Phase 1B of the state’s COVID vaccination schedule includes “education staff, including K-12 teachers, support staff and daycare providers.” Some counties are now starting vaccinations of school staff. The state’s Department of Health has just issued a warning to all county health officers and other vaccine providers that they must include private school staff in their vaccination programs or risk having their vaccines reallocated to other vaccine providers who comply. The state’s warning follows Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich’s announcement that his county is working with Johns Hopkins Medicine to vaccinate MCPS employees, a statement that makes no mention of private school staff.
The memorandum from Acting Secretary of Health Dennis R. Schrader to vaccine providers is reprinted below.
To: All Local Health Officers and all COVID-19 Vaccine Providers
From: Dennis R. Schrader, Acting Health Secretary Dr. Jinlene Chan, Acting Deputy Secretary for Public Health Services
Cc: Dr. Karen Salmon, Ph.D., State Superintendent of Schools Nonpublic Schools
Subject: Phase 1B: Educators – Vaccination of Nonpublic School Faculty and Staff
Date: January 30, 2021
It is the health policy of the State of Maryland that nonpublic schools may not be excluded from any COVID-19 vaccine provider who is administering COVID-19 vaccine to educators.
Any COVID-19 vaccine provider who refuses the vaccination of nonpublic school staff while administering vaccines to public school system employees will have future vaccine allocations reduced or reallocated to providers that comply with the MDH Vaccination Matters Order and COVID-19 Vaccine Provider Bulletins.
Please see the attached Week 8 bulletin, which states that “local health departments should set aside at least 100 doses per week from their overall location for Phase 1B educators in their jurisdiction. This allocation should be set aside until jurisdictions have vaccinated all of their educators.”
Additionally, please see Section 8, Education: page 9 of the bulletin, “Educational facilities include: licensed childcare facilities; K-12: both public school systems and nonpublic schools; and higher educational institutions.”
Stefano Ratti, President of Chaberton Energy, has told the county council that his firm has given up its plans to proceed with solar energy projects in Montgomery County. Chaberton Energy is based in Kensington and operates throughout the mid-Atlantic region.
Ratti blasted two amendments made by the council on Tuesday to a pending zoning text amendment on solar projects in the agricultural reserve. Together, they would effectively ban solar panels in 99% of the reserve’s acreage and add potentially time-consuming review requirements on the remaining acres. Council Members Gabe Albornoz, Andrew Friedson, Sidney Katz, Nancy Navarro and Craig Rice voted for both amendments while Will Jawando voted only for the amendment on review requirements. Council Members Hans Riemer, Evan Glass and Tom Hucker voted against both.
Banning solar panels on Class I and Class II soils would effectively allow them on only 1,324 acres of the agricultural reserve’s 101,541 acres.
Ratti’s email to the council, sent yesterday, is reprinted below.
From: Stefano Ratti Date: Wednesday, January 27, 2021 at 11:25 AM Subject: Solar Energy in the County
Councilmembers Friedson, Albornoz, Navarro, Rice, and Katz,
I am grateful for the work you do on the County Council, but, with yesterday’s vote on excluding Class II soils (and, to a lesser extent, changing the use to conditional), you have now killed the possibility of doing solar energy in any meaningful way in Montgomery County. In the middle of a pandemic you killed an opportunity to create local jobs, do a lot of good for the environment, bring revenue to the County (which could have been used for the benefit of the Ag Reserve), help local landowners, and save money on electricity bills for county residents (particularly low-income residents, under the state community solar program). You also voted against 70% of the residents of Montgomery County, who demand action on environmental issues. With one single vote.
Here is what the next few days look like for me and my Montgomery County solar team:
We are going to rescind the five land options we have with our Montgomery County landowners (they are, like everything else in the County, on Class II soil – we have canvassed the county for one year and we have been unable to find one single viable non-class II property)
We are going to meet with our landowners and explain that, unfortunately, no, the county doesn’t want you to have a solar farm
We are going to tell our investors that we didn’t clear the Montgomery County ZTA milestone; they will not release the development funds that were earmarked for Montgomery County projects
We also have to tell our investors that we lost 30% of our proposed projects and we will have to figure out how to keep our business viable, which our staff and their families rely on; yes, we are a Montgomery County business, but, no, we are de facto blocked from operating in our own county
We will call our headhunters and tell them to stop looking for staff
We are also going to terminate contracts with our local contractors; we are going to call them and say, that, unfortunately, no solar project is going to happen in our county (whether it’s us or other solar companies)
All that this vote achieves is to “preserve” a handful of acres of land that is currently producing feed for animal consumption, or sitting fallow. Along with a couple of farming jobs, which could have been easily re-purposed to establish and maintain agricultural activities on the solar installations, while we are missing out on the economic benefits for the farming community*. Running us out of the county appeases a vocal minority of NIMBY activists, who don’t mind keeping fossil fuel plants open, as long as they are not in their backyard, but rather in disadvantaged communities who don’t get to have their voices heard.
