Guest Blog: On Leggett’s Stormwater Changes

By Kit Gage, Advocacy Director, Friends of Sligo Creek.

Montgomery County, like the rest of Maryland and particularly the developed parts of the Chesapeake region, is full of parking lots and roofs and other impervious surfaces.  All these hard surfaces have made for a relatively terrible environment – pollutants, worse flooding and droughts have been the result.  The federal Clean Water Act thru the EPA, and the state of Maryland, require us to create projects that help our rivers, creeks, and the whole area better absorb stormwater.   Litigation has enforced doing this work.  So Montgomery County doesn’t have a choice about proceeding full speed ahead to do active stormwater collection and infiltration.

Now County Executive Leggett has announced that he wants to back off from these projects – 1) cancelling a bunch of them, 2) flat lining the Water Quality Protection Charge, and 3) changing the way contractors will do these projects.  It makes no sense.  The county already has to do special projects because it didn’t do enough stormwater work. Mr. Leggett argues his concerns are inefficiencies and too great expenditures in the stormwater mitigation effort.  Ok, let’s look at his solutions:

1.  Cancelling projects that are in process – already designed, locales evaluated, etc., is inefficient and costly.  The county can finish these projects – or almost all of these projects – by getting bids from approved contractors as it already does and so do them quickly, efficiently and relatively inexpensively.

2.  We understand there may be other agencies using the Water Quality Protection Charge for other than stormwater projects – if this is true then that should be fixed, rather than limiting access to stormwater funds by the lead agency, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), and Parks that are doing these projects.   Their efforts over recent years have helped them learn how to do them better, more quickly, and more cheaply.

3.  There is no evidence that the Public Private Partnership (P3) is better.  There is some evidence that some of the nearby P3 projects don’t provide the more effective and environmentally sensitive solutions that should be required for good stormwater collection, infiltration, and wildlife support.  Starting a brand new process for contracting is almost certain to be disruptive and inefficient, particularly to projects in process.

Is there room for improvement?  Sure.  We could be planting lots more trees. We could do more projects like conservation landscapes in peoples’ yards, schools, and other institutions.  We could be changing the way we handle turf – reducing use of pesticides and fertilizers at the source, mowing high, aerating and soil testing to have grass act better to capture and soak in stormwater.  These things are cheaper and easier to do.  But don’t take responsibility out of the hands of DEP.

Let’s fix any problems, not create new ones.

Share

On Prancing, Broad Shoulders and Alec Ross

Prancing

Alec Ross has received a lot of press attention over his accusing openly gay Sen. Rich Madaleno of “prancing around around Annapolis.” Ross’ initial reaction was to ignore. Then, he said he would not apologize in a meeting with the Howard County Young Democrats.

His running mate, openly lesbian Julie Verrati, a co-owner of Denizens, got outraged in a tweetstorm. Beyond arguing that Ross is not homophobic, Verrati pointed out that she has been regularly subjected to demeaning remarks, which is an odd defense of her running mate doing the same on television.

Verrati also argued that she shouldn’t have to address this issue. I agree. Ross should have just addressed it quickly and directly instead. Finally, I have heard that Ross made a form of the political non-apology apology over his poor choice of words that he should have done immediately to dispense with the issue.

Broad Shoulders

Ignored amid the kerfuffle is that Ross’ remarks are not the first time that he has trafficked in strange stereotypes.

Ross has repeatedly and weirdly referred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) employees as “broad shouldered” as part of his effort to gain attention for his staunch support of immigrant rights and desire to protect them against deportation. He did it at the debate in Chevy Chase Takoma Park that I attended and here is he doing it on the radio in Baltimore:

Though I laud the pro-immigrant sentiment, why is it necessary to stereotype federal employees? While ICE undoubtedly has its bad apples, as do groups that Democrats tend to like such as teachers and union leaders, the people who work for it are federal employees, like many people in the vote rich Washington region.

Of course, even more concerning, is his repeated statement that he would send in Maryland State Troopers to confront ICE. While a nice piece of braggadocio, this would not end well.

