Category Archives: Montgomery County

Hearing from the Candidates on the Stormwater CIP Budget

I am pleased to present this guest post by Sylvia S. Tognetti:

This question was sent to all 60 candidates running for various slots on the County Council. These include five incumbents who were given the option to state their views but not expected to do so given that their positions are known from their public statements and their Council vote. Of the non-incumbents, 10 responded and 45 have not. If more responses are received they will be added, up until election day.

Responses, in the order received:

Dalbin Osorio

I am not in favor of the current manner in which our stormwater program is run. It is more a reactive program than what is necessary, especially as we try to combat the extreme changes in our climate. I would vote to overhaul the entire program, beginning with the hiring of one independent contractor and a partnership with the local universities that would allow for interns to be utilized as a way to create a pipeline between students and facets of county government that they may be interested in. I would mandate that this contractor work with a board appointed by the County’s leading environmentalists, to ensure that the job is done appropriately and that the contractor is not skimping on quality work just to meet costs. We are not meeting the guidelines set forward, nor are we honoring deadlines set to meet certain benchmarks, and I believe this is unacceptable. I would push to increase the capital budget so we can better be prepared for incoming storms.

Seth Grimes

Montgomery County should maintain its long-standing approach to stormwater management, but get serious about progress, perhaps especially redoubling work with owners of properties with expanses of impervious surface and ensuring that county investment lives up to our commitments.

Hans Riemer

Building and maintaining stormwater infrastructure is one of our highest environmental priorities. I was one of 5 votes to support our traditional approach to building this infrastructure, and as Council President I am working to protect our program to the fullest extent.

Ben Shnider

Sound stormwater management policy is essential for protecting our environment and safeguarding our community’s health. We must not prematurely cancel projects and rush ahead with a new approach to stormwater management that lacks clarity. The simple majority of five Councilmembers who supported the Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy & Environment (T&E) Committee’s recommendation (that retained the current stormwater management approach until all the applicable stakeholders are brought together to formulate recommendations that may enhance the program’s future performance) was more than prudent. The County Executive’s proposal, put forth as the Council was reviewing the entire budget across all County agencies, was unduly hasty. Essentially, the County Executive expected the Council to rubber-stamp his new approach to an important, inherently complicated program, at a time when neither Councilmembers, environmental stakeholders, let alone the public at-large were in a position to fully consider the implications. The T&E Committee’s recommendation, which a simple majority of Councilmembers wisely supported, allows sufficient time for careful review and collaboration among stakeholders between now and the early Fall, when the County Council may fully evaluate any recommendations that may result.

For these reasons, I believe that the County Executive’s line-item veto was unwarranted. His action, along with the refusal (to date) of my Councilmember to support the T&E Committee’s balanced approach, has only resulted in a dangerous stalemate. I hope that all Councilmembers will vote swiftly to override the County Executive’s veto and instead, unequivocally, embark upon a course that places safety, the environment and transparency first.

Meredith Wellington

Do you support the existing or a new approach to managing stormwater? My top environment priorities are reducing greenhouse gases and improving stormwater management. I support the Council’s recommendation to continue with the current program and conduct a thorough review to identify ways to improve and reduce costs for implementation. I believe the County’s current program can be greatly improved. After reviewing the CIP budget, I have concerns that Water Quality Protection Charge funds are being used in a manner for which they were not intended. I will also collect more information on the effectiveness of restoring streams before runoff from higher elevations is controlled. I would also like to review, with DEP and our State delegation, how stormwater management is measured to ‘count’ toward the MS4 permit requirements. Are we treating the most serious runoff challenges or the most accessible and cheapest? How are our streams and waterways improving after treatment? I support green street and similar “green” rather than “gray” stormwater management infrastructure, but want to be assured that systems are right sized for the square footage treated. There have been some challenges to green street installation that I would like to understand better.

