Category Archives: Montgomery County

Duchy Flip Flops on Labor

BethesdaNow’s Aaron Kraut wrote a fascinating story about Duchy Trachtenberg’s kickoff event.

Duchy apologized for her previously poor relations with labor:

“Guess what guys, your employees deserve competitive pay and benefits for the excellent job that they do each and every day,” Trachtenberg said in a message addressed at the police, firefighter and county employee union representatives in the audience. “I pledged my support for this and I sincerely regret the breakdown of our working relationship a few years back. It should never have happened, given my union roots, and I really feel badly that it did.”

Nothing like receiving an apology four years later when someone wants your support because they’re running again. Apparently, Duchy not only wants mend fences but also to be the tribune for labor on the Council:

“That should have never happened and it didn’t happen when I was on the Council,” Trachtenberg said. “It’s going to be the first thing that I do and it’s the right thing to do because effects bargaining, binding arbitration and adequate pay and workers’ benefits are all essential workers’ rights.”

Two years ago, County residents voted by 58% to uphold the County Council’s decision on effects bargaining. Labor has many good arguments to make centered around pay and benefits but reviving this one is just tactically misguided. Fighting over the police chief’s control over the police places the unions on much weaker grounds than in almost any other debate.

Duchy is also trying to perform Ten Mile Creek jujitsu–claiming credit for having laid the groundwork to protect the area while simultaneously attacking her opponent for efforts to protect it:

Trachtenberg mentioned Berliner only once, and not by name, while discussing her environmental protection credentials. She recently got support from a group of developers unhappy with Berliner’s support of a move to limit development near Ten Mile Creek in Clarksburg.

Trachtenberg claimed she had plenty of support among environmental activists, and said a water quality work group she started with former Councilmember Mike Knapp laid the groundwork for the Ten Mile Creek debate today.

And Duchy is very effective:

“Despite being accused of being bossy, and that happens often, or that I’m too quick to cut to the chase, I do get things done,” Trachtenberg said. “I’m very effective and I know I am. I’m not bragging. I know it.”

I don’t know many effective people who feel it necessary to go around and pronounce themselves effective quite so emphatically. They just get things done.

I guess her arguments were effective in at least one sense. I plan to vote to reelect Roger Berliner.

 

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Upended D16 Race Now a Tough Fight

District 16

How things have changed since David profiled this race.

Until filing day, it appeared that Marc Korman and Hrant Jamgochian would coast to victory in District 16. However, Bill Frick’s surprising decision to forgo the AG Race in favor of reelection has transformed it into what promises to be a hard fought, tough primary battle.

Marc Korman is an Attorney at the storied firm of Sidley Austin and a former Capitol Hill Staffer. He also serves on the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee and is well respected and well liked throughout the County. Previously, Korman turned down several opportunities to take strong shots at this seat–twice for appointments and once in the 2010 primary.

He has hired Sean Sinclair of Sinclair Strategies–a well respected if small Boston based shop–as his general consultant. Korman’s fundraising has been exceptionally strong with $120,000 on hand in January. His campaign manager was the operations director on U.S. Rep. Rush Holt’s 2013 Senate bid in New Jersey.

Hrant Jamgochian is also an Attorney and internationally known health policy expert. He ran a strong campaign for this same seat in 2010. This year, he has retained the services of Bob Creamer to lead his consulting team. Creamer has been a national powerhouse for decades. He is also a convicted felon (check cashing fraud) which could be a line of attack in this well heeled district should the campaign turn negative. Jamgochian’s Campaign Manager was the Field Director on Nevada State Assembly Speaker John Oceagura’s congressional campaign. His campaign funds are roughly comparable to those of Korman.

Both can be expected to run strong, professional, and very well funded campaigns. Both are exceptionally well qualified to serve in the House of Delegates. Sadly, only one will be able to have the privilege of representing their neighbors in Annapolis, as the other two seats are held by two strong incumbents–Frick and Del. Ariana Kelly.

