It is hard to believe that the Anne Arundel County Council that was elected in November of 2018 is quickly approaching the one-year anniversary of our December swearing-in. This seven-member body consists of six new members. The freshman majority has not translated to a slow-paced roster of transformative legislation introduced by councilmembers (by county charter, legislation introduced by the county executive must be introduced by the chairman of the council). Quite the contrary.
In 10 short months, we have seen council members introduce legislation regarding medical marijuana zoning, illegal immigrant screening, budget, taxes, workforce housing and fair housing. The discussions have been extensive and emotional. The decisions have been complex and not without explanation. The votes have fallen along party lines.
To some, this may seem like a pre-written script for how this council will proceed for the remaining three years. Perhaps, but only time will tell. I review every bill like a fresh start between myself, the administration and my colleagues. I stand by my principles and work through the details to find common goals in an effort to get it right. In my opinion, this is good government and something I strive for.
Bill 64-19 passed on September 3 by a vote of 6-1. Bill 64-19 requires that the personnel officer submit a quarterly report to the county executive, listing all grievances and reports by county employees. I introduced this bill to create transparency between county departments and the office of the county executive, and to improve overall employee satisfaction. Our county employees are the backbone of our government operations and should not be forgotten. This is good government.
On September 17, Bill 59-19 passed unanimously with bipartisan support. I introduced this bill in June to close the communication gap between developers and communities when residential subdivisions are approved. Developers will now be required to send a letter of approval, by first-class mail, when they receive approval of a project from the county’s planning and zoning office. This is good government.
Also passed during our September 17 meeting were two charter amendments that I co-sponsored. Charter amendments require a super majority of five votes and then go to the voters on the election ballot. Resolution 36-19 increases the investigative powers of our county auditor, whom is appointed by the county council. This resolution is pending some small detail amendments and will receive a final vote on October 21. It is sponsored by all seven council members and expected to pass.
Resolution 37-19 requires a confirmation by the council for the county executive’s appointment of county attorney, chief of police and fire chief. This charter amendment would also require a super majority vote by the council to remove someone in the position of county attorney. This resolution is an important step in balancing the powers between the executive and legislative branch. Each position serves at the pleasure of the county executive, but often gives opinions on legislation to the county council. It is critical that powers are balanced to give fair representation to both branches. This is good government.
Be on the lookout for these charter amendments on your 2020 ballot.
As we move toward the new year, the council continues reviewing important and complex legislation — most recently, the forest conservation bill, Bill 68-19. This is one bill in the larger puzzle of smart growth, revitalization, conservation and reforestation. Our first meeting is October 7. I encourage you to attend the meeting or visit our council website to view video of our public meeting (www.aacounty.org/departments/county-council). Click on “County Council Videos” on the left-hand side.
Important decisions are being made about the county you call home, and I hope you are compelled to be a part of these discussions. You can view all pending legislation on our county website, and learn more by attending our meetings on the first and third Mondays of every month at the Arundel Center on 44 Calvert Street in Annapolis. If you wish to watch the meetings from home, tune in to your local cable channels Comcast - County Channel 98, Broadstripe - Channel 98, Verizon - Channel 38.