All posts by Adam Pagnucco

MoCo’s Most Influential, Part Five

By Adam Pagnucco.

Part One of this series laid out the rules and methodology for how we determined MoCo’s most influential people. These lists were developed by adding together the nominations of 85 people who are themselves extremely knowledgeable and influential. Today, we begin the list of the most influential non-elected people in MoCo. They may not have the direct power of elected officials, but they still have considerable indirect ability to shape this county’s politics and government.

15 (tied). David Blair, Executive Chairman, Accountable Health, Inc. and Chairman, Coalition for Advocacy and Policy Solutions – 7 votes

AP: David Blair is a double threat with both the non-profit think tank he chairs, the Coalition for Advocacy and Policy Solutions (CAPS), and his status as a potential candidate for another run for office. No matter where you go in MoCo politics today, the question of “What is Blair going to do?” keeps popping up. (Disclosure: CAPS is one of my clients.)

15 (tied). Joy Nurmi, Chief of Staff, Office of Council Member Gabe Albornoz – 7 votes

Source: Commands influence and knows what’s going on.

Source: She knows where all of the bodies are buried, and Gabe Albornoz was very wise to hire her as chief of staff. Possibly the driest humor I’ve ever encountered in Rockville. Cross her at your peril.

Source: As plugged in as anyone in County politics. The close relationship with the CE has clearly cooled, but her deep ties to virtually all the holdovers in his administration are as strong as ever. She’s fiercely loyal to her current boss (Gabe) as she was to her last ones (Leggett & Praisner). Has unbridled passion and a powerful bull in a china shop personality — an interesting juxtaposition to a boss who has been referred to as “Mr. Rogers.”

AP: The Fixer. She is tougher than you. She knows more than you do. She remembers things that you have never heard about. Don’t even think about messing with her. I did once when I was young and foolish. Never again! All of that said, The Fixer gets a lot of respect and is a serious force for good in Rockville.

15 (tied). Dan Reed, Author, Just Up the Pike/Greater Greater Washington – 7 votes

Source: The public intellectual we have done nothing to deserve.

AP: If Planning Board Chairman Casey Anderson is the primary smart growth leader inside the government, Dan is the main leader outside of it. Young people who are looking to get involved in the county should look to Dan as a role model.

15 (tied). Laura Stewart, Vice President for Advocacy, MCCPTA – 7 votes

Source: Works A TON behind the scenes. She is my go to gal when I’m going into the weeds on anything school related. She has relationships and a wide breadth of advocacy experience.

Source: Everywhere all the time – in Annapolis and at the Council. Persistent!

AP: Only the coronavirus could stop Laura from going to events non-stop! Few activists aside from Diana Conway show up at more things, know more people and work as hard as she does.

13 (tied). Glenn Orlin, Transportation and Capital Budget Expert, County Council – 8 votes

Source: Retirement leaves massive void. But his impact will last decades, arguably having more power (right or wrong) than individual Council Members on CIP projects, school construction/subdivision staging policy and transportation projects, planning and policy.

Source: Retiring, but has been so influential even this last year he stays on my list.

AP: The reason why Glenn doesn’t rank higher is that his influence is largely invisible outside of the county council building. But make no mistake: his knowledge and his experience are vast. Few if any public officials will leave a longer-lasting mark on this county than Glenn and that includes his bosses on the council.

13 (tied). Julie Verratti, Co-Founder, Denizens Brewing Company – 8 votes

Source: The go-to voice of small biz in MoCo and Maryland, especially recently with COVID economic remedies.

AP: A rare crossover figure between the worlds of business and politics. She is responsible for opening up the craft brewing world in MoCo and helps run one of the best breweries anywhere.

More to come in Part Six!

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MoCo’s Most Influential, Part Four

By Adam Pagnucco.

Part One of this series laid out the rules and methodology for how we determined MoCo’s most influential people. These lists were developed by adding together the nominations of 85 people who are themselves extremely knowledgeable and influential. Now to the Final Four – the most influential elected officials in MoCo!

4. Council Member Andrew Friedson (D-1) – 32 votes

Source: He knows what local government is good for and what it’s not good for, and even if he frustrates you, you can’t help but admire how competent he is.

Source: Has carved out his own brand on a Council crowded with talent.

