Tag Archives: Ike Leggett

Silver Spring Transit Center Costs Up 17.5%

Silver Spring Transit Center 2

The Washington Post reports that the costs of the Silver Spring Transit Center are up by $21 million, or 17.5%. Still no opening date scheduled for this highly complex transportation hub, which was discovered to be unsafe after it was built.

Councilmembers continue to blame the County Executive who blames the project designer, Parsons Brinckerhoff, and contractor, Foulger-Pratt. Nevertheless, Council President George Leventhal says councilmembers will “hold our noses and vote for” County Executive Leggett’s request.

Somehow, I don’t think it comforts anyone about the loss of another $21 million or the County’s management of the project that the Council President is holding his nose. While both the Executive and the Council promise that taxpayers won’t have to pay for the increase, it remains to be seen if all or a portion of the expense can be extracted from Parsons-Brinckerhoff and Foulger-Pratt.

Same Firm Involved in the Purple Line

Parsons-Brinckerhoff also estimated the ridership data for the Purple Line, a project George Leventhal supports. However, the firm still is hiding how it calculated ridership in response to public requests. (see here and here). In light of these past problems, this lack of transparency and the lack of demands for it by the State or the County is not encouraging.

Any unforeseen increases in costs for the Purple Line would not be born by the Parsons-Brinckerhoff or the federal government. Hopefully, the County will get the designer to pay for the cost increases in the Silver Spring Transit Center. Right now, however, County taxpayers are footing the bill with the money lost to other needed County infrastructure projects.

 

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WABA Launches Petition to Save Tunnel

From the Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA) blog:

Plans have fallen through for a Capital Crescent Trail tunnel underneath Wisconsin Ave in downtown Bethesda. Montgomery County attempted to facilitate a redevelopment of the Apex Building that would have allowed a large and more efficient Purple Line light rail station and trail tunnel. In a closed session several weeks ago the County Council, at the recommendation of County Executive Ike Leggett, decided not to move forward with this attempt.

WABA is disappointed that the county has abandoned these plans. The Capital Crescent Trail is one of the most traveled multi-use trails in the county, and the Purple Line transit project is a once-in-a-lifetime investment in better trail infrastructure. Redevelopment of the Apex Building would have allowed for the best possible station and trail. . . .

WABA has been working for more than two decades on the Capital Crescent Trail. The trail is a well loved community resource which provides an important recreation, fitness and transportation benefit to visitors and residents of all ages. The vision has always been a seamless trail from Georgetown to Silver Spring. While the Purple Line will complete a major gap in the trail, it leaves behind a new one.

We are disappointed by this loss of an tunnel option and hope that County officials exhausted all options before making this decision. We expect a safe, grade-separated crossing of the trail at Wisconsin Avenue to be the long-term solution.

WABA Petition

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Purple Line Station Downgrade, No Tunnel Under Wisc. Ave.

In closed session yesterday, the Montgomery County Council concurred with the recommendation of County Executive Ike Leggett and decided not to go move forward with the funding to facilitate redevelopment of the APEX building and a much improved Purple Line stop in Bethesda.

The Council had already greatly expanded the size of the building that could be built on the spot in the hopes of enticing the owner to redevelop or to sell to a developer. However, they balked at agreement with the roughly $70 million in costs to the County to facilitate the deal and make it economically feasible.

There are three major effects of this decision:

Less Well-Designed Purple Line Station

The Maryland Transportation Administration (MTA) had pressed the County to move forward with the APEX acquisition to allow construction of a well-designed Purple Line station. While the State now claims that the new station, projected to handle around 24,000 trips per day, will still be adequate, the failure to acquire the building requires major changes.

Passengers will need to cross the tracks–something MTA previously described as problematic but now says will be alright. Additionally, one of the platforms will have to be much smaller and the ease of accessibility to the system will decline. There will still be elevator banks for direct Purple to Red Line connections, though the entrances will need to be moved.

No Tunnel under Wisconsin Avenue

People wanting to continue on the much-used Capital Crescent Trail will have to make their crossing of Wisconsin Ave. at grade. Currently, there is a wide tunnel under the Air Rights Building that facilitates bike trips under Wisconsin Ave.

The original plans promised a new smaller tunnel under the Air Rights Building in tandem with the new Purple Line. This promise  evaporated after the project had moved on to a later stage when it became deemed to expensive.

Hope for the tunnel reemerged with the redevelopment of the APEX building. Indeed, Montgomery County government leaders expressed greater enthusiasm for the tunnel, most recently at a publicly televised debate before the Democratic primary.

