Tag Archives: Ben Shnider

Laborers Union Announces MoCo Endorsements

By Adam Pagnucco.

The Mid-Atlantic region of the Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA) has announced its endorsements in MoCo county-level races.  The union is supporting Marc Elrich (County Executive), Andrew Friedson (Council D1), Ben Shnider (Council D3), Nancy Navarro (Council D4), Tom Hucker (Council D5) and Hans Riemer and Chris Wilhelm (Council At-Large).

LIUNA’s announcement on Twitter.

Elrich and Shnider are starting to roll up progressive endorsements; both are supported by SEIU Local 32BJ and Casa, while Shnider has the Sierra Club and Elrich has the AFL-CIO.  Friedson looks like he is building the kind of business-labor coalition that once supported politicians like Doug Duncan.  Navarro and Hucker have no opponents – so far.

LIUNA, SEIU and UFCW Local 400 (grocery store workers) are probably the most active unions in the Washington region that include at least some private sector members.  LIUNA does not represent any MoCo county employees, but it does represent workers employed by the county’s private trash removal contractors.  LIUNA’s main objective is getting the county to use project labor agreements on its construction projects which would mandate union representation of the workers on those jobs.  While the union has not been a huge player in MoCo politics in the past, it did spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to get Cathy Pugh elected as Mayor of Baltimore in 2016.

[Disclosure: your author worked as a strategic researcher for LIUNA’s international office in 1994 and 1995.]

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Sierra Club Endorses Berliner, Council Candidates

By Adam Pagnucco.

The Montgomery County Sierra Club has endorsed Roger Berliner for County Executive as well as several council candidates.  With a brand commonly recognized by progressives around the country, the Sierra Club’s support is valued in MoCo.  Many expected this endorsement to go to Marc Elrich, so this is a blow to him and a boost for Berliner.  It’s also a big pickup for District 3 challenger Ben Shnider, who is starting to get traction against incumbent Sidney Katz.  We reprint their press release below.

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Sierra Club endorses Berliner for County Executive; and several outstanding candidates for County Council

ROCKVILLE, MD – The Sierra Club, representing 6000 members across Montgomery County, announced today that it is endorsing Roger Berliner for County Executive and several outstanding candidates for the County Council.

Those endorsed for the four At-large Council seats are Evan Glass, Will Jawando, Danielle Meitiv, and Hans Riemer.  In addition, Sierra Club is endorsing Ben Shnider for District 3; Nancy Navarro for District 4; and Tom Hucker for District 5.

With all the open seats in this election, 2018 provides an historic opportunity to elect a county government committed to forging significant and measurable solutions to addressing climate change through a variety of new and enhanced programs and policies.

Dave Sears, chair of the Montgomery County group of Sierra Club said, “We are excited about the prospects of our endorsed candidates focusing their skills, experience, and knowledge on making our county a national model for how local governments address the climate  emergency facing our planet.”

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Campaign Finance Reports: District County Council, January 2018

By Adam Pagnucco.

In addition to the wild and woolly Executive and Council At-Large races, MoCo has two competitive District County Council elections.  Let’s have a look.

Council District 1

In District 1, which stretches from Kensington in the east to Poolesville in the west, nine candidates are vying to succeed incumbent Roger Berliner, who is term limited and is running for Executive.  But of these nine, only four look competitive at the moment and one stands out: former aide to the Comptroller Andrew Friedson.

Friedson’s lead in total raised and cash balance is as obvious as it is staggering.  But consider these three facts.  First, if Friedson were running in the Council At-Large race, his total raised for the cycle ($218,903) would be second only to Hans Riemer ($219,103), who is the only at-large incumbent running.  Friedson’s cash on hand ($200,622) would be second only to Delegate Charles Barkley ($232,428).  Second, Friedson’s lead is not in money alone.  We added up the number of individual contributors each of the top four fundraising candidates had in Bethesda, Chevy Chase, Potomac, Kensington, Cabin John, Glen Echo, Poolesville and zip codes 20852 (Rockville) and 20878 (Gaithersburg/North Potomac)  to approximate in-district contributors.  Friedson had 289 contributors in these locations, followed by Reggie Oldak (217), former Town of Kensington Mayor Pete Fosselman (195) and Meredith Wellington (92).  Third, Friedson has accomplished this in just five months.  Fosselman has been running for ten months, followed by Oldak (nine months) and Wellington (eight months).  We wonder how much Friedson would have raised if he had been campaigning longer.

