Posted tagged ‘Ike Leggett’

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:


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.


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): (D1) – co-sponsor (At-Large) – co-sponsor (At-Large) – silent (D5) – silent (D3) – ? (At-Large) – opposed (D4) – co-sponsor (D2) – ? (At-Large) – slippery

©2017 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 & 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

06.14.14 Evan Glass declares himself omnipotent

June 14, 2014

Evan Glass3

“The Transit Center fiasco wouldn’t have happened on my watch!”

Thus screams the headline on an Evan Glass mailer this week. (Glass is running to represent District 5 on the Montgomery Couty Council). That pronouncement is accompanied by a photo of Mr. Arrogant himself, arms crossed, peering down at us from on high.

What’s so wrong with this piece?

  • Somehow, Glass manages to map his tenure as a CNN reporter (’cause he apparently has asked a politician or two a tough question or two during his life) to having the ability to predict and forestall problems with extremely complex public engineering projects. Geez, Evan: I guess being a reporter really does make you better able to analyze the tensile strength of poured concrete than a bunch of engineers with advanced degrees. (Granted, the engineers failed in this project. I just don’t see how a TV reporter would be better positioned than them to stop the problems before they were obvious.)
  • Glass forgets that the county council’s role is to legislate and appropriate. It is the executive who is responsible for implementing policy and projects. If the guy were running against Ike Leggett here, he might be in a somewhat better position to condemn how the project has turned out. I’m no fan of most of the council incumbents, but the failed transit center is not their fault and there was no way they could have intervened before engineering audits revealed the flaws. Maybe what Evan needs is a remedial course in government, so he can understand how it actually works.
  • Glass has now declared war on (and made himself look like a jerk to) the council incumbents, many of whom will be returned to office. So, on an already dysfunctional council, where nearly everyone hates each other, Glass would assume office without a friend in the bunch. So much for any chance of his being effective.
  • Glass is only arrogant, not stupid. He knows damn well that there would not have been a thing he could have done on council to prevent this mess. This means he is purposely lying to District 5 voters by making his ludicrous claim.

I had been positively inclined towards Evan Glass, even though he always seemed a mite too chamber-of-commerce friendly to me (just what we need on council, given the rest of the pave-the-county crowd!). With this mailer — which I deem the most obnoxious of the campaign season — Glass has gone beyond the pale. Arrogance is my least favorite human trait: it provides no value to anyone (ultimately, not even the arrogant). If you think we don’t have enough arrogance in politics, vote for Evan Glass. I can no longer imagine any other reason to select him.

 ©2014 Keith Berner

06.11.14 Voters Guide 2014/Primary Edition Summary (for Takoma Park & Silver Spring, MD)

June 11, 2014

With early voting beginning tomorrow, I want to get my picks out the door. I’ll provide a fully annotated version in a few days. Note that I only cover my home districts. For other districts, I suggest Progressive Neighbors’ recommendations.

For MD Governor: Write in “Mickey Mouse”
None of the declared Mickey Mice deserves your vote.

For MD Comptroller: Write in “Mickey Mouse”
Peter Franchot, who is running unopposed ditched his Takoma Park progressive roots long ago.

For MD Attorney General: Brian Frosh

For US Congress MD District 8: No endorsement.
Chris Van Hollen no longer gets my vote because he supports NSA surveillance. I don’t know a thing about the other two candidates.

For MD State Senator District 20Jamie Raskin

For MD House of Delegates District 20 (select up to three): Sheila Hixson,  Jonathan Shurberg, Will Smith

For Montgomery County Executive: No endorsement
Phil Andrews wins on integrity, but is too conservative to support a decent minimum wage. Ike Leggett is at best very disappointing. Doug Duncan must be stopped!

For Montgomery County Council At-Large (select up to four): Marc Elrich and Beth Daly only
Do not vote for any additional candidates: your vote for one of them could be the vote pushes Elrich or Daly into fifth place.

