John Gallagher: A Lack of Vision in Montgomery County

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By: John Gallagher

A common trope in discussions of regional power plays within Maryland is that leaders in other jurisdictions are blind to the needs of Montgomery County. One might argue that the same is true of Montgomery’s own County Council.

There are numerous weighty, complex issues facing the large D.C. suburb. The county is ground zero for the suburbanization of poverty. In a state widely bemoaned for its awful business climate, Montgomery stands out as truly abysmal. No one seems to believe that the county has an economic development strategy. The public school system has only one vocational high school and the demand for slots there far exceeds supply. Montgomery has some of the highest levels of MS-13 gang activity on the East Coast.

If you looked at the most high profile recent fights in Rockville, you wouldn’t see any mention of these sorts of weighty issues.

You would see attempts to regulate luxury car service app Uber.

You could find initiatives seeking to regulate the home sharing website airbnb.

You would see a bill seeking to ban styrofoam cups.

You would see an effort to ban lawn pesticides.

You would see a proposal regulate electronic cigarettes.

In Annapolis, the first bill to come to the floor for a vote was to allow multiple pinball machines on the same floor of a building in Montgomery County (why this was an issue to begin with escapes me -- but I assume people just ignore it or are unaware).

These are certainly intriguing matters to discuss at some soiree in well-heeled Chevy Chase or at Takoma Park’s latest vegan dining establishment.

For the average citizen in hardscrabble east county neighborhoods, like Briggs Chaney or Long Branch, Silicon Valley gadgets and environmentally friendly dining utensils aren’t something they get to worry about.

Yes, Montgomery County has real problems. Yes, the powers that be in Annapolis are not acutely aware of them. But perhaps before Montgomery’s own leaders bemoan the state’s failure to address these issues they should look in the mirror and ask: have I used the substantial powers the voters entrusted me with to make a real impact on our community?

Or, did it vainly try to keep 17-year-olds from buying a novelty water vapor based cigarette?

The E-Cig legislation won’t even work, by the way. I couldn’t legally buy American Spirits when I was a freshman at Montgomery Blair High School. But it didn’t stop me from smoking them.

If Montgomery’s own leaders don’t have the courage to address its own demons…how can we expect Mike Busch or Larry Hogan or Mike Miller to do it for us?

 

John Gallagher is a veteran campaign hack with extensive experience in New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania, the District of Columbia, Virginia and Maryland. He can more frequently be read at The Seventh State. He is a third generation Washingtonian and an alumnus of Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring.

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