Frederick County: Union shouldn’t control school board

Tom Neumark says many of the things I had been thinking about the county school board races. We really shouldn’t want a board entirely consisting of members raised to office through the political clout of the teachers’ union with its Apple Ballot. Yet that’s what we may soon find ourselves with.

Two incumbents were denied the union’s endorsement this year, namely April Miller and Elizabeth Barrett. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that these two — though differing from each other in many ways — are both known for thinking for themselves, asking hard questions, and standing up for parents and families not always represented otherwise.

It raises all sorts of conflict of interest for the education unions to place their members, retirees, and close associates in public offices regularly called on to resist union demands. Yet Frederick County is already much of the way down that road. Let’s not proceed further.

Related: two school board hopefuls aren’t FCPS employees, but still have a less direct stake in compensation decisions, per this LTE from Stephanie Covati of Middletown.

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Frederick County: NO on Question D

My letter to the editor in the Frederick News-Post opposing Question D, on mandatory binding arbitration and collective bargaining for career firefighters:

Please vote NO on Question D, a charter amendment promoted by the firefighters union at the intended expense of taxpayers and the general public. The provisions of D expanding collective bargaining are bad enough, but even worse are those subjecting the county to mandatory binding arbitration whose outcome — get this — must be funded in the county budget, no matter what the people’s elected representatives may think of it.

Mandatory binding arbitration in the public workplace takes fiscal decisions away from those who are accountable to voters. It gives unions an artificial incentive to arrive at a bargaining impasse so as to call in an arbitrator who will always give them at least as much as management’s offer. It is also unfair to other employees who don’t get such privileges. In states like Connecticut and California, this system has done much damage to the finances and flexibility of local government, resulting in high property tax levels, cuts to other services, or both.

News-Post reporter Samantha Hogan writes that, ‘At a forum for nearly all the county council candidates at the Brunswick Fire Department, each one said they didn’t support Question D, given the binding arbitration aspect.’ They’re right to oppose a measure that is D for damaging, destructive and defective.”

Walter Olson
New Market

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Scott Beyer’s Market Urbanism Report looks at Baltimore up close

Scott Beyer’s Market Urbanism Report has an active presence on Facebook and has just used it to devote a month’s worth of attention to the problems, challenges, and quirks of Baltimore, from policing good and bad to Formstone to the money-sink Hilton project to eminent domain to housing abandonment to the upkeep of public spaces. Check out the whole group as well as its associated website for a treasure trove of analysis and information about city and development issues, informed by market reasoning.

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Maryland’s (and its counties’) unfunded pension obligations

As Carol Park notes in this Maryland Reporter write-up, the Maryland Public Policy Institute has published a report and interactive map by which Maryland residents can check the funding status of county public employees in their counties. There is a wide spread between how well funded the counties are, with five in the healthy situation of being 90 percent or more funded (Montgomery, Frederick, Charles, Calvert, Cecil), and at the other end ten counties in the less enviable position of being less than 70 percent funded, including Baltimore City and County and Prince George’s as well as many rural counties.

Meanwhile, the state legislators’ group ALEC has published Unaffordable and Unaccountable 2017, which

surveys the more than 280 state-administered public pension plans, detailing their assets and liabilities. The unfunded liabilities (the amount by which the present value of liabilities exceeds current assets) are reported using the investment return assumptions used by states, along with alternative measures more consistent with prudent risk management and more reasonable long-term market performance expectations. This report clearly illuminates the pervasive pension underfunding across the nation and details the assumptions and trends contributing to this crisis.

Maryland is around the middle of the pack among the 50 states, which is not good enough. It did improve its ranking slightly from 27th best to 23rd best state between 2016 and 1017, but the absolute amount of unfunded liabilities per capita in Maryland actually rose, from $15,570 to $16,481. And its funding ratio sank from 33.1% to 32.5%, this at a time of economic recovery. Wisconsin is the most strongly funded state and Connecticut the worst. The report, by Thurston Powers, Elliot Young, Bob Williams and Erica York, is here.

