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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Talking Maryland Politics

I invite you to visit www.TalkingMarylandPolitics.com and “join us” to view my new online video political discussion program, Talking Maryland Politics. The video program focuses on political issues in Maryland and features elected officials and community leaders/activists from across the state.
Last week I visited Bethesda in Montgomery County and today on my Blog, www.TalkingMarylandPolitics.com are my interviews with Maryland Democratic state senator Brian Frosh, who is running for Attorney General, Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett(D), who is running for a third term and long time Democratic politico and attorney Stanton Gildenhorn.
You can watch all of the exclusive interviews on www.TalkingMarylandPolitics.com for an introductory low annual subscription fee of only $19.95 a year! 
It is through your membership fee and contributions we are able to bring you quality video programming throughout the year. I encourage you to forward this email to your friends and invite them to "join us"!
Sign up takes only a few minutes and is safely secured by Pay Pal.  Major credit cards and your debit card are accepted.  You can sign up here: http://www.talkingmarylandpolitics.com/?page_id=6
I want to thank the many who watched our first show that focused on the change to charter government in Frederick County, Maryland.
My guests included Democratic candidate for county executive Jan Gardner, Maryland Democratic Party Treasurer and local attorney Robert Kresslein who was co-chair of the charter writing committee, local businessmen and political commentators Michael Kurtianyk and Jim Racheff, Frederick County Teachers Association President Gary Brennan, local activist and Residents Against Landsdale Expansion (RALE) president Steve McKay.
You can watch, for free, my twenty minute interview with Jan Gardner and Steve McKay here: http://www.talkingmarylandpolitics.com/?p=500
Each week we will strive to bring you an hour video program, posted on the Blog in twenty minute segments to make for easy viewing.  Of course, they are always available for viewing when you have the time.
Next week we will air a recent interview I conducted with Kevin Grubb who is challenging incumbent Frederick County Sheriff Chuck Jenkins in the Republican Primary. 
Also next week, you will be able to view a great interview I had with Frederick County Circuit Court Judge Danny O’Connor who was appointed by Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley.  Former Frederick County state’s attorney Scott Rolle is challenging O’Connor in this election.  
Joining me in another segment is Dave Weaver, the chair of the Judicial Nominating Commission for Frederick County.  Weaver details what is a very thorough nominating process.  
Your suggestions for guests and the issues to be discussed are also welcomed. Email me at George@TalkingMarylandPolitics.com
Remember to subscribe today to www.TalkingMarylandPolitics.com at the low introductory annual fee of only $19.95 by clicking here:http://www.talkingmarylandpolitics.com/?page_id=6! 
Also be sure to “Like” Talking Maryland Politics on Facebook and follow us on Twitter at TalkMDpolitics. 
Thank You!
George Wenschhof 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Launch of Talking Maryland Politics Blog

I am pleased to announce the launching of my new Blog, Talking Maryland Politics, that will feature a video political discussion program.


The Blog will be a subscription Blog and the annual introductory fee is only $19.95.

Please click on "Join Us" at the top of the page at www.TalkingMarylandPolitics.com today!  

The sign up is easy and your payment is secured by Pay Pal. You can use your existing Pay Pal account or it only takes a few minutes to complete your Pay Pal registration.  
Major credit cards or debit cards are accepted. You will create a user name and password to gain access to the Blog for a full year.  At the end of the year, you will be given an option to renew.
I am excited about bringing you elected officials, local activists and community leaders from across the state of Maryland discussing the issues that matter most to you.
The first show will focus on the change to charter government in Frederick County, Maryland and will available for subscribers to view on Monday March 24, 2014. 
Guests will include Democratic candidate for county executive Jan Gardner, Maryland Democratic Party Treasurer and local attorney Robert Kresslein who was co-chair of the charter writing committee, local businessmen and political commentators Michael Kurtianyk and Jim Racheff, Frederick County Teachers Association President Gary Brennan, local activist and Residents Against Landsdale Expansion (RALE) president Steve McKay.
I will strive to bring you discussion from decision makers on topics important to you.  Your membership enables me to bring this program to you. 
Please share the launching of the Blog; www.TalkingMarylandPolitics.com event with your Facebook “Friends” and your email lists.   
The more memberships received will allow the annual subscription fee to stay low for everyone.
Future guests will include candidates for governor, attorney general, comptroller, congressmen, state senator, state delegate, county executive, county sheriff and local elected officials from across the state of Maryland.
Your suggestions for guests and the issues to be discussed are also welcomed. Email me at GeorgeWenschhof@gmail.com
Please click on "Join Us" at www.TalkingMarylandPolitics.com today!
Thank You!
George Wenschhof 

