Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Ike Leggett's Statement on Blair Ewing

Following is the statement from County Executive Ike Leggett on former Montgomery County Council Member and Board of Education Member Blair Ewing.

Statement by County Executive Isiah Leggett on the Passing Of Blair G. Ewing
June 30, 2009

I am deeply saddened by the death of my friend, former Council colleague, and former County Council President and Montgomery County School Board president Blair Ewing.

During 22 years on the School Board, two years on the County Human Relations Commission, four years on the County Council, and, most recently, as a member of the Maryland State Board of Education, Blair Ewing demonstrated a deep and abiding commitment to making Montgomery County a better place to learn and live. As a member of Federal Executive Service for 22 years until his retirement, Blair worked with distinction as a senior executive with the Department of Defense, the Office of Management & Budget, the Office of Personnel Management, and the Department of Justice.

Coming from a distinguished political family in Missouri, he recalled as a boy watching Harry Truman in action. His grandfather was Chief Justice of the Missouri Supreme Court and his uncle served as Governor. One of his ancestors died in defense of the Alamo. He was raised in a tradition that valued public service as a noble calling and Blair Ewing carried on with that tradition his entire life - as a reporter, a public official, and a teacher.

Blair Ewing's honesty and integrity were legend in Montgomery County. So, too, was his doggedness in promoting the common good, regardless of the odds. He was a fighter all his life against racial prejudice and for a helping hand for those in need, perhaps most especially for those coping with mental health issues.

I have ordered Montgomery County flags to be flown at half-mast through the day of his funeral.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Blair's wife, Marty Brockway, and to his entire family. Blair will be missed. This is a difficult loss for all who value honesty and integrity in public life.

Media Contact: Patrick Lacefield, 301-919-9372


Blair Ewing Passes Away

Following is the press release from the Montgomery County Council.

Former Montgomery County Councilmember, School Board Member Blair G. Ewing Passes Away

Council President Andrews: ‘His Impact on Public Education in
Montgomery Was Greater Than Any Other Single Person’

ROCKVILLE, Md., June 30, 2009—Former Montgomery County Councilmember and former member of the Montgomery County Board of Education Blair G. Ewing passed away today. Mr. Ewing, until very recently a member of the Maryland State Board of Education, was 76.

Mr. Ewing was elected as an at-large member of the Montgomery County Council in November of 1998 and served through 2002, chairing the Council’s Health and Human Services Committee and serving on the Transportation and Environment Committee. He lost in his bid for re-election in a September 2002 Democratic primary.

Prior to his election to the County Council, he served 22 years on the Montgomery County Board of Education. He was elected to the Board of Education six times and twice served as the board’s president.

Mr. Ewing, a native of Missouri and graduate of the University of Missouri, retired from the federal government in 1998 after 28 years of service, 22 as a senior executive in four federal agencies (the Department of Defense, the Office of Management and Budget, the Office of Personnel Management and the Department of Justice).

“Blair Ewing provided so many years of tireless service to the residents of Montgomery County. His unparalleled service made a lasting impression in the County,” said Council President Phil Andrews. “He made lasting contributions in public education, mental health services and integrity in government, among other areas. He was highly intelligent, gracious, effective and had a delightfully dry sense of humor. His impact on public education in Montgomery County was greater than that of any other single person. I had the pleasure and honor of serving on the Council with Blair Ewing for four years. The community has lost an outstanding leader who always put the public interest first.”

Mr. Ewing constantly said, “Education is the highest of all priorities in Montgomery County.”

Mr. Ewing was strong proponent of what has become known as “Smart Growth.” In an assessment of County priorities he issued in November 2001 as Council President, he said, “We must use all the tools at our disposal to place growth where it belongs, near transit and transit stations, require developers to pay a fair share of the costs of growth, use the Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance and the Annual Growth Policy to restrain growth until we have truly been able to find the funds to build the needed schools and roads, build stronger protections for open space and for air quality, water quality and protections against noise pollution.”

Mr. Ewing came from a long line of public servants. One grandfather was the chief justice of the State Supreme Court in Missouri. His father was the mayor of a small town in Missouri and served for more than two decades as a school board member. His uncle, James T. Blair, was a governor of Missouri. Mr. Ewing traced ancestors who lived in Montgomery County to 1700, including those who helped found St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Rock Creek Parish, in 1712. [That church is now in Washington, D.C.]

Mr. Ewing, who lived in Silver Spring, is survived by his wife, Martha Brockway.

He was a member of the Montgomery County Human Relations Commission, the Education Foundation’s board of directors and a civic association in Silver Spring.

Following his election as Council president in December of 2000, Mr. Ewing told The Journal Newspapers: “I am a big believer in the role government can play in the solution of problems. I am not one of those who subscribes to the notion that government is the source of the problems.”

Statements by current Councilmembers on Blair Ewing:

Nancy Floreen: “He was a truly dedicated community leader.”

George Leventhal: “Blair made so many contributions to our County, from his years of service on the Board of Education to his advocacy for the mentally ill and for children, as chairman of the County Council’s Health and Human Services Committee, to his recent outstanding service on the State Board of Education. He was a public servant of tremendous integrity.”

Duchy Trachtenberg: “Blair Ewing was a compassionate, enormously dedicated public servant whose work ethic was legendary and whose record of accomplishment was exemplary. I first got to know Blair during my advocacy for the mentally ill, and I came to deeply admire, respect and love Blair for his unswerving commitment to delivering quality, affordable mental health services. Blair Ewing counseled me, mentored me and inspired me. I will miss him terribly.”


“You Got To Dance With the The One Who Brung You”

By Marc Korman.

A Congressman I once worked for represented a western district won by Bush 43 twice. On some environmental issues he had what I viewed as a moderate record. When the Republicans tried to amend the Endangered Species Act in 2005, I expected to have to work hard to convince my boss to stick with the majority of Democrats and the Sierra Club and vote no. After days of preparation, I went into his office to pitch a no vote. After a minute he interrupted me and said “You got to dance with the one who brung you,” indicating that he would not be voting for the Republican proposal. I thought of that moment last week watching Maryland’s newest Congressman, Frank Kratovil.

Congressman Kratovil represents the 1st Congressional District, which essentially lines the Chesapeake Bay and covers parts of Anne Arundel, Baltimore, and Harford on the western side and the entirety of the Eastern Shore. In 2008, Kratovil beat State Senator Andy Harris by less than 3,000 votes, out of over 350,000 votes cast. He is due for a tough reelection in 2010. Although his predecessor was a moderate Republican, the district leans far to the right in some areas. John McCain received 59% of the vote there according to the National Journal.

I heard Kratovil speaking last week to a group of Montgomery County Democrats, which I suspect was a nice break from the tornado of legislative activity in the House. As a member of the moderate to conservative Blue Dog Coalition, Kratovil is considered a swing vote on Obama Administration priorities such as healthcare reform and climate change legislation.

News reports last week from Capitol Hill gave glimpses into Kratovil’s thinking on the climate change legislation, which passed the House before they adjourned for a July 4th recess. Leaving the merits of the legislation aside, the bill is a political risk because of its complexity, far reach, and subject matter.

Kratovil started the week linked to the efforts of Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, who was seeking changes to the legislation to benefit the agriculture sector. Peterson is influential as a chairman and Blue Dog leader, but he has been a thorn in the side of the Democratic leadership side for years. For example, in the past he has refused to pay the contribution to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee expected of all incumbents.

When Peterson’s climate change demands were met by the sponsors of the legislation, reports indicated that Kratovil was still resisting a yes vote. But by Friday night, Kratovil was apparently comfortable enough to vote for the bill. Forty-four other Democrats voted against the legislation, while eight Republicans crossed over and voted for the landmark bill.

On another major domestic priority of Obama’s, healthcare, I was pleasantly surprised to hear Kratovil say he supported a public option, which would create a government backed competitor to private health insurance companies. Many moderate legislators have expressed concern with a public plan, but Kratovil embraced one openly.

That is not to say that Kratovil is an automatic yes vote for the House Democratic leadership. For example, Kratovil did not vote for the original House version of the stimulus. But Kratovil seems to have realized a few things in his short time in Congress. First, no one expects him to vote with the Democratic leadership in lock step. That would not serve his district, his political future, or, probably, his own views. Second, lots of what Obama is proposing is good for the 1st district, good for Maryland, good for the country, and good for Frank Kratovil. And third, sometimes, “you got to dance with the one who brung you.” For Frank Kratovil, that includes Chris Van Hollen and Steny Hoyer, two members of the House Leadership who believed in and supported Kratovil when few other serious pols thought he had a chance.


Is This Smart Growth? Part Two

In 2007, the Planning Department devised a new system for measuring a project’s impact on transportation capacity: Project Area Mobility Review (PAMR). The system relied on a trade-off between road congestion (defined as actual speed divided by free-flow speed) and transit mobility (defined as transit speed divided by road speed) in each of 22 bite-sized “policy areas.” A policy area with congested roads could still be deemed to have “adequate” transportation capacity if transit service was almost as fast as road speed. Inversely, a policy area with very slow transit relative to road speed could still be deemed “adequate” if cars often approached the posted speed limit. But if a policy area had both slow transit and congested roads, it would be designated “inadequate” and developers would be required to mitigate at least some of the vehicle trips their projects generated.

