Tag Archives: Pete Fosselman

Clash on the Issues, Part III: Blame It on the Alcohol

This is the third in a series about the issue positions of candidates in District 1 based on the debate hosted by Friends of White Flint. Today’s topic: what do the candidates think about the Montgomery County Department of Liquor Control’s alcohol monopoly?

Time to Get Off the Sauce: Candidates for Privatization

Bringing levity to the debate on several occasions, Pete Fosselman started by bluntly stating “I like my liquor” to laughter from the crowd. He proposes letting the county retain control of hard liquor but privatizing the sale of beer and wine, arguing that the change would boost in Montgomery restaurants. As an industry that makes most of their money on alcohol sales, they watch this aspect of the business carefully.

Andrew Friedson spoke passionately in favor of privatization. Fighting back against those concerned about the loss of revenue generated by the monopoly, Friedson stated “I believe government should be judged on how well it serves people, not how well it makes money.” Moreover, he argued that the monopoly costs Montgomery revenue, as it is hard to explain why alcohol sales are 41% lower here than elsewhere in the region unless you think Montgomery has “a secret temperance movement.”

Meredith Wellington agreed with Friedson, saying thoughtfully that the monopoly is a symptom of the county’s problematic approach. Arguing that government can’t do everything, Wellington said that we want entrepreneurial people in the county and need to work with them to help us market the county to businesses.

Though concerned about losing the union jobs, Reggie Oldak also thinks the county should not be in the liquor business, pointing out that $30 million is not much in a $5.5 billion budget. She shouldn’t worry so much. Private liquor distributors are also unionized. Why should the county should favor jobs with one union over another?

They Tried to Make Me Go to Rehab, I Said No, No, No: Candidates against Privatization

Bill Cook believes that privatizing the liquor industry would be a huge loss for the county because we’d lose $30 million and those “great paying union jobs.” Taking perhaps an unusual tack, he then proceeded to attack of his own potential constituents, Total Wine Co-Owner David Trone, who lives and has located the headquarters of his business in District 1.

Stating that there is “nothing wrong” with the county selling liquor and endorsed by UFCW 1994 MCGEO, Ana Sol Gutiérrez favors modernization, not privatization. She says that “significant steps have been taken” in terms of improvements. I wonder if she also thinks Metro escalators rarely break down. Gutiérrez likes that we can take on new debt by bonding the revenue stream. In other words, the county is fiscally hooked on alcohol.

Jim McGee opposes privatization but favors modernization. Unfortunately, that has been promised for years but is much like waiting for Godot. They say that it’s coming. But when is it coming? At the same time, McGee thinks it is too hard for microbreweries to distribute their product.

Share

Clash on the Issues, Part II: is Ballooning Debt a Problem?

This is the second in a series about the issue positions of candidates in District 1 based on the debate hosted by Friends of White Flint. Today’s post looks at whether the candidates are concerned about the share of the county budget going to service debt, which is approaching 20% according to the question.

Ana Sol Gutiérrez doesn’t see County debt as a problem and views it is analogous to a home mortgage, leaving me hoping that we don’t end up under water like so many home owners. She has confidence in analyses showing the county is financially stable but also expressed interest in finding “other funding streams,” which sounds like taxes. Throughout the debate, however, she referred to mysterious state-level funds that the county had left untapped, a perplexing claim from a this long-time delegate on the appropriations committee who should be well placed to direct funds to the County.

In a similar vein, Bill Cook commended the Council for its balanced budget and well-funded rainy day fund, and blamed “reckless” development without appropriate impact taxes for placing additional burdens on county residents.

Reggie Oldak took a more centrist position, arguing that too much debt is a burden and Montgomery needs to preserve its AAA bond rating. At the same time, she agreed it is shortsighted not to spend on the safety net, leaving me a bit concerned as debt should go to capital, not operating, expenses.

Noting a lot of agreement among the candidates, Jim McGee took a similar position. He views debt as an “investment in the future” but also says we need to see the return on the investment. He also noted aptly that interest rates are rising, so debt will cost more in the future. Economic growth is the real solution to this problem.

Meredith Wellington was the first to express directly that she is very concerned about the debt gobbling up more of our budget even as revenues have not bounced back and we’ve raised taxes. She supports the affordability guidelines, even though they constrain the county’s ability to borrow, and said we need to set priorities. In short, Wellington was the first to identify rightly that growing debt and flat revenues is not a sustainable fiscal path, and that the county will have to make real choices as a result.