Source: More than any other member, Andrew has changed the terms of engagement on so many issues in front of the County Council. He’s taken to it like a sponge. His ability to keep the “main thing” the “main thing” is matched only by his incredible work ethic.

Source: He’s getting tons of respect as very sharp, with integrity, and isn’t scared to speak honestly and openly about what he sees going on.

Source: Andrew sticks out as the shiny new thing on the council for his willingness to show some moderation. This leadership is sorely lacking on a council dominated by the far left. If he can actually move the council toward the middle, he will have earned his title as “the real deal.”

Source: It is difficult to find anyone on this side of town who doesn’t love him. Truly wonderful.

Source: Burst on the scene, no signs of stopping; high marks for constituent service; fresh blood but smart enough to keep on seasoned staff from Berliner.

Source: Has shown incredible political savvy. Has done tremendous work in just his first year – economic impact analysis, vote against tax legislation, COVID19 response.

Source: Dynamic, smart, driven and witty, Andrew has made his mark as the voice of the business community. He is tireless as evidenced by his “home alone” video. He is always the last one to leave the Council building at night (unless he’s at an event).

AP: You would expect business types to vote for Andrew but he had broad strength among my entire source pool, even among those who sometimes disagree with him. Andrew GETS politics in a way that few other local politicians do. He can work the inside, he can work the outside, he can compromise and he can pull others along. He will have bumps in the road like everyone does, but remember this now and for the future: Andrew Friedson is the Real Deal.

3. Delegate Marc Korman (D-16) – 34 votes

Source: What a brilliant guy, and a serious transportation guru.

Source: The smartest person in the room, a future Appropriations chair, and has an underrated ability to cultivate allies.

Source: Brilliant. He absolutely knows how to get stuff done. He’s widely respected as a go to guy for numbers.

Source: Marc has carved out a niche as the dominant expert on mass transit and has earned the respect of his colleagues. Smart, hard-working, effective, and hyper responsive to constituents. One wonders how he has time to do it all. With the spectacles to complement his innate nerdiness, he could go a very long way with a little more charisma and charm.

Source: He’s just way smarter, more substantive, organized and hard-working than just about anyone else in elected office.

Source: Brilliant tactical legislator good at using all that to get things done. Well positioned in the House to get it done.

Source: Universally respected, Metro/transit geek (that’s a compliment), returns emails with superhuman lightning speed, knows Annapolis inside and out.

AP: Marc reminds me a lot of Anne Kaiser in terms of his work ethic, substance and steady Eddie temperament. He is also incredibly responsive and never neglects his constituents. Marc is one of the very best elected officials in the state and MoCo is lucky to have him.

2. County Executive Marc Elrich – 36 votes

Source: Half the Council may be ready to run against him but he writes the budget and sets the priorities.

Source: Love him or hate him, he’s been throwing fireballs from the left for decades. He took several tries to get on the council and y’all just couldn’t shake him off, now he’s your county executive. Deal with it!

Source: Rocky first year, has lost credibility with progressives on the housing issue, and administration seems to lack priority issues or obvious agenda.

Source: [On Elrich and Chief Administrative Officer Andrew Kleine] Consider the decisions they make, don’t make, and back-pedal on—this pair is the biggest influencer on county government whether they know it or not.

Source: I don’t agree with him at all, but his policies are shaping the county – for better or worse.

Source: His lack of vision and leadership is what influences events and issues in the county.

AP: The county executive, whoever he or she is, must be on this list. But Elrich is very different from his predecessors. For 30 years, he defined his political career primarily on what he opposed. That’s a great formula for being a contrarian council member but not much of a governing strategy for being a county executive. Elrich did not have a great start and now he is dealing with a budget crisis. If he can work productively with the council to fix it, he will regain some ground. If not, the council will make him irrelevant.

1. Congressman Jamie Raskin (D-8) – 38 votes

Source: Even though he is becoming more of a centrist neoliberal, you cannot argue his influence and ascent to national politics and how he’s beloved by all factions of MoCo Democrats.

Source: Right expertise at the right time.

Source: An unabashed liberal with unsurpassed talent to excite his far-left base. Wicked smart, respected, and likeable even among non-liberals. These abilities explain his quick ascension in Congress. Probably too liberal to run statewide, but I wouldn’t rule him out.

