Category Archives: Adam Pagnucco

Cory McCray to Announce for Senate

By Adam Pagnucco.

Next Saturday, freshman Delegate Cory McCray (D-45) is holding a campaign event in which he is expected to announce a challenge to long-time Baltimore City Senator Nathaniel McFadden.  It’s a gutsy move that will be one of the marquee races in the city.  The Baltimore Sun and Maryland Matters have both covered the impending race.  We reprint McCray’s announcement below.

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Special Announcement about the 2018 Elections

What: Friends, family, and neighbors across Baltimore’s 45th Legislative District will gather for a special announcement from Delegate Cory McCray

When: Saturday, September 16, 2017 @ 10:00 A.M.

Where: Clifton Park – 2555 Harford Road, Baltimore, MD 21218 (Across From Fairmount Harford High School)

Who: Lifelong Baltimore resident and member of the House of Delegates, Delegate Cory McCray

Why: Baltimore is a strong community filled with potential, and we deserve political leadership who will help turn that potential into a reality.

Growing up in Baltimore, Cory could have easily become a statistic. He changed his life when he found an opportunity to do better. He wants to provide those same opportunities to the residents in the 45th district. Though the challenges Baltimore faces are significant, Cory is prepared to deal with those challenges head on. Baltimore is a town that has passion and determination to push through these difficult times. September 16th, Cory will make an announcement regarding his plans to fight for the community that raised him. The 45th district deserves a leader who will listen and provide services to improve the quality of life, where the community are partners in progress.

Cory McCray, is a husband, father of four, union electrician and, he’s willing to make the hard choices necessary to begin the healing in Baltimore.

Cory V. McCray

corymccray@gmail.com

www.corymccray.com

Facebook – http://on.fb.me/gAIEJ0

Twitter – @corymccray

“Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

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First Impressions, Part One

By Adam Pagnucco.

The combination of County Executive Ike Leggett’s retirement, public campaign financing and term limits is producing an unprecedented flood of candidates running for the County Council’s four at-large seats.  By the time of the filing deadline next February, thirty or more people could be in the race.  Your author has previously written about those who may be running who have prior electoral experience.  Starting today, we will be sharing first impressions of seven new at-large candidates, all of whom have been subjected to withering, multi-hour interrogations by your author.  We are pleased to report that all seven survived these encounters and any damage is hopefully temporary.

The at-large council race is a fascinating and historic affair.  Since the current council configuration was established in 1990, there have never been three at-large vacancies.  Normally, your author considers the past in evaluating what the future will be.  But in some respects, the past may not be as useful a guide as usual because of the sheer unprecedented nature of what is now happening.

The best analogy for this current at-large race is a giant, open air bazaar.  Voters enter it and encounter dozens of kiosks, each with a candidate selling his or her candidacy.  Each candidate promises the best deal – just for you! – as the voters stroll by.  Which ones can cut through the noise?  Which ones can attract the most people?  The four kiosks that sell their wares to the most voters will win the competition.  And it could very well be that those wares will be very different from each other as different segments of the market drive their favored candidates to victory.

Overall, the at-large field is shaping up to be deep and talented.  The only shame here is that there are many more good candidates than available seats, meaning that some highly qualified people are going to lose.  On to our first impressions of the new candidates, given in no particular order.

Marilyn Balcombe, Germantown

Some liberals stereotype business leaders as anti-union, anti-government (except when collecting corporate welfare), anti-tax and primarily – perhaps solely – concerned with accumulating profits.  Your author once worked on union organizing campaigns in the South and met a few corporate owners who fit that bill!  But if that’s what you think of business leaders in general, Marilyn Balcombe is going to surprise you.

The long-time President/CEO of the Gaithersburg-Germantown Chamber of Commerce, Balcombe is representative of MoCo’s chamber leaders who tend to be very different from their counterparts elsewhere.  All of the full-time, paid local chamber presidents are women.  Some of them are moms who have been active in their PTAs.  Most are Democrats who tend to be liberal on social issues.  All favor funding for public education.  All are pragmatic rather than ideological.  And absolutely none of them are tea partiers.

