Showing posts with label Montgomery County. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Montgomery County. Show all posts

Thursday, July 11, 2024

Virginia is named #1 state for business; Maryland is...31st


CNBC
released its annual America's Top States for Business list this morning, and as usual, our neighbor across the Potomac has cleaned our clock once again. The cable network declared Virginia the top state for business in America. Maryland ranked 31st on the list for 2024. Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin is already taking a victory lap this morning. "I am thrilled that our great Commonwealth has been named America’s Top State for Business," Youngkin said in a statement. Rest assured you won't be seeing a press release from Maryland today on the subject.

You won't be surprised to know that other states in the top 10 include Texas and Tennessee. But southern, right-to-work states didn't completely dominate the top tier, as union redoubts Minnesota, Michigan, and Washington came in at #6, #9, and #10, respectively. Pro-labor policies don't make for an anti-business state all by themselves.

Delaware surprisingly finished below Maryland. The First State is usually associated with corporations, but is apparently a better place to incorporate your business than to actually operate a business - in CNBC's evaluation. Of course, Elon would strongly disagree.

Why is Maryland failing? It isn't only our failure to attract Fortune 500 companies to the state.

Virginia has the third-best infrastructure in America, according to CNBC. Maryland's infrastructure is ranked way down at 37th-best in America. Ouch. This isn't surprising when you consider that Virginia has built countless miles of new highways; installed Express Lanes on I-395, I-495, and all the way down to Fredericksburg on I-95; expanded Metro subway service through Fairfax and Loudoun Counties to Dulles Airport; now has three passenger airports in Northern Virginia alone, including the vast array of international business destinations only accessible via Dulles Airport; and has greatly expanded - at its own expense - Amtrak and Virginia Railway Express rail service. CNBC also took note of Virginia's "shovel-ready" site availablity. 

Over the same period, Maryland has built - well, not much at all. Maryland finally managed to replace the Nice Bridge over the Potomac River after many delays, only to see the Key Bridge in Baltimore collapse because state leaders for decades failed to make the necessary safety improvements they were warned to in 1980. The Purple Line delays speak for themselves. Gov. Wes Moore recently revived the plans for the Baltimore Red Line, but the state lacks any money to build it in the foreseeable future. 

Likewise, there's no cash for commuter rail in Southern Maryland or a new Bay Bridge, and any financial drain from the operation of the Purple Line is already directed to take money from other transportation projects to cover the shortfall. Maryland continues to kick the solutions for congestion on I-270 and I-495 can down the road. 

Montgomery County likes to cancel transportation infrastructure as much as it likes to ban things. Unless you are a bike lane, you are likely to be canceled by the County Council. The Council's transportation fails include announcing the cancellation of the Montrose Parkway East in White Flint on the very day that Amazon reps were touring the White Flint area during the Amazon HQ2 competition. Our talented County Council also canceled all of the major transportation infrastructure that was required to support its approval of massive housing development in Germantown, Clarksburg and Damascus - - the Corridor Cities Transitway light rail system, and the M-83 Highway. The Rockville Freeway? Removed from the master plan decades ago.

Maryland infamously continues to block construction of any new bridges over the Potomac River, denying itself congestion relief that might negate the need to widen the Beltway and I-270, as well as providing direct access to Dulles Airport that would be essential to attracting major corporations to the I-270 corridor. That highway extension of I-370 to VA-28 has an existing right-of-way from Gaithersburg to the Potomac River crossing site, but none of the intelligence, will, or leadership to build it.

The infrastructure picture in Maryland is so bad, we couldn't even keep the ancient White's Ferry operating. Remember when former Maryland Gov. Bob Ehrlich built an entire highway, the InterCounty Connector, all by himself? It is now, rightfully, named for him. Our leaders today are super low-energy, by comparison.

Former MD Gov. Bob Ehrlich

Where else does Maryland fall short for business, according to CNBC? We're nearly the worst in America for the "Cost of Doing Business," landing at 47 out of 50. "Right into the buckle - that's gotta hurt, Gene." Montgomery County has the highest tax burden in the Washington, D.C. region, and our County and State tax structures are simply not competitive with Virginia.

CNBC shares the growing consensus that the economies of Montgomery County and Maryland are moribund. Maryland's economy ranks 30th out of all 50 states on their list. And that's probably being very generous of them. Grading on a curve.

Maryland's score for "Workforce" is nearly as bad, at 28 out of 50. This is shocking given that we have some of the most highly-educated populations in America in several counties. But CNBC finds our workforce to be worse than average.

Virginia is #1 for education. Maryland is #14. This isn't surprising if you've watched the slow motion 100-car-pileup decline of Montgomery County Public Schools since the departure of Dr. Jerry Weast, the last MCPS superintendent who - for whatever faults he had - was actually professionally-qualified for the job.

Maryland ranks way down at #37 for "Business Friendliness." Virginia is #5 in that column.

If you're an elected official in Maryland,
don't turn on CNBC today

The news isn't all bad. Maryland rises to 16 out of 50 in quality of life. Texas is dead last in that category. But Virginia is only 3 points behind us at 19th. The Commonwealth was also 19th in cost-of-living. That means they beat us there, too. 

CNBC also ranks Maryland in the top 10 states for Technology and Innovation, at #8. This is pretty surprising, too, but likely the result of Montgomery County's only economic bright spot, the biotech sector. Virginia has superior tech infrastructure, and has been home to many more notable tech firms, but somehow ends up at 15 in this category.

We already know that Montgomery County hasn't attracted a single major corporate headquarters in over a quarter century. But it's becoming more surprising by the day that Gov. Moore has been unable to attract such HQs or significant manufacturing facilities to the state. One of his biggest calling cards and selling points was that he was a successful Wall Street businessman. He regularly hobnobs and fundraises among the financial elite on Martha's Vineyard and in the Hamptons. Surely, his Rolodex is bursting at the seams with CEO phone numbers. But, perplexingly, he has yet to score a big win in the corporate HQ and factory races.

The CNBC list only reinforces what engaged observers in our County and State already know. We're in real trouble, folks. And the lack of business starts, development and growth are hitting the County and State budgets harder than ever. Just look at the latest County Council tax hikes (and ballot questions to facilitate even-bigger tax hikes starting next year), and the dystopian budget headlines out of Annapolis. 

We can't go on like this.

