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Tuesday, December 26, 2006


CQPolitics has a piece on Chris Van Hollen's new role as chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee that recycles things most of us have heard, but reminds us that: "If Van Hollen has any major challenge for his upcoming tenure, it is that the big Democratic gains of 2006 surely will be impossible to duplicate." After this year, only holding most Dem seats and increasing the number will earn Van Hollen wide acclaim, though insiders will consider him effective if the slippage is minimal. Given a number of the seats Dems will want to hold despite a 2004 vote for Bush and how tied this election will be to the presidential, that's a tall order, even for someone with his abilities. He was very on-message in the interview, so he wouldn't talk about expectations or strategies, besides emphasizing the importance of Congressional Democratic leaders to deliver on campaign promises in winning for 2008.

A Sun piece on Ike Leggett is similarly unenlightening to people who've been reading about him for the last few years (though Baltimore folks might need the 101 on the new MoCo Exec). You've got to like the comment of Blair Lee though: "Political graveyards are full of people who have misinterpreted his nice-guy demeanor as political weakness." Readers who are hoping from big things from the Executive are reminded by the Sun that: "In Montgomery County, the real power of government lies with the County Council."

It should be an interesting four years, as MoCo Politics notes. Maybe the hottest topic in state politics lately has been about the death penalty, though the budget, wages, transportation, and health care are likely to take on some prominence next year.

And have you noticed that New Hampshire north of the Beltway (DC, that is) is named after soon-to-be-former-Sen. Ida Ruben?

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Ouch. Not THAT way...

The headline in today's Post Metro section can't have been what Ike Leggett was shooting for: "Leggett Repeats Call For Gas Tax Increase."

When it first came up during the campaign, many remembered how then-VA Gov. Warner had spun his move to raise taxes to fund sorely needed transportation infrastructure, particularly in gridlock-plagued Northern Virginia. It was disappointing that candidate Leggett did not manage to effectively make that same case for needed infrastructure that would help businesses, commuters, the environment, etc. Somehow the article before the primary screamed about the suggestion of a tax increase, and then gave the reasons behind it in a whisper.

Now it's obvious that Leggett talked about why the tax was needed, and it may well just be that the Post writer heard magic words about raising taxes and wrote her article around them. In the end, it may well be that an issue of this magnitude has to be worked a little harder before you say the magic words that can all too easily rally opposition (or fear in the hearts of policymakers), so that it doesn't go in the wrong direction. Perhaps you need a commission or a study: maybe leaders need to agonize a bit about the problem and the costs of the solutions, then agree to bite the bullet after lining up the support they need.

The actual announcement needs work, too. Quotes like the following can't be allowed to stand alone. "I believed it then, and I believe it now," Leggett said yesterday. "We need to increase the gasoline tax." Simply put, if you give a reporter free standing quotes with punch like that, you are begging to be quoted. It has to be structured so that the rationale leads the scary part -- in the same sentence so they can't be separated in the coverage.

We absolutely need to fix our growing transportation problems. We need to build more transit options with a focus on rail, secure dedicated funding for Metro, build the Purple Line, and even fix and improve some roads. Most Montgomery County residents, and lots of Marylanders generally, know this and, if pitched correctly, would even agree to pay more to get out of the traffic nightmare we're living. And with Roger Berliner, Mike Miller, and others agreeing that something needs to be done, it's certainly possible to do so. If we have to come up with more money to fix our problems, let's say so clearly and effectively.