Thursday, June 30, 2016
Growing consensus on Montgomery County's moribund economy
Recently, Washington Post reporter Bill Turque wrote about the County's "economically moribund eastern sector." Now, remarkably, that assessment is being reinforced by the former Chief of Staff for Councilmember Hans Riemer, Adam Pagnucco. The Post editorial board withdrew its 2014 endorsement of Riemer after considering the councilman's non-existent record of legislative accomplishment (although educated voters still await the newspaper's thorough review of Riemer's heavy donations from Wall Street and pioneers in outsourcing jobs overseas, like Mitt Romney's Bain Capital and Danaher Corporation).
Writing for The Seventh State this week, Pagnucco details the County's "stagnant economy" and "weak economic performance." He notes that per capita income in the County plunged during the Great Recession (which was caused by many of the same banks and Wall Street interests whose lobbyists donated to Riemer's 2010 and 2014 campaigns). And remarks on the County's "sluggish growth."
Pagnucco backs that up with devastating job numbers that show just how poorly Montgomery County has performed in relation to its rivals in the region. Listening to the Council that presided over this mess, you'd never imagine that MoCo actually has less private sector jobs today than it did in 2001. Ouch.
The rest of the region during that time? Their private sector job numbers actually grew at an average of 9.5% as we were declining, Pagnucco writes.
How many jobs did we gain during that time? None. In fact, we went into the negatives, losing 3885 jobs!
How did our rivals do during that same period?
Loudoun added 42,929 jobs. Double ouch.
D.C. added 78,011 jobs. Triple ouch.
Who else whipped Montgomery County under the leadership of this Council, the core of which has been in their seats since 2002?
Many rural Maryland counties including Frederick and Charles. And little dudes like Rappahannock in Virginia and Jefferson in West Virginia. That's right, the MoCo cartel had their [briefcases] handed to them by the backwoods of the region. Humiliating.
So much for Councilman George Leventhal's bizarre 2014 secessionist primal scream that "the people are in the big counties!!"
Of course, regular readers also are quite familiar with the reality that our County's lack of direct highway access to Dulles Airport, via a new Potomac River bridge, is one of the major reasons corporations don't want to locate here (along with the terrible business climate and high taxes). Would you believe that Pagnucco acknowledged this also in his piece? Yep.
These are major steps forward.
The Post editorial board has consistently told us this Council is wise and highly-qualified, and that their challengers are novice fools. But let's look at the facts.
If you ask the Council, they'll tell you business is booming. I've said it's moribund all along. Just the facts: Not a single major corporation has moved here in nearly 20 years. Not a single Chamber of Commerce in Montgomery County endorsed any sitting councilmember in the 2014 election, an unprecedented vote of no-confidence by business leaders. And now an actual Post journalist, and a former chief of staff for a sitting councilman, are sharing my assessment.
The Council has told us for years that we need massive residential development in order to reap the additional tax revenue. During all of that time, I've written that new development alone doesn't cover the costs of the new services and infrastructure it requires. Just the facts: Our ongoing structural budget deficit after a decade of massive residential development (such as Clarksburg growing in population by 800%) proves that the revenue simply doesn't cover the costs. If it did, we'd have a budget surplus. We don't. That's why the Council raised your taxes to a historic new level last month. And now several of these same councilmembers are admitting for the first time that development revenue is not covering the costs that same development creates.
The Council thought it could regulate free speech in crisis pregnancy centers. The Council was destroyed in court. It thought it could target one company's power plant to make it shut down. It was crushed in court again. It thought it could criminalize homelessness and panhandling. A non-profit condemned their efforts as "cruel and unusual punishment," in violation of the U.S. Constitution. Are these the wise men and women of law and letters of whom we've been told?
The emperor has no clothes, and the well-honed Council message is starting to sport some really nasty cracks in its cheap facade.
Montgomery County's private sector economy is indeed moribund. The word is out on the street.
Pagnucco is right. Turque is right. The Chamber of Commerce is right. The more than 10,000 people who have signed the petition for term limits are right. And I think the Council now has to admit, I've been right all along.
Who is more qualified to serve on the Council? The guy who has been consistently right, or the impotent, incompetent people who have been consistently wrong, wrong, wrong?
Speaking of wrong, I do have to strongly disagree with Pagnucco's repeated assertion that the only people providing coverage of news in Montgomery County are Turque and Bethesda Magazine publisher Steve Hull. Again, if you're a regular reader here, you'd have to agree that's a bizarre and ridiculous statement.
Not only does this blog cover Bethesda and local government seven days a week, but my media company Suburban News Network has news sites that report on Rockville and Silver Spring/Wheaton/Takoma Park.
Rockville Nights is the leading Rockville news site, extensively covering government happenings in both the City of Rockville and the County, as well as dining, real estate and more. Check it out for yourself, and you'll find in-depth coverage of Rockville not available anywhere else.
And East MoCo reports on all of our "moribund eastern sector" of Montgomery County. Every weekday.
What makes Pagnucco's assertion about the supposed lack of local news outlets especially embarrassing, is that he himself commented on a lively discussion about my East MoCo blog on Facebook on February 24, 2014, and stated that I was "very active across a number of media platforms."
It takes some gall by Pagnucco, and old media gatekeepers like the Post and the Washingtonian (who both regularly promote websites more friendly and obsequious to Montgomery County elected officials) to continue to somehow deny I exist. This blog just turned ten years old last month. Ten years.
And guess which site reported our economy was moribund first?