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September 12, 2005

Angry and vindictive

Roy Meachum

As I wrote last week, this is the sixth Frederick mayoral race I have written about. A certain amount of backstage slashing has gone on every time; this time it's out in public.

In Jennifer Dougherty's first run for City Hall, my column supported her; that was in 1993 when the Democratic primary went to Gary Hughes largely due to the race put together by his campaign manager, former Mayor Ron Young.

Four years ago Mr. Young worked energetically and tirelessly to help Ms. Dougherty, appearing in commercials and going door-to-door. Saturday before the general elections he showed up in my neighborhood, well after dark, ringing doorbells. When no one answered, he left behind her campaign folder and a personal note asking voters to make her Frederick's first woman mayor. She is.

In tomorrow's Democratic primary, he stands as her opponent. When exactly they parted ways I do not know.

But 18 months ago, there was talk downtown he was being asked to run during his frequent appearances on Market Street. He made the decision at some point last winter, when he resolved to challenge the city charter's three-year residency requirement for the job.

Ms. Dougherty moved to cut her former supporter's political throat by vetoing a charter amendment passed by a Board of Aldermen majority that pared the requirement down to a single year, which made Mr. Young eligible. Immediately, various legal opinions held the veto illegal; there were advisories from the state attorney general's office.

The mayor ignored them all, forcing Mr. Young to sue, claiming the residency requirement was excessively long; a federal judge agreed. Meanwhile, a legal challenge to her veto was pending in Frederick's circuit court.

After losing the residency fight, she withdrew her veto, which may not have been legal. In the event, the federal ruling made the question moot. The local suit was dismissed. But no attorney I know has any doubt she would have lost that case too.

Part of the public anger she displays at every appearance could be related to a feeling she is facing an opponent who simply shouldn't be on the ballot.

She has given the impression more than once Mr. Young abandoned Frederick; she knows better. Living in his second wife's house, he slept a stone's slight toss to the city line. He claims he has paid local municipal taxes every year; no one can seriously doubt him.

During his last term, ex-Mayor Young and I scrapped frequently; we dealt each other blows with whatever weapons came to hand. For years after his 1989 defeat, the animosity remained strong: he blamed me for the loss.

A flattering allegation to the power of the press but patently untrue; he beat himself, chiefly by hanging around City Hall too long: four full terms. He acknowledged that reality months before seeking office again.

Moreover, these are different times and he appears a different man, perhaps the ensuing 16 years have given him a different perspective. In the event, as my mentor on Frederick matters observed, it makes a real difference who any politician runs against.

Ms. Dougherty and I first came apart over the way she treated Weinberg director Stuart Seal; an unbridgeable chasm developed when she also fired her hand-picked replacement, Jeff Reedy. Counting Ray Collum, a consulting director, Michael Stup is the fourth appointment to occupy the arts center's top post since she was sworn in not quite four years back.

Other municipal jobs have been subject to the same sort of carousel. Some who stayed on staff have been publicly embarrassed by the mayor who has exhibited a sublime indifference for other people's feelings. On the contrary, she gives indication she delights in being vindictive.

Jennifer Dougherty has cost Frederick dearly, in taxpayers' money and in good will. She should go!

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