Cordial Candidate Forum in Kensington

A trusted correspondent sent in this report on last night’s candidates’ forum in Kensington.

Fireworks, there were none.

The three candidates for two Kensington Town Council seats spent a rather cordial hour last night, largely agreeing on issues such as traffic enforcement, development, and pay increases for Town staff.

They gathered at a moderated candidates’ forum on a stage at Town Hall, a program two weeks before the town’s nonpartisan election.

The two-term incumbent, Darin Bartram, advocated status quo, saying that in the four years he’s served, “We’ve had a very good dynamic on the Council.” He declared himself “a voice of reason or moderation” on the four-person panel.

Tom Rodriguez, who is seeking a second term, emphasized his leadership on the Town’s parks and events committees. He also noted that his hometown in Florida has been overrun by development and traffic — a scenario he vowed not to allow in Kensington, a town of about 2,300 people that is bisected by heavily traveled Connecticut Avenue.

The challenger, Conor Crimmins, acknowledged that he and his opponents are “not very different in how we look at Kensington.” But he said he wants to move matters more quickly through Town committees and to stimulate citizen participation in Town governance. Voting in the town election can be a start, he said. “Let’s see voter turnout skyrocket” on June 5.

Two years ago, Bartram and Rodriguez won election in a three-way race with a little more than 150 votes, a fraction of the Town’s registered voters.

None of the candidates expressed opposition to the 4 percent pay increases proposed in fiscal 2018 for top Town staff. “We ought to be a leader in Montgomery County in what we pay” staff, Rodriguez said.

He and Bartram said they would support lowering the minimum voting age in Town elections to 16. Crimmins offered no position on that question, which was one of a dozen or so raised by the 40 people attending the program. They wrote questions on index cards and submitted them to a moderator, who sometimes combined the queries in posing them to the candidates.

There were no missteps or gaffes, although Bartram at one point said, “I love getting new ideas from people — and me.”

Crimmins pledged to be “extremely approachable” and vowed courtesy and respect in dealings with Townspeople. Rodriguez called for stepped up enforcement of traffic laws and said the planned bicycle patrols by county police promise to be “a fantastic innovation.”

House of Delegates Ratings, Part V: The Most Vulnerable Democrat

Continuing our view of the lay of political land in advance of the 2018 state legislative election, 7S turns to vulnerable Democrats in the House of Delegates. We start today with the one sitting Democrat rated as a toss-up.

Delegate Ned Carey is in the unenviable position of holding the most endangered Democratic seat in the House. Located in the Brooklyn Park and Glen Burnie sections of northern Anne Arundel County, District 31A is a single delegate subdistrict that contains the more Democratic territory in very Republican District 31, which should just be renamed Simonaireland. The father holds the Senate seat and his daughter is a delegate from 31B.

Carey represents the only Democratic House district carried by both Larry Hogan and Donald Trump. District 31A went for Hogan by a 30 points in 2014. While Hillary Clinton fared far better, she still fell 4 percent short of defeating Trump.

A former school board member and BWI executive endorsed by the Baltimore Sun, Carey had the advantage of facing an inexperienced Republican challenger, Terry DeGraw in 2014. A poor fundraiser, DeGraw spent little on her campaign. Her three general election campaign finance reports show she spent a total of $13,952.74.

In contrast, Carey spent an impressive $84,613.07 to win the seat by 5.3% over DeGraw. Besides loaning his campaign $10,000, Carey received $47,000 in donations from the House Democratic Slate, as well as another $2000 from Sen. Ben Cardin’s PAC and $2500 from former Gov. Martin O’Malley’s O Say Can You See PAC.

The Republican lean of the district combined with his small victory despite outclassing his opponent in fundraising and experience paint a big target on Carey’s back for 2018. The Republicans will have a real shot if they can find a good candidate and fund them well.

The best evidence that Carey will nevertheless not lose easily is that he won in 2014, despite it being a truly hellacious year for Democrats. In an election when long-term Democratic legislators in similar territory went down, Carey managed to win the seat. No doubt he is hoping for a more favorable climate in 2018.

