Bethesda news, restaurants, nightlife, events and openings, real estate, crime reports and more - the way only a lifelong Bethesda resident like Robert Dyer can bring it to you. Everything you want and need to know about Bethesda, plus special investigative reports you won't find anywhere else. The must-read blog for breaking Bethesda news, when you want to be the first to know.
One question asked at the JCRC Campaign Forum Wednesday night, was whether or not it would be appropriate for Montgomery County Council members to travel to Israel on economic development missions.
I expanded the question to include all of the trips councilmembers have taken at taxpayer expense, such as the recent election-year theater trip to New York City, ostensibly to "make a presentation" about the budget and new fiscal "policy."
Is it appropriate for councilmembers to travel at taxpayer expense? Find out by clicking on this link to the video:
Thanks to all who turned out for the JCRC Montgomery County Council At-Large Candidate Forum last night. There was a good turnout at the Jewish Community Center on Montrose Road, and a good selection of substantive questions.
I think it went pretty well, even though the audience was clearly majority Democrat, which made my job much harder than the Democratic candidates'. But I welcome the challenge, and the opportunity to explain why voting for Robert Dyer will bring Change Beyond Belief to Montgomery County.
Eric Bernard, Executive Director of the Montgomery County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association was there in a non-political capacity, collecting signatures for the petition to allow voters to decide whether or not the county's dangerous Ambulance Fee takes effect.
Roger Berliner was in the back of the room at one point.
Great to see Republican activist - and future Central Committee member - Larry Lesser, in such a strongly Democratic room. My fellow At-Large Republican candidate Brandon Rippeon and I needed all the support we could get. There were several people who did have positive things to say after the debate ended, and I think the crowd appreciated any candidate who had honest things to say about the fiscal crisis we face in this county.
To that end, I was the only candidate to present a detailed budget plan, stating exactly where I would cut the budget now, not in January.
You never know what questions you'll get in a debate, but I was ready for all of the ones I got this time. I think that, based on what I've heard about the Germantown debate that was Democrat-only, the Democratic challengers were a little bit more on the offensive in this one. And understandably so, with the incumbents continuing to rack up endorsements from some of their biggest critics, which is kind of surprising. But not entirely. Hans Riemer seems to have moved into the lead, but there are many debates to go, especially on the Democratic side.
There's a lot going on at the JCC, more than you would expect. Even as this debate was happening, other activities were underway in the building. When I left after 9:30, there was a softball game going on under the lights on a baseball field behind the building.
I enjoyed meeting the people who came out. Now it's on to Clarksburg next week!
Here is an exclusive video of my opening statement at the debate:
When I testified in support of the men and women of the Montgomery County Police Department on January 15, 2009, I didn't realize how accurately I was predicting the future.
As you recall, and have been reminded by the cheap shot article in yesterday's Post, the county executive and council were (and still are) attempting to deny retirement benefits for disabled police officers.
They ultimately failed, but in their ongoing quest to shift blame from the council's fiscal incompetence to the police department, they're going to keep bringing back this phony "scandal" again and again.
That 10 degree evening, I pondered the future of the council's scapegoating. Now that the council had targeted senior citizens in their budget cuts, and tried to take benefits away from disabled cops, I said, "I shudder to think who will be next... Girl Scouts and puppies?"
Well, it's happened.
Introducing the Dog Tax. In order to take your dog to any county dog park, you must now pay a mandatory tax of $40, plus $5 for each additional dog you own.
This was quietly announced by the county, as usual.
But this quiet insult to your intelligence - and your pocketbook - has now been picked up by the national media, including USA Today. People all over the country are now laughing (once again) at the fiscal incompetence of our county council, and the over-the-top concept of... a dog tax.
Maybe it's the excessive wagging of tails. Or the high cost of each sound wave emitted by a bark. Or the fiscal toll of a dog catching a frisbee in mid-air.
I don't know what the justification is. We'll have to await the explanation of the proven financial wizards on the council and the council staff. After all, that's why they make the big bucks... ...so they can use us as ATMs to pay off their politicial cronies in the budget.
But wait! Does a tax on puppies mean that... ...Girl Scouts are next?
