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



Pittman Comments on Schuh Budget

County Executive Schuh’s final budget demonstrates that his priorities for the first three years were wrong, and his plan to fund government from the proceeds of spurred growth and development has failed. We are growing by leaps and bounds but are failing to hire and retain the teachers, firefighters, and police that we need to serve our growing population.

His cuts in the fees developers pay for sewer and water connection may have spurred development but they cost taxpayers dearly and had no impact on housing affordability. The amusement tax cut for movie theaters was not passed on to customers. And the $36 million tax break for Live! Casino Hotel’s Conference Center was a gift that taxpayers couldn’t afford to give.

The property tax rate came down not because Steve Schuh wanted it to, but because our county charter requires it. Schuh’s extra two-tenths of a cent per $100 on a $400,000 home will certainly look good on a campaign mailer, and it will give homeowners the $8 they need to buy a burger at one of Mr. Schuh’s restaurants, but it’s not much good for the kids who sit in overcrowded classrooms.

The projected increase in student enrollment for 2018 and 2019 combined is 3,200. After adding no new classroom positions in the 2018 budget, we see an addition of 50 in 2019. That is a ratio of one teacher for every 64 students. It’s a slap in the face to the school board, the teachers, the parents, and most of all the kids.

The county executive ran on a plan to grow from under 700 sworn police officers to over 800. He has created positions but failed to fill them because he ignored evidence showing that compensation must be competitive with nearby jurisdictions. He saved the raises for an election year but should have done them in year one of his administration. Then we’d have had more luck hiring and retaining.

When the county executive cancelled the federal grant that would have funded 52 new firefighters, the decision was viewed by many as retribution for an embarrassing arbitration experience that favored the union. Now we are desperately trying to keep up with the call volume generated by a growing population.

It’s time for county government to take care of the people who live here, rather than investing our money in efforts to spur growth.

Posted on 01 May 2018, 01:49 - Category: Campaign News



TESTIMONY TO COUNTY COUNCIL ON BILLS 17-18, 18-18, 19-18, AND RESOLUTION 6-18

BACKGROUND

Soon after his election to the office of County Executive, Steve Schuh appointed a Planning and Zoning Transition Committee of two community leaders and nineteen representatives of the development industry.

That committee submitted a fourteen-page list of policy recommendations. Some were common-sense proposals to increase efficiency and reduce burdensome regulations that had no public benefit. Others were consistent with Schuh’s promise to spur growth in the county. 

The most troublesome recommendation was that Small Area Plans not be considered as part of the General Development Plan process. Schuh’s adoption of that proposal has created a sense that communities have no voice in this administration, but it has also left developers without the roadmap they need to plan projects with community support.

One example is Crownsville. The Crownsville Small Area Plan was ignored by the county, and that’s why county officials were able to mislead Chesapeake Sports and Entertainment Group into believing that the Crownsville community would accept a stadium, a hotel, and restaurants in their rural agricultural community. That failure of leadership is why the developer is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars planning and promoting a project that belongs elsewhere.

Now we are in an election year. I, a south county farmer with a community organizing background, am running against the county executive with the slogan, “Putting Communities First.” I have pledged to confront fiscally and environmentally irresponsible development in the 2019 General Development Plan, have criticized the county executive for his failure to staff our schools, police, and fire departments at levels appropriate for our growing population, and have criticized development incentives like the $36 million tax break for the Live! Casino Hotel. 

The Schuh campaign discovered that the “growth by leaps and bounds” language from its fall campaign letter does not resonate, and on February 5 the county executive made a rare visit to these chambers to read a prepared statement, pledging to implement a new smart growth agenda. He followed that up with a letter to community associations pledging to “slow growth.”

The four pieces of legislation before you tonight are a part of that election-year pivot from spurring to slowing growth, and they were clearly drafted in haste. I encourage you to consider the impact that each will have on our communities, our business climate, our government services, and the quality of life that brings residents and visitors to Anne Arundel County.

 

COMMENTS ON THE BILLS

Bill 19-18 is good policy that community residents have requested for years. It simply expands the area in which residents must be notified of an application for a variance or rezoning. It increases from 175 to 300 feet from the applicant property, giving more impacted neighbors the information they need to be heard. I support this change.

Bill 18-18 should be amended. The ban against variances in the Odenton Town Center reflects the county executive’s habit of picking winners and losers from within our business community. Odenton Town Center is an important economic development project that is supported in the Small Area Plan and General Development Plan. Arbitrarily taking away the right of the developers to work with the county and the community to adapt the project to meet market and community needs is government over-reach.  We should be promoting collaboration between developers and communities, not prohibiting it.  That language should be removed from the bill.

The remaining language in the bill sets forth what appear to be common-sense criteria to guide the Board of Appeals and Administrative Hearing Officer in the granting of zoning special exceptions. These conditions may, however, have unintended consequences. Their impacts should be assessed after hearing from community and business leaders.

