speakout!

December 10, 2006

ISSUE: -- A new county executive, John R. Leopold, and a new County Council were sworn in Monday at the Arundel Center in Annapolis.

Among the more immediate issues facing the new council are the zoning map for the Annapolis Neck Peninsula, a potential rezoning of industrial land in West County that could allow for a 1,600-home development and a revision of the county's critical area laws.

There are also large financial issues to tackle, as well as the tasks of managing development and redevelopment, school repairs and community enhancements.

What should be the council and executive's top priorities? What should elected leaders first turn their attention to?

Schools, housing health need focus

The county executive and County Council should press the school board for greater accountability, as the county spends half of its budget on education but has little say in how those dollars are spent. Furthermore, the school system and county have surplus and underutilized properties that should be sold to raise the money we need to fund a world class educational system.

Workforce-housing can be accomplished by using surplus/underutilized government ground and having the homebuyers only pay for the house itself, with the county holding a soft mortgage on the land. In addition, let's use some of the school property to house a limited number of homes for teachers, firefighters and police. Who could object to having a teacher live on school property and furthermore it would help attract the best teachers?

Thirdly, we need to use tremendous incentives to recruit high-tech companies to our county. These companies will bring the technological jobs we need and add to our tax base. Our county is very frugal, especially when it comes to property taxes. The money has to come from the business community to avoid a property tax increase.

Finally, the No. 1 health problem that is ruining our children and society needs immediate attention. It is a silent monster and it makes every drug available at every school. This drug and alcohol problem takes a huge toll on our human resources and should be the first order of business.

John S. Pantelides

Annapolis

The writer is on the board of the Anne Arundel County Alliance for Fair Land Use.

Staff and wetlands need attention

The first priority of the new administration should be to institute staff training emphasizing the responsibilities of public servants to answer citizen questions truthfully, to respond to phone calls timely and to follow up on promises to deliver information.

It would also be appropriate to institute a lesson in phone manners for all staff, especially those handling citizen inquiries and complaints.

The Planning and Zoning Department needs a leader who knows the difference between wetlands and fastlands and is not enamored by every velvet-tongued silk suit that rides into town.

Next, I would take up critical areas legislation, and demonstrate that there is political will at the Arundel Center to institute smart, responsible growth policies and protect the bay from further deterioration.

Maryellen O. Brady Edgewater

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