Alec Ross

All of this raises the questions about Alec Ross’ candidacy. These sorts of inappropriate and untempered comments are hardly an advertisement for good judgement or an understanding that language and word choice matters when you’re running for office.

As I have mentioned previously on this blog, I am a supporter of Rich Madaleno.

Share

Democratic Voter Registration Has Fallen Since Trump’s Election

By Adam Pagnucco.

Despite a wave of anti-Trump activism from the left, Democratic voter registration in Maryland has actually fallen since the President’s election in November 2016.  Is that a problem?

To answer that question, let’s start with this fact: since November 2016, voter registration among Maryland Democrats has dropped from 2,179,948 to 2,134,776 in February 2018.  That’s a decline of 2%.  Over the same period, voter registration has dropped by 2% among Republicans, risen by 2% among independents and other party members and declined 1% overall.

The state’s voter registration numbers go back to 2000.  Over that period, while registration has risen generally, it is tied to election cycles.  After each general election, registration drops, but then begins rising prior to the next general election.  The chart below shows that pattern clearly for all categories of voters.

Each election cycle has seen an inflection point, a month in which registration has stopped falling and started rising steadily through the next general election.  Over the last four presidential cycles, the inflection point has occurred on average fifteen months before the general election.  Over the last four gubernatorial cycles, the inflection point has occurred on average eight months before the general election.  Here are the registration gains by category from average inflection point to general election in each of those cycles.

A few things stand out.  First, registration gains are far higher in presidential cycles than in gubernatorial cycles.  Second, the long-term trend in both kinds of cycles is decline in the rate of gain.  Third, a sharp fall in registration gains among non-Democrats and non-Republicans in the 2016 cycle may reflect significant discontent with the two major party nominees.  And fourth and most relevant, flat-lining Democratic registration may have been a portent of Anthony Brown’s loss in 2014.

What is happening now?  Our latest data point is February 2018, fifteen months after the 2016 general election.  We compared voter registration gains from the last presidential election to fifteen months later over the last five cycles to put the last fifteen months in perspective.  Overall, it’s normal for registration to fall over that period of time.  On average, registration is down 2% for Democrats and Republicans, up 2% for others and down 1% overall for those 15-month periods.

From November 2016 through February 2018, voter registration fell among Democrats and Republicans by 2%, rose among independents and other party members by 2%, and fell for all voters by 1%.  These are the exact same rates as the average for the last five cycles.

This goes against the prevailing narrative that President Trump’s conduct in office is producing a revival of the Democratic Party.  It’s true that Democrats have put together a string of special election wins around the country and many analysts are predicting that they might take over one or both chambers in Congress.  It’s also true that changes in registration don’t always correspond to changes in actual voting.  But in Maryland, at least on the measure of voter registration, Democrats have not appeared to capitalize on anti-Trumpism to bolster their ranks.  Voter registration trends are behaving normally, not abnormally as one might expect in the age of resistance to Trump.

This is good news for Governor Larry Hogan.  As for Maryland Democrats, perhaps questions should be asked.

Share

S’Long Max Davidson, We Hardly Knew Ye

Faux-Democrat Max Davidson, who jumped in to primary incumbent Sen. Kathy Klausmeier (D-8) at the last moment, has now issued a lengthy “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina” statement withdrawing from the race:

I have been slandered, insulted and had my name dragged through the mud because I challenged the Annapolis establishments preferred candidate. I was called a plant, a fake Democrat among many other things. What’s more, the Democratic Senate Caucus spent untold dollars on advertisements calling me a Republican plant. This is completely absurd and wrong. These allegations have made it impossible for me to have a fair shot at running for office currently.

Davidson’s claims that he has been “slandered” and that he is a progressive Democrat even as he scurries back into his hole remain untrue. He gave far more money to right-wing Republicans than Democrats and doth protested too much in his response after I pointed them out. He still has yet to deny any connection with Republican Christian Miele.

