Black Representation in Municipalities

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The Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Missouri has attracted attention to African-American representation in municipalities. Blacks are underrepresented on the police force, comprising just three of the city’s 53 officers.

Additionally, only one of Ferguson’s six councilmembers is African American in a city that is now 67% black. Over at the Monkey Cage, Brian Schaffner, have done an excellent job of explaining the political dynamics underlying this disparity. Essentially, the electorate in the off-year municipal election is much more white than in presidential elections.

So how does Maryland do?

Presented here are two graphs of the percentage of Black Elected Officials (BEOs) against the percentage of Blacks in the 35 largest municipalities in Maryland. The share of BEOs is measured out of the total number of councilmembers plus the mayor–if there is one. The graph at the top of the post shows each city as a dot while the graph below replaces the dots with city names.

The line in each graph reveals the predicted relationship between percentage black and percentage of BEOs according to linear regression. (The short, short course on linear regression: the line is the one the minimizes the sum of the squared vertical distance between the dots and the line.)

The line suggests that a 10% increase in the share of blacks results in a 9.1% increase in black representation. The total predicted share of black municipal officials is about 5% lower than the number predicted by 9.1% x Percent Black. This 5% lag is not that shocking as the share of voting-age blacks often lags behind the share of blacks in the population due to the greater share of minors in the African-American population.

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Next up: a closer look at individual municipalities.

 

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Reducing Teen Pregnancy

The Washington Post has a terrific story on success in Colorado and Missouri in reducing teen pregnancy via long-term reversible contraception, accelerating a national trend occurring for other reasons:

[The study] reported a 40 percent decline in births among teens 15 to 19 from 2009 to 2013. The stunning decline in teen birth rates is significant not just for its size, but for its explanation. State public health officials are crediting a sustained, focused effort to offer low-income women free or low-cost long acting reversible contraception, that is, intrauterine devices or implants.. . . . The state’s analysis suggests the initiative was responsible for three-quarters of the decline in the state’s teen birth rates. . . .

Colorado’s initiative built upon a somewhat similar effort in St. Louis, Mo., . . .  Seventy percent of women in the Missouri study chose an IUD or implant. The conclusion: those who chose short-term methods such as the pill or the patch were 20 times more likely to have an unintended pregnancy than those who used an IUD or an implant.

Why this matters. A lot:

Buried amid the headlines in Colorado is more welcome news. The state also saw a 50 percent drop in repeat pregnancies among teens. With a second child, the already-high odds are ratcheted up that a low-income mother will not finish high school, remain trapped at the low-paying end of the economic ladder and reliant upon public assistance. (You, taxpayer, may read this as ka-ching, ka-ching, ka-ching.)

The long-term contraception program appears especially effective when promoted right after a first teen pregnancy:

Several years ago, [the Colorado Adolescent Maternity Program] offered 396 of its pregnant adolescent mothers who wanted birth control a choice: They could have an implant inserted after they gave birth, but before they left the hospital. Or, they could wait the typical six weeks and then start any form of contraception they wished. . . .

Of the mothers who chose the immediate post-partum implant, only 2.6 percent became pregnant again within a year– and that’s because they had their implants removed.Among those who chose the delayed start, 20 percent got pregnant again within the first year.

The Post identifies five states–California, Colorado, New Mexico, New York and South Carolina–that allow Medicaid coverage of of immediate post-partum long-acting reversible contraception. Unfortunately, Maryland is not listed among them.

I don’t know if Maryland allows Medcaid to cover this form of contraception (or has a similar, yet different program) but it seems like a no-brainer way to improve lives and to save money. There are so many pressing social needs that it is great when a program that helps people makes the government money.

Woodmont Ave. Still Closed

Busy Woodmont Ave. in Bethesda closed for the construction of the new vast underground parking lot in Bethesda that straddles the street between Lots 31 and 31A. (For those unfamiliar with planning argot, that’s the big construction progress across from Barnes and Noble.)

The original closure was planned to last 20-24 months and has lasted nearly the full 24 months. So residents are naturally excited that the reopening of Woodmont Ave. was announced via large electronic construction signs stating that it will open on or around August 15th.

Well, August 20th and it is still isn’t open. Residents will welcome the reopening even though a one-lane road replaces a two-lane road and you can no longer make a left on to Leland St. It is not clear to me whether pedestrian access will be restored as well as construction continues on the buildings on both sides of the road.

Let’s hope that they can get it done this week–the latest public statement on the plans that I’ve located.

Salisbury Political Shift

Salisbury

The New City Council Plans to Replace this Redistricting Plan Enacted by the Previous City Council

Salisbury Mayor Jim Ireton spent much of his first term battling the five-member City Council. While Ireton wanted to pursue his reform agenda, a majority on the Council did its best to block him every step of the way. Indeed, they went so far as to amend the City Charter to transfer control of the City Attorney from the Mayor to the Council.