The good news for Reggie Oldak is that she has done well in public financing and should have no problem hitting the $125,000 cap for public matching funds.  The bad news is that it’s probably impossible for her to catch Friedson because once she hits the cap, she will be limited to $150 individual checks.  Wellington has relied on self-financing more than the other candidates and has a high burn rate (41%).  Fosselman should have been the fundraising leader in this race.  He was Mayor of the Town of Kensington for a decade and is plugged into Ike Leggett’s network, the county developer network (he once worked for Rodgers Consulting) and what is left of the network of former Governor Martin O’Malley, who endorsed him and had his PAC max out to him.  But Fosselman is fourth in cash on hand and faces the risk that the business community will turn to Friedson as a better prospect to win.

Council District 3

In District 3, which is mostly comprised of Rockville, Gaithersburg, Aspen Hill, Leisure World, part of Norbeck and Washington Grove, former J Street Political Director Ben Shnider is taking on incumbent Council Member and former Gaithersburg Mayor Sidney Katz.  Shnider, who is in the traditional financing system, outraised the incumbent, who is taking public financing.

Shnider’s fundraising edge, along with his endorsement by SEIU Local 32BJ, gives his campaign credibility against Katz, who has been in county and municipal politics for decades.  A further look at the fundraising numbers reveals two things.  First, 76% of Shnider’s fundraising has come from out of state.  (Katz’s percentage is just 2%).  But second, and more worrisome for Katz, Shnider is starting to catch on in the district.  When we added up the number of individual contributors from Rockville, Gaithersburg, Washington Grove and zip code 20906 (Leisure World/Norbeck) to approximate in-district contributors, Katz had 99 and Shnider had 75.  Shnider is the underdog in this race, but Katz needs to start working harder to hold him off.

The other districts lack competition.  District 2 incumbent Craig Rice has not been raising money and is apparently unworried about his Republican rivals in the age of Trump.  District 4 Council Member Nancy Navarro and District 5 Council Member Tom Hucker have no opponents and are headed to reelection.

We will get to state legislative races soon, folks!

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SEIU Local 32BJ Endorses Ben Shnider

By Adam Pagnucco.

SEIU Local 32BJ, the mammoth building services union that is one of the biggest and most powerful locals in SEIU, has endorsed insurgent candidate Ben Shnider in his challenge to District 3 Council Member Sidney Katz.  Shnider has been working hard to topple Katz from the left but it’s an uphill challenge.  An endorsement of this kind grants legitimacy to Shnider and will help him draw more progressive support.  We will have a lot more to say about this race, but for now, we reprint the union’s press release below.

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, January 17, 2018

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Julie Karant: jkarant@seiu32bj.org

32BJ SEIU ENDORSES BEN SHNIDER’S BID TO UNSEAT MONTGOMERY COUNTY COUNCIL INCUMBENT, SIDNEY KATZ

Shnider’s Unwavering Support for Working Families Sharply Contrasts Katz’s Record of Opposing the $15 Minimum Wage

Washington, D.C. – Janitors and security officers from 32BJ of the Service Employees International (SEIU), today announced their endorsement of Ben Shnider’s campaign to replace Montgomery County Council District 3 incumbent, Sidney Katz.

“Sidney Katz originally voted against the $15 minimum wage which delayed the effort to raise the wages for struggling workers,” said 32BJ SEIU Vice President Jaime Contreras. “Montgomery County deserves a reliable champion like Ben Shnider who will fight for working families not industry lobbyists.”

32BJ members will knock on doors and speak out within their communities towards the primary election scheduled for June 26th.

“I’m humbled and honored to have the backing of the incredible members of 32BJ. I’m running to ensure that every resident of Montgomery County can afford to live and thrive in this community that I love. I’m proud of the grassroots coalition we’re assembling to bring new leadership to District 3. I’ll work tirelessly on the County Council to provide the members of 32BJ — and all county residents — with the bold, progressive leadership they deserve,” said Shnider.

32BJ members are also inspired by Shnider’s leadership on immigrant rights and racial justice during his tenure with Bend the Arc.

With more than 163,000 members in 11 states, including 18,000 in the D.C. Metropolitan Area, 32BJ SEIU is the largest property service workers union in the country.

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Implications of the Minimum Wage Outcome

Bethesda Beat has the story:

The County Council on Tuesday voted unanimously to a compromise that will phase in the $15-per-hour wage over four years based on businesses’ size.

