Archive for the ‘Politics’ category

07.14.18 Takoma Junction development won’t . . .

July 14, 2018

. . . end life as we know it,

  • threaten the existence of the universe,
  • hurt a single poor person,
  • make a whit of difference in the availability — or lack thereof — of affordable housing in Takoma Park,
  • gentrify the whole city or otherwise change the progressive ethos of Takoma Park,
  • damage other structures,
  • harm children who need to cross the street,
  • inconvenience more than a few people due to traffic (it won’t have much impact on traffic at all).

Takoma Junction development will

  • replace an ugly impervious surface with a nicely designed two-story building that will improve quality of life in our city, following at least 30 years of inaction,
  • force the Coop to adjust how it operates.

As for the Coop, not only has it refused to engage constructively over the past five years, it has whipped up an ideological frenzy, in which a small and positive change to our city becomes the moral equivalent of

  • separating families at the border
  • GOP theft of the Supreme Court
  • police violence against people of color
  • collapse of liberal democracy
  • hating the poor.

Opponents’ arguments have at times been amusing, more often been baffling, and now have become outright offensive. By turning their opposition into the Moral Issue of Our Time, they are distracting themselves and the rest of us from the more serious work needed in the face of resurgent racism, international collapse, and climate change. Heck, every breathless moment they spend on their struggle is a minute they are not spending countering the very-present threat to our county from the Washington Post, the development industry, and Nancy Floreen. If you hate over-development, that is the battle to be waged. (Go Marc Elrich!)

Reason will prevail at City Council on July 25, because the majority of councilmembers and residents know the difference between reality and frenzy.

PS. Jarrett Smith: now that you have no political future, how about regaining a shred of dignity by resuming your support for Junction development? You switched sides in an instant for no good reason, so it shouldn’t be hard for you to switch back.

©2018 Keith Berner

 

 

 

 

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07.09.18 An open letter to my Democratic elected officials: Stop Floreen now!

July 9, 2018

In addition to publishing this blog post, I will also email it to all the officials listed below. I encourage all readers to send something similar to their elected representatives.

To:
US Sen. Ben Cardin
US Sen. Chris Van Hollen
US Rep. Jamie Raskin
Sen. Will Smith
Del. David Moon
Del. Jheanelle Wilkins
Del.-Elect Lorig Charkoudian
County Executive Ike Leggett
County Councilman Tom Hucker
County Councilman George Leventhal
County Councilman Hans Riemer
County Councilman-Elect Gabe Albornoz
County Councilman-Elect Evan Glass
County Councilman-Elect Will Jawando

With today’s news that the Maryland Board of Elections will allow Nancy Floreen’s independent run for county executive to proceed this fall, I call on you to waste no time in standing up to this nefarious attempt to undermine our party’s nominee. The time to stop Floreen’s bid is now, before the Washington Post and its pals in the development industry start funding a smear campaign that will drown us in propaganda and weaken our nominee and our party.

I urge you not only to speak out, but also to ban Floreen from all party gatherings and activities henceforth.

While you might be forgiven for not endorsing our nominee, if you fail to denounce Floreen’s campaign, you will have taken sides against the Democratic Party, which I and others will not forget.

©2018 Keith Berner

07.04.18 Official campaign lit report

July 4, 2018

At our home, we received 3.84 pounds of campaign literature during the Maryland/Montgomery county primary election campaign, beginning with a piece from county executive candidate David Blair in early February. Overall, we received 105 pieces of campaign mail. The biggest polluter of all was (big surprise, eh?) the aforementioned Blair, MoCo Pharma Bro and General Plutocrat, who drowned us in 14 pieces. This doesn’t include three more pieces sent by the developer’s group, Empower Montgomery (which Blair helped found), from whom we got three particularly ugly pieces in the final two weeks.

What amazed me as a political analyst is that Blair had the mailing campaign almost completely to himself until mid-May for the June 26 primary. I asked one candidate who I know had enough money to mail why he waited so long to do so. His reply was that his political consultants told him no one would be paying attention until the end.

Common sense tells me that when as many as a dozen pieces are arriving daily in mailboxes by early June, no one is going to pay attention to your piece then, either. So much for the great wisdom of consultants who only know one way of doing things: the way they did them four years ago.