For Montgomery County Council District 5: Terrill North

For Montgomery County State’s Attorney: John McCarthy

For Clerk of the Circuit Court: Alan Bowser

For Montgomery County Board of Education At Large: Jill Ortman-Fouse

Other races: no position

See previous relevant posts:

©2014 Keith Berner

06.07.14 Duchy Trachtenberg’s unprincipled pursuit of power (aka “The Duchy Show”)

June 7, 2014

I got to know Duchy Trachtenberg well in 2006, when I worked on her first campaign for MoCo council. In that heady year of progressive success, Trachtenberg refused money from the development industry and helped drive a great campaign against Doug Duncan’s and Steve Silverman’s infamous End Gridlock slate that sought to pave the county.

In the ensuring four years, Trachtenberg fulfilled her promises, serving as a partner to Marc Elrich, the late Marilyn Praisner, and  Phil Andrews to stop giveaways to developers. She also joined other members of the council — and County Executive Ike Leggett — to put a stop to the public employee unions’ feeding at the public trough in lean times.

There were some very disturbing signs about Trachtenberg during these years. Her utter glee at going after the unions was a bit disturbing, as was her tendency to rub her hands together and grin while plotting someone else’s downfall. There was also the “All Duchy All the Time” show as some of us called it. Trachtenberg loved to hold court, spouting off about herself and skewering her enemies for hours at a time, whether or not her captive audience was interested.

Trachtenberg got trounced in 2010. The unions had deserted her (as they have now deserted almost all the incumbents). Trachtenberg’s hubris convinced her that she didn’t need to campaign seriously. No one loved her. No one was motivated to put any shoe leather into her non-campaign.

Fast forward to 2014. Like too many other politicians, Trachtenberg can’t stand being out of the limelight. And her lust for power has eclipsed whatever principles she may have ever had. So, she is now welcoming gobs of cash from developers. And she has gone around to the unions one by one to persuade them that she’ll never ask them to sacrifice a thing again. In this process, she has turned herself into the anti-Elrich, the anti-Andrews. Elrich has maintained good relations with the unions, even while refusing to apologize for the tough fiscal choices that had to be made in the lean years. He — and Andrews — still hold that the development industry’s lust for profit is counter to the public interest. (Though, Elrich — again — still maintains an open communications channel to the industry.)

Trachtenberg has sold her soul to the extent that the Washington Post reports her endorsers are attacking Roger Berliner (her opponent for MoCo council D1), from both the pro- and anti-environmentalist sides. I’m no big fan of Berliner, but he can’t both be an environmental extremist AND a corporate pave-it-all shill. It doesn’t matter what side of which debate you’re on though. As long as you can offer cash or publicity to Duchy Trachtenberg, she’s happy to work for you (or pretend to, while she’s really only serving herself).

©2014 Keith Berner

05.03.14 Terrill North for Montgomery County District 5

May 3, 2014

The District 5 race for Montgomery County Council makes me very sad: two very decent and qualified candidates have had all the oxygen sucked out of the race by two bad guys. First, the good guys.

I’m proud to endorse Terrill North for this seat. North is the most consistent progressive in the race. I have known him for about a decade and am a fan of his integrity and passion for economic and social justice. You just have to love a VP of ACLU Maryland, long-time activist with Progressive Neighbors, former advocate with Earth Justice, and leader of a Silver Spring mentorship program for at-risk youth. Putting North on county council will ensure that local hero Marc Elrich (At-Large) will have a partner for the things we care most about.

Give other good-guy Evan Glass credit: while everyone was else cowered in fear, Glass declared his candidacy for D5, before Destructive Force Valerie Ervin quit her post mid-term. Glass is a serious and capable candidate with a long history of community leadership in Silver Spring, including service as chair of the Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Board. Just like North, Glass advocates for closing the educational achievement gap, sustainable environmental practices, and bus rapid transit (thanks to Elrich for that plan!).

