Mike Miller Has Passed Away

Statement from the Miller Family

At 4:25PM this afternoon, Maryland Senate President Emeritus Thomas V. Mike Miller, Jr. passed away peacefully at his home, surrounded by loved ones. He was 78 years old. 

He’s survived by his wife, Patti, son Tommy, daughters, Amanda, Michelle, Melissa, and Melanie, sisters Susan, Cynthia, Melinda, Nancy, and Kim, brothers, Jonathan, David, and Mark, and his fifteen grandchildren, and was predeceased by his sister Judith.

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How Does MoCo’s Vaccination Rate Compare to the Rest of Maryland?

By Adam Pagnucco.

Last night, Montgomery County Government sent out a blast email claiming, “Montgomery County is has [sic] taken swift steps to administer the vaccines it has received—proceeding at one of the highest rates of vaccine administration in Maryland.” The same claim is repeated on the county’s website.

Is this true?

The county doesn’t elaborate on this claim in great detail but it has support from the slide below from its Department of Health and Human Services. The slide shows the percentage of received vaccines that has been administered by each county in the state. As of January 13, MoCo administered 63% of the vaccines it has received, trailing only Caroline County (68%) and far above the state average (36%).

However, the county trails badly on another key measure: the percentage of population vaccinated. Another slide from the same presentation shows that just 2.2% of MoCo’s population has been vaccinated with at least one dose, a rate that trails 20 of the state’s 24 jurisdictions.

To be fair, MoCo doesn’t have full control of its population vaccination rate because the state allocates vaccines by county. At this point, Baltimore County has received more vaccines than MoCo even though its population is smaller.

County Executive Marc Elrich has posted a good explanation of the complications in distributing vaccines, especially the role played by the need to vaccinate people twice. It’s very informative for folks who would like to understand how the process works and what bottlenecks lie within.

In any event, by one measure, the county is exceeding the state’s vaccination rate and by another, it is falling short. The story is a complex one and, at this point, not reducible to emailed success stories.

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Superintendent Jack Smith Announces Retirement from MCPS

By Adam Pagnucco.

MCPS Superintendent Jack Smith has announced his retirement. Smith, who once worked in the State Department of Education and is a former superintendent in Calvert County, was hired by MCPS in 2016 and had his contract renewed last year. Smith’s announcement is reprinted below.

Superintendent Jack R. Smith Announces Retirement

Dear Colleagues,

I write to you with very mixed emotions today. After much consideration, I have shared with the Board of Education that I will be retiring as superintendent of schools this spring. I have tentatively set my retirement date as June 1, 2021.

As I have shared with some of you, my two-year old grandson had significant open heart surgery in May 2019 to reconstruct his malformed heart. While the surgery was successful, my wife, Gayle, relocated to Maine to help my daughter and son-in-law care for him. Her stay in Maine to support our grandson was extended with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Given his health needs, our family’s circumstances are not going to change for at least the next few years. I need to join Gayle in Maine as I find I can no longer tolerate living most of the time separately.

I have loved my time in Montgomery County Public Schools and have no desire to leave. The staff in the school system is among the most talented and dedicated in this country. The work we have done together around the equity accountability framework, the allocation of resources, student well-being, upgrades to current technology, our expansion of pre-K and language programs are among a host of system improvements that I am so happy to have been involved with.

I will greatly miss being a part of this organization. The 17 school board members I have worked with here have been committed, dedicated professionals, and they consistently have made decisions with the best interest of students in mind, as well as a very real desire to maintain the excellence of the system, while increasing the access and opportunity to provide a truly equitable experience for every child we serve.

I’ve truly been fortunate to work with these school board members, the staff, our elected officials and the community in Montgomery County.

I am confident that MCPS will continue to do great work on behalf of our 160,000 students—it always has. I am also confident that working together, we can and will implement a comprehensive recovery of education plan that will get students back in school buildings and address the significant learning loss as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This is a wonderful community, a strong public school system and a great place to live. I wish only the very best for Montgomery County Public Schools going forward.

Dr. Jack R. Smith
Superintendent

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MoCo Seeks Feedback on COVID Vaccine

By Adam Pagnucco.