Gino Threatens Reznik

By Adam Pagnucco.

In a statement on the Facebook page of political blogger Ryan Miner, MCGEO President Gino Renne has vowed to defeat Delegate Kirill Reznik (D-39) in next year’s election.  In response to a post about Reznik’s decision not to run for Congress, Renne wrote to Reznik:

Thanks for your unproductive representation. I’m one of your constituents who believes you bring no value to our district’s representation in Annapolis. You were appointed to the seat which gave you the advantage of incumbency. This time around there are several quality candidates running for delegate in our district. I and many others intend to do whatever is necessary to unseat you. District 39 can do better and deserves better than you.

You now have the benefit of more unsolicited intel.

MCGEO once supported Reznik, giving him five contributions totaling $4,100 between 2007 and 2011.  What is their problem with him now?  Renne is not shy so we will probably find out!  Perhaps his casus belli includes Reznik’s support for Delegate Bill Frick’s End the Monopoly bill, a piece of legislation so objectionable to Renne that he famously promised to investigate the lifestyles of its supporters.

Few interest group leaders make such open threats against incumbents.  That’s because defeating incumbents is difficult and MCGEO is no better at it than anyone else.  In recent years, the incumbents MCGEO has tried to defeat include Council Member Phil Andrews (D-3) in 2006, Delegate Al Carr (D-18) in 2010, Senator Nancy King (D-39) in 2010, Board of Education member Mike Durso in 2010, Council Member Roger Berliner (D-1) in 2014 and Senator Rich Madaleno (D18) in 2014.  All of these candidates won by double digits except Carr and King.  Berliner won by 57 points even though his opponent’s campaign was managed by MCGEO’s former Executive Director.  MCGEO has supported two recent successful challengers to incumbents: Delegate Roger Manno (D-19) over Senator Mike Lenett and Hans Riemer over Council Member Duchy Trachtenberg (At-Large), both in 2010.  Lenett lost in part because he blew himself up with horrible mailers such as this one about the Holocaust.  Trachtenberg lost in part because she inexplicably hoarded $146,000 which could have been spent on campaign activity.

Here’s the problem with making threats of this kind: you have to follow through and win or you look weak.  Reznik has none of the weaknesses that sometimes result in incumbent losses in Montgomery County: he’s not a Republican, he’s not lazy and he doesn’t have legions of enemies at home.  It’s also not clear that there are enough strong open seat candidates in District 39 to seriously threaten him.  In fact, the smart move for the challengers is to court him and the other incumbents in hope of inclusion on their slate.  All of this is good for Kirill Reznik and not so good for Gino Renne.

Group of Elected Democrats Agrees to Withhold Gubernatorial Endorsements

By Adam Pagnucco.

A group of elected Democrats from around the state has issued a joint statement that they will not endorse in the upcoming gubernatorial primary until the filing deadline has passed and one or more debates have occurred.  Following is their press release.

*****

For Immediate Release

May 27, 2017

Contact: Delegate David Moon – david@davidmoon.us

Maryland Elected Democrats Commit to Delay

Endorsements in 2018 Gubernatorial Primary

16 Democratic Officials Agree to Wait Until Debates Happen & Filing Deadline Passes

TAKOMA PARK, MD – Today sixteen Maryland Democratic elected officials announced an agreement to delay endorsing candidates in the 2018 gubernatorial primary until: 1) the February 2018 filing deadline has passed, and 2) one or more debates have occurred. The diverse group of Democrats were elected to serve in federal, state, county, and city government and come from a range of communities throughout Maryland.

