Gas Tax No Silver Bullet

The Washington Post recently printed an editorial stressing the vital necessity of completing a contract to buy more cars for Metro, explaining that their purchase is vital to prevent massive overcrowding in 2020 and beyond. Yet, they also express concern that the cost may be beyond Maryland’s means:

The 220 new rail cars, with the infrastructure to support them, will cost nearly $1.5 billion over six years, on top of existing funding commitments for modernizing the system from Metro’s main local benefactors: the District, Virginia and Maryland. A particular question mark is Maryland, which, despite new gas tax revenue, looks to have over-promised for the above-ground Purple Line in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, the Red Line in Baltimore and an array of highway projects.

But despite these real cost issues, the Post has been pressing heavily for these exact transportation projects despite also editorializing about the high cost (see here, here, and here). And, as they point out, the recent hike in the gas tax in not nearly enough.

Gaining the full benefit from our past investments in public transit requires regular maintenance expenditures. Maintenance is not sexy compared to a new project. Lack of funding has forced Metro to defer substantial maintenance–a chicken coming home to roost in a variety of ways obvious to riders (see Washington Post articles here, here, here, and here).

Beyond maintenance, Metro also needs to invest in adding cars to maximize the investment costs already sunk and keep it an attractive option. Additionally, Metro also constantly faces the costs associated with upgrading technology–the switch from Farecards to SmartTrip will likely soon be followed methods that allow consumers to pay using their phone.

As Democratic Delegate Nominee Marc Korman (D-16) has emphasized in his campaign, Metro needs a dedicated funding source. We need to fund investment in Metro infrastructure maintenance and upgrades on a constant basis–not only when a crisis creates public demand to fix it.

Similarly, Maryland needs to plan how it’s going to fund planned  projects on a long-term basis. Beyond finding the money to build them, Maryland needs ongoing funding sources for the Purple Line and the (Baltimore) Red Line light rail projects.

Gov. Martin O’Malley and the General Assembly took the first bite in taking the politically courageous step of raising the gas tax–an unpopular but necessary and pro-environment step to address our State’s transportation needs. However, as the Post points out, it’s not enough. More serious global transportation budgeting is needed. It would force Maryland’s government to weigh its choices and thus make more intelligent ones.

Addressing transportation needs is critical to Maryland’s economic future. We need to plan for expenditures in a cohesive manner and also for the revenue stream not just to build but to maintain them. How our leaders plan to do this strikes me as a good question to ask candidates in this political season.

Share

Dreamers Confront Rep. Steve King

The Washington Post has caught this video capturing Dreamers confronting Rep. King with the reality of his beliefs. He tells a young woman raised in the country–a graduate of Arizona State University–that she understands English well and then asks if she is a drug smuggler. A young man points out to Rep. King that the first soldier to die in Iraq was undocumented who replies that “he lied to get into the military.” Can you feel the empathy? But more to the point, they have a real exchange about the issue.

Share

MD-01 Tea Leaves

CDMDBeing a member of Congress is as good as it gets in the Maryland Republican Party. I believe Andy Harris will hold this seat for a very long time. However, you never know . . . so maybe this seat will one day be vacant. Here’s who I think might be in the mix:

Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan–While a well-known and popular figure on the Lower Shore, Rick has the disadvantage of never having run for anything except for municipal office. Municipal elections in Maryland tend to be low key, low budget affairs. I’m also not confident in his fundraising potential. However, the Salisbury media market is so cheap that even half a million might be enough to wage a real campaign.

Delegate Mike McDermott–Currently challenging Jim Mathias for the District 38 State Senate seat, I’ve heard him discussed as a potential primary challenger to Andy Harris. I’m sure he’d run in an open seat situation. With more fights under his belt after this cycle than most Maryland pols, he could raise at least 500k (which is a competitive sum in this type of Republican primary).

Before he resigned, I’d have rated self funding multimillionaire State Senator EJ Pipkin as the man to beat. But he’s moved to Texas to get a Master’s in Sports Management. Then there was District 37 Senator Richard Colburn (who had challenged then Congressman Wayne Gilchrist in a past election), but he was defeated in the primary by Delegate Addie Eckhart (who now represents 1/5th of the district) and would be wise to take a shot at this seat if she wants to move up further before moving out.

