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MC-GOP hosts Peroutka group seminar

Note: it’s not actually a good idea for the Montgomery County GOP to sponsor seminars from Pastor David Whitney of Michael Peroutka’s crackpot Institute on the Constitution — not that this is the first time Maryland Republican Party organizations have made this mistake.

P.S. Some readers get an “insecure site” warning clicking on the above link. (The warning shows up for me in a tablet app, but not on my desktop browser). That warning strongly suggests the MCGOP needs to fix vulnerabilities in its website, all Peroutka issues aside.

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Ron Young on his years as Frederick mayor

I’ve got a new piece in Maryland Reporter on urbanist lessons from Ron Young’s memoir of his years as mayor of Frederick. Among highlights: the time he told off a roomful of not-in-my-back-yard (NIMBY) homeowners:

“Early in his second term, Young writes, he ‘agreed to meet with a group of Frederick residents on the newly developing west side of the city. Almost every one of them had moved to Frederick, mostly from Montgomery County. It became apparent, quickly, that they wanted no one to follow them. Many bought houses across the street from where the pipes for water and sewer were sticking above the ground. They had to know that it was going to be built on. Entire developments that had been through planning, site approval and were already partially developed.’

“He tries to explain the problem: they want development stopped, period.

“Finally, ‘I said, “I am going to call the City Attorney in the morning and ask him to draw up an ordinance that will not allow anyone else to move into Frederick.” Amazingly, they broke out in applause. I then said, “I am going to ask them to make it five years retroactive and I want all of you to get out of my town.”‘ Reaction was mixed, with some attendees laughing and others angry, but ‘I have to confess, it made me feel better and got better results than I was getting before’ – the latter because a few of the critics decided to throw in the towel and work with him.”

Also, why festivals had to be self-supporting; what happened when a delegation of bar and restaurant owners showed up at his office demanding that the number of liquor licenses be frozen; and what it took to get that historic look.

There’s also a lot in the book about politics and personalities, but I didn’t try to evaluate that in my piece since I wasn’t around here at the time.

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No, Sen. Cardin, there is no hate speech exception to the First Amendment

Sen. Ben Cardin, speaking from his committee chairman’s chair, Dec. 28: “If you espouse hate, if you espouse violence, you’re not protected under the First Amendment. I think we can be more aggressive in the way that we handle that type of use of the internet.”

This is flatly wrong. The Supreme Court has made it clear that there is no hate speech exception to the First Amendment. Advocacy of violence is usually protected when not inciting imminent lawless action.

That Maryland’s senior senator would not understand this is shocking.

UPDATE: Sen. Cardin made a gesture at clarification today which unfortunately leads on to further errors. Contrary to his assertion in a Dec. 17 letter, speech that motivates another to crime or violence does not lose protection unless the link is both intended and imminent.

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Baltimore intends to remain Squeegee City

In Baltimore, aggressive squeegee kids have been a presence in downtown traffic for years. Now, as, Capital News Service reports, the city unveils a plan to 1) ask them to stay out of certain densely driven corridors, 2) pay some of them to change the way they spend their time, and 3) issue fines to drivers who tip them. Newly elected Baltimore City State’s Attorney Ivan Bates took part in the team that drew up the plan but has also offered a more straightforward analysis of the situation: what the kids do is already an unlawful interference with traffic.

Gov. Larry Hogan has long criticized the city’s non-enforcement policies, saying in July, “It certainly has had a major impact on people being afraid to come to the city because they’ve been harassed for years and years.” But much of the city’s active political class disagrees with him, dismissing as anecdotal or subjective the accounts of drivers, female and elderly especially, who say they have felt intimidated or coerced to give money during the exchanges.

Sometimes it appears being “made to feel unsafe” isn’t such a big deal after all.

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“Yes” on five statewide measures and Frederick County Question A

Of the five issues on the Maryland ballot this year, one is important by any measure, Question 4 to legalize marijuana. Criminalization has failed practically and is not supportable morally. Vote YES.

