Category: Politics & Policy

Pedestrian and Cyclist Traffic Incidents

Pedestrian and Cyclist Traffic Incidents

Pedestrian safety has been a huge issue in Montgomery County, MD for several years but the rate of incidents involving motor vehicles and pedestrians has been steadily climbing this year. 

Take a look at this data visualization I put together to see the impact motor vehicles have on pedestrian and cyclist safety in Montgomery County, MD.

Amid affordable housing crisis, County Executive Candidate takes donations from developers

Amid affordable housing crisis, County Executive Candidate takes donations from developers

Nancy Floreen, a Democrat running as an independent candidate in the County Executive race in Montgomery County, MD, is taking some heat over her finances, including political donations.

Floreen, who entered the race after progressive Democrat Marc Elrich won the primary, has raised around $340,000. She has already spent more than half of these funds on her campaign to get on the ballot for November.

Floreen received 129 contributions over the reporting period, 35 of which were for the $6,000 legal maximum, her filing with the State Board of Elections shows. At least two-thirds of the money she raised came from donors with ties to development, real estate and construction. People in some of these industries are uneasy at the prospect of Elrich becoming county executive, Floreen said. “Updated: Floreen Raises $340,000 To Kick Off Independent Bid for County Exec, Spends More than Half To Get Onto Ballot”

Floreen has already started to cozy up to her political donors. In a recent candidate debate in Aspen Hill, Floreen noted that the answer to the affordable housing issue is making it easier for builders. Elrich, meanwhile, hopes to encourage home ownership, not renting, and wants to push for “zoning for less density.”

However, there’s a new twist on the housing issue. Montgomery County’s planning department has halted plans for new housing in several areas of the county because local schools fear they don’t have enough space for current students. Katherine Shaver of the Washington Post says that “…half of the county’s 205 schools exceed 100 percent capacity, and some hover around 150 percent.” Halting new developments is a disaster for local developers, real estate, and construction businesses. The development boom in Montgomery County is reliant on new developments in the most sought after cities like Bethesda, Silver Spring, and Wheaton. Developers will have to start looking for opportunities in other parts of the county in order to make money. However, cities further away from the DC border are less attractive.

Dan Reed from Just Up The Pike tells us the sale of existing homes doesn’t contribute to funding school expansion in Montgomery County.

In most of Montgomery County, developers have to pay a fee for each new home they build to help pay for schools. But if an older, childless household with sells their home to a young family with kids, as is often the case, the county doesn’t get any money for those new students. “montgomery county says no new homes in silver spring because the schools are full”

School shortages aren’t a new phenomenon in Montgomery County. The challenge for the future will be how to solve the problem long-term instead of developing solutions to just take care of the current problem, like adding portable classrooms. Bethesda Elementary is the perfect example of short-term solutions that just aren’t working anymore.

Bethesda Elementary School opened an eight-classroom expansion three years ago to relieve pressure on the overcrowded campus. A year later, the school spilled over again into a portable classroom. When this school year started Tuesday , it had four portables and 639 children — 80 more than it’s built to hold As D.C.-area schools grapple with overcrowding, parents wonder why enrollment projections are so off

Floreen and Elrich will have to find creative, long-term solutions to face both the shortage of housing and the lack of schools in several popular school districts. Floreen, who is pro-developer, pro-business, won’t be so keen to let her donors down. Elrich, meanwhile, will need to find funding for school expansions, new schools, or redistricting if he insists on favoring low density residential zones within Montgomery County.

How Donald Trump Shifted Kids-Cancer Charity Money Into His Business

In reviewing filings from the Eric Trump Foundation and other charities, it’s clear that the course wasn’t free–that the Trump Organization received payments for its use, part of more than $1.2 million that has no documented recipients past the Trump Organization. Golf charity experts say the listed expenses defy any reasonable cost justification for a one-day golf tournament.

