We Can Restore Trust in Anne Arundel County Government - Capital Opinion

We Can Restore Trust in Anne Arundel County Government - Capital Opinion

I was surprised that this newspaper endorsed Steve Schuh for County Executive, but not angry.

The endorsement came the morning after a very bad day for our country, a day when letter bombs were sent to critics of the president. One of my sisters had called me at the end of that day sounding worried and suggesting that we do something unusual after this election, regardless of who wins. Something like a county-wide bipartisan unity gathering. I agreed.

That conversation was still on my mind the next morning when I read the Capital endorsement in my race. I put myself in the shoes of the editor, Rick Hutzell. I like Rick a lot. I like the Capital a lot. I thought about the inevitable criticism Rick would hear, and I felt the need to reach out to him and to tell him I’d have his back. I did that.

Then I posted a notice on our campaign Facebook page. I asked my supporters to take a deep breath. I reminded them that this newspaper told our stories, and that’s why we are tied in this race and are surging.

But I also welcomed them to speak out about why I am the better choice, about why it is better to bring people together around a common vision than to divide. Politics in these times can cause harm, and we must think carefully before we speak or act.

I have campaigned with a slogan of Putting Communities First. To me that means governing with a genuine effort to engage residents in decision-making. It also means campaigning a bit differently from what people are used to.

Our campaign hosted seventeen Communities First Forums in recent weeks. They were in each of the Small Areas that did twenty-year plans during the Janet Owens administration. I asked questions and I listened at these forums, and our team recorded every idea and every comment. You can read our forum reports at PittmanForPeople.com/Reports.

I heard a consistent message about what people expect from county government. People want transparency and they want accountability. They are outraged that their community plans were ignored by this administration, and that development projects were approved in places where land was to be preserved with inadequate planning for traffic, schools, and public safety. They don’t want to let Steve Schuh’s developer-dominated Citizens Advisory Committee write a county-wide General Development Plan without a status update on the Small Area Plan recommendations.

As county executive I will review the status of all Small Area Plans and have updates posted for public review, but I will audit the impacts of the developments that we have approved in recent years. This county needs an honest debate about the fiscal and environmental effects of growth, and we need to decide where and how it should take place in the future.

I will also finish what Laura Neuman began before Steve Schuh brought back the Leopold team. Neuman cleaned up corruption and began moving toward transparency. Open government, participatory budgeting, and county stat programs are thriving across this state and country, but the Schuh administration has failed to even publish the required annual Development Impact on School Facilities report. Our county auditor had to propose a charter amendment to get access to the data she needed to do her job. That is not the transparency our citizens deserve.

My new team will use the technology that exists today to put government data in the public domain, and present it in ways that encourage data-driven, non-political decision-making, and strict accountability government-wide. Developers’ subdivision applications will be accessible from user-friendly community maps. So will pending public works projects, status of 311 call requests, and loads of other county data that impacts communities.

We can bring the people of this county together. We can provide them with the tools they need to have informed, passionate debates about how to spend our limited tax dollars. We can address our housing affordability problem, preserve our open space, reduce traffic with public transportation and road improvements, and climb our way back up the school quality rankings that we dropped in the last four years. We can recognize and reward our teachers, our firefighters and our police in this county. They are county government, and they are our heroes.

But most importantly, we can restore the trust that people once had in their local government. That will be my job and my responsibility if you elect me on November 6.

Posted on 28 Oct 2018, 01:55 - Category: Campaign News

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By Authority of Friends of Steuart Pittman, VIrginia Clagett Treasurer
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