Tag Archives: Nancy Floreen

BREAKING: Brookeville to Open Montgomery’s First Casino

brookeville-acadBrookeville Academy

Comptroller Peter Franchot’s discovery that the Town of Brookeville owes $7.2 million to the State of Maryland due to his office’s miscalculation of municipal tax receipts for many years placed the Town in quite a bind, as the municipality of just 134 souls had no idea how it could repay the debt.

Today, Brookeville Commission President Katherine Farquhar announced that, after working on the issue with the County and the State, Brookeville will open a casino in historic Brookeville Academy (pictured above), which is owned by the Town, to raise monies to pay off the debt to the State.

Franchot praised the decision, stating that he “appreciates the Town’s gratitude to my office for finding the errors” and plans to award the Town the Comptroller’s Medal for its “creative solution” to the Town’s financial difficulties.

Members of the County Council had initially expressed concerns regarding the project. But Council President Roger Berliner (D-1) has now announced that the casino will be the first recipient of the microloan program he has advertised on Facebook in anticipation of his 2018 County Executive bid.

In a press release, Berliner said “I’m so pleased that the microloan program will make the casino possible. It will help jump start Federal Realty’s development of the outbuildings for future expansion, showing the importance of partnerships like these.”

After initial opposition, Councilmember Tom Hucker (D-5) came on board once the Town agreed to hire MCGEO workers transferred from county liquor stores. “They know as much about gaming as beer, wine and liquor, so this is a great opportunity,” said MCGEO President Gino Renne.

Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Gigi Godwin agreed with the union president, as she commended the County for brushing aside development concerns with the adoption of a special Zoning Text Amendment (ZTA) over the objection of the Civic Federation. “We need the County to take a more proactive approach on business.”

Councilmember Hans Riemer (D-AL) also applauded the project, saying that he was happy to learn that Brookeville “is open to serving craft beers” that an official taskforce determined were crucial to revitalizing nightlife in the County.

The sole casino opponent, Councilmember Marc Elrich (D-AL), pointed out that Georgia Ave. is already a parking lot and that the development violated County traffic tests. His statement was interrupted by George Leventhal, who brusquely asked Elrich “Why do you care about people coming from Howard County? Haven’t you figured out we ignore you yet?”

In contrast, Councilmember Nancy Floreen (D-AL) expressed optimism regarding transportation: “SafeTrack has been such a success. We should use the projected savings on Metro to initiate a study on extending the Purple Line to Brookeville.”

The casino will have a War of 1812 theme, reflecting Brookeville’s role as the “U.S. Capital for a Day” in 1814 during the British occupation of Washington. The building’s exterior will be preserved as the interior is redesigned in a “modern Madisionian” style.

(P.S. I think most have figured out by now, but yes, this is satire. Happy New Year.)

Is the Montgomery County Council Uncoupled from Reality on Metro?


It’s Not Just Metro Trains that are Uncoupling

Outgoing Montgomery County Council President Nancy Floreen is so eager to defend the Purple Line that she has been reduced to making incredible statements about the Metro system:

Floreen said Leon’s latest ruling focuses on a one-time issue that Metro is dealing with by instituting its year-long SafeTrack repair process.

“To focus on a unique circumstance where [Metro is] focusing on maintenance and they’re improving the system and [the judge] acting like this one-shot deal affects the future of transit in the region is short-sighted and if you ask me, irresponsible,” Floreen said.

Bethesda Beat reported this stunning statement a week ago but it really deserves more play. While it’s good to see Metro making efforts at improvement, even Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld did not sell SafeTrack as a panacea but merely claimed it was needed to keep the system from falling apart completely.

Moreover, as was covered by the Washington Post, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has reported that the work is often shoddy and that problems are being missed. For example, while SafeTrack is supposed to repair loose fasteners, FTA inspectors following up on the work found an “excessive amount of loose fasteners” that “pose a particularly high safety risk.”

Yesterday, cars on the Red Line came uncoupled and people ended up walking the track. According to reports on @unsuckdcmetro, the train that separated was a new train, so hard to blame on old rolling stock.

More evidence that even Metro does not see SafeTrack as the solution is that NBC reports that WMATA is now planning to reduce service by 30 minutes on weekdays and 2 hours on weekends in order to have more time to make repairs.

