Category Archives: Race

Yes to Racial Equity and Social Justice. No on this Legislation.

Montgomery County has decided to tackle racial equity and social justice with legislation sponsored by Council President Nancy Navarro and supported by the entire County Council and County Executive. As Bethesda Beat reported:

The bill would establish a countywide racial equity and social justice program, according to language introduced Tuesday in a council session. It also calls for a separate Office of Racial Equity and Social Justice.

It would require a countywide equity action plan and individual plans for each of the more than 30 executive departments and offices, including Montgomery County Public Libraries and the county’s police department.

The act would require a racial equity and social justice impact statement at the end of every bill, program, or master plan submitted before the council.

Unfortunately, this bill will do little to address either racial equity or social justice in any meaningful way. But it will create a new county office and take up many hours of time by county bureaucrats in other offices that could be better spent on county services, including existing policies that promote the goals of the legislation.

What Will Happen

Bureaucrats will respond to the requirement for action plans by deploying personnel to writing plans that demonstrate (surprise!) that their current approach promotes racial equity and social justice. These numerous new reports will be more produced than read but will satisfy the new mandate from their political masters.

Similarly, all new bills, programs and master plans will have racial equity and social justice impact statements arguing for their positive impact. It’s hard to imagine that the people who write the impact statements on new bills or new master plans will write negative reviews of proposals by the people who employ and supervise them.

What is Racial Equity and Social Justice?

Debates over the nature of racial equity and social justice give the writers of these many new required plans and impact statements more flexibility than Gumby. Consider the following examples:

Raises for County Employees. As I pointed out not too long ago, the County Council voted to give delayed pay increases to all county unions except MCGEO–the only majority female and majority minority union in the county. Yet Navarro still took umbrage at the idea that she had overlooked racial equity.

Ironically, Navarro focused on the budget as a primary reason to pass her racial equity legislation: “Budgetary decisions are where the rubber meets the road.” The bill’s primary sponsor failed her own blue chip test for racial equity. Or else the idea is so malleable as to lack real meaning.

Purple Line. The new light rail line is touted as making it easier for poorer people to travel to work. Except that transportation access raises property values, making it harder for poorer people to continue to afford rents around light-rail stops. It also encourages property owners and developers to redo or to tear down existing apartments to attract higher paying tenants, rendering existing residents homeless.

The Purple Line has already created pressure to rezone areas populated by low income residents and businesses. The County Planning Board rejected a proposal to rezone the light industry area in Greater Lyttonsville along the Purple Line to a CR (commercial-residential zone) on a 4-1 vote. This highly diverse area (see pp. 12-13) is home to many small businesses owned by African Americans and Latinos that would have been displaced by the zoning change. The sole vote in favor was Planning Board Chair Casey Anderson, who was recently unanimously reappointed by the same Council that sponsored the racial equity and social justice bill.

Casey can reasonably argue that the decision will reduce the county tax base over the long term, giving it less money to spend on racial equity and social justice. Possibly true but cold comfort for the immigrant and minority-owned businesses that would have been ejected. In any case, arguments can be marshaled for or against policies like the Purple Line and zoning changes on racial equity and social justice grounds. The required reports will likely often be political documents rather than objective analyses.

Won’t Address the Problems Cited by Councilmembers

Here are some of the rationales for the legislation reported in Bethesda Beat:

Council member Will Jawando said he experienced racism for the first time in fourth grade — a lobbed slur as he brushed past an older white women [sic] on the street.

Unemployment is three times higher in District 5, a diverse region with a majority black population, than in the rest of Montgomery County, Council member Tom Hucker said.

Council member Craig Rice raised two daughters who thought people didn’t see skin color, he said, until one of them was the target of a racist taunt on the school bus last week.

“It’s a reminder that there’s a systemic issue here and we need to make sure we’re doing everything we possibly can to change things,” Council member Sidney Katz said at the council session.

Churning out more reports isn’t going to stop racists from calling people ugly and awful racist slurs or prevent children from learning them. I wish it would. I would love for Will Jawando not to experience them, and Craig Rice not to have to explain them to his beautiful daughters.

Most of the county budget goes to schools and basic services like police and fire, so the county’s ability to tackle larger problems like the unemployment rate gap is somewhat limited beyond its very smart decision to continue investing heavily in Montgomery College. In any case, systemic reports won’t do anything about it.

Our Past and Ongoing Commitment

If one views our county’s budget as a moral document, it reflects the county’s long-term commitment to racial equity and social justice.