I am not proud to be a Montgomery County resident today.
Councilmembers Riemer and Hucker, a heartfelt thank you for all the effort you have put in sponsoring this bill; you are probably just as disappointed as we are, but know that your genuine efforts to do good for the environment and help the local economy are not going unappreciated; and doing the right thing always has a value on its own. Councilmember Glass and Jawando: thank you for your vote on Class II soil and recognizing that excluding Class II soil makes it impossible to do anything. And we urge you to vote against passing the ZTA version with the class II soil exclusion.
* See for example report published just today from Rocky Mountain Institute: https://rmi.org/insight/seeds-of-opportunity/ “Seed of Opportunity – How Rural America Is Reaping Economic Development Benefits from the Growth of Renewables”
William A. Galston, a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, has written an eye-opening piece on vaccine distribution comparing West Virginia to Maryland. In it, Galston notes that West Virginia ranks high on poverty rate, low on education rate and low on median income among U.S. states while Maryland is on the other end on all those measures. Yet, West Virginia “ranks 2nd in the share of its population that has been inoculated and has turned 83% of the doses received from the federal government into actual inoculations” while Maryland “ranks 35th for its inoculation rate and has delivered only 46% of doses received into its people’s arms, well below the national average of 53%.”
What accounts for the disparity?
Galston identifies two factors. First, he credits West Virginia for relying on a network of independent pharmacies to vaccinate nursing home residents rather than using CVS and Walmart, which the rest of the nation has done. Galston believes local pharmacies have more penetration into rural areas and closer relationships with nursing homes than national chains, resulting in better vaccination performance. The second factor has to do with the governance structures used by West Virginia and Maryland. Galston writes:
The second apparent explanation for West Virginia’s superior performance: decisions have been made by the governor at the state level, eliminating confusion and competition among localities. Starting January 25, a state-wide online site will allow all residents to register for vaccinations and will direct them to facilities with doses available. A week later, on February 1st, the state will expand its network of community clinics to cover all 55 of its counties.
In Maryland, by contrast, most of these issues have been left to its counties, each of which has established its own priority lists and facilities for administering the vaccine. Maryland’s system of strong county governance works well in normal times but is impeding vaccine delivery during this pandemic. As Maryland residents know, this diversity has created confusion and has given residents with access to multiple information sources advantages over those with weaker networks and less Internet access. A bewildering maze of online sites—some from counties, others from hospitals–has sprung up. Prince George’s County has closed its vaccination facilities to Marylanders who live outside its borders.
Galston has a point. One cannot overstate the level of confusion in Maryland about how to get vaccinated. Take a look at the state’s vaccine website, which says that we are in Phase 1C, which includes adults age 65-74 and essential workers in lab services, agriculture, manufacturing and the postal service. Now take a look at Montgomery County’s vaccine website, which says we are in Priority Group 1B, which includes adults age 75 and older. Prince George’s County’s site aligns with the state while Anne Arundel County’s site says, “Currently, the Anne Arundel County Department of Health is NOT in Phase 1C. The Department is providing vaccine appointments ONLY to the Phase 1A group and Phase 1B’s county residents who are age 75+.” Frederick County’s site says it is vaccinating “1A and people 75 years and older who live or work in Frederick County.” Baltimore County’s site says it is in Phase 1C. Howard County’s site says that Phase 1C has not begun and vaccinations for adults age 65-74 will begin in February. And so on. Baltimore City’s site seems to resemble the state’s but says that phases are “as of Jan. 25th, 2021. Phases subject to change due to CDC, MDH or FDA updated guidance.” So what’s true now might not be true tomorrow. Add to this the assorted residency and work requirements being imposed by counties and the disarray gets worse.
Then there are the hospitals, who as of last week had received twice as many vaccines as county health departments. Hospitals are responsible for vaccinating their staff and associates but what happens if they have left-over vaccines? I was recently forwarded an email that originated with a doctor at one of MoCo’s hospitals stating that they had a surplus of vaccines and had 16 appointment slots. The email spread like wildfire and the slots promptly filled up. Who knows who signed up? Enthusiasm quickly dried up when the hospital sent notice to those who registered that they had to provide proof of health care employment and had to sign legal attestation of eligibility.
