Tag Archives: Brandy Brooks

MoCo Political Awards 2019

By Adam Pagnucco.

The year 2019 is in the books and it’s time for some political awards, both good and bad.  Buckle up!

Best Freshman Elected Official (County): District 1 Council Member Andrew “Real Deal” Friedson

Let’s go to the lab and create the perfect politician.  We shall start with brains and policy experience.  The person has to be a life-long district resident who roams it constantly, addressing issues large and small.  The person has to hire good staff.  The person has to have the guts to vote no when everyone else votes yes.  Fiscal expertise counts too.  Add it all up and we just created Andrew “Real Deal” Friedson, the new star of the county council.  As a freshman, Friedson is still at the beginning of his elected career.  But his ability is off the charts and the Real Deal has just begun living up to his nickname.

Best Freshman Elected Official (State): District 18 Delegate Jared Solomon

True story: when candidate Jared Solomon was running for a seat in the statehouse, he was one of the very few politicians ever who mailed me a hand-written thank-you letter after our introductory interview.  Since then, he has become an energetic and conscientious Delegate who jumped feet-first into his district’s two biggest issues: the Beltway project and school construction.  Solomon is both one of the smartest people in the room and one of the nicest.  That’s hard to pull off for anyone not named Jamie Raskin.

Reporter of the Year: Caitlynn Peetz, Bethesda Beat

You might think that news on public schools is boring.  If so, you have never read Caitlynn Peetz’s riveting stories on the rapes at Damascus High School and parental clashes over MCPS’s boundary study.  Peetz loves her vocation and it shows.  She digs deeper and works harder than just about anyone else in local media.  She also happens to be a kind, generous and funny person.  How does someone like that wind up in the press?

Will Not Fade Away Award: Brandy Brooks

Most of the county council candidates who did not win in 2018 have faded from the public eye, at least for now.  Not Brandy Brooks.  She maintained her profile with a strong, though unsuccessful, run for planning board and has retained a loyal following among many county progressives.  Last year, I predicted that Brooks would have a great chance to win if she ever runs again and I am now more confident of that than ever.

Most Meaningless New Law of the Year: Liquor Monopoly Name Change

As of July, the county’s Department of Liquor Control was renamed Alcohol Beverage Services.  Does anyone care?  Aside from whatever companies were paid to change the name on the signs and business cards, the answer is a big fat NO.

Whiplash Award #1

In November, the council voted in favor of a bill mandating 30-hour work weeks for some janitors that its own staff predicted would “likely” kill building services jobs.  Two weeks later, the council passed a resolution calling for a renewed commitment to economic development.

Whiplash Award #2

Also in November, the council unanimously passed a new law mandating consideration of racial equity in all county activities.  A week later, the council voted to give $500,000 in tax money to a subsidiary of Rupert Murdoch’s Fox Corporation.

Labor Union of the Year: MCGEO

How do you get a 6% raise?  You jump up and down and demand a 9% raise, and then when you get 6%, you grudgingly accept it and resolve to come back for the rest later.  2019 will go down as yet another year when MCGEO proved its immense value to its members.

Activists of the Year: YIMBYs

In most years, Council Member Hans Riemer’s bill to liberalize restrictions on accessory dwelling units would have encountered rough sledding and maybe outright defeat.  Not in 2019, as MoCo’s YIMBYs – the acronym stands for “yes in my backyard” – sprang into action and helped get the bill passed.  YIMBYs, unlike NIMBYs, believe MoCo needs more housing and they have emerged as one of the county’s more effective, albeit loosely organized, issue groups.  Additionally, the YIMBY MoCo Facebook page has become one of the most interesting venues for policy and political discussions in the county.  If the YIMBYs get more numerous and better organized, they could have a real impact on the next county election.

Do Not Mess with Me Award: Bob Dorfman

When Council Member Hans Riemer released information showing that county liquor stores were losing money, Alcohol Beverage Services Director Bob Dorfman blew him to smithereens.  Read this quote from WUSA Channel 9 but hide the children first!

