Tag Archives: Marilyn Balcombe

Gaithersburg Electeds Endorse Balcombe

By Adam Pagnucco.

Council At-Large candidate Marilyn Balcombe has announced endorsements from three elected officials in Gaithersburg: Mayor Jud Ashman and City Council Members Mike Sesma and Neil Harris.  Balcombe is the long-time President and CEO of the Gaithersburg-Germantown Chamber of Commerce and lives in Germantown.  Gaithersburg, including both the incorporated and unincorporated areas, has more than 40,000 registered Democrats of whom roughly 3,500 have voted in each of the last three mid-term Democratic primaries.

Left to right: Sesma, Harris and Balcombe, Ashman.  Credit: Balcombe for Council Facebook page.


Council Places M-83 in the Freezer

By a 7-2 vote with Nancy Floreen (D-At Large) and Craig Rice (D-2) opposed, the Montgomery County Council approved a resolution sponsored by Councilmember Hans Riemer (D-At Large) telling the Planning Board to ignore that the controversial M-83 road in making future plans.

The controversy pits Upcounty residents against smart growth and environmental opponents of new roads. Many Upcounty residents in communities like Clarksburg would love to see the long promised alternative route to their communities built in order to alleviate excruciating traffic. Environmentalists and smart growthers think that new roads promote the use of cars and sprawl.

Compromise or Just Spin?

The resolution is being presented by Riemer as a compromise because it keeps M-83 in the Master Plan but tells the Planning Board to act as if it will never be built. Nancy Floreen outlined the politics of spin surrounding this resolution in explaining her “no” vote:

There is nothing in here that says we are going to build M-83. So that is a win for the environmentalist, I guess. And, there is nothing in here that says we are going to build M-83, which is a win for the UpCounty.  I suppose, I should be happy about this because we leave M-83 on the master plan for the future, which is a good thing. But, because we are doing something that is designed to fuel public perception one way or the other, I think it is just plain irresponsible. It is a gratuitous slap in the face to the people who relied on the master plan. And for the people who are opposed to it, it continues the argument ad infinitum.

Indeed, the resolution in amenable to being messaged in a variety of ways to different audiences. Environmentalists and smart growthers can be told it all but kills the road for the time being. M-83 supporters will be told that it’s still in the Master Plan and that the anti-road people aren’t happy for this reason.

Road Opponents Carried the Day But this Street Fight Continues

Riemer, an M-83 opponent, is deeply misguided to the extent he believes that the sop of maintaining M-83 in the Master Plan will appease road supporters. They’re not fooled. The “it’s a compromise” argument only annoys because it comes across as disingenuous to people who wanted this road built yesterday.

Marilyn Balcombe, President and CEO of the Gaithersburg-Germantown Chamber of Commerce, is campaigning for at at-large seat on the County Council and making this an issue:

[T]o invoke the Paris Climate Agreement for any project that someone may disagree with is a very slippery slope. . . . Does this proposed resolution mean that we are never building any more roads in the County?

Not a bad substantive policy question in this election year.

Politically, the impact of this issue remains unclear. It’s a great way to rally Upcounty residents who want the road. But how many vote in the key Democratic primary?

Environmentalists are indeed are unhappy that the county didn’t just kill the road outright. Another county council can take the road out of the freezer and thaw it out. They have a lot of support Downcounty but it’s more diffuse pro-environmentalism rather than opposition to this particular project. Can they rally people beyond the small set of usual suspects to oppose the road?

A more likely strategy is that environmental and smart growth groups endorse against pro-M-83 candidates but mention other more compelling issues or general concerns about climate change in their messaging to voters.

Time to Get Off the Pot

While Riemer presents the resolution as a compromise that leaves all unhappy, another way to see this decision is that they decided not to decide. Often, waiting is a good decision. In the case, however, it has the strong whiff of kicking the can down the road to no purpose as the major fact we can expect to change is that traffic will get worse.

The “solution” that our elected officials voted for is really no solution at all. If councilmembers are against the road for whatever reason–the environment, smart growth, the lack of funds–they should just tell the people by killing it. Similarly, supporters should demand a resolution that actively prepares for it and be ready to explain how they will fund it.


First Impressions, Part One

By Adam Pagnucco.

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

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

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

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

Marilyn Balcombe, Germantown

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

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

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

More to come in Part Two.