How do we digest the odd news that Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz reconsidered and finally decided to approve a new Dulaney High School only to have the County Council very publicly chastise him? The Council voted 6-1 to issue a letter of strong opposition, saying it preferred to leave the matter for the next county executive. Then, at the Feb. 20 council meeting, Council Chairman Julian Jones Jr. replied to a voter who raised questions about the letter, “Do you think we can really have honest conversations during an election year?”
Yes, we do! Why not? Let’s start that conversation with the council’s argument (supported by The Baltimore Sun in its editorial, “What will Kamenetz’s Dulaney conversion cost?” Feb. 14) that the cost of a new school might seriously risk the county’s sound financial standing. This deserves honest discussion. The council had a role in $1.3 billion spent on schools in the past seven years. In their campaigns, the incumbents eagerly highlight this investment in our schools as personal accomplishments. Yet they want to shift responsibility until after the election?
What do three candidates campaigning to replace Mr. Kamenetz as county executive have to say?
Councilwoman Vicki Almond is aggressively touting education as a priority and capability. Yet, at a public appearance in February, she seemed to exemplify the Julian Jones Theory of Public Discourse. She told perturbed attendees, “I want us to put this all on the table and figure out how we’re going to get you your new school, but we’ve got to put the brakes on for now.” She added: “I know you need a new high school.” And “we’re going to have to borrow more money and if we have to do that, I say do it. Let’s just get this done. Let’s build Dulaney.” “Let’s not wait until 2019.” What? The county’s voters and parents want solutions, not flip flops, not nonsense talk.
Former Del. Johnny Olzewski Jr., citing his experience as a former teacher, said both Dulaney and Lansdowne high schools (now cast in competition for limited resources by County Executive Kamenentz) should have new buildings, but he hasn’t yet stated a plan to pay for them.
Sen. Jim Brochin says he supports a new Dulaney High with more seats but wants to explore paying for it from the county surplus, explaining this could be an appropriate use of the surplus, as it would be a one-time (non-recurring) capital expenditure. Discussing options is a good way to find solutions to a problem that requires painful choices and acknowledges that interested voters understand the fiscal requirements and have a command of the facts.
Council members Jones and Almond, rest assured. We voters know a lot about the issues affecting us and our quality of life. We expect an honest discussion of all major issues facing Baltimore County, election year or not.
Brenda Bodian, Baltimore
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