Gauging the Purple Line’s Prospects

Judge Richard Leon’s decision that the failure to scrutinize the potential impact of Metro’s stagnant or declining ridership on the Purple Line requires a supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS) has been controversial to say the least. But what is the likely long-term impact on the light-rail line’s future?

The Purple Line faces a number of hurdles at this point, so let’s examine each in turn.

Rest of Judge Leon’s Decision

Judge Leon still has to issue the rest of his decision on many other portions of the lawsuit. Much of the remainder rests on claims of environmental harms caused by the Purple Line. As a conservative who tends to read such statutes tightly, it seems unlikely that Judge Leon will also delay the project on these grounds.

Appealing Judge Leon’s Decision

Purple Line defenders will need to appeal the decision requiring more study of the impact of poor Metro ridership on the PL. Though I remain deeply skeptical of the projected PL ridership numbers, light-rail proponents have a strong probability of winning the appeal. The National Environmental Policy Act’s (NEPA) focus on environmental impact will facilitate claims that the judge reached beyond the statute with his demands for new ridership studies.

The Cost of Delay

Even though they will likely win their appeal, gaining an injunction to allow the State to move forward immediately will be more difficult. Any costs created by delay–the State says these run at over $13 million per month–have been caused by the failure to allow the NEPA process, including judicial proceedings, to play out before beginning so much work. This should not engender much judicial sympathy. Additionally, courts are reticent to issue injunctions and use them, well, judiciously. Still, it could happen.

The Washington Post reports that the State would need to shut down the project around August 1. I don’t really buy this claim because it was part of the State’s effort to pressure a quicker decision out of the Judge. (The choice by Gov. Hogan and other PL proponents to follow Trump’s lead by impugning not just a judge but also his wife likely had no impact but it’s not a model that I would imitate.)

The State has also set this up as too big to fail. MTA states it would suffer an $800 million loss if it shut down the project. Deputy Project Director Mike Madden even says that there are no contingency plans. These claims alone should invalidate Hogan’s claims of bringing business sense to Annapolis.

What sensible businessman would sign a contract entailing heavy losses before the federal funds guarantee with no contingency plans? My guess is that this was done precisely to make it politically impossible to pull the plug.

The Trump Administration

Dependability has not been Trump’s hallmark. FTA has a window open only so long to sign a federal funding agreement. The window could shut before the State can sign. Of course, Trump could also just kill the project if someone explains to him where Maryland is, points to the blue on the map, and reminds him that Republican Gov. Hogan refused to back him.

At this point, however, FTA seems eager to sign the agreement. Who knows what will happen in Washington these days, but my bet is that the State can get the agreement if it can surmount the other obstacles. Despite some major last minute hiccups, odds remain good that the Purple Line will eventually come our way.


Democratic Statements on Hogan’s Veto of Earned Sick Leave

Bill Sponsor Del. Luke Clippinger (D-46)
Video Courtesy of Bryan P. Sears, The Daily Record.

Sen. Rich Madaleno:

Today the people of Maryland saw the Hogan Hype Machine at it again.  Hiding behind the empty promise he offered in January, Governor Hogan vetoed real progress for the working families of Maryland.

Sadly, Hogan sat on the sidelines for while Democrats in the legislature did the hard work.  If Governor Hogan truly cared about providing sick leave to more working Marylanders, he would have signed this compromise legislation today.

Republicans in Congress are working to dismantle our healthcare system and Hogan’s actions today denies 750,000 Marylanders the ability to see their doctor or care for a sick family member.  We need a Governor who will stand with working Marylanders.

State Party Chair Kathleen Matthews:

Hard work should pay off, and working Marylanders shouldn’t have to decide between a paycheck and taking care of themselves and their families.

Democrats brought all sides of the table together to extend earned sick leave to more than 700,000 Marylanders.

Instead of heeding the calls of working Marylanders, Governor Larry Hogan dismissed them.