The most dynamic potential candidate by far is soon to be former Delegate Jeanne Haddaway-Riccio, Harford County Executive David Craig’s running mate in his failed gubernatorial bid. The very smart, photogenic former Minority Whip might very well be the choice of national Republicans and could raise $1 million dollars (a substantial sum in this rural district).

Former Bush Administration official Mary Beth Corrrazzo (who I think will cruise to victory in her Lower Shore subdistrict against former Teacher Judy Davis) would be another incredibly dynamic candidate. I believe she could raise up to $2 million, a crushingly large sum here. She would be an even likelier choice for national Republicans.

Former Harford County Executive David Craig would be a strong candidate. A little dull and more moderate than the Republican Primary electorate, but still a very strong candidate from the suburban Baltimore piece of the district.

On the Democratic side, the bench here is weak and we normally end up with sacrificial lamb candidates given the district’s current configuration. Former Congressman Frank Kratovil might be enticed to run in an open seat but would he really give up a judgeship for what is at best a dicey proposition? The former representative would, however,  turn this into a hotly watched race. Kratovil raised just over $2 million dollars in 2010 and I expect he could hit that mark once again.

Former Republian Congressman Wayne Gilchrist is far too liberal (he endorsed Heather Mizeur, the Delegate from the Democratic People’s Republic of Takoma Park, for Governor in the Democratic Primary for Governor) to win a GOP Primary. He’d be welcomed with open arms by the DCCC and could raise the $1.6 million it takes on average to win a congressional seat.

The dominant rumor in the state for the last few weeks has been that soon to be former Montgomery County Delegate Heather Mizeur intends to challenge Andy Harris from her organic farm in Kent County. This is too ridiculous for my tastes. I think she could raise $1.25 million (what she raised for Governor pre-match). I also think she’d lose by twenty points.

District 38 State Senator Jim Mathias would be a stronger candidate with deeper roots in the district and if the DCCC got involved (which I think they would), could raise well over $1 million dollars. But any Democrat would find it very tough to win this heavily Republican turf.

Share

Uber Activist

uber


I received the following communication from Uber, which is fighting efforts by the Maryland PSC like taxis. They’ve even created a hashtag: #MDNeedsUber.

 

Dear David,

We need your help! The Maryland Public Service Commission is about to make a decision that could threaten the Uber you know and love, and we have one shot to make sure that doesn’t happen.

The PSC wants to classify Uber as a traditional transportation company, imposing antiquated regulations on our modern service. The PSC’s attempt to regulate Uber as a “common carrier” – a fancy way of saying transportation company – is like the FAA trying to regulate Orbitz, an online travel booking platform, as an airline, simply because the company books flights out of BWI.

The proposed order, the first of its kind in any state, will limit transportation choice for consumers and economic opportunity for our partner drivers, resulting in fewer entrepreneurs and jobs. Read more about why the PSC’s proposal doesn’t make sense on our blog.

                                   

 

Since all UberBLACK and UberSUV partner drivers are already screened and licensed by the PSC, what is the PSC trying to achieve? Uber already represents an additional layer of safety and security over hiring a traditional limo. Public safety is our #1 priority.

We consistently hear from drivers that the best part about partnering with Uber is the flexibility we provide: drivers have complete control over their businesses and schedules. The PSC’s proposed order would mean that Uber’s partner drivers can no longer own and operate independent companies; it would eliminate opportunities for residents to start their own businesses, make a living, and contribute to the economy.

Call, email or tweet the Commissioners and tell them to stand up for more choice and greater opportunity, not limited competition or special interests. With your support, we’re confident that the PSC will carefully consider the implications of their decision on residents and visitors of Maryland.

Thanks for your support and Uber on,
Team Uber Maryland

 

Share

MCDCC Metrics

The Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee (MCDCC) has undergone major change since the 2010 Democratic primary in the wake of discontent by government employee unions–SEIU, FOP and the Firefighters–coordinated with the Montgomery County Young Democrats (MCYD), as detailed in a series of earlier posts.

