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The Maryland Board of Public Works: A History by Alan M. Wilner
Volume 216, Page 124   View pdf image (33K)
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We come now to the end of the history of the Board of Public Works and a time
for some editorial comment. There is a noticeable tendency for biographers to become
identified with, and apologists for, the subjects of their biographies, whether the subject
is a person or an institution. It is a tendency that must be consciously resisted if the
biography is to be objective. I have tried in writing this chronicle to offer that resistance
and to be objective. I shall lower my guard just a bit in this brief concluding chapter.

The Maryland Board of Public Works is almost unique in American government.
Although some cities have such creatures or variations of it, there is nothing like it
either at the federal level or among the other states. Some states have coordinative
bodies of one kind or another, serving some of the functions committed to our Board
of Public Works, but none, to my knowledge, have a constitutionally based troika quite
like our board.

From a political perspective the board serves first and foremost as a dilution,
through sharing, of the executive authority that would otherwise be vested in the
governor. That indeed was the principal objection to it voiced by the Constitutional
Convention Commission and, to a degree, by the 1967 Constitutional Convention itself,
both of which believed that executive power should be centralized in the governor. An
interesting response to that philosophy was given by the Reorganization Commission
in 1921. It said in its report:

The Governor has no need for further power. Indeed, the expression,—so frequently used
as one of the strong features of the cut-and-dried reorganization plan which has started
the round of the States,—"centralize power in the hands of the Governor," really involves
the use of loose language; for, in large measure, the things done in other States thus to
centralize power in the Governor, do not centralize any new power in him at all, but simply
remove the checks and balances, which now exist, and which, certainly for the most part,
ought to be retained upon the exercise by the Governor of the powers he already has.1

Certainly the state of Maryland could survive without the board; forty-nine other
states have done so. But in both politics and government (assuming that there is some
distinction between them), convenience, rather than necessity, is the more relevant
criterion. Over the years the board has served its function well. Notwithstanding some
occasional frolics and failings, it has acted with dedication and efficiency and has
effectively discharged the myriad of responsibilities delegated to it. The men serving
on the board have not always acted unanimously, but despite their independent, and
occasionally antagonistic, political constituencies and viewpoints, they have generally

1. Reorganization Commission Report, p. 20.



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The Maryland Board of Public Works: A History by Alan M. Wilner
Volume 216, Page 124   View pdf image (33K)
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