Monday, September 14, 2015

Fact-checking MoCo councilman's grandstanding on liquor "changes"

Riemer still mum on
whether he knew of
illegal activity in
County liquor dept.
prior to Election Day

There he goes again. Montgomery County Councilmember Hans Riemer, out of the news all summer and desperate for some press coverage, is grandstanding about his self-promoting campaign to change the County's role in controlling liquor sales and distribution.

Except...his equally-self-promoting "Ad Hoc Committee on Liquor Control" has left the county government squarely in control of liquor. Oops.

How do you like them hard apple ciders?

Remember, according to News4 (and we'll be getting back to the topic of News4 in a few moments):

"Council member Hans Riemer created the committee because he says the government should get out of the beer and wine business. 'We’re the only county in Maryland, and I believe we're the only local government in America, that has a monopoly on wholesale.'"

Well, much like Riemer's failed Nighttime Economy Initiative, the liquor committee has utterly failed to execute that stated mission.

All they've been able to do is pass a resolution that will set up legislation in Annapolis to allow the county to privatize special orders. Even with this so-called "significant change," the County Department of Liquor Control would retain the power to designate a "special order" item as a general stock item, putting that product back under total government distribution control again. To quote directly from the resolution, "The classification of special order items will be the final responsibility of the County Department of Liquor Control."

Are Maker's Mark and Grey Goose "special order" items? They're the Budweiser and Miller Lite of spirits. They were also unavailable for weeks at a time from the DLC, according to Hans Olson of Clyde's Tower Oaks Lodge. Depending on how those common spirits are categorized under the new system, nothing could change at all for products bartenders depend on.

Will you now, as a grown adult, be able to buy Bud Light at CVS or Giant in Bethesda? Will you be able to grab a $9 bottle of white wine to go with that prepared salad you've picked up at Safeway?

Nope (and before a troll commenter says, "But that's because of state law!", so is Riemer's special order change, that requires exactly the same sort of change at the state level to be enacted. So why wouldn't the Ad Hoc Committee have passed a resolution regarding grocery and drug store sales as well?).

Will special order products be cheaper for restaurants and stores to order if the legislation is passed in Annapolis?

Nope. The County will have to charge a fee (a.k.a. tax) on private special-order liquor wholesalers to make up for the lost revenue. The special order resolution clearly states that the fee shall "Be set and charged by Montgomery County."

If, unlike many of our elected officials, you understand how taxes on businesses work, they are passed on directly to the consumer. So prices can only remain the same, or rise. The private liquor distributors will still profit, but you as the consumer or private retailer could end up losing money in this deal.

With all of this in mind, you might be a bit shocked to find The Washington Post touting "Major changes may be in store for Montgomery County's liquor distribution policy."

Say what?

Turning to page C4 of Sunday's Metro section, you find a self-promoting op-ed by Councilmember Riemer offering no such "major changes" whatsoever. But he does spend many paragraphs promoting himself, and an apparent alternate history in an alternate dimension, where he has apparently been an effective councilmember. Why would the Post aid him with such a friendly headline? Only they know the answer to that question. But we do know that the Post's editorial page staff withdrew their endorsement of Riemer in the 2014 election, declaring his thin record of "accomplishment" insufficient to warrant reelection by the voters.

You wouldn't know that from Riemer's piece, though. When it's not touting himself, it's making false claims that would earn him a Four Pinocchio/Pants on Fire rating from fact checkers.

The article starts by declaring that "Significant changes are in store," which - if you've just read the previous paragraphs, should warrant a chuckle at best.

Then he argues "we cannot afford to continue undermining the basic business operations and investment climate for our restaurants," despite having repeatedly done just that through multiple votes he has cast on the Council since 2011.

How about this sentence: "Many residents express an intense frustration with retail access to beer and wine. Statewide restrictions prevent grocery stores and other retailers from selling alcohol." Now that's worth much more than a chuckle. When you're finished rolling around on the floor laughing, you'll remember that, as I wrote above, the committee could be asking legislators in Annapolis to change those very "statewide restrictions" right now, if it hadn't been a failure.

Will stores like Bradley Food and Beverage and Talbert's continue to compete with the County DLC's monopoly, which enjoys multiple cost advantages over mom-and-pop shops while - unlike those shops - paying no taxes? You betcha.

But let's not burst Mr. Riemer's bubble of alternate universe whimsy: "My goal was to create a stronger local economy while making the county a more vibrant place to live. These reforms will help achieve that vision."

