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Politics Roundup: Gansler Says Hes Closing Gap In Polls, Key Endorsements

by Aaron Kraut | April 16, 2014 at 3:25 pm | 112 views | No Comments

Attorney General and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Doug Gansler (file photo)Gansler Releases Internal Poll That Shows He’s Closing The Gap – Gubernatorial hopeful Doug Gansler this week released an internal poll that his campaign claimed shows he’s closing the gap on Anthony Brown.

The poll, commissioned by Gansler’s campaign and done by The Mellman Group, shows the gap between Gansler and Brown for the Democratic nomination is now 9 percentage points, compared to 23 percentage points in a February poll by the same pollster.

A Washington Post poll had Brown with a 19-point lead over Gansler in February.

The Gansler poll released this week was based on a survey of 600 voters and had 31 percent favoring Brown, 22 percent favoring Gansler, 8 percent favoring Heather Mizuer and 40 percent undecided.

The Mellman Group the undecided number was significantly lower (29 percent) in February, what Gansler’s campaign said is a sign that people are unhappy with Brown’s roll in the implementation of the state’s failed healthcare exchange.

The state recently decided to ditch its exchange and implement a new one.

Berliner Gets Union Endorsement – A local education workers union has given its endorsement to incumbent District 1 Councilmember Roger Berliner, despite opponent Duchy Trachtenberg’s efforts to win labor support.

SEIU Local 500, which represents MCPS employees and Montgomery College professors, among others, sided with Berliner in a batch of County Council endorsements released this week.

Trachtenberg is working hard to repair relations with local unions after a falling out led to those unions targeting her in the 2010 primary, which she lost as an at-large Council incumbent. Trachtenberg has hired the former executive director of the county’s main employee union as her campaign director.

Korman Gets NARAL Pro-Choice Endorsement – In the likewise competitive District 16 House of Delegates race, candidate Marc Korman announced a key endorsement from the NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland PAC.

The group also gives out 100 percent ratings, a recent source of controversy in neighboring District 18. Korman is running against incumbents Ariana Kelly and Bill Frick, plus five other challengers for three seats in the June 24 Democratic primary.

Hrant Jamgochian, thought to be a leading contender along with Korman, recently picked up the key “Apple Ballot” endorsement of the Montgomery County Education Association. MCEA also put its support behind Frick and Kelly.

“We are very excited about Marc’s race for the Maryland House of Delegates in District 16 and are proud to issue our endorsement,” Erin Schurmann, a NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland PAC board member, said in a press release. “Marc has always been a strong activist for reproductive rights and health in District 16 and Montgomery County. We know that he will be a superb leader and effective advocate when elected and look forward to partnering with him.”

Leggett: ‘I’m Not Prepared To Leave This Ship’

by Aaron Kraut | April 14, 2014 at 2:10 pm | 181 views | No Comments

Isiah Leggett, back on the campaign trail Sunday in Randolph Hills

In fall 2012, Isiah Leggett said he couldn’t anticipate running for a third term as Montgomery County’s county executive.

In 2013, as the field for this June’s Democratic primary took shape, Leggett reversed course. On Sunday, he was back on the campaign trail, giving a stump speech in which he compared Montgomery County to an ocean liner — one he claimed to have steered safely to harbor despite the rocky waters of the recession and budget problems “below the surface” inherited from predecessor Doug Duncan.

“I’m not prepared to leave this ship,” Leggett said.

He spoke to a group of supporters at a backyard barbecue in the Randolph Hills neighborhood of Rockville, one of his first full-on campaign events this election cycle.

With a fundraising advantage and as a generally well-liked incumbent, many feel that Leggett is the clear favorite against Councilmember Phil Andrews and Duncan, who was county executive for 12 years before Leggett was first elected in 2006.

On Sunday, Leggett compared governing the county in Duncan’s time — mostly a period of economic growth and budget increases — to the last eight years, a period in which Leggett reduced the county workforce by 10 percent, imposed furloughs and stopped scheduled pay raises to keep the county’s budget in check.

“In the 90′s and early 2000 timeframe, it was much easier to be county executive,” Leggett said. “When you are able, over a 10-year period, to increase the budget by 130 percent, that’s unheard of. Which position is easier to govern from?”

Leggett said he wasn’t planning to run for a third term because his wife was initially very reluctant about it. He also said his mind began to change last year, when an infusion of state dollars from an increase in the gas tax provided a way to finish transportation projects he characterized as “unfinished business.”

But it’s clear Leggett’s desire to govern during improving economic times — in the type of conditions his predecessor and main rival enjoyed — was at least part of the reason he’s back on the campaign trail.

“To govern in those two periods was much different,” Leggett said. “Not to say that people then didn’t have leadership skills, but it was an easier proposition.”

(more…)

PTAs, Teachers Union Urge Council To Fully Fund MCPS Budget Request

by Aaron Kraut | April 11, 2014 at 1:25 pm | 86 views | 2 Comments

Walt Whitman High School, via MCPSParents and the county teachers union on Thursday urged the Montgomery County Council to add more school funding on top of what’s recommended in County Executive Isiah Leggett’s proposed FY 2015 operating budget.

