Archive for the ‘Takoma Park’ category

11.03.17 Amee Bearne for City Council, Ward 5

November 3, 2017

Amee Bearne is the right candidate for Ward 5:

  • Bearne gets implicitly the problem faced by the overwhelming majority of ward residents, who have never even seen their council representative, don’t know anything about the services Takoma Park offers, and don’t vote or participate in the community.
    • Bearne is a renter in an apartment building – giving her personal insight into how most others in the ward live.
    • Bearne is not only enthusiastic about directly engaging with residents, but has proven her ability to do so, having organized her building’s tenants and held community events to which all are invited.
  • Bearne has the experience our ward and city desperately need, including expertise in urban planning/historic preservation, service with CHEER on housing and community development (among other things), and a stint as an intern with the City of Takoma Park.
  • Bearne is whip smart, articulate, and passionate. There is no way she will end up as a passive placeholder when she joins city council.

Bearne is not a perfect candidate. For one thing, her relative naiveté, coupled at times with too-much self-confidence, gets her in trouble. Examples include the political speech she tried to deliver at a neighborhood picnic, without asking anyone first if such speeches would be welcome (she bombed and was eventually cut off). Another instance came up at this past Monday’s candidates forum, when a question about schools came up. Rather than admit she was not informed on the issue, Bearne made the newbie mistake of trying to answer authoritatively, even though she didn’t even know we have a county (not city) school system.

My assessment is that Bearne is smart enough to learn from these kinds of mistakes. We can’t expect she will enter office knowing everything she’ll need to know, but knowledge gaps can always be filled in. Residents and city council colleagues will need to give Bearne some mentoring and remind her to seek out such guidance proactively.

As I have written*, I think relationships across the county, especially on the Maryland Municipal League (MML, which incumbent Jarrett Smith cites repetitively) may be of some value to the city, but have produced nothing for the ward. If Bearne is elected, it will be the city’s job to meet that need. I note, further, how current councilmembers who have inserted themselves into this race (Tim Male and Fred Schultz wrote recommendations for Smith) overstated Smith’s importance and utterly disregarded what is happening on the ground in Ward 5. I will suggest to Mayor Kate Stewart that councilmembers be discouraged in the future from these kinds of endorsements.

This election year (as in most years and places), Ward 5 does not have the luxury of selecting a “perfect” candidate. But we do have a real chance to replace a disengaged councilmember, with someone committed to making a daily difference in the lives of neighbors, not only the homeowners who vote, but all the renters who don’t. With the level of effort we will get from Amee Bearne, maybe more of these folks will vote the next time around.

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*An excerpt from my reply to Bill Brown on the Takoma Park listserv: “If (and there is disagreement among current and former city officials about this) participation in the MML is vital for Takoma Park, it would make sense for that to be covered by the mayor or a city staff position – an individual elected or hired to serve the whole city. Nonetheless, there [is] really [no] issue with any individual councilmember’s taking this on, as long as doing so is not used an excuse for ignoring ward residents. If Smith can chew gum and walk at the same time, that’s a good thing. If not, then the fundamental point I’m making is that his first obligation is to the residents . . . of the ward that put him in office.”

©2018 Keith Berner

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11.02.17 The complacent incumbent in Ward 5: the case against Jarrett Smith

November 1, 2017

Summary

While I was an adamant supporter of Jarrett Smith’s first campaign for Takoma Park City Council in 2012, I have become increasingly disillusioned. My concern turned to alarm in September, when I contacted him about holding a candidate forum (which ended up taking place this week – see below) and he responded by disparaging his opponent and refusing to participate.

Smith has championed some worthwhile issues during his tenure (he is responsible for the city’s plastic bag ban, among other things), but takes too much credit for things he had little to do with (like the Flower Avenue Green Street project). And now he apparently believes his incumbency to be a right (rather than privilege), while making excuses for his own failure to directly engage residents. I have sadly concluded that Smith is an out-of-touch politician unsuited to serving Ward 5’s particular needs.

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A major reason I supported Jarrett Smith in his first run came from my concern about the lack of diversity in the ward’s meager civic engagement (with consistently lower voter turnout than in any other ward). Smith seemed to represent a fresh opportunity, because he lived in the northern part of the ward (where there’s been almost no engagement with or by residents) and is African American. I thought he would have a good chance at increasing participation within his neighborhood and among other people of color in the ward.

I had also been disappointed in the lack of proactive communication by previous councilmembers and spoke with Smith about the need for more outreach to generate engagement and he seemed to agree.

After being elected, Smith held one community BBQ, which may well have been the only community event he organized (he cited no others at the candidate forum). For a while, Smith sent out a regular an email newsletter about his and city council’s work, but those ceased two or three years ago, leaving us in the dark about issues pertinent to Ward 5 and Takoma Park.

During the past two years, Smith has not responded to many emails from constituents (this has been my experience and is corroborated by others), as well as from some public officials. Even on issues directly affecting us (e.g., the removal of some stop signs and a small chemical spill at Washington Adventist Hospital [WAH]), Mayor Kate Stewart and city staff have been quicker to respond than Smith and with more useful substance.

Ultimately, Smith seems to have stopped caring about engaging with his old neighborhood (I learned recently that Smith moved out of his that neighborhood some time ago and now lives on Garland Avenue – a non-contiguous part of the ward at the other end from where he had been). Perhaps his relocation led to his lethargy? Nonetheless, there is no evidence of concerted outreach during his second and third terms.

Notwithstanding my increasing disappointment in Smith, I was prepared to vote for him again this year, even though I found his opponent Amee Bearne compelling. (I’ll write more about Bearne tomorrow.)