Source: Jamie Raskin has a lot of influence because he has total credibility with local progressives.

AP: I never thought I would see a MoCo member of Congress attain more popularity than the legendary Chris Van Hollen. I don’t know if Jamie is there quite yet, but he might be tied – and that’s incredible. Jamie was always a brainy and appealing progressive, but the contrast with a deranged, misogynistic and white supremacist president has amplified his impact. And in MoCo, it has made him a bona fide hero.

We are not done. Coming next – the most influential non-elected people in MoCo!

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IG Investigates “Overtime Scam” in the Fire Department

By Adam Pagnucco.

Last week, Montgomery County Inspector General (IG) Megan Davey Limarzi released a report titled, “Overtime Costs and Redundancies in the MCFRS EEO/Diversity Office.” The title may be sleepy but the allegations investigated by the IG were not. Multiple fire service employees blew the whistle on specific uses of overtime at the fire department, with one calling the matter an “overtime scam.”

Overtime has been a controversial issue inside the fire department for many years, but this report is not a generalized analysis of the issue. It is an investigation of a particular program inside the fire service: its Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO)/Diversity Office. The EEO/Diversity office did not have its own approved positions; instead it had a captain and a lieutenant who were “detailed to the Office of the Fire Chief on a full-time basis” to carry out the office’s work in addition to a number of other staff who were assigned “sporadically.”

Strangely, the office was set up despite rejection of dedicated staff for it by the county’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The report states:

During the FY2018 budget season, MCFRS requested, but did not receive, an additional captain position to focus on EEO concerns… The Fire Chief told the Inspector General and her staff that although this request was denied by the OMB, he continued with the program because he believed it to be critical. Since then, he has detailed two employees full-time to the work of the office, neither of which is an approved position.

On the nature of the office’s work, the report states:

We were unable to obtain metrics related to the EEO function of the office, such as complaints received, reports written, or referrals made to MCFRS [Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service] management or the County Office of Human Resources, Equal Employment Opportunity Compliance & Diversity Management Division. Staff members interviewed agreed that the EEO/Diversity Office was not engaged in formal investigations, but rather engaged in “fact-finding” and training regarding EEO matters and complaints.

The report also notes duplication and redundancy between the work scope of the EEO/Diversity Office and other offices in county government, including the Equal Employment Opportunity Compliance and Diversity Management Division of the Office of Human Resources and the fire service’s Office of Investigative Programs, Fire & Rescue Training Academy, Recruitment Section and Community Risk Reduction Section.

In Fiscal Year 2019, the office generated costs of $919,000, of which $908,000 was overtime and the rest was compensated leave. The cost was roughly 10% of the fire service’s total overtime spending. The overtime allowed regularly exceeded limits established by the fire chief and was assigned outside Telestaff, the scheduling system used by county public safety agencies.

So what’s the problem here? The IG’s investigation was spawned by multiple complaints from inside the fire department during calendar year 2019. The report states:

The OIG received information regarding the lack of transparency within the EEO/Diversity Office. For example, we obtained a document purporting to be a reporting of sentiments of MCFRS operational staff concerning the MCFRS EEO/Diversity Office. The document concludes that the “EEO Team” is viewed as causing “division/disruption in the department”; “untouchable/beyond reproach”; lacking “interaction with all people in a station”; and ignores “most people in the field”.

A former MCFRS staff member told OIG staff that the EEO/Diversity Officer has complete freedom to work and assign overtime at his discretion, it was common knowledge within MCFRS that the work of the EEO/Diversity Office was an “overtime scam”, and it was not communicated how overtime was assigned for that unit. Another MCFRS staff member told the OIG that he believed that there had been numerous occurrences where EEO/Diversity Office representatives working overtime appeared at events that were already being handled by MCFRS staff during their normal shifts. That staff member questioned the use and abuse of overtime by the EEO/Diversity Office. In a third communication to the OIG, a MCFRS staff member questioned the use of overtime and events attended by those assigned to the EEO/Diversity Office.