Under the compromise:

  • large businesses with more than 50 employees will be required to pay the minimum wage in 2021
  • businesses with 11 to 50 employees will have to pay the wage in 2023
  • small businesses with fewer than 11 employees will need to pay the wage in 2024.

The council also approved a measure to tie the wage to the inflation rate in 2022 to prevent the need to vote to increase the wage in the future.

Indexing’s Long-Term Impact

This last bit may be the most important. Indexing to inflation assures that Montgomery’s minimum will continue to rise. As a result, the gap between the minimum wage in Montgomery and elsewhere will continue to grow.

If demand for labor keeps the going rate below Montgomery’s minimum, especially as indexing drives it up, it will make the county less competitive in businesses that don’t need to be located here, though have less impact on many services that are hard to move. However, even these businesses, like restaurants, can choose where to open and we would likely see the result.

The impact on the County budget over the short term is unclear. Over the long term, it may force the County to ratchet up wages and cut other services more in lean budget times, since the County will no longer be able to limit COLAs for workers at the bottom and will have to fight wage compression.

Any future economic and budgetary pressures will be made more acute, as the popularity of indexing wages makes it politically perilous to remove. These potentially negative impacts, however, will occur enough in the future that the current crop of officials will not have to address any consequences of their actions.

Political Impact

The short-term politics are more interesting. It gives Marc Elrich a major victory to tout and undermines critiques of him as ineffective in marshaling his colleagues behind him. At the same time, the unanimous adoption of a compromise takes a lot of the juice out of the political issue as it was adopted unanimously.

Candidates can’t differentiate themselves when there is no difference on an issue. Incumbent Sidney Katz’s opponent, Ben Shnider,  regards this as a victory since he pressured Katz on the issue. But the Council’s action makes it very hard to campaign against Katz on this basis – a win for Katz.

The decline of the issue’s salience also benefits outsider candidates worried about the financial impact, as they are on the less popular side of the question. It may give an opening to County Executive Candidates Bill Frick and Rose Krasnow with the business community, which won’t like the outcome.

Roger Berliner will be grateful this issue is off the agenda and will tell business leaders that he did the best he did to mitigate its impact. Ultimately, however, he still voted for a policy they think is harmful, while Frick was willing to say publicly that minimum wage policy should be left to the state.

Frick will argue to business that his actions show that he is willing to take on tougher causes and they should get behind him. Krasnow is not yet formally in the race, which limits any lumps she can take but also prevents her from earning points on this issue. As the Maryland Lottery has spent much money to explain, “you have to play to win.”

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Robinson, Platt Endorse Shnider in Council District 3

Montgomery County Council District 3 candidate Ben Shnider has been endorsed by Delegates Shane Robinson (D-39), Andrew Platt (D-17) and the leader of a hotel employees local union.  Former Council Member Valerie Ervin (D-5) has also offered praise for Shnider’s candidacy.  We reprint Shnider’s press release below.

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

September 15, 2015

Contact:  Ilya Braverman

Email:     ilya@shniderforcouncil.com

Website: https://www.shniderforcouncil.com

Progressive Leaders Endorse Ben Shnider for Montgomery County Council in District 3

Delegates Robinson and Platt join Unite Here Local 23 in endorsing Shnider’s council campaign ahead of kick-off event

Rockville, MD – On Saturday, Sept. 16 at 1 PM, Ben Shnider’s campaign for Montgomery County Council will host a canvass kick-off event at the Lincoln Park Community Center in Rockville.

Among those in attendance will be several notable community leaders who are endorsing Shnider’s campaign for progressive change in District 3.

  • Delegate Shane Robinson (D-39), Chair, Montgomery County House Delegation:

“I’ve known Ben for years and have seen him in action. I’m confident he’ll work tirelessly to ensure all members of our community can afford to live and thrive in Montgomery County. I know he also shares my commitment to keeping pesticides out of the Chesapeake watershed and a solid waste management strategy that moves aggressively toward zero-waste. I’m proud to endorse his campaign.”

  • Delegate Andrew Platt (D-17):

“I hear from families that I represent in Rockville and Gaithersburg every day who are struggling to keep up with the skyrocketing cost-of-living. I’m endorsing Ben’s campaign for County Council because I know he’ll be a tireless advocate for these working families.”

  • Bert Bayou, President, Unite Here Local 23:

“Our 1,000+ members in Montgomery County are hungry for leaders who will work with us to ensure we’re treated fairly on the job and paid a living wage. We’re confident Ben will be such a leader and enthusiastically endorse his campaign.”

