What Transparency Means to Me:
Transparency is the ability to see through things, openly and honestly; there can be no hedging on this definition. When leaders are transparent there is no hiding, no obfuscation, no sleight-of-hand, and no barely-legal tip-toeing of the law. When our local Howard County elected officials are transparent there can be no pushing through development projects before making sure the neighbors have a chance to weigh in. There should be, no intimidation by moneyed special interests, and no bullying when all we want is open and honest communication.
The issue of transparency is not a partisan dispute. It should not be a fight between Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and progressives. It is simply a question of what is right and what is wrong for our community. This is a battle between the past business-as-usual and the future business as it should be.
For far too long, we have not had enough transparent communication in Howard County.. We need leaders who mean what they say on building clearer government. We need full measures on transparency, not the half-measures we’ve seen thus far. To this end, I have proposed creating an ambassador position within the county government to keep the lines of communication open with any neighborhoods, schools and local organizations impacted by development proposals.
The ambassador would act as both liaison and interpreter– translating the currently arcane language in which development proposals are written and clarifying the process for reviewing them. It should never reach the point where citizens have to hire lawyers to have a say in what happens in their communities. If we empower the people, there will be a level playing field of understanding, and we can work together more quickly to advance our common collective interests.
The creation of an ambassador position is the centerpiece of my platform on development transparency, but I also believe that all Council processes should be as clear as possible from start to finish.
We need fewer acronyms and simpler language in order to clarify matters to those not entrenched in the processes. Current language and processes are inscrutable and unnecessarily complicated. Many people ride by the red or blue county digit signs and wonder, ‘should I get involved, or is it already too late?’ It should be extremely clear even when you get a notice in the mail. Today it is not, but in the future, I hope to clarify this matter, starting on Day 1.
We need to end the cozy and questionable relationships between select powerful developers and the County Council that begin on the campaign trail and continue to have impacts far beyond Election Day. All developers and communities should be treated equally. Unfortunately, it would appear as though my opponent and others are far too willing to continue this opaque status quo.
A careful review of my opponent’s campaign finance reports in District 1 (and other elected Council members) shows one developer successfully pushing massive housing developments through his allies on the County Council and continuing to give thousands of dollars to those officials and candidates using a soon-to-be illegal loophole in campaign finance law.
If a candidate cannot be transparent on campaign financial disclosure forms, then a legitimate issue can be raised as to whether or not they will be transparent if they serve on the County Council. Do we want an elected official to bend the rules and do anything possible to get elected? If a candidate is willing to use a soon-to-be illegal loophole to hide where his donations are coming from, how can citizens trust him to deal honestly and fairly once elected? If a candidate gets the bulk of his campaign donations from a single wealthy developer, how can any other businesses or individuals competing with that developer expect to be treated without prejudice? These are all questions that my opponent and other aspiring and current elected officials must answer.
Transparency is tied to all of our daily lives and our children’s future. Republicans, Democrats, and Independents have made it clear to me that our community is asking for true transparency. “Just give us the facts and let us work together,” is what I hear. I want us to have an open and honest discussion about our future together. It is amazing what we can achieve when everyone has knowingly and proudly participated in our communities growth.
Let’s level the playing field and work together to move our community forward. And let us start now: to vote for transparency, to choose common ground, and to pick true leaders and advocates.
Vote for Me on November 4th – Kevin Forrest Schmidt for County Council, District 1.