Elrich, Krasnow & Leventhal Mix It Up on Racial Equity & Purple Line

The recent county executive debate was fascinating if only for the incoherence brought to it regarding the Purple Line:

Rose Krasnow, deputy director of the county’s planning department and former Democratic Rockville mayor, said the Purple Line “will have wonderful benefits for people along its length. It will raise property values, but it will spur development,” she said. . . .

After Elrich expressed his concern about gentrification that could follow the path of the Purple Line, Leventhal spoke about the benefits the line would bring immigrant workers.

“We should stop frightening people about it, as Mr. Elrich has repeatedly done,” Leventhal said.

“I never said the word ‘destroy’ about the Purple Line,” Elrich responded, noting that his opposition to some of the plans resulted in changes that will preserve hundreds of affordable housing units.

Purple Line advocates have long argued that it will spur new development around Purple Line stations. Indeed, although Metro stops have not resulted in urban nodes similar to Bethesda or Silver Spring near any station in Prince George’s, proponents have faith that the slower moving light-rail Purple Line will nevertheless make it happen.

If they’re correct, the Purple Line will, as Rose Krasnow points out, result in more development and higher property taxes. More generally, if land near Purple Line stations becomes more desirable, its value will increase and so will taxes on it. Generating more tax revenue was a major rationale for the Purple Line.

If a place becomes more desirable and tax rates increase, the cost of renting or buying housing near Purple Line stops will rise and some current residents will find it harder to afford housing. Developers and landlords obviously prefer higher rents — and the Purple Line’s goal is to stimulate investments that will allow them to charge more.

As a result, current residents will gradually be forced out. It can occur when a property is wholly redeveloped so that higher prices can be charged. Alternatively, greater demand will allow landlords to raise rents and sellers to charge more. People who worked hard to buy homes there will gain.

This is not a side effect of the Purple Line. It is the intent of the Purple Line. Indeed, the more successful the Purple Line is achieving economic development, the more it will occur. Notwithstanding all of the social justice blandishments, there is only so much counties can do to stop it.

Nor do they want to do so because they want the tax revenue and it’s the nature of the market. When areas become more desirable, prices rise. This is not meant as an attack on people who leave as abandoning the neighborhood or on people who move in as insensitive gentrification agents. It is simply how the market works.

George Leventhal says “We should stop frightening people about it.” But, as the debate highlighted, change will occur. To the extent that the Purple Line is a transportation boon, and billions are going to be  invested towards that end, it will raise prices and drive current residents out, as it has in Bethesda and increasingly in Silver Spring.

There are a variety of policies one can do to increase the availability of affordable housing more generally. But the Purple Line is not one of them. Marc Elrich, an advocate of the Purple Line and more aggressive efforts to preserve affordable housing near Purple Line stops, explained his view in more detail in a blast email yesterday:

To zero in on an important case that came up at the forum, county officials have too often proposed zoning changes that would displace low-income communities of color. In 2012 and 2013, a Long Branch sector plan that included the upzoning of a very large swath of existing affordable multi-family housing – housing occupied largely by Long Branch’s low-income immigrant community – was brought before the County Council. The plan’s architects intended to tie construction of the Purple Line to new, much more expensive housing developments that would replace the existing affordable housing in that area. Even if 15% of the new units were “MPDUs” (moderately priced dwelling units), which was the best-case scenario, there would have been fewer total affordable housing units available in Long Branch if this plan had been implemented – in other words, less available lower-priced housing for people who need it.

Many of the families living in the existing affordable multi-family homes would not have qualified to live in MPDUs. Some had more family members than most MPDUs would have been able to hold (the proposed plan did not require developers to provide family-sized units). Some families had incomes too low or credit histories too short to qualify. For others, legal status would have been their chief barrier. In addition, the county did not have the resources to provide long-term rental assistance on the scale that would have been required in Long Branch.