As a long-time supporter of transit, and the Purple Line Georgetown Branch alignment, I have again taken the pledge to support construction of this important light rail project.
The Purple Line not only improves east-west transit access, but extends it to areas of Montgomery and Prince Georges County currently underserved by transit. It will also provide important supporting infrastructure for the Chevy Chase Lake sector redevelopment. Lack of such infrastructure has led to highly irresponsible approvals of the Science City and White Flint plans by the Montgomery County Council.
With light rail, improved Metrobus service, new roads and highway improvements, and my proposal to restore Ride On service cut by the council - and most importantly, a change in leadership on the county council, to make all of this possible! - we will be prepared to meet the challenges of the future in Montgomery County.
After interviewing with the Metro AFL-CIO in the afternoon, I attended the District 1 council debate between incumbent Roger Berliner and Ilaya Hopkins at the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center.
This is probably more a report about the building than the debate. First of all, the BCC services center could possibly be described as either a fortress or a Rubik's Cube turned into a building. It is a major challenge just to find and get into the building. First you have to figure out where it is, and enter one of two garage entrances off either Woodmont or Edgemoor.
You're just getting started, though! First of all, it's about 120 degrees in the garage. Then you go to the elevators, and first-time customers probably think they're going to zoom up into the services center.
When you get out at the Plaza level, you're only halfway there! Step over the snack wrappers and head over to the next building. Now you're in the lobby. It's about 82 degrees there. Up to the second floor for the debate. Okay, it's 110 up here. I'm not kidding.
It's a packed house of downtown Bethesda residents, candidates for other offices, media and campaign staffers. To the back of the room I go.
There were many appropriate symbols of the state our county finds itself in.
The mics don't work. Somebody decides to point one at a speaker. I think any hard-of-hearing seniors may have lost what little they had left. Just keep pointing it at the speaker. It sounds good, so why not just keep pointing it at the speaker, right?
The mics never did recover. Hopkins went for a large portion without one, and Berliner's had that muffled, percussive school/library mic thing going on.
There wasn't as much heat in the debate as there was in the room.
Apparently, either the budget cutbacks included basics like air conditioning, or this was another example of "green" indoor climate. Like that downright wacky article in the Post Sunday, which was really only stating the future of "green" technology: "smart" meters that will turn off your A/C in the summer. That's "progress" for you. I'll never buy into that, and neither should you.
I was surprised that neither candidate, when asked what they would do to create jobs, mentioned reducing taxes and regulation.
Councilmember Berliner did not seem concerned about our competition in Fairfax, citing the FDA, NIH and other prized county assets Fairfax lacks. Apparently, those weren't enough for Northrop... ...so shouldn't we address our weaknesses, like high taxes, gridlock, and a hyper-regulatory county council?
Hopkins has the advantage of the Doug Duncan endorsement; Berliner has the advantage of the MCEA endorsement, and some of the micro-level, local issues he has successfully addressed within the district.
Eventually, I had to head to the A/C-cooled conference room next door, where you could still hear the debate, since the mics were now turned up loud.
At the end, the moderator - Miranda Spivack of the Washington Post - allowed candidates present to introduce themselves, including myself.
Then, as Berliner and Hopkins gave their closing statements, I got in the right spot between the stairs and elevator, and was able to meet many of the voters who exited at the end.
I also ran into Rob Vricella, who is the Republican Berliner or Hopkins will face in November, and Kurt Osuch, who is running for State Senate in District 18, and who has a lot of buzz surrounding his campaign.
Now, how did I get into this building, and how do I reverse that to figure out how to get to the garage? Another night at the BCC Regional Services Center.
Well, at least I found a copy of the Farm Tour brochure! Simpler times in the rural Upcounty will be an antidote for Bethesda's most confusing building.
This morning's 5am earthquake (a 3.7 centered in Gaithersburg) was a reminder about the need to make public safety a top priority on the next Montgomery County Council. Our first responders are trained and well-prepared for many scenarios, but our political leaders have failed to prepare the general public for such disasters, and we currently lack sufficient hospital beds for a minor catastrophe, much less a major one.
This leadership vacuum must be filled by new councilmembers on November 2.