We dedicate roughly one-half of our spending to the public schools, as part of our effort to assure that every kid has an opportunity. The county schools continue to include more kids of color and more from poorer backgrounds (often not the same). Moreover, MCPS directs substantially more funding to the schools with poorer kids who tend to have greater needs and parents with less means to meet them.

In short, the wealthier areas of the county pay a disproportionate share of taxes, but a disproportionate share of funding goes to schools outside their neighborhoods. That’s entirely as it should be. It’s makes me proud to live in Montgomery. This is not new policy but a very long-term commitment.

In a similar vein, we pay county employees well and give them good pensions. The county works hard to make sure that pensions are fully funded, a commitment that Ike Leggett worked mightily hard to keep as the county coped with the economic downturn’s enormous budget crunch and newfound demands from rating agencies for higher funding. It goes without saying that the county supports and works with unions.

If all of this isn’t social justice, then what is?

I also have little doubt of the concern of each and every councilmember in this area. I don’t think that Nancy Navarro believes that she or other longtime councilmembers, like Craig Rice or Hans Riemer, have failed this test year after year. Marc Elrich became county executive on a platform to combat exactly these sorts of problems.

Did past councils, who put the progressive structure of our county government in place, really ignore these questions? I may often disagree with this or that Montgomery politician, but I’d be hard pressed to name one who doesn’t care. Did Ike Leggett in his long tenure on the county council or three terms as county executive ignore these problems? How about Howie Denis? Or was it Roger Berliner, Nancy Floreen, and George Leventhal?

I’ll take the county council at its word that the proposed bill comes out of a sincere desire to represent the support of Montgomery voters to continue to move forward on these issues. But instead of passing a bill that will mainly generate mounds of reports, it should spend more time engaging with the tough work on issues from affordable housing to making sure students from all backgrounds have the skills and support they need.

Nevertheless, I have no doubt that the proposal will pass easily. The chances of the Montgomery County Council voting this down are about as likely the Montgomery County Republican Party sending me an email in support of undocumented immigrants. No Democrat wants to be seen opposing racial equity or social justice. It is just not worth the ire from progressives attacking one as a racist or insufficiently committed to stamping it out.

That’s a pity. We need fewer totems of our commitment and more of the hard and sadly often not headline-grabbing work of delving into policy that making real change on these difficult issues entails.

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Navarro Blasts Krasnow, Blair and Frick Over Racial Equity

By Adam Pagnucco.

County Council Member Nancy Navarro is blasting County Executive candidates Rose Krasnow, David Blair and Bill Frick over their comments on her racial equity resolution.  The council resolution would have the county measure racial equity impacts of budget items and legislation.  Its action language states:

The Council is committed to examining the data needed to develop an equity policy framework that would require the County to question how budget and policy decisions impact equity.

This effort must be a partnership between the County Council, County Executive, County Government, county agencies, institutions, and our community. The County Government
must challenge itself to bring new and different partners to the table. Partnering with other jurisdictions as members of the Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE) will also enhance the County’s effort and commitment to fostering equity.

Equity analyses should be part of capital and operating budget reviews, appropriation requests, and legislation. Program and process oversight should be undertaken viewing programs and processes through an equity lens. Equity targets and measures of progress must be put in place.

The Council will provide additional FY19 Operating Budget resources for the Office of Legislative Oversight to develop a baseline report describing current disparities in education, employment, housing, health, employment, land use, and other measures of opportunity by May 31, 2019. Following the transmittal of the baseline report, the Council will introduce legislation for the County to develop an equity policy framework to inform the delivery of all County services.

The entire council, including the three members running for Executive (Roger Berliner, Marc Elrich and George Leventhal), has co-sponsored the resolution.  But fellow Executive candidates Rose Krasnow, David Blair and Bill Frick criticized it in the Washington Post:

Democrat Rose Krasnow, the county’s deputy planning director and a former mayor of Rockville, said she worried the measure would lead to “paralysis by analysis.” She also questioned the timing of the resolution: “It seems like such a political statement in an election year.”

Del. C. William Frick (D-Montgomery) said growing “private-sector jobs” and wages is the best way to eliminate disparities. Businessman David Blair applauded the vote but the Democrat wrote in an email that “we shouldn’t confuse activity with progress. . . . Where’s the progress been the past 12 years?”