Voters will remember in next year’s election that Governor Larry Hogan put his own agenda ahead of the health of working Marylanders and their families.



Hogan’s Point Man on Health Care Wants to Destroy the Affordable Care Act

By Adam Pagnucco.

Governor Larry Hogan may be silent on the efforts by President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans to gut health care, but his newly appointed Chair of the Maryland Health Care Commission has been anything but silent.  To the contrary, Hogan’s new point man on health care has openly advocated for the destruction of the Affordable Care Act.

Robert E. Moffit, whom Hogan appointed Chair of the Maryland Health Care Commission on May 9, will now be playing a critical role in administering Maryland’s health care system.  The commission is an independent agency with broad regulatory powers over health care providers in areas including IT, data reporting, performance evaluations, certificates of need authorizing new hospitals and expansions and much more.  Moffit’s appointment would normally be confirmed by the Maryland State Senate, but since they do not return to Annapolis until next year, Moffit will have plenty of time to make his mark on the state’s health care system.

And that could be quite a mark.  During his tenure as Senior Fellow at the Heritage Foundation, Moffit was a leading critic of the ACA, which provides health coverage to more than 400,000 Marylanders, and called for it to be repealed as soon as possible.  Consider his views.

1.  In one of many screeds against the ACA, Moffit said it was experiencing “multi-organ failure” and that “central planning is the disease.”  One wonders what he thinks about other “centrally planned” health care systems like Medicare and the Veterans Health Administration.

2.  Moffit wrote that Congress “should kill the employer mandate entirely,” thus leaving employees to fend for themselves in health care as they did before the ACA was passed.

3.  Moffit enthusiastically endorsed the GOP’s plan to issue waivers to states so that they could excuse insurers from having to cover pre-existing conditions.  In an article entitled “House Health Care Bill Moving in the Right Direction,” he wrote, “President Barack Obama and his allies in Congress should never have imposed centralized federal control over diverse state health insurance markets in the first place.  While the best solution would be to repeal that federal overreach, the proposed waiver is a significant improvement over current law. Its practical effect is to achieve a devolution of health insurance rulemaking back to the states.”

4.  Just weeks after Hogan appointed him, Moffit cheered on Trump’s budget, which called for $800 billion in cuts to Medicaid and converting it into a block grant program.  Moffit wrote: “By putting Medicaid on a budget—either through a fixed allotment to the states in the form of a block grant or a per capita cap—the Trump budget would give state officials much needed flexibility in managing the program and better target services to the poorest and most vulnerable of our citizens.”

5.  Last November, when criticizing the ACA’s poll numbers, Moffit wrote, “What ‘progressive’ politicians want, and their academic and media cheerleaders like, most Americans don’t want or like.”  According to Gallup, the ACA’s approval rating went from 42% at the time Moffit wrote his article to 55% in April.  Apparently, Americans want to have health care after all.

6.  Moffit called the Republican House bill replacing the ACA “a major improvement over current law.”  Yesterday, the Congressional Budget Office found that the House bill would increase the number of Americans without health coverage by 23 million by 2026.  The office said, “Premiums would vary significantly according to health status and the types of benefits provided, and less healthy people would face extremely high premiums.”

In selecting Moffit, Governor Hogan has broken his silence on the Affordable Care Act.  Moffit’s views are longstanding, well developed and very public.  If Hogan had major disagreements with him on the ACA, why would he appoint him to one of the most powerful health care positions in Maryland?  Actions speak louder than words, and this action speaks volumes.


George Leventhal Validates Doug Duncan Criticism in Real Time

Yesterday, Maryland Matters published an interview with former Montgomery County Executive Doug Duncan sizing up the candidates for county executive that included the following comment on Councilmember George Leventhal:

Hours later the same day:

This is not the first time that George attempted to delegitimize his opponents rather than to engage substantively on the policy issue. George could have reiterated policy arguments for the Purple Line, discussed the damage in the delay of decision, or disputed the legal reasoning.

