Afghanistan Working Dogs – An Update

After my last piece, which concluded that Veteran Sheepdogs of America was scamming people and not in a position to help rescue the working dogs, things have gone pretty quiet. Both the VSA twitter account and the VSA President’s twitter account have gone silent since being exposed, and Charlotte of Kabul Small Animal Rescue wasn’t updating KSAR’s socials either, understandably so. But now that some time has passed, a checked in to KSAR’s facebook and found some encouraging news.

First, about the working dogs:

And also this about all of the other dogs:

So, while the dogs are not out of the country, or even the airport yet, there is still hope that Charlotte will be able to get many of them back, and get them retired and rehomed. So that’s a good thing. Keep an eye on KSAR for further updates.

Did Biden leave 51 Military Working Dogs in Afghanistan?

Well, yes, but also no. Let me explain.

So last night this tweet rolled by my timeline, and I was instantly heartbroken.

The dogs are trained military working dogs who were in the hands of government contractors – so not active military dogs. They were turned over to Kabul Small Animal Rescue by their contractor handlers when the contractors were not allowed to bring them on their flights. Veteran Sheepdogs of America has been working with KSAR to get all the animals out, but their main focus has always been the 51 working dogs.

Things got worse when the word got out that Charlotte of Kabul Animal Small Rescue was told that her 140 dogs would NOT be allowed on a flight, and she was forced to choose, put down the puppy in her arms and get on the plane, or take her chances in country. She was already heartbroken over leaving her people behind, so she choose to stay with the puppy. Her 140 dogs were released on the tarmac, and the last flight out took off. American Humane released a statement:

“I am devastated by reports that the American government is pulling out of Kabul and leaving behind brave U.S. military contract working dogs to be tortured and killed at the hand of our enemies.  These brave dogs do the same dangerous, lifesaving work as our military working dogs, and deserved a far better fate than the one to which they have been condemned.

This senseless fate is made all the more tragic, as American Humane stands ready to not only help transport these contract K-9 soldiers to U.S. soil but also to provide for their lifetime medical care.

American Humane has worked hand in hand with the military for more than 100 years to rescue military animals. In fact, our famed rescue program began on the bloody battlefields of WWI Europe, at the request of the U.S. Secretary of War. Since that time, American Humane served as a pioneer in the development of animal therapy for returning veterans, and today brings home retired military working dogs and pairs veterans with life-saving service dogs.

As the country’s first national humane organization and largest certifier of animal welfare in the world, it sickens us to sit idly by and watch these brave dogs who valiantly served our country be put to death or worse.

In order to prevent this tragedy from occurring, these K-9’s should be loaded into whatever cargo space remains and flown to safety.

Irrespective of the outcome, this gross oversight of justice must be stopped from happening again, as it did in Vietnam too. To that end, we call on Congress to take action to classify contract working dogs on the same level as military working dogs. Failure to do anything less, is a failure of humanity and a condemnation of us all.”

https://www.americanhumane.org/press-release/american-humane-condemns-death-sentence-delivered-to-contract-working-dogs-left-behind-in-kabul-afghanistan/

Since then there has been some confusion about the fate of the now 51 military working dogs Veteran Sheepdogs of America claimed to still have them, and that they were furiously arranging funds. But then everything went radio silent for hours, and people were very confused. Were these military dogs, left behind? Were they rescue dogs? Had they been turned loose? Information surrounding these animals was very confusing.

This morning, Josh Hosler, CEO of VSA, said the dogs were still in VSA control, being cared for by people on the ground and they were hoping to have them loaded on a plane and wheels up by Wednesday morning.

So ok…. sounds like things are going well. But then, rumors start spreading that VSA is a bogus group and doesn’t have permission to do any of this, blah blah. Even Greta Van Sustren said they were a scam. Videos of german shepards wandering the Kabul airport surfaced on twitter, and people started to doubt. So VSA has been forced to answer some questions, while pleading that they can not answer many questions for the safety of the animals, many of whom are bomb-sniffers, because leaving them behind is widely seen as a death sentence.

So that’s where things stand for now. If I find any new information, I’ll edit this post and add it.


UPDATE: 6pm Est: According to the New York Post, it was a CDC guideline that made it impossible for KSAR to bring their animals out of Afghanistan.

