Letters for the Year 2003

Van Hollen should have voted No on the "unequivocal support and appreciation of the Nation" of President Bush as Commander-in-Chief "for his firm leadership and decisive action in the conduct of military operations in Iraq as part of the on-going Global War on Terrorism."

Trash the trash policy - (Montgomery Gazette, Sep 30 2003) The county's plan to remove trash bins and end trash collection in our urban parks, including but not limited to the Elm Street Park and Lynbrook Park, appears to me to be very short-sighted ("Trash policy irks some," Sept. 10).

Letters for the Year 2002

Bush wrong to wage war on Iraq. The Montgomery Journal published Deborah's letter on September 16, 2002 (pg. A6). 

Letter To The Editor
The Montgomery Journal. Friday, May 31, 2002 (pg.A6)
The online cite is: The Montgomery Journal
Subject: For underdog, poll results good news

I was interested to read the article about the polls conducted by each of my three opponents in the Democratic primary for the 8th Congressional District seat (Poll results differ widely, Journal, May 29).

Of course, as a candidate who during this phase of the campaign is spending just a little of my own money, and doing no fund-raising, I do not have the money to hire pollsters or other consultants.

I, nonetheless, find the results of the surveys conducted by the other candidates to be somewhat encouraging.

The big news, it seems to me, is not that Mark K. Shriver is ahead, according to the three polls cited. The big news is that in two of the three polls conducted, the largest category of voters was the "undecideds."

I suspect many of these "undecideds" are folks who voted for me when I ran in the 8th District primary in 1998-- and again in 2000. I also suspect that many of these same folks are grappling with the question of whether, in this day and age of big money campaigning, a candidate running a low-budget, grass-roots, issue-oriented campaign can indeed be a viable candidate.

In the coming months, I will continue to take my message to the streets -- knocking on doors, going to events and leafletting Metro stops. I am not discouraged by the polls' results, only motivated to work harder.

Of course, the poll that really matters is not any one of the pre-election polls dreamed up and executed by expensive consultants. Only one "poll" really counts: the primary election on September 10.

Chevy Chase

Editor's note: The author is a candidate for the Democratic nomination for the 8th Congressional District.

Lettor to the Editor
The Hill Wednesday, May 29, 2002 (pg. 17)
The online cite is: The Hill
Subject:Vollmer says she focuses on grassroots organization

To the Editor:

As one of the subjects of your May 15 article about perennial candidates (“Perennial candidates see ‘victories’ in defeats”), I would like to clarify two points.

First, the statement that I am “not campaigning as often” as my opponents is wrong. It would be more accurate to say that I am campaigning with a goal in mind that is different from that of my opponents. My focus is grassroots organizing aimed at frequent one-on-one contact with voters, with an emphasis on discussion of the issues — rather than raising money.

Second, the fact that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC)has not listed me on its website is not “a sign of” my “political inconsequence.” Rather, it is a sign of the DCCC’s obsessive and unhealthy preoccupation with the almighty dollar.

While other political websites, including, but not limited to, Capitol Advantage, Families U.S.A., and goliberal.org, do have me listed as a Democratic candidate for the 8th Congressional District, the DCCC refuses to list my name, because I have not yet filed with the Federal Election Commission [FEC]. Since I am not fundraising, but only spending a little of my own money during this phase of the campaign, I am not obligated to file with the FEC.

But I was the very first Democrat in this race to file in our state capital to get my name on the ballot! The other organizations that list me on their websites recognize my filing to get my name on the ballot as a sufficient indication that I am a serious congressional candidate.

Many of my supporters, and I myself, have contributed to the DCCC. By refusing to list me on its website as a candidate, the DCCC has lost my respect. I will not be contributing to the DCCC this year.

This whole episode highlights one of the messages of my campaign for Congress. We need to establish a system of public financing of congressional campaigns (“Clean Money”), as well as rules requiring the media to provide candidates with free and low-cost airtime! Only when we have such reforms will it be possible for people who are neither independently wealthy nor connected to political “fat cats” to run for Congress, and win!

Deborah A. Vollmer
Democratic Candidate for Congress
District 8, Maryland

Lettor to the Editor
Weekend Gazette Friday, May 17, 2002 (pg. A-8)
The online site is: Letters to the Editor
Subject: Money talks in political campaigns.

To the Editor:

The description in the May 10th Reporters' Notebook ("A touch too quixotic") of my disagreement with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee over its refusal to list me on its website as one of the Democratic candidates for the 8th Congressional District, fails to include some significant facts.

  • While most candidates for Congress do file with the Federal Election Commission, filing is required if and when a candidate raises or spends $ 5000. In my case, I have chosen to focus this phase of my campaign on grassroots organizing, and I am only spending a little of my own money in this effort.

