Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Econ 101 and the Budget

Lesson 1

Remember the guns and butter argument from your college days?

Economics 101 is alive and well in MoCo.

Last year's budget sacrifice was the "Kids Ride Free" transportation program.  For FY 2011, this program was cut, to the dismay of many parents and students across the county.

Guess what?  The program is back for FY 2012.

Does this mean that the county council found extra cash?  Probably not. 

I suspect that the council finally realized that other cuts could be made in our limited taxpayer base that would not have a great impact.

Lesson 2

Look for efficiencies in existing programs before seeking more revenue.

Here is hoping that the 2013 county budget can restore some additional programs without the need to raise taxes. 

After all, why raise taxes if you can spend more wisely?


Montgomery County Council Approves ‘Kids Ride Free’ on Local Buses for FY12

Release ID: 11-125

Release Date: 5/23/2011

Contact: Neil Greenberger 240-777-7939 240-777-7939 or Delphine Harriston240-777-7931 240-777-7931
From: Council Office

ROCKVILLE, Md., May 23, 2011—The Montgomery County Council on May 19 approved the reinstatement of the “Kids Ride Free” program in the Fiscal Year 2012 operating budget that will allow students to use Metrobus and the County’s Ride On bus service within Montgomery County for free on weekdays between 2 and 7 p.m. The Kids Ride Free program had been suspended in the FY11 operating budget.

Councilmember Nancy Navarro made reinstatement of the program one of her top priorities as the Council worked toward reaching a budget agreement. The Council will formally adopt the budget, which will include funding for Kids Ride Free, on Thursday, May 26.

Councilmember Navarro, who represents District 4 (East County), said it became evident to her that reestablishment of the program needed to be a priority after hearing from many students in her district and around the County regarding the program’s importance.

“I am thrilled I received the support of my colleagues for the reinstatement of Kids Ride Free,” said Councilmember Navarro. “Over the past year, many young people have expressed their disappointment about our decision to cut this critical program.”

While the County continues to offer “Youth Cruiser” passes at the low cost of $11 a month and $18 for the summer, those passes are valid only on Ride On—which operates only within the County. Approximately 30 percent of County ridership is on Metrobus, and that percentage is higher in east Montgomery County. Kids Ride Free gives students the flexibility to use both Ride On and Metrobus during the critical after-school hours.

“For thousands of students who don’t have cars and aren’t eligible for MCPS transportation, bus service is essential, and many of these students have difficulty affording Metrobus and Ride On rates,” said Councilmember Navarro. “Hopefully, the kids who take advantage of this program will become life-long transit users.”

The FY12 budget includes $376,000 for the Kids Ride Free program, including $276,000 in lost Ride On revenue and $100,000 in reimbursement costs to WMATA.


  1. I have a hypothetical question for the general audience out there.

    Let's say that next spring, the county is faced with a slightly better budget scenario than it was faced with this year. There's no budget gap to close, but there's also no surprise increase in tax revenues. There is an expected increase in enrollment, say another 1000 students or 1/3 the anticipated increase coming this fall. Efficiencies in existing programs are found as described by the original poster. Which should be restored first...programs that were cut the past 2 or 3 years, or step increases for MCPS employees?

  2. @ Anonymous

    If you were a MCPS teacher you would know that type of question can only be answered by the Apple Union officials at the secret budget table. The public plays no role in MCPS budget deliberations. See today's post for Jerry Weast's statement on how many hundreds of hours union officals go over budget details in secret!

    In the end, year after year, union officials and MCCPTA favor administrators, administrator perks, no bid contracts and no contract $21 million procurements over teacher pay. It's a choice and it is a choice being made by the Apple Union officials.

    You can thank them for what teachers end up with.

  3. How about an answer to the question posed by 10:28 pm? What are the personal opinions of the people who read this blog, regardless of what the poster at 7:58 am wrote? Should programs be restored first, or should step increases for MCPS employees be restored first? Don't be shy, and don't duck the question!

  4. Whom would you suggest we endorse, Janis, when all the "promising" candidates change their tune? You respond as though we don't do our homework. But when these endorsed candidates reach a certain level and aspire to move up, suddenly we're the enemy.

    So rather than berating us for the faults of others, focus on being constructive - not destructive.

