current info

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].

Sunday, March 21, 2010

County executive campaigns running towards a political center are unelectable in Prince George's County

If you run for elected office in Prince George’s County, and you run towards the center as a moderate, you cannot win, for politics here are all about the extremes. Prince George’s County would never consider electing an executive who pledged to be radically moderate, and who would reach out to all sides of any issue. Instead those who seek the edges of political ideology and work to label colleagues in such a way as to guarantee no cooperation in the future are the ones most likely to win an election.

We cauterize our debates and personalize our positions relegating polite and meaningful dialogue to the warehouse of tired tropes. To win we need to run campaigns based upon personal attacks and innuendos. The actual needs of the county are secondary to establishing ad hominem dominance. We are therefore a county of personalities and not solutions. Instead of working on a platform that would reestablish dialogue with all parties in the political conversation, we work to discredit each other for perceived past failings rarely related to the pressing problems of the present.

We should be working towards a consensus government of conversation around the political center reaching out for ideas from all parts of the continuum of political discourse. The ideas about job creation should be a priority in our public conversation, not the silence of mean spirited personal attacks of style. How are we going to bring long lasting quality jobs to Prince George’s County? This is the question sure to not win an election based upon charisma ad not substance. One does not win an election in Prince George’s County on a platform of moderation and deliberative consideration of all points of view. We are faced with choosing the person who can best corral us into small special interest groups playing each of us off against the other. The next county executive will not win by running on the idea that almost every group has something worthwhile to offer to our ongoing challenges.

We are assured that because our politicians run from the silent center to the noisy extremes that the next county executive will sooner or later be pitted against the planning board and the county council by the very same special, local, parochial interests that were aggregated together to elect him or her in the first place. New ideas created from a broad outreach to a wide range of political positions are a death warrant for election as the next county executive. We, the voters, feed the dynamic urge to cater to local fringes of special interest and this, by necessity, demonize those that may be in disagreement. As an example, we have a demonstrable inability to connect land use and our development community to the environmental preservation and justice constituencies. In this county you are for one or another; never both.

I would love to run for county executive on a platform of common cause with multiple competing special interests. The very idea dooms any thought of electability to the dust bin of the hopeless causes. We can see now the impossibility of a candidate who offers to listen to both unions and business and is willing to craft a consensus position. Instead our politicians will pick one or the other as if the positions are mutually exclusive, polar antagonists that are never to be reconciled one with another. This county like many jurisdictions is trapped in the idea that doing the same thing over and over again will someday give us a different result. We support personalities not position, and anyone who would try to listen and build bridges must be a dreamer and therefore a loser.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Prince George's County takes a holiday from governance til after November

For citizens of Prince George’s County, Maryland who take an interest in the complex governmental interactions of and relationships of county government to the park & planning commission, today was the date of decision as to whether Mr. Byrd will be confirmed as Chair of Prince George’s County’s Maryland National Capitol Park and Planning Commission. Having been nominated by the County Executive as is his prerogative under current law, the county’s Council summarily voted the nomination down.

The vote is supposed to be about the qualifications of the nominee. Instead the vote was on the idea that the current executive being term limited should not actually be doing any governing. The county with this decision is remanded to a do not make any decision or make any moves form of government. Somehow because of term limits at some point in the second term a county executive should stop exercising his authority and sit back and let campaigns and their partisans direct the course of government. The idea is that we should make no decisions until the election and that government should be frozen is beyond strange and is the direct result of term limits: what we have in this county is government in pieces and by factions frozen in the status quo. And the next County Executive will face the same problem, and will encounter the same inability to govern in his or her second term.

In Prince George’s County, politics are the dynamic interaction between me and my special interest and you and your special interest, without any attempt to interact with each other. This of course is why we mostly fail to get anything done; we cannot talk to each other and see a common goal. And it reinforces my early posts about how not to win an election in this county. For if you have a detailed comprehensive plan and try to bring everyone together, the embedded special interests of personalities and parochial interests will unite to prevent any support. We are a county about personalities, and any campaign run on ideas is doomed. We never get to the point of discussing the merits or qualifications.

