It isn't straight A's, but we'll give Kevin Kamenetz a "very good" on his report card for his first year in office as county executive.
A year ago, Baltimore County was perched on the threshhold of a new political era — a new county executive had been elected, along with five new County Council members. Was this a new broom? And would it sweep clean?
As far as Kamenetz was concerned, he was hardly a "new broom" in county government. He had already served four terms — 16 years — as a county councilman. He was, and is, savvy about the nuts and bolts of county government and this, to a large measure, probably accounts for his successes.
One of his first acts was putting the county's financial house in order by offering early retirements and buyouts to trim the payroll. In the interest of improving efficiency, he also consolidated some departments. He deserves a B-plus. If there has been a downside from these actions, we haven't seen it.
The year had hardly begun when tragedy struck Jan. 19. Firefighter Mark Falkenhan, a member of the Lutherville Volunteer Fire Company, died while searching for survivors on the third floor of a building on fire in Hillendale. The subsequent period of mourning and funeral ceremony were handled with sensitivity and a steady hand by the Kamenetz administration. He deserves an A.
The same steady hand directed the clean-up and recovery after Tropical Storm Irene swept through the county. Another A.
Transparency and ethics are turning out to be keystones of the Kamenetz regime. He has had the salaries of all county employees posted on line and he is currently pressing an ethics bill that, among other things, would put the disclosure documents of County Council members on the Web. He didn't have to do this, and it certainly wasn't popular in government circles, so give him some credit. Mark it a B.
In land use issues, he has pushed for much-needed improvements at the Owings Mills Mall and the addition of a Wegman's, the upscale supermarket, in Owings Mills. He also deferred on building a controversial water tower in Reisterstown and shifted the funds to other water and sewer projects. An A.
We don't know what role Kamenetz may have had on the decision made by county schools superintendent Joe Hairston to retire, but it is likely he had a hand in that decision, which was greeted with relief by many who were fed up with the superintendent's tin-eared administrative style. I for incomplete.
Any bad marks? Not so much, but 17 years in public office inevitably means a lot of favors asked and favors granted. What is cronyism to some is politics as usual to others. We haven't seen a lot of it with Kamenetz in office, but we do note that two of his old colleagues on council, Sam Moxley and Vince Gardina, have landed in county jobs. They may be "old straws" in the broom, but given their expertise, that may prove pragmatic in the long run. We'll postpone this grade.