Yesterday afternoon I went to downtown Silver Spring for my Metropolitan area AFL-CIO interview. This was a panel interview format, which is sort of like a short candidate forum.
The interview was supposed to go from 2:40-3:25pm, and was to include 14 At-Large candidates. But when I arrived, only Becky Wagner and Jane de Winter were there. George Leventhal arrived shortly thereafter. Ultimately, we were the only 4 candidates who actually showed up for the interview. It turns out that the other 3 incumbents - knowing that the format would allow challengers to comment directly on the incumbents - decided to interview with candidates for other offices, to avoid debating.
"It sounded like a good idea at the time," but ultimately, I don't think it helped them to hide from the challengers. I don't think candidates who didn't want to interview alongside their opponents scored extra points by avoiding the challenge.
Personally, I preferred this format over the canned interviews organizations usually employ. I think the interviewers from each union were able to get a more complete idea of each candidate when you introduce opponents into the interview.
I think the interview went well, but it is obviously a very complex endorsement process with 14 candidates, so we can only wait to hear the final announcements.
Later, I attended the Roger Berliner-Ilaya Hopkins debate in downtown Bethesda, but I will have to bring you that report tomorrow, as I am out of time for now!
The Celebrate Damascus parade Friday night was probably the high point of the campaign season. Not only is Damascus my favorite town in Montgomery County, but Celebrate Damascus (a.k.a. Damascus Days) has the best parade and fireworks in the county.
When I arrived, my caravan of vehicles was behind a military jeep with servicemen inside. I let the 4-H float enter the Damascus High School parking lot before I followed behind. They were coming the opposite direction on Ridge Road, where parade entries were lined up waiting to get in.
Eventually we were directed to our parking spaces in the section of the lot by Bethesda Church Road. Right next to us was the Weatherbug Storm Chasing vehicle (Weatherbug HQ is right down 27 by the 270 ramp to Frederick). On the other side was a dustless floor refinishing truck. In the 11:00 direction was the convertible of one of my opponents, Nancy Floreen. Dead ahead was a van/RV filled with... parrots!
My only regret about the parade this year, was that by actually being IN the parade, I was unable to see all of it. Or to get video of it for you to watch. Of course, you can still enjoy all of the videos and photos of last year's Damascus parade on the Robert Dyer Channel and my Photos page at www.RobertDyer.net.
But from what I could see from the staging area as we waited for the signal to move out, it was at least as good as last year, if not better. There were 3 live camels as part of a Christmas float. I saw Ronald McDonald in a convertible (and the McDonald's McCafe van was giving out free drinks the next day, by the way).
Santa Claus was spotted far from the North Pole, in the Damascus High School parking lot!
If you think that was interesting, I haven't told you that later, Santa was at the wheel of an enclosed-cab John Deere tractor!
Remember the video I posted of the Damascus Lions Club lion last year? This year, being "behind the scenes" before the parade, I got a spy shot for you of the lion without his mask on!
There was also the Bolivian dance group I recorded for you last year, as well.
This year, I also saw a van for Tom & Ray's restaurant.
Eventually, it was time to enter the line. We had to stop at the driveway of the school on Bethesda Church Road so that 3 tow trucks (that had been waiting there because they were too big to be in the lot) could get in their spot ahead of us.
And then we were underway!
There was a great turnout, with people lined up all the way along the parade route. It was a very friendly crowd. Lots of support. Not even one heckler! It sounded like Damascus is ready for Change Beyond Belief on the County Council!
Candy is often given out to children along the route, but one child even offered me a piece of candy. He must have been a Republican.
The 3 tow trucks had a synchronized horn blast routine that they repeated the entire length of the parade. So, past the Weis Market, KFC/Taco Bell, Red Rooster, the Fireworks Art Cafe, and CVS... ...then left onto Lewis Drive.
People who are lucky enough to live along Lewis Drive have it made for this day every year. Many were holding parties; first with chairs set up to enjoy the parade, and then for the fireworks display. I could smell a few backyard grills going, too.