The SPCAI said a new policy from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that suspended the transport of dogs from Afghanistan and more than 100 other countries “was another terrible impediment, despite our negotiations and pleadings.” 

“We applied for an Emergency Exemption so that Charlotte and the dogs could get out on our chartered flight this week. But the CDC’s adherence to its import policy during this time of crisis put animals and people at risk,” SPCAI wrote. 

https://nypost.com/2021/08/31/kabul-animal-rescue-tried-to-save-pets-who-couldnt-get-out-of-afghanistan/

Because so many people have grown concerned about the possibility of VSA being a scam, a press release claiming to be from KSAR was put out on twitter by an account run by Lisa Brooks. No idea how this person is connected to KSAR or where they got the press release from, but the Lisa Brooks account has been very active the last week or so, trying to help KSAR get out of Afghanistan.

And of course, Josh from VSA is pointing people to the press release to verify he is actively working with KSAR.


Update 2: 10p est: To complicate matters more, It is now being alleged by people who say they are in contact with Charlotte from KSAM that VSA do NOT have the dogs, and have no right to be fundraising to get them out. One man, TheRealIrishLad on Instagram, claims to have dms, emails, and receipts to back it up. Based on what I’ve learned trolling through his Insta and Twitter – He seems to have been connected to KSAR through one of the orgs she was well known to be working for – The Puppy Rescue Mission. He was working with their ED, Michelle Smith. He says the dogs were part of GardaWorld, which is a security contractor who had been providing services to the US Embassy.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CTPcZYqA78V/

To add credibility to TheRealIrishLad’s posts, Glenn Beck has denied VSA’s earlier claims (in a now deleted tweet) that his Nazarene Fund pulled $600,000 of funding.

So, that seems to be the end of the story. It seems like these dogs are, in fact, the dogs seen in twitter videos wandering the airport after the military released them from their cages prior to kicking Charlotte to the curb (by her choice) and taking off on the last plane.

So that seems to be it. Maybe, by some small miracle things will change. Considering VSA promised to be wheels up with the animals by Wednesday morning, I guess we will know for sure in a few hours.

Regardless, as Twitchy reports, the SPCAI is holding out hope that Charlotte and her KSAR people will be able to get back into the airport and re-rescue the dogs as soon as tensions calm down.

Moving forward, KSAR’s primary objective is to return to the airport– when it is safe and with the hope of Taliban cooperation–to try and retrieve or re-rescue the animals who were released at the airport. The situation at the airport remains very unsafe, but KSAR is hopeful their staff will be allowed to return to the airport at some point to try to save their dogs. During her departure from the airport on August 30, Charlotte requested the U.S. Military open the bags of dog food she was able to bring into the airport and scatter their contents in the area where the dogs had been released.


UPDATE: 1:00PM EST: It’s over. VSA has been radio silent for over 14 hours, and then this tweet from a RT (Russia Today) Reporter on the ground in the Kabul Airport reports –

Lindell Refuses to Pay Up

At his 3 day symposium, Lindell had challenged the cyber sec experts in attendance, promising a $5 million bounty if they could prove his data was false. Bill Alderson from Texas has put in a claim for the money, and predictably, Mike Lindell has declared that Bill’s information is all false, and not based on the real data.

Bill Alderson of the Texas-based Security Institute told Dakota News Now that he registered for the challenge and attended the disastrous “Cyber Symposium,” where Lindell was supposed to present “packet captures” proving his wild claims about the presidential election being stolen from President Donald Trump. 

But Alderson ― who told Salon he is a Trump supporter and hoped to prove Lindell right ― said the pillow baron gave him and other experts in attendance nothing.

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/mike-lindell-5-million-bounty_n_611dca6ae4b0c6968104b644

On top of that, a witness to the so-called “attack” that Mike Lindell claimed happened on the night of Day 2 says it did not happen.

Buongiorno said nothing he saw could be described as an attack that would leave Lindell in pain. He added Lindell showed no indication anything was amiss as he walked to the glass elevator and rode it to the 6th floor.

https://apnews.com/article/joe-biden-sd-state-wire-cc76dc27f8d24f9a7f3dd7279695f826

I called it. Lindell was scammed.

The cyber expert on the “red team” hired by MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell now says the key data underpinning the theory that China hacked the 2020 election unveiled at the Cyber Symposium is illegitimate.

