Friday, April 20, 2012

Sen. Brian Frosh Responds to Critics After Unilaterally Killing Youth Voting Rights on Montgomery County School Board

PLUS: Commentary on Travyon Martin & MoCo's Failed Youth Curfew Plan

Today, Maryland Juice presents Sen. Brian Frosh's response to the recent condemnation of his unilateral killing of a youth empowerment bill  (see below). As Maryland Juice previously reported, Frosh's unusual efforts concern a bill that would grant full voting privileges to Montgomery County's elected student member of the Board of Education. The bill MC 9-12 passed unanimously in the Montgomery County House Delegation and 5-2 in the Senate. Students have fought for these rights for years, but Mr. Frosh decided to replace the judgment of the rest of the colleagues with his own by effectively placing a hold on the youth representation bill. You can read more about the history of the effort in past articles.

Frosh's letter explaining his actions was written in response to an email he received from Montgomery County Young Democrats (MYCD) President Dave Kunes. Kunes, who had been working with MYCD to fight back against Frosh's assault, provided the following note to accompany the email thread he provided:
DAVE KUNES: I am disappointed Senator Frosh did not respond to our request in the letters sent by over 80 Young Dems and supporters. We were not trying to convince Senator Frosh on the merits of the legislation. We asked him to stop holding up the democratic process by simply allowing his colleagues in the House and Senate to vote this bill to passage. I look forward to working with our members and youth rights activists in supporting this bill again next year.

WTF SEN. BRIAN FROSH: Below you can read the email thread between MCYD President Dave Kunes and State Senator Brian Frosh. Notably, Senator Frosh seems to completely miss that along with disagreement over his position on youth empowerment (background below), many folks are dismayed at the undemocratic manner in which he unilaterally killed the bill. He had already lost this battle with his colleagues, but rather than take it on the chin and call it a day, Senator Brian Frosh called in chits with Senate President Mike Miller's leadership team to kill the bill. The multi-year student advocacy effort was otherwise headed to a victory on the Senate floor. If not for those pesky kids party bosses, we would've passed the bill.

FROSH SAVES STUDENTS FROM THEMSELVES. NOT: Notably, Senator Frosh was running around stamping out the student advocacy effort on the same day that the Senate failed to pass a budget -- leading to massive education cuts, college tuition hikes and now student protests. IRONY!

STUDENT VOTING MORE IMPORTANT THAN PILLAGE OF MONTGOMERY: Senator Frosh did not wield his years of accumulated power to stop Senate President Mike Miller from hijacking the budget to promote gambling (or prevent the pillage of Montgomery in the budget -- again). Apparently giving students 1/10 of a voice on the school board was a graver threat. That's when the big guns come out!
From: "Frosh, Brian Senator" <>
Date: Fri, 20 Apr 2012 15:55:42
To: ''<>
Subject: RE: Please Allow HB 701 a Vote

Dear Mr. Kunes:

Thank you for your communication concerning the voting rights of the Student Member of the Montgomery County School Board (SMOB).

Current and previous SMOBs are among the most talented individuals in our school system.  They are smart, diligent, capable and sincere.  But I do not believe that they should be charged with making decisions on school closings, school boundaries, collective bargaining, school budgets, personnel discipline and termination.  These disputes are the most highly charged, complex and controversial of the issues handled by the School Board.  SMOBs will be pressured by teachers, unions, parents, school administrators, county officials and lobbyists.  Each SMOB serves for one year only.  No SMOB will even have the benefit of one year's prior experience.  I do not think it is reasonable to expect 17 year olds to find their way through the maze of pressure, policy and politics, however smart they may be.

Second, the Student Member of the School Board is selected by an pool of approximately 70,000 11 to 17 year olds who attend Montgomery County Schools.  In contrast, the five other members of the School Board run at large county wide (from a population of about 1,000,000 people and approximately 620,000 registered voters).  It is simply undemocratic to have one member elected from a population of 70,000 people and five members elected from a population of 1,000,000 people.  It is undemocratic to prohibit students aged 11 to 17 who attend private school or are home-schooled from voting for the SMOB—especially when their parents are voting for the other members of the School Board.

Third, allowing the SMOB to vote on the additional issues raises the risk of deadlock on decisions that would otherwise be decided by five members.  Again, the issues under consideration are among the most controversial, difficult and important.

School Boards make tough, important decisions.  Their decisions have real consequences.  Having the SMOB in the room is educational for the School Board and the SMOB.  Letting the SMOB have the expanded voting rights is, I believe, a step too far.

While we may disagree on this issue, I appreciate your taking the time to give me the benefit of your views.  If I can be of assistance to you in the future, please do not hesitate to call upon me.

Brian Frosh

-----Original Message-----
From: Dave Kunes []
Sent: Saturday, April 07, 2012 12:34 PM
To: Frosh, Brian Senator
Subject: Please Allow HB 701 a Vote

Dear Senator Frosh,

As a supporter of the Montgomery County Young Democrats and youth rights, I respectfully disagree with your position on HB 701-- a bill which would expand the voting rights of the Student Member of the Montgomery County Board of Education. I am very disappointed to hear that you special ordered this important bill, which could effectively kill legislation long supported by Montgomery County’s youth.

