It has been like watching a preliminary tennis match between two opponents you don’t know, but their match is right before the one you want to see so you’re stuck watching. That’s how I describe the back and forth between County Executive Rushern Baker and the County Council over our budget. GO SIT DOWN SOMEWHERE!! First, Baker et al. go on a publicity tour touting his proposal to increase our taxes by almost 16%. Our council rejected Baker’s proposed budget, reducing the amount of the tax increase from 15.6% to 4%. Then Baker threw a fit and threatened to take the Council to court because the Council is only allowed to adjust his budget by 1%. Baker vetoes portions of budget passed by the Council AND says that the Council acted illegally by reducing his proposed tax increase and including a 1.5% tax increase to fund the Parks and Planning Board. Residents are in an uproar over all of it. Neither the County Council or the County Executive have the right to increase property taxes due a provision in the County Charter titled TRIM (Tax Reform Initiative for Marylanders – Section 812 of the Charter). TRIM was enacted in 1978, but now we have officials trying to find a way around the law, but I digress. Ball went back to the Council’s side of the court and they OVERRODE Baker’s veto. Might I add right here that all of this is a bad look for Baker. As all this mess was reaching a feverish pitch, Baker issued a statement conceding, “Although I have chosen to put the interests of our 900,000 residents ahead of a lengthy and divisive legal process, the controversy surrounding Section 809 remains… I have determined that pursuing legal action regarding this matter would lead to litigation that would be detrimental to the long-term interests of Prince George’s County government, our employees and the citizens we serve.”
In the meantime, residents have put up change.org petition: Follow the Law: No New Taxes Without Voter Approval and a watchdog site: pgtaxwatch.org. Both sites are worth checking out. Stay informed. There is no reason that Prince George’s County pays some of the highest property taxes in the area and has one of the worst systems. It is time to cut the fat and innovate. If New Dorp High School in Long Island can have a turn around in their school based on intensive writing instruction, then so can Prince George’s. Throwing money at a burning house will not put out the fire. I fear that adding more money before we are forced to cut the fat, that fat being lucrative contracts for friends and salaried employees who don’t work, we will never have a well managed county government.
There is a long line of people who want a particular government job: Congressional Representative for MD-4. OH-EM-GEE!! There are so many people running that I have to check the list to make sure my name isn’t on there: Glenn Ivey, Ingrid Turner, Del. Dereck Davis, Warren Christopher, Terence Strait, George McDermott (R), Anthony Brown, Delegate Joseline Pena-Melnyk, Alvin Thornton, Kenneth Johnson. I only see Christopher, Strait, Turner, and McDermott on the candidates list who have officially filed. I’ll be interviewing some of them for the PGC Blog Live! blog talk radio show so stay tuned and tweet me your questions. Glenn Ivey has been endorsed by 7,500 member, electrical engineers labor union IBEW Local 26, which is based in Lanham, MD.
Home prices are still on the rebound in Prince George’s County so there’s even more reason to be vigilant about keeping the property taxes down. Let me fill in the good news here before I get myself mad all over again. Washington Business Journal reported, “New data from Long & Foster Real Estate Inc. shows the median price of a house or a condo that sold in Prince George’s County in May was up 12 percent from May 2014, to $243,000. Sales were up 3 percent and the number of residential properties on the market is down 29 percent from a year ago. And sellers in Prince George’s County are largely getting what they want, with the average list to sale price in May of 99.1 percent.”