In what direction do you think Montgomery County should take its stormwater program? I support continued emphasis on green stormwater management infrastructure. I think there needs to be more education and dialogue around installations so resident embrace green streets. I would like to find a way for shade trees to co-exist with and enhance engineered stormwater management. Our climate is changing, we are experiencing more heavy storms. Our stream valleys are fed by many underground springs and seeps. When building infill development, erecting additions, or other similar activities, we should adopt a “no harm” policy. For example, a new home that creates more impervious surface and installs stormwater management solutions should not negatively impact neighboring structures. Finally, I would like to see greater accountability from WSSC for both their construction work (I have seen workers hose sediment into the local creek) and consent decree compliance.

How can we best prepare for future stormwater needs? We can best prepare for future stormwater needs by reconsidering flood plain maps and identifying current flood patterns; accelerate work to add more green stormwater management to high impervious surface areas like our CBDs and parking lots; incentivize green roofs (double duty to lower carbon emission), rain gardens, tree planting, rain barrels, etc. Funding is also a challenge. The WQPC collections are significant; let’s use that money more effectively and for the purpose legislated. I think DEP has a good education and public awareness program, but it should grow. I would like to create partnerships with property owners and developers to build functioning ecosystems in dense areas as both a teaching tool and stormwater management device. I would also like to see a simpler, more aggressive Tree Montgomery program. I would like to review and strengthen legislation restricting building on steep slopes with highly erodible soils, and create greater incentives for preserving interior forests.

Tom Hucker

I have been involved in this issue for quite a while, including spending four years as the sponsor of Maryland’s HB987, the landmark 2012 statewide Maryland Stormwater Management – Watershed Protection and Restoration Program.

As the Council’s Lead Member for the Environment, I have consistently opposed the proposed new approach to manage stormwater through a very large (approximately $46 million), murky multi-year contract to a single unnamed general contractor.

Like all of us, I would like to see DEP achieving greater efficiencies in its stormwater contracting methods and exceed the goals in its new permit. But such a large, abrupt change that would realistically lock us in for several years before we even know our new state MS4 permit requirements is not the way to do it. In no other area of policy do we create a program before we know what the requirements of the program will be.

Instead, I have consistently advocated for a much smaller, pilot approach in the short term as well as restarting all of the good work that DEP has been doing. I want us to complete dozens of suspended and cancelled projects that we’ve already sunk significant taxpayer dollars into design and pre-construction planning in the short term.

Last but certainly not least, we need more oversight, transparency and accountability. It’s critical that the County establish a meaningful environmental advisory group with a variety of environmental experts like the Stormwater Partners represented on it. I’d like this group to begin convening this summer and hopefully exist for several years with the charge of advising DEP, DPS, the Council and the rest of our government on best practices and innovative ideas on stormwater management going forward. Recent events in Ellicott City show us we need to keep our stormwater efforts moving forward, not backward.

Will Jawando

I support the Council’s decision to pause the County Executive’s effort to move the storm water management program over to a private contractor. I support continuing the storm water management program as currently implemented, specifically work through the 44 delayed projects and review the 26 canceled projects. We should be committed to adhering to the county’s green infrastructure program, and meet at least 60 percent of its MS4 permit requirement using green infrastructure to manage storm water. If we have any changes to the current storm water management program, those changes should be made in full transparency, and in partnership and collaboration with stakeholders, including our environmental nonprofits, private citizens and others. Changes to streamline and improve management are acceptable, but only if they can be proven to continue to help the county meet its watershed restoration targets.

Tim Willard

We need to improve our stormwater management system. The County has been under a consent decree since January for committing numerous violations of its stormwater permit. A major part of the problem is that the County Government has raided the Water Quality Protection Charge for use in the operating budget rather than spending it on physical stormwater projects as was intended. This fund should be dedicated to its original purpose to improve our stormwater management. I oppose the effort to privatize stormwater management projects. While there are some benefits, privatization raises issues of quality control, loss of creativity in designing projects, and lack of communication with home owners near the projects. Organizations interested in stormwater management were kept in the dark while the privatization proposal was being developed which adds to the concern. Restoring funding that was meant to be used for stormwater management is a better solution than privatizing the process.

Evan Glass

I support the existing stormwater management system.

Michele Riley

I support the T&E Committee’s recommendation to move forward with existing projects now. We should not let this important work get hung up over what appears to be a difference of opinion regarding procurement process.

