Who is Empower Montgomery?
They'll tell you that they're an "organization that can effectively represent all Montgomery County residents – and avoid having political decisions influenced by narrow special interests." But in reality, they were created to advance the narrow special interests of the county's developers. In fact, David Blair – another candidate running for County Executive - was listed as one of their founders in 2016 and 2017 before his name was removed from their website (see screenshot below).
Empower Montgomery sent out questionnaires and then interviewed candidates. I was interviewed by Charles Nulsen, Steve Silverman, Keith Haller, and Barbara Henry (only Nulsen is currently listed on the advisory board on the Empower Montgomery website). The majority of the individuals associated with this group are either developers or have strong ties to the development community.
So be very wary of anything purporting to be impartial from this group, including a candidate scorecard that is unaccompanied by what the group asked and what the candidates said. Empower Montgomery's unstated goal is very clear: to represent developers' interests.
Inaccurate ACT (Action Committee for Transit) Scorecard
There is also a serious disconnect between my record, my responses to the ACT questionnaire, and what ACT has advertised on their scorecard.
Dramatic Language to Save Existing Affordable Housing
I have been the leading - and often lone - voice on the Montgomery County Council for the preservation of existing housing. Some blogs and candidates have mischaracterized my stance on housing in the Long Branch area. I used the term “ethnic cleansing” as shorthand for what the Planning Board proposed to do in Long Branch: provide encouragement to demolish the existing affordable housing - which houses thousands of tenants, many of them recent immigrants - to be replaced with “better” (read: more expensive) housing. While the replacement development would have included some affordable housing units, it would not have had nearly as many affordable units as exist there today.
As I said at the time: “Couldn’t we for once just let the people who live here stay here after we fix a place up?” No one did anything in response to my question. Only after I dramatized the issue by likening it to “ethnic cleansing” did anything get fixed: the proposal was withdrawn quietly, quickly, and unanimously in committee. My comments and involvement saved real existing affordable housing.
Misrepresentations from The Washington Post and Greater Greater Washington
Both The Washington Post and Greater Greater Washington (GGW) have every right to endorse any candidate they choose and to write defenses of their endorsements. But they have a responsibility to quote accurately, check sources, and fairly represent the facts. Both failed to do that recently and blatantly mischaracterized what I said about job growth in an interview with GGW. They also incorrectly summarized many of my other positions.
In reality, I have always supported creating jobs in, growing jobs in, and attracting jobs to Montgomery County, and I have laid out a five-point plan to do so. I have also been the Montgomery County Council's consistent champion of affordable housing and responsible development. It is true that I would like to see other cities and counties in the region prosper as well, and that more jobs in Frederick County would alleviate some of our traffic congestion. But it is absurd on its face to suggest that anyone running for office in Montgomery County would wish for neighboring regions' prosperity at the expense of our own.
I understand that, at the end of the day, some of the Post’s and GGW's readers may disagree with either my plan for growing jobs in the county or my approach to development. But I think it’s important they get the real facts about who I am and what I want to accomplish.