Balcombe, who holds a Ph.D. in industrial and organizational psychology, is analytical by nature.  She does not prejudge issues on the basis of ideology and continually seeks out evidence in making her decisions.  She agrees with the county’s emphasis on education but wants to augment it with robust economic development.  She’s a good listener who prefers policy to politics.  (She will admit to not being crazy about the political parts of running for office!)  Above all, she is a grown-up.  If you’re looking for a serious, hard-working, center-left candidate who will focus on making the county more competitive with its neighbors, Marilyn Balcombe should get your vote.

More to come in Part Two.

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Union Density in Maryland, 1983-2016

By Adam Pagnucco. 

Labor Day is the one day of the year when the press discusses one of America’s great historic institutions, the labor movement.  Much of the press’s discourse contains annual descriptions of labor’s decline, some sympathetic and some not.  Whatever its causes, the story is true: union influence over the economy and American quality of life has been shrinking for decades.  Maryland is not immune.

Labor unions are important protectors of working class and middle class people.  Unlike political parties, corporations and the press, labor unions were created directly by working people, are governed by leaders those working people elect and are accountable to their memberships.  In their heyday from the 1930s through the 1970s, they played indispensable roles in passing laws on social security, civil rights, wage and hour standards and benefit protections.  They also reversed the income inequality that prevailed from the Gilded Age through the 1920s and built America’s first large, influential middle class.  Under assault by corporate America, hostile politicians, problematic trade policies and economic change as well as – in some cases – handicapped by myopic leadership, they have mostly retreated to the public sector and a few urban strongholds in the Northeast, the Midwest and the West Coast.  Many of today’s economic problems, like stagnant wages, vanishing pensions and the increasing dominance of the one percent can be linked to union decline.

The ultimate source of union power is labor’s percentage of the workforce, commonly called union density.  When unions establish collective bargaining for a critical mass of employees in a given market, whether industrial, geographic or both, their compensation becomes the standard that even non-union employers must meet.  That’s right – even non-union workers benefit from unions.  But when unions are unable to organize significant percentages of workers in their markets, they struggle to maintain high levels of wages and benefits in the face of overwhelming non-union competition.  Hence, union density is a critical measure of union effectiveness.

According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, union density in the United States was 10.7% in 2016, down from 24.0% in 1973.  Maryland’s union density in 2016 was 11.0%, almost exactly the national average.  New York was the only state in 2016 to have a union density of more than 20% while 27 states had densities of less than 10%.

One might suppose that Maryland would be an exception to the rule of declining unionization given the size of its public sector, its long-time control by labor-friendly Democrats and the status of Baltimore as a once-great manufacturing and shipping center.  But the truth is that Maryland has mirrored the rest of the country in falling union density.  In 1983, 18.5% of its total workforce was in unions.  By 2016, that share had fallen to 11.0%.

Union decline in Maryland has been uneven.  Protected by laws allowing state and local government collective bargaining and friendly politicians, public sector unions have mostly held onto their power.  Their density in 2016 (27.4%) was little changed from 1983 (29.9%).  The real fall of Maryland unions has taken place in the private sector.  In 1983, 14.4% of Maryland private sector workers were union members.  In 2016, that share had dropped to 5.6%.

Private sector union collapse in Maryland has been broad and deep.  Construction unions saw their density fall from 16.0% in 1983 to 12.7% in 2016.  In the services sector, the drop was from 10.7% to 5.0%.  And in private manufacturing, unions in Maryland have been almost obliterated.  Union density in that sector fell from 29.2% in 1983 to a shocking 3.9% in 2016.

Progressive elected officials and advocacy groups have focused on measures like minimum wage laws, sick leave laws, tax legislation, health care reform and education funding to help the working and middle classes and reverse income inequality.  All of those things matter.  But a long-term, sustainable progressive agenda may be impossible without a healthy labor movement.  Independent labor organizations are critical to passing good laws, holding corporations and politicians accountable and preserving the gains made by working people against constant attempts to reverse them.  Without them, the one percent will continue their march to total domination.

