Cumberland Times-News

November 26, 2013

Commissioners fail in their duty to the poor

Cumberland Times-News

— I am concerned, I knew that I needed to speak convincingly but I failed miserably.

Having read the Times-News article of Nov. 7, entitled, “Food stamp cuts expected to hit home,” I learned that 15,260 individuals in Allegany County or 20 percent of the county’s entire population are on food stamps and their benefit is being reduced by the federal government.

Kurt Hoffman, chair of the social and behavioral sciences at Allegany College of Maryland said, “It’s projected that food banks will need to have two to four times the goods to meet the demand.” He also said, and this is the reason why I am concerned, “That’s an impossible request.”

So I attended and spoke out at the Allegany County Commissioners’ public meeting held in Barton Nov. 21, regarding the fact that we are the poorest county in the state of Maryland and that 20 percent of our citizens are on food stamps.

Commissioner Bill Valentine did not seem upset over the 20 percent figure because he told me that it was better than the national average of 47 percent of the entire U.S. population who are on food stamps.

He is wrong on the facts, as it is 47 million citizens who are on food stamps and that is 15 percent and not 47 percent of our country’s population.

I then told him that if we had better paying jobs in Allegany County our percentage would be lower and we would not have this problem of so many of our fellow citizens being dependent on food stamps.

Of course, he and the other two commissioners blame Gov. O’Malley and not themselves for our destitute position here in Allegany County.

The problem with that logic is that Gov. O’Malley is the governor of the richest state in the Union with a median household income of about $71,000 and therefore, he knows what he is doing regarding recruiting good paying jobs to our state.

I participate in public meetings because I believe it is my civic duty to do so and I wish more people would participate in our government. When I ask a government leader to solve a problem I always have a solution in mind. It may not be the best solution, maybe not the least costly solution but a solution none the less.

So here was the solution that I offered to the county commissioners: Make a motion to contact Diana Loar, the executive director of the Western Maryland Food Bank and tell her that the Allegany County Commissioners would provide a $100,000 line of credit that the food bank could tap anytime they ran low on food because donations could not keep up with the additional demand.

I told the commissioners that this motion would not cost the taxpayer one dime if food donations keep up with demand. However, as previously mentioned by Professor Hoffman, “That’s an impossible request.”

I told the commissioners that they could use part of the $8 million disparity grant, a transfer of wealth that the county receives because we are the poorest of the poor in Maryland.

Commissioner McKay said that there was no way that he would make that motion, and the other two commissioners, Brodie and Valentine, just sat there.

You may be interested to know that one of the many duties of the commissioners is to “Be trustees of the poor,” according to their web site.

Not only have I failed to convince these commissioners to provide a financial backstop for the least of our citizens, they have failed in upholding their duties as commissioners.

Kevin Shaffer