The report lists – but does not name – four individuals associated with the program who earned overtime in amounts ranging from $85,511 to $174,008 in 2018. Of these individuals, the report states:

All three of the career employees included on the of MCFRS EEO/Diversity Office website as either the EEO/Diversity Officer or one of his deputies appear on a list of 20 County employees with the greatest amount of overtime pay in 2018. At the same time, in 2018, the MCFRS EEO/Diversity Officer was the second highest paid County employee and an employee listed as an MCFRS EEO/Diversity Coordinator was the fourth highest paid County employee, buoyed by overtime.

So let’s review this. The fire service asked for an additional position for the EEO/Diversity office but was turned down by the county’s Office of Management and Budget during the Leggett administration. The fire service staffed the office anyway with employees who were detailed from elsewhere and paid them more than $900,000 in FY19, mostly in overtime. The overtime exceeded limits set by the fire chief and was scheduled outside of the system usually used by county public safety agencies. Three of the employees who worked for the office were among the highest-compensated employees in county government principally because of the overtime they were paid. There are no metrics on the office’s EEO work. The office’s work scope is at least partially duplicative with no fewer than five other offices in county government. Multiple employees complained about the office’s overtime practices with one calling its work an “overtime scam.”

The IG began reviewing the office in October 2019. In January 2020, the office “ceased operations” with the fire chief proposing that its work be conducted by a new unit that would also use overtime. That cannot be the end of this story. The following two things must happen.

1. Chief Administrative Officer Andrew Kleine must investigate the activities of the now-closed EEO/Diversity Office. The IG’s report does not draw a conclusion on the legitimacy of the office’s spending, although it does note the unavailability of “metrics related to the EEO function of the office” and contains allegations of overtime abuse. Kleine must determine whether this use of $919,000 in overtime and compensatory leave applied to legitimate work. If that turns out not to be the case, any involved individuals – both those who profited and those who enabled it – must be disciplined and restitution must be obtained. Kleine’s findings, whatever they are, must be made public.

If Kleine doesn’t investigate this, he owns it.

2. Since there is an allegation that the office’s work was an “overtime scam,” State’s Attorney John McCarthy must investigate whether any criminal violations occurred.

In the meantime, the county council must demand answers. The integrity of county government spending is at stake.

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MoCo’s Most Influential, Part Three

By Adam Pagnucco.

Part One of this series laid out the rules and methodology for how we determined MoCo’s most influential people. These lists were developed by adding together the nominations of 85 people who are themselves extremely knowledgeable and influential. Let’s see what they had to say!

9. Council Member Hans Riemer (At-Large) – 21 votes

Source: Executive candidate in waiting often speaks for the Council.

Source: Hans is definitely going after Marc Elrich, and has been for a long time. So he has been making bold plays and making change.

Source: ADUs, 5G, solar farms – it is what we are talking about. Also gearing up for run for CE means he is putting himself out there.

AP: So far, the leader of the resistance to County Executive Marc Elrich, especially on the issue of housing. He is taking fire from Elrich supporters and that might have given him pause in the past. But the 2020 version of Riemer has a harder edge than the guy I worked for years ago, and if he really does take on Elrich, he is going to need it.

8. State Senator Brian Feldman (D-15) – 23 votes

Source: A go-to sponsor on so many important measures.

Source: Quietly extremely effective.

Source: Strongest MoCo Senate voice we have.

AP: Smart, pragmatic, respected and has seen a lot in nearly two decades in office. We could use another couple dozen like him, but if all we get is one Brian Feldman, we’ll take him.

7. U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen – 25 votes

Source: Able to quickly translate his House expertise in politics and policy to the Senate.

Source: Best Senator ever.

AP: CVH has been arguably MoCo’s most popular politician for nearly two decades. He may be in the U.S. Senate now but he can still tap into his old Downcounty base whenever he wants support for whatever he does in the future.

6. Comptroller Peter Franchot – 28 votes

Source: Wields a lot of power from the perch of the Board of Public Works.

Source: Perhaps the most adept politician in the state outside the Governor himself. He’s smartly begun cultivating support outside of his typical base of centrist whites, but his gubernatorial bid might nevertheless be reliant on enough room in his ideological lane.

Source: Love him or hate him, he has a big impact on Maryland with his Board of Public Works vote and bromance with the Governor.

