Thursday, March 15, 2012

No Sleepwalkers Allowed (Thursday LINKS)

With the Howard County Education Association Announcing that they will not be endorsing any incumbents and a GOP-focused primary in a D-E-M-focused County, it is starting to look like this may be a primary to watch.  In previous years, primaries were mostly good for gauging the "electability" and motivation of challengers, with incumbents displaying prohibitive strength and comfort in keeping their positions.  This have to wonder.

From the outset, I think Ellen Giles and Janet Siddiqui are getting unearned credit for the dysfunction of the current Board.  It seems as if those frustrated with our County school system, formerly supporters of Allen Dyer, Esq., have noticed the county-wide frustration with his antics and have decided to hit the reset button on the whole thing.  "You're right.  There shouldn't be lawsuits against the Board by a sitting member.  Let's vote them all out!"  Eh, not so fast.  I will admit that I don't know Ms. Siddiqui, but watching the 5-10 Board meetings that I have put myself through, I have rarely seen her raise her voice or make unprofessional accusations.  As for Ms. Giles, I consider her to be a friend and a dedicated member of the community.  (Now you see why I don't make endorsements).  She appears to be frustrated with the conduct of the Board, just as a nervous flier may be frustrated with turbulence.  I don't really see her as the source and plan to vote for her next month.

Doing what all good Americans do, shouldn't I extend my logic and presume that everyone thinks like me?  Absolutely not.  I think there is an interesting element of having 11 challengers and 3 incumbents for six primary spots.  While these challengers may not say this too loudly at dinner parties, they're probably telling their supporters not to vote for incumbents.  The presumption is that through name recognition or built up constituencies, incumbents have the primary in the bag.  The challengers need to make the vote of each supporter count the most and one of the best ways of doing that is bullet voting.  I tried to explain this, but have deleted the paragraph.  It ends up looking a lot like "If one train leaves St. Louis at 40 mph..." and I have too many math minded readers to make a tookus out of myself this morning.

So if 11 challengers are telling their supporters not to vote incumbents, the HCEA is telling voters not to vote for incumbents, and other incumbents are telling voters not to vote for incumbents, incumbents have a serious Bart Simpson problem.

One for Martin.  Two for Martin.


Howard County has retained its AAA bond rating for the 15th straight year.  That means people are learning to drive having never seen a measly AA Howard County.  That will not stop this perpetual fountain of low interest rates from being used as a medal of good governance, which I think is better termed "stewardship."

Driving past the humongous Wegman's setting up shop along Snowden River Parkway, I couldn't help but think to myself that a store of that size is almost intended to put other grocery stores out of business.  It is far too big for any other purpose.  It made me wonder what the Village Center conversation will be five years from now when "anchors" are pulled up across Columbia.

Since 2007, Baltimore City schools have paid $22 million in unused sick leave.  IT IS SICK LEAVE!  You use it when you are SICK!  This is ridiculous.  The article includes mention of unused vacation, and some would argue that school employees should not have vacation during a nine to ten months term, but the sick leave is what grinds my gears.  Please don't interpret this as an assault on teachers.  My concern is that we've created a system that will one day unfairly collapse on top of teachers, undermining duly earned benefits and salaries.

The Maryland State Senate is considering what would appear to be almost punitive taxes for anyone making over $500,000 a year (the so-called Millionaire's Tax, proving yet again that our State Legislature is very bad at math).  While I may accept a progressive tax with taxing brackets for each extra dollar of income over a certain threshold, the plan considered by the Senate would impose a higher rate on every dollar of income, not just income over $500,000.  In other words, if you make $499,999.99, your next raise may hurt your take-home pay.  Slow clap for the Senators in Annapolis!

Also concerning about that piece was reference to a Senate bill that would permit the State to seize County income taxes and direct those monies to education funding.  In other words, rather than loosening the reigns of Thornton (i.e., Maintenance of Effort), the Senate looks to add some teeth.  In the shadow of a pension shift, this is much more concerning than the actual impact of a shift on local budgets.  This is a manifestation of an apparent effort to make County governments subservient to their public school system.  When fire, police, and public roads have to share budget space with iPads for Jimmy, and those iPads have the endorsement of Annapolis, things will get screwy.

Featured Blog Post of the Day: As someone still looking to educate myself about the Board of Ed field, I appreciated Lisa's explanation for why she is supporting David Gertler and Leslie Kornreich (although I would like to hear more about why she is not supporting these specific incumbents).

While I still have not made up my mind on endorsements, I also like to be transparent in my motivations and interests in various elections.  As such, I thought I would let you all know that I will be working a poll station for David Gertler on April 3.  This is not a job I take on lightly, as the last time I volunteered to do this, I caught a cold.  I'll probably get around to all of the reasons I am voting for David in a later post, but consider yourself on notice...and consider this an endorsement.

That's all for today.  Have a great Thursday doing what you love!