Currently, developers have five options to mitigate trips in congested policy areas:

1. Sign a binding Trip Mitigation Agreement to reduce trips using transportation demand management techniques.

2. Provide non-auto facilities to make transit, walking and bicycling more attractive.

3. Add road capacity by building more lanes or widening intersections.

4. Add transit capacity by buying Ride On buses and subsidizing their operating costs.

5. Make a payment to the county in lieu of the above measures.

It’s important to note that the County Council set a floor for allowable auto congestion in its 2007-2009 Growth Policy Resolution. No matter how fast transit service was relative to road speed, the council established that road level of service should not fall below Level D, defined as car speeds of at least 40% of free-flow speed (essentially, the posted speed limit). So if a policy area had an average speed limit of 40 mph and the average car speed was 15 mph (38% of the speed limit), the policy area would have inadequate transportation capacity regardless of transit speed. The council defied the wishes of the planning staff, who argued that Level of Service E (25% of the speed limit) should be the allowable floor.

In its new proposal, the staff reasserts its recommendation that Level of Service E, and not D, should be instituted. Here is the staff’s reasoning:

Staff finds that LOS E conditions are appropriate for two reasons.

First, from a technical perspective, LOS E is the condition at which the throughput of a roadway facility is maximized. This is somewhat counterintuitive simply due to the fact that the LOS grading system is oriented toward the customer. For the customer, LOS A represents the least delay, and therefore the best level of service. Provision of LOS A service to all customers, however, is not practical from either fiscal or community-building perspectives. Most jurisdictions across the country require conditions ranging from LOS C to LOS E.

Second, from a community-building perspective, the establishment of more stringent LOS requirements in urban areas can create pressures to widen roadways to provide auto capacity, an action which not only uses valuable property but also tends to reduce pedestrian comfort and accessibility. In the White Flint Sector Plan, staff has recommended that the end-state conditions, which would result in Transit LOS B and Arterial LOS E conditions, should reflect an appropriate balance between land use and transportation.
The staff is actually claiming that many areas of the county should be congested. According to them, congestion relief through added road capacity is inherently harmful to pedestrian activity. But the above mitigation measures provide many other ways for developers to counter congestion, including buying buses and contributing to transit. The staff would simply let developers off the hook.

The staff’s recommended change has a real impact on many policy areas. Under the current system, developers of projects in the Bethesda-Chevy Chase policy area are required to mitigate 30% of trips generated by new projects. Under the staff’s proposal, that requirement would drop to 0%. Trip mitigation in Derwood and Shady Grove would fall from 20% of trips to 0%. North Bethesda mitigation would fall from 35% to 20%. Rockville City mitigation would fall from 25% to 20%. Aspen Hill mitigation would fall from 20% to 5%. And in Olney, Kensington/Wheaton and Silver Spring/Takoma Park, mitigation would fall from 10% to 0%.

Current PAMR Mitigation Requirements

Proposed PAMR Mitigation Requirements

This particular change only serves two purposes. First, it undeniably reduces costs for developers. Second, it undeniably increases costs for the rest of us by allowing more congestion with no offsetting gain. How smart is that?

But there is more – MUCH more. Come back tomorrow for Part Three.


Monday, June 29, 2009

Planning Staff Recommends BRT for CCT

In striking contrast to recommendation for light rail (LRT) for the Purple Line, the Planning Board Staff has recommended bus-rapid transit (BRT) for the Corridor City Transitway (CCT).

If the decision to opt for BRT sticks, politicians may find that strong statements made regarding the great superiority of light rail over bus-rapid transit come back to bite them (darn Google and those digital records!) as they must explain to Upcounty residents why they should get the cheaper, much-derided buses but the Downcounty must have the vastly more expensive light rail. (Your gentle blogger has argued for BRT for both modes.)

Next post: the plan to pay for transit. Here is the press release from the Planning Board:

Planners Recommend Bus Rapid Transit for Proposed Corridor Cities Transit Project; Planning Board Schedules Public Hearing July 6

SILVER SPRING – Montgomery County planners have recommended bus rapid transit, a system designed to move transit vehicles past traffic congestion on dedicated lanes, for the Corridor Cities Transitway (CCT), a planned public transportation project linking Shady Grove with Clarksburg.

Following recommendations rolled out in the draft Gaithersburg West Master Plan, planners have endorsed a route for the CCT that follows a long established alignment from the Shady Grove Metro Station through Gaithersburg, Middlebrook and Germantown on its way to Clarksburg. However, planners recommend a change to the previously planned route through the Life Sciences Center near Gaithersburg.

Responding to a Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) report, planners also addressed a proposed expansion of I-270 as another strategy to improve mobility in the heavily traveled corridor. The expansion could include preferential lanes for high occupancy vehicles and drivers willing to pay a toll. Both projects would try to alleviate chronic traffic concerns in the I-270 Corridor, the economic engine of Montgomery County.

Planners made their recommendations based on MDOT’s Alternatives Analysis/Environmental Assessment report. Their recommendations go to the Planning Board, which has scheduled a July 6 public hearing to allow residents and others to have their say.

The board’s recommendation will be considered by the County Council’s transportation committee on July 13. Once the Council has collected input, it will send the county’s collective position on the two transportation projects back to the state.

The CCT has long been proposed along I-270, and the Planning Board has featured the CCT as an integral part of master plans for Gaithersburg West and Germantown. The transit route would support a growing number of workers and proposed new residences in those areas. In the state report, transportation planners evaluated premium bus, light rail and bus rapid transit. By choosing bus rapid transit, county planners have endorsed an alternative that is estimated to cost around $450 million. The CCT is expected to carry up to 27,000 people daily by 2030.

Planners say bus rapid transit would link activity centers in the corridor, maximize connections to other transit routes such as Metro, and increase opportunities for funding and construction phasing that would allow it to be built quickly.

As part of their proposal, planners recommend adding a busway segment through the Life Sciences Center that creates a loop serving Shady Grove Adventist Hospital, the Universities at Shady Grove, the emerging Johns Hopkins University campus, a redeveloped county Public Safety Training Academy site and other businesses. That new route, which would support proposed residential development, existing and planned heath sciences and hospital facilities, and biomedical research initiatives, has been the subject of much discussion as the Planning Board prepares to finalize its draft of the Gaithersburg West Master Plan next month.

The state report combines the CCT with I-270 highway improvements. Planners recommend that the CCT go first to emphasize the most affordable, green solution by combining transit and mixed use development to support a community less dependent on auto travel.

Planners reviewed the highway alternatives presented by the state and recommended a combination of express toll lanes and high-occupancy vehicle lanes. Express toll lanes provide a speedy and reliable option by charging a toll that varies depending on the time and day of use. The I-270 improvements, extending well into Frederick County, may cost up to $3.9 billion and could displace up to 260 homes, although transportation officials believe that number can be reduced significantly by minimizing the width of roadway shoulders and constructing retaining walls.

Adding a combination of high-occupancy lanes and tolls also would encourage people to commute longer distances by bus or rail and use the highway for carpooling to transit stations, planners say.

Planners also recommended that the County Council establish a working group to pursue potential funding for the CCT in addition to existing public transportation like Metro and Ride On.


New Board of Education Member Appointed

Following is the press release from the Montgomery County Board of Education.

Michael Durso Appointed to Fill District 5 Board of Education Seat
June 26, 2009

Retiring Springbrook High Principal To Step into Post Left Vacant by Election of Nancy Navarro to County Council; Term Runs Through 2010

Michael Durso, who retires this month as principal of Springbrook High School, has been appointed by the Montgomery County Board of Education to fill the District 5 seat vacated by the election of Nancy Navarro to the Montgomery County Council. Durso was elected by the Board today on the first ballot, by a unanimous vote of 7-0 and will complete the remainder of the term, through 2010.

“I am honored to be selected and for the opportunity to serve in the District 5 Board of Education post,” said Durso, a Silver Spring resident. “I am looking forward to working with the other Board members in dealing with all of the challenges that face our school system, as we continue our effort to be a first class system in all aspects.”

The vote on the appointment took place on Friday, June 26, following a series of interviews earlier in the day with each of the six finalists selected by the Board.

Durso has served as principal at Springbrook since joining Montgomery County Public Schools in 1996. Prior to that, as part of a 44-year education career—including 38 years as a school administrator—Durso was a principal at Yorktown High School in Arlington, Virginia, and a principal at Woodrow Wilson High School and Lincoln Junior High School in the District of Columbia. He holds a bachelor’s degree from The Catholic University of America in American History and a master’s degree from American University in educational administration.

