Wednesday, May 05, 2010

The Post Owes the County Council an Apology

Do you still read the Washington Post’s coverage of Montgomery County? If you do, you know its editorials routinely portray MoCo politicians as tools of the public employee unions, especially the teachers, despite clear evidence that recent teacher pay increases have been comparable to other jurisdictions. Its reporting focuses on labor issues to the exclusion of most other matters. The Post even insinuated that the unions were involved in last year’s Council President fight when they had no evidence to back up that assertion. Post readers have been conditioned to believe that Montgomery County Council Members are nothing more than creatures of the unions who sell out taxpayers.

But the council has proven them wrong.

Yesterday, every single member of the County Council agreed to freeze county employee pay, take away a bargained pension benefit and spread furloughs across the entire county government – even onto the teachers. That followed a sharply-worded letter from the school unions arguing against it. The letter was signed by none other than MCEA, whom the Post accuses of wielding a “toxic influence” over the council because of the Apple Ballot.

Far from being tools of the unions, the council is currently in heated conflict with them. In many recent conversations your author has had with Council Members, fear of the unions has not been in evidence. Instead, they are all worried about the county’s bond rating and are intensely interested in protecting it. Several of the union leaders are FURIOUS at the council for not considering alternatives to furloughs, including drawing on the rainy day fund. One union leader even threatened to endorse exactly none of the incumbents. Is this really an instance of politicians being in the thrall of unions as the Post alleges?

Last week, the Post sent a delegation of editors and reporters to meet with the full council. They said they wanted to improve their coverage of the county and renew their relationship with Council Members. Several Council Members remarked on their “arrogance,” noting their gold cufflinks and their attitude that the council was lucky to receive such a visit. One Council Member even asked them why they were getting scooped by blogs. (The Post bosses admitted that was a problem for which they had no answer.) No one found the visit to be particularly useful.

If the Post truly wants a new beginning in Montgomery County, there is no need for delegation visits or the flashing of cufflinks. All they have to do is apologize to the council and stop portraying them as cartoon characters jerked around by the unions’ non-existent chains.