“We have an ill-informed councilmember who has got a politically motivated campaign that’s taking something purely out of context because he as a councilmember should have been smart enough to know that a plan had already been put in place almost a year ago that addresses each of the components of the loss,” Alcohol Beverage Services Director Robert Dorfman said.

Dorfman said the county has already cut the stores’ losses by $2-million a year, and hopes they’ll turn a $5-million dollar profit within a few years.

He said Riemer was needlessly panicking employees who work at the stores. “Mr. Riemer, by putting out all this stuff to the press, is causing those employees, hard-working, good, county employees, that he supposedly represents, obviously he’s not doing it very well, obviously he doesn’t care much, those employees are getting calls from customers and family members asking them whether they’re going to have jobs,” Dorfman said.

This is not the first time Dorfman has slammed a liquor monopoly critic.  He once went after Seventh State founder David Lublin too.  All of this has me feeling jealous.  I’m one of the fiercest opponents of the liquor monopoly around and I have written countless columns denouncing it.  What do I have to do to get you to spank me, Bob?

Retirement of the Year: Glenn Orlin

Former county council deputy staff director Glenn Orlin is one of the great heroes of county government who is unknown by much of the general public.  In a decades-long career in both the state and county governments, Glenn has become one of the foremost experts on capital budgets and transportation in all of Maryland.  The council relied on his incredible institutional knowledge, his expertise and his good judgment as much as any other single staff member.  What makes Glenn truly great is not just his competence and experience, but his patience, generosity and ability to teach others.  His legacy includes a huge portfolio of transportation projects, including his beloved Purple Line, as well as generations of folks who have learned from him – including me.  Glenn is still doing contract work for the council, but whoever eventually succeeds him will have very big shoes to fill.

That’s all until next year!

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The Wilhelm Ballot

By Adam Pagnucco.

Here is something we haven’t seen before: a mid-term year Apple Ballot with one candidate occupying one side of it and a list of others on the other side.  This Apple, still in wrapping, is customized in favor of Council At-Large candidate Chris Wilhelm.

Here is another one spotlighting District 16 House candidate Samir Paul.

The Apple we were given at the Wheaton early voting site was not like these.  It had county candidates on one side and state candidates on the other, a typical format used in the past.

Wilhelm and Paul are MCPS teachers.  We totally get why MCEA would like to elect its own members to office, although that has not always been their top priority.  For example, the union endorsed County Council District 5 incumbent Derick Berlage over MCPS teacher Marc Elrich in 1998.  In Elrich’s 2002 and 2006 races, he did appear on the Apple but we don’t recall him getting an entire side of it to himself.

The races involving Paul and Wilhelm are very different.  In District 16, the two incumbent Delegates – Ariana Kelly and Marc Korman – are endorsed by MCEA and a lock for reelection.  Paul is in a tight contest with fellow new candidate Sara Love for the open seat being vacated by Delegate Bill Frick.  He needs every edge he can get.

The Council At-Large race, on the other hand, is extremely competitive and unpredictable.  MCEA has endorsed incumbent Hans Riemer, Brandy Brooks and Will Jawando in addition to Wilhelm.  Riemer seems likely to be reelected but that’s about all that can be safely predicted in this race.  What will Riemer, Brooks and Jawando think of the Wilhelm Ballot?

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Brooks and Wilhelm Take on Amazon

By Adam Pagnucco.

Council At-Large candidates Brandy Brooks and Chris Wilhelm, who are running as a team, have sent out the mailer below raising concerns about the impact of Amazon possibly establishing a second headquarters in Montgomery County.  Put aside whatever feelings you have about the underlying issue; we find this to be a smart political tactic.  There are so many candidates in the at-large race this year that the victory threshold could be as low as 30,000 votes – or less.  If that number of voters, which corresponds to roughly thirty percent of the likely Democratic primary electorate, is concerned about Amazon, and if Brooks and Wilhelm are the only candidates in the race with that message, they could get a leg up.  We reprint their mailer – a 15″ by 12″ monster – below.

