I'm really not sure where to begin in response to the two pieces in the Oct. 5 Gazette regarding Walmart. Rules, regulations, hurdles and obstacles to free-enterprise that the Montgomery County government has established have and always will be clear and present evidence that many in local government are simply anti-business.
The proposal by your own contributor, Blair Lee's company, Lee Development, to bring a Walmart into the long vacant office space adjacent to the Home Depot in Aspen Hill, would be a welcome addition to that community — not a detriment. Yet, it is demonized by the liberal county officials.
Case in point, council member Nancy Navarro, who represents that district, is quoted in the paper as saying, “The community needs mixed-use, sustainable development that promotes synergy and helps the entire community’s economy. Any new retail in Aspen Hill should complement, not cannibalize, the existing businesses in the community.”
Ms. Navarro, how is it your job as an elected official to determine how a business is to be run or to put in place restrictions or dictates they must follow? We don't pay your salary to do that.
I'd like to kindly ask you to stay out of business dealings with public or private businesses that you clearly have no idea about and focus on your job as a county council member. If a large company offers better products at lower prices, that only helps consumers — especially in tough economic times as these. If a small business fails in the process, that may be sad, but that's just business.
You can't make sure that any company doesn't cannibalize another, as you say, or engender synergy. How in the world can you possibly ensure that? You can't. Another example of the anti-business posture is council member Valerie Ervin, who did not support the Costco at Wheaton Plaza and surely won't support this proposal of Walmart in Aspen Hill either. Ervin wants to establish new rules for large businesses coming into the county and require (I say force) them to sign legally binding community benefit agreements.
Where did such agreements begin in this country? California. That's not a model to emulate. Ervin is also on the record stating that big box stores are not necessarily the right thing to have in communities? An opinion about private business, large or small, isn't the role of officials.
They aren't business people and many never have been and thus have little to no idea how the marketplace works. Back to California for a moment. Haven't the county officials seen the massive exodus of businesses from that bankrupt state? There's a reason they are moving operations from California to Texas and it isn't because of their great barbecue brisket. California and other states have so much red tape and nonsense that businesses have moved to Texas, which says, "Welcome, come on in."
No matter if it's big-box retailers or rules that create an undue burden for tobacco-related or beer and wine establishments, including restaurants, our elected officials just can't get out of the way of businesses and entrepreneurs and let them create jobs and wealth. This posture is hurting the job creators in our county and, as a result, the residents who would be their customers.
Maybe it's time Montgomery County voters take a hard look at the people representing them and pull the lever in the next election for those who will stay out of the way of free-market capitalism and bring products and services our neighbors want, need and desire without undue obstacle. Maryland in general and Montgomery County in particular have, as former Gov. Bob Ehrlich says, a sign out front that says, "closed for business."
James A. Caulfield, Jr., Bethesda