Waaaaaaaaaaah

The Post has the story of the RNC temper tantrum.

The Republican National Committee announced Friday that it was suspending its partnership with NBC News for an upcoming presidential debate in February, moving fast as anger at CNBC’s handling of Wednesday night’s Republican forum boiled over.

In a letter to NBC News Chairman Andrew Lack, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said that their relationship for the debate, scheduled for Feb. 26 at the University of Houston, was on hold “pending further discussion.”

The RNC has faced increasingly vocal — and active — dissatisfaction with the debate process from presidential contenders in the wake of Wednesday night’s face-off, with candidates and their campaigns complaining that CNBC conducted the debate in “bad faith” and asked questions in an attempt to spark infighting. “We simply cannot continue with NBC without full consultation with our campaigns,” Priebus wrote Friday.

In a statement, NBC News called the RNC’s decision “disappointing.”

Somebody call the waaaambulance. What a pathetic bunch of babies. Is that how they’ll deal with adversity as president? Bitch and whine and moan? Your modern GOP, ladies and gentlemen.

Alcohol Blues

Here in Montgomery County, we have increasing income inequality, an ever widening achievement gap and overcrowding in our schools, issues of race in our criminal justice system, skyrocketing rents caused by the development decisions we’ve made over the past decade that are squeezing many tenants right out of the county altogether, inequities and access to health care for women, looming budgetary shortfalls at the county level that have us facing significant tax increases just to stand still, and enormous choices to be made regarding both the next generation of transit (Purple Line) as well as the one after that (BRT and CCT). That’s just a brief, off the top of my head Saturday grab bag of big issues.

What is the burning issue of the day this week? Not any of those meaty, important issues. Instead, the food fight is over privatizing Montgomery County’s monopoly on liquor sales. Now, I am no fan of the county’s liquor program. It’s inefficient and it doesn’t provide a lot of what customers want and special orders, whether for individuals or for restaurants, are poorly handled and often ignored. Nobody was more annoyed about these problems than my late wife – ask me some time about her efforts to get the wine she wanted for our son’s bar mitzvah back in 2008. It wasn’t pretty. Words were spoken, voices were raised, etc. Wine was a sacred thing in our house, and not getting what she wanted was an outrage. Things definitely need to get better.

But there’s a big difference between saying the system needs to get better and doing away with it entirely and allowing private liquor sales. Those who advocate for these kinds of drastic changes essentially are pissed off that they have to drive to DC or Virginia to buy their cheap hooch. That’s not a good basis for making public policy. They ignore the reality that the current system has been around for over 80 years, since the end of Prohibition. Even poorly conceived ideas ought not to be undone without careful consideration, especially when they touch on such a wide variety of significant issues. Moreover, the current system generates over $34 million in annual net revenue to the county, a substantial sum, especially for a county already looking at substantial tax increases in the coming years. Additionally, there is the matter of several hundred jobs that would be put at risk, not to mention the fact that the discount private entities drive their costs down at least in part through paying their employees lower wages and benefits.

What we’ve had is a steady drumbeat of demands to tear down the system now, consequences be damned. Peter Franchot, Bill Frick, David Lublin, Adam Pagnucco, among others, all argue for blowing up the current system and allowing private liquor sales, based primarily on “giving the people what they want.”

Earlier this year, the County Council, after consideration of the complexities of the matter, proposed allowing special order sales from restaurants (particularly wine) to be opened up to private distributors. The DLC has also proposed opening more stores around the county.

Several members of the County Council, as well as County Executive Ike Leggett, are opposed to privatization.

On Thursday, Comptroller Peter Franchot proposed a bill to open up the system to private actors. 

“Look, we’re not going to demand that the county end its monopoly—we’re simply going to call their bluff and ask that the private sector be allowed to compete, both for the distribution and retailing of spirits and distribution of beer and wine,” Franchot said in an interview Wednesday. “I would anticipate that in a very short period of time, several years at the most, restaurants and consumers would move—organically, so to speak—from the county monopoly to the private sector.”

