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Posted at 6:40 PM ET, 10/ 8/2010

A vote for ambulance fees is a vote for the poor

By editors

By Duchy Trachtenberg

When I read the Oct. 6 Metro article “Leggett proposes cuts in public safety services,” I was reminded again of how a vocal minority can use fear and misinformation to wage a political battle and win.

In this case, the volunteer firefighters in Montgomery County have used such tactics — an Oct. 7 letter to The Post stated bluntly that the fees “could risk lives” — to advance a multiyear campaign against a proposed ambulance fee reimbursement because it will, as the story put it, “dampen their own fundraising efforts.”

Good public policy is a product of thoughtful and reasoned judgment. During our budget deliberations last year, I decided to reverse my position and support the ambulance fee reimbursement for two reasons. First, the legislation proposed by the County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) concisely outlined a fair waiver process for those who are uninsured and indigent. Because of that, the reimbursement fee is nothing more than the collection of insurance dollars for services rendered.

But most important, I understood then, and I still do, that this reimbursement money is required to cover the growing costs of essential county services, including those related to public safety and social services. I understood that the only way to ensure our continued support for the mentally ill, at-risk youths, the homeless and the many nonprofit groups we depend on every day was to boldly say “yes” to this fee, despite my earlier misgivings. I understood that the needs of thousands of residents outweighed the small risk that someone may not call for emergency assistance because they misunderstood the fee policy. And remember: There is no convincing evidence that there has been any significant decline in requests for emergency services in neighboring jurisdictions where such fees policy are in place.

My position on this issue, and others related to spending, no doubt contributed to my defeat in the Democratic primary last month. That doesn’t mean I was wrong. The Montgomery County government will continue to face fiscal challenges and growing social needs over the next decade.

It’s time to close the curtains on the adolescent, testosterone-driven theatrics of the past four years of county politics. We need to face up to the financial difficulties we are in and put the people of Montgomery County first — especially those who have little voice in this political fight and will undoubtedly shoulder the burden of service elimination and program cuts.

The writer is a member of the Montgomery County Council (D-At Large).

By editors  | October 8, 2010; 6:40 PM ET
Categories:  HotTopic, Maryland, Montgomery County  
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You don't get it! You lost your seat because the people of Montgomery County decided not to elect you again. You lost your privileges to represent us when you decided to side against the people. This is nobody's manipulation. You have plotted with Leggett on many issues that do not favor residents. You turn on the IG instead of supporting his efforts for accountability in County Government. You tried to force liberal issues on residents.

If you want to continue to be a good friend to Ike, then, tell him to start carving-off the fat at the top. To stop allowing his Executive staff to splurge on our tax dollars. To stop giving themselves bonuses every quarter. Tell him to control the frivolous spending of his leadership team in absurd "executive" meetings and activities. For example, the executive picnic cost taxpayers approximately $5K for Salsa dancing and an afternoon of fun and relaxation while our vulnerable residents go hungry and homeless!!! Tell him to stop cutting first line personnel and start cutting-off the fat cats in his office.

Posted by: Mauricci | October 9, 2010 12:04 AM | Report abuse

If a household spends all it's money on TVs, cars, vacations, food and drink then has no money left over when it is time to pay the Dr fee then it is an emergency measure to save this poor souls life. Where do you get the money? Well from the neighbor who did without all those creature comforts and saved prudently. Then the neighbor is a horrid person for denying the sick person for not being a consciencious citizen.

In a like manner, Ike the hike Leggett has spent all the meny in the coffers, tapped out all the tax hikes he can politically manage then plays on the heart strings of MC voters to help save the poor firefighters.

Maybe just maybe the county has effeciently allocated it's resources as well as possible but I want some evidence of this before one more tax and yes this is a tax.

Posted by: Easleycpa | October 9, 2010 12:04 PM | Report abuse

Typical politician answer to the problem. We can't raise taxes, so we'll institute a new fee. It's a tax, plain and simple. What's more, residents will have to pay twice. Once if they use the service, and again through higher insurance premiums. But that doesn't matter, because the politicians can say they haven't raised taxes!