Andrew Friedson concurred with Wellington. He countered Gutiérrez’s home mortgage analogy directly, arguing cogently that we cannot do the equivalent of taking out a bigger mortgage or taxing our way out of it. There is certainly little appetite for increased property or income taxes in Montgomery, especially in the wake of the County’s big tax hike.

Showing his expertise on the topic, Pete Fosselman noted the $375 million paid in interest last year and the $120 million hole in the current budget. He’s concerned about the County’s AAA bond rating, arguing that we need fiscal discipline and to work better to provide services through nonprofits even as we stop funding politically connected “sock puppet nonprofits.”

Once again, voters appear to have a real choice, as candidates expressed broad differences on both debt as a problem and the solutions. All should be concerned with the county bond rating because lower bond ratings mean we pay more in interest and can afford less. As Wellington identified, and Friedson and Fosselman agreed, we are not on a sustainable fiscal path, so debt should be a real concern. The era of difficult choices is far from over.

Share

Clash on the Issues, Part I: Recruiting Amazon

This is the first in a series about the issue positions of candidates in District 1 based on the debate hosted by Friends of White Flint. Candidates clashed greatly on whether and how to pitch White Flint as Amazon’s future location. While all touted Montgomery County’s assets, there was enormous disagreement on providing tax incentives.

Jim McGee argued against doing anything to recruit Amazon to Montgomery. He’s outraged that Jeff Bezos makes “$35 billion per year” and opposes the siting of the equivalent of “two Pentagons” here. While correct that Bezos is wealthy, though missing that it’s for creating a world-beating company, this analysis ignores both Amazon’s duty to its shareholders or the reality of its economic power to command incentives. McGee admitted candidly that he was “probably not the right guy” to make the pitch to Amazon.

Bill Cook wants the jobs but is “not willing to prostrate” before Amazon. He’d tell Jeff Bezos that he doesn’t need the money and you already have a mansion in Kalorama. Cook says he knows that Amazon is coming to Washington but won’t be going to DC or Fairfax because “the schools suck are terrible.” Neither true nor the way I’d put it. The Washington area provides three excellent candidates but Cook’s attitude would assure that Amazon doesn’t come to Maryland.

In contrast to these wildly unrealistic, populist views of the world, Reggie Oldak countered that it would be great if Amazon came, pointing out astutely that we are giving tax breaks, not subsidies, and that collecting 90% of something is better than 100% of nothing. Additionally, we’d receive transit funding from the State. Indeed, the tax breaks are spaced over many decades based on Amazon spending many times more in salaries.

Several candidates, such as Andrew Friedson, pointed out the attractiveness of our location near DC and three airports along with our transit system, educated workforce and excellent school system. Citing Montgomery as a diverse and welcoming community, Pete Fosselman argued emphatically that the tax breaks don’t outweigh the “phenomenal” long-term benefits. Fosselman also pointed out the State’s new funding for Metro along our planned BRT system as real positives in our recruitment pitch.

Demonstrating her planning skills, Wellington also emphasized our great location and said agreed with Pete Fosselman’s support for the Council’s recent zoning changes shortening the comment period for the site, perceptively pointing out the most important discussions occur before the submission of the plan. She’d work to make sure that Amazon’s new building integrate well into the community.

Ana Sol Gutiérrez said “Let’s make a deal. We can both win” but did not outline the sort of deal she’d expect or support. Gutiérrez said that the Governor is enticing Amazon with tax credits but wanted to know what we would gain from Amazon, saying that it’s not about the jobs but the diversity. I suspect most would disagree with Gutiérrez and say that it is, in fact, about the jobs, pointing out that Amazon’s arrival here would provide opportunities for our diverse workforce and assure that all people hired by Amazon, or the many businesses its arrival would spawn, would be covered by Montgomery’s protections for employees.

Unfortunately, Dalbin Osorio was ill and unable to attend the debate, which was too bad as he was a lively and interesting candidate at the first debate.

Share

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!

Share

O’Malley Endorses Fosselman

Former Gov. Martin O’Malley has endorsed former Kensington Mayor Pete Fosselman in the District 1 Council race:

Pete Fosselman is a results-driven leader who has the know-how and experience to accomplish big things for the people of Montgomery County, Throughout his distinguished career in public service, Pete developed a reputation as a consensus builder who knows how to get things done on important issues like economic development, education, smart growth, and a better quality of life for Maryland’s seniors.

