Posted tagged ‘George Leventhal’

07.29.18 The Montgomery County executive race: buckle your seat belts

July 29, 2018

After a harrowing month, a partial recount requested by candidate David Blair determined this past Monday that Marc Elrich is indeed the Democratic Party nominee, by a margin of less than 80 votes. Elrich will face perennial Republican candidate and gadfly Robin Ficker in November. Normally, one would predict a landslide victory by any Democrat over the widely disliked Ficker (there are plenty of Republicans who can’t stand him).

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But, there is no “normal” this year. The biggest departure from past elections is at-large incumbent Nancy Floreen’s abandonment of the Democratic Party to run against Elrich in November. For another, the Washington Post – always a strongly regressive force in local politics – is becoming more and more doctrinaire under gazillionaire Jeff Bezos’s leadership. The Post is a leading voice in the new red scare sweeping the country, as a backlash against Bernie Sanders and in the wake of Democratic Socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s stunning upset against a machine politician in New York state (the same day as Maryland’s recent primary).

Our (supposed) newspaper of record has been calling Elrich names all spring, editorializing against him (and in favor of Blair) at least three times and declaring the End-Times near if Elrich (and, I assume, anyone with a social conscience) were to be elected to local office.

We can be 100% certain that WaPo will endorse Floreen early and often in the coming months. (One disappointment with Floreen’s candidacy is that we will miss the spectacle the Post’s agonizing over whether to endorse Ficker over Dangerous Socialist Marc Elrich.) We can also be certain that the development industry – terrified by the prospect of a county leadership that asks them to pay for the infrastructure all their concrete requires – will spend millions of dollars to keep Elrich out of office. (See the nasty mailers sent out by Empower Montgomery – a developers’ cabal – in the run-up to the primary: they rated Elrich -5 and nearly everyone else +5 or higher.)

So, does Floreen pose a real threat to Elrich’s election? The simple answer is “yes” and the Elrich campaign would be foolish not to taking her extremely seriously.

But. . .

  • Nancy Floreen is an unlikable candidate who has repeatedly won her at-large seat on County Council more on the basis of name recognition and developer money than on inspiration. (As Elrich says, Floreen was never much of a Democrat, anyway. My strong belief is that if she were anywhere in Red America, she would have been a perfectly comfortable Republican all along. She pretended to be blue here, because she is unprincipled and that was the only route to getting elected.)
  • Marc Elrich has a long history of out-performing his relative fundraising by large margins (Blair outspent him this race by more than 2 to 1). This means that Elrich – who might have the best name recognition of any politician in the county (would Jamie Raskin rank higher?) won’t need a large war chest to run a strong campaign.
  • More people will start listening to what Elrich actually says, rather than falling prey to the red-baiting. He is a principled lefty, to be sure, but he also has been able to work with and reach compromises with people of all stripes across the county. Check out what he said on the Kojo Nnamdi show on July 20: that he doesn’t waste anyone’s time on ideological legislation and policy that he knows won’t pass. This is a mature, pragmatic person and politician, not a bomb-thrower or revolutionary.
  • And here’s the amazing thing: nearly all Democrats in the county have lined up to support our nominee. Hans Riemer and Ike Leggett, two very centrist politicians, got behind Elrich before the recount was over. Primary opponent Roger Berliner did so as well. And, in the biggest (pleasant) surprise at all, David Blair announced his support for Elrich as soon as the recount determined the winner, once and for all.

(A side note to all this wonderfulness is that it took current Council member, and primary opponent George Leventhal longer than David Blair to come out for our nominee. As I previously have written on Facebook, this shameful delay was due to Leventhal’s personal antipathy towards Elrich and a ridiculous case of sour grapes for a for a fifth-place finisher.

Leventhal is mostly a solid progressive. But he has sided too often with the development industry and has an angry temperament that is nearly 180-degrees opposite from Elrich’s soothing demeanor. I’d love to see Leventhal continue to make public contributions in areas such has homelessness and immigrants rights. But his recent shenanigans play to the worst perceptions of him, including his inability to control his emotions and a basic untrustworthiness. If he keeps up the personal grandstanding, he might render himself irrelevant and that would be a shame.)

So, does Elrich have a strong chance against Floreen? You bet he does. With a great ground game, committed volunteers, and a substantial part of the Democratic establishment working for him, he should win in November. (Not all of those who have endorsed him will lift a finger on his behalf. Riemer, for example, was red-baiting Elrich only two weeks earlier and endorsed almost certainly just to preserve his viability for ego-pleasing future campaigns.)