If anyone has been slandered, it is the Seventh State. If “untold dollars” were directed by the Annapolis establishment to attack Max, I sure didn’t see any of them. I have never held any Annapolis job nor received a dime in payment from the Democratic Senate Caucus or any member of the General Assembly.

Meanwhile, more evidence has emerged that Max is a right-wing kook. After learning from a fellow journalist that Davidson was running for office, Charles Daye shared with me concrete evidence from Facebook of Max’s true political sympathies:

Attacking the decline of English dominance, transgender Americans and defending Milo sure doesn’t sound like standard progressive talking points. Trying to trash someone for not earning enough is also not the acme of class.

This approach is more commonly found among people who appear on FOX and Friends. In short, there is more evidence to support rumors that Max is a Black Lives Matter-hating, Trump-supporting sort of guy than a “Berniecrat.”

So long, Max. We hardly knew you. But what we did was more than enough.

Share

MoCo Establishment Growth is Almost Last in the Region

By Adam Pagnucco.

Recently, we published an astonishing statistic: the State Department of Assessments and Taxation processed just nineteen new business filings in Montgomery County in FY16.  In the year before, there were 57 new business filings in the county.  We were skeptical of this statistic because it only applied to two years, thereby making it subject to flukiness.  It is also conceptually incomplete.  For example, a business headquartered in another Maryland county and opening a new location in MoCo would not be captured in new filings for the county.  So we checked data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and confirmed a grim fact: MoCo’s growth in establishments is almost dead last in the Washington region.

BLS tracks net growth in establishments for states and counties.  BLS uses this definition for an establishment:

The physical location of a certain economic activity—for example, a factory, mine, store, or office. A single establishment generally produces a single good or provides a single service. An enterprise (a private firm, government, or nonprofit organization) can consist of a single establishment or multiple establishments. All establishments in an enterprise may be classified in one industry (e.g., a chain), or they may be classified in different industries (e.g., a conglomerate).

BLS has establishment data for states and counties going back to 2001 on its website.  The screenshot below shows establishment data for MoCo from 2001 through 2016, the last complete year for which BLS has data.  It shows a pattern of slow establishment growth that stopped in 2007 and has basically flat-lined since.

In comparison with the 24 jurisdictions that comprise the Washington metro area, MoCo ranks second-to-last in rate of establishment growth from 2001 through 2016.  Only tiny Falls Church City was worse.  The county’s rate of growth over the period (10%) was about one-third the region’s rate (32%) and Fairfax County’s rate (30%).

There is one other difference between MoCo and most of its competitors in the region.  Starting around 2011, the region began to recover from the Great Recession and most jurisdictions started growing their establishment count again.  Between 2011 and 2016, the region’s 24 local jurisdictions collectively recorded a net gain of 13,939 establishments.  D.C. and Fairfax County added more than 3,000 each.  MoCo had a net gain of 6.  Not 600 or 60.  SIX.

2011 was the first full calendar year that the county’s FY11 doubling of the energy tax was in effect.  Is that a factor in what has happened since then?

The establishment data aligns with other data we have published on employment and income, the recent budget shortfall, the county’s increasing reliance on corporate welfare to attract and retain employers, the lack of new business filings and the impact of the liquor monopoly on the restaurant industry.  The county has great assets, including its educated workforce, its superior schools and college, a large federal presence, low crime, high wealth in some of its zip codes and almost no public corruption.  But we are underachieving economically and that is going to come back to haunt us sooner rather than later.  Revitalizing the economy must be a key issue in the upcoming election.

Share

Casa in Action Announces New Endorsements

By Adam Pagnucco.

Immigrant rights group Casa in Action has announced a second wave of endorsements.  We included their first wave in MoCo in our endorsement summary of March 9.  The full list of earlier endorsements appears here.  We reprint Casa in Action’s press release below.

