Thursday, February 15, 2018

The Arrogance of the Siddiquis

Turning to HoCo’s House Lannister, Dr. Janet Siddiqui has decided to enter the race for the 4th County Council District.

First of all, one should be skeptical of the argument that self-funders can be independent of special interests (“unbought and unbossed” to employ former Congresswoman Shirley Chisolm’s slogan).  Folks with the ability to loan themselves $100,000 (funneled through various committees, as outlined here: https://scotteblog.com/2018/01/17/will-janet-siddiqui-run-for-office-in-2018/) are themselves a special interest.  Of course, I expect her campaign won’t completely self-fund, but who would give the Siddiquis money to fill their coffers?  Fortunately, campaign finance reports are available to the public. Just go ahead and type in “Siddiqui” in the Committee Name box here: https://campaignfinancemd.us/Public/ViewFiledReports

Her attempted job hop in 2014, from the Board of Education to a brief run for the House of Delegates in District 13 to deciding to drop out in favor of her husband Nayab is redolent of a sense of entitlement.  This familial bait-and-switch was rejected by Team 13, while she was selected to run on the slate, Nayab was not. In her own words, she said regarding a run for the state legislature, “I’ve always looked forward to that in my plan.”  (Source: http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/howard/columbia/ph-janet-siddiqui-withdraws-district-13-story.html).  Oh really, would you care to tell Howard County voters more about your "plan?"  Or how the events of “the day of the filing” were necessary for you to rediscover your “commitment to the people and children of Howard County.”  If that commitment was so unshakeable, should it have mattered what Aquino and Meshkin did or did not do re: seeking re-election to the Board?

Let us not forget the very recent past, when Janet Siddiqui voted to retain the services of former Superintendent Renee Foose.  By voting with the other members of the “Gang of Five” to renew her contract, this gave Foose the leverage to secure a massive ($1.65 million) buy-out.  Of course, it should be noted that three members of this Gang were tossed out of office by Howard County voters in 2016, including Dr. Siddiqui.

Back to when she was on the Board of Education, her commitment seemingly didn’t extend to an awareness of certain aspects of the position.  When asked about the public release of a “special education audit,” that one parent called “critical information that the public needs,” Siddiqui’s reply was “I don’t know that it hasn’t been released” (Source: http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/howard/columbia/ph-ho-cf-special-education-forum-0414-20160412-story.html). The report cost $300,000 yet only 26 pages were released to the public ($11,538 per page).  As parents and other activists clamored for greater transparency and a full report, Siddiqui’s response, “we should work with what we have, moving forward.”  That sounds like acquiescence, not advocacy.

Then there is the curious relationship that the Siddiquis seem to enjoy with gas station owners.  Another prominent blogger has written more about this topic (Source:  
http://53beersontap.typepad.com/53beers/2014/06/siddiqui-and-omvb-leaders-to-bring-gas-station-to-om-village-center.html

If you prefer videos for information,  a YouTube channel (HCEA Howard) created four short videos featuring Janet Siddiqui in which you might be interested:

Ranging from mold to poor spending decisions and weak financial oversight, they include:

Pediatrician Janet Siddiqui falls short on health issues for students and staff:


Failed management by Board Member Janet Siddiqui proven in State Audit:


State Audit Results under Janet Siddiqui’s leadership


Janet Siddiqui spends our tax dollars in the wrong places


In the opinion of this author, her track record demonstrates questionable judgement and an excessive degree of concern over what is best for the Siddiquis, not Howard County.  As said in campaign literature in support of Grover Cleveland’s presidential candidacy, “public office is a public trust.”  Based on her performance, Dr. Siddiqui has not earned our trust, and she should not be elected to a public office such as the County Council.

Stay tuned, as more will follow…



Friday, February 9, 2018

A Promise...and a Marker


This is not a legacy piece regarding Maryland State Senator Kasemeyer (D-12).  Frankly, this blog has argued that Kasemeyer could (and perhaps should) have faced a spirited primary challenge this cycle.

The Democratic Party, certainly in state legislative districts which are capable of electing thoughtful, civic-minded progressives, should nominate such individuals to be their standard bearers.  Of course, this is a reflection of Michael Harrington’s perspective on the importance of the “left wing of the possible.”

Of course, not every matter is strictly “ideological” in the classic meaning of the word.  It has already been noted that the delegation plays an important role on such issues as the manner of election of the Howard County Board of Education.  I concur with others than the retiring Senator missed an opportunity here.

