In The News 2016

7 On Your Side: Md. state senator upset over return policy

December 28, 2016
by Kimberly Suiters
View the Full Article (and Watch the Video!) Here

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (ABC7) — Montgomery County State Senator Cheryl Kagan is upset over a return policy that allows retailers to gather personal data from consumers.

Senator Kagan will introduce legislation in Maryland to limit license scanning of consumer data. Nine other states currently have similar laws.
Some consumers are split on whether they are willing to give up private data to return items to stores.

Seven On Your Side investigator Kimberly Suiters has more on this story.

Year in Review: Hate Incidents Roil County Known for its Inclusion

December 27, 2016
Bethesda Magazine
by Douglas Tallman
View the Full Article Here

In a county that prides itself on a population drawn from 170 countries, the hate incidents of 2016 came as a shock. As the year drew to a close, swastikas were drawn igniting concerns and forcing action by county institutions.

None of the incidents have resulted in arrests, police said recently, though the cases remain under investigation.

“Detectives have very little information and few leads, if any, to go on with the open cases and are still asking for anybody with information to come forward,” Montgomery County police Officer Rick Goodale said.

In some incidents, the hate images were scrawled on the walls of elementary and middle school bathrooms. In others, church signs were defaced. Vandals used a “caustic substance” to burn a swastika into the grass of an athletic field. Spray paint was used on school signs and on a homeowner’s door.

Montgomery County Public Schools spokesman Derek Turner said only one school case resulted in punishment. That case occurred earlier this month when someone put a “Whites Only” sign on a restroom door at Winston Churchill High School in Potomac. According to a report in The Washington Post, students found the sign and “posted it to see how people would react.” Turner would not describe the punishment that students received.

An incident at Silver Spring’s Sligo Creek Elementary School, originally described as racial slurs scratched on a wall, was actually just an act of vandalism, according to a letter that went home to parents.

“The investigation revealed that the message, which was scratched into the wall and not written on as originally believed, consisted of the text ‘Kill Kill B.’ It was concluded that while there is evidence of the crime of vandalism, there is no evidence to show that it was a hate crime, or biased based,” wrote Matthew A. Devan, MCPS director of school support and improvement.

The spate of hate graffiti prompted the County Council on Nov. 15 to issue a resolution condemning the incidents. County Executive Ike Leggett hosted a rally in downtown Silver Spring on Nov. 20 that drew more than 1,000 people to reaffirm the county’s values of diversity, inclusion and respect for all.

Efforts to determine the reasons behind the hate incidents have sparked some debate. Some, like state Sen. Cheryl Kagan (D-Rockville), blame the rhetoric from President-elect Donald Trump’s campaign.

In an address at the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School in Rockville on Dec. 16, Gov. Larry Hogan looked at the issue more broadly.

“I think there’s a lot of frustration and anger out there in the country, and we need to figure out a way to bring everyone together,” the Republican governor said.

Two weeks before, Kagan had engaged in a Twitter war of words with Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford. Kagan tweeted her shock that Rutherford had said at a meeting in Potomac the night before that he was perplexed by recent increase in hate crimes in the United States. In his tweet reply, Rutherford said hate is not new and he’d “rather people show their real colors than hide.”

A timeline for hate incidents:

April 27: Swastikas spray-painted at Welsh Park on Mannakee Street and at Beall Elementary School in Rockville. A witness told police he saw two teenage boys spray-painting swastikas in a wooded area near the school, but police were not able to locate the suspects.

Oct. 28: Someone used a “caustic substance” to create a swastika on the grass of the Quince Orchard High School football field in Gaithersburg. A vehicle was captured by surveillance video.

Oct. 31: Swastikas and other inappropriate images were spray-painted on banners, sidewalks and telephone poles at Burning Tree Elementary School in Bethesda.

Nov. 11: Multiple swastikas were drawn in a boys bathroom at Westland Middle School in Bethesda.

Nov. 11: A “Black Lives Matter” sign at Christ Congregational Church in Silver Spring was vandalized on election night.

Nov. 12: The phrase “Trump Nation, Whites Only” was written at the Episcopal Church of Our Savior at 1700 Powder Mill Road, Silver Spring, on a sign advertising the church’s Hispanic service, and on a wall in the church’s memorial garden that serves as a cemetery.

Nov. 17: Montgomery County Police Chief Tom Manger appeared in a video saying that so far in 2016, police have seen a 17 percent increase in hate crimes and bias incidents.

Nov. 21: A swastika was spray-painted on the front door of a Trump supporter, which police investigated as a possible case of “hate-biased” vandalism. The homeowner also reported an American flag he had hanging from a tree in yard, had also been stolen.

Dec. 9: A “derogatory, racial statement” was written on the wall of a restroom at Woodlin Elementary School in Silver Spring near third-grade classrooms.

Dec. 22: Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Jack Smith condemned hate in holiday message.

For Trump Critics, an ‘UnNaugural’ Concert

December 13, 2016
by Josh Hicks
The Washington Post

A progressive state senator from Maryland is organizing a concert on Inauguration Day to raise money for liberal causes she thinks will be threatened under the administration of President-elect Donald Trump.

The UnNaugural Concert will take place the night of Jan. 20 at Montgomery College’s 500-seat Cultural Arts Center in Rockville, while thousands of Trump supporters and Republican faithful from across the country are celebrating downtown at inaugural balls.

Ticket prices range from $25 for students to $250 for VIP seating, with general admission running $100. Proceeds will go to five national advocacy groups that promote abortion rights, civil liberties, environmental protections, gay rights and gun control.

Performers include five largely regional acts known for activist music: the Grammy Award-winning a cappella group Sweet Honey in the Rock, Emma’s Revolution, Brother Sun, Josh White Jr. and Tret Fure.

“I wanted an opportunity for like-minded people to get together for healing and inspiration on a day when the new administration is going to be talking about its agenda,” said Sen. Cheryl Kagan (D-Montgomery County).

Other groups benefiting from the UnNaugural Concert include the American Civil Liberties Union, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, the League of Conservation Voters and Planned Parenthood.

Organizers are hoping to attract locals and visitors traveling to the area for the Jan. 21 Women’s March on Washington, the most high-profile anti-Trump protest planned, which organizers say could draw hundreds of thousands of attendees.

Joe Cluster, executive director of the Maryland Republican Party, compared the protest efforts to the actions of conservatives after Barack Obama won the presidency in 2008.

 “I have no problem with it,” he said. “They should be fighting back. That’s what we did. We worked to beat Democrats all over the country, and now we have 33 Republican governors, the majority in the Senate and House, and the presidency.”

Similar efforts have sprung up throughout the nation since the Nov. 8 election, including a “revival meeting” featuring Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Rep.-elect Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) that drew more than 800 people to a civic center in Silver Spring last month.

Raskin, who served in Annapolis with Kagan before being elected to Congress, is scheduled to speak at the UnNaugural Concert as well.

Maryland Lieutenant Governor Slammed for Saying He’s Glad Hate Now Out in the Open

A swastika and a chart showing incidents of post-election hate crimes are shown during a press conference in Washington, D.C., U.S., November 29, 2016.

December 8, 2016
Jewish Telegraphic Agency
Maryland’s lieutenant governor is raising hackles for saying he was glad haters are coming out into the open.
Boyd Rutherford, a Republican, speaking last week at the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, had been asked by a local rabbi about a spike in hate crimes in Maryland directed at Jews.
Rutherford, according to the Baltimore Sun, condemned the spike, but said he didn’t know what was causing it.
The Jewish audience laughed at that remark and Democratic State Senator Cheryl Kagan almost immediately chided him on Twitter, using the hash tag #Trump to suggest the spike was a result of the election of Donald Trump to the presidency.
“You act as though hate is new,” Rutherford replied on Twitter. “It was always there. I’d rather people show their real colors than hide.”
Jews and Democrats were scathing in their response.
“It’s worrisome that our lieutenant governor is not aware of what’s happening around our state and our country as we prepare to inaugurate a new president whose language has caused such hate and such fear,” Kagan told Bethesda Magazine.
Susan Turnbull, a former vice chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee and a former chairwoman of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, told the Sun that Rutherford’s apparent defensiveness was “mind blowing.”
“He could have said so many other things, and he didn’t,” she said.
Shareese DeLeaver-Churchill, a spokeswoman for Rutherford, who is an African American, expanded on his tweet in a statement to the media.
“As someone who has personally experienced racial discrimination, the lieutenant governor was referencing the indisputable fact that, unfortunately, racism and race-related tensions have been issues facing our nation for hundreds of years, and he believes all Marylanders and Americans benefit when these issues can be discussed frankly in the public arena,” she said.


December 8, 2016
by Bethany Rogers
Bethesda Beat MagazineScreenshot of Tree House Concerts webpage

A few days after Donald Trump clinched the presidency, Chevy Chase concert organizer Doug Mangel was wide awake at 2 a.m. compiling a playlist of ‘60s protest songs.

