Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Allan Kittleman's First 100 Days

Amanda Yeager with the Howard County Times has a great piece about Allan Kittleman's first 100 days in office.  One of the things she asked when interviewing me was whether it was "fair" to expect much of anything in the first 100 days of an administration.  I thought that was a very important question, not only as it relates to Allan, but in terms of any evaluation of how the County may be different under a new administration.

The piece in the Times captures a fundamental turning point that all politicians face - the transition from candidate that won everyone's approval to leader who needs to make difficult decisions.  Name the most loved politician you can think of and I will be able to describe a point in time when most people, not just their detractors, thought they were messing up.  And in this respect, County Executive Kittleman is experiencing such pressure for the first time.  While we all may be appreciative, or disappointed, in votes he made as a Senator, they were votes among many.  Blame or accolade spread across an entire body.  Votes towards a losing cause can be celebrated above all because those votes have imaginative consequences.  "If only..."  Meanwhile, the decisions of an executive have concrete outcomes.  If it is the wrong decision, the outcome hangs firmly around the neck of the person making the call.  You are accountable for your record.

In a similar respect, the County Executive is experiencing personalized criticism for the first time.  Sure, critique has come his way for various votes in his past, but they were premised more on the underlying issue than the performance of his job as Council-person or Senator.  Now, we're talking about how he, personally, is handling the County.  And if forces outside of his control cause anything less than smooth sailing, that's just too bad.

Over the next 100 days, I expect we're going to have one very important question answered - Does this County run through the County Executive or the Council?  And I'll add that the answer to that question may have little to do with whether Allan Kittleman is reelected in 2018.  It is wonky, hyper-local, and relevant only to those with regular skin in the game.  But it will define this Administration and the County for the next four years.

Over the next 100 days, we will see the first bits of conflict reach resolution with the Council (re: ban on guns on County property, Human Rights Commission "reform").  We will also see the FY16 Operating and Capital budgets issued, which will require scrutiny and response from the Council.  Executive Kittleman doesn't need to "go to war" with the Council to show he's in charge, but he'll need to show that he's steering the ship.  That is a heavy task when considering the 4-1 Democratic majority and institutional unity on the Council-side.

Needless to say, it has been a fascinating first three months.  We still don't know much of anything about how things have changed since December.  I don't think we'll be able to say the same three months from now.

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