Every Democratic official who signed the letter has a different reason for joining the effort. Some are available for comment:

Mayor Jacob Day (Salisbury) – jday@salisbury.md

Delegate Kathleen Dumais (Montgomery) – kathleen.dumais@house.state.md.us

Delegate Robbyn Lewis (Baltimore) – robbyn.lewis@house.state.md.us

City Councilmember Robert Wu (Gaithersburg) – rwu@gaithersburgmd.gov

City Councilmember Ryan Dorsey (Baltimore) – ryan.dorsey@baltimorecity.gov

The full text of the letter and list of signers appears below:

Grassroots Democracy Commitment for Maryland Governor

We the undersigned elected Democrats in Maryland, commit not to make an endorsement in the 2018 race for Governor until the candidate filing deadline has passed and there have been one or more debates between the filed candidates.

We are in a period of dramatic grassroots expansion of our party, and we believe it would be wise to provide all rank and file Maryland Democrats — including those who are engaging for the first time — the opportunity to help shape the future of the party.  At this early stage in the nomination battle, endorsements may create a primary among insiders that reduces voter input and unnecessarily keeps potential candidates out of the race.

Moreover, delaying endorsements will push those who seek to lead Maryland Democrats to articulate a broad and compelling vision and agenda for our party, debate the issues in detail, and compete effectively for support throughout the state.

In short, we think an open and competitive gubernatorial primary will help us win in November and will encourage candidates to develop strategies that harness grassroots energy to strengthen the Maryland Democratic Party.

Let’s use our resources now to strengthen the organizing base and structure of our Party so we can make the best possible choice for a standard-bearer in next year’s critical primary election.

Signed,

Mayor Jacob Day (Salisbury)

County Councilmember Dannielle Glaros (Prince George’s)

City Councilmember Ryan Dorsey (Baltimore)

City Councilmember Robert Wu (Gaithersburg)

Delegate Erek Barron (Prince George’s)

Delegate Luke Clippinger (Baltimore)

Delegate Kathleen Dumais (Montgomery)

Delegate Sheila Hixson (Montgomery)

Delegate Ariana Kelly (Montgomery)

Delegate Brooke Lierman (Baltimore)

Delegate Jazz Lewis (Prince George’s)

Delegate Robbyn Lewis (Baltimore)

Delegate David Moon (Montgomery)

Delegate Jheanelle Wilkins (Montgomery)

State Senator Will Smith (Montgomery)

Congressman Jamie Raskin (Montgomery)

Hucker, Riemer Targeted by Enviros

By Adam Pagnucco.

The Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN), one of Maryland’s major environmental organizations, is targeting County Council Members Tom Hucker (D-5) and Hans Riemer (At-Large) for not supporting a bill that would have required the county’s benefits funds to divest their holdings of fossil fuel company stocks.  The bill, lead-sponsored by Council Members Roger Berliner (D-1) and Nancy Navarro (D-4) and co-sponsored by Council Member Marc Elrich (At-Large), was converted into a non-binding resolution because it could not gather five affirmative votes.  The resolution was passed today.

Hucker has received numerous environmental endorsements during his history as a candidate.  The Maryland League of Conservation Voters gave him a 99% lifetime score when he was in the House of Delegates.  Riemer was endorsed by the Sierra Club in 2010 but not in 2014.

Following is the text of the blast email from CCAN Executive Director Mike Tidwell.  CCAN is also asking its supporters to email Hucker.

*****

Subject Line: Time to keep up the divestment fight.

Dear ,

First, the good news: We made real progress today in divesting our county’s massive pension funds from dirty fossil fuels. The Montgomery County Council just passed a resolution encouraging the employee pension boards to finally STOP buying and holding stocks in companies like ExxonMobil and Arch Coal. This is a positive step.

However, it’s only a resolution. It’s not the stronger legislation – an actual bill – that CCAN and many of you had asked for.

By a vote of 8-to-1, the Council approved today the carbon divestment resolution sponsored by Council President Roger Berliner (thank you, Roger!). It asks the county pension boards to report in six months (and every 12 months after that) on efforts to divest from the 200 biggest global warming polluters. With record high temperatures, rising seas, and ExxonMobil basically running our nation’s foreign policy, it is outrageous that our county pension funds hold over $70 million in mega-pollution stock. It’s YOUR county money, after all.

