By Steuart Pittman, County Executive-Elect
Capital Gazette Op-Ed
Nov 11, 2018
On Dec. 3, I will be sworn in as Anne Arundel County’s 10th county executive. I am honored and I am humbled that the voters have put their faith in me.
My campaign was built around a commitment to put communities first. Honoring that pledge requires that I listen carefully as we shape a new county government that is transparent, inclusive, and forward-thinking.
Many people seemed surprised by the election outcome. I wasn’t one of them. I believed many months ago that we would win this election, so everything I did on the campaign trail was preparation to govern. I spent less time waving signs on the side of the road than most candidates, but more time meeting with policy experts, researching issues and listening to community members.
We have tremendous talent in our county and I want to harness it. I know that my ability to deliver on policy will depend on key positions like chief administrative officer and chief of staff. I want to introduce you to the people who will fill these two critical jobs: Ben Birge and Jennifer Purcell.
Dr. Jennifer Purcell is a master at creating order from chaos. Her PhD and most of her professional career are in higher education administration, but I met her at the American Horse Council. I brought her to the Maryland Horse Council as a fixer, and fix she did. In less than a year, she created a strategic plan, hired a director, secured a large grant, and acquired a magazine.
When we launched our 17 Communities First forums, I asked for Jennifer’s help. She thoroughly impressed everyone on our team with her well-grounded, kind, firm management style and her ability to quickly absorb and organize huge amounts of information. I decided then that we needed her in our administration.
Early in the campaign, I asked for a meeting with Ben Birge. His reputation as Maryland’s authority on data-driven governing preceded him. In Prince George’s County, Ben built both the CountyStat office and the Transforming Neighborhoods Initiative into nationally recognized programs — he even won an award for it. Before that he was the Prince George’s deputy budget director.
In our first meeting, Ben inspired me with a vision of what our county could do to engage citizens in government and to improve management in every department. He attended many of our community forums and, at the end of each, he impressed the crowd by sharing that vision.
He lives in Odenton, serves on the county’s Library Board of Trustees, and has two kids in our public schools. Having grown up in Los Angeles as an adopted son with native South American heritage, he also values diversity.
Ben and Jen got to know each other during our community forums, and we worked well as a team. Councilmember Chris Trumbauer and former County Executive Janet Owens had served as important advisors during the campaign and generously agreed to volunteer as transition co-chairs. Just 48 hours after the polls closed, I extended job offers to Ben and Jen.
Transition is underway.
Friday morning I called Chief of Staff Diane Croghan and Chief Administrative Officer Mark Hartzell to thank them for their outstanding service to the county and to connect them with their successors. County Executive Steve Schuh had already put all of us together on a conference call Wednesday in which he, Diane and Mark all offered their assistance and commitment to preparing for a smooth transition on Dec. 3. That is how government should work.
Our pledge, as we listen in the coming weeks to administration officials, department heads, county employees, community leaders, local businesses, and the people who voted for and against me, is simply that we will practice respect.
Please remember that word, “Respect.” You’ll be hearing it a lot from me over the next four years.
By Mike Shay, Candidate for House of Delegates, District 30B
If you are one of the thousands of people who have chosen to live in the largely rural and naturally beautiful southern part of Anne Arundel County, you know our communities encounter constant development pressure, placing stress on our schools, roads, open areas, and public services.
In addition, the growing epidemic of drug addiction has jeopardized the well-being of many of our citizens.
To preserve and enhance our quality of life, we need elected officials at all levels who have the experience and influence to make a difference on these important and pressing issues.
My name is Mike Shay. I am a 35-year south county resident running for General Assembly delegate from District 30B (parts of Edgewater and Riva, the Mayo peninsula and areas south). I have successfully established several businesses and nonprofit organizations in south county and continually advocated for our communities.
I have a proven record and a vision that stands in sharp contrast to that of the incumbent, Seth Howard, whose votes have been out-of-step with the reasonable views and needs of south county residents and who has failed to adequately address the issues confronting us.
Development — In recent years, developers have proposed and created projects that have degraded wetlands, increased traffic and led to overcrowded schools.
The livelihood of local independent business owners has been threatened by proposals for large shopping malls and “big box” stores, which would place additional pressure on public services in our rural area. I have led multiple successful struggles against inappropriate development, protecting over 750 acres of environmentally-sensitive land in South County, including Franklin Point and Turtle Run. I also worked to defeat a proposal that would have increased school class size to 120 percent of capacity, which would have allowed serious overdevelopment.
Del. Howard has been absent on these issues and counterproductive on others. For example, highway projects such as the intersection improvement at Central Avenue and Loch Haven Road normally receive both county and state funding.
