You won't read about this in the Post, Gazette, or Examiner! I have obtained a brochure, published at taxpayer expense, entitled, "Emergency Medical Services Transport Fee: Maintains and Strengthens Services at No Cost to Residents." This brochure, printed by the Montgomery County Government Office of Public Information, was not announced in the local media, but is currently available at public libraries.
Obviously, this brochure raises a host of questions and concerns:
1. Is it an accepted practice for the County Executive to print biased propaganda - supporting legislation he or she would like to be passed by the council - at taxpayer expense?
2. Can taxpayer funds be used to promote a fee not yet passed into law by the County Council?
- In both cases, an answer of "yes" would mean that a county executive could spend taxpayer money to promote any idea or wish he or she had, without permission from the county council. That would certainly weaken the supposed checks and balances between the executive and legislative branch.
3. The brochure's cover, printed in a bold black-and-white design, suggests to the average citizen that the fee has already passed. This is not only misleading, but could already frighten senior citizens and other vulnerable residents. They might be dissuaded from dialing 911, before the controversial legislation has even been passed.
4. Government publications should be factual. The brochure contains several biased statements. For example, it claims the fee will have no effect on insurance rates. That is not only an unknown at this time, but an equal amount of evidence suggests the fee will indeed raise rates. To state a conclusion at this time reflects only one side of the debate.
Once again, our elected officials are trying to drain every last cent out of the most unusual sources. Senior citizens, legal and illegal immigrants, low-income residents, and other vulnerable citizens will be the most hurt by the ambulance fee. Community relations and charitable gifts to volunteer squads and departments will be affected as well. Anything that does that is simply bad policy. It's time to stop picking the working family's pocket and start the business of governing.
Now we hear that our elected officials' next target to get more of what they call "found money," is... disabled police officers, believe it or not. Using the unique case of Gaithersburg Police Chief King, Ike Leggett suggested that too many retired officers are receiving disability funds.
The reality is that police work is not a soft desk job like many of the $100,000+ members of Mr. Leggett's staff currently hold. The day to day tasks and physical strains of the job very naturally lead to various debilitating conditions. These can include everything from bad backs and wrecked knees to devastating injuries that occur during the apprehension of suspects, raids, or the rare exchange of gunfire.
In short, officers who retire on disability have good reason to do so except in rare cases. They have to be medically approved. In light of the job, police officers simply deserve better retirement benefits. They've put their lives on the line to protect the public each day of their career.
"Safety First." That is a lost idea in Montgomery County today. Whether it's the long neglected renovations of our 2nd District police station, an ambulance fee, or a sad attempt to take money from disabled police officers to fund the whims of our elected officials, public safety seems to be the last priority.
When it comes to government policies toward police and fire professionals who serve the community, I like to quote Dan Marino from his old glove commercial: you need to "take care of the hands that take care of you."