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Fraternizing with the Slighted

I have to say, there are few things like writing an incindiary post and a week later being introduced to one of the people you were writing about. That’s exactly what happened to me Saturday night. I heard that Lee Development Group and Live Nation (Fillmore) had booths next to each other, so I thought I would go down and take a look.

At the booth, I ran into Mike Deigel, who has been part of the long-term, ongoing effort to bring live music to Silver Spring. He also arranged a meeting with some local bloggers and Live Nation’s Ted Mankin. Last night we started chatting, and he asked me if I had ever met Bruce Lee. I hadn’t, but I have now.

I was, unfortunately, introduced as the author of this blog, so there was no hiding anything. Even after the rancor of my earlier partisan post (before which I had been thoroughly pro-Fillmore), Bruce was nothing but gracious and informative. I told him my concerns, and he told me the view from his side of the fence. I’m frustrated as hell, as are a lot of people (including Bruce). I feel like I have a much deeper understanding of recent events and will throw out some thoughts for you to ponder:

1. About that 15 years-with-no-additional-approval thing
According to Bruce, they would still have to go through a normal development approval process for what they build. What they asked for is that the current regulations apply over the next 10 years (with an option for an additional five years). This way they could build when the market conditions were right and not have to worry about less-than-sane Mongtomery County officials (MoCoLoCo) changing things so drastically as to make development inordinately prohibitive. I’m fine with this.

2. Seth Hurwitz would never build a club here
This is one I’m not so sure of. I understand the trepedation of some, and the attitude that Seth is just in it to kill the deal and eliminate competitors, but I don’t buy it. Call me crazy or jaded or idealistic, but if there is money to be had in this market for live music (and I’d like to think there is), I can’t see I.M.P. taking the deal and walking away with an empty building for the next 30 years. It just doesn’t fly with me. And Montgomery County would find a way to screw him over anyway if he tried it.

3. The Lee Family is in it for their own self-interest
Not really. Not any more than any company that has a fiduciary duty to its stakeholders and the bottom line. As the charter president of the Greater Silver Spring Chamber of Commerce and president of Lee Development Group, I’d wager he is decidedly pro-business. At the same time, he’s fighting against a County that just increased the corporate tax rate from 7% to 8.25%. Don’t get me wrong – I’m a tax-paying, Hillary-loving-turned-Obama-supporting Democrat. Tax-and-spend is ok if done the right way. But in a time and place where economic development is vital, Montgomery County increasing the corporate tax by 1.25% seems counter-productive.

Notice a trend here?
As I mentioned earlier, there’s a lot of blame to go around. I’m about ready to give a kidney if it’ll get live music here any faster, and I’ve had a long history saying so on thig blog. But there seems to be a recurring theme in this and past posts concerning the entire ordeal: Montgomery County is crazy. The Council, its Executive, and in particular, Maryland-National Capital Park & Planning Commission. Almost the entire staff of M-NCPPC needs to be taken out back and beaten with a stick. The reason developers want safeguards is that they don’t trust the MoCo Council or M-NCPPC, and I don’t blame them.

Montgomery County has long been a laughingstock of state and nearby goverment entities. Do a search on the Web for “montgomery county maryland laughingstock” and see what you get. It’s time for local government to get their heads out of their asses and make something happen.

Bring me live music.

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5 Comments so far

  1. Bonifant More Sinister than Thayer September 14th, 2008 8:52 pm

    Thanks for getting out there and adding more info to the debate. Sounds like it’s time for us to start calling Council members.

  2. Eric September 15th, 2008 4:23 pm

    Indeed – depending on what you wish for. And I ask that anyone who wants the public to know more, or tell me where I’m wrong, to please post a comment and say so. This whole ordeal seems to be a lot more complicated than it should be, and Bruce & Co. has had to put up with a lot of crap from all sides (including mine ;-) ).

    I’m at the point now to where I just feel like exhaling a deep breath, throwing up my arms and saying, “Come on, people, just build the damn thing.”

  3. Mike September 15th, 2008 7:15 pm

    The best thing you could do at this point is call or e-mail the council. An e-mail sent to county.council@montgomerycountymd.gov will be routed to all councilmembers.

  4. David September 16th, 2008 10:53 am

    “Montgomery County has long been a laughingstock of nearby government agencies.” Regardless of one’s opinion on whether or not the county is doing a good job of brining live music to Silver Spring, this sentment seems misplaced. To the contrary, the county has long had a reputation for providing public services in a competant manner and maintaing a good fiscal condition, and the county’s school system is held in high regard. The county’s policies on preserving its rural areas and promoting moderately priced dwelling units may have their flaws but they’ve been held up as ground=-breaking smart growth strategies.

    I can think of a few other nearby jurisdictions that are more deserving than MoCo for the title of “laughinstock”

  5. Eric September 17th, 2008 12:11 pm

    You know, you’re right. I’ve been a little harsh all around, and it’s mostly born of frustration and sheer “instant” gratification (as instant as it could be in this case). There are a lot of things that are done right here, and I wouldn’t continue living here if I didn’t love the quality of life – that includes infrastructure, governance, amenities, and the people around me. Everybody’s got their problems, and we’re pretty fortunate in the grand scheme of things.