MoCo Council District 5 Candidate Terrill North Replies

In a post yesterday, I pointed out that Terrill North, a candidate for Montgomery County Council District 5, included a quote from Sen. Jamie Raskin on his campaign literature that indicated an endorsement that he did not have.

Here are Terrill North’s thoughts on the matter:

I was sharing comments that Sen. Raskin made at a campaign fundraiser last fall, much of it has been posted online at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=42CwihDTBis since November.  My goal was to share what Jamie has said publicly about my work helping over 750 at-risk youth in District Five each year through M.A.N.U.P. and Impact Silver Spring (which was the context of his remarks).  I didn’t mean to imply a formal endorsement, just to share what Jamie has said about me with people that are just now getting to know me.  I assume he has positive comments about most of the folks running for office this year because 1) it’s hard to work for progressive change without getting to know Jamie and 2) that’s the type of person Jamie is.  My apologies for any confusion and feel free to contact me directly at info@terrillnorth.com anytime with any questions or concerns.

 

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Up and Down Week for the Purple Line

The Purple Line received some good news the other day when the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) recommended both the Purple Line and Red Line for a full funding grant agreement. Both are included in President Obama’s budget with $100 million budgeted for the Purple Line.

The president’s proposal is a long way from a final budget–if Congress can even agree on a budget in this election year. But it is a step forward for the Purple Line, as federal funding is vital to the planned light-rail line. Proponents of the project are understandably pleased with this announcement.

The next day, however, the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) revealed that Purple Line costs had risen yet again to $2.37 billion, as this graph from the Washington Post demonstrates:

PL Costs

The latest increase amounts to $126 million. MTA Project Development Head Henry Kay explained:

the initial $1.2 billion estimate in 2001 probably was based on broad assumptions, such as the average cost per mile for rail construction nationally. As the state has refined the Purple Line design, he said, engineers have found more “challenges” that add costs. . . .

“The [cost estimate] number at that time [in 2001] would have been based on lines on a map,” Kay said.

About 30 percent of the project has been designed, he said, enough to form more precise cost projections.

The excuse that cost estimates have risen because the earlier estimates were only rough estimates is suspicious if only because cost estimates have always increased. They never decline. If the estimates are unbiased, the errors shouldn’t be off only in one direction.

The State also doesn’t mention that Maryland foots the entire bill for every increase. FTA has recommended $900 million in funding. That amount will not increase and may decline. So the amount that the State is on the hook for the project just increased from $1.34 billion to $1.47 billion–a 10% increase.

And that means $126 million less for all other transportation projects in the State of Maryland. It also means that Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties will receive less for other projects since more funds dedicated to this part of the State will have to go to pay for the Purple Line.

One might expect further cost increases if only because Parsons Brinckerhoff is involved. This is the same firm that engineered the botched and way over budget Silver Spring Transit Center. The Center is supposed to accommodate the new Purple Line.

Henry Kay says he has “a high level of confidence” that the new cost estimates are accurate. If so, that would be good news for the State and the future of the Purple Line project.

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UPDATE: Raskin Statement on North Flyer

From Sen. Jamie Raskin (D-20):

“I have had a number of calls from confused constituents and candidates about this piece, which I was totally unaware of. It quotes a statement I made in September of last year at Terrill’s kickoff for one of the at-large Council seats. But I have not endorsed Terrill for the District 5 seat and have made that clear to people who have called me about this.”

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Terrill North’s Campaign No-Noes

TNorth1Bad Campaign Lit: Has Quote from Non-Endorser

Montgomery County Council District 5 Candidate Terrill North has provided what educators call “a teaching moment” about campaign literature. Two of North’s lit pieces, one above and one below, contain quotes from Sen. Jamie Raskin, a popular guy in District 5. North also has photos with Raskin on his website.

Except that Raskin has not endorsed North. The quote is from when North was going to run at-large. Candidates should not use (1) quotations or (2) photos of other elected officials without their permission. Not in their literature, web sites, Facebook pages or anywhere else. Some think this is just fine. It’s not. It is misleading and dishonest to imply support that you don’t have.

I’ve included the third piece, actually the back of North’s first piece, as a counter example. Here, North lists his past efforts and goals for the district. That’s great. I hope we see more of that instead of quotations that imply support from non-endorsers.

TNorth3More Bad Campaign Lit

TNorth2 Good Campaign Lit Highlights Accomplishments and Goals

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Currie Has Edge Over Griffith: Top Senate Primaries IV

D25Prince George’s District 25

Links to Part I, Part II, and Part III of this series.

District 25 (D): At 85% black VAP, this Prince George’s Senate district has a higher share of black voters than any other in the State. Four-term Del. Melony Griffith is challenging incumbent Sen. Ulysses Currie, who has served in the Senate for five terms and had two prior terms in the House.