Then, a month ago, I contacted Smith and Bearne to organize a Ward 5 candidate forum. Bearne’s flexibility was limited because she was on duty with FEMA in Houston following hurricane Harvey, tying her up until late October. When I asked Smith about making some time available then, he responded by disparaging Bearne and declaring: “I’m not going to go out of my way to accommodate my opponent.” When I pushed back he wrote: “Thanks for the offer, but I won’t be participating in any debate.” (He later changed his mind.)

I believe that Smith’s initial refusal to cooperate is a result of incumbent complacency. He apparently believes his city council seat “belongs” to him and considers any challenge to be illegitimate.

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Monday’s Candidates Forum

The discussion that took place this week at Washington Adventist University (which was expertly moderated by Takoma Voice’s Eric Bond), showed Smith to be disengaged on the ground, as well as full of excuses and empty promises. A recurring theme was the very lack of diversity in the ward’s civic engagement that led me to support Smith originally. Smith never acknowledged any failing on his part, instead offering rationales such as [paraphrasing]: it’s just as bad in other wards or (the opposite!) those other wards have advantages we don’t.

It amazed me when Bearne drew a contrast to Ward 4, where Councilmember Terry Seamens’s consistent interaction with residents has produced a dramatic increase in voter turnout. Smith claimed that this was entirely due to Terry’s wife Joyce’s work with a charity that distributes free food. As if the husband-wife team were bribing their constituents! Smith finished up that thought by declaring: “I am against free food.”

Here are other highlights of Smith’s forum performance:

  • He claimed we can only secure a freestanding ER (after WAH departs), if the county and state cough up money. He neglected to mention that state law forbids almost all such ERs and, when challenged, referred to a “working group” (who? with what authority?) that is  supposedly about to resolve the issue in Takoma Park’s favor. Count me highly skeptical. Regardless, without a change in state law, lobbying for money is wasted effort.
  • Both at the October 23 citywide candidate forum and this week, Smith named “ending tax duplication” his top priority. He ought to know better, since the matter has been studied and discussed ad nauseum, since the early aughts. Smith offers no concrete path to a different policy outcome, nor acknowledges that – in a heavily county-centric state – counties have no formal obligations in this regard: any gift from Montgomery County would be exactly that — a gift.  In fact, the only aspect under Takoma Park’s control is whether to ditch services (like a police force and recreation department) which the county also provides. This could then result in a tax cut (which would be distributed how?). Is Smith proposing draconian cuts to city services for a tax cut? He doesn’t say. But his repetitive references to his relationships around the county aren’t going to change state law.
  • When Bearne challenged Smith on the importance of holding community events, Smith offered nothing from his past record nor any future plans. He cited only a particular neighborhood picnic that is not publicized much beyond a few blocks and which Smith has had nothing to do with organizing.
  • Smith claimed that his work at the county level is both more important than and mutually exclusive of what he called “capacity building” (He never defined that term, but I gathered from the context that it really means door-knocking and holding community events.) I have to wonder, why can’t he attend intragovernmental meetings and work on the ground in our ward?

Jarrett Smith’s lack of interest in community-building and disregard for some who would engage him directly is disappointing. The sense of entitlement underlying this behavior and his sharply negative reaction to the idea of sharing a stage with his opponent are, for me, offensive.

Takoma Park residents ought to pour love on our councilmembers, who are barely compensated for their positions. But such service is an honor: the right to serve must be earned and earned again: no member of council should ever believe their seat is sacred.

Sadly, Jarrett Smith no longer qualifies to represent our highly diverse and extremely disengaged ward. Since our poor voter turnout is a significant contributor to our relative lack of power in city council, it matters. Since we have  so many neighbors in need who have never even seen their councilmember’s face, getting someone in office who actually cares enough to introduce herself matters that much more.  If I have to choose, I’d go for fewer meetings with county bigwigs that do nothing for our residents and a lot more commitment to “capacity building” on the ground.

©2018 Keith Berner

10.07.17 TkPk Ward 5 Candidates on Junction Development: Bearne speaks out; Smith ducks question (or What about the Co-op?)

October 7, 2017

This week, I reached out to both Ward 5 candidates to get their views and to educate me on more the latest proposal from NDC (pdf).  Summary:

  • Amee Bearne provided thoughtful analysis and took a clear position;
  • Jarret Smith (notwithstanding three attempts on my part), provided no detail and took no position.

Here are excerpts from Bearne’s response:

I have been working on this project since the very beginning [when she was among city staff to review the initial proposals]. As an urban planner, I’ve seen so many good micro-developments from around the world that I have a pretty firm faith that this is going to work out. I know NDC well enough to know that they are smart, community-minded developers who want to make that space useful for the community and they are utilizing best practices from around the world to ensure its success.

I know that Takoma Junction needs increased foot traffic and vitality if the businesses located there are going to thrive and continue on for years to come; which is essential for the economic and community stability in any area. Third, I know that the Coop was given an incredible amount of opportunities to collaborate. . . .  No other business in the Junction was given even a fraction of the opportunities to collaborate or have a say in the project that the Coop was given. It was also given the opportunity to expand substantially from day one. . . .  Also, the Coop (and other businesses in the area) have received free rent/usage on that lot for decades. . . .

The Coop will survive if the following things happen: 1) the Coop adapts to its new neighbors in the development by organizing [its] deliveries and its loading and unloading hours structure; 2) if people continue to shop there, which is how we as a community can ensure its success; 3) return to the negotiation table with NDC and ask them for space for expansion (if expansion is still something that they believe to be vital to their success.)

I am a member of the Coop. I enjoy shopping there, buying interesting and hard to find items, bumping into friends and neighbors, and supporting local business. But I’m also not opposed to creating a more vital area out of an underutilized parking lot that takes away from potential taxes for the City.

Here is the email string between me and Smith (edited slightly to remove typos and irrelevant references to individuals):

On Oct 4, 2017, at 6:50 PM, Keith Berner wrote:

Jarrett–

Last I recall, you were in support of the development plans @ the Junction. Has your position changed at all with the new proposal?  If so, can you explain what is wrong with the new proposal?  I’m not trying to put you on the spot: I’m just trying to educate myself without having to locate and read the details in the proposal.

