I am compelled to add my voice to the conversation regarding Kent County Commissioners and their role in our county’s future. I have little in the way of strong feelings about the selection of candidates challenging the incumbents. I unfortunately cannot say the same about the incumbents.
Our county population is aging and shrinking. A community suffering those demographic shifts cannot last. All of us, but particularly families with young children are underserved by the Commissioners’ governance when it comes to their treatment of the KCPS BOE and their failure to adequately resource the school district. Their nearsighted policies negatively affect property values and economic growth, at the very least. There is an old trope about lunacy being the habit of repeatedly doing a task the same way while expecting different results. It applies to democracy too.
The county projections for income are flat or decreasing. In response, the incumbents voted themselves a 33% raise from 15k to 20k, and reduced their meetings by half. If each commissioner’s meeting runs an average of two hours, and every Commissioner attends every meeting, they are holding down part time jobs at over $400/hr. Nice work if you can get it.
When KCPS consolidation was first becoming a hot-button issue among KC constituents, my wife and a group of other local concerned mothers started SOS, a grass roots advocacy group dedicated to advocating for the needs of KCPS, and disseminating accurate information regarding the district. They were told by the incumbents that there was no foundation for constituents to criticize county policies unless they attended every CC meeting; there was just too much the women couldn’t understand. When SOS proposed the county archive the meetings for constituents that could not attend, they were told the CCs would look into it but it would be prohibitively expensive. SOS simply archived the CC meetings live feed onto a YouTube channel, for reference/transparency as a service to CK citizens. For their efforts they were told they had committed a disservice.
I want to hammer that point home. According to the incumbents there is no valid foundation to criticize their decisions if you don’t attend every CC meeting, nor can the county afford to make an archive of meetings available to educate those that cannot attend. SOS did it for free and the CCs told them it was damaging to the county.
Throughout last year’s budget cycle the Commissioners lauded themselves for paying for the KCHS football field repairs. As recently as the October BOE meeting they were still banging that drum. I firmly hold the opinion that maintaining county infrastructure is one of their primary charges: a minimum requirement of their job, not an instance of exceptional service. Those repairs were done over two years ago. Why are we still hearing about them? I do not think an instance of meeting the minimum requirement two years ago is a strong argument for continued employment.
One of the incumbents is currently campaigning on the claim “Funding to Reach 4th Highest Local Funded School System in Maryland” despite overall school funding decreasing during his tenure. His metric appears to be based on per student spending rather than percentage of county income spent on the school district. Here’s a couple of things about that: by that metric the top five spots in the state are held by the five poorest districts, and the per student formula is largely driven by the variable of low student population, which in turn ensures administrative costs are unduly weighted in the equation. We pay for one Superintendent per 2k students rather than one per 20k. A 70% full building costs as much to maintain as a 95% full building, and there is no such thing as hiring 3/4 of a school nurse. The less students, inevitably the per student costs increase. That metric should be a flashing warning light, not a cause for celebration.
I could go on, but need I? I am gravely disappointed by the incumbents lack of leadership and humility. I cannot recommend their continued employment by the citizens of Kent County.