Tag Archives: Charles Barkley

Barkley Blasts Annapolis

By Adam Pagnucco.

Delegate Charles Barkley (D-39) has just given the most astounding interview by a member of General Assembly leadership ever seen by your author.  In it, he broke the most important rule of Annapolis decorum there is: never throw your superiors under the bus.

Barkley is the Chair of the House Economic Matters Committee’s Alcoholic Beverages Subcommittee.   In theory, that makes him the proximate point person on alcohol bills in the House.  Some think of the alcohol industry as one industry, but in fact it is several, with the manufacturers, distributors, retailers, restaurants and several individual companies hiring their own lobbyists and making tons of political contributions.  That makes for complicated politics which, among many other things, has produced the much-criticized bill punishing craft breweries.  That bill has already caused one potential brewery owner to bail on the state.

The anti-brewery bill passed the House on a 139-0 vote.  One source tells us, “When a bad bill passes on a vote like that, someone f____d up.”  In an incredible interview with Maryland beer blog Naptown Pint, Barkley placed the blame on his superiors, specifically Economic Matters Committee Chair Dereck Davis and Speaker of the House Mike Busch.  The whole interview is a massive scoop and a must-read, but the key passages are this:

“We didn’t know what was in the bill until the day it came in front of our committee for the vote,” Barkley answered. But was that due to the rush of the process, or was it an intentional screen being put up around the bill’s contents?

“I don’t think they were trying to give out too many details,” he commented…

“I honestly thought we were moving in the right direction with Nick Manis [MCA], Steve Wise [MSLBA legal counsel] and [Jack] Milani [MSLBA, Monaghan’s Pub in Baltimore]. We thought we were making progress, and we had the guys talking to us.”

Barkley then paused for a moment.

“All of a sudden, they quit talking to us,” he continued. “And then the [Economic Matters Committee] Chairman [Dereck E. Davis] said, ‘This is what we’re doing.’”…

I asked him his thoughts on some of the statements by House members who voted in favor of HB 1283 that they now know it was a bad bill or that they were misled on the contents ahead of the committee vote that pushed HB 1283 over to the Senate.

“I would say absolutely they were misled. [The House] thought we worked out a compromise and this was it. We hadn’t,” he stated.

“Up until this point, I ran the subcommittee and I kept my chairman [Davis] informed. But this one left my hands. I’ve never had this kind of intervention before, until this year. I thought [Manis, Wise and Milani] were meeting with us. But I think we were getting too close to stuff they didn’t want. So I think they met with the Speaker and got things changed.”

Here is a sub-committee chair describing a major bill as a backroom, secret deal involving lobbyists, a powerful committee chair and the Speaker in cahoots to deceive the full House membership.  Your author has never seen a state legislator entrusted with leadership responsibility go on the record in this way before.  It is an almost certain firing offense.

Barkley has always been something of a maverick.  Once a Vice-President of the county teachers union, he has not always been their best friend in Annapolis.  In 2009, he was famously kicked off the Appropriations Committee and lost a subcommittee chair for defying leadership on the millionaire tax.  In 2012, Barkley was one of a handful of MoCo Delegates to vote against the immensely damaging teacher pension shift, a top priority of Governor Martin O’Malley and the presiding officers.  After losing the first vote, he introduced a floor amendment to the budget which would have cut the shift in half, which also failed.  Considering this record, it’s surprising that Barkley acquired the alcohol subcommittee chair at all.

Barkley’s candor is likely aided by his apparent decision to leave Annapolis and run for County Council.  We don’t know what the future holds, but we will say this: given Barkley’s iconoclastic ways, he would make an interesting County Council Member.

The Liquor Monopoly’s Preposterous Claims of Improvement

Today, I’m pleased to present a guest post by Adam Pagnucco:

On February 4, representatives of Montgomery County’s Department of Liquor Control (DLC) headed to Annapolis to brief the county’s state legislators on their operations. The stakes were high. DLC’s Executive Director had abruptly left his position six days before and legislation was pending on whether to allow voters to decide on opening up the monopoly to private sector competition. As of this writing, 2000 people have signed a petition in support of that legislation.

