Letter: Unsolicited Advice

Letter: Unsolicited Advice

To the Editor:

Here’s my unsolicited advice for this election — first the local ballot questions, then the local candidates. Apologies if it is unwelcome! I have left you to your own devices on the Presidential race.

Ballot questions:

Most people skip these, so your vote has real significance.

There are three obscure questions on the county charter (Questions A, B & C), and seven less-obscure questions on the state constitution (Questions 1-7). You will be asked to vote for or against the proposed changes.

MoCo QA: For/yes.

Modify charter for hiring disabled persons.

Modify county charter re: hiring. Authorize County to hire severely disabled — but qualified — candidates.

Council approved it 9 to 0; unusual in itself. This measure authorizes the county to move forward — still needs enabling legislation for agencies and departments. It is based on a federal model with the same goal, and partly geared to our wounded warriors.

MoCo QB: For/yes.

Referendum on “Effects Bargaining.”

Again the Council was unanimous on this. It only affects the MoCo Police — not teachers, or firefighters, bus drivers, etc. Apparently our MoCo chief of police is much more restricted than most other chiefs, by this rule on "effects" that creates pressure not to change anything, without costly and time-consuming arbitration. Actual examples that have been cited in public discussions: Chief of Police wanted to put cameras in police vehicles and was forced into "effects bargaining" regarding what the effect would be. Same for changes to uniform. Or for punching in time. All have "effects" so have to be bargained.

MoCo QC: Only people who live in Damascus can vote on this. The question is whether to allow restaurants in Damascus to sell beer and wine by the glass, in the interest of keeping the restaurants financially viable. Most of you are not eligible to vote on this. No opinion here.

State Questions:

Q1: Relates to PG County.

Q2: Relates to Baltimore County.

Q3: For/yes. Good government bill.

Question 3 would change the law so that a sitting lawmaker at any level of government in the state would automatically lose his/her seat (and salary), upon pleading guilty to a felony. Duh!

Q4: For/yes. Dream Act.

This allows qualified children of undocumented parents to get in-state tuition at a state university.

To qualify a student must show all of the following:

  • at least three years in MD k-12

  • parents filed tax returns for at least three years (which undocumented workers can do with tax ID #)

  • no criminal record

  • if male, registered for selective service, and

  • 60-plus hours of coursework at a local community college.

Twelve other states have similar legislation; our is considered to have more hoops than the others. It would also be extended to any out-of-state veterans.

Q5: Opposed/No. Accept a terribly gerrymandered map.

This question would reject a ridiculously gerrymandered map for congressional districts that looks, as one councilmember says, like a blood-splat (see map of District 3, which is the most egregious, but gives you the idea). Remember the line: “Finally, have you no shame, sir?”

These maps were designed by D-controlled state legislators to help the MD congressional delegation get 7Ds and only 1R (currently 6 Ds/2 Rs). If the question is rejected, the results of this election still stand for two years, during which the state legislature would be required to re-do the map. No guarantee of better outcome.

But still — somehow agreeing to it goes against my grain, while saying no supports the growing movement toward creating non-partisan redistricting commissions for these things. I vote no/against.

Q6: Civil Marriage Protection Act. For/yes

Seven other states and D.C. have similar legislation. Affirming same-sex marriage within the state. If passed, no religious institutions are required to perform marriages to which they object: same-sex, mixed-race, mixed-religion, whatever. Gives same-sex couples the same rights regarding inheritance, hospital visitation, custody, etc.

Q7: Against/No. Gambling.

In 2007, slot machines were approved state-wide by 58 percent for five locations. Only 3 of the 5 are open today, 5 years later. If approved, Q7 would add (1) gaming tables and/or (2) PG County as a site for slots and/or gaming tables. Outcome could be bifurcated:

If PG votes no, they don’t get the games even if the rest of the state votes yes and does get them.

If PG votes yes and the rest of the state does too, the prior five spots get slots plus table games and PG get both too. On one hand it could really help PG County (and they need it). On the other hand it is an industry that preys on those least able to afford it, so free-choice notwithstanding, I am basically opposed.

Now the candidates:

Board of Education, County Council, Congress.

Board of Education: These elected people are in charge of a massive MCPS that spend $2 billion-plus per year, half the county budget. You should care even if you never had children. Although races are labeled as District x or y, everyone in the county gets to vote in all the Board of Education races, and the races are non-partisan.

Three BOE races at stake:

District 2: Fred Evans v. Rebecca Smondrowski. No incumbent

At-large: Phil Kaufman v. Morris Panner. Kaufman is incumbent.

District 4: Chris Barclay v. Annita Seclomger. Barclay is incumbent.

Disclaimer: I don’t track BOE as closely as I used to but attended a recent candidates forum which was instructive. There are others coming if you care to attend and question the candidates. Given how much they spend, you should.

In District 2 I come down on the side of Fred Evans. Both are decent, good people; Fred has decades on Rebecca, much of it spent working in MCPS and in Loudoun County, as principal in local high schools. Rebecca comes at it as a parent and activist, which is good too. Leaning hard to Fred.

At-Large: Incumbent Phil Kaufman is facing challenger Morris Panner. Not clear to me: your call. Phil has not impressed me with his energy or effort although I supported him last time around. Challenger is intriguing but I don’t know him really.

District 4: no strong opinion but leaning hard to challenger Annita Seckinger. Incumbent Chris Barclay has people palpably disappointed/unhappy. To my surprise he seemed uninformed about, for example, the financials of elementary-school language immersion programs (nearly a dozen for immersion/dual language in Spanish/French/Chinese) and their follow-on years. Short answer: no, they don’t cost more. Challenger Annita Seckinger is passionate and driven and deserves a chance.

County Council:

Not on the ticket this time around


District 6: Many of you have been magically transported to a new Congressional district, courtesy of the decennial redistricting map — political machinations of Annapolis. People who used to be in Congressman Van Hollen’s district (District 8) are now in District 6 which has been redrawn to stretch all the way from the Beltway to the Maryland border with West Virginia, yes really.

The new district is contested by 20-year incumbent Roscoe Bartlett (R, 86 years old) and newcomer-challenger John Delaney (D, 55-60-ish). Given my political views I am in Delaney’s column. I remain in Van Hollen’s district — right across the street from people who may not know they are in a new district. (Both signs — Delaney and Van Hollen — are in our driveway, and are available on my front porch for the taking.)

District 8: Van Hollen is going to walk away with it, but he still deserves your vote as one of the finest members of the House of Representatives, even if you’re not a D.

Sorry this was so long and thanks for your patience.

Above all, just go vote ---and take a few friends.

Diana E. Conway