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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Do-Over Needed in Privatization Effort

George Wenschhof

As I pointed out in my column last Friday, the presentation by Oliver Porter of PPP Associates LLC, the day before at Winchester Hall, was not worth the $25,000 the Frederick County Maryland board of county commissioners spent on it.

Hiring a firm, on a sole source contract basis, with limited experience in the field, who also stands to benefit should the board retain their services on a consultant basis, is simply taxpayer money ill spent.

In my previous column on this issue, I called for the board to commission an independent study on the privatization of services from a nonpartisan "think tank" such as the University of Maryland. I am pleased my suggestion is receiving support from well respected former Frederick County Commissioner and State Delegate Rick Weldon who said in an email to me "We definitely agree". According to information I received, the Editorial tomorrow in the Frederick Gazette Newspaper will also support a new study.

The rush to privatize by the board of county commissioners also puts a spotlight on some omissions in the Maryland Constitution. Privatization of government services was not a consideration when the constitution was written and therefore a referendum is not required as it is for a change to charter government. In addition, Maryland has no recall provisions for local elected officials.

The privatization changes proposed by the board, which could affect as much as 25% of the county work force ( 500 workers), is such a drastic change to the current approach of government providing necessary services, a referendum should also be considered to allow voters to have their say in the matter. A simple majority on the board should not be the only requirement for such a drastic change.

At a minimum, sufficient time should be given for the public to digest the proposed changes and provide input. Therefore, it is important this process be slowed down from the bullet train approach taken by Board President Blaine Young, who has already scheduled four public meetings in July on this issue.

County residents will not benefit from this approach and the potential for a back and forth swing when a new board is elected in less than four years would only cause more costly expenditures and further disrupt the valuable government services provided to the community.

Instead, what is needed is time to have a legitimate study done with public review of the report. If, the study suggests privatization of various county services would be beneficial and result in cost savings, then a phased in plan should be implemented as opposed to a full scale change in the provision of government services.

Taking a year to see how well a service is provided by the private sector only makes sense before one would consider privately contracting for another service.

The actions by Blaine Young and Company, have been reckless, full of ideology and short on wisdom. Two of the commissioners; Blaine Young and Kirby Delauter have repeatedly said they do not intend to run for reelection. Leading, to no accountability to the voters for their actions while in office.

This carefree approach to governing also points out the need for the state of Maryland to institute a recall election process for local elected officials. A provision, absent from the Maryland Constitution. One, of only a handful of states, who do not have a way to replace incompetent politicians who are harmful to their community.

Frederick County does not deserve fly-by-night and thoughtless representation. Instead, Frederick County deserves a balanced board of commissioners who take a reasonable, fair and effective approach in dealing with the issues.

Frederick county voters should demand it.


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