Tag Archives: Montgomery County

In miniature, January 22

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In miniature, November 12

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The timing of Montgomery County’s ill-fated schools order

Invoking its public health powers, Montgomery County late Friday announced that it was banning private and religious schools “from physically reopening for in‐​person instruction” through October 1, no matter what combination of precautions (outdoor instruction, ventilation, small numbers only, masks, distancing) they might have been planning to manage risk.

The move sparked an instant furor in the Washington, D.C. suburban community. Gov. Larry Hogan was among the first to voice criticism, and on Monday he signed an executive order withdrawing from county health boards the authority to order school closings, saying that school districts themselves should make that decision for public schools, and that counties should not force private/​religious schools to close so long as they are operating within state and federal safety guidelines.

I’d been puzzled about why, in its now‐​overturned order, Montgomery County had selected a particular date, October 1, two months out—did that reflect some sort of public health or scientific insight? Then someone pointed out that September 30 is the cutoff date in Maryland to count official public school enrollment. Many real‐​world consequences, including but not limited to the magnitude of state and federal grants, depend on the count as of that date.

Note also that at a press briefing July 22, Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) Superintendent Dr. Jack Smith said MCPS enrollment of new students was coming in well below expectations, with only about 300 K-12 new students enrolled as of the beginning of July compared with the more than 2,500 that had been projected by the end of August.

The safety issues here are complex and I don’t know what the right answers are, or whether there is exactly one such answer right for all kids and schools. While Montgomery County and nearby areas have had a lot of success getting COVID-19 transmission levels down, both the local prevalence of the virus and the state of knowledge about transmission and risk change constantly.

But I can see why there’s a problem in leaving an arbitrary power to shut down private and religious schools in the hands of their biggest competitor.

[cross-posted from Cato at Liberty]

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In miniature, July 6

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In miniature, May 29

  • My law blog Overlawyered ceases publication this weekend after nearly 21 years, you can read its Maryland archives here;
  • How about “no.” Does “no” work for you? “Baltimore Wants To Sue Gun Makers Over Gang Violence” [Cam Edwards, Bearing Arms]
  • The environmental group fretted that suspending the bag tax will leave “the public with a false sense of security in encouraging single-use plastic shopping bags” which “are difficult to clean.” Yo, Sierra Club! That’s why they’re called “single-use” bags [Jim Bovard, American Conservative; Josh Kurtz, Maryland Matters]
  • Precinct-level reporting, confidentiality, ballots returned without signatures: the details of vote-by-mail (VBM) Maryland still needs to work out [Cheryl Kagan, Howard Lee Gorrell]
  • Some good ideas in here for your county or municipality, too: “D.C., Maryland Jurisdictions Start Deferring Taxes, Fees and Regulations” [Adam Pagnucco, The Seventh State]
  • Montgomery County development politics analyzed along the lines of the classic Bootleggers and Baptists model [Arnold Kling]

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In miniature, April 4

Mostly links from before the pandemic crisis hit:

  • Richard Vatz: To have passed the extravagantly expensive Kirwan education bill, with the handwriting already on the wall as to the state’s looming fiscal crisis, “is revelatory of the utter irresponsibility of Maryland’s lawmakers.” [Bryan Renbaum, Maryland Reporter]
  • Montgomery County SWAT team shot Duncan Socrates Lemp in his home, and questions won’t go away [Jim Bovard/American Conservative, C.J. Ciaramella/Reason]
  • “Maryland Charges Big Fines for Skipping Small Tolls” [Meg Tully, Maryland Reporter]
  • Happy to get a request from Pennsylvania to reprint and distribute my chapter on redistricting and gerrymandering found on pp. 293-299 of the Cato Handbook for Policymakers (2017). Check it out;
  • Senator Michael Hough (R-Frederick, Carroll) proposes limiting lawmakers to 20 introductions of general bills in a session [Danielle Gaines, Maryland Matters]
  • Eastern Shore educators, fellow students unprepared as mental illness, violence mainstreamed into everyday classrooms [Mike Detmer, Dorchester Star, Bryan Renbaum, Maryland Reporter (Del. Kathy Szeliga, R-Baltimore and Harford, urges legislative action)]

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In miniature, March 7

  • Information about abuse by officers who represent the public is information that should be public [Ava-joye Burnett, WJZ on Baltimore sunlight-on-settlements ordinance] General Assembly considers greater police transparency [Samantha Hawkins, Maryland Matters]
  • Oh! Takoma! “The proposal… would ban all gas appliances, close fossil fuel pipelines, and move gas stations outside city limits by 2045. The cost to the average homeowner could reach $25,000, officials wrote.” [Rebecca Tan, Washington Post on Takoma Park anti-fossil fuels scheme]
  • Montgomery County ordinance requires bicycle registration, authorizes impoundment and misdemeanor charges if cyclists lack the requisite sticker [Jacob Sullum, Reason]
  • Critical profile of Baltimore-based Annie E. Casey Foundation, which is influential locally as well as on children’s issues nationally [Martin Morse Wooster, Capital Research]
  • Reform of Maryland’s harsh teen “sexting” laws welcome [Amy Alkon]
  • Neat trick: Montgomery County manages to run its monopoly liquor stores in the red, recalling the days of Off-Track Betting when New York ran monopoly gambling parlors and contrived to lose money on them [Bruce Leshan, WUSA]

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In miniature, December 22

  • Every move you make, they’ll be watching you: Montgomery County considers first-in-nation program to use road cameras to catch drivers using their cell phones [Rebecca Tan, Washington Post]
  • And whether relatedly or not: why is Montgomery County’s violent crime rate twice as high as that in neighboring Fairfax County, Va.? [Kevin Lewis, WJLA]
  • Baltimore Mayor Bernard Young gives a boost to white-van trafficking panic. Bonus: body parts harvesting rumors! [Vanessa Herring, WBAL; Donie O’Sullivan, CNN; Lenore Skenazy (“Being freaked out by a van is like being freaked out by a pigeon.”); mentioned on Yuripzy Morgan’s WBAL show]
  • In Rouse’s vision of Columbia, schools and housing patterns would work together to promote socioeconomic integration. But Howard County school boards and land use officials went their own way [Len Lazarick, Maryland Reporter]
  • Toward greater transparency in police misconduct and discipline [Glynis Kazanjian, Maryland Matters]
  • Frederick County Charter Review Commission update: I supported and argued for Councilmember Steve McKay’s well-thought-out proposal to give voters a bigger say in filling vacancies in elected office, a responsibility currently held mostly by party central committees. [Steve Bohnel, Frederick News-Post; earlier]

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Montgomery County’s unwieldy racial lens

As promised, Montgomery County has followed through on enacting a so-called racial-equity bill, following the lead of Fairfax County, Va. and other jurisdictions. The main impacts are likely to be 1) reports, reports, reports and 2) an even higher volume of self-congratulation than is usual among MoCo elected officials. David Lublin at The Seventh State doesn’t expect it will do much for genuine social justice.

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Montgomery County eases building of accessory dwelling units

As population and the job base in the Washington, D.C. area continue to expand, households face a crunch in the price of housing, made worse by the reluctance of local governments to permit residential construction near most of the major employment centers. A unanimous county council in Montgomery County, Md. has now made it slightly easier for homeowners to create in-law units or backyard cottages, but along the way had to face down noisy opposition. I tell the story in a new Cato post (cross-posted from Overlawyered)

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