However, Delegate Howard’s efforts to secure state funds were feeble. The result: No state matching funds for intersections in Mayo. Delegate Howard also inexplicably joined a small group of legislators in voting against increased state funding for smart growth planning and fast-growing local school systems.
Environment — My longstanding leadership to protect south county’s waterways and wetlands has earned me the endorsement of the Maryland League of Conservation Voters and the Sierra Club.
In contrast, Delegate Howard has one of the assembly’s lowest MLCV environmental scores, due to his votes against policies to promote energy efficiency and renewable energy, protect oyster sanctuaries and bee colonies, and ban fracking.
Public health / Addiction to opioids — prescription pain killers, heroin and fentanyl — is a public health crisis that confronts many in our community. We all pay the cost in higher health care expenses for treatment programs, lower worker productivity, and increased crime. If elected, I will advocate for additional state funding and resources to expand substance abuse treatment. On the contrary, Delegate Howard has acted against the interests of his constituents by opposing legislation that would accomplish this.
South county residents are now facing demanding challenges to the quality of life that attracted us here in the first place. We need as our representative a proven advocate with a successful record of supporting community planning, stopping inappropriate development, supporting local businesses, saving important lands for the public and a commitment to dealing with the public health problems facing us.
I ask for your vote on Nov. 6 for a sensible, reasonable, and responsible vision for south county. Thank you.
Mike Shay is the Democratic candidate for delegate in District 30B.
Capital Newspaper Editorial Page 8/29/18
People warned me.
“Steve Schuh plays hardball,” they said. “Steve Schuh will intimidate your donors. Steve Schuh’s political operation is led by a guy who destroys other Republicans with glee, and he will eat you alive.”
I listened, consulted, and concluded that Steve Schuh and the tactics of his friend Lawrence Scott are too divisive for Anne Arundel County voters. I wasn’t surprised in April when public polling showed Schuh with a 41 percent approval rating, 35 points down from Hogan’s.
Now that the teachers, firefighters, police, and other county employees have stood up to their boss and endorsed my campaign, along with both Sierra Club and League of Conservation Voters, I don’t worry about personal attacks from Schuh and Scott.
I welcomed the polite displays of civility in the early stages of the campaign. Schuh’s claims of “historic investments” in his areas of greatest vulnerability — education, public safety, and the environment — were right on script, and his election-year pivot from reckless growth to smart growth was no surprise. “He’s starting to sound a lot like you,” I was told. All positive.
Then the fundraising pressure hit. Schuh’s most reliable donors are in the development business, and they wrote their checks when they needed to get their projects approved. Most reached their $6,000 state-enforced limit long ago.
So on a recent Saturday, the Schuh campaign turned to online fundraising with an attack email that somehow arrived in my inbox.
Josh Kurtz of Maryland Matters must also have received it, because he wrote at length about its contents, saying, “The racial overtones cannot be ignored.” It was vintage Lawrence Scott fearmongering.
The subject of the email was, “Coming Soon: Ben Jealous and Co.”
It says, “My opponent is an ally of Ben Jealous who refuses to sign the no tax increase pledge, and his only political experience was as a ‘community organizer’ for ACORN in Chicago. Yes, you read that right.”
I thought this campaign was about education, public safety, development, and the environment here in Anne Arundel County. But if they want to talk about me, let’s do it. I love talking about my early experience as a community organizer.
The Chicago part was my first job out of college. We brought people together in their south side neighborhoods to fight crime, attract private investment, and force a hazardous waste storage facility to stop leaking toxic chemicals into the groundwater.
I did that work in Des Moines, Iowa as well, and I was good at it. I learned a lot about how local government and the private sector succeed or fail for the communities they serve.
When I returned home in 1990, I was hired to oversee research and campaign planning for neighborhood organizing efforts in 26 cities. I also put those skills to work in our county for Farm Bureau and the Soil Conservation District.
That’s why our campaign slogan is Putting Communities First. And that’s why our campaign is structured around sixteen Communities First Forums. People in this county want a voice, and the only way to get it is to organize.
I’ve never actually seen “the no tax increase pledge” that Schuh says I refused to sign. If it’s that Grover Norquist thing that’s been floating around Washington for years, I suspect that they don’t bother sending it to farmers like me who run for office. We are so tight with money that we don’t need to make promises about overspending and overtaxing.
And as far as making pledges about things we can’t control, that’s another thing farmers don’t do. We understand that we can’t control the weather and we don’t know when the next economic crisis will hit. Steve Schuh promised a 3 percent tax cut four years ago that he couldn’t deliver. My promise is participatory budgeting with the taxpayers of this county.