Disclosures: Your author holds two degrees in Industrial and Labor Relations from Cornell University and worked for sixteen years as a strategic researcher in the labor movement.

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Evan Glass Announces Kickoff

By Adam Pagnucco.

Council At-Large candidate Evan Glass has announced his campaign kickoff event at El Golfo in Silver Spring on September 16th.  (For those who have not been to El Golfo, it is absolutely one of MoCo’s best Latino restaurants!)  An interesting detail of his kickoff is the advertised presence of District 5 County Council Member Tom Hucker, who defeated Glass by a tiny margin in 2014.  We reprint the announcement below.

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Leventhal Blames Term Limits on “Right Wing Populism”

By Adam Pagnucco.

In a post on Senator Cheryl Kagan’s Facebook page, Council Member George Leventhal has blamed the voters’ passage of term limits on “right wing populism.”  Yes folks, you read that correctly!

On Sunday, Senator Kagan posted an innocuous account of the number of reusable bags she has accumulated in the wake of the county’s use of a bag tax.  (Your author and many others can relate!)  Her post had nothing to do with term limits and she even stated her support of the bag tax.  Nevertheless, Leventhal replied within ten minutes.  “Constituents have told me the bag tax was a primary reason term limits passed. I support the bag tax too, but I’m just letting you know that you walk a thin line when you associate with right wing populism by identifying yourself with term limits.”

First, Kagan did nothing to identify herself with term limits or with right wing populism of any kind.  No reasonable person would make those leaps of illogic by reading her post.  Second, while Robin Ficker and Help Save Maryland may have gathered signatures for the term limits charter amendment, 70% of the county’s voters (and a majority of Democrats) voted for term limits.  Third, at the same time that “right wing populism” was apparently sweeping the county, those same voters supported Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump by 75%-19%.  The alleged right wingers also voted for Chris Van Hollen and Jamie Raskin by more than 50 points each.

Large majorities of every part of the county except Takoma Park voted for term limits.  Is right wing populism running wild in MoCo?

Part of what is going on here may be a reaction to Kagan’s consideration of a run for County Executive, an office which Leventhal is seeking.  Potential rivals are right to fear Kagan.  She is an outstanding candidate who is a veteran of two recent hard-fought Senate races and has many fans inside and outside of her district.  She is also plenty tough, having sent out mail against her 2014 opponent showing him “gallivanting around as a Republican elephant masquerading in a Democrat donkey mask.”  She is unlikely to be intimidated by unfriendly statements on Facebook.

There are many reasons for the passage of term limits: the giant tax hike of 2016, declining local media coverage, falling voter turnout, unhappiness with nanny state laws and, in some areas, dissatisfaction with recent master plans.  These factors and more combined to produce the biggest political revolt in MoCo in fifty years.  But there is no evidence that right wing populism played a decisive role here.  Leventhal’s remarks are reminiscent of his equating term limits supporters with Brexit voters and his branding of the entire effort as “dumb and unnecessary.”  His views do not appear to have changed.

Disclosures: Your author is a big fan of Kagan, has done campaign work for Roger Berliner in the past and publicly supports Berliner for Executive.

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Certain of Victory, Candidates Move to Takoma Park

By Adam Pagnucco.

Real estate agents in Takoma Park report that home values in the City have doubled in the last month as local candidates swarm in to buy houses.  “I’ve never seen anything like it,” said local realtor Walt Simonson.  “They say they want to win their next election and they’re beating out all other bids!”

The candidate frenzy is driven by a surge of media coverage about Takoma Park’s dominance of the County Council.  City residents occupy three of the four at-large seats.  Also, Congressman Jamie Raskin, Comptroller Peter Franchot and DNC Chairman Tom Perez live in Takoma Park.  As a result, a home in the City is seen by many as locking down a victory for elected office.

