New Year, Same Concerns
In case you’re wondering where I have been for the past few weeks, the pace of my real job (the one that pays the bills) has been keeping me unbelievably busy. The blog has taken a backseat to family and work priorities, which I am sure most of you understand. There’s also been little space to say anything “new.” Most of the blog posts from a year ago could be cut and pasted into my 2012 archive. Let’s do a quick review:
- The County’s projected deficit of $126 million for FY 2013 is nearly double from what it was at this time last year, when it was a reported $77 million. Somehow, our County Executive still found a $50 million “surplus” to start an economic development fund. So far, we can’t tell how a dime of it has been spent, as the online tracking system indicates the last update occurred on September 30, 2011. The County Executive’s “Pledge for Prince George’s County” promised to “deliver a comprehensive job creation, competitive housing market, and economic growth plan within the first 100 days.” I have never seen this plan, and if it exists it surely isn’t delivering the kind of economic growth we need to fix our budgetary woes.
- A year ago today, I attend one of the first Accountability, Compliance, and Integrity Task Force meetings. Part of the County Executive’s plan for ethics reform, the Task Force was asked to come up with recommendations that would help fulfill Baker’s “Pledge” for comprehensive thics reform for all elected officials. One of the Task Force’s key findings was that the County should hire an Inspector General to help identify ethics violations and determine areas where waste, fraud, and abuse were occurring. This would have been very helpful in closing our budget gap too, but since an Inspector General will not be hired, that won’t help us in 2012. We still haven’t received any indication that a comprehensive ethics reform package has been delivered, just a tweak of a couple of laws last year that I’m not sure will deliver genuine reform.
- Speaking of ethics, Jack and Leslie Johnson still walk free today. Thankfully, the wheels of justice move more quickly than the wheels of our County government. Although today it was announced that Jack’s date to report to prison was pushed back to February 18, and Leslie doesn’t report until March 9, at least they are both headed where they belong.
- County Council is not exempt from criticism either. They once again ignored the will of their constituents, who clearly weren’t happy with their lavish retreat spending last year, and headed out of town for “focused work” on the 2012 agenda. Their “retreat” at a hotel in Baltimore cost taxpayers approximately$11,000, and none of those dollars were even spent in our County. Once again, we learn that our elected officials are not really “just like us” because they enjoy spending on Gucci while they are operating on a Sears budget.
- To our credit, we didn’t kick off 2012 with 12 homicides in 12 days. But that doesn’t mean we are exempt from public safety concerns. Our homicide rate has moving along at a steady clip for the past year, and I haven’t seen any changes to the criminal justice system, that were promised in the “Pledge for Prince George’s County,” that have really helped curb crime.
The good news? After all the time I have spent blogging about the Prince George’s County Schools, it seems that they have taken a step in the right direction with a School-Based Budgeting system. I think it will give schools (and their communities) more input in addressing specific needs. I think it could still use some improvement, but that’s for another blog post, coming soon. In the meantime, what do you think? Has anything promised in Baker’s Pledge for Prince George’s County been delivered? I’d call the County to find out, but I’m not sure where to begin because we’re also still waiting for the all-access number called 311.