The lack of a grade separated bicycle crossing will also likely anger area bicyclists concerned not just about ease of travel but public safety. The Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA),  has predicated its strong support on grade-separated crossings of major thoroughfares along the trail.

Less Development at APEX Site

One of the major goals of the construction of the Purple Line has been to stimulate development and economic growth, crucial to expanding the County’s tax base to pay to maintain infrastructure and services.

It will be more difficult and therefore much more expensive to tear down and construct a new larger building on the APEX site after the construction of the new Purple Line stop. As a result, it may never happen. Any redevelopment would be pushed much further into the future until (if ever) it become a profitable venture.

Conclusion

The developers working to arrange the deal (i.e. the purchase of the building from the current owners and money need to render its redevelopment economically feasible) could come back with a better set of numbers. So maybe it will all work out.

Right now, however, the County will be left will a Purple Line stop described to me as “adequate” or “functional” at best at its critical terminus and economic engine in Bethesda. It does nothing for trust in government, due to repeated broken promises from both MTA and the County over the tunnel and the politically convenient timing of these decisions.

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Rapid Transit at the MoCo Fair

Councilmember Roger Berliner: “There is nothing more fundamental to the future of Montgomery County than making this happen. And making it happen during the next four years.”

Councilmember Marc Elrich: “This is the best answer we have to both the need for capacity and the limited dollars available.”

Councilmember Cherri Branson: “I cannot tell you how important a bus-rapid transit system would be for Route 29 not only to alleviate some of the current congestion but even more importantly to help us develop the east part of the county.”  –

County Executive Ike Leggett: “It will happen in Montgomery County. This is the right thing for our future.”

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Tea Leaves of MD-03

MD-03 is a tricky district. It has a Jackson Pollock quality in terms of it’s lines that really means no elected official has a true base here. It does take in enough prime political real estate that if John Sarbanes (still a young man) runs for his father’s US Senate seat one day – there should be a hard thought Democratic primary.

From Montgomery County

It would not totally surprise me if Steve Silverman were interested in running for Congress, and he does indeed reside in the third district. He raised well over two million dollars in his bid for Montgomery County Exec in 2006. I doubt he could do half that for a Congressional campaign today. However, he’d have at least half a million at his disposal, and possibly seven or eight or nine hundred thousand.

A few terms in Congress would surely be an enticing capstone to Ike Leggett’s career (And he too lives in MD-03). He could put together 1.5 to 2.5 million dollars and would be a strong candidate. Ike would be a real heavy weigh. . . and don’t we always say he’d be a better legislator?

Anne Kaiser might clear a million dollars, but I’d be surprised. I wouldn’t be shocked if she had at least $700,000. I’d be blown away if she didn’t clear half a million. I suspect she’d get substantial help from national LGBT Donors and interests.

Craig Zucker could do $250,000-$500,000. He’d also be dynamic enough to stretch those dollars. Craig might do well with SEIU (He ran there home care program in Maryland at one point) which could help substantially. Zucker is an incredibly hardworking candidate and could make himself competitive for the seat.

Eric Luedtke is a lackluster fundraiser but could see substantial labor PAC money come to fund him. I’d also be a bit perplexed if the NEA didn’t spend hundreds of thousands in independent expenditure to support him, especially if Bill Ferguson were in the race. The dynamic between  Teacher Union Activist Luedtke and Teach for America Alumnus Ferguson on Education Reform, although they are (from what I understand), quite close in the legislature, might very well make this a proxy fight between powerful labor and reformist interests (similar to the 2013 Boston Mayoral run off between Marty Walsh and Dan Connelly).

Anne Arundel County 

Maybe former Annapolis Mayor Josh Cohen. No idea what he could raise. More than 100. . . but who knows how much more? I don’t think he’d be a particularly serious candidate, with little opportunity to expand outside of his base in the City of Annapolis (not big enough to support a real congressional bid). Nice guy, though.

County Councilman Chris Trumbauer might be able to garner substantial backing in IE from the Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters. Which is lucky for him because he couldn’t raise more than low six figures on his own. He’d be well positioned to lock down the Anne Arundel County portions of the district (although that’s not a huge base).

Baltimore County

Bobby Zirkin a dynamic, handsome young trial lawyer who happens to be a strong contender to be the next chairman of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee. If that happens, his number could be as high as $1.5 million. If not, $650,000-$1,000,000. Senator Zirkin could likely raise very substantial amounts of money from the incredibly tuned in community of Trial Lawyers that finances so many Democratic Stalwarts.