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Brandy Brooks Pushes Back on ACT Scorecard

By Adam Pagnucco.

Council At-Large candidate Brandy Brooks has issued a statement pushing back on Action Committee for Transit’s (ACT) scorecard.  Your author received this scorecard in the mail today.  The scorecard rates candidates with a plus, minus or no rating on five issues: the Purple Line, MARC trains, opposing M-83, streets safe for walking and housing near transit.  ACT gave Brooks no rating on the above issues except for housing near transit, on which they gave Brooks a minus.

Brooks is disputing how her positions were characterized.  We reprint her statement below.

*****

Michelle C. Whittaker

Brandy Brooks for County Council At-Large

michelle@brandy4moco.com

ACT Scorecard Falsely Represents Brandy Brooks’ Positions on Transit

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, MD (June 8, 2018) — Misinformation regarding Brandy Brooks’ publicly available positions on transit are being shared in the Action Committee for Transit (ACT) scorecard. Brooks is setting the record straight to make sure voters across the county have truthful and accurate information to make their decisions. Brandy Brooks is an at-large candidate for Montgomery County Council.

The ACT scorecard claims to be based on several criteria including public statements, answers to questionnaires, and the candidate’s website. However, the rating does not reflect publicly available information regarding Brandy Brooks’ views on transit and housing. The Brooks campaign has attempted to work with ACT representatives to clarify the misinformation.

“The Action Committee for Transit is a dedicated group of volunteers who have been doing tremendous work on Montgomery County transit issues for many years,” said Brandy Brooks. “We share a deep commitment to a transit vision for our county that adequately serves our communities and reduces our reliance on personal vehicle travel. So it’s frustrating to find my positions misrepresented by ACT when we should be working together to build the community power we need to ensure strong transit investments.”

Representatives from ACT informed the Brooks campaign that her negative score was based on tweets where she emphasized the need for more focus on affordable housing development. They claim that Brooks’ concern about “trickle-down affordability” — the County’s over-reliance on luxury housing developments with a small fraction of affordable units to meet its severe affordable housing deficit — means that she does not support housing development near transit. This is demonstrably false.

Ms. Brooks has repeatedly stated her commitment to preserving and developing affordable housing near transit nodes, such as the Takoma-Langley Transportation Center that will ultimately become a Purple Line station. Additionally, Brooks has expressed her strong commitment to creating transit solutions for areas of the county that have been overdeveloped without supporting transportation infrastructure, such as Clarksburg and Damascus.

The campaign launched the “Correct the Record: ACT Scorecard” information page to provide voters and the media with accurate details on Brandy Brooks’ positions.

The Democratic Primary is June 26.

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Campaign Finance Reports: Council At-Large, May 2018

By Adam Pagnucco.

Today, we look at the Council At-Large candidates.  As with yesterday, we start with a note on methodology.  First, we calculate total raised and total spent across the entire cycle and not just over the course of one report period.  Second, we separate self-funding from funds raised from others.  Self-funding includes money from spouses.  Third, for publicly financed candidates, we include public matching fund distributions that have been requested but not deposited in raised money and in the column entitled “Cash Balance With Requested Public Contributions.”  That gives you a better idea of the true financial position of publicly financed campaigns.

Below is our fundraising summary for the Council At-Large candidates.

First, a few random notes.  As of this writing, five at-large candidates – Craig Carozza-Caviness, Ron Colbert, Paul Geller, Richard Gottfried and Darwin Romero – have not filed May reports.  Lorna Phillips Forde did file a May report and requested matching funds, but her report contains many duplicated entries and is a big mess.  We are not printing her numbers until they get straightened out.  Michele Riley has given herself a combined $21,000 in two loans and one contribution, which exceeds the $12,000 self-funding maximum allowed in public financing.  That needs to be corrected or otherwise remedied.