Durso will be sworn in at a special ceremony on Wednesday, July 1, along with Timothy Hwang, the new student member of the Board of Education, who will serve a one-year term.


Is This Smart Growth? Part One

The new Adequate Public Facility Ordinance (APFO) proposed by the Planning Department staff would provide new incentives for development around transit stations. That’s smart growth by anyone’s definition. But the proposal would also encourage development around strip malls and in Upcounty areas far from transit and would throw in the towel on congestion in many parts of Downcounty. How smart is that?

To understand how the staff proposal works, we must first understand how new projects are evaluated for their impact on transportation capacity. Two years ago, I wrote about how transportation review works in Montgomery County on Just Up the Pike. Here is an excerpt.


Between the early 1980’s and 2004, new developments in Montgomery County were subject to two kinds of analysis for their impact on traffic: Policy Area Transportation Review (PATR) and Local Area Transportation Review (LATR). LATR examined the impact of development on traffic in a handful of intersections close to the project. PATR examined the impact of development on traffic in a large area surrounding the project called a “policy area.” The county had 21 of these policy areas in addition to 10 smaller “Metro Station Policy Areas” and “Town Center Policy Areas.”

The idea behind both LATR and PATR was that if the new development caused traffic congestion to rise above a certain threshold in either a small immediate area around the project (LATR) or a large area around the project (PATR), the developer would be required to provide certain mitigation measures, such as additional road or transit capacity. If traffic conditions were extremely congested in a policy area (as measured by an average congestion index), a moratorium could be declared. In 2004, the last year PATR was in effect, the county had eight policy areas in moratorium for housing construction and six policy areas in moratorium for commercial construction.

In 2003, the County Council voted to abolish PATR, keep LATR and institute a combination of increased and new development impact taxes. The council’s reasoning at that time was that new development should pay for added infrastructure capacity (like roads and schools) rather than be subject to a moratorium until the county could construct the added infrastructure.

New developments would now be analyzed only for their traffic impact on immediate surrounding areas. For example, under the old system, a new development at the corner of Georgia Avenue and Forest Glen Road would be analyzed not only for its impact on that intersection and a couple others nearby (LATR), but also for its impact on the average congestion level for the Kensington-Wheaton policy area (PATR). Under the new system, only the impact on a small number of nearby intersections would be considered.

Critics of PATR’s abolition contended that it was unrealistic to believe that traffic impact from a new development would only spread for a couple blocks away from the site. After the 2006 County Council elections, the council called for an analysis of the county’s growth policy from the Planning Board and specifically requested a recommendation on whether to bring back PATR. The board’s response was to suggest instituting a similar, but not identical process called Project Area Mobility Review (PAMR).

Like PATR, PAMR also assesses the traffic impact of a project on a broad policy area. However, its methodology differs. PATR relied on an average congestion index to determine whether a policy area’s transportation infrastructure was “adequate” to handle additional traffic. PAMR calculates a tradeoff between auto congestion (termed “relative arterial mobility”) and transit capacity (termed “relative transit mobility”). If a policy area had low relative arterial mobility (meaning it had lots of auto congestion), it could still be judged as “adequate” if residents could use transit to get to destinations almost as fast as through car travel. Conversely, if a policy area had transit use that took substantially more time than car use, it could still be judged as “adequate” if auto congestion was low. If a policy area had both high auto congestion and transit options that were much slower than car use, it would be judged as “inadequate.”

Developers in adequate policy areas would not be required to provide mitigation measures under PAMR, though they might face requirements if nearby local intersections were found to be excessively congested under LATR. The planners contended this new system fairly reflected the tradeoffs that residents could make between cars and transit – for example, by switching to transit if car travel was too slow.


We’ll learn more about how PAMR works and how the staff would like to change it in Part Two.


Saturday, June 27, 2009

Planning Board Shenanigans

Adam has an upcoming series taking you through some of the arcana surrounding the proposed new growth policy with a great focus on proposed radical changes to transportation tests for new development. However, I didn't want to let the weekend go by without flagging the approach to schools.

And Here's to You Mr. Robinson
Planning Board Commissioner John Robinson's term expired on June 15th but he is still sitting on the board. The Montgomery County Council has yet to fill the appointment. Yet there is no vacancy on the Board:

This time, the council and Planning Board Chairman Royce Hanson quietly came to an agreement to delay picking Robinson's successor until later this summer, allowing Robinson to stay on as the panel attempts to complete some major pieces of work. . . .

The decision to allow Robinson to stay a bit longer was not publicly announced or formally voted on by the council. It has not sparked any dissent from members, council President Phil Andrews (D-Gaithersburg-Rockville) said. . . .

Hanson and Andrews said they thought it was a good idea to keep Robinson on. "Otherwise we lose the benefit of his expertise," Andrews said.
No formal or public approval required, I guess.

Don't Build a School, Just Lower Standards
Needless to say, the desire to keep Robinson on the Board was related to the "major pieces of work"--and the desire to have Commissioner Robinson's vote on them.

The County requires that a moratorium be placed on new development when a school district is overcapacity. Not over 100% of capacity--that doesn't cause developers any problems or even new fees--but at 120% of capacity. And not just overcapacity in one school but in an entire cluster. The B-CC and Clarksburg clusters have to placed in moratorium in less than a month under this standard.

The Solution? Make sure the problem doesn't get worse so that the schools which are an enormous economic asset and the pride of the County don't decline? Work with the County and the School Board to increase capacity?

Nope. Not according to the Planning Board:
Montgomery County planners pushed through the approval yesterday for a 497-unit apartment building in downtown Bethesda before a residential development moratorium takes effect, despite concerns about the building's design and its potential to add students to crowded schools.
Maybe it's just a coincidence, but the project would have failed on a 2-2 vote if Commissioner Robinson had not been there to give the project a 3-2 victory.

Now, one might give the Board the benefit of the doubt and assume that this is an unusually meritorious project. Except that the proposed growth policy changes regarding schools will exacerbate the problem by raising the capacity levels at which developers begin to pay impact fees from 105% to 110% of capacity. So less money to solve the problem.

The growth policy proposal also makes it easier to develop in places like Bethesda and Clarksburg--places already out of attainment. In short, the Board's approach is to eliminate standards for public facilities rather than make sure the infrastructure, even for schools, is available.

Perhaps we should just allow teachers in the schools to lower standards and grade easier. That's the lesson that the Planning Board has been teaching this week.


County Report: June 26


Friday, June 26, 2009

A Blueprint for Transportation Reform

By Marc Korman.

The Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee of the House of Representatives recently released a bipartisan proposal for a major surface transportation bill. The blueprint is worth reading because it gives a nice overview of federal surface transportation programs and some potential reforms. If eventually passed, it could also have an impact in Maryland.

The bipartisan package was written by the Chairmen and Ranking Members of the full T&I Committee and the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit as a proposal for the multi-year surface transportation authorization bill. The legislation determines how gas taxes and other transportation revenues will be allocated over a multi-year period on roads, transit, and rail lines. The proposal is just a first step in a lengthy process to get a bill passed. So far, the President has indicated he does not even want long term legislation, just a short term extension of the current law so transportation revenue can continue flowing to the states. There is also the nagging question of how to pay for the estimated $450 billion package, with the Administration refusing to support a gas tax increase.

But political challenges aside, the plan contains a lot of good ideas and is indicative of the direction of federal transportation policy. The blueprint seeks to consolidate many disparate lines of funding into fewer, but more flexible, programs. Some programs will also become modal neutral, meaning funds can be accessed for transit programs as easily as highways. It also includes a national infrastructure bank, which would leverage government funding with private sector resources to stretch transportation dollars farther. Of course, private funding means projects will have to provide some type of revenue stream such as tolls. In order to ensure any tolls or public private partnerships are in the interests of the public, the bill establishes a new Office of Public Benefit to assess these proposals.

Importantly for Maryland, the bill would also reform the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) New Starts program. The New Starts program is where the state hopes to obtain federal funding for the Purple Line and Corridor Cities Transitway. Currently, FTA puts almost all of its emphasis on the Cost Effectiveness Index (CEI), which has required states and localities seeking New Starts funds to do the same in their plans. The CEI looks at the amount of travel time saved by a project versus its costs. Relying so heavily on the CEI means the FTA is ignoring other factors such as pollution reduction, the effect of suburban sprawl, public transportation mobility, technical capability of applicants, and other factors that are included in the law, but virtually ignored by the FTA. CEI’s dominance is part of the reason most observers believe the Corridor Cities Transitway will have to be Bus Rapid Transit as opposed to rail, because unlike the Purple Line it would have great difficulty meeting CEI requirements.

Both Elijah Cummings and Donna Edwards serve on the T&I Committee and should support a great deal of the proposal. They need to hear from state and local legislators on the importance of improving federal transportation programs, particularly transit programs. Maryland should also look to the legislators who drafted the bill for inspiration in moving forward with state based transportation solutions.