How can we measure the success of MCDCC in the future?

1. Fundraising

New MCDCC Chair Kevin Walling has promised a “comprehensive finance plan.” Of course, the proof is not in the planning but in the dollars raised. I look forward to comparing the financial success of MCDCC next year compared to past years.

2. Precinct Organization

Similarly, promises have been made to revamp the precinct organization and make it more inclusive. Next year, MCDCC should compare both the number of vacancies then and now as well as the diversity of the precinct organization.

3. Field Organization

MCDCC Chair Kevin Walling also campaigned for the position with the ambitious promise of developing a “strong field plan” beyond the precinct organization. He has three months before this year’s general election to organize–not a lot of time but this will be a great test of how nimble the new MCDCC is. MCDCC should measure how many field hours it organizes beyond those contributed by precinct officials this year and 2016.

4. Policymaking

One of the trickiest areas that MCDCC faces is taking positions on issues. Many new members have expressed interest in MCDCC going beyond the already controversial ballot measures endorsement process to take positions on other issues as a means of motivating greater participation and out of a belief that the party organization should lead.

Questions: On what issues will MDCCC take positions? Will it develop a formal process or just do it on the fly? How will it deal with the conflict between elected officials and outside supporters? Last time, the precinct officials solidly supported the position of the officials on the sample ballot. Will the Central Committee overrule the views of the broader organization?

 

Share

Goodbye to Tell Me More

Like many people, I listen to the radio while I’m driving. I often flip over to WAMU 88.5 and check out the program. Tell Me More, a program focused on issues particularly of concern to minorities, especially African Americans, and women.

Though I was not necessarily part of the target demographic for Tell Me More, I found myself catching the program frequently and enjoying it. Its excellent host, Michel Martin, never shied away from questioning guests from all points of view or nuances around many of today’s complex social questions. She combines her probing mind with a deep respect for all opinions.

Although Tell Me More met its targets for getting picked up by stations around the country, it had a relatively small audience. Like Talk of the Nation, it was a victim of NPR’s budget cuts needed to staunch the network’s budget deficit and aired its final show on Friday.

Fortunately, Michel Martin will remain with the network with a focus on bringing similar issues to NPR. Like many, however, I will miss this particular high-quality platform and  join the many others who have already expressed regret at the end–for now–of Tell Me More.

Share

Hoyer Receives Democracy Award

From IFES (the International Foundation for Electoral Systems):

Congressman Steny Hoyer, a member of the IFES Board of Directors, is the U.S. Representative for Maryland’s 5th congressional district. Representative Hoyer, the current Democratic Whip, has been a member of the House Democratic leadership since 2002 and is a widely-respected voice on foreign policy and international affairs. As the former chair and current ranking Democrat on the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (the Helsinki Commission), he has consistently championed human rights, individual freedom and democracy around the world. Congressman Hoyer was a critical figure in the 2002 passage of the Help America Vote Act, guiding this comprehensive election reform legislation through the House of Representatives. Congressman Hoyer also played an important role in the passage of the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a historic piece of civil rights legislation that helped millions of Americans with disabilities enter the work force. He has a long history of working to promote and protect individual liberty and democratic rights.

“IFES continues to play an important role promoting democracy and human rights around the world, and I am humbled to be receiving this year’s Manatt Award. As a former Chair of the Helsinki Commission and a member of the House Democratic Leadership, I have been proud to stand up for America’s role as a beacon of freedom and representative government. As people across the world take risks to shed the light of democracy into the darkest corners of oppressive regimes, they must know that the Congress of the United States stands in solidarity with them as they struggle to win a voice for the voiceless and turn hope into action,” said Representative Hoyer.

“From his support for the Help America Vote Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act to his consistent advocacy for freedom and democracy, Representative Hoyer has made a critical impact on a number of issues that are important to IFES’ work around world,” said IFES Board of Directors Chair Peter G. Kelly. He added, “Steny has been my friend for many years. What you see from him is what you get, and that is a great deal. We are honored to not only have him on our board of directors, but to award him with the 2014 Democracy Award.”

