Leventhal Says Council Has No Plans to Investigate DLC Snafu

There is a new twitter site on the ongoing problems with Montgomery County’s Department of Liquor Control: @UnSuckMoCoDLC. It appears to have been set up by a liquor licensee who wants “to let the public know what we licensees have to go through.” Neither Adam Pagnucco nor I know who is running the account or had anything to do with setting it up.

No Council Oversight of DLC New Year’s Problems

There was a lively discussion on the Seventh State Facebook page in the wake of this morning’s post. Beyond disagreeing with the post, Councilmember George Leventhal made some news in response to a question from Adam Pagnucco:


In essence, George plans to do nothing. No serious investigation would wait months until the end of the state legislative session. The meeting of the General Assembly has no bearing on the Council’s oversight responsibilities. George knows this.

Moreover, if the General Assembly passes the County’s preferred bill on the topic, the County will still be engaging is very close to the same level of deliveries. Indeed, the change will likely be marginal as this proposal designed to protect the status quo in the guise of change is unworkable.

Yet Leventhal Prides Himself on Oversight

Nonetheless, George perceives himself as a leader in the fight for more accountability at the DLC. He’s just mad that no one is giving him enough credit for it:

leventhalloversightIt sure didn’t feel like George is a a strong critic when he gave the DLC a pass on the major New Year’s Eve delivery snafu because he had a bad experience at Starbucks. Moreover, The New Year’s snafu casts doubt on any effectiveness of this vaunted oversight to date and George’s Facebook comments today evince little evidence of a willingness to press further on this issue.



Leventhal Defends DLC’s Bad Service

New Slogan? We Don’t Care. We Don’t Have To. We’re the DLC.

Last week, we reported that Department of Liquor Control stores completely fouled up deliveries in the week before New Year’s. Now, DLC Director George Griffin did issue an apology. But that doesn’t restore any of the lost income or makeup for the stress caused by  this total snafu.

Real accountability would mean rebates. Even more galling is that time was found to distribute material to defend the DLC in stores even as this mistake occurred. It also undermines the DLC claim that their reform program has produced meaningful results.

Councilmember Roger Berliner thinks that this is yet more evidence that it is time for the DLC to go the way of the dinosaur:


Leventhal Attacks Berliner on Facebook

Councilmember George Leventhal came out swinging in comments on his colleague’s Facebook posts:

LeventhalonrestRestaurants are a major industry in Montgomery County. Beyond his misguided self-serving beliefs, saying that liquor reform is only of interest to restaurateurs is like saying that education is only of interests to parents so people should really quit their complaining. I’m sure restaurant owners appreciate George’s relegation of their repeat problems to illegitimate concerns.

BTW, restaurants are not flourishing as much as we might hope. Elm St. in Bethesda Row is one of the hottest blocks in the county with high pedestrian traffic. Right now, there are three empty restaurant spots on the block with one more store ready to close. In Silver Spring, Jackie’s is calling it a day and Jackie Greenbaum says she’d never open another restaurant in MoCo–it’s just too difficult.

The Starbucks Defense

But hey, George has the Starbucks defense:

leventhalstarbucksOf course, the difference is that, if you have a problem at Starbucks, you’re likely to get a good response to a complaint. They want you as a customer. If not, you have the option to shop elsewhere. But the DLC Monopoly forces consumers and businesses alike to deal with them. Eerily reminiscent of the legendary Lily Tomlin SNL skit posted at the top regarding the phone company monopoly: “We Don’t Care. We Don’t Have To. We’re the Phone Company.”

George’s blithe dismissal of major problems at the DLC–even those affecting major customers who were buying a lot more than a latte and whose livelihoods depend on it–shows an alarming lack of concern for constituents or willingness to listen. In George’s view, mediocrity in a monopoly government service is acceptable–a level of contempt that his constituents should not.


Sierra Club Endorses Van Hollen

From the Press Release:
Bladensburg, MD — Today, Sierra Club’s Maryland Chapter announced the endorsement of Representative Chris Van Hollen for election to the US Senate in 2016. In response, Chair of the Maryland Chapter, Baird Straughan, released the following statement:

“The Sierra Club endorses Congressman Van Hollen because he has the proven ability to transform an environmental vision into effective legislation. If we are to meet the environmental challenges of the 21st Century, we need legislators who have the knowledge, commitment, and leadership skills documented in Rep. Van Hollen’s record.