Montgomery County voters can’t afford to rest in 2018, following a primary election that customarily is the election-of-record in our deep-blue county. Buckle your seat belts, write a check to Elrich, and if you have the stamina, sign up to door-knock or make phone calls on his behalf. Our county needs your engagement to assure that Marc Elrich soundly defeats two Republican opponents this fall.

©2018 Keith Berner

 

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

July 9, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

©2018 Keith Berner

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

June 23, 2018

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

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

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

©2018 Keith Berner

 

06.05.18 Keith Berner’s biennial voter guide: for the June 26 Maryland Democratic primary

June 5, 2018

Note: I am not endorsing in races outside my district (Maryland D20 & Montgomery County D5), except when I have particular knowledge of the candidates.

Governor: Rich Madaleno
US Senate: anyone but Ben Cardin
US Congress CD6: Roger Manno
US Congress CD8: Jamie Raskin (unopposed)
Montgomery County Executive: Marc Elrich
Montgomery County At-Large:
Definite (in alpha order): Brandy Brooks, Jill Ortman-Fouse, Chris Wilhelm
Pick one of two: Bill Conway or Seth Grimes
MoCo D1: Meredith Wellington
MoCo D3: Ben Shnider
MoCo D5: Tom Hucker
MD Senate D18: Dana Beyer
MD Senate D20: Will Smith (unopposed)
MD Delegates D20 (in alpha order): Lorig Charkoudian, David Moon, Jheanelle Wilkins

Maryland Governor

Rich Madeleno is the most qualified and capable person running for governor — by far. He is also a passionate progressive who will work every day for economic and social justice, environmental protection, and immigrants’ rights. Madaleno’s long service in Annapolis has been remarkable, earning him wide respect for his fiscal expertise. He knows better than anyone else in the field, the people and processes of Maryland government.

In case you’re still wavering, consider Congressman Jamie Raskin’s and District 20 Delegate David Moon’s enthusiastic endorsements. Finally, I watched Madeleno in two Progressive Neighbors (PN) candidate forums and both times he made the strongest, most compelling arguments against Governor Larry Hogan. Remember: that’s who we have to beat in November!

Ben Jealous, former director of the NAACP and proud supporter (and endorsee) of Bernie Sanders, merits consideration in this race. We know that Jealous will be on the right side of issues. But, Jealous has no experience in elected office and one has to wonder if his rhetoric would be matched by results. There is one reason I can think of to choose Jealous over Madaleno three weeks from now: if it appears that he is in a better position than Madaleno to beat Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker.

Why does Baker, who has been endorsed by nearly the entire Maryland Democratic establishment, need to be stopped? Consider, first, that this is a center-right bunch (sorry, not even Chris Van Hollen is much of a progressive any more). Consider, further, their record of backing failures, like Anthony Brown in 2014 and Kathleen Kennedy Townsend in 2002 — it’s not a gang that exactly has its finger on the pulse of Maryland voters. If Baker gets the nomination, look to him to run a lackluster campaign, much like Brown’s, and to get destroyed by Hogan. Finally, consider Baker’s endorsement of liquor salesman David Trone for Congress (District 6) in exchange for $39,000 in campaign contributions.

This rest of the gubernatorial field is so weak and inexperienced that only one candidate bears mentioning at all. Krishanti Vignarajah’s campaign is an insult to all Marylanders. She voted in DC until very recently and never provided service of any kind to our state. Her only “qualification” is having served as an aide to the previous first lady, hardly a policy heavy position. If, by some miracle, she were to pull out a primary victory, the GOP would get her knocked off the ballot in no time, because she has not resided the required five years in Maryland.

US Senate

My only recommendation here is not to vote for Ben Cardin. His domestic policy record isn’t bad, but his foreign priority is to enable the Israeli right. Cardin’s opposition to the nuclear deal with Iran and his attempt to pass legislation curtailing the free-speech rights of Americans who don’t support Israel are utterly disqualifying. It doesn’t matter whether you vote for carpetbagging Chelsea Manning or one of the other token challengers to Cardin, since none of them has the proverbial snowball’s chance in hell. All that matters is your not helping to drive up the senator’s vote total.

