Anne Arundel County Police Endorse Steuart Pittman

 

Posted on 13 Aug 2018, 12:10 - Category: Campaign News



Making Annapolis the Last Mass Shooting

As published in The Capital on August 6, 2018

The survivors of the shooting at The Capital have made a request. They want candidates for office in this fall’s election to answer this question: “How do we make Annapolis the last mass shooting in America?”

I am running for county executive. My answer starts here in our county. The eyes of the nation are on us, and if we succeed others will follow.

We are a microcosm of this country, split down the middle politically, and deeply divided on how we should regulate access to guns. When I take office in December I must listen to all of the 570,000-plus residents here. I don’t want us further divided.

I loved the pellet gun that my father gave me when I was 13. Shooting clay pigeons with my grandfather was the best. I don’t want anybody to take away my handgun, because I need it when an animal on the farm is suffering and dying, and the veterinarian is two hours away.

I suspect that more of my friends in south county have guns than don’t. Some hunt, and some are armed to protect their families. A few of my friends are convinced that our country is falling apart, and that military-style assault weapons are their best chance of survival.

One thing that all of my friends respect, however, is the rule of law. Hunters get licenses and are the first to crack down on poachers. A permit to carry a handgun is a badge of honor for many gun owners. Getting arrested is not.

Another thing that all of my friends agree on is that some people should not have access to guns. The man who shot and killed Gerald Fischman, Rob Hiaasen, John McNamara, Rebecca Smith, and Wendy Winters should not have had a gun.

My point is that we have common ground, even on guns.

I spent nine years after college building neighborhood organizations in politically and racially diverse communities. The experience taught me that human beings have a lot in common with each other, and that political affiliations can be set aside when a community is confronting a challenge.

We are a community in Anne Arundel County, and we have been asked to come together to solve a problem. We have people who are angry and afraid on both sides of our politics, but if we listen, we can move toward trust and eventually cooperation.

We have sixty commissions and boards in this county tasked with recommending solutions to county problems. None are confronting the issue of gun violence. That will change when I am elected.

Our Gun Violence Task Force will include gun owners, gun safety instructors, public safety officers, victims, mental health providers, and attorneys. It will monitor implementation of our state’s current gun safety laws, including our new red flag law, and recommend legislation to our county’s delegation to the Maryland General Assembly that would improve those laws. Most importantly, it will think outside of the box, make a plan, and have the full backing of the county executive and all departments of county government. It will not let us forget the task before us.

The greatest obstacle to success in this endeavor is politics. When politicians make statements like, “The only reason we are free today is because we are armed,” or that the second amendment is about, “the ever-present danger of tyrannical government,” our efforts to come together around common-sense restrictions on gun ownership become very difficult.  

These quotes came from County Executive Steve Schuh’s speech on the floor of the Maryland General Assembly in opposition to the Firearms Safety Act of 2013. That bill limited the sale of military-style assault weapons in Maryland. 

Our job as public servants is to solve problems. Solutions aren’t always in the form of new laws, and they don’t always cost money. But they always involve bringing people together.

I will do that.

- Steuart Pittman

Posted on 10 Aug 2018, 01:37 - Category: Campaign News



Schuh Turns His Back on Business

 

Op-ed by Steuart Pittman as published in The Capital July 30

My campaign for county executive has been labeled by my opponent’s team as anti-business. I’m not, of course. My record of working against burdensome business regulations and promoting market-based solutions to social problems goes back thirty years. I am unabashedly pro-people, pro-environment, and pro-business.

Steve Schuh claims the pro-business label as well, but this week he lost it. On Tuesday evening at the candidate forum on affordable housing, he came out strongly against smart growth. On Wednesday, I read in this paper that he wants to cut public transportation. Smart growth and public transportation are the keys to a pro-people, pro-environment, and pro-business future.

Here is my take on what happened.

Smart growth combats sprawl. It preserves open space and reduces traffic by placing housing and commercial development near transportation hubs. Schools and infrastructure are always part of a smart growth plan.

I argued at the affordable housing forum that smart growth facilitates creation of housing that is affordable for our local workforce. It uses less land, and land is expensive.