That drew Navarro’s wrath.  She denounced the three candidates on Facebook, writing:

I am deeply disappointed by the comments made in this article, by County Executive candidates, Rose Krasnow, David Blair, and Bill Frick regarding my efforts to establish an “Equity Policy” for County Government… These candidates have chosen to dismiss an effort that will directly support our immigrant communities, communities of color, seniors, people with disabilities, and other underserved groups for their own campaign posturing. As far as I’m concerned, I would prefer that our next Executive be someone who is constantly examining how decisions impact all County residents. I hope that the voters will take this into consideration on June 26th!

We see Navarro’s point.  Montgomery County, like the rest of the United States, is rife with inequities of all kinds.  Navarro’s resolution does not prescribe specific remedies; it only initiates the process of measuring inequities so that they can be considered in public policy decisions.  It’s hard to understand how any progressive candidates for office could oppose that.  Perhaps Krasnow, Frick and Blair would like to comment further before their existing remarks are set in stone.

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Delauter Says Civil War Was About “True Freedom,” Not Race

By Adam Pagnucco.

Frederick County Council Member Kirby Delauter once threatened to sue the Frederick News-Post for using his name without permission.  That statement wound up spreading all over the country, making Delauter by far the most well-known politician in Frederick.  But now, Delauter has accomplished an almost impossible feat by topping that quote.  On Facebook, he has declared that the Civil War and current social disruptions were not about race, but “about true freedom.”

In a Facebook post yesterday, Delauter wrote, “Growing up I never really understood how Americans could fight each other in a civil war…….. I’m starting to understand how that happened…….and how close we are to repeating history.”  Many people might agree with that statement.  But then he followed up with, “And it wasn’t about race then and it’s not about race now. It’s always been about true freedom.”

Actually, the Civil War was all about race since the primary reason the Southern states seceded was to protect slavery.  This is a proven fact given what the Confederate states themselves said in their declarations of secession.  States’ rights, the argument for the war which was subsequently made up in an attempt to whitewash history decades later, does not appear in the declarations but slavery is mentioned over and over.  Georgia and South Carolina specifically criticized the federal government for not forcing Northern states to send back escaped slaves and punish those who aided them.  This is an argument AGAINST states’ rights and certainly against “true freedom.”  Here’s a sample from the declarations.

Mississippi

In the momentous step which our State has taken of dissolving its connection with the government of which we so long formed a part, it is but just that we should declare the prominent reasons which have induced our course.

Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery– the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin.

Texas

Texas abandoned her separate national existence and consented to become one of the Confederated Union to promote her welfare, insure domestic tranquility and secure more substantially the blessings of peace and liberty to her people. She was received into the confederacy with her own constitution, under the guarantee of the federal constitution and the compact of annexation, that she should enjoy these blessings. She was received as a commonwealth holding, maintaining and protecting the institution known as negro slavery– the servitude of the African to the white race within her limits– a relation that had existed from the first settlement of her wilderness by the white race, and which her people intended should exist in all future time. Her institutions and geographical position established the strongest ties between her and other slave-holding States of the confederacy. Those ties have been strengthened by association. But what has been the course of the government of the United States, and of the people and authorities of the non-slave-holding States, since our connection with them?

The controlling majority of the Federal Government, under various pretences and disguises, has so administered the same as to exclude the citizens of the Southern States, unless under odious and unconstitutional restrictions, from all the immense territory owned in common by all the States on the Pacific Ocean, for the avowed purpose of acquiring sufficient power in the common government to use it as a means of destroying the institutions of Texas and her sister slaveholding States.

Georgia

The faithless conduct of our adversaries is not confined to such acts as might aggrandize themselves or their section of the Union. They are content if they can only injure us. The Constitution declares that persons charged with crimes in one State and fleeing to another shall be delivered up on the demand of the executive authority of the State from which they may flee, to be tried in the jurisdiction where the crime was committed. It would appear difficult to employ language freer from ambiguity, yet for above twenty years the non-slave-holding States generally have wholly refused to deliver up to us persons charged with crimes affecting slave property. Our confederates, with punic faith, shield and give sanctuary to all criminals who seek to deprive us of this property or who use it to destroy us. This clause of the Constitution has no other sanction than their good faith; that is withheld from us; we are remediless in the Union; out of it we are remitted to the laws of nations.

South Carolina

We affirm that these ends for which this Government was instituted have been defeated, and the Government itself has been made destructive of them by the action of the non-slaveholding States. Those States have assume the right of deciding upon the propriety of our domestic institutions; and have denied the rights of property established in fifteen of the States and recognized by the Constitution; they have denounced as sinful the institution of slavery; they have permitted open establishment among them of societies, whose avowed object is to disturb the peace and to eloign the property of the citizens of other States. They have encouraged and assisted thousands of our slaves to leave their homes; and those who remain, have been incited by emissaries, books and pictures to servile insurrection.

