Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Donna Edwards for U.S. Senate

I recently asked my wife whether we could put a "Black Representation Matters" sign in our yard, alongside the "Black Lives Matter" sign we got last year. But what would my sign actually read? It would say: Donna Edwards for U.S. Senate.

U.S. Senate candidate Donna Edwards. (AFGE photo.)
Edwards is a black woman, running for a seat in a 100-member body with only two African American members and only twenty women. Senator Barbara Mikulski, one of the twenty, represents Maryland and is retiring.

Only nine African Americans have served in the Senate, ever. Barack Obama is one of the nine. Would Senators Mitch McConnell and Chuck Grassley treat the president's appointments and initiatives with such disdain, were minorities represented in the Senate in proportion to their numbers?

The problem is us. Consider that Maryland has elected only one African American to statewide office in the state's entire history. In Maryland and nationwide, blacks are most often elected to state office and Congress from majority-minority districts. These districts are too-often the product of gerrymandering designed in some cases to promote a minority representative's election, in others to wall-off minorities (read: Democratic voters) to maximize the number of Republican seats.

Actually, I can think of only four woman ever elected statewide in Maryland. We're not doing so well, are we?

I have more to say on race and representation, but I will break to note that:
  • Donna Edwards is an experienced, able legislator who has represented Maryland's 4th district in Congress since 2008.
  • "Independent analyses often find that the Prince George's County lawmaker is among the most liberal members of the [House Democratic] caucus." (Baltimore Sun)
  • 64% of Maryland registered Democrats view Edwards favorably, according to a recent Washington Post-Univ. of Maryland poll. (Washington Post)
Marylanders believe Edwards cares about them and will work for them on their issues, on issues that include Social Security and Medicare, gun violence and police misconduct, and poverty, hunger, education, and opportunity. These are pressing matters.

No elected official lacks flaws. Edwards has weak points and so does her opponent Chris Van Hollen, a distinguished legislator who represents me and whom I respect immensely. The Baltimore Sun describes controversy about Van Hollen's past stands on Social Security cuts. Maryland-specific: Rep. Van Hollen was instrumental in obtaining tens of millions of dollars in federal funding for the Intercounty Connector (ICC), former Governor Robert Ehrlich's widely derided pet project, revived after Ehrlich's Democratic predecessor, Governor Parris N. Glendening, killed it. Better the funding had gone to transit -- the Purple Line and WMATA -- than a boondoggle highway.

How do Maryland registered Democrats see the U.S. Senate
candidates? (Washington Post)
The positions-effectiveness question is not a slam-dunk for either Senate candidate.

Overall, Van Hollen has been a model legislator, but considering the spectrum of Maryland needs, he is not the better choice. It is telling that when it comes to addressing the needs of women and of African Americans, Edwards outpolls Van Hollen by 78-56 and 74-54, respectively, according to the Post-UMd poll. These needs outweigh other priorities for me at this time, with the Democrats poised to retain the presidency and retake the Senate majority. So again I find:

Donna Edwards is the progressive candidate who is the best choice to represent the diversity of Marylanders in the U.S. Senate.

Back to the race issue. It runs deep and wide.

The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies reports, "African-Americans make up 13 percent of the U.S. population, but only 0.9 percent of top Senate staffers," as of April 2015.

I learned about that report from a Daily Beast article titled The US Senate: The World’s Whitest Deliberative Body. Author Keli Goff offers that view that "[b]eyond idealism, there is a very real policy deficit we face as a country when we have people who have never experienced problems firsthand, tasked with crafting solutions for those problems." She cites a lack of federal action on racial profiling and police brutality and cites the work of Senator Tim Scott, who is African American, to secure federal funding for police body cameras to address the latter problem. Goff believes "it is not a coincidence that President Obama has made college accessibility and affordability legislative priorities during his time in elected office."

Another observation, from columnist Thomas Edsall in the New York Times: "The Democratic debt to black voters is immense, and the party has not paid up." Edsall's column asks, "Will the Democrats Ever Face an African-American Revolt?" Edsall's indictment: "Public officials — and the Democratic Party — have, in point of fact, failed to deliver housing, employment, or education programs that convincingly remediate the problems of poor black families."

