Hi everyone! Miss me? I took off a few weeks to get in a little bit more summer vacation and to study the local and state political scene so I could bring you, the True Believers, excellence in commentary on state and local politics for the duration of this cycle! Because, once this election is over and that new Howard County Executive and Council are seated.... it's over. Forward Maryland will live on, but The 53 will be gone. In fact, word is that Correspondent Ken is already in grief counseling!
So expect the frequency of this blog to step up, starting today! Howard County desperately needs an infusion of integrity, intensity, and intelligence, and I'm gonna bring them to it!
Along those lines, I would like to write today to issue this blog's endorsement for Howard County Executive. I am proud to recommend to all Howard County voters that they select Calvin Ball to serve in that role in November.
As I wrote on these pages a short while ago, Allan Kittleman's tenure as County Executive has not been a disaster. But it has been a disappointment. I believe that after the Ulman Administration, the next Executive was set up for success. Of course, Kittleman was not the "next Executive" Ulman or local Democrats anticipated. Still, it hasn't been terrible. The Downtown Columbia plan was passed, the Executive's Office showed leadership during the Ellicott City floods of 2016 and 2018, and plans have moved ahead on a new Circuit Courthouse for Howard County and on consolidating the County's social services agencies.
But opportunities put forth by the Ulman Administration have floundered. And other policy decisions of this Administration have been curious at best. Some are politically driven. I think the decision to continue to slam the state's stormwater management fee (aka "Rain Tax") is nothing but an anti-environment political statement made to appease his conservative base. And I get that there isn't a direct connection between the flooding and the fee. But the optics are bad.
Moreso, from a policy standpoint, continuing to support rampant development in the county, Ellicott City and elsewhere? That's pretty terrible. And, meanwhile, while Kittleman brings in big bucks from developers for contributions, he also continues to oppose campaign finance reform, including giving candidates the choice to campaign by a budget through accepting public funds for their campaigns.
But two things I find most disappointing of this County Executive, and these are the reasons why I can't give his leadership any grade higher than a B-minus or C-plus, and why I recommend he be replaced. One, his failure to innovate. Allan Kittleman is a capable public manager. But no one will call him (except his campaign sign) a leader. And absolutely no one will call him an innovator. Every County Executive of Howard County has had a Big Idea or two for the county. What has Kittleman's Big Idea been? It would've been great, for example, if HoCo coulda stepped in and tried to talk Discovery Communications out of moving to New York from Silver Spring. Would have kept a great employer and hundreds of jobs in the region. But he didn't. He didn't even try. And I woulda known if he had. There are other examples.
The second example is this whole thing of political rebranding. Folks-- Allan Kittleman is a Republican. He is a conservative Republican. Kittlemans aren't moderates and Council District 5 and State District 9 don't elect moderates. Just look at reality. Yet, his campaign runs from the words "conservative Republican" as if those words are filthy. Which, they aren't. They are not my political philosophy, but to be a conservative Republican is an honorable thing. Starting with his silly campaign chair, I'm not sure what his campaign is thinking, but it's stupid. Because when Allan's political biography is written, the word "Republican" will appear in front of his name.
What will voters be voting for when they cast a vote for Calvin Ball? Many things, but let me hit the highlights:
Howard Countians will be getting a father of two school-age children who is going to put the needs to Howard County's schoolchildren, teachers, and staff at the forefront. Along with Councilwoman (soon to be Delegate) Jen Terrasa, Ball has worked to restore budget funds in the HCPSS budget that would have otherwise required teacher layoffs and class size increases.
Howard Countians will be getting leadership that aligns with its values. You may recall that Calvin Ball played the lead role in negotiations to effect the resignation of Racist Sheriff Jim Fitzgerald. A very important instance over the past four years where otherwise, local leadership had failed. A former career firefighter, Ball stepped into the void of leadership and worked to get the job done. That's the sort of innovation I'm looking for, but it's more than innovation. It's courage, too.
And that's another quality I believe Calvin Ball will bring to the County Executive's office: courage. I've known Calvin Ball for over fifteen years. I've actually known Allan Kittleman for longer. Both are good men-- honest, decent family men who love their communities and want the best for everyone. But the times are not a time for simply being a good steward. Rather, the times we live in call for making decisions, doing unpopular things-- the times call for activism in public service. By far, Calvin Ball is the more prepared candidate to deliver that activism.
And that brings me to something I haven't even touched on yet in this discussion-- experience. Calvin Ball has worked with County Executives of both parties, and with Governors of both parties. He has supported campaign finance reform and funds to fight addiction and support mental health services. And he has opposed initiatives which are in the guide of promoting community development and inclusion, but which really promote community division and making disparities worse. Case in point, in my own village: the move by the then-village leadership, several years ago, to replace housing around the Oakland Mills Village Center with "upscale" housing. With no definition of "upscale", nor any thought as to what would become of the people who live in the housing currently. Because of his experience and insight, Calvin Ball is very well qualified to serve on Day One.
Howard County likes to portray itself as some of the best that Maryland has to offer. Wouldn't it make sense, then, to elect someone to County Executive who doesn't just believe in keeping Howard County a great place to live, but in making it better? Wouldn't Howard County be a better place if it did more than bask in it's own self-appointed exceptionalism? What if it actually did exceptional things? With Calvin Ball as County Executive, I firmly believe that these exceptional things would be within Howard County's reach. Now, it's up to us to grab the opportunity.
Let's be careful out there.
#CalvinBallTeam #hocopolitics #hocoexec