Now to the numbers.  In the pre-public financing days, winning at-large candidates generally raised $250,000 or more with the notable exception of Marc Elrich.  Four candidates are in that territory: Hans Riemer (the only incumbent), Evan Glass, Bill Conway and Will Jawando.  Gabe Albornoz and Hoan Dang are not far off.  Delegate Charles Barkley (D-39) has not raised quite that much, but he started with a big war chest built over years of little competition in his district.  The cash on hand leaders are Glass, Riemer and Barkley, who are virtually tied, followed by Conway and then Jawando.

In evaluating differences in cash position, we don’t find variances of $20,000-30,000 very significant.  That’s because candidates schedule their expenditures differently.  Some have spent a bit more before the deadline and some held back to show a bigger balance.  What we do find significant is the difference between candidates who have close to $200,000 available for the final push – Riemer, Glass, Barkley and Conway – and those who have half that amount or less, such as Albornoz, Dang, Marilyn Balcombe, Jill Ortman-Fouse, Mohammad Siddique, Ashwani Jain, Danielle Meitiv, Seth Grimes and Brandy Brooks.  (Forget about those who have $25,000 or less.)  The latter group of candidates now faces very tough decisions on resource usage.  A mailer to super-Dems can cost $35,000-$45,000 depending on how the universe is defined.  So a candidate with $100,000 on hand might be able to squeeze out two or three mailers and that’s about it.  Is that enough to stand out given all the other races going on?

Institutional endorsements also play a role.  Several of the lesser funded candidates, especially Brooks and Meitiv, have some good endorsements that could help them.  We think the biggest beneficiary will be MCPS teacher Chris Wilhelm, who has more cash on hand than Albornoz, Dang and Balcombe and also has the Apple Ballot.  If the teachers mail for Wilhelm, that could effectively close the gap a bit between him and the top-funded candidates.

For what it’s worth, the conventional wisdom is that Riemer will be reelected, Glass and Jawando will join him and the last seat will come down to Conway or Albornoz.  We’re not ready to buy that for a couple reasons.  First, among the seven County Councils that have been elected since the current structure was established in 1990, only one – the 1998-2002 council – had zero at-large female members.  Combine that with the fact that 60% of the primary electorate is female and it’s premature to write off all the women running.  Second, this is an unprecedented year.  We have never had public financing before and we have never had so many people running at-large.  What seems like conventional wisdom now could seem very unwise in the blink of an eye!  So we expect surprises in this historic election.

Next: the council district races.

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Brooks and Wilhelm Campaign as Team Progressive

By Adam Pagnucco.

Council At-Large candidates Brandy Brooks and Chris Wilhelm, both of whom have been endorsed by numerous progressive organizations, have produced a joint lit piece in which they call themselves #TeamProgressive.  Candidates in public financing, like Brooks and Wilhelm, cannot be members of slate committees.  But nothing in the public financing law prohibits them from producing joint lit with multiple authority lines, as this piece is.  This is the first joint lit piece we have seen in the council at-large race.

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Female Candidates Accuse Leggett of Sexism

By Adam Pagnucco.

County Executive Ike Leggett’s decision to endorse four men in the Council At-Large race – incumbent Hans Riemer, Gabe Albornoz, Hoan Dang and Will Jawando – has provoked public accusations of sexism from two women who are running for office.

Council At-Large candidate Danielle Meitiv kicked things off on Facebook minutes after Leggett’s endorsement of Jawando was announced, writing, “Nice how our County Exec doesn’t think we need any women on the Council at large.”

District 18 Delegate candidate Mila Johns followed up, directly accusing Leggett of “sexism, pure and simple,” and eventually shared Meitiv’s post on her own page.

Council Member Nancy Floreen also weighed in on this, although somewhat indirectly.