Oh, and that Ben Jealous thing? Guess what, Steve. He is running for governor.
If you wanted to run against him you needed to beat Hogan in the primary. Not likely. You’re stuck running against me.
Steuart Pittman of West River is the Democratic candidate for Anne Arundel County executive.
AA County Council Chair Peroutka Claims On Official Documents that He is an Attorney at Non-Existent Law Firm
by Carmen Skarlupka in The Arundel Patriot website, December 18, 2017
Anne Arundel County Council Chairman Michael Peroutka has violated the Annotated Code of Maryland Attorneys’ Rules of Professional Conduct. On Federal and State documents, Peroutka claims he is an attorney practicing law for Peroutka and Peroutka. However, this is a law firm that no longer exists and ceased to legally exist on July 23, 2014 – approximately three and a half years ago. His claim of working for a non-existent corporation violates the Annotated Code of Maryland Rule 19-307.5 Firm Names and Letterheads, specifically:
(c) The name of an attorney holding a public office shall not be used in the name of a law firm, or in communications on its behalf, during any substantial period in which the attorney is not actively and regularly practicing with the firm.
Peroutka’s violation of the above clause is shown by the November 15, 2017, Judge Roy Moore for US Senate campaign report to the U.S. Federal Election Commission (FEC). The report lists Michael A. Peroutka donating $2,000. The details of that political campaign contribution (Schedule A (FEC Form 3) Itemized Receipts) reveal Peroutka reported his occupation as “Attorney” and his employer as Peroutka & Peroutka, located at 8028 Ritchie Hwy, Suite 300, Pasadena, MD 21122. This firm does not exist, and Peroutka retired and closed the business on August 1, 2014.
Earlier this year, on a June 9, 2017 FEC filing regarding another donation to Judge Roy Moore for US Senate of $2,500, Peroutka claimed he was self-employed and listed his home address.
Peroutka also states in the 2017 Maryland State Bar Association’s Member Directory that his employer is Peroutka and Peroutka, P.A., 8028 Ritchie Hwy, Ste 300, Pasadena, MD. Again, this firm has not existed for approximately three and a half years. This is another violation of Attorney’s Rules of Professional Conduct and a violation of the Annotated Code of Maryland here:
(d) Attorneys may state or imply that they practice in a partnership or other organization only when that is the fact.
Historical records show that on August 1, 2014, Peroutka retired from Peroutka & Peroutka, P.A., a law firm he co-partnered with his brother, according to the company’s website. When Peroutka won the primary in 2014, the law firm of Peroutka and Peroutka drafted Articles of Amendment renaming the law firm after Steve Peroutka and announced Michael’s retirement from the firm.
In 2015, the law firm changed its name from The Steve Peroutka Law Group, P.A. to Peroutka, Miller, Klima & Peters, P.A. (PMKP). On the Maryland Judiciary’s Maryland Attorney Listing, Peroutka is currently listed as an Active Attorney, using the same address and phone number as Peroutka, Miller, Klima & Peters, P.A.
The State of Maryland Business Entity Search verifies only one corporation legally exists today that contains the name Peroutka. That is Peroutka, Miller, Klima & Peters, P.A. Articles of Amendment filed with the State of Maryland indicate that PMKP has operated at the same location, 8028 Ritchie Hwy, Suite 300, Pasadena, MD 21122, since December 3, 2015. PMKP is owned by Michael Peroutka’s brother and partners.
Councilman Peroutka is an attorney who was admitted to the Maryland State Bar on May 1, 1981, according to the Maryland State Bar Association’s Member Directory.
December 17, 2017 data from the Maryland State Bar Association Directory on Michael A. Peroutka shows the following:
Maryland State Bar Association (MSBA) Member DirectoryMember: Michael A Peroutka
Firm: Peroutka & Peroutka, P.A.
8028 Ritchie Hwy, Ste 300, Pasadena, MD 21122-0803
Anne Arundel County
Telephone: (410) 768-2280
Fax: (410) 553-9491
Bar Admissions: Member Admitted (MD Bar): 05/01/1981
Practice Areas: Other
Carmen Skarlupka is a writer and Navy veteran from Anne Arundel County.
Letter to the Editor, Capital Gazette, by Vikka Molldrem
I was amused by Brian Griffiths’ column about the collapse – in his dreams -- of the Democratic Party in Anne Arundel County (The Capital, Nov. 24).
Democrats are on the rise in this county. We got a major wake-up call in the 2014 election, but wake us up it did. County Democrats were out in force for the 2016 election, and for the first time in more than 50 years the Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, won Anne Arundel.
