Archive for the ‘Montgomery County’ category

03.15.18 D20 Pride (Moon, Smith, and Wilkins)

March 15, 2018

If you live in Takoma Park or Silver Spring (state legislative district 20) and read today’s Washington Post Metro section, you could not help feeling a burst of pride at being served by the most progressive and among the most effective delegations in Annapolis.

In “Maryland General Assembly advances bill that bans bump stocks on firearms,” we learn that our elected officials are taking the lead on gun control in Maryland. Del. David Moon is the lead sponsor on the bill mentioned in the headline. A few paragraphs later, Sen. Will Smith appears as the star of an effort to bar domestic abusers from owning guns.

Turning the page in the Metro section leads to an article titled “Activists urge Maryland to stop ‘Potomac Pipeline’ ahead of key deadline.” Here we learn of Del. Jheanelle Wilkins’s leadership in opposing construction of an environmentally destructive pipeline.

Of course, these are merely examples of our elected officials’ proactivity on issues we care about. A glance at Wilkins’ Facebook page shows her recent involvement in labor rights, just sentencing, maternal health, windpower, and more. Moon is even more prolific, leading or joining efforts to ban corporate contributions to political campaigns, institute same-day voter registration, make police accountable, and prevent child abuse and neglect.

If you live in D20 and are not following your elected officials on Facebook, you really should.

*****

Speaking of local pride a recent, outstanding series about the geography of political contributions in Montgomery County shows Takoma Park (the zip code, not the city) to be far ahead of all other jurisdictions in average contributions per resident: $1.97, with Chevy Chase a distant second at $1.43. Tired of all the whining about how much an outsize role Takoma Park plays in county and state politics? Just point out to the whiners that if they had our residents, they could also be leaders.

Another interesting tidbit from the Seventh State series is that Marc Elrich beats George Leventhal 4 to 1 at Takoma Park contributions, even though they both reside in Takoma Park. Leventhal beats Elrich somewhat up county, but trails significantly in the activist, densely populated area Seventh State calls the “Democratic Crescent.”

©2018 Keith Berner

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02.09.18 Let the deluge begin (bonus: fond memories of David Trone)

February 9, 2018

If you thought Snowpocalypse and Snowmaggedon were bad, you ain’t seen nothing like the storm that began dropping its detritus this week. I’m talking about piles of political postal mail and robocalls from the ~130 candidates on the ballot in Montgomery County (at county, state, and Federal levels) – and this is only counting candidates in competitive races. (I’m assuming that those running unopposed will be minor contributors to the deluge.)

Here in Takoma Park, we received our first mail piece two days ago: a letter (in an envelope) from David Blair, a candidate for Montgomery County executive. Then, last night, we received our first robocall, from Lorna Phillips Forde, who is running for county council at-large (Forde’s message was cutoff at the beginning, making her look [sound] bad).

There are benefits to candidates who start advertising (in whatever form) early: the fact that everyone else isn’t yet in the game means your forays will stand out. Of course, not all candidates have the finances to start this stuff mid-winter (some at-large council candidates are nowhere close to being able to afford a county-wide mailing). It will get crazy in May and June, when we come home to half-a-dozen mail pieces a day.

Should we consider this to be garbage? Or is it valuable input voters’ decision-making? I lean towards the former view. Mailing pieces are almost always ugly and tell us very little that isn’t boilerplate pablum. Robocalls are one of the most obnoxious phenomena in the known universe.

But almost none of the candidates will be able to afford broadcast advertising or billboards (except for David Trone* who will  spend $25 million to purchase a seat – from the sixth district – in Congress). How else are they gonna get name recognition across their districts or the entire county? (Well, having legions of volunteers to door-knock for you and visiting a wide array of community and political events are much better ways to connnect with potential voters, but these involve hard work!) So, I try to be tolerant. In the case of robocalls, though, any campaign that hits me more than once is going to get added to my I-hate-you-forever list very quickly.

I plan to collect all the junk mail we receive, with the goal of counting it and weighing it on Primary Day (June 26, 2018). What are your hobbies, Dear Reader?

PS. Some other blogs (like Seventh State) post images of some mailings they receive. I don’t plan on doing that. In my view, either one does it comprehensively (which is most fair to the various campaigns, but would mean this blog would do nothing else) or one is cherry picking based on criteria that your readers most likely aren’t privy to.

*See my prior coverage of this liquor salesman turned buy-it-for-myself politico:

And: in a candidate’s forum, Trone recently said Israel should be our 51st state and should get everything they want.