DLC’s message to the legislators is that improvements were underway, but they would take two months to take effect. As Delegate Charles Barkley (D-39) noted, that coincides with the end of the General Assembly’s session. Barkley said, “If we’re going to do anything, we have to do it before we get out of here—and of course, after a two-month period, it’s too late.”

DLC also claimed to have a 98.5% delivery accuracy rate. Delegate Kirill Reznik (D-39) replied, “If all of what the DLC does is comparable to or better than private industry . . . why does every restaurant manager I talk with beg me to get rid of this system?”

DLC has had problems and has been promising to make improvements for a long, LONG time. Consider the following.

  1. In 2005, then-DLC Executive Director George Griffin (who just recently left) outlined his improvement efforts to the National Alcohol Beverage Control Association:

In a department-wide project called Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), the DLC is upgrading its systems in all areas, with an emphasis on integration. “POS (point of sale), inventory control, accounting, the warehouse, licensee ordering, buyers: they’ll all be tied together,” said Griffin, “from the retail stores, which will have running inventories, to our drivers, who will be equipped with handhelds.”

Ten years later, the county’s Inspector General found that DLC’s warehouse was being run with sticky notes. The Inspector General found that the warehouse was missing as many as 154 cases a day without anyone investigating why.

  1. A 2007 article in the Washington City Paper noted extensive problems with DLC’s special order system. The article contains this quote:

When Griffin took over the DLC, he inherited a department with low morale and little motivation. “The department had not been operating well and was sort of seen as an outcast from the rest of the county government in a way,” the director says. “I used to joke around and say, ‘This department was like, in a family, the crazy aunt who lives upstairs. None of us talk about her. You’re kind of embarrassed to admit that she exists, but everyone wants her money.”

The same problems persist a decade later. Many licensees would not refer to the DLC as “a crazy aunt” because that characterization is far too kind.

  1. A year ago, DLC launched a new inventory system to catalog, order and deliver its products. Griffin said, “It was a little rough getting started, but it’s gradually getting better.” But NBC4 found that the new system made ordering and delivery worse. American Tap Room owner Mike Jones said, “It’s getting increasingly worse. . . . This has been one of the most frustrating processes I’ve ever been involved in, where you’re almost pleading and begging with officials to get something done.”
  1. In late November, the County Executive said that complaints about DLC were “overblown.” One month later, DLC suffered a historic delivery meltdown in the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve.
  1. Last June, DLC developed an “Improvement Action Plan” to improve its operations. The Restaurant Association of Maryland surveyed its members about how DLC was doing eight months after this plan was adopted. Here are a few survey responses from restaurant owners and managers on a number of issues.

On Special Orders

What frustrates me the most is the lack of care/regard for special order items. After waiting 15 days for certain cases of wine, I get a camera shot from my vendor who is at the warehouse staring at all the missing cases just sitting in my designated space. Infuriating!

Not been able to speak to someone who knows what is going on with my order 2) If you run out of product, good luck getting it back in stock at a reasonable time with a once a week delivery and order system is impossible to keep availability. 3) For weeks I was out of several wines and after waiting and talking to the sales rep. I was informed that the wines were delivered to the county. Called them and talked to several people without a clear answer so I decided to go to DLC and find out what they had there for me. They were surprised that the wines were there because they could not find them on the computer as being delivered and in my cubicle waiting for weeks to be delivered.

On Regular Stock

The DLC constantly runs out of inventory, delivers late and never apologizes. Also, anytime you go to the DLC to pick stuff up, all you see are guys standing around by the ‘no smoking’ sign, and smoking. They are lazy and many of them do nothing.

Products that should be widely available are out of stock – Blue Moon six pack bottles, Corona 24 oz. cans, Sierra Nevada six pack bottles.

On Billing

I was charged for 6 cases of stock wine that NEVER CAME! I spent hours on the phone trying to resolve the issue. They sent the 6 cases . . . of the WRONG wine 2 weeks after the fact. Never refunded the money and wouldn’t take the order back.