Please thank your Councilmember Tom Hucker for voting for the divestment resolution. But remind Tom he’s pledged to get real results from this resolution. We need action, not delay, on dirty energy investments.

Over the past several months, many of you have attended town hall meetings and contacted the MoCo Council on this issue. You demanded that actual legislation – not just a resolution – be passed to move our county toward divestment. Thank you for your citizen activism! And big thanks to Councilmembers Roger Berliner, Nancy Navarro, and Marc Elrich for sponsoring and supporting this legislation!

But Councilmembers Tom Hucker (D-Silver Spring) and Hans Riemer (D-at large) never supported the stronger bill. And because they were swing votes, the bill died. Instead, Councilmember Hucker repeatedly told CCAN and other advocates that a nonbinding resolution was his preference. He pledged to use the resolution as leverage and then lead the fight to demand that the county’s two pension boards actually divest in the coming months.

Our message to Tom Hucker: Thank you for your efforts and we look forward to the real results you’ve said could come from your preferred resolution approach. We now want to invite Councilmember Hucker to a countywide town hall meeting exactly six months from now, where he and Hans Reimer will have the opportunity to update citizens on their efforts to persuade the pension boards to voluntarily divest from high-polluting companies.

Please thank your Councilmember Tom Hucker for voting for the divestment resolution. But remind Tom he’s pledged to get real results from this resolution. We need action, not delay, on dirty energy investments!

A little background now. For too long, our county has sought to lead on climate change policy while also investing tens of millions of dollars in the very companies whose business plans and actions are causing the climate crisis. It’s wrong to profit from these companies – and we don’t need to. The evidence is clear that properly diversified funds perform as well or better without fossil fuel companies. We don’t need to invest in ExxonMobil to have a healthy pension system.

The good news is that pension divestment can be accomplished, as we have seen from just a few miles away. The D.C. Retirement Board eliminated direct investments in the 200 most harmful fossil fuel companies shortly after a divestment resolution passed the D.C. Council in 2014.

But we’ll need real commitment from Montgomery leaders like Hucker and Riemer – and pressure from citizens like you – to replicate the D.C. success here.

So, on we go. Change is never easy, even in a progressive county like ours. We’ll be in touch in the coming months to update you on the next phase of the divestment fight in Montgomery County. And in November we’ll invite you to the big town hall meeting where we hope our leaders can confirm the real progress they’ve said is possible in the coming months.

And thanks again for all you do!

Best,

Mike Tidwell

Executive Director

Montgomery County Land Use 101

Today, I am pleased to present a guest post by Del. Marc Korman about former Planning Board Chair Royce Hanson’s new book on the history of planning in Montgomery County.

Rumors abound that there could be more than 50 candidates running for the Montgomery County Council in the next election cycle (after attending the recent Montgomery County Democratic Party Spring ball, I think that could be an under-estimate).  I would recommend that each of them dive into Suburb: Planning Politics and the Public Interest, by Royce Hanson.

Royce Hanson is a legendary figure in Montgomery County.  He chaired the Planning Board from 1972 to 1980 and was brought back in as something of an elder statesman from 2006 to 2010 to clean-up improprieties fond related to development in Clarksburg.  His most lauded accomplishment is the establishment of the Agricultural Reserve which covers about one-third of Montgomery County although he oversaw numerous sector and master plans during his two tenures.  Mr. Hanson has had less success as a political candidate in the County.

Suburb is closely related to a series of speeches Mr. Hanson gave at the Planning Board Department in 2014 and 2015, which can be watched online and may be more accessible for some than the book.  Hanson’s book—like the lectures—tells the story of planning in Montgomery County essentially from the establishment of the bicounty agencies Washington Suburban Sanitation Commission and Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (the Planning Board) in the 1910s virtually up until the present.  Hanson sees County land use through three lenses.

First, land use decisions are usually the outcome of the back and forth between what he calls the “Miniature Republic”—homeowners, taxpayers–and the “Commercial Republic”—major land owners and developers.  At different times and in different locations, the power rests more heavily with one than the other.

