03.22.09 (II) – Development, NIMBYism & County Council District 4

Apologies to Nancy Navarro’s campaign manager. And why I still don’t support his candidate.

A very irate David Moon, Nancy Navarro’s campaign manager, sent me an email me a short while ago.  David was objecting in no small measure to my having characterized him in a version of my post of earlier today as  a “hired gun.”  (I have since removed that reference.)  He wrote that this implied that he was selling out his values for cash.

In using the term, I hadn’t really thought about its meaning.  I was going after David for supporting a candidate I don’t.  That’s fair.  But it wasn’t fair for me to do so in an ad-hominem manner.  And, I had missed entirely the fact that David supports Navarro because he supports her positions, not in spite of them.

I was wrong on both counts and apologize.

In his email, David writes that he has “never been a no-growth NIMBY.”  He goes on:

I think people haven’t thought enough about development and climate change lately and are stuck in backwards wars of the past.

A few years ago there was an attempted coup of the Sierra Club board, who wanted to promote anti-immigrant policies and “zero-growth” — while completely ignoring the realities of population growth globally, and its environmental consequences. We saw this replicated when MoCo Sierra Club members tried to stage a coup over the organization’s support for a light rail Purple Line along the trail. Unfortunately, I feel like MUCH of the old slow-growth community in Montgomery has not caught up with the times and understood the fact of density/transit and redevelopment being needed to reduce carbon emissions. They are now acting in anti-environmental ways, especially in opposing density at metro stations and failing to realize that the urbanization of pockets of Montgomery’s metro stations is already happening and is needed to curb climate change/carbon emissions.

I also don’t consider myself to be a “no-growth NIMBY.” I too support dense development around Metro stations and a place for immigrants as an essential part of our community.  Yet I oppose Nancy Navarro’s candidacy.  Let me explain.

First, my suspicion of development is the direct result of my hostility to developers.  In my view, they are the local equivalent of  AIG-style robber barons: ultra-wealthy scoundrels out to make a buck at the expense of everyone and everything else.  These are the folks who have brought us strip-malls and sprawl coast to coast.

Developers have dominated MoCo politics for years, in effect “owning” the political system by making up a huge percentage of all the campaign contributions that have kept it lubricated.  The height of their control came with the victory of County Executive Doug Duncan and the End-Gridlock Council in 2002, after a harsh campaign of defamation against good-guys Blair Ewing, Marc Elrich, and others.  Tens and even hundreds of thousands of dollars of developer money poured into campaign coffers for one reason only: to ensure that the ultra-wealthy could get wealthier.

For me, this isn’t about NIMBYism.  This is about putting a stop to the grip of the least deserving elements of our society on our collective jugulars.

Duncan is gone, but three members of that council remain and have endorsed Nancy Navarro: Nancy Floreen, Mike Knapp, and George Leventhal.  Floreen and Knapp were bad guys then and still are.  For his part, Leventhal was never as deeply enmeshed and I have always found him to be more thoughtful than all the other “perps” of that era.  Yet, when I see him in coalition with Floreen and Knapp, it brings back terrible memories.  And, in my view, that coalition taints whomever it seeks to anoint.

Then there’s Valerie Ervin.  Ervin spoke out of both sides of her mouth during her successful 2006 campaign for the council.  I should know – I was on her campaign staff and witnessed it, along with her internse and disturbing anger at those who rubbed her the wrong way.  She encouraged slow-growth progressives to believe she was one of them, while courting chamber of commerce.  She refused to take a stand on hot-button issues like the ICC in the interest of alienating no one.  Once she took office, she lined up with pro-growthers and expressed stunning contempt for many of those she previously cultivated.  (I am privy to – and have been a target of – some of this rather undiplomatic communication.)

Ervin and Navarro are close.  And one policy area where they are especially close is the labor unions.  Though I have always been pro-labor, I see the public unions in Montgomery County as growing fat at others’ expense (much like their situational allies, the developers).  In a fiscal climate that presages draconian cuts to public services, the public unions have given back far too little. Ervin is already in the unions’ pockets.  I fear that Navarro will only increase their power.

For me, then, Nancy Navarro is damned by the company she keeps – the End-Gridlockers, Ervin, and the unions.  This is why David Moon and I may agree on the issues he raised to me today, but not on the candidate he supports.

©2009 Keith Berner

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2 Comments on “03.22.09 (II) – Development, NIMBYism & County Council District 4”

  1. Nancy Floreen Says:

    It is always interesting to read this stuff. Keith, you are certainly entitled to your views, but I would hope that occassionally you take a look at the facts. That would include the county’s numerous master plans and all the rules in place for implementing them, all of which involve plenty of room for public engagement. I haven’t seen you there, Keith. To rail at those of us who believe in this public consensus building process, who have worked in the trenches for years for affordable housing and decent jobs for our families may be entertaining, but does not help us build a thoughtfully and responsibly structured community.


  2. Cary Lamari Says:

    Nancy Floreen talks about Master Plans but the unfortunate truth is, a Master Plan in legal terms is nothing more than a guide and more often than not is ignored by Council members with ties to the development community in favor of developers desires. All around this county whether it’s the Bethesda Master Plan, the Derwood Master Plan or the Wheaton Master Plan people seem to be excluded from the process more and more. The County has moved away from Master Plan advisory committees in favor of charrette’s, these charrette’s are usually not well advertised and mostly attended by Developers, Commercial Property owners and Land Use attorneys.
    I have participated in several Master Plan Advisory committees and I feel to really flush out the issues you need a good cross section of participants, residents, non-profits and business.
    I would also remind Mss Floreen about the growth policy of 2003 where she and Mr. Silverman voted and gave a lecture on the dismantling of our Growth Policy. And in 2006 where she stated the (APFO) adequate public facilities ordinance was an antiquated document for a 21st-century Montgomery County. I sat near Neil Potter and he about jumped when he heard that. Poor Blair Ewing had to hold Neil back. Without adequate public facilities, Montgomery County would have a declining quality of life, all one needs do is look around since the lack of a comprehensive growth policy roads have become more congested, we cannot sustain our government operation because we are catching up with the expenses of build-out, we now desperately need more teachers, firefighters, EMS workers, Police and facilities. We do not have a stable funding source to fund our County Government and pay these employees. And our transit-oriented communities along the 270 corridor still do not have the transit component as well as lacking other attributes like Fire stations and adequate Libraries. But we will have a 3.8 billion dollar ICC…. Oh joy.
    Our Budget only addresses the symptoms of these overarching problems. Growth has a cost associated with it and Our County will not catch up with infrastructure and employee needs until we, as a County understands this. It’s all about trying to achieve the proper balance. Oh and by the way, it’s those terrible NIMBY’s that end up doing most of the research that holds our elected officials feet to the fire. They start out complaining about a local project, and then these same people contribute immensely in areas of improving our quality of life, remember everyone has something to contribute. This is why I encourage and respect community participation in government.


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