Tag Archives: Roger Berliner

Two Tiers in the At-Large Council Race, Part One

By Adam Pagnucco.

The race for Montgomery County Executive is starting to draw some attention from the press, but relatively little has been written about the upcoming election for the County Council’s four at-large seats.  That’s too bad considering the historic nature of the race.  The council has never had three open at-large seats since its current structure was created in 1990, but it does now thanks to term limits.  Combined with the open District 1 seat, the council will have four openings in 2018.  Whoever wins those seats, along with the next County Executive, will be running the county for as long as the next twelve years.

We are fourteen months out from the election and the race is just now beginning to form, but we are reasonably sure of one thing: candidates who have run before, even if they lost (respectably), will have an advantage over those who have not.  That’s because of two reasons.  First, they have electoral experience and don’t have the often-steep learning curve of brand-new candidates.  Second, they will have leftover support, relationships and name recognition from their prior races.  Why do we emphasize this?  MoCo electoral history is full of candidates who lost and later came back to win.  Consider just a few examples.

Steve Silverman

Silver Spring attorney Steve Silverman took on all three incumbent District 20 Delegates in 1994 and lost by more than 2,000 votes.  But he captured a council at-large seat four years later and finished first for reelection in 2002.  Silverman, as shrewd and canny as they come, is still a player in county politics as a co-founder of the advocacy group Empower Montgomery and as a successful lobbyist.

A 1994 Silverman mailer about school construction.  Some things never change.

Phil Andrews

Former Common Cause of Maryland Executive Director Phil Andrews ran for an at-large council seat in 1994 emphasizing his work on curbing lobbyists and big campaign donors.  He finished sixth, but came back four years later to knock out District 3 incumbent Bill Hanna.  Andrews would go on to serve four terms on the council.

A 1994 Andrews mailer.  Reading his comments on his time at Common Cause, it is no surprise that he would create the county’s public campaign financing system twenty years later.

Roger Berliner

Energy sector lawyer Roger Berliner ran in the 2000 District 1 special election primary and lost to Pat Baptiste, who subsequently was defeated by Republican Howie Denis for the seat.  Berliner came back six years later to beat Denis and has represented the district ever since.

A Berliner mailer from 2000.  He has much better glasses now!

Hans Riemer

Former Rock the Vote political director Hans Riemer lost a 2006 open seat race in District 5 to school board member Valerie Ervin.  Four years later, Riemer finished second in the at-large race and is the only incumbent eligible to run again.

Riemer vows to build the Purple Line in 2006 or die trying.  For the sake of his wife and two kids, we hope the project is allowed to proceed!

Marc Elrich

Former MCPS teacher and Takoma Park City Council Member Marc Elrich is the patron saint of persistent candidates.  Elrich ran four straight times for County Council before being elected at-large in 2006 and has finished first in the last two elections.  Elrich’s longevity, tenacity and consistency of message will make him a formidable candidate for Executive.

An Elrich mailer from 1994.  What did we say about things never changing?

We love history like many Seventh State readers.  But what does this have to do with 2018?  We’ll explore that in Part Two.

Leventhal Lurches Left on the Minimum Wage

As he prepares to run for County Executive, Montgomery County Councilmember George Leventhal (D-At Large) is taking a no-one-to-my-left approach on the minimum wage. He has heartily embraced the legislation by fellow Councilmember Marc Elrich (D-At Large) to raise the county’s minimum wage to $15/hour.

The legislation, recently vetoed by County Executive Ike Leggett after passing the Council by 5-4, would have indexed the minimum wage. Consistent with his position, Leventhal came out strongly on Facebook against a proposal by Del. Dereck Davis (D-Prince George’s) to limit the abilities of local jurisdictions to legislate on the minimum wage, and pointed out that the County’s current minimum wage law is not indexed for inflation:

His campaign consultant, Karen Murphy, then posted the first comment applauding Leventhal and attacking both Davis and Councilmember Roger Berliner (D-1), who voted against the legislation to increase the wage:

Berliner is a likely rival to Leventhal for the open county executive post in 2018.

At this point, my fellow blogger Adam Pagnucco, who formerly worked for the Council, pointed out that Leventhal had voted for an amendment sponsored by Berliner to strip indexing from the county’s minimum wage in 2013:

(Here is the link to the meeting in the screenshot of Adam’s post.)

George agreed that Adam is correct but then noted that Adam has done work for Berliner as a campaign consultant. Irrelevant but fair enough. On the other hand, it was only at this point that it was revealed that Karen Murphy, who earlier posted the SHAME on Berliner comment, works for Leventhal.

Can we look forward to Karen Murphy revealing her employer and pay in future political posts? (Note: Adam says he was paid less but the debate over the amount is not important here.)

