Wednesday, November 30, 2011

League of Conservation Voters Endorses Rep. Donna Edwards // President Obama Provides Senator Ben Cardin Early Support

The League of Conservation Voters Action Fund announced today an endorsement for Rep. Donna Edwards in her re-election bid for Maryland's Fourth Congressional District. The group's press release announcing the support for Ms. Edwards stated:
The League of Conservation Voters (LCV) Action Fund, which works to elect candidates who will implement sound environmental policies, today announced its endorsement of Donna Edwards (MD-4) for re-election to the U.S. House of Representatives. Rep. Edwards has an impressive 96% LCV lifetime environmental score....

LCV was among the first organizations to endorse Edwards in the February Democratic primary election in 2008. Prior to serving in Congress, Rep. Edwards served on the Boards of the League of Conservation Voters and the Maryland League of Conservation Voters.

Rep. Edwards is also featured on LCVAF’s GiveGreen website,, the only bundling website devoted exclusively to raising money for environmental champions and candidates.
Meanwhile, Afro Briefs news reports that President Obama is providing an early endorsement to Maryland Senator Ben Cardin:

White House 2016: Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley's Week of Presidential Stagecraft

Highlight Reel 1: Future First Lady?

Maryland Juice recently commented on Governor Martin O'Malley's recent trip to India. Today, he provides an update on the foreign trade mission on his blog. Notably, he also highlights Maryland First Lady Katie O'Malley's agenda, which includes visits to "Rule of Law" organizations and attorneys, alongside orphanage and temple visits. See details & photos below:

Photo from Gov. O'Malley's blog

Rep. Roscoe Bartlett Retirement Watch: Chief of Staff Bud Otis Exploring Campaign // Plus, Robin Ficker Squeezes Juice

UPDATE: Roll Call says Sen. David Brinkley is going to primary Rep. Bartlett. Plus, The Washington Post's Ben Pershing has a follow-up on the Bartlett retirement rumors that includes a good snapshot of the candidate field right now. In addition to Bartlett's Chief of Staff Bud Otis, Pershing lists the following possibilities: 
...Bartlett will face some primary opposition if he does run. Four Republicans aside from Bartlett have already filed in the 6th District, including perennial candidate and sports heckler Robin Ficker and businessman Brandon Rippeon.

That number could soon swell — state Sen. David Brinkley (R-Frederick), state Sen. Christopher Shank (R-Washington County) and state GOP chairman Alex Mooney are all considering the race.

On the Democratic side, the field includes state Sen. Rob Garagiola (Montgomery County), former Montgomery County Council member Duchy Trachtenberg and financier John K. Delaney.
Ever since Maryland Democrats targeted Rep. Roscoe Bartlett's 6th Congressional District during the redistricting process, Maryland Juice has speculated that Mr. Bartlett would be ill-equipped to run for re-election in the new CD6. Today's news verifies that a retirement from Mr. Bartlett is likely. Yesterday, we reported on rumors that the Republican Party was abandoning Mr. Bartlett, and today Maryland Reporter reports that his Chief of Staff Bud Otis is plotting a run for his seat:
Maryland’s 6th District incumbent Rep. Roscoe Bartlett continues to publicly insist he is running for reelection next year. But his chief of staff and campaign manager, Bud Otis, has been seeking support from Republicans for his own congressional run should Bartlett bow out....

Yesterday Washington County Del. Neil Parrott said he is one of those lawmakers Otis sought out....

According to Frederick County Del. Michael Hough, Otis contacted the same political consulting firm used by Bartlett to inquire as a candidate. Hough said he has firsthand knowledge of the conversation.

Additionally, a Republican fundraiser, who would speak only on background, said Otis contacted him last week by phone. When a conservation about 6th District gerrymandering turned to Bartlett’s reelection plans, the source said Otis said he wasn’t sure if Bartlett was going to run again or not, and then asked the fundraiser if he would support Otis if he didn’t, because it’s something he’s been thinking about for awhile.
Meanwhile, another candidate for the GOP nomination, anti-tax activist Robin Ficker, is ready to step into the fray. A Maryland Juice reader forwarded the following email they received from Mr. Ficker yesterday:

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

EVENTS: The DOJ's Tom Perez on Redistricting, MoCo Town Hall with Councilmember Hans Riemer & More...

Maryland Juice decided to flag a few upcoming events that may be of interest to readers, starting with an upcoming event on redistricting:

Event #1: American Constitution Society on 2012 Voting Rights and Redistricting // Keynote: Tom Perez (former Montgomery Councilmember). More details & RSVP link on the ACS website:
Thursday, December 1, 2011 - 10:00am - 2:00pm

American Constitution Society
1333 H Street NW, 10th Floor
Washington, DC 20005

REPORTER: GOP Ready to Abandon Rep. Roscoe Bartlett in Maryland CD6 // Plus, Red Maryland Hijacks Bartlett Photo

Yesterday, the politically-oriented newspaper Roll Call wrote about how redistricting changes were leading to unexpected retirement decisions, but they had an unusual comment about the fate of Maryland's 6th Congressional District incumbent, Rep. Roscoe Bartlett:
In Maryland, 85-year-old Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R) could retire instead of seeking re-election in a redrawn, heavily Democratic district. The GOP would rather give up the seat than try to fight for Bartlett in a hopeless effort.
I wonder who Roll Call reporters have been talking to in the Republican Party? This article makes it appear as though Rep. Bartlett should not expect to have the financial support of the establishment should he decide to run for re-election. I suppose they have other more winnable races to worry about. 