 

©2018 Keith Berner

 

 

01.30.18 Sierra Club goes cynical

January 30, 2018

Bethesda Magazine reported yesterday Sierra Club’s endorsements of Roger Berliner for county executive, as well as of Hans Riemer and Will Jawando for County Council At-Large. I have previously written about Berliner’s poor environmental record (aw c’mon – his support for a fossil fuel divestment bill only came after he helped gut it of its substance!). I have also written numerous times about Riemer’s and Jawando’s lack of any substantial accomplishments for our county.

(Note: I may not endorse them myself, but I have no substantial objection to SC’s endorsements of Evan Glass and Danielle Meitiv for At-Large.)

What is clearly going on here is that Sierra Club has cynically calculated whose backs it needs to scratch (because they are potential winners?), rather than prioritizing the candidates who are most likely to push an environmental agenda.

This is not the first time Sierra Club has disgusted me. In 2011, I wrote about how they deluged me with postal pollution because I made the mistake of supporting them financially. Check out that post for a partial list of environmental organizations that are actually worthy of support.

We now know everything we need to know about Sierra Club. I urge all environmentalists in the county to cut ties with this cynical group.

©2018 Keith Berner

 

 

 

01.24.18 More resources for keeping up with local and state politics

January 24, 2018

Thanks to readers who sent along tips!

Blogs

Maryland Matters calls itself “the premier site for news about Maryland government and politics” and features posts by a variety of authors. I subscribe to emails that come in at the rate of two or three per day.

Political Maryland (Barry Rascovar) is another blog I subscribe to by email. Rascovar posts about once a week.

Other Resources

Paul Bessel’s website lists all races and candidates in Montgomery County, as well as all upcoming candidate forums and other political events.

Maryland State Board of Elections is the definitive listing of campaigns that have officially filed: Maryland and Montgomery County. The site contains contact information, but some campaigns provide inaccurate info in their filing documents.

Maryland Campaign Reporting Information System is the site for all campaigns’ financial reports.

©2018 Keith Berner

 

01.23.18 How to stay abreast of Montgomery County and Maryland politics

January 23, 2018

Your blogger admits with shame that his blog is not the be-all and end-all of local political coverage (though, he still insists that only his opinions are reliable!). With the Washington Post’s having long since jettisoned any pretense of giving a shit about its own region, where is a poor activist or voter to turn? Here is my list of favorite go-to sources.

Seventh State (David Lublin and Adam Pagnucco): This site provides unbeatable statistical/financial analysis, some breaking news, and analysis that is a bit too centrist for my taste, but almost always worth a read. It is heavily MoCo focused. I keep up by following Seventh State on Facebook. (I just have to swallow hard and bite my inner cheeks when Pagnucco acts as cheerleader for the likes of Roger Berliner and Hans Riemer. To be fair, Pagnucco is open about whom he supports and the overall coverage on the site is pretty fair.)

A Miner Detail (Ryan Miner) does pretty much what Seventh State does, but has a broader geographic focus. Miner also takes and posts videos of many candidate forums. I keep up by subscribing to receive new posts by email.

Bethesda Beat (daily newsletter from Bethesda Magazine) is from an actual local newspaper, with some political coverage worth reading. I keep up via an email subscription.

Our Maryland provides a weekly email newsletter that summarizes their coverage. So far (I have only subscribed for a few months), I haven’t found overwhelming value here, but it still seems good to keep tabs on it.

Washington Post Metro Section: If you subscribe to the Post anyway, it’s worth giving Metro a daily skim. Articles on local politics are slim pickings and are always biased to align with the Post’s virulently anti-labor, pro-development editorial bias.

I’m always looking for additional sources of local political news. If you have any suggestions, please send them my way: lhf@kberner.us.

If you are not seeking out and reading political coverage of our region, don’t consider yourself an informed voter.

