Posted tagged ‘Hans Riemer’

01.30.18 Sierra Club goes cynical

January 30, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

©2018 Keith Berner

 

 

 

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01.23.18 How to stay abreast of Montgomery County and Maryland politics

January 23, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©2018 Keith Berner

 

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

December 22, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©2017 Keith Berner

 

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

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.

+++++

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.

+++++

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.

+++++

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.

+++++

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.

+++++

*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

 

 

02.11.17 Slippery Hans does it again (re fossil fuel divestment; and he’s not the only bad guy)

February 11, 2017

On February 6, I posted about the Montgomery County bill to divest from fossil fuels (#44-16). I forwarded that post to all nine of council members – for most of them, it was at least the second time I had contacted them about this matter.

Two days later, I still hadn’t received any response from Tom Hucker, Nancy Floreen, and Hans Reimer, so I re-sent it to them, with this line on top:

“Where do you stand on this? Your silence is not acceptable.”

This time Riemer chose to respond:

If you watch the work session you may see my views . . . on this complicated legislation.” [emphasis added]

So, I wrote to him again:

“Hans—

Are you really telling me that if I want to know where you stand on a piece of public legislation, I need to sit through a Council work session? If I have misunderstood you, please set me straight.

—Keith”

What did I hear back? Nothing.

Hans Riemer has a long and shameful record* of trying to have it both ways, wanting to appear “progressive” (his favorite campaign word), while actually opposing progressive policy. The most egregious case was three years ago, when he fought long and hard to stop a minimum-wage increase and, when the final vote came, he kept his hand on the table until he counted five other hands in the air (meaning the bill would pass). Only then did he get on the bandwagon so that he could claim later to have helped the winning side. See the shameful (30-second) video here. (To be fair, Riemer was one of the good guys in the most recent effort to raise the wage. Even bad guys aren’t always wrong.)

Riemer has reached a new low in refusing to share where he stands with me, a constituent who has asked for him to state his position. His directive that I should sit through hours of discussion for the privilege of learning his positon is obnoxious.

Guess what, Hans Riemer? You work for me – I pay your salary!

So, Riemer is being his slippery self. But is that any worse than Nancy Floreen’s and Tom Hucker’s refusal to respond at all? Riemer is just dumber, because he has handed me more slimy rope with which to hang him. Give Floreen and Hucker credit for being more clever. But don’t give them too much credit, because their silence is also obnoxious.

Guess what, Nancy Floreen and Tom Hucker? You work for me – I pay your salary.

Meanwhile, George Leventhal – maintaining his record as THE most responsive member of County Council responded to me a second time about this issue. I respect Leventhal because of his forthrightness, but he is simply wrong on the issue. He wrote:

“There is no question that climate change is as great a challenge as any our planet and our species faces, but must we also divest from food and beverage companies because of the health risks posed by obesity? Must we divest from bank stocks because of risky investments in mortgage securities that brought on the Great Recession? Must we divest from Treasury bonds because we do not want to finance Donald Trump’s deficit spending to build a Wall on the Mexican border? How are we to respond when activist movements ask us to divest from these securities?”

Slippery-slope arguments like this are impossible to contest, because they rely on some mythical greater harm to be caused in the future by someone(s) who might — in misguided pursuit of purity – push too far. A slippery slope is fear mongering: in this case Leventhal is basically saying that we can’t trust the small minds on county council to distinguish between one policy with clear justification and a different policy with less (or none at all). Perhaps he’s right about the small minds, though.

I note that none of the councilmembers, Slippery Hans, Silent Nancy & Tom, or Leventhal disputed my math: a worst-case impact of fossil fuel divestment on the overall county portfolio would come to a 0.008% reduction in the rate of return.

Even if this measure were purely symbolic (as Leventhal claims), it is a no-brainer because it couldn’t do any more than infinitesimal harm. In fact, fossil-fuel divestment is not only symbolic: if enough pension funds and other investors pull out of these funds, their values will drop. When their values drop, other investors will pull out or not opt in. And a large enough value drop will punish the largest owners of the mega oil and gas firms in the one part of their beings that has feeling: their wallets. Less spending money for these evil-doers means less money for them to invest in purchasing more climate-change deniers for Congress.