“More than 15 years ago, State Senator Van Hollen led the successful fight to pass the Maryland Clean Energy Incentives Act of 2000. That leadership has continued unabated ever since. He won a ban on drilling in parts of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. He was the lead sponsor of the Healthy Climate and Family Security Act. He co-chairs the Bicameral Task Force on Climate Change and the Congressional Chesapeake Bay Watershed Caucus, and is a member of the Safe Climate Caucus. And now, he is now a leading sponsor of “Frack Pack” legislation that would close oil and gas loopholes and responsibly regulate fracking at the Federal level.

“We’re endorsing Congressman Van Hollen because today’s environmental crises have reached a breaking point — not just for the Chesapeake Bay and Maryland, but for our country and the world. Rep. Van Hollen has proven his ability to work through the gridlock of the U.S. Senate, and pass legislation that creates the solutions that are so critically needed today.”


Franchot Endorses Matthews

From the press release:

“As a proud resident of Maryland’s 8th Congressional District, I am happy to announce my support of my friend, Kathleen Matthews, in her campaign for Congress,” said Peter Franchot.  “Having known Kathleen for many years, I believe she will bring to Congress a fresh perspective, new talent and a sensible approach to the challenges facing our state and country. She is a proven advocate for equality and social justice, and one who is also capable of reaching across the aisle to achieve meaningful results at a time when toxic partisanship has crippled Washington and alienated countless Americans from our political process.”

This is a nice endorsement for Kathleen Matthews. Franchot used to represent the same territory as her leading opponent, Jamie Raskin. He is the probably the most well-known in-state official to endorse Matthews.

Over the years, Franchot has tacked from being seen as one of the stronger progressive leaders to a leading voice for fiscal restraint. This endorsement should help Matthews continue to consolidate support from business and fiscally moderate Democrats.

On the other hand, this endorsement helps set up the primary as one of Jamie Raskin and the progressive wing versus Kathleen Matthews and and more centrist Democrats. As the progressive wing has been increasingly ascendant in Montgomery Democratic primaries, this provides opportunities for Raskin.

Raskin’s current problem, however, is that he will be tied up in Annapolis for the legislative session, while Matthews is free to campaign aggressively. Dels. Kumar Barvé and Ana Sol Gutiérrez, who are also in the mix for this seat, face the same challenge.



Republicans Still Angry Marriage is Legal and Discrimination Against Same-Sex Couples Isn’t

As I pointed out not long ago, Republican Del. Richard Metzger is still on the anti-same-sex marriage hobby horse and sponsoring a bill designed to allow discrimination against same-sex couples under a bogus claim of protecting religious freedom.

Governor Hogan responded weakly, with his office saying that he would wait for the legislative process to proceed. Contrast this lack of backbone to stand up for established law and actual Marylanders with his willingness to oppose Syrian refugees–an issue on which he has zero power. A real profile in courage.

Wrong on the Basic Facts

Red Maryland, however, has not been silent. A pity, as their post contained a real whopper:

2012’s Question 6, which was supported by Maryland Democrats and current Republican Senate candidate Chrys Kefalas, contained not a single provision protecting the religious liberties of any Marylanders.

Has Brian Griffiths read the legislation to which he linked?

Section 2 reads:

SECTION 2. AND BE IT FURTHER ENACTED, That an official of a religious order or body authorized by the rules and customs of that order or body to perform a marriage ceremony may not be required to solemnize or officiate any particular marriage or religious rite of any marriage in violation of the right to free exercise of religion guaranteed by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and by the Maryland Constitution and Maryland Declaration of Rights. Each religious organization, association, or society has exclusive control over its own theological doctrine, policy teachings, and beliefs regarding who may marry within that faith. An official of a religious order or body authorized to join individuals in marriage under §406(a)(2)(i) of the Family Law Article and who fails or refuses to join individuals in marriage is not subject to any fine or other penalty for the failure or refusal.

Section 3 and Section 4 are also about religious protection:


(a) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a religious organization, association, or society, or any nonprofit institution or organization operated, supervised, or controlled by a religious organization, association, or society, may not be required to provide services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges to an individual if the request for the services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges is related to: (1) the solemnization of a marriage or celebration of a marriage that is in violation of the entity’s religious beliefs; or (2) the promotion of marriage through any social or religious programs or services, in violation of the entity’s religious beliefs, unless State or federal funds are received for that specific program or service.