Anyone willing to bet that this solves the problems? One argument against cutting hours has been that Metro often doesn’t have the repair staff at the correct location even for scheduled repairs. Would the service cuts be needed if this problem were addressed? Alternatively, will WMATA use the extra time effectively? Or will the cuts along with growth in Uber, Lyft and telecommuting just reduce ridership even further?

Nancy Floreen is a very smart, knowledgeable and experienced councilmember. But this particular statement by her was not one of the better calls made by this tough and well-respected public official. Incidents like trains uncoupling are not unusual but the new normal. Articulating a belief that Metro problems and declines in ridership are a very temporary hiccup, rather than a long-term problem, only enhances belief that the problems lie with governance as well as management.

The public is in trouble if people who are supposed to speak for us overlook Metro’s problems and are so heavily invested in defending it that they are willing to explain away manifest long-term problems. We need Metro to work. And we need the County Council to take these problems seriously.

MCGEO Gets Ready to Rumble

By Adam Pagnucco.

On Monday night, July 11, some MoCo residents received the following robocall.

I’m Tara Huber. I live in Montgomery County and I’m a county worker in child protective services. My job is to protect the vulnerable children in the county and can be very stressful. My job is made even more stressful by the fact that the County under the leadership of Council President Nancy Floreen has failed time and again to give me and my co-workers the right tools to effectively do our jobs. Floreen has mismanaged the county budget to such an extreme that we don’t have enough staff or tools to manage the high case loads. Protect your Montgomery. Call President Floreen at 240-777-7959 and tell her you expect better management of our tax dollars. Paid for by UFCW Local 1994, 600 South Frederick Avenue Gaithersburg Maryland 20877.

This is a new shot fired by MCGEO, the county employee union, in its on-again, off-again conflict with the County Council.  But it’s a risky one that could backfire.

First, some background.  MCGEO has a number of problems with the council, including:

  1. The council’s trimming of employee benefits during the Great Recession.
  1. The council’s vote to end effects bargaining for the police union, which was later upheld by voters.
  1. The council’s vote to cut MCGEO’s raise in half as part of its recently passed budget.
  1. The introduction of legislation by Council President Nancy Floreen that would change collective bargaining procedures in ways that the union claims would weaken its ability to negotiate.

These events and more have caused MCGEO President Gino Renne to tell the Post that his union might support Robin Ficker’s term limits amendment.  And on the night before the hearing on Floreen’s collective bargaining bill, the above robocall went out.  None of this is a coincidence.  Indeed, the union is gearing up for battle.  And no one, whether friend or foe of MCGEO and its fearsome President, has ever claimed that the union backs down when it is under threat.

The problem is that the robocall has little merit and such tactics may provoke the council to do even more against the union’s interest.

Montgomery County has a gigantic Health and Human Services (HHS) budget.  In FY16, HHS had an approved budget of $289 million, with 1,359 full-time positions and 327 part-time positions.  Children, Youth and Family Services, for which the robocall speaker (a MCGEO Vice-President) works, had an FY16 approved budget of $79 million with 525 full-time equivalent positions.

Using FY09 data, your author found that Montgomery County had the biggest HHS budget (along with housing) of any local jurisdiction in Maryland.  On a per capita basis, MoCo spent more than double the state average and lagged only the City of Baltimore.  MoCo spent more than 8 times on HHS and housing than did Prince George’s County.  From FY10 (the peak year prior to the recession) through FY16, MoCo’s HHS budget grew by 13%.  And as for the County Council specifically, it adds millions of dollars on top of the Executive’s recommended budget for HHS every year.  Below is a list of the HHS items added by the council to the Executive’s budget this year, financed with a nine percent increase in property taxes.

HHS Rec List FY17

It’s hard to argue that the council pinches pennies on HHS.  MCGEO has pooh-poohed the tax hike on its website.  What would the union like to see?  Does the council need to raise property taxes by 20% to get its approval?

There is more.  MCGEO is considering supporting term limits for county elected officials.  Fair enough.  The union has some legitimate grievances and any union would fight against a breaking of its collective bargaining agreement.  But let’s remember that the collective bargaining bill detested by MCGEO only had two sponsors at introduction, Nancy Floreen and Craig Rice.  That doesn’t speak well of the bill’s chances under normal circumstances.  But if MCGEO amps up its tactics and really does come out for term limits, could it actually help to recruit votes for Floreen’s bill?  After all, what do term-limited Council Members have to lose?  And let’s not forget that this council will decide on funding two more MCGEO annual compensation packages before the next council is seated.