Donald Trump’s election added dramatically to the energy among county residents to defeat Republicans, reinforced by Gov. Larry Hogan’s hesitation in distancing himself from Trump and County Executive Steve Schuh’s unsustainable growth policies.
There are eight impressive Democratic gubernatorial candidates to choose from. The Democratic neighborhood campaign is engaging scores of field workers throughout the county. Progressives are well organized and play a critical role in calling out politicians on poor policies. Democratic mayoral candidate Gavin Buckley's win in Annapolis affirmed and enhanced the momentum for change.
Voters seek fresh thinking and independence from big donors. In 2018, the Democratic ballot will provide this with many talented newcomers, in addition to respected incumbents. The state Senate candidates in Districts 30 and 32 exemplify this: Pam Beidle is highly regarded for her outstanding service as delegate. Sarah Elfreth has demonstrated political savvy and strong leadership in the District 30 Democratic Club. Though not all candidates have filed yet, you can expect qualified Democratic candidates for every important position.
Voters will have an outstanding choice for county executive in Steuart Pittman. A lifelong county resident and successful business owner, he understands how the county works and what needs to be done differently. His background in community organizing will serve him well in framing the county‘s new development plan.
So dream on, Republicans.
Editor’s note: The writer is a member of the Anne Arundel County Democratic Central Committee.
Op-Ed by George Donohue printed in the Capital Newspaper Nov 11, 2017
We recently returned from a two-week cruise in the Aegean Sea, home to the development of democratic thought. Many Europeans we encountered asked how Americans, as a democratic people, could have elected Donald Trump to be our president. We had to explain that the United States is not a democracy, but a republic of states with elected representatives who do not need to express the will of the majority.
My former colleague, Francis Fukuyama, has written several good books attempting to explain the growing problem with our unique attempt at governance.
In an earlier book, "The End of History and the Last Man," he described how all pure forms of economic theory have failed. Communism and pure socialism lack adequate competition, become inefficient and stagnate. Pure capitalism is brutal to humanity, leads to high levels of social inequality and seeks monopoly power.
Thus, the Western democracies have found that a hybrid economic system that consists of regulated capitalism, with a social safety net, seems to be the ideal system. The best examples of these systems seem to be found in the Nordic countries.
Over the last 40 years, this system has seemed to be in decay in the United States. As an example: Many public surveys indicate that the American public agrees with the idea that the right to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" includes the right to affordable health care.
Thus, the question we were asked: Why would the average American citizen support a Republican Party that selected a Donald Trump to lead our country?
Fukuyama, again, addressed this question in his exhaustive two-volume work that concluded with "Political Order and Political Decay.” He argues there are three elements of any society that are essential for democracy to succeed:
In our last general election, almost 3 million more citizens voted for a Democratic Party that supported majority views and the view that our social services should be paid for with an adequate and fair taxation system, not more national debt. A party led by perhaps the worst presidential leader in our history defeated this party
Our Constitution was written in a different age as a compromise between the urban-dominated states of the North and the landed-gentry-dominated states of the South. The Western states did not exist.
The Constitution was based on the theory that the elected representatives of this new republic would believe in the principles described by Fukuyama. Political differences would be settled by informed debate and compromise. A common understanding of the basic facts would exist. The result would be an evolution of our laws.
Beginning with the 1994 election of Newt Gingrich's "take no prisoners" Republican majority in Congress, these ideas were largely rejected. Compromise became a sin for Republican representatives — and the sinful should be rejected. Congressional districts were gerrymandered to the maximum extent allowed by modern computer techniques. Incumbent politicians select their voters instead of the other way around.
In 2000, the Supreme Court, dominated by Republican justices, selected a minority president who would reverse an eight-year trend toward national debt reduction and start two unfunded wars. In the Citizens United decision, this court argued that wealthy corporations and billionaires should have as much political influence as their money can buy.
Trusted news sources are a critical element of any democracy, providing for accountability. President Trump has amplified the Fox News agenda with the declaration that all news that does not support his version of the facts is "fake news.”
The 2018 election will either be the beginning of our fight to reclaim democracy or the end of the beginning of its demise.
George Donohue is a professor emeritus of systems engineering at George Mason University and the president of the South County Democratic Club.
By George Donohue, printed 9-23-17
Hurricanes in Texas and Florida and wildfires in the West, being referred to as perhaps the worst natural disasters in U.S. history, are providing us with a teachable moment on the role of government in our daily lives.
