* the following information is from the League of Women Voter’s videos for candidates, the Route 1 forum, and the Baltimore Sun article in which council candidates participated. For each district race you will find
* the following information is from the League of Women Voter’s videos for candidates, the Route 1 forum, and the Baltimore Sun article in which council candidates participated. For each district race you will find their stated positions, various observations, information on their campaign contributions, and our recommendation or thoughts.
Liz Walsh and Raj Kathuria
Walsh is a lawyer with a civil engineering background. Kathuria is a realtor with Keller Williams and a business owner (dealing in turning chicken poop into fuel apparently) who is also a developer. Here’s their positions stated in League of Women Voters the Route One Corridor Forum events:
About additional flood mitigation in Howard County:
Walsh: we need comprehensive input from community and partnership from state/fed government
Kathuria: He’s FOR the Kittleman/Weinstein 5 year plan for Old Ellicott City, and says he hopes the buildings can be saved.
About housing affordability:
Walsh: expansion of property tax credits so that people can stay in Howard instead of leaving.
Kathuria: instead of letting developers pay into programs, we should make them create the affordable housing.
Walsh: She is against campaign contributions by people coming before the liquor or zoning boards. She also stated that we need to look at having solutions rolled out in ways that don’t cause the division that we’ve seen (certainly, a statement about the 5 year plan rolled out by Kittleman/Weinstein). Hearing her talk, one can see she is a data-driven person who likes to get the details. She says that too much development has happened, without the necessary infrastructure (schools, services, roads, etc) to accommodate it. She wants corrections made to the Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance so that infrastructure for future can be properly addressed. She entered the race after personally experiencing what she considered to be problems in the way our government handles things. She tells her story of looking first for herself, then looking at the process so she could understand, then being troubled by the flaws in the process and seeing how it likely affects others, and then entering the race to do something about that.
Kathuria: He is emphatic that Howard not be a Sanctuary City. He wants to address citizen mobility by having Call And Ride subsidized by the County. He probably should have indicated how he thought it would be funded, since money is an issue in Howard County. He repeatedly mentions that he was “the 1st to talk about high school #14” for the County. (Walsh countered that HS #14 is way too far in the future, and isn’t a priority now) His tagline is “People Before Politics”. He says he wants to stop allowing residential development to be converted from commercial. He states that he thinks that sort of rezoning should be corrected from years past. He believes we need building moratoriums in other watersheds also. He entered the race due to what he called “haphazard development without proper infrastructure”. He also wants to save the historic buildings slated to be demolished in historic Ellicott City by moving them “potentially to the new parking lot”, according to his recent quote given to the Baltimore Sun.
THEIR FINANCIAL CONTRIBUTORS:
Walsh: she has been consistent with her claim to stay away from developer contributions. Her tagline is that People are her special interest. Aside from the expected contributions from people like Courtney Watson and Mary Catherine Cochran (sisters), Walsh has stayed true to her commitment. She has shown support for democratic comrades such as China Williams, but we can’t see if it extends to candidates such as
Kathuria: he has received some contributions from a few in the finance and business sector such as Nasser Basir (Howard Bank), Dwight Mikulis, Steven Adler and Greenwood Hospitality. Many of these names are also affiliated with Kittleman, so that’s not entirely unexpected. Kathuria’s business partner also made a large contribution.
Liz Walsh. Her story of what got her into the race should be a textbook example of a person desiring to take their own experiences and helping the larger masses. In instances where she’s spoken at forums (including the Route One Forum), she speaks with specifics. Kathuria talks more in generalities, except when he is talking about High School #14. Though Kathuria says “people before politics”, we can’t help but wonder about the authenticity of it. That’s largely because of his statements being against the rezoning of commercial to residential. According to a story on the 53beersontap.typepad.com/53beers/ site, his development project on Grace Drive involves the rezoning from commercial to residential which is supposed to be frowned upon here. With all of the talk about over-development in Ellicott City, Howard County cannot afford to have another person is office who says one thing while doing another. Additionally, the developer-friendly candidate Weinstein that got ousted from district one at the primary should have sent a loud and clear message to candidates that developer interested candidates are not desired. Perhaps that is why Kathuria isn’t talking about his developer interests? Nevertheless they exist. Will Raj vote on decisions involving his own project? People Over Politics is a nice slogan, but it’s an even better one when it’s actually true for the candidate. Walsh gets that. We’ve also struggled to understand how or why historic buildings would be moved to a new parking lot as Kathuria stated.