As for what is happening now, it’s all about race.  Anyone who doubts that should watch this video made by a reporter who embedded herself with the racists and anti-Semites who marched in Charlottesville.  Listen to what they say and what their intentions are.  They leave little doubt about their agenda.

It’s hard to commit a bigger gaffe than Delauter’s threat to sue a newspaper for “unauthorized” use of his name.  But Delauter has accomplished the impossible by claiming that the Civil War and current social disruptions are about “true freedom” and not race.  Delauter is currently running for County Executive.  Frederick County voters will have several choices for that office in both parties who are vastly superior to Delauter.  Hopefully they will end his political career once and for all.

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Early Voting Turnout Heavy Among Older and African-American Voters

Yesterday, I looked at the partisanship of early voters. Today, I take a peek of the age and racial demographics of early voters based on data graciously provided by a reader.

The estimates of the racial composition of the electorate are based on estimates of the race of voters with the caveat of the potential for errors. Not everyone named Morales is Latino just as not everyone called Goldberg is Jewish. Nonetheless, the information provide a useful first cut at who is participating in early voting.

Let’s start with the percentage of the electorate in each age group broken down by party:

partybyageEarly voters skew heavily towards older voters, especially among Republicans. At 74.4%, nearly three-quarters of GOP voters are over age 50. The Democratic share older than 50 is around 5% lower at 69.3%. Among all early voters, which includes unaffiliated and third-party registrants, the share is 68.9%, slightly lower than for Democrats. The low figure reflects much less skew towards older voters among non-major party voters.

In contrast, people 35 and under make up a low share of early voters–11.7% among all voters and just 11.4% among Democrats and 9.5% among Republicans. The latter figure reflects the heavy skew away from Republicans among millennials.

The next table shows the racial composition of each county’s electorate. Percentages add up to less than 100% because the race or ethnicity of many voters is unknown and cannot be reasonably gauged to any extent by proxies. As a result, the percentages presented here are invariably low end estimates.

countybyraceAmong early voters, African Americans are high participants (31%), exceeding their share of the voting-age population. Unsurprisingly, black participants overwhelmingly outnumber other groups in Prince George’s and Baltimore City. In Charles, African-American early voters barely edge out whites–a sign of the continuing evolution of racial demographics in that county.

The encouraging rates of black participation help explain why Democrats are consistently outperforming Republicans in early voting. Not only does Maryland have vastly more Democrats, they are voting at a higher rate than Republicans.

In contrast, Latinos (3%) and Asians (3%) appear to be casting early votes at low rates, reflecting lower rates of citizenship and turnout. Asians compose the highest share of early voters in Montgomery (7%) and Howard (6%). Latinos comprise 6% of early voters in Montgomery, and 3% in Anne Arundel, Frederick and Howard.

In Maryland as a whole, approximately 57% of early voters are white. Again, as the percentages are calculated out of total voters and many could not be placed in any category, the estimates for all racial groups are low.

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Targeting Navarro


By Adam Pagnucco.

It was the spring of 2008.  Five-term County Council Member Marilyn Praisner, who had represented District 4 since 1990, had passed away and eight candidates were running for her seat.  One of them was a woman.  One of them was a person of color born in another country.

Her name was Nancy Navarro.

At that time, District 4 included most of US-29 north of Downtown Silver Spring to the Howard County border and the areas south of Olney, east of Rockville and north of Wheaton.  It had little in the way of restaurants or shopping.  There was the aging, emptying business district in Burtonsville.  There was the decrepit, asphalt-covered shopping center in Glenmont.  Here and there, small and mid-size retail strips clung to the sides of New Hampshire Avenue and other major roads.  A tiny colony of fast food and lowbrow restaurants had just sprung up on US-29 at Tech Road.  Walkable urban shopping was nowhere to be found.  If residents wanted that, they would have to drive to Downtown Silver Spring to get it.

None of this was an accident.  For years and years, the civic leaders and activists who dominated the district’s politics had worked hard to keep development out.  Mrs. Praisner was their champion.  They regarded development as a bad thing, attracting both traffic and “undesirables.”  But newer residents, including people of color, wanted the restaurants, jobs and shopping that most other people around the county had.  Colesville resident Nancy Navarro was one of them, and soon she became their champion.

