I like and respect my old friend Comptroller Peter Franchot but I wish he would exercise more due diligence and help Montgomery County government figure out means to mitigate the damage that would be done to our operating and capital budgets by giving away a profitable asset (liquor sales) to private interests and getting nothing in return. It seems imprudent for the state comptroller to pay so little heed to severe consequences for local government’s bottom line. There is a valid discussion underway about whether county control of liquor sales is a good idea and the County Council, with Hans Riemer in the lead, has proposed an approach that would address the legitimate complaints of restauranteurs and aficionados of fine and rare wines and craft beers. If our approach isn’t successful, we can continue to look at how to address consumer complaints but we must also balance our budget, meet our taxpayers’ needs and fulfill our obligations to bondholders. These are real issues that the state comptroller should take seriously.
Speaking for myself, I think there’s a reason the issues raised by Councilmember Leventhal aren’t being discussed. To do so is to acknowledge - which Franchot’s report does not - that there are real financial costs to alcohol privatization that muddy the issue for most voters. It’s far more fun - and simple - to simply grab a bullhorn and yell “cheap hooch for everyone” than it is to engage in a serious dialogue. Montgomery County deserves better.