The Howard County School Board agreed to a $ 1.65 million settlement to buyout Superintendent Foose’s contract. Had the legislation proposed by Howard County Delegation Bill 11-18 Howard County Board of Education – Superintendent of Schools – Term Length, Ho. Co. 11–18 been in effect, the cost of the buyout could have been orders of magnitude larger.
The bill proposes to remove the 4-year limit to superintendent’s contracts just for Howard County. It states “IN HOWARD COUNTY, THE COUNTY BOARD SHALL DETERMINE THE LENGTH OF THE TERM OF THE COUNTY SUPERINTENDENT.” There are no limitations to the School Board’s power. Had this legislation been in effect when Foose’s contract was renewed she could have been given say a 20-year contract. What would the buyout had been then–$7, $8, $9 million.
Once again your legislators have not clearly thought through the consequences of proposed legislation. There must be some limits on the length of the contract; else another arrogant and out of touch school board could give a extremely long-term contract to a superintendent which will leave the former superintendent with a cozy retirement and the taxpayers of Howard County holding the bag.
In addition, because the term of the Howard County superintendent need not begin on July 1, it is unclear how to apply the other dates referenced in the law.
Tell your delegation representative to amend HoCo 11-18.
Three and a half weeks ago, I saw on the State Board of Elections website that there was a second candidate for the non-partisan Howard County Board of Education: Saif Rehman. Saif Rehman was not a name I recognized, so I went to the campaign website listed on the Board of Elections website: Vote4Rehman.com. I immediately noticed that the website was incomplete. Other than the blue and yellow “Elect Rehman” campaign sign logo there was little on the website about Saif Rehman or his campaign. It was hard to even find Rehman’s first name.
There were many template spots — “Candidate About Information Goes Here,” “INSERT SLOGAN HERE,” “IMAGE FOR ARTICLE GOES HERE First 2-3 sentences go here,” and “INSERT AUTHORITY LINE HERE.”
While Scott’s E Blog said that having the authority line on T-Shirts is always a good thing, having an authority line space that just says “Insert Authority Line Here” is a really bad thing. It also violates Maryland law.
I also noticed how partisan the website appeared with photos of Governor Hogan,
a GOP Maryland Republican Party logo, and a Republican video.
The register to vote link was also highly partisan taking the user not to the Howard County Board of Elections but to http://www.register.gop/register, a project of the Republican Governor’s Association and the Republican National Committee among other partisan organizations. The About page says in part that “The site is built on the .gop domain and serves as an example for the type of online organizing that takes place on the preferred domain for all Republicans on the web.”
This all seems rather curious for the non-partisan Howard County School Board race.
I also noticed the photos on the website; one looked a lot like Annapolis. This also seemed a strange choice for someone running for school board in Howard County.
After Scott Ewart posted the announcement of Saif Rehman’s candidacy, I began to realize that the photos of the candidate on the website was not Saif Rehman.
This was not the person on Saif Rehman’s Facebook page either. A Google image search showed what was really happening. Not only was the website an incomplete template which Rehman says on his Facebook to: “Stay tuned for the official launch of the Campaign website, social media sites and kickoff event” but Rehman stole the website from another candidate: Mike Pantelides, Republican Mayor of Annapolis. Now things made sense–the photos of Governor Hogan, the views of Annapolis, and the GOP links.
So while it is one thing to use the same template campaign website builder as Pantelides, it quite another to lift a version of it and post it live for several weeks on the internet as your own website.
Is this site meant to be live? Does Rehman know? Why have none of friends and supporters told him? Most importantly, where are the donations from this incomplete website going? The donation page says that it “This campaign has raised 23% of its goal” with a background of a photo of an historic party convention. Really, it has said 23% for several weeks. Are campaign contributions going to the Rehman campaign and being accounted for properly?
Being a member of the School Board is a difficult job. There is a tremendous amount of information and complicated decisions to be made. The unawareness of an incomplete website raises questions about the ability to deal with the complex details in a budget approaching $1 billion or polygons and redistricting. Lifting someone else’s work sets a bad example for the students in regard to plagiarism. Not following the law in regard to the authority line sets a poor example for the students and raises questions about the ability to follow the law. Following the law by the Board and former superintendent has been a core of much of the conflict, lawsuits, and debate in the County regarding the school system the past several years.