It is impossible to know track on the DLC website how much will be pulled out of your bank account and when. The amounts directly debited from our bank account never match the invoices.

On Delivery

The DLC doesn’t care for or understand the products they are delivering. It’s why we receive wrong boxes, out of date items, improperly handled merchandise and a general sense lacking of any genuine appreciation for their jobs.

Over all there is no sense of urgency or organization with the DLC. Paying 20%+ for product over what we pay in DC is just insane. Recently we did not get product in for a wine dinner we were having and we placed the order 3 weeks prior and they even showed it as an in stock!

The above history makes it obvious that DLC’s promises to improve cannot be believed. Delegate Barkley is right; they are trying to run out the clock and prevent anything positive from getting done. And what should get done?

Thousands of people know the answer: End the Monopoly.

Analysis of Marijuana Vote

The House of Delegates voted 78-55 to pass the marijuana decriminalization bill. Most prominently, Judiciary Chairman Joe Vallario defied House tradition and voted against a bill now supported by his own committee.

A total of 17 Democrats voted red. Del. Charles Barkley (D-39) was the only Montgomery delegate who voted no. Most of the Democrats who voted no are from more conservative jurisdictions in the State with a smattering of African Americans

Democrats who voted NAY (17): K. Kelly (Allegany), Donoghue (Washington), Burns (Baltimore City), Frush (Prince George’s & Anne Arundel), Hubbard (Prince George’s), Valentino-Smith (Prince George’s), Howard (Prince George’s), Vallario (Calvert & Prince George’s), Jameson (Charles), Wilson (Charles), Bohanan (St. Mary’s), Wood (Charles & St. Mary’s), Sophocleus (Anne Arundel), Rudolph (Cecil), Conway (Wicomico & Worcester), Barkley (Montgomery), Conaway (Baltimore City).

Republicans who voted YEA (2): Costa (Anne Arundel), and Smigiel (Caroline, Cecil, Kent & Queen Anne’s).

Democrats who didn’t vote (6): Olszewski, Jones, DeBoy, Griffith, Walker, and James.

Republicans who didn’t vote (8): Myers, Hogan, Stocksdale, McDonough, Dwyer, Glass, Stifler, and Harper.

Surprisingly Dull in D39

District 39

None of the four incumbent Democrats that represent District 39 in the General Assembly face opposition–a surprising change from four years ago and not what many expected.

Sen. Nancy King faced fierce competition from Del. Saqib Ali in 2010. Not too long after the 2006 election, Sen. P.J. Hogan stepped down and the MCDCC chose then Del. King, who had won two terms and also served on the Board of Education, for the seat over newly elected Del. Ali.

Ali dogged King relentlessly for the rest of the term, continually attacking her as insufficiently progressive. The 2010 primary was rough with Sleepy Saqib pictures that Ali had posted on his Facebook page appearing in King’s mailers. (Kids, there is a life lesson here.) Ali ran a very strong campaign but The Rumble in Germantown ended with King taking the nomination by 248 votes.

The new redistricting plan just happened to draw Ali’s home into District 15. Unlike for congressional elections, Article III, Section 3 of the Maryland Constitution requires that legislative candidates live in their district. In the words of the Church Lady (late 1980s SNL youngsters), “how convenient.”

But not so surprising. Senate President Mike Miller has zero desire to see Saqib in the Senate. And Ali’s aggressive style in the General Assembly did not win him friends among his colleagues, though it was nearly enough to propel him into the Senate.

Ali could have established residency in the new D39 but committed to D15 when he sought the delegate vacancy last year caused by Del. Brian Feldman’s appointment to the Senate. Ali entered the delegate election in D15 but pulled out in December.

King and Del. Charles Barkley have especially robust campaign accounts–Barkley has 92K compared to 91K for King. Del. Kirill Reznik has a healthy 43K with 26K in Del. Shane Robinson’s account. I guess Reznik needs to serve more expensive hamburgers at his annual Grill with Kirill event. Or maybe Del. Barkley can take him to school.

An enjoyable election season for the incumbents in District 39–but not for those watching elections.