Comptroller Peter Franchot’s discovery that the Town of Brookeville owes $7.2 million to the State of Maryland due to his office’s miscalculation of municipal tax receipts for many years placed the Town in quite a bind, as the municipality of just 134 souls had no idea how it could repay the debt.
Today, Brookeville Commission President Katherine Farquhar announced that, after working on the issue with the County and the State, Brookeville will open a casino in historic Brookeville Academy (pictured above), which is owned by the Town, to raise monies to pay off the debt to the State.
Franchot praised the decision, stating that he “appreciates the Town’s gratitude to my office for finding the errors” and plans to award the Town the Comptroller’s Medal for its “creative solution” to the Town’s financial difficulties.
Members of the County Council had initially expressed concerns regarding the project. But Council President Roger Berliner (D-1) has now announced that the casino will be the first recipient of the microloan program he has advertised on Facebook in anticipation of his 2018 County Executive bid.
In a press release, Berliner said “I’m so pleased that the microloan program will make the casino possible. It will help jump start Federal Realty’s development of the outbuildings for future expansion, showing the importance of partnerships like these.”
After initial opposition, Councilmember Tom Hucker (D-5) came on board once the Town agreed to hire MCGEO workers transferred from county liquor stores. “They know as much about gaming as beer, wine and liquor, so this is a great opportunity,” said MCGEO President Gino Renne.
Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Gigi Godwin agreed with the union president, as she commended the County for brushing aside development concerns with the adoption of a special Zoning Text Amendment (ZTA) over the objection of the Civic Federation. “We need the County to take a more proactive approach on business.”
Councilmember Hans Riemer (D-AL) also applauded the project, saying that he was happy to learn that Brookeville “is open to serving craft beers” that an official taskforce determined were crucial to revitalizing nightlife in the County.
The sole casino opponent, Councilmember Marc Elrich (D-AL), pointed out that Georgia Ave. is already a parking lot and that the development violated County traffic tests. His statement was interrupted by George Leventhal, who brusquely asked Elrich “Why do you care about people coming from Howard County? Haven’t you figured out we ignore you yet?”
In contrast, Councilmember Nancy Floreen (D-AL) expressed optimism regarding transportation: “SafeTrack has been such a success. We should use the projected savings on Metro to initiate a study on extending the Purple Line to Brookeville.”
The casino will have a War of 1812 theme, reflecting Brookeville’s role as the “U.S. Capital for a Day” in 1814 during the British occupation of Washington. The building’s exterior will be preserved as the interior is redesigned in a “modern Madisionian” style.
(P.S. I think most have figured out by now, but yes, this is satire. Happy New Year.)
Matthews Donates $1000 to Franchot One Day after Endorsement
Definitely nothing illegal but the optics are not good.
On January 11, Eighth Congressional District Candidate Kathleen Matthews announced support from Comptroller Peter Franchot (see below). The very next day she donated $1000 to Friends of Peter Franchot–the Comptroller’s campaign account (see above).
Obviously, the timing looks bad. It just doesn’t look good to donate $1000 the day after receiving a big endorsement. It’s also very strange because Matthews needs every dollar she can raise for her congressional Democratic primary in April. Franchot doesn’t face another election until 2018.
The donation turns a major endorsement that, as Adam Pagnucco pointed out, Matthews should have touted more into one with an awkward appearance that she should avoid. A surprising outcome all around from a very media-savvy candidate.
Announcement of Franchot’s Endorsement of Matthews
“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.
Del. Bill Frick Proposes to Allow Voters to Decide
The movement to end the Montgomery County liquor monopoly is gaining momentum. Six legislators plan to introduce legislation to allow voters to decide the question. Comptroller Franchot penned an opinion piece last week arguing for its end. But I suspect that it’s the political potency of the issue with voters that will give it continued forward momentum.
