Monday, February 26, 2018

Death by Task Force

I celebrated the beginning of my weekend by coming home and listening to the most recent episode of Elevate Maryland. We all have our own way to unwind. Sitting in my comfy chair with absolutely no interruptions and no immediate plans is about as good as it gets.

The featured guest of this episode is Councilman Calvin Ball. There’s a lot in this interview to think about. It’s worth the listen. But, at the risk of ignoring the main course in favor of the appetizers, I’d like to focus on a bit at the beginning of the show where co-host Tom Coale “goes off” on task forces. If I could I’d present his entire speech (monologue? soliloquy? rant?) but I don’t have that voice-to-text thing nailed down quite yet.

So you’ll just have to listen.

At some point during the current County Executive’s first term I became overwhelmed with the number of task forces appearing on the scene. I thought I had written an entire blog post about it, but it looks like it only surfaced for one measly paragraph. (To clarify: I don’t think that Mr. Coale is speaking specifically about HoCo task forces.) If you want a more thorough treatment, he has it for you here.


  • If you have paid staff who can work on an issue, why are you asking people who already work full-time jobs to work eight hours and then come donate their evenings to what could very well be the work of staff?
  • What is the point of a task force if you don’t use the results to take action?
  • Has creating a task force become a substitute for creating and enacting policy?
Co-host Candace Dodson Reed adds her own objections:
  • These task forces are largely filled with political appointments, which limits diversity of representation. (I don’t think she just means racial diversity, but also differing points of view, for example.)
  • Don’t take the work of all these people and just “put it on the shelf”.
All of this talk makes me wonder. Is it possible to avoid taking action at all merely by creating a task force and then letting that process take its course and then just...fizzle out? Does that ever happen? Can one actually kill an issue with a task force?

What do you think? Have you ever served on a task force? How did you feel about the experience? Do you feel your contributions were valued?

In the meantime, I’m still pondering possible interpretations of Mr. Coale’s Task Force speech. A fire and brimstone sermon? Or perhaps the Task Force Tango. Or a soothing ballad: 

As I sing you to sleep, after the Task Force...

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