On September 8, I reached out to Rehman on Facebook: ” I am drafting a blog about your website. When are you planning the official launch?” He replied, “give me till end of next week for official website and social media sites launch.” I did; he did not. After more than another week, there is still nothing substantive on his website, Facebook or Twitter. There are no posts about the issues with the school district particularly the hot topics of APFO, redistricting, and development. There is nothing about Rehman’s background. His logo says he has a PhD, but for all I know that could be in almost anything. His Facebook has photos of what appears to be a wife and children, but as seen above, photos on a campaign website do not have to have any relationship to the candidate. Rehman has not made a substantive post on Facebook since his campaign announcement on August 24–three and a half weeks ago. His friends wished him a happy birthday. Hey, “happy birthday,” but that says nothing about being a member of the school board.
There was no deadline for Saif Rehman to file for his candidacy last month. If the website and other social media were not ready Rehman could have waited until they were. Or the unfinished website could have had a message of “Under Construction” or “Coming Soon.” Or have no website at all. It has been noted that the Team 13 Delegation members do not have active campaign websites. These are better options than a totally poorly executed website that violates state law. You only have on chance to make a first impression, and I for one am not impressed. If a student turns in work that was not finished, they should expect a bad grade. The Vote4Rehman website premiere gets an F.
With all of the attention paid to terminating Superintendent Foose’s contract and Delegates Atterbeary and Ebersole’s bill to permit Howard County to directly terminate a superintendent, it is ironic that the contract for Interim Superintendent Dr. Michael J. Martirano miscites the state statute regarding termination for cause.
As seen in Superintendent Martirano’s contract, the termination for cause refers to Section 4-201(d). However, Section 4-201(d) regards a vacancy and a contract for an interim superintendents and not termination for cause which is Section 4-201(e).
Contracts in other counties correctly reference Section 4-201(e) regarding termination of the superintendent:
While the Emergency Natural Wood Waste Recycling Facility (NWWRF) provision of CB60 has the laudable intended purpose of exempting farmers from regulation in the event of a catastrophe, it actually will do the opposite. Rather than achieve real results for the people of Howard County by just granting a short-term exemption from County regulation, the Kittleman Administration instead responded to the politics of mulching with a proposal for a complicated and time-consuming regulatory approval process. While people in other zoning districts will actually be cutting and removing trees, the farmers in RC and RR districts will be completing paperwork to seek approval from multiple regulatory bodies.
At the outset, it must be noted that the internally inconsistent language of CB60 makes it technically impossible to implement the emergency provision. The Task Force Report to Study Mulching, Composting, and Wood Processing in footnote 2 recognized that “A natural wood waste recycling facility is exempt from State regulation if it is operated by a nonprofit or governmental organization or is a single individual or business that provides recycling services for its own employees or for its own recyclable materials generated on its own premise,” yet the drafters of CB60 failed to recognize these State exemptions.
CB60 defines a NWWRF to be “a facility where recycling services for natural wood waste is provided and which operates under a permit from the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) under COMAR.” Furthermore, the emergency provision will allow “a property owner to dispose of excess natural wood waste from their property.” Yet, as acknowledged in footnote 2, an MDE permit is not required for wood waste generated on its own premises. Thus, because an MDE permit is not required and cannot be obtained in this situation, the emergency NWWRF provision will be impossible to implement because of the very definition for ”NWWRF” found in CB60.
Nevertheless, assuming that a state NWWRF permit could be obtained under CB60, the Kittleman Administration, the Department of Planning and Zoning (DPZ) and bill sponsors Councilpersons Sigaty and Fox mistakenly believe that the emergency NWWRF provision is necessary to allow a farmer in RC and RR zoning districts to rent a grinder to remove the trees and give away the excess wood chips. A representative of MDE has stated that grinding trees is not considered “mulching.” Chipping is just “volume reduction.”
