An Open Letter From Mike Dawson: Commissioners, Hodge, Moore & Broomell We Look Forward to Seeing Your Ideas on Cost Cutting in County Government

Commissioners,

Many of us have been patiently waiting for one of our five Commissioners to step up to the plate and lead, someone to be bold, blunt, and decisive—someone who will grab the bull by the horns and shake things up with regard to the County budget. Up until yesterday it has been remarkably quiet from our Republican elected officials. It’s almost as if they don’t understand that they WON the elections and that they are in charge now. America’s Governor, Chris Christie, said it best when he said that “leadership is about doing big things and being courageous.”

Commissioner Jim Mullin and Mike Dunn—thank you for not waiting any longer and leading this charge of changing the business as usual attitude in Elkton. Hopefully your suggestions can help spur significant discussions and debate on this budget so that the citizens of Cecil County do not face higher taxes in FY 2012. I hope that the remaining three Commissioners will follow your lead.

Furthermore, I call on the remaining Commissioners to publish their budget cutting ideas within the next 5 days. All of the Commissioners have had their chance to become educated on the budget, and yet only two Commissioners have come out with any ideas. The people of Cecil County need to know that each of you have read through the budget and have your own ideas on how to keep spending under control.

Waiting on the report release from your newly formed budget commission recommendations will be unacceptable to the people as that would indicate very clearly that you’ve simply dodged responsibility in favor of waiting for someone else to give you political cover to make tough decisions for the county.

Commissioner Hodge, Moore, and Broomell we look forward to seeing your budget cuts in Friday’s (02-25-11) edition of the Cecil Whig.

Sincerely,

Mike A. Dawson (R)

Perryville, MD

The views expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily those of any other person’s, groups, clubs or organizations.

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32 responses to “An Open Letter From Mike Dawson: Commissioners, Hodge, Moore & Broomell We Look Forward to Seeing Your Ideas on Cost Cutting in County Government

  1. “Mad Mike” : FYI, the budget has not been prepared. All presentations have not been made. No hearings have been held. BTW, don’t you work for Delegate Smigiel? When you ran for County Commissioner didn’t you prominently claim to support the FOP Lodge 2 (Sheriff’s Deputies? Didn’t the Dunn/Mullin proposal slash 10% from public safety? As Vice Chairman of the Republican Central Committee aren’t you supposed to support Republican elected officials?

  2. The commissioners want suggestions from citizens but there is no published breakdown of expenditures, other than by department. To make any suggestions, we need to know how each department spends their funding.

    How can anyone logically decide what to eliminate without knowledge of details? Loping off entire departments, or assigning percentage cuts is a poor way to prune. We want growth with proper care, not Smipkin in the woods with a chain saw.

    One of the boy’s suggestions was to reduce economic development to $40,000.00 and apply that to tourism. Why even bother? Thant won’t even cover the salary of a decent marketing person, let alone advertising expenses.

    The boys are not bold…they are unaware, unknowing, unthinking numbskulls.

  3. Everybody’s impatient to see public control of government profligacy. Republican impatience probably owes something to fear — fear that the Democrats will come back and renew the psychotic spending that has bankrupted the people and their governments and fear that government simply metastesizes and cannot be stopped at all. The Democrats operate by promoting fear: they promote fear among the aged, the disabled, and the guilty so they can build an empire on promises that are impossible to realize. The Republicans operate by promoting fear, too: fear of the “unintended” consequences of Democrat socialist “doing good.” The Democrats actually intend bankruptcy in order to provoke people (as we see in Wisconsin); but the Republicans, alas, intend bankruptcy as well, because they participate in the growth of government (as we see in the recent victory of “charter government,” which just adds another tumor layer to the cancer). Both are right to be afraid of each other: government is socialism, so government must bankrupt the country.
    Let’s hope everyone takes deliberate action, anyway. I do not feel much hope that government can be cut back at all. But Mike Dawson has a right to feel impatient.

  4. Where is the FOP on the matter of a 10% cut to the Public Safety budget?

  5. Michael – do you honestly expect people to read this pre-mature, naive babbling and take it seriously? All county department heads have not yet submitted their budgets. The Citizen Advisory Panel has not yet met or submitted their recommendations. Yet you demand that “the remaining Commissioners publish their budget cutting ideas within the next 5 days”. Really? Are you guys really this short sighted? You go around puffing your little banty chests with all the vim and vigor of little Henery, the Chicken Hawk. Since you are all too young to remember (are any of you 30 yet?), Henery the Chicken Hawk is a cartoon character who lives at home with his parents, and speaks with tough-guy bravado. He’s a diminutive, naïve troublemaker and is no real threat. You guys (Ted, Chris, Josue, Mike) write/speak aggressively and critically of fellow conservatives while never offering positive/productive solutions. There’s an old saying: ‘You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar’. This means that it is easier to persuade people if you use polite arguments and flattery than if you are confrontational. You guys could learn a lot from little Henery, whose efforts were always futile.

