A Reader Comment on How Our City Is Managed ~ Annapolis Capital Punishment

Thursday, May 8, 2008

A Reader Comment on How Our City Is Managed


Thanks for your thoughtful post regarding the Annapolitan's United press release regarding the budget. I wanted to share my comments with you in expanded form.

Your comments regarding municipalities having difficulties raising revenue are generally accurate save one major fact. During the past several years housing prices in our dear city increased astronomically. So did our real estate tax assessments and during this time our government collected an unprecedented amount of revenue. So what did our government do with this windfall? Did they save it for a rainy day? Of course not. Did they use it for useful purposes? Some of it for sure but in reality, they also added staff and added programs and then added a few more staff to compile statistics about how well the programs are going. Now that real estate related revenues are rapidly declining, the politicians are going to tell us that we have a budget crisis. How can we fight crime without more taxpayer money? How can we provide programs for children without more taxpayer money? We need new revenue sources. We need new and inventive taxes (like the upcoming hotel tax). How will we continue to provide the high level of services that our citizens are demanding? I for one can't really tell a difference between the level of services that the city is providing today compared to the level that was provided four years ago. Is there some new service that I'm taking for granted? A lower crime rate perhaps? A higher graduation rate? A community that is four times cleaner? Unfortunately, the answer is no on all counts. Bigger budget, same services.

David Leudemann
443 235-4808
Dear David:
You bring up a lot of good points. I stick to my original analysis in that overall we are well managed financially but we do not economize or focus on reducing costs. In other words, even though spending is up and up and up and priorities are not always reasonable or based on efficiency, we manage to still provide a high level of services to meet a high level of expectation. And as mentioned, we continue to maintain a very high bond rating. So, it is not a good business model and it would not work for a business, but it "manages". In other words, it works fairly well, but not necessarily in the most effective or efficient manner.

What disturbs me in general about much government and about this one in particular is that it fails to understand where wealth is produced. It comes from businesses who use human capital and natural resources to turn a profit and make payroll. As the son of a self-made and successful businessman who has worked in business, government and is now self-employed, I truly wish government could operate more like a business. However, government does things for the greater good when markets are unwilling or unable to provide such services. The problem is when government does not focus on efficiency but just keep raising taxes. Unfortunately, our current local administration seems to suffer from this classic tax and spend type of thinking and management. Just look at the mayor and alderman and consider their backgrounds. They are all bureaucrats or people from government payrolls. On the other hand, consider, for example, Ron George, a jeweler on Main Street who now represents us in the House of Delegates. He tries to control spending and see things from the perspective of a businessman.

If you can somehow manage to convince the lawyers and law enforcement folks (three of them), former educators and educrats (three of them), health care economists (two of them) and non-profit administrator to be more business-like, more power to all of us! When you couple this lack of experience in the business world with political cronyism and favoritism, that's when the trouble starts expanding! I would suggest we really look at the buddies of the mayor who have have nice jobs and see if they are worth their salary or not. Then we need to look at every entrenched bureaucrat and see if they are doing a good job or not.

But what we really need is a city manager! That will address most of these concerns. Hopefully the next mayor will campaign based on that and then fire every appointed official and ask them to reapply for their jobs on day one.


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