Instead, he took a shot at the participation of people standing up for their viewpoint as to what is best for their community. This line of attack is particularly odd since the other side is supported by the weight of the State, the County, the FTA, and the wealthy development community. Regardless, it is unusual to see a politician bemoan their constituents’ participation in the process.

Not for George. Consider the Council debate in 2013 about the rezoning of a property in Aspen Hill to accommodate Walmart. After ritualistically claiming to value their participation, he denigrates them as rubes manipulated by the property owner, saying among other things:

I do hope someone will ask who paid for the signs. Who gave them to you?

Who will pay for those signs next? And who will hire the lobbyists to distribute those signs next?

I guess I better print up some signs and hire a lobbyist to get 30 people to sit in an audience and say “What’s the wait!”

Watch for yourself:

In the wake of George Leventhal’s comments, Council Chairwoman Nancy Navarro felt compelled to commend the participation of the people who came up from Aspen Hill. Councilmember Craig Rice made the same point even more forcefully:

I apologize for what you just heard. The assumption that somehow by holding a sign that someone might’ve given you means that you don’t have a voice, that you don’t have your own opinion, that you just happened to just roll down the street sand somebody said “hey, take this sign and come into the County Council Building ’cause you don’t have anything else to do.” It’s disrespectful. [applause]

I guess we need to warn the PTA when they come and they have their pre-printed signs, we need to warn Moving Maryland Forward, or the Purple Line Coalition, or Wheaton Moving Forward. We need to warn everybody not to have pre-printed signs because that automatically means that your voice isn’t your voice, it’s somebody else’s.  Well, I don’t agree, and I think that you being here is enough of a word that says that you care about what happens in your community, and that’s enough for me!



Cordial Candidate Forum in Kensington

A trusted correspondent sent in this report on last night’s candidates’ forum in Kensington.

Fireworks, there were none.

The three candidates for two Kensington Town Council seats spent a rather cordial hour last night, largely agreeing on issues such as traffic enforcement, development, and pay increases for Town staff.

They gathered at a moderated candidates’ forum on a stage at Town Hall, a program two weeks before the town’s nonpartisan election.

The two-term incumbent, Darin Bartram, advocated status quo, saying that in the four years he’s served, “We’ve had a very good dynamic on the Council.” He declared himself “a voice of reason or moderation” on the four-person panel.

Tom Rodriguez, who is seeking a second term, emphasized his leadership on the Town’s parks and events committees. He also noted that his hometown in Florida has been overrun by development and traffic — a scenario he vowed not to allow in Kensington, a town of about 2,300 people that is bisected by heavily traveled Connecticut Avenue.

The challenger, Conor Crimmins, acknowledged that he and his opponents are “not very different in how we look at Kensington.” But he said he wants to move matters more quickly through Town committees and to stimulate citizen participation in Town governance. Voting in the town election can be a start, he said. “Let’s see voter turnout skyrocket” on June 5.

Two years ago, Bartram and Rodriguez won election in a three-way race with a little more than 150 votes, a fraction of the Town’s registered voters.

None of the candidates expressed opposition to the 4 percent pay increases proposed in fiscal 2018 for top Town staff. “We ought to be a leader in Montgomery County in what we pay” staff, Rodriguez said.

He and Bartram said they would support lowering the minimum voting age in Town elections to 16. Crimmins offered no position on that question, which was one of a dozen or so raised by the 40 people attending the program. They wrote questions on index cards and submitted them to a moderator, who sometimes combined the queries in posing them to the candidates.

There were no missteps or gaffes, although Bartram at one point said, “I love getting new ideas from people — and me.”

Crimmins pledged to be “extremely approachable” and vowed courtesy and respect in dealings with Townspeople. Rodriguez called for stepped up enforcement of traffic laws and said the planned bicycle patrols by county police promise to be “a fantastic innovation.”


House of Delegates Ratings, Part V: The Most Vulnerable Democrat

Continuing our view of the lay of political land in advance of the 2018 state legislative election, 7S turns to vulnerable Democrats in the House of Delegates. We start today with the one sitting Democrat rated as a toss-up.