But cyber expert Josh Merritt, who is on the team hired by Mr. Lindell to interrogate the data for the symposium, told The Washington Times that packet captures are unrecoverable in the data and that the data, as provided, cannot prove a cyber incursion by China.

“So our team said, we’re not going to say that this is legitimate if we don’t have confidence in the information,” Mr. Merritt said on Wednesday, the second day of the symposium.

https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2021/aug/11/mike-lindells-lead-cyber-expert-says-they-cant-pro/

I encourage everyone to read the whole article. FWIW, Josh Merritt is “Spyder”, the IT source that Lawyer and former kracken, Sidney Powell, tried to cite in her lawsuits as a “former military intelligence” but he claims he never said that, her clerks fubar’d his records. However, Rob Graham says that Josh has been “very straightforward” with the cyber security experts that are there.

Then of course, there’s this bit from the Times piece:

Mr. Merritt and Mr. Wiebe said the missing packet captures could be a result of either the format the data was sent in or they were withheld by the source of the information, Dennis L. Montgomery.

Mr. Montgomery is a former government contractor who developed cyber tools named HAMMER and SCORECARD, which were allegedly used by the U.S. to influence foreign elections. Mr. Montgomery came forward with the data after he said the tools were being used to influence U.S. elections, according to Mr. Wiebe.

Mr. Merritt confirmed that Mr. Montgomery was the source of the data.

But the data Mr. Montgomery sent contains no packet captures and cannot be used to validate Mr. Lindell’s marquee theory, which he planned to unveil at the symposium, said the two experts.

Mr. Montgomery reportedly suffered a stroke on the eve of the symposium and has not been in contact with Mr. Lindell’s team or any cyber experts at the symposium.

https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2021/aug/11/mike-lindells-lead-cyber-expert-says-they-cant-pro/

Like I said in my last piece, even Gateway Pundit – a site which has it’s own credibility issues, but is considered a valid source by many of the people who are trusting Mr. Lindell – said that Dennis Montgomery was not a valid source. Yet it seems that almost all of Mr. Lindell’s information comes from Montgomery.

Interesting little note in the Times piece was this tidbit:

Phil Waldron who is the leader of the red team, said only a small slice of the data was provided to the red team, just days before the symposium.

That’s an interesting and telling statement, because Mr Lindell was on CNN about a week ago to hype his Symposium, and he told CNN that he had “spent millions” verifying the data, and had irrefutable proof of election fraud. Yet his “red team” of cyber security guys, the guys he brought in to verify that his data was good, didn’t get to look at the data at all until a few days ahead of the symposium? Something doesn’t smell right. Where did Mr. Lindell’s “millions” go? Who told him this data, that his own “red team” now says is bogus, was good?

Sadly, I think it a very real possibility that Mr Lindell was scammed, and either doesn’t realize it, or doesn’t know how to get himself out of the hole he has dug.

Nuttier than a fruitcake, or victim of a scam?

So far, Mike Lindell’s big Cyber Symposium, where he was going to release terabytes of data that he’s spent millions to verify, is a bust. It’s only day one of three though, maybe things will get better – but I highly doubt it. He’s already made a complete fool of himself, screaming that he wouldn’t take a break, he’d be on air for 72-hours straight! just before wandering off stage.

RUMBLE

So far, Mr. Lindell has yet to show any real evidence of anything, other than some hex files that he’s shown in his previous “documentaries”. Those files are likely from a dubious source, and don’t seem to actually prove what Mr. Lindell thinks they prove. Lead Stories has shown the links between Lindell’s “evidence” and a man named Dennis Montgomery. The same Dennis Montgomery that Gateway Pundit has called out for being a scam artist. As Joe Hoft, Jim “Gateway Pundit” Hoft’s twin brother, wrote:

Anything connected to Dennis Montgomery is suspect based on what is known about this guy.  The real question is who is backing this huckster or is he on his own?

UNCOVERED: Conman With Long History of Deceit, Dennis Montgomery, Inserted False Information Into Election Fraud Investigation, Who’s Paying Him?
Go read this whole thread. it’s great. Rob will be adding to it as the Symposium continues.

