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Advertise on the Tentacle

July 13, 2005

“Once more unto the breach….”

John W. Ashbury

Since January of 2001 there have been those who wondered aloud about where the incivility in City Hall had its beginnings. Perhaps, now, we have an answer, as last week’s Pressing Issues show on Adelphia Cable 10 provided a major clue.

At the inauguration of the current City of Frederick administration, some say, Alderman Bill Hall herded the discourse down a spiral path to its present state. Others claim that Mayor Jennifer Dougherty did likewise when she spent a great deal of her address bad-mouthing James S. Grimes and his eight-year run preceding her ascension to the throne.

As the years have progressed the level of animosity has deteriorated to its present level of childish behavior. And all of the current elected officials have had their hand in this cookie jar. Some critics say that Alderman Marcia Hall has not participated in the pettiness as have the others, but she has allowed herself to be a pawn of the mayor in shutting out the three men, Republicans all, from discussions on critical issues before they come to public discourse.

All along the way there has been a heavy influence on all these matters from one whose public role comes only through the natural act of fatherhood. And that Pressing Issues program brought it home to all those who pay attention, even the apologists for Her Honor.

The first indication that comes to mind that Robert D. Dougherty still maintained a patriarchal influence over his daughter arose when the clamor over The Weinberg Center For The Arts was at its peak. Roy Meachum, who now waxes eloquent on The Tentacle, was squiring Karen Korrell, the president of the Weinberg board, to numerous political and social events.

Somehow The Washington Post decided to do a story detailing the relationship between Mr. Meachum and Ms. Korrell as breaking news. Mr. Meachum, who had been an outspoken critic of the manner in which the city administration was handling the situation at The Weinberg, provided The Post reporter a copy of a column he had written months earlier acknowledging his personal friendship with Ms. Korrell.

It was obvious from the tone of that Post story that the original intent of the piece was to tack an “unethical” label on Mr. Meachum for criticizing the city administration over Weinberg issues while at the same time keeping a social relationship with Ms. Korrell secret.

On the day after The Post article appeared – and while he was out of his house – Mr. Meachum received a telephone call from Mr. Dougherty demanding a copy of the column in which he had disclosed his relationship with Ms. Korrell.

Skipping forward to earlier this year, we find the mayor’s family participating in an outdoor sales event along Shab Row near a store they operate. A non-profit organization, with the full permission of the owner of the buildings along East Street, set up their display next to the Dougherty’s. The mayor’s father objected strenuously and confronted the non-profit volunteers, becoming quite boisterous and loud. Later, when the mayor herself showed up, she too confronted the volunteers and even the owner of the property, according to reports reaching The Tentacle.

A bit of background is necessary to relate the latest happening in this continuing saga.

When Jennifer Dougherty ran for mayor in 2001, there were two other candidates on the ballot in the primary – Meta Nash, who was the reigning president pro-tem of the Board of Alderman, and Alan Imhoff. On primary election night Mr. Imhoff was eliminated, but Ms. Nash and Ms. Dougherty were so close that absentee ballots, to be counted three days later, would decide the contest.

As is obvious, Ms. Dougherty won and went on to defeat Mayor Grimes in the November general election.

Now, let’s jump forward to last Wednesday night’s television program.

In recent days there had been some controversy over the posting of political signs by the mayor at her private residence. It seems that the Board of Election had been giving candidates a copy of a county law which prohibits such signs until 45 days prior to the primary election. City candidates had followed this guideline in previous elections.

Ms. Nash, who was the hostess of that program, had informed her fellow panelist that this issue would be a topic of discussion. In an effort to get the facts straight, she called Stuart Harvey, director of the Board of Elections.

What she learned, and what she imparted to the viewers and her compatriots on the panel, was that the county law did not apply in the city election and that the mayor was perfectly within the law to post her signs in her yard.

However, Ms. Nash did question whether or not the mayor had gotten a ruling from the city’s legal staff on the issue and whether she had given that information to all the candidates seeking city offices.

As is a usual practice, Pressing Issues accepts phone calls from viewers seeking their comments. On this particular evening, the mayor’s father called in and immediately berated Ms. Nash for her position and – as I recall – said something along the lines of “I know where you are coming from,” in a rough and telling tone.

He was rude and impolite. His comments were unnecessary and embarrassing to the other panelists, as well as to Ms. Nash. To all their credit, none of the participants on the program chose to lash back at Mr. Dougherty.

His behavior was reflective of what has been happening in City Hall for the past three-plus years. Perhaps reflective is a poor choice of words; instigator might be a better term.

Since the Pressing Issues show last week the comment most often heard has been: “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” Another comment has been: “She learned her lessons well at her father’s knee.”

Whatever the case may be, it is certain that Mr. Dougherty sticks his nose into the city’s business when and where it is unwelcomed by those being governed. He wasn’t elected. His daughter certainly should seek his advice – after all he is a lawyer – and her father. But for him to impose himself into the public fray is uncalled for and demeaning to those who must suffer his “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.”

And more than likely his recent outburst embarrassed his daughter as well.

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