The sentiment expressed by Meitiv and Johns is shared by other women running for office.  Several of them blasted Leggett to your author in scathing terms but would not go on the record.  That makes sense – most politicians want to avoid public disputes with a sitting County Executive at election time.  One candidate who was willing to comment on the record was Brandy Brooks, who is running for Council At-Large and co-wrote an essay about gender parity in politics with Meitiv.  Brooks told us:

For many, 2018 could be the year for women, people of color, and working people, but not if we aren’t actively changing our political system both internally and externally. Maryland has one of the worst records in the country on gender parity: we rank 38th on the gender parity index with a score of 12.1 (down from 21.2 in 2014) with few women in federal, state, or local office. To be clear, the four men who have been endorsed by the county executive are qualified candidates — that is not the question. However, not endorsing a single woman running at-large sends the wrong message about how our political and elected leaders view gender parity. Some will argue that more of the women running should have sought the endorsement. Unfortunately, this view continues to fault women instead of asking why our leaders aren’t being intentional to seek women to endorse as well. It continues a pattern that leaves many on the margins. Thankfully, there are many strong women candidates running for office in 2018 to change this status quo, and I’m excited to be one of them.

If Leggett’s choices win, it’s possible that the council might have just one female member in its next term: District 4 incumbent Nancy Navarro.  Since its current structure was established in 1990, the nine-member council has never had fewer than two female members and has sometimes had three or more.  Additionally, the issue of how women are treated in politics has erupted in Annapolis as the General Assembly grappled about how to deal with harassment in its most recent session.  One at-large candidate (Delegate Charles Barkley) has even been accused of inappropriate behavior with women.

Riemer, Albornoz, Dang and Jawando are not unusual choices for Leggett.  The Executive has had a cordial relationship with Riemer during their time in office together.  Albornoz is widely regarded as one of his best department directors.  Dang and Jawando are solid candidates and both would bring assets to the council if elected.  But surely Leggett and his team should have expected pushback on this in the wake of his criticism of the District 39 state legislators for accepting Lesley Lopez on their slate, a dispute in which gender was raised as an issue.

In Leggett’s defense, he has filled his administration with strong and competent women, including but not limited to Department of Permitting Services Director Diane Schwartz-Jones, Office of Management and Budget Director Jennifer Hughes, Health and Human Services Director Uma Ahluwalia, Assistant Chief Administrative Officer Lily Qi, former libraries director Parker Hamilton and Special Assistant Joy Nurmi.  (Some of these ladies have left multiple boot prints on your author’s rear end!)  Leggett’s wife, Catherine, is an admired player in county politics who chairs the Executive’s Ball and raises money for the arts.  We are sure that Leggett’s MANY female supporters will step up in his defense should they deem this criticism worthy of response.

So who’s right?  That’s for you, the readers, to decide.

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Progressive Maryland Endorses for County Council

By Adam Pagnucco.

Progressive Maryland, an umbrella organization containing several influential progressive groups, has announced it is endorsing the following candidates for County Council.

At-Large: Brandy Brooks, Will Jawando, Danielle Meitiv and Chris Wilhelm

District 1: Ana Sol Gutierrez

District 3: Ben Shnider

District 4: Nancy Navarro

District 5: Tom Hucker

Progressive Maryland has previously endorsed Marc Elrich for County Executive and Ben Jealous for Governor.  Brooks is an employee of the organization.  Hucker founded the group’s predecessor, Progressive Montgomery.

Two things strike us as interesting here.  First, this is the first major institutional endorsement not received by at-large incumbent Hans Riemer.  (SEIU Local 500 has endorsed three non-incumbents in the at-large race but left a spot open for Riemer contingent on further events in Rockville.)  Second, Progressive Maryland’s affiliates include MCGEO, UFCW Local 400 (grocery store workers), the SEIU Maryland/D.C. council, NOW and ATU Local 689 (WMATA), all of whom play in MoCo elections.  Does Progressive Maryland’s decision provide insight on which candidates may be endorsed by these other groups?

