Tag Archives: Marc Elrich

MCEA Final MoCo Endorsements

From the Washington Post:

The union representing Montgomery County’s 12,000 teachers rounded out its list of County Council endorsements Wednesday for the June 24 Democratic primary, retaining its 2010 recommendations of Roger Berliner (D-Potomac-Bethesda), Craig Rice (D-Upcounty), Nancy Navarro (D-Midcounty), Marc Elrich (D-At Large) and Hans Riemer (D-At-Large) but dropping George Leventhal (D-At-Large).

The endorsement by the Montgomery County Education Association (MCEA) is one of the most coveted because it comes with a spot on the Apple Ballot, which is mailed to Democratic voters and distributed at the polls.

The announcement follows earlier endorsements of candidates for open council seats: Ryan Spiegel in District 3 (Rockville-Gaithersburg) and Board of Education member Christopher Barclay in District 5 (Silver Spring-East County). The union has also endorsed County Executive Isiah Leggett for a third term.

Ryan Spiegel and Marc Elrich seem to be sweeping up the labor endorsements. This is a nice one for Roger Berliner as the government employee unions are lining up behind Duchy Trachtenberg. Hans Riemer must also be pleased after losing support from other county unions.

Nancy Floreen has never been the labor candidate so probably isn’t too perturbed or worried about it. But being dropped from the Apple is new for George Leventhal who has also been frozen out by MCGEO, FOP, and the AFL-CIO.

Verdict on the At-Large Debate

ALdebate

Moderator Charles Duffy with Vivian Malloy, Beth Daly, Marc Elrich, Nancy Floreen, George Leventhal, Hans Riemer, Robert Dyer, and Tim Willard

Last night’s debate at the 4H was unusually well attended–I guesstimated roughly 100 people–with many actual voters who came to hear the candidates. I live tweeted the debate @theseventhstate. The tweets give much of the blow-by-blow and there are some interesting tweets back.

Some Issues and Moments

Ben Ross. His book criticisms of owners of “single-family homes” trying to preserve their place in the pecking order along with “snob zoning and nimbyism” did not go down well. Probably wise in a county where most people live in single-family homes, as Nancy Floreen pointed out in her response.

BRT System. Beth Daly and Marc Elrich were clearly enthusiastic about the BRT system proposed by Marc. Hans Riemer and Nancy Floreen were more skeptical wanting to see how the Corridor Cities Transitway goes–and thus pushing the idea off into the distant future. George Leventhal agreed and questioned whether people would ride buses even in dedicated lanes. Nancy Floreen also expressed concern about the cost, though Marc Elrich pointed out that is far cheaper per mile to build than the Purple Line.

Ride-On Buses. Vivian Malloy said that people had lost confidence in the service and wanted greater frequency and dependability especially in bad weather. Marc Elrich said people don’t want to use the buses because they’re stuck in traffic. Hans Riemer disagreed with this “myopic” view and touted his getting five additional buses for the system into the budget.

Chevy Chase Lake. Marc Elrich called the failure to listen to civic associations a “travesty,” a position supported by Beth Daly. Hans Riemer pointed out that the Council had reduced the height of a tall building and called the result a good compromise, though the Planning Board had already increased density over the proposal advocated by Staff led by Rollin Stanley.

Taxes. All agreed that that the property and income tax should not go up. Marc Elrich and Beth Daly proposed studying taxation of commercial property (but not residential) owners who would benefit from nearby transit to pay for it on the model of what already is in place in Northern Virginia. Hans Riemer pointed out at that county taxes are the lowest in real terms in a decade.

Purple Line Trail and the Wisconsin Ave. Tunnel. All agreed that the county should pay for it. George Leventhal was clearest in directly stating “we have to spend what it takes.” Robert Dyer argued that we’re required to rebuild it under Maryland law. Marc Elrich said “it’s the least we have to do.” Hans Riemer said it would have to occur with the redevelopment of the APEX building but Marc Elrich expressed concern that the building’s owners are “holding us up” for  more money on top of the greatly increased density that they’ve already received.

Sparks. George Leventhal provided most of the moments with heat and light. At one point, he interrupted Marc Elrich to try unsuccessfully to interrogate him on his Purple Line position. He upbraided moderator Charles Duffy for asking questions on how to solve problems with incompatible bases in fact. Reading a letter praising him from a constituent for solving a problem engendered a noisy, negative reaction from the crowd.

The Importance of Demeanor

The debate reminded me that it is just as important how a candidate says something as what they say. In the 2000 presidential election, the first presidential debate between Gore and Bush became a textbook case. Gore clearly was stronger on the facts but sounded patronizing, sighed a lot when Bush spoke, and often answered the last question instead of the one posed.

Bush, while clearly not the most knowledgeable, was the one people who weren’t hard core Democrats liked. For many, he was the one who gave a sense of a solid character who you would have enjoyed getting to know. Gore did so badly that his advisers made him watch the popular SNL parody in the hope that he’d learn something.