“If I can just get that house on Poplar Avenue, I know I’m gonna win,” said County Council candidate Evan Glass, who was relocating from Silver Spring.  When shown data illustrating that the city’s dominance of the council was temporary, Glass didn’t believe it.  “Fake news!  I believe in winning.  Don’t you?”

Some incumbents who represent districts in other parts of the county are renting second homes in Takoma Park just to increase their chances of reelection.  Your author witnessed District 17 Delegate Kumar Barve, who is facing a challenger, signing a lease for a Maple Avenue apartment.  On being asked what he was doing, Barve replied to your author, “None of your business!”

Political observers believe that Takoma Park residents will win ten council seats in the upcoming election.  That’s noteworthy since there are only nine council offices at present.  “We are installing a tenth council position reserved for Takoma Park.  It will have veto power over the other council seats,” said Seth Grimes, a former City Council Member running for County Council.  “In the unlikely event you elect non-City residents to the other seats, it won’t matter.  But good luck anyway!”

Takoma Park’s dominance of local government is manifest in the regular shipments of gold bullion it receives, all stamped with the Montgomery County Government seal.  When your author noticed a new shipment being unloaded into the city’s treasury vault, Mayor Kate Stewart said, “You’re not supposed to see that.”  Workers proceeded to drape tarps over the bullion as it was hauled in.

The City is greatly aided in its mission to control world politics by its Takoma Park Political Domination School, established in 1890.  Enrollment in the school is mandatory for all residents.  Students are taught the fine arts of door-knocking, money-raising (except from developers), campaign rhetoric and opposition to conservatives.  Many residents enroll their children in the school shortly after birth.  “We start them young,” said employee Flo Steinberg, who works in the school’s Political Daycare Center.  Two-year-old Marcy was seen receiving language training from Steinberg.  “Liberal,” said Steinberg.  “Lib-wuhl,” replied Marcy.  “No, no.  Lib.  Err.  Al.”  The school’s success is proven by U.S. Census Bureau data indicating that 82% of Takoma Park’s residents are current, former or future elected officials.  The other 18% are recent arrivals.

Xerxes Z-1, commandant of Galactic Fleet 26 from Planet X, agreed that the City dominated Earth politics.  “When we came to this planet, we did not go to the White House.  We are not interested in discount golf club memberships, financial transactions with Russian oligarchs or Cheetos.  We asked to be taken to your leaders and of course that meant coming to Takoma Park.”  The alien commander spoke from the grounds of the Takoma Park Political Domination School, where he had enrolled immediately upon reaching Earth.

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Miller Causes a Huge Headache for Maryland Democrats

By Adam Pagnucco.

Democrats all over the country have lately been demanding that Confederate statues and other monuments celebrating slavery be taken down.  That extends to Maryland, where Baltimore Mayor Cathy Pugh had four Confederate monuments removed in the middle of the night.  But when Maryland Democrats demanded that an Annapolis statue of former U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Taney also be removed, they ran into opposition from arguably the state’s most powerful Democratic politician: Senate President Mike Miller.

Democrats’ objections to Taney are rooted in his authoring of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dred Scott decision, which held that descendants of Africans imported as slaves into the U.S. could not be American citizens.  In 2015, Governor Larry Hogan defended the Taney statue in Annapolis in the Washington Post.

Gov. Larry Hogan (R) says he is opposed to a change in the state song and likened the effort to calls for removing the statue of Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Brooke Taney, author of the pro-slavery Dred Scott decision, from the grounds of the State House.

“It’s political correctness run amok,” Hogan said in an interview last week. “Where do we stop? Do we get rid of the George Washington statues out here and take down all the pictures from all the people from the Colonial era that were slave owners? Do we change the name of Washington County, Carroll County and Calvert County?

“You can’t change history, and we’re not going to be able to rewrite history,” Hogan said. “And I don’t think we ought to be changing any of that.”

