I also feel that it's imperative that Washington County make immediate changes to the way we provide emergency services for our citizens. Last year, Washington County hired John Latimer to review the emergency systems. I will be a strong advocate to give Latimer's department proper funding to work through the issues and revamp our emergency services system to better serve our county's citizens.
I feel that all public school systems are hard pressed at this time, due to the unfunded federal mandate of the No Child Left Behind program. We need to work with our delegation and School Board to lobby in Annapolis to continue to get financial relief to make this program more affordable to our local taxpayers. Currently, we receive approximately $12 million each year from the Thornton monies. Next year, however, this funding source will be ending.
The Thornton money was distributed to each county or city school system based on the economic level of those attending the area's schools. In Washington County, 35 percent of our children were deemed to be at that level. That gave Washington County a larger proportional share. I realize that the money is going away next year, and then what?
I feel it's imperative that our commissioners make time and cooperate with the School Board to work closely with the Washington County delegation to assure that Washington County gets its fair share of the pie. I feel that we can no longer be reactive and say no to everything, but must be proactive and lobby like we've never lobbied before.
I'm also a proponent of making the Washington County Commission on Aging part of Washington County government, instead of underfunded nonprofit organization. Currently, Washington County has 26,000 seniors, with the number expected to top 31,000 by the year 2010.
I will work diligently to make possible the funding from the state, federal and county government to develop a minimum three combination Community and Senior Citizen Centers that will be utilized by all segments of our citizens.
With over 40 percent of our Washington County citizens either being without health insurance or grossly under insured, I feel that healthcare is as critical an issue as any we face in this first decade of the new century. The new Washington County Board of County Commissioners will be faced with selecting a new county health-care officer in the first part of the new term. With the wide variety of issues the county faces - teen pregnancy, an aging population, diabetic issues with obesity, etc. - this selection will be very important.
I feel that communications and cooperation between the county, city, towns and of course, the delegation, is absolutely not adequate. For years now, I've been a proponent of all areas of government meeting on a regular basis to stay abreast of issues in each of our nine municipalities.
It's imperative that this Council of Governments meets on at least a quarterly basis, not for lunch, but for a full-blown working meeting to help solve issues countywide that will have a direct impact on the quality of life of our citizens.
The combative attitude between the county commissioners and the nine municipalities has to stop. With nine thriving communities, oases if you will, that we call municipalities, our county will become barren if we don't all get on the same page.
As we go though this campaign, I would like to invite you to keep up with Washington County issues on my Web site, www.LinnHendershot.com, or by calling me at 301-766-9155.
N. Linn Hendershot is a Democratic candidate for Washington County Commissioner.