Several other candidates are also running in D16.

Gareth Murray is a minister, lobbyist and former state legislator. Although well pedigreed, he has failed to put together the requisite infrastructure to be successful in the modern era of campaigns. (Disclosure: Gareth Murray is a former client in my professional life.)

Jordan Cooper‘s campaign shows exceptional hustle. However, he has only raised $22K and his well-meaning effort nonetheless sometimes strikes people as too hard charging. Still, Cooper is working very hard and is really committed to this campaign.

Rating: Frick and Kelly have a straightforward path to reelection. Toss Up between Korman and Jamgochian for the open seat.

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The Sad State of the MoCo GOP

For a Democrat, I seem to spend a lot of time lately lamenting the one-party nature of Montgomery County politics (see here and here):

It is difficult to hold officials accountable when there is essentially no viable “out” party. It increases factionalism on the Council and makes it easier for councilmembers to shift positions without consequence.

Much of the root of the problem lies with the Republican Party. The sharp rightward shift of the national GOP has tarnished its brand severely in a County that was long quite willing to elect candidates who were center right on economics but liberal on social questions.

The Maryland Republican Party has undergone its own unhelpful internal gyrations. More moderate Republicans have been purged in primaries in parts of the State in a reflection of the national trend. Former U.S. Sen. Mac Mathias would not have a prayer of winning a Republican primary in Maryland today. Former Gov. Bob Ehrlich is probably now a member of the left wing of the Maryland GOP.

The deterioration in the value of the Montgomery GOP is reflected in the candidates it attracts and the campaigns they run. They just can’t get good people to run and are not living up to the legacy of respected and well-liked Montgomery Republicans like Connie Morella, Betty Ann Krahnke, Howard Denis, and Jean Roesser.

Montgomery Republicans want to “end one party rule” but they need to offer a platform and candidates that appeal. Their interest and ability to do so seems decidedly limited. A pity not just for the Montgomery Republicans but for Montgomery voters.

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The Election and the Future–MCDCC Part IV

Check out Part I, Part II, and Part III of this four part series on the contretemps at MCDCC.

The Election

In the June Democratic Primary, voters will choose the new members of the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee (MCDCC). There are no challengers to the self-named unity slate formed after the serious challenge from labor and the Young Democrats in Districts 17 and 18. But other candidates are running in the remaining districts and for the at-large seats.

Perhaps most interestingly, Brian Anleu is trying to unseat incumbent Arthur Edmonds in District 14. Edmonds has fallen out with the D14 state legislators who consequently support Anleu. Should be one of the more interesting of these invariably little heralded contests for seats on MCDCC.

Two non-slate candidates, Anis Ahmed and Kris Verma, are seeking seats in District 15. Ahmed received no votes when he sought the appointment to the delegate vacancy created by Brian Feldman’s move to the Senate. The City Paper recently ran a long piece with the subtitle “Why did D.C. let a disbarred lawyer serve as a workers’ comp judge?” about Verma.

In District 19, Harold Diamond won as an insurgent candidate in 2010 and is seeking reelection despite his failure to win a slot on the slate. As I explained in Part III, Diamond’s performance on the ballot questions advisory committee left many unhappy:

He had the nice sounding but dreadful in practice idea of populating the committee with essentially anyone who volunteered. Not the best means to recruit a group of volunteers who are particularly sensible, representative, or sensitive to the variety of interests and trends within the party. The meeting of the precinct officials also left several key issues until very late in the evening and Diamond repeatedly tried to steer matters in the direction he favored.

In District 20, Ed Kimmel, an attorney specializing in bankruptcy law and frequent political photographer, did not interview for the slate but has filed for MCDCC. Similarly, Loretta Jean Garcia, a Bethesda attorney, has filed for a District 16 seat.

