Tuesday, October 28, 2008

District 18 Town Hall Meeting, Part Two

Senator Madaleno and Delegates Gutierrez, Waldstreicher and Carr finish responding to constituent questions as read by moderator Charles Duffy. There is news here, so read on!

What is your position on the ICC?
Delegate Carr, who argued against cuts to MARC in the Gazette, said, “Something is wrong when mass transit is cut and something like the ICC is protected.” None of the Delegates defended the road.

Throughout his political career, Senator Madaleno – a former member of the Duncan administration – has been an ICC supporter. But Madaleno is changing his mind on the issue. In September, he told the Gazette:

It seems, in transportation, we are infatuated with the mega-project, whether it be the ICC or the Purple Line, when it may be time to be rethinking the giant projects in favor of a much larger number of smaller projects that can be just as beneficial but don't lend themselves to ribbon-cuttings or groundbreakings.
In the Town Hall meeting, Madaleno went a bit further. He said that if the section of the ICC currently under construction between I-270 and Georgia Avenue was canceled, the state could face $100 million or more in contractor penalties. But if the rest of the road went unfinished, at least part of the ICC’s financing that is not tied to toll-backed bonds could be directed to other projects. (We outlined the ICC’s funding structure here.) Madaleno even said he was “in talks” with County Council Member Marc Elrich, who was present in the audience, about using ICC money to finance bus-rapid-transit throughout the county.

A combination of ICC supporter Madaleno and vehement ICC foe Elrich would be one of the strangest oddball alliances in MoCo politics. All parties on both sides of the issue should pay attention to this development.

Which Purple Line route do you prefer?
In District 18, the alignment of the Purple Line is a very sensitive issue. Most supporters of the project favor a light-rail line along the Capital Crescent Trail, but many residents of the Town of Chevy Chase prefer a bus-rapid-transit line on Jones Bridge Road, which is outside their town limits. The common perception of most political observers in this district is that few politicians challenge the wishes of Chevy Chase and survive to take their oath of office.

Senator Madaleno and Delegate Gutierrez answered the question directly, with opposite points of view. Madaleno said flatly that he “does not support” the Inner Purple Line alignment and favors more transit options outside the Beltway instead. He claimed that 80% of the Purple Line’s riders would be diverted from buses rather than cars. Gutierrez said she supports the original alignment, which would take the line on the trail, and stated, “There are so many pluses for the Purple Line. For me, it’s a no-brainer. I think it’s a model for how urban areas should be thinking.” Delegate Carr expressed concern that the planning process be inclusive but expressed no opinion on the proper alignment. Delegate Waldstreicher did not speak on the question.

Soon enough, the state will pick both an alignment and a mode for the Purple Line. At that point, every politician will have to say flatly whether they support or oppose the state’s plan. District 18 politicians will not be an exception.

Editor's Note: The green-shirted individual above is an awful sight for any MoCo politician at a public event.

What is your single biggest accomplishment in Annapolis?
Delegate Waldstreicher said he was proudest of his work in the House Judiciary Committee on a bill sponsored by late District 18 Delegate Jane Lawton that criminalized sex slavery. Prostitution is of course illegal, but the bill’s intent was to punish human traffickers who smuggle women into the state for paid (and often coerced) sex. Waldstreicher said the bill took three months of intense work to pass.

Delegate Gutierrez said she was proudest of her effort to pass a law requiring school districts to abide by a graduation rate formula established by the National Governors Association. Prior to the law, school districts were free to use their own calculations and thereby overstate their real graduation rates. Gutierrez said the State Department of Education has never implemented the law and was working to undermine it, so the fight goes on.

Senator Madaleno, a man who may very well read budget documents to his young daughter at bedtime, said he was proudest of his work to raise Maryland’s earned income tax credit. He described it as “the most successful program to help the poor pay their bills.” And he may be right about that.

Al Carr has only been in the General Assembly for one session. So how did he answer this question? “Just surviving my first session was a great accomplishment!”

Who says there are no honest politicians anymore?

Disclosure: The author is the Treasurer of the District 18 slate campaign fund.