In the intervening months the Council has voted not to privatize prompting Executive Leggett to use his line item veto powers for the first time in his 12 year tenure to keep that pritization provision alive despite letters to the Executive from members of the Stormwater Partners (of which MCA is a member.
This is an important issue. Here is our response - Montgomery Countryside Alliance:
On May 17, 2018, Executive Leggett issued a public statement with his intent to line-item veto the stormwater program funding approved by the County Council for the FY19 Capital Budget. On June 1 he did just that.
Executive Leggett claims that the Council’s decision “threatens our ability to meet important environmental goals and will certainly delay projects designed to meet our State-mandated MS4 permit”.
Executive Leggett further claims that the stormwater programs needs to be “responsive to County taxpayers who – without changes – will be paying more in stormwater management charges to get less”.
These statements are factually incorrect. For months, Executive Leggett has pushed forward a narrative that a large, sole-sourced contracting mechanism (design-build-maintain, or DBM) is the only way Montgomery County can meet its stormwater goals and requirements. We disagree. And ask the Council to override this veto.
• The County Council has budget discretionary authority. The T&E Committee and the Council heard public testimony from citizens and watershed groups for months. The T&E Committee responded to this public testimony in agreement; the Committee decided the Executive’s proposal was risky, uninformed, and vague. The Committee recommended a different proposal, to move forward with existing procedures to build projects already in a pipeline (with existing investments totaling $5.3 million). The recommendation passed 2-1 in committee and 5-4 in full Council.
• The Executive’s decision to threaten a veto here is undoing weeks of careful public debate the Council undertook. The Executive’s veto threatens to undermine the role of public accountability and transparency the Council plays during budget negotiations.
• In March 2018, the Executive cancelled 26 stormwater projects, with investments of $2.6 million. The rationale provided by DEP stated:
o “In our most recent analysis of the County’s comprehensive watershed restoration actions, we documented significant progress toward meeting the restoration goals. The progress achieved to date towards meeting the Permit requirements allows the County to reduce the number of remaining capital projects originally identified to meet the 2010 MS4 permit. As a result, the County has decided not to move forward at this time on 25 projects currently in design”. (A 26th project was included after this letter from DEP was distributed.)
o If the Executive is so concerned with meeting MS4 permit requirements and environmental goals, why did he cancel these projects and suspend 44 others? The county could be working on these projects right now, but instead, these projects are waylaid by the Executive’s decisions. The veto threatens moving forward on all county stormwater projects (not just the 44 suspended projects). The Council decision helps the county continue construction and implementation of stormwater projects – why would the Executive further delay these projects from moving forward?
o 14 of the 26 cancelled projects were in Craig Rice’s district – district 2. Why is he unconcerned with these project cancellations, given his interest in Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts? These local projects are the only way to restore the Chesapeake Bay.
o 21 of the 44 projects are in Craig Rice’s district – district 2. Why would he support the Executive’s proposal that would delay these projects? These projects may never be built under the DBM approach.
• The Council voted to maintain a level Water Quality Protection Charge this year – the same budget recommendation that came from Executive Leggett. Why is the Executive claiming taxpayers will pay more?
• We fail to understand why the Executive is continuing to push forward this design-build-maintain (DBM) contracting change. The Council analyst packet from May 2, 2018 states:
o “The [Executive’s] Recommended CIP assumes savings in per-acre retrofit costs totaling about $5 to $6 million in the six-year period. However, actual savings will not be known until the new contract is awarded”.
o The Executive is basing his DBM proposal on math that doesn’t add up. 5 to 6 million over six years, when we have already thrown $2.6M away and we’ve suspended $5.3M (total = $7.9M). Even assuming we didn’t build all of these projects, for technical or timing issues, what are we really saving with the DBM?
o Executive has claimed a DBM is the only way of meeting our environmental goals, saying these goals are “achievable only if we modify our approach to contracting out the design, construction and maintenance of our stormwater management facilities”.
o Why is this the only way? We still have seen no evidence supporting this decision. No analysis. No data. There are lots of ways of doing contracting; did the Executive perform a cost-benefit analysis for different contracting methods? What lessons learned (if any) have been pulled from the county’s existing pay-for-performance contracts?
The County Council voted correctly. Please override the Executive's Veto.