US Congress – District 6

Roger Manno’s record in the Maryland legislature can be compared to Jamie Raskin’s. Manno is a principled progressive and labor supporter who provides the leadership needed to turn good ideas into law.

One or two others in the race are not bad ideologically, but Manno is the only one who can beat liquor salesman and GOP-loving gazillionaire David Trone, who is the most pernicious influence in area politics since Doug Duncan’s End-Gridlock slate. Stopping Trone is of equal importance to stopping David Blair’s county exec run (see next section).

Montgomery County Executive

For progressives, this choice is even clearer than the one in the governor’s race (where there is somewhat of a dilemma between Madaleno and Jealous): Marc Elrich is the only candidate you can trust as county exec. Quoting from my endorsement last July:

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 corrupt 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.

Is Elrich perfect? Nope. For one thing he has a tendency stick his foot in his mouth with rash rhetoric, making him seem more extreme than he is. And he is a mite too rigid in opposition to growth and development for yours truly. (I worry about shutting the doors of our wealthy county on the poor who would benefit by coming here.)

But I would far rather err “to the left” on this — electing someone who will never simply do the bidding of the Chamber of Commerce, the development industry, or (deity forbid) the Washington Post — than to take a risk with any of the other, compromised candidates in this race. There is — sadly — little doubt that we will end up with a pro-Chamber county council next year and we need an executive who will check it, not enable it.

George Leventhal is the only other candidate not wholly in the pocket of the county’s bad guys. But I worry about putting anyone in an executive role who has Leventhal’s anger issues and tendency to bully. I do believe that Leventhal has good intentions, much of the time, and there has been no one better than him at constituent responsiveness. On the flip side, Leventhal’s eagerness to tout a substantively empty “compact” between MoCo and PG on preserving affordable housing along the Purple Line betrays a disturbing willingness to claim credit where none is due. Finally, Leventhal recently called for reducing MoCo’s energy tax, which is environmentally and fiscally irresponsible.

Speaking of the Post, this supposed quality newspaper embarrassed itself when it recently endorsed David Blair for county exec. Blair, who has no record of public service, has been drowning the county in mailers since February, as he attempts to purchase the election. The Post loves the millions Blair made in the pharmaceutical business. He is currently being ridiculed as #MoCoPharmaBro on Facebook and is perceived as such a danger to our county that opponent Roger Berliner (who otherwise deserves no respect or support) and Progressive Maryland are going after him with gusto (Berliner’s add compares Blair to Trone, another wealthy amateur). Blair doesn’t even vote consistently, which would eliminate him for me, even without his other flaws.

Montgomery County At-Large (four seats)

There are 33 Democrats running. Just wrap your mind around this for a moment. The most well intentioned political observers cannot possibly have gotten to know all of them. The best we can do is help each other fill in gaps and look at the past records of those candidates who have them.

I am somewhat better informed about the field than most, because I read the questionnaire responses of all 23 candidates who sought Progressive Neighbors’ (PN) endorsement, weeding out any who rejected public campaign financing. Following are my conclusions.

Brandy Brooks and Chris Wilhelm are running together as #TeamProgressive. The two of them are powerful voices for redressing capitalist excesses, improving our flawed democracy, and protecting the environment. Wilhelm, a MoCo public school teacher, has door-knocking and fundraising for a year, with impressive results. He is in sixth place among all the candidates in remaining cash on hand, as of May 15, and has a large ground operation. This puts him among the two progressive candidates with the best chance of knocking off chamber-of-commerce candidates in the primary.

There is some concern about Brooks’s short residence in Maryland (two years). On the other hand, hers was among the most compelling of the PN candidate responses I read, showing not only her philosophy, but also considerable knowledge of policy details. Brooks is not as strong financially as Wilhelm, meaning she is more likely of the two to be helped by the team they have formed.

Jill Ortman-Fouse is the other progressive with a strong chance of success on June 26. Her service as an at-large member of the Board of Education gives her name recognition across the county. Even better, she’s good at making friends: I have yet to hear any criticism of Ortman-Fouse’s character or performance. There is no doubt that our county will benefit from having education experts like her and Wilhelm on County Council. Ortman-Fouse also has worked on behalf of affordable housing, the environment, and other issues.

Pick one: Bill Conway or Seth Grimes

Both Conway and Grimes are the types who wow you immediately with their intelligence and in-depth understanding of policy.

