By Patrick McGrady
Special to The Dagger
There were raucous hearings held about the proposed MdTA toll increases on June 17 and June 27 in Perryville and Havre de Grace, respectively.
There were many people present from Havre de Grace, Edgewood, Aberdeen, and all over Cecil County. Also in attendance were several elected representatives including the State Senator from District 34 and two of the three Delegates that represent the district. They each advocated for the citizens and against the toll hikes.
Through the noisy and often emotional hearing, one thing struck me as odd more than anything else: The deafening silence from the Aberdeen City Council and Mayor.
Where were they when their citizens were begging for mercy from the unaccountable MdTA?
It turns out that there was a fancy Maryland Municipal League (MML) conference being held in Ocean City from Sunday June 26th through June 29th (maybe the busiest week of the year in Ocean City). Mayor Bennett sent his support via a proxy, but is that enough to make the MdTA know that Aberdeen seriously opposes hiking the tolls and eliminating the decals for locals?
The people of Aberdeen were counting on them to advocate against the Hatem Bridge Toll hikes, but not one member of the Council was at the hearing.
Have you heard of the Maryland Municipal League? How about the National League of Cities, or the Maryland Association of Counties? They sound very important, yes, but what do they do?
Municipal governments from across the state attend these meetings, alongside County and State elected officials meet to discuss about the best ways to create government-planned communities (“sustainable growth”) alongside such toxic lessons as “consensus building”.
These organizations, in which many municipalities claim paid membership, lobby elected officials at higher levels of government for favorable regulations and funding for their projects at higher levels. This may not be a bad thing when the policies being advocated work for all 157 Maryland Municipalities, but when could that possibly happen?
Aberdeen’s budget for the upcoming year included $16,000 of taxpayer money for Membership in the Maryland Municipal League and $2,000 for membership in the National League of Cities.
Should our elected representatives be using taxpayer money to attend meetings or fund membership in organizations that will lobby for more taxes and regulations? Or should these expenses come from the personal spending (or even campaign money) of the representatives? Do voters realize that those they elect participate in a non-accountable body which influences spending and increases government?
Elected representatives should be the biggest advocates for their constituents, not an Annapolis-based lobbying organization that uses taxpayer money to influence policy.
When politicians use taxpayer dollars to join these organizations (or to be the President of them, like Aberdeen Mayor Mike Bennett) they are required to be responsible to two masters. One, which uses taxpayer dollars to pay for a membership in an “educational” and lobbying organization and the other, which uses that money to lobby things that those same taxpayers may disagree with, like “revenue increases” or destruction of private property rights through “sustainability” legislation.
The bottom line is: when the people needed to see and speak with the Aberdeen City Council at the Public Hearings about the Toll hikes on June 27 at 5:30PM, they were busy in Ocean City at Dessert Receptions.
See the 2012 MML Convention program here: http://www.mdmunicipal.org/documents/CvProgram060311.pdf
Aberdeen can no longer afford this kind of representation. There is an election this fall– I hope the citizens of Aberdeen are paying attention.
Patrick McGrady will appear live with host Maynard Edwards on WAMD 970 AM radio tomorrow at 8:35 a.m. Watch live at http://khztv.com/wamd/, call in with your questions at (410) 306-6270, or post any comments here.