On Wednesday I announced that Joe Ollinger had entered the race for Wicomico County Executive, with a followup post on Thursday regarding his platform. It’s a platform which dealt extensively with the subjects of fiscal responsibility and education and included two interesting planks:
- Empower the County Executive to appoint the county’s school board, which is one of the few remaining with members appointed by the governor. Most Maryland counties have adopted an elected school board.
- Create one county-wide law enforcement agency, consolidating the efforts of the existing Sheriff’s Department with existing municipal police forces in Salisbury, Fruitland, and Delmar.
As you may or may not know, the Wicomico County Republican Party (the one Ollinger is supposedly a part of) has made its case for electing (as opposed to appointing) the Wicomico County board of education; a case similar to one I made back in March.
Yet Ollinger is trying to shift a system which depends on input from a Governor’s office generally at odds with the people of Wicomico County and artificially rigged to reflect a majority of the party holding that office to one which would perhaps better reflect the will of the people based on who they elected County Executive but still not directly accountable to the electorate – sort of a half-step solution which combines the worst of both worlds. Perhaps it’s a plank which Joe can be made to reconsider if and when he’s elected because, while he may hold conservative educational values, it would certainly make the teachers’ union more of a player than it already is for the County Executive race – they would have a direct stake in the outcome.
As a Republican Party we believe an elected school board is the way to go and, unlike a GOP Congress which was forced to carry water for some of President Bush’s ill-considered ideas, neither our central commitee nor Republicans on County Council (or outside conservative groups like AFP) may sit quietly and allow Ollinger to proceed with his scheme.
Similarly, the fiefdoms which are the various local municipal police departments may not be willing to have themselves absorbed into the Wicomico County Sheriff’s Department. While these departments work together on a regular basis, the logistics of such a change need to be studied carefully and most likely placed on a timetable beyond the term of the County Executive – I think such a process if undertaken would take at least five years to adopt from initial planning to final outcome. There’s also the risk of alienating bargaining units like the Fraternal Order of Police and assuredly the Maryland State Police may have to have some say as well.
In truth, we may find that the assumed efficiencies in combining departments are outweighed by unforseeable costs or a lack of coverage of rural areas as municipalities would be especially cognizant of reduced patrols and complain if the crime rate increases.
I know that there are already shared resources between local law enforcement agencies, and perhaps Joe will elaborate further on the subject as the election draws near. But it’s a plank certain to draw as much attention as his educational ideas, which can be taken at face value for what they are worth. There’s little doubt who the educational lobby in this county will support so Joe needs to take his case above them and to the people.