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