If Thomas Gorman gets elected to the Norfolk County Commission, he vows to dismantle Norfolk County government altogether, which he labels a “non-essential bureaucracy.”
Norfolk county candidate stakes campaign on dislike of county government
Plenty of political candidates have run on a single issue. But Thomas Gorman’s one-item platform might baffle some: If elected, Gorman vows to fire himself.
In fact, if voters elect Gorman to the Norfolk County commission, he said his sole mission will be to dismantle Norfolk County government altogether. He calls it a “nonessential bureaucracy” that costs taxpayers millions of dollars a year.
Gorman, 52, a Republican from Dedham who works as a real estate broker and freelance golf writer, ran a low-budget campaign on the same platform in 2006. The outcome: “I got clobbered, trounced,” he wrote afterward in an op-ed in The Patriot Ledger, in which he vowed to keep pursuing his goal.
This time, Gorman said, he is confident his cause will attract wider support given the economic downturn, which has left cities and towns hunting for savings and homeowners more critical of how their tax dollars are spent.
Gorman argues control of county operations – including the Registry of Deeds, sheriff’s office and county jails – should be transferred to the state, allowing for the county administration in Dedham to be dissolved.
The county should also sell its 90-acre golf course in Quincy for between $5 million and $7 million, he said, and turn the money back to cities and towns. And the Norfolk County Agricultural School, attended by about 400 students, should be folded into the Blue Hill Regional School District, he said.
None of Gorman’s three political rivals will be jumping onto his bandwagon anytime soon.
“I don’t buy it,” said Michael Walsh, a Westwood lawyer and independent running for one of the two open commission seats.
He said Gorman’s argument that the county’s 28 cities and towns get next to nothing in return for the money they contribute annually – $4.5 million last year – goes too far.
“I wouldn’t say people aren’t getting anything for their money; I’d say they’re just not getting enough,” said Walsh, a first-time political candidate in favor of strengthening financial management at the county level.
Both commissioners whose terms are set to expire, John Gillis of Quincy and Francis O’Brien of Dedham, are seeking re-election. The third commissioner, Peter Collins of Milton, is halfway through his term after defeating Gorman by a 66 to 34 percent margin in 2006.
Most county governments, financially in turmoil, were abolished in the late 1990s and the state assumed control of their operations. Norfolk, Plymouth, Bristol, Dukes and Nantucket counties are the only ones left.
Norfolk County Director Dan Matthews said the county government here is on comparatively solid footing financially. The $35 million operation, with a work force of roughly 600, managed to keep its budget balanced this year despite rising energy and health care costs, he said.
The slumping housing market has cut into the county’s finances because much of its revenue comes from a tax on real estate transactions.
Matthews defended the level of service, saying the county makes its traffic and engineering division available to municipalities, organizes bulk purchases to cut costs for towns, and coordinates partnerships and resource-sharing for regional projects.
“We try to deliver regional services that are cost-effective and we think we do a pretty good job,” Matthews said.
John P. Kelly may be reached at email@example.com.
In fiscal year 2009, South Shore towns will pay around $2 million to Norfolk County, including:
Sources: Massachusetts Department of Revenue