Instead of running the government, our political elite will be focused on running November’s elections. The word has gone out that there is to be no change, no difference, and no movement in government for the next six months. And the up-coming elections will be not about issues and the lack of government capabilities this last year (due to term limits in part) but rather about who can aggregate the greatest collection of personalities and local non-county wide interests.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Prince George's County at odds with itself works through a political appointment

Once more, Prince George’s County finds itself engaged in an internal tempest that is partially, at least, created by term limits. The furor is over perceptions, but the law is clear: the County Executive is exercising his right under current law. The current Chief Executive, Jack Johnson, wishes to nominate as Chair of Park & Planning a new person and thereby effectively remove the current Chair. The new appointee if confirmed will serve until either the summer of 2013 as would the current Chair if re-nominated, or until the law is changed – which ever comes first. Some have said that had the County Executive done this when the first term had expired in 2009 things would somehow be different. However the outcome would be the same as far as the length of service for whomever is in the Planning Commission Chair; either way the seond term ends in the summer of 2013, or until the law is changed.

More than 20 people vociferously and most eloquently pleaded for the Council to, in their collective words, “do the right thing” which in their opinion would be to ignore either the County Council’s charge under law to consider the qualifications of the nominee or deny the nomination because it is not “the right thing to do”. What comes across is the idea that when we do not like a law, we should just set it aside. Most of those who testified in opposition spoke to the nominee’s excellent credentials, but spoke of some unspecified higher duty that should be considered by the County Council. This is dangerous thinking at best. Perhaps if the opposition had started earlier, changed the law to synchronize Panning Commission’s Chair’s new term length to coincide with that of the County Executive the melee would be palatable, but they had not. The second term overlap was not a major issue until the County Executive exercised his legal right. What we are left with is a struggle that gives politics a bad name for some, and excites others to rise to a state of full unbridle panic. Because we have term limits which create an unaccountable second term for County Executives, the only statutory question we face is whether this nomination is legally constituted and whether the nominee is qualified. When we add political ambitions to the mix we quickly lose sight ot the law making this issue a volatile and divisive one in Prince George’s County.

I have had the great privilege and opportunity to work with Mr. Sam Parker, the current Chair, and am a fervent admirer of the direction he has taken the Commission and the work he has done and might have done. As much as I might want him to continue, however, I am not the County Executive, and the decision is not mine. We elected Mr. Johnson to make these decisions, and we chose to encumber him with term limits, which prevent him from running again, and deny us from compelling him to reconsider this course of action. Term limits are not Mr. Johnson’s doing but ours, the voters.

That said, I have known professionally Mr. Byrd for almost as long as I have known Mr. Parker. While I have not worked as closely with him, I am significantly impressed with the opposition’s testimony in support of his excellent credentials. In fact I was quite taken by the breadth of support of his qualifications from those who oppose his nomination. How could so many so adamantly opposed find so much worthy of support in the life long professional achievements of Mr. Byrd?

Term limits deny us the ability to hold politicians accountable. Term limits underlie this latest battle among the partisans of parochial Prince George’s County politics. We must remember that from the tyranny of the majority there is no escape but treason; that we have a system of checks and balances to prevent the majority from wildly and capriciously running rough-shod over the legal landscape. The idea that our laws should be based upon the whims of the moment is has impact on our ability to attract investment and therefore jobs. Change is good and necessary when conducted deliberatively and directly. Laws ought to be changed and updated and debated on the merits. Change based upon ambition and desire of the moment is a recipe for infighting and short sighted alterations.. Term limits guarantee that even when we are not paying attention, the system will clean house without our input or notice thereby providing a lazy man’s way to democracy. Term limits are put in place so an electorate does not have to spend much its time or effort that might arise from being involved in the political process. Term limits help us to not pay attention to our obligation to participate in politics.