Gabe Albornoz

As a County, we must take actions to address our stormwater management issues so that streams remain clean and our watersheds are healthy. Healthy watersheds make for clean drinking water. We must first address the most degraded watersheds that are most at risk. I agree with our environmental community that 60% of our stormwater projects should be green infrastructure. It is vital that the work under the current State MS4 permit allows for a collaborative review of the program by the environmental community so that the most effective improvements can be made in the next permit.

Bill Conway

The Council exercised its proper authority to withhold approval of the budget for the proposal by Council Executive Leggett, which would have shifted the capital budget for stormwater projects to a single 5-year DBM contract. This proposal represented a substantial change in how the stormwater program is implemented that would be difficult to reverse and for which efficiency and cost-effectiveness are unknown. Also unknown are what the requirements will be under the next stormwater permit that this proposal was presumably intended to address. The Council decision to continue the suspended projects under the current contracting method does not mean the stormwater program cannot or should not be improved. The Council called for an open and transparent review of the program which would provide an opportunity for the County to consider different options and provide input to MDE on more cost-effective and innovative green infrastructure approaches that could be approved for crediting in the next permit cycle. This process would also allow for a more informed decision to be made when future permit obligations are known.

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Candidate Views on Leggett’s Line-Item Veto of the Stormwater CIP Budget

Today, I am pleased to present a guest post by Sylvia S. Tognetti:

In the aftermath of back to back storm events and flooding, and with 60 candidates in the primary race for various slots on the County Council, it seemed like it would be useful to find out their views on Leggett’s  line-item veto of the 5-4 majority decision by the Council pertaining to the stormwater CIP budget. ANS, on behalf also of Potomac Conservancy, Friends of Sligo Creek, Conservation Montgomery and the Montgomery Countryside Alliance, sent all of them a single question:

The County Executive issued a line-item veto of a majority Council decision on the stormwater CIP budget. In what direction do you think Montgomery County should take its stormwater program? How can we best prepare for future stormwater needs?

We received 17 responses of which three were from incumbents whose views have already been expressed through their public statements and Council vote – so their response was not expected. That leaves 41 who did not reply and are not incumbents and whose views are unknown.

A few candidates who have not responded let me know in person that, being the week before early voting, this question came at a bad time. I hear you! We would have much preferred to see this radical proposal by the Executive come before the Council with time to properly review it and consider alternatives in an open process, which is what we advocated for, and the Council called for in its majority decision. This is the situation faced now by existing Council members, and we thank those who took the time to understand and thoughtfully consider this complicated issue in this busy time. We can only wonder what those who did not respond would do if elected and presented with a radical proposal in the context of a budget decision, just before a primary election.

This is the first time a line-item veto has been used in 25 years. In its decision, the Council rejected a radical change in how stormwater projects are managed that was proposed by the County Executive. In the proposed new approach, stormwater capital projects would have been bundled and outsourced to a single contractor in a single, 5-year design-build-maintenance contract to treat stormwater runoff from 526 acres of impervious surfaces. This is intended to meet obligations under the next 5-year stormwater permit, which are not yet known, because we will not see a draft of the next permit until this Fall. Instead the Council accepted the recommendation of the Transportation & Environment Committee, to continue the 44 suspended projects – many well into the design phase and ready for construction, under the current approach, and called for an open and transparent public review of the program as a basis for improvements. Six votes are needed to override this veto and continue moving the county’s stormwater program forward.

This proposal came in addition to a $243 million cut in the 6-year stormwater CIP budget, which was accepted by the Council. This was based on an assumption that obligations under the next stormwater permit will be to retrofit only 5% of impervious surfaces that are not already treated to the Maximum Extent Practicable, instead of the 20% required under the current permit that will be completed this year. Although this percentage remains to be determined by MDE, which issues these permits, they have publicly stated it is likely to be at least 10%.

A key concern is whether the County will adhere to its new green infrastructure policy, in which it made a commitment to meet at least 60% of its MS4 permit requirement using green infrastructure to manage stormwater. The policy also committed to evaluating the costs and multiple environmental social and economic benefits of these projects, compared with single-purpose gray infrastructure as a basis for project selection.