Three non-slate candidates are seeking at-large seats. Steve Boliek has more money than most MCDCC candidates to support his bid. Natalia Farrar went through the Emerge program that promotes leadership by women. Pavel Sukhobok is the final candidate not on the ticket who has filed for an MCDCC at-large seat.

The Future

So labor spearheaded by MCGEO and the Young Democrats have engineered at least a partial takeover of MCDCC. Now that they have the keys to the car, where will they drive it?

The key problem is that there is a desire to regenerate MCDCC but no clear plan to do so or what it means. There will undoubtedly be degrees of suspicion between old and new members. Almina Khoraiwala is tipped to be the new MCDCC chair and will have her work cut out to establish her authority and a new direction for MCDCC. Fortunately, she’s talented and is as likely as anyone to have the intelligence and focus to achieve these goals.

The new MCDCC’s first steps should be to put one together. It needs to focus less on policy but the less sexy hard work of politics–the precinct organization and GOTV–that is the staple of party organizations. Of course, policy motives are often powerful ways to achieve these goals.

The danger is that many of the new members have expressed interest in policy rather than party building. Will they be ready to roll up their sleeves and not just develop renovation plans but carry them out so that MCDCC becomes a more vital organization? Will they also prove to be the reformers as advertised? Or will they simply serve as the arm of the labor unions?

Change to the membership of MCDCC is coming. Whether it will lead to real change at MCDCC remains to be seen. In other words, I look forward to seeing if they can walk the walk.

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Kessler Main Threat to D18 Delegates

kessler

This morning, I profiled the incumbents in the District 18 delegate race. Now, I assess the strength of the four challengers.

CHALLENGERS

Rick Kessler has $69K in his campaign account after having raised $84K last year. $5K came from people with the Kessler surname. Rick’s donor list reads more national and Capitol Hill than the incumbents, though he has many local donors.

His donors tended to have the opposite profile of Al’s, as many gave larger amounts of $250 or more. Another $6K arrived from PACs, including $4K from Dow Lohnes, a law firm. $1K from Rep. John Dingell’s (D MI) PAC, and $1K from Rep. Frank Pallone’s  (D NJ) PAC. Dingell is a past boss.

Rick strikes me as the greatest threat to the sitting delegates. He has been active in the district for a long time and is well-liked with Central Committee Member Vic Weissberg chairing his campaign. Beyond raising the second-highest sum of all candidates, Rick knows how to run a campaign and will do well at the doors. The sitting delegates will no doubt be unhappy at the thought that he can raise even more money during the legislative session but they can’t.

Elizabeth Matory has $16K left in her campaign account, though she has raised $26K. Relatives account for a little less than one-fifth of all of her donations. Liz has received some support from two in-district local elected officials, Kensington Mayor Fosselman and Kensington Councilmember Paul Sexton.

She has a degree from Columbia, a law degree from Howard, and is completing her MBA at Maryland, and works in nonprofit fundraising. Nevertheless, I suspect that the main problem for this otherwise appealing candidate is a lack of funds. Liz has yet to raise enough to mount a competitive campaign against three incumbents.

Emily Shetty has just $10K in her campaign account. Roughly one-quarter came from people who share her surname. Emily works at the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society with Lisa Fadden, extremely talented, well-liked, and well-connected in Montgomery politics. She also served recently as the Program Director for the MoCo Young Democrats and previously worked as the legislative director for now retired New York Rep. Ed Towns.

Unfortunately for Emily, she is not well-known in the district and does not have the funds to compete. On Facebook, she has been friendly with Rich Madaleno’s opponent but seems reluctant to turn it into a slate, likely because it would close off a lot of avenues not just in this campaign but the future.

Natali Fani-Gonzalez has raised essentially no money–she filed an affidavit attesting to having raised and spent under $1K. A Latina, she filed in the mistaken belief that Ana was not going to run and would support her bid. Natali attends a lot of events but there is no sign of a campaign that would raise her profile among voters.

