District 16 Democratic delegate Susan Lee has introduced a bill on behalf of Montgomery County Councilmember Phil Andrews that would create taxpayer funding for county executive and council races in Montgomery County. The bill is carefully structured to keep money out of the hands of average-income citizens who run for office, so it is not evening the playing field. It furthermore does not address the strong liberal bias of newspapers such as The Washington Post and The Gazette. These papers are the primary source of news and give extensive, favorable coverage to Democrats only. Maryland Republicans are rarely mentioned in these and other local media outlets.
So the Democrats will still have a strong advantage, but Republicans who can raise big money will have lost their place in the public dialogue. This is not only absurdly unfair, but also a violation of the 1st Amendment. (Of course, you know Democrats are experts at violating Constitutional amendments).
The grand irony of this is that Ms. Lee is the member of the District 16 delegation who takes the least special interest money. She has the largest number of small contributions from ordinary citizens and small business owners of any Democrat in the district.
Obviously, we would like to have big developer money out of elections. But unless a new law requires Equal Coverage in the press, it is patently unfair to the average citizen who runs for public office. Fundraising is an extremely unpleasant part of politics; but unfortunately that is the system which allows the most freedom of speech. Government has no business meddling in free speech and free elections.
Bethesda realtor Jane Fairweather was used as the main source for 2 separate articles in the Post and Gazette within 48 hours. These articles were on the housing slump, or lack thereof, in the expensive neighborhoods of Bethesda.
Now there are an infinite number of realtors in our area, such as Matthew Maury, Brian Maury, and even my brother, Scott Dyer (whose real estate website, I must add, will be online soon at http://www.scottdyer.com/ ). So, why Jane Fairweather? Honestly, I have no idea. But the Post Co. should diversify its real estate sources. One person does not have all the answers.
But this reminded me of something that is relevant to this blog and the impending redevelopment of the Westbard Sector.
I recall Ms. Fairweather as being a driving force behind the purchase of the Kenwood Place condo property by its residents - a deal that was bad for the residents, in my opinion. The condos would initially be harder to sell, with any prospective purchaser having to add that additional debt to his or her new mortgage.
While it was positive to keep the Kenwood Place as a residential buffer for the neighborhood, I don't think it was a good deal for two other reasons.
First, the complex could wind up on the back side with loading docks for a new Capital Properties mixed use development. I say that because outsiders and newcomers are, for whatever reason, appalled that the rear of the shopping center faces Westbard Ave. They don't understand the reason this was originally done, so they are determined to change it.
Second, the complex is beginning to age rapidly and will be quite expensive for the residents - now owners - to maintain.
Here are excerpts from the Washington Post in 2005 on the Kenwood Place saga:
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage agent Jane Fairweather presented an analysis of the prices of comparable units and of future condo demand. She estimated that Kenwood Place units were selling for 26 percent less than similar condos, and that the situation would only worsen as the lease expiration date approached.
Her report concluded that if the condo association didn't buy the land, "it will remain the 'step sister at the ball that never gets to dance.' "
One other relevant point from that story, was that CP's Richard Cohen offered pennies on the dollar for the Kenwood Place property! That was absolutely ridiculous, given that houses sell for up to $2 million in Bethesda. Kenwood Place is a huge piece of property, with substantial green space and parkland. In that pre-sale situation, and with rubber-stamp zoning changes available on-demand from Royce Hanson and the county council, the whole Kenwood Place complex was worth multiple fortunes.
But this is in line with the absurdly low price that Cohen paid for all of the Westbard Sector properties. You would think just about anyone could get investors to join in for more than he paid for a potential real estate goldmine like Westbard. Unanswered questions, unanswered questions.