Because I follow local politics so closely, none of the deluge made a whit of difference to me. I read almost none of it; though, I occasionally marveled at something that was particularly well (or poorly) designed. I get that this stuff is meant for low-information voters, some significant percentage of whom are actually swayed by  it (though, the Washington Post’s horrific endorsements certainly counted for more).

Of course, very few mailers contained any actual information about what the candidate intended to do or why they deserved a chance to try and do it. Perusing such vapid campaign communication is the equivalent of following the email-only campaign of my Takoma Park City Councilman Jarrett Smith who threw his hat in the ring for County Council at-large just before the deadline. (He managed to spend a few thousand on graphic design, but had no money to mail — the two or three signs he managed to put up were gorgeous). Smith’s justification for running was laid out so carefully in this email he sent to the main Takoma community listserv on June 26:

Neighbors,

I ask for your vote on this Election Day. There are big issues before our county. It is the time to vote for experience and proven leadership.

In your service,

Jarrett K. Smith

I suppose Smith should be congratulated: he got his substance-less message out for tens of thousands less than other candidates who spent all that money to tell us nothing.

PS. Smith came in 29th place out of 33 candidates for MoCo at-large, so maybe his strategy was a little wanting, after all.

©2018 Keith Berner

06.27.18 Post-election blues

June 27, 2018

There were some sweet victories last night. Yet, I felt depressed when I went to bed towards 1 am and even more so today. Let me focus on the positive, first:

  • District 20’s dream team –  Lorig Charkoudian, David Moon, and Jheanelle Wilkins – beat back the ethically challenged Darian Unger.
  • Marc Elrich holds a 452-vote lead against Evil Plutocrat David Blair, pending counting absentee and provisional ballots.
  • My completely irresponsible Takoma Park city councilman, Jarrett Smith came in 29th place out of 33 in the County Council at-large race.
  • Ben Jealous summarily kicked ass against the bland, ethically challenged (his endorsement of David Trone for $39k) Rushern Baker. Jealous offers the hope that a passionate campaign can unseat Larry Hogan this fall.
  • An outstanding progressive, Vaughn Stewart, won a delegate seat in D-19.

Oh, but the bad news seems boundless:

  • The new County Council was practically hand-picked by the Washington Post and the development industry. Newcomers like Andrew Friedson (D-1) and Evan Glass (at-large) will team up with pave-it-all incumbents like Craig Rice (D-1), Sidney Katz (D-3), and Hans Riemer (at-large) to give away to the developers what little remains of the store.
  • In the at-large race, every strong progressive got nearly obliterated: Bill Conway (3.3%), Seth Grimes (1.5%), Danielle Meitiv (3.3%), Jill Ortman-Fouse (3.3%). (By comparison, the fourth-place winner in this pick-four race –  Gabe Albernoz –  garnered 7.3%.) Two progressives – Brandy Brooks and Chris Wilhelm –  did relatively well at 5.9%, but not winning means only bad guys (and, yes, no women won) will be making policy.
  • Liquor salesman and plutocrat David Trone successfully purchased his seat in Congress (unless he gets beat by a Republican in the fall) from District 6, destroying progressive hero Roger Manno in the process.
  • Elrich could still lose. If David Blair manages to pull this out, we will have by far the worst county government in my 18 years living here.
  • Darian Unger and Jarrett Smith got a sufficient number of votes that they might be encouraged to keep living in their alternate universes where time is on their side and they will eventually be swept to glory by adoring crowds. (Someone: please tell me how a content-less city councilman who doesn’t interact with city officials or constituents managed to get ~2,200 votes. Who are these people? Did they just like the name Smith?)
  • Turnout was abysmal. I’m not comparing to previous years, but simply looking at the fact that in a county of one million, the county executive winner will have garnered less than 35,000 votes. US democracy is broken and this is a leading indicator.

As if I weren’t feeling glum enough, Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement today. There is no way to sugarcoat this: the GOP theft of the seat that went to Neil Gorsuch and the right to replace swing-vote Kennedy give the far right control of the Supreme Court for the coming 20 years. Couple this with our system’s bias towards the GOP (from partisan gerrymandering, to the concentration of Democrats in small geographical areas, to the Electoral College) and a minority band of racists and authoritarians could dominate our politics for decades.