Leggett last month recommended funding MCPS $26 million over the state-mandated minimum, the first time in six years he’s recommended going over that mark. But MCPS Superintendent Joshua Starr and the Board of Education are seeking funding that is $51.7 million over the maintenance of effort minimum.

It sets up what could be a tough negotiation and thorny political issue now that the budget is before the County Council.

County officials have argued the maintenance of effort law unfairly ties the hands of county governments by requiring counties to fund their school systems at the same per-pupil level as the previous fiscal year, or face fines and reduced state aid.

The Montgomery County Education Association (MCEA) will again distribute what’s thought to be a widely influential “Apple Ballot” of endorsed candidates during the primary election on June 24. On Thursday, MCEA President Doug Prouty told the Council that programs for the school system’s neediest students are at risk if the county doesn’t fund the budget to the level requested by MCPS.

“There is no issue of greater importance for MCEA and MCPS than closing the achievement gap and providing opportunities for all of our students,” Prouty said.

The MCEA has identified $3 million to buy new tablet technology, $1 million to reduce English and Math class sizes in high poverty high schools and $1.2 million to add counselors and school psychologists as specific investments that would be at risk.

Elise Browne Hughes, one of the PTA coordinators for the Whitman High School cluster, asked council members not to let their distaste of the maintenance of effort law prevent them from upping the amount of funding in the school budget.

“As you develop this budget, we urge you to consider the county executive’s recommendations for school funding as a starting point to build upon, with an aim to fully fund the Board of Education’s request,” Hughes said. “Now, it’s up to you to make the next move and approve an operating budget that does right by our children and schools. Don’t penalize them because you oppose a state law designed to protect public education in counties that neglect their local funding responsibilities — a designation so contrary to the values of Montgomery County.”

The Montgomery County Council of Parent-Teacher Associations (MCCPTA) began applying the political pressure even before Leggett officially released his recommended budget.

“I am optimistic that our local leaders will do right by our children and school. And I know the conclusions I am going to draw before I head to the ballot box in June if the school budget is not fully funded or if the conversations turn back again to MOE (Maintenance of Effort) this spring,” wrote MCCPTA President Janette Gilman in an open letter last month. “And I know 50,000+ Montgomery County PTA members — and registered voters — who will do exactly the same.”

The Council’s Education Committee is set to start its work on the MCPS budget on April 22.

Politics Roundup: Frick Talks ‘House of Cards’ Tax Breaks, Endorsement Drama

by Aaron Kraut | April 10, 2014 at 10:15 am | 191 views | 2 Comments

Frick Talks “House of Cards” Tax Breaks On MSNBC – District 16 Del. Bill Frick was on MSNBC’s “NOW with Alex Wagner” on Wednesday to talk about how the Maryland General Assembly “out-Underwoods, Frank Underwood,” a reference of course to the main character of Netflix’s popular “House of Cards” series.

As you might know, the show is filmed in Maryland and the show’s production company recently threatened to leave the state if it didn’t get extra tax benefits.

Frick on March 27 stood up to that threat by introducing a budget amendment that would allow the state to take, by eminent domain, any of the production company’s property if the show did leave town. Frick told reporters he was just doing what Frank Underwood would do.

That budget amendment was eventually taken out in conference, but the show did not get the additional $3.5 million in tax breaks it was looking for.

Frick told Wagner that Media Rights Capital — the production company that promised it’d leave in a letter demanding the additional tax breaks — is to blame. He also said the economic incentive that film production companies bring is fleeting, as opposed to traditional corporations that set up headquarters or other facilities.

“Media Rights Capital kind of has themselves to blame for the controversy about this,” said Frick, who bemoaned the “over the top, melodramatic way they threatened the state.”

The state’s tax incentive program will remain at $15 million to be doled out to all the shows that film in Maryland, including HBO’s “Veep.” According to reports, Gov. Martin O’Malley’s office is negotiating with Media Rights Capital to bridge the gap.

Pro-Choice Endorsement Controversy in District 18 – Speaking of political drama, a significant pro-choice advocacy group is facing controversy in District 18, which includes Chevy Chase and parts of Bethesda.

David Lublin over at the Seventh State has the full rundown, but here’s what happened in a nutshell:

NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland’s Maida Schifter sent D-18 delegate candidate Natali Fani-Gonzalez an email on April 4 letting her know that the PAC was awarding her its endorsement. On April 9, NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland Chair Edward Terry called Fani-Gonzalez to say that the email had been mistakenly sent out by an intern.

The problem? Schifter is no intern. She’s on the board.

Fani-Gonzalez claims that pressure from “external forces,” perhaps meaning the district’s three incumbent delegates, forced NARAL to pull back its endorsement and claim it was a mistake. She’s not happy. She shared her email to NARAL with Lublin:

Over the past decade, I have been part of numerous Boards, including Goucher College, Emerge Maryland, the Maryland Latino Coalition for Justice, to name a few.Therefore, I would appreciate if you do not insult my intelligence with such frivolous rationalization.

