The public back and forth among our elected officials regarding whether Havre de Grace High School is in line for being replaced has been focused on a number of somewhat important policy-making details, even as the big picture has been overlooked.
In short, Havre de Grace is next in line for a major high school renovation project, and the details of who gets to first list it as an official budget priority, while of some interest to those involved in the politics of the matter, is largely immaterial to the community and students affected.
Regarding procedure, in this case County Executive David R. Craig, himself a graduate of Havre de Grace High School and a retired educator in the county school system, made the first official push for a new school building, setting off a round of crocodile tears over who is supposed to be making decisions about school construction.
The official lament goes like this: The school system and board of education are supposed to prioritize school construction projects and present them to the county government for consideration. The county executive then gives a thumbs up or down about putting money for the project in a capital budget for the school system and the county council gives a thumbs up or down on that capital budget.
In this case, the executive stepped out of line by announcing plans to put his hometown school project in the capital budget without first getting a request from the board of education for the money. Some members of the county council — though not the Havre de Grace district representative — were upset at the lapse in protocol and moved to excise the project from the budget. How dare the county executive fail to follow official protocol, even though it's not really official and there are no legal requirements that it be followed.
Clearly someone's feelings were hurt that Craig, who'll be running for governor in two years, managed to make an announcement that is likely to get him a lot of votes in a community where he's already likely to get a lot of votes.
Moreover, the yellow flag thrown down by council members is about as hypocritical a complaint as could be made on the subject of school construction finances. Some of the very same council members, who are frosted by the county executive's move, just a few years back ordered the school system to build Red Pump Elementary School instead of an elementary school near Campus Hills. While a list of reasons was put forth by the council members behind this strong-arm tactic, the reality is the Red Pump school cleared the way for residential development in a high end, high profit area for developers.
Face it: school construction projects are expensive, even as they are vital to the people directly affected by them, be those people parents of children or developers. As such, school construction money is political gold to the people who can claim credit for getting it approved for a particular community.
In this case, it appears someone is trying to take away Craig's political edge on the school project, even though it's a project that should be next on the list, regardless of who gets to make the announcement.