    Although you're good at finding obscure memos and articles that support your point, you really suggest nothing new or innovative

    However, like a 5-car pile up on the beltway, I cannot seem to turn away from your entertaining rants.

  5. Who are you? Since you don't identify yourself no one has any idea who you purport to be.

    You can't be talking about the Apple Ballot because they don't even interview all the candidates! Clearly, the Apple Ballot does not do its homework. So if the Apple folks aren't happy they have no one but themselves to blame. They couldn't even be bothered with evaluating all the candidates.

    Don't find anything new? Really? So the unions were all familiar with the under the table $20 million+ Promethean Board purchases, the no bid contracts and the exclusive artificial turf deal with FieldTurf. Is that who you are speaking for? Good to know, then the secret budget table discussions pay off.

    For the public, these things are new and news. For Montgomery County citizens that take the County budget seriously, knowing how tax dollars are spent is important and serious business.

    Glad you are entertained. You must have really enjoyed watching the Board of Education spend $21 million Monday on a non-existent contract for unspecified "technology". If you were a county teacher you might want to know how school system Operating Budget funds are being spent and know why $21 million can be spent without documentation. You would really be interested if you were a Media Specialist who has to work 2 or 3 schools next year.

  6. Sorry, Janis, but you're wrong about this -

    Correct - They DO NOT interview ALL candidates b/c some CHOOSE NOT to participate in the process. "All candidates are invited to participate in a personal interview with a team of rank-and-file MCEA member-volunteers from the Political Action and Legislative Support (PALS) Committee."

    - Sincerely,
    Mo Co Taxpayer and Teacher (2:52)

  7. Absolutely False. All candidates are NOT invited to interview. Just another tall tale from the Apple folks.

    All Board of Eduction candidates in the 2010 election were NOT invited to interview. In fact, endorsements were made about 3-4 months before the filing deadline. The Apple Ballot had no intention of evaluating any candidates. They had their picks and they were done.

  8. Where's your evidence? I provided mine.

  9. Even back in 2004, MCEA did NOT offer questionnaires and interviews to all candidates. My husband, Bob Astrove, was not offered the same chance to complete the questionnaire the other BOE candidates were.

    Last year, MCEA had already made their endorsements by the time I filed in July, before the filing deadline. Nevertheless, I was never contacted afterwards by MCEA.

    It is a flat out lie that "all candidates are invited to participate in a personal interview, etc etc." Sorry to be the one to tell you. A shame, too, because I'm probably one of the only candidates in the last several years who has actually been a dues-paying member of a labor union.

    May 26, 2011 6:43 PM
    Lyda Astrove

  10. Valerie Ervin was a union organizer once upon a time. Lot of good that did MCEA members who voted for her!

  11. Um? Evidence? The questionnaire that they never sent? The phone call that never came? Not sure what you mean.

    But I'm fascinated by the idea that apparently MCEA thinks that they could find an individual who is more "labor friendly" than Valerie Ervin! The fact that a former labor organizer thinks the county is in deep financial trouble and that drastic measures need to happen should alert MCEA to the simple fact that....we ARE in financial trouble!

  12. 7:04, Get real. As I mentioned at 2:52, political candidates change their tune. We're not psychic.

    In regard to PC supporters not being interviewed, the deadline - - is July 6, which is when teachers are officially out of the classroom. So any candidate seeking teachers' endorsements would be WISE to file way ahead of the deadline when we're still together as a group.

    might not fit your style - But logistically, it's the way to go.

  13. Valerie Ervin is interested in ONE thing...Valerie Ervin's political career. She wants to be County Exec. and is taking advantage of the current anti-public employee union sentiment that is pervasive today.

  14. I know from personal contact with other BOE candidates that they were not invited to interview either- for the same reasons that Lyda notes.

    MCPS teacher

  15. I was a candidate for the Board of Education in the most recent election. Although I'm easy to reach by phone or email, the MCEA never tried to contact me for an interview or to fill out a questionnaire.

    What the MCEA did do, however, was purchase Google advertisements for the MCEA Apple Ballot candidates that would appear whenever someone searched for my name using Google. So when people Googled "Louis Wilen", a link to the Apple Ballot website would come up as the first link, even though my name appeared nowhere on the Apple Ballot website.

