BERLIN – As part of her town meeting presentation, Judy Boggs invoked an Internet meme purportedly of Cicero’s rant against the dole and how to best rectify Rome’s financial troubles.
Boggs said, that according to the famous Roman politician, “The budget should be balanced, the treasury should be refilled, public debt should be reduced, the arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled, and the assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed lest Rome become bankrupt. People must again learn to work, instead of living on public assistance.”
That the quote is not from Cicero was less obvious than the lack of irony with which Boggs suggested that “we have learned nothing” over the last 2,000 years while taking extreme liberties with the facts in political rhetoric. It is not unheard of for a politician to attempt to elicit a populist response referencing an idyllic past but rare to evoke the actual phrase “arrogance of officialdom” while doing so.
The quote came as part of Boggs’ presentation that centered on the difficulties presented to the people because of Worcester County’s lack of relative size and power when it came to state politics.
While the misattribution played pretty well in the room it did prompt United Way executive director Kathleen Momme to emphasize that her organization was definitely not about giving handouts when she made her presentation.
Momme took the opportunity to credit both county employees, who without raises have contributed more to the United Way this year than last and the residents of Ocean Pines who have contributed more than $20,000 to the non-profit during their fund raising drive. Momme said the organization has reached 90 percent of its fundraising goal.
Boggs’ quarterly meetings serve to keep her in touch with her constituents, providing an opportunity for speakers who are relevant to the county’s well being. This quarter’s speakers, Worcester County Superintendent of Schools Dr. John Andes and Momme, spoke about the challenges and opportunities each of their institutions faced. Both speakers highlighted the fact that they’ve been able to successfully navigate what both speakers agreed were “difficult economic times.”
The source of the difficult economic times was identified as the state of Maryland, which according to Boggs, is not always looking out for the best interests of Worcester County. She spoke about her activism as the commissioners’ representative on the Maryland Association of Counties (MACo). And said she along with the other elected representatives were surprised at the recent revelation that the local impact funds were to be further divided beginning in July.
“They just slipped it past us,” she said of the bill written in 2007.
State funding issues were the centerpiece of Andes’ presentation wherein he said that during his own lobbying efforts for additional state funds, he was constantly reminded that Worcester County had the top property values and the lowest tax rate in the state. He said this fact prevented the state from considering altering the school funding algorithm to reflect the 40 percent of Worcester County students who live below the poverty level. It’s a number Andes said has increased from 32 percent at the beginning of his tenure with the county.
The percentage of the slots revenue slated for schools does not go directly to Worcester County but is rather filtered through the state and subjected to the same formula that makes Worcester among the lowest state-funded counties. Boggs and Andes both voiced suspicions that the influx of slots funds would eventually give the state room to reduce the amount of school spending and let the schools be run primarily on gambling revenues.
Andes outlined the school board’s efforts to provide the commissioners with a Maintenance of Effort budget but again warned that the school system was subject to the same economic pressures as any other large concern and that energy costs would continue to be a factor. The school board is set to eliminate 12 positions as part of that budget, largely through not refilling positions gained through retirement and attrition.
Boggs defended the commissioners’ decision to lobby the state legislature to effect disbanding the Liquor Control Board, saying that by continuing to run the quasi-governmental agency the county will be able to keep 40 people employed.
“We cannot let these people go without a job,” she said.
Boggs said if the county is put in charge of the liquor distribution they will run it as an enterprise fund similar to the water and wastewater departments which are funded through user fees.
Boggs also said she anticipated that, should the state grant them the opportunity to run it, the county would be able to slowly get out of the liquor distribution business.