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On Oct 4, 2017, at 19:10, Jarrett Smith <jarretts@takomaparkmd.gov> wrote:

I just received the Co-Op email from earlier today. Council hasn’t responded to NDC site plan proposal nor have we accepted it. Suzie Ludlow discuses the process in her latest blog. See here: https://takomaparkmd.gov/city-blog/october-update-from-the-city-manager/. I also posted to Facebook and Twitter.

The group behind the letter will speak tonight during public comment.

Thanks,

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On Oct 4, 2017, at 7:26 PM, Keith Berner <keith@kberner.us> wrote:

But where do YOU stand?

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On Oct 4, 2017, at 19:31, Jarrett Smith <JarrettS@takomaparkmd.gov> wrote:

I want the CoOp to remain in its location and be successful and I want the City owned parking lot to be redeveloped.

Jarrett K. Smith

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On October 4, 2017 at 21:32, Keith Berner wrote:

I guess we all want that. Do you think the current proposal achieves that? Also, do you accept the Coops definition of “successful”? How do you intend to vote on this proposal?

Thanks.

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Smith declined to respond further. As I will discuss in a future post, getting no reply from Smith has been a frequent occurrence for me and others.

For more information on the Takoma Junction redevelopment project see the City of Takoma Park’s website.

©2017 Keith Berner

 

07.10.17 MoCo Politics: Endorsing Elrich & Grimes, plus early musings on the 30+ at-large candidates

July 10, 2017

Marc Elrich is running to be Montgomery County’s next executive to replace Ike Leggett. I have known Elrich since I moved to Maryland in 2000, as a friend, neighbor, and as a member of the Takoma Park City Council (where he served for 19 years) and then the Montgomery County Council (12 years). Elrich is the least ego-driven politician I have ever met. He is not enamored of seeing his name or face in lights or of power for its own sake, but rather gets out of bed every day in order to make a better world, especially for the underdogs. Elrich is also the least corrupted politician in Montgomery County, having consistently refused to take contributions from the politically dominant development industry. While he is able to meet respectfully with all players in county affairs, Elrich is the only member of the council who has consistently prioritized community needs over industry interests.

Further, Elrich is one of the most intelligent and informed public leaders we have. His encyclopedic knowledge of zoning, public education (he was a MCPS teacher for 17 years), and other arcana means he is as prepared to govern as anyone.  You can count on Marc Elrich to support anti-poverty programs, affordable housing, mass transit, quality of life, and the environment. Please join me in helping make Elrich our next county executive.

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County Council At-Large

Talk about crowded fields! Local activist Paul Bessel has been collecting the names of declared and interested candidates for the four Montgomery Council At-Large seats in 2018. Here is a list he posted on Facebook last week:

 

 

There are a few inaccuracies on this list*, but you get the idea: over 30 candidates plan to go for the glory, competing against only one incumbent (Hans Riemer).

In this field, Seth Grimes stands out. I have observed over the past 15 years as Grimes has evolved from a Takoma Park gadfly (when he quite rightly called out the city government for poor management) to a wise contributor on public affairs locally and beyond. As a member of the Takoma Park City Council, Grimes got to know well the people and processes of Rockville. His policy line is consistently progressive, from anti-poverty (he serves on the board of Shepherd’s Table) to the environment. He is also one of three visionary founders and leaders of the Takoma Park Mobilization, formed in mid-November to counter the Trump agenda and now including over 1,000 activists. Like Elrich, Grimes is a smart and extremely well-informed student of local politics. Running for the council is a logical step for Grimes – his level of preparation and commitment to progressive values distinguishes him among the dozens of other candidates. I am proud to endorse Seth Grimes for county council.

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I don’t recognize most of the names on Bessel’s list and encourage them to introduce themselves to me via an email to lhv@kberner.us.

I have recently met some of the candidates in the context of progressive politics, such as the Politics 101 workshop sponsored by Our Revolution and Progressive Neighbors in May. This list includes (in alphabetical order): Julian Haffner, Danielle Meitiv, and Chris Wilhelm. I can see that these three are explicitly progressive, but I don’t know any of them well enough yet to declare early support for them.

Rebecca Smondrowski currently serves on the school board and has a good reputation among progressives. I’m also eager to learn more about her.

Diana Conway has been an influential progressive activist, which makes me wonder why her husband, Bill Conway is running, instead of her. I wouldn’t blame one spouse for the other spouse’s opinions or work, but neither will I automatically give Bill credit for Diana’s. Count this as another candidacy I’m intrigued about.

I know Cherri Branson’s name from her brief tenure on the Council in 2013-14, when she took the place of Valerie Ervin as the District 5 rep, after the latter got bored with the job and quit. Unfortunately, what most struck me at the time was Branson’s endorsement (along with Ervin) of the eminently unqualified and ethically challenged Chris Barclay to take the seat in 2014. I have heard good reviews of Branson’s work on Leggett’s staff since then and am open to learning more to overcome that first impression.

Evan Glass is a smart and nice guy. But he chose to run for D5 in 2014 as a Chamber of Commerce candidate, backed by all the big developers. There was also an arrogant tinge to his campaign that turned me off (he claimed that the transit center debacle woudn’t have happened if only he had been on the council). Since that time, Glass has led the Silver Spring youth education organization Gandhi Brigade: noble work, indeed. As with Branson, my mind is open to being reintroduced to Glass this time around.

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Candidates to oppose. . .