Navarro stood out during the 2008 special election, and not just because of her gender and heritage.  The other seven candidates running for Mrs. Praisner’s seat, including her husband Don, adhered to her vision of little or no growth.  (Don Praisner’s campaign slogan was literally “Fulfilling the Vision.”)  Navarro instead talked about the benefits of economic development, such as creating jobs for residents and giving them amenities that they had not previously had.  Navarro was also supported by many in the business and real estate communities and the public employee unions.  None of this sat well with the old guard, who regarded developers as evil and unions as tax-happy.  Navarro quickly became a target.

The March debate at the Aspen Hill library typified the direction of the campaign: nearly every other candidate concentrated their fire on Navarro.  Their attacks centered on the allegation that she was allegedly a “tool” of developers and unions.  (It didn’t help that MCPS Superintendent Jerry Weast invited union leaders to his house to get them to endorse Navarro.)  But there was more to it than that.  To Navarro’s supporters, the implication of this “tool” argument was that women and people of color were supposedly not intelligent or strong enough to make up their own minds, and that when they made common cause with others, they would inevitably fall under their “control.”  Furthermore, while Don Praisner’s supporters criticized Navarro for taking contributions from developers and businesses, Mrs. Praisner had done the exact same thing for years.  Later, it was revealed that Don Praisner himself accepted money from a property owner in the district seeking redevelopment.

Much of this is par for the course in the rocky world of political campaigns.  After all, opposition to change frequently arises in politics and outrage can be selective.  But with Navarro on the ballot, it mutated into something far darker: a toxic stew of racism and xenophobia.  Don Praisner defeated Navarro in the 2008 Democratic primary and would serve on the council for less than a year before he passed away.  When Navarro returned to run again in the 2009 special election, the forces of extremism were prepared.

First came the illegal anonymous robocalls, a repeat of a tactic used against Navarro in 2008.  Then came rumors circulated both on-line and off linking Navarro (who was born in Venezuela) to the Hugo Chavez regime.  Help Save Maryland, labeled by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a “nativist extremist group,” began targeting Navarro for her alleged support of “illegal aliens.”  Their challenge to Navarro was posted on a racist website equating President Obama to Satan.

Most bizarre of all was an email sent to Navarro’s campaign asking about her immigration status.  The author wrote, “I am informally involved with a group of Independents and we are trying to identify a candidate that we feel comfortable endorsing. It would be great if you could put the rumors to rest and provide information as to when (what year) and where, which state, Ms. Navarro received her naturalization or citizenship. Thank you.”  In fact, the author – who used a fake name – was a GOP activist who wrote for the party and had testified against drivers licenses for illegal immigrants.

Robin Ficker was involved too.  The 2008 GOP nominee, Mark Fennel, was a Ficker protégé, had spread the Hugo Chavez rumors and threatened to unleash “the Dogs of War” on Navarro.  In 2009, Ficker “moved” to District 4 to run for the seat and promptly began sending out illegal flyers.  During a televised campaign debate, Ficker waved a set of decade-old tax liens against Navarro and her husband in his opponent’s face.  Ficker did not use Help Save Maryland’s race-baiting tactics directly, but he did not repudiate them either.

Given this history, it’s no surprise that Help Save Maryland’s participation in Ficker’s term limits initiative was spurred in part by a desire to knock off Navarro.  The group has never made its peace with Navarro’s election and has sent out numerous emails slamming her over the years.  Supporters of term limits have many motivations, but Help Save Maryland is quite clear about theirs: they want to slam the county’s gates shut to “illegal aliens.”

Will any of this make a difference in the current debate over term limits?  Probably not.  Few voters have heard of Help Save Maryland and understand what the group believes.  Even Ficker is less infamous now that his NBA heckling days are mostly over.  In any event, voters are more likely to see term limits through the prism of their own perceived self-interest rather than how they impact specific elected officials.

But make no mistake: the treatment of Nancy Navarro during the 2009 special election is a shameful blot on the county’s political history.  It must not be forgotten.  It must not be repeated.  And hopefully, her successors will be treated with the honor and respect that all upstanding candidates deserve.

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Baker and Leggett on Race and Endorsements

Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker got asked essentially why he, as an African-American leader, endorsed a white man over a black woman for U.S. Senate. Baker responded well and then Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett jumped in to give an exceptionally eloquent statement:

Regardless of whether you prefer Van Hollen, Edwards, or someone else, their answers as to why they support Chris Van Hollen speak to the content of both of these gentlemen’s character.

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