George later explained his evolution on the issue:

The proposed new minimum wage of $15.00 is a 30 percent increase over $11.50. Councilmembers who voted no expressed concerns that a minimum wage set above a certain point could crimp the county’s economy. Councilmember Leventhal argued this point passionately during the 2013 debate. So this new lack of caution is a real shift.

The politics of this debate are interesting. The county’s Democratic Party continues to shift left, so taking a vocal, hardline pro-minimum wage stance may be politically advantageous. This should benefit Elrich, yet another candidate for county executive, and Leventhal would hope he too would reap the benefits, or at least mend relations with unions who didn’t endorse him 2014.

In theory, this leaves business oriented Democrats open for Berliner, or another potential candidate like David Trone. However, Leventhal has had strong developer and business support in the past and would likely try to win their support again, if only as clearly preferable to Elrich from their point of view.

(Note: I am not a consultant to any campaign or a supporter of anyone for county executive at this time. I have actively supported both Elrich and Berliner in some of their past Council races.)

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.)

Leventhal Defends DLC’s Bad Service

New Slogan? We Don’t Care. We Don’t Have To. We’re the DLC.

Last week, we reported that Department of Liquor Control stores completely fouled up deliveries in the week before New Year’s. Now, DLC Director George Griffin did issue an apology. But that doesn’t restore any of the lost income or makeup for the stress caused by  this total snafu.

Real accountability would mean rebates. Even more galling is that time was found to distribute material to defend the DLC in stores even as this mistake occurred. It also undermines the DLC claim that their reform program has produced meaningful results.

Councilmember Roger Berliner thinks that this is yet more evidence that it is time for the DLC to go the way of the dinosaur:

Berliner

Leventhal Attacks Berliner on Facebook

Councilmember George Leventhal came out swinging in comments on his colleague’s Facebook posts:

LeventhalonrestRestaurants are a major industry in Montgomery County. Beyond his misguided self-serving beliefs, saying that liquor reform is only of interest to restaurateurs is like saying that education is only of interests to parents so people should really quit their complaining. I’m sure restaurant owners appreciate George’s relegation of their repeat problems to illegitimate concerns.

BTW, restaurants are not flourishing as much as we might hope. Elm St. in Bethesda Row is one of the hottest blocks in the county with high pedestrian traffic. Right now, there are three empty restaurant spots on the block with one more store ready to close. In Silver Spring, Jackie’s is calling it a day and Jackie Greenbaum says she’d never open another restaurant in MoCo–it’s just too difficult.

The Starbucks Defense

But hey, George has the Starbucks defense:

leventhalstarbucksOf course, the difference is that, if you have a problem at Starbucks, you’re likely to get a good response to a complaint. They want you as a customer. If not, you have the option to shop elsewhere. But the DLC Monopoly forces consumers and businesses alike to deal with them. Eerily reminiscent of the legendary Lily Tomlin SNL skit posted at the top regarding the phone company monopoly: “We Don’t Care. We Don’t Have To. We’re the Phone Company.”

George’s blithe dismissal of major problems at the DLC–even those affecting major customers who were buying a lot more than a latte and whose livelihoods depend on it–shows an alarming lack of concern for constituents or willingness to listen. In George’s view, mediocrity in a monopoly government service is acceptable–a level of contempt that his constituents should not.

MCGEO Paves the Way for Alcohol Reform

[UPDATE at the end of this post.]

During his campaign for the Democratic nomination in Montgomery County District 5, Evan Glass pushed hard for liberalization of Montgomery’s antiquated monopoly on the sale of alcohol in the County. Despite his narrow defeat, the next four years presents the best opportunity for reform in ages.

MCGEO, the union that represents the employees at County owned liquor stores, bet disastrously on the wrong candidates in the recent Democratic primary. The attempt by MCGEO under the leadership of Gino Renne to flex its muscle and become the leading force among unions and possibly in County politics backfired and earned the union far more enemies than friends.

Montgomery County Council
Let’s look first at County Council races. In District 1, MCGEO endorsed Duchy Trachtenberg’s bid to return to the Council in a challenge to incumbent Roger Berliner. Duchy even hired MCGEO’s former executive director as her campaign manager. Trachtenberg lost with 21% of the vote. MCGEO didn’t just lose; it looked puny and ineffectual.

The big race in District 3 went no better for MCGEO, Gaithersburg Mayor Sid Katz defeated their choice of Ryan Spiegel, who won less than one-quarter of the vote. In Districts 2 and 4, MCGEO did not endorse either incumbent in the primary even though they were unopposed. No relationships built there.

Tom Hucker, who was expected to win by more, limped home to the District 5 nomination in his battle against newcomer Evan Glass. While MCGEO should have a friend in Hucker, his narrow victory hardly impresses and its not clear yet how much weight this new member of the Council will carry with his colleagues.

