County Executive John Leopold Responds To Anonymous Zoning Issue
It’s about time to put facts first in zoning debate
Every citizen who values informed debate on public issues must be appalled at the level of innuendo and outright misinformation being used by proponents of the pending County Council bill to prohibit our zoning enforcement officials from investigating anonymous complaints. Elected officials, and those aspiring to public office, owe the people a truthful debate on this issue without resorting to tactics better suited for a propaganda machine. In days past, the “big lie” was a useful tool to fool people and convince them to support candidates and ideas that could not withstand public scrutiny. Unfortunately, we are now
seeing a return to these tactics in this effort to protect those who spoil our land and waters under the guise of exercising their “constitutional rights.”
These tactics have sadly included impugning the integrity of hard-working county employees by accusing them, without supplying any evidence, of committing a crime by “extorting” payment of fines by property owners. Upon reading this allegation in the guest column authored by Delegate Don Dwyer, I immediately sent Mr. Dwyer a letter imploring him to promptly provide any information regarding potentially criminal activity to the State’s Attorney or the State Prosecutor. To date, I have received no response to my letter.
Such unsubstantiated accusations have been accompanied by equally false allegations that “the Anne Arundel County Police helicopter is used to fly zoning inspection missions over properties looking for violations.” This falsehood also appeared in Mr. Dwyer’s Guest Column, where he attributed the information to “a county report.” In fact, Mr. Dwyer had actually been provided with the police logs showing that flight time connected with any planning and zoning code enforcement amounted to just over 1% of the total time in the air. Those flights were not random “spy missions” but rather efforts connected to on-going cases.
Citizens interested in the facts about this issue will not be surprised to learn that Mr. Dwyer’s allegation that the County “is using zoning enforcement as a revenue generator” takes the debate to the height of mathematical absurdity. In 2008, the County issued code violation citations totaling $88,875 and collected $11, 350. These amounts represent .0074% and .0009% of the total county $1.2 billion county budget. Despite the reality of these numbers, a recent newspaper ad in support of the bill urged property owners to “Stop! Anne Arundel County from using code enforcement as a revenue generator.”
I have repeatedly asked many of those supporting this legislation to provide my office with any information about any county employee acting improperly or about any case in which a property owner feels that they have been treated unfairly. I have publically committed to investigate any complaint I receive and stand ready to do so each and every time any matter like this is brought to my attention.
In the meantime, on behalf of all the citizens of this County, I urge those engaged in this debate to stick to the facts.
JOHN R. LEOPOLD
For a copy of the letter Executive Leopold sent to Delegate Dwyer, please click here.