Local government services are popular, and protecting those services is an issue where Democrats – the party more optimistic about government’s ability to solve problems – have a natural political advantage.
Democrats create political space for Republican opponents though, when they tolerate poor performance of those services, or otherwise give taxpayers cause to believe that they’re getting bad value from the service providers – whether that’s outside contractors or public employees.
Thinking about the Democratic County Executive primaries this year, the candidate with the broadest appeal in November is going to be somebody who believes in the importance of high quality public services, but also can credibly promise to get the taxpayers a good value for their dollar. Who’s going to stretch your municipal tax dollar the farthest?
From what I’ve read from Bill White and Bernie O’Hare, I think it’s clear Glenn Reibman is not that candidate. Reibman’s tenure as Executive seems to have been one endless ripoff for taxpayers at the hands of the service providers, both private (swaption) and public (pensions).
John Callahan needs to run as the Democrat who cares about getting you a good value from all the people the County buys goods and services from.
Democrats can’t let the anti-government party have a monopoly on cost-cutting politics. It is completely possible to be passionate about the importance of public services and be equally passionate about making sure those services are run professionally and cheaply.
This doesn’t require a Democratic candidate to be for lower taxes, or lower pay. If you can save money through monopsony purchasing, or consolidating services at the County level, it might be that County taxes go up while other municipal and school
taxes go down. It might mean that some salaries need to go up to attract people with better qualifications. The County should pay what’s necessary, and no more, to deliver quality professional services. What matters most is value. How much you’re getting for your money, not just how much you’re paying.
If you can save taxpayers money through policy changes like consolidation of purchasing for municipalities and school districts, reorganizing the open space program as a Transferable Development Rights Bank, and consolidating municipal water authorities, you can either give the savings back as tax cuts or cycle it back into providing even more useful public services.
John Callahan is better positioned to make this case to the general election voters than either of the other two or three possible Democratic candidates.