* * *

Outlining his proposal, Franchot, a Takoma Park resident, declared, “This would be a very efficient…approach to a problem that that bedevils the county right now, because everyone knows the restaurants are not happy, everyone knows the consumers are getting gouged, and everyone knows that Montgomery County stands almost alone as far as having the most Prohibition-type system.”

It took less than a day for state legislators to get in on the action, in the form of a bill offered by Delegate Bill Frick of Bethesda.

Six state legislators from Montgomery County want voters to decide next November whether private alcohol distributors should be allowed to compete against the county’s Department of Liquor Control.

The six will propose a bill to put a referendum on the November 2016 general election ballot asking voters whether private alcohol wholesalers should be allowed to sell directly to restaurants and alcohol retailers, and whether private retailers should be able to sell liquor under a newly created license.

District 16 Del. Bill Frick, one of the bill’s co-sponsors, said the proposal is similar to the one Comptroller Peter Franchot is now pitching except that it includes the referendum.

If approved via referendum, the county’s Department of Liquor Control would still be allowed to operate, but would face competition from private distributors and retailers. Restaurant operators and alcohol retailers could buy their products from private distributors, the county’s Department of Liquor Control or both.

I’ve read the bill, and it has major problems. There’s no restriction on the number of either wholesale or retail licenses to sell liquor. So any current licensee could pony up the $1,000 license fee and be eligible to sell liquor. Imagine a county full of discount liquor stores.

Second, there’s no apparent restriction on the location of such stores – while I haven’t looked at the county zoning law yet, I have to believe it doesn’t address these issues, since the county liquor monopoly dates back to a time before there WAS a zoning code. So look forward to liquor stores everywhere – near schools, near churches, near anywhere where a convenience store can now go, liquor can be sold there.

Third, the proposed license fee of $1,000 is absurdly low. The profit that discount liquor can make is high. Earlier estimates suggests that the sale of the county monopoly might fetch tens of millions of dollars. And now we want to sell it for $1,000 a pop? That’s a complete giveaway.

There’s a further question whether this is a proper law for a referendum in any event. Liquor laws are barred from being taken to referendum under the Constitution by the voters – should the General Assembly be allowed to send a local bill (question about that, too) to referendum in a manner that the people may not under the Constitution? I haven’t done enough research to know for sure, but the issue is definitely out there.

Most troubling, however, is the unwillingness of reform proponents to even grant the existence of the issues on the other side. David Lublin has written 12 blog posts on the alcohol issue since July 31, a time during  which there were 41 total posts. At least the blog posts had some semblance of civility and balance, especially when compared to his ugly and anti-union comments yesterday on the Bethesda Magazine story about Bill Frick’s proposed legislation described above. So much as I’d rather not spend any more time on this guy, I feel like I have to.

There was a prior comment that raised the question of Bill Frick’s wife, Bethany, having previously  worked for Total Wine, one of the potential beneficiaries of any privatization effort. Here’s that comment:

 
I don’t agree at all with the questioning of Delegate Frick’s motivations, but bringing up the issue generally is hardly controversial. Given the nature of Maryland’s part-time legislative scheme (I wrote about this last week), potential conflicts for legislators with their own or their spouses’ employment are constant and part of the scenery.

David Lublin, however, was outraged, so much so that he did precisely the same thing to Lisa Gebbia that he accused her of doing to Bill Frick and his wife, only worse.  

She works for a firm that does work for UFCW. She’s an advocate. And that’s worse optics than a delegate whose wife is in the liquor business directly? Especially when Bethany Frick now works for Diageo, another alcohol distributor with local connections? Still isn’t relevant at all? But work for a union, and oh boy, now we have a problem. Interesting pair of glasses you got there, Dave. They apparently only see what you want them to see. And Gebbia isn’t making the decisions here – she’s an advocate, which is again only acceptable for those who agree with Lublin. Overbearing, arrogant, and utterly hypocritical. Throw in anti-labor and you’ve got a full matching set of asshole tendencies there.

Then Gebbia responds to Lublin to defend herself, and to make a perfectly reasonable argument for the status quo.   

Does David Lublin engage in a reasoned, thoughtful discussion of this issue? You know the answer – of course not. Better to double down on the shouting and the bullying.