The election results had left him feeling “sort of punched in the gut,” but he found comfort in listening to Bob Dylan and Woodie Guthrie.

“It felt cathartic putting it together,” Mangel said.

The early-morning experience got him thinking about using music to unite the community during a time of tumult. Now, Mangel is working to stage one of at least two local shows planned to calm frayed nerves in the hours before Trump’s inauguration in January.

“I think people are looking for something to forget about what might be happening the next day,” said Pete Marra, who is co-hosting one of the events with Mangel.

Mangel’s BlackBox Live concert series is partnering with Marra’s Tree House Concerts to put on the Peace, Love and Understanding Alt-Inaugural show at Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club in Bethesda at 7:30 p.m. on Jan. 19, the day before Trump takes office.

The second event, dubbed the UnNaugural Concert, is slated for the big day itself on Jan. 20. But unlike the D.C. extravaganza, “no limousines, tuxedos, or fancy gowns are needed” at the UnNaugural Concert, its website states.

The concert, which state Sen. Cheryl Kagan (D-Rockville) is planning, will take place at 7:30 p.m. at Montgomery College’s Cultural Arts Center in Silver Spring and will promote progressive issues such as gay rights and gun control.

“I tend to be a problem solver. So I came up with the idea of hosting a concert to raise money for progressive causes that are among those most threatened by the incoming administration,” Kagan said.

Both events will feature musicians who have engaged in political or social activism.

The UnNaugural Concert will include performances by activist musicians such as Grammy-nominated vocalists Sweet Honey in the Rock and musical duo Emma’s Revolution. The event will support the American Civil Liberties Union, Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, League of Conservation Voters, National LGBTQ Task Force and Planned Parenthood. Kagan said she’d like to let concert goers help decide how the event proceeds will be divided between the organizations. Tickets are available at

The Peace, Love and Understanding show at Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club will present singer-songwriter Jill Sobule, “populist musician” Jonah Smith and cellist Ben Sollee, an environmental advocate who has opposed mountaintop removal in Appalachia, Mangel said. The show’s proceeds will go to the artists and to two local nonprofits, Ayuda, which serves low-income immigrants, and Washington Womenade, which helps the needy in the D.C. area.

“Both women’s rights and immigration will rise to the forefront over the next four years—and so we’d like to give to [these nonprofits] at this time,” said Marra of Takoma Park.

Mangel said the response to the planned show has been overwhelming. Since tickets went on sale over Thanksgiving, 375 of 500 seats have already been taken, he said. The $30 tickets are available at

In a largely Democratic county where 76 percent of voters chose Hillary Clinton for president, the Jan. 19 crowd probably won’t contain many Trump supporters. But the goal isn’t to rally against the Republican president-elect, Mangel said.

“We’re not doing it as a protest, in-your-face show,” he said. “I think that music is a very powerful thing. …I think it brings people together.”

Dan McHugh, vice president of Montgomery County Young Republicans, doesn’t remember past presidential inaugurations inspiring concerts like the planned events and said the response to Trump’s election has been unusually emotional.

“Clearly, the Democrats are not going to accept Donald Trump as president,” McHugh said.

“My basic message to people is that we’re not a marginal minority — we’re the majority in exile,” he said, referring to Hillary Clinton’s popular-vote victory. “We’re clearly going to be the opposition party in Congress, but I believe we’re speaking for most Americans on Day One.”

Although Trump’s positions on key policy issues have been hard to pin down, he has said that climate change is a hoax, that he would defund Planned Parenthood, that he opposes gun-free zones, that states should be able to decide whether same-sex marriage is legal and that Muslim immigrants should go through ideological screening as part of an “extreme vetting” process.

Each concert attendee will receive a token to place in one of five containers representing the groups that benefit from the show, allowing guests to choose which organizations they want to support. Concertgoers can also place their tokens in a sixth container, which will allow them to divide the proceeds evenly among the groups.

Raskin explained the purpose of the concert by offering a twist on first lady Michelle Obama’s “When they go low, we go high” catchphrase.

“When they go into office, we go out and organize,” he said. “It’s important for our people to feel strong and to stand strong.”

Maryland Senator Blasts Lieutenant Governor over “Remarkably Offensive” Hate Crimes Comment 
December 7, 2016
by Menachem Rephun
Jewish Political News & Updates

Boyd K. Rutherford, Maryland’s Republican Lieutenant Governor, is facing controversy for his apparently dismissive attitude regarding a surge in hate crimes in Maryland since November.

Rutherford only dug himself into a deeper hole during a Twitter exchange with Democratic state Senator Cheryl Kagan, who expressed dismay at a speech Rutherford had recently given to the Jewish Relations Council of Greater Washington. In Kagan’s view, the speech betrayed a lack of understanding about the root cause behind the recent surge in hate speech, which she believes is the election of Donald Trump.

When Kagan took Rutherford to task, Rutherford retorted that “you act as though hate is new. It was always there. I’d rather people show their real colors than hide.”

Rutherford’s response was “remarkably offensive,” Kagan told the Washington Post. The remark was also criticized by Ron Halber, the JRC of Greater Washington’s executive director. According to the Washington Post, Halber also sees a direct link between the rhetoric of Donald Trump and “the uptick of anti-Semitic and bigoted events happening across the country and in my home town of Montgomery County.”

Meanwhile, a spokesman for Rutherford defended him in a statement to WJZ, a sports radio station based in Baltimore.

“As a black man who grew up during the Civil Rights movement and someone who has stared real racism and discrimination in the face, the lieutenant governor was simply referencing the indisputable fact that racism and race-related tensions have been issues facing our nation for hundreds of years,” the statement read. “He believes all Marylanders and Americans benefit when these issues can be discussed frankly in the public arena.”

Kagan, for her part, recounted her exchange with Rutherford in a December 2 Facebook post.

“Yesterday, I had an interesting… no, distressing… Twitter exchange with our Lt Gov, Boyd Rutherford,” Kagan wrote. The Senator described Rutherford as “a personally nice man,” but said she was “shocked by his answer to a question about hate crimes.”

“He indicated first that he couldn’t understand why there was a recent and meteoric rise,” she wrote. “He then tweeted in response to mine that he’d ‘rather people show their real colors than hide.’ I STRONGLY disagree; it seems that the shame of racist words and actions has evaporated due to the mortifying example by President-Elect Donald J. Trump. We need strong leadership to stand up and speak out in the face of hate. All Marylanders need to feel safe!”

Maryland Lt. Gov.’s Response to Hate Crime Wave Upsets Some

December 7, 2016
by Ron Kampeas
The Forward

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Maryland’s lieutenant governor is raising hackles for saying he was glad haters are coming out into the open, referring to a question he fielded about a rise in anti-Jewish attacks.

Boyd Rutherford, a Republican, speaking last week at the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, had been asked by a local rabbi about a spike in hate crimes in Maryland directed at Jews.

Rutherford, according to the Baltimore Sun, condemned the spike, but said he didn’t know what was causing it.

The Jewish audience laughed at that remark, and a Democratic State Senator, Cheryl Kagan, almost immediately chided him on Twitter, hashtagging her tweet “Trump,” a reference to her belief that the spike was a result of the election of Donald Trump to the presidency.

“#Shocked by Lt Gov @BoydKRutherford’s response to @ShaareTorahGbrg’s Rabbi about hate crimes. He’s perplexed by the increase. #Trump,” said Kagan, referring to Rabbi Jacob Blumenthal of Shaare Torah synagogue in Gaithersburg, Maryland, who asked the question.

“You act as though hate is new,” Rutherford replied on Twitter. “It was always there. I’d rather people show their real colors than hide.”

Jews and Democrats were scathing in their response. “It’s worrisome that our lieutenant governor is not aware of what’s happening around our state and our country as we prepare to inaugurate a new president whose language has caused such hate and such fear,” Kagan told Bethesda Magazine.

Susan Turnbull, a former vice chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee and a former chairwoman of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, told the Sun that Rutherford’s apparent defensiveness was “mind blowing.”

“He could have said so many other things, and he didn’t,” she said.

Shareese DeLeaver-Churchill, a spokeswoman for Rutherford, who is an African American, expanded on his tweet in a statement to the media.

“As someone who has personally experienced racial discrimination, the lieutenant governor was referencing the indisputable fact that, unfortunately, racism and race-related tensions have been issues facing our nation for hundreds of years, and he believes all Marylanders and Americans benefit when these issues can be discussed frankly in the public arena,” she said.


December 2, 2016
by Erin Cox
The Baltimore Sun
Amid an uptick in hate speech following the divisive presidential election, Republican Lt. Gov. Boyd K. Rutherford said this week that he’d rather people “show their real colors than hide.”

Rutherford was tweeting in response to state Sen. Cheryl Kagan, a Montgomery County Democrat, who had tweeted that she was “shocked” by Rutherford’s lack of awareness about the root of recent anti-Semitic vandalism.

