Monday, January 4, 2016

MoCo Liquor stores hand out flyers to preserve monopoly, days after DLC delivery disaster (Photo)

Flyer being handed out, as
tweeted by Justin Fidler
Montgomery County-operated liquor stores are handing out literature to customers that threatens to raise their property taxes by "$100" if the County's Department of Liquor Control loses monopoly control over booze. The flyers state they have been printed by the County Office of Public Information, which is obviously funded by taxpayer money. What they don't state, is that just days ago, the DLC failed to make scheduled deliveries to restaurants, bars and beer-and-wine retailers at the height of the critical holiday season. More on that in a moment.

Of course, County Executive Ike Leggett has already stated his intention to raise taxes in the next budget, as the County Council's fiscal mismanagement over the last 14 years has created a structural deficit with no end in sight. And, no, raising taxes every year to cover ever-increasing spending is not a responsible record for a public official.

Councilmember Hans Riemer, who has posed as a critic of the liquor monopoly to promote himself through the local media, has ironically ended up defending the current regime along with seven of his colleagues. Roger Berliner, who represents District 1 on the Council, has declined to oppose new attempts to end the monopoly. Delegate Bill Frick - who like Berliner represents Bethesda, where bars and restaurants have been hurt by the current monopoly - has joined Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot in efforts in Annapolis to allow private competition within the county.

The flyer states that the current monopoly "doesn't cost taxpayers a single dime." Well, not only did these flyers cost the taxpayers, but the current County-controlled system requires both consumers and private businesses to pay more for liquor than they would in the District. So that statement is false.

Riemer's compromise, to allow competition for "special order" products, not only conveniently allows the DLC to define which products are "special orders," but would also allow the DLC to levy an arbitrary fee the consumer would end up paying - a tax, in other words. Tax? No wonder Riemer and the Council are for it!

But the flyers are essentially a gaffe for the County liquor regime, as they are being handed out mere days after yet another DLC holiday delivery disaster. As the Seventh State blog reported December 31, a DLC blunder resulted in missed deliveries to restaurants and bars between December 23-29. Don't worry, DLC Director George Griffin assured them, orders would be back on schedule by New Year's Eve. Oh, and there was a little matter of an order backlog... No big deal if you own a restaurant, bar or beer-and-wine store, right? - it's only one of your biggest times of the year during the holidays, after all.

This comes after the DLC was criticized last year for being unable to fill orders for items as basic as Maker's Mark during previous holiday seasons. You can't make this stuff up, folks.

The bottom line is that the vast majority of County residents want government out of the liquor business, the benefits of high-quality retailers in competition with each other, and the simple ability to pick up Bud Light or a $9 wine bottle at the grocery store. Despite odd claims that the state is responsible for the current inability to do the latter, the reality is that requires the same sort of state-level law change in Annapolis that Riemer is seeking for his current plan. The only difference is that our elected officials aren't asking for it. Hmm...why is that?

This is not the first time we as taxpayers have been forced to pay for PR materials promoting a position the majority of residents oppose (Ambulance Fee, Bus Rapid Transit, anybody?). It should be the last.

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