Thursday, June 25, 2009

Young Guns of MoCo, Part Four

Here they are, the three most influential people in MoCo aged 35 or under. Give me these three on my team and I can whup any other five people you pick.

3. Lisa Fadden, 27
Vice-President, Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce
15 Votes

Respondent: Lisa Fadden is smart and passionate. She loves her job and it shows. She’s not just a “one to watch” cliché. She’s already a leader. She’s sworn off elected office, but I wouldn’t be so sure. We need more folks like Lisa.

Respondent: Connected with everyone; really smart; thinking ahead about issues facing the county.

Respondent: Smart and charming, helps advance the business community’s political agenda in Annapolis and Rockville without the abrasiveness of past Chamber staff.

Respondent: Lisa is the next woman to lead the Chamber. She has a great policy background and presents her issues to electeds extremely well. She has a lot of room to move up in the corporate world and her experience in Montgomery County will help her be a great fit at any company.

Respondent: Lisa is a rising star and key behind the scenes player in Montgomery County and Annapolis, and a respected and highly knowledgeable source on transportation, fiscal and tax policy, and other economic and quality of life issues as well as politics.

Respondent: Even in progressive and Democratic Montgomery County the Chamber has a seat at the table. That is partly due to the energy and intelligence of this lady. She tries to stay out of partisan politics but knows everyone and every issue.

Respondent: Lisa is the shining star of the under 35 crowd in Montgomery County politics. She runs the Chamber’s legislative efforts with remarkable strategy, intelligence and a mastery of the issues. Lisa’s professional efforts are complimented by a friendly and welcoming demeanor that makes people want to be around her – and elected officials are no exception.

Respondent: The VP of Government Affairs for the Chamber of Commerce is smart and sassy and an active lobbyist, especially for transportation projects - like the Purple Line and CCT - of importance not only to the business community, but also to young people. Without the baggage of having been involved in the ICC, Clarksburg, and other business/developer debacles, Lisa may be able to reshape the image of business in Montgomery.

Adam: Brings a devastating combination of brains, relentlessness and pragmatism to her job. Always plans ahead. Never gives up on an issue. Turbocharged Supergirl is tougher than you are, going on 50-mile runs and 100-mile bicycle rides just for the joy of kicking butt.

2. Jackie Lichter, 29
Political Director, SEIU Local 500
16 Votes

Respondent: Union diva with aspirations - a powerful combination.

Respondent: Great policy advocate, great political advocate. Passes SEIU priorities, elects SEIU priority candidates. Will make for a great candidate someday.

Respondent: The future face of union bosses? Smart, hard-working and liberal – she’d do justice to collective bargaining in the County. But she’s also a tough field operator, having coordinated SEIU’s Virginia effort for Obama and twice worked on campaigns for Nancy Navarro. Whatever direction her career heads in, she’s one to keep an eye on.

Respondent: She’s a smart strategist, a high-energy labor leader, and a committed advocate. Whether she runs herself some day or chooses to help elect others, Jaclyn will be on the horizon as a “player” in Montgomery County for many years to come.

Respondent: Talented field organizer and consummate campaign pro who played a big role in Nancy Navarro’s win. Smart, hard-working, able to reach beyond traditional labor base and work as part of a broader coalition in the community.

Respondent: Quickly gaining a reputation for being both sharp and effective. One of the masterminds behind the successful Navarro campaign and gained experience helping run SEIU’s ground operation for Obama in Virginia. Also a prominent leader in her own right - is active in the women’s community.

Respondent: A sure candidate some day soon. Jackie is a constant presence around county political leaders and helped bring Navarro to victory for SEIU. When people talk about young progressive leaders in the county, they are talking about Jackie.

Respondent: She is the secret weapon. Make no mistake about the fact that Jackie will outwork everybody and look the best while doing it. She has earned her stripes and I am betting on her to go really far at whatever she wants to do politically in Montgomery County. That means either behind the scenes or as a candidate.

Adam: All of our young guns are smart and Jackie is no exception. What sets her apart is her savvy, people skills and campaign experience. The electeds she lobbies give her high marks. She has more options for the future than anyone else on this list. Whatever role she chooses, she will be a force in this county for a long, long time.

1. David Moon, 30
Chief of Staff, Council Member Nancy Navarro
Former Campaign Manager for Jamie Raskin, Nancy Navarro, Purple Line NOW
17 Votes

Respondent: There is nobody better at running campaigns in this county than David Moon. Just look at what he was able to do at the helm for Nancy Navarro. He has earned a lot of respect from folks all over Montgomery County. Everybody wants to hire him.

Respondent: This is a no-brainer. He delivered Navarro to the County Council by reaching out to demographics no one expected to even vote, let alone vote in a special primary election. Moon knows what the changing face of Montgomery County looks like because, as one of a small but growing number of politically active people of color, he’s part of it.

Respondent: David is not a showman or an extrovert but a methodical and inexhaustible analyst, conceptual thinker and workhorse. In Raskin’s 2006 campaign, Moon frequently pulled all-nighters at Raskin headquarters. He’s also a MoCo native.

Respondent: Responsible for two major campaign victories at a young age: Raskin (2006) and Navarro (2009). Let’s hope he’s got one more in him (Purple Line, 2011).

Respondent: David Moon is a proven, winning campaign manager. From Jamie Raskin’s 2006 race to Nancy Navarro’s 2009 Special Election, David has used a variety of cutting-edge strategies to get his candidates' name out there and get voters to the polls. He is a master-strategist who also has an excellent grasp of all things policy. He doesn’t seem interested in running for political office, but would like to run many campaigns one day, I’m sure!

Respondent: Behind the scenes, he is orchestrating a significant amount of Montgomery County’s progressive politics. Purple Line coalition work was excellent - he is a young gun for hire.

Respondent: David is incredibly smart and very progressive on the issues...he’s also an all-around nice person. However, his outwardly laid-back demeanor hides an aggressive strategist and a political fighter - he is not to be underestimated. That said, he gets along really well with all sorts of people and should be able to help Nancy forge consensus on tough issues.

Respondent: David has earned an incredible reputation as a campaign organizer. His successes include the Jamie Raskin campaign, the successful efforts to mobilize supporters of the Purple Line, and a win for Nancy Navarro in 2009. David will be among the most coveted campaign managers for Dems in Moco come 2010. While he at first appears quiet and reserved, he is actually very opinionated about all things related to progressive politics and knows how to turn out voters.

Adam: In just four years of work, Moon is now the most feared campaign operative in the county. Organized, obsessive and intensely competitive, he will out-think and out-work any rivals. MANY politicians are considering hiring this guy if only to keep him from working for their opponents.

Dear readers, all of these youngsters are going to rock your world for a long time. Just remember, we called it first!


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

He's Barack Obama

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Young Guns of MoCo, Part Three

The young guns are getting more dangerous. Here are Six, Five and Four.

6. Marc Korman, 27
Member, Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee
Contributor, Maryland Politics Watch
10 Votes

Respondent: Law student and Central Committee member: Marc is “in the know” on several fronts - local issues, the Hill and general state politics. Marc's leadership of the MC Young Dems helped get more Young Dems elected in 2006 than any of us could remember. He’s a regular name on the host committees of all the players in the county and an unabashedly nice, friendly guy - something you don’t see very often in the hypercompetitive and ambitious bubble that is the Montgomery County Young Democrats.

Respondent: Hard-working, thoughtful, fair. We are likely to see him on the judicial bench or in Annapolis.

Respondent: Very bright analyst, a comer in the party, either behind the scenes or running himself.

Respondent: Smart, insightful, dedicated. Would not bet against him in anything.

Respondent: Whether you agree with his positions or not, you’ve got to agree that the guy is just bright! Marc leads the Democrats’ District 16 precinct volunteers with great organization and tireless contributions. When he is ready – look out for a quick rise of the Honorable Marc Korman.

Respondent: One of the most effective members of the MCDCC. Sees it as a force for helping strengthen the party, not just as a social club for aging Dems.

Respondent: Influential regular contributor to MPW and MCDCC member. Getting his law degree. Very smart. Will no doubt remain an intellectual force in MoCo, influencing policy and perspectives for years to come.

Adam: Korman belongs in Annapolis. If he doesn’t run by 2014, I am kicking him off this blog as punishment.

5. Bill Frick, 34
Delegate, District 16
12 Votes

Respondent: Delegate Frick has in short order earned himself an incredible reputation in Annapolis. He is well regarded by his colleagues and others in Annapolis. He sits on the influential Ways and Means Committee and has already proven that he won’t simply rubber stamp the decisions of leadership. As a Harvard law school grad, he certainly has the intellectual capacity as well as the people skills to have significant influence.

Respondent: Smart, aggressive, likeable, rational – and fun / funny.

Respondent: Very smart and quick to learn his way around Annapolis.

Respondent: I predict he will succeed Frosh in the Senate and could break through statewide. He has the intelligence, drive, and personality for it.