Bill 17-18 will have no impact on communities other than to create an administrative bottleneck. It establishes a moratorium on administrative rezonings starting September 1 of this year and ending when the draft General Development Plan is submitted or January 1, 2019, whichever comes first. Forthcoming development projects that require rezoning will simply accelerate their applications to get them in before the start of the moratorium, or wait until the draft GDP is presented.

If the intent of the legislation is to prevent all rezonings until Comprehensive Rezoning takes place, the moratorium should begin immediately and end upon passage of the Comprehensive Rezoning that follows approval of a community-driven General Development Plan. I would not advocate such a policy without carefully evaluating the potential impact on communities, developers, existing infrastructure, and our environment.

Resolution 6-18 requires the planning and zoning officer to certify that the council’s Comprehensive Rezoning Bill that follows passage of the General Development Plan (GDP) is consistent with that plan.

This charter amendment is attractive to those of us who want to strengthen enforcement of the General Development Plan. County councils have a history of ignoring the General Development Plan when putting together the Comprehensive Rezoning that follows, because their members are pressured by landowners in their districts to upzone property as a way to enhance value. That’s where the plan for our county’s future starts to unravel. We are fortunate that Councilman Trumbauer’s charter amendment will require community notice before these kinds of zoning changes take place.

The question raised by this resolution is who can be trusted to judge whether the zoning decisions are consistent with the GDP. Is it the county executive’s planning and zoning officer, or is it the county council?

History suggests that we should trust neither. I believe that we should bring policy experts and stakeholders together to look more closely at how the GDP is used in our county. This executive’s office of law has argued that the GDP is simply “guidance.” Others have stated that it should only be deviated from in “extraordinary circumstances.”  I support the latter, but question whether this resolution is the best mechanism, since it only applies to the Comprehensive Rezoning and not to subsequent development decisions.

If, in fact, the GDP is a document that will be adhered to in the eight years following its passage, we must ensure that communities have a voice in the process of creating it.

The county’s eight GDP listening sessions that were designed to replace small area planning failed to address substantive issues. An online poll could have gathered similar data at a fraction of the cost. We must engage the small areas, and we must start with the specific recommendations they made in their current Small Area Plans.

 

A CONCERN ABOUT QUOTAS AND POLITICS 

I must comment on a part of the new Schuh “smart growth” agenda that is not before the county council tonight, but should be.

The county executive pledged to reduce the number of development variance approvals by fifty percent. Those variances should be approved or denied based on the merits of each case by the administrative hearing officer. Quotas for approvals may seem like a rational response to public frustration with unplanned growth, but they are not a smart growth strategy. I suspect that the hearing officer resisted this kind of pressure from the county executive’s office, probably costing him his job.

Mr. Schuh removed our highly respected hearing officer last month without explanation. He replaced him with a man whose career in law was damaged by the poor judgement he exhibited as John Leopold’s county attorney, a man who will be indebted to the county executive. The county council observed without comment.

Most of the companies whose businesses depend on the rulings of the administrative hearing officer have contributed to the county executive’s re-election campaign fund. It’s unfortunately the way political campaigns are funded in this county. The only firewall between these campaign donors and the county executive is the administrative hearing officer. When that position becomes a political appointment, the wall comes down.

By combining the new quota for denials with the appointment of a political ally as arbiter of development approvals, County Executive Schuh has sent a chilling message to the business community and our neighborhoods. There is a growing perception that we are a “pay-to-play” county.

We saw the process at its worst when the county reversed its opposition to the Turtle Run at Deep Cove project in the Critical Area after Snyder Development wrote campaign checks to Steve Schuh. Thanks to community groups, environmental groups, and the Critical Area Commission, the collusion between county and developer was uncovered and the project was recently blocked.

I worked in Chicago, and know what machine politics looks like. It’s bad for the business climate and it’s bad for communities. It’s something worth fighting against.

The county council should take action to restore an independent arbiter to the development approval process.

Posted on 02 Apr 2018, 01:58 - Category: Campaign News



Replacing Hearing Officer is Bad for the County (As Published in The Capital)

Buried within last week’s front-page article on marijuana dispensaries was a bombshell that has become the political talk of the county this week.

County Executive Steve Schuh fired Planning and Zoning Administrative Hearing Officer Doug Hollmann and replaced him with former Leopold County Attorney John Hogdson. This decision is bad for the business climate of Anne Arundel.

Doug Hollmann was appointed in 2008 and has built a reputation for the fairness and independence from politics that is essential in that job. He acts as a judge and rules on the special exception, rezoning, and variance requests that businesses need to move projects forward. Many of those businesses are the county’s most active political donors, and of the $1 million war chest that Steve Schuh built while in office, approximately 70% came from companies and individuals whose livelihood depends on decisions made by the Administrative Hearing Officer.

The Capital story leads readers to believe that Schuh fired Hollman because he was too sympathetic to marijuana dispensaries. I worry that Schuh fired Hollman because he was too independent.