UPDATE: I have learned once again not to estimate age based on photos (face palm). Natali Fani-Gonzalez may be unhappy not to be described as young (as in the original version of this post) in our youth-oriented culture but she is older than I realized.

Also more successful. Natali is a businesswoman who heads a public relations firm that works for a variety of progressive organizations from unions to promoting healthcare. Perhaps most prominently, she previously worked as a lobbyist for CASA de Maryland on the highly successful push for the MD Dream Act.

She still needs a lot more money that she reported in January if she wishes to run a viable campaign for this seat but also has the resume of a potentially strong candidate.

BOTTOM LINE

Only Rick Kessler seems positioned to have a real shot at toppling an incumbent. The other challengers may influence the outcome by taking votes from this or that candidate but it’s hard to see their path to victory.

Even Rick has a tough road because he has not only to attract votes but also see one incumbent’s votes reduced sufficiently to become endangered. But Rick has key ingredients–an attractive candidate, sufficient funds, and knowledge about how to campaign–to capitalize on opportunities. Rick’s chances will rise if the three incumbents ultimately fail to form a united slate as it would render the situation more fluid.

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Gutiérrez Entices Competition in District 18

D18Montgomery County District 18

This is the first of a two part post on the delegate race in District 18. This morning, I profile the incumbents in the race. In the afternoon, I’ll take a look at the challengers and make an overall assessment.

District 18, centered on Chevy Chase, Kensington, Wheaton and part of Silver Spring, is economically and racially diverse. Redistricting moved it a bit west, dropping a couple of Silver Spring precincts and picking up Garrett Park and areas around White Flint. D18 includes many of Montgomery’s mini municipalities.

The Senate race is not a top primary to watch, so I’ll focus on the more interesting delegate race. All three incumbents, Al Carr, Ana Sol Gutiérrez, and Jeff Waldstriecher are seeking reelection. Ana’s repeated public musings about retirement enticed other good candidates into the race and made it more competitive.

The fundamental question about this race is whether any challenger can pick off one of the incumbents if they run as a united slate. The challengers will likely pick off some votes from each of them. But will enough come from any single incumbent or go to any single challenger to cause an incumbent to fail to win reelection?

I review the incumbents first before turning to the challengers. They are discussed in descending order of funds raised.

INCUMBENTS

Jeff Waldstreicher has $114K in his campaign account. In the last fundraising report, Jeff reported $14K in PAC donations, including big donations from MCGEO ($2K), the Firefighters ($2.5K) and the Trial Lawyers ($5K).

Jeff also received $33K in contributions in the past year. The largest is from Big Boyz Bail Bonds in Baltimore for $1K. However, most are from individuals, many of whom are local residents and activists whose names I recognize. He also received a donation from Joe Vallario, his committee chair.

Jeff is seeking his third term in the legislature and sits on the Judiciary Committee. His strength is that he is a disciplined and focused campaigner. Jeff is just relentless about knocking on doors and has substantial funds to aid his efforts at voter contact.

Al Carr has $42K in his campaign account. Al raised $20K over the past year. (Note: I am listed as one of the donors.) His donors generally gave smaller amounts than Jeff’s. Many are local names that I recognize with a particular accent on environmental activists.

Kensington Mayor Pete Fosselman was Al’s most generous donor, giving over $1K. Before serving in the House, Al was a Kensington Town Councilman. Al also loaned his campaign $29K. Only $200 came from a single PAC donation.

Al’s great strength is that he has a core base of strong supporters among environmentalists and municipalities in the district. He is very attentive to neighborhood concerns, which gives him a very nice base of volunteers and local advocates.

Ana Sol Gutiérrez has $28K in her campaign account. She raised close to $5K in individual contributions. She has more donors with Latino surnames and fewer from Kensington or Chevy Chase than Jeff or Al. I also noticed $50 from at-large County Councilmember George Leventhal.