©2018 Keith Berner

 

01.13.18 Running for office? Communications tips.

January 13, 2018

Here are a few basic tips before you put yourself in front of the public:

  1. Register your own domain. Those with @aol.com email and website addresses look like neanderthals.
  2. Don’t use a stupid domain like @goodforfamiles.com or @justiceforall.com. Use some form of your name (e.g., @keithberner.com or @keithforcouncil.com). This looks professional and allows you to tell your story in the content of your communications. When you try to squeeze your philosophy into your email address, you end up being a one-note candidate or (worse) appearing to be nothing more than a slogan. (And, unless you are a professional copywriter, your slogan is almost guaranteed to be corny or vapid.)
  3. Put up a website. If you are running for any office higher than small-town city council, put yourself where most people will look for you.
  4. Make sure your website is findable through popular search engines. Like a tree falling in a forest, a site that can’t be found makes no noise.
  5. Put your contact information, especially your email address on your website. Don’t make me have to choose between donate-now and volunteer buttons as the only way to send you an inquiry.
  6. Don’t ignore inquiries. If you can’t be bothered to respond to interested parties now, we know how bad your eventual constituent service will be.
  7. If you can afford it, hire professionals to create your brand, both visual and written. If you can’t afford it, use the best quality images and writing you can find.

What prompts this outburst from yours truly? Well, I am currently trying to gather contact information for ~130 candidates in Montgomery County so that endorsement questionnaires can be sent to them. It amazes me how many of them have no website or have sites that provide no means to reach them without giving them money or volunteer time. I also am aghast at the ~40% who have simply ignored my inquiries.

Get with it, people. Or get out of the race.

©2018 Keith Berner

12.22.17 Thirty-plus at-large candidates in MoCo? How to choose?!

December 22, 2017

Bethesda Magazine reports today that a 30th candidate has filed to run for one of four at-large seats on the Montgomery County Council in next June’s Democratic primary election (which, given the overwhelming Democratic majority in the county, is the only election that matters). How is any moderately informed voter to sort out this crowd?

(Political activist Paul Bessel maintains a constantly updated list of candidates here. His list, which includes some who are only rumored to be in the running, currently totals 40 for the at-large race.) 

It will be impossible for any of us to get to know all the candidates, so some shortcuts for winnowing down down the large list could be helpful. Here are my criteria:

1. Has the candidate filed for public financing? Under Montgomery County’s new campaign-finance law, candidates qualify for public matching funds by raising a sufficient quantity of small (up to $150 each) contributions from county residents to reach a sufficient quantity of total dollars raised. In my view, any county candidate not accepting public financing is ipso facto endorsing corrupt pay-to-play politics where wealthy interests purchase the county council they want. In MoCo, the development industry has been throwing around $4,000 contributions for years, which has resulted in our pave-it-all politics.

2. Is the campaign viable? To qualify for matching funds in the at-large race (there are different thresholds for county exec and district races), candidates must receive 250 individual contributions totaling at least $25,000. So far, only five of the 30 candidates have actually qualified (out of 22 who have indicated intent to qualify). I suggest that candidates who have not qualified for public financing by January 17 (when campaign finance reports are due) might not have the public support to merit serious consideration. (If that date strikes you as too early, set your own!) Of course, there could be some campaigns that fall a bit short, but seem to have momentum.

3. If the candidate is currently in public office, how have they done? Hans Riemer is the only incumbent in the at-large race. His tenure has been marked by exaggeration, obfuscation, footsie with the developers, and a lack of issue gravitas.* Don’t support him.

4. Where does the candidate fall in the county’s great divide: developers vs. everyone else? I’m not anti-development, but I am firmly opposed to the industry’s outsized, overwhelming dominance of our politics. The current council already includes a majority that is wholly in developers’ pockets and we don’t need any more of these. Besides Riemer, the most viable candidate who may fit into this category is Evan Glass. I like Glass enormously, but his last campaign was developer-aligned and I see no indication that he regrets that choice.

5. Has the candidate ever offered public or community service in the county? I don’t know everyone’s records, but one “bad guy” stands out: Will Jawando is running his fourth race in four years, but seems never to have done anything for county residents other than litter our yards and mailboxes with his publicity.

6. Diversity, diversity, diversity. In this #metoo and #blacklivesmatter era, there is no excuse for putting four white men in at-large seats in liberal MoCo. Even if it’s these guys who are catching your attention, you owe it to everyone to look harder for candidates who don’t look and sound the same as the current power structure. Reducing the power of white men is a long-term project that requires our attention at the local level.

I have already made one endorsement in the race: Seth Grimes (a white guy), because I know his record so well from his years of public and community service in Takoma Park. I am intrigued by several other candidates, but – as you might expect – I know only a small percentage of those running. I’ll be watching and listening closely in coming weeks and months. I hope you do, too.

*Please enjoy my previous comments about Riemer  just type his name into the search box on this site. Or, go directly to one of my favorites.

©2017 Keith Berner