Friday, April 11, 2008

robert patton, back in burtonsville and on the defense

Part SIX of our "District 4 Head-to-Head Tour," which seeks to interview all eight candidates running in a special election to replace Councilmember Marilyn Praisner, who passed away in February. A primary will be held April 15, followed by a general election May 13.

County Council candidate Robert Patton, left, and his brother and campaign manager William, at the Starbucks in Burtonsville. For more information about Robert Patton, check out his campaign website.

If you've ever been to the Turf Center on Route 198 in Spencerville, you've bought sod from the Pattons, who've been landscaping Montgomery County yards for seventy years. Last Monday, I talked to two Pattons - Republican District 4 candidate Robert and his brother and campaign manager William, himself a former council hopeful - about Burtonsville, McMansions, and just what's wrong with the County establishment.

It was hard to get a word in between their rapid-fire conversation, and you can clearly tell how close they are. "We bounce ideas off each other all the time," says Robert. "I guess that's an advantage. I got more than one head to think with."

Robert decided to run because he was frustrated by politics and politicians. The County Council is distracted by "issues they feel aren't that important because it meant they didn't have to deal with other things," Robert laments. "I understand that new problems have new needs . . . but what tends to happen is you neglect your core responsibilities. On basic terms, it's your schools, your police force, your roads. Everything that makes the basic quality of living."

Meanwhile, those in his own party aren't holding true to their own ideals. "The Republicans are saying 'we gotta cut spending' but you ask them 'you wanna build the Purple Line' they all say yes," says Robert. "I don't think it's a worthwhile investment . . . who's gonna ride the Purple Line but the people who watch kids in Bethesda?" he says, suggesting that a line on Route 29 would be more successful.

"I could never play their game," he adds. "I might never be successful in politics but I'd sleep better at night knowing I tried."

so much more AFTER THE JUMP . . .

"You know with Howie Denis and Steve Silverman there was a better feeling on the council," says William. He points out that former Democratic councilmember Silverman and the Patton brothers represented a horse farm on Route 198 that was shut down because their weekly equestrian shows caused "a lot of traffic on the roads, and people complained," Robert says. "Now they have a hundred fifty houses and now they have traffic every day instead of just on Sundays . . . there's animosity between the farm and the neighbors when we'd really just want to see a farm."

"I hate these McMansions with yards that you could cut with a weedeater, they're so small," says Robert. If elected, he would seek a minimum one-acre lot for new homes in East County - or seek other uses for the land altogether.

"We're looking at what's a better use for the land after the father's done with his land and he wants to pass it on to his kids - like a driving range or a church or something," adds William.

Robert questions the commitment of people who complain that the East County doesn't have enough amenities. "They move here for the government jobs and they make a lot of demands but they aren't planning to retire here," he says.

While he supports the proposed Burtonsville Access Road, Robert's skeptical about further development in the village center. "I think there are a lot of amenities out here. I'm kind of partial to the green space," he says. "Burtonsville's always sort of looked like an afterthought. It was meeting a demand. It was never architecturally pleasing . . . I don't begrudge Burtonsville, but I wouldn't take a girlfriend here, maybe to Seibel's for a milkshake."

Suddenly, Robert and William launch into nostalgia. "There was a tractor dealership where the Free State used to be," says William.

"I used to go to the Amish Market for ham sandwiches," Robert adds. "Even when I was a kid I used to go there it was a Chesapeake Bay Seafood House. My parents took me there when I got A's on my report card."

William laughs. "Who thought we were gonna have a Starbucks in Burtonsville. This used to be a driving range."

Robert replies with a sigh. "That's sort of the kind of rural flair this area used to have."

The rural village charm isn't what drove Robert out of the Burtonsville area twenty years ago. As a sophomore, he left Paint Branch High School because "people were stabbing each other and there were thirty students in class and teachers couldn't handle it," he states.

"I remember I was at a party not too far from here and somebody got stabbed or pulled a knife on somebody and the police came," says Robert. "And my friends . . . they said 'Hey, there are some nice cars in the neighborhood. Let's go steal stuff.' and I thought 'Who are these friends I'm picking?'"

The following day, Robert's hockey team traveled to New Jersey to play Lawrenceville, a boarding school outside of Princeton. He was so inspired by the grandeur of the campus that he immediately applied to a dozen schools across New England before being accepted to one in Connecticut. "All of a sudden I was in classes with six to twelve students, and you had to do your homework," says Robert. "You couldn't hide it."

He proposes giving Montgomery County parents a property tax rebate that functions as a voucher for private schools, reducing the school system's budget while also helping students who like himself did not feel comfortable in a public institution. "The school voucher thing isn't so much I'm partial to private schools but you're spending nine grand a kid and the schools are one hundred percent at capacity you take twelve hundred dollars and they'll be under," says Robert.

"I would argue that this would cost the county $30 million but in three years it would make them $100 million," adds William.

