A recent controversy concerning the alleged misuse of a local public library for what some considered an “Invitation Only Private Function Requiring The Closing Of The Entire Central Library” has caused division among Howard County citizens.
The job of the county auditor is at risk. This is not good. If the auditor is fired, the county will be defending itself against yet another unnecessary lawsuit.
Good people on both sides of the issue are digging their heels in — unfortunately along racial lines. Some citizens say that this incident serves the interests of only a selected few, not the multi-ethnic, rainbow coalition of families that populate our beloved county. Claims of unfairness and racism can easily arise without transparency in government decision-making.
I grew up in the ’70s and ’80s with the overt racism in the South. Racism is ugly and corrosive and has no place in America. The hard-won struggles of my ancestors are always on my mind, even decades after leaving the South. My parents and their parents struggled to build and maintain a fair society for all. Transparency in decision-making is of high importance if citizens are to live in a free and fair society.
Browsing Twitter, I noticed that Prince George’s County recently hired a new Inspector General. I have much respect for Prince George’s County for that move. I support employing an IG in Howard County. An IG serves as an ombudsman, dedicated to ensuring that citizens can access civic processes without fear or intimidation. An independent “IG” serves to empower county residents by providing a window into the workings of bureaucracy. An empowered and capable IG offers a window into government that is needed for efficient, modern governance. An IG can be a tool for citizens to access government while allowing the government to solve problems internally within its own systems.
Howard County, with its immense, billion-dollar-plus budget has no IG. Without an IG, who serves as the people’s advocate to the government? Perhaps it’s time that Howard County appointed an IG, like Prince George’s County, Baltimore County, and other large municipalities.
Howard County should hire, fund and empower an independent, fully-staffed Inspector General’s office. With such an office in place, with the full backing of the county government, perhaps we can ensure incidents like this latest library controversy can be handled professionally and internally by the county government. Let’s hire an IG in Howard County to help us sort through our differences before those differences create division.