Another factor in the firing may have been Schuh’s election-year promise to reduce approvals for variances by 50%. Think about that promise. He is telling us that the Hearing Officer will have a quota. Variance quotas are not a smart growth strategy. They are a politically motivated insult to the professionals who enforce our zoning code. I suspect that Doug Hollmann resisted that quota and pledged to continue ruling in accordance with the law, as he should.

Enter Jon Hogdson, the former county attorney who distinguished himself by insisting that taxpayers finance former County Executive John Leopold’s defense against the charges that put him in jail, and then refused to provide a legal opinion to the county council on a question related to appointing Leopold’s successor as part of an effort to keep his own job. Hogdson’s own deputy refused to go along with his boss’s shenanigans, and Hogdson was fired two weeks later.

Resurrecting Hogdson gives Schuh an indebted Administrative Hearing Officer, the kind who will take direction from his boss.

The Anne Arundel County Charter endows the office of County Executive with great power. Some county executives have used that power for good, and others have abused it. John Leopold abused it, and his employees blew the whistle, landing him in jail.

Steve Schuh was John Leopold’s chosen successor, both as County Executive and as Delegate, but that should not tempt Schuh to govern in Leopold’s style. I’m not talking about what goes on in the back seat of county vehicles. I’m talking about attempting to control the professional employees of the county for political gain.

If Jon Hogdson is brought back to oversee zoning applications, every ruling that impacts a Schuh campaign donor will be questioned. Nothing could be worse for the business climate in Anne Arundel County. Ask developers who operated in Prince George’s County before the current leadership created transparency and rewrote the ethics laws. They didn’t like the pay-to-play system any more than the citizens did, and nobody wants it here.

Instead, let’s do in this county what few have accomplished.

2019 is the year of the General Development Plan. It’s when we take a hard look at the future, not only in terms of zoning, but also our long-term fiscal approach.

Businesses and community leaders agree that growth without schools, infrastructure, and services is a formula for chaos. We need transparency, accessible data, and a budget process that presents options for citizens to consider. We need to use the technology that exists in all of our smart phones and laptops to engage the communities of this county in defining our future.

We are fed up with political machines, political bosses, and pay-to-play decision-making. Let Doug Hollman do his job, and let’s come together as citizens to do ours.

My pledge as your next county executive is to bring communities together and listen.

- Steuart Pittman

 

Posted on 22 Mar 2018, 01:33 - Category: Campaign News



Teachers Association Endorses Pittman for Anne Arundel County Executive

Steuart Pittman is proud to announce that the Teachers Association of Anne Arundel County (TAAAC) has endorsed him for Anne Arundel County executive. The Teachers Association represents the more than 6,000 educators in the Anne Arundel County Public School system.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
February 14, 2018

Contacts:
Rhonda Ellis, Communications Director
410-280-1932; rhondaellis1@aol.com

Scott Travers, Campaign Manager
240-818-7606; sftravers91@gmail.com  

“Our campaign is about the future of this county, and that future is in the hands of our teachers,” says Steuart Pittman, Democratic candidate for Anne Arundel County executive. “It’s time to stop putting teacher compensation on the back burner of politics. Neighboring counties have become magnets for good teachers who want better pay, and that hurts our children and their education.  An aggressive growth agenda under the current county administration has expanded our student population and left us with 400 fewer teachers than we need. That’s why some class sizes are as much as 30 percent higher than recommended levels.

“I’m thrilled that TAAAC has chosen to endorse my candidacy for Anne Arundel County executive,” says Pittman. “I look forward to campaigning alongside the teachers who will educate my twin boys, and then making a fresh start in 2019. With a new school board, a new county council, and a new county executive, we will restore the reputation of Anne Arundel County as a great district for teachers to work in.”

“We are excited that a candidate like Steuart Pittman stepped forward,” says Richard Brenfer, president of TAAAC. “His community approach to governing fits perfectly into TAAAC’s vision of Empowered Educators, Successful Students and Connected Communities.  With Steuart Pittman as an advocate for education, we will be one step closer to keeping the Anne Arundel Promise to provide a Great Public School for Every Child through responsible spending that meets the needs of our 21stcentury school system.”  h

Steuart Pittman is a non-profit executive, farm business owner, and nationally-recognized community leader and organizer who lives in Davidsonville with his wife, Erin, and twin boys Sam and Andy. He is running for Anne Arundel County executive to end the developer-funded politics that fuel fiscally irresponsible growth in our county. By implementing and enforcing a community-driven approach to planning, Pittman will transfer resources from development incentives to education, public safety and environmental protection. His campaign slogan reflects his life’s work: “Putting Communities First.”

By Authority Friends of Steuart Pittman, Virginia Clagett Treasurer
SteuartPittmanJr.com
440 Dodon Road, Davidsonville, MD 21035

 

Posted on 14 Feb 2018, 13:03 - Category: Campaign News



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