Public comment essential at meetings
Although Bainbridge Board Chairman [Harland R.] Graef teaches a leadership seminar at Cecil Community College, one wonders if public comment in open meetings registers as a valued element in such political leadership?
As in four previous meetings, Bainbridge Board's "Order of Business" agenda for Feb. 17 omitted any place for public comment, reflecting the anti-public attitude of the board's leadership. Board Member Dennie Poist brought this omission to attention by commenting on many complaints made to him concerning suppression of public comment. Chairman Graef replied that public comment was "too disorganized" and unnecessary, inasmuch as he would be available after each meeting to answer any questions the public might have. Board Member Cynthia Rossetti then intervened with a formal motion that public comment be included in all meetings. The motion was passed. ...
Some members, caught in the uncomfortable prospect of opposing open democracy-in-action, voted yea, but without fervor. Jack Scarbath voted yea, with the supposed reservation that such public comment be "civil" - without defining what is "civil," and who would be the official censor in prohibiting unwanted comment. Opposing public comment, along with Graef, were Vice Chairman Robert Gell and Treasurer Judy Leonard.
A majority of board members have themselves been responsible for notorious uncivil behavior. In their recent near-riotous public harassment of Chairwoman Rossetti - ending in her stepping down from leadership and the resignation in disgust of Board Members Walter Buck and Tom Coudin - we witness hypocrisy in action. The object was to unseat reform members, regain control at all costs, and ram through skeletal contracts with favored contractors, without public scrutiny or independent review.
With public comment being suppressed and ridiculed by certain board members, no wonder citizens become vocal in opposition? These dictatorial leaders need a quick course in "Public Relations 101."
Robert K. Dahl
Stopping growth means raising taxes
County Councilman Dion Guthrie has proposed stopping development in the county for the sake of our schools. This is a fine option, but I just want to make sure people understand it. It is one thing to say we need to stop growth, but the county is dependent upon new growth for their fiscal budget. The proposition made by Councilman Guthrie needs perspective - his idea will not only stop growth, it will also raise taxes.
The County Council has financed the sewer system based on the property tax revenues of the estimated 1,400-1,500 new homes built each year. Without these new homes, and the property tax-paying citizens who live there, the costs will be transferred instead to you and me, to the tune of nearly $2 million.
The County Council will soon have the opportunity to charge developers up to $10,000 per home, money which is dedicated to - and badly needed by - our schools. Without these homes, again cost falls on you and me, with a price tag of nearly $16 million.
Councilman Guthrie's shortsighted rhetoric sounds very attractive, and it's easy to see why people might be duped into believing it. But make no mistake about it - while some residents of Harford County may condemn growth, citizens should not be fooled into thinking that a problem which took decades to create can be solved as easily as Councilman Guthrie would have up believe.
This is a tax increase, plain and simple. You will pay more, I will pay more, and no one should be fooled into thinking it is anything other than that. I hope in the future Councilman Guthrie will offer substantive solutions to problems rather than politically correct smoke and mirrors.
Christopher J. Biggs