Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Ken Ulman's Boring "Election Year" Budget (Wednesday LINKS)

Ken Ulman's proposed FY14 Capital Budget is boring, uninspired, overly practical, and bland...making it just about perfect for Howard County.

This $442.4 Capital Budget is Ken's last shot at ribbon-cutting.  It was his opportunity to turn Howard County into his personal campaign machine, churning out exciting new project after exciting new project without ever having to care about the long-term promise or necessity of the underlying construction.  He could have picked any project with substantial public support and dared the Council to vote it down.  Heck, Ken could have named his Budget "A Model for Maryland" and no one would have blinked.  It was expected.

But Ken didn't do that.  His Budget takes off bite-sized pieces of persistent problems across the County, setting them up for future address by the next administration.  Here's what it included:

Schools - There is a reason that school systems across the State are facing crumbling buildings, portables, and overcrowding.  School construction does not quicken the heart-beat.  It stirs frustrated parents who don't want their kids separated from their friends and NIMBY's who don't want school traffic through their streets.  Installing air conditioning pleases a few hundred residents with an expense that would make everyone else's mouth drop open.  Nevertheless, Ken proposes injecting $81.4 million for school upgrades and construction; approximately 6% more than last year.  Those funds will go to the Board of Education, the members of which will no doubt prize their own foresight in making this a priority.  Ken Ulman will have little to show for it.

Community College - Despite having one of the best Community Colleges in the Country, I think we take HCC for granted.  Most of us did not go to Community College and have an impaired view of what it offers.  "That helps kids get into real college, right?"  Wrong.  Howard Community College provides one of the most promising paths to the middle class available for working students, particularly with the expansion of HCC's Health Sciences department.  Ken has allocated $18.9 million for projects on HCC's campus, which is about a 30% increase from last year.

Elkridge Library - "Let's open up the Capital Budget.  I'm sure Ken Ulman got us nothing again.  One more year of being Howard County's...WHOA, we're getting a LIBRARY!  Put down the pitch-fork, we won't be needing it tonight!"

Misc. Infrastructure - Baseball fields, storm-water, and fire stations.  Sounds like a campaign slogan for Mayor, not Governor.  These projects need address, but are easy to ignore.  I've said before that if our County government does not start figuring out a way to address the tiny-city-with-a-river-underneath (i.e., Ellicott City), we will have to brace ourselves for watching it wash into the Patapsco.  Ken's Capital Budget takes on that concern.  While lower on the existential list of Ellicott City concerns, Old EC parking also gets a look with funds to expand parking at the top of the hill.

There's more, but I am hindered by a downed Howard County webpage this morning (everybody doesn't need to read the Capital Budget at once!  Calm down, people.  I know it is exciting, but let the hobbyist bloggers get in there first).  Overall, the Budget is one more plodding step towards Howard County being a better, more sustainable, place to live.  Nothing fancy.  It could have been more, but I'm glad it isn't.


ORIOLES MAGIC.  FEEL IT HAPPEN.  In their Season Opener, the Orioles beat AL Cy Young winner David Price and the Rays 7-4.  I have yet to hear why the Rays are supposed to challenge for the division this year.  Their pitching is spectacular, but their line-up scares no one.

There was a flood of letters to the editor supporting Julia McCready and Ed Coleman this week.  Love to see that.  Keep it up (and don't forget Regina Clay and Michael Cornell).

Maryland may end up having some of the most stringent gun control laws in the Country if things keep moving on their current trajectory.  The Senate passed Governor O'Malley's gun bill in February, but the House has curtailed some of the requirements for gun ownership and limited the definition of assault weapons.  I would expect the House changes would win out in a conference committee.

Dennis Lane comments on the "elections that get no respect", namely the Columbia Council elections for the Columbia Association.  Personally, I appreciate these words, but in a broader sense I hope they raise alarm bells.  If I asked any of you for $1,000 to have distributed by a group of 10 people, you probably would ask who those 10 people were and how they were selected.  For reasons unknown, that conversation is not happening when we are assessed a $1,000 (or more) CPRA lien and it goes to 10 people that have historically used it for whatever suits the agenda of the hour.  Can you hear me now?

Featured Blog Post of the Day: MM endorses Ed Coleman for Long Reach and Julia McCready for Oakland Mills.  Those are two great choices.

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