Thursday, June 27, 2024

Walnut Hill Shopping Center makeover nearly complete (Photos)


The cosmetic upgrades at the Walnut Hill Shopping Center at 16529 S. Frederick Avenue in Gaithersburg are entering the home stretch. New facades and logo signage for storefronts are the most obvious updates. Resurfacing and restriping of the center's parking lot is underway. The updated appearance was a requirement by Aldi to agree to become the property's new anchor retail tenant. Still to come are new monument and wayfaring signage, and the eventual construction of a Sheetz convenience store and mega gas station.







Montgomery County Council stonewalls Black cemetery advocates


The Bethesda African Cemetery Coalition recently contacted all members of the Montgomery County Council, asking each elected official to denounce the desecration of Moses African Cemetery in Bethesda, and the desecration of African-American cemeteries in general. None of them agreed to do so, and only one even replied to the inquiries. "Thank you for your email regarding Moses African Cemetery," Councilmember Marilyn Balcombe's chief of staff wrote in an email response to BACC. "This is a very complex issue which has a long history. It is not within the purview of the Council to advocate while there is both past and ongoing litigation."

"BACC rejects the logic of any and all councilmembers who remain silent," the organization said in a statement Wednesday. "First, we do not understand what the issue is regarding commenting on issues involving litigation. Through Amicus Briefs and other means, public and private entities weigh in all the time on lawsuits. Secondly, the Moses African Cemetery covers several parcels including ones not involved in litigation, allowing any Councilmember concerned about intervening in a court case to comment about the fate of portions of the cemetery not involved in litigation. In particular, the developer, 1784 Holdings, is erecting a light storage facility next to McDonalds on River Road despite the absence of a full archaeological and forensic survey investigating whether additional bones and funerary objects remain. 1784 Holdings had previously removed several possible funerary objects and is storing them in a warehouse in Gainesville, Virginia. A proper investigation of these objects has not been conducted, The Council could call of a third party, impartial investigation now."

"BACC believes the Council must reverse course and take a strong stand against desecration. No other local official at any level has spoken out. The council has an opportunity to lead if it can shake off its bureaucratic mindset."

Thursday, June 20, 2024

Could a Netflix House be coming to Montgomery Mall in Bethesda?


Is Montgomery County ready for Netflix IRL? The leading streaming service announced the planned opening of two Netflix House "experiential entertainment venues" at malls in Dallas and King of Prussia, with potential plans for more in cities yet to be identified. Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda seems like a logical choice to join the list. Netflix Houses are described as being "over 100,000-square-feet" in size. Montgomery Mall's vacant former Sears store is 150,000-square-feet, is currently mothballed, and is generating zero revenue for Westfield beyond whatever tax break can be claimed for the vacancy.

Westfield holds an approval from Montgomery County for an urban-style, mixed-use expansion of the mall, including a demolition of the empty Sears building, but has not taken any visible steps to immediately proceed with that development. A Netflix House would be a good short-term use to generate revenue until Westfield is ready to move forward with the expansion.

"Imagine waltzing with your partner to an orchestral cover of a Taylor Swift song on a replica of the Bridgerton set –– and then walking around the corner to compete in the Glass Bridge challenge from Squid Game," Netflix said in its Netflix House announcement Tuesday. "After pretending to fight for your life, you’ve worked up an appetite and want to get a bite. You see a nearby restaurant with food inspired by Netflix shows from around the world; the meal is memorable, but you still want to buy some Stranger Things merch. Luckily, there’s a shop that sells that Hellfire Club T-shirt you’ve always wanted." 


There are other malls in the region, but Montgomery Mall has the ideal vacant building space that Netflix requires for a Netflix House immediately available. Its loss of Sears as an anchor would be its gain in this case. A Netflix House would generate significant additional foot traffic for other tenants of the mall.


On the other hand, the timeline for opening of the first two Netflix Houses suggests significant construction is required. The Galleria Dallas and King of Prussia Mall Netflix Houses are expected to open in 2025. By the time a Netflix House would open in 2026 or later, who knows if Netflix will still be the entertainment giant it is today? Two years is an eternity in Hollywood, and Westfield might want to proceed with its redevelopment of the Sears building and adjacent parking lot before, or by, that time.

Rendering courtesy Netflix
Photos by Robert Dyer

Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Losing to Virginia on another factory, is Montgomery County in the hunt for IKEA manufacturing site?


Montgomery County and Maryland were beaten in the economic development game again by Virginia yesterday. Will they be players in the next big manufacturing competition, for an IKEA factory on American soil? Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin's office announced Tuesday that his state had won the competition for a 400,000-square-foot Condair Group AG manufacturing facility. The press release indicated that Virginia and South Carolina were the two finalists. Meanwhile, the Financial Times reported this past weekend that IKEA is scouting for factory locations in the United States, due to increasing disruptions in international shipping lanes.

Virginia could already have a [LÖVBACKEN table] leg up in the IKEA race, as the Swedish furniture giant previously operated its only U.S. factory in Danville, Virginia from 2008 to 2019. It ultimately closed that plant, shipping its 300 jobs back to Europe. Montgomery County has plenty of room for an IKEA plant in the I-270 corridor, where there is also potential direct rail access to the CSX Metropolitan Subdivision for domestic or port shipping purposes. Of course, Baltimore, Hagerstown and Cumberland are among the struggling Maryland cities that could use an IKEA plant to help revive their once-mighty industrial areas.

There's no indication of Montgomery County or Maryland having been in the hunt for the Condair plant. The $57.2 million investment by Condair in Chesterfield County, Virginia will create 180 good-paying industrial jobs with full benefits. Instead of Condair products being exported out of the Port of Baltimore, they'll be headed out of Richmond Marine Terminal in Virginia, according to the press release.

"When an international brand like Condair makes the decision to locate in Virginia, the positive ripple-effects of economic investment, job creation and cargo growth are felt throughout the Commonwealth," Virginia Port Authority CEO Stephen A. Edwards said in a statement. "The Port of Virginia will be among the beneficiaries of Condair’s location in Chesterfield County, which is not far from Richmond Marine Terminal. We are ready to collaborate with Condair to help it leverage the assets of this port — America’s most modern gateway — to ensure it has access to world markets." 

"Virginia is the perfect location for the international company Condair to establish its state-of-the-art manufacturing facility," Youngkin said in a statement Tuesday. "We applaud the 21st century manufacturing jobs that this project will bring to Chesterfield County."

