Thursday, May 19, 2011

Our Future Montgomery

A press release from Our Future Montgomery, a new coalition formed by MCEA, MCAAP, and SEIU Local 500 formed to fight for more funds for MCPS


Unions representing 21,000 school employees hope to raise awareness about drastic cuts to K-12 education being considered by County Council

Rockville, MD (May 9, 2011) – As the Montgomery County Council considers the unprecedented step of rejecting nearly $30 million in state education aid in order “reset” education funding levels in the county, permanently lowering per-pupil investments, stakeholders are mounting a campaign to educate voters on the consequences of such proposals.

The first mailing from the group, who call their initiative Our Future Montgomery, will reach Montgomery County residents early this week (it can be viewed at

A wave of online activity including social media outreach, online advertising, and calls to action around Mother’s Day and the education budget have already garnered thousands of visits to the group’s website and hundreds of emails to members of the Montgomery County Council.

“So many families locate in Montgomery County because of the quality of public education here. They’re education voters, and they need to know that the decisions being made right now in Rockville could affect their children’s education and their property values,” explains Doug Prouty, President of Montgomery County Education Association.

“This is an issue of fairness. Because schools employees have found ways to work together to absorb year after year of budget cuts, the official spin is that MCPS hasn’t taken a hit. Well, that’s just not true,” explains Merle Cuttitta, President of SEIU Local 500. “In particular, when my members, who don’t make a great deal of money in the first place and who have seen their hours slashed over the past three years, are told they haven’t sacrificed, we have to push back against that!”

“Ultimately, this comes down to the kids and protecting their interests. They don’t have a voice in the political arena, particularly those kids who come from disadvantaged backgrounds. The support these kids receive that is closing the achievement gap in the county and helping MCPS be a model for the nation – that’s at risk with these budget cuts. We can’t abandon them now,” explains Rebecca Newman, President of Montgomery County Association of Administrators and Principals.


Made up of parents, teachers and other school system employees, students and other stakeholders, Our Future Montgomery seeks a way forward out of our temporary – though dismal – economic circumstances and toward a brighter future for our great county. This path must involve wise and adequate investments in our institutions and our communities and most of all in our children – for they truly are Our Future Montgomery.


MoCo GOP Chair Attacks New Party Rules

It doesn't appear that democracy is the Maryland GOP's strong suit according to the Chair of the Montgomery County Republican Party:

The Maryland State Republican Party on May 7th, 2011 adopted a new voting formula for party business under which counties with a combined population of 200,000 people can outvote counties with 2.5 million people.

Under this new voting formula adopted by the state party at its Spring Convention in Ocean City:

• Anne Arundel, with 28 times the Republicans as Kent County now only has only 4.5 times the vote for party business as Kent.
• Baltimore County, with 30 times Republicans as Kent County, now only has only 4 times the vote for party business of Kent.
• Prince George’s, with 12 times the Republicans as Kent County, now has only has only 1.6 times the vote for party business of Kent.

The change continues the state party's retreat toward focusing only on the state’s few majority Republican areas.

This is only the latest example of a continuing phenomenon. Last year the state party declined to run a candidate for Attorney General. Before that, a prior State Party Chair undermined our Republican legislative leaders with his feud over legislative policy and strategy.

Montgomery Republicans reject this strategy of retreat. We believe that marginalizing Maryland Republicans only to more rural areas just makes Martin O'Malley’s, Mike Busch’s and Mike Miller’s fondest dreams come true.

Out of necessity the Montgomery County Republican party will follow its own distinct, separate course. We can do this because of the long standing strong support of our Republican donors and activists, which we appreciate.

Montgomery Republicans are committed to presenting voters with a conservative governing alternative based on a belief in personal responsibility, faith in free markets and support for limited government. We will continue to build the organizational infrastructure to support candidates who advance these views.

Montgomery Republicans will also continue to work with other Maryland Republicans, who our commitment to a competitive statewide Maryland Republican Party. These include the Republican House Caucus Slate Committee and especially those in counties such as Baltimore City, Carroll and Prince Georges.

