Archive for the ‘Howard County, MD’ Category

HoCo: Board of Elections Made Right Call

Wednesday, March 18th, 2009

Okay, I have written this post a couple of times in draft form, but I am glad I actually talked to someone with ties to the Board of Elections whom I trust who told me the real story behind the failed petition drive and why the Board of Elections ultimately decided to invalidate the referendum petition filed by pro-union forces and Mark Norman, and why this is really just a sad case of a Government screw up where everyone comes out looking bad.

My first impression when I heard about this after getting home on Sunday was that Norman and his pro-union thugs helping him out with the petition drive was that they just screwed up and they are to blame for their own failure. I wanted to believe this personally because I have always thought this entire fight was more of a case of the unions being upset about a non-union store, Harris Teeter, entering the county than about anything else. And they were able to use Mark Norman as a cover to advance their pro-union agenda.

But after my discussion tonight, I have much more sympathy for Norman and what happened to him. From what I understand, Norman did everything he could do to make sure his petition was proper and legal within the law and was given assurances by the Board of Elections that everything was fine. It wasn’t until this past week when the Board of Elections became aware of the state law on the requirements for signatures that they decided that they had to follow it and. Talking with this person tonight, it was clear they were not happy about the decision they had to make, but in the end, they had no choice and could have been sued themselves for knowingly violating a law once they were aware of it should someone who is opposed to the referendum pressed it. So despite the fact that the Board of Elections had told Norman one thing all along, they basically had to change their stance and rule his petitions invalid. There was no conspiracy or attempt to just help the developers by the Board of Elections, it was just a case of the Board of Elections having to follow the law as they know it. By the way, this person said they hope Norman eventually is able to get his petition validated, even though they do not support it them self, and on the ballot. However, the way the law is written right now, they feel the Board of Elections made the only decision they were legally able to make.

So here is my final conclusion – I am opposed to the referendum and find Mark Norman’s tactics of teaming up with union thugs to push forward his personal agenda onto the ballot to be absolutely disgusting. I believe Norman was screwed over by the Howard County Board of Elections (albeit not intentionally) and can fully understand his anger. I believe the standard for signing a petition is way too strict, especially in light of the fact that voting in this state still does not even require a valid form of photo ID. But in the end, the law is the law and the law clearly states the requirements of what constitutes a valid petition signature and, despite the fact that Norman might have been ultimately screwed, the written law has to win out in the end here, the Board of Elections made the right final call, and the petition should be thrown out.

My hope is the petition law is fully overhauled so that it more straightforward what constitutes a valid signature and that if someone wants to sign a petition to bring an issue to referendum, someone can do it without being rejected on a technicality.

Howard County Giving Bribes To Save “Healthy Howard”

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

That is what I take away from this front page article from The Washington Post about the failure of Ken Ulman’s “Healthy Howard” program.

Officials in Howard County thought their low-cost health-care program would be an easy sell in a community where an estimated 15,000 adults are without coverage. But nearly four months later, they are struggling to get people to enroll.
….
As a result, the programs have stepped up their marketing efforts. Howard officials plan to increase outreach efforts to local college students and small businesses. They are even resorting to cold cash — offering some nonprofit community groups $20 for each person they help recruit for the program.

This program has been such an unmitigated disaster that Ulman is now bribing community groups to beat the bushes to find someone, anyone, to sign up for this program. Unreal. The County spent $500,000 for this program and have found a grand total of 109 people to sign up. In other words, it has cost the county $4,587 per person to sign someone up for a health plan. And this is all coming during a time when the county is claiming they could save $220,000 by forcing the layoff of two state employees in the Soil Conservation District. I have an idea, how about dropping this failed program and saving the County even more money – $500,000. It even gets worse.

Still, Peter Beilenson, the county’s health officer, said the process has been successful because more people now have health care. He said officials will expand their outreach to community college students and small businesses. The county also recently changed the program requirements to allow the newly unemployed to enroll sooner than previously permitted.

I could have sworn the reason they had the waiting period after was to prevent small companies from just dropping coverage and telling their employees enroll in the “Healthy Howard” program. I guess when your program is such an unmitigated failure, you will do anything to save it including completely undercutting whatever original reasons for the rules you had for the program in the first place….

Bribing people to find enrollees and changing rules in the middle of the game…par for the course for a Government program I guess….