Montgomery County Government is seeking resident feedback on how and whether they would like to receive COVID vaccines through an online survey. The county’s press release is reprinted below.

*****

Montgomery County Seeks Feedback on Residents’ Demand for Receiving COVID-19 Vaccine

For Immediate Release: Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021

Montgomery County today launched an online survey to hear from residents and get an informed understanding of how residents feel about taking the COVID-19 vaccine. The survey is not scientific but will help to identify any possible concerns residents may have about the vaccine. With a goal of vaccinating 75 to 80 percent of the community, County employees will use the feedback to address questions and to better reach communities hit hardest by COVID-19 and who have historically been apprehensive about trusting vaccines or medical research. The County plans to incorporate the feedback from the survey into its robust outreach plan and communications efforts to educate the public on the importance of taking the vaccine.

The survey is open from Jan. 14 through Feb. 4, 2021 and is on the County’s COVID-19 vaccine website. The survey is anonymous and is available in the top seven spoken languages in the county. It is also available on the County’s Facebook page and Twitter feed. With 12 multiple choice questions, the survey takes approximately five minutes to complete. In addition to the survey being available online, the survey will also be offered to residents at several of the County’s COVID-19 testing sites.

For the latest COVID-19 updates, visit the County’s COVID-19 website and follow Montgomery County on Facebook @MontgomeryCountyInfo and Twitter @MontgomeryCoMD. Residents can also sign up to receive text or email updates about COVID-19 vaccinations.

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Andy Harris Skips Out on Voting on Impeachment

Andy Harris seems to have a penchant for going full-blown Trump but always doing it a slightly different way. If he had a tinfoil hat, he’d fold it using a different origami pattern. At any rate, he issued a sanctimonious statement about why he didn’t deign to vote on impeaching Trump after the insurrection at the White House:

The imperative of being in the operating room rings hollow because, thanks to COVID-19, the House is currently allowing members to cast proxy votes. If you watched the proceedings yesterday, you would have seen that many members on both sides of the aisle did just that. Perhaps Harris didn’t want to be there because this mask-skeptic physician would have had to wear one.

Notice that, even as he issues the now standard drive-by call for unity after months of claiming that Biden stole the election, Harris has to insult the Democrats and cannot bring himself to even use “Democratic majority” in place of the childishly denigrating “Democrat majority.”

While he condemns the Democrats, he says nothing about the violent mob, Trump’s encouragement of it, and failure to act to suppress it once it got out of control. Nor have his press releases included a word of criticism for Trump. Instead, Harris followed him in equating this attempt to overthrow the government and kill public officials with this past summer’s protests.

One might contrast Harris’s lack of concern over violent white supremacist seditious Republicans and condemnation of a “hasty” impeachment as “politically motivated” with his support for endless investigations into the facially absurd idea that Hillary Clinton wanted American diplomats dead in Benghazi and his willingness to support rushing through the appointment of Judge Barrett to the Supreme Court.

While Gov. Larry Hogan and Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford stood firm for democracy even as the crisis unfolded, Rep. Andy Harris has joined Del. Dan Cox in the sedition caucus.

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Is Rent Stabilization Dead on Arrival?

By Adam Pagnucco.

After successfully passing a temporary rent stabilization bill in April, Council Member Will Jawando has introduced a permanent rent stabilization bill for many properties within one mile of Metro stations or a half mile from bus rapid transit stations. The bill would exempt certain properties, such as licensed health care facilities, non-profit properties, owner-occupied group houses, religious buildings, transient lodging, dormitories, nursing homes and accessory apartments. It would apply to new buildings after five years of operation as rentals. Buildings not exempted would be allowed to charge annual rent increases up to the county’s (currently) voluntary rent guideline, which was 2.6% in 2020. The guideline is pegged to the rental component of the Washington-Baltimore CPI-U, which is produced by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and has varied between 1.5% and 4.0% over the last decade.

This bill was always going to have a rough ride but now it has a formidable, perhaps even fatal, obstacle – an economic impact statement predicting mayhem to MoCo’s housing market if it passes.