If you are unwilling to reconsider your stance, I ask that you do allow the bill to come to a vote on the Senate floor. Please let me know how you plan to act on this issue.

Thank you,

Dave Kunes

CONCLUSION: DEMOCRATS TAKING YOUTHS FOR GRANTED - Notably, Maryland Juice recently reported that current polling provides anecdotal confirmation that young people are not as excited about the Democrats as they used to be. Party elders would be wise to never forget how important youth-oriented issue marketing is to create an entry point in the Democratic Party for the best and brightest public advocates and civic oriented youths. To achieve that, we need to make sure that we don't mime the GOP's brand of paternalistic DINOSAUR politics.

Indeed, the first few election cycles when youths are eligible to vote form an imprint on their voting behavior that can last for decades (true story). If Senator Frosh has his way, the imprint we are stamping on young people is that Democratic leaders can thwart even successful citizen efforts. A harsh and true lesson to teach, but not one that inspires participation. Classy, Brian Frosh, classy!

In all-Democratic Montgomery County, lately all the anti-youth policies have been coming from ... Democrats. If youth voters want to create a better world and stop "The Man", right now they have many examples to point to where the Democrats ARE "The Man." We didn't sign up for the Democratic Party to be the bad guys in the political process, and we must demand that Maryland and MoCo officials knock it off. First we had to exert gobs of effort spending months of organizing against the youth curfew, and now we have to face this indignity -- all from Democrats. It is shameful.

MY FINAL THOUGHT: TRAYVON MARTIN = YOUTH CURFEW - Why do we need youth perspectives to balance off the biases of older folks? Well, for one, Maryland Juice thinks that the older folks in MoCo have not yet grappled with the very real demographic shift in Montgomery County. The school system is very diverse, and the needs and perspectives of students have changed. On issue after issue, you can look at polling and see that younger generations have divergent opinions on everything ranging from the role of the Internet in society, notions of privacy, same-sex marriage, religion, interracial relationships and more. In Montgomery County, the younger generations have grown up in a far more diverse community than many of the "grownups" ever had to live in -- and as we know, exposure reduces fear of the unknown. These differences in outlook have real policy implications.

One Example - Not to digress and beat a long-dead policy horse, but for those that followed the Montgomery County youth curfew debate, Maryland Juice would be curious whether you have contemplated the connection to the Trayvon Martin murder? Indeed, one of my principal objections to a proposed youth curfew in MoCo was that (in my opinion) the primary motivator for the policy was a fear of the mere sight of groups of minority youths and the need for the county to say it was "doing something" to address "the problem." At the time, crime (including youth crime) was on the decline, and the curfew was proposed in a pitchfork mob media climate that was caused by a single outlier crime in Silver Spring.

As you may recall, the imagery immediately turned racial in the media as politicians tried to build support for the curfew. Maryland Juice blamed Moco Exec Ike Leggett and the MoCo Police for stoking the racial fires with imagery of unruly black youths in the media, as they sought to to gin up support for a youth curfew. Months later, the Trayvon Martin shooting happens, and we all wonder where this latent fear of young minorities comes from? Really? Look in the mirror.

I am reminded of a scene in liberal filmmaker Michael Moore's film Bowling for Columbine. There is a telling moment when he interviews a producer of the hit television show COPS and asks about the portrayal of minorities as criminals on TV. See a transcript from the scene below. It may refresh your memory if you've seen the film:
Narrator: For over a decade, there has been one show on American television that has consistently brought black and white people together in an effort to reduce our fears and celebrate our diversity. That show is Cops. I went to see a former producer of "Cops" and executive producer of World's Wildest Police Videos: Mr. Dick Herland.

Herland: Look "liberal" up in the dictionary and I think my picture's in there somewhere.

Moore: ...why not be compelled to do, you know, a show that focuses on, you know, what's causing the crime, as opposed to just chasing the criminals down?

Herland: Because I think it's harder to do that show.... Anger does well, hate does well, violence does well. Tolerance and understanding and trying to learn to be a little different than you were last year does less well.

Moore: Maybe because we, in the television business, because we tend to demonize black and Hispanic people, then those watching it at home are going: "I don't want to help those people. I'm not going to do anything to help them. Because I hate them now, because they may hurt me." You know what I'm saying?

Herland: ...I'm not sure we're demonizing black and Hispanic people, uh... particularly. I don't think we show black and Hispanic people as being criminals. I'd like to say not more often, but probably they are more often....

Moore: We show them on the news, we show them on TV, as pretty scary people.  
Herland: Yeah. And I agree. I'd like to see that reversed as much as possible. I...
Moore: Start tonight.

Herland: Well, the thing is, I don't know how to start tonight. I don't know how to tell that story. If I was smart enough to do that...

Can we please just get the youth voting bill DONE next session?

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