Sunday, June 16, 2024

Ann Taylor closes at Montgomery Mall in Bethesda


Ann Taylor
has closed at Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda. This store managed to survive the 2017 purge of Ann Taylor store closures, as well as the pandemic, so it's surprising to see it go now. Yet Ann Taylor stores in more-business-friendly and economically-vibrant Tysons, Pentagon City, Fair Oaks Mall, and Dulles Town Center remain open. 


It's tough to remain a going concern when the local economy is stagnant, and ever-increasing taxes and fees eat away at already-slim profit margins. Ann Taylor appears to be the latest victim. All the store workers now find themselves unemployed. Let's say it together: "Moribund Montgomery County."



Friday, June 14, 2024

Local UFCW unions endorse Alsobrooks in Maryland U.S. Senate race, Trump embraces critic Hogan


Three local United Food & Commercial Workers unions endorsed Prince George's County Executive Angela Alsobrooks (D) in the race for Ben Cardin's Maryland U.S. Senate seat yesterday. UFCW Local 400, UFCW Local 27, and UFCW Local 1994 MCGEO represent over 30,000 members who are registered voters in Maryland. Those members work in a wide variety of fields, including grocery stores, retail, health care, food processing, meatpacking, chemical processing, cannabis, and gaming, as well as in the public sector. UFCW Local 1994 represents many Montgomery County government employees, for example.

UFCW Local 1994 MCGEO President Gino Renne

“Angela Alsobrooks is a champion for working families, and a relentless advocate for justice and equity,” UFCW Local 1994 MCGEO President Gino Renne said in a statement Thursday. “Her commitment to the people of Maryland and her proven track record of leadership make her the ideal candidate for the U.S. Senate. I am proud to endorse Angela Alsobrooks, confident that she will fight tirelessly for our rights and our future.”

Alsobrooks receiving the endorsement of
local 1199 SEIU union in February

The choice of labor to support Alsobrooks is not necessarily a surprising development in the general election contest, which pits the Prince George's leader against former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) in a statewide election that may determine which party controls the U.S. Senate. Alsobrooks has already garnered many union endorsements in the race, including several local SEIU unions, and the Amalgamated Transit Union. Thursday's endorsements give her the backing of 13 labor organizations, based upon the list on her campaign website.

Former Gov. Larry Hogan receiving endorsement
of Ocean City and Worcester County firefighters in
Ocean City

Hogan has received six union endorsements himself, many representing first responders in the state. Among those supporting the Republican are the Marine Engineers’ Beneficial Association (M.E.B.A.), the nation’s oldest maritime labor union representing officers of the United States Merchant Marines, Ocean City Career Firefighter Paramedics Association IAFF Local 4269, Worcester County Professional Firefighters IAFF Local 4916, the International Union of Police Associations, the State Law Enforcement Officers Labor Alliance (SLEOLA), and the International Longshoremen’s Association Local 333. The latter represents more than 2,000 maritime workers at the busy Port of Baltimore.

One endorsement Hogan didn't necessarily expect was that of President Donald Trump, whom the former governor has heavily criticized for years. But he got it anyway Thursday, only a week after Trump surrogates declared Hogan's Senate hopes dead, after the Marylander asked his fellow Americans to respect the verdict in Trump's New York trial. 

Trump's habit of embracing even his harshest critics at the drop of a hat can be seen by some as shrewd, and by others as nonsensical. But Trump's transactional relationship style has served him well for decades in business and politics, making his endorsement of Hogan not entirely shocking. On balance, the Trump nod may even help Hogan, if "Lockdown Larry"-averse MAGA voters end up begrudgingly following their leader's directive.

Photos courtesy Alsobrooks for Senate, UFCW Local 1994, Hogan for Maryland, Inc.

Thursday, June 13, 2024

Derwood students are 2nd-place winners in Montgomery County DOT "Paint the Plow" contest

Top winners from Westland MS in Bethesda

This winter, Montgomery County residents may see one or more of the County snowplows decorated by Montgomery County Public Schools students during the County Department of Transportation's "Paint the Plow" contest. Teams from 16 middle schools in the MCPS system participated. MCDOT provided the snowplows and paint materials, and each team had four days to name and decorate their plow. The plows were displayed at MCDOT's annual Truck Day on June 1, and attendees voted for the top three winning plows.

Redland MS in Derwood

Bethesda's Westland Middle School team won the top prize of $500 for its Road Runner "Beep Beep" and Pokemon Squirtle design. Redland Middle School in Derwood took second, with a prize of $300, for their team's Snoopy-inspired "Scoopy" plow. Coming in third for $200 was the team from Roberto Clemente MS in Germantown, who went full zombie with their plow's Zombinator theme.

Roberto Clemente MS in Germantown

“The annual Truck Day and Paint the Plow contest lets us showcase the vital role public works employees play in contributing to and enhancing our quality of life,” MCDOT Director Chris Conklin said in a statement. “Public works employees are on the front lines during emergency conditions, including winter weather events, and these snowplows will serve as a reminder of the valuable work they do.” 

County Executive Marc Elrich

Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich praised the student winners and the County's public works employees, including snowplow drivers. “I want to thank MCPS and the participating students and teachers for helping us recognize the hard work and dedication of our public works employees. From keeping our streets clear of snow and ice, paving our roads and collecting yard debris, to maintaining our vital sanitary and storm sewer systems, their efforts keep our County safe, clean and thriving.” 

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Black cemetery advocates raise Juneteenth flag at Jamie Raskin's office


Leaders and members of the Bethesda African Cemetery Coalition traveled to Congressman Jamie Raskin's office last week, to protest Raskin's "continued refusal to take congressional action on the desecration, flooding, pouring of concrete on our ancestors, and cover-up of crimes against African people in Moses African Cemetery." Raskin previously visited the site of the burial ground, which is located under Montgomery County government-owned parcels of land on the Westwood Tower property, and directly across the Willett Branch stream from the rear parking lot of Westwood Tower. However, he has refused to meet with the group since or take action at the federal level on the cemetery issues, BACC says.


At Raskin's office last week, the group raised the Juneteenth flag in honor of Pvt. William H.H. Brown, who served with the United States Colored Troops who fought for the Union side in the U.S. Civil War. Brown is among the many former slaves buried in Moses African Cemetery. BACC has also created a video with a Civil War reenactor playing Pvt. Brown. "We told the White Union officers, if they would give us the gun, we would free ourselves," the actor portraying Brown says in the video. "We won our freedom. Now Montgomery County, Maryland is desecrating our sacred remains."