Kendal Ehrlich Visits Howard County

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

Tonight, while the rest of the country was watching Barack Obama tell you how he is going to save the world, I got to hear First Lady Kendal Ehrlich as the guest speaker at the Howard County Republican Women Club meeting earlier this evening.

She said it was her first real political event since the 2006 election and it was clear she hasn’t lost the passion. I won’t get into what she said since I am not sure whether her comments are supposed to be for public consumption; but ff course, she was asked whether her husband Bob Ehrlich was entertaining another run for office and she didn’t give a hint one way or the other which way he was leaning. And when asked whether she would run herself, she said she has two kids to raise….

Ulman Pulls “Hostile Takeover” Bill

Wednesday, February 18th, 2009

Explore Howard reports what I had heard from HCCA and what Freemarket also heard from his sources, that Ken Ulman is giving up on his attempt to takeover the review for Soil Conservation.

County Executive Kenneth Ulman has withdrawn a controversial proposal to transfer some plan review duties from the Howard Soil Conservation District to the county.

The action, which required state legislation, was set to be considered by the county’s state legislative delegation at its meeting today. But after some lawmakers and others questioned the bill, Ulman decided to pull it.

Warren Miller, as quoted in the article, asks a similar question I asked when I first heard about this issue.

State Del. Warren Miller, a Woodbine Republican who had also criticized the bill, said the county should look elsewhere for budget cuts, perhaps in the Department of Planning and Zoning. If staff members there would have been able to absorb the extra work, he said, the office might have too many workers.

“It begs the question: ‘What are all those people doing?’ ” he said.

So the question now goes to Ulman, what are those people doing? Now that he has both admitted the Planning and Zoning Department has too many employees and claimed that this move was entirely a budgetary move, will anyone in the Planning and Zoning Department be laid off to save the $220,000, which supposedly was the purpose of this bill according to Ulman flacks at the hearing, was supposed to save?

HoCo: Campaign Money Chase – 2009

Monday, February 16th, 2009

Just the raw numbers of contributions, expenditures, and accounts over the past year according to reports submitted January 21stm 2009 for the sitting incumbents in Howard County.

District Candidate Got Spent Has Owes
COUNTY
Executive Ulman (D) $269,964 $97,613 $303,610 $0
CC 1 Watson (D) $20,365 $2,652 $39,726 $0
CC 2 Ball (D) $24,715 $10,249 $33,844 $0
CC 3 Terresa (D) $26,811 $9,190 $18,113 $0
CC 4 Sigaty (D) $0 $0 $3,845 $500
CC 5 Fox (R) $600 $62 $21,708 $0
DISTRICT 13
Sen 13 Robey (D) $11,277 $2,770 $26,566 $45,000
Del 13 Pendergrass (D) $41,849 $6,617 $50,909 $0
Del 13 Guzzone (D) $40,582 $18,822 $94,677 $0
Del 13 Turner (D) $15,022 $1,390 $21,508 $0
Slate 13 Team 13 Slate $22,535 $8,537 $38,108 $1,000
DISTRICT 12
Sen 12 Kasemeyer (D) $34,555 $13,151 $58,607 $0
Del 12A Malone (D) $42,760 $24,132 $50,132 $0
Del 12A Deboy (D) $20,365 $10,892 $19,382 $0
Del 12B Bobo (D) $12,988 $5,882 $46,808 $0
Slate 12A Team 12A Slate $0 $0 $214 $0
DISTRICT 9
Sen 9 Kittleman (R) $52,275 $21,187 $44,588 $0
Del 9A Miller (R) $17.876 $13,346 $12,925 $0
Del 9A Bates (R) $13,200 $7,574 $20,526 $0
Slate 9A Bates/Miller $14,638 $7,099 $7,837 $0

And people wonder why incumbents have such an easy time winning….

A Budget Move…or Something More

Monday, February 9th, 2009

The Baltimore Sun had an article Sunday about the attempt by Ken Ulman, in the words of many of the opponents, to perform a “hostile takeover” of the Soil Conservation review process. Now before I get to the issue in general, I really take exception with the way Larry Carson went after Delegate Warren Miller in this article. His first dig at Miller was this excerpt.

At one point, the disagreement produced an unusual exchange – Wacks lecturing conservative Republican Del. Warren E. Miller on the value of small savings.

“What percentage of the county budget is $220,000?” Miller asked.