The true story: you decided to take back my endorsement under external forces’ pressure.

When asked about the allegation, NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland told BethesdaNow.com that the endorsement was a clerical error and apologized. Fani-Gonzalez was supposed to get a 100 percent Pro-Choice rating, but the three endorsements were apparently reserved for the incumbents:

This was a clerical error that had a large and unfortunate impact.  We understand the magnitude of our error and apologize for the confusion it has caused. We have reached out to each of the candidates, including Ms. Natali Fani-Gonzalez.  The NARAL PAC board endorsed the incumbent candidates from District 18.  We mistakenly issued an endorsement to a fourth candidate who was intended to receive a 100% Pro-Choice rating, which is used for candidates who do not receive an endorsement but reflects their Pro-Choice values.

Council Race Starts Off Chevy Chase Candidate Forums

by Aaron Kraut | April 8, 2014 at 8:25 am | 75 views | No Comments

Roger Berliner (file photo) Duchy Trachtenberg talking to supporters at her campaign kickoff event on Thursday at the Strathmore Mansion

The towns and villages of Chevy Chase will host one of the first candidates forums featuring the two competitors for what’s expected to be the County Council’s fiercely contested District 1 seat.

On Wednesday, April 30 at 7 p.m., incumbent Councilmember Roger Berliner and challenger Duchy Trachtenberg will take part in a forum at the Town of Chevy Chase Town Hall (4301 Willow Lane).

Berliner and Trachtenberg, who served as an at-large council member from 2006-2010, are former allies. On filing deadline day for the June 24 primary, Trachtenberg surprised many by choosing to run against Berliner and not for one of her former at-large seats or a position in the state legislature.

The race has already touched off a break with Berliner in a portion of the development community, as a number of developers unhappy with Berliner’s work on the Clarksburg Ten Mile Creek decision will host a fundraiser for Trachtenberg this week at the Congressional Country Club.

Berliner must also make up a significant fundraising gap. The two term council member wasn’t expecting such an established Democratic primary opponent. Trachtenberg has tried to mend rough relations with labor by promising to restore effects bargaining rights for police.

Also taking part in the April 30 forum will be Republican Jim Kirkland, who was nominated by the Montgomery County Republican Central Committee to run in District 1. He’ll be on the general election ballot.

Other Chevy Chase forums will include one for all the Council at-large candidates on Wednesday, May 21 at 7 p.m. at the 4H Center (7100 Connecticut Ave.).

All four incumbents — Marc Elrich, Nancy Floreen, George Leventhal and Hans Riemer — are in the race and will be challenged by Dickerson resident Beth Daly and Olney resident Vivian Malloy. The Republican side has four candidates that will all make the general election ballot, including Bethesda resident and blogger Robert Dyer.

Finally, the county executive candidates will get together on Sunday, June 8 from 2 p.m. at the 4H Center for yet another county executive forum. That forum will be hosted by Charles Duffy, the host of a show on Montgomery Municipal Cable and a familiar face to the candidates. He hosted the Women’s Democratic Club county executive forum Sunday in Silver Spring.

Duncan Unveils Agenda Heavy On Infrastructure Projects

by Aaron Kraut | April 7, 2014 at 2:35 pm | 327 views | 1 Comment

County executive candidates Phil Andrews, Doug Duncan and Isiah Leggett Sunday in Silver SpringExpress lanes on I-270, faster internet speeds and an online system for completing regular permitting tasks are among the proposals county executive candidate Doug Duncan’s campaign unveiled Sunday in a “Leadership In Action” plan.

Duncan, who served as county executive for three terms from 1994-2006, released the plan during a candidate forum Sunday in Silver Spring.

Duncan, incumbent Isiah Leggett and Councilmember Phil Andrews had some testy exchanges regarding the completion of the Silver Spring Transit Center, school maintenance of effort funding and the limits of binding arbitration with the county’s employee unions.

Duncan’s campaign was busy promoting his 31-page “leadership agenda,” a mix of broad policy goals, biographical facts, criticisms of Leggett’s administration and some specific policy proposals.

Most of those specifics are in the “Infrastructure” section of the document and include a proposal to build multi-modal express lanes in an effort to relieve traffic on I-270. The express lanes would be similar to Virginia’s Beltway HOT lanes, which opened in 2012.

Duncan said he would add lanes to I-270 by seeking a public private partnership. Presumably, those driving alone would have to pay tolls, as is the case on the Virginia section of the Beltway.

Duncan also proposed to achieve gigabit internet speeds, or speeds 100 times faster than the average internet speed. It’s a concept other cities have implemented and one Duncan said will benefit county residents “and the competitiveness of its businesses.”

Duncan vowed to complete a comprehensive bike transportation system that would mean completing the Metropolitan Branch Trail, ICC bike facilities “and remaking the roads in Bethesda, Friendship Heights, Silver Spring and Takoma Park.”

Duncan apparently is also unimpressed with Leggett’s backing of an open data program that has won rave reviews, especially compared to other county governments.

