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Howard County Council's action on nominations reveals Democrats harboring spite [Editorial]

Glenn Foden's editorial cartoons
(Glenn Foden)

You might think that the County Council in a county whose motto is "Choose Civility" would be above the partisan fray. You might think such a council would react with cheerful forbearance to the nomination of a council critic to a post on the planning board. You might imagine the four Democrats on the five-member council, in the spirit of guileless public service, would prize comradeship over partisanship in their relations with a new county executive, who happens to be a Republican.

You might also live in one of the fairy houses the kids build at the Howard County Conservancy.

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Whatever vestigial spirit of cooperation may have lingered in legislative/executive relations after Republican County Executive Allan Kittleman took office earlier this year, it evaporated July 6 in the council's last legislative session before its summer recess. Council members took that opportunity to poke Kittleman in the eye over two nominations the executive was seeking.

Council members tabled Kittleman's appointments of Susan Garber, a community activist in Savage who had been nominated to the Planning Board, and Ivan Betancourt, a volunteer firefighter nominated to the Human Rights Commission. By tabling, the council avoids rejecting the nominations, but shelves them indefinitely.

Garber, especially, has been a lightning rod. She had vocally opposed an expanded homeless shelter in Savage, something the council was pushing for and Kittleman himself supported, while being a Kittleman supporter in last year's elections. In a partisan world, that's two strikes against, but we happen to agree with Kittleman that she's as qualified as anyone else on the Planning Board and has strong support in the community.

We think a council weighing the nominations on merit alone would have approved Garber. But that's not the council we have. That, of course, is not the council most people have — in Maryland or elsewhere in the nation. But we thought we here in Howard were different.

For his part, Kittleman is stirring his bade to action, using his website to urge supporters to petition the council for an up or down vote on the two nominations. We agree the candidates deserve that much.

Meanwhile, to ensure that the council message "we shall not be crossed" be loud and clear, the council's Democrats presented Kittleman with something no council in Howard County has ever presented to an executive before — a checklist for Kittleman to fill out for the council's inspection justifying any appointment he may make. Consider that Republican Councilman Greg Fox said he was not consulted on this and then consider Democratic Councilman Calvin Ball's explanation that the intent of this checklist is to be "transparent and open." Transparent, indeed.

There's a word for what's going on here. Council Democrats, stung that voters rejected their standard-bearer for the county's highest office and now annoyed Kittleman is charting his own course, want to take the ball and go home. The word is spite.

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