Wednesday, May 20, 2015
Why Gov. Hogan should cancel the Purple Line - #Bethesda #DC
1. The Purple Line won't create the jobs Montgomery County needs to stay competitive in the region
The overly-rosy job-creation predictions given by Purple Line advocates aren't the only problem. Even if you pretended that all of those jobs would actually materialize, you would have to consider what type of jobs they will be. As virtually all of the development spurred by the Purple Line would be residential, with ground floor retail, the vast majority of jobs created will be in retail and restaurants.
That's not the job creation we need to stay competitive with Fairfax, Loudoun and Arlington counties, or the District. We need high-wage jobs, and the large corporations and research facilities that provide those. To attract those jobs, we need to address our unfriendly business climate, and provide direct access to Dulles International Airport. Tysons has that direct access, and that's only one reason they are cleaning our clock in the economic development category.
Moreover, none of the job creation projections are taking into account the existing jobs that will be destroyed by the Purple Line. Well-trained auto mechanics make far more than those who serve coffee or fold jeans. While elitists may have no qualms about demolishing strip malls and gas stations, the truth is that retail square footage will shrink, and trades and professional positions will be reduced along the Purple Line route if it is built.
2. We don't have the money
With a moribund county economy, and a structural budget deficit at the county and state levels, we have no choice but to focus infrastructure funding where we get the most bang for the buck. The latest Supreme Court decision only emphasizes the budget challenges ahead.
Funding additional capacity on the Metro Red Line, the Midcounty Highway Extended (M-83) and a new Potomac River crossing will bring far more economic development benefit than the Purple Line. The traffic congestion on the Beltway at the American Legion Bridge is a far higher transportation priority to solve than traffic between Silver Spring and New Carrollton.
The economic development generated by the Purple Line will only make Montgomery County more of a bedroom community, rather than a magnet for young professionals seeking employment with high wages. That will have a severe impact on already weak tax revenues.
We have found - definitively - that real estate development alone creates a budget deficit, rather than "expanding the tax base" as developer-funded politicians tell us. Montgomery County has built like mad over the last 13 years. Clarksburg increased its population by 800% in a decade. Damascus will have tripled in population by the end of this decade. Olney, Gaithersburg, Germantown, and other development hotspots continue to explode with new housing units. Yet we have a budget deficit, and County Executive Ike Leggett has promised a tax increase next year. The results speak for themselves.
3. Baltimore is no longer the seat of power in Maryland - but you wouldn't know it from the Purple Line project
Any genuflecting to politicians from the Baltimore area is more political than having basis in fact. Montgomery County is arguably the new center of power in the state. So why does Baltimore's Red Line project have more consideration for neighborhoods than the Purple Line? Specifically, the Baltimore Red Line plan would fund far more tunneling underground than the Purple Line. That's despite the fact that the Red Line will travel through downtown streets, while the Purple Line passes through suburban residential neighborhoods in Chevy Chase and Long Branch.
4. The Purple Line will destroy affordable housing
Unlike the primarily greenfield, new development around the Corridor Cities Transitway upcounty, the development spurred by the Purple Line will occur in already-developed communities. The gleaming new luxury apartments will have to displace what is already there between Silver Spring and New Carrollton.
Whereas most development along the Corridor Cities Transitway will create a net increase in affordable units within projects, those along the Purple Line will ultimately create a net loss of such units. Entire buildings of naturally-occuring affordable housing will be replaced by handfuls of affordable units in new luxury buildings. That does not address our affordable housing crisis.
5. Approving the Purple Line will put his already-challenging reelection in serious jeopardy
The bottom line is that Hogan's victory came in part from his opposition to the Purple Line. He had support in the Town of Chevy Chase and Long Branch that he otherwise would not have enjoyed in those Democratic-dominated areas. Those people cast their votes believing Hogan would indeed stop the Purple Line. So did many others across Maryland.
Approving the Purple Line not only arms his political enemies with a ground-breaking photo op "victory" they can grandstand on through the 2018 campaigns statewide, but instantly causes a major segment of his bipartisan coalition to evaporate overnight. Whether it's the unemployed manufacturing sector employee in Cumberland, or the Chevy Chase lawyer, they'll have less reason to come out and vote if the Purple Line outcome is identical to that expected under an Anthony Brown administration. A recent article by Ben Ross in Greater Greater Washington - intended to highlight the influence of the Columbia Country Club in efforts to thwart the Purple Line - made abundantly clear the political cost if Hogan approves the project. "In January," Ross wrote, "Governor Hogan came to Bethesda for a fundraiser where club members raised $47,000 for his political committee." Guess where that $47,000 will go in 2018 if Hogan allows the Purple Line? (Hint: Not to Hogan)
It would be hard to describe a Hogan veto of the Purple Line as "antagonistic toward this community," to use the words of Montgomery County Council President George Leventhal on Monday. A recent poll found only about 40% of respondents even knew what the Purple Line was. A Washington Post poll showed that less than half of Marylanders support building the Purple Line. While 20% of Montgomery County residents polled said they would ride the Purple Line frequently, 52% said they would "rarely or never" ride it. Think about the cost vs. ridership issue in that context.
The fact is that Purple Line supporters made a mistake in not courting Gov. Hogan during the 2014 election. Rather than make the arguments they are making now to Hogan, they relied on developer money to determine the outcome. Those development interests funded his opponent in the last election, and as President Obama said, "Elections have consequences, and at the end of the day, I won."
WMATA apologist Dr. Gridlock even attempted to make the argument that the term "conservative" can be defined as an elected official who does not cancel an expensive, taxpayer-funded transit project. Was Gridlock just desperate to get it built, or does he need a Political Science 101 refresher?
Hogan has nothing to gain in 2018, and everything to lose, if he doesn't stop the Purple Line. The political opponents pretending to talk reasonably now will be doing everything they can to defeat him in three years, even if he gives them what they want today.
In short, Hogan faces a very simple decision. Does he blow up his coalition of voters, go against the message of his campaign, and put a nice-to-have project over must-have infrastructure for economic development by approving the Purple Line? He should stick to his guns.