Becky Wagner on Reducing Teen Pregnancy

Becky Wagner sent me an interesting message in response to an earlier post on teen pregnancy:

I thought I would follow up to your blog regarding long term contraception and the evidence of the benefits represented in the drop in teen pregnancies.

Advocates for Children and Youth is a non-partisan policy reform organization (Maryland’s Annie E. Casey Foundation KIDS COUNT organization) that tracks over 60 indicators of the well-being of children in Maryland. We know that unplanned pregnancies can create poor outcomes for children and families and for that reason supported legislation sponsored by Del. Heather Mizeur which established pre-conception health care for low income women.

Regarding your concern that Maryland was not listed as covering the long term contraceptive described in the article, I asked our Health Policy Director, Neha Trivedi, to look into the matter. Her feedback is as follows:

Individuals in Maryland who are enrolled in a Managed Care Organization (MCO), or those on Medicaid with a family planning program do get coverage for birth control, which includes long term contraceptives such as IUDs. However, depending on the type of plan they have with Medicaid, I found that only certain forms of birth control are covered. Therefore, some plans may or may not cover some types of birth control i.e. implants as described in the article. For those who are inquiring about new forms of birth control they need to speak directly to their Medicaid MCO, or the family planning program at Medicaid to see what type of birth control is covered by their providers.

So it would appear that, just as prescription drugs for various treatments are or are not covered under certain health plans, it is the same with contraception.

Advocates for Children and Youth focuses on the issue areas of health, education, child welfare and juvenile justice, all through the lens of racial equity and economic sufficiency. We are happy to provide information and data for Maryland’s children in these issues areas.


NAACP Criticizes PG School Cell Towers

The controversy over the plan to place cell phone towers on school grounds in Prince George’s to generate money continues. Yesterday, Prince George’s NAACP President Bob Ross criticized the proposal, according to the Montgomery County Parents’ Coalition. Objections from the Coalition to the cell phone tower center on the potential effects of radiation emanating from the towers.


Republican Ed Edmundson Not from Central Casting

logo-edmdI don’t often meet Republican candidates here in Montgomery County, if only because they appear to be thin on the ground. So I was a little intrigued when I met up with Ed Edmundson, a candidate for the House of Delegates in District 15, at Starbucks.

About Ed

Ed is a first time candidate reminiscent of past generations of Montgomery County Republicans, like Jean Roesser, Connie Morella, Betty Ann Krahnke and Howie Denis, who were liberal on social questions but more moderate or conservative on economic issues–long a winning formula in this area and indeed one that still works for several Democrats on the County Council.

Unusually for a Republican, he has been endorsed by NARAL, as have all three Democratic incumbents. It’s not often you hear a Republican talk about fair trade, ending “the school to prison pipeline,” and legalizing marijuana.

Ed gets more conservative on economic questions. He wants to cut the corporation income tax to make Maryland more competitive with Virginia. He also passionately believes that the regulatory structure created by the State and the County is too cumbersome and particularly a burden on small businesses.

On education, Ed proposes radical alterations to the teaching benefits structure by doubling teach salaries and eliminating pensions in favor of 401(k) plans. In my view, Ed is very fuzzy in terms of how to pay for large tax cuts and increased education spending. He wants the federal government to pay for increased education spending by cutting defense.

While decidedly out-of-the-box and even courageous for a Republican, it also requires decisions far outside the scope of the authority of the House of Delegates. State officials needs to pay for changes within the State’s own budget. The last four years have demonstrated that waiting on Congress is not a strategy. Despite this impracticality, Ed nonetheless brings a genuine passion regarding economic questions.

Specifically, he advocates for the positive, appealing part of the Republican message that government needs to work to encourage business and develop a more holistic strategy towards that end. And he expresses deep concern about those who view business with hostility rather than a crucial part of the solution.

In short, while his ideas haven’t gelled and the numbers don’t add up, the Republicans desperately need more people like him who don’t fear the future but who want to streamline government to promote prosperity and pay for needed government services. At least Ed shows some imagination, while Larry Hogan serves up the reheated sauce of “waste, fraud, and abuse” as “vision.”

Why Ed Won’t Win

Ed faces a lot of obstacles in his uphill bid for a delegate seat. First, District 15 has become much more solid Democratic turf since the Republicans last won seats in the area. Democratic partisans are now less willing to crossover and vote even for moderate or liberal Republicans–the undoing of Howie Denis on the County Council–because the national brand has become so tainted.

