Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Start heating your microwave popcorn now. Here is an interview taped last Wednesday that will be available in October to Comcast On Demand subscribers. But because you are such a smart person to read my blog, you get to screen it here first.

Right click here for our Feature Presentation
Rail service from Washington to Ocean City is one of the major projects in my transportation plan. Did you know that at one time, there was rail service to Ocean City that arrived at a station on South Division Street? Today, the site was opened as Sunset Park. While it commemorates the train station and railroad bridge, it also reminds us that we have again taken a step backwards. As with the "rails-to-trails" mania nationwide, we are actually worsening the quality of our environment under the guise of green space, by eliminating zero and low-emission transit options. Vote for Robert Dyer Nov. 7, so we can finally start moving our transportation system forward into the 21st century!
Monday night, I attended a forum on pedestrian safety at the Friendship Heights Village Center. While I've encountered my Democratic opponents (the two who are campaigning, anyway) several times, on this night William Bronrott was actually a member of the panel. Pedestrian safety is one issue that Mr. Bronrott and I can agree on, and is actually one that he has concentrated on while in office. While many critical issues have been ignored by our current delegation, I do commend Mr. Bronrott for his continued efforts on vehicular and pedestrian safety.

I also commend the organizers for all of the free stuff they put out. They even had those plastic rulers that turn into a safety armband when you slap it against your arm, as the gentleman from the D.C. Government demonstrated with an "Ouch!" He was only joking, he assured us.

I work in Friendship Heights, but Howard Denis (County Council - District 1) actually lives there, a few yardsticks from the Center. So he was appropriately asked to take the podium to begin the evening. He did commit a faux pas when he recognized Duchy Trachtenberg and said that he was certain that she would wake up on November 8 as a member of the Montgomery County Council. Wait a minute. Hold the phone. The only new female member of the County Council on Nov. 8 will be Amber Gnemi. Gee whiz, let's be a little more supportive of our Republican candidates.

So, anyway, then the panel began its presentations. In contrast to the affordable housing and Westbard debates, there were actually a lot of specifics in the discussions, so I applaud that. Statistics, results of current programs, and future plans were detailed by the panel, which also included Lt. Smith from the Bethesda District of the Montgomery County Police, and traffic experts from the MDSHA, Washington D.C., and Montgomery County. Then it was time for questions from the audience, and it was all downhill from there.

Apparently, the status quo didn't want the Friendship Heights citizens to hear from Mr. Bronrott's challenger, Robert Dyer. Let me be clear: I don't have any solid evidence of that, besides some whispers between certain individuals during the Q&A. But moments later it was announced that the question period would be cut short. The self-described "Phil Donahue" (insert your own comment here) in the crowd kept the mic on the other side of the room, while panelists turned on the slow gas for the longest answers you've ever heard. As they ran down the clock NFL-style, I could hardly contain my laughter. And there were too many officials in the crowd asking questions, and going on and on and on, which prevented actual citizens from having a chance to speak. This was a citizens' forum, not a council meeting. Strange, then, that so many senior citizens who had made the effort to attend were not allowed to comment on the issues during the forum.

Well, here's what I was going to say: I work in Friendship Heights, so I'm up there on a daily basis and know the problems unlike the panelists. For example, the "experts" didn't even know the situation with the bus terminal, which led to some justifiable muttering in the crowd. Secondly, some of the most effective solutions are the cheapest: countdown signals, rumble strips, and lighted signage. The fact is that many drivers aren't paying attention, and we can reduce some accidents by getting their attention. The other bad drivers are hardcore speeders and aggressive drivers who require police enforcement. Finally, the County needs to take into account the high percentage of senior citizens in Friendship Heights when setting the timers for crossing signals.

Frankly, I'm not convinced enough has been done on the pedestrian safety issue in Friendship Heights. Given the demographics of the area, it is embarrassing that there are not more pedestrian bridges and other such safe passages to assist residents in getting to and from their homes, shopping, Metro, and restaurants. So if you live in Friendship Heights, and you're dissatisfied with the dangerous conditions, vote for Robert Dyer on Nov. 7! I will actually get something done about it! Then I'll be on the next panel discussion. And I promise to let my opponents speak.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

I've been offline for two days, and so many things have happened that I'm not sure where to begin. With the uncontested primary over, now the General Election campaign is underway. I also was elected to the Montgomery County Republican Central Committee. The surprising part was that I finished in first place, which I did not expect would happen. Gus Alzona won the second seat and District 16 joined some of the other districts in the Central Committee turnover Tuesday.

Tuesday started off with total chaos, but I didn't realize the scope of the voting machine debacle until later in the morning. Scott went early to vote up at his polling place and encountered the card problem there. Fortunately, he was able to go back later and cast his ballot on the regular machine. The whole provisional ballot idea was absolutely ridiculous. Some were just scrap paper put into sealed envelopes with voter name and address (!), thereby eliminating the basic concept of a secret ballot. There are all kinds of potential misbehavior that could occur with those paper ballots, and I want to know if there are going to be Democratic and Republican observers as those are counted.