Finally we got up to the reviewing stand. The man at the microphone announced my name, and said that I was running for the Montgomery County Council At-Large. Then he added, "Why in the world would you want a job like that?" Like I've said before, the people of Montgomery County are not fooled by the council's new talking points; they know that our county has suffered through years of failed leadership, and that we have a gargantuan mess to clean up. The man had a good point; it's going to be a tough job. But I'm ready to serve the great town of Damascus and this great county to get that tough job done. We can't fix 8 years of mismanagement overnight, but together, we can fix it.
Just past the American Legion is the Damascus Volunteer Fire Department Activities Building, from which the delicious smell of chicken was wafting. In fact, one of the chefs was standing at the roadside to watch us go by.
Darkness began to fall as we reached the end of the route, and parked along the curb past the carnival grounds. Right across from the Music Cafe van!
After a break, it was time to head over to the Weis Market parking lot, which has a great view of Montgomery County's best fireworks display. I got some video of that for you, which will be uploaded in the near future.
In conclusion, it was a great night and weekend in Damascus. Lots of voters who said they were going to vote for me, lots of new Robert Dyer voters who came aboard, and lots of outstanding people who represent the real Montgomery County, and the real America. And they were attending perhaps the biggest event of the year in a classic small town.
They don't make 'em like they used to, but we can preserve the best of Damascus and our other rural areas by electing councilmembers who will fight the attempts by the incumbents to turn the whole county into a maze of concrete canyons.
We can win this crusade to transform government into one that serves the People, not the other way around. We'll win with the support of voters like the great people of Damascus.
Thanks to everyone who came out for the parade and was so supportive! It really gives me a boost going forward, and I look forward to seeing you at future events.
It turned out that my blog entry yesterday was a much needed antidote for the incorrect Washington Post coverage of the Montgomery County bond rating "rescue." The Post's Michael Laris - again - did not challenge the official press release, stating that the council's budget cuts and new reserve policy saved the AAA rating.
Not true, of course! It was the council's willingness to increase taxes on the poor, seniors and working families that allowed them to keep the bond rating. Read my entry yesterday for the full story, and how the bond rating is not safe indefinitely - contrary to the assertion in the Washington Post coverage.
It's going to be a busy weekend of campaigning. If you are just hearing about my campaign for the County Council At-Large this weekend, thank you for finding my website! If you are becoming a supporter and joining my crusade to bring Change Beyond Belief to Montgomery County, welcome aboard!
The best thing to do first is to watch my video message
Montgomery County's Council and Executive announced yesterday that after solving the county's structural deficit forever [no giggling, please!], it has managed to retain its decades-long AAA bond rating.
Now, putting aside the obvious - that the structural deficit still exists, and we face a shortfall of at least $900,000,000 next May, no matter what the wishful councilmembers say out loud or to their friends in the local media - the truth is that the "Six-Year Fiscal Plan and New Reserves Policy" had little to do with the rating agencies' decision. And absolutely does not mean that the county is permanently off the hook in the ratings department.
Why did the agencies renew the AAA rating?
They saw that this council is willing to raise taxes to historic levels, in the midst of a near-economic depression, in an election year. The gamble, of course, is that their friends in the media will spin this massive, regressive tax increase for them, so that they can win reelection in September and November, without hardly having to even campaign.
The agencies also must have been very pleased - for now - that this council was also willing to place that massive tax increase squarely on the poor, seniors and working families. Flat, regressive taxes are the wave of the future, as smart tax-and-spend politicians have begrudgingly admitted that you can only get so much money out of "the rich." The solution that's coming - and your county council is actually ahead of the curve on something here! - is these sort of sledgehammer taxes on the poor, seniors and working families. Top liberal minds have been opining on this for years in papers and lectures, while you were struggling to put food on the table and get the kids to soccer practice after school.
Why do I write that the agencies are pleased "for now?"
Because this out-of-control tax policy can't possibly last forever. The council taxed their way out of their budget deadline. If they will pay a price for those tax hikes in September and November is entirely up to the voters, if they can cut through the fog and storm of hyperspin that the local media are stirring up to get these folks reelected.
So let's say they all get reelected on this policy [I said, no giggling!]. And then when we get to next May, and there is a budget deficit of $900M, the council raises all kinds of taxes.
