Archive for the ‘Takoma Park’ category

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.

See also:

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.

See also:

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

11.26.13 Nobody for governor?

November 26, 2013

We  Takoma Park lefties should be jumping for joy over our own Heather Mizeur’s run to be the first female, first gay governor in Maryland history. And, in case you haven’t noticed, she’ll be happy to let you know how progressive she is. Local heroes, Progressive Neighbors (PN) have endorsed her, seven months before ballots are to be cast.

Here’s the problem for those who have paid attention: Mizeur has been running for the next or the next-next higher office ever since she set foot in Takoma Park and declared for city council in 2003. She won, of course. And quit halfway through a measly two-year term, so that she could run for the Democratic National Committee and then state delegate, representing District 20 (“D20” ­– Takoma Park and Silver Spring). Yeah, she’ll say she resigned the city council early because she and her wife had found their dream house in another ward. Still, Mizeur abandoned her seat and was more absent than present towards the end of her brief tenure.

And now, after two terms as a back-bench Maryland delegate, Mizeur isn’t content in the shadows. So, without having run anything much larger than a one-staff delegate’s office, she declares herself tanned, rested, and ready to be in charge of the whole damn state. Who doubts that her first move should a miracle occur would be to form a White House exploratory committee?

I get that most politicians are ambitious. The same drive that makes them run for class president in sixth grade (guilty as charged, says your blogger) has them gazing longingly at the next office up the line. But really, Mizeur’s rush towards glory is in a special class.

It’s an open topic of conversation in Mizeur’s neighborhood that she hasn’t even been living in that dream house on the corner of Maple and Tulip Avenues recently, but rather in an apparently dreamier place on the Eastern Shore (not exactly next door to D20). Political insiders tell me that she has stopped attending district events, now that she has her eyes on a bigger prize. Reminds me of those Takoma Park City Council days.

Yes, I agree with Mizeur’s positions the overwhelming amount of the time. But, when a vortex of ambition like her declares to the Washington Post that if she doesn’t win this race, she’ll “be done with politics,” the disingenuousness overwhelms the good she says she wants to do. Mizeur can’t possibly think she’ll win this race. This is all practice for when she does it for real, next time.

Mizeur is smart and capable, for sure. But she has no background in running organizations, nonetheless a state. One might have thought she would balance her ticket with experience, but instead she went even greener (as in “not ready”) by selecting pastor Delman Coates to be her running mate.

I wish PN had not endorsed Mizeur, at least not this early (it’s only November!). But I get why they did: (1) supporting Mizeur pulls the whole debate left; (2) Anthony Brown couldn’t be bothered returning their questionnaire; (3) Doug Gansler is out of the question.

Speaking of whom, I was surprised that the Beach Week antics had such legs for frat boy Gansler. I found much more disturbing “trooper-gate,” in which this one-man traffic hazard abused ethics, his drivers, and the law. A man this arrogant would be a distinct danger to the public good in an executive position. As governor, Gansler could – and evidently would – do whatever the hell he wanted. Impunity, anyone?

Gansler’s character flaws have done the candidate a favor by obscuring his policy flaws. He’s long-time death-penalty advocate and touts corporate tax cuts as a major platform plank. He’s been attacking Martin O’Malley for raising revenues at all (which the state sorely needed) and ranting against recent gasoline tax increases that are win-win for our budget and environment. Who needs Republicans when you have this crap coming from Dems?

In three weeks of conversations with elected officials and political activists, I can’t find a single one who knows why Anthony Brown is running or what he stands for. I’m told he refuses to take a stand on issues like fracking, because his main priority is winning endorsements, not taking positions. I have been looking to Brown to stop Gansler. But can I really mark my ballot for someone who doesn’t give me any reason to? And I am indeed offended by his brush-off to Progressive Neighbors. None of this bodes well.

So, we’re back to Mizeur. I may well vote for her, because at least she stands for something positive, if not as authentically as one might hope. But if I thought she could actually win the nomination, there’s no way I could pull the proverbial lever. Not only do I doubt her readiness for the job,  but – here’s the scary part – that very fact would make her vulnerable to a GOP challenge in November. (Can you say, “KKT”?*)

Bottom line: Vote for Brown to stop Gansler. Vote for Brown to stop Mizeur. Can’t think of any other reason to vote for Brown.

The best one can say about the Maryland gubernatorial campaign is that at least it’s not quite as distasteful as Virginia’s contest between a 13th-century Taliban and a slimy political operator. Or is it?

*KKT = Kathleen Kennedy Townsend whose incompetence as the Democratic nominee in 2002 led to a Robert Ehrlich victory, first for the GOP since Spiro Agnew.

©2013  Keith Berner

11.16.13 It’s 2014 in Maryland Politics – D20 Candidates Forum

November 17, 2013

2013’s leaves haven’t even finished falling, but the Democratic campaigns for next June’s primary are well underway. This past Thursday evening, Takoma Park City Councilman Jarrett Smith (Ward 5) and progressive activist Terrill North (who is running for county council), put on a Maryland District 20 candidates forum at Washington Adventist University in Takoma Park. The district, which includes Takoma Park and Silver Spring, is currently served in Annapolis by Democrats Senator Jamie Raskin and delegates Sheila Hixson, Tom Hucker, and Heather Mizeur. With Mizeur’s candidacy for governor (more on that another time), there will be one open delegate seat. The event this week featured nine contenders (along with Hucker, who offered a few remarks in the mode of elder statesman).