Respondent: Mere months after the “Who the Frick is Bill” article, I believe Bill has begun to make a name for himself. When you speak to Bill about an issue you get the impression that he actually understands what you are talking about. Sadly one does not get that impression from all elected officials.

Respondent: He’s doing things the right way in Annapolis and will be rewarded for that. He hit the ground running right before the Special Session in 2007 and has been a strong legislator on the Ways and Means Committee the past two sessions. He could quickly work his way up into Leadership in Annapolis.

Adam: Central committee appointee has the complete package: looks, brains, tact, charisma and a sense of humor. All he needs is a convincing electoral win and he is on his way to the top.

4. Jeff Waldstreicher, 29
Delegate, District 18
13 Votes

Respondent: A dogged campaigner and patient legislator.

Respondent: Showing more influence and maturity than he did when he ran.

Respondent: He is not everyone’s favorite delegate, but he is a hard worker who looks at the long term. I hear people say that he is future leadership or, more likely, a future committee chairman.

Adam: Received several votes from his colleagues, a sign of growing respect in the legislature. Don’t be fooled by his youthful appearance. This guy is already a superior tactician and a very shrewd player, both in Annapolis and in his district.

Tomorrow, we’ll reveal the final three!


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Kagan Challenges District 17

Former Delegate and current Senate candidate Cheryl Kagan had something to say to every other District 17 candidate at her fundraiser last week. And no, it wasn’t “let them eat cake.”

Kagan described her fundraiser on her website and said this about her remarks to the crowd:

Most importantly, I pledged to voluntarily cap my campaign contributions. Too often, I believe that voters lose confidence in candidates and their government because campaigns are largely financed by super-rich and by special interests. I announced that I will take no more than 50% of the legal maximum contribution levels of $4,000 per person and $6,000 per political action committee. In addition, my campaign will address the so-called "LLC Loophole" that allows one person with multiple corporate interests to get around the current campaign laws by writing the maximum checks from each account they control. I vowed to accept my reduced contribution limit of $2,000 per person and not per checkbook as is the case now. Because many in the Senate voted to support this move on LLC's, I am optimistic that it will soon become law. In the meantime, I will voluntarily commit to this practice, because it is simply the right thing to do. I am hopeful that every candidate for either the House or Senate in District 17 will abide by these same limits. Wouldn't it be great if we became known as "Clean Seventeen" for our commitment to financing our campaigns using stricter limits than current law requires?!
It’s worth noting that Senator Jennie Forehand, Kagan’s opponent, voted for an amendment to the 2009 campaign finance reform bill that would have closed the LLC loophole. But Forehand did not co-sponsor the bill itself, which was not introduced in the House. As a matter of fact, no District 17 incumbent – including Forehand and Delegates Kumar Barve, Luiz Simmons and Jim Gilchrist – co-sponsored the 2008 or 2007 campaign finance reform bills.

Kagan will have more than enough money to compete even if she abides by her pledge. She had better stand by it because we have caught other politicians breaking campaign finance promises before. We are not about to fall asleep on the job now!

The incumbents are all running on a slate with Senator Forehand. What will they do? Will they accept Cheryl Kagan’s challenge? Or will they ignore it and cede the clean money issue to her? Best of all, will anybody take the pledge and then cheat? We LOVE to catch cheaters!

When the incumbents respond, we will be sure to let you know!


Young Guns Hold Shootout at MPW Corral

Your author has passed on congratulations to today's Young Guns winners on Facebook. And now their Facebook friends are running wild! As of this writing, 30% of all visits to this blog are direct entries into our Young Guns Part Two post and most of them are coming from Facebook. Yee-ha!


Young Guns of MoCo, Part Two

The wait is over. Let the young guns list begin!

10. Ryan Spiegel, 30
City Council Member, Gaithersburg
7 Votes

Respondent: Ryan was an effective candidate for the House of Delegates who came in a narrow 4th place. He then led the One Montgomery slate and serves on the Gaithersburg City Council. He has a bright future for his passion, warmth, and ability to work with a diverse group of people and interests.

Respondent: Very much the up and comer. Was the only member of his slate to get elected in a contentious city election, but has since been able to get some good work done within the limiting confines of small city council politics.

Respondent: Big aspirations for a career in Annapolis, but may be waiting awhile before getting the opening.

Respondent: Anyone think he's not going to be a legislator in D17 or, if he wants, Mayor of G’Burg?

Respondent: Showed that he could bounce back from a tough loss, is working hard on the City Council. A potential mayor of Gaithersburg after Sid Katz leaves?

Respondent: Ryan is an upcoming leader in Montgomery County. He is well respected as a City Councilmember in Gaithersburg, and is both a strong policymaker and campaigner.

Adam: Gaining some stature in Gaithersburg and beyond. People are wondering what’s next.

7 (tie). Eric Luedtke, 27
Board Member, Montgomery County Education Association
Contributor, Free State Politics and Maryland Politics Watch
9 Votes

Respondent: What can I say? Eric is a natural born leader and proved this at an early age. He has not only been involved in a variety of community and advocacy organizations, but he’s a great teacher-leader and awesome dad and husband. What I like best about Eric is that he doesn’t do all of these things as “resume builders” (there are people out there who do this), but he does them because they are causes in which he truly believes. He is certainly ambitious, but not to the point where he doesn’t listen to and respect those that have led the way. This is why a lot of people like him and believe he is a true leader with the right ideology.

Respondent: School teacher and union geek. Will have good creds for a future state house run.

Respondent: He is smart, young, strategic and will be a force in the county for a long time.

Adam: Civic activist, union leader, political activist, intellectual, and overall good guy. One of the most versatile players in the county. Needs to blog more often!

7 (tie). Ben Moskowitz, 19
Former Student Member, Board of Education
Former Campaign Staffer for Chris Van Hollen, Steve Silverman and Saqib Ali
9 Votes

Respondent: It’s relatively easy to get young people interested in national politics or social issues like gay marriage, but near impossible to make them care about local politics. Ben Moskowitz, however, has been doing just that. As Student Member of the Board of Education, he helped organize a student caucus on the Purple Line last spring. Sure, he worked on Steve Silverman’s ill-fated campaign for County Executive, but what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right? Here’s hoping he decides to come back to MoCo after he graduates from U-Penn in a couple of years.

Respondent: Ben’s been active for decades, it seems, and he’s still in undergraduate school! Elected as the SMOB, he has worked on countless campaigns. He’s serious, articulate and reliable.

Respondent: Wow - this kid is a born politician. He has been working on and helping run campaigns for many years and successfully got himself elected as the Student Member of the Board of Education. With that experience under his belt, plus his internship this summer at the DSCC, he will only become more of a threat to knock off almost anyone (once he graduates from College, that is).

Respondent: Left the county to go to college, but will return with an Ivy League education and more dangerous than ever. If you’re running a campaign, you need this guy with you and not against you.

Respondent: He is a political phenom destined for greatness. 18 or 19 years old but pure genius. Wonderful to work with. Wise beyond his years. An unbelievably aggressive campaigner and a sharp policy eye too.

Respondent: Ben may be away in college, but he’s not that far away. And he intends to remain active in MoCo. At the ripe old age of 19, Ben has already held high-level positions in the campaigns of MoCo luminaries. He may have a little growing up to do before he can run for office himself, but Ben is often referred to by Dem leaders as “the future governor” - and it’s only partially a joke. He commands the time and respect of County Council Members and Congressmen. He is a terrific tactician and tireless worker, but his real expertise is number-crunching. He can sort, manipulate, and micro-target with voter databases like nobody else.

Adam: May have the biggest upside of any name on this list. He is only 19 and has already been a valuable contributor to multiple campaigns. What havoc will this kid be wreaking across MoCo in ten years?

7 (tie). Jason Waskey, 27
State Director, Democratic National Committee/Organizing for America
Former Special Assistant, Office of the Maryland Secretary of State
Former Campaign Director, Maryland for Obama
9 Votes

Respondent: He has been one of the go to guys to actually run campaigns in Maryland and Montgomery for years, including doing great work on the 2006 coordinated. He dealt with the nuts and bolts of Obama’s Maryland operation, getting in on the ground floor in 2007 and staying with it all the way until election night.

Respondent: One of two co-chairs of the County Obama Campaign, Jason is well-connected and can only keep moving up. His recent appointment to the DNC as Maryland’s voice is a great coup for this young leader.

Respondent: Jason Waskey has made quite a name for himself through his leadership on the Obama campaign, standing out among many in Maryland. Few people put in the same kind of time, raised the same kind of money, and worked as hard to get Obama elected than Jason.

Respondent: Statewide Obama role includes Montgomery County - he is a leader to hundreds of Obama activists in the County. Knows more Maryland electeds than most delegates.

Respondent: Jason is a genius when it comes to political ground game strategy, and a tireless worker who puts everything into a task. He deserves most of the credit for the fact that Maryland made more phone calls and door-knocking trips to battleground states for Obama than any other state in the nation on a per capita basis. Look for him to be a Maryland hybrid of Rahm Emmanuel and Karl Rove (in a good way) for many years to come, and he may run for office himself one day.

