Wednesday, March 18, 2009

It's the Law

A few commenters’ on my recent post about the stench emanating from the petition drive to overturn CB58 have suggested that somehow the rules of the game were changed to derail the effort and marginalize a citizen’s right to petition the government.

The rules were not changed. The law governing referendum petitions was in place before this effort was even contemplated.

The Maryland law is quite clear:

Section 6-203. Signers: information provided by signers.

In general. – To sign a petition, an individual shall:


sign the individual’s name as it appears on the statewide voter registration list or the individual’s surname of registration and at least one full given name and the initials of any other names; and

include the following information, printed or typed, in the spaces provided:

the signer’s name as it was signed;
the signer’s address;
the date of signing; and
other information required by regulations adopted by the State Board.


That seems pretty straightforward to me. If Marc Norman and his union buddies were not aware of the law it doesn’t mean that they weren’t bound by it.

47 comments:

Anonymous said...

According to this:

http://www.explorehoward.com/news/16600/referendum-drive-stopped-court-ruling/

signatures for referedum have been gathered the same way for 20 years. Now suddenly a change in practice.

That is problem #1

Problem #2 is that the Board of Elections guided the referendum leads the whole way through and even validated the signatures according to normal practices.

Hey, someone reading: Bring up an ancient law that no one abides by to support the point that if we're to be civilized then we must have rules and practices that apply to all equally, not subjectively as this validation/non-validation has done.

Anonymous said...

Far be it for WB to curse (much too patient) but what if he were the only one who was nabbed for the last of these?

Baltimore
It’s illegal to throw bales of hay from a second-story window within the city limits.
It’s illegal to take a lion to the movies.
It is a park rule violation to be in a public park with a sleeveless shirt.
No person who is a “tramp” or “vagrant” shall loiter in any park at any time.
It is a violation of city code to sell chicks or ducklings to a minor within 1 week of the Easter holiday.
Baltimore City
Though you may spit on a city roadway, spitting on city sidewalks is prohibited.
You may not curse inside the city limits.
Site: http://www.dumblaws.com/laws/united-states/maryland

wordbones said...

I may have taken a lioness or two to the movies but never a lion...not in Baltimore anyway.
-wb

Anonymous said...

Setting the bar this high for referenda would be problematic for this petition as well, rejecting a majority its signatures.

Tea, anyone?

Dave W said...

Wordbones,

I normally agree with you Wordbones on many things and have just as much dislike for the unions and Mark Norman, but the more I learn about this process and what happened, the petition supporters (Norman and the unions) got screwed on this, albeit not by any malicious or intentional means, by the Howard County Board of Elections.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:47, expand on that.

Tea is great when steeped to perfection. Leads to civilized behavior.

PZGURU said...

WB - you're leaving out the fact that there has apparently been an ongoing question about the interpretation/application of the law.

And, above and beyond that, you would rather use some technicality to overturn thw petition instead of letting the meat and potatos of the petition be addressed.

When I say technicality, I mean does it really make a difference if someone left out their middle initial and or used "Jim" instead of "James"? Get real.

I can't begin to tell you and the rest of the blogosphere how many times DEVELOPERS or dispicable ATTORNEYS have been show a little leeway on the strict interpretation of the laws.

IF you're going get all self righteous about absoultely strict interpretation and enforcement of the laws, at least apply it across the board to everyone, not just people on the opposite of an issue from you. HYPOCRITE!

RespectTheVote said...

Why do you feel compelled to villify Norman or the unions? They represent people who are exercising their right to seek redress by petitioning the government. It appears they sought and followed the Board of Elections’ guidelines that have been in place for decades.

People who don’t agree with the referendum should refuse to sign the petition and vote NO on election day.

Every citizen of our state has suffered the loss of their voting rights. The ONLY viable course of action is for ALL citizens, regardless of their political philosophy, to DEMAND that the 9,000 signatures are respected and place the question on the ballot.

PZGURU said...