  Only unions and union flacks can be criticized? Alcohol interests are pure and right and ready to sell a case of Zinfandel to David Lublin for $10 cheaper than DLC, so they’re good. Interesting policy framework there too.

You wouldn’t know there’s actually two sides to this argument. Lublin doesn’t want to discuss the issues, he wants to fight. Why does he care so much about alcohol sales? Is he really put out that much by the inconvenience and inefficiencies of the current system? With everything else going on in this county – see above – why is this the single issue that currently has David Lublin in an angry and petulant rage?

The last thing that had him upset – the Chevy Chase elections – it turned out that Lublin had a strong personal interest in the prior administration because of his having been mayor of the Town when it took a rejectionist position on the Purple Line. The new crew may well release all the documents relating to the town’s anti-Purple Line actions, which would embarrass a whole bunch of people – starting with David Lublin. So he had and has a strong interest in discrediting the new group in power right off the bat. He never disclosed any of this in his obsessive reporting on the Chevy Chase elections, and Bethesda Magazine stopped using him as a source on the issue.

So I wouldn’t be surprised at all if it turns out that there’s more going on with the alcohol issue than just David Lublin having a fit of pique. I’m not saying there is, but his history and his reprehensible behavior give one reason for concern.

And whatever the reason, his means of engagement are totally unacceptable. He slashes and burns, he smears, and his style is designed to silence and intimidate, not to engage. I respect that there are a lot of people who are fed up with the alcohol monopoly in Montgomery County. I’m one of them. But we shouldn’t be making major policy changes on the basis of frustration and personal convenience. And throwing open the system and selling cheap licenses to any and all comers is just asking for trouble. A careful, reasoned approach to change is what’s needed, and advocates who can listen better than they can shout.

There’s a conversation to be had here – but I would respectfully suggest to alcohol reformers that letting David Lublin be your standard bearer is not going to win any friends for your side. He’s a poster boy for what’s wrong with our politics, helping to perpetuate the worst sycophantic aspects of a system crying out for real change, and for leadership willing to stand up for the county and fight for our needs now and for years into the future.

Whatever his style may appear to be from his blog and his personal demeanor, his attitude in the comments I’ve highlighted are indefensible and reprehensible. We don’t need bullies and goons, we need people willing to engage in reasoned discourse about important issues we face. I don’t know how he rationalizes his appalling behavior with being a professor of government at American University. Is this the kind of behavior he’s teaching his undergraduate students? If I were an AU parent, and my kid had Lublin for a government class, I’d be asking for a refund.

Halloween Teasiness

Is that a word? Well, it is now, because I said so.

Coming later during daylight hours: some legal opinion on a new bill from yours truly, some bad behavior on multiple levels (from the same person, no less), and some more interesting Maryland voter stats. Gonna be super spooky, no doubt. Come back for breakfast – no, let’s make it brunch. More sleep for me.

Breaking Down Maryland Democrats

So we’re running a statewide Democratic primary. Let’s start simple. How many registered Democrats are there? That one’s easy: as of September 30, the last monthly report from the State Board of Elections, there are 2,020,200 “active Democrats.”

  
Active Democrats, that sounds like a complete category, right? Ah, but it isn’t. How do I know this? Long story short, I won a case against the State Board because “active registration” is not equivalent to “registered voters.” There’s a long, sad history of the Board treating inactive voters differently than active ones, in repeated violation of the state constitution. They don’t do that any more, and the last time they tried, I beat them. Wheeee.

But the law still allows them to keep a list of inactive voters for “administrative purposes,” like calculating voter turnout. So when the BOE says, for example, that Talbot County had 17.4% turnout in an election, it’s a bogus number, because it doesn’t include inactives, some of whom show up to vote in any given election. So whatever you think turnout has been in prior elections, it’s actually lower than that.

And before you ask, this isn’t a small number of voters. Let your eyes drift to the far right of that pretty photo. That “inactive” category” is now 302,152 voters right now – higher than it’s ever been. How many are Democrats?  Don’t know, although I have my suspicions that it’s a disproportionate number of minority Democrats. For example, Prince George’s County had only 4.1% (9,722) of the state’s inactive voters in 2009, the year after Barack Obama was elected for the first time, but by 2015 – three cycles later – the PG inactive figure has ballooned to 62,068, 20.5% of the state total. And 72.0% (217,561) of all state inactives are in the Big 5 counties (Anne Arundel, Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Montgomery County, and Prince George’s County), which are disproportionately Democratic.