Development in our county has been reckless. We had a 24% jump in new home closings last year. Many were built in locations that we thought were protected. The average sale price was $600,000 for single-family and $400,000 for townhomes. Only 18 of the 1,597 homes closed were condos. The sprawl that destroys the natural beauty of our county is also creating a workforce housing crisis.

Steve Schuh pivoted from a fall fundraising pitch for his “pro-growth agenda” to a spring letter to neighborhood associations pledging to “slow growth.” He made a rare appearance before the county council in February announcing new “smart growth initiatives.”

But Tuesday night he closed the door on smart growth, saying, “Whether it’s affordable or not affordable, just any kind of large-scale, apartment-type development is in my opinion not the way to go.”

This will come as a shock to our county’s Chamber of Commerce. The Workforce Housing Task Force Report that they published in 2006 just got shredded.

But Schuh went further this week. He wrote a letter to the Secretary of Transportation asking that two light rail stations be closed and that service to the most heavily used station in the county be ended during “non-essential hours.”

Cuts to public transportation in most jurisdictions result from low ridership and budgetary concerns. The light rail costs the county nothing, and the southernmost station averages 1,124 riders daily. Many of those riders transfer to busses that take them to their jobs elsewhere in the county, including Arundel Mills Mall.

So why would Steve Schuh cut the transportation that these workers and businesses rely on?

According to spokesperson Owen McEvoy, Schuh recently heard from Senate candidate John Grasso and some residents that the light rail brings a criminal element into their communities. McEvoy adds that, “There has not been a crime wave, but we have been hearing more loudly from the community.” In other words, it’s an election year and we think we can get some votes with this.

We do have a crime problem at and near the light rail stations. That’s why we now have police officers riding the trains and patrolling the areas. Our challenge is that we have fewer sworn officers on our police force than we had when Steve Schuh took office.

The new public safety positions that Steve Schuh congratulates himself on have not been filled. We have fewer than 700 sworn officers and we know that we need to be well over 800 to serve the growing population. Our officers need to be compensated fairly and get back to normal schedules, so we don’t continue losing more than we hire.

Our county needs more public transportation, not less. And it needs more housing that is affordable for our workforce. We can do both while improving public safety and protecting our environment.  

It just takes some political bravery.

Posted on 01 Aug 2018, 01:52 - Category: Campaign News



A Better Budget Process

As a taxpayer, I have complained for years about giveaways to developers and the stress that runaway growth puts on schools and local services.

As I prepare to become Anne Arundel’s next county executive my concerns remain, but my focus has shifted to process. How we create our budget matters.

Solicit public input.

Voters passed a charter amendment in 2016 requiring the county executive to hold two public hearings before presenting a budget. Steve Schuh opposed the amendment and held no hearings. Instead he hosted two events where citizens could speak one-on-one with department heads, pick up brochures, and visit privately with the executive. No data on spending or revenue were provided, and no public forum took place.

The result was a budget so out of touch with the needs of our communities that citizens mobilized in large numbers against it. The executive had to modify his budget twice, and then observe as the county auditor and a county council majority cut the fat from his operating budget to hire desperately needed teachers. Listening first works better.

Hear from those who challenge you.

Steve Schuh was challenged a lot during his first budget process. He had promised in his campaign to lower property taxes 3% and to kill the stormwater management fee, but was told later by the Republican-led county council and county auditor that those promises were fiscally irresponsible.  

Rather than acknowledging defeat and working to improve relationships, the executive isolated himself, setting in motion a series of decisions in later years that were viewed by many as revenge against the individuals and groups that had challenged him, including teachers, firefighters, the auditor, Democrats, and individual council members.

One group that never challenged Steve Schuh’s budget was developers. They and their agents had 19 of the 22 seats on his Planning and Zoning Transition Committee, and appreciated the large cut in utility connection fees that went into their pockets, even as home sale prices rose.

My point is not that Schuh is a developer’s pawn. It’s that he spends too much time listening to people who share his views. That’s what causes blunders like the budget allocation of $22 million to buy a rubble landfill from a major campaign contributor. Same goes for the $36 million tax break to Live! Casino Hotel Conference Center.

Recently, I invited myself to speak to the county chapter of the Maryland Building Industry Association, knowing that I would be challenged on my development views. We had a good exchange of ideas, and I assured them that when I am elected they will have a seat at the table, just not all the seats.