Wordbones also neglects to address the fact that the staff at the Elections Board apparently advised Mr. Norman et al that the way they were doing it wasa acceptable.

DPZ has hundreds of "policy interpretations" that you can not find in the actual various zoning laws of the County. Maybe the Elections Board implemented similar policy interpretations regarding the signature collection process. If that is the case, then the Courts should accept it, or at the least, the Petitioners should get an extension to correct the so-called "erroneous" signatures.

wordbones said...

RespectTheVote,

Thank you for your comment but I must respectfully disagree with the notion that these petitions should be accepted. There are more problems with these petitions besides signatures and proper name spellings.

First off, allow me to acknowledge that Marc Norman has been a dealt a disservice in this episode. I think Mr. Hedgehog summed up the situation very nicely in http://www.hedgehogreport.com/?cat=16.

Thanks Dave.

On the other hand Mr. Norman is no saint in this dog fight either. There are legitimate questions as to whether these union employees were paid for collecting signatures though they signed an affidavit saying they weren't. Most employees signed the union office in Towson as their mailing address before scratching it out and writing in their home address. Some came from as far away as Wilmington, Delaware to "volunteer."

That just doesn't pass the sniff test with this dog.

-wb

Anonymous said...

Time to get that sniffer checked. People travel 12,000 miles to volunteer for aid and medical organizations providing relief in dangerous war zones and you find it hard to believe a few people here would travel 1/100th as far to lend a hand in suburbia helping to maintain middle class jobs of their coworkers?

Just for reference, altruism smells like roses.

RespectTheVote said...

wordbones,

While the allegations of impropriety should be reviewed, they are COMPLETELY separate from the Board of Elections' retroactive decision to reverse their certification of the petition signatures.

The manner in which they diverged from the petition certification processes they have been using for more than 20 years is both outrageous and dangerous in a democracy.

Please do not confuse this constitutional issue with any of the allegations contained in the January lawsuit filed against the Board of Election by Brian Gibbons, Richard Talkin and Sang Oh.

Irregardless of one's political viewpoint, EVERY American should stand up for fairness, due process and citizens' rights (which the government seems all too eager to dilute and evicerate).

PZGURU said...

WORDBONES - you don't have any proof whatsoever that the petitioners got paid! You're on a wild fishing expedition. And, even if they did, that is still allowable under the law, as long they properly claim/document it.

You're a real schmo. You castigate someone based on your sense of smell (which is difficult at best since you're nose is so far up ____'s backside) without any proof. BWAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!

Yet in several past instances, you've completely ignored concrete proof and evidence of wrongdoing by certain people (ie: politicians) in the County.

Seriously, can you explain yourself????

I'm sure you'll duck and run, and dismiss my questions since you don't like my tone. Too bad. If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. Stop picking "fights" with people, attacking other people for exercising their constitutional right to their point of view, and then running home like a sissy when you get called out on your hypocrisy!

Anonymous said...

PZ,

What concrete proof and evidence of wrongdoing by politicians do you have? I believe we would all be interested to know.

Thanks in advance.

Anonymous said...

Anon, you want concrete proof of wrongoing? Look no further than a developer's website for a letter that our council went far out of their way to construct and unanimously sign in support of a developer while thoroughly disconnecting from their duty to represent all equally. This letter represented many things, including preferential treatment for this developer - very wrong if we are still a Democracy.

By their own hand. Can't get more concrete than that.

Anonymous said...

What is meant by wrongdoing? Does that mean illegal? Does that mean unethical? Does that mean "did not do what I wanted them to do?"

This is very confusing!

Anonymous said...

"behavior or action that is wrong, evil, or blameworthy."

dictionary.com

Anonymous said...

good definition, but isn't that subjective?

Anonymous said...

If we all have to refrain from subjectivity, this would be a boring conversation, and the last conversation.

Anonymous said...

Anon,

I agree that subjectivity has its place, but when folks such as this PZ person say they have "concrete proof and evidence of wrongdoing," my first urge is "throw the bums out."

