Weekly Letter: Budget Battles Begin

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Last night close to one hundred leaders of community associations, nonprofit service organizations, and various other people who have a cause they care about logged on to a thing called, “Budget Advocacy Webinar,” presented by our Office of Community Engagement and Constituent Services (CECS).

Seems strange, doesn’t it? County government coaching people on how to tell it how to do its job? That’s what happens when you elect an old community organizer to run government.

But I’ll be honest. After five years on the job and five budgets, I’m not as excited about doing eight Budget Town Halls over five weeks as I was when we came up with the idea and did our first round in 2019. I’m not one of those people who watches the same movie multiple times. I like new stuff.

But when CECS Director Vincent Moulden came to me with a proposal from Strategic Engagement Officer Hannah Thompson to do this Budget Advocacy Webinar, it woke something up in me. It reminded me of my early days as a community organizer and how we’d identify an issue, do our research on it, get folks on board, and present our case to whoever had the power to fix it.

I knew that Hannah was a natural organizer because her previous job was Field Director for my re-election campaign, and I saw her in action. But I was still impressed when I reviewed the slide presentation she put together, the online tools she created, and the list of people who signed up for last night’s webinar.

It’s stuff that too few people ever learn: how to do the research, how to organize the coalition, planning and drafting your testimony. 

I didn’t participate last night, but this morning I looked at the list of who did, and their comments from the chat. There were people who’ve been my allies, people who’ve been my opponents, and people who’ve never spoken up but want a bus stop shelter or a speed bump. Some just commented to say thank you and well done. 

Next Tuesday is the first Budget Town Hall in my home district with Councilwoman Leadbetter, and thanks to this glimpse at the work and the passion that our residents will bring to their testimony, I can honestly say I’m eager again. I know I can’t deliver everything that will be asked for, but there is a part of me that will be rooting for everyone who is brave enough to speak into the microphone, to share their dreams for the future of our county before a room full of neighbors. 

If you’ve never been to a Budget Town Hall in your district, I highly recommend it, even if you don’t plan to testify. It’s grassroots democracy in action. Every speaker is hoping not only to convince me and their County Council Representative who sits next to me that their priorities are worthy of funding, but they’re hoping to convince the audience. Props, signs, shirts, and hats are welcome, and cheering counts.

To join the fun, just go to aacounty.org/yourbudget. You’ll find the schedule of Town Halls, the Advocacy Toolkit, a place to submit written testimony, and a ton of information about the current capital and operating budget. 

If you do engage, thank you in advance for helping to make Anne Arundel County The Best Place - For All.

Until next week…

Steuart Pittman
Anne Arundel County Executive