After prep school, college and several years living in El Salvador - first in the Peace Corps, later working for the Salvation Army World Service Office - Robert returned to Burtonsville and was shocked at how much it had changed. "Coming back, you know, it's like seeing your nephew in ten years, you don't recognize anything," says Robert. Rising house prices forced him out of humanitarian work and into landscaping, which he had done before leaving.

"He's great at it, he's fluent in Spanish," William says.

As a contractor, Robert finds himself embroiled in the ongoing debate over illegal immigration, but he favors extending rights - like workman's compensation and time-and-a-half - to workers legally in the country. "Anyone that's worth employing is worth employing right," he says.

However, he is skeptical about the effectiveness of Casa de Maryland, a government-supported agency who runs a day laborer center in Takoma Park. "The Casa program, it has good intentions and it sort of keeps them on the grid, on the radar," says Robert, "and generally I'm in favor of it. But when you have budget problems I'm not sure if it's the best way to help the Latino community."

All of Robert's employees - many of whom have been there for several years - are legal, but he appreciates the struggle all immigrants went through to get here. "The most ambitious and hardworking of the Latinos are the ones who save six thousand dollars in a place where you can make ten dollars an hour to pay a coyote who can get you across the border just so you can stand outside Home Depot trying to get a job," says Robert. "I got a lot of respect for that kind of character just to begin with . . . and then once you're here send ten percent of your income back home."

Twenty years ago, he couldn't get out of Burtonsville fast enough, but now Robert hopefully plans to stick around. "If I had some guarantee that District 4 would remain the way it is, with acres of green space, however we decide to use them, I'd consider staying," he says. "I think most candidates would say yes but most of them are lying. Everyone wants to go to Florida, but my family's been here . . . it just makes sense."


Anonymous said...

You didn't mention that Robert Patton , who is running in Tuesday's Republican Primary, was quoted in the Gazette as saying he had voted for John Kerry for President.

Sligo said...

It's amusing that someone who sells turf for a living wants to to mandate a minimum yard size. I wish my house was on a whole acre.

Chesapeake Bay Seafood House... get all the seafood YOU CAN EAT!

Thomas Hardman said...

Republican Party Ideals aren't stamped out frozen. We are a party of individual conscience.

To suggest that supporting a mass-transit project that will be primarily funded by a Federal-Corporate consort somehow makes us untrue to ideals -- partisan or otherwise -- of promoting efficiency and savings for the taxpayer, that's disingenuous at best.

Major capital infrastructure investment in transit is a core ideal in all modern Urban Planning, and in a time of increasing scarcity of traditional fuels such as oil for internal combustion engines, shifting as much commuting as possible to highly-efficient rail is clearly desirable. Aside from that particular efficiency, at present there is a significant ridership already commuting from the general area of Silver Spring to Bethesda/Chevy-Chase, and it's not efficient use of their time or money to have to travel all of the way downtown and back out again.

Regardless of the economic class of the ridership, everyone pays the same fare.

A significant percentage of the projected ridership of the Purple Line are Federal employees working in the lower and middle grades at facilities in or near Bethesda, such as the National Institutes of Health main campus or the National Library of Medicine.

This ridership would only increase under the
Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC)
which will bring at least another 2500 commuters into the vicinity of the present Bethesda Naval Medical Center, which sits right across the street from NIH. The Bethesda Naval Hospital is widely and rightly considered the flagship of Naval Medicine.

Considering that strong support of our Armed Forces is not merely a core ideal of the Republican Party, but also of all decent Americans, I can only pray that Mr Patton was entirely ignorant of the probability of a high military or military-support ridership of the Purple Line.

Further, as the Purple Line is expected to pass through the campus of the University of Maryland at College Park, student ridership is expected to be significant. The Purple Line also creates a more direct and speedy access route for academician and medical researcher transit between the North Rockville campus of Johns Hopkins and the University of Maryland, with NIH and Bethesda Naval Medical conveniently in the middle, without having to make a U-turn through downtown Washington.

If Mr Patton wants to go ahead and characterize world-class scientists and the US military as "babysitters", he can go right ahead. I would never stoop to that level of disrespect and can only hope that he will take the sensible out, and apologize profusely on the grounds of outright ignorance. As he has said, he was out of the country for ten years and can't reasonably be expected to know what the heck is going on in the region.

It's fairly safe to say that the Purple Line might not much benefit the voters in District 4, but the inner county and in fact the whole Greater Washington Metropolitan Area would benefit.

I am further astounded that Mr Patton suggests that Legal Immigrant workers should be extended coverage of Workman's Compensation and time-and-a-half pay for overtime. It is already a violation of Federal law -- and has been for probably longer than Mr Patton has been alive -- to fail to do so. That's one of the reasons that unscrupulous employers prefer Illegal Alien workers. They can be paid less because if the employer is already violating a string of Federal labor and immigration laws, what's one more violation on the long list.

I further am actually aghast at Mr Patton's expressed admiration for people who sell themselves into bondage as indentured servants, who owe much of their income to transnational criminal organizations that specialize in trafficking in human cargo.