“One Click Montgomery,” as described by Duncan, would allow residents and businesses to access and download their personal information that is on file from the county. The concept would be to allow businesses to submit or view permits online to “cut through the red tape that can be arduous and be a high barrier to entry.”

The plan also proposes a new Montgomery County website:

Montgomery County needs to redesign its website so that it is user-friendly to its residents and businesses. We can achieve user-friendliness by vastly enhancing the user interface to ensure that anyone who comes to our site can quickly and easily navigate it to find the information they need. In a world today where technology plays such a large part in our effectiveness to serve the public, Montgomery County’s presence online matters as much as our interaction with our residents in person. We can and will do a much better job.

Berliner Hopes “Who’s Who” List Of Supporters Helps Make Up Fundraising Gap

by Aaron Kraut | April 4, 2014 at 9:30 am | 307 views | 1 Comment

County Councilman Roger Berliner (file photo)

(Correction 11:30 a.m.) This story incorrectly stated that Len Simon, Bethesda resident and community activist, was Roger Berliner’s campaign manager. Andrew Feldman is acting as Berliner’s campaign manager.

(Original) The crowd at Roger Berliner’s Thursday night fundraiser included hardcore Purple Line advocates and the mayor of a town actively lobbying against it.

There were developers, civic association leaders who have fought development, environmentalists who pushed for a law regarding the area’s tree canopy and a building industry official who initially opposed it.

Berliner, the two-term council member locked in an unexpected primary race, called it a “who’s who” of the district and a reflection of the support he enjoys from competing sides on many issues.

“I think it reflects how I try to go about my work of bringing people together, of honoring all stakeholders, of not pitting one community interest against another community interest, of being proud of being a common grounder, of trying to find common ground but without sacrificing principle,” Berliner said. “I had conversations just yesterday, somebody said, ‘Councilmember Berliner, we don’t know on a given issue where you stand.’ And I said to that person, ‘I consider that to be a badge of honor.’ Because I try to think about things before I decide how I’m going to vote.”

The fundraising event on Thursday was held at Bethesda’s Positano restaurant, one week after the campaign kickoff of opponent Duchy Trachtenberg.

Trachtenberg too said she was proud of the “diversity in the room,” at her event, during which she pressed hard for labor support by promising to restore effective bargaining rights for police.

“Remember, lots of folks in District 1 were born at night, but not last night,” Bethesda resident and Berliner supporter Len Simon said Thursday. “They’ll be able to tell the difference between a solid record and empty rhetoric.”

Trachtenberg’s filing deadline day announcement that she’d be seeking Berliner’s Council seat (and not attempting to regain one of the at-large Council seats she held from 2006-2010) was a surprise to many, including Berliner.

“We were not thinking right away that that was going to happen,” said Barbara Goldman, Berliner’s campaign treasurer.

She estimated it would take $250,000 in campaign spending to win the race. That leaves Berliner in an early fundraising hole.

Berliner reported $52,000 in available campaign money in January, with little fundraising activity in 2013. With a reported $122,574 in campaign funds left over from previous races, Trachtenberg has a decided money advantage with less than three months until the June 24 primary.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we have work to do in this campaign,” Berliner said. “Let’s not kid ourselves. This is going to be a real campaign. We need you in every way possible.”

(more…)

Politics Roundup: County Races Heat Up

by Aaron Kraut | April 3, 2014 at 11:30 am | 95 views | No Comments

Duncan Releases First Set Of Policy Proposals – Doug Duncan on Wednesday released the first of what’s expected to be many specific policy proposals he hopes will help him beat incumbent County Executive Isiah Leggett in June’s primary.

Duncan released goals and proposals for an “Innovation Economy,” while also claiming Leggett hasn’t done enough to help job growth.

Some of his proposals include: Working with companies such as Discovery Communications and the American Film Institute to grow the county’s entertainment, communication and education industries, creating a best practices initiative with major hospitality companies in the region and putting together a business advisory council featuring “some of the more successful companies in our region.”

Duncan also said he would “reverse the broken promise by current County leadership and sunset the energy tax increase,” a fee the business community has protested each budget season.

Leggett has spoken about the improvements he’s made to the county’s permitting system, reducing the time it takes for businesses to get required approvals. Duncan indicated he’s not satisfied with those changes, saying the Department of Permitting Services is overcharging for permits “and not clearly laying out what residents and businesses need to do to get them.”

Berliner Fundraising Thursday In Woodmont Triangle – Bethesda district Councilmember Roger Berliner is locked in an unexpected Democratic primary race with former ally and at-large Councilmember Duchy Trachtenberg.

Trachtenberg was rumored to be considering runs at an at-large Council seat or even a state legislature position this election cycle. On filing deadline day, she made the surprise announcement.

Councilmember Roger Berliner (file photo)That left two-term incumbent Berliner in a bit of a fundraising pinch. Berliner reported $52,000 in available campaign money in January, with little fundraising activity in 2013. With $122,574 in campaign funds left over from previous races, Trachtenberg began her bid with a decided money advantage.

On Thursday, Berliner supporters will hold a fundraiser at Positano (4948 Fairmont Ave.) with contribution sponsorship  levels of $1,000, $500, $250 and $150.

