Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan's administration has a message for the new, hyper-activist County Council: You are asking too much of us.
During the recent annual budget season, Duncan aides who appeared before the council to present funding proposals received a whopping 75 requests for reports, updates and other tasks that council members want completed before the fiscal year ends next June.
Demands include designing and implementing a business plan for the Department of Solid Waste and tracking the purchase and upgrade of every county personal computer. The time needed to complete each of the council's requests ranges from days to months, and Duncan aides say that there's no way they can do it all while kicking off new programs included in the budget.
In a July 12 memo to council President Isiah Leggett (D-At Large), Chief Administrative Officer Bruce Romer writes that "this year's budget process yielded a larger number of requests than normal . . . prompting serious concern over how best to manage the implied workload of competing demands."
"It will not be possible for departments to take on and accomplish all desirable work in the current fiscal year," Romer continues.
Romer set out the following criteria for what jobs will get done: They must not take staff away from providing services, must not delay implementation of Duncan's agenda and should actually help improve government operations.
The November elections ushered in a council with three new members, who, to some degree, seem to have injected the panel with new vigor. At least partly as a result, council members not only proposed new programs themselves this budget season but also ordered the executive branch to do lots of work on their own plans. To them, the requests are the best way to ensure that county taxpayers get their money's worth.
Council spokesman Patrick Lacefield said Romer's list of council work requests is misleading. He said it includes jobs that already have been completed, as well as several projects that Duncan (D) himself requested. Leggett has asked Romer for a revised list.
"Some are incorrect, some are merely status reports, and others are things these departments should be doing already," Lacefield said. "Part of this is just basic legislative oversight. Our job is to make sure things get done right the first time."
State environmentalists trying to stop the dumping of dredged material in the Chesapeake Bay still are marveling over the boost they got last week from two members of Congress not particularly known as friends of the Earth: House Majority Leader Richard K. Armey and House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, both Republicans from Texas.
In response to pleas from Eastern Shore Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest (R), Armey and DeLay agreed to accept language in a committee report virtually banning Maryland from disposing of 18 million cubic yards of sandy soil in waters north of the Bay Bridge. The material is being dredged from Baltimore Harbor to keep shipping channels clear.
DeLay once called the Environmental Protection Agency "the Gestapo of government, " and Armey has not been much more subtle. But Gilchrest said that they fully supported his request.
"To say it's ironic wouldn't be quite right," said Michael Shultz, vice president for public affairs of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, which opposes the dredging. "It's more an illustration of just how complex Washington can get. But it's always nice to get help no matter where it comes from."
Trolling for Defections?
Sure, times are heady for Democrats these days, what with the recent GOP defection of Rep. Michael P. Forbes, who represents eastern Long Island in Congress. But Maryland state Sen. Martin G. Madden (R-Howard), the new minority leader, was still surprised this week to get a chunky envelope in the mail from the opposition party, specifically the national Democratic Leadership Council. Its purpose was to lay out "why you should become a member."
State Sen. Donald F. Munson (R-Washington) thinks he got one of those envelopes, too, but dumped it. "I get so much junk mail," he said.
DLC spokesman Matthew Frankel said the main purpose of the mailing was to advertise the organization's publication Blueprint, which promotes policy discussion for all comers. "It's not about necessarily being a Democrat or a Republican," Frankel said. (No explaining, then, underlined sentences like this one: "Republicans just can't compete with New Democrat ideas.")
Any chance the mailing could work--that the Maryland GOP could have its own high-profile defection? "No," Madden said. "Hopefully, this movement ended with the congressman Forbes announcement."
Meanwhile, in other Madden news, the senator has been making a habit of sending back mysterious checks from a certain Theodor Brendle-Neher, whose return address is a post office box in Duncanville, Tex. In quick succession, Brendle-Neher has sent three NationsBank draft checks, made out to Friends of Marty Madden, totaling $11,500.
Madden mailed each of them back, with a letter saying he doesn't take money from unknown, out-of-state donors. He asked his sister in Dallas to track down Brendle-Neher, but he is not listed.
Brendle-Neher apparently really wants Madden to have the money, because he sent the checks back again, with a letter saying it was a mistake for Madden to return them.
More later on this same network.
Curry to Lead Group
Prince George's County Executive Wayne K. Curry (D) was appointed chairman of the Large Urban County Caucus last week during a conference of the National Association of Counties in St. Louis.
The caucus was organized in the early 1990s as an arm of the National Association of Counties to address issues that affect urban counties throughout the United States. It is made up of more than 100 counties that together have more than 52 million people.
Its main mission is to work with the Clinton administration and Congress to identify and develop national solutions to problems shared by large urban counties.
Curry, who has held other leadership positions in the National Association of Counties, succeeds Peter McLaughlin, a Hennepin County commissioner in Minnesota.