The Price of Liberty is Eternal Vigilance
County Council, June 1
Issues with Outside Agencies and the Post & Courier
Greenbelts, bonding and the RMCWarwick Jones
Discussion of Outside Agencies dominated last night's session of the Finance Committee. Before the discussion got underway, Council member Bostic moved that a vote should be deferred for some months, and that in the meantime Council should define a policy for contributions to Outside Agencies. This it agreed to do. But there was considerable debate before the vote was taken and it spilled into wider issues such as "single member districts", and the reporting of the Post & Courier.
Distributions long standing practice
Council members Fava and Scott indicated immediately that they supported Council member Bostic's motion. Council member Darby spoke thereafter, and although he did not oppose the motion in the final vote, he was clearly unhappy. He noted that the distribution of funds to Outside Agencies had occurred every year for some 25 years. It was not illegal, and had never been criticized before. He noted that when he became a member of Council and told that he could distribute funds, he and other new members were provided few guidelines. He could have noted his recommendations were never criticized by staff or other Council members or if they were, they never surfaced. And indeed, all Council members last year made distributions which drew no criticism by other Council members or the Post & Courier.
He also referred to the $500 allocation this year to a drug reform group and which was criticized in the Post & Courier. He reiterated his support for the legalization of the use of marijuana for alleviating suffering of the sick. He noted that his mother died of cancer, and he witnessed her pain. Marijuana could have alleviated the suffering.
Should P&C be allowed to dictate policy?
Council member Darby was trenchant in his criticism of the Post & Courier. The newspaper in recent weeks has criticized distributions to Outside Agencies. It also questioned single-member districts and the effectiveness of Council without a Chairman elected directly by citizens. Speaking to Councilmember Bostic's motion, Council member Darby asked whether Council was allowing the Post & Courier to dictate policy. He also asked Council put the distribution to Outside Agencies into perspective. In fiscal 2007, $315,000 would be distributed. This is a relatively small amount compared to other expenditures by the Council. And it had to be said against the good rendered to the community.
Where was diversity amongst editorial staff?
Long an advocate of diversity in hiring and procurement in the County, Council member Darby suggested that people who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones. He asked where the diversity was in the editorial staff of the Post & Courier. It was of course a rhetorical question. But there are no racial minorities on the paper's editorial staff.
Council member Condon also spoke in favor of Council member Bostic's motion. She expressed concern that funds were being distributed that could be spent outside the County, and also by religious groups. She directed the speech to Council member Darby, who rose to correct an impression she created. There were distributions to religious groups the Councilmember stated. But these distributions specifically were for charitable purposes only, for the distribution of food and clothing to the needy. Churches in the community were serving the poor. He was supported by Council member Pryor who said these churches were "serving in the trenches'.
No evidence of racial tensions on Council
Council member Mc Keown has served on Council for only a few weeks and replaced Council member Wallace who retired. Council member Wallace spoke infrequently, but his comments were always very sensible. Council member McKeown seems to fit the same mold. He noted the comments in the Post & Courier that racial of tensions were besetting Council with the introduction of the single member districts. He said that he was not aware of any racial tensions. And as for single member districts and the new members, they were not blame over any issues of diversity. The new members were the messengers, they brought the issues to light.
Council member McKeown said he wanted to make sure that Council was doing the right thing and supported Council member Bostic's motion. But he also said that as well as a policy for Outside Agency distributions, one for the Accommodation tax should also be considered.
Comprehensive Greenbelt Plan adoptedThe Comprehensive Greenbelt Plan was presented to the Finance Committee yesterday. The plan has been in the works now for about a year and was prepared by the consultant, Greenways Inc in conjunction with the Greenbelt Advisory Board (GAB). Meetings of the Board and comments on the Plan can be viewed on this site by accessing Greenbelt Advisory Board. There was little discussion of the contents of the Plan but heaps of praise, particularly from Council member Bostic who stated that he thought the Board was one of the most productive committees of the County.
The Chairman of the GAB responded with thanks and with some element of surprise at the volume of praise. She asked that the plan not only be adopted but that it is made an ordinance.
County Council unfairly criticizedWe note that the Comprehensive Transportation Plan (CTP) was presented to the finance committee last week. Unfortunately, we could not attend the meeting. Viewers should know that we've attended nearly all of the meetings of the Transport Advisory Board since its inception. Reports on these meetings and the Comprehensive Transportation Plan (CTP) can be viewed on this site by accessing Transportation Advisory Board.
We've thought the Post & Courier in its reporting on this meeting criticized County Council unfairly. It accused Council of ignoring the recommendations of the TAB in its effort to find projects as a match to satisfy requirements for funding by the State Infrastructure Bank. The accusation is shallow, and in some respects it points to shortcomings in the TAB recommendation.
Roads were in Part 1 of the CTP
The roads that Council may build and which could be used for satisfying matching requirements, were all contained in Part 1 of the CTP, the part prepared by the Consultant. In the last month or so, the TAB completed the definition of criteria that should be used in ranking road projects for the purpose of sales tax spending. The consultant had earlier written a draft of Part 1 of the CTP and defined the projects on which the "discretionary" funds would be spent. Council had already committed to most of the projects referred to in the report and the remaining discretionary amount was probably less than $100 million in terms of present dollars. The consultant said that in defining the discretionary projects, it had attempted to use the criteria determined by the TAB. The application had been difficult and was very subjective.
TAB was divided
The TAB asked the consultant to make another attempt in ranking and to define a scoring system. The consultant presented its results to the TAB two weeks later. It was not a happy response with much disagreement amongst the TAB members. Scoring and ranking, as the consultant said, was very subjective. After the presentation, the TAB decided to move on and leave the problem of ranking and scoring to the Council and Staff. Some members of the TAB opined that the TAB was attempting to go too far. They also supported the projects defined by the Consultant in the CTP.
So was it really such an issue as the Post & Courier suggested?