This blog has devoted considerable attention to Hans Riemer — I encourage you, Dear Reader, to search on his name in order to relive all the highlights. For those less hardy, here’s the summary of Riemer’s service to the county

  • began running for office before the paint was dry in his first Maryland domicile (following his move here from California in late 2005)
  • has used empty rhetoric to sound progressive, without actually leading on progressive policy
  • has championed relatively lightweight issues
  • has been less than forthright about his intentions and his record.

Riemer has never added up to much substantively. Yet, in 2010, he succeeded in deceiving experienced activists and naïve voters alike, with his pretty face, California cash (caché?), and ad nauseum repetition of the word “progressive.” Now we have another chance to show Reimer the door; voters would be fools not to take it.

Will Jawando certainly loves campaigning, joining his fourth contest (the other three were losses) since 2014.** Other than being a candidate, though, Jawando seems never to have done anything much for the community or the county.  Jawando is a smart and engaging fellow. He just doesn’t get that paid public service should be less a pursuit of personal glory, than the culmination of a previous do-good record – something earned, not acquired.

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Public Financing

As I learn more about county council candidates, I will look favorably on those who opt-in to public financing and unfavorably on those who self-finance (in effect, seeking to purchase their seat) or who rely on $4,000 checks from special interests (including from the development industry or public-employee unions).

I learned today on the Seventh State Blog, that Conway and Riemer have qualified for public financing.

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*The three from Bessel’s list whom I know or believe are not running for At-Large are Ukaih Busch (who has said so publicly), Bill Cook (who has declared for the D1 seat), and Jill Ortman-Fouse (who seems to have opted to remain on the school board).

**Jawando has previously run for MD D20 state delegate (2014), Congress from MD D8 (against Jamie Raskin, 2016), and for appointment to the D20 house seat that opened when Will Smith was appointed to Raskin’s seat in the state senate (2016).

©2017 Keith Berner

 

 

08.02.15 Against the local Tea Party (for a plastic bag ban)

August 2, 2015

Recently, my city councilman, Jarrett Smith, introduced a bill to ban plastic bag distribution by businesses in our fair little city. I hardly need to mention the environmental benefits of such a ban and the inevitable opposition by big business (the chemical industry).

What alarms me is that progressive Takoma Park is home to its own little Tea Party: “freedom-loving” libertarians who wish we were more like Alabama. This local Tea Party vigorously opposed a ban passed last year on use of pesticides for cosmetic purposes (which, with leadership from County Councilman George Leventhal [At Large] will soon become law in Montgomery County.) They’re back now to oppose plastic bans in the name of freedom.

Here is an exchange between me and one of the Tea Partiers on the Takoma Park’s main discussion listserv:

From: “James DiLuigi jdiluigi@aacinc.net [TakomaPark]” <TakomaPark@yahoogroups.com>

Subject: Re: [TakomaPark] Bans as Takoma Park City Policy

Date: August 2, 2015 at 12:36:37 EDT

To: “TakomaPark@yahoogroups.com” <TakomaPark@yahoogroups.com>

Catherine [Tunis] makes a point that has concerned me for some time now.

Takoma Park is a community of citizens who accept and care for one another without being foxed to do so by laws.

Most of us have come here by choice and relish the small town and inclusive society we have fostered.

I have become concerned regarding the legislative approach, rather than a voluntary/educational approach, that has been taken on various matters recently.

Let’s stop this management by fiat before it begins to threaten the welcoming society we have worked so hard to create.

James A. DiLuigi, AIA, CSI

Access-Ability Consultants, Inc

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From: Keith Berner <tkpk@kberner.us>

Subject: Re: [TakomaPark] Bans as Takoma Park City Policy

Date: August 2, 2015 at 13:22:03 EDT

To: Takoma Park list <TakomaPark@yahoogroups.com>

Yes, many Takoma Parkers care about each other without being forced to by law. But can Takoma Parker’s properly care for the environment without laws that restrict environmentally damaging business practices? Let’s go back to the origin of this debate: Councilmember Jarrett Smith’s progressive legislation to ban plastic bag distribution by TkPk businesses. This is hardly an encroachment on residents’ ability to care for each other.

The “nanny state” that dictates and controls all we do is a classic bogeyman of the right. But they’re not all wrong. There are certainly places we don’t want the state to tread (the bedroom, for example, or free speech). But environmental and health protections rarely cross that line. In fact, they are essential for curbing business practices that do not capture “externalities” in market-driven transactions. Your “right” not to wear a seatbelt has an external cost that I pay in the form of higher insurance premiums and health care costs. A “free” plastic bag at checkout has the external cost of polluted waterways, parks, roads, etc. Your right to pack heat threatens my right to be safe from violence.

Further, many or most areas of the country fall too far to the laissez-faire side of the line. Takoma Park and Montgomery County provide much-needed alternatives to the libertarian and pro-big-business ethos  that pervades the American body politic. That is, those of you who see our progressive oasis as too infringing on your right to pollute can move almost anywhere and enjoy more of this (in my view) destructive “freedom.” 

We don’t need Tea Party-like libertarianism in our community (though, of course, those with these views have every right to express them and to try to elect politicians who share such views). I say: two thumbs up for progressive communitarianism, where society and the planet are sometimes given precedence over individual self-interest.

—Keith Berner

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By the way, Mr. Luigi most recently made waves on the listserv by calling for city legislation to be reviewed by a committee of homeowners who have been residents for more than 10 years. The GOP couldn’t come up with a better plan to disenfranchise people of color, immigrants, and those of moderate means.

@2015 Keith Berner

04.26.15 Heather Mizeur: Don’t let the door hit you on the way out

April 26, 2015

Almost all politicians are ambitious. At least in the back of their minds, they ponder their route to the White House or – at least – the next higher available seat. There is nothing wrong with this per se, except when a line is crossed and the politician’s priority is serving oneself, rather than a greater cause or “the people.”