It appears right now that Bill 44-16 has support only from its sponsors, Roger Berliner, Marc Elrich, and Nancy Navarro. With a likely veto from blindly pro-business county executive, Ike Leggett, we need a mass effort to turn three more votes on the Council.

+++++

*Here’s a Hall of Shame of previous posts about Riemer:

It is early for me to target Riemer, given that his inevitable campaign for reelection won’t heat up for many months. Don’t worry, Dear Readers: I’ll be prepared to repost all of this when the time is right.

+++++

As for Nancy Floreen, she has nothing to fear from progressive criticism, since (1) she has a long record as the least progressive member of Council and industry pals have kept her afloat, regardless, and (2) she is term-limited and will stand zero chance in a race for county executive.

For Tom Hucker, it’s another story. His seat is comfortable only as long has he is able to keep a progressive label. Hucker’s record is good overall, but it won’t be helped by ignoring constituents or siding with the fossil-fuel industry.

+++++

Please contact your members (district, plus four at-large):

Councilmember.Berliner@montgomerycountymd.gov (D1) – co-sponsor

Councilmember.Elrich@montgomerycountymd.gov (At-Large) – co-sponsor

Councilmember.Floreen@montgomerycountymd.gov (At-Large) – silent

Councilmember.Hucker@montgomerycountymd.gov (D5) – silent

Councilmember.Katz@montgomerycountymd.gov (D3) – ?

Councilmember.Leventhal@montgomerycountymd.gov (At-Large) – opposed

Councilmember.Navarro@montgomerycountymd.gov (D4) – co-sponsor

Councilmember.Rice@montgomerycountymd.gov (D2) – ?

Councilmember.Riemer@montgomerycountymd.gov (At-Large) – slippery

©2017 Keith Berner

02.06.17 Montgomery County must divest from fossil fuels (support Bill 44-16)

February 6, 2017

Bill 44-16 before the Montgomery County (MD) Council would require the country to divest from the fossil fuel industry. Credit goes to Roger Berliner (he’s not ALL bad), Marc Elrich, and Nancy Navarro for co-sponsoring this important legislation. I have already written to all my councilmembers about this. George Leventhal continued his record of being the only councilmember who responds to (my) constituent inquiries, but he is wishy-washy on this issue, writing to me, “This is not an easy call. I understand its symbolic value but I am concerned about anything that may put at risk the county’s ability to keep its promise to retirees.”

I have heard nothing from Nancy Floreen, Hans Riemer, or Tom Hucker, my other reps.

Supporting divestment should be a no-brainer. According to the Washington Post, fossil-fuel investments constitute $65 million, out of a $4-billion MoCo portfolio, or 1.65%.  So if we assume that moving those investments elsewhere would produce a rate of return 0.5% lower than leaving them where they are (this is a pessimistic assumption, since there are plenty of well-performing investments outside this industry), the overall impact would come to a 0.008% reduction in the portfolio’s rate of return. Bottom line: even under a pessimistic assumption, the impact would be negligible.

Those arguing against divestment either haven’t done the math, are climate-change deniers, or have a personal stake in the fossil fuel-industry.
Please contact your members (district, plus four at-large):
Councilmember.Berliner@montgomerycountymd.gov
Councilmember.Elrich@montgomerycountymd.gov
Councilmember.Floreen@montgomerycountymd.gov
Councilmember.Hucker@montgomerycountymd.gov
Councilmember.Katz@montgomerycountymd.gov
Councilmember.Leventhal@montgomerycountymd.gov
Councilmember.Navarro@montgomerycountymd.gov
Councilmember.Rice@montgomerycountymd.gov
Councilmember.Riemer@montgomerycountymd.gov
Probably a bit less effective, but still worthwhile would be to use either use 350moco.org’s petition or to write to all councilmembers at once using the Council website.
©2017 Keith Berner