Many of these projects would be necessary regardless of permit obligations and can reduce the costs of maintaining gray infrastructure. For example, when stormwater erodes urban streams, it erodes and batters sewer pipes, causing Sanitary Sewer Overflows (SSOs). By enabling water to infiltrate into soil, green infrastructure slows down runoff, and helps to protect gray infrastructure, as well as reduce flooding and provide many other well-known benefits associated with green spaces. As discussed at a Water Forum held last December, stormwater runoff from up-county watersheds, that enter the Potomac upstream from drinking water intakes, also increases the cost of water treatment, which is why WSSC is planning to spend $83 million on a mid-river submerged channel intake at the Potomac Water Filtration Plant, and an additional $157 million to upgrade the plant to handle the overloading of sediment. In other words, costs not paid through the Water Quality Protection Charge would just reappear on our water bills, in the form of higher costs to treat drinking water and maintain pipes.

Candidate responses can be viewed on the ANS blog. Some are more detailed than others and present some good ideas, that could be considered if there were an open and transparent review of the program and alternative approaches. Only three favor the Executive’s single contractor approach, with some modifications.

More background information on the issue can be found in this Maryland Sierra Club post, and letter to Executive Leggett from leaders of the stormwater Partners Network, representing the Potomac Conservancy, the Audubon Naturalist Society, Conservation Montgomery, Friends of Sligo Creek, the Montgomery Countryside Alliance and the Maryland Sierra Club.

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Aruna Miller Endorsed by Three Democratic Minority Clubs

Del. Aruna Miller, candidate for the Democratic nomination in the Sixth Congressional District, has been endorsed by three local Democratic clubs: the Coalition of Asian Pacific American Democrats (CAPAD), Association of Black Democrats, and the Latino Democratic Club of Montgomery County.

You can see their full list of joint endorsements here:

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Marc Elrich: “I Prefer to Put Jobs in Frederick”

By Adam Pagnucco.

Yesterday, Greater Greater Washington (GGW) wrote a long essay about Council Member Marc Elrich, who is running for Executive.  GGW has many disagreements with Elrich about smart growth and housing and mostly concentrated on those issues.  But the essay contained this quote from an interview with Elrich.

Broadly, Elrich isn’t convinced Montgomery County needs to add many new homes or residents, or jobs. Many people with jobs in Bethesda or DC are now living in Frederick County and other outlying areas and driving through Montgomery to get to work. We asked Elrich what he’d do for these folks, and his answer was, “I prefer to put jobs in Frederick.” He’d encourage the growth of both households and jobs to happen there, and in Prince George’s County, and elsewhere.

Elrich has disputed quotes before and we will see if he disputes this one.  But if the quote is accurate… well.

The chart below uses data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to compare growth in total employment in Frederick and MoCo from 2001 through 2016.

Frederick’s job creation record is clearly better than MoCo’s in both absolute and relative terms.

Now let’s use BLS data to compare growth in establishment counts in the two counties.

Frederick beats MoCo in growth rate and, over the last decade, in net new establishment count too.

Let’s bear in mind the relative size of the two counties.  Frederick has about a quarter of MoCo’s population.  Yet, Frederick has created a larger absolute number of jobs over the last fifteen years than MoCo and had a net gain since 2006 while MoCo had a net loss.  In terms of establishments, Frederick created more than double what MoCo did over the last decade despite being much smaller.

Now let’s recall the research we did three weeks ago on taxpayer migration.  MoCo is often compared to Fairfax, but the truth is that we have lost more taxpayer income to Frederick than to Fairfax over the last decade.

Between 2006 and 2016, MoCo had a net outmigration of $582 million in real adjusted gross income to Frederick.

The greatest losses to Frederick occurred during MoCo’s home price boom of 2002 through 2007.  MoCo home prices are rising again so let’s connect the economic dots.  Suppose we cut off housing construction in the ways Elrich described to Greater Greater Washington.  Unless there is a recession – which would bring a different set of problems – a housing shutdown in MoCo would cause more home price and rent hikes, exacerbating our already oppressive cost of living and pushing some folks into Frederick.  Once in Frederick, some of those people would start businesses, hire people and create more economic activity there.  That’s great for Frederick and it’s part of the explanation for the growth they have seen in the last fifteen years.  But what exactly does that do for us?