Forbes

Politics & Policy – Roundup 06/07/2017

  • Democrats to sue Trump over conflicts of interest – “Dozens of House and Senate Democrats plan to sue President Donald Trump in the coming weeks, claiming he is breaking the law by refusing to relinquish ownership of his sprawling real-estate empire while it continues to profit from business with foreign governments.” It was just reported that Saudi Arabia paid the Trump Hotel $270k. That’s a heck of a hotel bill.
  • House Of Representatives Unanimously Votes To Condemn Turkish Security Attack On D.C. Protesters – “Without a single dissenting vote, the House of Representatives voted last night to condemn Turkish security forces’ attack on protesters in D.C. last month.” Talk about bipartisan. Last month a group of protesters were attached by Turkish security forces outside of the Turkish embassy in D.C. and it was caught on video.
  • Donald Trump’s presidency is an American crisis – “At the center of all this, Trump is running a chaotic and understaffed government. He has named nominees for only 80 of the 558 key appointments he needs to fill, and only 40 of them have cleared Senate confirmation. Last night brought news that Attorney General Jeff Sessions was considering resigning, and last week brought news that Trump’s communications director had been fired. Trump is tweeting out criticisms of his own Justice Department, investigators are digging into first son-in-law Jared Kushner’s contacts with Russia, and chief eldest child Ivanka Trump has wrested the cover of US Weekly for a profile focusing on her disagreements with her father. Amid all this, Trump’s approval rating is down to a miserable 38 percent.”
  • Comey Forces Trump Defenders Into Extreme and Absurd Spin – “[Republicans] reactions are revealing a profound dishonesty that far exceeds the norms of usual political spin, and are demonstrating that the Trumpified quarters of the GOP and the conservative movement are intellectually bankrupt and devoid of principle.”
  • Today’s Russia hearing — without many answers — was still bad for Trump – “Top intelligence and law enforcement officials refused to confirm reports that President Donald Trump had tried to shut down an ongoing FBI probe into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s ties to Russia.” But then again, they refused to answer anything.
  • What Monkeys Can Teach Us About Fairness – “The data on inequality is, of course, staggering. The top 1 percent in America owns more than the bottom 90 percent. The annual Wall Street bonus pool alone is more than the annual year-round earnings of all Americans working full time at the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, according to the Institute for Policy Studies. And what’s becoming clearer is the fraying of the social fabric that results.”

Is Trump A Fascist?

If you ask progressives on the Left, even some moderates, you will probably here an answer in the affirmative. I’ve been guilty of it–no, I won’t take it back–and will probably continue to do so if only because I feel that his brand of rule isn’t democratic, nor do I think he really cares about our democracy and institutions. It’s fairly clear from his tweets that he doesn’t hold any regard for checks and balances. Pay close a

Corey Robin, who studies Conservativism and the politics of fear, notes that:

Here’s what I learned about Fear, American Style: The worst, most terrible things that the United States has done have almost never happened through an assault on American institutions; they’ve always happened through American institutions and practices. These are the elements of the American polity that have offered especially potent tools and instruments of intimidation and coercion: federalism, the separation of powers, social pluralism, and the rule of law. All the elements of the American experience that liberals and conservatives have so cherished as bulwarks of American freedom have also been sources and instruments of political fear. In all the cases I looked at, coercion, intimidation, repression, and violence were leveraged through these mechanisms, not in spite of them.

Emphasis mine.

To explain, American Imperialism, genocide, slavery, Jim Crow, the surveillance state were allowed to happen because our institutions were set up in a way that it let it happen. Americans were the ones inflicting pain on others. The Trump era has brought a completely different kind of attack. This time our institutions are attacking the American people. This attack on institutions themselves could potentially lead to an unprecendented amount of power for Trump and his inner circle.

In How to Build An Autocracy, David Frum states

Over the past generation, we have seen ominous indicators of a breakdown of the American political system: the willingness of congressional Republicans to push the United States to the brink of a default on its national obligations in 2013 in order to score a point in budget negotiations; Barack Obama’s assertion of a unilateral executive power to confer legal status upon millions of people illegally present in the United States—despite his own prior acknowledgment that no such power existed.

Sam Wang, a neuroscientist at Princeton who developed the Princeton Election Consortium, developed a checklist to determine if the new administration is authoritarian or not. Trump has managed to check of 5/10 of them and he isn’t even a month into his term.

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The Mysterious Disappearance of the Biggest Scandal in Washington

The Mysterious Disappearance of the Biggest Scandal in Washington:

According to the consensus assessment of US intelligence agencies, Russian intelligence, under the orders of Vladimir Putin, mounted an extensive operation to influence the 2016 campaign to benefit Donald Trump. This was a widespread covert campaign that included hacking Democratic targets and publishing swiped emails via WikiLeaks. And it achieved its objectives. But the nation’s capital remains under-outraged by this subversion. The congressional intelligence committees announcedlast month that they will investigate the Russian hacking and also examine whether there were any improper contacts between the Trump camp and Russia during the campaign. (A series of memos attributed to a former British counterintelligence officer included allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.) Yet these behind-closed-doors inquiries have generated minimum media notice, and, overall, there has not been much outcry.