This was a mostly impressive line-up. Six or seven of the wannabes are capable of running viable campaigns and serving competently in Annapolis. As one would expect in D20, there is nary a centrist or conservative in the bunch (all hands up for marijuana legalization!). The district’s voters will have a dilemma of riches, enough to make one wish the talent could be distributed across the county for knocking out retrograde forces from MoCo’s state delegation.

I entered the forum knowing and being positively inclined toward two hopefuls: attorney Jonathan Shurberg and blogger/policy wonk David Moon, whom I knew from Raskin’s first campaign. And I had heard positive things about Will Smith, another Raskin alumnus. (You can expect Raskin to remain studiously neutral in the race, given the number of “family members” competing!)

From my perspective, Shurberg did not disappoint. As another attendee put it, Shurberg came off as the adult in the room. A passionate fighter for progressive causes, he is the only candidate to have written state legislation. He clearly gets Annapolis and would hit the ground running. He also has 20 years of experience of winning cases for individuals and families in need. If I were to vote today, Shurberg would be my choice. (This is not yet an endorsement – I have more to learn about other candidates.)

Moon also made a positive impression – giving perhaps the most compelling performance of the night. He is passionate and articulate, exciting lefties like me with his sharp rhetoric about the powers and policies that be. His Maryland Juice blog has had proven impact on public opinion and policy outcomes.

The question raised by Moon critics is whether he could get anything done as a legislator. They cite, for example, the number of enemies he has made through his blog. This blogger gets the difference between speaking truth to power and actually putting together legislative victories. I have chosen to have a big mouth rather than run for office. The roles are most definitely not the same. Does David realize that?

As much as I like David personally, here is why I oppose his candidacy: his ties to County Councilwoman Valerie Ervin, probably the most venal and destructive politician in the county. Ervin provides the first endorsement quote in Moon’s printed lit and is front and center on the piece’s biggest photo. I’ll discuss Ervin in more detail another time, but the bottom line is that I cannot support any politician who is beholden to her and who will serve to increase her power. It is a shame that Moon has hitched his wagon to hers.

Smith was disappointing at the forum. He is clearly smart and capable, but so was nearly everyone else. He provided no rationale for his candidacy, no passion, no driving issue. My sources tell me that his strong suit is how hard he works – among other things, he is one of only two candidates in this race who has already been out knocking on doors, doing this essential job of sinking roots on the ground (added to those he has from being born and raised here). It is early. There is time for Smith to impress. My mind remains open.

D’Juan Hopewell is the new (to me) face who made the most positive impression this week. He was the only candidate to speak – and speak passionately – about poverty, hunger, and a progressive economic agenda. His primary issue – supporting small business – doesn’t light my fire, but I get the connection between commerce and jobs for those who need them. Count me intrigued.

One candidate left a distinctly negative taste in my mouth. White House staffer Will Jawando is clearly already running for Congress and beyond, with our district as stepping stone (ala Mizeur, who abused Takoma Park in her rush toward glory). He may well care about national policy, but gave no hint (apart from being raised here) of any insight into the district or Annapolis. He came off as somewhat arrogant and slick, assuming that his ties to Barack Obama automatically qualify him for this seat. (Being tied to Obama in 2013 provides zero value in my book – this ain’t 2007 or 2008.) His repeated pabulum about “raising two daughters” in the district was as nauseating as it was empty. Further, he proudly touted Valerie Ervin’s endorsement. If this is a black mark against someone I’d love to support (Moon), it is doubly so against someone who probably has no business wasting our time in this race.

Justin Chappell, the only disabled person in the race, has a track record of advocating those (not only the disabled) who need it. He is also already working hard, including door knocking. He is not a compelling speaker or visionary, though.

The issue of diversity came up, as it should have, for one of the most diverse areas in the state. Our current delegation is all white. Of the nine candidates at the forum three are African American (Hopewell, Jawando, Smith) and one is Asian American (Moon). Should progressives in D20 be favoring a minority candidate?

Look, I believe in affirmative action. I’ve proudly supported black candidates since Carl Stokes of Cleveland because the first African-American mayor of a major US city in 1967. Ultimately, though, I’d rather support someone who can get the job done on behalf of the dispossessed than look like them. Will I continue to regret that we have an all-white delegation if I end up backing a white candidate? Yes. Will that stop me from backing a white candidate if I decide she or he is likely to be most effective? No.

Speaking of she or he, it ain’t gonna be the former this time: not a single woman appeared on Thursday evening. (There evidently is a declared female challenger, but she chose not to show up, with the explanation that she doesn’t speak on Thursdays. ‘Nuff said.) But in gender terms, our delegation is more than balanced: Sheila Hixson – chair of the House Ways and Committee – is arguably the most powerful woman in Annapolis. I used to call her my favorite politician whom I wouldn’t vote for, because I found her too centrist. Well, she has moved left in recent years and I have come to respect how important her political power is to the big causes I care about the most. (She is also just plain nice, which doesn’t hurt.)