Besides the whole card and electronic polling book disaster, I noticed other questionable behavior by officials. Namely, voting officials coming past my voting station and turning their head as they passed, appearing to read my ballot as I cast votes. The machines are propped up and not adequately shielded, so anyone passing by can know who you're voting for.

Secondly, some voters, including myself, were ordered to take out their cell phone and turn it off by an election judge. Again, that is illegal action by the official. The voting process is spelled out step by step in the materials mailed to voters before the election. Nothing can be left out. Likewise, judges cannot arbitrarily invent new voting procedures. In retrospect, I should have challenged that order. But the level of voter intimidation is so high now, with longtime voters being disenfranchised, ballots that "time-out" to scare people into selecting familiar incumbent names, etc., that I guess I just counted myself lucky to be able to exercise my right to vote. Some people lost that right Tuesday. Now, what is the deal with turning off your cell phone? I've heard rumors that it was to prevent interference with the wireless system that connects the electronic books with the central database. Or would cell phones interfere with some electronic misbehavior that was afoot? When someone asked why they must be turned off, the judge refused to give the reason. Now, in that situation, you can only speculate as to what in the world is going on. Which hardly contributes to voter confidence.

Anyway, I had changed my plan and was waiting to vote around noon, so everything was working by that time at my polling place. I was all over the District, and upset to find that many of our precinct chairs went AWOL, while Democrats had a literature table manned at every polling place. This cannot happen on November 7. I came across my opponents at Bethesda ES around 4. Well, at least the two who are campaigning. (The third incumbent did win, leaving the Democrats with only two Washington Post-endorsed candidates. A recent op-ed feature stated that endorsements are an obligation and public service by the Post, and accepting that as a factual statement would require them to give voters three names for a three-seat race. Hence, they will need to endorse at least one Republican to do so.) Brian Frosh, my dad's opponent, was there too, and they were apparently getting some unequal time on WTTG Channel 5. When I tried to contact the TV crew, they were either hiding in the back of their truck or off the premises. Wait a minute, that's Fox. So much for "fair and balanced." Unequal time, I say. That's illegal. Which was pretty much the theme for voters on Tuesday. Resignations by election officials are sure to follow in the next 48 hours, but the emphasis on unconstitutional early voting by Democrats in Annapolis had the expected consequences yesterday. Marc Fisher, writing in the Post, said Tuesday's events were not predicted. But Governor Bob Ehrlich and other Republicans in Annapolis had warned this would happen months ago. The whole situation is an absolute embarrassment and disgrace. Mexico's recent election was cleaner than this. Both Democratic and Republican voters deserve to have the right to vote in a fair election process.

As it got later, the sun went down, and the lights did not come on in the Westland MS parking lot. Again, this was another attempt to discourage voting by making it appear from the street that the polling place was closed. Gus Alzona's son was working there, eventually turning his car around to illuminate the area with the high beams. Gus Alzona himself was next door at Little Flower, where I picked up my last vote of the night. A voter shook my hand vigorously, took my literature, and said, "Any man who'll stand out in the dark like this has my vote."
Thank you, sir.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

The primary is less than 48 hours away, and over this weekend the momentum has shifted in the District 16 Delegate race.

Friday night, I was invited to attend Mike Monroe's reception in Pooks Hill. We have a full slate of Republicans in District 16 this year: myself, Mike, and Angela Markelonis. So after the usual traffic jam in Bethesda, I finally got to Pooks Hill. It was a good turnout, and there were even some registered Democrats there supporting Mike. That's the kind of bipartisan support we need to win on Nov. 7. It was also a very intellectual crowd, including some fellow history majors in attendance. So it was a very interesting evening. Candidates Tom Rheinheimer, Mark Uncapher, and Jim Goldberg were there. And we have a new winner for Best Food at a Campaign Event. Wow, I was very impressed. All kinds of cheese, wine, gourmet eggs, ham, even a cake. It must have been a lot of work to put this all together, and thanks again to Mike and his wife for having me as a guest. Also, their condo has quite a spectacular view. There was a full moon, and you can see the Mormon Temple rising over the trees in the distance, and the Bethesda Naval Hospital. Very impressive, more like a resort hotel than a regular condo building.

It was a nice start to a busy weekend of campaigning. The issues I've talked about since my campaign started keep coming up in the headlines and on the campaign trail. Transportation, school construction, and criminals in the classroom, to name three.

Then, today, there was a critical development in the District 16 race. The Washington Post declined to endorse one of the three incumbent Democratic Delegates in District 16. They suggested she is unable to serve and has lost support. Instead, they endorsed one of her Democratic primary opponents, who is even more liberal. So, in November, the Democrats will either have a candidate unendorsed by the major newspaper in the area, or have an even more extreme-left candidate who is unknown to the public. Suddenly, the momentum is shifting our way, as we have 3 viable Republican candidates who represent the citizens, not the political extremes. So there is a lot of excitement and enthusiasm as Tuesday's Primary is almost here.