It’s a nice signifier that Pete Fosselman is a major contender for the  seat being vacated by Roger Berliner. It’s not a complete bolt from the blue as Fosselman and O’Malley have long been friends.

Fosselman also served in O’Malley’s administration as Deputy Secretary of State–a position to which Gov. Larry Hogan reappointed him. Currently, he works as the planning coordinator for the White Oak Science Gateway project for County Executive Ike Leggett.

Share

Mixing It Up in Kensington. All Quiet in Washington Grove.

Kensington

Three candidates are vying for the two Council seats up for election this year: Darin Bartram, Connor Crimmins, and Tom Rodriguez. (The Mayor and other two councilmembers are elected in even-numbered years.)

Bartram and Rodriguez are incumbents with Bartram seeking his third term and Rodriguez his second. Reports indicate that challenger Crimmins is running a strong campaign, complete with website. Crimmins is the Chief Operating Officer at Spider Stratagies, a technology an consulting company.

Like in most Maryland towns, elections in Kensington are nonpartisan. However, while Crimmins is an unaffiliated voter (UPDATE: Crimmins is a Democrat), Bartram and Rodriguez are Republicans who are active in national Republican politics through their jobs.

Bartram is a partner at Baker Hostetler who works in environmental and constitutional law. Specifically, he has provided counsel to a utility company that failed to comply with federal environmental regulations and also was part of the team that challenged unsuccessfully the constitutionality of the individual mandate portion of the Affordable Care Act.

Rodriguez works as a communications advisor at Luntz Global, the firm run by Republican Pollster Frank Luntz. He has worked as a fundraiser for Republican Members of Congress and also served as a consultant on Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign.

Former long-time Kensington Mayor Pete Fosselman, now a Democratic Candidate in Council District 1, has endorsed Bartram. Fosselman and Del. David Moon (D-20) jousted over Fosselman’s support for Bartram on Facebook:

Moon and Bartram had tangled on Facebook. Moon, a former campaign consultant, expressed his lack of surprise at Bartram’s criticism of General Assembly Democrats in light of Bartram’s past defense of Trump and Scalia’s critique of the Voting Right Act along with Bartram’s Facebook post proclaiming “I think Sarah Palin is awesome.” Drawing the County Council into the debate, Bartram accused Councilmember Hans Riemer of feeding Moon shots from Bartram’s Facebook page. (UPDATE: Riemer had not seen the page and literally had no idea what Bartram was talking about.)

Washington Grove

Washington Grove, an adorable small town with its own MARC stop, will hold elections on May 13th from 4 to 7pm. The Town elects its mayor annually and two of the six members of the Town Council every year. In contrast to Kensington, all is very quiet in Washington Grove this year. All of the positions are uncontested:

Mayor
Joli McCathran (incumbent)

Council
Audrey Maskery (incumbent)
John Compton

Share

Fosselman Not Seeking Reelection

Kensington Mayor Pete Fosselman is not seeking reelection to a sixth term this year. He has asked Councilmember Tracy Furman to file for Mayor and she has. Among the highlights of Fosselman’s tenure was the approval of the new sector plan allowing for higher density in downtown Kensington.

This will be a real change in leadership for Kensington. Beyond winning five terms, Pete has been deft at managing Council meetings and very successful in getting his preferred candidates elected to the Town Council.

Share

Kensington Elects Republican Operative to Town Council

The Town of Kensington held an election for two seats on the Town Council on Monday, June 1. Incumbent Paul Sexton did not run for reelection, so there was an open seat. Two candidates filed besides incumbent Darin Bartram.

Tommy Rodriguez, 27, is a Republican pol who worked advance for Romney and on Ron George’s gubernatorial bid. George came in last in the Republican primary with just 12.4%. Rodriguez was endorsed by Sexton, his cousin, who campaigned hard for him.

The other new contender, Attorney Clifford Scharman, is the husband of former Councilmember Barbara Scharman who served from 1999 through 2003. Cliff Scharman submitted a brief on the locally controversial Costco gas stations case.

Here are the results:

Tom H. Rodriguez, 158 (64.8%)
Darin R. Bartram, 157 (64.3%)
Clifford J. Scharman, 117 (48.0%)

I hear that Rodriguez knocked on more doors than Scharman and generally ran a stronger campaign, including a barbeque in the park on the evening before the election.

Share