After Democrats including House Speaker Mike Busch pushed back this week, Hogan changed his mind and agreed to remove the statue.  The Governor was one of three members of the four-member board with jurisdiction over the statue to vote for removal.  But one member of the board objected to the process of deciding the issue by email: Senate President Mike Miller.  In his letter, Miller argued that Taney opposed slavery and “freed his slaves early in his life,” joined an “anti-kidnapping society” to protect free blacks and remained loyal to the Union until his death.  Miller also cited support for the statue from former Baltimore City Delegate Pete Rawlings and a descendant of Dred Scott.  We reprint the letter below.

Whatever one thinks of Miller’s opinion, it’s a big headache for Maryland Democrats.  Much of their strategy to oppose Governor Hogan has been to criticize him for silence in the face of actions by President Donald Trump.  That strategy has affected the behavior of the Governor, who just said that Trump “made a terrible mistake” in his comments on the white supremacist invasion of Charlottesville.  But what of Miller?  If his comments on the Taney statue had come from Hogan, Maryland Democrats would be swarming all over him.  What happens when such sentiments come from one of the most powerful Democrats in the state?

One Democrat who did not blanch from criticizing the Senate President was Senator Rich Madaleno (D-18), who is running for Governor.  Madaleno wrote on Facebook that Miller “is wrong.”

The rest of the Democrats now have a choice.  They can be intellectually honest and take on one of the leaders of their party.  Or they can ignore Miller and look like hypocrites.

As with Hogan on Trump, silence is not an option.

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Delauter Responds to Seventh State

By Adam Pagnucco.

After our post on Frederick County Council Member Kirby Delauter’s views on the Civil War, Delauter reached out to your author on Facebook and requested an interview.  Your author agreed, but when I stipulated that the interview be on the record, Delauter balked.

Below is the exchange with Delauter on the Western Maryland Politics Facebook page.

We have often gone off the record with sources in the past.  But Delauter is different.  He is the only local elected official we know of who has threatened to sue a news publication for “unauthorized” use of his name.  We remind Delauter (and any like-minded politicians) that truth is an absolute defense to libel and defamation lawsuits, and that includes citing public statements made by public figures.  Accordingly, while we are happy to communicate with Delauter, we will only do it on the record because of his history of threatening litigation.

One more thing.  While Delauter may have been mocked by some for his threat against the Frederick News-Post, we take him very seriously.  He has enthusiastic supporters, is an able fundraiser and represents a red district that is a good base for a GOP candidate running county-wide.  Delauter may very well be Frederick County’s next Executive.

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Delauter Says Civil War Was About “True Freedom,” Not Race

By Adam Pagnucco.

Frederick County Council Member Kirby Delauter once threatened to sue the Frederick News-Post for using his name without permission.  That statement wound up spreading all over the country, making Delauter by far the most well-known politician in Frederick.  But now, Delauter has accomplished an almost impossible feat by topping that quote.  On Facebook, he has declared that the Civil War and current social disruptions were not about race, but “about true freedom.”

In a Facebook post yesterday, Delauter wrote, “Growing up I never really understood how Americans could fight each other in a civil war…….. I’m starting to understand how that happened…….and how close we are to repeating history.”  Many people might agree with that statement.  But then he followed up with, “And it wasn’t about race then and it’s not about race now. It’s always been about true freedom.”

Actually, the Civil War was all about race since the primary reason the Southern states seceded was to protect slavery.  This is a proven fact given what the Confederate states themselves said in their declarations of secession.  States’ rights, the argument for the war which was subsequently made up in an attempt to whitewash history decades later, does not appear in the declarations but slavery is mentioned over and over.  Georgia and South Carolina specifically criticized the federal government for not forcing Northern states to send back escaped slaves and punish those who aided them.  This is an argument AGAINST states’ rights and certainly against “true freedom.”  Here’s a sample from the declarations.

Mississippi

In the momentous step which our State has taken of dissolving its connection with the government of which we so long formed a part, it is but just that we should declare the prominent reasons which have induced our course.

Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery– the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin.

