Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Council Policy-making (Wednesday LINKS)

As shown by the countless County Council candidates that promised safer highways and healthier school lunches, there is often a lot of confusion about what the Council does.  Outside of the clear responsibilities of the Zoning Board, and the drawn out Budget approval process, Council powers are fraught with ambiguity and toe-stepping.

A few recent bills have put that ambiguity front and center.  Our General Assembly passed a law limiting development in the rural parts of Maryland in order to meet environmental concerns about septic tanks, the primary means of waste mitigation in those parts of the State.  When the GA passed it, they were not talking about any individual property owner or plot of land.  They were addressing the "State".  Now, the Council, if for no other reason than "stuff" rolls downhill, has to draw those lines on the County map, directly affecting real families with real concerns about property values.  The Council's hands are tied.  Sure, they could attempt a protest vote as should be expected from the rural counties to our north, but if they do, the protest will be for naught as a general prohibition on all septic subdivisions will go into effect for the entire County.  In this instance, the County Council serves more as an regulatory agency implementing law from above.  The only difference is that regulatory agencies are normally insulated from politics.  The same is not true here.

On the other end, we have the bullying legislation proposed by Courtney Watson "to encourage the General Assembly to provide the necessary resources to appropriate agencies to implement the use of multidisciplinary teams to address bullying, harassment, and intimidation among students."  Here, the Council is looking to reverse streams.  "We want YOU to do something that WE decided was a good idea."  With an issue like bullying, this can turn into a game of political stick-me-up.  If you put the word "bullying prevention" on a flyer, you'll have five politicians and their staffers at the meeting before the location is set.  Same goes when a "bullying prevention" "law" is passed from the Council to the State Delegation.  "You're not really against bullying prevention, are you?  For shame."

As a former Board of Education member, I am certain that Courtney had a concrete objective for this legislation and that it is not the type of flash without substance that we've seen in other parts of the County on the issue.  I also think that it is good that the Council is looking to table it.  Bullying is a very difficult issue to address and one that has been around since we had children sit in the same cave together.  I'm not sure we can legislate our way out of it, but I do think we can do more.  I would love to see the Superintendent make this a priority of her office and consult with experts in the field regarding what works.  Other than that, I am skeptical of any person in elected office looking to make headway on the issue with a gavel and a statute. 


Baltimore City School Superintendent Andres Alonso has proposed out a $2.4 billion 10-year Renovation Plan for its schools, which will close 26 of them.  Alonso is targeting a "more efficient use of space", which can also be read to mean "less teachers."  I think that if this was ever tried in Howard County, we would require the imposition of martial law.

Although Maryland has decided to move from the ACC to the Big Ten, its former conference wants to make sure the Terps don't walk out on the $50 million tab owed as an "exit fee."  Hooray College Athletics!

Marriage equality proponents out-raised and out-spent their opponents by more than 2-1, helped in the last weeks by large donations from Peter Angelos and MGM Entertainment.  Gov. O'Malley's Super PAC contributed $1,000, which seems a little paltry compared to Angelos' $50,000 check.  The largest donors to the "Maryland Marriage Alliance" were the Knights of Columbus ($100,000) and the National Organization for Marriage ($400,000).

A Berkeley study has concluded that Baltimore is one of the most under-policed cities in the Country.  I am not so sure about the methodology here, but this would appear to be a jarring conclusion in light of the recent increases in shootings across the northeast of the City.

Featured Blog Post of the Day: HowChow is looking for recommendations for best Chinese food in Howard County, holding serve with Noodles Corner on Dobbin.  Jane and I tried Dim Sum at Asian Court on Sunday.  It was amazing.  For those that haven't tried Dim Sum, it is a lot of fun.  You sit down and the servers bring by rolling cart after rolling cart of amazing food that you would never order but for it sitting there glistening on a plate.  There wasn't one thing I didn't like (and we ordered a lot).  I think we all still miss Wok 175 (can anyone tell me where this food moved?).

That's all for today.  Feels good to get some links in.  I was out of practice.

Have a great Wednesday doing what you love!