Wacks replied that it was negligible.

“We’re headed into proverbial lean times, not just for a year or two,” he said. “These small pieces add up.”

Of course, what Carson refuses to include in his description is the massive increases in county spending over the previous number of years that have caused the county to now have to find ways to cut spending in the first place. Wacks should be the last person “lecturing” anybody about the value of small savings.

Now I actually attended this meeting on Wednesday night but knew nothing about this issue until that night, so I was listening pretty closely to it and found the debate on each side interesting. To the issue at hand, apparently it came down to the County claiming this move would save the County $220,000, since the County would not have to pay the state of Maryland anymore for Soil Consevration review. Apparently in the past, the county made a deal with the state that the county would collect the fees for the soil conservation review and pay the state to do the actual review. Throughout the testimony from the County minions, they kept saying the County Planing Department has the resources to do this work and could easily take it on without any problems. Sounds great, huh?

I have a stupid question. If the Planning Department has enough resources to take on the work that apparently two full-time employees are currently doing, doesn’t it beg the question as to whether the Planning Department has too many resources right now? Instead of forcing the state to lay off two employees who have been doing this particular task for years and change from a system that 22 other counties are currently operating without problems, can we instead take a look at whether we have too many people currently working in the Planning Department. Clearly if the County claims they can easily take on this work, haven’t they basically just admitted they have too many people in their Department to begin with.

Just something to think about. i got these budget numbers from a state employee, so I have not verified them completely, but according to the numbers I got, here are budgets for the Planning Department over the past three years:

FY 07
Approved Budget: $5,851,573
Full Time Equivalent Employees: 64.88

FY08
Approved Budget $6,482,315
Increase over FY07 10.77%
Full Time Equivalent Employees: 68.88

FY09
Approved Budget $6,770,077
Increase over FY08 4.44%
Full Time Equivalent Employees: 69.88

So in just two years, the county has added nearly one million dollars to the budget of the Planning Department and five additional employees. And now the County is claiming they have enough resources to assume the work of two full-time employees. Before trying to force the state to lay off two employees, shouldn’t the county have to explain why they hired at least two of these people since they seem to be just sitting around doing nothing.

Which then leads to what was pointed out by the opponents of this bill from the start, whether this move is truly a “budget” move to save money or a political attempt by Ulman to put the approval of soil conservation under his control instead of an independent organization. One other claim by the Ulman flack Cheston at the hearing was this was something that was in his transition report. Correct me if I am wrong, but Ulman has been County Executive for two plus years now. Why did it take this long to come around to this idea and why file this bill late instead of with the other bills at the normal bill filing time? Was Ulman trying to do this under the cover of darkness hoping to sneak through a bill to give himself more control of the development process?

Freemarket has some thoughts on this same issue, although he disagrees with me on whether this function should remain with the state or be shifted to Ulman’s control.

2008 Election – Breakdown by Councilmanic District

Thursday, January 8th, 2009

This is the second in a series of posts looking back at the 2008 election results in Howard County looking at trends and other assorted numbers that may give some information about future elections. One thing about elections is that they can give a glimpse of the true ideological make up of a district even more than the actual partisan breakdown of the registered voters can. A glaring example of this is in the south where numerous states have majority Democratic party registration but regularly vote Republican in federal elections. In other words, the partisan breakdown of the voters has absolutely no bearing on how the voters think and vote.

The second set of numbers look at the five councilmanic districts in Howard County. I took the results from the Howard County Board of Elections and broke them out by Legilsative District.

DISTRICT Obama McCain
1 52.79% 45.12%
2 67.08% 30.97%
3 68.82% 29.39%
4 69.52% 28.88%
5 43.42% 54.69%

As is expected, Democrats continue to dominate in Districts 2, 3 and 4, showing that these voters still lean heavily to the Democratic candidates. District 5 still showing a double-digit edge for McCain bodes well for an easy re-election for Greg Fox should he run again (and I assume he will). That leaves District 1 as the best opportunity for Republicans to gain a seat in 2010 to bring the County Council a little closer to parity.

Once again, I have to mention one caveat to these numbers is the voters in each who voted by absentee ballot or by provisional ballot are not included. For some inexplicable reason, the Howard County Board of Election refuses to break down these voters by their respective district and include them among the voters for each precinct. We are also now in a new year and the Howard County Board of Elections still lists these results as “unofficial”. What on earth are they waiting for?