  16. Paula Bienenfeld said...
    Anonymous @2:52pm, you said, "You respond as though we don't do our homework." If you are a teacher, from what I read in the comments on this blog and from what I see come in over the transom. teachers aren't doing their homework. You (or they?) don't seem to follow the budget carefully, don't seem to realize how the 'apple ballot' works; don't seem to understand that the rest of the county is suffering because of the money the school system sucks up; don't seem to understand or be able to participate in the work their MCEA does. so, the conclusion is in fact, you (they?) don't do your homework.

    Regarding 'obscure memos and articles' that is investigative journalism, plain and simple. People on this blog and members of the Parents Coalition do not wine and dine with BOE members, MCPS members, we do not have '70 lunches at Il Pizzico' we do not have lunch with Jerry Dean. We do the hard work of uncovering the data, the facts, the credit card logs, the real contracts, the real data to see how our tax dollars are really spent. This blog is the only place with very few exceptions where you can find out the facts and follow a story from beginning to end. So, thanks Janis, thanks Louis, thanks Lyda, thanks Bob, thanks Joe, thanks Sheldon, and kudos and thanks to my fellow bloggers for relentlessly and persistently uncovering the facts about how our tax dollars are spent by the Board of Education.

  17. Maybe people who are interested in an MCEA endorsement should realize that most of the people involved in the MCEA endorsement process are teachers who are 10 month employees. The MCEA Representative Assembly has to vote whether to approve or reject the candidates suggested for endorsement and the RA does not meet in July or August as the reps are 10 month employees. The endorsement process therefore occurs before school ends for the year which is before the end of the filing period.

  18. Candidates do not have to file by the time we interview and it is THEIR choice to let MCEA know that THEY are thinking of running. I, too, have sat in the interview process and many have not filed but intend to by the July deadline. So it is THEIR choice not to be interviewed—not OURS.

    - L. Friedman (MCPS teacher)

  19. Candidates must let MCEA/Apple know they are "thinking" of running? That's not what MCEA says. They say all candidates are invited to interview. So clearly the MCEA statement is not correct. Candidates are not invited at all!

    How exactly are candidates to know when MCEA is "thinking" of making their endorsements? Is it 3,4 6 months, a year or more before an election? Where is that secret deadline posted?

    MCEA is only interested in candidates that they hand pick in advance. That is a more accurate description of the MCEA/Apple endorsement.

    All others need not apply.

  20. Google "mcea apple ballot". Pick the second web site. Read. If one is serious about running for County Council, then do your homework. It's really not that hard.

  21. OMG, so many of you are acting like victims! One would hope that if someone is running for the County Council, they would have enough knowledge of the political process in this county to know about the Apple Ballot. To say that no one asked you to interview is immature, and you don't deserve to be on the Council anyway. If I was running for the Council, I would be trying to get as many endorsements as possible, as normal politicians do. So stop whining about not getting a gold-plated invitation delivered to your door. Do your homework and act like you WANT to be on the Council.

    No GoogleAccount/LiveJournal/WordPress/TypePad/AIM/OpenID/Name/URL!

  22. Not at all. MCEA/Apple Ballot SAYS they invite all candidates to interview and have a rigorous process.

    It's a fib, that's all.

    It's called false advertising. Very simple.

    And where EXACTLY does the Apple Ballot website say that the hand picked candidates will be contributing $6,000 to the Apple Ballot with the endorsement? Is it in the fine print?

    And while this topic is being discussed, MCEA members "think" that their dues get split up 3 ways for political action. Not so. Take a look at the books to find out how PAC money is actually divided up. Do MCEA members really know that their money is being funneled through the state, which limits the money that comes back to the local?

  23. EVERY organization that issues endorsements to MCPS Board of Education candidates -- with the exception of the MCEA -- waits until after the campaign registration deadline to issue their endorsements. Why does the MCEA issue their endorsements BEFORE the campaign registration deadline? There is only reason that makes any sense at all, and that is that the BOE candidates that are endorsed by the MCEA were hand-picked by the MCEA leaders well in advance of the campaign sign-up time.

