Weekly Memo for July 11-17: County Councils in the foreground

In Prince George's it's election shenanigans, busting the general plan and more Walmart; in Montgomery it's the Fight for Fifteen, sly union-busting and backsliding on paid sick leave. Money never sleeps.

Welcome to the Progressive Maryland BlogSpace weekly memo for July 11-17. Important hearings in Montgomery County (minimum wage hike and anti-union assaults) and Prince George’s (Council featherbedding and Walmart expansion) are coming up soon.

A nationwide mass canvass of local voters called the National Doorstep Convention is set for the weekend of July 16 and 17…

What do everyday people want from their representatives, from the president on down – and will we see any of that reflected in the political conventions? Progressive Maryland volunteers will hit the streets to find out that weekend.

It’s STILL (Loan) Shark WeekShark Week may be over on TV but the Loan Sharknado continues as the loan industry mobilizes against the federal Consumer Finance Protection Board’s proposed regulations on profit-hungry payday lenders who wreck the dreams of low-income families and workers.

Progressive Maryland and allied organizations are fighting on behalf of those, and even better, regulations

But the industry – and that’s what it is – still preys systematically on the working poor who live close to the edge. Progressive Maryland and its national affiliate, the People’s Action Institute, are focusing on this exploitative “Wild West” sector of a financial system that still needs to be corralled so it will work for people, not profit.

The Fight for Fifteen continues in Montgomery CountyWe’ll have a timely report later this week on today’s committee hearing as the Montgomery County Council is mulling a $15 minimum wage. Activists packed the recent public hearing on the measure urging that tipped workers be included in the raise. By organizing our members throughout the county, we helped pass paid sick leave last summer, improved wage enforcement, and now we're going to make sure every Montgomery County worker is paid a fair living wageThe MoCo council’s Health and Human Services committee was to meet today Monday, July 11 at 10 a.m. to consider the bill. Sign the petition to urge the Council to include tipped workers.

  • Meanwhile, some Montgomery council members are trying to roll back protections for unionized workers. The Metro Washington Labor Council’s alert says it’s “an extremely anti-union bill that would devastate collective bargaining for firefighters, school nurses, county employees, and many more working people in Montgomery County. The bill is modeled right out of the playbook of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC),” a Koch Bros.-funded activist think tank that provides model anti-union and pro-business laws for state and local governments. A hearing on this is set tomorrow, July 12 at 7 p.m. in the MoCo council chambers in Rockville and Progressive Maryland staff will be among those testifying against it.

  • And still in Montgomery, council members who proudly affirmed a county-level sick leave bill last year are mulling an amendment to satisfy boo-hooing from the business “community.” It’s a blatant attempt to roll back progressive legislation while nobody is looking. A hearing on that amendment is coming up July 19. Remind councilmembers that the public is keeping an eye on them.

Happening today in Prince George’s: the Prince George’s County Council meets tonight, Monday, July 11, to hear public comment on a proposed November referendum question that, if passed, would allow five sitting Council members a chance to evade their term limits and run instead for one of two at-large seats that would be created (making a total on the Council of 11 seats). The five members who are in their second terms have kept their fingerprints off the bill, which is sponsored by the four first-termers. But under the terms of the question they could run immediately for one of the two at-large (county-wide) seats created. Critics smell a rush for continued employment in what is at any rate a flex-time, if not part-time, position paying $115,000 per year plus reserved parking and other conveniences and in which constituent service is indistinguishable from campaigning for the next election.

Those critics would note: a bill that would not allow sitting members to compete in the first election after passage would eliminate suspicions of careerism and featherbedding on the part of the five second-term members. Additionally, such a move perhaps ought to be paired with a required redistricting of the county council seats that would reduce the seats again to nine for subsequent councils, with seven enlarged districts having one seat each plus a pair of at-large seats countywide. Larger districts are another way to reduce parochialism and keep the single-district seats more on a par, politically, with the two council members elected countywide. Many critics of the council feel that term limits were a lame idea that perpetuated the government-bashing spirit of the TRIM amendment. Many would like to see a system that selects for high-quality, less parochial choices less wedded to the corrupting influence of slate-based election financing (a wholly different but equally necessary reform).

The meeting is at 7 p.m. in the Hearing Room at the CAB, 14741 Governor Oden Bowie Dr. Upper Marlboro. UPDATE: citizen activists at the hearing largely opposed the change due to cost and potential for financializing elections even more. The Council will vote yes or no July 19 on putting the question on the November ballot.

