It is no secret that all levels of government have been struggling to find a way to pay the ever-increasing costs of providing services people rely on while also struggling with significantly declining revenue resulting from the great recession.
Until recently, I have been especially impressed by the ways in which Baltimore County has tackled these challenges. Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz and the County Council planned well for these days, amassing a sizable surplus when times were good. Moreover, they have not been reluctant to make difficult reductions in government, merging departments and finding efficiencies that are saving millions of dollars annually.
Fiscal prudence, however, should never come at the expense of communities – and should absolutely seek to avoid breaking one’s commitment. The admiration I once had for the difficult decisions being made by the county has been sharply diminished, as the Kamenetz administration recently made an “economic” decision that will be a detriment to the greater Dundalk community. Of greater concern, it represents a breach of trust.
I have recently been informed that the administration of Baltimore County had decided not to move forward on the completion of the Heritage Trail, symbolized by its failure to purchase the last parcel of land required. The trail sought to establish a new, neighborhood-scale roadway that better connects Dundalk’s historic town center with the thriving Canton area and with the area’s largest employer, the Port of Baltimore, through the extension of Center Place to Broening Highway. In addition to opening up new economic opportunities for Dundalk’s main street, the project would have also diverted truck traffic away from and eliminated a truck depot located in a residential area.
Indeed, while it is regrettable that some of the benefits of the originally-proposed projects may now never materialize, it is shameful to think that our government would turn away from a long-standing commitment that it has made with the community. Moreover, it disregards the efforts of community members who have gone great lengths to support this project – going so far as joining me to personally testify at Baltimore City Hall to make it even possible for the county to purchase the property in the first place.
Making matters worse, our local government did not even offer the community the opportunity to provide input while they were considering the termination of this project. Opening the dialogue would have at least allowed community members to offer alternative cuts or creating funding mechanisms to keep the project alive.
I strongly encourage you to contact our local government officials, and especially County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, whose administration made the decision to stop this project.
When you make your contact, tell the County Executive and his administration that their failure to follow through on this commitment is unacceptable. Let them know how wrong it is to turn their back on its residents, and that Baltimore County has a responsibility to find a way to finish what they have started. We all deserve nothing less from our elected officials at all levels.
State Del. John A. Olszewski, Jr. can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. His district phone number is 410 282-1733.