Every thinking capitalist knows there are many instances of "market failure" in our lives. The lack of private flood or fire insurance in these natural disaster-prone regions is a case in point. Disasters of such historic dimensions illustrate how federal and state governments have consistently underestimated the actuarial risk and consistently undercapitalized Federal Emergency Management Agency insurance funds. Private insurance companies do not provide flood and fire insurance in these areas because they understand these risks. All the climate models predict that such events will occur with increasing frequency and intensity.
The Affordable Care Act is actually similar to FEMA in that it is primarily a health insurance regulation with a public subsidy to make up for a market failure. Insurance companies simply do not want to take the risk and insure people known to be sick.
In the movie "Wall Street," the character Gordon Gekko claims that greed is good. Since most major religions of the world condemn greed as a sin, President Ronald Reagan made it sound better by stating that "it is your money" and "government is the problem." The Republican-run states of Texas, Florida, Oklahoma, Kansas and Illinois have found that consistently electing politicians on a platform of reducing taxes does not prepare them to keep the schools in session, pay their bills or providing adequate funds for disaster relief.
Maryland is no exception to the growing concern about taxes that are "too high." Both Republican Gov. Larry Hogan and Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh have run on this platform and will use it again to run for re-election. Maryland voters must not be easily swayed by this siren song of greed.
Gov. Hogan reduced the toll on the consistently congested Bay Bridge, which is in need of maintenance, only to approve a new study on adding another bridge. How does he expect to build such a bridge with a reduced capital fund?
The governor ran on a platform of reducing the "rain tax" but does not say how we are to pay for cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay.
County Executive Schuh says that reducing taxes is his No. 1 achievement. But he does not say how we compare in county government services with neighboring jurisdictions.
Personally, I find county facilities in Prince Georges County better than those here in Anne Arundel. Most school systems in neighboring counties provide higher salaries for their teachers.
Schuh likes to spend our funds on building new facilities, sending money to developers and contracting companies that fund his campaigns. New schools with too few or poorly paid teachers are no benefit to Anne Arundel taxpayers at all.
There is a popular perception that U.S. citizens are overtaxed compared to those in other countries. This is just not true. Both T.R. Reid, in his recent book "A Fine Mess," and L.E. Burman and J. Slemrod, in their book "Taxes in America," have pointed out that among the 35 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries, we rank close to the bottom in tax burden, with taxes equal to 26 percent of gross domestic product. The OECD average is 34 percent.
If the federal tax rates all go down, state rates must go up. Otherwise, who will pay for schools, roads, water treatment, storm-surge control and public safety? Public debt is the other option, but our national debt burden is already too high. The Republican philosophy of favoring long-term public debt over raising current taxes amounts to a preference for passing our funding burdens on to our children.
George Donohue is a professor emeritus of Systems Engineering at George Mason University and the president of the South County Democratic Club. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This interview with James Kitchin, by Amanda Yeager, appeared in The Capital newspaper on June 26, 2017
A public policy researcher is the first Democrat to file in the race for the County Council's District 7 seat. James Kitchin, 32, recently filed as a 2018 candidate and plans to host a campaign kickoff on July 13.
The Crofton native, who studies education and immigration policy for the University of Maryland Baltimore County, said he decided to run because he's become "frustrated with how the whole system works."
On issues like development, education and the environment, "there are a lot of things we can do locally," Kitchin said.
Kitchin wants to dedicate the first $50 every voter pays in taxes to public financing of elections, with voters deciding who that money will go to. He also supports the Anti-Corruption Act, a national campaign to publicly finance elections, end gerrymandering, ban lobbyist donations to politicians and encourage open primaries, among other initiatives.His vision for reform starts with reducing the influence of money in politics.If those efforts could be proven effective at a county level, Kitchin predicted, "they will spread from there."
On development, Kitchin said he'd like to ensure that the developer impact fees intended to help pay for infrastructure keep up with the county's need.
With impact fees paying for infrastructure from projects that preceded new developments, "the county's running it kind of like a Ponzi scheme," he said. "Until we fix that, that it's going to keep getting worse and worse."He sees a parallel with the county's reliance on continued development to support its growing budget. "That system works in theory only if continued growth, population growth and development can happen unending into the future and that's just pretty unrealistic," he said. "Eventually, we're going to be completely built out. When that happens, the whole thing is going to topple down." The fix, in Kitchin's view, is making "development actually pay for itself" and keeping taxes stable."If we... let our budget grow naturally as the economy grows, then I think we could get to the point where we would be financially sustainable," he said.
Kitchin, a former government high school teacher and father of two, said he'd like to see teachers receive a dependable salary step increase each year. And he pointed to a need for smaller class sizes in schools.