However, if the basis for this "proof" is subjective, and is not based on facts, my ire is directed back to those who throw up baseless claims. If there is "concrete proof" of politicians engaging in illegal or unethical behavoir, let's see it. Otherwise stop with the rumor-mongering.

Anonymous said...

Stop the pretense of objectifying.

He said "wrongdoing".

Darn that printed conversation thing. It's just so easy to see what was actually said.

PZGURU said...

ANON 9:22 a.m. - are you serious? You are totally overlooking Wordbone's lack of concrete proof for his "smell" that the signature collectors got paid or somehow did something wrong, but demand it of me.

Fortunately, I CAN back up my claims, and have done so countless times on my blog posts and via commenting on various other blog sites. As someone who worked in DPZ for a number of years, I had first hand knowledge of "favortism" and bending/breaking of the laws for certain attorneys and developers. I am not going to recount all of the specifics here because it take far too long.

I will however, pass on your demand to the esteemed Mr. Lane for him to address - although I have to say that he normally refuses such questions as he is above reproach. He can sling mud at others but he does not take kindly to mud being slung at him.

He thinks that passive agressive behavior is great. You know those people who insult other people with a smile and think that the smile somehow makes their insult less of an insult (the view it as being clever). But, when you are direct with them, they call you venomous, hateful, and vitriolic.

Anonymous said...

PZGURU,

Yes, I am serious. The Tales of Two Cities did not make statements of "concrete proof." You did. Just saying it does not make it so.

Help us understand.

PZGURU said...

Anon - on more than one occasion, Wordbones has level the accusation that the signature collectors were paid, even though Mr. Norman et al signed documentation saying they were not paid. Where is WB's evidence?????

As I stated, I have provided ample concrete evidence (not hearsay) of certain actions/event that I was aware of when I worked at DPZ. I am recounting those events since it would take a lont time, and I don't know which specific issue you are inquiring about.

I, along with most of the other employees, kept a record of actions taken by certain officials for certain lawyers or developers so that I wouldn't be used as a scape goat if the "you know what" hit the fan.

The evidence is not there just because I say so but because the plans are there, and so are the case files (except for the ones that disappeared inexplicably).

The reality is that a mountain of concrete evidence could hit you square in your craneum but when you have an agenda you just turn a blind eye to it.

Anonymous said...

Mr. (Ms?) PZGuru,

Regardless of Tales of Two Cities claims, you independently assert "wrongdoing," which may or may not be actionable. I have read your claims and heard many others state that various government individuals (both employed and elected) are "beholden to developers."

But we never see anything except the allegation.

It's time to stop poisoning the water.

I do not expect you, PZGUru, to defend all, but please, please, please, provide a photo, a document, something to demonstrate more than has been revealed thus far. I hear you when you say you have quite a lot of documentation, but a concise example would go a long way at this point.

Otherwise, the continued shouting into the wind that "concrete proof" exists, without any concrete, undermines your well stated cause.

PZGURU said...

Ok Anon, I'll give one example (of course this example has been provided in the past when I was my lengthy debates with the blogger Hayduke a few years back).

There was a property owner, last name Nazario, who filed a waiver petition (I don't recall the number but it could be looked up at DPZ) to not have to use a shared driveway. The subdivision regulations require shared driveways on certain classificaiton of roads. The waiver was not approved, citing the requirement to submit a speed study and a sight distance study (as was always required for this type of waiver - but that wouldn't guarantee approval). The owner balked, called Guy Guzzone, who in turn forced the Planning Director to come to the site and "approve" the waiver. The property owner did not have to submit a speed study or sight distance study, the owner was not required to re-record the subdivison plat to remove the shared driveway easement, and the waiver was never actually signed as approved by the Planning Director, even though all those things are required by law. The owner did not want to have to spend the money to do those things, even though every other person who has received such a legitimate waiver approval has had to do so.

Oh, and did I mention that the property owner donated $200 (I believe) to Mr Guzzone's campaign fund a few weeks before the waiver was "approved"? You can verify that at the Election Board records (I did).

