a citizen’s journal by Thomas Nephew

County Council’s retreat loses respect — and Busboys

Posted by Thomas Nephew on October 10th, 2011

Great — the Montgomery County Council has chickened out of voting for a perfectly reasonable resolution saying we’re spending too much on defense — because Lockheed Martin blackmailed an easily cowed group of legislators into shelving the resolution.

As the resolution lays out — that is, laid out — it’s not just appropriate for a county council to express an opinion about this issue, it’s high time:

“4. While military spending has been extraordinary during the past decade, huge cuts have been made at the federal, state, and local levels to domestic spending, including appropriations for Maryland and Montgomery County.
5. The economic and financial situation in the state of Maryland has led to reductions in revenues from the state to Montgomery County. These reductions impact funding for education, environmental programs, health care, safety net services, public safety, and transportation projects.”

Cramped school budgets, fights with the police force over benefits, looming state and local health care and services cutbacks and more: they can all be attributed in no small part to this country’s misplaced budget priorities.

But if you need it, there will be another daily reminder of our county council’s embarrassing retreat — the empty storefront at the former Border’s Books location in Downtown Silver Spring.  That’s because Andy Shallal — owner of the thriving Busboys and Poets bookstore/cafe empire in the DC area — has ruled out expanding to that location (or any other in Montgomery County) because of the County Council’s action. CityPaper’s Lydia DePillis reports:

Having already planted flags in Arlington and Prince George’s counties, Montgomery was a clear next step for Shallal. And indeed, he tells me he’s been looking at the now-closed Borders Books & Music space in Silver Spring, and has been approached by developers to open in Bethesda. But Shallal, whose outlets have lately been sporting banners encouraging passersby to “IMAGINE A WORLD WITHOUT WAR,” says MoCo has lost its chance. “County residents pay about $2.5 billion in defense spending,” he emails. “Money that is desperately needed for other services.”

Sure: realistically, Busboys and Poets is no economic match for Lockheed Martin, which turns out to be the largest employer in the county.  But Mr. Shallal’s penalty to the county, while perhaps small in the scheme of things, is a concrete example of the trade-offs we’re making every day with our outlandish defense budget and our seemingly endless warfare.  Lockheed was either bluffing or insane: our county — with its still-excellent schools, its services, and above all its work force — either was a good place to work and live, or it wasn’t. Passing this resolution wasn’t going to change that.

With respect, I think Councilmember George Leventhal was mistaken to say the resolution amounted to unwise “federal legislating.” It was no such thing.  It simply urged Congress to make major reductions in the Pentagon budget, and reinvest the savings in state and local needs.

Councilmember Leventhal got it right the first time when he endorsed this bill.  I hope he gets it right again — and soon — to vote for it.

2 Responses to “County Council’s retreat loses respect — and Busboys”

  1. Dan Says:

    This is why people do not trust governments. They are willing to trade today and their re-election for tomorrow’s future. This is a great example of government gone wrong.

  2. » Blog Archive » From sundown towns to a midnight county Says:

    […] in « « prior: County Council’s retreat loses respect — and Busboys next: Testimony against a proposed county loitering bill » […]

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