“You act as though hate is new,” Rutherford tweeted at the state senator. “It was always there. I’d rather people show their real colors than hide.”

The lieutenant governor had just given a speech Thursday to the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, where several attendees said Rutherford condemned a recent increase in hate speech but also said he didn’t know what was causing it. That remark set off uncomfortable laughter in the audience.

Progressive lawmakers and other groups have been pushing Gov. Larry Hogan‘s administration to make more forceful public comments about hate speech.

Since Election Day, about 1,000 people have called or emailed Hogan’s office, encouraging his administration to publicly condemn an uptick in hate speech in the state, according to the governor’s office. Another 627 asked the administration to decry President-elect Donald Trump‘s appointment of former Breitbart news executive Stephen Bannon as his chief White House strategist.

Rutherford, who is African-American and normally low-key, clarified his tweet about 24 hours after he posted it. His spokeswoman issued a statement Friday, saying the lieutenant governor thought the country could benefit from a candid discussion about racially motivated hate.

“As a black man who grew up during the Civil Rights movement and someone who has stared real racism and discrimination in the face, the lieutenant governor was simply referencing the indisputable fact that racism and race-related tensions have been issues facing our nation for hundreds of years,” spokeswoman Shareese Churchill said in the statement.

“He believes all Marylanders and Americans benefit when these issues can be discussed frankly in the public arena.”

Hogan’s spokesman, Doug Mayer, said Friday, “We condemn all acts of hate and racism. Period.”

Last week, Hogan said of the increase in post-election hate speech that “we would not like to see any hate crimes on either side of this issue.” He also said that “everyone should take a deep breath” about Trump’s election and declined to comment on Bannon.

The remarks did little to quell progressive lawmakers who thought the administration was shying away from taking a stand.

“What are we really asking him to do?” said Democratic Del. Kirill Reznik of Montgomery County. “To say that he comes out and stands with the people of Maryland, all the people of Maryland, and that people who commit who hate crimes should be punished.

“I don’t see how we’re cornering him into anything other than being a decent person.”

Kagan blamed the rise in hate speech on a presidential election rich in racially and ethnically charged rhetoric.

Rabbi Jacob Blumenthal, who asked Rutherford the question that sparked this controversy, said he wanted to know what the administration will do about the anxiety and bullying he’s seeing in his Gaithersburg community.

“I know that I, as Jewish person, don’t feel better that it’s out there,” said Blumenthal, rabbi of the Shaare Torah congregation. “We just have to recognize that’s an issue — that there are parts of the community that feel vulnerable, and there are parts of our society that now feel like hate speech is a legitimate activity.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center released a report this week documenting about 900 hate-based incidents across the country in the 10 days following Trump’s election.

In Montgomery County, school officials said a swastika was discovered Tuesday at Quince Orchard High School in Gaithersburg, the second time such a symbol has been found at the school since October. Other swastikas were found painted outside a Bethesda elementary school in October, and more in a Bethesda middle school in November.

On Wednesday, police said three cars in Burtonsville were defaced with swastikas.

And earlier this month, a 15-year-old wearing a “Make American Great Again” hat was attacked at a Rockville high school while students protested Trump’s victory.

“The anxiety that is going on about this is pervasive,” said Susan Turnbull, a longtime Montgomery County activist and former chair of the Maryland Democratic Party. Turnbull attended Thursday’s event and said she was stunned by Rutherford’s response to the rabbi’s question.

“He could have said so many other things, and he didn’t,” she said. “The lieutenant governor’s total lack of connection with that feeling was mind-blowing.”

The push for the Hogan administration to take a stand has come with some nastiness, according to Mayer.

One anonymous email provided by the governor’s office to The Baltimore Sun told Hogan that “maybe you’ll take hate crimes in Maryland seriously when they come to register your foreign mail order bride,” a reference to Hogan’s wife, Yumi, who is Korean-American.

On Thursday night, Trump forcefully denounced hate speech at a rally in Ohio, saying, “We condemn bigotry and hatred in all of its forms.”

Kagan said her Jewish community is “mystified” by Rutherford’s remarks.

“It’s hard to imagine how the lieutenant governor could have been blind to the hate speech that has been spewed by Donald Trump and many of his supporters,” Kagan said. “He missed an opportunity to be an effective role model.

“Just because racism has existed for hundreds of years doesn’t make it right. Nor does it sanction the shocking increase in race-related hate.”


November 7, 2016
by Mitti Hicks
My Community Media

cwbuexlxeaecjhqThe Corporate Volunteer Council (CVC) of Montgomery County held their 2016 annual luncheon and awards ceremony on Friday to recognize local businesses for their successful volunteer programs.

The CVC educates local businesses on how to partner with and support non-profits in need by helping them create successful volunteer and charitable programs.

In this extra video, Maryland State Senator Cheryl Kagan explains the importance of local businesses volunteering with nonprofits:

“Through them, seniors are being helped, the homeless are being helped, the hungry; they’re making a difference,” said Maryland State Senator Cheryl Kagan. “It makes employees feel great about their employers, inspires loyalty within their organizations and makes a worthy charitable difference.”

Joining the local businesses and non-profits at the luncheon were state and local-elected officials.

“Many times, we’re quick to criticize,” said Montgomery County Councilmember Sidney Katz. “When we do the right things, someone should also thank.  We don’t do that enough, so this is an opportunity for us to say thank you.”

 Vote Like A Girl: Cheryl Kagan

October 28, 2016
by Lauren Landau
Jewish Women International Magazine

Q: Why do you vote like a girl?

A: I vote because I think my voice and my opinions matter. I think that women tend to care about people more than profits. While we are conscious of the present, I think we tend to be future-oriented in terms of the next generation and the impact of top quality schools, a clean environment and peace and justice. I think we’re really conscious of those issues and when we do our homework, that’s how we vote.

Q: We know that only a fraction of eligible voters actually make it out to the voting booths. Do you find that troubling? Why should people—and women in particular—participate in the electoral process?

A: My favorite campaign button says “vote or you’ve got nobody to blame but yourself.” So many Americans complain about this, that and the other. They have a distrust and disinterest in many political things, and yet while they’re unhappy and gripe about it, they don’t always vote.

When I get letters, phone calls, or emails from constituents or interest groups, and I look them up in our voter database and find that they have not voted, I don’t care if they’re of the other party. I don’t care if they have supported my opponent. I want to see that they are engaged in the most basic job that every American has, and that is to cast a ballot in the primary and the general election, all the time. And if they don’t, they just lose credibility with me. 

Q: So you do your homework. What do you tell those people? Do you give them a guilt trip?

A: Senators in Maryland get to pick notaries public and we get to choose from those who apply. We also have scholarship money for students who are doing either college or graduate work. One of the things that I look for [among the people who apply] is are they registered, and do they vote? At this point, virtually everyone can be registered through Motor Voter so you’re already on the books. In Maryland you can vote by mail, you can early vote or you can vote on Election Day —so there’s no good excuse [for not voting].  Laziness, cynicism or disinterest doesn’t qualify. 

We used to turn down as a notary anybody who wasn’t registered to vote and I give kind of a mini lecture to anyone who is a Kagan senatorial scholar. It is your job [I tell them] as a senatorial scholar to be a role model. Role models are community leaders and community leaders influence their friends and neighbors. Part of your job is to be informed, to vote and to talk to your friends and neighbors about whom you are supporting and why. It is a responsibility. I don’t care if you vote against me every single time. That’s fine. But you have to vote.

Q: And that’s what we’re about here at JWI. Whether you’re a Republican, a Democrat, Libertarian, or Independent, just get out there and vote!

A: I totally agree, and I’m wearing my “H” pin because I’m with her, and I am really hoping that we’re about to elect our first woman president, not just because of her gender, but because of her talent, passion, experience, and the respect with which she is held around the country and around the world. So I am hopeful and optimistic and working hard. 

Q: I’m sure Secretary Clinton appreciates that. You mentioned some of the reasons why people might not vote or might not be registered to vote. But it isn’t just a disinterest in voting. What are some of the hurdles that people face and how can we help alleviate some of those issues?

A: America is increasingly diverse. I sponsored the “Informed Voter” bill, which we got enacted with “Language Access,” because those who don’t yet speak English fluently may have trouble understanding government and candidates’ platforms. By making our government fully accessible, regardless of which language you speak, we can help people engage more. In other states, but thankfully not in Maryland, there are voter ID laws and other barriers to voting. The biggest barrier to voting in Maryland is being a citizen, and then coming out [to vote]. Once you’re a citizen, in my view, there is just no excuse not to vote, not to cast your opinion, not to be heard.

Q: What are some of the issues that feel particularly relevant or pressing in 2016 that this election could significantly impact?

