I have yet to see anyone offer a critique of the County Executive's first year in office. Please allow me to so do, in a blog post named after one of my favorite graphics novels. No, Allan Kittleman's never starred in a graphic novel. Talking about "Batman: Year One", of course! A story to which the story of Kittleman: Year One bears little resemblance.
Allan Kittleman took charge (remember that headline, Andy?) last December promising to bring a new tone to Howard County. What he seems to be doing so far, however, is bringing the same tone, except with fewer staff, and with a definite right-of-center bend.
Let's look at what's gone on so far. Of course, he let a lot of Ulman appointees go. I still run across people who are surprised at this, and at this point, I wonder if these people are fully plugged into reality. Why would the Republican County Exec keep any holdover appointee from his Democratic predecessor? Regardless of how "nice" the people involved are, and how "competent" they may be, the thought boggles the mind.
Kittleman reconfigured not only his office, but the Office on Human Rights Affairs and the Department of Environmental Sustainability, making the latter office more about agricultural sustainability. That was the first nod towards the county government being more conservative, until....
The veto of the nutritional standards legislation, regarding vending machines in county-owned office buildings. Having rescinded the Ulman executive order on sugary foods at county events, Kittleman promised a new policy on the matter, but never delivered. Calvin Ball got sick of the hemming and hawing and proposed legislation along the lines of Servant Leader Kittleman's public statements. As a thanks, Kittleman vetoed the legislation, which the Council then overrode.
And, there was some rough sledding on the appointment front as well. Witness the choice to not reappoint Josh Tzuker to the Planning Board and the push to appoint Susan Garber to it. That represented an unusual, unprecedented, and wholly unnecessary use of political capital. And after a few months of holding up the appointment, the Council did give Kittleman the "up or down vote" the pro-Garber web page on Kittleman's website (which, my sources tell me, was the inspiration of Kittleman Campaign Manager Sean Murphy, of flashbulb and many other mature actions becoming of an adult male) demanded! And the verdict was..... down! As it should've been!
(Hey, friends of mine who are Kittleman administration or campaign people. Looking at you, Mike, Brad, and others. Why does this guy Murphy have a place on the payroll? You know he's wrong. You know his brand of politics is gutter and ghetto. Please explain, because he sometimes makes Allan look like a punk.)
I am remiss in mentioning the fact that, now that we are several months downstream from this event, that the Kittleman administration did a good job, overall, in the very difficult job of having to implement midyear budget cuts to county government, which is no small task at all, and certainly not for a new administration of the opposite party. In fact, the state did better than midyear projections forecasted, the fiscal fortunes of the HoCo rebounded, and allowed the possibility for funding of the local food bank and of a feasibility study regarding future commercial and recreational development in Oakland Mills. which was cool.
Also, I show respect for the manner in which the administration worked with the Governor on school funding in Howard County. You know, the whole relationship between the Kittleman administration and the Hogan administration... I don't know enough about it yet to make an informed comment.
I will say, though, that I hold concerns in my brain about the relationship between the County Executive's office and the HCPSS. The Superintendent certainly seems to think that the CE is supportive of her administration. And, maybe he is? Or, maybe he isn't? And while I get that the CE doesn't appoint or reappoint the Superintendent, a big decision is coming up on Renee Foose's future in a couple months. I think that some public comments by the exec, either way, will go a long way in sealing Foose's fate! Here's a hit, Allan: CUT FOOSE LOOSE!
And Kittleman refused to veto the Council bill regarding banning guns from county buildings, which, in the light of more and more mass shootings in this country, appears to have been a sound decision. I'm sure that ticked off much of Kittleman's base, but they'll get over it.
The fall's big thing has seemed to be the unveiling of a plan to relieve county taxpayers of the burden for the Stormwater Management Fee aka Rain Tax. So soon, Howard Countians won't have that burden to bear, it'll be borne by the local government instead. Until Hogan does away with it altogether, of course. Or..... Will he?
Meanwhile, back on the home front, Kittleman has made good on his promise of bringing county government closer to the people by holding town halls in Oakland Mills, Clarksville and Woodbine. And appearing at a meeting in Savage where he voice his support for the homeless center there. Oh, and he dressed up as Edgar Allan Poe for Halloween and participated in No Shave November. Those of course aren't achievements, but symbols of this executive's efforts to humanize his office.
And, speaking of that whole "humanizing his office" thing, Kittleman has apparently followed the Ulman tradition of having his damn picture taken maybe 30 times a day? If anything, he face may be all over the HoCo government's website more than Ken Ulman's ever was, and that's saying something.
Where do we see where the Kittleman administration is, and where it's going? I think we know more of what Kittleman is against more than what Kittleman is for. Which, to an extent, is understandable: he did inherit the Ulman budget, as well as rank and file staff and methods of providing government services. I will remind one and all that the Kittleman transition teams were very diligent, also quite late, in their work, and I believe that many transition team goals have yet to be evaluated for their ability or likelihood to be implemented.
My take is that Kittleman has occasionally come close to overreaching-- the politicizing of the Garber nomination being one example-- they haven't gone there, yet. And in many ways, they didn't have to. They inherited the final Ulman budget halfway through the fiscal year and so the operating procedure from the Kittleman camp seemed to be themed: "first, do no harm". And they didn't do harm. Much. And they could've done much worse.
But, this second year, the proof will be in the pudding. The local government is working off the first Kittleman budget. As mentioned above, he has a big decision to make regarding Renee Foose. He's going to have to negotiate contracts with local police, fire and teachers. These will be a lot of actions that Kittleman will have to make on his own that will help define him. And, there are going to be many more appointments to decide upon and make. For example, Planning Board Chair Bill Santos's term comes up late this spring. Kittleman can keep him on. Will he? Ahhh, intrigue! But the bottom line is that Kittleman won't be able to point to something he inherited. He's going to have to stand on his feet and own results, good and bad.
What paths will Kittleman take? Will he choose wisely? Stay tuned to all the relevant local websites, True Believers! More will be revealed in time.
Personally, I give Kittleman a C-plus, maybe a B-minus. Why the grade? Because it's been a solid, and very unspectacular year. No major hits, no major misses. Some mistakes, which will be explainable, and up to the electoral whether to accept the explanations or not. So an average year, which deserves an average grade.
And let's be careful out there.
#hocopolitics #kittleman #MDPolitics