Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor

March 14, 2004

County's key problem is flawed executive

The Sun has shed much light on Harford County problems and related politics. Your efforts are appreciated.

I congratulated the Harford County delegation on their proposal for an impact fee. It is a fitting response to our problem, fairly taxing the cause of school overcrowding: development. The key word here is fair.

I also e-mailed all council members, asking them to vote for the Guthrie bill. Strong measures are needed to deal with grave problems. I believe the delegation and council are a large part of the solution needed to fix our many dilemmas. To be honest and frank, I believe County Executive Harkins' governance is the main problem in need of fixing.

Inventing other taxes to pay for the impact of excessive development is not fair. Predictably, that is exactly what Harkins requested. It is called an impact fee for a reason. Anticipating and preventing such problems is the administration's job, but they seem to bloom right under its collective nose. Its pretense of concern and dramatic offer to boldly "go it alone" and build a school for "our kids" without state money (we pay more) was insulting, an amateurish attempt to paint himself a "hero of our children."

So, because of flawed planning, we now get half the school we need or pay twice the price? It is blatantly clear taxpayers and our children are not your priority.

Only after persistent overcrowding issues threatened to rain on the development parade, and only then, did he unearth some "concern" and offer this half-baked proposal.

As a lifelong resident of Harford County, I fully support excellence in our schools. More than schools, our overall quality of life has suffered as the administration has flooded our schools, roads, public facilities and overstressed the government infrastructure and bank account.

The latest attempt (warnings of doom and gloom) to disguise the source and solution for our sad state of affairs is a political "big lie."

Audaciously, the administration warns us that we should fear reining in out-of-control development, for our own good! Problems it causes will get worse if we try to control it? My two cats are not dumb enough to buy that one. The administration has preached the "more is better" mantra for years, but the question remains, better for whom?

The special-interest agenda has been killing us. To now suggest that more of the same poison will cure us is an insult. The administration's refusal to tax or properly regulate the industry has benefited them enormously while costing the rest of us dearly. Our county will not soon recover.

The delegation was wise to not grant the administration's laundry list of new taxes. Make a laundry list of savings and try fair taxation.

More taxes will only permit special interests' agenda to continue while forcing the rest of us to foot the bill for them. Instead, I suggest the administration develop a new agenda making taxpayers the special interest. For us, the administration should have asked for an impact fee years ago but did not, and that money is gone forever to the benefit of a favored few.

The administration should have properly managed development to a sustainable level but did not, and we suffer.

The administration should have tackled shameful school overcrowding because it was the honorable thing to do, but ignored it until furious parents tried to lynch the executive.

County tax streams are healthy. The administration enjoys a 20 percent increase in the piggyback tax. It benefits from the highest increase in property tax revenues in recent history thanks to skyrocketing home prices.

Taxpayers only dream of such increases in our salaries or bank accounts while our taxes grow well above the rate of inflation. These facts show how far Harkins and his cohorts have strayed from their sworn duty to fairly represent all the citizens of Harford County, and how naive they must think we are. We are not.

So where is the shortfall? It is the combination of revenue we failed to receive from, and extra costs incurred by, rampant development! It is like having a very hungry boarder who doesn't pay any rent, a basic economics lesson taught in our public schools, if you can find a seat.

There can be no doubt impact fees ($19 million in one year) would be a blessing to our anemic treasury. We have been paying for the "impact" all along, just not getting any "fee."

We are not so blessed because the administration worked diligently to stop them for the benefit of special interests. It sold us out. We now face critical problems and no money to fix them. If county business had been based on an agenda that put the best interests of all taxpayers first, as it should be, we wouldn't be in crisis. We need major change, a new agenda.

Our worst problems have developed under Harkins' watch. Other than waiting for the next election, I do see hope within the council.

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