Category Archives: 2018 Montgomery County Executive Race

Gus Bauman Responds on David Blair

Gus Bauman, an attorney, is a former chair of the Montgomery County Planning Board and as candidate for county executive. He sent me the following response to yesterday’s post on David Blair’s first outing with the press as a candidate for county executive.

Concerning your fine Seventh State post of November 14 on David Blair entering the Montgomery County Executive race, I have one small, but telling, bone to pick with your otherwise piercing analysis of Mr. Blair’s candidacy. You call Mr. Blair a “politician.” But all that you wrote underscores how he is not—-and that, in my judgment and experience, is not a good thing.

Know that I have not decided who to support among the six Democratic candidates. Obviously, given the field, I am inclined to support some. As the leaders of the County well know, I have for years raised the alarm of the need for a business-friendly government if we are to have any chance of maintaining a healthy tax base for needed public services.

As for experience, I first became engaged in political campaigns by supporting and speaking for presidential candidate JFK in 1960. I have worked in Congressional and presidential campaigns, all for Democratic candidates. I have twice served in government in Montgomery County. Once, I was even persuaded by a sizable group of women to run for Montgomery County Executive at a time when this community fielded three solid Democratic candidates and three solid Republican candidates. And I have chaired Nancy Floreen’s campaign in all four of her At-Large races for County Council (having an excellent candidate and politician made my job immeasurably easier).

All of that is to say that aside from being a close student of history, I also have pertinent experience to speak to the point—the point being, one should be leery of a candidate lacking not only governmental and political experience but also involvement with community organizations, who suddenly wishes to lead an increasingly complex political jurisdiction of 1,000,000 souls. There are so many examples in our history of the point, but you only need look to the current occupant of the White House for one more example.

Mr. Blair is an accomplished person. I have no doubt he is also a well-meaning man. But when you need a brain surgeon to delve into a brain problem, you would be wise not to hire, say, an accomplished auto parts manufacturer. Or even a General Practitioner.

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David Blair’s Entry Raises More Questions Than Answers

Businessman David Blair became the sixth candidate to announce for county executive. However, beyond a willingness to open up his wallet (more on campaign finance below), there is little evidence that he is ready to run. Right now, this tech entrepreneur has no campaign website. (Correction: He does! It just doesn’t show up in the top Google searches yet.)

You May Have Questions. Does Blair Have Answers?

While it can be refreshing to see a politician who doesn’t claim to have all the answers, David Blair takes it a bit far. Based on his interview with Bethesda Beat’s Andrew Metcalf, he is neither ready nor willing to answer questions:

Asked if he’s always been a registered Democrat, Blair responded, “I believe so. I believe that’s a true statement.”

However, Maryland Board of Elections voter information indicates Blair was a registered Republican before he switched his registration to the Democratic Party in 2003.

Asked about that, Blair responded, “I don’t remember that. That could be accurate. … That could be.”

Blair refused to answer a question about taxes:

He declined to take a position on the County Council’s decision last year to raise property and recordation taxes.

“There will be a lot of opportunities to talk about specific policies,” Blair said.

And this was one of them.

He did seem ready with the political pablum:

“One of the ways to generate new revenue is through business,” Blair said. “We need more jobs here.”

“I have a vision to take Montgomery County to the next level.”

If Blair wants to enter the political arena, that’s great. But he needs to be ready to talk about issues when asked about them. I look forward not only to hearing more specifics but also more openness and willingness to answer questions from journalists and voters.

No on Public Financing. Will Empower Montgomery Launch an IE Campaign?

Unsurprisingly for someone from a very wealthy family, Blair said he will not participate in the public financing system. Bobby Lipman of MoCoVoters.org has already dinged him for this in the comments section of the Bethesda Beat article.

But why on earth would Blair want to waste his time asking people for small checks? Why would people want to give them to him? Why would he want to limit his spending when facing several better-known candidates?

More interesting from a campaign finance perspective is his decision to distance himself from Empower Montgomery:

When told he has been publicly referred to as a co-founder of the group, Blair said he contributed money.

“I would not consider myself a co-founder of that group, no,” Blair said.

Empower Montgomery’s website lists him as one of the founders of the group. . .

Empower Montgomery has now removed his name as one of the founders of the group.

If this pro-business group is planning an independent expenditure (IE) campaign on his behalf, Blair would not want to look like he is helping to direct it, as independent expenditures have to be independent to avoid legal troubles. And Empower Montgomery clearly plans to be active:

We are set up as a non-profit, tax exempt organization in Maryland, which allows us to perform a wide range of public education and advocacy activities and even participate in elections when key issues get elevated in the voter’s mindset.

