Send ’em to Frederick?

Posted 22 July 2019 by Zinzindor
Categories: Housing, Montgomery County, Uncategorized

A modification to MoCo zoning laws will be up for a vote in the County Council on Tuesday.   The amendment concerns Auxiliary Dwelling Units, which are residential units that are “subordinate” to the principal dwelling.  These could be mother-in-law apartments carved out of  — or built onto — a single family house;  an ADU could also be a detached apartment.

The premise of the amendment is that high housing prices – and the shortage of affordable housing – are partly caused by current zoning limitations on sharing property.  There is a strong consensus that zoning standards have contributed to housing problems.  (See, for example, The State of the Nation’s Housing, from the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University).  That study shows that the high price of housing is a result of housing supply being insufficient to meet demand.  Restrictions on property can be eased to allow more housing to be built.

 There is unfortunately a backlash from current residents who prefer the restrictions on building, and don’t want to liberalize the zoning laws.  The reaction takes the form of “Let those people go live somewhere else.”  That objection leads to sprawl, high housing costs, and homelessness.

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Against Rehiring Joshua Starr

Posted 1 February 2015 by Zinzindor
Categories: Education

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The Montgomery County School Board is in the midst of deliberations on whether to rehire Superintendent Joshua Starr.  Montgomery County Public Schools have been headed in the wrong direction, academically – and schools superintendent Starr makes it worse.  In fact, most everything about Joshua Starr indicates that he had no interest in student achievement.  The long-standing achievement gap in mathematics and other classes gets little reaction or attention from his office.  And there’s little reaction to the scandal over massive failure rates in high school finals.  MCPS, years after this was revealed, is still studying the matter.

Starr has been a vocal opponent of academic testing.  As a measure of accountability, after all, testing represents a threat, because it allows the public to judge how well he is educating our students.  Of course, that’s his basic job.  Isn’t it important for us to evaluate how well he is doing his job?
Instead of academic testing, the Post reports that he will be evaluating students on their feelings.  How happy they are.  How do they feel hope.  I wish I were making this stuff up.

And, in addition to opposing testing and student achievement, he is opposed to allowing parents to send their kids to schools where achievement is encouraged.  Starr is opposed to charter schools, and works to suppress them.  Competition isn’t something he would like, because, like testing, it threatens to make MCPS look bad.

Well, despite all that, MCPS is looking bad, and sadly in need of new leadership.

Does Burning Money Increase MoCo’s Carbon Footprint?

Posted 28 April 2014 by Zinzindor
Categories: Budget and Taxes, Corporate Welfare, County government, local government, Maryland, Regulation

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Council member Roger Berliner sponsored a set of environmental bills that made it through the council last week.  The worst one — which was passed, of course — requires the county to purchase 100% of its electricity from “clean fuels”.  The current requirement is 30%.

This initiative is all cost, and no benefits.

Based on the county’s fiscal impact statement, the law will increase the county’s energy expenditures in the range of $279,000 – $545,000 per year.  That gets over a million easily, in less than four years.Plaudits to Nancy Floreen, who argued for looking at this from a budgetary standpoint.  None of the other council members thought that was worthwhile.

And what do we get for those millions of dollars? Nothing.   The incremental change from this bill is so infinitesimally tiny that it adds up to nothing. No change in greenhouse gas emissions, no impact on climate change. Zero. Just a meaningless statement and bit of bluster.

So if the environment is not improved, who does benefit from those millions of taxpayer dollars? Well, council members like Berliner and George Leventhal get to crow about their wondrous accomplishment. (Leventhal excelled at playing the pompous windbag on this one.  He called it “the most urgent public policy challenge that we face.”   Really, George? More urgent than homelessness? Crime? Poverty? Educational failures for low-income neighborhoods?)

And certain energy producers, politically favored, get a more than tripling of the subsidy they currently receive. These producers are too expensive to compete, so they work through the political process to extract funds from MoCo taxpayers.

