Friday, June 8, 2012

JuiceBlender: Maryland Voter Roll Purge, Rep. Andy Harris Staff Raises, MoCo Accessory Apartments, Maryland Netroots & More

Here's a random blend of political tidbits from recent news, starting with a quick hello from the Netroots Nation conference in Providence, Rhode Island:

JUICE #1: MD POLITICOS AT NETROOTS NATION // SEN. CARDIN HIGHLIGHTS GOP WAR ON VOTING RIGHTS - This week, Maryland Juice is attending the annual Netroots Nation conference for work, but I've taken a few moments to try and gather some juice while I'm here. Though I was invited to speak on a panel about lessons for online organizers (watch video),  I've bumped into a surprising number of Maryland politicos. Indeed, from State Senator Jamie Raskin and MoCo Young Dems President Dave Kunes to a former aide to Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, the Free State is decently represented at this progressive gathering (see a couple photos below).

State Sen. Jamie Raskin (center) & Vermont Progressive Party legislator Chris Pearson (right)
MoCo politico Art Brodsky of Public Knowledge & MoCo Young Dems President Dave Kunes

SENATOR CARDIN ON THE GOP WAR ON VOTING RIGHTS - U.S. Senator Ben Cardin will be speaking on Saturday to talk about the Republican War on Voting Rights. This a very timely subject, now that Republican legislators around the nation have rolled back hard-fought protections for voting rights. Rolling Stone last year noted (excerpt below):
ROLLING STONE: In a systematic campaign orchestrated by the American Legislative Exchange Council – and funded in part by David and Charles Koch, the billionaire brothers who bankrolled the Tea Party – 38 states introduced legislation this year designed to impede voters at every step of the electoral process.

Senator Cardin, along with U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison will be joining voting rights experts to highlight this growing problem this Saturday (1:30 PM - panel information). The description for the panel highlights the problem today:
NETROOTS NATION: In 2011 we witnessed the most significant rollback of voting rights since the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965, with conservative legislators and governors passing laws in more than a dozen states to restrict access to the ballot. These laws included requiring proof of citizenship to register to vote, restricting voter registration drives, curtailing early voting, disenfranchising ex-felons and mandating government-issued photo identification to cast a ballot. These tactics harken back to the days when Dixiecrats used poll taxes and literacy tests to bar black Southerners from voting. According to the non-partisan Brennan Center for Justice, the new laws could make it significantly harder for more than 5 million eligible voters to cast ballots in 2012, with young, minority, low-income and disabled voters hit the hardest. This panel will look at the voter suppression tactics conservatives are employing and how to fight back to defend democracy.

JUICE #2: MARYLAND CONSERVATIVES BEGIN EFFORT TO PURGE VOTER ROLLS - Maryland is not immune from the rightwing assault on voting rights. The Potomac Tea Party Report blog alerted us to recent efforts by conservatives to begin purging the voter rolls in Maryland's Democratic strongholds - Baltimore, Prince George's and Montgomery County. See the report from Maryland Tea Partiers below (excerpt below):
POTOMAC TEA PARTY REPORT: Readers, if you are looking for a way to help those ballot initiatives (to stop instate tuition for illegal aliens, gay marriage, and O’Malley redistricting) succeed or your favorite candidates to win in the fall, this is something you can do from your home....

And, you can enjoy knowing that you are striking a blow against Eric Holder and Thomas Perez while you are at it....

The Tea Party blog flags a report from Maryland's new voter purge organization "Election Integrity Maryland." Their website featured a press release on June 1st announcing their aggressive efforts this year:
ELECTION "INTEGRITY" MARYLAND: Election Integrity Maryland today is submitting 828 challenges to the Baltimore County Board of Elections over irregularities in the voter rolls, including duplicate registrations, invalid addresses, and deceased voters who remain on the rolls.  A total of 1,700 County voter registrations have been reviewed so far....

Similar irregularities were discovered by EIM in Montgomery County last February, and challenges were filed then as well.  EIM plans to submit more challenges in other counties in the near future.

