President of SEIU Local 500, as saying that the meeting was primarily about budget issues but she added, “He let us know that she would be a good candidate for county council ... that Nancy Navarro would be a good candidate for the council.” Nancy Navarro and County Council Member Valerie Ervin attended the second meeting, but Navarro denied that any endorsement was discussed there.

My father was a special education teacher, an assistant principal, a principal, an Assistant Superintendent of Schools and a school system controller in upstate New York. He never endorsed politicians or asked his unions to support any of them. He had a sound reason for that policy. In my rural county, voters directly approved school budgets. If my father had ever gotten too close to a politician, it would have made the local paper and his budget would have been killed. So he never, ever went there.

It is perfectly natural for the Superintendent to meet with the President of the Board of Education (Navarro), a County Council Member on the Education Committee (Ervin) and the leaders of the unions to discuss the schools budget. But Jerry Weast is playing with fire if he indeed asked the unions to support Navarro. First, he will run afoul of the County Executive, who is supporting Don Praisner. Second, Navarro’s opponents will be sure to remember Weast’s political apostasy if one of them wins. Third, he is giving Navarro’s rivals a good issue and Steve Kanstoroom raised it at Wednesday night’s debate. (And check out my blog-brother Kevin Gillogly's searing rant about this, which is forthcoming.) Mr. Weast, take it from the son of a career public school administrator: stay out of politics.

3. District 4 resident Dan Reed of Just Up the Pike is the best interviewer in MoCo blogdom. He has a talent for picking up on the little things that tell you a lot about a person. Check out Rockville mayoral candidate Drew Powell’s relentless hunt for a security guard, Steve Kanstoroom’s making change for a homeless guy and former County Council candidate Hans Riemer’s pho-drenched denunciations of limousine liberals. Dan has posted interviews with Navarro, Kanstoroom and Republicans Mark Fennel and Thomas Hardman with more on the way. Do yourself a favor and bookmark Just Up the Pike.

4. Nancy Navarro and Don Praisner are getting most of the attention but Steve Kanstoroom and Pat Ryan deserve mention. Both are strong and attractive candidates. Kanstoroom is crazy-earnest and combines green eye-shades with a warm heart. He is a beloved figure among the Sandy Spring activists he is helping. Would he really wring greater efficiencies from MoCo government as he claims? I don’t know, but speaking as a fellow dirt-digging researcher, it would be fun to watch him try.

As for Ryan, he may be the true heir to Marilyn Praisner from a policy perspective. I have seen him at two debates and he espouses the Praisner position package: fiscal restraint and caution on growth. After picking up the Gazette’s endorsement, Ryan glowed with confidence at Wednesday night’s debate. If you are a District 4 voter who agreed with Marilyn Praisner’s agenda and would like to see an advocate carry it out for the long run, you should seriously consider Pat Ryan.

5. Don Praisner did not show up at Wednesday night’s debate. County Council Member Duchy Trachtenberg told the audience that he was sick and had gone to the hospital. The Gazette is reporting that Mr. Praisner will not be attending tonight’s taped debate.

6. And if you guys really need more of this, here’s the schedule for the remaining debates:

FRI 4/4: 6:00 Montgomery Community Television/LWV Televised Forum @ MCT Studios, 7548 Standish Place, Rockville, MD 20855

SUN 4/6: 3:00 Sandy Spring Forum, Sherwood Elemenatary School, 1401 Olney-Sandy Spring Road (Rte 108), Sandy Spring, MD

TUE 4/8: 7:00 LWV Debate @ Sandy Spring Friends School 16923 Norwood Rd, Sandy Spring, MD 20860

WED 4/9: 7:00 Burtonsville Debate @ Paint Branch High School, 14121 Old Columbia Pike, Burtonsville, MD 20866

WED 4/9: 7:00 Northwood-Four Corners Forum @ North Four Corners Park Recreation Center, 211 Southwood Ave, Silver Spring, MD

THU 4/10: 2:00 Riderwood Debate @ Performance Hall of Lakeside Commons at Riderwood Village, 3150 Gracefield Rd, Silver Spring, MD

THU 4/10: 7:30 Leisureworld Debate @ Club House 1, 14901 Pennfield Circle, Silver Spring, MD

Disclosure: I am the Assistant to the General President of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters. Our local affiliate, the Mid-Atlantic Regional Council of Carpenters, endorsed Nancy Navarro.