In other words, under the Planning Board’s proposal, the current low-income immigrants in Long Branch would have been forced to relocate elsewhere. Since the existing buildings weren’t even an impediment to building the Purple Line, the Planning Board’s recommendations were particularly ill-advised.

When I met with planning staff and their director at the Long Branch shopping center, I told them – forcefully – that their plan was unacceptable.

I am happy to note that, within a week of my meeting, the proposal to rezone the particular properties I had questioned was withdrawn. I was also able to get results when the same process unfolded in two more sector plans and a proposal from the Planning Board to do a mini master plan. But these plans should never have been proposed in the first place. I am convinced they never would have been if we had a racial equity lens in place and were required to show the impacts such plans would have had on the surrounding communities of color.

I’ve been the consistent voice on the County Council speaking out on these issues because I know what the consequences will be if we fail to preserve our existing affordable housing. And as your next County Executive, I would like to make the consideration of racial equity the expectation in all of our policymaking, rather than the exception to the rule.

Put another way, the question is essentially how much power is  county government willing to exercise over developers both in terms of what they can do and what they have to pay. However, it’s also a question of how much tax revenue the county is willing to sacrifice. Happy talk is not the same as action or making the best of not-so-easy choices.


Is Vignarajah Eligible? She Finally Filed and Has a Running Mate, So We’re About to Find Out

Krish Vignarajah at Sunday’s Debate (Photo: Ed Kimmel)

Krish Vignarajah filed the papers to run for governor with only hours to spare. The Baltimore Sun reported earlier today that she is running with Sharon Blake, the former president of the Baltimore Teachers Union, in “the first ever all-women of color ticket.” Though now public knowledge, I cannot seem to find any mention – or nice photo of the ticket to put above this post – on Vignarajah’s website, Twitter, or Facebook.

Vignarajah has made a positive impression at gubernatorial debates and forums based on before and after straw polls, as her Twitter feed understandably reports. My own impression is that she is clearly very sharp and got off the best line at Sunday’s debate, but I would like to see evidence of more in-depth knowledge of state public policy.

Nevertheless, Vignarajah may have had trouble attracting a running mate due to serious questions about whether she is qualified for the ballot. The Maryland Constitution requires that gubernatorial candidates have resided and been registered to vote in Maryland for five years.

Vignarajah has a real problem here, as Bethesda Beat first reported:

Vignarajah, 37, an attorney, first registered to vote in Maryland in 2006 at an address in Catonsville. However, she didn’t vote in the state until the 2016 general election. . .

While her Maryland registration remained active, she registered to vote in D.C. on Sept. 14, 2010, then voted in the city’s primary the same day, according to her D.C. voting history, also obtained by Bethesda Beat.

She listed her address at the time at an apartment building at 1701 16th St. NW in the District.

Her D.C. voting record shows that she also voted in the April 26, 2011, special election, as well as the 2012 and 2014 general elections in the city.

Though she was never purged from being registered in Maryland, Viganarajah was registered and voted in the District in 2014. Two years later, she voted in Maryland for the general but skipped the primary.

This issue has plagued Vignarajah’s campaign from the start, punctuated by her disastrous exchange with Tom Sherwood on “The Maryland Politics Hour” (starts at 4:25) in which her only explanation for why she registered and voted in DC if she was a Maryland resident was convenience, and she also refused to say if she paid income taxes in Maryland.

Vignarajah referred to her D.C. apartment as a “crash pad” and said she “did not live there” after Kojo Nnamdi described the building as “the coolest” in the city, raising the obvious question of how she registered to vote in D.C. if she didn’t have a D.C. residence.

Despite asserting that “I am absolutely eligible to run” and that she made legally certain of it before entering the race, Vignarajah filed a lawsuit demanding that the State Board of Elections confirm her eligibility. Attorney General Brian Frosh opposed the suit. Since she had not yet filed, the issue was not really ripe for consideration – courts don’t do hypotheticals – and she then withdrew the suit.

I imagine some potential running mates would be put off by the excellent prospect of being thrown off the ballot with Viganrajah, thus turning a long shot at the number two slot into the latest joke and a very short campaign.