There’s much to discuss about inactives, but for right now, there’s probably an additional 200,000 or more Democrats that could vote statewide than the numbers I’m going to give you by county. I’m going to see if I can get a party breakdown on the county inactives and if I do I’ll give you better numbers.

But ranked by number of active Democratic registrations, here’s the list, with clear breakpoints leaving five groups of relatively like Democratic voter population, and with % of total Dems and TV market listed:

Prince George’s 426,634 (21.1%, DC)
Montgomery 350,489 (17.3, DC)
Baltimore County 296,698 (14.7, BA)
Baltimore City 287,077 (14.2, BA)
Anne Arundel 147,970 (7.3, BA)

Howard 94,259 (4.7, BA)
Harford 62,009 (3.1, BA)
Charles 59,715 (3.0, DC)
Frederick 55,233 (2.7, DC)

Carroll 31,307 (1.5, BA)
Washington 31,250 (1.5, DC)
Wicomico 25,086 (1.2, Salisbury)
St. Mary’s 24,752 (1.2, DC)
Calvert 22,868 (1.1, DC)
Cecil 22,005 (1.1, BA)

Allegany 14,597 (0.7, DC)
Worcester 14,267 (0.7, SAL)
Queen Anne’s 10,565 (0.5, BA)
Dorchester 10,133 (0.5, SAL)
Talbot 9,711 (0.5, BA)

Caroline 6,836 (0.3, BA)
Somerset 6,277 (0.3, SAL)
Kent 5,992 (0.3, BA)
Garrett 4,470 (0.2, Pittsburgh)

DC television market: 6 counties, 985,538 Democrats (48.8%)
BA television market: 11 counties, 974,429 Democrats (48.2%)
SA television market: 4 counties, 55,763 Democrats (2.8%)
PI television market: 1 county, 4,470 Democrats (0.2%)

College Park Council Candidate Has Some Problems

Cory Sanders is running for City Council in College Park, and based on his resume, he’s an impressively qualified candidate. The problem, however, is just that – his resume.

Cory Sanders moved to College Park two years ago and became a rising political star.

The 34-year-old organized a neighborhood association at his apartment complex after a man was gunned down in the parking garage; founded a Democratic Club; and was appointed to two City Council commissions.

He made the rounds of local Democratic politicians and activists and launched a run for City Council that won the backing of mayoral candidate Patrick Wojahn.

But it turns out that Sanders has also made false and disputed statements about his education and employment history in campaign appearances and materials.

One or two problems on a resume is something that can be explained. But the depth and breadth of the problems here go much further – criminal convictions, lawsuits, job issues. How this candidate got this far and got all this support is a question that needs to be answered – starting with Cory Sanders.

I’d also like to know how Arelis Hernandez and the Washington Post come to be writing this story just four days before the election. Who is her source? What’s that person’s angle? When was Hernandez made aware of the story? A lot going on here.

DeBlasio Endorses Clinton

Politico has the story.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio endorsed Hillary Clinton for president on Friday.

“She has said what she believes in. This is a very sharp progressive platform. I believe she will follow through on it,” de Blasio said during an interview with MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” adding that Clinton “has the ability to follow through on it.”

De Blasio, a progressive champion and the former campaign manager for Clinton’s successful Senate bid, had been holding back his endorsement of the former secretary of state for months. He argued on Friday that Clinton is best positioned of all the 2016 presidential candidates to successfully tackle income inequality in America.

“I’m supporting, I am endorsing Hillary Clinton enthusiastically because we have to take on income inequality. It is the issue of our time. We have to restore the middle class and Hillary Clinton knows how to do it, will get it done, and has a progressive platform that speaks to all the changes we need, including progressive taxation, including uplifting working [people],” de Blasio added.