Monday, March 3, 2014

Rolle Wants Voters to Decide

George Wenschhof
Scott Rolle
Former Frederick County, Maryland state’s attorney Scott Rolle(R) is running for Frederick County Circuit Court Judge after failing to receive an appointment from Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley(D).
During my interview, neither one of us could remember a Judge being elected in Frederick County.  The last to try was former county commissioner John “Lennie” Thompson, who challenged and lost to Theresa Adams, who was appointed by Governor Robert Ehrlich(R).
Rolle explained to me the judicial nominating process and said he was one of eight who applied to the judicial nominating commission.  The commission consists of 13 members, 10 of whom are appointed by the governor and he believed the Maryland State Bar Association appoints the other 3 members.
Applicants fill out an extensive application and are also interviewed by the commission.  In this case 5 of the 8 names who submitted an application were forwarded to the Governor to interview and make a selection.
Governor Martin O’Malley(D) appointed Earl Bartgis(D) to District Court Judge and Danny O’Connor(D) to Circuit Court Judge in Frederick County. 
Rolle informed me 2 Republicans; Dino Flores and Rick Sandy were among the 5 names forwarded to the Governor and he felt both were extremely well qualified, adding “if either one had been appointed he would not have run”.
When I asked him “Should all Judges be elected?” he said the selection process was political and few Republicans have been appointed Judge by Governor O’Malley.  Rolle went on to say “there was a strong argument for both appointment and election, but allowing voters to decide is best in this case”.
I asked him “why he felt he was a better choice than O’Connor for Circuit Court Judge?” and Rolle responded with his lengthy trial experience.
Scott Rolle served three terms as Frederick County state’s attorney, an elected position, and told me he has a combined 27 years of experience in court trying cases.  Rolle added “along with my military experience, the lessons I learned have taught me respect for the rule of law”.
In response to my question “did he expect to receive the support from the local legal community?” he said he had received lots of thank you comments since filing.  However, Rolle said “I do not believe voters want to see lawyers deciding this election”.
Another question I asked was “if he intended, if elected, to use this position as a stepping stone to another elected position, pointing out his failed run against Representative Roscoe Bartlett in the 2002 Republican primary election”.
He told me his experience is better suited for the court room than legislative politics.  The term for a Judge is 15 years, which Rolle told me would make him 67 years old, which he believed would be the last step in his career.
As I concluded the interview, Scott Rolle reminded me the election of a Circuit Court Judge was a nonpartisan election and that both he and Judge Danny O’Connor will appear on the ballot without political affiliation noted on both the Republican and Democratic primary election ballot on June 24.
If, one candidate wins both primary elections there would be no general election.  Otherwise, the winner will be decided in the general election held on November 4.

Stuart Harvey, election director for Frederick County Board of Elections, in an email, clarified what will happen if one candidate should win both primaries "Even if one candidate for Circuit Court wins both primaries, their name will still appear on the General Election ballot, with a write-in box below it.  This is what happened in 2004 with Judge Adams and Commissioner Thompson.  Since she won both primaries that year, only her name appeared on the Nov. 2004 ballot."
Stay tuned.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Frederick County Deserves More Than a Carnival Barker

George Wenschhof
Blaine Young
The deadline has now passed for candidates to file to run in the 2014 election and there were few surprises for the voters in Frederick County Maryland.
In a poor imitation of Professor Harold Hill from “The Music Man”, Republican board of county commissioners President Blaine Young, holding back tears and using his sons as props, made official what everyone knew, by announcing his run for county executive.
The alleged suspense as to whether he would run was embellished by Blaine stating his 13 year old son would make the decision for him at 6:00 PM on February 25, a mere three hours before the filing deadline. 
Holding up a “Blaine Young for county executive” sign, Blaine proclaimed he had no prior idea what his son’s decision would be.
Reminiscent of George C. Scott in the movie “The Flim-Flam Man”, Blaine would like voters to believe it was a last minute choice, while many believe the appearance of his sons was intended to blunt sure to come scrutiny on Blaine’s personal life.
One thing numerous Frederick County voters can be thankful for is Blaine will not, due to legal constraints, be able to host his radio show while he is running for office.  A platform he exploited while serving in office the past three plus years.
It is likely a weakened Blaine will still easily prevail over fellow commissioner David Gray and former county budget officer Mark Sweadner in the Republican primary. 
However, in a much anticipated contest, he will face a colossal battle with Jan Gardner who is unopposed in the Democratic primary.   
Joining Blaine in the last minute trip to the board of elections was Republican board of county commissioner Billy Shreve who filed for county council at-large.  Shreve, commissioner Kirby Delauter(R), who is running for county council in district 5 and commissioner Paul Smith(R), who is running for Maryland state delegate in district 3-A have given Blaine “carte blance” over the last three plus years to proceed with his reckless and ill conceived privatization strategy, leading me to label them “Blaine and Company”.
Shreve will not have an easy route in the at-large council race where voters will choose two representatives.  The June 24 county council at-large primary will have 8 Republican candidates and 5 Democratic candidates with the top two from each party facing each other in the November 4 general election. 
Former Republican congressman Roscoe Bartlett chief of staff Bud Otis and Billy Shreve will be the early favorites to win in the Republican primary.  With 5 strong candidates, Democratic voters are ensured they will have two competitive contenders for the general election.
In years past, because of voter registration favoring Republicans, one could easily say it would be difficult for a Democratic candidate to win countywide.  But with Linda Norris, Susan Reeder Jesse, David Twigg, Whitney Duck and Steve Bruns in the running, look to see at least one elected in November.
The rearranging of the deck chairs, by proponents for “smart growth” versus proponents for growth continues with the candidates who have filed for the five members of the council elected by districts.
Look to see the Democratic primary produce the winner in November in District 3 with M.C. Keegan-Ayer, Dwain Earl Robbins and Jesse Goode having the most name recognition.
At first glance, all of the county council races appear to be competitive with the exception of District 4 where I place Democrat Jessica Fitzwater, who is unopposed in the primary, as the favorite to win in November.
Even, in northern district 5, long a Republican voter stronghold, early favorite Kirby Delauter will face a primary challenge from Walkersville Burgess Ralph Whitmore.  Whitmore is close to former county commissioner and Walkersville Burgess John “Lennie” Thompson who was a member of the 2006 board of commissioners led by Democrat Jan Gardner dubbed “The Dream Team”.
Frederick County residents have had enough theatrics from Blaine Young over the last three plus years. 
What Frederick County residents deserve is reasonable, fair and effective representation.
Instead of signs welcoming visitors stating “Frederick County, Open for Business”, what are needed are signs saying “Welcome to Frederick County, a Well Planned Community”.
Vote for change in 2014.
Stay tuned.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Minimum Wage Increase Long Overdo