If North and Glass were alone in this race, we could expect an uplifting campaign in which voters might end up having to flip a coin. I am going with North, because he has direct experience with a broader range of progressive issues than Glass. But I expect that Glass would also do a fine job on council.

Alas, these two good guys have been eclipsed by two politicians you should not vote for.

Tom Hucker served MD D20 well as delegate since 2007. As one progressive political leader puts it, “I agree with Tom on the issues 90% of the time.” Tom was going to remain a delegate until Valerie Ervin quit her council post. I get why Hucker wasn’t interested in taking on Ervin (fear), but don’t respect it. When it became apparent that Hucker was going to jump in the race after Glass and North had been working it for weeks, I and others pleaded with him to run for an at-large seat instead, creating an opportunity for progressives to take two seats: D5 and one of the at-large slots. His name recognition and connections with political leaders across the county would have made him a favorite to knock off an incumbent like Nancy Floreen or Hans (The Liar) Riemer. Hucker’s response (not verbatim): You can’t expect me to do that. It would be too hard.

Notwithstanding the selfishness of taking an easier road, I was prepared to back Hucker enthusiastically, until I started hearing about the nasty, underhanded campaign he was running. Yes, Hucker is the bully I was referring to in my recent post on the state of local politics. His 2006 campaign for delegate was widely considered to be unsavory, which I had put this out of my mind in recent years. But when I started hearing that Hucker was spreading false rumors about his opponents this year and publicly attacking their backers (driving one of them to tears), it revived unpleasant memories and revealed that this is Hucker’s default modus operandi, not an aberration.

I made about a dozen calls about Hucker to community leaders, elected officials, and political observers, seeking reassurance about his character. Instead, every single person I spoke to — none of whom was associated with his opponents’ campaigns and some of whom expect to vote for Hucker — described him as a bully. I heard not only about campaign tactics, but also about strong-arm behavior in Annapolis that had alienated allies and reduced his effectiveness.

When I called Hucker to tell him why I would not be endorsing him, he angrily described himself as the victim of “scurrilous hearsay” spread by “desperate” opponents who “have nothing to offer.” When I repeatedly pointed out to Hucker that this stuff was coming from neutral observers and even political friends, he just couldn’t hear me. This is classic bully: playing the victim of the very sorts of behavior he engages in.

I really wanted to endorse Hucker, at the very least in order to stop Chris Barclay (see below). But I decided that I just could not ethically attach my name to his style of politics. And here’s the practical aspect of my decision not to back him: Can you think of the other bully who has been in the headlines? That’s right, Tom Hucker is a Chris Christie in the making. How long will it be before Hucker’s behavior results in scandal that takes him down and a part of the progressive agenda with him? I don’t think progressives should take the risk.

I also oppose Hucker for two substantive reasons. He is a union guy first and foremost. There have been other labor backers — people like Elrich, Ervin, and county executive Ike Leggett — who, in the midst of the county’s recent budget crises, demanded that the public employee unions share the pain with other county residents, rather than be given a pass. Hucker has promised the unions never to ask them again to contribute to a sustainable county budget. County residents voted in 2012 to put an end to “effects bargaining” by the Fraternal Order of Police (FoP), under which the union could object to impositions of simple workplace rules (like a requirement to check email). Hucker has promised the FoP that he will fight to restore their stranglehold on common sense.

More surprising is Hucker’s opposition (in two recorded votes) to indexing the state’s new minimum wage to the rate of inflation. Indexing is essential for assuring that newly increased minimum wages don’t end up as poverty wages a few years later. When confronted with this at a recent Silver Spring Democratic Club forum, Hucker hemmed and hawed and finally admitted to having voted against indexing, saying that he was doing what the party leadership in the House wanted him to. That is, Hucker was more concerned about his political future than he was about good policy in support of working women and men.

