Bal­ti­more Co. bud­get deficit not un­ex­pected

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - NATION & WORLD -

It’s time for The Sun to stop re­fer­ring to the Bal­ti­more County $81 mil­lion deficit as “un­ex­pected” (”In Bal­ti­more County, a bud­getary cross­roads,” April 16). That’s as bad as call­ing the Bal­ti­more ri­ots of 2015 “un­rest.” County Ex­ec­u­tive Johnny Ol­szewski was en­dorsed by mul­ti­ple Demo­cratic Bal­ti­more County Coun­cil mem­bers. Surely, these peo­ple were aware of the county’s fi­nan­cial sit­u­a­tion. If they weren’t, why are they still in of­fice?

When Mr. Ol­szewski was run­ning for county ex­ec­u­tive, mak­ing prom­ises that he would in­crease teacher salaries by 20 per­cent in his first term, “work to­ward a 1:18 teacher-stu­dent ra­tio,” pro­vide free com­mu­nity col­lege and uni­ver­sal pre-K, and put $2 bil­lion into school fa­cil­i­ties over the next 10 years, didn’t any of these coun­cil mem­bers pull him aside and say, “Hey, you may want to dial back your prom­ises a bit. The county bud­get is in a big hole?”

This deficit seems to have been a some­what well-kept se­cret, dat­ing back to Kevin Kamenetz’s ad­min­is­tra­tion, a se­cret that was main­tained as long as Kamenetz had his eye on the gov­er­nor­ship. That brings us to Don Mohler, Kamenetz’s for­mer chief of staff, who was cho­sen by the coun­cil to fin­ish Kamenetz’s term af­ter his sud­den death. Mr. Mohler had no intention of seek­ing elec­tion for another term and he ac­tively en­dorsed Mr. Ol­szewski. As Ben­jamin Franklin said, “Three may keep a se­cret if two of them are dead.” So the se­cret should have been out.

How­ever, it ap­pears that Bal­ti­more County’s bud­get was the ele­phant in the room. It de­fies imag­i­na­tion to think that Mr. Mohler and the pre­vi­ously men­tioned coun­cil mem­bers would leave their new county ex­ec­u­tive in the dark re­gard­ing the state of the county, or that he never said to them, “I couldn’t help but no­tice that ele­phant sit­ting over there.” This was not an “un­ex­pected deficit.”

Ol­szewski tries to be the O’Mal­ley of Balt. County

Bal­ti­more County Ex­ec­u­tive John Ol­szewski was sup­posed to deal with deficits in the county finances, not sur­ren­der to them (“In Bal­ti­more County, a bud­getary cross­roads,” April 15).

In­stead, he ca­pit­u­lated, and all of us in the county will be his vic­tims. Do I hear echoes of the egre­gious Gov. Martin O’Mal­ley with his perpetual whin­ing about “struc­tural deficits” and new taxes, more taxes, higher taxes, ex­tra taxes, still more taxes?

County needs a tax hike when God calls for one

Good heav­ens, we have to go all the way back to 1992 to find the last time Bal­ti­more County raised taxes (“In Bal­ti­more County, a bud­getary cross­roads,” April 15)! Let’s see, when was the last time God levied an in­crease? You know on that fixed, flat 10 per­cent asked of ev­ery­one, with no de­duc­tions, no loop­holes, no ex­emp­tions? Oh, not since Gen­e­sis.

When the flock has a good year, God has a good year. If it’s good enough for God, it ought to be good enough for Cae­sar.

Wake up, Bal­ti­more: Get your pri­or­i­ties straight

Bal­ti­more’s con­tin­ued pop­u­la­tion loss con­sti­tutes doc­u­mented ev­i­dence of the fail­ure of the city’s high tax rates, vi­o­lent crime, in­ef­fec­tive public schools and bad poli­cies and pri­or­i­ties. For ex­am­ple, why is the city con­tin­u­ing to sub­si­dize lux­ury apart­ments and large projects such as Har­bor Point and Port Cov­ing­ton when there has been no net growth in jobs or pop­u­la­tion? It is an af­fir­ma­tion of the lack of both po­lit­i­cal and busi­ness lead­er­ship (“Bal­ti­more mayor must re­sign,” April 3).

There has been too lit­tle self-re­flec­tion and too much sug­ar­coat­ing of our prob­lems re­cently. Peo­ple do not nat­u­rally come to Bal­ti­more. We have to give peo­ple a com­pelling rea­son to come here to live, work and visit through our ac­tions and at­ti­tudes. We are clearly not do­ing that and have not for a very long time.

Bal­ti­more is a bit like Sears Roe­buck. Sears was a once great com­pany but did not re­spond to chang­ing habits or de­sires of its cus­tomers and be­came a shadow of its for­mer self (amaz­ingly, Ama­zon is sim­ply do­ing what Sears was do­ing 100 years ago with its cat­a­log busi­ness). Bal­ti­more was a once great city and has let it­self de­cline in both size and qual­ity. We can­not wait any longer to wake up and do some­thing dra­matic about this sit­u­a­tion.

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