Dan Morhaim – a Delegate and a Doctor makes a powerful combination. Would clear a million easily. Two million might be a stretch. Shares a heavily Jewish Western Baltimore County district with Zirkin. Despite being one of the stronger fundraisers in the house, he lacks enough pizzazz to be a solid congressional contender in my opinion.

Jon Cardin– Would raise a million easily, but not more than $1.2 or 1.3. Would benefit from confusion with his uncle as well. But, I think that Jon is pretty done after the AG Race. However, the Cardin brand is stronger here than it is statewide.

Baltimore City

Brooke Lierman She could raise a million bucks off her last name, and probably another 300K off of her own network. If Hoyer came in to aid his former Chief of Staff’s daughter you could see another quarter million drop in. She’d be competitive against Anne Kaiser for an Emily’s List endorsement. But as we saw with Heather Mizeur in the 2014 Gubernatorial primary they don’t devote a lot of resources to Democratic Primaries in Deep Blue states.

Bill Ferguson – A handsome, white, young Baltimorean State Senator with real education reform credentials. Can he get buy in from national Ed Reform donors and raise mega millions? I’m not sure. A guy to watch, none the less. With a very, very solid base in the rapidly gentrifying, densely Democratic neighborhoods of South Baltimore. Definitely one to watch.

bIn a primary this crowded, with so many disparate bases of support, I have no clue who might come out on top. I’m not going to pretend that I do.

 

 

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Do We Like Like Ike? MoCo County Exec Race, Pt. I

County Executive Isaiah Leggett is running for a third term. I guess the question at this point is not if we like Ike–clearly we do–but do we like like him. Or at least do we prefer him to his opponents?

Ike has governed in tough times. He took office just as the great recession sent the economy and tax revenues straight down the crapper–to use the technical term. Not an easy job. It’s more fun to govern when revenues are on the increase and there’s money. I know from experience because Chevy Chase suffered a fifty percent decline (you read right) in revenues while I had the pleasure of being mayor.

So Ike had to make tough calls.

Ike is known as a highly calm individual who likes to wait to make decisions. And by wait, I mean take forever.

But in very tough times, he made the right calls–choosing to protect the schools system–Montgomery’s crown jewel–and police above all else. He ruthlessly cut other budget items to protect these two core services. Libraries, among other services, experienced unprecedented cuts as a results.

At the same time, perhaps Ike didn’t do enough. Ike certainly battened down the hatches. But if crisis is another word for opportunity, did he take it? Were oxes actually gored (i.e. programs actually shut down that needed to go) or were programs merely cut to live another day?

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Election Snow in MoCo?

Is today’s snowstorm going to put a dent in County Executive Ike Leggett’s reelection prospects?

Salt Shortage, Show Removal Problems

It has been a long winter and Montgomery County ran short of salt to pre-treat the roads for the storm. In many areas, the streets were first plowed before they were salted, uncovering a sheet of ice underneath the snow that will now likely to have to wait for warmer weather–not to arrive for at least a couple of day–to remove.

Smaller municipalities were especially hard hit. At first, the the County did not even want to release any salt to smaller municipalities that rely on it to supply it through longstanding arrangements. They were not happy.

Why and How it Could Matter

These problems play into Doug Duncan’s strengths. As County Executive, he was known as an avuncular guy focused on handling basic services very well. To the extent that the storm weakens Leggett’s reputation for the same, it could help Duncan and hurt Leggett.

The impact depends on three factors: (1) the severity of the problems, (2) how well surrounding jurisdictions do, and (3) whether Duncan is positioned to take advantage of it. My quick peek at traffic cameras around the County indicate that many major streets are looking good, though some still have problems.

If DC and Prince George’s open the schools but Montgomery does not, the County Executive will likely face at least some grumbling and have to answer questions about the lack of preparation. Winters vary in the amount of snow they bring, and residents rightly expect that the County will get more salt if needed. But if the schools in all three close, it looks like we’re all in the same boat.

Normally, our County officials do not get much attention. Not because they don’t merit it but because our news media covers the entire metro area. They choose to focus their coverage heavily on the District even though Montgomery, Prince George’s, and Fairfax all have far more people.

Bad events, however, can turn their gaze in our direction to the disadvantage of incumbent officials. It will be also interesting to see if members of the County Council raise questions about the level of preparation or choose to stay mum.

What It’s Not

Some may want to exaggerate and make the inevitable recollection of the disastrous handling (really non-handling) of snow in DC by Marion Barry on one famous occasion. Bad analogy. Leggett is not Barry. He’s the anti-Barry: a steadfast calming, often quiet, problem solver. Moreover, these problems are a minor hiccup compared to that fiasco. Don’t go there.

 

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