Delegate Ned Carey is in the unenviable position of holding the most endangered Democratic seat in the House. Located in the Brooklyn Park and Glen Burnie sections of northern Anne Arundel County, District 31A is a single delegate subdistrict that contains the more Democratic territory in very Republican District 31, which should just be renamed Simonaireland. The father holds the Senate seat and his daughter is a delegate from 31B.

Carey represents the only Democratic House district carried by both Larry Hogan and Donald Trump. District 31A went for Hogan by a 30 points in 2014. While Hillary Clinton fared far better, she still fell 4 percent short of defeating Trump.

A former school board member and BWI executive endorsed by the Baltimore Sun, Carey had the advantage of facing an inexperienced Republican challenger, Terry DeGraw in 2014. A poor fundraiser, DeGraw spent little on her campaign. Her three general election campaign finance reports show she spent a total of $13,952.74.

In contrast, Carey spent an impressive $84,613.07 to win the seat by 5.3% over DeGraw. Besides loaning his campaign $10,000, Carey received $47,000 in donations from the House Democratic Slate, as well as another $2000 from Sen. Ben Cardin’s PAC and $2500 from former Gov. Martin O’Malley’s O Say Can You See PAC.

The Republican lean of the district combined with his small victory despite outclassing his opponent in fundraising and experience paint a big target on Carey’s back for 2018. The Republicans will have a real shot if they can find a good candidate and fund them well.

The best evidence that Carey will nevertheless not lose easily is that he won in 2014, despite it being a truly hellacious year for Democrats. In an election when long-term Democratic legislators in similar territory went down, Carey managed to win the seat. No doubt he is hoping for a more favorable climate in 2018.


Gino Threatens Reznik

By Adam Pagnucco.

In a statement on the Facebook page of political blogger Ryan Miner, MCGEO President Gino Renne has vowed to defeat Delegate Kirill Reznik (D-39) in next year’s election.  In response to a post about Reznik’s decision not to run for Congress, Renne wrote to Reznik:

Thanks for your unproductive representation. I’m one of your constituents who believes you bring no value to our district’s representation in Annapolis. You were appointed to the seat which gave you the advantage of incumbency. This time around there are several quality candidates running for delegate in our district. I and many others intend to do whatever is necessary to unseat you. District 39 can do better and deserves better than you.

You now have the benefit of more unsolicited intel.

MCGEO once supported Reznik, giving him five contributions totaling $4,100 between 2007 and 2011.  What is their problem with him now?  Renne is not shy so we will probably find out!  Perhaps his casus belli includes Reznik’s support for Delegate Bill Frick’s End the Monopoly bill, a piece of legislation so objectionable to Renne that he famously promised to investigate the lifestyles of its supporters.

Few interest group leaders make such open threats against incumbents.  That’s because defeating incumbents is difficult and MCGEO is no better at it than anyone else.  In recent years, the incumbents MCGEO has tried to defeat include Council Member Phil Andrews (D-3) in 2006, Delegate Al Carr (D-18) in 2010, Senator Nancy King (D-39) in 2010, Board of Education member Mike Durso in 2010, Council Member Roger Berliner (D-1) in 2014 and Senator Rich Madaleno (D18) in 2014.  All of these candidates won by double digits except Carr and King.  Berliner won by 57 points even though his opponent’s campaign was managed by MCGEO’s former Executive Director.  MCGEO has supported two recent successful challengers to incumbents: Delegate Roger Manno (D-19) over Senator Mike Lenett and Hans Riemer over Council Member Duchy Trachtenberg (At-Large), both in 2010.  Lenett lost in part because he blew himself up with horrible mailers such as this one about the Holocaust.  Trachtenberg lost in part because she inexplicably hoarded $146,000 which could have been spent on campaign activity.

