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October 26, 2005

Frederick's Future Is Here

Kevin E. Dayhoff

For the past several years many have said that Frederick needs to do things differently in the future. On Election Day, next Tuesday, the future is now. It's time to begin all over again.

The great ship Frederick is still grand but listing and off-course to the left. The basic stuff of government needs attention - now.

Frederick citizens have an opportunity to get Frederick back on course. The good news is voters are very fortunate to have an excellent group of candidates from which to choose.

Now that good candidates are available, just how does one develop the criteria for choosing future leadership?

Many believe that a conservative, pragmatic, roll-up-your-sleeves and sure-but-steady approach to the basics of government is what is needed.

Frederick's growth challenges: transportation infrastructure, water and sewer services, affordable housing, crime, community employment and business tax base, dwindling revenues and increased demands for service are an epidemic for many communities; not only in Frederick, but also all across Maryland.

This is not meant to trivialize the challenges in Frederick by saying "well everyone has these problems" but to point out that the solutions to these challenges are going to have to come from where all substantial problem solving is found - in local government.

Cities are about families and quality of life. The grandest plans stated in polished eloquence are of no value if the quality of life basics are not taken care of.

Most of these problems are great theoretical opportunities for political visionaries and pundits, but they are an ordeal in the day-to-day life of Frederick families. It's time to elect pragmatic officials who are pre-occupied with answers to the "ordeal" and not themselves or the latest government fad and "new deal."

Political science, slogans and feel-good sound-bites may get you through the night, but in the morning the "words" don't cut it when you have to get up, fix breakfast, get the kids off to school and go to work.

It has unfortunately become a cliché these days, but it is certainly true that Frederick is at a crossroads and this election is more important than ever.

After a number of years of leadership by excuse and finger pointing, the blame game and failure to take responsibility, it is a testimony to the great City of Frederick that it remains a great place to visit, work and live. There is no better time to get back on course and build upon the positive.

In plain language beyond the platitudes of over-extended municipal infrastructure in the last number of years, citizens are finding themselves in a great adjustment period as to just what is quality of life?

For long-time Frederick citizens, this adjustment is a result of coping with a larger and often more congested community. Groceries are no longer at the corner store; they are at a huge grocery store well beyond walking distance. The schools are over-crowded. Often you no longer know your neighbor and getting solutions from public officials doesn't happen at a community, school or church event.

For folks who have moved to Frederick in the last decade, the cost of gas and traffic congestion is making their commute to work much more a burden. They want a meaningful job close to home. The children are getting older and the challenges of raising a family more time consuming. A bigger home with a bigger yard is no longer the center of their analysis for just what is quality of life.

The worry over more uncontrolled growth, employment opportunities, water and congested roads are no longer a nuisance to be negotiated, but an annoyance that is intolerable and citizens want answers.

Outside of City Hall, people don't talk about intellectual political theory and bumper-sticker solutions. They talk about their families and neighborhoods. They talk about how their employment has changed, how to find the money and time to buy groceries, get the kids braces and how worried they are about their job. They talk about not having enough time for their children and how to become connected with their new community or a community that has changed so much.

The candidates most worthy of consideration for elected office in today's Frederick are those with an eye for the future, but who are pre-occupied with the challenges of today's families.

Citizens want elected officials who are accessible to the messiness of consensus building, success sharing, working with county and state government, conservative use of available taxpayer revenue, citizen-based government and letting the professionals in City Hall do their work.

There is no quick fix and splashy headline available. Many want Frederick City government to be boring for a change. Forget the flash and the clash.

Frederick needs a facilitative leader that will promote a sense of collegiality and cooperation - and respectfulness. Elected officials who will encourage all kinds of involvement from all groups of people.

What is needed is someone to conservatively and pragmatically look after the nuts and bolts of government. With the basics restored and some careful planning, the vision will return and the course for the future charted.

The choice is yours for the asking. With some thought, it isn't that hard. Frederick is a great city. It can get back on course. It has been done before. By starting at the voting booth, Frederick can begin again and steam into the future.

Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster. E-mail him at:

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