  • Filing with the FEC does not get a candidate on the ballot. To get one's name on the ballot, a Congressional candidate running in Maryland must file appropriate papers in Annapolis. In this race, I was the first Democrat to file in Annapolis to get my name on the ballot.

    Several other political websites list me as one of the Democratic candidates in this race, and provide links to my Web site (www.deborahvollmer.com). These sites include Families, U.S.A., Capitol Advantage, and a local site, goliberal.org. Each of these sites took my filing in Annapolis as sufficient indication that I am a serious Congressional candidate.

    The DCCC's refusal to list candidates who have filed to get on the ballot but not filed with the FEC is symptomatic of an obsessive and unhealthy preoccupation with the almighty dollar. This whole episode highlights one of the messages of my campaign for Congress. We need to establish a system of public financing of Congressional campaigns ("clean money"), as well as rules requiring the media to provide candidates free and low-cost air time.

    Only when we have such reforms will it be possible for people who are neither independently wealthy nor connected to political "fat cats" to run for Congress, and win!

    Deborah A. Vollmer, Chevy Chase
    The writer is a Democratic candidate for Congress from District 8

    Letter to the Editor
    Montgomery Democrat,  April, 2002, p.A6.

    A Step Toward Universal Health Care

    The movie "John Q" (about a desperate father, who holds a hospital staff and patients hostage to force the decision-makers to give a life-saving heart transplant to his dying son) may be fiction, but there is a sad underlying reality. When it comes to health care, those who are uninsured, or underinsured are out of luck.

    House Concurrent Resolution 99, which is sponsored by U.S. Representative John Conyers and other members of the Congressional Universal Health Care Task Force, should be passed without delay.

    This resolution directs Congress to enact legislation by October of 2004 providing all Americans with comprehensive, affordable, and quality health care. Congress should get on board, and enact universal (preferably single-payer) health care now!

    Democratic Candidate for Congress (Md., Dist. 8)

    Letter to the Editor
    Montgomery Journal, Tuesday, April 2, 2002, p.A6.

    Candidate: Pass 'living wage' bill

    A "living wage" is good for working families, good for business and good for the economy as a whole.

    Parents who are paid a living wage can provide for their needs, and the needs of their children. These parents can afford to provide their children with needed material goods. Just as important, since a living wage gives parents the opportunity to work fewer hours, it allows parents to give children that most precious of resources: their time.

    The living wage is good for business, because workers who are paid adequately for their work tend to be satisfied employees who are highly motivated, healthier than low-wage employees and more productive than low-wage employees. Well-paid employees tend to have good attendance records, and this is good for business.

    Our economy benefits when workers are well paid, because well-paid workers spend some of their earnings on goods and services, and this creates a cycle of increased spending that stimulates the creation of more jobs to provide these goods and services.

    As a candidate for Congress (Democrat, 8th District), I support a significant increase of the national minimum wage, to a level approaching what we would consider a living wage. But the reality is that the cost of living in Montgomery County is much higher than it is in many other parts of the country.

    While a substantial increase of the national minimum wage certainly would help workers here, it unfortuntely is not likely to come about, with our current Congress.

    Furthermore, because of differences in the cost of living in different parts of the country, fairness requires that workers in Montgomery County be provided a wage that is higher than the national minimum wage.
    Chevy Chase

    Letter to the Editor
    Weekend Gazette, Friday, March 22, 2002
    (It also appears on the Gazette website)

    Focus on issues in election coverage

    I found the article ("Shriver poll shows huge lead in primary," March 15) about candidate Mark Shriver's poll, and candidate Christopher Van Hollen's reaction to it, to be most informative.

    It is interesting for a candidate considered to be a long-shot to watch two considered to be front-runners slug it out, each doing damage to the other, and potentially doing damage to the Democratic Party. Of course, in any hotly contested campaign, a certain amount of this is to be expected.

    My question for The Gazette is this: When are you going to begin serious coverage of the differences among the candidates with regard to issues and policy?

    Deborah A. Vollmer, Chevy Chase

    (Editor's note: The writer, an attorney, is a Democratic candidate for Congress in Montgomery County's District 8.)

    Letter to the Editor
    Montgomery Journal, Wednesday, February 20, 2002

    When trails and rails collide

    Harry Sanders, in his letter of Sunday, February 17 "Trails and Rails can be compatible" misses the point.

    It is not a question of whether, in the abstract, trails and rails can be compatible. It is a question of whether a particular existing hiker biker trail amidst a canopy of trees-- a trail which is widely used by the public, and which in reality constitutes a linear park-- can survive as the environmental and recreational resource that it is, if it shares its very narrow space with a rail line, which inevitably would have to be double-tracked.

