Anne Arundel County Council Mystery:
Can This Bunch Get Along?
The back-slapping and bonhomie when the new Anne Arundel County Council took oaths this week had an unfamiliar ring.
Over the past two years, the council chamber has experienced roughly as many blood feuds and monthly ruckuses as a South Korea-North Korea border crossing.
To say this council has seen a changing of the guard from the recent election is an understatement. Control has passed into Republican hands, as has control of the Maryland governors office, the U.S. Senate and a slew of state legislatures around the country.
Two members were bounced out of office and another new member was elected to replace John Klocko, who died in an auto accident in October.
Perhaps they should print scorecards with members names and mug shots so people can tell whos who.
Unlike some, we considered it a healthy sign when four of the members gathered last month for a pre-official confab in the office of returning member Cathleen Vitale.
It was an even better sign when Vitale opened up the meeting to reporters after they got wind that it was planned. Whether or not it would have been legal, starting a new council era with a secret ex-parte meeting would have sent a bad signal indeed.
We are not among those Pollyannas who pine for council meetings brimming with sweetness and happy talk. Politics is a contact sport even at the county level, with tens of millions of our tax dollars at stake and decisions that routinely effect the quality of our lives.
But in the outgoing council, relationships had degenerated to such an extent that basic decisions had turned into tough tasks.
The work of the next council likely will be even more challenging perhaps more so than most of us understand after the General Assembly takes the meat cleaver to the state budget, the rich uncle to many county programs.
Council members will have something to say about passing along the cuts. Given the tendency of the county executive to steamroll the council on budget matters, council members will have more to say and be less likely to me marginalized if they cooperate across party lines.
We say good luck to this new council in tough times. We look forward to the swearing in of Calverts equivalent, the Board of Commissioners, on December 17. And we hope both groups disprove that old political saying: Out with the old rascals, in with the new.