In announcing a veto of the Council's Nutritional Standards Bill, the County Executive had just come off a week of using his bully pulpit to promote fitness. If his preferred method of encouraging health and wellness is to visit various Rec. and Parks Camps and participate in physical activities, then he has, of course, succeeded. (Although someone should tell him he is violating the Howard County Schools dress code.)
The problem is that spending one week of your life being photographed at camp does about as much positive good for the community as the Superintendent of Schools jumping out of an airplane. Which is to say, none at all. A photo opp is a photo opp. A stunt is a stunt. It does nothing to win hearts and minds.
Now here's a picture that others have labeled as nothing but a massive stunt. The 9.6 tons of sand which served as a visual reminder to Burleigh Manor Middle School students of what that much sugar looks like. Why? To kick off a public health initiative to educate the public on healthier drink options and to reduce our consumption of sugary drinks.
But this picture is different. Far from a one and done mentality, the folks behind this picture knew that a photo opp is only the beginning. The HoCo Unsweeted team have been out in the community at parks and swimming pools, and at community events. They created a website, a healthy drink app called the Better Beverage Finder that helps you find better options, and maintain an active social media presence. They created advertisements promoting healthier choices. While Mr. Kittleman pays lip service to a healthy lifestyle. These folks have been walking the walk.
This is what a true investment in public health looks like. And it looks like it's already having an effect. A lot of hot and sweaty hours went into engaging the public to educate and connect them with better choices. That photo of a mountain of sand was, so to speak, just the tip of the iceberg.
People will learn what the County Execituve is about from what he chooses to do day in and day out. The decision to veto meets none of his public health goals, if indeed he has any, but goes a long way towards meeting his "I'm a Republican and you can't make me" goals. Maybe those are the goals that matter to him. Maybe those are the goals that will get him re-elected. But they have absolutely nothing to do with advocating for the health of Howatd County citizens.
If you want to see that in action? Take a look at beyond the pretty pictures to where the action is.