Now, Lindell called Rob Graham out, from the stage today, as one of his detractors, conveniently when the tech guys were all in a breakout session, supposedly getting access to the data. . However, after combing through his twitter feed and website, Rob appears to be a reasonable person, who goes where the data sends him, not his politics. He appears to routinely call out both sides of the political spectrum. This article he wrote explaining why people don’t trust the scientists, as well as this twitter thread explaining how the tech world lost it’s credibility are both great examples of his ability to call out both sides for being dumb.

I never left the party. The party left me.

This year’s election started off looking brilliant.  The GOP had such a deep bench of candidates that would have been amazing.  Then the Trump Train idiots just shat the bed.  I promised in my last post that I would change party affiliation if Donald was awarded the GOP nomination.  Unlike Alec Baldwin and so many others, I keep my promises.  Here’s the evidence:

 

16-07-18-partychange

 

I am now officially “Unaffiliated.”  I stand by my choice to refuse to vote for Donald Trump.  He represents everything I am against.  He is a conman who is only looking out for himself.  I’ve said the very beginning that his campaign was never supposed to be more than a pr stunt for his TV show.  Then the Social Justice Warrior crowd went at him over his “build a wall!” comments and got him fired from his show.  At that point, the Donald can not just sit back and allow himself to be humiliated, so he kicked the rhetoric into high gear.  Media, even conservative media, loved him because he was so bombastic, he was great for ratings and clicks.  Those of us who are #NeverTrump warned that he was not a good candidate.  Several of us begged for us to coalesce behind either Rubio or Cruz.  The longer the primary dragged on, the more clear it was that Cruz had the best chance.  But it was too late.

2016election-allthenopesI wanted to jump to the Libertarians.  I like the Libertarian platform in many respects.  I generally disagree with them on the view of pot & foreign policy, but it wasn’t anything I couldn’t work with.  Then the Libertarians shat their bed by picking Democrat-lite Gary Johnson.  Pro-abortion, anti-religious freedom…  I just can’t.

So for the first time in my 21 years of voting — I will not be voting for the office of President.  I will go vote for the down-ticket races.  But I can not in good conscience select any of the choices we have for President this year. Hillary is a proven liar with a long record of corruption.  Trump is a con man, who has already changed his mind about everything he’s promised so far.  Johnson is the least Libertarian Libertarian I’ve ever seen.  As for Jill Stein, her platform is just the worst for our already struggling economy.  If a good candidate would mount a decent write-in campaign between now and November, maybe I’ll throw a vote their direction, but that’s not likely to happen.

I urge everyone to research their local candidates.  In Maryland, you can see who will be on your ballot on the State Election Board Website.  I will be supporting Kathy Szeliga for Senate and Mark Arness for the House of Representatives. I still have to research on my local county officials and judges.

Setting the Record Straight, WaPo Reporter Misquotes Police Chief.

** Cross-posted at DanaLoeschRadio.com Check out Dana’s book, Hands Off My Gun: Defeating the Plot to Disarm America, for more information about the Second Amendment**

Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) held a round table event in Largo, Maryland, on October 23, 2015, called, “Ending Gun Violence in America: Healing our Communities.”  I had no idea this event was happening in my area so I was not there.  Based on the Senator’s Twitter feed, it was really an opportunity for him to push the Democrats newly-released and highly-flawed “Gun Violence Prevention Principles.”

It seems an oddly timed coincidence that Cardin’s event preaching the evils of gun shows, and perpetuating the mythical “loophole”, was held the day before the Gun Show returns to PG County’s Showplace Arena for the first time since 2013.  Considering the County Executive has made it clear that he does not like guns shows at all, and all the outrageous restrictions placed on this year’s show (No live ammo is allowed on the premises at all, among other restrictions and fees), this tweet from today’s event caught my attention:

WaPo-1
I just couldn’t believe it!  My hometown police chief advocating for dealers to be held responsible for buyer’s actions? It just seemed a bit out there.  So I wrote to Chief Gonnella.  Here’s his response:

UMPDChiefResponse

Notice, the Chief is referring to people who purchase for someone who cannot legally purchase.  That is the definition of a straw purchase, not a “seller” as Ms. Hernandez had tweeted.  I quickly tweeted the screen-capped email to my followers, so that everyone who was as floored by the suggestion Ms. Hernandez had tweeted would get to see the other side of the story.