In May 2011, when the County Council met to pass a budget that included cuts to employee benefits, a group of nine clowns appeared in the audience.  One of them wore a name tag with the first name of the Council President.  The police union refused to admit responsibility but was widely blamed.  Less than two months later, the council voted unanimously to repeal the police union’s right to bargain the effects of management decisions.

What goes around comes around.  Is MCGEO next?

MoCo’s Giant Tax Hike, Part Five

By Adam Pagnucco.

The untold story about the Giant Tax Hike is that it could have been cut substantially while still maintaining every dime of funding for MCPS in the Executive’s recommended budget.  How could that have been done?

The Executive called for an increase in property taxes of $140 million over the charter limit.  Three sources of savings were available to offset it.  First, Senator Rich Madaleno’s state legislation enabling the county to extend the time necessary to pay tax refunds mandated by the U.S. Supreme Court’s Wynne decision freed up $33.7 million.  Second, the County Council had obtained $4.1 million by not funding some elements of the employees’ collective bargaining agreements.  Third, county agencies other than MCPS were due to receive a combined $36.3 million in extra tax-supported funds in the Executive’s recommended budget.  Using some or all of that money for tax relief would have reduced the tax hike even more.  If all of that money were redirected, the tax hike could have been cut in half with MCPS still getting the entire funding increase in the Executive’s budget.

Instead, the council kept the entire 8.7% property tax hike and distributed $25 million of it throughout the entire county government, as well as its affiliated agencies and partner organizations.  While MCPS may have undergone seven straight years of austerity, most of the other agencies and departments had already received double-digit increases over their pre-recession peak amounts.  This new money was on top of those increases.

Council President Nancy Floreen was very honest about this, writing:

While this is an “education first” budget, it isn’t an “education only” budget. As much as many people care about our outstanding school system, we know that others have different priorities. This budget is very much about those people as well.

This budget provides a much-needed boost to police and fire and rescue services as we will be adding more police officers and firefighters and giving them the equipment they need to continue to make this one the safest counties in America. This budget is about libraries, recreation, parks, the safety net, Montgomery College, and transportation programs that help get people around this county better.

This budget means that no matter where you live in the county, if you call an ambulance, you can count on a life-saving response time. Our police force will now be equipped with body cameras. Potholes will be filled, snow will be plowed, grass in parks and on playing fields will be mowed and trees will get planted in the right-of-way. While our unemployment rate has fallen steadily over the past couple of years, our newly privatized program for economic development promises an even better job market in the future. We are going to help new businesses in their early stages and hope they will remain here once they become successful. We are going to aggressively seek to get established businesses to relocate here and we are going to fight to keep the great businesses of all sizes that already call Montgomery County home. Our avid readers and researchers will appreciate the interim Wheaton Library and extended hours at several branches. And students will have better access to after-school enrichment programs.

As Council President Floreen demonstrates above, this is not so much an Education First budget as it is an Everything First budget, with nearly every department and agency getting a piece of new tax revenues.

Let’s compare what happened this year to what occurred in 2010.  Back then, the county was suffering from the full effects of the Great Recession.  Its reserves were dwindling to zero, revenues were in freefall and its AAA bond rating was on the verge of being downgraded.  The County Council responded by passing a budget with furloughs, layoffs, no raises for employees, a cut in the county’s earned income tax credit, an absolute reduction in spending and a $110 million increase in the energy tax.  Given the dire economic emergency, all options were bad ones, but the council really had no choice.  The cuts and tax hike were forced upon them.

This year, there is a stagnant economy (which we will discuss in Part Six) but no Great Recession.  Reserves are substantial and have been on track to meet the county’s goal of ten percent of revenues.  There is no threat to the bond rating.  And yet, the council chose to pass a $140 million property tax increase – larger than the energy tax hike during the recession – when it could easily have reduced the tax increase, funded MCPS’s needs and not cut any other departments.  But it did not.

Like all big choices, this one will have consequences.  We will explore them in Part Six.

