Monday, April 21, 2014

The Only Way Big Things Happen

My all-time favorite quote about leadership:

"You surround yourself with the best people you can find, delegate authority, and don't interfere as long as the overall policy that you've decided upon is being carried out."
- Ronald Reagan

Admittedly, it may not be the best idea to quote Ronald Reagan two months before a Democratic Primary, but the quote stands up against partisan scrutiny.

I was thinking of this quote as I attended the ribbon cutting of 3D Maryland last week.  I had been invited by my friend Alan and was so glad I went.  It was inspiring.  From Amanda Yeager's article in The Baltimore Sun:

3D Maryland, the HCEDA initiative that is coordinating 3D printing projects in the county, plans to use the new space to offer workshops, seminars, classes and personalized training for businesses and individuals interested in learning more. 

Howard County Executive Ken Ulman said the lab put Howard County "on the leading edge of what many are calling the next industrial revolution."

I consider myself pretty tuned in on what's going on around the County, but I had no idea this was in the works.  In fact, I had never been to the Maryland Center for Entrepreneurship off Bendix Road between routes 108 and 100.  The air feels charged over there (although that very well may be related to some endeavor by a local entrepreneur).  If you follow the line of thought that Maryland's next Fortune 500 company needs to be grown locally as opposed to enticed from afar, this is the type of place where you would expect that to happen.

Throughout the ribbon cutting ceremony, attended by probably 200 people, we heard the name "Jan Baum".  Jan was a professor at Towson University's 3D printing lab before being hired as the director of the 3D Initiative here.  When it was her turn to speak, it was clear that she not only knew the science and engineering backwards and forwards, but she also knew the industry and its future.  She talked about collaborative meetings at the lab between Under Armour and Black + Decker.  While engaging and informative, listening to Jan speak you got the feeling that this whole presentation was just taking time away from some amazing exciting things that were moving in the background.

This is our County Executive's greatest skill set and why he has cross-partisan appeal.  Whether they be Republicans, Democrats, cross-industry transplants, or unproven staffers, Ken Ulman repeatedly hires the best people available, delegates, and leaves them alone to make it work.

This should be the aspiration of any executive - make good decisions early on in the process and don't interfere after that.  We're not yet at the point where we can call 3D Maryland anything other than an "initiative", but based on the track record we have in Howard County, I'm confident it will be a success.

Have a great Monday doing what you love!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

I'm Going to be a Dad

On Monday, my wife and I were able to announce the very happy news that we have a baby on the way.  For those who are friends with me in real life or on Facebook, you may have heard that I became an uncle last month.  We schemed with my brother to let my new nephew be the one to break the news.  It was great:

"I'm going to be a big cousin"
(Now that is a good looking baby right there...and I am not even going to acknowledge any bias.)

Now for some FAQ's:

1) Boy or a girl?

Too soon to tell and we have decided that we don't want to find out until the baby is born.  Yes, that involves referring to the most pressing topic of discussion as "it" for the foreseeable future, but that's a semantic inconvenience we are willing to endure.

2) When is your baby due?

So...about that...November 1, 2014.  November.  First.  Twenty-fourteen.  Three days before the General Election.

3) Are you crazy?

Honestly, in the real world (i.e., stripped of political considerations) the timing is great.  My parents get to meet two grandkids in the same year and my brother and I will have children close in age.  I also can tell you that whenever this baby gets here, it won't be soon enough for me.

But yes.  The week of November 1 will be a test.

I'm so excited.  I know my wife will be a great Mom and I look forward to being a Dad.  We're bringing this baby into a great place with wonderful people.  Sure, things aren't perfect in the world, but my experience has been that there are millions of people who work every day to make them better.

I am going to try my best not to use the line "for my child" anytime during this campaign.  It is a grating aspect of political speech that rings hollow for me.  Nevertheless, ever since I heard the news, I think about it.  And in complete honesty, I thought about it before, but it was mostly about your kids and the children of my friends.  Isn't our most important duty to be good stewards?  If we can create some lasting good in the world, something that crosses generations, isn't that the highest achievement?

I'm so excited.  And I am excited to be able to share this with all of you.  I've experienced significant growth alongside these pages and I can't imagine what the next frontier will be like.  I am thankful that the way I feel right now will be captured on this little corner of the interwebs.

Have a great Tuesday doing what you love!

Monday, April 14, 2014

No Post Monday

Despite hundreds of interesting things going on right now (Inner Arbor, Board of Ed [read Julia's blog], Village Elections, my campaign [I know, you're a bit tired of that], Downtown Development, and the beginning of the Howard County socialite philanthropy circuit), I am without words today. 

For good reason, I promise.

More on that later.

Have a great Monday doing what you love.

Friday, April 11, 2014

What a Week!

I have had a fantastic week.  It has been busy and my sleep debt is significant, but all of the good things that happened in between have invigorated me.