(I don’t mean that Democrats won’t score any victories: they may well take the House this year and Trump seems pretty vulnerable going into 2020. But the victories will be partial and sporadic, hardly enough to rebalance the system.)

Even though US foreign policy has been hypocritical in relation to our stated values more often than not, our rhetorical support for democracy and human rights – as well as our ability to collaborate with allies – has done a substantial amount of good in the world. The damage done by the Cheeto administration in <2 years will never be remediable, especially as democracy retreats all across the globe. And, as we slide ever more towards authoritarianism and minority rule at home, any possibility of domestic or international progress is as good as dead.

I don’t know yet how I will manage to keep fighting for positive change given my present despair, especially when I don’t even see any hope at the local level. If any of my dear readers has a suggestion, please bring it on.

©2018 Keith Berner

 

 

06.25.18 Annoy the Post: vote progressive

June 25, 2018

If you have decided not to follow my guidance completely or you think your favorite labor union’s endorsements are off the mark; if you’re still confused about what to do tomorrow (that is, if you haven’t already voted), you can remember this basic rule: anyone the Washington Post has endorsed is to be avoided like the plague. From Rushern Baker to David Blair, good ol’ WaPo can be counted on to loathe workers and to consider  development titans to be a disadvantaged minority deserving affirmative action (and a good percentage of your take-home pay).

So, look up all the Post endorsements tonight and just resolve to vote for someone, anyone who isn’t on their list. Not only will you be voting for a better state and county, but you’ll have the added pleasure of causing aneurysms in the editorial suite. What more fun could a person have on Election Day?

©2018 Keith Berner

06.23.18 It’s Elrich vs. Blair – what kind of county do you want to live in?

June 23, 2018

It is now a two-man race for Montgomery County executive. You can choose Marc Elrich, the least ego-driven, most ethical politician in the county, someone who prioritizes people and communities. OR you can choose David Blair, the plutocrat who is spending millions  to purchase power, a man with no governmental experience, set on feeding the rapacious development industry at our expense: the notorious #MoCoPharmaBro.

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No one reading this blog was going to vote for Blair. But some of you may have been tempted by George Leventhal, a distant second-best to Elrich on policy, but also someone whose bad temper makes him a risk with executive power. You may also have been tempted by Roger Berliner, because you were deceived by Sierra Club’s misguided endorsement. Whatever their strong points, face it: Neither Berliner nor Leventhal is going to win on Tuesday. If you cast your vote for one of them, you will be helping to elect Blair.

Don’t waste your vote. Vote for Marc Elrich for county executive.

©2018 Keith Berner

 

06.22.18 Revisions to Keith Berner’s biennial voter guide

June 22, 2018

You may want to review the original version of my guide, which I published on June 5.

Governor: Rich Madaleno Ben Jealous
US Senate: anyone but Ben Cardin
US Congress CD6: Roger Manno
US Congress CD8: Jamie Raskin (unopposed)
Montgomery County Executive: Marc Elrich
Montgomery County At-Large:
—–Definite (in alpha order): Brandy Brooks, Jill Ortman-Fouse, Will Jawando, Chris Wilhelm
—–Pick two of three: Bill Conway, Seth Grimes, or Jill Ortman-Fouse
MoCo D1: Meredith Wellington
MoCo D3: Ben Shnider
MoCo D5: Tom Hucker
MD Senate D18: Dana Beyer
MD Senate D20: Will Smith (unopposed)
MD Delegates D20: Lorig Charkoudian, David Moon, Jheanelle Wilkins
Moco Democratic Central Committee At-Large:
—–Women: Marie Mapes
—–Men: Justin Chapelle, Edward Fischman, Dave Kunes

With so many dilemmas of riches, new information incoming, and an opportunity to interact directly with candidates, I am revising some of my original recommendations.