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Democratic Socialists Endorse Elrich, Brooks, Meitiv and Wilhelm

By Adam Pagnucco.

The Metro DC chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) has endorsed Marc Elrich for County Executive and Brandy Brooks, Danielle Meitiv and Chris Wilhelm for Council At-Large.  DSA is the successor to socialist organizations once led by Eugene V. Debs and Norman Thomas.  It has grown to become the largest socialist group in America in the age of Trump.

DSA’s endorsement announcement on Twitter.

The Metro DC chapter has posted its questionnaire responses from Elrich, Brooks, Meitiv and Wilhelm on its website.  Pertinent information includes the following facts.

All four are members of DSA.  Brooks said she was not a member on her questionnaire but her campaign manager, Michelle Whittaker, informs us that she is.  Elrich joined decades ago.  Wilhelm joined in November 2017.  Meitiv said, “I am a DSA member. It would be personally disappointing for me if I did not get the organization’s endorsement.”

Elrich and Wilhelm oppose “privatization” of the liquor monopoly.  Wilhelm wrote, “I do not support privatizing the Department of Liquor Control because it provides good jobs for hundreds of county workers and it also generates tens of millions of dollars in revenue for the county. We cannot afford to eliminate this source of funding.”  Meitiv opposes most privatization, but supports it for the liquor monopoly, writing, “With regard to the County Liquor Department, I am of a different mind. I think that the liquor business is not an essential government service and is an artifact of temperance movements and pay for play corruption. I would favor allowing for locally owned and operated private liquor stores.”  Brooks’s position is unclear.

Elrich, Meitiv and Wilhelm favor decriminalization of sex work.  Brooks does not commit to decriminalization, citing the problems caused by human trafficking.

All four support having Montgomery County act as a sanctuary county for immigrants.  Currently, county officials do not consider the county to be a sanctuary jurisdiction.

All four believe undocumented immigrants should have the right to vote in elections.

All four support rent stabilization laws.

All four support tuition-free community college, though Elrich says, “However, we do not currently have resources at the county level (and probably not at the state level, either) to fund it. We should work towards lowering the cost of college, but our ability to do that is constrained by what resources we have.”

The Metro DC chapter of DSA’s logo.

DSA asked, “Do you identify as a democratic socialist?”

Elrich responded, “Democratic socialism doesn’t have a hard and fast definition; I see it as a philosophy that envisions a more democratic society. I believe in democracy in both the political and economic spheres. What does socialism mean now? We are living in the 21st century, and simply reducing political analysis to a debate between 18th century capitalism and 19th century Marxism doesn’t help us find solutions. There are ideas that have worked and have moved society forward that have evolved from both perspectives, as well as things that haven’t turned out so well from both. So a lot of the ideals of democratic socialism contribute to my thinking, but they don’t entirely define my thinking.”

Brooks responded, “I believe strongly in the ability of everyday people being able to ‘freely and democratically’ set the vision for their government and community. That is the essence of the participatory governing strategy I will bring to elected office. On core issues of economic, social, and racial justice, we must also recognize how capitalism and corporate influence on our policies and politics negatively impacts our people, our planet, and our communities. We must remove the influence of corporate money in our politics and policy to create systemic reform.”

Meitiv responded, “I joined DSA because I found a community of activists who share my values and policy goals. As for identifying as a democratic socialist, I am still exploring what that label means, to DSA members and to the public generally, as well as my own understanding. For example, I’m reading about distinctions being drawn by theorists regarding Social Democracy and Democratic Socialism. There should be no question about whether I share the ideals and concerns of the group, or whether I am concerned about publicly acknowledging DSA membership. I am a little hesitant to put myself in a box with a neat label, but I am absolutely comfortable with identifying as a member of DSA for those reasons.”

Wilhelm responded, “Yes.”

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