What happens then, is that we will have even less jobs than we have now, and more home foreclosures. More wealthy people will move out of the county. And so will lower-income residents. The result? Lower income and property tax revenues.
You can keep raising those flat taxes on energy, cell phones, etc., but there will be less and less people, and less and less revenue. Corporations won't move here now; why would they move here in a higher-tax future?
So the high-tax, high-spending council method of operation is simply unsustainable. They squeaked by again now, at high price to you, the taxpayer. But we cannot go on in this fashion forever.
The ratings agencies will be back. Bankruptcy will loom.
And that new fiscal policy won't do anything to stop it.
As I mentioned the other day, not only is the new "policy" pure fantasy ("We don't have a shortfall next year. There, I said it! That makes it true!"), but there is the problem that it is not mandatory for the council to follow it.
Paige Hill of the Sentinel wrote that the policy was not mandatory; yet, in yesterday's press release, Councilmember Duchy Trachtenburg said she and the council voted "to require annual contributions to the County's reserves and mandate balanced budgets."
It can't be mandatory and not mandatory!
Also, the county charter already requires balanced budgets; that was not a new development by the council this June.
Can I correct some other things misstated in this press release?
"As stewards of the County's economy [I told you, no giggling!], the Executive and the County Council have shown real leadership [OK, I guess you're justified in giggling by this point] and a vision for the future by building our reserves and clearing a path towards balanced budgets."
- Duchy Trachtenburg
Not only has there been no leadership, and no vision, but the council has not built its reserves; the non-mandatory plan does not increase reserves until later in the decade! And even if it was mandatory, how could we afford 10% reserves when we couldn't afford 6% now as it is?
"The plan seeks to match expenditures to available revenues without any drawdown of reserves ...and result in a larger reserve for the County, and less spending on government agencies."
Guess what? All of the existing "bills" that were due this year, are all due again next year for the county budget. They will have to be paid. They total about $900,000,000 right now, before storm cleanups, disasters and the teacher pensions that will be returned to the county by the state.
You can't just "will away" a $900M deficit!
Welcome to the real world.
Watch a video message from a candidate for the County Council At-Large who is prepared to implement a fiscal plan that actually cuts spending, and fundamentally restructures government:
Then, please consider emailing the video to 10 of your friends who live in Montgomery County. 10 people who have to manage their own financial affairs in real world circumstances, and know that the county must begin to do the same.
A few months ago, I presented a detailed argument on this blog in favor of building the new Holy Cross Hospital in Germantown, AND the Adventist Hospital in Clarksburg. And I proposed that one of those hospitals have a trauma center, to address the gaping geographical hole that has proven dangerous or fatal to central Maryland trauma patients.
Since that time, the overwhelming evidence that we need more hospital facilities in the growing Upcounty continues to mount.
This past Independence Day morning, an auto accident occurred in North Potomac. One victim was flown to Suburban Hospital in Bethesda. I have not heard an update on his condition or survival. But the fact is, he could have been taken more quickly to a trauma center in Germantown or Clarksburg, as could trauma patients in Urbana, New Market, Ijamsville and Mount Airy.
Currently, trauma victims in upper Montgomery County, Frederick County and Carroll County are flown to Suburban in Bethesda, or trauma centers in Washington County or Baltimore City. These centers have an excellent reputation, but what about the air-travel time factor?
This is what we must address. Rather than continue to waste taxpayer funds on Madoffonomics, developer deals (Webb Tract), developer tax cuts and Costco, we need to commit our resources to infrastructure.
Two Upcounty hospitals are not only greatly-needed infrastructure, but will also create jobs and reduce health care costs in our county's budget. Let's find the will and the funds to assist in building them.
Yesterday was the biggest day of campaigning so far this year. Early yesterday morning, I traveled to Leisure World for the annual Leisure World 4th of July Parade. I'm very familiar with Leisure World, but I would never have guessed that one day I would be in a parade going around the circle in front of the clubhouse.
