Best known for taking down one of the greatest sports franchises in the United States, Washington Commanders owner Dan Snyder ripped off his customers, mismanaged the team with bad trades and coaching decisions and surrounded himself with “yes men” all the way to the bottom of the NFL. Under the leadership of County Executive Marc Elrich, the Montgomery County government is taking its residents down the same path.
Montgomery County has long been considered by many in the area to be one of the regional shining stars of the 1980’s, known for high-paying private sector jobs, special government agencies, a top school system and beautiful communities in which to live and work. Adam Pagnucco of Montgomery Perspective has documented the county’s 20-year decline to the bottom of the regional market under every measurable matrix. How did this happen?
Both leaders display “smartest in the room” arrogance. Snyder bullied fans, exploited cheerleaders and ran a hostile workplace without repercussions. Elrich dismisses economic studies as “garbage;” opposed the Hogan traffic relief plan and has undercut the Purple Line and Thrive 2050.He’s failed to fill critical public safety positions in the Montgomery County Proposed FY24 Budget.
Let’s compare some statistics.
Fundamental economics: Under Snyder’s leadership, the Commanders saw its ticket revenue and stadium capacity drop to the last in the NFL. Over the last 10 years, wage growth in the D.C. region averaged 5.7 percent compared to 0.7 in Montgomery County per Montgomery Perspective. MP reports the county’s regional ranking, as determined by the US Bureau of Economic Analysis, in the past five years as follows: Personal Income Growth (last), Wage and Salary Growth (second-to-last), GDP (second-to-last), and Real GDP per Capita (second-to-last).
Now, let’s examine fundamental demand. In 2003, there was a 20-year waitlist for Commanders (Redskins) season ticketholder. In 2010 (or earlier) we saw that slip to no waitlist. Montgomery County has experienced a similar exodus. Per Montgomery Perspective, in 2003, the county population growth rate was 11.2%; by 2010 it had slipped to 8%. From 2017 to 2022, the county has experienced 0.0% population growth. 2021 reports show a 3,314 decline in population. All this translates into a shrinking tax base, which is bad news for county taxpayers’ bank accounts as the county collects money for existing services.
Lastly, let’s study the fundamental economic/tax abuse of the fan/taxpayer base. Snyder’s regime with the Commanders got off to an auspicious start when they started charging admission to training camp, which was followed by theft of ticketholder deposits, suits against ticketholders and lying about a ticket waitlist for five to 10 years. Montgomery County has a long history of offensive taxpayer abuse. Examples include the 2010 Emergency Energy Tax (intended to sunset in 2012; now $175M) and the county liquor monopoly. Montgomery County charges a maximum added 3.2% income tax for the right to live here.
Elrich’s 2018 campaign promised “government workforce reduction.” Now his administration is supporting a “Super Size” government with an increase of nearly 1,400 workers over three years while holding 1,500 in unfilled positions!The proposed 10% property tax increase is circumventing a county charter limit exploiting MCPS, while MCPS sits on record surpluses of $100M and an $850M county surplus.Montgomery County is the only county in the region to propose a real estate tax increase in its 2023-24 budget. And here’s the kicker: Despite this spending increase of more than seven percent this year and nearly 18 percent over two years, this is essentially a same-services budget.That’s right: Few improvements, just paying more for the same services we are already getting.
Snyder and Elrich. Two peas in a pod. The difference between them is that Snyder is a private citizen. We can vote with our wallets, but he answers mainly to himself. Thankfully, when it comes to Elrich, he needs the support of our 11 County Council members. They can exercise wisdom and prudence or endorse Elrich’s irresponsible tax-and-spend scheme. Will they be Marc’s “yes men?”
Charles K. Nulsen III is the owner of Washington Property Company, a 17-year-old family-owned development and management firm headquartered in Bethesda, MD.
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