George Wenschhof
It is disheartening to hear the ageless Republican Party argument against an increase in the minimum wage.  This is just another example of how out of touch with reality the Republican Party has become.  Added to their stance against women’s rights, gay marriage and meaningful immigration reform, it is no surprise voters are leaving the Republican Party in record numbers.
President Obama’s proposal to increase the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $9.00 is not only needed, it is not enough of a raise.  Tying automatic increases of the minimum wage to the consumer price index to keep pace with future inflation is also necessary.
The Republican Party mantra that an increase of the minimum wage would lead to job losses and higher unemployment is just not true.
Rather, there is a stimulus to the economy that occurs and businesses benefit by the increase in spending.
There is a universal acknowledgement that the present federal $7.25 per hour minimum wage is not even a living wage.  Paying rent, food, clothing and other expenses with less than $300 week after taxes, is a huge strain on even the most frugal individual, let alone family.
It is widely known and documented individuals who exist on minimum wage earnings will spend the increase they receive, which in turn, benefits the economy.
Republican obstructionists in the U.S. Senate kept an increase to $9.00 per hour from happening a year ago and it is likely they will follow suit this year in spite of the push by Obama and his inclusion of this issue in his state of the union address.
In a midterm congressional election year, Republicans would be wise to heed a January 8, 2014 Quinnipiac poll that shows 71% of American voters support an increase. 
Further illustrating the mood of the electorate, states are not waiting for the federal government to act and a majority of them have bills that will be acted on this year to increase the minimum wage.  This follows the District of Columbia and five states that passed an increase last year.
The state of Maryland is one of those states that are not waiting for Congress to act.  Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley (D) supports raising the minimum wage to $10.10 by 2016 and tying future increases to inflation by 2017.
Meanwhile, impatient individual counties in Maryland, reflecting how states are reacting to a slow moving congress, are already passing their own increases in minimum wage.  Montgomery County and Prince George’s counties have passed legislation that will lead to an $11.50 minimum wage by 2017.
Democrat Karen Young, who is running for Maryland state delegate in district 3-A sent me an email saying “After extensive research on this topic, I have found that there is little, if any, historic data that ties a raise in the minimum wage to increased unemployment. To the contrary, economists suggest that an increase in the minimum wage will have a stimulating effect on the economy by increasing purchasing power. 
Most importantly, raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour would reduce the number of people living in poverty by 4.6 million, according to a recent study by University of Massachusetts – Amherst economist Arindrajit Dube”.
It has been reported Maryland senate president Thomas “Mike” Miller (D) feels it is more likely for the senate to pass regional wage hikes as opposed to a statewide increase in the minimum wage.
Republicans in the Frederick County state delegation have made their opposition to an increase in the state minimum wage known.  In an earlier interview, state senate minority leader David Brinkley (R) told me he felt a raise in the minimum wage should come from the federal government and not by the states.
Roger Wilson, another Democratic candidate for Maryland state delegate in district 3-A, told me “Increasing the minimum wage is both responsible and logical. It is a Win, Win. Let's use the example of Henry Ford.
Henry Ford paid his workers a living wage. Ford understood that by paying employees a living wage the employees could then afford to buy Ford motor cars. The same would hold true today for any company... Increase purchase power, buy more, sell more, build more, and the economy improves”.
Gene Stanton(D), who is running for Maryland state delegate in district 4 wrote in an email "Increasing the minimum wage is the right thing to do, for employees, employers and most especially, for Maryland taxpayers. In addition, it is the right thing to do morally. Maryland taxpayers benefit with increased income tax revenue and fewer people collecting public assistance and the business community benefits with happier employees that have money to spend on their products. Its a win-win situation for Maryland."
It is past due to increase the federal minimum wage and $10.10 is still insufficient for an individual or family to live in America today, regardless of what state they live in or what region within a state they reside.  Arguing against this makes little sense and government failing to act is a travesty.
Keeping a class of Americans in poverty and tied to government assistance is hardly representative of the “American Way”.
We can and must do better.  Demand your representative in Congress support an increase in the federal minimum wage and let your Maryland state legislator know you support a statewide increase in the minimum wage with automatic future increases tied to inflation.
Stay tuned.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

When will the pendulum swing stop in Frederick County?