I imagine we will find out shortly.

Note: As we have pointed out previously, Adam Pagnucco and I are both supporters of Rich Madaleno’s campaign. Nevertheless, as is always the case, our posts remain our own.


Bananacakes or Not? Cooper Says No, 7S Says Oh Yeah.

Jordan Cooper response to Adam Pagnucco on “Bananacakes or Not?”:

In a recent Seventh State post on February 26th the following is written: “And so we have something extremely rare in MoCo politics: a candidate who drafts a questionnaire for other candidates with an endorsement on the line.” I’d like to correct the record with examples to the contrary:

Serving as a member of the Maryland General Assembly is considered to be a part-time job. State delegates and senators frequently have other means of employment concurrent with their service in elected office. Indeed even members of the Montgomery County Council, which is considered by many to be a full-time legislative body, have additional part-time positions. Just as many members of the legislature and many candidates for elected office have other jobs, so too do I as the host Public Interest Podcast. It is entirely within the realm of accepted practice for candidates and elected officials to be involved with political organizations and for those organizations to issue endorsement questionnaires.

I’d like to add that Public Interest Podcast is a non-partisan entity and, much like The Washington Post, The Baltimore Sun, and other periodicals, issuing endorsements in no way diminishes the non-partisan nature of the endorsing organization. Endorsements will be issued by Public Interest Podcast based solely upon candidate responses to the questionnaire regardless of party affiliation and regardless of whether those candidates’ views are aligned with my own political views.

Seventh State Disagrees.

Adam: I am not defending those other organizations. But there is a difference here: they involve more than one person and can establish recusal procedures. You ARE Public Interest Podcast. There is nothing else there other than you recording interviews with people.

David: I called out Progressive Neighbors four years ago for having a ridiculous number of candidates on their board. Dana Beyer even sent a questionnaire to her opponent. I believe that they’ve fixed the problem and have no candidates on their current Steering Committee. Adam is also correct that PIP is you of course.

Jordan’s Response:

I hadn’t thought of a recusal process before. I could very well have someone else go through the endorsement responses and give them metrics for endorsement, say 7 of 9 questions have a Yes. That would be very fair wouldn’t it? In any case I can assure you that Republicans with whom I disagree personally on many issues will receive a Public Interest Podcast endorsement. I just don’t see a conflict of interest here. Perhaps we’ll have to agree to disagree on this. I did ask quite a few people before I sent out the questionnaire if they thought it was ethical or would present any problems and they told me that as long as I keep the campaign separate from the podcast there’s no reason why I shouldn’t use this opportunity to get candidates speaking about some of the issues I raised that no one else is talking about.

Final Thoughts

David: People frequently misunderstand that someone who recuses themselves from a process does not participate in it. Someone who designs a process for rating other candidates has not recused himself. I don’t see how one can keep the campaign separate from the podcast.



Hucker Gets a Challenger

It looked for a bit that Tom Hucker (D-5), who only narrowly prevailed over Evan Glass in the open primary four years ago, was going to have an easy ride in his reelection bid. Not so. Kevin Harris has jumped into the race.

Harris and Hucker look likely to clash over development and the Route 29 BRT proposal. My impression is that normal primary divisions are a bit scrambled, as Harris is against the Route 29 BRT and wants to rein in developer influence.

Hucker’s decision to stay out of the public financing system while taking sizable contributions from development interests has already attracted attention in Bethesda Beat. Harris has chosen to stay in the public financing system.

If campaign finance resonates as an issue anywhere, you’d think it might be in this very progressive district. As the incumbent who has been in politics for years, Hucker starts out as a natural favorite but no longer has a cakewalk to a second Council term.

Kevin Harris Announcement by David Lublin on Scribd


Fake Facebook Page Disrupts New Democratic Club

By Adam Pagnucco.

A Facebook page purporting to belong to an officer of a new county Democratic club has turned out to be fake and was deleted.  We have seen MANY things in prior election cycles but nothing quite like this.

