Clayton Mitchell -- Queen Anne’s Co.: Grant our children the education we expect them to have

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By Clayton A. Mitchell, Sr.

As a Blue Dog Democrat I recognize the immediate need to get Queen Anne’s County’s fiscal house in order. But even conservatives like William F. Buckley, Jr. departed from his party’s hard line when he recognized that the social system was out of balance. With a wink and a nod to Mr. Buckley, I offer the following commentary:

On November 2, 2010, the Queen Anne’s County taxpayers said, “We are cutting government to the bone because we are tired of being pushed around”. We were pushed around when the preservationists shut down the Four Seasons development (and kept millions of additional property tax dollars from the County’s coffers) because the prior Commissioners lacked the political will to do what was socially and fiscally responsible in order make it happen.

The prior Commissioners were prepared to let a small vocal minority of protesters organize and prevent a multi-million dollar Federal training center from locating in the County – a project which would have yielded 500 new jobs, transferred in 500 additional taxpayers and which would have brought with it a catalyst to jump start and fuel the local economy. Because of the loss of these and other large economic development opportunities, the County consequently pushed us taxpayers to dig deeper and deeper into our pockets (every time our homes were re-assessed) to fund its penchant for ever more government services.

Now, after the current Commissioners have had two recent rounds of deep budget cuts, how are we taxpayers prepared to further push back? By saying “no” to further funding for the Queen Anne’s County Public Schools. Students who are too young to vote, too young to speak out, and who are too young to fully appreciate the consequences of the scope of proposed budget cuts are now being asked to trade in their quality educations because of the prior County administration’s lack of good judgment.

When I want officials representing Queen Anne’s County to say “no”, I want them to say no to discourteous, belligerent foes of needed economic development. I want them to say “no” to the small minority of vocal wealthy attention-seekers who finance the opposition to every proposed development project on a scale unattainable to the local working-class citizen and (while sitting on the porch on their multi-million dollar estates) pretend that the increasing local economic plight of ordinary citizens does not exist.

I do not want our County Commissioners to feel they have to affirm their conviction to downsize local government by throwing away their powers to distinguish between the intrinsic merits of funding our public school system and the prior administration’s decisions to increase our local government’s spending while simultaneously disapproving tax-base expanding economic development projects because they are allegedly part of the same syndrome.

We taxpayers have become retributive towards funding local government because we have a quite understandable bitterness at the way we have been pushed around. However, we are allowing ourselves to be beguiled, not by our minds, not by a hard analytical analysis, and certainly not on those ideals profess to have every time we meditate on the mantra, “I’ll do anything for my kids”. We ought to be mad not at the students and the teachers who want nothing more than to preserve one of the best public school systems in the State - a system of which we ourselves took advantage. We ought to be mad at the prior County Commissioners for mismanaging the public’s business for the past half-decade.

Do we want to balance our budget on the backs of those who simply want to educate our children and provide them with the necessary tools they need to provide the best education possible? The school budget cuts currently being proposed is the equivalent of cutting the blood bank out of the hospital’s budget. Is it the kind of satisfaction to which we taxpayers feel we are entitled - to proceed on a budget-cutting scorched-earth basis in order to assert a kind of fiscal policy that is in any manner not a part of our Eastern Shore tradition? No.

Let us recognize that we are so financially impoverished because of so many past lamentable decisions that we need to make severe, wide and deep budget cuts; but that we are not willing to punish our children by depriving their educations in the long term by slashing the school system’s budget even in the face of suffering short-term pain. If for the sake of preserving our children’s future we must again reach in our pockets, we do so because we understand that we are part of a common enterprise with certain values on which a price tag cannot be affixed. The current Queen Anne’s County Commissioners must make their decisions, not on the basis of an attempt to curry favor with anyone, but with a recognition that Queen Anne’s County citizens are adult enough to grant our children the quality education we expect them to have.

Clayton A. Mitchell, Sr. is an attorney in Stevensville and regular contributor to Center Maryland..
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