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Government & Politics

Political Notes: Pr. George’s School Board Chair Hangs on for Now, a New Subcabinet, and More

The Prince George’s County Public Schools headquarters in Upper Marlboro. Photo by Danielle E. Gaines.

A petition that sought to remove the head of the Prince George’s County Board of Education has been dismissed, though it is expected to be re-filed soon.

Six members of the county school board, along with some county residents, had filed the request to remove Board Chair Juanita D. Miller with the State Board of Education in July, after tensions on the board reached a high.

In an order sent to school officials on Wednesday, State Board of Education President Clarence C. Crawford wrote that the request had been dismissed because it wasn’t properly filed.

State law requires a petition for removal to include a detailed affidavit with specific details describing actions that could constitute a ground for removal from office. The petition filed by the board and community members did not include an affidavit, so was required by state law to be dismissed, Crawford wrote.

The petition was dismissed without prejudice, which means it can be re-filed. On Wednesday, the complainants said they were planning to re-file the petition soon.

The standard for removing school board members is high, requiring petitions to prove misconduct in office, immorality, incompetence, willful neglect of duty, or failure to attend meetings.

In the petition, board members said Miller had a continual pattern of making unilateral decisions on behalf of the board and that her behavior interfered with the board’s ability to function.

“I trust that our Board will now move forward with more collegiality and student driven issues in carrying out our fiduciary responsibilities,” Miller said in a brief emailed statement on Wednesday.

Progressive members elected to the school board and Miller, who was appointed to her position by County Executive Angela D. Alsobrooks (D), have repeatedly clashed during Miller’s tenure.

A task force empaneled to explore potential changes in the structure of the school board has tentatively recommended doing away with the board’s four appointed members.

Infrastructure subcabinet established

Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) established a subcabinet on Wednesday that will lead the implementation of the federal infrastructure plan in Maryland.

Hogan announced his deputy chief of staff, Allison S. Mayer, as infrastructure director, and said she will be responsible for convening the subcabinet and overseeing the state’s plan to implement the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act — which aims to rebuild the country’s aging public works system, transportation and climate resiliency.

“Over the past seven years we have made tremendous progress improving the infrastructure of our state, including roads, bridges, broadband, and transit. This is a once in a generation opportunity to accelerate economic growth and opportunity in our state, and I am honored to continue to serve the people of Maryland in this new role,” Mayer said in a statement. Mayer will also continue to serve as Hogan’s deputy chief of staff.

Hogan’s subcabinet will consist of secretaries of the budget and management department, transportation department, environment department and housing department. The Maryland Energy Administration and Maryland Environmental Service will also help advise the group, according to a press release.

“We were proud to help push the federal infrastructure law across the finish line, and it will be a great force multiplier for jobs, economic growth, and transformational projects that will leave a lasting impact,” Hogan said in a statement.

Since federal lawmakers struck a deal on the infrastructure plan, Hogan has been touting the role he played in the bipartisan agreement.

“Our team has been preparing for the implementation of this new law since bipartisan talks first began last year. With Allison’s appointment and the establishment of this new subcabinet, we are taking the next critical steps to advance even more priority projects across the state,” he said.

Emergency campaign finance fix introduced in Howard

After Howard County Councilmember Deb Jung (D) was denied matching funds from the county’s public campaign financing system over a technicality, Jung and her fellow council members introduced emergency legislation to correct that ruling Wednesday.

The county’s public financing law currently requires an election be contested for a candidate to receive public matching funds, and stipulates “whether an election is contested shall be decided on the first Tuesday in August preceding an election.”

Howard County Executive Calvin B. Ball III (D) interpreted that provision to apply to both primary and general elections. Jung didn’t get a primary challenger until December, and county officials said that meant they can’t distribute matching funds to her campaign. According to campaign finance documents, Jung’s campaign has qualified to receive more than $43,000 in matching funds.

All five Howard County Council members introduced the emergency bill at a meeting Wednesday evening to remove the provision that uses the first Tuesday in August to decide whether an election is contested. In addition to joining other council members in introducing the legislation, Chair Opel Jones (D) is co-sponsoring the legislation on Ball’s behalf.

The bill includes a provision that would allow Jung to receive matching funds for contributions that were collected before it goes into effect.

Foreign policy in gubernatorial race

During his unsuccessful bid to oust U.S. Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin in the 2018 Democratic primary, Jerome Segal spent an inordinate amount of time criticizing Cardin for his fealty to Israel and touting his own support for Palestinian rights.

Now, Segal, a retired University of Maryland lecturer and founder of the short-lived Bread and Roses Party, is trying to inject a conversation on Middle East policy into his campaign for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. Segal this week said he would seek to impose a conditional state government boycott of Israel.

That would be a full 180-degree change from the state’s current position. Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) in 2017 signed an executive order prohibiting state government from awarding a contract to any business that boycotts Israel or Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

Segal notes that in a series of candidate conversations last month sponsored by the Maryland State Bar Association, some prominent Democrats for governor, including Comptroller Peter V.R. Franchot and former Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler, vowed to keep Hogan’s executive order, part of the BDS movement in the U.S. (short for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions). Segal called these pledges “astounding.” (Others, like former Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez and former U.S. Education Secretary John B. King Jr., voiced concern that the ban violated first amendment rights to engage in boycotts.)

If elected, Segal said his boycott plan would, on day one, rescind the current ban on companies that boycott Israel or West Bank settlements and impose a freeze on all cooperative programs between Maryland government and the Israeli government. He said the freeze would remain in place until the Israeli government demonstrates a good faith effort to end the occupation in the West Bank.

“With the current Israeli government opposed to the two-state solution, and refusing to enter negotiations with the Palestinians, it is impossible to continue to regard the occupation of the West Bank as temporary, pending a peace agreements with the Palestinians,” Segal said. “The current Israeli government no longer pretends to be seeking an end to the occupation, yet it is adamantly opposed to extending the right to vote to the West Bank Palestinians under its rule.”


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Political Notes: Pr. George’s School Board Chair Hangs on for Now, a New Subcabinet, and More