Like many, I get suspicious of radio ads where the “qualifiers” are all jammed in at the end at an accelerated rate. You know, the kind where in under 4 seconds you are informed that the offer is only good to the first 20 customers arriving before dawn on the third Thursdays and who have not participated previously and can present their loyalty card. One per customer? To avoid that phenomenon, I’m going to present all of my ‘qualifiers” up front and offer the results of the Comprehensive Council Candidates Comparison (hereafter referred to as CCCCs) up front–even if it doesn’t make for exciting reading. The comparison charts will be at the end.
In my blog of June 8 http://howcome.md/council-candidates-guide-to-getting-my-vote/ I established what is and is not important to me in selecting our all-important Council representatives. I then challenged readers to do their homework, gather and share information on Council candidates in three categories: Campaign Financing, Active Participation and Transparency. Citizen researchers were directed to campaign finance pages, and to the Council’s Watch Me and Written testimony pages on key legislation, in addition to candidates’ web sites.
Hats off to those voters who took up my challenge and submitted information to help compile CCCCs for Democrat Primaries in Districts 3 and 4 and the Republican Primary in D5. D2 Council candidates face no primary opposition. The D1 Democrat primary differs somewhat in being the only Council district with an incumbent.
Note: Analysis of Active Participation and Transparency in D1 could be regarded as slanted, given that the incumbent has necessarily attended all Council meetings and has a voting record on each piece of legislation considered. I would therefore still welcome input from D1 residents on how to best present that data, or if you just want the campaign finance figures already submitted. If you hurry with your response, there will still be time to publish a balanced report before June 26.
Regarding campaign financing: As confirmed in numerous locations on Facebook and in a 6/17/18 Baltimore Sun article “Here’s the prime issue in primary,” development/ overdevelopment has emerged as the major issue of this election cycle in Howard County. Beginning with the threat of massive school redistricting and progressing to another life-ending flood, Howard residents have a heightened sense of urgency to better control or slow growth. Consequently, voters appear very interested in possible links between development and campaign contributions from those who benefit from increased development. These include commercial and residential developers, land acquisition firms, contractors, realtors, land use attorneys, mortgage brokers, etc. While I am not implying a direct link between votes and major contributors, the County Council’s dual roles as both legislators and as the Zoning Board places them in a position where there will always be speculation of such. It is, after all, the Council members who are responsible for:
- the up-zoning of properties during Comprehensive rezoning,
- raising the housing allocations by adjusting Plan 2030,
- expanding the public service area, opening the West to development,
- approval of TIFs to accelerate growth,
- introduction of and approval of Zoning Regulation Amendments (ZRAs) often written by developers’ attorneys,
- amendment and passage of the Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance (APFO),
- approval of school capacity charts permitting development to proceed
- approving individual zoning cases
In addition to these items, our newly elected Council will have responsibility for the massive undertaking of establishing our REVISED development regulations as recommended by the Clarion study. This adds to voters’ interest in knowing more about who could be influenced by campaign contributions.
The Active Participation category deals with attendance at various County meetings/ providing written or oral testimony, and attending local community meetings. The Transparency category explores whether the candidate has openly stated their positions on issues and their specific ideas for solving problems.
Because there was insufficient time for me to personally verify each bit of information submitted, I let candidates preview their own listings before publishing to better assure accuracy. Unfortunately, some responded that they would respond to my inquiry AFTER the primary. I understand that the early voting days have been tense and exhausting, but I question the usefulness of a candidate comparison delayed beyond the primary. Does that response indicate battle fatigue, a lack of understanding, a supreme confidence in winning the primary, or just avoidance?
So at this time I will present the data collected. While my initial plan was to present the data in a color-coded fashion according to what appeared critical to my personal evaluation (green for positive, yellow for somewhat concerning, and red for more concerning), I ultimately decided to let voters reach their own conclusions based on their own evaluation criteria.
Please note that in a few instances (particularly where an “individual contributor” is a principal in the firm) I chose to list the employer. While this is different from a direct contribution by a company, it provides valuable insight into clusters of developers, realtors, land use law firms, etc. Note: This is NOT a complete list of campaign contributors, rather a posting of what could be considered significant, either due to the amount or due to the sector which frequently lobbies the Council. It was not comforting to hear from several candidates that “these people are my friends.” Human nature being what it is, although it could be unfounded, voters again question the possibility of favoritism in decision making.
Very Important! Campaign contributions, active participation, and transparency are NOT the only qualifications one should consider in this election. The charts are intended to supplement with information not always readily at hand. But be sure to take a look at the positions the candidates in your district are taking on the issues important to you.
Consider the data and make your vote count—and meet me on the high road,
Click on a chart listed below and magnify to see the details. Note that revised editions of the D3 and D4 charts were published Saturday afternoon, 6/24 to correct errors or provide additional information to the listings for Christiana Rigby and Deb Jung.