Adam: The best-connected Young Gun. Few people in Maryland are closer to President Obama. Already a rising player in state politics.

Tomorrow, we’ll reveal Young Guns Six, Five and Four. Be here!


Monday, June 22, 2009

Duchy Trachtenberg's Chief of Staff Voted National NOW President

Council Member Duchy Trachtenberg's Chief of Staff, Terry O'Neill, has been voted the new national President of the National Organization for Women (NOW). Council Member Trachtenberg is herself a former President of Maryland NOW. The Gazette reported that O'Neill would have to leave Trachtenberg's staff if she won the NOW presidency, so the Council Member will be picking a new Chief of Staff.


Young Guns of MoCo, Part One

Ladies and gentlemen of the blogosphere, welcome to a special MPW series. Beginning today, we are unveiling the next generation of MoCo leaders – the ones who will inherit this county, and maybe the state as well.

Remember when you were fresh out of college? I sure do. Back in the good old days, my priorities were booze, babes and bling. (Now they’re diapers, Da-Da and doo-doo.) But MoCo is home to a growing cohort of young people with a very different priority: politics.

These youngsters are challenging the status quo at every level. They are organizing, volunteering, strategizing, lobbying and even legislating. Some of them are already among the best at their trade. Others are catching up rapidly. Today’s county leadership, most of whom are in their 50s or older, needs to look over their shoulders. The next wave is fast breaking upon their shores.

We wanted to identify these Young Guns, the best of the best of the new generation. And so we turned to the greatest intelligence organization in the county: MPW’s omnipresent spy network. We asked our informants to identify people up through age 35 who live in or work in Montgomery County and either have significant influence now or have great potential for influence in the near future. Forty-two spies answered our call and submitted a combined total of sixty-nine names. Ten of them rose to the top and have earned recognition from this blog. They are the Young Guns. Remember these names, people, because you will be hearing them for a long time.

Tomorrow, we will begin revealing their identities in ascending order of number of votes cast. Don’t miss it!


Is O’Malley Vulnerable?

The Baltimore Sun recently reported on possible primary challenges to Governor Martin O’Malley, an event that drew cheers from the conservative blogosphere. The mainstream media wants an exciting race to cover and the GOP desperately wants to get rid of the incumbent Governor. So is O’Malley vulnerable?

Of course not, silly! Martin O’Malley is not going anywhere. Here’s why.

1. Money

Between 11/3/04 (the day after his last mayoral victory in Baltimore) and 11/7/06 (the day he defeated Governor Bob Ehrlich), O’Malley raised $10.9 million in contributions. The O’Malley-Brown Committee Slate raised an additional $1.6 million over that period. The Democratic State Central Committee raised $2.2 million. Ehrlich raised $13.2 million – more than O’Malley – and still lost. As of January 2009, O’Malley had over $1 million in the bank. Former Governor Ehrlich had just $151,529.

Any effort to overthrow O’Malley by a member of either party would require millions of dollars just to be competitive. Unless a multi-millionaire was willing to self-finance, that funding will be extremely difficult to obtain. And don’t forget O’Malley’s faithful lieutenants: Senate President Mike “Big Daddy” Miller and the rest of the General Assembly leadership. If any of the state’s major interest groups tried to finance an opponent of O’Malley, they would find their entire legislative agenda quickly shut down.

2. Poll Findings

While Martin O’Malley may not be hugely popular, he is not especially weak among the public. Here are his poll results from Gonzales Research:

O’Malley bottomed out in March 2008, immediately after passage of the special session’s tax package, at a net negative 11 points in approval rating. His most recent net in January 2009 was plus 12. As of that month, he had a 65% approval rating among Democrats, a 59% approval rating among Independents and a 17% approval rating among Republicans. The GOP rank-and-file may detest O’Malley, but they are not numerous enough to get rid of him. And few serious contenders would primary an incumbent who starts with two-thirds of the voters in support.

3. Challengers

As of right now, the only challengers floating their names are former Calvert County Delegate George Owings, former Prince George’s County Executive Wayne Curry and his successor, Jack Johnson. We agree with Marc Korman; none of them will be much more than a speed bump against O’Malley in a primary. Owings, a member of Governor Ehrlich’s cabinet, will find no traction among Democrats who still remember George W. Bush. Curry and Johnson start off with a solid base in Prince George’s County, home to more registered Democrats than any other Maryland jurisdiction. But the county’s reputation for low-performing schools, controversies in its police department and government corruption will cast a shadow over any resident politician in a statewide race. Only an Executive who actually made progress on the county’s problems would stand a chance. Neither Curry nor Johnson qualifies.

4. Montgomery County

In a Democratic primary, O’Malley starts with lots of support in Baltimore City and Baltimore County. Any challenger would need to carry Montgomery County to have any shot at the Governor. That is extremely unlikely to happen. A fair number of county insiders gripe about O’Malley, especially over issues like money for school construction, the disparate treatment of funding for Baltimore’s Red Line and the Washington suburbs’ Purple Line, his handling of the ICC and various allegations of broken promises after the special session. Some even call him “the Governor of Baldamore.” But O’Malley held the line on teachers pensions, fully funded Geographic Cost of Education Index spending and did not target Montgomery for extra cuts in this year’s budget.

And let’s put the complaints of the insiders in perspective: NONE of them would dare challenge O’Malley publicly. Rank-and-file Democrats still, by and large, support him. Only ICC opponents resent him, and by themselves, they cannot turn the county against him. In short, only Attorney General Doug Gansler or former County Executive Doug Duncan would even have a hope of carrying Montgomery in a Democratic primary against O’Malley.

5. Watch the Big Guys

Maryland has many ambitious politicians who would love to be Governor. Of the most capable among them, none are preparing to take on O’Malley.

Doug Gansler led the state in fundraising last year. He has never had one bad word in public for O’Malley and appears to be biding his time for 2014. Comptroller Peter Franchot has been very quiet since we published our “Long Knives” series. He will have his hands full holding his current office against term-limited Baltimore County Executive Jim Smith. Doug Duncan is known to be unhappy with the state’s leadership, but he is undertaking none of the activities that are typically associated with a statewide campaign. And former Governor Ehrlich is putting on his best Mario Cuomo imitation rather than aggressively taking it to his 2006 rival.

Every one of these men has the resources to commission a poll. More than one probably has. And those polls will probably show the same result as Gonzales: O’Malley is currently strong enough among both Democrats and Independents to defeat any challenger. If O’Malley were truly vulnerable, all of these men would know it and one or more would be taking him on even as we write this. And they’re not.

Let’s face it: whether you like him or not, barring an economic or natural disaster, we are very likely to get four more years of Martin O’Malley as Governor.


Sunday, June 21, 2009

Iran Demonstrations


Iran Police Fire on Protestors


Iranian Protesters Chasing Basij Militia


Saturday, June 20, 2009

Crackdown Video from Iran


County Report: June 19


Friday, June 19, 2009

Organizing for Healthcare, Part Two

By Marc Korman.

Last time, we discussed the Organizing for America healthcare event that took place earlier this month to build up grassroots support for healthcare reform. This time we will talk a bit more about some of the discontent at the meeting.

President Obama may have three priorities for healthcare (costs, choice, and coverage), but many of the grassroots supporters at the OFA event had just one: single payer. Sharon Dooley gave a preview of the desire by many progressives for a single payer system, instead of tinkering with the current marketplace of competing insurance companies. That same desire was expressed at the OFA event.

There was always a bit of unrest among progressives over some of candidate Obama’s positions, such as a troop increase in Afghanistan or his failure to support gay marriage. But people were willing to shove that aside in order to get a progressive Democrat elected. But with healthcare, many attendees expressed a willingness to let healthcare reform die entirely instead of allowing a system resembling the current mix of public plans like Medicare and private insurance exist.

Delegate Barve spoke about the importance of securing 60 votes and Karen McManus from Congressman Van Hollen’s office conceded that the final product would not be perfect. But those reality checks did little to settle down anxious activists. I have heard that many of the earlier house parties had a similar vibe.

One way to calm the base might be to provide a little more information. Costs, choice, and coverage make nice talking points, but many of those in the room wanted more information. A few were even honest enough to admit to not knowing the difference between a public option (where a government run plan would compete against the private insurers) and single payer (where all health coverage would flow through one entity). The idea of the public option is something of a “single payer lite.” A robust, government run program could use its bargaining power to negotiate low prices and provide comprehensive services, theoretically requiring its public sector competitors to do the same. One of the downsides of the current cooperative compromise put forth by Senator Kent Conrad (D-ND) is that they would likely be local cooperatives, total lacking in the bargaining power that makes a federal public option appealing.

But President Obama may not really be that interested in what the OFA attendees know or support. He may be using a disgruntled base for Machiavellian purposes. The assumption has been that the purpose of the healthcare house parties is to encourage grassroots supporters to contact their legislators and educate their neighbors about healthcare reform. But a slightly unhappy progressive base could allow President Obama to tell moderates in both parties he cannot compromise any further. That could lead to him getting more of what he wants in a final plan.

