Back in May I wrote a rather stern post about vending machines. The gist of it was that Howard County shouldn't be in the vending machine business at all. Local blogger AnnieRie responded that there was a history to why there were vending machines in county/government buildings. There had been a time when these places provided food service for employees, and over time these places were phased out. The victims of cost-cutting measures, I presume.
What I didn't know--until yesterday--was that this very thing happened to the employees in the George Howard building, when County Executive Kittleman cancelled the contract with the food service operations and discontinued their café. I can see why wanting to have a healthier variety of choices in their vending machines has become of particular interest. The bigger choice employees had was taken away.
In the comments section yesterday, Board of Education member Cynthia Vaillancourt said:
I wondered why the Cafe disappeared one day. I had a meeting at the George Howard Building and was running late - and hungry - but planned to stop in the cafe. But it was gone! I was hungry and non-caffeinated ... and probably not my usual charming self. :) It was very inconvenient. I also thought how environmentally helpful it was to have a cafe on site so people did not have to get into their cars and drive to an off site location for lunch/snack/coffee.
So I think that this is a story worth pondering, and I wonder why it didn't get any press coverage at the time. Not only does it affect the employees of the Howard Building and visitors, it also speaks volumes about the priorities of the County Executive and how he operates. It also seems to me to have backfired. Why?
Well, because in the dispute over vending machines, Mr. Kittleman wants people to believe that the County is irrevocably bound to contracts with the vending machine company. I don't think that line of thinking would have turned up on the local Fox News channel all by itself. And yet Mr. Kittleman seems to be quite capable of discontinuing contracts.
In canceling the food service contract he both inconvenienced County workers and caused financial loss for the food service workers. I suppose he had some underlying justification--cost-cutting measures, perhaps?--but the fact is he is perfectly capable of addressing contracts with vendors. That's a part of his job.
Now that CB-17 is the law, how will he do that job? This story isn't over yet and I think we need to keep watching.