In the at-large races, MCGEO supported incumbent Marc Elrich so a bright spot for them there. However, they also supported Beth Daly, the most serious challenger to the other incumbents, who all won reelection. No real reason for Nancy Floreen, George Leventhal, or Hans Riemer to prioritize MCGEO’s interests. And Hans has already expressed public interest in alcohol reform.

General Assembly
MCGEO played it safer in the General Assembly but surely has teed off the three incumbents whose opponents it supported in District 18. It gave $1000 to Sen. Rich Madaleno’s opponent. Madaleno won despite being heavily outspent by his self-funding opponent who dumped over $300K in the attempt. Unfortunately for MCGEO, he is already one of the more influential insiders on the Budget and Taxation Committee.

While MCGEO supported Jeff Waldstreicher, it also gave $1000 to Natali Fani-Gonzalez, which certainly cannot especially please incumbents Al Carr and Ana Sol Gutierrez. The two incumbents romped home easily with Fani-Gonzalez placing sixth out of seven candidates.

The Results
MCGEO spent a lot of money and political capital in an effort to look strong but made its weakness apparent. Its ill-conceived campaign to plant friends on the Council and instill respect of its power has left it vulnerable. Montgomery officials can move ahead with alcohol reform. They know they have nothing to fear.

UPDATE: MCGEO made another terrible investment in the District 17 Senate race. They donated $6000 to Del. Lou Simmons, another heavy self-funder. Despite having a clear financial advantage, Lou lost the nomination to former Del. Cheryl Kagan by 9 points.

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.

Rapid Transit at the MoCo Fair

Councilmember Roger Berliner: “There is nothing more fundamental to the future of Montgomery County than making this happen. And making it happen during the next four years.”

Councilmember Marc Elrich: “This is the best answer we have to both the need for capacity and the limited dollars available.”

Councilmember Cherri Branson: “I cannot tell you how important a bus-rapid transit system would be for Route 29 not only to alleviate some of the current congestion but even more importantly to help us develop the east part of the county.”  –

County Executive Ike Leggett: “It will happen in Montgomery County. This is the right thing for our future.”

MCEA Final MoCo Endorsements

From the Washington Post:

The union representing Montgomery County’s 12,000 teachers rounded out its list of County Council endorsements Wednesday for the June 24 Democratic primary, retaining its 2010 recommendations of Roger Berliner (D-Potomac-Bethesda), Craig Rice (D-Upcounty), Nancy Navarro (D-Midcounty), Marc Elrich (D-At Large) and Hans Riemer (D-At-Large) but dropping George Leventhal (D-At-Large).

The endorsement by the Montgomery County Education Association (MCEA) is one of the most coveted because it comes with a spot on the Apple Ballot, which is mailed to Democratic voters and distributed at the polls.

The announcement follows earlier endorsements of candidates for open council seats: Ryan Spiegel in District 3 (Rockville-Gaithersburg) and Board of Education member Christopher Barclay in District 5 (Silver Spring-East County). The union has also endorsed County Executive Isiah Leggett for a third term.

Ryan Spiegel and Marc Elrich seem to be sweeping up the labor endorsements. This is a nice one for Roger Berliner as the government employee unions are lining up behind Duchy Trachtenberg. Hans Riemer must also be pleased after losing support from other county unions.

Nancy Floreen has never been the labor candidate so probably isn’t too perturbed or worried about it. But being dropped from the Apple is new for George Leventhal who has also been frozen out by MCGEO, FOP, and the AFL-CIO.

More on Duchy, Roger, DFA and Ten Mile Creek

First off, I am informed by Alan Hyman that Duchy Trachtenberg was endorsed by DFA on May 8th. No idea if Alan is associated with Duchy’s campaign but it really doesn’t matter because he’s correct. DFA has also changed its website today and Duchy is now listed as an endorsed candidate in Maryland. Of course, this still leaves unanswered where DFA got its inaccurate information on Ten Mile Creek or why they are investing in the race.

I received an email from local activist Molly Hauck who was strongly offended by DFA’s email blast. Below is her email to other people in Kensington as well as her letter to DFA.

This email is offensive and you can see my response below. If anyone else is a member of DFA or knows members of DFA, please contact them with your response. . . .

Roger said that Duchy worked for Howard Dean and her campaign manager, Joe Trippi, worked for Howard Dean, so they are paying her back. What a way to do it! They should have someone do some fact checking before sending out something like this.