In MoCo, economic impact statements on legislation are prepared by the Office of Legislative Oversight (OLO), a group of merit analysts housed in the legislative branch. OLO has long produced subject matter reports that are often eye-popping reading, but under legislation sponsored by Council Member Andrew Friedson last year, it has taken over the preparation of economic impact statements from the executive branch.

The economic impact statement on Jawando’s bill, reprinted at the end of this column, was prepared by former county council and planning department analyst Jacob Sesker, whose work draws much respect from the council and beyond. It is a lethal indictment of rent stabilization both generally and specifically in MoCo. The statement begins with this blunt declaration:

The Office of Legislative Oversight (OLO) expects Bill 52-20 to have a negative economic impact overall. Residents of rent stabilized units would periodically benefit from lower rent increases. Residents of non-rent stabilized units would likely face increased rent costs. The economic benefit to households is smaller than the economic cost to businesses, in part because the household sector would absorb employment and earnings losses associated with decreased revenue for businesses in the real estate industry. Artificially constrained rents will also have a negative impact on asset values and property tax revenues.

Research indicates that rent stabilization could lead to reduced supply of rental housing and upward pressure on the prices of unregulated units (including owner-occupied units). This reduced supply could occur as a result of condominium conversion or reduced construction activity. Research also indicates that rent stabilization programs often result in disinvestment by owners, including deferred or foregone maintenance. There is evidence that rent stabilization has led to neighborhood deterioration or increased crime in some locations.

The statement’s next three and a half pages contains a literature review summarizing many negative findings of rent control, including higher rents for non-controlled units; poor targeting to people in need as wealthy people secure rent-controlled units; increased conversions of rental units into condos; and maintenance issues for controlled properties. These findings are nothing new – they mirror my own review in 2017, which found that economists have recounted problems with rent control for decades. Even the communist government of Vietnam abandoned it, with one official telling the press, “The Americans couldn’t destroy Hanoi, but we have destroyed our city by very low rents. We realized it was stupid and that we must change policy.”

The interesting part of the statement is its research on MoCo’s housing market. Using data from Costar, the statement finds that from 2001 through 2020, rents in MoCo rose by an annual average rate of 1.48%. In properties within 1 mile of rail transit, the average rent increase was 1.28%. Rent increases in MoCo have been among the lowest in the region as shown by the statement’s chart below. If MoCo already has some of the lowest rent increases in the region, what problem is the bill attempting to fix?

While the statement does attempt to model the potential negative economic impacts of rent control on the county’s economy, it omits discussion of MoCo’s two major housing challenges: inadequate rates of construction and slow job growth that deters initiation and financing of housing projects. The District of Columbia has a rent stabilization law and has not seen those problems because it exempts buildings constructed after 1975. (The D.C. Policy Center estimated that just 36% of the District’s rental units were covered by rent stabilization in 2019.) Jawando’s bill applies to new construction after a five-year grace period. Takoma Park’s rent stabilization law applies to new construction and the city is losing rental units. Given the above, what would Jawando’s bill do to housing construction in MoCo?

There will be a lot more to say about this bill from folks with lots of different views on it. That said, since economists overwhelmingly oppose rent control, the advocates have a lot of work to do.

The economic impact statement is reprinted below.

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Political Awards 2020

By Adam Pagnucco.

It’s that time: here are the political awards for 2020, the year that was!

Politician of the Year: Governor Larry Hogan

There is really no other choice. Because of the unique demands of the COVID-19 crisis, it’s possible that no Governor of Maryland has wielded more power than Hogan did in 2020 since the colonial era. Local governments, employers and residents all over the state have had to react to his many executive orders. He has had successes, such as Maryland’s relatively low COVID case rate compared to the rest of the country, and he has had failures, such as the flawed test kits from South Korea. Above all, he has been incredibly consequential – far more than any other political figure in the state – and that is enough for this award.

Debacle of the Year: The Purple Line

Again, there is no other choice. The Purple Line’s public-private partnership (P3) was supposed to protect taxpayers from liability, but its collapse will cost us $250 million that would otherwise be available for other transportation projects. The state is promising to complete the project, which will someday generate real benefits for the Washington region, but no one knows its completion date or its ultimate cost. With another P3 pending for the Beltway/I-270 project, the Hogan administration owes it to Marylanders to report on lessons learned from the Purple Line so that its mistakes are not repeated.