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Floreen on Krasnow

I asked retiring Councilmember Nancy Floreen (D-At Large) – the first councilmember to endorse a candidate for county executive – why she has endorsed former Rockville Mayor and Deputy Planning Director Rose Krasnow for County Executive:

Rose is a remarkable person. I think she’s just what Montgomery County needs to move us forward. Consider her background. She started her life of activism at age 11 in Memphis during the civil rights movement, then protested the expressway through Overton Park (which ultimately resulted in a famous land use decision by the Supreme Court), worked in Wall Street, ran a homeowners’ association, moved into City of Rockville politics as councilperson then Mayor, and on to managing a branch of United Way, then on to Park and Planning.

Rose has great financial and managerial experience, knows the county through and through, and will bring a fresh leadership style to lead the county into the future. She’s tough and will call things as she sees them.

Plus, Rose has a terrific sense of humor and is a huge sports fan. Strong, knowledgeable, and independent. What’s not to like?

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Raise the Minimum Wage? Roger Berliner Answers

Seventh State is pleased to present Roger Berliner’s response to our question on the minimum wage.

Do you favor an increase in the Montgomery County minimum wage and, if so, by how much and on what timeline? Would you have any exemptions and, if so, for whom?  

I do favor increasing our county’s minimum wage to $15 an hour. I support the County Executive’s timeline, which would increase wages each year and reach $15 an hour by 2022 for larger businesses and 2024 for small businesses. I believe the County Executive’s time line best harmonizes the conflicting truths that are present in this debate: (1) too many people are working too hard for too little; and (2) if we raise wages too quickly, we will harm small businesses in our county, particularly minority-owned businesses, and this in turn will produce results that are exactly the opposite of what we want.

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Raise the Minimum Wage? Marc Elrich Answers

Seventh State is pleased to present Marc Elrich’s response to our question on the minimum wage.

Do you favor an increase in the Montgomery County minimum wage and, if so, by how much and on what timeline? Would you have any exemptions and, if so, for whom?

Yes, I support making the Montgomery County minimum wage into a living wage of $15 an hour.  I led the fight to secure the county’s last minimum wage increase, which is why our minimum wage is now $11.50 an hour, and believe strongly that jobs should pay people enough to provide for their families.

An extensive body of evidence shows that minimum wage increases have had their intended effect of lifting wages for low-wage workers with little to no effect on employment.  Montgomery County is one of the wealthiest counties in the United States and has a very high cost of living, so we are even more well-positioned than many other jurisdictions to take the step of going to $15.

The most prudent course of action would be to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2020 for all workers in the county with no exemptions, indexing the minimum wage to rise with inflation or average wages after 2020.  Over 100,000 Montgomery County residents would benefit from such an increase.

Opponents of this idea today made the same arguments and dire predictions four years ago.  They were wrong then and they’re wrong now.

The $15 minimum wage bill I recently reintroduced, like the one that took effect in 2013, contains several compromises to assuage the concerns of some of my colleagues and some small businesses.  It delays the phase-in to 2022 for businesses with 25 or fewer employees, for example, and it continues to allow the exemptions for some workers that exist under federal law.  These compromises will result in less help for people in need than my ideal proposal would achieve, but the bill we ultimately enshrine into law will still have a huge, positive impact.

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On Raising the Minimum Wage, Part I

The County Council is getting ready to reconsider Councilmember Marc Elrich’s bill to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour that was vetoed by County Executive Ike Leggett, who outlined changes to the bill that he would like to see. Elrich’s bill was one vote short of being able to override Leggett’s veto.

As we are heading into an election year, there is a lot of political pressure around the issue and I imagine something will emerge from the Council. Rather than focus on the politics, however, what are the questions that councilmembers and voters ought to consider?

Direct Impact on the County Budget

For all of the controversy over the effect of a wage increase on the County’s economy, it remains surprising that little thought has been given to the potential impact on the county budget. Marc Elrich argues that it shouldn’t be much:

Probably not much if any [impact] on the County’s own budget. County employees and those who contract for the County have to pay a living wage which this year is around $14.50. So any inflation would get you to $15 in two years at the most.

The PFM Study on the minimum wage was widely discredited as junk science but nonetheless outlined the argument for why a higher wage could cost the county money:

[A $15 minimum wage] would likely present a significant cost to the County both in terms of adjusting employees’ pay to reflect a higher wage floor and to avoid wage compression in relation to that floor, but also through the resulting increases in additional compensation dependent on the base rate of pay (e.g. overtime) and in the County’s pension liability for eligible employees, due to increases in base earnings.

