Sunday, December 2, 2012

JuiceBlender: Jamie Raskin Flashmob & Mustard, Garagiola & Hixson Seek MoCo VFW Slots, Doug Duncan: Purple Line Foe?

Below Maryland Juice highlights a few tidbits relating to MoCo politics, starting with a few items regarding Sen. Jamie Raskin's unusual fundraising event last night:

JUICE #1: SEN. JAMIE RASKIN CELEBRATES 50TH BIRTHDAY W/ A FLASH MOB, MUSTARD & SOLD OUT FUNDRAISER - Last night State Senator Jamie Raskin (D20 Democrat) hosted a 50th birthday fundraiser in downtown Silver Spring. The event reportedly sold out with 600 RSVP's on the eve of the celebration. You can see a quick photo from the fundraiser below, but more interesting than the size of the crowd is the flash mob and mustard that accompanied the event. Details after the photo:

A large crowd packs the Silver Spring Civic Center for Sen. Jamie Raskin's 50th Birthday

In conjunction with the birthday fundraiser, Raskin had announced earlier in the week that downtown Silver Spring would be the site of a Jamie Raskin "dance flashmob" on the afternoon of his fundraiser. I did a double-take when I received the following email announcement for the pre-event dance party (excerpt below):
RASKIN FLASH MOB INVITATION: We are now inviting the world to come participate in an historic Rock&Roll Flash-Mob Birthday Dance Eruption at 4:36 PM on Saturday, December 1, just a few hours before my birthday bash, in downtown Silver Spring on Ellsworth Avenue, to be led by the extraordinary Alyce Jenkins and dozens of her students at the Maryland Youth Ballet who are going to take off their Nutcracker ballet slippers, come outside and rock out in the heart of downtown Silver Spring with hundreds of fired-up 50th birthday revelers....
Maryland Juice did not actually get to attend the flashmob, but luckily an attendee posted a video of the dance on YouTube:

Note that prior to joining up with the flashmob, participants had the opportunity to learn the dance steps through an instructional YouTube video:

Perhaps equally as unusual as the Raskin flashmob dance is the party favor that was given to attendees of the birthday party: a bottle of Jamie Raskin mustard (seriously!). I'm not quite sure if there's a story behind this, but I'm told that Raskin is related to the owner of the world's only mustard museum. In any case, see a photo of the limited edition Raskin mustard below:

JUICE #2: SEN. ROB GARAGIOLA & DEL. SHEILA HIXSON SEEK SLOT MACHINES AT MONTGOMERY COUNTY VETERANS HALLS - That didn't take long. Only weeks after the passage of gambling expansion in Maryland, State Senator Rob Garagiola and Delegate Sheila Hixson are proposing a new law allowing slot machines at veterans halls in Montgomery County. The Gazette recently reported on the Democratic lawmakers' insistence on continuing to prioritize gambling expansion in Maryland (excerpt below):
GAZETTE: Veterans’ groups from Montgomery County soon may be allowed to operate gambling machines in their halls, a privilege denied to them during the August special General Assembly session.

When lawmakers voted to expand gambling in the state, they included a provision to allow some gambling machines at veterans organizations west of the Chesapeake Bay — except in Montgomery County, where delegates were reluctant to sign on without local discussion and hearings.

Sen. Robert J. Garagiola (D-Dist. 15) of Germantown and Del. Sheila E. Hixson (D-Dist. 20) of Silver Spring have prepared a bill to do away with that exemption in the upcoming legislative session.... A hearing on county bills will be held Dec. 3 in Rockville.

HOW ARE WE HELPING VETERANS BY PUSHING THEM TO GAMBLE MORE OF THEIR MONEY? - The supporters of placing slot machines at Montgomery County's neighborhood VFW & American Legion posts argue that only members of the veterans halls will be able to gamble there. Even still, this further expansion of gambling in Maryland has been a controversial issue. Opponents have argued that the definition of a "veterans hall" is very vague and could lead to backdoor slot machines in undesired locations. In a guest column on Maryland Juice, Delegate Doyle Niemann argued that the most recent round of expanded gambling at veterans halls would lead to a creep of neighborhood gambling sites (excerpt below):
DOYLE NIEMANN: ...there is no requirement as to being an established organization....  so presumably anyone can go out and incorporate a new organization and then apply. Expect that to happen....

As to who can play, some veterans organizations may limit admission to members, but there is no requirement under the bill that they do so.  The only limit is that the machines have to be at the place of business of the organization.  So a "veterans" thrift store open to the public might be able to get slot machines and have them available to the public.  Again, expect that....
But even if Doyle Niemann is wrong, I think there is something perverse about the policy logic of trying to help veterans by encouraging them to gamble more -- and to do it by placing slot machines in their neighborhood haunts. Moreover, giving special privileges to veterans nonprofits that will be denied to the numerous other struggling nonprofits in Montgomery County would be completely arbitrary. Veterans halls may be struggling for funds, but so are numerous worthy non-profits offering programs ranging from food assistance and health services, to legal representation and housing for the indigent. Following Hixson and Garagiola's logic, we could give them all a fundraising boost by allowing them to operate slot machines targeted at their members. It is unfortunate that so many Democratic lawmakers seem to love using the lazy and unproductive revenue from gambling as a substitute for actually making tough decisions. I wouldn't exactly call it intelligent policy logic to propose helping retired Armed services members by encouraging them to gamble more. In fact, I was a bit encouraged to see that Montgomery County was exempted from this sort of inept policymaking during the summer's special session. But it turns out that was just a fake-out, and we may not have been spared from the expansion of slots after all.

