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Trachtenberg Tries To Mend Labor Relations In Council Comeback Attempt

By Aaron Kraut

Friday - 3/28/2014, 11:35am  ET

Duchy Trachtenberg talking to supporters at her campaign kickoff event on Thursday at the Strathmore Mansion Duchy Trachtenberg's District 1 Council campaign kickoff event Thursday Terry Lierman introduces Duchy Trachtenberg on Thursday Duchy Trachtenberg's District 1 Council campaign kickoff event Thursday Duchy Trachtenberg's District 1 Council campaign kickoff event Thursday

In 2010, public employees demonstrated outside of Duchy Trachtenberg’s kickoff event as she campaigned for re-election as an at-large member of the County Council.

On Thursday, Trachtenberg kicked off her bid to get back on the Council with many of those union members and representatives in the room.

In a 17-minute speech to supporters at the Strathmore Mansion, Trachtenberg promised to restore police effects bargaining rights and bemoaned the “breakdown” between her and the unions during her term from 2006-2010. She lost her at-large seat to Councilmember Hans Riemer in 2010, a change county unions gleefully took responsibility for.

“Guess what guys, your employees deserve competitive pay and benefits for the excellent job that they do each and every day,” Trachtenberg said in a message addressed at the FOP, Firefighter and county employee union representatives in the audience. “I pledged my support for this and I sincerely regret the breakdown of our working relationship a few years back. It should never have happened, given my union roots, and I really feel badly that it did.”

Trachtenberg criticized the Council and Montgomery County for legislating the removal of effects bargaining rights for police, something she said should have been worked out in collective bargaining. County police commanders said effects bargaining rights were hindering their ability to make swift and necessary changes regarding everyday activities such as the use of email, equipment turn-in, rules for raids and video systems in police cars.

It was a ballot question in 2012. After a bitter campaign waged by both the county government and police union, 58 percent of voters chose to uphold the 2011 repeal.

“That should have never happened and it didn’t happen when I was on the Council,” Trachtenberg said. “It’s going to be the first thing that I do and it’s the right thing to do because effects bargaining, binding arbitration and adequate pay and workers’ benefits are all essential workers’ rights.”

Trachtenberg’s relationship with the unions deteriorated throughout her first term as the Council, dealing with the Great Recession and dwindling budgets, took aim at public employee compensation packages.

On Thursday, she struck a different tone.

“Binding arbitration and adequate pay and workers’ benefits are all essential workers’ rights,” Trachtenberg said. “We all believe that. We all grew up understanding that. That was the core of the progressive movement and it should remain as such.”

In a surprise move, Trachtenberg chose to file for the District 1 seat occupied by Roger Berliner. Some suspected the North Bethesda resident would again run for an at-large seat, or even for state office.

On Thursday, she painted her bid to oust former ally Berliner as a chance to “put Council District 1 back on the progressive map.”

District 1 includes Bethesda, Chevy Chase, North Bethesda, Potomac and Poolesville.

Trachtenberg pledged her support for schools, bemoaned the “divisive” conversation that has surrounded school funding at budget time and promised to find a new, permanent home for the Brickyard Educational Farm. The organic farm in Potomac was recently shut down after a two-year legal dispute with the Board of Education, which owns the land.

She also pledged to work with private developers to build more affordable housing, especially for families that have suffered domestic abuse.

Trachtenberg mentioned Berliner only once, and not by name, while discussing her environmental protection credentials. She recently got support from a group of developers unhappy with Berliner’s support of a move to limit development near Ten Mile Creek in Clarksburg.

Trachtenberg claimed she had plenty of support among environmental activists, and said a water quality work group she started with former Councilmember Mike Knapp laid the groundwork for the Ten Mile Creek debate today.

“I have them actually. I know my opponent is saying I don’t, but I’ve always worked with the environmental community on a number of issues,” Trachtenberg said.

Supporters in attendance included Dana Beyer, the transgender-rights activist making her own political run in District 18 against incumbent State Sen. Rich Madaleno. Beyer, an advocate for the transgender rights bill that passed the House of Delegates on Thursday, worked as a Council staffer for Trachtenberg and called her the No. 1 straight ally of the LGBT community in Montgomery County.

“It’s been said she has a heart of gold, but she also has a spine of steel,” Beyer said of Trachtenberg.

“Despite being accused of being bossy, and that happens often, or that I’m too quick to cut to the chase, I do get things done,” Trachtenberg said. “I’m very effective and I know I am. I’m not bragging. I know it.”