Friday, February 13, 2015


We just got (temporarily) through the soap opera that was (and will be) the proposed Independent Transit Authority, which saw Montgomery County try to sneak a bill through in Annapolis to enable such a tax authority to be created. Less than two weeks later, the MoCo political machine is at it again, quietly handing off another developer-friendly bill to the General Assembly.

Bill MC/PG 105-15 (House Bill 652) would change the consecutive term limit provisions for the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission. Presently, commissioners who serve as Chair or Vice-Chair of the body may not serve more than 2 consecutive 4-year terms.

HB 652 would change that limitation, allowing a commissioner appointed from Montgomery County to serve two additional consecutive terms, as long as he or she serves as Chair or Vice-Chair.

Since commissioners are appointed by the County Executive, and not elected by voters, this would give a tremendous amount of political power to a Chair who could serve for 16 years in the role - longer than most would serve in any single county office. Christina Ginsberg, a Rockville resident and former president of the Twinbrook Civic Association, says the provision could create a "development czar who would have more power and a longer term than our elected officials."

The bill had its first reading in Annapolis yesterday. I can recall no public announcement or media coverage of this significant change being proposed, other than on the legislative and delegation websites. Even more troubling: no matter how many ways I try to search for this legislation on the County Council website, I get no results. This despite Council attorneys having apparently commented on the issue, according to a transcript of a December meeting of the commission. So much for "open data." By the way, the commission itself, not surprisingly, is in favor of MC/PG 105-15).

With developers wielding more influence in county politics than ever before, it's time to ask serious questions about this legislation.

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