I am cautiously supportive of three court modernization measures. Question 1 would rename the state’s highest and next-highest courts to conform to the format in use in most other states: “Supreme Court” and “Appeals Court.” Question 3 would raise the threshold for full-dress jury trial from $15,000 to $25,000; given inflation, a change of this sort does not reflect any major policy change. Question 5 would authorize Howard County to follow Montgomery and Harford by absorbing the work of the orphan’s courts into the general circuit court system. Maryland is unusual among states in electing orphan’s court judges as a separate job (and on a partisan ballot line) and the merits of that arrangement are not so obvious as to impose it on jurisdictions that would rather follow usual court system practice. YES, YES, and YES.

Question 2 would require “that candidates for the state legislature maintain a primary place of abode in the district they wish to represent for at least six months prior to the date of their election or for as long as the district has been in existence.” While I have not found the explanations for this change to be ideally clear, I think the language makes sense. YES.

In Frederick County, I emphatically favor Question A, on authority over arbitration of firefighter union demands, which would help restore to the voters a power they should never have lost over public expenditures. Recovering this authority is vital for both fiscal soundness and democratic practice. Here is Council Member Steve McKay’s description:

Back in 2018, the public voted in favor of a Charter amendment brought by the Career Firefighters to give them binding arbitration. What did that mean? Under binding arbitration, when the County and the firefighters union can’t agree on a new contract, they must submit to a third party arbitrator, who then makes the decision. The problem that I’ve had with this is that the arbitrators in this region uniformly side with the unions. In other words, the union doesn’t have a good reason to compromise with the County when they know they can win at arbitration. But my concern is neither here nor there, because that’s what the voters decided in 2018.

The problem is that it created a conflict in our Charter. The County Executive negotiates the union contract. It would be the County Executive and union who would be parties to the binding arbitration process, which would result in a proscribed funding amount for the union that would then be part of the County Executive’s budget proposal to the Council. This is where the conflict arises. The Charter gives the County Council independent budget authorities from the County Executive. We can reduce or approve (but not increase) the County Executive’s funding requests in the budget. The Council isn’t party to the binding arbitration agreement, and we have independent Charter authority to reduce budget items – potentially including the funds for a binding arbitration agreement. Frankly, the 2018 Charter amendment should have specifically addressed this issue – but it didn’t. Since then, the union (or a Council member) could have addressed this issue with a Charter amendment in 2020 or now, but nobody did.

So what does Question A do? It simply provides clarifying language in the Charter and allows the voters to indicate that they understand that the County Council has these separate budget authorities, including the sole authority to approve or disapprove of the use of County funding to support a binding arbitration agreement.

Vote YES on Question A.

Question B would authorize fringe benefits for Frederick County council members. In adopting charter government, Frederick County decided on a citizen council, not meant to be a full-time job. By offering fringe benefits, the county would take a material step toward an employment model. Vote NO on Question B.

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In miniature, October 1

  • Enjoyed joining Sen. Cheryl Kagan [D-Gaithersburg] on her podcast. We explored election law topics, including ranked choice voting which we both favor (21:30+). But also included throughout are many questions I’ve never gotten asked elsewhere, which gives it a more personal flavor than with many other podcasts [“Kibbitzing with Kagan”]
  • Running through October 30 at Maryland Ensemble Theatre: THE LIFESPAN OF A FACT, terrific Broadway play about (yes) fact checking. We were lucky enough to have playwright and old friend Jeremy Kareken to Frederick to discuss it. MET put on a boffo performance, get tickets here:
  • What fun to go to both MML and MaCo conferences in Ocean City this summer! And I hope to be back as part of a program one of these times.
  • The Libertarian Party has taken an unpleasant turn nationally, yet in Maryland they’ve nominated an unusually credible candidate for governor. David Lashar has a strong background in public administration, having served in a responsible role in the Hogan health department, and mutual friends attest to his talent and good character. Dilemmas! [Brian Griffiths, The Duckpin]
  • Stephen Walters on Baltimore: “It’s easy to dismiss stories about threatening behavior by squeegee ‘workers’ as isolated incidents. But they’re real, they’re common, and they do, in today’s parlance, make people feel unsafe.” [City Journal]
  • I’m Unaffiliated now myself: “The Maryland Republican Party got together and committed ritualized mass suicide. The only thing missing was Jim Jones and a glass of Kool-Aid. I hope it was a good party.” [Doug Mayer quoted by Pamela Wood]

