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Balancing Act

Some of County Executive Allan Kittleman’s appointments being tabled by the County Council has been a hot topic. The Howard County Times printed an even-handed article describing what’s going on, and bloggers had their say. Then, the strongest editorial I have ever seen, calling out the Council for “spite” along with a related cartoon was published. That editorial listed many, excellent reasons for the conclusions drawn. Yes, it is time to be clear and direct – the Council has made a power play. I find that wrong, others don’t.

Let’s start with the facts. Kittleman is completely in his right to appoint his own Board members. The Council should only serve as a guide to assure qualification in the confirmation process. Others might feel the Council is being kind to appointees who want to be re-appointed, by keeping them in place. But that sounds like an excuse for the Council wanting to retain more politically-palatable Board members.

If you read some other blog posts, you will get the impression that Kittleman is cleaning house, unlike other County Executives in the past, and ignoring Council requests for information. This is not true. Kittleman has kept on many employees from the prior administration, and made re-appointments, even more than his predecessor, Ulman had, at this point. Appointees should not assume a new Executive, who didn’t appoint them, will automatically re-appoint them. I find it hard to believe any of them actually think that. Kittleman promised to have civic activists “at the table” and is trying to keep his promise. That is where he is differing from the prior Administration, and that is why we have the sudden “concern” about appointments.

As for the notion that Kittleman “refused” to give information to the Council, let’s look at the question the Council asked that was not answered. The Council requested that Kittleman explain why his appointments “were better than” the member they are replacing. Seriously? It’s not enough for Kittleman to give his rationale for why his nominees are experienced and qualified, but he should compare and contrast them to existing Board members? It goes without saying the nominee is preferred or a re-appointment would have occurred. What a ridiculous trap for Kittleman. It is appropriate for him to have refused to take on this type of communication. If he hadn’t, it would have been readily publicized and used against him, causing animosity and ire, and rightly so. No, giving the rationale for his nominees is good enough.

You can blame one side or the other for partisanship, but the bottom line is the Council is not confirming some of Kittleman’s appointees, while stating they have no problem with the appointees. They are using their power to force re-appointments by not confirming. It’s as simple as that. They have the legal right to do that, but that doesn’t make it “right”. Yet Kittleman has been criticized for demanding the Council vote; i.e., do their job. That was certainly not the lack of civility in this.

If you look at the concerns regarding Kittleman’s “controversial” appointees, here’s where some really disingenuous reasoning has been presented. It has been mischaracterized that concerns expressed have been from one party. That’s not what has happened. Both Republicans and Democrats have claimed appointments have been too partisan. Frankly, if support and opposition have crossed party lines, Kittleman is probably making good on his promise to include all kinds of people.

By electing Kittleman, the voters mandated a change across the County, voting for more transparency and less favoritism and less rule-breaking in zoning. One thought being bandied on the web is that the voters will decide in 2018 if they don’t like the Council and County Executive not being able to compromise. I very much agree, and think it’s sure to be an issue… for Council candidates.

This is not going away. We need clear governing and productive use of power if we are to move forward fairly. Some sort of balancing needs to happen. The County Executive did his job by appointing his nominees. Council members avoided their responsibilities by tabling nominees. It will be interesting to see what happens next.

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