Edsall sees a solution in "different 'deliberate policy choices'." I'm surprised he didn't bring up the complexion of the Democratic elites. The ones we have (per Keli Goff) have never experienced the most pressing problems firsthand. They are not representing. Let's change that via our votes in the 2016 Maryland U.S. Senate race.

My wife hasn't said yes to a yard sign, but I know how I will cast my Democratic primary vote: Donna Edwards for U.S. Senate.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

For Better Police-Community Relations, Listen

Police-community relations is a sensitive topic, racially charged, critical to individuals' feelings of safety and belonging in any diverse and crime-challenged community. I wouldn't say the crime or relations situations in Takoma Park and Silver Spring are bad, but community members do have well-founded concerns about police interactions, particularly those that involve minority youth. What can the City of Takoma Park and the community do to improve relations here? Takoma Park Councilmember Terry Seamens has long pushed for police involvement in city recreation programs, and Mayor Kate Stewart, as a councilmember, promoted city funding for police-community relations consulting, currently pending. Many community members have advocated meaningful community oriented policing (COP). I'll say only that public and police understandings of COP seem to differ.

Charleston Illumination Project
Given this backdrop, I was intrigued by the Charleston (South Carolina) Illumination Project, which I learned about during a spring break vacation visit. According to the project Web site,
"The City of Charleston began a year-long project to further strengthen relationships between the citizens and police by respecting the importance of Public Safety and Individual Rights... We all want and benefit from a respectful relationship between the police and the communities they serve. We are seeking your voice to help create a plan that will help insure greater teamwork and the long-term success of our communities."
Illumination and mutual respect are essential, as is the focus on teamwork. The project includes a series of police listening sessions:
"We are looking for your hopes, concerns and plans to build open and long-lasting relationships between the police and the citizens they serve."
"We" is a foundation called the Charleston Police Fund. It's unclear when the fund was founded, but I'll note certain special circumstances in Charleston and nearby: Last June's Mother Emanuel (the Emanuel AME Church) murder of nine worshipers and the April 2015 fatal shooting, by a police officer in North Charleston, S.C., of an apparently unarmed man, Walter Scott, after a scuffle following a traffic stop. Incidents of this sort don't just happen; they're the product of circumstances that foster violent, hateful, racist responses to differences.

Fortunately, we've had nothing like these incidents in Montgomery County. Our local governments have worked to avoid them. Also locally, Safe Silver Spring, a community initiative, has contributed to community-police understanding.

The City of Takoma Park issued and then reissued a request for proposals for a police-community relations consultant. The proposal deadline was January 28, but I understand that the city did not receive a strong response. Puzzling.

Regardless, the city could and should conduct listening sessions like Charleston's, actively promoted and moderated by an independent facilitator. These community relations sessions would complement the neighborhood crime meetings the police department participates in. You don't need a consultant to tell you that people like to be asked their views and to be heard. There is no better way to start learning than to listen.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

County Funding Now! ... Budget Advocacy for Takoma Park Interests

It's time to speak out about Takoma Park priorities for Montgomery County budget funding!
https://www.flickr.com/photos/mdfriendofhillary/13492981055
County Executive Ike Leggett. Photo by Ed Kimmel

What are your city priorities? Me, I listed four of mine in a letter to County Executive Ike Leggett: 1) Paramedic coverage at the Takoma Park fire station; 2) Piney Branch Elementary School pool funding; 3) school capacity study funding; and 4) steps toward smooth implementation of the county's Healthy Lawns Bill.

Whether these are your county funding priorities or you have others, please do contact the county executive yourself. He is currently preparing his budget for FY17, the fiscal year that starts July 1, 2016. He needs to hear from you. I'll paste in my letter below, which you're free to adapt, or write your own. Do it soon. Mr. Leggett will present his operating budget to the Montgomery County Council by March 15. The council will then make adjustments and enact a budget in late spring.

City-County Budget Background

For those not in the know, I'll provide a bit of city-county budget background.

Takoma Park is a "full-service city"... almost. Montgomery County delivers essential services to Takoma Park residents and businesses. The county runs the public schools – education accounts for around half the annual county budget – and delivers fire & rescue services. The City takes care of the rest of the big stuff: police, public works, recreation, and more. The City does this quite effectively I'd say, for the $.585 (58.5 cent) current property-tax rate (per $100 assessed value). By contrast, Takoma Parkers pay Montgomery County property taxes at a $0.9962 (99.62 cent) current rate.