Second, he traces land use decisions through several political regimes in the County’s history, which will be of particular interest to many local readers: The [Blair] Lee regime dominated by an insider political machine; the builders and the bar regime in which land use attorneys controlled the planning process; the progressive regime that emerged from the new Executive form of government in the 1970s, which he views himself as a product of; and the current “pure political” regime which Hanson views as lacking a cohesive vision for County land use.

Third, Hanson sees ultimate planning decisions as the place where the logic of consequentiality—the more technical and planning-based logic of bureaucrats–meets the logic of appropriateness—the politician’s changes to satisfy certain parties and make planning decisions more palatable.

The book marches through a number of “case studies” beginning with the 1964 General Plan, known as Wedges and Corridors; reimagining Bethesda and Friendship Heights for Metro; the resurgence of Silver Spring; updating White Flint for the 21st century; development of corridor cities such as Gaithersburg, Rockville, Montgomery Village, and Germantown; the huge and scandalous errors with Clarksburg development; the creation of the Agricultural Reserve; and the growth policy regularly updated by the Planning Board and County Council and now called the Subdivision Staging Policy.  Each of these chapters is rich with detail, but at times it feels as though you are just reading a series of facts and events as opposed to any type of analysis.  There are insights about what political and planning compromises worked (and sometimes didn’t work) in specific locations in Montgomery County at particular times, but broader conclusions about planning and process are hard to discern.

Indeed, Hanson even recognizes this late in the book when he concedes that it “is hazardous to overgeneralize from the experience of Montgomery County”, although he goes on to say that examples, analogies, insights, and more can be drawn and applied elsewhere, which is true in the broad sense that another place could redevelop a suburban strip mall near transit, come up with transferable development rights, or target specific neighborhoods through sector plans.  As someone more interested in the Montgomery County story, this approach helped focused on facts and events suited me fine but may be seen as a shortcoming to others.  Indeed, while as I said I think this book is important to read for County Council candidates, I’m not sure who else besides them, other local elected officials, and committed local activists would really appreciate this book.  I certainly did, but I’m in one of those relatively narrow buckets.

Hanson may have been torn between writing a history of Montgomery County planning politics and case studies that could potentially be used to teach planners anywhere and sometimes he did not find the balance he was looking for.  Those interested in the history will want to know who the unnamed councilmembers were who voted against appointing Norman Christellar Planning Board Chair and planning students will probably want to know why the failed plan to build another Mall of America in Silver Spring is relevant to their studies.  I, of course, understand why a pure Montgomery County history book was not written, as it would clearly have a small audience.  It has also been pointed out to me that the history of the County’s actions over race are almost entirely omitted.  I am sure others who lived through some of these planning efforts will note their own omissions.

Still, for you local history buffs there are plenty of interesting facts.  For example, County Executives used to control some appointments to the Planning Board and, for a time under County Executive Kramer, they could revise plans before they went to the Council.  Neil Potter devolved these powers back to the Council after defeating Kramer.  Hanson is also open with his criticism of some local County players and even relies on Adam Pagnucco research in making his attacks.  Former Councilwoman Idamae Garrott comes off as particularly responsive to the current mood of the best organized voters.

If you sit in lots of meetings about sector plans, dream about being on the County Council, or read blogs like this one, then this book is for you.  It covers interesting history and can be a good reference regarding particular parts of the County.   But for those not fitting that description, this book and its detailed history of Montgomery County land use may be more of a slog.  For the right audience, this book can provide a useful baseline of how Montgomery County developed over the last century and why.

Khan Claims Endorsements Without Permission

By Adam Pagnucco.

In his emailed announcement of candidacy for a House seat in District 39, Hamza Khan claimed several endorsements from elected officials.  But there’s a problem: at least two of them were cited without permission.

An excerpt from Khan’s announcement email.

