Thoughts on Anne Arundel County Charter Amendments

If you live in Anne Arundel County you will be asked to vote this year on six proposed amendments to the county charter.  I discussed these on last night’s Conservative Refuge.  If you listened, bless you and the following will be a rehash. If not, you probably were confused why Brian Griffiths was so eager to state his disagreement on one particular proposal. Reading below, you will be provided with the context to make sense of Mr. Griffiths’ contrarian zeal.

For each question, I will provide the editors’ thoughts and, to the extent you find it useful, the stated position of the Anne Arundel County Executive.

Question A: To amend the Anne Arundel County Charter to remove the requirement of recodifying the Anne Arundel County Code at least every ten years.

The county’s code is maintained online (you can read it by clicking here). The county updates it in near real time when changes are made and provides a paper copy upon request. This change is simply removing a anachronistic and unnecessary provision. Both Brian and I support it as does the County Executive.

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Question B: To amend the Anne Arundel County Charter to provide that ordinances related to transfers of appropriations under Charter Section 711, supplementary appropriations under Charter Section 712 and amendments of the capital budget under Charter Section 716 shall take effect when they become law.

One of two charter amendments allowing for county government to act more quickly in dealing with appropriated monies.  Such transfers are currently subject to a 45 day delay and this delay is often overcome through the use of “emergency legislation” when the existence of a true emergency may not really exist. This amendment is a common sense solution allowing county leaders to spend money in a timely fashion without the kabuki dance of making them “emergencies”.

Both Brian and I support this measure as does the County Executive.

Question C: To amend the Anne Arundel County Charter to permit the County Council to increase the minimum value of purchases and contracts requiring competitive bidding from $25,000 to an amount up to $75,000.

The amendment would permit, though not mandate, that the current threshold for submitting county purchases of goods and services to the formal county procurement process to be raised up to $75,000.  Purchases under the threshold amount are still subject to a competitive though less formal bid process.  Even if passed, the County Council must ultimately set the threshold figure and can adjust it over time as they deem appropriate with a top limit of $75,000.  The County Executive insists that this measure will allow county procurement officers to concentrate on larger purchases and that taxpayers are protected with the process in place for smaller county purchases.  This enabling amendment makes sense and will allow for more efficient operations within the county. I support the measure as does the County Executive.

My Red Maryland colleague, Brian Griffiths, disagrees and in a disturbing circumstance sides with the Baltimore Sun who opined that Anne Arundel County doesn’t need a larger threshold like Montgomery County (whose limit is $100,000) and that we should keep it like other smaller counties.  

I disagree with both Brian and the Baltimore Sun. The County Council should be authorized to set a higher threshold if it deems it appropriate. That is all this charter amendment would do.  Moreover, our county government is professional enough and has a track record of being sensitive to taxpayer interests (unlike the Sun’s darling Montgomery County) that such a change should not provoke serious concern.  That is why I join the County Executive in approving this measure.

Question D: To amend the Anne Arundel County Charter to require the county executive to hold two public meetings on the proposed county budget no later than 30 days before the start of the annual legislative session of the County Council, before submission to the County Council.

The brainchild of a liberal democrat councilman, this proposal is a classic example of a solution in search of a problem.  The current County Executive, as well as his predecessor, have long held such public meetings to seek input on the county budget.  While public input is useful and a good idea, mandating it is accurately described as “micromanaging” the county’s executive.  The willingness and unwillingness (if such ever existed) to take public input on the budget is a consideration for voters to make not something that needs to be quantified and codified in our state charter.

We join the County Executive in opposing this charter amendment.

Question E: To amend the Anne Arundel County Charter to change the title of Director of Programming to Economic Development Officer in Section 405 of the charter.

Not worth the keystrokes.  Changing the title of a county office. We support, but really who cares?

Question F: To amend the Anne Arundel County Charter to allow the County Council to pass ordinances authorizing the issuance of interim notes to temporarily fund appropriations for capital projects.

Like Question B, this change will allow monies to be spent without needless delays caused by current charter requirements, specifically the 45 day delay in council laws becoming effective and the impact of the council’s summer recess.  It is a common sense change which will make the county’s operations more efficient.

We join the County Executive in supporting this amendment.

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