Posted tagged ‘Tom Hucker’

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

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06.22.18 Revisions to Keith Berner’s biennial voter guide

June 22, 2018

You may want to review the original version of my guide, which I published on June 5.

Governor: Rich Madaleno Ben Jealous
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, Will Jawando, Chris Wilhelm
—–Pick two of three: Bill Conway, Seth Grimes, or Jill Ortman-Fouse
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: Lorig Charkoudian, David Moon, Jheanelle Wilkins
Moco Democratic Central Committee At-Large:
—–Women: Marie Mapes
—–Men: Justin Chapelle, Edward Fischman, Dave Kunes

With so many dilemmas of riches, new information incoming, and an opportunity to interact directly with candidates, I am revising some of my original recommendations.

Governor. It is without any joy that I am switching my recommended vote from Rich Madaleno to Ben Jealous. I still believe that Madaleno has the most talent and experience in this race, by a considerable margin. Sadly, his campaign just hasn’t caught fire: he has remained around 6% in polls for a good while now. The race is now pretty clearly between Jealous and Rushern Baker. If you agree with me that Baker is too bland and centrist and likely to get creamed by Larry Hogan in the fall, you have to vote tactically. Vote for Ben Jealous to stop Rushern Baker and set up a strong November match-up that Democrats can win.

Montgomery County Council At Large. I have moved from listing Will Jawando as someone definitely to vote against last summer  to believing he has the smarts, policy understanding, and progressive philosophy to deserve your vote. I had been concerned in the past about what I thought was a thin history of community service in our county. At a meet-and-greet this week, Jawando disabused me of that notion, rattling off a nice list of his contributions, including a summer reading program for disadvantaged youth. (See also his response about this on the Progressive Neighbors questionnaire – Question 6.) I’m also impressed by the zero rating the pernicious developer group Empower Montgomery (EM) gave him in recent mailings. (See why EM is bad news.) I remain concerned that Jawando’s outsized political ambition will distract him from his job on County Council after a couple of years, but am willing to accept this risk.

So, if I am moving Jawando into my top four in the 33-person at-large race (where you get up to four choices), whom am I “demoting”? This practically breaks my heart, because all the candidates whom I have considered seriously would be fabulous in office.

So: Chris Wilhelm and Brandy Brooks absolutely remain among my top choices. My other finalists have been Bill Conway, Seth Grimes, and Jill Ortman-Fouse.

I have, in effect, demoted Ortman-Fouse into a three-way tie with Conway and Grimes. I still think Jill Ortman-Fouse has a good chance of winning, but I am disturbed by the very high ranking given to her by Empower Montgomery. Ortman-Fouse shared with me the questionnaire she submitted to EM and I don’t see any obvious reasons for concern. But I am bothered by her willingness to accept their support without comment (and have asked her to renounce it and denounce them). Just the same, Ortman-Fouse remains on my list.

I also still think highly of Bill Conway whom I think is well positioned to win. I am concerned that Grimes is not as well positioned to win at the other two, based on my observation that he has trouble “sealing the deal” when he meets informally with progressives. So, I’ll be flipping a coin between Conway, Grimes, and Ortman-Fouse until I actually cast my vote.

Another nuance revision from two weeks ago is that I strongly urge voters to reject Evan Glass. My opposition to Glass has increased because of Nancy Floreen’s endorsement and the high score he got from EM (in addition to his WaPo endorsement I already wrote about). There remains no doubt which side Glass is on in MoCo’s major cleavage: the role of the development industry in our politics.

D20 Delegate. I have not changed any of my endorsements: Lorig Charkoudian, David Moon, and Jheanelle Wilkins. The only revision here is that I was gentle to Darian Unger two weeks ago. It is now apparent that Unger’s love affair with himself has fueled a highly unethical campaign. Voters should not only reject Unger’s style of politics, but should send him a strong message to return to community service and give up the quest for public office. (See my two recent posts about Unger: here and here.)

Democratic Central Committee. This body is not widely known or understood. Most of the time, these folks organize fundraisers, phone-banks, and door-to-door canvassing. But, under Maryland law – and in an affront to democracy – this is the body that appoints candidates to fill openings in public offices. (An example is that when Jamie Raskin won his Congressional seat in 2016, the CC appointed then Del. Will Smith to fill Raskin’s seat and Jheanelle Wilkins to fill Smith’s seat.)

In fact, a HUGE number of Maryland senators and delegates have been appointed by party committees. Therefore, it is important to vote only for reformist progressives as CC members: progressive because thats the type of appointments we want them to make; reformist, because we want them to work to change Maryland law to replace appointments with special elections.

Here are my recommendations for DCC for Montgomery County at-large (the D20 races are unopposed). Note that the party split the races by gender this year.

  • Women (select up to four): Marie Mapes (only)
  • Men (select up to four): Justin Chapelle, Edward Fischman, Dave Kunes (only)

Candidates whom I am not endorsing here are not necessarily bad: I just don’t know anything about them. For the same reason, I am not making endorsements in other races, such as school board, judges, and other offices.

©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

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

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.

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*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.

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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.

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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

12.07.16 County Council disses Marc Elrich, as usual

December 7, 2016

At the bottom, you’ll see Nancy Floreen’s celebration of the council’s great new leadership: Roger Berliner and Hans Riemer. Above it you’ll see my letter to the councilmembers. Please remember this when all of them run for county executive (against Marc) in 2018.

Subject: MoCoCo new leadership announcement
Date: December 6, 2016 at 21:00:41 EST

This new leadership is another deliberate exclusion of the most popular and nearly longest serving councilmember: Marc Elrich.Marc beat you other at-large members twice in a row and has now served 10 years on the Council. I’m sure Marc is a big boy and can withstand the evident enmity from his council colleagues, but *I* am insulted. All of you who have conspired to keep Marc out of leadership have betrayed me and thousands of other Moco voters who support him more than they do you. I and others will have a long memory.

©2016 Keith Berner
nancy_floreen_s_montgomery_in_focus__december_2016_-_inbox