Sen Jerry Moran (R-KS) is the co-recipient of this award from this nonpartisan organization.

Share

Torres Defends O’Malley in WaPo

WaPo Logo

casa logo

CASA Executive Director Gustavo Torres wrote a letter to the editor of the Washington Post defending Gov. O’Malley’s actions on undocumented children:

The July 28 editorial “Mr. O’Malley’s rhetoric — and reality” implied that Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) needs to do more to confront the immigrant crisis at the border, relying, in part, on a quote from me. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The governor has used his national profile at the most critical moment to refocus the conversation appropriately. This is a crisis of children fleeing unthinkable situations, kids that deserve our support. Mr. O’Malley was the first nationally prominent Democrat to challenge the White House’s attempt to roll back due-process protections for children, and, thanks in part to his leadership, many congressional leaders and prominent state representatives now agree.

Maryland has had the largest per-capita placement of unaccompanied minors by the federal government, with 2,205 sponsored children this year, according to the Office of Refugee Resettlement.

Maryland has jurisdictions that are solidly progressive, solidly right-wing and in the middle. Those that are solidly progressive are most amenable to addressing this crisis in a humane fashion. We believe, like the governor, that these are the locations where children should be housed before they are hopefully united with family members or placed in foster care. This is not, as The Post implied, political expediency.

 

Share

MD-05 Tea Leaves

The undisputed, unbeatable favorite for the MD-06 open seat in 2012 was State Senate Majority Leader Rob Garagiola. That sadly didn’t pan out. State Senator Doug Peters of Bowie holds a similar position of command in a MD-05 open seat situation if and when Steny Hoyer–who could also become the Democratic Leader one day–decides to retire. He represents a truly significant portion of the Fifth District. He is a veteran and very popular within the Annapolis establishment.

I believe, with (now) former Delegate Justin Ross’s departure to the Annapolis Lobbying Corps, that Senator Peters becomes the indomitable frontrunner. Moreover, Doug Peters could raise between $800,000 and $1.5 Million.

Delegate John Bohanon, should he choose to run, could be formidable and cut out Senator Peters’ base of Annapolis support from under him. A comer in the house, I hear Bohanon periodically mentioned for either Appropriations Committee Chair or even Speaker. He could consolidate support in Southern Maryland (Charles, St Mary’s and Calvert). Of course, he has to win reelection to the House first from a tough district.

He also tight with incumbent Steny Hoyer, which would be of obvious, substantial help. Bohanon might raise between $500,000 and $700,000 on his own. If Hoyer rallied his far flung empire of national donors around Bohanon: untold millions (this is a guy that raises close to seven million per cycle).

There will undoubtedly be an African-American candidate of great substance and merit in this race. I’m not sure yet who that would be. My money could be on dynamic twentysomething Delegate Alonzo T. Washington (who shares a district with Peters) or District 9 Prince George’s County Councilman Mel Franklin (who is rumored as a potential successor to County Executive Rushern Baker).

Predicting fundraising totals is difficult. Today, Alonzo might raise $250,000. Tomorrow (when this seat is much more likely to open than today): who knows? Mel Franklin could raise $250,000-$350,000 today. If he’s the next County Exec tomorrow, $1,300,000-$2,6000,000?

If either Mel or Alonzo could sell national K Street interests on the idea that their defeat is a demographic impossibility–and this district could easily elect an African-American candidate–they could raise seven figures.

The election would turn on how how various bases are sliced and diced. Furthermore, even though we only remember the elections where giants are slain and Goliaths toppled, it’s much more common for the front runner to crush his opponents effortlessly.

That being said I would rate this race: Lean Bohanon.

Corrections: Washington and Peters do not share the same district. Alonzo Washington is in 22 (Pinsky is the Senator) and Peters is in 23. Apologies, rookie mistakes on my part.

Share

Maryland Politics Watch

Visit Us On FacebookVisit Us On TwitterCheck Our Feed