The BACC has called on the public to boycott all official Montgomery County government-sponsored Juneteenth events, in light of our elected officials' inaction on the cemetery matters. It has planned a full program of alternative Juneteenth events it encourages residents to attend instead. See the event announcements below for full details:





NIST begins joint research on Secure Digital ID for public benefits


The U.S. Department of Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Gaithersburg has embarked on a collaborative project to adapt NIST's digital identity guidelines to the administration of public benefits programs. These include programs that help beneficiaries pay for food, housing, medical and other living expenses. The initiative gained momentum due to large-scale fraud related to COVID-19 pandemic benefits.

NIST is teaming up with the Beeck Center for Social Impact + Innovation at Georgetown University, and the nonprofit Center for Democracy & Technology, on the project. The partners are attempting to balance security concerns with potential impacts on privacy, "due process," and "potential biases in systems that disproportionately impact communities of color and marginalized groups."

"To improve benefits delivery to the U.S. public, it is vital that agencies balance access and security," Undersecretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology and NIST Director Laurie E. Locascio said in a statement this morning. "Different populations have different needs, barriers and circumstances that must be considered, and this collaboration will bring together a diverse set of communities to do just that."

Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Black cemetery advocates call for boycott of Montgomery County Juneteenth events


Advocates protesting the ongoing desecration of Moses African Cemetery in Bethesda are calling for a boycott of Montgomery County government-sponsored Juneteenth 2024 events. The Bethesda African Cemetery Coalition is organizing the boycott to highlight the failure of Montgomery County elected officials at the local, state and federal levels to condemn the desecration and intervene in the matter. BACC is asking residents to instead attend an alternative slate of Juneteenth events that it will be sponsoring.

The BACC Juneteenth events will include an interfaith program on June 15, 2024 at 1:00 PM at Macedonia Baptist Church at 5119 River Road in Bethesda, and a community program on June 19 from 3:00 to 6:00 PM at the church that will include speakers, food and cultural performances. Further details on the June 19 event are pending.

BACC announced the planned boycott yesterday, Memorial Day, by also recognizing an American Civil War veteran who is buried in Moses African Cemetery. Pvt. William H.H. Brown served in the 30th United States Colored Troops (USCT) Regiment. The 30th is credited with exhibiting incredible heroism in many critical events and battles, in the service of a Union that had given them nothing up to that point in its history. 

A Maryland state archive lists a Pvt. William H. Brown as having been mustered into Company E of the 30th on March 3, 1864. The record indicates Pvt. Brown was honorably discharged, like a majority of the 30th, on December 10, 1865.

The biggest of BACC's alternative Juneteenth events will be a celebration of Brown's service and heroism on June 18 at 1:00 PM, beginning at Macedonia Baptist Church. An honor guard of 30th USCT Regiment Civil War reenactors will lead a march from the church to the nearby Moses African Cemetery. There, they will lay a wreath, raise the Juneteenth flag, and sound Taps. The public is invited to join the march and ceremony. 

Private Brown is one of many whose graves either remain under a parking lot alongside and behind the Westwood Tower apartments in Bethesda, or whose remains were directly desecrated and illegally relocated into a mass grave elsewhere on the site. Montgomery County has blocked all attempts to conduct any independent archaeological examination of the two recognized cemetery parcels, one of which it already owned via the Housing Opportunity Commission's ownership of Westwood Tower, and the other - located across the Willett Branch stream from Westwood Tower's rear parking lot - it hastily acquired to prevent any search for remains.

A third parcel directly adjacent to the second is now being developed as a self-storage building by a private company. While that parcel was not officially part of the cemetery, concerns were raised during the project approval process in 2017 about burials that may have occurred just over the property line of the graveyard, a phenomenon not unusual in cemeteries of that era where boundaries may not have been physically delineated. Those concerns were brushed aside by the Montgomery County Planning Board, who called in armed police to intimidate cemetery advocates peacefully protesting at the public hearing. In addition to demanding silence of the protesters, officers ordered them to turn their signs around to the blank side.

The self-storage project has faced many delays since its approval. When excavation commenced, observers with the BACC reported seeing possible bones and funerary objects being removed from the site. An archaeological expert employed by the developer declared that the materials were not human remains or funerary objects, and they were trucked away and stored in a Virginia warehouse at an unknown location. The BACC and its own expert asked why, if the developer's expert was correct, they could not have a chance to examine the items themselves.

BACC officials have asked Montgomery County elected officials at the local, state and federal levels to condemn the desecration of the cemetery, and to intervene in several respects, including the release of the excavated materials for independent review. None have done so. 

The cemetery and Macedonia Baptist Church are the only physical remnants of a vibrant Black community that existed in the now-industrialized and commercialized area along River Road between Brookside Drive and Little Falls Parkway. Former slaves emancipated from the adjacent Loughborough plantation established the community after the Civil War. A River Road "colored school" provided education prior to desegregation of public schools. The community's descendants were forced from the land in the 1950s and 1960s by developers via various illegal or unethical means. 

Former resident Harvey Matthews - who grew up on a property now home to a Whole Foods Market - has cited the deceptions and intimidations employed by developers, including physical threats and actual violence by a local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan. He recalls that he and his family were beaten by Klansmen. Montgomery County government and law enforcement looked the other way at the time, and not only allowed the Black community to be forced out, but completely eliminated its history from the official County historical narrative.

The HOC recently violated Maryland law by trying to sell the cemetery property to a private developer, without contacting the descendants of those buried there. That matter is now before the Maryland Supreme Court. A recent concrete pour at the self-storage construction site only further angered the descendant community.

"This is the level of vile barbarism [and] White supremacy that is unmatched in history," BACC President Marsha Coleman-Adebayo said on WPFW FM last week, citing the shocking fate of Pvt. Brown's remains. "This is how Montgomery County, Maryland celebrates Juneteenth, and this is why the BACC calls for boycott of the Montgomery County Juneteenth program."

Photo of 30th USCT Regiment provided by BACC

Friday, May 24, 2024

Insurers are price-gouging Maryland residents: Why they're getting away with it


Maryland residents are paying outrageous premiums for health insurance, auto insurance and homeowner's insurance. It is price-gouging, pure and simple. But Maryland lawmakers recently concluded their 2024 legislative session without taking any action to protect their constituents from these predatory premiums. And now we know why.

Insurance companies are among the biggest financial contributors to our elected officials in Annapolis. As a result, a Democratic-controlled general assembly is treating insurance firms the way our Montgomery County Council treats the real estate development industry: with a hands-off, libertarian-Republican, brass knuckle capitalist approach that Ayn Rand and Ronald Reagan could endorse.