Fact #1: Fire Station 2, in Takoma Park, is one of only seven fire stations county-wide that lacks paramedic coverage. We deserve coverage and need it soon because pending Carroll Avenue bridge reconstruction, slated to start this year and to require bridge closure for at least 12 months, will cut off quick access to Washington Adventist Hospital from much of Takoma Park.

Fact #2: The Piney Branch Elementary School pool is immensely popular locally, for good reason: It's the only public swimming facility, used widely by school kids and seniors and everyone in between, in the southeast corner of the county. Yet each of the last several years Mr. Leggett has declined to fund the pool, and each year the county council restores operational funding.

Add in Fact #3: Elementary schools in our corner of the county are projected to be severely overcrowded in the coming years. The Board of Education has recommended Capital Improvements Program funding for a study to reopen a Silver Spring elementary school.

I cover Facts #2 & #3 in a December Voice item, School crunch threatens pool. And why is my fourth point a Takoma Park priority? Because Montgomery County's Heathy Lawns bill, banning non-essential, cosmetic use of synthetic chemical lawncare pesticides, was based on Takoma Park's 2013 Safe Grow Act.

On you on board with any or all of my four items? Use my text if you wish, or draft your own. But do write your own –

Letter to the County Executive

The Honorable Isiah Leggett
Montgomery County Executive
101 Monroe Street
Rockville, MD 20850
ocemail@montgomerycountymd.gov

Dear Mr. Leggett,

Please accept the following comment about a few funding priorities that I hope you will consider in formulating your FY17 Montgomery County budget proposal.

1. Paramedic coverage for Fire Station 2 in Takoma Park. You have stated plans to add paramedic staffing, in the coming years, at the seven uncovered county fire stations. Please make Fire Station 2 staffing a priority, for FY17 staffing.

2. Piney Branch ES pool operational and maintenance funding. Respectfully, I believe your understanding of the pool’s physical condition is incorrect. The pool is in good operating condition and can continue operating, pretty much as-is, for several years, until a direction is decided regarding school-capacity expansion.

This pool is heavily used by lower- and moderate-income community members, especially children, who have no practical access to a public swimming facility. Further, Takoma Park property owners pay far more in Recreational Tax than the county spends on recreation services in/for Takoma Park. The needed funding is approximately $160,000; prospects are that the County Council will add the funding if you do not include it. Could we please avoid the past two years’ funding game?

3. MCPS Capital Improvements Program funding to cover evaluation of reopening of Parkside ES to relieve school overcrowding in the southeast sector of the county, as recommended by the Board of Education.

4. Adequate funding for county transition to lawncare without the use of synthetic chemical pesticides, per Bill 52-14, the Healthy Lawns Bill. As you know, restrictions on county-owned property go into effect July 1, 2016. I hope you will also fund planning for public and professional-applicator education given that restrictions on private-property use go into effect on January 1, 2018

Thanks very much for considering this funding advocacy.

Sincerely,

Seth Grimes

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Medical Marijuana, Under Attack in Takoma Park

What to make of proposed ZTA 15-13, a Montgomery County zoning bill that would restrict the location of medical marijuana dispensaries in Takoma Park?

Photo by Neeta Lind, http://bit.ly/22Lt2DY
The proposed zoning text amendment was introduced by Councilmember Tom Hucker. It says that a medical marijuana dispensary -- dispensaries are now sanctioned by Maryland law -- may not be located, if in the Takoma Park/East Silver Spring (TPESS) overlay zone, within 500 feet of a school. (An overlay zone modifies more-general zoning rules for a certain area.)

We have been fighting for years for reform of harmful marijuana laws. Would ZTA 15-13 put in place a justified restriction, or is it an alarming recrudescence of the discredited War on Drugs?

I'm inclined to say the latter. Enough with throwing people in jail for drug offenses that shouldn't be offenses in the first place. We should be dismantling our failed marijuana policy rather than enacting new restrictions based on fears of Reefer Madness.

I don't fault Councilmember Hucker for introducing this bill. He was responding to constituent requests. I do, however, implore the Montgomery County Council not to advance the bill. Oh, and the councilmembers should note that the Takoma Park City Council, at its October 19, 2015 meeting, discussed a proposal to locate a dispensary in the Takoma Junction area. I was a councilmember at that time. We declined, by a 5-2 vote, to pursue zoning restrictions on dispensary locations.

