Over the past month, have highlighted the relationship between the county executive and the County Council. There have been differences of opinion between the county executive’s office and members of the County Council on certain issues—but I do think it is important to put the last 17 months in perspective. The executive and council elected in 2010 have worked cooperatively on a number of matters, first and foremost the budget.
Baltimore County has a long tradition of fiscal discipline. During prosperous times, the county has invested in capital projects that build the foundation for long-term growth. At the same time, the county has avoided the type of long-term labor agreements that have, in some cases, hurt localities once the economy deteriorates.
The current county executive and County Council were not elected during a prosperous time; we took office during the worst recession since the Great Depression. At a time when other jurisdictions have taken drastic measures, the county has neither cut positions nor furloughed employees. Baltimore County’s workforce is at its lowest point since the early 1980s. This was achieved through attrition, retirement incentives, and the consolidation of county functions.
Labor unions play a very important role in many local governments, and I greatly value all of our public employees. In Baltimore County, the difficult economy forced tough decisions about employee salaries and benefits. To his credit, the County Executive concluded agreements with some of the county’s major unions, including the Baltimore County Professional Fire Fighters Association and the Teachers Association of Baltimore County. Abby Beytin, the president of the Teachers Association of Baltimore County, said this to The Baltimore Sun: "I couldn't have asked for anyone better to work with. They've been very supportive of us, so we've been very pleased."
I am pleased the Kamenetz administration and these organizations were able to reach consensus, and I think the administration’s overall approach has been successful. The agreements may not be as ideal as some would like, but they avoided more draconian moves such as layoffs—and they preserved the county’s reputation for fiscal discipline.