But this story does not end there.  After seeing the email exchange, Ms. Hernandez asked me how what she had tweeted was different from what the Chief had written in his email.  That’s how I found myself discussing the difference between a “seller” and a “straw purchaser” with a WaPo reporter while making dinner for my family.

Eventually, after dodging my requests for Chief Gonnella’s full quote as she had written it in her notebook, Ms. Hernandez admitted that she wasn’t as clear as she should have been with her initial tweet, and blamed twitters 140 character limit for the misunderstanding.

WaPo-2

She also seems to be saying that since the quote was not included in the story on the event, it wasn’t a big deal.  However, what Ms. Hernandez did not know, was that her tweet had already been shared with at least one local political discussion group, and there were now people on both that group and twitter who were absolutely shocked at what the original tweet claimed Chief Gonnella had said.  By contacting the Chief, I was able to set the record straight in both locations, and hopefully prevent a man from being smeared with a false representation of his opinion.

Hopefully, after this misunderstanding, Ms. Hernandez has learned a little bit about gun laws, and the power of words.

Asperger’s Syndrome, The Second Amendment, and The Value of Life.

I went on The Dana Show during the second hour of the radio show, which is now broadcast on TheBlazeTv, to talk about Asperger’s Syndrome.  Once again, Asperger’s has been thrust into the national limelight under the worst circumstances.  I’m not even going to link to any of the myriad of news articles all screaming “The killer had Asperger’s! OMG! He wasn’t taking his medication!” As I explained to Dana, it’s all a load of bull-puckey.

I have Asperger’s Syndrome. Asperger’s Syndrome is NOT a mental illness, it is a neurological difference.  There is no medication for Asperger’s Syndrome.  Let me repeat that.  There is NO medication for Asperger’s Syndrome. Asperger’s Syndrome is often co-morbid with other issues that would be medicated, but Asperger’s Syndrome has no cure.

(Check out my “Not weird, just wired differently” line at Cafe Press)

Asperger’s Syndrome is a form of high-functioning autism.  Technically, after the latest updates to the DSM-5, Asperger’s is no longer an official diagnoses, but I digress. Typically, what separates an Aspie from a higher-function autistic person is their language skills.  Aspies can talk, quite well. Aspies tend to be very literal, and have to learn sarcasm.  They don’t generally look people in the eyes, often because the amount of emotion and input in the eyes is overwhelming.  Aspies also don’t pick up on social cues, things like body language and facial expressions, which makes them generally outcasts or targets for bullies.  Some Aspies pace, or flap their hands, or clap, scream, or whatever when overly emotional or over stimulated.  For me personally, I close my eyes to talk to shut out other stimuli so I can concentrate on what I’m saying.  I also tend to use headphones and music to block out the world when I’m overwhelmed or need to shut out distractions so I can stay on task.

I also struggle with depression. Depression is just one of several issues that can coincide with Asperger’s Syndrome.  I am well aware that Depression lies. In my case, I’m medicated.  My “Happy Pills” help me to keep my emotions level.  I’m blessed to have an amazing support system.  My husband picks up the slack around the house when I’m struggling to keep myself together. He’s always there to talk me through the worst of it.  A few weeks ago, I hit a rough patch where I just had too many feels.  He let me rant, rave, and cry.  My mom is amazing, and has talked me through some tough spots, and reminds me that I need to take care of the one that needs me most at the moments, and sometimes, that’s me.  My family has always been ready to pitch in and lend a hand when I need them, just as I do for them when they need help.

When I see people declaring that we need restrict the rights of the “mentally ill”, I get concerned. Ya’ll are talking about me. As I told Dana, I believe the real conversation needs to be the value of life. America no longer values life. As long as we continue to treat life as disposable, these types of tragic events will continue. 