Mark Uncapher,
Chairman, Montgomery County Republican Party


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Purple Line Costs Up 28%; Ridership Down 2500; Money Taken from MARC

The Washington Examiner reports that MTA says that cost estimates for the Purple Line have risen 28% since the plan got past the phase of consideration by the public:

It also now has a $1.925 billion price tag, up from $1.5 billion estimates made two years ago.
MTA Executive Director of Transit Development and Delivery Henry blamed the increase on the complexity of the New Starts process and the State's lack of familiarity with it:

The project is delayed because the application for federal funding has been more time-consuming than expected, said Henry Kay, MTA's executive director of transit development and delivery. He said the state hasn't applied for such federal New Starts funding in a long time.

"It got a lot more complicated while we were out of the room," Kay said.

That, in turn, has caused the costs to rise, he said.

They plan to makeup some of the gap by taking funds away from another public transit option: MARC.

State officials are still trying to line up funding for the project -- the federal funding is not guaranteed -- but they said they plan to use $135 million that was previously set aside for MARC commuter trains to pay for a portion of the Purple Line instead.

Meanwhile, projected ridership of the new line has declined:
Ridership was projected to be about 62,500 riders per day.

Now ridership is expected to be slightly lower at 60,000.

No reportage on the impact on Montgomery County's share of the cost, or the impact of these changes on the battle for vital federal funds.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Statement from Gov. O'Malley on Baltimore County Hate Crime Case

Governor Martin O’Malley issued this statement today following the hate crime charge in the beating of Chrissy Lee Polis last month in Rosedale:

“I want to commend Baltimore County State's Attorney Scott D. Shellenberger for using every available means to prosecute the heinous beating of Chrissy Lee Polis last month.

“Even with Maryland's 'hate crimes' law, it is clear that more must be done to protect the rights and dignity of transgendered people. In the struggle for justice and equality for all, I'm committed to working with the Maryland General Assembly during the next legislative session to increase awareness and provide even greater protections for transgendered people.

“As some have noted, out of this awful beating has come a moment to foster a deeper understanding and respect for the dignity of all persons. We should not allow the moment to pass without greater action.”


Chevy Chase Lake Construction News

Last night, Chevy Chase Land Company President David Smith and I spoke at the Rollingwood community association's annual meeting about the review of the sector plan at Chevy Chase Lake. David asked me to let people know that the Land Company supports having no construction at Chevy Chase Lake "until after the construction of the Purple Line."

I am sure that the community will appreciate this commitment and hope that it is embodied in the final revision of the Chevy Chase Lake Sector Plan. Elza Hisel-McCoy, the member of the Planning Staff overseeing the revision of the Chevy Chase Lake Sector Plan, also came and outlined the sector plan review process.


Pat Baptiste Elected CC Village Chair

Pat Baptiste, who was recently elected by a thumping majority after being appointed to the Chevy Chase Village Council, has now been elected Chair of the Board of Managers--the equivalent of Mayor as Somerset Mayor Jeffrey Slavin who share the news with me put it. Pat returns to this position after having served in the past in the same capacity before joining the County Planning Board. Congratulations, Pat!


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

From the Comments and My Mail on Reuseable Bags

Councilmember Nancy Floreen (D-At Large) kindly commented in response to my post about her handing out reuseable bags during her last campaign though she now opposes the bag tax. Nancy probably has commented more on MPW than any other elected official, so I thought I'd do her the courtesy of reprinting (recyclying?) it here:

Since this issue came up I am indeed embarrassed about the reuseable bags I gave out. Turns out the liners have a lot of lead in them, the bags themselves are largely made out of petroleum products, not recycleable themselves, and need to be washed. I thought AL Carr had a good idea when he started handing these things out,but based on what I now know, I am not so sure. the reason there is really not that much backlash about this tax is because it is not enough to actually change behavior. As Roger says, it's a "nudge." But Montgomery County people are already great recylcers, they don't need nudges. This is just another tax.
For the other side, see Keith Berner, who points out that bag use is down dramatically in DC and far fewer bags have been found in local waterways.