There was a traffic jam past the guardhouse, but eventually I was in the lineup in unit #11. Members of the Leisure World Republican Club were already lined up. I think I was the first Republican candidate there. Then Bob Ehrlich arrived. Eventually, we had several candidates for Congress, including Christine Thron, Mike Phillips and Bruce Stern. For U.S. Senate, Corrogan Vaughn, Jim Rutledge, McAndrew, etc. I saw one delegate candidate from District 19, but I forgot her name; she must have just filed, because I had not heard the name before.
Once the parade was underway, it was scorching out, but it wasn't that bad yet. There was someone announcing each candidate as we passed in front of the clubhouse, where seating had been set up. But I encountered enthusiastic residents all along the way.
After drinking some water, it was off to the annual Montgomery Village "4th of July on the 5th" Parade and Festival. Their parade, unfortunately, does not allow challengers, so I could only attend the festival part. Two of my opponents, incumbents George Leventhal and Nancy Floreen, stopped to say hello while I was at the Republican tent. There was an ambulance and a little first aid trailer from the Washington Grove Volunteer Fire Department. It was a pretty successful stop, as I picked up a number of votes.
I took a couple of pictures for you; one of the Montgomery Village Apple Ridge Recreation area where the festival was, and one of the ambulance. Support your local volunteer fire department!
I hope everyone had a great 4th of July weekend. Don't forget to visit www.RobertDyer.net and, if you just found out about my campaign yesterday, a good place to start is by watching my introductory video message!
This past Friday, I presented the first detailed analysis of the Montgomery County Council's new fiscal "policy" to be printed anywhere.
But a story in the Sentinel newspaper just added the capstone to the council's folly, and the austerity package that wasn't!
As I mentioned Friday, the new policy does not reduce spending, fantasizes that there will be no shortfalls anymore (even while not reducing that aforementioned spending!!), calls for a questionable 10% reserves when we can't even pay for 6% right now, assumes there will be a massive increase in revenue, doesn't restructure government, and would require a gargantuan tax increase.
Here's the new twist, according to Paige Hill of the Sentinel:
"Compliance is not mandatory."
In other words, the whole thing isn't only smoke and mirrors, but mainly just smoke! Smoke, and an election year joke played on the taxpayers of Montgomery County.
If the spending guidelines (which aren't even delineated in the plan, which also has loopholes to be exploited by the council) are not enforceable, how would the plan have any effect?
How would spending guidelines overrule binding labor agreements signed off on by the council?
On this 4th of July, let's remember the values this nation and county were founded upon. Those included low taxes. And citizens serving a short time in government, not professional politicians who would make a career of taking the public's money and benefitting themselves and their political cronies.
This council is no better than you, the People of Montgomery County. In fact, you pay their salaries. You are the boss. They take orders from you, not the other way around - but you'd have a hard time knowing that, witnessing these folks in action.
Restore the values and fiscal responsibility Montgomery County was founded on this November! Before firing up the grill, going to the fireworks displays, or heading back out to the beach, can you watch this video message...
And then email it to 10 friends who live in Montgomery County?
We have it easy compared to our Founders, who had to risk their lives in warfare to exercise their freedoms and rights; all we have to do is organize ourselves, and get to the polls on November 2 to exercise and restore ours!
With one press of the touch screen, you have the power to transform our county government into one that serves the People, not the other way around!
Join my crusade today!
Visit www.RobertDyer.net to learn more, and to send me an email to join my mailing list and/or volunteer for my campaign.
You can also request a yard sign for your lawn. Ask your neighbors if they would like a yard sign, too!
Then help spread the word from your desk, TV chair or phone, by simply emailing my video message. And bring one person with you to the polls to vote on November 2!
Together, we will bring Change Beyond Belief to Montgomery County!
The Washington Post is reporting that former Montgomery County Planning Board Chairman Royce Hanson (whom readers of this blog know as Dr. Yes) will announce his candidacy for the District 2 County Council seat early next week.
This is not a surprise to loyal readers here, because I predicted this would happen last year! On this very blog. The only difference is, I thought he would run At-Large, because Nancy Floreen would not have the audacity to run for reelection (the fact that the incumbents are all running again, with the records they have, qualifies as the only true shock of this election year).
So forgive me for not sharing the surprise of most people.