I won't bore you with the list, but one of the highlights was my endorsement by the Columbia Democratic Club on Wednesday evening Thursday morning (we were one vote shy of winning on the first ballot; four votes shy of winning on the second ballot; and finally came through with the vote after 1 am).  The effect of this endorsement on my race may not be significant, but the meaning of it is.  There will always be those who have their doubts about me.  I can't help that.  But I'm proud of the fact that I've been able to earn the support of an institution like the CDC without pandering or trying to be something I'm not.  I didn't have to overcompensate for having not been "a life-long Democrat".  I told the Club that one of my goals for this position would be to "give [potential small business owners] the resources and opportunity to grow and...make sure [Maryland] is a good place to start a business and grow a business.”

In return, the Club accepted me for who I am.  They didn't buy the attacks suggesting that I'm a wolf in sheep's clothing.  That's what bothers me the most about people saying I'm "not a real Democrat".  Not that I aspire to be whatever that means, but rather that implicit in that critique is that I am a liar.  That's why I work as hard as I do.  My actions speak for me.  If you think I don't care about the least fortunate, prove it in my work.  If you don't think I care about socially progressive values, look where my advocacy has been.  If you don't think I support small business, look where I spend my money.  If you don't think I can get things done, my only response is that I haven't done enough yet.

I'm not a big fan of strict ideology.  It is the means by which bad ideas can be dressed up to look like sophisticated policy.  But hopefully you know that about me by now.  The Club knew that about me.  Taking three ballots and sitting in the Ridgely Run Community Center for over six hours was just the dose of humility I needed to remind me that I still have a lot of work to do.  While I continue to be incredibly proud of my support by Howard County teachers and fire-fighters, hard work is the only sure-fire way to win an election.

And I will continue to work hard.  Hopefully with your help.  This Saturday, we're getting another group of volunteers together to canvass a neighborhood.  We've got a good message and it is fun to spread.  I hope you'll consider meeting up with us tomorrow, 12:45 p.m., at the Dunkin' Donuts on Route 103 (4872 Montgomery Road, Ellicott City, MD).

Have a great Friday doing what you love!  It's impossible not to.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Energy That Needs to Be Spent

I came down to my computer with a blank slate today.  After a great event last night and an important endorsement vote tonight, my mind is everywhere but "share something with the world".

But then I read Jason's blog post about the Oakland Mills CA Rep nonsense.  If you have not already added Jason to your blog reading rotation, I highly recommend doing so.  He has a great writing style, is funny, and takes on the issues that would otherwise be inappropriate for me to write about as a candidate.  Jason's take on the County Executive race is a must-read for anyone who wants to speak intelligently about the prospects of either candidate.

Anyhow, he finishes Tuesday's post with the following line:

Definite shenanigans, which is too bad, given the energy that needs to be spent solving real issues.

If that doesn't sum up the whole of political frustration, I don't know what would.  And in a way, it addresses the manner in which political discussions spend so much time addressing the periphery.  Personal characteristics of the candidate.  Gaffs.  Hugger or not a hugger.  Their ability to inspire with a five minute speech.  Their tendency to give 15 minute speeches.


And it is hopelessly idealistic to expect anything else.  I've heard much more about whether or not certain candidates should smile or make people "feel good" in relation to this County Executive race than I've heard anyone say which candidate will do the heavy lifting on flood mitigation on the West End of Main Street or their interest/ability to direct federal, state, and local funding for Inner Arbor to make sure this is a park your kids (and not your grandkids) will be able to enjoy.

Definite shenanigans, which is too bad, given the energy that needs to be spent solving real issues.

We can do something about that.  I think all of us who spend our hyper-local time giving hyper-local attention to hyper-local issues should make 2014 an election year of substance.  It's April.  The primary is in June.  What are our priorities for the next four years?  Are we really going to let this election cycle scurry by without pinning down the vision of our putative leaders?

When someone asks you (and they will) "What do you think about the X race?", I challenge you to have a substantive answer.  Because Jason's right.  We need energy directed towards the real issues of our time.  But first, we need to know what those issues are.

Have a great Wednesday doing what you love!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Having Your CA and Council Too

The recent kerfuffle regarding Reg Avery and his attempt to sit on the Columbia Council while running for the County Council has prompted me to review my reasons for resigning from the Board last July.  This is particularly important in light of some suggestions that the conflict of interest policy is "not binding" or can otherwise be waived.

First, the "Code of Ethics and Conflicts of Interest Policy for directors, officers and senior team leaders":

A member of the Board upon declaring a candidacy for election to public office shall resign from the Board.

Second, the provision on waivers:

CA may waive application of the policies set forth in this Code only when special circumstances warrant granting a waiver, and then only in conjunction with any appropriate monitoring of the particular situation. 

Quite straight-forward, particularly in relation to most other policy documents put forth by the Columbia Association.  Board members may not simultaneously run for election to public office and serve on the Board unless special circumstances merit waiver of the conflict.  Even then, CA bears the additional burden of monitoring that Board member's activities to ensure the conflict does not impose itself on the business of the organization.