Candidate Reviews

Tim Willard raised important issues regarding climate change but was the Debbie Downer of the debate due to his consistently pessimistic demeanor and failure to offer concrete proposals about how to address these problems locally. Still, great to be offered alternatives in one-party Montgomery.

Robert Dyer utterly surprised me because this Republican is probably more left wing than many of the Democrats. Running as a dark horse candidate also freed him to make many out of the box statements, such as calling for a bridge over the Potomac, castigating the Council for paying for transit projects we don’t need but failing to fund the ones we do, and saying that the Council should make developers pay and stop overdeveloping Bethesda.

Vivian Malloy had a personality that just made you want to vote for her as she is a nice, warm person who clearly cares about the county and its problems. More specifics on how to address important issues she raised, such as affordable housing, would have enhanced her good presentation.

Beth Daly projected both confidence, an unusual knowledge of the issues for a challenger, and had a can-do positive attitude that contrasted with fellow challenger Tim Willard’s negativity. She projected well her past involvement in issues like Ten Mile Creek and an eagerness to get to work. Clearly allied with Marc Elrich, she was a candidate that people liked.

Nancy Floreen came across as calm, thoughtful and knowledgeable who understood the complexities of the issues faced by the Council. Put another way, she came across as an experienced, trustworthy set of hands. More detailed responses would have been welcome despite the complicated nature of many issues, though she clearly has a mastery of many facts.

George Leventhal. One person said to me after the debate: “If you wrote down what George said and read it, it would come across as a perfectly reasonable argument but George always sounds angry.” A disastrous performance.

Hans Riemer. Hard not to like a guy who tweets back at you even as he engages in the debate. Still optimistic but perhaps a bit more careworn after four years on the Council, Hans did a good job of touting specific concrete legislative achievements.

Marc Elrich just excels at these events, probably because as a former teacher he knows how to explain complex problems in ways that people can understand. Probably the winner of the debate with the audience and I’m not just saying that because I support him. His commitment to poor and working people combined with his community focus seemed a winning formula.

AFL-CIO and Gazette Endorse in MoCo At-Large Council Race

In the at-large race for Montgomery County Council, the Gazette has endorsed newcomer Beth Daly along with incumbents Marc Elrich, Nancy Floreen, and George Leventhal, leaving incumbent Hans Riemer and challenger Vivian Malloy out in the cold.

The Maryland AFL-CIO has endorsed both challengers, Beth Daly and Vivian Malloy. Marc Elrich was the only endorsed incumbent and the AFL-CIO did not endorse for the fourth seat. They AFL declined to endorse in the contested Sheriff’s race.

Bad day for Hans Riemer who received neither endorsement. Great day for Beth Daly and Marc Elrich won gained both of them.

Effects Bargaining and Endorsements

Effects

MCGEO is the Municipal and County Government Employee Organization. FOP is the Fraternal Order of Police. AFL is the MD-DC AFL-CIO. IAFF is the International Association of Fire Fighters. There might be additional endorsements than those recorded here, particularly for the IAFF.

The government employee unions are placing heavy bets behind candidates who favor effects bargaining despite its repudiation by the voters, especially Duchy Trachtenberg and Tom Hucker. In a recent debate, Duchy speculated that the decline in police morale resulting from the removal of effects bargaining had caused crime to increase. Except that crime has declined–as Ike Leggett loves to remind us–which renders the theory untenable.

Ryan Spiegel has positioned himself as extremely pro-labor despite his unwillingness to revisit effects bargaining. And the unions don’t have a pro-effects bargaining choice in District 3. Ryan is clearly their candidate for the Rockville-Gaithersburg district.

In ultra-liberal District 5, Evan Glass has staked out a position as the only candidate opposed to overturning the will of the voters unless it proves to cause problems for voters. Not a bad idea since he was never going to outbid Hucker for union support.

Marc Elrich is the only incumbent councilmember to receive an endorsement from any of these four unions. At-Large Candidate Vivian Malloy is pro-effects bargaining but is not perceived as a viable challenger by these unions.

At-Large MoCo Council Race, Pt. 1

MarcElrichMarc Elrich Argues for a Higher Minimum Wage

All four Montgomery County Council incumbents elected at-large are running for reelection: Marc Elrich, Nancy Floreen, George Leventhal, and Hans Riemer. Two challengers are also in the race: Beth Daly and Vivian Malloy. Both are credible candidates.

Nancy Floreen and George Leventhal joined the Council in 2002 as part of County Executive Doug Duncan’s “End Gridlock” slate. Elrich lost that year but joined the Council when tides turned in 2006. Hans Riemer lost the primary for the District 5 seat to Valerie Ervin in 2006 but unseated one-term incumbent Duchy Trachtenberg with Valerie’s support in 2010.