Here’s the problem with making threats of this kind: you have to follow through and win or you look weak.  Reznik has none of the weaknesses that sometimes result in incumbent losses in Montgomery County: he’s not a Republican, he’s not lazy and he doesn’t have legions of enemies at home.  It’s also not clear that there are enough strong open seat candidates in District 39 to seriously threaten him.  In fact, the smart move for the challengers is to court him and the other incumbents in hope of inclusion on their slate.  All of this is good for Kirill Reznik and not so good for Gino Renne.


Group of Elected Democrats Agrees to Withhold Gubernatorial Endorsements

By Adam Pagnucco.

A group of elected Democrats from around the state has issued a joint statement that they will not endorse in the upcoming gubernatorial primary until the filing deadline has passed and one or more debates have occurred.  Following is their press release.


For Immediate Release

May 27, 2017

Contact: Delegate David Moon –

Maryland Elected Democrats Commit to Delay

Endorsements in 2018 Gubernatorial Primary

16 Democratic Officials Agree to Wait Until Debates Happen & Filing Deadline Passes

TAKOMA PARK, MD – Today sixteen Maryland Democratic elected officials announced an agreement to delay endorsing candidates in the 2018 gubernatorial primary until: 1) the February 2018 filing deadline has passed, and 2) one or more debates have occurred. The diverse group of Democrats were elected to serve in federal, state, county, and city government and come from a range of communities throughout Maryland.

Every Democratic official who signed the letter has a different reason for joining the effort. Some are available for comment:

Mayor Jacob Day (Salisbury) –

Delegate Kathleen Dumais (Montgomery) –

Delegate Robbyn Lewis (Baltimore) –

City Councilmember Robert Wu (Gaithersburg) –

City Councilmember Ryan Dorsey (Baltimore) –

The full text of the letter and list of signers appears below:

Grassroots Democracy Commitment for Maryland Governor

We the undersigned elected Democrats in Maryland, commit not to make an endorsement in the 2018 race for Governor until the candidate filing deadline has passed and there have been one or more debates between the filed candidates.

We are in a period of dramatic grassroots expansion of our party, and we believe it would be wise to provide all rank and file Maryland Democrats — including those who are engaging for the first time — the opportunity to help shape the future of the party.  At this early stage in the nomination battle, endorsements may create a primary among insiders that reduces voter input and unnecessarily keeps potential candidates out of the race.

Moreover, delaying endorsements will push those who seek to lead Maryland Democrats to articulate a broad and compelling vision and agenda for our party, debate the issues in detail, and compete effectively for support throughout the state.

In short, we think an open and competitive gubernatorial primary will help us win in November and will encourage candidates to develop strategies that harness grassroots energy to strengthen the Maryland Democratic Party.

Let’s use our resources now to strengthen the organizing base and structure of our Party so we can make the best possible choice for a standard-bearer in next year’s critical primary election.


Mayor Jacob Day (Salisbury)

County Councilmember Dannielle Glaros (Prince George’s)

City Councilmember Ryan Dorsey (Baltimore)

City Councilmember Robert Wu (Gaithersburg)

Delegate Erek Barron (Prince George’s)

Delegate Luke Clippinger (Baltimore)

Delegate Kathleen Dumais (Montgomery)

Delegate Sheila Hixson (Montgomery)

Delegate Ariana Kelly (Montgomery)

Delegate Brooke Lierman (Baltimore)

Delegate Jazz Lewis (Prince George’s)

Delegate Robbyn Lewis (Baltimore)

Delegate David Moon (Montgomery)

Delegate Jheanelle Wilkins (Montgomery)

State Senator Will Smith (Montgomery)

Congressman Jamie Raskin (Montgomery)


Hucker, Riemer Targeted by Enviros

By Adam Pagnucco.

The Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN), one of Maryland’s major environmental organizations, is targeting County Council Members Tom Hucker (D-5) and Hans Riemer (At-Large) for not supporting a bill that would have required the county’s benefits funds to divest their holdings of fossil fuel company stocks.  The bill, lead-sponsored by Council Members Roger Berliner (D-1) and Nancy Navarro (D-4) and co-sponsored by Council Member Marc Elrich (At-Large), was converted into a non-binding resolution because it could not gather five affirmative votes.  The resolution was passed today.