The fiscal impact statement for the bill is rather Delphic:

This legislation, as well as this fiscal impact statement, does not address the issue of wage compression in the County. Any action taken to address this issue would have a significant fiscal impact, which would be difficult to determine at this time.

Seems like it would be good to have a healthy discussion of budgetary impact to make sure we don’t have a repeat from 12 years ago with the county government racking up wage bills that it couldn’t afford in advance of an election. Elrich makes a good case but would the County need to have a higher floor to compete with the private sector?

Should the County Leave It to the State?

Libertarians argue that there should be no minimum wage because individuals should have the right to make contracts at any mutually agreeable wage. Assuming that this ship said long ago in Montgomery County, the question still remains if it wise for the County to enact its own rate substantially different from the state and double that of Virginia.

Del. Bill Frick, a candidate for county executive, has argued we should have a higher minimum wage but it should be done by the State:

Minimum wage policy, however, is more effective as a state policy than as a local one.  Maryland has a Department of Labor, with the statutory power and duty to enforce minimum wage and other employment laws. Montgomery County does not. Just as zoning and land use decisions belong at the County level instead of the state, I believe employment regulation is better in the hands of the state . . .

Additionally, statewide action eliminates risk of losing business to either Howard or Prince George’s Counties, though not DC or Virginia. At-Large County Council Candidate Seth Grimes argues that the county needs to act because the state hasn’t:

The self-sufficiency standard varies widely across Maryland, [so] legislators outside high-cost counties including Montgomery might see a higher minimum as less of a priority than we in Montgomery do. Montgomery County especially needs a higher minimum, but statewide action has failed. Yet Mr. Frick would let a specious search for “more effective” policy hold us back from needed local action.

Still, the county has spent much time focused on areas outside of its core services and regulated in areas, such as pesticides, where it has little enforcement capacity. Frick raises the broader question of whether the County Council spends too much time on issues that should be legislated on in other arenas rather than the nuts and bolts of county government.

Tomorrow morning, 7S continues with a discussion of the impact of minimum wage increases on employment in Part II.

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Floreen Endorses Krasnow

Apparently, Rose Krasnow announced that she was in for county executive at the Montgomery Women breakfast on Friday. Nancy Floreen, who also attended the breakfast, announced her support for Krasnow.

I believe this is this first endorsement by a sitting member of the County Council in the race. Floreen looked past three of her colleagues – Roger Berliner, Marc Elrich and George Leventhal – in making her choice.

If elected, Krasnow would be the first woman to serve as Montgomery County Executive. The two leading candidates in the Prince George’s race, State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks and former Rep. Donna Edwards, are women, so the two counties may both have their first female county executives.

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Krasnow Looks In for County Exec

Adam Pagnucco has quite the scoop that he asked me to post. It looks like former Rockville Mayor Rose Krasnow is getting past mulling about a bid for county executive and ready to take the plunge and enter the race.

She has just established a campaign finance entity, Friends of Rose Krasnow, to collect campaign contributions for a run for Montgomery County Executive. The Chair of her committee, Marye Wells-Harley, is a former Vice Chair of the Planning Board.

Not a coincidence, as Krasnow has worked at the Planning Board since 2004 and is now Deputy Director. Krasnow will be the only woman in the race – not a bad niche as women make up roughly 60% of Democratic primary voters.

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Raise the Minimum Wage? George Leventhal Answers

Seventh State is pleased to present George Leventhal’s response to our question on the minimum wage.

Do you favor an increase in the Montgomery County minimum wage and, if so, by how much and on what timeline? Would you have any exemptions and, if so, for whom?   

I support raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2020, as our neighbor, the District of Columbia, has already done. I am amenable to a slower rate of increase for businesses with 25 or fewer employees and for non-profit organizations.

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Raise the Minimum Wage? Bill Frick Answers

As the County Council is getting ready to vote on raising the minimum wage, Seventh State continues its series of candidate responses to questions with this issue.

Do you favor an increase in the Montgomery County minimum wage and, if so, by how much and on what timeline? Would you have any exemptions and, if so, for whom?  

I have co-sponsored and voted for bills to raise the minimum wage statewide in Annapolis. A thoughtful minimum wage policy, properly enforced, can be an important tool in reducing income inequality. That is why I helped enact a minimum wage increase as a legislator in Annapolis.  Minimum wage policy, however, is more effective as a state policy than as a local one.  Maryland has a Department of Labor, with the statutory power and duty to enforce minimum wage and other employment laws.  Montgomery County does not.  Just as zoning and land use decisions belong at the County level instead of the state, I believe employment regulation is better in the hands of the state, where those regulations can be effectively enforced and implemented.

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