It doesn't help the ZTA 15-13 cause that the text is a bit strange. Montgomery County Planning Board staff report, "geographic information system data depicts no CRT or NR zoned properties within the overlay zone and within 500 feet of a school." Unless there's a disagreement about measurement -- shops at the corner of Maple and Sherman Avenues in Takoma Park can't be much more than 500 feet from Piney Branch Elementary School -- the ZTA, as written, would have zero current effect. I'll add that I know of no move, underway or contemplated, to either expand Takoma Park areas zoned Commercial Residential Town (CRT) or Neighborhood Retail (NR) or within the TPESS overlay zone.

Medical marijuana is for therapeutic use. I have in mind a neighbor who approached me a few years back, when I represented Ward 1 on the Takoma Park City Council, with the concern that he could be arrested for using marijuana as a palliative for the symptoms of a degenerative disease he suffers. My neighbor and others like him in the community need a safe, reliable, convenient medical-marijuana source. There is no justification for stigmatizing these patients, for the suggestion that a dispensary is undesirable because it will be somehow sleazy, dangerous, or corrupting. Fortunately, we do have advocates on our side who include Takoma Park's own Senator Jamie Raskin, who is behind Maryland medical-marijuana legislation and other steps to reform marijuana policy. Delegate David Moon, also a Takoma Park resident, first elected to the General Assembly in 2014, has also been a strong policy-change advocate.

Policy change is needed, to end the disastrous War on Drugs, which has led to the incarceration of millions of non-violent offenders -- disproportionately African-Americans -- for drug infractions that should never have been enacted, given that the significance of the harm caused by marijuana use was never conclusively, scientifically established. The War on Drugs -- the War on Marijuana -- is little more than a suppression and control tool.

There has been strong backing state-wide for Maryland legislation to legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana in the last few years, and approach I favor, but initiatives have been blocked by House of Delegates Judiciary Chair Joseph Vallario. Let's hope that Speaker Michael Busch brings future bills to the floor for vote, or that Delegate Vallario is replaced following the 2018 elections.

For now --

After a January 19, 2016 public hearing, at 1:30 pm in Rockville -- you may testify or submit comment to the council -- proposed ZTA 15-13 will likely be sent to the Montgomery County Council's Planning, Housing, and Economic Development (PHED) Committee, which I hope will give it a negative report. Your voice matters. Please testify on January 19 or relay your view to County.Council@montgomerycountymd.gov.

Friday, December 11, 2015

The TP-SS School Capacity Crunch (and the Piney Branch Pool)

Takoma Park-Silver Spring is experiencing a school space crunch. Public schools are overcrowded and the problem is getting worse. The school system is taking steps to add capacity, particularly at the elementary level. But where and how? These are open questions. Should Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) open a new school in our end of the county, or perhaps add classrooms at schools that include Piney Branch Elementary School (PBES) in Takoma Park? The answer -- the approach taken -- will have repercussions for decades to come. And as an aside, the decision will determine the fate of the widely-used PBES swimming pool.

School space is a capital cost so proposed overcrowding remedies are covered in the FY17 capital budget and 2017–2022 Capital Improvements Program. (The county's and schools' FY17 fiscal year starts July 1, 2016.) You can find the Board of Education's FY17 capital requests online. In that document, the BOE asks funding for additions at East Silver Spring, Montgomery Knolls, Pine Crest, Piney Branch, and Woodlin elementary schools to relieve the overutilization of several elementary schools in the lower portion of MCPS's Downcounty Consortium.

"Overutilization" is an artful word, isn't it? It hints that school families are to blame for the capacity issue. Regardless, MCPS officials are on our side. Note a memorandum included in the BOE capital request doc, starting on page 16, that directs,
"That a feasibility study be conducted to explore the possibility of opening an elementary school on the former Parkside Elementary School site, or another nearby former elementary school site, to relieve over-capacity at nearby schools."
The former Parkside Elementary School in Silver Spring
The Parkside school building is currently used as a Montgomery Parks headquarters. Reopening Parkside is a creative solution, originated by BOE Member Jill Ortman-Fouse, a welcome alternative to Interim Superintendent Larry A. Bowers' proposed approach.