George Wenschhof
Frederick County, Maryland voters decided on a change to charter government by referendum in the 2012 election, but the issues remain the same.
Yes, power structure will change with the election of a strong county executive and council in the 2014 election versus the current five member board of county commissioners.  But, the pivotal issues will remain the same and one of two distinctly different philosophies on how to manage growth will prevail come November.
The twenty year plus pendulum swing between county commissioners labeled as favoring a more balanced and sustainable approach to growth versus those labeled who favor development is once again poised to take place in the 2014 election.
Connected by their views on growth and not political party affiliation, they view each other in a detestable manner with a mutual lack of respect. They mirror the current repugnant manner displayed in the U.S. Congress between far right conservative Republicans and more progressive Democrats.
Unfortunately, the current Congress illustrates that the combative nature of these types of relationships often results in dysfunctional government.
Locally, as suspected, Democratic former president of the board and three term county commissioner Jan Gardner is running for county executive and her opponent is likely to be Republican board of county commissioners President Blaine Young.  Both Young and Gardner serve as lightening rods for opposing views on growth management.
If Young begs off a run for county executive, Republican county commissioner Billy Shreve is likely to run for the newly created position. 
A name, not previously mentioned, who may run is former Frederick County state’s attorney Scott Rolle (R).  A mostly mum Rolle told me recently he is seriously considering a run for office.  In addition to county executive, possibilities include state delegate in district 3-A or Judge of the circuit court.  The latter, appearing to more closely reflect his past experience. Interestingly, he almost won election to state delegate in 2010 after his withdrawal came too late to remove his name from the ballot. He said he will make his intentions known next week. 
Republican county commissioner David Gray is also running.  But, as an ally of Jan Gardner and one who already gave up the gavel to her in the 2006 election, do not look to see him face Gardner in the general election.  His candidacy is only meant to be a distraction for Young, should he run for county executive.
The filing deadline for candidates in the 2014 election is February 25.
Behind the scenes, much work has been underway by both groups to recruit sympathetic candidates to run for the seven member hybrid county council.  Five of the members are elected by districts and two at large.
In the 2006 election it was the self named “Dream Team” consisting of two Republicans; David Gray and John “Lennie” Thompson and two Democrats; Jan Gardner and Kai Hagen who won election.
They followed their election with pursuing actions, including an update of the county comprehensive plan and down zoning of properties to reflect their vision of how growth should take place in Frederick County.
However, it was actions that took place during their term that spawned the revitalization of “pro-growth” candidates led by Republican Blaine Young.
Blaine Young and company trounced the 2010 version of the “Dream Team” led by Democrat Kai Hagen and have followed their election by rezoning properties that had been down zoned by the previous board and proclaiming “Frederick County Open for Business”.
Young and Company have spent the next three plus years implementing destructive and reckless policies centered on the privatization of government services and reducing the size of government.
This has led to the return of Jan Gardner to the local political scene and the resurrection of the “Dream Team” faction.
Leading to yet another confrontational county election, focused once again on growth policies.
Voters deserve choices and a change from the current Blaine and Company regime is called for and needed.
However, Gardner if elected will need to be mindful of the actions taken by the previous board she presided over that led to the election of Young and Company and the irresponsible actions taken by a brash Blaine Young who has often stated “I am doing what I told the voters I would do when I ran for election”. 
Should she repeat these same actions, it will merely perpetuate the pendulum swing.
What is needed in Frederick County and the country is a more pragmatic approach to governing that focuses on bringing people together to obtain desired results that will endure sure to come changes in elected officials.
Volatile rhetoric and campaign tactics used to divide the community and unite enough voters just to win election is not what is needed and is a strategy that voters are tiring of.
Reflecting this sentiment, the fastest growing group of voters across the country is those who are unaffiliated with a political party, clearly signaling dissatisfaction with politics as usual.
Having seen many different representative democracy systems in place at the local level across the country, I am convinced it is not the system that guarantees effective government. 
The change to charter government alone will not be the savior or answer to more effective government for Frederick County residents.
Instead, it is the people who are elected and increased involvement by the people they represent, that will make the difference between good and bad government.
The focus by the county executive should be on bringing people together and implementing effective government services to reach a shared vision for the community.
Also needed is meaningful campaign finance reform to ensure fairness and that one vote is not worth more than another vote.
Frederick County voters deserve reasonable, fair and effective government. When choosing who to support for county executive and county council, voters should look past rhetoric and focus on those candidates dedicated to working together with other elected officials and with the residents they represent to implement a shared vision. 
Together, Frederick County can become the community that everyone desires.
Stay tuned.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Maryland Race for Governor Remains Fluid

George Wenschhof
In the solid blue state of Maryland, there is no clear leader in the race to succeed term limited Democratic Governor Martin O’Malley. With the candidate filing deadline of February 25 rapidly approaching, there remains talk of more candidates who may file for Governor.
Maryland 6th district Democratic freshman congressman John Delaney is the latest to consider running in a race where no clear leader has emerged.
Five Democrats, two Republicans and one Libertarian have filed for Governor with Republican Larry Hogan announcing recently he is running for the office.
Among the Democrats running; Lt. Governor Anthony Brown, state Attorney General Doug Gansler and state delegate Heather Mizeur are the main contenders battling for the party nomination resulting from the June 24 primary.
Adding intrigue in the race is the possibility of voters electing the first African American governor or woman and openly gay governor with Anthony Brown and Heather Mizeur on the ballot.
Larry Hogan, a former cabinet member of the last Republican Governor Robert Ehrlich and leader of the political organization Change Maryland, has quickly risen to the top among the Republican candidates and is the favorite to win the Republican primary.
The traditional early jockeying for statewide support by the leading Democratic candidates has included the naming of Lt. Governor Candidates, political endorsements and the boasting of fundraising prowess.
The Brown campaign moved quickly to announce Howard County executive as his running mate, removing a potential rival from the race and adding to his campaign coffers.  The Gansler campaign, hampered by three changes in campaign manager, countered with naming Jolene Ivey, an African American from Prince Georges County, one of the top four counties a candidate must win in a statewide election.  The Mizeur campaign followed by announcing Prince Georges pastor Delman Coates as her running mate.
So far, Democratic candidate campaign sniping at each other has dominated the news. Leading some Democrats to worry this could result in a similar outcome as the 2002 election when Republican Robert Ehrlich upset Democrat and Lt. Governor Kathleen Kennedy Townsend.
The Gansler campaign came under fire early on from presumably the Brown campaign or ones sympathetic, with leaks surrounding statements from Gansler about the Brown campaign using the race card, state trooper gate and photos of Gansler at a party where underage youth were consuming alcohol.
The less than stellar rollout of the state health care exchange for the Affordable Care Act has brought criticism to Lt. Governor Anthony Brown who was tasked by Governor Martin O’Malley to implement the program in the state.
This criticism, that questions his management ability, has severely impacted the Brown campaign that came out of the gate strong as the heir apparent to O’Malley. The Brown campaign focused on announcing the elected official endorsements they had received from O’Malley and many other elected officials in the state, including powerful state senate president Thomas “Mike” Miller and Representative Steny Hoyer.
Meanwhile, state delegate Heather Mizeur, who was considered a long shot to win the Democratic nomination, has mounted a strong grassroots effort appealing to progressives across the state.  Mizeur, who supports legalizing marijuana, recently announced the endorsement from the NORML political action committee. She also has received the endorsement from women's group Emily's List.  
January 8 campaign fundraising reports show the all important cash on hand to be: Brown - $7.1 Million, Gansler - $6.3 Million and Mizeur - $750,000.  The Brown campaign was aided by the $2.1 Million Ken Ulman, who had also considered a run for governor, had on hand.
Democratic representative John Delaney is a multi millionaire who spent millions of his own money in winning the 6th district race in 2012, where he upset the anointed Democratic candidate state senator Rob Garagiola. Delaney went on to dislodge Republican Roscoe Bartlett who had served for twenty years.  His victory was aided by gerrymandering of the district by the strong Democratic leaning state legislature.
Interestingly, the campaign manager of the Brown campaign is Justin Schall, who managed Delaney’s successful 2012 congressional campaign.   
Republican Larry Hogan, who just announced his candidacy, is expected to be aided by funds from his political organization Change Maryland.  The real estate broker has said his campaign will focus on the economy.
During an interview with Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot (D) last week, I asked him if he had second thoughts about not entering the race for Governor. Franchot, who has not endorsed a candidate for governor, told me “I love my job as Comptroller and look forward to serving another term”.
The recent news Larry Hogan will be running and Delaney is considering a run, clearly shows the fluidity of the race for Governor of Maryland.
Lost in the jockeying and sniping to date by some candidate campaigns has been a solid debate on the issues. 
Let’s hope from this point on, all of the candidates for Governor of Maryland focus on their position on the issues important to voters.
Stay tuned. 