Runners Up
Two powerful officials – Hogan Chief of Staff Roy McGrath and MoCo Chief Administrative Officer Andrew Kleine – lost their jobs due to scandal. The McGrath story may not be over.

Worst Move of the Year: Robin Ficker’s Question B

Ficker thought he could get MoCo voters to approve a draconian tax cap that would handcuff county government forever. Instead, not only did voters reject his idea, but they approved a competing ballot amendment (more below) that will actually generate more revenue for the county over time.

Runners Up
MoCo Republicans badly wanted the nine council district charter amendment to pass but they wound up helping to defeat it because of their prominent embrace of it in the toxic year of Trump. Talbot County officials insisted on keeping a confederate statue at their courthouse, a long-term loser for the county.

Best Move of the Year (Tie): Andrew Friedson’s Question A and Evan Glass’s Question C

Former Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel once said, “Never allow a good crisis to go to waste.” Council Members Andrew Friedson and Evan Glass sure didn’t, drafting competing ballot questions against Ficker’s anti-tax charter amendment and another amendment providing for an all-district council structure. The result of the passage of Friedson’s Question A and Glass’s Question C is a more rational, liberalized property tax structure and a larger county council to service a larger population.

Runner Up
Baltimore County Executive John Olszewski Jr. issued an executive order capping third party food delivery app fees at 15%, preventing excessive fees ranging as high as 30%. The order also bans them from reducing driver compensation and tips to comply with the fee cap.

Missing in Action Award: Almost Everyone Planning or Thinking of a Run for Governor

Comptroller Peter Franchot is the only declared candidate for governor. He has a war chest, a statewide profile and a consulting firm. Right now, he has no competition. As Roger Waters would say, is there anybody out there?

Big Deal of the Year: Moratorium Repeal

The county council repealed the county’s illogical housing moratorium policy, which did not accomplish its intended purpose (alleviating school crowding) but did prevent housing construction in the face of MoCo’s affordable housing shortage. Housing construction still has challenges – including financing problems stemming in part from slow job growth – but the council was right to junk moratoriums that did no good and made housing problems worse.

Just Because She’s Great Award: Delegate Anne Kaiser

She never asks for attention or takes credit for anything. But Delegate Anne Kaiser is everything you could want in an elected leader: smart, practical, savvy, mentors younger politicians and plays the long game. Best of all, she’s a down to Earth person who doesn’t let success go to her head. She’s a worthy successor to the great Sheila Hixson as chair of Ways and Means. Long may she serve.

MoCo Feud of the Year: JOF vs Stephen Austin

In one corner: political newcomer Stephen Austin, running for school board on a platform of opposing MCPS’s boundary analysis. In the other corner: former school board member Jill Ortman-Fouse (universally known as “JOF”), leader of a movement favoring boundary studies in the interest of equity. This was never going to be a great relationship, but this feud set a record for most screenshots in a MoCo political dispute. Here’s to more in the new year!

Runner Up
County Executive Marc Elrich vs Governor Larry Hogan. This one runs hot and cold but it flared big-time when Hogan stopped MoCo from instituting a blanket shutdown of private schools. These two can’t stand each other so expect more this year.

Media Outlet of the Year: Baltimore Brew

If you’re not reading Baltimore Brew, you need to start doing it right now! No city scandal can hide from the Brew’s hustling, dirt-digging journalists, whether it’s document shredding, scams, SLAPP suits, politician tax liens, travel expenses, or other questionable activities. Baltimore Brew is a must-read and a true gem of Maryland journalism.

Game Changer Award: Len Foxwell

For more than a decade, the Franchot-Foxwell partnership roiled Annapolis, grabbed headlines and marched steadily towards Government House. Now Foxwell is a free agent and available for hire as a communications, public relations and political strategist. Few people combine knowledge of politics, policy, press and all things Maryland like Len. Having him on the market is a game changer, especially for anyone who hires him.