Senator Will Smith (D-20), who was listed as an endorser, told us, “I wish Hamza well in his endeavor. However, I did not know about the email and I was not asked to have my name included.  I have not endorsed anyone in that race.”

Delegate Eric Luedtke (D-14), who was also listed as an endorser, said, “I like Hamza a lot, I think he’s a passionate and effective advocate for the community, and I think he would make a great Delegate. He and I have had conversations in the past about an endorsement but we haven’t reached that point yet. The inclusion of my name was a simple error at this point.”

We contacted the other elected officials listed in the announcement asking whether they had endorsed Khan.  To this point, none of them have replied.

This has happened before in Montgomery County.  Lord knows that candidates have made more serious mistakes than this in the past.  But it’s also an easy issue to avoid.  If you are running for office and looking to release a list of endorsers, just contact them and ask, “May I list you as endorsing my candidacy in my announcement?”  Better yet, do it in writing so that there is no dispute over the answer.

UPDATE

We received this note from Hamza Khan:

Thank you for publishing my campaign announcement. As embarrassing as this is: I have to inform you that it turns out two of my endorsements from elected officials are incorrect. At this time, Senator Will Smith, Delegate Eric Luedtke and Delegate Bilal Ali have not formally endorsed me. I was out of the office most of today, and so it took me until now to write to you and issue this retraction. I regret the error, and am thankful that Eric, Will and Bilal contacted me to clear up this matter.

As Adam pointed out in his blog post earlier about “endorsements without permission” — this was an avoidable mistake, and mistakes do happen. But they shouldn’t happen to someone who’s been involved in politics as long as I have. I apologize to you and your readers for this error. Being forthright and honest in the aftermath is all I can do to rectify the error, and I appreciate your willingness as bloggers to allow me the chance to try and rectify the mistake.

With Great Respect,

Hamza Khan

Editor’s Note (i.e. David Lublin): We all make mistakes. How one deals with them says a lot about a person. In this case, while the errors were regrettable, I applaud Hamza’s taking responsibility and look forward to seeing the campaign as it moves forward.

Hamza Khan Running for Delegate

Hamza is perhaps best known locally as a founder of the Muslim Democratic Club but he has also be active in many different ways. Here is the press release:

Hamza Khan Announces Campaign for Maryland State Delegate in District 39

GERMANTOWN, MD: Long-time community activist Hamza Khan will run for state delegate in Maryland’s District 39. Hamza will be seeking the vacancy created by long-time public servant Delegate Charlie Barkley, who has decided to run for the Montgomery County Council. “I have decided to run for public office because the challenges we are facing today as a state and country require us to build bridges and seek to bring together our entire community to achieve a progressive future for our children and generations to come”, said Hamza.

Hamza has already been endorsed by a number of progressive elected officials across Montgomery County and the great state of Maryland. Key endorsements include Senator Will Smith (D-20), Delegates Bilal Ali (D-41), Pam Queen (D-14), Joseline Peña-Melnyk (D-20) and Angela Angel (D-25).

In a nod to the breathtaking diversity of District 39, Hamza’s honorary campaign co-chairs collectively speak over a dozen languages in addition to English, including: Arabic, Armenian, Bahasa Indonesia, Cantonese, French, Hebrew, Hindi/Urdu, Mandarin, Punjabi, Russian, Spanish, Turkish, Vietnamese and Wolof. All are spoken in District 39, which is one of the state’s most diverse legislative districts to live by population. “Hamza is a warm person with a warm heart. He has an obvious devotion to strengthening and maintaining good relations between all faiths and ethnicities in our diverse community,” said Montgomery Village community interfaith activist Keleigh Arian (D39).

Hamza’s platform includes: funding and protecting Maryland’s commitment to K-12 public education; fighting for what’s best for our public school teachers, support staff, and students; working to close the achievement gap; fighting for free tuition at all Maryland community colleges; special needs and disability advocacy; investing in public transit options for Maryland commuters, such as Bus Rapid Transit and expanding access to MARC trains; protecting our environment and continuing to restore the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries; protecting a woman’s right to choose; fighting for an end to gender-pay discrimination; fighting for an increased minimum wage; fighting for the rights and protections of Maryland workers; advocating for, listening to, and including organized labor in the battle for social justice in our state; working to improve access to affordable childcare for Maryland families; and investing in Maryland’s small and family-owned businesses.

