Monday, July 6, 2015

Appointments By Other Means

Relations between the County Executive and County Council took a bizarre turn late last week.  On Friday, July 3 (an unusual time to be doing anything other than wondering why hot dog buns are sold in packs of 10 while hot dogs are sold in packs of 8), the County Executive published a petition on his campaign page prompting supporters to "sign" (which in actuality sends the Council an email) in support of an "up or down vote" on Susan Garber's appointment to the Planning Board this evening.

There is a reason why the title of this "petition" calls for an "up or down vote" and not "confirmation".  The County Executive wants a do-over.  If his nominee is tabled, Josh Tzuker will continue to serve on the Planning Board and, more importantly, the County Executive will be unable to nominate anyone else.  This situation is comparable to handing someone your phone to show them a picture and then watching them continue to flip through all of your pictures without your consent.  "I really just wanted to show you that one picture.  If you would just...yep...just...Can I please have my phone back?"

The County Executive's nominations for various boards and commissions have left the Council puzzled, concerned, and frustrated (in that order), not only due to the people nominated, but also the ones being replaced.  In three short months, the Council has been contacted by Howard County Educators, women's rights groups, housing advocates, minority groups, individual constituents, and even members of the Executive's own transition team asking them not to approve the Executive's nominees.  In response, the Council asked the Executive to explain his justification for certain nominees so that they may understand why these individuals were chosen for positions of public trust.  The Executive refused, stating that no other County Executive had been asked to provide such justification and neither would he.

This puts the Council in a political jam:  Ignore their constituents and give the Executive the benefit of the doubt when he is not willing to extend them a similar courtesy or table these nominees until there is an approval process in place that makes them comfortable.  Most nominees would be approved without second thought, but for those who have raised concerns from interested members of the community - pause.

And then the "petition" happened.

Who thought this was a good idea?  This is certainly not the tactic of someone looking to have their nominee approved.  It is a panic move.  It is the move of someone without other options.  This is particularly surprising considering that one of the County Executive's first decisions was to hire a Democratic staffer as Deputy Chief-of-Staff for the purposes of negotiating with the County Council.  "If negotiating doesn't work, turn to Plan B - throwing emails at the County Council."  I think I saw the same thing on Scandal.

The thought behind the effort is "I am more popular than you.  Watch me use my hammer."  It is an unusual use of political capital, but one this Executive was inevitably going to try.  But it prompts the question - What is a win here?  Is the Council going to be cowered into a vote by the Executive's vast social media skills?  Or has he just shattered a mirage that helped pass a budget and win votes on contested bills?  Ultimately, did the Executive think calling the Council out on his campaign web-page over 4th of July weekend was going to result in a good outcome?

If not, I'm sure the Executive could try a "Make the County Council Not Mad At Me Anymore" petition.

Have a great Monday doing what you love!