To the editor: I shouldn’t have to write to defend the intelligence and determination of Kent County’s parents, but apparently I must. In the Jan. 25 edition of the Kent County News, Jeffrey Harrington wrote a letter in defense of his neighbor, County Commissioner William Short. This was in response to an earlier letter by parent and local business owner Robbi Behr calling for new leadership in Kent County.
Ms. Behr was correct in her assessment that our current slate of commissioners are reactionary and unequal to the tasks before them. Mr. Harrington dismissed her out of hand because he claims parents have an inflexible understanding of integrated issues in the county. His friend's “accomplishments” that were listed reflect the absolute least we should be able to expect from our leaders. Mr. Harrington believes that because Ms. Behr has children she — or parents in general — can’t possibly understand the complexity of the issues facing Kent County.
It’s great that Mr. Harrington has the kind of relationship with our elected leader where he can pop next door and discuss public policy and his thoughts about county business. The rest of us have to attend public meetings and request an audience with our elected officials and we have not found any of them so receptive as he has.
On the subject of parents not understanding “integrated issues” let me provide some clarity on that front. When Ms. Behr, Francoise Sullivan and I spoke at a meeting of the commissioners in the fall and asked for an immediate infusion of investment for economic development, it was because Ms. Behr is a well known branding expert and understands the cost of mounting a credible campaign to encourage people and businesses to move here and to do business with companies already invested here. When Ms. Sullivan spoke about missed opportunities due to lack of marketing of the county’s new 1G capabilities, she’s speaking from the experience of running her own information technology business in Kent County for more than a decade. When we suggested the county conduct an efficiency study to identify wasteful spending and inefficient management, it’s because I spent years helping Fortune 50 companies do just that, and I see waste in our local government that should be addressed. That’s our money that could be put to use creating better jobs, helping businesses or promoting and preserving the amazing place we live.
It's only in the last three years that parents have been forced to become experts in education funding because of lack of support from our county commissioners.
Beyond those issues, as a resident, I’m appalled that when warned months ago of the impending Chesapeake Bay crossing study, the commissioners couldn’t be moved until local environmental advocates forced them to act. A new bay bridge through Kent County could alter the physical and economical landscape of Kent County forever. They should be leading the charge on this. We should not be depending primarily on an unelected group of private citizens to represent our interests on this.
As a taxpayer, I’m appalled that they cut their responsibilities, reducing their meetings to just two times per month, yet receive the same pay. As a taxpayer, I’m appalled that they spent taxpayer dollars on an ad in the newspaper praising their generosity to our schools. As a taxpayer, I’m appalled at their unwillingness to examine county spending to ensure our tax dollars are being used most effectively.
As a parent I’m appalled that Mr. Short, William Pickrum and Ron Fithian have forced the school board to spend money on operating expenses that they were trying accrue to pay for, among other things, capital expenses like the leaking roof at Galena Elementary School, a situation the commissioners have been aware of for at least two years and have not funded to fix. They should be embarrassed that Kent County children are subjected to this.
We’ve also just learned that for the third time in recent years they’ve been found in violation of Maintenance of Effort for failing to provide a minimum of school funding required by law and will be required by the state to increase funding.
Parents in this county work hard and we don’t deserve to be dismissed. We work in factories, warehouses, stores and on local farms. We own businesses, provide healthcare and spend far too much time commuting to find good jobs. We have invested our lives and families here and we are fighting to keep this a place our kids can live and where we can someday retire. We understand how government and business works, and we know when we’re being misled. The truth is, our criticism hits closer to home than they’d like.
I suggest Mr. Harrington and Mr. Short leave their safe space within the confines of one of Kent County’s most affluent neighborhoods and see what is really happening in Kent County. It’s hard to make it here as a working family, and attitudes like theirs aren’t helping. Perhaps if the county commissioners would start listening to parents instead of dismissing us, we could all work towards a better future. I’d like to believe that goal is something we all have in common.
Everyone, from children, to parents, to retirees, deserves better than we are getting.