Confusion and multiple opportunities for registration and preregistration have tempted some to sign up at every outlet they can find, reasoning that if just one of them pays off it will be worth it. In a briefing with the media yesterday, Montgomery County officials tried to persuade the public to avoid this practice because it would overbook appointments and clog the system. But with different entities administering vaccines and apparently different criteria and rules in place among them, why wouldn’t folks sign up everywhere they could hoping to get lucky?
The biggest single problem afflicting all states and counties is the nationwide shortage of vaccines, which the Biden administration is trying to fix through buying 200 million more of them. It’s also understandable that Maryland is relying on its existing system of counties and health care providers rather than trying to reinvent it in the middle of a huge vaccination push, which would undoubtedly create a whole other category of problems. But the conflicting information coming out of the state, its 24 local jurisdictions and other vaccine-administering entities is problematic. If it continues, it will hinder the efficiency of vaccine distribution and prolong the pandemic.
Former Obama administration official Ashwani Jain is running for governor. A resident of Potomac, Jain ran for Montgomery County Council At-Large in 2018 and finished eighth in a race for four seats. Jain just made an announcement and his press release is reprinted below.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 28, 2021 Shairee Arora | PressForJain@gmail.com
Former Obama-Biden Appointee Ashwani Jain Announces Historic Candidacy for Maryland Governor
If elected, Jain would become the nation’s first millennial Governor and Maryland’s first Governor of color
Montgomery County, MD — Last night, Friends of Ashwani Jain announced that Maryland native Ashwani Jain is running for Governor of Maryland in a historic campaign. If elected, Jain would become the nation’s first millennial Governor and Maryland’s first Governor of color. To learn more, visit JainForGovernor.com. To watch the campaign’s kickoff video, click here.
“Maryland needs strong leadership — leadership that reflects the makeup and diversity of the state. That’s why I’ve decided to run for Governor,” said Ashwani Jain. “If elected next year, I would serve as the nation’s first millennial Governor and Maryland’s first Governor of color. While a voice like mine has never been in the Governor’s Office, in a state that is younger and more diverse than it’s ever been, voices like mine are growing and need to be represented. I’m honored to be running to be the next Governor of Maryland.
“Although I may be young, I have experience beyond my years and understand how the systems of government work. For two decades, I’ve fought to expand opportunities for Marylanders through advocating for public policy at all levels of government, including with then-President Barack Obama and then-Vice President Joe Biden. And on a personal level, as an 18-year survivor of childhood cancer, a son of immigrants and small business owners, a Maryland native and product of public schools and a diverse millennial, I understand the real impact of policies, including the inequities, because those policies and inequities have impacted me.
“I firmly believe I have the experience, perspective and empathy needed to serve as Maryland’s next Governor. It’s time for a new start and to change the narrative of who deserves a seat at the table.”
Jain (he/him pronouns) is a 31-year-old with a compelling personal and professional story. He beat cancer, attended a Title 1 Elementary School and later went on to earn two bachelor’s degrees and one master’s degree. He has worked in the public, private and non-profit sectors, and served in the Obama/Biden White House and two federal agencies — the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Health and Human Services. Jain also served as the Director of Outreach for now-President Biden’s Cancer Moonshot.
With what will be a completely vacant Governor’s seat for the first time in a decade, Jain has two main objectives. The first is to make Maryland’s state government more representative, transparent and accountable by focusing on Inclusion, Banning Corruption and ensuring Equal Access. The second is to take a comprehensive approach to solving Maryland’s issues by focusing on a “Relief, Recovery and Reform” agenda. To learn more, visit JainForGovernor.com.
In January 2014, District 1 County Council Member Roger Berliner posted a cash balance of $52,369 in his campaign finance report. Over the prior year, he had raised just $200. Berliner was a battle-tested politician as he had defeated an incumbent to get elected in 2006 and then beat a capable challenger in 2010. But he had clearly taken 2013 off, at least from a political perspective.
That caught the attention of former At-Large Council Member Duchy Trachtenberg, who had been ousted in 2010 and was looking for a way to get back into politics. Trachtenberg filed to run against Berliner hours before the filing deadline and was sitting on a cash balance of $122,575 from the last election. She looked like a threat as she was a former incumbent, had money and brought union support and some business support into the race.
Berliner went into overdrive, raising money hand over fist and locking down his district. He wound up thrashing Trachtenberg by 57 points. But if he had shown a large cash balance, Trachtenberg might not have run against him in the first place.
Berliner’s successor, Council Member Andrew “Real Deal” Friedson, is no doubt aware of this history.