But as Maryland Juice recently wrote, the idea of Rep. Bartlett running for re-election might be a sham, no matter what he says publicly. Maryland Juice recently pointed readers to an article on the rightwing Red Maryland blog accusing the Congressman of trying to give his seat to his Chief of Staff. We drew a big arrow on the Red Maryland photo (see below), but it turns out they may not have had permission to use the image. A reporter from Hagerstown's Herald-Mail points out that the photo comes from an article he wrote in May. Hat tip to the mighty Andrew Schotz. Note, that he also deserves the photo credit on the shot below:

VIDEO: Unique Ad for Marriage Equality // A Message from Australian Progressives

The latest viral video sensation in the marriage equality world comes from the progressive Australian group Get Up Australia. Like in the United States, they are pushing for marriage equality in their country right now. I thought this was also a good reminder to folks out there that many of our current domestic causes are actually global. Check out some of Get Up Australia's current campaigns to see what I mean. Their website asks visitors to help with the following causes:
  • "end Australia's immigration detention disgrace"
  • "help problem gamblers kick a habit that's destroying Australian families"
  • "What do Australian farmlands, healthy families and drinking water all have in common? They're under threat by unregulated coal seam gas mining." 
  • "Can you help us counter the hype and misinformation on the price on carbon? While we can't outspend the big polluters, we can spread the facts."
  • And of course: "Sign this petition for marriage equality and a copy will be sent, signed and delivered straight to your MP."
Without further ado, here is Get Up Australia's marriage equality web ad. The Advocate called it, "Possibly the Most Beautiful Ad for Marriage Equality We’ve Seen."

Meet Our New Reporter: Police Chief Moose // Today's Blotter: MoCo Fights Police Referendum, Ehrlich Aide's Trial & More

Several readers asked if Maryland Juice would ever feature guest writers. We've decided that the customer is always right, so we've brought on a very special reporter to periodically present law enforcement news. Since we live in the Internet era, our new crime and justice correspondent will be reporting to us from the beaches of Hawaii. We decided to introduce him E True Hollywood Stories-style, and find out what he's been up to.

Those of you who were living in the metro region during the terrifying sniper attacks may remember Montgomery County Police Chief Charles Moose. TIME Magazine named him person of the week on October 10, 2002 and wrote:
Charles A. Moose is in a bit of a bind. As Montgomery County Police Chief, Moose wants desperately to identify the sniper who has terrorized the Washington D.C. suburbs for the past eight days, most recently killing a man at a Virginia service station. But this strong-willed, inveterate leader wants to do it his way.... For his role as the unofficial spokesman for the sniper investigation, Charles Moose is our person of the week....
You may recall that during the sniper investigation Chief Moose found himself at the center of sudden international fame and global news coverage. The U.K.'s BBC News had this article about him as the sniper investigation concluded:
In October, the character of Chief Charles Moose, the Montgomery police chief who led the investigation into the Washington DC area sniper killings, will appear in a film dramatising the attacks which terrorised the area in 2002. The killings transformed Mr Moose from an obscure local police chief into an international name. He is reported to have been paid $170,000 to write his new book - Three Weeks in October - but his fame has not come without controversy....

The enduring impression however, it was widely agreed, was of an officer who appeared committed and persistent in the face of the ongoing attacks. Nonetheless, his decision to write a book about his experiences has sparked a heated debate.

Earlier in 2003, the Montgomery County ethics commission ruled Mr Moose could not write a book about the case and remain its police chief. A public employee should not use the prestige of office for private gain, the board ruled As a result, he decided to leave his job, although not before filing lawsuits to try to overturn the decision....
We turned to Wikipedia to discover Chief Moose's whereabouts. His last known location was Honolulu, Hawaii in 2010:
Moose later graduated from the Honolulu Police Academy and reported for duty as one of the members of the Honolulu Police Department. On Aug. 4, 2010 The Gazette reported that Moose is no longer employed at the department.
It turns out Chief Moose is still in Hawaii and has some idle time, so he's agreed to highlight some interesting Maryland-related law enforcement news for Maryland Juice readers. Here's his first installment:

Monday, November 28, 2011

Baltimore County Denies Benefits to Police Officers' Same-Sex Spouses // ACLU & Baltimore Sun Cry Foul

The Baltimore Sun recently published an editorial calling on Baltimore County to provide benefits to police officers' same-sex spouses. They included this history of the controversy for readers:
County residents may recall that it was nearly two years ago that Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler issued a letter stating that Maryland should recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. Yet, six months after the opinion was made public, the two officers had to file grievances through the police union because the county (which had at first deducted spousal premiums from their paychecks) decided to deny coverage altogether.

Perhaps the Gansler letter never made it to Towson because the county's lawyers decided to interpret Maryland law differently, arguing that the state's definition of marriage is "between a man and a woman" only. That's true, but as the attorney general pointed out, that provision does not address out-of-state marriages any more than other restrictions the state puts on wedlock (the age of the couple, for instance) affect the recognition of out-of-state unions.

But even if the legal point is arguable, why do it? 
The Sun's editorial board called on B'more County to do the right thing and provide the benefits:
Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz shouldn't require more than a nanosecond to dismiss any notion of appealing an independent arbitrator's ruling that two Baltimore County police officers should not be denied health benefits for their same-sex spouses.
The ACLU of Maryland piggy-backed on the Baltimore Sun editorial with a call-to-action on their Facebook page:

2014 Governor: DNC Press Call Features Maryland Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown on Mitt Romney Flip-Flops

Today, Maryland Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown and Virginia Democratic Party Chair Brian Moran were the featured speakers on a DNC press call about GOP Presidential candidate Mitt Romney. The two Democratic officials took turns highlighting Romney flip-flops, which we'll note below, but the more interesting story is about the call itself.

It could simply be that since Maryland's Governor is currently in India, Mr. Brown is naturally fulfilling some of Mr. O'Malley's roles. But Maryland Juice definitely wondered if this press event was yet another piece of evidence that Mr. Brown might be receiving higher profile assignments in the run-up to his 2014 gubernatorial campaign. I wasn't the only one who had this thought, given that the first question on the call came from a Baltimore Sun reporter who asked whether Mr. Brown had been invited onto the call and by whom. Also remember that last September, Mr. Brown took on a similar Democratic spokesperson role on a DNC call highlighting problems with Texas Governor Rick Perry's record.

