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Scattered thoughts on our local election

Scattered thoughts on our local election

With Election Day only hours away I find I still have numerous, somewhat disjointed thoughts I’d like to share about our local elections.

Thought cluster one

Before you head out to vote November 6th it might be beneficial to do a little soul searching and self-evaluation.  Ask yourself some of these questions:

Am I voting based on my concern for a single issue rather trying to weigh a candidate’s position on multiple issues?  Is it unwise to base my vote SOLELY on

  • the location of the next high school?
  • the plan for Ellicott City?
  • my stance on “Sanctuary County” status?
  • industrial mulching on agricultural land?
  • developer influence on elections?
  • over-development and inadequate facilities?
  • a desire for more elected officials who share my party, my gender, my religion, my ethnicity, my neighborhood?

Am I ignoring my own obligation to be an informed voter by just voting as my friend has suggested?  or do I just accept a sample ballot of endorsements handed out at the polling place as a helpful time and thought saver?  Do I check to make sure I really know something about the group providing a list of endorsements?

  • Do I understand that if the group is ‘union-based’ (including the teacher’s union) endorsements sometime just reflect actual or promised pay raises from the candidate for members of that union, without a broader consideration.
  • Do I realize union endorsements generally have a strong preference for a single party, the Democrats, which perpetuates a single party system in Maryland?
  • If a group providing endorsements claims to be non-partisan do I check the party affiliation of the Board members to be sure they genuinely represent both major parties?

Am I letting my thoughts and feelings about NATIONAL issues erroneously color my voting for LOCAL or STATE candidates? Am I exhibiting the bias and rhetoric I claim to eschew?

If I like what a candidate says they will provide, have I checked out how they will pay for it?

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Thought cluster two

My very first blog this election season commented on how good it was to see additional ethnic groups step up to participate as candidates in the election process.  As a fan of the underdog I encouraged people to consider these legal immigrants and to be true to Howard County’s position of embracing diversity. It has been rather disappointing that these people of color have not been encouraged and supported by their own party and have been harshly criticized by the other.

I examined the existing make up of our County Council (4Ds, 1R; 3 men, 2 women; 4 Caucasians, 1 African American; two religions represented). I hoped for greater diversity—a diversity of Council members which reflect the changing face of Howard County.  For example, 19.5% of our population is African American.  Asians constitute just one half of one percent fewer, or 19%. With 5 Council seats available shouldn’t we be considering this population group which constitutes almost 20% of our population? Shouldn’t the same thought process be considered in evaluating candidates for Board of Education?

In terms of gender the new Council could turn out just the same as the departing one. But it also could result in 3 women and 2 men OR 4 women and 1 man. Given the Council candidates running, we are guaranteed at least 2 women Council members again. (District 3’s unopposed Christiana Rigby plus the winner from D4 where both candidates are women.) We are guaranteed just a single Councilman since both candidates in D2 are male.  So far there is no guarantee that the Council will be bipartisan……..

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Thought cluster three

Combining thoughts from both cluster one and two, I want to shine a spot light on D2 candidate John Liao. I have observed John campaigning very hard, familiarizing himself with the issues and generating a comprehensive platform. I regard him as another ‘underdog’ worthy of your consideration.  While both John and his opponent are first time candidates, I must admit some personal concerns. I worry that Opel Jones has been considered by his party as ‘heir apparent’ to Calvin Ball’s seat and therefore has not had to put in the same level of work getting to know potential constituents and their concerns. Quite concerning to me as well is the amount of developer money which had poured in to his campaign chest on a regular basis. He is one of the two highest Council candidate recipients of developer contributions with a long list which includes:

