Category Archives: Andrew Friedson

Friedson Asks for Answers on Private School Shutdown

By Adam Pagnucco.

District 1 County Council Member Andrew Friedson has sent the letter below to county health officer Travis Gayles asking a series of questions about the county’s shutdown of private schools for in-person instruction, which happened on Friday. Friedson’s district includes Bethesda, Cabin John, Chevy Chase, Garrett Park, Glen Echo, North Bethesda, Poolesville, Potomac and part of Kensington.

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August 3, 2020

Travis A. Gayles, M.D., Ph.D.
Health Officer, Montgomery County
401 Hungerford Drive, 5th Floor
Rockville, MD 20850

Dr. Gayles,

As I am sure you are aware, the health order you issued late Friday, July 31 prohibiting independent schools from reopening for in-person instruction has been met with a great deal of anger, frustration, and confusion among our residents. This order caught many independent school leaders and families by surprise, including many who have spent the last several months preparing to open based on CDC and state guidelines. Understandably, it has generated countless questions conveyed to me and my office over the weekend.

While I recognize that not everyone will agree with all of the difficult decisions you must make as our County’s Public Health Officer during this pandemic, our residents do deserve clear, logical, and consistent rationales for those decisions, along with timely and transparent answers to their questions. In that spirit, I am requesting that you answer the following questions for our residents in a thorough, fact-based, and timely manner, consistent with previous reopening decisions made to date:

1. What specific health metrics and epidemiological data were used to make the determination that independent schools cannot safely open until at least October 1? Are there specific, objective public health metrics that must be met before in-person instruction can take place?

2. Why are neighboring jurisdictions with similar transmission rates allowing independent schools to open? Are they basing their decisions on different data? Do they assess the risk differently?

3. Have you consulted with neighboring jurisdictions to determine why they’ve reached a different conclusion than our health department?

4. Have you consulted with the State Health Department to discuss this decision and the factors upon which it is based?

5. Are there specific, unique features of a school setting that carry significant additional risk of transmission compared to other businesses such as child care providers, restaurants, barbers, retailers and offices that are able to operate on a limited basis with health directives such as social distancing, use of facial masks and other PPE, and cleaning protocols?

6. Rather than a wholesale prohibition of in-class instruction, did you and your team consider whether independent and religiously affiliated schools should be provided a set of health and safety guidelines for reopening like other sectors in our community? Are there no health directives and safety measures that can be employed in order for schools to open as many businesses have been able to? If not, why?

7. Were independent schools directly involved in the decision-making process to determine how they had planned to follow the CDC and state guidelines and whether there were additional measures that could be employed to further mitigate transmission risk? Were schools afforded an opportunity to provide individualized reopening plans for your consideration?

8. I understand that some day-care centers will operate “kindergarten support” classes. Children who would otherwise be in public school kindergarten will go to these classes at a day-care center, and the day-care center will assist the children with the online kindergarten instruction, and also provide aftercare. If that can be done safely, is it possible for a private school to safely operate a kindergarten class, provided it has the same density of children and adults and uses the same safety standards as a day-care center operating a “kindergarten support” class?

Because these decisions are not easy and the available information regarding this disease is rapidly evolving, it is even more critical that public health directives be made as clearly, consistently, and transparently as possible. If we ask the community to follow the rules, we must ensure that they have faith in the process that determined the rules, as well as the policies themselves. Thank you in advance for your prompt response to these questions.

Sincerely,
Andrew Friedson
Councilmember, District 1

CC: Marc Elrich, County Executive
Dr. Earl Stoddard, Director, Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security
Sidney Katz, President, County Council
Gabe Albornoz, Chair, Health and Human Services Committee, County Council

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Ficker vs Friedson vs Elrich on Property Taxes

By Adam Pagnucco.

In an open meeting tomorrow, the county council will consider placing two charter amendments limiting property taxes on the ballot along with an amendment by Robin Ficker, which has already qualified. Let’s compare the three proposals – Ficker’s, one by Council Member Andrew Friedson and his colleagues on the council’s Government Operations Committee and one by County Executive Marc Elrich – to current law.