Heather Mizeur is just such a politician. As a staffer in Sen. John Kerry’s office, she moved to Takoma Park, MD in the early aughts, at least in part because it was an easy place for a progressive to launch a political career. In many city wards, one needs only a couple hundred votes to win and you don’t even have to quit your day job to make one-evening-per week city council meetings.

Having won her seat, Mizeur promptly lost interest in it half-way through her two-year term. Her attendance rate at council meetings tanked and part-way through that second year, she resigned. Her ostensible reason was that she and her wife had found their “dream house” in another Takoma Park ward. In fact, Mizeur was done with city council: she considered her political bona fides sufficiently established for her to turn her attention to the national Democratic Party (running Kerry’s 2004 Maryland campaign and winning a seat on the Democratic National Committee). She also began plotting her run for the Maryland House of Delegates from District 20 and won that seat in 2006.

I heard no complaints about Mizeur during her first four-year term as D20 delegate. But, after that, Mizeur again lost interest in her current job. By 2012, neighbors to that “dream house” started reporting that weeks or months would pass without any sign of activity there. (She was already spending all her time at her new dream house on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.) Legislative insiders said that it also became increasingly difficult to get Mizeur to show up for D20 events and activities, whether in Annapolis or closer to her dark and lonely Takoma Park house.

Mizeur’s eyes were on the next prize: the governorship! Notwithstanding having served only a term-and-a-half as a backbencher and having no record of having run any enterprise larger than her one-staff delegate’s office (and the MD part of Kerry’s awful 2004 campaign), Mizeur considered herself fit to run the state. Shortly after declaring for governor, the candidate announced to a Washington Post reporter that if she didn’t win the race, she would be “done with politics.” Yeah, right. Mizeur came in a distant third in the June 2014 Democratic primary against two lousy alternatives.

Fast forward to last week, when Mizeur had someone post a good-bye letter to Takoma Park community listservs. (It seems that Mizeur had been absent from Takoma Park for so long that she no longer belonged to any of the listservs herself.) Here is the text of her letter:

Dear Neighbors,

It is with mixed emotions that Deborah and I share with you the news that we are putting our house in Takoma Park up for sale this week. We have made the difficult decision to move to the Eastern Shore full-time where our work to create an organic herbal medicine farm to support Deborah’s clinical practice is in full swing in Kent County.

This was not an easy decision for us. We love this community deeply. We have always described Takoma Park as a utopia for progressive activists and change agents and one of the best places on Earth to live. We have never felt more loved and embraced by any other community.

Following the Governor’s race and years of sacrifice by Deborah to fully support my political work as a City Councilmember and State Delegate, it is my turn to give back to her. The work on the farm is as incredibly rich and satisfying as it is demanding. We simply need to be there all the time, especially during this start-up phase.

And so while we are bursting with excitement and enthusiasm about this next adventure in our lives, we have a heavy heart to leave a home and a community that we love so dearly. We take comfort knowing that we will be visiting often and that friendships know no distance.

Thank you, Takoma Park, for the lovely memories, the charismatic passion you display, and the opportunity you have given me to serve. I look forward to our pathways crossing again real soon. This is not goodbye.

All the best,

Heather (and Deborah) Mizeur

Here is my response to the listservs:

No surprise here. Mizeur never cared about TkPk – she moved here to jump-start her political career by running for a city council seat and then serving only until it became inconvenient (not even a full term). Then as our District 20 delegate, she stopped showing up in our district as soon as she became interested in running for governor.

We need political leaders who share Mizeur’s progressive agenda, but we also need them to be genuine and truly committed to the constituents they serve. Mizeur’s pursuit of grandeur rendered our little corner of the world insignificant to her. As for her open letter, it is artificial and self-serving, as so many of Mizeur’s public announcements  have been.

Perhaps Mizeur will indeed miss Takoma Park. Takoma Park won’t miss her.

Keith Berner

Mizeur closed her letter by saying “this is not goodbye.” Vis-à-vis Takoma Park, her remark is completely disingenuous. She is done with Takoma Park for good, since we no longer serve any purpose for her.

But is this limelight-craving politician done with politics? Is she really fulfilling her promise to that Post reporter to pick up her marbles and ride off into the sunset if she didn’t land in the governor’s mansion?

C’mon! It’s sweet that Heather is giving Deborah a chance to do her thing. But Mizeur has proven how easily she gets bored. It wont be long before she gives up herb farming for her next political run. Sadly for Mizeur, though, her new district on the Eastern Shore sends Republicans to Congress. And, since Maryland will have two young(ish), energetic Democratic senators (assuming Chris Van Hollen wins Barbara Mikulski’s seat and Ben Cardin doesn’t get abducted by aliens), that door will be closed, too.

So, look for Mizeur to abandon her “dream farm” for greener pastures: a state with a winnable House or Senate seat. At that point, she will indeed pay Takoma Park another visit, hat in hand.

 ©2015 Keith Berner

06.15.14 Keith Berner’s Biennial Voters Guide/Primary 2014 (for Takoma Park & Silver Spring, MD)

June 15, 2014

Election Day is Tuesday, June 24. Early voting is underway now.

For a summary that lists my endorsements with minimal annotations, see: 06.11.14 Voters Guide 2014/Primary Edition Summary (for Takoma Park &amp; Silver Spring, MD)

The theme this year is disappointment. Dear Reader, you will see in my commentary below just how unenthusiastic I am about most races and candidates this year. Where I think all the candidates in a race are bad news, I recommend voting against all of them by casting a write-in vote. In other races, I don’t actively oppose all the candidates, but can’t make myself recommend any, either. In those cases, I indicate “no endorsement.” I just can’t fathom how our progressive state and county can’t find more noble human beings and solid progressives to run for office.

In each race, I list candidates in my order of preference. An asterisk before the name indicates my endorsements.

For Maryland Governor

Write in “Mickey Mouse.”