Gauging the shape of these primaries is difficult. In a county of roughly 1 million people, the county government–equivalent to the city council of a city of the same size–remains much less known than it deserves. Indeed, for the challengers, one of the main problems is getting sufficiently well-known to pose a serious challenge.

None can afford to advertise on television in this very expensive media market. Communication through the mail, in person, and now through social media are the central means of voter contact. All also race around the county following a brutal schedule that makes me tired just thinking about it.

Oddly enough, the Council’s most conservative and liberal members seem safe. In his first reelection bid in 2010, liberal Marc Elrich came in first by a mile despite being underfunded as usual. He is best known for his relentless advocacy of a countywide bus-rapid transit system–an indication of a willingness to work with development interests that he is better known for opposing.

Marc’s BRT plan still strikes me as the most innovative and future-oriented vision for the County. It has the potential not just to aid the County’s transportation needs but also to promote economic and job growth in a sustainable way over the long term.

Nancy has been a leading voice on the other side, successfully promoting revision of zoning laws in a developer friendly manner. While part of the County’s liberal consensus on social questions, she also has staked out conservative positions on other issues, such as her opposition to the county bag tax.

Even as she argues tenaciously for her positions, Nancy also does a good job of keeping in touch with all sides. Despite being seen in many ways as the Chamber’s closest ally on the Council, she is also occasionally willing to deviate from this pattern, particularly when pressed hard by well-organized large civic groups.

Both Marc and Nancy are smart, opinionated lawmakers who utterly disagree on many big issues before the Council.

nancy_and_alexandraNancy Floreen Seeking Golden Shovel Nominees

Moving Forward with RTS in Montgomery

RTSMap

Proposed Rapid Transit System Map

Montgomery County has adopted plans for a bus rapid transit system (RTS) of nearly 96 miles. This system includes not only the long planned Corridor Cities Transitway (CCT) of 15 miles but a separately planned system of nearly 81 miles.

Proposed and pushed relentlessly by at-large Montgomery County Councilmember Marc Elrich, the plan to add 81 miles is the most ambitious effort to expand public transit in the area since Metro. While other jurisdictions, including DC and Alexandria, are ahead of Montgomery in moving ahead with RTS, Montgomery’s is the most extensive network.

The above schematic map shows the proposed routes as well as the planned light-rail Purple Line and CCT. The map produced by Communities for Transit, an RTS advocacy group, uses the familiar Metro system design, which makes it look attractive but also misleadingly suggests that RTS is heavy rail like Metro. It’s not. Repeat: map looks like Metro; system is not Metro.

On the other hand, I understand the drive by proponents to avoid the word “bus.” In the DC area, people associate the buses with Metrobuses–the slowest still moving form of transportation ever invented. Drivers perceive buses as barely moving hulks to avoid and to pass. Though RTS is not heavy rail, it is also definitely not Metrobus.

RTS buses move much faster and are much nicer, more analogous to light or heavy rail cars. These buses are also designed to approach platforms at level–again like Metro or light rail–so there is no climbing up or down.

Greater speed than conventional buses is achieved because RTS buses usually travel in their own dedicated lanes. There can be two lanes on either side of the street along the curb or two in the median. Alternatively, in tighter areas, there may just be one lane that switches direction. Buses traveling in the direction of heavy traffic use the dedicated lane while buses going in the other direction travel with regular traffic.

In some areas with little room, the buses may have to travel in regular traffic in both directions. However, even in these areas, RTS buses can go faster than regular buses because they communicate to hold the traffic lights so that they can make the lights if they are close to the light but it’s about to change.

People often wonder why we don’t just expand Metro, like the delayed Silver Line in Virginia, or build light rail, like the planned Purple Line, instead. They reason is cost. RTS is far cheaper than either of these methods. This item from the Communities for Transit presentation caught my eye:

SLC BRT

In Salt Lake City, light rail would have been ten times as expensive as the RTS alternative. The price difference means that Montgomery can get far more bang for the buck with RTS. Indeed, the CCT was originally planned as a light rail but is now expected to be a bus rapid transit system, so that it is financially feasible.

The low cost is critical because, even with the Governor’s successful  drive to take measures to expand Maryland’s transportation fund, there is not nearly enough money for all of the State’s transportation priorities from roads and Baltimore’s Red Line to MARC and Metro (those elevators. . . ).

One of the most appealing aspects of RTS is the potential, and it remains just potential, to help weaken the battles between civic groups and developers. Developers want greater density while civics worry about the impact on infrastructure, especially the increased traffic.

The Montgomery RTS plan allows more growth to occur in the context of a system designed to address heightened traffic and also to spread development, along with its benefits and problems, around a much larger area rather than one or two nodes. It recognizes that Montgomery remains a spread out suburban area even as we develop multiple new urban centers.

According to Communities for Transit, RTS does produce additional investment:

Cleveland

And growth needs to occur to provide jobs and income, as well as to pay the taxes to regenerate our aging infrastructure and expand it. The key is to invest the public transit money wisely.