The stage is now set for a battle royale between two prominent Montgomery County politicians who both have decades of political activity: Royce Hanson, and Robin Ficker, the 99.9% certain Republican nominee for the seat currently held by Democrat Mike Knapp.
But wait, there's more. A majority of the Democrat establishment in Montgomery County has already annointed Del. Craig Rice as the next councilman from District 2, including the MCEA (before he had even filed!!) and Mr. Knapp himself.
Now what are they going to do? Stand by Craig Rice, thereby setting up a second battle royale in the primary? Or boldly drop Del. Rice and switch to the "sure thing," Dr. Yes?
If you have any interest in politics, this is going to be fascinating.
And possibly entertaining.
Don't forget, that despite her community involvement, prior run for the seat, and early head start in the race, the Powers That Be have already dismissed Sharon Dooley.
That leaves Rice and Hanson.
What will Del. Rice do now? Had a Republican stepped forward to run in District 15, the Rice seat would have been in jeopardy, as he only beat the late Jean Cryor by about 50 votes. So, at the time, the switch to the council race was probably a smart one.
Especially because it must have been communicated to him that he would receive a bounty of endorsements and money, were he to run. I have met Del. Rice during the 2006 campaign, and I was impressed by him and his campaign staff, who seemed like very nice people. He's certainly a politician with a long future ahead of him in Montgomery County and the state of Maryland. But still, I think even many Democrats were taken somewhat aback by the torrent of endorsements for a one term delegate.
So now that the media was positing Rice as the guaranteed winner (although Robin Ficker and the voters might have something to say about that), why would the Establishment put Hanson forward at the 11th hour?
Rice represents the future of the Democratic party, and we have already witnessed this generational and ideological struggle in the Saqib Ali-Nancy King matchup. Progressives, and especially younger progressives, are actively supporting Ali in that race.
Now the "unlimited development" faction of the party (think Steve Silverman, Nancy Floreen, George Leventhal, Mike Knapp) is stepping in. If you want "smart growth," meaning unlimited development, Hanson is your man. Just remember, he was not only the guy behind the current plan to urbanize suburban neighborhoods, but he was also the mastermind behind Carmageddon West (Science City) and Carmageddon East (White Flint). You know, the master plans that say, don't worry about infrastructure, we'll accept 9 mph as a top speed(!!).
And Hanson is man who apparently causes that faction to bow when he enters a room.
But here's another interesting point... Not only would Rice be the stronger candidate among the new voters who went to the polls for the first time in 2008 (they tend to be younger and the name Royce Hanson doesn't ring a bell for them), but consider something else:
Craig Rice has done something Royce Hanson never has: WIN!
Hanson lost two elections decades ago, one of them to the legendary Gilbert Gude for Congress.
If the Powers That Be can somehow negate the wide lead Rice has with endorsements, I can imagine Hanson receiving the endorsements of the Post and Gazette.
Older Democrats will supposedly swoon with nostalgia upon hearing of Hanson's announcement. Will they negate the younger voters in the primary?
Del. Rice must now be wondering if he actually left a sure reelection and wandered into what can only be described as a battle royale. Will he be instructed by the party to withdraw and file for delegate again? With, surprisingly, no Republican answering the call of a competitive seat in District 15, the way is pretty clear for Rice's reelection.
Or will he stand his ground and take on the challenge of what could be one of the biggest primary showdowns in county history (like the Leggett-Silverman 2006 race)?
If you can put partisan politics aside, and are a politics fanatic, prepare to enjoy all the intrigue of a classic political showdown; it's sure to be a race for the ages. And a win for the developers, if the Powers That Be can just go ahead and "take the controls."
But is it a fight for the future of the Democratic Party? Or, with Royce Hanson running on legend and nostalgia, is it a fight for the past?
The local media are trumpeting the Montgomery County Council's new "Fiscal & Reserve Policy," which some elected officials have - falsely - claimed has magically eliminated the structural deficit.
Of course, any discussion of the county budget is always confusing at best in Montgomery County, because the county does not ever let you examine the budget online, in Web 2.0 format.
Let me try to present the facts about this "overnight austerity" 180 degree turn by the council, which - as of this hour - has still been unable to stop itself from uncontrolled spending and Madoffonomics.