Opel Jones and John Liao
Here, we go right to another matchup that involves developers. This one is worse. Jones is an educator, who also had been appointed by Ken Ulman to the Human Rights Commission. He stated that he wants “to fill the shoes” of Calvin Ball. Liao wants to use his degree in infrastructure engineering to benefit district 2. Here’s their positions stated in League of Women Voters the Route One Corridor Forum events:
Jones stated that we needed to make sure that revenue is available to take care of infrastructure. We’re unclear whether he means that if revenues are not, that infrastructure won’t be invested in, or whether he is saying that revenues (taxes) should be increased to pay for it. He stated that a “true assessment needs to be done on a small tax increase, keeping it at zero or a tax decrease”. He stated that he couldn’t say which he was for. He stated that he was not anti-development, and is for slow and smart growth. He saw the issues as being: overcrowding schools and redistricting, if Howard County will be a sanctuary county, and expressed his wondering if the Metro system needs to come to Howard County. He believes that development in East Columbia has been a problem, and wants to revisit the mobile home tax bill.
Liao stated that he wants to “stop runaway development”. He is advocating for a moratorium on residential building in his part of Elkridge. He believes that one of the biggest problems made in the last 12 years is “unbalanced development” in his district. He wants the focus to be on infrastructure placement before any future development. He generally advocates for development that is only in the business area of Gateway. He wants community to get more involved in local government. He testified against the CB-9 Sanctuary City legislation, and said that he wants to introduce legislation that addresses immigrant needs without using the word “sanctuary”. He says he will vote against any property tax hike. He wants the village center to be revitalized for the citizens.
THEIR FINANCIAL CONTRIBUTORS:
Jones has definitely taken a page from the Developer Contribution Book. There are two current county council candidate who has accepted the most developer business cash contributions, and Mr. Jones is one of them. The following is a sampling:
Double R Ventures, LLC $500
Erickson Living $1000 + 487.32 + 1250
James Moxley $250 + 500
Breeden Family LLC $500
Howard Research & Devel $500 + 500 + 1000
First Deep Run Ltd $1000
The Morris Weinman Co $1000
Hoddinott LLC $500
George Stone $1000
William Erskine $500
Talkin & Oh $500
IMA (Merriweather) $500
Costello Construction $1000
Buch Construction $1000
Arnold Sagner $1000
Centennial Reserve LLC $250
Garand LLC $500
BA B2 Residential LLC $500 (one of many LLCs from same location who also gave to Rigby, Terrasa, Ball and Kittleman)
Howard County PAC of MD
Building Industry $2500
Mr. Liao’s campaign contributions:
He received contributions from Gail Bates and her husband, candidate David Yungmann, primary candidate John McMahon, and former Columbia Association board representative for Long Reach: Russ Swatek. They amounted to a combined total of under $500. Likely due to his statements regarding runaway development as he called it, he doesn’t appear to be favored by them for contributions.
Mr. Opel seemed to us to give the safe answers to questions, and provide them in ways that sometimes left us wondering what he true position really was. Hopefully, that’s not the way to get the job. He name-drops Ball, Atterbeary, and Terrasa frequently, leading us to question if he hopes to ride on some blue wave of some sort. Because we couldn’t ascertain what he really stood for, with the exception of wanting to fill the shoes of Calvin Ball in many ways including campaign finance ones, our recommendation is for John Liao. Liao questioned Ball’s decisions that have led to the overdevelopment, and he wasn’t wrong to do so. That blame also partially belongs to Kittleman, due to his prior time on the council. Liao has also not so publicly questioned some of the decisions of Kittleman, which we also think ultimately makes him the stronger candidate. Howard County will benefit greatly by getting deprived of Yes-men/women who will cow tow to the wished of whomever gets the County Executive position. In this race, our bet is on Liao.