I have witnessed over a decade Grimes’s public service as an activist and city council member in Takoma Park. His service on the board of Shepherd’s Table demonstrates his deep commitment to economic justice. His work on the Safe-Grow initiative, first at the city and then at the county level, makes him one of the strongest environmental candidates in the race.

Conway may be the most moderate candidate I am considering — and I don’t see this as a bad thing. After engaging with him directly and watching him interact with others, Conway has struck me as a no-bullshit realist. He seems to get the real constraints the county’s economic circumstances have on policy better than some of the progressives I’m supporting and he doesn’t pander. Also, it isn’t like Conway is “dangerously” moderate: he supports a minimum-wage increase and his wife, Diana Conway, is one of the county’s most prominent environmental leaders. (I don’t expect her to make policy for him. I do expect her views to be persuasive across the kitchen table.) Finally, Conway’s fundraising totals put him at the top, alongside chamber-of-commerce types like Charles Barkley, Evan Glass, and Hans Riemer. His victory could help send one of them to defeat.

Evan Glass is a nice and smart guy. But, if his hand-in-glove relationship with developers in the 2014 campaign were not enough to scare of you off, this year’s Washington Post endorsement should put the nail in the coffin. The Post’s record of support for big business and pave-it-all development is worse this year than ever. There is no chance they would have endorsed Glass if they weren’t convinced he’d be doing the Chamber’s bidding once in office.

Will Jawando has made strides over the course of his four campaigns for office in the past four years. His grasp of issues and his progressive stances on them are increasingly impressive. On a personal level, he is warm and gracious. But for me, his political ambition is off-putting, at best. I want to vote for people who want to be on County Council, rather than considering it a way station on their path to greater glory. I suspect MoCo will not be getting Jawando’s full attention after a relatively short period in office. In a weaker field, I might take this risk, but I see no reason to do so this time.

Hans Riemer, the sole incumbent running for reelection this year, was never worthy of the votes he has received and nothing has changed this go-‘round. The shame is that he is nearly certain to win.

Danielle Meitiv has managed to garner the love of nearly every progressive organization in the county without ever having done anything substantive to earn it. Before deciding to run for office, the only public thing Meitiv has accomplished was to get arrested for letting her kids walk alone on country streets (for which, she earned the rubrik “Free-Range Mom”). Meitiv is running on that fame and her status as a a climate scientist. This sounds great, but we don’t need a climate scientist in office at the county level — what we need are smart policy makers who know how to reduce county energy consumption on the ground. Meitiv is a nice person and a solid progressive. She just hasn’t earned the attention the progressive community is paying her and there are better candidates on the ballot.

Montgomery County Council – District 1

Progressives’ sentimental favorites in this race are Ana Sol Gutierrez and Bill Cook. Neither has any chance of winning, so a vote for either is as good as throwing your vote away. Gutierrez is relatively well known, but the district she served as state delegate (D18) overlaps only slightly with the county district she is running in.

Among the well-funded candidates with a good chance of winning, Meredith Wellington stands out. When she served on the Planning Board (1999-2007), she was the most consistent skeptic of the development industry. In the current campaign, she vows not to take money from those big-business interests and instead to favor community and the environment. While not all endorsements matter, Marc Elrich’s support for Wellington is telling: he believes she will be his partner on County Council, making sure that our government serves the people, rather than the Chamber. Progressive Neighbors also endorsed Wellington (along with Gutierrez).

Montgomery County Council – District 3

Ben Shnider has run an upstart campaign against Nancy Floreen’s ideological best friend on the current council, Sidney Katz. A Shnider victory over Katz would change the nature of the council profoundly for the better.

Montgomery County Council – District 5

I have been sharply critical of Tom Hucker in the past, mostly for being a bully. This remains a concern for me — as does the fact that he has been unreliable as an ally to Elrich on council. But Hucker does a lot of good work supporting workers, the environment, and economic justice. A very strong case would have to be made for not returning Hucker to council and his opponent this year, Kevin Harris, isn’t making one. Harris is taking a NIMBY position on bus-rapid transit (BRT) along Route 29 and is pandering to development opponents in Takoma Park on a local issue he should have stayed away from.

This is not a bad moment for me to digress to the issues of development and growth, in general. While I am ardently opposed to the political dominance of the development industry in our politics, I don’t believe that nothing should be built anywhere. There is a strong not-in-my-backyard (NIMBY) element in the county’s slow-growth progressive community. When NIMBYs refuse to compromise for the greater good, they are no better than Republicans who oppose sharing the wealth. BRT on Rt. 29, for example, may inconvenience those who live in the immediate vicinity. But the benefits for less-wealthy commuters and for the environment outweigh those narrow concerns. 

