Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Former Rockville mayor calls out Montgomery County cartel

Former Montgomery County Executive and Rockville mayor Douglas M. Duncan is the first prominent political figure to acknowledge, and call out, the political cartel that has seized control of the County over the last two decades. Over that same period since they first won a majority of the seats on the County Council in 2002 - and now control every single seat in 2019, the County has plunged to rock bottom in all relevant regional economic development categories. As a result of their high-tax and anti-business policies, the County economy has become moribund, the ultra-wealthy have fled in great numbers to lower-tax jurisdictions, and the County has failed to attract a major corporate headquarters in over twenty years. While high profile voices like The Washington Post, Washington Business Journal and Sage Policy Group have finally joined me in declaring Montgomery County moribund, no prominent figure has previously identified that a political cabal has seized control of the local Democratic party and County government. Until now.

A day after the County's elected officials held another clueless meeting on the stagnant County economy, repeating the same mantras and problems without endorsing actual solutions we know will solve them, it's worth examining what Doug Duncan recently said regarding the cartel. One of the key reasons we are struggling to attract jobs and economic growth is that cartel-controlled officials are anti-highway and anti-car. That is because the most dominant players in the cartel are developers who specialize in developments that require traffic congestion to remain high, in order to justify their density. So it's not surprising that the County Council's predictable opposition to Gov. Larry Hogan's Express Lanes plan for the Beltway and I-270 frustrated a common-sense leader like Duncan.

"You don't often see a governor saying, 'I want to put billions of dollars into your infrastructure,'" Duncan told the Post. "For Montgomery County to say no right off the bat without saying let's look at this is the result of who's controlling the Democratic Party now."

Those elected officials have not only blocked and canceled critical highway projects, but have also pursued the anti-business course that their developer sugar daddies in the cartel have demanded behind closed doors. Developers want the valuable land in Rock Spring and along I-270 where existing office parks could be used to lure defense, aerospace and tech firms that need large, secure campuses. They want those office zones to remain vacant and struggling, so that they can acquire the land and redevelop it as residential. This is why you see the Council continuing to refuse to take the steps needed to turn the economy around, and to block economic growth.

Duncan addressed that, too, in his remarks to the Post. He told the newspaper "the County's Democratic leadership of 'no-growthers' is out of step with residents."

This is a breakthrough in the public debate. Duncan is as liberal a Democrat as they come, but he's also remembered for being pro-business while in office until he ran for governor in 2006. Duncan lost his bid to return as County Executive in 2014, when the cartel threw its weight behind incumbent Ike Leggett. He may now wish he had run in 2018, when pro-business candidate David Blair lost to Marc Elrich by a literal whisker in the Democratic primary. If the County remains on this road to bankruptcy, we likely haven't heard the last of Duncan and Blair in the political arena.

To be first to acknowledge the local Democratic Party and our elected offices have indeed been hijacked by a cartel, cabal or whatever you want to call it, is indeed a shot across the bow by Duncan. These words need to be heard and taken seriously, if we are to resolve this fiscal crisis, and become the major economic development player we once were in the region.


  1. I'd love to read these comments from Duncan. Can you provide a link to the Post article where they appeared? I'm glad someone from the pro-growth wing of the party is calling out the current crop of leaders. I lament that Blair and Krasnow split this constituency in the primary, allowing this buffoon to win.


  2. This Rockville Nights post is the worst kind of Fake News.

    The only article, in which Douglas M. Duncan was quoted as saying things like, “You don't often see a governor saying, 'I want to put billions of dollars into your infrastructure…” is the June 1, 2019, Washington Post article, “Why is Hogan pursuing toll lanes project despite objections? It’s good politics.”

    There is no other source that quotes Duncan on anything else since 2018 or before.

    As far as a thorough Internet/news/blog search is concerned, Duncan did not “acknowledge, and call out, the political cartel.” He said nothing of the sort. This is a fabrication. Mr. Dyer, please cite your source for this claim.

    Then you continue with the ultimate irony stating that Duncan is calling out “…the most dominant players in the cartel… developers who specialize in developments…”

    Based on years of Maryland Campaign Finance data, it is a matter of cold fact that Duncan and his “End[less] Gridlock” slate were bought and paid for by those very same developers. Duncan and his council cronies received 60% to 80% of all their campaign cash from developers. They literally set a new standard in Montgomery County for this type of influence and corruption.

    Mr. Dyer, please issue an apology and retraction of your false claim at once.

    1. Duncan was very clear in citing "who's controlling the Democratic party now." Exact quote.

      Yes, Duncan was funded by developers as well. But he does not oppose needed highway projects that are currently opposed by the particular developers and their puppets on the Council that are part of the cartel. He also recognizes that economic development and growth do not only refer to residential housing development.

      Developers have too much influence in Virginia, and virtually every other state. But unlike Montgomery County today, Virginia officials have continued to build highway infrastructure, widen roads, and add Express Lanes.

      Some of our spending problems today can certainly be blamed on past decisions made by Mr. Duncan. But that is not the focus of this report, which is about Duncan acknowledging the seizure of our elected offices and the Democratic party by a faction that opposes economic growth. And about Duncan's support for Express Lanes.

    2. Mr. Dyer, you are lying. You claim that, “Duncan was very clear in citing "who's controlling the Democratic party now." Exact quote,” however in your post you state that that means, “[Duncan] acknowledge[d], and call[ed] out, the political cartel.” And then went on to say that Duncan is referring to “…the most dominant players in the cartel… …developers who specialize in developments that require traffic congestion to remain high, in order to justify their density.” That’s a huge leap and a major misrepresentation.

      It’s nice that you concede, “Yes, Duncan was funded by developers as well.” He wasn’t “…funded by developers as well;” he wrote the book on developer dollars in Montgomery County political campaigns. Duncan and his End Gridlock slate took more money from developers than any politicians in Montgomery County before or since.

      AND it’s impossible for Duncan to “call out, the political cartel” which is funded by certain (residential/congestion oriented) developers, when in fact, Duncan took money… MILLIONS of dollars from ALL developers, including residential/congestion oriented developers. He would be calling out himself.

      And who is Duncan anyway, but a highly corrupt former county executive, who has the dubious distinction of being the lowest ranking elected official in the U.S. to take dirty money from convicted lobbyist, Jack Abramoff, in exchange for lucrative political favors and then suffer the consequences (by dropping out of the 2006 Maryland Governor’s race).

      It is stunning that you would sing the praises of this corrupt and morally bereft former politician.

    3. 3:03: I'm not sure that I "sang his praises" - I simply pointed out that he has a more common-sense position on infrastructure than the Council, and that he is the first prominent current or former official to call out the cartel that has seized control of the County.

      Anyone who has read this website for any length of time would find the idea that I am praising developers, or Duncan's involvement with them, to be laughable.

      We're talking about the cartel and their opposition to Express Lanes, not Duncan's ties to developers or Abramoff.