It’s hard to believe that Maryland could not produce a single decent candidate for governor this year. Last year, I felt sorry for Virginia, with its choice between 13th-century theocrat Ken Cuccinelli and venal operative Terry McAuliffe. Well, now ’tis the season to pity poor Maryland.

Heather Mizeur, is an ego-driven politician for whom tactics replace principles. She’s a darling to many on the left this year for staking out positions that most of my readers will agree with. Everything Mizeur does is calculated, though (there’s not a genuine bone in her body). If she thought she could get more attention by running as a centrist, she’d do so in a minute (I dare you to ask her about her support for Lockheed-Martin tax breaks). Mizeur’s blind ambition is demonstrated by her twice abandoning her responsibilities as a public official. The first time was when she quit her two-year post as a city councilwoman in Takoma Park after a year. She had only run in the first place to burnish her credentials. She quit as soon as she thought she had gained enough attention to begin planning her next campaign. The second time was the past two years, when she nearly completely stopped showing up at events related to District 20, where she is still officially our delegate. In fact, her former “dream house” (as she called it) is sitting vacant in Takoma Park, while she spends most of her time at her other house on the Eastern Shore. She’s bored with D20, you see, and this little run for governor is just for her own amusement. I mean seriously, she can’t possibly think that a back bencher with few substantive accomplishments and with no executive experience of any kind is ready to run a state. And she has insulted voters by selecting as a running mate a Prince George’s County preacher who is even less qualified than she is. This race is not about anything other than being in the limelight. Don’t reward the insult by giving Mizeur your vote.

Anthony Brown is an empty shirt whose only significant public accomplishment was completely screwing up Maryland’s health care exchange. He has refused to take positions on controversial issues and has run a nearly completely negative campaign against Doug Gansler (who deserves it), while getting an advance coronation from the entire Maryland Democratic establishment. If this man is able to accomplish a single positive thing as governor, I’ll be surprised. He is currently leading both of his opponents by a 2-to-1 margin, so you might as well get used to him.

Doug Gansler is a frat boy who thinks he’s above the law. The Washington Post exposés last year about his abuse of state police and disregard for traffic laws reveal Gansler as a danger to the public interest. If he already behaves this way, who is to say where the impunity would stop if he were to have executive authority over the whole state? Even worse are Gansler’s right-wing policy positions. A fan of the death penalty, Gansler’s main platform plank this year is a tax cut for wealthy corporations and he hammers constantly on current governor Martin O’Malley’s highly responsible fiscal policies that included (gasp!) tax hikes. Who needs the GOP when you have this crap coming from Dems?

See also:

For Maryland Comptroller

Write in “Mickey Mouse.”

Peter Franchot (incumbent), who is running unopposed, is an arrogant man who long ago gave up on his Takoma Park progressive roots.

For Maryland Attorney General

*Brian Frosh is a principled progressive with a long record of accomplishments in the Maryland legislature. I often disagree with the Washington Post on local politics, but their re-endorsement of Frosh yesterday does more justice to Frosh (while highlighting the flaws of his opponents) than I can possible do. I encourage my readers to give it a close look.

Jon Cardin is best known for improperly commandeering a police helicopter to propose to his girlfriend and, more recently, for missing 121 out of 164 committee votes in the just closed 2014 legislative session. If this man’s uncle weren’t a US senator, he would’t be so much as blip on public radar. Because of his name, though, he could win this race, which would be a disaster for Maryland.

Aisha Braveboy is another 13-century theocrat opposed to gay rights, reproductive freedom, etc. She is now pretending never to have held those views. Yeah, right.

For US Congress – Maryland District 8

No endorsement.

Chris Van Hollen (incumbent) used to be my hero. No more. He lost me when he was among the bad guys on a House bill to rein in NSA spying that failed by only eight votes. Civil liberties are more important to me than nearly any other area of public policy. I cannot support anyone who loves the NSA. I know nothing about about Van Hollen’s two opponents in this race. Neither stands a chance, so you and I might as well flip a coin and vote for one of them to protest Van Hollen’s betrayal. Or, there’s always Mickey Mouse.

For Maryland Senate – District 20

*Jamie Raskin (incumbent) is running unopposed, so I don’t have to spill much virtual ink on him. Just the same, it’s fun to write that this budding national progressive hero is our very own. Raskin is a captivating orator, constitutional scholar, and progressive firebrand. He also knows how to reach out to and defang potential opponents (e.g., the very conservative senate majority leader, Mike Miller, with whom Raskin has a strong relationship) making Raskin not only a moral leader, but a highly effective one. Raskin is also just a great guy: accessible, down-to-earth, and humble. What’s not to love about Jamie?

For Maryland House of Delegates – District 20 (select up to three)

*Sheila Hixson (incumbent) used to be my favorite politician whom I didn’t vote for. She had a record of being disappointingly centrist, a go-along-to-get-along Democrat. This began to change with the disappearance of bad influence Ida Reuben and replacement by Jamie Raskin in 2006. Hixson realized just how progressive her constituents were and responded. She has built a powerful partnership with Raskin and they are quite the dynamic duo, helping each other pass progressive milestone legislation in their respective houses of the Maryland legislature. Hixson is one of the most powerful politicians in Maryland, as chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, which makes her a rare treasure: How often do progressives get to have not only a representative voice for their views, but one that can deliver? And that partnership with Raskin is so much more than the sum of the parts. Any D20 progressive who doesn’t vote for Raskin and Hixson is a fool and a knave. Why was Hixson always a favorite of mine, even when I wasn’t voting for her? Because she (like Raskin) is another mensch — warm, engaging, and downright fun to be around.