Most of us expected that the more years we drove while maintaining a good driving record would lower our insurance costs. Instead, premiums continue to skyrocket to record heights. In the case of auto insurance, we have been twice-victimized by our elected officials. Not only have they failed to protect us from premium price-gouging, but their soft-on-crime approach has given insurers a handy excuse to claim that all of the stolen vehicles are costing them money.

Here's a look inside the insurance companies' checkbooks, and your governor's, legislative leaders' and Montgomery County legislators' campaign treasure chests. The contributions listed below are only a portion of the donations made, and primarily cover the period from 2022 to 2024. Elected officials listed are A) Governor Wes Moore, B) State Senate President Bill Ferguson, C) Speaker of the House Adrienne Jones, D) Gov. Moore/Lt. Gov. Aruna Miller's Inaugural Committee, and E) Montgomery County delegates and state senators.

Liberty Mutual

2022:

$500 Eric Luedtke

$1500 Jeff Waldstreicher

$1000 Will Smith

$1000 Brian Feldman


2021

$250 Nancy King

$750 Will Smith

$250 Brian Feldman


GEICO

2021

$250 Jeff Waldstreicher

$250 Ben Kramer

$250 Brian Feldman


State Farm 

2023

$1000 Bill Ferguson


2022

$750 Bill Ferguson

$250 Will Smith

 

2021

$500 Brian Feldman


2020

$1000 Bill Ferguson

$2000 Will Smith


Carefirst Blue Cross

Since 2022


$1000 Wes Moore

$1000 Will Smith

$2000 Brian Feldman

$500 Marc Korman

$500 Jheanelle Wilkins

$250 Ben Kramer

$6000 Bill Ferguson

$30,000 Moore-Miller Inaugural Committee

$500 Bonnie Cullison

$2000 Democratic Senate Caucus Committee

$500 Kumar Barve

$500 Eric Luedtke


Nationwide 

Since 2020

$3500 Will Smith

$1000 House Democratic Caucus Committee


Farmers

$30,000 Moore-Miller Inaugural Committee

$6000 Brian Feldman


Erie Insurance

$1750 Jeff Waldstreicher

$2000 Adrienne Jones

$1500 Will Smith

$5000 Wes Moore

$500 Ben Kramer

$750 Brian Feldman


USAA 

Since 2020


$250 Jeff Waldstreicher

$500 Will Smith

$1000 Adrienne Jones


Cigna 

Since 2022


$750 Bonnie Cullison

$750 Ariana Kelly

$3000 Wes Moore

$1500 Adrienne Jones

$750 Brian Feldman


United Healthcare

$30,000 Moore-Miller Inaugural Committee

Monday, May 20, 2024

Montgomery County has 2nd-biggest increase in homeless in Washington, D.C. region


Montgomery County is finally near the top of a list again - but it's not one you want to be high on. The County experienced the second-biggest increase in homeless population in the entire Washington, D.C. region since 2023, according to the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. Washington, D.C. itself was number one on the list. COG reported that Montgomery County's arch rival, Fairfax County, was the only jurisdiction in the area to enjoy a decrease in unhoused residents.


Of course, Fairfax County has many more high-wage jobs than Montgomery County, which helps one to afford housing. Politicians often tout MoCo's low unemployment numbers, without mentioning that most of the jobs our residents are employed at are not located within Montgomery County. Fairfax also has a lower total tax burden and cost-of-living than Montgomery County. Property taxes are set to rise again in the FY-2025 budget nearing approval by the Montgomery County Council, in a jurisdiction where property taxes are becoming a second mortgage for many residents as it is. And that's just one part of the total tax and fee burden for MoCo residents.


Rents and home prices, despite relentless construction and delivery of new housing units, only continue to skyrocket in Montgomery County. And thousands of existing affordable housing units are being demolished to clear the way for more overpriced "luxury" housing. A ridiculously-high cost-of-living combined with some of the lowest job creation and job growth numbers in the region are a recipe for increasing poverty and homelessness. Montgomery County has failed to attract a single major corporate headquarters in a quarter century, as company after company has chosen to locate or flee to Northern Virginia over that long, dry period of moribundity. As a result, more jobs, and more high-wage jobs, are created every year in Fairfax County than in Montgomery County - in fact, the numbers aren't even close.


Montgomery County has dropped off of so many top ten lists - Forbes' Top Ten Richest Counties in America, Top School Systems in America, etc. - that it's almost a positive feeling to be on any top ten list. Almost. Perhaps the Montgomery County cartel can create some new slogans: "Montgomery County: We're Number Two in Unhoused Population - We Try Harder (To Make It More Expensive to Live Here)." Or, "The Number of Montgomery County's Unhoused - Rising Almost as Fast as County Councilmembers' Salaries!"

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Alsobrooks to take on Hogan this fall, Parrott surprises to face Delaney in Maryland primary election results


Democrat David Trone's wallet is a lot lighter this morning, as Angela Alsobrooks brought an expensive end to the multimillionaire's political career by securing the Democratic nomination for the Maryland U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Ben Cardin (D). Alsobrooks, who currently serves as Prince George's County Executive, would be the first Black person to represent her state in the U.S. Senate if she wins in November. Standing between her and victory is popular former governor Larry Hogan (R), who also won his primary last night. 

While the victory of Alsobrooks followed the trends of her party in the state's recent elections, the favoring of younger and more-progressive candidates did not extend to the 6th Congressional District race, as April McClain Delaney defeated fellow Democrat Joe Vogel. The McClain Delaney-David Trone-John Delaney arc begs the question: has this seat simply become the plaything of the rich? One has to be wistful for the days of farmer Roscoe Bartlett (R), who - God bless him - is still living his best life at the age of 97 after being gerrymandered out of the seat in 2012. A congressperson who thought it was wrong for the government to spy on its own citizens - imagine that!

The surprise of the night in the 6th was the decisive victory of Neil Parrott on the Republican side of that contest. Former gubernatorial candidate Dan Cox was expected to win, or at least come close, after his high-profile endorsement by Donald Trump two years ago. Now spending most of his days in a Manhattan courtroom, and without his nemesis Hogan facing Cox this time, Trump did not weigh in on the 6th District race.

