Chevy Chase Circus Continues

John Bickerman Loses a Vote and Walks Out

The Town of Chevy Chase gave the U.S. a preview in miniature of what a Donald Trump presidency might look like as Coteva CEO and Mayor Al Lang lost control of last week’s council meeting, which “devolved into chaos” as reported in Bethesda Now. The press did a fine job of covering the raucous and divisive meeting but I thought I’d add to the information publicly available.

Bickerman Walks Out in Middle of Meeting

As reported and shown above in the video, Vice Mayor John Bickerman walked out in a snit in the middle of the meeting when he lost a vote 3-2 over whether write-in candidates should have to register at least one week before the election. As one resident put it, “John appeared to pick up his marbles and leave, like a little kid who did not get his way in the playground.”

Bickerman’s behavior captured attention, as he interrupted, talked at length, and took repeated umbrage. At one point, he spoke sharply to Lang, telling him something along the lines of “take your hands off of me” when Lang touched his arm gently, likely to encourage him to calm  down.

Readers may find it hard to believe that Bickerman makes his living as a mediator. He currently teaches “negotiation and mediation” at Cornell University and has taught at Georgetown University Legal Center in the past.

Will Lang Cave to Bickerman, Cecere and Albert?

This issue of registering write-in candidates in advance has become a burning issue because of the success of a stealth write-in candidate. Supporters of now Councilmember Fred Cecere kept his write-in campaign a secret in order to dupe other voters into thinking that the two incumbents were unopposed and they needn’t bother to vote. Councilmembers Lang and Bickerman are aligned with Cecere.

Word on the street is that Bickerman also threatened Lang as he left, saying that Lang (who had voted in favor of the write-in candidate registration requirement) had better fix this (i.e. change his vote) or Bickerman would resign from the Council.

So is self-styled decisive CEO Lang going to cave to Bickerman, Cecere and Albert? Or stand by his far from radical decision that town residents have a right to know who is running for office at least one week before the election?

It’s hard to know as Mr. Transparency had the Council vote on the Town joining the Chamber of Commerce (!) without any advance notice to the Council or to residents. Several residents have already expressed discomfort with the process and the decision on the Town’s unofficial listserv.

Ethics, Schmethics as Bickerman Changes Story

As part of his criticism at the meeting of the Joint Election and Ethics Boards report, Bickerman argued that the “every campaign is secret,” so it is not a good idea to take steps to ensure that all residents have the opportunity to know who is running for office.  Um, no.  Candidates should not be able to keep their identity a secret in order to dupe their neighbors.

Bickerman also continued to deny any fiduciary duty to correct the public information that was provided by the Town as regards to the candidates. However, he said unusually little when Barry Hager, a member of the Ethics Committee, raised the issue of whether he thought he would need to correct similarly inaccurate financial documents issued by the Town.

After the election, Bickerman told neighbors that his participation in the write-in campaign was less than people thought but declined to detail his participation. The twitter account of the meeting reports, that Bickerman now says he “was not that involved.” His ardor in fighting the adoption of a one-week write-in notification (same as the State) and continued secrecy might inspire disbelief in his effort to minimize further his participation. And if he was not involved in a meaningful way, wouldn’t he have just said what he did in the first place?