His backing is a blow to Sen. Bernie Sanders, as both men are strongly associated with the progressive wing of the Democratic party and have focused intensely on issues related to poverty and income inequality.

The end, it doth draw near.

CD8 Facebook Analysis

Scott Ewart has another tech update, this time analyzing the Facebook pages of CD8 candidates. More details on the scoring in coming posts on each candidate, but here’s some highlights. I will bring you up details as he makes them available.

Raskin 83
Notes – Jamie Raskin has the second most number of Facebook followers (just over 2,200) and scored well on likes growth (over 9% in the last month) and engagement rate (over 16%).

Matthews 80
Notes – Kathleen ranks forth in followers (just over 1,500) and picked up a lot of new likes over the past month. The page engagement rate is a bit low (about 6.5%) but not a horrible number.

Gutierrez 74
Notes – Ana Sol-Gutierrez ranks 5th in followers (under 600) so there is some work to do on that front. There has been a 14% spike in likes growth over the past month so that is a good sign. Engagement rate for posts are only at 4% (that is a bit low).

Anderson 61
Notes – Dave is the newest in the race and currently ranks last in followers (only 114 today). This account is very new and there are things to be improved upon but the engagement rate is very high on posts and the “post types” are nice. I will be interested to see how this score changes as they attract new followers.

Jawando 55
Notes – Will ranks third in total followers with over 1700. A couple areas of concern for this page are likes growth at only 1.5% over the past month and an engagement rate at 3.07%. On the upside they are averaging over 1.5 posts per day (keep this up).

Liz Matory (Independent) 51
Notes – Liz goes in my “Extra” section as she is running as an Independent. Liz has 285 followers today and a likes growth rate of just under 5% over the past month. The engagement rate for the page is currently running at just over 11% (that is a great number). One thing to correct is that on average there is less than one post per week (not near enough to engage and inform your followers).

Barve 36
Notes – I was surprised at the low score of this page. They by far have the most followers (over 4,600). Some of the issues that drove the score so low were a likes growth rate of 0.74% over the past month, an engagement rate of 2% and only averaging 0.37 posts per day.

Those Monsters Killed The Poor #Blimp

All that poor thing wanted was to find a hotel for a little down time, and they murdered it. Bastards.

The massive Army blimp that broke free from its mooring and drifted from Maryland to Pennsylvania is “actually still deflating,” a Pentagon spokesman said Thursday. 

“I am not able to give you the mechanics of exactly how they’re deflating it,” said Navy Capt. Jeff Davis.   
The blimp traveled almost 200 miles north at 30 miles per hour, reaching an altitude of 16,000 feet before it lost altitude and speed, landing in northeastern Pennsylvania. 
Another Pentagon spokesman confirmed reports that the 240-foot blimp was shot down, but did not know how close to the ground the blimp was when it happened.

It is not clear who shot down the blimp.

  

Begun The Bush Death Spiral Has

As any sentient human saw last night, Jeb Bush didn’t do so good in the debate. He was the kid who tries to be a bully and ends up giving the other kid HIS lunch money. It was ugly. And now the inevitable whirling of the death spiral has begun.

Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign was at an inflection point Thursday as the candidate faced a choice of sticking with his long-term strategy or yielding to criticism from supporters and senior Republicans who are demanding fundamental changes to his sputtering candidacy.

Significant concerns about Bush’s performance were magnified on the debate stage here Wednesday night, and the former Florida governor awoke to his harshest criticism yet. Bush faces the real possibility that a substantial amount of money and momentum will move to Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) as the party’s mainstream conservative wing’s favored candidate unless he moves quickly to rebalance his candidacy.

“I could have done better,” Bush conceded on a conference call Thursday afternoon with top donors and state chairs, according to a person who participated.

His debilitating performance was for many allies a cause of alarm. He sowed serious doubts about his ability to effectively prosecute the case against not only his Republican rivals but also the potential Democratic nominee, Hillary Rodham Clinton, in what is expected to be a brutal general-election campaign.

“I could have done better.” Ya think, really? I’ve got a more accurate answer – “I couldn’t have done worse.” Sheesh, denial is not just a river in Egypt, clearly.

He’s done, it’s over, close the door, turn out the lights, go home.