  24. Louis:
    If you want the MCEA's endorsement, do your homework, find out the deadlines, and let them know you want to run. There's no make-up exam if you chose to miss the deadline. That's the way MCEA does it. If you don't like it, don't seek their endorsement. But don't whine about it afterwards. Grow up!

  25. @9:27
    To summarize, here are two reasons:
    2. logistics (10:13's point)

    It really boggles my mind to figure out why this is rocket science for many of you.

  26. Thanks! So the Apple Ballot is a FRAUD! Good to know!

    The link you (anonymous MCPS person can't commit to a position) provided says that the Apple has the "most thorough screening process of any organization in the county" - nothing but marketing spin, no truth to that statement!

    How about a more truthful statement of the "process?"

    The Apple Ballot endorses who it wants, when it wants! Then you can chip in $6,000 to the STATE PAC to pay for state wide races.

    Hey, Apple folks - you like the secret, behind the scenes endorsement process - you got the secret behind the scenes candidates. Be happy with the secret behind the scenes MCPS budget procss! You got EXACTLY what you wanted.

  27. Sorry I failed mind reading 101--if you do not LET someone know what YOU Plan to DO then HOW can YOU get an INVITE??


    AS the saying goes:"Poor planning on your part does not mean a rush or change of plans on mine" This is not a secret, SINCE IT IS THE SAME EVERY ELECTION!!
    PS anyone who is serious about running--goes out to find the endorsements, endorsements do not go running to the canidate!! just a thought

  28. To Anon of May 27, 2011 10:22 AM:

    I did my homework. The MCEA's deadline is the moment that they have chosen the person they want to represent their labor union, and not a second later. They make their choice well in advance of the election, and anyone who isn't a tool of the labor union is automatically shut out.

  29. @ l. friedman

    You sure did fail. It's called a "filing" when a candidate announces that they are running for an office. It's the legal process that is used to determine who will run for an elected office. It's a public process that all of the other organizations that endorse candidates seem to be able to use just fine.

    Oh, but the Apple Ballot doesn't want to use a legal process, do they? That would ruin the whole back door, $6,000 payment arrangement they have going now.

    It's the same every election? Oh, gosh. Hysterical. Thanks for pointing out that the Apple Ballot never wants to evaluate all of the candidates! Yes, we all get it. The Apple Ballot just pre-selects their picks and the rest don't even get considered.

    Why don't you ask Jon Gerson about this? I am sure he will explain it to you. He has certainly told me about the selection process for the Apple Ballot. He was very clear that candidates were picked and others weren't considered.

  30. Did the individuals from the Parents Coalition file before MCEA interviewed candidates? If so, seems like they have a reason to gripe. If not, seems like they don't.

  31. Candidates who don't file before the end of the school year and don't request an interview don't get one. If they want to get MCEA's endorsement, then they can either get their acts together and file before the Apple ballot comes out or live with their disappointment.

    Really, do you think you are providing any sort of accuracy on here? Doesn't look like it to me. I'll bet you don't post this, either.

  32. Paula Bienenfeld said...
    Anonymous @8:48 AM, so what you are saying is that only professional pols and people who 'know the process' should run? That would limit the people's choice quite a bit. There should be room in a real democracy for a citizen to run, not just a professional politician with connections and inside knowlege. I have similar experience to those who have run for office; when I applied to be a member of the MoCo Planning Board, organizations came out of the woodwork to contact me, organizations of which I was unaware. They wanted questionnaires to be filled out; and personal interviews with their board. These organizations take this very seriously. They saw the list after the deadline had closed and they interviewed everyone and only then did that organization make an endorsement. As a board member of the Civic Fed I can report it is the same process with the planning board applicants. The Civic Fed board gets the list after the deadline has closed and then talks with every candidate. The only reason I can figure that MCEA would not want to do that is, as people commenting here have said, and know from experience, is that they have already tapped their candidates -- well before the deadline. MCEA members should open their eyes.

  33. Paula:
    No inside knowledge needed. Again, Google "mcea apple ballot". Pick the second web site. Read. Anyone, whether they be a "professional pol" or an ordinary citizen like Louis Wilen, should be able to do that. Again Paula, do your homework if you want to be on the County Council and, Paula, have some foresight and plan ahead and above all, don't procrastinate.