A: Maryland has no elections at the state level in a presidential year. We have the off years, so the governor, the general assembly, our legislature, our county councils and other [elected positions] are not on the ballot this year—and neither am I. So we’re all looking at Washington and at Congress. Because we are in Maryland, we are right next door, and are very aware of and affected by—as we all are—national decisions. Certainly the leader of the free world is going to be making international decisions about war and peace; about trade; about where we do or don’t intervene abroad; about refugees. Immigration obviously has been a huge issue, but [there are also] budget priorities and [the need for] support for our children and for moving forward, for the environment and climate change. 

I am a partisan Democrat, but I also believe in bipartisanship. So many Republicans, though, are climate change deniers. The scientific data is not debatable, and yet, depending on who gets in office, we are either going to take action to protect our Earth for future generations or we’re not. We’re either going to work with other countries on treaties, and enforce them and comply with them, or we’re not. Obviously issues like women’s reproductive choice are at stake, depending on who runs Congress. So there are hundreds of issues and I am fervently hoping that we’re going to have a dynamic, thoughtful, progressive new U.S. Senator from Maryland; a terrific new congressman from my district, Jamie Raskin, a Senate colleague of mine; and Hillary Clinton, an effective leader, in the White House.  

Please vote! It’s vitally important, and make sure you are prepared. Don’t just vote based on gender or race or religion. Do your homework and figure out who is supporting issues that are of concern to you. 


 Democratic Vets Mull Convention Changes

By  Danica Roem
The Montgomery Sentinel

The role and scope of women participating in the Democratic National Convention changed considerably from the time state Sen. Cheryl Kagan (D-17) first attended in 1980.

Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D) capped that change as the dean of the Senate women formally nominated Hillary Clinton to be the Democratic nominee, the first woman to lead a major party presidential ticket.

Moco Sentinel Prez picture

President Barack Obama at the Democratic National Convention. PHOTO BY MARK POETKER

“Every convention is different and every convention is exciting and truly a privilege to experience and be a part of history,” said Kagan last week during a phone call from Philadelphia.

Kagan, who said she attended her ninth DNC last week, also saw how disunity affected the party up close when she volunteered for the late Sen. Ted Kennedy’s (D-Mass.) campaign during his unsuccessful run for president against incumbent Jimmy Carter in 1980.

“I had started off at headquarters photocopying checks,” she said.

It wasn’t the first time she supported a candidate who lost, backing Clinton’s first run for the presidency in 2008.

During that campaign, Kagan knocked on doors during the winter cold in Cedar Rapids, Iowa and eventually traveled to Denver as delegate for Clinton.

However, by the time then-Sen. Barack Obama offered his acceptance speech at Mile High Stadium, she backed the man who would eventually become the country’s first African American president.

“We live in a democracy. After the election results come in, there are winners and losers. And at some point, we have to unify in order to achieve our policy goals.”

According to Leggett, people who protested in favor of former presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.), who called for all delegates to back Clinton last week from the floor of the convention, are a small but vocal minority within the party.

“I think the Sanders people are coming around. I think you have a core, which is a very small minority that will never come around,” said Leggett. “What you see is a very intense core of people, who are very small by numbers, who are continuing their fight. And that’s their right and we just deal with it.”

Kagan took her policy advocacy to the San Francisco convention in 1984 as a staffer for the abortion rights advocacy group NARAL Pro-Choice America.

She also supported the Rep. Geraldine Ferraro’s (D-N.Y.) vice presidential nomination, making her the first woman nominated by a major party for that position.

Past turned out to be prologue for Kagan as she compared 1984 to 2016.

“And once again, we are facing threats to our health choices,” she said. “And that’s not the only issue to be clear.”

Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett, attending his fifth DNC, said civil rights have been a big part of Democratic politics since the 1960s, particularly regarding racial equity.

“The only difference now is some of these issues are not concluded or resolved and we’ve had to go back to revisit them more intensely than we anticipated,” said Leggett. “It’s not a new issue, it just resurfaced.”

He specifically mentioned recently passed voting laws in states like North Carolina.

Last week, the federal Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a state law banning same-day voter registration and extended early voting.

“(It’s) just a blatant attempt to reduce minority votes and those who would normally vote Democratic,” said Leggett.

Kagan said other issues Democrats should focus on included campaign finance reform, civil rights and protecting marriage equality for LGBTQ people.

She said if any issue should unify the Democratic Party this year, it is the Supreme Court.

“The impact of the Supreme Court on the election cannot be overstated,” she said.

Meanwhile, she said the Democratic Party “has evolved as our society has evolved,” said Kagan, noting there is “a much more visible presence of the gay and lesbian community” at the convention.

On Thursday, Human Rights Campaign spokesperson Sarah McBride became the first transgender person to address a major party’s national convention.

“As more people have come out, there’s a greater focus on civil rights for the gay and lesbian community,” said Kagan. “So we’re seeing more speakers. The speakers are talking more about these issues.”

On the first night of the convention, Kagan watched some of the biggest names among women in the Democratic Party address the audience, including First Lady Michelle Obama, Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.).

Featured speakers also included women such as Anastasia Somoza, who advocated for people with disabilities, and military widow Cheryl Lankford, who said she lost tens of thousands of dollars to Trump University.

“A lot of people who were the most effective presenters on the stage last night were women,” said Kagan, later adding, “I think it inspires women to get involved in politics.”

That’s because those speakers offer women “someone who looks like them and speak like them and has life experiences like theirs.”

Kagan said the late Texas Gov. Ann Richards (D) inspired her the most and she talked to Richards’ daughter Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood, at the convention.

“She was plain spoken, direct, opinionated, passionate, insightful, affective and funny,” said Kagan about the former Texas governor. “And using humor to make a point while never deviating from her fundamental values was powerful.”


Maryland Faces Possible Lack of Female Lawmakers in Congress

July 25, 2016
CBS Baltimore

WASHINGTON - SEPTEMBER 26: U.S Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) steps into an elevator after she announced that she would vote against Judge John Roberts for chief justice of the Supreme Court Sept. 26, 2005 during the opening day of debate in the Senate on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 13-5 to recommend Roberts' confirmation as chief justice. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

US. Sen. Barbara Mikulski (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Maryland has been among leading states in electing women to political offices for decades, but the state could have its first all-male congressional delegation in more than 40 years unless at least one of two Republicans or a third-party candidate wins in November in the heavily Democratic state.

Republican Marjorie Holt became Maryland’s first elected congresswoman, serving seven terms from 1973 to 1987. Democrat Gladys Spellman served three terms from 1975 to 1981. They were followed by Republicans Helen Bentley, who served five terms from 1985 to 1995, and Connie Morella, who served eight terms from 1987 to 2003.

And Sen. Barbara Mikulski, a Democrat, is the longest-serving woman in the history of the U.S. Congress. She first served in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1977, before becoming the first woman to win a Senate seat on her own in 1986, without following a husband or father who had held the seat.

But Mikulski’s retirement next year after serving five, six-year terms could leave Maryland without a woman in the 10-member delegation. Her retirement prompted Maryland’s only other female member of Congress, Rep. Donna Edwards, to run for the rarely open Senate seat in a Democratic primary against Rep. Chris Van Hollen, a race Edwards lost in April.

State Sen. Cheryl Kagan, one of 12 women in the 47-member Maryland Senate, said while she would have liked to have supported a minority woman in that primary, she believed Van Hollen was clearly the stronger candidate. She also noted that voters had female candidates to choose from in the 8th Congressional District primary race, but she believes the best candidate in that race happened to be a man as well.

“This time, the male candidates were stronger, were more experienced, were more respected and ran great campaigns, but Maryland should be looking around for talented women to move up,” Kagan, a Montgomery County Democrat, said.

Edwards, who is black, highlighted her race and gender during the campaign in a polarizing battle. The White House and prominent national Democrats supported Van Hollen, but Edwards’ supporters said her opportunity to become only the second black female U.S. senator in history should not be denied.

Republican Kathy Szeliga is running against Van Hollen, but she is running in a statewide race where Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-1 in a presidential election year in which voter turnout is expected to be high. Szeliga, who is the Maryland House of Delegates minority whip, said she doesn’t think people should vote for her simply because she’s a woman, noting she’s also a small business owner. But she said women’s views are essential to good government.

“I just don’t think that Maryland should go back to the time when they didn’t have women representing them,” Szeliga said. “We have a proud tradition.”

The only other female running for a congressional seat for a major party is Republican Amie Hoeber, who is challenging Rep. John Delaney in Maryland’s 6th Congressional District. Maryland has eight U.S. House seats.

Maryland has never elected a female governor. However, the state Legislature has the nation’s eighth-highest percentage of female lawmakers. Out of 188 total seats in Maryland’s House and Senate, women hold 59 of them, or 31.4 percent.

Nationally, although women comprise half the population, they serve as mayors of just 19 percent of all cities and represent just a quarter of all state lawmakers. Just 12 percent of governors are women, and they hold just one in five seats in Congress.

