By Peter Franchot
On Monday, January 29, I was sworn in by Governor Larry Hogan for a fourth term as Maryland’s 33rd comptroller. Below is a portion of the remarks, lightly edited for brevity, that I delivered to more than 200 family members, friends, employees and constituents at the ceremony, held at the University of Baltimore.
After all these years, I remain profoundly honored by the chance to occupy the very office once held by Millard Tawes, Louis Goldstein and William Donald Schaefer. As I enter this, my fourth term, I am more grateful than ever for your confidence in my ability to follow in their storied footsteps and to take the Maryland Comptroller’s Office to an even higher level.
While I am proud of the path we have carved together through the years, I am so much more exhilarated by what lies ahead. Because, as we come together today, the Maryland situation is one defined by great fiscal, economic and political contradictions.
Ours is, by many indicators, the most prosperous state in the Union, yet our fortunes remain conjoined with a federal government that is mired in dysfunction, held hostage by a low-rent con man whose governing style is based on chaos and political stunts.
Ours is arguably the best-educated state in the nation, one whose colleges, universities, medical schools and research laboratories are consistently resetting the limits of human understanding.
Yet far too many of our public school students earn a diploma without the ability to balance a checkbook, establish a personal budget or appreciate the difference between good credit and bad - in other words, those basic skills they will need for a lifetime of success and security.
Ours is a state where too many of our elected officials prefer loyalty to the special interests over service to the people. They waste so much time and energy to vanquish ideas that have proven to be so popular and so beneficial to the public. And they would rather lecture the people on what they need instead of listening to what they want.
How else could one possibly explain the behavior of those who stand in pointless opposition to long summers and cold Maryland beer?
Ours is a state that purportedly treasures its small businesses, yet consistently drains their entrepreneurial spirit with onerous occupational licensing procedures, and with vague and cumbersome regulations.
Maryland’s craft brew industry is Exhibit A. Our current laws are skewed against them, in favor of the corporate alcohol monopolies that hire the best lobbyists. Instead, I believe Maryland’s laws and policies should be encouraging their innovative spirit.
Finally, ours is a state founded by reformers, and Maryland’s history is glorified by those who had the courage to disrupt the status quo.
To this day, however, the politics of our state remain in the grip of the Annapolis Machine – the remnants of a bygone age when a handful of bosses retired to the privacy of a smoke-filled room and handed their priorities down to the rest of us, in secrecy.
Some might see these contradictions as threats to our hard-earned reputation as a leader among states.
I don’t. I see a golden opportunity to adapt to the future — to realize the true potential of a culture that is powered by ideas, transparency and citizen engagement, and not by the muscle of machine politics.
Through the detritus of the past, I see a lighted path forward.
What does that mean?
The lighted path forward is embodied by a new approach to public policy – one that measures one’s commitment to an issue not by the amount of taxpayer money that we are willing to spend but by the results that we demand in return.
It takes the form of a state government that is less preoccupied with grandiose promises than it is with answering the phone, greeting our taxpaying customers with respect, and pulling out all the stops to solve the problem.
It is a political culture where our leaders place genuine trust in the wisdom and common sense of those who have hired us and who pay our salaries.
It is an economic approach that devotes less time and energy to competing for global corporations that demand billions of dollars of taxpayer money and devotes more time and energy to tearing down barriers for those small, local businesses that ask for nothing more than an honest chance to succeed in the marketplace.
It is the wholesale rejection of an educational policy that wastes irretrievable classroom time and hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars on our society’s obsession with standardized tests.
It is the embrace of a radical new approach – one that provides sensible standards of progress while giving good teachers the freedom to teach and inspiring students to learn.
It means an end to the corrupt practice by which self-interested elected officials choose their voters and, through independent redistricting, a return to the democratic ideal of allowing neighborhoods and communities of shared interest to choose their leaders.
It even means putting an end to the disenfranchisement of those non-affiliated or independent voters who are gaining traction at a rate faster than that of either of our two major political parties.
By allowing independent voters to vote in democratic primaries, I believe we would expand our market share by opening doors to voters we have, heretofore, excluded from the most consequential elections in our state.
We will also produce candidates who are capable of speaking to the aspirations of a broader spectrum of Marylanders and who, therefore, are better equipped to win in both June and November.
For all of the years I’ve had the privilege of serving as your comptroller, I am more energized than ever by the inevitability of progress and the opportunity to join each of you as we carve this lighted path forward.
These next four years promise to be the most rewarding of my career.