Oh, and did I mention that the waiver petition file disappeared from the DPZ file room, and the last time I checked, it was still "lost" - I'm sure by accident.

Oh, and did I mention that there were similar waivers requested by other citizens (not developers) whose applications were denied, even though they did provide the requisite speed study and sight distance study? I bet they'd be pretty pissed off to know that all they had to do to get an approval was call Mr. Guzzone and donate some money to his coffers.

Beyond that example, how about:

Iron Bridge Wine Company site plan.

Comp Lite Re-Zoning for Bethel Korean Presbyterian Church (which amounts to an illegal "spot zoning" since (1) there is no other POR zone adjacent or near to the church property and (2) because the only reason why the zoning was changed was to let the Church get around having to file for a Special Exception for expansions as every other church in the County has to do. Why didn't Ken Ulman and Guy Guzzone, who oversaw the rezoning process, grant POR zoning for ALL churches in the County? Could it be because Bethel was represented by a close personal friend of Mr. Ulman - Sang Oh?

And, even beyond that one part of Comp Lite, Ulman and Guzzone accepted numerous rezoning requests after the legal deadline.

There are MANY more examples, including projects where the County DPW "waived" the developer from having to do required infrastructure improvements, and then tax payer dollars were used to make the improvements. I don't think that's appropriate, do you?

Anonymous said...

Also, anon, check out the lawsuit from Kendall/Gray - they have multiple examples.

Not that any example would satisfy you. Ulman takes $7500 from Metroventures and suddenly they are the recipient of a contract for 4 million in taxpayer money. Look that up online as well.

But still, you'll ask for more proof, focus on trivia to elude the main focus. Doesn't work anymore - see the citizen comments on explorehoward.com - apparently everyone in the county knows about the bias of elected officals but you.

PZGURU said...

Well, ANON 6:51 p.m. - is that concrete enough?

Please also keep in mind, a lot of times there is NO paper trail when rules are broken. Nobody's gonna put a note in the file or on a plan that says "Hey - we arbitrarily waived some rules and regulations for political purposes". You'd have to know about it at the time it happened, or you'd have to scrutinize the plans one by one and who has the time to do that? And, even if you did find something, it would just be claimed that it was an honest oversight.

Since was in DPZ, I have the unfortunate and unpleasant advantage of knowing about too many "oversights" that weren't so honest (and I'm not talking about things that the review staff did - I'm talking about instances where politicians stuck their nose in the process and pulled strings).

Anonymous said...

The silence is deafening.

wordbones said...

Sounds more like innuendo and hearsay than what I would call "concrete" evidence.

-wb

Anonymous said...

Wb: That's all ya got?

wordbones said...

I personally don't think these "allegations" warrant much more that.

PZGURU said...

What a shocker! Wordbones closes his eyes and sticks his head in the sand to ignore facts.

Go look for the file then. Go try and find the re-recorded plat that removes the shared driveway easement. You won't find one in Land Records.

Please tell me what part(s) of the evidence I provided is innuendo???

You and Hayduke really are amazing. Everything you guys say is legit but everything anyone else says is "innuendo". BWAHAHAHA!!!

You parse words, you speak in half truths, you distort everything other people say or do. You would make a GREAT politician!

Bandit said...

No, sir. That’s not a shocker. This
is a shocker.

Anonymous said...

Dear PZGURU,
Your information could be helpful. would you be willing to share it?
People for Transparency

Anonymous said...

PZGURU,

I appreciate your anecdotal story; however, as you predict, I believe it still does not provide much in the way of “concrete proof.”

You state that a property owner filed for a waiver for a driveway and was denied. You then state that the property owner called Guy Guzzone. Do you have the phone record?

You then state that Guzzone forced the Planning Director to come to the site and approve the waiver. Do you have pictures of Guzzone and the Planning Director, on the day in question, on site? Is there a log of the Planning Director’s activities that day? You then state that the Planning Director did not sign any waiver.