Okay, now onto the substance of the call. The Democrats appear to be hosting regional press calls in targeted swing state media markets, with the goal of highlighting this 30-second spot about Romney.

MD GOP Rep. Andy Harris Endorses Newt Gingrich // Plus, Anti-Tea Party Republican Becomes Democrat, Challenges Harris

Maryland's beloved Tea Party Congressman Andy Harris is back in the news today with his endorsement of former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich for President. Politico this morning had the exclusive:
EXCLUSIVE – ANDY HARRIS TO ENDORSE GINGRICH: Maryland Congressman Andy Harris will endorse Newt Gingrich today. The freshman Republican, who was not in the House during Gingrich’s tenure as Speaker, will be the first of several federal and state legislators to announce their support for the surging presidential candidate, according to a source familiar with the rollout plan.
It will be interesting to see what Mr. Harris' Tea Party fans think about this endorsement. Indeed, the National Journal recently opined on this topic with an articled titled, "Can Newt Gingrich Pass Tea Party Muster?" They wrote:
Newt Gingrich doesn’t seem like the tea party’s type. He’s the ultimate Washington insider, a career politician who spent two decades in that reviled institution known as the U.S. Congress. Especially when compared to stick it-to-the-man tea party heroes like Rep. Allen West of Florida and Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, Gingrich doesn’t seem to fit the part. He is the man.
Meanwhile, Mr. Harris is facing a challenge of his own from a fellow Republican. The Elkton-based Cecil Whig site reports that small business advocate Wendy Rosen has switched her registration to the Democratic Party and is now challenging Mr. Harris. Her interview with Cecil Whig seems to convey frustration with the Tea Party and Mr. Harris' focus on hot-button social issues instead of the economy and jobs:

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Gun Advocates Cheer On House Passage of Rep. Roscoe Bartlett's Concealed Gun Law // A Window Into Bartlett's World

Maryland Juice spotted Maryland Congressman Roscoe Bartlett's name in an op-ed from today's Las Vegas Journal Review. The piece, titled "Carrying legal pistols across state lines," was a flashback to a Massachusetts office shooting eleven years ago. Strange, right? The article (excerpted below), however, provides some interesting insight into the views of the 6th Congressional District's embattled incumbent:
"When Michael McDermott walked into the offices of an Internet consulting firm and shot seven people dead, he had an accomplice -- the legislature of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts," writes Larry Pratt of Gun Owners of America.

"Tragically, one of the victims was a legal gun owner who was licensed to carry in next-door New Hampshire," Mr. Pratt points out. "But Massachusetts law prevented him from carrying his firearm in the state and on the job...."
[He] would probably have had his gun with him if Congress had passed a law -- first proposed by Maryland's Roscoe Bartlett several years ago -- requiring states to recognize the concealed handgun carry permits of other states, as they recognize other states' drivers licenses, Pratt points out....

Since Rep. Bartlett's bill failed to become law, the House of Representatives now tries again. By a bipartisan vote of 272-154, the House on Nov. 16 passed H.R. 822, the National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act of 2011, would allow gun owners with valid state-issued concealed firearm permits to carry concealed in other states that also allow concealed carry....
Indeed, Mr. Bartlett has been a longtime cosponsor of bills like the National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act, and gun owners are getting excited now that the bill has passed the U.S. House. As the effort moves to the Senate, Mr. Bartlett is already moving on to new gun rights endeavors. His current project is to bolster gun rights through HR 2252, the Citizens' Self-Defense Act of 2011. The text of the bill notes some interesting views:

Saturday, November 26, 2011

CD6 Juice Blender: GOP Sen. Chris Shank Learns Facebook, Rep. Bartlett's Deviant Moustache, Trachtenberg Denies Push Poll

Here's a random blend of both political and apolitical tidbits from recent news, starting with a Capital News Service article foreshadowing looming cuts in federal government expenditures in Maryland. The writer notes that the biggest cuts to defense jobs are likely to be from defense-related contractors:
Juice #1: States such as Maryland, with its high concentrations of federal employees and contractors, could feel an even deeper sting when $600 billion in defense spending and $600 billion from other federal agencies is lopped from budgets over the next 10 years....

According to the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development, military bases accounted for 3.4 percent of the jobs in Maryland and employed about 118,000 workers - before the Base Realignment and Closing process, which increased these numbers.... 
The sequestration process protects war spending, but military contracts and civilian personnel could be on the chopping block.

Mike Hayes, a retired brigadier general and director of military and federal affairs for the state economic development department, said Maryland's military installations tend to have specialized missions. This makes them less likely to face cuts, Hayes said.

But cuts to contractors focused on weapons systems, already set in motion, may be deeper, he said.

Juice #2: Meanwhile, former Montgomery County Councilmember Duchy Trachtenberg responded to Maryland Juice's article about an alleged push poll in the 6th Congressional District race. The Germantown Patch had this article:

Governor O'Malley Announces 2012 Legislative Priorities // Pundits Speculate on 2016 Presidential Implications

The Center Maryland news aggregator recently flagged an article about Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley's subtle jockeying with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo for the Democratic Party's 2016 Presidential nomination. The Politicker NY article was titled Meet The Cuomo Clog: Is Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley The Only Thing Standing Between Andrew Cuomo and The White House? The piece contains some interesting punditry about Maryland's Governor, albeit from a New York perspective. Here are some choice excerpts:
You can’t get from New York to the White House, however, without going through the state of Maryland, and sitting in the Revolutionary War-era statehouse there is another governor. His name is Martin O’Malley, and although five years is a millennium away in political time, he has emerged as perhaps the single biggest threat to Andrew Cuomo’s well-documented political ambitions....

Advisers to Mr. O’Malley think that he will play better on the national stage than his New York counterpart, who will come across as too New York for the heartland....

