Wow, it's been a weird and wacky couple of weeks in Montgomery County, as the same councilmembers who have run the finances and business climate into the ground over the last 8 years are now proclaiming themselves "pro-jobs."
As Johnny Carson used to say, "that is some weird, wild stuff."
George Leventhal and new council President Nancy "I want to take the helm of the Titanic after it's hit the iceberg" Floreen are leading the charge to recast the tired team of 8 years as Bob McDonnell times 9. Bob McDonnell masks are flying off the shelves as everyone from Barack Obama to county dog catcher has taken up everyone's favorite thesis writer's mantra of jobs, jobs, jobs.
articles, and a George Leventhal letter-to-the-editor, the developer-beholden council faction makes a number of false arguments:
First, they claim that development = jobs. This is patently false, as we've had out-of-control development over most of the county, and no long-term jobs were created in any significant number.
In fact, the job numbers prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that this 8 year council has been on the wrong course all along, and are doubling down on that same road to oblivion now.
With all of the "town centers," mixed-use vacant condo buildings, and StrathRock art centers, no real jobs were created. That's right. The numbers are in, and Councilmembers Leventhal and Floreen are touting them as the reason we need even more of that development.
The truth is that mixed-use boutiques and "town centers" only create McJobs: restaurant, retail sales, garage attendant, etc. So if we have the new planning board members Leventhal and Floreen want, who will be "streamlining and expediting project approvals" for "town centers" where neighborhood strip malls currently stand, there will only be McJobs created.
Strange also to hear them claim the Fillmore as a job creator, when it's simply a glorified bar, and, gosh, what parent doesn't want their kid to grow up to be a bartender or bouncer? Nothing wrong with either of those jobs, it's just that Live Nation supporters are putting them in the same category as engineer, scientist, or lawyer, when the salaries just don't stack up.
Second, Leventhal claimed that MoCo lost Hilton Hotels and National Public Radio (really short list, when you might have actually heard of a company called Volkswagen, one of many other huge firms to bypass our county) because of the "lack of certainty [that] new office space would be approved expeditiously."
That's as false as the "overdevelop or die" theme out of the council chambers this week. When did Dr. Yes ever cancel a big development project? Especially one for a huge employer? How about never? How do you think Royce Hanson earned the tag, "Dr. Yes?"
(Double weird: the same councilmembers who chose Hanson in a back room negotitation are now trying to blame him for their failed leadership).
It's not a "lack of certainty" scaring away companies, it's the abundance of draconian taxes, fees, and Big Government regulations - along with a bizarre set of council priorities - that are frightening enough to scare anybody away.
It's a transportation system in total gridlock, with a Planning Board and council that want to increase development without building the necessary infrastructure. Purple Line, CCT, ICC, and 2 toll lanes on 270 = zero improvement in traffic capacity.
This gridlock is permanently associated with the "End Gridlock" team who have spent the last 8 years only increasing gridlock.
It's a school system facing a record drop in funding, a massive cut in education spending asked for
by this council, executive, and state delegates! "Move here so your employees' kids can go to our great, uh, er, now average schools to which we cut funding!"
It's a county so hostile to business and taxpayers, that Mr. Leventhal even raised
costs for county restaurants with his high-priority "menu reform" (hey, that'll get chains to move their headquarters here, right?), and Ms. Floreen proposed a $250 parking tax that would have been paid by landowners and residents.
And, how about this pro-business initiative: Ike Leggett (like many councilmembers in the past, including Councilmember Floreen) is calling for an increase
in the gas tax! That'll make it cheaper to do business in the county, now won't it?
With county unemployment now at an unheard of 5.4%, Leventhal and Floreen are pointing fingers everywhere besides at themselves.
This council has been in charge for 8 years.
Over the years of 2001-2008 (in only one of those years was this council not elected), Montgomery County's grand total of new jobs created (after all that mixed-use, town center, StrathRock growth) was a whopping 7,855.
During that same period, Fairfax County created 42,743 jobs.
Did I just hear a pin drop?
Wow. What a legacy this council has, but they want you know that, like Alexander Haig, they're in charge here. It wasn't their fault, really it wasn't!
According to Councilmember Leventhal in yesterday's Gazette, "There are many economic factors that are beyond county government's control, including the banking crisis, trade imbalances, globalization of industry, and more."
There's just one problem: Fairfax County was hit by all of those same "factors," and still created over 36,000 more jobs
than this 8 year council team did.
Summing up the legacy he and his colleagues leave behind next November, after 8 years in power, Leventhal said "we can no longer take for granted that Montgomery County is a magnet for investment."
But when pointing fingers in every direction, this council might want to reflect on the words of Holly Lisle, quoted on another newspaper front page yesterday, the Frederick News-Post
"Actions have consequences - first rule of life. And the second rule is this - you are the only one responsible for your own actions."