Maybe the Obama faithful will fall in line once a plan starts moving through Congress, but as of today they do not appear sold, at least not in Montgomery County. But with a vast network of Congressional liaisons and a high approval rating, perhaps President Obama can bring them around.


Thursday, June 18, 2009

Who’s Doing the Best Job on the Environment?

The Maryland League of Conservation Voters (LCV) has released its 2009 scorecard. Four of Montgomery’s eight Senators and nineteen of Montgomery’s twenty-four Delegates earned perfect scores. Only two of the county’s legislators scored less than 70%. Read more to find out who they are!

LCV scored eleven committee votes and six floor votes for Senators, and eleven committee votes and six floor votes for Delegates. Many of these votes were on different bills because some were considered in one chamber and not the other. Legislators were not penalized for votes taken by committees on which they did not sit or for excused absences.

First, let’s recognize the legislators with perfect records this year. They are:

Senators Brian Frosh (D-16), Rich Madaleno (D-18), Mike Lenett (D-19) and Jamie Raskin (D-20).

Delegates Anne Kaiser (D-14), Karen Montgomery (D-14), Kathleen Dumais (D-15), Craig Rice (D-15), Bill Frick (D-16), Susan Lee (D-16), Kumar Barve (D-17), Jim Gilchrist (D-17), Luiz Simmons (D-17), Al Carr (D-18), Ana Sol Gutierrez (D-18), Jeff Waldstreicher (D-18), Ben Kramer (D-19), Roger Manno (D-19), Sheila Hixson (D-20), Tom Hucker (D-20), Heather Mizeur (D-20), Saqib Ali (D-39) and Kirill Reznik (D-39).

Every other Montgomery legislator scored at least 70% and missed just one or two votes with two exceptions: Senators Rona Kramer (D-14) and Jennie Forehand (D-17).

Kramer voted wrong four times, by far the most in the county’s delegation. She earned a 50% score, which was tied by one Republican (District 2 Senator Donald Munson) and exceeded by another (District 35 Senator Barry Glassman, who scored 56%). LCV penalized Kramer for:

Voting against HB 309, which would have reauthorized a program for restoring historic buildings. The bill passed the House unanimously but died in the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee on an 8-7 vote.

Voting for a floor amendment to SB 666. The bill would have tightened requirements for developers to prevent forest loss from new projects. The amendment, which passed, exempted utility companies and the entire bill became law.

Voting against SB 672, a bill by Senator Jamie Raskin that would have established stormwater user charges to pay for stormwater management activities. The bill failed in the Senate.

Voting against SB 554, the Chesapeake Bay Nitrogen Reduction Act of 2009, which required nitrogen removal technology on new septic systems near the Bay. The bill became law.

Senator Jennie Forehand voted with Kramer on the stormwater and nitrogen bills. Because she serves on Judicial Proceedings, a committee that did not consider any environmental bills this session, she was not rated on any committee votes and earned a 67% score.

We previously reported that Kramer and Forehand were ranked best and second-best in the county by a right-wing business group. Now they are ranked last and second-to-last in the county by the state’s premier environmental organization. That is a bad combination for a Montgomery politician.

Here are LCV’s lifetime scores for Montgomery Senators:

100%: Brian Frosh (D-16), Jamie Raskin (D-20)
95%: Rich Madaleno (D-18), Mike Lenett (D-19)
88%: Rob Garagiola (D-15)
84%: Nancy King (D-39)
81%: Jennie Forehand (D-17)
65%: Rona Kramer (D-14)

And here are LCV’s lifetime scores for Montgomery Delegates:

100%: Bill Frick (D-16), Roger Manno (D-19)
98%: Karen Montgomery (D-14), Ana Sol Gutierrez (D-18), Tom Hucker (D-20)
96%: Craig Rice (D-15), Heather Mizeur (D-20)
95%: Anne Kaiser (D-14)
94%: Bill Bronrott (D-16), Kirill Reznik (D-39)
93%: Luiz Simmons (D-17), Al Carr (D-18), Hank Heller (D-19), Charles Barkley (D-39)
92%: Jim Gilchrist (D-17), Jeff Waldstreicher (D-18)
91%: Susan Lee (D-16)
90%: Kathleen Dumais (D-15), Saqib Ali (D-39)
89%: Sheila Hixson (D-20)
88%: Herman Taylor (D-14)
85%: Kumar Barve (D-17)
84%: Brian Feldman (D-15), Ben Kramer (D-19)


WSSC Board Picks New GM, But...

...The Gazette is already finding problems with his record in his old job in the District of Columbia. You just can't make this up, folks!

Update: Following is the press release from County Executives Ike Leggett and Jack Johnson. Note their lack of comment on the Gazette's information.

Update 2: The Post's Katherine Shaver, who has done consistently strong reporting on WSSC, has more.

Press Release
For Immediate Release: June 18, 2009

Leggett, Johnson Recommend New General Manager for Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission

Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett and Prince George’s County Executive Jack Johnson today announced their recommendation of Jerry N. Johnson to serve as the new Chief Executive Officer/General Manager of the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC).

Johnson is currently General Manager of the District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority (WASA), a position he has held since 1997. He is nationally known as a turnaround specialist. As the first General Manager of a newly created water and sewer authority, he guided it from an unrated agency, with a projected $8 million deficit, to one with an A+ credit rating and $170 million reserve in just two years. In addition to being responsible for the day-to-day operations, planning and management of the authority, he developed and recommended long-range capital programs, financial programs and special projects to the Board, then oversaw
their implementation.

WASA provides drinking water and wastewater treatment to more than half a million residential, commercial and local governmental customers in the District and collects and treats wastewater for 1.6 million WSSC customers in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties in Maryland and for Fairfax and Loudoun counties in Virginia. The authority also operates the 150-acre Blue Plains Water Treatment Plant, the largest advanced treatment plant in the world.

Before his career at WASA, Johnson was employed by the City of Richmond for nearly two decades, serving in various capacities. From 1991 to 1997, he was Deputy City Manager for Operations. He also served as Director of Public Utilities and was responsible for four utility operations -- gas, electric, water and wastewater – providing service to the metropolitan Richmond area.

”I am very pleased that Jerry Johnson has agreed to serve in this important role,” Johnson said. “His extensive experience and background with wastewater treatment and management and his knowledge of our region makes him the best choice for General Manager.”

“Jerry Johnson’s extensive experience with utilities, especially with water and wastewater treatment, makes him the ideal person for this position,” Leggett said. “He also has the added advantage of knowing the WSSC service area and could hit the ground running.”

Johnson has an A.S. degree in Business Administration from Ferrum College, a B.S. in Urban Affairs and Economics from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. He also completed the Program for Senior Executives in State and Local
Government at the JFK School of Government at Harvard.

The WSSC is the eighth largest water and wastewater utility in the country, providing water and sewer services to nearly 1.8 million residents of Montgomery and Prince George’s counties. The agency operates and maintains nearly 5,500 miles of freshwater pipe lines and more than 5,300 miles of sewer main lines.


Challenger Announces Exploratory Committee for District 20 Delegate

Elihu Eli El, a 39-year-old Takoma Park resident, has announced his formation of an exploratory committee for a run at District 20 Delegate. El is a computer programmer, an instructor in the U.S. Army Reserve, a former member of the Teamsters and an active member of the District 20 Democratic Caucus.

Delegate Tom Hucker (D-20) is not loved by the other three members of his delegation. One source of unhappiness was his distribution of the "Hucker Ballot" last November. Could a newcomer like El benefit from tension among the incumbents and squeak through? Don't laugh - Gareth Murray did just that back in 2002 (although he benefited mightily from incumbent Dana Dembrow's domestic violence difficulties).

Following is El's announcement email.

Dear Friend,

This movement will be built by ordinary citizens from the bottom up. We need your donation in order to get this campaign up and running. We don't want this to end before it really gets started. This process has been a real human experience -- there's a strong community that's emerging here among our supporters. However, this recession has hit our families unexpectedly. Most supporters are visiting the website and donating $20 or less. You may also elect to make a small recurring amount by checking the "Make my selection a recurring payment" checkbox. I know what I'm asking is hard. I know that politics and politicians have disappointed you so many times before, to the point where sometimes it seems easier just to tune out and walk away. But what you have to remember is that when you walk away, the same old politics wins every time. That's what all the people who benefit from politics as a game are counting on. That's why we need you. That's why I can't do this alone:

1. Go to: http://www.friendsofeli.com/
2. Click on "enter" or "FRIENDS OF ELI"
3. Click on the "online donation system" menu selection item
If Prompted:
Click on the Active X bar, if displayed.
Repeat steps 2 and 3.

Congratulations...you are about to make history.