Listed hosts of the event include Purple Line NOW president Ralph Bennett, Central Farm Markets founders Deborah Moser and Mitch Berliner (unrelated), bike advocate Jack Cochrane, Bethesda Cares Executive Director Sue Kirk and Chevy Chase homeowners Bill and Julie Buchanan, who fought for lower building heights during last year’s debate of the Chevy Chase Lake Sector Plan.

News and Notes – District 16 Del. Ariana Kelly sent an email to supporters touting her parental leave legislation that recently passed in the State House. The bill requires employers to provide parental leave at the birth or adoption of a child. …District 16 delegate hopeful Hrant Jamgochian released a list of local endorsers, including District 18 Del. Jeff Waldstreicher and County Councilmember George Leventhal. Read the press release in the PDF below.

PDF: Hrant Jamgochian endorsements

Mizeur Tells Supporters She Has Improving Chance At Gubernatorial Nomination

by Aaron Kraut | March 31, 2014 at 3:10 pm | 245 views | 1 Comment

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Heather Mizeur discusses her proposals and campaign at the home of a Bethesda supporter on SundayThe 25 women who showed up in Bethesda on Sunday to chat with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Heather Mizeur are likely among her most solid and enthusiastic supporters.

Yet even some of them wondered how the state delegate from Takoma Park, widely viewed as a longshot third candidate, would break through the near constant talk about two better known and better financed opponents — Attorney General Doug Gansler and Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown.

A few asked Mizeur, seeking to become the state’s first female and first openly gay governor, about her electability facing two candidates with more name recognition and bigger campaign bank rolls.

“What we are doing here is really waking people up. We have sort of been sleeping for a long time under a scenario where, ‘Well, this is how it always is.’ You get a choice between this guy or that guy who’s next in line, who spent seven years building a war chest and political favors and endorsements to guarantee that they’re going to be the ones to protect the status quo,” Mizeur said. “And a candidate like me is supposed to look at their advantages and never be willing to get in the race, because everyone says it can’t be done. …Am I allowed to say that I have both a better message and am a better messenger?”

The event on Sunday, at the Bethesda home of a supporter, was promoted as a Women’s Policy Roundtable and Mizeur talked about her proposals for paid family leave and for closing the gender pay gap in Maryland, especially among minorities.

Mizeur has proposed legalizing marijuana, creating an independent commission to take care of redistricting, raising the minimum wage to $16.70 an hour by 2022 and reinstating the state’s millionaire’s tax.

The former Congressional aide and political consultant likely would have trailed Brown and Gansler in campaign fundraising and chose to accept public financing — the first gubernatorial candidate since 1994 to make that choice. The public financing option will effectively limit her primary spending at about $2.5 million.

Both Brown and Gansler are expected to spend much more. But Mizeur said she expects those two to continue beating up on each other as the primary continues and cited improving polling numbers and a 40 percent undecided voter rate as ways her campaign is already making progress.

“Up until now, we have been conserving all of our resources to be able to go up on the air toward the end of the campaign when more people become interested. With very little expenditure of those resources, we are narrowing that gap,” Mizeur said. “The old playbook that says you need $7-$10 million to win a race like this is in a scenario where the voters are unengaged, disinterested and you’re having to force yourself into their living rooms and shove your message down their throat. Instead, we are inspiring people.”

Trachtenberg Tries To Mend Labor Relations In Council Comeback Attempt

by Aaron Kraut | March 28, 2014 at 11:35 am | 283 views | 4 Comments

In 2010, public employees demonstrated outside of Duchy Trachtenberg’s kickoff event as she campaigned for re-election as an at-large member of the County Council.

On Thursday, Trachtenberg kicked off her bid to get back on the Council with many of those union members and representatives in the room.

In a 17-minute speech to supporters at the Strathmore Mansion, Trachtenberg promised to restore police effects bargaining rights and bemoaned the “breakdown” between her and the unions during her term from 2006-2010. She lost her at-large seat to Councilmember Hans Riemer in 2010, a change county unions gleefully took responsibility for.

“Guess what guys, your employees deserve competitive pay and benefits for the excellent job that they do each and every day,” Trachtenberg said in a message addressed at the police, firefighter and county employee union representatives in the audience. “I pledged my support for this and I sincerely regret the breakdown of our working relationship a few years back. It should never have happened, given my union roots, and I really feel badly that it did.”

Trachtenberg criticized the Council and Montgomery County for legislating the removal of effects bargaining rights for police, something she said should have been worked out in collective bargaining. County police commanders said effects bargaining rights were hindering their ability to make swift and necessary changes regarding everyday activities such as the use of email, equipment turn-in, rules for raids and video systems in police cars.

It was a ballot question in 2012. After a bitter campaign waged by both the county government and police union, 58 percent of voters chose to uphold the 2011 repeal.

“That should have never happened and it didn’t happen when I was on the Council,” Trachtenberg said. “It’s going to be the first thing that I do and it’s the right thing to do because effects bargaining, binding arbitration and adequate pay and workers’ benefits are all essential workers’ rights.”