  6. This “bold” proposal and the open letter from “Mad” Mike remind me of a little kids on Christmas morning who can not wait to get up and open their presents. Government is about processes in case you have not noted. You must allow time for the process develope and then at the end their will be a conclusion. This whole thing of releasing plans before the committee meets is jumping the gun and just an exercise in grandstanding. I can not see how any commissioner can formulate a final plan until we see what kind of insanity comes out of Annapolis during this session. Oh, Ken you are correct in questioning the “investments” that the FOP made to Smipkin coffers, especially after the primary, in light of the recent budget proposal. I guess that the Smipkins figured it was not enough. It must not have filled that new safe that they bought. Well, one thing is is sure, this is better entertainment than TV.

  7. With all due respect to Mike Dawson, his letter sounds a little political to me. He seems to be idolizing two of his RCC co-members, Mullin and Dunn, while questioning the competency of Moore, Hodge and Broomall (one of whom defeated him in the primaries). Right now, I think the most constructive thing that Mike Dawson could do is give the commissioners his ideas on where he would cut the budget so that they could take those ideas into considersation. Dawson ran for commissioner under the promise of cutting the budget and making local government more efficient. If you are really looking out for the welfare of Cecil County Mike, and I’m sure you are, then give those ideas to all 5 commissioners and let them fly with it. And lets try not to make this difficult process any more political than it already is.

  8. “Mad Mike” Dawson. Don’t forget to check in the Cecil Guardian for spending plans. They are a newspaper of record located almost across the street from your employer, “Boss” Smigiel.

  9. Bold and blunt. Yeah, that’s you, Mike. As I recall, the way you flew off the handle at a potential supporter of yours during the campaign cost you nearly a hundred votes. Blunt, maybe—I prefer uncouth.
    Boldness is certainly necessary in politics, I will give you that. But bold action without a clearly defined plan has cost more lives and money than almost anything else in human history.
    I think it’s time to choke down the sour grapes and get down to business. Last time I checked, you had a Central Committee to run.

  10. Raul or whoever you really are, as usual you are completely wrong. You can go to the Budget Manager and ask for a copy of the full budget it is about 800 pages last I checked. There may be a fee for copying. This is what I have done in the past to suggest some cuts to the budget. You can use last years budget as a good barometer for what each department is going to do. Asking for cuts ahead of the budget process is exactly what should be done so there is plenty of time for discussion about each department’s line items. Last year myself and others suggested some cuts that were accepted and the cuts were made. How many times have you suggested cuts? Where have you been the last three budget cycle, because I have been involed in all three. Mike Dawson has also been involved in these same budget cycles so instead of calling him names and trying to stop any kind of change in government, why don’t you try to help or support the departments of your choice. But remember this, the state numbers on tax assessments is down 30% which means we will need to make cuts whether we like it or not! When it comes to the budget of this county the Smipkins are just the people you want to ask. On a side note, I think Commissioner Broomell is also for cutting the budget, she is a Tea Party supporter.
    Red833 I know you would like to have the slanted, one sided, free hand out of a newspaper supported so you could get every little anti- Smipkin comment in the opion section, or any other section because that is what the entire paper is about, opinion not facts. I also understand that making these cuts could cost the Gaurdian it’s precious dollars from the county that it is seeking. It sure is hard trying to compete out here in the private sector isn’t it. Maybe we should all ask the county for some money to keep us in business right? That must be the answer.

    • CZ, you should read some of the writings by you and your fellow Smipkins. I thought you would be in favor of competition in a free market system. The county must pay for publication of legal notices. If two or more entities are competing for business the county’s cost should go down. I read several county-based publications as well as regional and national ones. The Guardian compares favorably, especially in the area of local events. Maybe you should ask them to extend circulation to Smipkin Island.

  11. C.Z,
    It would cost $0.00 to place a low rez PDF of the entire budget as well as each departments budget requests on the county web site. And while they are at it, publish the salaries, benefits and contributions of every county employee. To have the files offered digitally would be an economical and waste reducing alternative. I know from experience how people fill up pages with worthless information to make it look like they have done something.

    I have seen unbelievable waste everywhere, complained and was told it is none of my business. I asked if there was a place I could submit photos of wastefulness by county employees or place them on the county website Again I was told that it is none of my business and was then threatened if I try to release negative images of government employees. Bull. I will make it my business.