Dan Rather pointed out on Facebook that this is “one of the bigger stories I have seen in a long time.” If Dan Rather says it’s a big story then it must be. So where are the stories about it?

Trump’s Foreign Policy

It’s been quiet on the foreign policy front as far as Trump is concerned–it’s been a few days since he threatened to attack anyone–but that doesn’t mean Trump’s foreign policy issues are going away. We need to seriously consider what has been happening both outside of the Trump administration but also inside. Most administrations surround themselves with people that are experts for a reason but Trump seems to think that’s a dumb idea. Meanwhile, Bannon thinks WWIII is going to happen. Based on his past remarks he might even be willing to start it himself. Which is scary. Really scary. Especially when you consider that Trump thinks Bannon is his man.

Experts think Trump has already messed up.

One thing we know about Iran is they don’t particularly respond well to American pressure. If we start threatening them militarily, if we start taking military action against them, that will give them an obvious incentive to try and restart their nuclear program. And that then places the United States in the position of whether or not it genuinely wants to go to war to try and prevent that. I think the Obama administration understood that that path was not the path we wanted to go down. I think we have to worry now, given the attitude of Mr. Trump and some of his closest advisers, that they actually see a conflict with Iran as being in the United States’ interest. The big problem, of course, is they also seem to want to have a conflict with almost the entire Islamic world, while at the same time getting some of the members of the Arab or Islamic world to help us with ISIS. Again, this is just an example of where their policies are deeply contradictory and, therefore, are unlikely to succeed.

Obama donated over $1 million dollars while in office

Obama-charity-giving

Well, this is pretty incredible. Wonder how much Trump is going to donate? I mean actually donate, not made up donations.

The biggest recipient was the Fisher House Foundation, which supports families of veterans and received $392,000 from the former commander in chief from 2009 to 2015. That money appears to have come from sales of Obama’s children’s book Of Thee I Sing. Just before entering the White House, Obama finished a manuscript for the book, which he published with Random House. Obama pledged to donate all of his post-tax proceeds from the book to the Fisher House Foundation to support a scholarship fund for children of wounded and fallen soldiers.

Jokes aside, I think donating to charity should be an important part of everyone’s life if they can afford to do so. $5 counts. If you can’t donate money, donate time.

Some of my favorite places to donate to:

  • DonorsChoose – Help teachers in communities that need it. You can help them buy classroom supplies or fund special projects for their students.
  • Watsi – Help fund healthcare for individuals around the world.

In addition, I think donating to the ACLU, CAIR, and Planned Parenthood are all worthy as well considering the current events going on.

You can use VolunteerMatch to find opportunities to volunteer your time if you can’t donate money.

President Bannon?

Leaks abound the Trump administration, which news that Trump isn’t in charge. Bannon seems to be pulling the strings and the latest leaks seem to confirm it:

But for the moment, Mr. Bannon remains the president’s dominant adviser, despite Mr. Trump’s anger that he was not fully briefed on details of the executive order he signed giving his chief strategist a seat on the National Security Council, a greater source of frustration to the president than the fallout from the travel ban.

Either Trump isn’t reading the Executive Orders he’s given, isn’t being fulling briefed on what the EO’s involve, or he isn’t being told what the implications of such orders are. All three alone are absolutely insane and amount to neglect but since most are in agreement that all three are happening then we have someone that is legitimately incapable of performing the job he was elected to do. His voters, although the minority, didn’t vote for Bannon. They voted for Trump.

Clinton Can’t Escape Obama’s Legacy

Clinton Can’t Escape Obama’s Legacy – Like him or not, Obama’s 8 years in office have been about as successful as possible. He’s implemented a health care system that’s insured millions and has made some much needed services cheaper, especially for women. His economic policies have lowered the unemployment rate. The next president has tough policy shoes to fill. Trump could potentially dismantle everything Obama fought for (everyone move to Canada!) and Hillary could bring another 4 years of Obama-ism.