Saturday, January 21, 2006

Dueling committees...

Somebody's playing a game of political one-upmanship and somebody's being honest, it's just impossible to tell who's who. From the Post:

The Democratic county executive and the Republican chairman of the County Council are claiming credit for first pursuing the idea of a task force to prepare for an expected surge of new jobs and residents as a result of Fort Meade's growth. Last year, the Pentagon's base realignment plan called for moving more than 5,300 jobs over the next six years to the Army post in western Arundel, the biggest expansion among military installations in Maryland.

Council Chairman Christopher J. Merdon (Northeast County) issued a news release Jan. 6 saying he planned to introduce legislation to form a Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) task force.

Last Thursday, County Executive James N. Robey announced in his eighth and final State of the County speech that he was forming a BRAC executive task force and hiring a BRAC "czar" to lead it.

Yes, I talked about this last week, but only briefly. And, after reading stories in the Post and the Flier, as well as the Flier's editorial, there is more I'd like to add.

First, I stand by my assertion that Merdon's timing, more so than Robey's, seems suspicious. Robey claims to have been working on this task force for three months, enlisting the help of Howard's Economic Development Authority--the CEO of which has been publicly discussing this issue since at least November. Meanwhile, as far as I know, Merdon's acting pretty much by himself at this point--he is the sole sponsor his committee-forming legislation.

Second, creating task forces should be the duty of the executive, while the council should act as advisors and approvers. That, it seems to me, is the way our government works. I may be wrong, though.

Regardless, if this was actually about doing what's right for the county, and not just what's right for a couple politicians, Robey and Merdon (and the entire council) would work together on this matter. However, Merdon is more interested in attaching his name to the initiative than he finding an actual solution. From the Flier article linked above:

"Obviously, I would like to work with the county executive on Fort Meade, but what he has announced doesn't affect what I am going to do. I am still planning to introduce legislation," Merdon said.

Merdon, a Republican, has announced plans to run for county executive. Robey, a Democrat, plans to run for the District 13 state Senate seat. Term limits prohibit Robey from running for county executive again.

"It is imperative that we understand the local impact on economic development, transportation, employment, housing and education in Howard County," Merdon said.

Both Robey's and Merdon's proposal requires appointment of a task force composed of specialists in transportation, housing, economic development and other experts appointed by the county executive. The County Council would also appoint task force members under Merdon's plan, which he plans to introduce in legislation by Jan. 26.

Merdon also had this snarky, "I'm taking my ball and going home" thing to say about Robey's proposal.
"It's a reaction to the resolution I proposed," Merdon said. "I hope he's successful in getting the committee formed."
No he doesn't. If he really hopes Robey's successful, he would drop his legislation and assist the executive in creating the committee. An initiative with the support of the county executive and the council chairman is guaranteed to go somewhere, whereas having the two act independently risks, as the Flier editorial noted, both failing.

Both committees would study the same thing, would be comprised of similar people from a similarly wide-range of backgrounds, and would probably come up with the same recommendations. Have duplicate committees, therefore, would be a waste of time and money.

Former council chairman Guy Guzzone sums it up nicely.

Council member Guy Guzzone (D-Southeast County) said he and Merdon attended meetings of the development authority's strategic planning group, where BRAC was a major focus.

Guzzone said planning for BRAC "should be done by the County Council, the county executive, the Economic Development Authority, all the major players. We should do it together. That's the way it was headed."

While I applaud Merdon for being the first one to issue a press release on this issue, it's time that he backs down. As he may soon find out, things like this are the domain of the county executive, not the council (although it should certainly be involved), and striking out on his own now might make things worse for him later.

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