Budget toward a shared vision.

Our county can either “continue with its pro-growth agenda,” as proposed in Steve Schuh’s recent fundraising solicitation, or plan fiscally for a future that preserves the natural beauty and quality of life that our county is known for. We need to better understand the costs and benefits of each approach.  We need to look at the numbers.

One of my first official acts as county executive will be to launch an audit of the fiscal impacts of past development projects, including their effects on schools, roads, public safety, and every county service that must meet the needs of a growing population.  It will be the year of the General Development Plan, and the new fiscal data will drive our land use and development decisions going forward.

My own business experience is as a family farmer and founder of nonprofit institutions with long-term missions. We always budgeted toward a vision of where we were going. That’s what’s lacking in Anne Arundel County.

Putting communities first is our campaign slogan, and to me that means all communities.  A transparent, inclusive budget process that moves us toward a shared vision for the future of our county is well within our reach. Let’s do it. 

Posted on 16 Jun 2018, 01:47 - Category: Campaign News



Sierra Club and AFL-CIO Endorse Pittman for Anne Arundel County Executive

While County Executive Schuh continues to raise unprecedented sums of campaign money from development interests and companies that need permits and licenses from county government, his Democratic challenger Steuart Pittman is gaining momentum among organizations that represent working people and advocate for open space and the environment.

The Pittman campaign announced today that it has been endorsed by the Metropolitan Baltimore Council AFL-CIO and the Sierra Club of Anne Arundel County. Previously announced endorsements include the Teachers Association of Anne Arundel County (TAAAC) and the Anne Arundel County Professional Firefighters.

 "Steuart Pittman is exactly what Anne Arundel County needs and what our members want—a county executive who puts working families first,” says Jermaine Jones, president, Metropolitan Baltimore AFL-CIO. “Steuart will fight for a stronger, fairer economy that works for everyone. That's a pretty clear choice."

Regarding the AFL-CIO endorsement, Pittman says, "I support a healthy business climate in our county, and I’m a firm believer in the role of organized labor. Working people are too often left out of local decision-making, and unions provide them with a voice. 

“I also admire the work of trades unions,” says Pittman. “At no expense to taxpayers these organizations provide the training and the benefits that make the building trades a career option, rather than just a job, for our next generation.”

Pittman disputes County Executive Schuh’s claim that accelerated growth and development would solve our county’s fiscal problems. He points out that we are farther behind than we were four years ago on school, police and fire department staffing, and that our new infrastructure improvements were made possible only by extending borrowing terms from 20 to 30 years. 

“We need a 10-year plan for the county that is fiscally and environmentally responsible,” says Pittman.  “I’m committed to developing such a plan in concert with the diverse communities that make up our county.”

“The more than 1,400 members of our Sierra Club in Anne Arundel County are very concerned about the next General Development Plan,” says Earl Bradley, Anne Arundel Group Chair of the Sierra Club. “That plan will be written in 2019, and we want a county executive who is beholden to the people who live here rather than to developers.

“We interviewed both Steve Schuh and Steuart Pittman, and we were unanimous in our belief that Pittman is the better candidate. He has demonstrated his commitment to the environment as a farmer and as a board member of the Anne Arundel County Soil Conservation District.  His successful career in business and the non-profit sector shows that he understands how to bring people together to get things done. We also believe that Pittman has the momentum in this election and will win,” says Bradley.

“The Sierra Club endorsement is very important to me personally,” says Pittman. “My father worked hard to preserve farmland and forests until his death in 2013, including the land where I am raising my family today. As county executive, I intend not only to preserve the natural beauty of our county, but also to promote the outdoor activities that connect people to the land and water. No organization makes a better partner in that effort than the Sierra Club.”  

The Pittman campaign was bolstered by last month’s Anne Arundel Community College poll showing that County Executive Schuh’s approval rating had dropped from 49% to 41% in the last six months. Seventy-two percent of respondents believed that development interests have too much influence in land use decisions, and only 30% believe that the county has done a good job of “balancing demands for new development with measures ensuring our quality of life.”

Steuart Pittman is running unopposed in the Democratic primary.

Posted on 10 May 2018, 01:37 - Category: Campaign News



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