  Prince George's Deserves Better!lead staff organizer for Prince George’s Jennifer Dwyer reports on the upcoming "Prince George's Deserves Better!" Protest

Monday, July 18th at 9 AM, County Administration Building, 14741 Governor Oden Bowie Dr. Upper Marlboro 20772

 We'll be rallying outside the clock tower. Folks should wear red for NO WALMART! After the rally, we'll proceed to the 1st Floor Hearing room for the District Council hearing on the proposed 24-Hour Super Walmart in Clinton, starting at 10 AM. The stronger the turnout, the stronger our message to Mel Franklin and the County Council that Prince George's County is organizing and coming together to demand BETTER for our communities than FIVE proposed 24-Hour Super Walmarts, fast food restaurants in every cookie-cutter strip mall, and convenience stores on every corner! Prince George’s Deserves Better!

 

And, speaking of blowing up plans for a well-balanced and equitable Prince George’s, the Sierra Club is blowing the whistle on a proposal to amend the county subdivision law to allow a big multifamily megaproject in Bowie, perilously close to the Patuxent River preserve and way, far away from any Metro or mass transit. The proposal, CB-39-2016, is being fast-tracked through the Council with inadequate public notice and according to the Sierra Club analysis

 • It affects properties county-wide. The Planning Department reported that properties in all 26 “centers” county-wide newly designated in this bill are potentially affected. They will all potentially be able to use this loophole to adopt higher residential densities. This enables the chief proposer to allow in advance for sweeteners for his fellow council members, all of whom will be sure to have one or more of these “centers” available for exploitation as a result of this bill. “Member courtesy” (backscratching) is on steroids here.
It has been rushed through the Council, just before the summer recess, with inadequate public notice and no time to analyze the county-wide impacts.

 

The county is officially committed in its general plan to reducing sprawl and concentrating this kind of useful residential space at or near Metrorail stations and other transit hubs – not out in the county’s northeastern tier near the river/border, where major new public expenses for services will be an inevitable part of the picture. Plus market forces would keep such housing affordable (or less unaffordable) if it were near a transit hub and other similar multifamily housing, whereas out in Bowie it would be free to create the worst effects of gentrification. The Sierra Club is mobilizing members and those who believe in a county of balanced development, not a developers’ playground, to contact their councilmember.

The council hears this bad bill at a public hearing on Tuesday, July 19th, 10 a.m. in the County Administration Building, 14741 Governor Oden Bowie Drive, first floor, Upper Marlboro 20772.

 

Charles County has its own issues with the Walmart invasion, including a hearing calendar stretched out to exhaustion by tag teams of Walmart lawyers.

 

Waldorf Super Walmart Public Hearing

 Tuesday, July 26th at 7 PM, Charles County Government Building, 200 Baltimore St. La Plata, MD 20646

 After nearly a year and a half of testimony and questioning from expert witnesses and attorneys, the public's day to speak up has finally come!

 


 

 READING THE PM BLOGS – readers and fans of the PM BlogSpace can get a copy of the Weekly Memo delivered directly to their email inbox. It includes an update on the week ahead as well as links to the blogs that have appeared in the past week. Never miss a blog post. Sign up at http://www.progressivemaryland.org/blog_signup


 

FOR EXAMPLE: last week we published these blogs…

Region Cohesion Declines -- It's a "Progrexit"

A progressive high point reached two years ago when Prince George's, Montgomery and the District got together on a minimum wage increase has not been sustained since then, with fearful official behavior and truckling to business interests creeping back in to sabotage a pro-people agenda.

THE WEEKLY MEMO FOR JULY 5-11: Montgomery County tries to roll back some paid sick leave and public sector worker protections; Prince George's (and Charles!) residents fight Walmart intrusions before the District Council and public financing for elections gains traction in Howard. Plus links to the week's blog posts.

And we recently published these:

SLOWLY BUT SURELY PAID SICK LEAVE IS ON THE WAY
Locally and at the state level, activists have pushed sorely needed paid sick leave closer to passage. In one county, it has passed. The public health and household stability benefits of paid sick leave have become well known. Jasmine Snead provides a reminder.

PROPOSED FEDERAL RULES ON PAYDAY LENDING'S EXPLOITATION DESERVE SUPPORT, NEED IMPROVEMENT
Payday lending costs 12 million vulnerable, low-income workers excessive interest payments each year. Federal regulations propose to end the "debt trap" of predatory short-term lending and need both support and improvement.

PAYDAY LOAN SHARKS AND THE FIGHT FOR FIFTEEN: THIS WEEK'S AGENDA IN THE PM WEEKLY MEMO

It's Shark Week -- do you know enough about the loan sharks in the Payday Loans industry, exploiting the working poor who live paycheck to paycheck? Plus keeping up the pressure in Montgomery County to add tipped workers to a progressive new proposal for a $15/hour minimum wage in the county.  

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