County government has gotten way too boring down at the Arundel Center. While fighting, name-calling and conflict prevail on the national stage, in Annapolis, there is soothing talk of compromise, cooperation and collaboration.
First, County Executive Steve Schuh and the County Council collaborate on Schuh’s Anne Arundel budget to fund everything he wanted and the projects they wanted funded as well. Then at the end of the month, the county chapter of the League of Conservation Voters issued a report card saying the executive and council “demonstrate [a] strong bipartisan conservation record.”
Clearly, this bipartisan cooperation has got to stop.
The council voted unanimously to approve Schuh’s $1.4 billion budget, though council member Michael Peroutka, a strict constitutionalist who doesn’t believe the county has the authority to do much of what it does, was absent due to surgery. He would have likely voted against the budget, as he did last year.
The primary sticking point was the funding to construct replacements for three elementary schools that Schuh had initially delayed in order to pay for his pet project, building a Crofton high school. Instead, money got shifted around and the council was able to approve doing both.
Praise for Auditor
Schuh went so far as to praise the Acting County Council Auditor Jodee Dickinson, who pulls apart the executive’s budget.
“Our administration is committed to the most aggressive school construction effort in our county’s history, and we have embraced the auditor’s recommendations for these three critical school projects,” Schuh wrote in The Capital. “Her meticulous and objective insight into how we can fund these projects is both refreshing and productive as we work to build a better future for our county.”
Also in a Capital commentary, Councilmember Chris Trumbauer, a Democrat representing the Annapolis area, said the budget was “thriving on cooperation.” Council Chairman Derek Fink called it the smoothest budget process he had seen during his six years on the council.
Schuh’s budget, as proposed and passed, includes a small .8 cent property tax cut (required by the county’s tax cap) and eliminating $75 million in water and sewer connection fees that developers and homebuilders pay.
With the budget compromise, the improvements to the Beverly Triton Beach Park will move forward as well. They’re another part of Schuh’s campaign promise to increase public access to the Chesapeake Bay waterfront. That, and the $253 million set aside over six years to clean up 300 waterways, were among the reasons the conservation voters gave Anne Arundel high marks.
The League of Conservation Voters gave Schuh a B-. In the legislature for eight years before being elected executive, Schuh had one of the highest ratings of any Republican lawmaker, with a lifetime score of 71% from the League.
“Protecting the environment should not be a partisan issue, as proven by County Executive Schuh, who has shown substantial leadership for increasing public water access in Anne Arundel County and whose budgets have largely supported environmental initiatives,” said Bob Gallagher, Anne Arundel Chapter co-chair of the league, announcing the score. “This includes adding funding to reduce polluted stormwater runoff — despite the fact that he originally voted against the program.”
League Co-Chair Kincey Potter said Schuh’s “knowledge of what Anne Arundel must do to meet state pollution reduction requirements is impressive. … We look forward to seeing County Executive Schuh next tackling failing septic systems, a serious problem in our county.”
Despite the kind remarks, the League gave Schuh a D+ on stormwater pollution, but A’s and B’s on water access, development, land use and open space.
The three Democrats on the seven-person council all got A’s, as did Republican John Grasso, who has also taken personal action on environmental issues. The other three Republicans got Ds: Fink got a D-, as did Michael Peroutka, and Jerry Walker got a D+.
The council scores were based on votes on local bills and amendments.
Schuh on Trump
Schuh will be heading to the Republican National Convention, in Cleveland, as an at-large delegate elected by party leaders, in May. Like all the Maryland delegates, he is obligated to vote for Trump on the first two ballots.
Schuh says he agrees with Trump on some things, but not on others, particularly Trump’s statements about the judge handling a lawsuit against him. Trump said the judge was biased because his parents are Mexican. Schuh called the comments “totally inappropriate” and “racist.” But Schuh agrees with some of Trump’s views on improving business climate, strengthening foreign policy and national security, and controlling immigration.
The Trump campaign quietly opened its statewide headquarters for Maryland on Benfield Road, in Severna Park, one of the most heavily Republican areas in central Maryland. The same offices were used by Schuh’s campaign for executive, then John Kasich’s presidential campaign in Maryland.