I also received mail from a Claudia Holwill (posted below), a spokeswoman for Hilex Poly--a manufacturer of plastic bags--containing a link to a video with helpful tips for reuseable bag newbies or people who are just bag curious. Among the useful nuggets of information from the "practice safe sacks" (aw shucks) video are:
  • Wrap meat, fish in separate plastic bags. Thanks Hilex Poly! I didn't know that--I've just been tossing in the salmon and the steaks in together unwrapped--the way those awful supermarket folks always give them to me--together. Probably a good tip even if you use plastic bags.
  • Don't place reuseable bags on rotating children's playground equipment. Seriously, watch the video.
Hilex Poly repeats Nancy's warnings about lead and bacteria. Hilex Poly also offers helpfully that plastic bags are a great alternative if you can't wash your bags after each use and want to avoid the mass death that has plagued jurisdictions that have adopted the bag tax:

Here is the full letter from Claudia Holwill:
Hi David,

Allow me to introduce myself; My name is Claudia Holwill and I do digital public affairs work at Edelman, a communications firm in Washington, D.C., where one of my clients is Hilex Poly, an American manufacturer of plastic bags made from recycled materials.

I am writing because I saw your post on Nancy Floreen’s reusable bags, and your caution to readers about the potential dangers of reusables, and thought you might be interested in this video we produced to help educate consumers on how to properly clean and store their reusable bags. As the operator of the world’s largest plastic bag recycling facility, Hilex Poly hopes to see solutions such as recycling initiatives, rather than bans or taxes on plastic bags.

If you would like to speak with someone at Hilex Poly for any other posts you have planned on this issue, I would be happy to set something up for you. We are also working on a number of additional videos and interactive facts sheets that I can share with you if you think they would be of interest to your readers. Thank you for your time!


Claudia Holwill
Edelman | Digital Public Affairs
1875 I Street NW, Suite 900, Washington, DC 20006


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Community on Chevy Chase Lake

The Planning Board Staff has been working hard to reach out to members of the community to find out what they would like to see around the proposed Purple Line stop at Chevy Chase Lake. Following are their conclusions from meetings open to all that included representatives of the Chevy Chase Land Company as well as lots of people who live in the area; you can compare and contrast with the Land Company's proposal here:

Future development in the commercial area of Chevy Chase Lake should remain “local” in character and identity, not a destination. Existing residential areas should be left alone. The commercial area should be a low- to medium-scale village center with expanded affordable housing, a diversity of community-serving retail and restaurants, and a central green space.

Traffic, both vehicular and pedestrian, along Connecticut Avenue is a major concern. The plan should look at improving vehicular flow, while at the same time enhancing the pedestrian experience along and across the avenue. Future development at Chevy Chase Lake should be tied in some way to transportation/transit improvements.

Access, primarily pedestrian and bicycle, from the surrounding residential neighborhoods to both the commercial area and nearby trails should be improved and expanded. New development should feature wide landscaped sidewalks. Transit opportunities and facilities should be similarly improved and expanded.

Chevy Chase Lake should feature a diverse network of open spaces, centered on a space in the commercial area that could accommodate community events, such as a farmers’ market, and should include links to the surrounding residential neighborhoods.

Land uses should focus on expanded affordable housing and community-serving retail, restaurants, services, and entertainment. New office space should be limited to small-scale professional and/or doctor and dentist uses. Any new hotels should be small, at the scale of an inn. Community-oriented civic and arts uses, including a farmers’ market, community center, and new library were suggested. Parking in the commercial area should be structured and hidden and should feature easily accessible short-term parking. Increased opportunities for recreation, primarily playgrounds, should also be considered.

  • Existing neighborhood character and “community feel”
  • Community-serving retail, particularly a supermarket
  • Existing affordable housing (e.g., HOC property, garden apartments, townhouses)
  • Convenient parking
  • Environmental identity (e.g., Coquelin Run, trees)
  • Existing residential neighborhoods
  • Open space network
  • Selection of community-serving retail and restaurants
  • Connectivity, particularly pedestrian and bicycle
  • Walkability, especially pedestrian safety
  • Affordable housing
  • Transit service (e.g., bus and Bus Rapid Transit) and accessibility of the Purple Line station
  • Coquelin Run
  • Recreation opportunities
  • Traffic management on Connecticut Avenue
  • Open space network centered on the commercial area
  • Community Center
  • “Circulator” shuttle
  • Arts and entertainment events and/or facilities
  • New recreation opportunities
  • New library
  • Safe and attractive sidewalk network
  • Activities for teenagers
  • Better traffic flow on Connecticut Avenue
  • Lake


