Maryland Lt Governor Anthony G. Brown was the guest speaker at the Chamber of Commerce's monthly Eggs and Issues event today. Make no mistake. It was a campaign speech. Following the announcement of his candidacy at a picnic in Prince George’s County on May 10, 2013, this was just one stop on his campaign trail.
I read that he plans to run on the successes of the O'Malley-Brown administration. As anyone who knows me could imagine, I am disgusted with the outcome of the 2013 legislative session. For this reason I felt compelled to attend this campaign event. I wanted to hear for myself how he plans to paint the state of our state, our business climate, our many tax increases, and our many state regulations as accomplishments to be celebrated. Those are just the subjects that I thought were relevant to this audience at the Chamber. I personally also would have liked to have heard how he can make the worst 2nd Amendment infringements in the country besides CA and NY sound like anything but unconstitutional, unnecessary, and oppressive.
|It's Barack Obama! Right?!
To be fair, he is clearly a very educated man with a remarkable resume, a veteran, a family man, a man that has lived a life of service. All of that is admirable and I recognize that to be true. That said, I found his social presence to be rehearsed and one of a purely political personality. He shook all of the right hands and slapped all of the right backs. His speech was every bit a speech. His manner is uncannily almost like Barack Obama's. I imagined that if I was a judge on the political version of the TV show The Voice, where you cannot see the person and only hear his voice, I would have sworn that it was President Obama speaking. The resume and the presence seemed a dichotomy. Lets be honest, personality does count in America...especially for the largely uninformed voters.
|The Gong Show
So right out of the box he says, "We have come out--or are coming out in some areas of the state--of the Great Recession as a state able to weather the storm, growing economically, creating jobs faster than any other state other than Virginia..." I imagined that I was on the old Gong Show. I wanted to hit that big gong to make him stop singing so horribly and sit down! He is saying this presumably to business owners and entrepreneurs! In Maryland!! The audience wasn't applauding, but it wasn't balking either.
He went on to say, "Government can't solve every problem, but people want leaders to make the difficult decisions even when it's against self interest."
This administration was completely driven by O'Malley's self interest in running for president in 2016!
"We have fought for our successes. We need continued economic prosperity and a growing economy, and the economy grows when businesses want to come to Maryland and when businesses want to stay in Maryland.
Not only do businesses not want to stay in Maryland, but neither do the productive citizens of the state! It is estimated that 40,000 people left the state in 2012.
"Businesses want to stay in Maryland when we provide the investments in infrastructure."
The O'Malley-Brown administration robbed the transportation fund for two terms in order to fraudulently balance the budget! Then they made cuts to the funds given to the municipalities for infrastructure adding to the burdens of already tight budgets.
"Government needs to provide these investments, but with fiscal responsibility and we have adhered to that..."
"...while maintaining a AAA bond rating with a $1.8B structure deficit that we inherited." This has to be Barack Obama! When all else fails blame somebody else.
|Barack! Is that you?!
"We believe in Hagerstown and Washington County...and we are looking to continue a relationship with the business community here."
The speech was precisely 15 minutes in length followed by a Q&A session. I give every politician credit for submitting to Q&A. I could tell already that this candidate was pretty safe with this crowd. This audience was polite, gentle, even grateful!
|All unicorns and rainbows here!
The questions were hard to hear and most often comments rather than questions. I will try to paraphrase, but I admit it is pretty boring:
Q. [inaudible] Is there someone we should tie in with for senior housing?
A. We have many programs like tax credit programs and grant programs. Ben on our staff can talk to you and lead you to the different programs and departments.
Q. [COC host] There is an opportunity to build a stadium and to revitalize Hagerstown. How best can we work with Annapolis?
A. We already provided $100,000 for a study. Now your challenges are largely local. We will look to your leaders.
|A poke in the eye to the Mayor and City Council!
Perhaps there will be resources from that strategy. The private sector creates, but strategic and public resources may be available...ought to be made available. We will take your lead and bring the resources.
Q. Thank you for your support for schools and libraries, but could you add to that support for the arts and museums?
A. If you look at our budget you will see and increase for the arts. I am a big believer in the arts.
Q. How is sequester impacting Maryland now and in the future?
A. We accounted for it in our budget this year, raising the Rainy Day Fund from 5% to 6% [Wow!] to mitigate the impact on the Headstart Program and furloughs for government employees. [In other words, there was no impact because it was a gimmick to try to get more spending.] We only account for one budget year at a time. Not sure how it will impact next year's budget. We take each budget year as it comes. [Hagerstown actually got an INCREASE IN CDBG money.]
Q. You say we are poised to be more business friendly, but the impression is that it is not so. How can we change that perception?
|Candy coating makes everything more palatable.
A. We have to establish that goal. BTW, we have 15 strategic goals on our website.
Public and private need to work together on agreed upon metrics.
[Yay! All better!]
We need to provide a good cost of energy. [Can somebody say gas tax?]
We need to look into fracking in this area. [Get the hell out of the way!]
"We should not spend a lot of time in debating our level of friendliness. You can find a study for any results that you want." [The data is there. We are #40.]
" You the private sector have some work to do as well!" Yes, he did say that and nobody said a peep.
Q. Who establishes that goal?
A. At every level of government and the private sector.
Q. Thank you from the Teacher's Association. [Anyone surprised? No? Me either.]
Q. Wade Watson from Volvo Mack was very grateful and full of praise for the business friendliness they have received. He has seen positive changes over the last 1-2 years and thinks MD is very competitive in energy and....taxes. [Well they always spread a little pork around to try to cultivate some gratitude. Besides, they have to do something right once in awhile. Could be that government behaved as it should have in this case.]
Q. I work at workforce development and training of vets. Is there any help at the state level?
A. I credit Barack Obama for working on the private sector to hire vets. What we did is create a program where universities have to provide college credit to vets for their related experience as do licensing boards. I will tie you up with Ben Stutts for our programs.
Q. Don't forget the Maryland Theater.
Regarding the airport tower, we not only want to keep it, we want to build a new tower and we have a developer willing to pay one third of the investment for it.
Regarding workforce development: our technical schools that provide a trade are treated like 2nd class citizens when it comes to funding.
A. In my day it was called Votech. [In my day too and I went to one.] It was looked down upon. But many years later I ran into a guy named Dave who went to Votech and his home is 3 times larger than mine! [I think I know Dave.] Yes, we need to put more money into the trade schools. People will say that we don't have the money, but we have done it while balancing the budget!
|One last gong. I promise.
There were no surprises. It was a campaign stop. The democratic candidate for governor was singularly given a captive audience at a Chamber of Commerce event. They rolled out the red carpet for him. What will surprise me is if a Republican candidate for governor gets the same opportunity and is met with such...glee (some were absolutely giddy).