This is a growing problem for taxpayers. We're taxed by proxy to use the services we paid for through our taxes. That's what the HOT lanes are about. That's why we have to pay admission fees to government run parks. That's why they want to make major roads toll roads. Enough already.

Posted by: donoterp | October 10, 2010 7:22 AM | Report abuse

The voters of Montgomery County have spoken. In the primary election the only incumbent Councilmember to be defeated was Duchy Trachtenberg. Why? Because as Chair of the Council Committee responsible for overseeing our budget, she stood by as we went over a fiscal cliff. Ike Leggett has responsibility for our budget on the County Executive side of our government. Like Ms. Trachtenberg, he is accountable for his failure there. How fitting that Ms. Trachtenberg would serve as Ike's apologist for the ambulance fee. But for their joint failure to oversee our budget, there would have been no need for an ambulance fee in the first place. Or an energy tax. Or a cell phone tax. By throwing more gasoline on the debate that rages over the ambulance fee, Ms. Trachtenberg seeks to draw attention from Ike's failure to manage our budget. It is time to say goodbye to Ms. Trachtenberg and Ike and the divisive politics that they rely upon to divert attention from their own lack of leadership.

Doug Rosenfeld
Candidate for County Executive

Posted by: DougRosenfeld | October 10, 2010 8:56 AM | Report abuse

Ike Leggett and the rest of the council should be ashamed of themselves. Their budgeting and spending is akin to a drunken sailor (no offense to sailors). In the years 2000 - 2009 the Montgomery county population has grown by 11.3%. Over this same time period the budget has increased by 79.9%, discounting for inflation and it is still a staggering 54.8%. The spending per county resident is up 36.6% (discounted for inflation). When times were good these elected dopes spent every penny (and then some) and now when there are economic woes they search for ways to increase taxes. Our taxes are already high enough - sure it was easy to spend other peoples money - now you need to make the difficult decision on how to decrease spending - not quite as easy to govern now is it?

Posted by: cmhbph1 | October 10, 2010 11:55 AM | Report abuse

With all due respect, Ms. Trachtenberg, you may have lost because your divisive and dismissive approach is out of sync with County voters. In 2009, you voted against ambulance fees, attending a press conference with the volunteers to trumpet your opposition. This year, you switched positions and now characterize the volunteers as engaging in "adolescent, testosterone-driven theatrics." What a difference a year makes. The volunteers consistently have opposed ambulance fees as bad public policy. We've documented a drop in 911 calls after Fairfax County instituted ambulance fees. We've identified peer-reviewed medical studies demonstrating that costs of emergency medical care are a barrier to accessing the EMS system. And we've provided ample evidence that County residents – who already pay a dedicated fire tax – think emergency ambulance service is a core government function that shouldn't be subject to a user fee. You ask people to see your change of heart as reflecting your values and principles. Shouldn't you provide that same courtesy to those with whom you once stood but now disagree?

Posted by: jbentivoglio | October 11, 2010 10:27 AM | Report abuse

Well Duchy, why don't you pay my ambulance fee-then I'll vote for it. Ah, but it's quite alright to spend other people's money to help the "poor". Once again we need to seriously define "poor" into two types-the working "poor" who deserve help only when they truly NEED it and the breeding "poor" who have all the craeture comforts of life on someone else's dime. How many of the latter mentioned are you personally housing with you Duchy?

Posted by: stopthemadness | October 12, 2010 8:52 AM | Report abuse

Well Duchy, why don't you pay my ambulance fee-then I'll vote for it. Ah, but it's quite alright to spend other people's money to help the "poor". Once again we need to seriously define "poor" into two types-the working "poor" who deserve help only when they truly NEED it and the breeding "poor" who have all the craeture comforts of life on someone else's dime. How many of the latter mentioned are you personally housing with you Duchy?

Posted by: stopthemadness | October 12, 2010 8:53 AM | Report abuse

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