County Employee of the Year: Inspector General Megan Davey Limarzi

Limarzi is MoCo’s dynamite inspector general, whose reports on mischief in county government regularly rock Rockville. Two especially notable reports revealed an “overtime scam” in the fire department and overpayment of COVID emergency pay in at least one county department. In Fiscal Year 2020, complaints to the inspector general increased 92%, suggesting confidence in her work. Count me as her biggest fan!

Runners Up

Like Calvin and Hobbes, Travis Gayles (the county’s health officer) and Earl Stoddard (the county’s emergency management director) come as a pair. Both of them have played critical roles in responding to COVID. Gayles is a happy warrior who shrugs off criticism and is indefatigable in his job. Stoddard is a stand-up guy who earned a lot of respect in taking responsibility for the county’s grant management issues. Given the nature of their jobs, Gayles and Stoddard are not always loved, but they deserve credit for taking the heat and carrying on when so many other health officials are leaving around the country.

Quote of the Year: “Hope is Not a Fiscal Strategy”

Council Member Andrew Friedson has said this so many times that his colleagues (and executive branch officials) are probably sick of hearing it. But it’s true: the county has been praying since the summer for a federal bailout that has yet to arrive while the day of reckoning is near. We could have done better.

Gaffe of the Year: “Can I Say the Council is Fact Proof?”

Here is an instance in which County Executive Marc Elrich’s snarky sense of humor was not appreciated by the county council in this hot mic moment. Can we get more hot mics please?

Survivor of the Year: Linda Lamone

After numerous glitches in the primary election, state elections administrator Linda Lamone looked like she might finally be run out of Annapolis. But she outlasted calls for her resignation and the general election went better, so she remains in her job. Given her many problems and a string of bad audits, Lamone isn’t just a survivor of the year – she is THE survivor of the last twenty years. State leaders need to restructure the accountability of her position after she finally retires.

Departure of the Year: Bob Dorfman

We’re not fans of the county liquor monopoly here at Seventh State, but former monopoly director Bob Dorfman was a capable manager who tamed some of its worst problems. Depending on who succeeds him, the county could really miss him.

Most Ignored Story of the Year: Public Information Act Suspension

The Elrich administration’s indefinite suspension of public information act deadlines is the single biggest setback for open government in MoCo that I have seen in almost 15 years of writing. And yet to my knowledge, not a single politician said anything about it publicly and not a single D.C. area press outlet has followed up. I’m not surprised by the politicians. But I am surprised by how meekly the press surrendered to the suspension of one of the greatest tools of investigative reporting available – the public information act. To quote Roger Waters again, is there anybody out there?

That’s all for 2020, folks!

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State Legislators Call on Harris to Resign

By Adam Pagnucco.

A group of state legislators including 13 State Senators and 71 Delegates has called on District 1 Congressman Andy Harris to resign. In a letter addressed to Harris, the legislators tell him, “You have for months joined in cynical, politically motivated attempts to undermine the legitimate, free, and fair election that selected Joe Biden as the next President of the United States. You have joined with those who have trafficked in lies and conspiracy theories, who have incited division and hate, in the furtherance of a political agenda.” They conclude, “You have done enough harm to our country and our state, Representative. It is time for you to go, and for a person who will serve Marylanders with honor to take your place.”

Every member of MoCo’s state delegation except for Senator Craig Zucker (D-14), Senator Susan Lee (D-16), Senator Cheryl Kagan (D-17), Senator Nancy King (D-39) and Delegate Kumar Barve (D-17) signed the letter.

The letter is reprinted below.

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Representative Andrew P. Harris
Maryland’s 1st Congressional District
2334 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Representative Harris,

The foundational principle of our nation is democracy. The right of Americans to select their leaders is and should be inviolate. It is a right that all of us who serve in public office are sworn to uphold and protect in our oaths of office.

That oath is a sacred commitment to all Marylanders, and all Americans. It is an oath that requires us to support the democratic process in both words and actions. It is an oath that requires that we always put loyalty to our Constitution and our country above loyalty to any political party, candidate, or elected official.

Representative Harris, we believe that you have violated that oath. You have for months joined in cynical, politically motivated attempts to undermine the legitimate, free, and fair election that selected Joe Biden as the next President of the United States. You have joined with those who have trafficked in lies and conspiracy theories, who have incited division and hate, in the furtherance of a political agenda.