"We do compete with other counties for teachers, businesses, residents," he said. "If we're not willing to consistently get those step increases and to lower class sizes, we'll continue to lose teachers to other districts and we'll continue to weaken."
He also pledged to support the continuation of the county's stormwater fee, which pays for watershed preservation projects, and to push for stronger enforcement of the county's forest conservation law.
A self-described "policy guy," Kitchin said he believes the county needs to turn a focus to the laws it already has on the books. "Before you start coming up with new things and new programs, you've got to make sure you start enforcing the things you already have," he said.
Kitchin is one of three candidates to have expressed interest in the seat so far. Build Crofton High School advocate Jonathan Boniface and county constituent services officer Michelle Corkdadel, both Republicans, also plan to run to replace Councilman Jerry Walker, who is term-limited. Walker, a Republican from Crofton, has announced he will run for a House of Delegates seat in District 33.
The primary election is June 26, 2018.
Guest Column by George Donohue - Capital Newspaper April 13, 2017
Many scientists and engineers are planning to march on Washington this coming Earth Day. It should come as no surprise that many of us who have chosen science, engineering or mathematics as a profession feel that we are an embattled species. We represent only about 5 percent of the overall U.S. population.
It takes many years of advanced education — an investment of both time and money — to allow us to practice these professions. Most of us do not make these investments to earn huge salaries or to make large sums of money as investment bankers.
Frequently, as teachers, we tell our students they will be investing their time and talents to learn the truth of the natural laws of the world and to use these laws and the language of mathematics to create new devices and procedures to make the world a better place.
As engineers, we have not always lived up to this goal. I worked as a defense analyst in the Reagan administration estimating the marginal cost of a space-based missile defense system. The analysis clearly indicated that building the proposed system would be as much as six times more costly than it would be for Russia to saturate the defense by just building and launching more ICBMs.
It would, in fact, have created an “arms-race instability.” This is not what the Reagan White House wanted to hear, but it was the truth.
My work was classified at the time, but I followed with great interest the public debate led by the physical sciences community. Those scientists spoke out on what I could not say in public.
I was always interested in why these scientists, who prefer to speak in peer-reviewed journals, would speak so publicly on what was clearly a political issue. My conclusion was that it was a mass expression of guilt for being the ones who designed nuclear weapons in the first place.
Today, we engineers should be the ones speaking out on the facts of global climate change. We are the ones who have designed the energy production systems and the machines that turn this energy into heat that stays in our atmosphere.
Admittedly, we did not think of it this way. We were responding to many clients who asked us to enable new capabilities for mankind. Only in the last 20 years have I become aware of the effects of our work.
I was formally educated as a mechanical engineer with a specialty in thermal-fluid sciences. My technical education allowed me to understand the causes and the consequences of global warming and climate change. Many similarly educated climate scientists want to demonstrate to the public and political leadership the extreme danger of global climate change, which I believe is comparable to the dangers of a global thermonuclear war.
Some scientists argue that it is a bad idea to join such a mass march on the capital. They reason it will confirm a growing public perception that we do our research and speak out only for political reasons. They argue we should be quietly talking to our friends and neighbors to try to educate them on the scientific evidence and the great peril that we have created.
While President Reagan never changed his mind about the Star Wars defense shield, Department of Defense officials sponsored and understood our analysis. Wisely, no space-based, layered strategic defense system has ever been developed. Our current system is potentially effective only against an attack by a small rogue nation.
The climate change issue does not have a similar dynamic. A rally on the Mall will probably not change many minds. Consider this my open letter, however, to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to talk to the many chemical and mechanical engineers he must know from Exxon Mobil Corp., to get their professional reading of the technical facts.
George Donohue is a professor emeritus of systems engineering at George Mason University and the president of the South County Democratic Club. Contact him at email@example.com.
OpEd Printed in the Capital 2/6/17
Much has been written recently that helps explain the Trump phenomenon. Four pieces have strongly influenced my current thinking about the future: "The Loudest Voice in the Room," by Gabriel Sherman, "Thank You for Being Late" by Thomas Friedman, a New York Times op-ed column by David Brooks and a Politico article by Francis Fukuyama.
First, Sherman helped me understand how one man could build a 24/7 propaganda machine that has divided a nation. This extremely effective machine is called Fox News. It has psychologically conditioned millions of citizens by a constant drumbeat for over 20 years.
Many of its dedicated acolytes have developed an instinctual reaction to code words such as "climate change," "Obamacare" and "The Wall." As if they were making a Pavlovian response, many intelligent citizens now turn off any rational, fact-based discussion of these important issues based on 140-character prompts. George Orwell would be impressed with the success of Roger Ailes.
