Do more with less? County commissioners should heed their own advice

Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2008

We are all, in Charles County, going to have to do more with less.

County officials, the sheriff's office and the school system are all going to have to cut back. The leadership, those taking the toughest immediate hit, should be the Charles County commissioners, those who should be showing the county agencies how to move within the current, dire economic climate.

They have, instead, when they have been telling everyone else to hold back on spending, to do more with less, just spent almost $90,000 to renovate a county auditorium in order to hold meetings in a larger, far more elegant space than they used before. They have two new flat-screen televisions, updated speakers, a large C-shaped meeting desk. "Exquisite work," praised Commissioner Edith Patterson. "Quite a marvel," quoted Commissioner Reuben Collins. "Far surpasses any expectations I had," stated Commissioner Samuel Graves. "Has been a vision … for about two years," claimed commissioners' President F. Wayne Cooper. "An example of how we can reuse and adapt facilities we already own to do a better job," quoted Commissioner Gary Hodges.

But to the tune of $90,000, when the previous meeting room was more than adequate and the meetings were televised anyway? Do more with less? They now have five cameras, which allow more room coverage than the previous four. Who cares? Don't spend my money on your comfort when you are telling the sheriff's office and board of education to cut back. And speaking of County Administrator Paul Comfort, who gestured to the beautiful, gleaming dark wood of the commissioners' dais and credited himself for saving money by doing the project in-house, shouldn't we be doing everything in-house, by using the resources and the individuals we are already paying to do the work for the county?

We purchased three gas-guzzling sport-utility vehicles for the three commissioners who wanted them. Now they should do more with less. They must show us that they understand that the county can't afford such extravagance and get rid of them.

Tell us first which salesman benefited from our county's largess. They need to take a page from the book of Mayor Adrian Fenty of Washington, D.C. Instead of driving an eight-seat vehicle with seven empty seats, do more with less and purchase a two-seater to share.

Commissioners have set aside $12 million to expand the county government building. Get them trailers like every school in the county does. They have now lost a king's ransom with their acquisition of the Capital Clubhouse. Sell the space to someone else or admit that you were bailing out friends when you acquired it, and get rid of it. It is costing us a fortune.

Stop holding back on the specifics of why you have done and are doing some of the horrendous things upon which you have squandered our tax dollars. Let the sheriff's office protect us and let the educators educate.

Believe it or not, most of your constituents find protection and education far more important than your new room. Show them the example that you seem to think you are doing.

Do more with less, set the financial bar lower and live within your means. No more throwing money around. It all starts with you, and the five of you have been setting a terrible financial burden on the taxpayers of Charles County. You will, hopefully, face some fiscally appropriate individuals in 2010 to take your places.

Clean up your own house now, or suffer the consequences in due time.

Barbara A. Allen, La Plata