Politics in Prince George’s County is definitely local, and sometimes solely of the moment. On November 7th, 2006 voters will consider several charter amendments. I did a few minute’s search on “google” trying to find the letters which will identify each question, but, like with many thing important, that seemed a bit fruitless. So I will refer to the county legislation and post later when I have the corresponding actual letter designations that will be found on the ballot.
Prince George’s County voters will be asked to decide on at least five amendments, anyone of which by itself might fly under the radar but when taken together substantively alter the present form of government. Local newspaper editorials and articles present either a confusing explanation as to why these are good for government or couch the explications in terms of a reported feud which can be found only by reading articles in the same newspaper. If there is a feud, then voting for BCFG&H is short-sighted. If there is no feud, then these charter questions are simply Horribly Bad For County Government.
First a summary:
County Bill 70, CB70, would direct the county government to not exceed the number of positions in each grade for any specific agency as approved in the budget without returning to the council for approval. This is a direct restraint of the ability of the chief executive officer to move personnel to address problems and challenges immediately without his legislative partners’ involvement. An analogy could be presented with a corporation’s CEO and its Board of Directors. Exactly how many people does it take to make management decisions? Why is the legislative policy branch involved in executive decisions, unless of course it wants to be part of the executive branch of government, too. We have a balance of power; the council legislates and the executive operates. This amendment would blur the lines and cause undue complications and delay in the day-to-day operations of local government.
CB71 would extend the appointment time for top level and legislatively confirmed positions on commissions from 30 days to 45 days. I should think that we would want to move in the other direction and speed the process up not slow it down. I leave it to the reader to decide if slow is good when making decisions to fill pot holes, provide health services, public safety, and emergency services, among others.
CB72 is very interesting because it would give the legislative branch the right to ear-mark for its own uses 1% of the total annual budget. The reasoning suggested is that the executive has to come back to the council any way to account for overtime and emergency overruns, so the council should just keep that 25 million or so dollars and use it as the members see fit. To me it sounds like a special projects fund meaning that vertical columns of influence will not lobby nine people instead of one in order to lay hands on the money for county projects. Accountability would be spread over nine instead of one, and worse small and minority businesses would be hard-pressed to afford the lobbyist needed to open all the doors necessary to build a coalition to spend the money.
CB73 violates a fundamental power of a CEO, who, when confronted by an unexpected emergency, may choose to put a hold on one project and, within budget guidelines and constraints, spend the money on the emergency. The CEO, both in a corporation and in government, is held accountable for the choices made by elections. We seem to be presented with a fear of democracy; that the person elected to lead and make decisions may need oversight votes in addition to the electorate’s votes. The delay in consultation and the lobbying pressure is no way to run a government.
CB74 is the famous or infamous, depending on which floor in the County Administrative building one works, "personal contracts" restrictions. This bill at least seems on the surface to be reasonable, if the end goal is to tie up all small government contracts in a stew of deal making which will be needed to obtain a contract. The ability to respond fast to an emergency or to a constituent request through the letting of a contract as defined in this charter amendment will require a business to solicit a majority of the council as well as the executive branch in order to collect the oversight majority vote to sustain the business opportunity.
What are the voters being asked to do, but have a legislative executive form of government instead of a strong single office held accountable every four years and limited by term limits. These amendments are bad for county government, and suggest a fear by a governing elite of the majority. In order to make executive decisions in the face of pressing public need, coalitions built around nine councilmanic districts will have to be built involving more lobbyists, not fewer, and more time not less before anything gets done.
In a few days I will review what happens to investment in urban centers when the executive branch is weakened, and talk about the flight of capital, and accordingly business.
An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. "A fight is going on inside me," he said to the boy.
"It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil—he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego." He continued, "The other is good—he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you—and inside every other person, too."
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, "Which wolf will win?"
The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."
First People - The Legends. Cherokee Legend of Two Wolves. November 16, 2004. [accessed April 7, 2012].