Wednesday, April 18, 2018

HoCo BoE: Taj, Mallo, and Miller

‘Tis, of course, endorsement season.

When I first launched this blog, way back in the Beforetimes of 2014, I decided to issue endorsements (in part) to deconstruct the meaning of an endorsement in an evolving media landscape.  I thought it might be an interesting way to lampshade the increasingly important role of blogs as information delivery vehicles/conversation drivers; particularly those blogs that cover local politics and public affairs at a time when local journalism is, shall we say, hurting.

On a less meta note, I also wanted to use the platform to support candidates I liked.

Which brings me to today’s post.  With the Primary Election slightly more than two months away, I wanted to go on record with my support for three candidates for the Howard County Board of Education:

Sabina Taj
Jen Mallo
Robert Miller

With the Board on the precipice of losing a great deal of institutional knowledge (with all of the incumbents up this cycle choosing to not seek re-election…or election in the case of the one appointed member), Howard County needs to elect Board of Education members who are thoughtful and experienced community leaders who have demonstrated their knowledge of education issues, their deep understanding of the Howard County Public School System (HCPSS), and their ability to work with a variety of stakeholders to achieve real-world outcomes that benefit our schools.   

Of the 13 candidates vying to finish in the top eight in the June Primary and in the top four (and thus secure election) in the November General, I believe the three aforementioned candidates…Taj, Mallo, and Miller…are the best of the field and offer impressive talents and informed perspectives that would serve our schools, and the County as a whole, extremely well.

Sabina Taj has a long and distinguished history working on education issues.  Her Foundation work has given her first-hand knowledge of K – 12 education best practices and creative, thoughtful solutions from across the country.  To build upon the strengths of our schools, we need an influx of new ideas and Taj can offer fresh perspectives.  Furthermore, Taj has a great deal of hands-on Howard County education experience, including being an Adjunct Professor at Howard Community College, a member of the Board of Education’s Operating Budget Review Committee, and as a member of the executive board of an elementary school PTA.  Finally, her positions on priorities as reported in a candidate questionnaire she recently filled out… “healthy schools, healthy students…community representation…[and] educational equity” are all highly salient and well-aligned with critical community needs. 

Jen Mallo has impressive education advocacy credentials.  A former Chair and Vice Chair of the Community Advisory Council, a PTA and Boosters leader, and a highly engaged volunteer, Mallo has not only been a committed advocate for teachers, staff, and students…she has also had the opportunity to examine, in-depth, HCPSS practices, procedures, and systems.  Now is not the time to elect candidates who require training wheels.  Like Taj, I believe Mallo is ready to be an excellent Board of Education member on Day One of the job.  They possess the right knowledge and the ability to ask the right (and tough) questions.  Moreover, Mallo’s stated positions on priorities including “fiscal responsibility…teacher empowerment…[and] equity” reflect not only critical structural needs but also an analytic approach to problem solving.  The Board of Education, bearing in mind the fiscal challenges faced by HCPSS, needs members with such analytic skills.

I have already written about, and announced my support for Robert Miller previously.  So I will keep this short. Miller is a reflective educator who spent 34 years in the classroom.  Miller has a deep understanding of effective teaching strategies and ideas on how to promote the best educational environment. His voice in policy debates will be a vital one. His stated positions on priorities such finding ways to increase the time spent on quality instruction, on improving the atmosphere and communications involving parents and teachers, and on preparing our students to be well-rounded citizens through increased social and emotional learning are all ideas deserving of an advocate at the Board-level.      

Will there be a fourth BoE endorsement?  Possibly but these three candidates have my full support.  I encourage all Howard County voters to cast their ballots for Sabina Taj, Jen Mallo, and Robert Miller for the Board of Education in the upcoming June Primary Election.

In solidarity.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

New Siddiqui Email? New Week, New Scandal?

First, look below.  Has anyone else received this email?

While I received this from multiple sources, I cannot verify the authenticity of it.  I do not know if it, in fact, came from Nayab Siddiqui.

This email appears to show two things: 

1) a willingness by the email's author to pay the Columbia Democratic Club membership dues for other people, apparently for the purpose of enabling such individuals to vote for Janet Siddiqui at the upcoming CDC endorsement meeting (see the last paragraph of the email, below).

2) an apparent recognition that, if this offer were to become widely known, it would reflect poorly on the email's sender ("Please restrict distribution of this email.").

This email reads like an attempt to buy votes and thereby manipulate the Columbia Democratic Club's endorsement process. 

If this email was fabricated, the author should come forward and admit it.  If this is a legitimate email sent out by Nayab Siddiqui on behalf of Janet Siddiqui's campaign, he should admit it and Dr. Siddiqui should immediately withdraw from the Howard County Council - District 4 race.

Encouraging supporters to come out to an event is one thing.  There is no place for pay-to-play vote rigging in Democratic politics.  This email exemplifies precisely the sort of political avarice that we don't need in Howard County.  We are the Party of the People, not of elite private interests.  This behavior can not and should not be tolerated.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

On Syria

Let me state, from the outset and for the record, that I believe the current Administration faces legitimate legitimacy issues.  Any Administration that obtains office without securing even the leanest plurality of the popular vote (Adams 1824, Hayes 1876, Harrison 1888, Bush 2000, and Trump 2016) is similarly afflicted.  Second, the GOP has actively been the party of disenfranchisement for many years now, operating in and through the states to purge voters from the rolls.  Such nefarious acts performed by Republican operatives and their hirelings, as chronicled by such news outlets as Mother Jones, helped deliver Wisconsin for Trump in the last presidential election.  Third, the authoritarian regime of Vladimir Putin clearly had a favorite son in the ’16 presidential race and Russian interference in our electoral process cannot be denied.  Fourth and far from finally, we have a president who, through word and deed, seems determined to govern like a petulant tinhorn and who has seemingly ignored or subverted the Oath of Office repeatedly since he swore the Oath on January 20, 2017.  Mr. Trump should not be President and, for the good of the country, he should resign immediately or be impeached and convicted as soon as possible.

