Welcome to the Weekly Agitator: who and what you should be angry at, who’s organizing about it, and how you can find out more
MONTGOMERY COUNTY LOCAL
County Executive takes your questions, this Wednesday
Each month, the County Executive answers residents’ questions in an online forum. His staff cherry picks the easy ones of course, but that is no reason not to flood their inbox with critical questions you produce from reading our Weekly Agitator.
— Privatization Alert —
Montgomery County citizens are reeling from the news of not one, but two efforts already underway to privatize public assets. (Or at least they would be if there were any investigative reporting in Montgomery County local news).
If our well-paid intern was not monitoring county communications constantly, we would not have noticed the “article” (more like a piece of native advertising) from Source of the Spring announcing an effort to put the Silver Spring Urban District into private hands as a “Business Improvement District” (BID). Nor would we have caught the Seventh State piece revealing that Ike Leggett wants to privatize stormwater maintenance on his way out of the Executive’s office.
These may appear as small instances where the county is ceding public control to public-private ventures, but it is far worse. Readers can only expect more privatization to come; we hasten to remind them that it was scarcely two years ago that the entire Montgomery County Economic Planning Department was privatized as a public-private experiment.
This is an essential feature of so-called Democratic strongholds. Liberals champion individual rights, state institutions that protect those rights, and regulations to tame capitalist excess. But they quickly shift to handing over all the above to the corporate bosses. Since the late 70s/early 80s the State, from federal to municipal, transitioned from being a “manager” of good civilian social life to an “entrepreneur” responsible for cultivating a healthy business environment. Reaganism cemented this shift, as funding from the federal government to municipal projects became increasingly scarce or tied to strings that re-enforced this changing ideology.
The BID maneuver by local property owners is the entrepreneurial state in action. And it shows the antagonism between civilians and capitalists in the realm of social life. The Silver Spring Urban District is doing a fine job of keeping Downtown Silver Spring buzzing with events, keeping a sanitary environment, and a promoting a haven for businesses. But these efforts were not enough for the capitalist class. They demand control over the process of both commodity production and social reproduction in the urban sphere.
The BID plan is to hand over Urban District operations to these capitalist blood-suckers. They will have managerial control, but still receive funding from the County to employ their own security, sanitation workers, and (most critically) marketing agents. The functioning of Downtown Silver Spring will in time turn to work for the interests of Capital: security sweeping away the homeless or anyone threatening the life of the local capitalist marketplace. Sanitation workers work to beautify storefronts (not public areas or commons). Marketing agents manufacture mass consensus that shopping is the height of living in Silver Spring.
What was once center of social life will be profaned by the profit-motive.
Putting the control of safe drinking water to private hands may lift some financial burden from the county government, but at what cost? Readers may be conjuring images of Flint, Michigan in their minds, and are right to do so.
Our public control over meaningful social services and spaces is being eroded. These privatization efforts must be opposed at all costs. Otherwise, future editions of the Weekly Agitator will be filled with ads for Big Berkey Water Filters, or vouchers to guarded business district that was once Downtown Silver Spring.
R.I.P. TOYS R US
Toys R Us first opened their doors in Rockville Maryland in the 1950s. Now, private equity bandits from Wall Street have robbed the company, leaving employees with nothing while investors grant themselves massive bonuses. The write-ups by local press, New York Times et al are not worth the paper they are printed on, as they only mention the actions taken by leveraged-buyout kings Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital in passing. It was these infamous firms that loaded the previously profitable company with debt and then crash it, as they have done with so many others. David Dayen has one of the only good reports on this national “apocalypse” for retail.
D.I.N.O. Senator Bobby Zirkin getting a challenge from his left, first the first time in 12 years
Sen. Bobby Zirkin of Baltimore County is one of the dreadful, conservative Democrats who sits at the right hand of Senate Majority Leader Mike Miller. Zirkin is a member of the “Old Boys” club, run by aforementioned career politico Mike Miller and House Speaker Mike Busch.* He has been granted an incredible amount of power as chairman of the Judicial Proceedings Committee for his subservience. For instance, it is well know that Zirkin acted to kill a bill last year that would restrict local police involvement in federal immigration policy, the TRUST Act. Zirkin ensured the bill’s demise by stacking the committee meant to reconcile the House bill and Senate bill with fierce obstructionists. Staffers close to the scene reported that they were vastly outnumbered and outspoken by opponents when it came to advocating for the bill behind closed doors, despite the public support for the TRUST Act. Zirkin refused to allow the bill a hearing before the full Senate as well, reflecting Miller’s contempt for the bill and those who support its purpose.
Now, Zirkin is getting a challenger to his left for the first time in 12 years. We will watch the campaign of Pikesville attorney Sheldon Laskin carefully, and report to readers whether Laskin has the popular support and popular program to win against the reactionary careerist Zirkin.
*We note Mike Busch has been in the House since 1987 and Speaker of the House since 2003. Mike Miller has been in the Senate since 1975 and has been Senate President for over 30-fucking-years. They have accrued a massive amount of institutional control over the decades are often a more formidable opponent to positive political change than Republicans in the General Assembly. The Commonwealth editorial board politely suggests both retire to spend more time with their respective families immediately.