Small Wins, Big Rewards

I was searching as usual for a topic to write about on this blog when an email arrived to inform me that…

…the issue on which I had been passionately advocating, educating, testifying, and writing about on a highly wonky tax-related issue here in the county of my birth actually was addressed and included as I requested within a $5.64B proposed FY19 budget.

Yeah, that’s “B” as in “billion” and the issue about which I was engaged is a small part of the larger whole. What many people who do not live in my home state (Maryland) may not understand is that our county is our local government. It provides county-wide public schools, police, sheriff, fire & rescue, libraries, recreation, parks, public works, waste & recyclables collection, public health, transit, housing assistance, and much more.

So that is why our county’s annual budget is so large — it provides services in a consolidated manner for over one million residents.

Unlike my mother-in-law’s decrepit little borough in Pennsylvania that has a separate borough tax, county tax, and school district tax when added together exceed my tax burden by about double for a home & land site that is 1/4 the size of mine — having a consolidated tax system with consolidated services is more efficient and less burdensome on comparable bases.

While “efficiency” is in the eye of the taxpayer, those of us who keep eyes on these kinds of things keep ’em honest. Or at least we try.

This “win” of my public advocacy will result in significant action to keep a check on a tax item that was spiraling out of control because it had been excluded from the budget restraints and controls that keep a check on unbounded tax increases. Now it is “included,” meaning that the usual budget restraints are now applicable. That tax that was separately listed in my consolidated tax bill is now included within, not outside of, the budget.

I know this is hard to explain, but why I feel this is a “win” is that this tax that had been increasing 10% per year without bounds now may not increase any more than the overall general tax rate. And most importantly, the overall general tax rate being proposed with this new budget proposes a 2% tax reduction. Yay!

So as I went to bed last night, there was one email announcing the proposed budget. When I awoke and looked at my email, I had more than 100 new emails from neighbors, friends, political leaders, candidates for office, and others saying, “hey, did you see that your issue about (x) was included in the county budget for the first time in 18 years? You won!”

Today, instead of writing about boots, leather, or my home life with the love-of-my-life, I am celebrating a little bit to know that the issue about which I have passionately attempted to persuade change was addressed. Finally… after 18 years of shenanigans, this issue is now “included.”

I am not describing that issue on this blog because I do not want search engines to direct traffic here. That’s not the point. The point I am trying to make is what I said the other day, “show up, engage, and be that ‘you again’ guy.” Yes, in this case, “citizen participation” can actually influence things in a profound way.

Life is short: show up, be involved, and celebrate wins!

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