Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ category

Band-Aids for Affordable Housing

26 October 2012

A new controversy involves the plan for the City of Rockville to buy the Fireside Park Apartments, a 236-unit complex in the Hungerford area. The purchase will cost $36 million, and Montgomery County is offering to chip in.  Rockville plans to subsidize apartments for households earning up to 60% of the county median income.  For a family of four, for example, subsidized apartments  would be available if their income was as much as $65,000.

A few thoughts:

– Creating public housing projects has rarely been an effective solution to achieving affordable housing.

– Homelessness is a serious problem.  The county should be looking towards long-term structural solutions, not just band-aids.  That begins with recognizing that MoCo policies are largely responsible for causing homelessness (and inflated home prices), and those policies must be changed to alleviate it.

– MoCo government seems to have no understanding of the economics of housing, or how their policies are making housing too expensive.  Rockville is competing with a private firm seeking to purchase the complex.  That is wasteful.  Richard Nelson, director of MoCo’s Department of Housing, defended the purchase: “Their objective — return on equity — is not the public policy of supporting affordable housing.”   Increasing the supply of housing, by economic reasoning, will help alleviate the high price of housing.  Too bad Nelson seems to be ignorant of this.   Governments in general, and especially Montgomery County, are more often blinded by the attraction of building something they can point to and say “That’s ours.”  The edifice complex wins out over an effective policy to improve housing.


State Budget: Worse than They are Telling Us

23 September 2012

After years of  the state government spending more money than it takes in,  Comptroller Pierre Franchot announced recently that Maryland ended this fiscal year with a surplus.  One shouldn’t be deceived by the appearance of good fiscal news, however.

First, because most of that surplus  is due to the tax increases that Governor O’Malley pushed through the General Assembly.  Soon, you can bet, he’ll be proposing more places to spend that money.

Second, the surplus is illusory.  The  balance sheet, as we can usually expect from government accounting, doesn’t reflect all of the liabilities the state is carrying. A recent study by the Pew Center for the States shows that Maryland is actually in deep debt in terms of keeping up with its obligations for funding pensions.  The state pension plans have a liability of $ 71 billion, and
are poorly funded – not only by professional standards, but also well below averages for states across the country.  Most disturbingly, retiree health care funds are even worse, as they are only about 1% funded.  Maryland health care funding got the lowest grade possible in the report.

So take the reports of fiscal health (like most positive trumpeting from Annapolis) with a huge grain of salt.  Fiscally, we are still in very bad shape, and spending on health care is going to skyrocket soon.

Extraterrestrial Panhandling

26 February 2009

I hope the president’s budget will feature a hefty increase in appropriations for NASA.  Because pretty soon there’ll be no one left on this planet to borrow money from.

Carnival of Maryland #47

2 December 2008


I’ve neglected to mention that the latest Carnival of Maryland has been posted at Monoblogue.  The Carnival is a biweekly roundup of posts on Maryland themes from a variety of bloggers, most of whom are with the Maryland Bloggers Alliance (see blogroll to the right).   The Carnival has a nice selection ranging from state politics (of course), local issues across the state, and the striking photography we’ve come to expect from the Ridger.

Take a look and enjoy.

Attempting to Restrain Taxes

4 November 2008

Sometimes it seems like there’s no way to stop government spending.  Montgomery County has a charter provision which limits property taxes.  It allows taxes to grow every year, but they are not allowed to grow at a faster rate than inflation.

Montgomery County government,  not being especially fond of limits, allows the county council to waive the restriction by a supermajority vote of 7 (out of 9) council members.  Over the years, there have been several attempts by politicians to loosen those caps, but voters have turned back those attempts.

In restraining the county government, however, the restriction has turned out to be something of a paper leash.  The council has voted to override the property tax caps in three of the last five years, regardless of supermajority requirements.  A new proposition is now put before voters, therefore, to try to put some teeth in the charter.  This proposition would require a unanimous vote (9 of 9) of the council to override the charter restrictions on property taxes.

Something to consider.

Carnival of Maryland #37

15 July 2008

I have neglected to mention that the 37th (!!) Carnival of Maryland has been posted at The Carnival is an anthology of posts dealing with Maryland events, politics, nature, history, and more. It’s posted every other week, from bloggers who are part of the Maryland Bloggers’ Alliance (see sidebar) and those who aren’t. There’s always a nice variety of posts.

V’Nashuva! Chadeish Blogeinu!

19 March 2008