AP: What politician can serve more than 30 years in office and still run as an outsider? Peter Franchot, that’s who! Franchot has built his brand on fiscal conservatism, fighting “the machine,” and crusading for underdogs on issues ranging from school air conditioners to expanding craft beer. His crack team, led by master strategist Len Foxwell, is the best in Annapolis.

5. State Senator Will Smith (D-20) – 31 votes

Source: It’s wonderful to have the Senate Judicial Proceedings gavel in progressive hands.

Source: Most visible sign of Annapolis’s ideological and demographic shifts, though perhaps won’t be in the Senate much longer.

Source: If the Governor is telling you to resign, you’re probably doing something right.

Source: No political star has risen faster.

AP: Think about how incredible this trajectory is. Will Smith gets elected to the House in 2014. He is appointed to the Senate in 2016. He becomes Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee this year. After getting blasted by Governor Larry Hogan over crime legislation, he gets a package of crime bills passed including some of the governor’s priorities just a couple weeks later. Now he is ranked as one of the most influential elected officials in Montgomery County and folks are talking about him as a potential statewide candidate. Few elected officials anywhere rise this fast.

Coming next: our earth-shattering Final Four!

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Franchot Chief of Staff Blasts Wilkins

By Adam Pagnucco.

Comptroller Peter Franchot’s Chief of Staff, Len Foxwell, has been in state politics for decades and has seen his share of hard knocks. (Len is famous for once calling MCGEO President Gino Renne “the Greg Hardy of Montgomery County politics.”) So when someone like Foxwell characterizes a politician’s statement as “one of the most irresponsible and potentially harmful public statements I’ve seen from an elected official in my 25 years in this business,” that gets my attention.

The fracas began after Maryland Matters published an article in which Franchot suggested that consumers, tenants and utility customers ask for extensions in paying rent and fees. Franchot said, “Don’t write checks to your creditors until you talk to your creditors… It allows consumers to preserve what’s in their pockets in a normal time.” The article quoted a bankers association executive and a utility executive encouraging customers to contact creditors, claiming that some would be flexible.

Delegate Jheanelle Wilkins (D-20) wasn’t having it. She fired off a tweet that said, “For some reason, I don’t think this will go over well. ‘Excuse me landlord, may I have a 3-month rent holiday?’ This is a joke. Executive action is needed to provide relief to consumers.”

That prompted the eruption below from Foxwell, who – among other things – said, “So many of the financial institutions we’ve spoken to over the past week understand the uncharted territory our country has entered, and are able and willing to work with their borrowers to help them through this period of trauma. Instead of supporting this sound, proven advice, which could save people’s homes, cars, credit ratings, and cash reserves, Delegate Jheanelle Wilkins has gone the other way. She would, apparently, rather indulge hazy, long-forgotten old political grudges against the Comptroller for the sake of banking a few likes and social media fist bumps.”

It’s worth noting that the Comptroller has no statutory or regulatory authority to force creditors to extend terms for debtors. But the General Assembly may have authority to intervene. Delegate Wilkins may wish to draft legislation on the issue.

Finally, let’s consider the view of Denizens Brewing Company co-owner (and former Lieutenant Governor candidate) Julie Verratti, who replied to Delegate Wilkins’ tweet and essentially said, “Why not do both?”

Makes sense to me. How about you, dear readers?

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Riemer Proposes Liquor Monopoly Payment Holiday

By Adam Pagnucco.

In a letter to County Executive Marc Elrich, Council Member Hans Riemer has proposed that liquor licensees be allowed to defer payments owed to the county’s Alcohol Beverage Services (ABS). Specifically, Riemer wrote, “I am writing to request that ABS allow restaurant licensees to defer payments or make partial payments on all products purchased from ABS for the next 12 months.” Riemer notes the extreme financial losses being experienced by licensees and suggests that the county “explore options that could allow the County to smooth the revenue impact of this proposal over a longer period of time.”

We reprint Riemer’s letter below. We intend to print the executive’s response when we receive it.

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MoCo’s Most Influential, Part Two

By Adam Pagnucco.

Part One of this series laid out the rules and methodology for how we determined MoCo’s most influential people. Before you complain about it, just remember – these lists are not my lists. They were developed by adding together the nominations of 85 people who are themselves extremely knowledgeable and influential. If you have a problem with that, take it up with them!

