Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Quote of the Day II...

“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:

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.

(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 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?


pzguru said...

I agree. As someone who worked in DPZ for 7 years, I can certainly say that the department is understaffed - specifically in the Land Development Division, which handles all the subdivision and site plan review. I know that they just got an additional staff reviewer, but the could still use a few more people. Of course, I think there are some departments or divisions in DPZ that could be trimmed a little as well.

I am a person who does believe in limited government, but when it comes to plan review and permit review, additional staff is sorely needed to prevent an overly long and burdensome process. It takes way too long to get through the process right now.

David W. Keelan said...

Very good point Ian.