That being stated, we turn to the recent airstrikes in Syria against the Assad regime.  Some of my comrades on the Democratic left have excoriated this Administration (as well as the May and Macron governments) for conducting a campaign of imperialist aggression.  They are not incorrect, but they are also missing the point. Social democrats and democratic socialists (so similar yet so different) as well as traditional Democratic progressives need to recognize that President Bashar Hafez al-Assad, while he called himself a “socialist,” is a murderous despotic thug who has, according to the United Nations, been implicated in involvement in war crimes.  He is no friend of the people. And, in such instances, someone must stand up and take action on behalf of those oppressed by the Assad government.  Frankly, regime change should be on the table.  The problem is, who can be trusted to bring about regime change in a way that doesn’t lead to even more civilian casualties in a nation that has been embroiled in a Civil War for over 7 years (and counting)?  Given a range of terrible options and regional actors (notably including Russia and Iran) that are hell-bent on promoting their narrow interests and the protection of the Assad dictatorship, it is unfortunate that we can only strike at Syria’s “chemical weapons infrastructure.”  Assad needs to go.

In an ideal world, we would be seeking a diplomatic solution to this long, bloody conflict.  Perhaps a different American president could have found a way to work with the U.N., with our allies, with Russia, and with Iran to find a solution that would have removed Assad and brought about a cessation of hostilities.  Let us not forget the many victims of this conflict, the average people who have been forced to become refugees and those who still live in Syria, afraid for their lives and facing an uncertain future.  It is a tragedy that such people cannot look to the United States for deliverance.

Of course, this crisis has spanned two Presidencies now.  The Obama Administration must bear a measure of responsibility for not finding a solution to this dire situation.  That said, I can’t help but believe that a Clinton Administration would have been far better equipped than the current one to find a treatment to this cancer.  At the very least, in this alternative universe, there would likely have been an A-Team in place at State, at Defense, at our other national security and diplomatic agencies instead of our current government-by-whim, executed by some professionals but far too many talentless hacks and sycophants who have no business in public service.

Which brings me to one last point.  For far too long, Democratic and Republican Administrations alike have side-stepped the war-making powers reserved for Congress in Article One of the United States Constitution.  It is well-past time for a re-visitation of the War Powers Act of 1973 to ensure that the American Congress exercises its proper Constitutional function.  In times like these in particular, we need as many safeguards in place as possible to prevent a dangerous “Commander-in-Chief” from taking us over the cliff. 

I would hope that my brothers and sisters would agree with me that reining in executive power is consistent with the democratic principle of checking arbitrary authority and ensuring that the consent of the governed drives our policy-making… for it is through the people, and only through the people, that governments find their legitimacy.

In solidarity.


Thursday, April 12, 2018

The Answer is Krish

Krish Vignarajah’s recent campaign ad was evocative of the scene in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King when Eowyn, the Lady of Rohan, stabbed the Witch-king of Angmar in his Ringwraith face.  No man could kill him, he said, well…Eowyn was no man.   

I am not necessarily saying that Maryland Governor Larry Hogan is the Witch-king.  He seems more akin Grima Wormtongue, but for the benefit of those who have not read Tolkien, I shall move on.

I am thinking about this in relation to the Governor’s race.  Over the past couple of months, I had settled on the likelihood that I would not be endorsing a single candidate. With multiple excellent options, I thought I would make a game-day decision on Primary Day; I would vote for the progressive (Vignarajah, Jealous, or Madaleno) that the polling data revealed to have the best chance of winning the Democratic nomination.  

But I have since re-considered that mind-set.  I believe the Democratic Party needs to nominate a candidate who offers a clear and compelling contrast to Hogan (in matters of policy, communications, and optics); someone who has been consistently impressive on the campaign trail and who has demonstrated an in-depth knowledge of the issues that matter most to Maryland voters.

Thinking about a future gubernatorial debate, I reflected on several questions. Who do I most want on the stage facing off against Hogan?  Who is best equipped to beat Hogan at such forums? Who can pull together a constituency large enough to defeat a fairly popular incumbent Governor in November? Knowing that the Democratic Party will come together after the Primary Election and rally behind any of our fine candidates, all of whom have a good chance of winning the General Election, who should be our standard-bearer?  

That is why I am pleased to announce the Spartan Considerations endorsement of Krish Vignarajah for Governor.   Simply stated, she is running on a smart platform on education issues (universal pre-K, free community college), on economic issues, on what her campaign describes as family issues (paid family leave, a state-run public health care option, gender equity, and improved public transportation, among other priorities), and on environmental/sustainability issues.  Beyond a serious policy agenda, she also has demonstrated her considerable abilities as a communicator.  She is a policy wonk who can deliver complex information (on policy challenges as well as solutions) in an accessible manner.  Moreover, she has a strong background in public service that will serve her well as Governor.

Nothing against Jealous and Madaleno.  They both have considerable strengths. That said, when I ask myself the question, who would be the best Democratic nominee for Governor?  The answer, for the present author, is clear: Krish.

In solidarity.