Maryland Senate – District 18

Dana Beyer is the fearless firebrand we need in the legislature, not only to push progressive policy, but also to take on the Old Guard run by regressives like Sen. Mike Miller. Beyer is also whip smart — she has been a political activist for years and is as good an analyst of public policy, along a wide variety of topics, as you could ever hope to meet.

Beyer looks even better in comparison to her opponent Jeff Waldstreicher, whose voting record is fine, but whose repertoire includes dirty tricks. Seventh State reported today on Waldstreicher’s latest shenanigans: Waldstreicher Fibs His Way Out of Facing His Constituents.

Maryland Delegates – District 20 (three seats)

David Moon and Jheanelle Wilkins are a progressive’s dream come true. Moon’s record of accomplishment in four years as delegate is stunning across a whole range of policies (did you know he got an animal-rights bill passed last session?). Even when Moon loses (his attempt to end the tax exemption for golf courses), he changes the world by raising the issue (and he will win on this next session, mark my words).

Wilkins got a later start than in Annapolis than Moon did, having been appointed to her delegate seat seat two weeks into the 2017 session. (The vacancy was caused by Jamie Raskin’s election to Congress; Will Smith was appointed to that seat, and then Wilkins was appointed to Smith’s.) It has been a joy to watch her grow from being an I’m-on-board progressive to being a leader with substantive legislative accomplishments in the most recent term, on issues nearly as broad as those tackled by Moon.

Lorig Charkoudian is a newcomer only in the sense that she doesn’t have Moon’s and Wilkins’s incumbency. A PhD economist, she is well known locally as an expert on criminal justice reform, food “deserts” (lack of healthy, quality food in poor neighborhoods), and other economic justice issues. Charkoudian’s record of political engagement is such that she will hardly go to Annapolis unprepared: she is experienced in drafting legislation and knows how to get around the halls of the legislature.

Darian Unger is a good man who might stand out in a weaker field. In this one, he lacks the political talent, experience, and effectiveness of the other candidates. Unger has done a lot of public good outside of elective office. I wish he would find fulfillment doing just that — it’s where he shines.

©2018 Keith Berner

03.15.18 D20 Pride (Moon, Smith, and Wilkins)

March 15, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

*****

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

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

©2018 Keith Berner

12.17.17 Just when you thought it was safe to walk the streets. . .

December 17, 2017

Ryan Miner reports today that  gubernatorial candidate (and current PG County exec) Rushern Baker is vetting Nancy Floreen (outgoing Montgomery County Council at-large member) to be on his ticket as lieutenant governor next year. Floreen is the last surviving completely unrepentant* member of Doug Duncan’s and Steve Silverman’s infamous “End Gridlock” slate of the early aughts. For those with short memories, this is the team that engaged in character assassination of all those opposed to full development-industry ownership of the county. Floreen has spent her entire 16 years in office trying to pave everything in sight, while opposing almost all economic justice and environmental legislation. I was among those looking forward to never hearing from her again, as she is forced out of office after next year, due to term limits.

As for Baker, I found him unexciting at Progressive Neighbors’ Gubernatorial Forum in October, but also unobjectionable. And, with his massive support from PG and increasing number of bigwig endorsements, I’ve been looking increasingly favorably towards his campaign to beat sitting governor Larry Hogan.

But principles are principles and if Baker picks Floreen, he will be dead to me.

*George Leventhal was also on that disgusting slate, but has not exactly been wearing it as a badge of honor, since.

©2017 Keith Berner

 

08.09.17 Roger Berliner is no environmental hero (plus: the shame of Mike Tidwell)

August 9, 2017

On July 25, an email arrived in my inbox with the subject line: “Roger Berliner, the environmental leader you can trust.” It was signed “Mike Tidwell, Environmental Leader,” but was sent from the Berliner campaign, not from the Chesapeake Climate Action Network – CCAN, which Tidwell directs. This was an opening salvo from County Councilman Berliner in his endeavor to become MoCo’s next executive. He has joined the 2018 race against two other current councilmembers: Marc Elrich and George Leventhal.