You then go on to state that the property owner donated money to Guzzone’s campaign fund. Interestingly, you hedge your statement to “I believe.” Indicating your own lack of confidence in this “concrete” assertion.

Based on the particulars you have shared, a property owner wanted a waiver and was denied. At some point later, a non-shared driveway appeared on the property owner’s property. No waiver was signed and no plats were re-recorded (I take it from your narrative that the plat remains unchanged from before the waiver was submitted, but I could be wrong). Given these events, would not an equally plausible explanation be that the property owner took it upon himself to put in the driveway without approval? That would certainly explain the lack of “approval” of the waiver and also explain why the plat records have not been updated.

It also dispenses with the cloak and dagger Howard County that you present.

Before you respond, please understand that I am not naïve. I understand that there is a potential for quid pro quo. However, this campaign to promote the appearance of quid pro quo, then passing this off as actual quid pro quo has got to stop.

Anonymous said...

I don't care if there was no money placed in his campaign.

PZ is not the first ex-county employee to make these claims, so if you, anon, are not naive then start talking like it. Or stop talking like you are an elected official.

What you assert is not possible based on the request from Guzzone to the DPZ to go ahead.

It's all in who you trust or your penchant for truth. If you trust the local gov't, that is, our representatives who went out of their way to construct an anti-citizen, anti-vote, anti-referendum letter in gushing support of a developer who hid ground chemical contamination from the public, you are so terribly off base.

Regarding truth, this referedum item has been an exercize in a wave of realization that too many people are narcissistic where the break-down in equal distribution of basic rights is concerned.

But, you can say what you want. It's a free speech Democracy - at least for some.

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:00 AM,

What are you talking about?

PZGURU said...

ANON 10:14 p.m. - You are distorting what I said/wrote.

When I said "...I believe..." I was referring to the dollar amount made, not whether there was or wasn't a contribution made. There WAS a contribution made, I just wasn't sure, off the top of my head whether the amount was $200 or $250, but it was in that range.

Mr. Guzzone came to the DPZ office, where I was part of a short discussion with him and the Planning Director, and that's when it was conveyed that the two of them were going to the site together. So I saw him with my owneyes, and heard him talk with my own ears - so that's no hearsay (or hearsight - hehe).

The waiver was not outright denied (I should have been more clear in that); additional info was requested from the applicant. The additional info requested was the speed study and sight distance study.

The applicant NEVER supplied that info.

I know that formal action was not taken on the waiver, because as the reviewer, I would have had to type up the document for the Director's signature, and I would also have to sign it. THAT NEVER HAPPENED!!!

And, if it had been properly approved, the applicant would have been required to re-record the plat as a condition of approval, just as was required of any other approved applicant for that type of waiver (to not have to use a shared driveway).

Your alternate "explanation" is laughable. What YOU'RE offering is innuendo. I provided firsthand knowledge of what happened.

And, if your explanation made any sense, why would the file have "disappeared".

What you need to understand, is that this stuff happens routinely and staff DO know about. The things is, a lot of employees are close to retirement so they deal with it as best as they can. They stay silent so as not to "cause waves". I got sick and tired of watching the County officials treat different people differently, depending on who they knew or how much money they gave to what politician. It's deplorable. I saw too many regular "mom and pops" try to subdivide one lot from their property and get squashed, but certain developers were allowed to grade/clear floodplains and wetland areas to get extra lots out of their projects. Those mom and pops sometimes spent tens of thousands of dollars on their plans, and when they got denied, they lost most/all of what they had (financially). I couldn't stand it, so I got the hell out of there and I'm glad I did. My health was suffering because of the stress of having to watch this stuff happen and being torn between staying employed or doing something about it. So, when I see people like Wordbones (Dennis) siding with those who think the government can be arbitrary and capricious, I take ISSUE with it, and I'm not gonna be all sweet and pleasant in calling them out on it.

PZGURU said...

Wordbones - if that's the best "response" you could offer, then you truly are lacking in any credibility or character.

