Friday, October 03, 2008

Ike, We Need You at Home

Ike Leggett is a good man and I have written favorably about him in the past. But someone is seriously leading him astray in advising him that now is a good time for a two-week trade trip to Asia. Ike, don’t listen to them – we need you here!

Put aside the $38,346 cost of the trip, which only accounts for 0.0009% of the county's operating budget. A much more important fact is that many important issues are brewing at the moment. Here is what the County Executive will be missing over the next two weeks:

1. The County Executive’s signature project, the Live Nation deal in Silver Spring, is nearing a critical point. The County Council is considering whether to relax the Planning Board’s approval authority over nearby properties owned by the Lee family, and according to the Post, is a bit conflicted. Planning Board Chairman Royce Hanson is doing everything in his power to kill this project. Now is the time for the County Executive to bring the Council Members over to Gordon Biersch, put a few Marzens in them, and explain why he believes Hanson is wrong. But now that can’t happen.

2. County budget issues are hot at the moment, especially around personnel costs. Council Members and other interested parties are talking about them. The County Executive should be a player, but that is difficult to accomplish from China.

3. The County Executive took a difficult step in trying to avoid Montgomery-targeted state budget cuts by supporting slots. But the Governor and Big Daddy will not be satisfied with a mere statement – they would like him to be a consistently vocal supporter of slots in the referendum’s homestretch. That will not happen over the next two weeks.

4. A state handoff of teacher pensions to the counties is a distinct possibility. County Executives Jim Smith, Ken Ulman, Jack Johnson and Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon should be formulating a joint strategy with Mr. Leggett to combat this common threat. But the County Executive representing the largest jurisdiction in the state will be on the other side of the world for awhile.

And on top of all that, County Council President Mike Knapp offers this:

Council President Michael Knapp (D-Upcounty) said that given the timing of Leggett's trip, “there should be some raised eyebrows.”

“I would be rethinking going given where we are right now,” Knapp said of the budget constraints. “I think there's an awful lot we can do with economic development right here with the assets we have in our back yard as opposed to traveling around the world.”
This brings to mind Thaksin Shinawatra. Do you remember him? He was the Prime Minister of Thailand who was overthrown by a military coup while visiting New York. Now I don’t think the Gentle Giant of Germantown would go that far, but bad things happen when important events are underway and the boss is out of town.

And so the County Executive should order the pilot to stop the jet, run out onto the tarmac and declare, “Everyone back to their desks – I’m breaking heads and taking charge!” If anyone can get the video clip, I’ll run it on the blog.