The table below shows campaign finance data for the incumbent county executive and county council members. My presentation differs from other sources in two ways. First, I show money raised and spent for the entire cycle, not just the last year. Second, I calculate burn rate, which is the percentage of money raised that has already been spent. Burn rate is important because candidates need to keep it low in the beginning to save up for large expenditures like mail at the end.
Friedson’s numbers are the obvious headline. He raised $264,870 for the cycle and has a cash balance of $284,476. His burn rate was a rock bottom 5%, meaning he spent very little compared to what he raised. We’ll get into just how astounding Friedson’s cash balance is below.
District 5 County Council Member Tom Hucker also did well, raising $100,083 and finishing with a cash balance of $175,196. Hucker was aided by the facts that he had marginal opposition in the last election and he has been raising money for a potential run for comptroller. If he runs for his current seat, his cash balance is excellent. But in a race for comptroller, he trails actual and potential candidates Delegate Brooke Lierman ($588,292 on hand), Senator Brian Feldman ($346,320), Bowie Mayor Tim Adams ($253,130) and Senator Jim Rosapepe ($207,181).
Most of the other incumbents were in public financing last time and either have no money or have closed and not reopened public financing accounts. They don’t need to have an active public account right now as they are not eligible for county matching funds until a year before the next primary (which will be held on June 28, 2022). But they should open public accounts soon.
At-Large Council Member Hans Riemer, District 2 Council Member Craig Rice and District 4 Council Member Nancy Navarro are term limited. They can’t run for council in the next election but they could run for other offices.
Let’s return to Friedson’s huge cash balance, which was posted a year and a half before the next primary. The table below shows cash balances reported by council incumbents in traditional financing a year and a half before the next primary over the last four cycles (2010, 2014, 2018 and 2022). There are a lot of good fundraisers in here, especially the at-large incumbents who often raised more than $250,000 for their reelections. Friedson’s number smokes them all and so does Hucker’s.
If Hucker runs for reelection to his current seat, it’s hard to see him having a problem. He has represented the core of his district since he was first elected as a District 20 Delegate in 2006 and his political roots there go back much farther than that. The recipe for running in that area is to go as far left as possible and it’s difficult to get to the left of Hucker.
Friedson is a different story. Some on the left dislike his alliance with the business community (which is reflected in his fundraising) and his fiscal conservatism (at least in highly relative MoCo terms). They note that he won his first primary with 28% of the vote in an 8-candidate race. Rumors of a primary challenge have circulated for months. Friedson’s opponents should be mindful of the district’s 30-year history of electing Republicans and Democrats with moderate tendencies as well as Friedson’s status as a hometown boy.
In any event, Friedson is sending a message to critics and potential opponents with his huge war chest. It goes something like this.
You can’t outraise me. You can’t outwork me. I am going to dominate every meaningful measure of political power in District 1. Save your time and your money and focus on other races because I am going to win.
That’s the message from the Real Deal. Will it be heard?
We are living in historic times. After the sack of the U.S. Capitol, America approaches a day of reckoning with the only president to incite an insurrection against our democracy. At the center of this moment is Congressman Jamie Raskin, who has been named the lead impeachment manager in the trial of Donald Trump. It’s a huge moment. It’s Jamie’s moment, yes, but it’s also ours. All of the nation will be watching.
I have met a lot of politicians, many of them good ones, but there was always something special about Jamie. He first ran for office in 2006 against incumbent District 20 Senator Ida Ruben, who had been in office for more than 30 years and had gradually lost touch with many of her constituents. Jamie didn’t so much run a campaign as he established a grass-roots movement for progressive values and attentive representation. Ruben didn’t stand a chance.
MoCo is full of smart people. Most of them want you to know they’re smart sooooo badly. Jamie is as smart as anyone but he has no need to show off. He is charming, witty, quirky and sometimes even a little goofy. He is so full of eagerness when discussing something he cares about, like constitutional law. Who can make constitutional law interesting and cool? Jamie can because he gets so excited about it and he knows so much about it. He never talks down to you. He draws you in. He had that effect on people even outside his district, which is a big reason why he ascended to Congress.
Lots of people have a Jamie story. Here’s mine. About ten years ago, I had a potential legal problem that was keeping me up at night. It had a First Amendment dimension to it, and knowing Jamie is a national expert on that subject, I called him on the spur of the moment. I’m a District 18 resident so Jamie was not my State Senator. I didn’t know him well back then. Nevertheless, he invited me to his home at 10 at night, listened to me, educated me and supported me. Maybe it was no big deal for him but it was a huge deal for me. My problem turned out to be a non-issue but I never forgot how he helped me. I’m not the only one. I have heard countless stories of Jamie’s generosity and kindness over the years.