In addition to these three endorsements, former County Councilmember Valerie Ervin said the following about Ben’s candidacy:

  • Former County Councilmember Valerie Ervin (D-5):

“I’m thrilled Ben is running and can’t wait to join him for his kick-off. Ben’s a talented organizer and a principled progressive who would be a passionate advocate for the underserved on the County Council. It’s time to pass the torch to the next generation of progressive leaders in this county. Ben is such a leader.”

About Ben:

Ben Shnider is a civic activist running to represent District 3 on the Montgomery County Council. He’s running to ensure that all families can afford to live and thrive in our community. Ben has dedicated his life to fighting for progressive values. Prior to running, he worked as an organizer for then-Senator Barack Obama’s historic 2008 Presidential campaign, launched the political arm of the advocacy organization Bend the Arc, and served as Political Director for the pro-diplomacy group J Street. Ben is a former Board Member for the Montgomery County Action Committee for Transit and serves as Vice Chair of Rockville’s Human Rights Commission.

He lives with his wife, Sheri, and their rescue dog, Twist, in Rockville’s King Farm neighborhood. To learn more about Ben, visit www.shniderforcouncil.com

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Growing Our Local Economy and Shrinking Our Wealth Gap

By Ben Shnider.

To drive along Montgomery County’s I-270 corridor is to pass countless “For Lease” signs in front of near-vacant office parks. And to speak with service industry workers along this corridor is to encounter our community’s widening gap between the top 1% and other 99% — for whom it’s becoming harder and harder to afford living in the County.

How we address these twin challenges of affordability and economic development will define our community over the next decade. Thankfully, by proactively seizing every opportunity to prioritize smart growth, we can make significant progress on both fronts.

Consider the recent foreclosure sale of Lakeforest Mall in Gaithersburg. The mall was purchased for one-fifth of what the previous owner spent to acquire it in 2012. This drop in value coincided with, among other factors, the growth of the more walkable Crown Farm neighborhood about four miles down the road. The County is already studying a modernization of the well-used Ride-On transit center adjacent to Lakeforest Mall. A comprehensive mixed-use redevelopment of the property would complement this investment far better than retaining the dated mall by boosting foot traffic and economic activity. After all, the numbers are clear: walkable, transit-oriented areas in our region produce 80% more in retail sales than their auto-centric counterparts. And it’s these more walkable, transit-oriented neighborhoods that have recently drawn many regional employers.

Mixed-use redevelopment of properties like Lakeforest can also be an important tool in addressing the affordable housing crisis in Montgomery County. Over one-third of County residents now rent and half of those renters are cost-burdened. Those looking to buy are often forced to choose between inadequate options that squeeze prospective buyers for unnecessary space and/or acreage. Walkable and transit accessible communities provide an opportunity for a broader range of housing choices. They also provide additional opportunities for existing affordability initiatives like the County’s Moderately Priced-Dwelling Units (MPDU) — a program that Gaithersburg and Rockville have also adopted.

Of course, there are challenges involved when re-envisioning underutilized properties like Lakeforest, including adequate public infrastructure, individual property owners in need of an incentive to relocate, and developers who don’t want to contribute their fair share for infrastructure improvements. In this case, the City of Gaithersburg — a leader in smart growth — has wrestled with these hurdles for some time. And, of course, not every mall in the region is failing. For instance, Westfield’s Bethesda and Wheaton malls are doing relatively well.

But these challenges can’t be an excuse for running on autopilot and the fact that some indoor shopping malls are doing better than others shouldn’t distract us from the overall trend. Instead, we must embrace opportunities to reinvent dated properties in the County with a sense of urgency. Otherwise our economy will fall behind those of neighboring jurisdictions, our residents will lack adequate housing and employment opportunities, and our government will lack the tax revenue necessary for critical investments like pre-K and enhanced access to Montgomery College.

The County, therefore, must work with our municipalities and the business community to leverage every tool at its disposal to move away from shopping malls and cavernous office parks and toward more sustainable and affordable communities — from master plans and zoning text amendments (outside of cities, like Gaithersburg and Rockville, that have their own zoning ordinances), to reinvigorated and innovative economic development and affordable housing policies.

This overall approach will help uproot the “For Lease” signs along I-270 while extending more economic opportunities to the low-wage workers working in their shadows.

Ben Shnider is a Democrat who is running for Montgomery County Council in District 3.

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