Cox has a strong and loyal following among his supporters, establishing a real movement among Christian conservatives and America First Republicans, even if downsized from 2022. While Tuesday's loss may add to doubts about his future statewide potential, it's unlikely you've heard the last of the attorney and former delegate on the political stage. Parrott will now need to maintain his momentum - and money, money and more money - to stay competitive with McClain Delaney this fall. The 6th District remains severely gerrymandered in strong favor of Democrats. A majority on the U.S. Supreme Court seem to be fine with that, as long as they don't have to undo the red state gerrymandering that has helped Republicans win more seats in Congress than they otherwise would have in recent years.

In the 8th Congressional District, Cheryl Riley defeated Michael Yadeta in a blowout victory. She will face incumbent Jamie Raskin (D) in November.

Can Alsobrooks beat Hogan? Absolutely, if all of the Democrats, independents and Republican women fired up about Roe v. Wade turn out like they did nationally in 2022 and 2023. Out-of-state groups supporting abortion rights were already engaged on her behalf in the primary, and those cash spigots will almost surely be fully-opened after Labor Day. You will hear the word "abortion" coming out of your TV speakers non-stop starting around that time, and lasting through Election Day in November. 

With Black voters holding real power in Maryland, Alsobrooks' potential history-making win is another point in her favor. And she clearly has keen political senses and organizational skills, having just run one of the biggest upset campaigns in recent Maryland history.

At the same time, Hogan has to like the result last night. Alsobrooks doesn't have the Trone fortune at her disposal, while Hogan will have a bounty of GOP dark money flowing in from out of state. Trone had much more appeal to older, moderate and independent voters than Alsobrooks will; those demographics are now in Hogan's corner again. 

Hogan enjoyed strong bipartisan support during his time as governor; Alsobrooks has not in her time as executive or state's attorney. She also doesn't have the statewide name recognition Hogan has. And because she has served in an executive role, Alsobrooks has a record with some weak spots that Hogan or his surrogates can target to a greater extent than Trone's would have provided.

Hogan was limited in what he could do while governor, as his power was greatly restricted by the Democratic legislature. But the things he did do, such as stopping tax hikes or reducing tolls, helped everyone, and voters across a diverse spectrum are likely to remember that at a time when wallets are being crushed by inflation. Barring a Roy McGrath October Surprise, Hogan is going to run a competitive race, and it will be the most-watched contest in the nation outside of Trump vs. Biden.

The most closely-watched races in Montgomery County were for the Board of Education. With the school system, student safety, and student performance continuing to trend downward, and a contentious debate over parents' ability to have their kids opt-out of some curriculum content, a number of insurgent candidates entered the contests to take on the establishment. Election results are so far showing none of the "opt-out" candidates prevailing, and two out of the three teacher's union Apple Ballot candidates are currently winning. 

Apple Ballot choice Rita Montoya is in a tight At-Large race with incumbent Lynne Harris, as ballots continue to arrive and be counted. Election results show Montoya seemed to perform best with voters who cast their ballots in person, while Harris excelled among those voting by mail. Mailed-in votes will continue to be delivered to the Board of Elections in the days ahead.

But David Trone spending $60 million of his own fortune and losing is probably the biggest headline this morning. The private jets, the Ferraris, the lavish mansions that the rest of us could have bought if we had that money... Or the sick who could have been cured, the homeless that could have housed, and the children who could have been educated... Our political system is totally corrupt, and our bank vault-busting election spending is only one of the notable symptoms. 

Monday, May 13, 2024

Assault in Rockville Town Center area




Rockville City police responded to a report of an aggravated assault in the Rockville Town Center area late Friday afternoon, May 10, 2024. Officers were called to the 300 block of N. Washington Street at 5:13 PM Friday. A weapon other than a firearm was utilized in the assault.

Saturday, April 27, 2024

Montgomery County firefighter among 226 to be honored at National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Weekend


A former Montgomery County firefighter will be among 226 fallen firefighters to be honored at the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Weekend in Emmitsburg, Maryland on May 4 and 5, 2024. Master Firefighter Mark R. Fisher Jr. passed away on July 24, 2014 from illness related to his response to the attack on the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. Fisher was also a member of the Maryland Task Force One Urban Search and Rescue Team, with whom he responded to other disasters, including Hurricane Katrina. He was with the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service for 22 years, and also served as an instructor for the department. 

Fisher was a member of the Johnny Swamper Club, Frederick Elks Lodge No. 684, and the Loyal Order of the Moose No. 948 in Charles Town, West Virginia, and a life member of the United Steam Fire Engine Company, No. 3 Frederick. He left behind a wife, three children and five grandchildren. Fisher briefly played pro football with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He was 59 years old at the time of his passing.

Two main events will be held on the memorial weekend at the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Park in Emmitsburg. The National Fallen Firefighters Candlelight Service will be held on May 4 at 7:30 pm ET, hosted by Fire Captain Garon Mosby of the St. Louis Fire Department. The National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Service is on May 5 at 10:00 am ET, and will be hosted by actor Jeremy Holm. Both events are open to the public, but will also be streamed online live for those who cannot attend in person.

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Marc Elrich is right again on COG's developer-funded housing targets flimflam


Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich has weighed in again on the latest revival of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Government's zombie housing targets plan, and once again, he is correct in seeing through COG's developer-funded flimflam job. Elrich told The Washington Post that COG's math is "faulty," and that's probably being generous. He criticized COG for trying to gin up "a sense of panic" about housing.

COG's housing targets plan is a bald-faced attempt to juice developer profits by using that false "panic" to loosen zoning restrictions, severely reduce public input on zoning and development proposals, override responsible growth policies, and generate more taxpayer subsidies for development companies that are already profitable private concerns. The people behind the COG curtain count on two things to achieve success with their housing targets scheme: the local media functioning in their role as stenographers more than journalists, in repeating COG's message verbatim with no scrutiny or criticism, and readers and viewers accepting these parroted talking points at face value.

Alas, when one studies the details, the COG scheme immediately falls apart. In a highly-educated area like this, it's not surprising that COG's plan still hasn't caught on, despite five years of relentless propaganda about it.

First of all, COG's math is wildly off-target. In order to meet the COG targets, "87 units per day" would have to be constructed in the region. To put that in real terms, that would mean a garden apartment complex being delivered each day in the DC Metro area. That doesn't even happen in a city like New York. China at the height of its real estate boom might be the only place on earth to approach such construction numbers, and it wound up demolishing many of those buildings, which ultimately stood vacant. In short, the target is not even achievable without overriding most regulations, approval processes and public engagement at a level that would severely compromise local budgets and quality of life, and by ignoring the fact that there is little demand for overpriced luxury apartments. Many of the new apartments in Bethesda, for example, are vacant and are being operated as illegal Airbnb hotel rooms. Whoops!