Mr. O’Malley, meanwhile, has kept up an aggressive touring schedule, and regularly appears on the Sunday morning talk shows, mostly due to his official duties as head of the Democratic Governor’s Association, a job that has introduced him to the bigwig donors to the Democratic Party and has led him to occasionally cross paths with Mr. Cuomo....

“He is essentially in the Roosevelt/LBJ social Democratic tradition,” said Mr. Raskovar. “He believes in government as a vehicle to assist people in need in society.”

The article above hints at some of the dynamics between Governor O'Malley's legislative agenda and his 2016 strategy. The Washington Post's John Wagner expounds upon this in greater detail today, with his discussions of Mr. O'Malley's 2012 legislative priorities:

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Very White House Thanksgiving: Michelle Obama Thanks Vets, Presidential Turkey Pardon & Federal Tax Calculator

As we take time to give thanks for the things that matter in life today, Maryland Juice decided to flag a few random articles for readers. So when you're done with the in-laws, munch on this....
- Juice
Maryland Juice decided to see what the President and First Lady were up to this Thanksgiving, so we visited the White House blog. We turned up a few interesting bits of Presidential propaganda, starting with this well-made video of FLOTUS thanking an Afghanistan war veteran's family:

The White House blog also featured a video round-up of the President's activities this past week. The segments mostly concern the President's attempts at spurring investment in the U.S. from abroad. However, at around the 5-minute mark, you can see Mr. Obama pardoning the Presidential Turkey (if you're into that sort of thing):

TAX CALCULATOR: Lastly, on a note unrelated to Thanksgiving, I stumbled upon an interesting feature of the White House website. It is a "federal taxpayer receipt" that purports to tell you how YOUR tax dollars are spent. I punched in an example for a married couple with children that makes $80,000 combined (you can play with your own income numbers below):

A Very ACLU Thanksgiving: Give Thanks & End Our "Failed, Racist Drug War" // Re: President Obama Drug Pardon

As we take time to give thanks for the things that matter in life today, Maryland Juice decided to flag a few random articles for readers. So when you're done with the in-laws, munch on this....
- Juice
Obama's Commutation: A Prelude to Systemic Reform? (an excerpt from the ACLU blog)
There are hundreds of thousands of Americans serving outrageously long prison sentences for nonviolent drug offenses as a result of our nation’s widely discredited and inhumane "war on drugs." On Tuesday night, President Obama did something he had not yet done as president — he commuted someone's prison term. While we applaud President Obama’s decision to allow Eugenia Marie Jennings, a mother of three suffering from cancer who has served 10 years of her 22-year sentence for selling 13.9 grams of crack cocaine, to return to her family 12 years earlier than she otherwise would have, we hope this stands not as a mere isolated gesture of generosity but rather marks the beginning of an enduring, fundamental change in the president’s systemic approach to drug policy....

Furthermore, while Ms. Jennings likely caught the president’s attention because of her particularly sympathetic story, strong legal team and a supportive United States senator, there are so many more like Ms. Jennings who don’t have such powerful advocates and yet are no less deserving of the president’s mercy. With hundreds of thousands of nonviolent drug offending Americans behind bars, sporadic commutations aren’t nearly enough to solve the nation’s current incarceration crisis or prevent us from perpetuating the unjust “war on drugs” in future generations.

As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving, we are heartened to see the president exercising his remarkable pardon power for the benefit of nonviolent people — the casualties of a 40-year “war” during which we’ve torn families apart, and through which we’ve sustained our nation’s shameful tradition of subordinating poor communities of color. But when we gather around the table next year to give thanks, we hope to be commending the president for moving beyond the all-too-rare commutation to having taken a firm stand to end our failed and racist drug war.
You can read more about President Obama's commutation of the sentence of Eugenia Marie Jennings at the Colorlines news site.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

GAY PARTY BOSS DEFENSE? MD Lawmaker Tiffany Alston Calls Criminal Charges Revenge for Marriage Equality Flip-Flop

Maryland Juice previously reported on the ironic story of Delegate Tiffany Alston facing criminal charges for allegedly using campaign funds on her wedding expenses. LGBT advocates noted that Ms. Alston was one of the reasons the marriage equality effort failed this year, as she sponsored the bill but then announced she would vote against it. Now The Gazette reports that Delegate Alston is blaming the criminal charges on her failure to support marriage equality:
The defense attorney for state Del. Tiffany Alston, who has been charged with misusing her 2010 campaign money, claims the charges against her are a backlash for Alston withdrawing support from a 2011 same-sex marriage bill....

GOP Blogger Calls Out Congressman Roscoe Bartlett for Trying to Pass CD6 Seat to Chief of Staff

A writer for the rightwing Red Maryland blog today accused Rep. Roscoe Bartlett of trying to pass his seat onto his Chief of Staff Bud Otis. Maryland Juice recently noted that Mr. Bartlett's lackluster fundraising makes him a sitting target in the Republican Primary for Maryland's 6th Congressional District. Mr. Bartlett and the GOP have also encouraged litigation against Maryland's 2012 redistricting map, noting "altruistic" arguments like the need for greater minority representation and fewer political considerations in redistricting. If Red Maryland's accusations about Mr. Bartlett are true, they would make him a pretty big hypocrite:

NOTE: Credit for the photo above goes to the Hagerstown Herald-Mail.

I excerpt part of the Red Maryland article below:

VIDEO: Former Prince George's County Executive Jack Johnson Receiving Cash Bribe

The Washington Times yesterday published an article about the criminal trial of former Prince George's County Executive Jack Johnson. Their article was primarily about a newly released FBI surveillance video allegedly showing Mr. Johnson receiving a cash bribe. Hat tip to Maryland Reporter for pointing to the video footage, which the Times explained as follows:
Johnson is seen accepting a tightly rolled wad of cash passed to him by a county developer who was cooperating with investigators. Johnson, seated in the developer’s office and wearing the same clothes in which he would later be arrested, thumbed through the cash before getting up to leave.