This is where the Piney Branch ES pool connection comes into play. The superintendent's proposed PBES classroom expansion, dealing with a projected PBES deficit of 129 seats by 2021-2, would entail eliminating the pool. In particular, the superintendent says "A feasibility study will need to be conducted to explore razing the existing pool to construct an addition in the future. With the smallest site of any school in the county, at 1.9 acres, there is no room on the Piney Branch Elementary School site to accommodate relocatable classrooms."

Last summer’s rally to save the PBES pool.
(Photo by Bill Brown)
While County Councilmember George Leventhal and Board of Education Member Chris Barclay have asked MCPS to study building new PBES classroom space above the pool, keeping the pool open in the expanded school building, frankly that could be an awkward arrangement and there's no assurance MCPS could make it work. By contrast, if MCPS rehabilitates the Parkside building as a school, there will be less pressure to expand other consortium schools such as PBES. Again, reopening Parkside is a creative solution, a welcome alternative to the superintendent's proposed approach.

A Capital Improvements Program request transmittal letter, addressed to the county executive and council president and signed by Board of Education President Patricia B. O'Neill, acknowledges the system-wide need:
"For the 2015-2016 school year, MCPS is experiencing its eighth straight year of significant enrollment growth. Official September 30, 2015, enrollment is 156,674 students for a one-year increase of more than 2,800 students. Since the 2007-2008 school year, enrollment has increased by 18,929 students with most of the increase at the elementary school level."
And it describes the alternative BOE approach, requesting CIP inclusion of $100,000, "to conduct a feasibility study to explore an elementary school reopening on the former Parkside Elementary School site or another nearby former elementary school site," to relieve overcrowding, the alternative that would focus construction on one site rather than many and, as an aside allow the PBES pool to continue operating.

Support from County Executive Ike Leggett and from the Council will be critical. MCPS proposes annual capital and operating budgets, but it's the Montgomery County Council that has final say (subject to a state-imposed "maintenance of effort" constraint that the county fund the same dollar amount per pupil as the prior year).

The county officials' decisions are important. Schools are practically the only local institutions that draw and intermix individuals from diverse cultural and economic backgrounds. Only public libraries and sports leagues have similar potential, but our communities' children spend far more time at school than they do anywhere else other than at home. Facility, boundary, and catchment area choices shape our communities.

Want to weigh in? The Board of Education will hold public budget hearings, on the capital and operating budgets, on January 7 and 14, 2016. Sign up to testify, starting December 14. And you'll be able to testify at county council public hearings in the spring.

Before then, attend or watch the Takoma Park City Council's December 14, 2015 meeting. The council is slated to have an MCPS presentation, followed by a worksession discussion -- an Overview of Montgomery County Public School Capacity -- at 8:05 pm. I hope and expect the council will take up a resolution, at a later meeting, providing city comment on MCPS facilities plans. Public comment is at 7:30 pm. Do communicate your view to the city council.

Finally, regarding the MCPS operating budget: A good place to come up to speed is MCPS's new Budget 101 Web site, which aims to answer many of the questions that parents, students, staff, and community members have asked about the MCPS Operating Budget, according to Interim Superintendent Bowers. The superintendent has proposed $2.45 billion FY17 operating budget, online on the MCPS Web site.

There is no better social investment than adequate school funding, well placed, if your goals are to provide social and economic opportunity to all segments of our population, to immigrants and established residents, whether well-off or struggling, regardless of cultural background. Facilities choices should be linked to a broad set of community needs. One such choice is at hand, the approach we'll take to adding downcounty school capacity. The right choice is to explore the Parkside option by funding the BOE requested feasibility study.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

End Maryland preemption of local firearms regulation

Below is a letter I sent to Senator Jamie Raskin and Delegates Sheila Hixson, David Moon, and Will Smith, who represent District 20 in the Maryland General Assembly --


To: Sheila Hixson <sheila.hixson@house.state.md.us>, Jamie Raskin <jamie.raskin@senate.state.md.us>, David Moon <david.moon@house.state.md.us>, Will Smith <will.smith@house.state.md.us>
Subject: End Maryland preemption of local firearms regulation

Hello Sheila, Jamie, Will, and David,

        I'm sure Takoma Park, Montgomery County, and many other Maryland cities and counties would like to take concrete steps to address our country's gun-violence epidemic, locally. But cities and counties can't act because Maryland code preempts localities from passing gun laws (Md. PUBLIC SAFETY Code Ann. § 5-104; full text below). How about initiating steps to change that bit of state law, to allow cities and counties to enact regulations that are more restrictive than the state's?

