Government: Whose Side Are They On?
When do you know for sure that your local government has completely forgotten that they work for you, the citizens of their community? The answer to this riddle can be found in our own county where millions of dollars have been spent on a system like 311. Masterminded by our thrice elected County Executive, this monstrosity of bureaucratic red tape was touted as a way to quickly pair concerns from citizens with the department or county employee who could assist them. However, several years after becoming operational, this very expensive 311 system has instead become a way to protect sluggish county employees from listening to complaints from county residents, resulting in response times of several days becoming the norm for simple questions regarding county service.
Case in point: I am a retired county employee. My daughter was removed from my health insurance coverage due to a clerical error. I wanted to contact the benefits team within the county to have this error corrected before an upcoming doctor’s appointment or medical emergency. I called 311 to get the number to the appropriate department and waited several minutes for a “live” operator.
After my call was finally answered, I was told that they were not allowed to give me that number. Instead, I was told she would assign me a case number and would pass my question to the appropriate department, which would then have 72 hours to call me back. I explained that in the past when I had played by these “311 rules” (to have pot holes repaired or bushes cut back from covered STOP signs) no one ever called me back! Still she refused to give me the number. When I asked to speak to a supervisor, she told me none were available and I would have to leave a message on a generic supervisory line.
So let’s think about what transpired here. A county employee, whose generous salary is paid by you and me stated that the phone number of another county agency, whose employees we also pay for, was not to be made public, and that she was prohibited from giving it out. So, not only does Montgomery County proudly spend money on items which more conservative taxpayers adamantly disagree with, such as CASA de Maryland and Planned Parenthood, but they now openly state that we have no right to direct access to taxpayer-supported agencies.
We are left with a government that can, as publicly stated by council member Marc Elrich, tax whomever they want at whatever amount they want through the power of special taxing districts, and can apparently keep services we pay for hidden from us at the times when we need them most.
The District Spotlight series features commentaries written by our MCGOP District Chairmen. This week’s commentary is written by District 14 Chairman Sharon Begosh.