*****

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT

FERNANDA DURAND, CASA in Action fdurand@casainaction.org

JOSSIE FLOR SAPUNAR, CASA in Action jsapunar@casainaction.org

CASA in Action Endorses Local and State Candidates in Maryland

LANGLEY PARK, MD. (WEDNESDAY, MARCH 28, 2018) – The Mid-Atlantic’s premier pro-immigrant electoral organization CASA in Action announced endorsements for the Maryland General Assembly and local council seats ahead of the June 26 Maryland primary. This second series of endorsements took place Sunday after the CASA in Action board interviewed and voted in favor of candidates that support a pro-immigrant agenda benefitting working families. The first series of endorsements can be found at this link.

“Amidst the xenophobia that plagues the national discourse, our community should, now more than ever, be represented by candidates that recognize that immigrant and working families strengthen the fabric of our nation,” said Gustavo Torres, President of CASA in Action. “Uplifting candidates that will champion our issues despite efforts to bring us down will ultimately help all Marylanders. This year we will fight harder than ever to elect a slate of candidates that will provide the social and economic opportunities our community desperately needs.”

Whereas some endorsements went to incumbent officials, many were in support of new leaders that are shaking up the world of politics.

Longtime local activist Krystal Oriadha has advocated for access to health care and quality education for the families that need it most.

Spurred to run for office after witnessing President Trump’s hateful rhetoric, Hamza Khan, former president of the Muslim Democratic Club of Montgomery County, fiercely supports the Maryland TRUST Act and a $15 minimum wage for the working families that call Maryland home.

After leaving a lucrative corporate job to become a computer science teacher in Montgomery County Public Schools, Samir Paul decided to further serve his community by seeking public office, where he will pursue progressive policies as delegate.

Decorated combat veteran Marlin Jenkins is a labor union attorney that relentlessly fought for workplace benefits for federal employees.

A fierce advocate who has dedicated her life to social justice, Brandy Brooks is a progressive activist and organizer determined to expand opportunities in Montgomery County.

Will Jawando is a civil rights attorney and community activist who worked on education and workforce policy at the federal level.

“Whether phone-banking, door-knocking, or registering voters, our members are excited to replicate the electoral victories we secured for our nine candidates in Virginia,” said Yaheiry Mora, Director of CASA in Action. “Many of the Maryland candidates we endorsed are mettle-tested warriors in the fight for equity and justice. Their longstanding history of activism will energize our members to help turn out the vote for candidates that will fight for working families.”

CASA in Action is spearheading a voter mobilization campaign that ensures progressive, pro-immigrant candidates are elected into office at the local, state, and national levels.

 

Endorsements

Prince George’s County – County Council Elections

District 7: Krystal Oriadha

District 9: Tamara Davis Brown

 

House of Delegates and State Senate

 

District 11 House of Delegates

Amy Blank

Shelly Hettleman

Dana Stein

 

District 14 House of Delegates

Anne Kaiser

 

District 15 House of Delegates

Kathleen Dumais

David Hidalgo Fraser

Hamza Khan

 

District 16 House of Delegates

Ariana Kelly

Marc Korman

Samir Paul

 

District 17 House of Delegates

Jim Gilchrist

 

District 18 House of Delegates

Emily Shetty

Jared Solomon

 

District 19 House of Delegates

Bonnie Cullison

Marlin Jenkins

 

District 21 House of Delegates

Mary Lehman

 

District 24 House of Delegates

LaTasha R. Ward for House of Delegates

Erek Barron for House of Delegates

 

District 25 House of Delegates

Darryl Barnes

 

District 39 House of Delegates

Shane Robinson

 

District 40 House of Delegates

Nick Mosby

 

District 43 House of Delegates

Curt Anderson

Maggie McIntosh

 

District 44B House of Delegates

Charles Sydnor

 

District 47

Malcolm Augustine for State Senate

Diana Fennell for House 47A

Jimmy Tarlau for House 47A

 

Montgomery County Council At-Large

Gabe Albornoz

Brandy Brooks

Will Jawando

Hans Riemer

Share

Unelected Beyer Over Claims, Saying She “Passed” Legislation.


