All politics local this week: News and future events in Montgomery, Howard, Prince George's and Charles counties plus the Loan Sharknado and a smorgasbord of recent blogs.
Welcome to the Progressive Maryland BlogSpace weekly memo for August 1-7. Upcoming events in Montgomery and Howard counties are first on your agenda, below. There’s also news (briefly here) about recent hearings and decisions in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties.
Tomorrow (Tuesday) 6-8:30 p.m. Fight for 15 Strategy Session and Social at our Progressive Maryland office in Silver Spring/Four Corners.
Saturday, Aug. 6, 12-2:30 p.m., an outreach event for the Howard County Citizens’ Election Fund at the Howard County Fair.
Further down the line, Montgomery County Restaurant Week Aug. 12-21 offers opportunities to make sure tipped workers don’t get left behind in the fight to increase the county’s minimum wage to something closer to a living wage. Events are being planned; keep an eye on our calendar.
Shark 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. You can comment on that to the CFPB here.
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.
Victories happen: Some Montgomery council members were making a stealth attempt to roll back protections for unionized workers. But pushback on this measure from organized workers and their allies was significant and instigator Nancy Floreen, the council chair, has withdrawn the measure for now at the request of County Administrator Ike Leggett, who apparently felt it would complicate negotiations with county employee unions this fall.
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. Remind councilmembers that the public is keeping an eye on them.
In Prince George’s: The County Council July 19 passed a bill placing a number of questions on the November ballot, including one that 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 nest-feathering 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 – one of the claims for the at-large seats, and a valid one – 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).
Citizen activists at the hearing largely opposed the change due to cost and potential for financializing elections even more.
Prince George's Deserves Better! Was the challenge to Walmart’s proposal to expand its Woodyard Center (Clinton) store into a “superstore.” Community members and activists were joined in opposition by every single professional body on which the County Council (sitting as the District Council on land use and zoning matters) is supposed to rely. The Planning Department, Zoning Counsel and other staff organizations that reviewed the proposal said it shouldn’t be approved. Andre Gingles, Walmart’s well-connected local counsel, argued for it on premises easily rebutted by the opponents’ zoning attorney. But “district courtesy” carried the day – Mel Franklin, in whose District 9 the project is located, moved to approve and seven council members followed suit.
(Charles County opponents of a proposed new Walmart megastore there won a significant victory when, after a fifteen-month battle in which batteries of the exploitative corporation’s stable of attorneys attempted to wear out the opposition, the proposal was withdrawn.)
The Prince George’s Council also approved July 19 – on a rush basis – a proposal for a multifamily development near the Patuxent River Preserve in Bowie that Sierra Club research indicates could alter the subdivision ordinance and promote multifamily sprawl all over the county, rather than trying to keep it in transit hubs. The way the proposal – engineered by Bowie council member Todd Turner – was rushed through the professional planning apparatus drew scornful fire from Dist. 1 councilmember Mary Lehman, who called it “inexcusable and unacceptable.” Again, though, “district courtesy” won the day.
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: we recently published these:
Jul 29, 2016
The Progressive Maryland PM BlogSpace has hosted 108 posts since June 2015 -- a storehouse of information on state and local governance and activism. Here's an index with links.
Jul 22, 2016
Twenty-eight Democratic US Senators have joined the call supporting the federal payday lending regulation proposed by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau -- and urging that they be made even stronger.
Jul 21, 2016
Montgomery County Council members heard loud and clear from unions and their progressive allies that a bill tilting the field against labor in arbitration would not sneak through.
Jul 21, 2016
The National Doorstep Convention came to Maryland last weekend as Progressive Maryland volunteers took the pulse of everyday people, their issues and concerns, as a presidential election approaches.
Jul 14, 2016
A major change to the Subdivision Ordinance in Prince George’s is being rushed through to help one developer. County-wide impacts remain murky but could be disastrous for any Smart Growth effort
Will the concerns and hopes of everyday people be reflected at the major parties' political conventions? The National Doorstep Convention canvass aims to be sure that the pressure on struggling households doesn't get lost in the political glitter.
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.
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.
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.
Keeping up with the blogs is easier with the index. The blogs published in the PM BlogSpace since June 2015 are all available with descriptions and links here.
AND REMEMBER THIS BLOGSPACE IS FOR THE PROGRESSIVE VOICES OF MARYLAND. Want to include your voice? Send a submission, or questions, to the moderator at email@example.com