Recently, a new organization called the Asian American Democratic Club of Montgomery County was established.  Their Facebook page went up on Friday, February 23.  The club’s Treasurer was listed as Hu Nguyen.

The club sent out a questionnaire to candidates.  We reprint the first section below.

Below was a Facebook page established in the name of Hu Nguyen.  Curiously, this person’s gender was listed as male.  Also of note is that the person’s birthday was listed as November 12, 1987.

Hu Nguyen updated the club’s officer list to include her/himself and announced the club’s founding on Facebook.

Hu Nguyen was also listed as an officer on the club’s Twitter page.

Hu Nguyen offered a positive review of Hamza Khan, who is a candidate for Delegate in District 15 and is an administrator of the club’s Facebook page, and also complimented him in a conversation on the club’s page.

According to the Maryland State Board of Elections, Khan’s birthday is November 12, 1987 – the same as Hu Nguyen’s.

The profile picture on Hu Nguyen’s page matches the picture of a student at a prominent university in another part of the country.  We reprint the original source of the picture below but we will not indicate her name or her university out of deference to her.  Her real name is not Hu Nguyen.

At least one individual filed a complaint to Facebook and the Hu Nguyen profile was removed.  The statements above were also removed.

Soon after, a new Hu Nguyen page was created.  It used the same head shot as the first page and said the person was based in Rockville.  However, the cover photo was taken from a publication in Memphis, Tennessee.

That page has also now been deleted.

Your author sent the following email to Hamza Khan on February 26 at 1:53 PM.

Hamza, I am writing to ask about a person named Hu Nguyen.  She is listed as an officer of the Asian American Democratic Club of Montgomery County on the club’s Facebook page and Twitter page.  You are an administrator of the club’s Facebook page.  She issued a positive review of you on Facebook and complimented you on the club’s page.

According to Hu Nguyen’s Facebook page, the person’s gender was listed as male despite her very obvious appearance as female.  Her birthday was November 12, 1987, which matches your birthday.  The person’s Facebook profile picture matches that of a student at a university in another part of the country.

Hu Nguyen’s Facebook page has now been deleted.

I am attaching screenshots, including one of the original source of Hu Nguyen’s profile picture.

Can you comment on the record via email about Hu Nguyen?  Can you describe the circumstances under which you met her and how she joined the club?  Also, can you supply an email address so that I can contact her?  Thank you – Adam Pagnucco.

Khan replied:

Hi Adam & David:

Thank you for reaching out.

I actually am a mystified myself because despite her kind words about me, I’ve never met Hu Nguyen. She added me on Facebook claiming she met me at a fundraiser or meet and greet. Subsequently she disappeared on Facebook several times — in line with your statement above.  I originally thought she was someone I met at a meet & greet for my campaign, but it turned out she’s not that person at all. As for why she has my birthday and she/he’s listed as a male on Facebook, from what I’ve been now told it was a deliberate attempt to try and tie her back to my campaign. This is unfortunate and very troubling.

I think Barnaby Yeh, their communications director can direct you further. He is cc:ed here.

Shortly after your author’s email was sent, Hu Nguyen was removed as an officer from the club’s Facebook and Twitter pages.  Barnaby Yeh, the club’s communications director, posted the statement below on the club’s page branding the Hu Nguyen account as “fake” and saying the person “was trying to pose as a supporter as a candidate running for office in our county, but was a Facebook plant designed to try and discredit that candidate instead.”

Yeh then wrote the following in an email to your author:

The Asian American Democratic Club of Montgomery County is a grassroots organization of local Asian American activists. Our founders include several local millennials who have worked on more than a few campaigns, been members of other Democratic groups, and are just passionate about getting people involved ahead of the June & November elections. We wanted to organize our club organically by spreading the word online, and decided to create a Facebook group for that purpose.

