“We are kind of staffed up for the era when there was lots of wide open space.” -- Marsha McLaughlin, director of the Department of Planning and Zoning.
This quote is actually relevant to the county government as a whole and not just the planning department. We have a government built for the county of 20 years ago, not the county of today. While the community has grown and prospered, our government has failed to keep pace with the changes, and we're only now starting to see the effects of this failure.
Jim Robey had a completely different style of government than Ken Ulman (and, if he had won, Chris Merdon). Whereas Ulman promises a proactive government, Robey largely led by responding and managing. There's nothing inherently wrong or right about either style, but now that citizens are asking more of government, we're seeing starkly the changes that need to be made. For instance, the housing department:
(Personal aside: I was doing some research a while back about Howard County housing programs and sent at least a few e-mails to housing officials with questions I had. I heard no responses and never could put together a full list of housing programs.)
The department lacks accountability, according to a report released by a subcommittee of Ulman’s transition team tasked with reviewing the department.
“Transparency and communication with citizens are essential to maintain trust in the department,” the report states.
The department also lacks clear goals, and the county doesn’t have a comprehensive housing plan, according to the report.
This plan would lay out all housing programs and specific goals, said subcommittee chairman C. Vernon Gray, who also serves as the head of the Human Rights Office.
The report of the transition team is full of similar suggestions for other agencies. Changing the structure of government to meet our growing needs and demands is going to be difficult and (probably) costly. Are we willing to support it?