It's a feeling that's bigger than the excitement of a typical political campaign. It's the feeling of a movement. And that movement isn't just here in Maryland. It's in every state, as shown by the record number of people getting involved. We're just a few thousand donors shy of getting our campaign off the ground and you owning a piece of this campaign. Make your first donation of $5 now. We're also working together to change the broken political process that requires candidates to spend so much of their time raising money as opposed to focusing on issue advocacy.

That potential to revive that feeling of community and connection is why we decided to do this. We knew there was an opportunity to change politics, to make it about hope and a shared passion for our common future. And we knew that other people who feel the same way would come back into the process or decide to participate for the first time. We're closer to something historic than anyone ever imagined we could be. It's the culmination of talking and listening and building the kind of organization that engages people.

I hope you understand how much of a difference it makes to raise this money in a different way. Rather you are a family member, friend, or professional contact, I am proud that you are a part of this.

Yours sincerely,


Organizing for Healthcare, Part One

By Marc Korman.

Harking back to his community organizer roots, President Obama has transitioned his presidential campaign, Obama for America, into an activist group, Organizing for America. Their work is just getting started in Montgomery County.

Organizing for America exists under the auspices of the Democratic National Committee. Jason Waskey, who served as Campaign Director of Obama’s Maryland operation, is moving over to the DNC where he will serve as State Director for DNC-OFA. Every Congressional district in the country will have a volunteer liaison working with DNC-OFA. In Montgomery County, the 8th Congressional District liaison is Jon Randall, who worked tirelessly at the Bethesda Obama Office. Curtis Valentine is the liaison for the 4th Congressional District. He was an Obama fellow who worked in Prince George’s County during the general election.

A little outreach bye OFA began earlier in the year in support of President Obama’s budget proposal. But their real debut came in early June when house parties were held all around the country in support of healthcare reform, one of the Obama Administration’s top domestic priorities. After a weekend of house parties around Montgomery County, OFA held an event at the new Montgomery County Education Association headquarters.

The event had over sixty people in attendance, including State Senator Jennie Forehand, Delegate Kumar Barve, and State Senate candidate Cheryl Kagan. The purpose of the event was to build excitement for healthcare reform, including preparing for a day of healthcare service on June 27th, and presumably to activate a grassroots army of supporters to promote reform.

At the event, attendees heard about President Obama’s vision for healthcare reform, including his three priorities of lower costs, freedom to choose doctors and healthcare plans, and full coverage for all Americans. Karen McManus from Congressman Van Hollen’s office also spoke, encouraging people to contact his office with thoughts or ideas on the plan.

Following the speeches, the room broke into four smaller groups. Each group had two purposes. First, participants shared personal stories from their lives that demonstrated to them that healthcare reform was needed. Second, attendees brainstormed ideas for a healthcare service activity. Some ideas in the group I sat in were to hold a healthy barbecue, bring health professionals to a specific community to provide services, offer educational services, or conduct activities to lobby for healthcare reform. OFA is still finalizing its plans for the service day, but when they become available we will post them here.

That tells you the who, what, when, where and why of the event. Next time, we will take a look at some of the underlying tension at the meeting.


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

What ACT is Not Telling You About Rich Madaleno

Action Committee for Transit (ACT) and a blogger who sits on its board have launched a double-barreled attack on Senator Rich Madaleno (D-18) alleging that he is anti-transit and only wants to build toll lanes for the wealthy. Are they right?

On June 5, ACT released a statement accusing Madaleno of “opposition to new bus rapid transit and light rail lines.” Greater Greater Washington blogger Cavan Wilk followed with a post mimicking the statement on which he failed to disclose that he is an ACT Board Member. In addition, ACT and Wilk accuse Madaleno of supporting $800 million high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes on I-95 north of Baltimore “to subsidize rich people’s commutes.”

ACT’s antipathy for Senator Madaleno is understandable given that he opposes the Purple Line. Your author disagrees with Madaleno’s position on that project. We believe light rail is the best option for the Purple Line and that the O’Malley administration will select it. If ACT and Wilk merely said that Madaleno opposes the Purple Line (as they did today), we would have no argument with them.

But they went further, saying he opposes all BRT and light rail projects and supports HOT lanes on I-95. Let’s deal with the latter issue first. The Maryland Transportation Authority (MdTA) controls all toll facilities in the state. MdTA and MDOT decide which, if any, toll projects are built. The legislature rarely votes on any individual projects and has not voted on HOT lanes for I-95. Madaleno has not introduced any legislation on the subject. ACT and Wilk have no evidence from Madaleno’s record as a legislator to support their allegation. Furthermore, even if Madaleno did support HOT lanes, that would not make him an enemy of transit. To the extent that HOT lanes are financed by the tolls they generate, they do not threaten other transportation projects.

The evidence cited by ACT and Wilk that Madaleno opposes all BRT and light rail projects is this excerpt from his testimony on the Purple Line last fall:

Quite frankly, the state does not have the resources to pay for any of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) or Light Rail Transit (LRT) options. Over the past decade, the only major new construction projects the state has moved forward with have been funded primarily with toll-backed revenue bonds. There are no alternative funding mechanisms available for this project. As a member of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, I feel confident in reporting that no new revenue options appear politically feasible in the foreseeable future.
Senator Madaleno never said that he opposes all BRT or light rail projects. He merely said the state does not currently have the money for them. That is a fact. Senator Ed DeGrange (D-32), Chairman of the Senate Capital Budget Subcommittee, told Maryland Commons this week, “I do not see any growth in revenue for transportation in the near future and we may see further declines and budget reductions.” Your author has bludgeoned the Lords of Annapolis for not sufficiently funding transportation again and again and again and again and again with NO aid from ACT or Cavan Wilk. Where were they when the O’Malley administration cut transportation funding by $1.1 billion last fall? This blog criticized the administration twice for it while ACT and Wilk did not utter a peep. Instead, Wilk actually praised the Governor for supporting the Purple Line six weeks after his administration cut the project’s financing by 19% (and cut money for the Corridor Cities Transitway by nearly half). Why do ACT and Wilk leave O’Malley alone while slamming Senator Madaleno, who had nothing to do with these cuts?

ACT is essentially criticizing Madaleno for telling the truth about the state’s sorry performance on transportation funding. If we bash our politicians for telling the truth, they will only be encouraged to lie.

Let’s examine Senator Madaleno’s actual record on transportation. Following is a list of the pro-transit and pro-transportation bills Rich Madaleno has sponsored over his years in the General Assembly. For whatever reason, ACT and Cavan Wilk have either not compiled or not released this record.

HB 1157 2003: Constitutional amendment to prevent raids on the Transportation Trust Fund.

HB 981 2006: Creates a mass transit account within the Transportation Trust Fund.

HB 1345 2006: Requires MDOT to study operating and capital funding needs for transit.

SB 31 2007 Special session: Raises the gas tax by 5 cents.

SB 461 2007: Requires MDOT to issue transit passes to training organizations for low-income people. Became law.

SB 444 2009: Requires the Maryland Transit Administration to study adding a new MARC station near the Walter Reed annex in Forest Glen. Lead sponsor.

SB 722 2009: Raises the gas tax by 5 cents. Lead and only sponsor.

SB 273 2009, SB 276 2009 and SB 280 2009: Governor O’Malley’s smart growth package. Became law.

SB 539 2009: Sets goal for reducing vehicle miles traveled (VMT) by 2036.

Senator Madaleno also wrote a blog post on gas tax indexing and said this after his election as Chairman of the Montgomery Senate Delegation:

Finally, I plan to lead the delegation in a discussion concerning the future of transportation funding in our state and region. The last year has highlighted the growing volatility in the revenue sources that support the transportation trust fund. While we may not agree on every project, we need to explore new ways to provide financial stability to the trust fund and to ensure that we have the resources to meet our significant transportation infrastructure needs.
So let’s see. If Senator Madaleno had his way, the state would have a constitutional amendment to protect the Transportation Trust Fund (TTF) from raids. The TTF would have a separate account reserved for mass transit and MDOT would have a solid cost estimate for transit needs across the state. The gas tax would be raised and indexed for inflation, thus providing more funds for all manner of transportation projects. Forest Glen Seminary would have a new MARC station and the state would set a goal for reducing VMT by 2036. Few state legislators, if any, can match this record. But Action Committee for Transit and Cavan Wilk do not reveal any of this and would have us believe that Madaleno is anti-transit. Good grief!

Here’s a tip for starry-eyed transit advocates: pragmatism pays. Senator Madaleno disagrees with us on the Purple Line. He won’t change his mind and we won’t change ours. But he is the Chairman of Montgomery’s Senate Delegation and he can be a powerful ally on transportation funding.

ACT and its followers have a choice. They can work with legislators like Madaleno on raising more money for transportation, without which the Purple Line will never be built. Or they can post sloppy propaganda, engage in fruitless battles and watch transit projects sink into penniless oblivion. We hope they choose the former option.

Disclosure: The author is Treasurer of the District 18 Democratic Team, which includes Senator Rich Madaleno.