Gloom from Floreen and Leventhal

Though Montgomery County Councilmembers George Leventhal and Nancy Floreen voted for the County’s bus-rapid transit (BRT) plan, both poured lots of cold water on the idea at a transit symposium at White Flint recently. In the process, both made statements that would likely surprise County voters regarding future taxes and spending.

Annual Purple Line Operation Payment?

Councilmember Nancy Floreen mentioned that that Montgomery County might have to make an annual payment toward the operational costs of the Purple Line. This ongoing cost would be in addition to the millions that the County has pledged to the light rail line’s construction. News to me, and suspect others, who expected the State to cover these costs.

Taxes Headed Up

Councilmember George Leventhal said that County Executive Ike Leggett would propose a “massive” tax increase in the forthcoming year just to meet current commitments in the context of explaining why he believes that the BRT system is not affordable.

Leventhal Makes Anti-Purple Line Arguments

Weirdly, George then went on to make a string of arguments frequently used against the Purple Line . . . but against bus-rapid transit. The concern about cost was particularly bizarre as BRT is far cheaper than light rail.

George also explained that we could not be sure that the hoped for development would come if we built BRT. Though the Purple Line entails much greater financial risk, George has brushed aside concerns regarding his favored project.

Perhaps most oddly, George argued the incompetence surrounding the Silver Spring Transit Center meant that people would not trust the County to build and operate BRT. Additionally, he explained that all of the trees that would be torn down and construction associated with the Purple Line would further turn people against transit.

Not exactly a vote of confidence in the County’s government and strange since BRT entails much less risk for more gain than the Purple Line. Why did George or Nancy vote for the plan that they now are now publicly undermining in the first place?

Hogan Approves Purple Line

In a surprise move, Gov. Larry Hogan announced that he is ready to move full-speed ahead on the light-rail Purple Line that will travel from Bethesda to New Carrollton in suburban Washington. The Baltimore Sun reported:

“Working closely with Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn, we have discovered the means to reduce costs substantially,” said Gov. Hogan at an early morning press conference. “If we eliminate frills, I am now confident that it can be built in a cost-effective manner that will bring business to Maryland.”

Hogan explained that a major barrier has always been the price of the light-rail cars, which are expensive and have to be imported from Ostrava in the Czech Republic:

We have cut unnecessary extras. Seats provide no benefit to the taxpayer, so they have been eliminated from the redesigned trains. Indeed, we have now also done away with walls and the ceiling to go with a sleek, modern flatbed design.

Purple Line Project Manager Mike Madden applauded the move:

I appreciate the governor’s support and leadership on the project. Eliminating not just doors but walls will make it easier to board and to exit the train, thus reducing time spent at stations and increasing speed, resulting in an estimated increase in ridership of 31.7%.

When asked for the documentation on the increased ridership, Madden described the information as “proprietary” but also reassured the public on their accuracy: “They were calculated by the same high-quality experts who designed the Silver Spring Transit Center that will open later this year.”

Hogan’s decision to simplify cars was hailed by former Action Committee for Transit President Ben Ross:

This new design is in touch with the simplified lifestyle preferred by Millennials. Let’s face it: seats are emblematic of the bourgeois Lexus lifestyle. I’m glad that Maryland and Montgomery County have said “yes” to our smart growth future by embracing open plan light-rail.

Similarly, Montgomery Council President George Leventhal congratulated Hogan on WAMU for “finally following his lead” and said “The open plan is an excellent forward-thinking idea. I think of it as a moving Capital Crescent Trail. It will be a first-class system.”

Not all of Leventhal’s colleagues were so sanguine. Council Vice Chair Nancy Floreen said to the Washington Post:

Heck, I never thought the Governor would invest so much money in areas that will never vote for him. Now, I’ll have to come up with all the money that Montgomery County promised when I’m Council President next year. I don’t see why I shouldn’t just run for Congress instead.

But Robert Thomson, better known as Dr. Gridlock, reassured the public in an online Post discussion: “I have every confidence that the Purple Line will light a fire under small business in Langley Park just as the DC Streetcar has sparked long quiet H Street.”

Former Carroll County Commissioner Republican Robin Frazier denounced the move. Appearing at a “Help Save Maryland” rally, she said that it would only help “homosexuals and illegal aliens get around so that they can use bathrooms in more places.”