*Jonathan Shurberg and I have known each other since we both worked on Raskin’s 2006 campaign. Talk about smart: Shurberg can discuss articulately the fine points of policy from economic justice, to civil rights, to education. He has spent lots of time in Annapolis writing and promoting legislation. He and his late wife, Rebecca, were major players in the county Democratic Party. My readers know I’m no huge fan of the party, but having elected officials who are plugged in and know everyone is a bonus. Shurberg will balance Will Smith’s inexperience. Last November, I described Shurberg as “the adult in the room” and “a passionate fighter for progressive causes.” I stand by those words.

*Will Smith is a born and bred Montgomery County resident. He is smart as a tack and itching to make a difference in the lives of D20 and Maryland residents. Smith has an impressive record of service in our district, having run Raskin and Hixson’s 2010 campaign, raising substantial funds for local young scholars, and serving with IMPACT Silver Spring and the local chapter of the NAACP. Smith is relatively inexperienced, but the fact that he knows the Annapolis players and has been endorsed by Raskin and Hixson is significant. I expect he’ll be able to hit the ground running, working with his mentors to make a mark in the House. As an African American, officer in the Naval Reserves, and the first in his family to graduate from college (and graduate school), Smith adds much-needed diversity to the D20 delegation. It is high time for this extremely diverse district to send a capable person of color to Annapolis.

Darian Unger was so amateurish at the November D20 forum, that I disregarded him completely in my write up of the event. He has come a long way, baby. I have been blown away by his ability to captivate the public and political observers with a grass-roots, pure elbow-grease campaign. His service as a volunteer firefighter and chair of the Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Board shows his commitment to the community.  I particularly like Unger’s green credentials: an environmental engineer by trade, he lists “sustainable development and environmental protection” as his top priorities, the only candidate to do so.

David Moon matches Shurberg for smarts, knowledge, and probably has even greater encyclopedic knowledge of county and state politics. Moon is also a fighter — absolutely fearless about speaking truth to power. (I also know Moon from that first, magical Raskin campaign — as campaign manager, Moon gets credit for creating the strategy to beat Ida Reuben by a two-to-one margin.) There may be some concern that Moon’s record of truth telling would make it hard for him to work with the powers that be in Annapolis, but endorsements by Raskin and Hixson provide him with needed cover. If elected, Moon will make his presence felt very quickly.
So, why haven’t I ranked Moon second, just behind Sheila Hixson? Because of his longstanding ties to Valerie Ervin, perhaps the most destructive force in county politics. I believe Moon when he tells me that he won’t let Ervin tell him what to do if he’s elected. But the fact that his first campaign brochure put her picture and quote front and center, concerns me, as does his recent declaration to me that he considers Ervin among the most important local politicians. Make no mistake, Ervin plans to run for county executive, governor, or congress. I would hate to see one of my elected delegates endorsing her pursuit of power. Just the same, Moon looks likes like a winner in this race and I would shed no tears over this result.

Will Jawando deserved the apology I recently issued. He is not a bad guy, by any means. He’s smart, articulate, experienced with (federal) legislation, and — just like everyone else in the race — a solid progressive. But my strongest criticism of him remains valid: though he was born here, he has not provided any direct service to our district, unlike his fellow native Will Smith. If there weren’t so many more captivating choices, I could see getting really enthusiastic about Jawando. But in this fine field, he just doesn’t rise to the top.

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For Montgomery County Executive

No endorsement.

Phil Andrews wins the integrity race easily. He is a class act of the boy scout variety, a politician who is in it for all the right reasons and cannot be bought. Sadly, Andrews has tacked right in the past four years. He was the lone council vote against raising he minimum wage and remains steadfast against indexing the wage to mitigate the impact of inflation. Some of my environmentalist friends are backing Andrews, but insiders tell me he has been less cooperative on land-use issues than he used to be. I had sent “dear neighbor” letters to my precinct in support of Andrews, but have come to regret it because I disagree with Andrews so strongly on key issues.

Ike Leggett (incumbent) is, at best, a big disappointment. I was an enthusiastic supporter when he first ran for executive in 2006, but his opposition to progressive state taxation on millionaires lost me a couple years later. Among the list of Leggett “foibles” is, of course, the misbegotten Silver Spring Transit Center, millions over budget, already more than two years late, and a potential danger to all who use it. Other items include tax breaks for Lockheed Martin, subsidies for Costco, and joyfully accepting bribes contributions from the development industry.

Doug Duncan’s toxic legacy from his tenure as county executive remains with us, in a county woefully short of infrastructure to match growth-without-thought and in our poisonous personal politics. While serving as front-man for the development industry, Duncan also oversaw unsustainable giveaways to MoCo’s public employee unions that worsened the fiscal crisis of 2008-12. Why return to office someone whose dream is to pave everything and enrich the powerful?

For Montgomery County Council – At Large (select up to four)

Marc Elrich and Beth Daly (vote for only two)If you cast a vote for any other candidates, you risk knocking Elrich or Daly into fifth place. That’s why I recommend “bullet voting” (selecting fewer than candidates than there are seats).

I recommend highly Bill Turque’s recent analysis of the MoCo at-large race in the Washington Post. Turque does an excellent job of showing who is in the developers’ pockets and who isn’t.

*Marc Elrich (incumbent) has been serving the public interest and society’s underdogs for decades. He has been the county council’s lone voice against unrestrained development, pointing out that what the other incumbents call “smart growth” is just rhetoric for more traffic on the roads, more school trailers, and more environmentally hazardous runoff from impervious surfaces. What is truly astounding is how Elrich has traveled from being the radical whose very name the Washington Post refused to mention to getting the Post’s endorsement for the second time in a row. Why? Because Elrich is more smart than ideological. His plan for bus rapid transit has won over the Post and even many developers (even while he refuses to accept the developers’ bribes contributions). Elrich is that rare politician who is 100% about public service, not personal glory. Even while he has enough respect to have come in first in the 2010 at-large race, though, he can’t get any respect from the rest of the council incumbents, who not only block him from formal leadership, but also prevent him from forcing discussion about their pave-it-all politics. If only there were some means to throw the rest of the incumbents out. Sadly, the best we can do is to toss one out (please, let it be Hans Riemer!) by putting Beth Daly in office.

