Wednesday, January 10, 2007

town hall meetings in moco: "it's like comedy"

For additional coverage of the Town Hall Meeting, check out the Silver Spring Penguin and Maryland Politics Watch, along with the Baltimore Sun and the Post's Get There blog.

The parking lot at Einstein High was packed forty-five minutes before last night's Town Hall Meeting with Governor-elect Martin O'Malley, Lieutenant Governor-elect Anthony Brown, and new Secretary of Transportation John Porcari (oh, and Ike Leggett hosted, apparently), reflecting the normal Montgomery County seriousness about local politics. A standing-room-only crowd of nearly a thousand filled the auditorium, eager to see our new governor kick off his week-long "One Maryland" tour, culminating with his inauguration next Wednesday.

A dozen state, county and local officials showed up, but the first two rows of the auditorium remained conspicuously empty, reflecting a smaller-than-expected turnout. Councilwoman Valerie Ervin, whose district includes Einstein High, was notably very absent, as was Nancy Floreen, who lives in neighboring Garrett Park. (Her secretary said she is biking in Vietnam this week.) In their place, non-elected officials worked the crowd - Hans Riemer, who lost to Ervin in the Democratic primaries; Dr. Dana Beyer, a fixture at these events; and a surprise showing from former state Senator Ida Ruben.

Martin O'Malley's opening comments were a throwback to the speeches of John F. Kennedy - "I promise that if we join together, put one foot in front of the other, we will make progress" - but the statements that followed weren't nearly as idealistic or even understandable, in a few cases. The parade of disgruntled citizens speaking their piece to our elected officials was compared to "a comedy" by the woman sitting next to me.

When Ike Leggett opened the floor to questions, people filled the aisles. Perhaps seventy people were in line to ask a question, but after ninety minutes of back-and-forth between the panel and the people, Leggett pulled the plug (though not without letting several people ask the "last question"), leaving quite a few people frustrated after waiting so long.

The mood of frustration was fueled by some speakers who didn't seem to understand time limits. The spokeswoman for the Vietnamese Community of D.C., Maryland and Virginia, spent two minutes regurgitating the national anthem in broken English only to ask Martin O'Malley if her group could be invited to his inaugural parade, eliciting moans and a few laughs from the audience.

Most of the questions fielded to the panel concerned transportation, or more specifically the InterCounty Connector. One Longmead Crossing resident who launched into a tirade about the highway. "You can't do anything about [traffic], you can't even address it, and it all comes back to that six-lane highway," he snarled, eliciting a swell of applause and cheers from the audience. Rich Parsons, former president of the Chamber of Commerce and "speaking as a private citizen for the first time," was the lone supporter and got quite a few boos, which eventually turned to cheers when he brought up the Purple Line.

However, the most boos were reserved for one gentleman from Wheaton, who riffed on the money wasted by our "250,000 uninvited guests," by which he meant illegal immigrants. Even Ike didn't sound too enthusiastic telling the audience to let him speak. The gentleman, a "dorky white guy" of the dorkiest sort, told O'Malley he could find a solution: "You're a smart guy, smarter than I am-" but he was cut off: "No, if I were smart, I wouldn't have run for public office," and the man was quieted.

Despite the feeling that entire civic associations were bused in to promote their pet projects, the event was very successful. Many people have accused O'Malley of lacking substance, and his flowery, feel-good language wouldn't have done much to change their opinions, but it does inspire. He dominated the event, leaving the straight-talking Porcari, reticent Brown and a subdued Leggett to sit and stare. Afterwards, Hans Riemer suggested that Leggett "could have led the event more," a given since the sign in front of Einstein pegged him as The Host. Perhaps it's just that hard to eclipse the lead singer of a Celtic rock band.

On to Part Two . . .


Terry in Silver Spring said...

I view public meetings as almost a form of theater. You have a lot of good, sane people who ask questions from all sorts of viewpoints. You also get a number of eccentric folks who may not be on topic, may not stick to a time limit, and may not even ask a question, but it's their right to stand up.

Boy, the guy with immigration issues sure chose a unusual part of the country/region in which to live. Not only are Silver Spring and Wheaton very diverse with a high percentage of immigrants, but it's something many folks take as a point of pride. I guess he's part of the diversity, too.