Second, District 15 has an extremely solid delegation with no weak links who could provide an opening. If Speaker Busch has good sense, he’ll find a way to appoint Kathleen Dumais as Judiciary Chair and sideline (Chair Emeritus?) past-his-sell-by date Joe Vallario. Aruna Miller has consistently struck most as smart, serious, and hard working. Recently appointed Del. David Fraser-Hidalgo has already made a positive impression. These are the sort of legislators we need to keep who make it difficult for opponents to make a good case to fire.

Third, there is always the Ficker problem. Running on a ticket with the ever-polarizing Robin Ficker, whose son is now running for delegate, seems an excellent way to assure that Democrats open to voting for some Republicans don’t give Ed a hearing.

Fourth, Ed is a complete newbie to campaigning. He plans to spend around $40,000, mostly his own money, and likely an insufficient amount for a  serious delegate challenge in Montgomery County. Moreover, I don’t think he knows how to spend the money wisely as he is buying newspaper advertisements and sending no direct mail.

Still, it’s always up to the voters.


Hogan Campaign Jumped into the GOP Cul-de-Sac

Despite Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Larry Hogan’s effort to turn attention away from social questions such as same-sex marriage and abortion rights, his campaign is turning out to be the perfect illustration of Republican demographic and policy problems.

The Washington Post recently highlighted Hogan’s call for tax cuts targeted at the elderly:

Speaking at a retirement community along with his Democratic opponent, Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown, Mr. Hogan said that once he gets spending under control, his administration would “completely eliminate state income taxes for pensions and retirement income.”

As is disappointingly customary for too many Republican candidates, he made no mention of the spending reductions needed to pay for these tax cuts that just happen to be popular with the high-turnout elderly electorate:

We’d like to report that, along with his blockbuster tax cut proposal, Mr. Hogan released detailed projections showing how much revenue it would cost the state and which programs he would target for commensurate spending reductions. But we can’t, because he didn’t.

Hogan’s choices mirror directly the current state of the national Republican coalition, and the surprisingly non-conservative, irresponsible policy cul-de-sac that follows from their imperative to cater to it. David Frum explained it well in a must-read article in Foreign Affairs:

Republicans have come to rely more and more on the votes of the elderly, the most government-dependent segment of the population — a serious complication for a party committed to reducing government. . . .

What boomers mean when they call themselves conservative is that they have begun to demand massive cutbacks to spending programs that do not directly benefit them. Seventy-five percent of Americans nearing retirement age in 2010 had less than $30,000 in their retirement accounts. Not surprisingly, then, boomers say they want no change at all to the Medicare and Social Security benefits they have begun to qualify for.

Boomers’ conservatism is founded on their apprehension that there’s not enough to go around — and on their conviction that what little resources there are should accrue to them. . . . It might seem paradoxical that people on Medicare, or soon to qualify for it, would oppose a further expansion of the government’s role in health care, but it actually makes perfect sense: boomer conservatives fear that government in the age of Obama will serve somebody else’s interests at the expense of their own.

Republicans have responded to boomers’ fears by reinventing themselves as defenders of the fiscal status quo for older Americans — and only older Americans. . . . [T]he GOP has rejected changes to retirement programs that might in any way impinge on current beneficiaries. The various budget plans Republicans produced in the run-up to the 2012 election all exempted Americans over age 55 from any changes to either Social Security or Medicare.

So Republicans like Hogan have become defenders of the elderly at the expense of other generations. Indeed, Hogan’s proposal is essentially a direct transfer from non-retired people who will get fewer services but still pay the same taxes to the elderly who would pay significantly less tax in Hogan’s imagined Maryland. Not a great deal for most Marylanders.

There is unquestionably an opening for a candidate to argue that Marylanders are too highly taxed and that regulation prone Democrats have stifled economic growth that is vital to employment and our State’s long-term success. But Hogan thus far has yet to make an argument in a remotely realistic or coherent way that suggests a conservative vision or way forward.


Holy Moly, Look at What They Spent!

Campaign finance reports have started to come out. And wow, Dana Beyer and Jonathan Shurberg now have significantly lighter wallets but still managed to lose their primaries. If anyone knows of General Assembly campaigns that have spent more, please let me know.