Governor. It is without any joy that I am switching my recommended vote from Rich Madaleno to Ben Jealous. I still believe that Madaleno has the most talent and experience in this race, by a considerable margin. Sadly, his campaign just hasn’t caught fire: he has remained around 6% in polls for a good while now. The race is now pretty clearly between Jealous and Rushern Baker. If you agree with me that Baker is too bland and centrist and likely to get creamed by Larry Hogan in the fall, you have to vote tactically. Vote for Ben Jealous to stop Rushern Baker and set up a strong November match-up that Democrats can win.

Montgomery County Council At Large. I have moved from listing Will Jawando as someone definitely to vote against last summer  to believing he has the smarts, policy understanding, and progressive philosophy to deserve your vote. I had been concerned in the past about what I thought was a thin history of community service in our county. At a meet-and-greet this week, Jawando disabused me of that notion, rattling off a nice list of his contributions, including a summer reading program for disadvantaged youth. (See also his response about this on the Progressive Neighbors questionnaire – Question 6.) I’m also impressed by the zero rating the pernicious developer group Empower Montgomery (EM) gave him in recent mailings. (See why EM is bad news.) I remain concerned that Jawando’s outsized political ambition will distract him from his job on County Council after a couple of years, but am willing to accept this risk.

So, if I am moving Jawando into my top four in the 33-person at-large race (where you get up to four choices), whom am I “demoting”? This practically breaks my heart, because all the candidates whom I have considered seriously would be fabulous in office.

So: Chris Wilhelm and Brandy Brooks absolutely remain among my top choices. My other finalists have been Bill Conway, Seth Grimes, and Jill Ortman-Fouse.

I have, in effect, demoted Ortman-Fouse into a three-way tie with Conway and Grimes. I still think Jill Ortman-Fouse has a good chance of winning, but I am disturbed by the very high ranking given to her by Empower Montgomery. Ortman-Fouse shared with me the questionnaire she submitted to EM and I don’t see any obvious reasons for concern. But I am bothered by her willingness to accept their support without comment (and have asked her to renounce it and denounce them). Just the same, Ortman-Fouse remains on my list.

I also still think highly of Bill Conway whom I think is well positioned to win. I am concerned that Grimes is not as well positioned to win at the other two, based on my observation that he has trouble “sealing the deal” when he meets informally with progressives. So, I’ll be flipping a coin between Conway, Grimes, and Ortman-Fouse until I actually cast my vote.

Another nuance revision from two weeks ago is that I strongly urge voters to reject Evan Glass. My opposition to Glass has increased because of Nancy Floreen’s endorsement and the high score he got from EM (in addition to his WaPo endorsement I already wrote about). There remains no doubt which side Glass is on in MoCo’s major cleavage: the role of the development industry in our politics.

D20 Delegate. I have not changed any of my endorsements: Lorig Charkoudian, David Moon, and Jheanelle Wilkins. The only revision here is that I was gentle to Darian Unger two weeks ago. It is now apparent that Unger’s love affair with himself has fueled a highly unethical campaign. Voters should not only reject Unger’s style of politics, but should send him a strong message to return to community service and give up the quest for public office. (See my two recent posts about Unger: here and here.)

Democratic Central Committee. This body is not widely known or understood. Most of the time, these folks organize fundraisers, phone-banks, and door-to-door canvassing. But, under Maryland law – and in an affront to democracy – this is the body that appoints candidates to fill openings in public offices. (An example is that when Jamie Raskin won his Congressional seat in 2016, the CC appointed then Del. Will Smith to fill Raskin’s seat and Jheanelle Wilkins to fill Smith’s seat.)

In fact, a HUGE number of Maryland senators and delegates have been appointed by party committees. Therefore, it is important to vote only for reformist progressives as CC members: progressive because thats the type of appointments we want them to make; reformist, because we want them to work to change Maryland law to replace appointments with special elections.

Here are my recommendations for DCC for Montgomery County at-large (the D20 races are unopposed). Note that the party split the races by gender this year.

  • Women (select up to four): Marie Mapes (only)
  • Men (select up to four): Justin Chapelle, Edward Fischman, Dave Kunes (only)

Candidates whom I am not endorsing here are not necessarily bad: I just don’t know anything about them. For the same reason, I am not making endorsements in other races, such as school board, judges, and other offices.

©2018 Keith Berner