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Your Chamber In Action – Excerpt from The Gaithersburg-Germantown Chamber of Commerce Update

Good Transportation News? No it’s not a hoax!…

The Chamber also supported State Senator Cheryl Kagan’s request that the State support Montgomery County’s planned efforts to provide additional transit services during the Metro repairs to the Red Line. The Hogan administration agreed and will provide an additional $1 million for shuttle bus service that will transport riders in Montgomery County between Metro stations. This is a great case of “if you don’t ask, you don’t get”. Thanks Cheryl!

On that note, keep in mind that the “Safety Surges” on the Red Line Metro Service with start August 1st, so be prepared. Although each surge targets a limited section of the Red Line, you should expect major disruptions and very long delays throughout the entire loop between Shady Grove and Glenmont. on these dates:
● August 1-7 (Continuous single tracking between Takoma and Silver Spring)
● August 9-18 (Continuous single tracking between Shady Grove and Twinbrook)…

Marilyn Balcombe, President and CEO

Press Release: Per Senator Kagan’s Request, Gov. Hogan To Fund Shuttle Bus Service During Metro SafeTrack Repairs

July 19,2016

Annapolis, MD: Senator Cheryl C. Kagan, backed by a broad coalition of Chambers of Commerce; transportation advocates; environmental groups; and municipalities, has been urging Governor Larry Hogan to cover the $1 million cost of providing shuttle bus service during Metro’s SafeTrack maintenance of Montgomery County’s Red Line.
At a press conference yesterday, Hogan announced that his Administration would provide the needed funds for the August repairs.  This will allow Ride-On buses to run at least every 10 minutes during peak hours and extend to off-peak periods including weekends.  The County’s Department of Transportation has indicated that it will monitor demand and increase the frequency of shuttles if needed.Ride-On Twinbrook bus 2016
“During Metro’s safety repairs, people still need to get to work. If commuters were to give up on our mass transit, our roads would get even more congested. I am grateful that Governor Hogan joined with Virginia Governor McAuliffe in providing much-needed State funds for frequent, efficient, and air-conditioned shuttle buses,” affirmed Kagan.
Kagan’s coalition included the City of Gaithersburg, the City of Rockville, the Greater Gaithersburg Germantown Chamber of Commerce, the Rockville Chamber of Commerce, the Maryland League of Conservation Voters, the Maryland Environmental Health Network, and others.
According to Rockville Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Michelle Day, “Thanks to Senator Kagan’s initiative, commuters won’t have to endure excessive wait times in the summer heat.  She delivered some of our tax dollars to benefit the residents and businesses of Rockville, Gaithersburg, and the rest of Montgomery County.”


Phyllis Armstrong
July 18, 2016

Millions of dollars in state funding will be coming to Montgomery County to ease congestion along the I-270 corridor and local roads. State Senator Cheryl Kagan and County Executive Isiah Leggett attended the news conference in Potomac where Governor Larry Hogan announced the new funding.

Nearly $230 million dollars will be spent on projects designed to relieve the traffic jams commuters are coping with during rush hour and at other times of the day. Kagan is particularly pleased that the Governor responded to her call for the state to cover the costs of providing shuttle buses in the county during Metro’s SafeTrack repair work that is scheduled next month on the Red Line in Montgomery County.

Watch this MyMCMeda Extra video, below, for Senator Kagan and County Executive Leggett’s reactions to the state funding.

State Will Fund County’s SafeTrack Shuttle Bus Service

Gov. Hogan announced Monday the state to pay estimated $1 million cost


By Andrew Metcalf

Gov. Larry Hogan brought a smile to the face of one state senator from Montgomery County Monday when he announced the state would fund the cost of the county’s free shuttle bus program that will transport local commuters between stations during Metro’s SafeTrack repairs on the Red Line later this year.

Gov Hogan and MOCO County Officials pic 7-19-16

Gov. Larry Hogan, center, poses with state and Montgomery County officials including State Sen. Cheryl Kagan, right, ANDREW METCALF

At a press conference in Potomac, Hogan said the shuttle bus plan organized by the county will help transport Metro riders and ease commuting problems created by Metro’s plans to single-track lines and shutdown stations to make the repairs. The county estimated the shuttle service will cost between $350,000 and $1 million. Hogan agreed to provide $1 million in state funds to help pay for it.

“This will help ensure that citizens of Montgomery County will be able to get to work and go about their daily lives in an efficient manner while Metro repairs take place,” Hogan said

State Sen. Cheryl Kagan (D-District 17) sent Hogan a letter in June requesting the state help the county pay for the shuttle bus service because the state is a member of the Metro compact, while the county is not. The compact guides the funding and operations of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. Maryland is a member along with Washington, D.C., and Virginia.

“I’m thrilled,” Kagan said Monday. “The governor clearly understood the implications of people in Gaithersburg and Rockville trying to get to work during the Metro repairs.”

The county plans to use Ride On buses to transport Metro riders when repairs are made to tracks in the Rockville and Silver Spring areas later this year.

“I think it was good for him to [fund the shuttles],” County Executive Ike Leggett said Monday of Hogan’s decision. “We’re going to have a real challenge starting next month and especially this fall when we’re trying to move people through those corridors.”

The county plans to provide the free shuttle buses during morning and afternoon rush hours between the Silver Spring and Takoma stations from Aug. 1 to 7 when the Red Line will be single-tracking. Shuttle bus service is also planned to help transport commuters during single-tracking between the Shady Grove and Rockville stations Aug. 9 to 18 and again from Oct. 10 to Nov. 1 between the Silver Spring and Fort Totten stations when the Red Line will be closed between Fort Totten and NoMa.

Delays! SafeTrack Projects on Red Line Scheduled to Slow Down Summer Commuting

By  Kathleen Stubbs
07 Jul 2016
The Sentinel

metro_logoWith the first Red Line SafeTrack project less than a month away, riders have just weeks left to “rethink their commute,” as Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld requested.

According to Wiedefeld, repair works on three Metro Red Line SafeTrack projects will reduce capacity while trains single-track and stations shut down altogether…

[Click here to read the entire article.]

Ride On President Al Roshdieh told a County Council committee the Ride On shuttles for Red Line SafeTrack projects will cost the County between $350,000 and $1 million.

State Senator Cheryl Kagan (D-17) is asking Governor Larry Hogan to cover the cost of the additional buses because Maryland, not Montgomery County, is the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority Compact (also signed by Virginia and the District).

“There’s no reason Montgomery County should have to foot the bill where Metro is the states’ responsibility,” said Kagan.

While Maryland Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn said in a letter Maryland would cover the cost of additional cars on the Maryland Area Regional Commuter Train Service (about $450 million), Kagan said Hogan needs to cover the County-provided shuttle buses as well.

“MARC Train does not do the job,” said Kagan.

She said she thought the amount of funding available would determine how many shuttles are offered. She said she was concerned that if there is insufficient funding, residents won’t reach their destinations in a reasonable amount of time during SafeTrack. Consequently, many Metrorail riders might resort to commute by car, increasing traffic on the highways.

The senator gathered the support from local chambers of commerce, such as the Rockville Chamber of Commerce, the Bethesda Chamber of Commerce and the Gaithersburg-Germantown Chamber of Commerce.

Marilyn Balcombe, the GGCC’s president, said she supports Wiedefeld’s plan for much-needed repairs.

“I don’t begrudge this plan at all,” said Balcombe, later adding she supports “Montgomery County in being proactive to make sure their resources are in place to move people. But I also support Senator Kagan’s view that the cost should be covered by the state.”

Balcombe said WMATA is a necessary part of the County’s economy which in turn stimulates Maryland’s economy. She said Maryland should fund the additional buses for this reason.

“It’s critical for the county to provide services to employees and employers to get people to and from work to make sure that our economy continues to thrive during the time when (part of) the Red Line (shuts down),” said Balcombe.

Metro’s SafeTrack Program to Hit Montgomery County

By Scott Taylor/ABC7
Thursday, July 7th 2016

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. (ABC7) — Heads up Montgomery County. Metro’s SafeTrack program is headed your way.

Sections of the Red Line will be going off-line starting in August.

One commuter was shocked to hear the news.

“Oh, that’s awful for us because that’s our main transportation,” said one rider.

So if you live or work in spots like Rockville, be prepared to hear two words you never want to hear dealing with Metro–shuttle buses.

Chloe Pance who commutes from Rockville to D.C. every day said, “Honestly I really don’t know how I am going to get to work downtown.”

Maryland State Senator Cheryl Kagan wants the State to step in and help pay for shuttle buses and not dump all the cost on county tax payers.

Montgomery County thinks shuttle buses will cost them anywhere between $350,000 to a million bucks.

Senator Cheryl Kagan said, “Do we want a shuttle bus that comes every half-hour or so, or do we want one that comes every 5 or 10 minutes?”