It was then, according to prosecutors, that federal agents confronted Johnson about the $15,000 he was carrying. Authorities say the bribe was paid by Mirza Baig...

In exchange for other bribes, Baig received the county executive’s assistance on several development projects, including $1.7 million in federal block grants to pay for the renovations of 11 homes to be rented to low-income residents.
The Times article notes that Jack Johnson's sentence is expected to come down in early December, and his wife, former Councilmember Leslie Johnson, will receive her sentence a few days later. You can watch the FBI footage below:

Apolitical Juice Blender: Pay Raises for PG Politicians, Shorter Sentences for MoCo Criminals // Plus, a Curfew Update

UPDATE: The Washington Blade has additional details about the Howard County gender discrimination bill, as well as its supporters and opposition (which includes former candidate for D14 Delegate Vanessa Ali from MoCo).

Here's a random blend of apolitical tidbits from recent news, starting with a Washington Post article discussing a scheduled pay raise for politicians in Prince George's County and other area governments:
Apolitical Juice #1: The Prince George’s County Council and county executive, already among the highest paid county government officials in Maryland, are due for a 3.4 percent raise next month. The increase comes at a time when public employees are enduring pay freezes and unpaid furloughs to plug local government budget gaps....

In Prince George’s, three council members said they will return their raises or donate them to charity. County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D), whose salary is slated to increase from $174,539 to $180,473, said Tuesday that he will either turn back the raise to the government or donate it to a nonprofit group.... Prince George’s council members are paid $96,417.... In Prince George’s, council members have taken different approaches to handling the raise....
The Post proceeded to compare Prince George's handling of elected officials' pay raises with the actions of Montgomery and Howard Counties:

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

WARNING: 14 Polling Locations in Montgomery County May Close Down

A Maryland Juice reader has forwarded notice (and criticism) of proposed election precinct changes in Montgomery County. Essentially, the Board of Elections is proposing closing some polling locations and moving the voters to other sites, in order to save a little money. There are 14 precincts in MoCo that are targeted for merger. See the warning note below:
Juice, this was forwarded to me -- short notice of proposed changes. For Woodside Park, this means a voting place that is on the far side of the beltway, no public transportation access, limited parking, limited shelter in inclement weather, a space too small to handle the number of voting machines. Most significantly, it discourages votes turnout in an important year to save approx $2,000 -- what could be more penny wise and pound foolish?
The details of some of the proposed polling location changes are contained within the following (redacted) email from Barbara Sanders of the League of Women Voters of Montgomery County. The message was provided by our source above:

Rep. Steny Hoyer Indicated He Will Endorse Rep. Donna Edwards in Maryland's 4th Congressional District

The Washington Post reports that U.S. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer indicated a future intent to endorse Rep. Donna Edwards:
“I have indicated I will endorse Donna Edwards,” Hoyer said.

Does that mean he will campaign for her or throw the weight of his considerable campaign apparatus in Maryland behind her?

“As I said I have indicated I will endorse Donna Edwards,” Hoyer said.

Baltimore Brewing: Police Say Failed Mayoral Candidate, Circuit Court Clerk Brandished Gun at Local Blogger During Fight

UPDATE: The Sun follows up on the Conaway-Meister fight with news of potential criminal charges:
State police said Baltimore Clerk of Circuit Court Frank M. Conaway Sr.'s permit to carry a concealed handgun expired in March, raising the possibility that he could face criminal charges after Monday's altercation with a blogger.... Conaway said he had a permit to carry the weapon, but state police spokeswoman Elena Russo said records show it expired in March.

Carrying a handgun without a permit is a misdemeanor that carries a minimum penalty of 30 days in jail and a maximum of three years. But there's a major sticking point: Even if Conaway's permit lapsed, he would be allowed to possess the gun on his own property, and there were differing accounts of whether Conaway stepped off the property.

Conaway, 78, said Tuesday that he remained inside the fenced-in portion of his yard....
Conaway says he did not attempt to punch Meister and countered with a claim that Meister tried to "karate kick" him.

City police officers who were in the area on other business witnessed the incident, but the Police Department withheld its report Tuesday as prosecutors deliberated over whether to bring charges against the two men....

But Conaway would not be in danger of losing the elected office he has held since 1998 — the Maryland Constitution says an elected official must step down only if convicted of a felony, or a misdemeanor related to his work in office....

Conaway said he believed he should have been alerted that his permit had lapsed: "I was never notified. I think there's an obligation on the part of the state police to notify" permit owners, he said....

Meister has vowed to continue writing about the Conaway family and said his actions were protected as free speech.

Some of the city's black leaders were rallying around Conaway on Tuesday, saying Meister had crossed the line and was harassing Conaway.
WBAL Interviews B'more Blogger Adam Meister
Maryland Juice this morning received an unusual email from feisty Baltimore political blogger Adam Meister. The subject of his message was "Clerk of Circuit Court of Baltimore City may have pulled gun during argument." Mr. Meister writes Charm City Current's "Politics Meister" blog, and he has often tangled with the Conaway family of elected officials. His past blog posts about the property tax issues of recently defeated City Councilmember Belinda Conaway led to lawsuits and apparently lingering bad blood. Mr. Meister's email today noted:
The political family that sued me is at it again! Apparently the father who is Clerk of the Circuit court of Baltimore at the very least had a gun when he argued with me on the sidewalk yesterday!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Montgomery County Police Succeed in Placing Bargaining Rights on 2012 Ballot // Board of Elections Certifies 34,828 Signatures

Montgomery County police have succeeded in putting the fate of their bargaining rights in front of voters in 2012. A government employee informs Maryland Juice that the Montgomery County Board of Elections has certified 34,828 signatures submitted by the police employee's union. The announcement came by way of a letter from Election Director Margaret Jurgenson to the County Executive and County Council President. Some police bloggers apparently got involved in the signature-gathering to subject Bill 18-11 to a referendum:

The Gazette previously reported on the reasons for the signature-gathering effort from the Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 35:
Montgomery County police officers are asking voters to restore their right to negotiate over transfers, new equipment and staffing levels, a right prohibited earlier this year by the County Council.