        I'll note that Maryland state laws that restrict certain firearms categories have been upheld in court this year, and just this week the Supreme Court declined to take up the ruling of a federal appeals court in Chicago, which upheld a City of Highland Park 2013 ban on semi-automatic weapons and large-capacity magazines. These facts suggest to me that key arguments against a Maryland state law change won't wash. The court rulings establish that localities may regulate firearms and that Maryland may enact laws more restrictive in regulating weapons than federal laws.

        I'd welcome working with you to address the very important issue of gun violence. Please do let me know your reactions to my request.

        Thanks and best wishes,

                                        Seth, 301-873-8225

§ 5-104. Preemption by State

   This subtitle supersedes any restriction that a local jurisdiction in the State imposes on a sale of a regulated firearm, and the State preempts the right of any local jurisdiction to regulate the sale of a regulated firearm.


Atlantic Guns, Rockville, Maryland

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Share the Vote: Montgomery County Board of Education Elections

Delegate David Moon (D-20) is the primary sponsor of proposed 2016 Maryland legislation that would enable Montgomery County to enroll new voters in county Board of Education (BOE) races.

I'm for it! There are strong, legitimate, and compelling reasons that non-citizens, and perhaps also 16 and 17 year olds, should be allowed to vote in local races that concern them -- BOE races per David's MC 25-16 bill draft, and perhaps also elections for Montgomery County Council and Executive.

The Montgomery County state legislative delegation held a hearing Monday evening, November 30, on a variety of county bills, MC 25-16 among them. At David's suggestion, I testified at the hearing, as did Takoma Park City Manager Suzanne Ludlow, relaying the city's favorable position, and a number of others. Of course Takoma Park supports this latest instance of the inclusive politics! As I note in my testimony, below, we have had non-citizen voting since 1992, and further expanded the franchise in 2013, to 16 and 17 year olds and on-probation and on-parole felons.

The case, then, for bill MC 25-16 --


I favor bill MC 25–16, enabling legislation that would allow the Montgomery County Council to establish voter qualifications specific to Montgomery County Board of Education races. This right is a limited form of the same right that Maryland municipalities have enjoyed for many years, to establish voter qualifications for their own elections. 

The City of Takoma Park exercised this right in 1992, allowing non-citizens to vote in city elections, after a 1991 Share the Vote campaign led to a favorable referendum vote. 

In Takoma Park, non-citizen voting works. The city clerk maintains a local registration database, separate from the state voter rolls. Election judges are easily able to handle the two classes of voters, state-registered and city-registered.

Takoma Park further expanded the electoral franchise in 2013, when Councilmember Tim Male and I, then a city council representative, introduced successful legislation to extend the vote in city elections to 16 and 17 year olds and to on-probation and on-parole felons and to establish same-day registration and voting during early voting and on election day. 

In Takoma Park’s 2015 city election, we had 105 registered 16/17 year olds, 47 of whom voted, a 44.8% rate. We had 523 registered non-citizens, of whom 71 voted. 

I don’t believe that, in 23 years of non-citizen voting, anyone has ever been deported for voting in Takoma Park or been denied naturalization. 

The city also uses instant run-off voting, instituted in 2006 after a referendum, and a referendum this year directed the council to move city elections to even years, to coincide with county, state, and national November general elections, if the city’s distinctive voter qualification rules can be maintained. We are optimistic that the city will work out a mechanism to support the different classes of voters.

In 2012, Maryland Delegate Patrick L. McDonough tried to strip cities of the ability to allow non-citizen voting. His legislation failed. As Montgomery County Councilmember George Leventhal said that year, in opposing the delegate’s bill, “A foreigner might have a different foreign policy interest, but when you are talking about choosing a mayor or a city council member, your interests are equal to your neighbor’s.”

The same thought applies to local Board of Education races. Montgomery County non-citizens send their children to public schools and pay taxes that educate others’ children. Their interests, in the BOE races, are equal to their citizen neighbors’. They deserve a vote.

MC 25-16 is about inclusion of an underrepresented, interested segment of Montgomery County’s population. It’s about engagement, about creating a sense of community belonging for recent immigrants. There are few downsides. Please endorse and support MC 25-16.