After deciding that I would be running for the House of Delegates in early May of last year, I reviewed these policies in great depth.  I didn't want to resign.  I loved my work on the CA Board and still felt there were very sensitive matters at risk if I gave up my spot.  But after a thorough review, I came to two conclusions: 1) resignation was required by the Conflict of Interest policy; and 2) continued service on the Board would bring with it the specter of impropriety.

The latter point is particularly important.  The votes may have been there for a waiver.  In my head, I counted a delicate 5-4.  But then I projected out past that vote.  I thought of trying to raise money for my campaign while evaluating all of the potential conflicts.

This person is on a Citizen Advisory Panel.
This person owns a contracting or subcontracting business.
This person is a commercial real estate broker.
This person works for CA.
This person wishes to see CA take a position on a matter of public dispute.

And for me, the appearance of impropriety is enough.  It doesn't matter if all the votes had been tallied and the outcome set, the continued presence of a Board member who may have a vested interest in the outcome of a vote for political reasons was too much for me to expect the rest of the Board to bear.

And I have yet to mention the most facile, but serious, imposition of a candidate on the CA Board: grandstanding.  What candidate wouldn't go out of their way to ensure they had a quote planted with every issue of the Columbia Flier?  Heck, the non-candidate members play this game themselves (I see you taking time out to chat with Luke in the back of the room!).  Why make CA your personal PR vehicle?  That's not what it's there for and the residents of Columbia deserve more than that.

And create all that havoc for what?  If the candidate is successful, resignation is mandatory.  Not by a policy that may be waived, but by very serious legal consequences of being on both sides of a contract or other legal relationship that crosses all matters of CA business.

I do not care what Reg Avery decides to do, but he needs to make the choice.  I think he would be a perfectly fine member of the CA Board and recommend this service as a fulfilling opportunity to make a difference in one's community.  I think he may also enjoy campaigning for office, but would predict a similar outcome to 2010 when running against one of the most popular public officials in the County. 

If Mr. Avery doesn't pick his race, I think Oakland Mills should declare him ineligible and reopen nominations.  I know the By-Laws for Dorsey provide that if one's deck is not in accordance with CA covenants, you may not serve, so I presume the Village has a similar ability to preclude candidates from positions they are not eligible to fill.  It would be embarrassing to Reg Avery and his Village, but that's why these institutions exist - to apply order.  This is not a game and it should not be up to the personal decisions of a candidate.

That's all for today.  Have a great Monday doing what you love!

Friday, April 4, 2014

"I'm a Nobody"

I was having lunch with a long-time attorney friend this past week to talk about what was going on in our lives and the craziness of the campaign.  He lives in Baltimore County and told me he had received a phone call from one of the Gubernatorial candidates the previous week.  He was amazed.

"I'm a nobody!  We talked for about 15 minutes, really great call, but then I told them to stop wasting their time with me and to call someone more important."

Now, my friend is not really a nobody (to the extent that term would be appropriate for anyone).  He's a partner in a large Baltimore law firm, former state's attorney, and all around good guy.  But none of that mattered to the candidate on the other side of the phone.

"Let me guess - you voted in all of the last three primary elections?" I asked.

"Yes!  How'd you know?"

I was now not only having lunch with a long-time friend, but also a Super-Dem, the prized segment of the electorate that will play an important part in deciding who wins this June.  The same is true for my friends in the Republican party - your Super-Repubs will be crucial to primary success.  By my guesstimate, there are five to seven thousand Super-voters for each party in every legislative district in Howard County with about half that in the sub-districts.

While my campaign's strategy is much broader than Super-voters, I would project that I've met over 1,000 of you in 9B.  And yes, I think I can fairly presume that you are a Super-voter.  While Super-Dems in District 12 are noticeably exhausted from having to get up to answer their door, District 9 voters have years of pent up policy ideas to discuss.  On more than one occasion, I've had a voter tell me that they have lived in their house for 10, 20, or even 30 years, and that I was the first candidate to ever knock on their door or call their house. That's not because earlier candidates had not door-knocked, but rather due to the fact that Super-voters are rarely the target of General Election outreach (other than "Get-out-the-vote").

So why am I telling you all of this?  Because I know how easy it is to feel small, particularly in relation to the "clash of titans" we see across our television screens, newspapers, and banner ads.  And I'm talking about more than "my vote doesn't matter" cynicism.  I'm talking about those who may be inclined to view themselves as a "nobody".

The honest truth is that in just about every primary race across this State, there will be one individual other than the candidate who made that individual win.  In some campaigns, there may be three to four.  Campaigns and elections are made up of hundreds of moving parts with thousands of interactions along the way that move you towards a successful outcome, but all of the energy and motivation in the world cannot replicate the effect of having someone stand next to you when the going gets tough.

Consider that.  Consider your power in all of this, even if you choose not to realize it.

Have a great Friday doing what you love!  It's impossible not to.

Note: We have one of my most fun campaign events so far coming up next week - Pizza and Champ(agne) with Tom Coale at The Obladi, April 8, 7:30 pm.  Bring an item to be included in a basket for auction or $50 in lieu of auction item.