BY FERNANDO BERRA III
Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman has a long history of violating constitutional rights, but he is not alone.
When we were little, we learned that in order to play a game, we had to learn the rules of the game. It only makes sense that when someone runs for office, they should know both constitutions — the U.S. Constitution and the state Constitution. After all, when they take office, they take an oath to uphold and defend both.
When I ran for office at the beginning of the year, I was surprised to find out that not too many elected officials are well-versed in either constitution — despite taking an oath. For example, Maryland Constitution, Article 44, states that, “The provisions of the Constitution of the United States, and of this State, apply, as well in time of war, as in time of peace; and any departure therefrom, or violation thereof, under the plea of necessity, or any other plea, is subversive of good Government, and tends to anarchy and despotism.” Article 9 states that, “No power of suspending Laws or the execution of Laws, unless by, or derived from the Legislature, ought to be exercised, or allowed”.
During the pandemic, Mr. Pittman lacked the legal authority to mandate lockdowns, masks and vaccinations. To be fair, he wasn’t alone, but Mr. Pittman acted with despotism more than any other elected official by keeping the mask mandate in schools far longer than it needed to be. He was also sued multiple times because of his autocratic restrictions on businesses.
During the lockdowns, some were allowed to “peacefully protest,” but others were not allowed to attend religious services. This was clearly a violation of our First Amendment rights and of the Establishment Clause, which says religious institutions cannot tell the state how to function and vice versa.
While many of you had to deal with the unemployment bureaucracy and delays caused by a faulty unemployment system — faulty by design — Mr. Pittman gave his county leadership employees up to 10 weeks of administrative paid leave. Mr. Pittman paid that leave with our money — hundreds of thousands of dollars of our money. You will be surprised that many of those leadership employees have not yet return to the office, while collecting high salaries. Anyone who had to deal lately with the Office of Planning and Zoning and the Office of Inspection and Permits can attest to how they are in disarray without leadership.
When Mr. Pittman ran for office in 2018, he promised that he was not going to increase taxes; he lied. He is now taking credit for not raising your taxes in 2022. Any competent politician will tell you that raising taxes in an election year is political suicide. Mr. Pittman did not have to raise them because there was a huge surplus of federal money left over from the CARE Act. However, the Anne Arundel County current budget stands at $2.16 billion; it is not sustainable, and taxes will have to greatly increase. You can expect that if Mr. Pittman wins.
For the Anne Arundel County’s current budget, Mr. Pittman allocated roughly $394 million dollars for public safety. Clearly Mr. Pittman is out of touch with what Anne Arundel County citizens need more, especially with the current economic situation and outlook.
Mr. Pittman pushed very hard for the Office of Planning and Zoning to pass the Green Infrastructure Master Plan, increasing critical and conservations areas on private properties without the consent of the property owners. Article Six of the U.S. Constitution states that “any right given to a citizen by the United States Constitution cannot be taken away by any State or local government.” That means that the constitutional property rights of Anne Arundel County citizens supersede local conservation mandates.
However, Mr. Pittman’s administration ignores constitutional rights. The Office of Planning and Zoning and the Office of Inspection and Permits are henchmen in an autocratic administration. The Anne Arundel County legal department created a “Conservation Deed of Agreement” that is required if you want to do any work on your own property. However, paragraph 1, subsection d, states that you must agree to allow Anne Arundel County to enter your property anytime they want without probable cause. This is clearly a violation of our Fourth Amendment rights.
The greatest hypocrisy of all is that OPZ and OIP will allow the development of structures within conservation areas despite all the restrictions they imposed on citizens for doing work on their own properties. The county does not care whether they contaminate the Chesapeake Bay as long as county profits from it, politically of financially. The River Glen subdivision is the perfect example of these hypocritical acts. The subdivision has passed all inspections and been granted permits even though it is in multiple violations of county codes. Many politicians are aware of the issues in that subdivision, but they chose to stay on the sidelines because it is too toxic — literally.
So, when you go to vote this November, vote politicians out of office who are not going to uphold and defend your state and federal constitutional rights, politicians like Steuart Pittman. “We the People” need to make them accountable for their actions while in office; your voice is your vote.
Berra III was a Republican candidate for Anne Arundel Count executive in the 2022 primary. He lives in Lake Shore.