Short, sweet, and to the point. Nice job LWV...sort of (get to that later). I'm going to run through all of the races and give you my perspective on who "won," with both candidates being scored out of a possible 10 points.
County Executive: Kittleman v. Ulman
Much Ado About Nothing
Trent stuck to her campaign theme of County spending being out of control. Interestingly, she (and the rest of the GOP candidates, as I will note later) are focusing on this $800 million unfunded mandate on health care costs for County retirees. Greg Fox has been talking about this for almost his entire term, but this was the first I heard Trent say of it. There is brief mention of this obligation on her website, but you really have to look for it. Later on, Trent suggested that we may be heading down the road of the Montgomery County government and will soon have to close our libraries.
I think Trent presented well and had a strong presence, but her message was a little "off." For instance, she said we needed to cut spending, yet also noted how important it was to fully fund the Association of Community Services. She complained that Ken has increased spending, yet a large portion of this increased spending has been to ACS. When she says "cut spending," I presume she means cut Healthy Howard, but that's $500,000. What next? Hopefully, there will be additional specificity in the coming months. The budget is publicly available. If she wants to make a splash, the best way to do that is to review the budget, line by line, and make the cuts that she thinks are necessary to begin to fund the retiree benefits.
Ken did fine. He just seems to have this look on his face that suggests everything he says should be prefaced with "Listen stupid." For example, "[Listen stupid,] we've found savings and funded priorities in order to maintain our AAA bond rating and be ranked as the number 2 place to live due to the fact that we are an 'economic powerhouse.'" I counteract this perception by imagining coconut claps every time he walks around the room. Juvenile, absolutely. Making my own fun during a Candidate session, completely necessary.
Ulman 8; Kittleman 6. He had the details. She didn't. Hopefully this changes by the next forum.
Council District 5: Beams v. Fox
Holy Moley. You would have thought Greg Fox stepped on Dr. Beam's "Obama & Friends" Lunch Box. She came out swinging! Her self-introduction was a very confusing litany about how she became a Doctor to serve, but sooner or later you realize that it is not enough to serve, and you need to fix the system. Seeing as the "system," as far as the County is concerned, is a product of her fellow Democrats, I have no idea what the heck she was talking about...and she never told me.
Dr. Beams began speaking a little faster, a little louder, and a little meaner, as she suggested that Greg Fox represents faux "fiscal responsibility" in light of gimmicks such as TPI and RECAP. She also alluded to the fact that Greg has more pork projects than any other Council member (better back that up on your website, Dr. Beams). To sum it up, you have to presume that one of the sitting Council-members took Dr. Beams aside, explained that they don't decide what kids eat at school, and walked her through Greg's weak points. The biggest giveaway was the RECAP reference, which she clearly knew nothing about prior to this week. In sum, I felt like Dr. Beams brought a baseball bat to a thumb war...and I think it fell flat (as indicated by all the gasps in the room when she put on her war face).
With his tone of voice and demeanor, Greg reminded everyone just how boring Council sessions can be. There was a titter of laughter when he welcomed Dr. Beams to the race, considering the fact that she had just called him a political schemer. Part of the reason Dr. Beams's...rant fell so flat was Greg's follow-up that he had collaborated with the Council on a number of efforts that have made the Council more transparent and accessible to citizens via the internet. He also towed the party line by saying that he can't bring fiscal responsibility to the Council by himself, and that he needs another Republican on the Council (with a brief mention to the "nearly billion dollar obligation" [the number kept getting larger as the night went on]).
Fox 7; Beams 3. I still don't know what Dr. Beams will do on the Council. Plus, she said that the number 1 place in the Money Rankings, ranked above Columbia and Ellicott City, was Rochester, MN, when everyone knows it was Eden Prairie. Know thy enemy, Dr. Beams. Its name is Eden Prairie.
