Thursday, February 21, 2013

Enough is Enough

The latest story in the trials and tribulations of Anne Arundel County came last night. We all knew that the County Council was going to select a new County Executive. And we all knew that it was going to come down to a choice between Delegate Steve Schuh and Acting County Executive John Hammond.

Except it didn't. At 10 am Friday morning, Laura Neuman will be sworn in as Anne Arundel County Executive.

Until yesterday, I had absolutely no idea who Laura Neuman was. With her background, she has an intriguing, unique, and inspiring story. She seems to have done fantastic work in her current job running  Howard County Economic Development Authority. But the thing is that the County Council was required to select a Republican County Executive. And other than meeting the legal qualifications for serving as County Executive I know nothing, as a long-time Republican activist living in Anne Arundel County, about the political leanings or loyalty of my highest ranking Republican official.

What I do know is that she has made one political donation in her life. A $1000 donation. In December. To Howard County Executive Ken Ulman. A Democrat. Who is running for Governor. So you'll excuse me if I have a tremendous sense of trepidation and uneasiness with the politics of my new, ostensibly Republican, County Executive.

No matter who was going to get picked as County Executive, however, was going to change one fundamental fact about the selection process; the vacancy selection process is broken. The Anne Arundel County Charter requires that the County Council serve as the only body to fill a vacancy for County Executive or among the members of the County Council. And as we have seen twice in the last year, the County Council often breaks down and has trouble selecting the best candidate instead of the most politically expedient one. In the case with the Council 1 vacancy, it took 106 ballots to break the tie between Peter Smith and Mike Wagner.

The County Executive vacancy became a gigantic mess of an affair. Both Councilmen Grasso and Walker intended to apply, but chose not to based on an ethics opinion. But Grasso intends to run for County Executive in 2014 anyway. Councilman Fink was business partners with Delegate Schuh until late this afternoon, when Schuch stepped down from the business in order to remove a potential conflict of interest. And that left the three Democrats who were in the position to select a candidate who was either the weakest candidate to run for re-election, or a candidate who was a registered Republican who was more sympathetic to their world. view. At this point, Laura Neuman could fit either of those criteria.

Is this any way to run a government?

The latest debacle in Anne Arundel County proves to me that enough is enough. It's time that appropriate action be taken to fill vacancies, at the very least on the Anne Arundel County Council, by Special Election. We can no longer afford for County Government to get distracted and divided by the parochialism and opportunities for career advancement that inevitably take precedence when vacancies like these pop up. We must figure out a way to have an orderly succession to an interim County Executive and then towards a short election process (perhaps conducted solely by mail-in ballot) to allow the people the right to pick their County Executive.

No matter how the process unfolds from here, Anne Arundel County cannot afford to have another spectacle like this one...

1 comment:

Caroline Reed said...

Who is Laura Neuman ... the truth is no one knows and what we do know is troubling.

1. She is not registered to vote under her name Laura Neuman (her real name is Laura Volkman).
2. She is recently separated - but not divorced. Does she really live in Anne Arundel County?
3. Does she meet the minimum standards to even be County Executive?
4. She and her children were asked to leave Key School. Why? Her children now attend Gilman School (Baltimore City)
5. She was the director of the Chesapeake Incubator which is under the Anne Arundel Economic Development Corporation during the Janet Owens administration (Democrat). Why did she leave this off of her application? You would think she would want to discuss her Anne Arundel connections?
6. With no experience she becomes the CEO (for no pay) of a tech start up company in Anne Arundel County (Matrics Inc.). Company is bought a very short time later for hundreds of millions of dollars. Congratulations - but can you explain this?
7. I am incredibly sensitive to her story about being raped. After being a cold case for many many years, she solves the case "for the police" in three days. This leaves a lot of unanswered questions. She brought this up - so at least she can do is fill in the blanks as to how she solved the case.
8. She is a high school dropout and a college dropout ... but she has an M.B.A. from Loyola ... because she said "she talked them into it." Again, so many unanswered questions here.
9. If she is separated raising children at super expensive Gilman, why would she give up a job making $250,000 a year to take a job making $130,000 in a County that she has very little roots? Questions questions questions.
10. How do we feel about having the Howard County Executive (Ken Ulman) making calls to our elected Council Members advocating for his choice?
11. Is Laura Neuman's loyalty to Ken Ulman, to the 4 council members or to the people of Anne Arundel County?

I'm sure she was not born in Kenya (my attempt at humor), but how do we know. Jerry Walker and the three Democrats on the County Council did absolutely no due diligence. She could be anybody. How do we know.

Since we did not get to vote for her, I hope others will add to or correct what we do know about her.