First of all, the claim of 10% reserves doesn't take effect until the end of this decade. That is to retain spending power, and enable this council to kick the can down the road for the 1000th time.
Having said that, does it make sense at this particular point to have 10% reserves? My recollection is that Wall Street was furious that the council had dropped from 6% reserves to 5%. I don't recall them demanding a 10% reserve.
There is a lot of "fine print" on this reserve policy that needs to be gone over, and there appear to be loopholes. Such as, "Revenue above the required reserves can only be used to fund one-time expenditures." What precisely does that vague statement cover? It would seem to me that a council this clever could define a lot of things as "one time expenditures."
Beyond that, the definition of fiscal responsibility is not simply having a 10% reserve.
True fiscal responsibility means that the budget's size can remain constant in good times and in bad. We now have a sense of the baseline for future budgets. It would be a terrible mistake to increase spending much beyond that level even when a future recovery begins. As you can imagine, 10% reserves could only cover so much.
It's also important to take a powder puff press release and apply a real-world context to it. Think about it. If the county had to close libraries, take dentures away from senior citizens, cut bus service, eliminate school anti-drug programs, and remove police officers from high-risk public schools to meet a 5% or 6% reserve requirement... ...how in the name of Pete could the council possibly pay for a 10% reserve, if revenues remain low?!
Do the council and executive have inside information about the economy that even President Obama, Ben Bernanke, Tim Geithner and the rest of us don't know?
Hmm... This is another clue for you, the citizen, to ponder. A clue that, along with others, shows the size of the tax increases that are coming. If you recall that it took the largest Energy Tax increase in Montgomery County and Maryland history to get to 6% reserves in May, pause to contemplate the tax increase needed to get to 10%! Unbelievable.
That's because of the other problem with this "new fiscal policy" that the local media didn't question the council about: where are the spending cuts? Answer: So far, there aren't any.
So hold on just a minute here, Robert. You're telling me that we are going to 10% reserves, when we currently can't afford 6%?
And about those "recurring expenses?" Some councilmembers have dreamily told reporters that there is no shortfall next year. [No giggling, please!] Some people in the county have at least said that there is going to be a $200 million shortfall next year. [You're getting warmer!!]
Ready for the truth?
The budget shortfall for next May actually stands at $900,000,000 at this hour.
That is BEFORE snow removal costs. That is BEFORE Martin O'Malley or Bob Ehrlich send part or all of the teacher pensions back to the counties next year (the state is broke - this is absolutely going to happen, even if no one else wants you to know it before you vote this fall - for obvious reasons!).
In other words, the idea that all future shortfalls have been magically eliminated, and that we can realistically afford to have a 10% reserve (which won't actually even take effect until these councilmembers have all moved on) is sheer fantasy.
We cannot fix the structural deficit without fundamentally restructuring government. And cutting spending. And creating new revenue streams (my budget plan creates 8 new revenue streams, by the way). And, if necessary, addressing compensation and pensions for non-public safety employees.
And as far as reserves, we only need the amount of reserves that the rating agencies ask us to have. If we find ourselves in the (almost impossible to imagine) position of having a huge budget surplus...
...please remember when you go to vote what the incumbents, and all of the Democratic challengers (except for Hans Reimer, commendably) have NOT suggested we do with a large surplus: Give it back to the People of Montgomery County.
It's your money. If government doesn't need it, and has met the practical reserve needs, it should return the rest to you, the taxpayer. Don't let any self-appointed "expert" tell you otherwise.
Any way you analyze this "new fiscal and reserve policy," it simply doesn't add up. Except as another excuse for raising taxes once the election is out of the way. And that is anything but fiscal responsibility.
But you can take action right now!
Watch my video message about fiscal responsibility, fundamentally restructuring government, and electing a government that does "the right things" (as opposed to trying to do everything), and email it to 10 of your friends who live in Montgomery County today.
This will only take a few minutes, and then be sure to enjoy your Fourth of July weekend, knowing that you've done your part to restore the common sense and values that this county and nation were founded upon.
Take action today, and on November 2, to elect a new councilman who will restore real fiscal responsibility to Montgomery County: Robert Dyer!