Ana received $1600 in in-state PAC donations–$1K from AFSCME and $600 from the United Food and Commercial Workers. And another $4K from out-of-state PACs–$3K from the Laborers International Union and $1K from SEIU NY/NJ. Ana had to pay a $500 fine for accidentally continuing to solicit contributions on her web site during the session when fundraising is banned.

Ana’s great strength is simply that she has appeared on the ballot in every state election in this area since 1990, first for School Board and then for the House of Delegates. The senior Latino elected official in Maryland, she has a strong Latino base.

The real question for the incumbents is whether they will slate together. They dissolved the District 18 Democratic Team campaign account at Ana’s insistence. It seems clear that Jeff and Al will join incumbent Sen. Rich Madaleno on a common ticket. Despite reluctance, I suspect Ana will also slate with the other incumbents, as the advantages, particularly for a candidate with little money facing a strong challenge, are just too great to ignore.

This afternoon, I look at the challengers.

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MCDCC Part II: Rockville Spring

picketball

As outlined in Part I, voters seemingly had settled the battle between the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) and the County over effects bargaining in favor of the County. In the 2012 referendum known as Question B, 58% of voters supported  the County’s decision to allow the Police Chief to take more actions without the need to consult  FOP management.

The referendum turned out to be the beginning rather than the end. The public employee unions (FOP, the Firefighters, and MCGEO) struck back by calling for a boycott of the annual Democratic Spring Ball. For those of you who are not regular attendees at this soiree, it is essentially a giant coffee klatch for local politicos and their fans complete with dancing. It’s held, like virtually all of these events, at the Bethesda North Marriott Conference Center.

Having felt abandoned by the local Democratic Party, the unions–long party stalwarts–decided to withhold their money and to make their displeasure public. Ingeniously, they styled the boycott as a picket line, knowing that labor-loving Democrats hate to cross them (or at least be seen crossing them). As none of the workers at the Center were on strike, it wasn’t really a picket line in the traditional sense but it made for great optics and amped up the pressure.

Republicans, as usual, were mad that they hadn’t thought of the idea first. Montgomery Republicans would get far better attendance at their events if people thought that they would have the privilege of strike breaking in the process.

The Montgomery County Young Democrats (MCYD), led by President Dave Kunes, jumped on the boycott bandwagon. Kunes, formerly an aide to Del. Tom Hucker (D 20) and now Maryland State Education Association (MSEA) Field Director, had some experience with seizing opportunities to challenge organization leadership, as he led the successful insurgent slate that took control of MCYD in 2012.

The problem for MCDCC was less monetary–donors stepped up and helped the party cover losses–than morale and the apparent division. It also put the Democratic elected and party leadership on the defensive politically and ideologically.

None of this had any chance of  helping the Republicans. Remember, Montgomery is a one-party county and this battle was about jockeying for power and influence over the one political vehicle worth driving–not a clunker.

Part III looks at the major upcoming changes on MCDCC.

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Election Snow in MoCo?

Is today’s snowstorm going to put a dent in County Executive Ike Leggett’s reelection prospects?

Salt Shortage, Show Removal Problems

It has been a long winter and Montgomery County ran short of salt to pre-treat the roads for the storm. In many areas, the streets were first plowed before they were salted, uncovering a sheet of ice underneath the snow that will now likely to have to wait for warmer weather–not to arrive for at least a couple of day–to remove.

Smaller municipalities were especially hard hit. At first, the the County did not even want to release any salt to smaller municipalities that rely on it to supply it through longstanding arrangements. They were not happy.

Why and How it Could Matter

These problems play into Doug Duncan’s strengths. As County Executive, he was known as an avuncular guy focused on handling basic services very well. To the extent that the storm weakens Leggett’s reputation for the same, it could help Duncan and hurt Leggett.