The following is by Adam Pagnucco:
As of this writing, over 900 people have signed the petition asking Montgomery County’s State Senators and Delegates to end the county’s archaic liquor monopoly. Here are a few comments from petition signers that truly say it all.
First of all, I appreciate Roger Berliner’s and the other County leaders’ embrace of this cause. Montgomery County, Maryland’s liquor laws are an embarrassing and harmful anachronism. County sales of alcohol do not serve any public purpose but they do perpetuate an expensive and useless bureaucracy. The County should not be a seller of alcohol but rather should serve as a responsible regulator of private restaurants and stores selling alcohol.
Retaining the current system discourages the entry of businesses into the County and results in a conflict of interest for the County as both a regulator and a vendor selling to and competing with private businesses. Getting the County out of the liquor business would allow private enterprise to offer consumers more choices and more reasonable prices. At the same time, it would allow the County to focus on its regulatory role, while gaining additional tax revenue from businesses to lower individual taxes.
I have lived in this County for more than sixty years. This useless charade cannot be ended too soon. Kenneth Markison, Chevy Chase, MD
I own 2 restaurants in Montgomery County, both well known for the breadth of their beer, wine and liquor lists. The difficulty in creating and maintaining these lists because of the county controlled system is extraordinary. It adds hours of unnecessary labor to my payroll costs, diminishes the quality of my beverage programs through the inconsistency of stock, unavailability of products and errors in delivery, and drives up the cost of the products we sell – which must either be absorbed by us (therefore diminishing our profits) or passed on to the consumer resulting in higher menu prices. This system causes all but the most intrepid restaurant owners to dumb down their offerings because it’s far far easier and ensures Montgomery County will never compete with DC in terms of the quality and creativity of its restaurants. Jackie Greenbaum, Washington, DC
I’m signing because this is 2015, not 1925. Debra Van Alstyne, Potomac, MD
Ridiculous that this is still in place. Way past time to do away with it. Deborah Grossman, Takoma Park, MD
I’m signing because I’m sick of being forced to drive out of MoCo to get the wines I want. It causes MoCo restaurants time, money, and frustration. It discourages new restaurants from considering moving to MoCo. The current system is cumbersome, useless, embarrassing, archaic, and typically paternalistic. I don’t need this County to make my buying decisions for me, thank you. Lezlie Crosswhite, North Potomac, MD
I’m tired of having to go to DC or VA to have a wide choice of wines plus the prices are so much better. Sandra Satterfield, Rockville, MD
I am an economist, retired from the FTC after over 30 years. I worked exclusively on anti-trust cases. Monopolies hurt consumers. Russ Parker, Bethesda, MD
According to the Maryland Declaration of Rights “monopolies are odious”. If monopolies are so odious then why does Montgomery County have a monopoly on the sale of alcoholic beverages in Montgomery County? Justin McInerny, Chevy Chase, MD
… because the monopoly is outdated, stifling, and ridiculous. And annoying. Diana Conway, Potomac, MD
It has been proven to be a flawed system that restricts the store owner’s ability to maximize sales and be self-reliant on their success. The internal inventory controls have been called into question as of late as well. Time to open it up to the free market! John Hodges, Rockville, MD
I am tired of County stores with poor quality and customer service. I have to shop with a cart that has a pole on it so I can be tracked through the store, then I have to stand behind a piece of blue tape on the floor to be helped by someone who doesn’t want to be there. The selection is poor and I find myself shopping elsewhere. It’s time to get rid of soviet era liquor stores. Richard Neimand, Silver Spring, MD
We’re tired of driving to Total Wine in Laurel and Calvert-Woodley in D.C. to find good selections of beer and wine at reasonable prices. We want to spend our money here, but not at the premium we have to pay because of this ridiculous set up. Also, we want to see more restaurants locate here and they need access to good selections of fine wines, craft liquors, etc. Mike Diegel, Silver Spring, MD
