From the New Harford Democratic Club:
NEW HARFORD DEMOCRATIC CLUB
July 06, 2016
MINUTES OF THE July 6, 2016, MEETING AT THE ABERDEEN HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS.
President Steve Johnson called the meeting to order at 7:05 p.m.
Johnson led the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag.
Johnson thanked everyone for coming out tonight.
Johnson called on Nicky Fournier to report on the 4th of July activities. She reported that the Havre de Grace Parade went well, with good signage on the Democratic Party float. Attendance was high and had good reception from the crowd. A smaller group traveled to the Joppa parade.
Johnson noted that he heard a lot of positive feedback from people who had attended the parade.
Johnson then asked those present to introduce themselves.
Treasurer George Harrison reported that the club’s operating account contains $11,984.25. Approved unanimously.
Motion to approve the minutes, seconded and approved unanimously.
Nicky Fournier reported for the Central Committee. There will be a back to school affair
August 12, 5-8p at the Boys and Girls Club where school supplies will be handed out to lower income children. Various organizations will be on hand for the event.
Also a fundraiser Aug 26 at the Iron Birds stadium, with Rep Ruppersburger as the featured speaker. Tickets are $70.
She also noted the Young Democrats are back in business. They meet August 12 7pm at the Havre de Grace police station.
Voter registration: Art Helton stated that registration efforts are on hold until after the conventions.
Fund raising: Johnson noted that Wendy Sawyer is still working on a speaker and an announcement will be made when that is confirmed.
Issues and Legislation: No report
Website: Jack Barham reported that that the Facebook page received 1900 hits and 55 likes.
And he said about 2000 hits are being received on the website.
Johnson introduced George Harrison, who represented the club at the County Council hearing on the Harford Next land use plan. He noted that there were several issues discussed at the last club meeting, but that it was decided to focus on the plan to open three small areas of the development envelope.
He said much of the hearing, which had 79 speakers signed up, was devoted to the route 543 corridor which is already heavily impacted by traffic to and from the I95 interchange. The concern was that the county was proposing a study to be made of the area from Route 1 at Hickory to Riverside to determine what would be needed in that area in the future. There was opposition from those living or working in that area who were concerned that such a study was a prelude to increasing development in the corridor. In Harrison’s remarks to the council, he focused on the three proposed areas for expansion: a parcel at Harford Road and Fallston Road, a parcel at the intersection of Route 24 and Route 23 and a non-contiguous parcel along Route136 near Route 7. He told the council the New Harford Democrat Club had concerns that increasing the development in those areas would eventually lead to further development and possible additional increases in the development area. He noted that the county’s own experts has stated that the county still has over 18,000 undeveloped parcels in the development envelope and that should be sufficient for the next 20 years. He called on the council to reject these proposals. He said the council later approved the Harford Next plan, including two of the expansion areas in question: The Fallston Rd area and the Forest Hill area at Rt 24 and 23. The 136 proposal was withdrawn. There was discussion about the next steps to be aware of, including rezoning of properties which actually define how those properties are developed. It was agreed the Club should keep tabs on these efforts so as to avoid a repetition of the Walmart effort to build a super store in an already congested area.
President Johnson then introduced Jack Barham who has been following the Board of Education budget process.
Barham, a former principal and an administrator, said he wanted to share with the club some of the things that the school system doesn’t share with the public. He said the school system presents each year an incremental budget, which means they start with the current year budget and add to it for the following year’s proposed budget. With this method, they were able to claim the budget approved by the administration and the council was cut by $20 million when in fact they had received an increase of $5 million over last year. “The problem is, the budget process doesn’t deal with reality,” he said. “The estimate of revenues should be based on something realistic rather than pie in the sky.” As a result, programs are cut, such as the swimming program and the drama program. After an outcry from the public, swimming was restored but drama was not. Barham said cutting programs without considering cuts to the administrative staff does harm to the overall education plan. He called attention to audits of the school system by both state and county auditors who have listed a number of issues that should have been addressed but have not been. He also stated as an example of the budget process failure, the contracts with local bus contractors which have been approved over the years at an increasing rate. “Each year, the bus contracts aren’t touched, but each year the teachers don’t get a raise.” Barham said. He also said he believed the students of Harford County’s public schools are being short changed by the system by forcing students to pay for non-academic programs that, in reality, are part of their learning process.
Barham advocates the school system adopt a zero based budget for funding the school system. This would force the administration to consider every area of the budget and justify the expenditures rather than use what was done the previous year and add to it. Suggestions that the school system use a zero base system have been rejected.
A spirited discussion followed.
There being no further business, John adjourned the meeting at 8:36p
Submitted by George Harrison, acting secretary.