Hu had approached all of us online claiming to be an Asian American living in Montgomery County. Being that most of our board are millennials, we assumed that it was entirely plausible that we just never met her. She also posed as a friend of several officers’ mutual contacts, going as far as to claim to know the ex-girlfriend of one of our founding members, and claimed to have attended several local political events. She offered to be our treasurer, and given we a) have no money, and b) didn’t see the harm in having another board member, we agreed.

However, we encountered some strange irregularities in trying to reach Hu starting this weekend. Hu began aggressively posting on social media on our behalf, which contravened our agreed-upon roles. We also received a notice from Twitter that someone had changed our Twitter account password, and they had traced the change to an IP address in Aspen Hill, MD. None of our officers had authorized such a change, and we began to investigate. We then also traced the IP e-mail address that Hu had provided to us, and discovered it was from the Ashburn area. At that point, we tried to contact Hu on Facebook to confirm, and further noticed Hu’s birthday and gender identity did not match who Hu presented themselves to be. We concluded Hu was misrepresenting themselves, and have reported the account as fraudulent.

I hope this helps lays this all to rest.

Let this be a lesson: before making someone an officer of your organization, make sure that they actually EXIST first!


A Quick Note on Candidates

By Adam Pagnucco.

A few interesting things popped up in candidate filings today.

Krish Vignarajah has still not filed for Governor.  Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz has filed, but his announced running mate, former Montgomery County Council Member Valerie Ervin, is not listed on his filing.

Grace Rivera-Oven, who was the Political Director of David Trone’s campaign for Congress, filed to run for Council At-Large on February 26.  She has started a traditional campaign finance account.

Jarrett Smith, who is a current member of the Takoma Park City Council, filed to run for Council At-Large on February 23.  Smith was reelected to the City Council in November and will not have to leave his seat to campaign for county office.  Smith has started a traditional financing account.

Kenge Malikidogo-Fludd has filed for County Council District 5.  Bethesda Magazine previously reported that Kevin Harris is running against incumbent Tom Hucker.  Malikidogo-Fludd is using public financing, as is Harris, while Hucker has not yet opened a public financing account.  However, Malikidogo-Fludd’s listed address is in Germantown, which is not in District 5.

Jaye Espy, who was running for Delegate in District 15, withdrew from the race on February 21.

Michelle Carhart of Rockville filed for District 18 Senate on February 22.  Delegate Jeff Waldstreicher and Dana Beyer, who has run for Senate and House unsuccessfully in the past, are also running.  Carhart’s website is inactive at this writing.

Filing closes at 9 PM tomorrow night.  There may be more news in store by then!

Note: an earlier version of this post reported that Jarrett Smith had not yet established a campaign account.  We apologize for the error.


MCEA Endorses Kagan, Kramer and Waldstreicher

By Adam Pagnucco.

The Montgomery County Education Association (MCEA) has endorsed three MoCo Senate candidates: Cheryl Kagan (D-17), Ben Kramer (D-19) and Jeff Waldstreicher (D-18).  Kagan is an incumbent who is running unopposed.  Kramer is a Delegate running for the Senate seat being vacated by Roger Manno, who is running for Congress.  So far, Kramer’s sole opponent is a Green Party member.

Waldstreicher is a Delegate who is running for the Senate seat being vacated by Rich Madaleno, who is running for Governor.   Waldstreicher now has the support of MCEA, MCGEO, the Sierra Club, SEIU Local 32BJ, the Maryland League of Conservation Voters, Fire Fighters Local 1664 and Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 35.  Dana Beyer, his principal opponent, has been endorsed by SEIU Local 500.


Gubernatorial Debate Moments

I live tweeted last night’s debate in Takoma Park. This post highlights moments that stood out in my mind. During the fast-paced debate, I did my best to capture what candidates actually said, either as quote or a paraphrase, along with provide analysis along with many typos. Rushern Baker skipped the debate.

Alec Ross Goes Extreme on Immigration

A theme for Alec Ross was his effort to stand out as a different kind of candidate, unafraid to criticize Democrats for being insufficiently progressive. He pejoratively stereotyped ICE workers and called for sending out state troopers to fight them if needed to that end:

Ben Jealous Over Credit Claims?

