Thursday, December 6, 2012

A Higher Calling (Thursday LINKS)

I had no intention of writing three posts about the County Executive's projected veto of the growth tiers bill, but it is interesting and has a number of dynamic components that I thought may be of interest to you, the reader, and also important to how we think about our government.  Thinking over the issue yesterday, I realized that I may have had its construction all wrong.  This isn't about what Ken can do.  It's about what he can't do.

Ken can't sign the Council's bill.

We've accepted the paradigm of Executive Veto, an assertive act, when in fact this is more about playing defense.  The Executive is staring down a political football that could cause serious harm to him down the stretch and is putting up an S.O.S., hoping that one of his Columbia Democrat friends will take it off his hands.  And if they don't, so be it.  He didn't sign it.

Why can't he sign the bill?  As one of my friends from outside of Howard County observed, "it would violate the holy trinity of Democratic politics."  (I have two of the three, but can't figure out the third: Labor, Environment, ??).  We've talked off and on about the harms and benefits of having a County Executive focused on the Governor's Mansion, but one of the downsides is that his politics is not our own.  In fairness, that predilection may have existed from day one, but it takes an episode like this to draw it into focus.

If Ken were to sign the bill, one noted as "red" by 1,000 Friends of Maryland, he too would be "red", a blemish on the electoral scorecard.  All the embarrassment and local strife caused by a veto could not outweigh this demerit and what it would mean for 2014.

So while I've been blabbering on about Ken's power moves, I really should have been talking about the weaknesses that come with ambition.  The strings that are pulled.  This isn't to say Ken's honestly held convictions don't line up with this move, but it would be fairy tale politics to suggest that those are the motivations driving this discussion.  It's about a scorecard.


Howard County Schools have missed out on a $30 million Race to the Top grant that was to go to a personalized learning program.  I don't think it is clear whether the application was denied due to HCEA President Paul Lemle's refusal to sign the application (a lot of that going on nowadays), but I imagine that an "incomplete" application did not show well at the evaluation stage.  With what little I know about new Superintendent Foose, I imagine her next focus will be to develop a working relationship with the union to make sure this never happens again.  It would be foolish to arbitrarily blame HCEA for not receiving this money without a full vetting on their concerns and the reasoning behind having a union president sign the application.  It is without question, however, that our kids missed out on a lot of money here, and the underlying cause was politics.

About two weeks ago, all members of the Columbia Association Board of Directors received an e-mail from Luke Lavoie regarding the nascent legislation that would make all residential lot owners in Columbia "members" of the Columbia Association.  At present, the only "members" are the 10 Directors elected from the 10 Villages of Columbia.  This measure has come up from the Alliance for a Better Columbia as a response, of sorts, to CA's attempt to carve out a special section in the HOA bill for the unique circumstances of a $60 million recreation-open-space-public-works HOA.  I didn't respond, but now wish that I had.  This is a wrong-headed effort that ignores commercial lien-payers and renters and appears to be poorly thought out from the start.  We'll see if any legislators take up the measure, but if they do, they should very well be willing to defend it and all of its unintended consequences.

FEMA issued a decision Tuesday denying the claims of Marylanders on the Eastern Shore resulting from Hurricane Sandy.  FEMA determined that the extent of destruction on the Eastern Shore was not sufficient to merit individual aid.  Based on the article in The Sun, most of the discussion about Maryland relief focused on Crisfield in Somerset County where 300 homes were badly damaged. 

Featured Blog Post of the Day: WB recaps another meeting of our Pub Politics group, leaving out the pot-shots and eye-gouging.  I wasn't able to make the last meeting, but it was nice to meet up again.  I can't say I agree with all of the projections (i.e., MKS running for County Executive), but finding a group that likes to talk about hyper-local politics is an accomplishment in itself.

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