Second, Friedman looks to a future where talent, education and hard work will be rewarded in an increasingly competitive international world of shrinking resources and changing climate. There has never been a time in human history in which our entire social and technical environment has changed so rapidly.
Those who get their understanding of these very complex issues by 140-character tweets will be uninformed and uneducated. The future will belong to those who can develop the critical thinking skills needed to deal with complexity and constant change. There is no option of going back to the "good old days" when America was supposedly "great."
Third, Brooks, a conservative writer for The New York Times, wrote about the women's march on Washington in protest of the Trump administration. He points out that the participants have good reasons to march, but that identity politics does not produce change. The energy of any movement needs organization and structure to turn emotion into political results.
The Republican Party, with the help of Fox News, embraced the tea party movement, and changed into the new Republican Party of Trump, winning many elections on a populist platform. The Democratic Party must learn how to attract the women and the energy of a millennial generation if it wants to succeed. This will require that party to also change.
Finally, the recent article by Fukuyama in Politico gives me hope. He points out that the Trump administration is trying to send us down many dark roads but that the Founding Fathers feared such a potential future. We will now see if the checks and balances designed into our Constitution and our laws will actually work as desired.
We have never had a president who has so tested our institutional norms. Fortunately, he has selected some Cabinet members to lead key departments such as State, Defense and Homeland Security who appear to be qualified and may not be yes men.
Trump has been the head of a successful business run largely by himself and members of his family. He does not, however, have enough family members for the thousands of top-level executive positions that he now must fill very rapidly. He will have to rely on a Republican and bureaucratic bench of experienced people who do not owe him personal allegiance.
They will oversee a professional workforce that have its own ideas about what legally can and should be done. Most federal court appointments will not have influence on any actions until years after the Trump administration is past.
We are a republic of 50 states that have a great deal of autonomy in determining how we are governed. Let us pay attention to our city, county and state elections. This is the best hope for our survival for at least the next four years.
George Donohue is professor emeritus of systems engineering at George Mason University and the president of the South County Democratic Club. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
OpEd Printed in the Capital 12/31/16
Polling data indicate that many who voted for Donald Trump live in a world of misinformation. More than 2.8 million people voted for a Democratic Party platform over a Republican platform, with a 59 percent turnout rate.
The votes that swung the election in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin came from a group of people that would fit inside FedEx Field. The Republican Party clearly has no national mandate. Therefore, it is very important that the GOP elected officials govern wisely, especially at the state and national level. Now that the GOP holds all of the levers of national power, it would be prudent for the president, the Senate majority leader and the speaker of the House to not abuse this power.
Minority rule is tricky business. Examples from the Middle East show us what can happen when a strong-willed minority overrules the will of the majority. At some point, the majority will regain power. Strong, pent-up resentments are not good for responsible government decisions.
We in Maryland, and especially in Anne Arundel County, need to also be sensitive to this issue. We have a Republican governor and a Republican county executive with a Democratic legislature. The balance is delicate for both. Even though Gov. Larry Hogan disavowed President-elect Trump, he is still a Republican governor who will have to deal with fellow Republicans who did vote for "The Donald." County Executive Steve Schuh is a Trump supporter.
The new report on Maryland's underfunding of its education system by the Kirwan Commission should become an important issue for the next state election in 2018. The additional $2.6 billion recommended by the bipartisan commission is a serious amount of money that must come from somewhere. Maryland currently spends about $42 billion a year and that money must come from us.
A simple "anti-tax" Republican agenda cannot provide for this critically needed investment in the state's and the counties' future. The economy and good jobs are dependent on a well-educated population. Anne Arundel ranks 16th in Maryland spending per student and second from the bottom in the greater Washington, D.C., metropolitan area.
The issues are more than just education. We can no longer count on the federal government to require us to do the right things for the environment. Gov. Hogan is not necessarily a climate-change denier, but he does put microeconomic shortsightedness in front of the reality of the need to change the way we produce electric power. Moving to renewable energy not only helps the environment but also generates good jobs at good wages for the state economy.
Many Republican politicians either do not understand or refuse to tell the voters that trickle-down economics does not produce increased revenue once the marginal tax rates are below approximately 50 percent. President George H.W. Bush correctly called Reaganomics "voodoo economics." President Ronald Reagan reduced federal tax rates and increased, not reduced, the national debt. President George W. Bush made the same mistake with the same result.
The federal government can print money to balance the books; state and local governments cannot. When federal tax rates go down, local tax rates will have to go up, or we sink into the swamp.
