Politics can seem strange

Saturday, May 6, county councilman Calvin Ball held a political fundraiser in preparation for the 2018 campaigns. Since he, along with three other Howard County council members, are term limited and can’t run for re-election, he’s considering running for county executive against incumbent Allan Kittleman.

Interestingly, it may be the last old-style campaign for county offices, since, if the current council approves CB30 on June 5 as expected, the new small donor matching fund program will be used for the first time in 2022. For next year, though, big money will still rule the roost and if Ball wants to go against Kittleman, he’ll need lots of dough. the executive has already raised over $1 million, which was all he needed to win in 2014.

Ball, a Democrat who represents District 2, covering east Columbia, Jessup and a bit of Elkridge, gave no hint of his intentions in welcoming remarks to about 200 supporters behind the big white farmhouse at Shipley’s Grant, the big townhouse development between Rt. 108 and Route 100 at the northern end of Snowden River Parkway. The house, a few well kept outbuildings and a few acres of waving green grasses are all that remains of the old farm. The undeveloped farmette will remain rural, one speaker said, thanks partly to Ball, who helped convince the owners to give up their plan to put up an office building there and instead sell the development rights attached to the land under county zoning to preserve it.

Among the core Democrats in the crowd was Louis Mangione, whose family owns and operates Turf Valley Resort and is developing hundreds of acres there into new housing, and zoning lawyer William Erskine.

Meanwhile, as other political hopefuls prepare for campaigns to replace the other term limited council members – Democrats Jen Terrasa in District 3 and Mary Kay Sigaty in District 4, and Republican Greg Fox in District 5, the county awaits a vote on the campaign finance system.

Council chairman Jon Weinstein tabled CB 30 at the May 1 meeting, out of an abundance of caution, he said, to give members a month to consider six amendments proposed by Fox, who opposes the bill. The four Democrats are expected to approve it, giving the measure a veto-proof majority. Kittleman has said he opposes the plan, which would use taxpayer money to help match small donations to candidates who choose to participate, reducing the influence of big money special interests.

What a contrast that decision represents compared to the Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives, who, with one day’s notice, passed legislation to completely revamp America’s health insurance system last week. They held no committee hearings, took no testimony, and most never even read the 200 page bill before voting, all in order to give President Trump the political victory he so desperately wanted.

It is hard to imagine that federal elected officials who presumably represent the best interests of everyone, would act so  precipitously, while our local Howard County officials are taking two full months to enact campaign finance reform even after the county’s voters approved the concept with a 6,000 vote margin last November.

Larry Carson

 

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