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Maryland Comptroller Promotes Tax Assistance Programs

George Wenschhof
Josh Pederson, Ryan Trout and Peter Franchot
On a cold January day, Maryland comptroller Peter Franchot (D) was visiting Frederick, Maryland to promote tax assistance programs.
Yesterday, at the Bernard Brown Community Center, he thanked representatives from many local community organizations including Josh Pederson CEO of the United Way of Frederick County, Ryan Trout with the Housing Authority of The City of Frederick, and the Frederick County Financial Literacy Coalition for the work they do in providing financial services and education to residents of Frederick County.
At this tax time kickoff event, he spoke about the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program and The Earned Income Tax Credit.  These are programs that help low to moderate income families prepare their tax returns and make sure eligible families receive tax credits up to $5,891.
Franchot pointed out that in Frederick County alone, statistics showed “there were more than 10,000 county residents living below the poverty line and another 16,000 considered to be working poor”.
He spoke enthusiastically about how these programs help eligible families who are in need of some extra money, get the tax credits they deserve.
Franchot added “It’s not just the right thing to do morally – it’s the right thing to do economically, because it ultimately puts money back into our local economy”.
Last year, VITA sites in Frederick County helped prepare 300 returns securing more than $400,000 and also helped eligible residents receive Earned Income Tax Credits totaling $100,000.
Across the state of Maryland in 2013, over 18,000 residents were served who received over $30.5 Million in federal and state refunds.  In addition, eligible families received Earned Income Tax Credits of $13.6 Million.  Another $2.7 Million was saved in tax preparation fees.
Franchot said he also supports efforts to promote financial literacy to young people in Maryland and has advocated for mandatory personal finance education for every high school student in Maryland.
Peter Franchot and Jim Racheff
Jim Racheff, chair of The United Way of Frederick County told me "It was wonderful for the Comptroller to take time from his busy schedule to stand with United Way, the Housing Authority and all our partners to bring awareness to the VITA volunteer tax preparation assistance and earned income tax credit programs.”
Racheff added “Helping the more than 26,000 of our neighbors that find themselves struggling in this economy start on a path to financial stability is one of the most pressing issues in Frederick County. The Comptroller has been a strong advocate for financial literacy and we appreciate his continued support and leadership in this area."
Following his remarks, Comptroller Franchot told me “he's focused on making sure government works and that it's working for the people we're here to serve.”
After this event, Franchot visited a local business; Lebherz Oil and Vinegar Emporium, stopped by North Frederick Elementary School which is slated to receive $6.6 Million for construction in FY’15 and checked in at his local office.
Peter Franchot, who has repeatedly told me “he loves his job” has filed for reelection and at this point has no opposition in the Democratic Party. 
William Campbell is the only Republican who has filed for Comptroller. 
The deadline for candidates to file in the 2014 election is February 25.
Stay tuned.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Gene Stanton Files for Maryland State Delegate in District 4