I can understand wanting to reduce emissions from fossil fuels.  I can understand reasonable policy proposals to do that.  But anyone with a lick of sense can also see what is purely symbolic, useless, and wasteful.This is a useless and expensive heap of corporate welfare, that allows the politicians to beat their chests, but accomplishes nothing. Nothing, that is, except take away funds from needs that really are urgent.

 

Teachers’ Union Endorses Candidates for Council Seats

Posted 2 April 2014 by Zinzindor
Categories: County government, Education

See here

 

Now you know who not to vote for.

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Increasing Poverty and Homelessness: Who Benefits?

Posted 27 March 2014 by Zinzindor
Categories: Economy, Regulation, The War on the Poor

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Giving politicians the power to manage the economy causes all kins of problems. For one thing, they act in their own interest – just like anyone else. This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, but it seems to be. It’s time to get past the idea that politicians (or bureaucrats) are wise and altruistic overseers of the economy, taking necessary actions to correct imperfections and imbalances caused by, well, regular people.
A good example is the proposed legislation in the Maryland General Assembly to raise the state minimum wage by nearly forty percent. The purpose of this law is to make it illegal for a high-school dropout — let’s call him John — to agree to accept a $10 hourly wage from a shop owner.
The evidence clearly shows the likely result of this action. If the shop owner has a job, she will hire the best-qualified person she can. A person with a good work history, or a high school diploma or GED, will seem like a better bet than John. John, representing the lowest level of skills and education in our society, will be the loser from this legislation. He will become unemployed, and likely remain unemployed for the long term. An increase in the minimum wage almost always increases unemployment for that reason. Specifically, it increases the already abysmal employment prospects for those starting out in the job market (the 17 – 25 cohort), and even more so for the black and Hispanics in that group. An increases in the minimum wage ends up being a knife in the back of the least advantaged, the worst-off among us. When Montgomery County sought to raise the minimum wage, this was the advice they got from expert labor economists at the University of Maryland and Georgetown University. The deleterious effects, the economists testified, are more likely when the increase is large and when the unemployment rate is already high. Economist Stephen Fuller looked at the Maryland bill and concluded it would probably cause a reduced standard of living and higher costs.

But political management of the economy doesn’t pay any attention to those people at the bottom. When the high school grad with the increased wage gets his paycheck, he’ll thank the politicians who caused it. The politicians have no incentive, however, to be concerned about the people at the very bottom of the economy – the ones we should be most concerned about. John’s lost job or lost employment opportunity doesn’t have any political loss for them. They are seeking political support, and they get rewards for increasing the minimum wage — and also for increasing unemployment, poverty, and homelessness.

Good News and Bad News

Posted 22 March 2014 by Zinzindor
Categories: Edifice Complex, Transportation

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Restoration is complete for the Sally Callmer mural of the commuting penguins that used to be displayed at the Silver Spring Metro station.  The mural, which was originally scheduled for a one-year display period, won the hearts of commuters and passersby in Silver Spring.  That’s why, when the mural was taken down a few years ago for restoration, those same passersby raised the private monies to restore the mural

The bad news: WMATA doesn’t plan to put the penguins back up until the Paul S. Sarbanes Super-Duper Bus Stop is completed.  See you in ten years, guys.

But Why Do You Need to Know Where I Am and When?

Posted 5 March 2014 by Zinzindor
Categories: Civil Liberties, Police State

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A variety of governmental entities in the state spy on the public by noting the location and movements of vehicles.  In 2011, the Gazette reports, there were 295 license plate scanners operating around the state.  That has increased by 39%.  All that data is being fed into the shady and suspicious “Maryland Coordination and Analysis Center.”  The director of the center insists that information in the database “…can only be accessed by a legitimate law enforcement officer for a legitimate reason.”

He’s missing the point.  People aren’t only concerned about other  entities using that data.  People don’t trust the state – the Coordination and Analysis Center — to hold it, either.  What are they doing with that information? Why do they need it?  Why are they spying on us?