Thursday, December 22, 2016

Barwood files for bankruptcy after MoCo Council charged you to subsidize it

"If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. If it stops moving, subsidize it."
- Ronald Reagan

SPECIAL REPORT: Abuse of the system

The Montgomery County Council proved yet again why term limits were supported by nearly 80% of their constituents this week, when the dinosaur taxicab company it tried to preserve for the last year using your tax dollars filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Barwood Cab announced the filing yesterday, about 18 months after the Council gave the company several regulatory breaks, and charged Uber users and taxpayers to subsidize changes that would help it compete with Uber and Lyft.
Fox 5 News
The private-sector entrepreneurs who created Uber and other ride-sharing services spent years and many thousands of dollars developing the mobile apps that brought them so much success. Barwood and other taxi monopolies around the country could have invested in and implemented such apps years ago, if they wished. They didn't.

What did the Montgomery County Council do? They charged their constituents and Uber new taxes and fees to fund the creation of what they claimed would be a hip, new Barwood app - a.k.a. "a centralized dispatch system" - at YOUR expense.
Montgomery County Council
generously using your money
to help Barwood Cab
"Compete With Companies
Like Uber," NBC4 reported
NBC4
The laws passed also gave numerous, money-saving breaks to Barwood that weren't in the public interest, such as allowing them to use older vehicles longer (not exactly a move to increase service reliability, as your mechanic might be able to tell you), relax meter standards and color requirements, and allow sublicensing and temporary identification cards for taxicab companies - which are not ride-sharing services like Uber, and therefore were supposed to be more regulated.

Fact is, the Council was once again caught "fighting the future," trying to drive the very ride-sharing services their constituents now choose over the Stone Age taxicab out of the county.

Who were the lead faces behind Barwood-subsidizing Uber taxes...er..."taxicab reform?" Councilmembers Roger Berliner (who once had the owner of Barwood serve as his County Council campaign treasurer) and - surprise! - Hans Riemer. Once again, Councilmember Riemer has proved every initiative he takes on will end in complete and utter failure.

Ending the County liquor monopoly? I'll give you a few minutes here, to roll around on the floor with laughter. After claiming with great media fanfare that government had no business running the liquor business, Riemer ended up ramming through a proposal that would preserve the dinosaur liquor monopoly at the expense of taxpayers, and restaurant and bar owners. It was such a great proposal that his own Democratic colleagues in Annapolis tore it up and threw it in the trash upon its arrival. Riemer has since endorsed numerous variations on the theme - solutions that preserve government control, while charging new taxes to subsidize that monopoly. Nice.

Food trucks? Riemer's own political operative, who was appointed to a $150,000 County position, was put in charge of "helping food trucks." The changes he and Riemer implemented resulted in 96% of food trucks going out of business, or retreating back into the District. A handful remain, which operate only on private property.

Cybersecurity? Riemer promised in 2010 to make MoCo a "cybersecurity hub" on the east coast. Four years later, it was exposed that the county government was running on Windows 2000, perhaps the most insecure platform in the world. Six years later, a State audit revealed critical cybersecurity weaknesses in Montgomery County Public Schools' computer network. These flaws put private student information a few clicks away for hackers, and gave access to the entire MCPS network, including log-in passwords for personnel. Yikes.

Jobs? Riemer was given a friendly platform by the faux-conservative Washington Examiner in 2012 to announce he was going to do something about the county's "sluggish job growth." Results? Four years later, Riemer's own former chief of staff criticized the county's "stagnant" private-sector economy, which remains moribund. The County continues to experience a net loss in private-sector jobs since 2000, including a loss of 2000 retail jobs, according to the Maryland Association of Retailers. Not one single major corporation has moved its headquarters to Montgomery County in two decades. Ouch.

Hans Riemer made himself the public face of a snow removal law that cost County taxpayers $6 million, for his own publicity purposes and political gain. Then winter hit, and snow remained unshoveled in front of properties owned by wealthy developers, and more embarrassingly, by Montgomery County itself! To cap off the humiliation, Riemer and his council colleagues rode past the snow piles multiple times on a tourist bus tour of the Westbard area, and after seeing the unshoveled sidewalks, still took no action. Best of all, in recent weeks, Riemer has put himself forward in the media again as the "snow guy." Oh, boy, is this winter going to be fun.

Changes ahead for Barwood? They will paint their cabs black (in fact, they've already started doing so), and will use iPads for payment. The former would eliminate the one branding element they've been known for. As for the latter - why would you want to deal with somebody's dirty public iPad, when Uber lets you use your own phone for the entire transaction, including receipt? Talk about the stone age.

After the "success" of using their constituents' money to boost Barwood Cab, what's the next venture for Riemer and the Council? They're going into the banking business!

That's right. The seemingly endless number of banks all around us are no longer enough. Berliner is going to start his own bank - with your money. How generous! Local businesspeople will go to the Bank of The Montgomery County Council and get a loan. They represent a risk that real, private banks won't take on. But that's not a problem at the Council's bank - because it's your money they'll be doling out, not theirs.

You won't even get a lollipop.

6 comments:

  1. Interesting take on Councilmember Riemer. Floreen and Leventhal are primping and priming him to be THE Council leadership of the next Council by willing him the PHED Committee. And of course as the new Council VP, he's in line to be the Council President during the election year.

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    1. 10:04: He's the lowest-energy member of this low energy council. When he gives a fireside chat, the fire goes out.

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  2. Good reporting Robert. You're the only one reporting on this stuff. Question on the food trucks thing...Is the political operative the same as the former COS?

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    1. 10:53: Thanks. The operative was (and I'd argue still is) Dan Hoffman. He was rewarded for his donations and help electing Mr. Riemer (which included improper use of civic association funds used to mail an attack piece against one of Riemer's opponents to every home in Randolph Hills, without disclosing he was a donor and operative for Riemer). And for selling Randolph Hills on the White Flint sector plan. So they created the $150,000 "chief innovation officer" position especially for him. The former chief of staff was Adam Pagnucco.

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  3. Thanks for this great report. I have to agree that Reimer is the most incompetent person to serve on the Council. He refuses to do anything or address any issues in Wheaton. He hides and ignores all correspondence. Reimer is in it for his neighborhood and does not give a (****) about any other place. He is so corrupt that we will work to bring him and his idiotic self-serving ideas down. Wheaton will bring you down Reimer. Mark my words.

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    1. Sign me up. I will put my time and money to take this guy down. I'm tired of all these incompetent fools.

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