 

In which I criticize Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan

I love Governor Hogan, and I think he’s doing a great job in Maryland.  I love that he’s been able to balance the budget without raising our taxes again. Reducing the tolls, while it doesn’t affect me, seems like a great move to make MD more friendly to tourists and truckers.  I personally appreciate the military retirement tax relief increase.  This particular post has become even harder to write after the Governor announced he had Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, and just started chemo to treat & hopefully beat his cancer.  Lord knows my prayers are with him and his family as they go through this difficult time.

hogan-raintaxrepealBut I’ve got a major beef with his current push to take credit for repealing the “rain tax.”  He did not repeal the tax. He repealed the state mandate that the affected counties had to charge a fee.  The federal mandate that those specific counties continue to come up with money to fund the storm water clean up still continues. Three counties have either never enacted the fee in the first place, or repealed their “rain tax” fee.  Baltimore County reduced its fee by a third.  But so far, none of the other counties have tried to repeal their fees. In my home county of Prince George’s, the County Executive Rushern Baker has already said that he will not attempt to reduce or repeal the fee in PG County.  He told the Baltimore Sun that he’d have to slash things like education to come up with the federally mandated funds. So it is disingenuous for Governor Hogan and his team to sit in Annapolis and brag about “repealing the rain tax.”

Then there’s the purple line fiasco. The Governor rightly rejected the Red line in Baltimore as the money-pit that it is, but he said the Purple line would go forward, provided Montgomery and PG County pony up more cash.  Really, he should have just vetoed it outright.  The counties now have to decide if they think it’s worth it to raise taxes in order to pay for it, because neither county has any extra cash to throw at this project.  Montgomery County is dealing with the fall out from a double-taxation lawsuit they lost. PG County barely got a budget passed after they raised property taxes for the first time since 1979, possibly in violation of TRIM. It’s once again disingenuous for Governor Hogan and his team to say they approved the Purple Line.  In reality, it’s been approved conditionally, and those conditions are very unlikely to be met without counties raising taxes on their citizens.   I’m hoping this is just some sort of strategic move on his part to try to save the state some money and appease some voters while turning public sentiment against the idea.

All in all, I like Governor Hogan, and I think he’s doing the best job he can.  His handling of the Baltimore Riots was spot on, despite all the shade Mayor Rawlings-Blake tries to throw at him for it.  I wish him nothing but the best of luck in getting cooperation out of the Democratic-controlled General Assembly.  He tried to get the automatic increase in the gas tax stopped, but couldn’t get it through the General Assembly. I just wish that he would take this opportunity to educate the people about the federal mandates that kill the state and local budgets.  I also hope that his wording of the “rain tax repeal” doesn’t come back to bite him in the rear.

 

PG County Executive & Council Chairman in a Pissing Match; Taxpayers Get Soaked.

Short version:

The PG County Executive, Rushern Baker, wants a double-digit property tax increase to fund schools, and is using a 2012 state law to get around the limits and requirements in the PG County Charter. The Council, led by Chairman Mel Franklin, vetoed the 15% increase, replaced it with a 4% increase, and added a penny increase to the Parks & Planning tax rate. Mr. Baker said that wasn’t good enough, vetoed the Council’s budget. The Council overrode his veto, which pissed Mr. Baker off. So he vetoed their budget again, and sent back one with an 11% increase in Property tax, and threatened legal action if the council didn’t pass his budget. The Council has once again overridden the County Executive’s budget, and passed their version.

Meanwhile, the taxpayers will see their property taxes increase, as well as their phone bills and the cost of various permits and licenses, despite very public outcry against the increases. Taxpayers are left feeling like no one is listening, and the only question now is how much will taxes increase.

 

pgcopissingmatch-sm

The TL;DR version:

Back in 1978, the citizens of Prince George’s County did something absolutely brilliant.  They passed a law that capped their property tax rate at the 1979 rate, affectionately known as TRIM (Tax Reform Initiative by Marylanders).  When TRIM was challenged in 1996, the voters in this very blue county not only upheld TRIM, but also passed into law the Approval of New or Additional Taxes by Referendum, which said the county government could NOT raise any taxes without asking the public to vote on it.

People who have been involved in PG County Politics much longer than I remember the Park & Planning Surplus scheme.  Fast forward to the height of the housing bubble in about 2005/2006. Maryland has this thing called the “Homestead Tax Credit” which was very helpful to families who saw their property assessments soaring.  The Homestead Tax Credit capped the amount your property tax bill could rise each year to 10% of the previous year’s assessment.  Thing was, the PG County half of the Maryland-National Capitol Park & Planning Commission had long before decided that the Homestead Tax Credit did NOT apply to it.  So P&P was taxing people on the full assessed property values, not the Homestead Tax Credit capped values.  This resulted in a HUGE surplus of cash sitting in the PG M-NCPPC account.  Once the folks in the county government realized how much extra there was, they started lining up with their hands out and a list of projects to do.  P&P also had ideas for the money, as they had their own list of maintenance issues and whatnot that needed attention.  Everything was rolling along so well.