So, what's this about reading the blogs?

MoCo said...

In the part of Montgomery County in which I live, a somewhat similar statement about the uninvited guests was made at a large meeting at our high school. It was greated with a great deal of support from other participants, many of whom are (legal) immigrants. I know they are legal because I've heard their stories of how they legally immigrated to the USA.

I can only conclude that Silver Spring is filled with illegal aliens (but we already know that).

Terry in Silver Spring said...

Silver Spring is filled with a few of every kind of person.

Dorky White Guy said...

Terry in Silver Spring is (purposefully) confusing "immigrants" with "illegal aliens." I hope no American takes as a point of pride the 12+ million people who flout our immigration laws, drive down wages, drive up the cost of social services, add to traffic congestion, add to suburban sprawl, etc., etc., etc.

As for "choosing a part of the country/region" to live in, I was born in Washington DC and moved to Wheaton in 1981. Some of my friends have moved farther and farther out over the past two decades to escape the crime and squalor caused by the influx of poor, uneducated Third World illegal aliens. I choose to stand & fight

Kevin Gillogly said...


The guy from Wheaton had lived there for over 25 years so he has seen the changes in Wheaton first hand. And while I may not agree with him, he does get points for something unpopular in public and stand by them.

thecourtyard said...

I actually admire the man from Wheaton for staying put. If you want to argue that "illegal immigrants create suburban sprawl," I'd say it's because of white flight from closer-in communities as other people move in. Obviously, "dorky white guy" appreciates his neighborhood and wants to keep it safe, and that's a very noble position in an era when people move every few years.

Silver Spring Penguin said...

Thanks for the link, and congratulations on your good coverage of the event.

BTW, there are some short videos of the event posted on YouTube:

-- O'Malley on immigration
-- O'Malley on the ICC
-- Some guy on financing the ICC

My photographer didn't get footage of the "dorky white guy." Too bad, because he did a nice job spelling out his case.

Anonymous said...

The portion of congestion created by too large numbers of immigrants, legal or illegal, be they from Pittsburgh or elsewhere, can be solved if the root causes of large populatin migrations are addressed. Why do people flee their homes and travel hundreds or thousands of miles? What went wrong or continues to be wrong in their communities that continues to drive them to move elsewhere in large numbers? There's the solution.

get real said...

dorky white guy wants to "stand and fight?"

Is this the new face of the anti-immigrant movement?

MoCoProgressive and the other immigrant haters accuse the immigrants (with little real evidence) of being violent and dangerous, but it sounds to me like dorky white guy and his cohorts are the ones threatening violence ("stand and fight")

Could dorky white guy please spell out exactly whom he plans to fight so those poor potential victims can notify appropriate authorities before the fact?

Anonymous said...

Cudos to the Dorky Guy. We have laws for a reason. Lawlessness breeds anarchy and destruction. It is our rules and enforcement of law that attracts investment and creates a society that can flourish. We ARE undergoing an invasion. Whether some want to admit this or not will not change the reality of it. It is encouraging to see not everyone is cowering in fear from the ad hominin attack.

Dorky White Guy said...

Earth to Get Real: Get real!

1) Re-read my previous post about those who purposefully equate "immigrant" with "illegal aliens" because they can't defend their position intellectually.

2) There is a large body of evidence that shows illegal aliens are responsible for a share of violent crime all out of proporation to their (considerable!) numbers:

Their incarceration alone costs taxpayers billions -- not to mention the suffering of the victims they rape and murder. Go talk to the family of the Marine killed by a drunk illegal alien on Thanksgiving.

3) I am chosing to stand and Fight the Power that is abetting the illegal alien invasion of Montgomery County for personal gain: corrupt politicans, greedy real estate developers, criminal enterprises that disguise themselves as nonprofits, and selfish yuppies. These are my "poor potential victims."

raven said...

O'Malley will be the greatest Governor in the state's history except for Schaeffer. He will divert major transportation funding from the Washington suburbs to Baltimore by taking advantage of the unsettled Purple Line debate to build new transit in Baltimore. No one here really uses transit, but since its Montgomery County's money no one really minds.