Council District 1: Flanagan v. Watson
Flanagan: Cuts, No New Taxes, Democrat Monopoly, Unfunded liability
Watson: Responsible Growth, Fiscal Responsibility, Route One Development
Said it before, I'll say it again, these two Candidates are too close ideologically for Bob to win on a "Cut Spending, No New Taxes" pledge. He needs to point out specific votes that Courtney has made that he disagrees with, and bang that drum all the way home. Courtney was kind enough not to rub his nose in the TPI doo doo that Bob was raving about less than a week ago. Bob is a smart guy, a hard worker, and by all appearances a good person. I just think Courtney is deceptively popular (yes, that is a compliment).
Watson 6; Flanagan 5. Both had platforms to present, I just don't think Bob changed any minds.
Council District 2: Ball v. Rubix Cube
Really LWV...I Mean Don't You Read The News?
First off, nothing but respect for Calvin Ball coming out to speak to the voters despite not having a challenger. He could have spent time with his family, read a book, or passed out more bicycles to orphans. Instead, he came out to talk to the voters about what he had done in the past four years and what he was proud of.
Here's what ticks me off: The League of Women Voters posted Anthony Jordan's name-tag in front of an empty seat and then announced that despite being invited, Anthony was a no show. We talk a lot about credibility on this website and you have to say that a "League of Women Voters" that has not paid attention to what has been a de facto withdrawal from the race loses credibility.
Ball 10; LWV -20...Rubix Cube 2
Council District 3: Schrader v. Terrasa
Coattails Only Get You So Far
Dennis Schrader came into this forum with concrete ideas and a background that proves he can get things done. Jen Terrasa came into this forum noting what the Council did together, rather than anything she did as an individual. I hate to constantly rag on Jen, because I hear she is an awesome person and a lot of fun to hang out with. I just feel like she is lallygagging her way into the race and ignoring a formidable opponent with a solid background and strong support in the business community.
Schrader 9; Terrasa 4. Overall, I heard Dennis give a business plan and Jen give a report about what she did last summer.
Council District 4: D'Asto v. Sigaty v. Uniformed Members of the Klein Alliance
80% of Success Is Just Showing Up
(Alan Klein was unable to make it to the forum due to a professional obligation. He was the only candidate for Council that was not at the forum. I think it is fair to ask whether Klein's professional obligations will interfere with his ability to attend all Council meetings and planning sessions. I would suggest my dedicated ombudsman spend a few keystrokes addressing that question rather than the ad hominem attacks that I have become used to whenever I disagree with anything Klein does.)
In Klein's place were about 5 or 6 individuals with Alan Klein "He's In It For 'Us'" T-shirts on. I guess "He's In It For 'Us' On Those Occasions When He Does Not Have A 'Professional Obligation'" would not fit.
Nonetheless, you could tell that the presence of these individuals affected Mary Kay. When it was her turn to speak, she pressed hard on the components of the Redevelopment Plan and the collaborative aspects that she felt made it work. I think she was effective in communicating not only her confidence in the plan, but her thorough knowledge of everything in it and what was expected from GGP.
Tom D'Asto was very impressive. He came in with the theme of being a "Strong Leader" and that such a leader was necessary to make sure these developers were held to their word and didn't continue to push until they got what they were looking for in the first place. Tom also noted that the Wilde Lake village center is worse off that it was the last time he ran, despite the fact that it was a focus of the 2006 election.
D'Asto 7; Sigaty 6. Mary Kay was fighting the guy that wasn't in the room. Tom knew his targets and picked them off one by one. If you watch the rebroadcast, you almost got the feeling that Tom was the University of Maryland, Mary Kay was Duke, with the absent Klein filling the role of UNC. While Tom saw MK as his rival, MK was more concerned about another game.
So those are my impressions. I imagine that others saw it differently, but that's the benefit of a democracy. I plan to look into this unfunded liability a little more over the next couple weeks and would appreciate any nudges that any of you may be able to offer towards available information on the subject. If this is another bluster, I'll be disappointed...but not surprised. If it is true, we are sitting on a landmine.