George Wenschhof
Gene Stanton
The first Democrat to file in district 4, Gene Stanton told me he wants to reduce the gridlock on U.S. Route 270, build on the state’s excellent educational system and is concerned with the runaway growth policies of the current Frederick board of county commissioners.
Stanton said plans show Rt. 270 is scheduled to be widened to 8 lanes by 2030, but he would like to widen Rt. 270 to six lanes from Germantown to Route 15/Monocacy Boulevard as soon as feasible.
Gene would also like to see the Metro Red Line expanded from Shady Grove to Fort Detrick and Frederick Community College.
Stanton, a High School social studies and government teacher, moved to Ijamsville nine years ago.  He feels the planned Monrovia Town Center development is ridiculous and does not take into account the impact new residents will have on local roadways and major arteries.
He likes the rural atmosphere of Frederick County and does not want to see it become another Montgomery County, adding he supports the state’s smart growth policies.
Education is also very important to Stanton, who says he loves being a teacher and intends to continue teaching, should he win election. As state delegate, he wants to move the state’s education system forward, adding kids and taxpayers deserve it.  He believes a strong education is critical for kids to have a future.
Gene Stanton, who grew up in a small town outside of Miami, Florida, is not a stranger to politics.  His father was involved in politics and worked at the Miami Herald newspaper.  Gene said he first registered as a Republican, in part to rebel against his father, and voted for Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush for president, before changing his political affiliation.
He worked for Democrat Bill Clinton’s 1992 and 1996 presidential campaigns and would like to see today’s politicians get back to the days of compromise practiced by Clinton.
Gene shared with me it was after the 2000 presidential election, which saw Republican George W. Bush win, aided by the vote recount debacle in Florida and a questionable Supreme Court decision, that he and his partner of 24 years; Leonardo, moved to Maryland.  They were married in Vermont in 2009 after the state approved same-sex marriages. Last year Maryland's same-sex marriage law went into effect. 
When I asked him what he thought about the state “rain tax” for storm water management, Stanton told me he was against it and feels “we are taxed enough”.  Stanton added “I will not support new state income taxes under any circumstances”.
He does support Governor Martin O’Malley’s proposed state increase in the minimum wage to $10.10 and would also like to see automatic increases tied to inflation.
As delegate, Gene Stanton said he would work hard to see Frederick County receives their fair share back of the state taxes they pay.
He told me he is running because he believes voters deserve a choice, adding he wants voters to get to know him and look at him for what he stands for.  You can learn more about Gene Stanton and his campaign on his website: www.stantonfordelegate.org, on Facebook: at Stanton for Delegate, and Twitter: Gene Stanton.
Voters in district 4 will elect 3 state delegates.  The deadline for candidates to file for election is February 25.  The primary election is June 24 and the general election is November 4.
Incumbent Republican state delegate Kelly Shulz is the only other candidate who has filed at the time of this publication.
Stay tuned.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot To Visit Frederick

George Wenschhof

Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot
On Wednesday January 29, Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot (D) will be visiting The City of Frederick. 

In the morning at the Bernard Brown Center, the comptroller will discuss the opening of the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, before visiting the Lebherz Oil and Vinegar Emporium, a small business.  

The VITA program offers free tax assistance to low to moderate income families.

In the afternoon, he will visit North Frederick Elementary School which is slated to receive $6.6 Million in FY 15 and also stop by the local state Comptroller branch office in Frederick.

I will be having lunch with him and his communications director Andrew Friedson at Brewers Alley in historic downtown Frederick. My interview with the Comptroller will appear on www.FrederickPolitics.com

Wednesday, January 29 

10 a.m. Keynote Speaker: VITA Program
The Earned Income Tax Credit 
Bernard W. Brown Community Center 
629 North Market Street 
Frederick, MD 21701 

11:15 a.m. Proclamation Presentation: Lebherz Oil & Vinegar Emporium 
214 North Market Street 
Frederick, MD 21701  

1:30 p.m. School Construction Visit – North Frederick Elementary 
1001 Motter Avenue 
Frederick, MD 21701 

2 p.m. Comptroller’s Frederick Branch Office Visit 
Courthouse/Multiservice Center 
100 West Patrick Street 
Frederick, MD 21701

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Caroline Eader a Champion for Zero Waste

George Wenschhof

Caroline Eader
A big thank you is due Caroline Eader who has strongly advocated against the costly and ill advised construction of the Waste-to-Energy (Incinerator) facility in Frederick County, Maryland to handle solid waste disposal.
She has now pointed out there is an "out" to the contract for Frederick County government that will also avoid the widely circulated $3 Million fee for cancellation - see below section from the contract.
Section 4.4  CLOSING THE DEVELOPMENT PERIOD. 
(B) Failure of Conditions.  If by the fourth anniversary [January 21, 2014] of the Contract Date [January 21, 2010] or such later date upon which the Authority and [Wheelabrator] may agree, any Construction Commencement Date Conditions in Section 4.3 hereof are not satisfied or waived either party ... may, by notice in writing to the other party, terminate this Service Contract;...Except as set forth herein, neither party shall be liable to the other for the termination of this Service Contract pursuant to this subsection, and each of the parties [NMWDA and Wheelabrator] shall bear its respective costs and expenses incurred in seeking to satisfy the Construction Commencement Date Conditions set forth in Section 4.3 hereof.
The need for termination of this agreement is emphasized by the understanding the partner county in this costly endeavor; Carroll County, has made it known they will not be participating in this project.
I first met Ms. Eader around the end of 2007 or early 2008 following the "infamous" power point presentation by Frederick County government on the benefits to building an Incinerator.
The word infamous is in quotes because it was obvious to me, who at the time was a layman on the subject, that the presentation had been slanted to support the building of an incinerator.
No reasonable comparison was given to expansion of the existing landfill or construction of another landfill.  Nor, was any consideration given to the county government embracing the concept of "zero waste" and the impact this would have on the size needed for a future landfill.
Zero Waste was a new term for Frederick County residents at the time. Advocates Caroline Eader, Karin Tome and others have worked diligently over the years to educate Frederick County residents on the benefits and the necessity of following zero waste principles.
In an effort to shine more light on the options available to the disposal of solid waste, I provided two of the Frederick County commissioners the opportunity to share their opposing views through a series of columns I published on my Blog; www.FrederickPolitics.com.
The columns written by Commisioner Jan Gardner (D) who favored the construction of the incinerator and Kai Hagen (D) who opposed it, in August and September 2008, can be read here. 
On November 25, 2008, I followed with a column where I advocated for a cost benefit analysis where I conclude saying: "It would then follow that what is needed is a cost analysis of an Incinerator with a smaller complementary Landfill. Also needed would be a cost analysis of an appropriately sized Landfill supplemented by an increase in recycling and "zero waste" methods - this option would also include the construction of a Materials Recovery Facility and Resource Recovery Park. 
There is a cost associated with both which would be clearly seen after figures were plugged in for these options. It would appear a cost-benefit analysis of these two options would aid the elected officials and the community in this difficult decision making process."
This was obviously not done and another five years have passed without resolution to the disposal of solid waste for Frederick County.  Instead, the county has continued the costly and inefficient method of trucking the waste out of state.
Interestingly, since that time, I had the fortune of spending time on the west coast where I witnessed first hand zero waste practices in place and extremely effective in communities.
It was common to see a 3-Bin system; one for trash, one for compost/yard waste and one for recycling.  The trash bin was a pay as your throw system that was simply based on the size of the bin used.
Bottle deposit fees were also common place and in Oregon, it was common to see large fully automatic containers situated along the outside walls of grocery stores for residents to drop off their bottles and receive their money.  The machines would also crush the bottles and this was picked up on a scheduled basis. 
During my recent interview with Caroline Eader, she also shared a letter that was sent by the Zero Waste International Alliance to Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, thanking him for beginning to use the term "zero waste", while also correcting him that he could not support the concept by continuing to pursue incineration of solid waste in the state.
I was most intrigued with the "Ten Year Bridge Plan to Zero Waste", I received from Caroline Eader that was developed by Eric Lombardi of Eco-Cycle.  This plan provides a guide for how communities can transition their waste disposal systems from landfills and incinerators to recycling, composting, reuse and waste reduction.
This is a reasonable strategy and one the Frederick Board of County Commissioners should pursue.
Stay tuned.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Trout Focuses on Helping Low to Moderate Income Families