And now we come to the hard part. Perhaps the cruelest fate a human being can suffer is to lose a child. For parents, children are not just our favorite people – they are our contribution to the world. When they do well, we feel a sense of accomplishment because we feel that we are leaving something positive behind when we go. I have a son. If he were to pass away in my lifetime, I’m not sure I could find purpose and meaning in continuing to live. When that horrible tragedy happened to Jamie, what did he do? He went back to work. And for him, that meant leading a crusade to rid us of the most destructive political scourge in the last 160 years of U.S. history, the Emperor of Lies, Donald Trump. How much strength and sense of duty does that take? I am far from the only one who marveled at Jamie’s ability to rise from the depths of devastation to the heights of greatness.
Members of Congress from both parties applaud Jamie after he thanks them for their support during his family tragedy.
In a war against evil – and make no mistake, evil is what rampaged through the U.S. Capitol weeks ago – people of good will need heroes. For folks around the country, Jamie has joined a pantheon of great leaders seeking to restore America’s highest aspirations. But here in MoCo, Jamie is more than that. He is one of us, a favored son in our civic and political family. He’s ours. He is MoCo’s hero. And whatever happens in years to come, we are never going to forget this moment.
As you know, the events of January 6th made me consider a challenge to Congressman Andy Harris for his role in the treasonous insurrection against our government. Rather than try to unify our nation after such an attack, he stoked the division by attempting to pick a fist fight with a colleague on the House floor later that night. Days later, he was cavalier about skipping the second Trump impeachment vote entirely. Then Harris announced he was breaking his promise on self-imposed term limits. Adding to his January resume of conduct unbecoming, he attempted yesterday to bring a gun on to the floor of the House of Representatives, where wounds are still raw from the violent siege we all witnessed in those hallowed halls. My community deserves better representation.
This behavior has stirred something deep within me. Yesterday’s episode was a tipping point, pushing me to think even harder about a run. I’ll have more to say in the coming days.
If this possibility excites you, please comment and make encouragements with that energy of love and joy in your heart. Make your action be about the positive we can do together. We can unseat Harris and bring dignified leadership to Maryland’s 1st District without serving our darker impulses to call names at his behavior. As Amanda Gorman so beautifully summoned us this week: See the light. Be the light. Brave must we be.
As we roll out the big effort to vaccinate everyone, there has been some confusion. Here’s some information that will hopefully help you sort out what’s going on and why.
State Announcement Jumped the Gun
Governor Larry Hogan announced that people 75 and older in Priority Group 1B would be eligible to receive the vaccine beginning this past Monday. Hogan notified the counties around two hours before the announcement.
The problem, however, is that many counties have not finished vaccinating the people in Priority Group 1A, which includes healthcare providers who could easily become vectors of spreading the virus. As Adam detailed yesterday, Montgomery has received comparatively little vaccine but been vaccinating at a high rate.
Each group is also divided into three tiers. In 1B, Tier 1 includes people 75 and over. Some thought that everyone in Tier 1B would become eligible at once but the county is starting with Tier 1. If you are a Montgomery resident in this tier, you can now preregister for an appointment.
The Governor’s announcement has preceded availability here in Montgomery. This naturally created confusion and unhappiness among some that residents over 75 who thought that they could get the vaccine or even cannot be legally barred from receiving it.
Appointment Software SNAFU
The State has mandated that all county governments use the same appointment software, which was originally designed for the flu vaccine. Flu vaccine is usually plentiful, but we unfortunately have to ration COVID-19 vaccine and have eligibility requirements.
Designed for a situation with plenty of vaccine and the desire to vaccinate as fast as possible, the state-mandated software spits out offers for appointments as soon as they are available and doesn’t take into account eligibility.
This has resulted in people in 1B who thought they were eligible making appointments and then getting turned away because they weren’t. Even though Montgomery is still trying to finish vaccinating 1A, the county began on Thursday to allow anyone who is 75 and over (i.e. Tier 1 of 1B) and showed up for an appointment to get the vaccine.
Councilmember Email Blasts Exacerbated Confusion
Email blasts from some county councilmembers compounded the problem created by the Governor’s announcement by indicating that the county was moving to 1B now and urging people to sign up in all tiers.
Hospitals v. County Vaccination Centers
For whatever reason, 40-50% of people working in hospitals have decided not to get the vaccine. As a result, hospitals have extra. Rather than let it go to waste, they have sensibly been vaccinating people 75 and over, so hospitals have operated differently from county centers.
Ready for More Vaccine
I have heard that vaccination centers have far more people ready to do the vaccinations than people to receive it. While this may seem bizarre, it’s good news because it means that Montgomery may be better prepared for mass vaccinations as more vaccine becomes available.