Category Archives: 2018 Montgomery County Executive Race

Blair Doesn’t Know, Krasnow Plans, and Frick Just Says No

Thanks to Bethesda Beat for their illuminating coverage of the Realtors Forum for county executive candidates.

We’ve Got Questions, He Still Doesn’t Have Answers

When David Blair announced his candidacy, he refused to take a position on the county recordation tax hike, saying “There will be a lot of opportunities to talk about specific policies.” After much rumination, his refusal has evolved into waffling:

David Blair, was less definitive in his answer.

Blair said he would’ve combed the county budget for savings before resorting to raising the recordation tax. When pressed about whether he would’ve voted yes or no on a tax increase, Blair acknowledged that the county in 2016 was “in a really particular jam” in light of the education infrastructure needs.

“I believe I would’ve been able to find those savings,” he said. “If I couldn’t have found the savings, presumably we would’ve had to raise the recordation tax.”

He said he’d like to roll back the tax increase, if he can find budget savings to replace the lost revenue.

In short, Blair continues to do his best to prove Gus Bauman correct in his claim that Blair lacks enough political knowledge and experience for the job of county executive.

Too Much Time in the Planning Department?

Former Rockville Mayor and Planning Department Deputy Director Rose Krasnow has some interesting housing advice for millennials:

Candidates also were asked where they’d advise a young couple making about $100,000 annually to live in the county.

Krasnow said she’d probably tell the hypothetical couple to explore renting an apartment that’s an accessory to a single-family home. . .

Somehow, I don’t think “Move to Montgomery County, so you can live above your parents’ garage” is a winning slogan. In articulating the latest fad among planners, Krasnow inadvertently captured the nervous national zeitgeist of expectations of a lower quality of life than previous generations.

Allowing more accessory apartments into existing neighborhoods is a popular idea at the Planning Department. Existing neighborhoods wonder why plans for parking or additional infrastructure to accommodate new residents never accompany these proposals.

Frick Opposes Recordation Tax Increase

Alone among Democrats, Del. Bill Frick came out strongly against the tax hike in a county known nationally for its unusually high taxes related to buying and selling property:

“I think the recordation tax increase was a mistake,” he said. “And frankly, I’m sorry you were put through what you were put through.”

Frick said unequivocally that he’d seek to reverse the hike, if elected, and would lobby for more state funding to address school construction challenges.

This stance sets Frick noticeably apart from candidates like Roger Berliner, David Blair and Rose Krasnow who are also trying to position themselves as pro-change, pro-growth and pro-business candidates.

While the other candidates either waffled (Blair) or favored the increase as necessary for school construction (everyone else), Frick took a definitive public stance against it. Frick’s willingness to stand out on this and other issues looks smart in a field with many candidates that voters have trouble sorting out.

I don’t know if Bill won any new friends at the forum but he should have for (1) taking a stance the crowd supports, (2) even though the stance will be unpopular with other Democratic constituencies, and (3) his willingness to be clearcut about it.

Share

CASA Endorses Elrich for Exec

From the press release issued jointly by CASA and the Elrich campaign:

SILVER SPRING, Md._ On December 21, CASA in Action announced its endorsement of Marc Elrich for Montgomery County Executive. CASA, a 96,000+ member immigrant advocacy organization, is the first civil rights group to weigh in on the county’s 2018 primary election.

“I am deeply honored to have the support of the CASA in Action community,” Marc Elrich said. “CASA in Action has been a leader on immigrant rights and economic justice issues and I have been humbled to have had the chance to work with them to move people to citizenship and achieve economic security for their families.”

In a crowded race, the CASA in Action board decided to endorse Elrich because of his outstanding commitment to immigrants and workers both during his time on the Takoma Park City Council and the Montgomery County Council. In the early 1990s, Elrich supported the establishment of the first day-laborer center in Takoma Park. He also strengthened Takoma Park’s rent stabilization law and directed city funding to community organizing efforts. Since Elrich has been on the County Council, he has taken leadership with CASA in Action members to pass legislation protecting domestic workers, improve legal protections for tenants, push back against master plans that eliminated existing affordable housing, and, most recently, raise Montgomery County’s minimum wage to $15 an hour.

“Time and again, Marc Elrich has stood shoulder to shoulder with our members to fight for a county where children can achieve, families can strive, and immigrants are woven into the fabric of every community,” said Gustavo Torres, President of CASA in Action.

During an election cycle that will bring vast change to leadership in the county, the CASA in Action board was able to consider many strong candidates, some whom – like Councilmember George Leventhal and Delegate Bill Frick – have long stood up for immigrant rights in their current roles.

“Elections require us to make choices about the communities we want to live in. This one comes at a time when the contrast between the lives of Montgomery County’s haves and have-nots could not be more stark,” said Mr. Torres. “Marc Elrich knows that a more equitable world is possible and is committed to make the necessary changes to achieve it.”

Share

Frick Attacks Opponents for Budget Shortfall

Montgomery County is facing a budget shortfall and across-the-board operating budget cuts of 2%–and warning that’s just a start. Del. Bill Frick is highlighting the cuts to go after his three opponents in the Democratic primary for county executive who have served for many years on the County Council:

It is time for new leadership in Rockville.  Our councilmembers ignored warnings from County Executive Leggett to restrain spending.  Despite an increase in the recordation tax, and a nearly 9% increase in property taxes, we find ourselves without sufficient revenues to pay for these councilmembers  pet projects, and, as a result, public services are being cut.  Our county deserves better.

The full press release and supporting documents are posted below.

Frick Press Release on MoCo Budget Shortfall by David Lublin on Scribd

Share

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.

Share

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.

Share

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?

Share

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.

Share

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.

Share

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.

Share

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.

Share