George Wenschhof
Ryan Trout
With rumors aplenty on who will be running for the two open seats, I reached out to Ryan Trout to find out whether he intended to run for Maryland state delegate in district 3-a.
The announcements from incumbents Patrick Hogan (R) and Galen Clagett (D) that they will not be running for reelection has fueled much speculation on who will take their place in Annapolis.
Shortly, after sitting down for an engaging two hour interview, Ryan Trout, who had run unsuccessfully for Maryland state delegate in district 4-a in the 2010 election, informed me he would not be running for any partisan election in 2014.
His job as the Family Self Sufficiency coordinator with Public Housing in Frederick falls under the Hatch Act which prohibits him from running for delegate. 
Ryan went on to tell me he also “loves his job and his sincere passion is to make the lives of low and moderate income families better”. He added “one reason why I love my current position so much is I am able to have a direct impact and work with wonderful people every day”.
He spoke extensively about his work and was proud of the services provided to help eligible families becomes self sufficient and obtain home ownership.  The comprehensive program works with 25 families at a time and includes educational, employment and financial training components, leading to home ownership.
In addition to his focus on his employment, Ryan told me he recently became engaged and they are looking to buy a home. Interestingly, he met his fiance Alecia Frisby at the Democratic Tent during the Great Frederick Fair.  Alecia is a staff attorney at the Legal Aid Bureau's Midwestern Office.
Ryan Trout told me that although he won’t be running for delegate, he wants to make sure that low to moderate income residents of the state have a voice in Annapolis.
He told me he supports an increase in the state minimum wage and is okay with individual counties passing legislation that provide for an even higher minimum wage.
Trout also strongly supports new jobs programs, pre-K and K-12 education, as well as career and technical education.
In breaking the cycle of poverty, he believes focus should be on economic rights and education.
He would also like to see Maryland become more progressive and move to Universal Health Care.
I asked Ryan, with his education interest, if he would consider running for a nonpartisan seat on the Frederick County Board of Education. He indicated he would need to get clarification from the Federal Elections Commission. Another thought that had crossed his mind was to submit his resume for consideration for the open slot, resulting from Russ Currey’s resignation, on the Frederick County Democratic state Central Committee.
When I asked him if he was supporting any candidates in the Maryland district 3-a state delegate race, he immediately said Carol Krimm is a dedicated public servant who would do well in that position.
The candidates who have filed so far for delegate in district 3-a are Republican Paul Smith, a member of the Frederick board of county commissioners, Republican Chris Huckenpoehler, Democrat and former City of Frederick alderman Carol Krimm and Democrat Nicholas Bouquet.  Bouquet, who has not made an official announcement, filed on 1-17-2014.
Former City of Frederick alderman and mayoral candidate Karen Young (D) and Roger Wilson (D) have filed a statement of organization with the state and indicated their interest in running for delegate in district 3-a.
The deadline for candidates to file in the 2014 state of Maryland elections is February 25.  The primary election will be held on June 24 and the general election will take place on November 4.
Stay tuned.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Bickel Wants to Restore Dignity to Sheriff’s Office

George Wenschhof
Karl Bickel
During an interview Thursday afternoon, Democrat Karl Bickel repeatedly complained of the lack of leadership in the Frederick County, Maryland Sheriff office.  He told me incumbent Republican sheriff Chuck Jenkins, manages through fear and intimidation resulting in scared employees and low morale.
He said there were good people in the Frederick County Sheriff department and he was running because he wants the opportunity to build leaders in all levels of the organization.
Bickel added he wanted to “restore dignity from top to bottom and that the leadership style needs to change”.
He sent me an email early Friday evening following the interview informing me it was now official and that he had filed to run for Sheriff.  His Treasurer is local attorney and Republican Jason Shoemaker who will also help in managing the campaign.  So far, two Republicans; incumbent Chuck Jenkins and Kevin Grubb have announced they are running for Frederick County Sheriff.
The deadline for candidates to file in the 2014 election is February 25.  The primary election is June 24 and the general election is November 4.
Bickel, who has lived the last 35 years in Monrovia, Maryland recently retired from the U.S. Department of Justice and has a 40 year career in law enforcement.  He previously was the Chief of Law Enforcement Operations with the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office when Carl Harbaugh was sheriff and worked with the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department.
Karl also told me he had served on the Frederick County Ethics and Human Relations Commissions.
His education includes a Master of Science Degree in Management; Police Executive Leadership Program from John Hopkins University and a Master of Science Degree; Justice from American University.