Monday, May 09, 2011

From Nancy Floreen's Last Campaign

Not Meant for Groceries

I was surprised to learn that Councilmember Nancy Floreen handed out reuseable bags during her last reelection campaign. She expressed concerns about sanitation and hygiene related to bag reuse in a Washington Post op-ed written before she became the sole at-large councilmember to oppose the new Montgomery County bag tax:
And speaking of environments: The one inside a reusable bag is perfect for growing bacteria and cross-contaminating food, so if you opt against paying for disposable bags, you had better remember to wash your reusable ones. Do you really want to carry home unwashed chicken or seafood in a bag you might be carrying apples in later?
From the color and design, one might get the impression that using bags is an environmental rather than hazmat situation, though I know green is also Nancy's campaign color. Roger Berliner and the other eight members of the County Council seemed willing to risk public health as they disagreed with Nancy's view:
“I consider this to be a nudge, not a nuisance. This nudge has profound effects on our consciousness,” said council member Roger Berliner (D-Bethesda-Potomac), who cast one of the eight votes for the measure.

Reducing the number of plastic bags that end up clogging waterways is the principal aim of the new tax. By taxing paper bags as well, officials are trying to keep shoppers from simply choosing paper instead.
Del. Al Carr is sponsoring a similar measure at the state level.

Update: Apologies for problems with the image.


Sunday, May 08, 2011

Pat Baptiste Dominates in Village Election

Pat Baptiste, former Chair of the Chevy Chase Village Board of Managers who was appointed to fill a vacancy on the Board, came in a strong first in the election to fill four seats on the Board. Full results after the jump:

Patricia Baptiste, 246 votes or 80% of valid ballots.
David Winstead, 189 votes, or 61%.
Richard Ruda, 181 votes, or 59%.
Gary Crockett, 176 votes, or 57%.
Gail Feldman, 155 votes, or 50%.

Pat campaigned on righting the finances of the Village and the need for the Village to rake an active role in the planning process for the surrounding community. Richard Ruda and Gary Crockett are newcomers who will join the Board. Chair David Winstead has been reelected. Treasurer Gail Feldman was defeated for reelection even though a slight majority of those casting valid ballots cast a vote for her--an interesting quirk of multimember elections. I have enjoyed working with Gail on the Connecticut Avenue Corridor Committee and hope she remains an active participant.


Thursday, May 05, 2011

Daily Record Reports MTA Inflates Transit Ridership by 18 Million

The Daily Record reported that the Department of Legislative Services has found that MTA inflated bus ridership estimates by 18 million, or 26 percent, in 2009:

The MTA told the state it carried 69.8 million riders on its core bus routes in the year ended June 30, 2009. The number sent to the Federal Transit Database maintained by the Federal Transit Administration, however, was 87.8 million, or 26 percent more than the state figure.
If anything, the Department of Legislative Services may have been conservative in the size of the discrepancy in MTA's figures:
The state audit that outlined the reporting discrepancies said MTA collected $2.6 million in fares in fiscal 2009 for which no corresponding passengers were recorded. Owens said that is due to overpayments, because fare boxes cannot make change for riders.
The problems aren't limited to just bus counts:

Auditors also raised issues with passenger counts on the Metro line and MARC. They found 184,000 more passengers entered Metro stations than left them. MTA attributed that to times when the administration cannot staff stations, forcing them to open all fare gates to ensure that disabled riders can leave the station.

Daily passenger counts on MARC did not match totals for 24 of 40 days, according to the audit.

Transit advocates expressed concern that these problems may undermine efforts to bring the Purple Line, Red Line, and Corridor Cities Transitway to Maryland:
Michele Whelley, president and CEO of the Central Maryland Transportation Alliance, said undercounting riders could take away from advocates’ efforts to spur investment in mass transit, where bus routes play a crucial role in linking modes like MARC, light rail and the Metro.

“Accurate ridership counts are important in terms of transportation planning in terms of schedules, frequency of service and the opportunity to expand service based on demand,” Whelley said. “If the ridership numbers can justify increased service so that those connections are made, we should be reporting every rider who gets on a bus.”