What would be limited?

Current charter limit: An annual growth limit is applied to the total dollar volume of real property tax collections.

Ficker: Same as current charter limit.

Friedson: A limit would be applied to the weighted average tax rate on real property.

Elrich: A limit would be applied to the real property tax rate but there is a lack of clarity on which rate. It could apply to the general property tax rate, which all county residents pay. Or it could apply to the weighted average tax rate, which includes both the general tax and many other smaller property taxes that are specific to function and/or geography. This issue needs to be decided one way or the other if this proposal appears on the ballot.

How would the limit be applied?

Current charter limit: The annual growth in the total dollar volume of real property tax collections is limited to the growth rate in the Washington-Baltimore consumer price index in the previous year. A few categories of property are exempted from this limit (notably new construction during the fiscal year).

Ficker: Same as current charter limit.

Friedson: The weighted tax rate on real property would not be allowed to increase without a unanimous vote of current council members.

Elrich: The property tax rate (whichever option is picked) would not be allowed to increase without a vote of two-thirds (six) of the council members.

Is there a waiver?

Current charter limit: Yes. The limit may be exceeded if all current council members vote to do so.

Ficker: No. The limit on property taxes is absolute (subject to state law).

Friedson: Yes. The limit may be exceeded if all current council members vote to do so (as in current law).

Elrich: Yes. The limit may be exceeded if two-thirds (six) of the council members vote to do so.

Are there disproportionate impacts on different taxpayers?

Current charter limit: No.

Ficker: No.

Friedson: No.

Elrich: Yes. The taxable value of owner-occupied residential property would be allowed to increase at a maximum rate of 3% per year. Other types of property would not be subject to this limit.

Who wins and loses under each option?

That depends on who you are and what your interest in taxes is.

People who depend on county services (other than schools) lose the most under the Ficker amendment, which ties the growth in property tax receipts to the rate of inflation. Inflation is low and might even be negative this year. If the Ficker amendment passes, it will raise the possibility that property tax collections will screech to a halt with limited ways to deal with that.

Groups favoring tax increases gain the most from the Elrich amendment because it lowers the threshold of breaking the tax limit from all current council members to two-thirds (six) of the council members.

Homeowners might benefit from the Elrich amendment, which limits annual tax bill growth on their principal residences to 3%. However, council staff pointed out that the average annual growth in residential assessments exceeded 3% only twice in the nine-year period of FY11-19.

Owners of commercial property and renters of both residential and commercial property will be disadvantaged under the Elrich amendment because they won’t get the 3% growth limit that homeowners will. Over time, the tax burden will shift away from homeowners and onto commercial entities and renters – including residential renters. This is exacerbated by the fact that the Elrich amendment makes property tax increases easier as stated above.

For stakeholders in MCPS’s operating budget, the entire discussion is irrelevant. That’s because a change to state law in 2012 allowed counties to ignore charter limits for the purpose of dedicating funding to approved budgets of local school boards. Since state law trumps county charters, no charter amendment can stop the council from passing a dedicated tax for MCPS. The Elrich administration included such a dedicated tax in its recommended FY21 budget but the council opposed it.

Ficker’s amendment looks to be headed to the ballot because it received enough petition signatures to qualify. We shall see what, if anything, the council decides to put on the ballot along with it.

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Council Urges Hogan, Franchot to Extend Alcohol Carryout and Delivery

By Adam Pagnucco.

In a letter spearheaded by Council Member Andrew Friedson, the entire county council is urging Governor Larry Hogan and Comptroller Peter Franchot to extend the ability of restaurants to sell alcohol by carryout and delivery after the current state of emergency is lifted. Many restaurants are hanging on for dear life and news that the state’s unemployment rate has tripled only underscores how tough it will be to sustain consumer spending. We reprint the council’s letter below.

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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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