Hucker has received numerous environmental endorsements during his history as a candidate.  The Maryland League of Conservation Voters gave him a 99% lifetime score when he was in the House of Delegates.  Riemer was endorsed by the Sierra Club in 2010 but not in 2014.

Following is the text of the blast email from CCAN Executive Director Mike Tidwell.  CCAN is also asking its supporters to email Hucker.


Subject Line: Time to keep up the divestment fight.

Dear ,

First, the good news: We made real progress today in divesting our county’s massive pension funds from dirty fossil fuels. The Montgomery County Council just passed a resolution encouraging the employee pension boards to finally STOP buying and holding stocks in companies like ExxonMobil and Arch Coal. This is a positive step.

However, it’s only a resolution. It’s not the stronger legislation – an actual bill – that CCAN and many of you had asked for.

By a vote of 8-to-1, the Council approved today the carbon divestment resolution sponsored by Council President Roger Berliner (thank you, Roger!). It asks the county pension boards to report in six months (and every 12 months after that) on efforts to divest from the 200 biggest global warming polluters. With record high temperatures, rising seas, and ExxonMobil basically running our nation’s foreign policy, it is outrageous that our county pension funds hold over $70 million in mega-pollution stock. It’s YOUR county money, after all.

Please thank your Councilmember Tom Hucker for voting for the divestment resolution. But remind Tom he’s pledged to get real results from this resolution. We need action, not delay, on dirty energy investments.

Over the past several months, many of you have attended town hall meetings and contacted the MoCo Council on this issue. You demanded that actual legislation – not just a resolution – be passed to move our county toward divestment. Thank you for your citizen activism! And big thanks to Councilmembers Roger Berliner, Nancy Navarro, and Marc Elrich for sponsoring and supporting this legislation!

But Councilmembers Tom Hucker (D-Silver Spring) and Hans Riemer (D-at large) never supported the stronger bill. And because they were swing votes, the bill died. Instead, Councilmember Hucker repeatedly told CCAN and other advocates that a nonbinding resolution was his preference. He pledged to use the resolution as leverage and then lead the fight to demand that the county’s two pension boards actually divest in the coming months.

Our message to Tom Hucker: Thank you for your efforts and we look forward to the real results you’ve said could come from your preferred resolution approach. We now want to invite Councilmember Hucker to a countywide town hall meeting exactly six months from now, where he and Hans Reimer will have the opportunity to update citizens on their efforts to persuade the pension boards to voluntarily divest from high-polluting companies.

Please thank your Councilmember Tom Hucker for voting for the divestment resolution. But remind Tom he’s pledged to get real results from this resolution. We need action, not delay, on dirty energy investments!

A little background now. For too long, our county has sought to lead on climate change policy while also investing tens of millions of dollars in the very companies whose business plans and actions are causing the climate crisis. It’s wrong to profit from these companies – and we don’t need to. The evidence is clear that properly diversified funds perform as well or better without fossil fuel companies. We don’t need to invest in ExxonMobil to have a healthy pension system.

The good news is that pension divestment can be accomplished, as we have seen from just a few miles away. The D.C. Retirement Board eliminated direct investments in the 200 most harmful fossil fuel companies shortly after a divestment resolution passed the D.C. Council in 2014.

But we’ll need real commitment from Montgomery leaders like Hucker and Riemer – and pressure from citizens like you – to replicate the D.C. success here.

So, on we go. Change is never easy, even in a progressive county like ours. We’ll be in touch in the coming months to update you on the next phase of the divestment fight in Montgomery County. And in November we’ll invite you to the big town hall meeting where we hope our leaders can confirm the real progress they’ve said is possible in the coming months.

And thanks again for all you do!


Mike Tidwell

Executive Director