  12. To make a point about the difficulty of actually getting into the nitty gritty of the budget here is Exhibit A, the public library budget submitted from FY 2011: http://ccgov.org/uploads/Budget/Libraries/2011%20Budget%20Request%20-%20Cecil%20County%20Public%20Library.pdf
    As you can see, the total budget submitted is 12 pages, with only 2 pages devoted to a vague listing of desired increases, from what the library considers “maintenance of effort” which just means that their budget begins at the previous year’s level of funding. There is no real breakdown of specifics to justify what is being asked for. Last year’s budget requests are available at http://ccgov.org/dept_budget/2011operatingbudgetreqs.cfm.
    The library budget is just one example of a budget that is vague. I perused the Cecil College budget last year. There were a lot more specifics included in that budget, but there were still a lot of questions that would need to be answered in order to understand the numbers. I spoke with someone in charge at the college who was very nice in answering my questions, and Mr. Whiteford in the county building was also very helpful. But I learned from that experience that there are two approaches to cutting the budget: You can demand across the board cuts from every department, and leave the cutting up to the department heads. This is what has been done for the last few years. Some Dept. heads will make big cuts, some will cut much less than asked, and some will still ask for increases. Then the commissioners make a decision about whether or not to approve the budgets they are given. This approach does not really allow citizens to have any more transparency regarding how money is being spent; it also does not give an overview across departments regarding some aspects that might be redundant and possibly be able to be consolidated.
    Or you can actually have a detailed look at the budget and get the specifics of how the money is being spent. Then when you ask for cuts, you can do so based on facts and real numbers. With the way the current budgets are submitted, it is impossible to do this unless you have a group that is willing to do the necessary investigation.

    • Jackie, you make a great point on the transparency. I’m usually all for across the board cuts, but you make a good argument for putting effort into the due diligence and investigating of where the money is being spent!

  13. This is the correct spelling of the “Guardian”.
    Chris, we offer you an interview at the “Guardian” anytime about your thoughts on budget cuts and what’s good for Cecil County. One of my writers and I can meet with you at most anytime. I’m sure being Chairman of the Republican Central Committee there are many residents who would like to hear your views and thoughts.
    The Guardian and other local newspapers asking to be put in the bidding process for legal notices would save Cecil County Government thousands of dollars. Which in the long run would help all residents. Competition and a free economy is what makes this country great!

  14. Jackie,
    Also interesting is the total lack of intelligent and economical use of technology.

    The Library PDF weighs in at 3.63MB. The source is a printed document, scanned and translated to a PFD via ‘KONICA MINOLTA bizub C550′ which was not even set up for fast web view.

    The original document was obviously created on a Microsoft Office program. A PDF set to web view with the fonts embedded would create a document 10%, or even less, the size of this monstrosity allowing for less storage, faster download and would print at a better resolution than the hideous JPEG created here. Also, an efficiently formatted layout could easily drop the size of this document to four pages other than the 12 wasteful one used here. That is, if there was any reason on earth to print it in the first place. Does the creator (and I use the term loosely) think that HUGE type, in a feeble attempt make their points more important and filling up more pages, look like they have done something?

    Who trains staff throughout the county to use technology available in 2011 in an efficient manner? It appears as if no one has this responsibility.

    How many copies of this document were printed, distributed and then ended up in the trash? Every single copy of this document that was printed was a waste of taxpayers money.

  15. Jackie and Raul those are two very good points. I totaly agree with you. Another way we can ask for savings coming from the same aspect is have each department start with zero based budgeting. The department heads would have to show proof of every dollar, and this would most likely reduce the amount fluff they add in.

    • Zero based budgeting is an excellent approach. It allows for property tax increases based on increases in inflation and population. Surprised to see you change 180 degrees and endorse tax increases in order to meet citizen needs for services.

  16. My problem is that there doesn’t seem to be any oversight into wasteful spending in the first place. Why should we even discuss lower taxes or higher taxes as long is there is so much waste and ineptitude?

    I have tried and found no one either responsible for government efficiency/inefficiency, or willing to take up the lead and actually do something about the problems. Commissioner (name withheld to protect a buffoon) simply said it wasn’t their job. It may be that the department heads don’t even have a clue. The commissioners, present and past, certainly don’t. We all know the stories about 5 man road crews, with one worker and 4 supervisors…and nobody knows what they are doing.

    Is there a person in Government who oversees wasteful spending and inept practices?