And now let’s get started. Today, we will begin listing the most influential elected officials on MoCo’s state and county politics. The criteria include elected officials who appear on our ballots even if they don’t live here. Quotes attributed to sources are not mine and come from our voters.

15. Delegate Kumar Barve (D-17) – 12 votes

Source: Leading voice on Beltway/270 proposal in Annapolis and calls the shots on many environmental initiatives.

Source: Stops a lot of stupid sh*t in the county delegation.

AP: The sources really got this one wrong as Kumar deserves a higher rank. He chairs the House Environment and Transportation Committee and is a former House Majority Leader. He has been in the house since some of today’s delegates were in elementary school. Kumar is brilliant, hilarious and knows the General Assembly as well as anyone. Other delegates need to learn from him as long as he remains in Annapolis.

13 (tied). Council Member Tom Hucker (D-5) – 18 votes

Source: One example, look at 495/270: press conferences, meetings, petition, relationships with SHA, Governor (which he finessed) — got results. He has a deep understanding of relationships and communication partnerships. Knows how to whip up/work with constituents to get things done.

AP: Tom Hucker’s secret for political success is that he knows who he is as a politician. You don’t see him hemming and hawing in public, flip-flopping or trying to figure out where the political winds are blowing. He just pushes ahead with his brand of practical, meat-and-potatoes progressivism and never strays too far from his base. That and his expertise in the outside ground game make him one of the most focused and effective elected officials in MoCo. Bonus points: his Chief of Staff, Dave Kunes, is one of the best.

13 (tied). Council Member Nancy Navarro (D-4) – 18 votes

Source: Nancy has become the moral leader of county government. She boldly spearheaded plans to re-shape how county government leaders understand structural racism, view our community, and even perceive themselves. She’s also helped create a platform for the County Council to engage on economic development issues. She’s done both of these things while overseeing a Council Presidency that saw a new administration, four new Councilmembers, and many new faces on central staff.

Source: Navarro has stepped up on every major issue and gathered the “council troops” to take the reins of county government at a time when the County Executive’s leadership is sorely lacking. She has exquisite timing and strategically lays out a vision for getting things accomplished in this leadership vacuum.

AP: No one wants to take on Nancy directly. She makes people who cross her pay a price! That’s why she usually gets her way, especially in directing money towards her district. Also, the fact that she is the only council member left from the 2010 budget crisis will amplify her influence in the coming weeks.

12. Governor Larry Hogan – 19 votes

Source: Completely driving the transportation priorities for the county. Officials deride but residents adore his proposals to expand highways even if the county proposal is utterly more sensible.

Source: Strong, capable and bold. Leading on the coronavirus when counties were still contemplating how to respond. He inspires trust and I can’t tell you how many people say, “I love Hogan.” A true leader at a difficult time.

AP: Governor Hogan deserves to be ranked higher. He doesn’t live here, but how many state initiatives have had a bigger impact on county politics than his I-270/Beltway proposal? It’s a short list.

10 (tied). Delegate Anne Kaiser (D-14) – 20 votes

Source: Quietly behind the scenes, she has become MoCo’s most influential state legislator by a mile, writing legislation that pushes progressive priorities in a practical way. Others get more press. She gets it done.

Source: One of the most prominent Kirwan and education voices, and a mentor to lots of (especially female) electeds.

AP: If I were going to advise a young delegate on how to get ahead in Annapolis, I would tell that person to watch Anne Kaiser. She is not flashy or fancy. She doesn’t seek out press attention. She just does her job, works hard, listens to others, plays on the team and picks her spots to move the team forward. Now she has the ways and means committee chair that once belonged to the legendary Sheila Hixson and she is not done. Don’t be surprised if you are calling her Speaker Kaiser in a few years.

10 (tied). Delegate Eric Luedtke (D-14) – 20 votes

Source: Decent amount of helium in Annapolis, arrow will probably continue to point skyward within the House.

Source: Put together the arrangement that made Adrienne Jones speaker. Influential enough to float tax proposals that can mobilize widespread opposition.

Source: Kaiser would be more obvious choice here given the gavel but no one made more of an impact for good or ill with service tax proposal this session, dominating the conversation.

