Newly announced Independent candidate for County Executive Nancy Floreen is known as a developer’s politician. Many left and even liberal publications have said this throughout her career, from her position on the County Planning Board to the County Council. Socialists seeking to differentiate themselves from liberal or progressive attacks on Floreen should delve more deeply into exactly who these developers are, and further examiner Floreen’s governing ideology if we really want to discredit her campaign.
The campaign for a $15 minimum wage was solid proof that Floreen does not believe the State has a role to play in ensuring workers have a living wage. This was clear at every point of the campaign until last year’s vote on the final watered-down bill.
Outside contentious votes on wages, the Montgomery County Council tends to prefer the final vote on a bill to be unanimous, or with as few dissenting votes as possible. The final vote is also the most watered down version of any bill, as it’s likely been hacked to pieces in the relevant committee appointed to review it. So to get a glimpse at Floreen’s political ideology, it’s worth seeing where she was a dissenting vote in the committees she’s served on: the Planning, Housing and Economic Development (PHED) and the Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment (T&E). It’s a remarkable coincidence that Floreen happens to sit on committees in charge of the sectors where a majority of her campaign contributions come from.
Floreen is a centrist-Democrat but acts more like a Republican on matters of private business. When she is confronted on issues such as regulations, land-use, or tax credits she is consistently sympathetic or in full agreement with the testimony of the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Chamber of Commerce, the Germantown-Gaithersburg Chamber of Commerce, and other Chamber branches in the County.
There is a distinct sense that everything Floreen objects to, she objects at least in part because it violates principles of Free Market Capitalism. For instance, she backed away from all attempts to interfere in how County employee pension funds were invested, even if it was in the most minimal way possible. A 2017 resolution to encourage the County employee pension fund managers to minimize investments in fossil fuels and, “apply environmental & economically sound decision making,” when investing passed 8-1 over Floreen’s objection. She asserted that the fiduciary duty for investors already existed and was sufficient based on her knowledge. This demonstrates a remarkable faith in financial investors more generally and a laissez-faire approach to restraining capital.
More recently, Floreen objected to the bare minimum of building new affordable housing. Hans Reimer introduced Bill 38-17 last year (we wrote about it, see our website on December 2017) and it is relatively decent attempt at raising the required percentage of Moderately Priced Dwelling Units (MPDUs) built in certain areas of the county. To put it briefly, it requires a higher percentage (15%) of MPDUs be built in developments where at least 50% of the median household income is at least 150% of the County-wide median household income. During the PHED committee hearing on June 18, 2018 Floreen was the only council member to not recommend this policy. Her excuses all reflected the fears of the property-owning class: would the higher MPDU mandate would be accompanied with density bonuses and public benefits points? Will the Council also be able to mandate the 15% MPDU according to median household income and during Master Plan approval process?
Floreen may try to pose as a moderate Democrat who wants affordability, but her voting record doesn’t reflect her being accepting of even basic avenues of pursuing economic integration.
Finally, rather than just blurt out the accusation that Nancy Floreen is a developer puppet, let’s exert the minimum of effort in at least naming particular developers. Otherwise, we become bait for liberals looking for an excuse to dismiss the accusation as name-calling. Let’s take a concrete example of Stormwater Management tax credits.
The County awards tax credits to companies that reinvest capital in upgrading their treatment facilities that manage stormwater runoff. In June of 2016 County Executive Ike Leggett recommended Resolution 18-545, a new regulation on how the tax credits were distributed under the County’s Water Quality Protection Charge. Paul Chod of Minkoff Development argued the new regulations would make his business ineligible for tax credits. Under Leggett’s regulation, credits would be based on the Maryland Department of the Environment’s Stormwater Management criteria for new or newly renovated construction standards, not the standards of when Chod’s Minkoff-owned facilities were first constructed.
Under Mr. Chod’s fantasy, a company that invests in more up-to-date management and treatment (and presumably the most public good), would compete for tax credits with doing the bare minimum because the criteria for improvement is based on the time of their construction. Nancy Floreen appeared to agree with Chod’s poorly written testimony opposing Res 18-545, she voted against it in both committee and in the final vote. In yet another remarkable coincidence, Paul Chod and the Chod family donated $9,000.00 to Nancy Floreen between the 2006 and 2014 elections.
All these examples lead us to a few general conclusions about how the County Executive office would operate under a Floreen administration: public money for private capital via incentives and subsidies, veto stronger regulations on the market, opposition to anything progress that will come from a new County Council that doesn’t appear to be itself disposed to progressive legislation. Nancy Floreen has been instrumental in holding back the County from progressive legislation as a County Councilor. Now she wants more power to rollback our progress as County Executive.