The “people” of Prince George's County have said they don’t want new taxes. But they have also said that they want safe streets, good schools, good transportation, recreation, social services, health care, fire and emergency services, code enforcement, environmental protection, better jobs, cheaper colleges, more workforce development, higher quality shopping, and a multitude of other things – in short a ”livable” community.He makes a good point, BUT
The people of Prince George's County already have about the heaviest tax burden in the state, but they don't have the safe streets and good schools, etc., enjoyed by Maryland residents who pay less in taxes. Why not? Does Del. Niemann really expect us to believe that new and even higher taxes will bring us safer streets and better schools when previous tax increases and new revenue sources like the lottery have failed to produce better results?
Del. Niemann lists several things that he says people want. BUT, how about the many things on which our politicians spend money that few if any people (except perhaps some special interests) have actively said they want. Like:
- "Deputies" with unknown or non-existent duties throughout the county government,
- The county executive's imperial entourage,
- Luxury high school gyms when funds are not available for roof repairs,
- Millions for luxury senate offices when funds are not available for essential school construction and maintenance,
- Subsidies for mega-millionaire sports moguls,
- Judgments and legal fees due to bureaucratic and police misconduct, brutality, dog-killing, etc.,
- Pork bills--taxpayer subsidies for non-government activities.
And looking at both the issues of taxes and the services listed by Del. Niemann, I don't recall him, or anyone else, making much of an effort to:
- Tell us what each new or improved service is going to cost and where the money will come from,
- Ask us how much were are willing to pay for these services
- Tell us what specific results we can expect for specific expenditures.
- Want a blank check,
- To spend on whatever they (or the special interests they court) want,
- With as little public scutiny as possible,
- Based on vague generalities about popular services,
- Without specific promises to provide any results commensurate with expenditures, and
- Without having to publicize or justify expenditures on ineffective or unwanted programs, services, and subsidies.
People work very hard and diligently at trying to figure out what makes the most sense for the most people. (And that always includes the consideration of how everything is going to be paid for.)Cost information is often available at some time in the state legislative process, but not always on a timely basis, and is not at all easy to track. Except for pork bills, the eventual cost of legislation is never included in the bill synopses and indexes on the MLIS website. Trying to find such information for county council legislation is a very frustrating, nearly hopeless process.
During the 2010 session of the General Assembly, Del. Niemann sponsored or co-sponsored 115 bills. I wonder how easily he can tell us the total cost to the taxpayers of the roughly 3 dozen of those bills that were enacted into law, as well as what the total cost would have been if all 115 had been enacted.
On Fri, Sep 24, 2010 at 8:19 AM, Doyle Niemann
“Power to the People!” It was a good slogan for the ‘60s, and I still think it should be the object of what we do.
But there is a difference between a slogan and a strategy.
Empowering people begins with educating them and involving them and organizing them into effective bodies capable of protecting their own interests. Indeed, it is only when people are effectively organized and capable of concerted action over time that the “people” have real power in our – or any other – political system.
Of course, with power comes responsibility. That means that rhetoric must often be set aside in favor of reasoned discussion and (heaven forbid) compromise as organizations and individuals who all claim to represent the “people” have to work together in the real world.
The problem with the slogan, “power to the people” is that the definition of “people” usually involves a discussion of how the “people” are on your side. And, by definition, anyone in disagreement must be an “enemy of the people.”
The “people” of Prince George's County have said they don’t want new taxes. But they have also said that they want safe streets, good schools, good transportation, recreation, social services, health care, fire and emergency services, code enforcement, environmental protection, better jobs, cheaper colleges, more workforce development, higher quality shopping, and a multitude of other things – in short a ”livable” community.
Yes, the “no taxes” position was a vote, which does carry a mathematical certainty, but so too have been the elections of candidates of all varieties and stripes, each promising all those other things – and much more. (Just check out what was promised in the last election by winners and losers alike.)
The beauty of the American political system is that we have a process of working all this out – far from perfectly, but in a way that has been sustainable so far. That is the legislative process.
As Helmut has pointed out, the system Thomas Jefferson and our other founding fathers created is a “republic.” Representatives are selected to serve in the legislature and charged with the task of coming up with laws, programs and budgets that balance all the competing priorities that citizens in different parts of the state have.
There is a reason for this – then and now.
When it comes to votes and elections, the electorate, frankly, is easily swayed by rhetoric, promises, lies and deceptions. People all-too-often make decisions on the basis of manipulated emotions, prejudices, misinformation and a multitude of other subjective factors. The “art” of politics is in convincing (or manipulating) people into making a simple “yes or no” decision. That’s how a candidate gets elected or a ballot initiative passed.
Little of that works well in the legislative arena (at least in a healthy legislative arena, so Congress is excepted). When it comes to making real decisions on complex issues, with participation from a multitude of actors and interests, it is rarely a “yes or no” proposition.
There is far more reasoned discussion – and diversity of thought and opinion – in the Maryland legislature than many on this listserv appear to understand or credit. People work very hard and diligently at trying to figure out what makes the most sense for the most people. (And that always includes the consideration of how everything is going to be paid for.)
The process of balancing competing priorities is not easy and takes time and patience and a willingness to work together. The results are not always what any of us want, but as often as not, the end product is something that moves things forward.
Now, specifically... When it comes to TRIM, no matter what gets said here, I don’t see the legislature doing anything to overturn the current law in our county. I don’t know what all the ranting is about – except as a way to stir up passions.
Real “power” for people comes when people are organized – and when they are in a position to put leaders in power who have the vision and ability to move things forward. Everything else is rhetoric.
Delegate Doyle Niemann