PATHETIC!!!

wordbones said...

PZGURU,

Take a deep breath. Now, let's examine what you have offered as "concrete evidence" of wrongdoing.

You alleged that the Guy Guzzone "forced" the Planning Director to to come to the site and "approve" the waiver. " That is pretty strong language. Is it not feasible that the homeowner appealed to his councilperson that this particular regulation (not technically the same as a law by the way) did not make sense in this particular case? Is it not possible that the councilperson may have concluded that the homeowner had a valid point and convinced (not forced) the planning director to see for themselves and, upon examining the actual site and conditions, the planning director agreed with them?

Is it not within the planning directors discretion to take such action?

You often cite your desire to speak for the poor individual homeowner who gets lesser treatment from the planning and zoning department than a knowledgeable local developer. What I have found is that most homeowners are hard pressed to even name their councilperson. The example you cited was of a homeowner who seemed to figure out that perhaps his councilperson could assist him in navigating the bureaucracy. That is what constituent services are all about. If Mr. (or Mrs.) Nazario subsequently made a two hundred dollar contribution to Mr. Guzzones campaign coffers it is hardly evidence that he was "bought off".

Two hundred bucks just ain't that much money in the scheme of things.

I won't bother with the other "concrete" evidence you offered. It is simply more of the same.

I have never claimed that my allegations here are anything but. I simply stated that certain things didn't pass my own personal sniff test.

All that being said, I do acknowledge that your rants here have resulted in the highest number of comments ever made in any of my posts on this blog. Nicely done.

No doubt these words won't appease you. I didn't expect that they would. I fully expect that you will fire back with some rant about how I'm paid by Dick Talkin or am somehow in Ken Ulmans pocket. I will admit that I have done business with Mr. Talkin. I have represented tenants in lease negotiations with him and it was not always a pleasant experience for either of us. That being said I respect both his professional abilities and the many contributions he has made to our community. I don't have to like someone to respect them.

As for Ken Ulman, on the whole I believe he is doing a good job. I have not hesitated to call him to task when I think he makes a bad decision. I think I demonstrated that with the Meridian Square office project in Oakland Mills.

So there you are. Take another deep breath before you fire off a reply. Just know that I probably won't respond anymore. I have already spent more time on your allegations than they probably deserve.

-wb

Anonymous said...

Communist China would welcome you, WB - but in a Democracy we're supposed to have equality for all - no special treatment by anyone with "access", aka undue influence that tips the scales in one direction which the select few enjoy.

You're as bad for Democracy as anyone from the opposite side of the social strata who takes with abandon.

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:19pm,

Marc Norman asked the legislators to help with his specific problem. A bill was submitted that changes the law retroactively to help him. Even though he did get a raw deal, the retroactive part of the bill only helps him.

"no special treatment by anyone with "access", aka undue influence that tips the scales in one direction which the select few enjoy."

PZGURU said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Anon 6:41,

If the BoE invalidated Norman's petition, they'd have to invalidate all petitions from the past 20 years, including those that obtain signatures to get a third party on the ballot.

You're completely missing the infraction against core Democracy here. My guess is you have a personal stake, that's the usual reason people won't recognize a truth when it's staring them in the face.

And don't go off on that bill. It's not going to pass and everyone KNEW it. Why do you think WB and his type are always so relaxed?

The sophisticated pols had to do something, so they crafted this bill and put it out there to die.

PZGURU said...

Wordbones - I see you deleted my comment, yet I don't know why. I certainly didn't use any profanity. Nor did I "spew venom" at you. Please detail what my "infraction" was.

Censorship is very lame.

PZGURU said...

And for the record, I find it oh so ironic that YOUR title for this post was "It's the Law", yet by your own words, you feel that certain people don't have to follow the law. Aren't you contradicting yourself?!?!?!

So Marc Norman et al have to follow the rule of law, but Guy Guzzone and various other elected officials, can just arbitrarily ignore/bend the laws.

Just thought I'd point out your own incosistencies.