Currie has the clear financial advantage with $115K in his account compared to just $40K in Griffith’s. Finances definitely give Currie a leg up, especially since neither can raise funds during the session and the period between the end of it and the primary will be short. Still, Griffith ought to have enough for a viable campaign.

Griffith was on Doug Gansler’s short list for the lieutenant governor slot, though that went to Del. Jolene Ivey. Griffith served as Prince George’s House delegation chair just before Ivey. While Griffith has been linked with Gansler, Currie has endorsed Brown.

No surprise there. Currie plucked Brown out and put him on his ticket as a candidate for delegate back in 1998, giving the Lieutenant Governor his start in Maryland politics. Their bond is tight and goes back a long way. In a year when Brown will be looking for every vote in this district and will back Currie, this gives Currie a huge advantage over his opponent.

Currie’s major problem is a spate of bad press resulting from ethical problems. He was tried in 2011 on federal bribery charges related to his representation of Shoppers Food Warehouse as community relations consultant, which he failed to disclose on his State ethics form.

Though Currie was found not guilty, the Senate censured him on the recommendation of the Ethics Committee. Currie has been stripped of his chair of the powerful Budget and Taxation Committee and can no longer serve on conference committees with the House.

While ethics problems led to Currie’s exit from the Senate leadership despite his friendship with Senate President Mike Miller, Griffith has been part of Speaker Michael Busch’s leadership team in the House. She chairs the important Subcommittee on Pensions of the House Appropriations Committee and has been entrusted by Busch with various valuable assignments.

A final difference between Currie and Griffith is generational. Currie is in his mid-70s, while Griffith is in her early-50s. Currie has not faced a challenger since 2002 when he beat Prince George’s Community College Prof. Sharrarne Morton, a perennial candidate, with 65%. Prior to that, he had not faced another challenger in the primary since he beat Del. Michael Arrington to win the nomination with 61% in 1994.

Interestingly, Arrington is now a lobbyist and was also mentioned in connection with the Shoppers scandal. Arrington has also made the papers due to other ethical challenges, such as the receipt of Superbowl tickets while a delegate from Bruce Bereano, and involvement in the deal to build the football stadium.

Regardless, Currie has not run against another delegate for 20 years or had to run any campaign at all for over a decade, though he has been heavily involved with tickets in his district. Both Currie and Griffith have full slates this time. Currie has the edge here, as incumbent Del. Derrick Davis, a very powerful well-funded delegate, is running with Currie.

Despite the ethical problems, I give the edge to Currie. He was found not guilty and his link to Brown, Davis, and his financial advantage should trump the ethical problems. Currie also a courtly manner that I suspect voters like even if Griffith also has her appeal. Rating: Lean Currie.

 

 

 

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That Stench is Coming from Howard D13

District 13

I profiled the shenanigans in the District 13 Democratic primary here and here. Long story short, a husband and wife both filed for delegate as did an uncle and his niece. The wife, School Board Member Janet Siddiqui, withdrew at the last minute to refile for School Board but her husband, Nayab Siddiqui, stayed in the race.

Both Vanessa Atterbeary, formerly a candidate in District 18, and her uncle, incumbent Del. Frank Turner filed and neither dropped out. Del. Guy Guzzone, who is running for Senate, originally planned to form a slate with incumbent Del. Shane Pendergrass, Del. Frank Turner, and Janet Siddiqui.

Now, Guzzone, Pendergrass, and Turner have decided to put Vanessa Atterbeary on their ticket as its third candidate for delegate after a series of interviews with the prospective candidates. Nayab Siddiqui and Vanessa Atterbeary both had inside knowledge that someone was going to drop out–or else why on earth would they have filed? And now Team 13 has added the niece of an incumbent delegate to the slate.

Atterbeary, 38, is new to Howard County, having run four years ago in District 18, and participating in Leadership Montgomery two years ago. Congenial enough but running an unskilled campaign that made many missteps (see here, here, and here). But it’s good to know the Montgomery produces such great leaders that Howard feels compelled to import.

Her website, however could use some work (screenshot today):

VAScreen

So why Vanessa Atterbeary besides the link with her uncle?

One reason might that her very successful father, Knowlton Atterbeary, and his connections could help provide significant financing for her campaign and for the slate’s campaign account. During the 2010 cycle, he cut Ike Leggett a check for $2000 and I imagine that, as much as he likes Ike, he loves his daughter.

Much of Atterbeary’s funding last time around came from loans to her own campaign totaling $59K. She may well have earned all of that money or she may have gradually accumulated it through perfectly legal gifts from her parents. Once the money is legally hers, she is legally free to loan it to herself.