Senator Kagan jumped into the SafeTrack discussion thru a letter she sent to Maryland Governor Larry Hogan. She flat out called Safe Track, “an emergency transportation issue.” The Senator from Rockville wants the Governor to hand over $1 million to pay for shuttle buses.

Kagan is already aware that Virginia has promised $1 million dollars to help pay for shuttle buses.

Senator Kagan said, “Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe did come up with the money in an Executive Order to help fund extra transportation options during Virginia’s shutdown.”

We reached out to Governor Hogan’s Office and so far there is no decision on whether Maryland will kick in some state funds to cover the cost of shuttle buses.

Click here to read Senator Kagan’s letter to Maryland Governor Larry Hogan.

Montgomery County Senator Asks State to Pay SafeTrack Shuttle Bus Costs

Published: July 6, 2016
By Andrew Metcalf


Update – 8:20 a.m., Thursday – Montgomery County State Sen. Chery Kagan (D-District 17) is making the case that the county shouldn’t have to pay for providing free shuttle bus service during Metro’s SafeTrack repair surges on the Red Line later this year.

On Wednesday, Kagan released a copy of a letter she sent June 29 to Gov. Larry Hogan and state Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn asking the state to pay for the county’s planned shuttle bus service that will transport riders between Red Line Metro stations during repair surges in August and October.

County officials last month estimated the shuttle bus service, using the county’s Ride On buses, could cost as much as $1 million.

In her letter, Kagan wrote she believes the state should bear the costs because it is a signatory of the WMATA compact, along with Washington, D.C., and Virginia, which governs how Metro is financed and operated. As a result, she wrote the state should provide funding to help mitigate commuting problems caused by Metro’s maintenance surges. “Can you confirm for us that the State will be a full partner in the continued economic success of Montgomery County, one of Maryland’s key economic engines?” she wrote.

Kagan told  Bethesda Beat on Wednesday she hopes the governor will provide the state funding.

“The governor talks a lot about economic development and Maryland being open for business,” Kagan said. “It seems to me if people can’t get to their jobs and visitors can’t enjoy tourist attractions, then that’s going to be detrimental to our state economy.”

If shuttle buses aren’t provided, she said, additional drivers on the county’s roadways are likely to exacerbate traffic.

“It is not reasonable for Montgomery County and Prince George’s County to fund what should be a state responsibility,” Kagan said.

Last month, Prince George’s County officials also detailed plans to provide free shuttle bus service and deploy additional buses along regular routes while SafeTrack repairs are occurring that affect Metro service in the county.

Kagan said she wasn’t expecting an immediate response to her letter—given that she sent it shortly before the July 4 holiday weekend. However, she said she has been in touch with Hogan’s chief of staff and hopes to receive an answer to her request in the next day or two.

Erin Henson, a spokeswoman for the state’s transportation department, said in an email the state is working closely with counties in other ways to help commuters navigate SafeTrack delays. She noted the Maryland Transit Administration is planning to increase capacity on MARC trains by adding rail cars on the Camden and Brunswick lines as needed. The state’s highway administration is also planning to coordinate road construction projects to avoid causing traffic congestion from lane closures or scheduled maintenance.

“At every step of the way, [the Maryland Department of Transportation] is actively monitoring ridership on our rails and traffic on our roads to assist Marylanders in getting to work and home as quickly and safely as possible during these challenging times,” Henson wrote in the email.

The county plans to provide the free shuttle buses during morning and afternoon rush hours between the Silver Spring and Takoma stations from Aug. 1 to 7 when the Red Line will be single-tracking while track repairs are underway. Shuttle buses are also planned to help transport commuters during single-tracking between the Shady Grove and Rockville stations Aug. 9 to 18 as well as from the Silver Spring to Fort Totten stations when the Red Line will be closed between Fort Totten and NoMa from Oct. 10 to Nov. 1.

Montgomery Transportation Director Al Roshdieh told the County Council last month the shuttle buses will cost the county $350,000 to $1 million depending on how much demand there is for the shuttles.

Patrick Lacefield, a spokesman for County Executive Ike Leggett, said the county plans to move forward with its shuttle bus plans whether or not the state agrees to provide funds. He said it was important for Montgomery County to provide the service to Montgomery County residents.

“We don’t know at this point how much it’s going to cost,” Lacefield said. “We’re more inclined to let it play out and then make a judgment [on whether to request state funds.]”

July 6, 2016

Press Release: Senator Kagan Urges Governor Hogan to Fund Added Transportation During SafeTrack Delays & Closures: Costs Could Reach $1,000,000

Click Here to read my letter to Governor Hogan.

Click Here to access the full press release.

Annapolis, MD: In order to ensure sufficient, reliable transit alternatives during Metro’s SafeTrack maintenance to the Red Line, Senator Cheryl Kagan sent a letter to Governor Larry Hogan to pressure his Administration to cover the costs for needed supplemental bus transportation.  The Red Line will be single-tracking in Montgomery County for a significant part of August, and a segment will be completely closed in Prince George’s County through much of October.

For just the Montgomery County portion of the Red Line, the estimated expense of increased bus service for up to 50,000 people who commute Down-County and into Washington, DC could be as much as $1,000,000.

In her letter, Kagan wrote:

“Because it is the State of Maryland that is a member of the WMATA compact, I believe it should be the State — and not the County — that provides funding for this emergency transportation issue… It is vital that frequent, reliable, and comfortable buses replace Metro to meet the transit needs for those commuting to work.”

“I often describe my Senate District as ‘up the Red Line,’ so I am always concerned about any impending challenges to my constituents and to the rest of Montgomery and Frederick County commuters who choose WMATA.”

According to Kagan, “Our State government shouldn’t assume that Montgomery County will open its checkbook to pay for services that should be covered by the State.”


June 25, 2016

Reliable data on 911 outages and service is hard to come by

The Baltimore Sun, By Ian Duncan

When a glitch in phone company systems left Baltimore without 911 service for over an hour last week, The Baltimore Sun wanted to know how often such outages occur.

Public records made it clear that the outage wasn’t unique, but much of the information about problems with 911 is confidential, making it difficult to figure out just how often the emergency phone system is out of action. The secrecy highlights the 911 system’s strange role as a critical lifeline to police and fire departments, but one that is almost entirely run by private companies.

The Federal Communications Commission requires phone companies to submit reports about outages that affect a large number of people or that last for a long time. But the agency doesn’t release the reports because they could contain proprietary information about how the companies set up their networks. When the Government Accountability Office investigated outagesin 2015, it didn’t even bother to look at the reports. Investigators wrote in a footnote that they saw no point in reviewing data they couldn’t talk about publicly.

In 2014, technology website The Verge was able to use the Freedom of Information Act to obtain complaints consumers filed with the FCC about problems they claimed to have had reaching 911, such as busy signals or recorded messages. But the records did not indicate whether the complaints were verified or how the agency responded.

David Simpson, head of the FCC’s public safety office, said in a statement that the agency has worked to identify trends in outages and propose new rules to address any deficiencies it finds.

“Preserving reliable 911 service is of the highest priority to the FCC,” he said.

Even run-of-the-mill information about how many people are using 911 is closely guarded. State Sen. Cheryl C. Kagan has been battling to make sure that when people call 911 they can get through. Her efforts began after a constituent of hers was struck by lightning and no one could reach emergency services.

“There’s no accountability,” Kagan said. “There’s no public dialogue.”

The Montgomery County Democrat has proposed legislation to give more state and local officials access to 911 data and to require more regular surveys of usage levels to make sure that counties are providing their systems with adequate resources.

“Without the data you’re in the dark,” Kagan said. “You have no idea how many busy signals people are getting.”

Yet the bill also would prevent certain records from being releasable under the Maryland Public Information Act. Kagan said that protection is necessary to stop the information being used to interfere with the 911 system or cause harm to the public.

“When it comes down to public safety and in this era of increased awareness of terrorism, transparency has to take a bit of a back seat,” she said.

May 20, 2016
Press Release: Maryland State Senator Cheryl C. Kagan Named MML “Super Star”

Click Here to access the full press release

The Maryland Municipal League (MML) honored Senator Cheryl Kagan (D-17) last night for the second time for her effective leadership on issues affecting Maryland’s cities and towns during the 2016 legislative session.

Kagan is one of just seven Senators and Delegates to be recognized as a “Super Star” for her work on behalf of municipalities.

Presented by President Spencer Schlosnagle, the awards are given to legislators who go above and beyond. According to an MML representative, “these legislators work tirelessly to advocate for legislation with impact on municipal government and help protect our cities and towns from harmful legislation.”

“I am honored to be recognized for my work again this session,” Kagan said.  “Maryland’s 157 cities and towns are the backbone of our State.  I am proud to represent two of our largest and most effective municipalities – Gaithersburg and Rockville — which offer services and programming that make my legislative district a terrific place to live, work, and raise a family.”

