Can a county executive and council run the county's budget into the ground, take COLAs and step increases from teachers and public safety employees, take away senior citizens' dentures (I'm not making that up), slash education by $79.5 million dollars...
...and avoid media criticism, public outrage, and possibly civil unrest, in a county supposedly obsessed with services and public schools?
The answer, so far, is apparently "Yes!"
Witness yesterday's bizarre editorial in the Washington Post.
After defying state law which requires the county to maintain a minimum level of education funding, the county council then turned around and charged MCPS $79.5 million dollars. Essentially, the council and executive decided to "punish the kids" for their own fiscal incompetence (kind of like how they tried to punish disabled police officers earlier this year).
Over a barrel, Superintendent Jerry Weast agreed to a one-time deal of this sort. This was probably a mistake, in light of the state mandate.
But realizing what a boon this could be, to move school funds over for general kickbacks to political allies and developers, the council soon backed away from the original deal.
In fact, member George Leventhal (D - At Large) was quoted in the Gazette days ago on his enthusiasm for repeating the "punish the kids" practice in future budgets.
The Post's response to the council's disgraceful actions?
The Post says derelict councilmembers should take "justified pride" in their final budget. You know, the one that not only introduced this new "punish the kids" budget method; but also the one that cut compensation for teachers, police, and firefighters.
"Justified pride?!" As Bill Clinton would say, "Give me a break."
Of course, in making such a shady budget move, the council has now risked not only Wall Street's wrath, but a $40 million fine from the state.
You would think that such hubris, such brash disregard for the law and the welfare of the children of Montgomery County, would bring about a tragic end. Schools would lose not only the $79.5 million, but then the county would take another $40 million blow.
And then, you would also think, there would be heck to pay for the county council among parents, the media, and eventually, the voters.
But the Post thunders, Don't you dare punish our county council! in so many words. The Post attempts to shift blame to Dr. Weast, stating that he is "grandstanding," taking "jabs at the council," and "feuding" with our hard-working councilmembers - the same councilmembers that just ran the county into the ground!
In truth, you could argue that Dr. Weast has actually accomplished some things over the last 3 years, unlike our "justifably proud," do-nothing council.
The Post subtly endorses the "punish the kids" accounting method, mainly by stating that the council "didn't want to limit future options." "Punish the kids" is a future option, according to the liberal Washington Post.
As long as there is more money for the developers, special interests, partisan non-profits, and political allies, the Post and assorted Chambers and Boards will heartily endorse our council's "Punish the Kids" budget method.
The state board of education should absolutely hold the council accountable, so that their hubris and self-serving contempt for the law - and the residents of Montgomery County - can be known to all.
And shame on the Post for another despicable display of politics-as-usual.