Supporting first responders is a no-brainer - Allison Pickard for County Council District 2

Supporting first responders is a no-brainer

Source: Capital/Gazette
Written by: Allison Pickard

Supporting first responders is a no-brainer Allison M. Pickard
As any parent in our county can tell you, keeping up with our children’s schedules and the day-to-day family challenges are more than a full-time job.

Between getting the kids on the school bus, navigating congested county roads, shuttling between after-school activities and doctor’s appointments, making sure the homework is done, and countless other tasks, we need to stay six steps ahead of every situation. But there’s no question that keeping our children and families safe is a huge responsibility.

Thankfully, we have an incredibly talented and dedicated pool of first responders that work tirelessly to keep our families safe. But that pool of professionals is in danger of being drained if we can’t offer them the financial incentives to stay in this county. The proposed property tax credit for first responders is one important step in that direction, without which it is hard to envision how we are going to retain our best and brightest and, by extension, start addressing our growing public safety needs.

Parents across this county are being inundated with public safety challenges like the heroin/opioid epidemic, gang activity, and human trafficking, to name just a few. In my neighborhood, we are constantly being reminded to be vigilant with locking our car doors and reporting strange vehicles. Every neighborhood in every zip code is feeling the effects of this rising tide of crime.

Understaffed Public Safety departments that are struggling to recruit, train, and retain quality personnel only add to parents’ worries. As a result, incentivizing first responders to stay in our county should be a no-brainer, and county leaders need to hear that message loud and clear.

Let’s set the record straight. On May 25, Governor Hogan signed a bill with 100 percent bipartisan support from the General Assembly. This bill enables localities to offer a property tax credit for our first responders: Firefighters/ EMTs, Police officers, and Corrections Officers. Our state elected officials understand the struggles of our public safety departments and stepped up to efforts to ease their burdens.

With a new tool in the County Council toolbox, Councilman Jerry Walker proposed a property tax credit for our Public Safety Officers residing in Anne Arundel County at the Oct. 16 meeting.

You’d think with all the support out there for our uniformed officers this wouldn’t be a tough decision. Go to any community event these days and you will hear our county leaders repeatedly bestowing the highest of praise on our Public Safety departments, and rightly so.

But when it comes down to it, there has been a serious lack of substantive actions to shore up our staffing levels and bring salaries in line with neighboring counties. At the end of the day, all budget priorities come down to what our citizens value.

We need to pay close attention and get engaged when it comes to how our county budget reflects our commitment to public safety. The Nov. 6 County Council meeting is a good a place to start as our first responders’ needs will be clearly juxtaposed against the $36 million property tax credit for Live! Casino’s expansion project.

Let’s strengthen our community together and let’s start with public safety.

Allison M. Pickard is a Democratic candidate for the County Council’s District 2 seat.