Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Nominations (Full Stop)

I watched the legislative session Monday night and the steady stream of social media afterwards.  At issue for me, and clearly others as well, were the appointments.  A small bubbling of a rift between Council and Administration revealed itself, as covered in this article.

Democrats outside the Council appear to be claiming victory because all three of the worst nominations:

Ivan Betancourt for Human Rights Commission
Susan Garber for Planning Board
Kimberly Hartman for the Local Children’s Board (One more time, I wrote about this one here)

Were tabled or left on the table.  I, on the other hand, think this was a bit of a lost opportunity.  The Council focused on two primary over arching issues.  The first is that some of these nominations are replacing currently serving appointees who have at least another term to serve if they were reappointed.  The second is that they requested the Administration provide additional information on its nominations and were refused.

In response County Executive Kittleman and the lone Republican on the Council, Greg Fox, said that this was playing politics with . . . political appointments.  Kittleman’s direct quote from the article is "It seems that the council is starting to use Washington-style politics here in Howard County," First of all, this is classic “Kittleman style politics.”  Which is to say this a sound bite without depth or context but even I will agree that hey, I don’t want no Washington style politics so I must be against that move.

Secondly, the Councilmembers appear to be struggling to find ways in which to . . . work together.  There are two steps to individuals getting appointed onto County boards and commissions.  The first is nomination by the Executive and the second is confirmation by the Council.  Kittleman mentions that no other Council has required such scrutiny over nominations previously and asks why he is being treated differently.  This is called bipartisanship; if I’m not mistaken it is what you ran on being good at Mr. Executive.  It’s more work for everyone involved but to assume that you are given deference in the process is disingenuous at best.  Besides any deference he may have earned, he lost by nominating a vocal opponent to the Dream Act to the Human Rights Commission[1] and the Executive Director of the local Crisis Pregnancy Center to anything at all but in this case the Local Children’s Board. 

I was thinking about his statement about “Washington style politics” and I was trying to come up with a time when I remember legitimate bipartisanship instead of attempts to out sound bite each other.  Then I remembered this.  President Clinton reached out to Senator Orrin Hatch, ranking member of the Judiciary Committee[2] and asked him for suggestions for his Supreme Court Justice nominee.  Senator Hatch gave him Ruth Bader Ginsburg; she was nominated and confirmed 96-3.  That is what bipartisanship looks like.

Now back to the lost opportunity.  This was a moment that the Council could have made the above point.  We are from different parties trying to run government and so as the Executive, you MUST include us more in the process before nomination if you expect deference during confirmation.  Until you are willing to entertain that notion, the whole process will wait.  It will be on hold for everyone, whether a good or bad nominee.  They still have time to make that point though, and should at least consider holding up ALL nominees until such time as the Executive is willing to make the process truly bipartisan. 

One final unrelated note.  The Council tabled the disposal of two of the properties I talk about in this post but approved the disposal of the Bickley property.  I will be keeping a close eye on who that property gets sold to, as I believe strongly that it is inappropriate for the government to take money from someone for the purposes of living on this dangerous property.

[1] An opponent of the Dream Act.  To the Human Rights Commission.  Let that bounce around in your head a little bit.   Here is a letter to the editor from Mr. Betancourt on the subject.
[2] The Republicans were in the minority of the Senate at the time and the President still reached out.

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