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In miniature, August 24

  • So embarrassing for Maryland that Attorney General Brian Frosh signed onto this turkey of a lawsuit challenging Congress’s curtailment of the SALT deduction [Howard Gleckman]
  • I was a guest of Jerry Rogers on WBAL to talk about the showdown between conservative religious adoption agencies and LGBT rights groups and you can listen here (background);
  • Baltimore politicos move to save city from non-threat / non-horror of private water supply [Joe Setyon, Reason]
  • Sen. Ben Cardin, sometimes painted as cautious or even moderate, throws red meat to Left on Brett Kavanaugh nomination [Bruce DePuyt, Maryland Matters]
  • “Among the questions about Mr. Elrich is one he raised himself by pledging to invite the president of the largest county employees union into interview and hiring deliberations ‘for any and all department heads’ in the county. That is an extraordinary promise…also unwise.” [Washington Post editorial]
  • How a machine based on the schools lobby ran politics for years in Montgomery County [Adam Pagnucco, The Seventh State]

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Frederick County’s June 26 Republican primary

I had been planning to write up the precinct results of the Republican primary vote for Frederick County Executive (data) but this map by Jordan Tessler tells the story in a picture. Councilman Kirby Delauter ran competitively in in-town Frederick and Brunswick as well as winning the county’s northernmost towns, which he has represented on the Council. That left him 10 points behind Del. Kathy Afzali, who swept suburban developments from Ballenger Creek to growth-vexed southeastern areas like Monrovia and Kemptown, as well as easily carrying Jefferson and her home of Middletown. Regina Williams showed localized strength, carrying five or six precincts east of Frederick around Libertytown and New Market. The overall lesson: the suburbanized areas are now where the Republican primary is won or lost in the county.

In the 3rd District Senate primary, in which Delauter’s frequent ally Billy Shreve was far outdistanced (77-23) by businessman Craig Giangrande, it was once again the suburban and newer-home vote that had its way. Giangrande ran best in outlying parts of the district such as Jefferson, Oakdale, and Worman’s Mill, while Shreve tended to fare best in in-town districts.

The four-way primary contesting two at-large seats, won by Phil Dacey and Danny Farrar, did not draw a strongly regionalized vote.

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On the Elevate Maryland podcast

Thanks Tom Coale, Candace Dodson Reed, and Ilana Bittner for having me as a guest on the Elevate Maryland podcast, which focuses on civic and political life from a Howard County vantage point. I join at the 20 minute mark and after a lengthy and detailed discussion of gerrymandering and the Maryland Redistricting Reform Commission’s recommendations, we move on to topics like the comparative restaurant scene (E.C. vs. Rockville vs. Volt and Family Meal — must we choose?), accordions, and TV. [Player.fm, iTunes]

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Local man quoted on prospects for redistricting reform in second Hogan term

Here, by Josh Kurtz at Maryland Matters. Related: one reason Republicans on the national scene may rue their indulgence in gerrymandering is that systematically placing many seats beyond opponents’ reach in an evenly balanced electorate requires crowding a lot of them into the zone just past that (say, where the party advantage is between +4 and +8). But that leaves the gerrymandering party vulnerable to a mid-sized wave that might tip a lot of seats at once [Bernard Grofman and Thomas Brunell 2005 via John Gastil, Washington Post, “Monkey Cage” 2016]

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Maryland public employees’ Janus rights

If you’re a public employee, the Supreme Court has ruled that you have a First Amendment right to decide for yourself whether to pay agency fees to a union. You might decide, for example, that the union’s bargaining objectives do not reflect your own wishes and priorities, or that the union’s presence is simply not worth the cost to you in fees. The My Pay My Say website helps you exercise your Janus rights and assist other employees in exercising theirs.

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“Why Does Maryland Hate Airbnb?”

“A bill given serious consideration in Annapolis this spring would require platforms like Airbnb to collect detailed information about hosts and guests, retain it for up to four years, and turn it over to the state government if requested. Failure to comply with any of the rules would result in $500 fines for individual hosts, with each further violation adding another $500 to the tab. Critics say the privacy concerns and escalating fines are clearly meant to deter would-be hosts from renting out their spaces. The bill’s sponsor, Del. William Frick (D–Montgomery County), hails from the district that not-so-coincidentally contains Marriott’s new, state-subsidized corporate headquarters.” [Eric Boehm, Reason]

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