Look, folks – with surging needs in schools, transportation and everything else and with maxed out county debt, we have a lot of bills to pay.  There are two ways to do it.  Option one is to grow our commercial tax base and create jobs, thereby generating more tax revenue.  Option two is more big tax hikes which will further strain the cost of living.

If we have a County Executive who is fighting to put jobs in Frederick and NOT in MoCo, which option do you think our county will pick?

Disclosure: the author supports Roger Berliner for Executive.

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On “Those Good Union Jobs” at the Department of Liquor Control

MCGEO has done quite a number on county residents. When discussing the hot issue of privatization of Montgomery County’s liquor monopoly, politicians automatically express concern about the potential loss of those “good union jobs.”

People would be a lot less sympathetic to the idea of protecting liquor store or distributor employees. Why on earth should we maintain an antiquated, inefficient monopoly to protect their jobs but not spend money to protect the grocery store cashier or bank teller threatened by automation?

What makes all the angst about losing “good union jobs” even more galling is that private liquor distributors are unionized by the Teamsters – a little fact that never seems to get mentioned in all the handwringing.

Privatization doesn’t threaten union jobs. It threatens union jobs that pay dues to MCGEO. So MCGEO President Gino Renne, who was paid $196,700 by his local union and an additional $20,000 by his international union last year, is naturally quite concerned. As Gino likes to say, “Just keeping it real.”

Sadly, no one seems concerned about all these Teamsters Union jobs lost due to the monopoly depriving them of a livelihood. Not to mention the restaurant jobs lost because of extra costs that make it harder to turn a profit and frustration with the Department of Liquor Control that stops businesses from opening or expanding in Montgomery.

The other unasked question is why does the DLC perform so poorly if these jobs are so great? Service at DLC stores is variable at best and most employees are unfamiliar with their product. Beyond the stories about the DLC failing to deliver product at key moments, such as right before New Year’s, I’ve also heard about the DLC dumping shipments in the middle of the bar during happy hour.

It’s almost as if Ernestine left the phone company once Ma Bell was broken up and sought refuge at the DLC. “We’re the DLC, we don’t have to care.”

It’s not as if the DLC is understaffed. Somehow, Montgomery County-based Total Wine manages to keep in stock and much better organized a far greater range of product. They do it with fewer employees who yet also seem to know about the product that they’re selling and are more likely in my experience to provide good customer service. Other stores do the same.

Similarly, I’d like to know the share of DLC workers who live in Montgomery County. While some might argue that this is irrelevant, why must Montgomery County citizens keep in place a costly system to subsidize workers who don’t even live here? Even this question has totally lost the plot as government should not be a make-work program but should provide services to residents.

Councilmembers defend the DLC because it brings in money to the county. It would be a miracle if a monopoly on booze in the DC area did not. The sad truth is that it brings in far less than it might. The amount of beer and spirits sold per capita in Montgomery is lower than almost all other jurisdictions in Maryland as well as the Virginia suburbs. Does anyone seriously believe that we drink phenomenally less than people in Fairfax? Greater efficiency would also increase profit. Couldn’t we just tax alcohol and try to grow the economic pie instead of clinging desperately on to a stagnant unloved system?

None of this means that we shouldn’t pay county employees decent wages or we should just chuck the DLC workers out of a job. But nor should taxpayers be obligated to maintain a system that doesn’t work and myopically hurts the economy in perpetuity.

It’s time to call the question and end this outdated monopoly.

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Marc Elrich Responds to Adam Pagnucco

Today, I am pleased to present a guest blog by Councilmember Marc Elrich (D-At Large), a candidate for county executive, that responds to a piece posted by Adam yesterday:

First of all, I’ve made my views pretty clear on “socialism.”  You would be hard-put to classify me, but I’ve been pretty clear that I think in terms of blending aspects of both major isms – which is pretty much what most European societies, which are largely democratic socialist, believe and what modern American society reflects, at least up to the present, with minimum wages, 40 hour weeks, social security, Medicare, child worker laws and health insurance.  My interest is in finding solutions that make sense – I’m not an idealogue. I have spent 12 years on the Montgomery County Council and I have yet to introduce a SINGLE piece of socialist legislation (whatever that is). I don’t think about my job that way.