If Sheila Hixson and Rob Garagiola get their way, I will be sandwiched between two new toeholds of gambling in Maryland. There is an American Legion Post one mile from my house in Silver Spring and a VFW Post one-and-a-half miles from me in Takoma Park:

KEY:  (A) Silver Spring American Legion Post,  (B) Takoma Park VFW Post
If you want to see if there is a "veterans hall" slot parlor proposed for your neighborhood, you can consult the (perhaps incomplete) list I've compiled below:

Montgomery County's American Legion & VFW Posts:

TESTIFY TOMORROW OR SEND AN EMAIL TODAY // TELL HIXSON & GARAGIOLA, NO SLOTS IN MONTGOMERY COUNTY: Clearly the expansion of gambling in Maryland is never going to end, unless we speak out and tell them to quit it. Senate President Mike Miller, after all, is already talking about adding even more casinos to neighboring Prince George's County. If you want to speak out against the effort to push MoCo veterans to gamble more, there is a public hearing TOMORROW (MONDAY) at 7:00 pm in Rockville:
Monday, December 3, 2012  - House Hearing for local bills: 7:00 PM - 3rd Floor Hearing Room, Stella Werner Council Office Bldg., 100 Maryland Ave., Rockville, MD 20850 - Local bills refer to legislation affecting issues specific to Montgomery County. Click here to sign up to testify.
You can also email Sen. Rob Garagiola & Del. Sheila Hixson to encourage them to drop their MoCo slot expansion effort at the email addresses below:

JUICE #3: DOES DOUG DUNCAN STILL OPPOSE THE PURPLE LINE? - Now that former Montgomery County Executive Doug Duncan has announced a 2014 bid for the Exec's office, some politicos are raising problems with his take on key issues. Indeed, much of the mainstream media coverage about Duncan thus far has credited him with being forward-thinking about downtown Silver Spring redevelopment, and other such projects. But yesterday a MoCo politico forwarded us a website link and news article indicating that Duncan may not be so forward-thinking on one of Montgomery County's key economic development and transportation priorities: The Purple Line.

The Purple Line is a proposed light rail line that would run East-West between Bethesda in Montgomery County and New Carrollton in Prince George's County. The line would stop through College Park, Silver Spring, Chevy Chase and other neighborhoods along the way, with the goal of taking cars off the road and discouraging further sprawl development. Full disclosure: I previously served as a campaign director for Purple Line NOW!

DOUG DUNCAN'S HISTORY OF ADVOCACY AGAINST THE PURPLE LINE - In spite of my personal support for this project, it would not be controversial to suggest that the Purple Line might be MoCo's top transportation priority. The fact that Doug Duncan has historically opposed the Purple Line suggests he might not "get" today's Montgomery County and the evolving dynamics between the area's housing market, jobs, and transit. I made this point on News Channel 8 last Friday. Indeed, Duncan's political coming-of-age occurred during a period when the political battles lines were drawn differently around land-use issues. A MoCo politico who likely agrees, shared with Maryland Juice an unusual page from the website of the Action Committee for Transit (ACT). The MoCo-based transit advocacy group highlights a candidate pledge that "Doug Duncan signed in 1994, when first running for county executive, to oppose light rail between Bethesda and Silver Spring — the core of what is now the Purple Line."

Doug Duncan's 1994 candidate pledge opposing the Purple Line

Our source also points to comments Duncan made in The Washington Post seven years later in 2001, slamming the idea of the Purple Line: "Duncan, who did not attend Glendening's announcement, said the new line would mostly serve people already using transit and do little to get people out of their cars and onto trains. It also would not extend across the Potomac River from Bethesda, something Duncan argues is needed to reduce traffic congestion." The article's headline blared, "Decision to Build Purple Line Inside Beltway Fires Up Duncan." Has Doug Duncan become less car-centric in the last decade? 

VIRGINIA IS BUILDING THE SILVER LINE - Indeed, in 2014 it would be strange for Doug Duncan to campaign on economic development in Montgomery County but continue opposing a potential major driver of job-creation. In remarks to The Washington Post about his candidacy last week, Duncan stated "that he thinks the county is 'slipping' against Northern Virginia when it comes to attracting businesses. 'I’m concerned that Montgomery County is getting a much bigger reputation that it is being anti-business'...."

Duncan, however, should be concerned that Virginia pulled off a major coup by breaking ground on the new Metro Silver Line. If you've driven on a highway to Virginia lately, you've surely seen the metro tracks under construction. The new transit line to Dulles has already sent Herndon home prices soaring, and it promises to give our Confederate neighbors the ability to turn their noses up against MoCo's continual failure to secure transit funding. Indeed, many expect the Silver Line to be a lure for businesses and residents alike. But instead of fighting for transit funding, so many business leaders in Montgomery County are obsessed with their tax rates and have made unrealistic tax cuts their primary policy priority.

WHERE IS DOUG DUNCAN TODAY ON THE PURPLE LINE? - So in a 2014 campaign for Montgomery County Executive, where will Doug Duncan be on the Purple Line? Ike Leggett always seemed fairly lukewarm and cautious on the project, and Duncan's history has shown him to be an active opponent. Meanwhile, more and more of today's Montgomery County residents want transit-friendly, mixed-use walkable neighborhoods. One need only look at local real-estate market trends to note this obvious fact. Likewise, policymakers need to think about these trends in terms of making sure Montgomery County is competitive in maintaining and creating vibrant, desirable neighborhoods. After all, the high quality of life in MoCo is what keeps us strong. That includes our schools, transit access and housing -- but increasingly, housing and transit creation are getting short shrift from politicians. But candidates do often try to re-invent themselves. We shall soon see how Duncan comes out on the issues.

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