Police officers, along with a company the union has hired and representatives of the county government employees’ union, have gathered about 40,000 signatures in support of putting a question about collective bargaining on the ballot in the 2012 general election. The question would ask voters whether they wish to restore effects bargaining, which gives the union the right to negotiate over management decisions unrelated to salary, benefits and working conditions....

To put the issue before voters next year, the union must have 30,234 valid signatures — 5 percent of the county’s 604,669 registered voters at the time the law was signed by County Executive Isiah Leggett, according to Kevin Karpinski, the attorney for the county’s Board of Elections.
The police have succeeded in certifying 34,828 signatures, effectively asking Montgomery County voters to decide whether or not to keep Bill 18-11. We copy the language of the cops' targeted bill below:

Is Virginia Overinvested in Defense? Why Maryland Can More Easily Survive the Defense Bubble Burst

A Maryland Juice reader sends us the latest entry in the Maryland vs. Virginia battles. It comes from Politico writer Mike Allen's daily news roundup from 11/20/2011. The article he points to raises an interesting question: putting tax rates aside, has Virginia been living large (perhaps too large) from defense spending during two major wars?
Bloomberg Government Special Report, "Defense Spending State-by-State": "Virginia, Hawaii and Alaska may suffer the most economic harm from defense cuts of as much as $1 trillion during the next decade ... Virginia, home of the Pentagon and the Norfolk naval base, tops the list with 13.9 percent of its gross domestic product derived from defense spending. Hawaii ranks second, at 13.5 percent, and Alaska is third with 10.7 percent. All other states are in single digits, the study showed."
Indeed, a visit to the Bloomberg Report referenced above notes dark and stormy waters for Virginia:
Bloomberg Government examined military spending by state and combined the data with innovative graphics to provide a comprehensive view of Pentagon spending, as Congress considers budget cuts that might threaten the economies of states such as Virginia.

Virginia accounted for 10.8 percent of federal defense spending in fiscal 2009, making the state the top recipient and vulnerable to possible reductions.
Bloomberg included visualizations of the potential for pain in Virginia:

This sounds eerily similar to a recent Washington Post reader's comment that Montgomery County Planning Board member Casey Anderson highlighted for Maryland Juice readers:

WTF: Police Pepper Spray Students at UC Davis // Protestors Were Just Sitting Down

A few weeks ago, Maryland Juice helped spread viral video footage of Oakland police fracturing an Iraq War veteran's skull with a tear gas canister. The latest piece of police overreaction (dare I say abuse?) comes from Davis, California, where controversy over police pepper-spraying students is circulating on the Internet:

GOOD AIM: UC Davis Police Lieutenant John Pike

Sunday, November 20, 2011

SOURCE: Alleged "Push Poll" Promotes Duchy Trachtenberg, Dings Sen. Rob Garagiola in 6th Congressional District Race

UPDATE: A neutral observer questions the framing of this as a "push poll." They write, "it sounds like a standard messaging poll to gauge what attacks to use, etc. No one would have a live 20min interview to push negative info 12 months before an election. Just sayin." A second reader, who happens to be an elected endorser of Mr Garagiola, also begs to differ: "The content of the post suggests this poll is testing basic positive and negative messaging in preparation for paid media (i.e. direct mail, radio, TV, phones in a congressional race).  There’s nothing I see from your post that suggests a 'push' operation going on." To be clear, the "push poll" characterization is not Maryland Juice's -- it is the poll respondent's characterization. Either way, this type of polling indicates this may not be a positive primary race.

An anonymous source has provided Maryland Juice with details of what they call a "push poll" that appears to promote former Montgomery Councilmember Duchy Trachtenberg while criticizing State Senator Rob Garagiola. Our source reported receiving a call this Saturday, from a live poller, who asked fifteen to twenty minutes worth of questions regarding the Democratic Primary for the 6th Congressional District. The entity making the calls is unknown, and no telephone number was provided.

The poll began with questions about the participants' views on the favorability and unfavorability of three likely Democratic candidates: Sen. Rob Garagiola, former Montgomery Councilmember Duchy Trachtenberg, and businessman John Delaney. Notably, the poll also included questions about former State Delegate and Congressional candidate Mark Shriver.

Anatomy of a Vote: Why Congress Voted to Count Frozen Pizza as a Vegetable in School Lunches // Plus, Is Horsemeat the New Venison?

On yesterday's cable news, Maryland Juice caught mention of a vote by Congress to classify frozen pizza as a vegetable in public school lunches. By nightfall, I began to research whether it was a true story or just more sensationalist cable news. My initial digging turned up two articles verifying the basic gist of the alarming news, so I decided to use the story to highlight how good intentions and our modern legislative process can lead to ridiculous outcomes. The New York Times had this coverage:
In a victory for the makers of frozen pizzas, tomato paste and French fries, Congress on Monday blocked rules proposed by the Agriculture Department that would have overhauled the nation’s school lunch program.

The proposed changes — the first in 15 years to the $11 billion school lunch program — were meant to reduce childhood obesity by adding more fruits and green vegetables to lunch menus, Agriculture Department officials said.

The rules, proposed last January, would have cut the amount of potatoes served and would have changed the way schools received credit for serving vegetables by continuing to count tomato paste on a slice of pizza only if more than a quarter-cup of it was used. The rules would have also halved the amount of sodium in school meals over the next 10 years....
Food companies including ConAgra, Coca-Cola, Del Monte Foods and makers of frozen pizza like Schwan argued that the proposed rules would raise the cost of meals and require food that many children would throw away....