Rigby got 50% of the vote against her primary opponents, and therefore will be on the county council because she faces no opponent. She wants to look at all of the taxes and fees that Howard takes in, in order to make an assessment of what needs to happen to which ones in order to benefit the county. She has stated that developer impact fee raising could have given 500 million plus for programs had it been done. That decision would have had to be done by the Howard County delegation at the General Assembly, which one of her frequent contributors knows intimately: Guy Guzzone. His wife Pam is a frequent Rigby contributor. Rigby considers the Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance and the 90 million dollar downtown Columbia TIF financing to be the biggest mistakes in the last 12 years that she’d correct. We don’t know the aspects that she thinks should be corrected. She, like John Liao, have issue with the term “sanctuary” and would like it to be retooled. Imagine that! Common ground.
Before the primary, she received frequent contributions from Pam Guzzone as stated above. She also received contributions from Howard Research and Development ($250+250), Erickson ($250, a developer), and Merriweather ($3500). After the primary (in September of 2018), she received double the initial contribution from Erickson ($500) and another $500 from both George Stone and Annapolis Junction Town Center, LLC. Annapolis Junction also likes Guzzone and Terrasa, so we are wondering if there’s some aspect of their project needing modification coming in the pipeline since they own the lot where there’s a designed 4 story 18 acre mixed-use TOD that is walking distance from the Savage MARC station in the works?? Apparently, it’s been designed to have 416 multifamily units, 100k square feet of office space, a 150 key hotel, and 19k square feet of retail. Of note is that THAT PROJECT was the subject of Council Bill 4-2013 as well as CR-14-2009 and CB-21-2009 that created a TIF and a special tax collected on property in those districts to help finance it!! CB4 was moved by Terrasa in 2013 and unanimously passed by Watson, Ball, Terrasa, Sigaty and Fox. In that legislation, the number of affordable housing units DECREASED from 64 to 32 units. Something for folks to watch, since she’s In There now. And then there’s Erickson, another developer.
Lisa Kim and Deb Jung
Deb Jung is an attorney, and Lisa Kim is married to one. We emphasize this because it factors into both of their campaigns.
First, their positions:
Lisa Kim has the priorities of land use, schools and budgeting for infrastructure. She also stated a desire to take care of transportation here in Howard County first before looking to expand it. As for affordable housing, she stated that she believes that we need to study it first so we can know if we actually need more of it. (???) She also stated that she believes it is the immigrant children who need help here in Howard, not adults. She stated a hard stance against Sanctuary status for Howard, citing a “criminal element from DC” coming to rob people as her reason. According to her response for the Baltimore Sun, she had something criminal happen that caused her to leave halfway into her 2 year term as a city councilwoman in New Carrollton. New Carrollton has about 5800 registered voters, by the way, and it only took 243 for Kim to win. It probably needs to be said that her last name was Fenton back then, and she was “Liza” then also. In her resignation video, she essentially stated it getting so bad there and her disagreement with how the Mayor was mayoring and that she was giving her 2 weeks notice. I’m not sure that a person who takes things so personally should be given the job to govern over others. Our bigger issue is a decision that came out in July of this year by our Court of Special Appeals that involved her time on that city council. She was sued along with the rest of that council for their role in creating a special tax that was going to help pay for a greater police presence. A company named Fountain Club, LLC filed suit that alleged that the city council had no authority to impose the tax on them, and that they were owed a refund of the taxes they paid. You can read about the case by clicking HERE, but the end result of the case was that the city council was wrong. That case is going to play out once again in the Circuit Court of PG where it was sent back by the high court, and it directly goes to the ability of Kim that she wants citizens to elect her for.
