Howard County Maryland Blog

Local Politics and Current Events

Practical Politics and Policy

Posted by David Keelan on Thursday, December 28, 2006

UPDATE: The Baltimore Sun writes about this today 

Greg Fox was quoted as follows:

“The original concern was five County Council members rushing through this, but now we’re talking about rushing through in four weeks,” Fox said about the task force.

The problem is summed up as follows.  The Bureau of Revenue needs tax information June 1 in order to get tax bills out on time. It will take until June to get any changes made to the legislation which won’t give the Bureau of Revenue enough time to get the bills out to residents.

End update

David Wissing has a good post on how Calvin Ball’s task force is coming along (here).  Essentially it comes down to this.

  1. The task force probably doesn’t have enough time to review and make a recommendation to the council on the Senior tax bill, (25% reduction and assessment freeze for those over 70, limited income, etc passed by the previous council) so
  2. Greg Fox, Mary Kay Sigaty, and Courtney Watson seem to be of the opinion to allow the tax cut to proceed for at least one year.  After a year the county can make an informed decision based upon on real statistics and information rather than a study by a task force.

Well, I think the tax cut should go forward for a variety of different reasons.  However, I think their is another story here as does Mr. Wissing.  Mr. Wissing sees this as an “early defeat” for Calvin Ball.  Maybe it is, but I think what we are seeing is the real power on the County Council begin to emerge. Dave’s post remined me of one of my earlier posts “Calvin Ball for Chairman” in which I said:

My view of the Council is that we have three voting blocks.  Ball and Terresa, Watson and Sigitay, and Fox.  I think with the democrats split along those lines Greg Fox will have more influence than most people originally thought.

I think I may have been wrong.  Perhaps Fox, Watson, and Fox have just emerged as a voting block and will control the County Council as a team.  The next four years could be spent trying to drive a wedge between the three of these members or trying to pry one of them loose. Dave ends his post with this:

Of course, there is still time for County Executive Ken Ulman and Calvin Ball to twist either Watson’s or Sigaty’s arm off and force them to vote for the task force to avoid a potentially embarrassing first defeat for Calvin Ball as Chairman, but it is interesting to see cracks already developing among the four Democratic members of the County Council this early on. Maybe this County Council will be more independent than I had originally thought despite the 4-1 Democratic majority on the County Council.

I don’t think anyone is going to twist Mary Kay Sigaty’s or Courtney Watson’s arm.  They may break their own in the attempt. or promise more than they can deliver which would be worse than losing this one now.  Dave may be surprised at cracks already developing but I am not – I thought they already existed. 

However, I wouldn’t call this a house divided or signs of cracks emerging.  It is more likely something a lot less exciting. 

I see it as three independent thinkers coming to the same very practical conclusion.

Speaking of practical conclusions.  Courtney Watson put forth some very practical legislation that will:

  1. require that meetings be held in a public or institutional building (currently enacted legislation suggests this, but does not require it).
  2. expand the radius of the meeting location from three miles to a distance of five miles from the site.  This overcomes objections that there may not be a public building within three miles.
  3. allow a written exception to be granted by the Director of Planning and Zoning for cases that merit an exception.

As the Councilwoman correctly noted in her message:

In the past few months there have been instances where developers have held presubmission meetings on the site proposed for development, in the dark and in cold weather.   This practice is obviously unsafe and has also been perceived as an attempt to limit public participation in the development process.

A friend of mine, who lives in Font Hill, mentioned to me that the meeting regarding the affordable housing development behind the Quest Fitness Center (you know 59 units on 2.5 acres) was originally to be held in such a setting.  It is probably one that Ms. Watson had in mind when contemplating this legislation.  According to my friend many of the residents he is aquainted with in Font Hill did perceive this as an attempt to limit their participation. Turns out in this case (and I am sure in many many others) County regulations make the developers look like the bad guy.


2 Responses to “Practical Politics and Policy”

  1. cynthia vaillancourt said

    Watson has put forth a great, logical, reasonable plan. Good for her. She is also right about how people often assume the developers are always up to some kind of trick, even when it is an unfair charge. It is heartening to see an elected official, who supports curbs on development, give both sides of an issue deserved respect and consideration.

    I’m looking forward to seeing more of this kind of “governing”.

    As for this idea of looking for voting blocks — good grief haven’t we all had enough of that kind of thing? Five people ought to be bringing five perspectives, five brains, and five votes to the table.

    cindy vaillancourt

  2. To me it isn’t so much about looking for voting blocks as who is going to get the “right” things done.

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