Our nation watched in horror on January 6th as a seditious mob, riled up and fueled by Donald Trump and his loyalists, assaulted the very seat of American democracy. As they tore into the marble halls that have been worn by the steps of our greatest leaders, the walls that have borne witness to our most profound national debates. As one of America’s most sacred spaces was desecrated, and as a member of the United States Capitol Police who was defending it was murdered.

These insurrectionists were motivated by the very rhetoric and disinformation that you and far too many of your colleagues have been trafficking in for months. Any student of the history of the United States knows that words have the power to move nations and citizens. Words like, “We the people.” Words also like, “Stand back, and stand by.”

Rather than recognizing that your words and behavior in office have damaged our democracy, have threatened our Constitution, and have undermined the nation you are sworn to, your response to the attack on our Capitol was to continue to use the same words and behavior. To vote with too many of your colleagues to undermine a free and fair election. To give comfort to the enemies of democracy within our borders and around the world.

We, the undersigned members of the Maryland General Assembly, believe that you have disgraced yourself, your state, and your country. We have heard from constituents who would like us to pass a resolution of censure against you. As our censure process is reserved for members of our body, we are not able to do so. But we add our voices to the chorus of your constituents who have called for you to resign.

You have done enough harm to our country and our state, Representative. It is time for you to go, and for a person who will serve Marylanders with honor to take your place.

Sincerely,

Delegate Carol Krimm
Delegate Karen Lewis Young
Delegate Ken Kerr
Delegate Carl Jackson
Delegate Harry Bhandari
Delegate Benjamin Brooks
Senator Delores Kelley
Delegate Jon Cardin
Delegate Lisa Belcastro
Delegate Dana Stein
Senator Shelly Hettleman
Delegate Jessica Feldmark
Delegate Eric Ebersole
Delegate Terri Hill
Senator Clarence Lam
Delegate Shane Pendergrass
Delegate Jen Terrasa
Delegate Vanessa Atterbeary
Delegate Eric Luedtke
Delegate Pamela Queen
Delegate Anne Kaiser
Delegate Kathleen Dumais
Delegate David Fraser-Hidalgo
Delegate Lily Qi
Senator Brian Feldman
Delegate Marc Korman
Delegate Sara Love
Delegate Ariana Kelly
Delegate Julie Palakovich-Carr
Delegate Jim Gilchrist
Delegate Emily Shetty
Delegate Al Carr
Delegate Jared Solomon
Senator Jeff Waldstreicher
Delegate Bonnie Cullison
Senator Benjamin Kramer
Delegate Vaughn Stewart
Delegate Charlotte Crutchfield
Delegate Jheanelle Wilkins
Delegate Lorig Charkoudian
Delegate David Moon
Senator Will Smith
Delegate Ben Barnes
Delegate Joseline Pena-Melnyk
Delegate Mary Lehman
Delegate Alonzo Washington
Delegate Nicole Williams
Senator Paul Pinsky
Delegate Marvin Holmes
Delegate Andrea Harrison
Delegate Jazz Lewis
Delegate Kriselda Valderrama
Delegate Michael Jackson
Delegate Edith Patterson
Delegate Debra Davis
Delegate Brian Crosby
Delegate Shaneka Henson
Delegate Dana Jones
Senator Sarah Elfreth
Delegate Mark Chang
Delegate Mike Rogers
Delegate Sandy Bartlett
Senator Pamela Beidle
Delegate Heather Bagnall
Delegate Kirill Reznik
Delegate Gabriel Acevero
Delegate Lesley Lopez
Delegate Melissa Wells
Delegate Marlon Amprey
Delegate Michele Guyton
Delegate Regina T. Boyce
Delegate Maggie Mcintosh
Senator Mary Washington
Delegate Pat Young
Delegate Sheila Ruth
Senator Charles Sydnor
Delegate Stephanie Smith
Senator Cory McCray
Delegate Luke Clippinger
Delegate Brooke Lierman
Delegate Robbyn Lewis
Delegate Diana Fennell
Delegate Julian Ivey
Delegate Wanika Fisher

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Free DC

The District of Columbia owes its existence to fear that a Jacobin mob might overwhelm the federal government and that a state government might be unwilling to protect it. Pennsylvania’s failure to act during against a mutiny by soldiers who wanted more pay propelled the creation of the federal enclave.