“Hamza is committed to fighting for progressive values and empowering underrepresented communities. He would be a great leader in the Maryland General Assembly,” said Amy Frieder, an UpCounty Democratic Party activist.

Hamza’s campaign website will launch by early summer. In the meantime, you can follow him on Twitter @HamzaSKhan or like his Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/hamzapolitics) to get updates about his campaign!

A Critical Moment for MoCo’s Smart Growth Movement

By Adam Pagnucco.

2018 is shaping up to be a big year in MoCo politics.  The Executive seat and four seats on the County Council have opened up due to term limits.  Dozens of people are considering running for county office and some are already doing so.  Discussions are underway among both business and progressive groups on how to prepare for the elections.  But one critical group is so far conspicuously absent:

MoCo’s smart growth community.

Smart growth advocates have some big asks of county elected officials.  They want the county to finance a bus-rapid transit network that will cost hundreds of millions of dollars.  That is at the same time that the county is trying hard to pay for what could be billions in school construction costs.  Smart growth groups are also seeking to terminate M-83, a planned Upcounty highway with significant support among its prospective users.  The current County Council is dealing with the Bethesda master plan and the next one will be deciding a host of others.  And at the state level, smart growth advocates are trying to convince the Governor and the General Assembly to support dedicated funding for WMATA.  Any one of these issues would be serious asks, but together they comprise an agenda that is expensive, difficult and costly in political capital.

When other groups have similar hard asks, they participate in the electoral process to enhance their prospects.  Business entities contribute money.  Labor unions contribute money, make endorsements and run direct actions by their members.  Other groups like the Sierra Club, NARAL, the volunteer Fire Fighters, the League of Conservation Voters, NOW and Casa in Action play too.  The smart growth movement does none of this.  That’s turning into a serious problem.

Many of the pieces are in place for the smart growth community to be politically potent.  They have a coherent, well-developed ideology with potential appeal to many.  They have a flagship blog, Greater Greater Washington, with a vast readership around the region.  They have several effective advocacy groups like the Coalition for Smarter Growth, Purple Line NOW and Action Committee for Transit.  They have formed issue-based alliances with others including some parts of the business community, environmental groups and the anti-M-83 group TAME.  And they have substantial support for some of their priorities.

What they don’t do is direct political action.  There is no smart growth organization that makes endorsements, raises and contributes money and finances independent expenditure campaigns advocating for and against candidates.  The closest thing they have to a political tool is Action Committee for Transit’s scorecards, which are handed out sporadically and not mass emailed or mass mailed.  For politicians who take risks in supporting the smart growth agenda, there is no assurance of offsetting electoral rewards.  That is one reason why M-83 continues to survive despite the alleged opposition of six Council Members plus the County Executive.

Now consider the stakes.  The leading vote-getter in recent at-large elections is Council Member Marc Elrich, who has voted against three transit-oriented master plans along the Purple Line route and is a top-tier candidate for Executive.  Total Wine co-owner David Trone, who could potentially spend over $10 million if he runs for Executive, is an open M-83 supporter.  (See his tweet below.)  The views of many council candidates on smart growth issues are totally unknown.  One thing is sure: all of these candidates will hear from citizens who oppose the Purple Line, transit-oriented development, bus-rapid transit lines and any potential tax hike that will be needed to fix WMATA.  How much will they hear from supporters?

Because of the sheer number of open seats in the county, 2018 will be a watershed year in the history of MoCo politics.  Will it be a watershed year for the smart growth movement?  Or will it be a year in which candidates who pay lip service to smart growth priorities get elected and then water them down once in office, not fearing any consequences?

Smart growthers, that depends on you.  The time to step up is now.

Maryland Politics Watch

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