When County Executive Steuart Pittman held his State of the County address in December, he outlined several key initiatives. Here are some takeaways paired with comments from Pittman.
Last year’s budget raised income and property taxes to fund education, public safety, and transportation infrastructure — and that might not be the last tax hike.
“Had we been allowed to tax progressively like the state and the feds do, that figure would have been higher. Stay tuned on that front, as we work to shift the burden away from our lowest-paid residents.”
When he announces his Fiscal Year 2021 budget recommendation this May, Pittman will include funding for body-worn cameras for police officers.
“I have thought long and hard about the stress these officers are under and also about how to build the community trust that is so essential to effective policing. My conclusion is that transparency is the answer.”
Staffing For Teachers And Public Safety
Pittman touted the addition of 140 teachers, 35 counselors and 50 special education instructors this school year. But it’s not enough, he said.
“Investing in public education, both K-12 and Anne Arundel Community College, is the only way we will reduce the intergenerational poverty that faces too many children in our least affluent neighborhoods. But it is also our most powerful driver of overall economic growth.”
The county went from 693 to 791 sworn police officers in one year. Fire and police departments still need support.
“At our fire department, the call volume for each one of the last five years rose by an average of 7%. Staffing was stagnant, and our trucks were going out short-staffed too often.”
Pittman cited the upcoming launch of an open data portal as one example of his administration’s commitment to hold county government accountable.
“That’s why we’re starting Arundel Stat, a new open data portal that will be launched in 2020, allowing the public to see how we measure not only the successes of our programs, but also the shortcomings.”
He also shared plans to limit the current modification process, which allows the county’s Planning and Zoning officer to unilaterally facilitate development projects that do not conform to county code.
“Land use plans and laws exist for a reason, and when the planning officer, a paid employee who works at the discretion of the county executive, has the power to waive legal requirements through modifications, the only winners are the well-connected regional developers who contribute generously to political campaigns. The loser is the natural environment that sustains us.”
Pittman also wants to introduce legislation requiring developers to build a percentage of new construction as affordable units. The legislation will be based on a bill introduced in 2004 by Senator Pam Beidle, who was a county councilmember at that time.
“We’re exploring tiny home possibilities, preservation of existing older stock that is affordable, and many other strategies that have worked elsewhere.”