AP: Smart, outspoken, intellectually honest and ready for combat with right-wingers, Eric has become one of the go-to guys for taking point in House leadership. Underneath all that, he is still the person I first met a long time ago: a socially progressive teacher out to push for the common good. Who knows how his career will progress, but I guarantee it won’t be boring!

More to come in Part Three!

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MoCo’s Most Influential, Part One

By Adam Pagnucco.

Are you tired of reading about the coronavirus?

Are you tired of staying locked up in your house?

Are you tired of having to fight for toilet paper like it’s the Zombie Apocalypse (strangely without zombies)?

Well so am I, so let’s have fun.  This is Part One of a series.  It’s something we have not done since 2009.  It’s a grand survey, the grandest of all on MoCo’s political stage.  And YOU get to see the results!

We call this event MoCo’s Most Influential.

I have been writing about state and county politics off and on for 14 years and during that time I’ve picked up a lot of sources.  They tell me useful things, like where money gets wasted, who blew up his or her own campaign, who really killed that bill and – nowadays – where toilet paper can be found.  So this time I went back to them with a question:

Who are MoCo’s most influential people in state and county politics?

Here are the rules I sent to my sources:

1.  You may nominate up to 10 elected officials in government who you believe most influence state or county politics and represent all or part of Montgomery County.  This includes statewide officials and officials who represent other jurisdictions in addition to MoCo (like members of Congress).

2.  You may also nominate up to 10 non-elected people who you believe most influence state or county politics in Montgomery County.

That’s right, there are two lists: elected and non-elected.  You get up to 10 nominations for each of them.

3.  You don’t have to agree with your nominees, you just have to believe that they are influential.

4.  You may nominate yourself – if you judge it necessary!

5.  You may provide comments justifying your picks but you don’t have to.

6.  No nominations or comments will be attributed.  No one besides you and me will know how you voted or what you said.  I PROMISE.

7.  Responses are due in two weeks.

A total of 85 people made nominations.  They come from all over the county, from Damascus down to Takoma Park.  A few live outside the county but have business and/or political interests here.  Almost half (40) are elected officials, former elected officials or government staffers.  Thirty-two are women.  They are active throughout the county’s many communities – civil rights, civic activism, progressives, environmentalists, education folks, business leaders and more.  Many of them are household names that would be immediately recognized by every Seventh State reader.  Others operate behind the scenes.  I didn’t get responses from everyone I asked, but on a collective basis, I am confident that these people know this county as well or better than any other respondent pool that could be accessed.

Any one of these folks could have developed a compelling list of influential people all on their own, and most of them did.  But what makes this exercise interesting is that it sums up their cumulative judgment.  To have a large group of influential and knowledgeable people pick the folks that they truly believe are the most influential is quite a thing to behold.

So let’s do some beholding!  Part Two – coming to your inbox soon – will get us started.

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Elrich Sends Budget Letter to the Council

By Adam Pagnucco.

Facing severe crises to public health, the county’s economy and its budget, County Executive Marc Elrich sent the letter below to the county council about the budget.  The main takeaways are:

1. The executive has instituted freezes on hiring and procurement for functions not related to COVID-19 response.  Overtime has also been restricted to COVID-19 response departments.

2. The finance department has begun estimating the crisis’s impact on county revenues.

3. The executive has begun talking to the county’s unions about “a range of compensation issues.”  No further details were provided.

4. Office of Management and Budget Director Rich Madaleno has been designated as the liaison to the council on “issues related to fiscal response and recovery.”  When Madaleno was a State Senator, he was a key player in working on the state’s budget problems during the Great Recession.  Few people in Maryland understand the state budget better than Madaleno.

We reprint Elrich’s letter below.  Bethesda Beat has reactions from some members of the county council.

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Liquor Monopoly Ends Takeout Cocktail Ban

By Adam Pagnucco.

Council Members Andrew Friedson and Evan Glass have announced that the liquor monopoly has ended its ban on takeout cocktails.

Friedson announced the news on Twitter.

Glass announced it on Facebook.

The official announcement from Alcohol Beverage Services appears below.

And here is a link to the application form for licensees.

Thank you to Council Members Friedson and Glass, Comptroller Peter Franchot and everyone else who worked to turn this around!

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