The 2013 city election and a new redistricting plan should change all that. In 2013, Mayor Ireton won a second term with 68% of the vote over right-wing blogger Joseph Albaro, Jr. Equally interesting, challenger Jake Day trounced incumbent City Council President Debbie Campbell with 71% of the vote, thus shifting the majority on the City Council away from Ireton’s opponents. Day is the new president of the City Council.

One of the orders of business for the reelected Mayor and changed City Council is to resolve the standoff over redistricting. During the past decade, Salisbury had two districts–one a black-majority district that elected a single councilmember and one a white-majority district that elected four councilmembers.

The old Council’s majority had enacted a proposal (shown in the top graphic) to redistrict such that Salisbury would retain two districts but the majority-minority district had two members while the white majority district had three. From their perspective, this plan had the major virtue of concentrating their opponents within the smaller majority-minority district. Both the ACLU and the Wicomico chapter of the NAACP objected to the redistricting plan.

Besides making it easier for Ireton’s opponents to win election from white-majority district, the plan has also allowed the Camden neighborhood within Salisbury to elect a disproportionate share of councilmembers. Not a problem unknown here in Montgomery County where Silver Spring/Takoma Park dominate three of the four at-large County Council seats.

The new redistricting plan never went into effect, though there is a dispute as to why according to delmarvanow:

The city can’t overhaul its districts alone. A 1987 federal consent order requires any substantive changes to be approved by a federal judge. . . .

Although the council formally voted on the plan at the time, City Attorney Mark Tilghman said the council never directed him to file court documents.

“I did not feel like I was authorized to proceed until this day, and I have been anxious to do that,” he said.

Ireton would have had nothing to do with the action, Mitchell said, because the Cohen-led council had changed the City Charter to transfer the attorney from under the mayor’s office to under the council’s control.

The new Council plans to adopt a new plan with five single-member districts (SMDs) that breaks Camden’s dominance on a more permanent basis. SMDs would eliminated the ability of a bloc vote to control the majority elected from the single multimember white-majority district. Put another way, it makes more likely that councilmembers reflecting a range of viewpoints will win election. The new plan will include two majority-minority districts.

But the real question is, now that Mayor Ireton has a more congenial City Council, what’s next for Salisbury?

 

MCDOT Tries to Eliminate Grade Separated Crossing on the CCT

The Washington Area Bicyclists Association blog reports:

After years of public input and agreement on the design for the future Capital Crescent trail, the Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) just moved unilaterally to eliminate the long-promised grade-separated crossing of busy Jones Mill Rd.

The grade separation makes the trail safer, and safety is vital to ensuring this heavily travelled trail remains a viable transportation option. Through thousands of hours of meetings on the future of the Capital Crescent Trail, County officials have promised safe crossings of major roadways that don’t leave bicyclists competing with cars or pressing “Walk” buttons and waiting for minutes.

Good news, however. MCDOT has suspended its previous orders to MTA and is reviewing the situation. They now promise to consult the community in advance of a final decision.

This is part of a history of broken promises regarding the Capital Crescent Trail. For example, after repeated assurances that the Trail could be run through the same tunnel under the Air Rights Building as the Purple Line under Wisconsin despite outside claims to the contrary, that was deemed too expensive and removed from the current plan.

The County is now trying to persuade the owner of the building over the best location for the proposed Purple Line station to redevelop so that the station, and hopefully a different tunnel, could be built. The building’s owner, unsurprisingly, is holding out for an even better offer since they have the County over a barrel.

So More on Hogan and Marriage Equality

Normally, I don’t like to multi-post on the same story on the same day unless there is breaking news but this story seems worth an exception. Early this morning, I posted a story stating that GOP Gov Candidate Larry Hogan had changed his position on marriage equality after the primary. It turns out that was incorrect: he opposed trying to overturn the will of the people.

However, there is really more to the story than that simple narrative that the Hogan campaign would like to propagate. Hogan has no clear public position on the core issue. In response to the Baltimore Sun, he refused to state whether he personally supports marriage equality legislation, sidestepping the question by neatly saying that the referendum decided the matter. Elsewhere, he has stated that he “was” a supporter of “traditional marriage” and supported civil unions for same-sex couples but also would not state how he voted in the referendum.

Politically sensible as I outlined earlier but not exactly a profile in courage–and there were Republicans willing to take a stand in favor of marriage equality in the legislature.

And it also obfuscates the well-known truth in the halls of Annapolis that many Republican legislators don’t give a whit whether same-sex couples can marry and that many who voted against it actually personally favored the legislation (and knew marriage equality was an inevitability) but feared their primary election constituency.

Though I welcome Hogan’s desire to place his focus elsewhere, the dissimulation by Republicans like Hogan who seek to be viable statewide on their personal beliefs is a bit wearying–and must be even more so for him as he will have to continue to adjust his position with rapidly changing public opinion. It also seems fair to ask how someone who refuses to say how he voted on a key issue is going to lead the State on others in the future.

Error in Hogan Story

The previous story indicated that Hogan had changed his position on marriage equality after the primary based on recent stories in the press that indicated that Hogan’s position was new. RedMaryland kindly pointed out that I was wrong on this one. While Hogan certainly did not advertise his position, he took his position against fighting the law since it was approved by the people in the referendum before the Republican primary. I hate not getting it right as much as the next guy, so have changed the story to be more accurate.