And I would be remiss if I didn’t take a moment to praise Tom Hucker, who has been working hard for us and for the greater good. There is no doubt in my mind that this choice is about filling one empty seat: D20 should absolutely stick with Raskin, Hixson, and Hucker! (To you term-limit supporters: how soon do you want these guys arbitrarily kicked out? The solution to bad elected officials is not term limits, but rather campaign-finance reform and voting against them!)

Big credit goes to Jarrett Smith and Terrill North for getting nine challengers out for a forum this early in the race and for the large audience that showed up in a part of Takoma Park that is practically famous for low political participation. This speaks to why I so enthusiastically supported Smith for city council and why I will be an active backer of North’s campaign for county council.

© 2013 Keith Berner

11.20.10 Takoma Park Blogs

November 20, 2010

In my post a few days ago, I lauded the coverage of the road-swap imbroglio by Gilbert of Granola Park. Another great post on the topic has come to my attention, this time by Steve Davies on Takoma Park Patch.

There’s plenty of love to go around among local bloggers. Show your local spirit by becoming a loyal reader of all of us!

©2010 Keith Berner

11.16.10 Roadside Conspiracies in Takoma Park

November 16, 2010

This is cross-posted with the Washington Post’s All Opinions Are Local.

Two weeks ago, a firestorm broke out in Takoma Park. It seems that the city council was about to vote on (and probably approve) a road swap with the state of Maryland. Under the deal, the state would take over ownership of Route 410 (Ethan Allen Avenue) and repair the very neglected street. In return, the city would take over Route 787 (Flower Avenue) and get almost $700,000 from the state to turn it into a “green street” with traffic-calming measures, new sidewalks and other beautification improvements. So where’s the rub, you might ask?
Well, it turns out that Route 410 is a four-lane thoroughfare outside of TkPk (where it is called East-West Highway), and only two of the lanes are inside the city. Takoma Parkers – especially those living on or near 410 — smelled a rat. Where city council members saw a great way to improve two streets, residents saw a conspiracy to destroy houses and turn the road — which, admittedly, is a bottleneck for those who simply want to get through the city quickly – into a superhighway.

The listservs lit up. Issues of policy and politics were discussed in minute detail. Terms like “eminent domain” and obscure questions of state obligations and malfeasance were examined. As follow local blogger Gilbert has observed at Granola Park, the issue has generated a great deal more heat than light. Since Gilbert has covered the imbroglio extremely well, I have only a few comments to add:

· It is astounding how quickly Takoma Parkers freaked out over something that they didn’t understand, turning the narrative from a good-faith effort to get two streets’ needs taken care of into a nefarious plot by the state and a sellout by the city. The distrust that underlies the explosion of fear is fully justified. The state (not to mention county) is hostile to cities, both under Maryland law and in actual practice. Neither entity could be expected to give a hoot about our little city and what residents think. The fact that 410 in Takoma Park is in fact a bottleneck provides plenty of incentive for Maryland to want to widen it. As for the city, it’s not so much that anyone thought it was selling us out on purpose. Rather, we consider our local government to be utterly incompetent, with plenty of past evidence to support this view (take a look at our ugly community center, which cost far more than was planned, left off the gym that was supposed to be its central purpose and is filled with stairways to nowhere).

· Takoma Park politics is dominated by its historical center. The city will rise up to protect the sanctity of that area (which also happens to house its wealthier residents). Ward 5 (where I live – the part of the city that sticks up like a finger on a map) is a foster child. It is home to the city’s poorest residents and lowest voter turnout, and most Takoma Parkers probably aren’t even aware it belongs to the city. None of the brouhaha about the road swap considered for a moment what might be important to Ward 5, until I raised the issue on local listservs. Everyone was denouncing the deal without a second thought about poor Flower Avenue. (To be fair, once I did raise the issue, a couple of key Takoma Park activists who don’t live in my ward came to our defense.)

So, where does this come out? Apparently, it doesn’t make a whit of difference whether Takoma Park owns its sections of 410: Either way, if the state wanted to widen it, it could theoretically do so. But it would be legally difficult and expensive, and unified opposition within the city could almost certainly stop it. Also worth noting is that it was Takoma Park, not Maryland, that started the negotiations, so it’s not like the state had illicit designs on 410 and tried to lure us into a trap. As for poor Flower Avenue, that gift isn’t free; notwithstanding $700k to carry out improvements, the city would be taking on future unfunded liabilities to maintain it.

At this point, a frightened city council has pulled back from the brink. The state has promised that 410 wouldn’t be widened “in our lifetimes” but won’t put that in writing, because it doesn’t want to set precedent. And we have no idea whether “decoupling” 410 and 787 will kill the deal entirely or breathe new life into it.

Stay tuned for future episodes of “As Takoma Park Turns,” best chronicled on the aforementioned Granola Park blog.

©2010 Keith Berner