I am a German-American whose ancestry goes back to the very early Colonies, most of my ancestors who came here came because they were in flight from the widespread devastation and scorched earth left by the Thirty Years War, followed by religious persecution and the worst winter in 1000 years of recordskeeping. We didn't sell ourselves into indentured servitude because we thought we could make a quick buck in America.

We sold ourselves into indentured servitude because the Dutch had kindly shipped us from the Rhinelands for every last cent we had, however much that was, and then they dropped us off on a barren island and said "if you want to ever get off of this island, you will be working in the Americas for 7 to 14 years as a 'serve'". The alternative was inescapable death. We did it, we're here, and we hate everything to do with indentured servitude as much as we hate slavery of any form. Yet there's nothing we despise more, while on this subject, than people who run that business, of transporting the desperate into servitude.

I sleep just fine at night, Mr Patton. It's not the blissful sleep of ignorance. Nor of someone who doesn't distinguish the fuzzy boundaries between freedom and bondage.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Hardman:

It is not that Robert Patton opposes the investment in public transportation, the Purple Line, the lavender line, the pink line, or any other Metro Line. Obviously, most of the money for the project will come from the Federal government, but in case you haven’t noticed, the Federal government is broke! We’re $9 trillion in debt; we have $500 billion dollar budget deficits for as far as one can predict; and a disaster in Iraq that is costing us $10 billion per month.

Let the Federal government take on some of these problems before it barrows more money from China to build a train line which it also has to subsidize the operation of. Furthermore, Metro also operates in the red and right now and Metro also needs to replace its fleet of circa 1976 train cars because of the cracked aluminum floors.

Thank you for the history lesson and information on your family. Robert’s family came here from Scotland in 1747; he is a descendent of William Thornton, designer of the U.S. Capitol Building; 11th President James K. Polk, General George S. Patton was his grandfathers second cousin, and all of that and $1.89 will buy you a cup of coffee at Starbucks. Immigrants, legal or otherwise have as much right to support their families as anyone else because we invited them here to the U.S.

I’d like to let you in a secret regarding federal immigration laws: They are never going to be enforced. Our “leaders” in Washington have embraced a de facto policy of open boarders with Mexico because it is the last inflationary control measure it has at its disposal now that the Federal Reserve and the Bush Administration has blown the value of the dollar. Complain about immigrants all you want, Mr. Hardman, but there is nothing you or anyone else can do about it because unlimited immigration is our governing elite’s policy by design.

The dollar can be revived if governments get their spending under control and Robert stands by his position that there is no point in being a Republican if we are going to support every spending program the Democrats advocate, including the Purple Line.

Anonymous said...

The last post was in fact by me, William Patton, Campaing Manager for Patton for County Council 4.


Thomas Hardman said...

Illegal immigrants have, in fact, no legal right whatsoever to work in the USA.

They are not invited, they are invaders. Entry without inspection is in fact merely a misdemeanor, however, the unscrupulous employers of illegal aliens are increasingly being targeted, and such programs as eVerify -- which of course I support, being a loyal American -- are starting to work for the citizens who at one time were able to trust their government.

Keep in mind that if I were to buy into that conspiracy theory, that isn't any recommendation for anyone to vote for any Republican, as we are widely believed to be the party of the elites. Indeed, if all that you suggest is true, no Republican should ever be elected to any public office for a suitable length of time. So, tell me, are you here to sell a Republican to the voters, or to blow the election and hand it to a Democrat?

The McCain-Kennedy "shamnesty" was soundly defeated due to deep opposition from the at-large populace of the country, from both parties. Though it's clear that enforcement efforts have been shortchanged due to the ballooning war-debt, that is changing due to public demand. When the Federal government abnegates its responsibilities, according to the Constitution, those powers fall to the States, or to the People.

I don't know why any candidate's campaign manager would be preaching capitulation. I certainly can't condone capitulation or collaboration. This local election, unlike the National elections, isn't set up in such a way that there's no candidate for office who opposes illegal immigration and insists on having the Federal ICE do their job, and is willing to try to scrape together something from the meager resources left to us.

As for the Purple Line, like many well-planned and well-deserved major Capital Improvement Projects both locally and nationwide, it must be put off, stretched out over time with a later start and much later finish date than was planned in an era of hugte budget surpluses in a booming economy.

I am not sure how you can possibly suggest that only Democrats want it. Are the military, the scientists and doctors, the office workers, and even the nannies of the rich who will also ride it, each and every last one a Democrat? Try telling that to one of the military men. I hope the one you tell that to, when they're stuck in insane gridlock trying to get across town to do the nation's work, happens to be a Republican. He'll mistake you for a Democrat, no doubt, and probably give you some harsh language.

Anonymous said...

As a Republican in this big nasty Democratic like District, I'm looking for reasons to pick someone I want to vote for. After reading such a cat fight between you two...about backgrounds and such, you make me think McKinnis is the right guy.