    In a small business, the owner takes control and responsibility or his profits suffer and he goes out of business. In government, it seems no one cares because they cannot go out of business for poor management…they just raise taxes…or layoff enough people to try and match income.

  17. I would like to encourage Chris Zeauskas to meet with the Guardian for an interview. He seems to have very strong opinions and suggestions.

  18. I encourage cuts to be made, but we need to be careful about the planning of these cuts. If you are going to convert the county’s cost of the SPCA to the Sheriff’s office and lower it’s budget to $140,000, how/where will the animals be housed/cared for? It’s possible that these plans have been thought out,and I am sure that they have been, but I just hope that is the case.

    It would be also nice to see better descriptions of the budget line items as well. I’m sure there are several inefficiencies and various fluff that is negatively impacting the bottom line. In addition to cuts, various process improvement techniques may save the county quite a bit of money across multiple departments.

    I would encourage those who seem to be so hostile on the subject to constructively approach the budget with solutions. We are all in this together. I’m tired of reading about the pro/anti smipkin crowds. Let’s stop the childish antics and work towards solutions together instead of being so divisive.

    In all fairness to the folks at YR, I did work with them when I was President of the Young Dems to collaboratively come up with solutions on the budget (and many other issues ranging from Education, Transportation and Public Safety) two years ago. They were very reasonable and they were also open to my ideas. I think the divisive nature that plagues our national spotlights has made its way to the local level and is in some degree preventing the same type of collaboration at this point. I would encourage each side to reach across the aisle and work together, regardless of the fact the Republicans hold the board.

    These opinions are mine. I suppose they don’t even really matter as I’m a Delaware resident now…

  19. I agree with you 100% Patrick. There are different political philopsophies among members of our county for sure, but when it comes down to dealing with things at the local level, we all have to deal with the consequences of government’s decisions directly. One thing that struck me during the CCP debates was that regardless of political affiliation, there seemed to be a consensus over dealing with unfunded state and federal mandates, more specifically, those that recently came down to us from the EPA. Now there is discussion about restricting septic systems in Maryland, something that will certainly affect Cecil County and other rural areas. These costly mandates and regulations affect everyone regardless of political affiliation, and I am seeing a similar response among both Republicans and Democrats. We need to be a community that is engaged, and that is interested in actually solving problems, not worrying about who gets credit for what or getting a leg up on another person. That is what the citizen budget committee is supposed to be about. I am hopeful that a committee of people who have had to make budget cuts before to help their own bottom line in a business, etc., may be able to find some of the things you mention in your second paragraph. It has been done in other counties, and I think there are a lot of things in the budget that are just overlooked and not scrutinized. Regardless of how many times people may suggest that anyone can make suggestions about the budget, the fact is that while some of the departments are very good at listing line items, many are not, and those are the ones that probably need the most scrutiny. I think most people appreciate the commissioners who took this step to add an extra layer of scrutiny and transparency to the budget process. That is what responsible government is all about, listening to the constituents and making the process transparent and accessible to them. The commissioners still have the power over the budget, and if there is anything that should be obvious after all of these threads, it is that the citizen advisory committee can definitely offer another perspective as they look at the line items of the budget, and hopefully clear up some of the confusion that most people feel when they look at these things.

    I would also like to see some more details about Commissioners Mullin and Dunn’s proposals. I would like more info. as to where the some of the amounts came from. Was there specific things they saw in the public safety budget which led them to a 10% figure? Do they know of a place where stray animals could be housed and provided with veterinary care for $148,000 a year? Just like most citizens, I encourage discussion of cuts to government spending. At the same time, I want to know the plan and thoughts behind any cuts. I want to see that government prioritizes essential and non essential roles or services of the government, and that decisions to cut are made in accordance with that plan and the realities of how money is currently being spent within each department.
    I think we have a lot of work to do, because when push comes to shove, the federal and state governments aren’t going to keep us solvent. We need to do our part to become involved as much as we can, and we need to support the advisory committee to make sure that the process is transparent, and that the committee has access to the necessary info. from the departments as it considers the budget.

    • Jackie,
      You seem like a concerned, decent person who wants to help everyone play nice.

      However, the biggest and most definitive cuts in the Mullin and Dunn proposals were direct payback/get even tactics.

      Economic development, SPCA and the Sheriff’s Department…do I really have to spell it out?