Is this the same "local economy" that hasn't attracted a single major corporate headquarters in over a decade? The same local economy that has been whipped in job creation every single year by Northern Virginia counties and the District?

Perhaps the biggest laugher in the piece is when Riemer states that "Montgomery County is now 'the best place in the region' to open a brewery, according to leading craft entrepreneurs." Is that why D.C. and Virginia have been killing us in the number of breweries opening for so many years?

All we are doing is slowly catching up to what competing jurisdictions are already doing. We are absolutely not the best by any means. Riemer's boast is like bragging that your small town is going to allow to businesses to open on Sundays. Golly gee willikers! Wow! Amazing! That's cutting edge! "It's amazing, because a couple of political supporters of mine who are beer aficionados said it's amazing." Sounds like a solid, objective source to me.

Leading craft entrepreneurs apparently also tell us that we didn't need the Northrop headquarters, a completed Master Plan highway system, or even food trucks, in Montgomery County.

Yes, folks, when Councilmember Hans Riemer starts acting on an issue, you'd better pray it's not the industry you're working in. There's usually nothing left but debris by the time he's finished.

Remember when Riemer got his political operative and campaign contributor a $150,000-a-year job in County Government - that you pay for? And then put him in charge of food truck policy?

And then 96% of food trucks went out of business, or ceased coming into Montgomery County? That's making MoCo "a more vibrant place to live," right? Especially since new urbanists are over the moon about how food trucks make cities a more vibrant place, and attract young professionals. Which MoCo currently isn't doing so well at, according to statistics.

Meanwhile, at lunchtime you'll find those same food trucks parked a few yards over the county line by Mazza Gallerie in the District. Whoops.

Or, how about his failed "Nighttime Economy" initiative? And how there are now actually less nightclubs in downtown Bethesda since Riemer took office and did all this "wonderful" work? And Barnes and Noble closes earlier at Bethesda Row?

It's funny to hear Riemer now talk about allowing food trucks to operate at night. They already were operating at night, until he and his operative led an effort that got rid of food trucks. In 2011, trucks like Tastefully Toasted could be found serving the crowds leaving bars (many of which are now closed) in Bethesda's Woodmont Triangle.

Or, claiming MoCo will be a hub for cybersecurity, only for it to be revealed in 2014 that the county government was running on Windows 2000 - perhaps the least-secure platform in the world - four years after Riemer took office?

While friendly local media outlets continue to praise Riemer through propaganda articles, this media outlet is going to continue to ask the tough questions every time the councilmember tries to use the liquor fiasco to promote himself.

His piece did not provide any answers on what he knew about illegal activity in the County DLC, and when he knew it.

Less than 48 hours after the polls closed on Election Day 2014, the News4 I-Team aired a report alleging illegal activity was taking place inside the County DLC. The investigation was conducted over several weeks prior to Election Day, in News4's own words.

Councilmember Riemer appeared in the November 6 report, in a formal, sit-down interview, to feign outrage at this supposedly-"new" information. This wasn't a hasty press ambush, but an interview that had obviously been arranged in advance.

Here's the question the Washington Post and other local media outlets haven't asked Riemer yet:

When did he know about this illegal activity in the DLC, and did he keep it quiet until after Election Day to ensure he would be reelected? Riemer, and the other 8 councilmembers, have oversight authority over the DLC. All 9 could have been hurt politically by the scandal.

The time for propaganda and grandstanding to be replaced with real answers has long passed.


Anonymous said...

Dyer's rants are like a pile of fishhooks. He can never pull out just one topic and stay focused on it, instead, he pulls his entire tangled mess of talking points all out at once.


Anonymous said...

Did you ever actually ask him? Saying a guy is not answering questions posted on a blog he may not be reading isn't really honest.

Anonymous said...

Wasn't it recently that dyer made fun of a commentor for changing the topic? These injections of Fortune 500 offices isn't changing the subject off liquor laws?

Anonymous said...

"...before a troll commenter says..."

I love the way he preemptively calls any criticism, "troll comments".

This is the time-honored tactic of "poisoning the well".

Robert Dyer said...

6:05: No, it isn't - the subject was the Riemer Op-Ed, and he - not me - claimed he had made a stronger local economy. I then presented the facts that prove otherwise. 9 out of 10 Leading Craft Entrepreneurs agree!