Trachtenberg’s relationship with the unions deteriorated throughout her first term as the Council, dealing with the Great Recession and dwindling budgets, took aim at public employee compensation packages.

On Thursday, she struck a different tone.

“Binding arbitration and adequate pay and workers’ benefits are all essential workers’ rights,” Trachtenberg said. “We all believe that. We all grew up understanding that. That was the core of the progressive movement and it should remain as such.”

In a surprise move, Trachtenberg chose to file for the District 1 seat occupied by Roger Berliner. Some suspected the North Bethesda resident would again run for an at-large seat, or even for state office.

On Thursday, she painted her bid to oust former ally Berliner as a chance to “put Council District 1 back on the progressive map.”

District 1 includes Bethesda, Chevy Chase, North Bethesda, Potomac and Poolesville.

Trachtenberg pledged her support for schools, bemoaned the “divisive” conversation that has surrounded school funding at budget time and promised to find a new, permanent home for the Brickyard Educational Farm. The organic farm in Potomac was recently shut down after a two-year legal dispute with the Board of Education, which owns the land.

She also pledged to work with private developers to build more affordable housing, especially for families that have suffered domestic abuse.

Trachtenberg mentioned Berliner only once, and not by name, while discussing her environmental protection credentials. She recently got support from a group of developers unhappy with Berliner’s support of a move to limit development near Ten Mile Creek in Clarksburg.

Trachtenberg claimed she had plenty of support among environmental activists, and said a water quality work group she started with former Councilmember Mike Knapp laid the groundwork for the Ten Mile Creek debate today.

“I have them actually. I know my opponent is saying I don’t, but I’ve always worked with the environmental community on a number of issues,” Trachtenberg said.

Supporters in attendance included Dana Beyer, the transgender-rights activist making her own political run in District 18 against incumbent State Sen. Rich Madaleno. Beyer, an advocate for the Madeleno-sponsored transgender rights bill that passed the House of Delegates on Thursday, worked as a Council staffer for Trachtenberg and called her the No. 1 straight ally of the LGBT community in Montgomery County.

“It’s been said she has a heart of gold, but she also has a spine of steel,” Beyer said of Trachtenberg.

“Despite being accused of being bossy, and that happens often, or that I’m too quick to cut to the chase, I do get things done,” Trachtenberg said. “I’m very effective and I know I am. I’m not bragging. I know it.”

Politics Roundup: Delegate Candidates Make Strong Pitches

by Aaron Kraut | March 27, 2014 at 4:30 pm | 180 views | No Comments

D-18 incumbent slate (from left to right) Sen. Rich Madaleno, Del. Ana Sol Gutierez, Del. Al Carr and Del. Jeff WaldstreicherWaldstreicher ‘Surprised’ By Campaign Money Talk – District 18 Del. Jeff Waldstreicher and his two fellow incumbents face plenty of competition in June.

On Thursday, Waldstreicher said he was surprised that some of his opponents were touting impressive campaign fundraising numbers.

The message seemingly was aimed at Rick Kessler, a Forest Glen government relations consultant and former Congressional staffer who raised the most money in the field and has the second most cash on hand ($68,782), according to finance reports.

District 18 includes parts of Bethesda, Chevy Chase, North Bethesda, Silver Spring and Garrett Park, Kensington and Wheaton.

Waldstreicher boasted a district-leading campaign chest of $113,873 when 2013 annual reports came out, but he wasn’t focusing on those numbers on Thursday:

Our re-election campaign is in full swing! Of course, you may have heard that some new faces have entered our race, which I fully welcome. The democratic process is indeed an important and healthy one. One thing that did surprise me, however, was that some of these new faces entered the race touting their fundraising numbers.

Well, I have some numbers to report, also. Two of them, in fact:

(301) 221-2696 — my personal cell

(301) 858-3130 — my direct line in Annapolis

As your Maryland State Delegate, I am here for you and happy to help. Neighborhood needs road or pedestrian improvements? Happy to help. Pepco out (again)? Happy to help. Looking for scholarships for the University System of Maryland? Happy to help.

Even as I work aggressively here in Annapolis to dramatically increase our minimum wage (which I was proud to vote for last week!) and pass universal preschool, constituent service remains the core of my job. And so when you need me, please don’t hesitate to use the numbers above. I’m not one for touting, but my office does pride itself on being responsive, accessible, and friendly. As always, I am…

Cooper Releases Campaign Video – District 16 delegate candidate Jordan Cooper on Thursday released a campaign video, with a shout-out to the video maker and friend who made it for him for free. The video is on Cooper’s site:

Campaign videos are expensive, but as with many things in this campaign, I have been fortunate that friends old and new have been willing to offer their services as in-kind contributions.

So today, I want to give a special thanks to Kim Foley, who contributed her time and talent to make this video possible. Kim is a video professional with decades of experience in high-level business, television, and political video production.

In the video, Cooper focuses on the economy, schools and transportation infrastructure.