Dana Beyer, candidate for the open District 18 Senate seat, is not the first in this election season to claim that they “passed” legislation despite not serving in the legislature. People who don’t serve in legislative bodies do not pass bills. Heck, even individual legislators don’t pass bills.

No doubt she is referring at least partly to the anti-transgender discrimination bills passed by Montgomery County and the General Assembly. During the former, she was a legislative aide to Councilmember Duchy Trachtenberg. In these situations, the well-understand rule is that credit accrues to the legislator–not the aide. It would fine if Beyer would simply claim that she was proud to have worked on the bill instead of over claiming that she “passed” it.

Beyer was the Executive Director of Gender Rights Maryland during the battle for the state anti-discrimination bill but incumbent Sen. Rich Madaleno was the chief sponsor of the state anti-discrimination legislation and indefatigably fought for it for many years. U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin, then a state senator, was also strongly supportive in the General Assembly.

While Beyer lobbied for the bill, she also stormed out of a hearing because she was not on the first panel to testify. Gender Rights Maryland also chose not participate in the broad coalition organized by Equality Maryland Executive Director Carrie Evans, who also spent many years working hard on the bill.

In short, non-legislators don’t pass bills and these fights are invariably team efforts. There are ways for candidates to advertise their past public service efforts and even gild the lily a wee bit without claiming you “passed” bills when not in elective office.

Share

Leventhal Poll Shows Wide Open Executive Race

By Adam Pagnucco.

Council Member George Leventhal, who is running for County Executive, has released an internal poll from Celinda Lake’s firm showing a wide open race.  The poll surveyed 400 likely voters with a margin of error of 4.9 points.  We reprint the three-page polling memo below and have a few comments following.

 

So what can be gleaned from this?

First, voters aren’t paying attention yet.  No candidate draws more than 11% support in the first run of questions and undecided gets 58%.

Second, the margin of error (4.9 points) matters.  In the first run, that means there is no statistically significant difference between the six candidates.  For example, Bill Frick polls at 2% but, with the margin of error, could be at 6.9%.  Marc Elrich polls at 11% but, with the margin of error, could be at 6.1%.  In effect, no one is leading.

Third, even with the “engaged communications” part of the poll, Leventhal is still within the margin of error against Elrich.  As for the “final ballot” that shows Leventhal blowing out the rest of the field, it appears to depend on giving respondents additional information on Leventhal and not on the other candidates.  It “simulates Leventhal having a resources and communications advantage” that does not exist.  At the moment, he will be fifth in cash on hand once the latest public matching funds are disbursed.

Could Leventhal win?  Sure, it’s possible.  He is a four-term incumbent, a former chair of the county Democratic Party, has a geographically diverse base of small contributions and is working as hard as any candidate in the county.

But the simulations showing Leventhal leading the field right now reek of spin.  Voters aren’t fully engaged yet and no one other than David Blair has started mailing regularly and going on television.  We believe the poll’s real message, which is that no one has wrapped up this election quite yet.

Disclosure: the author is a publicly-listed supporter of Roger Berliner.

Share

Lacefield Responds on County Stormwater Plans

By Patrick Lacefield.

Sorry, but Seventh State’s take on the County’s changes in stormwater management was off the mark in some ways – but interestingly enough it was right on the mark in making our case for the change.

First, stormwater management (not the most exciting or high profile issue) has long been a focus of the County Executive, going back to his Council days. He has long had a track record of moving the County toward arduous environmental goals that have made the County a leader in this arena.

Second, the reason he has proposed changes is because the current approach to completing the State-required environmental stormwater management has proven to be inefficient and costly. The design and construction of projects to treat the stormwater was taking several years longer than orignally planned.  The contracting approach was not focused on getting maximum performance.

As Seventh State correctly pointed out, costs to taxpayers have increased. The initial fee for this program was approximately $8 per household. It is now over $100 per household; and if we maintain the status quo, it would rise another $10 to $15 per year for the next 3 or 4 years. That is unacceptable.

