Many are still trying to translate Riemer's stream-of-consciousness remarks Monday. At one point, Riemer responded to a reporter who challenged him to cite a specific error in the Sage Policy Group report with this whopper: "If you combine four or five points, seem (sic) to create a version of reality that is really a very distorted version of reality. So that's, that's fundamentally, you know, whether one data point from one year to another year might have shown what that report showed isn't really the point."
That wasn't even grammatically correct or logically coherent, much less an answer to the reporter's demand for specifics.
Ignore the official government data, Riemer advised reporters, suggesting that his own anecdotal thoughts somehow trump numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). He then threw out a number of ridiculously absurd excuses for Montgomery's woes, even while claiming there are no woes.
Riemer pointed to the federal budget sequestration impact. That made no sense, because sequestration had a far greater impact on Northern Virginia in recent years, as counties like Fairfax are home to many more defense contractors than Montgomery County. Yet Fairfax County enjoyed a net gain of 3000 new businesses this decade - which included the sequestration years. How many did Montgomery County gain over the same period? Six. SIX! Humiliating, but certainly not the fault of sequestration, as the Fairfax boom proves.
The Council President also argued the Great Recession was to blame, and that Montgomery County was enjoying "better outcomes" than other jurisdictions in the region. Again, totally false. Despite the recession "slowing down" the regional economy, all the other jurisdictions around us outperformed Montgomery County. In fact, Montgomery County was whipped across the board in economic development and job creation by not only Fairfax, Loudoun and other wealthy D.C.-area counties, but even by upstart whippersnappers like Culpeper, Spotsylvania and Rappahannock Counties.
Riemer really went off the deep end by touting Montgomery County's low unemployment rate and high incomes. Neither statistic actually has anything to do with the strength of Montgomery County's economy. They simply mean that Montgomery County residents are employed in high-wage jobs outside of our county, in places like D.C. and Fairfax County. Low unemployment in no way reflects the number of jobs in a jurisdiction, only the employment status of its residents. Yet Riemer said the low number of new businesses created this decade in Montgomery couldn't possibly be true, because of our low unemployment rate. Huh? The two statistics have nothing to do with each other.
One has to worry that someone with as poor of a grasp of basic economic concepts and data as Helpless Hans Riemer is currently in charge of directing the county's economic future. If someone actually believes that the unemployment rate reflects the number of jobs created within Montgomery County, they are clueless about economic development. God help us!
Most entertaining were the many times Riemer couldn't find an answer to a reporter's question on the cue cards in front of him. After searching his flash cards frantically for an answer to exactly why Sage's new business number was somehow wrong, Helpless Hans looked, well, helplessly around the room. "I think I'm going to have to refer you to Council staff for the exact details about why this new business starts [sigh] conversation is just out in left field."
Wait, the Council President doesn't know the numbers? And he's in charge of the next budget, and getting paid $137,000 for this job? Wow. Humiliating. If he doesn't know the numbers, why is he challenging the report?
Riemer then suggested the new business starts number doesn't correspond with other data from BLS.
"Okay, so what does BLS say?" a reporter pressed.
Riemer looked helplessly around the room again. "I don't know if Council staff is here," he stammered. "You'll have to, I'll have to, to get you together with Gene, um, after today."
Andrew Metcalf of Bethesda Magazine asked Riemer regarding the County's Economic Development Corporation, "Can you think of any major accomplishments or achievements they have? What exactly has MCEDC done in the last two years?"
Riemer consulted his cue cards again to no avail. "Okay, so, what are the successes of the Economic Development Corporation? Um, [grimaces] I might need a little staff here. Uh, you know, uh, yeah, my economic development team is not here."
Asked when Montgomery County opened dialogue with Discovery Communications after it was known they were considering relocating from Silver Spring, Riemer replied, "I don't have that information." In other words, there was no dialogue.
As they say, the first step is admitting you have a problem. Riemer is clearly not yet prepared to take that step. And as a result, Montgomery County's moribund economy cannot move forward until he is replaced.