Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Howard County Unfrozen: FY14 Operating Budget (Tuesday LINKS)

After nearly a half-decade of frozen wages, empty government positions, and hiring freezes, County Executive Ken Ulman has submitted an Operating Budget (PDF) that thaws this County out.  Even the most dedicated County policy wonk will find little to get excited about in this Budget, but if nothing else, it certainly presents a much more optimistic picture of where we are and where we're going.

That's not to say there aren't items of note or even items of controversy.  It is hard to direct $966.7 million in expenditures without raising some hackles.  But overall, the words "expand", "return", and "grow" are frequent throughout the document.  Here are two items that stuck out for me:

Plan to End Homelessness

The first item of note is that the FY14 Operating Budget proposes allocating $635,000 to the Plan to End Homelessness, boosting the two year total to approximately $1 million.  The Budget available online doesn't offer too much more in terms of details, but the presumption is that this money will go towards additional staffing in Community Services, with a specific focus on case management services (while not being "Case Managers" per se).  I look forward to hearing more about this as we get further in the Budget Process.

Downtown Arts Center

Also, while I could not find this in the PDF linked above (maybe I need a tutorial?), Luke Lavoie wrote over the weekend that the proposed Operating Budget includes $5 million to go towards arts in Downtown Columbia.  The actual proposal is to direct these funds to the Downtown Arts and Cultural Commission to be used in support of the Inner Arbor Plan and other Downtown art-focused projects.  From speaking to a few different members of the County Council, this is a proposal that will need more fleshing out before being approved, but it is important to celebrate this proposal, even in the absence of any further substance.  When was the last time you saw a proposed partnership between the County and the Columbia Association of this magnitude?  More often than not, CA and the County will work parallel with one another to a common goal (i.e., watershed protection, connectivity), but it is rare to the point of exception that the County and CA join funds to work on a project as partners.  I hope, and expect, that this Council will see the opportunity here and find a way to make this work.


Clyde's reopens.

Walk-off two out, two strike single by Nick Markakis to beat the Blue Jays 2-1.  That game was intense.

As someone who has run in races similar to this, and has had friends run the Tough Mudder previously, the news of an Ellicott City man being the first fatality was sad and disturbing.  I recently read a commentary on marathons, which noted that we are one of the few cultures that will put ourselves through suffering for recreation.  These races seem to be taking that to an entirely different level.

Howard County's new transportation chief is leading the charge for a new Regional Transportation Agency of Central Maryland to organize and streamline public transportation (mostly bus transit) in Howard and Anne Arundel Counties.  Many of us see public transit as a choice, but for large segments of our community, bus transit is a lifeline.  It limits one's experience.  If the bus doesn't go there, they don't go there.  Anyone interested in self-sufficiency and "boot-strap" class mobility should find a way to get behind this project.  It is the proverbial "teaching a man to fish".

We've got a taxed if they do, taxed if they don't situation going on in the U.S. Senate as they consider a online sales tax.  As you may recall, Maryland's Transportation Funding overhaul premised the scale of increased gas taxes on whether the U.S. passes an online sales tax.  Personally, I would rather pay a gas tax, but I think that local business owners would benefit more from a level(er) playing field with online purchases. 

Featured Blog Post of the Day: I was just to WB's left when he took this picture of our doomed comedian.  At one point the man on stage noted (almost to himself) "Comedy outside is not a good idea."  Huge congrats and appreciation to Jenni Porter, Andy Hall, Brandon Hayden, Kelly Secret,  Dave Carney, and many many others for a very successful (amazingly free) Spring Festival.  I look forward to the Summer Event.

That's all for today.  In case you haven't noticed, I've been suffering from about a month of writer's block.  The LINKS may have flipped a switch.

Have a great Tuesday doing what you love!  And Long Reach - Vote for Ed.