With a Trump administration, states are going to have to go it alone. States with Democratic governments should invest in education and infrastructure for the future. Anti-tax Republican-managed states generally receive more federal tax revenue generated from states governed by Democrats than they generate themselves. It is time for this to stop.
It is important that the voters in Maryland and the county elect officials who have a vision for meeting future needs. Voter turnout by Democrats in the last election was very low. For whatever reason, these citizens must have assumed that someone else would be looking out for their best interests. This is not the way democracy works.
Churchton resident George Donohue is a professor emeritus of systems engineering at George Mason University in Virginia. Contact him at email@example.com.
OpEd Printed in The Capital newspaper 12-15-16
George Orwell (1903 to 1950), where are you when we need you? If you have not read "1984" then you may want to do so. If you have, it may be time to read it again. Orwell was a man who lived through some of the most traumatic political events of the 20th century. His statue in front of the BBC reads: "If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear." He is considered to be one of the greatest British writers of the 20th century. He coined the terms "Big Brother" and "Doublethink". In the age of "The Donald", the current belief that "facts no longer matter" and the rise of "Fake News" it is worth renewing our acquaintance with his writings.
Orwell was a British citizen with an Eton education who served in the Indian Imperial Police in Burma in the early 1920's. In 1936, like Hemmingway, he went to Spain to fight in the Civil War against Fascism and was seriously wounded. He worked for the BBC during the second World War. It was after these wars that he wrote his two famous books, "Animal Farm" and "1984". These books were strongly influenced by his personal life experience with Fascism in Spain, Germany, Italy and Russian dictators.
Donald Trump's "facts" have been widely disputed by reputable "Fact Checkers" throughout the 2016 campaign. Some have attributed this to an "anything goes in campaigns" but he will rule in a more serious manor. His statements that "… only I can solve your problems" have been taken by many as election talk hyperbole but not indicative of a Fascist leader. His argument that he knows the "pain of the common man" was bought by a sizable number of voters in economically distressed states the are being left behind by an increasingly high-technology global economy. His cabinet choices do not reflect this concern.
The extent to which the Russian KGB influenced the election of Donald Trump is a very serious issue. The open discussion by our most sophisticated foreign intelligence agencies and the congressional debate as to how much to investigate this election interference will tell us much about whether we are still a government of "checks-and-balances" or a Fascist Plutocracy.
Will the Republican congress provide the administration oversight that the American people deserve? Will they be as critical of President Trump as they were of President Obama or Secretary Clinton? Have we unintentionally elected a Russian Manchurian Candidate under the strong influence of a Russian Oligarch? These are serious questions that must be addressed over the next four years. It is the obligation of the free press to investigate and expose the truth.
President-elect Trump's efforts at "Doublethink" and "Fake News" regarding the popular election outcome are of concern. His constant refusal to receive the morning intelligence briefings and denial of our intelligence agencies reporting on Russian hacking creates a riff in the trusted relationship that must exist between our national leaders and our intelligence professionals. What are, and will be, the conflicts of interest between the Trump and the ExxonMobil corporations and our national interests? Will the leaders in the Oval Office and the State Department betray the trust needed with our national intelligence agencies for an effective working relationship?
Some have expressed concern that this could be the most corrupt administration since Harding and Grant. We will not know that for several years as things develop. I certainly hope not. We do know what has happened in Europe in the 20th century. We never thought that it could happen in the USA. Even if controlled by Republicans, it is up to the legislative and judicial branches of government to make sure that these mistakes do not happen here. First and foremost they must act as loyal American citizens and not as party hacks.
George Donohue is a resident of Churchton and a Prof. Emeritus at George Mason University.
Obamacare - Letter to the Editor - Printed The Capital 11-22-16
Regarding the "Obamacare" letter of Colleen Ligibel (The Sunday Capital, Oct. 30), in which she calls for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act (aka "Obamacare") because of her premium increase this year while using the program:
As a 63-year-old woman in good health, she begrudges the premiums, for which she believes she doesn't receive any benefit beyond an annual mammogram. She may opt, of course, to forego Obamacare insurance and pay the rather modest penalty if she finds the program so onerous.
However, I would remind her that, like car insurance, health insurance exists not for the days you are healthy, but for when you have an accident or become sick. But, I suspect she maintains her insurance because she is very much aware that illness and accident can strike at any time and that medical costs for the uninsured have sent many a family into bankruptcy or financial ruin.
Obamacare may need some attention from lawmakers, but Ms. Ligibel's cavalier suggestion that the program be repealed while it currently covers 20 million people who may otherwise be uninsured; and protects many more people with pre-existing conditions who cannot now be denied coverage, shows a callous disregard for many fellow Americans.
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