He also has taught criminal justice at Allegheny College, Montgomery College and American University. 
Due to Hatch Act restrictions, he explored running as an “Unaffiliated” candidate four years ago, falling short of the required signatures needed to appear on the ballot.
In a wide ranging interview, Bickel told me “there were so many problems across the board.., and that the Sheriff department had a bad reputation outside of Frederick County”.
One area Bickel wants to work on is consolidation of services with The City of Frederick and state police.  He believes there is a strong possibility for combining training with the city.
He also wants to see the Sheriff’s office receive more federal funds, something Bickel says Sheriff Jenkins has failed to do, pointing to a $500,000 federal grant Jenkins turned down when it was brought to his attention from former Maryland sixth district Representative Roscoe Bartlett’s office.
When it comes to high profile cases such as the tragic death of Ethan Saylor, who suffered with Down syndrome, that resulted from actions taken from off duty sheriff deputies working as security guards, Bickel believes an outside agency should do the investigation.  When the investigation is complete, Bickel says it is important to immediately share it with the public.
He believes this type of action could well have prevented a civil rights investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Bickel also shared with me an article he had written for a local newspaper where he was critical of the management of the Frederick County jail, where numerous suicides have occurred under the watch of Sheriff Jenkins.
As sheriff, he plans to take a look at current administrative costs and wants to put more deputies on the road. Bickel said he would like to require ranking officers to spend 10% of their time in the field.
Overall, Karl Bickel wants to provide a change in leadership and move the Frederick County Sheriff’s office forward.
Stay tuned.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Karen Young Lobbies for Medical Marijuana Amendment

George Wenschhof
Nicolas and Byron Moore
Photo by Amy Masser, Baby Face Photography
I spoke to Shannon Moore Sunday evening when she and her husband were in Children’s Hospital with their twins Nicolas and Byron. The twins were there to receive feeding tubes because seizures are keeping them from being able to eat.
The three-year old twins Nicolas and Byron (they call them Nico and Bebo) have a rare genetic disorder called Miller-Dieker Syndrome that causes severe, life-threatening seizures.
Shannon told me she first heard about medical marijuana as a treatment for epilepsy on a CNN special with Sanjay Gupta.  After considerable research and many conversations with other parents and medical professionals, she believes her children and many others could benefit from medical cannabis. She is convinced the treatment will save the lives of children with epilepsy.
Shannon Moore shared with me many of the key points on why medical marijuana is needed (that can be read here), including, but not limited to, “children with epilepsy take medicines with horrible side effects”.
More important, Shannon points out “cannabis is working on many children with epilepsy. About 15% of kids with epilepsy who are given high CBD low THC cannabis don't see a benefit.  But about 85% of them do, and about 60% of those kids see significant seizure reduction of about 80% or more.  There are a few kinds of epilepsy that have had the most promising results to date: Doose, Dravet, and Lennox-Gastaut Syndromes.  I listen with gratitude and some jealousy to parents on facebook whose kids are beginning to walk again, or talk, or eat on their own, or to smile - to play..”.
During a recent social encounter, Shannon shared with Karen Young her plight and her wish to see legislation enacted in Maryland to help her children and others.  Shannon said Karen’s reaction was immediate and she volunteered to help saying “I will go to bat for you”.  Shannon added “it was pretty amazing”.
When I reached former City of Frederick alderman and candidate for mayor; Karen Young, she told me “When she (Shannon) told me that, between the demands of her job and her children, she just didn't have sufficient time to pursue the legislation, I knew immediately what I would be doing.”
She added “Shannon is an amazing woman. She is one of the most knowledgeable people in the region on environmental sustainability. She is both knowledgeable and highly professional. Those who know her professionally would never know what she is going through. She is incredibly strong.” Shannon Moore is Manager of the Frederick County government office of Sustainability and Environmental Resources.
Karen Young, who has filed a "statement of organization" with the state and is considering a run for state delegate in district 3-a, said she immediately reached out to Maryland state delegate Patrick Hogan (R-district 3-a), who indicated his support from the Frederick County state delegation and also met with Maryland state senator Jamin (Jamie) Raskin (D-district 20) in Annapolis.

Delegate Hogan responded to my inquiry in an email and said he had spoken to both Shannon and Karen on this issue.  He stated "Shannon's sons and many other children and adults with similar conditions are not eligible under the legislation that we passed last year, so I plan to help correct that legislatively."

Hogan went on to say "I have spoken to Del. Dan Morhaim who sits on the Health and Government Operations Committee and has been one of the lead sponsors of the medical marijuana legislation. I asked him about a few specific conditions and he said he is in the process of drafting a bill to include various medical conditions that were not covered under the previous legislation. We plan to meet later this week to ensure that his legislation will include Miller-Dieker syndrome and other similar disorders."

Hogan concluded by saying "we are allowing medical marijuana in Maryland, so of course we should make sure it is available to those who can really benefit from it."
Karen said she was also heartened to hear from senator Raskin, who confirmed with me by email he informed her "I spoke with delegate Dan Morhaim, M.D. (D-district 11) after seeing you yesterday, and I will be cross-filing his legislation to expand the availability of medical marijuana by allowing doctors to prescribe it. In this futile, decades-long War on Drugs, at the very least we should get the sick, the injured, and the young off of the battlefield. Please tell Shannon that I am saddened by her story but inspired by her activism and her love as a parent."
It is encouraging to see this bipartisan effort underway in the Maryland state legislature. This common sense legislation is aimed at helping children and families in need across the state. It deserves prompt attention and approval by the General Assembly this session.   
As Shannon stated in an email “Thank you so much for taking the time to listen, and for your willingness to care.  I know that we can move mountains.”
Stay tuned.