Nutrition experts called the action by Congress a setback for improving the nutritional standards in school lunches and addressing childhood obesity.

Three days later, Kristin Wartman, a Huffington Post food writer piled on with this criticism:

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Apolitical Juice Blender: Harriet Tubman on the Eastern Shore, Bethesda Homelessness, Gaithersburg vs. Arlington & More

Here's a random blend of apolitical tidbits from recent news, starting with a Maryland Juice reader's suggestion that we check out the news about a new Harriet Tubman National Park in Maryland:
Taney's perch in Annapolis
Apolitical Juice #1: Did you hear about congressional committee approval this week for Harriet Tubman National Park?  Very cool. This was years in the making. The Maryland Park will be on the Eastern Shore, essentially in the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge -- which is beyond stunning, in case you haven't been there.  This is a good thing given the following: Maryland's slave legacy, our past need for the National Guard to come in and suppress the white mob lynchings of blacks, the race riots when the Eastern Shore rejected integration, and the fact that we feel a statue Chief Justice Roger Taney (of Dred Scott v. Sandford fame) in front of the State House is okay because it's "balanced" with Thurgood Marshall in Lawyer's Mall.

COUNTERPOINT: Maryland IS Launching New Programs to Encourage Startups and Innovation

Lately, Maryland Juice has been throwing the evil eye at the use of corporate welfare dollars in ways that don't seem to create new jobs or economic activity. To be clear, we are not anti-business, but we are anti-waste and very pro-efficiency. This is a recession, after all. That's why we've suggested a number of alternative ways to spend that kind of money, including by focusing on sectors that are more likely to lead to immediate new jobs and spending (ie: small or local businesses & startups). The point is simple: we should at least consider using the money for more productive things than paying off companies that are threatening to move. When a company makes that threat, their game plan is often already decided. You can't negotiate when faced with economic extortion.

We recently posted a series of articles on these topics, most recently highlighting an alternative energy company that moved from Montgomery County to Howard. The piece (which included a list of things governments can do to encourage startups) elicited responses from a couple elected officials, including this public comment from Del. Eric Luedtke (D14 Democrat):
DBED Head: Christian Johansson
Reading all the discussion on economic development with interest, but it's worth noting that the state is already doing a number of things on Tim's list of suggestions. For example, the Department of Business and Economic Development proposed (and the Assembly passed) the Invest Maryland Initiative this past spring. It totals $70 million of investment funds which are intended to largely focus on the angel stage of investment, and the majority of which will be privately managed by an experienced investment firm. Invest is intended to be an evergreen fund, so that capital and potentially some portion of profits returned from successful start-ups will be reinvested in other start-ups. The Secretary at DBED - Christian Johansson - is very focused on creating a better environment for entrepreneurship in the state, and Invest was his big push this past session:

Friday, November 18, 2011

Political Juice Blender: GOP Money Troubles & Updates on Maryland's Congressional Races // CD6 & CD4 Horserace Chatter

Here's a random blend of political tidbits from recent news, starting with an ironic reader-submitted photo of GOP Chair Alex Mooney's budget management successes (captions provided by Juice):

6TH CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT: Maryland GOP Chair Alex Mooney isn't the only person having trouble fundraising. The Gazette reports that embattled Rep. Roscoe Bartlett from the 6th Congressional District is not raising any money but has new primary challengers emerging every day:

The Future Of Montgomery County: Take DC's Streetcars to MoCo's Suburban Big Box Stores? // aka the Walmart Question

Rorschach's Journal 11/6/2012
The year is 2020. Tom Smith, a resident of Gentro Heights NW, needs a sack of grain. He picks up the Georgia Ave Streetcar from in front of his house and gets off at the Downtown Silver Spring Transit Hub, where he transfers to the Purple Line. Tom's journey ultimately ends at the Walmart West Montgomery Station in Rockville, Maryland. Welcome to Montgomery County 2020.... maybe.

Maryland Juice's domestic partner/wife Virginia Juice has recently been reading a classic land use and planning tome, "Death and Life of Great American Cities" by Jane Jacobs. I don't remember why she started reading it, and don't tell her, but I wasn't paying close attention when she was telling me about the book. Nevertheless, my eye was drawn to a mention of the book in the comments to this morning's very interesting MoCo-centric news round-up at the Greater Greater Washington blog (excerpts below):

Streetcar to Silver Spring?: Montgomery Councilmembers Nancy Floreen and Hans Riemer are asking DC to consider running the streetcar to Silver Spring. It's entirely logical, if only the various DOTs can work together. (South Silver Spring)
Berliner against anti-urban Walmarts: Councilmember Roger Berliner wants to stop the Walmart at Rockville Pike and Randolph Road because it will undermine the more urban form the county wants to foster in that area. (Patch) 
Mall owner prefers a town instead: The owners of White Flint Mall want to replace the mall with a town. The project would include 5 million square feet of offices, apartments, and shops and will take 25 years to complete. (Gazette, Mike) 
Jobs outstrip housing: The region is failing to match job growth with housing growth. Eventually, employers and workers may relocate to cities where housing is cheaper. (Post) ... Building up, rather than out, is the best solution we've got. (City Block)
Food stamps down in DC, up in MD, VA: The number of food stamp recipients fell 10.5% in DC while jumping 10.2% and 21.2% in Virginia and Maryland respectively. The shift may signal the displacement of poverty from DC to the suburbs. (Examiner) 
And...: Prince George's County will create "prostitution-free zones" along the DC border. (Patch)

Sidebar on the Future of Civic Activism: Increasingly the era of the suburban civic activist is being displaced (or at least enhanced) by the era of the digital civic blogger, email/listserv warrior, etc. Just look at the slow proliferation of interest in wonky sites like Greater Greater Washington, Just Up the Pike, the South Silver Spring Association blog, the Citizens League of MoCo and many other land-use oriented blogs. Too often, I hear elected officials asking why young people, working class folks, communities of color, and others don't "participate" more. They ask why people don't show up at public hearings, why they don't apply for advisory boards, etc. But when I look around, I see a vibrant culture of expression on some very nerdy policy issues -- from a range of voices. It is not hard to find the outlets where ordinary citizens are speaking out on such matters these days. Just look at the first few comments to the news roundup above (I highlight one comment for continued discussion below):

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Alternative Energy Startup Company Quietly Leaves Montgomery for Howard County // While You Were Sleeping....