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Our Michael Peroutka coverage over the years

Michael Peroutka, who’s leading in a recent poll in the race for the July 19 Republican nomination for Maryland Attorney General, has been a frequent subject of coverage on this page for his “crank constitutionalism and bizarre views on ‘Biblical law’.” What follows below is a quick guide to what I’ve published here together with links to a couple of pieces by others.

To start with the latter, those new to this subject might want to start with Brian Griffiths’ overview in The Duckpin of Peroutka’s strange views and public career, including his popularization (through his Pasadena-based Institute on the Constitution) of the work of the late R.J. Rushdoony, Jr., an advocate of theocratic rule. In an interview with Bill Moyers, recounted by Griffiths, mentor Rushdoony defended one of his best-known ideas, that Biblical law requires the execution of adulterers and practicing homosexuals, among numerous other groups such as blasphemers. “The absolute last thing Republicans in Maryland need is to have a radical extremist like Peroutka on the statewide ballot,” Griffiths writes. (I was writing about Rushdoony and his Christian Reconstructionist followers as long ago as 1998.)

Peroutka has also come in for much criticism over his long involvement with the separatist, and eventually secessionist, League of the South. Journalist Van Smith covered Peroutka extensively in the old Baltimore City Paper, and at least some of his coverage can be found behind the Baltimore Sun paywall, though you can dig for it elsewhere.

While Peroutka’s public-facing career goes back decades, my coverage here at this blog begins with his 2014 primary win in a race for Anne Arundel county council. To quote that post:

Just last month Peroutka was suggesting that the laws of the state of Maryland are owed no allegiance, having diverged from the Divine will on numerous points. (He explains that “an enactment must not violate God’s law,” describes Maryland’s as a “lawless legislature” and writes of such a legislature that “no validity should be given to any of its enactments.”) That should make the whole “oath of office” thing fun if he gets in as a county commissioner.

A few weeks earlier I had noted his links to politics in Carroll County, which have included generous campaign contributions. I wrote that his Institute on the Constitution

promotes a deeply erroneous view of the U.S. Constitution as an essentially religious document, a view not unconnected with the theocratic crankery of [the late John] Lofton and others associated with his group. [links omitted]

Peroutka’s Republican loyalties, it should be noted, are at best changeable. Although it has been a decade since he ran on the Constitution Party ticket, he delivered himself of the following sentiments just last October: “Anyone, including those who identify with the ‘Tea Party’, who loves America and desires real reform, would do well to disengage themselves from the Republican Party and their brand of worthless, Godless, unprincipled conservatism.”

In a Aug. 28, 2014 roundup I linked to coverage by Len Lazarick and Barry Rascovar that mentioned the website StopPeroutka dot com, posted by opponents. That site is now defunct, but you can see a screenshot of it here. An Aug. 9, 2014 roundup has a couple of additional links.

In 2015, after his election to the county council, I noted his attendance at a rally for lawbreaking Kentucky clerk Kim Davis and rounded up a couple of other stories. In 2017 Peroutka was onstage with Alabama’s Roy Moore at Moore’s primary win. In 2018 he lost his primary race for re-election to the county council.

Last month I noted that he was going to be on the July 19 primary ballot against a far better choice, Jim Shalleck of Montgomery County, whose temperate, responsible record stands in contrast to Peroutka’s. That followed up on a February post that noted Peroutka’s filing for Maryland AG and linked Griffiths’ article. I also noted Len Lazarick’s report that at an Annapolis rally, Peroutka had taken the view that Gov. Larry Hogan “had violated the constitution and effectively removed himself as governor.”

Gubernatorial candidate Dan Cox has endorsed Peroutka. It figures.

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Montgomery County school curriculum to train K-12 students to “understand and resist systems of oppression.”