Deb Jung has essentially stated the same priorities of Kim, so there’s no differentiation there. She wants to expand transportation to Montgomery county, DC and Baltimore (as does Opel Jones who talked about a Metro coming here). She rightfully stated that immigrant adults also need our help in Howard county. She’s spoken about ensuring affordable housing, but has said nothing to indicate how she thinks that might happen. This was a large enough issue that the League of Women Voters asked the question to each of the council candidates, so saying that you want to ensure affordable housing sounds good but falls short when there’s no action plan spelled out about it that are in the ability of council to do. We noticed that the writeup on her in the Baltimore Sun stated that she declined to take a stance on the 5 Year Plan regarding flood mitigation, citing that she needed to “the opportunity to look at everything” before making a decision. With all of the talk, hearings and public comment about it, we struggle to understand how she couldn’t have a position. Jung, perhaps because she is an attorney, did take a stance on the following: decriminalizing drug trafficking so that they can get other work. She went so far as to suggest that their conviction records get removed. First, we are unaware of the county council having the power to do such a thing, but second we found ourselves asking “What the what did she even say?” She advocates for APFO enforcement (a given), zoning re-write, and has said that we “can’t build ourselves out of this issue.” We wonder if her contributors know that, and her banker.
THEIR FINANCIAL CONTRIBUTORS:
Jung’s larger contributors include:
Waverly Real Estate (Donald Reuwer) $500
Talkin & Oh (developer attorneys) $500
George Stone (Greenstone) $1000
Costello Construction $2000
Kim’s larger contributors were:
John Tegeris (Tunnel consulting) $500
Law Office of Samuel Nalli $1000
(same office suite as her husband)
And various attorneys which is not surprising given that her husband is one.
We are troubled by this particular race for more than one reason. Yes, it is true that Jung has been given access and entrée to prime campaign sign placements on the properties belonging to developer extraordinaire Donald Reuwer. You’ll see more on our writeup on who the developers LOVED in the past and who they LIKE now, by clicking at the top of the page. Jung got endorsed by Mary Kay Sigaty that the voters gave the royal boot to our of office, and we’d like to hope that it speaks volumes about the voters having had enough of the developer shenanigans and the appearance of pay to play that Kittleman claimed her eradicated once and for all in Howard County. So that endorsement may not be so flattering. Sierra Club? Okay yes, and she speaks about the environment being important and it certainly is. We don’t know what she truly stands for, except her desire to not take a firm stand on much but decriminalizing drug trafficking. The company she keeps is troubling. And Kim also troubles us because she literally runs when the heat gets hot in the kitchen. No, not her decision to abandon ship when she didn’t feel the Mayor was doing enough in New Carrollton, though that said something to us. She says that she fought corruption, but hasn’t said what corruption and how. The streets are saying that she took a strong social media stance on the courthouse bill that everyone knows was Kittleman’s darling, but then deleted the post prior to cozying up to him publicly and declaring that she was the candidate to lead the new council because of her prior experience (when she ironically pulled the parachute and ejected out). Despite saying that “I don’t see party. I don’t react to party.”, it doesn’t look that way to us, but she finally got her endorsement from Kittleman and he will need to have people around him who support what he does, so that probably made sense. That court case is what does it for us. She says that “experience matters”, and we know why she says it, but then there’s the question of HER experience while sitting on a city council.
Neither candidate really addressed specific District 4 issues, and they are both challenged. Our recommendation is for neither candidate. We don’t have faith that either candidate will give District 4 the representation that it deserves. We are wondering who is going to pay off Jung’s candidate loan balance that she drove up to $29,404? (Kim has $5000, and the downballot Democrats MacFarlane, Gibson and Harris have the next biggest loan balances) We heard of a race in the past where candidates ran up a high loan balance and then they got contributions from developers after the election that paid them off. We’re not saying that is going to happen, but we’re saying that someone should watch to see what does happen.
David Yungmann and China Williams
Another David vs Goliath race on the outside, but not so much on the inside. Yungmann is a darling of Greg Fox (some say, a mirror image in many ways) and Kittleman. He’s a realtor like Kathuria. China Williams is a freelance travel writer, and is notably endorsed by the same union as Jung (AFL-CIO) and the Sierra Club.
Their positions are:
Williams lists priorities of school funding, smart development, environment (we did write Sierra Club), and making sure that infrastructure supports new developments. She’s mentioned several times about automated cars coming to Howard, and our need to get ready for them. Yungmann says he opposes PSA extensions, is against “fake farming” (when there is a business or manufacturing on cheaper farmland), and wants to keep the rural areas of Howard stay rural while allowing downtown Columbia to continue to expand.