If the emergency provision were to apply, a farmer after “a natural catastrophe such as a major storm, weather condition, or disease” (but interestingly not including fire or insects) rather than hiring a tree service or renting equipment to remove the trees in this “emergency” instead will need to set out to comply with CB60. The first step in this process is to submit a description of the circumstances for the use permit and “photographs documenting the scope of the damage.” Second is the MDE NWWRF permit application. The Notice of Intent for a general permit requires proof of workers’ compensation coverage and an emergency preparedness plan. Alternatively, the individual permit includes more than 2 dozen elements including site plans, drawings, a description of site security and access control, and an erosion and sediment control plan that has been approved by the local soil conservation district. Third, is a NWWRF operations plans. Fourth, is an “emergency preparedness plan, as required by MDE, for review by the fire marshal. Fifth, is “an approved Howard Soil Conservation District (HSCD) supplementary project evaluation that addresses key natural resource issues.” To compile the required documents might require the farmer to hire engineers, surveyors, consultants, and attorneys.
CB60 is unclear on whether an approved MDE permit is required, but if so it takes MDE 30 days to process a general permit and 9 months for an individual permit. In addition, the HCSD believes that it will take 7 to 10 days to approve the project evaluation. In a misguided attempt to assist farmers in the event of a catastrophe, CB60 instead ironically creates a time-consuming approval process and expensive regulatory burden. Paradoxically, while farmers in RC and RR zoning districts seek to complete paperwork to respond to the tree “emergency,” property owners in all other zoning districts of the County, including in particular, the 3600 acres of New Town zoning open space managed by the Columbia Association, will have hired a tree service or removed the trees themselves without any specific regulation by Howard County.
The emergency NWWRF provision of CB60 is either legally impossible to implement or is totally impractical to meet its intent of responding to an “emergency.” The provision should been stricken from the bill. Instead, the County should be addressing the nonprofit exemption loophole of the State law cited in footnote 2.
WASHINGTON, April 10. Some of the purported news stories being sent out of Washington by enterprising correspondents during the dull days of the congressional recess are not setting well with the White House. At one time or another [the President] has figured, every member of his cabinet has been duly written up as having resigned or being on the verge of presenting his resignation, only a few of which have panned out. As late as today it was necessary for the White House to deny persistently published stories that Secretary Weeks resignation was in the hands of [the President].
Although the White House has refrained from comment, another story which has brought [a number of] inquiries and which was found to be unfounded, was to the effect that the President had confined his expenditures for Easter to a $65 suit of clothes. As a matter of fact [the President] is well stocked with clothing and it was unnecessary for him to buy anything.
*Well now that you have read what purports to be a current issue, be advised that it is not from 2017. The year was 1925. The President was Calvin Coolidge. Seems that history repeats itself.
Source: Daily Illini, April 11, 1925. Coolidge Irked by Fake News During Recess
The County Executive has proposed that the new courthouse be located on county-owned property on Bendix Road. The proposal combines the need for a new building, cost, public-private partnership, and location into one discussion. These are four separate issues and must be considered as such by the Council. Having reviewed the reports of consultants received pursuant to a public information act request and presentations to the Council, it is evident that the County has made no attempt to study where a courthouse should be located as perhaps the most important civic building in Howard County.
The “Draft Final Report, February 16, 2015 Capital Project C-0290” only analyzes two sites in additional to the current courthouse location: Martha Bush and Dorsey or Bendix Road. In regard to Dorsey the study states “The Dorsey Building site is a recent addition to the study and has not received the level of investigation of the other two sites.” The only other site considered was the Normandy Shopping Center site as the result of unsolicited proposal to the County. Thus, it is evident that the County failed to give any thought to where the courthouse could best be located to not only serve the legal needs of the County but could also be a catalyst for economic development or as a multi-use destination.
The Dorsey or Bendix location is a poor location for a courthouse. For a County that prides itself on multi-use developments and walkability, the Bendix site is sorely lacking in such vision. Other states have published guidelines regarding the construction of new courthouses. The Virginia Courthouse Facility Guidelines state:
“The effects of elements such as location, circulation, and security are hard to quantify. Yet the successful integration of these elements into the building will be apparent to, and appreciated by, all users of the facility, while failure to do so will quickly be apparent.”
The Bendix site was picked because it is owned by the County, not because it is a good location. It is not in Ellioctt City. It is not near other government buildings. It is not near the Detention Center.