(b) A refusal by an entity described in subsection (a) of this section, or of any individual who is employed by an entity described in subsection (a) of this section, to provide services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges in accordance with subsection (a) of this section may not create a civil claim or cause of action or result in any State action to penalize, withhold benefits from, or discriminate against the entity or individual.

Of course, all of these provisions are redundant of the Constitution’s protections of religious freedom but were included to assuage concerns nonetheless. Red Maryland also neglects to mention that marriage equality expanded religious liberty by finally permitting religions that want to conduct legal same-sex marriages to do so. Yep, many religious people are pro-same-sex marriage.

I hope that Red Maryland corrects the record and apologizes to Republican Chrys Kafalas for their inaccurate claim in their slam against him for showing the content of his character by standing up courageously for religious freedom and his own civil liberties. Chrys demonstrated what used to be called leadership in the pre-Trump Republican Party. But I’m not holding my breath.

The Republican Discrimination Agenda

Red Maryland describes Metzger’s bill as follows:

Basically, the law is designed to ensure that religious organizations that have a moral objection to gay marriage don’t have to be forced to participate in one. You would think that this would be a basic common sense idea, that religious individuals would not be forced to officiate or participate in a same-sex marriage.

Not one rabbi, priest, minister, imam etc. has been forced to officiate a single same-sex marriage against their will in any place in the nation. Not one. So let’s put that red herring to bed.

Instead, the bill is designed to protect the likes of Kim Davis, who as a public official has a duty to issue marriage certificates that are now perfectly, but she finds repugnant. Where does this end? Religious beliefs are personal and vary endlessly. Can people like Kim Davis refuse to issue marriage certificates to mixed race couples if it offends their religious beliefs? What about divorced couples? Or to people who have committed adultery?

The idea of not forcing religious individuals to participate in same-sex marriage is equally broad. Should Holy Cross or Adventist Hospital be able to prohibit a same-sex spouse from being with their spouse or making medical decisions if needed on the grounds that it would force a religious organization to “participate in marriage” as described by Brian Griffiths.

This is not a religious freedom agenda. This is an effort to roll back anti-discrimination protections for lesbians and gay than have been established law in this State since 2001 with no problems not withstanding the howls from the right. Red Maryland thinks that the reality of same-sex marriage is a good excuse to change this.

Again, where does it end? If you follow the logic, anyone can discriminate against anyone on religious grounds because religious beliefs are inherently personal. It would be the undoing of all anti-discrimination law, which is the point.

In our daily lives, we all have to rub up and deal with lots of people who live their lives differently than we choose. As it turns out, the people of Maryland and the First Amendment are managing just fine without this legislation. Marylanders understand that it takes all kinds to make a world and are not such special snowflakes that they need protection beyond the boundaries enshrined already in law and the Constitution against the reality of same-sex marriage. After all, they voted for it.


County (Ab)using Liquor Stores for Political Speech

DLC liquor store flyerAdam Pagnucco sent Montgomery County Attorney Marc Hansen the following letter:

Hello, Mr. Hansen.  This is Adam Pagnucco.  I am working with a group of folks who are advocating for Delegate Bill Frick’s legislation to allow competition in the county’s alcohol industry.

I am in receipt of the attached flyer which I understand is being distributed in county liquor stores.  The flyer is unquestionably a political communication and not a commercial advertisement.

As you know, the state’s Court of Special Appeals has ruled that the county “may speak to advance its existing policies and programs, to advocate for policy changes, and to advocate against policy changes.”  http://www.mdcourts.gov/opinions/cosa/2015/0175s14.pdf   However, during the Question B campaign of 2012, the county ran ads for its point of view on Ride On buses and denied the Fraternal Order of Police the same opportunity.  ACLU of Maryland protested that and the county decided to allow FOP ads, but it was too late in the campaign for the ads to appear.  The ACLU wrote, “When the government privileges one side of a political debate in a forum open to private speakers, as Montgomery County is doing here, it engages in viewpoint discrimination clearly prohibited by the First Amendment.”  http://www.aclu-md.org/press_room/82

As the County Attorney, here is my question to you.  If the county is using its facilities to distribute political speech, as it did with the Ride On buses, can county citizens with a different point of view use those same facilities to also distribute political speech?  In other words, can we request that our flyers be distributed along with the county’s flyers?

Adam Pagnucco

It looks bad that the County has had time to arrange to get these fliers into county owned liquor stores even as the Department of Liquor Control caused a major snafu with delivery screw-ups in the week before New Year’s Eve.