Second, COG describes "affordable" housing as costing the renter or homeowner $2300 a month. That is preposterous, and not affordable by any real-world measure. The $2300-$5000 apartment rents in the area are the problem, not the solution. And despite building thousands of new housing units every year, rents in Montgomery County only continue to skyrocket, proving that the real estate sector is no longer governed by market forces of supply and demand.


Third, COG itself, and the other entities trying to force its plan onto local jurisdictions, are funded by developers and developer lobbying organizations. Among those funding COG are entities connected to the Cafritz Interest real estate development firm, and Connected DMV, a development lobbying and advocacy firm. The Urban Institute is funded by development interests, big banks who profit from mortgage loans on real estate, and even BlackRock(!!), the massive international investment firm that has actually made housing more costly by snapping up homes. 

Nothing makes Wall Street-lapdog fact-checkers' heads explode faster than pointing out the BlackRock connection to inflated home prices. Those "reporters" will claim that it's Blackstone, Inc. that is buying up homes, while trying to downplay the fact that BlackRock is a part owner of Blackstone, holding an astronomical 45.99 million shares in the firm as of December 31, 2023. Blackstone snapped up 38,000 homes across America in one January 2024 transaction alone.

I've monitored home prices in the D.C. region, and across the country, for many years. Home prices have not only surged in our expensive area in recent times, but also in some of the most undesirable Podunk Junction towns in the middle of nowhere. Being funded by BlackRock, and then trying to be a credible voice on affordable housing, is quite an acrobatic feat to say the least.

Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University? Its advisory board is stacked with leaders from the real estate development industry. Housing Association of Nonprofit Developers (HAND)? As a very smart person once said, "They call it a non-profit, but somebody profits." Not only do non-profit or public housing entities often partner with private developers on projects that generate windfall profits for the latter, but - as we've seen in Montgomery County - non-profit leaders often draw and increase large salaries from taxpayer funds, and then write political campaign checks to the same elected officials who voted for those grants of taxpayer funds.

And let's not be surprised that the Post gives favorable coverage to COG's plan and all other pro-development and upzoning initiatives. The paper not only derives significant revenue from real estate advertising, but has been a major real estate player in the region itself, selling its former D.C. headquarters for $159 million and its Alexandria warehouses to developers for an estimated $30 million. The latter became the kind of dense development being advocated for by the COG housing targets.

The Post story on COG's housing targets also aligned with many of the attempts to leverage the race card into developer private profits we've seen in recent years. It's a shameful tactic by the development industry, which has historically leveraged race in this way from blockbusting, to the reversal of blockbusting by driving people of color out of those same neighborhoods decades later via gentrification. "Equity" is not a $2300-a-month rent.

This latest effort by COG and the Post to revive the zombie housing target scheme makes clear they intend to let no obstacle stand in the way of developer profits at taxpayer expense. The article explicitly calls for removing public input from zoning and development decisions, resident stakeholder communications the article complains "account for 40% of a housing development's budget." We're familiar with this effort in Montgomery County, whether hearing developer lobbyists urge the County Council to ignore public input because it is coming from "old people who have nothing better to do than testify at public hearings," or the Council's full-court press to continue to block restoration of the Office of the People's Counsel, an attorney who can provide free advice to residents and represent their interests in administrative hearings."

Elrich supports restoring the Office of the People's Counsel. He should continue to correctly oppose COG's housing target scheme.

Sunday, April 7, 2024

Montgomery County's moribund economy just needs...more cowbell, Planning Dept. says


Montgomery County's moribund economy isn't a new problem. I've been writing about it for over a decade. In more recent years, The Washington Post editorial board has finally acknowledged that MoCo, once the economic engine of the Washington, D.C. region, has become stagnant - - though only in the service of their Ahab-like crusade against their chief nemesis, Marc Elrich. Even a handful of politicians have begun admitting it, from Elrich himself, to his twice-vanquished opponent David Blair, and even Maryland Gov. Wes Moore. But despite the arrival of more-powerful voices at the table, Montgomery County and Maryland's policies have yet to change. In fact, the Montgomery County Planning Department is now arguing that the solution is to double down on the failed path we've been on: "More cowbell!"

In a recent series on the department's relentlessly pro-developer blog, The Third Place, we find the latest example of the Montgomery County cartel phenomenon we might call, "Now more than ever..." Whatever the latest crisis to befall a sector, demographic or geographic area of the County, their solution is always the same: Build more luxury housing. Whether it's the moribund economy, failing schools, increasing poverty, or the decline of an area like Friendship Heights, our elected officials tell us the answer - "now more than ever" - is to build more luxury apartments.

The Third Place series is just the latest example of this "More cowbell!" argument. 

It is ostensibly a deep dive into the stagnation of the Montgomery County economy. But as the series advances beyond a deceptive twisting of statistics that aren't actually the root cause of the stagnation, it eventually arrives at a familiar conclusion - we need to build more luxury housing.

More cowbell!

Most residents will never read this blog series, but you the taxpayer are not the target audience, anyway. Like most reports generated by the Planning Department, the purpose is to provide Astroturf data and analysis our developer-funded elected officials can point to as justification for upzoning greater and greater areas of the County. But if a resident of one of the most highly-educated jurisdictions in America were to read this blog series, they would quickly sense that something is amiss.

For example, Part I classifies Montgomery County residents who make $138,750 and above as "high-income" residents. In the real world, that's called "barely-keeping-your-head-above-water" in Montgomery County. Many County residents skating by on maxed-out credit, the bank-of-Mom-and-Dad, and assorted other survival tactics would be shocked to learn that they are "rich." 

The reason for this low wealth bar becomes clear as you continue reading. It is a way to make it seem that the "rich" portion of the population has merely remained constant. In reality, the flight of the rich from Montgomery County has been well-documented, down to the amount of tax revenue in millions that those wealthy expats have taken with them to lower-tax jurisdictions in the area. 

Were we to classify "high-income" more accurately, we would see that those numbers have declined significantly. The exodus has been most clearly seen in Montgomery County plummeting entirely off of the Forbes Top Ten Richest Counties list last decade, and in the collapse of "Montgomery County's Rodeo Drive" in Friendship Heights, which in recent years has become a stretch of aging apartment buildings and vacant storefronts.