Then the housing bubble burst. When the county went to the state delegation for funding, the state delegates took one look at the beefy account in P&P, and said use that money to plug the holes until the economy turns around.  That right there was a violation of the taxpayer’s trust, as money that had been taken for use in parks and such was now being used to fill the holes all across the county budget. But the economy didn’t recover as fast as hoped, and the county had to keep raiding the P&P fund to fund the budget.  That is until Martin O’Malley signed a bill restricting Park & Planning to the Homestead Tax Credit assessed value levels in 2010.  After that, the money quickly dried up, and P&P was left with a HUGE list of projects, and an ever-shrinking bank account to fund everything.

In 2012, one of the constant attempts by government officials to circumvent TRIM got approved in Annapolis, under Martin O’Malley.  The State Delegation from PG County supported SB 848 2012, also known as the Education Maintenance of Effort bill. SB848 allows county governments to violate the taxing restrictions in their charters for the express purpose of “maintaining the effort” for the county school system.  “Maintenance of Effort” is defined in the bill as the level of funding from last year, and the bill makes it next to impossible to cut education spending at all.  Any reduction in education spending must be granted a waiver from the state.  Operating any large system like this and not allowing the potential for cuts leads to a situation ripe for corruption, cronyism, and abuse.  Just recently the entire school board gave up their county credit cards because of wasteful, fraudulent spending on the part of several members.

County Executive Baker has his eyes on higher office.  It’s well known to anyone who follows PG County politics that Mr. Baker wants to take a shot at the Governor’s Mansion.  According to the Washington Post, “He told residents and business leaders that rehabilitating the education system would be the centerpiece of his legacy.”  He needs to drastically improve the school system, especially since he took it over just a few years ago, in order to have something he can use in his campaign for Governor.  So SB 848 2012 is the bill that Mr. Baker is using to claim he can raise property taxes in PG County by whatever amount he deems necessary for the school system.  Mr. Baker wants to is increase school funding dramatically, and he assumes that the citizens will go along with it because “it’s for the kids.”  He started asking for a 133 million dollar increase, then tried to settle for a 65 million dollar increase. The County Council will only approve a 34 million dollar increase.  There is a group of citizens, PG Tax Watch, who want to fight any increase, claiming that SB 848 2012 doesn’t apply here, and they may be right.  However, they will face an uphill battle as the State’s Attorney General’s office has already come down on the side of the County Executive. The one thing the letter from the AG’s office does not address though, is whether SB 848 2012 can be used to increase school funding. PG County has more than enough in the budget to fund the school at last year’s level without raising taxes, therefore, neither increase is needed to meet the Maintenance of Effort.

Meanwhile, the County Council, led by Chairman Mel Franklin, have declared that simply throwing money at the school system is not going to fix the myriad of problems there.  They want to increase funding for P&P instead. It seems that P&P told the Council & Executive that they are operating in a deficit this year, but have enough in the bank to cover next year.  After that though, they will be in big trouble, financially.  Councilman Franklin is rumored to have his eyes on the County Executive job when they both term limit out in 2018.  The last thing he wants to do right now is enforce a double digit increase in the property tax.  He realizes that’s political suicide. Instead, he wants to do a much smaller increase, a 4% increase that looks completely reasonable up against Mr. Baker’s proposal of 15%. He also wants to plug that hole in P&P because one of the projects that has gotten underway is a HUGE new aquatic & recreation center near Gwynn Park High School.  It’s one of the things he promised to bring to the area, and he wants to deliver.

Baker’s original proposed budget got shot down by Franklin & Co.  He got upset and vetoed their version of the budget, and resubmitted his own again.  They overrode his veto, and sent their budget back to him.  Baker then got really upset and vetoed the Council’s budget a second time, and vaguely threatened legal action if they don’t pass his budget.  The Franklin-led council promptly overrode Baker’s veto a second time, and essential told Baker to “bring it.”  Now the county’s budget is in limbo while we all await the County Executive’s next move.