Anne Arun­del bal­lot ques­tions

Our view: Ex­ec­u­tive should hear from those whose tax dol­lars he’s about to spend

Baltimore Sun - - FROM PAGE ONE -

Anne Arun­del County vot­ers will get to de­cide on six char­ter amend­ments in Novem­ber’s elec­tion. The Sun makes the fol­low­ing rec­om­men­da­tions:

For Ques­tion D

There’s some­thing of a ma­nia among Repub­li­can ex­ec­u­tives in Mary­land for per­ceiv­ing nearly any­thing as an at­tempt to usurp their power. Some­times they have a point, but it would be harder to find a big­ger ex­am­ple of wolf-cry­ing than Anne Arun­del County Ex­ec­u­tive Steve Schuh’s ob­jec­tion to Ques­tion D, which would re­quire him and fu­ture ex­ec­u­tives to hold pub­lic hear­ings on the bud­get be­fore it is in­tro­duced each year.

Vot­ers get­ting a chance to pro­vide for­mal in­put into how their money is spent? The hor­ror!

Mr. Schuh calls the pro­posal “leg­isla­tive mi­cro­manag­ing.” If the coun­cil were telling the ex­ec­u­tive what to put in the bud­get, he might have a point. But re­quir­ing himto hold a cou­ple of hear­ings is hardly oner­ous.

The cherry on top of this sun­dae of ridicu­lous­ness? Mr. Schuh has al­ready made a prac­tice of hold­ing such a hear­ing, fol­low­ing in a tra­di­tion es­tab­lished by his pre­de­ces­sor, Laura Neu­man.

Against Ques­tion C

Anne Arun­del’s char­ter gen­er­ally re­quires pur­chases of goods or ser­vices of more than $25,000 to be com­pet­i­tively bid, but Mr. Schuh wanted to raise that thresh­old in the name of ef­fi­ciency. He pro­posed in­creas­ing the min­i­mum to $100,000, but the coun­cil shaved the fig­ure back to $75,000 in the amend­ment be­fore vot­ers. In and of it­self, the amend­ment merely au­tho­rizes the coun­cil to take such ac­tion, but vot­ers should send a clear mes­sage of op­po­si­tion to this idea.

The Schuh ad­min­is­tra­tion made a good case that the cur­rent min­i­mum for com­pet­i­tive bids takes up a great deal of bu­reau­cratic man­power and ex­tends the time it takes to con­duct busi­ness. Us­ing an in­for­mal bid­ding process, con­tracts can be ex­e­cuted in a mat­ter of weeks rather than months.

But that ef­fi­ciency comes at a cost. Com­pet­i­tive bid­ding en­sures that tax­pay­ers get the best pos­si­ble deal, whether it’s for ar­chi­tec­tural ser­vices or pa­per clips. It al­lows more com­pa­nies to com­pete for the chance to do busi­ness with the county be­cause the op­por­tu­ni­ties must be pub­licly ad­ver­tised. And it pre­vents gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials from sim­ply steer­ing busi­ness to their friends and sup­port­ers, or to those busi­nesses they’re more fa­mil­iar with. That’s a par­tic­u­lar risk of in­for­mal bid­ding; pur­chas­ing agents will tend to go back to the same firms ev­ery time un­less the law forces oth­er­wise. It’s hu­man na­ture.

Mont­gomery County has a high pro­cure­ment thresh­old — only goods or ser­vices ex­pected to cost more than $100,000 must be com­pet­i­tively bid — but Mary­land’s other big coun­ties man­age­with rules sim­i­lar to those Arun­del has now. Bal­ti­more and Har­ford coun­ties’ thresh­old for com­pet­i­tive bid­ding is $25,000. Howar­dand Prince Ge­orge’s have a thresh­old of $30,000. They get along just fine, and­sow­illAn­neArun­deli­fit­keep­sits­bidthresh­old­where­itis.

For Ques­tions Band F

These are a pair of good ideas when it comes to mak­ing the op­er­a­tions of county gov­ern­ment more­ef­fi­cient. Ques­tion Bspeeds up the ef­fec­tive date for ap­pro­pri­a­tions made af­ter the an­nual bud­get is en­acted. Cir­cum­stances can change dur­ing the bud­get year, andthe­coun­tyneed­sto be­able to re­act. But un­der­cur­rent law, such ap­pro­pri­a­tions are treated like reg­u­lar leg­is­la­tion, mean­ing they take ef­fect 45 days af­ter pas­sage. In the past, councils have dealt with this prob­lem by en­act­ing them as emer­gency leg­is­la­tion, but that re­quires a su­per­ma­jor­ity of five votes on the coun­cil rather than the usual four. Ques­tion F will al­low the county to ap­pro­pri­ate funds for cap­i­tal projects im­me­di­ately when a new bud­get year starts. Due to quirks of the coun­cil cal­en­dar and the leg­isla­tive process, such projects are now de­layed for as long as six months.

For Ques­tions Aand E

Both are ba­sic house­keep­ing. Ques­tion A elim­i­nates the re­quire­ment to up­date the county code ev­ery 10 years. It is now up­dated con­tin­u­ally as new laws are passed. Ques­tion E sim­ply changes the job ti­tle of the county’s eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment chief.

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