Thursday, November 08, 2012

A Post Mortem for Questions A and B

On Tuesday, the voters of Queen Anne's County wisely rejected two ballot questions that would have opened the county to a level of development that we can now clearly say is not supported by the vast majority of those who live in our county.

Since 2010, all I have heard about was how the commissioners had a mandate for growth, since pro-growth commissioners had won a majority of the seats on the Board. It is difficult in an election, particularly at the local level, to discern precisely why people make the selections they do for county leadership, but seeing as how the county also elected "keep it rural" champions like David Dunmyer and Robert Simmons, it never jibed for me that the county was too gung-ho for growth; rather, they were gung-ho for Republicans and did not really use the 2010 General Election as a barometer for their feelings on local growth.

But Questions A and B were clearly questions about growth, which is why both sides of this debate took these questions so seriously. The result of these questions would have serious impacts on how this set of commissioners move forward for the second half of their term, and of course on the long-term outlook of our community. The results on both questions illustrate that the people of our county realize what we stand to lose by adopting growth policies that in some instances are even more aggressive than those counties that surround us.

By drawing comparisons to Easton and Middletown in relation to Question B, Business Queen Anne's did more to help the cause of opposition than perhaps they will ever realize. BQA's advertisements presented Easton in a "look what we are missing!" light, and the results of the election prove that the citizens of our county don't think that is the kind of thing they are missing. People know that they don't want the place they call home to look like those places; that is not why they moved here or stay here, and no amount of so-called convenience would get them to vote for a question that might put Queen Anne's County on the fast-track to Easton style development.

I take even greater comfort in the wide margin of Question A. By a 60-40% tally, voters declined to buy the argument that more houses in Queen Anne's County will solve any problem. They declined to believe that by crowding the schools and putting more cars on the road, by accepting a lower standard of service in education and transportation, that the county would benefit.

Throughout the lead up to this election, it struck me that none of the interest groups or people who supported Question A were being very honest in their potrayal of what the question would actually do. In their email supporting a "For" vote on Question A, the Queen Anne's County Central Committee stated that the question would "revise the APFO to previous levels." Seems harmless right? And in their ads, Business Queen Anne's never once mentioned the actual impact of the Question, but rather just recommended a "For" vote, and on their Facebook page said that Question A would "help farmers sell their land." I suppose that they found it helpful for their purposes to steer away from what Question A actually would have done, crowd schools and roads, and increase the need for costly government services.

And now that the election is over, and the development interests were soundly defeated, those same interests are left to define their loss, which largely means they are seeking ways to downplay its importance, and/or to place blame. They immediately started to complain that the voters somehow did not understand the questions, did not understand just what was at stake. Of course, coming to that conclusion requires one to assume that voters are uninformed, and intellectually ill-equipped to understand important ballot questions. The leaders of BQA are constitutionally incapable of realizing that when they pretend as though we need to crowd the schools to fix them, or when they contend that, despite what the Department of Education says, the schools aren't really at capacity, they make it remarkably easy for people to understand the issues, and subsequently to reject these asinine arguments.

It was a good night in Queen Anne's County, as I sat in the Board of Elections building in Centreville as the precincts reported, and saw just how favorable the totals looked as they came in. I don't assume this will be the last fight we have with this Board of Commissioners, three of whom appear unlikely to let something like clearly illustrated public will stand in the way of their agenda. But its nice to savor a win on two battlefields, even while the war is sure to continue.


Anonymous said...

Congrats. I'll continue to spend my money in Annapolis, Easton and Delaware, even though I'd prefer to spend it in QA County, where I live. It's always good economic strategy to artificially restrict growth. That's a good recipe for job creation and affordable housing. It's delicious irony to watch the NIMBY's decry growth while at the same time complaining a lack of jobs and affordable housing. We all can't live on a farm.

Steve Kline said...

Dave, thanks for reading. You won't find me decrying the lack of much of anything in our county, and I certainly do not bemoan the lack of affordable housing, which a quick search on Long and Foster's website tells me there is actually plenty of.

And apparently unlike you, I don't often find the need to leave the county to buy anything, and rarely need to leave Centreville. Household goods, groceries, appliances, tires, auto parts, lumber, building supplies, menswear, pharmaceuticals, all can be found in Centreville. Not sure what you are buying.

And for the record, QAC has the lowest unemployment rate on the Shore, and a lower rate than the state and the nation. Although I am sure Big Box would have brought some sweet low-wage, low benefits jobs to Queen Anne's County, that all of those people who commute to Annapolis and Washington to work would have lined up to fill. Or not.

River Mud said...

For the people who are "for" these questions, I guess I really wonder why you would move to the Shore, just to live in a miniature version of Anne Arundel County.

Where I come from in Southeastern VA, the rural counties welcomed this insane, unmanaged growth. It brought tons of jobs - minimum wage jobs. It also brought all of the kids of the minimum wage employees into the public school systems. And put all of their crappy old cars on the bridges and tunnels (to break down and get stuck in rush hour).

The end was predictable - the initial increase in tax revenues was offset (like how an iceberg "offset" the Titanic) by staggering needs to upgrade roads, sewer, schools, fire and police, and other services to cover the influx of new people (who don't pay a lot of tax, due to their employment at WalMart).

I'll doubt the wisdom of any growth who touts as a benefit "To help farmers sell the farm!"