Dana Beyer

Dana Beyer spent a whopping $332,503–or $63.48 per vote–on her failed bid for the District 18 Democratic senatorial nomination. Virtually all of it came out of her own pocket. In 2013 and 2014, Dana loaned her senate campaign $315,500. So she raised only $17,003 in contributions, including $500 from Emily’s List.

Dana has loaned herself $497,703 over the course of her three unsuccessful campaigns for the General Assembly–two for delegate in 2006 and 2010, and senator in 2014.

Jonathan Shurberg

But Dana’s expenditures fall short next to Jonathan Shurberg’s total so far of $421,858 for losing effort to gain the delegate nomination in District 20.  The total could go even higher as Jonathan has loaned or given his campaign an astounding $496,773. His loans totaled $366,200 and gifts added up to $130,573.

The total per vote based on Jonathan’s expenditures is an incredible $140.76 per vote but that could rise to $165.76 based on his loans and gifts to his campaign.

And to think some people just go to Neiman Marcus.


Woodmont Avenue Staying Closed

Bethesda Magazine reports that the opening–much heralded by large signs in the area–will not occur after all:

Montgomery County spokeswoman Sue Tucker said inspectors visited the site and worried about safety concerns at the construction site, which includes a new underground parking garage.

“The county has gone out there and decided it will not open until the garage opens, which is planned in January,” she said.

So the new projected timeline for opening and the ease on traffic on the area is now postponed at least six months beyond the original two-year deadline. See also the story in Bethesda Now.

I guess the question is why weren’t these problems foreseen when the County approved the plan to reopen the street while construction continued on the two buildings?



Black Representation in Municipalities II


Last Thursday, I examined the relationship between the share of African Americans and the share of black elected officials (BEOs) in Maryland’s 35 most populous municipalities. While there is a clear and strong overall relationship, which municipalities have the largest gap between the share of African Americans in the population and on the council?

The table at the top of the post is organized in descending population order; it shows the share of BEOs, including the mayor, in each municipality and compares it to the share of blacks. Baltimore–Maryland’s largest municipality by far and really more comparable to a county–shows an unusually tight link, facilitated in part by the large size of the Baltimore City Council compared to those of Maryland’s other municipalities.

Most Maryland municipalities have councils with just five members, which can explain the gap in many cases. Since councilmembers only come in whole numbers, towns that are 30% black will have a -10% gap if there is only one black councilmember but a +10% gap if there are two black councilmembers.

The following table sorts the 35 municipalities by the difference between the percentage of BEOs and African Americans in the population. Despite the strong overall relationship, the difference within individual cities and towns varies dramatically–from around +25% in Elkton to -33% in Greenbelt.


Elkton, the county seat of Cecil County, tops the chart as two of its four councilmembers are black (the mayor is white) but the town is just 15% black. College Park scores next highest with three black councilmembers out of eight total (the mayor is white), though the city is just 14% black.

Taneytown in Carroll County is less than 5% black but has elected one black councilmember. Blacks in Bladensberg may benefit from their majority status to elect a disproportionate share of councilmembers. Rockville, Maryland’s third largest municipality, has elected one black councilmember, though the city is just 10% African American.

On the bottom is Greenbelt, which is nearly one-half black, but has just one black councilmember out of seven total. Perhaps even more strikingly, two of New Carrollton’s five councilmembers are black (the mayor is white), though the municipality is 60% black. Aberdeen and La Plata–both in counties that have experienced rapid growth over the last few decades–have sizable black populations but no African-American members of their councils.

Famously left-wing Takoma Park has just one recently elected African American on its City Council out of six members (and also has a white mayor). African Americans form 35% of the Takoma Park’s population. So much for stereotypes.

Of course, none of this explains why some towns have a relatively or low or high share of BEOs–a topic perhaps for a future post. And one must also note that black councilmembers are not the same as black representation. People can be well represented by people from a different background. At the same time, one expects to a diverse range of officials in diverse towns.

[Note: Salisbury ranks low in the table but is set to have a second councilmember elected from a black-majority district starting with the 2015 elections, as noted in a previous post.]


Black Representation in Municipalities


The Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Missouri has attracted attention to African-American representation in municipalities. Blacks are underrepresented on the police force, comprising just three of the city’s 53 officers.