The impact depends on three factors: (1) the severity of the problems, (2) how well surrounding jurisdictions do, and (3) whether Duncan is positioned to take advantage of it. My quick peek at traffic cameras around the County indicate that many major streets are looking good, though some still have problems.

If DC and Prince George’s open the schools but Montgomery does not, the County Executive will likely face at least some grumbling and have to answer questions about the lack of preparation. Winters vary in the amount of snow they bring, and residents rightly expect that the County will get more salt if needed. But if the schools in all three close, it looks like we’re all in the same boat.

Normally, our County officials do not get much attention. Not because they don’t merit it but because our news media covers the entire metro area. They choose to focus their coverage heavily on the District even though Montgomery, Prince George’s, and Fairfax all have far more people.

Bad events, however, can turn their gaze in our direction to the disadvantage of incumbent officials. It will be also interesting to see if members of the County Council raise questions about the level of preparation or choose to stay mum.

What It’s Not

Some may want to exaggerate and make the inevitable recollection of the disastrous handling (really non-handling) of snow in DC by Marion Barry on one famous occasion. Bad analogy. Leggett is not Barry. He’s the anti-Barry: a steadfast calming, often quiet, problem solver. Moreover, these problems are a minor hiccup compared to that fiasco. Don’t go there.

 

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Bethesda Just Wants to Have Fun

County Executive Ike Leggett’s Nighttime Economy Task Force has made a number of recommendations to attract a more active nightlife to Montgomery. Sorry I meant to say MoCo. We’re all hipsters now here at 7S.

Aaron Kraut of BethesdaNow.com summarized the key proposed changes:

The Task Force will recommend the county extend the hours of operation for venues with alcohol licenses an hour, to 3 a.m. on Fridays, Saturdays and the Sundays before Monday federal holidays and 2 a.m. on weeknights.

That would match D.C. and Prince George’s County and prevent what Pohoryles said restaurant owners call “the mad dash,” the period when Montgomery County bar goers get in their cars and drive to D.C. for another hour of alcohol service. The rule would keep the half-hour “grace period,” in which last call would actually be half-an-hour before closing time.

Also part of the bar-friendly recommendations are changes to the county’s noise ordinance in specific urban areas.

The Task Force will recommend increasing the allowable noise levels for “qualifying arts and entertainment activities in these areas,” to 85 decibels, allowing those levels to midnight and ensuring nearby residents are informed of the law prior to moving in.

So basically more booze + noise = fun. Heck, I suspect any random group of college students could have told you that. The only problem is that downtown Bethesda’s prime demographic is not college students or recent college grads but empty nesters.

Neighborhoods near to downtown Bethesda are a combination of families and empty nesters. In six years on the Town Council of the Town of Chevy Chase, located directly east of downtown Bethesda, I have never heard anyone lament that the bars in Bethesda close too early and that they have to dash elsewhere to keep drinking.

The Task Force’s chair wants to reassure that the changes are meant to benefit everyone:

Heather Dlhopolsky, a Bethesda attorney and chair of the Task Force, made it clear the Task Force wasn’t just about catering to the 20-34 year-old crowd, citing the significant number of empty nesters moving to downtown Bethesda.

Nevertheless, the recommendations have provoked a backlash precisely from that group. Jon Weintraub provided this summary of the thoughts expressed at a meeting of over 40 condo owners from many different buildings in downtown Bethesda:

There is universal opposition to the County Executive’s Nighttime Bethesda proposal, if it means extending bar hours and changing the revenue ratio. It should not move forward! What can be done to ensure that the noise ordinance is not altered for downtown Bethesda?

Instead Weintraub wants to know:

What is the planner standard for public green space, library, and recreational facilities per 1000 units of development in the downtown?

What can the county and the planning board do to improve the quality of metro service to Bethesda given density decisions are tied to the presence of the metro?

The meeting was organized by Jon Weintraub with Jane Fairweather, a very successful local realtor who knows the Bethesda market extremely well and hardly one to object to changes if she thought they would make her market more and not less valuable.

