Monday, October 10, 2011

Lockheed Martin Boosters Defeat Purely Symbolic Resolution // Busboys & Poets Declines to Open in Bethesda & Silver Spring

UPDATE: The City Paper reports that Busboys and Poets owner Andy Shallal says he's now passing up locations in Silver Spring and Bethesda because of MoCo's caving to Lockheed Martin! This is a big deal: "[Shallal] 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.'"

Also, a Catholic blogger at writes a lengthy tirade about the Lockheed debate: "Last week in Montgomery County, Maryland, money talked and the County Council listened...."

Montgomery County's anti-war activists recently asked County Councilmembers to sponsor a resolution calling on Congress to cut military spending (instead of social services). This isn't too surprising, given that many area politicians have been blaming the last few rounds of budget cuts on decades of Republican budget giveways (ie: corporate welfare, military waste, billionaire tax cuts, etc). These types of purely symbolic resolutions usually generate only the most philosophical of debates -- ie: what role, if any, should local governments play in federal policy?

Even still, Montgomery County's largest employer, weapons manufacturer Lockheed Martin, was able to obliterate this resolution, even after The Examiner announced that a majority of Councilmembers sponsored the bill:
...the resolution seeks "major reductions" in the Pentagon budget in an effort to secure the savings for health care, education and road improvements in Maryland. With the new addition, it is sponsored by Council President Valerie Ervin, D-Silver Spring, Councilman Craig Rice, D-Germantown, Councilwoman Nancy Navarro, D-Eastern County, Councilman Marc Elrich, D-at large and Councilman George Leventhal, D-at large.
The Washington Post today reported that County officials were contacted by some of their Democratic colleagues:
None of the five council members who supported the resolution — Ervin, Marc Elrich (D-At Large), George L. Leventhal (D-At Large), Nancy Navarro (D-Eastern County) and Craig Rice (D-Upcounty) — have publicly pulled their support. But over the past week, at least Leventhal has regretted backing the measure....
Del. C. William Frick (D-Montgomery), who represents the district encompassing Lockheed Martin’s headquarters and who discussed the resolution with Duncan, contacted council members, urging them not to pass the resolution.
The Examiner added, "County Executive Ike Leggett asked the council to table the resolution because it is "a dagger pointed directly at the heart of Montgomery County." This is the second time in recent months that some Montgomery politicians have tangled with Lockheed Martin boosters. In January of this year, The Examiner covered an effort from Maryland Senator Jamie Raskin to block a proposed tax break for Lockheed Martin's private employee hotel in Bethesda:
"Everyone believes in the free market except when they want a special deal," said state Sen. Jamie Raskin, D-Silver Spring, who is trying to repeal a Maryland law that gives tax breaks to corporate hotels. "In these dark days of fiscal austerity, we cannot afford this corporate welfare. I don't think we need to continue to pay them off in order to stay here." 
County Executive Ike Leggett says Lockheed Martin's Center for Leadership Excellence should not be taxed as a hotel since it houses company workers instead of providing rooms to the general public -- and he modeled a proposal to exempt the facility from the county's lodging tax after state regulations sparing such facilities from the sales tax. 
However, such a tax break would cost the cash-strapped county $450,000 every year, and Montgomery is facing at least a $300 million shortfall next fiscal year.
Why does Lockheed Martin need $450,000 of the County's money (every year) for a private hotel? Check out their April 2011 earnings report:
Lockheed Martin Corporation (NYSE: LMT) today reported first quarter 2011 net sales of $10.6 billion, compared to $10.3 billion in 2010. Earnings from continuing operations for the first quarter of 2011 were $548 million, or $1.55 per diluted share, compared to $519 million, or $1.38 per diluted share in 2010. Cash from operations in the first quarter of 2011 was $1.7 billion, compared to $1.6 billion in 2010.
 ...the answer, of course, is everyone's favorite bogeyman: Pennsylvania Virginia. Oy, not again! As the Examiner further reported on Sen. Raskin's bill in January:
Without the state law, the county executive would have no legal backing to justify the incentive to already-skeptical County Council members. Leggett argued that Lockheed Martin, one of the county's major employers, needs incentives to stay within county lines.
If a company demands money just to stay, they are not yielding net new jobs for a community. Maryland Juice believes this kind of corporate welfare amounts to extortion, in a time when we are asking residents and employees to make great sacrifices. In any case, returning to the present issue, it is worth noting that the groups backing the recently shelved resolution to Congress apparently spent months working on this effort. No wonder they are upset by the last-minute withdrawal (a vote was scheduled for this Tuesday). They are now responding with a protest and press conference tomorrow. See their press release below:
Groups Rally to Save the Democratic Process in MD
Cry Foul After Montgomery Council Bows to Corporate Pressure 
Rockville, MD –  The Montgomery County Council last week removed from its agenda and from its Web site a nonbinding resolution that had been introduced on Oct. 4 asking Congress to reallocate spending, away from wars and the Pentagon and towards local services and community needs. The Council had been scheduled to consider the resolution Oct. 11. [Read the introduced resolution here:
A rally in support of the resolution and in opposition to the Council’s refusal to consider it occurred on the sidewalk in front of the County Council building as the Council began its scheduled meeting on Tueday. Speakers underscored the need for more democracy and encouraged the Council to vote on the resolution rather than allowing it to be killed by pressure exerted from Lockheed Martin, a major beneficiary of war funding. 
Fund Our Communities, Bring the War Dollars Home, a Maryland coalition of over 50 community groups representing tens of thousands of Maryland residents, coordinated with Council members over the last several months to develop the resolution. The resolution that was introduced notes that current U.S. military spending is greater than at any time since World War II and that it has doubled, in constant dollars, since 1998. Meanwhile, huge cuts have been made at the federal, state, and local levels to domestic spending, including appropriations for Maryland and Montgomery County. 
While military contractors typically decry potential cuts in military spending as leading to job losses, rally organizers pointed to a recent study showing that considerably more local jobs are created when the federal government spends in sectors other than the military. [See:
Thus, a reallocation of federal funds would reduce unemployment and help state and local governments fund critical infrastructure and services, preventing cuts to schools, libraries, parks and other needed services. Such a reallocation would also allow more spending for green energy development, preventon of child poverty, health care and other key local needs. 
Rally speakers stated their intense diasppointment with the ability of powerful corporations, such as Lockheed Martin, to effectively pressure the Council. They also expressed frustration with the lack of vision displayed by County Executive Ike Leggett, who reportedly called the nonbinding resolution “a dagger pointed directly at the heart of Montgomery County.” [See:
Coalition member Alex Welsch asked, “Aren’t County leaders capable of imagining a role for Lockheed Martin’s very talented staff in a more sustainable peace economy? The county’s economy will do well if federal policy shifts to support different types of projects. A more flexible and re-oriented Lockheed Martin could cash in on well-documented peace dividends.” 
Speakers demanded that the Council vote on the resolution, not just consign it to oblivion. 
“Can people in our County not be heard if corporations don’t like what we have to say?” asked Jean Athey, chair of the coalition steering committee. “On Oct. 4, a majority of Council members expressed support for this resolution. Then, we heard that Lockheed Martin didn’t like the resolution. I guess Lockheed Martin is afraid of losing their very lucrative contracts, many of which are producing weapons systems that we don’t need and that don’t make us safer. People all over the country are expressing their anger about undue corporate influence on the democratic process. This appears to be one more outrageous example.” 
Bob Cooke, of Pax Christi, a Catholic organization, stated, “We need a sustainable economy, one that does not consign children to poverty and that provides jobs that give value to our community. Such an economy requires a reprioritization of federal spending. We want our Council to work towards an economy that works for all, not just the wealthy and the corporations. We stand by our call to bring the war dollars home.” 
Speakers at the rally included Bob Stewart, Executive Director UFCW 1994 MCGEO; Elbridge James, President of the Board, Progressive Maryland; Patrick McCann, veteran and teacher; Mike Hersh, director of Progressive Democrats of America, Montgomery County; and Andy Shallal, small business owner. 
The rally was organized by the Maryland coalition, Fund Our Communities, Bring the War Dollars Home. 
Coalition Members: Baltimore Nonviolence Center; Bethesda Friends Meeting; CASA de Maryland; Center for Peace, Frederick County; Chesapeake Citizens; Chesapeake Climate Action Network; Chesapeake Physicians for Social Responsibility; Citizen-Soldier Alliance, Baltimore; Columbia United Christian Church, Peace & Justice Committee; Democracy for America, Montgomery County; Fellowship of Reconciliation; Friends Meeting, Annapolis; Generations for Peace & Democracy; Gray Panthers, Metro DC; Green Party, Anne Arundel County; Green Party, MD; Green Party, Montgomery Co.; Healthcare-Now of MD; Homewood Friends Meeting; Little Friends for Peace; MD Black Family Alliance; MD United for Peace & Justice; Montgomery County Civil Rights Coalition; Montgomery County Progressive Alliance; Muslim American Society/MD; NAACP/MD; Network of Spiritual Progressives, MD; Orthodox Peace Fellowship; Pax Christi/MD; Peace Action, Anne Arundel County; Peace Action Montgomery; Peace & Justice Coalition, Prince Georges County; Pledge of Resistance, Baltimore; Progressive Democrats of America, MD; Progressive Cheverly; Progressive Maryland; Progressive Neighbors; Prosperity Agenda; River Road Unitarian Universalist Congregation/Social Justice Council; Peace Committee, Sandy Spring Friends Meeting; Sheet Metal Workers International, Local 100; Southern Christian Leadership Council, Montgomery County; UFCW Local 1994 MCGEO; Veterans for Peace, Baltimore; Veterans for Peace, Metro DC; Voters for Peace; WeGreen USA; Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom/DC.

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