(more…)

Frick Amendment Means State Could Condemn ‘House of Cards’ Property

by Aaron Kraut | March 27, 2014 at 1:30 pm | 346 views | 3 Comments

D-16 Del. Bill Frick, via Flickr user Edward Kimmel Kevin Spacey as Frank Underwood, via Netflix

“Is Bill Frick the new Frank Underwood?”

That’s the question Del. Sam Arora posed on Twitter after Frick, the Bethesda resident and District 16 delegate, proposed a budget amendment Thursday that would allow the state some potential leverage in a standoff against the production company behind “House of Cards.”

For the past few weeks, that company has been threatening to stop making the show in Maryland and bolt town if it’s not given more tax money back this year.

Spacey, who plays ruthless politician Frank Underwood in the show, wined and dined State House members in Annapolis over the weekend in an effort to get support for the larger tax breaks. (Read this Washington Post story for a detailed account of, among other things, real-life politicians seeking selfies with Spacey at the private event.)

The amendment Frick introduced and that was passed would allow the state to use eminent domain to take over the property of any film production company in Maryland that got more than $10 million in tax credits before leaving the state.

Arora described it as an Underwood-type move:

Expect more from State House reporters soon:

Frick recently made a major political maneuver of his own, dropping out of the Attorney General’s race on the day of the filing deadline to run for re-election in his District 16 delegate seat.

Bill Frick Flickr photo via Edward Kimmel, Frank Underwood photo via Netflix

Politics Roundup: Apple Ballot, Duncan Transit Center Video

by Aaron Kraut | March 19, 2014 at 1:15 pm | 175 views | No Comments

D-16 Delegate candidate Hrant Jamgochian (file photo)

(Updated 8:40 a.m. Thursday)

Frick, Jamgochian Get On Apple Ballot — The Montgomery County Education Association on Tuesday announced more endorsements that will appear on its influential apple ballot this primary, including its picks for District 16.

The MCEA — the union representing 12,000 educators in MCPS — will support Del. Susan Lee to fill the State Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Brian Frosh, who is running for attorney general.

The union had already endorsed Del. Ariana Kelly for re-election. On Tuesday, it threw its support behind Del. Bill Frick, who pulled a last-minute reversal and decided to pursue re-election rather than run for attorney general.

It also endorsed Hrant Jamgochian, one of the five non-incumbent candidates for three seats:

Mr. Frick is a favorable incumbent with a positive voting record on education issues. Through his service on the Ways & Means Committee, Mr. Frick has been a valuable voice advocating for education funding. MCEA is recommending Hrant Jamgochian to fill the vacant seat in this district. MCEA’s interview team was impressed by Mr. Jamgochian’s policy background and insight. His record of community involvement has prepared him well for public service.

The apple ballot, literally a piece of paper shaped like an apple listing all of MCEA’s endorsements, is thought to be highly influential on election day, especially to voters who haven’t paid attention to down ballot races.

MCEA members pass the ballots out at most polling places around Montgomery County. The primary this year is June 24.

Duncan Pokes Fun At Transit Center Delays — Doug Duncan’s campaign on Tuesday released a YouTube video showing “just how much has gone on in our community, our country and the world,” since County Executive Isiah Leggett got into office and took over oversight of the long-delayed Silver Spring Transit Center project.

Duncan, who was county executive for three terms before Leggett took over in 2008, wants his old job back. In recent weeks Duncan has hammered Leggett on the status of the Transit Center, part of his pitch that he would be a stronger leader for Montgomery County.

The video lists events that have happened since the construction contract between Montgomery County and construction company Foulger-Pratt was signed in September 2008. The Transit Center is currently delayed because of problems with concrete pourings, with no estimated opening date.

The video points out how that estimated opening date kept getting pushed back and how in that time the Washington Redskins fired two coaches.

While the video is a light-hearted way to look at this failure to deliver, I take this subject very seriously. Our county leaders have been silent to my request for answers to the problems at the Silver Spring Transit Center. But I believe that by standing together, we will not be ignored.  The time has come for answers.

Crews are waiting for warmer weather to apply a concrete overlay to fix varying concrete thickness and cracking in the structure.

Leggett spokesperson Patrick Lacefield characterized Duncan’s comments about the Transit Center as a lame attempt to generate buzz for his campaign:

This is nothing more than the previous County Executive playing politics by seeking publicity for his campaign.

If he had been following this issue, he would know that we are awaiting warmer temperatures to resume the remaining work on the private contractor’s faulty concrete work. All other things being equal, the facility could be completed, turned over to WMATA and opened by the summer. The detailed plan to fix it is embodied in the KCE Report made public last year and discussed by the Council. The cost for the concrete overlay is estimated at $2 million, costs which the County will ensure would be borne by the private parties at fault for construction, design and inspection flaws, not by County taxpayers.

The County continues to work with WMATA and the designer about the possible need to further strengthen interior beams and girders, as was discussed with the County Council last November.  Again, the County would work to ensure that any additional costs for fixing flaws would be borne by the private parties responsible.

It is heartening that the former County Executive is interested in the safety of the facility since previously he had expressed the view that he would simply have covered over the faulty workmanship and moved on, notwithstanding the more profound safety flaws that were discovered by KCE, with findings endorsed by three independent engineers.

