www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/readersrespond/bs-ed-planmaryland-letter-20111225,0,6522584.story

baltimoresun.com

PlanMaryland is a bureaucratic takeover

2:00 PM EST, December 25, 2011

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What if Maryland's governor initiated a plan to incrementally reduce local planning authority and concentrate it in the hands of unaccountable technocrats in Annapolis?

What if he dusted off a 37-year-old law and used it as a pretext to implement this plan?

What if the science behind the effort was not genuine, objective science, but junk science?

What if the process of developing the plan has not been one of true consensus building and collaboration, as Maryland Planning Secretary Richard Hall has repeatedly suggested?

On Oct. 31, at the "PlanMaryland: At the Crossroads" forum, three experts in the fields of climate change, nutrient management and transportation revealed the flawed science behind PlanMaryland. Their presentations can be viewed here.

The science supporting PlanMaryland employs tactics such as changing the parameters on a chart to produce a favorable result, omitting pertinent items from topical discussions (the ones that do not support the plan's theses) and using unproven assumptions that are not based upon empirical data.

This explains why elected officials at both the county and state levels have met with months of stonewalling and evasiveness when querying Secretary Hall and his staff about PlanMaryland. Based upon its scientific merits, PlanMaryland is indefensible.

The Department of Planning engaged 3,000 citizens in its outreach efforts, including stakeholder meetings and open houses. This is not authentic consensus building, and not consistent with the workings of a representative form of government.

The threshold for ballot access for a referendum is 50,000 signatures. How can the input of a mere 3,000 people, comprised mostly of special interests, be said to be a legitimate consensus?

The two draft plans contain no language regarding property rights. Shouldn't an evaluation of its effects on property rights be part of the consensus?

Despite three years of work, PlanMaryland provides no cost-benefit analysis to support its economic assumptions. Don't the people of Maryland deserve to know the potential fiscal and economic impacts and proposed benefits for their local jurisdictions before the governor signs it?

The roles of the three branches of government are taught to every student in civics class. The executive branch executes laws, the legislative branch creates them, and the judicial branch interprets them. In this instance, the executive branch is empowering a state bureaucracy to change the established land use policy regarding final decision-making authority, removing it from local governments and transferring it to state agencies. Where is the precedent for taking planning power away from local elected officials and placing it in the hands of bureaucrats?

The answer is "nowhere." Maryland's governor simply intends to grant the authority via executive order. Is this how public policy is created in a free and open society?

Cindy Jones, Leonardtown

The writer is a St. Mary's County commissioner.