Two areas in which they frequently conflicted, but where you can really see the differences between them:
Affordable housing question: Williams believes that having incomes rise and skills increase is the answer. Yungmann simply came out and said that Howard County isn’t going to be affordable. Now, we know that an answer like Yungmann’s wasn’t going to make groups like the Thurgood Marshall Democratic Club or the African Americans In Howard County (AACHC) happy, and he didn’t earn their endorsements. But apparently her answer was enough to, which we found troubling because it means there is a low bar for those organizations. While we don’t like Yungmann’s answer, we at least give him credit for having the guts to be honest about it. Either it’s not an issue that can be discussed because the Howard delegation to the General Assembly has to and they haven’t been touching it, or there’s no answer to be had because the affordable housing ship has already sailed in Howard County.
Sanctuary status for Howard: Yungmann considers the undocumented immigrants in Howard to be a strain on resources (his words). Williams, who said she wrote a letter to Greg Fox asking him to support the sanctuary bill, said she is fine with the county’s current policy of assisting ICE only when criminal activity is suspected. So we don’t understand her desire to get Yungmann to repeat on the record how he feels about sanctuary. In many ways, it felt as if her campaign was more focused on trying to get people to be mad at him which is the same tactic and topic that we couldn’t help but notice that Kittleman does and uses regarding Ball’s introduction of it. Politics as usual? Yes.
THEIR FINANCIAL CONTRIBUTORS:
Yungmann largest contributors in terms of developers are similar to those featured on Opel Jones’ list:
Richard Lombardo 500
Howard Research 500 + 3000
Mark Moxley 500 + 500
Sean Denny 500
Mike Buch 2000 + 1000
Realtors PAC 6000
Erich Bonner 1500
Bruce Harvey 1000
Costello Construction 500
Rob Dorsey 500
As for contributors of Williams, it reads like an army of women who all gave $500 contributions. Of note with that is that many of them also gave to Katie Hester and/or Courtney Watson. Package deal, is what appearances show. Some have called China Courtney’s protégé: A mini-me of Courtney. And they’ve been spotted driving together to and fro in the county, with China in the passenger seat perhaps taking notes as an dutiful student will when learning from The Master. She was smart enough (or listened correctly) to stay clear of the contributions that The Master got pummeled socially for accepting. We’ve joked that Watson probably still has leftover contributions from the stacks and stacks of developer money that she got from her council days and failed bid for County Executive. It was no surprise to see that freelance travel writer get a boost from none other than one of Courtney’s biggest supporters: Donald Reuwer and friends (Waverly). But Yungmann isn’t exactly a slouch in that area, nor was their predecessor Greg Fox.
If District 5 liked Greg Fox, than they’ll be just fine with David Yungmann. We did like that he gave the ugly truth, which is rare for a political candidate to do so it was noteworthy. If he were just making decisions for D5, this would be easier. As with most things, there are ripple effects to decisions that are often times felt by others around you. Council members will be making decisions for not just their district, but for the entire county. We like that Yungmann expressed his desire that there be zoning that is separate from the county council. We also like that he wants to preserve rural as rural. It would be nice to have someone on the council that brings a completely different perspective, which we hope that Williams has to offer but her connection with Watson and Hester gives the feeling of More Of The Same. But so does Yungmann. Williams is the underdog for sure, and here’s why:
In the 2014 election where Watson lost, one of the biggest economic drivers for Kittleman was Greg Fox and the contributors from his campaign. We’re talking about Fox’s campaign contributors! The Slate that Kittleman’s sister and brother in law controlled (Howard County Maryland Slate) took in $72,000 from candidate account transfers, slates and PACs. That slate showed a $12,000 transfer to it from the Greg Fox candidate account on October 23, 2014, and then another $32,000 from the Fox campaign a week later on October 30, 2014. Fox had to loan his own campaign $20,000 because he had given the contributions that he received from donors, to the Kittleman PAC. If district 5 is okay with that, then we call this race for Yungmann. That doesn’t mean that we like it, but we’re embracing the ugly truth like Yungmann did. You’ll know what you are getting with Yungmann, but just aren’t so sure with Williams. If you vote in Williams, you’ll have to make sure that you have her in your back pocket as opposed to special interests being there.