Three candidates, all well-known in the city, are running to be the next mayor of Gaithersburg. Continue reading
Gaithersburg has four candidates running for three City Council seats in the Nov. 3 city election. In alphabetical order: Continue reading
Most people in Gaithersburg don’t realize the city will hold an election this fall, says Mayor Jud Ashman, at least not until he tells them. That’s the mayor’s finding after knocking on many residents’ doors. Continue reading
How diverse is Gaithersburg? Go ahead, take a guess.
Gaithersburg is the most diverse small city in America. Number One in diversity out of more than 300 cities, according to Wallethub.com! Continue reading
A new AARP Livability Index can tell you how your city or town (or the place you’re thinking about relocating) ranks as a place to live and grow older. The Livability Index, which can rate practically any neighborhood in the U.S., goes live this week, according to The Washington Post and a host of other mainstream media outlets. You can find it at aarp.org/livabilityindex. (Interestingly, many MSM sources fail to give the url for the new AARP tool.)
AARP describes the new resource as follows:
“The Livability Index is a signature initiative of the Public Policy Institute to measure the quality of life in American communities across multiple dimensions: housing, transportation, neighborhood characteristics, environment, health, opportunity, and civic and social engagement.
An interactive, easily navigated website, the Livability Index allows users to compare communities, adjust scores based on personal preferences and learn how to take action to make their own communities move livable.”
I entered my Maryland zip code into the system and found out in about half a second that my Gaithersburg neighborhood rates 59 on a scale of zero to 100. I also received specific ratings on the following livability measures:
- Housing (affordability and access)
- Transportation (safe and convenient options)
- Environment (clean air and water)
- Health (prevention, access and quality)
- Engagement (civic and social involvement)
- Opportunity (inclusion and possibilities)
Housing in my neighborhood rates a measly 36. Not a surprise to me. I already know that generally speaking, you can’t buy or rent a home in Montgomery County, MD, unless you’re affluent. You need two middle-class incomes or one high income to support a family here. (That’s why I’m researching communities in Florida. The cost of living in many parts of Florida is quite reasonable, compared to the Maryland suburbs. Needless to say, the AARP Livability Index will be a great help in my search.)
On the positive side, my neighborhood rates high in Health (79), and gets pretty good scores of 64 on both Neighborhood and Engagement. (I’m doubtful about the high rating for Engagement. If AARP considered voter turnout in the last election, we would rank much lower.)
Transportation rates 56. Even if you own a car, that’s an optimistic number. The Washington, D.C. area is notorious for rush hour traffic. If you depend on public transportation, I dunno. My part of Montgomery County is past the end of the line for the Metro subway. And Metro overall? I don’t have to ride the subway every day, and I’m glad I don’t. MARC commuter trains are good if both your home and workplace are near a rail station.
The transportation score could go up or way down in the future, depending on whether our leaders and voters are willing to fund plans for the Purple Line in the southern parts of Montgomery and Prince Georges Counties, and Bus Rapid Transit in northern Montgomery.
Take a look at the AARP Livability Index. How does your hometown rate? Are your civic leaders going to be bragging, or running for cover?
— John Hayden
What can be done to meet the present and future needs of Montgomery County citizens and businesses for air transportation? Continue reading
(Updated 11-16-2014 to include alternative solutions in the conclusion.)
It’s past time for Democratic leaders in Montgomery County to snap out of their funk over the amazing shrinking turnout of MoCo voters. Continue reading
The election is three weeks from today. Why does my Democratic gut feel like it needs an Alka-Seltzer?
This is the saddest year for Maryland Democrats since Spiro Agnew won the governor’s mansion. At least Bob Ehrlich was a seasoned Maryland politician with years of service in Congress and the General Assembly. Who is this year’s Republican candidate? He’s the son of someone by the same name who was a congressman when I was a teenager, in the last century.
This year, we have two candidates who look sort of gubernatorial, no election for the U.S. Senate, and no contest in any of the state’s eight congressional districts. In Montgomery County, my home county and the largest jurisdiction in Maryland, there’s no visible sign of an impending election. I mean “no sign” literally. You see a few lonely lawns sprouting signs for Republicans. But Democratic signs, nada. And why should there be? Ike Leggett has a lock on the county executive’s office and nine Democratic council candidates are cruising to Election Day on automatic pilot. It’s no wonder the voters are disconnected. This is no way to run a democracy.
Not a single political message in my mailbox since the primary. (Email is a different story. Messages every day from Democrats begging for contributions.) The only candidate to be seen or heard from in Montgomery is Robin Ficker. Seriously, Ficker is the only candidate I’ve seen since the June primary. I attended three Saturday-night outdoor concerts at Black Rock Theater in Germantown during the summer, and Ficker was working the crowd all three times. I seriously doubt, BTW, that Ficker can win, but stranger things have happened. If any Republican has a snowball’s chance in MoCo in 2014, it would have to be Ficker.
I chalk up the political disinterest to two factors.
First, there’s not a single exciting contest to stir the voters’ blood, not in MoCo, and not in Prince George’s County or Baltimore City, the state’s two other Democratic redoubts. If anyone knows of a General Assembly cliffhanger in Central Maryland, please let me know.
The second reason is related to the first. The Democratic Party in MoCo, P.G., and The City is the victim of its own success. Democrats so dominate politics in the big three that all suspense, energy and conflict has been drained from the system. Could you write a good novel or screenplay without CONFLICT?