 

 

CD8 is Wide Open

Today, I am pleased to present a guest post from Adam Pagnucco:

Long-time District 8 Congressman Chris Van Hollen is now running for the U.S. Senate. Who will succeed him? No one knows because this race is wide open. That’s right, wide open.

Announced or potential candidates include At-Large Councilmembers Nancy Floreen and Hans Riemer, District 20 State Senator Jamie Raskin, District 17 Delegate Kumar Barve, District 16 Delegate Ariana Kelly, former District 5 County Council Member Valerie Ervin, former District 20 Delegate candidate Will Jawando and former WJLA anchor and current Marriott executive Kathleen Matthews. All except Matthews have campaign records. None have run campaigns that approach anything close to the scale of a congressional race.

Consider the following data.

CD8 Comparison

Campaign Spending

In the CD8 2002 primary, Chris Van Hollen spent $1.1 million and won. Mark Shriver spent $2.6 million and lost. None of the prospective candidates in the current CD8 have demonstrated that kind of monetary capacity. Raskin, Riemer and Floreen spent between 200k and 300k on their competitive races. Barve came close to that level in 2014. Ervin has never spent more than 100k in a campaign. All of these candidates would need to dramatically increase their fundraising activity and it’s hard to see that any one has a significant advantage over the others. Matthews, who may be able to draw on self-financing, national Dem money and corporate money, may be an exception.

Size of Electorate

It’s tricky to forecast the size of the CD8 Dem primary electorate because the district was changed radically in 2012 and it does not have a recent experience of primary competition. Van Hollen faced no-names in both the 2012 and 2014 primary and general elections. In the 2002 primary, when the district was almost entirely in MoCo, 86,000 Dems voted. That was a high turnout year for Dems in terms of gubernatorial elections, but 2016 is a presidential year and many more Dems could turn out. In 2012, a presidential year, just 39,000 Dems voted in the primary, as Van Hollen clobbered an opponent without a federal account and there was no meaningful competition in the Presidential and U.S. Senate races. A combination of competition in the U.S. Senate and CD8 races, plus support for Hillary Clinton, could drive turnout in the 2016 CD8 Dem primary north of 100,000.

Among the possible candidates in the CD8 primary, only Nancy Floreen and Hans Riemer have experience running in an electorate that large. State legislative races tend to draw out 7,000-16,000 Democratic primary voters. But Floreen and Riemer don’t necessarily have an advantage because their races are fundamentally different from congressional contests (more below).

Multiple-Vote vs One-Vote Races

A congressional race has one similarity to a State Senate race: voters only get to vote for one candidate. In House of Delegates races (at least in MoCo), voters can vote for up to three candidates. In Council At-Large races, they can vote for up to four. These are very different dynamics.

In a multiple-vote race, a candidate can be no one’s first choice, but can be the second or third choice of a lot of people and still win. Such a candidate would do poorly in a one-vote race like Congress. Even though Floreen and Riemer have won countywide, many of their voters are not voting for them. In 2010, 113,653 MoCo Democrats voted in the primary. Riemer received 40,493 votes (36%) and Floreen received 39,500 (35%). In 2014, 91,046 MoCo Democrats voted in the primary, which was notably less competitive than it was in 2010. Riemer received 49,932 votes (55%) and Floreen received 52,924 votes (58%). The number of voters who would rate either Riemer or Floreen as their first choice would be FAR fewer and would be closer to the total of one of the State Senators.

For what it’s worth, Floreen finished first in 32 of the 138 CD8 precincts located in Montgomery County in 2014. Riemer finished first in 11. At-Large Council Member Marc Elrich, who finished first in 90 CD8 precincts, has shown no interest in a Congressional race.

Delegates have similar problems. Barve and Kelly finished first in their respective House races, but the number of their voters who would have picked them as a first choice is unknowable short of a contemporaneous poll.

District Overlap

State legislators do not enter this race on equal footing. District boundaries and voting patterns give some an advantage over others. Delegate Ariana Kelly benefits from the fact that her district has more actual primary voters in CD8 than any other MoCo state legislative district. In terms of cards cast on 2014 primary election day by residents of CD8, Kelly’s District 16 led with 14,114, followed by District 18 (12, 072), District 20, home of Senator Jamie Raskin and Will Jawando (9,331), District 19 (6,948), District 17, home of Delegate Kumar Barve (4,929), District 14 (3,302) and District 15 (442). Barve is handicapped by the fact that 42% of voters in his district reside in CD6, not CD8.