We need vision, not more kooky trickle-down corporate welfare

As Maryland and local government policymakers turn to old ways of propping up flagging, large industries, we are increasingly missing opportunities to harness the potential of our small businesses, start-ups, tech jobs and other growth sectors. I would suspect that in many instances, economic development dollars spent on small and local businesses would lead to greater local tax revenues and jobs activity than the same dollars spent on large multinational corporations. Indeed, Maryland Juice's first real guest post came from a recent graduate of Montgomery County public schools, who asked State and County leaders to place greater emphasis on startups and encouraging a local innovation economy.

The latest evidence of our lopsided priorities: while everyone was concerned about Maryland's large defense contractors leaving the area, one of Montgomery County's most interesting startups quietly left for neighboring Howard County. You can see a video demo of their MotionPower technology on their website, and news coverage of their solar window tech below:

I first found out about New Energy Technologies through a 2010 Gazette article: "Burtonsville firm finds new ways to utilize Mother Nature, Technology focuses on sun, motion to gather power." The piece noted:
New Energy Technologies Inc., a Burtonsville-based company, formed last year and is developing new alternative-energy products. The company grew out of Octillion Corp., another alternative energy developer that was founded in 1998, and has research sites in New Jersey, Florida and Massachusetts.

"I consider this the next generation of realistic alternative energy," said John Conklin, product and business development manager.

New Energy Technologies is working on two new products: MotionPower, a device laid on top of roads to generate electricity from the cars that drive over it, and SolarWindow, a clear liquid filled with tiny solar cells that can be sprayed onto window surfaces to gather energy.

Both are still in development stages, but the company's goal is to eventually make them commercially available.
Tim Hwang's guest column sparked my memory about the Gazette's article on New Energy Technologies, so I was going to check in on them. But I unfortunately discovered that last year they moved to Columbia, Maryland in nearby Howard County -- which lately is winning accolades as an "innovation county" under County Executive Ken Ulman. Well played, HoCo. Well played.....

In the meantime, Tim Hwang's column also elicited this comment from former candidate for D18 Delegate Dana Beyer:

Former MD Senator Mike Lenett's Aide Speaks Out About His Lawsuit // Ginger Ramsey Fights Back, Wants Help

Maryland Juice recently received an email and some documents from former Maryland Senator Mike Lenett's Annapolis aide Ginger Ramsey. We've previously written about Mr. Lenett's wild lawsuit against Ms. Ramsey which alleges numerous things ranging from defamation to loose implications of attempted blackmail. Now Ms. Ramsey is fighting back, alleging that the lawsuit is frivolous. She also notes that she is representing herself right now and is in need of legal assistance:
Mike Lenett sued me for libel and false light. There were 46 counts and I answered them all pro se with supporting documents like voting lists, Post and Gazette articles, etc. He knows everything is the truth but wants me to spend lots of money on attorney fees for this frivolous lawsuit. Then I would have to sue him to get reimbursed. His attorney filed a Motion to Strike because I attached supporting documents proving what I said in my website was the truth. He said I violated Rule 2-401 d 2, Rule 2-322 b and Rule 233 b. (too much stuff provided)

I am in the process of revising my Answer to Complaint and writing a letter to the judge.

I need help with the sequence of procedures, and wonder if some attorney would be able to guide me in the steps I need to take.

I could email/post you my answer, his Motion to Strike and the draft of my revised Answer and letter to the judge.

Thanks for any help you can provide. I need it SOON!

In subsequent correspondence, Ms. Ramsey provided Maryland Juice with the following documents. The first document is Ms. Ramsey's response to Mr. Lenett's lawsuit. She specifically denies Mr. Lenett's allegation that she may have been blackmailing other Maryland officials. Notably, several former elected officials from Mr. Lenett's District 19 endorsed his opponent Roger Manno in the 2010 Democratic Primary. The second document is Mr. Lenett's "motion to strike" Ms. Ramsey's response.

OBAMA 2012: Apply to Serve as a Maryland Delegate for President Obama at the Democratic Convention by 12/10/11

Maryland Juice just received the following email blast from the Maryland Democrats:

Less than one year from today, Democrats from across the country will gather in Charlotte to make history as we renominate Barack Obama for President.  Maryland will send our largest delegation ever to the 2012 Democratic National Convention, and I want to make sure you knew how to get involved.
If you want to qualify as one of Maryland’s district level delegates, follow these two steps:
  1. Complete an online application to become a delegate pledged to President Obama. For best consideration, you must submit your application by December 10, 2011.
  2. File a certificate of candidacy and candidate pledge form with the Maryland State Board of Elections between 8 AM on January 3 and 5 PM on January 11, 2012. Forms may also be filed at the Washington or Wicomico County Board of Elections. There is no filing fee.
Maryland’s delegation has traditionally been very diverse and we want to make sure as many grassroots supporters have a chance to take an active role and become a part of the Charlotte Convention. 
If you want to know more about how to become a delegate or have questions regarding the process, please join me for an informational conference call on Wednesday, November 30th at 8:30 PM or Sunday, December 4th at 6:00 PM. You can also refer to our website for more resources or email us
When we come together in Charlotte, we will celebrate our President, our Party and show the country what Democrats are fighting for in 2012. I hope you will help ensure our delegation truly reflects who we are as Maryland Democrats by participating in the delegation selection process. 

David Sloan
Executive Director
Maryland Democratic Party