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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