Writing as Berliner’s mouthpiece, Tidwell goes over the top in declaring the candidate to be “the acknowledged county environmental leader” [emphasis added]. Hmmm: acknowledged by whom?

Well, let’s specify who has not shared in the accolades. For example:

  • Those who have sought to get plastic bags out of our streams and oceans. While Berliner did support the original bag tax that took effect in 2012, it seems the chemical industry got to him a year later and he championed a (losing) effort to remove the tax from most retail establishments. He was joined by Leventhal in that noble cause.
  • Those who don’t believe pretty lawns justify use of chemicals poisonous to children and pets. Safe Grow Montgomery (which is now under threat as a result of a recent court opinion) passed 6-3 in 2015 over Roger Berliner’s opposition (credit Leventhal for being a champion on this one).
  • Those who oppose unfettered development in the county, at least in part due to concerns about environmental impacts. Berliner has consistently sided with big developers’ attempts to pave everything outside the Agricultural Reserve.

Berliner was indeed the lead sponsor of a recent bill calling for MoCo to divest from fossil fuels. On closer inspection though, how heroic was this? Well, inside sources tell me that it was Marc Elrich who originally came up with the idea. It turns out that Berliner basically jumped the queue to introduce it before Elrich could and he got only two co-sponsors: Elrich and Nancy Navarro. Leventhal, Tom Hucker, Hans Riemer and the rest opposed the bill until it was watered down to be a non-binding resolution, at which point they jumped on the bandwagon. For a change, Berliner was on the right side of an environmental issue, but it didn’t end up amounting to much.

I wrote back to Tidwell on August 3, recounting the councilman’s poor environmental record and concluding:

I agree with you that climate change is the most important issue humanity faces, but an environmentalist should care about and support environmentalism across the board. . . .Unless you can document how Berliner is better than Elrich, Leventhal, or anyone else, you have no credibility with this endorsement. (If you can document this, please respond directly — I am receptive to new information that could change my view. I plan to blog on this topic shortly, so time is of the essence for your reply.)

I got this reply that day:

Thanks for your note. I support Roger personally because he has done more on the issue of climate change than any other leader in the county over the past 10 years – in my view. Climate change is my biggest concern as a voter. Mike

That is: It doesn’t matter if Berliner is wrong about everything else. For Tidwell, climate change is all that matters and it gives license to rank Berliner above all others, including others who have at least identical records on climate change. This doesn’t fly in my book: by definition, you cannot be an environmental leader if you have a record of opposing environmental legislation.

Just how credible is Mike Tidwell, anyway? Well, he has certainly has done a lot of work on climate change and deserves respect for that. But his decision to shill for Berliner is not the only time he has gone off the rails.

In 2011, Tidwell penned an op-ed for the Washington Post, titled “A climate-change activist prepares for the worst.” Here is the choice quote:

How will we feed ourselves adequately if our breadbasket is a desert? Answer: We won’t, and there will be social unrest as a result. . . . So I even took my first-ever lesson in firearms use last December, an introduction to skeet shooting. I told myself it was in part for sport, but I did it mostly to test various types of shotguns for eventual purchase.

Here was Mike Tidwell telling us: “Arm yourselves, the end is near!” That was when I stopped writing checks to CCAN. Just as I don’t believe climate-change activism necessitates abandoning the rest of the environment, I am horrified that any progressive-change activist would join the NRA in promoting guns or engage in fear-mongering about imminent societal collapse.

Back to the county executive race. It would be one thing if you were a single-issue climate-change voter and it were Berliner vs. Nancy Floreen or Craig Rice (whose records are terrible). But the fact is that Marc Elrich has been walking and chewing gum at the same time for decades, building a record against climate change and for the environment more broadly.

 Marc Elrich is the only member of County Council with a consistent record on the environment. While most of county council has been in the pocket of developers since the early aughts; while Berliner has a negative record on pesticides and plastic bags; while Leventhal did as much as anyone to water down the fossil-fuel divestment bill and tried with Berliner to gut the bag tax; Marc Elrich has been a friend of the environment every single time.

I believe Mike Tidwell harmed his own cause when he associated it with gun-toting survivalism. He certainly isn’t helping it now by hitching his wagon to Berliner, an outright threat to the environment.

Dear voter: Don’t let Berliner and Tidwell sell you a batch of snake oil. For county executive in 2018, choose the one councilmember whom you can trust on the environment all the time: Marc Elrich.

©2018 Keith Berner