    It is clear to me that the answer is no.

    While it is true that the site was once home to a rail line, along which a coal train ran infrequently, this was a single- track line. As a child who grew up in those days, I remember this.

    I also rememberthat the Bethesda-Chevy Chase area had far less commercial development at that time than it does now. The residents of the Bethesda-Chevy Chase area need this linear park for recreation, and our overstressed down-county environment needs it.

    Because the Georgetown Branch is a part of the Capital Crescent Trail, it is also a resource for the entire greater Washington area, and for the nation. The Georgetown Branch Trail and linear park is a treasure to be preserved.

    The transportation needs are real, of course. An east-west transportation link, in the form of a deeply tunneled underground Metro link would be most welcome. If such a link must be put along the Georgetown Branch, it should be heavy rail, linked to Metro, and underground.

    As a candidate for Congress, I support increased funding to the Metro system, to make such projects possible. We should consider the added expense of underground tunnelling to be a wise investment in the future, for preserving our neighborhoods, parks, and greenspace.

    Deborah A. Vollmer
    Chevy Chase

    Letter about fund-raising
    Thursday, January 31, 2002
    The Montgomery Journal on page A6:

    Too much focus
    on fund-raising

    As the local Congressional campaign intensifies, the news media and the public will continue to focus on the fund-raising efforts of the candidates. The media will pay the most attention to the candidates who raise the most money, as reflected in filings with the Federal Election Commission. Those candidates who have raised the most money will be perceived by the media as the most viable. News coverage focusing on these perceived frontrunners will in turn shape the views of the public, as to which of the candidates is viable.
    All of this is unfortunate, because the candidates should be judged on their qualifications - including education, experience, creativity, ideas on issues and policy, as well as the ability to motivate voters through grass-roots organizing.
    Fundraising prowess has no real relationship to one's ability to perform one's job as a member of Congress.
    Furthermore, the influx of big money into the fund-raising process corrupts our system of government. While not all lawmakers succumb to the corrupting influence of big money, even the most conscientious among them must fight the appearance of impropriety.
    We desperately need a new system of financing campaigns -- public financing, also known as "clean money elections." We also need new rules requiring the media to give free and low-cost advertising time to candidates.
    In Congress, U.S. Representative John Tierney, D-Mass., has proposed legislation for the public financing of campaigns. Congress should adopt this bill but it probably won't. Incumbents are all too happy with the system the way it is.
    The challenge for newspapers such as The Journal will be to resist the temptation to focus only on the fund-raising prowess of the candidates, and to take a serious look at the qualifications of each candidate, including their education, experience, and ideas for change.
    Deborah A. Vollmer
    Chevy Chase
    Editor's Note: Deborah A. Vollmer is a candidate for the Democratic nomination to represent Maryland's 8th Congressional District.

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    A similar letter was published in The Gazette on February 1, 2002.

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    Letters for the Year 2001

    Letter To The Editor at the Montgomery Gazette:
    Published August 24, 2001.

    "I have been following with interest the Gazette's coverage of the various politically motivated plans to change the borders of Maryland's Eighth Congressional District. Let me take this opportunity to offer my thoughts on the matter. In fairness to any of your readers who may not already be aware, I am not a disinterested party. I am one of the announced Democratic candidates for the Eighth Congressional District seat.

    It appears that some Democratic leaders have been pushing for a redistricting plan to split Montgomery County in such a way as to give one Congressional seat to Delegate Mark Shriver, and another to State Senator Chris Van Hollen. Apparently no thought has been given by these power brokers to the possibility that the voters might in fact prefer one of the other candidates. And gerrymandering the districts to deprive an incumbent with many years of service of her power base hardly seems to be fair. The general election should be won or lost on debates about issues and legislative record. (Yes, I am prepared to engage in a contest with Rep. Morella on this basis.)

    Gerrymandered districts stretching north and west and east into other counties is a bad idea. In sparsely populated areas of the country, sprawling districts may be necessary. But Montgomery County is densely populated, and the Congressional districts should be compact. The problem with a sprawling district is that the candidates and ultimately the officeholder must spend a lot of time traveling from one end of the district to the other. This means less time in actual contact with constituents, and that is bad for democracy.

    I realize that Montgomery County has too high a population to be neatly fit into a single Congressional district. It does not fit into a single district now. Takoma Park and parts of Silver Spring are currently in the Fourth Congressional District. I would suggest that the lines of the Eighth Congressional District remain roughly the same as they are now, with the possible annexation of Silver Spring and Takoma Park. If the county cannot fit entirely within the Eighth Congressional District, we should try to fit most of it in this district. Residents of Montgomery County have many interests in common, and this should be reflected in the County's representation in Congress."

