Thursday, December 15, 2011

MoCo Juice Blender: Leggett Joins Lowes Protest, #1 Influential Councilmember, Huge Police Overtime & Corporate Welfare

UPDATE: Maryland Juice just received the following email from a CD6 GOP candidate: "Robin Ficker for Congress and Jobs will join his friend Saqib in the protest on Sunday too!" Interesting that a GOP candidate from Montgomery should reject extremist fear-mongering and join a protest against Islamophobia. 

Also, earlier today, Maryland Juice reader Dave Kunes sent us a Klout influence ranking for Montgomery County's State Legislators. #1: Heather Mizeur.

Here's a random blend of political tidbits from recent Montgomery County news, starting with an update from former Delegate Saqib Ali on his protest against Lowes:
Juice #1: Saqib Ali's Email Message Announcing Ike Leggett Joins Lowes Protest: Last week Lowes Hardware store caved in to rank Islamophobia by withdrawing its commercials that were scheduled to run during the TLC TV show "All American Muslims." Lowes did this because a fringe right-wing hate-group called the "Florida Family Association"  complained that the depiction of American Muslims as normal people was actually “propaganda clearly designed to counter legitimate and present-day concerns about many Muslims who are advancing Islamic fundamentalism and Sharia law." Lowes' shameful decision has sparked a huge national controversy. You can read about it here.

This decision has been condemned by prominent people from Rap Moghul Russel Simmons to Actress Mia Farrow to Newark Mayor Corey Booker. People from all walks of life are outraged that Lowe's kow-towed to such un-American demands. Imagine for a second if Lowes had pulled its commercials from a show just because it depicted Catholics or Jews as normal people. This is no different.

Protests and Boycotts of Lowes are popping up throughout the country. We will be picketing a Lowes store in Gaithersburg, MD on Sunday December 18th. You are invited to join us. 
Where: Roundabout adjacent to Lowes Store, Intersection of Market Street and Kentlands Blvd, Gaithersburg, MD 20878
Time: 1:30 pm - 4:30 pm
Website/Facebook Page:

Please RSVP by clicking here:
Many people have already RSVPed to participate in this protest including Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett and Maryland House of Delegates Majority Leader Kumar Barve.

Please note: Sunday will be sunny but cold. So please come prepared for the weather. Dress warmly with gloves, coats and hats. Make sure to wear multiple layers and long-johns to keep warm. It's no fun to be outdoors for hours if you can't feel your toes because of the cold!

Saqib Ali

National Lowe's Boycott Network (

Juice #2: Wheaton Patch Rates MoCo Councilmembers Online : The Wheaton Patch's Esther French has a fun article that takes one gauge of which Montgomery Councilmembers are most influential. They compared the nine elected officials using, a relatively new tool to measure one's online influence by gauging activities on social networks. Whose cuisine reigns supreme in Montgomery County? According to the Patch, first place goes to Council Vice President Nancy Navarro:
Of all the members of the Montgomery County Council, Nancy Navarro has the most social media clout--or at least according to Klout, a popular online tool that analyzes data from social networks such as Twitter.

A Klout score “measures influence based on your ability to drive action.” The Klout score considers three things: the number of people you influence, the degree of influence, and how much influence your network exerts.

Navarro, who is now vice president of the council, weighed in at 26, narrowly beating Councilmember (and now Council President) Roger Berliner, whose Klout Score is 25. Councilmember Hans Riemer is close behind, with a Klout Score of 24....

Juice #3: Montgomery County Police Overtime Pay Facing Scrutiny:WJLA News 7 recently reported that overtime pay is under scrutiny in the Montgomery County Police Department (fyi: apparently this information was confidential and leaked to the press):
Since 2006, Chris Johnson, a sworn officer with the Montgomery County Police Department, has made $254,101.73 in overtime.

"It was a lot of money, lot of hours worked," he says. "Lots of time away from the family."

The money helped him send his son to college. "I was able to pay for it without having to get in debt, or him to get in debt, and try to provide him with a lot of better opportunities than I may have had."

Every year, Montgomery County spends millions of dollars on police overtime. The department takes up a quarter of the county's entire overtime budget. ABC 7 News discovered that over the last five years, just four officers made more than a million dollars in overtime....

According to county figures, per hour, it would have cost half as much to hire civilians at the regular rate. The hourly wage for a full-time civilian there is $30.66. For an officer on overtime, it's $63.

Juice #4: Montgomery County Paying $19.2 Million to Keep Jobs it Already Has: File this under the "here we go again" category. The Washington Post is reporting that Montgomery County is bribing the federal government (???) with $19.2 million, so that they won't move HHS jobs from Rockville to Prince George's County. Something is wrong with this picture:
Officials and real estate developers in Prince George’s County were forlorn to see the federal government decide to keep about 3,000 jobs from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in Rockville last summer. Now we know how much Montgomery County was willing to shell out to keep the nearly 1 million-square-foot lease: $19.7 million....

Silverman said County Executive Isiah Leggett acted aggressively to keep HHS in part because jobs at the agency are considered some of the higher-paying government jobs. The agency could put even more employees there as the federal government tries to use its office space more efficiently....

Once all the paperwork is complete, Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker will have his own $50 million fund from which to issue such subsidizes, so the battle to keep major office tenants will likely tighten.
Unbelievable. So Montgomery County is forced to hand $19.2 million in taxpayer dollars to the Federal Government because a neighboring County's government wanted to raid our jobs? Why are we transferring taxpayer dollars between governmental entities in this manner? Notably, some other states prohibit municipalities within their borders from using tax dollars to steal jobs from each other. In the absence of such a law, I would suggest Montgomery and Prince George's sign an Inter-County Compact to prevent such stupid race-to-the-bottom wastes of taxpayer dollars. After all, the FBI is thinking of moving, too.... When will this game end?

Last November, Rachel Baye at The Examiner quietly reported that Montgomery County was also planning on bribing a biotech company to stay in Gaithersburg -- just because they threatened to move to Frederick. Apparently this story also involved confidential information that was leaked to the media:
Montgomery County officials are considering cash incentives and tax breaks to keep one biotech firm from leaving the county.

Meso Scale Diagnostics, a Gaithersburg biotech firm that produces diagnostic tools and employs about 350 people in the county, approached the county threatening to relocate to Frederick County or Northern Virginia, said Steve Silverman, county director of Economic Development. The company has outgrown its current facility and wants to expand into larger office space, which is less expensive elsewhere.

As a result, Silverman and the County Council are scheduled to hold a closed-door meeting Tuesday to discuss financial incentives that would keep the company in the county and possibly ways to help it take over the building the county police soon will vacate at 2350 Research Blvd. in Rockville.

Though Silverman declined to detail the proposed incentives, he did say that any similar deal would include a property tax abatement.

I must ask the same question I've been asking for months. Why do we spend so much taxpayer money on jobs that we already have? I understand the rudimentary logic at play here, but surely we can find ways out of this game-theory box? Come on policymakers, get on top of this problem! We can't bribe every company (or government) that threatens to move.

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