Archive for the ‘local government’ category

Does Burning Money Increase MoCo’s Carbon Footprint?

28 April 2014


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.



Damn the low-income residents and the jobless: Anybody but WalMart!

10 April 2013

The building on the corner of Connecticut Avenue and Aspen Hill Road in Aspen Hill has been empty for three years.  At the same time, downcounty residents have been looking forward to a WalMart opening in the area, where heavy discounts on household goods and groceries would be available.  And to complete the confluence of opportunity and fortune, Walmart is interested in occuping the space, which would establish dozens of jobs.  Sounds like a fortuitous win/win/win situation, right?  Who could oppose this?  Councilman Craig Rice, who is often looking out for the interests of low-income residents,  is eager to see it happen.

But Councilman George Leventhal, who is often looking out for politically popular causes, is trying to stop it.  After all, criticizing Walmart is all the rage among Leventhal’s upper-income constituents.  It’s chic to oppose the lowbrow store, which doesn’t serve gourmet fair trade chai or organic truffles.  Leventhal complained that “the county has not had a chance to weigh Walmart over other potential uses for the land.”

It’s been three years, George, and no one else is moving in there.  Yet he continues to block the approval process, hoping that someone more tasteful might be persuaded to move there.

Good news, bad news on the Birchmere

1 August 2007



Good news and bad news on the concert hall front: County spokesman Patrick Lacefield is reporting that the Birchmere deal is dead (hooray!).

The Birchmere ownership, according to the articles, is a little confused, and didn’t seem to expect this. “To date, the Birchmere has not been given a plausible reason for the breach. Any assertion by the county or any other entity that the parties were unable to reach agreement on the essential business terms is patently and demonstrably false.” (Tip o’ the hat to Silver Spring Singular.

The bad news: Middle class music lovers can still expect taxpayers to subsidize their entertainment, as the county is looking for another way to throw money at this. The latest rumor has the county looking to bring in a much larger venue — about the size of the Kennedy Center concert hall. Perhaps this is why the county broke off negotiations. They are reportedly now talking with Live Nation, the outfit that owns the Fillmore concert halls.

The county and state have already compelled taxpayers to pay over $100 million to build a concert hall the size of the Kennedy Center, only 15 miles away from the Kennedy Center. There was no need for Strathmore, and there is no need for an additional concert hall in Silver Spring. For crying out loud, we are just as close to the Clarice Smith Center at the University of Maryland.

I think it’s just some kind of elitist attitude at play; we don’t want to go to Washington, we don’t want to go to (gasp!) Prince George’s County, we have to have our own place in Montgomery. And to hell with the poor saps who have to pay the tab.

Raison d’être

2 March 2007

The municipality where I live is an endlessly fascinating place. Sitting right next to the nation’s capital, Montgomery features family farms dating from the 18th century, as well as some of the world’s most advanced biological engineering enterprises. The county government, with a budget that is the envy of some states, produces sophisticated and expensive programs, as well as some of the silliest legislation you could imagine. It’s also a place where wealthy people subsidize their hobbies and artistic passions by taxing the less well off. I founded this weblog to chronicle and observe the wrestling match between civil society and activist government, and publicize and examine the consequences of that conflict.

— Zinzindor