Ben Jealous and I had an exchange on Twitter during the debate regarding his taking credit for the MD DREAM Act’s passage that paralleled Adam Pagnucco’s past critique:

Jealous’s followers certainly agreed with him on Twitter.

Jealous on Corruption and the NRA

Jealous also stood out for his attack on corruption and call for Baltimore Democrat Sen. Nat Oaks to resign:

He also attacked taking NRA money–very popular based on the retweets:

The problem with Jealous’s severe attacks on any Democrat who takes money from the NRA is that he co-chaired Bernie Sanders presidential campaign. The current anti-gun moment is not ideal for Sanders, who originally won election to Congress with heavy NRA support. While Sanders is no longer the pal of the NRA, he has a past of opposing the Brady Bill and many other pro-gun votes. Awkward.

Said and Unsaid by Krish Vignarajah

Krish Vignarajah is razor sharp and may have been the smartest person on the stage. She had one of the best moments of the debate with her linkage of Hogan’s Amazon package and the lack of funds to heat Baltimore schools.

Sometimes, however, what she left unsaid seemed as loud as the points she was making:
Of course, the doofus who wrote the tweet should have said primary instead of general election. However, District 18 Delegate Candidate Mila Johns was even sharper:

Vignaranjah still has not filed.

Rich Madaleno Relentless on Republicans

Unsurprisingly, all of the candidates weren’t keen on Hogan or Trump. Rich Madaleno’s remarks still stood out.

Along with Kevin Kamenetz, Madaleno made the tough sell in anti-establishment times that we need someone with experience. He contended that he and his running mate, Luwanda Jenkins, had made change and had the experience to do so as governor:

Kevin Kamenetz and Jim Shea

These two guys didn’t have moments. By all rights, Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz should be a top contender. He is county executive of a swing county, clearly more knowledgeable than many of his rivals on a lot of issues due to having grappled with them in office, and does his best to link them to personal stories from his own life or time as county exec.

Yet, Kamenetz is simply not a natural debater and seems a bit awkward on the stage despite clearly having worked on honing his pitch. He was at his best when challenged due to his sureness and utter willingness to fight back. But it just didn’t feel like his moment as he didn’t connect with his audience.

Jim Shea seems earnest, well-meaning, smart and steeped in the community. He has been involved in a litany of efforts to improve Baltimore and Maryland for years. He was seated next to Vignarajah and the contrast could not have been greater. He’s an an unexciting and unmemorable speaker who had all of the specific, deep knowledge of Maryland she lacked. They should consider teaming up.


Banana Cake Alert: Candidate Sends Questionnaire to Other Candidates

By Adam Pagnucco.

It’s questionnaire season, and candidates are getting absolutely deluged by them.  But one questionnaire stands out.  That’s because it was drafted and sent out by… a candidate.

On Saturday, the email below was sent to candidates asking them to fill out a questionnaire from the “Public Interest Podcast” to obtain an endorsement.  The contact was Jordan@PublicInterestPodcast.com.

We reprint the first page of the survey below.  Note the intent of the organization to “Fill the vacuum left by the disappearing Fourth Estate (i.e. traditional journalism), especially with regard to local and state issues, thereby increasing informed voter turnout by familiarizing voters with their elected officials.”  The full survey can be found here.

Public Interest Podcast is hosted by Jordan Cooper, who is a candidate for Delegate in District 16 and also a candidate for the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee (MCDCC).  We reprint the Our Team section of Public Interest Podcast’s website below to identify its host as Cooper.

And so we have something extremely rare in MoCo politics: a candidate who drafts a questionnaire for other candidates with an endorsement on the line.

Aside for running for Delegate, Cooper is known for one more thing: attacking MCDCC.  He has criticized them for “corruption” in part because some members get appointed to the committee and then vote to appoint themselves to the state legislature.  In other words, he alleges a conflict of interest in roles.

That seems to be going around, yeah?