For all their efforts to prevent against authoritarianism though the separation of powers and robust federalism, the Founders never anticipated that the true danger might come from a president seeking to exert authority over Congress. Until Wednesday, it had never happened in the history of our country.

The encouragement by the president of this insurrection and attack on the federal legislature and then his failure to act protect Congress against this attack upended the narrative with the District, Maryland and Virginia coming to the aid of the besieged Capitol. America is fortunate the leaders of the District and neighboring states are committed small-d democrats and small-r republicans.

No people or place should have to earn their freedom. But the District surely did once again in coming to Congress’s aid. It’s time to end the bizarre situation in which the roughly 700,000 citizens in the District are denied democratic representation. The Maryland General Assembly should pass a resolution relinquishing its claim to the District, and Congress should admit the state of New Columbia to the Union.

Republican dress up their objections in a variety of cloaks but they all boil down to opposing statehood because its citizens vote Democratic. The even less appetizing rationale is that too many District citizens are Black. Either way, it’s an extension of the unacceptable efforts of voter suppression that we’ve seen around the country.

Republicans might also remember that partisan shifts can occur quickly. Hawaii was expected to be a Republican bastion when admitted to the Union. California and West Virginia both altered their partisan allegiances more recently.

All other federations that have emulated the U.S. in establishing federal enclaves give them representation. It’s time we up our democratic game and do the same.

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Purple Line Transit Partners Announces Timeline for New Contractor

By Adam Pagnucco.

Purple Line Transit Partners (PLTP), the consortium partnering with the state to build the Purple Line, has announced a timeline for selecting a new design-build contractor to complete the project. The previous contractor left the project in November. PLTP’s press release is reprinted below.

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For Immediate Release
January 8, 2021

Contact: John Undeland
Purple Line Transit Partners

Purple Line Transit Partners Takes First Step in Procuring a New Design-Build Contractor

Riverdale, MD – In collaboration with the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) Maryland Transit Administration (MTA), Purple Line Transit Partners (PLTP) today took the first step in engaging a new design-build contractor to complete the project. PLTP shared a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) with a host of highly qualified contractors that had previously expressed interest in being considered for the work.

As per the settlement agreement approved by the Board of Public Works on December 16, PLTP is responsible for procuring the replacement contractor. During the weeks since the terms of the settlement were agreed to, PLTP and MTA have been working closely to prepare the RFQ.

“Today marks the start of a sprint to bring on a new contractor, enabling us to swiftly resume full-scale construction and deliver the Purple Line to the people of Maryland as soon as possible,” said Jane Garvey, Chairman of PLTP. “We again thank Governor Hogan, Secretary Slater, Administrator Quinn and our MTA Purple Line counterparts for helping us get to this milestone and for their participation in the rapid-paced process going forward.”

“A great deal of progress has been made on the Purple Line since the Board of Public Works approved the settlement agreement three weeks ago,” said MDOT Secretary Greg Slater. “We have an in-depth construction plan in place during this interim period, and today’s solicitation for qualified, experienced design-build firms represents another positive step in advancing this important project to completion. Every step and investment that we make during this interim period is designed to create value on the rebid.”

The following are the key milestones in the procurement process. After reaching terms with the selected contractor, PLTP anticipates a rapid mobilization and full-scale construction to resume as quickly as possible:

Purple Line Transit Partners is headquartered in Riverdale Maryland and holds the Public-Private Partnership Agreement (P3 Agreement) with MDOT MTA to design, build, finance, and operate the Purple Line Light Rail Project. PLTP is comprised of majority partner Meridiam and Star America. Meridiam is a leading equity investor, developer, asset manager, and long-term partner with $8 billion of assets under management and over eighty P3 projects in U.S., Canada, Europe, and Africa. Star America, a subsidiary of Tikehau Capital, is a U.S.-headquartered developer and manager of infrastructure assets in North America with investments in projects that have a total asset value of more than $5 billion as of September 30, 2020.

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