Texas

Texas abandoned her separate national existence and consented to become one of the Confederated Union to promote her welfare, insure domestic tranquility and secure more substantially the blessings of peace and liberty to her people. She was received into the confederacy with her own constitution, under the guarantee of the federal constitution and the compact of annexation, that she should enjoy these blessings. She was received as a commonwealth holding, maintaining and protecting the institution known as negro slavery– the servitude of the African to the white race within her limits– a relation that had existed from the first settlement of her wilderness by the white race, and which her people intended should exist in all future time. Her institutions and geographical position established the strongest ties between her and other slave-holding States of the confederacy. Those ties have been strengthened by association. But what has been the course of the government of the United States, and of the people and authorities of the non-slave-holding States, since our connection with them?

The controlling majority of the Federal Government, under various pretences and disguises, has so administered the same as to exclude the citizens of the Southern States, unless under odious and unconstitutional restrictions, from all the immense territory owned in common by all the States on the Pacific Ocean, for the avowed purpose of acquiring sufficient power in the common government to use it as a means of destroying the institutions of Texas and her sister slaveholding States.

Georgia

The faithless conduct of our adversaries is not confined to such acts as might aggrandize themselves or their section of the Union. They are content if they can only injure us. The Constitution declares that persons charged with crimes in one State and fleeing to another shall be delivered up on the demand of the executive authority of the State from which they may flee, to be tried in the jurisdiction where the crime was committed. It would appear difficult to employ language freer from ambiguity, yet for above twenty years the non-slave-holding States generally have wholly refused to deliver up to us persons charged with crimes affecting slave property. Our confederates, with punic faith, shield and give sanctuary to all criminals who seek to deprive us of this property or who use it to destroy us. This clause of the Constitution has no other sanction than their good faith; that is withheld from us; we are remediless in the Union; out of it we are remitted to the laws of nations.

South Carolina

We affirm that these ends for which this Government was instituted have been defeated, and the Government itself has been made destructive of them by the action of the non-slaveholding States. Those States have assume the right of deciding upon the propriety of our domestic institutions; and have denied the rights of property established in fifteen of the States and recognized by the Constitution; they have denounced as sinful the institution of slavery; they have permitted open establishment among them of societies, whose avowed object is to disturb the peace and to eloign the property of the citizens of other States. They have encouraged and assisted thousands of our slaves to leave their homes; and those who remain, have been incited by emissaries, books and pictures to servile insurrection.

As for what is happening now, it’s all about race.  Anyone who doubts that should watch this video made by a reporter who embedded herself with the racists and anti-Semites who marched in Charlottesville.  Listen to what they say and what their intentions are.  They leave little doubt about their agenda.

It’s hard to commit a bigger gaffe than Delauter’s threat to sue a newspaper for “unauthorized” use of his name.  But Delauter has accomplished the impossible by claiming that the Civil War and current social disruptions are about “true freedom” and not race.  Delauter is currently running for County Executive.  Frederick County voters will have several choices for that office in both parties who are vastly superior to Delauter.  Hopefully they will end his political career once and for all.

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Leggett Backs Away from Junk Science Study

By Adam Pagnucco.

County Executive Ike Leggett, who commissioned a county-financed study on the impact of a minimum wage increase blasted by the Economic Policy Institute as “absurd junk science,” is backing away from its results.  Leggett asked in a letter to the study’s authors that they review the methodology and findings in their report.  He also revealed that his administration had “received word from your firm that there might be a problem with the methodology and calculation of fiscal impact and resulting job impacts.  You have indicated that the job losses might be less than what is expressed in the report.”

Let’s recall that this very same firm prepared a study recommending retention of MoCo’s liquor monopoly – a study that did not include review of your author’s proposal to replace its revenue.  If the minimum wage study is so flawed that the Executive is retreating from it, what does that say about this same company’s work on the liquor monopoly?

It’s worth noting that the Executive’s letter to the study’s authors comes at the exact same time that the County Council is sending him an exhaustive list of questions about the study’s methodology.  The council is set to review the study in public next month.  One line of questioning examines the minimum wage bill’s impact on county labor costs, which could range into the tens of millions of dollars.  That issue is sure to become more prominent in time.

We reproduce the Executive’s letter below.

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