  34. Paula:
    Where in the 8:48 post did Anonymous say this: "so what you are saying is that only professional pols and people who 'know the process' should run?" Don't put words into other people's mouths Paula. MCEA takes the process of endorsing candidates very seriously. The process is not just two people sitting around coffee at Starbucks deciding who to endorse. Have you read about the MCEA process and the multiple levels of interviewing, discussion, and approval? To even compare it to something like the Civic Fed is ridiculous.

  35. Candidates that "don't file before the end of the school year"...

    Well there we go! Thanks for that new "rule", put your NAME behind that statement anonymous and we'll post the real story of the Apple Ballot. It's NOT what is stated on the MCEA website, is it? No.

    And, of course, even that statement isn't true!
    Last year the endorsements came out before the end of school! (Check your calendars...)

    Keep making up new rules for the Apple Ballot... A look at the list of Board of Education candidates from 2010 shows that only 4 Board of Education candidates were considered for 4 seats.

    Pretty blatant that none of the other 8 candidates were even considered.

  36. What exactly is the DATE by which candidates are to file to run for an office in 2012 to then be interviewed by the Apple?

    Come on Apple folks, let's get that exact date out there right now.

    And the date is ____________?

  37. I found this on one of the questionaires returned by a candidate for the County Council. It was a link off of this page:

    "Please return the completed questionnaire by Monday, May 24, 2010 at 9:00 a.m. to MCEA, 12 Taft Court Rockville, Md. 20850, attention Jon A. Gerson, via fax at (301) 309-9563 or email your response to"

    Remember that the rigorous process described here:
    involves teachers at every step of the way. When schools let out, teachers are generally not available to come interview candidates, discuss whom to endorse, and to vote on the slate. Therefore, the process described above has to take place before schools let out. I'm not sure how it could be done any other way, and still involve so many teachers.

    Note also that some candidates may fill out their questionaire and say one thing on it, and then act in a completely different way once they are elected. It's unfortunate, but in reading some of the questionaires of the Council candidates that won, their words are not consistent with their actions the past few months. Live and learn I guess.

  38. Thanks. That blows the "file by the end of the school year" comment by the anonymous commenter.

    So that's not the rule.

    The rule is to read questionnaires after the fact to find out the deadline? Really?

    OK - so one more time: The date by which candidates are to file to run for an office in the 2012 election in order to be interviewed by the Apple folks is ____________________? Easy question, right?

  39. I don't understand how we teachers could ever argue that it's in our best interest not to interview every candidate. Ever. We interviewed 4 of 10 candidates. We interviewed ONLY the incumbents. If we were just an interest group that'd be fine. But when you purport to represent the views of a majority of teachers- this becomes an unacceptable misrepresentation.

    And let me just say this about the process MCEA uses- it is a process that is burried in layers of representative democracy. Of course-no one is actually "elected" to go to the Rep Assemblies because they can't find enough people to attend. So what you get are a bunch of people who "want" to go. These people who want to go make the decisions. The voice of the everyday teacher is so far detached from the process its sad.

    If our goal is to represent teachers- we can do much much better. And we wouldn't try to dictate a process to candidates. We'd accept the institution and adjust our own policies to fit the process- not the other way around.

  40. Mr. McCabe, thanks for your comment. The other organizations in this county to my knowledge do interview every candidate. They take the time. And, the interviews are open. Anyone from the organization can attend. In addition, the other organizations are all-volunteer organizations. No one gets paid. They take the time in the evenings and weekends to volunteer to do these interviews. So, why can't the teachers spend some time over the summer doing the same thing as we citizens do? Can someone please explain that? Why aren't teachers 'generally available' over the summer?

  41. I have proposed some changes to be made in the description of the process that MCEA uses to endorse candidates, including specifying a date as Janis asked above. My suggestions will go to the Board of MCEA to be considered.
    Paula: the number of teachers involved in the MCEA endorsement process is much more than the number of people in other organizations involved in endorsing candidates. I myself would want as many teachers (representatives) as possible involved in the endorsement process.

  42. Paula- I think the issue would be in having the "RA" approve the selection of the candidate... MCEA could get the interview team in during July- but they wouldn't be able to get the Rep Assembly approval until late August or early September. That of course, is not politically convenient- where in lies the real issue here.


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