Dear Franco Caliz,

I live in Kensington, part of Montgomery County, and I follow what is going on in the Montgomery County Council. This is an unfair and dangerous attack on Roger Berliner. Whoever wrote this hasn’t followed what is going on in the Montg. Co. Council and doesn’t understand the facts. Roger Berliner was one of the three people on the Montgomery County Council who worked hard to protect Ten Mile Creek. He is an environmental lawyer who loves to do trout fishing. He successfully fought the development project that was proposed near Ten Mile Creek. Water has to be clean for trout to live in it. So he worked with two other Council members, Marc Elrich and Phil Andrews, to protect Ten Mile Creek. Environmentalists were happy with the results and just celebrated last week at the Audubon Society. He has also introduced and passed a lot of environmental legislation in the Montg. Co. Council. Your email describes him as a developer. This is totally inaccurate.Duchy had nothing to do with fighting the developers who wanted to ruin Ten Mile Creek. She isn’t on the Montg. Co. Council, so how could she “push back?”

After reading this, I am afraid of Duchy’s judgment and that of the people running her campaign. I don’t understand why Democracy for America  would perpetrate such lies. This will definitely impel me to work to reelect Roger Berliner. It also makes me wonder if I want to contribute to Democracy for America in the future.

Democracy for America should apologize to Roger Berliner and send an email retracting this to all the people who just received it.

Molly Hauck

I am told by someone in the know that Hans Riemer was also active in the effort to preserve Ten Mile Creek.

 

Duchy Trachtenberg, Joe Trippi and DFA

Democracy for America (DFA), a PAC founded by Howard Dean to advance progressive causes, has sent out an email attacking Roger Berliner and trying to raise funds for Duchy Trachtenberg. The email is reproduced at the end of this post.

So why did DFA send out the email?

Though DFA endorses at virtually all levels of office, it has not endorsed Duchy Trachtenberg as of May 20th based on my search of their online list of endorsed candidates. Indeed, they have endorsed no one in the State of Maryland.

The answer could be Joe Trippi. Duchy hired Trippi as her consultant according to her January campaign finance report:

DuchyFinance

Duchy January 2014 Campaign Finance Filing

Trippi received national attention for his success as Campaign Manager at catapulting Howard Dean to the front of the Democratic pack for awhile in 2004. That campaign was the first to grasp the importance of social media. DFA started out as Dean for America and pioneered attracting small donors via social media.

The email was funded by DFA as an independent expenditure rather than by Duchy’s campaign. So it would be illegal for Trippi to contact DFA to ask them to spend money on Duchy’s behalf. Since he works for Duchy, coordination between Trippi and DFA would turn this legally from an independent expenditure into a contribution that should appear under Duchy’s own authority line. But if Trippi didn’t contact DFA and get them to do this for Duchy, who did?

Inaccurate, Bizarre Attack

The attack on Roger in the email for promoting development at Ten Mile Creek is particularly strange as Roger helped protect it. Moreover, Duchy has received strong support from the developer who is angry with Roger over his efforts.

Ironically, the email starts to wrap up with “When politicians focus on their own political gains and corporate interests, everyone else suffers.”

Indeed.

 

Democracy for American Email:

We don’t need to tell you: Roger Berliner is bad news. He’s consistently undermined the needs of working families in Montgomery County, despite the fact that he calls himself a Democrat. How’s that for a betrayal?

Berliner has voted to strip bargaining rights from county employees, to remove indexing from any minimum wage bills, and to approve a construction project right by Ten Mile Creek. After hearing Ten Mile Creek — one of the last clean creeks in the area — would be polluted by storm runoff from his construction project, a progressive voice pushed back.

Duchy Trachtenberg won’t stand for this failed leadership and that’s why she’s running for Mongtomery County Council in District 1.

Montgomery County needs a bold progressive leader. Click here to help elect Duchy Trachtenberg to office!

As a former at-large councilmember and a longtime resident of Montgomery County, Duchy understands the needs and priorities of its residents. As a councilmember, she oversaw the creation of the Family Justice Center, which brings coordinated and effective services to domestic violence victims. She passed a landmark civil rights measure extending protection in employment and housing for transgender persons, and worked to protect pay equity for women.

Her background in grassroots organizing for women’s equity, mental health concerns and public health issues shows her ability to put people-powered policies first. Going forward, Duchy will fight for public employees’ job security and collective bargaining rights, affordable housing for families, and fully funded youth service programs.

Sign up to help Duchy Trachtenberg ensure that progressive voices are heard in Rockville!

When politicians focus on their own political gains and corporate interests, everyone else suffers. Let’s make sure that instead, we have forward-looking, compassionate leadership.

Thank you for all that you do,

– Franco

Franco Caliz, Electoral Campaigns Manager
Democracy for America

Paid for by Democracy for America, http://www.democracyforamerica.com/?t=3&akid=4786.2643726.fr7nXK and not authorized by any candidate. Contributions to Democracy for America are not deductible for federal income tax purposes.