MTA has justified the difference in the counts by stating that there are differences in the federal and state methodology. Except that FTA refuses to comment thus far. And MTA has categorically refused requests to explain how it calculates ridership estimates for submissions in the Environmental Impact Statements for the three big new big transit projects as it described the methodology as "proprietary."


Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Town of Chevy Chase Election Results

The Town held elections today for two seats on the Town Council. Incumbents Pat Burda and Linna Barnes gained reelection by wide margins over challenger Deborah Vollmer who was making her second bid for a seat on the Town Council. A total of 298 votes cast ballots in a low turnout--more than twice as many people cast ballots when the same two seats were up for election in 2009. Here are the results:

Pat Burda, 261 votes or 88% of ballots cast.
Linna Barnes, 240 votes or 81%.
Deborah Vollmer, 40 votes or 13%.

There was also a write-in for Frodo Baggins. You can compare with the results from two years ago here.


Monday, May 02, 2011

Madaleno, Kaiser Rip Arora; Others Apologize for Him

The fracas surrounding Del. Sam Arora continues. Sam, you may recall, is the delegate who was ardently for same-sex marriage before he was against it before he was for it before he, well, you get the idea. As the Gazette reported, two openly gay and lesbian legislators ripped Sam for his actions during the session.

Sen. Rich Madaleno:

"I think Sam Arora distinguished himself as someone not to be trusted, and I don't think he will have a long career in the House of Delegates," said Madaleno (D-Dist. 18) of Kensington, the Senate's only openly homosexual member." . . .

"When you co-sponsor a bill where the lead sponsor is the majority leader from your county who worked very hard to get you elected and you change your mind on the day of the vote, you damage, potentially fatally damage, your credibility," he said, referencing the bill's lead sponsor, House Majority Leader Kumar P. Barve (D-Dist. 17) of Gaithersburg.

Going forward, that could impact Arora's ability to get things done for his district, Madaleno said.

"For me, I will always have a doubt when he makes a commitment on any issue whether or not I can trust that commitment," he said.
Del. Anne Kaiser:
"I think it's definitely true that Sam hurt his reputation within the legislature and potentially within his district," she said, noting that her parents and other family members and friends supportive of the bill who live in Arora's district felt betrayed. "The sense was, ‘What is he going to back out on next?' His word was damaged."
However, Del. Ben Kramer--Sam Arora's colleague in District 19--attacked Sen. Madaleno for his comments:
"I do think that Sen. Madaleno saying that in a public forum was inappropriate and unnecessary," he said. "I can understand that Sen. Madaleno has a perspective based on a particular issue, but I don't think that it is accurate or reflective of Del. Arora's abilities or potential in the legislature."
So I guess Sen. Madaleno is really just overwrought and too sensitive? Or was it just bad form for another member of the club to call out Del. Arora for turning his back on his constituents and colleagues after campaigning for same-sex marriage, trumpeting his sponsorship of the bill to constituents, and telling colleagues he was for the bill just two days before the vote?

Meanwhile, Del. Kathleen Dumais--the floor leader for the bill--apologized for Sam:
Del. Kathleen M. Dumais said Arora handled the matter appropriately by discussing his dilemma with committee and chamber leaders.

"That gave us all the opportunity to talk him through [it]," she said. "I think that gives him credibility as opposed to not."

Dumais (D-Dist. 15) of Bethesda, who is vice chairwoman of the Judiciary Committee, believes Arora eventually has to tell constituents what led him to reconsider his stance. But she noted that such re-evaluation is not uncommon, particularly on emotionally charged issues.

"When we sit in committee and listen to hours of hours of hours of testimony on these tough issues, it gives you a different perspective than when you're out on the campaign trail and these things sound wonderful," she said.
Sam has moved on to extent of declaring same-sex marriage a relatively unimportant issue in a written statement:
"Every day I'm honored to work for the people of my district by working to protect education funding and make our communities safer," he wrote in the statement. "With all due respect to Senator Madeleno [sic], I'm finding the folks in my community are less concerned about Annapolis politics and more concerned with issues like caring for our seniors and improving Pepco."
Again, recall that this is a man who proudly campaigned on his support for same-sex marriage, took campaign donations on that basis, and then touted his sponsorship of the bill to constituents. And note that there is nothing on his current position on same-sex marriage.