Baltimore County needs an elected school board [Letter]

March 25, 2014

Regarding letter writer Theodore Levin's idea that to keep politics out of the process the governor should appoint the Baltimore County Board of Education rather than allow voters to elect its members, I would point out that the governor's appointments are already highly political and favor a certain group of campaign contributors and politically influential people ("School board decisions shouldn't be driven by the political winds," March 21).

For example, Lawrence Schmidt, the current board president, is an attorney whose firm counted among its partners former county executive and current state transportation secretary Jim Smith. The firm still counts Mr. Smith's son as a member and it represents a number of influential land developers.

Moreover, the Department of Transportation's policies influence where development takes place. Land developers need to know that schools are in the areas they want to develop, otherwise younger families will not buy their houses.

In addition, the county's loosely enforced Adequate Facilities law may be a potential stumbling block to development. Just look at what Mr. Schmidt and the rest of the board did to the Mays Chapel Park if you want to see political influence.

Gov. Martin O'Malley was certainly aware of what was taking place there. Kevin Kamenetz, the county executive, was a councilman for 16 years and knows how to play the game, hence his strong opposition to an elected school board.

Politicians who want to rise in office know that to get ahead they must placate the developer community. If they want those large contributions, allowed by Maryland campaign finance laws, and their signage along the commercial corridors, they need the support of the developers who make those contributions and who own the land along the corridors. We should all realize what the developers want in return.

The reality is that the current governor appointment process is highly political and needs change. Further, there is no doubt that the county executive, council members, and state delegates and senators will surely back who they want on the board of education, just as they do now in order to have a say in the process. Change is needed in this case. Let the people decide.

Alan P. Zukerberg, Pikesville

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