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As Long as We Remember...

May 13, 2005

The Hardest Working Candidate

Chris Charuhas

Ken Berlin is one of several new candidates for alderman in Frederick. Grinding down the soles of his wingtips as he walks door-to-door canvassing for votes, it looks like shoe leather will be his biggest campaign expense.

Mr. Berlin has visited over 500 houses so far, and the primary election is still four months away. He has been to almost every Neighborhood Advisory Council meeting - in all 12 neighborhoods. He is, to paraphrase James Brown, "the hardest-working man in the aldermanic candidate business."

Why is he working overtime on the "grunt work" that local campaigns require? He says, "Enough is enough! I want to help end divisive, bickering, self-serving decision-making in our city government. We've all seen too much of that in the past couple of years."

Mr. Berlin believes that good manners and civility are essential to good government, so he's proposing a Code of Civility for public meetings that circumscribes the language officials can use in addressing others and making points. He thinks that a few "with all due respects" and "my right honorable friends" used during debate might go a long way towards promoting cooperation among city officials.

Mr. Berlin also wants to make it less expensive to live in Frederick. He recognizes that long-time residents are being priced out of the housing market, so he proposes that at least one out of five houses in new developments be affordable for people with moderate incomes. He also believes that people on fixed incomes, such as senior citizens, should be protected from property tax increases they can't afford, and proposes some interesting tax arrangements to do that.

At neighborhood meetings, Mr. Berlin quickly noted that Historic District management has become a big issue. "It seems to be one item that elicits some of the strongest emotions among city residents," he said. He's considering the creation of an Historic District task force composed of residents, commissioners, and an alderman, to make sure that the rules for renovating buildings in downtown Frederick don't impose financial hardships on their owners.

Mr. Berlin has other new ideas on how to provide medical insurance to city residents, upgrade Frederick's airport, manage its water supply, and make taxation fairer. One of the most innovative is his proposal to tax residents on the value of their land, not their property. This would, he believes, encourage owners of vacant lots and run-down buildings to improve their property by removing any tax "penalties" for doing that.

Will Ken Berlin get the chance to implement any of these ideas as alderman?

If sheer effort can get someone elected, he certainly will. If you've never heard of him, and don't even know what he looks like, that's likely to change during the next few months. He'll probably show up on your doorstep sooner or later, asking you in person what you think the city needs. Or, at your next Neighborhood Advisory Council meeting, you can just introduce yourself to the guy with the campaign flyers, wearing shoes with ground-down heels. That'll be him.

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