Third, the County has already restored 5,000 acres of impervious surface under MS4 permits over the last 10 years. This is more acreage than any other jurisdiction in the state of Maryland has accomplished. It is also important to note that the MS4 permit program has never been done before. No jurisdiction in the State, nor even the State itself, has had experience with setting requirements or determining how the requirements would be met. We were the pioneers.

Also, there was no lawsuit or “series of lawsuits” over the County’s consent decree with the State. The County entered into a consent decree with the State because it fell short in meeting the impervious surface restoration piece of the permit. All other requirements of the 2010 permit have been met. The consent decree gives the County until December 31, 2020 to meet the terms. However, it is anticipated that pending State approval, the County will meet the impervious acre restoration requirements of the 2010 permit by the end of this year – well ahead of time.

Again, there is no “privatization” here. All of the stormwater construction work is already being done by private contractors. The County does not build nor maintain stormwater management facilities. We oversee, authorize, and ensure compliance with environmental regulations; and that does not change.

Under our new contracting method, the permittee will always be the County, so the responsibility to ensure the permit requirements will remain with the County. This allows companies that do this work as their primary and only function to assume the risk for costs and completion. It’s called performance-based contracting. DEP can then be left to do what it does best: regulate, monitor and inspect. We are simply removing the layers of contracts that bog down and complicate the work.

County staff will continue their work to develop other MS4 permit requirements including  watershed implementation plans and pollution prevention plans; identifying the target areas for the most effective Total Maximum Daily Load reduction location; increasing education and outreach as well as public involvement and participation; maintaining an illicit discharge detection and elimination program; continuing inspections and maintenance of an ever-increasing stormwater management facilities program. That will not change.

Patrick Lacefield is Montgomery County’s Director of Public Information.

Pagnucco’s Response

Patrick Lacefield says we are “off the mark,” but two of his claims are refuted by the draft consent decree itself.

First, he says that there was no lawsuit or “series of lawsuits.”  In fact, the consent decree describes prior litigation on page 4, which we reprint below.

Second, he says, “The County entered into a consent decree with the State because it fell short in meeting the impervious surface restoration piece of the permit. All other requirements of the 2010 permit have been met.”  But the consent decree lists a host of additional reporting violations on pages 5, 6 and 7 which we reprint below.

Now to the broader point.  Perhaps the Executive Branch is right that there is a more cost efficient way to meet its stormwater obligations.  In this post, Lacefield calls it “performance-based contracting” whereas the County Executive’s memo calls it a “public-private partnership contracting vehicle” (P3).  The Executive correctly points out that Prince George’s County has already entered into a P3, although it might be too new to fully judge its performance.  Whatever the exact nature of the Executive’s proposal, maybe it’s worth talking about, especially since – as Lacefield says – the water quality protection charge is forecast to rise by 17% between FY20 and FY23.  Let the public discussion begin.

Share

McIntosh All In for Conway

Del. Maggie McIntosh, Chair of the Appropriations Committee and the most influential member of the House of Delegates after Speaker Mike Busch, is all in for incumbent Sen. Joan Carter Conway’s effort to secure a sixth full term.

Both represent District 43 in Baltimore City, where Conway faces a strong challenge from two-term Del. Mary Washington. Washington is running hard, heavily emphasizing her efforts to protect residents from losing their homes over water bills, and represents the strongest challenge Conway has faced.

However, Conway has won reelection despite past scandals and has a large war chest. The emphatic public backing of McIntosh surely will also help her campaign. While Conway mused publicly about retirement, she now is in it to win it.

The one downside for McIntosh, even if Conway wins, is that younger members of the House are increasingly restive regarding opportunities for advancement–notwithstanding the deserved promotion of Del. Anne Kaiser to head of Ways and Means. Protecting Conway reinforces that perception. On the other hand, it confirms McIntosh’s reputation as a loyal ally.

Share

Maryland Politics Watch

Visit Us On FacebookVisit Us On TwitterCheck Our Feed