May 28, 2006

Hiring allegations should be probed

The County Council adopted an ethics code some time ago that applies to all county officials. The code specifically prohibits the use of "prestige of office" to influence the hiring of family members to any county position, whether they be exempt, contractual or otherwise.

Serious allegations have been reported regarding the hiring practices of the past year by the county executive and his administration. Our county code has some of the strongest ethics provisions in the state, but they have little impact if the letter and the spirit of the law are not enforced.

The county ethics board and the state's attorney both may have jurisdiction over the allegations and it would behoove all who believe in good government to have the administration's recent hiring practices fully investigated. Our county flag bears the words "At the risk of our lives and fortunes," not "All in the family."

Michael G. Comeau Jarrettsville

The writer is the chairman of the Harford Democratic Central Committee

Cut in tax rates seems appropriate

I would like to commend both the County Council and the County Executive on the way they worked a compromise on the recently approved budget. I do believe, though, that it is becoming increasingly apparent that we should take a serious look at paring down some of the bloated tax rates that face Harford County residents.

As tax revenues continue to swell, largely due to sharp increases in property value assessments, my concern is that we may face discretionary and questionable government expenditures in future budgets. My fear is that budgetary expenditures are often times "created" in order to keep up with the flood of tax revenues (sort of like trying to drink from a fire hose).

It is my belief that government should not grow necessarily in lockstep with the taxes that it receives. It should only expand contingent upon a compelling case being made that increased spending is necessary. If government finds itself grasping for ways to spend, then perhaps it's time to lower tax rates.

As it stands, Harford County pays one of the highest real property tax rates in Maryland. For those who are on fixed incomes, significant property tax increases take a larger bite out of their pockets. Combine this with soaring energy costs and medical costs, and no relief in sight when it comes to our federal taxes, and it all gets back to a compelling case being made to bring property and income tax rates down to more closely match those of our neighboring counties.

Glenn Spatz Bel Air

The writer is a candidate for the County Council from District E .

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