Rounding out the D5 field is school board member Christopher Barclay, who doesn’t even live in D5 (and is the only one of the four candidates never to have done any work on the ground here)! That’s right, Dear Reader, Maryland law doesn’t exclude carnet baggers if they move to the district by election day, which Barclay promises to do. Why does Barclay even stand a chance? Because a Coalition only Concerned with Color — Ervin and current county-councilmembers Nancy Navarro (D4), Craig Rice (D2), and Cherri Branson (interim D5) — have endorsed him. His apparent prime qualification? He’s African American. His apparent secondary qualification? He’s needy, which means he would be indebted to politicos who help him. Word on the street is that Barclay has no money for this campaign or for moving into our district. This means that Ervin & Co. will be raising or giving Barclay the resources he needs for the campaign and for house-hunting. I can’t prove this point, but it seems to be a logical supposition.

(Barclay is also the politician I referred to  whose campaign manager was found rummaging around Hucker’s Annapolis office in the dead of night.)

For those of you who thought we might be rid of Ervin when she up-and-quit her Council seat mid-term, here is your wake-up call. Ervin got bored because she didn’t have sufficient power or limelight. So what she is doing is cultivating easily manipulable candidates in preparation for eventual runs at county executive, governor, or dictator of the universe. As part of this effort, Ervin has declared D5 a black seat. She is backing empty shirts like Barclay and Will Jawando (empty-shirt candidate for MD D20 delegate — more on him later), all in service to building a political empire. Ervin is seeking to remake the political fault lines in our county from developers/Chamber of Commerce vs. environment/slow-growth to people of color vs. white. All in service to her ambition.

I’m 100% in favor of affirmative action. And there is no question that people of color have been underrepresented in Montgomery County politics. But, in a year when the US president is black, the likely governor of Maryland is black, the current and likely future county executive is black, and four of nine current county council members are of color, is race really the most important criterion for selecting candidates?

In case you missed it, Terrill North happens to be African American. I don’t know why Ervin didn’t settle on him (though, she evidently promised a bunch of candidates her support this year, only to ditch them when push came to shove). Perhaps Ervin decided that North has too much character to serve her future empire. I have settled on him because he is the best man for the job. Period.

PS. In my recent post on dirty local politics, I referred to a political consultant who used blatant anti-Muslim hysteria and Nazi imagery as a campaign tactic. This is David Goodman, who used such horrific themes on behalf of then-MD D19 senator Mike Lenett in 2010 in a losing effort against Roger Manno. (The Gazette cited Goodman as “the architect of Mike Lenett’s aggressive direct mail campaign, which received low marks and helped contribute to one of the nastiest primary races [in 2010].”) He is working for North in this campaign. It turns out, sadly, that other local politicos like Jamie Raskin and Sheila Hixson have given this despicable man work. This sucks. It is also the nature of politics and ultimately not reason enough for me to punish North.

©2014 Keith Berner

11.29.12 He’s baaaack!

November 29, 2012

The Washington Post reports today that Montgomery County’s own Prince of Darkness, Doug Duncan, is in the 2014 contest for county executive.

For those of you with short memories, this is the guy who set out to pave the entire county, while funneling megabucks to his wealthy pals in the development industry. This is the guy who put together the infamous “End Gridlock” county council slate in the 2002 primary with the goal of spending millions to smear the reputations of the  small number of decent, incorruptible human beings in the race (Blair Ewing, Marc Elrich [D-At Large]) who were running. Duncan and his bad guys (including Steve Silverman and Nancy Floreen [D-At Large]) won. The result: a full-fledged assault on quality of life in the county and – in a demonstration of the Orwellian nature of the slate’s name – massive increases in gridlock throughout the county, as development outpaced infrastructure. (Gridlock was not only on the roads, but also in the schools, as classes had to be held in temporary structures, when local populations grew faster than school construction.)