However, there are a number of issues which do reflect progressive values and sensibilities. A short list would include, but is far from limited to, the following:

-          A $15 an hour state minimum wage
-          Either single-payer health care for Maryland, or at the very least a state run-public option
-          Movement towards tuition-free college in Maryland
-          The de-concentration of economic power through a more progressive state taxation structure
-          The practical expansion of the right to vote through same-day voter registration

Policy ideas matter.  They can change people’s day-to-day lives. They have real-world consequences.  To that end, this blog will taking a very close look at the policy platforms & prescriptions offered up by those who seek public office in Howard County, especially in my home district, the 12th.   That is my guarantee to you, the reader.

Stay tuned, as more will follow.

In solidarity.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Elevate This…

The fact of the matter is that Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman wants it both ways.  He wants to latch onto the (relatively) progressive legacy of (some) of his family while still retaining the R-label, so he can secure his base…which is virulently pro-Trump.

Now, F-list minions like C.O. [whose full name is not important, at all], who would not have been entrusted to fetch the coffee of GOP backbenchers in the ‘90s, may try to spin it otherwise (and poorly, like a hack) …but the brutal reality is that if Kittleman really were truly independent-minded, he would leave the GOP and run as an independent in 2018.

Party affiliation is a window into one’s values.  I quit the GOP in the early 2000s for several reasons.  First and foremost, it had become abundantly clear that the liberal wing (here is looking at you, Governor Milliken) was clearly not aligned with the Republican Party of the Bush 43 era.  The “religious” conservatives along with the neo-cons had a lock on the party.  If you were progressive, there was only one honest choice, and that was to join the Democratic Party (or an organization even further to the left, but that is by-the-by).

So now, the GOP, the party of the “malefactors of great wealth” (a phrase employed by Teddy Roosevelt, a Republican for whatever that is worth) is now whining about certain campaign finance issues.  To that, I say let’s take a close look at who is giving $ to the Kittleman campaign.  What is it they want?  And who is getting paid?  These are all useful and pressing questions.

Let’s face it, based on the State of the Union, the Republican Party is a wholly owned subsidiary of Trump Inc.  Kittleman needs to be held to account for maintaining his allegiance to a party that decided to sell what remained of its soul to a deranged real estate "mogul" who has no business being anywhere near 1600 Pennsylvania.  Which begs the question: who does Kittleman truly put first? The county or his party?

In solidarity.


     

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Seven Questions

With the Maryland filing deadline fast approaching for those who are (or are considering) seeking public office in the 2018 election cycle (February 27, 2018 to be precise), this blog is once again considering what questionnaires (if any) to send out to various campaigns.  Of course, the issue mix ranges depending on a number of factors (for example: whether the candidate is seeking a Federal, State, or Local office). 

While we can discuss specific policy proposals all day long ($15/hr federal minimum wage, Medicare for All, etc…), I like to return to exploring “first principles” to understand how candidates think about underlying issues. 

That said, these are the questions I find foremost on my mind in 2018, in no particular order:

1)      Do you consider the increased concentration of economic wealth in the United States to be corrosive to our democracy?  If yes, how should this issue be addressed? If not, why not?
2)      What are your thoughts on social democracy? 
3)      Racial discrimination continues to plague our nation.  This is evident in our workforce (hiring practices, income disparities, opportunities for advancement, etc…), in the administration of our criminal justice system, in systemic efforts to disenfranchise voters based on race, in the relative dearth of substantive environmental protections for communities where people of color constitute a large percentage of the population, and in other facets of American life.  What steps can and should be taken to address these issues?
4)      Thinking about the principles of liberty and equality, and this can apply to any given challenge (fiscal, social, etc…), how can they both be promoted to ensure that the “unalienable rights” of all Americans are protected?
5)      Let’s assume that something called “class warfare” exists.  If so, who has been winning? For how long? And in whose interest is it to continue the war?  
6)      Considering the UN’s sustainable development goals which refer to gender equality as a “fundamental human right,” how is America performing when it comes to promoting gender equality and what specific steps can and should be taken to secure true gender equality in the United States?
7)      Many LGBTQIA Americans have expressed concerns that the current Administration (and those who view the world similarly) are dedicated to rolling back recent legal protections fought for, and recognized, in this country.  What steps can and should be taken to safeguard the rights of LGBTQIA citizens to participate fully in the “pursuit of happiness” stated in our Declaration of Independence?  


Will this be the basis of the questionnaire? Who may receive it?  Who may respond to it of their own volition? Stay tuned, as more will follow...

In solidarity.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

HoCo Council Districts 3 and 4 – But What About Bitcoin Contributions?

I once attended a forum where a senior advisor to a cash-strapped presidential candidate attempted to make the argument that having more money, for a campaign, was worse than having less money as the value of the individual dollar was greater when there is less money (based on scarcity of resources).  The good news is that the architecture of the hall was conducive to forming a wave of laughter that swept him off the stage.

Back to local news.