Double R Ventures, LLC                  $500

Erickson Living                                 $1000 + 487.32 + 1250

James Moxley                                  $250 + 500

Breeden Family LLC                        $500

Howard Research & Devel              $500 + 500 + 1000

First Deep Run Ltd                           $1000

The Morris Weinman Co                  $1000

Hoddinott LLC                                  $500

George Stone                                   $1000

William Erskine                                $500

Talkin & Oh                                      $500

IMA (Merriweather)                          $500

Costello Construction                      $1000

Buch Construction                           $1000

Arnold Sagner                                  $1000

Centennial Reserve LLC                  $250

Garand LLC                                      $500

BA B2 Residential LLC                     $500

Howard County PAC of MD

Building Industry Assc.                     $2500

In contrast, John Liao accepted NO developer money. While some may choose to make light of developer contributions I consider them to be a ‘red flag’ for possible undue influence. While I’d originally hoped to provide comprehensive data about all major candidates’ significant financial contributions just prior to the election I simply ran out of time for that comprehensive task.  I was pleasantly surprised today to find yard signs advertising more information on HoCo candidates at http://forthepeopleballot.com .  *If I knew who compiled the financial information that can be found there I’d surely thank them for completing that arduous task. It’s a task that requires a greater familiarity (than I or most citizens possess) of the major ‘players’ behind numerous development firms and development oriented law firms.  It was a bonus to read at  http://forthepeopleballot.com/county-council-2 that John Liao was the site’s recommended pick for D2 Council!

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Thought cluster four

One reason for such a collection of thoughts this late in the game is due to an ‘epiphany’ from the election of 4 years ago. At the time, in 2014, I was not yet blogging nor did I have a Facebook account. However, I was a prolific author of Letters to the Editor in which I freely shared my opinion of specific candidates.

Candidates, like most people, do not like someone holding up a mirror or magnifier to their faults, weaknesses, or questionable behavior. They don’t like to be identified as mailers of attack ads, recipients of large developer contributions, or having a history of voting for over-development without consideration of adequate facilities. Despite my exhaustively researching the validity of my claims, keeping an eye to civility, and carefully choosing my words to not reflect the brash, mean-spirited comments one encounters all too commonly on Facebook— those candidates for public office DID take offense at my lack of support for their campaigns. MOST of them nevertheless won the seats they sought.  ALL of them held a grudge for quite some time, SOME of them to this day.

With this knowledge, I felt quite stifled this election cycle. As a consequence, I shared my thoughts publicly much less often. I’ll admit I was envious of those bloggers and Facebook posters who “let it rip,” even if I doubted there was any real research behind the reasoning for their comments. I didn’t like the uncivility and snark in their statements. I particularly abhorred the partisanship and ‘us vs. them’ perspective. So why was I envious?  How come I wasn’t more ‘brave’ about sharing my recommendations for candidates?

Unlike most bloggers and Facebook posters who don’t actively participate in County affairs, I want to continue researching and commenting on proposed legislation and public plans at Council meetings and other governmental forums in order to shape public laws and procedures for the betterment of life in Howard County. I want my thoughts and ideas to actually be thoughtfully considered in order to justify my time for research, travel, and preparation and delivery of testimony.  Who wouldn’t?

Unfortunately, I learned the hard way that candidates who one offends (by endorsing their opponent) WILL hold a grudge, totally ignoring one’s input seemingly FOREVER. I am hopeful that with a totally new Council and many other first time officeholders, I too will start the legislative year with a clean slate.  But oopps, when silence may have been more beneficial to me personally, I took the risk of expressing a personal endorsement tonight.  Ultimately I guess I just value above my own interest the right of residents in District 2 to be aware of some additional considerations. But please note that I pointed out why I favor John Liao without harsh words for his opponent!

Exercise and cherish your right to vote by doing it thoughtfully—and meet me on the high road,

Susan

Early Voting: The good, the bad, and the ugly

Early Voting: The good, the bad, and the ugly

Let’s consider Early Voting.

The Good:

  • People who have travel plans, who have to arrange transportation days in advance, who work irregular shifts, or fear getting sick and missing “regular” voting day have no worries.
  • People who simply can’t bear to wait in line for anything but carryout avoid the potential of some waiting.
  • People who can’t remember when Election Day is have several opportunities to get it right.
  • People who have never been to the southeastern part of the County may use their GPS to locate the Ridgely Run Center to avoid lines at Miller and Bain.