 Most of what I’ve proposed over the years has been passed with 8-1 or 9-0 votes, so this fear of “socialism” is frankly nuts – I don’t have a socialist agenda that I’m trying bring here.  Now if socialism means expecting developers to adequately contribute to schools and transportation, I’ll point out that that’s not socialism, it’s simply not wanting to allow developers who substantially benefit from public decisions on zoning, to externalize the costs of providing infrastructure on to the public.  I do not believe in zero growth – I believe in responsible growth – and when I work with communities I’m pretty straight-forward about stating that change will come and my goal is to make sure that the people who live here participate in shaping that change. When there’s no viable plan for schools, or transportation, or other promised amenities in a Master or Sector Plan then, yes, I will and do vote against it.  Again, hardly socialism.

Second I never equated transit-oriented development with “ethnic cleansing”, I voted for the Purple Line which I wouldn’t have done if I thought that. I never said that TOD equates with “ethnic cleansing” and my BRT approach supports TOD.  I made a specific accusation about a specific planning board recommendation about a specific part of the plan that would have displaced thousands of people who would have had little to no chance of remaining in the area, let alone in the County.  The only nexus to the PL was that the plan was being done in response to it and, in this case, the Planning Board way over-reached. In a public session review of the plan, I said, “Couldn’t we for once just let the people who live here stay here after we fix a place up?” and no one responded or changed anything.  It was only when I dramatized it by calling it “ethnic cleansing”, in an onsite meeting with staff of the Council and PB, did anything get fixed: less than a week later the proposal was withdrawn; it was withdrawn on July 22, 2013 because of the possible implications of the zoning that had been proposed and its impacts on our affordable housing goals. The recommendation to remove was a 3-0 vote on committee, and it happened in a blink of the eye. Never seen so much land rezoned so fast. So in that particular instance, existing affordable housing was preserved because of my comments and involvement.   More broadly though, the PL will cause gentrification and almost everyone involved, except for a few who are uncomfortable with confronting anything that might taint their rosy scenario, knows it. The whole point of the Purple Line Compact was to create a multi-party agreement between the State and the Counties to have in place programs that would prevent, or at least minimize, the displacement of small businesses and existing residents. Everyone knew this was coming, and my saying it isn’t some stark new revelation.  But we all know that there is no compact because none of the parties would commit do anything to ameliorate what they know is coming down the road. So they changed the word “compact” to “agreement” which is toothless, devoid of funding or requirements to act; it is basically an agreement to worry about what might happen and to hope that someone comes up with a bright idea or two that, preferably, don’t have any costs attached.

Lastly, while I do favor a limited rent stabilization – one that would allow for larger rent increases for repairs or operating costs when they exceed the CPI, and it would not apply to new construction or buildings with existing MPDU’s or otherwise rent limited units – I never had the votes on the council to even discuss it and would expect the same from the next council. I would welcome an honest conversation about it, without any labels attached. I’ve always proposed that the County evaluate different strategies with an eye to what would result in the largest stock of affordable housing 20 or 30 years down the road.  And I’d be interested to hear how others would solve the problem of disappearing affordable housing: the recently approved Bethesda master plan would result in fewer affordable units than we have today. And we simply can’t build enough moderately priced dwelling units (MPDUs) to keep up. And we’re not building housing for the thousands who are too poor for MPDUs and spend 50-60% of their income on housing. By contrast, Takoma Park has had decades of rent stabilization, which has provided numerous families with stable housing. It’s not a perfect system but it has been an important tool to preserve affordable units as the area has grown in popularity and housing prices there have skyrocketed.  And Takoma Park has increased in desirability and popularity and is proud of its diversity of population.

So while the urban legends are amusing, they’re not who am and they don’t reflect what I do.