While the County Executive is concerned with cost, the proposal fails to consider the costs in transportation and security in moving the prisoners to and from the courthouse. No consideration was made to building a courthouse closer to the Detention Center. This is first factor discussed in the Virginia Courthouse Facility Guidelines:
“It is desirable that it be in proximity to the main business district and any cluster of professional offices, particularly attorneys, and near other government offices with which the court intersects. While it is not essential that the courts be located near the jail, it is often desirable. Those courts that have direct access from the jail to the court experience fewer problems and reduced expense for transportation of prisoners.”
Besides cost, the Virginia Guidelines list the other criteria that usually need to be considered:
- Ease of public access
- Availability of public transportation and parking
- Proximity to other government buildings and programs
- Relationship to other services such as restaurants, office supplies, libraries, copy centers and attorney offices
- Relationship to civic center
- Impact on surrounding residential neighborhoods
- Prominence of site
- Expansion potential
- Site amenities
- Physical constraints of the site
- Site use restrictions
In 2016, in considering 27 sites in 7 municipalities, the York County, Maine Courthouse Site Selection Commission had similar selection criteria including:
- Accessibility to major roads
- Proximity to geographic center of County
- Proximity to population center of the County
- Clear access to courthouse from public roads and parking
- Impression of site for courthouse
- Security risks (The site should be open and free of places for intruders to hide.)
The P3 proposal has failed to consider the benefits of locating the courthouse close to the jail. Sites that should be considered include the undeveloped parcel along Route 175 in Columbia Gateway. Development in Gateway would have the available office space for attorneys and other court support companies and would yield synergies with the County Executive’s recently announced plans for Gateway redevelopment.
Placing the courthouse along Route 1 could be a catalyst for redevelopment of that area. The P3 partners could choose to build additional office buildings. TIF financing might also be appropriate. Building it on the State owned parcels next to the Detention Center would minimize costs of prisoner transport.
The Michigan Planning and Design Guide state that a courthouse should reflect the separate and constitutionally independent status of the judiciary as a separate and equal branch of government. Furthermore, “the temptation to cheapen the significance of the courthouse by treating the courts as just another “county department” needs to be avoided.” The Michigan Courthouse, A Planning and Design Guide for Trial Court Facilities, page 2-9. It is unclear if the price in the P3 resolution accounts for these designs.
As Robert A. Peck Commissioner of Public Building Service, GSA testified to Congress on the design excellence program for federal courthouses that the designs have “lasting quality and dignity” and that “court facilities that we are building are appropriate to the seriousness of judicial proceedings that take place therein.” Quoting Justice Steven Breyer, Peck said “‘Both in function and design, these buildings will embody and will reflect principles that tell the public who uses, or sees, them something about themselves, their government, and their nation.'”
These principles were also recently reached by members of the Moore County, North Carolina Courthouse Facilities Advisory Committee. They commented that it was important “how the building will look” and “that people should still know that is a courthouse.” (“Courthouse Committee Begins Work,” thepilot.com, David Sinclair, Managing Editor, Jan. 31, 2017). Similarly, a judge on the York County Site Selection Commission also stated that “a courthouse needs to highly accessible and visible to the community.” Judge Moskowitz, York County Courthouse Site Selection Commission, Meeting Minutes for Nov. 4, 2016.
For a County that prides itself on public input and temporary advisory committees from the Ellicott City recovery to the HCPSS Budget Review, the lack of discussion about the location for the new courthouse is profoundly disappointing. The Spending Affordability Committee stated at the Council’s February monthly meeting that they did not consider location and that this was not their charge. In fact, the chair admitted that he is unaware of who selected the sites consider by the Committee and P3 consultant. In fact, it appears that there was actually little thought of alternative sites by Public Works.
The Virginia Guidelines state:
“Public hearings on site selection, with publication of advance notice of the hearings, is advisable in order to obtain the views of various interest groups and to obviate subsequent opposition on the ground that conflicting interests were not taken into consideration in the site selection process” (page 6-2).
In addition the guidelines state that:
“deliberations should involve considerations for the public, business and professional communities and other government activities. Careful study of the past and projected growth of the locality and its demographics could prove useful in designating the best available site” (page 6-2).
Howard County has failed to follow the Virginia’s suggestions and involve the community in the site selection process. Other communities including Moore County, North Carolina and York County, Maine have recognized the need and established courthouse site committees. Therefore, I urge the County Council to establish a courthouse site review committee to consider the costs and benefits of other appropriate sites for the new courthouse throughout the County.