*Beth Daly is the real deal: smarts, values, articulateness, and genuine warmth. Daly is as committed as Elrich to sensible land-use policies and protecting the environment. She promises a high level of transparency including (can you believe it?!) voting the same way on final legislation as she does in committee. She also promises to be a second when Elrich raises topics the other council incumbents want to bury and to champion a term for Elrich as president of the council. Daly is the most exciting newcomer to MoCo political campaigns since Jamie Raskin appeared in 2006. But she is no novice, having been an engaged and effective civic activist and creator of legislation for years (see her experience list).

George Leventhal (incumbent) is by far the second best of the incumbents. His constituent service is incredible and he has an admirable commitment to the disadvantaged. I keep wanting to endorse and vote for Leventhal, but I just can’t get there. This year, he’s attacking Marc Elrich and Beth Daly as he continues to serve the developers. Even if he weren’t playing this actively destructive role, it’s just far more important to have Elrich and Daly on the council than to keep Leventhal, so I cannot risk having my vote for him doom the others.

Nancy Floreen (incumbent) is 100% pro-developer, pro-chamber of commerce. At least what you see is what you get with Floreen, which can’t be said of . . .

. . . Hans Riemer (incumbent), who is a perpetual liar and deceiver, a carpetbagger who never belonged in our region’s politics to start with. He lives on taking credit for others’ work and claiming to support policies he doesn’t. The most egregious example of this was when he worked hard to kill last year’s minimum wage bill and then claimed to have led the fight for it. (Watch this must-see 30-second video showing Riemer holding back on the final vote for the minimum wage until he sees that it has the five votes necessary to pass.) He also says he’s an environmentalist, even while he gleefully takes money from the developers. Hans Riemer wins my 2014 award for Most Despicable Politician. This year’s MoCo voters owe future generations a service: stop Riemer’s political career right now, before rises through the ranks to become a lying empty shirt with actual power.

See also:

For Montgomery County Council – District 5

What hope I had when Destructive Force Valerie Ervin got bored with her seat on MoCo council and quit last winter! Sadly, my hopes have been dashed. This race is almost as bad as the one for governor, providing little hope at all for progressives who want good government.

*Terrill North is the only really good human being in the race. He is a solid progressive with experience in almost every area of policy we care about, from serving the poor, to environmentalism, to civil liberties. So why am I not more excited as I repeat my endorsement of North? Because his campaign has never seemed to get off the ground. He has no significant endorsements, beyond Progressive Neighbors (who also endorsed Tom Hucker for the seat). North is not going to win, so voting for him is more of a protest against the others than a practical choice. Sigh.

Tom Hucker is a bully and dirty campaigner. He has voted the correct way on nearly everything while serving as D20 delegate in Annapolis, but he is going to be wrong on everything involving public-employee unions if he serves on MoCo council. Just as most of the other council incumbents would be nowhere without developer money, the same goes for Hucker and the unions. My main concern about Hucker, though, is not about policy (again, he has a voting record any progressive would be proud of). Rather, it is that his bad temper and drive for dominance will eventually make him our very own Chris Christie, imploding and bringing his agenda (and ours) down with him. Hucker will win this race. I can only hope that the few of us speaking out about his flaws will bring about some introspection and humility on his part. If Hucker were to tame his demons, he could be an excellent progressive leader for years to come.

Evan Glass seemed to be the other good guy in the race (in addition to North) until his horrific mailer this week in which he granted himself magical powers to cure all that ails us. He has now shown himself to be just another ball of arrogance, willing to lie to his potential constituents to get a job. What’s amazing is that Glass slipped and revealed his inner truth when he had absolutely no reason do to so. He had already secured some plum endorsements and was running a solid campaign.

Chris Barclay is a petty thief who didn’t even live in the district until the past few weeks. He wouldn’t be wasting our ink and oxygen if Valerie Ervin and her Coalition that Only Cares about Color (Cherri Branson, Nancy Navarro, and Craig Rice) hadn’t foisted him upon us. (See my discussion of race in this race in my original endorsement of Terrill North, who is African American.) After being caught with his hand in the cookie jar, Barclay lost the endorsements of the two largest MoCo public employee unions, so I can’t believe he remains a factor.

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Other Races

In races I don’t follow closely, I’ll let Progressive Neighbors be my guide.

Not My District: Brief Comments on Races Beyond My Neighborhood

  • For Maryland Senate – District 18: *Dana Beyer is not shy. We can count on her to stand up and be counted in Annapolis. I have known and been fond of Beyer for a long time, but still wondered why she — as a transgender woman — was taking on Sen. Rich Madaleno, who championed passage of Maryland’s marriage equality law. The answer? Because Madaleno might as well be a Republican on fiscal policy. Beyer will be a progressive hero in Annapolis, showing us what has been missing from D18 up until now.
  • For Montgomery County Council – District 1: *Roger Berliner (incumbent). I’m not a big Berliner fan; though, he is better than most of the other council incumbents. What compels me to endorse him is just how bad Duchy Trachtenberg is. Her pursuit of personal attention has led her to ditch principle entirely this year, flip-flopping on issues that were previously central to her politics: standing up to developers and public employee unions. If you are still tempted to vote for Trachtenberg, see my recent post about her.
  • For Montgomery County Council – District 3: Marc Erlich’s choice in the race to succeed Phil Andrews is *Ryan Spiegel. Progressive Neighbors has endorsed Tom Moore, but I’m more inclined to follow Elrich’s determination of who can best support his agenda on council than I am any outside observers.

See also: 05.30.14 How your blogger chooses candidates to love (and hate)

©2014 Keith Berner