The Post reports that Duncan’s recent job hopping has included a stint with Foulger-Pratt (FP), one of the county’s most rapacious development firms. Here in small-town Takoma Park, we had our own experience with FP in the early ’00s, when they tried to shoehorn a giant commercial development onto the Washington Adventist Hospital’s (WAH) tiny campus and declared the plan immutable, given their nonnegotiable “right” to an 11% return. Community opposition drove FP (and Ken Bauer, WAH’s then-president and FP lapdog) away with their tails between their legs.

The post also tells us that Silverman and Floreen — two politicos who see a potential parking lot in every green space — are also considering running. The depth of Floreen’s anti-environmental ethos is demonstrated by her outspoken opposition to a bag tax, even after all her council colleagues abandoned that indefensible position. She just couldn’t stand the cost to her buddies in chemical industry who make the bags. As for Silverman, he is downright amusing when he is confronted by mirrors that show his real character: he snarls like a rabid dog. (Yes, I was the mirror and experienced this personally.)

Leventhal is also considering a run. Though I have been his vocal opponent in the past, I have come to respect George. Even when I disagree with him, I find him thoughtful and willing to engage. He is also the most responsive of the at-large councilmembers when it comes to constituent service, engaging personally and directly. And the man has a true concern about diversity and for the disadvantaged. For the first time, I would be prepared to endorse George were he to run for his seat again. But I will not be able to do so if he runs for exec, because he remains too developer-friendly for my taste.

The Post and Maryland Juice also say that Valerie Ervin is considering a run. (See the photos on Juice.) Let’s be clear about Valerie. She only ran for the seat in 2006 because she was unemployed and couldn’t think of anything better to do. She pretended to be a progressive and then, once elected, turned her considerable venom on the progressive community. Yes, folks: she loathes environmentally friendly, slow-growth, progressives. I have heard her off the record comments about us. I have also been told by progressives who have met with her about her contempt: “Why should I care what you think? You don’t vote for me.”

Ike Leggett, meanwhile, is on and off and on and off and on again about running to retain his current seat as county executive. I have no respect for Ike. He is not as beholden to developers, per se, as most of the others. But he is totally committed to helping the ultra wealthy get wealthier. He, Duncan, Silverman, and Floreen are the epitome of the Maryland Democrats: so pro-corporate and pro-wealthy that — if they weren’t pro-choice (I assume) — they would be Republicans. In a race of Leggett vs. Duncan, I would have to vote for Leggett.

There is one good guy in the race so far: Phil Andrews (of District 1). As I have written before, he is a man is great integrity and beholden neither to developers, nor the public-employee unions. With the certain opposition of those groups to his candidacy and a small base in District 1, I wonder if his quest is quixotic. But if the line-up ends up as the Post is describing it, I will back Phil with enthusiasm.

So, is there a reasonable hope for someone like Phil? Could be. Consider  how a race that includes Duncan, Ervin, Floreen, Leventhal, and Silverman would split the I-love-concrete crowd’s votes. (Again, I see possibilities for George to separate himself from that pack based on his concern about the poor and Ervin could stand out with an appeal to people of color; though, Leggett’s entry would neutralize that possibility.) As for Will-He-or-Won’t-He Leggett, he could be the main alternative to that collective group or he could end up being lumped with them as monied-establishment and simply split the vote further. If the latter happens, there could be a route for a true progressive to sneak by.

One fascinating thing to watch will be the Post. A majority of its “coverage” of MoCo is on its hyper-pro-development-and-anti-union editorial page. Will the Post go gaga for Duncan, as it has in the past? If so, will it make any effort to hide its cheerleading? How much will its editorial views impact its (rare) reporting on the county, as has been so common in the past? Or will the Post stick with Leggett, as the proven shill-for-the-powerful who doesn’t carry Duncan’s baggage? One thing’s for sure, the Post will not back Phil Andrews or Marc Elrich (should he decide to run) — they have too much personal integrity for our hometown rag.

©2012 Keith Berner