  20. Valerie Falcioni

    Mike Dawson, your letter reeks of misinformation and sour grapes. Have you even attended ONE work session meeting? I have, and I learned more about how our government works than through any other venue. The beauty of it is that these sessions are open to the public. Commissioner Broomell has succeeded in getting the work sessions to meet downstairs in the Elk Room beginning March 1st where there is audio taping ability and much more room for constituents who desire to sit in on the meetings. The work session that I attended last Tuesday dealt with how to spend money already set aside for projects. Each commissioner came up with a list of priorities, and then proceeded to figure out which project would get onto the top of the priority list. The next meeting will deal with where funds need to be cut. Why don’t you make it a priority to sit in on that meeting? You may actually be able to base your opinions on something you heard with your own ears and seen with your own eyes. I am a little sick of the political posturing, particularly when the posturing is done against members of the same political party. Let’s grow up and be more productive, please!

  21. The Dunn-Mullin proposal does not include anything on the libraries. I think the libraries should be considered as well. The more we can spread cuts across every department, the less they will individually have to make. I would rather a little across every department than a lot in a couple departments. I think that is what Mullin and Dunn are trying to do here, but the libraries should be included in the discussion. Whether they are cut by 5% or 10% they should carry the same burden the rest have to carry.

    • Given your campaign rhetoric on public safety, specifically support of Sheriff’s Deputies being granted collective bargaining with binding arbitration, don’t you feel that Dunn-Mullin as fellow members of the “Republicans of Cecil Fiscal Conservative Team” betrayed the trust and support of the FOP by recommending a 10% cut to Public Safety.

    • Here we go. Cut, cut, cut. Slash out employees.

      Am I the only one who KNOWS that the county government, across the board, could SAVE 10%. Operations, waste, productivity, etc. without the need to fire anyone.

      But then, that doesn’t show well when you are touting what you have done, because someone else would actually get the credit. Wasteful and egotistically bloated politicians come up with the scenario to cut other than save or conserve.

    • Across the board cuts are one option, but not necessarily the most responsible. Hopefully the budget committee can make some meaningful recommendations. My gut tells me that there are likely some budget heads who are frugal and pinching pennies already, and that there are probably some who have a more permissive attitude towards spending. That is why the budgets should be looked at carefully. Also, some government functions are more of a priority than others. That should also be considered when making a decision about where and how to cut. When my economic situation changed, I didn’t stop paying my credit card bills or my mortgage, but I did stop dining out and going to the movies. Responsible budgeting requires one to determine how much money is available, and then to prioritize spending by differentiating between necessities and luxuries. Beyond that, scrutinizing where money could be spent more efficiently is essential to fiscal responsibility. I’m certain that all the members of the “fiscal conservative team” are already aware of this.

  22. Based on recent quotes, you seem to be a fan of Ben Franklin. I recall that he started the public library system in the US. I agree with Ben that an educated populace is essential to a strong nation. Do you have a specific recommendation on areas where the libraries should be cut, or is this an across-the-board thing?

  23. I wasn’t going to bring it up, but since others did, the above posted shenanigans coming from the county building are exactly why the Sheriff’s Office and the Paramedics sought collective bargaining rights. The employees in these two departments are sick and tired of being used as pawns by the commissioners in their political games. The deputies are so respected by the current commissioner board that the board wants to use them as dogcatchers and slash their budget. This is a slap in the face of the deputies. Also, before the TEA Party All-Stars blame budget issues on the deputies collective bargaining efforts, remember that the commissioners went to Annapolis and OPENLY SUPPORTED the Paramedics collective bargaining bill.

    • Rowdy is wrong to say the deputies are disrespected by”the current board of commissioners”. The “Plan” came from Dunn-Mullin, members of the Smigiel/Pipkin “Fiscal Conservative Team”. The other three commissioners have made no reommendations, which makes sense since they have not received proposed budgets from the departments or learned of state cuts to the county. The “SMIPKIN Team” was all for the FOP when they needed help in the election. The FOP is now under the bus along with all the other SMIPKIN cast-offs and “enemies”.

    • Come on Rowdy – use facts if you’re going to criticize. Not all members of the current commissioner board support Mullin and Dunn’s proposals to transfer animal control responsibilities to the deputies and cut public safety’s budget – in fact, the rest of the board found out about it probably about the same time you did.

      No one’s blaming the budget issues on the deputies collective bargaining efforts – but it’s a fact that $50,000 was put into this year’s budget for attorney fees for the collective bargaining process. It’s unknown if that amount will go up in future years, but you need to recognize and acknowledge that there is a permanent increase of expenditures to taxpayers because of the Commissioner’s commitment to collective bargaining rights for the deputies and paramedics.

      Yes, the previous board of commissioners openly supported the paramedic’s collective bargaining Bill. But there’s a big difference between collective bargaining – and collective bargaining with BINDING ARBITRATION, which is what the deputies were trying to get.

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