Additionally, only one of Ferguson’s six councilmembers is African American in a city that is now 67% black. Over at the Monkey Cage, Brian Schaffner, have done an excellent job of explaining the political dynamics underlying this disparity. Essentially, the electorate in the off-year municipal election is much more white than in presidential elections.

So how does Maryland do?

Presented here are two graphs of the percentage of Black Elected Officials (BEOs) against the percentage of Blacks in the 35 largest municipalities in Maryland. The share of BEOs is measured out of the total number of councilmembers plus the mayor–if there is one. The graph at the top of the post shows each city as a dot while the graph below replaces the dots with city names.

The line in each graph reveals the predicted relationship between percentage black and percentage of BEOs according to linear regression. (The short, short course on linear regression: the line is the one the minimizes the sum of the squared vertical distance between the dots and the line.)

The line suggests that a 10% increase in the share of blacks results in a 9.1% increase in black representation. The total predicted share of black municipal officials is about 5% lower than the number predicted by 9.1% x Percent Black. This 5% lag is not that shocking as the share of voting-age blacks often lags behind the share of blacks in the population due to the greater share of minors in the African-American population.


Next up: a closer look at individual municipalities.



Reducing Teen Pregnancy

The Washington Post has a terrific story on success in Colorado and Missouri in reducing teen pregnancy via long-term reversible contraception, accelerating a national trend occurring for other reasons:

[The study] reported a 40 percent decline in births among teens 15 to 19 from 2009 to 2013. The stunning decline in teen birth rates is significant not just for its size, but for its explanation. State public health officials are crediting a sustained, focused effort to offer low-income women free or low-cost long acting reversible contraception, that is, intrauterine devices or implants.. . . . The state’s analysis suggests the initiative was responsible for three-quarters of the decline in the state’s teen birth rates. . . .

Colorado’s initiative built upon a somewhat similar effort in St. Louis, Mo., . . .  Seventy percent of women in the Missouri study chose an IUD or implant. The conclusion: those who chose short-term methods such as the pill or the patch were 20 times more likely to have an unintended pregnancy than those who used an IUD or an implant.

Why this matters. A lot:

Buried amid the headlines in Colorado is more welcome news. The state also saw a 50 percent drop in repeat pregnancies among teens. With a second child, the already-high odds are ratcheted up that a low-income mother will not finish high school, remain trapped at the low-paying end of the economic ladder and reliant upon public assistance. (You, taxpayer, may read this as ka-ching, ka-ching, ka-ching.)

The long-term contraception program appears especially effective when promoted right after a first teen pregnancy:

Several years ago, [the Colorado Adolescent Maternity Program] offered 396 of its pregnant adolescent mothers who wanted birth control a choice: They could have an implant inserted after they gave birth, but before they left the hospital. Or, they could wait the typical six weeks and then start any form of contraception they wished. . . .

Of the mothers who chose the immediate post-partum implant, only 2.6 percent became pregnant again within a year– and that’s because they had their implants removed.Among those who chose the delayed start, 20 percent got pregnant again within the first year.

The Post identifies five states–California, Colorado, New Mexico, New York and South Carolina–that allow Medicaid coverage of of immediate post-partum long-acting reversible contraception. Unfortunately, Maryland is not listed among them.

I don’t know if Maryland allows Medcaid to cover this form of contraception (or has a similar, yet different program) but it seems like a no-brainer way to improve lives and to save money. There are so many pressing social needs that it is great when a program that helps people makes the government money.


Woodmont Ave. Still Closed

Busy Woodmont Ave. in Bethesda closed for the construction of the new vast underground parking lot in Bethesda that straddles the street between Lots 31 and 31A. (For those unfamiliar with planning argot, that’s the big construction progress across from Barnes and Noble.)

The original closure was planned to last 20-24 months and has lasted nearly the full 24 months. So residents are naturally excited that the reopening of Woodmont Ave. was announced via large electronic construction signs stating that it will open on or around August 15th.

Well, August 20th and it is still isn’t open. Residents will welcome the reopening even though a one-lane road replaces a two-lane road and you can no longer make a left on to Leland St. It is not clear to me whether pedestrian access will be restored as well as construction continues on the buildings on both sides of the road.

Let’s hope that they can get it done this week–the latest public statement on the plans that I’ve located.