To sum up Larry Carson's Political Notebook in this weekend's Sun: the Taxpayer Protection Initiative is in trouble. Big trouble.
When the TPI petition effort began, I presumed that they would at least be as successful as the TAG folks. TPI had more funding (even offered money for signatures) and the backing of some prominent county politicians like Allan Kittleman and Greg Fox. However, according to Mr. Carson's article, TPI has less than 3,000 signatures (out of a necessary 15,000) with a deadline of August 9th. For those without a calendar, that is a little over two weeks away. If I may channel a little Bittner, "Ya got trouble."
And it seems like they know it. From the article: "People are still fat, dumb and happy. They're couch potatoes, observers," [Ken Aldrich] said with disgust. "I'm just so frustrated."
(WB thinks this is a bad way to make friends and influence people.)
He then goes on to say that one of the reasons the petition drive has been unsuccessful is that candidates are spending more time on their campaigns than on the charter effort. (No response. Speaks for itself.)
Now, here's my take. [Tread lightly here, Tom. Ok, I will.]
Is it a good idea?
There is a problem when a political group becomes insular. They hold events for "like minded people" and limit their exposure to outside views. This group becomes more and more concentrated until the only thing left is the self-righteousness of an almost religious bent. Lines are drawn. Good guys and bad guys are named. And things like TPI seem like a good idea.
While I may not be the most popular guy at GOP events, I am still a Republican. Thanks to this little site, I've been able to meet a lot of great people and learn a tremendous amount about this County and the people that live here. I've spoken with other Republicans who are turned off by an apparent radicalization of the County GOP. I've spoken with Democrats who say that moderate Republicans could make a killing in this County. But more often than not, I hear a curiosity about what the heck this TPI business is about.
I agree with the TPI folks on one thing, taxes will go up in this County due to two inevitabilities: Columbia Redev is going to have significant infrastructure costs that will be front-loaded onto current residents; Teacher Pension costs are the guillotine hanging over County budgets state-wide. No one has explained how we avoid a tax increase when those two bad boys come a'knockin' other than "CUT WASTEFUL SPENDING!" (and they say it like that [see "self-righteousness" above]). Healthy Howard, while a nice punching bag, is a very small portion of the County budget. Any additional cuts and you are interfering with small businesses and their ability to get permits and licenses. You want to cut deeper? Ok, so now we're at the Education budget, which isn't even something the Council can vote on (ya hear that HCEA? They don't vote on it!). To quote my 5th grade teacher, Ms. Platt: "Where's ya sense?"
I've got some big names in my "Republicans-who-think-TPI-is-a-bad-idea" Camp. Charles Feaga and Chuck Ecker were both quoted in Mr. Carson's piece saying "I don't like tax increases, but sometimes they are necessary." They have declined to sign the petition.
Is it possible?
TPI will now go to the air. A direct mailing campaign will be reaching out to over 20,000 "mostly Republican" voters. At the very least, to even get enough players on the field to avoid a forfeit, they need 12,000 more signatures. Due to the attrition of disqualified signatures, they will need approximately 16,000 more signatures to have a fighting chance (15,000 + 30% (4,500) = 19,500). A mailer to 20,000 "mostly Republican" voters is not going to get it done, unless the ground effort really picks up.
If all of this money, all of these volunteers, and all of this time had been dedicated to GOP candidates, I think Larry would be writing about the resurgence of the Republican party in Howard County. Instead, he is writing about a failing effort with frustrated language from a Republican spokesperson calling voters "fat, dumb and happy." If I'm a Republican looking at where my Central Committee vote is going to go, I'm keeping TPI in mind (more on that later).