The County Executive has stated that he will turn over to WMATA a structure that is both safe and durable and that he will not let politics get in the way of safety, period.

Andrews: ‘That’s Why I’m Giving You The Microphone’ — Councilmember Phil Andrews, who’s taking on Leggett and Duncan for the Democratic county executive nomination, released a campaign video on Wednesday emphasizing his large door-knocking campaign.

The video shows Andrews going up to homes in Montgomery County and leaving a microphone on the doorstep.

“Politics in Montgomery County shouldn’t be about developers or political action committees,” an Andrews voiceover says in the video. “It should be about what counts to the things that you care about.”

Andrews claims he has knocked on more than 18,000 doors to find the issues that matter to Montgomery County residents. He’s also not taking campaign donations from interest groups.

Videos via Doug Duncan and Phil Andrews

MCCPTA Puts Pressure On County To Raise School Funding

by Aaron Kraut | March 14, 2014 at 3:25 pm | 127 views | No Comments

MCPS Superintendent Joshua StarrMontgomery County PTA members and local elected officials got along swimmingly last week when they joined together in Annapolis to lobby for more school construction funding from the state.

Now, the Montgomery County Council of Parent-Teacher Associations (MCCPTA) wants to make sure County Executive Isiah Leggett and members of the County Council give MCPS what it wants in next year’s operating budget.

They began to apply the pressure Friday. Leggett will announce his recommended FY 2015 operating budget on Monday.

In an open letter to Leggett and the County Council released Friday, the MCCPTA praised the “unity in support of our schools,” officials showed with the capital budget. It then cautioned those same leaders that votes in this June’s primary are on the line when it comes to how the county handles its upcoming operating budget:

Our county executive and members of the county council will soon demonstrate if they deeply support schools and students or not.  Not only when state money is involved, but when the local money over which they have sole authority is on the line.  Parents and children don’t want to hear arguments about ceiling and floors, at least not in the context of budgets; we want to hear about responsible restoration, starting in FY 2015, of funding slashed over the past decade.  We want to see an alignment of rhetoric and revenue.

At issue again could be the state’s Maintenance of Effort (MOE) law that requires local governments to fund its school system at a certain level each fiscal year.

The county’s Board of Education approved an operation budget request of $2.32 billion from MCPS Superintendent Joshua Starr last month. That would be a roughly 4 percent increase from last year’s MCPS operating budget of $2.2 billion and $51.7 million, or 2.3 percent, above the minimum amount required by state law.

County officials have argued the MOE law unfairly ties the hands of county governments by requiring counties to fund their school systems at the same level as the previous fiscal year or face fines and reduced state aid. Leggett recommended funding MCPS at the MOE level last year. Starr had requested more.

The Council will deliberate any potential changes to Leggett’s recommended budget over the next few months. In the letter, MCCPTA President Janette Gilman said votes will be on the line:

I am optimistic that our local leaders will do right by our children and school.  And I know the conclusions I am going to draw before I head to the ballot box in June if the school budget is not fully funded or if the conversations turn back again to MOE (Maintenance of Effort) this spring.  And I know 50,000+ Montgomery County PTA members-and registered voters-who will do exactly the same.

Berliner Launches Re-election Campaign

by Aaron Kraut | March 13, 2014 at 11:35 am | 113 views | No Comments

Roger Berliner re-election logo, via FacebookCounty Councilmember Roger Berliner this week launched his re-election campaign with news of endorsements from about 100 elected officials and local community leaders.

The two-term council member representing Bethesda, Chevy Chase, North Bethesda, Potomac and Poolesville looked to have a clear path to a third term this election cycle.

But a last-day filing for the District 1 seat from former at-large Councilmember Duchy Trachtenberg has set up what could be an intriguing Democratic primary on June 24.

Berliner endorsements announced Wednesday include state Senators Brian Feldman (D-15), Brian Frosh (D-16) and Rich Madaleno (D-18). There are also local elected officials including Town of Chevy Chase Mayor Pat Burda, Glen Echo Mayor Deborah Beers, Kensington Mayor Peter Fosselman and Somerset Mayor Jeffrey Slavin.

Berliner is working with campaign strategist Andrew Feldman, a veteran of Rep. John Delaney’s successful 2012 campaign for the Sixth District Congressional seat.

Trachtenberg is hosting a campaign kick-off event on Thursday, March 27 at the Strathmore Mansion.

Also today, comes news of major developer support for Trachtenberg. The Washington Post’s Bill Turque writes that “four prominent industry figures” are hosting a fundraiser in April for Trachtenberg at the Congressional Country Club. The developers are not happy with Berliner’s decision to sharply limit development in Clarksburg, home of the Ten Mile Creek.

According to state campaign finance records, Trachtenberg has $122,574 in campaign funds on hand. Berliner reported $52,000 in available campaign money in January.

Bethesda resident Jim Kirkland was nominated by the Montgomery County Republican Central Committee to run in District 1 as a Republican.

Image via Facebook

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