Her access to money is not unusual and is not a reason to attack Vanessa. The way she ended up on the slate against an array of generally weak candidates through this very timely withdrawal of J. Siddiqui rather than past work gives much more pause. My bet is that at least some people in Howard County agree.

UPDATE: Vanessa Atterbeary works for KRA, her father’s company.

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MCDCC Part III: Renovation or Takeover?

Kunes AlbornozDave Kunes and Gabe Albornoz

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

In the wake of the boycott of the Spring Ball, the Montgomery County Young Democrats (MCYD) and labor unions started applying pressure for major changes on the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee (MCDCC) to include more labor representation and more young people.

The prime movers in this effort appear to be Dave Kunes, Chair of MCYD at age 24, and Gino Renne, MCGEO President. Renne is the most senior of the leaders of the three unions–the others are the FOP and the Firefighters–involved in government operations in Montgomery County.

Labor talked up running an alternative slate for MCDCC. Kunes, who then worked for Del. Tom Hucker and now works for MSEA as well as chairing MCYD, organized a PAC to back candidates for MCDCC. MCGEO donated to the PAC. At this point, perspectives on the story diverge.

No one disagrees on the basic facts, essentially a meeting occurred between MCDCC Chair Gabe Albornoz and others, including Kunes, where they agreed to put together a unity slate that would incorporate significant new members.

It’s the interpretation that varies. Some see Gabe as taking advantage of the situation to renovate a MCDCC in need of new ideas and new blood. Others see it as Gabe suing for peace in order to avoid competing slates and more acrimony within the Montgomery County Democratic Party.

Either way, the result turned out the same. MCDCC set up committees of five people who were not running for MCDCC to interview people for slots on the unity slate. So far, so good.

Except that laudable step was undercut completely by the closed, secret nature of the process. Only certain people, essentially current MCDCC members and selected Young Democrats, were invited to apply. If the goal is truly renovation rather than major change to benefit specifically MCYD and labor, why keep it secret and limit applications?

The people involved may call on Captain Hindsight to lament this approach. Sorry but not buying. They organized it specifically to accomplish their goals. They own it.

Regardless, this lack of transparency and the limited nature of the invitations had the desired effect. Roughly eight members of the unity slate, or one-third of candidates, are young Democrats. As a result, the committee is set to take in a major influx of people who helped place the pressure on MCDCC to change.

Additionally, some changes were further negotiated between the major players behind the scenes after the interviews. In particular, the unity slate dropped Young Democrat Brígida Krzysztofik in favor of Kevin Walling, who had raised money for his delegate race in District 16. Both are LGBT. Krzysztofik was quietly promised that she would get a slot next time.

Some of the unity slate choices make more sense than others. I was surprised to learn that the slate didn’t include Jay Wilson, a very talented, smart Young Democrat and Vice President of the African-American Democratic Club. (I know Jay through his work for a nonprofit that we both support.) Despite passing on Jay, African Americans comprise roughly one-third of the slate.

Most of the retiring members have done so by choice but a few were defenestrated from the slate against their will. The primary example is Harold Diamond, who won a seat in District 19 challenging the slate in 2010, but was not selected for the unity slate.

Diamond chaired both the Ballot Questions Advisory Committee as well as the precinct officials meeting to vote on them. 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. No surprise he was left off the slate. Nonetheless, he will be seeking reelection from District 19.

Despite labor’s grievances avowedly being a prime motive for unhappiness with MCDCC, only one of the new members has a direct link to the three governmental unions who were upset with MCDCC–Erin Yeagley works for MCGEO. However, Dave Kunes also works for MSEA and the Young Dems as a group are perceived as labor proxies.

The oddness doesn’t end there. The dispute began because labor was frustrated with the County Council. But MCDCC’s major power is to fill vacancies in the legislature. Vacancies on the County Council are filled by appointment. On the other hand, Gino Renne will likely view it as mission accomplished if he can prevent MCDCC from sending out another sample ballot endorsing a question opposed by organized labor even if unanimously supported by an all-Democratic County Council.

Some view all of this as simply an power play by Dave Kunes supported by the unions. Certainly, the idea that crisis is another word for opportunity has more than a dollop of truth. Nevertheless, harnessing ambition for public goals can be a powerful force for change. Kunes revitalized the Young Democrats and made them a force in the County. Regardless of how it came about, the changes at MCDCC provide a real chance to regenerate the party.

Politics is perhaps the only profession in which people are supposed to loudly protest their lack of ambition or desire for advancement as they move their way up the ladder. So what if ambition played a role in his organization of this renovation/partial takeover? All our officials should be so skilled and talented.

The final part in this series will explore the upcoming election for MCDCC as well as its future.

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