The Bad:

  • Many people put a premium on being first—first in line, or at least first hour, first day…..without actually PREPARING to vote. I suspect many people these days devote more time to studying the features of a soon-to-be-released smart phone than they do studying the qualifications and positions of candidates who will be making decisions that will affect their quality of life for years. There are people who don’t even feel the need to compare the newest smart phone’s features and value before purchase, instead continuing their thought-free allegiance to a particular brand. Unfortunately, many who demonstrate this type of thought (free) process, in other words have decided to let Apple dictate their choice in phones, have also given over the ‘task’ of selecting highly qualified candidates whose philosophies match their own to a political party. If you reflexively and lazily vote according to which letter follows the candidate’s name (REGARDLESS of past crimes, being officially diagnosed as a pathological liar, or running naked in the public square) then YOU should do us all a favor and maybe not vote just to get your sticker.
  • Early voting creates an extra burden on candidates. They feel compelled to attempt to find sufficient volunteers to staff ‘greeting voters’ 10 hours a day for 8 days at four early voting locations—-in addition to many or ALL precincts on regular Election Day. This constitutes a small army of cold, wet, and wind-blown patriots. For those candidates with more money than friends, it often produces paid, ill informed, and aggressive greeters bused in from other jurisdictions.
  • Staffing by the Board of Elections for those 8 extra days at 4 locations is costly.
  • The early voting turn-out figures can create a false impression of how the voting is actually going.

The Ugly:

I again suggest voters take the time to acquaint themselves with the candidates. There are numerous resources on-line including videos of candidate forums and candidate interviews. (Including the final Council Candidate forum with a focus on U.S. 1 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GQmSsila7lI

For those who prefer print, you can pick up copies of the League of Women Voters’ Guide at libraries and senior centers throughout the county. Don’t rely on political commercials or mailers without carefully checking WHO is actually sponsoring that commercial or mailer. Learn to question scathing attacks.

Vote INFORMED—and meet me on the highroad,

Susan

It Takes a Brave Man

It Takes a Brave Man

It takes a brave man (or woman) to run for office in an incredibly gerrymandered district, one totally dominated by the opposing party. Most of the southeastern part of the county had both their legislative and council districts redrawn to assure Democrat domination.  Council member Sigaty was heard to say, “I’ve made sure that no Republican will ever win again in these districts.”  And indeed, the Democrat candidates for the two highly critical positions of State Senator and County Council member here have NO opposition in the upcoming election. How come both of those candidates still continue to fundraise, despite their offices being secured???

(Perhaps Scott Ewart gave some hints about the practice of candidates passing funds along to other Dems elsewhere.  In his excellent blog https://scotteblog.com/2018/10/15/the-mdhc-slate-attack-mailers-against-bob-flanagan-in-delegate-district-9b/  he called out the Maryland Democratic House Committee Slate for their scathing attack pieces in Legislative District 9. Although not unopposed, Shane Pendergrass of Team 13 provided $50,000 toward the effort to smear Delegate Flanagan in order to help Courtney Watson be elected. I guess when you’ve held that same office since 1994 a lot of money is bound to pile up. Since the strategy of blatantly untruthful attack ads against her opponent for County Executive didn’t work in 2014, I’m surprised and disappointed the same tactic is being tried again in Watson’s run for Delegate.)

It takes a brave man to run for office alone, as an individual, against an entire team. That team has the advantage of sharing large combined financial resources and they can blanket an area in signs and literature for the combined team, rather than individually. It can also significantly cut down on the number of poll workers needed to volunteer during early and regular voting, since one volunteer will ‘cover’ the 3 or 4 candidates of the team.

Doesn’t running as a team just prop up weaker team members, advertise that there will be no diversity in thought or voting, and put Party over what is in the best interest of citizens? (I was pleased that the Dem Primary challenger Larry Kudlow thought so. Hopefully it signals the approaching end of the Team Formula in the NEXT election.)

It takes a brave man to run for office as the “minority candidate,” the only male opposing three females in “the year of the woman.” What about gender diversity? Enough said.

It takes a brave man to run for office actually sharing his opinions and positions, recommending actions contrary to that of the majority party. Please review them at https://www.citizensforchrisyates.com/issues

It does indeed take a brave man to be a candidate for State Delegate in District 13. That brave man is  CHRIS YATES.

Why would a person invest the time, energy, and resources to seek public office under this seemingly hopeless scenario? One must really believe in the need for change in the State Legislature, that the legislature has been going down the wrong single-party path for too long. One must feel a strong commitment to serve the people of OUR STATE, after serving OUR COUNTRY for decades.