Women

Fifty-nine percent of MoCo Democrats are women. That figure applies to registered Dems, voting Dems and “super-Dems,” or Dems who always vote. This is not necessarily a prohibitive advantage for female candidates. But if one or two strong women face off against a male-dominated field, it’s possible that this factor could act as something like a tiebreaker. A savvy female candidate might point out that with U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski’s retirement and Rep. Donna Edwards’ entry into the Senate race, the state could be facing the very real prospect of an all-male congressional delegation.

Presidential Year vs. Gubernatorial Year Turnout

Presidential year Democratic primaries tend to attract higher turnout than gubernatorial year Dem primaries. Below are stats on how many MoCo Dems voted in the primary over the last six elections (both presidential and gubernatorial). With the glaring exception of 2012, when there was little or no competition in the presidential, U.S. Senate and CD8 races, presidential year turnouts tend to be higher. That means in a presidential year CD8 race, there will be tens of thousands of Democratic voters who have not voted in gubernatorial races and do not know their state senators, delegates or councilmembers. Communicating with these people will be a significant challenge for any candidate. Also, anywhere from a sixth to a fifth of the CD8 primary electorate will be residents of Carroll and Frederick Counties.

MoCo Turnout Dem Primary

Bottom Line

There are no favorites in this field. No candidate has proven that he or she can raise the money for a congressional campaign. The at-large County Council candidates run across a big geography but not in one-vote races. State legislators have small districts (at least compared to CD8) and delegates run in multiple-vote elections. Tens of thousands of non-gubernatorial and non-MoCo voters will have no idea who any of the candidates are and they will need some attention.

Wide open, folks. This contest is wide open.

Ariana Kelly for Congress?

arianakellyDelegate Ariana Kelly (D-16)

Del. Ariana Kelly (D-16) is exploring a bid for Congress. Ariana has represented this district, centered on Bethesda, since 2011.

Career

Del. Kelly grew up in the area, attending Walter Johnson High School. Her political involvement long predated her successful bid for the House. She was the Executive Director of NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland and the Environmental Health Campaign Director for MomsRising.org. Her past work as the producer for a PBS news program further adds to her communication experience.

In 2010, Ariana won the Democratic nomination for an open seat in the House of Delegates. Her closest competitor was Kyle Lierman, who was by far the best funded candidate in the race. In that race, Kelly benefited from being the only woman in the race. She performed well in a field with many strong candidates, garnering key support from Democratic interest groups.

As an incumbent in 2014, Kelly won the most votes of any House candidate not just in D16 but Montgomery County. This feat is all the more impressive because she was not unopposed for renomination. On the contrary, several strong candidates with good campaigns hoped to win an open seat.

Starting her second full House term, Del. Kelly was elected Chair of the Montgomery County House Democratic Caucus.

Policy

Ariana advocates strongly on women’s issues in the legislature. “Advocate” can sometimes sound like code for “someone who takes liberal positions but doesn’t really know or do a heck of a lot.” The opposite would be true in Ariana’s case.

People who speak with Ariana will quickly get a sense of her strong commitment to these issues backed by an intricate knowledge of how government does–and sometimes doesn’t–work. In short, Ariana often focuses on issues that are less eye-catching but make  a meaningful difference in people’s lives.

Last year, HB 1026 mandated six weeks of paid maternity or paternity leave for employees in small businesses. HB 963, also passed during last year’s session, requires hospitals to develop procedures to do rape kits–surprisingly many are not equipped to do this–so victims of sexual assault don’t have to be shuttled to another hospital.

Parents of kids with autism are no doubt very grateful that 2012 HB 1055 required autism therapy to be covered by insurance, saving many parents from financial ruin on top of having the extra responsibility of a child with special needs.

Opportunity and Overlap with Other Candidates

Ariana would be a likely candidate to gain support from NARAL since she has worked for their state affiliate and can claim a level of commitment greater than other pro-choice candidates. She would need the backing of EMILY’s List to gain access to the broader national fundraising network that could help provide the funds critical to what will be an expensive House race.

