August for the Anne Arundel County Council is the one month out of the year that legislation takes a pause and the council goes on recess. Recess does not mean vacation by any means. As summer enters its final weeks before the official end, my office continues to work on constituent matters, as I identify potential future legislation.
Constituent services is one of the most important aspects of my job as your county councilwoman. Since taking office in December, my office has received more than 100 constituent cases a month. Each case is an exercise in due diligence, patience and communication.
A wide variety of topics have crossed my desk: individual matters, community concerns, stormwater and flooding, line of sight at intersections, pedestrian crosswalks, Bay Bridge traffic, local corridor traffic, bike trail traffic, and potholes just to name a few. My office then works diligently to contact the appropriate department or department head to resolve the case in the timeliest manner. Traffic cases often involve traffic studies, safety trials and final construction. Stormwater and flooding issues often involve a visit from the Department of Public Works, topographic maps and engineering. Local traffic matters often involve community leaders and our county police department.
It goes without saying that no two constituent cases are the same. Some cases involve multiple departments. Some cases involve not only the county but also state agencies. With increased complexity comes increased time and that is where patience and communication is key. As an example, I recently attended a public meeting in our district for safety improvements on a county road that intersects with a state road but also has line-of-sight challenges with utility boxes and poles. This project will require the collaboration of the State Highway Administration, private utility companies, county traffic engineers, the Department of Public Works, your state and county elected officials, and funding. This will not be a swift and easy fix, but the process has begun.
The county council serves as the legislative branch for Anne Arundel County. In matters of constituent services, I am not permitted to direct departments, but I can and do ask for their assistance where applicable. My office can provide the county resources available under our county code. When I have exhausted all possible solutions without a remedy, I then request the office of the county executive’s constituent services to review the case for a final opinion.
My office often receives communication from parents of children in our public schools. As a parent to three young school children, I understand how time-sensitive these matters can be. The county council however, is only responsible for funding education in our county. The Board of Education is the policy maker for our public schools, with the superintendent overseeing daily operations. When concerns in schools come to my office, I often reach out to the elected board member for our district as I would a county department, in order to address the matter appropriately and through the proper avenue.
Legislation is my primary responsibility in serving the 5th district. The county council is quickly approaching what I have often described as “the single most important piece of legislation we work on.” The General Development Plan (GDP) is to be done every eight years and will direct our growth for the next 20 years. This will be followed by comprehensive zoning, where we review the zoning of residential, commercial, agricultural and industrial zones. The results of the GDP and comprehensive zoning will be seen for years after this council serves our respective terms, just as we see the results of previous GDPs and comprehensive zoning now.
Constituent services and legislation — each has a process my office must follow. Each can vary in time and scope. Each requires my careful attention. As we prepare to return for our legislative session in September, I encourage you follow county legislation and weigh in. The bills that we review will have the most immediate impact on your life in Anne Arundel County.