Although some might say there is no way for him to win, as a former navy captain, it’s not surprising that Chris has identified a scenario under which he could be elected. It’s not enough to vote for Chris– you have to vote for only him, despite the ballot direction to ‘choose up to 3.’  (Voting for one or more additional candidates just puts Chris further in the hole.) A man who could develop this strategy could certainly be counted on for innovative solutions to complex State issues.

After checking out his exemplary list of degrees, awards, service, and accomplishments at https://www.citizensforchrisyates.com/about are YOU willing to level the playing field by considering this strategy? Compare his background with that of the other candidates.

For those who never follow links, let me include just 4 sentences from Chris’ web page. “…..After a tour as Commanding Officer was selected for resident study at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island. Graduated with honors with a Master Degree in National Security and Strategic Studies. Simultaneously earned a Masters in International Relations at Salve Regina College and MBA from Southern Illinois University. Earned the rank of Captain before retiring after 34 years.”  To me, this identifies Chris as a proven leader; a person who expects effort and excellence from himself; a person who will go the distance to solve complex problems; who is skilled in working with others, as well as one who understands budgeting, economics, and finance. These are skills I welcome in a State Legislator!

If one has served as U.S. Head of Delegation for the DIA for numerous exchanges in a number of countries and served as Program Manager of a national level effort against significant weapon system threats involving developing and executing strategies by conducting field missions, AND successfully fought cancer, perhaps that makes one brave enough to run for Delegate in District 13 against all odds..

Are YOU willing to help this unassuming and witty, highly educated, skilled, and dedicated person fight unfair odds? If so, consider sharing this blog with friends and neighbors as a way of introducing them to an inspiring candidate. Consider volunteering to work at the polls, telling voters about Chris and the important strategy of voting ONLY for him for State Delegate to improve the lopsided odds.

In a county that alleges to embrace diversity of race, gender, ethnicity, etc., etc., why not diversity of thought?  Would it really be so terrible to add a few well qualified Republicans or Independents to the Maryland legislature? Aren’t the needs of the PEOPLE more important than Party Allegiance?

Make District 13 a place of opportunity again—and meet me in the high road,

Susan

What is the opposite of a “Party” girl?

What is the opposite of a “Party” girl?

Q.- What is the opposite of a “party” girl (or guy)?

A.-  An “Independent”

I’ve had more parties this year than ever! No, I’m not bragging about my social life. I’m simply reporting that in 2018 I’ve switched my political “party” affiliation from Republican to Democrat and recently to Independent. I feel so free not needing to defend either major party’s (at times indefensible) people or positions!

It makes sense for me to “unaffiliate” since I ultimately don’t actually believe in “Party” politics. I prefer to evaluate a candidate’s qualifications and positions and vote for that person—not the D or R after their name– not their party.

I often think that if there was an “Underdog Party” that would be the best match for me. I freely admit I’m more likely than most to give full attention to candidates considered underdogs in their races. In fact, I will highlight one such candidate tomorrow, so please come back then! Subscribe so you don’t forget.

Don’t let your evaluation that both major parties may have gone too far to their extremes make you decide to give up your precious opportunity to vote.

TODAY, OCTOBER 16 IS YOUR LAST CHANCE TO REGISTER BEFORE THE UPCOMING ELECTION  

You can register right now on line. Just have your driver’s license handy.

https://voterservices.elections.maryland.gov/OnlineVoterRegistration/InstructionsStep1

Exercise your right to register and vote—and meet me on the highroad,

Susan

How Come Little People Lose While Big People Win?

How Come Little People Lose While Big People Win?

 

While HoCo is famous for embracing ethnic, racial, and gender diversity I sure don’t perceive equal treatment and justice for little people versus big people here.  One can define big people and little people in different ways, hence this blog theme may require multiple installments (Round One, Round Two, etc.) to distinguish the opponents in their unequal fights. 

Today I will use the terms to generally distinguish the group known as adults from the group known as children. Subsequently I will use the term to distinguish BIG adults (those with power, influence, money) vs. the majority of adults, “the little guy or gal” (seemingly without power, influence, or the kind of REALLY big or old money or position which assures the first two gifts). Perhaps it’s my small (and shrinking) stature, or the decades I spent teaching, raising or advocating for children…or perhaps it’s the powerless feeling that comes from being ignored by “the powers that be,” but I admittedly identify with the little people, the children who need a voice. 

