Bill Truque, the Washington Post reporter covering Montgomery County government and politics, is leaving the paper, according to David Lublin of Seventh State. Turque has spent more than thirty years as a reporter and editor for The Washington Post, Newsweek, the Dallas Times Herald and The Kansas City Star. As noted in The Seventh State, the blog that covers Maryland politics (especially Montgomery County), this is a significant blow for keeping local government honest:
Politicians in MoCo had it easy from the Post until Turque showed up. His two predecessors on the MoCo beat were Mike Laris, who wrote one or two articles a month, and Victor Zapana, who was fresh out of college. Neither knew a lot about the county. Turque, in contrast, was a long-time resident who quickly learned the history and the players. Before long, inconvenient stories began appearing in the paper. Politicians began longing for the days of scanty coverage!
How to pick the Best of Turque? There are so many articles to choose from. There’s the time when he outed a union-linked operative as the author of an anonymous attack website targeting former Council Member Valerie Ervin. Then there was the article in which he called out the County Council for violating its own law on Public Information Act disclosure in taking down email addresses from the county’s website. Council Member Marc Elrich, who has long said he turns away developer money, was caught by Turque taking money from an attorney who represents developers. Council Member George Leventhal has yet to recover from Turque’s posting a video of his berating budget director Jennifer Hughes from the dais which was cited in Bethesda Magazine’s coverage of his Executive campaign launch. And then there’s the Silver Spring Transit Center fiasco, the subject of countless Turque articles up to his flaying the county for getting fleeced by lawyers and experts. Years ago, a Leggett administration official complained to me about Turque’s relentless coverage of the transit center. Your author replied, “You can’t blame the wolf for liking the taste of meat!”
Incredibly, Rockville and Montgomery County find it hard to attract journalists to adequately cover what’s happening locally, despite its significant influence on Maryland and Washington DC. The only newspaper, The Sentinel, is distributed weekly and covers Rockville weakly, focusing mostly on high school sports and legal notices. Bethesda is working hard to cover the news through its bimonthly magazine and blog, but it’s mostly focused on the southern end of the county. Rockville Nights, Rockville View, and my own Max for Rockville blog are produced by volunteers. Rockville Reports and Montgomery County’s Paperless Airplane are government-sponsored sources and aren’t about to announce bad news. Ever since the Gazette folded, news became incredibly sparse in Rockville and a serious threat to keeping citizens and voters informed. The Washington Post hasn’t announced a successor to Bill Turque, but as subscriptions soar and its newsroom expands, I hope they’ll pay more attention to Rockville.
For homeowners in Rockville, July brings the annual property tax bill. I’m guessing that most people simply look at the bottom line and grumble that it’s higher than last year, blaming it on the government. But we’re the government, so we can and should tell our elected officials when it’s okay to be taxed and how we want those funds spent. Which elected officials should we blame? That’s where it can get confusing and far too often I’ve seen the wrong people blamed for the actions of others. Indeed, the Rockville Mayor and Council too often is unfairly blamed for high taxes, when it’s usually the fault of the Montgomery County Council. Take a look at the breakdown for my property taxes, which will be roughly equivalent to all other homes in Rockville because we pay the same percentage of taxes according to the assessed value of the property. As you can see in the pie chart, Montgomery County collects nearly two-thirds of the property tax (blue), Rockville about a quarter (orange), and the State of Maryland about ten percent (green). Rockville collects another ten percent for trash and stormwater management (light orange) but Continue reading →