Upon reviewing the latest campaign finance data, there is nothing about the cash hauls in District 3 that compels me to say, X has the nomination sewn up.  Two candidates currently lead the money field, Jennings and Rigby, while the other two, Hunt and Hadgu, each pulled in decent sums.   It’s what one does with the money that matters.  How good is their targeting?  Are they employing the right messaging?  How compelling will their direct mail be?  How are their door-to-door efforts proceeding?  Are their volunteers hyper-motivated?  Who is using social media most effectively as a voter engagement platform? These, and others, are questions of critical importance in local elections where most turnout models point toward “low.”  Not to mention that another candidate (or two) could conceivably jump into the fray, which could shake up the equation and lead each campaign to revisit and possibly revise their positioning/strategy.  Granted, I believe that these four will constitute the top four finishers in the D primary, regardless of who else might toss in their chapeau.  In which order will they finish? I have some ideas. I might share them later.

D4: my home district.  There is talk of some malefactor of middling wealth who might jump in.  Let’s put aside this speculation on whether a minion of Big Gas might run.  We need to focus on the whole campaign, as it stands now.  Oh, and sorry Ian, you don’t make the cut.

Jung has a modest war chest, but Fikes is a serious contender who has just gotten started.  There is no “favorite” in this race (from an Establishment perspective, although this author does not pretend to be part of said Establishment).  Jung has a good profile for the office she seeks, but Fikes does as well and is more closely aligned with recent education issues, which is the number one topic in Howard County. See the questions I raised regarding D3?  They also apply to D4.  And rest assured, dear Reader, my preferred candidate will emerge as the Democratic nominee in the Fourth District. 


In solidarity.

Pocketbook Abattoir

Quick thoughts on the fundraising numbers. 

Normally, the release of the campaign finance data results in a couple of candidates pondering how to exit the room most gracefully.  This time around, it is challenging to see who is in clear mortal peril.  Let’s start at the top and focus on surprises:

Governor’s Race: Baker and Kamenetz both clear $1.0M raised in the reporting period (2017), but the latter leads the former in the critically important Cash on Hand category by a sizable margin ($2.0M to $696K.  Note – all figures are from my hand-scrawled notes. Second note – loans are important to acknowledge as distinguishing between financial backing expressed through contributions vs. self-financing is one, albeit just one, indicator of “public” support.  However, money spends like money so I am not breaking out loan data here.

So Shea has $1.3M Cash on Hand. Big deal.  Show me his constituency.  He – like Ross – will probably have to rely on a “well, if we finish in second place everywhere, we have a shot at this” strategy.  Between the two, I think Ross is better situated to execute such a maneuver, and even then, he is unlikely to pull it off.  Unless Shea starts distinguishing himself on Issues (yes, I will get to Madaleno soon), I don’t know where his campaign goes.  Just another well-funded vanity exercise?  Possibly. An audition for the LG slot?  Perhaps.

Jealous pulled in $1.25M in 2017, more than Baker and Kamenetz, it should be noted.  But he started from $0 and he had a relatively high burn rate, so he is showing just shy of $400K.  His union and progressive support and ability to garner paid media attention still make him a serious force.  He needs to consolidate the left though (fine, Rich, give me one second).

Sen. Madaleno strikes me as similar to a thoughtful, left-of-center Michigan politico named Lynn Jondahl.   Jondahl was a respected figure in Michigan politics for decades, a long-time member of the state House of Representatives (a Delegate in Maryland verbiage).  He ran for Governor in 1994 and he finished 4th in the Democratic primary with around 10% of the vote.  Madaleno has only $193K CoH, but I anticipate he will continue to make some noise in Annapolis through policy proposals (like the $15 minimum wage bill he is introducing with Delegate Hettleman).  Probably just visible enough to appeal to good-government, media and policy-attentive progressives.  Can he build a constituency large enough to capture a plurality in Montgomery County? Maybe.  Could he finish in the top 3 in neighboring Howard County? Conceivably.  This author – who has not yet selected a favorite – believes that Madaleno would be a very good Governor, but I am not seeing an easy path to the Democratic nomination for the Senator.

Krish Vignarajah, whose website can be found here: http://krishformaryland.com/, had a better than expected showing.  I fell asleep before her numbers were posted. I woke up expecting her to have a CoH figure around Madaleno’s and definitely south of Jealous.  $405 CoH, with a very frugal burn rate (only $25K in expenditures compared to $431K raised) is not bad at all.  With these numbers, her campaign clears the threshold of “serious.” In a low turnout primary, a woman who is a policy wonk with sufficient money in the bank can be well-positioned to make a move…particularly going into the televised debate season and especially if folks like Baker and Kamenetz start going after each other.  Can Vignarajah pull off a Feingold ’92?  I don’t see why she couldn’t.  

I will focus on other state and local races shortly.  Back to work.

In solidarity.