As the rich have fled, they have been replaced - and then some - by low-income residents. The Third Place acknowledges this. "Specifically, our analysis shows that between 2005 and 2022, Montgomery County’s low-income population grew faster than the other groups. Montgomery County’s middle-income population shrank." Charles, Frederick, Howard, Loudoun, and Prince William counties can surely attest to the latter, as they've welcomed those cash-strapped, taxed-to-death MoCo refugees, along with the Virginia exurbs.

While that tax revenue has flowed outward, our business growth has dropped to the lowest in the region. Our job creation numbers have collapsed, and even fallen behind Prince George's County in recent years. And Montgomery County hasn't attracted a single major corporate headquarters in over a quarter century, a time frame that neatly dovetails with the MoCo cartel's seizure of the County Council in 2002 with the "End Gridlock" slate. As does the shift of population growth to the bottom of the income scale.

What urgent strategic and policy changes does The Third Place recommend to turn the tide, and attract the business and commercial revenue we need?

"The main, actionable takeaway from this research is to encourage the production of market-rate infill housing."

We know, of course, that "market-rate" housing in Montgomery County is expensive. There's no shortage of expensive housing in the County. We also know, from hard experience since 2002, that massive construction of new luxury housing does not reduce rents or home prices. Period. And because new residential housing generates more costs in County services than it does in tax revenue, building more won't solve our structural budget deficit. Much less restore our moribund economy.

Did the rich flee Montgomery County because home prices were too cheap? Not quite. Would middle class residents return en masse from the exurbs if we produced more $1 million townhomes and $2 million duplexes? Nope.

What would actually make Montgomery County a booming jurisdiction, make it possible for more residents to afford living here, and fill the County's revenue coffers? High-wage jobs from major corporate employers. 

The Third Place worries that currently, "there will be nowhere for affordable-housing residents to go once they are ready to upgrade." But it doesn't explain how janitors, cooks and grocery store bakers will suddenly be flush with the cash needed to buy that luxury housing that The Third Place wants to overdevelop even more than today. 

Here's a hint: Jobs. Good jobs. The kind we haven't been attracting to Montgomery County for a couple of decades now.

Gov. Wes Moore seems to understand this, noting that Maryland's economy today simply can't provide the revenue to fund his ambitious agenda. This year's legislative session in Annapolis seems to indicate that his message fell on deaf ears among his General Assembly colleagues. Likewise, Elrich has come around to the idea that the County should be attracting high-wage jobs. But his legislative colleagues on the County Council haven't joined him yet. 

The cumulative impact of elected officials who write the laws remaining stubborn in their ways - and loyal to the real estate developers who elected them - will only hasten the exit of wealth and revenue from Montgomery County. In addition to the massive property and recordation tax hikes passed last year, low and middle-income workers will soon be paying several hundred dollars to register their work trucks and soccer mom minivans. A 75-cent tax on every Uber ride. Even a $1.25 more on each pack of smokes. All of these are extremely regressive taxes.

A quick look at the press release pages of Gov. Moore and Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin gives just a small sense of the problem. Both men have Rolodexes stuffed with Wall Street and corporate connections. Surprisingly, Moore has so far failed to convince any of his friends in the Hamptons or Martha's Vineyard to relocate their Fortune 500 companies to Maryland. And that's even amid a downward trend for Virginia under Youngkin. The GOP 2028 aspirant's announcements of new, major corporate headquarters relocating to the Old Dominion have come at a much more sporadic pace than under his two Democratic predecessors.

But even as Virginia begins to flounder a bit, and budget woes creep up on legislators in Arlington and Fairfax counties who have begun to follow the big-spending ways of MoCo, we have not been able to seize any momentary advantage.

Not only has Youngkin failed to tee up many big wins, but when he does, he now has a legislature that is more like the one in Annapolis to block him. That's partly his own fault, for bizarrely making the last state election about abortion, a sure losing crusade even in red states - much less a blue one like Virginia. And he even turned away a Ford electric vehicle battery plant. Tired of winning, perhaps?

Yet, even as Virginia slips into a lower economic gear, 2024 has brought another major corporate HQ to Virginia. CoStar - which once was headquartered in Bethesda(!!), before fleeing to the District in 2010 - purchased the 1201 Wilson Boulevard office tower in Rosslyn for its new global HQ. It will bring its existing 500 jobs, and add 150 additional jobs in its new Virginia home. 

CoStar joins Northrup Grumman, Capital One, Hilton Hotels, Volkswagen, Lidl, Intelsat, Gannett, General Dynamics, Blackboard, Corporate Executive Board, Nestle, Gerber, Lego, and the rest of a truly-headspinning list of household-name companies to select Northern Virginia over Montgomery County in recent times.

During the same Q1 period in Maryland, Gov. Moore was only able to announce the relocation of Blink Charging Co. from Florida to Bowie. That's certainly a positive and welcome development, but it's not a major or Fortune 500 company. The number of existing corporate expansions in Maryland so far this year has also been dwarfed by the number in Virginia. 

Over the first three months of 2024, Gov. Youngkin issued press releases announcing 9 other new or expanding businesses adding jobs to the state. During the same period, Maryland only had 2, another resounding defeat in regional competition.

It was encouraging news that when Moore received the phone call about the Key Bridge collapse, he was on an unannounced business trip to Boston. This at least shows he may currently be working on something big behind the scenes.

Montgomery County was once the place where such big economic development news was made in the DC region. What I've argued for over a decade has been further vindicated by the collapse of the office market after the pandemic rise of working-from-home. 

We need to be attracting major corporate headquarters, and research and manufacturing facilities, from the aerospace, defense and tech sectors. These are the sectors that need large, secure campuses in suburban office parks, the kind we - thankfully, for now - still have plenty of. And room to build plenty more. The anonymous apologists for the County Council said I was a fool, and that companies wanted to be in traditional office buildings by Metro stations in urban areas. 

It turns out I was right. "Now more than ever," you might say.

Currently, the ever-increasing and regressive tax burden caused by our elected officials' profligate spending is falling almost entirely on residents. We are leaving all of the commercial, business tax revenue - and income revenue from high-wage jobs, on the table for our rivals in Virginia, for whom we've become a bedroom community. 

By adopting more-competitive business policies, adding missing infrastructure like a new Potomac River crossing to provide direct access to Dulles International Airport, and being aggressive in attracting the evergreen industries that provide high-income employment in good times and bad, we can ease the tax and fee burden on residents.