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As Long as We Remember...

February 22, 2011

Getting What You Voted For

Farrell Keough

So, many remarkable occurrences are taking place throughout the nation, state, and locally. While our 24/7 news would have us believe many of these events are happening with a rapidity never seen before – in truth, our federal legislators are but “sound and fury, signifying nothing.”


Our president has offered a budget which amounts to the status quo, while many in the Republican leadership are looking to make cuts which amount to removing one scale from a sizeable fish.


Let us then make a comparison between the actions of our county and state – this should offer a much more interesting juxtaposition.


At the state level, we see a plethora of bills being offered – some having profound influence, others being paper tigers. When it comes down to the rubber meeting the road, very little has been presented short of increasing taxes.


At the county level we have already seen a number of viable changes which will promote long-term savings and efficiency in government – the examining of fire and rescue costs, re-organization of staff, and recurring savings of $2.3 million in extra payment for Head Start.


Let’s compare two very different proposals and determine both how changes are occurring and what the impact may be on our state and locality.


You will remember that last year, our Maryland Attorney General, Douglas Gansler began to speak about Gay Marriage and Maryland’s need to address this issue. Since that time, Senator Allan Kittleman broke ranks with the Republican establishment and proposed civil unions for gay and lesbian couples – it was a compromise to allow the rights without changing the definition of marriage.


While Senator Kittleman’s proposal fell by the roadside, the proposal of gay marriage seems to be alive and well in Annapolis – although one has to wonder if the preponderance of the population would agree with the direction this proposed legislation is heading. But, I digress.


Now, compare this with the decision by the Frederick Board of County Commissioners to end the sizeable extra funding and ownership of the federally mandated Head Start program. First, this program was not on the radar during last year’s primary and general election cycle. Second, this was not a proposal which underwent many meetings and delays.


So, could one say the proposal for gay marriage was much more transparent and better government than the decision to end the extra payment for Head Start? Well, the devil is in the details.


Under Maryland Code: Family Law, section § 2-201, “Only a marriage between a man and a woman is valid in this State.”


Consider this verbiage. It is simple, straight to the point, and does not require in-depth interpretation. Hence, changing the definition of marriage is a tremendous alteration! Our representatives passed changes to our Constitution about slots and called for a vote by the population – yet for something so integral to our nature, they are pushing for simple legislation. What a strange rationale.


The decision by the county commissioners to end the extra funding for Head Start seemed to have come out of nowhere. In truth, that is not how this happened.


These commissioners were elected on a mandate to get our budget and government in order without raising taxes. Unlike the previous Board of County Commissioners, these people actually depend on staff to do their jobs. They gave staff the direction to find areas where savings could be made and then they actually listened to the proposals – imagine that?!


When this proposal came forward, it made for an unusual situation. You see, unlike all other counties in Maryland, the people who worked for Head Start in Frederick County were county employees, hence the need, (and courtesy) of speaking to them in private before this became public knowledge. Similar to the re-organization that took place within the county, this is under the purview of the commissioners and decorum requires private and personal conversation before any public release.


As noted, the mandate of this group of commissioners was to balance our budget without tax increases and simplify our government. Since Head Start will continue, we simply cannot afford a recurring $2.3 million in additional funds for this program. Staff did exactly what was asked of them and found programs that were overfunded. This is what we want from government and should be applauded!


This is not an argument on the merits of Head Start – rather, this is a simple situation of finding those areas in which we spend too much money – and reining them in. This was a truly cooperative effort between elected officials and the people who work for the county – an effort to benefit we, the taxpayers.


Isn’t that what we voted for?


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