May 16, 2016
Drawing Attention to our Outdated 911 Emergency System: 
Last night, the HBO show Last Week Tonight with John Oliver highlighted our nation’s crisis with our 911 system and call centers.  According to an FCC report in 2014 that Oliver cites, improving location accuracy could save over 10,000 lives each year.  However, as 70-80% of calls come from cell phones, the location information dispatchers get varies widely based on wireless service provider.
I introduced two bills this past session (SB 424 and SB 686) to modernize our 911 system to “Next Generation” technology and increase crisis preparedness by assessing each call center.  The Senate Finance Committee did not approve either bill this year, but as the video demonstrates, our 911 system is in dire need of reform.  I plan to introduce legislation again next year to address these concerns.
The FCC has mandated that wireless carriers improve accuracy by 2021, but that won’t make much of a difference if many 911 call centers are underfunded and severely understaffed.  Staffing problems continue to plague 911 emergency call centers, which means that when people dial 911, the first thing they hear could be an automated response or busy signal.  This is what happened when Rockville resident, Carl Henn, was struck by lightning.  His passing inspired my legislation.
Please take a moment to watch the clip below. WARNING: The video includes adult humor and some profanity and could be offensive to some viewers.

April 26, 2016
NBC 4 Washington
By Chris Gordon
Click here to watch the full video.

April 26, 2016

Montgomery County Sentinel/ MOCO VOX

April 25, 2016
As you know, Maryland’s all-important Primary Election Day is tomorrow.  In addition to nominating a candidate for President ( #ImWithHer as the most common sense, experienced leader), we will be choosing our next U.S. Senator, and in 2 districts, a new Member of Congress!
Worthy Successor to Sen. Barbara Mikulski
Barbara Mikulski has diligently worked on behalf of Marylanders since 1987.  With her retirement, we will be electing a new U.S. Senator and have two incumbent Members of Congress from which to choose.
I hope you have noted in repeated missives from me that I have strongly endorsed Chris Van Hollen.  In endorsing Chris, the Baltimore Sun wrote:
Rep. Chris Van Hollen Jr. is by far the most qualified candidate to carry on the Mikulski tradition. [He has] demonstrated the same kind of leadership skills and devotion to progressive causes whether in the halls of the state Senate in Annapolis or in Congress.” 
In Annapolis, Chris was a key leader on issues like the environment, gun control, women’s rights, and civil rights.  In Congress, he has become one of the prime Democratic experts on budget and fiscal issues.  In addition, Chris is known for being a dogged advocate for his constituents and a leader on behalf of federal employees. The contrast in track record of effectiveness versus his opponent’s lack of accomplishment could not be more stark.  Please join me in voting to make Chris our next U.S. Senator!  
Succeeding Chris Van Hollen in the House
I suspect that your mailbox, like mine, has been full of campaign literature from the many talented Democrats seeking the nomination for the U.S. Congress.  I have known and worked with many of the candidates over the years.  In my opinion, two progressive and effective legislators, Sen. Jamie Raskin and Del. Kumar Barve, are most worthy of your consideration and your vote.  Jamie, my Senate colleague and friend, has been the go-to floor leader on issues ranging from marriage equality to drunk driving.  Respected by both Democrats and Republicans, he is the rare Senator who actually persuades votes to switch with his speeches during floor debates.  Kumar, my District 17 colleague and longtime friend, broke ground as the first Indian-American elected to the legislature.  The former House Majority Leader, he is now the adroit chair of the committee that oversees environment and transportation issues.
Whether or not you agree with all of my recommendations…
PLEASE be sure to VOTE tomorrow!
You can find your voting location and answers to other FAQ’s here.
After you vote, you can follow my work on Election Day and beyond via FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.  I look forward to seeing you in the community this summer and fall!
Cheryl C. Kagan
State Senator, District 17
Rockville & Gaithersburg
PS: Please feel free to forward this to friends or neighbors.  Voter turnout is vital in this year of hotly-contested elections!

Montgomery County Public Schools

April 19, 2016

Legislative Session Summary

When the 2016 regular session of the Maryland General Assembly came to a close at midnight on April 11, 2015, a total of 2,817 bills had been introduced, of which 834 were successful.annapolisdome

For Fiscal Year (FY) 2017, total state aid for primary and secondary education will increase by $190.5 to $6.4 billion, a total increase of 3.4 percent compared with FY 2016. State aid through the Bridge to Excellence formulas increases by $147.1 million, or 2.7 percent. This increase reflects full funding of the mandated education formulas including the Geographic Cost of Education Index. The budget also includes $19.4 million for five school systems that have lost enrollment and aid in recent years (Baltimore City, Calvert County, Carroll County, Garrett County, and Kent County). An additional $19.0 million in budgetary savings is restricted for grants to help school systems fund the increase in their share of teachers’ retirement costs.

Montgomery County’s share of direct aid for primary and secondary education is more than $671 million, a 5.3 percent increase from FY 2016. The total state FY 2017 capital budget includes $280 million for the traditional Public School Construction Program. By March 2015, $252 million of those funds was allocated, with Montgomery County recommended to receive $31.4 million. The remaining dollars will be allocated by mid-May.

Click here for the full article and breakdown of local issues

MoCo Exec IKE LEGGETT Lowers Proposed Property Tax Increase

Posted on April 6, 2016
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FLASHBACK: MARCH 14TH: Leggett Proposes Property Tax Increase In Bid to Increase Education Spending.  In his recommended $5.27 billion fiscal year 2017 operating budget, Leggett called for a property tax increase of 3.94 cents per $100 of assessed value, a new rate that would go into effect July 1 and that would cost the average county homeowner about $27 more per month. The average home value in Montgomery County is about $460,000. The 8.6 percent tax increase surpasses the maximum rate allowed under the county’s charter, meaning it could require support from all nine members of the County Council for final approval.

BREAKING NEWS: LEGGETT TO COUNCIL: REDUCE PROPOSED PROPERTY TAX INCREASE. County Executive Ike Leggett today amended his 2017 budget to the County Council to reduce his proposed property tax increase by 46 percent following the announcement by Governor Hogan that he will allow to become law a Maryland General Assembly bill that extends the repayment schedule for counties to comply with the US Supreme Court’s Wynne decision.
“My initial proposed operating budget includes $50 million to cover Wynne case costs,” said Leggett. “I promised our State Delegation that if they passed legislation that would extend the back payments to the State I would reduce my property tax increase request. They have delivered, I have amended my proposed budget to reflect the savings from that legislation, and I recommend to the Council that reduction. The timing of credits to the affected taxpayers will not be delayed.
“I want to thank the sponsors of the bill, Senators Rich Madaleno and Cheryl Kagan, and all the other members of our State delegation who worked hard to ensure passage of this legislation.”

The legislation, Senate Bill 766, saves Montgomery County $33 million for the upcoming year, reducing the Wynne costs to $17 million. Reducing the property tax increase from 3.9 cents per $100 assessed valuation to 2.1 cents – a 46 percent reduction — brings the County Executive’s proposed average monthly property tax increase down from $27 to $18.67.

Leggett Trims Proposed Property Tax Increase

Washington Post: April 6, 2016

Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett in 2010. (Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)

Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett announced Wednesday that he has trimmed the residential property tax increase he proposed last month, citing new state legislation that eases fiscal fallout from last year’s Supreme Court ruling that Maryland’s income tax system was unconstitutional.

It was Leggett’s second consequential economic message this week. On Tuesday, he said he supported a $15-an-hour minimum wage for the county, provided it is phased in over at least six years and that increases can be delayed if economic conditions deteriorate.

Leggett (D) told the County Council on Wednesday that he reduced the property tax increase included in the 2017 budget he submitted last month from 8.7 percent to 6.4 percent. It drops the property tax rate increase from 3.9 cents per $100 assessed valuation to 2.1 cents.

With rising assessments, it means that the average annual residential tax bill would rise just under $242 a year, from $3,749.50 to $3,991.42 — instead of $4,075.

Leggett said he was able to lower his proposed increase after learning that Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) will not veto legislation extending the period during which the county would receive reduced revenue distributions from the state because of the Wynne case.

The Supreme Court ruled 5 to 4 last year that Maryland was illegally denying residents a full credit for taxes paid on income earned outside the state. The court said the provision of the state’s tax law constituted double taxation and ordered refunds to those who had filed claims.

The county is still looking at more than $200 million in reduced tax revenue as a result of the court-mandated refunds. But under the new law, the reductions will start in May 2019 instead of this June and will be spread out across 20 quarters rather than nine.

The legislation, sponsored by state Sens. Richard S. Madaleno (D-Montgomery) and Cheryl C. Kagan (D-Montgomery), means that the county will face a $17 million reduction instead of $50 million for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

The proposed slice in the tax increase doesn’t change the major elements of Leggett’s 2017 budget. Most of the increase would still be devoted to the 156,000-student public school system, which is facing explosive enrollment growth.

In a letter to Council President Nancy Floreen (D-At Large), Leggett urged the council “to stay within this revised recommended property tax rate and overall recommended level of expenditures.”