Both Nancy Floreen, and to a certain extent Kathleen Matthews, show the most potential for overlap with Ariana’s candidacy. While they have distinct profiles locally among people who follow politics, each has the potential to appeal especially to women, who will compose well over 50% (probably close to or around 60%) of Democratic primary voters. Ariana would likely try to set herself apart as more progressive but these distinctions can be very hard to get into the minds of primary voters.

Though Ariana has only been elected twice, she represents the legislative district with the most Democratic primary voters in the Eighth District. Moreover, voters in this affluent district with a large Jewish population vote at a high rate.

Backing from her state legislative colleagues would aid Del. Kelly’s campaign, particularly in the early stages as it would help convince big funders like EMILY’s List to give her campaign a serious look. In short, as with other campaigns, not just experience but having supporters who can validate it would help her gain traction should she take the plunge, and enter, rather than explore a bid.

Air In, Vaping Out in MoCo

On Tuesday, the Montgomery County Council looks set to pass Council Vice President Nancy Floreen’s bill to ban the sale of e-cigarettes to minors. The bill would also prohibit their use where smoking is already not allowed and mandate child-resistant packaging.

Here is Councilmember Floreen’s argument for the bill:

It is hard to keep up with the mounting evidence that electronic cigarettes pose more risks than their marketers would like us to believe, especially for children and teens.

Although electronic cigarettes do not produce tobacco smoke, they do contain nicotine and other dangerous chemicals. That’s why I introduced a bill in the Montgomery County Council to prohibit the use of electronic cigarettes in public spaces where traditional cigarette smoking is banned, including in public buildings and restaurants. The bill also would prohibit use of electronic cigarettes by minors and would require child-resistant packaging for them.

The use of electronic cigarettes, commonly called “vaping,” has grown dramatically since the product’s introduction in 2007. The practice has become so commonplace that the Oxford Dictionary selected the word “vape” as its 2014 “Word of the Year.”

Perhaps swayed by the belief that electronic cigarettes are safe, or emboldened by the fact that e-cigs have little odor that parents could detect, teens who have never tried traditional cigarettes are using e-cigs. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that e-cig use has tripled among teens in just two years. These young people are unwittingly putting themselves at risk for nicotine addiction and nicotine poisoning, as well as potentially graduating to harmful tobacco products.

What exactly is in an electronic cigarette? It is hard to say. In addition to the most common ingredients — propylene glycol, nicotine and flavorings — studies have revealed a lot of unsavory things, like carcinogens, heavy metals and even silicon fibers in some e-cigs. But with 90 percent of electronic cigarettes being manufactured in China, where production lacks even the most basic of regulations, they could contain just about anything.

Many states, including Maryland, prohibit the sale of electronic cigarettes to minors. Municipalities including New York City, Los Angeles, Boston and Chicago, also have enacted restrictions on their use.

While the Food and Drug Administration is currently considering regulations to address electronic cigarettes, it is not clear when those regulations would be finalized or take effect. In the meantime, I’m not willing to gamble with the health of our current generation of young people. We must put some protections in place, and we must do it now.

Councilmember Floreen makes a good case. It seems very odd that someone can buy vaping materials at a mall kiosk but that cigarettes must be sold behind the counter. If adults want to use these materials, that’s their business. But we shouldn’t facilitate the addiction and the poisoning of people who are not yet legal adults.

AFL-CIO Disses MoCo Council Incumbents

MD AFLIn the Democratic primary, the AFL-CIO endorsed incumbent Marc Elrich as well as challengers Beth Daly and Vivian Malloy for the at-large seats. Only Elrich won the nomination. The AFL-CIO did not endorse incumbents Nancy Floreen, George Leventhal, or Hans Riemer. They have now decided not to endorse any of these three (or anyone else) for the general election.

The AFL-CIO have also made no endorsement in District 1 (Roger Berliner), District 2 (Craig Rice), or District 3 (Sidney Katz). They had endorsed unsuccessful candidates Duchy Trachtenberg (District 1) and Ryan Spiegel (District 3).

District 4 Incumbent Democrat Nancy Navarro is their only new endorsed candidate. They had already endorsed Tom Hucker in District 5–their only other Montgomery County Council winner besides Marc Elrich.

So two-thirds of the new Council will have the election without the endorsement of the AFL-CIO in either the primary or the general election–7 out of 9 if you include the primary.