This system no longer (if it ever did) makes sense. Michael Webb, Germantown, MD
It is time for the free market to work its magic and for the county to cure its addiction to alcohol (revenues). A remarkably inefficient, and at times corrupt, system should not be tolerated by consumers and businesses directly affected by its protection. Let voters decide what happens. Allen Perper, Silver Spring, MD
I spend money out of county in an effort to avoid the ridiculous monopoly in Montgomery County. It is insulting to my intelligence. Stephen Sugg, Rockville, MD
Business is for the private sector, governing is for the government.| Yovav Sever, Rockville, MD
I buy much of my alcohol outside MoCo. I want a wider selection and to not have to drive! Laurie Wilner, Potomac, MD
The county should NOT be selling alcohol at all! I always thought that was stupid. The county has anti-drink programs and yet sells the stuff…let’s teach our kids hypocrisy, shall we? Pat Burton, Gaithersburg, MD
I’m signing because I do purchase all of my beer and wine in Washington, D.C. Michael Reust, Takoma Park, MD
I live in MoCo and have to go to Frederick County (or Virginia) to get a couple of things that the county won’t allow to be sold. The current system is a total joke. Victoria Cross, Gaithersburg, MD
I’m signing because I resent the county’s imposing a monopoly on its citizens. We’re grownups. Let us decide who to buy our alcohol from, and what to buy. I love Mo Co except this liquor business is an embarrassment. David Austin, Bethesda, MD
I don’t believe the county should have a monopoly on the liquor we buy or the choices restaurants have in what they provide customers. Currently, and for MANY years, I’ve purchased all my liquor in DC. Too bad for Maryland and time to smarten up. Anne Claysmith, Bethesda, MD
I hate having to drive to neighboring counties to find liquor stores with a decent variety to choose from. Mark Eakin, Silver Spring, MD
I worked at a bar in Silver Spring for 4 years, and during that time we were frequently unable to keep regular beers, liquors, and supplies we relied on in stock due to the County’s apathy towards customer interests Jennifer Burrell, Laurel, MD
The county should not be allowed to continue its monopoly on alcohol sales to our businesses. I fully support allowing private sellers to compete with DLC in Montgomery County and putting this issue to a referendum so that it is clear how many county citizens desire a private competition approach. Michael Fetchko, Bethesda, MD
Part II in this continuing series of up and comers under 30 around the State.
1. Jake Weissmann. Don’t let Jake’s goofy style fool you: he has been the brains behind Mike Miller’s formable political operation for years. This cycle, he faces the greatest challenge of his career–guiding the Senate Caucus through what’s shaping up to be a 2010 style red wave nationally. Once he finishes law school, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him as one of the top earning lobbyists in the state.
2. Sarah Elfreth is Government Affairs Director for the National Aquarium. The smartest, wittiest lobbyist walking the halls of the Lowe House Office Building, she is also one of the youngest young guns on these lists. Whether she remains behind the scenes or runs for office in the future–a distinct possibility–one thing is for sure: you’ll be sure to hear the name Sarah Elfreth for decades to come:
Anonymous: “Sarah Elfreth, a resident of Annapolis MD, is a true leader and an extraordinary example of a young woman who is both influential and impactful before State and local government.”
3. Cailey Locklair is the Deputy Director of the Baltimore Jewish Council. The following nomination is perhaps the highest praise any lobbyist could receive:
Anonymous: “One of the most persuasive people I’ve ever had a drink with in Annapolis. Completely dedicated to her client.”
4. Geoff Burgan. This guy is sharp and has fantastic people skills. Currently in O’Malley’s comms shop, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Geoff as a key player in the Brown Administration or on a nascent O’Malley’s presidential campaign.
5. Andrew Friedson. Excepting his longtime handler Len Foxwell, no one is closer to Peter Franchot than Andrew Friedson. He currently serves as Communications Director in the Comptroller’s Office, where he was previously Deputy Chief of Staff. He managed Franchot’s reelection campaign in 2010.