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John Delaney Endorses Gabe Albornoz

John Delaney has now taken a break from the House and traipsing around Iowa to endorse two people for at-large county council seats. Besides Bill Conway, he has also endorsed Gabe Albornoz, a candidate with local roots who has been Director of the County Recreation Department for over a decade:

I am proud to endorse Gabe Albornoz for Montgomery County Council At-Large,” Cong. Delaney said. “Through his leadership as the Director of the Department of Recreation for the past decade—he has created programs to engage seniors in activities, increase health fitness for residents, and to help close the opportunity gap among our children and youth. Gabe’s commitment to our community proves that he is the type of leader that Montgomery County needs on the County Council.

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Riemer Exacerbates Economic Growth Concerns

Andrew Metcalf over at Bethesda Beat reported on Council Chair Hans Riemer’s response to a question on the successes of the two-year old county economic development nonprofit:

“OK, so what are the successes of the Economic Development Corp.?” Riemer said. “Um, I might need a little staff here. My economic development team is not here.”

After a brief pause, he continued, “They are a new organization, they are growing. They have helped us build consensus around economic development. They have helped engage the business community in a positive way. I think they have improved the dialogue.”

Riemer’s inability to come up with an answer only continues the building narrative that the county government is not doing enough to promote economic growth or address fiscal concerns. His flub also undercut his claim that the Sage report cherry-picked its data and the claims are politically motivated:

“In comes this attempt to overturn the apple cart and get everyone shooting at us again,” Riemer said.

Consider the cart not just overturned but run over by a truck.

Is Riemer in Danger? Probably Not

Despite hiccups likes these that can accompany that spotlight on the Council Chair and a wealth of candidates,  Riemer looks to be on a solid path to a third term. He’s the only at-large member seeking reelection. After two terms, he has high recognition, which should be enormously helpful in a large county with so many candidates trying to get the electorate’s attention.

It also helps that most people, supporters or not, would agree that Hans is a nice guy. He has a deserved reputation for being willing to listen to a variety of viewpoints and responding respectfully. Naturally, decisions he has made leave some unhappy, but at least they feel heard.

In short, while his time as council chair has had its rough spots, it’s hard to see how Hans loses. No one is really pointing at Hans in way that could focus any anti-incumbency mood. There is little incentive to attack rivals in a multi-candidate race. Many Democrats are also far more angry at Republicans.

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Van Hollen Endorses Katz

Sen. Chris Van Hollen has long been considered the most popular politician in Montgomery County, so this is a good get for the Katz campaign. Councilmember Sidney Katz endorsed Chris Van Hollen for Senate in 2016.

The following is the Katz campaign’s press release:

GAITHERSBURG, MD – Sidney Katz, running for re-election to Montgomery County Council District 3, announced he has received the endorsement of Senator Chris Van Hollen.

“I’m proud to endorse Councilmember Sidney Katz’s re-election campaign,” said Senator Van Hollen. “From his time serving the City of Gaithersburg, Sidney understands how local government works and he’s been an effective advocate for his constituents. Sidney has also been a leader on important issues like criminal justice reform – spearheading Montgomery County’s new Mental Health Courts, and ensuring our seniors can age in place. Sidney has also been a leader in the fight to get big money out of politics and to put the public interest first.”

“I’m honored to receive Senator Van Hollen’s endorsement,” said Katz. “He’s been a progressive champion for our state as a state legislator, congressman, and now senator. He’s been a strong advocate for Maryland on issues ranging from education funding to the environment to campaign finance reform. I’m proud to have his endorsement.”

Katz has also been endorsed by the Montgomery County Public Schools Retirees Association, IAFF Local 1664 Montgomery County Career Fire Fighters, Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 35, the Coalition of Asian Pacific American Democrats of Maryland (CAPAD-MD), Metropolitan Political Action Committee – MD, the Brickyard Coalition, and over 25 local officials, including County Executive Ike Leggett and former District 3 Councilmember Phil Andrews.

Katz was first elected to the Montgomery County Council in 2014; he is serving his first term. Previously, Katz served as Mayor of Gaithersburg for 16 years and on the Gaithersburg City Council for 20 years. His civic career started in 1976 when he was selected to be a member of the Gaithersburg Planning Commission.

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