Robert Dyer said...

5:45: It's called a compelling argument, with plenty of supporting factual evidence.

Robert Dyer said...

6:00: The Council are among my most loyal readers.

Robert Dyer said...

6:25: No, you're just a troll. Who took Sunday off, and the troll comments mysteriously ceased for the day.

Anonymous said...

Long story short: I buy my alcohol in DC because the choices are much better. And, go to restaurants in DC because the choices are better. Having the County or the state run the liquor business is just plain stupidity!

Anonymous said...

It seems to me the biggest stumbling block for the county is the how to make up the revenue (especially since they have bonds backed by that revenue)and the layoffs that would follow. There is the silly religious, conservative argument of morals and paternalistic view that the DLC wants to control drinking. But the only people making that argument are the directors of the DLC who don't want to lose their jobs.

For grocery sales there is the small business argument which I can get behind. I don't mind making an extra trip if it shares the wealth. If they loosen the laws and regulations and there is an explosion of seedy liquor stores they can then use real evidence to make some restriction.

Anonymous said...

"The Council are among my most loyal readers."

Don't flatter yourself. It's only for shits and giggles.

Anonymous said...

There are nine county council members, four of them at-large, and all of them elected by the voters of Montgomery last year whereas Dyer was not.

Why does Dyer take his loss to just one of them, Hans Riemer, so personally?

Anonymous said...

How do you know that for a fact?

So you're saying you never directly posed a specific question to the councilmembers?

To ask a question of someone on a blog and then be indignant when you don't get an answer is a bit asinine.

Anonymous said...

It's your opinion that it's compelling. Obviously from reader response many don't agree.

Anonymous said...

Guess dyer doesn't watch any NFL like the rest of the millions upon millions enjoying the season kickoff. But I guess in Dyer's logic that's just one viewer.

Anonymous said...

It is really strange indeed.

Anonymous said...

Dear County Council,

I know you are reading this comment since you are loyal readers of the blog. Can you comment on White Flint and MCDOT's change of heart on the Urban Road Code.

Thanks! I will be genuinely surprised if I do not get an official response.

Anonymous said...

The county doesn't trust us to be able to buy a bottle of wine at the grocery store. It's idiotic.
I've heard every argument: from economic to moral. Such antiquated thinking. From the same folks propping up Barwood.

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

Mr. President, while I agree wholeheartedly with your sentiment, I must object to your language. It's a bad example for your two lovely daughters.

Anonymous said...

Dyer's totally right on the DLC thing. They barely made any changes. The task force or whatever it's called did little. Who cares if special orders can now be made through another method. What does that account for, 0.01% of all alcohol purchased in the county?

What I don't get is why he then veers off on other diatribes. Just stick to the topic at hand -- the mess that is DLC -- and your argument will be much stronger. Don't make it just into one big Riemer-bash.

Anonymous said...

Robert Dyer is the secret love child of... (pick one from Column "A" and one from Column "B")

*** Column A ***
Richard Nixon
Dan Snyder
Adolf Hitler
Joseph Stalin
Lenny Greenberg

*** Column B ***
Honey Boo-Boo's Mama
Marge Schott
Sarah Palin
Shirley Q. Liquor

Anonymous said...

I axtually totally agree with Dyer's points about the DLC also. When he veers and goes a bit wacky is when the peanut gallery pipes up. And sometimes deservedly so. He's not "asking for it" as the saying goes, but he sure does set himself up for it.

Anonymous said...

Prove it! Else that's libel and violates comment policy and should be deleted.

Anonymous said...

Would anyone pay good money to see him deported? I'd contribute 5-10k - no brainer decision!

Anonymous said...

Does Dyer use Android and/or a PC? Seems like the loser type to me!

Anonymous said...

Do you think we could get Dyer banned from all the major restaurants / shopping malls / etc? It'd greatly improve the experience of living in Bethesda knowing Dyer is not allowed inside!

Anonymous said...

I think he's already banned from most restaurants. The only ones we ever see him going inside, and showing pictures of live customers and staff, are the ones that are just having their grand opening.

Anonymous said...

I heard hes no taller than a hobbit and he uses that to his advantage to gain entry to places where he's been banned. Sly fox. We need some dyer traps.

Steve D. said...

"Anonymous said...
Does Dyer use Android and/or a PC?

9:47 AM"

As opposed to?

Anonymous said...