Hogan Evolves on Marriage Equality

Republican Gubernatorial Nominee Larry Hogan let it be known first to the Washington Post and then to News Channel 8 that he wants to take marriage equality off the table in this year’s election:

Hogan said on News Talk with Bruce DePuyt on News Channel 8 in response to a question about whether he voted for the state’s same-sex marriage law in a 2012 referendum on it that he was “originally for civil unions.”

“I was a supporter of traditional marriage,” he told DePuyt. “It’s an issue that I fully understand. The voters have made their decision. I support their decision and will uphold the law. I’ve evolved I guess on the issue.”

Hogan said marriage rights for same-sex couples, extending in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants and other social issues “are really decided in Maryland.”

“They have no part in this campaign whatsoever,” he said. “We’ve been completely focused on the issues that all Marylanders are focused on right now, and that’s economic issues.”

A good decision politically–not to mention morally. The social issues like marriage equality are dead losers for Republicans in Maryland. When the focus is on them, they don’t even get a chance to get off the ground. And opinions on marriage have continued to move rapidly in the two years since Marylanders approved it at the ballot box.

(Note: The previous version of this story indicated that Hogan had changed his position after the primary based on recent stories in the press that indicated that Hogan’s position was new. RedMaryland kindly pointed out that I was wrong on this one. While Hogan certainly did not advertise his position, he took his position against fighting the law before the Republican primary. I hate not getting it right as much as the next guy, so have changed the story to be more accurate.)

 

Acid Test for GOP in Howard

Howard Districts

Howard County has been trending steadily more Democratic. Consider the following levels of support for Democratic presidential candidates:

1980: 40% (Anderson 7%)
1984: 42%
1988: 43%
1992: 45% (Perot 16%)
1996: 50% (Perot 6%)
2000: 52%
2004: 54%
2008: 60%
2012: 60%

As you can see, Howard has evolved into a solidly Democratic county in presidential elections. Now, look at the results for county executive and county council:

1982: Nichols (D). Council: 5-0 Democratic.
1986: Bobo (D) Council: 4-1 Democratic.
1990: Ecker (R). Council: 3-2 Democratic.
1994: Ecker (R) 64%. Council: 3-2 Republican.
1998: Robey (D) 55%. Council: 3-2 Democratic.
2002: Robey (D) 58%. Council: 3-2 Democratic.
2006: Ulman (D) 52%. Council 4-1 Democratic.
2010: Ulman (D) 63%. Council 4-1 Democratic.

As Howard began to suburbanize–Columbia first opened in 1967–the more conservative, regular Democrats slowly began to lose control to both Republicans and more liberal Democrats. Republican Charles Ecker defeated incumbent Democratic County Executive Liz Bobo in 1990. Republicans managed to capture the county council four years later in their banner year of 1994, though they lost it back to the Democrats in 1998.

Since their halcyon days after 1994, Republican strength has ebbed steadily. Democrats have held the county executive’s office since 1998 and now have a 4-1 majority on the council. Republicans lost one of their two remaining countywide offices in 2010 when Byron Macfarlane defeated Kay Hartleb for Register of Wills.

In further bad news for Republicans, their sole remaining countywide incumbent, Circuit Court Clerk Margaret Rappaport, stepped down in 2009 for health reasons. Her acting replacement, Democrat Wayne Robey, is unopposed for the job in 2014. No Republican has bothered to file for state’s attorney or register of wills this year.

Despite their erosion in support, Republicans have a very strong candidate for county executive this year in Allen Kittleman. A member of the Maryland Senate since 2004, he served on the Howard County Council from 1998 to 2004. Unlike many of his constituents, Kittleman grew up in Howard, attending the local public schools and the UMBC and UMD School of Law.

Most recently, Kittleman is best known for having to step down as Senate Minority Leader after breaking with his caucus to support marriage equality. An anti-death penalty former President of the Howard NAACP (correction–his father was the NAACP prez), he is not easily going to be stereotyped as a tea party Republican. More conservative on economic questions, Kittleman is wisely careful not to emphasize his party affiliation based on his webpage.

His Democratic opponent, Courtney Watson, hopes to continue the Democratic streak. Like Kittleman, she has deep experience and roots in the community. Watson has represented District 1 on the county council since 2006 and previously served on the Board of Education from 2002-6. She attended a local public high school and went to Howard Community and then Loyola, where she earned her B.A. and M.B.A.

Ironically, Watson is a recipient of the Robert Kittleman Award–named for the father of Allan Kittleman who served in the General Assembly representing Howard from 1983 through 2004.  (Gov. Ehrlich appointed Allan Kittleman to his seat in 2004.)

In short, this is a great race with two strong candidates. But if the Republicans cannot win with Kittleman–the strongest candidate they could have run by far–they’re just done in increasingly Democratic Howard County. We’ll see in November if Kittleman can overcome Watson’s own strengths and partisan advantage.

 

Maryland Politics Watch

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