No doubt some will deride their objections as those of anti-business older people who expect unreasonable levels of quiet and have confused the area with an assisted living facility. But my impression is that their objection is not to a vibrant nightlife but want it to fit in with the area’s existing strengths.

Bethesda is filled with restaurants and also has a large number of bars for that matter. However, the empty nesters who can afford to buy all those condos–and provide a lot of custom to these businesses–prefer it quiet before 2am.

The key to keeping Bethesda so successful is make changes that reinforce what is already attractive not just to families and empty nesters but also to many twenty and thirtysomethings. Middle of the night noise, drinking and nightclubs probably aren’t it.

The Task Force has a lot of suggestions to streamline the process of establishing a business that would probably be helpful to that end. Ironically, the one change that would please restauranteurs and bar owners the most is the one that they shied away from adopting:

Montgomery County operates as a control alcohol jurisdiction, with all alcohol purchases coming from a central DLC [Department of Liquor Control] warehouse. That has led to complaints from restaurant owners about the availability of special orders, such as craft beer, and the time it takes to fill an order.

Evan Glass, a Silver Spring activist and prospective County Council candidate, said the group should talk about how necessary the DLC is.

It’s a contentious issue, in large part because the DLC contributes $25-$30 million a year to the county’s General Fund. It also recently opened a new warehouse in Gaithersburg.

Glass suggested the DLC should at least keep a portion of that contribution to hire more employees who could help it be more responsive.

Most agreed that recommending wholesale changes, or the dissolution of the DLC, was too big a task for the Task Force. The final recommendation, when it comes out in the Task Force’s final report next week, will call for a study of the DLC’s effectiveness from the Council’s Office of Legislative Oversight.

The irony here is that the Task Force attacked directly requirements that restaurants sell as much food as liquor. Yet, they’ve stayed away from a major barrier to locating restaurants here because alcohol is more expensive in MoCo and unique beers and wines are harder to obtain. The City Paper, practically the definition of urban hip, wrote about the issue back in 2007.

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MCDCC Part I: Question B

AgainstQuestionB

You just gotta love that we have party central committees in the State of Maryland. Both Republicans and Democrats have them in every county of the State. It all feels so retro-Soviet. Why not Politburos? Or at least Praesidiums?

The Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee is currently not the peaceful backwater that one might expect of a relatively obscure organization of party officials. Instead, it is now the center of what some might call renovation and others a hostile takeover despite the recent announcement of a “unity” slate.

The fracas started with the passage of a bill unanimously by the all-Democratic County Council to eliminate “effects bargaining” with the police union, the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) designed to give the Police Chief more flexibility and control in the management of police officers. “Effects bargaining” required the Chief to clear all management decisions with the FOP.

The FOP vehemently opposed the changes and petitioned them to referendum in what became known as Question B. While intensely disliking the changes, it was only the latest in what the three non-school related public employee unions (FOP, the Firefighters, and MCGEO) perceived as bad treatment by the County on issues such as disability payments, furloughs and benefits.

MCDCC became involved through its control over the Democratic sample ballot. All precinct officials in the Democratic Party could vote on whether the sample ballot should endorse or oppose the proposal or take no position. At the urging of county councilmembers, the precinct officials voted heavily to endorse the proposal passed unanimously by the County Council.

The Central Committee has the power to change an endorsement of support or opposition by precinct officials to no position by majority vote. Urged on by Chair Gabe Albornoz, (Correction: Gabe was not Chair yet) MCDCC voted to uphold the decision of the County Council and the precinct officials.

The Democratic sample ballot thus endorsed the question. Whether or not it mattered, the voters agreed, voting by 58% in 2012 to keep the law passed by the Council despite vigorous efforts by the FOP and other government employee unions to overturn it.

Needless to say, the unions were NOT happy. More in Part II.

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