The council will have a series of public hearings and work sessions before taking final action on the budget in mid-May.

On Tuesday, Leggett voiced conditional support for a bill sponsored by council member Marc Elrich (D-At Large) to raise the county’s minimum wage — currently $9.55 — to $15 an hour by 2020.

Elrich said he plans to formally introduce the measure next week. D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) has announced that she will ask the D.C. Council for similar legislation.

Montgomery joined the District and Prince George’s County in 2013 to lift the minimum to $11.50 by no later than October 2017.

A $15-an-hour wage is the target of a national campaign organized by low-wage workers, labor and Democratic activists. New York and California lawmakers have recently approved plans to phase in the new wage over several years.

In an interview Tuesday, Leggett said he would support the Elrich bill if the phase-in period was expanded to 2022, as it is in California. He said the proposal must also have an “off-ramp” that allows the county to delay implementation of increases in a bad economy.

“I would move it back a couple of years,” Leggett said of the phase-in. “Second, if you run into a clear recessionary downturn, you should have a provision to hold it [wage increases] for a period of time.”


Washington Jewish Week: March 30, 2016

Edwards’ Emily’s List support rankles Van Hollen backers 

By backing a woman candidate, is the group opposing one of the ‘good guys’?


Rep. Donna Edwards, left, and Rep. Chris Van Hollen are both progressives who want to succeed Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.)


Members of America’s Jewish community, by and large, are some of the most progressive voters there are. They consistently back pro-choice Democrats, in some cases by a margin greater than 2-1, and other candidates who advocate increased public expenditures for social service projects and education.

But they’re also staunchly pro-Israel, a fact which has many in Montgomery County scratching their heads over a decision by the progressive political action committee Emily’s List — which backs Democratic women running for Congress — to throw its financial support, some of it raised from local Jewish voters, behind Rep. Donna Edwards in her primary fight against Rep. Chris Van Hollen. Both want to succeed retiring Sen. Barbara Mikulski.

“It’s unfortunate that they’re going against one of the good guys,” said state Sen. Cheryl Kagan (D-District 17), a Van Hollen backer, member of Montgomery County’s Jewish community and an Emily’s List supporter, said of the push for Edwards over Van Hollen. She said, “And now they have less money to spend in Pennsylvania, California, New York and other key races around the country.”

And at the top of the political heap nationwide stands former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who finds herself in a narrowing race for the Democratic nomination for president.

Emily’s List has “an opportunity to elect the first woman president of the United States,” said Kagan. “It seems to me like that would be a really important use of their time.”

(Emily’s List is on record as supporting Clinton in the primary race against Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, but its super PAC, Women Vote!, has spent more than $2 million on behalf of Edwards, who currently represents the Fourth Congressional District. Van Hollen represents the Eighth District.)

The controversy surrounding Edwards’ ties to Emily’s List played out onstage Monday night during an often contentious debate between the two candidates at Goucher College. When Baltimore Sun opinion editor Andy Green asked Edwards about her contributions from the PAC, she asserted she was “proud” to have its support.

“Emily’s List doesn’t hide who it is,” she said. “They support pro-choice Democratic women because we need to expand the number of women in the Senate and all of our legislative bodies. On the other hand, Mr. Van Hollen, who was swearing off dark money, is now being supported by [the] Realtors PAC putting in almost $1 million into his campaign.”

Van Hollen retorted that Edwards had taken $25,000 in PAC money from Realtors over the last two election cycles.

“Look, if you’re against Citizens United, you don’t get to pick and choose which super PAC you like and which one you don’t like,” he said, referring to the Supreme Court decision several years ago that affirmed the use of so-called “soft money” in federal campaigns.

Van Hollen went on to challenge television ads being run by Emily’s List that assert that she is not tied to big business.

“When you see their ads running that say Congresswoman Edwards doesn’t take any money from Wall Street, guess what? The overwhelming majority of the money for that super PAC, Women Vote! comes from people on Wall Street,” he said. “Hedge fund managers.”

Some in the Washington Jewish community, such as Helane Goldstein of Chevy Chase, dislike Edwards due to her voting record on foreign affairs, in particular a vote in which more than 400 members of the House of Representatives, including Van Hollen, backed a 2013 bill supporting sanctions on Iran for its nuclear program. Edwards was one of 21 members who voted against it.

“She has played her hand dozens of times where she has showed us she’s not a supporter of the U.S.-Israel relationship, because legislatively she’s been on the other side of the fence of the House,” said Goldstein.

Goldstein, a supporter of Emily’s List, feels pay equity along with other women’s issues are important in the race, but she said that one should not vote solely based on gender.

“We don’t back Jewish candidates just because we’re Jewish,” she explained. “We have to be moral and we have to be strategic, and we have to delve into what’s right and what’s wrong for us. And I’m not going to support a candidate just because she’s a female.”

Edwards’ record on Israel has also been a source of concern for Washington attorney Behnam Dayanim, who wrote an op-ed last month for Washington Jewish Week supporting Van Hollen. In an interview, Dayanim said he thinks Edwards has been “distinctively unsympathetic” toward Israel by not standing with other members of the House on votes such one on the Goldstone Report in 2009 — a United Nations-commissioned report that accused the Israel Defense Forces of human rights violations in the Gaza war, and whose conclusions were later disputed by the lead author of the report. Van Hollen voted with the majority of Congress in denouncing it.

“On a consistent basis when it comes to issues that are important to Israel, Chris Van Hollen has been there and Donna Edwards has not,” Dayanim said.  “That’s the kind of unhelpfulness and the lack of Israeli support that we’ve seen from her and that contrasts with what we’ve seen from Chris.”

Dayanim added that Emily’s List’s decision to invest so much money to Edwards’ campaign shows a “lack of sensitivity” for Jewish voters in Maryland who care about Israel, and thinks the organization ought to consider whether there is “anything about the candidate who might raise concerns within the constituency upon which they are running” when considering where it should spend its money.
“I think it raises a lot of questions about how Emily’s list prioritizes the candidates its support,” he said.

In a race in which Edwards has positioned herself as the standard-bearer of women’s issues, Kagan pointed out that Van Hollen is fervently pro-choice and has a record of supporting working families. She characterized Emily’s List’s stance as putting money into a “race against an ally.”

“Fundamentally, we shouldn’t be electing people because of gender. I didn’t ask people to vote for me because I was a woman,” said Kagan, who has known Van Hollen since the 1990s, when they both served in Maryland’s House of Delegates. “I thought I could be most effective and a lot more consistent in my advocacy than my opponents. I would love to have a woman as Barbara Mikulski’s successor, but more important than that I want an effective leader for the state of Maryland in the U.S. Senate, and hands down, that candidate is Chris Van Hollen.”

Personal ties to Van Hollen are key for Bethesda resident and former Democratic National Committee vice chair Susan Turnbull, who has known Van Hollen since the early 1980s. Turnbull said everyone she knows has contributed to the Van Hollen campaign, including those who regularly give to Emily’s list.

“Emily’s list has as its sole mission the election of pro-choice Democratic women, and so I believe that they had no choice in the matter,” she said. “However I believe that the long-term impact will be negligible among those who are paying attention to this race.”

One Jewish voter said he’d be happy with either.

Ken Feinberg, a Washington lawyer who was chief of staff for the late Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy, would be happy with either Edwards or Van Hollen.

He said, “Not with any regard to any specific candidate, I think more women should be in government.”

For her part, Edwards sees Emily’s List support as a logical step in a legacy that reaches back to the PAC’s support for Mikulski during her first run for the Senate in 1986.

“Thirty years later,” said Edwards campaign spokesman Benjamin Gerdes, “we’re proud to have their support and the support of working women all across Maryland and around the country.”

Maryland Senate honors former Cuba political prisoner

By Michael Dresser of the Baltimore Sun

Jan. 26th, 2016

A Marylander who spent five years as a political prisoner in Cuba called for faster progress toward reconciliation with the Communist nation as he was honored Friday by the Maryland Senate.

Alan Gross, of Potomac, traveled to Annapolis a little more than a year after he was released by Cuban authorities as part of the agreement that led to the Obama administration’s restoration of full diplomatic relations with the island state.

Gross, an aid worker who had been assisting Cuba’s small Jewish community, was arrested in 2009 and later convicted of crimes against the state. Former United States President Jimmy Carter and Pope Francis were among those who appealed for his release before Cuba freed him in December 2014 in the run-up to the reopening of embassies in Washington and Havana last year.

Sen. Cheryl Kagan, a Montgomery County Democrat, said Gross lost five teeth and 100 pounds during his imprisonment but since his release has gained weight and had his teeth restored.

Gross, 66, told senators he is “focused on the next five years, not the last five years.” He said that if his ordeal had no other purpose than to help restore diplomatic ties, he is satisfied.

“Even though we’re moving in a slow pace, it’s better than no pace,” he said.