SHADY PURGES IN MARYLAND? - As many may recall from Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris' tampering in the Bush v. Gore presidential race, the devil is in the details. It is easy to allege that certain names should not be on a state's voter rolls, but it is harder to determine whether or not you have purged the correct person. In Florida in 2000, the vendor who purged the state's voters rolls was urged to use a very loose matching criteria that led to voters being improperly removed from the rolls. Without knowing more about how rightwing activists are "screening" the voter rolls, my assumption would have to be that they have no interest or incentive to be careful. Indeed it is shady that they are only targeting Baltimore and Montgomery Counties (ie: areas with lots of Democratic registrants).

JUICE #3: SMART GROWTHERS WEIGH IN ON MOCO ACCESSORY APARTMENT PROPOSAL & DE FACTO SEGREGATION - The smart growth bloggers at Greater Greater Washington recently continued the region's discussion about accessory apartments. In a post titled "Why the Angst Over Accessory Dwellings," GGW's David Alpert notes some aspects to the debate raging in Montgomery County and the District (excerpt below). Notably, Mr. Alpert also has a sign-up link at his article. He invites those who care about this issue to stay in touch with ways to advance the issue in MoCo:
GREATER GREATER WASHINGTON: While DC's zoning update discourse has bizarrely revolved thus far around a small group of opponents spreading false information, there are serious policy differences to genuinely debate. One is the proposal to allow accessory dwellings in single-family zones in DC and Montgomery County.

Planning departments in both jurisdictions want to follow many other places around the nation and allow homeowners to rent out a garage, basement, or other space. This would create more diverse housing choices, make aging in place more affordable, and help more customers for neighborhood businesses....

Much of the opposition is driven by fears of neighborhoods become predominantly filled with renters. But there are protections against this. The homeowner still has to live in the house to create an accessory dwelling. They can't create an accessory unit and then rent out the main house at the same time while living elsewhere. There are also limits on how big such an accessory dwelling can be, and there can't be more than one on a property....

Many zoning regulations in the mid-20th century promoted de facto segregation by making certain neighborhoods unattainable to a large segment of the population....

Making accessory dwellings legal across the District and in Montgomery County is actually better for impact-averse residents than any specific development because it will bring only slow and small change spread out over a wide area....

JUICE #4: MOCO APPOINTS INTERIM PLANNING BOARD CHAIR TO REPLACE ROLLIN STANLEY - As evidenced by MoCo's hysterical discussion of accessory apartments, land-use, housing and transportation issues are among the most important topics for Montgomery County politicos. Transit access and housing stock near DC are what have made the DC suburbs areas of economic strength during the recession, and Maryland Juice would argue that the greatest threat Virginia poses to Maryland is its seemingly quicker implementation of transit expansion (ie: Dulles Silver Line) and transit-oriented development (ie: Arlington metro-oriented neighborhoods).

Northern Virginia's land-use policies pose a much greater threat to growth in Maryland than our tax rates, and I think policymakers are foolish to focus on taxes as the differentiator. In any case, this is a long-winded way of saying that who Montgomery County chooses to replace outgoing Planning Director Rollin Stanley is a very important decision. Stanley was a smart-growth evangelist, and we would be making a huge mistake to not carry this vision forward.

Montgomery County Community Media reports that Rose Krasnow, former Rockville Mayor, has been appointed the interim director. In the meantime, a national search begins for Mr. Stanley's replacement. See the brief blurb and video below:
MOCO COMMUNITY MEDIA: The Montgomery County Planning Board appointed Rose Krasnow, the former three-term Mayor of Rockville, as the new Interim Planning Director after Rollin Stanley resigned to take a position in Calgary. The search is now beginning for Stanley’s replacement. Take a listen to Krasnow’s take on her new role.

JUICE #5: DID REP. ANDY HARRIS GIVE HIS CHIEF OF STAFF A HUGE RAISE? - Maryland Juice sources are buzzing with rumors that Tea Party Rep. Andy Harris may have given his Chief of Staff a huge raise this month. Notably, the top aide in his office Kevin Reigrut was accused of serving alcohol to an underage intern in Congress. Mr. Reigrut currently makes $130,000.

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