Anthony J. O'Donnell and Christopher B. Shank on O'Malley's goals: Just more pie in the sky promises?
Gov. Martin O'Malley's administration is expected soon to release a list of goals to guide the remainder of the governor's term. The list of major goals includes increasing public transit ridership by 10 percent per year, reducing violent crime against women and children by 25 percent by 2012, and ending childhood hunger in Maryland. No one can argue that these are not worthwhile goals. However, they may not necessarily be attainable.
Setting unattainable goals and giving the appearance of progress is nothing new for Governor O'Malley. He has a habit of governing by mirage. He chooses laudable causes to champion, has a media blitz about how much he is doing, but nothing ever really changes. We saw this during his tenure as the mayor of Baltimore.
Then-Mayor O'Malley gave the illusion of improving Baltimore's schools. As it turns out, this was not so. He also made a commitment to reduce the city's crime rate — yet another well-marketed promise that never really came to fruition.
The governor is very philosophical about his failure to meet the goals he sets. He claims that he is a risk-taker by setting goals he can be judged by. He says even falling short of his goals is still progress. Basically, the governor seems think we should be happy that he tried, regardless of his lack of success. If this is true, then why set the goals in the first place? Could it be that setting these goals has little to do with Maryland's needs and has more to do with building the Martin O'Malley image prior to his bid for re-election?
Let's take a look at some of the goals Governor O'Malley has set so far:
-Electricity rates: After all the fist pounding and chest beating theatrics, and after demonizing members of the Public Service Commission, the governor has not delivered any significant reduction in electricity rates.
-"StatBrothers": Where is the data on StateStat, the much-anticipated tool of government efficiency and transparency that the governor claims is a success. What about its brother BayStat? Where are the results?
-Public safety: The governor came into office on a mission to abolish the death penalty. After several failed attempts he tried to take on the role of a neutral arbiter by creating a commission to study the death penalty. It was clear from the start that this commission was nothing more than a foregone conclusion looking for a process. While Maryland has technically retained the use of the death penalty, it has been restricted in such a manner to render it virtually useless.
-Tax cuts: Remember that tax package Governor O'Malley pitched before the special session? He said 95 percent of Marylanders would see a tax break. So far, the only Marylanders that have seen a tax break are those that have moved to neighboring states.
-Budget deficit: By far, the greatest hoax perpetrated by the O'Malley administration over the last three years has been the multiple "fixes" to the state's structural deficit. First, he said he needed time to get a handle on the fiscal situation. He used that time to raid every pot of money the state had and wiped out the surplus left by his predecessor. A few months later, he contrived a fiscal crisis complete with a "Cost of Delay" doom and gloom budget created to push through the largest tax increase in Maryland's history. He threatened cuts to public safety and education in order to push through his abysmal slots scheme. He pretended to make "tough decisions" to cut spending while continuing to backfill virtually every cut. Most recently he has relied heavily on the federal stimulus package to bail the state out of the fiscal swamp he put us in. Even with all this, the structural deficit is bigger than ever.
Those are only a few examples of the goals Governor O'Malley has set in the past. Perhaps before moving forward with a shiny new list of goals to fall short of achieving, he may want to revisit some of these important issues. It is time for Governor O'Malley and his "Delivery Unit" to be less concerned with his image and re-election and more concerned with doing the business of government. Fewer mirages, more reality.
Anthony J. O'Donnell, a Republican from Lusby, represents District 29C in the House of Delegates, where he is minority leader; Christopher B. Shank, a Republican from Hagerstown, represents District 2B in the House of Delegates, where he is minority whip.