When Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich took office in 2018, he promised a new era of progressive leadership. It hasn’t arrived, and his record suggests it’s not coming. It’s time for a change.
We’re at an uncertain moment. Running a county during the COVID-19 pandemic would challenge the most nimble and open-minded elected officials, but Montgomery County still has big problems that demand bold decisions.
We have a housing shortage, a stagnant economy, and growing racial inequity. In each case, Elrich failed to rise to the challenge.
Elrich has struggled to build relationships with other county leaders during the pandemic, and backs his allies even when they are being unreasonable (Thrive Montgomery 2050 testimony, pages 12, 13).
Since he was elected to the County Council in 2006, Elrich has been most comfortable saying no — including many times when the rest of the council said “yes.” It’s worse than ineffective leadership; it’s not leadership at all.
The result is an administration that fails to make hard decisions.
Nothing can be more obvious than his lack of leadership during the pandemic.
Elrich placed mask mandates on private businesses in the county while refusing to require vaccines for county employees, which is crucial to ending the pandemic. He said he supports a vaccine mandate for all county employees, but when unions expressed the slightest pushback, he swiftly backed down and changed his opinion.
Elrich promised to be a champion for the less fortunate. While rising home prices have benefited wealthier residents, the higher cost to live here combined with a struggling economy has burdened everyone else, especially Black and Brown residents, whose median income is 60% of white Montgomery County residents (2019 Office of Legislative Oversight report, p. 18).
Elrich says he cares about racial equity, and in December 2019, he signed the law that requires “the Executive to adopt … a racial equity and social justice action plan for the County” (p. 1, #4). Not until October 2021, three months after a stern council memo went to the county executive, were proposed regulations submitted. As of February 2022, there are no final regulations for the law.
Elrich says he supports affordable housing, but has discouraged building homes. That contributes to Montgomery County building significantly fewer homes than in previous decades, which means higher home prices and rents for everyone. Still, Elrich has refused to act.
He has sought to reduce (p. 1, Key CE Changes From FY19) funding for the county’s affordable housing trust. County Council members have proposed solutions that would build new homes and provide more affordable homes, which he’s tried to block.
Elrich disagrees with recent studies showing that building market-rate housing helps with affordability overall. In January, he said that building market-rate housing is an absurd approach, calling it a “Reagan trickle-down Koch brothers solution” (at 29:55). This approach of demonizing opposing viewpoints feeds into voters’ worst instincts and destroys any potential for compromise.
Elrich promised to support economic development, but he has undermined the county’s efforts to promote investment in East County and sent negative messages to those who would like to do business here. His signature proposal, a White Flint life sciences campus with a major university presence, hasn’t progressed in four years, with the owner of the land questioning whether Elrich’s idea is even feasible.
Even prior to the pandemic, employment in the county was flat or declining in key sectors.
A group of six people — Liz Brent, Gray Kimbrough, Abe Saffer, Eric Saul and us — strongly believe informed voters are our best hope for change. It’s critical that we share the facts about the Elrich administration as widely as possible ahead of the June primary. That’s why we created a website to tell the truth about the county executive’s record.
We support different candidates, and some of us even voted for Elrich in the last election. But we all agree that Marc Elrich does not deserve another term as our county executive. He has made big promises, but has been an ineffectual leader on issues that matter most.
Dan Reed lives in Silver Spring. Carter Dougherty lives in Takoma Park.
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