Round One

Despite all of the PR promotion espousing valuing children and their education above all else in HoCo, I’m just not seeing it in the actions of our county government OR our school system. Actions truly speak louder than words. The opening of the new school year with net 5 more ‘temporaries’ further magnifies this point, especially when contrasted with a recent appalling county budgetary commitment.

Here is what I regard as evidence of messed up priorities. The response to overcrowded schools in HoCo is to roll in trailer classrooms –which are so far from temporary that to call them ‘a temporary classroom’ is a horrible misnomer—as is ‘learning cottage’ or other cutesy attempts to make the proverbial silk purse. These units are now rolling in as 5 packs and 9 packs and often dominate former playground space. The district budgets on average $1.8 million per year to keep up with these less-than- ideal structures? (The FY2020 HCPSS capital budget reflects 229 such temporary units.)

In contrast, the response to an overcrowded courthouse is to build an elaborate monolith that will cost taxpayers almost a half billion dollars over its 30-year Public-Private Partnership agreement. Much has been waxed poetic about the importance of the public having a good experience while at the Courthouse.  Isn’t the only really good experience at a court house winning your case?

Unlike students or teachers who will be stationed in “temporaries” for 180 to 190 days each school year, most citizen interaction with the courthouse is very fleeting. If more room is needed for awaiting jurors—why not roll in a trailer? More room needed for clients to meet with their attorneys? Add a trailer. More room needed for ready-access file storage or the law library? Add more trailers.

No doubt the first objection by the big people to my simplistic solution will be “But it’s not safe!”

So just who is standing up for our CHILDREN’S safety???

It was certainly not the Administration, the judges, Clerk of the Court, Register of Wills or the Sheriff’s staff who testified that the new court facility was needed immediately, if not sooner. They and the attorneys in thousand dollar suits seem more interested in luxury facilities for themselves. While children are in trailers without bathroom facilities, even Appellate and visiting judges will get kitchenettes in their new courthouse suites!  Where’s the justice in that?!

Even if additional space IS needed, does it justify a new structure three times the size of the existing one? Obviously they’re thinking ahead to population growth. But what about school population growth? No one would ever argue for building a new school with more classrooms than will be needed for decades, just to let them sit vacant. Yet that appears to be the case with the new Courthouse.  Everything down to the filing cabinets, furniture, and copiers are included in the Courthouse plan for 8 judges, even though we have only 5 and have in fact been turned down for a 6th by the State due to a determination of a lack of need.

But wait. There’s more.  Although at no time was it said in a public meeting or included in a newspaper story, the Courthouse as described in the bill recently passed by the Council and signed by the Executive is just the beginning of a greater Civic Complex to be erected. I appreciated learning about the plan for two additional mega-buildings and 600 additional parking spaces at http://ecsmart.org/civic-complex . Surely the public has a right to be aware of long range plans which will involve great indebtedness.

So where ARE HoCo’s priorities? Clearly not really with school children….not when those trailer classrooms actually count toward ‘building capacity’ leaving us in a Catch 22 situation.  If trailer classrooms are counted just like brick and mortar classrooms when evaluating the need for additional brick and mortar schools, won’t we always appear to have adequate capacity—when we know that isn’t the case and that it is only getting worse with rapid over development???

Will our own state delegation continue to drag their feet on permitting HoCo to increase the school surcharge fees developers pay to help fund schools? Perhaps you should be asking that question at candidate forums….

IMHO we can’t afford the lofty new Courthouse and Civic Complex when school construction and rehabilitating Old Ellicott City are also such pressing big ticket items. If the Courthouse/Civic Complex can’t be delayed, re-conceptualized, or stopped by referendum, then perhaps we should at least convert the unused space in the new Courthouse to a magnet high school for students wanting to specialize in the practice of law that protects children from the powerful and influential Big People!

Ask yourself “Can I really afford to not pay closer attention to what is happening in my County?” Examine the voting records of candidates and the campaign contributions they accept from Big Money People who benefit from their inside tract positions—and meet me on the high road,

Susan

P.S. to taxpayers on the hook for the $459 million+ court house : How come you will also have to pay to park at the new Courthouse? I sure hope the daily rate will be set at less than the stipend provided for serving on jury duty!