Steve D. has never heard of Apple, it appears.

Anonymous said...

Kudos to Dyer for reporting on things that actually affect locals. Dyer is entitled to his opinion, and he backs them up with quotes/facts. This comment section reads like a pissed off Hans Riemer has some free time this morning, because no one forces Anonymous to read Dyer's blog.

Anonymous said...

And your comment reads like a Dyer friend who doesn't really pay attention to the facts.

I'm no Riemer supporter and I'm no Dyer supporter. Does that confuse you?

Anonymous said...

Not very compelling at all.

I agree the county sucks at attracting businesses. I agree the night time economy task force recommendations may not have yet been really put in place or taken advantage of yet to see any results so soon.

I disagree with Dyer's approach of slamming Riemer and Riemer only. If you have a question for the man that goes unanswered and then admit you never actually asked him that question - how is that logical? go ask the man. Or go start a process to find out the answer to your question. Just spouting off on your blog platform doesn't help answer your own question.

Peter said...

IMHO the target of The Rants Of The Depressed Dyer is all wrong.

The REAL target of the rant needs to be the Maryland State Legislature and the fact that they have not unified the administration of the liquor laws for the entire state. That it is 2015 and there has not been significant reformation of how booze is regulated at said level since the end of Prohibition 80 YEARS AGO is maddening.

Frankly I think Annapolis would be the best venue to deal with this, therefore taking this entirely out of the hands out of the County Councils for every county in MD.

Robert Dyer said...

9:39: I brought up the other issues because they establish a record of failure by Mr. Riemer, which contradicts the claims of success he made in the op-ed. So they were very much on topic. If I were just bashing, I could have gone into the whole topic of Hans Riemer's Wall Street Money Machine, and campaign contributions from pioneers in outsourcing American jobs to China.

Robert Dyer said...

11:35: Which facts in this article are in dispute?

Anonymous said...

If Dyer were drowning, would you save him?

Anonymous said...

i would put my life on the line to save him if he were in actual danger. robert is a good egg even if he is a Republican in a Democrat state and county. p.s. shills don't risk their lives for someone. friends do.

Anonymous said...

I'm afraid there is no saving of the Sultan of Slaw. He is already shredded.

Of course Hans seems so happy. He has mastered the Art of Seems. He deletes the faux pax within an hour of posting them. He has discovered that if he smiles and warmly insists that he is here for YOU, and that together we can make Progress, why... you will just conclude that whatever he last told you is the truth. Even if it contradicts something he stated an hour earlier.

I don't need a Councilman to stroke my ego and make me feel safe when I'm not. I want someone who is as pissed off as I am that there are high schools in our county without computers and kids failing core skills like math. It isn't about test scores. It's about our collective responsibility in seeing that the next generation of MOCO has not been impeded from a fair opportunity to succeed in and beyond college. For starters. Robert isn't going to botch that up further, so why not let him try? Is it really more important to have a smiling sell-out?

Hans can take the heat. I suspect he was born flame-retardant. Y'all are mythologizing the wrong guy, imo. Mebbe try tossing Hans in the bayou. He probably floats.

Robert Dyer said...

Peter, I think your comment is generally correct about the state being the venue to make changes. And they ultimately must approve or deny anything proposed by the Council.

The reason I'm writing about the county level is that's where the action is at the moment. And what's being done is being inflated as real reform, while leaving the old system and outdated ideas in place. A coherent, well-researched and fact-based article is not usually described as a "rant", however.

Anonymous said...

@ 6:11 PM - You really shouldn't eat those kinds of mushrooms, you know.

And there is no such phrase as "faux pax" in either French or Latin.

@ 9:30 PM - A rant is not usually described as "a coherent, well-researched and fact-based article", however.

Anonymous said...

How do you "know"? Lol.

Anonymous said...

What an ego to assert and assume the county council reads your blog. Try may very well but how can you say that with such certainty without evidence to support your claim?

That's the type of "facts" and "evidence" that makes your claims so ridiculous all of the time. Despite the good stuff in the blog. Which is why you get trolled by folks who can't stop shaking their heads.

Anonymous said...

The fact that dyer is credible.

Anonymous said...

@ 3:29 AM - must the meaning of the phrase "you know" be explained to you?

Anonymous said...

@ 4:31 AM - That's not even a complete sentence.

G. Money said...

@ 4:36 - I believe s/he was looking for a discussion or overview of epistemology.