Without conflict, there is no story. If there is any conflict left in the Big Three, it would be in the primaries, not the General Election. Alas, the entrenchment and almost certain re-election of Democratic incumbents in the local and legislative races has drained excitement even from the primaries. The turnout in June’s Maryland primary is Exhibit A.
With the days ticking down to the start of Early Voting, and the electorate snoozing, a Republican has been creeping slowly up behind the Democrat in the only statewide race that matters, the governor’s race. The candidates are Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, the Democrat who should be the runaway favorite; and Republican Larry Hogan, who unlike Agnew, Ellen Sauerbrey and Bob Ehrlich, the other serious Republicans to run for governor in modern history, has never held elective office.
That’s right. Agnew was county executive of Baltimore County, at that time one of the three most populous jurisdictions. Sauerbrey was minority leader in the House of Delegates, and Ehrlich was a congressman. What are Larry Hogan’s credentials? I can think of two: Hogan looks old enough to be governor, and he promises to cut taxes. Now, even Brown, the Democrat, is promising no new taxes.
Taxes is the only issue on the voter’s minds this election season. I’ve been making some phone calls to voters — a lot of phone calls, actually. When I ask about issues, the answer is taxes. It’s the next thing to unanimous. I’m calling on behalf of a Democratic candidate on the Eastern Shore, where Red Republicans are thick as mosquitoes, but Democrats and unaffiliated voters in the Blue counties have nearly as much antipathy to taxes this year. Just ask Brown.
So there you have it. Democrats in Central Maryland are in a self-induced coma. Republicans in the provinces are hopping mad, as always. I don’t think it will happen, but we could wake up with a Republican governor on Nov. 5.
— John Hayden
It’s not exactly true, as reported elsewhere in the blogosphere, that Andrew Platt “cruised to victory” in the six-way race for three District 17 delegate seats.
At this moment, Platt retains a five-vote lead in second place over Jim Gilchrist, who is in third place, and a 100-vote margin over Susan Hoffman, out of more than 5,000 votes cast in the Democratic primary. (Monday, June 30, 2014 @ 3 p.m.)
Hoffman remains out of the money in fourth place, but she has gained slightly on both Platt and Gilchrist in the count of absentee and provisional ballots. Here are the unofficial totals as reported by the Maryland Election Board today:
- Del. Kumar Barve, 5,625, 25.4 percent
- Andrew Platt, 4,497, 20.3 percent
- Del. Jim Gilchrist, 4,492, 20.3 percent
- Susan Hoffman, 4,392 19.9 percent
In the District 17 Democratic primary for State Senate, Cheryl Kagan remains safely ahead, with 4,583 votes (54.5 percent) at this time, over Luis Simmons, who has 3,831 votes (45.5 percent). Simmons is not gaining in the absentee count. The outcome of the District 17 State Senate race is not in doubt.
Platt, Gilchrist and Hoffman have been locked in a near statistical dead heat at about 20 percent since early on the evening of election day. The number of votes separating the three has narrowed as the days pass.
It’s not clear how many provisional and absentee ballots remain to be counted. Final totals are not expected to be announced before July 10.
Hoffman, former Rockville mayor, has been gaining ground in the absentees, but very slowly. It’s still conceivable that Hoffman could emerge as one of the three winners. But most observers would say it’s improbable at this point.
Based on the percentage distribution of absentee votes, it does appear likely that Gilchrist will overtake Platt for second place by a few votes, and that Platt will finish with a delegate seat in third place, with a margin of fewer than 100 votes over Hoffman. Please check my arithmetic.
Here’s the distribution of absentee ballots counted so far:
- Barve, 258
- Hoffman, 232
- Gilchrist, 224
- Platt, 207
Sports fans, we have a cliffhanger right here in District 17, demonstrating once again that every single vote is important.
If you’d like to follow this sudden-death overtime at home, the Maryland Election Board is posting updates every 20 minutes.
Comments are welcome below.
— John Hayden
A story in Sunday’s Washington Post alleges that Montgomery County school officials added 15 percentage points to high school Algebra 1 math scores. Why? Because the vast majority of students failed the final exam, that’s why.
School officials provided a variety of excuses for the abysmal test results, and then simply tacked on an extra 15 percentage points to raise the failure rate from 82 percent to only 68 percent, according to the Post story by Donna St. George. Based on the new, improved, fake scores, 623 additional students in MoCo high schools suddenly passed the test.
To celebrate, the schools printed new, improved report cards, which were mailed out three days late. (I’m not making this up. You can read the story in hard copy in the Metro section, page C3, June 29, 2014.)
Hurray for Montgomery County! Another great accomplishment for our heralded public school system.
The Post story provides additional information, but leaves unanswered a host of important educational questions. Do county test scores have any integrity? Any validity? Is there any possible way of knowing if test scores reflect student learning or teacher performance? Who shredded the original report cards? Is there any cure for my early onset cynicism?
Taking this dystopian fantasy a step further, are test scores tabulated on the same computers used to count votes in county elections? Or the same computers used to project the traffic impact of high-density development?
Maybe the Post story is in error? Maybe I’ve terribly misrepresented the story? Can anyone provide a believable explanation?
Alternatively, can anyone provide an entertaining fictional explanation? The comment space below is available free to creative minds. No word count limit. The prize for the best entry is a week of substitute teaching in a ninth-grade algebra class.
— John Hayden