2008 Election – Breakdown by Legislative District

Monday, December 29th, 2008

This will begin a series of posts looking back at the 2008 election results in Howard County looking at trends and other assorted numbers that may give some information about future elections. One thing about elections is that they can give a glimpse of the true ideological make up of a district even more than the actual partisan breakdown of the registered voters can. A glaring example of this is in the south where numerous states have majority Democratic party registration but regularly vote Republican in federal elections. In other words, the partisan breakdown of the voters has absolutely no bearing on how the voters think and vote.

With that in mind, this first post will look at the breakdown by Legislative District. I took the results from the Howard County Board of Elections and broke them out by Legilsative District.

DISTRICT Obama McCain
9A 47.85% 50.18%
12A 52.93% 44.71%
12B 72.98% 25.30%
13 64.95% 33.27%

Now right off the bat, the numbers in District 12A are meaning less in the grand scheme of things since most of this district is located in another county, so the numbers strictly from Howard County really don’t give any indication for this district as a whole. And really no surprise in Districts 12B and 13 considering they include all of Columbia.

The numbers that surprise me the most and shows the gains Democrats making in the county are the numbers in District 9A. Now we can look at these numbers in two ways. For McCain to only get barely over 50% in the district where Republicans are the strongest in Howard County shows Democrats may be looking to make this a major battleground next year. Just two years ago, Governor Ehrlich won this district with 58% over Governor O’Malley. Now some of this can be attributed to the Obama wave across the county, which saw Obama getting nearly 60% of the vote, compared to the razor thin margin (50%-49%) O’Malley won Howard County two years ago. Of course, one other way to look at it is that the shift to Obama in this district underperformed the countywide shift to Obama from O’Malley by 2%. Either way, this district is going to be a lot more competitive next year than it was two years ago and I expect Democrats to field two candidates this time around to take on Gail Bates and Warren Miller.

One caveat to these numbers is the voters in each who voted by absentee ballot ro by provisional ballot are not included. for some inexplicable reason, the Howard County Board of Election refuses to break down these voters by their respective district and include them among the voters for each precinct. In addition, these results are still listed as “unofficial”, which is absolutely mind-boggling. How is a technologically advanced county as this one incapable of posting the official results of this election nearly two months after the election has been completed. What on earth is taking them this long? Just another complaint in a long string of complaints I have about the complete inefficiency of the Howard County Board of Elections.

Anyway, later this week and next week, I will be posting a breakdown of the 2008 election by County Council district to see how each district voted and what it possible means for the future races at this level.

2nd Chance Saloon Opens December 5th

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2008

This is what is currently being displayed at the top of the Second Chance Saloon website.

Just passing along the word….

HoCo: Free Speech Protected

Monday, December 1st, 2008

A couple of weeks ago, I put up a post about a Howard County Bill 9-09 that was going to be introduced into the General Assembly that would have banned roadside solicitations, including advertising of any kind, along state highways in Howard County. I mentioned in my post that this appeared to be an attempt by Democrats to ban political sign waving (essentially free speech), a long-time staple of local politicians in Howard County. The Baltimore Sun reported yesterday that the Howard County Democrats relented after a crowd showed up and testified against the bill and will amend the bill to explicitly safeguard political sign-waving.

Sponsors of a county bill that would ban soliciting money, selling items and advertising in the right-of-way of state roads in the county agreed to amend the bill to safeguard political sign-waving, a right protected under the Constitution, according to an opinion from the Maryland attorney general’s office.

An angry crowd of free-speech advocates, many Republicans, showed up at a Howard General Assembly delegation hearing Tuesday night to oppose that part of the bill. However, several speakers at the session at school board headquarters agreed that people soliciting at intersections can pose a safety hazard.

Guzzone, the House delegation chairman and one of three District 13 Democrats who sponsored the bill to add state roadways to a county ban on soliciting along local roads, said he recognized the constitutional issue and that Democrats would amend the bill.

Not sure why the writer of this article felt the need to refer to the crowd with the loaded term “angry”. Regardless, it does show what a little citizen activism can accomplish, even on minor things like this and good to see that this poorly written bill is going to be corrected. Free speech lives at least for another day….

The article also indicates that Mary Kay Sigaty was elected the new chairwoman of the County Council….