As noted by National Journal columnist Josh Kraushaar on Twitter, Montgomery County Public Schools has charged a team with drafting a K-12 curricular overhaul that “strengthens students’ sense of racial, ethnic, and tribal identities, helps students understand and resist systems of oppression, and empowers students to see themselves as change agents.”

Commentator Damon Linker responds:

“I’ll speak up: I wouldn’t want my kids’ sense of racial, tribal, or ethnic identity to be strengthened. I don’t want them to be trained to “resist” anything in particular. And most of all I don’t want them turned into “change agents,” which is corporatized activist-speak.”

I’d add, speaking for myself, that while families of varying political colorations might all agree that there are “systems of oppression” existing in the world, we are likely to disagree strongly on what those might be and where their definitional boundaries might be. For example, it’s routine for one or another consultant in the world of “anti-racist” training to label capitalism as a system of oppression, while others, like me, consider capitalism a system of liberation and compulsory state socialism a system of oppression. Whose view is going to prevail? Likewise, there are countless views of what does and does not constitute sexism, ableism, imperialism, ageism, racism, colonialism. When views diverge, whose will prevail? And even if agreement were reached on identifying some societal evil, who decides whether the appropriate response is to “resist” it in some visible and performative way, to set a better example by one’s personal conduct, to use one’s powers of persuasion and exhortation, or to withdraw from contact with and participation in the evil? Each approach has had philosophically serious advocates.

Some might even deem it an emergent system of oppression to employ the machinery of compulsory public education to remove children forcibly to a classroom where they will be indoctrinated into ideologies that may vilify or demonize beliefs held by members of their families, or even demonize those family members themselves, in a process to which members of their families would never willingly have subjected them.

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Talking Maryland podcasts

Here’s a partial list of the times I’ve been interviewed as a podcast guest on Maryland-based shows and Maryland issues (redistricting in particular). Radio generally excluded.

New Jan. 14, 2022: I talk gerrymandering and redistricting reform with host Sunil Dasgupta of Montgomery County at his I Hate Politics podcast.

In March 2021 I joined Dan Sally, who makes a practice of getting past “red versus blue” narratives, at his You Don’t Have to Yell podcast.

In March 2020 I joined hosts Michael Sanderson and Kevin Kinnally at the Maryland Association of Counties’ Conduit Street Podcast. We ranged across all sorts of topics including how libertarians fit into politics and the role of emergency powers in the Covid-19 pandemic.

In March 2019, with the District 6 court challenge at its highest pitch, host Ryan Miner at A Miner Detail interviewed me and (no relation) Ashley Oleson, 2/3rds of the chairs of Gov. Hogan’s Emergency Commission on Sixth Congressional District Gerrymandering.

In December 2018 I joined Emma Kerr and Colin McGuire at the Frederick News Post’s Frederick Uncut, also on the District 6 battle. And there was a followup interview in June 2019 when the Supreme Court ruled.

In fact I think I was the first guest “Frederick Uncut” ever had back for a repeat interview. In 2016 I had discussed the role of third party candidates in politics.

In August 2018 I joined hosts Candace Dodson Reed and Tom Coale on the Elevate Maryland podcast to talk — what else? — gerrymandering.

In November 2017 Patrick Hanes at Frederick-based WFRE interviewed me on what it’s like to work at a think tank. It’s a completely different interview than others I’ve done, because the questions are different, and I recommend it.

I’m sure I’m forgetting some (as well as generally omitting the many radio and TV hits that weren’t in podcast format). So many good podcasts out there for those of us who follow Maryland issues. Check these shows out!

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Absent with a good reason

I’ve been absent from blogging here since the summer in order to concentrate on my duties concerning the Maryland Citizens Redistricting Commission, the nine-member panel charged with recommending maps for Gov. Hogan to propose for redrawing Congressional and legislative lines. That job will continue for a while, but the commission has now proposed to the public all three of its maps — Congressional, state senate, and delegate — and you can check them out here or use a viewer that allows zooming down to the street level. Public comment continues for a couple more weeks and the commission will consider altering lines to reflect public reaction and comments, as it has already done in several areas.

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