    Deborah A. Vollmer
    Democratic Candidate for Congress
    (Md.-Dist. 8)

    Deborah had two items published in July, 2001 that focused on issues important to Montgomery County residents. Here are the issues she was able to bring before the public:

    First, a letter from Deborah to the Editor of the Montgomery Journal appeared in the Wednesday (July 18, 2001) edition. Click here to read her letter:Montgomery Journal

    Next, an article by Deborah about health care was published July, 2001 in The Montgomery Democrat. The article is Universal Health Care: The Time Has Come! To read the article, go to the Health Care section of this web site.

    Fair, accurate coverage can shape election results.
    A Letter Published in The Gazette

    The following letter was published in the Letters to the Editor section of The Gazette on Friday, May 11, 2001, on page A-15. The letter appeared only in the newspaper's print edition.

    Fair, accurate coverage can shape election results.

        The discussion of the 8th Congressional District race in the article on 
    redistricting ("Redistricting is Annapolis' main event," April 27)
    focuses on two candidates in the Democratic primary: Mark Shriver
    and Chris Van Hollen.
    While either of these men would certainly be well qualified for the job,
    it should not be assumed that one of them will necessarily be the
    Democratic nominee for the 8th District or that both of them will
    be nominated if redistricting splits Montgomery County into two
    congressional districts.
    My concern is that the very nature of the coverage given by
    newspapers and other media of an election contest can itself shape
    the results of the election. With that in mind, I
    hope that you will be fair in your future coverage of the
    Democratic primary in the 8th District race and cover the campaigns
    of all the candidates. The Democratic nominee should be chosen
    by informed voters, not by party leaders and campaign fat cats.
    Your newspaper can perform a valuable service to the voters by
    providing fair and accurate coverage of the candidates' qualifications,
    campaign activities and positions on issues.

    Deborah A. Vollmer, Chevy Chase
    The writer, an attorney, is a Democratic
    candidate for Congress in Montgomery
    County's District 8

    The Franking Privilege
    A Letter Published in Two Local Newspapers

    Deborah wrote a letter about the use and/or misuse of franking privileges during political campaigns by political incumbents. Two local newspapers published the letter. Printed below is a copy of the letter along with the web site locations it can be found on the newspapers.

    Franking dust-up speaks to power of incumbency

    Terry Lierman was right to question whether U.S. Rep. Constance A. Morella, R-8th District, used the franking privilege to advance her political position at taxpayer expense ("Return Morella mailer to sender," letters, Aug. 17). Franked newsletters may properly be used to keep constituents informed with reference to the member's job performance, but it is improper to use such a mailing as a campaign piece in an upcoming election. Mr. Lierman claims that Rep. Morella misrepresented the truth in an item in the newsletter, and that she crossed the line between informing (legal) and campaigning (illegal).

    There is a larger issue here than whether Rep. Morella went over the line in one particular instance. The franking privilege makes it possible for members of Congress to communicate with constituents using the U.S. mail, at taxpayer expense. Franked newsletters serve the valuable purpose of keeping us informed about the activities of our representatives. Such newsletters are to be used by the representative to provide information, but not to campaign for re-election.

    The problem is that, in practice, it is difficult to separate the two functions. It is only natural that a member of Congress will use the franked newsletter to promote a positive image. Inevitably, such newsletters will have an effect on an upcoming election, giving the incumbent the edge.

    This will be so no matter how scrupulously the member tries to maintain the distinction and avoid turning the newsletter into a campaign piece.

    I suggest we recognize this inevitable effect on elections of franked constituent newsletters, but not lose sight of the legitimate purpose the newsletters serve. To some extent, this effect already has been recognized; by law, members are not permitted to send such franked newsletters on the eve of an election. But further reform is needed.

    Congress should enact legislation providing that for each franked newsletter a member is allowed to send between the primary and the general election, the candidate nominated by the party (or parties) not in power be allowed to send a similar mailer at taxpayer expense. This is really an incremental approach to the public financing of congressional campaigns - a cause I fully support.

    Chevy Chase

    (Editor's note: Ms. Vollmer sought the Democratic nomination for Maryland's 8th District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.)

    The letter was published in print and online August 23, 2000 in the Montgomery Journal

    It was also published online August 23, 2000 in The Gazette
    The print edition of The Gazette published the letter in their August 25th issue.

    Letters About Campaign Finance Reform

  • Montgomery Journal (2-28-01)

  • Washington Post (3-1-01)

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